Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finally, Success in Olympic Tri!

I raced the Evergreen Lake Triathlon for the fourth consecutive year on July 16, 2011. In 7 previous attempts at the Olympic distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) or distances in the same ballpark, I've always broken down on the run, somewhere around the 2 hour mark. Endurance is a weakness in my natural athletic abilities. The most recent failure was at the Quartermax race at Innsbrook, Missouri, three weeks prior. Following that race, I decided to focus more on endurance training and less on speed and intervals.

I asked my Wild Card Cycling teammate Martin for some very specific advice. At the time, Martin had completed several successful half-iron distance races and one less than ideal Ironman race. (He since raced a very successful Ironman in August 2011 at Louisville.) He suggested bricks (multi-sport workouts) of at least 3 hours in duration, done entirely in heart rate zone 2. In the past, I had done some zone 2 endurance training in the late winter and early spring build-up periods, but typically neglected it as the race season got underway in favor of more speed. Extended zone 2 workouts train the body to burn more fat, and in theory, the benefit carries over to race intensity as well, improving endurance. In the 3 weeks before this race, I did five workouts consisting of 1.5-2 hours on the bike, followed by 1-1.5 hours of running. Zone 2 training is generally slow and easy, at least for the first two hours. Things start to get hard in the third hour, and that is where the training benefit really materializes. I felt stronger after just a few workouts, but wasn't sure what to expect on race day.

My swim was a little slower than I expected. I had been training the 1500m swim in the 27:30-28:00 range, but held back a little in the race. I also seemed to have a little trouble sighting and holding a straight line. In the prior race, I swam a 1000m PR in 16:11, but felt terrible walking to transition and paid for it later.

The conditions were ideal for the bike: calm, cool, and overcast. I had planned to limit my heart rate to 160 bpm. However, I felt strong and decided to regulate primarily on perceived exertion. I backed off a little whenever my breathing felt too labored. I hid the speed from my bike display, as in the past I would sometimes push too hard if I thought I was not going fast enough. This proved to be a great idea that I plan to use in all future tris of this distance or longer.

Bike profile

The endurance training really made a difference on the run. In past intermediate-distance races, I always began the run feeling as if I had already completed a race. This time, it felt like I was just getting warmed up. I planned to start slow and try to run negative mile splits throughout the race. I did just that for 4 miles, but probably tried to push a little too hard in the 4th mile. I slowed a little on the final 2 miles, but still finished with my best 10k run split and best overall time at the distance by about 8 minutes (more splits and full results). I definitely won't neglect endurance training again.

The conditions made for a fast day, with Urbana physician Scott Paluska taking the top spot among age-groupers with a time of 2:05:41. There were 390 racers (including pro/elite, collegiate, and relays). I was 108th in the swim (top 28%), 25th on the bike (6%), 102nd on the run (26%), and 56th overall (14%).

1 comment:

Ragfield said...

Awesome race, Scott!