Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Years Later ...

3 Years Later I'm Coming Clean - Consistency Really Does Matter 

In Prelude to this article / story I feel a recap from my race @ Ironman Coeur D’Alene is relevant.

Pre Race: I knew I was in the best shape I had been in since 2002 based on training markers … that said it wasn’t the same shape as 2002 and I honestly didn’t know what it meant. The training had been consistent and healthy throughout the year but it isn’t always about just the previous six months that matter

Without specific details this is my short version of the race:

*Smart / Strong / Solid swim on a tough conditions day... good training & racing strategy ... came out of the water 16th / 153rd …it wasn’t fast because of conditions but it was the best swim I’ve had in 3 years

- Evenly Paced / Nutrition was executed & and absorbed
- I struggled climbing for some reason (not a good course for that to happen and not sure what was missing on the day)
 - I could do whatever I wanted as far as generating power on the flattish terrain so tried to balance my power out there since I couldn't climb
- I still had to hold back in the last 15 miles and had good power ... off the bike 16th &173rd

- Conservative start
- A slightly unsettled belly first half and just paid attention to that
- I had a bad patch around 17-20
- Overall even pace throughout
- I was never able to lift pace ... but it was good to be able to lift effort the last 10k's
- Pace was off by 30sec overall by what I thought very reasonable (some of that relative to the days early conditions, some to my flat-ness, and by not being able to lift pace over the final 10k’s)
- I Finished 15th & 124th (moving up 50 places on the run overall was a nice consolation prize)

The three year plan was a good one BUT you’ll see where 2010 derailed it overall ... CONSISTENCY RULES and I'm living proof! 

A Three Year Reflection …

I remember sitting around the table in the Fall on 2009. A number of us had made an agreement:  In 2012 they were all going to sign up for the Hawaii Ironman Lottery and I was going to try and qualify for the race. SIDE NOTE: You know, I’m not sure why people rush into doing long distance races. Some might say, why wait three years? Well, my body needed three years, three consistent years, to get back to even having a sniff of a qualifying spot.   

Well things change and life happens … Job changes, life changes, weddings, race goals change and I was the only one of the bunch that was sticking around for the three year plan. (To be honest, I never said a word about my three year plan after that day … I just started one day at a time)

For me I was kicking off the plan in 2010 with Ironman Canada at the top of the list in the three stages. 2011 was going to be shorter races but with some careful consideration I though Ironman Arizona would fit in well. Then, I planned to follow up with a shot at qualification at Ironman Couer D’ Alene in 2012. If the planned worked perfect it would put me on the start in Kona 10 years (and a very different athlete) after my last visit there.

Well "perfect" took a nose dove early in 2010 as my first ever bout of Plantar Fasciatis (caused by a bad combo of worn cleats, pedals and the wrong running shoes) took me out of running from January through most of May. I stilled raced at Canada but 8 solid weeks of run training got me to mile 11 in great shape and it got me to mile 15. I finished, learned about what I needed and what had improved … onward. Problem was, an old soccer injury was finally demanding attention so knee surgery in October was necessary and therefore did virtually no running from race day until mid December. SIDE NOTE: I almost abandoned the three year plan at this point based on losing all the running I had accumulated)

As we rolled into 2011 I tried not to think about all the non-running in 2010 and pressed forward with the end goal being Ironman Arizona in phase 2 of the three year plan. Throughout the year I actually had very good results at shorter distances races and the body was doing great. I had a solid race at Big Kahuna and ran well enough over the last 6 miles that it gave me confidence looking forward to November. Problem was I had picked up some sort of virus in the day or two leading onto the race (unknowingly at the time) and the ensuing race compounded the fact that not only did I get sick, I got very sick. A mild case of pneumonia left me down and out for September and left my November race in doubt. Quite frankly the only reason I stayed on board for IMAZ was the goal still dangling out there for 2012.  So I tried a 6 week block in to the race and that coming off almost 3 weeks of no training, plus one week easing back in. Overall the build-up was good but man was I going into the race “under-done”. The other problem I ran into was a bit of a foot niggly that I didn’t think would hamper me come race day but it did. I got through the race and added more to the “what I need to do in 2012” list.

Well 2012 came around, and as I mentioned at the top, my lead in training for Ironman CDA was pretty darn solid. I was healthy all the way through the training (though I did have a short scare with my foot) and I was confident for a real solid race. As time passed I realized that I was little off on race day and ended up being flat. I think I should have done less from 21-17 days out and more 10-3 days out. Other than that the only thing that was lagging was my running, and that left me shy of thinking the Kona spot was reality. What I do think is reality follows:

  • 9 months no running in 2010 makes a serious dent in the “consistency of training” model … especially when I didn’t run from 2004-2007 … it wasn’t the run “speed” that suffered for 1012 it was HOLDING that speed for 26.2 miles
  • The set back in September in 2011 was small but it does make a difference when you need most things to go right in the three year plan and combine that with the running missed in 2010.  
  • Because of what I noted, my running is still 6-12 months away from being back to where I need to have a shot to be in the Kona mix. (when I say, “in the mix” for me, and the way my body is now, that means competing for the last spot in the age group) On top of all that, Kona allocations slots had changed from 2011 to 2012 and our age group was going from 6 down to 4 for 2012.

Before the race I confided in my buddy Vince and said: “you know, if things go REALLY well and I get a break I could sneak into the top 10, maybe go around 10:15 and I’d be super, super pleased with that”. I wasn’t far off that and that was pretty much the deal on race day … except that things didn’t go really well, they just went. Yup it was a tough weather day in the swim and on the bike but it was for everyone else too. In the end I also knew that if I was going to hit the ultimate goal I needed every bit of consistency over the three years and a race day that was more than just average.  If I take in to account my hiccups along the way and my “average-ness” on race day I landed right about where it was going to.

When the dust settled I was very pleased with my effort on race day and I enjoyed the process over the three years of getting healthy and strong again … even through the dark times. It was really nice to stay engaged and be able to urge my body at a steady rate across the entire day at CDA with no fade. Honest reality tells me a more consistent 2010, plus a healthy September of 2011, and a better than average race would have put me fighting for that last spot in 2012. This isn’t a woulda, coulda, shoulda whine on the blog … it’s reality, reality that I have learned from and that I can apply to my athletes and maybe you can learn from as well.  

NOTE:  Another significant item that I did learn is that “Version 2” of me is pretty different than the guy that stopped racing for a long period back in 2002. My body & system seem to have a marker that says “sorry DL, I’m not allowing you to go there ever again” …. OH, and NO, I’m not extending my three year plan to four, time is up for now!

What I’d like athletes and coaches to take away from this is? As you look at race goals don’t be afraid to stretch it out over the long haul. If you are young or new to the sport PLEASE take the time to develop and evolve, you’ll enjoy it in the long run!

Be Patient and Stay Engaged … DL 

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