TeamEN fielded nearly 30 athletes at IMCDA’12, the 10th anniversary of the event and Version 3.0 of the bike course. Rich Strauss was on hand to coach and lead the team, organize a team dinner for our athletes and families, and deliver our Four Keys of Ironman Execution pre-race talk to over 100 athletes
- Meet the Team here
- Race Reports, with podcast interviews with Coach Rich
Coach Rich Strauss’ Notes for the Day
First, True to form in recent years, the water was a chilly about 57-58 degrees on race day. These temperatures continue to challenge nearly all athletes swimming slower than about 1:45 and very lean athletes swimming slower than about 1:20-25. Second, the IMCDA continues to be one of the “rougher” IM swims on the North American circuit, in terms of body contact with other athletes. The swim start is a beach, bounded by walls on three sides and therefore fixed square footage onto which WTC continues to start more and more athletes every year, though I’m not sure what the final count was for 2012. And third, a first for this event, the winds picked up significantly on the second loop, creating a lot of chop and wavy conditions for athletes.
Rich’s IMCDA Swim Tips
- Ignore the weather and water temperature reports (all of them) until the end of race week. The CDA weather is notoriously variable and the water temperature can increase or decrease very quickly. Bring every item of swim, bike and run gear you own…but it’s just not worth sweating the forecast until about Friday. That said, I recommend you plan to double cap the swim, invest in a neoprene cap and maybe booties, if allowed.
- Line up in the middle of the beach, in front of the “pole” that’s in the water. Don’t worry, you’ll see it when you get to the race and know what I’m talking about.
- STAY IN THE BOX!! Focus on your form and only think about what you can control…your form…and do your best to not let the body contact get inside your head!!
The weather at the start of the bike was overcast and cool, probably low 60′s. The sun came out at about 12pm, in time to start to warm things up for the run (more later), but in the meantime athletes impacted by the water temps had a tough time warming up on the bike.
As I mentioned above, this course is the third permutation of IMCDA bike course. My notes on the new course:
- The first 16 miles, the out and back through town and next to lake is unchanged from previous years.
- The course then makes a left on Hwy 95, as it did in 2003-2006, but continues south about 20 miles before flipping it and riding back to town. Athletes ride two loops of the bike course.
- Hwy 95 is a four lane highway and accommodates a lot of truck traffic, so it’s been designed to have nothing greater than about a 6% grade. Most everything is 2-4% but 6% at the steepest. However, there are couple climbs (Mica Grade in particular, 1.8 miles at 4-6%) that are longer than anything on the “old” courses.
- Excellent pavement and good visibility on the downhills. Again, think 4 lane highway.
- Because you are traveling in one direction for 20 miles, then flipping it, any winds have a long time to impact your ride, good or bad.
So…due to the nature of the hills (long and not that steep), this course was easier to figure out. That is, the old course presented you with short, sharp hills with false flats at the top and in general forced you to make more decisions, increasing the probability of making bad one’s and having a bad day as a result. The new course is simpler and requires fewer decisions, but I will say that bad decisions stuck to have a longer time to express themselves. That is, if you ride a 1.8 mile hill too hard…for the entire 1.8 miles, and do it again and again on the other slightly shorter hills, it adds up. If you ride to hard into a headwind…for 20 miles…that’s gonna hurt later!
And that’s exactly what happened on race day, with athletes facing a headwind for 20 miles each loop, as they rode south on the course.
Rich’s IMCDA Bike Tips
- Recommend a compact crank (50/34) and a 25-12 or 11t cassettes for stronger athletes and 27-12 or 28-12 for others. Of course, if you’re racing M45-49 next year, I highly recommend a 21-11….
- Stay in the aerobars as much as possible, especially going out (assuming a similar wind direction next year). Stronger athletes may find themselves climbing many of these hills at 12-14mph and, with a headwind, there is still a significant advantage to climbing in the aerobars.
- Save yourself for the second lap of the bike. We’ve said it many times: Ironman bike course ALWAYS get harder as the day goes by — heat and wind picks up; neck, back, and shoulders fatigue, and much more. If you don’t save something for the second half of the IMCDA bike course:
- You’ll find yourself riding generally uphill into a headwind, but too tired or uncomfortable to answer the hills, wind, or stay in the aerobars (slowing you down even more).
- You won’t be able to take full advantage of any tailwinds and the downhills on the ride back to town.
- Be prepared by bringing cheap, warm riding gear to the race — gardening gloves for your hands, tube socks with the toes cut off as armwarmers, a USPS envelope stuffed inside our singlet to keep you warm(er), all of which you don’t hesitate to toss when it warms up.
The IMCDA run course is unchanged from last year…which was a change from the previous run course. The “new” course eliminates the ~2 mile out and back along the lake at the start of each lap, and instead adds distance…and hills…at the far end of the course. Most notable about the 2012 run was the temperature change from the bike to the run. After cold water, cool temps and overcast on the swim and bike, the sun came out at about 12pm and made for a rather hot run, especially in the sun.
Rich’s IMCDA Run Tips
- Hydrate and fuel yourself for the run, on the bike. I suspect that the cool temps on the bike conspired to not make proper hydration a priority on the bike, which came back to haunt many athletes on the rather warm run.
- SLOW DOWN in the first 6 miles of the run. This is the second year I’ve stood at the corner of Sherman and 8th to support TeamEN athletes and fans. This is mile 1, 12, 14 and 25′ish of the run. From the pace of everyone blasting by me at the start of the run, you’d think half the field was going to run a sub 3:30 marathon. Our guidance: take your easy run pace, add 30″ per mile to it and run that pace (now stoopid easy) for the first 6 miles of the Ironman marathon. Then drop in to easy pace and carry on with your day. More importantly, ignore everyone else around you who is, I promise, running much too fast!
Coach Rich’s “The Mental Game” Tips
Finally, I continue to see many athletes, of all shapes, sizes, and abilities both outperform and underperform their competition across the 10-17 hour mental game that is Ironman. In my opinion, in a race this long the mental game, and your mental fitness is every bit as important as your physical fitness. Please review my Five Mental Tips for Achieving a Breakthrough Triathlon Performance.