This ironman race report was sent in by Silas, who just did his first ironman in a blazing hot day- great race Silas!
Silas Bauer, August 2, 2012
Race Report from the Vineman Full Ironman on July 28, 2012
The day before the full Vineman ironman distance triathlon, my T1 Tri Coach left me with two key pieces of advice. First, something will go wrong, and your race can be determined by how you handle it. Second, moderate your pace on the bike because how hard you work during those 112 miles determines whether you’re walking the final 13 miles of the marathon or running them.
This being my first ironman, and the fact that historically my downfall has been over-working on the bike, the coach was keeping me in check. A wise move on his part. The last bit of wisdom he imparted was that regardless of my pacing, the last 13 miles of the run would suck.
One thing my coach knows well is the psyche of a rower, or former rower, like me. Years of rowing will eventually pre-dispose the most intelligent people to believe that regardless of the distance of the race, the harder you work, the better; eating and drinking during workouts is for wimps; and, finally, the goal is to pass every other athlete you see in front of you, pace be damned. It’s the recipe for a Pheidippides-like finish in the race, or at the very least, lying in a pool of your own vomit on the side of the road. My coach made his point very clear over and over again – pacing is everything. Don’t “fly and die,” you’ll regret it.
On the morning of the race I felt prepared from months of T1 Tri workouts and refinements to my training and technique. Mind you, my coach did this from 3000 miles away. The swim was two 1.2 mile loops in the shallow water of the Russian River, which included mostly swimming and some walking (very shallow). I was out of the water in one hour and sixteen minutes, with no major incidents. Once through T1, I jogged my bike up a small hill to the mounting area and headed out onto the course. Immediately I realized my powertap wheel, a very expensive torque meter in the rear wheel hub which feeds power data to a small computer on my handlebars, was sending me whacky data. All my bike training had been done using power data, and the benefit is that watts are instant feedback on how hard you are working unlike heart rate which takes several seconds to minutes to reflect your effort. Of course I remembered my coach’s first piece of advice, and I decided the way to handle the technical failure was to use heart rate to pace my bike leg. Fighting my rowing instincts, I decided to be even more conservative with my pacing, keeping my heart rate in my lower “base” zone, rather than the “tempo” pace of my shorter races.
Other than ejecting numerous water bottles off the back of my bike every time I hit major bumps, the bike leg was smooth, relatively fast, and involved me passing a lot of people while being passed by very few. Better yet, coming into T2, I felt like I had legs left for the run.
My coach and I had agreed that I would not go any faster than 9 minute miles for the first 16 miles. Heading out on the run course I settled into what felt like a casual shuffle. My gps watch alerted me to that fact that it was actually a 7:45/mile pace. Much too fast. When I found my 9:00/mile pace it felt ludicrously slow and I decided that this was going to be a breeze, especially on this, reportedly, flat course, which I had not scoped out before the race. As I rounded the turn at mile one, I realized that the run course report I had received from a past competitor was more than a little off. In front of me was, not just a hill, but what seemed to me like a mini Zermatt. Determined not to walk the hills, I slowed to an 11:00/mile shuffle, much faster than the walkers around me. At the crest, there was the expected downhill, but just beyond that, another hill, smaller, but still formidable. This continued with regularity all the way to the 4.4 mile turn-around. Since it’s a three loop out and back run course, this meant I would see these hills two more times. While my pace slowed due to the hills, I still felt strong and I ran rather than walked. Of course, my coach had predicted the mile 13.1 “hump” would be a turning point, and this was absolutely true. At mile 12.5 I decided I could no longer stomach the powergels I was eating every twenty minutes, my stomach was just too worn out. After the halfway turnaround, I started to take some walking breaks, and in desperation I started scanning the aid tables for something that might keep me from throwing up. The answer turned out to be salty chips and soda every fifteen minutes, a recipe that one close friend theorizes is the cure for a hangover. It worked quite well, and by the time I made the turn for my final loop, I was running very consistently, keeping a 10:00/mile pace.
In a bid to finish in under 12 hours, I skipped the last two aid stations and ran straight to the line – and my wife – finishing in exactly 12 hours (well, 12 hours and 15 seconds if I’m to be truly exact). All told it was an extremely successful day, especially given the eighty to ninety degree heat, and while the many hours of training it took to get ready for the race were tiring and time consuming, it became readily apparent during the race that without following my T1 training plan I would have been completely ill prepared for the race, especially for the unexpected issues that arose. T1 not only catered the workouts to my abilities, but also structured my workouts to work around my life, which is extremely important when you’re an age grouper and not a full-time pro.