I never really put too much emotion into early season races. I know after racing 9 years as a professional that I am a late bloomer. I perform best as the season progresses. This is not to say that I did not go into Ironman New Zealand with expectations of a successful race. I had been working on a lot of cycling in the winter months with the help of TrainerRoad (I am obsessed with it) and I was slowly ramping up the run intensity and volume. With the help of Coach Gerry, Tower 26, and Coach Doug Greene of Ultimate Performance Swim Studio I was swimming efficient and steady. I felt IM NZ was going to be a beautiful start to a season I could build into smartly and race well frequently.
The week before race day I was still in Los Angeles on the Santa Monica beach path doing a tempo run with Craig “Baby Face” Taylor. We were running 3 x 3 miles @ 5:40-5:50min/mi pace. We were moving well. As soon as the last 3-mile effort concluded, I slowed down only to feel my left knee completely tighten, causing me some intense pain with every step. I figured I’d stepped wrong and it was just a stinger. I got home, iced the knee, took some Advil, and hoped the pain would die down. It didn’t, but I was going to New Zealand either way.
The trip to Taupo was easy. 12 hour direct flight to Auckland and then an hour connection into Taupo. I arrived Wednesday prior to the Saturday race. The time change is only 3 hours earlier than Los Angeles time, one day ahead. Not bad jet lag. I travelled alone. Megan came Friday.
The swim at Ironman New Zealand takes place in one of the most pristine bodies of water I have ever swam, Lake Taupo. The scenery around the lake is mountains, waterfalls, and lush, green, rolling hills. It is beautiful place, to say the least. As you swim you can see the bottom the entire way through the 2.4 miles. At one point you can see hundreds of golf balls on the bottom from an island chipping green located close to the course.
There were approximately 30 other Professional Men racing and from my past experience racing in the Australia/New Zealand region, I was pretty sure I’d be left behind pretty quickly in the swim. I lathered on my Topical Edge, threw on my new Xterra Vengeance wetsuit and jumped in. The gun went off and instantly I was left behind. In the past I would have let this get to me. But I stayed present, mindful of my stroke, and performed within my abilities. As soon as my mind started to turn to negative thoughts, I focused back on my effort, my breathing, and I kept the effort steady. I came out of the water to The VOICE of Ironman saying “There’s Jim Lubinski. It’s tough to swim all alone, but he’s done it. Jim is the best guy in the professional ranks.” Really nice words from a genuinely nice person. Thanks for that Mike, it meant so much to me for you to say that. My swim time was 1:00:31. This was over 2 minutes faster than my swim time at Ironman Arizona in November which was very similar conditions. Progress is being made!!!
I hurried through transition and got rolling on my NEW Quintana Roo PR6 with my Alto Cycling 86 Clincher front and 311 Clincher Disc rear as my wheel set up and Michelin GP 4000 23mm tires. What a sharp looking ride and with my ERO bike fit, I am more comfortable and more aerodynamic than ever! Thanks to Performance Bike in Santa Monica for putting it all together and tuning it up for me. If you have never raced in the Australia/New Zealand region you may be unaware that they use chip seal instead of asphalt on their roads. If I could describe the feeling of chip seal over the course of 112 miles it would be a feeling similar to some one taking a rubber band and snapping again your undercarriage for the duration of the ride. It’s not pleasant, and at the Professional Athlete meeting the race directors described the chip seal aspect of the course as a source of pride. I have raced a few times on this hellacious terrain and I have never approached it correctly. This time I swore to myself I would not inflate my tires any more than 90psi. Sounds low, but the higher the psi, the more you bounce, the more the chip seal affects the ride. I would say I nailed the psi at 90 because, for the most part, I felt the chip seal had very little impact on my ride. My goal for my bike split was to keep the wattage using my Powertap P1 pedals in the 270-280 watt range. My Lactate Threshold at the time of the race was 340w. 80% of 340 is 272. The best Ironman runs come off of an 80% intensity factor so that’s why I tried to keep the watts between 270-280. At Ironman Arizona back in November I really used the course to my advantage. I worked on the harder parts of the course and used the tail wind/downhill parts of the course to my advantage by backing off of the watts and giving my body a reprieve from the effort and a chance to recover. I tried to apply the same principles to the Ironman New Zealand course which seemed to work well. I had good energy the whole way through. I sipped on my Base Performance Hydro with Salt every 10 minutes, and kept the calories coming in via gel every 20-25 minutes. On a side note, I always find it odd to grab bottles at aid stations with the left hand. I missed a bunch of times. On a second side note, be sure to tighten all of your screws if you ever race on chip seal. My base bar was moving down as I rode . I had to flag down an on-course mechanic to grab a wrench to tighten so I didn’t nose plant onto the chip seal.
Getting off of the bike in a time of 4:49 I was happy with the way I felt. My legs were fresh and I had managed my effort well. My normalized power was 275w. EXACTLY where I wanted it. The question was, how was the knee going to hold up.
Here is a link to my bike file on Training Peaks
I hadn’t run all week trying to let the inflammation settle down, so as I put on my Skechers Go Run 6’s and jogged out of transition, it was a mystery as to how it would feel. I definitely felt some pain, but I also felt I had some pop in the legs and it might not be as bad as I worried it would be. I kept the pace in the 6:40min/mi range for the first 4 miles. I came to a right hand turn around mile 5, I made the turn, when, all of a sudden, the knee locked up. The entire knee. I couldn’t take another step. I stopped, pressed around, found the most tender spot, and pressed on it. The muscles around the knee released and I was able to slowly build back into a trot at 7-7:30min/mi pace but no faster. I had no strength in the left knee to push any faster. I could maintain, so I ticked the miles off. I figured I may as well practice my mental game as I completed the marathon. I focused in on my breathing and tried to stay mindful of the present moment without letting my mind stray to the frustration of the leg pain and the fact that I couldn’t run the way I knew I could run.
Here is a link to my run file on Training Peaks
I came across the line in 3:06 for the marathon which gave me an overall time of 9:01(13th Place) on the day.
Now it’s time to get to Altus Health Chiropractic and Strength Center in Santa Monica to work out these imbalances and fix the knee. It’s early season. We have a long and successful 2018 ahead of us.
The best part of the trip was exploring the South Island of New Zealand with Megan. Mountains, Glaciers, Endless Star Gazing, Bluer than Blue Lakes, it is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. The race is amazing, and taking on this experience post race is a MUST-DO for any triathlete looking for a race AND an adventure.