117 Ian Le Pelley, GBR

117 Ian Le Pelley GBR
Position in AG M35-39 : 1 // Finish Time: 04:29:17
Swim: 0:28:01 // T1: 0:00:37 // Bike: 2:19:35 // T2: 0:00:43 // Run: 1:40:21

Coach’s remarks: A great race report here, one of the best I would like to wager. It really gives a great insight on the course and event along with some lessons for you all. It should be noted that Ian obviously had a great event which could of been even better if he showed a bit more patience however, thats racing and the Silver Fox is a great racer, one of the best racers I know outside guys doing it for a living.

A great read Team and a brillaint result Ian on your 70.3 debut, I am so glad its over so we can now concentrate on your pet distance, the Sprint Distance. Then again, 4.29 hrs tells me we have some potential here also 🙂

Thx Ian for sharing this,

The old Pakistani driver of our taxi on the way to the airport in Dubai stroked his long white beard and asked me what I was doing with the bike.  I told him I was doing a race in Sri Lanka.  “How far?” he asked.  90 kilometres I told him.  “That should only take you 1 hour” he said.  I said that I thought it might take me a bit longer than that.  He didn’t seem very impressed.  He then went on to say that 10 years ago he’d run 15km in 39 minutes, and had won a race in the process.  That’s really good I told him.  (By my calculations he’d run it in just under 10km world record pace – that’s even faster than Benny Walton.)

So, feeling slightly inadequate after the tales of our taxi driver’s sporting prowess, we got on the plane to Colombo, delighted to see a number of the team were also on the same flight.  I got to sit next to Jordo, who, like any sensible Scot, had decided that any time was a good time for champagne, and had already knocked back a couple of glasses despite the fact that they hadn’t served breakfast yet.

The next couple of days were a whirlwind of JT-organised activities:  team dinner; morning swim + run; and a drive round some roads in Colombo which were meant to be the bike course (but actually weren’t).  We found out about the new bike course the evening before the race.  And the new run course.  And the new swim start time (which had been changed back to just before the original start time – and then changed again on race morning).  I decided to just do what I was told and go with the flow.

However, by Saturday night we’d all seen enough of (a) the dodgy road conditions and (b) the “no-rules-are-the-rules” driving culture to have more than a few concerns about the bike leg.  We asked the bus driver if he thought all the roads would be closed without traffic on race morning.  He just looked at us and laughed.  The organisers had told one of the team that all of the roads would be closed “except for the ones that aren’t”.  And we’d seen potholes that made our friendly Longtoot hole look like a minor hollow in the ground…  I expected we’d have some stories to tell.  I wasn’t wrong.

Race Day:

Woke up 2 hours before the (expected) race start.  Necked some breakfast bars and a salt tablet.  Headed down to transition, and re-racked my bike in some space next to Simon.  The lights were on and the music was blaring.  I was ready for the race – trying to think about how my body should be feeling during the various stages – and hoping that I could rein myself in enough so as not to blow up (or at least get through most of the race without doing so).  “It’s a bit hard to get yourself excited for this one, isn’t it” said Simon.  No! I replied – I’m crapping it!

Swim:

After a 1 minute out-and-back warm up I took my place on the start line right behind the pros.  Coach’s instructions were to try and get on the feet of a female pro and sit there.  I wasn’t sure I’d be fast enough, and was aiming just to hit a pace that felt reasonable given the long day ahead.  We stood waiting in the water, as the start time kept getting pushed back.  Faris (the real one – not Jay Grant) started shivering.  A few waves knocked us off our feet.  And then – we were off!

It was a bit messy for a minute or two, and I started swimming behind one of the male pros (I think it was Bryan Rhodes).  He pulled away after a little while, and I just tried to keep my swim strong, but relaxed and with my breathing under control.  I was then by myself, with a female pro (who turned out to be Lucie Zelenkova) a little bit ahead.  She didn’t seem to be increasing the gap on the way out to the turn, and I caught her at half way between the top two buoys.  Whoo hoo – I’m on her feet! – I thought.  And so I sat there, feeling comfortable, trying not to tap her feet, with the aim of her pulling me the rest of the way round…

About three quarters the way round she stopped and sat up in the water for a second or two (Was I annoying her?  Was she just trying to sight?  Was she sorting out her goggles?  Did she want to draft behind me?), and I came round the side of her.  Uhh-ohh I thought – I don’t want to be leading her round.  She started up again and was swimming off my hip for a little while so I slowed up a bit (rather cunningly, I thought at the time), let her get ahead, and got back behind her.

And that’s how we stayed for the rest of the way in.  Came out feeling pretty good.  Time:  28.01

T1:

Put on race belt.  It fell off.  Swore.  Put it on again.  Helmet on.  Out.

Bike:

The bike seemed to be mainly about dealing with dilemmas – trying to figure out the best approach to the issues that arose.

Dilemma 1:  Coach’s instructions were to ride at 80-82% HR throughout.  Straight out of the gate I was at about 86%, but was feeling comfortable.  I was expecting it to come down after 5 or 10 minutes, but it didn’t.  Do I drop the pace to get down to that heart rate even though I was feeling comfortable?  Will I blow if I keep going at this heart rate?  I decided to go on feel and keep an eye on the heart rate – and it stayed at 85-86% throughout.

Dilemma 2:  We are blessed with smooth roads in Dubai, but the bike course in Sri Lanka was B U M P Y.  Since they weren’t handing out water bottles on the course that we could slot into holders, I’d decided to try to be self sufficient:  1 bottle between the aerobars, 1 on the down tube (which had all my carbs in it), and 2 in the rear holder.  The problem with this was that the bumps were knocking the rear bottles up all the time, so I spent lots of the first half hour pushing the bottles back into the holders after each big hit.  Then – at about 20km – I hit a big bump and one full rear bottle went flying (and the other one only just stayed in).  I’d been drinking from the bottle between my aerobars, but immediately decided to down the water in the other rear holder before that too went flying.  This meant that by half way I was starting to run out of water, and I was working out whether I could get round without having to get more (which would mean coming to a complete stop at an aid station, opening the water bottles, getting in water, closing the bottles, and then start riding again).  Eventually I decided that I needed to do it:  the delay was worth it in the context of the whole race.  In hindsight it was a no-brainer, but on the course it was a hard decision to take.

Dilemma 3:  At 55km I suddenly felt my saddle move after a big bump.  WTF??!!  At first I thought the seat post was sliding down, but then I realised that the nose of the saddle had dropped – and then it continued to drop with every bump.  This meant I had to pull up on the saddle’s nose every 20 – 30 seconds or so for the rest of the ride, and take the weight off on each of the bumps, to try to keep it in roughly the right position.  This was frustrating to start with, but once I realised that I could still ride okay I just dealt with it.  It could have been worse (like a puncture – I saw at least 2 or 3 people walking back down the course), but I think it may have contributed to dilemma 4…

Dilemma 4:  After feeling a few twinges, at 68km my right hamstring suddenly cramped hard (I’d been feeling some minor cramp in my fingers so knew something was up…).  Was it from going too hard?  From not drinking enough?  From sitting too low?  From not getting in enough electrolytes?  I stood up to try to ease it out and immediately took a salt tablet and knocked back a load of water.  After a minute or so the cramp eased a bit, so I made a note to take another salt tablet in 15 minutes time, and continued to try to keep it controlled (desperately hoping this wasn’t going to be the end of my race).  It didn’t come back so the extra salt maybe did the trick…

All in, it was an exhilarating ride.   This was mainly from the traffic, which by lap 3 had risen to ridiculous levels – there were buses, cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes zooming around all over the place, and the riders were weaving between them whilst trying to avoid the bigger holes and bumps.  I loved it – I was snarling and shouting at drivers like an angry dog, dropping to that base level that you only get (or at least, I only get) when racing:  aggressive, nasty, primeval.  (Like I do at all races, I also made sure I swore at all the drafters I saw coming the other way – it might not stop them cheating, but the hope that it can induce even the tiniest bit of shame in them makes me feel better.  And when else in life do you get the chance to swear at people at the top of your voice?!).

Throughout the ride I was constantly trying to ensure that I was going hard enough whilst still leaving enough in the tank to ride strong for entire ride and be able to run a decent half marathon in the heat.  I was far from sure as to whether I was getting the balance right – but I felt controlled throughout.  Time:  2.19.35

T2:

No dramas.  Socks, shoes and cap on, 2 gels in the hand + out.

Run:

I started the run feeling remarkably good.  Instructions were to stick at 4.30 pace (despite me suggesting that 4.20 might be more appropriate) – but I was cruising along really comfortably at around 4.10 pace (with the heart rate staying the same as it had been on the bike).  I decided to go with the flow and just stay nice and controlled but strong.  I slowly reeled in a guy in red who had overtaken me in the last 20km of the bike.  I had a gel at 25 mins, and planned to have the other one at 50 mins.  At each aid station I got down as much water as I could whilst running, and poured one cup over my head.  (I was also planning to have a coke at every other station, but I didn’t manage to get any).  I went through 10km in 42 minutes feeling okay.

And then… BOOM!…  at about 11-12km in I suddenly hit the wall, and realised I was running only on fumes and I had very little time left before the body was going to give up on me.  It was too late to do anything about my previous pacing error (perhaps too hard on the bike?  almost certainly too hard on the first 10km… why didn’t I listen to Jason?!) but I knew I needed to get some carbs into me quick.  The next 2 aid stations didn’t have any gels, but luckily on the return lap I managed to grab 2 gels and downed one quickly.  I got the next one down just before the next aid station, and just worked on grinding out the final kilometres.  If I hadn’t felt the heat and humidity before, I did now.  My pace had dropped almost immediately to 5 – 5.15 minutes per km, and I spent the whole of lap 3 hoping that my body was going to allow me to continue running.  The guy in red that I’d passed earlier overtook me, and told me to keep going.  I was in damage limitation/ survival mode – just trying to keep the feet moving.  I only realised I was definitely going to make it to the finish with about 3km to go.  Keep focused, keep form, keep going.

Eventually I made it to the finish – and needed help to walk to the med tent (where I got ice stuffed down my tri-suit, which at the time felt FANTASTIC).  Time:  1.40.21 – and a 4.29.17 overall.  I was over the moon.

Endnote:

I can’t end without saying a huge thanks to all the team supporters out on the course who would unfailingly shout from the sidelines each time we went past, and the team members racing who’d nod or give a quick word of encouragement.  It makes a huge difference – thanks to all of you.  And thanks to the whole team – the team spirit in Sri Lanka for the whole trip was something to behold, as were the messages of congratulations from those back at home.

Finally, congratulations to the racers, almost all of whom faced adversities more than might be expected on any given raceday (whether it be Steve and Higgsy crashing, Janey puncturing, or Elliot’s body not letting him take on carbs) and all of whom made it to the finish line.  Big respect!

And also thanks to Jason for all your help so far – it looks like we’re going in the right direction – and I’m trying harder to listen!

Ian