13 Jun 2016

Ironman 70.3 Boulder – post race analysis – reality bites!

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Well – after completing several spri.nt triathlons this year I decided to tackle a half ironman.  I received many questions as to why.  The simple answer was, I needed a big goal to stay focused the early part of the year so I would be ready to train for Cyclocross season the second half of the year.  As a decent athlete and a good cyclist, I knew I could not fake my way through a 13.1 mile run.  I had to train for that.  So that became my goal.  I’ve never been a good runner.  Ever.  I’ve played lots of sports, rowed crew for 18 months in college, and have always had a decent “engine”.  But running is not something that was ever easy for me.  I started early, 6 months out to get some run endurance.

But there were problems along the way, calf cramps, hip flexor tightness, and lack of endurance.  The runs I was able to complete were promising but not encouraging.  My run training stalled at 6 miles as my long run.  I paid for that on race day.

As a coach, I focus on making sure clients are ready for an event with both endurance and speed.  As a coached client I did what I tell my clients.  I had a cycling coach, and a running coach.  We as a collective group tried hard to make sure I was ready.  However, my run training was sidelined several times.  I spent time and money with a PT to calm calf cramps, then an unruly hip flexor.  Because of this, my long training run was an hour and twenty minutes.  Even this run sidelined me for 2 weeks with hip flexor problems that didn’t allow me to lift my own leg getting into a car without the assistance of my hand.

So race day approached with realistically limited run endurance.  I knew this.  But I’m tough, I’m mentally ready, I can do it.  Yeah, not really.  You can not pass off mental toughness for prepared training.  I often talk to clients about being physically prepared versus mentally prepared.  I was unable to convince myself on race day that I could outrun my physical preparedness.

The swim was perfect.  Besides some small issues sighting, I was out of the water in 38 minutes, a decent swim, and I felt great.  Transition was slow but it was hot and I needed sunscreen, I’m pale for those that haven’t noticed.  I got on the bike and felt great.  The plan I created was simple, 200 watts Normalized power and about 190 watts average power.  If I could do that, I should feel good into the run and have about 2:35 bike time.  33 miles into the bike I was at 206 NP and 200 average watts.  A bit higher than wanted but still good.  However, my back was tightening up and my shoulders were killing me.

I kept going, off the bike at 200 watts NP and 190 average watts and a time of 2:35.  Pretty perfect compared to the plan.  But then the heat hit and my training came crashing down on me.  Remember, my long run was 1:25 and 7 miles on the run.  Not because that’s what I wanted but because we made a conscious decision that no ailments for race day was better than some more training and not feeling completely healthy on race day.

Hindsight says, you got what you trained for.  The goal was 11:00 min/miles for the run.  The first 5 miles was perfect.  I actually had to pee at mile 5.5, no gut problems, no fatigue yet.  At 6 miles and done with lap one, mentally I started to crack.  I told Kelly, who was great, I would be ok if I was done now, but I knew I still had an hour to run, or more.  But internally I knew, I was about to embark on 6 miles of running that I was not trained for.  At mile 8, I knew I was in trouble.  The funny thing was I felt great, again, no heat exhaustion, no dehydration, no nutrition deficiency, just pure lack of training.  I did not have the physical strength to keep running.  I could walk just fine, but the ability to run, to physically put one foot in front of another at the running effort was excruciating.

Mentally I cracked.  I gave in.  I was infuriated but i could not muster the mental and physical determination to keep running consistently.  I was beside myself.  Screaming at myself, to no avail.  I would run a couple hundred yards then walk.  Every time I stopped, I screamed at myself, start running.  No such luck.

For those that think they can fake this, I have other thoughts about that.  My goal was under 6 hours, but my training told me, no way.  I did not have the run endurance to do that.  I was determined, run/walk, don’t stop, just keep running.  But I couldn’t.  my legs were screaming at me.  I told them to shut up, but I had not experienced this type of fatigue in a long time.  Maybe never.

My goal was not to limp across the finish line, I limped.  I made it in a very respectable 6:02 and change.  But I missed to 6:00 mark that was apparently in my head a significant time.  That was crushing, coming down the reservoir dirt road, knowing i wasn’t going to make it.  The last 300 yards through the transition area I could barely run.  But I had to.  The crowd was great, it was exciting, but I lacked the muscular endurance to run faster that a quick walk.  I tried to be excited as I finished, but I knew it was over 6 hours and just barely over.  I felt deflated.

So, the lessons learned?  I executed my plan to perfection.  Control the swim and get out of the water with limited leg fatigue.  I swam with almost no kicking, avoided any huge congestion in the water, and felt good coming out.  Started a little fast on the bike, but held on.  The plan was 1.03 VI and 200 watts NP.  Hit that on the nail.  Run 10:30 to 11:30 and see what happens.  What happened was I ran 11:00 ish for 8 miles, and then cratered, which is what my training would tell you I would do.

Morale of the story, you can’t outpace your training.  Train right and the race will reflect your training.  Train light, and the race will reflect your training.  Hmmm.

My nutrition plan will come in the next blog.

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