As a coach I have a list of Top 10 philosophies that I review with each new athlete. They are also a recurring theme in my emails and coaching that I do. One of them is training is training and racing is racing.
I am particularly fond of this “wiszim” because often athletes get very confused between the 2 concepts. My race at Redman Triathlon yesterday is a prime example of the power of hanging on to this philosophy.
Yesterday, I had the incredible pleasure of partnering with 2 of my athletes, Bruce and Paul. We were an Ironman Triathlon relay team. Bruce would swim 2.4 miles, I would ride 112 miles and Paul would bring it all home by running 26.2 miles or a marathon distance.
Besides training for this, I am also training for Clearwater 70.3, the World Chamipionship race for the Ironman 70.3 distance. As such, I train primarily for the 70.3 distance but had to incorporate some very long bikes to prepare for the Redman race.
My gracious training partner Julie trained with me nearly every Thursday for 9 weeks. We rode anywhere from 85-113 miles at a time on those days. Our butts were sore, our necks were tired and our legs were jell-o! In each of these rides we stayed well within our aerobic zone heart rate. My HR averages on most of those rides were in the 120’s. Our average mph was 16.3-16.5! Slow.
So, going into this race, what would I guessitmate as my finishing time? Clearly, I would race at a higher heart rate, but how high? Would my legs sustain the effort required of an increased HR? Had I merely increased my cardiovascular endurance but not my muscular endurance? These were questions I had.
But I merely had to look at my racing history to answer these questions. See, until this season, I have always had a coach. I have always done exactly what the coach said. I questioned and didn’t understand at times; but the most important thing was I TRUSTED the coach and the plan. I remember one time, I emailed and wrote something like this, “I am running 2 hours, in the heat and humidity to prepare for Cancun 70.3. I average a min/mile pace of 11:30! Shouldn’t I be running for longer times because I am so slow? Your other athletes are probably running faster. Won’t they be better prepared for running a 13 miles than I will be?” He graciously answered me to not worry, to follow the plan, I would be more than ready. I didn’t undertand. But I also didn’t go out longer than the plan said to cover more distance. It seemed weird to me. But, I trusted the plan.
This year, I write my own plans. I knew that in order to do the other work required to prepare for Clearwater, these long bikes couldn’t tear me up and I’d have to take it slow. About 9 days out from Redman, Julie and I were on a swim/bike/run that would be my last big workout before Redman. We swam about 15 minutes, nice and easy. Went on a 30 mile bike ride that included 4 hard 12 minute intervals. My legs would only tolerate 3 intervals. I bailed during the first 5 minutes of the final interval because my HR just wouldn’t get beyond the middle of my aerobic zone. I was done. I soft pedaled in with deeply tired legs. Instead of a run, we walked for 15 minutes as recovery.
Between that workout, the Thursday before Redman (9/16) and Redman (9/25). The ONLY thing I did was swim twice, run once for 30 minutes and core work. My legs had to rest. I’ve been training consistently since January with only 1 week off (the first week of July). I knew that if I didn’t get rid of the fatigue, I would be toast at Redman and even worse, negatively impact the final weeks of training for Clearwater.
So, back to the question. What goals would I set? What could I really ride? I decided to just put down an ideal day, my dream day as a possibility. Prior to writing anything down, I asked God to help me come up with the right numbers. I couldn’t figure this out on my own.
So, I sat at the computer. Looked at my prior racing pacing averages. Remembered our long training runs and came up with this plan. I had 4 loops to ride. I would plan my riding based first on how my legs felt, second on my HR and 3rd on my average mph. I decided that the first and second loop would be 1:40 and 1:40. The 3rd loop 1:35 and the 4th loop, go for broke and try to hit 1:30.These needed to include potty breaks too. I would average near 17.5 mph.
I was nervous. Racing 112 is a new distance. The unkown makes me nervous. The unkown is also exciting. The morning was absolutely beautiful. The pre-race prayer led over the loud speaker by the announcer brought tears to my eyes. The father who lost a boy to leukemia telling us all to “embrace” whatever the day brought us made me so grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to race. God was present!
I hung out waiting with Bill Conlee and talking with the other relay cyclists. I peed 17 times. Not really, but close. Then, there was Bruce! Out of the water and heading straight to me. We exchanged chips and I was off!
I bolted out of the park and once I got to the first road I told myself to settle down and settle in. This was not a 28 mile or a 56 mile ride. This was 112. Granted, I didn’t have to run afterward. But, after mile 85…I could blow up and that would be bad. The first loop was exhilirating and a tad stressful. We went through a lot of traffic, relied heavily on Sherriff and police to guide me past and through traffic safely and rode over some incredibly rough roads. As I was coming in to finish the first loop, I looked and my time was around 1:32 as I pulled up to a BAS (bike aid station). I quickly peed and reloaded my water then rode to the turn around, past Robert and Bruce and others cheering and out to start loop 2.
Loop 2. Man I felt good. Legs felt good. Thankful for all the rest that I had courageously taken. HR…higher than anticipated. 138-145. But, the legs felt good. So, I took a chance and decided to keep up the effort. I have definitely found the sweet spot in my saddle. About 8 miles into loop 2, I started feeling some weird bump under my saddle. I hadn’t heard a pop, so I didn’t think my tire was flat. After about 1/2 mile I decided it would be wise to stop and see. My fear was that somehow my seat post was loose. I got off my bike and checked my rear tire first. FLAT. Damn. So, I reached into my bag and pulled out the Vittoria Pit stop. A $15 product that seals a flat and pumps it up. Crap. Should have read the directions BEFORE race day. So, I look at the can. There are directions listed in every single possible language..I can’t find english. I see pictures. I do better with words. I glance at the pictures and decide that will take too much time. I pull off the lid, remember what Jeff told me and pray he was right. I push the can onto my valve stem and press. VOILA. The tire is pumping up. In about 1 minute…really, 1 minute. I am back on the road. I am now the biggest fan in the entire world of Vittoria Pit Stop. If you don’t have it, go buy it today. Now, my only little nagging question was would it hold? I was afterall 33 miles into a 112 mile race. So, I did 2 things. First, I prayed and asked for God’s grace that this would hold up. Second, I told myself that next race I would have 2 of these on board.
Turn around at loop 2 – on par with the time for loop one. Feeling GREAT. Keep on riding. My legs are strong. I am comfortable. I pedal on. I’m almost done with loop 2. I stop at the same BAS. Pee, put on chamois butter and get water. Hear all the cheering from Robert and friends, Bruce and Alan. Turn around and onto loop 3.
I’m still feeling really good. I anticipate that somewhere in loop 3 I’ll either rejoice or regret the pace that I’ve held thus far. I’m ahead of plan. So, I continue riding with my HR between 138-145. I get to the turnaround for the halfway mark of loop 3 and I’m still on pace. Ahead of the plan. Still feeling strong. I now feel fatigue in my legs. I pray and ask God to show me how to keep pushing even though I am tired. I pray for confidence. Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, I repeat over and over. Just hold on to the pace.
I round a corner in the final 2 miles of loop 3 and go oversomething in the road that I didn’t see at all. Not glass. But something hard. My front tire took a big hit. Hmmm, not good. But my tire feels fine and I keep riding. I stop by my favorite BAS, load up with water. No time to pee now. and head out for loop 4.
I feel deep tiredness in my legs. My right quad is not happy and cramps everyone and then in a spasm like fashion. While this course is not hilly there are a couple areas that are demanding and 1 hill in the last mile or 2 of the loop that is fairly long. I try to maximize speed and yet save energy where I can so that I have something in the tank for the tougher parts of the course. The 1/2 back in to the finish line is definitely harder than the 1/2 out. It’s only 28 miles. I can do this. Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. I pray and tell God that I will give everything I have..but I need Him to do what I can’t do. Remarkably, I look at my watch and realize that finishing in 6:25 is entirely possible. Even though my HR has dropped and I can barely hold it at 135 instead of the 140-145. I had enough minutes banked with my prior 3 laps, that if I just push through this, I can do 6:25. I hit some of the hills and my legs are close to cramping. I am hot. I just keep telling myself to tap the reserve and be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. I have stopped looking at pace and average mph. I am just looking at time and my hr. I figure if I can keep my HR over 130..I have a good chance. I see my watch tell me 108 miles, 110 miles. The big hill…2 more miles to go. I take the hill in my small chain ring (geez…is that what I’ve been reduced to?) I’m patient but pushing. To the top! I am about 3/4 of a mile away from the finish. I look at my watch…yep, my the skin of my teeth I can come in under 6:25! I dismout my bike and in swinging my left leg over the hamstring gives me a big warning cramp. I gently jog the bike back to my rack and then run to the team “circle” to exchange and give Paul the timing chip. I get back to my bike and notice that the front tire is flat..hhmmm..seems that during my entire 4th loop that tire was getting flatter and flatter. The bump or whatever I hit on loop 3 – did me in. Thank you God for keeping me safe, enough air in my tire to keep me rolling and keeping my rim from being destroyed and allowing me to finish this race strong! God was present.
My offiical time was posted as I write this blog and is 6:24:21!! Our BKP team finished 3rd on co-ed teams with a time of 11:33!! Go BKP!
What did I learn?
1. I relearned the truth in racing is racing and training is training. I averaged 16.5 in training and 17.5 in racing. It doesn’t sound like much, but 1 mph over 112 miles is a lot. My former coach was right. Follow the plan. Race day will take care of itself.
2. I learned that I can push myself for hours at a time.
3. I relearned how much God is with me when I ask him to be. The 112 miles passed by more like 2 hours instead of nearly 6 and 1/2. My comfort on my bike, my mental strength, my FUN factor – absolutely astounding. God was with me and together He and I finished this race.
4. I learned how important it is to not get in the mind set of evaluating all the data from training and making race day projections based on it. Part of the excitement and challenge of race day is the unknown. The what can I do? What will the day bring? The effort in training is never ever like race day. Oh sure, I have to push and hurt in a certain amount of training or all I will have is endurance and not speed. I don’t need to tell myself, “go do this or that….to make sure you can on race day.” I just need to follow the plan, adjust as needed based on my body and mind and TRUST that the art and science will blend into a great race day.
5. I’ve learned that Vittoria Pit stop is the bomb!!
6. I’ve learned that relay teams are completely and totally fun.
7. I’ve learned that I am ready for a full Ironman. 7/2011. It’s taken 6 seasons for me to finally feel like I’m ready. I’m so glad I waited. I think it’s so important to be ready. I know, for me, that I’m ready. I didn’t care when my friends were ready…I’m glad I’ve waited for MY time.