This past weekend I completed the full Aquabike up at Vineman as a prep race for Ironman Mont Tremblant. As many of you know, the full Vineman Ironman going on at the same time. While racing, I made observations that I want to pass along to all of you. These observations will be in the form of mistakes of Ironman racing. These are in no particular order, but the general idea is that the fewer of these mistakes you make the better your run will be. Ironman racing is all about getting to the marathon with a fighting chance of making it through at a decent pace. Sabotaging your run is very easy to do and it you don’t check your pride and ego at the door while on the bike, you are sure to pay the price.
Forceful Kick – At about 20 minutes into the swim I was passed by a guy kicking like he was doing the 50 meter freestyle. I thought, “he must only be kicking so hard to pass me”. I jumped behind the turbulence and followed him. He was easy to follow because I could feel the churning water for about 2-4 feet behind him. I followed for about 10 minutes before taking a slightly different line. In Ironman racing, there is no need to kick forcefully. I prefer a two beat kick that is very relaxed and controlled. I will occasionally kick a little harder to help get me past a congested group of swimmers and then it’s back to my normal pace. Here’s a good example of a two beat kick. Watch the whole thing, but take a look at the kick at 1:00.
Head up Sighting – There is no need to pull your entire head out of the water while trying to sight (well, assuming there are not huge swells). Doing so causes your lower body to drop in the water and your forward progress is interrupted. Keep these to a minimum.
Gearing is Crucial – I past a guy at about mile 60 who was riding a disc and an 11/23 rear cassette. Riding this gear range for a moderately hilly course is sure to fry your legs for the run.
Hammering the Hills or False Flats– This is where most people past me on the first lap of the course as they charge up the hill as soon as it kicks up. It takes discipline to hold back at the bottom when you’re fresh. I use my power meter to help guide my effort and I always have to tell myself to dial it back. The goal is to ride a steady effort all the way to the top. If you reach the top of the climb barely hanging on or in a lot of discomfort, there is a good chance you started too hard. A power meter will give you instant feedback about how hard you are pushing. Heart rate isn’t nearly as reliable unless it’s a long climb.
Most who pass me on the hills are usually caught at the top or shortly after the hill. It’s important to note that I am not pushing any harder to pass them, but since they spent so much energy to get up to the top, their body needs a break and has to slow down. Here’s a short overview of how to ride a hill.
Surges on the Bike – The goal of a bike race is to finish the race with nothing left to give. The goal of an Ironman is to finish the bike with plenty of reserves for the run. Pushing 10% more than you should will mean the difference between a productive run and a death march.
The goal of your Ironman bike split is to ride as evenly paced as possible. The fewer surges in effort the better off you will be. Of course, there are times when you need to surge a little, but you need to look at these surges as taking seconds away from your per mile pace for the marathon. Choose you surges wisely.