RACE REPORT: IMAZ
Welcome back masochists and insomniacs! Here's my IRONMAN ARIZONA recap. As usual, there's some strong language.
Writing these race reports really seem to help me process results, keep it in perspective and decide how to move forward. That's a real paradox, I'd say. To calmly review the process and ponder the facts while wallowing in my disappointment.
I also went looking for quotes and songs to help.
After all, you find me an age-grouper triathlete satisfied with their splits and I'll find you a Kona qualifier... or the only person in their age group.
Cut to: three days after IRONMAN ARIZONA I was driving my wife to work in a mild depression. I had aggressive and unrealistic goals after my Lake Placid DNF. I had something to prove and a 12:11 result was not even close. But I'd also started a new full-time job that required new skills and ambiguous duties as we collectively but slowly phase out of the COVID shut-down.
My wife reminded me that I've always been a dreamer.
I usually save the thank yous for the end of the report but this warrants special attention. Thank You Susan for saying the exact right thing. You are and will always be my salvation.
It was oddly disconcerting to wake up in my own bed, make my own coffee, sip it on my own couch and drive to the race site from my own garage. That said, for the first time in six races, we had a proven (field tested) hydration/fueling plan that was easy to execute. A clear plan that I was capable of executing with confidence.
The morning prep and pre-load was smooth and simple.
average pace 1:50/100y
No problems with final preps or drop offs but I quickly realized my biggest tactical error of the day: shaded goggles. In every other Tempe race, we swim directly east into a blinding sunrise. Not that day. Early start, no pros and morning cloud cover made for very difficult sighting conditions. Which I think caused me go too wide and weave too much on the back side straightaway.
I also struggled a tad with the new swim layout. There were a few times I found myself swimming completely alone. As in, no wetsuits in view while taking a breath. Very disconcerting.
Conclusion: I swam more than 2.4 miles... probably closer to 2.7.
Could have trimmed this by a minute or two, but I stopped for a hug and some high-fives from training buddies. Totally worth whatever few seconds it took. I also paused to decide on one layer rather than two, but again... worth the extra time to make the right choice. Arm warmers and plastic bag chest liner. Sunscreen, socks and shoes, helmet, sunglasses and go.
The trap many athletes fall into at bike start is this, "Well shit, my swim split was slower than planned and I've taken too long in T1... but it feels so good to be on the bike I'm going to throw the hammer down." Not me.
When I prep for my next full IRONMAN, I might become the guy who needs those five extra minutes back from the swim and two extra minutes back from T1. But not this race. In fact, any decision that demands too much energy output puts the run at risk. More precisely, the end of the run.
Question: do podium finishers all have bigger engines or are they just much better at making the right in-race decisions to stay at the top of the field? I suspect it's NOT about T1 mental game as it is about the mid-run mental game.
5:50 elapsed,5:41 Moving
AVG power 175, NP 191
Avg. speed 19.4
Windy? Uh, yeah.
Offensive. Relentless. Sisyphean.
That said, it was another well executed plan: 70% of FTP and executed fuel plan.
For data geeks and watt watchers, my most recent FTP tests put me at 283...
and a 191NP represents about 3-4% below "perfect" target watts.
I'm sure there's a calculus equation to calculate number of incremental miles-per-hour each added watt could deliver over X amount of time...
...but I just cannot believe that an incremental 7-8 watts would have pushed my average speed up enough to make it worth it. Keep in mind that we were riding into a 19+mph outbound headwind. Three times.
In other words, I was deliberately conservative on the bike. Did I leave a little out there? Maybe. Keep in mind that I stopped to reload bottles at Bike Special Needs, slowed frequently to pee (but didn't stop) and had a back disc wheel to help with aerodynamics. Also...
In past races, I have always tried to follow the spirit of the law, but honestly... that wind was absolutely relentless all...the... way... out... bound.
I confess that I did not pass through or exit every draft zone within the required 25 seconds. I felt like a real outlaw out there sitting in draft zones for entirely too long. Let's just say that there were many unspoken agreements among many cyclists trying to squeeze some advantage out of our shared misery. In other words, there were some guardian bros out there (women can be bros, too btw) leading and drafting outside of the rules. (See also: pro tactics.)
AC/DC said it best:
Yes, I'm in a band, with a gang
They've got to catch me if they want me to hang
'Cause I'm back on the track
And I'm beatin' the flack
Nobody's gonna get me on another rap
If I got a penalty? Five minutes would have felt like a spa retreat.
On the final in-bound section I actually started singing Back in Black (and Bullet the Blue Sky for that matter) to let people know where I was. There was some congestion through the "single-lane" sections through Mesa on McKellips and Rio Salado.
Conclusion: an unspectacular but well-managed bike split with energy for the run.
Quick and efficient. Except, again, I felt strong enough after that bike to detour over five rows of T2 plastic run bags to the fence to hug and kiss the family.
4:51 at an 11:09/mile pace
A poor marathon showing. Nowhere near my best. First 8 miles sub-9, despite a very low perceived effort; last 18 miles a gradual slide down into a shuffle and eventual walk-the-hills-and-aid stations grind through 11-12 minute miles.
Who Slows Down the Least?
The traditional view, especially for men and our egos, is that over biking leads to a bad run. Which is almost always the case. True, that went through my head more than a few times after that serial killer wind.
Does the data support that interpretation? No.
First, I held AG position. Whether it was exactly the same dudes or not would have required me to recognize and align bike kits with run kits. Who has that kind of bandwidth?
Second, while I suppose it's technically possible I under-hydrated, I seriously doubt it. Again, there is plenty of evidence that I planned and executed properly: Moderate temperatures with cloud cover until mid-run along with the correct number of empty bottles coming off the bike, and plenty of kidney function (lots of pee) along the whole bike and run course.
Lastly, HR never got above low-Z3.
RUN: AVG HR 126 / MAX 146
BIKE: AVG HR 125 / MAX HR 156 (for less than :30 sec)
Or, consider Time-In-Zone, it took me about 10:50 from Swim Out to Finish Line and spent 7:52 in or below Z2! Which I take as an incredible success because that means my limitation is NOT aerobic endurance.
Which means my evolution as an endurance athlete is now (finally!) at the point where I can safely (read: aggressively) focus on muscular endurance. In order to increase muscular run endurance, I get to increase resistance work (lifting) and ramp-up aerobic run volume.
OVERALL RACE GRADE: A
OVERALL EXPERIENCE GRADE: A
A+ all around. Because true mastery is about flow, not structure.
Cut to: the morning after Thanksgiving. My wife just said it's taken me longer than usual to write this report. Well Susan, I had to work through some shit.
Here's where it led me:
The next few months are about to get fun. Pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, rotating... in small groups or with a partner or alone with headphones... Also, long trail runs and special trips to Flagstaff and Mt. Lemmon. In the service of run volume.
By now, conventional wisdom goes, a 53yo white male should know enough to put away outlandish dreams and be a grown-up. Maybe that's why most AG triathletes are so achingly serious, filling their heads with grown up notions of structure, control, focus, plans, power, pace.
True, structure, focus, dedication are important. Just as any structure or plan is for...oh, I dunno... say, theatrical or jazz improvisation... (where would I get such a notion?!?). The masters understand the paradox. Form is there to enable freedom, to allow for flow, to have fun. True mastery is not rigid and controlling. Mastery is loose and playful. Relaxed.
Maybe expecting to earn a Kona slot while keeping it loose and playful really is a childish dream. Maybe I just refuse to accept that I cannot have fun and still earn a podium spot.
But then, what's the point?
I'd rather keep dreaming.
See you at the next race.
WITH GRATITUDE FOR…
Maximum gratitude for my lovely wife Susan and my wonderful kids, Peter and Veronica for their support.
I’m grateful to have access to expert professionals who generously share their wisdom, even though I was self-coached this time.
Enormous gratitude to Moxie Multisport and special thanks to Blake and Corbin.
I’m grateful to anybody willing to excuse my terrible smell, deplorable language and barbaric sounds during training and racing.
Thank you to all the on-course maniacs cheering and making signs and wearing all sorts of crazy outfits to show love and support. For strangers exercising.
I’m grateful that I’m able to race triathlons. I’m grateful to you for reading.