This is the latest update of Stuart Robinson’s journey ‘From elite runner to sub 10 hour Ironman in 18 months’. I have now completed my first Half Ironman event in Stafford. Here’s how it went down…

Stafford was my first real taste of long distance triathlon, and a huge step for me on my journey. I have come a long way in the last five months. From having zero triathlon experience to completing a Half Ironman. I didn’t know what to expect when I started, but over the last five months I have learnt a huge amount, and I’m sure I will be learning for a long time yet!

The swimming has been the hardest part, but I have persevered and worked hard on my technique. I honestly struggled to swim a length back in January, and now I can swim 2250 metres in open water.

I had personal goals for Stafford, but with it being my first endurance triathlon, I knew the result might not represent my true ability. I accepted that, and I decided to focus on each discipline separately. It was important for me to enjoy the day and the whole Ironman experience.

In the weeks before the main event I did a mixture of competitive events, including a few running races, a 75 mile bike race (Sportive) in Yorkshire, and another sprint triathlon. The cycling and swimming have really been a complement to my running, and I’ve only lost my top end speed on the track.

I finished third at a local five mile interclub race, and my time was not far off what I would expect if I was just running. I ran a decent leg at the British Masters relays in Sutton Park for Salford Harriers.  We won a silver medal, missing the gold medal by 3 seconds! I also finished 5th at Edinburgh half marathon in 71 minutes.

I entered my second local sprint triathlon in Lytham St. Anne’s because I wanted to see how much I had learnt from the first triathlon (with my disastrous transitions) and to see if my swimming had improved. The swim was better, and although I wasn’t sure at the time if I was quicker, it definitely felt easier.

The bike leg was tough. We did three laps, but I felt tired from racing the day before, and not having a TT bike definitely made a difference on that course. The run was 5.4k and I felt really good running off the bike.

My transitions felt slick and more efficient than the first triathlon. When the results came out, I was pleased that I had finished in 3rd place overall. My swim was over a minute quicker than last time, I was the 10th fastest bike and the fastest runner.

Thanks to my good transitions, I finished in 59m 39s. Only the top three finishers were sub 60 minutes, so it was pleasing to see that after all the hard work I was starting to see some improvements.

I have worked on race nutrition for my marathons in the past and tried a number of different brands. For me the GU energy products are the best on the market and they have great flavours.

Overall my training and racing over the last couple of months has been good and I felt in good shape leading up to Stafford. I learnt a lot about my body and recovery. For example, how easy it is to do too much and when to back off before getting ill or injured. My coach has been great and she gave me many new tips for race day, as well as the open water lessons and nutrition plan.  She built up my confidence and got me ready to tackle the Half Ironman.

RACE DAY

SWIM

I was nervous about the water temperature making me panic and the number of people that would be around me. In the end the water wasn’t that cold, and the rolling start meant there weren’t too many people swimming over the top of each other as I set off on the 1.2 mile swim.

The buoys on the lake looked a long way away, but I soon got into my rhythm. Before I knew it I was around the last buoy and I could see the finishing ramp.  When I came out the water and into T1, I felt that the swim had gone well, and afterwards I found out that my time was 38 minutes 18 seconds.

BIKE

T1 took longer than I planned. I struggled getting my wetsuit off, but I was then off on the bike route on the TT bike and into my cycling rhythm. Early into the bike leg my teammate Matt came alongside me. It was funny as we were toing and froing for most of the bike leg.

I was unsure how I would feel on the TT bike, as I hadn’t been out on it much before the race. It felt great and my bike computer was giving back some good data. The last few miles were quite tough and hilly, but this is a strength for me and I passed a few people.

I was keeping to the plan with race nutrition and felt pretty good going into T2. My bike split was 2 hours 35 minutes and 43 seconds.  I was really pleased with this result for the 56 mile route.

RUN

It was a quick transition and onto my favourite discipline, the run. It was a two lap route around the town centre then up to the castle. The climb up to the castle was very demanding, and coming back down was even worse!

I knew the second lap would be even harder, so I was clipping along at my target run pace. The second lap was gruelling, and thanks to the big climb the last 3 miles were really challenging and I dropped off my target pace. I pushed on as hard as I could and soon the famous Ironman finishing straight appeared. I was relieved to finish with no major issues. My run time was 1 hour 23 minutes and 6 seconds.

My overall finishing time was 4 hours and 45 minutes and 30 seconds. I was 11th in my age category and 77th overall. I was extremely happy, especially with it being my first one, and I believe there is more to come. I loved the race and the whole experience and, at the end of the day, that was the most important thing.

I have one year until my goal of sub 10 hour Ironman. I have decided to do Tallin in Estonia in August 2020. I have a great coach who is setting my training and, with us working together, I am looking forward to future races and working towards achieving my goal. It’s going to be a hard journey, but one I am really looking forward to.

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