I always struggle this time of year following my annual Ironman race (past 6yrs). I come home and try to relax from the stresses of my race and the training load into that event. This year I am trying to be very aggressive with my approach to keeping my immune system as strong as possible. My goal is to stay physically and mentally strong throughout the winter months. This year, I have worked with my nutritionist to build my list of the following supplements from Standard Process:
Echinacea Premium: Enhance Immune System/Support a healthy immune response following stress, sudden changes in weather or temperature
Astragalus Complex: enhance immune system function
Rhodiola & Ginseng Complex: supports the body's natural defenses against emotional and environmental stressors
This was my 10th Ironman and first non-Kona Ironman since 2003. I chose to take a year off from racing the IM World Champs in 2015 because I really felt that I needed a mental and physical break from probably the hardest (everything considered) iron distance race. It sounds cliche, but it really takes a piece of your soul. So, I chose IM Maryland for many reasons. First, I like to race this time of year as I feel that the summer weather allows me to train just right for a fall peak. Also, I have raced the 70.3 Eagleman course 7x previously. So I know the venue really well and many sections of the course are the same for both venues.
Race morning started with temps in the high 40s and winds of 15-30mph. Water temps were 63 degrees. Even though the conditions were not ideal, I was mentally prepared for the day. I stayed calm throughout the race announcements that preceded the swim start and just focused my thoughts on visualizing how I wanted the race to unfold.
The first announcement came 20 minutes prior to the scheduled start: "due to the winds of 15-30mph, a small craft advisory has been issued and we cannot continue with the full 2.4 mile swim course. The course will be shortened to 1.2 miles and the race will be delayed to 7:30am start." Fortunately, I had packed an extra bottle of calories and electrolytes, so the delay did not effect my nutrition balance at all. The second announcement came at 7am: "The conditions have improved and we are working to lengthen the course out to 3 kilometers (1/2 mile short of full distance). Race start will remain 7:30."
Swim: 43:26 (36th OA / 7th AG)
The conditions prevented any warm-up swim prior to the start. So the first jump into the water, as we ran down the boat ramp, was a bit of a shock to the systems. We swam out about 25 meters then made a right turn right into the rising sun. I couldn't see a thing, but neither could anyone else. Fortunately (in this case), I am not going to be leading any Ironman swims, so I had plenty of splashes to follow. I experienced the usual elbows, feet, bumping, and swimming over athletes. However, I kept the perceived effort pretty easy. I exited the water feeling extremely fresh and ready to roll the remainder of the race.
Bike: 4:49:12 (8th OA / 2nd AG)
The two main factors that I wanted to focus on during the bike were: staying comfortable and my nutrition.
My riding attire was spot on for the cooler conditions. I wore my Skins compression calf and arm sleeves in addition to my Castelli one piece tri suit and aero top. I felt like I really nailed my nutrition. I focused on staying patient on the bike. I was very methodical in my approach to my nutrition, electrolyte, and hydration. The cooler temps forced me to have 6 rolling #1 potty breaks. I've never had to do this in an Ironman before as it's usually so hot that I just sweat everything out. The winds definitely played a big factor for the entirety of the bike ride. I would say that 90% of the time we had a side wind or head wind. However, that 10% that was a tailwind was glorious! I came off the bike feeling relatively fresh and optimistic for the run. For the first time in an Ironman race I was able to get off of my bike without my hamstrings locking up on me.
Run: 3:10:23 (3rd OA / 2nd AG)
I was told that I came off the bike in 4th place overall. I had the normal stiffness and fatigue coming off of a 112 mile bike, but I was way more fresh than I've ever been at this stage in an ironman. I tried to focus on getting into a rhythm and settling in for a consistent run. I was able to roll sub 7 minute miles off pretty well until mile 12. At this point, I hit the headwind and my pace dropped substantially to high 7 minute mile pace. Fortunately that slowdown was mostly due to the headwind. I did start to take cola at each aid station going forward and I even walked a bit of each aid station to make sure I absorbed the fluids. I started to feel some deep muscular fatigue by mile 16. I have felt this in the past but not to the same extent in recent ironmans. Fortunately, I ran up on a local athlete at this time (Tim S). I was able to run with him for a few miles. By the time I hit mile 19, my hamstrings were cramping like crazy and my quads were screaming. I was trying to take as much salt as my stomach could handle. However, I believe I was just to muscularly fatigued from the day, wind, and colder temps. By mile 21 I had managed to move up to 3rd place overall. I saw that 2nd place was going through a really rough patch. I tried to keep a pace that wouldn't cause my cramping to re-emerge. I managed to keep the cramps down and moved into 2nd place right before the 22nd mile. At mile 25, my right calf locked up on me.
I knew I could force my way over the last 1.2 miles, so I just kept moving the best I could. It was not pretty at all, but I was able to cross the finish line in 2nd place overall.
Final: 8:50:21 (2nd OA / 1st AG)
Post Race: This year I am really focused on my recovery. I have had a really hard time the past few years with my recovery during the first month following the race. I am using all of my Standard Process supplements that my nutritionist has recommended for my optimal recovery. I look forward to the 2016 racing season and heading back to Kona for my 9th trip to the Ironman World Championships!
This time of year I always get reminded how demanding big training volumes can be on the body. Stress is stress and the challenge of trying to balance big training blocks while maintaining a healthy body/mind can be overwhelming.
I have mentioned many times before that I have four keys to success:
1. Stay Healthy
2. Stay Consistent
3. Train Properly
4. Have fun
I consider sleep to be the most important factor in maintaining optimal health. I get blood work done at least 2x a year and use other tests to see if I am in need of any supplement assistance to my daily diet. One supplement I use this time of year is Drenamin from Standard Process. This supplement addresses many of the key variables that I need:
Drenamin supports adrenal function and helps maintain emotional balance.
Promotes healthy adrenal gland function
Encourages a healthy response to everyday environmental stresses and supports immune system function
Maintains energy production
Supports a balanced mood
Contains a combination of key ingredients from Cataplex C, Cataplex G, and Drenatrophin PMG
Good source of antioxidant vitamin C*
This was my 12th time racing the Timberman venue. I love this course and the surrounding area. I went to prep school on the lake back in 1990-1991. I have always admired the beauty of the Lakes region.
I'm going to keep this recap very short and go over the major points of my race.
Swim: I saw Charles Perrault right before our wave started and knew that I would definitely not be the fastest M40-44 swimmer on the day. I did try to hold his feet at the beginning and it was the first time that I almost overheated in a wetsuit. I could not hold him and I ended up doing the remainder of the swim by myself.
Bike: I came into the race really well rested. I had a hard time settling in on the first 12 miles as my legs were so fresh from the rest. I was able to settle things down once I got onto the main road at mile 13. However, I did make two critical mistakes in hindsight. The conditions were hot and humid on the day. I did not take in enough calories to account for the extra needed in the heat. I, also, got behind on my hydration. There was 1 less aid station at the beginning of the bike this year and I dropped the water bottle at the 2nd aid station. So, I got my first bottle of water at the turnaround at mile 29. Both mistakes are completely my fault and I know better, but sh*% happens sometimes.
Run: I started the run conservatively to find my rhythm and then built into a good clip by mile 4. I registered my first and only sub 6 minute mile at that point. Then the wheels slowly started to come off. This is where my 2 big mistakes on the bike started to manifest. It was like a slow moving train wreck. I started to lose energy and focus. I have experienced this numerous times in the past and I should have been able to recognize the symptoms. By mile 7, I was ready to take a nice long time out. So I made a deal with myself to walk the aid stations until I started to feel better. It took 3 aid stations to get back on track, relatively speaking. I was able to get back to a somewhat respectable pace for the final 5k and I crossed the line in 4:21:47 2nd M40-44/5th Amateur/ 34th Overall. This was not one of my better days. They say you learn more from your failures than your successes. While I do not consider this a failure, I sure learned a lot on the day.
Taking Risks: IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships Bike Pacing
Thursday, August 13, 2015 | By Chris Thomas
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Taking Risks: IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships Bike Pacing
The 2014 70.3 World Championship was my thirty-ninth Half Ironman distance race. So, I’ve had some opportunities to figure out what works well for me and what does not over the years. I am a bit of a data dork and love to analyze my race data.
Race Day Numbers
My effort on race day is dictated by triangulating my perceived effort, heart rate, and power in that order. I have found that I need to ride to my own feel. If I get too hung up on a certain power number or heart rate, then I do not race as well. However, I do know my zones very well from my training. When I line up for a race, I know exactly what I am capable of. I may have a good day or a bad day, but I am not just guessing what I can do. So I keep a close eye on my numbers like Normalized Power® (NP®), heart rate, cadence, and speed throughout the race to see how I am riding. I have found that this helps me to stay patient at the beginning of the bike leg, when my legs are fresh and to stay focused in the middle to later sections. I have had a tendency to flake out a bit in the past and my effort has dipped due to the lack of focus.
Post Race Analysis
According to Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan in their book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, the optimal Intensity Factor® (IF®) range to race a Half Ironman is .83-.87. IF shows how intense your effort was as a percentage of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP).I have, personally, seen mine range from .76-.87 over the years.
Another one of the other parameters I look at after a race is the Variability Index (VI). VI indicates how smooth your power output was over the ride. The lower your VI, 1.0 being perfect, the more evenly your power production. Joe Friel has stated that an optimal VI for triathlons is 1.05 or below in order to run well off the bike. I have ranged between 1.00-1.08 during my Half Ironman events.
Data in Action
Here is a look at my data from the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, Canada
Proper Bike Pacing
My Intensity factor came in at .82 for this race. While slightly below what I normally see, I felt that I performed well on the day. I had gotten dunked during the start of the swim segment, which cost me a little bit of time. So, I knew I needed to ride well in order to be in a competitive position starting the run.
Each race is unique and the dynamics of the Mnt. Tremblant bike course were frustrating at times as packs formed and the tightness of the course design caused a few bottlenecks. In spite of these unfortunate situations, I was able to ride consistent and pretty much stuck to my game plan. I ended up with a variability index of 1.02 for the entire ride. However, even with the proper VI, my quads were very fatigued coming off of the bike as I pushed the last 7.5 kilometers as hard as I could. My goal was to create as much separation as possible during this hilly section.
The bike effort brought me into T2 first in my age group. I had an uncharacteristically slow transition and dropped two places coming out onto the run. I could see my competition right in front of me, but I could not match the leg speed of my competition. I ended up getting run down by another athlete and just barely held on for fourth place in the M40-44 bracket by four seconds on fifth place. There were some speedy runners for sure. I was happy with my effort on the day and really felt that I gave everything I had.
While my bike numbers indicated I should have been able to run well, I had used a couple of extra bullets that clearly affected me in hindsight. This illustrates that using numbers can help you make good decisions on race day, even if you gamble a bit. Racing is all about fitness, execution, and good decision making. Using data allows you to build on each of these elements. While my numbers were good, I gambled a bit and it was a good learning experience.
I had raced the inaugural REV 3 half Ironman distance event in 2009 at Lake Quassapaug. That course was very challenging but fair. The race course design has changed many times over the years, but the topography of the area will always lend itself to a very challenging course. The 2015 edition did not disappoint.
Swim: 27:54 (11th)
I was looking forward to starting in the elite wave. I enjoy the competition and it's always nice to get clean roads. I was able to get a good start and I noticed a group of 3 swimmers to my left. I worked hard to bridge up to them, then tried to stay in their draft. It was almost an ideal draft. I was working hard to hold my position throughout the entire swim. At the final turn buoy, the swimmer right in front of me seemed to slow a bit and a gap opened up. I was able to bridge up to the top 2 swimmers and followed them into the beach. I was really happy to come out of my wave in 3rd place.
Bike: 2:35:11 (4th)
I was able to come out of T1 in 2nd place overall. I knew the bike course was going to be challenging, so I tried to settle in. My coach, Paul Regensberg, asked me to hit the first half steady and try to build my effort on the 2nd half. I seemed to be sticking to the game plan for the first 40k of the bike. My power and heart rate numbers were decent. I knew I was not going to set any personal bests this day as I just did not have the necessary outdoor riding sessions in the bank. This course never lets you settle in. It consists of a lot of short steep hills with lots of technical sections.
I was able to enjoy the lead car until the aid station around mile 25. At that point, an athlete (Pierre-Ives Gigou), went by me like I was riding training wheels. He was so smooth and steady. I knew right away I was not going with him. I hit the 30 mile point after the longest climb of the course and tried to hit the gas as coach prescribed. It was at this point that I realized there was not anything in the tank. So I focused on trying to stay as steady as I could the remainder of the bike. Gigou, a first year pro, put almost 13 minutes into me the remainder of the bike. While I would not have held Pierre on my best day, I know I could have made it a bit more interesting if my fitness was a bit more in line (typical triathlete excuse :-)). My normalized power results came in at 236 watts, which was 36 watts lower than I had produced back in 2009. It was one of those days.
Run: 1:23:40 (3rd)
As I came off the bike, I received the information that I was about 12 minutes down. That was a bit disheartening. Coach Paul had asked me to do the run section as a good training day. I focused on my rhythm and tried to find a pace I could settle into. The run course was so undulating that I was all over the map. By the time I hit the hills during the last 5 miles, I was pretty fried and ready to get the race finished. However, even though I was really fatigued, I ended up running better than I had planned.
Overall Time: 4:29:12 (2nd Overall)
I entered this race season with the game plan of a late season peak. Usually I need to be at the top of my game this time of year in order to qualify for the Ironman World Championship. With that realization, I was happy with my results on the day. I gave what I had on the day.
A college athlete of mine recently asked me about the importance of sleep. He has a busy school, work and social schedule. His sleep was starting to suffer and he wanted to know if sleep was really that important to his endurance goals.
Coach Chris’s response:
I emphasized to my athlete just how important proper sleep is. Growth hormone is released during sleep and there is added hormone production when sleep is extended past normal ranges. On the flip side, a two hour reduction to one’s normal sleep pattern is equivalent to consuming enough alcohol to register a .05 blood alcohol level. While the average adult gets 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep daily, there have been recent studies done on athletes that show enormous benefits to athletic performance when they are able to get 10 hours of sleep per night. ESPN even did a story where they stated that sleep is the “magic pill” for athletic performance.
I mentioned to my athlete that there are many devices on the market today that track the amount and quality of sleep. I, personally, use the Timex Move X20 to track my daily sleep patterns. I find that it really helps me stay more consistent. I’m also able to better understand my energy levels on a daily basis.
LifeSport Coach Chris Thomas has over 10 years of coaching experience and is USAT certified. Chris is also an Ironman 70.3 World Champion (M40-44). He enjoys working with athletes of all levels. Contact Chris to tackle your first triathlon or to perform at a higher level. Find more tips on Twitter@LifeSportCoach.
Career Highlights: 2009 USA Triathlon Amateur Athlete of the Year, 2012,2013, 2014 USA Triathlon Masters Athlete of the Year, 2014 USA Triathlon Olympic National Championship Masters Champion, 4 X Ironman 70.3 World Championship Age Group Winner (2008, 2009, 2012, 2013), 18 X 70.3 Overall Amateur Champion, 8 X Ironman World Champion Finisher (4 X Top 10 in Age Group), 2015 American Zofingen LC Champion, 2nd OA IM Maryland
I started competing in triathlon in the summer of 2000. I had always been intrigued by the sport since the early ‘80s when I would watch the Hawaii Ironman on TV. I got into running at a young age (6yrs old) as my father was a big marathon runner back in the late 70’s, early 80’s running boom. I did my first 10-mile road race when I was 10 years old. I also played ice hockey throughout my childhood and I stopped running my sophomore year in high school in order to completely focus on ice hockey. I did not run again until the fall of 1999. During that race, a friend of mine mentioned that he competed in sprint triathlons, short duration races lasting around one hour. I was immediately interested and I signed up for my first triathlon in July of 2000 up in Falmouth, Ma. I was immediately hooked. I loved the competition. I especially liked the aspect of the three sports and how one could continue to practice and improve in each sport. I believe all three sports compliment each other. I also really enjoyed the idea of challenging myself to see where I could get. So, while triathlon is a competition, I see it more as a race against yourself then others. It is a very addictive sport, but I think it’s probably one of the healthiest addictions that I know of. The training is also a great stress relief. I worked in New York City for the past 5 years and down on Wall Street for 2 years. The commute and the lifestyle can get pretty stressful at times. The training really helped me de-stress and stay focused. I have three little boys and I really enjoy sharing the sport with all three of them. I don’t care if they ever compete in a race, but I do believe it’s important to expose them to healthy opportunities in life. I would say that the hardest endurance scenario I’ve faced was actually the first half ironman I competed in up in Laconia, NH, which was the Timberman race. I’ve completed four full Ironman events, but that half ironman was my first attempt at the distance. I feel, in hindsight, that I just was not properly trained for the event. It was an incredible eye opening experience. I don’t think I’ve been more tired then the moment I crossed that finish line. However, the human mind is fascinating, as I was looking forward to the next race less then 24 hours after.