Ironman Geelong 70.3 Race Review

This past Sunday I raced Ironman 70.3 Geelong event. This was my first race back after breaking my collar bone at Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie race at the end of October 2015. It’s been a stressful 3 months getting through my surgery recovery, rehab and then getting back into training. My aim for the race was simply to test myself in competition and see where I was at before building to my next A-race in May. Unfortunately, my race was derailed by the failure of my continuous glucose monitor (GCM) which resulted in excessively high blood glucose levels (BGLs) and the end of my race at the 10km mark of the run. Although I was bitterly disappointed that I DNF’d, I later realised that there were many positives to take from the race and I was actually pretty satisfied with the race.

The two weeks leading up to Geelong were as close to disaster as I could handle. After a solid month of training post-surgery recovery and with my intensity building nicely, I was struck by an overwhelming fatigued, followed by a total loss of efficiency and comfort on the bike, and to top it off my diabetes decided to throw a hissy fit during the last week. Fatigue, poor BGLs and associated mental stress are not a great way to lead into a race. I wasn’t feeling 100% physically or with my diabetes plan. Luckily my coach and my girlfriend were able to put things into perspective and I was in a reasonable mental state and OK physically on the start line and despite all this I was excited to be racing again.

On the start line I was buzzing with nervous adrenaline, the field was packed with quality athletes and it was certainly going to be competitive especially with 70.3 world championship spots up for grabs. BGLs trending around 8.0mmol/L I was ready to race.

Being a strong swimmer I have never stressed too much about the swim and I quickly found a comfortable rhythm within the first couple of hundred meters swimming into some clear water with the stronger swimmers. In the back of my mind I was worrying about how I would feel on the bike so I didn’t push the swim too hard. I was out of the water in 26 minutes pulling my wetsuit off and heading to T1. My garmin showed a 2050m swim.

My CGM losing connection when in the water so a finger prick blood test is required in T1 to re-calibrate the CGM. My meter showed 5.4mmol/L which is a great level to be at heading into the like leg. As soon as I was on the bike I drank some Endura (6% CHO mix) and I was ready to go.

Being a little nervous about my bike form my aim for the 90km was to steadily build and not overcook my legs to early. I concentrated on keeping a smooth pedal stroke and maintaining my race power if I was feeling OK. The first 45km went really well and I was feeling great. My BGLs looked to be staying stable between 4.0 and 5.0mmol/L and I kept up my CHO intake consuming around 60 grams of CHO during the first hour (2 bars and fluid). During the second 45kms I started feeling a bit average and I was struggling to maintain my race power dropping 20W below. I didn’t stress and continued to focus on feeling smooth through my pedal stroke. I figured that as I wasn’t 100% this was just fatigue setting in. During the second half of the ride my CGM continued to show my BGLs around 4.0mmol/L so I continue to consume regular CHO, about 25 grams every 30 minutes. I rolled into T3 after 2hrs 22mins on the bike. I was happy to tick this off feeling the way that I was for the second 45km.

With my CGM still reading low 4.0’s near the end of the bike leg I consumed some extra CHO (around 40 grams) before T3. Being that low I was worried that the run would send me into a hypo. This extra intake gave me some indigestion during the first 2km of the run and it took me until the 3km mark to settle. As I settled in my stride I realised that I wasn’t feeling great but it wasn’t my legs that were the problem. Checking my CGM it continue to read in the low 4.0’s and I was now pretty sure I was heading for a hypo. I consumed from more CHO and continued on. My km splits were 4-4:30 and I was happy to sit at this pace the way I was feeling. I wasn’t worried about anyone around me and just wanted to focus on how I was feeling. As I went through the beach front for the second time I was really struggling starting to feel nauseous and a little unbalanced. I decided to do a finger prick test as I had grabbed my meter in T2. First test read “HI”, second test read “HI”, and the third test read 26.8! OK, there’s a problem here and this is not good. I check my pump; still connected and working. Check CGM, still stuck down but also still reading in the 4.0’s. Thinking through the situation as I walked/jogged I realised that there was nothing to gain in pushing on and it was more important to get my BGL’s down. At the 10km mark, heading back through the transition area I stopped and DNF’d. I’d complete the first 7km in 29 minutes and the next 3km in 20 minutes.

I was initially gutted that I’d had to pull the pin but as I walked through the crowd back to my family I realised that I’d achieved many things just to get to this race and my swim, bike and 7km’s of the run had been pretty solid. Giving myself a pat on the back:

  • I had recovered from broken collar bone and got to a competitive level within 3 months
  • I was close to my normal swim time
  • I was heading for a really good bike time until slowing in the latter stages due to diabetes
  • I was able to manage my mental state and emotions when things started going badly and I was able to make a calm decision to withdraw from the race

Before my next race I will be working on:

  • Getting my insulin plan more set before a race so that I am confident in it
  • Review CGM accuracy and look at extra finger prick tests during the bike leg
  • Build my higher intensity endurance to be at 100% for my next race
  • Work on my transitions including all the normal issues plus having to do a finger prick test

Thanks to all of my family and friends who supported me leading into the race and on the day. Whatever the result was going to be we were always going to be enjoying a burger and a beer after the race together. Good times.

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