Respecting the Distance
Well as I sit here contemplating yesterdays race, I can say for once I listened. After my first Ironman experience in New Zealand (March) where I had to walk the marathon after making some ‘beginners mistakes’ of which I was pre-warned of, I was certainly not going to go in ‘gun-ho’ to an Ironman again.
That was the difference this time. My approach was conservative and consistent. The goal for the day was to have a good run, even if that meant sacrificing more time than I would like on the bike. This advice came from everywhere (it did in the 1st one too, I just didn’t listen), my Dad told me ‘the race starts on the run’, my Mom told me to believe in my running abilities, and my wife told me to race my own race. There are no tactics in Ironman, you have to do the best you can, with what you’ve got on the day.
And I did it. If people came by me on the bike at a pace harder than I thought I could then run well off, I didn’t pick it up. It was hard, for sure, coming from a cycling background as I have that acceleration, but I was patient. The run would come.
The other thing I did differently was I kept it simple. In New Zealand I wanted to ‘optimize’ my nutrition, which meant taking everyone’s advice (every fad in the book!). By half way in new Zealand I had an extremely upset stomach and was no longer able to drink anything, let alone eat anything, and so spent the 2nd half of the race with no nutrition whatsoever.
This time I took my wife’s advice (she sometimes knows what she is talking about!) and stuck to plain old simple sports drink and water, and for food just gels. I only had one salt tablet for the whole race and no caffeine. I had a bagel and a strong sports drink for breakfast in the morning, and didn’t second-guess myself.
I had all this advice available to me for the first Ironman too, I just didn’t listen. I think New Zealand was an important experience for me. If I didn’t have to have walked marathon (and spent some time ‘hiding’ in the port-a-loos) to contemplate my mistakes, I am sure the lesson of consistency and simplicity would not have engraved itself on me like it has.
Now the morning after, as I think about Hawaii, I have to remind myself not to get caught up. My plan is to keep the same strategy I had leading in and during this one (simple and consistent), only I will prepare specifically for Ironman as opposed to the 70.3s (Half Ironman).
I am fortunate enough to live in Boulder, Colorado, where there is probably the highest concentration of long-distance professional triathletes in the world, I am certainly not short on good mentors. I am good friends with both Matt Reed (9 wins in 2009 alone!) and Craig Alexander (two times World Champions for the Ironman distance) who live in Boulder, and although he doesn’t live in Boulder, Chris McCormack who I’ve known since I was 14 and has always helped me with anything I need.
I can’t wait.