The iron war

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9th May Mallorca 70.3

I finished 13th pro in a top class field. The results itself was solid enough, not spectacular but certainly not a disaster. My comment immediately after the was “I’m stoked at with how I battled it out on a heavy legs day. Word of the day was perserverance. Not so long ago I would have binned it off if I wasn’t having a perfect day.” I couldn’t pinpoint a specific issue, I just didn’t feel “right”. Of course I took my bike straight into the bike shop as soon as I got home – my brakes MUST have been rubbing or something right? What other explanation could there be for it to feel so hard?

21st May InDurance blood test


25th May 25mile Time Trial

This was supposed to be one last hard effort and confidence booster ahead of Challenge Salou 6 days later. My cycling had felt pretty laboured leading into the race and I’d put out a couple of sub-par 10mile TTs. Nevertheless I went into this time trial with a positive head on determined to pull out a good result. My bike had been into the bike shop (again!) so I was confident in my equipment. My head didn’t see any logical reason why I should fail to have a good ride. My body thought otherwise. From the first few miles it was immediately apparent that there was a problem. By 5 miles I felt like pulling off the road, by 10 miles I was crying with frustration but hoping I was going uphill into a headwind (I was doing neither), at 15miles I was, quite literally, shouting at my legs, by 25miles I was just grateful to have finished. My rate of perceived exertion was through the roof and my power was through the floor. I am no stranger to the pain of racing, in fact like most endurance junkies I go out looking for it, but this was not good pain. this was banging my head against a brick wall kind of pain.


26th May InDurance blood results

Showed iron depletion and low zinc levels.

27th May InDurance consultation

Dr Will described being iron depleted as running a car with a low fuel tank. You can still drive it but you have to be more conservative or risk breaking down. I made the decision that I still wanted to race Challenge Salou even though I was going into it knowing that my engine was working sub-optimally. While this sounds like a negative approach, it probably saved my race. Being iron depleted means you fatigue faster and have fewer matches to burn throughout the race. We discussed my race plan and decided that in order to be successful I needed to rein in the effort and exertion early on in the race, take on more carbs in the days leading up to the race and during, and back off on training leading up to and after the race.

31st May Challenge Salou 1900m swim – 90k bike- 21k run

Unlike my previous few races, I went into this one knowing what to expect. If I felt rough early on I knew there would no point getting frustrated with myself and pushing harder, I had to calm down and focus on being as efficient as possible and getting myself to the finish line on a high not in a bucket. YOU CANNOT DIG YOUR WAY OUT OF A HOLE! I’m happy to say this approach worked. A swam steady, rode steady and ran steady, at no point pushing myself to the point of fatigue that i’d felt in my previous few races. I took on more carbs than usual (75g/hour) and I felt like I needed every last one of them. I crossed the finish line feeling strong and smiling – for the first time in a few weeks. And my solid day was good enough to place 5th pro in a time of 4:21. Jumping for joy!


Lessons learnt:

1 – Do not leave it too long between tests. My last test was October and my results were all optimal which lulled me into s false sense of security. Your body is constantly renewing itself. Staying healthy is an ongoing process.

2 – Knowing your levels are optimised heading into a race obviously gives you a boost BUT knowing your levels are not optimal does not have to be a negative thing. You can turn it around by knowing how you can adapt your race plan for your body to deliver the best it can on that day. It saves a lot of frustration and sweat and tears.

  1. There were probably many many more iron depleted athletes out there racing but they did not have the knowledge and information to modify their race plan so I had the edge on them. Knowledge is power.
  1. Look after your body as you would your bike. It’s the most important bit of kit you own! I must have taken my bike into the bike shop 6 times before thinking about getting my bloods done!
  1. Racing iron deleted is like swimming with drag shorts on, riding a bike with soft tyres and a rusty chain, and running with lead weights in your shoes. It can be done, it’s not advisable, and I can’t wait to feel back to full gas.

My number one priority right now is to get healthy. Mid-season break then I’ll be back to hit the second half of the season.

Keep in mind, it’s better to be 100% healthy and 95% fit than very fit but ill or injured. Stay on the right side of that line….

Now where’s that steak?… Such a hardship I know….



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