Challenge Melbourne this year was about seeing if my training was working. It was about seeing if I needed to tweak anything going forward. I knew it would be too late for Port Macquarie Ironman that is in two weeks time but at this stage everything is about seeing if the training I am doing is working.
One of my big stumbling blocks that I have encountered in previous half ironmans was my hydration and nutrition strategy and due to that subsequent energy level drop offs. Some of that could be explained away as lack of endurance but my heavy sweat rate and sodium loss is also a big, big factor in this. This was a major stressor and trying to figure it out was causing quite a few headaches.
If Sunday is anything to go off I feel that I am well on my way to solving that part of the performance puzzle.
This race was what I consider possibly the best race I have ever executed. A Personal Best across all three disciplines. With big improvements in both the bike (12 minute PB) and the run (13 minute PB). My training has been some of the most consistent and best quality training I have ever put together that I can remember, but for me I always struggle on second half of the run with both fatigue and cramping always causing a big percentage drop in performance.
The weekend just gone was completely different. I felt very strong from the outset on the bike sitting at high powers but feeling well with in myself. Last 30 km of the ride I felt little to no fatigue and was having to tell myself to hold back as there was still a half marathon to come. Out onto the run was surreal asI found a good rhythm quickly and again had to real myself in as I was sitting on 5 min km pace which I haven't trained at so I knew I could not sustain that for 21 km. At the turnaround my Garmin read 52:50. I felt stronger than normal but in the last kilometer or so I noticed my pace had dropped from 5:15 pace to 5:25 and heart rate had lifted from 138 bpm to 145 bpm. Memories from Bussleton and Mooloolabah crept in where I spent the run trying to minimise cramping as best as possible.
But the pace drop off stopped and heart rate steadied and stayed mice and even until the last 4 kilometers or so where I started believing that this was actually going to happen. The slowest my pace dropped to all run was 5:30 km pace the heart rate over the last 2 km went up in to the 150's which is what it should do. I crossed the line 4 hours 44 min 50 seconds. A full 26 minutes quicker than I have ever gone over that distance.
What had changed from previous races. Well I now have 2 full Ironman training blocks in my legs so you would expect that over a half ironman distance I should be able to hold it together better. I have now been training for nearly 12 month at triathlons so again you would expect an improvement also. But this race was the first race I have implemented a proper hydration and nutrition strategy. I seperated my hydration intake from my calorie intake. My drinks during the race were a carb free electrolyte drink and all calories were from the Freedom Fuel from the "Natural Nutritionist Steph Lowe". I also took on extra sodium in the final hour on the bike and at the 10 and 15 km mark on the run.
The other big win for me was the addition of Prep'd hydration. It is a modified starch drink that has shown to be effective in increasing your ability to hydrate during exercise by up to 30%. The beauty of this is that you drink it the night before and it then is working when you are racing the day after. This is great because by the time you are racing you are not having to digest another product causing possible gastric upset. On race day it is already working and you just use your normal hydration strategy. The only difference is that it is able to work better because you absorb even more of it, thus staying better hydrated and should be able to perform better for longer.
Mentally as well I have felt a shift. I have trained to make that shift. Racing is hard. It feels hard and hurts when you are going hard. I have started to accept that and realise being able to go to that place where it hurts and staying there even though it hurts is what makes people good athletes. I have lots of work to do on this and I will be starting to work on this even more in the future. It is a little scary but exciting because to go to that place and train it means that I will have lift my game even further. Fun times ahead and frequent trips in to the pain cave in my future.
2 weeks to go for my next Full Ironman race and although I am nervous and excited. I feel like I have a crucial part of it on the improve and I feel less stressed about it.
Less stress equals less energy wasted over it, which hopefully leads a better race day outcome.
Total Performance Centre
Owner and head coach.