*** many thanks to Andrew Horne for this race report ***

TriDubai has an addictive aura about it, and 2 years ago when I arrived in Dubai and discovered that there was a Triathlon community, never imagined that it would lead me to sign up for an Ironman, when all I had done was 3 Sprints and 2 Olympic distance events since taking up the sport. But, when I met this amazing group of people, talented, crazy, fun, inspirational – being  56 years old seemed totally irrelevant when I browsed the Ironman website, looking for an IM event to sign up for.

In case I am too verbose, I thought I’d start with Lessons learnt

1.       The hydration and nutrition plan is as important as your body's ability to carry you the distance. Getting 300 cals, the correct mix of water and electrolytes into your body every hour doesn't just need a lot of planning, you need to keep it simple as well - easier said than done.

2.       Get a coach - there is no way I could have done the training load without someone telling me that it was ok to feel as knackered, as I did on many occasion. Most of my training programme included 2 days off per week! The danger of over training or overly intensive workouts is real.

3.       Be realistic about your goals, I may have applied too much pressure to myself, and that can threaten your enjoyment of the race, which has to be one of the top goals in entering an Ironman.

4.       Preparation for transition in an Ironman, because it’s an Ironman can cause you to do too much faffing around. My transition times were dreadful, nearly double what I had planned, and I packed way too much into my Bike and Run bags.

5.       If you are travelling across time zones, allow enough time to really adjust. I think I cut it a bit fine and felt a bit tired due to lack of solid sleep.

6.       Write down your race plan, including why you are doing it. It helps to overcome the spells when your mind is playing games – memorizing your goals is like an override mechanism!!

Pre-race

I arrived on Tuesday evening after the 16 hour flight from Dubai to Houston, did a 30 min jog to unwind. Wednesday morning I met up with fellow Tri Dubai team members Jihad, Andy, Lynette, Adrian  and Hasan for check-in, briefing, and then set off for a bike ride around part of the course with Jihad and Hasan. Thursday was mainly a rest day, and familiarization of the swim start, transition, and parts of the run course. (Maps of the area were not helpful, and so the only thing for it was a good old military style recce!!) Friday we all met for the official practice swim, which was a two hour window early in the morning. Then home for a final bike and run, before packing transition bags for the 6th time. Off to Transition to check-in bike, and time for more rest.

Race day

Up at 4am, (well earlier because I was excited and still hadn't adjusted to the 9 hour time change).  Breakfast of porridge, banana and water 4.30am - left for transition, checked bike, and walked the 20 mins to the swim start. I left plenty of time so as not to get stressed.

5.40am - had a gel and litre of water, and a salt tablet. 6.20am - 2nd gel washed down with water Got into the back of the group claiming to swim sub 1 hour, even though my target time was 65 mins.

(Advice here, people are wildly optimistic and so don't be too concerned about applying the same to yourself – I spent the first KM overtaking people)

6.40am Swim, rolling start, far more civilised than I expected and got clear water almost immediately. I paced myself at the start and looked for a pair of feet to draft off. Not something I had particularly planned for, but I kept finding myself tucked in behind someone going my pace. I definitely recommend drafting if you can, I’m not sure I was faster, but I did not feel like I had just swum 3.8km when I emerged for the water.  I love swimming, but even I felt a bit bored by the end and was happy to be charging through transition.

Swim 1:04:33 6th in division, 174th overall – Really happy with that!

T1 - as I mentioned in lessons learnt, I over packed, and this caused me to mess around which extended my time significantly. The transition area was a bog, and so I go some zip lock bags to put over my shoes - it didn't work - my fault, and I paid for it - riding half the bike with my right foot not locked in!

Bike - Texas is a one loop course and it was a really lovely ride after the dogma of desert in AQ. Rolling countryside, but the roads were not as smooth as we are used to and there were some spells where concentration was really needed to avoid pot holes etc.  I stopped after a couple of miles to try and sort out the grit in my pedals, but even after using a bottle of water, I still couldn’t clip in on the right – thankfully, I had speed plates, and so I do not think this impacted me too much until I hit the hills. Fortunately, after about 60 miles, I managed to finally clip in. In spite of this hiccup, the ride out was quick with the wind on our backs. On the turn it was a different story! We experienced strong headwinds, with serious gusts that caught me off guard from time to time. My race plan was to take it easy and make sure I had legs for the run. In hindsight, I think I took it too easy, and probably could have gone harder without impacting the legs for the run.

Nutrition went to plan, 2 gels, and one mule bar per hour and 500ml water and 500ml electrolyte, plus a salt tablet each hour. This was important and I felt I got it bang on. I was terrified of overdoing the power and under doing nutrition. In the end ave power was well below the target, but I felt very good at the end of the bike. However, some illusion there, as the strong winds disguised just how humid it was.

Bike time 6:07:46 (Division rank 23rd and on plan)

T2 - I walked through T2, probably a bit conservative, but wanted to feel right mentally for the marathon. Too long, too much packed!!

Run – I felt good, I wanted to be off the bike by 2pm, and it was 2.10pm as I left transition. I have never run further than 22km so I knew that at some point I was going to be in unchartered territory, but the game plan was to get to the start of the run in decent time, but more importantly, with legs strong enough to carry me 42km.

Then I came unstuck! First of all, I just could not get my HR under control, it was racing away at 160 plus, and so I walked much longer than planned, but it just would not come down, then disaster struck - cramp, cramp, cramp, my hamstrings and left quad just froze up, and every time I tried to restart running, they just did it again. I resigned myself to finishing with a walkathon – I was gutted. All dreams and targets quickly slipped away as I lay on the grass having volunteers stretching out my legs. Damn!! But - Death before DNF, so I just stuck at it. I met with Andy, and heard his story, which was more depressing than mine, because I knew his target and his ability.

Eventually, as the finish got closer jogging became possible and I managed an unbroken run for the last 2 miles. I alone at the finish, and Mike Reilly’s immortal words “Andrew Horne, you are an Ironman” put a smile on my face that stayed there for 24 hours!!

Run time 6:34:53 47th in division, but that didn’t matter anymore

Total time 14 hours and 5 mins.

Final analysis:  I did it! But I am also disappointed - I cannot allow myself to do one Ironman with a time of 14 hours, I know I can do better than that - and I must!!

Special thanks:

To my wife and youngest daughter who supported me throughout – no social life, being woken at anti-social hours, and most of all, for putting up with Mr Blobby in Lycra.

To Neil Flanagan, who has transformed this Mr Blobby into a Triathlete and having me at peak fitness at the right time! (A note here – I did not suffer any stiffness after this event, it astonished me (and all around me) that I was fully mobile in the days after). Thanks Flanners!!

To the TriDubai team members (Hasan, Lynette, Andy, Jihad, Adrian, and Amanda), it was so much more fun being there with you, and as usual, thanks for all the support .

Cheers

Andrew