Sunday, September 2, 2012

One week to my first Ironman

It really feels weird typing that.

One week from today I will most likely be an Ironman.  I say "most likely" because complete confidence in an ironman only invites the wrath of the gods.  That being said - I feel like I'm in as good of shape as I could have hoped in order to have a successful day next Sunday.  What does successful mean?  Let's go through each discipline.

The Swim

The swim is a mass start - meaning that all ~2800 participants start the race at once.  From what I hear there is only a small entrance into the water - which means that you should try to get in around 20-25 minutes before the start of the race.  Yes, you might have to tread water for awhile (or hold onto a kayak) but it's worth it to be in better position.  I've also heard that the majority of the time you should expect to be slowed down by the people in front of you.  Periods of swimming in open water are few and far between.  To emphasize this there is a tradition of everyone yelling "Moo!" as they go around the first turn - feeling like cattle. 

I think the key is to not get too excited at the start of the swim.  It's a long day and I'm not the fastest swimmer anyways.  Better to go with the flow and remain calm during the first few minutes of "washing machine" craziness.  My goal for the swim is 1 hour and 15 minutes - which is pretty much in the middle of the pack. 

Transition 1 and the bike

If I do come in around 1:15 I'll have a lot of company.  My plan is to let the wetsuit strippers help me ( you basically flop down on the ground with your legs in the air and they literally strip off the wetsuit for you).  However I've been told that there might be a line - so, I'll have to play it by ear - I can always try to take it off myself while I'm hopping along in line.  The Wisconsin Ironman is a little different than most in that you have to run/jog/walk up a parking structure "helix" to get to transition.  I don't exactly want to be hitting V02 max at this point - so, I'll have to be ok with a few "motivated" people passing me.

The dressing rooms are in convention halls that are part of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace.  Instead of wearing the same thing all day I'm going to go with comfort - I'll be wearing my normal bike shorts and a plain red/white cycling jersey with deep pockets in the back.  I most likely will put on some sunscreen as well.

The bike course is a 16 mile stick out to a 40 mile loop that you ride twice.  The first part of the bike is technically a no-passing area - so, again I will need to just keep my cool.  The bike course is generally rolling with a few "climbs".  I am so glad that I rode the course back in June.  I've seen everything except for the first/last six miles of the course.  As many people say - it's a course where you are constantly making choices.  I'm going to be paying close attention to my pedal rpm's - I'm most efficient ~90 rpms - much less than that and I should down shift.  There will be at least 3-4 times per loop where I'll be in my small ring.  It's not worth killing yourself up the hills - much better to sit back and spin up them.  Again - this requires a certain amount of patience - especially if you're getting passed by people.  But again - the mantra of the first half of the bike should be - "they'll come back to me on the run".

As for nutrition I'm planning on taking gu's every 30 minutes and downing a bottle of perform (similar to gatorade) plus some water every hour.  The aid stations are every 15 miles - which means I should be hitting them every 45-50 minutes - so, I should never be getting too low on my perform.  I will put some gu's on my belt and in the jersey pockets - but I'm also going to pick them up on the course.  This seemed to work out fine at the Kansas 70.3.

Even though the swim is going to be scary - I'm most worried about some kind of technical problem on the bike.  I'm going to be using some borrowed racing wheels that have tubular tires.  These tires are tough - but they are also glued on to the rim of the wheel - which means if you flat your day is done unless you can get a replacement wheel.  I've also had some issues with skipping gears when I'm shifting etc.  I took my bike to a shop yesterday and they tuned it up the best they could - so it should be fine - but there's always the chance something weird could happen. 

My goal for the bike is 5 hours and 30 minutes.  I went 2:35 at Kansas - so, I feel like that's doable. 

Transition 2 and the run

If I make it to the end of the bike relatively unscathed I'm going to be a happy guy.  The run is my strongest discipline and there is much less that is out of my control.  The second transition is a little quicker.  Everybody will be more spread out and you don't have quite as far to travel.  I'm going to change into a running singlet, running shorts, and training shoes.  Again - the name of the game at the beginning of the run will be patience.  There are huge crowds in Madison on the run course.  I just need to get into a rhythm. 

The run course is very flat.  There is one little rise on Observatory - but, it will only feel like a hill if I'm really hurting.  The course is on a mixture of roads, paved and gravel trails.  You even do a lap of the football stadium during each loop.  I've been told that the constant changing of surfaces can mess up your rhythm a little - but I don't think it should be too bad.

My goal for the run is 3 hours.  Yes, that seems a little quick - maybe even foolishly quick.  But I have a lot of confidence in my running right now. 

So what does that add up to?  1:15 swim + 5:30 bike + 3:00 run + ~15 minutes for transitions/bathroom breaks etc = 10 hours.

When I signed up for this race a year ago Kendra was in the middle of interviewing for the job in Omaha.  I picked Wisconsin because I knew Omaha would be a good place to train - regardless of what you may think Omaha is hilly.  It's not like the plains of central and western Nebraska - it's in the Missouri River Valley.  I also knew that this summer was going to be a relatively quiet time - I was between taking pre-reqs for physician assistant school.  So I had a lot of time to train.  In fact I'll probably never have that much time to train ever again.  In some ways I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life AND I don't have any nagging injuries for the first time in a long time.

I'm ready.


alyssa said...

Hey Ben,

As someone who has faced bike mechanicals in 2 of my past Ironmans, I would give some thought about your bike issues and not just hope for the best!

Personally, unless I glued the tubulars myself, I wouldn't race on them. Also - I think Zero has had some experience with them and I believe there are things you could put in your special needs to help in case something is up with them. But, I would consider renting a set of other wheels where you could carry a spare tube and air.

Especially since this is your (self proclaimed) potentially once shot at this race, it's not like you will have another opportunity to jump into a race the next weekend. It will be a sad thing if bike issues are the reason it's not a great day.

Just some food for thought. Have fun on Sunday!


alyssa said...

Case in point about tubulars, check out hillary's blog post!

Ben said...

Sorry I didn't respond to your comment Alyssa - I didn't see it until just now. The front one mysteriously flated on the drive to Madison. Luckily I brought my regular wheels with me. I was lucky to not have any flats. Those darn mechanicals make the bike so much more stressful.

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