Part 1: Written Sept 25th
Ironman Louisville - qualifying race for the Ironman World Championships
Aloha! As a kid I saw this clip of Julie Moss crawling her way to the finish line in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman on ABC's 'Wide World of Sports' and decided that it looked just crazy enough that I wanted to give the race a go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbWsQMabczM
Today the Hawaii Ironman is the 'Ironman World Championship'. Professional athletes qualify through a points system based on performances on the Ironman circuit, and age group athletes qualify with a top placing in their age group at any of the 26 Ironman races in the series. I'd made two prior attempts at qualifying for Hawaii, at Ironman Canada in 2008 and 2009. In 2008 I had a decent result but was nowhere near qualifying; in 2009 I ended up dropping out with 7 kilometres to go in the run after completely depleting my body (and 7K is way too far to crawl...Julie Moss was yards from finishing when she started crawling, not outside the city limits!). My weakness in both those races was a deficiency of both cycling speed and endurance, so I committed to not attempt another Ironman until I'd turned those weaknesses into strengths. In the spring of 2010, I started riding with the MGCC, and getting repeatedly put in the hurt locker on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings transformed my cycling fitness from being unable to hang with the group on a full Bagel ride in May of 2010, to being able to take some pulls off the front in the fall of that year. I carried that fitness into 2011 after a solid winter of indoor riding, and was very happy with my race results in 2011 leading up to Ironman Louisville.
The race in Louisville played out almost exactly as I wanted it to - easy on the swim (which kept my heart rate and overall energy expenditure lower than in my previous Ironman swims) and was on the bike early without many other riders around. I had planned to ride really easy (below my target power numbers) until I was caught by some stronger riders, then use those riders to pace with for the remainder of the ride (drafting is not allowed in Ironman racing, but even at a legal distance of 7 metres behind the rider in front of you, there is an aerodynamic benefit as well as a psychological benefit of having somebody else to 'chase' up the road). Cycling strategy in long-distance triathlon is almost the polar opposite of road racing in cycling - both Derrek and Shannon posted about their experiences at the road race nationals, where each time the riders approached the hills, people attacked and power numbers went through the roof. In an Ironman, because you need to run a marathon after the cycling leg, you want to minimize power spikes, so I climbed most hills with only a marginal increase in the power I was pushing on the flats. This reduces the overall physiological 'cost' of the ride, and increases your chances of having a strong run.
Here is my data file for the cycling portion of the race: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/110727612
The run started well, I felt strong for 10 miles, a bit rough for 3 miles, strong again until the start of mile 19 and then things started to fall apart. Your brain is constantly trying to convince you to give up during an Ironman, and when I hit the 30K mark of the run I think subconsiously I knew that was the longest I'd run in training and that made me focus on the pain in my quads more than I should have. By that point I was in the lead for my age group, with the second place racer almost ten minutes down, so I walked each aid station from mile 19 to the finish.
Here is the run course data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/112244756
Overall I was happy with the result, finishing 8th overall and 1st in my age group. The top six in my age group qualified for Hawaii, so I gladly accepted the spot I was offered. Because Hawaii is six weeks after Louisville, a quick recovery was important to be able to get back to training as soon as possible. Right after the race, I received two litres of IV fluids while drinking an Infinit recovery shake, 500ml of chocolate milk and 500ml of orange juice to get some carbs and protein into my system to start the muscle rebuilding process. Post-IV, I had two light flushing massages in the medical centre before being released to gorge on copious amounts of Kentucky BBQ. A nine-hour day puts a lot of stress on the body, so the two weeks post-race involved only some light cycling - no swimming to allow a rib injury to fully heal, and no running as the weight-bearing nature of the exercise is too traumatic for depleted muscles. I'm spending the final four weeks before the race on the Big Island of Hawaii, doing an intensive three-week training camp followed by a week-long taper (which is light on training and heavy on sight-seeing!).
Full Ironman Louisville race report is posted on my blog:
Part 2: Written Oct 5th
Ironman Hawaiii Preview The training is done and dusted and the final race of the season is here on Saturday. After taking two weeks to let my body recover after Ironman Louisville, I hit the training hard once I arrived in Hawaii four weeks before the race.
Training totals for those weeks:
Four weeks out: 18K swimming, 635K cycling, 72K running
Three weeks out: 19K swimming, 597K cycling, 100K running
Two weeks out: 21K swimming, 557K cycling, 75K running
Race week: 5K swimming, 100K cycling, 20K running
No long taper for this race as coming off a three-week taper in August for Louisville and then two weeks of recovery following the race meant building fitness was more important than doing a long rest off of low volume. Being in Hawaii and away from the office made it manageable to handle much higher volume than I put in during the year, especially on the bike. During this past taper week, I've had some family here visiting, we've seen an erupting volcano, hiked through rainforests, body surfed some mean Pacific waves, explored the stunningly beautiful Waipio valley, and relaxed on both white and black sand beaches. I'm feeling strong, healthy and well-supported heading into the weekend!
The atmosphere in Kailua-Kona is fantastic - the sleepy village has been transformed in the last week, with all the major companies in the industry sending their A-teams to be present at the World Championships. Specialized flew in their triathlon athletes from Olympic distance, XTERRA (off-road triathlon) and Ironman to launch the 2012 triathlon-specific Specialized Shiv which was unveiled on Monday, including Canadian triathlon stars Simon Whitfiled and Paula Findlay who were showing off their own custom Shivs. We'll hopefully see these new rides in Gears soon!
My hopes for the race:
Swim: The surf has kicked up in a huge way in the last couple of days, so it could be a rough swim. The unpredictability of the ocean currents make it tough to predict a time, but there's a much higher percentage of fast swimmers here than at other Ironmans, so I'm hoping to find some fast feet to follow around the course. Goal time is 55-58 minutes depending on ocean conditions.
Bike: I've cycled the full course five times and know it well. It's a rolling course with total vertical of 1200 metres over the 180KM ride, I'm hoping to average 210 watts for the ride, which depending on the wind conditions on the day should hopefully be a ride between 5 hours to 5 hours 15.
Run: After mentally falling apart a bit during the 19th mile in Louisville, I'm planning on pushing through that 'dark place' in this race and running the full marathon, hopefully putting in a faster time than Louisville on a tougher, potentially hotter course. Regardless of how the run ends up, I'll finish with a smile on my face and enjoy sharing the road with some of the best endurance athletes in the world.
The race begins at 6:30AM for the professional athletes and 7:00AM for the rest of us (12:30PM Eastern time for the pros and 1:00PM Eastern time for the amateur race).
Results will be streamed live at www.ironmanlive.com, including video of the professional race.
Part 3 of Andrew's Blog will be a post race summary - stay tuned.