My First Ironman – IM Louisville

Ironman Louisville was not supposed to be my first Ironman, it was supposed to be Coeur d’Alene, but I broke my arm 4 weeks out from Coeur D’Alene which forced me to have a DNS ( also my first DNS). So once my cast came of after 6 weeks I had exactly 5 weeks for IM Louisville.

Preparation for IM Louisville:

My swim prep was on point. I did not swim for 6 weeks while I was in a cast and had about 5 weeks to get back in swim shape for Louisville. It took me about 3 or 4 sessions and I was holding intervals what I used to. I was aiming for a sub 1:16 on the swim . In practice I had done 20X200 @4:00 so I knew it was something which I can achieve.

On the bike, I spent about a year biking 4 times a week. My FTP did go up, but it took a lot more effort just to keep it there. Any inconsistency in training would cause my FTP to dip a bit and then it would take me another 6 weeks to get it back to where it was. After I broke my arm, my FTP had dipped from 216 to 207ish in about 12 days. While in a cast I could not swim or run, so I just biked but I couldn’t do vo2 max intervals or balls to the walls effort. Once my cast came of, I did a solid 3 week segment and my FTP went upto 214.

Here is how I trained when I had a cast on:

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On the run, I had not improved much but what had improved was my ability to run of the bike as I biked A LOT the past year. After a 6 week break in training, I had about 4 weeks to get back my running legs and then a 1 week taper prior to the race. The first week after the cast came of I had a long run of 10 miles, the next week I ran 13 miles and the third week I ran about 15. Then I had terrible shin splints and did not run for 5 days and then somehow squeezed in a gentle 6 miler with Jahnavi and then did nothing in the last week leading up to the race.

Pre Race:

I reached Louisville on Thusday night along with Jahnavi (my better half now, officially). 2 of my buddies had already reached. Friday morning I took my bike to the expo, picked up my packet and all the good stuff. Gave my bike to racedaywheels and had them set up carbon wheels for the race ( Zipp 404’s). This was going to be my first time trying them out( There goes don’t try something new on race day). After that we headed for lunch to a restaurant and tried some southern food. I don’t think its my cup of tea.

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Finally after attending the race meeting on Saturday , I had some Thai food for dinner ( #Carbs) but could not fall asleep. I think I finally slept at 11 30 or 12 and then the next thing I know its 3 30 AM and my alarm goes of. I had 2 bananas, oatmeal , apple but for some reason I did not feel too good and sipped on a bottle of Infinit Nutrition till I got to the swim start.

 

Swim:

The swim is a one loop course and the water temperature was about 72 degrees which was perfect but it was a lil chilly in the morning , mid 50’s I think. Since Louisville has a rolling start and people line up , I was probably a KM out from the start line I think. While waiting there we took pictures.

My support crew held my spot while I looked for a port a potty.Once I did get into the water, I was like why is everyone so slow ahead of me and there was just 1 buoy which marked the turn around point around the Island. That for sure was not 100m away from the start point. I passed a lot of people, took a piss while swimming and felt good overall. My gut told me it was going to be a sub 15 on the swim. Sighting was a nightmare, I’ve seen IM Coeur D alene and 70.3 Muncie, they had buoys every 100m. Over here I think all I saw was 6 buoys ?? , there were so far away that every time I tried to sight I just saw caps. I passed a lot of people on the swim. When I came out of the swim and looked at my Garmin it said 1 13 and change. I was beyond elated.

Here is a pic of me making a mess of trying to get the swim cap of ( obviously there is a better way to do it): After this I had my wetsuit stripped and ran through transition. Nothing fancy happened in transition.

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Bike :

I had a pretty quick transition but I felt hungry coming of the swim , so I quickly pulled out the cliff bar I had in the bike bag and stuffed half of it in my mouth and then went on my way towards mounting line.

The bike course is full of fuckin rollers, after sometime it was just annoying. I could not settle down into a rhythm. I’m either going downhill and too scared and am on my brakes or I am trying to use the momentum of the downhill to get me up the next hill and then flicking through gears to maintain that effort. Also I accidentally hit “mode” on my Garmin which caused it to go to the next screen and show me my run data. After fiddling with my watch I had to restart the bike segment. It was annoying. In my head I knew I had to hold 160 watts or lower but geez only if I got a flat segment for more than a mile would I what was I holding. I was hydrating well and this was my first time renting/using carbon wheels. They sound effin awesome . I did not have any problems handling my bike because of them. Maybe next year I will rent the 808’s instead of the 404’s. I used up 4 bottles of Infinit nutrition before mile 60 ( special needs) and I pee’d a bunch of times going downhill and then washed my self with water. It just felt so wrong and it was my first time doing it “ON THE BIKE”. The pee went into my shoes and I could feel my socks wet. ugggh. But after doing it once, it did not bother me too much later on.  A lot of people passed me on the rollers. The last 15 or 20 miles are FLAT and the roads looked new which is what I was looking forward to. I put my head down , picked a gear which allowed me stay above 90 on my cadence and was pushing around 170 Watts and there was no looking back. I was easily over 20mph and I passed about 30-40 people I think. I was in the left lane the entire time just passing people. I enjoy flat courses because my shifting and bike handling skills are 0 since I train indoors on a trainer.  Towards the end when I did pee on my bike it , the process of peeing would hurt. I shrugged it away thinking it was because I was sitting so long on the bike? Overall I think I ended up peeing about 7 times on the bike. Had I stopped it would have cost me at least 7 minutes assuming each pee break was exactly a minute. Usually its more.

 

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Run:

The run is a 2 loop course and the second loop passes really close to the finish line so you can hear the music and people cheering as other competitors finish. It is also a reminder that you have another 13 miles to go and your second loop has just begun.

I was running from the dismount line and handed my bike towards a volunteer, ran though translation and my legs felt fine. I thought I was going to have a perfect race and I did not blow my self up on the bike. The moment I got out of transition and headed towards the run I wanted to pee but I could not see a port a potty. I asked a volunteer, she said it’s probably a mile away at the aid station. I was getting uncomfortable and needed to pee. I walked/jogged and finally could not take it anymore and took a piss somewhere on the road even before mile 1. But it hurt a lot, I was not sure what was wrong with me. It caused me to sit down for a few seconds and then when the pain disappeared I started to run again . I looked at my watch and was around 8 10 or 8 20 a mile and my heart rate in the upper 140s. I felt great. But those pee breaks continued at aid stations and each one was getting more painful and each pee break was costing me time as I would have to sit the pain out before I could start running but I was passing a lot of people while I was running. Finally I decided to swap water and gels for coke and chews but the damage was already done. I had gone up to 15 miles in training and that too after a 6 week break, so I knew I could probably hold my own till mile 13 but then its unknown territory. I looked at my watch and I was on track for a sub 2 hour half even with all those pee breaks but at mile 11 or 12 , I just couldn’t run. My run form and momentum had started to break down, I knew this was going to be a long day now. The last 10 miles were a walk, jog, chit chat with people next to me and wanting to get it over with. Finally when I was near the finish line , I was looking for my buddy as he was supposed to hand me a ring which I had planned to give Jahnavi at the finish line. I saw him, was soaking in the moment , jumped at the finish line and then went down on my knees and gave Jahnavi the ring.

The finish on 4th street live is pretty good. I heard they were out of pizza and people were a bit disappointed in the post race food. I did not stay back for food but went out for dinner with my fiends and family. I had the best support crew one could ask for. They made signs for me, drove me around, got up at 3 30 AM with me, flew and drove down from different places.

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The proposal:

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Post Race: I was not sore , I was just tired and wanted to sleep after we got Pizaa that is. The pee issue was not resolved, it still hurt when I took a piss but it was fine the next day. By the looks and my research on Web MD I over hydrated and my salt levels were too low or it maybe too much sugar, so it was hyponatremia or pseudo hyponatremia . By Wednesday the following week I was completely fine , but I was just lazy and lethargic. After the race I’ve just been looking back at my journey from running my first 5k and sleeping like a baby , to running my first marathon and taking swim classes.  For now, I’m thinking if I should race a full next year? If yes, I want a flat course unlike these technical bike courses where people with better bike skills get the better of me even though I might be more fit than them.

Here are a few post race pics:

I can’t belive I had requested for Jager at the finish line. Was in no state to take a Jager shot.

 

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Here are my race stats:

Pointers for Louisville :

1- The water isn’t the cleanest. If you’re picky on the water quality you might want to consider Lake Placid or Coeur d’ Alene?

2- The race is in Oct which means it’s sort of chilly in the morning but as the day progresses, it gets pleasant.

3- If you like Southern food and Bourbon, you might want to give this a shot? 😉

4- Bike course is rollers and I found it annoying after some time. I am fine with monster hills as long as its one big hill. You grind and get it over with. In Louisville its never fucking ending. I was actually annoyed because of them.

5- Would I recommend this race ? With a rolling start I think it favors swimmers who get anxious with mass starts. There was virtually no contact with people except the time I wanted to pass them. It was my fault , I underestimated my swim ability and did not bother getting in line first. So yes , I would recommend this race . The swim start is one of the reasons besides the finish on 4th street live and the early fall weather.

6- Run is flat:D

Goals for 2017:

1- Break 1:35 on the half marathon

2- Break 5:30 on the 70.3

3- If I race a full Ironman, break 11:30.

 
I haven’t decided what race I am doing next year , but I really want to break 5:30 in the 70.3 distance and get my FTP to 250 watts and break past the 220 Watt barrier.

Also I realized that this sport is pretty expensive and is burning a hole in my pocket. This led me to look for ways to look for additional sources of income – I.e. Bitcoin Mining with a cloud mining company called genesis mining. You all can do your own research but it’s been working out fine for me. If you all could use my code on genesis mining , I can return the favor 🙂

 

 

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Measuring Progress – The Benchmark Test

When training for endurance events such as an Ironman , marathon etc and having a goal time in mind, you need to have the ability to quantify your progress, some sort of a benchmark test. The improvements in your benchmark tests keep you motivated and give you a reason to stay consistent and last but not the least let you know if something is not working. The benchmark tests are sort of a treat for your mind if you see an improvement , consider the benchmarks tests as mini goals and stepping stones towards your bigger goal, when I see an improvement in my benchmark test I am euphoric to see that my training , discipline, hard work is paying of. I get excited for the benchmark test a week before, just to see my hardwork payoff. It gives me  reason to continue doing what I am doing.   Usually people sign up for an Ironman a year in advance. Training aimlessly for a year isn’t fun and you will probably end up lacking motivation or the desire to even get to the start line. Measuring progress and seeing yourself progress is one of the best motivators to keep your head in the  game. So how does one measure progress and what sort of benchmark tests does one do? Well an Ironman consists of 3 legs – the swim, the bike and the run and a bench mark test for each discipline is a good way to make sure you don’t drift away from your end goal.  The benchmark tests also let you know if its time to scale your training zones so you are training efficiently.

You don’t need to complete the exact distance for each discipline (i.e. you do not need to swim 3800 yards or run a marathon every time as a benchmark test) and it’s just impractical and boring and monotonous to swim bike or run those distances just to test yourself . One of the benefits of training for such events is that there is a trickle down effect. So if you’ve been following a training plan which progressively increases in intensity and/or duration, your performances are GOING to improve over the shorter distances as well ( 500 yard swim, 8 min all out effort on the bike and a 10k on the run). These shorter distances are manageable by an everyday athlete, are not extremely toll taking on your body  and just practical from a training point of view .  These shorter benchmark tests are pretty good indicators of your actual race times

Benchmark test for the Swim – Swim a ~500 yard time trial every 8-12 weeks or do a 10 x 50/20 x 50 on the minute at the end of every 4 weeks and see what is the average pace you hold for the intervals. The 10 x 50 can be included as a part of your swim workout, you don’t need a separate  day to this unlike your bike and runs. The 10*50’s/20 x 50’s are short and keep you engaged the entire time since you look at the clock every time you complete 50 yards/meters. The return on investment in the swim is probably the least when compared to the bike and the run, unless of course you are just really bad at swimming and are learning how to swim.

Benchmark test for the Bike – Do a modified FTP ( 2 x 8 minutes) test every 4-6 weeks on your indoor trainer. I do it at the end of every 4 weeks. The reason I use the indoor trainer is straightforward – its a controlled environment every time I take the test and outside variables are eliminated. Imagine an interruption in an all out balls to the wall effort outdoors and you get interrupted by a flat tire half way through? I would be mad and would want to smash something , its just annoying and risky in my opinion. I personally prefer taking an FTP test at the end of the 4th week, because if you follow the traditional training block of 3:1 ( train 3 weeks and recover 1 week), you are essentially fresh for your FTP test.  I do not do a 1 hour FTP test. Instead I do 2 x 8 min all out efforts with recovery in between and then multiply the power average of the two tests  by .90 to get your FTP ( well I don’t do the math, the app – Traineroad does it for me). The 8 min test is very manageable and practical, I don’t think the everyday recreational triathlete or cyclist has what it takes to suffer for one hour and the ability to pace yourself well for an hour without blowing up or going too slow. So for me my FTP test is always in the first week of every month. Taking an FTP test on the first of every month is sort of a monthly thing for me,  the first week of every month I pay my credit card bills, pay my rent , pay my phone bills and take my FTP test. The FTP test ( 2 x 8 min in this scenario) is a workout in itself . The 2 x 8 min FTP test keeps you engaged because you get live feedback on power and you are always kept on the edge to make sure the power number doesn’t go below the number than previous test 4 weeks ago and 8 minutes of pain and agony is very manageable than 60 minutes.

This chart below shows that I improved every time I took my FTP test, hence I have a reason to keep training and get those numbers higher. Keeping a log of your benchmark tests and doing them consistently is a great way to measure progress and see what is working for you and what is not!

FTP progress

 

 

Benchmark test for the Run – I personally do not benchmark my runs myself in the sense I do not take the tests alone, instead I prefer to sign up for a race about 8-12 weeks out and I keep a realistic goal time and then include a shorter race as a benchmark test. So when I was training for Muncie 70.3, I signed up for the Pitts half marathon and kept a goal time of 1:45, but I signed up for a 10 miler about 6 weeks before the Pitts half ( goal within a goal within a goal which helps you achieve THE GOAL – sub 6 hour Muncie 70.3). If you are training for a marathon , a half marathon 4-6 weeks in is a good  benchmark test, if training for a half marathon, a 10k and/or a 10 miler placed withing your training plan is a good way to benchmark your performance.  You could do a time trial by yourself , but what I’ve found is that you can push your self further when you are racing because of the crowd support, volunteers and the availability of nutrition on the course.

So to sum it up – For swimming, a 500 yard time trial in the pool.  For the bike 2 x 8 min efforts on the trainer and for the run , sign up for a shorter distance race. These are the benchmark test which I believe are practical and feasible for the everyday athlete to keep themselves consistent.

Happy training and happy bench marking!