Six weeks ago I sat on the verge of the completion of my season, at IM Lake Tahoe. I was rested and ready to roll but, as fate would have it, the race was cancelled literally at the last minute. There were devastating fires in the area and it was absolutely the correct call to make as the air was thick with smoke - extremely unhealthy to compete in for hours on end. I witnessed an angry exchange with the announcers, a couple people were crying - I get it; it's a huge commitment, and a long journey just getting to the line of an Ironman. Anticipation is high, family and friends are following and there is a sense of doubt as to whether or not you will be able to accomplish the task at hand. And this applies even at the highest level. The pro athletes may have a bit more training, and a few more tools, but it is a long race and so many things can come up. Fortunately, the smoke hadn't blown into the King's Beach area and the air was still clear so the majority of the pros decided to swim a loop to at least salvage a little workout.
|smoke on the run course|
I try and follow this advice every day. As I entered the water my mind was racing and I had to keep reminding myself of this advice. How could I salvage the season? Where could I race? Was it worth racing again, as I'd focused my whole season on racing two IM's in 2 weeks? Should I just call the season now, recover completely, and start my base training for next year earlier? What could I get in today? If I wanted to continue my season I would need to up the volume a bit - there was IM Chattanooga next week, or Beach to Battleship in 5 weeks. Could I get my bike to Chattanooga in time with TriBike? Can I afford another trip?
All of these questions and many others raced through my head. I was pleasantly surprised that the volunteers stayed out and were manning the course. It was amazing and I know was among many athletes who were incredibly appreciative. As we swam through a relaxed loop of the course, I decided to stay out for a long swim workout - three loops, building in by loop. I wasn't sure what the air quality would be for the rest of the day and this would at least allow me to get in a quality workout.
On Monday WTC sent out an email to all participants, and they offered to help the Pro's travel to a race of their choice, before the end of the calendar year. This was a fantastic offer and I was psyched. I had already decided that IM Chattanooga was not the right race for me, with a fast swim and a bike profile with which I was unfamiliar. I actually wasn't super psyched with my options, but chose to go to Augusta the following weekend. It was a with-current swim as well, but the bike course was certainly not technical and my buddy, Rob Duncan, was racing down there as well so I would have someone to split the cost of a hotel.
|kayaking with my sister after the race was cancelled|
The coolest part of the race was the start - I didn't start in the draft-legal path and will likely never compete there, but as swimming is my background I've always been a little jealous of the starting block format for their starts. Well, in Augusta we swam in the river and started from the dock that extended out into the middle, and everyone agreed to a dive start (woo hoo!).
The swim was rippin' - I tried to grab Brent's feet off the start. Knew I wouldn't be able to hold for the duration, but was hoping to use it to establish a gap. No luck. I went about 200m before I abandoned this plan and settled in behind the second place swimmer. We came out in 20-flat, a PR by 4+ min. Thanks, river. I zipped through T1 pretty well. As I had a good deal of base behind me, from the summer and plenty of rest over the past three weeks, I wanted to be a bit aggressive on the bike. I executed this well - my NP was 244 for the front half and 243 for the back half. Unfortunately my legs didn't want to cooperate on the run. I ran steadily, (all splits within 15"), but had no speed. Still, I had my fastest run split of the year (1:25:49) and a 6+ min PR for the entire distance (4:17:29), so I was pleased with the performance, especially considering I was on the other side of the country and didn't know I was doing the race five days earlier.
Steering into the Skid
This is where the decision to extend my season hit a bump in the road. I decided to add Beach to Battleship to my schedule, so that I would end my season with an Iron distance race. I had finished 2013 at that race and had a great day - 5th overall with a 9:31, in my second attempt at the distance (a 2hr 12min PR). Since IM Wisconsin, I had gone a cumulative 29 hrs of volume in three weeks with my only day over 2 hrs being the race in Augusta. My original plan to end my season in September had a lot to do with one of my best friends getting married in October. I made the decision to extend my season in spite of my unwillingness to compromise the time I was planning to be down there, helping set up. So, I had a good week of training - 24 hs between the Wednesday following Augusta and the following Tuesday. I had the best workouts of the season during this week.
|one day my workout was carrying carloads of hay bales|
I can't count how many times I've passed up going out for a beer, or taking a 2-3 hr drive for a weekend at the beach or in Boston, etc. While, in the moment, I would likely have more fun than going to bed at 9pm, I can rest assured that I'll be more satisfied in the long run with the decisions that will also benefit my training and racing. It's a lifestyle I chose and thoroughly enjoy. That said, there are 2-3 things I can think of that would take absolute precedent over any and all training. This wedding and the days surrounding it was one of those occasions hence my original plan for that time to be squarely in the off-season.
So, after that solid week, I went just over 16 hours of total volume in the 17 days prior to the race (4 of those days were completely off). As another good friend is fond of saying - there are no excuses, only choices. I'm happy with my choices. I'm happy I raced in Augusta; I'm happy I raced in Wilmington. I sit here a lot more satisfied with my season, than I would have been if I had ended with IM Wisconsin. Not to mention I would never have had those workouts after Augusta. Most of all I'm happy for the time I was able to hang out and help in Hershey and the Eastern Shore.
Beach 2 Battleship
I had a couple goals heading into this race. One, I wanted to run the whole marathon. I had blown up in my previous 4 attempts and had ended up walking between 2-4 miles in the late stages. Based on previous races, I thought this would leave me close to a 3:10 marathon, so I had that number in my head. I also wanted to negative split the bike, by effort, and had power numbers in my head that I thought would give me that chance.
Swim - I now own the second fastest swim split ever in an iron distance race - 37:40 (I broke every PR I've ever had from 100m through 2.4 miles). Probably doesn't mean much, since that was a very strong current, but other people track it so I'm holding onto it.
T1 - I won T1! Wetsuit stripping, running, running with the bike - it has everything. It's like I won the race.
Bike - 5:13:50 - I was looking to hold between 200-210 avg watts for the first 1/2-3/4 of the bike, then up it a bit in the back half. I knew my fitness would be off a bit from my peak, but on a similar course in Atlantic City in June I was able to keep my NP above 220 for the first 84 miles before fading to 184NP in the final quarter. I took quarter splits, and was able to hold within my desire range for the first half, then normalized 197 in the third quarter, while watching my HR climb above what I knew was sustainable. The lack of aerobic work over the past 7 weeks was worse than I though. I backed off the bike in the final quarter and just coasted in - luckily the winds were at my back here and I was able to maintain my average speed while dropping power. I wanted to have my run legs under me.
Run - 3:29:04 - My plan, as it had been all year, was to walk the aid stations to make sure I was getting in my nutrition and run everywhere else. I started off relaxed, unfortunately I had no speed. Usually I roll through the first couple miles at 6:40 pace with a relatively low HR. Today I started at 7:20 pace over the first couple miles, peaked at 7:10 pace between miles 2-4, held sub-8 pace through 16 miles and then began to struggle mightily. I faded up to 9:15 pace, but was able to stick to my plan to only walk the aid stations. It was 58" slower than the previous year (the only other time I had gone under 3:30), but I was 14' slower in the front half and 13' faster in the back half, so I will consider that a step in the right direction.
Overall, I finished 11th with a 6' PR of 9:25:13.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me this season - the PFC Elite Team, all my family and friends, my sponsors - Quintana Roo, Gray wheels, ISM saddles, Karhu shoes, Suunto watches, Ogio bags, Xtennex laces, Aquasphere wetsuits, and Perfect Fuel Chocolate.