Training for endurance sports can be lonely. While this is arguably a draw for some, and there is much to learn as an athlete when training solo, it can grow old after awhile. And it usually grows very old by the last weekend of the final build block heading into a Marathon, Ironman or 70.3. This is where having a team behind you, can make all the difference!
Last weekend was our training weekend for IM Louisville and like every year prior it was an amazing effort by all from the athletes to the volunteers!
Each year we put together a weekend for our athletes headed to race an Ironman in their last build before they taper. And along with our Ironman athletes, many of our late season 70.3, 13.1 & 26.2 athletes come along for part of the ride and run, making it a great weekend of training and cheering. This has proven year and again to be an invaluable experience for the athletes and even for the coaches.
Here is how this past weekend went down!
We use a course that will give us a similar elevation profile for race day. Which means that we rode out in Wildwood, MO to prepare our athletes for the hills of Louisville. We break the 112 miles into a four loop course which allows us to SAG and monitor the athletes with ease and is also a great way to collect data which the coaches use later when writing race plans for race day. Unlike many group rides, we do not promote riding in a huge cluster of riders with athletes of all abilities. Rather, we prefer to link up each athlete who is racing with a volunteer athlete who is similar in ability. What we are trying to avoid is having an athlete ride too fast or too slow for their ability, which in either scenario leads to a low quality training day. We are lucky to have a super supportive group of team members along with five coaches so we can divide up the work at hand! The Ironman athlete will ride the entire 112 and the support athletes rotate in and out as needed.
This past weekend we had three groups of athletes, and therefore we also had three support vehicles stocked with water, ice, sports nutrition and back up bike tubes and tools. These vehicles monitor and assist each group out on the course. This was super important this weekend due to unseasonably high temps and we needed to have ice at the ready for the athletes as the temps and humidity skyrocketed throughout the day.
Once the athletes complete the course on the bike, they head out for a transition run and coaches either support via bike or by running along. This year we supported on the bike so we could hand off ice and ice water to keep the athletes cool.
Saturday was an incredible day of watching and cheering as our athletes faced very tough conditions and were able to overcome and nail their training. It was also a perfect day for each one of them to learn to test their limits and troubleshoot any gear, pacing, mental toughness or nutrition issues.
Quickly, and I am sure far too fast for many, Saturday gave way to Sunday am, and it was another hot and humid day, but the athletes were at it once again for their final long run leading into the race.
Because we coach athletes who run at a variety of paces, we also chose to run in loops so that coaches can support and monitor athletes, and on a day at hot as Sunday, it allowed athletes to replenish fuel and get ice. Another benefit is that many Ironman and Half Ironman courses are looped and this enables an athlete to work through the mental pacing of a multi-loop course.
Once again the team showed up to offer support by biking alongside athletes to hand out ice and water and to cheer. While only a few of the athletes were able to run with one another due to pacing, it was awesome to watch athletes support each other as the made loops around Forest Park.
In the end the athletes put in a ton of high quality miles which will pay dividends on race day!
Thanks again to all of you who volunteered and made this weekend possible.
P.S - If you want to read a WAY funnier and more detailed account of this weekend, check out this blog by Sarah.