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IM Hawaii 2014 – Race Report

2014 marked a return to Kona for me. It’s been since 2011 that I raced, and quite honestly – I missed it. I like racing IM – and I surely liked racing Kona. While I can get my endurance giggles out at IMs around the world, Kona has the appeal of being the World Champs, and I have discovered I like competing – racing. The last few years have been somewhat of a transformative time for me, and without going into too much mushy detail, one of the things I discovered about myself: I like racing – I like competition. I am goal oriented and so having a goal of winning my AG in Kona works for me. Not because of the prize, but because of the sacrifice being worth the result: why do this? To be the best I can be. And to me (that mirror I look at) that means I compete WITH the best in the world in my AG and around that AG. I am not shy to compete – and get beat if it was a fair, honest, clean competition…

My training for 2014 has been great. Running Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in Feb set up a great endurance platform not only for running – but the time out there doing something endurance based for 16-20 hrs. I carried a lot of fitness into IM Texas, which surprised me with an 8:59. It gave me confidence that fitness gains were there – NOW the goal became two-fold: 1) not get injured into Kona – 2) not burn out mentally until Kona.

The summer unfolded well. Training was great – body was holding up – kids were not compromised with this selfish sport. Mind and body were dancing the Kona two-step build well. As many of you can relate – balancing life’s priorities with the training and the sense of urgency in each, becomes quite a challenge. Yet it remained harmonious this summer.

October came and I was healthy, motivated and grateful for all that 2014 had brought so far. I knew Kona was going to go well, since there were no questions. I had mentioned to some folks that there was a sense of calm going to the Big Island knowing I did everything I possibly could for this race. I trained all I needed/wanted/could, I executed, stayed present throughout. I saw the times in training knowing the pace and strength was there.

Race week was incredible. Not because it was race week, but instead I managed to stay as far away from the race as logistically possible. Bringing my daughter Ruby made this great. Snorkeling, surfing, beach days, swimming with turtles, dolphins and whatever else came around on our daily trips around the Big Island. Body still felt great and come race morning all was primed for a memorable Kona.

Swim: I made one strategic mistake in my planning for the race. I got so beat up and annoyed by past Kona starts that this day I committed to starting back a few people and not swimming hard off the start. BIG mistake – I was way too comfortable early on and was able to just roll into my inside the buoy line track with relaxed freestyle. Never settled into a good speed and rhythm – and while inside that buoy line I came across WAY more surfboards and paddlers than past years – and when I say inside buoy line, I mean I am basically swimming ON the line but passing each buoy on the right – besides the turn buoys. BAM – I get smacked hard in the head – an SUP guy was backing up from others swimmers ahead and brought the paddle directly on the top of my head. Dazed and surprised I swam a few breaststrokes and gradually put myself back into race mode. It wasn’t long until I started feeling a bit nauseous – I attribute that to swallowing some seawater when getting bonked or while getting myself going from awkward breaststroke to freestyle again. The swim then just happens – I don’t feel much – remember much – I just swim. I do notice I am swimming somewhat solo – no groups around me, and know that its not because I am that far ahead…. Out of the water in an underwhelming 56 minutes.

Bike: Once out on the bike I settle in ok. The 7.5 miles in town go well, very relaxed with watts dead on where they need to be. But out on the Queen K I quickly notice that things are off: headache and some more nausea. I don’t think it has anything to do with the paddle bonk, more that I might have swallowed too much salt water. I hold off on eating and drinking to allow the nausea pass. I am confident it will. In this window though I notice huge groups of draft packs riding by…like 20-30 guys riding in big groups, sitting up. I pass penalty tents with 25-30 cyclists backed up. Yet only 5 stopwatches to hold, so people are just signing in and off they go – no 4 minutes. Riders ride past me laughing about how ridiculous it is – having conversations! I am disheartened – I am distracted – I lose focus and confidence. Not in my ability but instead where I am in the race (placing) and question my desire to push back to the front. I am feeling better now – have started eating, hydrating but am distracted by the single column of riders up to Hawi – most, practically all – riding too close, constantly looking over their shoulder to see if the motorcycle is coming. It’s a joke.

I get to Hawi and I start snapping out of it. I will make the best of this day. I will make it respectable. I let go of any visions of placing well, but I will enjoy Kona, I will honor all the training I have done leading up to this. I will get back and run a solid marathon – see Ruby – and enjoy having her here in Kona with me on the course.

I ride home with higher watts than the 60 miles prior – rising wattage ride as many of you know from my coaching. I know I can run off that – I have done it plenty in training. The course has emptied out a bit, but still see bigger single file groups riding way too close. But now I don’t care – I have resigned to this being Kona. I actually ride past two guys – big guys – look at them and say “really? – you are just going to keep cheating like this?” – and ride on. Well, Head referee Jimmy Riccitello rolls up and gives them both penalties – good.

5:12 bike – my slowest split in 8 years. Darn. But roll into T2 feeling present – good – relaxed and enjoying the race!

Run: I have one goal – run well. Not hard, instead well. Well means steady – relaxed – present – soaking it all in. Not easy, instead I want to see how it all shakes out. I actually have a tiny voice in my head that thinks I can run a PR in Kona. That would be 3:06 or better. The first few miles feel great and relaxed – as they should, I only really rode 2.5 hrs at race watts of the 5 I was supposed to! Quickly the miles start ticking off and before I know it I have run the out and back on Alii (9miles). At no point do I think of placing. I don’t ask anybody – I am really not concerned as I am committed to running well, and having a respectable finish.

NOTE: we ALWAYS regret missing time on the run. I would be lying to say I did not look at my bike time/race time and shake my head in frustration. Even the 5-7 minutes I could have pushed up to Hawi from Kuahai would have made for a better time (not result since I am not thinking result at this point). In past years I have ridden up to Hawi in 52-57 minutes, this year a solid 1:07…ugh….My thinking here is “if I run 3:06-3:10 my time is XX, but had I gotten my head out of my a$$ earlier, it would now be 9:15-9:19 which sounds nicer than 9:20+”….

I hit 10 miles in 1:09, hit 13 miles in 1:30 something…Of course I know the hard part of the course remains ahead – but I feel good about the pace & effort balance. Queen K on the way to Energy Lab becomes a steady run – with a few other guys we are just in a zombie run: emotionless, in synch, running along this desolate stretch. In the corner of my eye I notice the sign at mile 13 “no bikes, scooters, motor vehicles or spectators past this point” – they shut down the road at this point, as in past years it would become this huge entourage next to the race leaders. I think to myself: well, this is it – from here on out it is whatever result you are in – nobody is out there to tell you, help you know any different…and I am, again, fine with that. I have no idea anyways who is where or what that means anyways!

I hit energy lab, and sure enough – there is my first difficult stretch – hit a bit of a side stitch – which seems to be something common at mile 16-18. I stop and stretch it –to no avail – I get to the RedBull tent and stop to exhale a bit, grab some Red Bull and give myself 60 sec to get it sorted. Well, Caitlin Snow comes by, I grab Red Bull and a big bottle of water and off we go to run. I know the water is too much for me – so I pour half the bottle on her – get my act together again and carefully run again. As you all know with sidestitch, if you carefully, gradually allow yourself to exhale, run, relax, and shorten your stride, it slowly works itself out. By mile 19 I am back in stride. The stop and RedBull tent cost me about 2 min.

Now, usually, this is where in past Konas I have been able to push another gear. Not because of fitness, or smelling the barn. No, its usually because I am chasing someone – I have seen them on the turn and know what I am trying to catch. This year I try to push a bit, but soon I run out of ‘push’. Not desire because I keep running solid, but just not the pushing, snot blowing, grunting, driving hard effort running. I just stay steady. I even get to the top of Palani, with the last 1.2 miles downhill and flat, yet don’t crush myself on the down. I say “don’t ruin your legs, you wanna have fun tomorrow with Ruby”. I roll onto Alii Drive, Nick with Ruby are there – we take pictures, even a selfie – and I run in it into finish. I feel fine – I walk through finish area – grab my water, Tshirt, medal and head out to see Ruby…

SO – what did I learn? Where does this leave me 2 weeks out of Kona? As many of you always hear from me, I like to wait 2 weeks after IM to allow emotions to settle down, in order to take a more pragmatic approach to this all-consuming sport. I have concluded I had a variety of issues on race day:

Positioning – I usually do not see the race from this perspective. I swim off the front and can count the people in my age group (or all age groups for that matter) that pass me. I see if there is anybody out of the swim ahead of me. This was not possible in Kona this year. I lost touch with the groups ahead of me on the swim, and then the draft packs did not allow me to count the race number range of my age group. I was racing blind. Or, for that matter, I was reliant on outside information in order to know where I stand in the AG race.

Distraction – I let the race distract me. With the draft packs rolling up, and their nonchalant attitude towards cheating I was annoyed, disgusted, demoralized by the sport. I allowed my emotions of the moment to dictate my racing. Because of this I paced my day instead of raced my day.

Strategy – While drafters are always in the race, usually I am ahead of them and although they approach, catch up, even pass me – their back half is usually slower (which it was here in Kona too as I rode the fastest back half in the AG) and it puts me right back to, or at least close to, where I need to be for the run. Can you say to always just race hard? Yes, but Kona is a different animal and the depth of the field usually does not allow blind racing in order to have a top result. This applies to the pro field too – those that race hard and blind get strategically outmaneuvered by the strong runners either way.

Poor planning – while this is not something I beat myself up for, I should have had the conversation on an update with Nick, or Jordan, or Dougy T – or even Ruby. Or Taylor, Ryanne or or or. Plenty of people I knew on the course, I just never – in all my 32 IMs – have ever not known my general place and where I need to be/get to in order to have my result. And although Ironmanlive was down for a bit, and even though there are stretches where the updates are not allowed, HAD I known at mile 9, 10, 11 or 12 where I stand, the 3-4-5 minutes could have easily been found. The argument here is why not just run your hardest/best? Because there is always another gear for me when ‘racing’ vs. in your own world, head, place…

Trust – I did not trust in my strength, fitness, knowledge, and experience. I was going to Kona with the goal of winning my AG. If that is the case, I should have believed that despite things going wrong, despite falling back and the day unwinding differently, that I would not be THAT far off. I swam comfortably; I rode Z2 HR/watts the first 3 hrs. I should have trusted that despite those bike numbers and swim time I would still be near the top of the AG. I did not think with logic – I thought with emotion.

Do I regret my day in Kona? No way. I got 3rd on a comfortable day, I know that HAD I lined up against the top 2 in my AG that day – head to head or the top 10, I would have beaten them in an open competition without drafting. I had a wonderful week with Ruby, I had friends there that reinforced our friendship. I was healthy, I enjoyed the race, I smiled, I helped others, I was relaxed and did not take myself too seriously (which has happened in the past). I actually enjoyed a race day in Kona, soaking in the people and the environment. The only thing I look back upon and wonder is HAD I had the opportunity to race, to dig deep, to really push, to chase or even run scared (if I were up front) – what would that day have felt like?

In training I go through a lot of visualization, I save parts of my mind for race day in order to envision where I will be and how to be in the moment. I like to run that course in Kona with stretches of allowing my mind to go to other places (home, long training day, places I have had hard yet effective training days, etc.) in order to really push. I enjoy that process: to close my eyes in Kona and go to the Silverado trail, to go to the Pacific Crest in Tahoe, to go to my 100 miler in February. Because of my issues mentioned above – I never got into the moment of that fun process. That is part of racing. Competition. I regret not having the opportunity to dig in, to go ‘there’, to go to that dark place where you can only get to when r-a-c-i-n-g… In the moment of that day 2 weeks ago, I was ok with not being there because I was certain my placing was not significant, and therefore I should only focus on the opportunity of the day, the privilege and the fun of Kona – a perspective and view I rarely get to take in when racing the day hard instead…Don’t worry; there is a big enough voice in my head saying “excuses, excuses dude…”

With the paddle incident, and my first 2 hours recovering, it would be easy to look for the 144 seconds to 1st place there. But, there were plenty of minutes on the bike and run to have been found with the issues listed above. No excuses. 2 weeks after the race, I actually look at the paddle incident as something that could have worked to my advantage, as a blessing in disguise. Yet I did not take advantage of my day, the real estate remaining. Its hard to recognize this in the moment, but it was there – the opportunity was presented to run myself to the front, a storybook ending to win an AG. This will remain with me – that rare chance to do something special like that. If ever again, I will script it differently.

As this email went out last year after Tahoe and what I need to focus on, here too, I see the lessons learned from this day. I know what needs to be done, where the blind spots are (as always – we never stop learning). But now I need to decide whether I go back or accept that Ironman is in the business of selling emotions, not really about racing world championships like other true sporting events. This might read that I am bitter, but I am actually relieved to have gained this perspective on our sport: that it is fiction, an event created as a challenge/dare, that now has moved on to being a business. While some may argue the Olympics are a business too, the underlying sports are structured differently. You have federations, validated distances, officials that are professionals in monitoring the performances of the sport. They have been officials at national and international competitions for years, and then a rare few are chosen to be at the World Champs or Olympics. You don’t have volunteers and part time racers deciding the outcome of the world championships on the back of a motorcycle. You have an opportunity to race in your sport – to compete – not just see how the day ‘shakes out’.

Understanding all this, and having this years’ perspective, I know how to approach the race next year. Or not. But as a close friend told me the other day: “maybe Ironman isn’t done with you yet. Maybe it wants you to come back – to continue to be a part of it as a racer vs. just a coach”.

IM Lake Tahoe Race Report 2013

Many of you have asked about my race in Tahoe – at IM Lake Tahoe.  Its been over 2 weeks and I always tell my athletes that they should create some space from the emotions of the race before writing up their race reports.  These can either be crazy high emotions (signing up right away for more IM’s) – or some serious lows (beating themselves up about the race or the DNF etc.).  Returning to our daily lives, the routine, our family, work and the void we left by training for this IM often helps give us a better perspective on looking back on a very meaningful & powerful day for most of us.

I have been coaching triathlon for 14 years.  I really enjoy coaching the lessons that this sport carries with it.  The incredible sacrifices of time in order to train.  Discipline to get the training done.  Communication and balance to have family, friends and loved ones still support you but also carry the slack in that void you created.  I could go on and on with this list, because it remains very current with me.  I respect the work my athletes do so much, the time they find to train, the kids activities they still attend, the families they still nurture and the jobs they still carry – travel – responsibility; today most are so overworked, overstressed – adding this sport into that mix can make this stress even worse.  I hope though in some ways this sport makes it easier for you…that exhale, the invigorating rides, that beautiful run leaving you feeling like you can run forever, that swim where you finally feel some synch with your stroke…all this hopefully allows you to be a better father, co worker, leader, husband, boss or friend.  That time to yourself, that journey ventured, that challenge of a training session accepted.

All of this no longer applies to me – and I have been recognizing this in my training.  As many of you say, its less about the race, its about the journey to the race.  Well, if you didn’t have that journey, would you enjoy the race the same way?  Would you even race?  If Ironman were not about sacrifice, would you still do it?  If there were not physical or mental aspects to overcome – would Ironman still be as appealing?  Unfortunately that is what has come to my attention this summer.

I no longer need to sacrifice time to train; I no longer have anybody I need to balance this sport with.  My work does not cause stress; actually much of the training for an IM is partially my work.  I observe and apply a lot of the concepts of my coaching while out training.  Physically there is little in the training that challenges me, nor am I really looking to take things to the ‘next’ level since I have already been there – not only in this sport, but another sport.  Mentally the challenges of race day are no longer a mystery, the mind games to get through a race are no longer working.  I know what to train, I know how to feel prior to a race, I know what numbers or pace or times I need to see in order to have a solid day.  The fire within to do well is no longer burning as hot, I have flipped the switch in the wrong way:  I understand that life on the other side of these races goes on, that your result has nothing to do with that life, and that Ironman is just another athletic event.  Sure, the congratulatory emails ‘feel’ good, but they are not what impacts your day to day once back into that rhythm of life on the other side of an Ironman day.

I said the other day that I knew Ironman was not going to be the right place for me as I go through divorce.  Many people have used this event as a getaway, something to fill your time with, escape, an outlet to channel emotions from the every day punch in the gut that divorce is – For me this escape was not going to be applicable – since it was already what I did as a partial profession the past years:  some may argue that Triathlon is what drives divorce – this sport is so ‘selfish” and requires such a commitment.  I vehemently disagree, but that is a different topic.

Yes – I have been injured – and I had already worked my mind around not racing IM Lake Tahoe back in late July when visiting some close friends.  I could not get into what was causing my injury, and re-engaging into running left me timid.  But with some help from physical therapists and some rest (all of July) I was gradually getting better – and while it was still showing up occasionally – it was better – it was good enough for 26.2, most likely with some pain or suffering the last 6-10 miles.  But IM marathons always have some pain and suffering.

So what happened?  In my swimming days we used to say “my performance is a perfect mirror of my self image” – We used this statement back then for positive affirmation – to create a mental link between positive self image and performance.  I have come to realize it is a key ingredient in any athletic performance – good or bad.

I started taking IM racing – actually, all racing – for granted.  I figured I could just ‘do’ an IM, just ‘participate’ and be fine – have a good enough result that I can feel decent about.  I actually already felt this at IM Los Cabos this past March: decent.  But decent is not enough to enjoy this sport.  Decent actually leaves you feeling empty, quite unsatisfied.  And it surely doesn’t motivate you to train – properly – progressively.  No – just participating is not good enough.  I have been incredibly fortunate that my talent has allowed me to do quite well at IM Triathlon.  But this past 18 months also showed me everything I am trying to teach my kids:  resting your accolades on talent alone is not good enough, nor very rewarding.  Combine talent with hard work, focus and discipline; that leads to world-class results. Every – EVERY sport is littered with talented athletes that could not handle the hard work & discipline needed to bring that world-class talent up to a world class, elite level.   And here I am – doing exactly that.  Sure – many can argue:  why?  You have done plenty – you have nothing left to prove.  I am 43 years old, single dad with two awesome kids.  I have totally deserved to just participate, to enjoy all the years of focused training and soak up the pure fun of endurance racing.  THAT is exactly the excuse that creates this internal dilemma: if I was looking to prove anything (!), then I was in sports for the wrong reason anyways.  Athletics are not to prove anything (and a bigger topic on what is wrong with athletics and all sport these days) – it’s about personal excellence, an internal belief system of commitment, follow-through and to ALWAYS do your best.  And there is what happened:  IM Lake Tahoe I did not do my best.  I did not prepare like that, I did not race like that.  I did not have the mind set for excellence.  I went through the motions thinking that the finish line will be rewarding enough.  I believe that is why I truly DNF’ed: because I realized on the course that this approach is not good enough.  That going through the motions is not good enough.  That accepting a decent, mediocre performance is not worth a finish, a result. No excuses, finishing an Ironman is about more than I was doing.

It was a mirror of my current self-image: decent, average, not doing my best.  Good enough to not be disappointed, not good enough to be happy.

Therefore it is time to challenge myself into a new avenue of this sport.  It’s time to give back, to race for a bigger cause, something I am not personally accountable for, but instead representing for either those that can’t, or raising awareness for those that can!  I have some ideas for this; have been speaking to some of you how this might unfold.

Health, fitness and the privilege of doing these events are something to be thankful for.  The training, the time, the ability, and the financial flexibility: all of it is not something to be taken for granted.  In my years of coaching I have come across plenty of athletes that just want to see what a marathon or Iron distance triathlon is like.  Once they finish, they check that box of completion and move on.  But then there are those that stick to this sport and see the lifestyle it creates.  Health, fitness, spiritual balance and mental strength that permeates throughout our daily lives.  And yes – this lifestyle is a very sharp blade:  take it too serious and it cuts through every aspect of your life, leaving you with nothing but yourself.  Take it too lightly and the fulfillment of this lifestyle gently dulls.

How do I sharpen my blade again?  It comes with an understanding that it cannot be taken for granted, not for me as an individual, and surely not for a greater purpose, cause, support group.  Its time to challenge my own process and to work toward a shared vision, not just my own.

Willpower, discipline and resolve are about mastering the tension of not getting what you want in the moment….

 

2013 Ironman Cabo San Lucas Race Report

…“Sometimes you know the story. Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have
no idea how it will come out”….E. Hemingway

That is the perfect description of IM Los Cabos this past weekend. Some may think
Ironman becomes a routine, especially after determining just this week it was my 29 th. I
was even asked just this morning what keeps me motivated, focused… Its exactly that
no Ironman is ever the same. The challenges come from different angles every time.
Whether external (weather or conditions) – internal (mind and sprit) – physical (injury
or a healthy body) – the distance is just too far to have a control number (sample sizing)
in order to gauge fitness, prep and overall race readiness. Sure, there is an outcome I
can project, but that is not worth training or racing for. I race for the challenge of not
knowing what the day will bring. The challenge of unadorned suffering and living on my
personal edge. I read just the other day that a man rediscovers & fine-tunes his purpose
either in solitude or in challenging situations. Well – last Sunday was a solid personal
challenge.

Of course I was somewhat fit and prepared to race. But I also observed over the past few
weeks (3) that my cycling legs were gone. Missing. Not available. How do I determine
this? Besides that the wattages riding were off, I couldn’t even stay comfortable in my
seat. There was zero rhythm to my cycling, no smooth cadence and everything was
forced or tight. Of course we become more aware with a race approaching, but having
done 28 other IMs, I would like to say I know what it should feel like.

But this is where we enter the challenge situation. Swimming was good, running was
good (although this piece you never really know until 14ish miles into an IM marathon).
How will the day go given a big piece missing in the middle of a triathlon. Add to this
equation a course that caught me off guard (as well as my athletes as I might not have
been well informed about the course!) – it was hillier and harder (potential winds and
temps) that I had planned for. Throw in that it is March, and I have never done an IM
this early in the year.

For those of you around me pre IM, I don’t get nervous. So the days prior and the
morning of are quite fun, I actually enjoy helping my athletes or others in keeping the
mood light. We do this because we enjoy this sport, remember? Seeing soo many
worried, fearful faces makes me wonder at times. Morning check in – and off we go to
the swim start.

Beach Start! How fun. The gun goes off and approx. 1300 competitors surge towards
the Sea of Cortez. A guy does a full face plant next to me. Bummer! Off I go – the
usual 400-500 yrds faster to break from the group – carry a few folks with me – then
lengthen out and settle in. I swim with one guy on my feet the entire way – he enjoyed
the rhythm of tapping my toes apparently. We get out together, 52 min swim. Pretty
decent for March. Through T1 and out on the road I go – amongst some lady pros that
started 17 minutes prior (y’all need to get some swim lessons).

We are always curious what those first few pedal strokes bring in an IM – is there some
magical feeling that just takes over and all the cycling concerns just disappear? It can
happen..but not today. Quickly the watts start dropping off and I am pedaling into a
headwind, and shifting all over my seat. Ugh – long day ahead – I just hit mile 5.

…”Sometimes you make it up as you go along”…No bike legs and a solid course. By
solid I mean headwind, rollers, hills, heat and very few momentum sections. Its all work
(maybe that is a March sensation?). OK, I commit to working harder than I feel like
until 10am – 2hrs. It feels completely unnatural. 263 avg – 257 avg – 253 avg watts –
gradually falling. Ok, so be it – no reason to force this – relax, stay out of the wind, and
click off some miles.

My challenge is that since I started this Ironman ‘thing’, I have 1300-2300 athletes
chasing me. So, it gets a little weird, when you have no other result for your bike leg
other than staying 1st, or getting passed. I knew I wasn’t staying 1st today….and here
they come.

Next I focus on the second loop. I can tell the first loop has been a doozy. I catch Hillary
Biscay and we briefly exchange profanity about how long this bike leg will take today.
I actually spent the next 5 miles smiling on how she easily out-cussed me. Just when
I begin to get serious again (thinking I am going to try and catch my watts for a decent
2nd loop) – one of my athletes catches up to me – gives me a little pinch – and smiles
from ear to ear. Sweet! If I am not going to have a great day, this is the best possible
alternative: and it helps wake me up – since now I have someone to focus on (and he
says with some pity “come on coach, let’s go ride”) – it helps that second loop go by way
quicker, less pity party for me, and more focus on a run that I was planning to nail.

Bike: 5:19 – avg: 240watts (while pedaling squares) – 2 ProBars – 1 Odwalla Bar – 1
ClifBar – 5 gels – 3×20 oz Osmo Active hydration 5×20 oz water. 1750 cals./approx.
300/hr – which is slightly more than usual (March – winter layer?)

Rich and I roll into T2 and off we go through the chute. Well organized transitions for
a new race. Yes, the rules apply to me too: “I aint from Russia – so don’t be rushin’
through transition” – quote from my daughter that always gets me.

Out on the run I go – Feel like I can run right away and now we are back in the comfort
zone. 2 goals for the run: Start off a bit hotter than usual since I have no idea where
fitness will carry me as of mile 16 (longest training run was 16) and to beat certain
someone who bet me she can run a faster IM marathon than me (my AG should give me
a few minutes handicap). Feel great right away, work my way through the first 8.75 mile
loop efficiently but with plenty of energy to spare. 2nd loops feels decent (given it is 13+
miles into an IM marathon) – and although there was some walking, stretching, shuffling
for about 3 miles, things settled in for a decent marathon day.

Run: 3:11 – out in 1:33, back in 1:37…although the Gel Gut bomb was my own fault. 5
gels on the run, which was a no no for me (back to Chomps or Bloks for me) but goal
fitness was there. As to the 2nd goal…I lost that by 76 seconds.

Which brings me back to the day itself. Racing with uncertainty prepares you for the
days ahead where things might click a lot better. I am NOT saying I didn’t try, but I had
to quickly shift my race strategy to a different day. When you are having a good day,
having the race maturity of past “not so good” races allows you to reach even further into
your potential epic day/result/time. No experience or observation is ever wasted when
doing an ultra-endurance event like this.

Lastly – there is another observation from last Sunday. It is that no matter how you feel
on the bike, Age Group Ironman racing comes down to the run. Plenty of guys and gals
were faster than me on the bike, and while my swim does help me, it’s a balanced attack
to the entire day that gets you to the finish line with a decent result. Unless they change
the rules, there is nothing at T2 to win. That marathon shows your strategy, patience
and diligence better than any swim or bike leg can…oh, and that if you are not paying
attention, you can get chicked.

Ironman Louisville 2012 Race Report

Become fully engaged In whatever it is you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. You will find value in this experience…

Given what this summer has been, I was not sure if racing an Ironman was such a good idea.  I left Honu feeling good about my training for a Half, but taking on an IM is always a different story.  As most of you know, riding 2-3 hrs vs riding 4-6 hrs makes a big difference on the life schedule.  Throw in the longer runs and the additional swimming needed for an Ironman, it takes a toll.  Not a toll as much on the body as it is towards the summer schedule with kids out of school.  Add to this that being a single dad for the first time, well, you get the idea:  Ironman might not be in the cards.

Gradually the summer started presenting itself to me.  Mini camps, training camps and some fun weekends (Occidental training camp at SAG Monkey World Headquarters!) started to fill the calendar, and the math of volume with recovery looked pretty good.  The kids, when I did have them, presented a great recovery window – no training.  Next step: 6 weeks of focused work.  Not just figuring it out, but either training or no training.  Either the switch is on, or it is off.

The one things I was going to commit to from the days after Honu:  aerobic miles were going to be easier than past years.  I am not going to carry fatigue into spending time with my children, so the volume might be high, but the aerobic miles were going back to being easier.  How easy?  cycling miles @ 60% of LT.  1x quality session per week on the bike and in the pool.  No running quality at all.

I have been coaching for 13 years now, and I have worked with many athletes that were going through some personal turmoil.  Ironman seemed like a good way to focus on personal health, growth and time for these athletes.  Well, in my personal turmoil, I knew that Ironman would NOT be this for me.  It’s been my job in the past, its my daily work now, it doesn’t carry that escape for me.  I was also not looking for that.  I have always enjoyed the training, the fear and discovery it creates – towards the next race or the next training plan for my athletes.  The nice part of training for Ironman this summer:  it validates that I can trust who I am.  I don’t need to justify my love for family, friends and life.  You can either receive, understand and appreciate that, or not.  Whatever path we take, its our path, and it is just as meaningful of a path than any other path out there: the main thing is to have a path, and feel confident & good about taking it.  It doesn’t matter what other people think about your path, still your path.  And if I change paths, or turn around, its still my path.

Become fully engaged In whatever it is you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. You will find value in this experience…

Final Race prep observations:

  • Lead up to the race race continued in the new format:  due to the divorce and the kids time with it, I remained on 3ish big days of training, then 2 days ish off or just swim or just a cycling class etc.  With all the turmoil trading kids time for training time was not an option.
  • training hours were decent.  Nothing crazy, plenty of bigger weeks but nothing too big besides the Tahoe Training Camp.  Even that week started on a Wednesday and therefore didn’t get as big as past years.
  • Swimming: volume was good with Masters and the frequency was there.  I lacked the bigger swims in Tahoe, but it was plenty as is.  Felt the speed of masters, but not the steady state.  Included stretch cordz as I built to 300ish but not frequently enough to build up to the usual 500-600 prior to a solid swim workout.
  • Cycling: decent volume, actually had a 1000 mile month in July, that always creates the platform.  Felt fresh in training, good balance between low HR/watts and intensity in class.  Did notice that low HR built a healthier platform, but curious if a second class per week for ‘work’ would have provided a better top end.
  • Running:  hard to track the volume and training as I just went out and ran. Little planning or thought, went more by repeating weekly schedule.  But this did not have an impact on race as speed was there.
  • IM Lou mini camp was incredibly helpful for fitness & race day knowledge.  Again validates that Mini Camps on race site are a huge ingredient for success on race day.
  • Hardest workout:  90/9.  Barely survived that.  But it was a kick in the ass 3 weeks out of race day.
  • Taper felt fine, 2-3 weeks out was still pretty big, but all possible with lack of run quality as well as limited cycling quality.

Once in Louisville: chill days, plenty of sleep, simple and fun.  Arrived early enough, made it even lower stress.  Decent meals, went bland as possible/realiity 24hrs, but for sure 18hrs. out.  race dinner was bland pasta and bread, no meat or veggies. Lunch was huge salad, sweet potatoes, brown rice, chicken, and plenty of salt.  Osmo PRELOAD the night before with cranberry juice.

Race morning: woke up at 4, oatmeal with pb at 4:30am, some coffee, kashi 7 grain waffles with pb.  Powerbar right before start.  30oz water. 1x preload serving with water.  With the unusual TT start in Louisville, the logistics were a bit different, but actually turned out very relaxed and fun.  Thanks to some funny Dynamo Multisport athletes that we stood in line with, the time passed quickly.

Swim: decent 51+. Started off fast with a gradual drop off.  Again, different with no huge pack/gun start – so you just drift into your pace and swim.  Basically stayed a tick faster than aerobic, included one section of effort, but nothing dramatic.  Didn’t want to overheat or work too hard in 84+ degree water.  2nd out behind Matt Rose who swam 40 sec faster, and should since he is one of my athletes…!

T1 just not paying attention, missed bike, running all around. Slow & goofin around too much if it were a serious day.  All good with supplies and needs, just forgot to wear race belt (oops).

Bike: cooler temps and decent legs the first 90 minutes so the goal was to push a bit at this time of day.  Not much there to force and legs actually felt tired, but I also never challenged them or opened them up.  Would have been interesting to find out, but also was committed to going quite easy all day.  Ended up with a lot of 250-270w time early but as of 2hrs into bike shut it down to mainly riding on feel.  That made it quickly look like at lot of 220s, late a lot of 200s.  Lowest watts of any IM ever done with watts, but went totally on feel and easy based on wanting to run.  Avg wattage early was 256, then 246, ended with 240. Loops were dead on planned time – felt good for most of this ride besides a lull from mile 45-60, but then recovered and felt quite relaxed the remainder of ride with no pressure of watts or effort.  It was awesome from having done mini camp knowing exactly where to be a the time checks on the course.

Food: Probar, 2xClifbar, 1x Powerbar, 6 chomps pieces,  2x Osmo, 2xroctane drink lightened = approx 1450cals, 300/hr

T2: slow as I took my time to cool off a ton.  Totally wet and relaxed, waited and got situated.

Run: felt great from the first step.  No lethargy, no aches, nothing, felt great, hard to keep it controlled since I knew the hard miles were coming.  Felt great until mile 8/9, then gradually got heavier and felt pavement.  Bored yet observant until mile 12, then some hard miles 12-15.  Grabbed Advil at special needs and roctane.  Took Advil and stopped, doused with 20 cups of water and drank a fair amount at once.  Felt ok running for about a mile, quickly regained feet and speed, thought the Advil was doing its trick, but then side stitch punched me, stopped, tried to stretch a few times, worked it out very gradually, but took some small steps miles and slight hunch to keep contained. Duh on drinking a few big gulps at once a mile back!  Then gradually went away and could regain form focus.  Form was not light, but back to tired, form focus that allowed usual tired stride.  Had to apologize to Bree for leaving her for 3 miles, she said she was ‘ok’ with it.  Good timing as it was time for her to take a rabbit and go win her first IM.  Went to coke once side stitch happened so late in the run now was feeling low on energy.  Half was 1:31, return was 1:39, but that included walking so I think when running was always in low 7s.  Overall ran completely on aerobic, ‘what legs give me’ feel.  But was also pushing carefully.  Never out of control, always based on what my legs gave me and carried me.  Hence why run fitness was good or bike effort dead on since I ran 26 miles on aerobic pacing.  Not easy, but also not hard. 3:10

Had I known I was 20 sec. from 4th place things would have shaken out differently, but 11 minutes (pro start was 10 minutes prior to TT start, then I started about a minute after the gun) was hard to see on the course, so somewhat bummed to not have found 20 sec.  Also – not having done IM this year and Kona being a walk for a lot of the miles, I was weary to run strategically: its been a long time since I was in good enough shape or feeling in control enough during the marathon to actually let ‘er rip.

Food: roctane at 1-5-8-11 then coke after 2 Advil.  One sip of perform. 2 salt early in run

Ran first 10 miles with FuelBelt. Felt good to have water to wash down go when I wanted it.  Mentos holder was perfect for salt and advil.

1st AG, 1st overal amateur, 5th overall.  9:21

Become fully engaged In whatever it is you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. You will find value in this experience… I did…and hence no Kona this year.  I would compromise being a dad, being a coach, being an athlete by continuing on with training & racing into Kona.  6 weeks into training for IM I knew there would be no Kona.  I knew I could carry fitness, fun and experience into another 6 weeks, but not another 13 weeks. Either the switch is on, or off.

Now I need to find a bike sponsor.

Ironman Hawaii 70.3 Race Report

Ironman Hawaii/Honu 70.3

Chris Hauth Race Report

June 2nd, 2012

Coming into Honu 2012 I was uncertain as to where my fitness would be.  I have had a spring of inconsistent training – but some of this might have been planned.  As I mentioned in a previous update/RR, Kona 2011 left me flat – not from the race, but I entered the race flat emotionally and physically.  Emotionally there were some personal weight I was carrying, and physically as I carried of training & peaking too early into October.  I made a commitment back in the fall to do less training and try to focus more on my personal matters.  But as I run a coaching business, I also knew that I have a solid safety net of training in my everyday life:  whether indoor cycling classes 1-2x a week, the weekly swim practice at 5:45am, and the mandatory running with my dogs on the trails of Mt. Tam.  While this is not nearly the volume I load in the late winter/early spring, those 8-10hrs per week of training kept me in decent enough shape to do my training camps:  starting with Tucson in February, then Utah in March, a Coast Ride in April… you can see the bigger picture:  sprinkle the occasional big volume week in with minimum training hours.  All the while using the training shell of 8-10hrs per week as high quality when I can and the body permits.  This means if the run with the dog does not permit quality, oh well.  If an indoor cycling class is cancelled due to lack of numbers, oh well.  Or if life/family didn’t allow for the 5:45am swim, oh well again.

I knew I was ‘in shape’ – but I was not confident.  Although the last 4-6 weeks all my training runs and the Coast Ride gave me the right indicators, swimming was the only discipline I was confident in.  Weekly swimming volume of 12-13k will have an impact for me – combined with re-introducing stretch cordz – I was confident that Honu would be a good swim.  But the cycling: I haven’t ridden much more than 90 minutes indoors, let alone only 3x over 2 hrs outside since the Coast Ride in April.  Mix in that my running might be good, but nothing consistently over 10 miles (which I insisted was always tempo, speed play or progression).   So – there the state of affairs coming into Honu…physically.

My personal affairs are not resolved, and therefore this was the bigger question for me come race day:  would I be able to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand to race well.  Honu carries a lot of meaning for me:  my first 70.3 overall win, an epic race vs. Macca in 2006, and some very deep emotional scars from an athlete of mine being in a life threatening, and to this day, life altering medical situation at that race.  So – this race, the Island and how life somehow converges timing and placement to open the door to new challenges, all factored into the starting line on Saturday morning.

Of course there is a lot of posturing and deflection when one is not as confident.  Coming into my first race of 2012, after getting thoroughly whooped in October, combined with lack familiar fitness, add a dash of missing self confidence, the spoken race plan was: “we’ll see – I am just going to relax, have fun, let the day take me to however I am feeling”….

The gun went off for the Pros that started 3 minutes earlier (another Lance effect?) – and as I was floating in the water waiting to start, I made up my mind to swim all out – not just to the first buoy, but through the turn and surely back the long straightaway into an expected windy chop.  Don’t you dare get comfortable – swim – and keep kicking and pulling.  The gun goes off with no heads up – leaving about 25% of the field surprised – and I had clear sailing off the front and tight on the inside.  A Kayaker had just told me the current would pull us out on the return leg, so this means I will swim high until the first buoy.  Within 5-7 minutes, I am in the womens pro field, kicking hard, pulling hard, and working my way through.  Turn the first buoy and head further out to sea – right onto the feet of some slower pro guys.  We turn the second buoy, and bingo: into the sun, full wind chop – no visibility.  I decide to swim with the pro guy next to me (I could read his kit said Smith) and let him lead me: why?  He had a SUPaddler with him..and he was going to show me my line.  Bummer is my strategy didn’t work as well as planned:  he started pulling away (the SUPaddler) and he was wearing red…same color as the buoys..all of them.  So I am fighting to see him, or a buoy and they all look the same.  Finally round the far buoy on the course, and punch it.  No chop, you can see the bottom (therefore line up your swim line perfectly) and I accelerate to the rocks – I know Justin Smith remains on my feet – I round the bouy that turns you in, kick it into the beach, get out…only to find a race marshall stopping me: “You skipped a buoy, you need to get back in and go swim around it”…What?  Umm no, I had a paddler with me AND you are letting the Pro (Justin) through…Seriously?  Luckily the race director, Diana Bertsch is right there “Diana – seriously?  What are you doing?  Chris, we have everyone missing buoys, did you swim around the far buoy?… Diana, I have done this race for 7 years, I know the course, I had a paddler with me…and you KNOW I can swim…!  OK, go – but we’ll check your time….”  Wow…now I am upset!  I have been in this situation before, but I knew 100% I hit the far buoy, 100% that Justin did too.  I had also stopped enough, looked around, and never lost view of the Paddler nor the red buoy.  So, instead of getting out and heading to my bike, here I get stopped, accused of cutting the course and sorta embarrassed…I run up to my bike shaking my head – what was THAT all about…why would she accuse me of that??!!  I find out later that behind me there was mayhem – buoys had floated off, swimmers couldn’t see the course, and paddlers didn’t lead them/corral them – instead just watched swimmers make the wrong turns.  What a bummer.

Well, being pissed off did one thing: it snapped my head out of any funk, and cleared into pure focus:  If you are going to accuse me of cheating, I am going to win this race by more than enough of a margin to make any swim time irrelevant.  Easier said than done, but I was at least not going to let up..I ride my bike harder than planned.  I was looking to ride conservative originally, and then try to lay down a solid run time.  But now I was off, irritated, and throwing caution somewhat to the wind.  Ride feels good…windy, challenging at times with some crazy cross winds..but overall few lulls.  Of course – a few lulls – wanting to back off – but luckily I was able to practice what I preach:  stay in the moment, focus on the process, not the result – keep turning ’em over and wait a few minutes to come out of this mental valley…BIKE: avg watts: 296, cad. 91 – Food: 1x ClifBar, 2x Roctane, 1/2 Chomp serving, 2x bottles of Scratch, 1x bottle of water.  700 cals.

I got passed on the bike by an awesome AGer.  He looked super powerful and really smooth on the bike.  I saw him coming, but knew he was working.  I got off the bike knowing I was about 3 minutes down.  Into tent – calf sleeves take 30 sec longer – and off I go,  I feel pretty good running right away.  I know I had a good bike, and I was not feeling any heavy legs in the last few miles of the bike.  I set out on the run with no HR monitor, no watch, my plan was to just run.  SImple.  A watch will not tell me to run faster, if so, then I was running the incorrect strategy anyways.  Just run – fast, good form focus – drive with the knees – keep the arms engaged but loose…and when you get tired, fall more and more into your stride.  I quickly catch up to Lindsey Corbin, we exchange a few brief pleasantries, and I am off: hunting.  I am looking for my rabbit.  I finally find him at mile 2.5 – one of the many fingers on this course.  I back off a bit: I will control my effort, I know there is a lot of real estate and running the back six is important on this course.  And – I can see the trees blowing sideways ahead.  I pass through 3.5, he knows I am coming – and a decide to relax into a brutal headwind:  I lose my hat, I can’t hear myself think with the wind blowing in my face.  I feel guilt dropping water cups as they blow out into no mans land immediately.  Aid stations are a mess – so much wind is blowing over the cups that were pre-poured…ugh.  Relax into the headwind, drill it with a tailwind…

By mile 6 I take over the lead, by mile 9 I am looking forward to the pit – not because I am enjoying – but because it is the last hard section.  Headwind down, tailwind out…phew:  other way around would have been awful.  Push it home and cross the line with a fire in my belly.  Luckily Greg Welch had the microphone off, and he was able to quickly distract my conversation to the bike and run.  The race director is waiting for me at the finish line:  uh oh – here we go again.  Instead, a very sweet, and genuine conversation, apology explaining the confusion, and that we (us AGers) all looked the same under the cap and goggles.  We clear the air, I now feel sorta bad that I was so irritated the entire day – how could she know who was coming out of the water?  She was just doing her job and being fair.  Well, maybe no need to say “Chris, we’ll check your time..”

Run was 3x Roctane, plenty of water, some Perform and just an overall light stomach.

8th Overall / 1st Amateur.  23:36 – 2:23 – 1:23 = 4:16

2011 IM Kona Race Report

Kona 2011

It is a different feeling knowing that even a perfect race would not have been a winning time for me. Sure, I can start adding minutes to subtract from my day, but going by a 10 year moving average in Kona results, I think I can accurately place my run time had I not been so restricted due to my intensely painful intercostal muscles. Having that knowledge of realizing a podium (!) finish was not really within reach even on a great day, helps me accept the day, but not the performance.

I was ready. Really felt fit, probably could have rested a bit more as I felt some residual fatigue in my massages leading up to the race. I had done plenty of miles, had plenty of racing in me, felt good about all three disciplines coming into Saturday. We all ‘wonder’ how race day will feel, and once it feels ok, we build confidence throughout raceday. I know it will be a hard day, but nothing the previous 11x in Kona didn’t prepare me for. And for me it is somewhat of a calming feeling that I do not need to go faster than ever before, I just need to go as fast as I used to in order to be contending for the AG win. Little did I know that this would be a record breaking bike year and that the top 5 in the AG will this year go faster than the winning time from last year!! As I have always know about my racing – whether swimming or triathlon – I am never going to win on a fast day, only on a hard day. Saturday was not a hard day, it was one of the fastest Kona races on record: overall record times and numerous AG record times. So, even my goal time around 9:05 would have sent me home ‘off’ the podium…!

I learned a lot from Kona 2011, best of all was that my nutrition and hydration felt a lot more ‘in control’ than ever before. No bloating, no burping, no upset stomach, not even after the race! No lulls, no hunger, no thirst. A lighter breakfast, a lighter plan on race day, a better hydration strategy – and although my run was a disappointment, the energy levels and hydration was just right. I also know that my heat adaptation worked well, I never felt hot or out of my core temperature on race day. Sure, it was not a hard bike, but due to winds, not temperature. I was surely not hot on the run, and while the ice of course felt good, it was not a dire need as in some past Kona years.

My swim was subpar. In all my years in Kona I have never swum slower than a 54. No, I am not getting older that quickly. I swam slow. I was plenty fast off the start but never felt comfortable swimming that fast, questioning my effort level intensity. Sure, I had to stop twice to fix the zipper that had slid open on my suit, but I still know what I felt and that was still not fast enough. The zipper issue still had me catching the same swimmers I was with prior, and so it cost me little time…55 for an IM swim is a disappointment – and hence a disappointing potential/performance/execution on race day. I had the potential for a 53, but did not execute on it.

The bike was good. If you would have told me 6 weeks ago I would ride a 4:52 in Kona, I would have been stoked. Sure, I went through the usual difficulties, the dead legs, the lack of maintaining the easier spin, the feeling of ‘what is going on?’, but I hit all my time checks dead on, and although I knew something was wrong in that we returned back from Hawi in record setting pace, I was still pleased with the effort. My wattage never fell off, – but I did notice I could never get it to go high enough either. Many of you that I coach know we set floors and ceilings for race day. The ceiling was never in reach! But I was pleased that the floor was maintained. The usual troublesome sections felt fine, brain was well engaged and although it was an easier year – it was still within me to go longer & maintain steady work.

Run was where the day unfolded. I was out of T2 in race time 5:54. Once again – you tell me 6 weeks ago I would be out on the run course in 5:54, I would have laughed: a great day. I would not have liked the caveat that 5 others in the AG were out on the run before me.

I’ve had this run issue before, but have never been able to pinpoint what it was. Great legs – easy – springy, good turnover, but from the upper stomach to the throat I was locked up. Like someone had taken a baseball bat and hit me on both sides under my arms. No deep breaths, no being able to open up a run stride. No relaxing the shoulders, no disconnecting the upper body (relaxed, focused breathing) with the lower body (good turnover, power & driving with knees and proper foot placement). I decide to stop, stretch…while doing this – take a moment to cool, hydrate and feel the issue that might be causing this tightness. No pinpointed sharp pain, just entire ribcage is locked.

It never unlocked. It never allowed me to open up my stride. Every aid station became a stop, stretch – move around to loosen area – on to the next one. Occasionally I skipped one, to make it two miles. But overall 18+ aid stations of stopping, ice sponges, little water, cola (which helped somewhat to push for a bit).

I would be lying if as of 10 miles into the race I didn’t start resigning to not having ‘the’ day and accepting the slower finish time. I knew I would finish and I knew my cushion to a decent time was set, but trying to fight for something not there was a battle I was not going to win. So, I kept moving, and accepted my day.

Of course we all look back and want more. Whether it is the result we worked hard for, or the time to validate the training & sacrifice. But ultra-endurance events like Kona don’t line up like that: the work you put in does not always equal the goal. There are so many factors that go into a successful IM day, that for all the pieces to fall into place, it has to be a near perfect day. And yet I also try to be careful to not accept my results too easily. My swimming years taught me this: accept mediocre results and quickly your success in athletics becomes a boring string of average results. Many have heard me say that I do not have many IM’s left in me, let alone fast ones. And while this Kona was surely not a fast one, it still counted against the final tally of only a few remain left in me. But I know I gave it a solid attempt many times out there on Saturday, I can accept that it was not the day I wanted. Kona again has become an unsolved mystery, but I am a step closer. I say ‘again’ because I have solved it before, an 8:56 on that course in 2006 will be as close to solving as ever, but 5 years ago is a long time in racing years.

A step closer is understanding the intercostals, the causes and the prevention. The step closer is feeling good about the heat and prep, but knowing what to tweak and armed with fresh race data. A step closer is understanding the nutrition & hydration better and applying constantly until the next Kona. A step closer is knowing that Kona is the object of focus and a target that demands respect, understanding and patience.

As they say: failure is only postponed success.

IM St. George Observations

IM St. G – Race Observations

I knew it was going to be hot, I knew it was going to be hard.  I have been the one preaching to my athletes:  prepare for a hot St. George.  The average temps there in May is mid 80s.  But, wow, the course really knows how to kick you in the gut!

It started off well.  I felt really good leading up to the race.  Race week was settling in nicely, body was healthy and fitness was surely there.  Pre race dinner at 4:45pm:  1lb of whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, fresh spinach, broccoli, mushrooms & red peppers.  Lots of sea salt, lots of water.  Another snack at 7:45pm:  whole wheat bagel with lots of turkey.  In bed by 9pm.

3:45am wake up – coffee and started making pancakes for a few of my athletes.  Whole wheat with Flaxseeds.  Sort of an AIMP tradition.  Ate two big pancakes with jam, approx 450 cals.  Had a breakfast bar (140 cals) a bit later on, water, and 2 FRS chews.  Later, in transition I had half a banana.  All is good!  Excited to race.

Swim: after a short warm up splash waiting for gun, off we go.  I am somewhat surprised to jump off the front and notice nobody jump on my feet.  I figure they’ll come.  I take such an aggressive inside line that it sometimes takes a while for the fast group to meet up at the first turn buoy.  But not today – I am all alone – and that also means no kayak, no boats, no paddler – nothing.  Sure, I sorta know the course – but I end up stopping a few times to determine direction, distance to turn buoy, and where everyone is – I actually wonder if I swam off course and nobody noticed!  Swim overall felt good – I have definitely focused a bit more on my swimming again this year and the StretchCordz work has paid off.  Comfortable 50 minutes swim with nobody to push me or rush me through transition.

I work my way through T1 – nothing too fast – but good motions and I am on the bike:  bingo – lost my first ProBar out on the bike.  Ugh – Chris, really?  You still mess around with this stuff on where to put your bars?  On your 26th Ironman?  Well, I have plenty of calories for now, but know I need to get to Special Needs to load up.  Watts come easy – 290-300 is nice and steady, cool temps, and am passing some female pros.  Great fun first 25 miles of this course – it’s different than the rest of the day since the remaining 87 miles are 2 loops.  I drink 20 oz of fluids, sip on some water.

I hit the first loop feeling decent.  It is quickly heating up – and I go by SRM temp since that is also the temp hitting my skin/core/body – that computer and I are both in the same sun, moving at the same speed.  3 hours into the bike it is 87 degrees (11am) and dry.  If you can imagine Moab or Vegas – that is St. George dry.  At aid stations I pour 2 bottles of cold water over me and through my helmet:  dry within 2 miles.  Oh well.  I start making my first mistakes halfway through that 1st loop: I am not keeping up with water and electrolytes.  I am doing ok on calories, but I am not doing the right job on water and drink – I say drink because I mean GuBrew.  I start making some quick decisions on the bike:  I have finished the first loop in 2 hrs, total bike is now 3:02 hours:  I am ahead of my bike goal time and know the second loop will be hotter, harder and SLOWER.  But I want to have a solid run since everyone’s wheels will come off on this run course.  So far I am 3rd amateur, only 2 guys have passed me…I start dialing back my watts – I actually go 100% on feel – good circles – light pedalstroke, good cadence.  I know I am doing the right things because my HR is a very comfortable 130 – in hindsight this is way to conservative and just another sign I should have caught up on drinking IF I am going to back off on the watts!  Yet I still am doing a bad job at drinking and letting the negative sensations of low energy levels (heat and dehydration – duh!) get to me.  But I keep saying to myself:  marathon is where you make your day on this course. Second loop is 1 minutes slower?!?  Good winds but that made it hotter!  Avg. temp on 2nd loop:  94 degrees, although last hour was all above 95.

Bike 5:18 – avg HR 134 – ugh.

Through T2 well – I drink – pour 3 cups of water over me – and start drinking, but as we know – it is too late.  26.2 to go!

I start running and the legs feel good – nothing hard of an effort – just steady uphill.  The challenge on this run is water and electrolytes.  Those little cups never add up to enough water and – at times the water was not cold.  I packed the wrong fuelbelt drink – its warm sportsdrink – not even GUBrew.  I can tell I have not raced an IM in 18 months, let alone one outside of Kona in almost 3 years!  I am making many little mistakes.  I know Half IM’s – those you can suffer through little mistakes:  at an IM you have too much time for things to go dreadfully wrong.  Such a brutal course – never a rhythm, never a flat section to just fall into a pace to hold (suffer steady instead of choppy suffering)…I finish the first loop and stop when I see my family.  The kids are all excited/but nervous to see me – Dixie wonders if I am stopping.  Nah – I just need some water!  I drink 2 cups of water, and go again…And I actually feel myself coming around again.  BUT, I have already made my biggest mistake of the day:  I have backed off the effort, I have let myself be satisfied with my position in the race and stop pressing.  I have allowed the race and conditions to dictate my effort, instead of me staying within my day, remaining focused and sticking to executing a good plan.  I have 2 AGers in front of me – but I justify that they are not my AG and I don’t need to push.  Although I even-split my marathon, I let my day slip away from me.  Sure, I win my AG by almost 20 minutes, but that is not my day:  My goals are to put forth MY day, and MY best effort, what I am capable of, and not allow others’ results and placing to interfere with that.

Many lessons for Kona.  Lots of work to do.  But mainly:

1)    Sticking with my race day execution: its always hard, it sucks for everyone.  But stick to the plan

2)    Hydration & Nutrition:  this needs to be 100% dialed in and NO questions going into it.  As I mention:  26th IM and I am still tinkering?

3)    While being smart at certain points of the day, there comes a time to start going and pushing without fear of blowing up and the suffering that comes with pushing.

4)    Understand the heat even better.  I know it was an early May race with temps none of us Bay Area folks are used to (yet!) – but that was not enough of a reason to back off and race so conservatively.

Overall I know NOT to be a jerk about this and pretend I needed to be that much faster.  Or that I am ‘all that’ and need to nail every race.  I just want to finish a race and know I put forth the effort that corresponds to the training I did.  I also am a big believer in never wasting a race, never blowing off a race: if the race is important for us PRIOR to the gun, you can’t pretend AFTER that it wasn’t worth an fully invested effort!

Lastly – great fun to be back racing alongside AIMP athletes!  Proud of all of them for a SOLID day in St. George.

Race Observations: California 70.3

Rather than bore you all with the usual race report, I thought I would add some insight on what my prep has been for the 2011 campaign so far, and what I observed from the race on Saturday, the Rohto Ironman 70.3 California. These observations are not only from my own race perspective, but as a coach in conjunction to what I observed my athletes doing on race day.

My goals this season are simple: IM Hawaii and to give the AG Champ a run for his money. Not sure who this might be, as the big Texan remains stealth on his plans, but there are plenty of others in the 40-44 AG that are faster than me, so the work and focus remains to improve a great deal. This past Saturday was the first step: a check that all systems are go, that the training is coming along and getting a Kona slot. That said, I am prepping for IM St. George. Ever since coaching there last year, I am fired up to race there. The difficulty of the course combined with the beautiful surroundings and the ease of my family to travel there for race day, made this Ironman the ideal choice to return to IM racing for 2011.

This past Saturdays 70.3 I came in fresh, but not tapered. The goal was to race and recover quickly to hit some big training again for IM St. G in 4 weeks. Being fresh was mainly to recover quicker, not to be crazy fast on Saturday. I have found that when we race too tired, we also recover slower.

Swim: I was in the 2nd AG40-44 wave, which meant I was 3 minutes down to some competitors in my AG. My goal was to close that gap and race like swimmers in triathlon usually do: control the front of the race. I was able to catch the wave and was surprised how good I felt in the water. I typically swim 2-3x a week, 3-3.5k, and while that lets me feel the water, often that does not give me the threshold speed I need for a Half IM. But, after breaking my collarbone last September, I returned to doing StretchCordz or the VasaTrainer weekly PRIOR to swim practice, and this really helped my swimming. Most swimmers hit the open water and are surprised how their fitness doesn’t translate as well as in the pool. A common trend on Saturday was slowing down in the latter half of all three disciplines. In swim practice I address this by ensuring I always swim something faster – committing to a certain pace – late in the practice: swimming fast on tired arms but keeping to stroke efficient and clean.

Lastly – sighting: I give many of my athletes the head up drill in swim practices. This is so important for sighting and front quadrant strength. I noticed some very bad swim lines on Saturday and your ability to swim with your head up for a few strokes, not just one, is key for choosing your line.

Bike: Having worked my way to the front of the field with a good swim, I knew only a few riders were ahead and one of them was my athlete Brian. This is important to me since he is a strong swimmer and can tell me who remains ahead. Once again, control the field if you can as a swimmer. I start the ride, as usual the legs feel a bit awkward, but the watts come easy. Cycling has always been my biggest limiter in triathlon, and my confidence grows only from plenty of cycling miles. Being in my 40s, I don’t quite have the time for the 1000 miles a month goal I set for myself to be in good cycling shape, but I knew I should have decent legs for 56 miles. I push 290-310 watts on the inclines & false flats, roll 270-280 the remainder of the time. This is Ironman effort for me, so I knew I was going to have some strong cyclist roll up on me in the first 20 miles. I also know that this course requires a strong back half, so the plan was to tighten that effort to 290-300 watts late. At approx. mile 12 Gordo Byrn passes me, says good morning, and rolls on. Well, there goes my race plan… I know that he is the class of the field and riding with him will set up the proper position for the run. And, contrary to what any Pro tells you, riding with a group that is about your strength is always easier than the solo AG ride. It might not be faster, but it sure is more fun. And that is surely what last Saturday was: FUN! Sure, Gordo put the hurt on me a few times during that bike ride. Twice I had to pee while riding and he pulled away, so the ride to get back to him was not easy! You might wonder if I am talking about drafting: no way! Pacing is staying legal, but having someone else dictate the effort. We were both riding on power, both have similar riding ability, and although G is way smoother than me, we both rode the course and its rollers similarly. Luckily I was able to hang on and at times even pace him a bit, to keep things fair. In case you care, avg watts: 290, normalized: 302. I weigh 171. FTP: 350. G and I rolled into T2 and he once again showed his ability by coming in 10 sec. behind me, yet rolling out 5 sec. ahead of me! I will tell anyone that I do not focus on fast transitions: I have rushed through too many and forgotten critical things, so these days I work my way through them with a sense of urgency, but not rushed. I always hope to make up those extra 10 sec. on the course vs. turning around!

Run: This is where the race got interesting. Oceanside breaks up nicely as a run course. I tell my athletes to find ‘em, hold ‘em, push ‘em, and survive ‘em. First leg: find the legs – let them carry you. It’s what I call free speed. Often we are surprised by that fast pace with little effort. 2nd leg: hold that pace/effort/leg speed. 3rd leg: push that pace, give it
another go – see what’s left, with the goal to leave nothing on the course. 4th & final leg: survive the effort and pace to bring it home! I find ‘em running alongside Gordo, once we get passed by Miranda I get unsettled though. Too many years of being passed by pro women leaves me wanting to push the pace, but G is right – not my race. We hold ‘em on the way back, but the tailwind makes it seem faster. Once we hit the turnaround, after someone just yelled at us to “break it up you two”, I decided to push ‘em: while the effort was pushing, the splits stayed the same. I’ll take it, as the goal for me when racing is to ‘not slow down’…But on the final leg, it really turned into survive ‘em as the concrete of Oceanside started to burn the legs. Decent run splits but know that I have some work to do for St. G in 4 weeks.

Observations:
1. I did very little speedwork for this race: I am not good about forcing myself into a pace – I’d rather dial it up: that’s also how I train. Something I learned as a swimmer: if you can hold a faster and faster effort for a long period, you’ll be ok when fresh.

2. Don’t dial up a bike effort you can’t hold on the run. I was REALLY stoked all my AIMP athletes held their placing off the bike into the finish. That shows me all were good about their bike effort. Sure, some of them got passed on the run, but nothing out of proportion to their cycling place & effort. “The race starts out of T2”, just ask Miranda!\

3. You gotta eat: while the industry might want you eating a lot more, you still need to fuel for your run. Which means eating the right amount on the bike. Can you feel hungry? Yes, but have immediate calories available to address that. And, fluids all the time….

4. Carry momentum on the bike: While focusing on your wattage/HR is good, and keeping tight ranges will save you those candles for the run, don’t give up on momentum at the base of climbs! Especially in Oceanside, with all those little biters and some bigger ones: carry the speed and some extra watts up the hill, but then settle into a rhythm
once climbing or over the rollers. A few seconds or even 2-3 minutes above your zones is what we train threshold for, you know you can handle it!

Overall, California 70.3 was a great day. I had a blast racing with Gordo, I had a good systems check that the training is on point, I secured a vacation in Hawaii in October, and my athletes all had a good days. However they want to qualify their ‘good days’, to me they were ALL successful.

Food:
Breakfast: 2x Poptarts, no icing (210cals) – 1x Instant Oatmeal with milk (160cals) – 1x cup of coffee – 1x Banana (75cals)
Pre – Water & 1x GURoctane (100cals)
Bike – 1x Pro Bar (360cals) – 1x GU Chomps (180cals) – 1x GUBrew (150cals) – 1x GUTabs (10cals) – 3x GURoctane Gels (300cals) – 2x 16oz water
Run – 2x GURoctane (200 cals) – 1x GUBrew (150cals) broken up into 2x FuelBelt 8oz bottles – 5x cups water