Here we are, 4 weeks away from the Nice Ironman but also 2 weeks away from the Eagleman 70.3. You may remember my goals for 2008. I wanted to start the year by breaking 2h45 at the Paris marathon. We saw how well that went! I followed with the objective of breaking the 4h30 mark at the Eagleman. At the same venue, I also bet with Jean Orlowski that I would beat him by 30’. Then, for the Nice Ironman, my goals were to finish in the top 10 of my age group but also to run a 3h15 marathon. Finally, I hoped to show serious progress with my swimming during these 2 races. What a program!
Let’s begin with the Eagleman. As a reminder, the Eagleman is a fast 70.3 (half-Ironman) in Cambridge, Maryland. It is also a Kona qualifier and an extremely competitive race. The Eagleman is not a primary objective for me, the Nice Ironman is. I will therefore only do a mini taper of 2 to 3 days at most before the race. I won’t be as fresh as I would be for a main event but I hope to be rested enough to race well. Now, rested enough to do a 4h30? Well, I failed last year in perfect conditions and with a 2-week taper. My trusted run let me down as I struggled with stomach cramps. May be this year I will be lucky enough to have good weather conditions again and a smooth race. If I do, I should be able to come under 4h30. Can I beat Jean by 30’ and more especifically beat him by 5’ at the swim, 10’ on the bike and 15’ on the run? Well, according to him it is simply impossible. He believes that I might be able to do it at the swim but certainly not on the bike and he believes his running as improved enough that I won’t succeed on the run either. Time will tell. That is if he shows up to the race of course. Jean is usually eager to race against me when the triathlon season ends but he seems unable to follow through. It has to be said that Jean has been having a stretch of bad luck. For years, He has been unable to race against me. 2 years ago, he had allergy. Last year it was headaches. This year, he told me his throat was not quite right. He is a delicate machine, we understand…
Now let’s talk Ironman Nice a little. I have a hard time thinking of an Ironman without feeling a little intimidated. There is so much that can happen in such a long and challenging day that finishing seems to be enough of a goal sometimes. Nevertheless, I have given myself goals for Nice and I am still committed to them (You will notice that I am a lot more careful than I was for the Paris marathon. I learned my lesson…). The plan is to swim in 1h05 or better. If the sea is relatively flat and if I manage to swim straight, I am confident that I can do it. I made sufficient progress since last year not to be stressed about the swim anymore. I plan for a strong bike but don’t expect a great time. The Nice Ironman course is challenging and I want to save my legs for the marathon. It is really hard for me to estimate what my bike time will come to. I still don’t have enough experience to do this with accuracy. Also, the course difficulty makes a big difference on the finish time. I nevertheless think I can do a 5h45 or slightly better. I don’t think I can do a 5h30 on a course like Nice wihtout burning my legs. Finally, I would love to run a fast marathon. A 3h15 finish would really be something. If all goes as planned, a 3h15 would also allow me to come close to the 10-hour mark. This would certainly grant me a top 10 age group finish.
Am I prepared well enough to achieve these times?
Well, I trained hard. I started my preparation mid-November and have since then averaged 18 hours of training a week. I just did the math for the first time and discovered that 25% of my training time was swimming, 25% was biking and 50% was running. I am not sure what to think of it yet. For sure the preparation for the Paris marathon resulted in an emphasis on running which explains the skewed proportion. I also made an effort all winter to get to the pool as regularly as my crazy traveling schedule allowed me to. In these circumstances, it does make sense that the time allocated to biking looks light. I did try to catch up on my bike preparation since the Paris marathon early April but it might have been insufficient.
I have not done any triathlon this year. I have only raced running events. I therefore don’t have much reference points as for how fast I can swim and bike. The only thing I have is the occasional time trials and the way I feel when I trained. Based on that, I trust I have a strong base. Only last week end I managed to bike a 120 miles on the Saturday followed by a 27 mile run on Sunday and 7,400 yard swim on Monday (plus off course the side training sessions). I feel short on intensity training though. I did OK running and I have all the speed I need but I did little intensity training in the pool and even less on the bike. The 2 others areas where I don’t feel ready are the bike-run transition and the race nutrition. I just don’t like brick training. I have done basically none. I will try to do a few of them in the coming weeks. I also need to put together and try a nutrition plan for race day. It really does not matter how well I trained if I run out energy during the race. My body is very forgiving when it comes to eating while racing. Except for last year’s cramps at the Eagleman I never suffered any digestion problems. I just have to decide what I will take during Ironman Nice and test it during training and the Eagleman.
This is about it. The hard work is behind me now. I have 1 tough week of training left that will conclude with the Eagleman and then, 2 weeks of rest. I will make my way to Nice on Thursday June 19, ready, I think. I will hope for a good day and then try to race smart. The key will be to swim without stress, to pace myself on the bike and then to have enough left in the legs and in the head to race a hard marathon.