Ironman Lanzarote – A Mental Battle



Many people are drawn to Ironman racing for the opportunity to test themselves in what often called “the hardest one day race in the world”. Personally, I find that there are few things in life that are so fulfilling as when you have prepared well, race harder than you think is possible, able to ignore the pain, kick the nuts of the little voice in your head that sais “slow down” on the bike, and “walk” after 30km on the run. To finally reach the finish line completely drained is an amazing feeling.

To get that perfect race you really have to dig deep inside, and in many ways the Ironman is much harder mentally than physically (if you are physically trained for it and can “race” rather than just participate).

My race in Lanzarote was a different kind of battle. Leading up to the event, I had to learn to accept that it was highly unlikely that I would be able to race hard due to the hip injury I have been battling with (last post). It was also a battle during the race; to hold back and ensure that I under no circumstance would take any risk of tearing the injury up again. And a battle afterwards to appreciate the experience – with such a mediocre result compared to what I was preparing for during the winter.

Many of my friends thought that I would not start, but as I had payed everything and was able to do one (…) 2 hours run session in the weeks leading up to the event I thought it will be a good training day. I had also started a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders and collected close to 10,000SEK which I felt I needed to do something for to all whom have contributed.

As always Ironman Lanzarote was extremely well organized in a location that delivers what you would expect going to Hawaii. In my opinion Lanzarote is a much better experience, more beautiful and a harder race than Hawaii and I enjoy this race more than Kona in so many ways.

The week leading up to the race was normal. The airline lost my bike and delivered it one day later, which forced me to sit in the hotel gym on a spin bike instead of riding the course ahead of the event. I decided to try out a new way of tapering – which was train rather hard the whole month leading up to the race (thankfully I have an understanding and open minded coach that approves my bizarre experiments on myself…).

Swim: A lot more crowded than when I last raced Ironman Lanzarote in 1997 when 390 people finished. This year it was close to 1,500. While I was out warming up in the darkness I didn’t notice that everyone was packing themselves in at the start and I had to squeeze myself way back behind a banner behind the AWA athletes and sub 60min. It wasn’t a problem as I was not gunning for any personal best in this race.

First 400m I kept an insane pace around 1:05-1:10/100m and got that feeling of “this is way too fast, I will die today”. After about 500m I could settle in to a 1:20-1:25 pace and stayed way out of everyone’s way as I didn’t want to get pulled in the feet nor swim after people who can’t navigate. It became a long first lap of around 30min and afterwards looking at the data I can see that I swam close to 4,200m due to my wide turn the first lap. Finished the swim in 57:51.

Bike: Out on the bike I took in as much Isostar energy drink that I could before I got to the first climb. Rode conservative keeping 10beats/20watts below my aerobic threshold that Aktivitus has helped me to set. Saved my legs in the climbs and tried to keep a constant load to get ready for “the sprint” home. The sprint is, after the last significant climb Mirador Del Rio, when you usually have the wind in your back and can make up a lot of time if you have strength left on the way back to Playa del Carmen. The wind was however not in the back today – it was from the side and made the ride from Arrieta to Tahiche painfully slow.

Felt the hip injury slightly on the climbs but nothing dramatic. Got of the bike after 5:57:28, the slowest bike time I have ever done in any race.

Run: By riding more conservative than I typically do I was also hoping that I would have fresher legs and be able to run the whole marathon even with the lack of long runs. But that was not the case and I felt as toasted as you typically do after 6 hours with hills, wind and sun. Started the run at an easier 4:45 – 4:50 pace and maintained that rather consistently until 21km where I started to feel the hip injury and reduced the speed to a jog/shuffle. After 26k I started to walk/jog and mentally prepare for the long walk ahead and the fact that I would be passed by many people. Finally made it to the finish line after 4:05:45. My second slowest marathon ever (walked Hawaii 1998 in a whopping 5:40:30 which still is my PW which I hope that I will never break).

Results:

  • Finished in 11:11 and 9th in my age group. Kind of ironic as I was 9th in my age group last time I raced here 1997 – in the age group 30-34.
  • Last year the Kona qualification time in 50 – 54 group was 11:14 but I don’t know if I could have gotten a slot this year as I did not go to the roll down.

My Key Learnings:

  • Taper – experimenting with tapering before this race was good and I think I now know how much training and what intensity I need during race week to have fresh legs without feeling swollen and tired.
  • The myth “Save your legs for the run” has once again been busted – at least for me. Either you have trained well on the run and can handle it or you haven’t. It’s not about saving the legs for the run. It’s about preparing them to run a decent marathon after 180km on the bike.

Expectations: Managing and setting expectations, appreciate participation as well as victory enables us to enjoy even mediocre races and results. There is no real benefit of mentally beating yourself up before, during or after  races and listening to the cliché bullshit like “no balls, no glory”, “go hard or go home”, “harden the fu%€ up” and “no one remembers a looser”. Think big – love the journey, develop an understanding why you want to challenge yourself and you will possibly find a much bigger reward and experiences on a deeper plane.

Venga, venga – apreciar la vida!

// Juan Pelota

 

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TSS – Training Stress Score or Total Stress Score?



There is nothing more demotivating than injuries. When you are down and out and can’t train, I find that nothing really works or feels right as the whole system is out of balance. As always injuries come at the worst possible time – not in the off season when you are taking it easier but right at the time when you are supposed to do your hardest training.

When I look back at what happened it is obvious that my TSS was spot on if I would have had my normal load of stress outside of training – but I didn’t – I had a couple of extreme work weeks where Teresa at Uperform.dk had reduced my training load as I was traveling to and in the US – The program was perfect but rather than backing of a little when I got back I jumped right into the program (and added some extra to make up…) instead of listening to my body and taking a little easier.

I share the story here, not for sympathy but rather in hope that some of you can learn from my mistakes and avoid doing them to yourself.

3-4 weeks ago, I came back from the nightmare USA trip where I flew in to Florida on a Sunday night and over the following week covered many of the large cities on the east coast having meetings morning, noon and in the afternoon/evening flying to the next city.

Felt ok when I came back and went straight into training and did a couple of hard sessions basically same day as I landed back in Sweden. No drama at least not directly…. but after a few days my hip flexor and hip area in general started to hurt. Took it a bit easy with running for a few days but continued. After a week, I started to build back running again but as soon as I tried to do quality – it hurt like hell and I limped home from track.

 

Last week I could finally build back up to a 15km easy run but them after some Z3 work it got worse again and this Easter Teresa said, “it’s time to take a break”. I took 3 days of complete rest. Not the best situation with Ironman Lanzarote just 5 weeks out….

After IM Lanzarote I just have a few weeks to 70.3 in Helsingör and straight after than in July Ironman Roth. Potentially this season can go straight down the toilet if I can’t start running as normal in the next few days.

But it is what it is and there is little to do about it. I might heal up fast and have great races all season, not heal up and be unable to run in the races. Not much to do about it other than hope and try to get well.

Key take always:  

  • If you are injured and try to train as normal the results will most likely be that it gets worse rather than better. This is the body’s way to make sure that you ease off and fixed up. 
  • Think of TSS not only as Training Stress Score but Total Stress Score – if you are pushing harder than normal in training you probably should make sure that you have less of other stress and that your Total Stress Score is manageable. If you are pushing much harder than normal at work – then you probably need to relax back a bit on the training as well.
  • Use your downtime wisely – when you are injured make sure to get things done that you normally don’t have time for and don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Don’t get stressed out – it will not make any other difference than that you will be a burden for people around you – it will not make you heal quicker and will not give you better results.
  • Do the rehab – it is the most boring training in the world but if you have a good physio you better do what he/she tells you or you are wasting both their and your time.
  • Most injuries don’t heal better by complete rest – in fact the opposite. But if you have run yourself to the ground it might be good to take a few days off. 

Good luck with your training and racing and I hope that you stay injury free!

//Magnus

Q1



In business, as well as in training, it’s good to ”set the pace” in Q1. Rather than dicking around and hardly getting started – looking at the budget figures as ”a end of the year event” for business. Or in the case of training – see it as a fair weather experience…

This year I decided to I spent some hard time on the trainer the first 3 months of the year. It totaled up to >3,400 km in a little over 104hours. I would lie if I said it was fun all the time but not as bad as many people think.

Q1 was not much LSD/distance in fact, I think I have done more hours in the red on the trainer those past 3 months than I have done in my whole life. Or perhaps I have just forgotten the horrible pain of riding every Saturday with the beast Jean Moureau in Belgium. Either way the training is really almost the opposite to how we used to train and it will be interesting to see how that translates into race results this year.  

Managed to get some swimming and running in as well (which is not as difficult to get done as biking during the Swedish winter).

This week I decided to try something completely new and see a very interesting bike fitter that is a licensed naprapat and is therefor able not only able to point out what is wrong but also adjust it and advice improvements to your training. 

No big change in position (there rarely are – if you as I have been biking for +450 years) but the small changes made noticeable difference and I feel even more comfortable on my luxurious beast of a ride. Weakness was identified in left hip flexor (that currently is on holiday due to a overuse injury from running to much hills).

 

Delta Naprapat setting me up in the perfect position.

Next week I will reward myself with a week in Spain to finally ride outside. It will not hurt !

7 weeks to Ironman Lanzarote and hopefully I will get the hip flexor back in the game or I will bring my surfboard instead of the bike.

Buenas Noches Amigos!

//Juan Pelota

To test or not test?



When I restarted training again 2014 (and racing 2015) I was surprised to see how accessible testing has become for all categories of athletes, not only to the top categories as in the past, but also to average age-groupers.

I am not talking about doping testing, which unfortunately seems to have gone the complete opposite direction. Pro’s have blood pass and experience frequent unannounced visits by WADA but there seems to be a complete lack of testing of age groupers. It’s amazing that two age group dopers were caught in the last few years but when you read the details about the cheaters Holly Balogh (2017, USA) and Thomas Lawaetz (2015, Denmark) it’s clear that someone really worked hard to get WADA out and test them – it didn’t happen as part of a structured testing in a race – someone had specifically given information that those two were using illegal substances.

But this post will not be about doping but rather about tests of your individual aerobic, anaerobic threshold and VO2 Max, done by knowledgeable people and documented in a professional way.

Over the years, it feels like I have read every book there is about training and racing and I know my body extremely well after so many years. So, it was with hesitation that I finally booked a test at Aktivitus. I made the decision after discussing it with my coach Teresa at Uperform.dk who really encouraged me to do the tests. I also reminded myself that I have made a commitment to use every possible legal advantage I can through better materials, methods and knowledge – finally I booked the appointment. Facts are friendly – belief is for religious people.

Test Time:

14:00 on a Tuesday I turn up at Aktivitus and Johan Hasselmark meet me and we start the tests with the bike leg. After a short warm up the resistance is increased every 3 minutes, a blood sample from a prick in the finger is collected and the heartrate is recorded. We take it up to 360W, 158 bpm and 7.1mmol lactate – no need to push it further as the purpose of the test is to identify at what resistance and heartrate the body makes the transition between the different energy supply systems.  

  • Aerobic threshold (LT) – the intensity level under which fat is the main source of energy.
  • Anaerobic threshold (AT) – the intensity level at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the muscles and glycogen is used as the main source of energy.

Test master – Johan Hasselmark (one of Sweden’s top adventure racer team “Swedish Armed Forces”)

Next test is running with the same process but with speed increase every 4 minutes and blood sample taken at the same intervals. The run LT and AT test is followed by a VO2 max run test where I get a mask on my face where they measure the amount of air (volume) I inhale as well as how much oxygen I absorbed from that air (uptake). This test was shorter and rather than increasing speed the treadmill was elevated to simulate a steep hill. A really steep hill. Johan stopped the treadmill when claimed that ”your stride started to look more like a shrimp than a runner”. I was happy with that that and I am sure that I maxed out on both the speed and elevation that was possible…. 

Still looking relaxed and happy – before the VO2 mask….

My results were somewhat in line with my expectations but with some very important learnings (more on that later):

 

Bike:

Effect:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

240W

132 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

305W

148 bpm

   

Run:

Tempo:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

4:35 min/km

145 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

4:10 min/km

154 bpm

VO2 Max testing is a real treat! 

Apparently, anything over 46 as a VO2 max is considered “elite” at my age (Compared to the average population), so I guess there is still hope to become faster at +50.

VO2 Max:

 

Test value:

59,2 ml O2 /kg/min

Oxygen uptake:

5092 ml O2/min

Key learnings:

  • There are statistical models to derive intensity zones out from maximum heart rate or FTP-tests. Most common I believe is Dr. Andrew Coggans models. These models has been developed in the past due to advanced tests hasn’t been available to ‘ordinary people’ or Age groupers. However, during recent years advanced physiological tests are far more available. Statistical models are statistical, which means an individual can be far off the statistical zones.
  • In my current shape, I should aim to race Ironman distance at 230-235W on the bike, this is higher than I had intended and a good indication that the winter training with 1,000km per month has not been wasted time.
  • Given my VO2 Max I should be able to move threshold 10-15W before the race season start.
  • Based on the FTP tests that we have done – the bike zones (watts and heartrate) that was defined by Uperform.dk was a close but not exact. Now we have the exact values.
  • The running zones were way off compared to the zones that we have worked with based on 20min run test on the track. Both heartrate and speed. It’s highly likely that the current values reflect my current running shape that is far from what it need to be around race time. Uperform.dk works with the principle to “lift” one sport at the time and for the past 2month the focus has been on the bike where I really made progress. Now it’s time to get the running in shape before Ironman Lanzarote in May and more importantly Challenge Roth in July.
  • Talking to people who refers to real research rather than opinions and hearsay is so refreshing (specially in our current communication landscape). The team at Aktivitus are impressively knowledgeable and when discussing “train low, race high” concepts with reduction in carbohydrates to promote increase of mitochondria I got a very good reference to a study/thesis done at GIH by PhD. Niklas Psilander (2014) 

 

Summary:

Would I recommend going to Aktivitus for testing for a beginner/intermediate – absolutely, you will learn a lot about how to train and can even get personalized programs to work on the areas you are weak in based on the tests performed on you – not a general shrink wrapped standard program. 

Would I recommend it to an experienced athlete that has been in the sport for +10 years plus – Yes. I think we all are victims to habit to some degree and even if we try to challenge ourselves with new programs, drills and concepts – we still need to measure to know the truth. Only measuring the actual results a few times per year in races will not really expose the strength and weaknesses that we need to work on.

Have a great spring – train smart!

//Maggi

Faster swimming with less effort



That heading sounds like a sales pitch! Well, it’s not.

A seemingly small thing that is obvious to every good swimmer but often neglected or even unknown to triathletes including myself is working on ankle flexibility.

As runners and cyclists, we typically develop extremely poor flexibility in the ankles and while swimming we point our toes towards the bottom rather than the horizon behind us. The additional resistance of two big feet hanging down is obviously not something that will have positive impact on our battel against the resistance of water. A better option is to learn to point them and make this part of the body as hydrodynamic as possible rather than trying to catch fish between the toes.   

I have heard swimmers tell me that I can gain as much as 5 seconds / 100m which seams a lot – perhaps they were referring to my size feet which typically sends shoe sales people into the back of the shop for hours or across the street to the canoe and small boat outlet to find something that fits. Either way; 5 seconds or 0,5 seconds/100/meters my point is that less drag will give faster times without more effort and energy spent. 

Training your ankle flexibility is very easy and can be done anywhere and as you can see on the picture it’s pain free, enjoyable and quite glamorous (at least when you FINALLY get flexible – I have been told..)

Folding a Yoga mat under the top of your fleets and toes increases the effect and can be used once you can comfortably sit on your feet.

Have a good one and happy training!

//Das (U)Boot 

Race plan 2017



I am not much for rearview mirror looking but perhaps a quick glance back is good this time of the year. 2016 was a great year with lots of training and trips around the world. No crashes, no big injuries but I think I did too few races in retrospect. This will change in 2017.

2016 Training:

Swim: Around 2-3 sessions per week, 324,000 meters, 107hrs.

Bike: Moderate total distance just over 12,000km, 416hrs. More quality work than 2015 as Coach Teresa likes quality.

Run: Not that great total distance just under 2,000km, 158hrs – but also here with more quality work than 2015.

Total training time: 681hrs a 13% increase in training time vs. 2015 and an average of 13hrs/week.

Injuries and sickness:

Not bad at all. A bad cold kind of disrupted the early season and another one after the last race of the season but otherwise OK.

Race and results:

Did not race as much as I would have liked to due to several reasons but was satisfied with two races out of three.

Trapaniman ½ ironman: 04:12:42, 1st in age-group, 13th overall.

Slovakman226 full Ironman: 09:40:57, 1st in age-group 10th overall.

Ironman Cozumel: DNF due to stomach problems / cramps.

 

Conclusion:

Happy that I could spend so much time training and racing without sacrificing quality time with the family and still make ends meet. Awesome to get to know some great people all over the world. Also, good to do an Ironman distance race under 10 hours again and get one step on the way to the goal of “Faster at 50”.

Still not feeling my old strength on the bike – but considering that I have just restarted my training I am hoping that my bike legs will return. Running is gradually coming back and I am happy to be able to do multiple 25-30km runs at 4:30 – 4:35km pace with backpack on tired legs. 

2017:

Now it’s time to suit up and race more frequently than 2014 and 2015. It will be a busy schedule that will seriously test if the two years of preparation has made me ready to beat my old times. The first 7 months includes two Ironman races that I have sign up for and after those two I will revisit the plan and see if I will do two more this year or just one (Ironman Cozumel).

January – February: No racing.

March: Half Ironman, Half Marathon

April: Half Ironman and/or Olympic

May: Full distance #1 – Ironman Lanzarote (my old time from 1997 to beat – 10:08:16) 

June: Half Ironman and/or Olympic depending on how I feel after Lanzarote and how quick I recover.

July: Full distance #2- Challenge Roth (my old time from 1996 to beat – 09:12:23)

Aug: TBD

September: Possibly full distance #3- Austria Long Distance, Podersdorf

October: No race – Preparation for Ironman Cozumel.

November: Full distance #4 – Ironman Cozumel.

December: No race.

It’s a pretty ambitious plan but given the nature of the event I think it’s better to have multiple races lined up. Apart from the training and preparation all we can really do is to hope that the ”perfect day”, when everything works like it should, will happen on one of them.

//Maggi