Thursday, October 19, 2023

Ironman Barcelona 2023 Race Recap


While I did not achieve my primary goal, I did win the M55-59 age group (AG) by 32-minutes -- a substantial margin.  The day was slower than historical IM-BARC's.  Likely due to a nutritional issue, my bike power & run speed were ~6% lower vs IM-Copenhagen.  I did achieve two important outcomes during the run: first, I was able to absorb more calories; and second I was able to complete the race without needing the porta-potty.  While my personal performance was not reflective of my potential, this win places me 2nd in the world for Ironman rankings.

Race Goals

My primary, and only stated, goal for this race was to go under 9-hours.  However, I had some back-up goals in case the first was not looking likely.  Next was to set a new IM PR (<9:11); the next was to set another run PR (<3:19); and the last was to win the AG.

Pacing Plan

After achieving a run PR at Ironman Copenhagen (IM-COP), I used the same approach for establishing the pacing plan for IM-BARC, as shown below.  For this plan, I estimated a 1:03 swim which was based on the swim splits from IM-BARC from 2019 (a clam day; as BARC-23 seemed like it had the potential of being calm) and the equivalent swim placing as IM-COP (9th in the AG).  I also estimated 7-minutes for transitions (T1+T2), which was based on the top 30 finishers at IM-BARC from the prior two years.

While IM-BARC was supposedly faster than IM-COP, it would take 221Watts on the bike in order to achieve an overall time of less than 9-hrs.  I was a bit concerned about that amount of power, but that still represents an Intensity Factor (IF) of 77%, which is theoretically reasonable for an Ironman.  

I felt that the run pace (4:39/km) was reasonable, based on excellent run training and a good taper going into IM-BARC and the fact that my breakthrough IM-COP was based on less ideal training (little intensity due to altitude), tapering (truncated due to travel), nutrition (did not get my nutrition until 21km), and pacing (slowed 7-sec/km each ~10.5km).


I started a carb-restriction diet about 9-days prior to race, limiting carbs until dinner.  Then, I did the full carb-restriction diet in days 7-2, limiting carbs to ~20grams net carbs per day.  Then, re-loaded carbs on Friday & Saturday before the race.

I rented an apartment that was nearly equidistant between the start & finish.  However, walking to each was nearly a mile.  I ended up going to the check-in/registration/finish three times, and expo/start also three times.  So, there was quite a bit of walking in the days before the race.

Check-in was comical.  At check-in on Thursday, I was given 70.3 bags, which I did not notice until Friday; so I had to go back and get the full-distance bags.  I decided to keep the 70.3 backpack, as I like it better than the full-distance one, which is essentially identical to Copenhagen.  Then, after getting back to the apartment, I realized I had no Special Needs bags, which I needed for at least the run; so, back I went again.  Then, on Saturday at bag/bike check-in, I saw people handing their Special Needs bags in and there was not an option to do that race morning.  I was not aware, nor was there any mention in either the Athlete Guide or briefing that we needed to turn-in our Special Needs bags Saturday.  It seems Ironman has completely lost touch with athlete needs.

Race Report


The race did not start until 830am, so I woke at a leisurely time of 615am so I could get breakfast down by 630am.  I had coffee, two open-faced smooth PB & blueberry jam sandwiches -- likely 800kCal.  I also had a bottle of electrolytes with one scoop of 226ers Hydrazero (7.5g electrolytes) that I sipped until race start.

My plan was to be at transition at 730am, giving an hour to add nutrition to both bike & run bags, and prep the bike.  Ironman has recently restricted the ability of bringing one's own pump into transition and requiring athletes to rely on the limited pumps available.  Well, I queued into a line of about 8 people waiting for a pump.  After a about 10-minutes, it was clear the line was not moving.  I tried to assist the guy who was having trouble with the pump and realized the pump was seriously defective and basically unusable.  I was able to convince a guy who had smuggled his pump in to allow me to use his.  Funny enough, he was #2 in the AG later that day!

Finally, after perhaps 30-minutes of messing around with the pumps, I was done prepping the bike. I was able to drop nutrition in the bags, and then queued for (hopefully) the last porta-potty break of the day.  At ~815am, I was all done and started getting my wetsuit on and made my way to the swim corrals.


Plan: 1:03 /// Actual: 1:10

There was an orange buoy between the start and the first turn buoy that was causing some confusion.  The first turn buoy was only 250-meters from the start; so it's unclear to me what they organizers felt it necessary to add another buoy.  People were swimming to that first orange buoy, and I think some may have actually turned there.    I could see people swimming to the orange buoy, which was not aligned in a straight path with the turn buoy, and then turning slightly.  So, I lined-up on the far left side of the starting chute, so that I could have a straight, clearer line to the first turn buoy.

I noticed after the first turn that I was having a bit of trouble seeing through my goggles, which I had cleaned on the shore in the usual manner (spit, rub, then cleared with water).  However, it was apparent that the sunscreen (or something else) on my finger-tips simply transferred to the goggles.  So, at the 2nd turn buoy (~1200-meters), I rolled on my back and repeated the cleaning process.  Now I could see perfectly!

The swim on race-day was a little choppy, swelly (new word), and ~50-meters long.  But what I noticed the most was the current going along the long leg (east).  In fact, I looked at one of my 500yd split times during that section and saw 9:xx, which is extraordinarily slow!  I figured I would make up that time going in the opposite direction.

I exited the water, hit the lap-time, and saw 1:09:xx.  At that point, I knew my sub-9 day was not likely.  But, that did not distract me from executing against the rest of my plan, and shooting for some other goals.

Now, as I look at the results the 1:10 is not horrible, as the winner swam a 1:01.  Also, I was 8th in the AG (278th OA) for the swim; so, right on par with what I expected.  Looking at the Garmin data & map, I see clearly there was a big current.  Going west, my pace was 1:18-1:24/100m; going east the pace was 2:12/100m.  The issue is that due to the start & finish being separated east/west, the slow direction was 1700-meters, and the fast direction was only about 1300-meters.


Plan: 216AVG/220NP ~4:34 /// Actual: 201AVG/211NP ~4:46

The first 1.5k leaving transition was slow and power was low (110AVG/119NP); so I felt the need to make-up ground and added a good amount of power to get to the target of 220Watts NP.  However, it was  apparent after about 80km that power was not sustainable.  So, I decided to ride based on a reasonable effort, which was 209AVG.  But, in the last 40k my power dropped to 195AVG.  Excluding the slow part in & out of town, the power was 205AVG/213NP.  I was definitely surprised that the bike felt harder than it should have.  Power was not coming this day.  The image below shows that the power vs heart rate was about 6% lower than IM-COP.

I kept up with the nutrition on the bike, but I could not pee.  I felt the slight urge, but definitely not enough to relax during the scarce short descents on the course.  I probably grabbed water from each aid station, except 2-3.  Half of that water went in the front hydration and the other half on my body for cooling.  I definitely started getting hot on the bike.

A few of the aid stations were so incredibly misplaced, like on a flat section of the course, where speed should have been maintained.  In another, it was just before a round-about riddled with potholes.  In that particular one, I found myself holding the base-bar with my left hand around the round-about hitting potholes, while trying to fill the front hydration with the right hand.  Then, like most of the other aid-stations, trying to finish filling the hydration before the end of the litter section.  Nearly all of the litter sections were far too close the aid stations, which added to the danger.

While my power was off plan, I was able to hold the aero-position without trouble the entire time (except for the minimal climbing).  Based on the ride data, I am also quite pleased with the CDA of ~0.221,which compares quite favorably to my historical CDA.

My speed difference relative to the other riders was substantial; so making legal passes was pretty easy.  There were a few exceptions though -- the "ego riders".  The guys who think they can and/or should "hang" because they are being passed.  They decide to pass back, but then cannot hold the speed.  These are often guys who I found drafting another rider as I came upon them to make my initial pass.  There were many other riders too who were clearly trying to draft; I mean full-on pace-lining, within inches of the leading riders back wheel.  Shameful.

In nearly every single longer training ride this season, I was able to tell the riding time with my stomach; I would start to feel hungry at about 2.5-hrs.  I believe (theory) this is when my body starts to switch more heavily to fat metabolism.  However, this effect did not occur during the bike -- probably because of the fat-loading diet prior to the race.  I am unsure whether this difference was good or bad, but my inability to hold power suggests to me that maybe it was not beneficial.

Oddly, the bike leg was was 4km longer than the planned 180km, which added about 6-minutes.  I say oddly because there were at least two places on the course it could have been shortened.

While I did not hit my power target, I did have the fastest bike split in the AG and was 56th overall (OA) after the bike.  That compares to 3rd in the AG and 125th OA at Copenhagen.


  • First 95km: 90% of bottle of 2x Mono-doses 226ers Race Day Sub9 (664kCal) with 1/2 scoop 226ers HydraZero for extra electrolytes (~4grams) & 2/3 scoop of 226ers BCAAs (10grams)
  • Last ~90k: all of the bottle, which was the same as the first, but with 1x scoop of EFS Pre-Race
  • Overall: ~263kCal/hr


  • I missed the power plan pretty significantly, but decided to ride based on feel; the power fade was disappointing
  • I kept it pretty steady, as indicated by a Variability Index of 1.05
  • While I was quite off my power plan, my bike performance (AG & OA) was significantly better than Copenhagen


I started the run knowing I was not feeling great, but had hopes that perhaps I could still achieve a few other goals: IM PR and run PR.  I tried to relax, but run solid in the first out segment.  The pace was OK (4:45/km) but the effort was surely higher than it should have been.  While I was feeling quite warm on the bike, the run was actually pretty reasonable.  Nonetheless, I used about half of the water I grabbed at most age stations to dump over my head and was able to dump ice in my tri-suit on several others.  I finished the first lap feeling about the same as when I started -- definitely not better.  It was clear I was slowing even as early as the second lap (~15km).

Sometime during the run I started seeing the leaders coming the other direction.  By my calculations, they were about 1-hour ahead of me, which turned out to be a pretty good estimate.  But I also saw the first female, who was behind me a few kilometers.  She remained one of my key motivators during the run; I was determined to not let her catch me -- I did not want to get "chicked".  In all seriousness, the first female finisher has become a good benchmark for my performance (as I have aged).

During the second half of the run, all I could do was just find a semi-comfortable pace that I could lock-into for the duration; I had to be patient.  In the last 1-km, I decided to see how fast I could run.  I felt like I was sprinting; the motion was not springy, but muscular and at a high level of effort.  And, sadly, it was only a 4:50/km pace.

One can see the early slowing, even though I did not start so fast.

As compared to IM-COP, my pace was significantly slower at the same HR.  Again, this difference was about 6%.  Also, all the paces of IM-BARC were slower, from the start to the end.  However, while I ran slower at IM-BARC, my run efficiency did not decline like at IM-COP, as seen in the image below.  My pace declined proportionally to the HR.

Sometime near the 23km point, I felt like I would be able to finally pee.  But, I did not want to risk the time nor did I want to risk slowing my HR, which frequently does not rise again after entering the porta-potty.  So, I decided to pee on the fly!  I was pleasantly amazed at how comfortably I was able to let go and just pee myself!  In a similar theme, I was very pleasantly surprised that I did not need to use the porta-potty through the entire run to poop either.  Of the 22 prior Ironmans I have done, I have ALWAYS -- every single one -- had to poop at least once.  This was the race I may have gotten the pre-race diet right!


  • First 21k: ~80% of a flask with the same mix as bike #1 and ~350mL
  • Second 21k: all of the same flask + pre-race with ~350mL
  • Overall, I was able to consume ~50% more calories than prior races during the run


  • Like the bike, the run was just off; it started slow and just got slower from there
  • My run split was 2nd in the AG
  • I averaged about 215Watts on the run, a far cry from the 235Watts I had planned
  • I did a good job keeping focused, patient, and moving forward even though my pace was way off
  • I am extremely happy that I did not need to use the porta-potty


The day was slower than prior IM-BARC's, indeed 44th overall position IM-BARC for 2022, 2019, & 2018 was 9:40, 8:44, 9:02.  Post-race, I was definitely sore, but not my neck which suggests my aero work from the summer had a lasting effect.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Ironman Copenhagen 2023 Race Recap


I had very high expectations for Ironman Copenhagen (IM-COP) -- to go under 9-hours, but fell short.   Travel this summer and being at altitude made training & tapering difficult.  The IM-COP bike course does not suit my skills.  I did achieved a few important goals, including a marathon PR, but know I can do more.  Another important take-away is that I believe the new pacing plan works well.  Lastly, I got a coveted – and scarce -- slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kona.


Better Late Than Never: One does typically write a race recap nearly 6-weeks post-race.  However, it took a long time to recover from the race, unpack from a nearly 5-week trip, and then I got right back into training.  However, I am writing it now because it will help me plan for the next one, which is in 18-hours from now!

I have a single goal for this season: to break 9-hours in an Ironman.  I have been after this goal since getting close (9:11) in 2016 at IM-Boulder.  Of course, 7-years have passed since that performance.  To say much has occurred during that period is a gross under-statement.  However, I was at a lifetime peak fitness in 2021.  While I am surely no longer a spring chicken, I believe I still have the potential of faster Ironman racing.

I approached  IM-COP as a train-through race, which meant a short taper and then back into training as fast as the body would allow to then race again six weeks later at Ironman Barcelona (IM-BARC).  I also tested a new bike+run pacing strategy (for me) that would theoretically minimize the total race time.


It’s impossible to separate training from the rest of life, which has changed a great deal in the last year.  In fact, 54 weeks prior to IM-COP we had moved to Portugal with our two young kids and restarted nearly every aspect of our lives.  I was able to start running pretty quickly after moving, but biking & swimming took a bit more time to get back into a routine.  During the first few months in Portugal, our family got ill several times; I think Christine was ill more time than healthy.  The bugs got me too a few times.   So, it was not until December that I was able to start building fitness again.  Of course, my new friend Nuno Neves ( was instrumental in helping me get started by connecting me to his great network and showing me different bike & run routes.

Diet & Nutrition

Since arriving in Portugal, my diet has been and remains sub-standard.  I am drinking too much alcohol and consuming too many carbs.   As for during-activity nutrition, I have been using mostly the products from 226ers, as I no longer have access to First Endurance products in Portugal.  For the longer rides, I have been fueling normally and enjoying the pastries & coke; I have not been doing any low-carb restriction rides.  However, many of the indoor sessions have been in the morning and, as a result, have been fasted.  My long runs have typically been started fasted, but then taking in ~200kCal during the last 8km.
Season Planning & Racing

I believe that half-iron-distance (HIM) racing is significantly helpful in the preparation for Ironman racing.  I had some reasonable success early in the year in the M55-59 AG finishing 1st in one and 3rd in two HIM races.  What was surprising to me was that I set a new swim PR, with really minimal swimming (3x per week @ steady 2000m).  My biking was far below my historical performance, but improved through the early season.  My running performance was fair, but not representative of my training.

I then targeted two late-season races that offered theoretically to opportunity to go under 9-hours: IM-COP (August 20th) & IM-BARC (October 1st).  I chose those races, in particular based on the number of people going under 9-hours for each and their relative proximity to my home-base.  I also chose them because they were close enough apart that I could carry IM-COP endurance into and actually sharpen for a few weeks for IM-BARC.

IM-Specific Training

After getting through the early-season races in May, I shifted my focus to building endurance on the bike and maintaining my long run consistency.  Historically, most of my IM-specific bike rides were limited to – at most – 2x 5-hour IM-effort rides per week.  I decided it was time to get some real bike fitness by increasing the ride duration.  I extended my long rides from 4-hours, to 5, 6, 7, then peaked at a monster ride of 8+ hours, with a huge amount of climbing, and finishing in 40*C heat!  It should be noted that while I was attempting to train more specifically for IM racing, given the roads and terrain in the Algarve, riding my race (TT) bike was not an option.  As a result, I trained on the rode-bike, usually in hilly terrain.  I did maintain a number of indoor sessions as well, which is where most of my intensity was performed.

Summer US visit

We had planned a trip to visit family and friends in the US for several weeks, from early-July through late August.  Our itinerary had us in LA for 4-days, then Colorado for almost 4-weeks, the back to Europe through LA.  I was looking forward to that time to be able to focus on training in a familiar location, especially the long-steady bike rides on the gently rolling terrain Colorado has to offer.  I was also excited to be able to get some altitude training (~1650m), which would be a nice boost when racing in Copenhagen.

Because of the travel, I was off the bike and out of the pool for 8-days and which meant I had to focus all my training on running during that period.  While that is not bad, it’s not ideal either.  My overall training load dropped, but my fatigue was pretty high.

It wasn’t until we got to Colorado in mid-July that I was able to get back on a TT bike – a new bike at that.  However, in the first week, I was able to  get 10-hours of aero-position riding on two back-to-back days.  I was surprised at how the body handled that dramatic change.  The only issue was a very stiff neck that seemed to resolve after about 3-weeks of consistent riding in the aero-position.  I was also pleased with the amount of power I was able to produce in that position at altitude – at least during the first few days.

The first several days after arriving in Colorado, my run pace and bike power seemed unaffected.  It felt harder, but I was still able to work.  The second week got much harder and I had to back off my expectations and focus on the time and the perceived effort.  Even into the third week, my run pace and power were still below what I had expected.  As a result, I could not get much intensity work done.  My Garmin watch reported dropping VO2max for both bike and run the entire time I was in the US.

For the most part, I was able to get the volume of training in that I had planned.  In fact, I was recording likely the highest Chronic Training Load (Training Peaks; CTL; total, including swim) I have in my history.  I say, “likely” because the week away from the bike dropped the CTL pretty significantly (from 81 to 68), which is really stupid.  Including running, my CTL went from 173 to 159; and I was quite fatigued from running!  One does not lose fitness that fast.  However, after getting back on the bike, I was able to ramp to a CTL of 183 in ~20-days, which was my peak 9-days before IM-COP.

In addition to the altitude and training stress, there was also a bit of family drama, which necessitated a move to new lodging 5-days before leaving Colorado.  Having to re-pack, find a rental car, and new housing was not what I needed during the peak-week of my training.

Training Specifics

It should be noted that this entire season, I have not written a training plan.  People who know me, understand that I love to plan and then execute against that plan.  This year, I went more off how my body was feeling and knowing what it needed.  Of course, I did use TrainingPeaks to figure out overall load and the balance between the disciplines. 
The peak CTL of 183 shown above was comprised of:
    • Swim: 32 (17%)
    • Bike: 80 (44%)
    • Run: 71 (39%)

Biking load was steady from early July as can be seen below.  What is remarkable is there were at least 10-rides with higher Training Stress Scores (TSS) as compared to the the IM-COP bike, which was the plan.  Throughout the year (except in the final 5-weeks when away from home), I had some key indoor sessions, including:
    • Torque Intervals (~1:40): 4x 20-min @ 60RPM & ~92% of FTP
    • VO2max intervals (~1:15): 30x 1-min @ 108% FTP
    • Lactate Flushing (~1:30): 6x (1-min @ VO2max, 2-min @FTP, 4-min Tempo, 3-min recovery)
    • Recovery Rides (-2 hours): cap HR @ 120BPM

Because biking I the Algarve is more about time or climbing, I measure it volume in hours per week, was pretty consistent at 8:49 from mid-May to mid-August.

While in Colorado, I was able to do some structured aerodynamic testing to ensure the position I had for the new bike was optimal for IM-COP.  If there is interest (send me a note), I will document my finings more thoroughly.  Essentially, I did two out & back sections on three different days; each with either the aero extensions slammed (low) or up all the way (6cm higher).  Two of the three runs showed the upper position was actually faster and a lower CdA.  But the one I trusted – with an aero helmet – showed the opposite.  So, I went with the slammed configuration fo IM-COP.

Running is where I have maintained the greatest amount of consistency over the last year, in terms of number of runs per week, which was typically 4x.  I was also pretty consistent in doing one long run per week, and was already running 32k/20-miles in January.  In fact, I did 19x 20-mile runs before IM-COP!  That is a new record!  In addition to the consistent long runs, I was doing a speed session every week, 2-days after the long run.  That session was essentially 6x (500m @ VO2max, 2km @ Threshold, 500m recovery).  I average about 72km of running per week in the several weeks before IM-COP.

Oh yeah...I almost forgot to discuss swimming :)  Swimming took a back-seat during most of this year, but it does not seemed to have resulted in poor race performance.  To the contrary, I swam 29-minutes (a PR) for a HIM-distance race in April.  As mentioned, most of my swims were short-course 25m – just swimming steady 2x 1000m a few times per week.  Including the early-season races and better access, I have had many more open-water swims than prior years.

Peak, Travel, and Taper

As previously mentioned, IM-COP was intended to be a train-through race, which means a short taper.  The short taper allows for a faster time to return to training at a high load.  Not only was it short, I also tried a gentler version of the Norwegian taper.  If you’re not familiar, check-out Gustav Iden & Kristian Blummenfelt’s peak for Kona-22:

Basically, they did the full-distance swim & bike 7-days out, then a 70k bike + full tempo marathon the next day – 6-days out!  My peak was a bit gentler: 10-days out I swam nearly full distance, biked 164km; the next day, I rode 70km and ran 25km at tempo effort.  I timed this peak to correspond with my travel the next day to LA, and then the day after to Europe.

Of course, nothing ever goes to plan!  The flight to Europe was delayed three times (costing is $2000 out of pocket – thanks Norse Atlantic Airlines; you suck!).  So, we arrived a day later than planned.  During the 4-days of travel & delays, I was only able to get a single 10k run.  Then, once in Copenhagen, I was intimidated by being in the city center with regard to riding.  During the last 9-days of the taper, I got 2 rides in one being only 30-minutes.  I was able to get a total of 3 runs during that period and a single open-water swim at the venue.  Essentially, what was intended to be a short, gentle taper became much more truncated than I had wanted.  As may be seen in the Performance Management Chart above, my Training Stress Balance (TSB) was a +93 race morning.

Pacing Plan

One of the strategic things I wanted to test in IM-COP was a new pacing plan.  Being tired of running short of my capabilities and considering the criticism of over-biking, I wanted optimize the total energy allocated between the bike & run.  Alan Couzens’ has a great article (, which I used to help create my pacing plan.  Using BestBikeSplit and my historical IM performances, I was able to create the following pacing scenarios.

I was planning on a 1:05 swim and 6-minutes for T1+T2, which is the 1:11 at the start of each row.  Then, using BBS I estimated the split associated with 210 – 226 Watts.  I started at 210W because that is what I trained at at altitude.  Then, I used my best run performance historically (IM-Boulder 2016), where I ran at an Intensity Factor (% of threshold, IF) of 95.6% for 20-miles.  (Yes, I know it seems ridiculously high, but my lactate run pace was measured in the lab in 2016 at 7:10 min/mile.)  Of course, I am assuming I can run the remaining 6.2-miles at the same pace, but if properly motivated, it may be possible.  Right?  Future plans will use the actual full marathon split of 7:40/mile, which is an IF of 0.935.  That IF results in a run power, which is weighted-averaged with the bike power to give an overall power, which needs to be at or below my historical ~230Watts.

While the optimum pacing strategy comes from a power of 222Watts, I wanted to ride with the lowest power possible that allowed me to go under 9-hours; thereby allowing more confidence I could run to my potential.  Thus, I selected the following pacing plan:
    • Bike: 212Watts (average)
    • Run: 4:36/k pace

It should be noted that I changed the plan several times in the few days leading to the race, mostly because I could not imaging running that fast.

Race Report

In the few days prior to the race, I tried to reduce fiber in hopes of minimizing the need to use the porta-potty during the race.  Other than that, the diet was typical for me.  Because the transitions were in two locations, we had to drop our run bags the day before the race; and we would not have access race morning.  Well, I forgot to add my nutrition to the run bag.  (I cannot tolerate the fructose in Gatorade; so I rely on my own nutrition.)

Race morning, I woke at ~4am so that I could finish my breakfast (banana + 2x PB&J sandwiches on white hamburger buns + coffee) 2-hours before race start.  I was planning to ride the metro to the closest station to the swim start, which I had done two days prior.  I gave myself perhaps 15-minutes of extra time, allowing me to get to transition 1-hour ahead of the race start.  However, as the Metro arrived it was clear there was a problem – it was PACKED so full of people, the doors would not close. 

After three attempts at the doors closing, the automatic system halted and required technicians to come reset it.  I was fortunately standing near a guy who spoke Danish and was translating for folks around.  He seemed to know what was happening.  Then, after the announcement of the tech service, he got off the Metro; I followed.  He was with his girlfriend, who was helping carry things and navigate.  The plan was to catch a bus and then walk the rest.  We had a nice chat while walking; I learned he was a local and this was his first Ironman.  He suggested that I could put my run nutrition in Special Needs and access it early-on, as that station was supposed to be at km-1.  Smart dude!

We arrived 45-minutes later than planned, which meant I had 30-minutes to get through final prep, including the porta-potty.  While it was a but rushed, I was able to get to the swim queue in a reasonable amount of time.


Plan: 1:05  /// Actual: 1:05
I seeded in the 1:05-1:10 group, knowing I would overtake many of those folks, who typically over-estimate their swim split.  The rolling start was calm and I made it to the first buoy without any contact whatsoever.  On the way out, I was able to find some feet and draft for ~15-min.  However, I lost contact near the turn-around.  This was the only point in the swim where it was a bit congested.  Then, the water got so shallow (1.5-meters) that the bottom sediment was stirred-up and made visibility difficult.  I kept the pressure on, steady to the end in open water.  As I exited the water and looked at the time, I was amazed – right on schedule!


Plan: 212Watts / 4:35 /// Actual: 202AVG, 210NP, 4:51
In T1, I shoved one of my nutrition bottles down front of the tri-suit but maybe not enough, leaving a small gap at the collar.  The, at the mount line I dropped the bike likely because the front end was heavier than I am used to, with the hydration and nutrition bottle.  

Getting through town was slow and circuitous. There were many potholes, sharp turns, wet roads due to the overnight rain, and low-light.  At some point, I had to hop a curb because I did not take a corner tight enough.  There was also a z-turn from one bike path to another about 2-meters apart.  Frankly, this part of the course was quite frustrating.  On the positive side, I got to see Christine sometime during this part of the course; she was out for a run, getting lost and found herself watching part of the race!  As I reached the north end of town, I looked at my watch and my power was way down near 187Watts; I could just not ride to plan.

Once out of town, I was hoping to be able to race to plan and make up some ground.  So, I focused on increasing the power, but keeping it steady.  However, because of the low power in the beginning of the ride I already had a larger than desired gap between average and normalized power (NP).  Because of the gap, I decided to ensure my NP (not AVG) was my target: 212Watts.

Somewhere near 30km, I removed visor to improve visibility – the sky was overcast and light still dim.  I ended up leaving it off for remaining part of ride.  I checked split time at 60k & found I was 20-min slower than plan. Checked again at 90k with the same finding. I figured everyone was slow, but I would keep to the pacing plan.

On the northwest part of the course, I counted at least 30 people on the side of the road repairing flats.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  I also saw one crash, one ambulance, and an uncountable number of “CAUTION – SLOW” signs.  Are you freaking kidding me?  The road was wet, narrow, and had many, many turns.  I was not happy.
Riders thinned-out significantly after the turn for the loop (about 150k). It would be many minutes before seeing another rider. I passed about 2-4 riders along the return 

    • First 90k: EFS Drink with 6-scoops (600kCal)
    • Last 90k: EFS Pro with 14 scoops (~600kCal) + 1x scoop Pre-race
    • Overall: 250kCal/hr

    • I rode the course to the best of my ability; riding safely, but as quickly as I could.  I maintained aero-position whenever not climbing
    • I adapted to the technical nature of the course by pacing off NP and did not over-ride
    • I think the course was likely 10-minutes slower because of the winds through town and all the slowing in the northwest side
    • It was likely another 10-minutes slow because my average power was 10Watts lower than plan


I started the run feeling pretty good.  I was trying to relax, but my pace was much higher than I had expected; it was quite comfortable running at 4:30/km.  I was trying to keep the pace closer to 4:40, but really just going off feel.  

Because I started the run without my nutrition, I started taking “Coke” from the first aid station, while looking for Special Needs to grab my nutrition.  I Call it “Coke” because someone had decided – at the race-director level, likely – to dilute the soda with water 50% (let’s call it “doke”).  So, while I was taking two cups at each aid station, it was just not enough.  So, I continued with this “doke”, while looking for Special Needs.  Loop-1 done...where is Special Needs?

Even though Special Needs was no where to be found, I kept running well, controlled, and comfortable.   Pacing became a bit easier on the 2nd loop; I supposed because I was slowing a bit.  I think it was in the third loop that I finally found Special Needs and got my nutrition.  I ditched one of my flasks, but kept the one with Pre-Race.

Loop-3 still felt reasonably comfortable.  At this point, my average pace was 4:41/km, which was definitely a PR.  It started to get harder in the 4th loop and I knew I was on track for a run PR; so, I did not push it.  I did not want to blow-up and focused on maintaining the effort.

Overall, the run pacing was like:
    • Loop-1: relaxed, trying to control pace
    • Loop-2: relaxed, able to control pace
    • Loop-3: relaxed, able to keep pace
    • Loop-4: harder, focused on same effort

    • First 23km: “doke” (diluted coke)
    • Last 19k: Flask with 10x scoops EFS Pro (400kCal) + 1x scoop Pre-Race + doke
    • Overall: ~275kCal/hr

    • My pacing was OK, but could be better
    • My nutrition strategy was sub-par and likely caused a fair amount of the fade in pace
    • Overall, I ended up running at an intensity factor of 0.88, which is high, but not what I had planned


I finished in 9:23, well shy of my goal of 9-hours.  I placed first in the AG M55-59, some 20-minutes ahead of #2.  Surprisingly, it was the run that gave me that gap.

Of course, winning the AG means one has the opportunity to race in the World Championships, returning next year to Kona, Hawaii.  It will be 6-years since I was last there.  Getting a slot these days (for 2024) is very difficult, with only 20 total for all age groups given at IM-COP.  One needs to win the AG to get a slot now.

After finishing the race, sleeping on it, and discussing with my family I had decided NOT to take the slot to Kona.  There were a few reasons for that decision: my family was not interested in going – it’s a huge trip from Europe, during the school term; I have been 5-times before and when I go again, I want it to be for the AG win – and I did not believe my performance was at that level.  However, on my walk to the awards ceremony, I changed my mind; and at this moment, as I write this, I am glad I did.  I understand my family’s perspective and they support me making the trip (alone).  But, I have my own goals that I must follow.

Now, I have a year to maintain my bike fitness and become a better swimmer and runner.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Interesting (to me) Run Observations


This post is all about a certain analytical aspect of running.  So, if your eyes glaze over the moment you hear the word "regression", this post is not for you.  However, if your of the sort, the geeky sort, who likes to "know how stuff works", this post is for you!


I think it is well understood that running speed is directly and linearly related to effort through a large range of heart rates.  Surprisingly, there is a actually not a lot of clinical research around this topic.  However, Billat, et al describes this concept well in the article "Training effect on performance, substrate balance and blood lactate concentration at maximal lactate steady state in master endurance-runners." (Figure 3, in particular).

I have been using this relationship for a few years to understand how my body adapts to various types of run training (e.g., speed work vs low-aerobic).  I have also used this relationship to predict my potential run split times in my recent Ironman races.  In fact, I predicted my 2016 IM-Boulder run split to within 1-minute using this technique.

My Data

During the period of August 12, 2018 to September 9th, 2018(today) I tracked this data in my long runs (14-20 miles) along the same course.  To keep the analysis consistent and simple, I took the same segments along the route (Easley Road, which is flat) on the "out" (segment-1) and back (segment-2).  My run strategy has been the same for each of these runs; out is at Maffetone (relaxed) pace and back is slightly harder than Ironman pace.  Numerically, these effort levels correspond to ~135BPM out, and ~146BPM (capped at 149BPM) coming back.  Here is a visual of an 18-mile run last week.  The change in effort level is apparent at the start of lap 10 (mile 10).

This data is also presented as an XY-scatter in the image below.  This chart is comprised of 8 runs during the aforementioned period.  One can appreciate the good (but not great) relationship between heart rate and pace.  This analysis is about where I had historically left off.  That is, this data gave me the information I needed -- answering the question of, "how fast can I expect to run at a given HR"?

However, historically what I have been most curious about is what influences the slope and intercept of this relationship.   Billat, et al show that training over a relatively short period (6-weeks) improved the intercept with the slope remaining unchanged (figure 3 in their article).  The particular training in that study was steady-state threshold intervals.  I suspect that any training along this line (easy through threshold) will have a similar affect.

The slope & intercept data from these runs is presented below.  For each run, I calculated the slope and intercept.  While not monotonic, I am seeing a large change in the intercept over the last month or so.  But what is also apparent is that there is a change in the slope as well.  I found that fact unusual, and NOT present in the Billat study.  Also, why was there such a large change in the intercept?  Why, over a short period of time, is there such a large change in slope?

When trying to understand data, I often rely on pictures, or plots.  So, I created a simple XY-scatter of the slope and intercept to see if there was nay sort apparent relationship.  What I found was completely unexpected and incredibly fascinating -- there was a near-perfect correlation between the slope and intercept.  How could there be such a high-fidelity relationship?  Every run lies on this line.

As I thought about this further, I realized that this relationship meant that each run could be represented by an individual line, and these various lines would all intersect at a singular point -- near 147BPM.  What is the significance of this heart rate?

What is also presented in the table above is the pace at 147BPM.  I'll cover later why I chose that specific heart rate.  But, I had noticed a concerning trend in the pace at 147BPM -- it was declining!  That concerning trend is apparent in the chart below.

I was training well, running well, but it appeared my fitness was declining.  My first thought was concern of over-training, but other training and physiologic parameters did not support that theory.  Of course, one of the obvious reasons for slowing down is a higher training load.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kona 2018 Recap


It took me a long time to even start writing this race recap.  Beyond being busy with work, family, holidays, etc. I've had to think a lot about the race and my personal investment in this sport.  The day after the race had I announced that I was taking an indefinite period away from the sport.  I had to take the time to think about what it means to me.

Kona was my 16th Ironman start, fifth time at Kona, and 11-years since my first time racing on the Island.  It also represents the highest level of training and fitness I have ever logged, by a large margin.  While I did achieve my highest placing (6th in the age group) and fastest time on this course (9:30), I am disappointed that the performance did not reflect the level of investment in preparing for the race.  That said, I remain convinced that it's possible that I will one day reach my goals at this elusive venue.

This race recap is mostly about the race, but what underlies all of this is my love for the sport and the unending pursuit of my potential.  Further, I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have the health to even train for such a thing -- I will never forget that.  Lastly, none of this would be possible without the support of my friends and family -- thank you so much!

Race Prep


My diet was "normal" going into this race, as it had been all year long.  However, to avoid GI system inflammation, I did avoid gluten and dairy the few days prior to the race.  Most importantly, at the advice of Dave Scott, I refrained from the carb-restriction diet I typically do race-week.  This last point was a big departure for me, as I have typically cab-restricted before most of my prior Ironman races.


I only include the swim-prep because it would seem omitted otherwise.  I did nothing extraordinary for the swim prep.  I maintained the intensity and kept attending the masters group at least once per week.  While not shown anywhere, I also included several Vasa sessions.  My swim fitness was likely near where it was for most of the season.


#Dimond In the Rough

With proven bike fitness, I knew I did not need to do a great deal of work on the bike.  Nonetheless, I maintained a solid build, knowing that bike fitness could enhance my race running ability.  To this end, I wanted to achieve a higher level of bike fitness as compared to IMB.  The chart below shows the bike CTL, where I peaked out at 85 points.

What was exciting to see was that as the volume continued to rise, so did my performance metrics.  The chart below shows that my estimated VO2max kept rising substantially -- especially the bike -- after IMB.  These estimates come from the excellent Garmin Forerunner 935.  I know the estimate is reasonably accurate because I did a bike physiology test in September that demonstrated a bike VO2max of 60 mL/kg-min.  While these physiologic metrics are not extraordinarily high, the important thing for me is that my performance levels appeared to be rising -- along with the training volume.


In every race of this season, I felt like my running form eluded me.  Indeed, I lost Boulder-70.3 by a mere 13-seconds due to my poor run.  However, my bike fitness and performance was through the roof.  Thus, I decided to apply some of the training principles to running that I felt were responsible for my bike performance.  While there are a few bike training themes that I think work for me, the one I wanted to apply was two big days separated by one day.  Specifically, I planned & executed two long runs separated by one day for the six week Kona build.  After IMB, I ramped the long run from 14 to 18-miles -- doing one Sunday and then another on Tuesday.  Further, these were negative-split runs, with the return effort at the high-end of IM race effort (145-149-BPM).  Indeed, I was running "back" at a 7:20-min/mile pace with a HR of 145-BPM.  I peaked my run 5-weeks out of Kona with 18-miles on Sunday & 18 on Tuesday.

Based on the gap between my run training and race performance, I wanted to up the fitness as compared to IMB.  I somewhat arbitrarily chose to increase the fitness level by 10%, as measured by the Chronic Training Load (CTL).  I peaked at a run CTL of 57 points for IMB; so, I was targeting a peak of 65 rCTL points for Kona.  As can be seen from the Performance Management Chart (PMC) below, I did hit that target peak rCTL.  Further, I maintained that level through September until October 2nd (11-days prior to the race).  As I write this, I realize that this might seem like a short run-taper, but the taper actually started a week or two prior as seen in the orange dots ramping down from a Training Stress Score of 256 (on 9/9; a 20-mile run).  Thus, the taper was more gradual with more frequent, shorter runs.

The PMC shows just aggregate training statistics, but the chart below shows more specifics.  The build, decline, and subsequent ramp in July was Boulder 70.3.  After that, the run volume and pace were very consistent and peaked at the end of August.  The pace zone represent easy (8:45-8:03/mile), IM-pace (8:02-7:22/mile), and threshold (7:22-6:40/mile) as blue, green, and red, respectively.  One can see that the majority of my run prep was at IM-specific pace.  The yellow line represents the volume in miles per week.  July through September, the average volume was between 40-50 miles per week.

Lastly, as shown previously my run performance continued to rise as indicated by the VO2max.  So, both the training load AND performance condition were rising.

General Fitness

The structure of a typical build week looked like this (starting on Thursday, as that is when the cycle seemed to start).
  • Thursday: AM 70-90-mile IM pace ride + 4-6 mile brick run
  • Friday: Mid-day swim 3k + 90-minute torque spin class
  • Saturday: AM 80-100 mile IM pace ride + 5-9 mile brick run
  • Sunday: AM long run; PM 2k swim
  • Monday: AM swim 3k + 1-hr hard spin class
  • Tuesday: AM long run
  • Wednesday: AM track workout

During the 3 months of July, August and September I had a total of four days OFF.  My general training plan simply allows me to take days off when I am tired or not performing as expected.  Otherwise, I keep pushing.  The overall PMC below shows that build, peaking at 146 CTL points -- the highest level I have ever achieved.  For reference, I peaked at 120 CTL points going into Kona 2016.

Heat Training

As it had been a mild September in Colorado, there was little opportunity to heat train outdoor.  Also, I did not have the appetite to heat-up and humidify the pain-cave.  Thus, I decided to use a different protocol -- post-workout dry-sauna sessions.  I started these sessions much farther out from the race than I typically do -- probably a good 2-months prior.  I did ~20 such sessions of at 30-60 minutes after a workout.  In addition, I did these sauna sessions without re-hydrating from the workout.  As an example, I recall several sessions after my long-run ramp of 14 to 20-miles, where I'd sit in the sauna at 140*F for 1-hour immediately following the run.  I know the body core temperature must have remained elevated, as one morning I returned from the run at 157-lb; and after the "hotbox" I weighed 154-lb (3-lb lighter than IMB18 race-weight).

In addition to the sauna heat work, I also arranged travel to arrive in Hawaii 10-days before the race so that I could acclimatize to the heat.  The day after arriving, I had planned on running 16-miles in the heat of the day.  The next day I rode 80-miles during mid-day.  The next day, I had a 13-mile run planned.  The pace was WAY off, I had to cut short the runs, and each of these training sessions severely depleted me.  It was so bad, I wondered whether I could even finish the race -- forget accomplishing my lofty expectations.

After this initial panic, I reached out to several trusted and experienced folks for advice, asking whether I should soldier-on or reel it back.  Some of the feedback helped me understand that perhaps I had dehydrated myself in these initial exposure to the heat.  Indeed, after focusing on re-hydrating (huge bowl of bone broth with lots of salt), I was back to normal the next day.

Based on this experience, it was clear to me the post-workout sauna protocol was not effective -- for me.  Perhaps this approach may work for others, but I was a non-responder.

Mental Training

In 2016 I picked up a Muse Mediation device and started using it about a month prior to Kona 2016.  As I commented in that race recap, I did not appreciate the benefits of the meditation until the chaos of the mass swim start, where I remained calm, collected, and quick -- I set a swim PR!

Since then, I have not meditated every day, but picked-up the practice in prep for some races or just to maintain some good mental training.  The most benefit I have found (with regard to triathlon) is that it is extremely useful in handling the stress of threshold sessions -- remaining calm and breathing through the intervals.  The idea of meditating in prep for triathlon may seem like a stretch, but I have absolutely found benefit in various aspects of life -- including handling ornery young kids, getting to sleep better, and pushing through physically difficult moments.  In short, it gives me another positive coping mechanism.

I resumed meditating in prep for Kona and actually achieved a new level, which required meditating for 40-minutes straight.  In addition, I logged 28-days back-to-back as I went into the race this year.  I felt I was well-prepared for the physiological challenges of this race.

Training the Gut

Historically -- especially in Kona, my GI system was the main limiter in races.  Thus, this topic is perhaps the most important of all training I did specifically for this race.  After consulting with several folks on the topic of overcoming GI distress during the race, the most common advice I received was to "train the gut".  What I had done historically was to train my body to burn fat, with MANY training sessions performed in a fasted or severely carb-restricted state.  What I had NOT done historically was trained my body to withstand a high intake during the race.  So, as part of the Kona build, I did both rides and runs using the nutrition I had planned for the race, both in quantity and type.

During the bike of races, I would normally consume ~275kCal/hr of maltodextrin-based solution.  My drink of choice had been EFS Drink, which has worked very well.  However, in order to consume even more (300+ kCal/hr), I started experimenting with adding fructose to maltodextrin in a variety of ratios, the most common being the traditional 2:1 (malto:fructose).  In the one of the big brick days, I was able to consume 300kCal/hr of this malto/fructose solution on the 4.5 hour bike.  Then, at mile-4 of the run, my lower GI felt like it was going to blow-out -- I was reduced to a walk.  At that time and throughout that , I was distraught that my "gut training" was on the wrong track -- and, even worse, I did not have a "plan-B".  But what I realized later that evening was that this "failure" was exactly what I needed.  Through this failure, I realized the main source of my GI distress during races was consuming the fructose in the Gatorade during the run.

So, my nutrition plan involved eliminating the fructose from the bike solution, which was easy and then finding a replacement for the calories on the run, which was a little bit of a challenge.  What I decided to try was carrying two EFS Liquid Shot flasks for the run, which would suffice for the first 20-miles; then use coke for the remainder of the run.

The following week, I tried this strategy consuming 300kCal/hr of EFS Pro (which worked well) on the bike.  I then started the 6-mile run with a 400kCal flask of EFS Liquid Shot.  While the racing plan was to do a shot of EFS before each aid station and wash-down with water, during this training run I had no water.  So, I ended up consuming all 400kCal within the first 20-minutes of the run.  To my surprise, my gut was solid throughout the remainder of the run!  My finding of fructose being the culprit was now verified with both a positive (failure the week before) and negative (success and absence of GI distress) cases.  My race nutrition plan was hatched!

The importance of this seemingly minor point cannot be over-stressed.  The MAIN limiter of all my IM racing seemed to be an issue of my past!  All that was left was to prove during an actual race.

At this point in the training cycle I still had another several bigger days to train the various systems.  So, I did a mix of both my traditional carb-restricted sessions in addition to "race simulation / gut training" sessions, including a 100-mile bike + 9-mile brick run.  That second big-day session worked as planned, finishing the big-day running at a 7-min/mile pace -- at altitude, in the heat (90*F).

Race Expectations

Based on my fitness level and performance in training, I was in the best Ironman condition of my life.  I had the confidence built in 2016 that I could execute a solid swim and bike at Kona.  What remained was the run.  I was setting new PRs during the long runs, while the overall raining volume continued to rise.  I was running better than ever in my life.  Lastly, I think I had figured out a nutrition plan that would keep my GI system happy.

Based on my training, I estimated the following splits for the race.  Based on historical results, these times would yield a course age group record, a first place position, or at least podium.

Race Report


My sister and brother-in-law (Brenda and Dave) took the kids the night before to allow an easier and early night. (Thanks again guys!)  It also allowed Christine to take me to the race site in the morning.

The plan these days is to finish (solid) breakfast 2-hours before race start.  So, I had planned on finishing near 5am.  I changed breakfast up a bit knowing that I would benefit from some extra sodium and fluids, and it helped me get out of the dehydration hole the week prior.  I had a large bowl of chicken bone broth with lots of salt.  In addition, I had two toaster waffles with Almond butter and jam.  And -- of course -- coffee!  I also took with me a large bottle of water with a serving of EFS drink to sip before the race start.

We arrived at the race venue just before 5am and established a plan where to meet after I got everything prepped.  I knew from 2016 it was going to take a while, especially body marking.  However, after getting through a narrow bottleneck leading into body-marking, I found myself through the process in just a few minutes!  Transition prep was pretty fast and I made my way out to meet Christine.  I found her as the sun was coming up and the light changed dramatically.  Simultaneously, the environment was electric, exciting, chaotic, and serene.  I was so happy to be here at this moment with Christine -- ready to take on this huge challenge.

Swim (Estimated: 0:59 to 1:02 / Actual: 1:02:45)

I seeded myself near the front (perhaps 1-guy back) and in the middle (left to right).  I kept looking at my watch to get ready for the ensuing chaos.  As the cannon boomed, we were off.  My main goal was to remain calm, keep my face in the water, and just get into a good rhythm -- while pushing hard to get ahead of the main group.  As with prior years, it was full body contact for at least 15-20 minutes.  There were periods of relative order, broken by stochastic moments of a bunch of alpha-males occupying a limited physical space.  That aside, I was able to maintain my composure.  After the turn-around, it cleared out a bit.  I knew I was swimming well because I was able to stave-off the fast female age-groupers who started 5-minute behind.

For the most part, I was able to draft for perhaps 75% of the swim.  I exited the water feeling solid and in control.

In hindsight, I am really surprised that the swim time was slower than my estimates.  I swam slightly faster in 2016, but I have consistently swam MUCH faster this year vs 2016.  Further, in the practice swim the week before, I swam a pretty comfortable 1:01.

Bike (Estimated: 4:37 to 4:49 / Actual: 4:37:30)

T1 was fast and uneventful (thankfully) -- unlike 2016!  I was expecting to come out of the water in the top 10% of the field (200 guys ahead of me), so I expected it to be somewhat sparse.  I was wrong!  It seemed like there were hundreds of people in front of me.  In fact, there were likely 450 age-groupers out of the water before me.  Based on the tracker, I started the bike in 26th of the AG.  As a result, it was "bunchy" and a little scary until we got onto the Queen-K.  My pacing plan was to hold a steady power of 225-Watts, especially in the early stages of the bike.  However, I was probably at the end of the field where it was starting to get crowded, with hundreds of guys of similar capabilities bunched together.  Some people respect the rules and try to ride legal; some just cheat and draft.  In such a circumstance if you try to ride legal and let the pelotons go ahead, you're left watching literally hundreds of guys ride up ahead of you with no end.  I'd like to say that I had thought this all through and decided my strategy of going off the front was the best choice.  However, I didn't have that forethought and did decide to stay ahead of the main peloton that kept "harassing" me.  It was clear that I had more bike strength, as the little pitches on the road would push them back, I was able to get out ahead -- but with some pretty hard surges.  Then, as the grade reversed, the group would catch me again.  So, we repeated this game all the way to Hawi (at 60-miles into the bike) and then down the descent (to 70-miles).  Finally, at this point my bike fitness allowed me to continue riding away.  It's such a great feeling to be strong when the field is thinning out and going backwards.  Looking at the tracker, I improved my position from 9th in the AG at mile 59 (turn-around) to 4th at the end of the bike.

Due to the shenanigans for the first 60-miles of the bike, I was not able to execute the bike plan.  My normalized power was 238-Watts (about 5-Watts high) and average heart rate was 141-BPM (3-BPM too high).  In retrospect that was not as bad as I thought.  

Once clear of the field, I was able to hold a more steady power.  The return power was 200-Watts (229NP), but my heart rate was rising (143-BPM; 5-BPM above plan).  I suspect the aerobic decoupling (rising HR for a even power) was a result of the rising temperature.  

Overall, I rode at 220-Watts & 141-BPM average (233NP), which is an IM PR.  This compares with IMB18 of 205AP/225NP/143BPM.  The power was about 5-Watts below plan.  Heart rate was 3-BPM over plan, which does not sound like much, but it has to come from somewhere (read on).

Bike nutrition was per plan with the first bottle of EFS Pro consumed by the time I picked-up the second (which also had 1x scoop Pre-race in it) in Hawi.  In total, it was 282kCal/hr on the bike.  The EFS Pro worked very well and I never felt bloated.  The only odd thing was, while I was drinking proactively, I did not pee on the bike.

Run (Estimated: 3:09 to 3:18 / Actual: 3:41:18)

T2 was quick and smooth.  I took a few seconds to put on the Desoto Arm Coolers to protect against the intense IR heat.  With my hand in a grocery produce bag, I was able to pull them up quickly.  I also put one of Christine's old (pink) t-shirts on my head, which covered my ears and would help keep my head wet.  In hindsight, I am not sure if that was all to helpful.

The run pacing plan was to hold a steady heart rate of 145BP, which -- on paper -- correlated with a 7:26/mile pace.  The nutrition plan was to take a shot of EFS from the flask before each aid station and wash it down with water.  As I started the run, I kept the effort in check.  However, at mile-1, I deviated from the nutrition plan -- my body seemed to want coke.  From that point forward, I allowed myself to drink coke instead of the EFS.  In hindsight, I am not sure I could stomached the gel.

I saw the family near mile-3 on the run and they told me I was in 4th of the AG.  This was the first time during the race I knew my position.  The news was neither a boost nor a drain -- I was right on plan, knowing that if I maintained the pace I could still win the AG.

Making the way to Pilani, I was smart about the hill and power-walked short sections to keep the HR down.  Once I peaked and started the little descent, I could feel the day's effort in my legs and whole-body already -- it was getting hard!  Soon after, I started to feel a little bloated and needing a porta-potty break.  At mile-12 I saw a good opportunity to take that break.  Fortunately, the break demonstrated that my GI system was operating properly (no diarrhea, which was typical by now).

At that point, the run had become really hard and I was just half-way through the marathon.  It was not leg limitation or pain, but a whole body fatigue; I was just out of energy.  With all the training I had done, all the prep, I could not believe I was in this position.  This race was not turning out how I had expected.  I did not know, but I was then in 3rd position of the AG, a position I held until mile 16.

The negative thoughts kept returning and I was not doing a good job of managing them.  At one point, near mile 16, I allowed myself to accept a lower placement.  It was a sublime resignation; I guess I did not want it as bad as I had thought.  In retrospect, this moment, this lapse, and succumbing to the negative thoughts is what haunts me, and largely defines, the race.

As we descended into the energy lab, I felt my left sock or insole bunching.  So, I decided to fix it.  So, I sat-down, pulled off the shoe and fixed whatever was bothering me -- likely something I could have easily lived with had I been in a better mental state.  It was probably due to that delay that I moved into 4th position.  As I got into the Energy Lab, I actually started walking a bit.  I'd restart by focusing on 10-breaths -- another meditation coping mechanism.

As I got back out onto the Queen-K, I took a shot of the EFS with the Pre-race in it near the mile 21 aid station.  After walking that aid station and getting the water I needed I restarted and was actually able to push the pace.  For a short while after that aid station I was actually running near a 7:30/mile pace.  However, it was not sustainable.  Regardless, things seemed to stat clicking a bit better.  I was no longer walking between aid stations.  The Pilani descent was pretty painful, but manageable.  However, when I hit the bottom I was hurting incredibly bad, but I was so close to the finish.  My first coach, Muddy Waters, saw me and told me to "stay strong".  All I could do was grimace as a slogged by.  As I made my way onto Ali'i for the last little stretch, I tried to take in the scene and sights, but I was in so much pain.  I hit the carpet, but instead of being filled with elation, I was severely disappointed.  This was the ONLY IM race in my career I've finished feeling something other than complete bliss.

As I review the run, it appears that my troubles began as soon as I got out on the Queen-K.  My heart rate started to drop and so did my pace.  The Energy Lab was a horrible section, and the return on the Queen-K was not much better.  What's also clear is that the pace was way off my training.  At 136BPM, I could normally run a 7:50/mile or so, but I was a good minute per mile slower.
  • Miles 0-7 (base of Pilani): 7:30 / 149BPM
  • Miles 9-15 (Queen-K): 8:08 / 143BPM
  • Miles 15-20 (Energy Lab): 8:57 / 136BPM
  • Miles 20-26.2 (Queen-K): 8:46 / 136BPM

What went well

  • Swim calmness -- Like 2016, while the swim start was chaotic, I was able to remain calm.  I remain convinced that meditation has improved my coping skills during stressful time such as these
  • The last 40-miles of the bike -- That portion of the race was mine to shine.  The crowds were left behind and I remained strong
  • When things went badly during the run, I kept turning to the meditation practice of counting 10-breaths -- Bad spot occur for nearly everyone.  The important thing is to establish a positive coping mechanism
  • GI distress was nearly absent on the run -- This is likely the most important advances of my triathlon career

What did NOT go according to plan

  • The swim was a good 1-2 minutes slower than I had expected  -- I cannot explain why the swim was slower than expected.  I was drafting well and swimming strong & efficient
  • The heart rate on the bike was higher than expected for the power I was holding.  Overall, it did not feel that hard, but my heart rate was 3-BPM higher than plan (138 vs 135-BPM).  Over a 4-5 hour period this additional cardiovascular stress adds up
  • I was not able to hold a steady or appropriate power for the first 60-miles of the bike due to the crowding of the course and one peloton that I kept trying to stay in front of.  In hindsight, my response to this situation probably yielded the best outcome
  • I deviated from my nutrition plan on the run -- Perhaps it was the heat, but my guy was not ready for the EFS gel.  I trust my gut over my head, so this too was probably the best course of action
  • I fell apart on the run, starting at mile-12 -- I paced the run well up until this point; so, I am still scratching y head as to the cause of this "failure"

Possible causes of the failure to race to my potential

  • Chronic over-training: Being that my training was at an all time high, I was vigilant of over-training.  My sleep was good; and I was getting a solid 8-hours a night in addition to short naps several days a week.  My weight and mood was stable.  I remained motivated to train; and, my performance kept rising.  During the build cycle, there were never any signs of over-training.  However, it was the end of a LONG season with lots of hard training and racing
  • Acute over-training: I did some pretty hard training the first three days on the island; and it put me in a pretty big hole.  I seemed to dig out quickly and fully, but that did occur just 7-days before the race
  • Over-biking: 
    • I rode with a higher heart rate at IMB18 (143BPM vs 141BPM) and still ran better at IMB; so, it's unclear whether this was the cause
    • However, as I looked across four races, including: IMB16, Kona16 (BBS estimated power), IMB18, and Kona18 a trend seemed to emerge.  As my average power rose, my run split suffered

  • Nutritional deficiency ("bonking") due to over-biking -- It's possible due to the higher normalized power that I consumed more carbohydrates than planned, which would impact the ability to run well
  • Heat Training Non-responder -- Even though I had prepared as much as reasonable, the run still felt really hot.  At this point, I am nearly out of ideas of how to handle that stress better
If you have made it this far and have some ideas on this topic, I'd appreciate hearing them!

Things I [think I] Learned

  • Fructose is my enemy
  • I can actually drink Coke as my nutrition through the entire marathon
  • The post-workout sauna sessions were ineffective in acclimatizing me to the heat of Kona

Race Report Card