Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lessons from an Ironman Dropout

Well, this is it. Ironman is a little over two weeks away. There's nothing much else to do. Just one more week of big miles then it's time to taper and hope that what little training was done is going to be enough.

Now is also the time to reflect on what happened last year. Review what went right, what went wrong, look at the glaring mistakes and learn from them.

For starters, nothing much went right. The swim was decent (in that I made the cutoff time) but everything went balls up after that. So now we move on to what went wrong, what mistakes were made. And how this year will be and should be different.

1. Respect the distance. Respect the Ironman.
I guess I took things a little too lightly last year. I was still partying the week of the race which probably contributed to the severe cramping I had on the bike. Also, I didn't have enough mileage under my belt. My longest ride prior to Ironman was a 120k done during Interstate 2006 which I suffered massively.

This year, things are a bit different. I've stopped smoking, will refrain from partying and I've got more miles in. I've done over-distance rides, I've done long 6-7 hour rides, I've done a marathon and regular 20k runs. The only thing that's still slacking is the swim.

2. Never try anything new on race day.
A rule that's even more important in a big event like Ironman. I went to Ironman last year on a new bike. I only had roughly 100km on it, the longest being 50k. Position wasn't dialed in. Result: I couldn't get comfortable on the bike.
Another "new" thing I tried was having ribena during T1. Never done that before but thought it was a good idea to rinse the saltwater off my mouth. Bad Idea. Ended up puking it all out at about the 10km mark on the bike.

This year, I'm going in with everything old. I'm using my old beat up tri-suit, my old cycling shoes which are getting tight, even old socks for the run. The only thing new are my running shoes but I've put in more than 100km in them already so they should be ok. Nutrition-wise, everything has been tried and tested on long rides before this. I'll be using Clif Bars and vanilla flavoured powergels. No Ribena, nothing funny. I'll keep one of those vanilla cream buns in my special needs bag, just in case.

3. The race is long and it's only with yourself.
I have to admit, the ego got to me at the beginning of the bike leg last year. "Go faster," it said. "Look, there's one of your mates pushing the bike up the hill. Attack!" it taunted. And so I did. I went into an Ironman race with an Olympic distance mentality. Wrong wrong wrong. I spent too much time calculating what my average speed should be in order to finish within cutoff then spent too much effort trying to go over that average speed. My race was over in the first 10k. How I managed the next 120 after that, I don't even know.

This year, I'm going to take it easier. The trick to surviving the Ironman bike leg is to go slow. I will find a pace I feel I can sustain, then go even slower that that. Then (if I make it to the run this year) I will tell myself to run to each water station. I'm only racing myself, forget what the others are doing. That is the strategy for this year, hopefully it will see me through the race.

4. Pay attention to nutrition
I didn't have a nutrition plan last year. Thought I'd just eat when I felt like it. Felt too bloated after the swim to take a powerbar. Then drank something I shouldn't have. Told myself, "It's ok, I'll eat later." But then later, with all the frustrations going through the head, I forget to eat.

This year, I have a plan. Half a bar at T1 (bloated or not, just down it), gels every 20k, half a bar every 60k on the bike. Then gels every 10k on the run. Special Needs bag will have a High Five Vanilla Bun each or a peanut butter jelly sandwich, just in case. Of course, I will be flexible enough to alter this plan if the need arises, but I will try to stick to it as much as I can.

5. Think positive
Ironman is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Last year, when things started to go wrong, when I couldn't get comfortable on the bike, I got frustrated. And instead of moving on, I let the frustrations dwell inside my head. Not good. I kept telling myself I want to quit, i want to quit. You say that enough, your body listens, and it will shut down.

This year, I need to learn to control my emotions. I need to let go of the whatever frustrations that come my way and just move on. It's not going to be easy, but i have to boost my mental strength. When things go wrong, I'll just have to shrug it off and move on. I can't let it ruin the whole race. I need to think positive.

These were just some of the lessons I learned from last year. I know I made more mistakes but these are the ones that stood out the most. I'm sure I'll make more this year but let's hope they don't give me another DNF.

Now I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. See you guys in Langkawi!


Al-Ishsal said...

thx for this dude, those were lessons well learnt. more importantly, thx for sharing with us first timers. rookie question, whats a special needs bag pls?

tryathlete said...

ishsal, you'll be given two plastic bags in your race kit. these are your special needs bag, you can put basically any food you want in there. there will be a special needs station out on the bike and run course, so when you need it just yell out your race number when you approach it and the volunteers will retrieve your bag. i've heard some ppl put in mcdonald's burgers in there...

while it's meant for food, i think you can also put things like spare socks, sunblock, etc in there as well

Adrian said...

good luck mate - i'm sure last years disappointment will help you this year. no doubt I will be watching your progress eagerly all day online!

Al-Ishsal said...

grt man, thx for the info, i didnt know this prior! very cool indeed. i'll stop thinking of snm, instead, focus my attention on snb from now on.

Abu Soffian said...

Wat da Lovely experience...Apa pun wa tabik sama lu

Saiful Kodi said...

Target This Year? Janji Habis...
hehe Good Luck!!

Dancing Ciken said...

debate's report on broga pls

Wandernut said...

Good luck guys!
From the sound of it, you guys will be having a great time... and God willing, a great finish :D

Belacak said...

Thanks bro for such good advise. It is good to identify what was wrong but did did we ever learn it?

tryathlete said...

belacak: let's hope the lessons were learned...