Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 38 – Goal Times for Ironman

I met a new friend during one of my training sessions and it got me thinking about my goal times for the Ironman – which is only three weeks away now.

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Athlete Journal Entry 38: Goal Times for Ironman

There’s not much to say about training at this point. Not that I haven’t done any obviously, but I’m pretty much as fit as I’m going to be at this point with the race now three weeks away.

My longest run is done. Today was my longest ride – a six-hour increasingly hard ride that finished with a thirty minute run off the bike. I’ve been at my maximum swim distance for weeks now so nothing has changed there.

Out riding today I was suffering pretty badly in the last hour and came upon another soon to be Ironman. They’re pretty easy to spot now. Where I live there are always plenty of cyclists out first thing on the weekends but by ten o’clock or so they’re all packed up and you’ve pretty much got the roads to yourself. The only people out later in the day now are the Ironmen and women because no one else is dumb enough to train through the heat of an Australian summer day.

I’ve had many interesting spontaneous chats with various people over the last twelve months. From those stunned at my stupidity in wanting to do an Ironman as my second triathlon to experienced competitors offering advice and support, I’ve been really lucky to have met so many incredibly generous people over the last year.

But the guy I pulled up next to today just made me understand what is possible. We both joked about how today was hard and I would bet that for every racer that was out, today was the biggest session in their build up. So we were all suffering and had that kind of communal sympathy for each other. But when we started talking training, I was simply blown away.

My newfound friend told me he’d been running up to 100km per week in the build up and that his peak weeks were around thirty hours of training. In other words, he has been training about fifty percent more than me and running double. Which explains exactly why I could barely hang onto him going uphill. Where my session for the day came out to about six-and-a-half hours his was going to be a five-and-a-half hour ride and a two-and-a-half hour run.

This is one of those things where in some cases a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I cannot even conceive of a level I could get to where my body could sustain running double what I am now. I just don’t run fast enough. 100km of running for me is about ten hours of running per week and that would just break me to pieces. Put another way: my normal two hour run on a Saturday ends up being just over 20km, so that means I would have to be matching my biggest run of the week five times per week.

Often after my long runs I wobble on down to work and spend about an hour stretching. My clients will tell you with glee how awful and beat up I look after those runs. There’s no way I could do that five days per week.

And when we got down to talking about our goal times his was about one and a half hours faster than mine, which again explains why I could barely hang onto him riding. So here are some thoughts on my times:

Swim: In a pool I’ve swum 4km in sixty-five minutes numerous times. I’ve hit 16min/km in open water recently too. But I freak out a bit with a lot of other people around me and with 1800 people starting at the same time I know it’s going to be bedlam.
Goal time: 1 hour 15mins.

Ride: The ride course for Melbourne Ironman is supposed to be the fastest course in the world. The ride is a 45km out and back course on a new freeway that is mostly flat. It is slightly uphill in one direction and slightly downhill going back. You do the loop twice for a total of 180km. If there’s not much wind this could bode very well for me. But if it’s like today then my times will suffer. While I’m trending towards fast I just don’t have that strength in my legs from years of riding and I tend to fade badly if required to push hard for long periods, such as climbing or into stiff winds.
Goal time: 5 hours 40mins.

Run: It’s probably not a good sign that as I typed that word “run” I started to laugh. I’ve never been a good runner and I’ve not really been able to run for even two weeks straight pain free over these twelve months. For anyone who can’t figure it out, that’s not ideal preparation for a marathon. Having said that, I have really worked hard on being able to push myself when fatigued and ran my best two hour run yesterday covering the most distance, so at least things are trending in the right direction. It’s a shame I’m not doing next year’s Ironman (and there’s no chance of that).
Goal time: 4 hours 30mins.

Total time: 11.25 plus transitions.

Seeing it on paper like that is a bit daunting. It’s possible to easily give up ten minutes in transition and if you have to wait for a porta-potty to pee mid race that could be another five. However, I’m confident that I can get in under that 11.30 mark and I’d be incredibly satisfied with that time. It’s not a great time in comparison to the guys who are actually going to be racing on the day – I’ll be doing my best just to finish – but for a first timer to get in under twelve hours is a decent effort.

Things start to get a bit easier this week with lower volumes. The biggest issue will be curbing my inner pig dog and not eating everything in sight while training less, as that’s a good way to end up fat and bloated on race day.