A Good Plan Executed

© Kevin Mackinnon 2016

Ironman Mont-Tremblant
Mont-Tremblant, QC, Canada ★ 2016.08.21

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. – George S. Patton
Just prior to the race, I read Mara Abbott’s recap of her race in Rio. After leading for most of the day in a courageous solo breakaway, Abbott was reeled in with 300m to go and ultimately finished 4th. She’s a phenomenal bike rider, but she may be an even better author. The key passage that resonated the most with me in what she wrote was when she talked about how she had truly had her perfect race.

Would you rather have some excuse or rationale for a race outcome: Sick last week, got a flat tire, missed a feed, had to sneeze when the winning attack went, or even just that you lost your nerve that day when it got really hard (yes, this happens). With that, you can forever clasp onto the worrystone-mantra of “I could have won, if only…?”

Or, would you rather honestly know you had ridden a race to the very best of your strength and ability, know there was nothing else you could have done and have that be…not…quite…enough?

This is a powerful message. After some bad luck had given me plenty of excuses in my races starting with Kona 2015 (broken saddle), then Ironman Texas 2016 (stomach flu), and finally Ironman Cairns 2016 (flat tire), I was mostly just looking for a clean race. While the weather failed to cooperate (again…), everyone had to deal with the same very wet conditions. I did not suffer any more than anyone else in the wet. And I may have even suffered less now that I’m becoming quite practiced at racing in the rain! grumblegrumble…
Ultimately, due to simple physics and physiology, cool and wet days are better days to run fast as opposed to a hot humid day where it’s better ride fast, but the conditions are still the conditions. Having conditions that do suit your strengths is certainly good luck, but it’s hard to really think that having normal conditions – and thunderstorms in the Northeast are certainly normal in August – that just happen not to suit your strengths is bad luck by any means. On the luck front, given that I was able to get from start to finish without anything unexpected happening to me, I’ll say that luck was on my side for this one. 
And I made no mistakes. In Arizona, where it was cool and wet, I shorted myself on calories. But after letting my nutrition slip a bit, I once again think it’s a strong suit. I used the same plan as in Ironman Cairns:
  • Breakfast: Largely unchanged in the past 8 years, it’s Laughing Giraffe snackaroons, a banana, First Endurance Ultragen with almond milks, and Envirokidz rice cereal bars to net just over 1000 calories.
  • T1: EFS Liquid Shot Flask, trying to get most of it down, so call it 250-300 calories.
  • Bike: 2x550mL bottles on bike of EFS PRO at 9 scoops (360cal) each. Plus another 2 identical bottles in special needs. Then water and gatorade as desired on course. So call it 1600-1800cal on the bike. 
  • Run: EFS Liquid Shot Flask plus coke/gatorade/redbull (as much as I can grab) at every aid station. How many calories? “Enough.”
This is quite similar to what I used to do, and I think it’s sound. Not sure why I ever changed it, except that I’m an idiot. Nothing I’d change here in terms of planning or execution. 
The swim, despite being quite slow, was actually a very good swim for me. It was non-wetsuit, it was pretty rough in the second half, I managed to close quite a few gaps that opened during various points in the swim, and my relative time to both the leaders (3:20 down) and various female pros was quite solid. It may have taken me 58:59 to swim 3.8km, but it was a strong swim. 
On the bike, I’d say this was likely one of my very best rides ever. Not just in terms of output, where I rode stronger than last year, but also in terms of pacing/execution and on the mental side. When it started to rain, I certainly had some moments of panic. The Tremblant course is not particularly technical, but it does have some fast descents, some narrow choke points, and some winding roads, all of which become more complex in the rain. After some brake issues and the flat in Cairns in the wet and of course my panic attack in Monterrey 2015 in the back of my mind, I had some moments of real mental struggle when it started to really pour. After steadily making time on the leaders for the first 90 minutes, I lost quite a bit of time on the descents and corners on the first lap. I had pulled to within 2:40 but then slipped as far back as 6min by the time I started the second lap. And it’s all because I rode my brakes hard. I like my brakes very, very much when it is raining. And I did adjust them a bit on the snug side this time after checking the weather, so they were very effective at slowing me down. Maybe too effective…
Heading out on the second lap – and the less technical part of the course, I was able to pull myself together. I was able to get back into a solid rhythm and – with a strong headwind on the return leg, I was able to execute a very solid ride. I think this was probably the most evenly paced Ironman ride I’ve ever done (link to Strava file). As a comparison with last year, I rode the Duplessis climb 1% harder than my first trip up Duplessis in 2015, but I rode the second time up almost 4% harder than in 2015. I even managed to set a ridiculous top speed that I think is my highest ever – 88.6kph/55mph (that was BEFORE it started raining though…). 
Out onto the run, I didn’t have quite the same pop as last year, which I think was due to being more “generally” fit than “specifically” fit for this race because of how the year has played out, but I still managed a very even run, hanging very steady until the very end when it became clear that Chris Leiferman was not going to blow to pieces in his first ever Ironman…
Ultimately, there was absolutely nothing that I’d change (except for winning) or that I think I could have done better on the day (except for winning). I gave it everything I had on the day and someone else – though one someone, not someones – was just better. I have no excuses. I raced to the very best of my ability and it was just not quite enough. This time… Unlike an Olympian, I only have to wait seven weeks to race again, and I only had to wait a year to have another crack at Kona after last year’s mishap.
I think this was one of my five best Ironman race performances ever. Better than last year in Tremblant in spite of the result. Better than Ironman Arizona 2009. Not as good as Canada 2009 (1st), Texas 2012 (2nd), Canada 2011 (3rd), NYC 2012 (4th). Just based on the similarities – topographically speaking and, at least most of the time, weather-wise, I think an 8:30 for me in these conditions in Tremblant makes me feel confident that I can go 8:25 or so in Kona in six weeks. Tremblant has a VERY long T1 (but T2 is a bit shorter than Kona, so there’s maybe a minute here) and the swim this year was relatively very slow (though Kona last year was slow too, only two minutes faster). But really, I think my time in Tremblant is a good predictor of my time in Kona. 
8:25-8:27 would have put me in a position to fight for 6-10 last year. And for 9-10 in 2014 and 2013, fighting for the podium(!) in 2012, 10th in 2011 (when Crowie set the course record), and pretty consistently either fighting for 6-8 or 8-10 depending on whether or not it’s a slow year (conditions that favor me) or a fast year (conditions that don’t). This is because I tend to be much more consistent than other folks despite the weather/conditions. Sure, I slow down, just like everyone else does, when it’s brutally hot, I just seem to slow down less. And likewise, I speed up, just like everyone else does, when conditions are fast, I just seem to speed up less. Fortunately, Kona is relatively consistent – it’s always hot, humid, windy, and (mostly) dry, all of which means it is relatively slow. Much more so than most other courses. This is just the nature of the tradewinds on the islands. Hilo is wet. Kona is dry. Hawaii is hot and humid. The Pacific is windy. I also know that I still have speed to gain. Tremblant was a good plan, and I executed it promptly. But it’s been a rather up-and-down year. And I’m glad to have six weeks – which really is quite a long time – to put some specific preparation (but not too much) in place for Hawaii. Last year, I wondered if I could even be as fast in Kona as I was in Tremblant. This year, I know I can be faster.

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