Falling Short Before the Big Day

This is not about Mont Tremblant 70.3.  That was a great race and a fantastic venue.  I'll write up a race report and share some beautiful photos soon.   Instead, I'm posting about my disappointment in where I am fitness-wise leading to the ironman.  I tend to set big goals.  I tend to make a bold goal, then I plan it out.  I assess where I am in comparison, how long it would take to achieve, what I need to do to get there and all the expected hurdles along the way.  Then, I get to work.   It is how I operate and what is fun for me.  It is how I took myself (with help along the way) from a 7 hour half ironman athlete to a 5:00 half ironman athlete over time.   I am a planimal.  I am obsessed with progress.  I make plans, achieve goals and check boxes and it makes me feel happy.  When I'm in a race and things become rough, I sometimes visualize the clock with the time I had wanted for that particular course and it drives me and makes the pain of racing worth it.  I check the box on all the little mini goals along the way.  

I had these big giant (but I thought attainable) goals at the start of the season for Ironman Mont Tremblant.  I wrote them down and broke out HOW I would get there.  It fit within the 5 year framework I had developed for my progress in the sport.  This week, I had to revise my goals and come up with a new target for ironman based on my new understanding of this course, on my performance there for the half, on the power output from one of my course pre-view rides (at ironman watts and 14.6 mph pace) and where I am fitness wise in general.  I've looked at pacing strategies for ironman and even thought of throwing my power meter out the window to the highest bidder  since I don’t like the data but whether I see the numbers or not, the reality is the same.  I'm just having a hard time giving up the old goals, but I know in order to race to my potential in the ironman, I have to understand and accept fitness wise where I actually AM right now so that I can execute a race based on reality.  You can fake it in a sprint, or even a half but not in a full.  I'm having a very hard time coming to terms with this.  I'm a bit heartbroken... OK, fine... I am not handling it well and am torn up.  I expected if I followed all these steps I'd surely be there and that was a mistake. 

This course is hilly.  Very very hilly.  I thought it might be impossible not to go over my FTP  (A key measurement in cycling with power) on these climbs with out  going slow enough to just be falling over, and I thought I was a strong cyclist.  I'm strong, but for the goals I wanted, I'm not strong enough.  I had a decent bike split at MT on this course for the half and its great but when I look at that and what that means for my ironman bike split, it is not strong enough especially considering that I really did race up some of those hills and took them hard in zone 4 or 5 (intense!) which I cannot do in an ironman. Racing ironman, you want to give the best performance you can on the day which means I have to accept my fitness level and race based on my actual ability not where I dream I’d like to be.  Otherwise, I risk overbikiing.  At Ironman Wisconsin, I under-biked and ran strong.  At this race, I want to find the right balance.   Unfortunately, the “right balance” is shaping up to be a time goal that is slower than what I wanted (and fully expected based on all my work) it to be.  

Yes, I had a time in mind for the ironman this year.  The time would have put me around an aggressive 15th-20th place in my AG looking at previous results and was of course based on having a perfect day.  I thought back in January if I trained hard and consistently, I could achieve a sub 6 bike split which would be key in me achieving this overall time goal.  The ironman is all about the bike fitness because if you cannot bike strong, you will fade in the run.  I believe that.  I don't even think the result itself was as important as having the fitness level to achieve that result.  I know things can go wrong on race day, but I wanted to feel confident going in that I COULD do it.  Now, fitness benchmarks and measurements are shaping up and I'm close enough to the race to truly assess, tweak and fine tune race strategy and in that process I've found that no...its not likely to happen.  I've made a lot of progress and had a good season and got my FTP up by 15% this year, but it wasn't enough.   My FTP is just not high enough on the bike.  I really have no clue what I should have strived for, but regardless its just not there and I got it as high as I could in the timeframe I had.  My swim and run didn't improve enough to compensate for the fact that despite my best efforts my bike split will not be what I had hoped on a hilly course like this.  If I throw data out the window and chase down a bike split outside my fitness level, I'm sabotaging my ability to run well off the bike.  I need to manage my expectations so that I can define what a "good" race was.  A good race based on my current level just isn't what I had hoped.  

My new goals are:
C(things dont go well): Finish & Learn,  
B (reasonable): PR 12:46 
A (on a great day): Sub 12.

The A, B and C goals I used to have are out of reach.   My A goal used to be my B goal.  The numbers do not add up and to shoot for those would set me up for a disappointing day and a very painful walk/run most likely.

Years ago, my revised goals would have been incredible to me and I'd be happy with it.  Right now, they pale in comparison to what I was striving for.  Years ago, just to finish was lofty, but right now to realize I'm not where I thought I'd be is rough.  

 I thought my original goals were aggressive yet realistic.  I wasn't shooting for "Kona" like so many age groupers do as I know that takes a lot of time..year after year of increased training load... especially for someone like me, with mid-point average sports genetics.  I'm not natural athlete and I've had to work hard consistently year over year to get where I am, driven by my goals and my addiction to achieving them and making progress and fostered by all the support and friendships I've made along the way.  

I did all the right things.  I have no excuse.  I can't say I was injured.  I can't say anything abnormally dramatic upset my life.  I can't say I didn't train.  Instead, I did everything I could and I still fell short.  I'm 6 weeks away and there is not time to make the kinds of gains I suspect I'd need.  I set up my life to reduce stress.  I integrated everything to just flow well so I could train with out a ton of disruptions.  I eliminated toxic relationships and replaced them with the most supportive amazing people.  I did sacrifice a lot and felt the sacrifices would pay off.   No alcohol, no late nights out, 7.5 hours of sleep per night, a clean diet, regular foam rolling, strength training to address weaknesses, investment in the sport, consistent training, and all the little details I thought would get me there.  It did not.  

I dedicated a lot of time, money, effort, and committed fully.  I'm not anywhere near where I had hoped to be, but I still have to try to find a way to get excited about new lesser goals.  I try to see the big picture, but that is hard to do when everything went perfect and according to plan but my fitness didn't follow.  It is just taking longer than I wanted and expected. 
I've worked hard for this and to realize I've come up short and to realize I have to just race based on where I am, is in a word: heartbreaking.  

Oh, its not like I’ve had lack of adversity in my life or in my training.  I understand the problem is not giant in the grand scheme, but it still breaks my heart.   I race well normally, because I care.  I gave it my all and I gave it my heart and I’m really frustrated that my efforts aren’t proving to put me right on track.  Over the next few weeks, it will be a struggle attempting to maintain the same consistency in training and to make those same sacrifices knowing that I'm working towards a lesser goal.  Goals are what drive me.  I am the most goal oriented person there is. I do not fall short.  I do not give up.  However, its not like in my other areas of life, where I can go the extra mile and make it happen.  I can't just raise my FTP to where it would need to be in the period of 6 weeks.  I can’t just go riding the bike like a maniac and expect not to pay for it on the run and risk the entire race.   I put my heart into all I do and I have put a lot here so of course, I'm distraught.  I recognize and acknowledge there has been success along the way as I have been training and racing and I am grateful to be healthy.   I'm still so frustrated that I am not where I expected to be right now.  I hope to find the passion for the race and peaceful acceptance of where I am now, but today I'm not there yet.