Thursday, May 5, 2011


Now there is nothing between me and the Ironman in Brazil on the 29th May, only 3 long bike rides, one brick (bike-run), 3 long runs and some lactate threshold tests. The quantity of training is much less than it has been up to now with three weeks of between 10 and 15 hours to go (not including the week of the competition itself, which will be very light). The idea is a mini-taper, a week of load and the final taper over two weeks. Now I can start to think of the Ironman and what it means to cross that line and, for the first time, I don't feel scared. The race in Lisbon was a huge confidence booster, not so much because of the good time, but because I finished so strong and recovered very quickly after the race.

It's probably going to be hot and humid in Floripa (right now its around 25 degrees and 90% humidity). Unfortunately, I am very susceptible to these kind of conditions but, through training, I have come to tolerate them much better. The Astromad Half Ironman I did in Robledo de Chavela (Madrid) was in what were most likely more extreme conditions. It means I am going to have to pay extra special attention to what I eat and drink. I've come to the conclusion that the most important element of the human body for an Ironman is not the legs, the heart nor the lungs, it's not even the brain but the stomach. People talk of "hitting the wall" in the Marathon, when your blood sugar stores (glycogen) are depleted and you are forced to suddenly decrease your energy expenditure - they reckon that it is only possible to store around 2,500 calories as glycogen and a Marathon usually requires more than this. So what then, if you have just done a 3.8km swim (let's guess 1,000 calories) and a 180km bike ride (around 3,000 calories)? You have to be able to metabolize energy on the go and this is where the stomach (or really the digestive tract) comes in. If you run out of energy it doesn't matter how good your legs or lungs are, or even how determined you are to push on ahead - when you hit the wall the race becomes a nightmare. Just as getting off the bike in Lisbon, I was "curious" to see how my legs would react to running, in the Ironman I will be entering in to previously unexplored territory and I can't know whether I have overcooked it until it is too late. If you somehow had a kind of battery level indicator it would not be so nerve wracking. When you are running your cardiovascular system is much more of a limiting factor and you know almost instantly how hard you are pushing. But the bike can be a treacherous machine - you can be plodding along without a care in the world and suddenly realize that your batteries have run out. In other words, unless you are a professional cyclist, I don't think you can trust how you feel ("sensations") to determine your pacing - it depends very much on how long you have to keep it up for and how much energy you are able to metabolize. This is why a lot of athletes use a power meter on the bike - it is more consistent and instantaneous than going by heart rate. I don't think it is wise to trust either one of sensation, heart rate or power exclusively. Your heart rate may rise due to heat or humidity, representing a real energetic cost of heat evacuation that a power meter won't pick up; a power meter reacts instantly to a gust of wind or an incline whereas your heart rate does not and, lastly, how you feel will depend on how well you are digesting your food as well as a whole load of other factors. As far as power goes, I am waiting until the pedal power is available (power meters incorporated into the pedals): both Polar and Garmin are furtively working on competing systems which should be in the shops sometime this year. The current alternatives are too much of a fiddle (not to mention cost) for me to bother with, being incorporated either into the wheel hub or the cranks.

The course in Floripa is nice and flat! It's easy to laugh at those pathetic little bumps in the bike course, but they can be deceptive as I learned in Lisbon. I should get a chance to to a "recky" of the course beforehand. As is typical for all Ironman races, the swim comprises two parts, with a little breather on land between the two. Also, of course, the scenery should be pretty spectacular from the photos I have seen although the temptation to throw myself on the beach will be all the greater...

1 comment:

  1. It should be colder weather in three weeks, they're quitting the summer. Course looks very nice. Me i'm waiting too for a power meter not placed on the wheel, we'll see.

    I remember that the road is very good for the bike, crossing the whole island.

    Enjoy, the job is done!!