So on Sunday September 9th I will be competing in Vegas. It will be my first opportunity to compete in a race of this calibur.
The word for this race is: "Deliver". It will be written on my forearms. I'd write it on my forehead if I could read that. From a preparation perspective, I am dialed in. My fitness across the board is as strong as it was in Kansas if not a little better. I am not injured in any ways that matter. My training has been strong. Mentally I am ready to go. But I have not been terribly successful at this race all year, and its time to rectify that. It's time to deliver.
My plan to deliver in Vegas is pretty simple.
Drink way more.
Instead of hammering the bike early on - build into it slowly.
Instead of starting out at a hard run pace early, build into it.
Over the last several weeks during my longer training days, I've really focused on trying a few different things to see how they affect my body. In particular, my nutrition plan has been a point of emphasis. In both Kansas and Racine I really took a beating in the run. As I look back at both races I came to the conclusion that nutrition and hydration were my biggest enemies. Especially in Racine. In Kansas I paced stupidly, but my fluids and salt were also way off. In Racine I did everything I planned to do, it just was not enough.
Vegas promises to be very hot, very hilly, and possibly windy. From what I have heard, it is one of the most challenging 70.3 races in the world. There are others more difficult, but not many and not by all that much. Races like that demand good decision making, and I'd like to think I've learned my hard lessons this season. So here are the details of my plan:
First, I need to really focus on hydration and sodium the day before the race. I have not taken in nearly enough in races past. I also need to take 2-4 saltsticks to load up. I used to do that, but got away from it for some reason. I'm also going to change my dinner to something more bland like chicken and rice. We are staying in a nice condo, so we will do some shopping and I can cook my own stuff. In all my races this year I've gotten up with really bad heartburn which has really hindered my ability to eat/drink on race morning. I'd rather wake up starving and ready to eat than feeling bloated and nasty with heartburn unable to take in the fluids and calories that I need for the race.
Second, early on race morning I need to drink way more than I have been. My best races have been when I need to pee during the race. In Kansas I did not go once. In Racine I only went once and it was very small. My plan is to have roughly 60-80oz of fluid between waking up and racing (3 hours). It will all have electrolytes. In Racine I had maybe 30oz and for a hot race, that's not enough. Having to pee in the water or on the bike is way better than stumbling across the finish line and going to medical. I also plan to stop using ensure shakes and go back to a small bowl of cereal, banana, and liquid calories/sodium instead. I've been burping up the ensure and don't like it.
Swim: I am going to swim like I did in Racine. I sincerely doubt I'll be coming out of the water in the lead, but honestly I don't want to. There should be several swimmers around my speed, and I would love nothing more than to draft the entire time and save my energy. Saving/conserving energy is a primary concern.
Bike: I am going to build into the ride. Looking at the elevation map, the first 5 miles are climbing, and I plan to take those miles very easy so I can catch my breath and get situated on the bike. I suspect a lot of guys are like I was in Kansas and come charging out of the gates. I would rather hold 230w and be feeling good. The next 5-6 miles are all downhill and should be rather fast. Holding power up will be difficult and I don't plan to worry about it.
For me, mile 12ish is where the race really begins. At that point I would like to build into 240-250w and see how that feels. If that feels really good after 10-15 miles I may bump it up...but I doubt it. The weather looks to be near 100 degrees, and I'll need to back off a bit to handle that kind of heat.
As I've never seen the course I really have no idea what to expect. Looking at some people that did Kansas and did Vegas, I should be adding about 5min to my bike time. And since I went too hard on the bike in Kansas, I will likely come in around a 2:37-2:40.
I have little doubt the uber-bikers will crush that, so I'll have to be prepared for guys to rip past me on the bike.
Bike Nutrition: The plan here is pretty simple and can be summed up in one word. "More". In Racine I put back about 75oz, and that wasn't enough. In Vegas where it will be equally hot I need to put back about 100oz. I also need to do it smarter. I typically drink every 15min or so during a race. At Kansas and Racine I waited to start doing that until the first 15min elapsed. I need to start my changes right there and start drinking the moment I am on the bike and then drink every 15min.
My normal bottles of calories are a 450 calorie concoction. I plan to continue with that and take in a little more water each time I drink (every 15min). I'll be on the bike longer than I was in Racine, so I need to be prepared for that and take in plenty of liquids. At this point risking a little stomach upset is worth the risk. I can run through discomfort, I have not been able to run through dehydration.
Run: The run is where it is at. And here is where I usually run into problems. The vegas course is a little unique in that according to the elevation map, I will never be on a flat gradient. It is a 3 loop course and I will either be climbime a 1.5 mile hill of 2-3% grade, or I will be running down that hill.
The course starts me out in the middle of "the hill" running down it. So I will probably come out of the gate a little strong running a normal half marathon pace (7:20's). But I plan to really back off on the first uphill. 1.5 miles is a long way to be climbing, and I'm thinking an 8:00-8:15 pace is pretty reasonable for the first climb. But I will make that decision once I see the hill as I am not really sure what 2-3% actually looks like on the road. I've been running a lot of hills near my house, so I may be closer to an 8:00 than 8:15. It will all depend.
Overall, the plan is to take it easy on the hills which I climb 3.5 times. And to run with good form and pick it up on the downhill sections. Ideally my pace will equate to something under an 8min/mile pace. Obviously the heat will also play a large factor.
Run Nutrition: In the past I've relied on the course for fluids. I generally hate the perform crap they serve but take it anyway. I also mix it with coke over time. This time I plan to wear a race belt. I need to make sure I get in at least 4oz fluid every mile and the best way to do that is a bottle vs. a cup. I can measure everything and also make sure adequate electrolytes are included. Plus it will eliminate gulping all the air that comes with drinking and walking/running. I'll have 24oz of fluid with me, and that should take me through the first 8 miles. From there I will have to deal with the course as best I can.
The way I figure it, if I have enough fluids in me at mile 8, I can most likely finish the race on minimal fluids and not be a complete wreck. As always, I will have to adapt as the day comes.
I'm not really worried about my time or splits. Ideally I'd like to PR and come in under a 4:53. From a fitness perspective I should be able to. Its all about execution.