-By Brian Reynolds
This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 2”. I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.
“Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering.”
– Chris McCormack, Two-Time Ironman World Champion
My training from October 2016 to February 2017 was progressing in the right direction leading up to Ironman Brasil on May 28th. I was more powerful on the bike and my run/swim fitness was looking good. In fact to show off my run fitness in February I was able to run a 1:15:46 at the Portage Winterblast Half Marathon which is the fastest time I’ve ran in 5 years for a half! My swim times in the pool were better compared to prior years.
When March rolled around my training volume was starting to pick up. This meant that I started doing 4.5 – 6 hour bike rides and 2:00 to 2:45 hour long runs. As my training increased to 16 – 18 hours per week I became more fatigued. There were some days during the week where I became so fatigued that I thought I would not be able to make it to the weekend. Going into the weekend feeling very fatigued is not good considering my big workouts which include a 5+ hour bike and 2+ hour run were on the weekend! Some fatigue is acceptable but not to the point where you feel tired all day and have to rely on coffee to keep you awake.
There was one particular week where I had to take a off day instead of doing my scheduled bike and run workout. My coach contacted me about how much sleep I was getting and how we could tweak the schedule so I could get more sleep. Looking back on my past training I was waking up at 4:15 am three times per week to swim with the Kalamazoo Masters group. To wake up that early meant I was giving up a lot of sleep considering I could wake up at 7:00am during the weekday. This was not an issue prior to March when I was training 12-15 hours per week; however, when my training exceeded 15 hours then the lack of sleep became an issue. I moved all of my swims to the evenings which meant I only had to get up 1 time at 5:30am per week. I was bummed that I had to miss my morning Masters swims but I needed the extra sleep. When I started getting more sleep I did not have any bad workouts and I had more energy throughout the week. Getting more sleep was a game charger and I didn’t have to reduce my training. This proves once again that sleep is the best form of recovery!
Another area I wanted to improve on was my stamina on the bike. When I did the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin my power on the bike faded the last 2 hours of the ride which costed me a lot of time. To gain more confidence on the bike I did multiply 5+ hour rides with Ironman efforts mixed in throughout the rides. I remember one long ride I did in mid April was a 112 mile time trial at Ironman goal pace. Sounds simple right? Just ride as hard as you can for 112 miles. When I did this ride it was in the 70s which was the warmest day we’ve had so far that Spring. I could tell within the first few hours into the ride that I was not going to hit my Ironman goal pace. The combination of the heat and being a little fatigued before starting the ride made it for a challenging day. Instead of thinking negatively about how much this ride was going to suck I flipped the script. I tried to think about something positive to help keep me motivated to ride hard. For me I knew I was not going to hit my goal watts so I didn’t focus on that. Instead I focused on maintaining the wattage that I was currently averaging and try to finish the ride strong. When I finished the ride I did maintain my power from start to finish and I gave it everything that I had. All we can do is take what our body gives us and make the most of it. If I got anything from this ride then it was working on my mental toughness. In an Ironman race you are going to go through high and low points. The key moments in a Ironman is how you manage those low points. During those low points try not to get down on yourself and believe that you can get through it. Focus your energy on what you can control for that given situation.
In early May I did another time trial which was a 100 miles at Ironman goal watts. I had a great ride. My legs were feeling great and in fact I was exceeding my goal wattage. This ride was a big confidence booster for me because I was able to my goal wattage for Ironman Brasil. Even though I was felt great on this ride I made sure I didn’t push the pace too hard starting out. As I mentioned earlier during a Ironman race you will go through some high points where you are feeling great. During these high points you need to keep a level head and use good judgement. When an athlete feels good we have a tendency to ignore our race plan and start pushing the pace. If we push the pace too hard too soon we usually pay the consequences later in the race and end up hurting our overall performance.
All of the long rides and runs allowed me to dial in my race nutrition plan. I started out using Ucan which I used for Ironman Wisconsin. For some reason I could only stomach Ucan for up to 3 hours before I would get tired of the taste and my body would start rejecting it. For a Ironman I needed a product that would work for at least 8 hours so I needed to try something else. The new product I tried was First Endurance EFS drinks which I have used in the past and had success with it. Base on my weight and race duration I needed to get in 250-300 calories per hour on the bike and around 210 calories per hour for the run. When I used EFS I found the flavor to be a little over concentrated to get the calories in that I needed. I was able to stomach EFS longer than Ucan but by the time I got to the 3.5-4 hour mark on the bike I got tired of the taste and I couldn’t take much more.
I had to rethink my nutrition once again. I decided to give Infinite Nutrition a try. I’ve heard good things about Infinite from other triathletes in the Trikat club and I knew they were a sponsor for Athletic Mentors and the Trikats. For those of you who may be new to INFINIT, it is a custom-blended nutrition solution customized to fit your nutrition needs on the bike and run portions of triathlons or your nutrition needs for any type of exercise and racing. I did a free consultation with their nutritionist specialist to create my custom blend via email. The process was really easy. They send you a survey to fill out to help them understand what your needs are to develop the right nutrition blend. After the survey they created a bike and run blend for me. The bike blend was 275 calories and the run blend was 210 calories. In addition, the bike blend had some added whey protein to help satisfy hunger whereas the run blend does not because the protein has a tendency to cause bloating due to the liquids sloshing around while you run. The flavor I chose for the bike bland was chocolate and the run was a fruit punch which both tasted great.
When I tried Infinit on my 5 hour ride I took 5 bottles on my bike with one 275 calories serving per bottle. I just had to take one bottle per hour to stay on my nutrition plan which was really easy to keep track. I was able to stomach it through 4 hours without an issue. The last hour I struggle a little to finish the last bottle. I contacted Infinit about it and they sent me a new blend with a little less Whey Protein in it to make it easier to digest. On my next 5 hour ride I tried the new blend and I was able to down all 5 bottles on my ride. In hindsight, I think the old blend would’ve still worked because I think my stomach needed time to get use to digesting that amount of calories while riding. I did not have any issues with the Infinit run blend on my long runs so didn’t have to make any modifications to that. Overall, I was very satisfied with Infinit’s product and service.
That all said I had my nutrition plan dialed in and I had the stamina (and confidence) on the bike to help get me a Kona slot at Ironman Brasil. Now it was time to start racing and tapering!