Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IRONMAN Florida 2012

I had one real goal for IRONMAN Florida, sub-10. I'm not sure who told me going under 10 hours for an IRONMAN is where "fast" started, but as soon as I heard it, that became my goal.  I realized after my meltdown at Beach2Battleship that there was much more to this race than swimming, biking, and running.  140.6 miles is a long time for things to unravel.  I really worked on accepting that "the perfect day" was a utopia I couldn't piece together. But honestly, this race couldn't have gone much better.  I typically can look back and find a few minutes where I can improve but on November 3rd, 2012, I think I put together my best race.

Emily said these shoes were "just obnoxious
enough" to push me through taper week.  
3 week taper
including IMFL
I went into race night well rested, surprisingly. Accelerate 3 prescribed me a tough 2 weeks leading up to race week and just kind of melted into the overdue time off. I slept like it was my job for the lead up week and race night was no exception. My eyes popped open at 2:53am in time to turn off the 3 alarms I set. Within a few minutes, I was in race kit and guzzling Ensure and coffee. It seemed like an eternity waiting until the 5am commute to transition.

By the time transition closed, I had done all of my last minute chores and was sitting on the beach with the wife and friends waiting for the cannon to fire.  I decided to have a short warm-up swim and was surprised how tough it was to move through the surf.  I hit the beach in time to hear last call for the starting line.  Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of time for the anxiety to set in.  

2.4 Mile Swim 1:13:26

I lined up well to the West of the buoys but still in the congestion.  I thought I would get some love from the draft pack.  This would be my first mass start, and I really underestimated how physical it turned out.  One last sugar from the wife and I was 4-5 guys back, waste deep in the wash when the BOOM! sounded.

Big thanks to Larry from All American Swim
 for setting me up with the Huub wetsuit

After a few seconds, I thought somebody would call the fight.  I really thought this couldn't be the way it was planned.  It wasn't swimming, it was survival.  I would get punched, kicked, or grabbed every stroke but there was no time to pause.  A missed stroke meant getting dunked or swam on, over, or through. I "survived" the first lap and hit my feet to find calf cramps when I tried to push through the knee deep surf onto the beach.  After making my way across the timing mat, I heard a guy say 35 minutes was his slowest first lap.  I rejoiced.  I ran down the beach 10-20 yards and back into the water I went, making a bee line for the red buoy.  From my observation, this made the swim a bit longer, but I didn't have to wait in the que to get back to the straight-line path, and I didn't have to take another trip through the scrum until I hit the turn buoy.  I didn't think that I was swimming directly into the current, and I probably spent a bit more time heading out than I planned.  I actually was able to enjoy the swim to the next corner, and then I hit the swarm again.  I fought my way back to the beach and stood up to find my calves cramping again.  No worries, at least I was out of the water.

Transition One 5:13 (passing 145 athletes in T1, transitions matter!)

I have decided it is best for me to walk in sand; I just spend too much effort for too little progress by trying to run.  So I walked to the carpet and onto the wooden walkway, then I shifted gears.  There were dudes talking to spectators, guys lying down to get their suits pulled off, the shower was a gauntlet of folks.  I just ran and tried not to check anyone into the rails.  I quickly snagged my sack and hit the Men's Changing Tent.  It was a quick exchange.  Wet suit off, helmet and number belt on, cycle-shoes in hand, and I asked a volunteer to stuff my suit and return my sack.  As I ran through the bike racks, a volunteer said they had my bike ahead waiting on me.  Thankfully, I went to my rack anyway and there it sat.  I slapped on my Sidi's, grabbed my bike, twinkle-toed my way to the mounting line, and off I went.

112 mile Bike 4:59:34 (Click for Garmin data)

I can't believe my seat is too high.
Immediately I noticed a big problem; my quads were on fire.  It was like a meat tenderizer had worked them over the last hour.  I have no clue what the deal was, I can't imagine a bed of fire ants feeling worse.  I soft pedaled for 5 minutes trying to get some relief, then I stood up and stretched which rewarded me with some bilateral quad cramping.  I figured that my ship was sunk, but I wasn't bailing on it.  I was going to play the hand I was dealt.  90 minutes later, the pain had eased off.  3 hours later and I had completely forgotten about it.

The ride was uneventful except for 3 encounters.
I happened upon a pace line of 4 guys a few miles before the bridge.  I easily caught and passed them while maintaining my watts, but they immediately repassed.  I went through the dance of sitting up and falling out of the draft zone only to lose a ton of ground.  I just kept getting passed by folks.  I could not pedal.  So I elected to disregard the "drop back" rule and get to passing again.  When I caught back up to the paceline, I passed a little more assertively and shook them off.

Here's a little water for the Fam.
Thanks for enduring the support duties!
I also had a dude that I kept catching on the back side of the course.  200 watts would easily catch him, but when I pulled along side I would have to crank up the watts as he would start accelerating.  I would get my front wheel in front of his and he would refuse to concede the pass, so I would drop back.  At one point, he yelled "you have to make the pass, man" I replied "look it up, I've made the pass".  He finally tuckered out several miles later.

Lastly, on the final leg of 79, I got caught up with a guy riding with power at a similar pace as me.  We would pass each other only to slow down in the head wind and get repassed.  I fought with him for a while before ultimately deciding to ride legal and sit behind him.  When I would accidentally enter the draft zone, I would make a pass, and he would let me lead for a while before repassing and repeating the same dance again.  This whole exchange dropped my power as I was soft pedaling a lot to ride legal, but I felt like it was a better option than trying to out ride him on the home stretch.

How about that 1.0100 Variability Index?
My bike nutrition was pretty simple.  I had a 1500 calorie 5 hour bottle between my aerobars.  That's it.  I picked up 2 water bottles at every aid station and downed as much as I could squeeze in before the final drop.  I was peeing regularly, so I felt pretty darn hydrated.  I finished the bottle with around 20 minutes left on the ride which is just about what I planned to have time to clear my stomach before the run.

Transition Two 1:56 (7th fastest T2 overall!)

I hit the mount line coasting in on my shoes.  The volunteer grabbed my bike and absolutely stopped right in front of me.  I hate it, but I ran right into her.  I apologized, but I kept trucking too.  Inside the tent, I snagged my bag and dumped the contents in the floor.  I handed my helmet to the volunteer, rolled on my socks, and slipped on my shoes.  I asked if he would take care of it and grabbed my headband and shades and took off.

26.2 mile Run 3:24:39  (click for Garmin Data)

Coming out of T2, I saw the family.  Everyone was cheering, and I was running like a hero.  I looked down to see a 6-flat pace on my watch.  I ran right to the first aid station and stopped.  No way I was going to blow it the first mile.  I guzzled some water and snagged a Gu and off I went.  I had been looking forward to this run for the last few months.  There is something so satisfying about really emptying the tank and leaving it all out on the course.  I spent most of the bike thinking about how much I would enjoy this marathon.  My pacing plan was simple, I was to run comfortably.  I managed this two ways.

First, I made sure I was breathing 8 step cycles.  Basically, I would inhale for four steps and exhale for four steps.  I wasn't forcing it, I was just aware of it.  I knew if I was breathing harder, I was working and it was way too early to work. 

Secondly, I talked.  I talked a lot.  I talked to the aid station volunteers, spectators, and other athletes.  I was really surprised to find the other guys didn't want to visit with me very much.  So I just tried to be encouraging.  Every time I passed someone I tried to make a joke, compliment them somehow, or remind them we were actually doing the IRONMAN!

Early in the marathon, feeling good enough to float!
Overall, I felt pretty good for the first loop of the run.  When I went back out for the second loop, I was worried I would meltdown at any moment, but I just controlled what I could and kept running.  At B2B, the last 10k had me bargaining with myself to run/walk my way back to the finish, and I was afraid I would end up in that same situation.  I kept telling myself to just make it to the 10k, and the run hard.  By the time I saw mile 20, "run hard" never crossed my mind.  I just kept focusing on the last 5k believing that would put me in range for the finish excitement to carry me home.  The last 2 miles had a lot of crowd support, and I was surprised how much it helped to keep me moving.  As I approached the final turn to the finish chute, I saw a guy that had passed me earlier.  I dug deep and made a solid pass hoping he wouldn't contest it.  I found out later when the results were listed that he was in my age group.  It didn't actually matter, but it bumped me up to 9th.

Feeling less good going out for loop 2
The run itself had only one real interesting moment.  Somewhere around mile 15, my pace began slowing and I was coming to terms with the idea that the wheels had run off.  I kept assessing how I felt and just running comfortably, but I watched the pace begin to creep up.  The last few weeks I had been training in temps in the 50F range only to show up to a ~83F marathon for IMFL and I knew the heat would take it out of me a bit.  It wasn't until I hit the next aid station and got a fresh batch of ice that I realized what had happened.  The previous aid station was out of ice when I went through, so the last two miles, I was having to work a bit harder to keep cool.  Thankfully, I made the right decision and slowed down instead of blindly following my watch pace.  As soon as I found some ice, I began to feel better and my pace dropped right back down.

My run nutrition goal was to take water and ice at every aid station and Gu as often as I could stomach it.  I found about every second aid station to be perfect up to the last 10k.  After the 10k mark, I took one last Gu/water and ran it in.  I know I got down 7 that I can remember, but I am betting it was closer to 9 or 10.  That is a lot more than what I took for B2B.
Pretty even pacing overall.  You can see mile 15 where I ran out of ice,
and you can tell the last 2 miles, I fell off my average pace 45-50"

Overall, 140.6 miles 9:44:48 9th M30-34, 85th OA (click for official results)

The swim was a bit slower than I wanted, but I swam comfortably and made it out of the water without losing a ton of time.  Accelerate 3 set me up with sweet power pacing guidelines, and even though I didn't spend my 205 watt average power allowance, I think I made the right, conservative  decisions to score a fast bike split and protect a solid run split.  Really, the marathon couldn't have gone better.  I ended up with a ~2 minute positive split and didn't really fall off pace until the last 5k.  My nutrition was spot-on with no GI issues.  I also feel like I managed the heat as well as I could.

Next up is IM Cabo!

Random pics

This is my "finish strong face"

Hi Mom! at the end of Loop 1

Just out of T2.  Accelerate 3 rarely has me do brick runs, and
I can honestly say I never once thought that I should've ran more bricks during the marathon.

One day I will qualify that shaka.


  1. Great race! Well executed!
    Curious to know: did you end up sticking with the recipe for your bike brew? I was dabbling myself and think I'll stick to just carbopro + nuun for flavor. I want to be able to adjust the salt stick consumption on race day but I think the CHO intake will be more-or-less stable at ~100g/hr. Did you find you had enough salt stick caps in the brew? be interested to see a follow-up post on the brew, how you pulled it off etc.
    Well done again!

  2. Hey Steve, Thanks for the props on the race!

    I updated the original blog entry to answer your question with some detail:
    just scroll to the IRONMAN Florida heading under "Follow up reports"

    The cliff notes: I have it pretty well dialed in for training days, but I elected to use Infinit on race days. Infinit just makes it so much simpilier.

    Oh, and 2x Salt Stick caps seems to be a great option for me. I wasn't coated in salt like I saw on a lot of guys, and I wasn't having any issues either!

    Thanks for reading, and I hope that helps!

    Please keep me posted on how it works out for you.

  3. Great report! I was looking at your bike splits. I noticed you had 14 of them. I was thinking that is cool to have 14 8mile splits. However, that is not what you have. You have some 7s, some 8s, 9s, 12s. Looks random. How did you have it set up?

  4. Thanks, glad you liked it. I am sure it seems random.

    I was shooting for 30 minute blocks, but I was more interested in getting a snapshot of my average power than really being finicky about keeping the laps even for later analysis.

    So what you are seeing is me hitting the lap button when something would skew my average lap power. If I got caught up at the aid station, or if there was a rider I was soft pedaling to avoid passing, or after one of the precious few descents I would hit lap and start over with my average power goal.

  5. Thanks for the reply! I'm racing IMFL this year and I'm reading everybody's report. I ride\run the course all the time. Now just need to officialy string them together.

    By the way, your 5 hour bottle post was a great read. I'm looking into Infinit. Just need to find that magical formula. I even thought about filling a bottle with PowerBar gel and a little water (that is what I use for HIM). Tons to learn and practice!

  6. I made multiple trips to PCB over the summer and trained on the course too. I can say I was honestly sick of the bike course by game time, but it really seemed to make the run shorter since I knew the course well.

    If you haven't already, look into Gulf Coast Triathlon. Its a half distance race on a very similar course as IMFL. Its an awesome race.

    Good luck! Post questions on the Bike Brew post, and I'll do my best to help you with any nutrition questions I can!