In my race plan I only somewhat jokingly wrote, “I’m coming into this race with more confidence and than any of the other 4 IM races I’ve done, which puts me in a great position to have my worst race yet!” But it was a real concern for me that probably for the first time ever I had enough strength on the bike to feel comfortable for quite a long time at a suicidal effort. I was feeling anxious about the bike ride– I didn’t want to sell myself short by being too conservative but I also didn’t want to become an Ironman cliche by blowing myself up on the bike.
Coming into the race I was posting my best training numbers ever– my flat steady watts were around 230- 240, my flat steady run pace was down to around 6:40, and my swim … was my swim. To give me confidence that I could sustain these numbers I did a big simulation workouts about 17 days out, which was slightly risky for me (I’ll typically taper closer to 3 full weeks), but I decided to take the risk to make sure that that I had my pacing 100% dialed in. It took me 8 days to bounce back to “normal” after the sim which left me 9 days for final freshening and sharpening. During my final sharpening phase I felt great except a mild feeling of fatigue in my quads, which I dismissed as the usual phantom taper pains.
I got greedy and seeded myself all the way inside which led to a very rough start. Typically I’m quite wily about putting myself in the right spot (last year I was about 10 feet further right which allowed me to get a good draft without any rough stuff.). I decided this year to experiment with getting further inside behind the MASSIVE group of angry and aggressive people on the theory that so long as they’re ahead of me I’d get an even bigger draft to drag me out for awhile. It turned out to be a very rough swim and I think even the people behind me were rough and aggressive. It takes a certain amount of balls and aggressiveness to line up on the inside like that, and it probably attracts a rough crowd.
Once I found space after the start I spend the entire swim going from one set of feet to the next. I swam a bit too hard (4 stroke breathing wasn’t as easy as it should have been when I tested it). I came out of the swim pretty much exactly with my buddy Vince Matteo, which is exactly what happened at our last 2 races together.
1:03:33- in 32nd place in AG coming out of the water
Not my quickest T1 (even though I apparently moved up 10 spots in my AG) as I spent time fumbling around with all the extra cold weather stuff I put in my bag in case it turned out to be a cold morning (it wasn’t, although I put on arm warmers just in case).
Loop 1. My power was good from the start, but my heart rate wasn’t settling at all (a sign I probably swam too hard). I was also automatically pushing watts that were too high, so I needed to focus on easing off. On the first out and back along the lake it seemed much less crowded than last year and going into the turnaround I counted that I was about the 50th amateur with plenty of people within short striking distance.
I moved up to about 40th place heading out to the hills, then, as expected, I got passed by quite a few people as they blasted up the hills and I chugged along around 300 watts. I started losing count but kept riding fairly strong thorugh the hills.
Somewhere in the last 1/4 of the first loop I could tell that I didn’t have my best legs– that feeling of fatigue in the quads that I felt during the taper was becoming amplified. I decided to dial my effort back on the way back in. I settled in a legal distance behind another rider while I regrouped. The official came by to tell me that he was watching us– I asked if I was in the draft zone and he said I was close, so I quickly passed. On that topic, hats off to the officials for running a super clean race (at least from what I saw).
Loop 1 stats: 2:33:16, 230 NP, 210 watts including zeros, 149 bpm
Loop 2. On the 2nd loop I moved up the field on the out and back along the lake and back out to the hills. Because I knew I didn’t have my best legs I was following my “Plan B” of coasting quite a bit extra on the downhills. Hitting the hills for the 2nd time my wattage wasn’t quite as good as last time but was still strong. However, I was getting re-passed by some of the people that I passed out to the hills. In the last 25% of the race my power was dropping a bit and I was starting to focus more on making sure that I wasn’t frying my legs for the run. On the final gradual downhill stretch coming back into town I decided to be super conservative and to ride in my upper easy zone @ 24 mph or so to give myself the best chance of having good run legs. For all the fatigue, extra coasting and easing off in the 2nd loop it only cost me 3 minutes versus loop one, which goes to show how little time you lose on the bike by taking your intensity down a notch (or how little you get by pushing a bit harder).
Loop 2 stats: 2:36:34, 216 NP, 196 watts including zeros, 146 bpm
Nutrition. During the ride I drank a bottle of IM Perform / aid station + 1/6 of a cliff bar every 10 minutes until near the end of the bike ride for a total of about 450-500 cals/ hour. My stomach handled everything fine and I’m officially a huge fan of the IM Perform drink they’re serving out on the course.
Bike Overall. All in all the bike leg was probably the worst executed ride I’d done in 5 Ironman races, but (I didn’t know it at the time) I was getting off the bike in 3rd place in my AG, which is WAY better than I’d ever ridden in my entire life. The only question was whether I’d ruined my run legs in the process…
Bike overall stats: 5:10, 223 NP, 203 watts including zeros, 147 bpm; 3rd place in AG heading into T2
Loop 1. I like to think of myself as the aggressor on the run– a man on the hunt. However, that sort of mentality wasn’t in the cards for this year. My legs felt pretty terrible coming out of transition, although I ran 6:40, 6:48 and 6:58 miles on the first 3 miles. My mentality was “jog the first half marathon.” I’ve been fortunate to be 4-4 in always running a strong marathon at my IM races and I know that in some people’s book that means I’m overdue for my comeuppance. My mindset was just to put off getting my comeuppance for as long as possible!
Shortly into the first lap I got passed by someone in my AG (the guy who was the eventual winner). If I’d have had my best legs it would have been great to give him a real race, but I was not in any position to push harder and start racing at mile 2!
I managed to get into a somewhat rusty but not so terrible rhythm and maintain a good pace and survive the hills at the turnaround without losing much time. At mile 10-11 someone else in my AG caught me from behind– this was getting unacceptable! I’m supposed to be doing the passing! We chatted briefly and a few times he pulled away, but I managed to stay on him and even pass him briefly on the little downhills since I’m a quick downhill runner now matter how bad I’m feeling.
Loop 1 stats: according to my GPS I averaged 7:05 / mile on the first loop @ 154 bpm
Trying not to let the elastic snap.
Loop 2. Starting the second loop, the two of us (above) were in 2nd and 3rd in our AG. There are some downhills in the first couple miles of the loop and I used them to make a move and break away. My legs were coming back to life and my stride felt good heading out for my final run along the lake. I was tempted to put my foot on the gas, but I reminded myself that 10 miles (including the hills at the turnaround) is not quite “almost there.” But my rhthym was good and I got to the hills feeling strong. As I did on the first loop, I’d run up the hill until my quads felt very tired, walk and take a drink, take 4 more steps walking, take another drink, then start running again with my legs feeling much refreshed. I’d do about 3 of these walk breaks on each loop. I’d typically lose almost no distance to the people running near me.
After the turnaround I ran back up the hill for the last time and I got to see that I’d developed an OK but hardly insurmountable gap on 3rd place, who was still looking strong. As I approached my pursuer coming the other way I tried my best to pick up my pace and put on a happy “I could run like this all day” face so as not to give him any encouragement or hope. Hitting the top of the hill, I blasted downhill to increase my gap as much as I could. And when I hit the bottom I kept my momentum going and finally let myself starting pushing harder. My mantra was “quick but sustainable” and I filled my bottle half way one last time as a little bonk insurance. At this point the pain level was shooting up steadily and I summoned all the old mind tricks. e.g. “it’s going to hurt no matter what, and the only way to make it stop is to finish faster.” I kept the “quick but sustainable” mantra going until I could smell the finish then pushed even deeper into the pain zone. The final little humps up to the finish were killer but usually followed by merciful downhills where I could keep my pace going just with technique. I pushed myself hard and finally turned the corner to run the last long street down to the finish…
The street was a quarter mile long and lined with people the whole way. I had the entire street to myself for the entire finish and everyone was cheering… just for me!!! It was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. I was pumping my arms up and down with joy, waving to people, and high fiving as I came through the chute. (And I even got to lounge next to Julie Dibens in the medical area afterwards.)
The best feeling!
Loop 2 stats: 7:07 / mile at 154 bpm (just :02/ mile slower than loop 1 and coming with 1 minute of evenly splitting the marathon, the difference probably coming on the uphills).
Run Overall: 3:07:00 – according to my GPS I averaged 7:06 / mile at 154 bpm. Averaging just 154 bpm is an indication that I didn’t have the juice to push hard on the run (on a strong day I’ll average 160 bpm for the first loop then push my HR quite a bit higher on the 2nd).
Run nutrition: I carry a 3/4 liter bottle in my hand with a flip top. Drank around 4 bottles or so of IM perform which is about 800 cals or approx 250 cals/ hour on the run.
Finish: 9:26, 2nd in my AG, 5th amateur, 16th overall including pros
I had the best result of my life and it looks like I managed to avoid getting my comeuppance again! For the first time ever, my race results fell a bit short of my training numbers, which is disappointing, but it’s not going to get in the way of me enjoying my best result ever (although I’ll definitely take away the key lessons for next time.) And the silver lining is that since I didn’t have the juice in my legs to push hard on the run, I was the least sore and banged up that I’ve ever been after an Iroman, which should bode well for my Kona preparations.
Me & Julie Dibbens Chillaxin’
I signed up again for CdA for next year. It’s an amazing race and this year was especially fun because I had 2 other TriForcers (Scott and Benson), some close friends and many, many tri buddies out there with me. The fact that the race featured world class athletes Craig Alexander, Maik Twelsiek, and Julie Dibens only added excitment. The town support is amazing and every local I met seemed sincerely interested in the race and happy to have us in town. I already have some clients and friends signed up for next year and I’m already looking forward to CdA 2012!