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Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I Crammed for the Cobra Ironman 70.3, 2013

The Cobra Ironman 70.3 is undoubtedly the country's most popular triathlon event. Now on its 5th year, no other race is able to motivate local triathletes to carve out large swaths of their time each week to do long rides, long runs and those mind-numbing countless laps in the pool to do long swim sessions.

It's the challenge of the distance that makes it attractive. Roughly double the standard Olympic distance triathlon that many in the local community have already graduated from. Pinoy triAthletes, mostly overachievers in anything we do, get bored and look for a bigger challenge. The 1.8km swim, 90km bike and 21k run of a 70.3 miler offers an extra serving of difficulties and uncertainties to test our abilities and speed. We get to battle a longer swim, cramps in the bike and run leg, blisters and the occasional heat stroke given that it takes 5 to 7 hours average to finish this distance. The cut off, in fact is 8:30 hours.

A strong bike ride often spells triathlon success.

As such, training is usually two to three times more intense than preparing for a standard distance tri less you stand the risk of "bonking" during the race or coming in with a slow performance.

My dilemma was time. Though I've done six 70.3's in the past and I am used to the training load, my work load this year for some reason is exponentially higher than what it used to be. As such, I could only focus on the 5i50 (standard distance) triathlon slated for May (SUBIT)  and June (Century Tuna 5i50). Not much long rides nor work on the hills and long runs. As to the swim? Forget about it. I am probably the only veteran who till now hates the water. To make matters worse, I had to fly out for 10 days on a business trip 5 weeks before the 70.3 in Cebu. That left me 3.5 weeks to prepare for the country's premier triathlon event. A half Ironman distance at that.

To cushion the impact of the extended absence from training here in Manila, I was determined to train in the USA during the business trip. Though I was able to run, a few times ranging from 16k to shorter distances, my work schedule and situational circumstances prevented me from logging in mileage in the pool and on stationary bikes.

Travel includes working even up to late at night...and going for some R&R.

My 3.5 weeks crash program for the Cobra Ironman 70.3:

I know my limitations and priorities. I am not a Podium contender for this distance (and of late, any distance for that matter). Moreover, I knew I had to temper my ambitions on race time. Lastly, my swim is hopeless. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to focus on the bike and run for this challenge. I figured, I am a good runner. But this won't do much if I leave my legs in the bike course.

This is where I would focus. I had three weekends leading to the big day. I committed to do back to back long rides for three Saturdays and Sundays consecutively. At least 100k on a Saturday and 90k to 100k on a Sunday plus a long run (8k to 15k). I also found time to run daily, even short distances as well as to do a 15k to 20k run once a week during the weekday as well. Finally, I also did at least two rides during the week. A short one (30k to 40k - which is what my work schedule could fit in) and a 50k to 60k ride. I was only able to swim a total or three to four times because of my choice to focus on bike and run. The longest I swam was 2k. A mortal sin when preparing for the 70.3.

Race Day - The Result:

I knew I had no swim endurance or speed or power. So at the swim start, I made the wise decision to really just take it easy. I still had my share of being kicked, pulled at, elbowed, scratched during most of the race as I think I was swimming mostly among the newbies. But, I just kept on executing a relaxed swim no matter what. The swells were also big that day. Extra challenge but this is where experience helps. I felt the tension and near panic of the other swimmers through the swim course. I even saw athletes clinging to the lines and throwing up because of motion sickness. A first in my over 8 years of doing triathlon. But I just kept calm and swam effortlessly. BUT SUPER SLOW. I finished the swim in 0:51 minutes.

When I got to the bike, I felt really fresh. But again - realizing I just crammed for this race, and learning from the painful experience of pushing too hard through the strong winds last year and ending up bonking - I kept a steady, slightly labored pace but still very relaxed. I was conserving for the run and all I had planned to do was finish the 90k ride in 3 hours. I would stop at the aid stations (something I never used to do) and even took a pee break when I saw a porta-let. I would have short chats with the other bikers and they would be surprised to see me not pushing. I finished the bike leg in 3:07 or so. My slowest 70.3 distance ride and a far cry from the 2:40 or so I would usually put in for Camsur.

The Intensity is Missing :)

I knew I had to put in a strong run to compensate for all this leisurely strolling I was doing in Cebu. I jogged for a kilometer to shake off the lactic acid build up in my leg muscles. During this portion, I was jogging with a swim coach who was doing the swim and run legs as part of a relay team. We were exchanging notes on what pace to take for the run. He said he felt good and so opted to push the pace. I made him go ahead for awhile before deciding I needed to go sub-2 hours for the run to still try to salvage a sub 6 hour performance.

Power Run - Sub 2 hour for the 21k.

Then ----- BOOM. I hit my groove and chase after whoever I could find in the run course. The crash program worked. My legs were not cramping. It helped that I doused myself with water in the legs, glutes, heart and head at each water station. This gave me more energy to sustain the pace despite only having taken two bars or Choco Mucho bars (P12 local choco bars I bought from the gas station before heading off to Cebu) for the entire race. Oh, did I tell you I also have poor race nutrition discipline. I can't eat to save my life.

I didn't make the sub 6 but I did run in 2:00 hours exactly for the 21k. My total time was 6:08. A decent finish for an old guy like me considering the lack of training.

In the end, I was quite happy with the results of my crash training program.

1 comment:

  1. I knew some friends who didn't make it at IM Cebu because of work pressures. A 70.3 is 70.3! Double congratulations to those who participated to those individuals who have limited time due to work, family and social commitments.