Time to give up and modify goals? Obviously it is not. But now is the point where we take a good look at where we are, where we are going and assess whether we’re on track.
So where was I initially headed? The goal was a sub10 Ironman in Copenhagen, possibly sub 9:30 and ideally as close as possible to 9 hrs. I figured that with my talents and weaknesses, my experience and the time I can realistically invest into preparation I should be able to swim a bit under 60 minutes, ride the course in 4:45 – 4:55 and bang out a 3:30 marathon. So, with 16 weeks to go, where do I stand?
As you know this is not an exact science, but I’ve set a few benchmarks for myself. For example, even though I am usually swimming near the amateur front in a 70.3 I’ve never really swum that much in my life. So my first target was to raise volume and learn to swim a lot, ideally 3 – 4 times per week, touching 10 – 12k. It is never easy to swim, because it requires so much commuting and setup time, lanes are crowded and especially for the unfit, bigger sessions can be exceedingly boring. With respect to these points, the previous months have been a massive success. I’ve had great weeks exceeding 10k and 3-4 hours pool time. My average session is >3k and with enough space in my calendar I can easily bang out a 4k+ session. Most importantly though, I really enjoy swimming. Making progress and becoming better at something creates a virtuous cycle of improvement. Things have slowed down recently because other circumstances drastically reduced the pool time available to me, but I know now that I can get to this level within 6 – 8 weeks. 100m splits have been tumbling as well. Whereas in previous years my season best 100m PR was a 1:30 with a wetsuit in a pool I have now already dropped below 1:30 without a wetsuit. I can smash a 20*100 on 1:50, a good benchmark workout for the sub60. Moving forward my focus for the second half of this block will be to repeat the swim ramp from earlier this year and make sure my speed carries over well to open water and into my wetsuit.
Riding my bike was the discipline where I started out the strongest into this season. It is also, maybe unsurprisingly, the part where I’ve made the least progress. In fact I may have taken a step back or two. Judging by race performances in previous years over half and full distance I’d estimate my target power for the race to be in the 180 – 200 W range. I’ve ridden a 4:54 once at IM Hamburg on 168NP, on a perfectly flat course in perfect conditions and (barely) legal pace lines. At a conservative race target of 0.7 IF I’d need about 4 w/kg of real life FTP. Which I believe is realistic, in fact I’ve been holding 4 w/kg FTP for months now. I am not improving anymore, but neither am I going backwards that much. Which means the focus for the second half of my preparation will be to make sure I can hold target for the duration of the bike leg and really nail down my aero position and equipment. I’ve fiddled with my position quite a bit over the winter. It felt good on the trainer but after a first ride outside I am now reassessing the situation.
In 70.3 racing my run has been my strongest weapon. Since working with my current coach I’ve progressed from the mid pack to the sharp end of the amateur athletes. I’ve clocked several sub90 run splits off a respectable ride and usually run within the top 5% of athletes overall. However, I’ve hardly had any experience or success on longer distances. For me the marathon has always been something to tick off my list, nothing I really raced. I’ve lacked the guts to take it seriously and commit. This year though, I’m taking it seriously, for better or worse. And run training has been pretty awesome so far. I’ve ramped up weekly volume and long run distance carefully but consistently. I am doing a fair amount of intensity with 1000m – 2000m intervals at the moment. A massive game changer has been to aggressively fuel my long runs. Nowadays I bring my ultra vest to every long run and stuff myself with 80 – 100g of carbs per hour. And suddenly my long runs are not about surviving anymore, but about good form, about enjoying the ride, about carrying a swift but sustainable pace. My target race pace for a 3:30 marathon is 5 min/km. Currently I am hardly if ever running any slower than 4:50, without trying. Even though the Ironman marathon is a different and entirely unpredictable beast, this gives me confidence in my plan. With so many other factors influencing run performance, chief among which are nutrition and bike pacing, training performance is hardly a reliable predictor for race day. But at least it gives me confidence that if everything else goes right I should be able to deliver on the run.
I think overall I am in good shape and well on track. The progress in the pool in the first quarter of the year was particularly great and I can be very happy with how my run is going. Compared to the swim and run my biking looks a bit weak. Or at least the progress does, the absolute level of bike fitness is pretty much where it should be right now.
Over the coming months my focus will gradually shift. My schedule will become more difficult to manage, as we have a few shorter trips planned across Europe and a bunch of social commitments that I’ll have to plan my training around. But I’ve also saved a few extra days of paid leave from last year which I can use to take the occasional day off for to go for a big training day instead.
The swim will focus on repeating the success from Jan and Feb and carry all that over to open water.
The bike will focus on adding volume and getting in some bigger rides without sacrificing my peak power.
The run will continue to progress on my current trajectory, gradually raising weekly mileage and long run distance, while maintaining speed and tempo.
Beyond the training in each discipline I’ll continue to refine my bike setup and make sure that I am comfortable on my ride for 5 hours. And even though I’ve made good progress already I’ll also keep working on my nutrition. I’ve figured out my own carb mix drink and think that 80g of carbs per hour should be sustainable, but with the lack of long workouts I haven’t really had the chance to test it out for more than 2 hours.