Ironman 70.3 Miami Pre-Race
This Sunday October 22nd, I'll be closing out my 2017 season at Ironman 70.3 Miami (hopefully - looking like may be thunderstorms in the morning). This will be my last race as an age-grouper, and should be a pretty interesting one. So far in 2017, I've already accomplished what I set out to achieve, which was to earn my pro-card and win the AG ITU World Championships in Penticton, BC. Even though I've already earned this status, I still feel I have something to prove this season, and that is to put an elite time in the 70.3 distance on the board. In Wisconsin 70.3, injuries kept me from achieving a great time. I dismounted the bike 2nd overall, with a big lead on third, and started out at what I felt was a manageable pace, only to completely blow-up in an obscene amount of hip pain at the 8km mark. Looking back on things now I started way too fast in that race given the circumstances of not having run any mileage whatsoever on the hip in over 2.5 months going into the race and I paid the price big time for it. Then in Racine 70.3, despite a great bike, and a decent and much better paced run (considering I hadn't ran in now basically 4 months going into this race), the race was shortened to a bike-run due to dangerously cold water temperature and a very strong rip tide, so even though it was a good time the race was not a true 70.3. In Chattanooga 70.3 this September, I had my best race of the year and definitely best run of the year (a PB run in the 70.3 distance), however the course was so challenging and hilly that it just didn't lend itself to a fast time with over 3600ft elevation gain on the bike, and another 1200 ft gain on the run in the heat. So although a part of me wanted to close out the season after the incredible high experienced in the two-week span between ITU Worlds in Penticton, and 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga, I felt I needed to do one more race to prove to myself that given some now decent run training I can put a smoking fast time up.
Unfortunately, sometimes your body has different ideas for things than your mind, and my run training going into Miami from after Chattanooga until now (a few days out) has been a bumpy ride. Started out a few days before Chattanooga, where I was getting an left achilles problem, and this problem was just amplified by the pounding up and down nature of the course in Chattanooga. A few days later the achilles was still an issue, but after several days off running, by the next weekend I was cooking again and things were looking real good. Unfortunately, after a few completely pain free runs, my right tibia was starting to hurt near the tail-end of one of my runs, and then forced my to stop half-way through the next day's run due to the throbbing pain. Again, I took close to a week off running, and then starting up again. Things were hurting quite a bit, and I was really regretting signing up for Miami when really there was no reason to do Miami other than to boost my own confidence (ego) going into next year's professional season with a fast time. But a couple days later it still hurt but slightly less. The next day still hurt but slightly less, and each passing day the tibia got a little bit better and better. Don't get me wrong it wasn't perfect but by the end of that week I was thinking I could definitely run a half-marathon on it, maybe not super-super quick because these runs were all just easy-ish runs (I'll explain the ish part in a bit), but I could run maybe say 4min/km pace without too too much issue. Still not even close to what I'm capable of, as I can see myself in the future running 1:12-13 off the bike, but for now it would be okay.
It would be okay since in the 6 weeks leading into Miami my biking had gone to a completely different level. I am now consistently pushing 20 W higher in every single bike session, on high-end threshold sessions pushing numbers I have never seen before on my garmin screen, and then in steady race-pace sessions pushing close to 30 W higher than normal. My weight has stayed exactly the same since Chattanooga, it comes down to the fact I've really just tried to push myself to another level of hurt on the bike. I've set new power peaks all the way from 2 hour power (I pushed 4.91W/kg for 2 hours a couple weeks ago), all the way down to new 20, 10, 8, 5, 3, 2, and 1 minute and even 5 second new power peaks. In addition to the bike, my swimming is also improving very well with not only a new focus on building strength in the pool, but also putting a real emphasis on my dryland strength training - adding a ton of band (stretchcordz) work, and then my new weekly chin-up challenge that I been doing for 3 weeks now (been putting up some real big numbers on a daily basis). Considering where both the swim and bike are it takes a little bit of pressure off how fast I need to set out of transition #2 to hit the time I'm going for. However, as things on the run were slowly getting better day by day, I went on a run the next week and that was by far the most painful run I've been on since Wisconsin. Not only was the right tibia in some pain, now the left was hurting worse than the right. It was one of those look up and say, "You're f#$#in kidding me, really seriously?"
So again was starting to think oh boy, running period off that bike will be a challenge, forget thinking about what pace I'll be able to run, can I manage to just put one foot in front of the other. But then after a couple days off, the strangest thing in the world happened. I said to myself, okay I just want to see if I'm able to run off just a easy-ish bike, and depending how that goes I'll make a more definitive decision on what I want to do going forwards. I started off with my bike, then got off put my shoes and ran outside. Started off not looking at my watch at all and surprisingly felt half-decent. The watch beeped at 1km: 3:34, what the heck was that I thought to myself. Number 2km: 3:34, 3km: 3:35, 4km: 3:32, 5km: 3:35 I just kept going as the whole time I'm thinking what on earth is going on right now, how I'm I running like this right now. Tried to slow down ever so slightly, and ended up running a 36 minute 10km off the hot bike, and wearing a few layers. The easy-ish or hard-ish I referred to earlier is that for the majority of all my bikes and runs I've been wearing 3-4 layers of sweaters, down-jackets, multiple winter hats and gloves, shorts, with sweat pants over top, etc., to try my best to simulate the extreme heat in Miami. Also I've completely stopped using a fan on the indoor trainer which means with the lack of air movement around you on the stationary bike it creates a little oven around you and you sweat litres and litres of fluid. So yes with all that I've changed into now "that crazy guy in the neighbourhood" wearing a parka, sweat pants and two winter hats as I'm running along, when a couple weeks ago the temperature was still in the 30s with the humidex. Anyways, I have no clue what got into me on that run, it really came as a total surprise given the absurd amount of pain I was in days before, and also the fact that even before that day none of my runs were anywhere even close to the speed. Most were in the 4:13-4:20/km range not 3:3x/km.
With that run under my belt I'm not going to take a single stride until race day, and just hope to God that whatever happened last Saturday happens again this Sunday. There's no point running anymore, I'm not going to gain any fitness given that the race is so soon now, and now I have that run fresh in my head to refer to at any point doubt starts creeping into my head on the bike approaching T2.
Like I said then starting this post it's going to be an interesting one. Not only from the way running has gone in the last 6 weeks, but also the course and the way the race is setup should make for some interesting dynamics. First and foremost the heat will be a factor. It will likely be in the low 40s on Sunday with the humidex. The last 2 times racing in that kind of heat/humidity in Wisconsin, and Miami last year it didn't go well. But this build with the amount of heat training I've done, I prepared the best I could for those conditions given where I live in Thornhill where the last few days it has been in the single digits. In both previous hot races, I didn't prepare nearly as well. So mentally, I'm already at an advantage compared to the past. The swim should also be a little interesting. Apparently the course is very inconsistent. Some years the waters in Biscayne Bay are nice and flat, other years you get a lot of chop. Some years, like in 2015 you get a huge influx in the jellyfish population. That year the swim was actually optional, and going into T1 for those that did swim they were handing out cups of vinegar for people to use to treat jellyfish stings. Let's not hope that happens, as I'm already a little nervous about it being my first ever ocean swim. I'll just keep repeating over and over to myself in the coming days, everyone will be doing the same thing, if you ever want to do Kona you'll need to do an ocean swim at some point so suck it up. It is almost certain that it will also be a non-wetsuit swim since the water temperature is currently around 84, which will be another first. Again, I'd rather be in a wetsuit, but this also means I can unleash the super cool Zone3 Swim Skin. It is red and gold, my Zone3 Vapour goggles are gold with a little red, going to be so cool looking (something very important to overall performance). Out onto the flat bike course it will be a repeat of Chattanooga but a little worse this time as my wave is the very last wave to go (literally the 25-29 is so big they split it into A-M, and N-Z, so I'm the very last) and this race will have a bigger field - it is the biggest 70.3 on the Ironman circuit. So my vocal cords are ready to shout on your left for 2 hours and change. Then onto the run, based on the course map looks like your going over a bridge 4 times so there will be some elevation gain, but I can't see it being too much of an issue. The only issue from a course perspective on the run could be the heat, which will be even worse for my age-group considering we will be running about 1.5 hours after the pros so the temperature will be even hotter. Because of the nature of having to swim through the field, bike through 3700 people, and then run in a hotter time of day, while I'm going for a fast time I'm not going to try to compare my time to the top pros. For this last time, the two races will not be comparable. Really my race will just be against the clock.
In terms of my gameplan, I can't really predict a time for the swim because the conditions are so variable, but my plan is just to quickly distance myself from my AG, and pass as many people as possible while I'm still in the water. It will likely be a very high-effort swim but I'm ready for it. On the bike, I have an aggressive power planned of around 88% FTP which I've never set out to push before in a 70.3. It is even more aggressive considering during this build I increased by FTP by close to 3%, and with my old FTP I would hope for 85%, so now 88% percent of the higher number is an even bigger jump. Also, I'm hoping that even though I'll be passing people start to finish that I can keep the big power surges to pass people to a minimum. But even for that I've done a few rides in these last weeks where I've ridden at race watts and surged every 2-3 minutes to simulate making some tougher passes, so regardless I'm ready for it. I'll also make sure to drink as much fluid as I can on the bike to start the run without being too dehydrated. I'm anticipating, based on previous races of having to bike through the field, that grabbing stuff at aid stations during the bike will be difficult with all the congestion, so I'll be smart this time and just bring three bottles with me on the bike (instead on normally bringing 2 for 70.3). Unfortunately, my three bottles only add up to around 2L, which still won't be nearly enough to keep me hydrated given I've measured my sweat rate around 2.7L/hr on these hot rides the last few weeks so I'll hopefully be able to grab something. On the run just pretty much feel it out and if at around 10km the tibias are feeling okay still, just going to go for broke and hammer, empty the tank completely with this being the final race of the year.
So that's the gameplan and a little bit about my training leading into the race. To follow along on race day you can head over to: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman-70.3/miami/results.aspx#axzz4vs51STdY
Also I'll try to give couple last minute updates over on my Twitter (@FrankSorbara) and on Instagram (@frank.sorbara92).