Friday, May 8, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon Race Plan

Chapter 10 of Joe Friel's "The Triathlete's Training Bible" describes how to create a race day plan. With nine days until the Honolulu Triathlon, my first A race -- my first race of the season, in fact -- I think the time has come for me to make one. Bottom line up front: Don't worry about time, focus on finishing and having a good day. It would be nice to be close to Honu 70.3 times, but not a high priority at this point. Stay focused on form, speed will follow.


The first order of business is pacing, and already I find it hard going. Of all the data I have collected since the start of the year, very little represents race effort. I will just have to make the best of what I have.

Months ago I was curios how I might compare with last year's Olympic distance age group. This year I will be in the 65-69 group, so I used that group from last year's Olympic race. It was a small group with a bit of spread in the data, so I used median rather than average times.

2014 Olympic men 65-69 median times
Swim:  0:33
Bike:  1:20
Run:   1:00
Total: 3:00(including transitions)

Next, I took my last year's sprint distance times, doubled them, then subtracted a goal performance improvement.

My early season estimates for 2015
Swim:  1:15 (20%)
Bike:  1:20 (5%)
Run:   1:15 (5%)
Total: 3:55

This showed me that my bike and run times were competitive, and my swim time was not. No surprise there.


My recent swim data shows a much bigger performance increase. I routinely swim at a 3:00/100 yd pace. Slow by any standard, but much improved over last year. If I can maintain that pace over 1,500M my swim leg will take about 50 min. A lot better than my estimate! Yes, that is a lot slower than the median time but about the same as last year's slowest in my age group. Overall there were over twenty swimmers with times slower than that; three took more than an hour.


I used April's metric century ride as a test time trial. I used the start to Sunset Beach as a warm-up and to get past the only hill on the course, then non-stop to Swanzy Beach Park, a distance of 20 miles. My goal was not to go all out, for two reasons. In the race I still have to run after the bike. As for that day, it came during the build period when a hard effort would leave me sidelined for several days. I knew I had to accept some of that, and as it turned out I came down with a cold that evening that curtailed most of my training during the following week anyway. But, my plan was to have two recovery days and be back in full swing by Wednesday. So much for planning.

My average speed over that 20 miles was 14 m.p.h. with my heart rate at zone 2.7. At that pace my 40K bike leg will take about 2 hours. That seems slow. To do it in 1:20 I will need to average 22 m.p.h. I am quite certain I cannot do that. Last year my average speed at this event was 17 m.p.h. and I think I can match that. This puts the estimated time for the bike at around 1:45 and heart rate in low zone 4.

I did a bunch of bricks around Diamond Head earlier in the season, and that should help smooth out the run off the bike. The best place to go fast will be on the first half, where I might catch a little tailwind, and of course the first half of the Lagoon Drive piece. I need to be aware of those tricky headwinds and get down and aero as much as possible without fighting too hard to maintain speed.

Some of the Training Peaks geeks have come up with a new service called Best Bike Split. A couple months ago I fiddled around with it to see what it predicted for this race. (The public view does now show the map I see logged in. I can move my mouse over the graph and the corresponding point is shown on the map.) As it stands the results are inconclusive for two reasons. First, the site works best with power data and I still have not shelled out for power meters -- #1 on my wish list. Second, the output requires wind speed and direction as input. I used a best guess estimate for Functional Threshold Power (252) and trade winds averaging 10 m.p.h. from the northeast (45 deg.).  The site uses elevation and direction relative to the wind to estimate speed and power levels throughout the race. It tells me I should average 20 m.p.h. and complete the course in 1:12. It uses a map someone else uploaded and it gives the distance as 23.93 miles. I have been using 28.85 for my estimates. You know what they say about a man who wears two watches. Last but not least, the model assumes you will leave it all out on the road, when in fact for a triathlon this would result in disaster. That may explain why a bike-only time trial could average 20 m.p.h. while my triathlon bike leg on the same course needs to be 17.


The run presents another set of mysteries. Every time I run off the bike my heart rate pegs even though I am not going fast and my breathing is more like zone 2. It takes my body at least five minutes to settle down. My plan is to hold back, but go by feel and pace more than heart rate. As with the bike, none of my recent workouts have been at race pace. If I am not doing all out intervals I am running way below race pace. The best estimate I can come up with is an average pace of 14 min/mi, for a run leg time of 1:30.

So, as best as I can tell, my times should be

Swim:  0:50
Bike:  1:45
Run:   1:30
Total: 4:05

This time is about the slowest time of anybody in last year's race, so if you plan on meeting me at the finish line, be patient.


I will carry two bottles of Cytomax on the bike along with some shot blocks in my bento box. I will start eating by downtown and stop around Lagoon Drive to give my stomach time to empty. I will taper drinking around downtown for the same reason.

On my century ride time trial I carried Cytomax and some Bonk Breaker bars. As much as I like Bonk Breakers, I find anything as dry as that too hard to swallow. They did not upset my stomach. I may just stash one in my bento box, but I will have to be careful about when I eat it, if at all.

For the run will do something like last year's Tinman (same distance run). For that race I carried two flasks in my jersey pocket. GU gels diluted 50/50, three per flask. That must have been too much because that is the same amount I carried for the Honolulu Marathon. One should be plenty.

Race Day Prep

After setting up transition I will do a warm-up swim. At this time I will prepare my goggles with anti-fog. Pattie will carry my jacket and spare glasses. My regular glasses will stay at transition; I might choose to wear them for the run. After the warm-up swim I will jog enough to keep my heart rate up, in order to minimize the CO2 shock at the start of the swim. When my wave is called I will leave my glasses and jacket with Pattie.


Like last year, my primary goal for this race is to finish and have fun. I do hope that my swim improves enough over the next year so that I can feel confident about doing a Half Ironman in 2016. If that does not happen, well, I will have had fun trying, and that is all that really matters.

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