Thursday, May 17, 2012

Half Challenge Calella - Race Plan

Less than 10 days to my first half Ironman distance race and I can already feel the nerves and butterflies in my stomach. So many questions and so many unknowns, specially given the fact I do not feel I am arriving at 100% level to my A race of the year.  As I took on this journey I wanted to be cautious and not jump straight at an Ironman race as many people do, but rather climb up the distance latter slowly to eventually complete an MDot race.

The Half Challenge Barcelona race will be a good testing ground for my fitness level (or lack thereof), and will allow me to gauge what needs to change as I move to the ultimate distance, the full Ironman, in 2013.   Some of my worries, however, are as follows:

-Not enough time in the pool in training. Too much travel during Base and Peak phases lead to minimal time in the pool.

-Not enough open water swimming done. As of today I've been to the lake once to train this year!

My cycling and my running are quite strong and I feel much more comfortable with those disciplines, and I woud be lying If I'd tell you I'm not dreading the mass swim start with over 1300 people at the same time. Lots of punches and elbows will be thrown at me...but I'll make sure to throw a few of my own :)

My TrainingPeaks program suggested I'd jot down my race plan for the race so I will use this post to summarize what my intentions are for the days leading to the race and the race itself.

Tuesday - May 22nd
I have been in London by myself with our oldest daughter since my wife has already left for Barcelona due to her pregnancy.  We will be travelling from London to Barcelona on Tuesday 22nd of May in the afternoon.

Wednesday - May 23rd
On Wednesday I have a bike tune up scheduled with Guillermo from Argon 18 in Spain.  Since I am planning on bringing the bike in a Bike Box I will need help assembling it again and I do not want to mess it up right before the big race.  There is no one better than Guillermo to fine tune an Argon 18 in Spain so I am taking my baby to the man himself on Wednesday at 9am!  

Thursday - May 24th
On Thursday morning I will go to the American School of Barcelona as I have promised my good friend Jordi Casas I would visit the school where he works and where I also worked from 2000-2006 as a PE teacher.  I must say I am really looking forward to this and can't wait to see which kids still remember me! This ought to be fun!

On Thursday evening there is an annual reunion at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra which is where I got my MBA back in 2006.  I have confirmed my attendance but I will see how I feel that day. I would only go if I knew some of my classmates would be there as I looked at the programme and it looks a bit boring! Alternatively I will stop by the expo at the race which opens on Thursday as well.

Friday - May 25th
Check in at Hotel Maritim in Calella in preparation for the race.  It will be myself, my wife, our daughters and my in-laws staying there until Monday evening.  All going well I should be able to go out for a short ride to see the first Kms of the bike course, and a nice out and back swim of about 1Km to take it easy on the legs and arms.  After that I will potentially check out the expo again as there is always an awesome atmosphere at Spanish races.

Saturday - May 26th
Rest day, east pasta, and try to enjoy the expo with Sonia and the girls, and eat some more pasta. At this point all systems should be ready to go so I should try to relax and enjoy myself without any physical or mental stress.  I will need to have my race bag ready with all my transition needs and yes, I will have a proper checklist handy just in case!
At 10am I will have to pick up my race pack and attend the race briefing, and after lunch I will need to rack my bike in the transition zone, and get my bike and run bags ready.

Sunday - May 27th  
The race starts at 8:20am and transition opens at 6am. I will need to wake up at 5 to be there promptly at 6 but I should be fine as the hotel is about 10 minutes walk from the starting line.  My nutrition plan is simple! Two Powerbars and a banana for breakfast! Some Maxifuel Viper Active to ease the solids down, and right before the swim I'll take a Powerbar gel (Mango, Passionfruit, Guarana).

Race Plan

Main goal is to finish! This will be my longest race EVER, and although I know I have done everything I could to get to this point fit, healthy, and mentally prepared, there are too many variables and unknowns that can just throw all the hard work off course.  Having said that, I would love to pull a sub 6h time, but I know it will not be easy, specially given the conditions under which I have been training (mostly cold), and those which I will face on race day (scorching hot).

However, I must set time targets as per my program and give myself a realistic time goal to aim at achieving.  Having looked at last year's results, this is my realistic goal:

Swim: Under 55 Minutes - I will start in the back of the pack and am expecting to get my goggles punched out of my face at least once.  I am also expecting to panic a bit so I want to be realistic rather than hopeful.
T1: Under 3 minutes - No major reason, just what I saw some of the average guys did on 2011's results
Bike: Under 2h:30mins - I think this is realistic and achievable. 
T2: Under 1 minute
Run: My fastest +20Kms run was 1h:48m for 23Kms at an average of 4m:42s/Km. That would have been a total time of roughly 1h:40m for the 21Kms. Obviously that was without the swim and the bike before the run, so it is not really comparable, but I will add 20 minutes for the tiredness I will feel, cramps, and hope to do a half marathon in less than 2 hours! Let's see how I get along :)
Overall: I would be happy to manage to finish, honestly! But anything under 6h:20m would be a plus! It is only my first half ironman race and I have time to improve so I need to enjoy myself out there!

Race Nutrition Plan

When I did the Ballbuster a few months ago I rode and ran on gels. I do, however, feel I will need to have some other source of nutrition, specially electrolytes (sodium and potassium) during the last two legs of the race.  I suffered from major cramps which prevented me from finishing within 4 hours, and I do not want the same thing to happen so here is what I plan to do:

Start of Swimming: 1 Gel
T1: 1 Gel, 1 Salt Tablet
Bike: I will set my Forerunner 310XT for an alarm every 15 minutes to follow this pattern of nutrition:
-15 mins: Drink
-30 mins: Gel
-45 mins: Drink
-60 mins: 1/2 Powerbar, Salt Stick
-75 mins: Drink
-90 mins: Gel
-105 mins: Drink
-120 mins: 1/2 Powerbar, Salt Stick

-135 mins: Drink
-150 mins: Gel
T2: Nothing. Grab gels from the running belt out on the run
Run: On my +20Kms runs I usually take 2 gels so I will do the same here. I will take one at about Km 5, and another at about Km 15 for the final push.

There is no science behind this, but rather what I feel my body wil need to cope with the 90Kms of riding, and to prevent the cramps on the start of the final 21Kms of running.  I'm sure by next time I will be able to have a better idea of what works and what doesn't.

All in all I hope to be able to enjoy my day out there. I know it will be hot, and I know it will be tough. I know there will be times when my mind will ask me why I put myself through this and there will be times my body will tell me to stop! But I also know the feeling I will get once I cross that line will be great, and I know I will be hungry for more afterwards. I know my wife and daughters will be waiting for me at the line... and I know I will do this! How well will I do?... well, that's a story for a different day!


  1. Do you usually prepare a race plan for your races? For all your races or only for the longer distance races?
  2. Do you follow a race day nutrition plan? 
  3. On your IM and HIM races do you do the full swim a few days before? Why?Why not?


  1. I think you are sand bagging, give a realistic goal and a "everything goes perfect" goal. You should be not slower than 5:45.

    *Do you usually prepare a race plan for your races? For all your races or only for the longer distance races? - I only have race plans for HIM and longer. Sprints I just go as fast as I can the whole time and Olympic distance is pretty much the same thing except I am a little more conservative on the bike....but not too much more.

    *Do you follow a race day nutrition plan? Definitely follow a race day nutrition plan, you should have been training with one so that there aren't any surprises when you are racing.

    *On your IM and HIM races do you do the full swim a few days before? Why?Why not? For a HIM, yes you can do a 2,500m swim a few days before. I would probably not do a full 4,000m+ swim within days of the race. There isn't a need to, you aren't going to gain any more swim fitness or increase your speed. It will only fatigue you.

    Good luck!!!!

  2. come on miguel, we'll wait for you in italy too!

  3. Miguel aunque no pueda responderte a tus preguntas porque nunca he hecho un HMI pero por los resultados de tus carreras anteriores considero que el sub5:30h lo tienes en el cuerpo! disfruta mucho y como es el primer HIM lo importante es llegar a la meta con una sonrisa!
    Por cierto, buena planificación de la alimentación!! tomo nota!
    Mucha suerte!

  4. i'm not very good at adding up, but if you meet those individual targets you will be well under 6h20!

    compared to the swim time and the run time, the bike split you are aiming for is relatively much faster. of course everyone is different but, in my limited experience of triathlons, i have noticed that most people seem to overcook the bike and then end up doing the "ironman shuffle" for the run. i know this is "only" a half ironman, but you are going to be exercising for longer than most people run a marathon, so you run the same risk of shaving off a few minutes early on, only to have to pay them back with dividends later on.

    on the other hand, if your plan is to get the most out of your new super bike (this would be my plan too), then why not? go for an aggressive bike split and do your best on the run even if it isn't the optimal strategy from an overall finishing time point of view.

    definitely need a race day nutrition plan, with contigencies (if your food falls off the bike, for example).

  5. Great race plan. Just a quick thought, I would plan your nutrition a little more specifically. What are you drinking? If you have a goal to take in x amount of calories an hour then you will need to know how much to drink every 15 minutes. If a gel has 100 calories (yours may vary), and 1/2 PB has 100 calories then you only may need another 50-100 calories every hour. This means you don't want a calorically dense drink. You will need liquid more than the calories. I generally take one bottle of sport drink on the bike and make sure 1/4 is gone after 30 minutes, 1/2 is gone after an hour, and so on. Then I have a bottle of water that I try to finish by the first hand-up after the halfway mark of the bike. At that time I grab another bottle of water.

    Anyway, hope this helps. I would just try to have a specific plan to follow but be flexible (plans have a tendancy to go to sh*t by 3/4 of the way into the bike). If you are hungry, eat more. If you are thirsty, drink more. If you see white rings on your kit... pound salt like its your job!

    Good luck and most importantly, have fun!

  6. ps: if it helps, i wrote down my plan for the half IM i did last year in quite a bit of detail (perhaps too much). if you didn't see it at the time, here is a link . it worked for me both in the half and in the full (where i just multiplied everything by two). now i would probably be slightly less mathematical about it!!

  7. Muchos ánimos! Nos vemos por Calella!

  8. Impresionante tu plan Miguel.
    Si consigues cumplirlo, seguro que no tendrás problemas de calambres en la media maratón.
    Yo nunca consigo llevar a cabo mi estrategia de nutrición y al final como y bebo según voy sintiendo mi estomago.

    Mucha suerte y seguro que bajas del sub6h sin forzar ;)

  9. That's a very cautious time of 6:20, but, with that time you can't help to be happy, because you should smash it ;)
    good luck!!