Phil Graves checks in after Ironman Melbourne
I'm back in the UK now after my 7 weeks in Australia and New Zealand racing 2 Ironmans in 3 weeks - a very big task!
After 8th place in New Zealand I was very hopeful I could put in a good performance in Melbourne, racing in the strongest field I’ve seen since Kona 2009. My recovery had gone well, I had done a couple of longer rides and some good running sessions and the course in Melbourne felt very familiar, the bike section being on a closed off motorway was very similar to most TTs in the UK. I had a lovely home stay too, both of whom were racing and it meant I was very relaxed going in and I felt that the point-to-point nature of the run course would really help me too.
Race day was quite windy and cold, not as cold as it had been in NZ but the wind made the open water swim in the bay quite choppy. This coupled with the fact that as soon as I dived into the water my goggles filled with water and I had to stand up to sort them out, made for an interesting start to the day. I did manage to recover somewhat and move up, I figured if I could just keep the lead paddle boarder in view I would be ok.
I managed to come out of the swim just a few seconds off the back of the lead pack swimming by myself though I soon caught up in the first few kms of the bike section (despite nearly losing my nutrition bottle on a speed bump). The bike leg was out and back along a motorway twice with a few long drags in there too. I just wanted to sit in and save myself for the run but the first hour was pretty fast, I think we did the first 45km on the bike in 1hour flat (thanks to a bit of a tailwind and some very eager legs at the front). Once we turned round the top things started to relax and combined with the headwind, it was a long drag back to town to start our second lap which is when things really started to heat up and people started to get dropped. There were guys all over the road and we rode that 45km leg faster than the first time round, in a short 59 minutes. A couple of guys went off the front but I stayed in what remained of the decimated pack and after another very long leg into a headwind I came off the bike in 7th feeling pretty good and confident about the run ahead.
I was 6th out of T2 and my Garmin told me I ran the first km in 3.44 which felt very comfortable. I wanted to hold 4.05 to 4.10s all the way which is the pace I had been doing my long 30 plus km runs at, so this was a good start. At 5k I still felt OK but then soon after I started to feel really rough; I simply couldn’t get my heart rate up and felt that If I did push myself I’d really suffer. Looking back on it I think I must have just had a lot of residual fatigue still in my body from NZ and my body just didn’t want to take it, no matter how much my mind was telling it too. It was a very long run, very hard as my body felt broken.
All my training tells me I can run between 2h 50 and 3h and I’m sure I will do at a race later in the year but it wasn’t to be in Melbourne. I managed to get round in 3h 20min, 20min slower than I wanted to.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, I finished in 8h 37min and that’s still 8 minutes faster than I’ve ever raced an Ironman but I was really disappointed with 19th - I know I’m a lot better than that so I can’t wait to start some TT and run races after I’ve recovered from the race and flight home and get on the start line of my next Ironman!
My next race is on the 5th April, the Birdwell Wheelers 10mile TT, followed by the City RC Good Friday 10mile TT on the superfast V718 where I will hope to ride a new ten PB.