Monday, November 14, 2011

The Challenge Looms...Ironman Arizona

It is rare for a training plan to go perfectly. The past 7 weeks have gone exactly that way for me. I thought my last race of the year was going to be at Ironman Wisconsin on September 11th. Within a couple days of finishing that race I had the urge to race again. What I didn't know if my body would allow me to be able to continue the 2011 season. I took 2 weeks off completely and then began a "trial" week of training where I would determine how my body felt after a week of regular training. I extended my "trial" a 2nd week and it was during that week I realized I was really starting to feel fit again and had the urge to race one more time before closing the chapter on 2011. I couldn't be more thrilled with my decision. I set up a 7 week training plan with a goal of getting leaner for this race than I've ever been for a triathlon. I have done exactly that. Through the 7 weeks I hit every single training goal I set for myself. I use a weekly checklist of goals to guide my training. I check them off as I go through each week. There wasn't a single goal through 7 weeks that was left unchecked. I lifted weights twice every week. I did speed drills, strides, lunges, jumped rope, and did push-ups all three times each week. I did plyometrics twice every week. I met my mileage goals running and biking every week. I surpassed my swim yardage goal every week. I surpassed my core work goal every week. This work has left me feeling more fit and confident than I've ever been going into a race.

About a month ago I read a column from a triathlon coach who said his number one predictor of peak performance in his athletes is to look at their training volume in the 6 weeks leading into a race. His theory was that the best races almost always come at the end of the highest six week averages. This is one reason the coach encourages his athletes to race less and train more. A race typically requires athletes to back down in training before and after the event thus reducing the training volume for a decent period of time. With this theory in mind I compared my 6 week training totals leading up to Ironman Wisconsin with this build up to Ironman Arizona. I used the periods from 7 weeks before the race up to 1 week before the race. Before IM Wisconsin I was having some problems with my hamstrings which caused me to back off sooner than I would have liked and more than I would have liked. I didn't realize how low my volume was until comparing it with my Arizona prep. In the 6 weeks leading up to Madison I averaged 144 miles/week on the bike. Over the past 6 weeks I averaged 200 miles/week. For the swim I averaged 11,000 yards/week leading up to Madison. For this race I made swimming a much higher priority and averaged 17,700 yards/week. This was my highest 6 week average of the entire year far and away. For running I really cut back before Madison and averaged only 29 miles/week in the 6 week block. For this race I have averaged 57 miles/week. Adding this all up and knowing I'm 9 lbs. lighter than when I toed the line in Madison makes me really excited to race. I'm going into this race not worrying about who else is in the race. My goal for signing up was to cut a big chunk of time off my 10 hr. 6 minute PR from Ironman Wisconsin. I'll be racing the "Madison Jeff" when I'm in Arizona. I believe I can shatter my PR. I swam 1 hr. 2 minutes. I think I will be faster than that in Arizona but it certainly isn't the game breaker. I'll save much more time on the bike and run. I biked 5 hrs. 17 minutes in Madison. In Arizona I expect to be under 5 hrs. The run is where I will save the most time. I ran 3 hrs. 40 minutes. I would guess I spent nearly 20 minutes stopped at aid stations trying to find the right ingredients to get rid of my cramping. I hope to run under 3 hrs. 10 minutes. What will it take for this race to be a success? If I dropped 30 minutes off my PR the trip would be worth it. I think I'm capable of much more than that but I found out in Wisconsin just how tough the day can get. I hydrating every day this week with GU Electrolyte tablets in an effort to minimize the cramping that plagued me early in the race in Wisconsin. I'm also going to try to swim with less effort. I was already cramping out of the water in Wisconsin. I don't care near as much about my place out of the water as I do about how I feel getting out. The same goes for the bike ride. I'm really not concerned about my time as much as how I feel getting off the bike. I want to make sure I can actually run the marathon this time around. Regardless of how the race goes I'm glad I signed up for this one. It has allowed me to get into the best shape of my life which is really what all the training for this sport is all about. I didn't know if it would be possible to get into this kind of shape while working a full-time job and being a father to two awesome kids and a husband to Super Mom but I found a way to get the work done. Whether it was through riding my bike in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep or getting up early in the morning to sneak in some extra all worked out better than I could have imagined. Now it's time to execute the race. Jen and I fly out on Thursday this week. We will spend an extra day in AZ after the race. One thing I'm really excited about is going back to the finish line in the last couple hours of the race to cheer on the final finishers. It's something I've missed in my first couple attempts at Ironman. I won't miss it this time. I saw Dr. Kaminski today to make sure my body is tuned up and ready to go. I'll get my pre-race massage from Laurel Darren on Wednesday. If you are bored on Sunday and want to check in on my progress you can go to and there should be a link to athlete tracking. For this race all the pros are going to be wearing GPS tracking devices. I think the Ironman page will have a link to this info but if not go to From what I understand we will put the GPS unit on when we get out of the water and it will tell viewers our current speed, average speed, where we are on the map...and a bunch of other cool data. Knowing that people can see my speed will give me some incentive to keep going when things get tough. I already had my first "Ironman Nightmare" last night. In my dream I was trying to get through the first few turns in town to get to the main road on the bike that begins the 3 loop course and I could barely move. I was getting passed by everyone. I'm not sure why I always have these crazy dreams but I'm not letting that affect my self-confidence. I'm ready for my best one ever. I can't wait for the cannon to fire. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the prayers on Sunday. The forecast looks incredible right now and being on a fast course it should be a perfect day to race fast which is pretty much my only goal. There is a huge pro field of over 60 guys and 40 gals on the start list so that should ensure that I have people around me. I've learned in my first year of pro racing the toughest part is that the race can get aweful lonely. It was easier to be motivated to race for the overall amateur title than it has been to race for 20th in the pro race. I'm past that now and will only be looking to beat "Madison Jeff". DREAM BIG!!


Daniel Bretscher said...

good luck you got the right attitude

Derek Elliott said...

Hey Jeff

Just wanted to wish you luck at the ironman. Actually got to meet you at the QCM through team Live Uncommon. It was a brief visit but I will see you at more races. Both you and Jen are one of the main reasons I joined LU. Again Good Luck and get it done!!!

Anonymous said...

Good Luck Jeff,

I agree with Daniel you have your mindset right now just go do what you know how to do! You've put in the time and got your muscle memory down, just go spend up all that training you've put into the bank and make it happen. I'm really glad to have known someone with as much determination and guts as you.

With Luck,


Adam Beston said...

Good luck and stay strong!

Anonymous said...

Good luck, I hope you crush Madison Jeff! Love reading your blogs, very inspiring, even for us MOP age groupers.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, best of luck with the whole experience. I will be keeping track and cheering for you from my computer. Its been exciting to read about your prep for the race and I'm glad you have another chance to celebrate your ironman fitness! Best of luck!


Thomas Gerlach Pro Triathlete said...

Given the course differential a 9:30 at IMAZ is probably a 10:06 at WI. Ironman Wisconsin is a very difficult course.

Racing your own race is good goal, but if you do race you own race then there is NO reason you should blow up. If you do then it wasn't paced right. With that being said a better goal would be to go under 9. Given your fitness there is no reason you can't go 8:40:00 but the race has to be paced appropriately. A half is much more like an olympic than a full. Patience at the Ironman is key.

Thomas Gerlach
Professional Triathlete

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cathy said...

Wishing you good luck this weekend. You've put in an ironman effort with your training. A true inspitation. This will be your race, you can do it! I'm looking forward to following your progress through the event.
Hang tough!

Carson said...

Good luck Jeff! You know what you have to do, and your in great shape. Steer the course and let the race come to you!!!

I'll be watching !

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks for all the well wishes! Excited about tomorrow. Keeping the mindset of competing against myself. Looking forward to the challenge. Looks to be a perfect day. If you are bored Sunday GPS tracking is at and you can watch the finish live at


Jeff Paul