Making the most of your days: Top 10 overall Ironman New Zealand 2017


It’s not easy juggling work, family and training. It’s a real art, and something that all of us age-group (AG) athlete strive to find the right balance with. And I’m not even fortunate to have children thrown into the mix too! Most of the battle as an AG athlete is finding the right balance and maximizing everything we do (training, racing, nutrition) to make the most out of the hours in the days and weeks. This is just a short blog post on regarding some of my thoughts on effective preparation, planning and execution of Ironman New Zealand (IMNZ). This was a great race for me with an Ironman PB and top 10 overall finish. Obviously without giving too much away in term of tricks and tools (which will be save for our Lab Members!), we hope you enjoy this blog, and find some useful and informative tips as may be prepare for your next race.

THE PREP

Planning

I had a lot of questions after the race asking me how I could come top 10 overall and “if I’m really working full time”, well yes, in fact my wife often tell me that I pretty much work 4 jobs between Kitman, AUT University, HPSNZ contract work and Plews and Prof. In fact during the prep time I had two full weeks of travel with work when I didn’t ride my bike at all. But it’s all about the preparation and planning, once it’s planned I’m anal about making sure it’s complete. I can thank Gordy Walker for a lot of that. However, at the start of each week when I knew my training I would literally out the exact time of every training session alongside work AND social commitments so I knew exactly what was going on. I would then also write “what I had to do” on that day the morning I woke up. I got this idea from Tim Ferris and I certainly found it helpful.

We will save the “nitty gritty” details for our Plews and Prof Lab members but here are a few tit bits of the prep and execution for IMNZ.

Training

Training consisted of 20 ± 5 hr per week. This was generally 4-5 swim, 3 rides and 4 runs. However, there was a lot of quality in there especially on the bike as there was only three sessions. In Training Peaks with was 1000 ± 200 TSS.

I didn’t take any rest days during the prep, just swim only days. I swam with the Glenfield Swim Squad for most of my swim, and huge thanks needs to go to coach Dan Feisst for really picking up my swimming.

Monitoring

Unsurprisingly, I was all over the monitoring. I was tracking all my training metrics in Training Peaks, heart rate variability every morning and sleep every night. As we all know when we’re working AND trying to train for Ironman, these tools were important to make sure I wasn’t burning the candle at both ends. I also found that by keeping tabs on the HRV and sleep I could maintain a much better mood. I’m sure we all know how heavy workloads and training can affect this from time to time. My wife, Kate, told me that this time my moods were the most stable they’ve ever been before Ironman! :)

Training Nutrition

For me this is one of the absolute KEY for age-groupers. With a few nutritional hacks and the LCHF approach you can maximise each training session you have. I believe that 20 hrs. of training with targeted nutrition is like 30 hrs. with convention “high-carb” nutrition. We will be publishing our “Top 5 Nutritional Training Adaptation Maximisers” shortly in the Plews and Prof Lab.

In the day leading into the race I did change my diet to include a little more carbohydrate, and on the morning of the race I had my normal fat burning optimisation breakfast. More about this in The Plews and Prof Lab shortly too.

RACE DAY EXECUTION

To be honest, I was hoping to break the age-group Taupo course record this year. I believed I would have only needed an average day to get there. However, when I woke up on race morning it was quickly evident that such a goal was out the window. The wind was howling and Lake Taupo looked like the sea!

Into the race, and pacing, pacing, pacing was the key focus. The Prof and I have talked about this at great length on various Podcasts . This was always going to be the focus of the day.

The swim was just a matter of getting around, it was super choppy and leg at the top of course from left to right was just CRAZY! However, I was pleased you get out the water in 54 min with minimal effort

Onto the bike and I quickly settled into my IM power. The way out was SUPER fast. I had made the decision to role with a 55-tooth front chain ring before the race. And with a downhill tail win on the way out, this was one of the best decisions I’d made. I was around 5th in the AG field out of the water, but by the time I had reached the turn I was the first age-grouper in the race. At the turn, one competitor came with me (Roger Witz-Barnes for GBR) and then hit the front again on the way back home. I simply sat a lengthy distance behind and staying on power. By the time we came around the 1st lap and start to climb the hill by the Hilton again, Roger was 60 secs in front, and then by the time we go to the turn on the second lap at Raperoa he was 90 secs in front. However, thinking about pacing all the time, I knew that holding power on the return leg would be a game changer. Sure enough it was, and with my power being identical on both laps, Roger came back to me very quick and I entered transition with around a 4-5 min lead on the rest of the AG field.

Nutrition on the bike was simple. It consisted of around 55-60 g per her of carbohydrate in the form of Cliff Bar shots, Cliff Bars energy drink + a little exogenous ketone. Prof and I have studied a lot around exogenous ketones and we’re start to get a handle of how to best utilise it for Ironman. Through both our lab experiments and personal experiments, the ergogenic effects are fascinating. We have a scheduled feature on this for our lab soon.

Onto the run, this was always going to be the leg I was looking forward to the most. I knew that the numbers in training were promising for a good marathon. As such after the first km being an accidentally 3:50, I settled into my target pace (4:05-4:10), always keeping an eye on my HR (150-155) to ensure both were in check. I seemed to have timed it well, as the first 30 k was comfortable, with the last 10 k starting to tickle! I wasn’t running out of energy, this was just more muscular soreness in the quads altering my running mechanics. For the last 10 km, I was simply trying to hold pace as best I could and the HR started to drop. When you start to get de-coupling in HR and pace in this direction (pace similar, HR down), it’s sure sign that the fatigue is muscular/mechanical rather than metabolic. I wore Asics DS Racers for the marathon, and they were great. However, in hindsight perhaps something a little more cushioned may have saved the muscular soreness during the back end.

I was delighted to cross the line in 8 hr. 54 min and 04 sec. A personal best time for me and finally under the 9 hr. mark. Many people asked me “why no Kona”, but I have lots on with the new job and need to focus in on that for the time being. However, I may try and qualify for the World 70.3 Champs and compete there. The training isn’t quite as furious for 70.3. Let’s see how we go!

Thanks to everyone for the support during the race and in training. As all of us AG athletes know, when we commit to an Ironman it’s not just your commitment, but the commitment of the family. I know Kate is simple amazing in the that regard. Huge thanks to Gordy Walker for help with the training, it’s great to have you as a companion on the journey as always. Also Terenzo for letting me be his training hack from time to time :) and my best bud Corey “The Marshman” Marshall for coming out and doing silly training session with me whilst not training for anything.

THE PRO MEN

We couldn’t finish of the blog without mentioning the Pro mens race. To me, the two stand outs were 1. Cameron Brown; who, at the age of 44 ran a 2 hr 42 min marathon! This to me shows just how competitive he is. He pulled that run out of the bag because he wanted it so bad, amazing!

And the next Braden Currie, wow! Lots of people were talking about how surprising it was that he could do this for his first Ironman. However, for me, I wasn’t surprised at all. In Braden, we have a very talented athlete he who has a reputation for 1. Winning 70.3 half ironman triathlons 2. Winning the coast to coast (9 hrs. + event). From a physiological point of view, he had all the pieces needed ready to go. Most Pro’s struggle with the transition to IM distance because they’ve never raced over that distance before. However, for Braden, he’s raced over similar distances many times (coast to coast etc.), and as such, his ability to pace, give himself appropriate race nutrition and push through mentally was already there. There would also be a huge training effect in terms of eccentric loading and muscular reliance due to events like the Coast to Coast where downhill and off road running are key elements. These types of exposure would have huge positive implications for the back end of the marathon.

What impressed me the most with Braden was his bike leg, this was very impressive! I always thought if Braden won he would do so on the run, but he blew the race apart on the bike. Riding on his own all day and having the second fastest bike split. Amazing! Well done to his coach Bevan Mckinnon for getting him in such good condition there.

What’s next on the Plews and Prof race agenda? Hopefully the Prof will be doing an Ironman in Canada sometime soon, and I’ll be planning a road to get to Chattanooga World 70.3 champs in September. In the meantime, I’m still enjoying some rest.


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