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Pre-Race Jitters: Bike and Run

July 12, 2012

In some senses, it would seem like I have nothing to worry about from the bike and the run this weekend at the Racine half Ironman. I brought a strong cycling and decent running background into triathlon. The bike course in Racine is 56 almost completely flat miles; I’ve recently done centuries with a lot of mountains in California and Hawaii. The run course in Racine is 13.1 miles, also almost completely flat. I’ve done hilly marathons in San Francisco and Hawaii. And my run is a lot stronger even just over the course of this year. On Monday I finished my three mile time trial in 22:16; 1:16 faster than my last three mile time trial in April! Yes, there will be heat (maybe 90 degrees), but I’ve biked and run in heat as bad or worse in training and competition. And I don’t have any time goals hanging over my head. This is a training race, a check-in to see where I am. I’m not fully tapered. I’m just setting out to see what I can do. I’m still going to really race it. My times in this race will play a key role in setting time goals for my second half Ironman and for the full Ironman. But I’ve never done a race at this distance before, so whatever I do is necessarily a PR.

Two pre-race jitters are pacing and fueling. These cross-cut both the bike and the run. I’m guessing I’ll be aiming for around 20 mph on the bike and 9-10 minute miles on the run. But I know my run could end up much slower, especially if I go too hard on the bike. We’ve just started including longer runs in our training plan, so I don’t have many to use as a basis for my pacing. My track intervals tell me I’m a lot faster, but those don’t directly translate to long distance paces. And I haven’t done any brick workouts yet (bike then run in same workout). I want to aim for about 75% power on the bike: hard enough to get a decent time, but easy enough to leave energy for the run. Regardless of how well I pace myself, this race will give me crucial data on my pacing. I’ll be wearing my GPS watch as well, which records my location and speed as I go. So after the race I can see where I speed up / slow down, and use that to help refine my pacing strategy. For the Ironman in November, I know the real goal of the bike is to finish it without wearing myself out for the run.

As to fueling, I know how to fuel for a full day on the bike. I’ve gone 120 miles in the heat and sun of Hawaii and been tired but fine at the end of the day. But, I also know my stomach can handle more food on the bike (it’s pretty stationary, unlike on the run). In the past, I’ve had GI problems on long runs. So now I need to strike the right balance in fueling for the race. On the one hand, because my stomach can handle more food on the bike, I want to take on a little extra if possible so I have as much reservoir as possible for the run. On the other hand, I need to make sure my stomach is ready for that transition to the run. I think part of my past GI problems were cause by poor running posture (leaning over so my upper body squished my stomach), so at least my better running form now will help as well.

I also have some specific pre-race jitters related to each discipline. On the bike, probably what worries me the most is getting through the aid stations. This is a silly worry, one that I know will resolve itself, and I’ll laugh at and say I didn’t need to worry about it. There are three bike aid stations on the course. They’re setup for you to just cycle on through. As you approach the aid station, there’s a spot to toss used water bottles and other trash (you should start the race with cheap bottles on your bike!). Volunteers hold out water, sports drink, bananas, sports bars, and sports gels. You call out what you want and grab it out of their hand as you pass. Most cyclists slow down for them, although a few might not. Some cyclists will probably stop as well, but there are people behind you, so ideally you don’t want to stop. I practiced grabbing a water bottle from one of my teammates, and did just fine. So I know I can do this. But it still is a little weird to me. I also will have a water bottle between my handlebars, so once I grab a water bottle from a volunteer, I need to use it to fill up my bottle between the handlebars, and then I plan on adding an electrolyte table to that bottle (I’ll store those in a box on my bike top tube, right behind the handlebar). And all without stopping. I’ve done these steps in practice, and know I can do them, but it’s still just a little intimidating to think about putting it together in the race.

I’m also a little nervous about potential mechanical issues, although less so. Flat tires and other mechanical issues happen, but are rare, and really should not happen in a race. I’ve changed tires before, adjusted handlebars and seats, and done the basic stuff that I could need to do in a race. I might be slower than ideal, but even if I was fast, once you have mechanical problems you’re not going to have your fastest race anyways. Yesterday I did degrease and relube my chain and gears, to make sure they’re spinning really cleanly — I’ve never taken proper care of a bike like that before, so I was really proud of myself for that. I also practiced changing a tire using CO2 cartridges, which was something I had never done before. Good thing I practiced before a race. I wasted half of the first cartridge trying to figure out how to get CO2 flowing. Then I fully inflated the tire and realized it couldn’t get past the brakes fully inflated and had to be deflated. So if this was out on the course, I’d be down 2 cartridges and still need a third cartridge to finish filling the tire once it was on the bike. I think I’m going to carry three cartridges, but I don’t want to use them all at once! But here’s hoping that all my practice means I won’t actually need to change a tire during the race.

And finally, some jitters about the run. My biggest concern is my shoes and run form. As I’ve blogged about before, this year I’ve been switching to a fore-mid foot strike. I used to wear stability shoes with arch supports, thinking I absolutely needed them. On Sunday, I plan to wear my Brooks Pure Cadence with no arch supports. These shoes have more padding than my New Balance Minimus, but only have 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, so they also encourage landing on the mid-foot. I’ve done a lot of training in both my Pure Cadence and my Minimus shoes, so I know I can handle running in them. But the longest I’ve run in the Brooks is about 7 miles. So there’s still that question of what happens when I push the distance further. I’m also hoping my calves hold up okay. I should have strong calves by now, since I have been running this way long enough.

More generally, I know my running form has become a lot better this year. But it’s easier to keep good form when I’m fresh. We’ll see what my form looks like by the time I’m out on the run on Sunday. I know that when I get tired, it helps to focus on my form more than my speed. If I try to force myself to run faster when I’m tired, I just get sloppy. But if I re-focus on my form, I get more efficiency and speed. This is also the first race where I’m not wearing a fuel belt to hold water bottles and food. I decided I don’t want the pressure of the belt around my waist. And there are aid stations every mile — unlike in a marathon, where normally only one or two aid stations have food, every aid station has food here. So I know I’ll be okay without my fuel belt. But there’s still that small part of me that worries about the decision to run without it.

For all these jitters, more than anything, I’m really excited for Sunday. It’s a chance to put my training to the test. I could drive myself crazy thinking about everything that could go wrong. I’ve thought about the big stuff, I’ve trained for and planned for it. But something probably will go wrong. And I’ll deal with it. Even if nothing goes wrong, races never go exactly according to plan. So much of a really good race is just being comfortable adapting to whatever happens on race day. And I’m ready for that. And I’m ready to enjoy this. And I’m ready to measure how far along I am in getting ready for Arizona!

129 Days till Ironman Arizona!


From → races, training

One Comment
  1. Beth permalink

    Good luck at your race Jeff. You will do great. I am reading the triathletes guide to mental training and it addresses so many topics we write about. Sounds like you have done some mental prep. I am going to watch my teammates compete in vine man in northern ca this weekend. A lot of half ims going on this weekend. Look forward to your race report! Beth

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