Sunday, 21 August 2011

IM UK: Race Assessment

From every experience comes reflection, and here's what I take away from my time in Bolton.

- long strokes
- breathed to both sides
- sighted well

- conserved energy by sticking to the game plan
- hit my target nutrition strategy
- climbed well

- pushed through pain and ran/ jogged most of the way
- finished strong, final 11k in 50mins (4.5min per km/ 7.20 per mi)

- swim training, while the distance seemed extreme during training, paid off
- train more speed, can drop time with a more aggressive mindset (I was focused but didn't put in a major effort)
- train more open water and group swimming, need to learn drafting and get comfortable in a pack

- more power
- more downhill training, need to get comfortable handling at high speeds downhill
- less food overall (I think I over did the nutrition), more water and gel based strategy, less sport drink and bars

- see a doctor or dietitian to run tests/ provide advice on stomach issues (I have a feeling part of it or most of it is mental, so maybe a sports psychologist?)

- more mental prep/ visualization, I was hoping to add this in over the last few weeks as mileage declined but didn't have a chance as logistical planning took over
- high weight/ low rep weights sessions starting from early in the season, should help with power

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Two and a half weeks on, and I'm still catching up on sleep.  Mental and physical sore/ stiff-ness fully recovered some time ago, but I'm still sleeping more than my pre-Ironman 7hrs a night.  Highly possible that I'm using IM as an excuse to sleep more, but I like to think it's necessary recovery.  After all, many people say it takes 3wks to a month to fully recover (so another week and a half laying in bed with a good excuse).

my tri notes is down to its last few posts, but no fear, I've enjoyed blogging too much to stop now.  A new site is underway and will cover broader athletic pursuits including the upcoming Istanbul marathon on Oct 16th.  Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Race Day - Run

Entering T2, stop-off for the bathroom then into the changing area, pick up red-bag 480, take a seat, volunteer at my side, "yeah, dump it."  Helmet, cycle shoes, gloves and socks off, dry the face, arms, legs and feet.  New socks, runners, hat and nutrition all while the crew filled my bottle with water, "thank you!"  'These volunteers are great, very helpful.'

The run course was roughly 10km (6.4mi) into Bolton then 3x 10km laps of the town.

Springing out of transition with the Gatorade bottle and hat in one hand and nutrition in the other, my brain awash with a million thoughts, 'you're doing this, run time.  re-focus, eliminate distracting thoughts, jam nutrition into pockets, sort out the hat and set a pace.'

1km - bars and gels in place, hat on, check the watch 'wow, sub 5min 1st k, slow it down, short and efficient strides, up-right, shoulders relaxed.'  I settled into a 5.15-5.30/km pace.

3km - stomach rumbling, 'ahhh, no, not now.'  Barely into the run and the bathroom was calling again.  'ok, go now and that'll settle things for a while (1).'

5km - time to eat a bar, but the brain vetoed it.  Having hit the strategy of 7bars and 7gels on the bike and one gel right after T2, no part of my body was in the mood for more.  'Ok, we'll take a break and pick it up later.'  

As visions of sugary supplements danced through my brain, I came upon a familiar site, 'ahh, Hawaii tatoo guy, can't get away from me.'  We ran side-by side for 15secs before, "Hey mate, how's it going?" "Yeah, good, just enjoying a nice day out," I responded.  We continued chatting, well, he continued chatting about the race, this being his 4th IM, and the fact that he raced in Hawaii last year (qualified at IM UK for the 20-24 age group).  I was happy to listen, a welcomed distraction.

7km - conversation cut short for another pit-stop (2).  'ok, feeling good now, everything settled.'

10km (56min) - up hill to the 3 lap circuit, no longer settled.  'Come on, where is the next aid station.'  The smile and thumbs up I had post swim and through the bike were waning, maybe just a smirk at this point.

11km - stop 3.  Then into town centre where gurgling and bubbling in my stomach wiped away anything resembling even a smirk, 'uhh, a bit of walking should help.'  It didn't, just got worse, 'this may come out the other way!  what's happening!?!'

where'd that smile go?
never seen a race pic with me not smiling
Calculations of how long it would take to walk the rest, 'about 12km in, 30 to go, 7min walk per km, no, slower, or maybe faster?  plus bathroom breaks, definitely slower, but then how long is that?  Can I beat 12hrs?'

"Come on, at least give it a jog," came from the crowd.  'Listen old man, I'm struggling, not in the mood for a lecture from someone standing on the side line,' my initial reaction before turning on myself, 'wow, bitter much?  you chose to be here, stop feeling sorry and give it a jog!'  I punched my fist in the air as if to claim victory and began to jog.

15km - heading away from downtown, stop 4.  Through another aid station refusing any food or water, 'can't be bothered, plus I still have this Gatorade bottle.'  Drink from the bottle, 'ugh, warm, dump it.'

21km (2.06) - half way, stop 5, officially off plan.  'ok, re-assess.  By my math, (which was a shotty at this point), 11.30 isn't going to happen, but let's run/ jog between aid stations, walk through the aid stations and shoot for sub-12hrs.'

Next station, walked through, decided to take some water, 'whoa, this is delicious, more water,' then a light run through town centre before stopping for the 6th time.

Shortly after, I crossed paths with Alan (him coming the other way, about 25mins ahead at this point), high five, "11.29, don't forget it" was his encouragement, to which I responded, "looking good Alan, nice one."

31km (3.09.30) - walk through the aid station, water, 'salty snack? yes, please,' grabbed ritz crackers, dunked in the water and ate, 'unbelievable, never had such a tasty cracker!'  

Lucky number 7.

Next station, more water, more crackers, 'stomach improving, who would have thought?!?'  As I was munching down crackers, Alan came flying the other way (having put another 15mins on me), "come on Carlos, pick it up," he exclaimed, but it wasn't just the words, it was the look on his face.  Deep disappointment.

'Enough's enough, ignore your stomach, on the brink of missing 12hrs, 10k remaining, do you want this?'  The answer, a resounding, 'YES!' and I started a-fresh.

35km - Peeked at the porta-loo, 'sorry, no time this round.'  Not even a second thought, charging through the aid station, 'water and crackers to go please. thank you.'

Patting Mahmoud on the back, "keep it up, looking good," I shouted as I soared past.

Out to the final turning point, feeling good, great form, pushing hard.

40km - passing the final chance to stop but didn't even consider as I stepped up the gear, 'definitely under 12, but how far below do you want to be?  this is it.'

"Looking way too fresh," I heard two spectators conversing as I passed every racer in sight.  "Yeah, I know, I used little fitness over the first 30km, trying to make up for it now.'

Blowing through town, banking every turn, complete focus.  As I hit the final straight-away, my mouth began to stretch from ear-to-ear. Bigger than ever.

smiling as I high-five down the red carpet

The world went silent as I crossed the line with my ears tuned-in for one sound...

"Carlos Medina. You. Are. An. IRONMAN!"

30 weeks in the making, an unexplainable feeling.

Alan looks tired
I guess a 10.52 Ironman will do that to you!

post-race fish n chips?!?  only in the UK

The finish is a whirlwind; it took a while to realize exactly what I had accomplished.  And, just how bad my math can get after 11hrs of racing!

It was a great surprise to finish closer to the 11.29.59 original target than the re-assessed sub-12 goal concocted with dodgy maths.  But, then it dawned on me, 'you missed 11.29 by about 1 second per mile over the 140.6 mile race!'  

That trail was cut short as I decided to enjoy the moment and worry about race assessment tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Race Day - Bike

Out of the water and feeling good.  Running along the metal railings, wet suit half off at this point, grab the transition bag and take a seat.  A volunteer rushed over and politely asked if he should dump the bag, "yeah, great, please," came the response as I plied off the wetsuit.  Quick dry of my feet and legs, socks, shoes, helmet (snapped tight to avoid a DQ), race belt, pass on the cycle sleeves, slap on sun cream, grab cycle gloves and nutrition at which point the volunteer threw my wet stuff in the bag as I took off, "thanks!".

As I grab the bike, a voice comes over the loud speaker, "(some guy) just exited the swim in under an hour, great job!"  'Wow, I've been out of the water for at least 3mins, if this guy just finished in under 60, I must have been 56 or under!"

smile knowing I was under 60mins

Finally on the bike with energy levels soaring, 'focus, 112miles to go, don't over do it.  Nutrition time, one bar and one gel.'  As usual, the first 30mins was holding back from chasing the strong cyclists gliding past.  As a relatively good swimmer and weak cyclist, I'm used to being passed frequently early in the cycle, but time with so much energy, I truly had to hold back (visions of climbing helped).

The course headed north out of T1 for 13mi, then 3x 32mi laps and finally a 2mi off-shoot to T2.

15mi (just under 1hr) - we hit the climb on lap one.  I stayed in the saddle for much of it passing a good number of people before standing for the final few minutes.  'Phew, a good 10-15mins of climbing, one down and two to go, not so bad."

standing climb

Of course, what goes up, must come down.  The next miles were spent weaving down the other side at speeds that scare me, 'stay tuned in, breath deep and most importantly, don't touch those breaks!'

Feeling good post-climb and recovery, I was moving well and still conserving energy.  

conserved enough energy for a thumbs-up

30mi (1.5hrs) - I had taken down two drink bottles and time to grab a new one from the aid station.  Grabbing a bottle on the go is not something I've done before, so imagine the volunteer's surprise when I came flying through the aid station, "SMACK!"  The sound of moving flesh hitting still plastic at 20+ mph.  Needless to say, I didn't get the bottle, 'wow, what an impact.  Ok, next time much slower, just hope I didn't hurt the volunteer, she was only trying to help!'

Just after the aid station, I realized my stomach was more full than it should be.  I had taken on almost 3 bottles of liquid in 2hrs, ahead of my 1 bottle/hr target and on the flip side wasn't sweating as much as I thought, a sure combination for over-full stomach.  A bit of discomfort set in, so out of the aero position I came until the next aid station where I could relieve the problem.

45mi (2.15) - climb 2, and I'm passing people left and right building confidence with each pedal.

70mi (3.45) - battling back and forth with a few guys (helps pass the time) while maintaing control, saving energy for the run when the inevitable came over my shoulder, yes, Alan.  I was both happy and let down at the same time.  I thought the climbing on the course would hold him off.  Apparently not.  We chatted for a few minutes re-capping the swim and the previous climbs before he sped off.

I was left to contemplate, 'turn it on and stay with him or do I stick to my race? Stick to the plan, I'm ahead of target, major objective is to finish in 11.29, not to race Alan.'  It took some of the wind out of my sail, but I tried to focus on the fact that I was ahead of my goal.

78mi (4.15) - climb 3, people were struggling, including myself, but being a relatively better climber, I sped past more and more people, "what are you racing up this hill?" was one guy's comment which only bolstered my confidence.

BEEP, BEEP, on you're right!

The final half lap was spent back and forth with a guy and his Kona IM tattoo, 'this must put me in good company.'

110mi (6.15) - turn-off for the final stretch to T2 and support along the way was great, a couple hundred people encouraging every bit of effort.

112mi - unclip, grab a bottle of gatorade for the run, hand my bike to the volunteers and I'm at T2, clock reading 6.22, '8mins in the bank, let's do this!'


Monday, 8 August 2011

Race Day - Swim

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! 2.45am, alarm blaring, time to get up (yes, 2.45 AM!).  Quick shower to wake me up, then I mentally walked through the transitions making sure I had all the necessary equipment that wasn't already racked, packed my bags and breakfast time.

Have you ever had one of those mornings where your brain isn't firing on all cylinders?  Right and left hand won't cooperate with each other and neither is listening to the brain?  Let's say getting dressed, putting on a timing chip and stuffing my wetsuit, goggles and cap into the bag wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped.

pure chaos between those ears!

3.30am - 900 calorie meal: 120g oats, 250g low-fat yogurt, banana and sports drink
3.50 - text Mahmoud, my workmate, who kindly agreed to give me a ride to Penn Flash
3.51 - no response, 'no big deal, he may not be able to respond immediately'
3.52 - no response, leg twitching, biting my lip, 'uh, ok, breath, still two hours until race start'
3.53 - check my phone, no response, other athletes head out the door, leg twitches faster
3.54 - "be there in 5mins", 'phew, he's awake, on his way'
4.00 - 'it's been 6mins, where is he, 2hrs to kickoff'
4.01 - 'what if he can't find the hotel, is there time to call a taxi?'
4.02 - my phone rings, he and his friend pull out front and we're en route

Mahmoud proves to be a good influence, his high energy and carefree dancing in the front seat calms me down.

30mins later and we're at Pennington Flash, walking from the road to T1, nearly pitch black before approaching the frenzy of transition.

Funny how fast 90mins can go: use the bathroom, queue to get numbered, prep the bike and drink bottles, wet suit, wish Mahmoud luck, wait on line for bathroom again, quick chat with Alan and wander up to the start ramp...

numbered, 480, ready to go

energy buzzing, take down a gel, cross the timing mat, 'uh, uh-oh, do I have to use the bathroom again?  yes, let's try',  "Sorry, too late, you've crossed the mat, better you just get in the water and wait," said the official.  'Ok, positivity, smile, thumbs up for the camera and let's go.'

1,300 people slowly fill the waters of the flash and swim out for a deep water start.  I used this to warm-up, something I've found really helps me calm down during the fury of the swim start.  Seems a waste of energy to some, but I got a good 7-8mins of easy warm-up before taking my spot in the front.  

There were two yellow buoys and one of the rafters told me that everyone had to start in between them,  'hmmm, 1300 people, I don't think so, I'll stick to the outside.'  I looked around, saw about 500 people and a shore full of wetsuits waiting to join.  I'm not sure if you've seen 500+ people treading in open water, but it looks much more populous than I would have thought confirming my idea to stay to the outside and swim in a straight line for the first buoy meeting the pack after the tension had settled.

BANG! 'what, oh, we're off!'  Just like that, no one knew it was happening (at least no one around me, maybe why starting between the buoys is recommended).

this pic shows less than 10% of the field

300m in, I was all alone, locked in on the first buoy with the main pack to my left.  Same as the last Thames swim, 'long, easy strokes, good catch, breath out the nose and in the mouth,' over and over again breathing right for a while, then switching to left.  700m, I linked up with the main pack and everyone seemed cordial, a few bumps, but none of the grabbing, punching or kicking that you hear about.

'This is going great,' stroke-after-stroke, I was feeling easy and strong, sighting well, no water in my goggles, about as good as it gets.  One turn, then another, two more and we were on lap two.  Still riding well, stroking with the pack and breathing to both sides. 'This could not be going any better,' kept running in my head interrupting thoughts of technique.  Around 2.5km, head started to ache from the goggles, but that soon subsided as my focus redirected to stroke.

Finally, I could see the swim exit about 500m away, what a feeling!  Energy shot through my body at the thought of running down the chute to transition.  Naturally, the pace picked up, 'wow, so this is what Jakub meant when he said not to get ahead of myself early on the bike, this is a true shot of adrenaline!'

Closer and closer and closer and finally reached the exit, pulled out by the volunteers and I'm down the chute, 'what a swim, no idea the time, but definitely around or under 60mins, great start!'

second from the left
the smile of a good swim

stripping the wetsuit begins


Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Counting down from a week away, I was out of this world excited and confidence was building with each day.  No anxiety, at least not until I started packing.

Thursday, August 28th
A day off work to organize and relax before leaving London on Friday morning.  Slept in until 9, off to the pool for an easy 30mins, jogged home 15mins and mounted the turbo trainer for 60mins easy.  Quick shower and stretch and time to go back to sleep!  Post nap was an early evening massage then back home for dinner and packing.

Race Packing List
General - tri-suit, race belt, Garmin and sun cream

Swim - wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, 1 gel for before the swim

Bike - bike, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, spare tires (x2), CO2 cartridges (x2), tire levers, water bottles (x3), cycle sleeves, rain proof jacket/ vest, towel, socks, cycle gloves, sun screen, 7 bars and 7 gels

3,000 calories

Run - running shoes, socks, extra shorts and shirt (just in case it's raining), fresh rain proof jacket/ vest, hat, wrist band, 4 bars and 4 gels

complete race set, sans the bike

Friday, August 29th
Up early to be at Alan's so we could take off by 10, I arrived at the train to find out no bikes on the train until after 10am, 'I guess I'll bike to Alan's with all of this stuff on my back.'  30mins later, I was in Camden, half-way, and decided my body was aching enough to warrant a taxi.  Arrived just after 10 and packing the car/ finalizing directions, we left just after 11.  Four to five hour drive due to traffic, we checked in to our hotels and headed for registration and the expo.

Arriving at the expo, totally anti-climactic: no buzz in the air, barely any merchandising and no massages.  Luckily, bike mechanics were there and they sorted my loose shifter and explained how to avoid the chain coming off the front discs (and told me that after the race, bike needs to be taken to a mechanic given the internal cables).

Post-registration was resting in the hotel before hitting the IM UK pasta party.  The spirit was great, this is the buzz we were after, everyone was open and chatting with strangers was the norm.  I met a couple people from the US and spoke with a bunch of first-timers, a good way to end the long day.

Saturday, August 30th
Slept in, ahhhhhh!  Up at 9ish, made it to breakfast then off for more race prep.  First to Pennington Flash/ T1 for bike racking, then back to the expo (much more life than on Friday, pre-race massges? yes, please) and finally to T2 to drop off running bags.

Sunday morning we'll be running down
this shoot to our bikes
Alan peering into T1
queue into T1
I see about £6k in wheels in the pic
(yes, that's wheels only, excluding frames!)
swim to bike bags
T1, inside the gates
bike covers given to everyone
(cover the bikes in case it rains over night)
rest well big fella, we've got a bid day ahead

Alan again
swim entry/ exit
Pennington Flash
Deep water start at the closest yellow buoy
straight out to the far white mast
make a left, hug the shore, return to start buoy x2

Back to the hotel by 3.30, rest for an hour then to the mandatory race briefing.  As they walked us through the course explaining the routes and how much climbing was involved, my excitement turned to anxiety, 'wow, really, maybe 11.29 isn't achievable?  But, I'll finish? Yeah, for sure, definitely finish.'  

6pm, briefing ended, and I was on my way to the train station to meet Natsuko.  It was good to have her there, it calmed most of my nerves.  Dinner in the hotel, in bed before 10pm, sleeping before 11 (60mins to fall asleep, usually I'm z'ing within seconds!).  This was my last night of sleep as a mere mortal, tomorrow I would be challenging for ironman status!

Monday, 1 August 2011

11:32:21 - Ironman UK, 2011

An amazing experience.  140.6 miles that will stay with me and serve as motivation for the future.

Not quite at the 11.29.59 time goal, but close (about one second per mile close!) but finished 29th in my age group which is bang-on target (top 30).

One word for the swim, brilliant.  55.28, and with five and a half minutes in transition, I was on the bike in 1.01, four minutes faster than target.

Bike was good, felt strong but didn't let the excitement of the race run-away with my energy reserves.  Lots of climbing, which I loved, but mostly conserved for the run.  Bike done in 6hrs 22mins, again below goal time, plus four minutes in transition and I was on the run with eight minutes in the bank.

Run, not so great.  Running and stomach issues have gone hand-in-hand for me this year, and yesterday was no different.  Nine pit-stops and my stomach was settled enough to finish the last 10km in good form.  A marathon of 4.04 doesn't represent my overall fitness level, but it does represent my preparation (or lack there of) and readiness on the day.

On a positive note, once my stomach was stable (being a relative level of stability), I settled into a good pace, negative split-ing the marathon.

We'll explore the pre-race prep, full race details and post-race thoughts over the next week or so, but wanted to give a sneak peak asap after the race.