Knut’s final push towards Ironman glory

It’s the final push towards Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya and all athletes now should be in their taper phase as race day looms. Here’s an account of Knut’s last month of training:

Project Hero Week 8/12
As this recover week started I felt that it was undeserved somehow, as the previous week had been really easy too due to my flu. But trying to look at things from a positive angle, at least I had time to be sick and recover in plenty time before the race.

Monday was supposed to be an easy swim, but there was a lot of haze so we decided to drop it. Making me feel even worse about how light training was during this period.

Haze at Hartamas, sun barely shines through

Haze at Hartamas, sun barely shines through

By Tuesday the haze was slightly better, so we got out to do the 30 minute easy run at least, before I headed to Manila for business meetings again.

My usual hotel there was full so again I had to book a new place. I had tried to check the pool size beforehand but did not get any firm confirmation, so was quite curious to check it out. Quite disappointingly I registered that it was only 18 meters! And I was supposed to do 2km in it. Oh well, what to do. I got in and got on with it. It turned out to be very exhausting…not physically but mentally. So boring to be turning all the time and not really getting into any rhythm. So much so that after 1350 meters I decided to call it quits, I just didn’t feel this would have any effect at all apart from my “kicking the wall” technique. As I checked my Garmin data afterwards it showed 8 strokes per length… I tried to mix it up with some technique training, swimming with closed fists, which I deem absolutely impossible!! I almost drowned hahaha. I don’t believe anyone can swim like that until I see it 🙂

As I got back to my room though I had to accept that it had turned out to be another reduced training day.

The 18m mini pool

The 18m mini pool

The next day I heard the haze was really bad in KL again, so in a way I was happy to be in Manila. It’s quite ironic since I have previously complained that the only place to run in Manila where I stay is in the middle of some very congested roads. So the exhaust from the cars is quite noticeable, but nowhere near the haze in KL of course.

As I was getting dressed I noticed I had forgotten to bring my running top, which annoyed me a lot and I almost considered dropping the run. But then I remembered that despite the high tech age of lycra, I could do this old school in my cotton t-shirt. So I got out and did an early morning run at the Ayala triangle again, this time only 30 minutes which is so short it almost felt bad to stop so early. But running in the cotton t-shirt reminded me that it is not that long ago that was the only thing I had to run in. I remember back as late as the mid to late 90’s that is all we used – a time before recovery drinks, protein supplements, gels and electrolytes. I remember I did my first half marathon in ’93 on water alone. Seeing how my t-shirt looked with my sweat after the run, I was happy time has brought advancements in sports apparel though 🙂

Old school sweaty cotton t-shirt

Old school sweaty cotton t-shirt

I also had time for a little shopping in Manila – as usual, and found a sport shop where I bought some very cheap tri-tights, long running tights (for colder weather) and a soft ball for rolling sore muscles. Tried it in the hotel room, it works wonders on sore legs 🙂

My stiff legs' new best friend :)

My stiff legs’ new best friend 🙂

Back in KL on Friday – rest day – I agreed with my wife to drop our usual trips to Putrajaya to bike on Saturday and Sunday as the haze was quite bad. So Saturday I did an hour on the trainer followed by 20 minutes easy run which was according to the training plan in terms of time. But on Sunday I only did half an hour quite intense effort on the trainer as opposed to the 1 hour 30 minute easy ride that was in the plan. Reason being I had a football game in the afternoon and knew the trainer really makes my legs like jelly, so tried to trade off intensity for time.

Riding indoors, trying to make the best of it in hazy conditions

Riding indoors, trying to make the best of it in hazy conditions

That ended quite a disappointing week. I was still coughing a bit from this damn flu that refused to let go completely, and it bugged me that I had not managed to follow the training plan properly. With only 4 weeks to go until race day, I decided there and then that the last weeks I will do everything in the plan no matter what. The race is starting to get very, very real. And although I am not panicking, I can certainly feel some butterflies in my tummy as I imagine myself at the start.

Project Hero Week 9/12
Back to the grind!
After the fairly disappointing training in the past 2 weeks I was determined to follow the plan this week. Weeks 9 and 10 were the toughest in terms of volume, so I tried to psyche myself up to it.
Monday started off well enough with a long 2.3km swim and so did Tuesday’s 45 minute Z2 run. Mostly I was very happy that I was starting to feel I was recovering from the flu. But I was still coughing and having an irritated throat.

Swim cap with motivation :)

Swim cap with motivation 🙂

Wednesday we did a 2.6km swim and I have to say, those additional 400 meters from Monday were noticeable, but I still felt comfortable and finishing at an hour, my average pace was still the same as before. So I was thinking that swimming is actually turning into my strongest leg.

Thursday was a long 18km run. It is actually not many runs of this distance I have done in my life. But we took it easy and I got to test out a new “coolskin” shirt and hat from DeSoto which I am thinking of using in the race if everything feels ok. I also brought a hydration back pack and we tried to practice race day nutrition and liquid intake. The shirt and hat worked quite well. I am a big sweater and always get sweat in my eyes when running and biking, but the hat actually prevented this which was great. Not too sure about the cooling effect thought. The shirt seemed to be cooling a bit, especially on my arms. I am not too sure how effective it is, since it is hard to feel the difference between a couple of degrees, but think I will use it for the race.

Cooling fabric on head and upper body, and hydration pack on back :)

Cooling fabric on head and upper body, and hydration pack on back 🙂

Friday as usual was rest day and Saturday we were supposed to do a 2h brick training, with 1.40h bike and 20 minute run. But again we were hindered by haze and decided to spin on the trainer instead. Did 1h of high Z3 and then followed up with a 5km easy run. I noticed my right knee was a bit sore on the outside after the brick, and wondered if it was because of the relatively tough spin on the trainer.

I definitely prefer riding on road – who doesn’t – so I made up my mind that Sunday I would go to Putrajaya for the scheduled 3 hour ride regardless. This also coincided with the announcement of the new bike route for the race, so it was a good opportunity to scout it. With a printed map in my frame bag and gps ready on my phone I got going.

Was pleasantly surprised about the new route, somehow it felt easier although timewise I think it took longer. Not sure what to make of it. I think there were less uphills but that obviously means there is less downhill too. Could be it was just an illusion though. Was happy to finish my 3 hour and longest ride ever, and my legs felt reasonably ok, but my shoulders hurt quite a lot. I am not sure if I am just lacking training on the bike or if my position should be adjusted, or I am sitting wrongly, but there is no way I can do a much longer race than 90km in the saddle with the shoulder pain I was getting.
In the afternoon I had my weekly football game, but to complete the weeks training there was also a 30min swim in the evening. Instructions were to swim in a group if possible, so my wife and me formed a mini group and swam as close to each other we could. Quite ok in a pool with clear water, going to be very different the murky waters of Putrajaya lake though…

Project hero week 10/12
I started on week 10 of 12 with a bit of nerves. Partly because I knew this would be toughest week in terms of training volume, partly because it was the last week of proper training before the race meaning that after this week, there is no more time to improve my form AND the race is now just around the corner.
Was also a bit concerned knowing I would have to go to Manila again this week. But was determined to follow the training plan.

Monday I was still in Malaysia and could do the 2.2km swim in familiar surroundings. The swim went well. I am quite stable now at around 2.20min/100m fluctuating with 1-2 seconds over the past few weeks. And this is without pushing max – which I would not do in a race anyways. I don’t think the lake will give you much benefit from the pool, but of course there is the addition of hundreds of other swimmers trying to stay on the same course as you, so I assume the race pace might be slightly slower. Which I am ok with.

Tuesday I did a 40 minute easy run. Been trying to get more conscious about my step, not sure there is much I can do about it. But I think I have a fairly light and quick step now, my main goal is just to avoid any injuries and run as effortless as possible. Wednesday I squeezed in a morning swim before I headed off to the airport and my flight to Manila.

After some quite exhausting days in Manila we finally reached the finish line of my sales project that had lasted 9 months, and I got back to my room knowing we would sign the contract next day. Was very happy but also exhausted. Had a slight headache and was getting hungry. Sat on my bed contemplating postponing my run to next day – which I knew would be a challenge due to the schedule and my return flight to KL.

Probably spent 15 minutes trying to psyche myself up while I also went through every little argument to postpone. Time was ticking and I knew I had to get going soon or I wouldn’t finish until midnight, but I was also concerned that I did not have any water belt etc. In the end I just managed to convince myself to get out. And the final argument that kicked my butt off the bed was something I read on “Tri Stupe’s” blog a week earlier, a quote from a triathlon veteran “train at your worst, race at your best”. I decided just because I felt tired and crap was no excuse to not run, I was not going for any personal bests now anyways, but I would definitely benefit from the training even if I was performing under par.

On top of this I had also turned down a dinner with my CEO because I was planning to run, so I was thinking to myself “this better be worth it :)”. Once I got started I felt better, my headache lifted and my mind relaxed from the intense past weeks and months of work pressure. The run was in the same 1km Ayala triangle in the middle of Makati that I always do, that meant 19 rounds which I dreaded would be very boring, but there are so many other runners there that it feels quite ok. Always something to look at and you have to pay attention not to run into pedestrians or other runners. Brought some cash and made two stops during the run to buy and drink water. Have to admit I was thirsty after the run though – and hungry – but very happy I had done it.

Ayala triangle x19, the two times I crossed in the middle was to buy water.

Ayala triangle x19, the two times I crossed in the middle was to buy water.

Saturday I headed out to Putrajaya without Harum as she wasn’t feeling well. But I met up with a colleague of mine who has also decided to join the race. On the program was 1.40h bike which meant one round of the race route, followed by 20min brick run. It was also a hot-air balloon even there, so a lot of people and a lot of hot-air balloons! Before we got started my friend had to borrow my bike pump but we were soon on our way. After about 40 minutes my rear tire went flat and as we stopped we realized he had left the pump by the cars. So as I took off the rear wheel he biked back to get the car.

Not what I had planned, 3rd flat with this tyre. Have decided to change it before the race to lose the "bad luck" :)

Not what I had planned, 3rd flat with this tyre. Have decided to change it before the race to lose the “bad luck” 🙂

Only a few minutes later a couple of other cyclists passed and asked if I needed help, had we known we could have waited and I could have borrowed a pump from them, but now I just waved them on and waited for my friend. Took about 40 minutes before he was back, which was fast I think. So after I had changed tube he drove ahead to find a new place to park so he could join me again as I passed. We met up 10 minutes later and finished the ride together, still with another hiccup as we missed a turning and rode a couple of km extra but nothing dramatic. But we had spent so much time now so we both agreed to drop the run, he would anyways have to bike back to get his car and I wanted to get home to get some rest before my football game.

Next day Harum was luckily feeling better and we did the 3 hour ride together at Putrajaya. We got off a bit late in the morning, and by the time we started it was already 9am. So we could enjoy the hot midday sun. We had planned to do a 5km brick run after the ride, but were both very tired after the ride. Not sure if it was the heat, or we drank too little or the intensity of the whole week, but we cut the run short to 3km. A bit disappointing and a bit concerning considering what it might be like during the race. But what to do. As mentioned before, there have been ups and downs during this training, times when I think this is going to be easy and times I am nervous I might end with a DNF. This was definitely one of the latter. But what to do. 2 weeks to go to the race and next week would be tapering – just have to hope the body recovers and grows stronger and all the training in the past two weeks come together and peaks my form.

That concluded March, here the stats of the month:

Week10_3

Project Hero Week 11/12
Tapering week was here! I was very happy to know that I had got through the – for me – quite intense training program. I was looking forward to an easier week, but I was also starting to get real nerves for the race. I knew I had to trust that what I had done would leave me fit to complete the distance, and all that remained now was just to keep the body going and slowly start the final preparations for the race.
This week would also be quite hectic as I was going to Seoul for work, and on one hand it was quite cool in the evenings and mornings, and also I knew that Korean working hours are “crazy”.

Monday I was in Malaysia though, so did the swim as usual, this time 1.7km. I have been reading up and watching videos about swimming technique and the importance of “high elbows” and realized that my elbow is about as low as it can be while I swim. So tried to see if could implement this somehow. Not quite sure what is right but think I managed to change my technique slightly to the better, at least judging by the clock as I shaved off a few seconds from my 100m average, now going at 2.14m/100m.

And by Monday night I was on the flight to Seoul. The flight is only about 6 hours which is very “impractical” as it is too short to get any proper rest or sleep as there is food serving and lights on for about 3 of those hours, and it is long enough to last you pretty much the whole night – so you arrive pretty tired.

As expected the schedule in Korea turned out to be very hectic. I arrived at my hotel around 9am, had to work on a presentation until 11.30, then meet my colleague for a quick lunch before meetings with our partner. This lasted until 8pm, and tired (and hungry) as I was, I insisted on postponing the dinner until 9.30pm so I could squeeze in a quick 40 minute run. I debuted my long running tights that I bought in Manila a couple of weeks earlier, but the first minutes out of the door I had a bit of a cold shock.

Once I got going it got better though and it was actually quite nice temperature for a run. My Garmin claims it was 17 degrees, I say that is a lie and claim it was closer to 10 hehehe. Anyways, in whatever temperature it was, I could finish with minimal sweat, but smart from previous “stink experience” I decided to do a quick handwash of the clothes anyways.

Running in Seoul, Gangnam style :)

Running in Seoul, Gangnam style 🙂

Next day I was up at 6am to get ready for a workshop and follow up meetings which lasted until 9.30pm – although we managed to do a quick detour by subway to catch some cherry tree blossoming, then back to hotel to finalize presentation for next day. Hit the bed exhausted at about 1am, with no time to swim.

Week11_2Thursday continued as Wednesday had ended, full program until 5pm, then there seemed to be a chance we did not need any further meetings, so I took off to the nearest shop to buy a new swim trunk as I had planned and hoped I could hit the pool to make for the previous day. But while in the shop I got a message that we needed a new meeting with the partner, so slightly disappointed I rushed back to the hotel to grab my stuff, but managed to get a new swim trunk and a windbreaker for the next cold weather run. We finished at around 11pm and I had to accept that there would be no further training this trip.

Completely off topic but had to share this with my Malaysian friends :)

Completely off topic but had to share this with my Malaysian friends 🙂

Next morning I could have tried to squeeze in a morning session before my flight, but was quite tired from a few days without enough sleep, so decided to try to get proper rest instead. I arrived in KL at about 4.30pm and was home by 6.30pm. It has often surprised me how tired you get from flying even though you pretty much sit still the whole time, but I felt quite tired walking through my front door. After about an hour I was feeling a bit better though, so decided to catch up on the swimming after all. 1.7km in my new trunks felt good 🙂 Still worked on my elbows and finished at 2.13m/100m or pretty much exactly as on Monday, so think I am starting to stabilize at this pace.

Saturday was quite a fun day according to my training plan. 10min warm-up run, then straight into 10min Z3 bike, then 5min Z3 run and then 5min Z2 warm down bike. The smart thing would probably be to do this in a gym on stationary bike and treadmill, but I did not want to risk anything with my knees on the treadmills, so decided to run outside, then lift up to apartment, change shoes, spin on trainer, change shoes, lift down, run etc.

 A happy camper :)

A happy camper 🙂

But as I had set everything up and changed into training gear I realized that the water rationing had finally taken its toll on our condo as well, and we were now without water. We did not have any reserve water at home so I would have to postpone the training to go out and buy water. Needed some both for drinking and “showering” and of course other uses. By the afternoon I was ready though and executed to plan. Quite enjoyable and got to try out a new multi-sport setup on my Garmin. The “shower” afterwards had its charm as well, but I hope this won’t be a long lasting issue.

Sunday would be the last bike training before the race, 3 hours in Putrajaya. The day did not start well with both me and Harum having diarrhea in the morning. But on the bright side the water was back so we could afford ourselves a quick shower and maybe most importantly to flush the toilets!! After one round on the track in Putrajaya, going at a good speed for us (I think slow for anyone else though -23-24km/h) Harum had to throw in the towel as her tummy was still quite unsettled while I continued for another hour.
As I got back to the parking area Harum had met some new triathlon friends and was enjoying some food and drinks in good company. Quite nice this bond that seem to exist between triathletes, as I guess we can all relate to the effort that goes into both racing and training.

Well, that’s it then, all the training is done and all that’s left is the race this Sunday. We at Lycraheroes wish Knut all the best, and we thank you for being a part of Project Hero. You can follow his progress on race day at ironman.com

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