EXPERIENCING THE 70.3 IRONMAN TRIATHLON IN MARRAKESH – the STORY OF AN AGE GROUP TRIATHLETE
The story below unfolds the full exciting day in Marrakesh 70.3 Ironman Triathlon, of Panos Georgiades an age group triathlete with enthusiasm to fill up an ocean! Read below his unaltered words!
Well done Panos, very proud of your achievements! K.N.
Ironman Marrakesh 70.3 (27/10/19)
The prep :
The preparation leading into this race was by far the smoothest I’ve ever had. Although the training volume was quite similar with previous 70.3’s (around 15-16 hours per week during building blocks) , I was able to handle my training way much better than previous buildups. I was getting in and out of my training sessions quite easy (without taxing body and mind too much) and my numbers were looking quite promising.
Like most triathletes, I enjoy hard training, I love pushing my limits and I am having fun while doing so. For the first time, I would say that not only I was training hard but I was also able to recover harder. I was monitoring closely my recovery and I was actively thinking about how to make the best out of the time that I was not training. Elena also observed that I was very calm during this buildup, and even though I was doing lots of volume I was looking well rested and energized.
The swim :
Lake swim is not a strange thing to me anymore. I knew that I would have zero visibility below water and that I would have to sight more in order to keep my orientation. Since it was a rolling start format, I placed my self in the group of “32-33 minutes”. Love this format. Fast swimmers start @8:00 sharp, and my group was probably the third or fourth out of 12 different groups. So not only I was swimming near athletes with similar swimming abilities but also the slower and faster athletes were spaced properly. I had a great swim. I was trying to keep a good rhythm, focusing more on my technique and I was drafting when I had the chance. Came out of the water @ 32:30 kind of swim motivated and fresh. Swim felt like a warmup, like it took nothing out of me.
T1: Everything in place, getting better at going in and out fast. Also for the first time I clipped my shoes into the bike to save some extra seconds. Wonder why It took me so long to try this 😊. Happy with my T1. Maybe I should practice removing the wetsuit faster.
The Bike :
For me the bike leg is the difference between having a good or a bad race. Becoming a strong biker is the number one focus of my training and where I expect to see the most gains in each race. I was excited heading out of T1, and the crowd support was quite amazing. Really pumped up I started attacking the first uphill section with confidence. The first thing I noticed were the bad roads. I mean, you haven’t seen bad roads unless you’ve riden the 70.3 in Marrakesh. I had a constant vibration from the roads to my bike, my aerobars, my hands and all over my body. I was riding zig zag to avoid the big holes and I was really focused on the road because a second of distraction was enough for a DNF. At that time, I was thinking that probably after the 30th, 40th km, roads would be better because we were heading out of the villages and into Marrakesh city. On the bright side I was feeling amazing. Body was feeling great and I was pushing above race power quite easily. I decided that it made more sense to ride by RPE and heart rate than by my power. The bumpy, sh**y roads continued up to 70th km and by that time I would say that I witnessed 15- 20 athletes with mechanical problems on the side road. In fact, during a moment of distraction, I rode into a hole and my helmet unstrapped. Was trying to fasten it but with no success. At 70th km we hit the flat and fast section, and I was able to finally stay in my aerobars and keep my head down. Neck and arms were a bit sore from the bad roads but I was handling it quite well. At 80th km I was caught by a big group of like 20 athletes that were drafting like HELL. Felt like we were in an ITU race. They were formed in lines of two or three and would even make shifts in front so that everyone was contributing. At first, I was laughing and I was quite surprised that officials were doing nothing about it. Then I got mad and tried to break the group. Did two surges in the front of the pack, trying to break the group apart, but yeah that was not happening. Group was more than happy to see me pushing the pace in front while they were drafting on my wheel. Invited a couple of guys to join me but they seem happy to stay within the group. So while I was riding at 220w-230w and at 40-42kmh, I fell behind momentarily and I was averaging the same speeds with 130-150w. That was insane. In km 89 I decided it was pointless with no marshalling and i just stayed within group and tried to save legs for the run.
Bike time 2h:45m. Fastest bike split for me in the distance with 205avg power and 220 NP. Yeah power is quite similar with previous races but I believe it was skewed by the time I spent with the drafting company. Besides that, this was the smoothest ride I’ve ever had. I was still working hard but I was feeling confident and energy levels seem OK at that time to run a half-marathon afterwards. I am happy with my bike time. In that bike course a 2:45 seems good for me and it looks that finally the time spent in the saddle is paying dividends.
T2 : Funny moment. Here I am, into T2, pushing my bike toward the racks. A race official stops me and gives me a 5minute penalty for being with an unstrapped helmet in T2 😊. So no penalty for the drafting segment that was inevitable, and I’ve got a 5minute penalty for my unstrapped helmet. Rules are rules I guess. I was looking to serve my penalty, but penalty tent was nowhere in the course. Found out later that the penalty tent was outside the run course (?). Didn’t get a DQ. At least not yet.
My t2’s are straightforward. Socks within shoes, and everything else (gels, sunglasses etc) within my hat. Wear shoes, grab hat and run.
The run :
The run was 2 loops of 10.5km mostly flat in the way out, and slightly uphill on the way back. As always I started the run quite faster than what I should. I was monitoring my HR, trying to keep it below 160bpm and I was reminding myself that It would probably start to feel hard soon enough. I was able to cope with the heat in the first loop and maintain my goal pace (4:45/km or better).
Heading out for the second loop and things started to look bad. Legs were heavy and I could feel the sun burning on my skin. It was probably around 34 degrees just DRY heat. No air and no shade to hide. I was trying to cool down with water and started sipping down cola for some extra energy. I had two gels during the run, with the second one at 13th-14th km. I was about to throw up at that moment so I knew that stomach would only accept liquids for the last 7-8kms. At that point racing was over. Focus was on not walking and trying to maintain a slower but decent pace. Soon enough my vision became blurry and yeah I was in pain, trying to push through it. Crossed the finish line at a time of 1:49 ☹, at least 10minutes off my goal.
I feel like I can run relatively fast but I am not good at running strong. I feel like my body breaks down quite fast after that 4 hour mark of racing. I had some fast runs off the bike in training or in Olympic and sprint distances, but I struggle to finish off a fast run in the half distance. It drives me crazy to figure this one out. Yeah probably I am not the strongest athlete out there and probably need to work on developing my running economy. Also during this buildup we didn’t run long off the bike. Had my long runs, interval runs and blabla but bricks were limited to 5k. Maybe simulating that feeling of running long on heavy legs would be beneficial.
Off season :
So many lessons learnt this year, and I am happy to step back a bit and enjoy my off-season. The biggest takeout for me this year is that I must respect more my rest/recovery and that it’s ok to train hard only if I can recover harder. So many things that I want to work on in next season. Would probably need another 3-4 pages to write them down so let’s not stress about it at this time. Didn’t make a sub 5hour half this year, so its still the number one on my bucket list 😊. Off for some fun and pizzas. Planning for 2020 will begin soon…