Race Recap- Ironman Galveston 70.3 2018
As I write this, I am just now finding true happiness with my results from this past weekend’s IRONMAN Galveston 70.3. Most of the time I set a few goals for each race. One that I can achieve comfortably, another that will be tough and require lots of things to go correctly, and one that is “out of reach”. The out of reach goal is what keeps me coming back. As soon as I reach it, another “out of reach” goal is set. The cycle goes on and on and on. I stay motivated, have a hair of disappointment to keep me hungry, and move on. My goals for this race were 5:30 (which would be a PR at this distance), 5:15 (tough), and sub 5 hours flat (out of reach). When I first started racing this distance the 4:XX:XX number has been a target. My first half Ironman was over 6 hours WITHOUT a swim! I spent this training cycle saying 5:15 would be tough to achieve, but secretly I had my mind set on that magic 5 hours. Outside of the fitness needed for that time, so many other things need to go right. Weather, nutrition, mechanical issues, etc. Basically, it is the stuff you cannot control. Over the course of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run, it is crazy to think how these little things can add up to important minutes. I crossed the finish line at 5:02. Two minutes. Two freaking minutes. What hurts, is I know exactly what blew my chance and it was not fitness. I will get to that shortly, but ugh! That being said, I am starting to feel good about the 30+ minute PR in just 10 months. Race report below….
Galveston is known to be flat, hot/humid, and windy. When we showed up it was cool, extremely windy, and raining. The kids were disappointed because we were all ready to go swimming and enjoy some beach life. We all ended up having a good time and had great company, but the dynamics of the race changes a little. The winds here are usually a constant cross wind coming off of the ocean. On race day, they were blowing directly from the NE. Meaning, tailwind on the way out (on the bike) and a direct headwind on the way back in. If you never experienced a headwind on the bike….well it is one of the more frustrating things you will do. Feels like you are cycling in mud. It was also 49 degrees at race start and rained for more than half of the bike. The only good thing about all of this was the run weather ended up being PERFECT!
Because we stayed at Moody Gardens, I was able to set up transition and go back to my room to get ready for the race versus hanging out waiting to start and freezing. This was nice. For some reason after setting up transition, I didn’t make mental notes of transition (which I always do). I usually rehearse coming out of swim and finding my bike. I also rehearse racking bike and finding run start. Forgetting this would end up screwing me in the end. When it got close to go time, I put on my Orca wetsuit and made my way down to swim start. At this race, you jump off of a pier and tread water for about 3-4 minutes. I placed myself in the front knowing it’d be hectic. I usually start outside or in the back. However, the start of the swim was relatively smooth. Everyone had their manners and there was not too much kicking/drowning/etc. This was not one of my best swims and perhaps part of it was how crowded it was. My age group was about the 14th wave to start. I spent most of the swim weaving in and out of the groups that started in front of me. It is hard to stay in a rhythm when you are forced to sight every few strokes to avoid swimming into someone. Due to the wind, there was also some pretty rough waters, white caps, and currents. Oh well, everyone had the same level playing field. No complaining. Besides the crowds, the swim was uneventful. It was more about just keeping my cool and getting out of the water. Total time was 38 minutes.
Now to have a successful day, you have to nail everything, including transitions. Remember how I did not make mental notes of how transition was set up? I spent over 5 minutes in first transition. I could not find my bike for the life of me. I ran up and down aisles of bikes, asked volunteers (who were clueless), panicked, but finally ended up finding it. It was such a mental defeat. I am a minimalist and pride myself with getting in and out in a timely fashion. For example, I was in transition two for just a hair over 2 minutes. I feel like I spent a good 2.5 to 3 minutes trying to find the bike. Going back to beginning of blog…remember I wanted 5:00 and I finished at 5:02? Yup, me too.
Once I found the bike, I got on and went to work. The tailwind and irritation had me fired up. Even though I wanted to make up time, I knew I needed to stick to the game plan and follow my parameters. I don’t own or race with a power meter, but the majority of my training was done by power on Zwift. Based off of my FTP of 308 and intensity factor of 0.81 I knew I should be able to hold 240ish watts as my race power. This comes out to a HR of 160-165 for me. I had rehearsed this a few times in training and everything matched up. So, low 160’s was the target on the bike. To my suprise, I was holding the low 160’s but cruising along at just under 25 mph. I remember seeing my splits on my watch reading 25.1 mph at one point. For the ease of effort I was putting out, I was really happy. Thank you tailwind!
Below is my heart rate for the bike ride. It is usually a little higher in the beginning due to coming out of the water. It takes a little bit for it to settle down. Once I got out onto the main stretch, it settles in where I wanted it.
Below you can see that most of my ride was in my “aerobic” zone. Having a fast bike split is not beneficial if you ride too hard and have a subpar run. The bike is all about discipline! According to HR, I may have been able to ride a tad harder, but I don’t think I would have been able to run like I did. I don’t think I would have changed anything.
A part of my plan was to consume 24 oz of Infinit every hour and one GU gel. This did happen for the first hour, but because it was so cool, my body was not sweating as much. Without getting into too many details, I basically had to urinate the entire ride. This all started about an hour into the ride. I made good timing and got to the turn around at mile 28 at 1 hour and 9 minutes. The last few miles before the turn around and the majority of the ride back were rainy. The first 10 miles or so, after the turn around, were mentally tough. It was raining, direct 15mph headwind, and I had to pee terribly. This is the type where your bladder feels like it is about to explode. I had to pee bad enough, I was doing everything in my power to just PISS my pants. Without stopping and pulling over, it just was not going to happen. There were a few times when I stopped pedaling to try and relax enough to get the flow going. (You can see the dips in HR on the second half of bike) Long story short, I was never able to pee. This also meant I was not willing to take in any extra Infinit. This could have been bad because this contained most of my nutrition (calories). I decided to just gel and pray I would not end up regretting not taking in calories later in the race. Fortunately, the thirst or desire to drink never showed up. Despite the wind and rain, I was still averaging 19 mph on the way back. The time to turn off of this main stretch could not come soon enough. There is something about pedaling, into the wind, stuck down in aero for long periods of time that just sucks. Finally, the time came. We turned off, headed back into town, and back to transition. My bike split clocked in at just over 2:36 or 21.5 mph. My average HR for the ride was 160 exactly. During the last few miles of this ride I was making mental notes of transition (so I would not screw it up again) and trying to do some quick math to see if there was a shot at 5:00. It is hard to add stuff up while focusing on the road and being a little fatigued. My quick numbers told me it’d be close.
Transition two went about as good as it could have. No errors or getting lost. I took an extra second to sit down and put on my shoes and then I was off. Because I knew I was so close on time, I did not want to spend two minutes going to a urinal and using the restroom. The urge to pee had subsided, but just a tad. My original goal was to go out at about an 8 minute pace, settle in, and see how long it could last. According to my quick math, a 1:40 half marathon or 7:37 pace would give me a shot. I came out and ran to what felt comfortable to sort of see what would happen. I found a pace that did not feel too hard, didn’t require heavy breathing, and something I could sustain.
Short detour: When someone asks, “what effort do you race a half Ironman?”, the best way I can describe it is like so. It is like getting in your car, giving it full throttle, but back off a tad and feather it all the way to the finish. You are giving about 80-85 percent or so.
Below you can see my run HR for the run. Threshold is the fastest pace you can maintain for about an hour. My max HR is 206, but I found establishing zones based off of threshold HR/PACE to be most beneficial. Because this half marathon is a bit over an hour for me, I needed to be under threshold effort, but just a tad. (Feathering the throttle). You can see with the graph below that the majority of my run is just under that. I never looked at my HR during the race, just went off of feel. Pretty neat to see I could judge effort fairly well in relation to HR.
So, I was hoping when that first mile pinged on my watch that it’d show 8 minutes or just under. To my surprise it was 7:28. Then 7:31 and 7:23 followed. There were times I would look down and see 6:50’s and have to back it down some. Miles 4 and 5 came in at 7:40 and 7:30. Miles 6-9 were all pretty similar. I was feeling strong on the run course. I knew I had to stay focused but I kept wondering if I was actually about to break the 5 hour mark. Remember, I did not know what my exact time was at that moment. All I knew is how my run splits were coming and that it’d be close. The last lap of the race includes the last 4 miles or so of the run course. At this point, no matter your fitness, the day begins to take it’s toll. I knew I had banked some time in my early miles to let the time dip a little slower than 7:37 and this did happen. I was just trying to hold it together and get myself to the finish line. The smallest of hills felt like mountains and the last lap just seemed to last forever. I finally made the last turn to the finish line and crossed it. I knew it was close but was still not sure of the exact time. I had asked a few people in the finish area if they had live results but many were having difficulties with signal. I finally found my wife and saw that I had finished in 5:02. My initial feeling was one of being “crushed”. I was so close. My first thought was stupid transition one. Stupid mistake cost me. I could not have done anything different on the swim. I would not have changed anything on the bike. I ran to my absolute limit on the run. The fitness (was) is there. Mental mistake cost me. This has been my thought process until recently. I am know focusing on the 30 minute PR. Focusing on the improved bike split. I also really proud that my ironman half marathon pace is only 4 minutes slower than my fresh half marathon pace. These are the things I should be focusing on. I am going to have 5:02 pinned up or posted around somewhere for myself. I will use it as motivation. The cycle continues. A new “out of reach” goal will be set and I plan to keep moving forward.
I also wanted to point out that this race was great because of all of the familiar faces that you see on the course. I raced with one of the other coaches of RunRelated, David, another athlete of mine, a few triathlon friends I have made along the way. Also, most people have someone in their sport they “chase” or look up to. When I was a kid, it was Emmitt Smith, because I wanted to play football. Today, it is guys like Andrew Starykowicz. He is known for having the fastest bike splits in triathlon today and holds the record for the full Ironman bike split at just over 4 hours. He was actually finished and walking on some of the run course while I was still racing. I was able to give him a quick shout and shake his hand during my second run lap. He has an incredible story about being ran over, shattered his leg, broke multiple bones, and came back in less than a year to set the bike split record. Incredible. Anyway, hat other sport can you play/race with the pros on the same course/same day?
Now that I look back, this was an incredible weekend. Great time with friends, great race, and great time with the family. This summer, I don’t have any races planned. I am leaning towards keeping everything related to triathlon focused on the 70.3 distance or shorter. Work on shorter stuff. Swim technique, weights, core, build power on the bike, and take some off time for the next few weeks with no organized training. Then this fall/winter focus on Houston Marathon. Simple fundamental stuff for now and we will see what 2019 will have in store.
If you are still reading this, thanks. I like to put everything out while it is fresh in my head so I can always look back and remember this stuff. Also, quick plug for our team, RunRelated. We are really onto something. We’ve got people finishing their first 5k’s, average people qualifying for Boston, and triathletes making incredible improvements. We technically do not have any race plans because each athlete has different goals, commitments, and one plan never fits every person. Everything we do is backed by science and has been proven over and over again. If you are looking to improve in what you are doing, feel free to reach out and ask what we can do to help at info@
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