Ironman Taiwan October 2016
I was thinking about what to write about Ironman Taiwan. I figured I should start off about how hard it was. I was going to throw in a few superlatives, proclaiming it to be the toughest race ever and rattle on about how brutal it was. But that’s getting a little old – all races are tough in their own way.
And it wouldn’t be entirely true. The majority of the day was actually quite enjoyable, interesting and rewarding. However, I suspect for most people these memories will be deleted and etched over by the last 4 (or so) hours of their race day when we were confronted with a hot, hilly and very difficult marathon.
Date: 2nd October, 2016
Getting there: Fly to Kaohsiung, then change to either Uni Air, Mandarin Air or Far East Air Transport for the short flight to Magong, Penghu.
Stay: MF Harbourview. Really highly recommended. Very helpful staff, not expensive but good rooms.
Race peculiarities: Swim has a short run on the beach after the first loop. No discs allowed on the bike. Very hot and humid race, you need to be heat acclimatised and pay close attention to hydration.
After race fun: Lots of windsurfing, fishing and top-quality seafood. Penghu is a small island with a real unspoilt feel, very rustic and charming in it's own way.
The Swim. The swim was beautiful. Conveniently enough, the water temperature was 24.3C, just 0.2C below the “No Wetsuits Rule”. They must have tested a special area near the outflow from the local ice factory, because I sure felt toasty in a suit. Still the last outing for that wetsuit was the frigid waters of Celtman, so maybe my yardstick is a little skewed. The water was clear, the wave start was well handled and prevented the usual melee, and I came out of the water feeling good. Not my fastest swim, in about 1:06, but not terrible.
The Bike. Penghu Island, the race location, is apparently known as the windsurfing capital of South East Asia, so there were rumours of heavy wind on the bike course and discs were banned. However conditions were very good on the day. Warm, but as long as the bike was moving it wasn’t unbearable. The bike course consisted of a route over the three islands, taking long levee bridges between the land masses. The ride was pleasant and there was a lot to look at. Coach Nigel gave me some very specific instructions to hold back on the bike and save it for the run, and he was completely spot on. A 5:05 bike split in the end, not bad for the conditions.
The Run. And then came the run. I have never come so close to withdrawing as I was in the first five kilometres. Every thought went through my mind of how to get out of this and yet preserve some dignity.
Unfortunately by the time I’d figured out a plan I was at the end of the first loop, and then I figured it was as far back if I turned around, so I may as well just finish the damn race.
The temperature apparently got up to the high thirties, a hilly road run, no shade, through not very scenic industrial area and highway. Fortunately, there were aid stations with ice every 2km, and the volunteers were great – including an old buddy Kent Wong from HK who was helping out at one of the aid stations and appointed himself my personal assistant, full of motivation, support and supplies every time I went past – thanks Kent, you’re a champ.
Coach Nigel said no faster than 4:30min/km for the first 20km. Hah. I was lucky to be running 6:30km/min for a most of it, and I played tag with another guy in my age group, one of us leading out then the other finding a burst of speed and taking the lead. Really nice guy. He told me his name but I was too confused to remember it. I also ran with a female pro for a while, and she was having a very hard day with both ends not cooperating, but she inspired me with remarkable resolve after violently losing her stomach contents then continuing to run strong.
Anyway, I got to about 5km from the finish and I was feeling pretty destroyed. Luckily everyone else looked about as bad as I felt. I figured I was in 3rd place and if I was going to do something now was the time; I had to drop the guy I’d been playing tag with all day. Somehow I wound it up to the magical 4:30’s as suggested by Nigel and he fell off the back. Then it was just a matter of holding it, and that wasn’t fun.
Coming into the stadium finish I saw the guy in first place and continued as hard as I could, getting up to about 4:15. I ran past him with about 750 metres to go, and surprisingly, he didn’t put on a kick of speed. I’m guessing he felt as bad as I did. I crossed the line for the win, and did my usual trick of collapsing. I woke up about fifteen minutes later in a wheelchair with an assistant trying to push me over a speedbump, but only succeeding in banging me back and forwards. But after some rest I came good. Two of the male pros came up and said I was running like a man possessed and I passed them in the last few kilometres. I honestly had no idea I’d passed anybody except the two guys in my AG mentioned above.
So a good race, a rewarding race. And like always, I never want to do it again. I travelled here with friends – Mayank and Jan, who also had spectacular races, especially as it was a first time out for both of them, now Ironmen. And as always, it’s a team effort. Thanks to Nigel for doing an amazing job coaching me and figuring out a plan that was spot on. My fitness was in a bad rut a few weeks ago, overtrained and tired, and for him to turn that around into a win is a testament.
And of course thanks to the family for putting up with this as always. I think they figure it’s worth it for a trip to Hawaii in October next year.