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.