13 April 2008
Race Report & Analysis
13 April 2008
Race Report & Analysis
In June of 2007, I completed two ultra-endurance events; my first solo 24-Hour MTB race and then my 10th Ironman. Despite having a huge cycling base in 2007, I completed very little running and almost no swimming prior to June (due to a seriously pulled hamstring in December 2006 and a general disdain for the water). I continued to race my bicycle in July before using August as a rest and recovery month to address some lingering issues with my lower back. My 2008 Ironman training was scheduled to commence on 01 September 2007. Unfortunately, a freak running accident (getting tripped by a metal cable while running home from work) delayed my start until 01 October. October, November, and December were uneventful and focused on rebuilding aerobic endurance in all three disciplines. I had enlisted the help of Scott McMillan at Factor 9 Triathlon Coaching. Scott is a friend who has successfully coached me during my 2006 triathlon season (my second best performance—a 10:50 in 97+ degree temps at CdA). Scott is awesome. Despite having a great working relationship with Scott, I simply couldn’t complete his training program because his training hours and number of workouts were too high given my other priorities. I couldn’t manage the training his program required. As I mentioned to my spouse one evening when I was feeling particularly tired, “it’s just not fun to complete a 21 hour training week and feel bad because your coach had scheduled 25 hours.”
Further, in December, I received Navy orders to move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in early-January. With a cold winter, limited available hours, and a need to try a new approach to Ironman training; I asked a teammate (Dave Ciavarella from Odyssey Tri Coaching) if he’d be willing to provide guidance for Ironman Arizona. Dave accepted and I’m very grateful (I hope to continue working with him in the future).
January-March 2008: Dave developed a very detailed program emphasizing technique and sustained power in all three disciplines. Rather than 3 hour mid-week rides, Dave often limited individual workouts to less than 90 minutes. However, the utilization of a power meter for cycling (in my case a Tacx Fortius trainer) and a treadmill for running ensured that all workouts were extremely focused. During the week of 10 January, I completed testing in all 3 disciplines to establish baseline performances and training zones which was used throughout my training. Entering IMAZ, here’s how I rated my performance in each discipline:
Swimming: Swimming continues to be my Achilles heel and a source of endless frustration. My 14 January 2008 swim time trial indicated that I should complete a 2.4 mile swim in 1:14. I averaged 7,500 yards per week from January through March (with a peak week of 14,000 yards). Further, I completed at least 10 swims in excess of 3,000 yards with a long swim of 4,500 yards. Training indicators 3-4 weeks prior to race day indicated that a 1:08-1:10 swim was very realistic (my swim PR is 1:08). On 13 April, I swam 1:14 at Ironman Arizona.
Cycling: I’m riding like a cyclist for the first-time in years. My power output is strong and I feel like I’ve turned to corner in my riding. In 2007, I built a huge aerobic base at the cost of significantly decreased power on the bike (I’d actually reached the point where I had compact cranks on EVERY single bike including my TT rig). Dave’s program was unusual (and at times unnerving) because there were no rides scheduled longer than 90 miles. Instead, his program focused on low-cadence, Zone 3 and Zone 4 work. I slowly built power leading up to race day yet my HR remained low when generating power throughout the winter. 99% of my riding was done on the trainer in preparation for IMAZ (I only completed 3 outdoor rides prior to race day). Based upon trainer performances, I should have been able to comfortably sustain 225 watts for an entire Ironman bike split. Indicators on the trainer showed that a 5:15 bike split was realistic given optimum conditions with a sub-5:30 expected. I rode 5:28 at IMAZ.
Running: This year, I broke through a number of mental barriers to my running. I think that I’ll be a MUCH better runner in the future because of my newly developed confidence (in my ability to run long at pace and my ability to recover). I’ve always considered myself “fragile” in running. Under Dave’s program, the treadmill became a close friend as it allowed me to completely control my environment and pace. In my previous Ironman training, I’ve peaked with one or two runs longer than 18 miles. Under Dave’s tutelage, I completed 5 runs longer than 18 miles in the final 4 weeks prior to the race (with the last long run occurring 10 days prior to IMAZ). Simply put, my running was strong my early April and I expected to run sub-3:40 at IMAZ. I did not finish the run at IMAZ.
Psychological: 2008 was the year I decided that I no longer wanted to “finish” Ironman races. Instead, my goal was to race. I made conscious decisions not to question my coach and to accept his advice without hesitation. After all, resistance to change would waste emotional energy and make it impossible to evaluate what worked and what needed improvement. I was confident in training. However, I was VERY UPTIGHT prior to the race (the last 10 days I wasted too much emotional energy thinking about the race).
Thursday—Travel to Arizona from Kansas. We had pasta for dinner. Uneventful.
Friday—Registered and enjoyed a nice dinner at PF Chang’s. I made it a point to drink lots of water and take a few extra electrolyte pills. Uneventful.
Saturday—I had a morning massage with Jesse that was awesome. He found a few tender muscles which released nicely with a little work. Bike and Gear check-in. Uneventful. Pasta for dinner (one large plate with meat sauce) as well as 3 pieces of bread.
Sunday morning: 0400 hours—Arose 0415 hours—Shower 0430 hours—SPF 30 and body marking at home 0445 hours—Ate a banana, drank a water, took 300 mg of sodium, ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich—In hindsight, this wasn’t nearly enough calories. 0500 hours—Departed house for race venue 0540 hours—I arrived at race venue 0540-0640—dropped off last gear, checked bike, at an energy bar, drank a water, and relaxed.
Race Swim: I entered the water feeling confident and calm. Race day was here and I was focused on staying in the moment and pushing all day. I started to the far left of the counter-clockwise swim. Despite the wide swim area, I was surprised that the unclear water led to a lot of bumping and grabbing. I had my goggles knocked askew at least 5 times. I felt good about the physical effort. However, I know my technique was poor as a repeatedly caught myself swimming with short stroke and head up. Goal: Sub-1:10. Swim time: 1:14 Not a great start which left no room for error in the next 2 legs.
Race Bike: Okay, I have no idea what the actual winds measured. However, I can say that the outbound leg was slightly uphill with a continual headwind. It was clear the course would NOT be fast. During the first loop, I received my first indicators that my stomach wasn’t quite right. Although I’ve never had problems with Malto, my stomach was a bit unsettled/bloated. However, I continued to push into the wind hoping that the stomach would settle and I’d find a rhythm. At the end of the first hour, I’d consumed only 45 grams of carbs (my target was 70 grams per hour). I increased water intake hoping to get my gut to open up. Following the turnaround, the return leg (downhill with a tailwind) was uneventful. I continued to try to consume water and calories. At the end of the second hour on the bike, I’d still only consumed a total of 100 grams of carbo. I knew I had missed a crucial 2 hours of nutrition which could hurt me later. With Malto still giving me trouble, I attempted to grab a Gatorade at the turnaround on lap 2. I made sure to take smaller, but more frequent sips of the Gatorade and consumed roughly ½ bottle which seemed to jump start my nutrition and I began to feel better. Although lap 2 was slightly slower than the first lap, I was encouraged that my nutrition and hydration were back on track. I returned to Malto at the beginning of the final lap. To reach my time goal, I knew that I’d need to push a bit on the final lap. Fortunately, my legs were feeling good as I climbed despite having a few problems with my eyes (trouble focusing). During the final lap, I made a conscious decision to push for a sub-5:30 because I knew that I couldn’t meet my race goal if I didn’t push the bike. Goal: Sub-5:30 (best case 5:20). Split time: 5:28. 300 grams of carbohydrate consumed. I kept the HR between 137 and 145 the entire ride (Run HR Z2). Race
Run: Not much to say…I started the run with HUGE cramping in my feet (actually, they are still super-tender 3 days after the race). I exited transition in good spirits with my head ready for war. HR was supposed to cap at 137 for the first 16 miles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drop the HR below 141 without walking. This was frustrating as I was unsure what to do (I normally ditch the HRM in T2 and run by PE). After 2 miles, I decided to just jog easy and let the HR rise a bit. Unfortunately, my stomach had completely shut down. I’d ditched my Fuel Belt at mile #1 when it became clear that the waist band was making me feel really sick. Attempts to eat or drink at miles 2 and 3 proved futile when each effort made me wretch and by mile 6 I was completely bonked (but unable to eat/drink) and walking. I walked from 6-10 where I quit after dry-heaving for 10 minutes.
Heat specific items…
Previous approaches to heat (which have worked):
Nutrition: Liquid nutrition
Pacing: Decrease target HR by 5-7 beats and accept the day
Electrolytes: Endurolyte pills (3 every 30 minutes for any temps above 90 degrees or 2 every 30 minutes for temps from 80 to 90 degrees)
Uniform: 1-piece tri suit placing ice near kidneys during the run
Hat: Ice in hat to cool
IMAZ 2008 choices:
Nutrition: Liquid nutrition (pure Malto with Crystal Lite for flavor and Electrolytes added into the mix)
Pacing: STAY ON PACE TO HIT TARGET TIME...RISK FINISHING TO MAINTAIN CHANCE OF PR (I only cared about a sub-10:30 on Sunday)
Electrolytes: Placed salt tablets into drink mixture...I think this messed up my osmolality and decreased my ability to process calories
Uniform: 2-piece tri suit prevented me from holding ice in the suit (and the waist band put pressure on my gut)
Visor: Couldn't get ice on head leading to frustration and a real sense of "baking" out there
Acclimation: 15-30 minutes of sauna work every other day for 2 weeks prior to race
Swim: 2003 QR Superfull Wetsuit with Barracuda goggles. No notable issues.
Bike: 2007 Trek Equinox TTX with Zipp Clincher Disc and Hed 3 Clincher Front. Michelin Pro Race 3 tires. Spiuk Kronos helmet (perfectly comfortable). All equipment performed well and fit well.
Run: Fuel belt with 10 ounce bottles…Bad idea. 6 ounce bottles don’t bounce. 10 ounce bottles proved problematic (and bad last-minute change).
1. I need a swim coach. It’s simply not acceptable to continue swimming with the slow people. I made a lot of improvement this year swimming, but I need to completely rebuild my stroke from scratch or I’ll never improve to where I want to be.
2. I chose to push despite conditions that might have deserved a reduction in effort. Without a power meter, I’ll never know what my true effort was on the bike. I’ll need to conduct more outdoor riding with better focus on PE and HR or get a power meter. Regardless, I’m confident that my cycling is strong and my gear choices are correct for any course I’ll encounter in the foreseeable future.
3. Execution matters. Training tells us exactly what is possible. The following changes to my traditional racing were bad decisions:
a. 2-piece tri suit—The waist band makes me feel sick. I wanted to look like a team member, but 2-piece suits have never worked for me. I’ll be racing in a 1 piece moving forward.
b. Mixing sodium directly into my drink at the last minute likely changed the osmolality of my solution which led to problems. I’ve always taken pills at set intervals during the race. I’ll return to “pills in a coin pouch.”
c. On hot days, I like ice in my hat. Switching to a visor left me no relief from the heat. I’ll return to wearing a hat when racing.
4. I needed more outdoor training using my HRM when cycling (or a power meter on the bike)…I did a poor job of correlating HR to Power in training and therefore didn’t have a good target HR for cycling on race day.
5. I need to reevaluate/readjust my nutrition plan...I'm starting to make it too complicated. I think a discussion with Folanator at Infinit is probably in order as all this "gram scale-mad-scientist" stuff prior to a race leaves too many opportunities to muck it up.
6. I’m happy with the effort, but displeased with my performance. Now it’s time to regroup, refocus, and try again. 10:15 IS POSSIBLE FOR ME, but it will take a perfect day. I’m optimistic in my disappointment.