Cobus and I decided in May that we’d like to do another Ironman before the end of the year. Neither of us had been to Taiwan (and the race island Penghu looked amazing) and it was a great time of the year. Race reviews stated that the conditions would be very testing; windy, hot and humid.
I met up with Cobus in Taipei on the Tuesday (he’d been working all over Asia for 2 weeks) and then we flew to the small island Penghu on Thursday. We’d heard rumours that it sometimes took a day or two to get the bikes to the island due to the number of bikes needing to get to the race. Fortunately all was fine (it was coming back on the Tuesday with the masses when we almost had our bikes delayed)
Penghu is a beautiful little island. Friendly, windy, hot and humid. We stayed in the race venue hotel; which hosted the registration, expo, race briefing, welcome and awards dinners. And 200m from the finish line and T2. Perfect!
The welcome dinner on Friday evening gave us the chance to taste some slightly weird local cuisine. Obviously we were a bit wary of eating anything that disagreed with us before the race but we were brave enough to take a risk!
Our pre race meal on Saturday evening was again not quite the norm. We made do with rice, chicken, veg and bread.
Unfortunately on race morning the predicted crazy winds had arrived. The decision was made to shorten the swim to 400m; a loop in the harbour. The water temperature was 24c so age groupers were still allowed to wear wetsuits. And the start was delayed by an hour.
The age group rolling start worked very well with 2 athletes setting off every 5 seconds. We had to negotiate steps down into the water first which was interesting; nobody wants to get injured within the first 10m of a race! I’m no sprinter but the 400m was fine. The wind and current was crazy so it was the right call to shorten it and just swim in the harbour.
It was amusing that the run to T1 was longer than the swim. The 500m run gave me a chance to calm my nerves, control my breathing and prepare for the 180km ride ahead.
The bike route was not full road closure but was mostly well marshalled. The undulating course (about 1100m total elevation) was very scenic and the road surface was great. With only 900 athletes everybody was well spread out.
It was very gusty on the bike course and I was grateful to be experienced in windy conditions. Disc wheels weren’t allowed, and rightly so. I didn’t notice the heat so much on the bike, because of the wind, although my garmin recorded it as average 27c with a max of 31c.
I spent most of the 180kms telling myself to ease off but I felt great and it felt easy. But I did have a few issues to deal with – does anyone ever have a problem free Ironman?! One of my bottle cages became loose early on, but fortunately I didn’t need it. One of my nutrition bars flew out of my bento box but I decided, and hoped!, that I’d be fine without it. Then at about 120km I thought I had broken my Di2. A lump in the road jolted my derailleur. Initially I thought I had no gears then fortunately found them all but the chain was catching on the derailleur on the bottom 5 gears. I stopped and tried to see if I could sort it but had no clue what to do! I tried to use the better sounding gears but I’m not very good at having a high cadence at the best of times. So it was a noisy and watt-wasting 60kms to T2.
One slight problem with the course was the fact that we were told we weren’t allowed to overtake on the long Penghu Great Bridge because it was too narrow with the cars. No problem during the first loop, but on the second loop we were catching the slower riders who were still on their first loop. I spent 2kms coming back over the bridge twiddling my thumbs and enjoying the view stuck behind a slow rider. I didn’t want to get DQed. I later heard that most people ignored the no overtaking rule!
I set off on the run feeling good but could immediately feel the heat. I found ice at the water point as soon as I could. For once I think I got my nutrition right and felt I had plenty of energy. After the second lap, of four, I could feel my core temperature had risen a lot. I shoved ice everywhere I could!
I think I probably could have pushed harder on the run but I knew I was in the lead by far so I spent time at the waterpoints getting as much ice as I could. I wanted to jump into the bins of ice! The heat got to me more than having tired legs and I definitely need to make sure I do plenty of heat training before Kona next year. It wasn’t my best run but I was happy enough! I was delighted to win my age category and was also first overall female age grouper. I’m very excited about racing in Kona next October already!
Sadly Cobus’s race didn’t turn out as planned after suffering stomach issues from drinking the sports drink on the bike course (quite a few other people experienced the same) and then an error on the run course; missing a small loop after coming out of the toilets.
Ironman Taiwan is a fantastic and well organised event with tough conditions. A stunning location, lovely friendly people and worth the long flights to get there. It was also lovely to meet new triathlete friends from all over the world.
A huge thanks to Cobus for all your love, support and such an amazing trip and to Dave, Werner, Liandi, Lizette and all the support from everybody!
Lots more pics on my Facebook page