The end of my run on Sunday marked 7 weeks until Kerrville 70.3. We are now inside of two months to go until race day, and that means that with a 2-week taper period where I start to back off distance a bit to help my body recover from a tough training cycle and get ready to peak for race day – we have 5 final weeks of knock down, drag out training to get through.
I feel like my swim and my bike are really starting to come together. Being the two events that I am far “newer” to than the run, that is to be expected. More time in the pool, longer continuous swims, more saddle time, longer “long” rides are sure to make a difference as I am becoming more fit, more efficient and a lot more confident in the water and on the bike.
The run is the one area where I’m starting to focus more and more of my attention mentally and will continue to do so as race day draws near.
When it comes to the Triathlon here are the facts:
I am a below average swimmer.
I am an above average cyclist.
I am an exceptional runner.
Weakness, Strength, Big Strength.
When I first took up the sport of triathlon last year I thought that the training principles that I had learned over the years of road racing (running races) would not necessarily translate. Even my swim coach told me when I first started lessons, “Joe, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to, you can’t turn swimming into running.” Her point was that trying to apply run workout principles to swim improvement was not going to get it done alone. Yes I needed to improve fitness and endurance – but swimming fast is highly technical. Form rules the day. I needed to clean up my form if I wanted to move faster through the water.
Running form plays a role of course in how fast you are, but you can “out-muscle” and “out-hussle” poor form by working hard in road racing. Not so in the water.
The bike also has some form issues that have to do with your pedal stroke and your ability to stay in the aero position for long periods of time. Thankfully or luckily, I took to the bike very quickly.
The run will always be there for me I thought – just “maintain” your fitness and it will be there for you on race day.
During the shorter distance triathlons, my run was indeed there for me. I just got off the bike, switched shoes and hammered away.
But for Ironman 70.3 the run is now 13.1 miles. Not just a 5K or 10K, but a full half-marathon after a 56-mile bike.
I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that if I focus all my energies on improving my swim and my bike and I do not pay careful attention to my run training, when I get off the bike, my biggest strength is going to be neutralized.
Instead of being the fire-breathing dragon who hits the run course looking to swallow up every Male 45-49 competitor in his path – I would be just another runner. Just like everybody else.
So over the past few weeks I have gone back to the formula that has worked for me in preparing for run only events. Essentially laying out my run training first, and then adding my swim and bike work over top of it.
Run #1 of the week – up-tempo.
Run #2 of the week – Long and Easy.
Run #3 of the week – Hill Repeats.
Run #4 of the week – Recovery.
Run #5 of the week – Long Run (16-18 miles).
When I look at training plans that the majority of Ironman 70.3 athletes use to peak for an A race, none of them feature the run as much as my workouts have. I questioned my own training a bit at first, wondering if I was focusing too much of my time and energy on the run. But the reality is that I have to. I need to hit that run course with a ton of confidence, knowing that even though my body is fatigued and I am not starting out on the run course “fresh” and ready to fall into 6:20-6:23 pace for the half-marathon as I would in a run-only event. I need to know that 7:30-7:40 pace is something that we are more than ready for. That although it hurts more than usual, we are equipped. We can and will hold pace late. We will get stronger as others get weaker. As they slow down, we will speed up. When they feel like walking, we will not. When they glance over their shoulder and wonder who in the hell this guy is closing on them like a banshi we will draw down even deeper into our reserves and find yet another gear.
Most triathletes tell you that “it all comes down to the bike.” The bike represents the furthest distance, the largest amount of time and the highest percentage of activity among the three triathlon disciplines. In some ways it is about the bike.
But in Kerrville on the last day of September that is not going to be the case. For us, it is all going to come down to the run.
I plan on making sure that we have done all we could to strengthen our weaknesses before race day, but that we also strengthened our strength.
The half-marathon in Kerrville will certainly be the slowest half marathon we have ever raced. But it can still be our greatest.
Right now we’re putting in the work to give us a chance. I’ve said it before other big races and I’m sure to say it again. That is all I ever ask for. A chance.
On to Kerrville.