I had originally not planned to do any post-race analysis outside of my race report. However, as I look forward to next year’s Ironman Boulder, I found that a look back at my most recent and most successful race could be instructive. While what works for me is not universally applicable to everyone, perhaps anyone who stumbles across this blog might glean a nugget or two of useful information.
Unlike the race report, this post will be mostly focused on my own individual performance and how I can and might react differently in a future race.
Nutritionally, I did not do too badly, but I may have been a little light. The fact that I felt enough of a hunger pang to have two gels while setting up transition suggests that I probably needed a bigger breakfast. Without question, I’ll need to do more before spending 13 to 15 hours on a full 140.6 mile race. On the positive side, I never blew up nutritionally. Unlike last year in Austin, there was no bonk nor was there a sick full feeling that I experienced at Ironman 70.3 Boulder.
Arriving early also seems to be a virtue I’ve picked up. While not the first in line, I was probably among the first 50 percent to show up at both Steamboat and Harvest Moon. While I expect to be assigned a space for Ironman next year, it still is beneficial to have some time to set up the transition area slowly and methodically. Next year that will also involve making sure my special needs bag is properly stocked with whatever I think will help me keep going on the bike.
I actually slept reasonably well in the week leading up to Harvest Moon and while I was a bit groggy at 4:30 in the morning (who isn’t?) I woke up pretty fast after arriving. Next year, I’ll most likely be on one of my sabbaticals my company offers every five years so I’ll have plenty of time to rest leading up to race day.
Overall, I think I dialed in pre-race pretty well during the entire season. I may not race again before Ironman so the biggest challenge going into next year will be to remember all of my good habits.
Harvest Moon was probably the best execution of the swim in any race. There’s almost no virtue in being the first person out of the water. Indeed, there’s more benefit from not feeling exhausted during those initial strokes as you work through the washing machine. Staying focused on being calm and establishing a good rhythm left me with some space to surge on the second half.
There’s nothing I would do differently. In the off-season, my swim workouts will be based on the ones my coach gave me and I’ll continue to work with fins and paddles because the truth is, at 45 years old I’m swimming better than I ever have in my life.
My bike split was 2:57:11, officially, faster by far than my previous 70.3 races:
This chart is a little misleading because I had issues starting the bike in each (thank you very not, Garmin). However, the average speed is a fairly consistent measure across the board and as you can see, the 18.9 MPH average for Harvest was faster than even Boulder. That’s more important when you consider that there was much more climbing at Harvest and it happened later in the race. On balance, my weakest event, cycling, has improved greatly in the last year.
However, I think there’s more I could be doing. It’s not that I’m particularly competitive with everyone else on the course, but I did get dropped a lot at my most recent race, sometimes on folks in my age group riding road bikes. The other fault I found in my performance was that while my legs were not shot, they were pretty tired and that in turn led to me not having the capacity to keep up my sub 10:00 pace past eight miles in the run. I suspect my bike improvement is still a work in progress so I’ll continue to work on it during the off-season and focus hard when the new season starts in January. It will be also be interesting to re-test my FTP because I’m sure it has increased since March.
The final event is really two stories. For the first eight miles, it was, to me, fairly impressive. In past races, I was taking a break by the third or fourth mile. That I got to over 8 miles before walking is a fairly significant accomplishment in itself. That really is what made this a faster run than other events. However, those walking breaks did not have nearly the restorative effect for which I had hoped. In fact, as each mile progressed, the benefit of walking seemed to deliver diminishing returns to the point that when I reached mile 11, I was having to take them more often after shorter running intervals.
All of this said I can’t really fault my strategy in the race of going as long as I could. In Austin, I took planned breaks during the early part of the run but that did not provide a particular benefit. Indeed, I ran at a slower average pace and slower overall time despite that run being a half mile short of the official 13.1 distance.
Obviously, since I finished, I had the endurance to complete the race, but not the stamina to maintain a “running” pace.
Of course, the approach to a full marathon is going to be much different. The strategy I employed at the 2013 Colorado Marathon may come into play at Ironman. In that race, I ran four miles and then walked for one. I succeeded in that strategy through 18 miles at an average pace of 10:29. If I could replicate that at Ironman (a big if, I realize) I could actually walk the last 8.2 miles at 15 minute pace and still finish the run in 5:11:49 which would not be terrible.
I think a lot of my stamina this year came from some of the long and intense intervals I did in training. For example, one workout involved 6 X 1K repeats at my Z4 heart rate with fairly short recoveries in between. I anticipate workouts like that (with more intervals) when training starts in earnest early next year.
In looking back at Harvest Moon, I doubt there was much I could have done to improve my run. I never missed an assigned running workout and the only time I fell short of the designated time was to get out of the rain and hail. In other words, it was more of a safety issue than not being able to do the workout. While I wish I could have been a little faster (four minutes and change to be precise), I also think I put every last effort into the race.
Nutrition, while not perfect, was much improved. Even when I did not particularly want a gel, I had one. I also made sure to consume nearly my entire bottle of concentrated GU Brew. Neither made me sick or bloated meaning my body was accepting the input. It’s true that I started to feel a little sick at the end of the run, but I’m sure that had to do more with the metabolic havoc going on inside me. By that point, it had been hours since I took any new calories.
Transitions have also improved. Granted, this venue lent itself to making that easier, but I also have found a couple of tricks to save time such as not wearing socks on the bike. Even at T2, while not as fast as my previous two races this year, I moved with purpose and lost minimal time at the rack. It seems to make sense to treat a long-course transition with the same sense of urgency one brings to a short-course event. Granted, my body may not move as quickly, but the urgency seems to drive a faster overall change between legs.
Perhaps best of all, I suffered no injuries this season. That was despite training six days most weeks at intense levels. A nightly stretching routine helped me considerably as well as being disciplined about getting warmed up at the start of each workout. Overall, I’ve been pretty fortunate on the injury front but I do believe that fortune favors the prepared!
Thanks for reading and if you’ve gained nothing else from this post consider the following: the charts above represent races done at ages 42, 43, 44 and 45 and I’ve gotten faster as I’ve gone along. So despite getting further into my forties, I’m actually performing better!