Ironman New Zealand 2005
Heading into the race, I was as prepared as I ever have been in terms of being relaxed, having my equipment squared away, having a solid race plan, pacing plan, and mental sharpness. My run and swim fitness were at all time bests, or pretty close, and the addition of many cycling hours would hopefully further my past run results.
My ‘A’ goals were a sub 1:00 swim (my previous best was 1:02:30), a sub 5:30 bike split (my previous best was 5:31), and run sub 3:30 (my previous best was 3:41). Overall I was looking for about 10:00 race. My previous best was 10:30.
My ‘B’ goals were a solid swim and run (sub 1:00 and 3:30) and a steady bike (5:30-5:40).
My ‘C’ goal is always to finish, and always finish under 11:00.
My actual race ended up at 58:47 swim, 5:46 bike, and 4:05 run. This was my fastest swim by 4 minutes, my slowest bike by 6 minutes, and my slowest run.
So, what went wrong? Was it pacing, preparation, nutrition, unachievable goals, or just ‘not my day’?
The swim plan was to get out fast and get in a fast draft. Just like racing cars, if you can get in a fast slip stream you can really make time without using as much energy as it would take you alone. I started in the second row and still allowed myself to get swum over and bumped off the set of feet I wanted to draft off of. This happened for about 5 minutes until I just decided to stand my ground and held onto the same group in front of me for the entire swim. I ended up alone a few times and I would guess I drafted 60% of the swim, and swam solo the rest. I had the ability to pick up the pace at any point and move back to the pack if I was bumped off, and I had the ability to accelerate by people at any time. I felt very good in the water. I swam at an effort of 80% and with more effort and some faster feet I think a high 56:xx swim time would have been possible. I stood up at 58:28, crossed the mat at 58:47 and felt like it was a pretty easy swim.
The bike plan was to follow the heart rate monitor, which I hadn’t done in a race before. This was new to me, but I was willing to try it. My HR goals were to average 133 on the flat sections of the bike on loop 1, and 138 on the 2nd loop. The hills I was going to ride at 140 on the first loop and 145 on the 2nd loop. My actual averages were 132 first loop and 136 2nd loop. I could have held higher averages (and hence higher speeds) but I limited myself with poor race nutrition execution. I rode 2:46 on the 1st loop and 3:00 on the 2nd loop. I was hoping for a more consistent ride, but I made some nutritional mistakes that cost me. We’ll get to that in a minute. The bike leg itself was a good one. It has a mix of hills and some flat sections where you can really get going. The racers seem to police themselves pretty good and I didn’t see very much blatant drafting. That was very encouraging. The draft marshals were every where and kept the drafting to a minimum.
I felt good on the way out of town and to the first turn around. I let some groups go to keep my HR in check. Without the monitor more than likely I would have pushed to stay with the groups that I let pass. The big issue was how cold it was on the bike. My plan was to drink the majority of the nutrition on the way to Reparoa because it was downhill and I on the way back I wanted to focus on the climbing back to town. The start of the race was cold and the fluids became very thick. On top of this my hands were numb and I couldn’t squeeze the bottles to get the fluid out. I finally was able to get enough fluid out to mix some water in there and then I was able to drink from the bottle. BUT, I finished my first bottle at 135 k (86 miles or ¾ of the way through the race) and I also took in two bananas. The last 45k (28 miles) is where I picked up the pace and I didn’t take in many calories as I was pushing my HR up. I would estimate my total caloric intake on the bike was 2000 calories; which was far below my goal of 3600. Another issue that arose was cramping in my inner left quad. I don’t think it was fatigue or sodium, but hydration. I only started taking in water after I started cramping. Bottom line; I made poor decisions. Next time I will distribute my nutrition over 4 bottles, and take water in more consistently. I think these few bad decisions led to a cumulative effect over the course of the race.
I was able to push past quite a few cyclists in the later stages of the bike but when I hit town I was feeling pretty spent, mostly from the lack of nutrition.
The run pacing plan was 140-2 HR on the way out of town, and 145 on the hills. On the 2nd loop I was going to 145-150 HR and on the hills, I was going to 155. I went through 5k in 23:30 very easily, although the first few miles were a lot tougher than I expected and maybe it was nutrition or maybe it was mental, realizing I had a poor ride. Either way my HR was right on 142 like the plan. I took a porta-potty break at 7k, and never felt the same after that. I went through 10k in 49:52 and 21k in 1:46 with an average HR of 138 with a max of 150 on the hills. Either way I was doing great mentally until my quads started to cramp and I gave myself the excuse to walk. After the goals were out the window at 23k, I started walking the hills and gave into the cramping. This was more mental than physical, but I was exhausted in both senses. With 8k (5 miles) to go, I had 50 minutes to break 11:00 hours, my C goal. This is basically 10 minute miles or 6 minutes per k. I kept telling myself if I had any pride I would make it in under 11:00. I ran from 34k to 35k in 7:00 and decided that was it, I was going 11:00+. I kept thinking about a finishing picture with 11:01 or 11:15 on it. I didn’t care honestly. I jogged a few more steps, walked and kept this up for 2 more ks. I took a look at my watch and at about 4k to go I decided I would give it my best shot. Damn the cramping, and missing the A and B goals. I was going to break 11:00. I hit 5k to go at 10:30 and was unsure I could do it, but I pressed on. I was now passing all the people that had passed me while I was walking. My head was down, my breathing was labored and my HR was finally up. I hit the final k with 8 minutes to go and was hoping I would still make it without any cramping or unforeseen issues. I hit the home stretch of the finishing chute and passed a few more people. I hit the tape, happy it was over.
My ‘A’ goals may have been a bit high for a March Ironman race, with 8 weeks of training, but I believe in setting lofty goals. I watched the movie ‘Miracle’ the night before the race for some inspiration. One of my favorite scenes is when Herb Brooks is being interviewed by the USA Hockey Board for the head coaching job for the 1980 Olympic Team. Coach Brooks is passionate about changing the way we play hockey, and taking the game right to and beating the Russians. He is reminded and chided by some on the Board that no one has beaten the Russians in 20 years. One Board member smirks at Coach Brooks’ and says, “Herb, you want to beat the Russians? That is a pretty lofty goal.” To which Coach Brooks responds, “Yeah, that’s why I want to pursue it.”
If you don’t set the bar high, you’ll never know what you can truly achieve. Thank you to everyone for all the support – until next time –