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Ironman New Zealand took place five weeks post Epic Camp – a 12 day camp of aerobic overload -- combining huge cycling volume with high run and swim frequency. Mentally and physically EC is the perfect lead into race specific preparation periods prior to Ironman.

Following the camp I had a chance to recover for a week. I then trained with easy to steady efforts for one week before completing a solid race specific preparation. Put together, the camp and the specific preparation were a large part of my being as race ready as possible.

My endurance leading into EC and IMNZ was a real concern for me as I had missed weeks of training in October, November and December with cracked ribs, torn cartilage and a wrist fracture. Surgery on the wrist was required. It took place six weeks post Hawaii Ironman. There were two incisions and a screw was placed into the scaphoid bone. There was no swimming for 6-8 weeks and there was an extended period of no running, riding or strength work. I gained quite a bit of weight, lost some strength and lost some muscular endurance as well as endurance fitness. You could say I was not at my zenith mentally.

As I moaned and groaned to my coach,
Gordo Byrn, that I had lost all fitness and was in deep “doo doo” (where Epic Camp and IMNZ were concerned) he reminded me that we do not lose years of fitness in a matter of weeks. He assured me that my muscle memory and mental toughness would get me through EC and that IMNZ would go well.

I had the opportunity to repeat his message about holding onto parts of deep fitness to several sidelined athletes and went on to prove us both correct at IMNZ.

I was patient on my return to training from injury and things started to come together after about three weeks of feeling rather unfit. I can say, looking back, that if I had tried to rush my fitness any faster I am quite sure my IMNZ story would have ended very differently. The consistency I was able to realize in training never would have materialized and my aerobic endurance would have been left short. Day in and day out consistency was the key to my getting as ready as possible.

What did my coach do for me besides calm me mentally when I was down physically?
For that matter, calm me mentally when I am really rolling physically!

He’s the man with my plan. He made Epic Camp available. Gordo can objectively see when there is a need to show caution with intensity and volume while effectively preventing me from developing deep fatigue and/or overuse injury that many motivated athletes fall victim to. Together, we set race pace and deal with the goal inflation that surrounds pre-race fitness. I can tell you without hesitation that there were more fit and faster athletes in Taupo that did not finish in front of me. Either they entered the race physically less than 100% or went out at a pace that resulted in them popping. In December, January and February, I was an athlete who may have fallen victim to both scenarios. But the g-man helped me dodge a bullet. When I was in my ‘worry mode’, he held firm despite times when I pushed back against his suggestions of patience.

In the end, IMNZ was one of my most successfully executed races and earned me a slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, Oct ‘04.

The lessons I take from late ’03 and early ’04 are patience and the importance of one’s support group when the going gets tough. For me, that group includes my good friend and coach – Gordo // my wife – Laurie // and kids – Kelly and Colleen.

I train alone the majority of the time but am in good company mentally as this group is very gracious when it comes to their support of my work and racing. I am very fortunate.

SWIM

The race began in cold temperatures and in cold water. I lined up near the front and had a relatively easy start. I came into the race swimming faster than ever before. I had a good draft the entire way. The swim was called ‘fast’ by the leaders but I was 3-4 minutes slower than I expected at 1:02. Perhaps we did not swim a great line, but more likely I was a bit short in my chosen effort. All else went well.

T1 was long. I let my HR drop to 134 exiting transition after running 400m to the tents and changing. Time elapsed was 7.5 minutes. In examining results, the two guys just ahead of me in my AG were in T1 for 6 to 6.5min and beat me at the finish by 60 and 90 seconds – the difference of T1. Don’t ever think that seconds don’t count in a race. Slots to Kona are nearly always decided by seconds. “Be quick but don’t hurry” (John Wooden).

BIKE

Breaking down the 180k ride into fourths:
1st 45k – 1:14 with HR of 143-146
2nd 45k – 1:30 with HR of 140
3rd 45k – 1:13 with HR of 145
4th 45k – 1:23 with HR of 145-150

My aerobic threshold is about 135. My plan was to ride at AeT+10 and raise my efforts the last third of the ride, building to AeT+15. I may have been a bit slow in the second 45k but was able to show a good deal of restraint as my average mph and pace dropped into the wind and up rolling hills. My total ride time was 5:23 – I think that was among the top fifty overall. I negative split the bike by 8 minutes, seven of those minutes came in the last 45k. Gordo had mentioned to me that Cam had put 5 to 10min into him over this last 45k in 2002 by being patient earlier in the ride. I really held onto that tip and did the same to a few riders who were around me at 135k.

RUN

T2 was about 1.5min. I left carrying 500cal of water and Carbo Pro in a pre-mixed large bike bottle, taking my time to consume it over the first 30min. This was my slowest portion of the run leg but allowed my legs to come correct and me to ingest calories as I hydrated.

Run efforts:
1st out – HR 145
1st back – HR 145-150
2nd out – HR 145-150
2nd back – HR 145-150 (150-155 last 6k)

My run time was 4:03.
The second half was a battle to maintain my efforts.
I negative split the run by 5 minutes.

Finish time was 10:37.
This was a satisfying result.

I am also pleased at reaching some consistency in IM.
My last four finishes (absent Hawaii’s injuries) have all been between 10:22 and 10:37.
Three of those were qualifying times. The other was very close.

At IMNZ ’04 I managed 10th place in my AG 45/49, which allowed the last qualifying slot to roll into my lap. Another example of why there is good reason to keep on truckin’ in the back half of an IM when things look less than stellar. Just about everybody out there is having a tough day.

Looking forward to a return to Hawaii in good health.