Big Day Out #1 – Ironman Australia Build Training

Today is Big Day Out. We do this simulation race day twice in Ironman training. All details can be found in our training plan, Joe Friel’s book Training for Serious Triathletes. Fiona and I have done this 4 times before, 2x for IM’Western Australia and 2x for Challenge USA. Basically you wake up 2 hours before the swim, eat like race day, then swim 1 hour at race pace with race day gear. Then, you rest 1hr30min and eat some food and sit around the house before a 5 hour ride at race effort in race day gear. Then another 1hr30min rest and liquid nutrition followed with a 2hr run at race pace and race day nutrition. It is a very long day but is an excellent simulation for the demands of an Ironman. In reality, its way more than a half ironman and maybe 1hr30min short of what you would do in an Ironman. Also, this training day is a very good indication of what you’ll do come race day. This is evident in IM’WA from 2013. I had done the big day out swim covering 3,600m @ 1:40/100m and then 3,650m @ 1:39/100m. Come race day I covered 3,800m in 1:02:46 or 1:39/100m.

After waking up at 4:30AM it was down with a chocolate chip muffin, banana, medium redbull. 30min before the swim was a 200 calorie Cliff ShotBloks. 6AM Fiona and I started the swim thanks to our friend Jesse for opening up the pool to us. Another friend Chelsea also stopped by to support which was great. Fiona was in Lane 2, I was in Lane 7. The lights were on, initial signs of light just arising on the horizon, my old wetsuit was on. It was go time. I went out hard the first 50meters to simulate a race start and then just got into pace. I focused on my form, stroke rate, keeping things light, pulling through, finishing the stroke, and clicked lap on my watch each 500m. The 1K was 15:04 and is the fastest 1K I have ever gone by a long shot. This season I did manage 15:54 and 15:43 without wetsuits but they were all-out efforts. I came to the 1.9K in 28:48 which was only 1:15 after my Geelong 70.3 swim. Note this used a better wetsuit, was in salt water, included drafting, recovery, and isn’t guaranteed to be 1.9K like a pool is. At this point I knew I would break my goal of 3.8K in 1 hour so things were looking good. At 2.5K I was still knocking of 100’s in 1:32 but at 2.9K all of a sudden I slowed down to 1:34/100s. I think I was kicking more which caused more resistance and the arms were getting fatigued. I think form was slipping as well. Regardless, I held on and for the most part remained consistent. 500s: 7:26, 7:37, 7:36, 7:40, 7:38, 7:45, 7:52, 6:23 (400m). So 3.9K in 1hour at 1:32/100m. This is by far the fastest I have ever swam. How have I accomplished this? Simple, swimming. I’ve already swam 82KM in 2015 with only 2 months down. This is more than all the KM’s I swam in the full year 2010 and 2011. I have also been doing 5x1K and last week swam 6K with the last set using paddles. We do 500m intervals on Tuesday, form sessions on Thursday, and swim about 5 times per week. Lastly, I certainly wouldn’t be able to swim like this without my wife who has taught me high elbows, sculling, and form. This brings a new level of confidence to my swim.

It’s 2:57PM. I’m on the recliner and back from the 5 hour test effort on the bike. My Scott Plasma Premium 3 is at Smith St Velo so all I had was my Specialized Tarmac Pro. I had lost the battery to my cadence meter so all I had was speed and HR and Perceived Exertion. Last night I looked at previous 5 hour efforts to determine where I should be on my HR. (I usually train with my power meter, only focused on watts). I chose my HR range to be 131 – 135 based upon previous big day outs where I held 135 & 131 and IM’WA where I held 135. This is about 85%, top of zone 2 and inching into zone 3. I also wanted to eat every 15minutes so I lapped my Garmin 500 each 15min. This was amazing, something I haven’t been done before. It helped me after 3-4 hours remember to eat. It also let me focus on 15min minute blocks. OK, so the ride was Larapinta – Namatijira. There is a Peak w/ water so I got there, went over the other side since Fi was behind me and climbed the 7% grade back up. In total we climbed more than 1,000meters which is way more than IMA but we went this way for the headwind as well. We had a can of coke and filled up with water. We got there in 2hr 10min and were doing about a 5hr 180K pace. We usually don’t stop on these but thought that it would be more beneficial to us. So we turned back and had a head wind all the way back to Alice. I didn’t fear it, but embraced it, because this is what we could face at IMA and any other race; we have to train for it! I stayed focused and finished strong. The nutrition good all day long. I had 2 EFS shots, 2 Cliff Blocks, 1.5 cans of coke, 2 bottles of Gatorade, and 4 powerbar gels. This totals about 2,250 calories and is the amount most ppl should be consuming in a day. I also drank about 6 liters of fluids. I never once lost focus or became discouraged. I also kept looping back to make sure Fiona was safe as she was having a rough day out hitting up Standley Chasm’s 10% grade at the entrance. The day before, I pretty much had 2 lunches and a big pasta dinner, 2 nights before ate most of a large pizza, so I had carbo-loaded a bit. Fiona is learning her lesson!!!

I’m disappointed I didn’t have Shelly with her power meter but it allowed me to focus on HR, on what I could control. In Geelong, my power meter wasn’t working till half way through so I had focused on perceived exertion and speed. Now when I analyze todays performance, the HR for each 15min leg was pretty consistent between 127 – 134. This is very good because my effort felt consistent for all 5 hours and with the HR staying the same, means my decoupling is probably very close, meaning my HR doesn’t increase while power goes down. i.e. I’m fit and can maintain effort. Now for the analysis: I held 33KM for 5 hours on my road bike. This exceeds the fastest ride on my road bike which was last weeks 6 hour ride at 30KM/hr. It is also very close to my first ever big day out that was on a flatter course without a 2:40head wind, 18 months ago, and on a $12K TT! Lastly, the training over the last 3 weeks has been intense: 23.2, 26, and 26.4 hours of training. With todays ride, I cycled 568KM this week alone.

So we are 2 for 2 in terms of great strong effort. We finished the ride off with Endurox R4 recovery drink and an Oats Chia Pod. Now for a shower to get this layer of salt off of me.

It’s 9:32PM. No, I didn’t just get back from the run! I got back from our friends place Susan, a fellow triathlete, recently signed up for Challenge Gold Coast. We had organized dinner plans which turned out to be a great idea! She made some very awesome vegetarian food. (More to follow on that point!) and yes, this is our life!

OK, so the RUN. We had a 3.2KM loop planned out through Araluen. I bit of dirt path, grass, shade, sun, tail wind, and our aid station at our house setup with Gatorade, Coke, Water. Fiona and I both had on our brand new Fuel belts. Fi didn’t like hers but I found mine just fine. 3 bottles filled with half a scoop of Cytomax. PACE? OK, this is the hardest thing in Ironman. Now according to Jack Daniels PhD and his VDOT running formula, my in-season 5K PR of 17:38 says I could run a 2:50:45 marathon. But only a triathlete would know that an Ironman Marathon is NOT a Marathon. SO even though my hopes are on a sub 3:20 Ironman marathon, I chose to be realistic in today’s effort. See in Geelong, after 6 months of training with the Hanson’s Marathon Method, I still only went 1:37:42. So double that, add some buffer, and you do not get 3:20. It’s disappointing to try and aim for 3:30 because 8min/mile pace is easy running for me, but after a 3.8K swim and 180K ride, it’s definitely not easy running! My IM Marathon PB is 3:34 so aiming for sub 3:30 is a great goal. So we had our aid station, I had that shower and put on running clothes and Fi and I headed together out but only for a bit. She was really struggling and while I kept looping back, eventually I completely lost her. I focused on my effort, because that is what it will be like in Ironman. The HR was 134/avg and the pacing was very consistent throughout illustrating minimal decoupling and saying that I could handle it. I did a walk run strategy taking on gels every 30minutes and fluids every mile. I ran 1 mile, then walked 20seconds first and then up to 30 seconds because I was going faster than I wanted to. Of the 5 big day outs, this was the 2nd fastest. One prior was very fast and unrealistic.

When I returned home, we fueled up with a massive recovery drink of Endurox R4, Whey Protein, Mangoes, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Soy Milk. It was perfect. Then it was off to Susan’s for veggie burgers, salad, corn, rice chips, and vegan apple desert! And a few glasses of white wine.

Today was a huge success for me. I have some things to work on of course, core strength, calf strength, long 6K swims so I don’t slow down after 2.9K, etc. Fi also knows what she needs to work on: nutrition in the days leading up to big day out, sleep, drinking and eating enough on the bike and run.

Last thing I’ll say. I am a no-meat athlete. Well for 2 months now. I have done all of the above, faster and stronger than I ever have. I don’t measure food or keep tabs, but am certainly aware of what I eat. Being vegetarian and partly vegan has not been an issue for me. I have read the required reading and know it’s not what most people think it is. By removing processed food, meat, eggs, most dairy, and fish, I have reduced a huge amount of acidity in my body. I have been able to wake up early for early morning rides, been able to recover faster than ever before, feel relaxed and much calmer amongst the good I’ve done like reducing carbon footprint, being humane to animals etc. Of course, this isn’t for everyone and it was a 4 month process. But after 2 months, I am really starting to see the benefits. Will I do this forever? I don’t know yet but I know, without a doubt, it is working.

There is more detail here than most will care about but it would be hard to find this level of detail anywhere else. My aim is to help, support, and inspire. Till the next thing I want to rant about, eat well, stay fit, and live life to the fullest, because you only get one shot at this and it can be taken away from you in an instant.

All my best,

Kevin Coyle

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