I rolled into Ohio 1 week before the race. This is the furthest out from a race that I have ever arrived. I had been given this ticket on airmiles so I couldn’t be picky with my arrival and departure dates/times. I didn’t want to be away from my family for this long, and I didn’t think it would be any more beneficial to be there 7 days out instead of the usual 3 or 4 (or maybe 5 days). But from a preparation standpoint, arriving that early made things go really smooth.
My homestay family was amazing. James was racing as a pro (finished 10th) his wife did the half (finished second, overall) and their 4 year old son was a riot. They really made things so easy for me. Thanks guys.
I felt I had prepared well for this race and made the changes in training that were necessary for me to be strong for the entire Ironman distance. So, I truly felt the best prepared I ever have for a race. Not only could I prepare really well for these conditions and terrain, but I had put in big miles in all disciplines leading up to the race. I had enjoyed a good taper (but in retrospect I didn’t taper my run properly – more on that later) and felt rested from physical, mental and neuromuscular standpoints.
Race morning arrived and the non wetsuit swim wasn’t as intimidating this time around as it has been in past races. I had done some big, over distance, GRP (Goal Race Pace) open water swims without a wetsuit in the weeks leading up to the race so I was confident I could swim strong – I had done it in training so I knew I could do it on race day.
With the shallow swim start I dolphin dived my way along and got into a good group, I knew I was swimming with Daniel Bretscher and that was fine with me, I knew we were pretty even in swim speed. Daniel and I swapped pulling jobs about halfway through the last 3k of the swim. It did seem a little long and when we got out the clock was almost an hour. Yikes. But spectators relayed to us that the leaders weren’t that far ahead.
Onto the bike since I wasn’t with much of a group I decided to stick to my plan of pacing properly, Daniel Bretscher took off as we started the bike and I resisted the temptation to try and ride with him as I know he is a stronger cyclist than I am. Same as the with the swim, I was confident I could ride 180k strong and evenly if I stuck to my pacing plan. As the ride went along I watched my avg pace stay where I hoped it would and my HR was steady. I felt great for the first time in an Ironman bike leg. Now, is there a coincidence in how I felt and how I paced? No, I don’t think so. You hear over and over and over and over again how important pacing is in an Ironman but I don’t think that until now I have ever been a strong enough cyclist to heed that advice and be able to maintain a the pace I want(ed) to ride at. So I basically evenly split my bike ride. Nice. I had fueled well on the bike and was feeling really ready to run.
Side note: I have been playing with my bike position a lot recently and eventually the changes that stuck were the saddle coming more forward and the aerobars coming up in height – a lot (like and inch and a half probably). I have never been so comfortable on the bike for all 180k.
My plan had been to go hard from the start of the run and see how long I could hold a ~6:00/mi pace and then suffer for the rest of the marathon. Well, this was my mistake on the day. I went through the first 4.3 miles at a 5:55/mi pace (3:40/km). Ya, big mistake. I had felt like a million bucks starting the marathon and actually didn’t even look at my first 2 mile splits because I wanted to go by feel and get into the groove. Anyway that was a 2:35:00 marathon pace. Sure I can run that pace . . .. . . for a half iron.. . . So, I started to hurt pretty bad by about mile 10 and I started to realize my mistake. But this was an amazing learning experience because I now know what it actually “feels” like to pace improperly. I maintained about a ~7:15/mi pace for the the last half of the run. And that is why I just said I actually know what it feels like now, because never in a race has 7:15/mi felt so incredible hard after I felt so good going ~6:00/mi pace only a few miles earlier.
When I hit the finish line and knew I had clocked a 8:47:00 I was pretty happy with that. The highlight of the day for me was having the 6th fastest bike split and nailing my pacing while doing it. I had put a focus on my bike training and it paid off. I am learning what works for me and this is very, very exciting.
After the race (and the next day at the awards) I talked with Victor Zymstev quite a bit and he was very generous with his advice while answering the questions I was peppering him with. One common theme that keeps coming back as I study and talk to successful athletes is this – keep it simple. Here is an example – he asked me a few questions about my run training and then he asked me if I thought I could hold that run pace based on my training. The obvious answer is no – and that is because you don’t start your long runs going sub 6:00/mi, you build into them. And his advice was to start slow, even slower than your GRP (Goal Race Pace) and then pick it up after 6 or 7 km if you are feeling good. I learned a lot from Victor over the hour or so that I talked with him and I am grateful for the time he took to patiently answer my questions.
All in all the race was a success and I am happy to be in the same ball park as some of the big boys now. My next race I will mimic everything I did in this race, except I will of course pace my run better.
Up next – Ironman Arizona. I am excited to use my current fitness to become even more strong at my current GRPs over the 10 weeks leading up to IMAZ. But I am even more excited to have all this new knowledge to help me perform to my potential on race day. BUT I am even MORE excited to be going camping this weekend (even if only for one night) with my family and some friends.
Lastly, I want to thank all the people and companies that have continued to support me. I couldn’t be on the start line in pursuit of my dreams without all of your help. Thank you.