For those of you thinking about racing an ironman, you might want to learn from my mistakes, or rather from my lack of knowledge. I must say that I was quite the scientist out there on the race course, observing and learning from the fast peeps on race day. I think I gathered some useful information pre-, during, and post-race.
1. No worries if you can't swim with a masters team. I did not do a single masters swim workout in the 40 days leading up to the race. I swam solo 90% of the time and basically followed this pattern every week: 3x's of this workout (2500m straight swim broken down as 500m warm-up, 500m every 4th 50 fast, 500m every every 3rd 50 fast, 500m every other 50 fast, and 500m maintaining fast as possible pace; 800m flutter kick; 2000m worth of pulling, 200m warm-down) and one open water swim.
2. Ride with a group. All day long on the bike, I kept asking myself, why am I always alone and everybody else is with a group. Here's my problem. When a group came up on me, if they looked fast, I would just let them go. And if a group close to my speed came up on me, I would increase my effort and sprint away from them, only to be caught by them 10-15K later. What I need to do is just sit 7 meters behind a group that is going my pace or slightly faster and hold this all day long. Mentally and physically, it is much easier and I'll get off the bike able to take advantage of my strength, the run.
3. Don't drink water alone on the bike. I only drink water in training and though I was advised not to drink water alone come race day, I still did it. The water just went through me and I had to pee all day long on the bike and to compensate, I took all of these salt tablets to try and reabsorb the water, even though I was not cramping at all. I'm going to do both water and an electrolyte drink next time.
4. Drink coffee, have a PB & J, and oreo cookies in the last 60K of the bike. The caffeine in the iced coffee did wonders for me and after eating gels all day long, it was so nice to have some food I craved in prep for the run.
5. If you're going for a Kona slot, you can't dilly dally in transition. 'Nuff said.
6. Don't take coke on the run until you are absolutely depleted. I took coke way too soon on the run and the high fructose really messed me up. I noticed that I would crash and go into a slump after taking the coke and it would take me a good 2-3K to recover. Instead, just stick with Gatorade and every 4-5K, do a gel and water. At about the 30K mark or when you are really depleted, start going to coke.
7. If you want to go under 3:30 for the marathon, you can't be scared to blow up on the run. You need to train to run fast off the bike and then trust in your training come race day. I spent too much time in fear of blowing up on the run and forgot all the rules of fast running like: double breathing, controlling my heartrate, good turnover, and staying right at that threshold that you can hold. Instead, I was running scared and having a pity party for myself. In the last 3K, I ran 3:50 per kilometer simply because I stopped being scared because I knew the finish was there.
8. Have a team. Having a good teammate(s) for training and the traveling. The shared meals with teammates are relaxing and fun, and it distracts you from overthinking the race. And it's so nice to see familiar faces on the course who know what you're capable of going and to remind you of the task at hand.
9. If you want to go under 10 hours, you need to HARDEN THE F__K UP. 'Nuff said.
10. No matter how good you feel in the first 3 hours, stick to the race plan. No matter how much power you have, or how much training you've done, you won't be able to call on it if you go out too hard or fail your nutrition (and both go hand-in-hand).
11. Hold off any judgment about the race course until you've trained on it several times. After driving 4 hours, I got straight out of the car and rode the bike course for two hours. I freaked out and thought it was a really tough course. After riding it again the next two days, I loved the bike course.
If I think solely of my time from the race, I'm a bit disappointed because it doesn't reflect the amount of training, and how hard I worked in the past three months. However, the way I feel post-race does reflect my fitness. In every other ironman, post-race was spent lying in bed, stomach in pain but unable to eat, couldn't walk, and I never made it back to the finish area to cheer on the night-time finishers. Post-race this time around, I ate ice cream, drank beers, walked sufficiently, and I made it back to the finish area, alert and happy. I resumed exercise three days later with a swim, then a run the following day, and then a 95K bike ride, where I hammered it. Smart? Maybe not, but it's a part of my master plan to HTFU for my future ironmans. After 20 years in the sport, I'm happy to report that I've hit somewhat of a Renaissance Period in my career and I am looking forward to many more ironmans to come. And remember, the journey is the reward.
70.3 Liuzhou Race Story
2 weeks ago