Hey everyone, here are a few thoughts for those of you doing Ironman Canada, Vineman, Boulder, and IMMT athletes
The biggest challenge for many triathletes is dialing in that darn half marathon run. If your half marathon run time in a triathlon is slower than your regular half marathon time (10% or more), then I would recommend working on learning to run under load, the essence of triathlon running.
The audio(8:23) below explains a workout that can really help sharpen your half ironman running. Commit to 3-4 weeks of this before your next half ironman and you’ll definitely notice the difference.
10 – New Half Ironman Personal Bests
2 – Course Personal Bests
2 – 70.3 World Championship Spots
1 – Age Group Victory
All these athletes followed the same approach: FC Method. Listen for a brief overview(7:40)
Ironman athletes log hundreds of hours training and preparing for a great performance. Every Ironman athlete knows the race is about being able to cover the distance as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every Ironman also knows that there is a point in the race where everything becomes very challenging.
If your goal is to do more than just cross the finish line, a few key shifts need to happen. You may already be doing these things, but if not, these will help you get the most out of your Ironman performance.
Each year I help dozens of athletes race faster and stronger at the Ironman and Half Ironman distance. Almost every single athlete I coach has “time available” as a key limiter; time to train as well as time to recover.
My approach (The Team FC Method) is different, yet very effective. The major focus of the Team FC Method is to help an athlete develop sport specific strength and speed before focusing on endurance. Big gear work, power intervals on the bike, short fast runs, hill repeats, paddle work divided into very short intervals, and some total body strength mixed in. My goal is to make an athlete resilient, durable and well balanced before we start heading out on 4 and 5 hour rides and long 2- 2.5 hour runs.
There are five phases that all my athletes go through. The Foundation, Pre-Competitive, Build, Race Prep, and Rejuvenation. How long I spend focusing on each phase depends on an athlete’s goals, history and time until race day. My Kona bound athletes or athletes with a history in the sport will spend up to 16 weeks in the Foundation.
More endurance is NOT the way to get faster. Endurance is important, but it’s not what slows an athlete down in an Ironman or half Ironman. Lack of leg strength, durability and resilience is what causes an athlete to fade. Focusing on strengthening the areas that contribute to your slow down will yield amazing results.
Register for the series here. Please use this link to register. We will need to limit spots.
COST: Simply make a $35 donation to Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) in order to participate in the entire series. A link will be emailed to you upon registration.
These sessions are designed to help you maximize strength on your bike as well as quick and efficient running on fatigued legs. Learning how to run well on fatigued legs is the essence of triathlon. This structured workout will improve your ability to focus and execute a great run.
If you implement this foundational workout over the next 3-6 weeks, you’ll see a difference in your ability to run well off the bike.
*Bring your bike trainer, bike and running shoes to Endurance House.
*Have your bike set up and ready to begin the warm up at 6:30 PM.
*Running will take place outside.
*Workout will last 65 minutes total.
Did you have any doubts about completing the distance?
Honestly I did not have any doubts completing this distance as far as the swim, bike, and run is concerned. However, this race has the unknown of racing over night, and not knowing how your body will respond. It is really important to keep up with your nutrition, and have a plan for dealing with fatigue. I actually thought I would finish between 32-34 hours- and that is exactly what I did.
In March 2015 we travelled to Tampa to crew for Danielle’s boyfriend David while he returned again to do the Florida Double. It was an amazing, awe-inspiring event and I knew I wanted to push my boundaries and go for it in 2016.
Have you completed any Ironman distance races?
I have done IMAZ each year since 2013, then in July 2015 I did IM Whistler.
Did you have any doubts about completing the distance?
I was confident that I would train my mind and body to complete the full 281.2, but I didn’t think I could do so before the 36 hour time limit ran out. I say that because in January I had done an UltraRun and it took me 17 hours to do a little more than a double marathon – and that was without having “warmed up” with a 4.8 mile swim and 224 bike like I would be doing during the Double.
I was really enjoying myself almost the entire time, and when I wasn’t I kept reminding myself that my mood was like the weather in Florida – wait a few minutes and it will change J.
How did you manage to stay focused during the race?
I knew that I needed to get out of my head and out of my own way if I was going to be able to do this – so my mantra was “Don’t think about this lap, don’t think about this mile, focus on this moment”.
So much of this training seemed to be about developing the ability to recover rapidly and repeatedly. The workouts were longer and there were few true rest days. There were times when I was thinking “geez, we just rode 100+ miles yesterday and now I have to go out for a long run today?!?!” but it totally makes sense … since so much of the Double would be done in a fatigued state I needed to learn how to keep moving forward even when I was feeling worn out.
How did you balance your career and training?
Timing with this race and turmoil at work was unfortunate. We were going through a lot of transition so I didn’t always have the ability to get out of work at a reasonable time in the evening. Knowing that my evening schedule was unpredictable (and I am not a night person anyway) I preferred to do my training in the morning instead of feeling the pressure during the day to get my work done so I could go get my workout done afterwards. But when the workout is 2 or 2 and half hours, and you work in construction and need to be heading to work by 7am (oh, and everybody would really appreciate it if I showered) I was typically up at 4am. I was fortunate to have some flexibility periodically, but what really ended up happening was that household stuff (grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) stopped getting done a regular basis. I was so fortunate that my husband, John, was totally on board and supportive. Often times when he left work he would head home and cook dinner so it was ready whenever I got there and I could go straight to bed after eating.
The people who do Ultra’s along with the people who support them are an incredible, inspiring, welcoming and supportive group. I think that energy is addicting. Oh – and they offer the Double as a Tag Team Relay (you don’t select a single athlete per discipline, but are free to swap in/out at any lap) – a totally fun way to dip your toe in the Double pool and see how wonderful it is J
I managed to fight and scratch my way to the Ironman World Championships the last two years while still balancing a healthy family life. Riding bikes with my kids, going to soccer games, pool days, beach days and the list goes on.
I train 7 days a week and 5 of these days (Monday through Friday) training is completed before my two daughters (ages 5 and 7) wake up for the day at about 6:45 AM.
The structure of my training isn’t volume based like so many programs out there. Sure, volume has a definite role in my Ironman training, but the focus is to build sport specific strength and a little speed. Volume is added later on in the training and not nearly as long as most would think. This is not the norm in Ironman training and people look at me like I am a little crazy when I share my approach.
This method of training is extremely effective because it allows you to focus on what slows you down most. We need endurance, but this is not what typically keeps an athlete from making it to the finish line faster, especially for an athlete with a history in the sport.
Ironman is a strength-endurance sport. The more sport specific strength you build, the faster you will make it to the finish line. Sustainable durability is the goal. Structure your training to focus on your limiters and you’ll really reap the rewards of the longer endurance training when you add it later on in your training cycle.
The cool thing is that this method of training has not only helped me (never judge the universal effectiveness of an approach based on a single individual’s success), but it now helps so many of the Ironman athletes I coach. In fact, this method of coaching resulted in 77 personal bests for the 2015 season.
If you are willing to switch up the way you look at Ironman training, you can open up a whole new realm of possibilities. Oh, and you’ll get to hang out with your friends, play with your kids, drink beer (okay, not all the time), surf, ski, and enjoy life.
Here’s a look a the foundation of the Team FC Method.
In an Ironman and half Ironman, a great run result is a pace close to your stand alone half marathon or marathon time (7 – 9%). Nobody expects to run faster than this. Unfortunately, the drop off that some athletes experience falls in the 20% range and beyond. What’s your slowdown?
Clearly, this slowdown is not merely a function of your running ability. Even the most elite runners will be compromised if they hammer their legs on the bike before lacing up their shoes.
So what’s the solution? You could take the bike nice and easy to retain some of your running potential. While this will help, your total result at the finish line will be less than desirable.
The best way to help your running is to make your legs bullet proof on the bike so they are able to take a beating. Simply riding more miles won’t help.
We do this by focusing on bike specific strength work. There are a variety of ways to do this, but here is a great strength workout. Remember, Ironman is a strength-endurance sport. It’s not just about endurance.
In 2015 Team FC athletes posted a total of 77 personal bests and most of these improvements were in the form of a better bike/run combination. Here’s a look at a staple bike strength workout.
20′ easy warm up at a variety of cadences. Mix in some harder efforts too to prime the legs.
15 min. at 60 rpm Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
15 min. at 50 rpm @ Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
10 min. at 45 rpm @ Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
5-10 minute easy cool down
Outside or on trainer. I prefer the trainer.
Intensity should be Z3/Z4. You should feel this in your legs well before your lungs. Key is to make sure you are not breathing heavy (like in an all out tt effort) during these efforts – get right to the point before breathing becomes very labored. The challenge of this ride builds as intensity wears away at you. Keep breathing under control and this will make sure the workout targets your leg strength. If you are not feeling it in your legs, then add more resistance.
Ironman racing should never feel easy. The biggest misconception I hear is the faster and stronger you become, the easier the race will be. Definitely not true.
Holding yourself together(when it counts…like in the back half of the race) while taking a beating is what separates folks on the course. Many are willing to race, but few are willing to give it to themselves on race day….but when you do, the reward is oh so sweet.
This all starts in training, both mentally and physically.
Be a mental BEAST on the course.
There comes a point where obsessing over the latest set of wheels, aero suit, helmet, or even water bottle placement can be an exercise in futility. I’m not saying it isn’t important, but it should always be secondary…..
The real issue at hand when you approach a race is your bike fitness, plain and simple(combined with run and swim fitness too). If you lack fitness on the bike, then no amount of equipment (aside from the obvious well functioning bike) will snatch you out of the depths of mediocrity. Your fitness is what you have 100% control over so take the time to build “the rider” and don’t over think your set up. After you know your bike fitness is dialed in, then I would start thinking about the remaining 1%.
Every Ironman or Half Ironman you compete in presents an opportunity to breakthrough or settle. The battle is real my friends.
There is a part of our mind that is merely concerned with survival it sends out messages telling us it’s okay to settle and play it safe. This keeps us comfortable and little risk is involved.
There is another part of the mind that wants more and challenges us to get the most out of our ourself. The problem is that we must risk failure and we often shy away from exploring these possibilities. Yes, by pushing your limits you can fail miserably…but you can also spread your wings and soar to new heights you never dreamed possible. The best part is this is now becomes your new reality.
Take risks. Prepare both your body and mind to makes these leaps. You WILL NEVER REGRET it once you BREAKTHROUGH.
Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious” – Vince Lombardi
You train, you compete and repeat the cycle week to week. Although your friends think you are superhuman (okay so you probably are since you choose to compete in triathlons), you know that there is more speed to be gained. You ask yourself, “Why is bib # 345 riding faster than me?” After the race you commit to riding more miles in hope of improved times. Unfortunately, this is not the answer. When you first started in the sport, more miles and volume definitely made you faster since your body reaped the benefit of this new stimulus. However, once this low hanging fruit is gone something else needs to be done.
I’t’s a bit of a paradigm shift but the rewards are worth it. I’d like to tell you about an athlete I coach. She was initially hesitant to reduce volume because, in her mind, she wouldn’t be ready for her target Ironman. Instead of the usual mega long rides we replaced these with focused and targeted rides that had very specific goals. Volume was reduced and targeted work replaced it. I knew these workouts were making her faster and stronger and I just needed her to race to truly “believe”. Despite her initial hesitations, she made great gains and this is what she had to say, “I improved my Ironman by 48 minutes from 5 years ago (on a tougher course), and I was able to PR an Olympic distance Triathlon 2 weeks after my Ironman by 13 minutes. I was so very happy with my training and how it improved my performance I am still looking forward to improving and setting new PR’s.”
So what did we do? We focused on the key training phases that are essential for peak performance – Strength, strength-endurance, speed, speed endurance and race specifics.
On November 1st we will begin our 5 week Off Season Bike Program which is designed to focus on teaching you about all the phases of training as well as guiding you through the strength and strength-endurance phase of your training. This program is for a very specific type of athlete. If you would like to build the foundation for a faster bike split in 2015, then check out the details of our program.
Enrollment ends on October 28th and our program begins on November 1st.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
My goal for many years was to qualify for and race at the World Championships in Kona, HI. Well, last week I finally realized that goal. My daughters were able to see me complete this race, which made it extra special to me. My goal was to appreciate every single minute of the race. I took nothing for granted. I sat up to enjoy the views, I thanked as many volunteers as I could, and I took it all in. What an experience!!! I felt so humbled to be there.
I usually share info about training and competing, but today I want to share what motivates me to push day in and day out. I think these pics capture the essence of what drives me.
Our low volume Off Season Bike Program helps dedicated triathletes start off the 2015 season with more power. Yes, I am guaranteeing you’ll be producing more power at the end of this 5-week program.
“Dedicated triathletes” – You must be willing to put in the specific work detailed in the workout plan. This might go against what so many are accustomed to in the off-season.
“More Power” – Your bike potential in a triathlon is determined by your top end power and the higher we elevate this in the off season, the more opportunity for growth as the season progresses. We want you to be fast when it matters. This strength phase sets the stage for everything else.
“Less Volume” – Contrary to the high volume approach most employ in the off season, this low volume approach maximizes power gains.
This off season bike program isn’t for everybody. Let’s start with those who should skip out.
Who it’s not for?
New triathletes with limited cycling experience
Athletes with a solid track cycling background
Those who want to be race ready year round
Those looking for a quick fix. Despite the low volume, this is not easy.
Those unwilling to complete the very specific work detailed in the training plan
Who it’s for?:
Long course triathletes who want a faster bike time and a faster run
Those willing to depart from traditional methods of training
Those who are willing to stick to the bike plan 100%
Those who want to learn more about the phases of training essential for peak performance
What you’ll get:
A 5-week bike plan designed to maximize power gains
Two in-person training sessions designed to ensure you are completing the workouts properly.
5 videos to teach you the phases of training
Our Guarantee: We guarantee you’ll improve your power at the end of the 5 weeks. If you complete all of your workouts as described, attend the two sessions and you fail to improve your 30 second and 60 second top end power, then we will refund your money. Those without of power meter will use an alternate baseline test
Why 30 second and 60 second? Most endurance athletes lack the essential power and strength to build upon. Endurance athletes don’t need more endurance; they need more POWER. Endurance comes later in the training cycle. Neglecting your top end power will limit your race speed. What keeps most long course triathletes from going faster isn’t lack of endurance; it’s lack of strength and power. Notice that we said this wasn’t for athlete with a track cycling background? These athletes already have well developed top end power.
In person sessions:
November 1st, 2014 @ 7:30 AM – Yorba Linda, CA
December 6th 2014 @ 7:30 AM – Yorba Linda, CA
Registration closes October 28th at 11 PM.
If you want to be part of our Off Season Bike Program, please fill out this form and details of the first session will be emailed to you. Please review “Who it’s for? and Who it’s not for?” to make sure this is something that you would benefit from.
One of the most critical phases of training is the speed endurance phase. This phase allows the athlete to bring all of the preceding phases together. The more attention and focus you have put into the strength, strength endurance, and speed phases of your training, then more growth potential you’ll have when you enter the speed endurance phase.
The purpose of the speed endurance phase is to teach your body to deal with elevated level of lactate. This can also be referred to as the lactate tolerance phase. The key factor during this phase is that intensity is right at or just above lactate threshold and recovery is limited. Intervals can vary in length from 5 minutes up to about 20 minutes for the bike and 3 to 15 minutes on the run. The goal is to teach your body to sustain lactate threshold intensity on limited rest. Carrying fatigue into each repeat is very important. The rest intervals are designed to give a brief respite from the work being done and then it’s back to the grind.
Sample Bike Speed Endurance Workout
20 minute warm up gradually building up to z4 with short bursts into Z5 to prime the legs for what’s in store.
3 x 12 minutes @ Z4 with 2 minute Z2 recovery spin at a high rpm
10 minute cool down.
As you progress through this phase the main set of the workout would evolve into something like this.
3 x 20 minutes @Z4 with 2 minute recoveries
These intervals are tough and the last one will usually feel much more intense despite the same Z4 intensity. These intervals are crucial for race day performance.
Race Specifics and Putting it all Together (for long course athletes)
During all of the phases I previously described, the volume is not high (will vary by person of course). If executed properly, the final phase of the training cycle will allow you to add on volume at a time when your body is best prepared to deal with the increase. Instead of building volume when the body is weak and just getting back into the routine, you’ll be doing it when the body is best prepared to handle the volume. The length of the race specific phase will depend on the history of the athlete, but most experienced Ironman athletes do well with 4-7 weeks of high volume. Less experienced might need more (mostly for the athlete’s mental sanity). Intensity comes down to a much more race specific nature. Speed endurance and short bursts of speed are thrown in to keep the athlete feeling fresh.
Tomorrow I’ll be announcing our Off Season Bike Program. This program will help dedicated triathletes enter the 2015 season with more power….AND yes I’ll guarantee you’ll improve bike power at the end of the 5 week program.
If you spend 5-10 weeks developing your strength and strength endurance, but never transition any of this to race day fitness, then you most assuredly will leave lots of speed on the table. Speed is an optional but highly recommended phase you go through before entering the speed endurance phase. How much time you spend developing speed before transitioning into speed endurance will depend on your background as an athlete. Those who come to me with years of Ironman racing experience can benefit greatly from a focused block of speed training.
Let’s talk a little about speed. The speed we are after is speed in relation to the endurance athlete. Distances can vary from 200 meters up to 1200 meters for running and 1 to 7 minutes for cycling. The intensity is max repeatable effort with lots of rest. Rushing the rest interval can limit how fast you run each repeat. These repeats are run at Z6 and even beyond. These workouts focus on allowing your body to run and ride as fast as you can. The goal of these session is to raise your upper limit of speed. Most athletes benefit greatly from 4-5 weeks of speed. Extending too much beyond this and your risk for injury goes up.
Run Speed Workout
20 minute warm up
8 x 400 with 1:2 work to rest ratio. If it takes you 1:20 to run your 400, then you are resting for 2:40. Rest can be easy walking with a few drills mixed in.
Easy 10 minute cool down
Factors to Consider
If you are nursing any sort of injury, speed workouts are not recommended. Get healthy first.
If form is compromised, then shorten the interval so you can complete it with good form and mechanics.
Speed workouts should be completed at a time when total training volume is not increasing.
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Strength endurance is very similar to the strength phase. The emphasis is still on maximal force to the pedals, but now we bring the cadence closer to a more natural range. This allows us to bridge the gap between very low cadence and fast cadence riding. The key for the bike intervals is that we are still feeling it in the legs more than in the lungs. If you your legs are doing fine, but you’re breathing is labored, then pick a tougher gear and consider dropping the cadence a bit. The cadence range should be 65 – 80. Depending on your natural strengths, you will need to adjust so that you are achieving the goal of the session.
Sample Bike Strength Endurance Workout
15 minute warm up going through a range of intensities and cadences.
4 x 7 minutes @ 65 – 80 RPM @ Z3/Z4 power. Recover 5 minutes with easy spinning.
10 minute cool down
As far as the run goes, you can extend the hill a bit (up to 8 minutes) but keep in mind you should be able to run up it and not shuffle. Intensity remains about the same as the strength phase, but recovery can decrease a bit. Work to rest ratio can be closer to 1:1.
Sample Run Strength Endurance Workout
20 minute warm up consisting of a drills and a steady build up. Finish with strides.
5 x 6 minutes on a 5-7% hill @ Z3/Z4 intensity with 5-6 minute recovery as an easy jog.
Cool down with 5-10 minute easy jog
Here’s a look at the Speed Phase
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The strength phase of the build up is the most frequently skipped phase. Most likely due to a lack of “race specific feel”. However, this phase is the foundation for all future phases. The more time you spend in this phase, the better your race day fitness can be.
So, what is strength? The strength I am referring to is sport specific strength. Strength in the form of functional strength and other gym based strength can be beneficial and should be incorporated, but the purpose of this overview is to focus on bike and run strength.
The goal of the strength phase is to condition muscles, ligaments and tendons to deliver as much force to the pedals/ground as possible. The more strength developed, the more the speed (incorporated later in the season) can sink is teeth into. It’s important to note that strength is not concerned with speed of movement.
Bike – On the bike your goal is to deliver as much torque to the pedals as possible with the least amount of aerobic strain – that is, these should not make you feel like your lungs are about to explode. These intervals are best done on a trainer or a hill. Cadence target should be in the 45-55 range with power in the Z4 range. Focus on even power throughout the pedal stroke while keeping your upper body still. Recovery between intervals is key and should be no less than a 1:1 work to rest ratio.
Sample Strength Bike Session:
15 minute warm up going through a range of intensities and cadences.
4 x 5 minutes @ 50 RPM @ Z3/Z4 power. Recover 5 minutes with easy spinning.
10 minute cool down
Run – The key for an effective strength session on the run is to choose a hill that you can run and not just shuffle up. Your focus is to run up the hill with good mechanics and focusing on hip extension. Learn to fire the gluteal muscles. Intensity is about Z3/Z4 heart rate. Duration can range from 1 minute to 5 minutes. Rest to work interval should be 1:1. Or 1.5:1. If you start to break down, then this is where you should stop.
Sample Strength Run Workout:
20 minute warm up consisting of a drills and a steady build up. Finish with strides.
5 x 3 minutes on a 5-7% hill @ Z3/Z4 intensity with 3 minute recovery as an easy jog.
5 minutes easy jog
Length of Phase
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Here’s a look at the next phase – strength-endurance
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of volume will not make you faster, especially if you have been in the sport for awhile. Endurance is part of the equation, but it’s definitely not the A well-developed triathlete must develop endurance, speed, strength and power. Neglecting any one of these areas will limit your potential as a triathlete. How we train athlete at Team FC – Fitness Coaching…in a nutshell The first phase of our training focuses on developing some strength and speed. Simply going longer will not make you faster. This is so difficult for many to accept because it is such a shift in thinking. Remember, going long helps you to resist fatigue and breakdown, but early in the season there is no need to develop your fatigue resistance. Most triathletes come to the sport with limited training exposure to fast and quick training movements. Although the chance of injury does increase slightly with more powerful and faster stuff, a well-structured program will allow you to build in some strength and speed without jeopardizing your health. The key is to do so without trying to maximize your endurance. Remember we don’t need the endurance early in the season. As the season progresses, our goal is to help build lactate tolerance (speed endurance). This is where we try and extend our early season speed we developed. Rest intervals get shorter and intervals get longer. As we approach race day, the endurance factor takes more of a priority because now we need to focus on what will prepare us for the demands of the race. You’ll see the number and intensity of the intervals shift to longer sustained efforts at an intensity that more closely matches your race day goal. The length of our program determines the time we spend in each phase. For athletes who are with me on a year round basis, we have the ability to focus on addressing the strength and speed component in much more depth. These phases can be repeated within the same season to allow for multiple peaks. So remember, your body must know how to efficiently move with power, strength and speed before we can add endurance to the mix. Focusing exclusively on endurance will definitely get you to to the finish line, but you will sell yourself short of your full potential. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing more about each of these phases. You’ll learn a few key bike workouts for each phase. My goal is to help you better understand how to structure your training. I’ll be sending this information in our training tips newsletter so be sure and hop on the list if you haven’t signed up yet. If you know anyone who can benefit from this, please share.
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Most people are well aware of the benefits of riding a trainer in the off season. The key for the best results is to make sure your rides are targeted. Check out this audio for 3 tips.
If you are guilty of just riding or only doing high intensity bike rides, then you’ll definitely want to give this workout a try. The purpose of this workout is to develop on this bike strength. The intensity is not so much a cardio pump, but you should feel it more in your leg muscles. This is perfect for the beginning of you r season and as you build into the first race, you can modify this strength session to work its way closer to a race specific focus by increasing the cadence a bit. Give this workout a try and let me know how your legs feel….the next day.
W/U 10-20 easy spin @ 85 – 95rpm @ Z-2 effort with some efforts in Z3 and Z4. The purpose of the warm up is to prime your body for what’s ahead.
5 x 5 min @ 50-60RPM @ low Z-3
with 3-5min recovery spin between sets at a high cadence – 90 RPM +.
W/D with left over time @ 90RPM+ in Z-2
Remember, you should feel it in the leg muscles more than anything else.
So the only reason why even I got involved in triathlons (in 2012) was to complete an Ironman. So I was extremely excited to finally get a chance to put myself to the test. A month prior to the race, I did Soma 70.3 as a trial run to preview portions of the IMAZ course and to pace myself similar to what I would do at IMAZ. Unfortunately, going into the 2nd mile of the run, I rolled my ankle and should have DNF to avoid any further injury. Instead I went against good judgment and ran the last 12 miles of the race. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake. But I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed.
One week before IMAZ, I was out for my last open water swim and got stung (on the heel) by a sting ray on the same foot as my bad ankle. I thought , “Man, the triathlon gods are really trying to put me to the test”. Too turn into a positive thing, I thought that maybe, just maybe, the sting ray was a good thing. Just like Peter Parker getting bitten by the spider and turning into Spiderman. I believed that I’d swim faster now that I got stung, just call me Stingrayman. Corny right, but hey I’ll take anything to make my ass swim a little faster.
To say the least, I had some concerns about how my ankle and heel would feed during the race. If you are wondering if I saw a doctor at any point during these injuries, the answer is no. I wasn’t trying to be tough guy and show how that I could suffer through just about anything. In fact since getting into the world of triathlon, I’ve gotten to know my body pretty well, and know when it’s time to really shut things down versus just dealing with some pain. So in reality, the main reasons for not seeking medical help is because I really didn’t want to hear any bad news or be instructed not to do the race. I trained way too damn hard to not fulfil my goal of completing an Ironman, so I would basically have to ignore any discomfort and take care of things after the race. Worse comes to worse, they can chop the foot off after the race, because I would become an Ironman one way or another. That’s how much I wanted it.
Fast forward to the Saturday before IMAZ, Joby and Jillian did a course review, gave us final instructions, race tips, whether to pee or not to pee on the bike, and other fun stuff. The main things that came out of it….enjoy the moment, don’t hammer the bike, and understand that there will be voices in your head that will tell you to slow down and look to the next race.
Pre Race dinner was at Olive Garden where we ran into Michelle Seidel and her crew. We did our pre race dinner there for Soma, so it just seem fitting to go back. I felt good for Soma, so no reason to change things up. A few breadsticks, a bowl of minestrone, and chicken marsala with potatoes.
In bed by 9:30, but didn’t fall asleep till 12:30. So typical.
On race day, I arrived at Tempe Town Lake at 5:15, plenty of time to chit chat with friends and other first timers setting up their bike. There was so much excitement and nerves all around. For myself, I wasn’t nervous at all, my nerves were based on two things: Going sub 12 hours and whether I’d be able to stay with Marc Vermill on the run. One of the best things about triathlon is that even though I’ll ever come close to getting on a podium, I can always find somebody of similar or better abilities to help motivate me to keep going. Since Marc and I were similar in each of the three legs of this race, he would be dubbed as my zebra, and I, the hunter.
So I got all my stuff set up and dropped of my special needs bag, then went over to the TEAM FC tent to hang out with teammates and family to arrive. So far so good. But then I realized I spoke too soon.
As everyone headed over to transition and made their way under the arch to jump into the water, I was still waiting around to see my family. I end up finding out that they were not going to be there on time because my wife decided to go to Starbucks. Really??? It was the biggest day of my life since having kids and getting married, and she couldn’t wait till after the swim start to get a cup of coffee??? After a brief argument on the phone over what time they were supposed to arrive, I hung up the phone pissed off and disappointed. And now it’s time to jump in the water without hearing good luck from anyone in my family. This was not the mindset that I envisioned prior to the swim start.
2.4 MILE SWIM (1:43:34)
If there’s one part of this race that I was not looking forward to it was the swim start. Although I’m not a strong swimmer, I’ve had really good open water swims as the last month plus I had that sting ray sting to make me even faster, so I expected to finish the swim in 1:20 – 1:30 range. My original plan was to line up with Marc Vermil on the buoy line more than half way back. So after jumping into the murky waters of Tempe Town Lake, I swam under the bridge and out towards the buoy line. As I was busy scanning the bridge hoping to get at least get a glimpse of my family, I somehow ended up in the first 10-15 rows of swimmers at the front. HUGE MISTAKE! By the time I realized where I was, the cannon went off and away we went. I expected a lot of contact, which normally doesn’t bother me, however what I wasn’t prepared for was how churned up the water would be. Our coaches had told us about the rough waters, but I still wasn’t prepared for it. Within the first 400 yards of swimming, I was constantly taking in the nasty bacteria laden water with each breath, and it was difficult to extend and get a long strong in. I soon would have to stop and catch my breath, but that only compounded the problem as a stampede of swimmers climbed all over my back or wacked me on the back of the head and shoulders. I would start to swim again, but that just delayed the ensuing barrage of punches and just plain punishment. It was first time ever in a race where I felt really uncomfortable and on the verge of panic.
There was no easy way to get way to get to a kayak or paddleboard, so I thought “just breathe and rotate a little more on your breathing side”, not even knowing if that was the correct thing to do. After several minutes I finally regained my composure and found a little bit of room, and finally got into a rhythm. I was able to stay on the buoy line, however my right google kept leaking which caused me to stop a few times before the turn around. After a few attempts to seal the google, I gave in and just dealt with have lake water in my eyeball.
So instead of having good thoughts of long strokes and sighting frequently, instead what was going through my head was “Starbucks…really”, “I should have waited under the bridge during the start”, “I lost so much time, and I’m not even at the turnaround yet”. This mistake #2, as these thoughts distracted me from keeping track of where I was in relation to the buoy line. I finally got my mind straight when Kristie Dodge popped into my head (maybe it was because she was passing me…hell everyone on TEAM FC passed me at some point during the swim). Anyway she told me that during her first IM swim, she actually stopped for a moment to enjoy the sunrise. That was her most memorable part of the swim. Now I obviously didn’t want to stop, but that thought alone calmed me down and set my mind right. Thanks Kristie.
So I finally made it to the turn around and started to head back…..I’m half way there baby! Soon after that thought, my right calf started to twinge, the notorious sign of a cramp about to set in. “Oh no, don’t do it, don’t do it, please don’t……aaaahhhh cramp….cramp!” WTF!!!! I’ve never had a cramp in any of my swims so naturally didn’t have a back up plan had I got one. Trying to think back to tips that Joby and Jillian gave, I didn’t recall anything relating to this. I stopped and flipped over to my back to try to massage the tight ball of muscle that caused me to pull that leg up to my chest. Cramp went away, but as soon as I started to swim again, I could feel it start to tighten up again. The only thing that seemed to help was to not extend my toes and instead do the opposite. This toe position would create a lot more drag in the water, but at this point I was starting to think I need to keep swimming or there’s a chance that I may not make the cut off time if I cramped again.
So I finally made it to the final turn and was so relieved that this nightmarish swim was over. Coming out of the water, I got the wetsuit stripped off, and ran away from that nasty lake. Within the first 50 yards of running towards transition, I unexpectedly see my family waving me down. That is exactly what I needed to get me going. I ran over to grab their hands and told them “I made it….I finished the swim!” They had stunned and confused looks on their faces as there was never a question in their mind that I would not finish the swim. What they didn’t realize was that I had experienced the most hellish swim of my short triathlon career. 10 yards further and I see my buddy Tom, the Ladera Ranch Dentist, cheering me on. A little further down I see Michelle and Amanda from OCTRI screaming out my name and waving. I was really feeling good!
I grabbed my bike bag and sat down in a chair outside the men’s changing tent, I then hear Karen Gale’s (OCTRI) voice behind me, “oh you decided to come change in the womens area??” There’s a women’s changing area? OH well. I was so anxious to get to my bike, that I didn’t care if that I was lubing up my crotch. During the process I saw Michele and Amanda yelling my name as they were talking pictures or video. This will make a great pic for OCTRI! “Mike Alzona buttering his crotch”
112 Mile Bike (5:44:27)
If there was one thing that I promised myself to do, it was to “enjoy the moment.” Last year, I remember standing there on the other side of the fence thinking that I better show my appreciation to all these strangers cheering you on. And that’s exactly what I did. As I was pedaling through the chute lined with people on either side, I was giving high fives, “Wooo Hooing”, and just soaking it all in. It was the most incredible atmosphere to be in.
So my plan was to negative split each of the 3 bike loops, and not to surge or burn matches. Given that I was in the bottom 20% of the field coming out of the water, I knew that there was going to be a lot of passing on the bike without pushing the pace. I was having such a good time on that first loop as I able to say hi to a bunch of my teammates and a few ladies from TriLaVie. In fact within the first 2 miles I came up right behind Marc Vermill. I was so excited to see my first teammate, Marc, that I nearly smacked him on the ass when I was passing. But then I thought twice and preferred not to wreck because I was trying to be playfull. I’ll have to add “bike ass smacking to my training” so I feel more comfortable doing it next time. Next I would see Erika Vermil, Kristie Dodge, Laura Booher, and later Willie Sanchez.
So it normally takes me about 30 min for my heart rate to come down to the correct range. On this particular day, it took me about 45 min. Although I was really excited to be out on the course for the first time ever, I knew to manage my effort and not surge. The slight climb up Bee Line Highway was not as bad as I had expected. In fact coming back down Bee Line was an absolute rush. Next to going through the crowd coming out of T-1, the downhill was my absolute favorite part of the course. At the completion of the first loop, it was the coolest thing as a group of TEAM FC was there yelling my name. I yelled back and gave them a fist pump in appreciation for their support. Freaking awesome! Go FC!!!! Loop 1 (1:56)
It was time to go to work on the 2nd loop, but still not outside of my abilities. My legs were feeling incredible and I was loving this ride. To keep myself entertained, I was singing Marvin Gaye “Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you baby.” Loop 2 (1:52)
Last loop to go, and it was time to put in my best controlled effort yet still not exceeding my abilities and remember that it was all about setting everything up for the run. On this final lap, I was so sick of eating Honey Stinger Waffles and Cliff Bars, that I decided to take a couple Cliff Shot mocha gels instead. I made one stop to use the rest room and to grab my special needs bag for another bottle of electrolytes. Winds picked up quite a bit on this last loop, but it was still manageable and did not frustrate me at all. Loop 3 (1:55).
Although I didn’t negative split the last loop, it was mainly due to the stop I made. All in all, I was pleased, as I anticipated the ride to be in the 6+ hour range. And this was my first ride real ride over 100 miles!
Final bike time 5:44:27 (1:56, 1:52, 1:55)
I was so stoked with that bike time and finally getting off it that I completely missed my family yelling for me at the bike chute entrance, apparently they were waiting for a long time. Sorry guys.
Getting off the bike, my back felt tight, and legs felt slightly heavy (but not bad). Normally this would be a quick transition, however due to my ankle injury, I had to wrap it with KT tape to give it some support. There was a volunteer that help me dump all the stuff out of the bag, put my helmet and shoes in. Before taking the bag away, he asked if everything I didn’t need was in the bag. I told him yes, and he was gone. I had to wrap the ankle, put new socks on, put the shoes on, wrap the hydration belt around my waist. Seemed like an eternity as the clock was ticking and it was taking forever to wrap the ankle. As I was about to leave, I then realized that I still had my arm warmers in my back pocket and an extra sock. Damn, where’s my bag? Too late, I would have to run with this stuff in my pocket. On to the run.
Marathon Run- 26.2miles (2 Loops) (5:08:47)
Eyeing my watch, I needed to run about a 4:15 marathon if I was to meet my goal of Sub 12 hours. Just need to run 10:00 min/mile for the first few miles, and eventually average 9:30 miles for the entire marathon. In my mind that was very doable.
The original plan was to run the first 10 miles easy around 9:45-10:00 min/mile, push up the pace by 15-20 secs per mile till mile 20, then give whatever I had left in the tank from that point forward. The run course itself is relatively flat with a few hills, nothing major. I had run most of that course during Soma, so I was pretty familiar with the terrain. So I thought a 4:15 marathon was definitely in my wheelhouse.
The only thing that felt out of sorts was my stomach. I was on track through the first 2 miles, but during the 3rd mile my stomach really started going crazy. I had MAJOR GI problems, gas/bloating and I had no desire what so ever to take in the gel/water mixture in my hydration belt. So I played a game of “crop dusting”, always checking to see who was behind me then squeezing one out ever so carefully as I was really trying to avoid shitting myself. Women always got my respect, so I made sure that they were outside of ear shot distance and safely out of the FART ZONE. Hey, I still got be gentleman during an Ironman. Somewhere on the run course I remember seeing a sign that said “Never trust a fart during an Ironman”, this was stuck in mind throughout most of the run.
I eased up a bit after the 4th mile, hoping these GI problems would go away, but it never did, it got worse. As the miles ticked off I began to worry about not taking in any calories
After hitting a porta potty twice between mile 5-11, I started to panic about completely bonking, so I forced myself to eat a section of banana and an orange slice at a couple aid stations. I still had no appetite for the gel. Surprisingly my stomach started to settle…a little. Going into the second loop, I got to the TEAM FC tent and ditched my arm warmers and extra sock that had been soaking up all the water that I was dumping over my head and back. OK, less bulkiness now, it’s time kick it in gear. Although my mind wanted to go and my legs felt decent, my body just said “you’re kidding right”. Even though I felt like I was running a 9:15-9:30 mile, looking down at my watch I was still in the 10:xx – 11:xx range. By mile 15 I realized that my goal of going sub 12 hours was not going to happen, and my desire to push just went
You always hear the cliché that you learn a lot about yourself during a marathon (and especially during an Ironman marathon). It’s absolutely true. When I realized that my goal would not be achieve, I was extremely angry and depressed because I was about to fail at achieving my goal of 11:XX:XX. Moreover, I was really embarrassed because I felt like I let down my coaches, my teammates, my family and all the friends that came to cheer me on. All those people came out to support me and I couldn’t perform. I didn’t deserve to wear this TEAM FC kit because I couldn’t deliver. At this point if I came in at 12 hours, 15 minutes or 12 hours, 59 minutes, it was all the same, it was now just a matter of finishing, which was never in question. I lost that competiveness and drive to keep things going, but at that point it didn’t matter. I just wanted to be invisible. I was so focused on time, all else didn’t seem to matter.
So for the next 45 minutes, I didn’t say a word to anyone around me, I barely
uttered the words thank you to the volunteers, all I did was eat everything available at the aid stations. Oranges , bananas, grapes, pretzels, cookies, chicken broth, cola. I probably gained weight in those 4 miles of eating at the Ironman marathon buffet line. It didn’t matter if I stopped at a porta potty because time just didn’t matter
During those 45 minutes, I questioned what went wrong and why. Did I not train hard enough? Was it the horrible swim? Was my nutrition on the bike completely off? Was it the gel that I took when I got sick of eating Honey Stinger waffles and Cliff Bars? I stewed in all the possible reasons that lead to the position that I was in. During a marathon, there are plenty of things to think about when you are all alone and ignoring every person out there.
Then around mile 18 or 19 I had brief chat with a woman that would completely change my attitude, Bill Davis’ wife Melinda Davis who was in the 55-59 division. I had just met Bill and Melinda the day before the race, and I had seen Melinda earlier in the day on the bike. On the bike course, I didn’t recognize her from behind , I simply said “Looking Good Tri La Vie” as I passed , and she yelled back “Go FC!……I’m Bill’s wife!!!”. I gave her the thumbs up and rode away I went.
Melinda was only on mile 5 or 6 miles into the marathon. She was the first person that I actually talked to since my mental meltdown. She was doing her speed walking thing, so I slowed down to see how she was doing. She was in good spirits and knew exactly the pace that she had to maintain to finish before 12AM. I told her that I did hear her scream out “I’m Bill’s wife” on the bike and that she was looking great on the run. I could tell that she was a little nervous of making that 17 hour cut off. After telling her “she’ll have a great finish”, I was on my way. She doesn’t realize it, but she became my inspiration as she still had at least 5-6 more hours on the course.
After thinking about her and the many others that would finish in the 16-17 hour range, my own shitty attitude had completely changed. Joby and Jillian had warned us about that negative voices that would enter our heads during the last 5-6 miles of the marathon……”Just slow down a little bit……You’ll do better in the next race…..it’s ok to stop trying…..just walk for a little while”. It was a different story for me. Instead, the thought of Melinda Davis had triggered positive ones.
I thought to myself, “Don’t ruin the race because of these fucking time goals. You’ve trained way to hard and sacrificed way too much family time not to enjoy this race. Enjoy the moment, JUST ENJOY THE MOMENT!”. From that point on, that’s exactly what I did. I picked up the pace and just ran with a much better mindset. I had this new goal and new appreciation for those that were still running in it. Thank you Melinda Davis! You reminded me to enjoy this first IM, there will be IM later in life that I can ruin, just not this one, not today.
Throughout this entire run, my ankle and sting ray sting did not cause me much issue accept for a little discomfort and aching. However at around mile 20, my ankle basically gave me the middle finger as if to say “You’ve ignored me all up until now, and now it’s time to pay!” With every step that I took with my left foot, there was a constant reminder that I should not have kept running those other 12 miles at Soma. From that point on, the only thing that I could think about is how much farther do I need to go before I can sit down?!? It’s ironic that the Soma 70.3 actually trained me for this particular moment. I told myself that I ran on 12 miles on this bad ankle, I can certainly run 6 more.
I finally arrive at finishers chute, and for the last 100 yards of wall to wall people, all the pain in my ankle, all the GI distress, and the failed Sub 12 hour goal, was all forgotten. Within the first 20 yards of the chute, my family is there yelling my name with huge smiles on their faces. It’s an image that I will never ever forget. I’ve never seen them so happy to see me. I run over to give them a hug and I was just speechless and almost brought to tears. I jogged down the chute fist pumping, high fiveing, and “woo hooing” the entire way up to that finish line. The culmination of the countless hours training all comes down to this moment. This was the moment that I had patiently waited for and now it was all about to happen. Nobody was within 15 yards of me, so I was all by myself as I was about to crossed the finish line. I then hear Mike Riley, “Mike Alzona, engineer from Rancho Santa Margarita, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Crossing that the finish line was the best feeling in the world, I may not have finished in the time that I was hoping for, but this experience was just absolutely amazing!
FINISH TIME: 12:53:55
Thank you Joby and Jillian, your inspiration, wisdom, and leadership enabled me to achieve this monumental goal, I can’t even begin to describe the amount of appreciation and admiration I have for you both. Thank you Team FC teammates for your support and camaraderie throughout this journey, you guys are awesome. Thanks to my family for your support and allowing me the time to train, I owe you guys big time. To all my friends that came out to cheer me on, you are the best! This entire experience was incredible!
What would I do different?
Swim: Although the plan was to start on the buoy line. I really should have position myself behind the first half of swimmers or even 2/3s of the way back. I didn’t really prepare myself for that churned up water and how to properly breathe in that type of condition. Looks like I’ll I need to incorporate some mob swimming and be really focus on the swim in the off season.
T1: Aside from getting ready in the so called women’s outdoor area, Nothing out of the ordinary happened.
Bike: Although I felt comfortable with the effort that I put in, a power meter would have been extremely beneficial to keep any surges in check and to monitor efforts. I paced myself based more on perceived effort than strict heart rate guidelines. Getting off the bike my legs didn’t feel fresh, but not heavy either. I could have dialed it back some, but in hindsight it really would not have mattered given the GI problems I had. Not sure if taking in so much of the lake water had any effect on my digestive system.
T2: Wrapping my ankle added 6-7 additional minutes to my final time. Also, I should not have let my bag get taken away so soon, as I still had my arm warmers and sock that I had to take with me on the run.
Run: The GI problems that I was having really hindered my ability to run at a decent pace. The lack of calories going into my body during the first 12-13 miles was a major mistake that caused me to slow down. Then ankle injury and mental melt down on the second loop was ultimately the major killer of the race. I know I didn’t give the effort that the race deserved, and I now regret not fighting till the end. I wanted to feel like I gave everything that I had in the tank, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
I never realized the type of a mental battle that I would go through, and it wasn’t at the end of the race like I had antipated. Lesson learned for the next IM in 2015.
November 17, 2013 I completed my first IronMan. There’s a ton of training and preparation for an IronMan but I won’t take you all the way back to when my brother talked me into this crazy endeavor. I’m going to start my race report on the Wednesday evening before the event. My brother drove from Paso Robles Wednesday evening to stay with us, ride with us the next morning and then drive to Tempe. We had an early dinner and then we got settled into last minute preparations. My preparation included practicing taking my rear wheel off and putting it back on and repairing flats. It was quite humorous because my husband, David, and my brother, Tom, kept giving me advice on how to peel the tire off, place the tube, etc. That said, I gained some peace of mind having put the practice in.
I always get anxious about logistics so Friday morning we went down to the event site and checked in. We then met up with several Team FC, OC Tri and Tri La Vie folks for a ride up and back Beeline. David and I had ridden Beeline while we were here in October so everything felt pretty familiar. At this point, I was still feeling relatively calm but it was now time to start preparing my bags for race day. When I packed at home, I had sorted my stuff according to the different bags and I simply double-checked my list, made a few last-minute changes and got everything ready for the drop-off on Saturday. We attended the athlete’s meeting Friday afternoon – nothing too shocking was said and we relaxed with family the rest of the afternoon.
Saturday was drop-off for the bike and gear bags. I didn’t do the IM practice swim in Tempe Town Lake because I had done the Soma ½ IM in October and felt comfortable with the venue and I had also become sick after that race. Believing my stomach bug was related to the vast quantities of water I swallowed during Soma, I decided to not take the chance and took a plunge in my hotel’s clean, heated pool instead. By now, my nerves were starting to kick in, I was beginning to get anxious and had lots of nervous energy. I was having first-timer nerves and was afraid my rear tire had a leak so I went to the mechanic who pretty much told me that my tire was fine and yes – I was having first timer nerves. While the line for bike drop-off was long, it took much less time than waiting for the mechanic to tell me my bike was fine.
We had a Team FC briefing where Jillian and Joby provided advice and answered questions. Kristie Dodge, another IMAZ FC squad member started a tradition with Soma – dinner at the Olive Garden pre-race. I was able to get to bed around 9:00 pm and slept pretty soundly until about 3:45. I got up, had my coffee and yogurt and walked down to the race area. Dropping off the special needs bags and completing the final bike preparation was easy and not nerve-wracking. I was as calm as was possible before the swim.
The Swim (1:15):
I’m a solid swimmer but I was dreading this swim. It was the only part of the race that I was truly nervous about. I had several dreams about the swim in the weeks and days leading to the race. I initially thought that I might try to start on the outside where the crowds were less and work my way towards the buoy line during the swim hoping to find clear water. I really dislike swimming in crowds, I find it claustrophobic. However, in talking with Joby and other swimmers who had done IMAZ, it was recommended that I start towards the front and right in line with the buoys. Exactly where I saw the densest crowds last year when I watched the swim start. As far as the crowds and melee during the swim start, the swim was about what I expected – lots of people, arms, legs flailing everywhere. It was hard to settle into a regular stroke and breathing pattern. I got grabbed a lot. Someone even grabbed my foot and pushed me forward one time. I also got kicked in the left eye/goggle. I wear my goggles under my cap to prevent leaking and to help keep the goggles in place for melees like this and it worked. Despite a direct kick, my goggle stayed in place with no leaking.
What I didn’t expect on the swim were the cramps. I have never cramped swimming so I was shocked when my left calf became a painful knot of immobile muscle. I flipped over on my back and tried to loosen it by flexing but that didn’t help much. I rolled back over and started to swim without any kicking. I had read a Q&A – probably in Triathlete magazine – where a triathlete asked the magazine how to prevent the calf cramps he/she often experienced and the answer had to do with relaxing the ankles and letting them “flutter” rather than forcefully pointing the toes during the kick. I focused on keeping the left calf relaxed and I repeated a mantra “loosey goosey” to myself. The calf relaxed enough to start kicking again. Then about two-thirds of the way it cramped again and my right calf decided to join the party. I once again swam without kicking for a few moments before loosening up enough to kick again. On the up side, this is about when I realized that the muscle in my shoulder that had been bothering me for the last month was perfectly fine. I believe the cramps may have been the result of the tension I had in my body from being grabbed and bumped into by so many other swimmers. Swimming is usually very relaxing for me – I’ve compared it to being my yoga/zen – I think the tension/stress created by the crowds led to the muscle tension that eventually became cramps.
I do a lot of self-talk during the more challenging parts of an event and , despite swimming being a strength, it is my least favorite part of triathlon. I found myself repeating several phrases to myself – “loosey goosey, “ “it’s all cake from here” and “easy peasey lemon squezey (thanks for that Joby!)” and “swim is my zen” all passed through my mind at times.
Considering the cramps and the crowds that I never really got clear of, my swim time was exactly what I had expected and I was very happy with the result.
The Bike (6:09):
After having my wetsuit stripped and running into transition, I grabbed my bag and sat on one of the chairs outside the woman’s changing tent. I made the flash decision to stay in my tri-shorts for the ride rather than changing into cycling shorts. I sprayed myself with sunblock, pulled my jersey on (I wanted pockets) grabbed my bike off the rack and ran out of transition. The mount line was not clearly marked or maybe I missed it. I eventually hopped on my bike and rode out of the chute onto the bike course.
I think the bike is the most important part of an IM to have a well thought through plan. I like to ride – it’s my favorite part of a triathlon but an event like this means I have to go easier than I like. Joby sent me my race plan and when I saw the power targets I felt that they were lower than I was capable of, even in the context of an IM. We agreed that I could target the higher end of the range if I felt like it wasn’t stretching me too much. This is kind of funny because the targets he set for Soma seemed challenging/hard and I expressed my concern about this but, in the end, I had no trouble hitting the targets and had a great ride at Soma. So, what I’m saying is “trust the coach and the plan”.
I focused really hard on keeping the first lap “easy” – lots of people passed me in that first lap. David has trouble understanding how I can refrain from trying to keep up with people when they go past. I do this by focusing on the watts and doing my best to keep my watts in the range that I’ve set for myself. I believe having a power meter is a critical tool for properly training and competing in a cycling event. Even with the first lap being “easy” I was at the high end of the power range that Joby and I discussed.
On my way back into town on the first lap I was desperately trying to spot my brother among the riders on the other side. He’s not a strong swimmer and he was very nervous about the swim. I never saw my brother on that first lap which concerned me. I did see a lot of my teammates and friends out on the course and I cheered them on as I spotted them.
During the team meeting on Saturday, Jillian talked about how the different laps of the bike should feel. I set about targeting a similar watt figure for my second lap giving myself the freedom to bump it up by a watt or two if I felt comfortable, which I did. This lap was windier than the first lap but I still felt pretty good. Furthermore, my brother spotted me on the second lap and hollered at me. I had peace of mind that my brother made it out of the water and was well on his way to becoming an IronMan which made me VERY happy.
By the end of the second lap, I really had to go pee but I just couldn’t make myself go on the bike (I tried, I really did!). So, early in the third lap I stopped for a bio-break. I felt like a new woman! I hadn’t felt this good since I got on the bike. My third lap required focus but my watts edged up slightly so that, ultimately, each lap was slightly stronger than the previous.
With this being my first IM, I didn’t know what to expect from the crowds and how easy it would be to spot my family and team in the crowd. It was awesome to roll into town and to see everyone and hear my name being yelled out. It’s a real pick-me-up – especially the third time around.
I’ll be honest; I thought the bike ride was boring. Three loops of the same course can get to you. Needless to say, I was very happy when the ride was over. This, however, was when the doubts started to creep into my mind – had I gone too hard on the bike?
The Run (4:47):
The volunteer in transition was awesome. I ran up with my bag and she helped me with everything. She took everything out of the bag for me, packed my bike gear into the bag, helped me get my compression socks up and handed me what I needed when I needed it. I appreciated the help very much.
Like the bike, the paces that Joby and I discussed for the run sounded slow but I’m not a runner and I’ve never run a full marathon after cycling 112 miles before so I figured I would do my best to follow the plan. My first mile was supposed to be really slow and easy and no heroics in the first six miles. My first mile felt torturously slow and painful but when I looked at my watch I was faster than I should have been. Then, my legs wanted to stop moving and my feet went numb. My first 8-11 miles were torture. My legs just didn’t want to turn over and I couldn’t feel my feet for the first three miles or so. I did a marathon, my first, in June to help me mentally prepare for IMAZ. I’m very glad that I did because I used a strategy in the IMAZ marathon that I used in that marathon. I did walk intervals – I gave myself permission to not just walk through the aid stations but to do 5-minute walk intervals after every 30 minutes of running and I also gave permission to walk up every hill – even the tiny ones.
I had trouble running the 30 minute intervals during the first half of the marathon; I was struggling to complete even 15 minutes of running. I had all kinds of negative thoughts going through my head. I wanted to quit at mile 6. Yes, I really wanted to quit! I find it funny that I could still smile and cheer loudly all the while having an internal debate with myself about the value of finishing IMAZ.
After I got past mile 6 my mental outlook got better – heck I was nearly a quarter of the way done, I can do that three more times. Right? My mantras for that first lap of the run included “one and done” (I’m not attempting this again so I have to finish it today) and “I’ll walk this mother f-er”. Not the most elegant of mantras but they kept me putting one foot in front of the other.
Then, something amazing happened towards the end of the first lap – my legs started to move on their own. I was finally running and not checking my watch every minute to see how close I was to my next walk interval. I felt strong! I still walked through most of the aid stations. I was so done with my Stinger Gels I opted for cola and bananas in alternating aid stations. I think my mantra for the second half of the marathon would make an interesting marketing slogan “powered by bananas and cola.” I don’t know why some phrases stick in my head but this one was there for a while : )
I hit a wall with about three miles to go. Both of my knees were killing me. I had to slow down; I just couldn’t keep the pace I had been going with my knees hurting so badly. But, I never stopped running – there were only three miles to go, then less than two miles, then only 300 yards. With the finish line in sight, I found new energy and was able to pick up the pace for the finish.
Spectators and volunteers – family, friends, teammates and strangers:
The spectators and volunteers make all the difference in an event like this. The pick-me-up that comes with a cheering crowd all shouting your name and cheering you on is amazing. It was great on the bike to come back into town and pass through the aid stations and small groups of spectators along the bike route. I tried my best to cheer back and have fun along the way and was always rewarded with even louder cheering. The support during the run is even more critical – as an athlete you get energy from the crowd. I was always looking for my family as I passed through the areas I expected them to be and the tents with Team FC and Tri La Vie.
It was so great to have my brother out on the course with me. What a great experience for both of us to finish our first IronMan together! My mom and dad, husband and my brother’s family were all there to support us. I really appreciated having everyone there for this experience. It was wonderful to be able to share the time and experience with all of them.
I can’t thank Joby, Jillian, Caroline, Adrienne and the rest of the team for the cheering support throughout the day and on the marathon and I loved having teammates/friends out on the course to cheer along.
I know that I didn’t show the pain I was in – I had the biggest smile plastered on my face – but having you all out there kept that smile on my face and gave me something to look forward to. It really does make a big difference.
My nutrition plan is pretty simple. For breakfast I had Greek yogurt, honey and pecans all mixed together and I ate half a bagel before the swim. On my bike, I filled my bento box with chopped up bonk breaker bars, a clif bar and a snickers bar. I also had two packages of blocks and a couple of Stinger gels with me. I mixed two bottles of electrolytes (pedialyte) and had them on my bike at the start with the plan to supplement with water from the course aid stations.
I set my Garmin 910 to alert me every 15 minutes and my plan was to eat a couple of small bites and take a couple of gulps of water/electrolyte mix every 15 minutes starting about 30 minutes into the ride. I probably ended up taking in about 200 – 250 calories per hour while on the bike. I didn’t eat anything solid after I started the third loop of the ride, opting for gels instead as I prepared for the run.
I don’t like to eat while I run, I don’t have an appetite while running and feeling heavy isn’t comfortable so I planned minimal intake for the run. I carried several Stinger gels with me but I was only able to eat one early in the run. By then, I was tired of the gel and just couldn’t imagine eating another one. I eventually started accepting cola at aid stations (the first time in years I’ve had full-sugar cola) and I also started to take bananas. I alternated cola, water and bananas at the aid stations. I also carried my own mix of pedialyte in my bottle and refilled it twice.
I had no stomach upset during the event and my energy level was fairly consistent. While I did struggle with the first part of the run, I don’t think that struggle had anything to do with nutrition.
There’s not a lot I would do differently if I were to do an IronMan again in the future. I feel like the swim and bike went as well as could be expected and my nutrition seemed to work well even if I had to make several bio-breaks throughout the event. The key learning s for have to do with the mental aspects of an event like this. Staying calm and focused during the swim. Staying engaged in the bike ride. Not letting the doubts get to you on the run.
The run was the hardest. I found myself worried when I started the run – had I gone too hard on the bike? Did I make that classic mistake sabotaging the quality of my run? Candidly, I might have gone a little too hard on the bike – it really did take me a very long time to find my legs in the marathon. I never found myself doubting my training or my preparedness for the event; instead, I doubted the choice I had made on the bike. I think we will all find a reason to doubt ourselves during an event like this and we have to be prepared to overcome it. I used my mantras and knew that if I pulled out it would affect my brother’s focus as well. These things along with the volunteers, family and teammate helped me persevere to the end. I found strength in cheering on other competitors, thanking the volunteers and the karaoke aid station was great fun too.
Now that I can reflect on the challenges of the event, it was almost all mental. Having the experience of the marathon in June gave me a reference point and mental tools to tap into. For a future IronMan (if I ever decide to do another one); I will have this IMAZ experience to leverage as well. I’m incredibly happy with how the day went.
Now that you have done all the prep, it’s time to start thinking about how to attach your race – mentally.
2014 Planning Workshop
We’ll teach you how to optimize your training by looking at the following topics:
This workshop will be in a very small group format so that all participants can get the most out of the workshop. For the best results, we have a number of field tests that we’d like you to complete. This will enable us to accurately identify what you should focus on in your training.
This complimentary workshop does not require that you sign up for any sort of coaching. The information presented in these workshops is only available at the workshop. We will not provide the content for those unable to attend. We are offering three workshops throughout the Orange County area.
A legitimate change in body weight will make you faster. Wether you are carrying extra muscle mass or extra body fat, these additional pounds will slow you down on the run. This calculator will give you a good estimate how a few extra pounds can improve your time. Once again, this assumes that the weight loss is legitimate and not the result of a week long starvation diet.
I have to say that I was definitely looking forward to this race! Right on the beach and a Sprint distance so I knew the pain would be relatively short lived. Also, I would be using my new Garmin 910XT Adam got me for my birthday…Now all I have to do is remember to press START and LAP at every mat… right!
4:00am wake up call! Eeek! Made it down to park by 5:30ish. It was great as always to see so many Team FC athletes in the Transition area already. It’s so relaxing to chat with fellow teammates before the race. At about 6:45 I made my way down to the start so I could watch Adam start his race at 7:00.
Saw more Team FC’ers who came out to cheer! So awesome!
Yup! Water was cold! And rough…And choppy! This had to be one of the hardest race swims to date. Super rough heading out, I was only able to breathe to my right because every time I went left I drank about a gallon of salt water. Bleh! After the first buoy I managed to get myself of course for a while, I kept going out while everyone else turned inward to the second buoy. Ahhh… Lost some time there!
Despite my best efforts to run up the massive hill, I did walk a tiny bit. T1 is an area in my races that I really need to work on, they are always so slow.
My plan here was to just go, and go as fast as I could for as long as I could. The hills weren’t too bad and I really enjoyed the downhills…Weee! Starting the 2nd Loop a girl with 31 on right calf passed me.. No Bueno! So now my Eye of the Tiger was in full force. Kept as close to her as possible but was not able to catch her. All in all, I felt good out on the bike.
Quick transition! Trying to get under a minute though! Ran out of transition and saw a bunch of Team FC cheering me on! A great push to start the run!
My plan again, was to go as fast as I could for as long as I could. Saw the 31 I was chasing on the bike about ½ mile into the run. First I thought ok, I’ll catch her and stay close, but as soon as I did catch her all I wanted to do was go, so I did. If she wanted to get me she was gonna have to fast now! Pushed hard all through the run, even got some looks from fellow racers as I went passed them wheezing! 🙂 Got through the sand and hit the massive hill in front of me! I was so tired so I decided to look at my watch to see how much farther I had to go when I noticed I hadn’t hit LAP coming out of T2! Ugh!!
So frustrated, I just turned my watch off and kept going. Saw Jillian and Laura at the top and their cheers REALLY helped. I was exhausted and they gave me a boost when I needed it most!
Had a great time racing, loved having so many teammates on course racing and cheering! Proud of myself for holding on on the run, that was tough! Finished with a 3rd Place in my AG, not too bad!