Ironman Canada 2011

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Ironman began with my arrival in Penticton about quarter past 5 in the morning. This was about 15 minutes ahead of last year and it made all the difference. I walked right through the lineup for body-marking, got myself marked. Got the tyres on my bike pumped and headed over to the toilets before it really started to get busy. I scoped out a few of the pros getting their bikes ready and chit chatted with a few people. I then realized I had a long day on my feet ahead of me and went into the change tent to claim a chair for the rest of the morning to wait. There were some hilarious things going on that you’ll only see at Ironman. Most cannot be shared without a parental advisory. I realized that this is the reason that WTC has a minimum age of 18 years for competition in their events.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I was in my wetsuit by the time the pros went off at quarter to seven and made my way through the traffic jam and onto the beach with 5 minutes to go. I found my brother in the crowd shooting photos, not very difficult to find, he was the only one not wearing black neoprene. We had a little chat and I made my way to the front. I liked my choice of start positions last year and chose the same thing, second row, a little outside of center. I told myself that I had to go at the horn, no hesitation. Less people sang the national anthem this year than last when it felt like I was a part of a triathlete chorus line.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Then after all the hype, and talk, and waiting, and speculation it was finally underway. The horn went and it was just time for business. I tried my best to put in a solid effort off the start line to get myself in amongst some slightly quicker swimmers but after perhaps 200m I had fallen off the back of the leading crew of triathletes who had lined up near me and was swimming in clean water. The solution was to move towards the buoy line gradually where things were thicker and I soon found myself in amongst some better drafting in the river of neoprene. Nothing really surprised me about the swim. It was a long ways, it was pretty rough at some points in time and there was some unbelievably terrible navigation going on around me. I kept my head in the game and focussed on good long strokes, and keeping the breathing controlled. Eventually it was over and I was on my way out, none the worse for wear, but at the same time happy that I was finished with the swimming.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I had a fantastic transition, found some grass space to dump my gear bag and stuff the wetsuit. Helmet and sunglasses on and grabbed the shoes and ran barefoot to my bike. I got sunscreened by the volunteers and was through more than a minute faster than last year, very proud of myself. I don’t think doing it very much faster would be wise, starting with the shoes mounted to the bike isn’t permitted for the amateurs (with good reason) and running any faster would just spike the heart-rate.

As I headed out of town the passing began and while I was riding the aerobars it wasn’t possible to really work very hard at all because of the congestion. I reminded myself that I needed to have a very patient morning and treated this like some patience practice for the rest of the ride. I had also lost satellite reception on my GPS and it needed to re-acquire so it really felt like I just took the first 10 minutes to get going.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Once through town I started into the nutrition by pounding my first bottle of Gatorade and just rolled along easy to McLean creek hill. I held back as much as I could on the ascent, being passed by about a dozen guys, but the watts were still much higher than I would have wanted them. I found the speeds high with the tailwind and refused to push it, kept the watts on the low end and did my best to keep it even, meaning being passed on all of the uphills and gradually riding away from people on all of the descents. Nothing much happened from there until Richter’s Pass, just some easy riding and a lot of eating and drinking.

I mean a lot of eating and drinking. The nutrition plan was as follows:

  • 2 bottles of Gatorade – 170 cal each
  • 800cal of shot blocks
  • 2 fruit bars – 240 cal
  • 2 clif bars – 260 cal each (Subsituted one for another bottle of perform and a banana at end of bike because it was hot and I didn’t feel like eating so only 260cal)
  • A bottle of Powerbar Perform beverage at each aid station. I took 8 bottles, and drank on average three quarters of each one for a total of ~1000 cal.
  • Bananas wherever possible, which was less often than I would have liked, usually they were cut in half and only one person was doing hand-ups. Ate a total of 2.5 for ~300 cal
  • I was targeting 550+ cal/hour. By my best estimate I got in 580-600cal/hour. I drank far more than I expected, not expecting to drink as much perform as I did, and didn’t really anticipate drinking much of any water except to follow food, I drank two full bottles of water, yet still only peed once on the bike course at around 120kms. The stomach felt fine the whole way.
Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Richter’s pass with a headwind and a power-meter is a humbling experience. Last year I rode past everyone on the hill convincingly, this year I rode past no-one convincingly and was passed by dozens. I gave Fernanda Keller a huge cheer when I went past her. That was actually a high-point in the ride, she is a total legend and I think it’s great that she’s still racing pro despite being past her peak. I summited the pass eventually, a bit slower than last year, having averaged 320 watts, right about what I had hoped to do, and then set off down the other side, face tucked down against the aerobars in a zero watt tuck.

The infamous rollers are next and I found myself in with a pretty talented group of cyclists here. I was of course faster on the descents than the rest of them as I was probably 30 lbs heavier than the next biggest guy. All in all though, it wasn’t bad, it forced me to stay focussed but it also prevented me from working the uphills because I didn’t want to enter the draft zones of the guys ahead of me and be forced to pass them. I did go to the front off the top of the final rise just before we rolled out onto the flats in Cawston and put my head down, got aero into the headwind and went to work, sitting right on 275-280 watts to get away from the group. After about 10 minutes I hadn’t just formed a gap, I had dropped them like rocks and I couldn’t even see them. Onto the out and back I was now moving my way through the pro womens field. I realized as I rode towards special needs that I was now unequivocally “off the front” of the race and the only age group guys remaining ahead were very spread out. I think from 100kms through to the finish I only passed about a dozen men before reaching T2 in sixth place.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Before T2 though I had to ascend Yellow Lake which went by very quickly, keeping the head low and working on preventing wattage spikes. I was soon at the Green Mountain Road and just kept it rolling up to Yellow Lake proper where I saw my cheer crew, heckled them a bit for wasting such a beautiful day watching a race instead of riding their bikes and then took off down the hill. No brakes this year was a significant improvement to the pouring rain and hail of last and I loved the descent which wasn’t even as fast as it could have been as I was dealing with a head-wind. When tucked down with my face to the aerobars I did get a few twinges in my upper quads letting me know that they’d been working. Nothing surprising, this happens all the time to me, but it was my first warning that the legs weren’t necessarily going to be happy for the rest of the day.

As I rolled into town I came upon Paul Tichelaar and as I crested the hill in town I shut it down and rolled easy into transition. If I would have known it was the difference of 5:00:22 and 4:59:59 I probably would have kept the watts up. Instead I took my feet out of my shoes and spun the legs out, waved a bit to the crowds. They were going ballistic, it was like I was in the top 10 overall or something ;)

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
Average Power = 270 Watts – Normalized Power 290 Watts – Intensity Factor = ~0.73 – Variability Index = 1.074
Click image to enlarge

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I was handed the wrong bag in transition and when I ran into the change tent it was tied in a bit knot. I tore the whole thing open to dump the stuff out…. and out came a yellow towel. This isn’t my bag. I was on my way back to go get my real bag when someone came running, they apparently had figured out their mistake. I dumped the bag on the ground, socks, shoes, quick sunscreen spray on the shoulders, and a bottle of coke. Go. I had frozen two cans of coke with added salt in a bike bottle and left it in T2. This was to force me to take it easy on the first mile of the marathon and it worked well. It also got 300 calories into my system and got me rolling on the caffeine. I think this was an excellent strategy again and I split the first mile in 7:48. I had seen Paul run into transition as I was running out so I expected him to be catching me any second but it was taking him a while. It turned out he had stopped for a washroom break and when he caught me at about mile three I agreed to run with him.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

The pattern of the aid stations was starting to get underway, I tried to drink two cups of coke at each mile, replace my sponges with two new ones, and dump as much ice down my top as I could get my hands on. Normally that was about four cups. As I left the aid station there was always water and I tried to get a cup onto the top of my head as well. It was working well and despite running in 32 degree weather without a cloud in the sky and a tailwind I was managing to feel rather comfortable on the run. My HR was right around 155bpm and holding steady and so I continued along with Paul running about a 4:45 pace/km for the first 10 miles. I had been running 4:40 in most of my recent brick runs and holding to about a 4:50 pace as my default cruising pace during the past month so I felt that 4:45 while ambitious wasn’t unreasonable. My mind started racing for a little bit when I realized I was running in fifth place overall in the age-group race alongside a former Olympian and on track to beat my wildest dreams for an ironman finish time. I realized the danger of the situation, both physically and mentally and calmed myself down. I then decided I was not going to allow fear of the unknown slow me down before I needed to and because I was good on calories and core temperature and not feeling the least bit challenged by the pace I decided to continue. It was a risk I was going to have to take, and if I started running slower I had absolutely no guarantee it was going to mitigate the main risk I sensed I was taking, that being that my muscles were going to give up on me.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I started to really loose the strength in my stride at about 10 miles, landing and toeing off was feeling OK but the middle section of my stride was really feeling weak. It wasn’t the greatest situation to be in at all but when it happened it wasn’t a huge surprise. It was the final six weeks of training playing themselves out again for me, many workouts had been limited more by strength than by aerobic capacity and so it was only logical that my racing would be limited in the same way.

I walked my first aid station here and then walked the biggest and steepest hill on the course. There was no point in running it if the muscles were already screaming. I got to the top and got back running but the pace was now slower as I was having the onset of mild cramping in most muscles between my waist at my knees. Things continued and I walked the rest of the aid stations on the way to the turnaround, my pace was blowing out but I wanted to keep pushing onward. Just before the turnaround there is a very steep section of descent and as I walked down there to spare the quads a bit of eccentric loading it just wasn’t enough reprieve, they let me know that they were basically done for the day. I rounded the corner at special needs, scooped myself some more frozen coke and water from my bag and walked briefly while I drank. I got myself back up to a run towards the base of the climb away from the turnaround but when I got there I realized that the charade of racing was over. I was going to be walking most of the way home and I could either start walking now voluntarily or be forced to start walking in another mile or two. If I waited ‘till I was forced to walk I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to walk all the way home at all and so made the decision to try and optimize the finish time from here on out by just walking as fast as I could.

It turns out that when I’m good on energy and in a relatively good mood like I was I can walk pretty quickly with my long legs. I was holding it well below an eight minute per kilometre pace and just got down to business.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

The rest of the walk home wasn’t comfortable at all for my legs. The heat wasn’t so bad though as we had a headwind on the return. I was getting myself access to ice and coke every mile and the view was as good as it could get, I mean I was just across the street from an Ironman playing out in the lives of 2800 people! I made the most of it and eventually I realized that if I kept pushing my walking pace I still had a hope of coming in below 11 hours. That kept me going pretty good and I was even able to pick up my HR slightly on the way to the finish. On lakeshore drive everyone was screaming at me to run in to the finish but I just kept the walking up, the run wasn’t about to happen now if it wasn’t going to happen for the past 12 miles and I knew better than to try.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011 Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
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Skyline 2011

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Satellite map of the Skyline, we ran south to north, the typical direction for single-day traverses. It leaves the fire-road until the end, and provides a route with net elevation loss rather than net elevation gain.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Trailhead at 1700m
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We were happy this first river crossing after half an hour and 4kms covered had a bridge, it was only another 20 minutes until our feet would get wet and then they stayed that way for the next 6 hours.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Once into the alpine we had some puddles and creeks to dodge. Travis was a pro at leaping for the first half of the day, crossing the river at Tekarra campground his skills had been greatly diminished.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The long approach to Big Shovel pass kept us motivated with a clear destination and we made good time here on some very runnable terrain which was a treat.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The valley between Little Shovel and Big Shovel passes was great. Low alpine, so little copses of trees all over the place.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Another bridge, we didn’t need it, our feet were already soaked.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Finally at Big Shovel Pass. 2h20 and 18km covered. Nearly 2300m high.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We had left the low alpine for the bald tops of the mountains after setting out from Big Shovel but were definitely still gaining elevation. We’re headed up to “The Notch” (which is the left saddle on the far range) via Curator lake.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Enjoying a very runnable section of the trail here, not too much elevation change and less giant rocks.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Curator Lake from midway up our ascent to The Notch.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The view north from the notch. Summitted at 3:15 after 22kms. Despite looking like a good trail this was tricky to run, quite soft and lots of side-hill. It really did a number to the waterlogged-prune-skin on the edges of my heels, trying to grip on an edge while still running, not the best situation.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Looking east down to the Maligne Lake Valley at around halfway through the day. Despite having done the vast majority of our climbing in the first half the second half wouldn’t be any quicker, in fact it was even a bit slower.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Looking back to the Notch from our highest point of the day, about 2510m

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We begin our descent along the ridgetop towards Tekarra.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

More descending towards Tekarra. Lots of this was runnable but portions were very tricky with big rocks and footing became difficult. We walked portions when running tired started to get unsafe.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We found a big rock.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Mt Tekarra from the valley floor. More streams and puddles to re-soak the feet just in case they were starting to dry out. The trail was pretty runnable here so we made good time.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Snapping some photos for the last time at the foot of Mt Tekarra. 5h15 and 32km. The run started to get really difficult for me on the next ascent back up onto the ridge and I forgot to take the camera out again anywhere. I was just focussed on covering ground, not stubbing my toes and starting to put down a fair bit of sugar. I had been eating whole food up until this point (sausage, scones, banana, water) but needed to dig into the sugar to keep going strong on the way into the finish. I ran the 5 mile fire-road in 50 minutes loosing about 800m of elevation including a final 4km faster than a 5min/km pace.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

47 km in 7h17 total time & 6h01 moving time.

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Oliver Half Iron+++*

Raceday arrived at 4:25 which harkens back to Ironman, the only other race I’ve done that started at 7:00am. We weren’t the first to transition by any means but we did get there early enough to pump tyres and get in the line for toilets before the bulk of the other athletes. Travis and I suited up and made the 800m or so walk down to the beach from the transition area. It’s definitely a longer transition than I’ve had to do before but figured it could be used to my advantage if I was smart about it… but that would be getting ahead of myself.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

All of the men below age 44 went off at 7 sharp and I lined up slightly to the inside of the bulk of the pack on the first row. I’m not really a first row swimmer in terms of speed but I felt like I was a first row swimmer in terms of confidence if there was some argy-bargy going on and wanted to try it out. The people who were going to swim really fast were all jockeying for a position in the mosh-pit right in the middle of the group. I think it was about 400m to the first buoy and I set out hard, two stroke breathing full tilt to the first buoy and while I watched a lead pack form off on my left I was right near the beginning of the second group. Our group squeezed a bit near the first buoy as the people out on the edges are inevitably drawn in and I caught a few good drafts. From here on around the rest of the 2km loop I really drifted backwards through the pack. Partly due to the hard start meaning I was almost guaranteed to fade but also because of some missing swim fitness as I’ve not sonsistently been in the pool for the past 3 weeks. I couldn’t find great drafts behind people swimming in straight lines but kept swimming. Almost all of it I kept to two stroke breathing as the sunrise was really blinding if I looked to the east, and I was going too hard to restrict myself to four-stroke breathing.

I exited the water in 36:51 for 2kms which amounts to 1:51 per 100m if the course was accurate. Travis was right behind me and he basically swam the same pace as me at the Spring Thaw last month (1:36/100m) and so I’ve got a bit of evidence that the swim may have been a bit long. We could have also just been slow.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

Transition was an 800m run with a wetsuit and I adopted a strategy I’d seen on the WTC broadcast from IMNZ where you put the legs of your suit up over your shoulders and run with it on like a backpack. It worked good. The switch from swim to bike is pretty difficult on your body as the blood needs to be redistributed to your legs. A slow jog early meant I let a few spots go by but I got myself under control before picking up my jogging pace and when I got off the painful barefoot pavement run I was able to open it up and run harder across the grass. Taking it easy at the beginning of the long transition meant that I got my HR down a long ways before I was even aboard the bike which meant I was ready to go with some real power once I got aboard. Not having a bib number to wear on the bike meant I just had to grab my helmet and go. I nailed the flying mount and was en-route. All told I passed 35 of the 112 people who swam faster than me in transition. I also passed 5 on the start line who had come to a stop there to clip in and get going. Fast transition skills were worth passing 40 people, and I half jog-walked the first 100m to let my HR settle. I’m going to keep exploiting this advantage of mine with fast transitions until people start practicing this stuff.

The bike in Oliver is two and a “half” laps of a 40km loop and amounts to 93 kms (the half isn’t really 50% but geographically this is a sensible way to describe it). My estimates for race wattage was that I could do between 290 and 300 at a HR of between 150 and 155 bpm. My hopes in the previous weeks was that I might get a chance to try to totally drill the bike and go for broke and then see how the run went. I decided in the days before the race when the forecast was for heat that that wasn’t a good strategy to employ in adverse conditions, if I want to do that experiment I should do it under appropriate circumstances and this was no-such circumstances. I could learn a lot more by successfully deciding to manage a race in the heat than I could by going nuts on the bike and then melting on the run. The plan should be to try for optimal execution (meaning run my best) in tough conditions rather than to try and do a bit of an experiment by riding really hard. The plan was to try and average about 290 for the first lap and to try and pick it up by 10 watts or so, on average, for the second lap. I’ll post more statistics and analysis of the pacing strategy employed once I download and process the recorded file but for now I’ll say that for the first half lap I did 298 Watts, the second I did 299 Watts, the third I did 302 Watts and then I did 318 for the fourth and fifth “half” laps, I forgot to split them apart with the button.

I guess it goes without saying when you swim 36+ minutes on the swim and are a good cyclist that you spend most of the first half of the course passing people. I definitely did that. I caught another cyclist around 15kms into the race who had been just up the road from me for a while and we traded positions a few times. I’d go faster up the hills and he would really push on the descents, I could see that he was running a powertap and could tell he was rather blindly trying to do even watts across the full duration of the course. I felt like it was silly on a rolling course like this to try and maintain watts once I was over 50kph and so he’d go by me on the downhills pedalling hard while I soft pedaled (soft pedalling for me is still 200+ watts when I’m in race-mode but it was a big drop from the 330-340 I did most of the rest of the time) and then I’d pass him on the ascents. The trades went back and forth for about 30kms and he always rode legally behind me when he was back there, a great competitor and he came and found me after the race as well to have a brief chat. When I would get passed I’d drop back and typically took in some food or drink while I waited for the gap to stretch out to 12+ meters to ride legally myself. It worked well enough, I got in a fair amount of nutrition in this section as a result of him coming past on probably half a dozen occasions – bonus. After we rode through town again I had noticed my HR was only high 140’s and that I could really pick it up and be stronger in the second half of the ride. I put in a few solid sections here and the average watts started to rise. I often found myself doing high 300s on the uphills but my HR was never drifting above 155 so I kept pushing. It was a good feeling as I was now in sparse territory, starting to lap the very back of the pack athletes and not always able to see the next person up the road who was on the lead lap. I kept the gas on though and really felt rewarded when I could spot another fast athlete up the road and then slowly reel them in. I maintained solid efforts on the uphills and pedalled easy when above 50kph.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

My nutrition strategy was to eat 800 calories of shot-bloks on the bike and drink Gatorade for 400 calories minimum, switching to water if I felt like my stomach was running on the edge of success with that amount of sugar. The stomach felt fine which indicated my pace on the bike wasn’t an overestimate and that was confirmed by my HR being at the low end of my goal spectrum. In the end I got in about 600 calories of Gatorade and didn’t need to drink much water, it meant I was going to go into the run well fuelled and could focus on drinking for thirst and hydration rather than having to try and slam gels down my throat which in 29 degree heat wouldn’t be terribly palatable.

I hopped off the bike in 7th position overall, having passed 66 people on the bike course. The bike course is 93kms long and I averaged 39.8kph over it. I had hoped for 40 or a bit more, but after riding it I realized that the course was tougher than I had imagined and with a few spots on each lap where you needed to scrub speed for navigation it’s not really fair to compare it to GWN where I didn’t touch the brakes for the entire 90kms with the exception of the U-turn turnaround. There is hardly a flat section, some really fast areas and also lots of gentle climbing at 1% or 2% grade. The kind of stuff that’ll waste lots of time or cause a lot of stress if you’re not paying very good attention. Travis watched a combination of speed and grade on his EDGE500 to stay alert which was pretty intelligent, I wish I’d thought about that strategy last year before the powermeter, I just tried to check in on my watts on occasion.

T2 was OK, but I had forgotten to turn on my garmin during the final portion of the bike ride so I didn’t have satellite reception from the beginning of the run. I started out with a little internal debate with myself about how I was going to run as fast as I could over the full course in the heat. I decided that monitoring heart-rate was probably the most appropriate feedback combined of course with how I was feeling. Using feedback from pace was going to be misleading because it was hot and it was going to take more bloodflow than normal to the skin to keep me cool. I also hadn’t done any realistic testing of what sort of run pace I could expect in the previous few weeks to base those estimates from. By the time I was a mile into the run I had dialled in my HR to a goal of 160 bpm and was maintaining it with controlled breathing. I anticipated that as the temperature kept rising and I accumulated fatigue that this would result in a fade in pace but still figured that would be the fastest way to the finish under these conditions. If you’re suffering heat stress and that’s the cause of your slowing I don’t think you can really escape that by going easier at the beginning. Anticipating a bit of pace-fade would also help me stay focussed and strong when the time came and I needed to deal with the mental consequences of seeing that you’re slowing down and can’t do much about it.

There were quite a few aid stations on the run and I did my best to get in a cup of calorie containing beverage (Coke when I could get it, or Gatorade) and then put a cup of water down my shirt and a sponge of water onto the top of my head. I was passed by a few people but when they came past me they were really really flying and I didn’t even consider latching on. Two of them went on to run 1:23:XX in hot conditions which is really fast considering the course was around 22.05kms long (by my calculations from the GPS). I kept up the running and tried not to think too much about anything other than keeping track of the kilometres and monitoring my heart rate and temperature regulation. At around 160bpm I did the first 5kms in 20:20 for about a 4:04 pace. I came through 10kms in 41:46, for an average pace of 4:17 for the second quarter. Onto the second lap of the run course I was going pretty good, I was focussed and was still running in a top 10 position. I started feeding myself some positive vibes at this point which is a bit early in the race, still at least 40 minutes to go. Normally I don’t need to start thinking positive halfway through the run, I don’t know why, perhaps I don’t normally think I have 40 minutes of pep-talk to give to myself.

I rolled through 15 kms in 63:22 for a 4:19 average pace for the split. Fading but still going, still ahead of the arbitrary 4:20 pace I figured was probably realistic based on my condition. I was happy and at the far turnaround on the second lap I realized I was gaining on someone ahead of me. He was a younger guy, and pretty skinny. I knew that if it came down to a footrace with a mile left I didn’t really have a chance purely due to turnover. If I wanted to reel back that slot I had to do it now, and put in a gap and then try and hold it to the finish. I was pretty hurting, my pace was fading due to the heat, and my right foot had gone a bit numb for a while. I was now running in water logged shoes because of how much water I had been pouring on myself. If I had instinctively decided that I had no chance to catch him I would have finished and been satisfied but somehow I had the desire to go for it, to roll the dice and risk a total detonation with the hope of trying to earn another place on that ladder. I went hard, the 160 bpm guideline was now thrown out the window and I was going between 166 and 170 bpm. I hit 20 kms at 84:36 for a 5 km split pace of 4:15/km. Things were going in a different direction, and it wasn’t because the clouds had come out or the temperature had started to drop, I was digging a big hole and climbing right in. I had made the pass with about 3.5 kms to go and immediately gone hard to create a gap, my fastest 500m split in there was a 2:02/500m done at a blazing 4:04 pace while I was opening the gap! I kept myself focussed on the task at hand which was to run as fast as I could to the finish line and not play any more games.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

The final 2.05km (these splits were all according to my measurement, not the course indicators) I wrapped up going totally crazy and speeding up on each 500m portion bringing me to a 1:32:53, and a final pace the last section averaging 4:03/km and doing the final 500 under 4 minute pace. I was breathing as hard as I could breathe which is an interesting thing to be doing after 4.5 hours of exercise, I’ve never done that in a HIM before, it feels a lot different than breathing as hard as you can in a 15-20 minute XC run race. It’s really satisfying to be pushing yourself that hard late in the race but along with that comes a huge amount of pain. My HR peaked at 187bpm. Crossing the finish line was fantastic and I had totally raced as hard as I could. I had a bit of a stumble and loss of balance when one of the volunteers threw a towel on me so they took me to medical to keep an eye on me. It took about 5 minutes for my HR to come down to 100 after the finish, normally something that happens in between 40 and 80 seconds in normal conditions. My blood pressure was 138/53 for those of you who are interested. After recovering in medical for a while they let me go just in time to grab a couple bottles of Gatorade before getting to cheer Travis across the finish line. Travis was frustrated by his race coming in slower than last year, but the heat definitely was a factor and his decision to try and run according to pace early on the run made for a hard fade later in the race and a situation that felt rather out of his control. Hopefully there are tidbits of information to glean from this day to make Ironman at the end of the summer a more successful experience than it otherwise would have been. Lesley was the next of our contingent to cross the line, having also had a tough run in the heat. Describing the experience as “using my legs to prevent me from falling through the pavement rather than running”, shows the kind of grit it took to get through “the hardest race of [her] life”. Claire finished her first half iron distance triathlon and was able to run the whole run course after a tendon problem in her foot for the past number of weeks that has prevented any run training. There’s been discussion of the acquisition of a wetsuit instead of future rentals, so perhaps she’ll be on the start line a few more times in the next number of years, we’ll certainly be interested in having her there!

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011

Other things worth mentioning: The race was announced by Steve King (pictured). He announces at Great White North and also at Ironman Canada and I think he really makes a special day out of it for a lot of people. As I was running out onto the course he had a whole list of information about me, most of which I didn’t provide and he listed off most of my recent palmares. Also, I won a slot for Ironman Canada based on this performance. I was 2nd amongst under 29 men and the winner disappeared before awards and thus wasn’t there to claim the slot for Ironman either.


this was a Half Iron+++ because according to my estimates and measurements, the swim, the bike, and the run were all longer than the standard distance. This is not a complaint, this is an observation. I don’t think anyone was trying to mislead anyone about it, the course is well documented and I don’t think anyone cares to do the little bit extra or not, but it highlights the importance of making adjustments when comparing courses. The long T1, the long bike and the long run account for relatively sizeable amounts of time. If I make the adjustments for the run distance, this amounts to a 1:28:53 half marathon. I’ve already discussed the speed on the bike so there’s no reason to pro-rate it.

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VO2max testing and metabolic games

I’m in another research study, this one is testing the acute effects of L-arginine ingestion on exercise. They’re looking at the growth hormone levels in the blood during submaximal exertion in endurance trained athletes and so need to have a good idea where anaerobic threshold is. This means that they need to know quite a bit about my physiology to determine what normal is before they can do the double-blind test on what L-arganine will do to my two one hour riding sessions, which are to be done at 80% of my anaerobic threshold power. All that just to say that I could get a free VO2-max test out of the deal which, if you ask me, is always a good trade!

This also required body composition testing done by underwater weighing and I scored 7.2 % body fat which I think was probably reasonably accurate and also pretty acceptable for the base-season of my year. 7.2% fat means I’ve got about 14 lbs of fat on me which either sounds like a lot, or it doesn’t sound like much, depending on who you are. I take this to mean the following: If I think I can lean up to about 6% fat by race-day I have to loose a whole kilogram of fat. That also means I only have a kilogram of fat to loose. If you’re a calorie counter that’s a matter of coming up short on average 100 calories per day from here until race day, which is silly-easy if you adopt that method of body-composition control. I’ll reference you to a recent pair of blog posts written by my coach Steven Lord entitled “Calorie Counting Futility” and “More on Calorie Counting Futility” which very specifically address the issue of leaning-up as an athlete. I think you can probably tell by their titles what his opinion is! I never have been a long term calorie counter and I don’t intend on being one.

I have previously had both great success and negligible success adopting a simple strategy of shifting towards “lean protein and more salad vegetables” during lead-ups to a couple races in the previous few seasons. The philosophical strategy behind that was to phrase the choices positively so that I am trying to get satiated on those fuel sources and then will naturally reduce the component that processed carbohydrates plays in my diet. I’m currently modifying the method to incorporate a bit of a negative statement which I’m not totally certain about, as I don’t like the idea of not eating things, I think it’s more mentally healthy to phrase this stuff in the positive. For now the strategy is again a shift towards incorporating “lean protein and more salad vegetables” as well as “minimizing consumption of processed carbohydrates outside a window of 2 hours before and 2 hours after exercise”. Interestingly, that means if I’m doing a double workout in the day it doesn’t really apply. I am not monitoring my weight too closely these days and I am certainly not monitoring my body composition frequently even though I have access to a four-point electrical impedance tool which has proven reliable in the past. As I’ve written before in this blog, I found that doing so had me miss the forest for the trees.

Now that I sound like I’ve got an eating disorder I’ll get back to the VO2-max test.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This first figure shows my oxygen consumption with increasing wattage. It shows that I maxed out with one minute at 540 Watts (on an average of 60kms, and strictly less than 100kms, per week on the bike since October – not bad!) and had a peak oxygen uptake of 5.4 L/min which is a pretty good absolute score. I have scored as high as 5.7 L/min previously but that was following the Sea-to-Sea bike tour where I absolutely loaded my body with aerobic work and rode 6 days a week for 9 weeks, a far cry from the point in my season where I’m at right now. My relative score is good but not great. It definitely qualifies me for the study, but it also shows I’m not yet race-ready.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This second chart shows the results of gas-analysis. I crossed over to anaerobic work at 4 L/min with an estimated power output of between 320 and 360 Watts. The corresponding HR to this crossover occurred in the range of 165-170 bpm. Previously, I had been treating my threshold HR on the bike to be around 176 bpm which is a slight overestimate. The results of the test give me an indication that in future I need to down-estimate my cycling threshold HR by a few bpm to the high 160’s rather than the mid 170’s. A more accurate measure is unnecessary (as HR will vary day to day) and unavailable because the step-test protocol goes in 40 Watt increments and lets your HR settle intermittently rather than gradually ramping through all of the different power-outputs. Interestingly I only reached a max-HR of 196 bpm during the test. I have always cracked 200 bpm during previous tests. It’s possible that I am dealing with a tiny bit of residual fatigue from the race this past weekend which could have made a bit of difference.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

This figure is the one that I find the most interesting but it’s also the most inaccurate as it’s based on a hack calculation I did of substrate consumption during exercise. I used the table of “Thermal Equivalents of Oxygen for the non-protein respiratory quotient” from “Essentials of exercise physiology, Volume 1 By William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch” and directly substituted my respiratory exchange ratio (RER) during the test for the respiratory quotient (RQ) quoted from the table. This is a poor assumption and I know it. The testing protocol recording this data was also rather rapid and so it means that I didn’t have the opportunity to settle in to a nice and calm fat burning metabolic state during the early part of the test. This is seen by a low fat consumption in the early stages which is almost certainly false. Then as the test progresses towards anaerobic threshold my fat consumption trails off and so when I hit anaerobic threshold I am by definition exhibiting an exchange ratio of one. This is where the assumption that RER=RQ is obviously problematic. It’s almost guaranteed that I am still metabolizing some fat at this workload but the assumption implies that I cannot be.

RER – the Respiratory Exchange Ratio is the ratio of expired CO2 to the inspired O2 during exercise and it is measured at the mouth by the gas analysis machine.

RQ – the Respiratory Quotient is the ratio of CO2 produced by cellular respiration to the quantity of O2 consumed during cellular respiration. Burning carbohydrates produced 6x CO2 molecules for each 6x O2 molecules consumed giving an RQ of 1.0 Burning lipids which are a more energy dense molecule requires more O2 to metabolize the fuel for the same amount of CO2 produced.

Over a long period of time when the body functions at a constant exertion (or rest) the time average of RER is equal to the time average of RQ.

One other thing that’s interesting to do is calculate my efficiency in converting chemical energy to mechanical energy. If we look at threshold power and say that I was at 340 Watts (estimate) and I was metabolizing 20 calories per minute that means I was consuming 1394 Watts of chemical energy and exhibiting a conversion ratio of 24.4%. OK, for those of you in the know you’re very aware that 24% conversion efficiency is pretty much the gold standard in cycling so I’ll admit I cherry picked my estimate to put me there. If you look at the results over the sub-threshold exertions (below) you’ll see that there is a trend that shows me displaying a false peak in efficiency while the metabolic process RQ is translated through my blood and lungs to display itself as an RER measured at my mouth. Where the gross efficiency settles before the next incremental increase would be the true measure of my conversion ratio. As shown in the little table I do exhibit excellent conversion factors but I’m not a world record breaker.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

Gross cycling efficiency at subthreshold exertion
160 W 200 W 240 W 280 W 320 W
19.5% 20.1% 23.2% 22.3% 23.4%

OK, one final calculation for the nerds who read all the way to the end:

I know that the result is going to turn out poorly because as I already discussed there’s lots of evidence to believe that fat burning has been underestimated by the testing protocol and my lack of comprehensive skills in doing the calculations. But, I figure I should run the calculation anyways. I finished at 240 Watts with a HR that was settled right around my Ironman HR last year when all prepped up for the race in Penticton. I was significantly more aerobically fit at that point than I am now so I should have tested with a higher fat burning capacity at that HR than I did during the test, but let’s presume I’m the same. Over all of the records at 240 Watts I averaged a caloric expenditure of 14.3 calories per minute. The average percentage of that that came from fat was 21% or 3.0 calories per minute. That means I burned 858 calories per hour while riding the bike at Ironman, which totals a caloric burn of 4476 calories (5:13 bike split) and I will have been able to process 939 calories of my fat reserves on the bike. I have already well documented my nutrition strategy for Ironman on the blog so I won’t reiterate all the points here except to say that I ingested 2500 calories while on the bike. This calculation means I could have had a bike-leg caloric deficit of 1037 calories. Considering that I can EASILY burn 1000 calories per hour swimming (I’ll tell you right now I swam way harder than I biked) then I should have reached T2 having burned through more than 2000 calories of stored glycogen… (average adult’s stored glycogen is 2000 calories) and while I may be able to load myself up on a bit more than that because I’m a big person and because I employed some caloric storage training and because I did pre-race carbo fueling and the pre-race banana that entered my bloodstream during the swim for ~100 calories) these estimates show that I would have been starting the marathon with nothing in the tank, or at least with less than ~20% of my glycogen reserves.

Like I said, the calculation wasn’t going to work. I was burning more fat than this estimate leaves us to believe. I’m pretty sure that I did the bike glycogen neutral or perhaps even glycogen positive to restore some reserves lost on the swim. The deficit by these estimates would have required me to have burned 6.3 calories per minute of fat on the bike. That estimate is probably a lot closer to the truth and it’s not unreasonable to believe that I could have done that, it only amounts to 44% of my calories from fat at that workload. Considering I was riding a mix of easy and steady, that’s not an unreasonable thing to expect of my body. I’ve seen metabolic testing profiles elsewhere online with ironman exertion fat consumption ratios both at and above this 45% range.

I’ll conclude this post with one final thought. Going faster at Ironman doesn’t require that you burn as much fat as you can on the bike. Going faster at Ironman requires you doing the bike split as quickly as you can and still deliver yourself to the beginning of the run capable of running your best marathon. That probably doesn’t mean that you need to have your glycogen stores full if you’re reasonably capable of consuming calories while running and run with any sort of reasonable efficiency. If we look at how much professional ironman athletes eat (or Kona qualifying AG athletes in the M25-39 AGs) during the run portion of the event compared to athletes who are running standalone marathons in comparable times (2:40-3:00) we see a big discrepancy. Clearly the professional ironman athletes are not arriving in T2 with full glycogen stores or they wouldn’t have to eat like that. I know it’s dangerous to compare yourself to the pros to learn how to go faster (Scott Molina on IMTalk last week had excellent stuff to say on this topic – listen if you’re interested) but I think it is indicative of the fastest strategy on the bike leg NOT being anywhere close to 100% conservative.

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Starvation workouts – looking back

Jesse Kropelnicki just had an article on Xtri about so called ‘Starvation workouts’, or workouts where you try and force your body to function with higher aerobic efficiency by not feeding it what it would most like to have (pure sugar) and thus the hope is that you would be training it to default into slightly more favorable substrate usage ratios the next time you workout. In short, teach your body to burn more fat as fuel source so it uses less of the more limited carbohydrate fuel source at any given intensity.

Here’s a copy of the article. I have no idea if it is copyrighted or whatever, I presume he writes it and distributes it for free so that it gets read and he gets the publicity. I’m posting it here… so it gets read… and I can vouch for the guy otherwise having a lot of very good and very interesting stuff to say (The stuff written about critical volume has played a foundational role in how I think about training). You can read his stuff on the QT2 website as well as occasionally on XTri… so there’s my publicity plug…

The main focus of Ironman training and racing is on the improvement of metabolic efficiency. Developing metabolic efficiency is nothing more than training the body to use aerobic energy systems at the highest paces/wattages possible. This is the least costly way to fuel the body during exercise. There is a great deal of debate around how best to develop this aerobic efficiency. I, as most, would argue that training at intensities right around aerobic threshold (AeT) is the most effective way to improve the body’s aerobic efficiency. But, a recent push makes the argument that dietary changes can impact these adaptations. To this end, it has been hypothesized that “starvation workouts” can help to promote efficiency. These are rides and/or runs where athletes essentially starve themselves, in an effort to force the body to use fat as its fuel source. For example, an athlete on a long aerobic ride of 3 to 4 hours would consume only water, throughout. In my opinion the research on this practice is very uncertain, and is accompanied by a great deal of potential detriments, none of which make it an acceptable risk. Some of these potential detriments include:

1) Starvation workouts can be extremely catabolic, as the body is forced to attack lean muscle mass in order to create carbohydrates for fuel. This process of neoglucogenesis is nightmarish for lower BMI athletes, who are already strength limited, and older athletes (females beyond the age of 45 and males older than 50), who by the nature of their age have difficulty maintaining lean muscle mass. This assault on the body disintegrates muscle mass, thus exacerbating an already problematic limiter. Furthermore, depriving the body of the fuel that it needs to train over long durations can set the stage for a compromised immune system, leading to missed training time due to illness.

2) I am a firm believer that athletes should avoid nutritionally limited workouts, at all costs. In essence, never ever bonk! Be it a typical training workout or race day, it should NEVER happen. Starvation workouts create an atmosphere primed for bonking. This means that your workout is likely to be limited by a lack of fuel, prior to the physical energy systems being appropriately trained or stressed. This is in direct conflict with the reason why we do all of this training, in the first place, and focus so much time and effort on effective recovery. The goal of any workout should be to promote an environment where the athlete can have better and better workouts, pushing previous limiters, thus increasing fitness. Too many sacrifices are made, on a day-to-day basis, aimed at improving our fitness and racing, to allow our efforts to be limited by that over which we have 100% control over.

3)At the Ironman distance, training the gut to be able to absorb the nutrients in their intended race fuel is part and parcel to effectively executing their race plan. This is especially so for those with high sweat rates. These athletes often experience races that are limited by nutrition, rather than a true display of their fitness. Starvation workouts do not provide the opportunity to train this very limiter….race nutrition! We end up seeing athletes who are forced to walk through a great deal of the marathon, because they have not trained their bodies to consume and process the calories that will be required to race effectively. Because each of our athletes is equipped with a personalized race fueling strategy, that is practiced every single day in training (I cannot begin to tell you how many Power Bars and Power Gels QT2ers consume throughout the year), QT2 continues to produce some of the fastest Ironman marathoners in the professional and age group ranks.

4) I often hear of athletes using these starvation workouts during the early season base phase of training, while simultaneously in the gym trying to build strength. The catabolic nature of these types of workouts mixes terribly with the anabolic atmosphere that should be created, through a well-developed weight-training program, to create a positive hormonal balance.

Ironman racing has a nice clean series of events, namely the swim, bike, and run, with overtones of race fueling throughout and within each. How well an athlete has fueled their race does not typically become apparent until the run. I have always believed that the best way to approach limiters, in triathlon, is to first deal with those that exist in series with one another. With this in mind, and knowing that an athlete’s inability to handle their race nutrition is what typically undermines their Ironman, I try to first focus on this limiter as it typically occurs earliest in the chain of events. It really does not do much good to focus on a limiter that occurs further down the line, since it may never have the opportunity to actually become a limiter on race day. An athlete’s metabolic efficiency, on the other hand, is typically a limiter that appears in parallel with most of his or her other limiters. The cases are rare that an athlete’s race will come to a screeching halt, due to poor metabolic efficiency. Therefore, not until we are 100% certain that an athlete does not have a nutritional limiter, should we begin to even consider any unorthodox ways of improving metabolic efficiency, that could even possibly undermine the athlete’s ability to consume and process appropriate race fuels.

But, if you absolutely insist upon incorporating starvation workouts into your training regimen, I recommend trying it no more than once a month, and not until you have full confidence in all aspects of your training, racing, and fueling. At this time, there simply has not been enough research performed, on the topic, for me to feel confident endorsing it to any of our athletes. As with anything else in life, whether or not to utilize starvation workouts is really a matter of risk versus reward. In my opinion, the possible benefits of these workouts simply do not outweigh the potential risks.

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite/pro level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, LLC; a leading provider of personal triathlon and run coaching, as well as a leading provider of sports nutrition. He is the triathlon coach of professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Dede Griesbauer, Ethan Brown, and Tim Snow among others; and nutrition/cardio advisor for professional UFC fighter Kenny Florian. His interests lie in coaching professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. You can track his other coaching comments/ideas via his blog at

Jesse is definitely right, there’s not a whole ton of good scientific evidence that this strategy is net-beneficial. That said, it is something Steven Lord had me do during training in 2010. I tried to read up on it, and came to the same conclusion as Jesse, there’s not a whole ton of scientific PROOF that this is a great idea but intuitively it seems like one of the only ways to make the kinds of changes that you’d like to make in your body’s metabolic defaults. Lots of different exercise physiologists will tell you that you get an advantage at ironman by being a fat burner, but there aren’t a ton of people who will tell you how to do it. Alan Couzens profiled the technique he employed with one of his athletes a while ago in some of his writing. Now that I want to post a link to it I can’t find the exact article I’m thinking of. In any case, he had this guy modify his substrate consumption to increase fat, decrease carbs, and do a lot of work at aerobic threshold with a whole heck-ton of patience. I wish I could find the article, what he had the guy doing was low intensity stuff and not the kind of stuff that’s going to make you fast very quickly. It was however, going to make this kid fast in the long run because there were significant gains made to this athlete’s fat usage during exercise. The numbers were mind-blowing actually, this average guy was scoring somewhere near the 10calories/min from fat that people have calculated Mark Allen was able to do during his heydey in Kona (I presume that lots of the guys in the top 10 this year must be around that magic number as well).

I decided to listen to my coach.

Annette said that she was really proud of me a couple times this past year for listening to what he said. Her opinion was that lots of the other people she knew who had coaches often tried to be too smart and didn’t listen, and thus didn’t get the benefit of the protocol as it was designed. I can’t say I listened to Steven all year long about everything, and I did some complaining (thinly disguised as asking tough and frustrating questions) about some things. This was one of the things I think I complained about, but I did do what he was suggesting I do about modifying substrate usage.

This year I had already decided I was going to eat more fat than last when I had been on this idea of making my body into a carbohydrate furnace, ready to pour them in, rev a high HR, and make more watts at any cost. I wasn’t racing so long (less than 5 hours) that I felt there was a huge detriment to doing that. I knew that I could eat and digest at pretty high intensities so my game plan was to just pour fuel on the fire and not worry about running out. This worked, it wasn’t a really long term strategy I found, and I think the lack of fat in my diet was probably a bit unhealthy in other regards. My skin didn’t heal very quickly amongst a few other things that I noticed (along with some search-engine help) were probably an indication that this “burn as much fuel as you can and you’ll go faster” was probably a bit shortsighted. It made me fast at a cost that I identified as being probably not the best for myself. So, that wasn’t a change posed by Steven, but he did put a few other interesting ideas on the table.

Starting early on Steven began suggesting on my endurance focused rides that I cut the carbohydrates completely in the morning before the ride. Now it’s totally possible to load up and feel full without hardly any carbohydrates and I always did that, I never did pure starvation in the manner alluded to by Jesse’s article, however I was doing a form of starvation training. A typical breakfast would be between four and six fried eggs with cheese melted on top. A red pepper, a glass of milk, and a handful of cashews or pecans. I also pre-ran prior to some of those weekend bike rides during the spring to rack up a bonus 40 minutes. Those mornings I’d just eat some nuts or halva with water or milk before the short run, and then come home and make my big pre-ride omelette. Then I’d start riding and I definitely and noticeable wouldn’t have any blood sugar.

These long rides were not completed without eventually getting myself into the carbohydrates and eating sports nutrition (i.e. practicing the race plan) along the way. Generally I’d ride the first two hours on just water and perhaps a bit of sausage or some almonds. That was it though, I’d generally feel pretty slow (even though I wasn’t necessarily being slow) and was just a bit mentally dreary. Considering the fact that your brain won’t fuel itself off anything other than sugar the mentally dragging your ass along the road feeling was going to be par for the course. Then I’d eventually pick up the fuel, and finish off the ride allowing the body to run off of both ingested carbohydrate fuel and processed fat.

Did I observe the four points that Jesse makes? Yes. Did I suffer the consequences he outlines? Only once did I actually bonk and had to pay the consequences of taking this method to to far an extreme by missing out on planned training.

1 & 4 I no doubt experienced the catabolic effect of this kind of training as it prevented strength gains during this period of time. Whether or not it was the low-carb riding that did it or the incessant running I was doing while shooting for 7 runs per week frequency is an open question but I no doubt would say that I didn’t get any stronger during this period of training (Mid-April through Mid-July). I basically made zero gains in the gym with weights between early May and the end of July when I quit strength training. I wasn’t in a period of trying to build strength in the gym, but I would have expected that my leg strength would have improved by the amount of riding I was doing and I’d be able to see evidence of that in the gym. This was not the case, leg-holds on the leg-press sled probably got relatively more difficult as the summer went on even though I did the same set at 270lbs with each leg all the way through. Did I suffer a compromised immune system? No. I didn’t get sick at all, but I can’t rule out that the hormonal effects tied to getting so tired weren’t related to the hormonal effects brought on by operating occasionally with a blood sugar deficit. The worst blood sugar low did result once in a total bonk and came a week before a race which I proceeded to do fantastic at. In a round-about way this could have been something setting me up to get knocked into serious fatigue as a result of that race. I was at a low mentally with motivation and with energy levels the next two weeks.

2 The warning is that if you do this to your body you’re unable to push your physical limiters. OK, if we narrowly define fitness there’s a way to make this statement true. I likely didn’t make any gains with my functional threshold power over 2009 during this season, heaven forbid perhaps it got a bit worse. This is a problem with deciding that your functional threshold power is the best metric for measuring success. As a result of this training I was able to post an age-group fastest bike split and on the run, run within a couple percent of my open marathon time. These are measurements of fitness success both un-acheivable last season, and so I think it’s misleading to say that because you might not be gaining a certain type of fitness by doing these workouts that it means you’re not getting better. If it makes you faster for your target race then that’s the measure of success.

3A true starvation workout doesn’t allow you to practice ironman fueling but I’d suggest that the method I used which is what I guess I’d call hybrid-carbohydrate-starvation is actually an extremely ironman specific way to practice doing the fueling. Starting with a morning-prior-to-the-ride-carboload is going to lull you into a false sense of having your glycogen stores and blood sugar at a maximum before beginning the ride. It will reinforce the idea that your nutrition is not a fragile calculus because you’ve got the glycogen reserve buffer to work against. The ironman swim is going to use up a large chunk of your glycogen and you’re not going to be eating with the “bank in reserve” during the race, you’re eating with the glycogen bank on it’s way to being empty. This is exactly what happens if you start your morning with no carbs, the blood sugar stays down, and while you’ve got some glycogen in your muscles you don’t have a big stash of liver glycogen because your body has used it over the course of the night to keep chugging along.

So would I recommend it? Early in the season (especially at bike camp in early April) I needed to be consistently eating all the way through the ride to stay topped up. Later in the season, I could still eat (I mean, I ate a LOT at Ironman, so I clearly didn’t de-train this ability) but I didn’t feel the need to constantly be eating as the season progressed. I’ll take the desire to eat carbohydrates as a measure that my body was requiring more carbohydrates, it’s generally smart like that. I also felt a lot better during the pre-carbohydrate portions of those rides as the weeks progressed. They set me up with sufficient cycling base to do the hard-ironman specific intervals that the program required as the race grew closer. I could have done all those earlier season rides fully fueled and I would have shown up with a similar cycling base, I don’t know if it would have been any better, but I wouldn’t have changed my need to be constantly pouring sugar into my mouth. I probably would have trained harder during this base period and perhaps would have come into better fitness sooner but that’s then a measure of planning appropriately and not so much what you eat. I don’t have the financial resources available to do the testing to prove that I made big gains in my metabolic efficiency this past year but I am confident that I did. Sorry, no fancy graphs from me for this post. Just a good idea for early-season pre-ride breakfast:


I’d definitely suggest that Jesse is casting this rather experimental kind of training in too negative a light. There are intelligent ways to do metabolic efficiency training and there are unintelligent ways of doing it. By suggesting that no-food starvation training is terrible without considering the middle-ground of beginning long rides in a carbohydrate depleted state I think he’s suggesting that this is something we’re hopelessly unable to improve. While I’m hesitant to really recommend what I did I do think that it’s definitely got merit. I’m quite open to there being a better way to develop this skill with our bodies than the method I used but I’m pretty confident that it is possible to do a better job of it than doing no job at all which is what Jesse is unfortunately suggesting.

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Long Term Goals

I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about where things are headed in 2011 and beyond with the fitness game, I’m currently under the assumption that I continue playing it. I still love it, and I’ve enjoyed making a progression through things, but Ironman was a bit of a destination and so future things needed to be sketched from scratch.

I was having all sorts of scenarios play out in my head about this and that and it was hard to sort anything out. Then I decided I needed to sit back and write down a few goals. The Ironman had been on the horizon for a long time before I got really serious about it, it was a multi-season goal, and now it’s multi-season goals that once again are making up the majority of the thoughts rolling around inside my head.

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.

Long term:

  • Reclaim balance in my life with sport. I have been trying too hard and it is mentally exhausting. I spent a year with the mental attitude of “pull out all the stops” and I can’t handle doing that anymore. I can create as many good habits as I need to and I can drop all the bad habits that I need to but I can’t live with the attitude that I need to do things that I don’t want to do. The backlash from this is unhealthy. This is also making too many things a point of stress in my life. If I’m going to train like this again I need to make the training stress the only source of stress in my life, because I can’t let myself re-do that period of time, it wasn’t healthy.
  • I need to reclaim a rest day each week with NO training. No easy training days and pretending that they’re rest except for during specific prep for the season’s A race between 8 & 3 weeks out. I’m undecided if this rule applies to a consistent block of running or not. I would like to think that it does apply. If I’m doing a MAF development challenge then I need to plan to double up once a week. I executed my first aerobic development challenge with 6 days a week of running, it found me more than 6 minutes of half marathon PR. The seventh day of training is the less value than the seventh set of workouts. If I need the seventh day worth of workouts then I can fit them into 6 days. In my mind this is quite clearly and if.
  • Make it to Kona
    • 1 hour swim (1:25/100yds)
    • 4:50 bike. (23.2 mph or 37.3 kph) – I think this is approximately 54 minute 40km TT shape i.e. FTP yields 44.4kph in fair conditions.
      • Analytical Cycling says that this is an FTP of approximately 334Watts.
      • I have absolutely no idea where I’m at.
    • 3:15 – 3:20 run (4:45/km or 7:40/mile)
    • transitions
    • contingency time

What it takes? The first two long-term goals are going to require dedication and aren’t always going to be easy, but they’re probably more important than #3. The breakdown of Part 3 goes as follows – to get the Kona slot I think I need to:

  • Treat Ironman as a race with finite duration rather than infinite duration. Unlimited endurance is unnecessary and seeking it drained me too much. Not being tired at the end of Ironman but only being sore is not the fastest way to do this sport.
  • Get my MAF run pace down to 3:50-3:52/km. This will come with consistency, but it might not come within a year. My best recorded MAF test result was at 4:02 this summer, it was a single data-point though and I think I really only achieved a MAF pace of 4:05-4:07.
  • Run a significantly faster marathon than I need to run for Ironman. Goal = 7 min miles = 3h4min
  • Get my threshold swim speed down to 1:22/100yds (10 seconds faster than what I can do now)
  • I am probably good enough to ride this fast if I decided that this was how fast I needed to ride. I could do it, but with not much confidence that I’d be running my best afterward.
  • I need to adopt a bit more of a balanced cycling program so I can strategically race the bike leg. This means I need to improve the short duration end of the power-curve. This is not to be done at the expense of totally giving up the favorable fat burning bias I’ve developed so successfully in 2010.
  • I now want to use a power meter.

In all honesty I don’t think I’ll be ready to race at this level next year. I can get there in the long term but I’m not yet ready to do it next year. Making this realization answered my questions regarding racing Ironman Cozumel in 2011. That time line is too aggressive. I can’t ever be sure I’ll qualify the next time I try Ironman, but I don’t see that it’s worth making all of the sacrifices to try it until I at least think I have a chance. The time/effort/stress cost of it is too high to rush it.

Quarq cinquo FSA SL-K

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Specific Athletic Goals for 2011

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.


  • Figure out how I am going to fit more swimming into my new life as a working person. I need to find my love of swimming again.
  • No swimming with the purpose of building fitness, only swimming with the purpose of being a better swimmer.


  • Twice I need to put a 6 week focus on MAF running and aim for high frequency. Learn what this does to MAF pace.
  • Run a fast marathon.
    • I feel like 7 minute miles is a rough estimate for the prerequisite I’ve estimated for Kona qualification. This will be a rough target for the year however race-day target pace will be based on evidence in training and not what I want to do.

I’m unsure of what the “minimum” is when I’ve got the MAF focus. Perhaps 30 minutes for 3 weeks immediately into 40 minutes for 3 weeks. Or 7.5kms for 3 weeks into 10kms for 3 weeks Those seem challenging yet appropriate. Keep track of MAF pace throughout this kind of training as well as through less focused training. I don’t believe I have graduated from MAF training on the run yet.

Otherwise I hope to execute a balanced run program. Be a balanced runner. 1x weekly endurance focused run, 1x intervals session with focus on 400m-1000m VO2max intervals with perfect form, 1x progression run or general tempo run designed for experience at marathon pace. During specific prep phases include a hills run where I run fast on ups and on downs (to eccentrically load the muscles and develop leg strength) plus additional easy runs (to get miles).


  • Learn to really race bikes.
  • Switch clubs so I have people to train on the road with and race as much as I possibly can. This means that this is the focus for May-August.


  • Don’t miss out on an entire season to gain some experience racing. That would be silly, so I need to race, and 70.3 seems like the appropriate distance.

An Aside:I am no longer convinced that I tapered ideally for the bike for Ironman. When I rode my best bike splits relative to my fitness (Chinook 2009 and GWN 2010) I had not been as bike-rested as I was for Ironman and Calgary 70.3. This makes me think I should probably try to design a slightly different protocol. For example I rode a pretty serious ride two days out from GWN, long stretches above IMeffort. I think the reason is this: I have such a hard time getting actually sore from cycling using the kind of protocol I used this past year that I can work on fitness so well on the bike that as soon as I stop riding I start to loose it. There’s minimal rest required with the method of training I employed this past year. If I were training with a balanced program and loading up on muscular fatigue then perhaps I’d need to taper but if I’m not training hard, just riding a lot then I don’t need to taper from it. We’ll see next year as I intend to train with more intensity on the bike, I may well find that I need to taper on the bike to perform well.

I should be able to learn quite a bit about cycling and cycle tapering by racing bikes and doing a half Ironman without a bike taper. I may squeeze in a few short course races as well depending on how they fit in alongside bike racing. I think they’d help maintain and develop skills in mentally focusing at max steady state effort instead of cycling which will be far more strategic next year. Some power and HR data from Olympic distance racing would probably be valuable in planning future training. If I decide to do it it would have to fit into a schedule with a few specific prep run-workouts and about 3 days of unloaded training so I could actually perform well. Weekends quickly get busy in the summer, so I don’t know exactly how this will fit, the ATA schedule is not confirmed anyhow.

Season plans:

As soon as the Achilles allows – get in the pool. Start knocking down 10km weeks. Figure out how to make it fit. Figure out how to stay focused. Figure out how to love it again. If I start hating it I need to change something to make it work again. Think about swimming primary goal for swimming is getting to the pool with motivation. This needs to continue throughout the year.

Cycling through the winter.

Indoor training 2 or 3 sessions per week. Ride as much as I want to, no pressure to “get workouts in” until May.

Running until Christmas – just get back into it

starting in January:

  • 3 weeks balanced program
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 6 weeks MAF focus
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon including 10mile race.

MAF tests bi-weekly throughout

Run focus finishes with Vancouver Marathon on May 1

May – train like a maniac on the bike, long easy miles transition into balanced intensity high mileage.

Running stays balanced and easy recovery from Marathon, no rush to get run fit again keeps the pressure down.

Early June – Oliver Half Ironman

Minimal taper on bike to see how that works, I need to log the TT time though to make sure I’m ready to put out power in that position as not doing so was a recipe for disaster at Chinook 2010 on the bike leg. I’d mostly rely on residual run fitness from marathon prep, 5 weeks later is late enough to race again but it’s not really enough time to put in a good training block after the marathon. My 2009 marathon showed me that it will take a while to get my run legs back. No pressure on race day, set my sights high and just race. Love the sport and have fun. I’m not trying to benchmark or gauge progression or test a strategy, I’m just racing. It will probably be a season highlight.

June-July-August. Race bikes whenever possible. Go backpacking a couple times. Perhaps fit in a bike-tour with trailer for a few days. Minimal structured training except to fit in specific prep to race well at Bowness Stage Race, Road Provincial Championships and LaPierre Stage Race in August. If I’m feeling interested, race a late summer olympic distance triathlon. Help out friends training for IMCanada by accompanying them on their long rides when possible.

Run three times/week bi-weekly long run.

Cyclocross continues in the fall as entertainment and I don’t worry about my bike fitness. I let it fade and try to reap the rewards with some racing. This probably means I should move my long run to midweek in the fall so I can do a bit more horsing around on the ‘cross bike on the weekends.

Running – Begin focus again in September 2011

  • 6 weeks MAF focus with weekly cross country race.
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon.

Marathon in Nevada on November 20. Choose either a fast one or a really challenging hilly one depending on how the spring marathon goes. Both options exist on the same weekend, I can of course wait until after the spring marathon to decide which one I’d rather do, if I choose hills the training will of course have to reflect this choice.

Mesquite Marathon

Spring Marathon – in the city.

Vancouver Marathon

Fall Marathon – in the desert.

Sneak Peak at Ironman Attempt #2 – 2012

Take a break until Christmas and then begin structured training in January 2012 for Ironman. At which point I’ll almost certainly be a better runner. Hopefully I’ll be a more confident runner. I’ll almost certainly be a better cyclist. I’ll have a season of training with a power-meter and will have a pretty good idea about training with it in the lead-up to IM. Listening to Gordo talk about this and seeing how many people raced Kona with them has me almost convinced that there is cause and effect. It can’t be just the fact that people think they need then when they’re so widespread at the top level yet still not cheap.

Options include: Cozumel in November (AZ is similar time but I’d rather go to Mexico if I choose a late-season race), Coeur d’Alene in June, St George in April, or potentially Ironman Canada or Wisconsin at the end of the summer or potentially Brazil in late May. Brazil and Cozumel would be the faster races. We’ll presume that Cozumel will be just as competitive as everything else by that point in time. I can’t see how anything can stay stay non-competitive with people wanting to get to Kona, the first year has got to be a fluke.

I don’t know if it’s an advantage or disadvantage for me to choose a tough race or a faster and easier race. My instinct is that I shouldn’t choose a tough run course (StG is a bad idea). Choosing a hard bike course like Wisconsin seems like the strategic option, but all those rolling hills could thrash me just as much as anyone else, there isn’t really a safe bet. Wisconsin also qualifies for an entire year later which is kinda cool. I also might have the opportunity to run Boston the following spring if this marathon game is successful. If I qualified I think I’d like to do it, it would be really fun, that puts the earliest I would be ready to try Ironman well into August because I presume I’d be training to run well in Boston. I think Wisconsin becomes the preference although the financial cost of that doing that one is pretty high, it probably needs to be weighed pros/cons against Ironman Canada in more detail, but I’ve got almost a year before I’d have to sign up. Unfortunately I need to decide on which race to do before I can hear first-hand stories about Cozumel from Stefan.

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Mental Training

I have a sense that I spent a vast majority of the last year mentally training for Ironman and not so much physically training for Ironman. When I go back and look at the training log there are very very few sessions in there that were physically challenging to complete. When I look at how I trained 4 years ago when I was just getting into the sport, I was physically challenging myself a lot more than I did this season. Recently I’ve been trying to do so much all the time that the thing that’s limiting me from training better is basically fatigue management. Mental gymnastics to motivate myself into adding more aerobic training load to the table. I never wanted to go so hard one day that I was potentially sacrificing tomorrow’s training. That’s supposed to be the golden rule… but I spent 7 months on the edge of getting too tired. That was almost the only mode of training and it became a total mental game. If I recount what was physically challenging I can list it all for 2010, I can’t do that for last year, it would mean copying and pasting 5 out of 10 workouts each week most months.

Workouts where I got to a limit of what I could do during the 2010 season:

  1. One part of one ride at the spring training camp on the bike I totally challenged what I could ask myself to do. The entire rest of the camp I was too concerned with not getting too tired.
  2. My first 30km run of the year was a challenge, it was a big step up from what I was doing, muscles could barely handle it past 26kms.
  3. Sunday morning bike race way back April was a challenge, I got to race a category above what I normally am allowed into and raced HARD. It would have qualified for the list even if I hadn’t tacked on another 100kms to the back end of it to make an iron-ride out of the day as well.
  4. The Calgary Police Half marathon was a challenge, and I succeeded in going sub 90 minutes for the first time ever.
    • May had no challenges, not surprisingly I was so stressed out from organizing that race that I had no ability to challenge myself in training, only to do it.
    • 40 runs in 40 days was tough but it didn’t challenge the physical limits in any workouts, just mental ones.
  5. Highwood pass double traverse: The only time I think my endurance was challenged – completing the 300km ride.
  6. Chinook Half was only challenging on the run, I couldn’t mentally cope on the bike with frustration and lack of experience riding my TT rig. Fortunately I then I got off and lit up a great run.
    • The Ditch Bonk – challenge? er… no… Stupidity?
  7. Great White North. Challenging swim, bike and run. I had spent so much time on the edge of getting too tired that this one really knocked me down for the count. As you probably recall I got smoked.
  8. Challenging bike ride 185km two man TT “race” just prior to my mini epic camp.
  9. 3×10km poker pacing run during epic camp. No challenging riding or swimming happened all week despite netting 47 hours. Just mentally tough to get through.
  10. The 34km run 3 weeks prior to race day was a challenge, largely brought on by the heat.
  11. Ironman Canada. Challenged the pain threshold for miles 16 through 26. I’m not sure if I really should be counting this as the race, or just the run. If I use the same criteria as my other rides through the summer this ride wouldn’t actually have made the cut which as a challenging ride. I’m not sure what to think about that. It means there’s still something to accomplish out there.

In retrospect I netted 10 times physically challenging myself in the course of 6 months prior to race day and spent the rest of it on the balancing edge of getting too tired by doing too much. My gut feeling is that this ratio is not correct. Considering that 5 of those were brought on by racing and only 5 were in training on average I was challenging myself in training less than once a month?

I had a good chat with my coach today and he wasn’t overly surprised by this tally. Not nearly as surprised as I was. I mentioned the fact that I had read that Mirinda Carfrae was doing two really focused and challenging bike workouts per week all year and it looks to have paid off at the world championships. His comment was that’s all well and fine but we can’t just look at how the person trained during their last year before the race. We have to look at their whole career. I myself have been saying that Ironman training takes more than a year so I should agree. Sometimes it’s hard to agree with myself though! I did a good job of finding a coach whose philosophy I agree with, so when I now wonder and have all sorts of questions it feels kind of like I’m the one who’s saying to myself “I told you so”.

Often when I read about how people who are better than me train, they have designed a training schedule where there are key sessions to show up for… and you physically challenge yourself each time you go do them. Step 1: Get mentally charged up for the workout. Step 2. Go nuts! I did mentally get charged up for a few workouts this summer… and they all got listed here. I had a schedule and mindset where everything was just a part of the whole and you had to dole out your ability to train carefully so you could do it all. I did get faster on the run since February but I’m not totally convinced that I got a whole lot on the bike or the swim.. I slapped together 3 x 20 hours weeks in a row in February in the middle of winter when I had less than 8 hours a day of sunlight to deal with and the cards were stacked against me. Later on in the summer I was equally fatigued from putting together a string of 20-22 hour weeks. I think that means I was a bit too close to the edge of being too tired for too long. Getting to that edge is important, it makes you strong for Ironman but I’m not convinced I need to go there and sit there for months at a time. Going to visit is nice, but a few weeks visit a few times a season is probably enough.

I made a chart that shows my moving average equivalent hours of work representative of RPE and it starts out when Steven started coaching me at 1.4. We did a 30/30/30 challenge and by the end of it I was down to 1.3. I stayed right around 1.3 all the way until we neared the end of the 40/40/40 at which point it falls off to 1.25 and it stayed there through until late July. During August and my taper it rose up to 1.35 by race day. In comparison to the season prior, I spent the winter “low” at 1.35 and it increased and increased my intensity along with with my training load. Then I overdid it a bit towards the end with the intensity and volume getting a bit out of control at 1.55 and I wound up flat for my season ending race. Along the way though, I had some fantastic performances and I got really really fit. I might have had a higher functional threshold power last year than I did this year. I absolutely would not have been surprised if I had power data to back this guess up. It was not a slouch on the bike this year but I might not be faster. I saw my average speeds from our Icefields Double Traverse last July and I don’t think I could have done any better this year.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

What does this trend tell me? I think it’s saying I beat myself down too hard in late May and June. My average training intensity was falling at a point in the season where the “big base” should have already been built. I would think that with 12 weeks to go to Ironman that you should be thinking about picking up the specificity which would mean trading in some of the long long long slow slow slow, for Ironman pace and perhaps paring back a bit of the overall load to do so. I hampered the ability to design things that way by racing a few times during this part of the year. I would have ideally made the turn towards gradually rising intensity at the beginning of June rather than the middle of July. Making that shift earlier probably would have meant I would have have trained with a bit more intensity, stressed the muscles a bit more and been a bit stronger. It would have meant I had a bit more power at IM effort. Maybe it would have meant I could have run faster from mile 16 through to the finish.

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Ironman Nutrition

Michael Lovato posted his nutrition plan from Ironman Hawaii on the First Endurance Blog yesterday and I of course read it… and then I thought about it an awful lot in the past day. Of course, he’s got an agreement with a specific company to use their products during training and racing so there’s some impartiality lacking, but that’s besides the point. The details of a plan are given and it’s not a bogus plan, it’s real and accurate and the guy executed it and it sounds reasonable. Unfortunately there’s not as much of that on the internet as you might imagine. There’s people posting all over the internet what their strategies are for triathlon nutrition but there is no way that they’re accurate. There’s also just as many garbage plans posted to the web out there as there are good plans posted to the web. Lovato has a good one and there is a LOT of really good information in it. I’d recommend reading it.

While Lovato doesn’t explicitly state he’s trying to create certain hormonal condition for racing in addition to getting the fueling right I think the plan he gives does just that. I’ve been thinking about tricking your body’s insulin response quite a bit recently and some of the related things that go with hormones during both exercise and recovery. Joe Friel had an excellent article on his website today about RER & fuel sources during exercise. In it he provides a reference to a study I’d recently read the abstract of about pre-exercise fuel. I still can’t get the full text of it and the abstract doesn’t allude to the answer but I believe the authors likely would assume the source of the variation seen has something to do with the insulin response caused by the glucose versus the fructose. Also worth linking for the interested reader is an article about exercising under depleted carbohydrate conditions (this is a valid way to train your body to run at a lower RER despite what people may think) and another article establishing that consuming carbohydrates during exercise raises RER. Us as athletes can’t somehow select an RER during exercise, our body decides upon it based on our exertion… but because the relationship between RERs and exertion do sometimes change, it’s something that we probably can modify if we want to, in theory it can be trained.

An aside for the real geeks: The electrical engineer slash physicist in me wants to learn the dirac-response to all of the different things I could put in my body as though I function as a neatly organized linear system. Then I could make a “Nutritional Born Approximation” of my body and the protocol I’m following and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with the macronutrient levels in my blood/liver/muscles during exercise. Clearly it doesn’t work like that and I think a lot of people then dismiss the question as “the body is more complicated than you think”. I agree, the body is more complicated than I’d like it to be in this regard but I refuse to believe that it is too complicated for me to study and learn. How do we learn to make any improvements to sports nutrition at all? I am far exceeding progress compared to where I could be based purely on trial and error so obviously some of the system is at least quasi understandable. The obvious question to ask then is what makes the system nonlinear. That’s the starting point to make a guess at how to best approximate a nonlinear system and as best as I can tell the answer is hormone levels. Insulin is the obvious one as well as the ones involves in regulating free fatty acids, and the more I reflect on the past couple seasons epinephrine has likely got to have something to do with substrate consumption. Paul Tichelaar mentioned while we were riding together at one point this summer that he thinks very very few coaches really understand hormones and that getting a grip on that would really help us out as athletes. I thought a bit about it at the time but I couldn’t see the course of action to learn to be better about it, now I’m starting to see it and I’d like to pursue it. If only I had more time.

Now that I’ve written a half page of ramble I’ll finally get to the point I was going to try and make. I had a great nutrition plan at Ironman. I practiced during training with it and I executed it very precisely on race day. Energy levels and gastric distress did not play a role whatsoever in my race which is exactly the role that you’d like them to play. So if you didn’t get the clue already I’d recommend reading Michael Lovato’s nutrition plan and if you’re so inclined feel free to continue reading and have a look at mine.

  • Friday is the day of my last workout (Sunday = Raceday). Total duration set to be close to my previously established duration of glycogen supply when my body is operating at Ironman pace. For me this is 1 hour 40 minutes and I did about the equivalent of a sprint triathlon with a 50% too-long bike leg. The workout is long enough that I’m going to generally drain out my muscles but I’m not going to drain then dry. Immediately following this workout I hit myself hard with good recovery food. Approximately 3:1 carbs:protein. Consume a whole protein source. I ate fruit, rice, sausage and nuts. I ate until I was full… and then ate a big lunch 30 minutes later. This marked the end of excessive eating. I needed to make sure the body would be reloaded but not stuffed.
  • Night before – Ate a bunch of stuff that I enjoy eating, not trying to stuff myself. I ate a bunch of Quinoa and half a pork tenderloin. If I wasn’t sharing with Dad I would have probably eaten the whole pork tenderloin though!
  • Breakfast – 4 fried eggs, 4 small pieces of bread, some olive oil on top to make things slimey, and a full tub of yogurt. I also had a few pieces of cheese as well as a banana and a kiwi fruit. Emphasis is on not being hungry and lasting from 4:30am when I ate the meal until 8am when I would be on my bike and beginning to eat in earnest once again. There’s no big sources of fiber here, and there’s a relatively high fat and protein content in this meal compared to what is often recommended for pre-exercise. Carbohydrates are there but the emphasis is on stuff that has low to medium glycemic load, I guess the fruit doesn’t really fit the bill. The idea is to get the digestive system running, and running above a minimal idle, not just to put the key into the ignition. Minimal insulin response to this meal and in that sense similar to Lovato.
  • Race Morning – brought water along but didn’t drink more than 500 mls. Banana at 30 minutes until the start. This will be hitting my bloodstream and leaving the stomach as the race begins. Note Lovato’s tip: don’t go into that long swim with a slightly dipping blood sugar. I wouldn’t go into any swim with a dipping blood sugar and that’s often the reason I’m the guy standing on the pool deck at triathlon club workouts while we wait for the group ahead of us to finish and I’m munching on something. Low blood sugar is a recipe for poor focus and low motivation and personally that’s a recipe for disaster during a swim.
  • During the bike – Targetting 2500 calories in the first 4.5 hours on the bike leaving me a full half hour for the descent off of Richter without any pressure to keep consuming. It is un-aero and inefficient to eat when you could be doing more than 60 kph. I also want to give my stomach a chance to empty out so I hit the run with my body loaded up with energy and fuel but without a brimming stomach.

    With me:

    • 2×24oz bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories
    • 2 tube shot bloks = 400 calories, (one before Richter, one before yellow lake)
    • 4 gels 4×110 = 440 calories
    • 4 clif bars = 960 calories

    Need to get en-route:

    • 5 bananas = 600 calories (try at every aid station if there’s time, there isn’t always if I’m trying to get two bottles)
    • 2 bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories
    • Drink Water the rest of the way. (Leave every aid station with more than half a bottle of water)

    Add up all the calories except for the gels and throw away 4x(1/4) full bottles of gatorade and you wind up at 2500 calories.

    The plan was not to eat any of the gels unless I felt like I needed to get more simple sugar flowing into my body in which case they could replace a clif bar or bananas if I couldn’t get them from the aid stations. I preferred to stick to a slightly more complex carbohydrate than powergel. Admittedly I could just choose to eat hammer-gels or carbo-pro or mix up a stiff bottle of perpetuem or something like that and achieve the same ratios and style of calories but I want to be able to happily get through this race without feeling hungry which I discovered can happen if I’m fully fueled but I’ve not been eating much real food. The end result is that I wanted to chew on something to tell the body I was eating and selected to eat clif-bars. They taste good, they chew a lot prettier than a powerbar, and they are at a pretty optimal level of carbohydrate complexity for the intensity I planned to race at. They’re not as low in fiber as all the other options I mentioned earlier but they’re not “high” like any oat based granola bar. That said, I am drinking gatorade as my primary source of electrolytes on the bike and am getting some pretty simple sugar from there as well as from the 2 tubes of shot bloks which I consumed at the base of each climb, with the intention of riding at a higher exertion on the climbs than on the flats and making sure that I was only asking my digestive system to to relatively easier work while I was asking my legs and lungs to be doing relatively harder work.

  • Can of coke in bike special needs… only plan to stop for it if I’m having a rough time, otherwise I want to conserve the caffeine boost until the run.
  • On my aerobars I had a list of landmarks and relative locations of aid stations as well as a guide to how many calories I needed to put in by certain landmarks to stay on track nutrition-wise. I also noted where I would be when each hour of the ride rolled over to the next if I was keeping pace for a 5 hour 5 minute bike split.
  • Leaving T2 – I had a disposable bottle filled with two cans of cola and extra electrolytes added (3xEload caps) which had been frozen overnight and wrapped in tin foil to keep it slushy/frozen in my T2 bag until I arrived. I took this in my hand as I left and used it as a reason to help me do the first mile slow enough otherwise I would likely totally overdo it. It also got the caffeine flowing in my system which is just what I wanted as I find it gives me a good boost. I had a second bottle of the magic mix stashed in the special needs bag along with all sorts of random crap thinking that I wanted to cover all the bases of what I might be craving. I wasn’t craving much when I got there so I didn’t take much other than a fruit leather (50 cals). A special note for people doing Ironman Canada, you should have something to drink in there as there is no aid station at special needs but the stations are spaced out along the way as though you are due for one when you get there.
  • Aid Stations – Gels at every third aid station with water (8 gels). Drink coke/gatorade at each of the other aid stations when possible. Don’t drink more than 500ml at any one aid station as it will make my stomach slosh. Always try to have one gel in my pocket. Stash ice into top at each aid station. Once through the aid station redistribute the ice how I’d like, into arm coolers and neck. Never leave without arm-coolers being wet. The game plan was to switch to water instead of coke and gatorade if I’m feeling like my belly is full. In the final 10 mile I was full up on energy and dealing with cramping in my legs as I ran. By this point I was largely just going through the motions and taking tiny sips at the aid stations rather than drinking anything of substance or consuming much fuel. The game had changed by that point, I had no doubt about my ability to finish strong energy-wise and by the time I hit the south end of town I was in good enough shape mentally and nutritionally to lax up the plan fuel wise and put the focus on the main task which was pain management with the cramps and just keeping on trucking. I took no gels during the last 10 kms and stuck with the coke/gatorade instead.

Post race I ate some pizza but not a lot. Drank some of this and that but didn’t really do that good of a job loading up my body with all sorts of good food. I was hungry but didn’t have much appetite to actually do the eating as I’d spent the whole day eating. Oh well, I ate some chips, drank my first beer in four months, and went to bed. Nothing fancy.

On a related note I wanted to mention that I am really happy to have a guy like Chris McCormack as world champion in our sport. I’ve had differing opinions of the guy over the course of the past few years with lots of the different spins that the media tries to put on this guy. Over the past season though I’ve paid better attention to what he’s doing and what media he’s putting out and how he’s contributing to triathlon. I’ll admit the swaying of opinion could be swayed a bit by the fact that I’m now consuming more “Chris McCormack sanctioned” media and him and his sponsors have had the opportunity to polish it up a bit, take the edge off the sharp bits that might stab you, and at the same time highlight the highlights. Sure, that might have something to do with it but we can also look at the facts.

Chris probably partied hard and reveled in his win as he alluded to in his victory speech… but a week later he was in California spending a week on a big bike tour with the CAF. Where’s Mirinda Carfrae following her victory on the womens’ side? partying in Vegas. I’ll make no illusion that I wanted Macca to beat Chris Lieto, the guy I’m totally rooting for to win Kona before he retires, or even Craig Alexander who is a consummate professional and great role model in his own right, but really I am mighty mighty happy to have Macca take the crown.

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Kona Points

My coach Steven Lord posted an interesting question in his blog earlier this week. The question was this:

As there are a finite number of points to be won by any pro triathlete under the new Kona Points Qualification system implemented by WTC for the Hawaii Ironman, there must be a number of points that guarantees an athlete to qualify, because if one athlete had amassed more than that number of points it would be impossible for 50 (30 if female) other athletes to amass more than that number of points. What is the threshold?

A professional [I presume Steven is thinking about this as his partner, the rookie pro Jo Carritt, is probably planning her 2011 season right now] could then design their season to try and get that many points and once they had met that threshold they could quit racing and just focus on training for the big dance in Hawaii with confidence that they were safe instead of waiting for the deadlines of point accrual set out by WTC.

In case you are unaware points are awarded as follows:


       IRONMAN RACES   70.3 RACES  
Place P-6000 P-4000 P-2000 P-1000 P-3000 P-1500 P-750 P-500
1 6000 4000 2000 1000 3000 1500 750 500
2 5400 3520 1760 880 2000 1200 660 440
3 4900 3120 1560 780 1500 1000 585 390
4 4450 2800 1400 700 1200 700 525 350
5 4000 2400 1200 600 1000 600 450 300
6 3300 2240 1120 560 900 560 420 280
7 3100 2080 1040 520 800 520 390 260
8 2900 1920 960 480 750 480 360 240
9 2700 1760 880 440 650 440 330 220
10 2500 1600 800 400 600 400 300 200
11 2300 1440 720 360 540 360 270 180
12 2100 1280 640 320 475 320 240 160
13 1900 1120 560 280 420 280 210 140
14 1700 960 480 240 360 240 180 120
15 1500 800 400 200 300 200 150 100
16 900 200 100 50 75 50 38 25
17 800 200 100 50 75 50 38 25
18 700 200 100 50 75 50 38 25
19 600 200 100 50 75 50 38 25
20 500 200 100 50 75 50 38 25
21-30 400 100 50 20 40 25 15 10
31-40 300 100 50 20 40 25 15 10
41+ 200 100 50 20 40 25 15 10

Downloaded from on October 5, 2010

The race schedule distributes points at the following race according to the race classification:

Date for
Kona 2011
Event 70.3
Prize Purse
9/12/2010 Ford Ironman Wisconsin   P-1000 $50,000
9/12/2010 Subaru Ironman 70.3 Muskoka P-500   $25,000
9/19/2010 Ironman 70.3 Syracuse P-500   $25,000
9/19/2010 Ironman 70.3 Cancun P-750   $50,000
9/19/2010 Ironman 70.3 Centrair Tokoname Japan P-750   $25 000
9/19/2010 Ironman 70.3 Branson P-500   $25,000
9/26/2010 Ironman 70.3 Augusta P-500   $25,000
10/9/2010 Ford Ironman World Championship   P-6000 $580,000
10/17/2010 Ironman 70.3 Austin P-500   $30,000
10/30/2010 Ironman 70.3 Taiwan P-500   $15,000
10/30/2010 Rohto Ironman 70.3 Miami P-750   $50,000
11/6/2010 Ford Ironman Florida   P-1000 $50 000
11/13/2010 Foster Grant
Ironman World Championship 70.3
P-3000   $100,000
11/21/2010 Ford Ironman Arizona   P-2000 $75,000
11/28/2010 Ford Ironman Cozumel   P-2000 $75,000
12/5/2010 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship P-1500   $75,000
12/5/2010 Ironman Western Australia   P-2000 TBD
1/16/2011 Ironman 70.3 Pucon P-500   $15,000
1/23/2011 Ironman 70.3 South Africa P-750   $50,000
3/5/2011 Ironman New Zealand   P-1000 $50,000
3/19/2011 Ironman 70.3 San Juan P-750   $50,000
3/20/2011 Ironman 70.3 Singapore P-500   TBD
4/2/2011 Ironman 70.3 California P-750   $50,000
4/10/2011 Ironman South Africa   P-2000 $75,000
4/10/2011 Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas P-1500   $75,000
4/17/2011 Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans P-750   $50,000
5/1/2011 Ironman 70.3 St Croix P-750   $50,000
5/1/2011 Ironman Australia   P-1000 $25,000
5/1/2011 Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie P-750   $15,000
5/7/2011 Ford Ironman St George   P-2000 $75,000
5/14/2011 Thomas Cook Ironman 70.3 Mallorca P-500   $15,000
5/15/2011 Ironman 70.3 Florida P-500   $15,000
5/21/2011 Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas   P-4000 $100,000
5/21/2011 Ironman Lanzarote   P-1000 $25,000
5/22/2011 Ironman China   P-1000 $25,000
5/22/2011 Ironman 70.3 China P-500   $15,000
5/22/2011 Ironman 70.3 Austria P-750   $50,000
5/29/2011 Ironman Brazil   P-2000 $75,000
6/4/2011 Ironman 70.3 Hawaii P-500   $15,000
6/5/2011 Powerbar Ironman 70.3 Switzerland P-750   $50,000
6/5/2011 Ironman 70.3 Mooseman P-500   $15,000
6/11/2011 Ironman 70.3 Boise P-500   $15,000
6/12/2011 Ironman 70.3 Kansas P-750   $50,000
6/12/2011 Subaru Ironman 70.3 Eagleman P-750   $50,000
6/19/2011 Ironman 70.3 UK P-500   $15,000
6/26/2011 Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene   P-1000 $25,000
6/26/2011 Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake P-500   $15,000
6/26/2011 Ironman France   P-1000 $25,000
7/3/2011 Karnten Ironman Austria   P-2000 $75,000
TENTATIVE Ironman Japan   P-2000 $75,000
7/10/2011 Ironman Switzerland   P-2000 $75,000
7/10/2011 Amica Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island P-500   $15,000
7/17/2011 Ironman 70.3 Racine P-500   $15,000
7/17/2011 Ironman 70.3 Vineman P-750   $50,000
7/24/2011 Frankfurter Sparkasse
Ironman European Championship
  P-4000 $100,000
7/24/2011 Ford Ironman Lake Placid   P-2000 $75,000
TBD Ironman 70.3 Antwerp P-500   $15,000
7/30/2011 Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead P-500   $15,000
7/31/2011 Ironman UK   P-1000 $25,000
7/31/2011 Viterra Ironman 70.3 Calgary P-500   $15,000
8/7/2011 Ironman Regensburg   P-1000 $25,000
8/7/2011 Ironman 70.3 Boulder P-750   $50,000
8/14/2011 Ironman 70.3 Germany P-1500   $75,000
8/21/2011 Ironman 70.3 Timberman P-750   $50,000
8/21/2011 Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines P-500   $15,000
8/27/2011 Ironman 70.3 Brazil P-750   $50,000
TENTATIVE Ironman Korea   P-1000 $25,000
8/28/2011 Ford Ironman Louisville   P-1000 $25,000
8/28/2011 Subaru Ironman Canada   P-2000 $75,000

Downloaded from on October 5, 2010

Different races are set to distribute the points according to different schedules, similar to accumulating points towards the Alberta Bicycle Association Alberta Cup where some races are ‘Schedule-A’ and some races are ‘Schedule-B’. Intuitively you know that if you do good at the good events you are going to soak up the points, but the competition knows this at the same time and they’re going to show up there as well and stiffen the competition for those points. It will be quite interesting from a spectator’s perspective to watch how the pros decide to go about accruing points in the next year… I haven’t seen any “instructions” or guidelines directing people on what’s a decent strategy. It might be the case that some of the professionals aren’t going to quite figure out how to play the Kona-Points-Game in the first year that it exists. That will be interesting as then they’re going to want to have exceptions made according to the Lance-Armstrong clause that so many of them whined so much about in the last few months. I’m not confident I understand the strategy for second-tier pros well enough to make a suggestion of where they should focus their efforts on racing well to accrue points, though for the highly competitive professionals I think that the system quite clearly suggests one strategy.

I’m pretty sure that the strategy for the big guns is to make sure that they shy away from the P-1000 ironman races and to make sure that you have flexibility in your schedule until they’re past the threshold (I’ll get to that in a minute). They need the flexibility to make sure that they could race two full WTC Ironman races and three WTC branded 70.3s. You’ll see soon that for the real hotshots in our sport, they can net themselves a Kona berth without dedicating their whole season to race as a “WTC owned athlete” which is what I’ve heard some grumbling about. A half decent finish in Kona this year, perhaps backed up with a season-wrapper-upper at Arizona, Cozumel or Western Australia and you’re almost done. Then pick up a couple WTC brand 70.3 races next year to tune up for wherever else you want to race… like Roth, Copenhagen, Henley-on-Thames, or Abu Dhabi and you’re set. If you don’t do well in Kona this year to get a good start on your points (doing well in Kona is a big boost to get back to Kona, I quite like this aspect of the system) then you probably want to schedule in racing either the new IM Texas or the Frankfurt race. Put together a good race (top 5) at either of those races, do a couple 70.3s where you’re likely to win or at least come second, and you’re set. The ladies from TBB can all go on racing an IM every weekend and they’ll qualify without thinking about it, but the system isn’t requiring much more racing than what I understand most pros to be doing (some of the german guys being the exceptions… they’ll need to race a bit more, and requiring the non-Kona ironman out of people like Crowie and Carfrae who opted to skip it this past year.). Like I said, I don’t really know what the strategy is for people who aren’t yet famous and just trying to crack into the pro ranks. Do you avoid the big races so you can win or come second at some of the smaller ones? I dunno, time will tell I suppose.

OK what’s the number!

Truth is – I don’t actually know the number. It’s a pretty complicated process to figure it out and pretty quickly after trying to solve the problem exactly I wrote a little monte-carlo simulation to search for the answer instead. One thing we do know is that for Men (50 qualifiers) the threshold MUST BE BELOW 6714 and for Women (30 qualifiers) the threshold MUST BE BELOW 8525. If you’re a pro and you reach this threshold then for sure there is no way that you won’t get an invite to roll on the Queen K. However, the actual threshold is quite a bit below this. I can only say quite a bit because I’ve only run a simulation to find solutions to the problem and not actually “solved” anything.

This simulation does not take into account:

  1. The requirement that each pro must race one Ironman other than Kona
  2. The limitation on using only 3 70.3s for points
  3. The athlete could potentially enter a race twice at the same time and win both first and second place. This isn’t an issue with P-2000, P-1000 or P-750, P-500 races, but is an issue with the impossibility of scooping points twice in kona, texas or Clearwater.
  4. There’s no accounting for the possibility that the past 5 years champions somehow came 1-5 on the Kona podium and scooped up the highest points totals rendering them “useless” in terms of earning qualification as they’re all going to be allowed to come anyways. That would make a killer race though. I want to see Macca and Crowie running neck and neck for the win out of the Energy Lab this year, it would be great! Macca would be trying to get inside Crowie’s head the whole time.
  5. There is no accounting for athletes earning an “early qualifier” at the end of July and then some others contesting the final few spots during the August races on the calendar, I can’t really comment on whether or not that helps anyone or not, one thing I do know is that it offers peace of mind to a bunch of people who are liable to get very stressed out about this kind of thing. The athletes asked for this clause and WTC granted it to them, there’s a mark of hope for the world to look at!
  6. Not so much a “disregarded contingency” but to be clear, we’re going to presume here that no-one other than the 50 men (30 women) seeking a Kona slot place in all the top ranks at all 69 of the races on the schedule, enough to scoop all of the highest point totals to use for their point-stash… but we know there are more people who will inevitably scoop some of these big scores up but not enough to qualify, and some who do not do any full IM races to try and come to Kona.

All of these things are limitations to how many points different athletes can actually accrue and so the sum total of points that can be won by all the athletes is less than the simulation suggests so the threshold to qualify for kona is actually all but guaranteed to be less than these metrics. In addition, it’s very very highly unlikely that all the points are going to be distributed in the worst possible way for the kona qualifying threshold to be driven up higher and higher. The really good athletes are going to blow past the threshold and scoop a lot of extra points, that’s going to lower the threshold. Points are going to go unclaimed when fields are not super deep, that’s going to lower the threshold too.

The worst case scenario’s that I’ve been able to find are as follows:

  • It’s possible with 50 qualifying slots (Men) that the Kona Points Threshold for qualification gets as high as 6600 pts
  • It’s possible with 30 qualifying slots (Women) that the Kona Points Threshold for qualification gets as high as 8360 pts

I all but guarantee that it will be lower than this, and my guess is that it’s going to be between 5% and 20% lower than this. It’s interesting to note that the Men’s winner likely just needs to finish an Ironman in 15:59 and he’s allowed to come back with this points breakdown, after completing the stipulations (of a non-kona IM finish) of validating his entry he likely doesn’t even need to exercise his free invitation. (I’ll add that it’s possible that, even with the computer running on this calculation, it didn’t actually find the worst case scenario (which we know can’t be above 6714 and 8525 anyways), but take note of all the reasons above why this worst case scenario is unlikely to happen anyhow.

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