January through "now" has been pretty active, with 3 training camps and trips to San Diego, Tucson, Austin, Galveston, Las Vegas, Naples, and Clermont. There is no doubt that my fitness has evolved from where it was last year either, breaking through my ½ marathon limbo time and finally getting my finish time into the teens. Swim fitness improves each year too and I’m always interested in understanding what actually applies to speed on race day, in the open water. A few days ago was the first 70.3 of the season; IRONMAN 70.3 Texas. Now before I get into all that, let’s chat about training.
From Nov to January I really focused on keeping the wheels turning. This means I wanted to keep racing, hence a 70.3 in Dec and a 70.3 in Jan. They were both more or less low-key races without an official pro field and honestly, I’d never do them again – but it was nice to keep focus. My bodyweight was actually the lowest it had ever been over the holidays and until the end of February that was constant. I’ve never in my life weighed in around 145 pounds but I sustained it for a few months, but then I just got so hungry. Sure, I may have swung for the fences in telling myself I was too lean too early in the season when my appetite totally took over – so now here I am, a few pounds heavy. I suppose with 4 or 5 more 70.3’s and 3 X 140.6 distance triathlons coming up, I’ll be just fine.
Ah yes, so back to training. What’s been different since working with a Coach (Coach Rene), being part of an International Triathlon team and spending a LOT of time away from home? Training has been a tad different since, after all, I’ve had about 5 Coaches over the past 8 years. None the less, different as training philosophies have been over the years, I fully embrace them all. I’ve thrashed myself into a tumbling avalanche of mental toughness, focused on a little more run/walk training and consulted with tons of nutritionists and some of the best in the biz. What’s constant? Hard, consistent work. That’s it. There are so many articles out there which promise the BEST TRAINING PROGRAM EVER but what I’ve learned is that they are all great if you want them to be. If you believe in the program, your coach and they take care of your needs – you’re working the best program for YOU. Obviously, if you are getting weekly plans, execute 100% of the time and fail to increase your performance – you need to open that discussion up with someone who’s been around for a bit. BUT hard work, to the best of your ability and consistency (training & recovering), will lead you to that 2-5% gain per year.
Has it been paying off for me? Most definitely. Fitness is an evolution and yes at times my bike fitness has been epic – but my run fitness off the bike has always suffered for whatever reason. BUT since I’m of the mindset of leaving no stone unturned, I’m figuring it out. I surround myself with the best, like-minded people I can and I NEVER stop learning. In my opinion, my currently limiting factors are:
- The first 500m of the swim – I’ve started neck and neck with some of the best swimmers and shoot, I’m with them for the first 500 but then a few things happen. First and most obvious; working that hard is very uncomfortable, especially when gasping for air and breathing through waves. So whether it’s confidence or just plain mental weakness due to survival mechanisms – I lose that speed and settle into the second group.
- Bike Power – It always feels awesome to ride 340-360 watts (100%+ FTP) watts within the first 20’ let’s face it, I’m not there yet. Seeing the guys who usually finish 1-5 overall ride by me as I’m at that power is just a jab to the ego. But in a few years, I suppose I’ll be there too. I’d say at the moment the biggest big tussle I’m dealing with is lower back/sacrum pain. This started a couple of years ago and I’ve tried a good amount of stretching (I’m incredibly flexible) Chiro work, massage, cupping…yadda yadda. Small tweaks of the bike fit help for a bit but maybe, for now, my legs are much stronger than some of my core stabilizers in the low back….#workinprogress. After about 90 min of race output, the back tightens and power production drops 5-8% but it’s much less evident on a hilly course where I can stretch out of the saddle.
- This year I’ve taken my ½ marathon PR from 1:22 down to 1:17 so that’s huge…but running off the bike is still not where it should be after this first race. My goal was to hold a steady 3:50 min/km for the first bit then drop it down but by the last 5k it was 4:10 min/km and I swear if someone offered me $100,000 to run faster, I’d not have it in me to physically get there – trust me, very frustrating considering where I want to be.
- Nutrition – Actually, this year it’s been working amazingly. My pre-race nutrition and INFINIT Nutrition fueled races have always been steady when it comes to energy so I’m very happy my INFINIT Nutrition Custom Blend is dialed in over the past few years of meddling with electrolyte/carb/caffeine and flavor ratios.
So far, I’ve raced Super Seal and IRONMAN 70.3 Texas. I managed to win Super Seal with a great performance and overall confidence booster. Running a 35:30 for 10k was a big breakthrough for me that I hope to use at St. Anthony’s in a few weeks, despite the weather being much warmer. 70.3 Texas was a bit more of a challenge though, for whatever reason. I expected to be a bit further up in the swim but we did come out with a huge group. Oh, and I was also told that our large train of swimmers went off course a bit when our lead guy veered off course but I was too busy getting kicked in the face to notice. I’ve held onto tons of feet in the swim but man, whoever I was behind kicked like it was going turn them into a jet-propelled watercraft. It was intense splash-levels and super audible. Regardless, not too shabby of a swim. I saw some of the top guys right away but then I decided it wasn’t smart to ride much longer above 325 watts. Once the back started hurting and we had a 20mph headwind on the way home it was pure survival. I managed to catch up to my teammate Ivan and honestly, when I got there I totally shut down the drive and did what I could to conserve for the last 15 miles which lost me about 5 to 6 positions. Coming into the run I was going great and managed to run with another guy, Paul, for about 18k before I faded. But to be honest, it was soo damn cold that when I tried to put my flasks of TRIPWIRE in my kit-pockets, I dropped 1 – so I was missing some goodies and coke didn’t even save me. So in short, 70.3 Texas was 50 degrees, frigid wind chill, the 2nd strongest winds I’ve raced in outside of Challenge Iceland and overall, not horrible. I finished 25th but I gave up a lot with the bike and run “fade”. Ivan ended up running himself into 10th and overall it was a good day for the PEWAG Racing team – it’s nice to know we both still have more to give. Swimming 25min, Biking 295 NP and running near 6 min/mile was okay for now but by 70.3 Victoria I expect a LOT more from myself. By IRONMAN Austria in July, it better be LOCKED UP!
How does your Pre-Race Look?
For me, it’s a day to be normal and do whatever I want since by that point, it’s all mental fitness. I prefer to no longer swim/bike/run before the race and often times do nothing at all beyond an Epsom salt bath and stretching/foam rolling. I have a BIG breakfast, sub sandwich for lunch and rice/meat for dinner – oh, and dessert in the form of a candy bar or artisan rice crispy treat. This race was:
BREAKFAST: Avocado Toast w/ chicken sausage, granola w/ a banana
LUNCH: Jimmy Johns Turkey Tom no mayo – add Jimmy mustard
Din Din: Chicken breast, roasted carrots, Spanish rice & rice crispy treat from SBUX
Liquids: I sip INFINIT Hydrate and 1 decaf coffee in the AM.
Thanks for reading – I’m headed back to Florida now and will race St. Anthony’s triathlon, located basically right in my backyard and then use May to prep for 70.3 Victoria. This means a possible trip to North Carolina for some hills and cold-water swimming! Thanks to the Pewag Racing team, INFINIT Nutrition and all of my lovely sponsors!