In this article I will take you through Michi’s race winning performance in his first race of the new season, which included a very strong field, and some extremely challenging conditions. Additionally, because I know it is of real interest to many of our age group athletes who follow us, I will also provide some insight into the pattern and load of Michi’s winter training following his early December break. I hope you find it of interest.
‘My swim really pleased me. The conditions were just so difficult but I held on to the group. Keep them in sight, pass them on the bike. That was what I was thinking.”
The 1.9km open water non-wetsuit swim in the Gulf of Mexico was extremely challenging this year due to the very high winds, which meant that the water surface was super choppy. These conditions tend to favour the best swimmers. It is testament to Michi’s continuing improvement in the water that he only lost just over 3 minutes to the fastest swimmer and exited close to Wurtele and Hanson in 29:11. A few years ago that might have been 5 minutes or more. Michi’s gradual evolution into the winning machine that he is today is primarily because he better limits his losses to the front pack, such that with his bike/run prowess, no one is safe anymore.
“That race hurt. It was just hard all day long in those conditions.”
The 2-loop, 90km, mostly flat bike course was a real test of strength and character due to the extremely windy conditions, tricky road surface and brutal heat, which was a constant 31C from start to finish. The race start this year was changed to midday so that by the time the athletes exited T1 it was already peak heat and would not get cooler until the evening.
Michi quickly caught and passed most of the faster swimmers within the first 50km of the bike but at that stage he was made aware that he was no longer reducing the gap to Van Lierde, which was still around the 2-minute mark. Indeed Van Lierde did go on to post the second fastest bike split just 30 seconds slower than Michi, but it rapidly became clear that to do so he had over biked and he fell away quickly when it came to the run.
Having posted the fastest bike split of the day covering the 90km course in 2:00:26 and averaging 332W and 44.6 kph, Michi still had work to do on the run. He was especially worried about the young Belgian, Pieter Heemeryck, who he knew could run fast and was on his tail. Still, Michi put together the fastest run of the day covering the 21.1km in 1:17:12, which is usually the best way to take care of any threats from behind. Michi came home in 3:50:02 to take his fifth Ironman 70.3 title.
Michi likes to use his average rolling power setting on his SRM as a kind of carrot. He knows that in good conditions he can hold a rolling average of 350W-360W. But in our talk before the race we had decided that it might be more sensible in this heat, and with it being the first race of the season, to be conservative and aim for 330W. In the end he averaged 332W. Michi is nothing if not precise!
Looking more closely (above) at both power and cadence traces from Michi’s SRM file it is easy to see just what a tough bike test this was as Michi is usually extraordinarily smooth and thus efficient in delivering his power and he does that by smoothing his cadence as much as possible, irrespective of the changes in terrain, gradient, passing maneuvers and so on. The fact that the traces above are anything but smooth show just how ‘physical’ this ride was due to the external conditions.
PRO TIP: Note the power and cadence ranges required in this ride. Riding an indoor trainer at a constant power output and cadence while watching your favourite TV series will not condition you properly for this type of effort. Get outside. Ride in the wind. Mix it up. If you can, keep it real.
Winter Preparation – the gift that keeps giving
Race No.1, Win No.1 - What a great way to start the race season. We know that the winter training has paid off and the ‘cake is made’ in just the way we like it. That is satisfying indeed. What did Michi’s pre-season training look like? In three words it was consistent, progressive and varied. Here are some of the keys:
· Lots of cross-country skiing to develop global strength and coordination (like nothing else does!).
· Lots of easy aerobic training, but all intensities from easy to hard were consistently touched upon.
· Progression in both volume and intensity between Christmas and Campeche but some volume reduction in the last 2 weeks.
· A bike volume training camp in Gran Canaria in February with Ironman South Africa in mind, coming just 3 weeks after IM 70.3 Campeche.
· Most of Michi’s training was done in an Austrian winter, wearing lots of clothes, in challenging snow and ice trail conditions (run not bike). In other words NOT already in race lycra, in perfect warm conditions, spinning on the TT bike. Race prep does not, should not, always look like a race.
“We believe robust athletes make the best triathletes.” Garth Fox