1070 Jeroen Van Cauwenberghe, BEL

Training report IM Utah, May 5th 2012

Mostly for the upcoming first time IM racers in the team, some hints and tips from my last (2nd) IM.

Getting to the race.

I like to arrive as late as possible to not fall in the ‘let’s do 1 more workout like all the rest is doing’ trap. A lot of people surprise me by biking 100k 2 days before the race or even a long run/swim. Sticking with 15min bike in race configuration, incl. nutrition on the bike and 15min run in same outfit as I would run the race, also incl. nutrition works for me. Gives a chance for last minute adjustments in case you changed anything.

You will be surprised by all the nutrition, CO2 cartridges, water bottles, etc that come off other people their bikes. I like to avoid stuff falling off my bike, but in case it does, I carry a bit more gels, blocks than I intend to use, just in case.

An Aerofit scan helped me target the right HR zone for a long distance race and I trained in that zone to get even more efficient and I was intending to stick to it during the race.

Registration

First IM race for me where the chip did not get tested, even when I asked for it. Turned out to be a major disappointment when I found out on the run that it was not giving me a beep when I passed the timing matts. There is a lesson in there for all of us.

I went for my 15/15, skipped the swim though as it looked too cold and I didn’t want to know how bad it would be until race day itself.

I put my bike at T1, deflated the tires a bit so that they don’t blow up in the afternoon sun, put the T1 bag in place and went to town to put the T2 bag in place. Feet up, salt bath taken, greasy dinner and 2 beers to relax and off to bed 10h before my planned wake up.

Pre race

I got up 5h before race start. Had my 600 calories breakfast and had enough time to have it come out the other end. Yes,  IM is a very gracious sport. After that I took 2 anti diarrhea pills, although that was not the case, but it avoids me getting worried about that part during the day to come. Maybe a bit too much info here, but the more experienced racers know how big a part this can play in your day.

Utah specific, it was 15C in the water, but also outside the water. I got  into my wetsuit very early and looked silly for a long time as I was the only one, but I was warm with 2 pairs of old socks to keep the feet warm and a wool hat. Before putting on the wetsuit, I had rubbed Vaseline all over my torso, hands, feet, cooking oil from a spray on legs and arms to get wetsuit off easier, sunscreen on face. Playing around with the goggles, the strap broke and went to pick up my spare goggles that I had put into my T1 bag.

The Swim

Got to the entry point and found a quiet place to sit and wait. Got cold anyways and my legs started shaking as I sat on the ground. Survival instincts told me to just wet myself in the wetsuit (that’s why they call it wetsuit I think) and that kept me warm for the next 10minutes. Got in the water 10 minutes before the start together with 1400 other freezing athletes. Surprise of the cold was not too bad and I could feel the Vaseline was helping. Bit of swimming back and forth to keep moving and got into position where I was comfortable. For me that’s way left and to the front. At least I have a clean line of the buoys and the people that are going to pass me on my right.

IM mass starts are the best part of the race and it is a shame that some races use wave starts. There is nothing like it, hearing the gun go off and seeing all that energy being displaced all at ones by so many.

Utah is 1500m straight out on what started out to be completely flat lake.  4 yellow buoys and a 90 degree left hand turn at the next, a red buoy. Pretty simple. Found some feet, nice pace to the first turn. Got a sighting on the next red buoy, about 400m away, could just make out a hill in the distance that would be my reference and our group got all of a sudden hit by 5ft waves coming from the left. A high wind had kicked up out of nowhere and it tore our group apart. Most of them drifted downwind, some turned on their back and put one arm in the air and started calling for help or their mother, I could not make that out, but it was pathetic in any case.

How quickly did this IM turn ugly, after only 1500m of swimming I was now in a JBR rough sea swim and still had more than half of the swim to go. Expect the unexpected is what you could say.

One year ago I would have pulled out, but with just a bit more swim training and speed under my belt, I struggled on, although I never saw anybody anymore until the last turn. I know we had to go due North and to the right off a huge rock to reach the last red buoy and that’s what I did, while swallowing half of the lake trying to breath in the high waves and spray coming off them due to winds of 40mph.

But, it did not annoy me, I was positive, even smiled under water. After not seeing that rock get any bigger, got some aggression out of me by yelling underwater and telling myself to get over it. Pulling strong underwater is what Jason preaches and it worked. Reached shore in not too shabby of a time.

Wetsuit got torn off by volunteers, first arms, sat down on ground, then legs. Looked at all the bags and bikes that were still in place and realized I had not done bad at all. Now just a bike and a small jog to go. Stay positive!

The Bike

Looks like every IM has something, heat, humidity, wind, rain, hail. It’s all part of it We had to deal with huge winds and hilly terrain ahead, but it turned to be quite nice actually. A 10 mile due North, into the wind undulating road, turned into a 15 mile very uphill downwind section, moving in a NW track for a really long time into the wind and very hilly part. I stuck to my target HR, but could not execute my nutrition plan as my stomach was bloated from drinking all that lake water. I decided to take half of my salt tablets (6) all at ones with some coke and see what that would to. It helped and after 1h on the bike I could have my first gel. I was carrying 1 sports drink bottle and 1 bottle of flat coke in case I needed it. After 20 miles, the first aid station. I drank most of my sports drink bottle, threw it away and took 1 new one. Powerbar Perform. Nasty shit, but what you going to do, The days that I carried 5 bottles with me are long gone.

Huge section into the wind finished by having to climb ‘The Wall’, as steep section and what I called ‘The Wall II’, as it was even steeper and longer, but officially had not name.  I downed some coke . Going uphill, I took 45 degree turns and zigzagged my way up to save the legs. It made me overtake at least 20 people and nobody seemed to know what I was doing as they all looked rather strange at me. Oh well.

Finally the turn around and a serious tailwind. A huge downhill section of at least 15 miles on ½ of a blocked highway. Time to forget I have to 2 kids, a wife and 3 dogs depending on me as this was what I had been waiting for. I was ready to take huge risks to go downhill as fast as I could to make up for the climbs and headwind.

I never saw speeds like these as I was biking hard, still low HR and enjoying this wind/downhill combination. In no time St. George and the finish of loop 1 was there, time to do that same loop again with the same outcome. Loop 2 was over before I knew it, but now we were blasting into town, still downhill. Volunteers shouting frantically that we had to slow down, but this group I was in was serious business and we were all still leaning forward over our handlebars to get maximum weight forward and minimum drag.

A roundabout approaching made us have to go hard into the brakes and out of the shoes as T2 was approaching. As a pack of 10 we rolled into the bike dismount, bikes were taken by volunteers, a run for the T2 bag was made and into the tent. Good time for my first toilet break since the wetsuit.

Run

Biggest mistake of the race made there, as I decided not to wear socks, thinking that the arches with cool mist, that I saw on the way in, would make everything very wet.

Blisters were the result after 2 of the 3 laps with no band aid in sight. A sponge crammed in my shoe did the trick and I kept running at the target HR taking in salt tablets every 45 min and coke at every aid station. No fuel belt or drinks were on me as there was more than enough on the course.

First timing matt that I passed did not trigged a beep. Strange. Maybe matt faulty? 2nd matt same thing and I began to realize that it might be the chip. Oh well, too late now. We’ll see what they say at the finish. I still had my Garmin data and in the end, this one was for fun anyways.

The 3 loop affair was over before I realized it and I could make a charge for the finish line. No tears or emotions on this one as we had done it once before, just pride in completing a tough course with an unexpected tough swim.

Finish

A free massage, food and all the goodies were enjoyed by me and I could not believe how good I felt. Picked up the bike, bags and walked to the car that I had parked within crawling distance from the finish. Another lesson learnt from a previous race.

A short chat with the people from the organization learned that I was not the only one with timing chip problems and that I could email them my Garmin data and they would make a ruling in the coming weeks.

Getting back

4 beers and pizza were the reward. A good nice long sleep the result. Packing up and driving that bike course in the rental car once more to take some pictures as I could not believe how well it went and how beautiful it had been. All in all a very nice race and you can see it on the run as I was still smiling and full of positive thoughts. Certainly a very good 70.3 possibility for next year!

Timing

As there is no ruling from WTC yet, it will be my secret until they do, but the experience and joy of this race is something they will not be able to take away from me, together with some new made friends on and off the course.

Thank you

I almost forgot it again. But a huge thank you to my wife Patricia for her patience and support. To my kids, Maxim and Thomas for asking me if I won after every race.

To Jason, for being flexible, patient, able to deal with such a big group of people and still keep it all together, writing quality programs and getting great results with all of us.

To everybody from team T2A, a special bunch of people that hopefully have as much joy in this sport as I do.

Cya at the next IM race, August 11th, NYC with a working chip this time 😉