Coach Patrick's 2015 Ironman Texas Race Report

9:29:46 on a Wicked Windy and Hot Day…and headed back to Kona, baby!

For the speed readers, the full report is below. For the rest of you this was my 21st Ironman and I went 9:29:xx, good enough for 36th overall…26th male…5th age grouper…and 2nd in the M40-44 age group. My swim was baaaad. The bike was almost perfect and the run was a sufferfest…but my ticket is punched — Kona #7, here I come!

The Build Up

Winter 2015 simply sucked. I wasn’t able to ride outside in my town until mid-April…about. 5 weeks pre-race.  I did have a full winter of quality running and a modified OutSeason (see below), plus camps in Florida in January (January Volume Camp), a shortened Texas Camp and the Blue Ridge Cycling Camp (here) which all afforded me some good bike volume.

 Winter Long Running in Rhode Island

The Winter Training

I decided to keep my run pace pretty high at the outset of my training — think just slower than Z3 / Half Marathon Pace and then add the bike/run workouts of the OutSeason in to the point where I could still run that quality tempo pace. I wanted to do this as the bike is my current strength and I wanted to target the run with more quality.

Well after one week of training and real winter weather I realized that things had to change. First, I couldn’t run intervals in the snow (no treadmill for me thanks!) and second, increasing the bike interval duration each week really hurt my run.

So I settled on a “fixed” week of bike intervals — Tuesday was 2×12′ @ Z4, Thursday was 4×4′ @ 110% FTP / Z5 and Saturday was 2×12′ @ Z4 again. This allowed me to push the effort of the intervals up each week since the duration was fixed. I could also easily tell when I was tired as the numbers would drop.

I ran 60′ to 70′ at the sub-Z3 pace on both Wednesday and Sunday and then a few shorter runs during the week when possible. Monday and Friday were 2500y swim sessions.

Overall I was pretty pleased with the results. My run quality was pretty high — not my fastest running but a lot of quality. My bike was super strong and my swim had been fairly consistent.

The Race Prep Training

Race Prep started right around mid-February. With about 10 weeks to go, I decided to use a modified version of the EN*Full Minimalist Plan as I knew I couldn’t do 2 long rides a week with the weather (as we usually do) and I wanted to maintain my run.

Race Prep Phase One

This meant more Tempo (no real run intervals), more swimming and a three solid bikes. A HUGE shout out to the TriFit Lab (run by Todd and Lisbeth Kenyon of TTBikeFit fame — www.ttbikefit.com) as I used their indoor CompuTrainer facility for a few loooooooooooong rides.

Race Prep Phase Two

After 4 weeks I transitioned to better weather and a “consolidated” long run, which you can see reflected in the schedule above.

Swim Training

This was about the time that Mike Roberts had posted on his year-long swim hack for IMNZ and how he dialed in his swim.  I read, learned, and did my best over the final 10-ish weeks to implement the knowledge. I was pleased with my swim progress in the pool but am bummed it didn’t play out on the race. Regardless, I have a few more months to continue making progress!

Bike Training

Aside from some technical issues getting my TT bike back into workout shape , the transition from my road bike to the Tri bike at the end of the OutSeason was pretty uneventful. The indoor sessions made me mentally tough and the other sessions were short enough I could still get in some good intervals.

Given the long rides were indoors they were more at IM Race Pace / Z2 as I couldn’t really ride sustained Z3 inside. I was happy when the weather turned so I could go back outside! Overall the numbers were good, combined with the Blue Ridge Camp work I did (back on the road bike) I had a high degree of confidence.

Run Training

While my “Tempo” pace fell from 6:30s to 6:45s as the training load increased, I was still pleased with my run. Durability was high and all my sessions were solid. I felt like another 3:15 here in TX was possible for sure. An unintended benefit of the running, I believe, was really good body composition. And I have to say I am a real fan of the Split Long Run to ramp up run volume safely.

Race Week

This is always fun! We had a smaller crew as this wasn’t a “Key Race” for 2015, but what to we lacked in size we made up in AWESOME! Our Team Dinner was delish and filled with some great laughs. Mariah made the Four Keys Talk a success — thanks to all who attended! — and was my pre-race Sherpa. My amazing wife Maura arrived on Thursday just in time to keep me sane and help me get mentally ready.

Race Morning

Super simple using my checklists. The bike is all set, fueled and powered up. Shoes on the bike with a little rubber band trick for the left one so I can mount quickly. T2 and T1 bags are untied and prepped for the race. A quick drive to the swim start has me on the ground an hour before with plenty of time to do everything and make sure I am ready. A quick kiss to Maura and it’s time the swim start!!

The Swim

The Swim — 1:10:xx, 50th AG.

The swim was a rolling wave start — like your local half marathon. Folks self seeded and when the gun went off we waded in and started swimming. No warm ups allowed. It was wetsuit optional, so those folks were in the back.

It was crowded at the start, and while I planned to to inside the buoys I saw the course curved right and so I headed for the final buoy. This meant solo swimming vs in the pack — breaking my swim plan instantly.

And honestly it was really hard to tell if I was swimming well without the feedback of a clock. I feel like my swim has improved, but that my open water swim game sucks. I really need to solidify my stroke and get better at swimming with others for sure.

That said, aside from the top swimmers, times seemed slow. The water felt surprisingly choppy / angry for a lake; I think we all just sloshed it up. The canal, for the last 1300 just sucks. No two ways about it. It was really hard to maintain any good swim stroke in here.

 Leaving T1

T1

I executed this perfectly. Removed the swim skin just out of the water; got my bag put on my helmet and walked top right thru the tent. Gave a volunteer my bag and cap, etc, and then used the GoBag to fill my pockets while I got sunscreened and sloshed to my bike.

Sloshed you say? Oh yes. Daily downpours had tuned the transition area into a Woodstock worthy experience…complete with the smell of raw sewage. Not awesome. Since my shoes were on the bike, however, I just rolled out and got on the bike.

4:44 bike split at IM Texas

The Bike — 4:44:xx, 2nd AG

After 2012’s sub-5 ride I knew I could really fly here. I had the bike dialed in, complete with race tires and latex tubes, and I was ready to rock. My goals were to ride about 245 Watts and to be strongest when it mattered in miles 60 to 80 — the usual headwind area (plus some chip seal).

The start was crowded, given my swim time. I was in that place where every guy is riding like they might win….surging, swerving, cursing, etc. I tried to just stay in my mental box and get my fluids in while trying to get my HR down below 130.

I could tell by Mile 20 that things were going to be funky. That’s a flat slightly downhill section where I was going to skip an aid station as I’d be going 28mph there. Except I was in a group fighting wind!!! Aargh!

Skipping the aid station and the surprise wind turned out to be a good thing, however, as it gave me the momentum to create a gap and leave those other guys behind. As a result of this group stuff, my power was all over — I resolved to keep my HR in check around 130 to 132.

With the wind picking up I knew the return trip would be much harder, so I played it safe on the rollers, sitting up and spinning. Sure enough, at the highest point on the course, the winds were screaming. But I just put my head down and kept the pressure on the pedals. There was really no one for me to work with legally on the bike; from mile 65 onwards it was really a solo TT effort.

The wind wasn’t terrible on the chip seal as it was a cross-head, but that only meant there would be wind all the way into the woodlands…which is why everyone’s last split on the bike just stinks.  I focused on getting wet to stay cool and drinking up. It was overcast for almost the entire bike, but the heat was evident when the sun poked though and the humidity was in full effect.

By the time the bike wrapped I was feeling pretty solid about my placing on the day and physically as well.

Here is the data from Strava:

Ironman Texas Bike Data

T2

Reverse slopfest here, and I struggled with my T2 bag as I left it tied b/c of the afternoon showers that were forecast (but never showed up). I tried to maximize my time in transition by peeing as I sat down putting on my shoes — it kept my feet try but I was a hot stinking mess for sure. Out the door with my GoBag, I finished my admin items as volunteers put sunscreen on my back and it was time to run.

 

The Run — 3:26:xx, 2nd AG

I made a few changes here to my usual set up. First I didn’t take my FuelBelt with me as I was trying to reduce all weight. Instead, I used a FuelBelt SuperStretch Race with a pouch, gel loops and race number toggles. All in one baby!  I also upgraded my trucker hat to a Zoot Ultra Icefil Cap, with the flaps secured around my neck with an arm cooler. I blatantly copied Ben Hoffman’s race set up for Ironman Hawaii last year, and it turned out to be total money.

Without a doubt, however, the biggest upgrade was once again due to the Team….Dave Tallo’s suggestion to take a ziplock bag for carrying ice was killer. This was part of my “run the aid stations” strategy — which I think was a massive success for 2/3 of the race!! — and it really help offset the heat and manage random aid station placements where things really got hot. I simply dumped ice in it as I ran. Then I sealed it and stuck in my top….or I could hold in my hand(s)…if my head got hot, I turned it upside down as I held the ice in a ball and the cold water fell on my head…and I could chomp ice or put in my arm coolers whenever I wanted. It. Was. Awesome!

I set out knowing my bike Average HR was 131…so my run target of 140 seemed right on. However I could tell within the first 1/2 mile that it was going to be a friggin tough run. The sun was out in full force and the heat was on. Legit, Kona-style heat. My HR popped right up over 140 and I had to really slow myself down as I found my legs.

I focused on nailing the aid stations per my plan and getting in the food and salt I needed. I took in 2 caffeinated gels in the first 1/2 marathon, as wells 3 tiny Clif Bloks (Margherita with 3x sodium, of course!) as well as plenty of Gatorade Endurance.

I was passed round Mile 3 by the eventual winner of my age group, and he looked super strong and smooth. No way I was moving my HR anywhere, so I continued trucking. Even though I didn’t feel like I was running well (no peeking at the mile splits, thank you!), I was passing 90% of folks. I think maybe 15 people passed me all day and I caught all but 4 of them by Mile 25.

The fan support was incredible; from the Moxie music-fest to the Crotch Catapult station to the bearded-garbage can bangers…and the normal people were great too. I really never said anything to anyone…I was just trying to stay in my zone. My stomach felt pretty good after some colorful bike burps, but I could tell my calves were borderline in terms of wanted to cramp. At about Mile 8 (of that 8.55-mile loop) there were two sets of stairs DOWN…which I nearly killed myself on as my quads were so tight. I oped to walk these on Lap Two (Lap Three you headed to the finish instead).

Lap Two was purgatory. You can see from my HRM file that I backed off a bit here. Reflecting with race friend and fellow coach Tim Snow of QT2 Multisport Systems, I think that this was really due to a lack of mental toughness. I visualized the final 4 miles, but neglected the middle…not next time.

I was basically biding my time to the third lap. On lap three I started to pull things back together and run the tangents. By this time the course was wicked crowded and it was hard to get what I needed at the aid stations without actually stopping as there were just too many other athletes in the way. Note to self, I need to yell at volunteers more for what I want.

By Mile 22 it was game on and I was running down the last two guys I could see who had passed me. Some solid work here, even if it’s not reflected in the pace. Then at Mile 24 turnaround I could see that there was at least one person close to me in bib numbers…I was about to get a banana for tingly fingers, but instead I had to suck it up. I really picked up the pace and I was surprised to see how good it felt to stretch out my stride and really run. The HR went up, for sure, but there is something here for me to learn from really running vs getting buried in a shuffle. I really pushed, running a 7:24 and 7:04 final two miles, making sure I was in the finishing chute by myself and safe from getting pipped at the line. Always good to finish strong.

Here is the data from Strava:

Ironman Texas Run File

Number One Fan

The Finish

I had enough time for a massive smile and the EN-gang sign.

It was great to be caught by teammate and good friend Vic Kaiser, who shepherded me to my wife and the finish area for much needed cold water, cooling towel and a massage. Interesting enough there were no chairs or table for athletes to sit at…that really stung as folks were left to sit on the concrete or go off in the bushes. Can’t imagine that’s a big line item that can’t be added back in.

I was able to see many of my teammates in the finishing area, and we also were able to meet up at The Goose’s Acre for some post race food and drink. A burger never tasted so good. After getting home and trying to sleep, Sunday brought the awards banquet and Kona slot allocation. It was a nice wrap to the weekend and a good chance to say hi to the folks I met on the run course. A lot of really tough and fit men and women out there. I took my slot to Hawaii, making this my seventh trip in my last seven tries. I am excited to rest, and plan our Hawaii Race Week Camp (for racers and just folks who want to train and experience the biggest week in our sport!).

2nd Place Age Group and Kona Bound!

Massive Thanks

As always, to my understanding and amazing wife Maura for lifting me up more than she’ll ever know. To my daughters who inspire me and love me no matter how sweaty and tired I am. To my training partners Lisbeth (who also raced, won her Age Group and is headed to Hawaii!, Peter and Todd who push me when we connect. To my mentor, Vinu Malik whose wisdom on all things endurance could fill several encyclopedias..thank you for all your advice.  To my teammates on Endurance Nation who continue to push me athletically to be my best, you never cease to amaze me with you new perspectives, tips and strategies…that run was dedicated to you! If I forgot anyone else, please know I am sooooo thankful….and thanks for reading!

Random Lessons Learned

* Shoes on the bike is a gajillion times better than in a T1 bag; I hope IM continues this trend at other races.

* The best thing for your chafed parts post race is chamois cream. Who needs bike shorts for permission?

* Be ready for a scary post race pee if you have been beet juice loading.

* Chocolate milk is NOT a sponsor / at the finish line this year. BUMMER.

* Someone needs to make an “aid station volunteer” video manual that folks can watch. Simple things like how to hold bike bottles or two cups in one hand would make a massive difference.

* Yelling what you need at run aid stations really does help.

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AUTHOR

Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
9 comments
    • EN Blogger
      REPLY

      Richard, thanks! My bike HR is close to 158 for a 20′ all out FTP test; my run HR is closer to 165…a lot depends on the temperature. I use my long rides / runs as a target for HR determination…or what’s feasible. I was ready to run 7:00/miles based off of my paces, but that was in 65 degrees…not 85!! 🙂

    • EN Blogger
      REPLY

      Richard, thanks! My bike HR is close to 158 for a 20′ all out FTP test; my run HR is closer to 165…a lot depends on the temperature. I use my long rides / runs as a target for HR determination…or what’s feasible. I was ready to run 7:00/miles based off of my paces, but that was in 65 degrees…not 85!! 🙂

  • Doug Sutherland
    REPLY

    Really nice report. I did not look up your race plan, but did you intend to run the first 6 miles slow (LR+30″)? I see your splits slowed in the middle of the run – planned?

    • EN Blogger
      REPLY

      @doug – I run by heart rate on race day. So the plan was to keep my HR close to my bike HR for the first 6 miles, then let it come up. With the heat, even a conservative pace early in Lap One had a higher HR than desired…so I probably ran my Lap One HR in Lap Two as compensation. 🙂 My pace dropped a bit for lap two but I think that was more mental than anything else as I knew I was in second place and running well relative to the rest of the field…so I think I was kind of “saving myself” until the end.

  • Doug Sutherland
    REPLY

    Really nice report. I did not look up your race plan, but did you intend to run the first 6 miles slow (LR+30″)? I see your splits slowed in the middle of the run – planned?

    • EN Blogger
      REPLY

      @doug – I run by heart rate on race day. So the plan was to keep my HR close to my bike HR for the first 6 miles, then let it come up. With the heat, even a conservative pace early in Lap One had a higher HR than desired…so I probably ran my Lap One HR in Lap Two as compensation. 🙂 My pace dropped a bit for lap two but I think that was more mental than anything else as I knew I was in second place and running well relative to the rest of the field…so I think I was kind of “saving myself” until the end.

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