Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog lifeblog://tri.eat.net

23Sep/070

Monaco Ironman 70.3 Success

It's official, I am now an Ironman, or well, half an Ironman anyway :) The 3rd Monaco Ironman 70.3 was held in the beautiful principality of Monaco on September 2nd 2007 and after 3 hard months of dedicated training, I was there to claim the title of 'Finisher'.

Ever since I decided shortly after the Berlin Marathon I would do an Ironman, I have been working in some way towards that goal. The acquisition of my first road racing bike in almost half as many years as I've been alive was an inspirational step and set me firmly upon the path. From there, cycling to work and signing up for the smaller Blenheim and London triathlons further reinforced the pursuit, but it wasn't until one day when I was browsing the Ironman site looking for an event that I actually decided to make a reality out of so many fantasies. I chose Monaco despite its reputation as one of the toughest courses on circuit because of simple timing. The season was running out, I needed at least 3 months to train and I needed an event reasonably close by. Monaco fit nicely into that gap.

Entering the race would change my life for a few months. With only 14 weeks to prepare, I was on a tight schedule and needed a professional training program, fast. I looked around online and found a few free ones, but nothing really worked with my lifestyle of randomly long work days and social events. I looked a little harder and happened upon MarkAllenOnline.com, the namesake of a 6-time Ironman champion. His training program offered flexibility and professional advice like nothing else out there. I signed up right away and training began 2 days later. The program was tough going, consisting of (count 'em) 8 sessions per week (2 swim, 2 bike, 2 run and 2 gym) totalling around 12 hours. It was hard going in the beginning, but after a couple of weeks, I settled into the routine and really began to enjoy the training. The Mark Allen program stresses heart rate zone training and my Garmin Forerunner 305 and I became good friends. The weeks and months rolled by and pretty soon it was approaching race day. I felt I was ready, but could have done more, as is probably always the case.

I took the week leading up to the race off work and relaxed, spending most of my time getting good sleep and preparing myself and my equipment for the race. Came August 31st, I was on a plane to Nice and a short time later registered, with my bike racked and transition bags packed. Sunday, race day, was only a few hours away.

After a night of light and much broken sleep, race day finally arrived. I woke with plenty of time (unlike Berlin) and made my way down to the start line. For a change, everything was going off without a hitch. There was massive excitement in the air with 800 fully charged triathletes lined up on the shores of Larvotto beach for the start. I'd been on a start line many times in the preceeding months and I know my heart rate always leaps 50 beats before the gun. This day was no different, I could already feel the adrenalin surging strongly when the hooter sounded and I plunged into the grinder of fists and elbows that is the start of a triathlon.

The swim was going well, I'd carved out a little patch of water and was making strong progress. About 5 minutes in, I turned to the side to take a breath and swallowed a full gulp of salty Mediterranean water. No more electrolytes required I thought. Then not far from the finish, another swimmer crossed in front of me and I caught a foot square to the side of the mouth, tasted blood and carried on, feeling a little tougher. Exiting the swim leg, I figured I was positioned about half way through the field, good enough for my first attempt I thought.

Transitioning as quickly as possible, I dowsed my arms and neck in factor 50 sun lotion and set off for the bike course, a gruelling 90km through the hinterland with 3 fearsome peaks to overcome, the first of which reaches 700m above sea level. For the first 20km, I fared surprisingly well and summited the peak feeling fresh and ready for more. The race director had briefed us all on the descents, advising caution on the tight-turn hairpin bends. It was good advice. My hands were acheing from pulling the brakes by the time I had reached the bottom and I'd lost my profile water bottle after hitting a massive bump in the road that launched the bike and I well into the air. No biggie, I pressed on and summited peaks 2 and 3, finally descending to T2 with still more ache in my shoulders and lower back, grateful for the opportunity to stand straight up for the run very shortly.

I always felt like running was my fallback event where I could do the distance no matter how rough I was feeling, but on the way out of T2 I was feeling great, positively euphoric even and spoiling for the run. 20Km later I was still cruising along, almost at the finish and delighted with the knowledge that by the time I got round the last lap, the clock would be ticking over well under my target time of 6 hours.

I finished the Monaco Ironman 70.3 in a time of 5:41:49.

A full equipment list used for this event can be found here.

Lastly, thanks to my lovely girlfriend Gemma, who put up with all the early mornings and exhausted evenings for those 14 weeks.

Update 16 Feb 2008: I have entered for the UK Ironman 70.3 and am coinsidering Monaco again. Looks like some more early mornings are in store.

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