448 Simon Marshall, GBR

Simon Marshall, GBR
Position in AG 35-39: 4 // Finish time: 4:46:54
Swim: 37:39 // T1: 2:22 // Bike: 2:29:58 // T2: 1:48: // Run: 1:35:07

Coach’s remarks: There is the rumour that Marshall may also be joining Flanners, Ed and Crowie and may have officially qualified for the 2011 World Ironman Championships in Kona.

There were 3 or 4 slots for Kona and Marshall 4th in the 35-39 age group, the most competitive of them all. Placed in the Top 30 overall out of 1,000 athletes. You believe this, we have got possibly 2 members from TeamT2a from the one age group joing Kind Edward XV11 in the 35-39 age group in Kona. To say we are not competitive in that age group is an understatement, there is still Suisse in that group as well. I am actually glad I am 40 for next season, get away from that rubbish is my view and go pick on the 40-44’s with Dano, Chicago, Beejy etc. Just getting too strong team.

Ok, as I type, I have a message from Marshall, HE HAS JOINED NEIL AND EDWARD HERE AND RACING KONA….

3 members from the one squad, racing Kona in the 35-39 males, I cant wait to see these guys training in Septembe…..I just can’t believe this team..

We were all excited last year when Clint went a 4.55hrs, this is how much we are raising the stakes, Flanners went 4.42 and Marshall 4.46hrs, just an incredible performance here this weekend by these guys. You saw them all out there training hard, you train hard and smart in this sport, listen on here and there to your coach and you end up doing ok team.

Marshall, you have suffered around enough, you deserved a shot in Korea and mechanical failure cost you. You had to recover only 6 weeks ago and hit the spot here, I trained you with so much intensity, something you never have endured under me, this is why we did it mate, you deserve that Kona slot….

Marshall has spoken from the heart also here. Very proud of course, coming from Kent, I believe there is limited Triathlon and sport and all.

Great read Sime, it truly is amazing where you have gone in 3 years, I will never forget you talking big to me that day in Cassells and I looked you in the eye after knowing you for 75mins and said, well mate, if you want to do that, best go and lose 10kg mate, then come and see me.

Brilliant honesty on both parts!! Well done mate, you could not swim when we met, remember that Newbies. Marshall literally could only swim 60m and that was breastroke…

Again, nice points on the senior members how they embrace newer athletes, it still happens today. I remember Jay Grant doing that to Carl and Noelene when we did that Cassells camp. Here they are not knowing anybody and Jay goes right up, sits down and starts chatting, great stuff.

Here is my race report, a bit long, but I wanted to get this one down on paper. It was a hard slog of a race, reminded me as much of my first 70.3 in switzerland than anything else. I hope you enjoy the read and that it strikes a chord with some of the guys in the team.

Race Report – 14 August 2011 – Ironman 70.3 Philipines, CamSur

Well, it seems not six weeks ago that I was writing up a race report for IM Korea – the outcome of that race was a little different to this one, although this race still had more twists and turns than I really wanted…a cursory warning, this one also goes on a bit too!

So where do we begin, well to hell with it, I’m going to break with convention and start at the very end – I’m happy, I have a genuine Kona qualification slot, bought and paid for with three years of blood, sweat, tears, hard work and yes, I am damn proud of it!

You start out on this road and see the Kona vids and wonder if it is at all possible that one day in the very distant future you can get there, then you do a few races and start to realise what is actually involved. You get your results and see how you can shave off a little time here and there, but shaving time is not good enough, all too soon you realise that you need to hack off great big junks of time with a chainsaw and cannot even begin to fathom how.

If you’ll indulge me, then I want to give a little summary of where I have, or rather have not come from sporting wise, as I think this important and will strike a chord with many guys in the team, especially those that are starting out.

I have no sporting background so to speak of. I am not a natural sportsman and was never any good at football or athletics at school, I played cricket, but was never anything special. I always enjoyed sport, but I was always the uncoordinated kid that had to suffer the humiliation of being last in line when teams were being picked. But I always gave 100%.

Fast forward twenty years, I’d done a few half marathons in my late 20’s (PB-ing around 1:45), I used to cycle to work and I had taken part in a couple of adventure races. Nothing at all serious, certainly no training or clubs, the only training I did was in the pub and I was a dab hand at that! Then I moved to Dubai.

I started training with Jason 3 years ago this month. When I started I was just over 12kg heavier than I am now and I swam with the buoyancy of a house brick, but with half the technique (seriously, if you ever want a good laugh, ask Coach about my first forays into swimming, he managed to keep a straight face, but only just!)

When I first chatted with Coach he’d mentioned there were different levels in the team including a certain Mr. Tron who had represented GBR, he said of course, that’s not what you need to aim for, but what is possible. This struck a chord with me, for some reason mentally this was the goal I set myself, to wear a Team GB kit. The only thing that stood in my way was a lack of swimming, cycling and running ability plus 12 kilos of excess weight coupled with complete naivety as to what was involved in the sport. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, how hard could it be?

From there the learning curve was steep, 5 months after starting I did my first proper race, an Olympic in the UK, one month later I progressed to 70.3 in Switzerland and then another month later I raced Roth and loved it. This was something I never thought I would do, in 7 month’s I had gone from nothing to swimming 3.8k.

The times were also good enough for me to qualify for the Team GB long course in Perth, I had realised my goal in less than a year. That Perth race was also an eye opener and a bit of an initiation into the real world. It was the first race that hadn’t gone to plan and had been properly hard. I’d had a dreadful swim even by my standards and it hurt me for the rest of the race. It was a bitter blow, but this is part of the sport, you can put so much in, yet at times it just doesn’t happen on the day.

This was really a similar story for the next two years. I raced well and solidly, but no matter what I did, there always seemed to be some issue – injury, mechanical or mental, at every race something just didn’t fire.

Okay, enough of the wistful Mills and Boonery, lets get down to the business end of this report.

The Race

Going into the race I felt good, training has been hard, lots of intensity work that has half killed me and given my body a real shake down. Only niggling issue was a pulled twitchy hamstring from run intervals, but other than that everything felt good. It was a little closer to IM Korea than I would have liked, but there you go.

Packing before the race to travel, I had somehow misplaced my pack list file, so was not as double checked and triple checked as I’d normally like to be, however if you talk to Flanners he’ll say that I all I did was check and double check.

Flanners and I were on different flights and I arrived in the business district Naga city where our Hotel was located a little before him. I use the word “Hotel”, because thats what they called it, personally I think Detention Center, Sanitarium or Prison would more be more appropriate. The booking was made quite late and it was the only thing available. It was cheap so I wasn’t expecting much and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I’m not saying it was basic, but trust me when I say that with a full refurbishment programme, several years hard work, lots of pest control, a run of good luck and a large bribe to the good hotel guide then it might one day reach basic, but that happy day is a long way off!

Food was available at a nearby mall, it was fast in nature, outlet after outlet of junk food, it was like being at one of Coach’s famous nutrition talks. We tried to play it safe and have something basic – noodles, rice, soup, etc. It was ok, but wasn’t going to win a mitchelin star.

The following day Flanners wasn’t feeling great, we had planned drive the bike course together, something that I always like to do, but it was clear that Flanners needed to be close to the porcelain of our luxury hotel suite. I hired a taxi and went travelling. The bike course had some very rough sections of road, a few small rolling ups and downs, but a good bike course. I was feeling more confident about this.

Check In

Having the Korea experience fresh in my mind, I wanted to get everything checked in early. We’d therefore planned to be up about 8am and leave by 9:30am. Norman Bates’ Hotel was providing breakfast, I told Neil I would do a reccy while he went for a fag, this didn’t take long – rice, dried fish and fried eggs. I’m happy to try new food, but I really didn’t fancy this. Neil is less adventurous and unless food belongs to one of the major food groups – sweet potato, salmon or broccoli then he isn’t interested. Check in was a simple affair, great bike racks, we did our 15’s without incident and went back to the hovel [sic].

Race Day

An early night, in bed by 10:00pm with 2008 Kona DVD – the one with Chrissie’s puncture. slept well. The bus journey was nothing special, but it’s interesting to see how people handle the nerves and tension. For me, I’m a loner, I sit quietly thinking and going through the race in my head and watch how other people are coping. Just behind me is the other extreme – the prattler. He’s trying to hide his tension by dribbling on about this and that, I don’t like this, whenever you hear one of these guys they are always telling their mates, “oh you should have done this or done that, you want to be doing this, etc” – this makes people second guess there own strategy, but I know his game and listening to his prattle makes me smile and passes the time.

We walk down to body marking, Neil is unusually reticent, a few more nerves than he’s letting on.

For the first time I’ve experienced, they are using the number stamps for body marking a la Kona, not the usual magic markers – so much cooler! Once barcoded I look like an extra from prison break (fits with the hotel) with number 448. I like this number, I have a tendency to look at patterns in numbers and I like the fact that 4 + 4 = 8.

I go through the now well practised routine or getting my transition ready, the transition racks are brilliant. A wooden frame on the ground, a slot for your back wheel and then a box about 50x50cm for your T2 bag, very ITU style, superb!

It is amazing how easy setting up your kit is if you haven’t got to carry out major bikes repairs, everything goes like clock work.

Race start is 30 mins away, I go to find the loo, Flanners goes to the swim start, we wish each other good luck.

The swim start has been a big thing for me over the past few weeks, I have a reasonable turn of speed for the first 500m compared to my overall ability, this means that if I start further back people are in my way, if I start further forward I get everyone swimming over me when I get tired. Due to the layout of the swim course I’d decided to start way on the far left towards the front. The plan was to swim hard for 300m and then ease to race pace hopefully having cleared some traffic and try to stay out of the way of everyone.

Swim – 37:39

T-minus 2 mins standing on the beach. I’ve been chatting to a couple of fellow athletes, they are hoping for 38-40mins on the swim, when I tell them I’m looking for 35-36 they think this is fast, nice to know there are some slower guys.

T-minus 10 seconds…..3, 2, 1… and shuffle! Shuffle? I’m not talking iPod, the entire field is shuffling into the water, I’m half expecting someone to say…”terribly sorry old boy, where are my manners, after you please, oh and have a jolly good race!”.

Compared to the carnage of Korea, this is a graceful and majestically choreographed entrance into the water, no fists, kicking or physcial abuse. I get a great start, believe me, I do not use words such as great in connection with my swimming, this was a dynamite start. I kept my head down and just swam, after 100m I looked up and I could see an arrow head forming, I’m actually up near the front, there are not that many people (well 50) ahead of me – this is unreal.

I hit the first 600m turn bouy, due to the layout of the exit from the swim, you could take this turn wide without increasing your actual swim distance and avoid any congestion. I turned well, it could have been a little tighter, but not bad.

Heading back to shore there was a current so it was important to get on some feet. I found a pair that were just quicker than me, she was clearly a better swimmer so I tucked in, grateful for the tow. Although she was a better swimmer than me, she was a far worse navigator (I’m not sure how that’s possible either), I looked up to see that we were going a 45 degrees away from everyone else. I was now stuck in no-mans land 30m off the course and critically had lost the back of the group I’d been with. There was no-one around me, so I tried to haul ass back up to the group ahead.

I swam hard and I caught them a little before the exit and followed them up the ramp. There is a short 100m run from one lake to the next. I can’t remember my split, 23 something I think, but I was reasonably happy and on target. I hit the next body of water and just started going backwards.

I don’t know what happened here, but it was the start of the main theme of the day. I was getting cramp in my thighs and hamstrings. I never usually cramp, it just does not happen to me in races, but it was today and boy it hurt. My stroke was falling apart and my legs were heavy and sore. 600m round the island in the second lake felt like the first time I swam round the Island at Cassels, it took forever and I was hopeless.

T1 – 2:22

Finally got to the swim exit, god was I pleased to see that. I checked my watch, 37:30 a few minutes off what I wanted, but ok considering that last bit of the swim.

I am trying my best to run through transition quickly, but am becoming acutely aware of my legs being tight, I grab my bag and head to the bike – it’s a half run / hobble, the thoughts going through my head are not good. I took my gloves out of my T1 bag and put them on whilst running to the bike, made a call on the arm coolers and ditched them.

Shades, helmet and number on – ready to go. Grabbed my bike and ran gingerly to the mount line. Swung my leg over the bike to get on it and my right leg went into spasm, pain shot up and down it – FFS.

Bike – 2:29:58

Not impressed, I’m 50m into the bike and my right leg is buggered. I do my best to turn the pedals out of T2 but it’s not happening. Change into the lowest gear and spin for a few hundred meters, I’m doing about 15-20k an hour and being passed by lots of people. I spin for the next km, straightening my leg and trying to stretch it out as best as I can. After 2k, things have calmed down a bit and I am feeling better. I start to get into a rhythm and can begin biking and re-passing people. I’m soon up to speed and sitting on 40kmh feeling much more content, my legs are working and I’m getting into the bike.

After 4-5km, we head off the main road and on to a “detour”. This is a bypass road made of 2m laid sections of concrete – it’s a bike destroyer – rough as hell. In the taxi the previous day it was bad, but on the bike its worse. I’m pushing quite hard, all the while I can feel that my thighs are very tight and on the limit, but I’m not here to make up the numbers – what would Jens do?

I get through the “cobble” section and everything is still working including my legs, a damn good shakedown. I was starting to feel a little more confident, I knew there was some better road coming up soon and was looking forward to that.

At 15k in things are going well and I hit the first small incline – not much of an incline, but I get out the saddle, as much to stretch my legs as anything else – bad move. My right leg spasms again, I sit down go into a low gear and spin up the remaining incline. Leg calms down, I crest the rise and can start picking up speed again and getting back into a rhythm.

I go down on the bars and have my second issue. The “cobble” section has shook up the front end and worked my aerobars loose. They now spin round inside the mountings. I’m having to hold on to them tight and pull them back into the mounting to stop them moving. Over the bumps the front end of the bike wobbles around pivoting around the aerobars, not great for handling. Its a good job that its not raining or it might be a little more unnerving. I carry on for the next few km before deciding that I really need to stop and see if I can tighten them up.

After about 45 seconds I know I can’t tighten them, a Marshal pulls up and asks me if I’m ok, I ask if he’s got an adjustable spanner, but I might as well be ordering a Big Mac meal in Swahili.

Over the last three years I’ve learnt that triathlon racing is as much about adjusting and coping with changing conditions around you as anything else. It’s not the ideal situation, but I can hold the aerobars in position. On the really fast downhills, I just have to get down low on the huds, nothing too major, may be a small amount of time lost, but no biggy, all good. J

I said changing conditions, that’s not just your body or equipment, but also the weather. The heavens open, proper serious sheet rain. Shades come off, its far too dark with them on and the rain is hard. To be fair, it was quite pleasant, hairy in places, but the rain was warm and its a nice sensation. It continued like that for the next 50km.

I need to mention the support on the bike course. Every town, every village and every embryonic semblance of a village was packed with people cheering. Not only this, but they didn’t move throughout the pouring rain, these guys were getting soaked to the skin to see us idiots ride up and down their road. This was great to see and gave you a massive boost.

Ironically, I had seen kids outside the schools the day before waving and dancing. The taxi driver said it must have been for some important politicians, they were actually rehearsing and practising in order to support us.

When I saw Pete Jacobs come through, then I started counting the atheletes behind him, just after 20 or so, I saw Flanners – top effort. I noted the time to work out how far ahead he was. I went through the bike turnaround and passed the point I’d seen Flanners, I was 7 or 8 mins back, that seemed about right, although I would have liked to be a bit closer. It was going to be tough to pull the time back, but doable I naively thought.

The return section of the bike was similar; I was having to manage my legs as much as possible, but was still passing people although there were far fewer around.

I hadn’t been looking forward to going back through the “cobble” section given my loose bloody aerobars, but it seemed much shorter this time. I kept my head down and cycled hard for the last section. 1.5k left to go there is a sharp left turn into the main CWC complex, I stood up to take the turn and bam, both legs just went rigid.

I freewheeled and stretched. I gently coaxed my legs back to life, went into a low gear and had to spin back to transition, I was dreading getting off the bike.

T2 – 1:48

Hit the dismount line, lifted my right leg to swing it over the bike and it went into spasm as expected. I shuffled to my transition spot and racked the bike, grabbed my bag, gently put on my socks and runners and took very small steps to head out on to the run.

Run – 1:35

The first 1.5k was around the first lake we swam in. It was awful, my legs were useless. I shuffled and hobbled, packed nutrition into my pockets and unbagged my grip bottle.

I’m not really sure what I was thinking for the first few k’s, nothing was working and I was trying to will my legs into life, all the while trying to ignore those tell tale signs that at any moment everything is going to lock up solid. There was a short, but sharp dip, as soon as I hit the uphill section of the dip then the legs just locked again. Back to the baby shuffle one more time!

No, this wasn’t any fun at all and I could not get into a rhythm. Mercifully the course remained flat. I started with a very short stride, gradually increasing my stride length until after about 6k things were finally starting to work and I got established into a rhythm. I told myself a long time previously that I was going to sit on 4:30’s or better for as long as I could. Miraculously, only 3 people, (two relays and a female pro) had come past me.

Another relay guy latched on to me, this persistent little bugger stayed at about 30cm from me until I dropped him at 18k, very annoying!

I continued running, it really wasn’t an easy run and was more survival than anything else. There were only a few crossover sections, I looked ahead and couldn’t see Flanners, I thought to myself that he must be having a storming run and was going to be a big ask to pull him back.

The support out on the run course was as good as on the bike, it was a great lift, but to be fair, I was concentrating solely on the 5m in front of me, nothing else entered the zone. A few high fives, but most of the time just locked in to that small section of road ahead.

The run course wound through some fields, these were shitty muddy lanes and it was more like Xterra than Ironman. I thought back to our coach dirt runs, you don’t realise at the time, but it’s useful if not essential to train on different terrain. The mud and gravel made no difference to me, I kept at the same pace. The only problem is that the water had caused the insoles on my Newtons to slide half way up the shoe, I was half running on the insole, half on the base of the shoe. I couldn’t stop to adjust this as I simply wouldn’t have got going again.

I’d been telling myself that at 12k I would lift my game, get rid of these 4:30s and run as hard as I could back home. At 12k it still felt like I had a marathon to do and clinging on was as much as I could hope for. 12k then became 13k, then 14k and then 16k. I was running out of time to catch Flanners, although just finishing was now the aim.

At 17.64k, I started to feel that I’d get there, mentally the finish was insight. I lifted the pace by 10 seconds, I wanted rid of this guy who had been on my back and done absolutely no work. One of the relay guys came past and I thought, “right just try and stick with him”. I couldn’t, but it was enough to drag me up to 4:20s. I hung on and just kept running.

About 2k from home, I saw a tall skinny guy, it looked like Flanners, could this be setup for an epic battle over the last 1.5 k – oh classic racing!!? If I could see him then I was going to pass him or die. I started running, my legs were in tatters and screaming to stop, I kept going and going, moving closer to what I discovered was actually Flanners doppelganger – how can there be two people dressed the same at the sharp end of the race both being about 7 foot tall? I reached him with 500m left, not only wasn’t he Flanners, but he wasn’t even in our AG. I still kept running, I don’t remember the finish shute, I didn’t sprint, I couldn’t sprint, I was gone.

Never before have I been so happy to cross the finsh line. I knew Flanners had got it, he had one hell of a race, a true athlete and I knew at that point he had a slot.

For me, I thought I hadn’t quite made it, because of the numbers in the race I’d guessed there would be 4 slots, but I didn’t think my result was good enough. I could barely walk, my body seemed to be on fire and I’d had another “also ran” performance. I poured bottle after bottle of water over me just trying to cool down.

Finishing time 4:46

In the end it was enough. I’m elated about getting the slot, but I can assure you that there are no easy slots for Kona. This was without doubt the hardest I have raced. 70.3 is a hard format, its long distance racing but on the red-line, a bit like the 1500m in track.

If I’m honest then I’m disappointed with the bike and run times, but on the day I could not have gone any harder without crumbling. On the flip side, my swim strategy worked and I was very pleased with the transitions, less than 4mins between the two. But who the hell cares about the times, I’ve got what I came for! J

Thanks

There are a few people I would really like to thank. Firstly Jason – the one and only Coach Pain. He may spoil our social lives, make us get up earlier at the weekend than during the week, but if I hadn’t met him 3 years ago then I would be carrying more weight, would not have discovered triathlon or have been to all the different places I have been to with this sport. I wouldn’t have met some life long friends or been part of this wonderful team.

Secondly, a big shout to what is without question the greatest bunch of people you could hope to have as mates and team mates. It’s an emotional and intense sport this, without you guys then it really wouldn’t be the same. I may be a miserable bugger on a Friday at 5am, but I love training with all of you. I love the competition and the camaraderie. I can’t wait for the Saturday swims to start again at JBR. I’ll see you Friday on the bike and already looking forward to the last 8k.

Thirdly, Tron and Roy – Tron gave me a huge amount of motivation when I started and I look forward to seeing the boy back soon. Roy was a mentor through my early races, I learned an awful lot and still do from this guy.

That’s it, thanks for reading and the next one will be titled “Kona – an epic journey with Flanners and Ed”.

S

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