72 days from now we will be staring our first Ironman 70.3 directly in the eye, preparing for what will be the longest race of our life by more than one hour. To date the “longest day of my life” as an endurance athlete was our first marathon in November, 2006.
3:58:08 – Philadelphia.
A respectable maiden voyage for the marathon distance breaking through the 4 hour barrier which is a relatively “major” goal for first time marathoners. Especially those who have been running for just one year at that point.
The reality I face at Kerrville however is that if everything goes exactly according to plan, we get good weather and I have a GREAT day, I am going to be out on the course a little more than one hour longer.
This introduces nutrition, caloric intake, hydration in an entirely new way to ensure we are able to run the event ending half marathon to the best of our abilities. During a typical stand-alone half marathon on a cool day I take in no nutrition on the course, take a small sip of water every 3-4 miles with a gulp of electrolyte replacement twice during the race.
Less than 8 ounces of fluid consumed in a race that lasts somewhere between 1:23:00 and 1:26:00 depending on the course and my performance. That strategy will not be possible after a 1.2 mile swim and 56-mile bike. Practicing my nutrition on my longer rides and “Big Training Days” where I swim, bike and run all in the same day covering long distances — more or less race simulation with breaks in between disciplines to reduce recovery time after the workout — will be a big factor in my performance at Kerrville. I need to get that as close to “right” as possible if I want to make a run at a time just over 5 hours.
The other major factor on race day is going to be the bike. It represents 79.65% of the total race distance and given my paces and goals for the race, slightly over 50% of my total time.
“The Bike” is going to tell the story on race day. That is why racing last Sunday’s Couples Triathlon was so important for me. It gave me an opportunity to race over the identical bike course we completed two months prior at the Rookie Triathlon.
The only difference was that for Couples I had a pre-bike swim that was 500 Meters further, and the temperature was 10 degrees warmer. Comparing my bike performance after more training time in the saddle was something I was looking forward to, hoping to see a stronger rider and better “racer”.
So how did we stack up?
Couples Triathlon 32:17 20.9 mph Rookie Triathlon 33:21 20.1 mph
Mile 1: 2:34 Mile 1: 2:44 (-:10)
Mile 2: 2:53 Mile 2: 3:00 (-.07)
Mile 3: 2:38 Mile 3: 2:37 (+:01)
Mile 4: 2:20 Mile 4: 2:24 (-:04)
Mile 5: 2:44 Mile 5: 2:51 (-:07)
Mile 6: 3:08 Mile 6: 3:17 (-:09)
Mile 7: 3:04 Mile 7: 3:07 (-:03)
Mile 8: 2:18 Mile 8: 2:17 (+:01)
Mile 9: 3:22 Mile 9: 3:24 (-:02)
Mile 10: 2:40 Mile 10: 2:43 (-:03)
Mile 11: 3:34 Mile 11: 3:28 (+:06)
Two things of note, on mile 6 of the rookie, I had to address my dropped chain, costing me valuable seconds. On the final mile at Couples, I decided to shift to the small front ring over the final 1/4 mile and “spin fast” to get all the blood flowing back in my legs and get rid of some of that “jelly-leg” feeling before dismounting for the run.
Aside from those two variables, this is just about the most even comparison you could hope to find when benchmarking fitness and race ability. Extrapolating this improvement out over a race 5X as long (56 mile Half IM ride) we are looking at an improvement in the neighborhood of 5 minutes.
That takes a big bite out of our swim deficit that will put us more than 10 minutes behind the competitors we will be chasing for that final podium spot (3rd place in Age Group). If we hit the run course 7-8 minutes behind that spot, hold on to your hat.
For us, the race is going to be just getting started. They had better break 8:00 min./mile over the run course if they hope to hang on as we’ll be trying to take :20-:30 minutes per mile off of their lead.
The bike is going to put us in position to strike. Over the next 10 weeks we are going to continue to sharpen that sword and keep pushing in the saddle.
After all, the only way to sharpen steel is with steel.