Ironman Training – A retrospective

Ironman training is not really a one year thing.

I’m talking about the kind of training that it takes to do Ironman as a race. The vast majority of people out there are not doing Ironman as a race, they’re doing Ironman as a stunt. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it’s a stunt, a “look at me, let’s see if I can do this” kind of undertaking and it does not require what I’m about to describe. I also know that it doesn’t take more than one year to prepare to do the stunt called Ironman because hundreds of people do it every year, they watch the race on Sunday, sign up on Monday, and start training on Tuesday. The next year they make their way to the finish line on Sunday and are spending Monday spending in the merchandise tent outfitting themselves with all kinds of clothing and widgets with M-dot insignia to tell everyone that they were successful at the Ironman stunt.

Ironman was conceived as a race and to tackle Ironman with any sort of race-mentality or race-approach there’s a requisite level of ability in swimming, cycling and running required. I wasn’t keen on attempting 226kms of racing until I was going to do 226kms of racing and not just performing the stunt. I would recommend the same thing, and to do that requires a few years of learning to swim, bike, and run. Learning what different paces feel like in the pool and on the road. Learning approximately how long you can last for a variety of these different paces. Learning that you can push your body to do a bit more than you know is possible. Learning what kind of effort it takes to do 25kph 30kph 35kph and 40kph on the road with your bike. Learning what it feels like to accumulate fatigue over the course of a period of tough training and learning to trust your body to recover and get stronger when you unload training stress. Learning how to change a flat tyre on your bike. Learning how to request a higher level of performance from your body on race day than you do on any other random given day of the week. Learning how to consume food and nutrition while exercising at intensities that allow for it. Learning how much clothing is appropriate to wear in a vast array of differing environmental conditions. I think those are all prerequisites to deciding to try and race an Ironman. None of it is necessarily difficult but I believe that all of it is important, without those basic skills, you would have too much experience to gain that you’re going to be unable to train yourself effectively without getting caught up addressing details throughout the preceding year. When push comes to shove, you need to direct your attention to training your body rather than learning how to train your body. Learn in the minor leagues, perform in the majors.

It would be awfully nice to have completed all three legs of an Ironman as stand-alone events prior to race day. The confidence boosting aspect of not setting a record longest ride, longest swim, or longest run at the same time as trying to race Ironman is worthwhile. If you’re out there for the stunt, then disregard this, why not make Ironman your longest swim, longest bike and longest run. The stunt is just all the more impressive if you do it that way. If you’re racing though, the extra stress is nothing but bad news for you. You’ll likely do the swim and ride durations many times throughout the year but likely will never do the run in that final year if you’re being intelligent about it. (Full article about why that would be considered intelligence) In short: the recovery from doing so will cost you too many days recovering of the 365 in that last year to be of net-benefit. Thus to have previously run a marathon at some point in your athletic career is a real asset.

I did 800 hours in the preceding 12 months. That averages to about 16 hours a week. I did 700 the year before that. Ironman takes a lot of training so you’d better love training. Even Ironman athletes who are way on the low end of the spectrum with an average of around 10 hours per week are still doing more than an hour a day on average. That is a lot of training. The 800 hours level of volume is almost certainly more than what you need to be able to race, but it’s not unreasonably high by any stretch of the imagination compared to others in the sport. 800 hours is likely somewhere close to what is required to get yourself in and around the 10 hour mark.

That said, you don’t need to do it fast to have a good time. My biggest goal this season was to have fun. Luckily for me training is fun, especially riding. I think I would have had just as much fun on race-day if I did it in 12 hours if 12 hours was what I was prepared to do as a best effort. My second goal was to finish (an important goal for first timers!). My third goal was to run the entire marathon. I didn’t have a time goal but rather a time target of 10 hours to keep me on track for what I knew I could do rather than what I hoped I could do. I was within a percentage of that in the end and so I’m at peace with it despite agonizing over that one minute quite a bit in the following week. Be careful about setting goals, they can make the sport a lot less enjoyable. On a slightly related note I think it’s mightily important to get approval from the people in your life before you try and train 800 hours. That’s a lot of hours.

Running

Despite what you may like to believe, I believe that triathlon is all about the run. You may cite examples of various race outcomes that might seem to suggest otherwise but on average over the many years that this sport has evolved and changed, it’s the best runners who are the best triathletes. That doesn’t mean that they don’t ride well, or swim well, but more often than not it’s the guys who can approach the run like it’s an ace in the hole that are performing to their potential. They need to be smart about the bike ride but they don’t need to worry about going too hard, they’re good enough runners that they can do portions of the bike “too hard” when it’s strategically advantageous to do so and still run extremely close to their potential. Treating a triathlon as though the run leg is the most important makes you want to be a great swimmer and a great rider. You’re going to train hard on the bike because you want to arrive to T2 ready to lay down a run split that is within only a few percent of your open run time over that distance. This means running the whole marathon no exceptions. Having the ability to run that entire marathon is going to make or break any charade of whether or not you raced Ironman. To do that you need to make yourself into a runner. (You’re also going to have to be a cyclist so you can ride 180kms to even start that run running).

A year ago I wouldn’t consider myself to be a runner. Now I would. I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary except make running a priority. My biggest run week was at around 90 kms. Based on the decision of my coach I took a low intensity approach and tried to target high frequency. Many weeks I ran every day if only a bit. For basically all of it I used a heart rate cap of 162bpm which is my maximum aerobic function heart rate. How you settle on a heart-rate to use can be as the result of gas analysis while running on a treadmill or guessed at by some combination of formulas as originally explored by Dr. Phil Maffetone. Get your google search going and you can find all sorts of info on this approach and will likely also find this endorsement from uuber-Ironman-runner Mark Allen. The purpose is/was to develop durability and efficiency at around IMpace, which is going to be aerobic and likely sub-maximally so. There are a lot of people out there who will tell you that you don’t need speedwork for Ironman because you will not run fast, no-one runs fast. When you’re building up your durability and making aerobic development this is totally correct. There’s a point to doing some fast running though as on occasion it’s necessary to make your muscles sore and to develop run strength. Not doing this is going to result in your legs giving up before you lungs and that’s what happened to me. It’s the better of the two options though, because if you’re not fit enough you go really really slow despite how strong you are, if you’re not quite strong enough you’ll slow a bit but it just really hurts. Speedwork: that’s icing on the cake, so you first need the cake. I got the cake baked but didn’t have the time to ice it completely on my first go-round. If someday I am going to try it again I’d hope to be able to put some more icing on the cake, but I wouldn’t force it, you’ve got to be confident that you’ve got that cake baked first. So, back to the strict aerobic cake baking strategy… The strategy means you often run tired but never run sore. Tired running is where you’re going to make your biggest leaps in running economy and if you’re challenging yourself with the volume this is also a great place to be developing mental fortitude. This is the kind of mental strength you need as it’s race-specific. Mimi from Endurance Corner stated it like this: “Train tired. Learn to push through fatigue that is driven largely by volume, not intensity. Being able to get the job done when tired builds capacity for concentration.” As the race approaches, it comes time to choose a realistic target pace and run a lot at that target pace so you know what it feels like. Ideally you do this enough that it becomes default pace and when you leave T2 you don’t need to think too much, on race day you’ll just run.

Where to start? If you’re unable to run 45 minutes every other day for a statistically significant duration (ie, twice running 45 minutes in three days doesn’t suggest that you could do it forever) then that’s the first target. Get to the point where you feel like you could do 45 minutes every other day for the rest of your life. Once there, starting daily running even if just for short durations is a great way to boost the run volume and start working on efficiency and durability. There are numerous ways to do it including a 30 day run challenge where you try and run 30 times in 30 days with some minimum duration. There area a boatload of variations on this challenge including increasing the duration or varying the minimum. I did a 30 minute minimum for 30 days and then a 40 minute minimum for 40 days in my lead-up to Ironman. A friend did a 40 minute minimum for a month and there’s talk of a crew of us trying 100 runs in 100 days starting on New Years Day 2011 to build a big run base for next summer. (20×20min 30×30min, 40×40min, 10xhalf marathon is one proposed minimum, 100×10kms is another which has the added bonus that you’d also conquer 1000kms during the challenge which is at least as good a number as any other (stats are stupid but they’re also fun.).

The Swim

I’m a mediocre swimmer at best so I don’t think you should take a whole lot of stock in my advice on how to swim well. My biggest swim week was at around 20 kms but it only happened before I was trying to boost volume in the other disciplines. Throughout the rest of the year I tried to swim more than 10 kms more weeks than not. I swam as much as I could with a coach on deck. I also made an effort to try to swim intervals rather than just zombie swimming in the pool for an hour. I also tracked progress at how fast I could do a 4000 yard TimeTrial approximately each month. Lots of the stats from those Friday-night swim TTs made it into this blog so you can see my progression and retrogression and re-progression if you want by using the search box. This mentally prepares you to pace a long swim and it should show you progression of your speed when your training is working. I got the idea from Chuckie Veylupek, who is a mighty fine swimmer as far as triathletes go and a beacon of hope for people who start swimming later in life. The same concept (track progress on long swim) was reinforced by my coach Steven Lord when he came on board. Ideally you’ll want to see improvements in your 4000yd speed.

4000yd speed is supposed to be threshold speed, so you could also use Mr. Smooth’s critical swim speed calculator or the threshold speed calculator formula suggested by TrainingPeaks. They’re the same calculation, and I think the same one that my coach uses/used (same results anyway). Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim though and that can’t be avoided, so doing the long swim is a demon you’re going to have to face eventually… better to start sooner rather than later.

When the improvements arise, look at what you’ve been doing and then keep doing it! Like I said I am not yet a good swimmer but I felt like I prepared with a high degree of specificity for what this swim would be like and thus did an acceptable job on race day. You don’t need to do all strokes in the pool but if you swim enough it is a good thing to do them all as you get more in tune with how your body moves in the water than if you just do front crawl. I will be doing more varied strokes next season. I also am kicking myself for not learning to flip turn ages ago. Partly because it makes you faster but partly because it forces you to hold your breath for a bit on every single length. Despite never flip turning during the race that’s an Ironman specific skill. When you get hit and splashed and dragged under you’re going to have to skip a breath now and again and you damn well need to be able to do it and keep swimming otherwise the hitting and dragging and splashing is going to continue. Flip turning is now on the menu of things to tackle for me.

The Bike

It’s not all about the bike, but if you want to be an Ironman you need to spend an awful lot of time on your bike. So the first order of business would be to get some good shorts and get comfortable riding a lot. Get a sore ass. If you can ride with effort long enough that you are having a hard time sitting on your bike. Then you’re probably riding enough. It happens to me when I get past 400 miles in 4 days.

This year between Jan and race-day I rode 10000 kms. Biggest week was 1000 kms. I targeted 400kms most weeks since May and accomplished the target basically whenever I didn’t have an excuse (ie no bike to ride). I once did 300kms in a day to see what a 10 hour day was like. You certainly don’t need to do this, but it is confidence building if you can. Do it in 10 weeks out at the latest if you do or it will interrupt your training close to the race when it counts more.

Most weekends since April I rode more than 6 hours one day and the other day some other combination of riding and running totaling more than 4 hours, often 5 or 6. I rode my TT bike a lot, but did recovery rides on my road bike. I often rode alone, I also often rode with groups. You can do both only if you ride a lot. If you only ride a bit you need to ride alone or at least don’t draft and make sure you’re the one setting the pace so you’re learning pace judgement at the same time. Now that I write that I realize: essentially all of my riding this year was self-selected pace. When I group-rode I did pace setting for a vast majority of the time. That’s a big coup and it made a big difference. Sitting on the front of a paceline into a headwind sitting straight upright to make a big draft and trying to keep a group together is good motivation to keep the power steady and high.

In the off season I rode inside on a stationary bike with a weighted flywheel. It’s lousy riding but it makes for a good workout as everything is some form of drill or interval. There’s no such thing as an easy ride inside, you’ll loose your mind if you try to do it. I made a point this year in the out-of-season season to nudge up my cadence a bit and really work on my pedal stroke. These weren’t weaknesses, they were already strengths, but neuromuscular efficiency is of high importance when you’re going to be riding a lot and so I made a point of focusing on them while inside. Riding aero doesn’t become too important until ~8 weeks out from a race (in my opinion) at which point you’ve got to switch and then start riding aero almost exclusively. I wouldn’t bother being strict with it at all and ride the aerobars if you want to but never force yourself if you don’t want to during out-of-season season, sit up let yourself breathe fully and don’t restrict your hip angle. You’ll be a better cyclist and get a better workout as a result.

I often rode more than 200kms and during the last two months did up to 50% of my long rides at IMeffort. Lots of 20,30,60 minute intervals at IM pace with 25% duration easy between each. That’s the formula for “Muscular Endurance” according to Joe Friel. I’d rather just call it what it is, TT specificity. Not a lot of sprinting since April, but in the winter I did lots of drills and shorter intervals to make the most of my time when riding stationary bikes. Then on race day I rode conservative the whole way. I never worked hard on the bike at all, this might sound crazy as I was fastest in my AG, that’s true though. Luckily I was able to get ahead of this traffic jam though:

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

IM effort on the bike takes learning. What I ended up targeting would be described by this highly unscientific formula:

~10 beats per minute below the highest HR you’ve ever averaged in a half Ironman and still run within 2% of your open Half Marathon time after it.

Likely unless you’ve been around the block a few times you don’t have an actual datapoint for this. It’s likely ~20bpm lower than your running Maximum aerobic function HR. In retrospect I may have been able to push a bit harder on the bike during Ironman. It’s also likely true that I could have pushed slightly harder on the bike in the Half Ironman I was basing this estimate on as I ran a Half marathon PR, so I was within 0% of my PR instead of the 2% or so that I would have allowed for. When I trained at IMeffort I typically tried to average the ceiling of what I would eventually actually attempt on race day. IMeffort in training often netted me around 37-39kph and on race day I did less than 35 which was partly due to conditions but partly intentional, to take it easy in the race.

Training Load

You’re going to want to take an out-of-season break from structured training sometime in the winter to recharge a bit and relax. Then once you get going again the key will be to stay uninjured and healthy all the way through to the race without any gaps in your training. That’s a tall order. Until you take that break you should be stretching yourself a bit and finding out what kind of weekly volume is sustainable and manageable. It’s OK if you get too tired once or twice and have to back it off to recover. The idea being that once the real season starts in earnest you’re not going to make mistakes of biting off more than you can chew… because at that point you’re sacrificing race-performance if you miss training. During the pre-season season, you’re just learning how your body responds so pay attention to it and write a lot of stuff down. How far out from the race you want to “start” your buildup is a matter of preference. Many professionals often do 11 months of it every year but they’re fitting in some mid-season R&R as well. I did 8 months of gung-ho and it was a bit long and I think that 6 months would be more ideal. Ideal is a relative term. If the weather decides to be minus 40 then I better decide to not try and do 20 hour training weeks. On the contrary, when you’re motivated to train because there’s no snow on the roads in the middle of February you should capitalize on it and ride your bike!

One other note that I only remedied mid-season was that when you look at your training log in week by week chunks it is easy to miss details like one back-end loaded week being followed by a front-end loaded week. Those sorts of things can make you more tired or more rested than you believe should be the case. I switched to calculating an acute stress score and a chronic stress score in a similar manner to that done by TrainingPeaks’ WKO+ language and as a result I got a much better handle on it. I’ve yet to settle on what I believe to be the best way to calculate race-readiness as the training stress balance metric used by WKO+ leaves something to be desired, the problem is that I haven’t pinpointed it yet. What I’ve got is pretty good, it gives me a curve of where my fitness would go if I stopped training right now. It would rise for a while while I rested and then start to fall. I’ve also used it as a gauge on how much training stress I think I should be able to handle… perhaps I’ll write a bit on that in the future.

I’ll leave this post off with a comparison between my planned training stress and my actual execution of training during my taper for Ironman. I was basically able to execute exactly what I wanted to during the final month.

taper plan

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Recovery is over

Recovery is over. I’m training hard enough as of this week to make my quads sore which should be a sign that I’m no longer holding anything back. In case there was any uncertainty, for me that’s a good thing. Some pretty tough intervals on Monday, a 750m swim TT with fins on Tuesday morning, a cyclocross race on Tuesday evening and a cross country running race on Wednesday evening. My legs are shelled and I’m loving it! I think I can tell I’ve lost some fitness over the last 6 weeks since I was last “training hard” with 3 weeks of taper and three weeks of recovery. I have no lingering fatigue from Ironman at this stage though. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell I spent the summer training for it, I certainly can. I’m not fast, that’s how I can tell. I spent all summer getting “long” instead of getting “fast” and so it’s taking me some serious time to dig up what fast is like. I am surprisingly capable of driving my HR way up and holding it there. That’s not a problem. I though I might just not be able to sustain a mega-high heart rate for a long duration but I’ve run the last two cross country races at an average HR over 180 bpm which for me is high! I also netted a new HRmax for the season last night at 197bpm. Still quite a ways short of what I think I could probably do if I was trying to test for it directly but that’s high nonetheless. The things that I’m really not good at include creating huge accelerations on the bike back-to-back-to-back. Pretty quickly I find myself unable to drop the hammer when I’m trying to launch myself out of a corner and am just pedaling along without any gusto with the high effort and high heart rate. I also am miserable at running down hills. This is actually really sad for me because I thought I used to be good at this, better than average at least. In no uncertain terms though – I am not good at this right now. I can’t spin the legs over as quickly as I need to be able to do to run down any hill with serious speed and momentum. Hopefully I can make amends on this in the next few weeks though as I’m going to throw away a lot of time at Winterstart in Banff if I can’t launch myself down that hill full tilt in November.

I should also point out that this great movie was made of the Ironman race in Penticton last month and I star in it around the 2:45 point. Take a look:

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The Swim

This post is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here).

We woke up at 4:10 and I ate a breakfast of 4 fried eggs, 4 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. I had been out of bed to pee three times during the night (overenthusiastic hydration strategy along with the great pork tenderloin for dinner the night before) and so I didn’t drink much the morning of besides a glass of milk. We were on the road close to 5am and arrived into Penticton with plenty of time. The special needs bags were deposited where they needed to be deposited and we stood in the line-up to get body-marked and did some people-watching. I then sauntered over to my bike, pumped up the tyres and added my two bottles of fluid and then sought out a toilet. There were about a thousand people in line (no joke!) and so I left the transition compound and found the toilets that were ready for the post-race crowds, and had no line whatsoever. I then found Mom through the fence, soon saw Dad through the fence and then headed in to put on the wetsuit and eat my pre-race banana (a four year tradition, it hasn’t failed me yet!). I watched over the fence as the pro start took to the water and then joined the crowd of people flowing out of the transition zone onto the beach. 2800 people. Wow.

Ironman

It was only at that point that I found my brother, camera in hand, in the swim corral snapping shots left right and center while people put their caps on, zipped up eachothers wetsuits and talked about how much colder the lake was this morning than a few days ago prior to all the crazy wind that had been causing white-caps on the water by late afternoon each day since Thursday. I thought the water was plenty warm for swimming and wasn’t put off at all swimming with a sleeveless suit but I still skipped a swim-warmup opting instead for just shoulder circles with dry arms. Getting all wet and then standing around with wet arms and head and no wetsuit to keep the chill off would have been chilly. I made my way to the front and everyone was pretty happy to let me past them. I thought I might have to do some jockeying for position to get to the second row but because I was a bit left of center there wasn’t much to it. I just walked up, said hello to the people around me and promised the girl in front of me that I wouldn’t swim over her so long as she kicked hard and made a good draft. She just gave me a nervous smile, and it was at about that point that I realized that I was awfully calm considering the situation with a few dozen people poised to swim directly over me! Too late to get nervous now, I sang the national anthem at full blast along with a few thousand people and then the countdown was on. The horn went and I was off like a rocket. No hesitation like GWN that had cost me a couple people dashing by and congesting my start significantly. I was off and away swimming hard and finding very little in the way of shoulder bumping let alone the full on arm-wrestling that I’ve experienced before in much much smaller swim starts.

Swim calm before the storm Swim Start

I settled after what I figured was about 200m and set out to start lining myself up for a draft rather than just relying on the general draft of the crowd ahead of me. I was sighting for a bit and then noted two things. 1) I am good at swimming in a straight line so I was never really thinking I needed to make a correction. 2) There was absolutely nothing I could do about altering my direction without getting hammered by people swimming over me even if we were going off course. I stopped sighting regularly at this point and just swam, telling myself to keep the gas on, but don’t go hard. I could tell when we were nearing another buoy each time as the crowd would squeeze slightly as the people way off to the left aimed in a bit more people on the right aimed in a bit more, it got tight each time but never too tight that anything got interrupted, just enough to thicken the crowd up and make the draft stronger and easier to follow. Wahoo, this swim was going so well! I decided to take a peek and looked up at one point, we were already surprisingly a mile into the swim as the first houseboat was right there. I was preparing for a little wrestling match to get around the corner but it never came and never came and never came. Then I saw a scuba diver under me and thought to myself “I’m likely never going to be back here” so I took the opportunity to coast for a second and wave at him. He waved back and I could feel a big smile spread across my face. I’d read about waving to the scuba dudes under the houseboats out here in the lake even before I’d done my first triathlon. That was a long long time ago, it seemed, and today it was finally happening. It was a bit of an emotional experience. I was already a mile into this thing before I fully contemplated how big of a dream coming true this really was. This is a big deal, it’s been a really long time in the making, and I was so happy to be out there.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Then, bam! I got hit in the head. Then again in the ribs, then again on the head, someone grabbed my leg and pulled it down, someone else swam sideways across my back, I have no idea where they were going. Okay, that wrestling match was starting. Everyone had gone into the corner nice and wide, the people on the far side all knew they were only going to wind up in a brawl if they took the corner tight so they didn’t swim straight at the boat. Unfortunately they didn’t swim far enough past the boat to keep the corner wide. We’d just merged probably 20 lanes of traffic into 12 lanes of traffic. I just tried to pull hard at the water, keep breathing and keep swimming and soon enough it was over. Off to the second houseboat we go! There was now no mountain to sight off in the background and those 12 lanes of traffic dispersed awfully quickly and I was swimming in clear water but right on track to maintain the straight line. I knew it was only 400m to the next turn and figured I’d just swim rather than go look for a draft. I knew where I was going and so I just went. Soon enough I found someone else again and hopped aboard their feet for a tow. Seeing the houseboat I got prepared for another melee but this was quick and off we were going back to shore, no punches at all.

Then I saw a huge person. I’m not kidding, she was enormous but hey, she was swimming faster than me so far because she was still ahead of me at this point. I hopped into the draft and it was like swimming into vacuum cleaner. I went from “keep the gas on” to just coasting along. I don’t know how long it lasted nor do I know how I lost her draft but eventually I realized I was having to work harder to keep up, then I realized I wasn’t behind the whale wearing the blue helix wetsuit. Oh well. Then I met a friend with white and orange goggles. I don’t know his number or his name, nor did I talk with him before, during, or after, the swim, but I still felt like he was a friend. He was nice and we swam side by side for a long long time, we had the same rhythm and were going the same speed and drafting off of two people ahead of us swimming side by side. I was behind a guy with something written in green on the calf of his wetsuit and he was behind someone who had the whitest feet I’d ever seen in my life. I swam right there with those three people all the way back to the beach. My friend with white and orange goggles never once bumped or interrupted me but we swam shoulder to shoulder all the way back to the beach together. When I started to touch the bottom I stood up and heard Dad shouting my name. I waved in his direction as I stood up and stepped gingerly over the rocks on the sand-bar and then dove back in once we got back to deeper water. I swam past a bunch of people wading chest deep in the finish chute and got up into the finish chute. I got my wetsuit undone on the first try which always makes me feel really lucky and then off up the beach. I saw 1:05 on the clock and was completely ecstatic with my swim performance. I’ve got time in the bag, already ahead of schedule, and I hadn’t had to work hard at all to earn it.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

I had hoped to swim 68 minutes way back last year when I first contemplated how much improvement I could hope to expect to make on my swimming in one year. It was an ambitious goal, and even on race morning I was prepared to not be able to swim 68 minutes. I had budgeted 10 minutes of “contingency” time into my race goal to take care of things like a flat tire or a need to stop for a washroom break or things that aren’t really “racing time”, and I was prepared to use some contingency time to make up for a swim that wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I was mentally prepared to be a bit disappointed, so when I found out that I’d scored three minutes of “extra time” I was super happy. Percentage wise that’s the same as “accidentally” biking a full 15 minutes faster than anticipated or running 10 minutes faster, really it’s amazing. So despite the fact that “compared to the average” I was less good at the swim than I was at the other two legs I’m totally proud of the effort.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

I pointed at the tallest, burliest guy stripping wetsuits in the whole crowd of bodies and arms and wet grass and legs and neoprene there and got his attention as I ran through, hopped on my bum and he peeled it off in a flash and I was off. I ran directly to my swim bag, never hesitated, and was into the tent super quickly. I dumped my stuff on the ground and had my race belt on and was clipping up my helmet when a volunteer grabbed my wetsuit, I said thanks and was off jogging with my shoes in hand before I had even really realized what had happened. There were probably two hundred guys in that tent and just as I was leaving someone came in and cheered, then the whole place erupted in response. What an experience! I got sunscreen slathered on my arms in two seconds flat by a cute girl in a bikini and was off to find my bike. I opted not to run through here as at GWN I had hopped aboard my bike with what would become my maximum heart rate for that entire day. I didn’t want to spike my heart-rate so kept it to a jog. I got to the bike and wobbled a bit to get the shoes on. Whoa, steady… and then un-racked and hopped aboard. Let’s go for a bike ride!

Bike Racks

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The Bike

This post is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here).

Aboard the bike, I was initially floored by how many people were along the fence, and how loud it was, They must have been three people deep along the fence for the first 500 meters and one deep for the rest of the first kilometer. I gave the crowd a wave, turned the first corner and then started to reign in the focus. I’ve got to start paying close attention to my effort level and establish an appropriate effort right off the start. My heart rate was high but it was coming down steadily and actually quite quickly. I just rode along easy to the top of the hill in town and then rolled along really really easy down the gradual hill towards Skaha Lake, my heart rate fell right back into the zone around 140 beats per minute where I wanted it and then I started sucking back the Gatorade. Nine minutes into the ride I’m already at the south beach, I’ve averaged 39 kph so far and have a half bottle of Gatorade in me. Things are going well, I’m not using any effort yet and I’m moving along quickly.

(Note that all I had on my computer was time, distance and current heart rate – the other stats are observations from afterward – I didn’t want to over-stimulate my brain by feeding it statistics while riding as this has proved to get me in a poor mental state rather than a good one on most occasions I’ve ridden with too much information)

Skaha Skaha

I hit the turnoff to McLean Creek road having averaged 40.5 kph on the cruise along Skaha and finished my first bottle of rocket-fuel. I had negotiated my way through a couple packs of riders forming but otherwise had just been sitting on the bike and letting my legs spin gently. I hadn’t expended an ounce of effort yet. I hit the turn to the climb and told myself to put some wood on the fire, make sure you don’t waste time getting up here. Then whoosh, across the top of the hill before I knew it, I ate my first clif bar and whoosh again as I descended into OK Falls. I had been concerned about congestion on the twisty descent and having to pass people who would be riding their brakes down the hill, fortunately for me I’d swum like an absolute fish today and had 300 less people ahead of me than anticipated. No traffic jam on the descent, but enough people that I couldn’t pedal down, just coast with the flow. Around the corner in town and off towards the south. I wanted to keep going quick but not use any energy here and I was pretty successful. Some guys around me had started to pace off one another and were sticking to their guns riding at the legal distance and swapping turns setting the pace. I thought to myself that this was going to cause a peloton to form if they kept it up and any more people joined their crew but we started a gentle descent and I left them behind. Before Oliver I already had to pee and watered the ditch grass at about 38kph. Just as I was re-adjusting my shorts I heard a “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi” and thought I had a flat, and was hearing the air escape as the wheel spun around. I kept rolling along and mentally ran through the action plan for a fast tyre change. Then when I looked down to see if it was a front or a rear I suddenly didn’t have a flat, maybe it stopped? maybe something happened? maybe it was a miracle? I had no idea what was going on and just got back to racing. Only later would I realize that it was a sprinkler in the orchard with the flipper-head kind of top spraying water in an arc across the apple trees, “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi”!

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Leaving Oliver I was eating my second clif bar… yes I’m not kidding, the ride has been going on for an hour and 5 minutes and I’m eating my second clif bar, I’ve drank an entire bottle of gatorade and chowed down four banana halves. My average speed thus far is still over 39kph, although I’m probably going a bit slower at the time as I’m putting the wrapper of the bar into the leg of my shorts. Then I get passed by the dudes who I’d seen starting to co-operate 20 minutes ago. There are now about a dozen of them and they’re riding three wide down the road. Whoa, I don’t want a penalty and let the whole mass of them go past me and drop back from their pack. Then I’m sitting off the back doing about 120 beats per minute heart rate… far too easy, what to do? I figure I can ride faster than the group when I’m not horsing around and eating, we’ve got quite a ways to go until the first pass which should split this up a bit. I wait for a slight downhill which stretches the peloton out long and thin (just like road-racing) and I make a pass up yellow line and put in an “attack” and go off the front of the group with enough speed that they’re not just going to start drafting me (just like road racing). Inevitably though the breakaway is brought back (just like road racing) and I start to let people by and back up the requisite 4 bike lengths from each one. I eventually realize I’m going to have to back myself up to a complete stop if I keep letting people by. I resign myself to staying behind the peloton until Richter’s pass starts where the long hill will break up the pack (just like road racing) and sit in a quasi-legal position behind the peloton. I’m probably within 4 bike lengths of the dude in front of me some of the time, especially when the peloton goes up a slight hill and bunches up a bit (just like road raciing). I don’t know what the solution to the situation is, I can’t break up the pack on my own and so I figure that I should do the next best thing and try to not make it grow. Sitting far enough off the back that I’m in the tail where we’re again riding single-file as opposed to the front trouble-causing part that is three or four guys wide I’m not contributing to this thing, but there’s no way I’m going to drift off the back, nor is anyone else. Such is life, the portion of the ride with the peloton we’re doing somewhere near 37 kph, a far cry from the 40kph I was doing with the gentle tailwind up until this point, but I remind myself that I’m supposed to be reminding myself to stay patient on the bike…

I think a bit about the difference between patience and waiting… Patience is accepting things without getting irritated, waiting is just a state of being. I’m waiting for Richter to drop these wheel-suckers like the leaches that they are. At the same time, I’m playing the patience game entirely inside my head. It’s alright I tell myself, I’m going quick and I can treat this like it is effort in the bank. If I go to the front and try to get away they’ll chase, they’ll inevitably catch me, and I’ll get more worked up. Patience patience patience.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Finally we come around the corner to Richter’s, I down a tube of shot bloks (200 calories of sugar) for my body to process on the climb while I’m letting it work on solid food like clif bars on the easier parts of the ride. I find a rhythm on the climb and strike a good balance between standing and seated and riding aero on the parts that aren’t so steep. It goes well and I’m very quickly at the top. The climb takes me less than 28 minutes which is faster than the 30 I anticipate. Nicely done I tell myself, I can tell I’ve broken a sweat when I get to the top. Partly because the temperature is finally coming up and partly because I’ve done a good long climb. I crest the top and say to the dude who is next to me “this will be fun” and he says, “go ahead” and proceeds to draft me down the hill. What a dude, no shame at all. (He rode 5:27:13 in case you want to know) I mostly rest on the descent but make sure I’m turning over my 53×11 gently aiming to keep the momentum up. I drop the wheelsucker on the first big roller and don’t see him again. I pace the rollers very well, averaging 33 kph through this stretch into a mounting headwind. By the time I make it to the flats by Cawston I’m really realizing that I’m starting to run out of people to pass. The people ahead of me are no longer going slow, and there’s a long way from one person to the next. My brain tells me that I’m slowing down because I’ve been getting accustomed to whipping past people like they’re standing still. I take stock of the situation, narrow my focus again and focus on getting to the turn onto the out-and-back, I feel like I’m crawling along but still doing 32kph on average, not bad for such a stiff breeze. I have some people riding near me into the headwind and once I hit the out and back and the wind goes behind me I aim to maintain effort and fly off down the road, or so it feels now, I take the U-turn and head back in to the headwind. It feels good and I’m in far sparser territory now than I was previously.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

The out and back goes by in a flash, I water the ditch-grass again before the long gradual ascent to Yellow Lake begins. I reel in more people. My Heart rate monitor starts going on the fritz. I don’t really care any more. I am prepared for this and I’m aiming to race according to effort level now, just to maintain what’s already been established rather than worry if it’s ideal every minute of the way. I feel like I’ve established an appropriate effort. Climb Climb Climb. Surprisingly I’m reeling in and passing people faster on the ascent than on the flats. They’re fading, the headwind is getting inside their head, their focus is wavering. I don’t even feel like I’ve been riding that long. My bum is just fine sitting on the seat unlike the guy I see shifting himself around obviously in serious pain, I’m well nourished, I am in the aerobars when it counts to be in the aerobars, there are others sitting up into the headwind, some are stretching their backs mine feels just fine. I’m staying cool enough. I feel great, I’m going to have a great run. Despite feeling great and working hard and passing comparatively a lot of people my average speed is just 28.5kph into this headwind on the gradual ascent, ouch.

The climb gets steep now and it’s getting colder, I get a great sendoff up the steep climb from a tunnel of fans at the Green Mountain Road junction. Then I’m alone. I can’t see anyone ahead and there are basically no cars. Just me and the mountain, I dump my water and keep my gatorade. I climb well. There start to be people around. No-one has been through in a couple minutes and no-one lies behind within sight. I’m alone on this part of the climb but the people are all cheering. Just for me, it’s pretty crazy. I’m nothing special and by now I know I’m fading off pace to get in under 5:10 for my bike split, this is hardly worth cheering for. I catch myself getting negative and flip a switch, time to start thinking that I’ve prepared well to run a good marathon as I climb. Then one guy yells “You’re doing it, I’m not doing it, you’re doing it”. I smile a bit, it’s true. There’s something to be said for just doing it too, but when I consider the fact that I’ve ridden a sub-5-hour century without trying I am indeed convinced that the marathon is going to be good. I want to start running right now! The rain is coming down pretty hard now, it’s no longer just raining. Anyone would say that it’s now raining hard, pissing it down. I chow down my last food at the summit and grab a bunch of gatorade to make myself as heavy as I can be for the descent. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to drink any as I’m peeing like crazy on this ride. Off I go across the top. I catch two guys on the flat stretch before the descent. Then we go down the hill. It’s not just raining hard anymore it’s pouring and I’m getting drenched. Raining cats and dogs. The water is flowing noticeably on the surface of the pavement. That’s a recipe for hydroplaning. I go as fast as I feel is comfortable. That’s a heck of a lot faster than one of the guys near me but slightly slower than another. It’s not congested on the road at all and I have a full lane to myself so I’m not scared but I am smart enough not to be stupid and I do use my brakes. I hate using my brakes. I still do 60kph for a long ways, but I know I should be doing 75-80kph. I start to shiver a bit and I’ve got chicken skin all over my arms and legs. Then I start to shiver a lot, not enough that I’m worried about controlling my bike but enough that I’m worried I might need to start worrying about controlling my bike.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

I hit the corner onto the main highway and Dad said he’d be there. I see Mom first, decked out in her yellow rain jacket waving her arms like she’s trying to get the attention of a rescue helicopter flying overhead to pluck her off a rooftop in the flood. She gets my attention. I am shivering too much to make much of an acknowledgment. Then I see Dad and my brother. They’re trying to a photo. It’s going to be a great photo I think to myself, this is outrageous. I put on a tough guy face instead of the blue lips and shell shocked eyes. Hopefully he got it I think as I scream off down the hill. I’m pedaling again but not really trying to ride hard. I’m going fast so I don’t think it matters much. Get your shit together I tell myself and as the temperature rises I recollect myself. I re-consider the fact that the bike conditions were tough, pretty stiff headwind on the way back, I’m not going to make inside my goal time on the bike, I’m using up a bit of that contingency time I had allocated. That’s OK, I know I can’t get a flat tyre anymore. I don’t need so much contingency time because I’m ready to run a good marathon I tell myself, I’m not just telling myself at this point, I know it. I’m at peace with things as I roll into town. I see the lead female heading out of town on the run and she gets a huge cheer from me as I whip by on my bike. I ride the last 2kms with my feet out of my shoes. It feels good.

Into T2 I hop off my bike but I can’t pull the Garmin off the handlebar because my fingers are partway between stiff and numb. I didn’t really realize they were so cold. It takes a bit but the volunteer pulls my Garmin off the bike. Off I go. Get my bag handed to me. I head into the change tent and dump it on the ground and start picking things up. Hat, then socks, socks are tough with sausage fingers. The volunteer unwraps my bottle of coke with extra salt that I have wrapped in tin-foil to help keep frozen. I get the arm-coolers on, slap on the shoes, and I’m on my way, holding a slush-bottle of coke in already pretty cold hands. I hit the run course after a slightly slower than anticipated T2. 10 hours is still on the table. I’ve got to run a 3 hour 35 minute and 25 second marathon.

The Garmin file is here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/47045795 but as you can see the heart rate monitor was going berserk on occasion after 3 hours.

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The Run

This post is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here).

Out of T2 I felt fantastic. Having mostly jogged transition I was ready to hit full stride the instant I was on the pavement and immediately dialed in all my attention to the pace I was planning to run, I narrowed my focus and started dealing with the splits one by one. My garmin was going to take a split each 500m for me. 5:00/km is the goal, 4:50 is too fast 5:10 is too slow. All the stuff in between is probably alright, because worrying about 5 seconds here and there will make me go crazy. It took a bit to start getting them right but by the time I’d hit the first mile I was on track. I was carrying a bottle with two cans of cola in it with extra electrolytes added. It was still partly frozen slush as I drank and had 90% gone by the first aid station so I dropped it there rather than carrying an empty bottle for another mile and took a stop at the toilet to empty my bladder. That bottle drank and my stomach feeling perfect, my energy levels up and my body temperature back within normal ranges all had settled me down, I ran, I breathed and I let my heart beat. That’s about it. I didn’t think, I just rode on auto-pilot, 500 meters at a time.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

By three kilometers in I had shaken off the early run nerves. I was hitting splits on target. I would continue to get every split correct, or be able to get back on track for the next split all the way through until 10 miles where the hills begin. I was repeating the same pattern each aid station. Check if it’s a multiple of three, if it is, eat a gel drink some water, if it’s not, drink some coke and gatorade. By mile 3 I was adding ice to my top. I’d stash it there and finish with the eating or drinking and then while I ran I’d redistribute the ice that was stashed at my chest into my arm-coolers either in the crook of my elbows where the veins are at the surface or on my wrists where the veins are on the surface. I was staying cool, calm and focused, predominantly on not running too hard. I hadn’t worked hard yet. It was 3pm in the afternoon.

Race Splits

I caught one of the pro men who was trundling along at about this point. He’d had a 15 minute head start on me but I caught him just as Matt Lieto was going the other way. I gave Matt a big cheer but he wasn’t doing so good apparently surviving instead of stalking the guys ahead of him. Too bad, I was rooting for the guy. In any case it prompted myself and Lewis to start chatting. He was having a rough day and I trucked along up the first hill (and really the only one of significant consequence when heading south) with him and then dropped him on the descent when I let my legs run down the far side. I trucked along towards the turn-around some splits faster and some slower but all were ok I thought, I trusted the average was 5:00/km instead of trying to calculate anything, don’t think, just run.

I made the turn and grabbed my special needs bag, I had another bottle of salted coke in there but I didn’t take it, just took a fruit leather and a mini ziploc with gummy coke bottles and left all the other stuff there on the ground. I gave Dad a hug, and then started running again. I didn’t see Mom, she would have got a hug too, but apparently I waved at her when I thought I was just waving to the crowd. Oops. I saw my brother with his camera out, did some eating and got back to focused running again up the hills back towards home. Some of the splits here in the middle weren’t so stellar but they were not a disaster either. I reached the big climb that I’d gapped Lewis on at that point and hunkered down thinking to myself “don’t let you HR come up too much” and I didn’t but threw away some more time taking it easy on the ascent and relatively easy on the descent instead of letting my legs run full tilt down the back. Down the steepest hill and into the toilet at the next aid station, I thought I had to go or at least I felt like I had to go while running, apparently not, the body does weird stuff. Soon back on the road I skipped taking any calories at the next stop, just water and some ice in the arms. The gut feeling was gone quite quickly as I ran through the next stretch but I had discovered some cramping in my quads, rector femoris, probably brought on by the hills, the stopping, the sitting, the standing, the starting, they weren’t too bad initially but my function deteriorated slowly and my running form got a bit modified. I got a quick cramp in my left hamstring at one point and hop skipped to a stop, I leaned forward and stretched it out and got back running in a couple seconds. Not bad, just keep moving. I had crossed the 10 miles to go point with 1 hour 21 minutes left on the clock to stay inside 10 hours. I had now all but run out of that contingency time even though I didn’t think I had been using it. I had a minute to spare on top of the 5 minute pace and that was it. I had made it to within 10 miles of the finish before I started to contemplate what remained in the task ahead. Not bad at all. I knew that salt was likely not going to do nothing for my legs but it wasn’t going to do anything bad. I pulled out my little stash of salt pills and ate a dozen of them all in one shot. I swallowed them dry, who needs water to swallow a handful of pills? I’m going to be an Ironman by the end of the day. I narrowed my focus again and got back to trying at knocking off those 5 minute kilometers.

Now it wasn’t a matter of effort. I couldn’t expend any effort without my muscles failing me so I trotted along just as fast as I could go never really being able to push or try hard at all. I had visualized and imagined so many times getting to some point in the run where I was tired and I just needed to dig deep and bury myself on the run in to the finish. Now I couldn’t, I couldn’t try as hard as I wanted to try. I was fit enough, I was fueled enough, I was mentally strong enough but my muscles were just not strong enough to run any faster than I was going. I wasn’t really slowing down initially from the pace I had been running prior to the onset of the cramps but eventually I did, going up the gradual hill back into town put the reigns on me and I slowed enough that I would now find myself for the first time having to run faster than 5:00/km to get under that 10 hour barrier. Reaching the top of the hill with about 4 kms to go I could see down to the lake, a 2km long gradual descent and then a flat 2kms along Lakeshore before the finish. My ‘fastest capable pace’ quickened a bit but I was still just running easy. I felt like I wanted to start sprinting but my legs would have none of it. At 40kms I checked my watch for the first time to check the actual time of the day while on the run. I had about 11 minutes to run 2.2 kms. I still felt it was possible and gave it my best shot. I was within earshot of the finish when Steve King was getting the crowd to start cheering in people to nip under 10 hours. Today it wasn’t going to happen and I knew it. I let off the gas with a couple hundred meters to go. Spotted a high five in the finish chute, stopped and walked along the blue carpet for a moment, my first steps walking on the entire marathon, and soaked it up there were so many people cheering it was on the border of overwhelming so I stopped and turned and gave a big wave and finally I made my way over and broke the tape and made my way across the line.

Finish Finish

The Garmin file is here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/47041360 my heart rate monitor was doing stupid stuff for the first hour and a half and then settled in. I had quit watching it after the first 100 meters so never noticed what it was saying when it started to report correct information in the second half. Not that it really mattered anyway.

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Ironman Results

The race report is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here). Results are below.

Ironman Canada

Thanks to Reuben Krabbe for shooting this photo in pouring rain and what my Edge500 recorded as 12oC. Official results are here… detailed splits of the run showing my pacing are in the appropriate portion of the race report:

BIB AGE STATE/COUNTRY PROFESSION
184 24 EDMONTON AB CAN STUDENT (OF TRIATHLON)

SWIM BIKE RUN OVERALL RANK DIV.POS.
1:05:00 5:13:50 3:36:44 10:01:19 97 3

LEG DISTANCE PACE RANK DIV.POS.
TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (1:05:00) 1:42/100m 542 11
FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 42 mi. (1:52:44) 22.35 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 70 mi. (3:21:06) 20.89 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:13:50) 21.41 mph 83 4
FIRST RUN SEGMENT 13.1 mi. (1:47:15) 8:11/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 13.1 mi. (1:49:29) 8:21/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (3:36:44) 8:16/mile 97 3
   
TRANSITION TIME
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 2:42
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 3:03
   

 

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The swim start

There’ll be more than 3000 people starting the race at 7am… a world record for an IM swim start. That’s bigger than the record set last year which looks pretty amazing:

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Tracking me on race-day

I’m racer #184 on August 29, 2010. To check up on my race splits as they occur you can input my racer number into the appropriate spot at:

At ironmanlive you’ll have to scroll down a bit and look for the link to “Subaru Ironman Canada” coverage because there are two races happening on the 29th, the other over in Louisville Kentucky, and then follow the link for “Athlete Tracking Tool”. Some other people that you might be interested in checking up on during the race are Stefan Schreiber, racer #298 (Friend and training buddy from the UofA Tri Club), and Sister Madonna Buder #3026 (who is trying to be the first 80 year old woman to complete an Ironman). You might also find it interesting to check out the pro races as they unfold. My picks are:

Pro Women:

  1. Tereza Macel – Last year’s champ went on to fourth in Hawaii last fall. She was on the podium in Roth this summer and she slaughtered the competition at the hardest irondistance race in the world last weekend at Embrunman… but her coach is Brent Sutton and his athletes seem to be prepared to race well back to back… so let’s see if she can defend!
  2. Heather Wurtele – Won at St. George this spring and is really making big improvements this season. Second place to Mirinda Carfrae at Calgary 70.3 a couple weeks ago. She’ll also likely be treating this as a “home” race which I think should be an advantage.
  3. Tara Norton – She did “Epic Camp – Length of NZ” this winter. Enough said.
  • I’m also expecting a good performance from Janelle Morrison last year’s AG champion at this race, and a sub 9:45 PR by training buddy Annett Kamenz which could put her in the top 5.

Pro Men:

  1. Doe-Boy (Kieran Doe) – Won here in 2007 and hasn’t been back to defend, he had a smoking fast race at Calgary 70.3 4 weeks ago.
  2. Petr Vabrousek – this is only his third IM this year as opposed to 2009 when he raced 8 times. Less racing seems to be paying off and he was second at Lake Placid last month.
  3. Viktor Zyemtsev is here too, the dude has only ever run sub 2:50 marathons in Ironman… and will be clearly trying do do that for the tenth time in his career on Sunday (not counting a 3:29 explosion in Hawaii one year), look for him to come from behind a pick off a lot of people on the run. I don’t think he’ll make it all the way to the front though.
  • Tom Evans – the 2004 champ… has got the local support behind him and will be pulling out all the stops in front of the hometown crowd. It would be sweet to see him on the podium but I’m not sure it’s really all that possible considering how stacked this field is.
  • Matt Lieto is the guy I’m really rooting for but he’s spent so much of the season sick that I just don’t expect him to do so well.
  • Stefan Vuckovic is also likely to race well (he was the silver medal dude when Simon Whitfield stood atop the podium in Sydney), although his fastest days are behind him he could be in the mix if conditions are tough.
  • Scott Curry, while I wouldn’t consider him able to win, has had a great season this year and will probably be the fastest Albertan.

Race Day: I’ve also given access to my twitter account to my brother who will be tweeting my progress throughout the day whenever he can get a bit of internet access on the ipod. Who knows how often that will be, but I’ve included my twitter feed here for reference. If there’s anything new it will be there.


Tweets by JDKrabbe



Last but not least if you’re wondering what the race is like, you can get a pretty good idea by having a look at the maps of the course. Swim, Bike, & Run. Stefan and I are staying at a hotel at Christie Beach in OK Falls, that’s at the run turnaround.

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Last Big Swim.

It’s true, this isn’t a big swim. It’s actually a smaller than average swim. So why mention it? This is the last swim set that I felt like I mentally prepared for as part of my IM training for 2010. And so like the last focused run and last focused ride I’ll mark its passing on the blog here. There’s still some bits and pieces left to do, but they’re all just going to happen, I hardly have to think about them. After my rather un-nerving performance in that 4000yd TT two weeks ago we added another swim TT to the schedule as I led into the race, just as a progress check to confirm suspicions that a good chunck of the reason I swam slow was that I was super tired.

Triathlon Photo

31:11 for 2000yds. This is pace for a 65:51 IM swim but I was only going half the distance. If you presume you fade 4% with distance doubling (pseudo-scientific if you presume I paced this perfectly and would pace the IM perfectly) I’d net myself a 67:51 which I’d say is likely a pretty serious overestimation. This is a significant improvement over two weeks ago where I was indeed quite clearly swimming tired and then only snuck under 69 minute IM pace. With a bit of draft, a wetsuit and another 10 days of tapering this is pretty much where I wanted to be swimming wise when I laid things out a year ago for how I wanted my skillset to develop over the course of the year. It’s not fantastic, but I never said I needed to be fantastic. I made a huge leap in my swimming ability since I returned to the pool after cyclocross wrapped up last fall.

Most importantly I have been feeling like I can crank out some serious effort on the pool in the last week or so. Once I started heading into the taper I’ve had some really satisfying swim sets. I swam a 15×100m set last Thursday, all of them felt fast and efficient and I brought the last one in at 91 seconds. Wow! I swam a set of 5×200yds on Tuesday and kept them all under 180 seconds, finishing #5 on 2:55, my open PR being a 2:44 and I think I probably drafted to get that. (Aside: I should probably get out of the habit of counting PRs where I draft the whole way) It’s really good to feel like you’re swimming strong, I haven’t actually felt this great in the pool since mid-April. I’m looking forward to a satisfying swim.

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Last big bike weekend

Saturday Ride:

Lac Des Arcs

90 minutes of rolling hills prepped me mentally to tackle “the seven bitches” after Richter pass . It’s a tough deal to pace rolling hills well, but I was very pleased that I did this ride well, feeling good strong and efficient. Last year after riding the Ironman course I identified a need to get better at riding on rolling hills before tackling them in the race. The rolly section of IMC comes at a crucial point in the race. You’ve just had a little break coming down from Richter’s pass, you’re still less than 3 hours into the bike ride and are likely feeling strong. If you pace this section poorly by going too hard you’re going to get kicked in the face in about an hour either on the out and back section of the ride from Keremeos to Cawston when you cross into the start of your fifth hour of racing, or maybe a bit later on the gradual ascent towards yellow lake. If you ride poorly on either of those section you’re giving away a lot of time. The alternative of riding easy on the rolling hills is a nightmare when you consider what that does to your average speed. In my opinion this is a cruicial section of the race at IMC, and I’m confident that I’m going to ride it perfectly.

I followed the ride up with a progressive 90 minute run where I was aiming for race pace through the second half hour and aiming to push it a bit in the third half hour. I found myself absolutely flying along and worried that if I’d actually push it a bit I’d be spending fitness I want to save for Ironman so I just gave the effort a nudge instead of a push. Consistent splits around 4:30/km are certainly not bad for just a little ‘nudge’ of effort.

Sunday Ride:

Norquay

Sunday’s ride gave me an opportunity to fit in some final climbing practice into my schedule as well as to do my last long IMeffort intervals. I was given 2×30min at IMeffort and 4×15min at HIMeffort to fit into the long ride. I opted to get in the first IMeffort section on the ride out to Banff, then ride Norquay twice, approximately 20 minutes each and aiming for HIMeffort, and finish with a climb up to the Nordic Center in canmore, modifying the 4×15min into approximately a 3×20min to suit the length of the hills I had at my disposal. I really cruised on the IMeffort intervals, evidence that I’m in good shape and once rested I’ll be fast on the bike. The IMeffort intervals netted me 37.7kph into a gentle headwind at 136bpm, and 40.7kph with a gentle tailwind at 137bpm. The hill climbs were nice as well, I felt very strong on them, balanced the seated and standing well, had no aches or pains, and suprised myself with good climbing times at Norquay considering the fact I was averaging a pretty conservative hill climbing effort. The Nordic Center hill proved to be far shorter than I anticipated, or I was just too fast, the jury is still out. Sunday’s ride was cut short due to the scheduling need to get everyone home to Edmonton. I followed up the four hour car ride with another hour and a half of steady but controlled riding once out of the car to refresh the legs.

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