I had what was maybe a breakthrough workout last night. It’s far too early to say whether it was. But if I can repeat that effort, keep capturing that desire, continue saying fuck the world this is my time, then it will be. I sat outside on the trainer on a stale 70 degree day with no breeze to speak of, stifling humidity, and I just rocked out an hour and 40 minute workout that the past two weeks had just kicked me ass and I hadn’t come close to finishing. But yesterday… I turned on The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten… and then the 59 Sound… and then Sink or Swim… and just holy shit. I sweat all over my patio. I had sweat pouring out of my shoes (there are draining holes in my tri shoes that are for this purpose; the sweat left a straight line underneath each pedal stroke). It’s still no secret that my running has advanced far faster than swimming or cycling, but despite my crappy cycling training, I haven’t lost anything. If I can carry over last night… I’ll be even faster in all 3. There’s so much more room to advance in cycling.
Maggie asked a couple of weeks ago what it takes to do an Ironman, especially when the goal is not to simply finish. Initially I pointed her to this rather arrogant conversation I had with my dad after my first IM. Like I said, it’s arrogant. But Maggie’s question, if I recall it correctly, was “How do you know that you’ve trained enough? How much training is enough?” And the funny thing is that for your first IM, I don’t think there’s any way to know whether the training or coaching is enough (that is, unless you’ve spent a lot of time training for other events and can tell when you’ve trained enough for anything)… I think eventually you just need to have faith, especially for an endurance event like an IM, that what you’ve put in is enough. And that doesn’t mean blind faith; to some extent you (and if you’re coached, your coach) will know whether you’ve trained enough. At that point, it’s all about managing your own expectations.
At IMAZ, there was one guy at a pre-race coaching talk who asked the coach whether he could finish; he had run the JFK 50 miler, but he had only recently started biking and swimming. My dad commented after the race that some swimmers turned over at the start and did backstroke (though, given my experience at IMCDA I can’t totally fault them, but to my dad, it was amazing given that they knew well in advance the race started with a 2.4 mile swim with a 2h20 cutoff.
This is not to say I’ve not overestimated my own abilities. At the Jax Beach Marathon (a race that I blew up in so spectacularly that I never wrote a race report), I went out with the BQ group despite the fact (given my training and my vDot) that I was fairly certain that I couldn’t maintain that pace for 26.2. In the end, that was true. I hung on for 20 miles and then blew up. The last 6.2 miles were mostly walking. The same thing happened in the JPM Corporate Challenge two or three weeks ago as I tried to keep up with my coworker with whom I have a friendly competition with. In both cases, I was actually ok with what was going on: I knew that my goal was probably out of reach, but it was either go big or go home.
In IM though, the problem is compounded by the fact that the run starts at ~6 hours of work into the day. Yes, you can probably run 4 miles off the bike pretty quickly, even after 112 miles. But the cumulative effects catch up to you over the day, and going out too fast early on (or getting the #pOOPs) will make your day far longer than it should otherwise be. Come race day, you and your coach will know pretty closely as to how quickly you can swim, bike, and run the whole thing.
An old friend, Olwen, told me before IMAZ that racing is just icing on the cake. At the time, I thought that was bullshit. After all, the race was something with which I could say “fuck you” to all the people who (at that point probably) rightly believed that it was something I wouldn’t follow through on. But now, I realize that race day is typically just an afterthought to the training? You put your training in, and the outcome of the race is, well, not certain, but the best possible outcome is pretty much known (NB: this is not always. See my 5K from last week). But you can’t expect an enormous PR on race day if your training doesn’t suggest it.