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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.