Monday, October 30, 2006

After Thoughts

I always stay in Hawaii for four or more days following this race. I do nothing but spend time with my wife, doing whatever she feels like doing, and overindulging. The post IM experience in Hawaii was, once again, incredible. We stayed at a great resort that has one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to. It’s a protected cove that has white, soft sand and beautiful palm trees, and just past the lava rock barrier that sections off the cove is an incredible coral reef that offers up great snorkeling and diving. I used to be very bad at lying around on a beach. I absolutely love the beach, but I’d get extremely antsy lying around. I’ve learned how to enjoy be lazy though, and what better time than following an IM and beginning your off-season. For a couple of days, Lisa and I just hung out in a cabana with a cooler of ice water and fresh fruit. We would read, or talk, or occasionally nap. About once every hour or so, I’d dive into the emerald green salty water and float around. Sometimes I’d take my goggles and explore the coral reef. This beach is a hang out for the huge sea turtles, and on more than one occasion, I’d swim with them a bit. One day, we hiked into the Waipo valley which is just amazing, with the huge cliffs and waterfalls and the black sand beach. One night, we received a bottle of wine at our room, compliments of the Forster’s, and we took it with two glasses down to the beach and watched the sun set, before dinner.

With ample time to think about and over-analyze my race, here are some of my thoughts:

First, I’ll definitely be back to Hawaii for number eight. Not next year, but I’ll be back.

I’d love to go into an Ironman with no side issues, but, for the majority of us, this really is hit or miss. Most of us have busy lives outside of triathlon. Families, careers, responsibilities that make optimal focus towards an IM impossible. The key thing is to realize that you don’t need to be perfect going into an IM. Sure, aim for optimal preparation, but when a curve ball comes your way, be prepared to deal. Freaking out over issues or distractions only makes the race that much more difficult. There’s much more to gain from staying calm and figuring out a solution, a way to work with or compensate for whatever issue(s) that has come about.

As I mentioned in a past post, I have a feeling that most overestimate what they can maintain, effort-wise, for an IM. Especially on the bike, which makes for a very challenging and long run. Most of the time, if the run didn’t go as planned, it was mainly due to mispacing rather than nutrition. Think about this in your training. If your long rides aren’t similar to your IM pace, than how can you expect to ratchet the effort up on race day for 112 miles and receive no ill effects from it? Think of your next IM like a wave, building energy from start to finish. As the wave rolls towards shore, it gets stronger.

My preparation towards this race started back in January. I established a consistent weekly schedule or habit. No, I wasn’t doing long or hard efforts back in January, but I was thinking already about the season, and getting in five to seven runs per week, and three to four rides per week. I was also doing core every other day and some strength training. This consistency remained throughout most of the year. I had some big weeks of training in there, but the weekly consistency pays off more than a few big training weeks. Big training weeks are great for upping your threshold of what you feel you are capable of. They are extremely beneficial mentally and physically, but only if the weekly consistency is there year round.

My cycling training was very specific. Each session had a purpose. Cycling takes up a lot of time, and I didn’t have this time to log a lot of “junk” mileage. I’d do one day of big gear work, usually intervals on a flat to rolling road or long, gradual hills in a big gear. I’d do one day with a time trial effort. The other key day each week for cycling was my long ride. I rode my long rides like I planned on racing in Hawaii. I started off easier and built into it, and I rode my long rides at IM effort. As I got closer to race day, I’d throw in some specific intervals later in the long ride. Those were my three key weekly rides and on the occasion that I was able to sneak in another ride, it was usually a very easy recovery ride in A zone, but at higher rpm’s (90+).

My run training was focused more on frequency and IM pace rather than specific intervals like my cycling training. For an IM, I feel that run frequency and volume trumps run quality. Nearly all of my run training was done at 6:45 to 7:30 per mile pace. I rarely ran faster than 6:45/mile or slower than 7:30/mi. I wanted this pace ingrained in me physiologically and psychologically. I aimed for seven sessions of running per week. Some days I would run twice, especially if the previous day I didn’t run. I did lots of bricks, mostly because this was the most time efficient way for me to fit this in. But I did notice that as I became more fit and used to the running frequency and volume, I didn’t need to brick as much and yet would still run well off the bike.

I did a few longer bricks. Four or five hour rides followed by 75 minutes to 2 hour runs. I think Mark Allen and Peter Reid once mentioned that they feel running more than 1 hour off the bike in training takes more out of you than it should, so they don’t advise this. However, these two guys were logging huge weekly volume compared to what most age group athletes are doing. With that type of volume, longer bricks may break you down to much. But for the majority of age groupers, long bricks are a great way to train, preparing you more for race day both physically and providing a great mental benefit.

Key sessions that I did: I kicked off my IM training up at Lake Placid during IM week up there. I used the four days to log big bike mileage, mostly in A and low to mid B zone. I did three days of 4.5 hr + riding, including the climb up Whiteface. I bricked most of these rides. I did the Vermont ride in late August, and focused on maintaining a steady effort over the two days of riding (142 miles each way). I did a 40 min brick run in Vermont. I’ve been doing this ride at least once a year since 97’ and I’ve learned that this ride is a great barometer at showing me where I’m at physically and mentally. There have been years where I really wasn’t having much fun during this ride, not because of the effort, but just mentally I wasn’t into it. Those times usually showed I was on the edge of overtraining, and burnout. This year, I had done a lot of different training routes. I was coming off what was basically a year off from racing as well. We rode up to Vermont into a stiff headwind and in rain. I was alone the majority of the time and I was smiling and loving it. This was a good! Another key week was the small Fall training camp I hosted in September. Unlike my other camps, I billed this one as pure training (no testing, …). We logged some big miles over some really challenging courses. It was very beneficial for those that attended.

I had no illness in my main build towards Hawaii, mainly because I focused on getting 7+ hours of sleep per night and I would back off if I felt I needed it, even if my schedule called for something more intense. I got my first cold three weeks out from Hawaii. One of my kids was sick and I was not sleeping well do to extra time I was putting into The Ride For Rick and a few other projects I’ve been working on. I basically did nothing except swim during this week of illness.

So that’s basically my IM story for this year. Once again, it was a blast and I learned a ton.

I once heard a well followed pro discuss how most aren’t really willing to focus like they need to too achieve excellence in triathlon. He used the example of a top business executive or CEO and how this person got there by totally focusing on his work, giving up most outside distractions, and being available towards work 24/7. He mentions that if you are truly searching for excellence, you need to get rid of other distractions. This was the quest that he took on, and how he lives his life. He’s right, in that this is the way to really achieve excellence. I viewed this in another light. I have witnessed top business executives sacrifice family, friends, fun, for their work. I have witnessed triathletes sacrifice family, friends, fun, their careers, for their sport. Most of these people that do this never really turn out satisfied. It’s sad. Find out how much time you can truly devote to triathlon, and then maximize this time. Aim for excellence based on your time frame. There is far more satisfaction to gain, knowing that you were a great family person, kept your career on track and in focus, made time for friends and fun, and still excelled in your sport. You have to accept that you will never reach your potential. The only way to reach your potential is to sacrifice all these other things. But that doesn’t mean you cannot excel. Don’t confuse aiming for balance with mediocrity. At the end of the day, it’s all about satisfaction, and you’ll know if you have achieved the right balance – if you truly feel satisfied. If you are excelling in one area of your life but you still aren’t feeling satisfied, than something is off kilter.

Thanks again for reading my Kona blog. I will continue to post here. About what, who knows?




JenC said...

Eric, again, great job! I'm glad you added the part about balance. I would love to train for LP as much as you did for Hawaii, but it would strain my career and marriage more than it is worth. I still will maintain consistency as you suggest and expect to have a fun day up there next July!

I'm already looking forward to camp!

Eric said...

Thanks Jen. My typical week was between 15 and 16 hours of training. Not much compared to what most are doing for an IM.

Eric said...

I'm glad to hear that you will maintain this blog with additional posts.

Congrats on your Kona finish and keep feeding us ways to stay balanced.

FYI...watched my DVDs as soon as I got them.

Cliff said...


Thanks for the reminder at the end about sacrifice and the importance of balance with other areas of our lives.

Samantha B said...

Congrats on your race! I'm training with Angela for my first IM in Placid this year and got a lot of good information from your blog. Thanks!

Eric said...

Hi Samantha,

Angela will get you ready for sure. Best of luck with your training.