Ironman Wales 2014, Preview

It’s been an interesting year so far and it feels like for every race my preparation has been almost perfectly wrong. Despite this I’ve raced well so far and thus I find myself vaguely optimistic about Sunday race.

This year has had all sorts of distractions due to the culmination of plans built up over several years really coming to a head. The details are something I will one day blog about but it’s certainly meant training has not been a priority. By the end of this year things should be settled and I’m hoping for the first proper winters training in years.

I find that I automatically try and reduce stress in my life and over the winter I subconsciously found myself training purely based on what I wanted to do. Purely for pleasure. This may sound odd as I’ve always raced and trained for pleasure but typically this will mean putting up with not such fun training for the pleasure down the line in a performance. This year there was no such thing. Bad weather and I didn’t go out. Pretty much running stopped completely despite having got a place in OtillO and running the Welsh 3000s.

I arrived at the Welsh 3000s having spent the previous 4 weeks cycling in the Pyrenees with limited running. That which I did was focussed on find long downhills to run. The Welsh 3000s went much better than expected landing me at Ironman UK with similarly limited running in my legs. Even so the result rather surprised me. Following Ironman UK I had a weeks recovery and then was pretty much ill for 2-3 weeks and did very little. Once I was training it was focussed on swim run training for OtillO which means my biking in to Ironman Wales is well below what it’s been historically. OtillO less than two weeks before Wales and it was a week till I felt like doing any training. I certainly felt that Ironman Wales was far from ideal.

All this prompted me to take a little look at my training historically ahead of races and see how it compares to now.

SWIM

Not much to say here. My best swims normally come off the back of training right up to the race and that is not really possible for Ironman Wales as my squad has it’s break through August and then the start of september it’s focus is skills rather than endurance. This year however with OtillO I have done a lot of open water swimming and of course swam 10k less than two weeks ago. Though I’m sure my pace is off it’s best I feel I’m probably in better shape than normal for this race. Looking how the buoys are placed today it looks like the swim will be like last year (i.e. slightly longer than the first two years). So – sub 55 mins (just!)

BIKE

wtdbikemiles-2014-09-12.jpg

This graph shows my week to date bike mileage from 1st July through to now. For comparison I’ve looked at my average training for the first half of my Ironman racing and for the last half. It’s a reasonable split given that in the first half I consistently raced well whereas in the second half I didn’t. I’ve also compared with the summer of 2009 following which I had my best bike performance at Kona.

What clearly stands out is that this year there’s pretty much only one occasion where I’ve been above 200 miles in a week whereas all the comparisons pretty much never go below 200 miles per week. When you look at the period post IM UK (20th July) where I was training for OtillO I pretty much didn’t get above 100 miles a week. This is very low mileage for anyone approaching an Ironman let alone what I typically have done and it certainly shows when I ride at the moment. It’s also prompted me this week do do a fairly decent bit of riding. This is because I’ve found during camps my biking at the end is stronger – i.e. I seem to regain the fitness pretty quick. So:

  • Mon – 70 miles
  • Wed – 70 miles – on the course
  • Thurs – 40 miles – on the course.

Even this wasn’t as much as I planned as both Wed and thurs morning saw me sticking to my guns of enjoyment so I was far later out on the bike than planned as I decided to spend the morning reading !

sixtydaybikemiles-2014-09-12

This chart shows the total bike mileage I did in the 60 days prior to my Ironman races and compared my age group position in those races. I’ve highlighted Kona as they’re clearly going to be a lower placing. The main anomaly here is Ironman Germany. This was post Epic Italy a I did some pretty daft stuff post the camp and was so tired going in to Germany. Eye balling this suggests a correlation between high bike volume and my finish position. Looking at what I viewed as a surprise result at UK this year doesn’t look that surprising given the 2000 miles I rode in the previous 60 days. However, even excluding Kona and Germany we only get a coefficient of correlation of -0.55 showing that other factors have quite a big influence. I guess thats not surprising given it’s a triathlon and it’s not just bike strength.

The outcome of all this? I’d concluded prior to this analysis that my bike volume was way low and given that I seem to regain fitness quick I decided to ride a reasonable amount this week. However, even riding one big lap at on Wednesday my legs felt pretty trashed. It’s absolutely clear I need to be very conservative with my early pacing.

So prediction: 5:59:59. I just can’t bring myself to predict over six hours.

RUN

Running really hasn’t been my thing this year. This has been despite a couple of big running events. When I did run I was very focussed on running uphill purely so I could run downhill. I’ve surprised myself on how well I’ve run on how little running.

ytdrunmiles-2014-09-12-2.jpg

The injury I had to my foot is quite significant in all this as I know that it’s holding back my run training and as yet I’ve not found a way to get over the mental block. I’ve now had more years racing Ironman post injury than pre. Looking at the above you can see that my post injury mileage on average has been less than 50% of my pre. This year is less than 25%. Little surprise that I can’t crank out a sub 3:30 on a bad day like I used to. It’s simple to me. If I want to run like I used to the first thing to address is my volume.

sixtydayrunmiles-2014-09-12

That said I would suggest my performances this year have been a much bigger bang for my buck than ever before. I’ve not even done 400 miles this year and the best part of 100 of those miles have been across three events / races. That is pretty close to no running. Clearly the downhill focus has helped and will become a big part of my running going forward.

Above there’s a similar anomaly to the bike one with Germany being a poor performance. One that stands out if the New Zealand in 2008 with 563 miles in the previous 60 days (i.e. over 9 miles a day on average). It was high than that as I remember I crashed on black ice before heading out to New Zealand two weeks before the race, straining my groin and not running in the 2.5 weeks prior to that race. Thats the one time in an Ironman I was running really hard in the final 5km and wished I started harder.  The other anomaly is my run at Wanaka. If you look at the races before I was running a fair bit but in the 6 weeks pre Wanaka I moved to forefoot running, starting out running 5 mins a day every other day. Hence the low volume but I was running so much more efficiently when I got to the race. Since then the volume has been pretty low. There’s a similar apparent correlation between run mileage and performance but the coefficient is pretty much the same as for biking.

I have no doubts about the importance of consistent volume for Ironman performance and that for this race I’m way below what I’ve done in the past. However, I’m remarkably optimistic about this run. For the first time in an awful long time I actually feel quite confident. This year I’ve had three occasions where I’ve proved to myself that I can keep myself going when it gets tough on the run. Also in all those occasions I’ve maintained being able to run fast downhill. This course has pretty much 50% downhill so if I can run fast on those bits I’m halfway there.

So … lets say 3:59:59 – not getting carried away but adding a little hope (and I know precisely what to do with hope). Sub 4hrs and I’ll be over the moon.

Whats that leave me with?

0:54:59 - Swim
0:09:59 - T1
5:59:59 - Bike
0:02:59 - T2
3:59:59 - Run
11:07:55 - TOTAL

Final Kona slot went at about 10:58 last year … so I better pull my finger out.

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