*** many thanks to Sean James for this race report ***

Things that make you go............ faster.

Lessons I’ve learned.

Not having the attention span to watch a whole film on the Emirates flight back from Europe, these notes were recalled a week after Roth 2013 and may be a bit random. Rather than a description of the course and the race I’m going to give reflections on those things that I could remember and seemed to help or hinder me in the previous 12 months.

I choose the period of 12 months for a number of significant reasons. My holidays are fixed and with no possibility to take Sundays off, I could not compete during the year.

I’ll give my Timeline of the last 12 months and it may help understand the points and how the training fitted around life. This was my 5th Ironman distance race. My previous best was 10.19 at Regensburg in 2011 on a hilly, wet bike course.

July 2012 – Austria IM, Swim (no wetsuit 1.18),  Bike (40C+ 5.20), Run, (8km collapsed in the heat and was taken twice to medical tent and then to hospital for a cardiac scan and in an attempt to revive me)

July 2012 – UK IM Swim (1.12 after waiting for 30minutes in the water), Bike (5.45), Run (4.10)

August 2012 – led a 2 week mountaineering trip to Siberia (4500m)

September 2012 – back to the UAE – started training in September regardless of the heat but felt really strong. Did not rest or look after myself. Constant cramps and fatigue.

October 1st 2012 – Knocked off road bike in Dubai and woke in ambulance, no recollection of anything. Head injuries and complications that lasted until March. Discharged the same day after asking if I could go home. Started training hard the next week and too soon. As a result I stopped until virtually the end of January.


During September and October, regular track sessions and got really fast until November when I blew up with many accident related injuries. Lost interest in races and training, pulled out of DCS 1/2m, Dubai Marathon, London Marathon. Ended up doing no races until the last TriDubai Triathlon in Dubai in March and that was my only race. Did Urban Ultra 30km trail race in April.


No swimming whatsoever from mid November til mid April and from April only 1 session per week on Saturday with TriDubai. From the start of June I did 2 sessions a week (1 on Saturday with TriDubai and one in the sea in Fujairah by myself)


Did a lot of MTB exploring over the winter.  Avoided Roadsters ride this year and this should not be the main ride.

The Taper

5 weeks out:

Heat in Dubai incredible  – couldn’t do more than 90mins on bike and then no speed. Every session felt like I was going backwards and started to get worried I still had 5 weeks and had stopped too early.

3 weeks out:

Sea was getting too hot so had to find a pool. Live in Fujairah (with no pools) had to drive to Dubai Men’s College covered pool but it was still too hot with a wetsuit. Managed 2 sessions of 3km (1km *3) Speed was about 20minute kilometres. Heat killed me.

Found the Al Quadra track for the first time and the temperatures were much better 27 – 30C after 8pm. Sessions included 2 laps. Speed picked up. The track and parking allowed management of drinks and cooling.

2 weeks out:

I had finished work 27th June, came to Klagenfurt and watched the IM for motivation. Swam in the lake regularly. 4 times a week up to 3.5km each session. Much better temperatures and first time in wetsuit. Used GPS for swimming and I noticed I had some speed. Suddenly sub 15minute per km and without wetsuit even managed 15.50 per km.

1 week out:

Still swim sessions of 3 – 3.5 kms but without a wetsuit as I wanted the mental boost of extra speed. Everything in the water seemed to flow. Less and less running and biking.

The focus was a lot more on swimming and not so much on bike and run. Still did both in same day but really pleased with the swimming improvement.


  • Don’t be afraid of over tapering. This is the first time I tapered for so long (virtually 2 week)
  • Massage once a week. As a proactive measure and maintenance. Only having treatment after an injury is too late.
  • Stretching after every session – at least 15 minutes.
  • Make sure every session is not leaving you at the limit. 1 session a week you should stop and be able to say I could do more.
  • On a similar note, your recovery and preparation for your next session should start during the last part of your session i.e, before you finish the current session. Eg start taking on fluids, nutrition and working at a tempo that will let you build back up.
  • I always had some protein shake ready after most sessions. Stopped taking it 5 weeks out in an attempt to drop weight. Over last 2 years I had put on 5 kgs mainly due to biking bulk.
  • Stopping bread for last 2 years.
  • Coke – love it but I believe it takes 30 glasses of water to reduce the acidity of the body to normal after 1 can.
  • Drink lots of green tea (I prefer cold made from leaves) even during training.
  • Less focus on speedwork (most people over 30 won’t increase their maximum speed) – volume and slower sessions are good for the strength and endurance and the mind. You will become stronger in the long term and avoid injuries.
  • At 42 I was doubtful about the length of the taper period. I now think 2 weeks is required to rebuild and feel “normal” again. Feeling tired during a training phase is ok for short periods but not more than 1 week.
  • A 12 or 16 week plan is ridiculous with each session predetermined and regimented, much too long. You cannot possibly foresee factors that will affect it and your performance. You must adapt it. I go week by week according to what else Im doing, who Im doing it with and how Im feeling. If you have a long plan and miss sessions it will affect your motivation and mindset.
  • Noticeable changes in diet, lifestyle and training patterns take a long time. Don’t compare your progress or ability to someone else. It will limit you.
  • Swimming 4 – 5 sessions a week for maybe only 5 minute improvement didn’t seem beneficial to me and take too much away from running and biking. I tried to maintain a decent level of swimming. Swimming is not resting whatever you think.
  • Roth has very short transitions in terms of both time and distance. I took 6 minutes total as compared to a normal 15. Don’t overlook saving 3 – 5 minutes for each transition if you have an important target. Even half prepared its better to get rolling on the bike or running than sitting in the transition tent chatting.
  • Salt tablets – awesome. As many as possible. During training, racing and resting. Less electrolyte, sugarbased drinks in training. More water and salt tablets.
  • Drink and eat early on both run and bike. I dont monitor food or calorie intake but if you feel weak its too late. Within the first hour on both you need to be taking on a lot. For Roth I had a hard time between 10 – 25 km of the run as it was too hot to eat. From 25km I was wasted and slowing. I forced 2 gels at every station (2kms separation) from then and picked the last 12km off pretty quick.
  • Wearing compression in bed stops the twitchy legs and waking up with rigid legs.
  • Before the next race I would probably do more easy walking after sessions, maximum of 30 minutes to loosen up rather than collapsing on the couch.
  • Not wanting to do intended sessions and missing sessions is bad but develop an alternative strategy - miss them for an alternative exercise – a 6-8 hour hike in the mountains now and again will be just as good for the body and mind as doing a crap 3 hour bike ride round an 8km track.
  • 5 weeks out from the race I did the Cabbage Soup 7 day diet for the first time. I continued training – 15 hours but at a lower rate. Was fantastic. I had a lot more energy. Taught me about training at lower speeds and also changed my appetite and taste.
  • Go to a physio early if you have an injury. Reduce volume or stop and use ice and heat.
  • Brick sessions – still undecided how good they are. After you have done 2 or 3 triathlons I m not sure of the benefits of a brick session for Ironman distance.
  • During the race, accurate awareness of timing is essential. My Garmin indicated a certain swim speed which I kept to for each km but at the end it was 10 minutes out ! I also recorded a ride faster than the official time I was given. By the run I had messed up the Garmin and couldn’t get the km splits. I had to calculate them manually. The Garmin also ended up with a total distance of 233km.
  • This year planning to do lots of slower 20 - 30km runs and more time trials (5km bike, 20km ride)
  • Unless you live on adrenalin try not to get caught up in the “smash it” attitude, leave it to the pros (and you probably won’t see them saying they will smash it). Everything you do takes energy, even waving. Control and calculation are key.
  • A typical training week for me was not more than 350km bike (over about 3 sessions), 40 - 50km run (over 4 sessions) and no swimming until the last 2 months. Anything more than and the next week would be hard.
  • A big week leading up to the race looked like this (all figures in minutes) = total 18 hours. First figure is in the morning, 2nd in the evening. After a week like this I would have to do a 12 hour week as I felt tired.

Sunday Run 110
Monday Bike 60, Swim 40
Tuesday Bike 270
Wednesday Swim 30, Bike/Run 120
Thursday Swim 40
Friday Bike 250
Saturday Swim 90, Run 90

  • A 12 hour week would like this.

Sunday Nothing
Monday Bike 250, Swim 40
Tuesday Surf Ski 50
Wednesday Nothing
Thursday Nothing
Friday Bike 240
Saturday Run 50, Swim 60