An In-Depth Look At My Ironman Run

In my last post, I covered the 112 mile bike leg of my 2013 Ironman Louisville race. This post will be devoted to the 26.2 mile run.
The whole reason I rode within a strict range of power was so that my legs would be in good enough shape to run a marathon. It was all theory as I had never actually done 112 miles at that Nominal Power followed by a 26.2 mile run. So I didn’t know how my legs would respond. But I had confidence in my training and in what I had studied and read about other athlete’s that had taken this approach…so I was ready to run a marathon once I came out of T2.
I gave a full report on the run in a previous post, which you can read here. So I will stick to dumping data on this post.
The whole concept of riding “easier” than you think you can so that you can run harder/faster is very hard for most triathletes to accept. I was one of the guilty parties in the past. I thought of the bike as my strongest discipline, so I would push it hard on the bike and then suffer through the run – ultimately slowing as I ran. This is pretty typical, especially in an Ironman distance race. I took the bike and run times for all 309 athlete’s in my Age Group (M35-39) that completed Ironman Louisville this year. The chart below shows their bike time on the y-axis (vertical) and their run time on the x-axis (horizontal).

Click on chart to see larger image

Each red dot represents an athlete. Their dot is placed where their bike and run times intersect in the chart. The averages for the group are shown by the black lines. As you can see, most riders tend to overdo it on the bike and end up with a slower than average run time. These people are represented in the bottom right section of the chart. My day is the dot with the blue border. My 6:07:29 bike time was only slightly below average (5 minutes), but my 4:23:38 run split was almost an hour (53 minute) faster than the average. So by holding back the reigns on the bike, I was able to have a better than average run.
As I mentioned in a post prior to Ironman, the top finishers spend 51-52% of their total race time on the bike and only 35-37% of their total race time on the run. If you spend less than 50% on the bike, it likely means that you rode too hard and paid for it in the marathon. For my race, I was at 51.3% on the bike and 36.8% on the run – just how I had planned!
The other indicator that I had plenty of gas left in the tank during the run was that I didn’t slow down too much as the race progressed. I looked at the top 100 finishers in my age group and broke their run split into the first 12 miles and the second 12.6 miles (this was the best way to do it based on where the timing mats were on the run). I also figured that most people run the last mile or two at a pace that is much faster than they ran the rest, which would skew the average. These top 100 finishers averaged 18 minutes slower on the second “half”, which includes special needs. Finishers 101-200 also averaged 18 minutes slower on the second half, while finishers 201-309 were at 20 minutes.  As for me, I was only 11 minutes slower and I stopped and sat at Special Needs for 3 minutes. Running a negative split in an Ironman in nearly impossible for a non-elite athlete, but I definitely felt like I ran a steady pace the whole time.
The most significant way to judge whether my race strategy paid off is to look at my position as the race progressed. This is a time-trial swim start, so we were not all on the course over the same period of time. If we had all started at the same time in a mass start, I would have been 92nd in my Age Group out of the water (743rd Overall). I then would have been passed by 30 people in my Age Group and 52 total people on the bike, putting me in 122nd place in my Age Group and 795th Overall starting the run. This is where the tide turns. On the run, I would have passed 47 people in my Age Group and 261 total people! So while getting passed on the bike is not fun, reeling in all those people on the run sure is!
So after reviewing all of the data from my race, I think that my plan worked just as I had hoped. Even though I don’t have any more Ironman races planed, I have a pretty good blueprint on how to conquer one if I ever do decide to toe the line again!
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