Enemy Sighted

Ironman Stand Off!

Image by tarotastic via Flickr

“No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.”

–Helmuth von Moltke

(By the way, I love the fact that if you Google the popular truncated version of this quote–“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”–a fair number of sites tell you it originated with Colin Powell.  America’s shaky hold on geography obviously extends to history).

Here is an abbreviated version of my race plan (eliminating all the messy details about calorie counts and, well, let’s just call them “elimination plans”, etc. and my page-long multi-column packing list).

Food for Thought

No regrets for the day. . .in your race or your interactions with others.

Your inner curmudgeon is on vacation.

Don’t go after the course. . .let the course come to you.

Give energy to get energy.

Shift early and shift often!

You only have one first Ironman.

Planning reduces contingencies. It doesn’t eliminate them.

When the Going Gets Tough. . .


Shut up, legs!

Think of friends and family in Christchurch. Whatever you’re suffering it is pretty small beer.

Keep focusing on the real finish line. . .the Team Z finish line.

Sunday, September 12

6:15: Into wetsuit: tri-slide and pull up up up.

6: 30: Team Photo.

6:40: Gel and water.

Swim 7:00am

Position yourself to the right of the ski jump; flush the suit with water, pee if you need to.

And we’re off!

Enjoy the rush and don’t forget to look around! Hold back a tad but don’t dally; get into it. It will probably be the roughest swim start you’ve yet experienced but don’t let it freak you out. Look for clear water when you can, slow strokes when you find it, gradually ease into your rhythm.

Swim so that it feels too slow; you will probably be already swimming too fast at the beginning. Think long, stretched, arms pushing DOWN into the water. Push that head down! Feel the water against the crown of your head.

Sighting will be difficult at first because of the threshing people. Get into a rhythm: ten strokes and sight. Bury your head when you come back down. If your line stays good, push it out to 15 strokes and sight.

Remember: it takes you a long while to get warmed up. It will feel odd, as it always does. Know that it will get better and you will get smooth. Fight the negative thoughts. This is Ironman!

Angle in on that first corner buoy and get round it clean.

On the second loop, try to stay out a bit from the buoy line to avoid getting swum over. You will start to feel tired; the wetsuit will pull on your shoulder as it always does. Keep focusing on the glide. You can do this! And it is much better than doing it in a pool. If you start to get hot, flush the suit, take a pause if you need to gather your head.

Less than a year ago you couldn’t swim 25 yards without being exhausted, now you have just done a 2.4 mile swim!!!!!

T1: 8:40am (10-15 min)

Get out of the water without falling over! Get stripped, check that your chip is still on and then walk the helix. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment then put it behind you. That was your wall to get over, but the next part is the most important.

Don’t rush. Don’t be freaked out if your bag isn’t there straight away or they don’t bring you your bike. Do everything deliberately but don’t dally. Dry off. HR monitor. Shorts (for god’s sake don’t forget the chamois butter!). Sunscreen everything (don’t forget your face and neck). Bike jersey. Glasses (change if conditions warrant). Arm warmers if cool; if uncertain stuff them in your jersey.

Don’t make a dick of yourself by falling over on the way down the helix!

Bike: 8:55am (7:00-7:15)

Take it easy! If this were a race you would be trying to clear that pack of people as quickly as possible—BUT THIS ISN’T A RACE!!!!!!!! Let people pass you, allow your HR to settle and concentrate on staying safe. It is going to take you a while to get your legs warmed up. Only pass the people you really need to.

You’ll be eating every 15 minutes. At the first 15 take the Sustain and a couple of nuts and raisins only to get your digestion started. Then settle into the pattern of Sustain every 15 minutes and nuts and raisins on the hour. It will be about an hour to the loop. . .enjoy the scenery, pedal easily and soak up the atmosphere.

When you hit Verona and start on the loop, the first part is pretty easy but don’t overdo the rollers; shift well in advance.

Don’t chase the course. . .let the course come to you.

On the downhills for the first part, slide back, drop your body into super aero and just coast.

Shift early and shift often; build into the climbs.

Make sure that you refasten the rubber bands on the water bottles after each drink; the road is just to rough not to.

After a couple of hours you should be fully warmed up, into a rhythm and keeping a good pace. Don’t take any stupid risks (especially on the twisty sections): it isn’t worth the extra couple of seconds. You are going to get a couple of good downhill sections: push those a little not for the time but to enjoy the mental energy boost from the speed.

You will need to top up water about mile 40. This will probably be right by the Uphill Grind so make sure to give people a wave and a smile (but don’t fall off!).

Slow right down on the big climbs and watch the HR; slow steady cadence, pull, pull, pull and enjoy the crowd!

You get a good downhill coming back into Verona, but watch the turn at the bottom, it is a sharper left than you think, and on the training ride there were assorted kinda big random rocks here.

Chocolate pudding gel at mile 56 to celebrate the halfway; this can be combined with restocking at special needs. Grab two more bottles, refill the aero bottle, don’t forget the cheetohs.

For the second loop, things should be spacing out a lot more, although you will be having the fast people coming through. Ride your own pace, thank volunteers when you see them and cheer your peeps when you see them. Get out of the saddle only to shake out the muscles occasionally. HR will be starting to rise by the end of the loop; don’t worry about it; if you kept it all in zone 2 for the first part you will be just fine.

Cheetohs to celebrate the end of the second loop; remember, it could easily be an hour or an hour and a half from here. One climb, but generally trending downward, so use that. Enjoy the feeling of coming back into town, seeing the people, feeling the energy coming from the run course. You will be there soon enough!

T2: 4:10pm (10 min)

Complete clothing change but don’t fart around here. You want to get your legs moving and out on that course as quickly as possible. Do take a moment to do a couple of light stretches, however. You can ditch the HR monitor here. Use the spray sunscreen to reapply as needed and get the new areas that will be exposed. Don’t forget the problem areas; sun will be low and you will get burned otherwise. Stuff your pockets with the emergency supplies and shot blocks. Make sure your race belt is on under your fuel belt and you are off. Don’t forget to start your watch.

Run: 4:20pm (5-6 hours?)

The first part of this is downhill so it will probably be faster than you can sustain; take it easy and use the momentum to run your legs into a rhythm without using too much energy. You’ll be at the Team Z zone before you know it! If your legs are feeling good, you will be taking it super easy on the way out; try and keep it to a pace in the mid to high ten minute per mile range. Front load your nutrition by taking three shot blocks every 20 minutes as in training; as your stomach starts to give up the day dial it back to two (probably around the halfway mark). Adjust your hydration for the conditions, but make sure to keep yourself as cool as possible. Bear in mind that as it gets dark it will start to cool down; you may start to chill: make a decision at the halfway point about whether to take extra clothing or not.

Don’t get any stupid ideas about trying to run the hills! Walking is the new jogging.

Second half of the run you may need to start walking the aid stations. Let it happen. It is 13 interval runs at that point, and you can do that!

Check in with Zers out on the course; give as much encouragement as you can spare (you’ll feel better yourself for doing so). Enjoy the crowds, the cheers, the atmosphere. Even the lonely isolated bits are all part of the experience, after all. If your body starts lying to you and telling you it can’t be done, ignore it. It can be done. It will be done. You will do it.

Work for the moment when you start to hear that Team Z finish line; you’ll hear it well before you see it. Then you will know that you are almost home.

Somewhere between 9:20pm and 10:20pm on September 12, 2010 you will become an Ironman.


4 responses to “Enemy Sighted

  1. And all of us in CHC are very proud of you already Mark!

  2. i need to consult with you for plans for my next half and full marathons! you have to promise not to laugh at how wussy i am for doing just those. 😀

  3. Great race plan Mark! Stick to the plan and smile and you will have a fantastic day! My coach always makes me add smiling into my plan, it does help, if the going gets tough make sure you smile and it will make everything ok!
    You are right that you only get one first Ironman, enjoy that finish chute when you get there, its an amazing place and you’ve earnt the right to be there!
    1 tip re the sunscreen, put it on the night before, that way if you forget in the morning its not a big deal as you already have some on.
    Enjoy the day Mark, I’m looking forward to reading your race report 🙂

  4. And so it came to pass. Congratulations, Mark. Fantastic job. And thanks to Mary for the updates!

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