Ironman Korea – Gurye 2019 (non) Race report

This is the third year of writing a race report for Ironman Korea, having participated in the previous two editions in 2017 and 2018. However the 2019 race report has one major change from previous years – it was The Race That Never Was ….

Athlete registration Ironman Gurye 2019
Athlete registration Ironman Gurye 2019

As had become standard, my year was planned with some “run only” races early on, then a 70.3 or two as tune up, leading into my A race of a full Ironman in the late summer/early autumn. By June, I was feeling pretty positive having completed the Japan half Ironman with a PB in awful conditions, and was excited to get to the highlight of my season. Ironman Korea in Gurye. However as is often the case, things didn’t go to plan and as I started to ramp up my training, that positiveness started to drift away

1) Achilles. Posted previously, but an over use injury of my Achilles had meant a huge reduction in training, and only being able to complete a few runs over 20k in the last months. It really did knock the wind out of my sails, but I very much hoped I still had enough base fitness to finish strong enough to wipe away the bitter memory of last year abject failure on the run.

2) Due to the race date being a few weeks later than usual, with a big gap between races,   the training cycle seemed to go on for ever and I found it very hard to remain focused and motivated. My weight refused to drop for the obvious reasons of not training hard enough (yep I did the duration and distance, but not the intensity!) and comfort eating all the wrong foods. Even the peak weeks felt “off” without the excitement or commitment I normally feel, meaning I really was just going through the motions

3) Two days before departure to Gurye, I awoke with a cold that proceeded to get worse and worse, resulting in blocked nose, congested chest, high temperature and lack of energy (a quick shout out to my fellow teamsters from Tokyo, whom kindly supplied me with various meds to keep the worst of the symptoms at bay).

However with a decent size group of TiTers (Triathletes in Tokyo) going I was still happy to pack up my bike, wet-suit and mountains of gear/food/kitchen sink etc, then make my way to the airport on Thursday. Flight was fine and apart from the annual cock up with the transfer, we got to our hotel, with bikes eventually getting there many hours later (for three years we’ve done our utmost to ensure the organisers knew exactly where we were staying beforehand, for three years they have NOT managed to get us or our bikes there and back without incident. All part of the experience). The hotel was fine, a little basic but with help from Google Translate and us accepting some sudden price hikes,  the two old ladies running the place took us under their wing and really took very good care of us (we even got to share their home made meals!)

Unfortunately along with my cold, Typhoon Tapah appeared on the horizon a few days before race day and made a beeline for Gurye. No one knew if it would hit or how strong it could be, so registration and race briefing went ahead as normal, with various scenarios outlined in case the full race was deemed unable to go ahead, including reduced distances, cutting entire legs or total cancellation.

Contingency plans announced at race briefing
Contingency plans announced at race briefing

The tension of not knowing was palpable, but we had to keep hope and prepare as normal, so  on the Saturday we took the bikes up to T1 in pouring rain, set up our transition bags and headed back to town. At few hours later we got a message saying due to strong winds the bikes could not be left out over night, so we needed to collect them immediately and ride them up to transition in the morning. At this point it became obvious there was very little chance the race would happen, and as expected later that evening we got the call to inform us the race would be cancelled…

So what do you do when you’re stuck in a small Korean town after 6 months or more of training, preparation and sacrificing for a race that’s then cancelled a few hours before it’s supposed to start … well, unsurprisingly myself, my teammates and about 1200 other athletes all basically chose the obvious option. Eat, drink and party! Which we did.. and again the next night. And the night after that too!

And that basically was that – my A race in 2019 became The Race That Never Was.

Satellite images of the typhoon heading towards Gurye
Satellite images of the typhoon heading towards Gurye

It was so strange to travel back to Tokyo without all the normal post race feelings of exhaustion and exhilaration, just a kind of empty void inside, not helped by a much deserved hangover.

And that feeling persisted, for days and weeks. I totally fell off the wagon, drinking and smoking consistently for the first time in years, all the while stuffing my face with whatever I fancied. I did virtually no exercise and understandably quickly developed a bad cough, sleep problems and gained 5kg.

I really am someone who needs a challenge, needs a target, and without that I was floundering. Luckily the excitement of tracking some buddies as they competed in various triathlons around the world, plus a total dislike of the “hungover me”, was the slap in the face I needed, and after almost a month of feeling sorry for myself, I managed to step away long enough to regain my senses and give up the vices. The next step was sitting down and planning new targets for next year to give me the goals, meaning all that was left was to create a training plan and put it into action.

Which brings us to the present, one week into a 6 month training schedule, with some “pretty unlikely but if I give 250% maybe achievable” targets. I am trying to be a little more grown up about the process, with a different attitude and a different approach.

1) Instead of doing my normal of following “what worked last year”, which basically leads to me achieving basically the same as last year, I have decided to follow one of the TrainerRoad plans as closely as possible, including intensity, zones and intervals. I have even gone as far as to type it all into my TrainingPeaks account, so I get the morning email notification of the days training plan, plus I get marked by Training Peaks on how closely I matched the plan after completion. I’m hoping that this will be enough encouragement to keep me disciplined and motivated.

2) instead of my normal all out, do everything hard approach (or just go through the motions approach), I’m trying to follow the principles of  80/20, meaning that 80% of my training will be done in Zone 2 or at MAF heart rate , with other 20% hard. This is difficult, especially using the MAF method that requires me to run at below 126bpm, which can result in runs so slow I don’t feel like I’m running at all. But the benefits are already occurring as my Achilles is rapidly improving and I’m actually not feeling tired or stressed after a run. I’ll explain more about MAF, 80/20 etc and how I intend to use it in a later post.

3) I’m going to follow best practices. I’m terrible with technology and am challenged by change, have always been very caveman like in my approach, basically happy to use a big club instead of a graceful spear as that is what I’ve always done. So its time for a reboot and an update. I dug out my heart rate monitor chest strap, bought myself power meter pedals, signed up for Pilates and committed to joining groups to focus on swim technique, bike hill climbing and run intervals. No more wasting time and energy just to stay still, I’m going follow a REAL plan, train smart and tap into the knowledge and support that technology and my fellow athletes can provide. Oh and eat better and stretch daily too!

So, that’s where I am at, lets see how things progress over next weeks and months. Really is time to not only try harder, but try wiser too!

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