Race report IM Wales 2011
T1 + 1k run 10:06
Overall position – 65 of 1134 finishers (1287 starters)
Age Group (M40-44) Position – 10 of 246
After the surprise announcement of the new IM Wales race my decision to try to qualify at a race that has a slot for the following year took a different direction. Prior to this I was looking at going to either IM Arizona or IM Cozumel, the discussions now centred around why we would do this if I could jump in a car and travel 5 hours and race on home soil.
The course looked a challenge, the earlier test event in June proved that ‘anything is possible’ as a large number of the field had to be rescued in the swim event. The bike was also reported as ‘tough as old boots’, right then, off we go.
The bike course changed a few times as happens with new events but was always going to throw in some good climbs and a large helping of coastal riding.
The run was the only real unknown element until closer to the event but by all accounts there is no real flat for long in Pembroke so there was no surprise as to what this could hold for us.
My mum had decided she wanted to come and has been to quite a few events now, so on Friday all 4 of us set off for Tenby, 5 hours+ of driving is the shortest bar Bolton I have spent getting to an IM and we all got to our base at Kiln Park without too much trauma.
There were a lot of people I knew racing over the weekend, many I had raced against but one of the main mini battles that would be unfolding over race day was the ‘Fudge Packer’ smackdown. Gary and Adam have been mates for many years now but we hadn’t had the chance to race against each other for a full IM before (We started one in 2007 in Lanza but Gary decided to park his bike in the open door of a marshals vehicle on the descent off Timanfaya !) So with the 3 of us working hard in training and keeping in touch via the odd training camp (hence – FudgePackers) and emails giving more encouragement and blatant abuse we were looking at IMW as the decider on ‘top dog’ status for 2011. We had also picked up another FP’er in Gordon Croucher so he was thrown into the fray.
In my AG I also had the added bonus of battling against Lordy, Tim Bishop (just gone 8.56 at Copenhagen) and good mate Jeff who had battled with me in Roth and since then the 2 of us have trained many hours together.
It was also great to meet up with lots of pirate mates too, this has got to be the best support element to any race, as was to be proved on race day, new faces and old (yep you FB lol !) it was great to meet all of you over the weekend.
Friday afternoon, myself and Gary drove the course, made a few wrong turns during our recce but at the end, the ever ‘over exaggerating’ Fegan announced on twitter later, ‘it’s a bit tough’, I concurred.
On the Saturday morning we met up for the practise swim at the newly located start on the North Beach. The South beach was not safe enough for the majority of the swimmers and it turned out to be a good call, this meant a 3rd transition point for trainers to run the 1k to T1. Walking into the water I clumsily stood on a rock on my heel, afterwards as I was walking normally I could feel it, very painful, slightly worrying but I would test it later.
The water was fresh and frisky, deep swell and unknown currents but all in all a pleasant experience, straight out and coffee.
Made me and Adam laugh that the café had cooked up a hot plate full of sausages and bacon only to see no-one indulging, I wonder why ?
My second mistake of the weekend followed, parking ticket on the main road over the North Beach, arse, without a moments hesitation though, all the lads thru in a donation, cheers guys.
For me the rest of the day was spent sorting the bike, new tubs on, bike extras mounted, test ride and then a 10 min test run, thankfully the heel was fine when running – no walking then !
Next error in pre race judgement followed, I decided at 1.30pm (racking shut at 3pm !) to change my cleats on the tri shoes with the ones from my road shoes, I just couldn’t get the damn cleats off the tri shoes, it didn’t stop me trying and sticking the pointy end of a flat screwdriver up my thumb nail, not once but 3 times and then crushing 2 other fingers as the pressure I was applying closed the multi tool on me a few times before I gave up and decided I would be racing in road shoes. A black nail and 2 crushed fingers would keep my mind focused though ……
After racking and meeting up with the ‘Angel of transition’ Claire, I met with Adam at the race briefing, the same as all the others, it seemed to be a very happy tent so it looks like all the questions over changes to the course were being taken in and accepted by the competitors. Well done to the organisers, issues averted with good communication and promptly, nothing to moan about pre race at all.
On the way home I decided to drive the run, mistakes were beginning to be a theme here and this was a corker, I would describe it as fairly hilly and of a consistent nature. Time for bed methinks.
Good night sleep for me, don’t have a problem with this, bed at 8pm, woke at 3.30am.
Breakfast consists of ham and cheese sandwiches, banana, malt loaf and 2 strong coffees, I then use a weak 4:1 solution in the walk up to transition. The coffee started to work nicely and the transition experience was painless and thankfully didn’t have the same issues as Trentham where I was a lot more rushed.
Myself and Adam strolled down to the North beach, you could tell the support was going to be good, there were hundreds out already and the whole atmosphere was buzzing, and to top it off the weather was brilliant, the sun had come out to play, the wind was still up, as were the breakers.
I hung my trainers on the shoes transition hook and added my Garmin 405 to the bag, I normally put this on when on the bike but I had a 1k run to fill with things to do, time saved.
We walked down across the timing mat and I went in for a quick dip to flood the suit, this is mainly to fill the suit with water and then squeegee it so the suit sticks to my body preventing loads of water swirling around. Then we entered the holding pen.
Comedy moment followed when it came over the tannoy that if you hadn’t gone over the timing mat you weren’t entered into the race, at least 150 people moved as one, back to the entry to the beach to make sure lol.
This is where things got a little surreal, at the furthest point in the swim pen there were railings marking the end of the swim area, they ‘almost’ went into the water, this meant that as the pen filled people started to overflow past the railings. About 10 minutes before the start, a large number of competitors just started walking down the beach, as if drawn in by singing sirens on the faraway cliffs, the strong of us resisted but eventually they got us all, start walking too, chatting to Adam saying we would all be coming back. Then over the tannoy we were called back, so made the beeline for the nearest point to the railing and held my position waiting for the start, Welsh national anthem was followed by a silence and then BOOM we were off.
I raced into the swell, dolphin dived a few times and felt the water surge over me, clear swim, start breathing to the left, what I saw then almost stopped me dead, orange hats moving down the beach, breath again, no, they are running down the beach, WTF ! cheating bastards, just keep swimming, lots went through my mind, including getting out ! yes, I actually thought that as I felt I was losing so much time, then I started to focus on my own race, this was interspersed with many other thoughts, including, hoping all the stronger swimmers got cramp in the run down the beach and that all the weaker swimmers who gained a few minutes now found themselves in the wrong place at the turnaround, it can be rough at the sharp end, I know, childish but I was angry and I had to get rid of the feeling as I knew it would ruin my race. Sorry.
To be fair, it was the easiest swim outside of Roth as I was only swimming with about 300 people. The turnaround came, a little rough as people who had run down the beach met swimmers from my direction, then into the hardest part of the swim, the back straight was just a case of turn over the arms and breath at the right moment, that meant when you weren’t under water, hard to judge when you were falling off 3 foot breakers. The fishing trawler parked in the middle of the back straight was a bit weird but I made a line in between that and the floating dinghy. The last leg into the beach was fun, body surfing and trying to catch waves was a new one for me.
Coming into the beach was a little scary, I knew if I could get the right wave I could body surf in, I got my wish but it was by pure luck, others were being sucked back out and I got the right breaker, the downside to this is I was flying thru people hoping not to hit them travelling at about 15mph and you know what happens when the wave hits the beach, my journey will end abruptly!
If you check this YouTube video at 2mins 43secs you will see what happens to me, the wave picks me up and by the time 2mins 50secs is on the screen, I am the furthest person to the left lying on my back like a dying fly, I had to flip on my back in case I landed on my wrists, the downside to this is the impact of the landing ripped a 4inch hole straight across the bottom of my suit where the zip starts. The second lap was a painful affair as the suit was now full of sand and rubbing me like sandpaper.
However, this lap was a breeze, back straight a little rough and made drafting tough but the tide was helping so came out faster than I hoped, 56 mins and change on the clock.
The run up to the town starts from the beach, onto the zig zags, pick up trainers, take off wet suit and then start the 1k run to transition, the support was excellent and I hope they keep the swim on the North Beach. Garmin watch on and just try to get a rhythm. Saw Kelly and my mum on the way in, they could now start to help me with numbers, first request, count me out of T1 and shout a position, shouldn’t be too hard.
Into T1 and the Angel appeared as if by magic, ‘well done Nick, you need a hand ?’, ‘yes please’, sorted, kit out, kit on, ‘Angel’ packs for me, I am off, out of T1 in 1.06 plus change. Shout at Jeff across the tent as I leave, he follows with some abuse reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’, I know he means it too, I’m scared, no slacking.
Coming out of T1 was great, so many people, support was great all day but this was a wonderful start. I missed my mum and Kelly and apparently they missed me, they were looking for the pirate top and I had put on a gilet, after 12 mins or so they were getting concerned and my mum was up to 300 people, another few minutes, my mums tally was 400 and Kelly announced that they had probably missed me, lol, never mind. My mum showed me the race book later, it was like Papillons prison wall.
My plan for the ride was use power, my ride wattage was to be between 230w and 250w average for the race, the reason for the range is that my FTP is based on the Computrainer figures and the SRM had a slight difference in the range of 10-20 watts, this meant that I could push up to 250w for good periods and not be over my goal average but if normalised power was high I wouldn’t burn myself without knowing. I also allowed myself to go up to my FTP of 300w for the climbs with bursts over if I felt OK or someone was sucking my wheel, I also wanted to stay seated for every climb on the first loop of 70 miles.
Nutrition, start with aero bottle of 4:1 and a bottle of water for the gels, take a gel every 30 mins and pick up Gatorade at each station, when my water runs out, get another one, this worked well. In the past I have carried far too much and worried about it, its not necessary and this is the way forward for me.
The first 20 miles out to Angle had a fair bit of wind but the pace was fine, I was in amongst other riders joining various pace lines, I had no idea where mates were except Jeff so I stuck to plan, the choice of wheels for me was right too, I had the choice of rear 404 (mine), 808 (thanks Dan) and disc (thanks as always Paul), I chose 808 rear and 404 front, I think I am strong enough for the disc but it just wasn’t the conditions.
Coming into Castlemartin proved me right, the 2 riders in front on discs were at 30 degree angles on the far right of the road trying to stay upright, the gusts were a bit hairy even for me, I was looking forward to turning back to Pembroke, the wind behind would be great.
There is a short stretch where we see the riders on the out and back to Angle, I saw Adam coming towards me and wave at someone in front, its Gary, 3 bikes ahead. Game on. As I draw up I realise 2 things, the game will be starting early and it will only make him more focused. I also learn his front derailleur cable is broken and he’s having to hold it in place or it drops to the small ring. Gary and mechanicals are as regular as the sun setting so this didn’t surprise me at all.
The hills aren’t too hard for the first 40 miles, it all starts later in the loop so speed was up to over 20mph ave at this point. Myself and Gary danced a few times, apparently my sticking to watts up the hills was beginning to play with his mind as he kept coming up to my back wheel and then worrying about getting pinged for drafting, so on one big hill he left and I let him build a big enough gap not to worry about but could still see him. I would push on the second lap.
The main climbs were Narbeth, excellent support, steady climb but rewarding just from the crowds, I was 20 seconds behind Gary over the timing mat, that should keep the onliners happy watching the smackdown. The roads then got very technical as we started the move towards the coast, coming round one sharp left hander we’d driven the day before a rider was just picking up bottles and bike on the side of the hedge, shit it’s Gary, just recognise him as I shoot past, he looked ok but I didn’t have time to ask, I just kept going, knowing he will be back.
Signs for Wiseman’s Bridge appear, a fast descent into the bay and then back out on the 16% climb, pirates everywhere, a very welcome sight, lots of cheering once they realised it was me but with a gilet on, welcome relief from the slog. Onto Saundersfoot, 2 steady 10%+ climbs dropped us into a well supported town centre and then we hit the newly named ‘Heartbreak Hill’ (every IM has one) it was reminiscent of the IMCH hill of the same name, loads of great cheering. Made me smile all the way up, from there it’s a 1 mile climb to the main road and then down to Tenby to start again.
Kiln Park marks the start of the 2nd loop and this is where I had asked Kelly and my mum to stand to call out my position on the road, just to give me an idea of how many riders in front. As I passed I got the shout ’24 !!’
WTF !! 24 what ? It took me an age to work out that it must be age group, well impressed they manage to do that and probably thought it was Emma online helping them out with the timing mat info at Narbeth. Now I am grateful for the amazing support my mum and Kelly gave me ALL week and especially that day but the story behind this made me howl afterwards.
What actually happened was this ……
Kelly and my mum get to KP late, its hard to get a child everywhere and me and Kelly are always late, no change there then, as I came thru Kelly shouts ‘well done’ and my mum shouts ‘24’
Kelly ‘what did you shout that for ?’
Mum ‘that’s how many people I counted’
Kelly ‘but we’ve only been here 5 mins, he won’t have a clue what that means !’
Mum ‘he wanted to know how many were in front of him and I counted 24’
Kelly ‘but we were late and we missed loads, god, what will he be thinking?’
Mum ‘lets just tell him that’s how many cans of beer we are carrying round for him at the end’
Bless them both, calm restored.
So now, I can get rid of the thoughts of the beach runners as I have to try to work out what the hell 24 meant, I resolved it to AG, which made me annoyed as I was losing touch. It had the right effect though, head down.
The road to Pembroke the second time was hard, as I passed Penally I was doing 14mph up a false flat thinking I needed to get on a pace line, the wind was so hard I knew 10m behind someone was going to help, the problem was, I was on my own. I just pushed on, even these smaller hills were going to take it out of the best riders so I stayed with it. This is where I made my first mistake in the race, I changed down to the small chainring and went down the rear sprocket as well, chain falls off, momentum wasn’t enough to keep going but I manage to get the chain on before I stopped completely, quick push with my cleat and I am off again.
This mistake cost me my power meter, the sensor is crank based and by dropping the chain and trying too aggressively to get it back on, I snapped the sensor off the mounting point inside the crank. What to do ? Well the reason for the power was to keep myself in check for the first 80 miles, job done, now just go on feel, no issues.
The second lap of hills was hard, I was tooing and froing with some cheating French tosser who was 1 metre off anyone he could find and Henning the Great Dane – the guy who’s video I linked to earlier – (I just kept thinking he was Torbjorn Sindballe to keep me amused), I can descend but he was a unit and a half and was flying down faster than me, we played cat and mouse for a few miles, he was very strong but I knew if he got away I would get him on the run.
We also got rid of the Frenchie, I let Henning get 50 metres away, drew the frenchie into my back wheel and then snapped his umbilical up the next climb, left him in no mans land while we descended into Wiseman’s, oh and in true Lordy fashion I told him at least 3 times he was a cheating tw*t as loud as I could to anyone that could hear, and that included most of the people in Narbeth. 🙂
Wiseman’s bridge had grown supporters and was great to see mates again, Bassy giving his usual banter of ‘HTFU Rosey and put some work in’ lol, love the pirate support, Saundersfoot didn’t disappoint second time around, out of the saddle for this one. Then I worked on trying to get to T2 in under 6 hours, IronMike had pointed out that not many will do this in under 6 hours, I like to prove people wrong.
The run into T2 was very well supported and I came in with a big smile on my face.
As usual I took my feet out of my shoes as I enter T2, BAD decision, I don’t know what the floor was made of but shit, that hurt more than the bike ride, had to put my shoes back on. Into T2 to be greeted by my Angel.
‘Well done Nick, do you want any help ?’
‘OK’ – she fends off another helpful assistant, ‘he’s fine and he’s mine’ lol
Get my kit out on the floor, grab hat, gels, shoes on, ‘Angel’ picks up after me, wishes me luck and I am off, as I run out I hear Jeff’s cackling voice and he is still ‘after me’ lol, this is great banter and I set off well.
I set watch to show HR as I know this course will be a grind to the end and I need to keep the first lap steady, aim for 155, also shows me lap times for each mile and lap pace to keep me honest. Although Jeff already has thoughts on this.
Nutrition is 1 gel every 30 mins, I am carrying 4 and Kelly and mum have 4 more at the hand off station in town. Coke from the start and water, Gatorade was a no-no, experience tells me I don’t need energy drink at this stage and would make me hurl anyway.
The pirate top is now out and getting amazing support, everyone knows who we are, local races in the UK are A-MAZ-ING for this and I would like to thank everyone who shouted for me and then rest of the ship, oarsome, thanks.
The route drops north out of Tenby and hits the climb up the main road to Twycross roundabout, we then turnaround and have a little extra out and back to the New Hedges Tavern and then head back down to Tenby, you then climb back into town and taken straight out past the RNLI station, up a short 1-in-4 stinger, under the town walls, down some steps and drop back into the centre. The next bit weaves through every parallel street Tenby has to offer, very confusing but extremely well marshalled and signed, so during the race no issues but I couldn’t repeat again without the crowds.
The first loop means I can gauge where people are, Jeff less than 2 mins behind, Gary on his tail, that is ominous but I can only run my race, I spot Lordy who gives me the most encouragement of a fellow competitor all day, I mean excitement that gives me a real lift, after reading his race report I was surprised that he didn’t know where he was (3rd at the time) or he might not have been quite so vocal.
The ‘high fiving’ mates stopped after Jeff nearly broke all my fingers, saw my work colleague Dave running well as I made the descent to town, he was smiling and gave me great encouragement and thankfully had a great race. The aid stations were excellent, all of them but I knew Glyn was on the Army one at 4 miles, loads of shouts and plenty of great pirate support, thanks guys. I was holding my place and my pace so I knew I was running well and its nice to hear too.
In town the atmosphere was amazing, Kelly and mum at the aid station have regrouped and the info is good, I was 16th off the bike, get a move on, I am working through the field. Its very difficult as there are no AG markings so I set about taking anyone that looks old enough and has the same amount of bands.
The second lap is always hard, you have 3 left and normally set off too quick in lap 1, its all tough, get a grip Rosey, on the way up to Twycross I hear the voice I knew was coming, ‘whoever made this course up either needs hanging or a medal !’ Fegan cruises by, I say well done and watch him create distance, I need to focus on me.
See Adam on the way back to town, he isn’t having the best of days but was still strong on this lap. Quick stop for me in the loo, the downhill’s aren’t helping in my quest for peeing on the run, best to do it properly and get going again. Take a drink thinking its water, damn its Gatorade, nearly throw up on the spot, more coke please, say thanks to the great marshals.
Into town again, support is breathtaking, especially the central point where the lady is on the tannoy, NEWT supporters have adopted us as we have the same colours, thank-you, thank-you, struggling to say thanks to everyone as the wind is trying to blow my hat off and I have pulled it down over my eyes and am watching the road 2 metres in front of me. Kelly and mum still there, I am now in 13th and doing well. Another band for lap completion and off again.
3rd lap brings slightly slower uphill running but I know this is where moves are made by stronger runners so aim to push harder this lap, stomach is holding but I can feel an ominous rising with so many carbs in my system and coke swilling around, water only on this lap to dilute the carbs. I pass Lordy and he is still giving me the best support.
The wind gets stronger and it starts to rain, cold and wind, lovely, still concentrating on people in front with 2 bands. Back into town to get band 3, no advance on 13th as tracker’s not working, the girls shout they will see me at the finish, I am now on the way home.
Its at this point I see Tim, after his Copenhagen race I had gifted him a slot before we started, always unwise, anything can happen, he had nutrition issues for 25km of the run, I follow for a while then decide I can make a move, he may see me and push but that’s the chance I take, bit presumptuous that he recognises me and that proves right, he doesn’t, on the way out to the far end of lap 4 we chat briefly about placings and Hawaii slots and getting back there (we’d walked together in Kona in 2009 at the athlete parade), he tells me he has struggled today but getting better with each lap, I try to pick up pace and he stays, at the turn I am still chasing people with bands and I know I have one of my competitors with me but I can’t shake him.
Lordy comes the other way on his final lap and gives me loads of encouragement again, then the second mistake of the day,
Tim – ‘where are you in your AG?’
Me – ‘no idea’
Tim – ‘I’m just outside the slots’
Me – ‘That makes me the same then’
Tim – ‘you in my AG ?’
Me – ‘yep’
Me thinks ‘Oh f*ck ! – he didn’t know I was in his’
Tim kicks – he doesn’t need a foot race with 2 miles to go, I try to respond but he slowly pulls away.
So, the last 2 miles, downhill and in town, hard, hard , hard, pushing so hard I can’t feel my legs, I don’t want to lose a place, I also might catch someone, weaving in town is hard, shooting past people, shouting ‘on your right’ doesn’t seem right in an IM but the course dictates a close proximity to guys going slower and I don’t want to slow down myself or knock anyone over. Hit the cobbles, feel like I am sprinting, then I know where I am, one more corner, I know someone is behind me, I’m offered my white band, he misses my arm ! ar5e, the guys chases me because I’m not stopping, hit the promenade, give it 50 metres before looking back, no-one, yes, I can milk the finish, pass my wife and mum in the last 100metres, see the clock, 10.28, not bad, spin the positive by getting under 10:30. Cross in 65th overall and 10th in my AG.
What a race !
What of the Fudge Packers ? Well Gold went to Gary, an awesome run of 3.11 gave him a 7 min lead on me with a 10.21 finish, Silver for me with Gordon bringing home the Bronze in 10.42. A bad day for Adam running in at 11.39 but he’ll be back, after only giving up 15 minutes to Gary at Embrunman 5 weeks ago there is more in that engine to come. Well done guys and well done Gary for the bragging rights for 12 months.
I spent the next 45 mins in the medical tent as I couldn’t stop shivering, very cold, goodness knows how the guys later on kept warm in the driving rain.
Fully recovered I find out I am in 9th in my AG, there could be 9 places but its all about who starts and by all accounts, 60 people didn’t in my AG, there goes 2 slots.
The next day I find out I am 10th and we have 7 slots, the field was stacked with fast euro’s over for slots, it will not roll but we go anyway, it rolled one, I have no regrets, I will work harder, one day I will get into the slots and not have to worry about roll down, that’s the aim for next year.
I want to thank my mum and Kelly for amazing support on the build up and the day and Kelly for the previous 12 months.
Phil at D&M Cycles, my sponsor for everything I need for the race and a lot of training and banter from the shop, I have a new sponsor for this year and Computrainer has worked out very well, in such a stacked field I had plenty of running in my legs after a good bike, I will use it to even greater effect for next year.
And the support both on the course and online, I can hear you on the course and I can feel the online support as I know its happening, the course was amazing for support, pirates, Chester Tri, competitors and locals, the race was a winner from the first buoy in my eyes 🙂
I will be back.