IM FL 2008: What Worked, What Didn’t

In reflecting back on my training for and racing during Ironman Florida, I thought about what worked well and what didn’t work so well. Here are some thoughts:
1. I switched drinks from Accelerade to First Endurance EFS. Accelerade was upsettng my stomach. I think it was their use of soy protein and the way it froths up when shaken that caused stomach problems. First Endurance EFS remains a flat, non-bubbly fluid and uses whey protein which both don’t upset my stomach.
2. More long hill climbs really strengthened my legs. I started doing laps up Kings Mountain, which is about a 4.4 mile climb versus Old La Honda which is about 3.3 miles. I also added intervals up the climbs to stimulate getting my legs out of pedaling at only one speed.
3. I did many threshold workouts this time on both the bike and run. For the bike, I went through a series of high watts, long interval sets which strengthened my tolerance at lactate threshold for longer periods of time. On the run, I did fartlek sets which ended with hard intervals of long duration. This also helped bring up my LT tolerance.
The downside to this was I believe that doing too many threshold workouts and not getting enough rest between them helped set the stage for some lung constriction that developed.
4. Swimming in indoor pools placed in small rooms increased the chlorine content of those rooms and caused some lung constriction to develop. Medicine helped get me out of that condition, but now I try to avoid swimming in indoor pools as much as possible.
5. Neural muscular run training early season helped increase my leg turnover. Fast running for short duration on the treadmill helped train my nerves to fire faster and to be conditioned to do so.
6. Emergen-C upwards of 3 times a day helped keep me sickness free to whole season.
7. One arm swimming really helped build up my swimming strength and helped correct an imbalance in my stroke in my left arm. Pulling with paddles helped support this strength development. Focus on the left arm also helped build it up, although it was still behind in endurance relative to my right arm on race day.
8. I also worked a lot on head and body positioning while swimming. I tried to keep as relaxed as possible, work on the body roll and adding power to my arm while stroking, and also tried to keep my head and energy moving forward, not up or down or to the side while stroking. I am a definite hip dragger while swimming and think I’ve improved this a lot.
9. The disc wheel was amazing. It’s aerodynamics and mass helped make pedaling at speed a dream. I did not experience the sail effect on this race, but someday I hope to make use of it.
The Powertap on my disc wheel was a disappointment in that it was reading inaccurately. I hope to return it this week back to Zipp/Saris and get it fixed.
10. I wore compression sleeves on my lower legs during the run. While inconclusive as to whether they made a big difference, I believe that they did help a lot and contributed to my Ironman run PR of 4:19.
11. I ran more weeks at 3 hours, which amounts to be about 18 miles for me. Dealing with the energy and mental drain of long distance was something I really needed to do, to ensure that I would not collapse mentally or physically when I reached that point in the race. I was also fortunate to not have gotten injured during the process, but good form, regular ART/Graston treatment, and running on trails helped mitigate injuries. I also did these runs mid-afternoon, during the hottest part of the day to increase my heat tolerance. Didn’t really need that at IM FL this year, but you never know when you’ll have to race Ironman in 80-90 degree weather.
12. I subtly altered my running form to reduce my up and down of running. I found that my normal stride, while more comfortable because I was used to it, also wasted energy in my legs absorbing more up and down energy. I tried this time to maintain a level head the whole way and to focus on my legs churning underneath my body. This really felt better in terms of the reducing the pounding against the pavement. During the race, I also was able to maintain pace better this way; at moments when I felt that I had switched back to my old style of running, it felt more strained and taxing. Switching back to this style of running kept me going more comfortably. I do need to practice more with this form in order to increase speed.