Race Rehearsal

With just over four weeks to go until Ironman Australia, my Endurance Nation training plan had me do a number of fitness tests this week and then a race rehearsal. The race rehearsal is particularly important as the goal is not only to do a very long training session at your race pace, but also to test out things like your nutrition plan, bike position, etc. so you have time to make adjustments before the race.  My race rehearsal was to consist of a 180 km bike ride and a 10 km run. In the days before I did bike and running tests to confirm how hard I should ride/run.

On Tuesday I did a function threshold test (FTP) to measure my power on the bike. I came in at 254 watts which is a record level for me. Makes me wonder where I would be had I not missed five weeks of riding from early January due to my business trip. Endurance Nation really focuses on race execution. They have a ‘calculator’ which takes your FTP and target riding intensity and recommends the power levels you should ride at. My target intensities for the ride were the first one hour 170 watts, then 180 watts for the rest of the ride, except long hills (190 watts) and short hills (200 watts). What they also stress is the need to be consistent with your pedalling and avoid power spikes.

The run test is a 5 km time trial. I did it on Thursday after dropping off my mother-in-law at the airport to return to Australia. They have just opened a new track in Richmond and so this is the ideal venue for such a test. I managed a 19:40, but I’m sure that the track is slightly longer than the 400 metres it claims. When I tested it with my GPS watch it consistently came out at 408 m, in which case I’m a bit better than I thought.  The Runner’s Edge indicates a Pace Zone Index (PZI) score of 27, for a threshold pace of 4:17.

It is suggested that marathons are done at Pace Zone 4: High Aerobic which should be the range of 4:31 to 4:46/km. Too fast for me. My Personal Records for marathons (Boston and Marine Corps) were 3h 27, which is a 4:53 pace. So I figure for an Ironman marathon I should aim for something like 5:30—at the absolute best—which is a 3:51 marathon.  Endurance Nation recommends that the first 10 km are at your could pace +0:20 so I would aim for 5:50 for the first 10 km and then see how the body feels about 5:30’s.

The night before the ride I prepared my nutrition. I have started using Infinit Nutrition in an attempt to avoid the stomach shut down that I have had in my other Ironman races.  They do a custom blend, which also eliminates the need for salt capsules etc. I made up a water bottle with a 4 x concentration, as well as two other bottles. This would last me the estimated six hours for my ride. I also put in a few muesli bars since six hours of only drinking can lead to an empty hole in one’s stomach. I also prepared four small bottles with my run mix to put in my fuel belt.

The morning was not at all what they forecasted: it was cold and overcast with a strong wind. I waited until after 8:00 to start off on my ride, but as it was I had arm warmers on which I kept on for the next two hours.  I rode 30 km west towards Motueka and then headed south up the Motueka Valley Road. It was a delightful ride, except for the very strong head wind which was particularly pronounced as I turned south. There was blue sky ahead of me so the front was moving north, but I had the misfortune to be out in the worst of it. Traffic was light, except for a plethora of camper vans and logging trucks, so I was able to focus on my riding and admiring the lovely scenery. I used to ride this route regularly when we lived in Motueka; lots of fond memories.

 

I kept pretty much to my riding plan, starting off at 170 watts and then increasing to 180 watts. My variability was generally 1-2%, except when there were steep hills which threw it off quite a bit. I stopped in Tapawera and went to the pub to fill my water bottles, before heading to Kotahu Junction at State Highway 6. I had done 85 km by this point, so was almost half way in my ride.

I was tempted to turn around and head back but decided to see something different. I headed north and then turned off east towards St. Arnaud. Absolutely no traffic at all, but some pretty serious hills. However, what goes up must go down and I enjoyed hitting 72 km/h on one stretch. I eventually linked up with State Highway 6 again and headed north towards Nelson.

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There was a wide shoulder for much of the ride which was really appreciated as there were too many logging trucks for my comfort.  Even though there were several minutes between *any* vehicles, when I heard them coming I took a deep breath and said a short prayer.

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After 140 km I got to Brightwater which is part of my normal time trial route. I headed towards home and then back to Brightwater to get in my full 180 km. I was feeling hungry and hot at this point so I broke the rehearsal rule and stopped for an ice cream. It was bliss lying on my back on the picnic table in front of the store with the ice cream melting its way down my throat. I wonder if I’m allowed to do that in my Ironman race? What had made things particularly difficult was that the headwind followed me—the front had moved north so I still had a head wind. In fact, I would have had a headwind for 80% of my ride. Quite soul destroying…

I came  home and Lis had left my fuel belt and running gear on the back porch. I quickly transitioned and headed out for my run. Jason, the builder, was appalled and said that I was “bloody mad”, he was probably right. I headed down our local road which has lots of hills and did a 10 km run at my target 5:30 pace. Felt fairly good, although I was running a bit low on energy by the end of it.

So what were my conclusions from my first race rehearsal?

  • The Infinit nutrition is definitely an improvement over what I used before: I did not have the stomach problems I usually have off the bike. I had also tried drinking less, only one bottle per hour rather than two, and I think that is a good idea. I do, however, need more muesli bars to fill the hole and provide a bit extra.
  • The target powers of 170/180/190/200 seem to be about right and they have the advantage of being easy to remember.
  • When there were no hills I managed to keep my power levels within 1-2% which was what I wanted, and I largely avoided power spikes. The power distribution is below.

 image

  • The run pace of 5:30 was right for my 10 km, but probably optimistic for my marathon. I’ll have to work on the running a bit over the next few weeks.
  • My Cervelo bike is steady and true.
  • I need to do some work with my Garmin 310XT watch to get everything recording and displaying properly.

When I finished my 7.5 h workout I was ravenously hungry, but what I wanted most was cold high calorie foods like ice cream. Have to make sure to have a lot of that on hand in the future!

My second rehearsal is in two weeks which will be my final opportunity to refine everything.  In the interim, I’ve a few things to work on.

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