The game plan had been to swim easy, bike steady, and run hard. I had executed it almost perfectly, but there are so many things I can still improve on for next year (like, for instance, finally learning how to use my Suunto Ambit2 S properly). But I’d like to share some of what I learned, in the hopes it can help other people cross their first or nth half-Ironman finish line.
Work on your weaknesses. When I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Philippines last December, I knew I needed to fix my swim, both technique- and fitness-wise. I’m glad Kuya Kim referred me to Nonoy Basa. He not only gave me the drills to fine-tune my stroke, but he also gave positive feedback that built my confidence in my swim skills. As a result, I went into that wild swim knowing that I was going to come out okay.
Play to your strengths. I outwardly set a goal that I wouldn’t care what my swim and bike times were, as long as I could run the half-marathon under two hours. (Secretly though, I really wanted to break 6 hours.) Running is obviously my strength, so all my training in the swim and the bike were geared towards making me energy-efficient in both those disciplines so I would have enough left in the tank to run fast. As it happened, my easy swim and steady bike were fast enough to help me slip under that 6-hour mark, without making me pay for it on the run.
Follow a training plan. When I met Macca two months ago, he told me about MaccaX, the global team and community he’d built so he could help people “be their own CEO” when it came to training. MaccaX members get access to Macca and his team of experts in swimming, biking, running, nutrition, and conditioning.
As a birthday gift to myself, I purchased the MXPlus package, which includes 3 training programs, the easy-to-follow sessions (with customizable difficulty level) you can plug and play within your chosen program, and one month’s free membership on the MaccaX forum. I found the bike trainer sessions particularly useful.
Other people may choose to go with a specific training plan given by a coach they hire, or create their own (basing one on Joe Friel’s Triathlete Bible is a good place to start), but my point is that a concrete training plan will help you track your progress so you know how prepared you are. It’s why I didn’t feel nervous about the race; I knew I had done the work needed.
Equipment is only as good as its engine. I’m still racing with the same bike I bought in 2010 when I first started triathlon. Loki’s had some upgrades like a compact crank, a fast-forward seatpost and aerobars, and a Retul fit, but none of that mattered if I didn’t actually get on the bike and train. After last Sunday’s race, I know I’ve got some more bike work cut out for me, but I have no doubt I’ll improve my time simply by putting in more saddle time.
Practice and prepare your nutrition. It took a few shorter triathlons and long rides and runs to figure out what nutritional strategy best served my body’s needs, but I’m glad I had that all figured out before the big race. In a long-distance triathlon, being well-fueled is key in getting you through from start to finish in good shape. I made a nutritional blunder on the run (forgetting to take a swig of EFS at the right time) that almost cost me my personal goals.
Respect the distance. This is not a race you can just wing and hope you can cross the finish line within cut-off. Sure, I’ve heard of someone who only prepared for two weeks, but imagine the kind of pain he had to deal with during the race, and the amount of recovery time he’ll need after. I trained hard for this race, but at certain points I still felt the enormity of the distance I needed to cover. It will humble you.
Better to prepare well, race hard, and still be able to go for a celebratory party after.
Enjoy the journey. People kept telling me, “The hard work is over. Race day is a celebration.” And you know what, it was! Race day was a celebration of God’s gift of life and health. Race day was a celebration of the human body overcoming its perceived limits, not only because it was trained well, but because the body was mastered by its owner’s will. I wasn’t just looking forward to crossing the finish line; I enjoyed the entire process of racing, including the parts when I was tired or sore. It’s why I had a huge smile on my face the whole way through. :)
The song “Titanium” was definitely fitting for my first half-iron distance race. There were so many challenges thrown at me, but I found out I’m made of tougher stuff than I thought.
I’d like to thank Mizuno, Lightwater, Spyder, Salice, yurbuds, Aquasphere, Toby’s Sports, and Jay Em of Proactive Sports for all their invaluable support leading up to my first Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines.
I will be back next year!