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  • Writer's pictureSteve McKenna

Challenge Anhui - Debut Ironman distance 8.17

Take a bow Challenge Anhui

History was made in Anhui as China held it’s first Challenge event and boy did they pull out all the bells and whistles. Challenge Anhui was also the first triathlon ever held in mainland China and the extent to which the locals embraced the event had to be seen to be believed. The entire Ironman distance course was lined with supporters and the live stream reached over 1 million people locally in China (just a shame no one back home knew what was going on until I finished!). The Challenge Asia Pacific team lead by Kent Wong and Pro liaison Belinda Granger out did themselves in Anhui. This race was an incredible experience and not only thanks to the breath-taking course we raced on or the mainland Chinese culture we were exposed to, but the event it’s self was so well organised. All the athletes were all treated like rockstars from age group through to Professional and I would strongly advise anyone looking for an international event to treat yourself to Challenge Anhui. As a result, my debut at this distance was stress free, I never once doubted the training I had prepared with and went through the motions with a smile on my face (until the full body cramps began with 14 km left to run!!).

Swim: 3,800m (more like 3,600m in the end)

I think it's fair to say we can add 2-3 minutes onto this swim time. The course was accurate; however, as we were required to keep the buoys on our left we were able to hug the shore line coming into transition and as a result the leader came out in 43 minutes and I came out second place in 45 minutes. We swam well.... but not that well! I think we more than made up for this with 1,450m of elevation on the bike!

Bike: 180km - undulating 1,450m total elevation

For the first 60km of the bike I was pushing 265-70w (at 66-67kg) and I was still losing time rapidly to Thomas Davis up front. It was hard hearing 7 minutes behind around 100km, but I remained confident in my plan, keeping the power constant and controlled. This rare discipline from me payed off as the gap came down to 6 minutes starting the run and the legs felt amazing (considering they had just pedaled 180km around 260w). In the last 10km of the ride my power dropped from around 260-265w average to 256w as I held 2nd place and thought more and more about the run. I began to focus on taking on more nutrition and lowering my heart rate, which I continued into T2 (transition) with a leisurely trip to the changing tent where I watched Levi Maxwell come and go a lot quicker than me!

Run: 42.2 km (flat and fast course)

My debut Ironman distance race was going perfectly to plan until 14km left to run. Levi Maxwell and myself ran the first 25km together averaging around 3.45-50 pace with ease, going through the half marathon in 1.19. At this point I started thinking "What's all the fuss?!? Ironman distance is easy".....that was naive!! I have never actually run a marathon and 32 km was the longest run I've ever completed until last Sunday, so it makes sense that around 28 km the wheels began to fall off. Full leg cramps became a big issue with 14 km left to run and as you can see in the splits below my pace suffered massively from the constant need to stop and stretch or rub out cramps. I saw Levi move into the distance every time I stopped and eventually it became necessary to keep moving at all cost with third place realising I was in trouble (Thomas Davis - Great British athlete). At one point I didn't think I was going to make it, but I'm proud of my self for getting through that Ironman struggle, even if it did start later in the race than expected. Personally, I put the cramps down to muscular strength and endurance and not nutrition, because I feel as if I couldn't have nailed the nutrition plan any better. I have plenty of time to improve the muscular endurance with my Ironman days just beginning. Fair to say I'm a frother and loved every minute of the long solo training days, now I'm hungry for more!

Run splits

Happy to be done, greeted by Mum and Dad.... Kent Wong running the show next to us!!

Special mention:

Big thanks to Radiology SA (Leigh Mosel), Gooch Goo (Luke Crozier) and the Titan Performance team for making yet another trip possible. I have a team of absolute legends behind me and I really couldn’t have afforded to get to any races this year without them. 2019 has been a dream come true with race after race going well beyond my expectations, but there has been no shortage of sacrifice and hard solo work! However, the season isn’t over yet…. there’s few more races to squeeze out of this trashed body if it holds up.

Upcoming races:

10th November - Challenge Cape Town

24th November – Challenge Malaysia

8th December – Ironman 70.3 Taupo (if I’m not broken)

9th-31st December - GET FAT!!

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