Hotchkiss wins Taiwan

Earlier this month, British long distance athlete Jonathan Hotchkiss had perhaps the best result of his career to date when he won Ironman 70.3 Taiwan.

The race was a ‘stop off’ on the way to Australia where Jonathan will be racing at Ironman Western Australia on December 5th. Here is his race report.

This is part one of my race report and will be a very simple (but maybe not so short ha ha!) “how the race went” type of affair. I’ll post again soon with what I’ll call “the bigger picture” race report as there’s SO much more to last Saturday’s win than what simply went on in the 4h09min of racing… and there’s A LOT of people without who’s help I couldn’t have got there. Whilst I know this isn’t the be-all and end-all in terms of results – it’s not Kona – it does mark a point (and I hope the start) that I’ve been working towards for A LONG time and so is incredibly valuable to me and SUPER exciting.

Ironman 70.3 Taiwan 2010

Riding the short three-mile trip to race start at 4.30am and actually just happy to even have a bike full stop (mine had only arrived from delayed luggage on my flight at 11pm the night before!), I noticed two things:

  • it was still very, VERY WINDY
  • my legs felt GREAT!

Having got to the transition area, racked my bike and set everything up I headed off for a short 15min jog to get the blood moving around the body. My observations from earlier still remained… it was still VERY windy and my legs still felt fresh and ready to go. As mentioned in my last blog post, one of the keys I wanted to work on during this race was the mental side of things and I was going to focus on positively impacting what I could control and not to “over-think” everything. So with the wind, I simply interpreted this positively thinking that “I like it being windy, it will make the bike tougher, and I want everyone else to have a hard bike” – I couldn’t change the wind, but I could change how I dealt with it.

Time passed quickly before the race and we were lined up on the beach waiting for the start before I knew it. As we dove into the gorgeous blue, crystal clear waters it quickly became apparent that wearing a wetsuit wasn’t such a good idea all of a sudden. With the water temp at 24 degrees, it was optional (meaning a DEFINITE for weaker swimmers like me), but I found myself working harder to stay with the front pack than I wanted and I was soon seriously over-heating! I had no choice but to back off a little and conserve energy and try to prevent my race being wrecked in the first 1.9km swim. I tried to carry on the mental approach though and focused on turning this around positively. Swimming as efficiently and controlled as I could, remaining relaxed – positively impacting what i could control

Not wearing a watch I had no idea of my time as I exited the sea and started the long run to T1. I knew I’d have lost time to the likes of Kieran Doe, but not knowing how much or worse still trying to guess, meant I couldn’t over-think things and put pressure (negatively) on myself. The 2XU wetsuit was off quickly and I was out onto the bike course jumping on my Ceepo, heading up the first (of many) climbs up to the start of the two loop, 90km bike course.

The wind was still blowing strongly and gusts making me swerve quite a lot at times as my disc wheel got caught. I wasn’t feeling great now and the over-heating during the swim had certainly had an impact, but again I turned this around in my head to simply focusing on riding as strongly as I could until the body recovered. No pressure to catch anyone any time soon, just focus on controlling what I actually could control and doing it positively. I could see my HR was able to get high enough, so I knew my body was OK, it just need time to settle.

After about 10km of the bike there was a short out-and-back section up a decent climb that would allow me my first chance to see how far in front the others were. I as actually really pleased to see Kieran only four minutes in front and the chasers behind him spaced between 2/3 minutes. This was less than I’d expected given how the swim had felt and very encouraging. Again it reminded me that how I was “feeling” wasn’t always a reflection of the reality of a situation. I stuck to my focus for the race though, which was “race MY race” and didn’t set about chasing anyone down. I wanted to ride my effort level and we’d just see where that got me.

The bike course was relentlessly up and down and the wind continued to blow. According to BG (Belinda Granger) the gusts were stronger than Kona and I certainly felt this when at times, despite riding downhill, I felt like i was towing an elephant! But again, I took this all positively; the harder it was for me, the harder it was for everyone else. I told myself that it was hurting “them” more than it was me. And so I just keep focusing on riding MY race.

I seemed to be catching and passing guys ahead of me at regular intervals and shortly before the end of the first lap, I caught and passed five time Ironman France Champion Marcel Zamora. This was a huge boost to me, though given how positively I was thinking about everything, somehow didn’t take me by surprise. As I hit the turnaround point on the out-and-back loop at the start of the second lap, I clocked the gap to Kieran at only two minutes and to the (now only) three guys in front, at just 1 minute! Despite once again being hugely encouraged by this, I still stuck to the mental game plan of riding my race. It took me another 20km to catch and pass positions fourth, third and second though and I didn’t manage to drop them when I did pass; spending the last 10km with some “passengers” behind me. The course was a great one and other than nearly getting ‘totalled’ by the occasional wild dog insisting on playing chicken with me in the road, it passed without incident. Turning off the main loop and heading back towards transition on the short 5km stretch my legs felt great, and I was looking forward to seeing how I could run having done exactly what I wanted to on the bike – ride MY race. A ridiculous head wind had one final swipe at us as we headed back to T2, but again, I just told myself that it would “hurt” everyone else much more than me… it was a positive thing (despite barely riding faster than 20kph downhill!!!

As I turned into transition in second place (third and fourth just behind me), I saw Kieran heading out onto the run. He looked strong, but I was now barely one minute down on him and HUGELY satisfied to have made up so much time on the bike. My recent bike “companions” were through transition quicker than me, but as with the rest of the race up until now, I wasn’t stressed. The Newton’s went on, Greepers laces tightened, visor on and I was off and running about 30m down on them by now. This distance was closed within about 60 seconds though and without letting anything in my approach to the race change (“my race, my pace”) I was back into second place, and began pulling away. I could see Kieran about 500m up the hill, but put no pressure on myself to catch him. I settled into a rhythm and would simply see what happened and if my speed was fast enough to catch him.

Jonathan wins Ironman 70.3 TaiwanThe sun was out in full force now and compared to the zero degree’s I’d been running in, back in London only three days earlier, the 80 degree’s I was now racing in felt like an oven. With the first 5km almost completely uphill too, the body wasn’t about to have it easy. Again though, focusing on just running my pace, I told myself that the harder it was, the better… it was hurting everyone else more than me. Of course at no time in the race, did I know this to be true… but mentally to have this frame of mind really helped me respond to the tough conditions and course in a positive way.

I knew I wasn’t running “fast” and that with people like Marcel behind me somewhere, it would be a hard 21km run today, but by 7km I’d managed to catch up to and pass Kieran, moving into first place!!! This is always a big boost but I tried not to let this change how I was running. I didn’t look back to see if/how much Kieran was falling away behind me or if for that matter anyone else was catching me. I tried to clock off the km’s and set the target of the next aid station in my mind and just keep looking at the lead police car escort I was getting at the front of the race (VERY cool!). Despite the heat, I wasn’t suffering any cramping issues, which is testament to my Powerbar nutrition. The race organisers had done a fantastic job in every way in this race and with aid stations every 2km’s it meant I had plenty of opportunities to get fluids on board. However the helpers at each aid station seemed more interested in taking photos of me as I approached, than handing me cups of water; they found it immensely amusing too as I went through my routine at each station of water > mouthful > spit > sponge > over head > over back > water gulp… carry on running.

Km’s 1-5 flew by, 5-10 were OK too, despite probably 75% of all the running being uphill. 10-15 began to hurt and I knew my pace was slowing, but refused to look back to see if anyone was catching me. From that point on though, km 15-20 it seemed like I was running through treacle! So much of the course was uphill and the aid stations were coming along more and more slowly. The run course was a point-to-point course, so didn’t finish back near transition and it was only at 19.5km that there was a small loop back where I’d just come from towards the finish line outside the YoYo hotel. This was the first chance I had to see what kind of lead I had and if I’d need to sprint for the finish. with no watch on, I counted my steps until second place went by the other way – 85 meant about two minutes… with now only 1km left I was pretty sure I’d done it… I was about to win my first IM 70.3 title.

As I rounded the final bend of what felt like the longest km of my life I could see the red carpet of the finishing chute, which was lined with cheering spectators. Knowing i had enough time, I swerved and walked down this “high-5’ing” the crowds as I went and soaked up every second of the victory I could. Crossing the line in 4h 09 it certainly wasn’t my fastest time over the distance, but on that course, in that wind I couldn’t care less; it was my first 70.3 win and I was over the moon letting out a massive yell of relief as i crossed the line to the cheering crowds and the bank of photographers and camera crews behind.

As ever, a HUGE tanks to my sponsors who help me SO much – PureTri, Powerbar, CompresSport, Greepers, DC Leisure and ProVO2.

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