It has been a while since I have done a race report. Things have been busy. From a coaching point it seems that everyone is setting pb's, qualifying for championships races or winning age groups and races overall.

In September, after the World Championships in London, I felt I had got to the end of this cycle of training and racing and I wanted to go long again. The last time I made that decision in 2008 it was because I was looking for a new challenge, that I had got to a point with racing that I was unable to better without working harder, a lot harder. I entered into 4 years of long distance events, Ironman and a (failed) attempt at a marathon. I learned so much about how my body copes with stresses of training and how far I can go before I hit the wall. I applied this to my coaching and the people I coach with great success. 

So what made me change back to Ironman distance racing? I was winning races, running faster than ever, I was enjoying racing and training and I was learning and applying constantly. I wanted a challenge. A race not against people, but against myself. The only event I knew this would happen at is the Forestman. Ironman branded events have the lure of Hawaii and with that means racing others. Challenge events don't have World champion slots just yet and so it would be chasing a time (sub 9 hours) and I wasn't ready for that. I had a plan and I wanted to try it out in the hardest environment on the circuit - on my own. The likelihood of racing solo is high. Whether out front or in tenth. For some reason the race doesn't attract a full field and so there would not be hundreds of people around - racing or cheering. Add to that the fact that you don't have someone handing you food every 20km on the bike makes it one of the hardest events mentally. The course, while not particularly hilly is tough. Rolling, exposed to the wind in places and with average road surface - it is slower than the big European dream biking courses by some 20 minutes. 

That is what makes it so special. It is you against the elements. A course that if you lose focus will slow you down before you know it. One that if you under prepare will let you know that those bike rides you missed could have been worth it. Go too hard on the bike and the running course will make you pay.

But what a run course. Scenery that takes your breath away, if you still have some. Hills - steep and gradual - mean that you have to be patient up till the final few hundred yards. 

How was my prep? Close to perfect. I committed to the race 9 months in advance. My entry so early hopefully showed everyone that I wasn't going to take this lightly. I wanted to have a good race overall but especially I wanted to run faster than any one else had run - a 3:32:52 from last year (relays had gone faster). My aim was to finish in under 10 hours.

The race was all I thought and more. The swim went better that I thought possible and a 50:02 swim saw me 5 minutes up the road before anyone else had got on their bike. On the bike I rode to my power and speed I thought was possible to hold the whole way round. If I was caught then I would make a decision as to how I would play it from then. Not knowing how far ahead I was I kept going at my own pace and no one caught me up. I managed to keep up with my nutrition and I started the run tired but with good energy. Confident of a sub 3:30 marathon I set about ticking the miles off and counted 7 minutes between myself and the next person coming in on the bike. 

The run is hard. The hills that I had practised on had grown in length and gradient. I was prepared for this though and a spring of running faster than my intended pace stood me in good stead. After the first turn around I made the gap 6 minutes. He looked to be running well but as long as I was ahead he would have to run faster than me and I am happy with that situation. 8 miles in and I meet the 9 Endurance crew doing a great job at handing drinks and energy to everyone. It was nice to see my closest friends, training partners, coached athletes and family there - cheering me on. A massive boost even though I didn't necessarily show it on the outside I felt it on the inside.

By 10 miles I was struggling. I realised I was only taking on a cup of coke at each aid station and my body needed more. So I forced in 2 gels at each of the next 2 aid stations. It didn't all stay in but it gave me the kick to get going again by mile 15. I had timed the gap at 3 minutes and the next 3 runners looked on good form. I most certainly was not. But I still had the lead. 

As I got to the penultimate aid station at mile 21 I had managed a good 3 or 4 miles and the gap had got bigger - close to 20 minutes. But my feet were hurting and there were still 2 steep down and ups to go. It was the down hill sections that got me and I had to walk/shuffle down. The ups were fine as the pressure was taken off my right big toe. The final straight and it felt like I was flying. I felt in control and I was so happy to see all the friendly faces at the finish. 

A 3:32:29 marathon meant I finished in the third fastest time of 9:47:35 with the fastest individual marathon. It also meant my tally of 5 Ironmen is now 3 under ten hours and 2 over ten hours. 

So mission accomplished. My feet are nearly healed - a rather nasty blood blister under my right big toe nail meant I was unable to wear shoes until Friday. On to the next challenge.......stay tuned for hopefully some more regular updates!