461 Neil Flanagan, GBR

Neil Flanagan, GBR
Position in AG 35-39: 3 // Finish time: 4:42:37
Swim: 30:52 // T1: 1:49 // Bike: 2:25:37 // T2: 2:20 // Run: 1:41:59

Coach’s remarks: Still getting mixed results here however, it sounds as though Flanners has officially qualified for the 2011 World Ironman Championships and will be joining Ed and Crowie in Kona. There is the rumour that Marshall may also be joining him.

There were 3 or 4 slots for Kona and Flanners was 3rd and Marshall 4th in the 35-39 age group, the most competitive of them all. Both of them 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 bgroup 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.

3 members from the one squad, racing Kona in the 35-39 males, I cant wait to see these guys training in September, poor Flanners, your riding with Edward Mon and Wednesday nights……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 3 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.

No more talk about Flanners being to skinny, he is an athlete. He was 100kg, now 82kg, its evident how well it worked. There are ITU kids his height racing at 70kg, he is on the money, hats off Neil. I have started on a few athletes now with weight, getting lean makes you go faster no question, its doing it safe that is critical and slowly. So Flanners, keep eating like a rabbit and then after Kona, you can go back to the KFC bucket record.

I just feel for you both having to train with Ed now, its going to be a lonnnggggg 7 weeks to Kona boys!!

This is going to be long! – sorry, but I’m still a bit emotional! – hopefully, some of the newer guys in the team will identify with some of this – easy to forget that this is my debut 70.3, the longest race I’ve done so far is the Phuket classic, and this is almost twice as long as that…so I’m a little bit nervous – and for the record,I still look at the demi-gods (king Edward, Roy Nasr and others) of this team and wonder how they manage to go so fast! – if you just want to read the race report, scroll down – I’ll leave a 2 line space before the main event!

Okay, where to start – Jason, I joined your crazy team about 2.5 years ago, (mainly because I liked the look of the team kit with names on it!) with no idea what I was letting myself in for – I knew that I might be able to swim a bit, as I had swum at a good level as a schoolboy, had never ridden a road bike, and hated running – I remember listening in to conversations about 4a.m friday rides, with numbers like 120km, 150km being mentioned, and instantly decided I would never be like that – triathlon was going to be a hobby, something to keep me out of the boozer a few nights a week, but I wasn’t going to give up drinking or smoking, after all, what’s a man without vices?!

Fast forward 2 years – I had a few decent results at tulip races and Phuket under my belt, but was still treating triathlon as a hobby, and had stuck to my promise to myself not to give up my various vices – I think it was December last year when coach cunningly slipped the phrases “RAK half Marathon” and Philo 70.3 into my training plan – now, I’m a contrary b$&£*rd – I did back then, and still do think I will be more suited to shorter distance racing, but I also like to be challenged, almost dared to try something bigger

“Okay, cool, I’ll do a half marathon, and I’ll do a 70.3 – I can tick them boxes off – but I’m not interested in doing an ironman”….

So, having agreed to do the above events, through gritted teeth, I decided I’d better work on my running – I wasn’t, and still aren’t a great runner, but I work on technique, try to train consistently, and slowly but surely it gets better….

Flanners – “Right coach, what target do I have for this half marathon?” -coach – “1.40 mate, 1.35 on your best day” – Flanners – “I’m going to run sub 90 minutes” – RAK Half Marathon – 1.29.50 – tick that box, lets get this 70.3 out of the way, then we can go back to short distance racing and 10 hours training a week…….

Fast forward a few months – a lot of miles have been done, and, as a consequence of this, and a complete re-structuring of my nutritional intake, I have lost quite a bit of weight – much has been said about this, however, I would just say, for the record, that I consume about 3,500 calories per day, but spread it out over 6 meals, so you will never see me with a huge plate of food in front of me (except for brunches) – I defy anyone who is training 12-14 hours a week, and eating well not to lose weight if they actually have weight to lose, and lets be honest, this is an athletic endeavour, athletes are supposed to be lean – anybody know any pro triathletes carring around 8kgs of spare body fat? – no, didn’t think so. Please, no more chat about it….

My passport dramas were well chronicled, there was a bit of disruption to my training, but other than that, and the financial impact of taking a 10 day break in the UK, no big drama, so, on to the race week itself….

Race Week

Pre-race Skype chat with Coach done, race strategy locked in mentally – hammer the swim, find a nice pack on the bike to hide in, save you legs for the run, it’s going to be brutal, and will be the making or breaking of this race – simple

Easy to forget, this is my first 70.3!, the longest race I’ve done before this was Phuket Classic, so I’m virtually doubling the distance, but, I’m in it, and I’m on a mission – have agreed with coach that this race can be 4.50 on a perfect day, or 5.15 if it turns out to be one of those stinking hot Asian days – fingers crossed for rain, or at least some cloud cover…

Flight from Dubai to Manila goes to plan, get to our hotel, the Dusit, which is lovely – drop off the bikes for overnight transfer to the race resort, quick jog around smog filled Manila, this weather is okay, warm, but not as bad as we think – bite to eat and off to bed – up at 4.30, flight down to Legaspi, get on the bus down to resort, this is all going very well indeed – arrive at the race centre, collect bike, register, get on the bus for the 2 hour transfer up to the hotel – Marshall who is on a different internal transfer and has been dropped at the hotel first, sends me a message warning me not to get my hopes up about the Hotel “it’s not very flash” – Marsh, this is one of the biggest understatements of all time, the hotel was a dump! – tiny, no wardrobe or draw space, full of ants and other crawlie things, overall, disaster.

There is no baked Salmon, Sweet Potato or Broccoli in sight – there are however, a dozen fast food joints offering a dazzling array of revolting food – I am quite a fussy eater, and for three months have eaten pretty much the same things, for Breakfast, Mid morning snack, Lunch, Mid Afternoon Snack, early evening snack and post training smoothie – now, we’re at a fast food chinese chain, stuffed full of god knows what – it tastes average at best, and I’m a bit concerned how I am going to cope with it.

Wake up Saturday feeling as rough as a badgers ass – I have the 15/15/15 to do today, but I don’t want to be too far away from the safety of the hotel room, and more specifically, the toilet – I have diarrhoea and am badly de-hydrated – not ideal – pop over to the mall opposite the hotel and get some food that I know I can deal with, yoghurt, oats, and honey – and a big packet of imodium! – have some of that and it flies straight through – then I start vomiting – shit, this is less than perfect – shovel another load of imodium in, and we’re off to do the 15s and check in our bikes – this all goes okay, but I’m still feeling rough and my stomach is all over the place – also, I hadn’t packed my gels as I was trying to keep weight in my bike box down, and I’m sure they will sell them at the expo (schoolboy error) – wrong! – finally find some at a little stall away from the expo, a brand I’ve never heard of, and even the packaging looks dodgy, but they have to be better than nothing – and they taste revolting!- I get back to the hotel room and realise I have got sunburnt doing the 15′s! – that sun is hot! – more yoghurt, oats and honey, and more imodium, and lots of water with electrolyte tabs – watch the 2008 Kona DVD in the room with Marsh and pass out around 11p.m, with everything crossed that I will feel okay when I wake up…

RACE DAY!!

Alarm goes off at 3.15 on race day – I’m feeling okay, happy days – breakfast done, quick couple of fags, can of red bull, couple of bottles of electrolyte drink ready for pre-race, and on the bus we go – pick up all the requisite bits from various places, get everything ready on the bike, tape gels to top tube, etc etc, and I’m ready to rock and roll.

Had a nice little warm up in the lake, stretched a bit, watched the pro wave go off, and I’m taking my position – right at the front, in the middle, I’m going out aggressive, no question about it – get the 1 minute warning, and I’m getting pumped up for a fast start – BOOM, off we go…

Launch myself in the water and straight away my goggles fill with water – shit! – I can deal with this, swim with one eye shut, and follow the little splashes all the way round – no drama – I’m right at the sharp end, 2 or 3 guys ahead of me and I’m in the slot, drafting along nicely, can’t see anything but that’s okay – until, at the time when I think “we must be turning around shortly“, I look up and don’t see any splashes any more – oh, shit, I’m about 15 metres past the turnaround buoy! – why I didn’t clear my goggles at this stage, I have no idea – red mist I guess, but if I hammer the next 200metres I can catch those front guys up – but I can’t see a thing, and am seemingly weaving all over the place – then all of a sudden, there is simply nobody else around me – WTF?!?! – I stop, and clear my goggles – somehow I’ve swam over the rope which marks the course, and am in the middle of the wakeboarding lake, about 50m off course!! – a Marshall directs me back onto the course, at the point which I left it, and I’m back on track… but I know I’ve lost a lot of time – what to do, just hammer the bike, all will be well – exit the swim, hear my name called and it’s saying 30 minutes and something – shit, I was looking for 28, (turns out the guys I was with up until the turnaround point swam 28 minutes) but still, there is a long way to go.

Into T1, grab my bike bag, which is empty, as everything is loaded onto the bike, cap and goggles go in as I’m running, helmet on, shades in the pocket as it’s pissing down, and away we go – I’ve forgotten to un-Velcro my bike shoe straps, so faff about for a few seconds sorting that out, and we’re away – out onto the course and I passed a couple of people, and feeling good, but there is nobody else in sight – this could be a long 90km! – at around 25km 2 guys who are in relay teams come flying past me – they hadn’t been in sight when I last looked over my shoulder, but there is another relay guy coming up who is also flying – at this stage I decided to take my first major gamble of the day – assuming he was going to catch the other guys and they would all work together, I could sit 4th in line (at 7m of course) and get a nice tow, but it’s going to be a 5 min balls to the wall time trial effort to hang on until we become a group of 4 – do I/don’t I?? – okay, in for a penny, in for a pound, I’m going for it! – it took about 6 or 7 minutes to catch the 2 guys in front, and whilst I wasn’t wearing a HR monitor, I was totally on the red line by the time we caught those guys, another minute and I would have blown out – was it worth it? – damn right it was worth it, the 3 “bike guys” were slugging it out at about 38km/h into a headwind with little old me sat 4th in line, taking a well earned rest! – I can hear coach saying “hang on to those guys, there’s your slot right there” and it’s all pretty comfortable – get to the turnaround point, and while I’m poncing about getting a gel etc in, the guys have opened up a big gap, which I decide I can’t close on my own, but at least the ride home will be downwind most of the way…..crossed with Marshall about 3 minutes after the turnaround, so I figure I have about a 6 minute advantage over him – will that be enough? – probably not, but I’m not going to leave anything on this course….then the monsoon came in, with the rain coming in in sheets, horizontally – I’m almost blown off my bike a couple of times, but I manage to stay on, the rest of the ride home is pretty uneventful – the last 2 or 3 km of the ride I’m thinking about the run ahead – the weather is still very cloudy and overcast, but relatively cool, however, it is clearing, and I know how fast it can change in this part of the world – so I decided to gamble again, for the 2nd time today, and completely abandon race strategy, I want to get as much of this run out of the way as possible before the sun comes out, so instead of running 5 min/k, I’m going to run 4.30’s, hopefully I can last til about 14k, and then I’m virtually home – 7km in the scorching heat is nothing – this is my new race plan!

Into T2 – there is only 1 other bike in my section – I’m in 2nd place! – shook everything out of T2 bag, bottles and salt stick fall out of my Fuel Belt, take a few seconds to sort that out, then the running shoes go on – I’m impatient to get on the course – “WTF is that in my shoe?” – oh, my Garmin Ant Stick that I’ve been looking for the last 3 days!! – of with the shoe, remove offending item, grab my gels etc and I’m away.

Around the lake and I’m settled into a rhythm quickly – this feels easy, maybe I can do this the whole way round and run 1.35, Marshall will never catch me! – sailed through the first 10k to the turnaround in around 45 minutes, aid station every km, so I’m dousing myself in cold water, high fiving all the kids who have stood in the pissing rain for hours to cheer us all on, I’m all smiles, like a rock star – nobody from my age group has passed me, just a couple of relay runners – this 70.3 malarky is easy!!!

Then, at about 12km, somebody sneaked up behind me and smashed me in the back of the head, and all over my body with a baseball bat! – I can honestly say, I barely remember anything about the last 9km except that I was no longer all smiles and high fives, everything hurts, and surely, Marshall and a load of other 35-39 guys are going to catch me and take my bloody slot! – I can’t get any more Gels or Gatorade down at this point, I’m feeling sick and all I can cope with is water – the only thing that is keeping me going is the sure knowledge is that there will be people in the chat room, and on Ironman Live tracking me, wondering if I’m going to blow up, and hopefully, willing me on – I can’t let them down, I just can’t – at around 18km I am shaken out of my reverie as a little Filipino guy from my age group runs past me – this is the guy who was a Pro last year, and has reverted back to age grouper this year, he is obviously after a slot – shit, that’s it, I’m 3rd now, I can’t let anyone else past, no way no how – so I dig in to my last reserves, and manage to hold it together for the last 3k – to quote Chicago – “this isn’t fun any more” – I can’t help but look over my shoulder, but I can’t see anyone – that god for that!

Managed to put a bit of a sprint on down the finishing shoot, and forget to pose for my finisher pic, I’m so exhausted – I’m also relieved, and totally ecstatic at the same time, I think I’ve done 4.42 and some seconds, on debut – got to be happy with that! – collected my finisher medal and t-shirt, and I hear Marshie being anounced over the loudspeaker, just a couple of minutes back – he looks every bit as bad as I feel, and I know it’s been a tough day out there.

Overall, I’m delighted with pretty much everything, apart from the swim – but I will claim extenuating circumstances – I took a couple of major gambles during this race, and luckily for me, they both paid off – I’m going to call them educated gambles, and claim that I raced hard and smart! – it still hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m going to do my first (and I promise, last) Ironman in Kona! – not only that but I am going to be sharing the experience with a couple of awesome mates from the team – there is clearly a lot to do in the next 7 weeks, but this time, I’m only aiming to finish, not to compete, so the pressure is off.

A few people I need to thank:

Carina, for putting up with my shit, and being as supportive as she is, even though she has no interest in Triathlon whatsoever – I promise babe, I will make Jason give me one day off in the week so we can have dinner like normal people!

Jason, for being a great coach, who has a million great triathlon/UFC/boxing stories to entertain me with – who manages to be a mate, and coach, and keep the 2 separate when necessary – has showed faith in me, pumped me up when I have been a bit down, and who convinced me I had a half decent 70.3 in me – what a dick, now I’ve got to do a bloody full Ironman – after that, we are back to Sprint and OD racing, or I am retiring!

And last, but not least, each and every one of the T2A members, and their partners – an incredible bunch of people, from all walks of life, who somehow manage to operate as a team, in what is essentially an individual pursuit – I’m so proud to be part of this crazy gang!

That’s all, sorry if it has taken up half of your day – if you got this far, thank you for reading!

Flanners xx

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