Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Plymouth Half Ironman 2011 - race report

What a fantastic race. This was the inaugural event, and it was fantastic. The course is great, and it's really well located.

I've been training fairly well, but the volume has been down a little but since Tauranga, but the swimming's been improving, as has my running, and I was feeling fit.

I really wasn't in the mood for a Half Ironman on race morning, but I got everything ready (after leaving the drink bottles at my bro and sis-in-laws' place), got wetsuited up, and had a bit of a warm-up swim.

The swim

The swim was two (apparently) 950 metre, triangular, laps. It's in a harbour without any funky tides, but there was a little bit of chop, and not a massive field.

I tried to find feet early, but perhaps got a little bit wide (given the size of the field), so pushed a bit to find someone to hang onto. About 250 or so metres in (the first buoy) I found some feet, and comfortably hung on for the rest of the lap (I was not having to work all that hard - I'd lost the chance of getting onto fastish feet, so the aim became energy preservation, rather than a massively quick time).

At the end of the first lap we had a quick beach run. It turns out I'm a lot quicker than anyone else who swims at my speed, and I gained about 20 metres on the five or so people who'd been around me. This actually wasn't great, because I didn't want to swim on my own. So I swam for a bit, eventually someone caught me, and I hung on for another 300 metres or so. After the final turn, the guy I was following started going a slightly funny way, and I eventually lost him, and the last stretch was a mixture of on my own/finding feet.

I was more than comfortable throughoutt the swim, and came out in a very pleasing 35 or so (35.49 to the timing mat), which is pretty good, and even if it's 11 metres shorter than Tauranga (which it may have been), it's about the same time but with amuchh smaller field to draft off.

The bike

There was a long run to T1, where we were given a bag with my helmet, etc. I got some help taking my wetsuit off, put it in the bag, and I quickly got my bike and headed off.

The bike is a fairly hilly to rolling course. No big climbs, but very little flat, so it's hard to get into a rhythm. There was a fair bit of climbing to start with, but I made sure I contained myself, and didn't push too hard (oddly, big guys were smashing themselves to pass me on hills, but I was going quicker on the downhills...)

I was feeling pretty good on the way out, and drinking a lot more than usual (the sea in NP seems quite salty, and I think I swallowed a bit during the swim), and held a fairly comfortable pace. I knew we were supposed to have a tail wind out, but I swore we had a very sight headwind - boy was I in for a shock. Peter Hughes was a a technical official, so it was nice to see a familiar (from the blog world at least), and get a bit of on course support.

I got to the turnaround in 1:20, then realised how wrong I'd be - there was a nasty, constant, headwind. Not only did I have a lot of false flats (the climbing version) on the way back, but I had to do it into a headwind. My average watts on the way out were 185, norm watts of 201 (so about right), AHR 166. I was passed by quite a few people on the way out. With one exception (a former elite cyclist who can't swim to save himself), who blitzed the bike course, I would see them again later.

The way back was hard, really hard. I caught a few people, and tried to keep a consistent effort, but it was tough, and I was struggling to hold a good wattage. But I kept slogging along, not doing anything too silly. There were people around me, but not really anyone to pace off, so this was a long, slow, effort home. It took me 1:40 on the way home (I was just under 3 hours, which was nice!). Average watts home (when it should have been easier to hold a higher wattage, because of the wind) were 180, norm power of 191 - so really not good enough - AHR 162.

Overall time was 2:59:49, average watts 182, norm 196 (lower than Karapiro or Rotorua 2009), AHR 164. Almost exactly 30 mins slower than Tauranga. But given the fastest time (Mark Bowstead) was 2:25, it was clearly not a fast course.

The run

So he bike wasn't quite as quick as I'd have liked, and I was feeling a bit zonked after the ride home. But I'd saved a bit off energy, and the legs felt good as soon as I hit the run. There's a bit of a climb, then it's fairly rolling after that (never too hard, but there's a couple of nasty little climbs). The race started at 7:30, so it was already really hot, and there wasn't an aid station until about 3.5 km (half way into the first of three laps). There were two on course (so six all up), it's just that you couldn't get to the first one early to start with.

The run was really hot, and I was holding a comfortable, if not super quick, pace. I was caught a couple of k's in by friend number one, and we ran toghether for about a lap and a half. I held his pace comfortably, but my stomach was feeling a bit gross (and I threw up in my mouth a few times). I'd already passed a few of the people who raced past me on the bike.

About a lap and a half in, a dude from Germany caught us. He was here to to Challenge Wanaka, but got ill, so had to pull out, so came and did NP instead. He was holding a faster pace, and I quite comfortably kept up (while friend number one dropped off). He didn't look super old, but after the race I discovered he was about 45, and some post race stalking led me to discover than he's done a 9:30ish Ironman, and been to Kona. I kept up with him for the rest of the race (and we continued to pass people) - we both took time at aid stations to throw as much water as we could over ourselves (and took time as the local kids with the hose/bucket/water pistols), enjoyed the chat, and we finished at the same time.

Run time was 1:38:31, actual pace 4:47 mins/km, norm 4:44, AHR 168, max 179.


Final time 5:17, 19th male, 21st overall (out of about 100). 5th in my age group, and the 13th fastest run overall (men and women) - which showed the value of not smashing myself on the bike.

I loved this race. It's a great, scenic, course, well organised, and had a great vibe. It;s really what Karapiro should be like, except it's far from it. I'd definitely be keen to come back next year.

I'm happy with the race. Faster swim than Tauranga (should have gone faster even), albeit on a possibly shorter curse, slower bike in tough conditions (should have been a bit quicker) and the same run on a rolling course after a much harder bike.

Next I have nationals in Wellington on 12 March, then Xterra on 9 April - I'm looking forward to both, particularly Xterra (given I don't want to go to Beijing, nats is less important, apart from pride – because I know a lot of people racing, and will have a lot of friends there to support me).

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