Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Key Words (or, The Soundtrack to My IM Run, as Programmed by the '80s)

I mentioned in my last post that I used key words throughout my ironman marathon. I don't remember where I first heard of using them (Assault on Lake Casitas probably), but we definitely used them throughout my rowing days.

I'm not a sports psychologist, so don't hold me to this definition, but basically key words as I use them are triggers for focusing on something specific or making a change in race pace/effort. I trained with them for the last four months, so when I say them, I know what to do.

I used six key words throughout my IM run. For me, that's a manageable number. With the exception of two, they're based on songs -- none of which are particularly intense -- and that's for a reason. For whatever reason, three of the songs are from the '80s. Clearly I try to keep things a little light, even when I'm focused on a goal. I left my glowering intensity behind with collegiate rowing races (where we lost more than we won) -- it was in a more relaxed atmosphere that we usually came through big.

So here they are:

Light, Quick
I used both of these throughout the run, but specifically in the first two hours. Neither relate to speed for me, they're reminders throughout the run to try for an effortless feel and to keep my leg turnover high.

Man in Motion
I said this phrase at the one hour mark. It's intent is to focus on keeping things rolling -- not pushing the pace, just reaffirm my constant profess. Ignoring the movie (which I've never seen), this is an awesome song, especially if you know the real reason it was written.

I said this at two hours down. The song came up on my ipod in the middle of a tough training run when things weren't going so well. For whatever reason it relaxed me then. Saying it at about the halfway point of the race gets me to relax and keep things steady.

I save this for the 10k-to-go mark. Basically, it means it's time to go. It's cheesy, but it comes from my favorite movie from when I was a kid. And it's a good song! (...if you like transforming robots...) Truthfully, while its purpose is to get me to change gears, it's also to remind me that I do these things for fun... and you can't get more fun than giant, transforming robots. (Skip ahead to about the 1:00 mark if you don't want the exciting build-up from the movie).

Big Casino
The only non-'80s song that I use as a key word. Where "Dare" means start leaning on it, "Big Casino" means drop the hammer. In CdA I saved it for the last two miles, although in training I practiced dropping it in anywhere in the last 10k. Granted, "dropping the hammer" for me didn't set any land speed records in this race, but effort was at close to max.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

I'm going to share loads from my two week excursion up to, in and back from northwest Idaho, but I figured I'd start with the quick race summary to get that out of the way.

I arrived in town on Thursday morning, poked around the expo, registered and then went out to drive the bike course. I'm glad I took the time to scope out the course, otherwise I would have been really disheartened to arrive at the hills for the first time on race day and discover that they were all bigger than I had anticipated. We do have some steep rollers in the San Angelo area, but everything in CdA is twice as long and just as steep.

Once that was done I "checked in" to where we were staying. Through weird and happy circumstance, my friend Sam (who now lives in San Francisco) had mentioned that his boss, Tom, lives in Coeur d'Alene. Tom and his wife Pam were incredibly generous and let Hannah and me stay at their place for the race. Sam also flew up to spectate and volunteer.

After delays, both Hannah and my folks made it into town.

The Day
Hannah, me and Sam before the start

Race morning was uneventful, except for misplacing Hannah and my wetsuit before the start (they were together, but not with me... d'oh!). Everything worked out and I got down to the swim in time.

It wasn't until about 15 seconds before the cannon went off that I realized I was starting way wide. Ultimately, I missed the draft of the faster guys that I could have hung with and instead rolled through with an easy/steady effort. I checked my watch at the first turn buoy and saw that it was blank (I had taken it to a shop the day before to get the battery replaced but the waterproof seal didn't hold up). I had no idea how the swim had gone or where I was -- I only learned later that I popped out just under an hour and in 76th place.

I saw Hannah as I was exiting transition and swapped watches with her so I'd have a sense of my time on the course.

The bike went like it usually does with everyone passing me in the first loop. This time however, because I was riding smarter (thank you power meter), I was actually able to come back through a bunch of those people on the second loop. I rolled in around 6:26, changed and was off for the run.

For the last three IM attempts, I've wanted to go sub-12. That didn't happen at either of my Lake Placid races, but I had done the work and had paced the first parts of my race well enough that I was in a position to make it happen.

Short summary: the run was tough, but doable. I faded a bit in the middle, mostly because I was worried I was running at a pace I couldn't sustain (that's where the heart rate info would have helped). I came through mile 20 a few minutes past 11 hours and knew that the only way I was going to make my goal was through a strong push.

I had been practicing using key words for the six months leading into my race -- I'll write something up on those in a later post. As I had practiced, at 10k to go, I clicked in and ramped up the effort. Granted, my speed change was relative (I wasn't setting any records here), but it was enough to get the job done: 4:22 marathon and an 11:58:58 overall.

Overall it was a great day. Like usual, things went wrong. But this was the first long course race where I've been able to stay calm throughout the day and lift effort at the end. For that, I credit Hannah's patience in letting me get out the door to train, as well as Gordo's and the Endurance Corner crew's coaching.

I'll wrap this up with a quick photo. I was fortunate enough to meet up with some of the other Endurance Corner athletes in the days before the race. And man, there are some fast dudes (and ladies) on this team.
One of these things is not like the other. From right: Vince Matteo - Kona qualifier, 10th in his AG, 72nd overall; Kevin Coady - Kona qualifier, 3rd in his AG, 22nd overall (and ran a 3:10 marathon!); some other guy.