Months and months ago, I threw out some potential goal times for each leg of the Ironman that I wanted to keep in mind as I trained. Those goal times have been percolating in the back of my head since then, so I thought it would be useful to re-visit them and evaluate how I feel about hitting those goals now that Ironman Coeur d’Alene is just under two months away.
Surprisingly, my goals that I set rather arbitrarily almost a year ago held up rather well—so well, in fact, that I’m going to keep them around as they are. My number one goal was and is simply to finish the race, and I will throw time goals out the window if I need to in order to make that happen (for instance, if it’s 100°, you better bet I’m going to re-evaluate my race plan!). However, I have some time goals that I would like to aim for, if circumstances allow.
For reference, here are the time goals I set for myself.
A-goal (sub-13 hours):
B-goal (sub-14 hours):
I started attending Masters swim team practices not long after I set my original goals. Masters has helped me improve my swimming much more than I expected, and I am now averaging much faster times than even my A-goal in the pool. (For reference, my 1000 yard time trial predicts a pace of 1:52/100m over a 5k of swimming.) However, due to the uncertainty of open water swimming, I’m going to keep my goal the same, with the hope that I can pick up a few extra minutes on the swim. Swimming in open water is a lot less certain than swimming in the pool. Wind can make the waves harder to navigate. Poor sighting can lead to extra swimming. Swim courses tend to be a lot less accurate than bike or run courses. So with all those uncertainties, I feel comfortable keeping my goals as they are. With any luck, I’ll meet my A-goal with a few minutes to spare.
I felt this goal might be a little too optimistic when I made it, and that feeling has only increased over the past year. On hilly long rides, I’ve been lucky to hit 16mph as my average speed. Usually, I sit somewhere north of 15mph, though I’ve had a few medium-long rides (2 hours or so) on flat terrain that have cracked the 17mph barrier. I don’t know what to make of this when it comes to my Ironman bike leg. My awesome carbon wheels have helped, but I still suspect that 6.5 hours (17.23mph) is well beyond my reach. I even find myself worrying about hitting 7 hours (16mph). This is strange to me because in my half Ironman, I hit a 16.8mph pace, and I had only been riding a road bike for a few months. I’m a much stronger cyclist now, so I’m not sure why my paces haven’t been better this training cycle. I know the terrain plays into it, and I know the routes I’ve been riding are a hillier (and contain steeper grades) than the Ironman Coeur d’Alene course will. My stretch goal of 6.5 hours seems a bit pie in the sky, but I’m keeping this goal the same too because I still hope to hit my B-goal and think I have a good chance of doing that, and maybe exceeding it by 10-15 minutes. However, I also need to remember that ten minutes faster on the bike is not worth blowing up on the marathon and losing thirty minutes to an hour.
Who even knows how to set a goal for an Ironman marathon?! I feel like my goal times are conservative based on what I’ve been running lately. Most of my long runs have been around an 8:30/mile pace and have felt quite easy. My transition runs (which I have been trying to run slowly) have been between 9:00-9:30/mile. Now, these runs are a lot different than a marathon after 112 miles on the bike. However, I think that this is a reasonably good pace for the parts of the Ironman marathon that I run. I want to run most of the marathon, but I also want to allow myself to walk through aid stations. If I’m running 9:15/mile and walking through every other aid station (or every aid station near the end of the race), I think that both my time goals are quite reasonable. What I really want is to stay strong during the run. That means executing my nutrition plan well. That means not shooting out of T2 like a rocket. That means mental toughness during the later miles in the race.
But over the past few weeks, I’ve come up with another goal that I’m trying to keep in the forefront of my mind. This goal is as important as it is corny… have a blast out there. I don’t see myself doing another Ironman anywhere in the foreseeable future, so this race (unless I, heaven forbid, don’t finish!) is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. As such, I want to enjoy it. I’m hoping to reach the run with at least eight hours left until the cutoff. If I manage that, I’m all but guaranteed a finish, and I want to have fun on my “victory lap.” So when it gets painful, I’m going to try to remember what I’m doing and be excited about it. Get kicked in the face on the swim? I’m doing a freaking Ironman! Struggling through a tough climb on the bike? I’m doing a freaking Ironman! Hot and tired at mile 15 in the run? I’m doing a freaking Ironman! I’m hopeful that having more fun out there will translate to a little less pain.
It’s almost here. And after revisiting these goals, I think I’m almost ready.