8/30/16

IMMT race recap - running to a Kona slot



In the short time that we were back in our team house, I was doing a lot of calculations, with the help of a few tracker apps (thanks Ryan), to determine where I needed to be, and when, to cheer for our athletes on the bike. Luckily, our house was close to the 12-mile out and back section on the bike  which made it easy to walk to where I needed to be.


Karel starting the bike before the rain started.

However, once I got changed into dry clothes and ate some food, I realized I needed to hurry up to get down the hill to see Karel coming back from the out and back, before starting his second loop.

I ran down the hill with my umbrella, in the rain and sprinted my way up the hill to a spot where I could see Karel coming down the hill to my right, but also I could asee the other Trimarni's starting the out and back to my left.

Despite the pouring rain, there were spectators out cheering for the athletes.




Knowing Karel's riding style, I spotted a flash of orange and knew it was Karel.  I gave him a big cheer. He was stretching his back, out of the saddle, while slowing down to make a right hand 90-degree turn before heading to the 180-turn to start the 2nd loop. He later told me that he didn't hear me, even though I was cheering loud.

My first thought was that his back was bothering him and just like in Austria, he would not be able to feel comfortable on the bike for 112 miles. But then I remembered that Karel knows how to deal with situations when they come about so I just hoped for the best that he could get through the bike and do some damage control on the run.





It was hard to tell how Karel's race was going due to the rain but more so, because the tracker was not always updating in a timely manner.

Karel later told me that he was very cautious to not take any risks in the rain (as there were several crashes on the bike course) but he was giving the best effort he could, on that day, for all 112 miles. Seeing that Karel rode the entire loop of the course on Thurs, he said that knowing the course was extremely helpful as he knew where to take smart risks and where he should stay controlled.
Of course, all of this was dependent on how he felt, in the moment as he is very in-tune with his body when he races.

Karel didn't mind the rain, except for when it rained so hard that it felt like needles on his skin. Oh, and there were times when he couldn't see because his dark visor was covered with water. But other than those instances, the air and rain temperature was not too cold for Karel and with the effort he was pushing, he felt comfortable all day. Sure, the rain was a bit annoying as it rained the entire bike ride but Karel loved the bike course and he wasn't going to let the rain keep him from trying to reach his race day goal of Kona qualifying.



Karel consumed 5 bottles of sport nutrition on the bike (each with ~250-280 calories, he started with 3 bottles on his bike and then grabbed 2 in special needs). Karel would have used on course nutrition for the 2nd loop of the bike but he does not like the Gatorade Thirst (it makes him thirsty - go figure) which was offered on the race course. Karel doesn't mind Gatorade Endurance but it is not sold in Canada, thus not on IM race courses in Canada.

Karel consumed a few Clif bloks ("gummy bears"), an Enervite sport bar and a Hot Shot on the bike - all items that he had in his fuel pouch, mounted on his bike. He didn't grab any extra water on the bike that he can remember.
Aside from his liquid calories, Karel does not have a set fueling strategy for the "extra" nutrition that he consumes on the bike. He just take in what he thinks he need, when he thinks he need it - no overthinking needed.

Karel said that he felt good on the bike and pushed it from start to finish. Even though Karel comes from a cycling background, he has learned that his strength is running off the bike. He is extremely good at managing his effort on the bike, with great cycling skills, holding an effort that is at the tip-top of his endurance threshold, where it is uncomfortable but sustainable for 112 miles. The other thing is that Karel can never push as hard in training as he can on race day. Although he doesn't use gadgets for pacing in training and on race day, after he reviews his files from an Ironman, he sees watts much higher than what he sees in training. It's true to say that Karel always saves his best efforts for race day.

Karel does not go by any metrics, like power, when he races and he doesn't wear a HR monitor. He doesn't like the idea of having a pacing strategy when he races as he never knows what the day will bring, at each mile of the race course.
No expectations needed.
Karel is a true racer.

When Karel races, he knows what he wants to feel and he remains present. Even though he is competitive, he's not out to beat athletes but to bring out the best in himself.
Through the high moments and the low moments, he is focused on giving his best effort. He always hears his pre-race music and he is laser focused on being in the moment.

Is Karel capable of biking faster with his extensive cycling background?
Perhaps.
But what he is doing right now IS working and he doesn't overthink things or expect more out of himself at this point in his development.

After cheering for all Trimarnis out on the bike for the out and back section, we made our way back to the house to change out of cold, soaking wet clothes, before making our way to the run course.



This was my last time back at the house and it only lasted about 20 minutes - enough time to dry off and change into dry clothes.....before the rain came down again on the run.




Trimarni athlete Angela looking fashionable in her rain gear


Rain or shine - we will cheer!

All the Trimarni spectators from our team house made our way to the first hill on the run, about 1/2 mile from the transition area. This was the perfect place to see the Trimarnis from a distance but also, to give them a boost of energy in the early part of the run.



Thankful for a portable cell charger (we never travel without it - it's perfect for race day situations when you are without a plug), I was able to track all of our athletes as they made their way to T1. I was so relieved to see bike splits for everyone...which meant everyone was still moving forward, on their bikes!


After watching the pros come by, I made sure to notice the male age groupers ahead of Karel and by how much.
The first place guy in Karel's AG (Stefano from Italy) passed by me and he looked good. At that point, I started my stop watch.
Five minutes went by.....10 minutes went by....no Karel.

This had me a little worried but then again, I didn't want to make any assumptions as the Ironman gets real around mile 20 of the marathon. That's where races are typically won or lost.

I waited and waited and waited as I knew Karel would be in transition soon and finally, after a refresh on my phone, I was super excited to see that he finally entered T2 AND was in 5th place off the bike.

Karel passed 17 guys in his AG , 101 males and 140 total athletes on the bike.

We guessed that there would be 4 Kona slots in his age group (Karel's 40-44 AG was the largest AG with 400+ starters and there were 5 slots at IM Austria with 500+ starters in his age group) so all he needed to do was to move up a few slots (Karel knew that 3rd would secure the slot but 4th may be a gamble).


OK - time to commit Karel!!!

With this being my first time spectating Karel for an entire Ironman, I had to decide what information I would give Karel in the 10-20 seconds that I could run with him up the hill. I also had to think, what questions he ask me in the start of the run.

I guess it takes an athlete to know an athlete.






Here's how our conversation went on the hill.



Karel - "How far am I behind first place"
Marni - "14 minutes and 56 seconds"
Marni - "But don't worry about him, there are three athletes ahead of you that you can catch"
Karel - "What place am I now"
Marni - "5th place age groupu - you are doing amazing, just stay steady."
Karel - "Oh wow, ok."



I was relieved that his first question was about 1st place in his age group because it confirmed to me that Karel was on a mission. Knowing that he has no hip/back issues when he runs, I knew that he could get himself into that metronome-style running that works so well for him - he simply becomes numb and just runs with his only focus on form.

Although Karel never paces the run according to his Garmin, this time around, he had no splits because his multisport function got set-off in his warm-up (jog and swim)  so in the end, he had 140.6 miles of swimming (haha).
This run was 100% by feel.

Going by RPE as always worked really well for Karel. He doesn't like to have expectations or anticipated paces when he races. Never has Karel said "I'd like to hold x-mph or finish in x-time".
Karel likes to stay in the moment when he runs so when he starts the run, and for every mile thereafter, his only focus is on his form and taking care of himself to maintain energy.

Karel always runs with his 4-flask fuel belt (3 flasks filled with different sport nutrition powder and 1 flask with 3 caffeinated Enervite Cheerpacks) and then uses coke/red bull and water when his flasks are empty. The great thing about having a hydration belt is that he can drink when he wants to drink.

Not always does your mind/body want nutrition at an aid station and depending on your running pace, you may only hit 5-6 aid stations per hour whereas faster runners can hit 7-8+ aid stations per hour (thus more opportunities to pick and choose what and when they want to drink, to get in calories and fluids).


Around mile 22 of the run, Karel felt a sudden loss of energy. He couldn't feel his feet on the ground and he was starting to get shaky. All signs of a bonk in the making.
Luckily, this happened right at an aid station so Karel stopped to take care of himself, drank some coke and then restarted the run when he felt normal again.
If you were tracking Karel with an app, you'll notice that this bonk incidence caused a slow down in his pace but other than that, he maintained great tempo for the entire 2nd loop of the marathon run.

Because Karel has always suffered from muscle-related cramping (well before his triathlon days, when he was racing bikes), he has found great relief with Hot Shot.
Karel took a Hot Shot at the start of the run and then around mile 18 of the run (he took a total of 4 Hot Shots throughout the race, with one consumed before the swim and one on the bike).

Our spot on the hill was fantastic as we could give a big cheer to all the Trimarni athletes as they started the run. None of them expected us to be there so it was so fun to see their faces.
And I could give out free hugs - like to my friend Ange, who I had not seen in several years but we have known each other for 9 years. She dominated her 45-49 AG by winning with a 10:25.1 finish time and placed 10th overall female!

The rain continued to fall but it was on and off.
For many athletes, this made for heavy shoes and lots of sore feet.

I continued to track Karel and the 4 guys ahead of him. Stefano (the first place guy, nearly 15 minutes ahead of him) and Karel were running the same paces. My eyes were on David, Tim and Adam (based on the tracker) who were ahead of Karel coming off the bike.

I paid close attention to the bib numbers (which were mostly turned around to the backside of the athletes) as the body markings had washed off many of the athletes.
Apparently, everyone who was watching me had a good laugh as it looked as if I was checking out the male butts (for bib numbers) and calves as the athletes ran by me.


Just doing my job of "checking out" the athletes ahead of Karel.
 I know ladies, it's a tough job :) 


I saw Stefano and then the bib name "David" who had passed by me so at this point, I knew that Karel had moved up into third place after 13 miles. I walked up the hill and spotted Karel.
I ran back to our spot and found a good place where I could communicate with Karel on his place.



I told Karel that he was in 3rd place and I could tell that he was relieved that he was moving up as he was in a world of hurt. I could tell from his face that he was giving everything he had and leaving it all out there.
This time around, no questions were asked by Karel and he gave no feedback. I think I got a slight head nod that he was still committed.



The course had several hills but it was a great course for Karel to find his rhythm. He had his music playing in his head throughout the entire run and he was able to put himself into that deep dark, painful place, where he is able to get the best out of himself.

We continued to give a lot of cheers to the Trimarni athletes who were passing by in each direction and as Karel was coming back, I knew that this would be the last time I would see him before the finish.


Karel running through the crowd to start his 2nd loop.
Although I know that the marathon is long and in an Ironman, anything can happen in those later miles, I always stay very confident in Karel's ability to run off the bike.

He is remarkable at not slowing down and he is great at suffering. Many times, he gets stronger as the run goes on. This is not because he runs a lot or runs fast or runs long in training (there's no magic formula) but because he saves his best effort for when it counts and he can put it all together - swim/bike-run - on race day.
(But to be honest, he does train hard - he keeps his easy sessions easy and his hard sessions are hard)

It's truly incredible watching him run and I was so happy to be on the sidelines to watch him at Ironman Mont Tremblant....running to qualify for his 2nd Ironman World Championship




I started my watch when Karel came by and gave him a big cheer before he quickly passed by us. Based on his run splits, I figured I had about 50 minutes before I had to make my way to the finish line (I wasn't sure about the crowds and how long it would take me to get to the finish line bleachers)


GOOOOOO!
I was having so much fun cheering for our athletes but when my watch told me that 50 minutes had passed by, it was time for me to make my way to the finish to see Karel.



The Ironman Mont Tremblant staff did a great job with the race course as it was extremely spectator friendly but it made it tough to get places quickly (or at least for me to hurry my way to the finish to see Karel).

Although the athletes received lots of cheers as they ran through the village center to start the 2nd loop, the downside (for the athletes) was running right next to the finish chute before starting the 2nd loop.



The rain was still on and off but it cleared just in time for Karel to finish.

Fist pump! 


6x Ironman finisher!!



After Karel finished, he told me that he hurt so bad...from the effort.
After a few minutes, he asked what place he was and I told him 2nd AG. Instantly, he felt better :)
I also told him his run split was 3:08.21 and he was shocked - he said he couldn't believe he ran that fast on that course.


Karel ended up passing Stefano (who had a 15 minute lead on Karel) and only David was ahead of Karel...by just ~2 minutes.



Pure exhaustion. 



After Karel collecting himself and got in some calories and fluids at the athlete food tent, Karel changed in the registration bathrooms (and put on dry clothes) and we waited around the finish line for Trimarni athlete Adam to finish (he was next to finish, in 11:08!).

Yippee! A medal well-earned!


The rain was on and off but eventually, it did stop!


We found the perfect spot to eat and to cheer on the other Trimarni athletes to the finish.
Karel happily enjoyed his post-race burger and beer.


Let the celebration begin!
The hard work paid off!


Karel is off to his 2nd Kona in 6 weeks!