My First Ironman Experience – a detailed race report by Gator – TriCoachGeorgia

One of our original coached athletes, Chris Keysor, aka Gator, took a huge risk racing his first Ironman – Ironman UK. He did it abroad with his family in town in the United Kingdom at Bolton near Manchester. This required a great deal of logistical planning and pragmatic adjustments. He was supposed to race with Coach Slayer but that didn’t work out quite as hoped so he had to race alone. Fortunately, this allowed Coach to be on the course as sherpa and friend along with his wife Julie.

This is one of the hardest courses on the Ironman circuit. The weather on the day was horrible with winds gusting to 30mph and pouring rain for the early half of the day. His results were strong, his coach and he were satisfied with his day, and his family was all smiles. Gator wrote up a nice little summary that we thought might be of use to first timers and those racing difficult courses on tough days. Have a read and see what we mean:

My First Ironman Experience – a detailed race report by Chris Keysor aka Gator

Overall this is one of the tougher Ironman races due to the climbing and narrow roads; however, those factors are off-set by the cooler weather. In addition to the every day factors of the course, this day was specifically challenging because of the rain and wind.

I originally signed up for this race because Harvey was going and I thought I would be able to tackle the training and logistics better with him in attendance. Of course with his injury in early spring he was out of the race but was still there to guide me through the race. Oh and don’t forget having his lovely wife Julie there gave us someone that could get around the UK with ease.

Leading up to the race we arrived in Manchester on Thursday morning (3 days before the race). After little sleep on the flight over Thursday was really a wasted day, but we got to see the town and have a casual dinner. We did not sleep during the day so that we would get a good rest. Also, I assembled my bike in the hotel room. Luckily with the Scicon case there is very little re-assembly to be done. On Friday we took the train over to Bolton and started to get familiar with the town and get checked in.

Saturday Julie and Harvey drove up from London and we started to work through the logistics of racking the bike and my transition bags. Bolton has two separate transitions and a different finishing spot – making logistics particularly challenging. Luckily, Harvey suggested that I take a quick spin on my bike, which resulted in my first flat of the race. Interesting that the flat occurred with a latex tube with sealant in it. However, I made the change and decided to carry a 2nd spare tube on the race.

We had the pasta dinner at the hotel and made a fairly early night of it.

There were 2,157 people in the race and about 343 registered  in my age group. Of the 343 registered 266 finished (78%) and 27 started but did not finish (about 10%).

Swim Notes

• The swim was a time trial type of start where you lined up according to anticipated swim time and jumped into the water two or three at a time.
• The water temperature was 16 degrees Celsius (61 F) so as soon as I hit the water I started to hyperventilate and had to pull to the side to get used to the water.
• It was raining at the end of the first lap so we got pretty wet and made sighting of the buoys very challenging.
• The second lap of the swim (2-1.2 mile laps) was really enjoyable and I got into my rhythm.
• On the way to the water exit, I was able to see the lake grass on the bottom. It was so cool because it looked like golden hair waiving up and made me feel like I was going really fast. Sadly not true.
• I exited the water 88th in my age group.
• My goal was 1:20 and I was out in 1:18.
• It was still raining and quite muddy in T1

Bike Notes

• The bike is what makes this course. Over 5,400 feet of climbing you are usually either going up or down through the various villages and pastures around north England. Interesting that my Garmin recorded over 7,200 in gain but corrected out to 5,400.
• What made this race particularly notable was the rain on the first lap and the 20-30mph winds whipping you around on the wet roads and even once they dried out. I had a number of times that the wind moved me on the bike. As a result my down hill speed was very limited.
• It started out as a cold ride with a rain vest and arm warmers but finished with just my aero shirt.
• The crowds were incredible. They lined up through the villages and on the three main climbs. It was like the tour de france where the crowds leave you about 2′ to ride through. Not necessarily a good idea to get that close to someone that has lost most of his or her mental abilities. But never the less an incredible experience.
• On the second large climb I remember averaging 100% of FTP and wishing for another gear so I could cool it down a bit. I am a spinner up hills and really can’t pedal efficiently at 50 rpm. These big power efforts aided the 1.17 Variability Index. Burning lots of matches.
• Harvey and Julie drove my family out to the one of those hills to see us go by. A one hour drive resulted in a 3″ video of me, but I didn’t see them. Just too many people.
• The roads were really rough with people flatting and losing stuff off the bikes. I lost two gels and all my caffeine. By the end of the bike my mental fatigue was really high. I was experiencing joint strains and then my right eye started getting blurry as my brain was focusing on my dominant eye (very strange).
• The other thing about the roads is many of them were really skinny “2-lane” roads. I think 15′ wide total. Oh and did I mention that they drive on the wrong side of the street?
• I finished the first lap feeling pretty good and even made it up the 2nd climb in really good shape. There were not a lot of riders around me at that point making the roads more tolerable.
• After the second climb I started feeling fatigued. The wind continued to mess around with the bike and it was a struggle.
• The third big climb began a death march and my power really started to drop. (Mile 95ish)
• My family was at the transition of the bike, I heard them but couldn’t pick them out of the crowd.
• When I dis-mounted off the bike my feet were stinging on each step making me wonder if I was even going to be able to run. Turns out it was just from my feet being damp for 6 hours.
• I finished the bike in 61st place climbing 27 spots. I was 53rd fastest bike, not stellar versus other bikers.
• My goal time was 6 hours at 175 NP watts (73% FTP). I rode for about 6 ½ hours at 189 NP (79%). Also, Variability Index was at 1.17. I haven’t had a VI index that high since road racing, but suggest it was because of the hard climbs and coasting down hills (wind limiting speed).

Run Notes

• The run started with getting see Jolie and the kids. I hugged Aiden and he told me to go win. Zoe said she loved me and wanted me to finish but don’t dare hug her. I kissed Jolie and headed out.
• Harvey ran with me for 100 yards or so to give me some advice (it is going to hurt and try not to walk).
• My first ½ mile was around a 10 minute pace making me wonder how this was going to go.   By the end of the hill I was down to nine minutes and feeling really great.
• Interesting that the lack of caffeine did not hurt me on the run. My mental fatigue went away and my legs felt almost fresh.
• The run started out with a leg to get us in downtown Bolton and included a run along a gravel path down the canal.
• Once we got downtown we started a 3 loop course down one of the wide residential streets and ending at the finish line downtown. There were thousands of people along the route including church groups, bars, house parties and schools. At the finish line people were lined up 4-5 people deep with lot’s of cheering and music.
• The run course was just as hilly as the bike with two main climbs a lap, one lasting about a ½ mile. From the second lap on I walked the hills to preserve energy.
• When I ran by the finish line the first time I was at about 12 miles and really was devastated when I couldn’t go down the finish chute.
• Each time you went by the end of the loop you received a colored hair scrunchy that you put on your arm. Different color for each lap. All those macho men with hair scrunchies.
• The first lap ended around 13 miles and a pace of 8’50”.
• By the second lap I was down to around 9’03” .
• On the third lap I walked the hill and at the top started running again. I found a set of heels to follow and just hung on for the next 2 miles.
• At the turn-around, we both walked the sag stop and I introduced myself. We walked and talked to the end of the sag then he said see you at the finish. I let him go ahead not knowing whether I could start running again.
• About 50” later someone in my age group ran by so I started off again and by the end of the residential neighborhood I caught my new friend again and we ran into the crowd filled downtown.
• Jolie, the kids, Harvey and his wife Julie were on the last corner. Harvey had Zoe up on his shoulder and she was cheering, Aidan was next to the barricade and gave me a big smile and thumbs up.
• As we ran towards the line my new brit friend grabbed my hand and said we finish together mate.
• They announced Kyle and Chris you are Ironmen!
• I finished 42nd and had the 28th fastest run.
• I had the goal of 4:10:00 (9’30” pace) and I finished in 4:03:30 (9’18” pace).
• Who would have known my first marathon was my relative strength.

Transition Notes

• Normally I wouldn’t write anything about transitions but mine were horrible. 10:50 on the first and 6:45 on the second. Compared to the first place guy in my age group I had 10′ extra in the tents.

Big Thoughts:

From a data standpoint I was a little above target at 189 NP watts (.79 IF). That shows a good strong effort. However, what was real telling was the 1.17 VI. I don’t think I have ever run more than 1.1 VI. For instance Raleigh was 1.06. I am a much better pacer than that. But on this course on that day I could only heat it up going up the hills and much of the time down hill I was just coasting and holding on for dear life.

I think the other major finding was what happens without Caffeine. I think my neuro function was fatigued and shutting down causing my eye issue as well as pain in my right knee. Losing the Caffeine was a bigger deal than I would have thought.

Run – I know this Marathon won’t translate into anything else. However, it once again proves that pain is all in your head and you can get through anything if you want. I really need to get that mind set if I want to be under a 7’30” run on a half again.

Overall, I gave it my best shot. I had hoped for a 12 hour finish and made 12 hours 11 minutes. After an 8 month journey I will take the 11 minutes and declare a goal reached. So in the big picture, I am really pleased and think I will be in great form for my August half.

Really don’t know if I could ever finish another one of these. There was a certain fear of failure of a goal that drove me home.