“The Kona Diaries” Day 6 – Official Nutrition, Racing & Pacing Strategy for Ironman Hawaii, And Six Ways To Deal With The Pain Cave.

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Welcome to Day 6 of the Kona Diaries, in which you’re going to get a stark, honest and open look into the life of one of America’s top fitness experts – and find out what I personally do to design my daily routine for optimum health, get my body into the best shape ever, and prepare my mind to enter the pain cave.

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I'm going to give you an idea of my detailed plan of attack for Ironman Hawaii 2011. It's not only useful for me to organize my nutrition and pacing plan, but I hope it's useful for you too, especially if you're a triathlon geek, you do Ironman yourself, or you're curious about the type of nutrition and pacing planning that goes into getting ready to race an Ironman.

In my bike strategy overview, I also let you in special strategies that I personally use to deal with “The Pain Cave”, or those times in the race when the going gets tough.

Ironman Hawaii Swim Strategy:

This is an “in-the-water” swim start, and I'll be starting the swim to the left of the crowd, just in front of the floating Ford car they have out in the water. There tends to be less traffic here. Last year, I experimented with starting more to the right, and there was far more tumultuous battling between the swimmers, the sea wall, and the paddleboard referees.

Pre-swim nutrition: 1 caffeinated gel 5 minutes prior to swim, with 10 Master Amino Pattern capsules, one Energy28, 2 Hammer Race Caps, 5 Extreme Endurance tablets, 2 CapraColostrum and 2 Millennium Sports Cordygen VO2 caps 45 minutes prior to swim. This may seem like a lot of “supplements” but when you are hammering your body for 10 hours, this type of extra mineral, nutrient and vitamin support can come in handy.

Swim pacing: Tough to ideally pace this race because of the huge packs of swimmers, but I will find some hips and stay on them most of the race. If I make it out to the turnaround in 26-27 minutes that will be ideal, because I'd like to swim under an hour and it is slower coming back because of the current. I won't be sighting the orange buoys, but will instead be sighting the big antenna behind the King K hotel, as it is way more visible.

To get an overview of the actual landmarks I'm talking about, I'm going to give you an insider sneak peek at a few of the videos we have over at a few of the training videos I have for triathletes who are members of the Rock Star Triathlete Academy.

Ironman Hawaii Swim Strategy Video:

Ironman Hawaii Bike Strategy:

I will mentally split the bike into 11 separate portions. This helps to break up the long 112 miles and makes the bike leg far more palatable than simply “riding to Hawi town and back”. For those of you interested, I will have a complete power file of my bike split available for free viewing at TrainingPeaks after the race.

1. Makala Blvd loop – replace swim energy with a Power Bar and, if any cramping is taking place, 2 Athlytes salt capsules. Although I have successfully avoided using any salt capsules or electrolytes in all my training and racing for the past 3 months, I'll continue to take Athlytes salt capsules if I experience cramping, so I have them with me just in case (see How To Set-Up Your Bike For An Ironman Triathlon & What To Put Into Your Transition Bags for exactly how I am carrying this fuel).

2. Out and back on the Kuakini highway – after finishing Powerbar, bike fueling “clock” starts just after Hot Corner at corner of Palani and Kuakini – take 1 GU Roctane non-caffeinated here.

3. Queen K to airport – hold ego back. Watch folks fly by me and trust my plan and 22-22.5mph pacing (that's AVERAGE – there will of course be portions where I'll probably be going 5mph into a headwind). I should be hitting the aid stations (spaced every 10 miles) every 50-55 minutes. At the second aid station, grab a new water bottle, and continue this for every other station. On the aid stations in between, grab a bottle for rinsing and cooling.

4. Airport to Waikaloa – Stay cool and continue to fuel with 1 GU Roctane every 20 minutes (alternating between caffeinated and non-caffeinated) and half a bag of Chomps at the end of each hour (total 390 calories/hr).

5. Waikoloa to turn at Hawi – Don't burn out legs, prepare for toughest portion of course.

6. Climb to Hawi – Maintain cadence, no gear mashing, stay aero. This is where I'll begin to enter the pain cave for the first time in the race. At this point, there are six ways I deal with the pain cave and take my mind off the discomfort:

1) Smile. The simple act of smiling can lift your spirits – just watch Chrissie Wellington, the top female Ironman athlete – she is constantly emitting positive energy, even when you know she's hurting;

2) Embrace The Environment. Instead of fighting the wind, hills and heat, I will welcome them – this is tough to describe, but basically involves trying to feel as though I am one with the planet and the earth, and simply playing and having fun in the environmental elements that it contains – not struggling against those elements; 

3) Get A Favorite Song Going Through My Head. For me, it is usually some driving techno beat that I don't physically hum, but that I hear in my head. By playing this song in a few tough workouts leading up to the race, I can remember and draw on it during the tough race conditions.

4) Count. I use this strategy more in the run that I do on the bike and the swim, but on the tougher parts of the race, I will count 100 pedal strokes, 100 swim strokes or 100 foot strides whenever I pass a race landmark (like a race sign or buoy) or a road mile marker. 

5) Play Games. Remember the Nintendo Mario Brother's game where Mario or Luigi get a star and they are basically “invincible” for a short period of time? I'll set certain parts of the race to be my star, and when I pass those points, I convince myself that nothing will stop me for at least 2 minutes. Usually, my star is A) somebody cheering for me and calling my name; B) me seeing a family member or friend; C) me passing somebody in my age group; D) me seeing another competitor who I know or who is my friend. This may sound dumb, but for me, it works quite well.

6) Self-Talk. I have specific phrases that I say to myself when the going gets tough. My phrases are short and simple, and include: “Go time”, “C'mon”, “Go Hard Or Go Home”, “Get It Done”, and “Fight Tooth & Nail”.

If you have ways that you get through your pain cave, leave them below this post!

7. Hawi turnaround – Get special needs bag, which will have 9 gels, 2 bags of Chomps, and 1 Powerbar. (When I head out of the swim-to-bike transition, I will have 9 gels, 2 bags of Chomps, 1 Powerbar and a canister of Athlytes).

8. Hawi to turn back onto Queen K – focus and be prepared for crosswinds. Fuel when crosswinds are down, be ready to adapt.

9. Queen K to Waikoloa – get through this portion, and then a mental high-five – done with toughest portion of course.

10. Waikoloa to airport – stay mentally focused and positive. Smile as much as possible as my cycling legs begin to fatigue. Think about my favorite songs, and when the going gets tough, count to 100 pedal strokes.

11. Airport to town – prepare to run. Stand and stretch several times. No gear mashing because cadence slows. Instead, I will keep cadence slightly higher than feels natural. Take final gel at Makala Blvd.

Ironman Hawaii Bike Strategy Video:

Ironman Hawaii Run Strategy:

I'll take a few minutes in the bike-to-run transition tent to douse myself with cold water and chew down a cup of ice to help cool my core.

As I start into the marathon, I'll be using a run-walk pacing plan for first half of the marathon. For 21 minutes, I'll run right around 7:15 minute per mile pace, which will put at the 3rd aid station in 21:45-ish, where I will then walk for 60 seconds at a 15:00/mile pace, and then begin to run again. Each of these walk breaks will allow me to cool my core, and also be an opportunity to quickly stretch and fuel.

For the first 13 miles of the run, I'll be grabbing a gel on each of my walk breaks, which will put at near to 3 gels per hour. Once I get halfway through the run, I'll switch from gels to coke and ice. The combination of caffeine, cold liquid, and “comfort food” taste of coke can actually  help at this stage, regardless of whether it is physiologically the “perfect fuel”.

Based on this, I  can mentally split the run into several run/walk portions. At *every* aid station, I'll grab 4-6 ounces of water and as much ice and as many ice sponges as possible. The ice will get dumped down my crotch and the front of my shirt and the ice sponges I will squeeze over my head.

There are another eleven stages I can mentally split the run into, including:

1. Aid Station #3, about 3 miles in, where I have my first walk break.

2. The turn-around at Alii Drive (about 5 miles in)

3. Aid Station #6 (another walk break)

4. Aid Station #9, and the climb up the steep Palani drive hill, which will involve another walk break.

5. Top of Palani drive, around 10 miles, where I will turn left onto the Queen K highway and begin the slog out to the Energy Lab. This is another spot where I'll need to begin pulling out the Pain Cave strategies.

6. Aid Station #12, another walk break.

7. The turn into the Energy Lab. run to Special Needs, where I get to run a slight downhill grade, cross the timing mat, and turn around to head home.

8. I begin to lose track of aid stations at this point, and also get excited about knowing I am almost finished. My next portion is the exit of the Energy Lab and the start of the run home down the highway.

9. As I run down the highway, it is beginning to get very tough, and I'll not only use my Pain Cave strategies described above, but also simply begin running from aid station to aid station, using those stations to “string me along” down the highway.

10. Turn right on Palani Drive and begin to run downhill, knowing that I have made it for sure and I'm almost back to the pier where it all started that morning!

11. Finish line. Friends, family, cold drinks, tears, pain, joy.

Ironman Hawaii Run Strategy Video:

If you have questions about any of this stuff, or certain topics you'd like to see covered in videos or posts over the next week, simply leave your comments below.

Coming tomorrow: The race! My number is 1666 and you can track me at http://www.ironmanlive.com. There is also a special thread going on over at the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page where you can win a free fitness and nutrition consultation with me if you are the closest in predicting my race time.

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13 thoughts on ““The Kona Diaries” Day 6 – Official Nutrition, Racing & Pacing Strategy for Ironman Hawaii, And Six Ways To Deal With The Pain Cave.

  1. Alex says:

    Congrats Ben! Well done! I do not compete or normally follow ironman (if ever) but your detailed plan above and your ways to deal with the Pain Cave are brilliant. How do you remember all the portions you sub-divide such a race, when to eat what and the strategies while at the same going through it? Great job!

  2. Ann says:

    Ben — great job smashing your time from last year. Congrats and thanks for such a great insider look!


  3. Cynthia says:

    Congrats, Ben — Great time!!

  4. Shirley says:

    I can' t inagine not to taking the time to thanks those well wisers and supporters. Chris McCormack, Chrissie Wellington and other triathlete/athletes do it. They all realize it is the emotion that causes one to rally and not to lose interest. They somehow realize they achieve what they have and done it with other watching and expressing there support. Yet, if you look closely, they have accomplish a lot less than you!

    When you out there at the halfway point of the run or perhaps a lot sooner, maybe you will remember what Julius Caesar once said, "it is my heart the legions follow; without me show it, they go astray and I am just a man and not a leader". The lonely Kona Fields seem like a good place to think about that for a moment and grow…

    Have a good race, Ben!

    Your friends,
    Ron & Shirley

    1. I thank people. I just can't respond to each individual post.

      Also, I'd put your judgements about emotions on hold until you see my video of race morning.

      IM Championships should definitely not be a one time shot. That is unheard of in any other sport. Imagine if the Yankees could only go the World Series once in franchise history.

      1. Ron says:

        I won't debate on your blog, Maybe, sometime over a good bottle of wine or when your sunglasses are off.

        Think about this two comment in the meantime..

        – if the Yankees could not spend as much as they do on there team, would they always win like they do?

        – one of the important opportunities to build relationships is “after the sale” with a personal thank you and before the customer has left the building…

        Nice race today, Ben. you defied what many thought was possible with your training methods, I hope it was a dream come true.

  5. Ron says:

    Your words are written like a true DOCTOR about to go into surgery. Often a doctor forgets, he would not be there, if it was not for his patient. A lot of self made men, only praise there makers. They forget human emotion is as much of a cure and reason for them to believing in themselves. I cannot image you not feeling anything before a race. Especially, as you look around and cover the stories of the Championships for us all.

  6. Ron says:

    Your comments above are interesting, Ben…

    It often leads one to think, "IM Championships should be a one time shot for everyone, so you "never" forget how great a opportunity it is to be there".

  7. christa says:

    I've loved this series on Ironman, incredibly informative in 360 degrees. I won't be at Kona anytime soon but if training goes to plan will be dipping into the chillier waters of Wales next year. Have a great race and many thanks!

  8. Shirley says:

    Interesting how past race plans can still be effective year after year. You would think that WTC would mix up the course more, to keep it fresh with all the athletes and challenging for returning vets? Why is that any thoughts?

    How do handle the nerves and remain calm before the race?

    Do you feel at all scared?

    What goes through your head with all the well wished from everyone?

    Do you feel at all emotional about doing the race? You seem so cut & dry about it all…

    1. I think the main reason the course stays the same is consistency in being able to compare performances from previous years, see if athletes can beat course records, etc. I made some changes to my plan this year, particularly my "sections" I break the bike into, and also some of my fueling protocols on the bike and the run.

      I honestly don't really feel any emotions until about an hour before the race starts. Up to that point, it is all very "cut & dry" – strategizing, making plans, handling things logistically. About 60 minutes out, I start to listen to my music, get pumped up, get scared, get excited, etc.

      The well wishing means a lot. It mostly helps when you're halfway through the run and you know deep down inside people are out there caring about you, watching you, tracking you, and wishing you well. Sometimes I feel bad I can't respond to all the well wishes, but I see them, and I can think about all the people out there pulling for me when the going gets tough. So I guess that's Pain Cave Tip #7!

      Lucky for readers of this blog…I'm bring my video camera to pre-race area and I'm going to record for you all about 60 minutes out how I'm feeling. You just might have to wait until tomorrow night to see it, as I'll be a bit busy during the day. ;)

      Until then!

  9. rgs424 says:

    Replaying this video in your mind during the 'pain cave' may be motivating…

  10. rgs424 says:

    Replaying this video in your mind during the 'pain cave' may be motivating..

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