Melissa Hoff and I completed the Beach 2 Battleship Half Ironman Distance Triathlon last Saturday (October 20 – 2012) . We did so with only three weeks of preparation. I say preparation, because what we did cannot be considered training. We purposefully did not change anything about our lives, diet, or training in a basic effort to show our clients, and others, short endurance events can be done with less training than most put into them. Many folks who would like to complete races are deterred from doing so because they believe it takes hundreds of hours of training. Completing a race and winning one is two very different things.
I can’t speak for Melissa, but I can say for sure I really didn’t enjoy it or or that it wasn’t boring. The monotony almost killed me. I also didn’t care for the spectators. I don’t know who needs random people yelling “good job”, “you’re doing great”, or “looking good” yelled at them while doing this sort of thing, but I would certainly prefer it quiet. I think it advocates for allowing the iPod or other music during the race. Hell, I’d rather listen to hip hop or rap than the spectator’s less than motivating, motivational chants.
The race was, however, a good workout and gut check. It is always good to get out of your comfort zone and do a legit endurance event. Sitting on a bicycle seat for 56 miles is certainly NOT comfortable. I do, however, enjoy outside exercise and pushing thru a little pain.
In this previous post, I talked about my dabbling in triathlons and my prior endurance experience. I also touched on how little you can do and still finish one of these events in a respectable time. The main reason we did the race was to show anyone who wants to do a triathlon but thinks they don’t have time to train for it, they still can. While neither my or Hoff’s times were record breaking, we did finish in times much faster than people who logged in many more hours and miles over many more months of training. I think that is likely equated to two things: Hoff and I are capable of sucking up a ton of discomfort and many folks’ training for these events suck.
Before I go any further, let me clearly state:
Minimalist training will not get you record times, but can get you a finish.
My goal was to finish in 5:30 – 6:00. I missed that goal by 6 minutes. But all things considered, the race went well. Conditions and weather cooperated. The air and water temperatures were close to perfect and the wind didn’t beat us up on the bike. So no complaints there. Last year’s event had bad weather and the competitors suffered. We were lucky this year.
The race course is nice. It gives you an opportunity to see our city and some of its surrounding countryside from a different point of view. Some would say it is worth it just for that. I’m no “site-see’er” myself, but I figure it is worth mention.
My race began well. I wasn’t sure about pacing the swim. I took it much easier than I should have. My time was 30 minutes, but should have pushed it and hit a 26 or 27. But since I haven’t swam that far without fins in a very long time, I didn’t know how to pace it. So my swim was a decent time with little effort.
My bike transition was smooth. In sprint races, your transitions need to be quick to save your overall time. In a sprint I try to make sure my trannies are 1 or 1:30 at the most. You don’t even bother drying off and I use PyroPedals/running shoes instead of cycling shoes and clip-less pedals. For this race distance, it makes sense to wear cycling shoes and other equipment designed for longer events… equipment that requires more time to change into. I did not mess with changing clothes, but I took the time to eat half an Evolve bar from Paleo Treats and took a few pre-planned sups (Alpha GPC, L Carnitine, and a JavaStim [caffiene]). I still rolled out in 7 minutes. While that sounds long, it also includes the ~ 1/4 mile run from the water exit to the bike transition point.
Eating that Evolve bar may have been against my typical way of smashing through a transition, but may have been one of the smartest things I did. My bike began with a slight proverbial kick to the nuts. Only a few hundred meters into it, just before Blue Water restaurant, a speed bump ejected my two water bottles from their cages and when they made contact with the pavement, they exploded. Oops… that was a completely amateur (clown show!) move on my part. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but those water bottles didn’t have water in them. They contained my race nutrition… whey protien, a ton of BCAAs, Glutamine, carbs and electrolytes. I knew at that point things were going to get weird at the end of the race.All in all, my bike went well. I averaged 21 mph for the 56 miles.
Pre, Peri, and Post Nutrition
The burgers and veggies were dinner the night before the race. The middle pic is the makings of my gel. The right pic is my cheap HT girl scout cookie knock offs, milk and branched chain aminos (BCAAs). A little cheat, I felt, was doable. BCAAs are the number one most overlooked supplement by endurance athletes. BCAAs provide a great source for mitochondrial fuel and provide recovery. Recovery equals performance.
The run didn’t go as well. Since I lost my food and hydration, I should have backed off the bike pace and saved for the run. I didn’t. My vastus medialis (VMO) on both legs began cramping after only the first mile. They cramped every single step of the entire 13 miles. It sucked. I’ve only had that happen one other time and that was on an 20 or so mile ruck run in the mountains of West Virginia. After trying to walk off the cramps for much of the first half of the run (split: 1:20), I sucked it up and ran the last half negative split for a horrible and very dissapointing, 2:31. That was 40 minutes slower than I had planned.
One of the most notable things about our race actually came afterwards. Within an hour Hoff and I were pretty well recovered. Other than the cupcake Hoff had, we stuck to our diets and didn’t “celebrate” with a binge of any sort.
After a massage we ate dinner at El Cerro. I ate a couple of tacos and a burrito bowl. She had chicken and guacamole. Before bed I cheated with a few Harris Teeter girl scout knock offs and milk.
Sunday morning we were neither as sore as we anticipated. My VMOs felt like they’d been beat with a hammer, but otherwise we were only a little stiff. On Monday, we both planning on getting back in the gym. Hoff did. I got in a head on collision and had a slight concussion, so I laid out another day.
Considering our training leading up to the race was what most [especially in the endurance community] would consider less than optimal (or NOT ENOUGH at all) our performances were not bad. The longest bike we did was 1 hour. The longest swim was 800 meters and the longest run was 2.47 miles (the Wrightsville Beach Loop). We did do a few of those in conjunction and that gave us opportunities to practice transitions.
This less than optimal approach is far less than I recommend for my endurance athletes. My programs typically have the athlete work up to at least one half the distance of his / her event… but that is in relation to their base, conditioning, and experience levels. With our short timeline, we were unable to reach that volume.
Funny though, after the race Hoff said to me “I am glad we didn’t put any more time into training for it. It wouldn’t have made it suck any less.”
It is a good point. No matter how trained you are for an event, you will push yourself at max exertion. Your time may be better, but the pain is relatively the same.
The most important thing we did not do was change our diets. Not on race day (especially not on race day!!) and not in the days leading up to it either. Yep, no huge pasta meals or bread. Quality feeding and fueling, or lack thereof, is where the endurance community is completely missing the boat. Junk food and sugar in the name of carbs is why so many endurance guy and gals are fat. It makes absolutely no sense to do an event in the name of fitness and health but fuel it with junk food. It is common place for endurance athletes to eat Snickers bars (or the energy bar equivalent) and drink Coke for fuel. Cleaning up an athlete’s diet is a certain way to increase performance. Losing a few pounds is another. Both are very easy to do.
Changing your food on race day is one of the most detrimental things I hear about after endurance races. It usually revolves around the sugar gels. If a participant introduces a gel, or any food, their GI tract isn’t accustomed to they will inevitably get cramps and / or bloating in the gut. It happens the other way around too. A week before the race, an athlete will start trying to eat healthy. While not only is it too late for it, if you are accustomed to junk foods, switching to rice, sweet potatoes, and fruit/veggies can ruin you too.
For the participant only wanting a “respectable time” but lacks the time to train it is possible to best many of those who put in much more time. It is all about training smarter, not harder per se.
If you want to know more about Hoff’s experience with the race, I’ll let her tell you. She has no where near the endurance base I have but still hit excellent times. She hates the bike and loathes swimming. Even still, she nailed her first half Ironman in 6:20. Her old road bike is less than ideal for a half distance race. With a decent TT/tri bike she would’ve knocked off 10 or 15 minutes.
If you want to do a Tri or other endurance event and interested in doing only the amount of training needed to accomplish it within your goal time, let me know. I can help. North Carolina and Wilmington have great races. Get out and do one.
A big thanks to Bike Cycles and crew there. They set me up well. Kudos to Set Up Events for running another excellent race.