Ironman Hamburg, the write up

I am on a train for a few hours so time to do a write up

Check in was usual slick Ironman affair, and not much to say about it. The transition zone was one very long row, about 750m long, around 4 mins of transition times were running from one end of transition to the other. It’s important in IM to take a reference where your bike is, you could be searching for a while if you don’t.

Ahead of the event, there was a lot of concern about blue green algae, however, a swim on Saturday confirmed that the water was fine, however, visibility was non existent.

The forecast was around 30 degrees and windy. I am experimenting with Maurten nutrition, however it contains no salt, and I had forgotten to bring electrolyte tabs. Ned generously gave me some, so one less thing to worry about

On the day I was really calm, arrived in transition around 0515, pumped up tyres, clipped shoes into pedals and did final checks. Water temp was 24.1 so wetsuit legal, but no wetsuit for pros. I took my time changing into wetsuit and applying sun cream and vasseline and got to start line at 0630.

My plan was to swim at 1:45min/100m, and I can see on Garmin that I swam the first 1000m at 1:49… So a little slow, but perfectly respectable. Then sometime between 1000 and 1500m I was kicked full in the face, nose was bleeding and I had a blinding headache, I briefly considered calling it a day, but considered my options and realised worse comes to worse I could breaststroke the swim. The shock gradually wore off, and I continued to swim crawl, after adjusting my goggles, unfortunately my pace dropped to 2:05/100 for the remaining swim. I have a big of a complaint about the swim and that is how poorly marked out it was: my last full IM in Zurich had buoys every 200m, in Hamburg the buoys were small and some were spaced more than 500m apart, it was simply a case of following someone. And hoping that you were going the right way.

I came out of the water feeling rather sorry for myself, and took T1 a little slowly and noticing that there were far fewer bikes than when I normally exit the swim. But once on the bike I was back in my realm.

Looking at the maps, one would expect Hamburg to have a fast bike course, however, anyone looking to break their bike course record would be better looking elsewhere. Each lap has 2 sections of cobbles, roughly 1km long, these are really nasty on a TT bike, bottles, tools, spare tyres etc littered the road. Around 20km goes through the port, here many train tracks cross the road, the tracks had been covered in carpets, but it was not nice and certainly slowed you down. Another section had a few km of bricks, not as bad as the cobbles, but a really slow surface and vibration hell. In many places the roads had big pot holes and was generally in poor condition (probably similar to UK roads). The course itself was full of u turns and 90 degree bends, really difficult to find any sort of rhythm. Finally the wind, 40km run along the river, here there was a strong crosswind, just flat, featurless and unrelenting in the wind. And finally just to spice things up, it is 185.5km, almost unbelievable, given the nature of the course that they couldn’t make it 180km. It is not a slow course, but it is dull and unrewarding and not fast. As you can see I am no big fan of this bike route.

A week before Hamburg, I was riding the Etap du tour, a 135km ride with 4500m elevation: 6h21m of riding at an IF of 78%. Add on an extra 70km cycling to the event and home after the finish, it was a long day in the saddle, and probably not ideal taper for Hamburg. Even so I did ride the 185.5km in 5h8m at over 36kph, average power 213w and NP 222w, IF 74%.

One big positive was how strict the marshaling was, there were motorbikes everywhere, and very little drafting in evidence.

Finally the run, 4 laps along the Alster, mainly in the shade. I am a fan of these 4 lap runs, it helps me to break it down into chunks, so rather than thinking about a Marathon, I am thinking of specific refence points, and as long as the course is wide enough it is nice passing people, and giving words of encouragement.

On hot runs I prefer running in running clothes, so decided to change in T2, it adds about a minute to my time, but we’ll worth it: a tri suit is designed not to absorb water and to dry really fast, while my ASICS run vest holds a bit of moisture, this means that I can keep my top wet for the whole run, which really helps to regulate my temperature. The thermometer on the chemist said 34 degrees, my Garmin recorded the temp at 30-32 degrees, however I was pretty comfortable the whole run, while lots of people really seem to have suffered with the heat.

I was aiming to do a 3h30 marathon, however, after T2 I worked out that I would need to run 3h20 to go under 10h at 4:45/km pace. I was really happy to be off the bike, and feeling pretty good, so thought I would go for it and see what I could do. I formulated a rough plan to run 4:40/km for lap 1 and 2, then run 5m/km lap 3, and run as fast as I could on the last lap, leaving nothing in the tank. First 2 laps went exactly to plan, I was actually holding myself back on lap 1, by lap 3 I was tiring, but still feeling strong, and running at 5m pace actually came as a relief and gave me a chance to recover. The final lap I ran the first half at 5m/km as I was now feeling tired, but the final 5km I told myself to treat it like Park Run and pushed as hard as I could to run at 4:40/km: I crossed the line with a Marathon time of 3h22m

I think that there were 2 factors which contributed to my run, firstly the Nike Next%, on a Marathon they just work, they feel like a normal shoe, they provide the right level of support, they just run fast. The other factor is the Maurten gels, I took one every 5km, my energy levels felt good, I suffered no cramp or stomach issues. I am not 100% convinced about Maurten on the bike, but it was designed for runners and it really does work (for me) on the run. And as a side benefit, I had to use a run belt to hold my gels, and the run belt also held the ice inside my running top.

This was definitely one of the better IM runs, frequent and well stocked aid stations, loads of ice (would be interested to know if it ran out), sponges and cold showers, and I just enjoyed the couse

Given my form this year, I was expecting an easy sub 10 hours on a fast course, what I got was 10h2m on a long course which is definitely not fast. 16th in Age group with an 8th fastest run, I’ve got a lot to be pleased about. On the day my swim scores 2/10, bike 6/10 and run 10/10

Kona is no longer an aspiration, if I can repeat the type of day I had in Elsinore then I will KQ. I now have the winter to nail that swim

Great to meet Ned, Jamie and Jeff, hope our paths meet again

17 Likes

That Port loop was 40km! The worst bit of tarmac was after you came off the dyke out & back, really twisty and uneven. Notwithstanding the cobbles, mono blocking & rail tracks :smirk:

Friend of mine had an off crossing one of the train tracks. Handle bars and wheels ended up facing different directions. Day over. Sounds a bit of a shit course if Im being honest

You’ll KQ at Bolton with a bike like that :smiley:

1 Like

I can see that happening, many of the tracks were diagonal to road, I tried to hit them squarish to avoid this, but not always possible, wheels took a hammering

Don’t you mean Blackpool

2 Likes

Hmm I wonder if that’s the guy I saw. He immediately started clutching his arm, dressed in black iirc. They had Marshals on each crossing so hopefully whomever it was got help quickly.

There was a guy running in a sling too :roll_eyes: ( different arm)

Could be, black and green speed suit. Injured his arm and ribs as someone else hit him when he was down.

Matt said a motorcycle almost took him out on a bend. A NZ guy I met was actually forced into the barriers by a motorcycle and came off :unamused: Again in a tight bend.

Seems ridiculous given how uncongested the bike course was

I forgot to add that in my write up.

As mentioned, the course was very narrow and twisty in sections. At one point the carriageway was divided down the middle, with bikes travelling both directions. Just before the road narrows, there is a tight right bend: I was approaching the bend on my Aerobars, about to overtake a slower rider, a marshal’s motorbike passed me and slowed down to go round the corner. I was on my Aerobars, going much faster than the bike ahead, and suddenly there was a motorbike in the gap I was aiming for. As I couldn’t get to the brakes, I just squeezed between the motorbike on the outside and bike on the inside and hoped that there would be room to go 3 abreast around a narrowing corner. Luckily the passenger on motorbike saw me alongside, and yelled at rider, who gave me enough space to squeeze through. The motorbike the sat on my tail for the next couple of minutes, and I was worried that I would be DQ’ed for dangerous riding.

I guess that if there was a crash, I would have been partially at fault, there was a point when the motorbike passed that I should have come out of aero position to get the brakes, but I wasn’t expecting the motorbike to slow. But the issue I have is that I was competing, and the motorbike impeded my progress, in a race we ride in a different manner to the way we ride normally