When I started my Ironman training program 5 months ago, I decided that an achievable finish time for me would be 15 hours. This was my conservative, OMG-WHAT-THE-HELL-AM-I-DOING estimate. In the past month or so, as I’ve swam and biked further than ever before, and my confidence has grown, I’ve started to revise that estimate. My knee problems have all but disappeared, I seem to have solved my gut cramp issues, and I’m finally, reasonably sure I’m not going to die in my attempt.
I looked up my bib number in the participant list a couple weeks back: 1401. Yeah, that sounds about right. New goal: beat my bib number.
No matter how much planning I do, it will be a very long day, with lots of variables completely out of my control. I’ve done the training, I have my nutrition dialed in as best as I can. All that’s left is to execute, and adapt as necessary to whatever the chaos of the day decides to throw at me.
I’ve been completing my 4000yd swims (2.27 miles) in about 90 minutes, and I’m faster in a wetsuit and after tapering, so 90 minutes is the goal time for the swim.
I averaged 18.5mph on the bike in Walla Walla (for 24 miles), and that was before my parents decided to buy me an aero helmet (woot!), which in testing has definitely improved my speed. So, I’m estimating an 18mph average for Ironman (but hoping I can go a bit faster than that), which would make for a 6.2 hour bike split.
And then there’s the run, or more accurately, the FREAKING MARATHON. I’m a bit worried there. My legs are strong, and a few weeks ago I ran 16.5 miles the day after riding my bike 100 miles, and I didn’t die. However, I haven’t run a marathon since October, and I don’t know how my legs will be fairing after the bike, or if I’ll have consumed enough calories on the bike to keep from bonking, or if my body will just shut down at some point because it says ENOUGH ALREADY. I just don’t know. And that’s exciting! My goal is to keep it under 5 hours for the marathon, which, given how strong my legs have felt lately, actually seems rather conservative.
If I have a perfect day, and nail the swim, crush the bike, and destroy the run, it’s possible I could get close to 12 hours. My goal times above actually have me finishing in about 13 hours. But, things will probably go wrong, and if I really push it on the bike and rip my legs up I’ll end up having to walk 26 miles, which would be disappointing.
So, as appealing as getting under 12 hours in my first Ironman sounds, it is in no way a goal. I never train with a power meter or heart rate monitor, I just go by average speed and more importantly, how I feel. I know where the sweet spot is, where I’m pushing myself but not destroying myself. I’ll just try to find that spot on the bike and hold it there, whether it’s 20mph or 15mph.
And then on the run, I’ll be wearing my Garmin, and I’ll hold myself to an interminably slow pace of 12 minute miles for the first 5K, no matter how awesome my legs feel right off the bike. I’ll then slowly let the speed creep up, but probably no faster than 9:30 until mile 18. And then we shall see.
No matter what happens, it’s been one hell of a journey. No matter what happens, I’ll enjoy the attempt, the spectacle, the camaraderie, and the crazy screaming of friends and family on the sidelines. No matter what happens, I’ve already won.