Apr 21, 2016

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Florida

I was very excited to complete the first race of the season (April 10th – Haines City, Florida). I registered for this race after Lisa and I decided we would go south again to spend some time with my parents and other family members in Dunedin, FL, which is about 90 minutes west of Haines City. After I registered, I learn two things that would definitely make this race more memorable. I first learned that a large contingent of my family (pictured below) would attend and be my support crew. And I later learned that Andreas Burger and Sarah Penny (close friends of ours) would also be competing.

After starting to work with Coach Jesse Van Nieuwenhuyse in November 2015, we agreed to gear 2016 around Ironman 70.3 Florida, and most importantly Challenge St Andrew on April 10th. Overall, I’m pleased with how my training has gone. There are a lot of similarities to how I trained in 2015, but there are a few distinct differences I’d like to mention: 
  •  Swim: A lot more work with paddles; a lot more time spent doing kick drills
  • Bike: More of a gradual build, which I believe allowed me to peak for this race; 1-2 workouts per week focused on low cadence/high power; 1-2 workouts per week focused on high cadence/low power; a 25% increase in time spend on the bike.
  • Run: Less runs per week, but my weekly distance total was 25-30% more than last year. Instead of doing 5 runs (for example: 6k, 8k, 8k, 12k, 17k), Jesse might have me do 4 runs (for example: 15k, 15k, 17k, 18k). I believe the rationale here is that you allow more time for recovery because you’re only running 4 days per week.

 Swim: 31:50 (1900m)

The swim at Haines City is a one loop, M shaped course, which I originally thought was going to be difficult to navigate, but to my surprise it wasn’t that bad. I also thought the way they structured the waves would add to the level of congestion in the water, but it was actually quite manageable. Instead of putting the faster age groups off first, they did just the opposite, which meant at some point during the swim or bike, I would likely pass the vast majority of the 1800+ participants. I was hoping for a time clos to 30 minutes (1:34/100m), but despite the fact that I was almost 2 minutes shy of this mark, I was generally satisfied with the result. From my experience, swim times can vary a great deal due to variety of factors. In my opinion, the swim was a bit longer than 1900m, and the timing mat to enter T1 was about 100m after we exited the water – both of which would affect swim times.  Also, in the past I have gone too hard at the end of the swim and found myself unnecessarily disoriented in T1. This time, I believe my effort remained very much the same throughout.

TI: 2:48

I was pleased with my efficiency in T1. I had a poor T1 at the first race of 2015 because I think I took it for granted. As a result, in preparation for Florida I rehearsed my plan several times in an effort to get in and out as quick as possible.

Bike: 2:22:52 (90k)

The bike course was a relatively flat single loop. Even more so on the bike, times can vary significantly due to wind, the terrain, temperature, etc. As a result, I didn’t spend too much time thinking about what my goal time would be. I knew that 2:37:XX was my best half iron bike split to date, so I figured something around 2:30:XX would be a realistic goal. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I train with a power meter, and the goal for this race was to obtain a normalized power (NP) of 250-260 watts.  I began the bike with a very high heart rate, so my main priority for the first 10k or so was to settle into a good pace and gradually allow my heart rate to fall to below 150 – which I know is realistic at this distance. By the half way point, my NP was at 250 and my time was 1:09:XX. I was very happy with this time because my power numbers were on the low end of my goal, and I still felt very much in control. With such a fast first half, I thought for sure that something would go wrong in the second half. The wind did pick up a bit, and there was a bit more climbing in the second half, but my average speed only dipped slightly. I reached the 70k mark on target to go well under 2:25:XX, so I made the decision to back off a bit and save as much as possible for the run. My NP ended up at 245, and I racked my bike in T2 feeling fresh and still in control.

T2: 1:50

T2 went very smoothly, accept for the feeling that came over me. When I racked my bike I felt great, but when I started to run it was like someone flicked a switch. I started to feel a significant amount of pain in my back and I suddenly felt very sluggish. I hoped at the time that both would pass and not adversely affect my run too much.

Run: 1:32:43 (21.1k)

While training for Florida, I figured on a relatively flat course and on a good day that wasn’t too hot, I could run something between 1:26:00 and 1:27:00. However, once I saw the forecast (25 degrees and sun) I figured the heat would add on a minute or two to my time. Once I started to run, I knew I had to readjust my goals quickly to try to avoid disaster. I did some quick calculations in my head, and figured that sustaining 4:20/km would be more realistic (my original goal was 4:05/km). As you’ll see from the breakdown of my laps (below), I was having a hard time maintaining a 4:20 pace – partly because of the surprising amount of climbing on this three loop run course. Uncharacteristically for me, I didn’t do very much research on the run course. According to my Garmin file, there was 180m of climbing, which by comparison (for those from Cape Breton) is 20% more climbing than the Long John Jaunt Half Marathon course. I don’t think I would have trained any different had I realized this ahead of time, but I likely would have altered my goal time. By the end of the second loop I was just about spent. No doubt caused partially by the heat, I still felt sluggish and the hills were starting to their toll my quads. One thing I really liked about this run course is that there were three loops, which meant I would be able to see my large support crew at the start of each loop! I am quite confident that my third loop would have been significantly slower if not for the adrenaline I got from seeing them at the start of the last loop. In past 70.3 events, I’ve had an average heart rate between 153 and 155, and this time around it was 156. As a result, although I was a bit disappointed with my run time, I was pleased with my effort. Lastly, I was very impressed (but not surprised) to learn after the race that Andreas ran a 1:27:05. For those that don’t know, Andreas and I are very closely matched in a standalone running race, but when it comes to running off the bike, he has always been quicker.  
A breakdown of my run by km

Total Time: 4:32:03
For official race results, click here 

The finished from Cape Breton (l-r):
 Sarah, Andreas, and I
Just a few final thoughts… 
  • I had heard great things with respect to the venue, and was even more impressed afterwards. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Lake Eva Community Park was built specifically for triathlon. It was also one of the most well organized running/triathlon events that I’ve ever attended.
  • My main goals when I started with Jesse in November were to get stronger on the bike, and also be able to run faster off the bike. I feel as if I achieved the first goal, but despite the heat and hilly course, I still think there is room for improvement with my run off the bike.
  • 15-20 years from now I likely won’t remember what my time/placing was at Ironman 70.3 Florida 2016. However, what I will remember is the eight family members who got up at 430am and cheered their hearts out for me all day long on a scorching hot day. As a result, this experience has helped me to appreciate family that much more J
My incredible support crew (l-r): Annabel (cousin), Kevin (uncle),
Glenn (brother), Mom, Dad, myself, Lisa, Tony (uncle), Louise (aunt).