So it’s Sunday afternoon on the 21st of July 2019 and I have just completed my first 4 week block of training for Ironman Malaysia. Tomorrow is 14 weeks to race day and a bonus is that it’s the start of a recovery week. For me a recovery week is also where I do a little testing so over the next seven days I have a 10km run time trail, a 1 hour bike time trial on the trainer and also a 2km time trial in the pool (which my swim group are stoked about) so the week still has a little sting in it.
So I thought I would make an attempt to share the journey but also give an insight into the processes of my training but also the planning for race day.
I must say it’s been a couple of years since my last Iron distance race (pictured below) which was Challenge Wanaka where while I was a little underdone I managed to execute a great race and not only got on the podium in the 40-49 age group I also won a national title for Men 45-49. Since that race I have been racing swim run events with my training buddie Andrew but it’s now time to revisit Ironman.
The idea has been in the back of my mind for a while mainly because I want to have a crack at qualifying for the world championships. I have had one serious attempt in 2013 and was within a whisker of getting the job done. A puncture on the bike was probably the biggest factor and I think I got my run nutrition slightly wrong but it gave me hope that on a good day I have a chance.
To be honest the last 12 months have been about rebuilding after 2018 essentially being a year from hell where I lost both my parents, Mum in January and then my dad in July. Going through that process was also the catalyst for deciding to chase a dream of trying to Qualify for the Ironman World Champs. So having put sport on hold and being the heaviest I had been in 20 years it’s been about getting back to fitness before I could even contemplate a race. So the long slog started late last year and while it was a case of knowing I was carrying a bit of extra weight there is nothing like seeing myself in a skinsuit to give me the kick in the bum I needed to focus on sorting my act out. Pictured below are pictures from the Christmas Cracker Triathlon – yep not really happy about the belly but it was good to go racing again.
So while I was getting back to fitness the concept of which Ironman to do was I guess the big question. Why in the name of all that’s holy did I pick Ironman Malaysia with its 35 degree heat and 85% plus humidity along with the fact that it would mean training through a kiwi winter? Well how hard can it be!
Well to be honest it has been on my radar for a while mainly because it is one of the few non wetsuit races and as a strong swimmer that is an advantage for me. December last year when I was I on the Ironman website looking at events I saw that Malaysia was on my wedding anniversary. My thought process was 23 years married – Nicola gets to sunbathe on the beach and I get to go do an Ironman - perfect.
About a week later we were talking about our family holiday to the bay of islands that was coming up in April (yes there was a race involved – Brecca) and I casually suggested “Honey on the topic of holidays – next year for our wedding anniversary should we go away for a romantic holiday somewhere warm – maybe Asia where we can have a resort holiday”. Her instant reply was “WHAT RACE?” I replied to her response “well funny you should mention a race”. So that was the start of the process of winning over my wife and thinking seriously about another Ironman.
Skip forward to the end of April and it was time to seriously look at it.
So my plan began to take shape and this is how my thought process worked and things have shaped up to this point.
I started by mapping out a program through to race day and plan how I was going to build towards the race. Part of that was I wanted to do it a little differently in what is essentially what we call reverse periodization. What that means is that you get fast and strong first and then bring in the endurance later on.
This essentially started at the end of April when I began to transition back into training for triathlon. I had a four week transition of easy post season training before in May beginning preseason training.
Part of that process was an understanding that I would be training all winter and that I did not really need to be out in the wind and rain so it was a case of biting the bullet and buying a smart indoor trainer for my bike and joining the world of Zwift (a virtual world where its part game part training tool). So along with the gym in my garage I now added the indoor bike set up.
Entering the race. There is nothing like paying your money to commit you to an event. So having got through my pre-season block of training I paid up my money and now the hard yards have begun.
While all this has been happening I have also begun the process of thinking about what I need for the race and also what I need to plan for. Obviously the first thing is what I am going to wear but more on that in a later post. For now let’s break it down into categories.
The biggest challenge is the heat and humidity and how am I going to cope with that aspect of the race. Yes when I get closer to the race I will be doing heat adaptation work but right now the priority is to get fit and stay injury free. I guess to a lesser extent on the day is the fact that you need to be mindful of Monkey’s on the bike course which I find kind of funny but I also realize that hitting one at speed would not be ideal.
At this stage my swimming is on track and that’s mainly due to keeping some of my swim fitness from the Breca races and now it’s a case of specific training for an Ironman. This race is a non-wetsuit swim and it looks like it will be similar to swimming in a bath for want of a better term. Normally in a wet suit race the wetsuit helps a lot of people by allowing them to sit higher and go faster by reducing drag. For some athletes who are poor swimmers this can be a 10 minute saving. As a strong swimmer I get less of a gain with a wetsuit but in a non-wetsuit swim I suddenly have a bigger advantage.. To maximize that I have tweaked my normal swim program and I am focusing on my body position in the water. If I can improve that over the next few months it means I will go faster or alternatively swim about the same speed for less effort as its just as much energy conservation as it is speed.
So I am ramping up my bike mileage and the key is getting into shape so that I can ride the time I need to be competitive but also manage the heat and keep my nutrition on track. Part of thinking about the heat is the topic of helmets. So before even thinking about this race I replaced my old TT helmet (that as it turns out had a crack in it) with a super cool aero helmet with integrated visor. The moment I entered Ironman Malaysia I realised it would not be the smartest choice for the race. The thing about a lot of aero helmets is that while super-fast there is often very little airflow and your head gets hot. Looking at the temperatures I will be racing in I was thinking of my brain ending up like a poached egg. Crap I did not really want the expense of a new helmet and wanted something a bit aero but with venting as one of the keys to this race will be heat management. Bike Barn came to the rescue and have given me a helmet for the race. Pictured below are the two helmets and while yes the new one is very green it will match my race kit as lets be fair you still need to look good. Yes the helmet is a compromise but being realistic it’s the smart choice and a big thanks to Bike Barn for the hook up.
My tt helmet (left) is going to be way too hot so love to Bike Barn for the vented but aero helmet
Having essentially been broken earlier in the year to this point has been a slow build and there are now signs that the running is coming back. It does help dropping from 78kg to 73kg as weight has a massive impact on run speed. Looking at the race objectively I guess it’s a case of preparing for a death-march marathon. I think going into the race understanding that it’s going to be a brutal and a case of survival means that it will not be a surprise.
Again I have looked at it from a gear point of view and already have my nice shiny race shoes which are light weight and will be sweet in the heat (pictured below). Objectively I am also looking at getting a cooling towel for race day that I can soak in cold water at the aid stations then drape across my shoulders to keep me as cool as possible while I am running.
Big thanks to Hoka one one for looking after me with a great deal on these bad boys.
So that’s some of my thoughts and the things that I have been sorting through. I am hopeful that Profile Design will be able to hook me up with some fast wheels as the ones I had in Wanaka were fast and helped me win that age group national title. Helps that it made the bike look cool as hell.
Just some love for Profile Design for their help in my last two Ironman races - how cool is that set up!
So Monday the 29th of July is the start of my next 4 week block of training and it’s pretty pivotal in laying a platform for the push to race day. Key focus for me is bike miles and getting that part of my training back up to speed.
This is a snippet of what a typical week looks like in the next block of training
Swim – 3km + about 1 hour alternating one week is hard 100’s and the other smooth efficient swimming.
Gym: Upper body and core – about 30 - 45minutes
Long run – This is two laps of bottle lake forest and the second lap faster than the first. It’s called a negative split run and while I have already banked a few of these it’s now a case of working on running at pace and building. Total distance is about 21km Will ramp that up in the next block of training but right now it’s all about running well and strong
Bike to and from bike barn – active recovery and easy spinning. It is still 1 hour 30 of riding as its 20km each way. This helps flush out the legs from the hard run the day before
Gym – Full body and smashing my legs to try and get them stronger
Bike Indoor trainer – 1hour either hill reps or intervals
Run – straight off the bike and a 30 minute run just building to a steady pace
Swim – This is my light load day but the swim is about 1 hour and a mixture of strength and speed while also working on my body position.
Run to pool 10minutes, swim long 4-5km, run home followed by 2 hours on the indoor trainer
Long ride 4hours+ followed by 30 -45 minute run off the bike. This long bike ride will build each week
So that’s how the program sort of looks over the next 4 weeks and then on my rest weeks I have the weekend with no training as its family time.
Oh and there is the small matter of Cyclocross National Championships in there as well, but that’s just details.
Cyclocross Nationals are in August - a case of race hard but Ironman is the focus so no dumb stuff
Alongside the training the key thing in the next few weeks are booking the travel, updating my passport, sorting a new tri-suit along with starting to get things for race day like a new chain and tires etc. I am sure there will be lots of other things to think about and I am already trying to source the sports drink they are using on the course to see if my stomach will tolerate it.
Having said all of that to be honest my key focus through all of this is to keep my wife and family happy so busy times ahead.
On a light hearted note and based on the fact that Kona qualification slots are influenced by the numbers in an age group – if you happen to know and I emphasize the word SLOW 50 -54 year old dudes who want to do an Ironman in October then get them to sign up for Ironman Malaysia – thanks in advance.