A Rather Glorious Failure

So the two major stated aims for Frankfurt 2014 were finish in the qualifying slots for Hawaii and run a 3:15 marathon. Failed on both.  Consistency strikes again.  A little look at how that panned out in the run up and on the day seems in order.  Then I’ll try and put some thoughts together (mainly re-iterating the previous posts ) on what, if anything, made the difference and what, if anything, I’ve learned.

Most of the build up information is here detailing a bit of injury and how training had gone, how I was feeling and the like.  So glad I pointed out how bulletproof my body had been in my endurance career in an earlier post – though to be fair the major trauma wasn’t related to training.  Just glad I had got all the injury woes out of the way, performing pretty well in a warm-up race just in time to have the race of my life in under 3 weeks.

Less than a week after Etonman, I was lying flat on my back in the middle of the road after clipping a kerb at over 25mph and high siding right over the bars as the front wheel jack-knifed beneath me.  In such circumstances it’s mandatory to take a few selfies and message your team mates before checking for any damage. I duly carried this out after calling Maria Cabs for a lift home.

Hi Team, it's me!
Hi Team, it’s me!

I was pretty sore all over but everything seemed pretty serviceable so I was thinking I may just have dodged a massive bullet with the word DNS written on it 16days from Frankfurt.  Main concern at this point was my knee – more in a ‘disruption to the build up’ kind of a way, than a ‘game over’ scenario.  Got a text from a neighbour asking if I could pop over and look at his daughter’s bike.  At this point, trying to remove the tyre, I was aware that my wrist was actually pretty damn painful.  About 4 hours later I was in bed in excruciating pain pretty sure there was something amiss.  Quick 2:30am dash to casualty and the diagnosis wasn’t stunning.  The wrist was fractured and I was in plaster up to my elbow, in a sling and due back to the hospital in a week.  In such circumstances it’s mandatory to take a few selfies and message your team mates irrespective of the time of day. Good news is I was no longer worried about my knee disrupting my final build up.  Always look for the positive, me.

Fingers below wrist, wrist below elbow.  Perfect!
Fingers below wrist, wrist below elbow. Perfect for swimming!

I was down for a triple run day the next day – that wasn’t happening for sure.  There’s no truth in the rumour that this was my master plan to avoid it (in fact it just cropped up a few days later!).  But, as I spoke about DESIRE being a key element I was still thinking I need to do everything I can to be as fit as I can on July 6th.  So after getting back from the hospital at 4am I was on the turbo doing an hour to keep myself moving 3 hours later.  I think it’s fair to say at this point it was clear I wasn’t prepared to give up on something I’d thrown so much at in the previous 9 months. Two days later I went for an exploratory jog to see if we could resume a bit of run training and came back 2  hours later pretty confident we could.  The cast came off after a week (after a frank admission of what was going to be happening in 10 days’ time – irrespective of the medical advice – with a very accommodating physio) and was replaced with an immobilising splint. Logically the next morning I took off the splint and tentatively jumped in at the back of the lane expecting the worst.  It was a long way from great, BUT I was swimming and this was probably the point where I realised that it hadn’t actually been as delusional as it sometimes felt to tell anyone that doubted me that yes, I would be able to start.  I was pretty sure now that with another week’s recovery I could complete the swim and after that, whilst not exactly superfluous to requirements, the wrist is less integral to getting to the finish line.

If you’re interested in my travel arrangements, accommodation what time I got up, who I saw, what I had for breakfast and how many Brad Pitt’s I had before putting my wetsuit on, get in touch and I’ll gladly furnish you with the information but in the interests of brevity I’ll start at the swim start.


I had a bit of a dilemma. After EtonMan I’d decided I was a lazy @rse in the swim and pretty much after 5-10mins your finish time is decided by the speed of the feet you can follow at that point.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that starting a little harder would be a good idea. That was before Wristgate. Swimming with it wasn’t really that bad – achy, yes; painful, not really.  But a serious case of biffage in the testosterzone that is the first 5-10 mins of an IM swim wasn’t that appealing. After getting in the water 25 mins or so before the off, I warmed up a little (which was a first) and then pondered my strategy. In the end I plumped for starting right at the front and giving it some beans from the off and if it was a little physical protect it by making a fist to restrict movement.  If I was going down I was going down fighting with no regrets. I started swimming and after the sea of rubber turned into a sea of lake water after 10-20 secs, other than a couple of whacks it was relatively civilised and I duly followed all the yellow swim hats swimming towards the yellow boys.  FFS, how complicated is it for a race director to show a modicum of common sense?

I'm looking for something yellow!
I’m looking for something yellow!

Pretty uneventful swim. I felt like I was working harder than previously but still at a pace I was comfortable with.  Drafted here and there and probably put it down as the most enjoyable IM swim I’ve ever done.  Had no idea the relative distances of the laps so didn’t bother to look at the watch at the Australian exit and just cracked on concentrating slightly on making sure I kept a slightly higher than normal stroke rate to avoid getting lazy.  Was looking to swim under the hour and given the build up I was pretty happy to see 61 mins as I exited – even more so now it seems it was a little long.  So after swimming quite hard for over an hour with no wrist issues, getting the wetsuit off came as a timely reminder that I needed to just take a little more care when using it.


Out on the bike and the plan was start steady, be patient and let anyone riding like they stole it go, whilst expecting to see them walking later in the day and be in a position to push on for the last 40 km.  Always interesting to see what IM effort feels like on the day.  Always pleasing when riding 5-10 bpm over it feels easy rather than 5-10 bpm under it feeling hard.  Killed the jets a bit and just settled into chalking off the miles and getting the nutrition in.  Felt great and the only thing of note on lap one were the bastard cobbles that no one mentioned to me.  Stuck in 53×11 whilst feeling like you’re holding a pneumatic drill isn’t the best way to look after a fractured wrist.  Changing gear with that hand hurts as it flexes the wrist; changing gear with the other hand means taking the full impact of the vibrations through the injury.  That was fun.

The Sub5 Express!

Got to about 50 miles and started doing the maths thinking ‘I’m going to hit halfway in well under 2:30’.  I thought I’d maybe miscalculated.  At 56 miles I realised I hadn’t.  Things were going rather well.  I was holding back AND going faster than my most optimistic estimate.  A group came past and before I knew it they’d gapped me a bit.  I chose to chase and for 10-15 minutes I did, but never really got close enough for them to be of any use and I was over 70.3 effort.  I decided to let it lie and settle back into my race.  Around 85-90 miles I contemplated pushing on, as per the plan.  Certainly I felt physically capable of doing so but THE plan was to break 9:30 and qualify and so I made the call to shut it down and just roll back into town knowing that once I’d got up Heartbreak Hill it was all downhill into transition and the fresher for the run the better.  Not one dodgy patch on the bike; held back and got a bike split beginning with a 4.  What could possibly go wrong?


Shoes on, visor on, fuel belt on, start watch.  Oh bollocks!  I’d left my Garmin on the bike.  Sod it.  I’m not going back.  There’s probably well under 6:10 on the clock so I just need to run sensibly.  Maybe the lack of feedback will help me just zone out and get the job done.  Right, you know the drill, one foot in front of the other, super easy.  First 10 miles and we’re jogging it.  Decided I could get some positional/pace info from Maria out on the course and we’d even discussed this the night before. If I was within the top 18 (predicted slots) then there was no point rolling the dice – qualification was the name of the game. Now when she first popped up and I explained my timing predicament ‘The tracker’s broken’ probably wasn’t in my list of best case scenario responses.  Unbeknownst to me, my chip didn’t seem to be assigned to me and hence all my so-called ‘friends’ had assumed it was in fact me that had swum 1:39 and started the bike at 18mph.  It’s times like these when you find out who your true friends are – or more accurately is and it’s Jon from work as he was the only one who’s assumption was that it must be a technological issue rather than a physical one.

That's useful. 3 hairs past a feckle!
That’s useful. 3 hairs past a freckle!

Okay, that’s not great.  No need to worry. It’s just a long run.  Keep moving, keeping fuelling and keep knocking off the miles.  Still all good in the hood.  I’ve settled into a pace, it feels like all day pace and we’re nearly halfway.  Water over the head, water in the mouth, ice down the top and when the mouth gets like the bottom of a parrot cage remove an ice cube from the top and have a little suck on it.  I like this.  It’s working well.  Keinle comes past and although he’s on his last lap I assume he’s running closer to 6 minutes than 7 minutes per mile and he’s not disappearing that quickly.  I’m probably running within the realms of the right pace – not quite as accurate as the GPS I was expecting but needs must and all that.  All still going swimmingly.  Aerobically and physically I’m feeling fine. I’ve felt better stomach wise so I’ve switched to coke and walking the aid stations from 25 km which was 5 k, earlier than I’d planned, but no dramas at this stage.

Mmmm….seems like I’m slowing a bit.  Not feeling so flash.  Just coming back over the river for the 3rd time and it’s beginning to go a lot less swimmingly.  Okay I’ve pretty much ground to a halt and I’m now on my haunches dry heaving.  Geddin!  This is about as much fun as any man can have with his clothes on. Right. don’t quit, just get going again.  Now’s the time to use your head, rather than lose your head.  Got back to the start/finish area and saw 3 toilets at the exit of the change tent.  Dived in there, put my fingers down my throat and did nothing but gag – TBH looking at the bottom of a portaloo you probably don’t need to put your fingers down your throat! Tried the other end but no excavation to be had there either.  Had a word with myself and set off on the last 10 km.  At this point both Maria and I finally had the same genius idea. Use the time to see at least how long has elapsed since the gun went off.  As I said ‘What’s the time’ without even looking she said “Ten to four, about 10 km to go” and I knew I was still in the ballpark of a 9:30 if I could get a wriggle on.  Something weird happened as without really doing a lot other than staying on the coke and walking the aid stations (which I was doing for 5 km before the wobble) I seemed to come round over the next couple of kilometres. I was now actually able to push on.  For the first time I was running not holding back and jogging – the race was on.  Obviously it felt like I was moving a lot faster than I was but I was able to run as fast as I wanted and I was scything through the field.  Once or twice I had to dial it back a bit so as not to overcook it but this was the strong finish I’d wanted for a long time.

Into the Finisher’s Chute and I’m compos mentis enough to realise the 9:46 is for someone who started in the 6:45am wave and so I’ll be just outside 9:30.  Not ideal, but given the triquetral shaped curve ball pitched my way and the wobble on the run, it’ll do.  Disappointed I hadn’t nailed the run, frustrated that it may have been a different story with a watch but all in all happy that I managed my day about as well as I could have done.

A few simple steps to Kona!
A few simple steps to Kona!

Found out about the chip issues and quickly ascertained that 9:31:59 wouldn’t be in the Top 18.   Lots of talk of rolldown and history and blah, blah, blah.  Strangely not from me though.  Not known for huge swings of emotion, I had done all I could do, had my chance and failed in the objective of a top 18 place. Nothing I could do now but sort out the chip issue to at least give myself the finishing time to get me in the results.  Probably wasn’t expecting this exchange with a race referee;-

“Hi, I wonder if you can help me?  There’s been a problem with my chip and it’s not showing in the tracker at all.  I swam 61mins and it’s got me down as swimming 1:39.”

“You have a broken chip.  It’s broken.  What do you expect me to do about it?  There’s nothing I can do. I can’t help you.”

At which point I ‘politely’ pointed out I wasn’t 100% sure on the specifics of what I expected her to do, but I was pretty sure somebody was going to be doing something to rectify it or at least explain what the options were, given I had done everything correctly with the chip and was possibly in the shake up for a Kona Slot, so it wasn’t vanity that was asking for my details to go on the web.  As it turned out all I needed her to do was call the timing people from the list of phone numbers she had on her and then send me over there for them to take my chip and presumably carry out a pretty simple admin exercise in taking the details of the chip and assigning it to the record relating to athlete 2056 on the tracker.

With that sorted it was just a case of waiting to see what tomorrow would bring.  As it turned out it did bring the coveted Kona slot and it felt great.  The pressure had been on.  I’d hired a coach, joined a team, spouted a lot of crap about what I thought it took to qualify, declared my intention to qualify publicly, knew that Gary was going to Kona for the first time, knew that a large reason I’d signed up for Epic Camp was in the hope I’d have somewhere to use the fitness I gained there and I’d also found out a few weeks before that my coach, Scott DeFilppis, was heading over to Kona for the first time to see what the buzz was all about.  A lot of reasons for making this a lot different from qualifying any other year and I’d managed, just about, to stay in the game and deliver.  So, seeing as I didn’t make the top 18 or run anywhere near 3:15, I’m storing this in the file marked Glorious Failures.

The obligatory lei photo.
The obligatory lei photo.

Quite a journey since I opened this series with :-

So as the only member of BuccaneerTri Team not to have qualified, that makes me qualified to advise on what doesn’t work, which is hopefully of use to those out there looking to get to around the standard BuccaneerTri is looking to promote.

Festina lente and whilst you’re doing it, don’t ever give up.  As per Scott’s favourite phrase ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’.  Luckily he was right for once ;o)


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