Today’s Plan employee Ben Hill undertakes his first IRONMAN (In the pro category!)

10 May 2023

Ben Hill has been part of the Today’s Plan team for a number of years now, and if you have ever been in contact with our support desk chances are he has helped you out with your questions. On the weekend he added another athletic achievement to his already impressive list, completing his first IRONMAN at Port Macquarie, Australia. Not only did he do it in the pro category, he also picked up a qualifying spot at the world championships in Nice later this year. Read on to hear how he found it in his own words…

Where it began

Just over a year ago my mate Ayden Toovey convinced me to do my first triathlon at the IRONMAN 70.3 Port Macquarie. I really enjoyed the experience, finishing 3rd overall age grouper. I decided triathlon was something I wanted to do more of. Looking into this further I realised this result would qualify me for my professional long course triathlon license. Talking to my incredibly supportive wife we decided to go for it and I got my pro license and started some proper triathlon training. 

70.3 Port Macquarie 2022. Photo credit: Sportograf

After a few mixed but some encouraging results over the 70.3 (Half Ironman) distance Ayden suggested we should do our first full Ironman at IRONMAN Australia. This 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run has alway been a bucket list item for me. My Dad did IRONMAN Australia back in 1987 in a time of 12:58:41. I was always inspired by this to do one myself. Although comparing my equipment against what my Dad used made me feel like we have it very easy nowadays. A few months ago we committed to the idea.

The lead up

After running through the analysis tools in Today’s Plan I had put together a pretty good idea of my goals, and broken down how I would achieve them. There are many factors that can impact your finish time but I believed if I could execute them I was capable of a 8:30 for my Ironman debut on this course. These goals included:

Training had gone okay leading in and I was feeling confident of achieving my swim and bike goals. However, I had been managing an injury the last six weeks and not done nearly the running I had hoped, so the run goals were in serious question.

The race

Swim

Photo credit: Sportograf

It was a fast start and six guys swam ahead quite quickly. I was briefly in a group of four chasing, but I got stuck behind as the swimmer in front of me lost contact with the other two. By the time I got around I could not make the gap back. So from about 400m into the race I was by myself in 9th. By the end of the swim I came out of the water with a time of 53:15, 6:28 behind the leaders. Swim goal achieved.

Transitions went as expected in times of 3:35 and 1:17 giving me a total of 4:52. Transition goal achieved.

Bike

Photo credit: Sportograf

I’ve been a cyclist for many years so I have a good understanding of what I can do and yet I was still able to exceed my expectations here. As with the swim I was solo the entire bike so I could focus on my own effort and keep the power consistent over the undulating course. I was still feeling like I was holding back within the final hour and allowed myself to push the pace over the last part of the bike. I passed a few riders and clocked the fastest bike time by nearly three minutes in a time of 4:24:19 getting me back to around two minutes behind the front group of four. Now in 5th place going into the run with more than 20 minutes lead on 6th place.

I ate all 600g of carbs and drank around 1.2 litres per hour of fluid so I achieved my on bike nutrition goals.

Run

Photo credit: Sportograf

As I was so close to the front of the race with a massive gap back to 6th my instinct was to go after it. I took off at 4 min pace which was the best I thought I could possibly maintain. After 5km I was losing time and felt this was an unrealistic pace anyway so went back to a more conservative approach. I settled into what felt like a comfortable 3hr marathon pace. Having never done a marathon or any run over 30km before, I was not sure how the body would hold up. After halfway I was a little sore but felt like I still had a good chance of holding this to the line. However, not long after, coming down a hill 19km to go my legs said no more. The muscle soreness became too much and I was reduced to more of a shuffle. My mindset went to just trying to hold my 5th place to the finish. Fortunately for me as I was slowing down heading out for my third lap of four, I met a guy who was starting his run and he said he was running about his target pace and we jogged my last 15km together. If it was not for him and the encouragement I was getting from friends and family out on course I think I would have been walking it into the finish. I ended the run in a time of 3:09:07 missing my run goal.

My final time was 8:31:34. This was just outside my estimated time but it did not feel like I failed in any way. I finished 5th as a pro in my first Ironman and I could not be more happy with that result.

Photo credit: Sportograf

This race was easy in terms of tactical decisions made as I did the whole race as an individual time trial. However there are still small things especially in the swim that I can learn from to help keep me in the race longer. And now having a marathon in the legs will give me a better chance of recognising when I’m going above my limit. But really all things considered, it went pretty well.