After I exceeded my expectations by winning Embrunman I could have entered all other races without pressure and with a goal to potentially add a bit of a bonus to already successful year. However, my mind can’t function that way and I went to Wales with a win as a goal. I know it doesn’t sound very humble, but I felt like anything else would leave me a bit disappointed.
There were some strong names on the start list. Biggest threats were Markus Thomschke and Jesse Thomas. Both of them are excellent over half-ironman distance and Markus showed before that he can do a very good ironman as well. Jesse, on the other hand, was a bit of unknown as he was doing his first ironman. Some guys struggle when they switch from shorter races to long one, others do well from the start. Besides them there were few other strong guys that I kept my eye on.
Swim was supposed to be the only flat part of the race, but that was not the case. There was a bit of a breeze in the morning that produced big waves so there was quite a bit of elevation gain on the swim as well. Wiltshire, who is one of the better swimmers in circuit, was first out of the water in 51:55 min and that should tell you enough about the conditions. I got out in a group where I expected to be, 5 minutes behind the leader.
Thomschke swam with me but had a faster transition and went very hard from the start of the bike, so I never even saw him. Even if I did, I think I wouldn’t follow his initial pace. First part of the bike is flatter and I decided to go a bit easier there and save energy for the hilly part later in the ride. At halfway point I got first time check. Good news was that I was in 4th place and that 3rd place was just over 1 minute ahead. Bad news was that the lead duo was already 7 minutes ahead. If I wanted to win it was time to start doing something.
I caught Wiltshire as we went by Tenby after around 100 km. Good news was that I wasn’t losing any more time to the leaders. Markus made a surge in the late part of the bike and entered T2 alone with 3:30 lead over Jesse and 8:30 min over me. That was a lot of time to make up but I was hoping they went too hard on the bike.
The run course was split into 4 loops and has fair amount of climbing. For the first half I just focused on my own race and made sure I don’t go out too hard. Despite that I was on a pace for 2:50h marathon. No one has run under 3h here last year so I knew I’d do well if I can keep this up. In the meantime, Jesse took over the lead and increased his advantage over me. Markus on the other hand was getting closer.
Midway through the third lap I passed Markus. He didn’t look like he would be able to get back to me and all others were too far behind so it looked like second place is secure. Gap to Jesse dropped a little bit, but was still quite large. I didn’t want to miss a chance to pass him in case he cracks so I kept the pace high. Gap dropped a bit more in the last loop but it was still around 5 minutes with 5-6 kilometers to go. Few moments after we passed each other I got information that he was only 400m in front of me. For a moment I thought he cracked and started walking but it was soon clear that I got the wrong information.
My performance would probably be enough for the win in any of the earlier editions of the race, but this time Jesse raised the bar too high for me. This was probably one of my best ironmans, so I’m happy even though I didn’t reach my pre-race goal. I’m especially pleased with my run. This was not an easy course and 2:52h here is probably worth a bit more on an easier course. For the second race in a row I had the fastest run split (although only 1 second faster than Jesse). Earlier in the season I was disappointed in my running so this is a nice confidence boost. Most importantly, I think I know why I didn’t run better in other races. Now it’s time for a bit of a rest and then I’ll race Natureman and Porec triathlon to finish the season.