Ironman Wales Preview

tenby-aerial-2013.jpg

I’m back in Tenby for my third go at Ironman Wales and again with the hope of qualifying for Kona. I say hope because based on the standard of the past two years I think I’ll be doing amazingly well to qualify here.

This year I made a point of not entering an early season Ironman since I felt in previous years it had dampened my momentum in training. Without a big race the idea was I would put together a big block of training through the summer and be in top shape for my first Ironman late in the summer. Did it work ? Kind of. Instead of a race I went and made an attempt on the Welsh 3000s at the end of June. It was great fun but 15 hours walking in the fells knocked me for six. It’s not just the weeks after of not walking properly down stairs, thats easy to deal with, it’s the fact it again removed my momentum. It took a lot longer to get my head back in to training.

I’ve always come to realise that I benefit massively from routine. If my routine is broken I can take time to get back in to it. For instance this summer I did a fantastic block of training which ended with a planned easy week when my mum came to visit. This also coincided with the swim squad summer break. The combination knocked my routine for six and I found it took a further easy week to get myself back in to it. Overall, though, it has been a good build. Not quite what I’d envisaged but good.

SWIM

Since moving to Taunton I’ve been so lucky in being able to train with a very good junior swim squad. I train with national medalists, british age group record holders and a young distance freestyler who’s improved massively this year through sheer hard work and determination – it’s really inspirational. The coach has a different approach to all my previous coaches. Not one for loads of drills, instead a real focus on feel. There is no doubt my swimming has improved. I think he’s slowly removing many of the bad habits I’ve developed since becoming a triathlete. Most importantly, though, is that I thoroughly enjoy the environment there and it provides great structure to my training week.

For this race, though, there’s some bad timing as they have a two week break in early August and then on return there is complete focus on skills. Long term this is good for me but specifically for Wales it means I do no real swim volume.  My coach has been fantastic in building sessions that create some time when I can do regular training alongside the time spent doing push and glide and specific freestyle skills. It’s certainly helped my feel for the water demonstrated by the 1:12s per 100 I was hitting on Tuesday, my last squad swim pre wales. However, it means I’ve averaged only 7km a week for the seven weeks leading in to the race.

I like to put down predictions. Based on how fast (or short) this course has been the past two years I reckon that still a 50 minute swim should be possible.

BIKE

I’ve been really enjoying my biking this year. I feel in better form than this time last year. What I find interesting is looking at my Training Stress Graph for the year:

_tsb-2013-09-05

The peaks in fitness are following my two Pyrenees camps – firstly the NGT camp in May and  then our EverydayTraining KOM camp in June. Back to back big days create a lot of fitness and it seems I’m able to shed the fatigue well. I was certainly riding very well after that. The problem is that to maintain that requires lots of riding. In fact at it’s peak I required something like 165 TSS per day just to maintain that fitness figure. Thats a pretty solid 3hr ride. Through July and August I had hoped to regain those sort of numbers but I just couldn’t manage it. It makes me think about the fact this is just a model and is not absolutely accurate. I feel pretty strong on the ride and the numbers I’m seeing are good. Here is my predicted performance graph:

_predictedperformance.jpg

I’ve been using a 10 min turbo power test on the aero bars. I’ve not continued these tests through the summer. I’ll be honest there was no particular reason for stopping. With hindsight I feel that this has meant the model hasn’t evolved and next year I plan to continue regular testing throughout the season. The performance graph shows only a drop off of 25w from it’s peak in 10 minute power and given the riding I’ve managed over the summer I feel I should be going OK.

Last year I felt terrible in the first half of the bike which ensured I didn’t ride too hard. It resulted in the second half feeling really strong and hitting the run in a great frame of mind. As such I am keen to stick to my guns of not going too hard too early. Over the past few years I feel that in general I’ve gone off way too hard on the bike. I’m been thinking through why. I keep coming back to Ironman Lanzarote 2007 when I set off very hard on the bike and had a superb (probably my best) race. However, back then I’d done an enormous block of training without a single niggle or illness. Comparing the 19 weeks leading in to race week before that race to this we see:

_pre19weeks

We’ll come on to running later but looking at the bike I averaged over 80 miles more per week in the run in to Lanzarote 2013. Even more significant is the level of long riding I did back then. In 2007 I did 48 centuries (more than two per week) verses 14 this year. In 2007 I did 30 “over distance” rides (including 7 over 150) but this year 11 (only 1 over 150). I’m in good bike shape now but I can’t expect to be in the same sort of invincible form I had back then. The aim here is to be a little more conservative early in the bike.

So prediction – given forecast for some decent wind I think 5:45 would be a pretty solid ride. With conditions like last year I’d go with 5:30

RUN

I am a little disappointed with my run preparation for this. From the beginning of the year I had enthusiasm for running and by end of February I felt I was starting to run halfway decently. However a bad sprain of my ankle at the end of April really put the kybosh on that with the following 2 months covering less than 70 miles. Since then I’ve started pulling it back together with some long runs and solid paced runs. It’s coming back but I do feel this race has arrived a little early.

Comparing, again, to Lanza 2007 we see my run mileage is incredibly low. In fact, you don’t need a comparison to see that 17 miles per week for the 19 weeks leading in to race week is very low for an Ironman. The sprain has skewed that, in the last 7 weeks this year I averaged 35 miles which is a lot better but no where near Lanzarote. I need to get rid of this mental block for higher volume running.

Long runs is just as contrasting: Runs over 13 miles – 36 in 2007, 5 this year, over 20 miles 17 in 2007, 2 this year. The big positive for me this year is I managed an over distance run (for Lanza 07 I’d managed 4).

From this I need to not be too ambitious early on and I’m mentally rehearsing keeping pushing when it starts getting tough as it most definitely will. The training isn’t there to expect one of those amazing Ironman runs when you feel strong throughout.

if the course is correct distance I’ll predict 3:35 – thats on the basis of 5 min KM with a fade late in the marathon. If the course is as short as last year then 3:20 !

Overall this gives a prediction of:

  • 00:50 Swim
  • 00:09 T1
  • 05:45 Bike
  • 00:03 T2
  • 03:35 Run
  • 10:22 Total

Of course, predictions are rarely accurate…

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