Do I recommend starting an ironman build 7 weeks before a race? My plan was ironman Germany later in the summer but due to circumstances too boring to detail, I jumped on the opportunity to race Texas, giving me, you guessed it, 7 weeks to build and taper. Two goals: race exactly fast enough to secure a spot (i.e., top 2 AG) and minimize damage for quick recovery. I believed, if ironman fit, I could race conservatively and meet my goals.
I thought I would give Coach Al a conniption but he jumped at the challenge in Al style and thought the timing was sufficient given our work since Hawaii. His biggest job was getting the space between my ears ready – sometimes a coach is 10% coach and 90% psychologist.
Me me me for the next 4 weeks building muscular endurance; instant twenty hrs weekly, up from ten. Fourteen hours of indoor biking that week, up from three. Except everyone around me was sick and I got bronchitis (didn’t tell coach). Trained through it as intensities were low. Dayquil, Nyquil; a terrible week. T-6 weeks and I was feeling pretty good again. T-3 weeks we took volume down and added quick stuff before a steep rest.
The reason this seemingly panic-ridden plan did not set me up for injury was that my fitness level was relatively high from short quick stuff all winter plus my body was strong as my neighbor’s bulldog from 4 months of Al’s body weight daily 10-minute challenge online class that he teaches during off season. I had graduated from a perfect Turkish Getup balancing a shoe on my knuckles (took me 2 months to perfect, thank you, as it required more mobility than I previously had) to doing them with a 25-pound kettlebell. Point is, I was fit, balanced, and had no ‘issues’. Which answers my initial question: it depends. And definitely not unless you have a few under the belt. All that (non-weight) strength work didn’t make me a faster triathlete of course but it granted me a larger margin of error – the type of margin that I naturally possessed a decade and two ago. While this short lead-up was super family/work friendly, it played with my confidence. I will go the traditional path for Kona.
Texas. Holy grandmother of heat coming off RI snow only a month prior with zero high temps over 70 and most bike rides requiring tights. Mantra for the day: ‘This Is Exactly the Right Temperature for Me’. Conservative pacing, calm head. Skipped the practice swim due to bacteria level issues which meant the race
would be my first open water swim since Hawaii. 81 degrees’ water. Swam it more or less alone; every time I tried to draft I got dropped. Time 1:07 yuck, gone are the days of one hour flat but I was hardly out of breath. Following my plan of conservation.
Bike course was moved and shortened to 95 flat miles with 80-something turns added; this due to Houston floods and a certain county commissioner’s dislike of tri-geeks. I was impressed by how safely this course was run by WTC and the area police squad. Corners were fast apart from a few u-turns. The only issue were folks slowing out of turns bunching you into their draft zone without space to make a pass, but draft marshals were more focused on straightaways and penalty tents were indeed packed. Still there was blatant intentional drafting aplenty including orchestrated rotating pace-lines (the guy in back was always the moto-lookout). Disgusting. Time 4:17, 22mph, VI 1.01, 10W below goal iron pace (this is hard to confirm as my ancient Quarq drifts down with increased temperature).
Hot now; 89-96F depending on who you ask. I wasn’t feeling terrific. Somehow I managed to get dehydrated despite enough fluids and salt – I was peeing way too much. My mistake during the days prior had been drinking too much plain water. The absence of heat acclimation had me losing more salt than usual/sweating more. The excess peeing was to keep blood sodium in balance. Hot races are so tough to get right. And it’s tricky to analyze exactly what you need to do to correct the situation.
Trotting along no faster than my conservative goal pace of 8:20ies/mile, I started out with my FuelBelt and a handheld so that I could focus on cooling – ice down shorts, top, hat. I needed to get my body temperature down or implosion would be imminent. I knew aid stations would be competitive during the more crowded 2nd and 3rd laps. I drank a lot and increased salt. I hadn’t peed since the bike and wouldn’t again until hours after my race was done. Body doing what the body does to keep equilibrium.
During 2nd lap I was passed by a lady wearing pink from top to toe; a very good runner in my AG. I had no chance. Surely, I couldn’t be a whole lap ahead so I assumed I was in 2nd and couldn’t afford lollygagging from there on. Thank you lady in pink (she was indeed on her 1st lap I found out upon finishing); she was the reason for my HTFU mode. 3rd lap, avoiding the 10 minute per mile pace of shame with all my might. This race is just too damn hot; the F-bomb emerged and my mantra departed with it. Thunder from afar, then closer. Clouds rolled in, temps all of a sudden dropped drastically like an inverse menopausal episode and the rain and wind got nasty. 2 miles to go and we were running in deepish water having to lift our feet like clowns – and then came the hail. It took me a moment to grasp what was hurting my skin. The lightening was so close a girl in front of me ducked to the ground. As we say in Norway – we weren’t very high in our hats (= scared shitless). My glasses blew off my face never to be seen again. Some say 50 mph winds at this moment in time and I believe them; I had to make myself smaller. I used my hat to protect the side of my face from the hail. The finish was anti climatic in that they had evacuated the tents and only a few remaining brave souls were waving us in through shifted barricades. Behind me they apparently started pulling people off the course to seek shelter, something that would later cause timing mayhem.
Time 3:55 including a dreaded 10min+ pace for the last 3 miles into the wind for a happy ending. 9:27 total time.
From hyper to hypo – my body was doing the big uncontrollable shivers, they wrapped me in a silver blanket and a towel and gave me a hot burrito. 1st age group 50-54 and Kona number 9 – yabadaba, baby!
Thanks to The Academy (my family), Coach Al, Ventum (Looove My Bike!), FuelBelt, VASA, Speedfil, and Tifosi Optics. Only 4 months to wait in suspense for TTBikeFit’s world famous slo-mo video bike position analysis from the Queen-K.