My First Ironman Race- 70.3 Middle East Championship, Bahrain
Swim- 37:09 (Pace- 1:57 min/100m)
Bike- 2:34:02 (Pace- 35.1 km/h)
Run- 1:23:37 (Pace- 3:58 min/km)
Finish Time- 4:44:48 (5th in Age Group 18-24)
My year didn’t start quite well. I was injured with stress fracture on my left fibula. Thus, I couldn’t participate in Tata Mumbai Marathon. I was predominantly focusing on the running till then. As I was out from running for 10-12 weeks, I started working on swimming,initially and then started cycling, when I was recovered a bit. But, I did not have any triathlon event in my mind.
During this time (March 2018), I found out that the RT (Recreational Triathletes) group is conducting an Olympic distance Tri. I decided to participate in it while I was still recovering. I finished 4th with a timing of 2:34:55. That’s when I started taking Triathlon seriously. Few weeks later, RT group announced a Half Iron Trial to break 4:15. I decided to take part in it and aim for a sub-5 hr finish with 5 months to train. My training for next 4 months was mostly in an unstructured manner. I did swim/bike/run workouts for 2 months and when monsoon was at peak, I just did swim & run for about 2 months. During this period, I completed my 2nd Marathon in BQ time in August. With 3 weeks to go, I resumed my cycling. Though, I couldn’t do much of cycling in last few months, I did felt that my running helped me in my cycling.
The RT Trial went as I had planned and I finished 7th with the timing of 4:45:22 (with very fast transitions). That was when I decided to enroll for my first IM event, Bahrain 70.3 in December. With about 9 weeks to go, I structured my training a bit with varying intensity for all 3 disciplines. For bike, I worked on getting more aerodynamic on my road bike and improving my cadence. For swim, I attended couple of swim clinics by Anirban to work on my technique. For run, which is my strength, I didn’t change my workouts much, just added few speed workouts. This training period wasn’t without hiccups, my left fibula injury started showing some signs,and I had to shift to few run workouts which did mitigate the pain. Couple of weeks after this, my left glutes started hurting, and few of my bike workouts were very painful. I, then dropped the bike intensity for couple of weeks and this pain was also relieved.
3 weeks before my IM event I did a Kolhapur Half Iron Triathlon as a practice race. The idea was to get familiarize with race atmosphere- open water swim + racing on bike. I did all out on the swim & bike, and slightly slowed down on the run as it wasn’t my A-race. I won the race so I was pumped and I felt ready for my Bahrain IM. The last 3 weeks of training and tapering was properly structured with the help of Neil and Viv, which decreased the volume but kept the same intensity. 2 weeks before the race, during an endurance ride my right hamstring got slightly pulled. So my rides and runs in the last 2 weeks were a bit painful but bearable. I constantly applied ice and used foam roller to get rid of it, but the pain didn’t completely go till the race day.
Practice Swim & Pre-Race
I was a little worried about sea swimming as last time I did that (Goa Swimathon), I had a big issue with sighting. So, I was just hoping not to come across the same challenge. We had a practice swim a day prior to the race. The water was quite clean but too salty. The practice went smooth, and sighting wasn’t a problem at all. I felt more confident then. On the night before the race, I had rice and dal. And a peaceful sleep for 6 hours ( this was unusual , as it doesn’t happen to me often, but I was calm and composed the night before). In the morning, I had 2 bread slices with jam and a banana, before heading towards the venue.
Swim & Transition-1
The weather was pleasant on the race day. Before the swim start the temperature was around 21.5℃, so wetsuits were allowed for both Pros and AG athletes. Swim was a rolling start, my target time was 36-37 mins so I lined up with 35 mins batch. After you cross the timing mat, there was a ladder that you had to climb and get down to enter the sea. After the start, about 100-150 m later, I gulped up some water as there were lots of people around me. This caused a slight discomfort for couple of minutes, but later there were no issues with the swim. At the finish, as the water was too shallow with rocks at bottom, volunteers were actually pulling racers out of water so that they don’t hurt themselves. I looked at my watch then, and it showed 36:52, so I was pretty satisfied with the swim. I climbed the ladder again and then entered the transition zone. While I was taking out my wetsuit, I had to remove my timing chip from my left ankle to get out of the wetsuit completely. In that mess, I lost my timing chip and couldn’t find it to put it back on. I saw a couple of guys passing by, thought they might have kicked it. I searched for it but, I couldn’t find it. Later, I came back to my wetsuit to find the chip sticking to the wetsuit strap. I felt stupid to waste about a minute there.
I got out of the transition, got on to my bike and started. I felt a slight pain in lower back but I was riding strong. There was a bit of support from the tailwind after 5k mark. I gradually overtook a lot of people, but then there was a guy who would overtake me on flat and later, I’d overtake him on climbs. So, we were continuously pushing each other. It was a good competition between us. After 30k, there were a lot of turns and a lot crosswinds as well which went on till 52k. Later, came the F1 track part, though it was exciting to ride on the track, it had a lot of sharp turns. At one of the turns, I couldn’t control and went in the sandy part of the track. Fortunately, I handled my bike and saved a fall, but that ,sort of ,broke my momentum. I had to be very cautious at every turn there after. After 57k, we got onto the highway, but there were a lot of headwinds which slowed down my speed. I tried to hold the aero-position, but my lower back was hurting a lot by then. I kept pushing on the road bike position, till 65k mark, then I held myself a bit for next 15 kms. I wanted to feel fresh, when I start my run. I, then pushed myself in the last 8 kms to finish strong on my bike leg. I finished with a timing of 2:34:02 @35.1kph, my initial plan was to hold an average pace of 37+. Hence, I was slightly disappointed.
The run route had 3 loops which were almost flat with about 20 m of elevation gain. So, my plan was to run at an avg pace of 3:55. I started strongly for my first 3k. I was holding a pace of 3:50-3:55. Unfortunately, my right quads got stiff (probably because my cadence on the bike was too low), so I had to slow down a bit. But, I was still consistently maintaining pace of 3:59-4:00 for next 11kms. In the last lap, I accelerated, and was soon maintaining a pace of 3:50. But about 3-3.5 kms later, I got cramps on both the calves. I started running with my toes pointing out sideways to avoid the cramps, but it kept getting worse. I kept pushing, even at that point I was maintaining a pace 4:05, and I still wonder how. In the last km, I had to stop and sprint several times as I was planning a strong finish. Finally, I finished my run with a timing of 1:23:37 @ pace of 3:58 and overall timing of 4:44:48 (Sub 4:45 :D). I was touch disappointed but I’ll take that for my first Ironman event. \m/
There are a lot of people who supported me throughout this Journey. Most importantly Anirban and RT group for extending their support for me and backing my potential. I wouldn’t have come at this level without their help. Also, I would like to thank my parents for supporting me in whatever I wish to do. Countless times, I have to skip going home, so that I don’t miss my training, here in Mumbai. Also, thanks to Mehul, Neil & Anuj for all the guidance and help you have provided throughout. I know I’ll keep bugging you guys every now and then. This is just the beginning, still a long way to go.
“Par khulne ki dairi thi, parindey ab udd ke chhuyenge aasmaan”
Areas to Work Upon
After the race I have given a lot of thought on what I need to do and how I should progress further. Some of those points I have mentioned here:
- Training: Need to follow a structured plan for all my workouts. I should probably train under a coach and get a continuous feedback
- Equipment: Investment on a Tri-bike and a bike trainer. I will also be switching to power-based training for bike once I’ve the trainer
- Nutrition & Recovery: This is yet another place where feel I am lacking. I need to understand nutrition aspect for both training and races. I constantly get cramps on the race day which could easily save me few minutes. Secondly, I don’t think I am recovering well for my trainings, and this is utmost important for performance boosting. I should be sleeping atleast an hour more daily, and spend time for strecthes, cooling down, icing and foam rolling