Holy cow– it worked! I followed a 10 hours per week training plan to get ready for IMSR. I did it as an experiment and a learning experience to make me a better coach. The goal wasn’t to PR, but I was hoping to be almost as fast as if I had done a “full” training plan. Mission accomplished!
My goal was simple– qualify for Kona on 10 hours per week so I don’t look like an idiot for writing a bunch of articles about how I’m trying to do that with the conclusion being that I failed! I figured it would take a top 4 finish, so that was my goal. I felt a 9:30 should be safe and might even be good for a win, but I thought that even being a good bit slower than that would give me a good chance for 4th (I was wrong about that- our AG was much deeper with talent than I thought with 8 guys sub 9:35).
Race week was restful since I was still carrying a decent amount of fatigue from the final build. I snapped out of healing mode a couple days out and was feeling good. The major problem was that my psoas was a mess (I aggravated it at the end of my build) and I couldn’t run more than a few miles without it flaring up. I was just hoping that race week rest + race day adrenaline would get me through the race.
The night before I had my usual Micky D’s pre race dinner: quarter pounder with cheese, small cheeseburger, McChicken and large fries. Go ahead, laugh. 🙂 But for whatever reason it works for me– I have done this before 3 Ironman races and have 2 AG wins + a 3rd place. So now I’m basically stuck doing it for the rest of my life.
I have a similarly relatively heavy breakfast (breakfast potatoes, eggs, bacon). I’ll be doing all liquids (or blocs) for the rest of the race and I think my body will be happier with some real food to start the day.
Swim 1:00:07 (PR, 6th place in AG, PR)
My swim fitness wasn’t as strong as previous builds so I knew I had be humble and to swim smart. I wasn’t nearly fit enough to “brute force” myself to a good swim time so I had to be wiley. I seeded myself in the middle of the sub 1 hour group, which due to rampant time inflation by everyone is the right spot even though I figured I’d be closer to a 1:02.
I relaxed and got “pulled out” in the rolling start. The goal was to draft 100% of the time, which I more or less did. About half way through the first loop I found a great set of feet– exactly the right speed, sighting reasonably well, with a relaxed 2 beat kick that was easy to follow. He even had a yellow decal on the bottom of his wetsuit leg so I could find him when we hit bad traffic. I followed him for the rest of loop 1 and we got out of the first loop in 29:37.
In the 2nd loop I kept following the same guy– WHAT A STUD HE WAS! He was weaving between the slow swimmers on loop 1 like a champ and if anything it felt like he was picking up the pace. My attitude was to stay on his feet at all costs and I managed it even through some nasty traffic. If you were that guy, I owe you a beer!
I got out of the swim in just over an hour feeling good.
T1: 5:20 – I moved up to 4th.
A reasonably fast / smooth T1.
Bike 5:02- staying in 4th place.
Similar to the swim, I knew I had to adjust my riding somewhat based on the fact that I wasn’t overly fit.
The one key for me was to coast and back off at higher speeds (27+ mph). I racked up 50 minutes of time during the race at under 50% of FTP– so basically 50 minutes of recovery mixed into the ride. Based on the gap to the people around me while I was coasting, I lost little to no time, so it was well worth it.
Bike Part 1: First 25% of the race (until Chalk Hill). Plan was to “warm up” 209 NP.
Since I got out of the swim high up in the field, the roads were beautifully wide open and I didn’t have to waste energy passing groups or and staying legal around groups. For me this is the biggest benefit of a good swim– the ability to just do my own thing.
My plan was to rack up as much coasting as I could during this part and to hold back. I felt like I succeeded here based on feel. Power was 209 NP and in training the optimistic “ironman effort” power felt like 217 or so, so I was below maxing out.
Speed was surprisingly slow (right on 5 hour pace, even though we had the big downhill to start), I think due to northerly winds, which made the entire bike leg a bit slower than last year.
Bike Part 2: Second 25% of the race. Chalk Hill Rd. all the way back to Healdsburg. 224 NP.
Here the goal was to take advantage of the steeper uphill sections to get out of the saddle to stretch out and to take advantage of downhills to coast. Since the next section of the race was going to be flatter and much more in the aerobars I wanted to get my rest and stretching in this section to get ready.
This section went to plan. I lost time at every aid station squirting gatorade into my torpedo (last chance trash was ridiculously close to the last bottle pass) and I got passed by someone in my AG at an aid station which “woke me up.” I followed that guy for the next segment of the race. At times he got pretty far ahead to where he was almost out of sight but by the end of the segment I had caught him. I decided to see if I could make a decisive pass after the aid station.
Bike Part 3 Third 25% of the race: Healdsburg back to Chalk Hill. 217 NP.
In the first part of section I was riding near a couple of other guys. A bit into this section I got flashes of memories from last year when I “took off’ on this section and started passing people aggressively. I did the same thing this year and made some good passes and felt good throughout the section.
The guy at special needs told me I was in about 20th place overall (I think it was actually more like 25th at that point) and I felt like it was unlikely that too many of the guys ahead could have been in my AG (I was actually wrong), so I had confidence to stay within myself.
Bike Part 4a: Chalk Hill Rd. #2. about 230 NP vs. 250 for the first time.
Since the last section of the bike is almost all flat in the aerobars (often with headwinds) I wanted to use this section to coast on dowhills and stretch out on the uphills so I was ready to stay in aero.
I followed the plan but I wasn’t as strong as I had hoped on this section. Looking back I made a mistake to “take off” and push it during bike part 2 and it cost me some power here.
Bike Part 4b: End of Chalk Hill Road to Finish. 199 NP.
At this point my low back was starting to seize up and I was beginning to feel my psoas. I figured I was in a good position in my AG and I declined to push hard into the finish.
213 NP. I’m very happy with that power considering all the coasting and backing off that I did. My lifetime best is 229 NP. Tightening up and fading a little bit in the last 25% cost me maybe 2-3 minutes, so it wasn’t a catastrophic loss, unless of course I ended up losing by 2 min 🙂
BIKE NUTRITION & HYDRATION:
I launched my aero bottle with 1800 calories right away (at the same spot I launched my bike computer last year). That’s the first time that bottle ever launched through extensive testing on bad roads. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I had to go to plan b– blocks (I had 800 cals in my bento)+ the on course gatorade.
I probably ended up taking in:
- 300 cals of hydrogels before the swim
- 350 cals of hi 5 gels + fructose in T1 as I jogged to my bike
- 350 cals in front bottle to start
- 150 cal swig from aero bottle before it launched
- about 800 cals bloks
- at least 800?? cals gatorade. I had trouble filling before last chance trash and at some aid stations I couldn’t even get the lid off.
- TOTAL: 2400 on the bike (almost 500 / hour) + 300 pre swim
RUN: 3:16. moved up to first in AG!
Loop 1 – playing defense
giving the support crew a wave heading out on loop 1
I felt great heading out onto loop 1. When I ran into my wife and friends they told me I was in 4th (a little disappointing) then said I was only 3 minutes out of first (very exciting!) I asked how far ahead of 5th I was (8 minutes) since the primary goal was KQ and I was afraid I’d be in survival mode if my psoas flared up.
The loop started off great– my low back was still tight after the bike but I had no hip flexor issues. I think I was running close to 7 flat at around 155 bpm which in recent years has been about the best I can sustain in an Ironman run.
Maybe about 3.5 miles in I started to “feel” my psoas which was bad news. I was hoping to get halfway through the race before noticing it. I got into defense mode and I took an Aleve (which is unhealthy and not recommended, but for me it’s preferable to a DNF). I stopped and stretched a couple of times and walked a couple of times when it felt like it was getting worse. I was still managing about a 7:30 average despite the stopping and walking. I have to admit I was having some negative thoughts at this point and didn’t feel confident I could finish but I was going to keep going as long as my hip allowed my to stay in the race.
Run nutrition: I was carrying a .75 ml bottle of coke in my hand. I was drinking aggressively since I wasn’t sure about my calorie totals on the bike. I think I had about 5 bottles all told. (probably over 1000 cals total during the run).
TF Support crew
Near the end of the first loop I got passed by a pack of 3 guys and one of them was in my AG. This gave me a shot of adrenaline and I jumped behind them. Running so close to them I straightened up a bit and shortened my stride… AND MY HIP PAIN WAS INSTANTLY RELIEVED! Wait a second… could this work?!
Finishing up loop 1 my support crew told me I was in 4th (running with 3rd in the pack).
Loop 2: on offense now!
I concentrated on pushing my hips forward and keeping my stride short and all of a sudden my psoas felt better and I was good to go! Maybe the aleve kicked in as well.
Starting off on loop 2 they told me I was 1 minute ahead of 4th and that first was only 2 minutes ahead. The game was afoot!
I was so fired up that that segment was my fastest of the race (6:43 / mile), and it looks like I averaged about 7:20 on that second loop. I passed a couple of guys with 40-44 on their calves but it’s always hard to tell who is on their first vs. second loop so I didn’t know what place I was in.
When I got back near the end of the loop my support crew told me I was now in first place, ahead by about 2 minutes! They said that everyone close behind was running slower than 8 / mile at that point. I was fired up!
Loop 3: stay strong and hold them off!
Staring off on loop 3 I started off the first 3-4 miles or so at 7:30 to 7:40. Based on my limited run training I figured I would slow down at some point, but the longer I could keep up the decent pace, the more cushion I could build. My psoas was under control, but now my calves were feeling tight as if they could cramp. I started race walking all the little uphills at this point. I knew I would probably win as long as I didn’t have a catastrophic breakdown so I wanted to avoid the calf cramps. I also became afraid to bonk so I was aggressively drinking coke from my hand bottle.
It looks like I averaged a hair under 8 / mile heading back in the second half of loop 2, which I knew should be good for the win based on the information I had. I probably could have picked up the pace a bit if I had to, but that would have risked calf cramping so I played it safe (and I continued to walk all the little uphills all the way to the end).
At the end of the loop my friend Gary told me I was still in first place. I had less than a mile left and was feeling good!
Finish 9:26 – 1st AG, 19th overall.
Is there any better feeling then when you hit the sign that says “loop 2 & 3 left, finish right” and you get to go right?! I was so fired up and emotional to be finishing in first place. Going from hoping to survive the run in loop 1, to feeling better and chasing in loop 2, to being in the lead for loop 3 was an amazing experience. My wife and my friends really made the day special with all the support they gave me. This finish was an emotional one — full of joy and gratitude and I may have shed a few tears. (allergies, I swear).
So, I achieved my goal of qualifying for Kona on 10 hours per week… but I turned down the slot. Time to get healthy again and kick these injuries for good, which won’t happen if I ramp back up for another Ironman.
Reflections on 10 Hours Per Week Training:
I was “fit” to do this race on the plan. I don’t think I’d have been significantly faster on a more conventional training plan. Last year I averaged 14+ hours for my build and had pretty much a similar performance.
My power dropped off in the last 25% of the bike costing me maybe 2 or 3 minutes. My swim was near personal best, and my run was a 3:16 limited by injuries, but that’s not far off recent year bests. (Unfortunately I didn’t do the full 10 hours plan even for the run, so we didn’t get a good test.)
All in all, I think I lost less than 10 minutes (probably much less) vs. doing a “regular” plan. And at the best I’d maybe have been 15- 20 minutes or so faster if I’d have gone “all in” with a massive training build averaging 17+ hours building to 23 hours or so (and if I’d have been healthy). But I saved a ton of time and I was a better husband, coach and a more fun friend as a result. And I enjoyed my training more! Pushing for those last % of gains takes massive energy and sacrifice.
That being said, next year I age up to 45-49 and if I am 100% healthy I might push for those gains and see what I can do. We’ll see! That’s what I love about triathlon– it’s the best lifetime sport. You can dial it up or down based on what’s happening in your life. The main thing is stay consistent.
Thanks for reading!