Step 2: Forget HR monitor at condo on a hot and humid day, when having HR as a 2nd metric would have probably been very helpful. Katie got the HR monitor for me out on the run course, but it was probably too late at that point.
Step 3: Wear a sleeved black suit on a hot and humid day, when there should have been a 'Plan B' if the weather was not ideal. Not change into running gear at T2.
Step 4: Get injured during training and miss three weeks of running. Pool running and the elliptical machine simply don't replace real running.
These are things that I'm thinking in hindsight that led to my second failure to KQ. In 2013 I was oh so close to qualifying, and I felt that this time I would be better off, knowing the course, and having learned from the past. However, it was not to be.
IMMT 2015 was my fourth time racing at Tremblant, and I felt this was a big advantage. I knew the course, the transition zone, the area, and felt it would play in my favor. I was feeling as good in the water as I did a few years ago, and my bike felt even stronger than in the past. I had a bit of a running setback in early June with an Achilles injury that forced me to take off three weeks of running, but after that I had eight solid weeks with good running. I also made the point of nailing down a specific nutrition plan and felt like it was my time and my race.
The day began with the a unappetizing breakfast of 3.5 cups of unsweetened applesauce, a scoop of whey protein and 1/4 cup of raisins all mixed together. This was my second time with this breakfast, and by the 5th or 6th spoonful it's fighting a gag reflex to down it all. By the time I was done I was hoping finishing the breakfast was the hardest thing I'd do that day.
In my three previous Tremblant races we've stayed in the village, and had a very short walk to the transition area. This year Katie's folks were coming and they got us a timeshare condo just out past where the run course heads onto the bike path. We saved a good chunk of money, but looking back, I think this was detrimental to my race. Each time we went into the village (packet pickup, bike drop off, day of race drop off) I had to walk a good deal farther than was ideal. All of this extra walking in the hot conditions probably wasn't helpful. If I race IMMT again I'll definitely stay in the village.
Katie and I left the condo at 4:50 and she dropped me off right around 5:00. I got into transition, dropped off my special needs bags (wouldn't end up using either one), then loaded the bike with nutrition and my bike computer. The Powertap still wasn't calibrating, but it was giving me power numbers. I was a little concerned, but couldn't do anything about it.
The walk to the swim is quite long - around 1/2 a mile, and I chatted with a teammate on the way over. The porta-pottie line was very long, and I only had around 15 minutes after getting out to pull the wetsuit up, toss my morning clothes bag into the back of a dump truck, and get down to the start. I had a few minutes in the water to take a few strokes, then headed to the start.
Other than a few points of contact, the swim was pretty uneventful. I found a few folks who were swimming at a similar pace to draft off at points. My open water swims had been going pretty good of late - 1:22-1:25 avg pace, so I was hoping to be in the 1:03-1:04 range, but I only came out of the water a few seconds quicker than two years ago in 1:06:28. I know it wasn't a big deal and quickly had the wetsuit off curtesy of the strippers, then headed to T1.
Anyway, back to the first portion of the course. IMMT is a pretty hilly course, but there are only a few real steep sections. Nearly all of the course can be ridden in the aero bars, and I tried to stay as aero as possible throughout the day. BBS had predicted a time of 4:53 on 244 watts. As I didn't have my HR monitor, I decided to be a bit more conservative, and targeted around 10 watts lower for the first loop. Once I got out to route 117 there was a steady climb for a few miles before a steep descent. After the descent it was essentially a pretty flat out and back to the base of the hill that we just went down. Again, I let folks go on the hill, knowing they'd come back to me.
Eventually, I made my way back past the transition zone and realized that I was going to have a pretty fast first loop. Going up the steeper stuff I was glad I'd opted for the 11-28 cassette and was able to keep power at or just above FTP on even the steepest grades. After the turn around I ended up finishing the first loop right around 2:24. I was pretty shocked with the time as my average power at that point was around 232 watts. I was feeling pretty good and taking in hydration and nutrition. I realized that a bike time of around 4:50 wasn't out of the question.
The second loop got quite a bit warmer, and I made a point of taking a bottle of water at each aid station, spraying most over my body, then taking a few squirts before tossing it. My power was slightly lower on loop two, but I knew it was getting hotter, I didn't have my HR monitor, and I didn't want to overcook things. I still felt like I was being smart and riding well within my means. As I neared the end of the second loop I was still feeling good and knew I was near the front of the AG. My A goal had been coming off the bike right around six hours, and it turned out to be 6:02 when I entered T2, riding a 4:51:01 bike split on 228 AP, 235 NP. I was 3rd in my AG.
My legs felt just ok as I ran to the transition tent. There was only one other person in the tent with me, and I was out and on my way in just under two minutes. Immediately, I knew that my run legs weren't happy. In my race two years ago I felt great off the bike and averaged around a 7:35 pace for the first six miles, but made the mistake of taking in no nutrition. This time I was targeting a 8:00 - 8:10 pace for the first six miles and taking in nutrition. I wasn't feeling great, and had to stop to massage my left hamstring right after the first mile. My pace for the first five to six miles was where I wanted, but it didn't feel like a jog. I knew I was still in a good position relative to the AG and began to think that if I could average 8:00-8:10 I may be ok. However, having this mindset so early on in the race and 'hoping' to simply maintain what should feel like a real easy pace was not a good thing.
I began thinking about my uncalibrated power meter and wondered if I had actually put out a higher wattage. I was making a real point of staying on top of nutrition and hydration, but it didn't seem to make me feel any better. The run plan was to have a Cliff Block every two miles and a gel every 45-50 minutes with a Saltstick, as well as 4-5 oz of Gatorade at each aid station. It was around mile seven to eight that I began being passed by folks in my AG. It was demoralizing to see them running off at a pace that should have been easy for me to hold. Maybe it was the heat getting to me, simply not having the running miles that I needed due to my injury in June, over biking, but I was feeling like complete garbage and just not mentally there. I made it back to the village for the end of the first loop in 1:48. Again, I told myself that if I doubled that I'd run around what I ran two years ago, which was still a crappy run time of 3:35.
However, things continued to go downhill and my pace crept up towards 9:00 miles. I tried to think of all my long runs, where I felt great and where 7:30 pace felt like a walk in the park, but it did no good. The second loop was the typical death march where I simply went from aid station to aid station, walking the aid stations. The one positive thing out on the run course was my family. On the second loop I saw Jackson and he had a huge grin and was waving at me - it picked me up for a bit and Katie said I ran off much faster than on my approach. Moments later I simply wanted the race to be over and get back to the finish area.
The last 4-5 miles were run around a 9:30 pace. I crossed the finish line dejected, but glad to be done, finishing with a run spilt of 3:50. My total time was 9:54, good for 13th in the AG, 69th OA, and actually a two minute improvement on two years ago, but still not remotely close to what I expected. Had I been able to hold an 8:00 pace I would have finished 2nd in the AG. In the finish area I sat down and tried to have some chocolate milk. This was not the best idea, as soon I was feeling nauseous, and soon had medical staff around me. I ended up throwing up, and was taken into the medical area. I was weighed and blood was taken to check sodium levels, but everything was fine. I was worried that Katie wouldn't know where I was, and had one of the medical staff text her. Eventually, Katie figured out where I was, but couldn't come in. After around 1 1/2 hrs I was released and hobbled out to see her. We gathered my stuff, got my bike, then walked out to a location where I could wait. She rode her bike back to the condo, and around 45 minutes later was back with the car to get me and my gear.
As I mentioned at the start, there are many things that I did that contributed to my failure to attain my goal of a KQ. The power meter will be a question in my mind. All of my long rides, and I did six rides of 100+ miles, were done at 235-245 watts AP. 228 watts should have been an easy ride, and my only thought is that by being unable to calibrate the power meter I was actually putting out more watts than was displayed. Combined with the heat and humidity, wearing a black suit, and not knowing my HR, I could have been over doing things, and didn't really feel it.
Two years ago I had a 5:06 bike split on 232 AP. I'm just wondering how I was able to go 15 minutes faster on lower watts. Yes, I made a few changes to my bike and wore an aero suit, but to go that much faster I'd think I'd have to have a higher wattage. In 2013 I had no injuries and was more consistent in my running. However, I don't think this would have led to such a drastic slow-down on the run. I averaged 30-35 miles per week of running for a good chunk of time. However, maybe I need to increase this a bit in the future to have a better run split.
My thoughts going forward, are to tackle shorter distances for the next few years, maybe taking on another IM when I age up into the 40-44 in three years and am the young guy there. I need to become a better runner and am thinking I'll target PR's in the 5k, 10k and half marathon over the next year or two. Next year I'm thinking I'll race two HIM's, possibly Patriot and Timberman, as well as a few Olympics and sprints to work on my overall speed.
Lastly, I'd like to say a huge thanks to my family for their support. Katie has been very supportive of my racing and training. The long Saturday rides are very hard, being away for so long, and I'm now looking forward to having lots more time to spend with Katie and Jackson. We are actually headed off today to Europe for a week, visiting Ireland, Spain and France, and staying with Katie's brother in France for four nights. It should be a fun end to the summer before the school year starts up again.
I'd also like to thank Colin Cook at Peak Tri Coaching, who believed in me and crafted a training plan that put me in a good position to get to Kona. I simply didn't execute on race day. Leslie Why was also very helpful in creating a nutrition plan and race plan for me to follow.
It's now time to rest for a bit and rise another day. I still feel like I have a KQ in me, it'll just have to wait a few years.