Michi Weiss Wins Ironman 70.3 St. Polten with a New Course Record!
On Sunday 27th May 2018, SRM sponsored triathlete Michi Weiss won his home race at Ironman St. Polten, Austria in 3h51m36s, setting a new course record as well as posting the best bike and run splits of the day. This was Michi’s fourth podium spot in four 70.3 races this year. The fruits of a great winter training program are coming through in abundance.
In this article I want to use the SRM power race data to show what is required to win an Ironman 70.3 pro race in which no less than 6 athletes break the 4hr barrier over a tough course. I also want to touch on the type of training we use with Michi (and our age-groupers) to underpin great race day performance – some of it may well surprise. Read on!
After an uneventful swim, Michi exited in 15thplace around four minutes down on the leaders. He then put together the fastest bike split of the day reaching the top 10 athletes at the 64km mark, thereafter he caught and dropped athletes on the bike, and then the run, in rapid succession until there was no one left to catch. Job done.
As we can see in the table above, Michi produced a very similar performance to when he raced here in 2014 and came 3rdoverall – although the reality is he did produce 4W more power and run 8” faster in 2014 although he put together a slightly stronger swim this year. Ageing sneaks up an everyone eventually!. In the intervening 4-year period Michi has lost a few kilograms (by tightening up his in-season diet), got a different bike sponsor (the Diamondback Andean/Michi bike package is slightly more aero) and somehow managed to train himself to eat even more on the bike – now almost 90g/hr of the sweet stuff. He has also marginally improved his swimming technique – not by a lot but enough to improve his overall triathlon performance package. – at his level, big jumps in performance just do not happen anymore.
Gansbach is a surprisingly long and tough climb especially when it occurs at the 65km mark when legs are hurting. Although the stats of 8km at 4% average don’t sound much, it is not an even climb and some sections pitch up to 10% gradients. Body mass differences really affect performance on this climb and lighter athletes dropped Michi pretty comprehensively even though he was pushing over 400W at times!
The pink SRM power trace above is overlaid onto the IM 70.3 St. Polten bike course profile. What is very evident is that Michi keeps his effort really controlled and within a fairly tight range represented here by Zones 3 and 4 (representing a 300W-420W range for Michi), almost irrespective of the terrain. He does this almost entirely on feel alone, although in full Ironman distance racing where the penalty for overcooking the pacing is greater, he intentionally rides to power to ensure he does not go off too hard. Age group athletes typically ride predominantly in Zones 2 and 3 over this distance due to many factors, not least having less well-developed aerobic metabolisms and specific muscular endurance.
With Michi we use a 6-Zone power based model as well as a 5-Zone heart rate based model to quantify his training intensity distribution (TID) in both training and racing. Many age group athletes do this but often fail to interpret or to use the results correctly. Let me explain:
The SRM power trace above shows how Michi races mostly in power zones 3 and 4 with very little ‘resting time’ below this range other than on descents and with only very brief periods in zones 5 and 6 where the body is greedily burning precious glycogen stores. However, this is not how he trains. See below:
The most common age group training error I come across is the belief that they need to train at the same intensity at which they race. The energy required to get any athlete through any race longer than about 2 minutes is produced in the body mostly through aerobic metabolism. As such you need to train this system A LOT! The best way to do this is to spend most of your training time (even if rather limited) training at low intensities, well below race pace.
Just take a look below at the many hours Michi spends patiently ‘making his cake’ before he eats it on race day! Of course he also includes hard interval sessions once or twice in his typical training week where the intensity is well above any race pace but it is short and sharp and leaves him fresh to train long and race hard. Age groupers should learn from this type of elite training intensity distribution - Mostly train easy, sometimes hard but race pace is best left to race day.
Congratulations to Michi on another stellar 2018 race performance and especially on winning your home race – every athlete’s dream! As always, we salute your transparency in allowing the world a window into your training and racing days. All the best for your upcoming races at Elsinore and Klagenfurt.
Sports Scientist and High Performance Coach