Ironman....a different type of challenge

If you have followed me at all since I started racing, you know that I have executed and done well at all distances, except Ironman. This is despite training soely for Ironman.

I have thought a lot about this and have heard all different explanations that ranged from metabolism issues, to the wrong type of workouts, to muscle fiber make up.

Well, after much thinking and talking with my coach, it seems that the above issues are NOT the problem. The only issue is that I just continue to be an idiot on race day. If you look at all of my power files, you will see what looks like a double black diamond ski slope. I over pace the first 2hrs of the ride, not necessarily by average or normalized power, but by integrating too many power spikes over threshold power.

The result is that I feel like I want to crawl into the ditch and hide at about the 4hr mark of the ride. I don't, but I do suffer a lot (and slow wayyy down) in that last hour. It then gets better. I have to get off the bike and run a marathon after feeling like I got hit by a truck. Not fun, but I do it and cross the line pretty far back from my potential.

OK, so why don't I learn from my mistakes....11 times in 11 Ironman races??? Here it is...maybe you'll see some similarities with your racing and training?

My background was not in swimming, cycling or running. Infact I disliked all 3. I played baseball, golf and lifted weights and was pretty successful with them. But each time out in practice or in a game, the goal was to do better than....either your opponent or better than you did the previous time out.

"Throw harder."

"Shoot a lower score."

"Bench press more."

These were what I focused on each time out. From the age of 6, to the age of 18...a long time. No wonder it is tough to correct.

Anyway, now let's relate this to triathlon racing. If we try to swim faster, bike harder and run faster than we have before, what happens?

Olympic Distance - This is good, the goal is to go as hard as you can.

Half Ironman - Not terrible, but after riding too hard, your run times suffer by a few minutes.

Ironman - You Blow Up....EVERY_SINGLE_TIME.

Here are a few other situations that fit into this catagory.

1) An athlete that saw quick success in another sport growing up.

2) An athlete who had/has success in the business world.

3) Any athlete that lacks patience.

Ironman training is different. It is more about doing the training that is appropriate and beneficial for you...nothing more, nothing harder. Then going out on race day and using 100%, not 101%, of that fitness on race day.

You can't be in a hurry for results. Ironman is a very long term process and it takes patience and persistence to reach your potential.

Unless you are contending in Kona, your best result from running your race. Anything else will do nothing but slow you down in the end.


richvans said…
Hey Blake:

It's somehow reassuring to see that even athletes at your level struggle with the same demons as those of us in the middle/back of the pack. I've signed up for IMCDA09 - my first. Your blog and others are great resources. Thanks for posting!
Unknown said…
Hi Blake:
How long, and of what magnitude are the power spikes you're referring to? I road with you for about 10minutes on 1 of your training rides before IM Wisconsin last year and was struck by how different you road than me. I use power as well and compared to my normal IM style of riding where I am only 30-40watts above and below my AP at any time, I was seeing multiple spikes of a few seconds at a time of 100+/- watts above the average riding with you. I'm a bigger guy at 190lb, so my AP was 285 at ~22mph for the section we did- I believe you mention an AP of 240-250 for your ride. Riding 'your style' I saw 1-3s spikes of 360-400watts while we crested hills followed by 0-50watt sections coasting down the backside. If I were to ride my normal way at 22mph and 285watts I would have kept the wattage range between 230-320. Are these the types of spikes you're referring to in your blog that you should minimize in an IM setting or is it something else? I follow your brutal training and know that any day of the week you can bang out a 22mph ride followed by a 10K-20K run at sub 7pace which is why I've been surprised by your bike fade during IM. I was also surprised we had almost the same bike split at Moo- For reference; AP=262, NP=272, VI=1.04 21.3mph and I was always between 220-300watts except on the couple 2minute hills where I pushed 325-335.....I have been attributing your slow down to possibly overswimming which is something Gordo Byrn always talks about, but maybe as you're alluding to, there's a power management issue going on for the first couple hours on the bike due to race-day motivation? Thanks for any clarification.

Good-luck on your coming races,
J Mack
Ian said…
A fellow KP athlete here, also a fellow IM under-achiever. I really like this post, it gives me a few different perspectives to consider when examining my reasons for past IM melt downs.
Cheers man,
Blake Becker said…
J Mack...thanks for the post. It is tough to say with that specific workout...could have been intervals, maybe not. I was less focused on VI last year. 360-400 for you is probably 300-330 for me. My FTP was about 325 last year and 345 this year and this will be my cap this year.

The spikes I am referring to was riding from the 60min mark to the 150min mark at IMCDA with a NP of 280w through the hills. I think my CP1 was over 400 and CP5 still over FTP. CP10 just under. I kept my AP and NP under control, but due to a high VI early in the ride, I couldn't "see" that I was killing myself.

Swim effort is not a real issue. I swim hard and I swim a lot before long rides. In the race, at CDA I averaged 164bpm. If you take away the first 5min, My HR was probably in the high 150's for most of it. LT for me is in the mid 170's.

This year at IMWI, I am planning a pacing strategy that is much different than in the past. If it works, then I will write about it ;)

Thanks again for reading everyone!

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