Pop quiz! What triathlon happens in three weeks, recently got a brand new shiny name and will be not only my first triathlon this year, but my first half-iron distance EVER? If you said Welland Rose City Triathlon, you get a cookie! But it has to be a healthy one – that race weight isn’t gonna make itself.
You might be thinking I’m a little crazy to be going all domination mode (is there any other mode?) on my first half. I’m not going to deny the crazy part, but with so much Ironman training under my belt 1900m + 90km + 21.1km feels so totally doable that it might even be about something other than survival. Don’t get me wrong, domination mode takes some major work. I’m going to share some of the ways I’m preparing specifically for the conditions of this race, and fortunately I’ve got some race-specific tips from an expert: Tommy Ferris from Ignition Fitness puts together these handy videos for Multisport Canada Races.
I know you’ve probably seen these videos before (I have) and thought, “oh yeah, I should watch that,” and then didn’t because you saw a funny cat picture. Focus! The cat pictures can wait until you’re in the midst of the taper-crazies and need some real distraction.
The canal swim is a narrow rectangle that has portions both with and against the current, which makes it difficult (and probably a bad idea) to maintain a certain pace throughout. Since I’m a numbers girl, and also recently acquired a 910XT that actually allows me to see my splits in the water, I’m going to have to be very careful to avoid getting too caught up in pace times that would push me too hard at the beginning, raise my expectations in the middle and dash them perilously to the ground in the final stretch against the current. (Can you say “bad way to start the bike”?)
Mental preparation is key for this kind of swim, because you have to be prepared to see slow pace times without freaking out early on – not that I would EVER freak out about slow pace times, right workout buddies?? :)
Learning to pace by feel is also one of the key skills in this swim; in the next few weeks I’ll be doing a couple of swim workouts designed to get a feel for my goal race pace of 1:55/100m (note that these are not designed to work on fitness – they’re a mental workout as much as physical). A great way to get a feel for pacing is to pick a distance (100, 200, 400) and repeat it over and over and over until you get tired/close to the race distance of 1900m. Maybe make that 2k because round numbers looks so much nicer, and we all know none of us will swim straight anyway. Time the intervals but don’t check the clock until you’re done, and focus on trying to hit the same pace every time. I’ll be doing something like 4×400 or 15×100 because I think 200m is a silly distance (for no reason in particular – it’s not as bad as 75m, but still…just a weird place to stop in my opinion).
Coming from a self-proclaimed hills girl, a flat bike course is TOUGH! It also has the potential to be windy, which is basically my arch-nemesis on the bike. You know how I like doing difficult stuff? Well don’t tell me, “Oh, Welland is easy because it’s so flat!” because dammit, flat IS difficult!
That being said, it’s also a good way to PB the bike. As much as I love hills, I do have to admit that they generally have a negative effect on time. The biggest focus of this bike will be setting up for a good run, which means getting in lots of nutrition and maintaining a high cadence so there is some energy left in those legs after 90km. Practice that nutrition strategy ahead of time, particularly at race pace! Try adding 3×20 minutes at half Ironman race pace, and figure out what you can handle. I recently did this calculation for one of my long rides as an experiment, and it worked because it got me closer to understanding my nutritional needs and what I can handle.
Two words: heat training! Last year’s race was unbearably hot and while there’s no guarantee this year will be the same, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. It doesn’t take much – one or two runs a week at noon is usually enough to get me acclimatized – but you have to start now because it takes time for the physiological adaptations! For example, today’s long run accidentally doubled as a heat training run, mostly (okay, completely) because I slept in way later than usual and stubbornly refused to get off the couch until late morning. We all have days like this.
Usually I schedule one run a week at lunchtime from about March until September. Yes, it sucks when it’s 42 degrees out and you’re getting weird looks as you suffer through the slowest 5k you’ve ever run, but when you finish a race in 35 degrees thinking, “oh yeah, I guess that was a little warm,” you’ll thank me. You’re welcome.