Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2019 (Nice, France)

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Building up to the Race

After the Colombo 70.3 (2019) Race, I took 2 weeks off before I could start my new training block for the World Championship race. I had listed down the major focus area where I needed to work on for each discipline:
Swim: The prime focus was to work on my technique. In my view, Swimming is the most technical of the three disciplines. No amount of technique work is too much, you constantly need to focus on it to get better. With the help of Ashutosh I got my swim analysis done and he pointed out my correction areas. So I incorporated plenty of technique drills into my swimming to make those corrections.
Bike: There were two focus points here- power based Indoor training and Outdoor hill rides. This was the first time I included hill training on the bike (most of my previous races were either on flat or rolling courses). I needed to do a lot of those as the bike course in Nice was going to be quite hilly with about 1360m elevation gain, that includes a long 10km climb with about 6.5% gradient. I started with short hills like Yeoor in the initial weeks and then started going to Pune on weekends to do longer hills. Though I couldn’t do as many hill workouts as I had planned, I could only do 5-6 hill workouts in total. But that still gave me confidence about my climbing skills. For power-based training, I used to do a lot of workouts between 90-110% of my FTP. Sometimes to make these workouts tougher I would just go aero and churn those numbers. There was another thing I should have focused on, it was my bike technical and descending skills but I couldn’t. It was very difficult to find bike friendly roads in Mumbai and finding such a hill without any vehicular traffic was even more difficult.
Run: The focus was to increase the volume while still doing decent speed work. High volume was really going to be helpful for both my speed and endurance. This would eventually also help me for marathons, as I do take part in 1-2 each year.

I was able to follow most things I had planned for about two months before Ramzan month started. During Ramzan, I had to change my daily routine in a way to do all my workouts while still keeping the fast during the day. I would do 2 workouts everyday, one right after the Iftar and another few hours after dinner. Run and bike were manageable thanks to proximity to IIT and Indoor trainer respectively. Swim session was getting difficult to get done due to my office hours, I still did few morning workouts while fasting and others I tried to fit in during the weekend. As the monsoons approached, I didn’t want to miss a lot of hill workouts on the bike, so I would skip fasting on a few weekends to get that done.

Though I was somehow able to keep up with my training schedule during the month of Ramzan, the following month I had to go home for 3 weeks for my brother’s marriage So I took my bike and Indoor trainer with me, along with run and swim gear so that I could do workouts whenever I found time. But I got so busy with the wedding arrangements that in the past 3 weeks I could just manage 3 bike sessions, 1 run and 0 swims.


Series of Unfortunate events

Hip Injury: After I came back from home, I resumed my training only to find that I had a hip injury. Though I was able to do my bike sessions (at slightly lower cadence) and Swim with Pull buoy, I was just not able to run extending my training break to 6 weeks now. Here is the lesson #1: Don’t compromise on strength training, even if you feel strong, your body needs it consistently to prevent injury. And in my case I had increased my volume substantially too, so it has become increasingly important. I was not able to resume regular training even 4 weeks from the race. I continued the strength work and easy runs to fortify my recovery . Though my pace had dropped significantly, I was able to train at least 50k on a weekly basis.

Sickness: While I was still recovering from my injury, I was struck with viral fever. I rested for 7 days to recover from the fever and another 3 days to fully recover. Being so close to the race day, this can become a frustrating period when one just can’t train, You have to accept that your health is a priority and let your body heal completely before you can get back to your regime

Fall: After I recovered from the illness, I was able to put in 3 days of good training to get back on track. But then I had a fall from the bike thanks to the slippery parking ramps during the monsoons. I had a couple of wounds on my right knee and some small bruises. The wounds on the knee made it difficult to walk while I needed to keep away from water for faster healing. Since this was only 4 weeks before the race, I had no choice but to continue my training. The first 2.5-3k of a run would be very challenging., I had to plan my swim workouts in a way that I get enough time between 2 sessions for the wounds to heal properly.

In spite of all these hurdles, I managed a decent volume in the last 4 weeks leading up to the race. About 250+ kms of running, 35-40km of swimming and 1200-1400km of cycling. Going into the race I felt confident and race – ready. But I still needed to finalize a decision – Triathlon-bike vs Roadie. I did 3 loops of Jarsheshwar, a 5.5km technical climb with about 11 hairpin turns and an average gradient of 6.2%. Though the road bike was faster on both the climb and descend, I decided to go with the Tri-bike, hoping to gain some aero advantage on the flat sections.


Race Week

I reached Nice, France 6 days before the race. I wanted to acclimatize to the weather and train on the descends of the bike course before the race, to familiarize with the sharp turns and speed breakers in those sections. Since the course was a single loop, I had to do the entire 91.3kms twice. It was a tricky decision to do this brutal course on two consecutive days, but I wanted to gain the confidence of descending down, which would play a critical role during the race. I trusted that my body would recover over the next 3 days. So this could have gone either way, just that it went against me on this occasion. During my second bike recce, while I was descending and cruising over 50kph, a car from the opposite side brushed close to me while I was taking a sharp turn. While I was able to slow down, I couldn’t control a fall off the bike. Luckily there was no serious damage. I landed on my left wrist, it was hurting badly and got a wound on my left hip. Lesson #2: Don’t get carried away by fast descenders, and while I was trying to imitate them, I got aggressive rather than sticking to the basics of descending. Lesson #3: Don’t experiment a lot very close to a race, especially when you’re travelling to a new place.

I finished the rest of the course (40km) cautiously, reached my room, applied first aid and rested for the day. Next morning, the wrist pain was really bad, there was a slight swelling as well. I applied ice, wrapped it with a crepe bandage and took a painkiller (it was unbearable). By afternoon I got a fever and bodyache. That was because my body was reacting to the fall and wrist pain and my body was too exhausted by now. The fever was worse in the evening when I had gone for the race briefing.

It was getting worse with each hour, thankfully Vinolee and her husband were there too. They asked me to come stay at their place and gave me medicines. The fever and bodyache still persisted for the next 3 days but I was getting better. What these things did (apart from physical exhaustion) was that it put me off my race mindset. Lesson #4: Even though it’s understandable to get familiar with the descends, it was too much of a risk to do two 90k+ rides on this brutal course on back to back days. I should have stuck to just one ride and use the remaining time to recover and acclimatize. That’s okay you do crazy things, you learn from these experiences and you bounce back stronger.

There are a lot of things that went through my head while I was sick and trying to get better. That fall had a negative impact on my mind (and to some extent my body), I was feeling lack of confidence especially about the descending part of the bike course. I tried to stay positive, spend most time in the company of Raghul to stay away from negative thoughts. We also went for a short swim of 500m on Saturday afternoon, so that also helped a bit. I also realized that my wrist was still hurting while swimming, but it was bearable.

Another thing, the water was too salty, I felt nauseated just after coming out of the water. I changed and went to the run course where women were racing. I was cheering for them but then I suddenly felt faintish, I sat there for a few seconds and then slowly started walking towards my hotel. I felt better after resting for a while. Later I went with Raghul to rack up my bike and transition bags and came back to my room to rest and prepare myself for the race day.

While I was trying to recover from fever, my wounds and was fighting with my thoughts I overlooked another aspect of my body. My legs were sore and stiff from the workouts and I never relieved them. I should’ve foam rolled and/or got it massaged and the fever didn’t help it recover on its own either. It was too late and I only realized it when I was in the race field.


Race Day

I couldn’t sleep properly due to the fever, the body temperature kept fluctuating throughout the night. I could only manage to sleep soundly for a couple of hours. I got up at 4am, put on my tattoos and stickers on the swim cap. Had a light breakfast, 2 slices of bread and a banana. I also took a Unived salt cap before heading toward the race venue to set up everything on the bike. The plan was to take 5 Unived gels on the bike, along with 2 bottles of concentrated during mix and 3 salt caps. I also kept 2 more salt caps and a gel in the run transition bag.


It was a cold morning. The outside temperature was 18°C and to be frank it was very cold for me. I lost a lot of fat in the last 1 year and I haven’t been to colder places in the last 2 years. Additionally, the fever did not make it easy to withstand the cold. I was shivering the entire time before the swim started. Tried some jumping jacks, did a few squats, stretched my shoulders but nothing helped. On the contrary, the water temperature was 25.6°C, so it was a non-wetsuit swim. I was badly hoping for a wetsuit swim. Lesson #5: You never know what swim it’s going to be, so prepare yourself both physically and mentally for any condition. 

I told myself this is what it is, you’re mentally stronger, you should be fine. I gulped in a gel 15mins before the start and lined up for the swim start. I stayed in the back of the group as I tend to start a bit slower. As soon as I jumped in the water and did my first stroke, the water got into my right side of the goggles. I wore the goggles the same way as I used to for the last 4 weeks and even a day before and this never happened but on race day. I kept swimming and 25mtrs later I realized that almost everyone was ahead of me and I was swimming alone for most of the distance before the next age groupers came and overtook me. Irrespective of how good a cyclist or a runner you’re, this doesn’t feel good at all and I was not used to swimming with no one around you, that made me a bit anxious. I kept swimming and eventually was able to calm myself. 

The water was a bit rough in the middle and the buoys were small and very few, so it wasn’t easy to sight as well. And when I turned back for the final stretch of 800m, the sun was on the right and the buoys were also on the right. So the sun was coming directly in the eye, making it even more difficult to sight. But once you’re in water all you could do is just keep swimming, so I did that. Just 100m before the finish when I was able to sight the swim finish arch, I got a cramp in my right calf and thus for the remaining distance I just pulled using my hands without any kicking. I wasn’t kicking that hard so I think the cramp was because my legs weren’t recovered. I came out of water cramping, the volunteers standing there helped me get on the ramp. I took my bike transition bag and sat down on a chair. At this point I was shivering badly as the outside temperature was still cold and it was windy. I asked one of the volunteers to give me something to cover myself. 

Lesson #5: Even though you don’t want to dry yourself, keep a towel in the bike transition. It will at least help against the chilly winds. He covered me with a sheet, I wore my shoes and helmet and jogged towards my bike. 



I could feel the cramps building in my left hamstring and calf when I was running with my bike. I got on the bike and as soon as I cleated my left leg I got another cramp in my left calf. I uncleated my left shoe right away, waited for a while for cramps to go away and started riding. I was feeling so cold I was just not able to push. The coldest I felt was on my shoulders and back. Lesson #6: If you’re racing in place which is quite colder than where you train, go for a sleeved Trisuit instead of a sleeveless one. 

I tried to push but was just not able to warm myself up in the entire flat section (first 10km). Then the two steep climbs came, it was just difficult to push on the climb when your body isn’t warmed up. Next 12-15km was rolling with steep climbs and few flat sections. After I climbed up those two steep climbs I faced a mechanical issue, the chain was not shifting from lower chainring to the bigger one. I knew this issue, the same thing happened a few months back too and I thought I had got it fixed properly. Even during my route recce I didn’t face this problem. I was not able to gain advantage on the flat section. After repeated pedalling and rear gear shift it would go to the bigger chainring on its own. This was getting pretty frustrating and adding to that the aero-hydration on the bars just came off after I went over one of the speed bumps. Thankfully I was able to grab it but had to slow down to put it back to its place. And this happened three more times while I was descending (2nd half of the course). 

At 27k the long climb of Vence started, it was a 9.7km long climb with an average gradient of 6.6%. I wanted to climb this well, but my body was just not able to push. My HR was much lower than what I had planned, the first day when I did this climb I was much faster than I was on the race even though I was still able to overtake a lot of athletes on my way up. I was disappointed and mentally exhausted by this point. I started the descent then but that fall a few days back still had its effect on me. I couldn’t go aero at a lot of sections where I would’ve if I wasn’t scared. The whole descent then just went bad, I was being overly cautious. The last 10km was flat again, I pushed a bit but couldn’t push a lot. Got off the bike, racked it up and started jogging towards the run transition zone and I got a cramp in my left hamstring and I slipped and fell down. This pretty much summarizes the day I was having. I sat there for a few seconds, got my cycling shoes off and went to the run transition. 



By this time I just wanted the race to be over. But I didn’t want to have a bad run as that would further demoralize me. So to have a decent run I started the run at around 

4:05-4:10 pace and slowly accelerated to constantly hold 4:00 min/km. I didn’t push hard, just went with the flow. Cramps were building in my calves and thighs, so I kept sipping water at every aid station. I just had water along the entire course and a couple of salt caps just to prevent cramps. I finished the run at an average pace of 4:01 min/km an okay effort (for the course and the weather). I can’t recall doing something wrong during the run (other than the fact that it was a half-hearted run), maybe that I should have had some calories during the run but I never felt like having anything. I was carrying a gel with me the entire time but I just didn’t feel like having anything on the course. I didn’t (or couldn’t) push for the most of the race, so my body did had some reserved fuel, so I didn’t feel bonked. The course support was great, a lot of cheerful crowd gathered throughout the run course but I was only able to enjoy it subconsciously. I finished the line holding Indian flag, which I was carrying throughout the run. 



It wasn’t my day on the course and maybe the entire week wasn’t in my favour. But I’m glad this happened at the start of my triathlon career. I have learnt a lot of lessons throughout the race week and I will work on each and every aspect of those. It’s still an early stage for me into triathlons, I did a lot of crazy things, but that’s fine. You need to try out things, push yourself to know your limits. At times things go in your favour, few other times it just doesn’t. But you need to back yourself and your abilities and consistently work towards achieving your targets and overall performance.