I’ve been looking forward to this race for three years, ever since it was announced. Back in the 80s & 90s, there was a race in Nice, France *which Mark Allen won 10 times between 1982 and 1993. After that, it hosted the International triathlon Union’s Long Distance World Championships 5 times, but succumbed to the entry of Ironman in 2005. This iconic race enshrined a unique distance: 3 km swim, 120 km (75 miles) bike, and 30 km (18.7 mi) run. After doing a few Ironman races, I longed to compete at what seemed like a saner “long” distance.
When I learned in 2014 ITU would hold its LC World AG Championship in Penticton, BC, less than six hours drive from my home, I knew I would be racing there this August. Qualifying for it was basically a matter of showing up and completing the Miami Man half iron in November, 2016 – USAT rules allow the first 18 finishers in EACH age group a chance to join Team USA for the world’s. So sure was I, that in August 2016, I reserved my B&B room on along the finishing chute on Lakeshore drive (where Ironman Canada held sway for 30 years). Then, in November, I garnered 4th at the USAT National Championship in Miami. At that point, all I needed to do was stay injury free – something I had not managed for the preceding two years. Sure enough, a month later, I snapped my sciatic nerve as it runs through the piriformis, sidelining me from running for over 2 months. I have since rebuilt my run to good form, but am reminded every time I sit down to eat or drive that the nerve is still tender.
My training has been on target since mid-February, when I went through a mini-OS. Since then (21 weeks), I have swum 100,000 meters in 46 sessions, biked 3000 miles over 85 days, and run 120 times for 530 miles. In the past two months, that’s 60,000m/23 sessions swimming, of which 10 have been 3000 meters open water, about an hour each. 1000 miles/28 days biking, with at least one 3+ hour ride each week in the mountains. And 47 runs for 250 miles. The running has improved the most, with an average pace of 8:48/ mile, which is the same speed I was running in 2014, before I started sabotaging my self, averaging 9:10 the subsequent two years. While I can’t run the same top speed anymore, I do seem to have regained my endurance and running strength.
The course is basically the same as old IM Canada for the swim, starting on the beach at The Peach, one loop. The bike is flatter than the old IM – no big climbs in the mountains southwest of town. It starts with about 25 miles (40 k) of flat along the two lakes at either end of town. Then it goes through 15 miles with two climbs, totaling 1000’ gain, before swinging along the southern lake back into town and repeating miles 20-45 – another two climbs and 10 miles of finishing flats. The run is 3 times around a 10k loop, which is a “Y” consisting of three out ‘n backs – very spectator friendly, and also enabling nearly constant checks on one’s competition. Because each age group starts in its own wave (maybe the 60 & over men will all go together), there’s never any question as to where your competition is.
One other note: I bought a new TT bike a month ago. This is a very big deal for me, as I’ve been riding my other one for 17 years. A Quintana Roo PR Six, Ultegra Di2 with compact crank, 11-32 in the rear. My previous bike had 650 wheels, which may play a major role, along with improved aerodynamics, in the primary difference I notice. It seems “easier” to hold speed along the flats (defined as -2 to +2 % grades) – I seem to be able to hold my momentum with less effort. Here’s some data to back that up: I just did an Oly bike ride, 0.921 IF for 40K, with an HR averaging 119. Seven years ago, when I was in super shape during a Kona build (and younger), on the same course with my old bike, I went the same speed (1:11:52 compared to 1:11:53!), with an IF of 0.906, and an HR of 127. I don’t think I bought “free speed” with this bike, but I do think I bought “free fitness”. Sort of like how more swim volume in training, while not necessarily making one faster on race day, nonetheless makes the next two legs easier from improved swim fitness. What I need to do is convince myself that I can convert that free fitness into actual speed, by letting myself work a little harder. More on that in the race plan.
So that’s the set-up. I’ll return in Part Deux with my specific race plan.