My first 70.3 and what I learned along the way

by Tom K

This is not really a race report. Its’s more a kind of collection of things I learned after I naively signed up to my first DL 70.3 in January. What I learned definitely helped me to prepare and enjoy the experience. Well, sort of, at least once I was able to walk again.

It gives answers to all sorts of questions about gear, Porta-loos, training plans, sinking stones, nutrition and more. None of this will get you anywhere near a podium but should be helpful to newbies, and maybe even improve my own time from terrible to not so terrible next time around.

So here goes – My 7 top newbie tips for DL 70.3:

A coach for MAMILs and how not to flat-line!

The first 70.3 is a big challenge, in particular if you really only ‘good-ish’ at one of the three disciplines. So what’s the best way to get ready? One-on-one coaching is clearly the way to go but also expensive. And, really who am I kidding? I am a MAMIL (middle-aged-man-in-Lycra) after all, and not going for a gold here. Still, one of my big things was training structure and monitoring progress. In the end, I used It gave me both a structured training plan to help me plan the week ahead, adjust days and load if needed. It even came with access to a coach (via email) for some extra tips. The app also shows fitness progress, which helps to stay motivated. Unfortunately, my fitness seemed to flatline weeks before DL…or maybe it was my heart rate.

Now I am doing tri – what shiny new things should I buy?

Triathlon is a paradise for those who love new stuff. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t. There are some essentials newbies need – a tri suit, wet suit etc. One of my big questions was: Do I need a tri bike? Or more truthfully, can I find a reason to get one? Turns out, not really – not for hilly courses such as Dun Laoghaire. A tri bike won’t make much difference. I wish I hadn’t found this article and if you really want to get one, best not to read it.

In the end, I settled for tri-bars, which works just fine. Research and domestic negotiations are continuing. Came across this rather different take on recently.

It definitely feels this part of the post may need a revision at a later point.

Cyclists: Prepare to get (r)humbled

They say golf is humbling, try Triathlon. After being slightly obsessed with cycling for more than 20 years, adding a bit of running and swimming shouldn’t be too hard. Its not uncommon among pure cyclists to think of themselves as stronger on the bike. After all, its just one thing to do, not three. Turns out, you can’t just leap off your bike and expect to be a good runner. It’s so much easier to feel good while cycling. There is no need to push as hard, if you don’t want to. One hour slow running can be as tough as a much longer ride – a hard lesson to learn for a seasoned cyclist. I might not get over the shock for years; a mild case of PTSD, my therapist says. I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one with this misconception. Cycling weekly wrote this, well worth a read for cycling focused wanna-be triathletes.

Ed says: “Eat on the bike or get beat on the run” or how to avoid the Porta-loo

Clearly taking on enough fuel is essential. Ed’s advice sounded reasonable, but was easier said than done. On the uphill, your heart threatens to jump out of your chest, while on the downhill, gripping the handlebars in pure terror is the only thing on your mind. So, fueling is really for the few flat sections. I preferred all-in-one drink powder, rather than energy bars/gels. General advice was to have around 20g of carbohydrate per 20-25 minutes. Here is what the guys from Ironman had to say. They also suggest a nutrition plan for 7 days BEFORE race day. Wish I’d listened, would have saved me some significant time in T2 and most of all reduced the need to suppress some quite unpleasant memories of a well used Porta-loo.

Float baby, float

Swimming is probably not the most important part of the race but nevertheless not an easy one to master. Very technical and not so easy to get into. This is where I should revise what I said earlier. A coach makes a lot of difference here. T3 resident coach Guillermo didn’t quite turn me into Michael Phelps yet but I also don’t have the properties of a stone anymore. And most of all, he really taught me how to enjoy swimming. Thanks mate.

Read the manual, really…DO!

Are you one of those people who buy a set of drawers from Ikea, chuck away the manual and end up with 25 spare screws and a lost screw driver. Well, apparently there is a Ironman manual and also a briefing. Who would have thought that’s where they tell you all the important things about racking your bike and gear. And apparently it can’t be done the morning before the race and closes at 4pm the day before. But here is what I learned: It is possible to get all the stuff together in under 45min. It involves some minor hair pulling, some not so minor expletives and a very understanding wife, but is rather to be avoided next time around if you want to keep said wife.

Final words: Support on the day makes all the difference:

I knew the running would be hard. If a 6.30 min/km 10k is your kind of distance and pace…21k after a hilly cycle is pretty daunting. It didn’t help of course that I feared the running from the beginning. When it came to it, all my fears came true: Legs cramped badly after just 500m. My “lofty” goal of not walking went out the window. I thought I was done…finished…beaten. Then a T3 voice behind me said: “Just take it easy, walk it out, you WILL get through it”. Only then remembered Laura saying: “Its not 21k, its 4 x 5k”. I can do 5 k. My focus shifted to “lets just get around to see my family cheering”. And maybe I can do that 3 times…and I did.

For next time, my focus has to be running – more restraint on the bike leg, far more runs off the bike even after tough cycles and simply more running. Also signed up for run workshop by Catherina McKiernan, maybe she can turn a flat-footed German juggernaut into elegantly floating gazelle. I’d say she has her work cut out.My first 70.3….did it….bring on 2020.