Monday, September 5, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin Looms

As I begin my 45th and final week of training for the 2011 season which began on November 1, 2010 I am preparing to have my best race ever at Ironman Wisconsin just 6 days from now when the cannon fires next Sunday morning at 6:50 a.m. I'm very excited about the race. My last 4 races have been my best ever leaving me with little doubt that I'm as ready as possible for this big test. The Ironman distance can be pretty overwhelming...2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. When I think about this in the context of all the work I've done over the past 44 weeks it leaves me with little doubt that I'm prepared to have a great race. I've totalled 515,700 swim yards, biked 6,764 miles, and run 1,936 miles. I've been to the weight room over 90 times and I've done all the little things like core work, jump rope, plyometrics, lunges, push-ups, running drills, and strides hundreds of times. In total I've put in over 900 hours of training that will all be put to use in a test next weekend where I hope to finish in just over 9 hours. I do not fear the distance of an Ironman. I respect the distance but I certainly don't fear it. I've done enough long days and long weeks of training that the distance is no longer something I fear. What I fear more than anything is how my hamstrings will hold up, and how my bike will hold up on this course. The past few weeks I've been having more trouble keeping my hamstrings feeling well. They have not been recovering like they did 2 months ago. I wake up feeling I'm 80 years old most mornings. On the upside I have not felt like it has limited me in any of my workouts the past few weeks but I know full well that anything not perfect will probably be exploited through the course of a 9 hour day in which I'll be testing my limits. As for the course...I've heard often of how challening the Ironman Wisconsin bike course is. I've heard that it is quite hilly. I went up this weekend to check out the loop that begins in Verona. We will ride the loop twice next weekend. Although I thought the loop was pretty hilly it is not what I felt made the ride most difficult. The thing I thought made this course difficult is how crumby the roads are. I would have guessed that a race with the prestige of Ironman Wisconsin would have pretty nice roads...far from it! The roads were worse than any roads I've trained on this year. Within 15 miles my lower back and neck were sore from all the bumps and cracks in the road. There are a few hills that are challening...but they are not very long and they aren't something that concerns me. I know on the first loop there are 3 hills where I will drop into my small chain ring up front so that I can conserve a little bit of energy. On loop 2 if I feel good I'll stay in the big ring and exert some power on those climbs. There was 1 challenging descent where I will need to be careful to use my brakes ahead of time. After going down the descent one time really slow I biked back to the top and went down it a 2nd time a little faster and I almost crashed. It is at a spot where you pick up good speed going downhill before making the first of 3 switchback turns. I don't want to risk any crashes so I'd rather lose 30 seconds on the descent by being conservative as opposed to taking my chances to save a bit of time over a 9 hour event and risking a crash. One Ironman bike crash is enough for me and I experienced that one in St. George.

I've had a lot of people ask me about my goals for this race. It's tough to put out a goal time in an Ironman because there are so many unknowns through a 9 hour day. Judging on the past times on this course I feel a time of 9 hrs. 10 minutes is a possible goal. That would put me at 1 hour for the swim, 5 hours for the bike, and 3 hours 5 minutes for the run. Add in transition times and I'll be right around 9 hrs. 10 minutes. I'd be really proud of that...but I want to risk even more. There are only 15 male pros on the start list for next weekend and I'd like to be in the top 6 which is how deep the paychecks go in the pro race. I'll be wearing bib#4 which had me excited. I know a lot of locals are planning to be in Madison to watch the race. I've talked to many friends and family members of mine who are going up to watch the race. I would like to ask for a bit of help from anyone who will be in Madison next weekend. If you get a chance it would be a tremendous help for me to know time splits to the guys ahead of me. In a race with only 15 pro guys the field will probably get very spread out especially with a hilly and challenging bike course. The toughest transition for me going from amateur racing to professional is how lonely it can get on the bike. I could easily go over an hour without seeing another racer. Mentally this can be a big challenge. It will help me a lot if I can hear time gaps to the people ahead of me as I ride by. I'm not as interested as the time gap to the leader as I am to the next person ahead of me. It helps to know what place I'm in and how much time there is to the next rider or runner up the road. This gives me a sense of how hard I need to go at various spots on the course. I have to make a choice for this race...go for broke or go conservatively and be proud to finish. After seeing the field it took me little time to decide I'm going for broke. I don't want it any other way. Through the last 44 weeks I've pushed the limits in training with this "Big Dream"...hoping I could prove that I can be competitive with the other top triathletes in the world. I've proven to myself in the last 2 races that I belong in the pro division...that I can be competitive with a 6th place finish out of 18 in Racine and a 14th place finish of 28 at Steelhead. Those finishes were possible because I took a risk in training. I chose to push my body to the extreme while people told me I train too much. I have heard from people that the way I train is likely to lead to injury. It's been an injury free year and now I'm going into my last race with the expecation and the dream that it will be my best. I would rather race to win and blow up spectacularly than race for 10th. My college coach at Augustana, Paul Olsen instilled in me to dream beyond what conventional wisdom says is possible. It's why I don't race with a power meter or heart rate monitor. I believe in athletics there are days where the script is turned...days when things don't go as planned...and the team or individual no one ever expects wins. I don't think those things `would happen in triathlon if a machine or device is telling the athlete to slow down. I don't know when I'll have this chance to place high at an Ironman event again so I'm going to push the bike portion harder than most would recommend. I have complete trust in my fitness and in my running ability. Next week I may report that biking too hard did me in...I hope not...but I want to put out there right now it's a chance I'm going to take. I will have no regrets. I've watched the 2009 Ironman World Championshp countless times while training in the basement over the past 44 weeks. A quote by Ironman Champion and fellow Iowan TJ Tollakson is etched in my mind from that broadcast..."Nothing great comes without great sacrifice."

This week channel 8 did a story on my comeback from surgery last year. That video is posted below.


On Sunday morning I was glued to the computer and my phone waiting for updates from the Hy-Vee Triathlon. All 3 of my brothers were racing. For Jason, this race has been a big goal of his since the car accident that claimed his left arm on October 4th of last year. I was thrilled to get the updates from my mom that all 3 of them finished!! For all of them it was the longest triathlon they have ever finished. I was super proud of them for finishing this event but even more for doing the training that comes with the sport. I asked Justin what he liked most about the event and he said leading up to it he lost over 20 lbs. I love this sport and I love getting people into it because of the healthy lifestlye required during the training for a competition. The other really exciting news I was waiting about from the Hy-Vee Triathlon was that my training buddy Adam Bohach won the amateur race. Adam won the race by over 5 minutes on his way to breaking the 2 hour barrier!! I was super proud of Adam because I know how hard he has worked. I have no doubts he'll be even better in Kona for the Ironman World Championship in 4 weeks. The news in Des Moines ran a really nice piece on Jason before the race. That video is posted below.


For anyone who can't make it to the race in Madison next week but wants to check on the progress there will race tracking updates at various points through the race on the Ironman website. That can be found by following the links on the home page at on race day. If you click on my name during the event it should update what my time was at each spot they have a timing mat...typically after the swim, a few during the bike, and a few during the run. I think the race will also be broadcast live on the internet at
The next 6 days can't go by fast enough for me. I am ready and waiting. I got an e-mail this week from Ironman pro athlete director Heather Fuhr and she told me a few of the professional guys withdrew their spot to the 70.3 world championship in Las Vegas next weekend. She asked me if I wanted the spot. I was honored and humbled to be even considered since they only allow 50 pros in the entire world into that race. I had to turn her down however because I'm committed to this race in Madison. Training is at a minimum now as I get my body physically more rested than it has been in months. I've raced his event countless times in my mind. Now it's time to put the plan into action! Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!!


Joshua said...

so excited for you jeff. it's going to be an incredible race for you and i couldn't have been happier to read your declaration to go all out. you continue to inspire.

Carson said...


Have a killer time! The course is awesome! I agree with the comments about the roads. But then again, every road is paved, you could ride for hours and get lost, and have the time of your life, rather then worry about cookie cutter grid gravel roads of Iowa!

Steer the course and believe in yourself! You will surprise. What a huge race by Gonzo (Bohach) in Des Moines!

Anonymous said...

woo hoo! Go Mr. Paul! Great job!