Thursday, May 21, 2015

Where I Am vs. Where I Need To Be

The countdown on this site says that there are just under 73 days left until the race. I’m in my 20thweek of training so perhaps this is a good time to talk about where I am and how that compares about where I want and need to be on August 2.

While there are some areas that concern me, there are also some areas for positivity. I’ll start with the latter.

I’m running with relative ease. Although I had a minor hamstring pull back in April, I’ve stayed more or less healthy and have been able to get in not only volume, but also quality. Like so much of my training, the run has involved a lot of interval work. This can vary from 15 to 20 minutes sections to something as short as 200 meters. Much of this has involved pushing way into my upper heart rate (something I truly hope I won’t see on race day) to the point that I want to just lay on the ground and never move again. This has proven its effectiveness on slower days that involve 10 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking. During these workouts, I’ve found no trouble completing the nine or so intervals involved and in fact I could do more. Of course, these easy workouts have not been preceded by a 112 mile bike ride so I have no illusions that it will feel so easy in the actual event. Still, it bodes well for a run/walk strategy that I can sustain for several hours.

Swimming is a mixed bag. I’ve tested my swim about three times this season and have continued to show improvement. Under the heading of “no good deed goes unpunished” that has made my target paces on some intervals difficult to hit. If I have to do 15 X 100 with the last handful being near my top speed, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be at least a few seconds off the mark. However, this level of intensity again seems to bode well for a more evenly paced long swim.

Should I show up on race day and they’ve changed the rules to swim 42 X 100 at 1:30 pace, then I’m in trouble. Since that’s not going to happen, I feel reasonably confident that I’ll finish the swim at an average pace per 100 yards between 1:40 and 1:45. Better still, I ought to be entering T1 without feeling especially tired.

Okay. Run is good. Swim is good. The cause for concern therefore is the bike. This is not a keep-me-up-at-night worry. More specifically, it’s an unknown and not knowing is usually what drives anxiety.

Given our wet and cold spring here in Colorado, my outdoor riding has been extremely limited. I’ve also had some strength workouts that really require a trainer to hit very specific power outputs for shorter periods of time.

On a recent workout I was facing 3.5 hours with 15 minute intervals each at around 190 watts or around 90% of my FTP. Between each set was a 45 minute “cruise” at 155 to 160 watts which is around 75% of FTP for me. On paper it doesn’t sound so bad until you realize how little recovery is involved in those 45 minute sections. After an hour, it’s fine. After two, it’s pretty hard. After three hours it’s just miserable. Add in warm up and cool down time and I rode 63 miles which is not bad. However, I was also just fried at the end on a distance that’s only just over 50% of the IM distance. Other workouts with high power intervals have produced similar results.

Of course I think they are making me stronger and should be preparing me for the two big hills near the end of the bike course. I also don’t plan on spending any of the preceding miles at anything close to my FTP. Indeed, this is clearly a lesson in the need to budget energy throughout the race. A sub-six hour bike doesn’t mean jack squat if the run takes me seven hours.

The bottom line on all of this is that while I’m concerned about how I’ll feel after 112 miles of riding, I don’t feel that it would be a race-buster. I might have to walk far more than intended, but I’ve actually gamed out that scenario. If I can recover enough at the front end of the run, I might actually be able to still finish it in a respectable time.

If the race were today, I would finish. It might not be very impressive and almost certainly would be longer than my goal time, but I’d get through. Fortunately, the race is not today. In the coming weeks I expect that I’ll start seeing more efficiency on the bike while getting faster on foot and in the water. It does not seem unreasonable that the cumulative effect of all of this training will a hit a sort of tipping point where I’ll find that I’m able to do more with less.

Thanks for reading!

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