The Plan

The Plan

After my successful Olympic triathlon at the Canadian I signed up for the Multisport Canada Barrelman Triathlon. A half-iron distance event. While my swim had improved, I wasn’t able to produce power above my zone 2 effort. I still had a great ride completing the 90km course with an average speed of over 38kph. But when I got to the run, my legs were bricks and I had the shivers despite it being a hot day. I abandoned the race less than 1km into the run. My failure that day was due in large part to a lingering sickness combined with the heat. Nonetheless it still highlighted how much I needed to do to prepare for long course racing. It isn’t just about the distance. I can easily handle all three. It’s about being able to swim/bike/run at pretty close to full gas for 4 hours. Most professional triathletes will ride the bike course at a 70.3 event pretty close to threshold (roughly 85-90% of FTP for those familiar with power). An age group triathlete will ride somewhere around tempo (75-85% of FTP). I have a decent threshold for this type of racing but I’m not yet at a place where I can ride that hard for that long and still run.

I had been working with Nick Vipond, a local and well respected cycling coach, for most of the summer. But when it came time to think about triathlon goals, it seemed only natural to turn to my good friend, business partner, and arguably the most experienced and successful triathlon coach in the area, Ian Fraser. He coached Jordan Monnink to the pro ranks and helped him achieve a 3rd place result in his first ever full-distance Ironman event (pro and otherwise) in Mont Tremblant. And he also coached another local triathlete Robyn Hardage to the pro field. She competed in her first ever pro race at Ironman Louisville 2017 and finished 6th!

Between Barrelman (September 17, 2017) and October 23rd I took some time to do what I wanted and to develop some base fitness with my swim and run. I knew that after Ian returned from Louisville, we could begin my training. I joined a local masters swim club and started running. I wasn’t going to make huge strides in that 6 week period but I needed to shake off the rust and prepare my body for real training. Years of training on the bike have conditioned me to be able to handle big training loads on the bike. Throughout the winter I often see 800-1000 TSS (a measure of my training load) weeks and thrive at that level of training. But because I rarely run and have let my swim fitness lapse for the past years, I no longer have the conditioning for those two disciplines. A strong 10km run might only be 80 TSS on paper but that number doesn’t reflect the impact to my joints, muscles, and bones because of my lack of run conditioning. Similarly in the pool, I certainly have the aerobic fitness to swim long distances but I was lacking the muscle and conditioning to actually do it. It only took a few pool swims to develop a minor rotator cuff injury.

I have a lot of work to do.

On October 23rd Ian and I sat down at the Ministry of Coffee in my beloved Ottawa neighbourhood of Hintonburg to talk about the plan we would take to get me to the line. The first step was determining what races were available to make my pro attempt. Depending on the size of the prize purse available to the pros, I need to be within 6-12% of the winning pro’s time to qualify for my pro card. In an ideal world I’d train hard, do everything right, my body would respond to the training the way we’d like and I would nail it on my first crack. But realistically it will take a few cracks at it. I had already signed up for Chattanooga on May 20, 2018. That would be my first attempt. I missed the boat at Tremblant; it was full. Lake Placid in September is my only other option for 2017 within a reasonable driving distance.

Next was determining how much I need to improve. I’ve done a few 13km interval runs but haven’t given my legs a real test. My predicted threshold pace is around 4:15min/km. I need to be at least 4:00min/km to have a shot. On the bike, I’m pretty close but need to tweak my fitness to be more triathlon specific. Right now I’m trained as a cyclist, which means I have a well rounded power profile. I need to develop my ability to ride hard and steady for a long time. The swim is my weakest. I’m currently swimming the 1.8km distance at 1:50/100m. I need to be just under 1:40/100m at least.

30min swim (1:40/100m)

2:05 ride (43kph)

1:20 run. (4:00min/km)

10min total in transition. (5min each)

Total: 4:05

Average Pro finish at race requiring 6% = 3:55 (4:09 qualifying time)

Four minutes isn’t much of a buffer. The question is do I have the physiological potential to achieve those numbers? And can I see those kinds of improvements in that short of time?

I’m not going to try to answer that question because ultimately that’s not The Plan. There is no way to plan to be fit enough for a specific pace or power output. The Plan is to train hard. The Plan is to account for my weaknesses and start developing them into strengths. The plan is not to step up to the start line with a goal to finish the swim in 30min, the bike in 125min and the run in 80min. The Plan is to show up at Chattanooga as fit as I can possibly be. The Plan is to finish that race with my best effort. Whether that passes muster remains to be seen. I’m sure that I’ll have an idea of what I’ll be able to do on race day and whether I have a shot at making the time, but I’m not focussing on that right now. That’s what got me into trouble in bike racing. The most important aspect of this journey is staying healthy and enjoying the process.

When Ian and I met to discuss The Plan, one of the first things he did was tell me an anecdote about some golfer from the 30s. I can’t remember his name. I can’t tell the story as well as Ian can but it goes something like this: When asked in a press conference if he hoped to win the big tournament, he responded that he knew he had the ability to shoot a particular score (I don’t understand golf so I don’t remember the number). When pressed by the reporter if he was planning to win, he responded, “I don’t understand the question,” and reiterated the score and then added, “If that wins me the tournament, so be it.”

That’s The Plan.


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