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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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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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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4000yard test

Triathlon Photo

65:10 for 4000yds. This is pace for a 68:49 IM swim. This leaves a sizeable gap between here and my PR over 4000yards of 61:47 set back in April when I put together a really good swim that I was super proud of, a real personal best. I got in the pool and was not feeling energetic or fast or anything, even if I was super fast I knew it wouldn’t be a best effort even before I started, maybe that was part of the problem. I was taking my own splits for the duration so only took them on 500yard intervals so I could focus on swimming, thus the choppy graph. I mostly just swam instead of really being able to try and swim fast. I don’t know exactly what it was but I couldn’t swim hard for more than about 100 yards before I was back at a steady swim pace, zoned out, technique reduced to mediocre. My brain was shutting off and going into cruise-control mode way too easily. I swam the entire thing without accumulating any lactic acid in my shoulders or arms, there was no burn, which is basically like saying I didn’t try… which in retrospect is kinda embarrassing to say because I didn’t want to not try, I just couldn’t “try”.

I was way quicker at Great White North where I also didn’t feel like I swam very hard, the wetsuit probably helps a bit, as well as a draft that helps a lot while I’ve got it. I’m also not a fast turner in the pool so these things stack up against me, 68:49 minutes should be a “floor” for my swim time in the open water at a race. No-one transitioned at IMC in less than 1:11 so I’m not going to be out the door aboard the rocket ship if I swim this fast in less than 70 minutes. 70minutes was the goal set back in November last year for Swim+T1. In 2009 there were 175 people out of the water in less than an hour… and another 300 made it out of the water an through transition within the next 10 minutes. I figured that I didn’t want more than 500 people up the road from me to have to pass on the bike so I’d need to swim and transition faster than 1:10:20 for that to happen. Let’s just say I can’t waffle in Lake Okanagan if I want to meet the goal, I need to swim well, not crazy hard or make any big gains in swimming in the next month, I also don’t need a life best swim as that’ll knock me back on my heels for the rest of the race, but I do need a good swim, better than this.

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Making myself tired

I booked a week off work at the lab last week with the sole purpose of giving myself an opportunity to give my body a massive aerobic overload while at the same time removing all of the rest of life’s stress to give myself the best chance of absorbing as much of the training effect from all the exercise as possible. I located myself at Crimson Lake near Rocky Mountain House for the week as it afforded a few important things:

  • No internet connection
  • A lake that would be warm enough to swim in with a wetsuit at any time of day or night without getting swimmers itch
  • Good roads for cycling with some real hills when compared to the ‘fake hills’ around Edmonton
  • Trails to run that would be easy on my feet and knees compared to running on asphalt
  • No need to drive for hours on end to get there and back

I planned to station myself at the lake from Sunday afternoon through ’till Friday evening and basically do five things… swim, bike, run, eat and sleep. It worked pretty good. I led into it with one of the toughest rides of the year so far, an overdistance ride with Stefan at approximately race effort on Saturday followed by a brick run. Sunday morning I snuck in another easy 3.5 hours ride and then headed to the lake where I rode again and ran for an hour. Monday I logged an hour in the lake, four and half on the bike including quite a bit of IMeffort intensity, and a brick run. Tuesday kicked off with another hour in the lake, six on the bike and an hour transition run. Wednesday I took easy in the lake with a half hour splash, then ran a challenging 3×10km workout aiming to run race-pace for the final 10kms and see how it felt. I had been pretty scared of doing this workout while tired during my rides and runs on Monday and Tuesday and had gotten nice and nervous about it while I anticipated it and while I ran the first two 10km loops getting ready to unleash “IMpace” at the end of it. In the end it felt great and so did the 2hours aboard the bike afterwards to loosen up the running muscles. I had crossed halfway mentally in the week and had a couple tough rides left before I’d have to tackle another IMpace run on Friday. Thursday was to be a big day, I logged an hour of IMeffort swimming, hopped aboard the bike quickly and logged an hour of IMeffort riding and then continued on to net 190kms on the day including a little race against an impending thunderstorm placing another hour of IMeffort in at the end between 4.5 and 5.5 hours as though I were finishing off my ride into Penticton in four weeks time. I finished the day off off with an easy half hour jog after supper to make sure I hit all three sports in the day. Friday started out in the lake for an hour and then I netted four and a half pretty hilly hours on the bike with the last two at IMeffort where I racked up a total of 74.8kms when riding my rather tired body down the road. My heart rate wouldn’t come up like it should, an indicator that I had successfully tired myself out, but the speed was still good so I kept at it and hyped myself up on cola to keep trucking along. When I hit the transition run I sucked back some more coke for another caffeine boost and ran 12.4 kms in 60 minutes, a goal IM effort brick to wrap up the week. Pheuff, it’s tiring just typing it!

The effect of all these shenanigans was that I reached the highest Acute Training Load I’ve ever done in my life (50 units). I also got my 7day volume up to 45.5 hours at one point (shy of my 51.5 hour record). I also got my 7day bike distance over 1000kms which is a good confidence booster as well, I managed to ride my rear tyre all the way down through the rubber to the bare casing while I was at it. Somewhere along the way, I’m not certain exactly where, I acquired the confidence that I’m getting ready to race in Penticton and I think that’s really the main point of this blog post. I’ve got another couple weeks of working hard but I feel like I’m ready for them and then things are starting to back off as I taper for race-day.

Here are some cool graphs – the first is a meteoric rise in training stress (purple-acute, red-chronic) indicating I will race in Penticton in the best racing shape of my entire life (green-race readiness):

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Thursday’s ride: (T=(0->1hour and 4.5->5.5hours at IMeffort)

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Friday’s confidence boosting 1 hour brick run at IMpace after 2 hours IMeffort on bike:

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

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Great White North 2010

Today’s post in three acts. There was also a prequel to this blog entry available here, which has all the graphy goodness so you don’t want to miss it.

Act 1 – A Story

Bring a steak knife to the carbo-dinner for Great White North 2011! The steak was great, but the flimsy knife given to cut it was not.

Simmon and I rolled out of Edmonton shortly before six with a mostly blue sky greeting us as we headed west towards the lake. Between the time we arrived and pumped up my tyres (running new tires on both front and back now… conti-podium on front conti-sprinter on rear) the cloud cover came in and by the time the race started it was a grey day. The weather was fantastically forgiving, not punishing you for making small errors in early pace judgement and inadequate fueling/drinking in the same way that blast furnace heat would.

Prior to the start I did my best to stay away from the large crowds of stressed out triathletes and was able to stay calm while 750 other people managed to seem to do everything but. No real start line was drawn but the waters edge was what I believed to be implied. With the 10 second warning there were people up to knee deep in the lake and arranged myself into what was a third row kind of position. The start was quick but not crazy and a general desire to not get punched in the face seemed to prevail amongst the melee of arms and legs so despite looking like an absolute washing machine every time I lifted my eyes to sight there was minimal actually hitting and kicking going on. The 400 meters to the first turn went by quickly with mostly 2 stroke breathing and the occasional 3 stroke to change sides with hopes of avoiding breathing in big splashes of water. Then we hit the brakes… and we hit the brakes HARD. 750 people all needed to make the turn at the first buoy and to do so people were slowing so quickly that I slid right up someone’s back as I was trying to glide coast into the traffic jam. Then zoom, sprinting out of the corner to clear the bunch. The drafting opportunities were fantastic and I took advantage of many of them as we progressed in to the beach and I was back to bilateral breathing for the rest of the way. The approaching shallows of the lake-shore were tasted before they were seen or felt. All the muck (muck is just a nice way of saying goose poo I’m sure) was churned up and I had a good laugh as I stood up and jogged around the buoy for lap 2. I hoped to swim the same perceived pace as the previous lap but this was easier said than done. Getting through a thick pack of swimmers is no easy thing, especially when there’s the occasional person swimming perpendicular to the generally perceived direction of flow. I had a good laugh inside on more than one occasion and placed myself in some very excellent drafts… but the effort level on lap 2 was lower than I would have liked, there wasn’t much I could do. I can’t really complain about the clowns swimming zig-zag all the way along the course, if I was a faster swimmer I wouldn’t have to deal with it… and that’s no-ones fault but my own.

T2 was pretty quick, I heard Steve King announce my name as I headed out of the lake and also heard him mention Travis Anderson at about the same time so I hoped to see him on the bike and wish him a good race. Tough luck, Travis’ transition was slower than mine and I wouldn’t see him until well into the run. I gave Glenn a big high five and he stripped my wetsuit like a real champion, one swoop and it was off, and then so was I. Helmet, shoes, number. Go! No fancy ITU mount for me today, the bike course started on an uphill with no room to coast so I put my shoes on at the bike rack and the executed a mount that any cyclocrosser could have been proud of. I think I probably passed 30 athletes in transition and another 5 at the mount line while I flew through the air before landing on my seat. Good thing too as I had been the 99th swimmer out of the water and I wanted as little traffic ahead of me as possible.

When I saw my HR for the first time on the bike it registered at 175bpm… which was only 2 bpm shy of the maximum it would see for the day which occurred somewhere in the process of my heroically fast transition and mount. I took it almost silly-easy as we rolled down the long gradual hill away from the lake towards town with a tailwind, I followed another dude at a legal distance as he did the job of shouting at everyone else that he was passing them on their left and I could just follow suit. This was nice and it saved me adrenaline, stress and lots of breaths. Once we turned south my HR had recovered back to a level were I felt like I should be allowed to start turning the pedals with any effort I passed the shouter as he had served my purpose and drove off. My HR was too high through town, 160bpm or thereabouts, and kept it easy as I waited for it to come down. Was it taking this long to recover from a hard swim? Was it just taking time to redistribute the blood through my body to the big movers in my legs? No stress, just keep riding easy, I unintentionally jettisoned a bottle of gatorade as we crossed the railway. I was evidently not the only person to loose stuff there as there were bottles aplenty lying in the curb. I didn’t really care about getting those calories or picking up other drink on the course as there were so many aid stations. Off I rolled.

By the time I passed Mike Downey (the fastest UofA Tri-club swimmer of the day @ 28:58 – huge props!) my HR had settled down to 155 with me starting to pedal with any effort. I wished him luck as I was now able to start riding a steady pace. I continued on at the steady pace adding in periods of moderate effort when we went up slight inclines through first a long crosswind and then a headwind section. I rolled through 40kms at 60:48 ride time and calculated myself to have an average speed of ~39.5kph. This was pretty slow but considering I’d basically coasted down the hill away from the lake and hadn’t done any work yet I wasn’t worried. It would pick up as I had now started to get into a groove and could ride as I felt I wanted to and had planned to. I soon saw Dave sporting his compression socks and saw he was riding with Kelly and Annette, whom I presumed to be the leading females. I chatted with Annette and then set off. I calculated Dave’s average speed through 40kms to have been between 38 and 38.5 kph presuming he swam 2 minutes faster than me, I figured he was having a good day and was happy for him as I started to enter lonely territory in the race. There was no-one around, more motorbikes than cyclists! I suppose that the marshals want to make sure that the leaders aren’t cheating, but the real issues are back in the packs, which would inevitably be forming without enforcement from officials. When I caught the next cyclist I realized why, it was the lead female, Kristina, to whom I relayed the info that Annette and Kelly appeared to be riding with eachother quite a ways back.

I eventually caught another mini-group of three cyclists just at the top of the hill near Genesee and was getting water and a banana as the leaders started to go the other way and I missed seeing who was who. I wasn’t planning on trying to take a split at the turnaround but I was interested to know which place Stefan was in, and where sat overall. I made the turn and rolled off back down the hill through the valley. Big gears, huge speed, then suddenly not enough gears and just coasting. I was focused on getting another banana eaten in the aero position on the descent, so I didn’t get to see where all my friends were ranked in the field. I noticed a couple as they whipped by my peripheral vision. I climbed the second time out of the river valley very reserved even though the plan had been to start picking up the effort here to moderate or even somewhat hard on the return. I was rolling well off the top of the hill with the sidewind and was going quick, I could feel the sidewind harder than it was before and was getting excited to drill it with the tailwind as soon as we turned right. Schooler passed me as I slowed for a bottle of water in the aid station, but I took some energy from the big crowd at the only reasonably spectator vantage point on the bike course and got up and put in a minute of hard effort to catch back up to Schooler (he was racing for a team so he was irrelevant but I was interested to see what kind of pace he would ride). I rolled along near him for a while and then took over in front when my steady effort was bringing me near to the end of his draft zone, eventually he would re-assume the pace setting. But when he slowed again and I went by I realized why he was no longer maintaining his speed. He couldn’t ride the aerobars anymore! I joked that if you want to race like a triathlete you’ve got to train like a triathlete. He smiled and complained about not being able to sit down anymore. When I went around the corner back into the sidewind I thought I could hear his carbon wheels behind me, perhaps though it was just the deafening sound of my disc going around the corner at 35kph. Off I shot into the sidewind. I waited until there were some trees along the road to lessen the sidewind so I could relieve myself into the ditch while coasting without getting blown over. I then set a new PR, for the fastest speed grass watering job I’d ever done. 40kph. By the end of the bike I’d consumed 1200 calories, although the number is a bit vague because I have to estimate how much HEED I took from the aid station to drink instead of the planned gatorade which got dropped. All in all this was a good amount and I was happy and confident with how it felt (well, the fact that it didn’t feel like anything!)

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I coasted into T2 quite happy with my ride knowing that I’d kept it conserved enough to run fast but had still put down a satisfactorily quick ride, I waved to the crowd which gave me a great cheer and hopped off my bike. I had my bike racked and my socks and shoes put on quite efficiently and then was off.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Almost immediately I could tell that the muscles in my lower legs were tight. The most concerning spot was just on the outside of my right shin, Extensor Digitorum Longus, and it wasn’t happy. (Thanks to this great resource for the muscle ID and treatment suggestions: Athletes Treating Athletes) It wasn’t classic shin splits but it wasn’t nice. My goal was to try to just run at a 1:30 half marathon pace until 8kms and if my HR was low then it was just effort in the bank that I could spend on the second chunk of the run. I could see Cal Zaryski ahead and knew that he would be running closer to a 1:22-1:25 pace, so I told myself if he wasn’t putting time into me then I was going too fast. This likely sounds like a counterproductive racing strategy, but my goal is to make it to the finish line as fast as I possibly can, not to compete and so this wasn’t a hard pill to swallow at all. I was largely concentrating on trying to be able to run at all with the frustration of my lower legs and didn’t control my pace as well as I could have or should have. It took until about 4kms at which point I had finally got my pace dialed back. It was partly the fact that my HR had come up that helped slow me back down to goal pace, this is something that continues to need practice, not necessarily in general, but specifically in brick workouts: running patiently slowly with a low HR.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Pace/HR Chart

From 4kms through to 8kms I felt fine. I was increasingly frustrated as I passed through successive aid stations that did not have any gels on hand for me. This was frustrating and I tried to figure out how I was going to make up for the calories I’d planned to down from the gels which I had understood by the emails to have been promised at the aid stations. I tried drinking the flat coke, but it was flatter at some aid stations than it was at others. After a couple tries of that I wasn’t happy and switched to drinking HEED at each of the aid stations, this turned out OK. It meant that I missed the opportunity to try and feed on the run as I would have liked to have practiced for Penticton. Such is life.

At around 8kms I was hoping to switch to HR based running and lift it up to 162 bpm. It took me a while of just observing the HR before I decided I had actually better close the gap between the HR I was running and the target I had set. I came across an intersection where Ben and Lindsay were volunteering and they gave me the extra boost to make the change. Ben’s voice sounded really encouraging when I saw him and I believed him when he said I was running well, from there on I ran well, then a long stretch of tailwind pushed me along for a while and I kinda tricked myself by thinking the wind would push me like it does on a bike… it doesn’t really, but it makes you feel better about your running and I ran well. Then into the headwind I paid the price for cheating my brain into thinking the headwind had previously helped and was now hurting. I ran hard into that headwind, and when I got out of the wind I ran even harder. Once I was within 5kms of the finish I made the dangerous calculation of how fast I’d have to run to still meet the goal of a sub 1:30 run. The answer was 4.8 minutes (That information is dangerous, it could have slowed me down if I was not feeling good) but the motivation continued as I was quite regularly seeing other members of our club. The traffic on the path through the one final stretch and I had to do some cross country to get around the big clumps. With a mile left I broke out into an uphill headwind section and things weren’t pretty but I stuck with it, and then inside the last kilometer there were people watching… you have to run fast when people are watching!

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I didn’t realize that there was a clock for me to see at the finish line until I was almost under it at which point I had to make a mad dash to get in under 4:14, which I did. Not that I had to sprint the last 10 meters, because I’d beaten sixth place by more than 6 minutes! After the finish I was really dizzy just like Chinook two weeks prior. This time it lasted an uncomfortably long time and I just lay on the pavement waiting for it to go away. Once I got up and walked over to sit in the golf cart and drank a bunch of calories was able to stand up again without feeling so bad, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Act 2 – Race Plan Execution

Stay calm at the start, stay away from groups of over-stressed people. Permission to be nervous but stay calm.

Just an on-shore warmup like I normally do before getting into the pool. Line up near the front, second row in center for the beach start. Run in to get going quick, don’t spike HR with a sprint.

Go hard for up to 200m if I can tell that there are feet around I should be catching. Hopefully something is found and I’ll settle into a moderately hard effort on someone’s feet or the same thing if I have to swim on my own. Hopefully I’m ahead of people who will be swimming faster than me so I can pick up some feet as they come around. Don’t redline for too long.

Keys to swimming well: long strokes, quick transition from hand entry to vertical forearm, don’t let legs snake after the torso through the water. Finish the strokes.

Aim to swim the second lap at same perceived pace as the first. If I’m alone, key is to find a rhythm and sight well to stay on course.

Goal: No specific goal set for swim other than to do my best. Aim for a slightly higher effort level than Chinook, anticipate that with an accurate course a 32-33 minute swim is possible.

Not able to go too hard off the start due to immediate congestion. Probably wasn’t close enough to the front, the wide start also meant that fast people were likely spread very widely. The bottleneck was going to happen anyways though. Did same or lower effort than Chinook Half and hence the reason I was a tad off my target time with the swim.

Bike General Strategy: Reserved effort on the flats to start, settle in and ride fast and efficient. Work harder through the rolling hills by the bacon farm and the two climbs in the middle of the course, maintain harder effort on the way back. Sight off of the remaining cyclists ahead of me and reel them in, don’t race to T2, but begin racing for the finish line with about 40km to go on the bike, meaning ~2.5 hours left in the race. Stay on track for ~1100 calories minimum.

Total food: 2×24oz bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories. three half bananas = 180 calories. 2 tube shot bloks = 400 calories, 3 gels 3×110 = 330 calories. If I want bananas then I don’t eat the gels, grab water along the way, ensure I drink minimum 1 bottle, 2 if hot.

Do not pace off of other cyclists, they are likely going too slow. Enjoy the ride, say hello to team-mates that I see while on course. . When passing stronger cyclists especially near the front of the race, take a drink first as a regulatory measure so that I know I’m not breathing that hard and then go past with sufficient speed that they’re not generally going to feel confident to come with me.

Let HR gradually rise towards 150bpm rather than hammering to get it up there. Fast cadence in headwind, run the big gears in tailwind with slower cadence, keep the power output smooth and my body aerodynamic. Aim to conserve momentum.

Once back into the smaller streets on the way back into town remain cautious, sprinting corners is only going to induce cramping so might as well be gentle here.

Goal: Average HR > 150bpm. Mentally pace bike to begin racing home from Genesee.

Incorrectly anticipated I’d be starting the bike with a HR that was going to need to come up to 150bpm instead of a HR that needed to come down to 150bpm. I think I made the right decision taking it so easy on the bike, if I were to have raced with no HRM I definitely would have been faster through this stretch, whether or not it would have cost me though is an open question… My heart rate wouldn’t have come down unless I took it easy, so I would have been faster but it would have been at the expense of doing it… and then likely the rest of the bike at an even higher effort. Nailed the goal with 152bpm on the bike, able to ride aero the whole time without any issues of muscular discomfort in glute-med or lumbar back, although I did find the shorts less comfortable today than at Chinook, likely because this course is only out of aero position for a grand total of 11 corners and optionally on two hills. Whereas Chinook has bum-shifting opportunities at less corners but more climbs are relatively notable durations out of the saddle. At the end of the race I thought about switching shorts for IM but on sober second thought IMC has a course with more opportunities for ass-relief than GWN so I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Run General Strategy: Gradual start to the run, reserved on first out and back, 4:16 pace cap until the school, then with about 2/3 of the run remaining aim to pick it up through final hour, building pace.

first 8kms: focus on breathing, want feeling like I’m running easier than during a MAF test, notably short of breakpoint of deep breathing. Keep it capped at 1:30 half marathon pace, MAF HR cap. Let people get away from me if they are going to get away from me, self control.

On the way to turnaround, Run efficiently. Picking up pace from first 8kms slightly, goal to run 4:10kms or MAF HR whichever is faster. HR cap at 172bpm.

On the way back from turnaround Go Hard! MAF Pace is target, MAF HR is the absolute floor of acceptable effort. Keep lifting knees and picking up my heels, maintain proper running stride even if tired

Final mile back from junction: keep it flying! No need to sprint unless I’m contesting a position as this will exasperate recovery.

Nutrition: Gels at the aid stations, 3 miles, 6miles, 9miles. HEED at all aid stations. Water on body and ice if available and heat warrants it.

Goal: Run sub 1:30

As discussed in Act 1, I struggled with quite a bit of discomfort and then was focused on doing what it took to run and experimentation with how that felt, it meant that I didn’t have the mental focus on getting the pace quite right. I was able to dial it back as I was aware that I was going too fast but it took a while to reel myself back sufficiently. Picked up to MAF HR nicely once I tried and got in a groove, I found the pace feedback every 500m to be variable due to aid stations etc so paid less and less attention to it as I went because I knew that it was acceptable. Ran harder in the last mile than I needed to but I was seizing the opportunity and having a blast doing it, so if it means I hurt more the day after then that’s fine.

Act 3 – The Club

Stefan put in a good effort on the day, he really pushed it on the bike hoping that he could win the “fastest bike” prime which he did and then still managed to run well. Dave also had a great performance, he didn’t look like a champion when he rounded the last bend and came into view but, with 100 meters to go he pulled his form back together and ran across the finish nicely inside 4:30 which is really a great performance. Darren passed Andrea on the run which I wasn’t totally sure if he’d manage when I saw them go by in the other direction, but I’m sure makes him secretly super happy! The womens team wrapped up a win in their division with a swim that was more anticipated than any other swim in the history of triathlon, a bike ride from Shari that showed everyone who was boss with the 6th fastest female bike split of the day, and a personal best half marathon to wrap it up. Travis rounded out a great swim and frustrating bike ride where he struggled to feel good about putting food down with a run that is much more respectable than he gives himself credit for. Then came two big surprises. Or perhaps they weren’t surprises, just well guarded secrets regarding the performances that they knew they had it store but weren’t willing to divulge? Mike Downey made his HIM debut in 5 hours (if we give him the 30 second benefit of the doubt just like the Boston Marathon, which of course, we will) with the aforementioned swim a quick bike and a good run. The rumour from the spectators is that he needs to work on his transition though! Then Lesley cruised across the finish line with a mighty fine “crash course in last minute training” performance, breaking her PR from last year on this course with a notably improved bike leg. While she seemed to be chalking it up to “I don’t know how”, I think the consistency of training through ‘cross season and through the early winter when the majority of people do nothing of substance, and she maintained consistency did a wonder of good, combined of course with chasing Travis around on some challenging bike rides. Michele cruised across the finish in her debut performance having suffered a rather lengthy flat tire pit-stop on the bike putting together a run within only a couple minutes of her open half marathon performance in April, which has got to make her happy. Not far behind, Jen Moroz cruised in with a full trio of times that I believe she will be happy with, having also made her debut at the distance. Anita chopped an enormous 23 minutes off her time from last year, greatly improving both her ride and her run. Aisling also scored her first finish at the HIM distance and was quite pleased with it all things considered at the finish.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Thanks to Becky for not getting mad at me when I stole some photos of the race from Facebook without asking her

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Chinook 2010

Race Report 2010

  • No HRM… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • No spare tubular… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • Swim. COLD!
  • Bike. No fun
  • Run. Totally incredible

There’s basically all you need to know… but I’ll record the day for posterity sake, I’m sure one day someone will want to remember it even though today I don’t really.

Tapered my running after completing 40 runs in 40 days on June 9th, big bike weekend prior and consistent swimming during race-week. Rested up enough to get TSB back definitively on positive side for the first time in 36 days. Still tired on Thursday, felt good Friday and felt physically great on Saturday morning despite being mentally not so great… impacted by some forgetfulness (see preamble).

Swim: Goal was to practice drafting in the open water as much as I could but keep to a moderate effort. Started front row and with a little beach run I was way off in front of the pack, got off to a moderate effort start, no need to hammer as people were just gingerly getting going due to the cold this all seemed really weird to me, then things started to pick up at maybe 300m, at which point people started to pass me, I tried a few sets of feet as they went past and held some for a while each but eventually lost them all. By 500m I had picked up a good draft and held it until maybe 800 feeling just steady. At this point I got pretty dizzy, not because of waves I don’t think, probably a cold head, but I just grimaced and dealt with it, trying to focus on three stroke breathing until the end of the first lap. I passed 5 people on the beach run and caught some feet upon re-entry but quickly lost them and swam by myself at a steady pace till 1500. At this point I got a draft and held it to the finish again. Got a bit dizzy through the same section, this was the shaded part of the lake so that’s why I’m pretty sure it was a cold-induced dizziness. 19th/120 on the swim.

35:48 – distance was supposed to be 2km but everyone seemed to think it was a bit long. I swam totally within myself but did think that I had swum a very straight line and had kept the pressure on. I thought for sure this was going to be closer to a 33min swim until the results went up. Disappointed but not surprised based on a recent 1 hour swim TT last week where I managed only about this pace.

T1: Hands were a wreck in T1, luckily the strippers got me out of my suit and I was on my way. I decided to run hard to try and warm up at least a bit before mounting the bike. In retrospect I do think this was a good decision, I did get on the bike relatively quite a bit warmer than leaving the lake.

Bike: Race plan was to average 150bpm, having no HRM (see preamble) I was going to just try and average an RPE of 14/20 and 16/20 on the big hills, which would likely get me around 150bpm under race circumstances. Out the start I felt like the bike was all a strange muscular effort and breathing/HR was low… Did not feel like I was strong on this bike at all… I’m strong on the road bike right now, the TT bike was not feeling great. Eating and drinking got underway and was doing OK, pulling in lots of people and I’d worked my way into fourth. I was certainly not feeling strong on the bike, searching around through different cadences and not able to find something that felt good and strong and fast. Similar trouble to early May on the TT bike for the first time in the season, just couldn’t get in a powerful groove.

Flatted my rear tyre at about 30kms. Very frustrated with myself and had a big internal debate about what to do, kept riding while I would decide but focus was lost. Dad was parked maybe 5km up the road and I opted to stop, and put my training wheel on the rear at 35kms and accept a DQ for the race for accepting outside help and then get going. Did the swap, and spent the next 10miles not focusing well, not riding hard, not doing anything right. Got more frustrated with myself, sad, angry… etc. At halfway I tried to turn things around a bit but struggled to do so. Average pace picked up due to general downhill and sections of tailwind, this was probably deceiving as I felt a bit better about it but wasn’t really making up as much time as I could have been. I caught myself dropping into easier gears when I probably shouldn’t have been, certainly not having fun at this point. Then started to get an achy lower back… race plan was to avoid having this happen as I anticipated it meant I was going too hard. When it happened I backed off the intensity, this was the wrong choice as I was already going too slow, I was likely just out of practice on the aeros and should have kept pushing. Wrapped up the effort with 1km to go and rolled into transition in third place off the bike.

Last minute announcement that they’d be serving HEED instead of gatorade despite posting otherwise on the website. I had tried HEED before and know that I do like it so this wasn’t going to be an issue except that they’re slightly less calorie dense and I didn’t know what size bottles we’d get. (Aside: Oh well, this is what athletes deal with when corporate multinationals decide to adopt targeted marketing campaigns… do you think this makes me want to buy more Gatorade now? Honestly, what kind of marketing genius thought this policy up?) 340 calories gatorade. 300 calories HEED. 260 calories powerbar and a banana ~120calories. No gels. = 1020 calories. Ate two hammergels, raspberry was nice, and drank HEED on the run at every aid station where I could get a volunteer to pay any attention to me, this was not a majority of aid stations unfortunately.

2:38:10 96 km. Second overall, 7 minutes slower than last year. 6 minutes slower than fastest cyclist on the day. Map (started at about 2.5 km into ride).

Run: My plan was to run a strategic combination of MAF heart rate governed pace and tested MAF pace from two weeks ago. This was ambitious, and became more ambitious when the heart rate strap was left at home and I was now basically going to have to run purely according to pace and RPE (goal 16/20 – cap 17/20). Brick was super and I felt great going out onto the run, felt fresher than in any transition run in training, highly motivated to try and redeem my day with a good run split as I had done a lousy job on the bike and was going to get DQ’d after the race anyways due to the wheel change and I knew it (because I planned to request it). Split the first 500m in 2:02 (exactly MAF pace) and was mighty proud of myself. Ran through to 4kms basically all at MAF pace except for the aid station where congestion (with Olympic race) caused trouble with me trying to get what I wanted, ran myself into second place, soon caught by Jeremy in third, we ran together from 5km through until 10.55km (halfway). I felt like I was taking it easy here and just cruising along next to him despite logging a couple splits below 4:00 pace here. As we passed transition I ducked in where I took a quick pee and he got maybe 80m up the road. I subsequently lost a bit of time to him through kms 11-16 despite lifting the effort level. I struggled to run 4:15-4:20 pace and got a bit worried when I split one at 4:30 pace. I pulled my socks up then and started to focus on the finish line and my pace improved. I actually started to gain back on Jeremy through the fourth quarter of the run meaning he faded even harder than me, which is what I anticipated based on his breathing when running side by side, but his fade started quite a bit later and in the end he ran the fastest split of the day so who am I to suggest otherwise. Kudos to Stefan for the win, good bike ride and good run, when you get both right you typically have a good day, and he got both done quite nicely indeed.

Splits: Green is up heartbreak hill, which has been re-landscaped and re-paved and is nowhere as steep as it was last year. Blue is the pee break.

Photo from gallery: Weblog Photos

1:30:09 Placed second overall in run, goal was to run within 2% of my open half marathon PR, which I certainly did, only 22 seconds slower that my PR, and considering a porta-potty break, this is totally impressive.Map.

Overall: 4:44:06. A hair over 2 minutes off my time last year. Similar swim, 7min slower on bike, 9 min faster on run. I went and talked to the race director afterward and told him that he needed to DQ me for outside help, he wasn’t really sure that he wanted to do that but in the end that’s what he and the other official decided. This was a very costly mistake, mentally it cost me on the ride a lot, and cost me some really good data from the run, what was my HR actually doing during the third quarter of the race?

Lessons learned:

  • I need to log a lot of time on the TT bike in the next 2 weeks, even if it’s all easy, riding that bike allows me to feel powerful on that bike and that’s what’s necessary for me to ride to my potential. I also think I’m going to experiment with raising the seat up a bit to de-stress the quads slightly. I also think I should probably try to almost ride in the aerobars by a large majority until Ironman, or at least never go a week where I’m not logging at least some serious time on it.
  • Swim frequency needs to stay higher than it has been. 4 day weekends between Thursday nights and Tuesday nights have caused some trouble I think, it means the Tuesday swim is almost always a write-off in terms of getting in some quality swimming as it’s hampered by re-familiarization with the water.
  • Run – I’m doing well. Hopes are high for continued development, but some tougher run sessions lie ahead, when I lifted the effort level in the third quarter I actually dropped in speed slightly. Negative splitting my longer runs should become a strategic plan.
  • I discussed how to avoid costly mistakes like forgetting gear with my mom, there is no easy answer. I had everything packed, and then double checked, and then left one bag on my bed when loading the car. I have a checklist, but these things only work when things go according to your plan. The best laid plans are only plans. What do you do?

Chinook is behind me for 2010, and I’m looking forward: two weeks until the GWN. I will be mentally stronger on July 4 than I was on Saturday, I’ll also be considerably less rested, faster? who knows, but it will be fun to mark myself up against Paul Tichelaar’s anticipated sub 4 hour time. To wrap up I’ll re-post a quote that I scooped from the EnduranceCorner website today:

“Feelings are a choice.” – Scott Molina

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