All the training has been done. An early morning bike and run were the last sessions before the big day tomorrow. Up until now, I've said nothing about my goals, ambitions or expectations for Saturday - I've stayed quiet and concentrated on my training. Now that's done, I feel free to talk about how I envisage tomorrows race.
6 weeks ago I swam an open water 5k in 1:14:12, and I know that my swimming has come on well since then. I've had some hard swim sessions since arriving in Kona, and there have also been some confidence boosting open water sessions out on the course. Last year I swam 1:04:38, almost exactly 4 minutes slower than I swam at Ironman Austria a few months earlier. With Kona being a non-wetsuit swim, with potentially choppy conditions, you're always looking at a slightly slower swim time. Finding the right sarting postition at Kona is key. Start too far back and you'll get stuck with a slow group, but start too far forward and you'll get be swum over and under attack. I'll seed myself at the start accordingly and look to take the swim comfortably hard. No matter what the swim split, I should come out of the water fresher than in the past and ready to knuckle down for the remainder of the day. A 60 minute swim is the goal, but anything under 62 minutes will set me up nicely.
The bike plan is simple - ride to my target wattage and concentrate on fueling. The start is always frantic with everyone blazing out of transition going way too hard. It's difficult to stick to your game plan as you watch others pass, but it must be done. Riding the first 60 miles to Hawi conservatively can pay dividends in the final 50 miles, where we're likely to suffer from strong crosswinds and headwinds. I have 100% confidence in my nutrition plan and have proved in the past that I can execute a well paced Ironman bike leg. Conditions on the day will dictate what the split will be, but unless it's brutal, I'll be looking to best last years 5:05:34 and go sub-5.
On to the run, where the race is always decided. Given my fitness last year, I did well to go 3:27:22, but I've trained to go faster than that. For me, the key to a solid run will be keeping myself under control during the first 10 miles. Concentrating on pacing and nutrition at this stage is the most important thing, as it feels easy to go faster than you should. It's the last 8 miles of this race that's the toughest, as you exit the Energy Lab and run down the Queen-K highway towards town. This is the part of the race I've trained for, and finishing strongly is my main aim for the day. If averything goes to plan, my current run PB of 3:24:53 should be but a distant memory. I'll put it out there - I'm going to run 3:15.
So where does all that put me? Including transitions, it should be in the ballpark of 9:20, if everything goes to plan. If I end up over 9:30, then somewhere, something hasn't gone to plan. For at least the last 6 years (perhaps even further, but I haven't checked) a 9:20 would be good for a top-5 placing in the 18-24 age-group, and that's the goal. I can't control what my competitors are going to do, and this years competition is tough. Really tough. But that's what you want. You don't turn up to a World Championship and hope for the race to be soft. You want to go head to head against the best guys and see how you stack up against them. I'm glad the fast guys are here. That way, if I do achieve my aim of a top-5 finish and get on the podium (top-5 = podium finish in Kona), then I'll have really earned it. There's no escaping the fact that I want to win the age-group, but this year, that's out of my reach. I'll control the controllables and ultimately, the finish time and placing will take care of itself.