On Sunday 7thApril 2019, SRM sponsored pro triathlete, Michi Weiss, took 3rdplace overall as well as posting the day’s fastest bike split at the Ironman African World Championships in Port Elizabeth. The big Austrian has now racked up 12 podiums in his last 14 Ironman branded races making him the most consistent performer in the sport today. In this article I will open up his race day SRM power file and, as always, attempt to provide some small insight into the preparation that underpins consistent world-class long distance triathlon performance.
The expected swim distance of 3.8km was shortened due to very rough sea conditions, to 1.6km. It goes without saying that as a bike/run specialist, Michi’s chances of winning any race are vastly improved when the importance of the swim is reduced (Age Groupers take note, however, that it is the relative improvement in his weakest discipline that has had most impact on his ability to podium – work hardest on weaknesses). So Michi actually powered through a pretty decent swim performance in those conditions and exited the water just 5 minutes down on those stellar swimmers like Amberger and Molinari.
“The super rough swim conditions that I’ve encountered in races so far this year have absolutely nothing to do with how I’ve been training for them, in nice flat pools. I’m looking forward to that changing soon hopefully!”
Michi knew that if he was going to have a chance at winning, then he would need to ‘metabolically’ go for broke and ride at his IM 70.3 race pace for the first 90km loop or until he caught that front group of nine athletes that included the likes of Hoffman, Amberger, Frommhold etc. I say ‘metabolically’ because that is the risk element in Ironman, quite simply that you ride too hard and burn too many matches to be competitive on the run. This was certainly the hardest effort over the first 90km of an Ironman that I have ever seen Michi sustain. He averaged 353W, which included two efforts of over 2 minutes each at around 500W, which were required to pass and drop those athletes lacking the necessary horsepower to bridge over to the lead group after the swim. We can see these moves in his SRM race file below:
That front group of nine athletes was clearly working extremely well together because Michi’s 353W effort for more than 2 hours in duration only got him 90 seconds closer to Hoffman and Frommhold! Nobody is accusing anyone in that front group of intentionally drafting but even at 10 or 12m the legal gap confers too great an advantage over the lone chasers and should be extended to 15m to 20m in my humble opinion.
“On the 2nd 90km loop I was really tired. I could barely hold 300W”.
By the time Michi entered the 2ndloop he was, unsurprisingly, tired. He had managed to consume almost 100g of carbohydrates per hour (Age Groupers take note, in the same manner that we train our legs to push on the pedals, we can train our guts to absorb sugar – find and extend your limits) but as we know, the Ironman bike leg burns more energy than we can possible replace. What I do like though is that even when Michi gets tired and can no longer apply the same force to the pedals – his power dropped by 14% on the 2ndloop – his cadence is constant. Sure, it rises and falls depending on gradient and strategy but overall he never gets too far away from 82-84rpm whether he is fresh, whether he is attacking at 500W or when he is tired. This is all about maintaining his rhythm and rhythm underpins metabolic efficiency just as it does in swimming and running (Age Groupers take note: Don’t force yourself to ride at a self-imposed arbitrary cadence, but rather allow yourself to ride at the cadence that feels right).
‘Produce the goods when they are worth the most!’
What Michi and I also think is very important is that his best performances occur in races rather than in training. Obvious when you think about it but how many pros or age groupers actually have the confidence to NOT perform self-affirming max sessions in training in the knowledge that you can deliver when you are called upon to do so? Not many.
No doubt about it, Michi had a very good run, especially after that bike effort and in fact posted the 3rdfastest run split of the day behind Hoffman and McNamee. Commentators like to fixate on Michi’s bike prowess but he has been running 1hr10m 70.3 run splits and 2h45m Ironman run splits for years now. His run prep is really straightforward. He runs often, infrequently long but most of the load happens before the race season and then we reduce it while increasing the speeds. Classic stuff but it works beautifully for him and if it ain’t broke…
Overall Michi was very happy with his race and we are looking forward to his next outing, which will be at Ironman Texas in 3 weeks time. Welldone champ on another pro’s pro race execution.
As always we salute Michi’s power file transparency and do hope that you are able to glean the odd tip from my picking over the bones of his world class performances such that they may even inform your own training and racing. I do hope so.
May the Force X Velocity be with you,
Sports Scientist and High Performance Coach.