Thursday, April 19, 2012

TryCharleston Half: It's Here

It’s about that time.

That is, time to head down to Charleston, SC for this half ironman thing. The plan is to drive about 2/3 of the way this afternoon, and finish off the final chunk tomorrow morning to allow a nice, relaxed packet pickup, bike check-in, and time to stretch out before race day.

The mere day and a half between now and the race start naturally means that it's time to obsess over the race and all associated goals. Oftentimes, when endurance athletes talk about goals, they talk about specific time goals – myself included. But for this race, I don’t have a time goal. I have an estimated finish time range. That range happens to span an hour. In other words, I have very little concept of when I will finish. I’ve done a few Olympic-distance triathlons and I’ve done a marathon. Neither of which say much of anything about how this race will go. Even results from big bad training sessions don’t say much, since so many things can happen over the course of 70.3 miles.

Lack of targeted time goals doesn’t mean that I’m aimless on Saturday. Not at all. I have three very specific goals here.
  1. Don’t be stupid. There are many opportunities to screw up at this distance. Neglecting hydration. Hammering the bike and being forced to walk a half marathon. Overheating during the noontime run leg by not adjusting pace, hydration, and use of ice and cold water to accommodate the conditions. I plan to not take advantage of any such opportunities for stupidity, even if I temporarily lose time to others in the race. They can be stupid, but I don’t have to follow suit.
  2. Follow the damn race plan. This follows from #1. It’s exciting to see fast speeds on the bike. It’s awesome to run fast right off the bike. But this isn’t a 5k. This is a long, long way to go, which is why I have a specific race plan to make it to the finish line in good shape. So no matter how awesome my bike split could be, and how fast I could run the first 10k, I need to stick with the plan to nail the best overall race and not get caught up in excelling for small chunks.
  3. Bank some confidence for IM Louisville. This follows from #1 AND #2. If I pull off a descent 70.3, 140.6 seems less scary. If it goes terribly…well…that’s going to make me a basketcase all summer. So, for everybody who interacts with me regularly, you’d better be hoping that I have a good race on Saturday, or spending more than 5 minutes with me between Sunday and August 26 will not be a good experience.
Leg-by-leg translation of those goals…

Swim: Kick ass without trying. Arrogant? Yes. Possible? No question. I have decades of swimming base and I have finished near the very front of the pack of every triathlon I’ve done without using much energy at all. My history with regular 10-15k days in the pool meant learning how to swim as effortlessly as possible while still keeping up with everybody. In other words, learning how to be lazy without looking like it. I plan to swim with a strong stroke and low turnover, catch up to the faster men, draft off them, and hopefully come out of the water totally fresh and in front of almost all the other women.

Bike: Get set up for a good run. My mantra for the entire ride is “Don’t forget that you’re about to run an half marathon.” This is NOT a 56 mile bike race. Treating it like one will make the run unbearable. Sure, seeing an average pace of 19+ mph on the super-flat course would be awesome. But do you know what isn’t awesome? Walking an entire half marathon because you are physically incapable of running. There are two big components to this. The first is staying aerobic, which I can stick to by watching my heart rate on my trusty Garmin, which will be sitting right in front of my face the entire time.

I’ll also be using it to monitor my fluid and electrolyte intake over time, as well as my caloric intake to avoid complete glycogen depletion. Those tasty date-based energy balls will make that easier.

It’s important to keep the hydration and glycogen replenishment process as simple as possible, because it’s not optional. I’m sure there are a few things worse than running a half marathon dehydrated and glycogen depleted at the start. Maybe nuclear war? 

Actually, no, because if you’re close enough to a weapon when it detonates, you just get vaporized and die instantly. A half marathon with a depleted body takes hours. I'd prefer to not experience either, so I'm sticking to a controlled pace on the bike with appropriate food and water intake.

Run: Use the planned run/walk intervals, no matter how good I feel at the start. I’ve practiced a few bricks with running six minutes and walking a minute, and it works for me. I know that many people can run the entire run leg of a half ironman. I’m not one of them right now. So, I can either follow this run-walk interval plan, or I can be SO EXCITED to RUN FAST right off the bike because I FEEL GREAT, leading me to run 5 miles and then death march 8.1.

No thanks. I’ve demonstrated over and over that I can hold just under 10 minute miles off the bike with that run/walk breakdown, which isn’t much slower than I run off the bike without any walking. So I’m sticking with the intervals, with two exceptions. The first is mile 6, which includes the start of the second loop and the major spectator area. People will be watching. People I know. So I’m going to run, lest the freak out that I’m dying (or think that I'm lame). The other exception is the last 5k, where I’m hoping to run the remainder of the race to finish strong – both mentally and physically.

The last 5k will also be fun because it is where the race plan that I worked on with coach says that I can start doing coke at the aid stations.

I’m PRETTY sure that she’s talking about the cola they’ll have at the aid stations every mile, but I could be wrong. I mean, some race organizers really do pull out all the stops, and our entry fee WAS $150, so maybe they splurged…

So that’s how the race should go. Kill the swim, don’t be an idiot on the bike, and control the run.

Now to do it.


  1. I'll be cheering for you from here Victoria. You've practiced your race plan, and I think as long as you stick with it you'll be fine. I'm interested in what you think your targeted finish time is.

  2. If your race days go anything like our ride/run did a few weeks ago will be set!!! I will be cheering for you and watching for your real time aero tweets :)

  3. Good luck girl! I'll be chearing for you. I love how you aren't going for a range between 2 minutes or a 5 minute span. People who do that-baffle me. Like how can you honestly be upset in a long race if you don't hit that. In a 5 or 10k okay but anything more then

  4. Sounds like you have a great plan in place. I love how it not only addresses your physical needs, but also keeps your mental needs in mind too. Good luck!

  5. Good luck! You have some great goals to work towards. After doing my first brick workout ever, I'm even more impressed with all you triathletes who do these longer events.

  6. Good luck! Sounds like you have a solid plan and if you stick to it you'll be fine. I especially like the "run when people I know are around" strategy. Priorities.

  7. I'll be cheering for you from my bike Sat AM :) I think you'll do great- by far the worst part (for me) was last 5-6 miles of the run. That's where you have to dig deep. But by then it'll be almost time for coke, so you'll be golden.

  8. "Don’t be stupid" This is my ONLY race goal.

    I like the idea of doing coke during the race. If you want to be a true race party girl, follow it up by rolling.

  9. Your training has been so strong, I am so freaking excited to read about you killing this race. Enjoy!

  10. This is my kind of goals post! I'll be thinking about you on Saturday and can't wait to her all about it!

  11. Woot woot. Sounds like a great race plan. I say kick some major butt when you have 2-3 miles to go just to say you left everything on the course!

  12. You will rock it. Because you have the race plan and the now written accountability on steps 1,2 and 3. The final key.... HAVE FUN!!! Coach's order!!! Remember all the work you did to get here. And know that no matter the day, lessons will carry forward and calories will be burned to allow for great celebrations on the day. Go Victoria! Coach

  13. Ok--I have "almost" the same race plan with one minor difference--SURVIVE the swim (and hopefully not be the last person out of the lake!), TRY not to be an idiot on the bike (I might be an idiot, I hope not), and hopefully have a strong run...

  14. HA! That's why I run ultras, you can start doing Coke early in the race ...