Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ironman World Championships

For those of you who might be unaware I qualified to race at the Ironman World Championships at 70.3 Honu on May 30th this year.  Honu is one of the few 70.3 races that has qualifying spots and for me it seemed the obvious way to try and punch my ticket as it is a better distance for me.  Knowing that it was within my ability to get a Kona slot at this race I made it a focus and trained very consistently towards that objective.  As you all now know it went well and I achieved my goals - a podium finish and a Kona slot.
I took a break after Honu due to the level of preparation that had gone into that race, this break unfortunately got extended as I was hit by a car while riding my bike in Coeur d’Alene during Ironman week.  It did not set me back too much but did dent my confidence a little and I definitely saw my fitness (especially run fitness) decline between the end of June into the early part of August.  Most of this was due to back pain suffered as a result of the accident and the confusion caused to my body by all the Chiropractic treatments I was receiving.
For those interested my weekly averages for swim/bike/run from June through to the end of August were:
·       June – SWIM 6800 YARDS, BIKE 104 MILES, RUN 16 MILES
·       July – SWIM 6660 YARDS, BIKE 188 MILES, RUN 26 MILES
·       August – SWIM 6400 YARDS, BIKE 166 MILES, RUN 22 MILES
·       September – SWIM 10,500 YARDS, BIKE 163 MILES, RUN 28 MILES
I have always advocated quality over quantity but do realize the importance of running frequency and volume for a successful race.  I knew going in my durability would be a little questionable with only one road run of two hours and one trail run of just under two hours during that four month period.
In order to give myself a chance at using the fitness that I did have on race day I planned to get to Kona two weeks ahead of time.  This was a good plan as it gave me the opportunity to acclimate and settle into Hawaii time.  It also gave me a great opportunity to refresh myself with the course and see how my feedback mechanisms (pace/power) behaved in the heat/humidity so I could better dial them in for race day.  I tracked and logged every bike/run workout in detail and often did the exact same routes so as to make the data more comparable.  The big variance was the weather day to day which I could not control so I simply got on with it.
I made no conscious dietary changes leading into this race and would actually say I was leaner going into Honu than I was going into this race (just check out the photos ;-)).  No good reason, I simply did not want to exclude anything from my diet going in as I felt I had already made enough sacrifices along the road to getting here.
My biggest concern going into race week was how my heart would hold up during the swim.  This has been a big source of stress over the past several months since the incident at Black Hills where I was forced to stop during the swim.  I genuinely believe it was stress related (I have experienced a similar arrythmia before) but the last place I needed it to manifest itself was here!!!  With this in the back of my mind and the long build I had mentally let alone physically going into this race I think I was more anxious and wound up than usual.  No question this is counter productive but I simply tried to get all the pre race stuff taken care of as early as I possibly could and settle down hoping the ‘taper’ helped out with my dodgy heart!  Now before any of you get too concerned about this it is not uncommon for an ‘athletic’ heart during times of stress (physical/emotional) to react this way.
Race week went smoothly.  Cindy was a huge help and drove me around and helped me get everything I needed sorted out such as my bike, gluing on tubulars, cooking for me and generally being an awesome ‘iron mate’.  I tried to keep a low profile and stay away from all the craziness during race week (you have to see it to believe it) which was difficult.  I had to work two half days for TYR (Monday and Tuesday) which meant a little more time than I would have liked on my feet but nothing too serious.  Workouts were going smoothly until Thursday where I swam in the morning for 20 minutes without issue and then later in the day did a bike/run workout of 1 hour/30 minutes.  It was a very hot day, the hottest so far during my stay however I thought I had acclimated sufficiently for it to not cause any issues.  My heart rate on the run that day was 15 beats higher for the same given pace I had been running at for the past 10 days.  I tried to put it out of my mind and blamed it on the heat and the fact I was running in the afternoon at peak temps.
My mind had the chance to relax on Thursday evening having dinner with Alexis, JP and her parents Dave and Kathy.  A truly great night was had by all and the conversation and wine were flowing (don’t worry I only had two glasses), it did a lot to take my mind off race day and was a lot of fun, thanks you guys ;-).
On Friday I did no training.  I have done this before for Ironman races and it has not worked against me as far as I can tell.  I was still active, walking about and getting my bike and gear checked in and chatting to a few folks I know along the way.  Friday went by quickly and before I knew it I was back at the house with my feet up and Cindy cooking up my pre-race meal of salad and pasta, yum!  An early night after getting all my swim gear and nutrition together and I hoped for a sound night of sleep.  Oh I should mention throughout the day on Friday I drank Pedialyte diluted down, this I believe was a huge factor in keeping the cramp at bay during the race as those of you that know me know I have a very high sweat rate and high sodium loss through that sweat.
Funny thing on race morning was Cindy waking up ahead of me and turning on the coffee machine.  Now this never happens as whether racing or not Cindy is always the second one to get out of bed.  In a strange way it actually made me relax a little, not sure exactly why but it did.  I went back to Oatmeal, UDO’s, and Banana for my pre race breakfast.  Along with this I drank a 500ml bottle of nuun, finished off the small amount of Pedialyte I had left over from Friday and my two cups of coffee.  I felt good, obviously a little anxious but good none the less.  Cindy drove me down to town (we were approx four miles out of town) at around 4:45am.  I arrived at body marking and my line was the shortest, very cool.  I even got filmed by Universal TV while they applied my numbers with the stamps that are the norm in Kona.  This year only arms were being marked which I thought was cool as that would mean less scrubbing in the shower post race and only potential ‘tattoos’ on my arms and not both arms and legs!  I left body marking gave Cindy a hug and a kiss and walked into transition.  I set up my Garmin, pumped my tires, put my water bottles on the bike (one with water, one with gu2o) and then went to find Cindy.  One of the coolest things about race week (and race morning) was hanging out with my friend Nick Kinsey, a super cool guy who has been racing triathlons since the mid 80’s.  He used to hold the fastest IM time for a Brit and has been on the podium before at Kona as well as winning his AG at many international IM events around the world.  Fun to be around he helped make race morning a real hoot and further helped ease my nerves.  Another very cool thing about race morning was hanging out with Thomas Hellriegel (IM Canada course record holder, and former IM world champion).  He is a lovely guy and so willing to simply chat about the thing he loves, triathlon!  I have huge respect and admiration for Thomas, a true gentleman and great ambassador for our sport.
Okay back to the race.  No warm up for this one other than a few strokes in the bay before heading towards the swim start to tread water for 10 minutes, warm up enough I think.  My big concern was a repeat of my Black Hills experience, this was not the place to have to stop mid swim.  I would not have the luxury here of clear water to gather my thoughts, I would simply be pummeled by the masses of people on my feet.  Fortunately my strategy of treating the swim like a warm up (something I confess I have never done before even in IM events) worked.  I swam very conservatively, I started the swim like a warm up set, I truly did, and I think this helped a lot.  It was very cool in that I was so fresh I could bridge gaps when I wanted, move left or right as needed and just stay calm.  I know I am competent enough to rely on my good stroke mechanics and don’t have to go out like a mad man.  The swim was a success.  I swam in the Sayonara swim skin, which although fast is arguably the most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn to swim in.  About half way through the swim I had chafed under my arms so badly that every stroke stung and I was in a lot of pain.  I simply put it out of my mind and hoped they had Vaseline in T1!  Under my swim skin I wore my Vo2 Vest and nothing else as I intended to put on cycling shorts for the bike (I am getting soft in my old age).
Transition was not fast but methodical, no sense in rushing today I was not looking for the podium I was more concerned with comfort.  I biked ‘easy’ for the first 30 minutes and then built from there.  My AP for the first 10 miles was 209W, average HR 141.  I was targeting sub 140 HR and close to 200W, this was close enough and certainly I paced this section of the ride better than most of my peers!  I rode very evenly, here are my numbers by 10 mile increments:
·       To 10 Miles – AP 209, AVG HR 141
·       To 20 Miles – AP 206.5, AVG HR 143
·       To 30 Miles – AP 198.5, AVG HR 142
·       To 40 Miles – AP 196.5, AVG HR 143
·       To 50 Miles – AP203, AVG HR 142
·       To 60 Miles – AP 206, AVG HR 144
·       To 70 Miles – AP 193, AVG HR 144
·       To 80 Miles – AP 207, AVG HR 146
·       To 90 Miles – AP 191, AVG HR 142
·       To 100 Miles – AP 203, AVG HR 144
·       To 110 Miles – AP 188, AVG HR  144
·       To 112 Miles – AP 163, AVG HR 139
The last 30 miles were into a strong headwind, I focused on keeping on top of calories and salt and just about everyone seemed to be in survival mode for this section of the ride.  I still had power when I needed it and tried to ride even although with all the other riders in close proximity it made this difficult as I had to surge away at times and then drop back to stay legal. I came off the bike knowing I had ridden well and with an even application of effort (other than the times I had to surge to get away from people or drop back after being passed).  Although from my numbers is looks like I faded in the last 12 miles I made a conscious decision during this stage of the ride to conserve energy as you can see from my declining power.

The run.  I took my time in T2 as you can probably tell ;-).  Managed to leave my 310xt on my bike (doh!) and sent a volunteer to go get it while I changed shorts (wore bike shorts for the ride).  He came back fast so there was no real delay.  I headed out very easy and relaxed although the very first part of the run is uphill which kind of sucks.  I settled into a nice rhythm and began my cooling strategy of walking aid stations, using ice, drinking water and popping thermolytes.  I ran very even and held my pace around or just under 8’s for the first 6-8 miles.  I decided to walk up Palani (very steep long hill) to keep my HR down and was glad I did.  The first 10 miles of the run here are the hottest and most humid (it is sheltered so no cooling trade winds) so I was glad to be getting on the Queen K where I knew the trade winds would be blowing and offer some respite from the humidity.  I was running with a guy who was very even paced and seemed to be intent on breaking 3:30 as I was.  He was great until about mile 15-16 when he started to suffer and I had to leave him, felt bad about this as he had been a perfect run partner.  I did not bonk or crack I just progressively faded and slowed in the last half of the run.  I know why.  I simply lack run miles.  My avg weekly mileage over the last three months was, Sept 28miles/week, August 22miles/week, July 26miles/week.  Simply not enough to build the durability and resilience necessary to sustain a moderate pace over 26.2 off the back of the ride.  Going forward I need to safely be running 40 miles/week for a sustained period of 12-16 weeks.  No worries I can make this happen ;-)

Overall I am not unhappy with the outcome.  Yes I would have liked to break 10 hours but hey wouldn’t we all ;-).  A solid day at the office!  I think I in hindsight I could have spent less time walking through the aid stations (they are very long here in Kona), there were times where quite often I would have to ask very clearly where the cola/water/ice were as it was not very clear, this meant a little more time than necessary spent walking.  Other than this I ran the entire run with the exception of three or four brief stops to stretch out the early stages of cramp in my left adductor and right hamstring.  I think this is actually my best Ironman run ever given the heat and humidity which was extreme on this day.  Simply read some of the race reports out there now and you will get an idea how hot it was out there.  No-one really ran ‘fast’ bar the off person such as Miranda Carfrae.  Even Crowie recorded his slowest run split in his three times racing here.

I would like to say a special thank you to my wife Cindy for all of her support during race week and in the weeks and months leading up to the race.  I would also like to thank all of my team mates and friends who sent well wishes and words of wisdom to me during race week.  I truly felt your positive energy out there on race day.  I actually taped a piece of paper to my aero bars with amongst other things ‘team mates’ written on it, this helped keep me focused on the task in hand.  I would also like to thank my best friend Ben Garrard who I knew was sharing the experience with me on Ironman live back in the UK as well as Nick Kinsey whose humor and warm nature helped ease my nerves during race week.  This list would not be complete without thanking my sponsors, TYR (that Sayonara is quick), blueseventy (the Element goggle is simply perfect for me), GU (whose gels I used exclusively out on the course), nuun, and Veloce Velo.
I am back to reality on Friday, this has been a wonderful three weeks shared with some wonderful people.  I am now ready to work my tail off getting Vo2 Performance Center set up and ready for its grand opening on November 1st.  I hope you will all join me there for a celebration of multisport and a bright future.

1 comment:

Ben G said...

Great race report Ben. It looked an awesome race, in pretty extreme conditions. You must be excited by your performance, super solid in all 3 disciplines, as I have come to expect of you! In the not too distant future we must commit to an IM holiday and race day show down. It's the only distance buddy that we have not shared a start line! Can't wait to hear your stories from Kona, keep me posted with the progress of the performance center it is going to rock! Take care mate (look after that ticker, what's that all about? I'm sure it's really nothing to worry about) All the best mate, train smart, work hard, enjoy!!
Ben x