Lessons from the 2006 California Half Ironman

author : Manny
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Training tips and lessons to keeping your head in the game.

Relative to my previous years of racing, the only thing to say about my shape is either that I’m out of it, or that my shape is round. I changed my goals for the 2006 California Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) from a race I would do early in the season to a training event that would push my limits. The months leading up to the race were filled with very limited training sessions. When my schedule was generous it would allow me to log in 8 hours a week, but most weeks were much less. My swimming was sporadic at best, but I tried to maintain strong bike sessions and frequent (though short) runs.

I do triathlon because it is hard. My business partners in the gym, my family, and my non-spandex clad friends think I’m crazy. It is the challenge that motivates me. Because it hurts is why I race. Is it fun? Since the question isn’t being posed during the race, I can confidently say yes. The challenge, the experience, the training, and the ability to overcome make triathlon fun.

So what applicable lessons did I learn on that painful Saturday?

  1. Mental preparation is imperative. I raced Cali Half with my mind much more than with my body, because the latter wanted to quit before I had even started. Invest your time working with the negotiator in your head, because at mile X, mile Y, and mile Z, the body’s negotiator is working overtime, getting triple pay and a cash bonus. I used every difficult situation during training to prepare my head. It’s race day, and you feel like this. Are you going to quit? Which factors can you control and change? Realize that race day will have its ups and downs, be confident and think positive.
     
  2. Know the course and how to race it. Spend time looking at the course maps, talk to experienced athletes or coaches about the course. The longer the race the more important this becomes-especially on the bike course. When possible, drive the course and ride the hard/hilly/technical sections. Ask questions about the wind conditions and the location of aid stations. For weeks before the race I would go over the nuances of the course. I was riding those hills in my head while reviewing expense reports.
     
  3. Build a run with good form. Look to run as much as you can without getting hurt and without compromising the quality of your other training sessions. Practice a smooth efficient running form and use this know-how on race day when things get tough: so your back hurts, your hamstring is cramping, and you can’t feel your feet. By the way, here comes that hill again. At this point you are in control of your cadence and your running form. Take yourself back to the training sessions where you kept good form, and now duplicate those efforts.
     
  4. Create solid bike fitness. A strong bike will set you up for a less painful run. I believe any opportunity to ride creates an opportunity to increase your fitness. Riding the bike can be a very fun, even social event that leads to a huge aerobic engine and a great chance to regulate your body composition. By riding frequently, riding fast, and riding far, your mental outlook changes. What was once far suddenly becomes just another ride. I set myself up for a decent day by having good bike fitness, being mentally ready for the day, and by having ridden the course two other times.
     
  5. Get a bike fit. I guarantee that no one showed up to race Cali Half with a size 9 foot and size 8 shoes. Obviously they are a bad fit, will make you uncomfortable, and will not allow you to optimize your run. I will also confidently bet that the majority of people were not properly fit on their bike. Funny that the small shoe principle still applies. I made last minute adjustments to my aero bars and paid the price by mile 40. My back was on fire with pain, I was unable to stay aero, and found myself shifting around in my seat. A good bike fit by an experienced professional will allow you to comfortably generate optimal power. Get a fit, train, make adjustments, and train again.
     
  6. Focus on swim technique. Several times during the swim course, I lost focus and my technique followed the wayward path. Due to poor sighting, I lost my bearings and made multiple zig-zags along the course. Twice I was punched in the face and got my goggles ripped off my face. Maintain the smooth technique that you have been practicing. Expect to be banged around, especially at the swim start, around buoys, and the swim exit.
     
  7. Have a nutrition plan. A saving grace for me on race day was a solid nutrition plan. Outside deviating from my normal dinner the night before (I had Mexican which made me feel bloated, uncomfortable, and quite gassy), I played out my race day plan and had no stomach distress, and no lack of energy. For reference, I am 5’3”, weigh 138, and current body fat 11%.
     
     

    Time

    Content

    Calories

    Notes

    3:45 am

    Vanilla Ensure

    250

    Eat, back to bed.

    4:20 am

    Bagel, PB, Jelly

    275

    Also 4oz espresso

    5:00 am

    10 oz Black Coffee

    --

     

    6:00 am

    Cliff Bar

    250

    20 oz water

    On bike

    Choc. Spiz

    600

    Thick, but drinkable

    On bike

    Water (3.5 bottles)

    ---

    Water only 1st 25 min.

    On bike

    Gatorade

    100

    2 gulps at aid station

    Run mile 1-5

    c. Gatorade, c. H2O

    50

     

    Run mile 6-8

    H2O, G’Ade, H2O

    50

     

    Run mile 9-12

    H2O, Cola, H2O

    80

     

    Weather during the ride was cool/cold and overcast. The run was sunny and cool. I felt good throughout the ride, and a bit hungry during the run. I had a proper amount of calories and never felt like I was lacking fuel.

 

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date: April 2, 2006

Manny

My goal is client success and education. Having shed 50 pounds and 20% body fat, I understand the potential physical and mental challenges. I been competing in triathlon for several years and have successfully completed every distance, from sprint to Ironman, and continue to race in pursuit of faster times. I am a graduate of the University of La Verne (BS Athletic Training) and of Chico State University (MA with honors, Sports Medicine).

avatarManny

My goal is client success and education. Having shed 50 pounds and 20% body fat, I understand the potential physical and mental challenges. I been competing in triathlon for several years and have successfully completed every distance, from sprint to Ironman, and continue to race in pursuit of faster times. I am a graduate of the University of La Verne (BS Athletic Training) and of Chico State University (MA with honors, Sports Medicine).

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