Lessons Learned: Part 4
After a 16 year break from going long, only concentrating on short-course racing, this season I did two 70.3s in May and one in June. That left just one more, on July 25. To read previous Race Omaha blogs relating to this click here. I wanted to see if I could glide back into some longer course racing without getting injured, and see how I’d stack up in my 6-64 age group.
I opened up the season with a half-ironman in Sebring, FL, May 2. Swim (a little short) 33:00, Bike 2:37, Run 2:16 = 5:33 Total. Temps in the mid-90s and extremely humid. It was miserable.
Three weeks later in the Chattanooga 70.3, May 22. Swim (1.4 miles down-river) 34:00, Bike 2:45, Run 2:06 = 5:37 Total – Record high temps in the 90s and humid. Again, miserable.
Des Moines, IA, June. Swim 38:00, Bike (half) 1:13, Run 2:05 = Total 4:09 – Incredibly hot and humid. Now, we’re 3 for 3 for miserably hot races.
I really wanted to get one race in with “normal” summer weather. I don’t mind some heat, after all, it IS summer. But the first three were so hot, it didn’t really give me a chance to see what I could do. Those races were simply about survival.
So, up to Chisago City, MN July 25, for a final 70.3. It was a breakthrough race for me. I went 25 minutes faster than Chattanooga. Yes, the bike was an easier course, but I was super happy with a 5:13 finish time. Swim 35:00, Bike 2:40, Run 1:53, Wow! SO pumped! Second in the 60-64 age group. (The winner of my age group went 5 hours flat – whaaaat? Amazing!)
Here are the top lessons I’ve learned or been reminded of these last three months:
- Bricks. They matter. Though not in most training plans, every other weekend I did a bike/run long brick. I worked up to 55 miles on the bike and then a ten mile run/walk. Also, the first three 70.3 races I did were fantastic “bricks.” Doing bricks trains your body to be on the go for hours. Your legs get comfortable running off a long bike workout. You dial in your nutrition and hydration. You get mentally tough. You work out any bike fit kinks or any other issues that can pop up. Bricks – do them! Long ones if you’re racing long. I did, and they made a huge difference.
- In my breakthrough race, I nailed my nutrition, hydration and electrolytes. I started the race VERY hydrated. Words can’t express how important this is! Had a large coffee, a bottle of Hammer’s Fully-Charged pre-drink, a bottle of water and electrolytes. Yes, I made a number of trips to the big blue boxes before the race and even went once during the swim and then, several times on the bike. All great signs that that “hydration switch” inside of me had been flipped on and was working. I started the run in great shape, hydration-wise, but didn’t stop to go during the run which, I’m learning is OK when it’s hot out. It was indeed very hot, but not as humid like the previous races.
I took in 500 calories of Hammer’s “Perpetuum” and “HEED” during the 2:40 bike ride along with Hammer’s Electrolyte Caps and water. I headed out on the run with a concentrated, two-hour small fuel-belt bottle with another 300 Hammer calories in it to sip at each aid station while chasing the sips down with water. I also took Electrolyte Caps at each station. I didn’t bonk, hit the wall or have any major bad spots due to getting my intake correct. Before the race, I’d taken in about 350 calories at 4am, three hours before the horn sounded and one Hammergel 20 minutes before go-time.
Now, 800 calories during a 70.3 might not sound like enough, but I’ve learned that less-is-more. Take in enough calories so you don’t bonk, but not much more or you risk serious gastro-tummy issues. Also, all my calories during the race were liquid, again mitigating against stomach problems. You want your blood in your arms and legs, not your stomach trying to digest a bunch of solid food.
- Pacing. Could I have pushed the bike harder? Yep. Am I glad I didn’t? Yep. I’m learning that right now, depending on the course, I’m a 2:35-2:45 cyclist in a 70.3. Can that get better next year? Absolutely! I’m developing a plan on how to get that done. This Minnesota race was the first 70.3 where I didn’t do regular walking breaks during the 13.1-mile run. Much of the run was on fresh, black, hot asphalt with no shade. It really heated up. One person said, “This is Kona-like.” Yes indeed. But I wanted to run until my body or the course forced me to walk. Just about every time I looked at my watch, it said 8:something for my pace. I think I averaged 8:35-8:45/mile, which is a huge improvement from the other halves this year.
- Recovery. It’s important for everyone after every race, but when going long and you’re an old dude (or dudette) like me, you’ve got to take some solid down time after these long races. I felt pretty tired and my legs felt pretty dead for 5-8 days afterwards. I had to be OK with that. I could immediately get back to swimming and easy biking, but no hard rides and just walks or walk/slow-jogs after a few days of rest or gentle active-recovery. I also used “The Stick”, my scraper, my recovery boots, etc. to enhance freshness coming back. Three 70.3s in seven weeks was a bit ambitious and I was quickly reminded that only when we recover well, do we make those gains we’re looking for.
So, it’s been a very interesting spring/summer. For years I had given up on ever going long again because I’d always get injured in my run training. Doing long, slower run/walks has been the ticket for me. A 5:13 half-iron would have seemed a bit out of reach for my first season back at 64 yrs. old but, somehow it happened. I’m now looking at all the 65-69 results to see what those really old farts are doing since I’ll be one of them on February 23rd. Can’t wait! Seriously, I canNOT wait. This season was experimental. Next season, if I can continue to train smarter not harder and train injury-free, it’ll be “Go Time”! I have big plans and goals, but nothing is guaranteed. Every day is a gift. Every mile is a blessing. Every stroke is a privilege. I want to stay grateful, humble and grow in wisdom. I’m incredibly thankful that I can still do these races as I age.
Millionaires who are laying in hospital beds, would give every dollar they had to be able to do a triathlon and enjoy good health. Man, I thank God every day for the amazing blessing of strength, health and a sound mind. Well, at least the first two. Ha.
Last thing I’ll say is, don’t be a small thinker. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of people accomplish more than they ever dreamed possible doing this sport. It bleeds over and causes confidence to spring up in other areas of life. So, dream big! Be consistent. Be self-aware. Evaluate regularly. Be teachable. Ask for help. Always be a student. Learn from anyone. Work on your weaknesses. Pace yourself, not just in races but in life. Appreciate your loved ones who allow/bless/encourage you in your training and racing. And, always, keep things in perspective!