Challenge Roth 2019 – Planning the Race & Racing the Plan

32km to go in the run…. I am screaming at my legs, but nothing is happening…no acceleration only a dull stiffness. My race is falling to pieces… I can see runners spread out in front of me… It’s going to be a long way to the finish…

Nearly 6 months before, I decided that after adding another Iron distance race to my family’s schedule, that I would go all in. I would get the best coach/plan and be strict… enabling me to produce my best performance on race day. It was key to make sure that I did not put my family through a ton of training and logistics, then not achieve my goals.

So.. what were my goals….

  1. Arrive at the start line trained and fit… to the best of my ability
  2. The goal I told everyone – Complete the race faster than my previous one (11:56)
  3. The goal I had if it all goes wrong! – Complete the race.
  4. The real goal I would have liked to achieve… anything under 10hrs. Probably too ambitious for my second IM and second year of training. but… something to dream of.

I have added the race plan at the bottom of the post.

The swim started in some light drizzle and (just) neo legal temperature. I got myself a good space in the middle of the canal, right on the start line. Around two hundred of us treaded water for a few minutes, before the cannon boomed. After a quick start, we caught the back markers of the preceding group This effectively formed a log jam in the canal, from 1.5 km onwards, It was impossible to keep a straight course.

There was also some inexperienced swimmers grabbing as I went past. This resulted in some clashes of hands and bodies. The pinky on my left hand was in a bit of pain after a jab… hopefully not broken. Sped up for the last 500m and exited the swim – (1hr 03min)

Transition was straight-forward, and I was soon on the slightly damp & chilly bike course… tucked into my aero bars, pinky sticking out to the side. I took the decision to race on, figuring that if it was broken, they could fix it up later. I slowly bent it round by aero bar and cycled on.

The plan for the bike was to go gently until 120km , then take the Watts up…This was difficult at first, as it meant being passed… however I spent the time getting nutrition on board and staying efficient. I noticed that I made up a lot of time on the technical downhills staying aero and cornering without brakes. (Benefit of training in the Alps.) I did over hydrate which meant I lost 3-5 mins on bio breaks, the 2nd course loop was way too busy to allow for discrete bio breaks on the move.

At 120km, I then took the power up a little and really enjoyed the end of the bike course, flying past people who had clearly overcooked the first half… Came off the bike in 5hrs 16minutes feeling great – significantly, no back pain or stiffness. Months of planks and core work were paying off!

Transition was very fast, with Roth providing a personal assistant. Before I had time to collect myself, I was on the run course… with retrospect I think I would have preferred 30s gather my thoughts before starting the run.

The run plan was to hold 4:30mins per km and I had been running off the bike consistently at 4:20-4:30 / km in training.. so, this should have been achievable.

Onto the run course, though a forest and up to the canal….I was feeling good, however looking at my watch my pace was 5:15 per km so I gave it some more gas. My breathing was a little heavier than I would have liked, but I figured that it was going to calm down… I was passing people, however my pace was still showing as 5:30….

Beside the canal, I reached the first turnaround feeling like I was working too hard… then glance at my watch to see I was running at 4:10/km….. somehow, I had been running too fast. I slowed down, hoping that I could recover the mistake…

At 10km it was clear to me that I had emptied the gas tank! My pace collapsed and I was being passed by the people who had started out at a sensible pace. The rest of the marathon was a jog for me. I realised that if I pushed again finishing may be at risk. In the end I rolled in with a 3hr 47min marathon and an overall time of 10hrs 18minutes.

How do I feel…. A pb by 15% is a good result… so generally happy. However, I am annoyed at myself for not racing the marathon and missing out on a sub 10hr finish. The upside is that I have learned that sub 10 is possible and I know what I need to do to get there. I will have to wait until 2020, to get the chance though.

What do I need to learn?

The big one….Race the plan! – don’t go too fast too soon on the run.

The rest in no particular order…

  1. I need to improve my neck/shoulder flexibility – This would have me helped me sight through the swim traffic more effectively, meaning I could have cruised a little faster…. Possibly worth 5minutes.
  2. I can probably go a little more aero on the bike….but not too much! Possibly worth 2mins
  3. Using tailwind nutrition worked well, however I should change the hydration configuration if its cooler – avoid needing to pee too much! Possibly worth 3mins of bio breaks.
  4. I need to have a stronger core – that way my running form would have not fell to pieces when I was tired. I noticed that my head went down and everything got harder. Holding my pace took too much effort and was not natural enough. This was possibly worth 20 minutes
  5. I need to ditch Garmin pace and find a better way to monitor running form and effort…. Not decided how to do this yet, however thinking about
    • aid station walk/run strategy with split targets between aid stations.
    • Using running power (e.g. Stryd)
    • Setting 5km split lap targets…
    • Mandatory 200m walk from T2, to ensure I am clear about my pacing…
    • Do a road marathon early in training to build confidence and pacing at speed…
  6. Monthly physio appointment… ensure that develop my flexibility properly. Try to prevent any problems.

What went well…

  1. The training was smooth, no injuries… I was really happy about sticking to my plan. The only downside is that it was a little anti social.
  2. The bike went better than expected – After only a few months on the TT bike, I was really happy with the time and the lack of a sore back!
  3. The swim felt easy, meaning I was relaxed going on to the bike…
  4. Nutrition – Tailwind worked fine – I will try to add it to the run course on the next race.
  5. Travel, packing and prep – no major hassles, despite a massively complex T1/T2/parking arrangement in Roth.

Now to try and persuade my family to let me train for another event!… Thinking of going earlier in the year… possibly to give me a second chance if I screw up my pacing.

Race Plan – Roth 2019.

Saturday –
Registration – 10—13:00. race licence.
race briefing 15:00
Bike check in – 11:30 – 16:00

3:30 am wake up – porridge and fruit, coffee and water. > bio
4:30 am leave for start
White bag, pump, nutrition, change, car key, wallet, phone.

1 gel before swim / water – salt tab if warm.
Bike – 5x 2 scoops tailwind – 1 bottle per hour water
Bike – 3-4 cliff bars. Cliff shots as backup.
Bike – salt tab per hour depending on weather
If frame bottle lost, use 3 gels per hour. Course nutrition – squeezy
Protein bars – Taste nice. // melt? Try some… not too many.
water only for first 30mins

Start position – 250 in starting group / 10hr – push to front… scout out course day before to see best position – middle of canal is best.
Approach – fast for first 500m 2 stroke breathing – establish sighting method day before (river bank). Ensure heavy outbreaths and fast but relaxed arms. Consider 4/2 stroke to bank side….easier sighting.
Do not look at time on exit… its irrelevant.

Aim – Efficient relaxed swim, not to be fatigued for bike. Focus on form on the swim.
Mental – Swim will be within +/-5mins of target if sighting is good. No big difference to overall race – key is to not examine it too close or to overcook. (people will pass me…do not race them until the run). 

Risks – Goggles off – spare pair in white bag. Collision/winded – float on back for a few mins… then swim again. Goggles flooded – float on back and clear – do not wait – not worth sighting loss.

Shoes on bike – socks on
Nothing in pockets.
Race number at back – crumpled so it sits down.
Practice skin/suit transition. (Watch and chip under neo)
Practice bike mount. Keep it simple… no flying mount just feet into shoes.
All nutrition on bike. 1 fling away water bottle on bike with tailwind

General go a little easier on first 60km
60-120km go smart
120-180 go harder, but not crazy…. this is the start of the race.

Apply sun-cream on the move. before race
Set up Garmin screen for distance, cadence & 30s power only. (look for some kind of auto-lap on 1km power)
Hold average between 200-250W. If holding average is hard keep aero and reduce to 180W. Do not keep Watts and lose aero.
Drink 1 bottle per hour
1 muesli bar & salt tab per hour.
Hours 3-4-5 – drink 1/3 tailwind from fame water bottle per pure water bottle from aid station.
Sore back – either stretch/resolve or ibuprofen. – do at first sign… do not wait – it will not get better.
100 cadence for last few km. Reapply sun-cream if necessary

Aim – Efficient bike, taking advantage of marginal gains to give max speed for power. Leaving max energy for run. 
Mental – Ignore people passing or otherwise… will catch them on the run. Focus on maximum speed for minimum effort… feel the top quadrant push on every pedal stroke. Even if power is 30W under target, time loss is only 20mins. If cycle is overcooked, marathon time loss is 90mins.
Risks – mechanical – pre-service bike & carry reduced tool kit, high winds – keep aero and take it easy on corners. Loss of nutrition – use on course gels. Cold weather – if forecast put gear in T1 bag. Garmin fail – race on feel or watch. Develop feel for power.

Practice dismount.
Take time to do socks and shoes well – saves stopping later.
Elastic bands around nutrition/ salt / water bottle – put in pockets when already moving…
Same with Glasses & hat.

handheld bottle.
‪4:30 target pace – for first 30km. – set up watch in 5km laps. (22.5mins) or use training partner. (Set to 4:35 pace)‬
Sponges at every aid station – swap (front and rear).
Eat gel at ‪10/20/30‬km or drink coke. Salt tab as necessary
Concentrate on holding head up and running with whole body. Keep feet fast and smooth… a little forward reach. Relax into the natural pace. Remember high head, fast feet and running through core is worth 20s per km

30km – take RPE to 8..10 and hold… race other competitors… Hunt runners ahead to keep focus. This is the last hour!

Aim – Race fastest 10km at end of marathon. Even if tank is empty max time loss on last 10km is 10mins…. so empty the tank…. carefully. If I see darkness at the edge of vision… slow down and hydrate/eat asap.
Mental – Pain will come on the marathon – it is an old friend and will pass – focus on it, accept it and feel it in the moment. Do not let it steal pace.. it will pass once your body sends out endorphins, etc.  Smile at the crowd and enjoy support when in pain – this helps it pass.
Risks – Sore knee – do not walk! It passes. Bonking – take a gel / salt/ water and pause in shade for 3minutes. Gastro – coke at aid station. Loss of pace – change pace target and hold new number – do not “death spiral”….use lap button to reset virtual partner…. not possible in tri mode
Nutrition products.

Tailwind orange – used on 15hrs of training
Only place that would delver –, maybe to a German address

SIS gel – used on multiple race & IM

Cliff bars – used on 20hrs of training

Cliff BLOKS – used on multiple race & IM