Eds Dream Fulfilled – racing for GBR at the ETU Long (Ironman) Distance European Championship in Almere, Holland 14/09/19. Here it is in his own words……
Beside my desk in my home office I have a Bucket List; it has 19 items on it, the 11th was signed off on the 14th of September at Challenge Almere when I raced for GB over my preferred triathlon distance. It has only taken me until I am 55. I have always been envious of friends who have competed for GB and England at sport, albeit mostly in their prime across triathlon, rugby, lacrosse and water polo to name a few.
There is no specific qualification race for half or full ironman, instead it is based on race performance where over 500 competitors compete and you must finish within 20% of the winner of your age group to be considered at European level; for World champs it is within 15%. Then a roll down applies. If I had known this earlier I suspect I would have qualified a few years ago as I usually finish well inside the top 15/20% at Ironman branded races. And I only found out by chance through word of mouth.
I applied in late spring, and therefore did not have much time to plan for the race, as I already had Ironman Lanzarote and Challenge Roth (both subject of previous posts) booked for late May and mid-July. This is the first time I have competed in 3 long distance races in one summer and it had an impact on my Almere performance as 7/8 weeks to recover is not ideal. I discovered my selection at the beginning of July whilst stretching after a run, was elated, and told my family coincidentally at a birthday dinner for my eldest son that evening. My whole family and their partners and friends then decided they were coming to watch me race.
My entourage totalled 14 and included my parents who are in their mid to late 70s. This created added pressure but also a wonderful and moving experience as I had a small supporters club out on the 6-lap run shouting and screaming at me holding various banners – including my target time, oh dear.
As to the race it is a freshwater lake swim of 3.8km consisting two laps, a two lap very flat 180km bike with a total of 200m of climbing – cycling below sea level – and a 6 lap run around the lake for the 42.2km run.
As for the race I felt good going into it, I swam well posting 1:16 which is a fast time for me in fresh water as it’s my weakest discipline, jumped on the bike feeling in good shape having got through transition in good time. Rode well for the first 100km averaging 33.3kph, however my targeted power of 200-210 watts was way off at more like 185/190, and I felt under-powered. The next 80km saw me struggle and I came in at 5 hours 34 mins. With my power averaging 181w which was 10/15% off my expected power level. This reflected how I felt as I started the run I started to develop major gastric issues, or in English I felt sick. I ran the first 12km in 60 minutes then proceeded to fall apart. This is the nature of endurance racing, and having raced well at both Lanzarote and Roth my run became one of survival. I was resolute that I would finish regardless which I did thanks to the support of GB team mates and my family. I was sick several times, developed a strategy of run walk and came in with one of my slowest run times of 4 hours 34 mins.
There was no way I was not going to finish.
I came in at 11:34:47 putting me 16th out of 25 country reps in my age group, and to my huge surprise 4th of 7 British men. My target had been 10:30-10:45 which for the course I am capable of.
I am very disappointed with my performance, but my family made feel like a superstar both during and after the race. I think I over raced and had not cleared the effects of Roth in time for Almere. So what’s next….first up is Ironman Nice next July, then there are the ITU World Championships next September in Almere! I am inside the qualification criteria…so perhaps I’ll get another go at it. So for now, and until the GB selection is made in late January 2020 I am not booking any other races.
Almere was a bucket list race also as it is the second oldest Long Distance race after Kona/Hawaii and next year will be its 40th anniversary.
And it seems my parents have the bug and are coming to watch me race Ironman Nice next Summer….did I mention that Almere was my 10th Ironman race in 5 years.