This blog is written by Alan Scott, its part three of four describing his 2015 Hawaii Ironman experiences and lessons learnt. Hopefully it will prove entertaining and perhaps useful to anyone aspiring to go to Kona or simply complete an Ironman.
“Don’t go out too hard”, “You can’t win it on the bike but you can lose it”, “Nail your nutrition on the bike”. These are all free bits of advice that you will hear on a regular basis during you stay on the Big Island. However it is amazing how many people appear to abandon common sense and go out hard – caught up in the hype of the World Championships. I was being passed left and right through the first few K’s as many ‘launched’ into it!
Not being an “uber” biker myself I had my bike plan and intended to stick to it. If I was going to do a good race it would be done on the run. The goal was to stick to certain constants that I had planned out in order to limit the variables, which you will most likely face during the ride. Admittedly this sounds really geeky and some might argue that this is a little too boring. However for me, this was a new race, it’s notorious for DNF’s and folk faltering during the run. I wanted to ensure that did not happen. Added to that, my 3 previous Ironman races have all be sub 9.30 using similar plans – safe to say it works for me.
– Stick to your power: I have a power meter and use it for training and racing. For longer races it really comes into its own. I had calculated over the preceding weeks what my power should be for the race. I knew what to push up differing gradients of hill, into the wind, down hill, on the flat etc. With a goal *Normalised Power number for the duration of the ride. If I stuck to this I knew roughly what my bike split would be (give or take a little for wind) and that my legs would be in tact for the run.
– Nutrition: I was using *Ucan again on the bike plus I had a cliff bar and some almond butter & coconut oil sachets. I knew how many calories (and of what type) I needed to consume per hour. I also factored in harder and easier parts of the course – its harder to digest on a climb whereas on a decent your heart rate is lower so more blood can get to your stomach and aid digestion. It was also very hot and so I knew how much I needed to drink along with having electrolytes to add to the water. As a footnote – I also knew that if I lost my nutrition then I could stomach the course nutrition having trialed it before hand. This happened in my qualifier race.
– Keeping Cool: As previously stated it was a scorcher of a day and so keeping the body temperature down during the bike was paramount as there were still many hours to go. Pouring water down my shoulders, back (and every other nook and cranny) at every aid station kept my temperature under control.
– Keeping Aero: Its crazy how many people you see out on a bike course pounding the pedals while out of the aero position. Keeping in the tuck adds up to huge gains over 5 hours. I had tweaked my position (head low, shoulders rolled in, knees in, hands close) to be as aero as possible, while not cutting off my power by going too low. I had also worked on my core so I could hold this position comfortably for hours. Big power numbers are not everything; you can get free speed with a good position. I would say the bike is my weakness, as I don’t have great power so this is how I try to rebalance things.
With all of this in mind I kept my head down and tried to focus on not getting caught in a drafting situation. Sometimes, believe it or not, this can be very difficult. There are people over taking and pulling in straight in front of you; your overtaking other folk within the time frame, then there’s keeping the required distance between you and anyone who might be in front of you. It is fair to say that many people who are “pinged” for drafting have been unlucky; of course there are other sneaky folk who just play the game. It’s not something I was interested in.
One highlight, which I apologise may be a bit cheesy for some, was an epiphany moment on the bike. Still riding out, ocean to my left, surrounded by the lava fields and the heat haze in the distance was when it dawned on me…. I am here – I made it to Kona! A life bucket list achieved and I needed to remember to smell the roses now and enjoy the moment. It’s something that I can and will draw on in the future. A dream and life goal of mine was taking place and it was important to appreciate it and not get totally caught up in racing.
The out and back course was as hot as hell, initially the winds were fairly tame especially the notorious decent from Hawi that can be treacherous with its gusting cross winds however not today. It was only the last 40k that were really tough. As everyone headed home they were faced with a stong head wind, which served to further tire the legs just as you want to be preserving them for the run. However I reminded myself it was the same for everyone and could work in my favour as my legs still felt ok. All in all the bike had gone pretty much to plan, my power was a little down and the last 40k was a reminder of how tough this race can be, however with sore feet from hot spots, an achy bum, I was definitely glad to be getting off the bike.
As I descended Palani Hill and I hopped off my bike using the correct dismount (which I help teach on Embrace Sports Tri camps) I was greeted by cheering and fan fair. The whole Kona scene is unique amongst races – I was loving it all! But there was still the small case of 42 roasting kilometers before I was done… You often hear clichés such as “bike is for show run is for dough”, yet it really felt like that. Was there enough in the tank, could I tolerate the heat, were my legs as good as they felt? All this was about to be tested and more….
*Normalised Power: This is a training peaks algorithm, which calculates your average power with surges of effort factored in. The more steady your effort the closer this number will be to your average power. During an Ironman surges take their toll on the legs and will have consequences later on. An even effort for age groupers is key.
*Ucan is a slow release carbohydrate drink made from a modified corn starch. The principal behind this drink is that it releases energy at a level not to cause your insulin levels to spike. As a result you do not suffer peaks and troughs in energy.
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