Read Joe Duckworth story about the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada,
“What you really need to do is get some warm weather training in on the bike buddy”
“I live here mate, where am I going to manage to train in 100oF”
I’d just done the unthinkable and qualified for the Ironman 70.3 world championships in Las Vegas Nevada USA. Or had I?
A very tanned American gent draped in Mark Allen on-line training kit was telling me about his experience there in 2011.
We were both collecting our entry paperwork and feeling very pleased with ourselves. At least I was up to this point of the conversation. How was I going to prepare for these conditions in good old England, especially considering the weather we were having.
I’d qualified at the UK Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball event in Devon on a course that Chris McCormack, former Ironman world champion, has called the toughest 70.3 in the world.
I’ve had a good season this season with lots of solid training, lots of good advice from training partners and from my physio’s Andy and Heather at Summit. Due to these factors, my main goal this year was to qualify for Vegas. As anybody reading this who may have done an Ironman will know, it’s not a simple thing to achieve. Here is why:
Training has to be specific to the event, this may mean sacrificing lots of personal time and choosing your races carefully leading up to the event.
Due to the volume / intensity of training required, staying injury free is difficult (I’m 41) hence the need for a good physio and programme. You need to be honest with them and yourself!
You need to devote time to 3 sports and be willing to work extremely hard on your weaknesses.
Nutriton has to be practiced and perfected. If not, this will end your race early, guaranteed!!!
Finally you need all this to come together on race day, along with no bike mechanicals or crashes and a certain amount of luck!
So there you have it, I had a couple of races after UK 70.3 just to break up the 16/19 hour training weeks. These went well with an 11th position at A Day In The Lakes Tri which is also a 70.3, 17th at 5150 in Liverpool which is a standard distance. And 11th at the Lakeland Triathlon, which is an odd distance somewhere between the two distances.
At the Liverpool event and the Lakeland event I was 3rd in the 40/45 category so I picked up a couple of prizes along the way.
So that was it for the preparation. Next stop VEGAS BABY!!
On the 4th September myself and my family touched down in Las Vegas. The first thing was the heat. I can honestly say I have never felt anything quite like it.
This actually took my mind off the fact that my bike had been sat in a cargo hold for hours with probably loads of cases on top of it. This might not seem too significant to most people, but this bike lives in the house as part of the family!!
Re-united with my beloved (the bike) we made our way to the hotel. Once the bike was unpacked it was straight to Lake Las Vegas to check out the race HQ and have a ride on the course.
Thank god I didn’t book Lake Las Vegas for accommodation. It was full of amazing looking, but very nervous looking athletes. One thing I have learned is that nervous tension and atmospheres burn energy, something you done want to waste before a race like this, believe me.
Out on the bike it was great. At least for the first 20 minutes. Then came the heat. Shoulders and legs were burning and my drinks had gone from cold to at best, tepid.
After 45 minutes, I went back to the car to get some recovery drink inside me. When I stopped me whole body was on fire. My thoughts were, how am I going to ride for 2:45, then run a half marathon? My wife turned on the car and the temperature read 106oF. The following days basically consisted of me swimming early morning in the hotel pool and either running or cycling in the afternoon to try and get used to the heat. Something that I did, to a point.
On the Saturday you carry out your final preparations for the race. This starts with a swim in the venue, Lake Las Vegas. I got in and got a real shock. You’ve all been told that “the sea was as hot as the bath” by friends who go to far flung places. The truth is it’s not really that warm, as you all know. Well this lake is the warmest water I have ever swum in. So much so. that I was overheating and actually started to sweat badly when I got out. This was something I didn’t expect.
The rest of the day was simply putting your bike and run gear in transition and attending the pre-race briefing. All of which is pretty standard triathlon stuff.
04:00 I am sneaking around the apartment making my breakfast of porridge oats, jam and a banana plus some strong coffee. Life in the edge eh!!
05:00 I arrived at the venue which was a hive of activity. 2200 athletes both professional and age groupers mixing together talking about the day and what to expect. Here come the nerves!! I put all the nutrition for the day on my bike and inflate tyres. At 06:00 T1 closes so this is all a bit of a rush, something I try to avoid on race morning at all costs, not today though.
06:00 toilet required. I’ll not go into the gory details, but, as I stood in line a tall American came, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could push in. Just as I was about to tell him where to go, I read the name on his tri-suit. POTTS. Andy Potts, one of the pro athletes and possibly one of the fastest swimmers in the sport. This guy is the man and in with a chance of winning. Of course I let him in!
06:30 The pro men set off at the rate of knotts. Me and all the other age group athletes watched in ore of these guys. 5 minutes later all the pro women set of in equally as impressive style. For the next hour wave after wave of age groupers started their journey.
07:25 Into the bath I get for a warm up. Like I needed one!
07:30 The cannon goes and I’m on my way. I normally complete the 1.2 mile swim in about 32/35 minutes. Today was not going to be one of those days. By the half way point I was seriously uncomfortable with the water temperature. The only thing to do was to slow down or this was going to be a very short day. So, I exited the water in 40 minutes, not the best start.
The run to T1 was about 300m. By the time I got there and started the bike leg, my tri-suit was practically dry. The best way to describe the 56 mile bike is Hot and very, very undulating. In-fact I can’t remember a flat piece of tarmac. I set off out towards Las Vegas then did a u-turn and headed to Lake Mead National Park, basically the desert. And so it began, the battle to stay hydrated and not to overheat. I’d decided not to go to hard on the bike so as to be able to run. 20mph average was the aim and I achieved this. I got passed with a few people but tried not to get involved in a personal battle with anyone. At every aid station I grabbed 3 bottles of ice cold water, two of which I wore and one which I put in my aero bottle to cool my nutrition drink. This didn’t really work as 2/3 minutes later it was like drinking warm water.
The thoughts on the bike went from “how cool is this” to “how did I get here” to “why do I do this”. Then the harsh reality of the desert was literally explained over a loud hailer from one of the support cars.
“Guys hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Take your time guys, stay safe the car temperature is reading 112oF”. Had I made the right decision to hold back on the bike? I thing so. The real sting in the tail with the bike leg is the fact that the last 12 miles into T2 are all up hill.
I arrived in T2 after 2:50 on the bike with an average speed of just over 20 mph and I felt in pretty good shape. It was then a case of a new pair of socks put on the cap and pick up the nutrition belt and get on with the 13.1 miles (half marathon). The course was 3 laps of 2 miles uphill then 2 miles downhill with an aid station about every 1½ miles. The heat wasn’t as bad in the town, a mere 103oF. I decided to go for a 7:30 pace but had to settle for 7:45. The heat was having a massive effect on everybody on the course by now. The only thing that keeps you going at this point is the fact that every 1½ miles you get ice, ice water, cold sponges and the triathletes drug of choice Coke cola. It really is a mind game at this point. Mentally tough people start to beat the hell out of people who are more physically fit. The way I cope is by singing songs in my head that I have used during long runs, visualising the finish line and seeing my family at the end.
By the third lap I was really in the pain cave. I saw my wife and my 2 girls who were immense all day and they were suffering in the heat just watching. I told my wife that this was it, last lap and I was going to have a go at it and leave it all on the road.
I got involve with two other guys during the last mile and actually started to race really hard. None of us were giving this up easily. All three of us passed lots of people in that last mile which I clocked at 6:35. The sprint finish was a killer. I managed to beat one but the other guy was too strong. All three of us were caught by support staff who, poured cold water on us furiously. My legs were gone and it took me a good 10 minutes before I could walk unaided.
And that was kind of it. The day had gone relatively smoothly. I didn’t break any records but I got round in one piece, didn’t end up on a drip and didn’t get injured!
I was the fourth British finisher in my age group and 86th overall in my age group of 391.
Overall in the race I was 692nd out of 2200.
Swim time: 40:33
Bike time: 2:50:48
Run time: 1:49:34
Total Time 5:27:46
I only started Triathlon 4 years ago. I have had some great successes, but made some silly mistakes, which, is how I met Andy at Summit.
I went into the clinic in the January 2011 before Ironman UK Bolton. I was in bits. Long hard winter sessions, lack of stretching and poor posture had put me in a position where I could hardly walk, let along train. Quite simply, Andy and Heather worked on me and with me, giving me stretching and strengthening sessions to get me not only to the start line, but, to enable me to finish in a time of 10:38, then to go onto Ironman Cozumel Mexico and better my time to 10:07. For that I will be forever grateful