A sub 9 Ironman was my big dream for 2012. I wanted to do it at IMCDA but my race was cut short when I was hit by a car about 13 miles into the bike. After the race I blogged: “how can I turn this into a positive?” And there is one answer: I need to heal from this crash and absolutely fucking kill it at my next race. I need to create a REAL performance that will SMASH the performance that would have been at CdA. I healed my bruises and broken ribs and got back in shape– but would I go sub 9?
I lined up toward the shore since that is what appears to be the shortest line (the lake bends right). After the cannon I found that there weren’t many fast people around me and I wasn’t catching the massive draft that I usually get in the first few hundred of an IM swim. Typically I have lots of fast feet to follow in an IM, but this time I found myself swimming alone quite a bit. On the way back in I found myself swimming alone again. I was pretty far wide of most people because it looked like that was the shortest line.
I expected to swim close to an hour or even below based on my training times, but I ended up swimming 1:05, which is my slowest IM swim time ever. I always tell the athletes I coach that you can’t let a bad swim time bother you (and you don’t even know if it’s bad until you see where you are in the field). In the back of my mind I knew this was a pretty big setback to my chances of going sub 9, but I didn’t dwell on it.
The good news was that the swim took nothing out of me since I must have swum at an easier intensity than usual (not pushing to stay on fast feet). I came out of T1 smiling and giving the thumbs up. I wasn’t going to let a slow swim get me down– plenty of racing left to do.
I was moving up quickly on the bike. Out on the Beeline Highway I had some people repassing me then slowing down which was pretty annoying. I’d be going 22 mph and 240 watts, they’d pass me and I’d drop back, then I’d look down and we’d be going closer to 20 mph! Then a group would start to pass me as I was riding legally behind. I can’t stand this sort of mess and don’t want to get caught in any kind of situation that could lead to a drafting penalty so I had to put in a couple of decent stretches of riding at 270 watts and passing at 300+ watts before I could get enough separation to do my own thing.
Otherwise, my mantra was “easy speed.” I was focusing on keeping the pedaling smooth and not “digging in” and recruiting extra fibers. For some reason my heart rate was quite high for me (mid 150s mostly), and it had been high for the last couple weeks on the bike, so I was a little concerned that I might be overdoing it, but my power was right and it felt like a proper IM effort so I kept up the effort.
Doing a little math after the first loop it looked like I was quickly back on track for a sub 9 IM race if conditions stayed the same.
Starting loop 2 I was feeling amazing. I kept trying to ride at 240 watts then I’d glance down at my power and find I was doing 250. I’d hit the lap button again to reset my “lap power”, and look down in a few minutes to see that my “lap power” was again 250.
I eventually settled myself down and realized that my speed on the bike was high enough that I was going to get a decent cushion for sub 9 even at a relatively mild effort. At that point I started focusing on saving energy (coasting / pedaling easier on the downhills) and keeping my power around 230 instead of 240.
Out on the Beeline I passed someone in a group of 3 wearing the kit of a popular online triathlon team who smugly said “keep hammering buddy.” I think it’s a bit arrogant to assume that anyone who passes you must be “hammering.”
The course was getting crowded on the way back as I was lapping people. As I exited off the Beeline and zig zagged back toward the turnaround I started losing the concentration of keeping the pace high as I had to slow down and be safe in the crowded turns. I got passed by someone and decided to stay a clearly legal distance behind them but to mentally key off of them back to the start to help me keep up the concentration.
I did the math again at the turnaround and I was still comfortably on track to get off the bike with a decent cushion for a sub 9, so I wasn’t going to push it for the last loop. I was really feeling good and confortable, but I told myself to keep it mild until the Beeline. I hit the Beeline and was still feeling good and I finished up at a comfy effort (even though my HR was still high).
I finished the ride feeling as good as I’ve ever felt heading into T2. Bike: 4:44, 231 NP.
I came out of T2 with a total race time of 5:55, so I just had to run a 3:04 marathon to go sub 9. My training told me that I could hold a pace in the 6:30s (not counting time lost at aid stations), so if I was able to “do my race” I’d get there!
I came out of T2 with my Garmin reading 5:xx pace, which was a good sign, but obviously I needed to make myself slow down. I settled into my goal pace of 6:30-6:40 at a sustainble effort and heart rate (just under 160). I carried a bottle in my hand with Coke and was it was going down well.
My mantra was “keep joggin’ and drinkin’” until the half way point, where I could push the effort if I felt good. I’ve had chronic issues with my quads over the past 2 seasons and they seemed pretty tight as I started out on the run, but nothing too troublesome. I ended up running most of the first loop slightly behind or with Craig from Endurance Corner who happened to be running a great pace for me. When I saw my family at mile 4 they told me I was in 4th place. I passed a handful of people on the first loop.
I ran most of my 2nd loop just ahead of 3rd place finisher TJ Tollakson who was on the final loop of his marathon. Things were on track until the half marathon (went through in 1:27:30 feeling just like I should). At that point my stupid quads “died” on me and felt like they could fail or cramp up at any moment. My pace slowed to 7:00 / mile and I kept up the “joggin’ and drinkin’” mantra to keep me moving forward. I knew that I’d still squeeze in under 9 hours unless I suffered from “catastrophic quad failure,” (a real concern) so I tried to be careful. I stopped to stretch my quads but the quad stretch caused my hamstrings to start to cramp. No stretching, I guess!
For the most part I grinded it out at around 7 / mile until mile 20 or so where my parents told me that first place was slowing down–I’d cut his lead from 13 minutes to about 6 minutes or so. I didn’t have much room to raise my pace, but this gave me the adrenline to keep pushing. At mile 21 I saw TriForcer Kyle “The Flying Scotsman” dressed as Duff Man at the aid station. He told me “F the quads. He’s slowing down! You can get him!” So I kept up the intensity.
I definitely pushed to the limit of what my quads could do in the last 10k and even managed a 6:30 mile for mile 25. I passed 2nd place female Meredith Kessler (a class act) just before the finish chute, so they still had the female pro time on the clock, ruining my sub 9 photo!
OVERALL: I finished in 8:56 (2nd 35-39, 3rd amateur) despite a poor swim and sub par marathon. Now that I’ve ticked the sub 9 box the next goal is to see if I can get a strong finish at Kona– my “A Race” for next year!
breakfast: oatmeal with strawberries, protein shake (whey protein + soy milk)
pre race snack: 3/4 cliff bar
bike: approx 10 bottles IM perform, 3 cliff bars (2500 cals, 525 / hour)
run: approx 6 or 7 bike bottles of coke = (approx 1000 cals = 330 cals / hour)