Ironman thoughts

27 07 2011

Perception

There are some funny things about doing an Ironman. There is a big difference on people’s perception. For example:

Most non-triathletes friends were more impressed with my first ironman time (14:23 hrs) than with my 12:18 hrs personal best. The general comment is “Wow, 14 hours of exercise, non-stop”?!

Triathletes friends secretly think “ok, but in 14 hours is not that hard”  🙂

Reality is always your own perception. For me both at 12:18 and 14:23 were equally “easy”. In fact there is some stupid phenomenon after an Ironman, which makes you forget all the pain that you had during the marathon and makes you sign-up for the next one as soon as possible! Seriously, be honest, at the  21km run the last thing on your mind is “Yea, this is great, I want to do it again”. It is more like “there is another 21 km to go? Why?” All the months of training, negotiations with the spouse, all the weekend parties we don’t go… and why? Just to feel this pain?

My last race was even worse! When I was around 5k, I could see about 7 km ahead, where the line of people disappeared from the canal… That is a freaking long way to go and to come back too! At that point I was really hurting and I even doubted I could maintain my already slow pace (walk/run) for the rest of the race. At this point in an Ironman race I’m usually thinking “OK, just finish it and you won’t have to do this anymore”, but this time another thought came to my mind “Shit, I already signed up for IMMT!”

A wise athlete once  said: “The only thing certain about an Ironman is that it is going to hurt!”

Magic wand

The finish line, the magic wand that makes all pain go away! There is a stupid sense of accomplishment, a sudden adrenaline rush and all pain is gone. At that moment, you may not be Superman, but you ARE  Ironman!! That feeling keeps tricking your mind to forget the pain and sign up for more!

A couple hours later… somehow you think you could have done better, no matter how good or bad you did. That thought is what keeps us pushing  harder and harder… Not only do you want to do it again, but you want to do it FASTER!

An interesting point in long distance triathlons is that as you get older you get faster! OK, I’m not saying at 60 or 70’s, but I’ll tell you when I get there! That probably explains the  Ironman demographics: most people on Ironman races are 40-44 years old!

After the Race

The next day you are either pretty sore or you’re thinking “damn I could have gone harder!” BTW, that never happened to me… I was always sore!

You wake-up thinking “if I had…” while you get a foot out of the bed… Arggg… it hurts! “Yea, maybe next time”

Believe it or not, training or even racing an Ironman is not the hardest part, at least not for me. The following weeks when you are no longer training are the hardest! You are still pumped with the race, you want to be faster, you want to race again! But, this next step is giving your body a break. You need to heal and recover, you have stop exercising and you have a lot of time in your hands.

Guess what? I don’t know what to do with all that time! I became the laziest bastard on earth. I’m too tired for everything, I become what I hate the most… a couch-potato! I guess it is natural to be tired, but when you’ve been living at the best shape of your life and suddenly that is gone… You feel a big empty vacuum around you. It is borderline depressive… I look in shape, but I feel out of shape and I have no clue what I’m going to do in the next little while!

At about a month (some people more, some people less) after the race, you start to get back to normal, but by no means in race shape. But what is normal? December last year I was 92kg with ~16% fat, six months later 84kg with ~5% fat.

Off-Season

And then comes the off-season.  The goal during the season is not to loose too much weight, while in the off-season it is to not gaining too much weight! Getting faster, but at the same time, not peaking… back to the blackboard.

What will I do different to improve next time? Should I follow the same program? Should I try something new? How many weeks do I have till my next race? This is where I find myself now…

So what is next? I’m planning to remain in my couch-potato form for another week or so, then I’ll resume swimming, and I start my bike/run out-of-season plan. The plan should finish with a half marathon in October (Scotia Bank Marathon), assuming my feet are healed by then. Then I take another couple weeks off… Until I start my 40 weeks official training for IMMT (20 weeks off-season + 20 weeks race specific training).

The sad part? IMMT is going to be one of my hardest races. It is hilly and probably slow… so getting another personal best will be pretty hard there. But again, if it was easy, everyone would do it! 😉





Challenge Roth 2011 Race Report

12 07 2011

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Challenge Roth, now I know why they say this is the best race ever! It is is fun, it is fast, it is a great party! Unlike North America, there are beer gardens every where in the race. People are cheering and drinking all the way. There is even a beer garden in the finish line. Nothing like the nonsense “fenced area”. People are genuinely happy and cheering for you. It is all a great party.

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The swim – 1:01:16 hrs

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The swim went as expected. It could have been a bit faster if it wasn’t a wave start or if I had started in a earlier wave. I had to pass a lot of people, and the water is pretty dark, so you don’t see people until you’re very close. I went through at least three major group of people, which I had to find my way around them. I was in the purple wave, as you can see below, no purple caps around me… But the good thing is that there was not much contact overall, so very peaceful swim. I even spotted my wife taking pictures and waved to her as I was swimming!

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Transition 1 – 10:06 min
Europe is just different, specially Germany! Every transition in ironman distance races I’ve participated, you go to a tent, get butt naked and you change… But usually there is a male and a female tent. Not here! Women and man change in the same tent and best part is that “it is OK”. it is just a bunch of grown-ups doing an Ironman. No pictures for this part of the race! 🙂

Bike – 6:15:30 hrs
After my swim, I was pretty pumped for the bike ride!

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However, this was the one part of the race I could have done better. I started with a very high Heart Rate (160 bpm) and I never got it under control. I decided to follow my target power (190W) and see what happens. I finished my first lap with 190W and 160 bpm averages, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that pace, which is pity, as I averaged just over 30 km/h with that power. However, on the second loop, my power drop to about 160, and I just could not get it up. To make things worse, my heart rate didn’t drop by much, it was around 150 bpm, which is what it was supposed to be at the first loop. I’m starting to think I should incorporate more Swim-Bike (like brick) workouts in my training. I’m not going hard on the swim but I still have problem in the races. Anyhow, the course is fast. If I was just biking, I would average 30-31 km/h with 190W.
The course is just great. It starts with a small uphill to cross the canal and it pretty much goes downhill or flat to Eckersmüllen, where you have the first aid station and lots, I mean lots of expectators! From there it is fast rolling hills with great surface up to Greding, where there is the worst hill, it is not too bad though. It is like Papa bear in Lake Placid. Then again riling hills till Solarerberg, which isn’t hard, but there are so many people cheering that you go up there like it was flat. I have to check my power meter later, but I’m sure I climbed that with 350w all the way. Btw, this picture is from the Solrarerberg on the second loop, when there was “no one” there!

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Once the crowd is behind you, you’re back to rolling hills. There is on section that is fairly technical, with a few 180 and 90 degrees turns, but I have only seen one accident, a guy had basically no shorts on his left butt cheek! But fortunately the wound didn’t look bad, just a big scratch.
One thing that I changes from my training, was the gel. Since I didn’t have a lot of energy on the second loop, I decided to try the energy gels from the race, which were MUCH easier to digest as they were liquid. Looking back, I should have had more of them. I have to find out where to buy them in Canada (GREAT gels!)

Transition 2 – 6:06 min
Like transition 1, everyone was naked, but this time I had a person (she was in her 50s) holding my bag helping me to put my biking clothes away… Which was a bit odd since I was changing the bike shorts and putting my try shorts on, but, I had to do it. I turned my number belt to put my number in front so that it was a little more discrete, but trust me, there is nothing discrete about putting vaseline between my legs while a older lady is holding the transition bag in front of me. But seriously, the volunteers were FANTASTIC.
Before the run, I made a quick pee stop… And there was no lineup!

Run – 4:45:06 hrs

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This is when I always ask myself: “Why, why do I do this?” and I always think “OK, this is the last time I do this”. But this year I also though “Shit, I already signed up for next year!”.
Anyhow, I started to run with those feaking side stitches and that was not a good sign… Fortunately I felt much better about 1 km into the run. The stomach had settled and I was ready to go, with one detail, I was running at 9.6 km/h with a 155 bpm heart rate! So one thing was for sure, my 12 hours goal was out of the question. I started to count the remaining kms! 41, 40… Boy did they ever come slow. First aid station walking, hydration, hydration… back to the run. We actually started on the shade, but it didn’t take long to get to the canal where the sun was just burning the hell out of me. My plan was to just kept going until I couldn’t run anymore, but walking every aid station. I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to run much of it… But surprisingly my Achilles didn’t hurt at all (until the next morning) and I just kept running at 9.2 km/h (yes, it did go down a bit), 150 bpm and waking the aid stations and any hill. Yea, they were VERY steep at that time, 20% grade for sure 🙂
Fortunately, about 16 km to go, the sun disappeared…

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Along the way out of no where, my wife kept popping out and taking pictures. I have no clue how she got there, but there she was… I think she was running faster than me! All these nice professional pictures were taken by her. Oh, yea, and she even shouted several times “Vai marido, São só 11 km, você ainda tem uma hora para fazer abaixo de 12!!!!” (Go honey, there are “only” 11 km to go, you can still do it sub 12 hours!)
Great support, but I knew that 11 km in one hour would be completely out of the question, I was trying to stay at 8.9 considering the aid station walks!
A few minutes later, about 8 km to go, it started to rain, now a thunderstorm! But I could only think about two things “single digits to go” and “holly crap, I hope Beatriz is fine”. I kept running even faster (back to 9.6 km/h, a super sprint!) with my wet and heavy shoes… Until I got into the town of Roth, where some teens were inside the water fountain cheering for the wet runners! Once they saw me smiling and lifting my arms, they all got out of the fountain and ran about 100m with me cheering “Schnel Hans, Du shaft es!” (fast Hans, you can do it – I can’t spell German btw).

The finish – 12:18:06 hrs
First of all, I’m absolutely sure the last two kilometers were in miles! Man, how long could they take? But I kept going, no walking for the last 4 km, a real Ironman!! The only people actually running were relay people, which I could identify because they had an “S” on their calf… Everyone else was surviving! 🙂
As I crossed the finish line, still under rain, there were a few brave expectators cheering, but it was by no means full. Nonetheless it was another emotional finish, one to remember!

After the race
I got into the huge tent where I got a massage. After that I started to shake compulsively, I was wet, tired and a bit dehydrated. I then went to get my street clothes, and to my surprise I was told I should take a shower! Yea, there were HOT showers at the finish line! I have never seen that, but boy it was good!
For those wondering, that was the only part of the race with male and female separate areas!

This a race like nothing I have ever done and I will do my best to race it again and again!!

Auf wiedersehen Challenge Roth!!!

Hans

PS: official finisher photos are here http://www.marathon-photos.com/scripts/photo.py?direction=backwards&event=Sports/GKDE/2011/Challenge%20Roth&photo=CRRAF0062&match=2782. I have way too many triathlon pictures to spend 59 euros on new ones! You know the drill… Hands up, crossing the finish line! 🙂