After reading this_article and finishing my 1st HIM distance race I thought it would be useful to review my 2012 triathlon goals, reflect on efforts to date, and adjust plans going forward. My primary goal this year has been to train for the HIM distance. Having listened to Brett Sutton talk about his athletes in the context of having a “short course body but a long course mentality” or “long course body with a short course mentality” I wasn’t sure where I fit on the spectrum. Quite frankly, I wasn’t certain if I had the desire to race the distance (i.e. would it be enjoyable to race for 5-6 hours?). So, for much of the 1st 3 months of 2012 I have been trying to figure out… should I “go long” (HIM is long to me at this point in time!!), or stick with the shorter stuff?
After 3 months of training and one race under my belt I have answered those questions. I have always had an "aversion to pain” mentality when training and short course racing with its functional threshold efforts are painful. I realize that swimming fast 100’s and running hard 5K’s have a place in building fitness even for long course athletes but they are not something that I particularly enjoy doing. In addition, I don’t know that I have a body for short course racing. I do okay at the sprint distance (I’m a MOP’er locally) but my physiology might not be best suited for that game. Personally I believe that I have more of a grind it out mindset and a diesel rather than corvette engine. Who knows at this point if I’ll ever be good at the HIM game but going forward it’s probably best to take the path of doing what I enjoy doing. That would be long course training and racing. They say that you are much more likely to succeed if you are doing something you actually enjoy. I certainly hope so, because that’s the approach I’m taking over the course of the next 7 months.
To get ready for the Gator Half (my 1st HIM) I used a 15 week HIM Base Preparation Plan that was followed by a 12 week HIM Specific Preparation plan. Both were authored by Gordo Byrn and are available on TrainingPeaks. Because of my work schedule it was very difficult to execute the plan as authored so my approach on a weekly basis was to do all the workouts as prescribed but it was necessary to move the sequencing of the workouts to fit my schedule. For the most part I was able to get the work done but I did suffer a few setbacks. The primary one being a concussion (outside of training) that effectively eliminated 1 week of training 4 weeks from race day.
I have also become a follower of Bob Seebohar’s approach to nutrition and the concept of metabolic efficiency. I cannot say that I religiously followed his approach but I attempted to implement several of his ideas during the Specific Preparation period. Lean protein, veggies, and fruit with some source of protein when eating every meal/snack was my mantra. I also changed my training day nutrition from sports drink/Clif Bars to only water for workouts less than 3 hours.
So how did it all pan out on race day? Here are my thoughts as they relate to each aspect of the race:
Both the Base and Specific plans were spot on and I was prepared for the swim portion of the race. I’ll never be a FOP swimmer but I was able to swim a Steady pace and most importantly exited the water feeling strong and ready to take on the bike and run. It was a much different feeling from my 2011 “A” race where I got out of the water fatigued and mentally depressed. I won’t change a thing going forward with my swim training except for the following:
- More OWS’s (only did 1 prior to the race).
- More sighting practice (I did OK but I probably “zigzagged”a bit).
- Incorporate more bi-lateral breathing (better technique).
I was really excited about seeing what I could do during the bike leg. 3 weeks prior to race day I purchased a Cannondale Carbon Slice 5 105 tri bike and during the lead up to the race it made a difference in my performance. My expectations were to race at a 19.2mph-19.5mph clip so the 18.5mph result proved to be disappointing. Race day conditions (hard rain early in the leg and a headwind on the return trip) were tougher than most of my training rides but certainly not super difficult. I should have been able to overcome those conditions and do better on the bike. I started out well but faded during the last 20 miles. I have a hole in my HIM game and it starts on the bike. AEROBIC ENDURANCE is lacking. When I reviewed my Base period riding I think that my Steady state rides were simply not long enough. Gordo put that particular plan together for me as a “filter down” version specific to my fitness at the time (18 months ago) and my time availability. The bike plan is solid, I just need to take it to the next level. In addition, my execution of the biking portion of the Specific Preparation plan was simply off. Some due to unexpected setbacks (concussion), some due to bad planning (colonoscopy) and some due to just plain laziness (i.e.. doing 2.5 hour rides when the plan called for 3 hour rides). I can be better prepared in the future by doing the following:
- Increase the duration of the Steady state rides during the Base period. This will get me better prepared to take on the Specific Preparation workload.
- Better execution of the Specific Preparation plan.
- Perhaps some more Big Gear and Tempo (20 minutes Steady, 10 minutes Mod-Hard efforts) rides in Base and Specific Preparation periods.
- Develop the capability to push a bigger gear in the flats for a longer period of time.
Honestly I didn’t know what to expect during the run because this was totally uncharted territory. The wheels could have completely fallen off and I could have walked the duration of the run or held onto my long Steady pace of 9:15/mile. As it turned out the wheels didn’t completely fall off but they started to flat out around the 9 mile mark. I felt as good as could be expected for the 1st loop (6.5 miles), started to hurt the next 2.5 miles, and struggled during the final 4 miles. Tons of time was lost on the 2nd loop of the run. At no time during the run did I feel like I pushed the pace hard. In fact from mile 3 to mile 6.5 I carried on a conversion with another racer. The goal was to start Easy for the 1st 5K, bump up to Steady the next 10K and push the pace if possible the last 5K. As it turned out I ran easy for the 1st 15K and then struggled. Again, the problem wasn’t nutrition or race execution. It was a lack of AEROBIC ENDURANCE. The time/distance was a little more than my fitness could handle. The following should help going forward:
- During the Specific Preparation period I didn’t always execute my ride/run bricks as prescribed. Often I would come in from my ride, download the data from my Garmin to PC, and start my transition run 20 minutes after getting off the bike. Probably didn’t help.
- Both the Base and Specific Preparation plans detail runs by time, not by distance. My thoughts are that Gordo’s plans might be tailored for folks that are faster than me. So, a 90 Steady minute run for a fast AGer on Gordo’s team is probably a lot longer in distance than one of my 90 minute Steady paced runs. It probably wouldn’t hurt to increase the duration of the long runs in both plans slightly.
- Continue the Run/Walk protocol but change my technology monitoring. Losing the Garmin 1/2 way into the bike and not having a method to time my run intervals hurt me. Easy enough to solve, just wear a watch as a backup.
Race Day Execution
I used this HIM plan. I was able to keep my wits about me and had the mental fortitude to stick to the plan. The goals were to:
- Swim Steady, exit feeling strong: Achieved.
- Start Easy on the bike and not exceed 133bpm: Don’t know if I achieved this goal. Lost the Garmin 80 minutes into the ride and never got a HR reading after that point in the race. Took me about 25 minutes to settle HR from 140bpm to 130bpm after the swim. So, for 55 minutes I know I was on plan but I cannot say with certainty what really happened the remainder of the race. From a RPE/breath marker standpoint I think I executed properly.
- Run the 1st 5K Easy, kick it up to Steady next 10K and finish last 5K strong: I have no clue about the actual pace or HR’s for the run. I know for a fact when my HR starts to drift into mid to upper 150’s during my long runs I’m approaching my danger zone. Did I go there at any point during the run? I don’t know, I have zero data. All I know is that I ran a 2:12 HM off the bike and I lost a ton of time in the last 4 miles.
- Finish the race under 6 hours: 5:57:17. Achieved.
Overall I’m pleased with the results. Not spectacular, but the good news is that I have room for lots of future improvement. I keep reminding myself that 2012 is all about “training to train”. The goal for the remainder of this year is to continue to build my aerobic fitness, gain some race day experience, have some fun and be prepared to “train to compete” locally in my AG for 2013.