This past weekend was my final ‘big’ training weekend for Ironman Florida. I’ve at times both dreaded and looked forward to the day because I knew that it would be a tough test. Not as hard as race day itself but at least Ironman will be a single day. This was, essential, 3 fairly grueling days. But I’ve conquered the training and I feel more confident than ever about the race and how I’ll done in less than 3 weeks. Wow, its that close! I’m definitely ready though:
I used to try and fit my long swim & long run in on the same day of the weekend. The only reason I was in the habit was we used to run down on Clearwater Beach frequently and then immediately do an open water swim. That works fine in the fall and spring but over the summer that is definitely not something we’ve been doing since doing long runs is horrible during the summer and everyone is training for quite different things at the moment. I kept up the tradition in the pool for no reason other than I was used to it but after several weeks in a row of doing 13+ mile runs and then cramping up in the pool, I realized that was not really a good plan. So I moved my long swim to Friday evenings which has always been a fairly nice end to the week. This wasn’t the long time I’ve swam during the course of my training but I did 3000 yards and felt great about it. I’ll probably up the swims to 3,500 yards the next couple weeks but I don’t feel its necessary to do a full 4,000 yards in training.
Saturday was the start of the major training for the weekend and really what has been on the calendar since about November 2, 2013. Yeah that’s how long this has been in the books. The plan has always been to do a 100 mile bike ride as a dry run for IMFL. Everything about the ride is supposed to be mimic what I’ll be doing on race day. I needed to make sure my nutrition was dialed in. My clothing selection felt good for 6 hours on the bike. From a cycling standpoint I’ve known for a while I could survive a 100+ mile ride but the whole point is to make sure I get through the ride and then still feel ok afterwards. I can happily say that I did.
The ride started with 7 of us and then we picked up a random stranger as well. After about 20 miles though, I turned around and saw that there were only 4 of us left. Noone else had been training for Ironman so they had turned around. 80 miles to go! We had a simple route planned on the Suncoast trail. Two out and backs with the first being slightly farther than the second which would make the second leg a little faster. We’d use our cars as our ‘special needs’ bags so we could simulate our race day prep. We also planned only 3 stops the whole ride and to keep them quick as possible. Use the bathroom if needed, fill up on liquids and then back on the bikes. We didn’t do as well as I’d hoped there and did have a 9, 17 and 13 minute stop time for our 3 stops. I know, for me, I’ll only stop once at the midway point of the bike for my special needs bag and based on my personal time taking care of my stuff I’ll be done in under 5 minutes. So I’m not worried about that too much.
For me the big deal for this ride was to not draft at all. I have never done a ride nearly this long without drafting. I did 70 miles solo last week but there’s a huge difference between 70 and 100 miles. 70 miles is when you start to feel tired. That’s when it gets hard. I’m happy to say that at no point was I drafting on Saturday. I don’t know how much the others drafted but with my pulling of the ride, all four of us had our fastest century time ever. 5:48:20. That puts me very comfortably in position to do 112 miles in my goal of around 6:30. My one big thing I need to change on my bike is I recently put on Gatorskins and I can confidently say that I don’t like them. I have time still to change the tires one more time but I need to do it before I ride again since I have only 2 or 3 more rides left on the bike. I’ll be going for some Grand Prix 4000s II tires since I should have gotten those from the start (if I can find them).
Then, finally, Sunday came the big run. My plan was to do 18 – 20 miles. I didn’t feel like I needed 20 but I wanted to do them if I could. This ended up being the best and worst part of the weekend. It was possibly one of the most difficult runs I’ve ever attempted. Running has been tough for a couple months now since I’m constantly sore and tired. I also don’t think I did a good job of refueling my body after my huge ride on Saturday. I thought there would be a group but it ended up being only Pete and Kari. Kari did her own thing and Pete ran with me for about 9 miles or so which I definitely appreciated. I like getting his take on race day strategy and some of his riding advice has definitely benefited me.
Once he left my plan was to just do the same out and back we’d just done but when I started again the sun was coming up and the whole route was completely unshaded. I made it about a mile and a half to the top of a bridge and then I just sat down. I hurt and it sucked and I really wanted to stop. If I ran back to the car I’d have 12.5 miles and that would be that. So I decided I couldn’t run in the blazing sun at that point and just went back to the car. The concession stand was open so I bought a big pretzel and a coke (a real one) and sat down with it. I just let myself take as long as I needed to finish all of that. I figured it was probably 500 – 600 calories of food and plenty of salt.
Once I finished that, I made a decision to keep going. I felt a little life back in my body and decided to try a different part of the island I was on. I ran into the residential area and discovered a 2.5 mile stretch of shaded running. Where I’d been going through an 8 oz bottle every 10 minutes to that point (no, really) I didn’t even touch my bottles when I hit that shade. I wasn’t running fast but I was running at least. Finally after about 4 miles I realized I hadn’t even put water in my bottles and stopped to grab some Gatorade before finishing up my 18 miles.
I learned a few things from that run which were more important than a successful long run. I can run a marathon so I know I can the distance. But what do I do when it sucks? And its going to suck. Maybe the smartest thing I can do is get to an aid station on the race and stop. Don’t walk through it. Get there and get as much soda and pretzels and chips as I feel I need. Let my body process it. And then get going. My goal is to have a 5 hour marathon and I was honestly more on pace for a 5:30. I think my running fueling is not working as well as the bike and I don’t have much time but there’s still time to fix it. The key is that I need to bring in more calories per hour than I have been. I’ve been doing about 300 – 350 on the bike and then I drop down to about 100 on the run. I think I need to find a way to get to 200. Whether that’s 2 Gus an hour or whatever, I don’t know yet.
All in all though…I’m ready.