July 23, 2017 Ironman Lake Placid (IM LP). The main race of the year. All my preparation since October 2016 has been based on this race, so big report (CR), because the performance targets were ambitious for this race.
I break the CR into 4 parts, for reading in more detail or for faster reading to read only the part that interests you.
In October 2016, I resume triathlon training after two months of almost complete rest. Then in November with two friends we register for the Ironman of Lake Placid. I carefully watch and study the results of athletes in my age group (30/34) from previous years on this event. To aim for the top 3 you have to be able to swim 3.8km in +/- 1 hour, run 180 km in 5h10 and run the marathon under 3h15 with the two transitions under 5 minutes to finish the Ironman in 9h30, that should put me on the podium. So I set myself a 9h30 finish goal for this race.
I start with an FTP test at the end of October (power test on the bike) which gives me an FTP of 266 watts for 73kg (yes the holidays) so a watts / kg ratio of 3.64w / kg. In IM 140.6 race it is estimated to cycle between 70% and 80% to be able to run the marathon after. To be able to complete the 180 km of Lake Placid it is necessary to develop a ratio of 3.5w / kg (+/-). So my ratio is ok if I give 99% on the bike, which is not an option!
I also prepare myself for the Boston Marathon, setting myself a goal between 2h50 and 2h55, which would give me a good basis of preparation to be under 3:15 on IM if I respect the 70% -80% intensity on the bike. See my Boston CR .
For the bike, I work to increase my FTP throughout the winter, the increasing volume as well as a better diet makes me lose a few kg which greatly contributes to my watts / kg ration. I run a new FTP test at the end of each month (I hate it a lot! This damn test is so hard, it’s the worst 20 minutes I’ve ever spent!)
This gives me:
Nov 2016: 274w / 73kg
Dec 2016: 280w / 72kg
Jan 2017: 296w / 71kg
Feb 2017: 318w / 69kg
April 2017: 312w / 69kg
May 2017: 299w / 69kg
June 2017: 314w / 69kg
July 2017: 323w / 69kg. Ratio = 4.68w / kg
I thus arrive at Lake Placid with an FTP of 4.6w / kg, 80% of 4.6 gives 3.7, I am well in my objective to be able to develop 3.5w / kg during 5h. The only thing left to do is to know if I can handle it and if I can run well after this effort.
In the first 200 meters I have my glasses taken off by an overweight woman, but a good swimmer, taking her hand out of the water she hangs my Zoggs then releases them, the elastic is stretched then released and I take them right in the face! I swim on my back, adjust my glasses, curse this athlete, then go back to the front crawl but without bad intention of shooting her on the feet, I leave her alone. I find at the end of 500m a pair of feet which seems to advance well, I place myself behind and let myself drag. The effort is ok, I stay in control, I know I can keep up with this pace for the 3.8km. The athlete accelerates brutally over 100m then returns to his cruising speed, I will systematically close all the gaps he will try to open on me. When he picks up his rhythm I touch his feet which may have annoyed him and explained why he attacks from time to time or not? Sometimes athletes don’t like to know they are being used because I took advantage of his draft on 90% of the first loop. We do an Australian exit (1st loop done in 30min) then we dive back into the lake for a second lap, I find the pair of feet that I have been following for a while then we catch up with competitors who are in their first loop ! The difference in level is huge and in the crowd, I manage to loose the pair of feet I was using and I had to swim the last 1500m on my own. Too bad because the pace was good and I could have got out of the water in 1 hour if I hadn’t lost them! I swim alone now, I have to lift my head often, but i don’t do it enough and hit a kayak i’m out of the race course! So I correct my trajectory and swim towards the other competitors to find the buoys and finally get out of the water in 1h03
Loop 1: 30min, loop 2: 33min
This puts me 24th position in my age group, so there is work to be done on the rest of the course!
Transition Nº1 nothing special, I run fast and pass a lot of people, on the other hand to overtake competitors is with bare feet on the asphalt because on the mat there is just room for one person so you must not be carreful.
For the bike, target is between 5h and 5h10, I tell myself that I am already 3min behind based on my swimming (nothing serious but you should not accumulate). So it will be good if I do between 5h and 5h07!
I have taped my times on my aerobars and I check them every 10 km, my garmin watch “lap” automatically also every 10km, I know that each 10km segment must be done between 16 and 17 minutes.
There are a lot of people to catch up, it rolls well on the flat parts, and I deliver good power in the bumps, I respect my objectives (a little faster than expected) and complete the first lap in 2h27 which would give me a bike in 4h56 if I keep the same pace!
The second loop is a bit harder (probably due to the monotony). I’m all alone, nobody in front of nobody behind. Then I end up getting caught at the end of a long, flat portion. This is what I needed to wake up. I finnished the 180km of biking in 5h05.
Loop Nº1: 2h27, 245 watts, 36.5 km / h, loop Nº2: 2h38, 220 watts, 34.4 km / h.
I finished the bike in second place in my age group and 13th overall (excluding pro).
I come out of the Nº2 transition accompanied by a competitor, we run 20 meters together and I pick it up quickly, I start a little hard (the course is downhill). I pass the 1st kilometer in 3’45 ”! I found around the 4th kilometer a more suitable pace (about 4min / km). Before a U-turn I see runners coming back with 1 or 2-digit bibs (pro athletes). I recognize some who are world famous, the Canadian Brent Mcmahon is in the lead followed by far by Andy Potts.
For 2 or 3 km, I have had discomfort in the Achilles tendon, a small pebble between the shoe and my tendon. Just before coming out of an aid station zone I put one knee on the ground to release this stone which has been bothering me for some time, and realize that I have no sock! I have trouble putting it on in transition! It is below the level of my shoe and the heel of my shoe rubs on my tendon. I pull on my sock to cover the raw skin and leave. Once the sock is in place, it won’t bother me the whole race. On the other hand my sock is now ruined (stained with blood) as well as my shoe!
3km after the U-turn I see the 3rd competitor and I gradually approach my prey. I carefully plan my overtaking, so as not to give him a chance to hang with me. I have to disgust him, let him know that it is not worth it to try me. I want to go clean and neat and do my race because there is still 30km to go. In a false flat rising I make my overtaking, by saying a sympathetic phrase of encouragement to him without being out of breath accompanied by a smile to make him believe that I am easy in my effort. He will also greet me but accompanied by a grimace, which shows that he is already out of his confort zone.
I continue at my very good pace and pass the 21km mark in 1h27. This first loop went well, even though I was almost on my own throughout, sometimes I wondered if I was still on the course! Then once back in town, the spectators liven up the race. I see my wife announcing that I am 2nd. I must secure this place! I know that at this pace no one is going to overtake me.
I attack the second loop with confidence and several athletes start their first loop of their marathon. The route gradually fills up. My times per kilometer are getting slower and lower! I take a gel every 8 km (5 miles) and I will take water at each aid station (half that I drink the other half to spray my head). I sink more and more, my watch starts to show me kilometers in 4’20 ” then 4’40 ” and I even saw a kilometer in 5’32 ” for the 39th km (in a beautiful climb, but still)! Just after this 39th km I see my wife screaming at me to swarm because the 3rd is not far and it catches up with me! The boost! I’m not running any faster but I feel like I’m going all out for the last 3 km. The 3rd competitor in question left 9min after me on the marathon and will take me back 6min on these 42km so I will finish with a 5min lead over him. But that, I did not know it yet, I am in interval training for the last two kilometers, I do not even dare to look back (I would not have seen anyone that said). Then I arrive on the (oval) speed track where the finish line is located, Mike Reilly announces my name, I finally decide to take a look behind me to find out that I am alone, I cross the line euphoric, smiling and trembling !
The marathon is done in 3h06 (the Nº1 lap in 1:27 and the second lap in 1h39. .
The Ironman is completed in 9h21. I will be ranked 3rd Overall (excluding pros) and 2nd in my age group.
Once the finish line is crossed, I am seated at a table with a meal that I share with pro athletes, everyone tells their story and it’s fun to hear them bicker with each other. Many people use my marathon time to tell others that I have done a better marathon than them! In this race only 5 pros did less than 3:06 for the marathon including Andy Potts in 3:05:50!
For the record, the Nº1 of the age groups is an ex pro of the Ironman circuit, Clay Emge has already won the first place on Ironman Boulder.
The Nº2 Sam Gyde is classified Elite Age Group by Training peak
The next day, the alarm clock is scheduled for 8 a.m. but everyone is already up around 7 / 7:30 a.m. The coffee maker is the first to make noise, then we pat each other’s hands with my friends, still congratulating each other on the experience of the day before.
The ceremony is hosted by Mike Reilly, followed by the podium for the top 5 pro, and unfortunately no general podium for amateurs. It goes straight to the age group podium. We are presented with a trophy and a jar of local maple syrup, then we move on to the seat allocations for the world championships in Hawaii. Mike asks me if I want to go to Hawaii and I tell him that I will see him there. Next meeting at the IM World Championships in Kona!
The questions most asked by triathletes are: what does it take to qualify for Hawaii? What do I have to do to qualify? and all the variations of questions which have for final goal to land its place under Hawaiian sun.
It turns out that a successful athlete is a person who is not sick, who does not get injured and who takes the time to do the job. No matter the situation, this person will succeed in training despite all the vagaries of life.
Each athlete reacts differently to workouts, intensities and volume. But based on the stats then an athlete who manages to qualify for Kona has an hourly average of 17h of training per week with little junk mile (commute / go to pool / fetch bread. .).
It’s the consistency that will make the difference, not a single day of loss of motivation, not a single training canceled / postponed, not a single day of illness or injury will have stopped my preparation for this event. A few rare days of rest were taken just before and after a major race, the Boston Marathon and IM70.3 Mont Tremblant.
The days off I took between January 1 and July 23
January 6 (I don’t remember why, travel for work or family event)
April 16 (day before the Boston Marathon)
April 25 (I still had heavy legs from Boston, and wanted a full day of rest so I could resume training better)
May 26 (day before a 160 km gran fondo)
Of the 10 months of preparation, only 4 days were spent without sporting “activity”. (On the other hand, since 07/23 I now take much more rest)!
The intensity of the workouts is not very extremely high (yes there are efforts in sprinting, VO2max) but 80% or 90% of the time these are efforts at the threshold, MI being an endurance sport, develop your maximum speed over 15s or 30s n ‘ is not a priority. The BMI / BMI (Body Mass Index) is around 23.
Being able to swim 3.8km under 1:05 is the “general rule”. I sometimes see athletes swimming in 1:10 and achieving a top 3/5, but it is relatively rare except for very good rollers / runners.
The FTP must allow the bike to finish in the top 5, maximum 8, of its age group, based on the results of previous years on the same race. With the use of Best Bike Split it is possible to determine the FTP required for the route to be done and the desired time. For example, for this race, I knew that I had to maintain a ratio of 3.5w / kg to catch up on my swimming delay.
To be able to run between 3h and 3h15 (depending your age group).
Choose your race well:
All this preparation is acquired over months and years of training, you also have to add a pinch of luck to avoid encountering mechanical problems, punctures, cramps and mild weather. Also, a list of participants without too many ex professionals who run in their age category greatly helps to avoid being in the final of the top 10!
The Ironman circuit offers a wide range of racing. There are hilly or flat races. Hot and humid. lake or sea swimming circuits with or without a wetsuit. You have to choose wisely which route is best suited to your profile.
All this accompanied by a good training program with a big dose of motivation should be enough to win the holy grail! Obviously, you shouldn’t expect to qualify for your 1st Ironman. From the second one already has a better idea of what to expect, and the body gradually gets used to the mileage necessary for this type of test.