Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What do you get after 8 years of Ironman Racing?

BREAKTHROUGH!!!!
8:55:44 5th Overall
Ironman Wisconsin 2010

So I am going to write this blog a little bit different than I might write a normal race report.  I will go through some of the race details, but there is a more important takeaway from this race; both for me and to everyone reading.

For those of you that haven't followed my racing, this was my 20th Ironman start and for me it had been a struggle every step of the way. I always showed promise in training, but it never came together on race day. I knew I could, but just didn't know how to bring it all together.

So what changed? Absolutely nothing physically or nutritionally.  As always I trained hard and fueled well. This was what I always looked to in finding a solution...until 6 weeks ago.

6 weeks prior to Ironman Wisconsin, I started working with  Bobby McGee. Bobby is a world renowned run coach, but I sought him out for his sports psychology background. In short, he did some evaluations and we worked together in addressing some of my psychological limiters.  For me it was an issue with focus. You can head over to my forum to take a look at exactly what I worked on.  

Anyway, the take away from this race is that when you truly believe in something you can accomplish it.  You may not do it on the first try, or second, or 19th in this case, but as the saying goes: "where there's a will, there's a way."  This is one of the many lessons and take-a-ways that can be paralleled to other aspects of life.

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Ok, here's a race day recap for you!

Swim: I positioned myself on the front line all the way on the inside of the group.  This is where I typically start.  Things were very uneventful and I found myself in a group with the usual suspects. About 600m into the swim, a few of the guys who I had "wanted" to swim with had opened up a gap of about 50m.  I thought it was worth a shot to bridge the gap, WHOOPS! I got about half way across and red-lined.  I started hyperventilating and HAD to stop. About that same time the goggles fogged, which added to the anxiety.  So I stopped, cleared my goggles and regrouped.  This meant that I had to let my usual group go and settle into my own rhythm. I exited the water pulling the 3rd group of athletes about 2min back of "my" group and 4:30 down on the front group.

Bike: After a speedy transition I was off and riding.  This is typically my strength and I settled into a nice rhythm.  I felt very flat on the ride, but also used the knowledge that you don't have to feel sharp to have a good Ironman ride.  The front guys put a LOT of time into me in the first 40miles. Perhaps this was because i was solo, perhaps not.  Either way, I just took care of myself and stayed in the moment.  I cruised through the halfway mark in 2:25, which was fine.  I stayed steady and the second loop was literally almost a carbon copy of the first. I split 2:27 for this loop and rolled into T2 in 9th position.

Run: Once onto the run I had a very focused mindset.  I didn't feel good, but I knew what I needed to do.  I looked to run 2:53 on the day, but quickly realized that my PE was a bit too high to sustain that effort, so I backed off to the "feeling" that I re-enforced SO many times in training.  I was making up time on everyone, except Joe, but didn't know if I would run out of ground.  At the first turn I found myself in 6th and felt the same as I did when I had began the marathon.  

The miles ticked by and I stuck to my well oiled nutrition plan, that is until mile 9 when I dropped my salt container which sent pills everywhere. F&%$!!! Oh well, I kept on rolling and thought, "no worries, I have salt at special needs and I can take in more gels at the aid stations."  This worked out ok, though I paid for it a bit later in the race.

I came through the half way in 1:29 and again felt like I did to begin the run leg.  I metronomically kept my strong run form ticking over and grabbed what I could at the aid stations.  Before I knew it, I was at mile 16 which is when I ideally like to pick things up.  I was in 5th and the gap to 4th was 2min, 3rd 4min and 2nd down to 8minutes (halved). I was a bit emotional at times because I knew I had finally "done" it, but I knew that moving up was possible.  So I pushed and the mile splits came back down into the 6:40's.  Then at about the 32k mark, the hamstring twinges started to creep in.  No doubt from the lack of sodium early on.  So I had to back off the pace slightly and started taking in 2 salt tabs (something I knew my body could handle). Within 3k my body was feeling pretty strong again and I started to get back after it....as much as you can 35k into an Ironman marathon ;) The gap was slowly coming down, but I was running out of miles and I had bigger problems coming...literally.

With about 1k to go I turned around, "just to check" I guess and I see a big, angry Max Longree (one of the best runners in the sport) closing down the gap at a pretty rapid rate I might add.  I had two options, run hard and RUN HARD!!!  So I zipped up my top and gave it everything I had.  Spectators, friends, and family were all screaming to go harder, but did I have enough left?  It wasn't a question.  I had been in 5th for 15 miles and I wasn't about to give it up.  

I cleared special needs and made the turn into the finish straight, almost side by side with Max.  The motorcycle who was filming the entire thing, pulled off in front of me, nearly taking me out!  I had no time for this! It was about at this point that I found another gear somewhere?!?! I managed to pull away in the last 100m to cross 3sec ahead.

Immediately upon crossing the line, both hamstrings locked and I went straight into two AWESOME volunteers!  The end result, 8:55:44 and 5th place!!

I have to thank everyone for their support over the years, as well as my sponsors (Trek, KSwiss, Saris, TYR and Wheelbuilder.com).  But more than this I want to thank my mom and my stepdad.  Both of them have showed me what it means to believe, encourage and support their son in pursuing their passion.  I am sure they had their doubts along the way, but never once wavered in their support.  So thank you.

I now have 10 years to improve on this result and make my mark in the sport.  My bar is set high and just like I accomplished this goal, I will accomplish future ones as well.

For now, some R&R and then a little more racing before the colder months.  

I also want to say congrat's to everyone who finished and even those who didn't. Some of you went in on with your A-game and nailed it and some of you went in with your B or even C game and surprised the heck out of yourself.  You should all be excited and proud of your achievements.

Have a great week and I'll check in soon!

Blake

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

4 Sleeps To Go

We are now sitting on Wednesday of Ironman Wisconsin race week and it seems as though the days have flown by. Today marks the end of most of my pre-ironman obligations.  Between training, resting, coaching, speaking and consulting with my athletes, I have had a fairly packed schedule over the last 2 weeks.

I have trained the mind and body hard over the last 7 weeks and have prepared to suffer on Sunday better than anyone else out there. In the beginning my body resisted, then the mind protested in many different ways, but FINALLY they both gave in and got on board with the program.

I usually find that when I train hard up until 14 days out from a race, there is a period of time within the first week of taper, when I feel very tired and sluggish.  No matter how many times I go through this, I always wonder if I am going to come out of it.  The good news is that I usually do and this race has been no exception.  After 5 days of dragging my tired body around last week, I find myself jumping out of my skin this week.

My fitness is at the best level of the year.  I swam a bit more to prepare for the possibility of a non-wetsuit swim (which now looks like it won't be the case). I have boosted my threshold by around ~10w and lost 4kg's since the middle of July.  I have also laid down 11 rides over 160km in that time period to really dial in and re-enforce what I will be laying down on sunday. I have also kept up my run training, which has been very solid all year.

This time around I have also prepared in a way that most do not.  I sought out the coaching of Bobby McGee to help me prepare my mind. He has helped me discover how to focus it when needed and how to pull it back when I don't.  This time, I am confident in not only the physical and nutritional aspects of ironman racing, but am now confident in my mental plan for the race. To be successful, you need all three. A different perspective, a different approach, a different frame of mind, they all equal a more complete athlete.

Regardless of race conditions, the competition, placing, average watts, bike time, etc...what I will be doing out there will remain the same. That "what" is what will yield my best result on the day and THAT is all I am looking for.

Good luck to all of you racing this weekend! Focus on what you are doing out there and believe in yourself.  You can't do anything about the injuries, sickness or missed workouts that you may have faced, put that energy into having the best race you can and ENJOY being out there!

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If you are in the Madison area next week(end), we are having an end of season bash at Trek Store Madison West on Friday, September 17th from 6-9pm.  You can come here about the race, enjoy food and drink, in addition you will have the opportunity to win some pretty great swag! Check out Trek's Calendar here.

Have a great week everyone! I am glad to help if you need anything before Sunday, just drop me a note.

Cheers,

Blake