How much will it cost me to do an IRONMAN?

To read this article in the Foot Traffic Coaching website click here

How much will it cost you to do an Ironman?  … Well that’s a bit like asking “how long is a piece of string?”

Like any large scale project, training for and racing IRONMAN comes at a cost.  This cost can range between manageable to significant. Where you sit along the IRONMAN cost scale can depend on a number of factors …your motivation for racing …how well you manage your budget …the size of your wallet … the tolerance of your significant other…

Below is a list of items that you will definitely need and therefore can expect to have to purchase when training for your IRONMAN.  This is a “minimum items” list  (if you’re wanting to do IRONMAN on a tight budget this is the list of items your really can’t do without).

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For the Budget Conscious

Keep in mind that you don’t have to splash out and buy brand new gear, jump online, you will be surprised at what gems people are trying to sell.  Trademe, Ebay, Gumtree and Sale groups on Facebook are excellent resources and you can often pick up great deals on secondhand gear.  You’ll also be surprised how much stuff is just lying around peoples’ houses not being used, so there’s no harm in asking other athletes if they have any gear that they are willing to part with.

For the Not So Budget Conscious

If you’re in the position of being able to be extravagant, triathlon is an excellent sport to help you spend your money, it will not disappoint, so if you are planning to beef things up a bit there is a multitude of high tech flash gear, out there. In the list below we have included minimum amounts you can expect to pay for each item but also an indication of costs if you are shopping for top of the line items.

Be smart

Have a read through this list and use it as a gauge for your IRONMAN budget.  As mentioned you don’t have to purchase the top of the range equipment, but you do need to get things that are going to be suitable for the task at hand.  If buying secondhand items make sure you know how much it has been used.

Another thing is to really look after your equipment. Not caring for your gear is a sure way to wear it out quickly, and replacing it just adds more to your expenses.

Budget

A lot of athletes form a budget and plan to set aside a certain amount of money each week to add to their “Triathlon Fund”.  A Triathlon Fund is a great idea as it enables you to plan ahead for the expenses that will ensue over the coming training and racing season.

Share

It’s a good idea to share this list and budget with your significant other so as they know what to expect and there are no hidden surprises for them.  This way you’ll also have to explain yourself if you are tempted to ignore the budget and sneak in a new set of race wheels or the latest aero helmet.

It’s Worth It

As you will see there are a number of expenses you need to be aware of when you take on the challenge of an IRONMAN and sure they can mount up but think less about it as an expense and more about it as enabling you to fulfil your dream.  So one last thing to add to that list:

How much time does it take to train for an IRONMAN?

To read this article in the Foot Traffic Coaching website click here

40 years ago when IRONMAN first took place the people who did this sport were considered reckless, weirdos, lunatics, idiots, fools, and that they were risking their life….but these days, nearly every weekend there are many thousands of people lining up to replicate what those seemingly crazy folk back in the early days were doing.

So is it really crazy or is doing IRONMAN achievable and how much time do you really need to train for it?

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Make no mistake, IRONMAN is a serious event, it’s a massive achievement to cross the finish line, and you don’t just get there by chance.  But despite the required commitment, people who lead busy lives; work, family, other, can still train very well for IRONMAN. There are many busy people who perform to a very high-level year in, year out.

Training for an IRONMAN can take between 6 -18 months, depending on your current level of fitness, previous experience, ability or motivation.

Why are you doing it?

Regardless of whether you are planning for your first IRONMAN, or you have crossed that finish line many times before, you need to consider the amount of training you have done to this point, your experience and current level of fitness. Then consider your purpose for completing it – what is your motivation?  Do you want to ‘race it’ or just complete it without risking illness or injury? Do you want to better your performance from previous years or beat your training buddies? Do you want to head to the top of your Age Group and onward to the World Championships? Are you trying to impress a girl or guy you’ve been chasing for some time?  Whatever your reason, getting to the finish line requires a well thought out and structured training plan. But IRONMAN is certainly achievable and may not take as much time as you might think.

Do I have enough time in my week?

For the Beginner athlete, just getting through and completing the event can be done on an average of 11-12hrs per week with the biggest week of about 15hrs. Intermediate athletes will be 12-15hrs per week, with the biggest being about 18hrs.  Advanced athletes who are wanting to push themselves to their best will be looking to average 14-16hrs per week through the largest volume phases (and beyond for some, if time allows for it). Consider an advanced athlete someone who is fit, has some decent triathlon experience and with a couple of good Ironman races under their belt.

With our half and full IRONMAN Training Plans the process from start to finish will progress over a 30 week period.

Phases of training

The main phases of training include Preparation, Base, Build and Competition. The amount of training throughout these phases will remain largely consistent, with the difference lying in the structure of the workouts and the intensity you will focus on.

Training during the week doesn’t need to take up too much of your time, as much of the larger volume training is scheduled on the weekends.  You should set a weekday routine that certain workouts will be done and stick to it, this will help you plan around training to manage work, family and other life commitments.

Following are examples from our 30 week half and full IRONMAN Intermediate Plans to show the layout of the Preparation, Base and Build phases.  The Competition phase is less about volume and more about freshening up for the race.

Preparation Phase

Average weekly training time – 7hrs

This Preparation phase focuses on getting your body used to consistent activity and building fitness.  Its designed to be low stress but you might still feel a bit of stiffness in your body if you’re new to training or if you haven’t trained in a while.

Base Phase

Average weekly training time – 12hrs

This is where you will load an increasing amount of training.  The intensity is usually pretty low and relaxed, but there will be some harder workouts.

Build Phase

Average weekly time – 15:00

 

This key phase of the training plan focuses on race specific intensity.  In this phase you will reach your maximum volume week but the Preparation and Base phases ensure you will be fit enough to go week after week of this higher volume training …a long way from where you were 20 weeks or so prior.

The Competition phase lasts only a few weeks and your training volume will reduce by about 30% each week setting you up nicely for RACE DAY!!

It’s Achievable

As you can see, when it’s laid out in front of you, the weekly time required is quite achievable.  But in order to get through an event of this magnitude you need to have a plan, commit to the training and stick with it.

How do you eat an elephant? … one bite at a time.

Are you cramping during the swim leg of a Triathlon?

We’ve all had this at some stage in our Triathlon career…the unmistakable stabbing pain in your calf muscles or quads.  Often it comes on inexplicably and it can be severe enough to force you to stop completely and attempt to stretch the affected muscles out.  Stretching may provide some relief but the damage may have already been done and for the rest of the race it feels like you are right on the verge of having it happen again.

There are a number of possible causes for the cramping, and a quick google search will give seemingly infinite numbers of articles citing electrolyte imbalance, muscle fatigue, poor kicking technique, neurological dysfunction and so on.  Whilst all these aetiologies have their merit, and should be considered, there is one potential cause that I don’t often see discussed….

Your body position created by swimming in a wetsuit in fresh water 

Yes, it’s quite a long and very specific cause, but it’s something I have seen occur numerous times over my years of being a Triathlon Coach, and I feel there’s a fairly simple thing you can do to perhaps avoid it happening to you in the future.

I filmed a short video about this, which was shared on the Blue Seventy NZ Facebook Page.  I have also uploaded it to YouTube.

This year at Ironman New Zealand I had a good friend (George) suffer severe cramping in his quads and calves, so bad that unfortunately he was unable to complete the swim leg.  George travelled to race Ironman NZ from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A few years prior another good friend of mine, who incidentally was also from Pennsylvania, had similar severe cramping in the swim, and pulled out only 1 KM into the bike leg.

The common factor in both these athletes was that they had travelled to the race after a long block of training in the pool through a brutal Northern Hemisphere winter.  No matter how many miles they logged in the pool they wouldn’t have performed many (if any) sessions in their wetsuits as it was the middle of winter.  A lot of people don’t want to wear their wetsuit in the pool as it can get very hot, and there’s a chance the chlorine may damage the material.

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Ironman New Zealand is swum in a fresh water lake, and is cool enough that wetsuits are compulsory.  I believe if the lake was warm enough that wetsuits weren’t allowed they probably wouldn’t have had issues with cramping.  A wetsuit places the swimmers hips and legs into a position that is quite different to that of a non-suited swimmer, and herein lies the problem.  Wearing a wetsuit in the sea isn’t too bad, as there’s a bit more buoyancy than in fresh, but it still can be a problem.  But your kick in fresh water may feel subtly different, forcing you to alter it slightly and possibly engaging your quads and hip flexors a bit more, and enough to place them under more stress than you’ve trained for.

One piece of equipment I find that does a great job of simulating the position created by a wetsuit is the bluseventy Core Short.  These are neoprene shorts that provide lift to the hips, so you are able to use them in specific sets where you are getting close to or even over race pace.  This allows the wearer to feel how their kick differs when held in the new position, and enable the necessary adaptations to get used to what race day will be like.

The shorts allow you to get a feel for your potential race pace, as most people will swim faster in them than not.  However, here’s a word of warning….don’t use them in all sessions, for the whole session.  You still need to perfect your body position unassisted, and the shorts will take away the necessary feedback of your hips sinking so you won’t recognise and correct.

So if you are planning a getaway race in a location where wetsuits are likely to be worn, and it’s not practical for you to wear your wetsuit in training I highly recommend having a pair of blueseventy Core Shorts in your swim bag.

Another cause of cramp could be a poorly fitted wetsuit.  For tips on fitting your wetsuit correctly check out this video

 

Be a Knowledgable and Responsible Athlete

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As we draw near to Ironman New Zealand (and other key events) it’s a good reminder of the important topic of Drugfree Sport.  A clean sport is a fair sport, so we encourage drug testing in sport.   As an athlete who has registered for an event (not just Ironman) you may be subject to drug testing, so it is important that you understand your responsibilities. 

Ingesting supplements such as protein shakes, pre-workout formulas, sports drink, energy drinks, herbal remedies, vitamins or any number of things could make you susceptible to contamination of a prohibited substance.  You need to know what you are taking and ensure it is not on the prohibited list.  In the past few years, athletes across a variety of sports have tested positive to prohibited substances, believed to have been ingested through nutritional supplements.  Each of those athletes faced a ban from all sport for up to four years.

Be aware that any supplement you are taking may be subject to contamination during the manufacturing process.  Many non-prohibited sports supplements that can be purchased ‘over the counter’ are manufactured in factories that also produce prohibited supplements and therefore can be accidentally cross contaminated by other substances made in this same factory. 

Also keep in mind that many supplements have inaccurate labelling. Ingredients can have more than 20 different names and not every version is listed on the label. Labels may also fail to list every ingredient or refer to “proprietary blends” where ingredients are not specified.

In addition to nutritional supplements, many prescription medications contain substances which are on the Prohibited List and are therefore banned in sport so you need to be vigilant about what you take.  If it is necessary for your Medical Practitioner to prescribe you something then make sure they are aware that you could be Drug Tested.  Check if the medication is prohibited in sport, and follow the Therapeutic Use Exemption process if need be. (More information on the Therapeutic Use Exemption process can be found on the Drugfree Sport website.)

As an athlete you are solely responsible for every substance that goes into your body. I stress to you to visit the Drugfree Sport website as there is great information on there about medications and supplements and how to check if anything you are taking is on the prohibited list. 

Visit www.drugfreesport.org.nz and don’t run the risk of ruining a great race through lack of knowledge.

Indoor Training: To be aero or not to be aero?

Contentious debate this one, and I will preface my discussion with this is just my opinion.  You may disagree with me and that’s all good, but I have done a fair bit of thinking about it and I like the way I go about it.  It wasn’t until after I listened to a Podcast (pretty sure it was this Velo News Fast Talk episode) that I realised I wasn’t the only person thinking about it this way.  The TrainerRoad Podcast also has some great discussion around this topic.

You can do the same as me, or you can do it differently.  But let me know your thoughts in the comments section, I’m always open to hearing differing opinions.

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I’ve never much enjoyed the Indoor Trainer (however over recent times apps like Trainer Road and Zwift have certainly helped).  The indoor trainer is uncomfortable, I’m easily bored and distracted and I just love riding out on the road so much.  However the fact there’s a lot more traffic on the road and safety is becoming more of an issue, I’m finding myself doing more and more of my training indoors.  I also don’t really like doing hard intervals on the road, as there’s too much risk and too many interruptions.  I find the indoor trainer fantastic for interval training, but not so much for steady state endurance training.  I’m using a direct drive Wahoo Kickr and it really helps to give a smooth, accurate and reproducible power reading, which is much better than the old ‘wheel on’ style trainer.

I now view my cycle training as being broken up into a different styles of workouts.  You have your testing, your interval work, your technique/neuromuscular stuff, your adaptation and your endurance.  

It’s obvious that the more aero you are the the faster you travel, however a lot of people find that the more aero they are the less power they can put out.  That right there is the reason for my opinion on bike position when Indoor Training.

When I’m doing high power intervals and neuromuscular training I want to get the most out of myself.  I want to push myself to the limit of the training zone I intend working, and when I am on the Indoor Trainer those zones will range from Sweet Spot (88% of FTP) right up to Anaerobic Capacity (130% FTP and beyond), the durations for these intervals are anywhere from 15 seconds up to about 20minutes.  If I am sitting up out of my aero bars I am able to push much higher power than if I remain aero.  So why would I want to limit the power I’m putting out?  I very rarely race at those intensities on the road, and if I am it’s generally when I’m up off the aerobars anyway (climbing or accelerating out of corners).  I’m not racing an Individual or Team Pursuit on a Velodrome, I don’t need to produce massive amounts of power for 4-5 minutes and remain super low and aero.

When it comes to endurance intensities below Sweet Spot there is another thing I’m conscious of, comfort.  Who else finds it so much harder to stay in the aerobars on an indoor trainer than on the road?  I don’t know about you, but I struggle to remain aero for 5-10 minutes on the trainer, however on the road I can stay aero for long long periods of time without being uncomfortable or losing feeling in the ‘downstairs’ region.  So I give myself shorter periods in the aerobars where I focus on holding power, but as soon as I feel like it I come up out of the bars and just ride comfortably.  I still want to enjoy riding my bike, and battling in the mind about how long I can stay aero isn’t enjoyable for me.  One thing you may find though, is the lower your target power the longer you can stay aero, so sometimes I might be happy staying down for as long as 10 minutes!!

The important part of all this is adaption.  It’s one thing to be able to put out massive watts on the trainer, but as mentioned earlier, if you can’t stay aero, comfortable and produce good power on the road then your performance will be affected.  So when I am doing an endurance session on the road I use that time to build up the time I am in the aerobars, and I will work through the range of powers I expect to be racing in to make sure I’m capable of maintaining it.  I make sure I give myself plenty of time to build this up weeks or months before a key race too.

I’m often asked if power testing should be done sitting up or in the aerobars and I think it should be done the way you expect to train.  I have two different FTP values and training zones, Indoor and Outdoor.  My Indoor FTP value is measured using the Trainer Road Ramp Test sitting up as I know I will do most of my interval training this way.  My outdoor is tested as either a 20 minute or 60 minute TT in the aerobars as I want it to be the closest to the way I will race.  Having access to both these values means I can be confident that my training will be optimised and realistic.

I hope this has given you a bit of insight as to the way I like to do my Indoor Training.  As mentioned earlier I’d like to hear what you think works best for you.

 

Anatomy of a Team Time Trial – Part 1

I used to race Team Time Trials (TTT) quite regularly in my school cycling years, however that was a very long time ago.  I’m also not much of a Team Sport player, so I haven’t really done much in a team environment.  So when the opportunity to join in the cycling team, Watchguard Technologies Racing, I jumped at the chance especially since the Dynamo Teams Championships series that the team is competing in had a TTT.  I was wanting to revisit this aspect of cycle racing.  The aforementioned race took place on last Sunday, 23 September 2018.

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Apart from the technology of the bikes, clothing and helmets from my early days of TTT, not much has changed.  The races are still fast, they still hurt and they are a true measure of team work.  Probably the most significant change in equipment is the use of Heart Rate monitors and Power Meters.  Now instead of just looking at a stopwatch and determining how the race felt, we can now delve deep down into the Belly of the Beast and break down the way the TTT played out in very fine detail.  Communication between the riders is crucial as you rely on your stronger riders to do more work in order to keep the team together as well as possible.  In the case of the Dynamo one we could start with six riders, and our time was taken on the third across the line, so we could afford to drop a few in the process.  Looking at the data after this particular race was very interesting indeed, and you can see how it unfolded just by looking at the numbers.

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to analysing race files, but I have a good understanding of the metrics, what they mean and I can recall pretty well how a race played out and what the contributing factors were that led to a result.  Hopefully as you read on you will be able to create a picture of it and will understand how fascinating races like these can be.

CONTEXT

I don’t really consider myself a ‘Roadie’.  I’m a Triathlete first and foremost, and quite frankly large pelotons, descents and mass field sprints scare the crap out of me, but I love the exhilaration of a bike race.  Despite the conflict in my brain I just keep turning up for more and more.  I absolutely love the high intensity you encounter in Bike Racing, and it’s a level you don’t often see in a Triathlon.  That being said I do wish a bike race would finish off with a running race, at least that way I might have half a chance of a good result.

When it comes to Individual Time Trials (ITT) I struggle to sustain a high power much over Threshold, which translates to road speed, despite this I am very comfortable on a TT bike for hours on end riding at a steady Sub-Threshold intensity.  One thing I find I can do though is hang on to a wheel and punch out some fairly high watts for a short time before dropping back in the pace line for a short recovery, I have pretty good 1-5 minute power for my body weight, so for this reason I enjoy a TTT much more than an ITT.

It was fortunate that the Counties Manukau Cycling Club were hosting a 3Up TTT on 22 July 2018, and this was a perfect opportunity to get an idea of how the body was going to cope with a TTT of the same distance and very similar course to the Dynamo one on 23 September.  So I gathered a couple of the Foot Traffic athletes (Sam Daley and Rob Humby) and dragged them along as my teammates.  It suited Sam as he was training for the Sprint Triathlon Worlds too, and Rob was rung in just simply as he’s a super strong young fulla who could help tow these old boys around.  I was thinking I’d go pretty well in this first TTT, but boy was I quickly knocked down a level.  As it turned out it kicked my butt, and I soon realised I’d have to alter the structure and intensity of my bike training sessions thereafter going into the upcoming races, so it was a blessing in disguise that I had raced in this 3Up TTT.

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Having done more Iron-Distance races than someone probably should do, I have developed an engine that is built for long steady efforts, not so much for short punchy stuff, and certainly not for long, multiple SupraThreshold over/under efforts.  I recently raced Challenge Roth (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42km run) on 1 July 2018, and was due to race the Sprint Distance Triathlon World Champs (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) a couple of months after on 13 September 2018, and obviously the Dynamo TTT the week after the Triathlon Worlds.  These are totally different events, utilising quite different energy sources….consequently I have confirmed it’s hard work to turn around an athlete in such a short time, but with a bit of focus on the right work it can be possible, and here’s the proof.

 

3Up TTT Race

Since the Triathlon worlds was going to be raced in a Draft Legal format and on road bikes I told my team mates that we are doing this TTT Merckx Style (standard road bike, no aero helmet, no clip-on aero bars, no deep dish wheels).  This means that we weren’t able to make use of the aero advantages gained by these pieces of equipment.  It comes down to raw power, and team work.

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So for the 24km we rode it in 36:34 (which incidentally is a few seconds slower than when I rode an ITT on the same course earlier in the year, but that was with the full aero package, which shows the effect of those bits and pieces).  We rode this race well as a team and shared the work evenly.  As one rider showed signs of weakening the others would pull a bit longer to try and maintain the average speed.

For the duration of the TTT I had a Normalized Power of 257w, Average Power of 245w, Max Power of 638w.  This calculated at an Intensity Factor of 0.86, and a TSS of 45, based off a Functional Threshold Power of 304w at the time of this race.  My Average Heart Rate for the TTT was 164bpm and Max HR of 177.  Average cadence was 97rpm.  The average speed for the race was 39.4kph.  Power to weight ratio for this was 3.45w/kg.  Yes you are correct, these are low numbers for what a TT should be.  Was I tired from the recent race and travel?  Possibly, read on.

There are more interesting metrics to consider though.  Aerobic Decoupling factor was 2.97%, which just shows I was working hard, but not really at my limit despite me feeling like I was in the box.  There was more to put out in my legs but my engine was just ticking along at the intensity we were doing, unable to switch into overdrive.  This may have been from the latent fatigue after Challenge Roth a couple of weeks earlier, and the fact I had just really started back training this week, but I certainly felt like I should have been able to perform better.  Variable Intensity was relatively high at 1.05 for a dead flat course where there shouldn’t have been much surging, so I feel I was probably freewheeling on the back a bit trying to get my Heart Rate down before the next turn on the front.  Efficiency Factor was 1.57, which I will discuss in more detail in the next blog post….that will make sure you come back eh.

Looking at the graph below you can see the clear demarcation of the sections where I am on the front and where I have dropped back in the pace line.  There is a distinct point where you can see power is maintained for a short time, then it starts to drop as I get to the point where I can’t hold a consistent speed any longer, at the same time there is an elevation in Heart Rate, and then the lowering while on the back.  For the first half the turns on the front were fairly consistent duration, however over the second half there were a few shorter turns as I was beginning to get gassed.

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You will observe in the Power Distribution that it’s a wide bell shape, and quite clearly skewed to the lower bins and not the upper bins where I’d like to see it in a TT.

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You will note in the Power Zone distribution that there’s quite a lot in Zone 2 (26%), more than there should be really.  Even though there’s 50% above Threshold its all scattered unevenly and likely to be unproductive given the high VI number.

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Meanwhile the Heart Rate Distribution is quite clearly just below Lactate Threshold (60%), with very little any higher, it just shows that the engine wasn’t able to rev any higher, I lacked the top end.  All my Peak Heart Rate points from 5 seconds to 30 minutes came at the back end of the race.  Despite a pretty good warm up there was still a long time before I was able to get the HR up to where it needed to be.

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The last graph is the Peak Power Curve which just shows there weren’t any large spikes in Peak Power, which is good for a TTT, however it drops away fairly rapidly after 30 seconds, an indication that there wasn’t really a lot more power in the muscles before I was having to drop back in the pace line.

Peak 10 seconds was 395w, Peak 30 seconds was 380w (both coming towards the finish line).  Peak 1 minute was 320w as we headed to the turn around which was up a short climb.  Peak 10 minutes of 257w was the over the last 10 minutes.

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Summary

You can imagine I was pretty disappointed with my performance here.  The team worked really well together, but I really should have been able to hit bigger numbers for longer.  It highlighted a number of important things that had to be addressed before I went on to the Sprint Triathlon World Champs and the Dynamo TTT, so really it was very important and had I not raced it I would have probably continued down the wrong track in my training without it.

So look forward to the next blog post where I discuss the Dynamo TTT, and you will see why I am much happier about that performance.

Check back later.

Winning an Age Group National Title in the small chainring

One of the things I try to in still in my athletes is the importance of dealing with an adverse situation by keeping calm and not panicking.  When things happen it’s important to do a quick systems check, figure out what is going on, and what the options are for dealing with it.  My experience in the Challenge Wanaka Half (TriNZ Mid Distance Champs) was completely my fault, something that could have been simply avoided, but I am proud of how I accepted it, and coped through the day….younger Rob may have done something different.  For something that could have impacted the performance significantly, I don’t think I was at much of a disadvantage.

If you take one thing away from this blog let it be this….MAKE SURE YOUR Di2 BATTERY IS FULLY CHARGED, something my mother will now remind me of before every race.

Watch this video

Challenge Wanaka (Full) in 2016 was one of those races that nearly finished me.  I wasn’t super motivated to return, despite it being set in one of the most scenic locations you could put a Triathlon.  For some reason the conditions on the day and the brutality of the course was such that I wasn’t really motivated to come back to race here again.  I had gone through a scary panic attack in the swim that morning and I never really got back to my happy place through the whole day.  Step forward 2 years and I seemed to have forgotten that feeling.  Sure, this time I wasn’t here to race the full, but instead the half.  But after this weekend’s racing I’m pretty sure I will be back to have another crack for many more years to come.

As soon as Triathlon NZ announced this was to be the National Mid-Distance Championships I was already looking forward to returning.  I had won the title for my Age Group in 2017 at the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman, and I liked the idea of defending it…that was the motivation I wanted to be able to finish my 2017/2018 season satisfied.  I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task as uber-biker Shane Vincent had signed up, and he had won my Age Group at the Sprint Champs 1 week prior in Kinloch, where I finished 3rd a couple of minutes behind.  I knew I would beat him out of the water, and I expected him to gap me by a decent margin on the bike, but I had backed myself for a strong run, and had visualised running him down in the final few KM’s.

How did the day pan out??  Let’s just say, some Rookie errors by both Shane and Myself influenced the day significantly.

I had made a tactical, quite risky, and possibly foolish decision to only come down with a Disc rear wheel and a Trispoke for the front.  Race predictions with the www.bestbikesplit.com website suggested that this was the best wheel option for the forecasted weather, however the nature of sub-alpine climates such as in Wanaka is you just don’t know what you might get.  The race officials were talking about possibly banning disc wheels if the wind conditions were severe enough….that would have stuffed me right up. PI2L9QsgSmGo58hHMHqMPg

A morning swim the day before the race with Foot Traffic Pro Athlete Rebecca Clarke suggested it was going to be quite a difficult day.  I did a short ride on the course later that morning, to check the bike was working fine, and the disc wheel wasn’t behaving too bad so I was a bit less anxious.  My anxiety came back at me later that day when I had my bike checked and one of the officials remarked “You’re not using that wheel are you?”  I confidently bit back with “I’ve ridden it in much worse conditions before, besides its the front wheel depth people should be more concerned about and my trispoke is so narrow and has a very small profile that it will be sweet.”  Of course I knew I’d be fine, I just didn’t want to be questioned of my decision.  A quick phone call to my good mate and training partner Brodie Madgwick put my mind at ease when he said “Just set the spinnaker and hold on”.  That was perfect really, as it meant I had to be confident and aggressive all day, just how I wanted to race.

Funny how conditions can change though, the morning dawned fine and with a very light breeze across the lake, pretty much flattening it out and making it completely different to the day before.  My wheel decision was vindicated and I knew that this was going to be a great day.

I was determined not to have a repeat of my panic attack in 2016 (which I think was partly caused by an inadequate warm-up), so about 20 minutes before the start I dived into the cool lake and had a decent splash around.  Body felt good, nerves were low and I was ready.  As soon as the pro women took off I swam out to the start buoys as I wanted to be on the front left of the line, and didn’t want to be late to the party and have to work through the crowd.  I was surprised how casual everyone was getting out there, nothing like the high octane energy races I’d had early in the year, in particular Kona and Tauranga Half which are always quite crowded and aggressive.

Count down….BANG!

We were off.  Straight away a couple of fast swimmers took it out hard and I carried their wake for a bit until they pulled ahead, then I watched the right side of the course moving ahead of me.  I was still happy where I was as I knew I had the straightest line, and eventually I would meet them at the turn buoy.  A small group formed and I was with them for a bit, until the slowly pulled away, I recognised a few of the guys in that group and was a bit disappointed I couldn’t hold them.  Once I was about 2/3 of the way through I found I was at the front of a large group, and there was another good sized one about 50m ahead of me, so I decided to have a dig and swim across to them.  I managed to catch them about 200m from the finish and I was surprised to recognise the same guys from the group that had dropped me earlier…it seemed I just hadn’t warmed up quite enough.

I came out of the water in a sharp 29mins, which I was very happy wiht.  Thanks to my 2018 Blue Seventy Helix for some extra swim speed there.

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I was quick through transition as I wanted to gap the group I exited the water with, and was on the bike solo.  The rain had started falling but I didn’t really notice it.  Feet in shoes, Power Meter on and straight into my work.  As I hit a small climb out of town I dropped to my small chainring, crested it and then went to change back up again, only to be greeted with…..NOTHING!  No way, I knew exactly what had happened here, my Di2 battery was nearly empty.  How could this be, I had checked the battery light before I left home and had removed the battery for the flight so it didn’t drain, but clearly there wasn’t enough power in it.  Fortunately with Shimano Di2 it will stop the front derailleur  from changing, but still allows use of the rear gears, but I didn’t know how long that would last.  Could I get 90km out of it?  I will just have to find out.  I even stopped to ask a roadside mechanic if he had a spare battery with him, which he didn’t….carry on as I was.

There was no need to panic here, I played it cool, figured out a plan and stuck with it.  A quick check behind me revealed I had pulled away from a few guys I left transition with, and was catching some ahead, so I was still in good gears to ride the power I wanted.  The frustrating thing was that it meant I would spend a lot of the time in my 36×12 or 11, which puts the chain on an angle and rubs the cage of the front derailleur. Whilst I was pedalling at about 120RPM down a hill Shane Vincent came flying past me and gapped me within seconds, I couldn’t even react, I had no more gears and just watched him go off in the distance.  He must have thought I was such an idiot being in my small chainring down a hill.

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My biggest concern was that I had to ration my gear changes out as I didn’t know when the battery was really going to die on me.  I didn’t want to be left in too low a gear, so I spent most of the ride in my 3 smallest cogs on the back, being very conservative on gear changes, which meant I ended up riding the hills out of the saddle at a high power to get up them, I could really feel my quads loading up here and was a bit worried as to the consequences of this.  I knew this was going to use a lot more energy, so I increased my carb intake significantly, getting ready for the eventual explosion/hitting of wall.  I had a few guys around me but I would pull away up the climbs as I was in a stupid big gear, and they would fly by me on the descents as I was in a stupid low (but the same) gear!

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Once we hit the Hawea flats there was a slight cross tail wind, and I think this is where the disc wheel/trispoke combination really benefitted me, as I rode away from the guys I had been riding with!  I was pedalling well over 100RPM, and I feel great doing it, just being reminded of my stupidity by the terrible sound of my chain scraping on the derrailier.  I was now beginning to think that this super low gear situation may actually be not as bad for me as I expected it to be.  Could this be a blessing in disguise, sure I was missing out on extra speed not having access to a big chainring, but was I saving my legs by not over-gearing myself?

At about the 70km mark I decided to start using lower gears on the climb as I knew I was close enough to home that if the battery went dead I could still ride it out, and I wanted to save my legs a bit more as cramps in my quads were beginning to haunt me.  A quick check of my TSS showed I was already at 220 (about 30 points more than I had planned to be), so this was becoming an energy sapping ride – lucky I had decided to increase my carbs earlier in the race.  The last section through town went pretty quickly, and I was relieved to finally get off the bike without any further mechanical drama’s.  One thing I wasn’t aware of was by this time Shane Vincent had punctured, and didn’t have a spare tubular, so I was now in the lead of my Age Group, despite thinking I was still second.

I rode 2:33 and had a normalised power of 288, and average cadence of 88rpm.

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Starting the run my legs felt great and I was moving smoothly.  I started getting some very slight cramps in my quads, but a few Margarita Clif Bloks (extra sodium) soon dealt to the cramps and I was into my work.  I was following my run power closely, and wanted to hold 280-285w.  I don’t have pace visible on my watch, just power and time, although I have each KM split come up, so I have a fairly good idea of my run pace.  I was surprised to be ticking over quite comfortably between 4:00-4:10/km for the first few kms.  Following power output is a lot more reliable and useful than looking at pace, especially on a technical course such as along the Outlet Track as it has such varied terrain.  Power is an absolute measure of effort, where as pace is determined by many different factors that can’t be influenced by the runner.

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As I hit Gun Road Kellee was sideline telling me I was leading my AG, and that Shane didn’t finish the bike.  She told me I had a 6 minute lead, and just to keep running strong.  At this point I was beginning to feel a bit tired and noticing the effects of the hard ride.  My power was now dropping, and despite how hard I was trying I couldn’t get the target up to where I wanted it to be.  But that didn’t matter, I knew I wasn’t going to get caught from behind, so I just focused on my form and tried to catch my athlete Rebecca Clarke in front of me, who was currently 7th in the Elite Womens race….as it turned out, she was running well and I couldn’t catch her.  I managed to keep moving ahead of 2nd in my Age Group and finished with a 9 minute margin.

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The run took me 1:32, and ironically was the same average power as the bike, 278w.

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My overall time of 4:41 shows it isn’t a fast course, especially when Javier Gomez ‘only’ goes 3:57 to win it.  This is a tough honest race with amazing scenery and some testing wind conditions, the sort of course I love, and perfect for the NZ Championships.  I’d love to come back here next year to race again, and I can highly recommend it to anyone wanting to combine a race and a holiday at the same time, as there are so many things to do in the Wanaka region.

In terms of lessons learned, clearly charging my Di2 battery is a fairly important one, but equally so is knowing that just because something isn’t going as planned it isn’t the end of the race.  Problems can be dealt with quickly and easily, and don’t always end in a negative outcome.

I’m looking forward to watching Ironman New Zealand next weekend.  I’m sure some people will have things not quite go to plan, so I’m hopeful that my experience helps that person cope with it on race day.

Ironman Cairns….Bring on Kona

Earlier this year I hadn’t really put much thought into going back to Ironman Kona, I’ve been there twice so I was happy.  However after my disappointing DNF at Ironman NZ in March we decided that we would just go over to watch as I had a few athletes I coach and mates who had qualified for 2017, and then suddenly the threat of FOMO kicked in.  I decided I wanted to join in the fun and race there too.  The best (and cheapest) option for me to qualify was at Ironman Cairns as it was the Asia-Pacific Champs, and had a massive 75 spots on offer.  Last year my AG (40-44) had 9 spots, and the final spot was just shy of 9:50.  I was still dealing with a 4 month Achilles tendon injury, but I thought if I could get 2 months of running in then I should be able to get safely under 9:50.

So Kellee and I were off to Cairns, with one goal in mind…..KONA QUALIFICATION.  I wasn’t focusing on anything else, whatever came with it was going to be a bonus.  As it happened I got the spot, but not without a few points where I had to make a few race defining decisions.  Ironman is not a walk in the park and there are always a few things that happen to test us.  I constantly tell my athletes not to panic on race day when things don’t go to plan, it was good to see if I would heed my own advice.

I was fortunate that Foot Traffic Coach and Professional Ironman Mark Bowstead had some space at his accomodation.  It was actually great to see how the Pro’s deal with race week, I reckon I was more relaxed and rested for this race than I’ve ever been…Mark seems an expert at race week prep and resting, and I benefited from being around him (he finished 8th in 8:16).

I’d had a good chat to my mate and training partner Brodie Madgwick, the day before the race, who had cleared my head about a few things.  I was worried that I hadn’t done enough training, but his advice was to not focus on that, instead to stay in control all day and focus on being inside the top 9, and then with 10km to go in the run let it go and get stuck into racing.  I really liked the idea of this, basically spend about 9 hours enjoying it, and then the rest of it hating myself….I could do that.

 

Race morning was dawning and before we knew it we were in Kellee’s Dad’s car boosting it to Palm Beach where the swim and T1 is located.  T2 and the finish is in Cairns, so there was a bit of traveling to work around the split race venue.  It’s a nice leisurely start, with the Pro’s starting at 7:35 and the rest of the field from 7:45.

The weather in the days prior had been pretty mild, but quite windy.  Race day was still meant to be a bit blustery but with some cloud cover.  I wasn’t too worried about this as the wind makes the tougher, and with my cycle training having gone well in the build up I wanted to have an advantage here.  Because of my Achilles injury I wasn’t able to run as much as I’d like, but my biking had ramped up quite a bit.

The race had a rolling start which is a new trend for most Ironman races around the world now.  It’s intended to spread the start out so it’s not as crowded early on.  I’m not really a fan of this method as straight away you don’t know where you are placed in the field.  I was about 30seconds behind the first athletes going in, so I knew I’d be near the front.  In the end it wasn’t too bad racing in this format, but I still prefer a single start wave.

Watching the Pro men and women swimming out I could see they were getting drifted a fair bit to the left, so with this in mind I adjusted my line to the first turn buoy.  Having not swum in the sea for a month or so, and being in a brand new Blue Seventy Helix I was a bit apprehensive about going out too hard.  After the first 100m or so I was feeling good so settled into my rhythm and quickly found some feet to swim on.  It was fairly choppy (not Kohi swim choppy but still a decent roll).  The swim felt like it took forever, and I think the chop took more time than I expected, and it seemed many of the AGers were slower than expected.

Running out of the water I saw the time on my watch was 1:02, arggh, that’s about 5 mins slower than I was expecting.  But I reminded myself that today was all about qualifying, and not going for time, this was going to be an enjoyable day out.  Running out of transition I wasn’t in a rush, just being smooth and efficient.

Once on the bike I quickly settled into my target of 225w (75% of FTP).  This was going to be the power I’d need to hold to deliver myself to the start of the run in the best possible shape without giving up too much time.  One of the good things about the rolling start is the fact it wasn’t crowded getting on the bike.  I was quickly into my rhythm and had some clear space on the road.  After about 15km a few similar guys had come together and I had a nice line to follow, always keeping my power in check, and not being too worried if it dropped down.  I wasn’t going to get trapped into a bike race today as I had done in previous Ironman races.  I was super paranoid of getting a drafting penalty so sat well back, which incidentally meant I was getting pushed further back as people would pass me and drop into the gapping space between me and the bike in front, but I was cool with this, I was still riding at 36kph.  I wanted to maintain 16:00-16:30 per 10km to be hitting around 5 hours for the bike time, and this was happening so I wasn’t stressed.  I noted there were about 4 or 5 guys with the ‘K’ on their leg which meant they were in the same Age Group as me, so i made sure I knew where they were the whole time.  I sat back and watched what was going on up front.

The bike course is a little bit lumpy in the middle so I tested the legs on a few of the climbs and found many of the guys were good on the flat, but not really on the hills, so I stored this fact in the back of my mind knowing it might come in handy later in the ride.

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At the 80km mark we reached Special Needs and I had a drink bottle with Ketone’s and MCT powder in it to pick up.  This drink was a key strategy for me, and I had finished my first bottle, so I was looking forward to picking it up.  Slowing down and calling my number out no one stuck their hand out to give me the bag.  Suddenly I had gone past!  So I had to stop, turn around and ride back to the bags, a lady found it and started WALKING towards me.  I didn’t get annoyed, these people are volunteers, and do it to help us out, so I took my bottle, thanked her and took off knowing I had to get a wriggle on.  Suddenly the security of my nice pace line had gone and I was on my own, with a few dribs and drabs around me, but no one I wanted to ride with.

The Special Needs is at the bottom of the Rex’s Lookout Climb, which is about 2mins long.  I knew I was climbing well, so I decided I’d have to burn a match here to get back to the guys I was with.  For the climb I averaged 370w, peaking at 798w, which was well over my acceptable maximum of 280w on the climbs.  I bolted past a few guys, but as I crested the hill I noticed I still hadn’t been able to bridge across completely with, the guys I had around me were the ones getting dropped.  Down the other side I pushed hard and decided that I could give myself 10mins at 295w before having to resign myself to the fact I won’t get back those the guys in my AG.  Fortunately I got myself back to the group and quickly downed a gel to replenish what I had spent in burning that match.  They were still riding at 36-37kph, so it was a welcome respite to the 40+kph I had been turning myself inside out for.  I wasn’t too worried about that effort, it was similar to the work I had been doing during my intervals in training, but I knew I had to be respectful of it for later in the day.  This was about 3 hours into the ride, and a bit sooner than I’d hoped to have to dig deep.  I went to have a swig of my newly replaced Ketone mix and the bloody bottle was gone!  Somewhere in my haste to chase back I had lost my all important bottle, and the reason I had lost the group in the first place!  Ironman was testing me again, and how I dealt with this was going to determine the success of my day.  So I switched to pulling fuel off the race course.  I have a strong gut so it was no problem to start drinking and eating something else.

Nothing much else happened for the rest of the ride, there were only about 4 or 5 of us remaining.  I pushed a few of the hills a bit harder and managed to shake some guys who were sitting on a bit, so it was just me and another guy in my Age Group taking even turns to keep the pace where it needed to be.  As we reached the 150km mark we rode up on a few people who were in a pace line, but because the lane was narrowed due to being part of the main highway I moved to the front to stay away from a drafting situation.  I knew that the 10km splits had consistently been around 16 minute so it was going to be well inside 5 hours, which would be the first time I had gone under that mark.  There was no way I was going to roll in a few seconds slower than that, so I decided to keep the squeeze on coming into the town section.

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Entering into T2 I stopped my computer at 4:56, which was about 7 minutes faster than I had gone in an Ironman before.  Ironman Cairns isn’t a particularly fast course, there are a few hills, and some twists and turns, but there are also plenty of flat fast sections.  The wind was blowing a bit in some exposed places, but it wasn’t crazy, nothing like Ironman NZ this year.  This was the first time I had really raced my Specialized S-Works Shiv with a Hed Stinger Disc wheel on the back and a Nimble Trispoke on the front.  I think it was the perfect setup for that course, and there were some points where I really felt a positive lift from the wheel on the back, it almost felt like someone was pushing me from my saddle.

In the end my Average Power was 225, and Normalized Power was 240w.  This was a bit higher than I had planned, but the 10mins near threshold, would have driven it up a fair bit.  Intensity Factor was 0.80, which is on the high side for an Age Grouper.  My Variable Intensity was 1.06 which was also a bit higher than planned, but due to the surges I’m not surprised.  My TSS was 315, about 35 higher than ideal, so I knew I was going to have to be a bit careful on the run.

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Starting the run I was very cautious, but the old adrenaline got the better of me, and for a few KM was was running under 4:40/km.  I had a plan to stick to 5:00/km for the first 30km.  In training I hadn’t run over 2 hours, and I had only been over 1:45 once as I didn’t want to risk pushing the run mileage due to only having 8 weeks to run.  I quickly put the brakes on my pace and settled back to what felt like a more manageable pace, and I felt comfortable.  As I left T2 Kellee told me I was 10th in my AG!  I was quite surprised, I was certain that a ride under 5:00 would have me closer to the front of the Age Group, so I was in stress mode for the whole run.  Pretty soon in I had been passed by 2 guys, and resisted going with them, which was good as I passed them back again about 20km later.

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I really enjoyed the run, Andy Smith took the above pic at a time I was running well.  I had been going well, and had moved up to 6th in my Age Group so felt I was safe.  Good, as I was beginning to run out of runningness, and needed this race to be over.  I was desperate to go for a pee, normally I can go happily while running, but for some reason this wasn’t happening today.  I was getting pretty bad stomach cramps, so made the difficult decision to stop at the port-a-loo.  It felt like I was there for about 10 minutes while my bladder emptied.  Once I was out and back running I felt a lot better, so I think this was a very good decision to make.

I had one of my athletes (Malcolm Cleland) just behind me all day, and he was steaming along.  I had noticed at the turn arounds he had pulled back some time on me, and I knew the catch was inevitable.  I came sooner than I had hoped, around the 30km mark.  Not much I could do about it, I was waiting until the 32km mark before going at it, and frankly my legs weren’t letting me go any faster.  I let Malcolm go, and hoped I would catch him back before the finish.  Knowing it takes about 20 mins to feel the effect of caffeine I necked a Clif Espresso Double Caffeine gel at 32km and started to go deep.

The final 10km actually went quite well.  Kellee told me I was in 6th still but I couldn’t let anyone else past.  All of a sudden 2 guys with K on their legs slipped by and they were running a lot faster than me, after 40km of running I had nothing else I could throw at it.  I knew I was still pretty safe for a spot, so I focused on catching my man Malcs.  I could see I was slowly pulling him back, but as i entered the finish chute I was about 10 seconds short.  I was stoked for Malcolm as he had a frustrating day a few weeks earlier at Ironman Port MacQuarie and he took 43 minutes off his previous best time.

Check the finish line vid:

(https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B34dQP6x6mXXMTE3c25iVFVTYU0)

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I crossed in 9:34:14 with a run of 3:28.  I went into the racing thinking I was good for something under 3:30, so I was right on target for that.  I was 8th in my Age Group which was enough for a Kona spot.  The time was less than a minute off my best, so on a short run build I was really happy to hit it.

So here I am looking at the season ahead.  I am racing the Long Course Worlds in Canada in August, and then 6 weeks later I’ll race Ironman Kona, so there is heaps to look forward to.  There’s a great group of athletes around me racing Kona too this year, so there’s going to be some awesome training in the winter ahead.

Catch you later,

The First Timer’s Ironman Run

It was a privilege for me to talk at the First Timers Seminar hosted by the Ironman New Zealand management team.  We had a decent number of people attending, but also had a large number watching through Facebook Live.  Here’s a link to the ‘Ironman in New Zealand’ Facebook page where you can watch the video.

I was there to talk specifically about the run leg.  I was joined on the panel by fellow Triathlon Coach Andrew Mackay from Boost Coaching, who was talking about the swim leg, and Ben Marshall from Performance Bicycle Tuning , who was talking about the bike leg.

I have summarized my talk below.  These points are the ‘golden rules’, they are just things I feel are useful to keep in mind.  Please feel free to ask questions, comment or add any tips you may have.  They are in no particular order, just the order I spoke about on the night.

  • Have fun! – Don’t take things too seriously.  The day will be so much more enjoyable for you if you allow yourself to smile and laugh with other competitors or spectators.
  • Don’t focus too much on the distance – A marathon is a long way, but on race day if you shut the distance out of your mind and just think of it as a run off the bike, which finishes when you cross the line, then it doesn’t seem as daunting.
  • Break the run into achievable segments – As you pass through each segment you can focus on the next one, you will be surprised how quickly the run goes when you tackle it in little chunks.
  • Your fueling is vitally important – Just because you are on the run and you have fueled well on the bike it doesn’t mean you can let things slide.  You are still going to be running for somewhere between 50% to 100% of the duration of the bike (even more for some), so you still need to keep the tank topped up.  By now you will be taking on different things to your bike fuel, so make sure you have tried various things in training.  Even a few km’s from the finish you don’t want to neglect your fuel, I have seen many people struggle badly in the closing stages of the race.
  • You won’t know how you are going to feel so have a plan for various scenarios – It is very difficult to prepare for the way you are likely to feel in an Ironman run.  Not many of us have the time or energy to train for up to 8 hours before starting a training run.  You will find ways to simulate this through accumulating fatigue over a number of days.  Have a plan for various scenarios and learn what works for you and what doesn’t
  • Your mind is what will get to you to the finish – Your body may have had enough a few hours ago, but you know how much you have invested in this Ironman project, and what it means to you.  That should be motivation enough to just keep pushing.  You can build mental toughness by performing difficult and challenging sessions in training.
  • Don’t try to run the full distance in training – Trust me, if you have been able to run a couple of hours in training your body isn’t going to stop at that point on race day.  Don’t stress yourself about pushing over 2:30 in training.  Some might be able to do this, but they aren’t really benefiting themselves much more, in fact they may even be doing more damage.  If you are nervous about running for a long period of time then try Split Run Day’s, this is where you run in the morning and then run the same distance or duration in the evening.  It’s a great way to get your volume up without putting too much acute stress on your body.
  • Running a marathon before an Ironman isn’t a necessity – This seems to concern people a lot.  The training and recovery for a marathon is too great for you to be able to back up with a successful Triathlon season following.  Most marathons fall at a time when you really need to be focusing on increasing your cycling volume.  Leave the marathon goal for a year you aren’t doing an Ironman.
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces as much as possible – This is really important.  Don’t assume that because the Ironman is all on road that you must do all your training on that surface.  A lot of the top Ironman athletes around the world will do up to 80% of their weekly volume on soft surfaces, and only leaving tarmac runs for very special occasions (tempo sessions, race simulations etc).  Hard surfaces are a sure way to get an overuse injury, and an injury is a sure way to not achieve your race day goals.
  • Be realistic with what you are able to achieve in training – Just because your mates Coach has them doing 5 runs a week totaling 90km doesn’t mean you should be.  You have to stick what your body is capable of doing and learning how to get the most from these sessions.
  • Don’t be too ambitious when you start the run – I have never seen people run out of T2 at a rate of knots and hold it.  Even Cam Brown builds into the run, often people will try and run away from him but he has proven time after time that a slower start and a fast finish wins the race.  Treat the first 4km of the run as your slowest, and build into a manageable pace from there.

If you are planning for an Ironman this season and you are interested in our Coaching services visit the Foot Traffic Coaching website

The 7 stages of data loss. How does one deal with it?

Picture this…..I’m rolling into my driveway after 218km on the bike, nearly a full day of work for a normal person.  This has been one of my longest rides, which was on epic course with a massive amount of climbing, and a really cool crew.  I was looking forward to checking out the Power and Heart Rate data produced throughout the day as sessions like this hardly come by, but lets face it, more importantly I was wanting to upload it to Strava and gain some serious bragging rights (admit it, I’m not the only one who thinks this way).

Before I had even taken my cycle shoes off I was busily syncing my bike computer to my laptop through the usual process.  But for some reason during my caffeine fueled, slightly hypoglycaemic and slightly woozy stooper I noticed my cycle computer had shifted to reset mode (I don’t really know what happened, so let’s assume User Error).  I had that sinking feeling that I imagine someone mistakenly transferring millions of dollars to the wrong bank account would have.  Oh yes, this had just happened.  All data was deleted from my device, including the ‘Grand Tour stage’ I had just ridden.

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How did I deal with it?  Firstly I told Social Media, searching for sympathy, then I thought about it a bit and wrote this blog.  The common theme from the online community….”If it’s not on Strava the session didn’t exist.”  And to be honest, I have said this plenty of times before, never expecting that one day it would be me pleading for sympathy and some miraculous solution.  So perhaps next time I won’t be so hasty with my taunts of others who suffer this same fate.

There are some distinct stages that one passes through when this sort of thing happens, so I thought I would highlight them, and give a few of tips on how to deal with it.  Actually it’s worth reading on as there is quite useful stuff you can take away from this.

Stage 1:  Shock & Denial

You will most likely react to loss of your data with numbed disbelief. You are likely to firstly deny the reality of the loss in order to avoid the pain. This may last for a few hours, and for some of you maybe days.  But seriously, you have to move through this stage rapidly to ease the trauma to your family members and training partners.  It’s highly likely that they won’t really care about it, and most certainly are going to make fun of you for it, so ready yourself for the reality of this.

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt

As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain.  This is a deep visceral pain, it is a culmination of the stress and strain from the previous hours and hours of exercise concentrated into a very small nugget which passes through every aching, fatigued muscle fibre.  Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with coffee, pies and Cronuts.  Just hope this pain passes quickly.  You will have guilty feelings or remorse over Strava segments you would have knocked off, Peak Power Top 10’s you would have reached and average speeds you would have maintained.  There is no way of proving this, it’s just your word, and how convincing you can be of it to those who care enough to listen.  This is a chaotic and scary phase.

Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining

Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the loss on someone else.  Perhaps you feel a loved one or training partner played an evil trick on you and tampered with your device, deleting the file on purpose. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. Don’t throw things at a wall or tap erratically at your cycle computer’s buttons.  This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion, but keep it to a level where you know that damaging expensive cycle componentry or equipment isn’t going to occur.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with Online Support Forums, Help Desks and Facebook groups but you are highly likely to come across the dreaded words “Sorry, User Error, your data is gone.”

 

Stage 4: Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

A long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you as you enter this stage. No doubt you will think you are the only person having gone through a traumatic incident such as this.  During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may resort to telling Social Media about your issues (I did), looking for support from your online friends.  You may start reflecting on things you experienced during the session such as quad destroying climbs and vicious cross-winds.  You will probably call some of the crew you were training with in that session, seeking support and affirmation of your great achievement.  You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair, and may start embellishing a bit on what you did through your session, add a few more km to the distance you think you rode, a few more hundred meters of elevation gained, the Strava segments you were certain you would have crowned, and the fact that you didn’t even need a can of Coca-Cola to get you home.

Stage 5: The Upward Turn

As you start to adjust to life without your data, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.  This is the stage you ring your Coach and come clean with what has just happened.

Stage 6: Reconstruction & Working Through

As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to the problem. You will figure out ways to avoid this happening again, maybe even consider buying a second device for future sessions, and have it running simultaneously to avoid a similar incident occurring…drastic, but I know people who do it

The most important thing is to work with your Coach here.  Just because your data is lost you still have to update your training log to keep an accurate track of your acute and chronic training load.  For those of you using training software such as Training Peaks you can perform a manual entry, by which you need to estimate the stress the session inflicted.  Software like Training Peaks uses a Training Stress Score value, so calculate what you think the workout did to you.

Hopefully you were aware of the approximate distance, duration, average Heart Rate and average power.  From here you can get a fairly accurate assessment of the session TSS.

Have a look at this graph I have taken from Joe Friel’s blog to estimate the TSS score for the session from which you lost the data.

TSS calculator

I will use the ride I did as an example.  I remember briefly seeing the average speed and average power for the ride just as I rolled down my driveway, and I estimated it to be mid Zone2, which according to the table above is 4/10 effort, which seemed about right.  TSS for this would be 50-60/hour, so over nearly 8 hours it would be 480TSS.  There were a few steep climbs in this ride, so I added a few more points for good measure, and I didn’t want to underestimate the score and risk over-training in the subsequent sessions, so I called it 500TSS.  I entered this value into my Training Peaks Calendar to keep my weekly totals accurate.

Trust me, from a Coaches perspective, this is a really really important thing to do.  Missing out on a significant amount of TSS in a well maintained Performance Management Chart will have implications for the reliability of that graph in the near future.

Stage 7: Acceptance & Hope

During this, the last of the seven stages, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation.  You will always have that knowledge in your mind that you lost that data, but the wrenching pain will be gone.  For the Stravaphiles in the community, you will start to look forward and actually plan to avoid these things in the future.  You will always be double checking you have sufficient battery, your devices are calibrated, and auto-pause is enabled.

You may recall that a few years ago you wouldn’t have cared less if you didn’t get any data from that session.  In fact it has only been the last 15 years that I have really taken notice of things like Heart Rate and distance.  Until then it was all about the perceived effort and duration.  But time has changed, and with the availability of sports technology which is more powerful than the technology used to fly aircraft a generation ago, we tend to take it for granted.  In fact it isn’t a bad thing to just go for a swim, bike or run without any device, just your head, your heart and your lungs…..try it once or twice, you will enjoy it, just remember to manually enter the TSS for that session, that info is still important.

You will realise that in the end the ultimate way to deal with this loss is to just go out and do that session again, and that wrenching pain of the 200km you rode will soon come right back.  Go on, grab some mates and show them how you nailed those segments, drilled the headwinds and railed the descents…..it’s just training after all.

At Foot Traffic Coaching we are self-confessed Data Junkies and Stravaphiles.  We love helping athletes who are all about the numbers and want to get the most of their time training to achieve those dream goals.  Pay us a visit to see how we can help you.