After we decided to sell our home in the spring, and took a lot of time off from training, I came to realize that there was a more realistic time goal and I needed to reset my own expectations:
I am proud to say that I beat my realistic goal time. Actual splits were as follows:
As you’ll read below, this race was more or less perfect execution of my race strategy. Read on for more.
My training for this year’s race was a bit inconsistent. I had a very good winter, but realized that when we sold our house that I was not going to be as consistent in my training as I should have been. The first thing that took a major hit was my swimming. This was partially due to the fact that my children don’t take swim classes in summer, so my guaranteed one swim a week didn’t happen. I did get in a few open water swims though.
I made myself a promise though, the month leading up to the race I would do everything in my power to not miss a ride or run. This was one of my key takeaways from last year. I knew I could not skip a bike or run. I’m glad to say I more or less nailed that goal and I think my results spoke to that consistency the last few weeks.
I used the TrainerRoad training plan (Half Iron-Low Volume). For my first year using the plans I was extremely impressed with how I felt and I’d chalk this up to the training plan. Next year, I plan on bumping up to the mid volume series of plans. Note that TrainerRoad is $12/month. While it is no substitute for a coach, for those on a limited budget, it is hands down the best bang for your buck.
Packing, Athlete Check-in, and Ironman Village
I was much smarter this year in the week leading up to the race. I had some out of town travel on Thursday and I didn’t want to be rushing when I got back. So I started packing on Wednesday. When I got home in the wee hours of Friday morning, I knew I needed to finish packing the rest of my stuff. I went for a quick ride, cleaned the bike, and knew at least I was ready for Saturday’s bike check-in.
When Saturday rolled around, I knew I’d arrive at the Ironman Village at the same time the Make-A-Wish meet and greet would start. My friends and I were part of a group fundraiser for a local teenager. This year’s guest was World Champion Mirinda Carfrae.
The meet and greet was inspiring in that we heard not only stories from kids who benefited from the Make-A-Wish program, hearing how Make-A-Wish does what it does (granting 85 wishes in NH each year), and obviously getting some Q&A with one of the best female triathletes in the world. This was one of those experiences of a lifetime.
It was funny though, also on-site was Mirinda’s husband, Tim O’Donnell. Tim is also a world-class triathlete and we got to meet him too. Unfortunately for him, he was shoved off to the side. But he’s no slouch, he’s damn good.
Northeast Multisport had several members on the fundraising team for Make-A-Wish. Some were groups of people like I was on a team while others were raising individually. Either way, the club raised almost a quarter of the total for this event. That’s huge.
After the Make-A-Wish meet and greet, it was time to pick up my race number and swag. The process is still the same:
- Show your ID and annual USAT license, get a green card
- Sign the waiver and emergency contact
- Drop the waiver and emergency contact
- Get your number packet and athlete wrist band
- Grab your timing chip
- Get the race swag bag
- Spend money in the merchandise tent (ok so this one is technically optional…but is it?)
Unlike last year, my goal was to keep my step count quite low on this day. I wanted to get my packet, drop my bike, and get home. I succeeded in that my step count was half of last year.
After grabbing my number and swag bag, I jumped back in my car and drove to Ellacoya State Park which is the site of transition. Normally the area we use is a campground, but for the weekend it is the start finish and transition. Dropping my bike was uneventful, but it still amazes me how large this race is. I had nearly the identical spot in transition which was right next to the biggest tree in the entire place making it impossible to miss.
The swim course was moved a bit from last year. The story I heard was there was some fecal bacteria found in a test down on the state park beach so they had to move the course. This turned out to be a bit more challenging than I recall last year.
This year, the race started a half hour sooner than last year. That also meant everything on the day’s timeline was moved up. The gates to park at Ellacoya opened at 3:30 am. I live about an hour away from the course so that meant a 2:15 am wake up call, but also meant I ready to pull in at 3:30. I got a decent parking spot and spent some time just hanging in the car. Pro tip, bring something to do in the car. Some people sleep, but once I’m up, I’m up. So this year I brought my Kindle. Worked out pretty well.
After a little while, I put on a base coat of sunscreen. I wanted to attempt to get a coat on prior to body marking. Once the sunscreen dried and I made it through body marking, it was time to set up transition. This year I was planning on carrying none of my own water on the run so it made setting up transition a bit easier. While setting up, we heard that the water temperature was 74 degrees which meant it was wetsuit legal.
I also ran into a few of my friends which prompted the obligatory selfie.
At 6:15 transition closed and we began walking literally over a river and through the woods to the swim start. It was a little chilly so I decided to put my wetsuit on up to my waist while I waited the hour or so between the pro start and my wave to get the rest on and in the water. Like an idiot, I was rushing with too much in my hands and put my finger through the neoprene making a slight adjustment. Guess I’ll need to figure out where I put the wetsuit cement.
As noted, the swim course was slightly different than last year. It was still a big box, but just had us go further out into the lake. After listening to several podcasts and reading several articles, I decided to forgo any warmup. When it became time for my swim start I walked over the timing mat and started walking into what was incredibly shallow and VERY rocky water. I’ve always had tender feet so this didn’t help…especially after the long walk from transition just to the beach over lots of rocks.
By the time I got out to the buoys for the start I could barely stand up. In any event I just hung as still as I could until the air horn went off.
My entire goal for the swim was to simply not explode my race from the get go. Knowing I hadn’t done hardly any swimming for months (yea smart Dave), all I wanted to focus on was bi-lateral breathing and forcing my body to rotate and not just my neck. I’ve always had pretty solid body position and ability to swim quick on limited training.
The swim start was the typical chaos, but my time goal was much higher than last year so I was in no rush to get out front. I settled into a nice rhythm and just kept up my plan. Over the course of the swim, I saw one guy smash into a kayak (work on that sighting buddy!) Once we got to the second half buoys I looked at my watch and saw I was right at 17 minutes. Score, I was ahead of my estimated time of 40 minutes and felt quite good. Soon after, I felt a guy tapping my feet which is usually the sign someone is about to pass you. Interestingly, there was nobody to my left, right, or in front of me for 20 yards. I was a bit baffled when the guy came up right next to me and then used his elbow to clock me in the face. I have no idea why he did that given the monster amount of room he had.
Also on the swim course I saw several people zig zagging. This was a bit frustrating as I was swimming pretty darn straight which meant they were cutting me off. The water was a bit choppy, but I managed to not swallow any of the lake. I feel like I pretty much nailed my sighting. I hugged every buoy and even with the swells, I pretty much swam straight.
Once I got to swim exit, we had the same very rocky exit. I swear it took me at least a minute just to get out of the water as I was in so much pain from the rocks on the way out. This year New England is in a significant drought so I’m not sure if the rocks were always there but due to the lower water level I never noticed them before. Either way, it was a less than comfortable exit. Actual swim time: 0:35:05. This was literally 9 seconds slower than last year. I couldn’t believe it given how little swimming I did this year. I was psyched to see that time. After a quick visit to the wetsuit strippers I was into T1.
This year I had trained with a power meter. So my goal going into the bike was to try and peg my power at 72-78% FTP on average. I wanted to not spike above 100% FTP if I could help it to keep my run sane. I also had added two extra bottles onto a rear seat carrying system. Inside all four of my bottles was nothing other than Nuun tablets. Last year I had Gatorade and I think that was a poor choice. My fuel strategy was a mix of Clif Bars and Clif Bloks. Shortly after mounting my bike I felt my right rear glute sore…in fact it was the same tightness I had last year. Worried, I soft pedaled out of the transition area which also had the benefit of getting my heart rate down. After a few short minutes, the glute stretched out, the heart rate came down, and I was on my way.
Northeast Multisport, pre-rode the course just a few weeks prior so I knew the condition of the pavement, how I’d attack the course, and generally was quite familiar with what I wanted to do. I passed many people on the first major climb around mile 10. Once I rode down the other side to Rt. 106, I received my first happy surprise. I had a headwind. Let me explain though. Going out Rt. 106 is a false flat downhill. Unfortunately that also means riding back up it. The ride back often has a headwind which adds insult to injury. This at least meant that I’d be getting the benefit of a tailwind up the false flat up hill on the way back. I’d take it. On the bike course, a fellow Northeast member and the guy I pro-rode with a few weeks back passed me. For the next 30 miles I’d pass him, and then 10 minutes go by and he passes me, then I pass him after a downhill. Was neat to see a teammate out there.
Flats. I saw so many people with flat tires. See, the race started when the temperature was in the mid 60’s. Finishing the bike the temperature was up around 80. Pro tip people: Do not inflate your tires up to max pressure at 4 am. The air will expand and it will explode. My tires were pumped up to around 100 and I was fine, but I saw an unnecessary amount of people with flat tires.
I more or less nailed my power goal with an average around 73% FTP. I know I could have pushed harder on the bike but I wanted to ensure I had a decent run. One thing I did do well was nail my nutrition intake. One thing I didn’t do well was nail the hydration. I left one bottle unconsumed (meaning I took in around 24 ounces of fluid per hour). I think this didn’t help on my run. Overall, I was quite pleased with a bike time of 3:01:56. I was hoping for sub 3 hours, but this was close enough.
The whole culmination of my training was I wanted to have a good run. I really, really wanted to hit 2 hours on the run. After a quick additional spray of sunscreen I grabbed my hat and number and ran to run out.
I knew immediately when I started the run that my mouth felt a little dry and I wanted some calories. The hydration or lack of on the bike surely wasn’t helping here so I knew I needed to get some fluid in me. The good news was that Ironman has four aid stations on the course. What I never realized last year was that meant it was on BOTH SIDES of the road meaning there were eight aid stations spread out over 6 miles. So at the first station I took water, Gatorade, and a banana. Nothing I was planning on eating sounded good to me. I couldn’t tell if this was because I took in too many calories on the bike or just that I was dehydrated so my body was playing games with me. I had practiced my nutrition, but it all went to hell immediately on the run. Each aid station had the following in order:
- Water (maybe with ice)
- Red Bull/Coke
I started out the first 5k with pretty close to a 9:20 average pace. I knew pretty much there I wasn’t going to hit my 2 hour half marathon. But, interestingly I had remembered entering T2 with 3:45 or so on the clock. So for me to beat my time goal of sub six hours I knew I had to run a 2:10 half marathon which would still give me close to 5 minutes buffer.
My plan for the first 10k or so was to keep a sub 10 minute per mile pace with a mental target of 9:30. Step after step I was focused on cadence and pace. I spent a lot of time focusing on my foot turnover and it worked! Aside from sore muscles, my run stayed together mostly due to shorter steps and high cadence.
For each aid station, I’d grab the cups and pound them. I didn’t walk any aid stations. Around mile 4 I took a Clif Shot gel from the aid station. Each time I hit a station I’d try to grab Gatorade and water. Some stations I’d grab two Gatorades. There is a tough hill on the way back to the finish line from the far point of the course. I didn’t walk it but it certainly wasn’t really a “run.” I made it up as best I could and tried to settle back into a respectable pace.
When I got back to the start/finish, I unfortunately had to take the “I need to do a second lap” path. Damn, so close to the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised that my time was now pretty close to 4:45 on the clock. Awesome, all I had to do was roughly run sub 10 minute miles and I’d still beat my time goal. As before, I set back out with mental goals for 9:30 paces as that felt doable and just painful enough to maintain. I hit each aid station with the same strategy…Gatorade, water, and a gel around mile 8. Overall I felt pretty good considering the circumstances.
I love the Timberman course’s double out and back because there are so many people on the run. You can pass so many people while also seeing your teammates several times. I saw Kevin, Dan, Mia, Mark, Lori, Courtney, and a host of other Northeast Multisport people out there. It was awesome to be able to give each other high fives and positive encouragement.
I was driven by two goals this entire race and coming back to the finish line. First, I wanted to break six hours. The second was I really was moved by the Make-A-Wish fundraiser and what kids are going through. I participate in one of the most “selfish” sports out there. We put in lots of time and energy away from families and loved ones for us to complete these massive races. I was finishing with a purpose. The least I could do was to suck it up and not walk, muscle through the run, and get my mind into a concentrated state. I’m proud to say that while I didn’t hit my running time goal of 2 hours (actual time 2:09:30), I did beat my sub 6 goal.
Last year I had a bit of a stomach issue right after the race. I read that moving around for a while might help gradually settle the body down. So I chose to walk around transition and the outside of it for a bit. Dan was at the finish line so I walked around with he and his family for a bit. I then grabbed my stuff out of transition and threw it in the car. I was hoping to get some food in me, but it didn’t settle right and I knocked the bowl of pretzels over. While I did have some GI issues later that night, some Saltine crackers worked wonders.
I spent this time reflecting on the day and really smiling from ear to ear as it’s pretty rare that I and many others meet their time goals. Oh, and one more thing. Make-A-Wish had lots of people cheering out on the course in addition to their own aid station. I would absolutely do this fundraiser again next year. I wanted to take one more opportunity to thank all those who donated to our cause as it’s important to race for something that has meaning and purpose and not just a personal time goal. Families and lives really do depend on it.
What I Learned
Another race and another section on what I learned. This race is no exception.
- Bump up to mid-volume training plans next year. The body can handle it and you’ll do better
- Bring a sandwich or Saltine crackers for after the race. You need real food
- While surprising how well I can swim on almost no training, swim a little more next year
- Focusing on the run and bike made for a much better race
- Keep working at finding the nutrition that works for me. I almost had it, but missed it on the run
- Maybe try two 70.3 races in 2017?
- Dig into and learn the Training Peaks metrics more. Understand how they work and how high I can go before my body tells me enough is enough
- Still no interest in a 140.6
- Make-A-Wish is an amazing group of people doing real good in the world
- Meeting an Ironman World Champion is a once in a lifetime opportunity and raising money for a worthy cause opened that door
- Joining Northeast Multisport was the best thing I did last year. There are friendships, teammates, and camaraderie that simply is unmatched. This is one of the most amazing groups of people I’ve ever met (and many I haven’t). I heard so many “Go Northeast!” cheers it was awesome and kept me and those around me motivated
- Apparently these race recaps help people…including a Northeast Multisport person in my age group who I was playing hopscotch with on the bike course. Maybe I should stop publishing them…he beat me!
With that, thanks for reading.