“Sometimes you need a good swift kick in the nuts to bring you down to reality”.
This was something one of my athletes told me as we were on the phone after Kona last year. My last three IMs before IMAZ 2014 were less than stellar and had left a sour taste in my mouth with regard to the IM distance, especially after my 3rd place AG finish at Kona in 2011.
I had hit my personal rock bottom with regard to triathlon race performance in Kona ’13 with a large chunk of the marathon being a slow jog/walk…something that I’ve never done in an IM before. I can’t tell you exactly why I had such a bad race, but my best guess is that was an accumulation of many variables that, added together, had a disastrous affect on my race. So I just chalked it up as a bad day and moved on. No big deal.
So IMAZ was sort of a shot at redemption, to prove to myself that I still had “it”. I had no visions of Kona and I kept the race on the DL – trying not to talk about it at all…to anyone.
I had a rather aggressive racing schedule this past year with no real rhyme or reason to it. I just wanted to race a lot and not have any pressure to qualify for anything. This, in itself, was refreshing and I had a lot of fun this past season…it also took a lot of pressure of the training. I just did whatever I wanted when I had the time, while keeping in mind the races that I had on the horizon – to keep an element of specificity with the training.
With the crazy amount of racing, including the Chicago Marathon a month before IMAZ, my prep for the IM wasn’t what I would call ideal from a historical perspective. It was however, less stressful, less challenging and had less volume and intensity than in years past. As a result, I never felt tired or overworked during my prep – which to me, meant that I had a more equal balance to family life, coaching and training. I never put in more than 15 hours a week and exceeded 14 hours only three times. Add to this 8-9 hours of sleep a night and I felt great most of the time.
One of my best recent race performances was at Boulder 70.3 in 2013. I went 3:59 and one of the comments on my race report on ST was that it was just like any other day for me, except that it was being timed….and that was the “scary” part…that I was able to go that fast and just treat it as any old Sunday and not get worked up about the prep, my meals or that I was doing a 1/2 Ironman that day. So I took that comment and applied it to my approach to training and racing…every day is just another brick in the wall, "free and easy down the road I go". The day before, I spent the afternoon running around being chased by my 3-year old son all over the house and yard, had burgers and beer at dinner, went to a Christmas tree lighting & concert that night and capped the evening off with margaritas and roasted marshmallows around the fire pit with my in-laws. Probably not what most people have in mind for the day before an IM. But it works for me.
As far as race day goes, there really wasn’t anything remarkable about the day. I swam my swim – no hard contact, tried to keep a good line and swim my swim.
Now the bike was going to be the biggest question mark of the day for me...what power would I be able to ride and still be able to run well? I had put in something like four 4+ hour rides in all season, with only a handful of others over 3 hours. The longer rides were only done after the Chicago Marathon and were my attempt to see what I could ride for 4-1/2 to 5 hours with regard to power, without being completely fried. So I had to keep it conservative, which meant that I was going to ride about 25 watts lower than what I have been targeting for IM for the last few attempts…something in the range of 215-220 watts.
I ended up executing that ride exactly how I trained…very steady, very controlled & relaxed, just stayed hunkered down in the wind and raced my own race. My three longest training rides had NPs of 216, 219 and 218. For IMAZ, I rode 218. Bam.
I came out of T2 and my legs felt awesome. “It’s on”, I thought to myself. The goal was to run steady for 18-20 miles in the mid-6:50s…don’t race anybody, just plug away, get my calories & water and do my own thing. At that point in the race, I felt that if I ran smart, didn’t over-bike and stayed on my nutrition that I could possibly drop my mile times a bit for the last 10K or so.
Here are the mile splits: 6:52, 6:50, 6:47, 6:51, 6:55, 7:01, 6:55, 6:53, 6:58, 6:51, 6:58, 6:59, 6:56, 7:04, 7:02, 6:59, 6:57, 6:51, 6:54, 6:55, 6:50, 6:53, 6:52, 6:56, 6:47, 6:36.
Done and done. Felt great the whole time, never had any dark moments…just kept running, one mile at a time.
In the end, I swam 1:02, rode 4:45 and ran 3:00…add roughly 5mins for transitions and you get 8:52…1st age grouper and probably one of the best executed races that I’ve ever had.
I had one of those days that we are all continuously chasing…the perfect day. I can sit here and say that I can walk away from Ironman racing and be completely happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish at that distance. Will that be the case? Who knows.
Which brings me to the following video from Dierks Bentley: