Monday, September 04, 2006

Race Week: Ironman Wisconsin

Wow. I have waited a long time to write that.

Think I need a second just to soak that in.


Okay. It's going to be a busy week, and happily I was able to take the entire week off of work so I can concentrate on packing and preparing without distraction. I'll be heading to Madison (with Jackson aboard) on Wednesday, and will pick up my race packet right away on Thursday when Ironman Village opens. I'll spend some time walking around the expo and checking things out, and then I'll get out of there so I don't get myself all psyched out just being around Ironman Village. I have a few swim workouts scheduled, which I'll do right there on the swim course. Friday night is the athlete's dinner and meeting (it's actually the Fig Newton dinner, which means they sponsor it, but I imagine instead that instead of pasta on the menu, we'll be served a buffet of Fig Newtons as far as the eye can see...) and hopefully at dinner I'll have an opportunity to finally meet some of the blog alliance that have been sharing space with each other all these months. Saturday are my final short workouts and my Team will start arriving throughout the day. A lot going on, but I'm excited for all of it. I want to be able to soak everything in this week, to truly experience and enjoy every single bit of it.

My race strategy is as follows - and I welcome any other athletes out there to comment on any of it, or offer any perspective or advice (warning: not sure it'll make for fun reading, but it'll help me to put it down into tangibility here, so bear with me...)

Overall race goals:
#1 is to finish, and to finish having fun. I intend to keep a smile on my face for as long as I can - it actually does help just to force the smile sometimes. It creates a mental tone of positivity. I want to participate as much as I can with the other athletes, The Team, and the Ironman experience in general.

But "having fun" does NOT mean I intend to lolligag and meander through the day. I want to employ all of my training for this race. I've worked extremely hard to get here - harder than I think I'd have needed to to "just finish". I want to race each leg strong and to the best of my ability. I don't want to leave anything out there, and I don't want to finish thinking I had more in the tank. It's now or never.

Lastly, I'll let the race come to me, with some exceptions. By that, I mean I'll race according to my strategies and nutrition that I've trained with. I won't worry about pace or speed or time - I'll let those things come however they will, trusting that my training will deliver me in the right way. I'll note the exceptions in a minute. Now to specifics.

Following Simply Stu's advice (so cool that guy), I intend to head out to the water early and position myself to the left of the swim buoys, rather than the right. This will hopefully allow me to avoid the thrashing of the washing machine's full force, but I do hope to creep onto its edges to take advantage of drafting. I'll start the swim with a stroke and pace that feels too slow to me, knowing that race day adrenaline will mean I'm actually going faster. I'll only ever swim as fast as my good technique will allow, and will try and be smooth and consistent throughout. Relative to the rest of the day, the swim is very short (heh - 2.4 miles is "short"...), so I'm going to be careful not to let race day jitters drive me into a heart rate that's too high, legs that are worn out, or anything else that could sabotage the rest of my day.

Transition 1
As Rich Strauss says, "slow is smooth, smooth is fast". I'll get in and I'll get out, but I'll do it with patience. I'll hope to get my heart rate down a bit, take in a little bit of nutrition, and otherwise quickly get changed and onto the bike.

I'll ride easy breezy in the small chain ring the first 15 miles, all the way to Verona. I'll get passed by everybody and their mothers and wish them all a kickass day. I've learned a lot this summer, partly from two pretty miserable Half Iron races, and I know better now than to go chasing time goals or whatever other racers might be doing. Today I race against myself alone.

My attention on the bike will be divided in this order: First, what's my heart rate? My ability to take in nutrition is directly related to my heart rate, and if it's too high I'm screwed. The lower the better, and I'll be trying to stay below the mid 130's whenever I can (climbing is a different animal, but it takes care of itself). Second, what's my cadence? I'll ride between 88-92rpm. If I get lower than 88, I change gears. Higher than 96, change gears. Simple as that. Too low a cadence means I'm pushing a harder gear than I should, and set my legs up for fatigue later in the bike and especially on the run. Third, what's my power? The first 40 miles of the race, I'll try and stay below 180 watts. After that, I want a ceiling of 220 watts. When I'm climbing, I'll try and stay right around 300 watts - though I know I'll push that - but I will avoid sudden spikes to 400 watts or something that will only cause my legs to blow up. The power gives me an indication of how much work I'm doing on the bike, and the numbers I'm using are devised from a series of tests throughout the season. If I look down and my power is too high, I'll back off - using too much power early will hurt me later, and will impact my marathon for sure. Lastly, what's my speed. If the other 3 are taking care of themselves (and of course depending on weather factors and whatever else I cannot control), I can expect a speed of 16-17mph. What if I'm slower than that? Who cares. I won't compromise a single one of the other factors to try increase speed. Faster than that? As long as the other 3 factors are on point, any speed gains over my expectations are gravy, baby.

Between miles 80 and 100, I'll chase the race a bit. I'll push my pace just a shade, keeping a critical eye on all my feedback metrics to make sure I'm not sabotaging myself. I'll do this at this time because that's when I'll start to be feeling tired, and having a strategy for this point in the race will give me something to focus on and plan around.

My nutrition will be textbook with what I've trained with: 8 ounces of Gatorade Endurance every 15 minutes. 1/8 of an Oatmeal Raisin Clif Bar every 15 minutes. 1 Gel every hour, chased with water. Water whenever else I feel like it, up to 16 ounces an hour. Electrolytes tablets every 20 minutes, up to 3 an hour if I'm sweating a lot. 313 calories/hour, just like I've trained all year long after much trial and error and screwups and bonks. I'll snag a banana once on the course, and an orange if they have it. I'll eat a PB&J at the half-way point.

Transition 2 - same strategy as T1 - slow is smooth, smooth is fast. I'll spend no more time than I need to getting changed and out the door.

At this time, before leaving T2, I'll devise a time goal for the race, based on a 4:35 marathon. That's an aggressive marathon time for me, but I want something a bit aggressive because it'll give me something to focus on when things start to get really blurry later in the race. Besides, I don't want my marathon to be just a kind of formality to the end - if I've done right, then everything to this point has been to prepare for the marathon, not just arrive to it. I want to be able to run it, and run it aggressively and intentionally - I didn't train all these many miles and hours just to walk the damn thing. But that said - it's really only a symbolic commitment...I won't sacrifice any part of my race to reach it. But I will take it seriously, and attempt to devise the run around it. If I slow from it - which I almost inevitably will - no big deal. The point is just to give me something tangible to focus on, decided before the marathon, to keep in mind when I can no longer do math or taste gels or feel my damn legs.

The primary objective of the marathon is simply to run for as long as I can. To not walk. And if I must, to hold off walking as long as I possibly can. Walking is epidemic - you do it once, and it's easy to justify doing it again, and next time longer. Pretty soon you're walking more than you're running. It may come to that - it may easily come to that. And if it does, then I go to Plan B, which is a survival plan rather than a strategic plan (of course, the marathon performance is directly tied to my performance on the bike and swim, so this plan I'm describing is designed with the swim and bike both having gone well from a physical and nutritional perspective. If I get off the bike feeling like hell, then obviously the marathon is a different story).

I'll plan to not stop at all until about Mile 6, and at that time only to refill my fuel flasks on the fuelbelt. Once refueled, I'll start running again. And plan to not stop again until I'm out of fuel.

I'll begin chasing the race at mile 17 - this is when, if the entire day has gone well, I'll hope to have the reserves I need to step up the pace just a shade and actually race the last 10 miles.

Contingencies and miscellaneous: The plans are detailed to give my day structure and mental focus, but as I said, will not dictate my overall objective to finish. If things to to hell at any point, then I'll adjust and deal. I'll race entirely "in the moment" all day, and will have the flexibility to revise, evolve, and adapt my plans and my performance according to the situation I'm in. If I'm forced to walk the entire marathon, I will. Hell I'll crawl the thing if I have to. The important thing, as you read this, is if you're thinking to yourself "yeah, nice plan, but what if..." - A, I've considered the whatifs and have a plan, but 2, I'll not be guided or influenced this day by whatifs. Whatifs are vessels of doubt, and those vessels are heavy to carry 140.6 miles.

So that's it! I do plan to blog as much as I can and take pictures all week of the Ironman village, registration, whatever I think is interesting. I'll also post, as soon as it's up at (probably Thursday or Friday), the links you'll need to track me remotely on race day. Stay tuned for everything.

Have a great week everybody - lets get ready to do this thing -


Chris said...

Hey! I found your site over from TriSaraTops comments section. Another blogger from the Twin Cities. Neato.

Good luck this weekend at Wisconsin. Maybe we'll bump into each other there.

RunIrisRun said...

Just wanted to say good luck, and to enjoy the time in Wisconsin. We'll be thinking of you!

Pharmie said...

Sounds like a great plan! Can't wait to finally meet you out there. I feel like we know each other so well already ;) Good luck packing!

todd said...


Have a safe trip out there brotha and I will see you Saturday!

Team Bintliff in dah house!!!!!

qcmier said...

Sounds like a good plan. Do you mind if I borrow some of these ideas? I will not formulate my game plan till later this week.

xt4 said...

Absolutely QC - I don't hold the trademark! If anything's useful to you, by all means work it into making it the race you want to have. I'll be interested in your plan when (if?) if you post it on your blog - have a great week -

abby said...

Good luck Chris! I'll be with Team Bintliff in spirit next Sunday...

Sara said...

Team Bintliff in dah house!!!!! I can't wait!

Patric said...

Man I have a feeling this will be a not so productive week of work for me. I am so excited to head out to Wisconsin and watch the race.

Michael Anderson said...

sic infit

benedicat vos Deus

triteacher said...

I'm going to officially adopt your marathon strategy - avoid walking at all costs. I've been reluctant to hold myself to that standard because I've heard so often that "everyone" walks. But I'm with you - walking is an epidemic. It's bloody hard to start running again! The rest of your plan sounds great too - you really have thought of everything. Kudos.

xt4 said...

Glad you found the strategy useful TT - I think probably everybody DOES walk, and probably I will too - but if I can hold off doing it as long as I possibly can, that will be a better race for me. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to get to Madison! I love that Team Bintliff will be gathered together! What amazing family and friends we have....mentally, you have it all visualized--that's a big part of it. The plan sounds solid. Sleep well tonight! JoJo, Wobie and I miss you!