IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships 2023
Lahti Finland Race Day
IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships 2023
Lahti Finland Race Day
Race Day Baby !!
After being inspired by the women the day before I couldn’t wait to race today, I had achieved goal one, get to the start line fit and ready to race, I didn’t have an excuse in the book and it was the world champs baby, time to race.
There were a couple of little niggly things I could moan about with the race and IM but in general the race was set up brilliantly, and so it should do for a world champs, but one part really irked me.
The pro men started at 7:30am and then we had to race in age group waves in 10 minute intervals from there, so my start time was 9:10am. Wouldn’t normally be a problem, little bit longer in bed, later breakfast etc but the issue was we all had to be done and out of transition by the time the pros went into the water !! Which meant I had to stand around with 400 other 50+ year old athletes for nearly 2 hours, again, its not like I couldn’t find things to do but it meant extending breakfast and general feeding for an additional time period so had to plan to take stuff with us.
I messaged Sam from Total Endurance Nutrition who I had been working with in the build up and explained the situation and he sent me a great message back with ideas on what to take and when, issue sorted. We left around 6am with a 30 minute drive to Lahti I wanted to find parking close by transition 2 so the girls would have a base for their kit in case the weather changed. We were there in plenty of time, grabbed the kit and then yomped the 10 minutes or so to transition 1 to sort out bike.
The great thing about having a time pressure on you in transition is you don’t mess about, checked tyres which I had over inflated by 5psi the night before – perfect – loaded my Xendurance nutrition with drink and a couple of gels and attached the Garmin computer. Nothing else was needed, the helmet and shoes were in the bike bag which we couldn’t get to, so took a few last glimpses of the bike, started the Garmin so it would go on pause and then met up with the girls to walk to the swim start area and chill for the next 90 minutes or so.
The weather was perfect, clear skies, not too cold, a calmness over the lake which was odd with over 3200 men lining up to race, we picked a spot by the lake and parked our bums.
With about 30 minutes to go, the wetsuit went on and I said goodbye to the girls and went for a practise swim and got in the chute. I met up with Phil Boyd, Steve Williams and John Barratt. All in my age group and all ready to race hard.
Swim Leg, buoys every 100m which was brilliant
32mins 15secs – 82nd AG
My swimming has improved honestly, I have swum more this year than the last few. More swims, more time, more km’s but you still have to have it on the day. I didnt get to draft much as we set off from the start with a metre or so dive which I decided to jump instead, saw way too many people losing goggles as its just not something we normally practise, that meant I was a little bit adrift off the bat but soon over took all of my little group and started working my way through to the next few groups.
I pretty much took the most direct line, solid sighting helped with really clear marked buoys and with one every 100m it was a really simple course to navigate, I also sang in my head most of the way round, the swim is one place you can start to think about the demons ahead of you before you’ve even got out of the water and I just didnt want to to think about anything other than stroke and someones feet.
Before long I was nearing the last buoy, now I could think of what to do next, getting up the steps onto the harbour front was teh first part, then the run of almost 100m to transition. I checked my watch, 32 mins something, OK as it goes but now its done, it doesn’t matter. Time to ride.
4mins 5secs – 72nd AG – gained 10 places right there !
Was a long run to the bikes but the same for everyone, I grabbed my bag from the hooks, stripped off wetsuit, emptied my bike bag on the floor, shoved the wetsuit in the bag along with cap and goggles.
Put helmet on and ran to the bike with my shoes in my hand, I had asked the previous day if this was OK and they were fine, threw the swim stuff at a volunteer and ran to the bike.
Bike shoes on, grabbed bike and I was off and running to the exit. Quick shout from Jo the MC and out onto the road with a running jump mount, always a risk but if I can’t get that right after all these years I need to be shot.
2hours 17mins – 24th AG !
With shoes already on the flying mount was easier to just get on and go. Settling into the TT position was a little harder, there were so many people around it was dangerous to just get aero and not watch what you were doing and after seeing the girls race on Saturday I knew there were a couple of early crashes and the underpasses in the first 10km weren’t going to help that. So rode for a few minutes upright, checked everything over, got some clear ground and road and then settled in.
Fuelling strategy was based on 100-110g carbs an hour with a mix of drink and gels, I have an ‘eat alert’ on the Garmin which means I dont miss it but having the straw right in front of my face means I am constantly drinking to thirst anyway. I had a second bottle on the back of the bike and if this came off I could take from the course and pretty much get on with anything stomach wise.
The course is 1 loop of 56 miles, the advertised elevation was wrong and was a little under 600m we reckoned, nothing too steep but constantly rolling, the last 10km had the 2 worst climbs which I wasn’t that bothered about. The roads had perfect tarmac and our recce the Friday before confirmed you could get a pretty good speed going. It was going to be a fast day if the weather held out, a little chilly early on but I would rather have this than the heat the women had.
The wind decided to blow early in the ride but the worst was to come. After about 20km it started raining, and then it rained some more, and then it tipped it down, and it was bloody freezing, the drop in temperature was quick and really noticeable, it actually dropped from 17 degs to 12 degs and stayed like that for most of the bike, the choice of no jacket or arm warmers or gloves felt like it could have been different if this had been at the start. I got my head down and concentrated on working hard enough to stay warm even though I was losing feeling in my fingers, I was making my way through the field pretty quickly, still no-one to work with as this was mainly slower riders from the previous waves.
I just focused on my power and my position trying to increase the speed by staying low into teh wind, making sure my chin was touching the straw.
I knew what power numbers I would be riding, we had done a practise at target watts a few weeks before, 240-245w, losing a few pounds in the last 3 weeks made this a good watts per kilo for the ride overall but at 71kg going into the race it was as good as it was going to get. The course definately suited me, more of a constant power and not too many hard hills, the descents even though shallow would give me an advantage to go for more speed.
I eventually came up against the group that was going to define the bike ride for me, by the look of my power starting to spike and drop because I was trying to get to the front of the group it was at 20 miles in. In all groups there are workers and non workers, in this one there seemed to be more of the latter, especially one dude who despite the group concertinering over and over again forcing everyone to make the right decision to overtake and go to the front, refused point blank to do anything except sit on the wheel of the person in front, I dont normally get involved but he got a few shouts about cheating, he just refused to engage so each time I would go to the front and lo and behold, it was never him who came past to do some work in a paceline but the same 1 or 2.
Now this being the worlds there were going to be a lot of riders around the same standard and hard to space out but you should at least try !! I didnt want to be carded for being anywhere near a group but those that ride packed triathlon courses that are predominatly flat know once you find a group of evenly paced riders its hard to break, I tried a few times but each time I looked around, they were back.
So again, looking at power at 25 miles I had had enough and my power gets a bit silly, especially on the downhills, I wasn’t able to make a clean break on the ups as I wasn’t strong enough but it seemed none of them could descend for shit, so with 2 short hills close to each other with good descents I went for a break and it stuck. I stayed on the good side of 240 for a while but rode the downs hard and the ups evenly. I was passing plenty of people and using them as slingshots in case anyone was still following and making sure no-one could latch on. I dont think I was passed for another 35km.
Still solo and pushing – rain is awesome but the cold, not so much !
The hardest part was watching people on the side of the road who had succumb to the cold, being wrapped in blankets and put in cars it was that cold. I must have counted at least 10 and people who had punctures, I knew if I got a flat now it was game over as I was never getting the tyre off in this cold.
The gels I had were easy to open but trying to stuff the open tab and then the gel packet back into my pocket took ages as the fingers just weren’t working.
At around 50 miles or so I was passed by the M25-29 age group working pretty illegally in a group, I tried to jump on the back but they were going way too fast for me to stay legal so I dropped and settled back in, another group of 5 or 6 came past, way too close to each other but again too quick for me to react. It was then time for the 2 climbs at the end, the first of which we had recce’d, there was a great downhill off this one and I just started passing people for fun.
Coming into the last mile or so we hit the final climb to great cheers and crowds and Robs wife Lynne shouting as me to go easy round the bend at the bottom as people were falling off all over the place. Noted !
I eased into T2 with solid bike split and ready to run.
I came off the bike in 17th in my AG.
Transition was loooooong, it was indoors too so the older age groups had longer route due to the way the building was formatted, so I dropped bike on rack, doubled back to the ‘in’ path and then ran along this until I had to move to the outside of the building as we all had to take the same route eventually.
Grabbed bag off peg, and sat down, my fingers were like arthritic claws, I tried to pull my socks on but it took an age, it did give me time to stretch out my back as it was pretty tight but it would take 3 miles on the run to do it properly. Grabbed the run belt, XEndurance gel nutrition, left the sunglasses as it was still raining and was off, 5 minutes plus sounds a lot but it wasn’t actually that bad in the grand scheme of things.
4 laps out and back on the run
1:30:34 – 38th AG
Running out of transition I gained a place so up to 16th now, I knew I needed a solid run but I could only give what I had left and I thought I biked reasonably hard. The course was going to be tough as the first 1/3 was up a hill after doing the loop in the stadium.
All smiles out of T1 but the run was yet to open up
I had no idea where I was but immediately Phil Murphy shouted I was in 15th in AG, bonus, top 20 (which was the aim) so get going and try not to screw this up.
As I completed the lap in the stadium I saw Phil Boyd coming into it, that meant I had around 90 seconds on someone I knew in my AG, not great in the head but someone to try to pace off. I’d passed him on the bike when trying to leave the earlier group, so even after all the work I thought I did it didn’t give me much more than a minutes gap on him.
Coming out of the stadium we turned left and then climbed for AGES, pace dropped but the bonus on our side was it wasn’t that warm so easier to keep cooler but I still had to unzip the suit all the way. My heart was trying to burst out of my chest so I knew I was trying and heart rate was climbing steadily, as I knew Phil was behind me I really wanted to stop to stretch out the back but I kept waiting for a corner where I couldn’t be seen or provide some positivity to someone else, had to do twice on the first hill but for no more than a few seconds each time.
After the climb was the downhills, damn they were steep, I wanted to open out the stride but felt like I was losing some control so had to hold back a little, dropping to the lake side it turned into rollers, pretty relentless to be honest but it was tough for everyone.
Running in the stadium with Ski Jumps behind you was awesome
As I neared T1 at the bottom of the first lap I knew from that point and for the next 3 miles it was back uphill past the finish area, back into the stadium I clocked that Phil was only 20-30 seconds behind me and it was only time now but I couldn’t control that, there were a couple of guys around me with similar numbers so they must also be in the mix. In my head though my pace was slowing and I must be losing places but I hung to the thought I was still in the top 20.
We have to run past T2 again and over a ridiculous man made bridge which really saps the legs but I knew I would see the family again. As I entered the stadium Kelly and the girls were there and Kel shouts ‘you’re in 85th !!’
It was a real WTF !! moment. She is one very good supporter and I know I am at the world champs but 70 f*cking places in one lap !! Not a chance, I chose to ignore, and good job, that could have really got me down, but to back up the negative thoughts for a second as I ran past Phil M again, he didn’t shout my position so I almost thought this backed it up, I chose again to ignore, I had a Boydy to contend with and others to beat. It turns out she had looked at my swim position and panicked !
The hill on Lap 2 nearly finished me off, my heart rate was now at threshold and it was starting to get warmer, I prayed for the downhills, Boydy came past and shouted for me to follow him 🙂 there was no chance, he was gliding up the hill. I tried to keep him in sight but that didnt last long.
One of the few flat bits where you could open up the legs.
From the lakeside in the above picture it was around 5km to the finish with the last 1km or so uphill, I really needed to hold onto pace, with the thought of losing places in my head I tried to run quicker, each aid station I was using less and less to increase the speed, I saw Claire at the bottom of each loop which made me smile as I was getting some good banter. Then I saw Sacha cheering on, I had a km to go and there were 2 guys that had stuck around me I could see in my AG. I tried to kick over that stupid bridge (which you can see behind me in the the pic below) which worked but then I had nothing for the straight before the finishing chute.
Last turn before the finish line, not enough oxygen on the planet right there !
I tried to push hard to the finish line, aware that in Venice in May 14 seconds was a place difference and every second counted.
I charged down the finish chute in the process getting my head wrapped in someones Indian flag, by the time I reached the finish line I forgot to even hold my hands aloft I was so knackered.
Under 4hours 30 mins ! Job done, initially 16th but moved to 17th in AG as the stragglers came in. I just fell on the floor, which none of the volunteers really like, so they kindly cajoled me to get up when they realised I wasn’t actually unconcious.
Pretty good feeling finishing that race and one for the memory banks, I collected my medal, said hi to the compères Paul and Joanne and fell into the athlete village.
I hobbled to the finish area and waited for anyone I knew to chat ‘triathlon’ as I knew once we left that area it was post race and all tri chat would be banned 🙂
It was also time for beer, and a change of clothes, I needed to walk and the athlete area wasn’t that great so after I found Schoolsy and Steve Williams we left and found our Uber supporters.
Then it was beer time.
I always have people to thank in the lead up, Bikmo going above and beyond to sort out my bike issues at the start of the season and with early season race entries.
XEndurance UK provide me with great nutrition products and contributed to ease the burden of what was a pretty expensive race week for which I am so thankful.
I’ve been coached for many years by Chris Standidge at TTT, I’ve been on a journey only doing 70.3 races this year and learned a lot but definately back to IM next year.
As well as that the area I live in has some great triathlete mates and their encouragement to get out on the harder sessions definitely helps too.
Lastly has to always be family, Kelly and the kids put up with my early mornings and late night training, Finland was an amazing location and we really had fun as a family but its still really a race week so they still sacrifice a few days to long hours of shouting and ringing cowbells xx
Still have one more hit out at Turkey 70.3 in October which I am already training hard for and a proper family holdiay afterwards.