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Luke Qualifies at Malaysia

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The big day – 27th September 2014 – had arrived. I was in what felt like the best shape of my life, feeling fit and ready to take on my “A” race of the year. I woke up on the beautiful island of Langkawi, Malaysia and had a feeling of being “race ready” I have never felt before. I had my pre race ritual food of porridge, bananas, agave syrup, peanut butter and a beetroot shot. My hotel was coincidently within walking distance of the start line, so I stepped out into the humid morning heat and strolled down to where the next journey would begin.

Transition was the usual hustle and bustle, the odd last minute tyre popping, pre race nerves talk, people strapping nutrition to the bike however they can (including one chap I noticed taping numerous bananas to his frame). I had a plan with a time frame set out for race morning, so I stuck to that and kept my focus. We were already sweating from just pumping the tyres up and walking around – today was going to be hot!

The swim leg started from a pontoon, which meant it was a rolling start not a mass brawl like normal. Four people were allowed into the water every few seconds. As a result it was a little less hectic, but not as much fun as I like the mass starts! Before I knew it I was off – a little further back in the field than I would have liked but it was just a case of getting on with it. My swimming is something that has come on as of late and this was evident as I cruised past my competition and was never once overtaken for the entire swim. The only downside to this was that I didn’t get the benefit of being able to draft some of the distance off a slightly faster swimmer to save my energy. The out and back sea swim measured long at 4km – completed in just under an hour (1:28/100m) which I was happy with as it was a non wetsuit swim.

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Onto my Specialized Shiv with a Quarq powermeter now attached . In my head was the advice from my coach on the power I need to maintain for my legs to be ready for the run – I knew what I had to do. Pre race rides of the course lead me to believe this would be brutal in places and it did not disappoint.  My powermeter targets were set and stuck to – even when going up some of the hills and guys were passing me, I remained disciplined. In the past I would have been out of the saddle chasing them down, but I had to look at the bigger picture. Ironman is a long day of racing not just one or two hills of climbing!

Most of my bike nutrition was supplied by The Cycle Bistro – the Paleo Energy Bars, these are the most amazing natural energy bar you will taste and certainly helped keep me fuelled. I did ride 150km with fear though as after 30km my bottle attached to the back of my bike popped off with all my tubes and kit in. Luckily I never needed them!!

The bike course is a two loop course with a section called the ‘monkey zone’ where it has been known for monkeys to attack riders for their food, (the chap taping those bananas to his bike was braver than me!). No such monkeys tried it with me, maybe they knew they would lose as there would be no way I was giving up my Paleo bars! Traffic was meant to be controlled on the course, but with it being a little island they make up their own rules. Some of the time I was travelling faster than the scooters anyway! Aid stations were manned by local villagers which added to the great atmosphere. The support and enthusiasm was amazing. A couple of hours into the bike and the heat ramped up, the humid conditions making an already hard course just a little more brutal. I hit a 5:30 bike, not as quick as I wanted but would hopefully mean I was in good shape for the run.

Into T2 I felt ok until a volunteer shouted my number out and told me I had a penalty to serve and had been shown a yellow card. I ran over and discussed it with her explaining that there had to be a mistake as I was never shown a card. After a minute or so of back and forth I made the decision to overturn it after the race. As I was running into the tent grabbing my T2 bag I had her last words of you might be disqualified ringing in my ears. A fresh pair of compressport socks slipped into my Newton Gravity trainers and I was off.

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I felt good, I wanted to take it steady for the first 3km to get nutrition on board and get into my stride. I had to keep telling myself to slow down and rain myself in as I was going too quick!! Even in the first 5km I was passing people who had blown their legs on the bike. The run course was four laps of little shade in the searing midday heat – what felt like over 40 degrees according to weather sources. I was going well up to about 21km then my splits started slipping a little but I felt ok and a lot of people were piling in around me. I was still catching others all the time and this kept my chin up. Twinges of cramps  were beginning, not in my usual vastus medialus or ‘quad’ (the Rocktape was taking care of that), but in my right toes and calf. I was able to run through it until at about the 10km to go mark my toes curled up and locked which in turn tightened the cramp in my calf. Painful – yes, unbearable – no, ‘keep on running, you’re getting closer’ was all that was going through my mind. At the next aid station I downed electrolyte drink and swallowed salt tabs like they were going out of fashion! For the rest of the race I put up with the coming and going of the cramps. After what seemed like an age, I stepped up the pace with what I had left in the last 2 km and crossed the finish line with a 3:42 marathon.

Ironman Malaysia – Done – 10:19:47 – my slowest yet toughest Ironman to date. Probably the most enjoyable one though!! (Thankfully I didn’t need to contest my earlier ‘disqualification’. It turned out a trigger happy local adjudicator on the back of a scooter had reported numerous yellow cards he had never actually shown and for infractions that are not illegal anyway!)

The next day I found out I achieved what I came out here for – the world champs slot in Kona Hawaii for my age group in 2015 – mission accomplished.

Thanks as always to my family and friends for your support, it grows stronger with every race. Most of all though a huge thanks to Nick Tipper (coach), who in the short time has he been working with me has shown me how to train and given me the guidance I need. Also thanks to The Cycle Hub for my bike, compressport for all the kit, The Cycle Bistro for keeping me powered and RockTape UAE.

If you want to follow this next journey to Kona please follow me @trihardluke on Twitter and Instagram.

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