Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010: Post Ironman - Into the Woods

After Ironman, Adrienne and I headed North to relax on the lake. I found a beautiful vintage bike manufactured by Columbia at a rustic bike shop in Minocoqua. The trip was wonderful and it gave me some time to reflect on my Ironman race. At a recent Gear-Grinder gathering, the team manager thought I'd be happier now that the Kona monkey is off my back. When I said "kinda of" he didn't seem to get why. Personally, Ironman has been about reaching potential. A 9:50, although fast, is far off my ability.

I've been reflecting on my mindset as the race unfolded. Why did I find myself cruising the marathon? Why did I decide to ease off on the bike, I mean really ease off?

Matt Fitzgerald wrote a very interesting article in early 2010 for Triathlete magazine. One part is particularly relevant:

This explanation seems much more plausible than the first, but there is actually no good evidence that those athletes who produce the fastest run times in Ironman races hold back more on the bike than their fellow competitors. In fact, contrary to popular belief, elite Ironman triathletes really don’t hold back at all on the bike. If riding at 80 or 90 percent of capacity (relative to the distance of 112 miles) were normal and necessary at the elite level of Ironman racing, then you would see at least one clown fly off the front and complete the bike leg 10 or 20 percent faster than the real contenders (which would translate to 30 to 60 minutes). Even if it were suicidal, people would still do it for a moment of glory. It’s human nature. But this never happens. Why? Because elite triathletes actually ride the Ironman bike leg at something closer to 98 percent of their maximum capacity (meaning they would ride only five to 10 minutes faster in a pure 112-mile time trial). sentiments exactly. At Ironman this year, I did exactly this. I rode too easy. By riding 10-25 minutes slower, I was hoping to run even faster to recoup ground lost. And if you read my race report, you'd see I did just that, kinda of. The hiccup started with the penalty, but it was more. The penalty shifted me into ultra-conservative mode. It transformed me from the racing mode to the "come on Matt, let's play it safe. You got one penalty, you can't afford to have any one." The result was I never dug deep, smiled a little more to the fans (I have to work on that some more according my family), and crossed the finish line as if I did something challenging but hardly hard.

When I was cruising into T2, I thought about shooting for a 3:00 run split, but found myself saying to myself why? It wasn't needed, I wasn't fighting for first amateur at that point. I wasn't even in contention for top three amateur. The penalty plus the lackluster bike performance just put me too far behind.

So what can I learn from this. When the bike fitness is verifiable, use it for goodness sake. But at IMWI, I had reservations about pushing the bike even with Brunold and Kurian dragging my arse around for five weeks. When thinking back, Door County HIM certainly put into perspective holding back on the bike, but when looking at the overall results, I did not PR the distance. "If" Pigman was a decent day, I could of sorted out mentally just how good my bike fitness was in relation to having a good run. The other demon haunting me going into IM and during the race, was that I just put too much time in the off season working on my run fitness just to burn all the matches by a blazing bike split leading to another 3:30 run. How slow of a bike split was I willing to have inorder to run what I considered a good time? My basic absolute bottom (BAB) expectation was a 5:30 bike split. Any slower, I would be disappointed. And for the run, I wanted 3:15 or faster. At the day's end, I hit my BAB benchmarks.

If I was a coach, coaching Matt A, I would say to him, "You did a great job. You displayed patience, the ability to handle the challenges of IM racing, and follow through with execution. You proved to yourself that the benchmark of sub-10 is easily within yourself. For the next 8 months, focus on consistent training and letting yourself get sharp for the short course racing that you want to do. Then, in 2012, lets attack another Ironman with the goal of having a wicked bike and run split." I better listen to that coach.


Paul Eicher said...

Very interesting and insightful post Matt, Thanks for the read.

John said...

Awesome Picture!! Great job on the race!