“Identify Your Weaknesses”
This is what I thought to myself last week during one of my long runs. What do I need to do differently, or better this time around in order to achieve what I want to achieve at Ironman Texas. This is my seventh Ironman after all, and with that comes experience in success and more importantly, experience in failure. I continue to fine-tune my approach to racing and my training plan based on past successes and failures; identifying what worked and what didn’t and analyzing how I can improve. In order to do so I have to identify three simple yet complex issues, 1) what weaknesses are hindering me from achieving my goal at IM Texas; 2) What pre-race races will I insert into the next five months of training to test out my progress; and 3) how do I need to structure my training to get the most out of every effort I make? Let us focus on point #1 for today.
I am not fast at all! But, I am steady. In 2014, while training for Ironman Mont Tremblant, I swam consistently three days a week. These swims would consist of a mixture of drills, intervals, and endurance sets, and no swim workout was less then 2200m. I was fully invested in improving my stroke and no matter what; I would never skip a swim workout. I was in the zone!
The same was done in 2015 for IM Mont Tremblant and IM Florida. My swimming was strong and I was pleased. In 2016, my focus was lacking and I found myself swimming twice a month at best. I didn’t have a race goal and it resulted in a loss of motivation and focus. A combination of health issues and injuries made it even harder to even want to get back in the pool. With no direction my swimming eventually began to suffer. Big time!
By committing to improve I am focused on consistent investment and dedication that will re-establish my swimming skill to 2014/15 levels. Identifying that we all need help from time to time has led me to join a masters swim team once a week to help me stay focused on my form, and I have scheduled two weekly solo swims to build my speed and stamina.
As I discussed in my previous blog, maintaining a consistent pace and effort in my run is a big goal for me. I was able to achieve that at the marathon I raced in October. However, keeping a steady pace during the run of an Ironman is an entirely different beast than it is during a marathon. The fatigue in your legs and mind becomes exponentially larger. Quieting thoughts and feelings of fatigue and struggle requires you to look deep into yourself to find strength you never thought was there. As a result, I will schedule some difficult brick workouts within my training plan that will consist of a long negative split bike ride, followed by a mid distance tempo run. Basically, running near threshold for 12-15km immediately after doing a 130-150km bike ride where the back half is faster then the front half. If you are wondering…yes, I do consider this to be fun! ☺
Many athletes will say that your nutrition strategy is the most important part of a triathlon. For me, my run nutrition needs to be fine-tuned. By practicing what type of nutrition to take in and at what intervals, I will establish a system that won’t wreak havoc on my GI system as I am trying to run the marathon. For me, this has always been the greatest issue in Ironman. I have difficulties taking in my run nutrition without becoming nauseated. Due to the hours of constant physical effort, your GI system is not working at its greatest capacity. A great majority of your blood supply is shunted towards your extremities and away from your stomach. As a result, digestion becomes impaired. Considering the very weak stomach I have, ingestion of anything besides fluid leads to an overwhelming stomach upset that stops me dead in my tracks. When you are in the middle of a race…stopping is not an option and anything that makes you do so must be solved.
The nutrition strategy I used during the October Marathon worked incredibly well. I will aim at doing the same for Ironman Texas marathon. However, because I will already be depleted to a degree once I come off the bike, I will tweak this strategy slighting in order to accommodate.
Run nutrition will be as follows: Diluted gatorade (50/50 mix) throughout the race, I will not carry my fuel belt and solely rely on the aid stations throughout the run course to provide me with my fluids. The additional pressure of the fuel belt around my waist will only worsen the nausea should it manifest. I will supplement with GU Salted Caramel and Chocolate flavours, taking 1/2 a gel every 5-7km (I give myself a little bit of wiggle room hear depending on how I feel). I will further supplement with 1 Eload salt pill at x5 strength, every half hour. I sweat a lot, as this is needed considering the strength of the Texas heat. As with everything else, this nutrition strategy will be practiced and fine tuned.
I will speak further about my entire race nutrition strategy in a later blog, but considering this is a weakness area for me that I must plan and prepare for, I wanted to touch on it slightly today.
Though difficult to admit at time, we all have our weaknesses and hurdles to overcome at any stage of the race. Its how you plan and prepare for it that will determine if you overcome or succumb to the end result.
I choose to overcome!