Race Report: Sundowner Middle distance Triathlon 70.3 (Half Iron Distance)

About 2 years ago my doting wife, bless her soul bought me a surprise triathlon for my birthday and gave me 6 months to train for it. The end result of which was me getting into yet another sport but this time one that required me to train for three events at the same time. Roll on a year and I decided to extend my distance and try my hand at a middle distance (Half Ironman) length race.

As a few people have asked for info on it I have put together a race report of what I went through on the day and how I got on.

For anyone who doesn’t know much about Triathlon its a race that involves a swim then a bike ride then a run with transitions between each event. Races are of varying lenghts and run concurrently through each of the three disciplines with the clock running from the start of the swim to the end of the run, this includes your time in transition changing from your wetsuit to your bike gear etc..

1900m Swim | 90km bike | 21.2km run

In short… Highly recommended and, yes… the ‘tash made me go faster. Ade.


Training: Training started just before Christmas 2017 with the base phase, I started with a new coach based in New Jersey and began work on a periodised training plan based on the Friel model of periodisation. This started off quite well but tailed off and resulted in a split from my coach in February 2018 due to difficulties associated with time difference. I managed to maintain a good training regime through the summer which included a couple of sprint tris along the way and an Olympic triathlon at Cholmondeley Castle in June. My training was basically split into 3 swims, 2 runs and 2 bike sessions in a week with an additional brick session once per week. This totaled around 12 to 15 hours per week.
I managed to maintain a top 15% place in all my lead up races and cut 14 minutes off my Olympic tri time at Cholmondeley. (2:38)

Venue: The event was set at Allerthorpe Lakeland park http://www.allerthorpelakelandpark.co.uk/ in Yorkshire, as this was a campsite we decided to take a family holiday there the week before, this gave me chance to practice my swim in the lake the event would take part in giving me opportunity to understand any currents and get used to the water temperature. The weather was warm all week being the end of the summer which was great for a holiday but slightly problematic for the race.


Prep and nutrition: Nutrition is a really hard part, so here is what I did to carry it all on the day, (Assuming you have loaded correctly the week before, but I will go into that on another post).
Drink, Electrolytes were key here as it was set to be unseasonably hot. So I went with 750ml of electrolyte on the bars and 2x500ml on the saddle (one with electrolytes only and one electrolytes and carbs, my aim being to consume 500ml every 30km.
Food: My Gels (7 of them) I put in another bottle on my down tube and mixed with a little water, this meant I didn’t need to worry about any litter or opening the gels on the bike. This I would highly recommend as it takes all the faffing out of having a gel. Flapjack, I had 8 pieces of bitesize flapjack in a tri bag on my top tube. Finally gel chews with caffeine and electrolytes, these I took out of the package and “glued” to my top tube behind my tribag by dipping in a little hot water and allowing the sugars in the sweets attach them to the top tube, again this meant that there was no litter to worry about when I was out on the bike. My goal was that I would have 1 gel, 1 chew and 1 flapjack every 15 mins and wash down with the electrolyte drink. In addition, I had nothing to drink but electrolyte drink in the 2 days prior to the event. I used Stealth Secret Training hydration powder and found it to be very good. (I was hyper aware of the need for electrolytes having cramped in my Olympic try which cost me a sub 2:30 race.)

Swim: I went out in the 2nd fastest wave having estimated around 6 hours as my finish time when I entered. Once closer to the race I estimated my time in the water to be between 38 and 40 minutes. I managed to get a reasonable start and settled quickly. Having had the chance to warm up in the lake and spend the week before getting used to the water I was well aware of the conditions. This was an immense help and I would highly recommend to anyone competing in the longer events that they should take time to do this before their race. Having settled I managed to over take much of the pack and get on the toes of a slightly faster swimmer, here I remained for the duration of the swim. The result being a swim exit time of 36:18, 2 minutes up on my estimates, 4 minutes ahead of the field average and 4th out of the water from my wave.
Time: 36:18

1 Sundowner swim.jpg

T1: Always horrific. Heart in mouth, trying not to vom. Stay calm, find my glasses so I can see, helmet on, socks on (chose to wear socks as a longer event than normal). Bike off the rack, GO GO GO, managed a flying mount too and strapped into my shoes which were already on the bike and held in place by rubber bands.
Time: 2:36

Bike: The bike was flat and I hoped to maintain around 20mph for the duration of the 90km. This should give me a time around 2:45. However the flat area was quite windy with a 20kmph headwind along what was effectively the back straight. My main focus on the bike was to keep my HR below 156bpm (82%) so I had something left for the run. The bike leg, for me, is very much about controlling my emotions as the bike is fun and fast and can easily kill a race if you go too fast. I maintained my efforts and got my HR down to the required level after 2.5km. I was overtaken by around 10 people from my swim wave on the first lap. Nutrition went more or less to plan (all but 3 chews which were making me feel a bit sick in the aerodynamic position.) On the second lap I continued to maintain both speed and relative effort suggesting I was not fatiguing too much and ended up passing all 10 that passed me on the first lap who had gone out too quick and faded. I came in at 2:48:14, 3 mins down on my target which ate up the what I had gained in the swim.
Time: 2:48:18

2 Sundowner Bike.jpg

T2: I unfastened shoes 200m from transition meaning I could jump off the bike into a run at the dismount line leaving my shoes clipped in. I felt good in T2 helmet off hat on, trainers on. It was this point though that I realised how hot it was. Slowing down and out of the wind the 26C and sun started to show, rubbing my face I realised I had a thick layer of salt on my brow, I was happy I had taken the amount of salt on board I had.
Time: 2:13

Quite why my HRM was round my waste I dont know!

Quite why my HRM was round my waste I dont know!

Run: 3 loops consisting of a lap of the lake then an out and back. Was odd insofar as you crossed the finish line 4 times and the gravelly lakeside path didn’t transfer power that well each stride. My target was 2 hours dead (5:40/km) this was great, I set off at a steady 6min/km with a view of building towards the end and settled into my 5:40 pace after 2k, felt strong and energised. When I hit the road section though the heat really started to take its toll raising to 28C. Thankfully the organisers reacted well to the higher than expected temperatures and started subbing out the energy drinks at the feed stations for electrolytes and got spectators to help with getting water to the athletes. (Chapeau Freebird events!). The run slowly turned form fun, to hot, to hard, to excruciating. I managed to maintain pace until KM16 when I ran a 6:08, I ran another 6:08 on KM17 meaning I had to run a 4 sub 5 min kms to finish under 5:30, knowing this wasn’t possible my spirit broke. (Did I mention it was hot) I finished the run with 4 slow kms between 6:08 and 7:22/km. Disappointing!
Run: 2:08:38

Overall 5:38:14

Definitely not a remarkable time by any means, but I am really proud of finishing. I was met on the line by my family who have been very supportive. Ultimately I missed out on my pre-race target time by 8 mins but I think had it been cooler I would have made it under my target. But I did shave 30 mins off what I thought I could do at the beginning of the year. This was a great experience and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and Taw Velo who have provided huge amounts of encouragement, also Mike Cully and Eric Hall who have made a significant difference to my swim and Matt Pemberton who has provided a lot of encouragement along the way.
That’s my last Tri of the year so roll on CX season!
For anyone wanting to get into triathlon, or who wants a tips on training and fitting it into a busy life let me know and I am happy to help where I can.