The TTBikeFit BLOG:
We don’t post that often these days, but there is a ton of good archived info here and when we have something REALLY SMART to say, look no further!
(Lisbeth Kenyon won the 45-49 AG in Kona this year after winning the 40-44 AG last year. She broke the 45-49 course record by 25 mins and the 40-44 record by 2 mins with a 10:01:30)
It is hard to believe that Kona has come and gone once again, and that I managed to win my age group for the second consecutive year. Even though I aged up this year I knew the competition would be no easier, and that I would have to be faster to even have a shot at repeating. This would be my fourth Kona – the first being pre-kids in 1996 at the age of 31 – my first Ironman since back in the good old days you could qualify at an Olympic distance race. That year I toed the line with naivety as my greatest asset; plus it was my honeymoon so what could go wrong? I had spent the first four years of my tri career doing mostly sprints with some Olympics and one half. Thankfully, 1996 was one of the calmer years (the year Luc Van Lierde set the still-standing course record) and I got through it albeit with some major nutrition and cramping problems. I was passed in the chute as I hobbled, unable to stand up straight, missing the podium by one spot with a 10:40. The depth of the athlete pool back then was much shallower than it is today. After two hours and a few IV’s in the med tent, I was fine. It would be years before I returned due to the reoccurring babies, but Kona stayed in my blood – I knew I would return.
Fast forward to 2008 where I would try again after winning Ironman Florida (my 2nd IM) overall in 2007. This time I had the knowledge gained from my new training partners on the FuelBelt Race Team. But I still didn’t have the nutrition thing totally wired, and I made some mistakes descending from Hawi that haunted me the rest of the race. This time I spent the last 18 miles of the run leaning to the left, had major stomach issues, and once again was passed within a mile of the finish line. At least I barely stayed on the podium with a 10:35. For a few hours I swore I would never do Kona again, then before I went to sleep I could feel the desire to have another go creeping back in. So I went and did Arizona 6 weeks later and got my spot for 2009. Although I obviously had a good race in 2009 (I had started working with Coach Al, the first time I had a “real” coach), I still didn’t run to my potential. Since I won a spot for 2010, I was already planning. I wanted to finish Kona with a strong run, and get my nutrition right. Reservations were made in the Spring, and we decided to tow all 3 kids with us this year. I am not sure Todd got a vote on that.
Since I killed two flies in one smack last year in Kona by qualifying for 2010 and the Boston Marathon, my race and training plans were decided: train like a runner for Boston early, race a few half irons and shorter races, and then build for Kona. Although I worked some with Coach Al for last year’s Kona I hadn’t been with him long enough to be able to train the way he really wanted me to. So now he had a whole year to prepare me for what he considered an ideal ironman build.
Todd and I left for Hawaii the Sunday before the race with three extremely excited kids (no school for a week, what is there not to be psyched about?). Never seen them bounce out of bed at 3:45am already talking a hole in our heads. Having the kids took the pressure off as I had zero time to think about the race – however, I would be lying if I said my ultimate goal wasn’t to win my age group. That was a sweet feeling last year and I wanted some more of that. Todd and Al were certain I was faster this year, especially on the run, but in Kona anything can and does happen.
The kids fell in love with Hawaii – it’d be tough to not bring them should we go again. Ingrid wants to go back to her favorite art store (of course) and they discovered snorkeling, coral reefs, giant turtles, body surfing & boogie boarding among crazy good locals, shave ice, 1000 folks racing in their underpants, and they might even have started to sense the mystic vibe of this lava covered island. We stayed in a condo on the beach within walking distance from Lava Java (best breakfast and iced vanilla latte ever) and Lulu’s (best fish tacos and beer ever).
The week before the race had Todd and I doing some short runs on Alii and rides on the Queen K. Plus we did the obligatory swims at Dig Me Beach but avoided the early morning mayhem so the kids could snorkel while we swam. No dolphins this year but you can’t beat the reef scenery. In general it didn’t seem as hot as usual but past experience has shown that the heat almost always shows up for race day.
Pre race: Got up at 4am and did not feel terrific; congested. I was wondering why I wasn’t freaking out. I knew what to expect, I had done this 3 times before – the swim would be hell, the bike would be windy and the run burning hot. There is a huge advantage to having done this race and knowing how you are going to feel in those elements. It can be shocking to first timers. I think you have to learn to be at peace with the conditions in Kona. Hoping for light winds or less heat won’t help. Embracing and preparing for the conditions will. I tried to eat my 1000 calories and downed a ton of coffee. Todd drove me to the start where I met up with our buddy George from KY who had clearly had his share of coffee – this was his first time racing Kona. Body marking went super quickly; assembly line style number stamps. Arranged my nutrition and pumped my tires. The announcement that Chrissie Wellington wasn’t racing brought a gasp from the crowd – what a shame. Watched the pro race go off at 6:30am – it looked slow; there was a swell. Put my TYR Torque over my race singlet and got a camera in my face asking me to say something nice – I said volunteers are the reason we can do this. Swam out to the floating Ford truck to hang out with 1800 of my best friends – why did they look like piranhas…
Swim:15 minutes of treading water while boxed in; there should be a mandatory toe nail clipping. I asked a surf board if I could go to the other side of the floating Ford truck but the answer was no. Later I learned, and pictures confirmed, that lots of people started there. I was exhausted before the cannon went off. Whatever plan I had was drowned in the froth and I instantly went lactic. So much aggression. White water madness all the way to the turn-around boat. My goggles got knocked off but I had them under my swim cap so they rolled back. My swim cap came off this year also – not sure how to deal with that. Glue? I stopped and pulled it back on. It was slow out so I expected the swell to push us in as it had every morning. Except this morning. A male in a tiny speedo insisted on swimming over me – it wasn’t congested anymore but he wanted MY space. He scratched me and the resulting sore would bleed and hurt for the rest of the race. I moved over so he could have my line – you’re welcome. Then I drafted the skimpy-suit. Swim time 1:04. Shoot, whatever notion I had of sub-10 hours may have drowned with that swim, but time goals in Kona are a terrible idea and needless distraction anyway. I had swallowed a lot of water and would later ‘discard’ that on the Queen K during the first 12 miles of the bike.
Bike: Felt good but settled into 75% of my FTP and was a good girl to watch my power meter and not go much over. Focused on the salt/fluids/calorie plan; had my beeper go off every 30 minutes to wake me up in case my mind drifted; which it did. The first out and back was congested as usual; better to accept that and not waste any energy over it. I had forgotten it was so hilly. Then up Palani Hill which is lined with loud cheering energy. Out to Queen K where it rolls and you have a nice tail wind. Spotted Todd and the kids near the airport. Some large packs went by and it was frustrating in spots but shortly after the draft marshals started working their magic and people were busted right and left; each penalty tent was packed to the rim. Things started spreading out nicely. It was warming up. The car spotters said the temp showed 104 degrees. It didn’t take too long for me to catch a few fast swimmers in my age group. Things were going well but I knew the real race starts on the 18 miles up to Hawi.
As expected they were windy; I was going 8 mph at times. I could tell the trip down was going to be scary due to the gusty cross winds. I made sure my Speedfil was more or less empty during the stretch up; I didn’t need added weight and relied on aid stations. It was a bit stormy on top of Hawi, the winds were howling, the clouds were dark and it was sprinkling. It felt good but the wind was insane. Turn around at mile 59 and fill up with fluids for the way down; having some weight would perhaps be more stable in the cross winds given that the Speedfil sits within the frame and not on my handlebars. The storm was behind us and the sun came out. The cross winds didn’t disappoint – 35 mph. Not the worst ever there by a long shot but the worst that I have experienced. I tried to relax my shoulders in between bad spots and drank from the straw; while keeping a death grip on the bars. I was nearly thrown off my bike in the gusts a handful of times, how I stayed up I don’t know. One trick is to keep pedaling. Others were not as lucky. I learned that George was so freaked out that he got off his bike and said to himself that he did not want to be there. But he made it down. As did Harriet Anderson who is 70!
Back down to the Queen K I suddenly realized I had forgotten sun screen on my face! I tried looking at my nose to see if it had burned up and shrunk, which may have been a good thing. Nothing I could do, though. I started feeling really strong with 34 miles left which surprised me and I thanked my bike, power meter, and race plan for that. I was passing a lot of people at this point and I could tell some of them were going through a tough time. I had been there and knew exactly how they felt. This stretch is mostly lonely, so lonely I was talking to myself. Todd and Lars were cheering for me on the Queen K near the end but I missed them completely. Bike time 5:20 and feeling quite good after the initial stiff run to the changing tent. 21.2 mph. Put sun screen on my face.
Run: I felt remarkably good starting out but took that with a grain of salt – literally. Looked at my GPS, too fast. Slowed and enjoyed the crowd and the ice cold towel the changing tent women had wrapped around my neck. I love the changing tent. The people in it are from heaven. They put your socks on and pamper you. I wish I could have thanked them more. Had my 2-bottle FuelBelt filled with electrolyte powder to keep it light which I filled with water at aid stations later. I started with a hand held with the same contents. Ingrid and Tor Anders were stationed at the condo a mile down the road and told me I was 6 minutes up and first age group. That was good information. The out and back is 10 miles, the terrain rolls gradually and it is – you guessed it – hot. But once in a while we had a cloud cover the sun and the difference was night and day! The weird thing about Kona is that the air temperature is typically only about 83 degrees. But the sun and radiant heat from the lava and black roads can quickly make the air temps that the athletes feel crest 100. So any respite from the sun is huge.
I drank like a sponge each aid station and sipped my salt. I saw Caitlin Snow; she was not in top 10 (yet) but absolutely flying and she was yelling and cheering ME on – she was doing that while in the process of running the second fastest marathon in the history of that course! Back to town I spotted Todd and Lars who confirmed I was in first. Time to conquer Palani Hill. This hill is long and it’s steep and I dread it. Craig Alexander came bolting down. I have never run up it, but today I ran and ran – at 11 minute per mile pace but still.
Back up to Queen K there is a down and then a loooong gradual up that never seems to end and finally you see the solar panels and you turn left into the Energy Lab. The reported temp emanating from the asphalt was 124 degrees. That’s on the ground and luckily I wasn’t crawling. A mile before this turn I took a gel and instantly my stomach knotted up – whoops!! I had been drinking so much Perform because it was so hot – I was overdoing my calories big time. My 1996 incident of hyponatremia had me mentally scared of water. Water is not so bad if you take enough electrolytes, which I was today. Lesson learned.
What happens in the Energy Lab stays in the Energy Lab but it did include a porta-john session at mile 17. Shoot, whatever notion I didn’t have anymore of sub-10 definitely was down the toilet now. I got a side stitch and frantically thought of every trick I had read about – tighten my opposite fist – or was it same fist – so I tightened both, breath all the way to the belly, relax, etc. Slowed my pace, felt quite sick and started sipping water and ice for a while. At the Energy Lab turn-around I looked for my competition to see if maybe I could continue to take it easy. Nopes, the great Donna Kay-Ness came charging 4 minutes later and her face looked mighty tough. I figured if I ran 9 and she ran 8 pace – which she is more than capable of and beyond, she could exactly catch me. So the race was on, no more feeling sorry for myself. HTFU, HTFU. You can do anything for 7 miles.
My legs wanted to run but my stomach was setting the pace. I switched to coke and was able to get my running below 8 again. There is a gradual incline at the end of Queen K and then the last mile is mostly down. Regardless of how you feel this is the best mile in the entire world because it is soon time to stop; people around you are super happy for you, the journey is over. I didn’t think I was going to be able to enjoy the last stretch on Alii to the finish; I was falling apart by now and leaning to the left (what else is new). The folks on the left had to take some steps back to avoid me; I just watched my finishing video and I almost took out half the crowd. The Alii finishing stretch is the best on the planet – I am amazed every time, it is loud and it is loud FOR YOU. This short stretch might be the reason I want to do it again and again. Todd and the kids were in that crowd behind the fence and they were louder than anyone, but I never did see them. They had to run 1/2 mile to come around to the family reunion entrance. Run time 3:31 – PR for me. Nothing left in the tank. So happy to see the family – it is no easy task to spectate one of these and especially with 3 kids to consider. Called Coach Al who was ecstatic. Hobbled back to the condo with the kids and Todd and promptly drank a beer.
There was the small matter of a mystery “woman” who was ahead of, or slightly behind me all day, and in the end was listed as beating me by a mere 11 seconds. No one out on the course saw “her” and Todd had guessed by this time that “she” must be a man. Ironman Live finally announced on the live feed at 11pm that I did in fact win as she was in fact a man, but they didn’t update the results for 4 days. I sure got a lot of “sorry you just missed the win” messages though.
Total time 10:01:30. I was close. PR by 14 minutes on this course in tough conditions. New course record for age group women over 40. The fitness got me to the line but one mile more and I would have walked. I can pinpoint a good nutrition plan for the future based on what I learned; will make some adjustments during the run. It is hard to simulate these conditions in training in New England even in 90 degree temps, but I know how many calories I can handle and I overdid that. Can’t underestimate how scientific and focused race nutrition needs to be when you try to be at your limit for 10 hours in Kona conditions. If you don’t nail this part of the race plan, no amount of fitness will get you across the line in good shape. Kona is really a unique event that is unforgiving of the tiniest errors. Mindset is hugely important on top of getting the technical aspects right. You have to accept what the course gives you, and take advantage of the small gifts along the way, whether they be a moment of tailwind, some cloud cover, or some clear water. The rest of the time you must embrace the hardships, knowing that everyone out there is sharing them with you and that it just wouldn’t be Kona without them.
Huge thanks to my family! This doesn’t feel like a sport as much as a long term life style. Big thanks obviously goes to Coach Al for getting me fitter and faster than I was at 31 when I did Kona the first time. You’re a genius. And to FuelBelt and team for amazing support in all aspects all year long every year – it’s a dream team to be part of. Thank you FuelBelt! To Linnea for my good luck flowers – they worked! And to my single member fan club: my mother-in-law Jayne; she emailed so many people so frequently her email provider got angry. Thanks also to my other product sponsors Kestrel, K-Swiss, Speedfil, ISM, PowerBar, VASA, Lazer Helmet, TYR and Tifosi! It is a rare privilege to be able to pick the best products as sponsors, and they all played a significant part in my victory.
Training: For those interested; the actual build started 10 weeks before the race but everything prior set me up to absorb what Coach Al threw at me for those 10 weeks. I am not getting any younger (ahem), so recovery is crucial to being able to back up and nail key sessions. Plus with kids and a part time job, I don’t have time to waste; every session needs to count. Those factors have to be taken into account and is the reality for most age groupers out there. Al adapted each week and often daily based on my ongoing recovery and performance. His famous saying ‘your next workout is only as good as your last recovery’ are words to live by.
To make a long season short, I PR’ed in Boston this spring by 16 minutes which gave me confidence in what has always been my weakness. My 3 half irons went great and my biking came back up to speed. The next task during the Ironman build was to increase my bike FTP (functional threshold power) while inserting high intensity running and of course prepare me for the distance itself. The sessions were arranged in a way that I didn’t feel over trained and I recovered well between. Todd sometimes could not believe I pulled off some of the expected sets but Al seemed to know what I should/would barely be able to make. It worked and my FTP increased by about 10W in the process (lots of death interval session in the pain cave sprinkled with very foul language) even though my cycling frequency and volume was comparatively low. So a 10 week build with no more than 15-20 hours per week of training which included lots of intensity, functional strength training and flexibility work. I also had a massage by the world’s best (Sara Riley) every other week. To keep improving as an ‘aging’ athlete (aging but not old!) I do believe intensity rather than long and moderate is the right strategy, and since the hours per week is relatively low it’s a win-win within a busy life. Strength and flexibility work becomes increasingly important for staying injury free along with correct movement skills. 10 weeks of focused work rather than building for 6 or 8 months is bearable for the family and your personal sanity and doesn’t cause conflict when you want to do it again. Guess what – I want to do it again! But there is also this certain small “Extreme” race in Norway that I would like to do. We’ll see…
More 300 fps super slo-mo geek candy. Shot at the the same spot on the Queen K as the men – about mile 108.
My annual installment of high-speed video from the Queen K is ready for your bike-geek enjoyment! First up, the Men, shot from the intersection of Hina-Ami and the Queen K, about 4 miles out of town. So we are at mile about mile 12 on the way out and mile 108 on the way back. The second video has the names of the riders as they are much more strung out. They are shown in the order they passed – I did miss a few guys but got all the big names. It is interesting to see who stays up front and who disappears.
Everyone has heard about the difficult conditions on the Kona bike course near the turn at Hawi. If you get classic Ironman weather, which you almost always do on race day, the Hawi winds can only be described as shocking. It is unlikely you will ever have ridden your bike in anything approximating the jet blast blowing from your right-front quarter as you climb the last 7 miles to the turnaround.
The winds along the Kona bike course, not just at Hawi, conspire to make what could be a very fast course indescribably difficult. As I drove out to Waikoloa, 25 miles out on the Queen K yesterday morning, the wind were moderate from the ENE, meaning they were a cross headwind. I Left Waikoloa on my Kestrel 4000 at 8am, a bit earlier than the first pros will hit the same spot Saturday. For the first 9 miles to Kawaihae, the Queen K rolls as it does for the entire 34 mile stretch from Kona. Yes you must climb, but all in all it is fast. Except for that bothersome wind. At this point it was merely bothersome, but enough to take what should have been an easy 21-22 mph average at IM watts to something notably south of that.
After a quick 1 mile descent to the boat harbor (and sea level), you make the right at the sign for Hawi. From here it is 18 miles of climbing. Although you see the water quickly dropping away, most of the climbing is gentle enough to maintain a good pace. And you actually have a tail wind helping you. The terrain quickly becomes parched desert wasteland, a stark contrast to the gleaming sapphire Pacific constantly present to your left. All proceeds reasonably well until a small green sign, “Hawi 7”, appears up ahead. The sign might as well say “Hold on for dear life” or “Abandon all hope ye who pass” for it is here that Pele flips on the afterburners. One second, serene calm, the next a gust smacks you on your right side and nearly blows you over. A few hundred meters pass where Pele toys with you – gust, calm, gust gust. Then all Hell breaks loose.
Did I mention that this is the point where the real climbing begins? It is also where you begin to see the first signs of living vegetation in quite some time. The roar in your ears is deafening, as 30 knots of gusty blast pounds you from the right front, and then head on. Speed drops to 9-11 mph, and watts creep up towards FTP. Staying aero is worthwhile for sure, but also extremely sketchy. You have no choice but to grind away as the miles slowly tick by. If you stay upright, Hawi eventually appears. Your average speed has been annihilated, your ears ring.
Expecting relief at the turn, it does come. For about a mile you fly downhill as fast as you dare, like you have a rocket pack on your back. But almost as soon as the fun begins, it turns ugly. The wind starts to shift more to your left, and you get shoved over towards the lava. Let the swerving begin. Here is where you burn calories via the death grip on your bars. Aero is just too risky, and you find your hands squeezing the brakes. So depending on how much of a daredevil you are, you never really get the full benefit of the wind at your back, and end up using energy fighting your bike when you could be resting.
The little green sign appears soon enough, and the terror largely subsides, now replaced with a headwind. Yes you mostly descend, but there are also some climbs and false flats. A power meter is a huge advantage here. In some spots your brains is saying – “dude 14mph – quit slacking!”. But the power meter says, “dude 300 watts – chill out!”. The course here, and in many spots on the Queen K, is hugely deceiving, and the power meter really keeps you in line.
Back in Kawahae at sea level, you are greeted with a fairly steep one mile climb back to the Queen K. The other time I rode this part of the course the winds were blasting in my face, but it was cloudy and actually rained a little – not typical. Yesterday there was just the heat, no wind. The sign at the top of the climb says it all: “Kona 34”. For most of the 9 miles back to Waikoloa the wind was calm and speed was good. But then a mile or so before Waikoloa the winds returned, having clocked about 180 degrees since I left. Which of course means that they are once again in your face, like some kind of a cruel joke.
Lessons learned: This half of the Ironman bike course tests you constantly. It tests your ability to dose your effort. It tests your bike handling skills. It tests your patience as it throws obstacle after obstacle at you, gnawing away at your average speed. Ultimately it tests your resolve to plow through and come out the other side fresh enough and sane enough to run a good marathon.
I think it would be a huge mistake to have any preconceived notions of average speed or time for this course. The conditions are so extreme and variable, both from day to day and from minute to minute, that they will decide how fast you go. I could easily see a 20 minute delta depending on what the course throws at you. Staring at your average speed as it dwindles could drive you insane. Hence the value of power meter – at least you know you are putting out the right level of effort.
Early this week temps were relatively mellow, and winds were calm. Get a day like that on race day and many records will fall. Even last year the winds at Hawi were largely absent, and competitors (or at least the front part of the field) didn’t face real winds until nearing Waikoloa on the way back. Most of the time though the conditions follow the classic script. The successful athlete will do the same – follow his own well-rehearsed script, stick to plan, control what he can control and not allow the elements to dictate his race.
Here’s what the 2011 Kestrels will look like (click on images for bigger pics). Note the new Oval wheelsets (Kestrel’s owner Advanced Sports also owns Oval) and Oval front ends. I can say that the 2011 4000 looks even better in person – see small photo of a custom build I just did for a Fuel Belt Race Team member. The frames are all essentially unchanged from 2010 other than graphics. The road versions of the Talons will have the same graphics and wheels as the tri versions. With the recent addition of the 4000 to the lineup, Kestrel now has three TT frames that each fit differently and cover all the bases from the very conservative, short and high (reach stack) Talon to the very aggressive long-low Airfoil. The 4000 covers the middle territory and we have been finding that the geometry of the 4000 fits a very wide range of athletes.
We’re all familiar with it: that burning tightness that crops up during one of your long rides. It can appear anywhere from the base of the skull to the base of the neck and even back between the shoulders. It’s one of the most common complaints I hear as a fitter. And as such, my first piece of advice is to make sure that your fit is not exacerbating the issue. If your reach or drop are off, not to mention pad placement and spacing, you don’t stand a chance at mile 80. But even if you do have a good fit, the neck burn can still test your will. So as the big end-of-season IM races loom, I thought I would put down a few tips to help prevent the burn.
1: Stop craning your neck! Seems obvious, but it is easy to forget. You do not need to have your head up above your shoulders, neck bent 90 degrees, face forward, all the time. Remember to maintain a neutral neck position, in line with your spine, as much as possible. This even applies to those times when you are on the base bars. Learn to roll your eyes up instead of bending your neck like the vulture on Looney Tunes. Not only will this help your neck, it’ll make you more aero!
2: Stop drafting! Yup, if you are too close to the guy in front of you (of course I am assuming this is a training ride as no one would dare do this in an actual race) you will have to crank your neck up to keep an eye on him and make sure you don’t do a face-plant in his bum when he hits the brakes. If you must draft, hit the base bars or ride the roadie. Otherwise, stay draft legal and let your neck chill.
3: Stop pulling up and away from your bars and pads. Learn to lay into those suckers! Learn to just collapse right down onto them and release all muscular tension from your upper body. Keep pedaling though! And don’t fall over… If you can’t do this it might be time to have your fit checked.
4: Look from your belly! Sure you’ve heard that it is best to breath from your belly. Well next time you do need to lift the head and look way up the road, don’t bend your neck, push your belly down to your thighs. Your field of vision will miraculously expand upwards with no neck stress. This is meant to be an occasional tactic, not full time.
5: Get the right glasses. This is key – whatever shades you use must NOT slide down your face, and the frame must not obscure your view while aero. This will force you to crank your neck all day long to see over or under the frame. Check out frameless adjustable models like Tifosi Vogels if this is an issue for you (it is for me). And if the glasses get covered with sweat, gel or some other gack, you might just have to do without them.
6: Slide back. This is good for those long training rides where you’ve spent a fair time in the base bars and you did a big swim workout the day before – your shoulders are just toast. So move back on the saddle. Yup – slide back off the tail when cruising and sitting up. Moving back shifts more weight to your butt and takes some of the burden off you shoulders. Once again, this an occasional tactic.
7: Trim your eyebrows. This surely won’t apply to everyone, but those of us with simian-esque foreheads and/or Einstein eyebrows will do themselves a great favor by keeping those suckers in check. Just sayin…
8: Do the turtle. Let your neck settle down between your shoulders, and rest the back of your skull on your shoulders. Relax. Once again if this isn’t an option for you, it may be bike fit time.
9: Pump some iron. Or something…. Let’s face it – in a good aero position your big melon just hangs out there on the end of your neck like one of those bobble-head puppies on the back window deck of a 1972 Ford LTD. No matter what, you DO need some conditioning to stay that way for hours. Bike time helps. But so does some supplementary strength training. Do some flys (W’s, T’s etc) on the Swiss ball with some dumbbells. No not your teammates, but actual weights.
10: Get loose. Work on shoulder flexibility – it’ll help your swimming too.
Hopefully you’ll find a few useful tips in there. I use them all and they really work. Except that Ape/Einstein/brow thing. Not sure where I got that one…
It’s always great to see good sportsmanship out there on an IM race course. There is so much BAD sportsmanship, (i.e., drafting, “its-all-about-me” race tactics, etc) at most races that it sort-of restores your faith in humanity when you see examples of real sportsmen out there.
Example one: Fuel Belt Captain Vinu Malik. Vinu is the toughest IM competitor out there, yet never has a bad word for anyone unless they REALLY deserve it. Apparently a drafting peleton he passed between Keene and Jay (the flat part of the course) irritated him so much that he couldn’t help but shout a few choice words at them. The response of one of the paceline participants? “Watch your language please!”. Vinu executed his race perfectly like he almost always does. Hit his power number on the bike to the watt (as planned by his QT2 Coach Jesse K). Then got off and ran a IM marathon PR (at age 43 in his 31st IM on a very tough course) of 3:16. He moved from around 30th place to 13th, making sure to stop and kiss his baby daughters each time he passed. Alas, with over 500 people in his age group and only 10 slots, he is not going to Kona. Instead of bitching and moaning about anything and everything and making excuses, he simply summed it up with a smile and said that he’d been on the other side of winning the last Kona slot many times, so that’s just the way it goes. The guy who got the last slot in his age group, Sean Reilly, wrote Vinu a really nice email telling him what a class act and great ambassador for the sport he is. Right on. These guys both raced hard, put it all on the line, executed as well as they could, and let the chips fall. I hope some of the peleton riders see this and learn something.
Example two: Sean Watkins of Lava Magazine (the hot new tri mag – just hitting the stands – check it out!) and many-time national track cycling champion did his first IM at Placid. He had been here in Barrington for the Providence 70.3 with his SO Heather Jackson, and it was here that a bet was made. Vinu expected Wattie would crush him on the bike, but that he would have a good chance of running Wattie down. So, the wager was that if Vinu passed Wattie on the run before mile 25, Wattie must don a particularly sharp pair of Ironman Super Hero Under-Roos briefs. How exactly this would happen logistically was another question.
As it turned out, Wattie never did lead Vinu, as he rode conservatively, fearing the run. When I saw Wattie pass us at mile 11, I just so happened to have the briefs in question in my pocket, and took the opportunity to waive them in front of him as he climbed the hill. He immediately went from “blinders-on-zoned-out” to laughter and picked up his pace a little. Then, we got lucky. Vinu had finished and was already showered, eating pizza, drinking beer, holding his daughter, and cheering on the folks still out on the course. I realized I hadn’t seen Wattie pass by yet, but could have easily missed him in the crowd. Still, something told me he was near. I handed the briefs to Vinu, and sure enough, ten minutes later, here he comes trudging up the hill. The rest is better illustrated with pictures. Yes he ran the last two miles to the finish in 11 hours clad in under-roos. Now that is what I call good sportsmanship! Never let anyone say Sean Watkins welshes on a bet!
We rode a loop of the IM USA course this am. I was really looking forward to riding this course with power, since when I did the race two years ago I rode blind (malfunctioning computer) and totally roasted myself on the first loop. The plan for me today was to simulate IM race pace by averaging about 70-75% of FTP, and try not to exceed 90% of FTP on any of the climbs. This was really an eye-opening ride for me versus how I rode the course in the race. While my absolute FTP is pretty decent, I am heavy at 90kg so w/kg isn’t great, and on these hills w/kg rules.
It quickly became apparent that if you focus on speed and average speed, you will quickly be demoralized and likely go WAY too hard in the first 7 miles of the bike. Sticking to my power and ignoring speed, I felt like I was crawling up the hills out of town. I used a lot of the 39×25. By the time I got to first “truck going down a hill” caution sign, my average speed was only 16.5 mph and average watts was a bit high at 245. Then you bomb down the 4 mile descent in to Keene, and voila, the average speed is over 21 – cool. Without the power meter keeping me in check, I would easily have ridden 120%+ of FTP on many of those climbs, burning several matches in the process.
The next section of the course is the fast section from Keene to Jay. And this year you pass Jay and ride another 5.6 miles to Ausable Forks. This out and back replaces the old out and back, and is much flatter and faster. So you now get about 20 miles straight of nice aero cruising roads. We easily averaged 22+ mph for these 20+ miles at about 220 watts.
Then the party is over – the right turn towards Wilmington and the first 1.5 mile climb begins a long painful deterioration of the nice average speed you have worked so hard to accumulate. The short story here is that from this point back to town (about 20 miles) we averaged about 17 mph at an average power of about 235 for me. Once again there was a lot of 39×25, 10 mph action. This year’s course still uses the flat first mile of the old out and back, so you skip the hills on this section. But there are still plenty of long climbs with 10% grade sections all the way back to town. To keep my power under control, I had to go SLOW and spin easily.
So the net effect, remembering that no race wheels were used, no aero helmets, and we had flappy vests on, was a time a little bit under 2:50 at 230 watts average for me. Lis averaged about 172. This really isn’t much slower than I raced it two years ago, except that I did the first loop in something like 2:38 and the second well over 2:50 if I recall correctly – ouch.
So if there ever was a course to be a slave to your power meter on, this is it. If I had to race it without one now, I’d just drop it to my lowest gear on every big climb and spin. Anything harder than that and you are really asking for trouble on the run. Ask me how I know…
We will be in Placid to support our teammates and TTBikeFit athletes this weekend! Look for us in the house next to High Peaks Bike Shop on the main drag along with the Fuel Belt crew. I’ll have tools. work stand, etc for anyone who needs some last minute tweaks/fixes. For those not doing the race I’ll have some Adamo demo saddles, Keywin pedals, Lazer helmets, Speedfils and Tifosi glasses to check out. I’m even bringing a Kestrel 4000 frameset. Lis and I will be riding the loop Fri and/or Saturday am at IM race power (ping us if you’d like to join), along with some swimming and biking. Then to the brewery for some real training! Best of luck to all Fuel Belt and TTBikeFit athletes!!
Lisbeth finished 2nd AG overall at Providence setting a new PR run split after a typically solid bike. All this was accomplished after a wrong turn on the swim course that resulted in crashing into some rocks on the exit and smashing two toes. They really looked and felt broken but x-rays proved otherwise. She was beaten by a minute by one under 29 woman.
This result follows another 2nd overall at Rev3 Quassy and an overall at the Patriot half. So that is 3 convincing AG wins and top 1-2 overall placings – not bad for a mid 40’s mother of 3! Her work with Coach Al Lyman this year has really paid off on the run while keeping her bike and swim solid. Now to start prep for Kona!