Racing in a Box

My Ironman® St George review has received a lot of comments, emails and posts on the net…from a lot of scared people, frankly! I’d like to take a few moments to get your mind right about this race, and about Ironman® racing in general.

The Triathlon World’s Perspective/Advice on Racing:
You spend months and months building your fitness. You then apply that fitness to a 140 mile day. So, right now, you’re reading my review of IMSG, shining a mental flashlight on your legs and your fitness, and projecting that fitness on this hill, that climb, the run course, etc, and wondering “will it be enough.” Will I have enough fitness on/by race day to have a good race. In other words, the problem is the course and your primary solution to that problem is to throw fitness at it. And hopefully you’ll have enough to toss around on race day.

This is wrong.

I’ve been coaching Ironman® athletes exclusively for nearly 10 years. I’m a 7 time finisher and have coached, spectated, spoke, officiated and generally observed dozens of races over the years. I ask you to hear me now and move yourself several years and wasted races up the learning curve.

Ironman® racing is about the application of execution skills to the fitness you bring to the race. The course on which this happens is largely a non-issue.

In other words, fitness is not a solution to the course “problem” of IMSG…proper race execution is the solution. Trust me, on race day the course will be littered with the bodies of very, very fit boys and girls who do not know how to race. They viewed race day as a fitness problem and applied little to no attention to learning how to race.

So…how to race a tough course like IMSG?

Step 1: Understand that probably half of each run lap is climbing, from 2-6 or 7% grade. Now, wrap your head around the time-cost of failure on a course like that, particularly on the second run lap. If you screw up your day, especially on the bike, and are relegated to walking a good part of the run, you will be walking up hill for about 6 miles of the second loop. That’s a huge potential for a MASSIVE amount of lost time. Walking 18-20′ vs running 8-9′ or shuffling 10-11′ miles for SIX MILES. Do the math on that situation. And that’s assuming you still run the downhills, which isn’t at all guaranteed. Basically, if you can get your mind right about the high cost of failure in the last 2-3hrs of your day, it should put the rest of your day, particularly the bike course, into perspective.

Step 2: “I’ve spent 6-9mo building this fitness vehicle, a box. When the gun goes off, it is what it is. My job is to sit inside this vehicle and drive it the best I can. My job is not to get up this hill quickly, or play tactical masturbation games with some clown at mile 65.57 on No Name Hill. My job is to recognize the high potential for massive failure (or success) in the last 2hrs of the race and do my best to create the conditions for success for later in the day.”

Step 3: Drive the vehicle, staying inside a box that is defined by only what you can control RIGHT NOW. At mile 35 on the bike I don’t think about mile 85, or 105, or mile 8 of the run. “What do I need to do, right now, to create a successful second lap of the run?” Getting passed on a hill? It just doesn’t matter. Doode in your age group blows by you at mile 45? It just doesn’t matter. Stay in your box, apply execution skills to your fitness, and just…drive.

In the end, the right frame of mind and good race execution skills largely flatten out the most difficult courses.

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AUTHOR

Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
2 comments
  • Ian Driver
    REPLY

    Excellent perspective. I have race a numbe of IM's and seen many competitors go by me early in the bike and then enjoyed hauling them back in either later in the bike or on the run. Based on your description and the race profiles of IMSG saving a little extra for the run will be very important.

  • Ian Driver
    REPLY

    Excellent perspective. I have race a numbe of IM's and seen many competitors go by me early in the bike and then enjoyed hauling them back in either later in the bike or on the run. Based on your description and the race profiles of IMSG saving a little extra for the run will be very important.

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