Monday, June 05, 2006

Race Week

Back from a whirlwind weekend in Boston, where the weather sucked, I did zero training (unless you count walking all over Boston, which I don't), and ate my face off. I happily didn't gain any weight, which I was sure I'd done on the Pizzaria Uno and Airport Food diet I subscribed to this weekend, so at least that's something. Weather notwithstanding, we still had a great time. Ali's wedding was lovely, Amy and I had a great time visiting my old haunts, and we even got a road trip in down to Cape Cod, where the rain held off long enough to walk the boardwalk. A good time, as they say, was had by all.

To business, then:

Race week! Whoohoo! I am excited. Always excited for race week, but as this is the first race that matters, and a Half Iron distance, I'm really excited. This is my dress rehearsal, less than 100 days out. Plenty of time to learn and make adjustments, and I can expect increased fitness between now and September as well, but this gives me my first indication of what all my training, analyzing, working, discovering, attempting, and learning this winter and spring means in scope of a long distance triathon. It is a critical race weekend, and I'm up for the challenge.

Let's recap just a bit for perspective: The Ironman is the capstone to a 3 year plan, which commenced in 2003 with (at 235 pounds, thanks very much) I started training for the Lifetime Fitness Olympic distance race in 2004. 2005's goal race was the Square Lake Half Iron distance, held last September 10 (the same day as IMWI, in fact), and culminating to this year's Ironman race. So my only other Half Iron was last year, where it was the goal race of the season, and I had NO idea what to expect, and finishing was top of the agenda. The day, like Ironman Wisconsin last year, wasn't pretty - windy as hell and HOT. My performance was equally ugly:

Swim: 37:29
T1: 3:36 (precious minutes spent just trying to put on a damn shirt over a wet torso...lesson learned...)
Bike: 3:06:20 (18.22mph)
T2: 3:11
Run: 2:50:59 (an unimaginably slow 13:04 pace)
Overall: 6:41:15

These were my immediate comments to my training log after last year's race:
Incredibly difficult race. Hot and windy and LONG. Nutrition didn't go well on the run and I crawled right along. Extremely satisfying to finish, but there is MUCH work to be done before IMWI.

The Swim:
The swim last year, I remember as being mostly unremarkable, but my time was pretty solid. As I've gone with the as-yet-unproven strategy to do "just enough" in the pool this year, I don't know how I'll compare to that time this year, and in fact I don't so much care. Instead, my objective in the water is going to try and get into the middle of the pack as much as I can. I intend to put myself right in the line of fire, with all the flailing arms and kicking legs. I, in fact, hope to kind of get my ass kicked in there. At Ironman, with 2600 swimmers in the water, there's no way I'll avoid the turmoil, so I hope to use this race to start familiarizing myself with it. And, if I can do that smartly, I might be able to draft off the large numbers a bit and use less energy to get carried just as quickly.

The Bike:
Last year's bike time is misleading. 18.22mph looks like a really respectable pace, and finishing the leg in 3:06:20 is pretty respectable too. In fact, if you stopped and just evaluated the stats after the bike, you'd say I was having a pretty good day. But the thing on the bike was - my farthest distance in training for this race to that point was something like 64 miles. I had no idea what efficiency meant on the bike, so to "go fast" I cranked low gears - I was cranking between 75 and 85 rpm for the entire race last year. That meant my pace was fast, but my legs were jelly by the time I started the run. I didn't pace myself well up hills, having no sense in the value of saving my legs for the run. I went fast and blew up, and paid for it dearly on the run. Add to that that I had no idea, really, what nutritional or hydration strategies were optimal for me. I didn't have a sense for how many calories, and what kinds, I should be ingesting every hour. How much water I needed - especially on such a hot day. How much sodium. For feeling last year like I knew a lot, I knew very little. Such is triathlon. I have no time or pace goals on the bike this year. I want to ride comfortably at 90rpm all day. I want to climb, especially the first 20 miles, in an easy gear, to keep my heart rate down. I want to hydrate and eat efficiently, as I've done all season. Certainly, with all the miles I've put on the bike so far this season, 56 miles isn't daunting at all (which isn't to say I don't respect the distance - but I'm no longer intimidated by it). Logic follows that, if I race efficiently, I should also race faster. But I'm not hung up on beating or achieving any certain time on the bike - my whole objective is to get to the run with fresh legs.

The Run:
Last year the run felt so damn long. The race seemed like it would never, ever end. The reason for that is because A, it was hot as hell and I totally melted down on the run. B, I had poor nutrition and hydration strategies all day, the effects of which I started paying for by mile 2 on the run. C, I had NO LEGS getting off the bike - an occasion where "going fast" on the bike made no sense, because my run time was probably a full 30 minutes slower than what I might have been capable of last year. D, last year I was a much weaker runner. This year - again, I have no time or pace goals. It's not like the Half Marathon in April where I wanted to do this pace at this interval and finish with that average. I want to be comfortable. I want to find a pace that makes sense, that I'm not busting up to achieve, and live there. I want to have excellent form and feel strong all day. If I hydrate well, eat right on the bike, and save my legs, I should (always in theory - who knows what race day really has in store) get on the run and feel okay. The first mile or two I'll just get my legs under me. After that, I'll get comfortable. If all has gone well, then I'll look to actually "race" the last 4-5 miles of the run. As with the bike, if I've stayed true to plan and can execute my training gains on race day, then my run time shoud naturally be faster - "comfortable" should not mean a 12:00 minute pace. As of now, the weather looks like near 80 degress with thunderstorms. Who knows how that will actually fold out by the weekend, but it looks like at least it won't be around 90 degrees.

The overall goal then, as you can see, of "comfortable". Of course that's relative - on race day, in a Half IM distance, comfort is fleeting. We're not talking LA-Z-BOY and Nachos, pass the Miller Lite comfort here, or out for a stroll on Saturday comfort. The stresses of race day should be adequetely felt and appreciated, but I should, if I execute, avoid situations where I melt down. Where, due to poor planning or execution, I blow up physically, nutritionally, or mentally. That's what I'm looking for - a strong day. If I can do that, I'll feel like I'm executing Ironman strategies, and can attend to fine tuning and strengthening throughout the rest of the season. I should not feel, as I said after last year's race, that there is MUCH work to do before IMWI. I should feel that I'm right on schedule, or if not, be able to clearly identify and calibrate what went wrong, and how to fix it. We'll see!

As importantly, I plan to have a well structured and productive week in my personal life. Before my last race I had such a hectic work schedule that it really sapped my mental energies, and occluded some clear thinking that led to less than ideal sleep patterns, forgetfulness, and a general lack of decent preparation for the race. This week, as I enjoy a lighter week of taper training, I intend to attend to work and its deadlines productively, get lots of rest, eat and drink right, and be ready for race day. I'll give myself plenty of time on Friday for packet pickup and T-bag packing.

Quick shout out - Todd finished his first triathlon every this weekend! He's promised me a full report later today, and if you check the comments section to the previous post he shares some brief thoughts - looks like he had a great time and finished somewhere around 1:24:00, which is right where he wanted to be. Great job Todd - you're officially a triathlete! Wear it prouly!


Anonymous said...

Good Luck!! :) Can't wait to hear how it goes!! I am sure that it will be great!

At the center of your being you have the answer;
You know who you are and you know what you want.



Todd said...

It's incredible to hear about and somewhat be apart of your 3 year journey and appreciating all that you have learned and are about to put together in September. Thanks for sharing and letting me be a part of it.