Raleigh 70.3 and Analysis Follow Up

As I spoke about in my last post, I had a suspicion that the poor performance in St. George was a byproduct of low training volume in the weeks leading into the race, as well as an unnecessarily heavy taper. So, going into Raleigh 70.3 I decided to analyze my training leading into Muskoka 70.3 and Texas 70.3 and then do a similar amount of training as I did when going into those races. After St. George I was only able to put in a 19 day block before easing back the training for 6 days so that I would be somewhat rested going into Raleigh. In that 19 days I swam 41670m, biked 1590k and ran 358k. Additionally, I raced two races: Ironhawk Duathlon and MSC Woodstock. I should mention, that those 19 days were the highest volume of training I have ever done in that length of time. After 7 days I was starting to feel quite fatigued, but by 10 days I was beginning to adapt to the load and by day 18 I felt quite good. This worked out well because the next morning I was to race MSC Woodstock. I knew Cody Beals was going to be there, and I assumed that he would be the one to beat.

I came out of the water over a minute and a half back from the leader. This wasn’t much of a surprise though because I panicked pretty hard in the swim. I started up in the front, flailed my arms for about 30 seconds once the gun went, went into oxygen debt, took in water once the faster swimmers started to run me over, then had to slow the pace down considerably for a while until I was able to regain control over myself. I continued to flail though for another couple hundred meters, and then finally realized what I was doing and began to lengthen the stroke out down the finishing stretch. On the bike I put out a very hard effort. Not surprisingly, I saw Cody Beals in the lead as I approached the turnaround. I kept pushing the bike and was able to make up around 30 seconds of the deficit. On the run I kept pushing hard. I saw that Cody was coming back to me and this was motivating. I caught him at the turnaround and eventually won by about 30 seconds. It was a great race, and most importantly, a lot of fun.

I was quite confident after this that high volume training is what is required for me to perform well. It can be looked at as both a blessing (being able to train a lot) and a curse (it is very time consuming). The next unknown was the taper. My lightest taper occurred going into Muskoka 70.3. In the week leading into that race I swam 14250m, biked 199k and ran 41k. Going into Raleigh 70.3 I decided to do something similar. This time round I swam 10031m, biked 213k and ran 66k. The true test of my hypothesis was the race.

Erin and I decided to drive to Raleigh. It is about 1100k from Hamilton. We took our dog Chewy with us, and went on our first road trip. It was a lot of fun. The scenery was beautiful and the drive went by relatively quick. It took us about 14 hours to get there, but this is because we stopped five times so that I could get up and walk around. As well, on one of the stops, I went for a half an hour run. Admittedly, on my run on Saturday morning, my legs were feeling pretty tight and out of rhythm (presumably from the long trip). But, on my bike I started to get my rhythm back and was beginning to feel confident again.

The Raleigh bike is point to point. The result is that I had to get to T2 (the run transition) at 5:15 a.m. and then take a half hour bus ride out to the swim start. It was actually quite nice though, as I had my breakfast and listened to tunes during the drive. I got word on the bus that the swim was going to be wetsuit legal. This was a pleasant surprise.

My main goal in the swim was to stay relaxed and controlled, particularly in the start. This is exactly what I did. When the gun went, I did not swim hard, I swam very easily and relaxed. I got behind several people and drafted them the whole way. The unfortunate part is that the feet I was drafting were quite slow. One guy was zig-zagging all over the place so I decided to just swim a straight line and if I got dropped (due to not being in the draft), then so be it. I fell out of the draft many times as he zig-zagged, and didn’t drop back any. This means I was receiving very little benefit by being in the draft. I knew the swim time would be quite poor, as I could feel (by heart rate and the fact that I was thinking so clearly) that I wasn’t swimming very hard. This is okay though because I needed to find out what “too easy” of swimming feels like. I am currently altering a very fundamental part of my stroke: The Recovery, and so experiencing this was an important step in that process. I ended up coming out of the water in 27:34, 4 minutes and 37 seconds back from the leader.

Erin was waiting at T2 (bike to run transition) so I did not get a split to the leader. I was certain someone must have swam 23 flat though, so I figured I had about four and a half minutes to make up. I raced the bike without power. This was the first time I did such a long bike race with no indication of how hard I was going. I basically just rode hard. I passed about four or five people in the first 10 miles and this was motivating. As time went on I passed less and less. At kilometer 70 I pulled up behind Paul Ambrose and Time Bracht. In my mind, these were the guys to beat, so I chilled for about 5k, had a bite to eat and a bit to drink. I then passed them and continued on my way.

Side bar: Paul Ambrose won Ironman Louisville in 2010. This was my first and only Ironman. At around mile 11 of the two loop run, I was beginning to hurt immensely. Then suddenly a dude following a mountain bike comes flying by me. I then realized that he must be the leader of the race. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. He was 11 miles ahead of me!! I later found out that it was Paul. It was a cool experience (in Raleigh) to be actually racing against a dude who had such a lasting impact on me a little under four years ago.

Back to the race: I pushed the final 15k of the bike and passed two more people. I came into transition in fourth overall and Erin told me I was four and a half minutes back from the leader. I knew I had a very difficult task before me. I pushed the initial stages of the run quite hard. I wasn’t wearing a watch, so I had no idea how fast I was running. To be honest, I felt like I was running rather slowly. But, this could be because I ran about 300 of the 400 or so kilometers in the last 25 days, on a treadmill.

At about 3 miles I caught sight of the leader. He looked to be over a kilometer ahead. At about mile 4.5 someone yelled to me that I was around three minutes down. This was motivating, as I did the math and knew that if I continued at this rate I would be very close to him by the finish. I pushed the ups, and then thought “spin the legs” on the downs. I was not allowing myself any recovery, anywhere. At around mile 8, someone yelled that I was about a minute and half down. By this time I had moved into second place.

Being a starving athlete, and having spent quite a lot on my last two races without any economic return; plus, having invested a good amount of money into this race, I was very relieved to know that I would finally recuperate some of my money. That being said, I trained too hard to shut it down and settle for second. I continued to push the pace hard. I could tell that he was coming back to me. Unfortunately, at mile 11, I could tell that he just wasn’t coming back quick enough. I knew at this point that I would finish second. I still pushed the pace though as I was unsure if anyone behind me was running faster, and wanted to go for the fastest overall run split.

On my way to the finish line I got to slap five a whole bunch of times with people lining the sidelines. It was a ton of fun. It was my first time finishing right downtown in a city, with big tall buildings on either side of the finish. It was a really cool experience. I crossed the line in 3:52:47. I was forty seconds behind the winner. I later discovered that I had been chasing Matt Chrabot. I had heard this name before, but wasn’t too sure of his accomplishments. Now that I’ve done my homework, I don’t feel so bad about losing to him. He is a solid athlete in all three disciplines and has done very well at virtually every format of triathlon: long, short, drafting, non-drafting etc. He was the Olympic alternate for U.S.A. in 2012, has won multiple World Cups, Continental Cups, National Championships, 70.3s, etc. In other words, dude is legit!

After the race I chatted with some of the other athletes and then went and got a massage. I then went straight to Burger King for a whopper. Sadly, I was not in Canada and they did not have poutines, but the whopper was excellent! A little while later I went to the awards ceremony and got to watch a few friends claim their hard earned Mt. Tremblant qualifying spots. We then went for a celebratory dinner. All in all it was a great day.

Now I am quite confident that my hypothesis is correct: I perform well after a high volume training block with a light taper. My swim was way off my best time, but I am aware of the reason for this. A friend of mine related it to the golf swing. Often when altering your swing you must take one step back in order to take two steps forward. I think the upper limit for my old stroke, was about 26 flat for 1.2 miles. My hypothesis is that the ceiling of my new stroke will be higher than this, and so I will be patient until the groove starts to happen.

I must sincerely thank all of my sponsors: Cycle Culture, Richard Kniaziew, Louis Garneau, C3-Kinetico, Saucony, Nineteen Wetsuits, eLoad and CompuTrainer. Without your support I would not be able to do what I love to do. I must also thank my coach Barrie Shepley for mentoring me through the poor performances in Texas and St. George, and reassuring me that brighter skies are ahead. And most importantly, I must thank my girlfriend Erin. She drove the entire way to Raleigh, so that I could kick my feet up and save my legs. She let me listen to Trance and Progressive the whole trip and only played Rihanna while I was sleeping, so that my psyche was in a good place come race morning. Any success that I see is a direct byproduct of all of you.

Thanks very much for cheering and following along.