Ironman Texas Week 4: Long Run Nutrition & Pacing Strategies

First an update on my sweet hubby – after multiple doctor visits, the feedback we’ve gotten is a spinus process fracture of his C-7 vertebrae that will take about 6 weeks to heal. Now David has a rigid neck brace on to help support his head so his muscles don’t have to and the vertebrae can heal better.  He calls it his chick magnet!  David is taking this all so well (a lot better than I would have) and I admire how patient he is being about all of it and not complaining even though I know he is in pain.  It makes you realize how delicate the body is and how much you use it in daily activities.  David has a limited range of movement with his arms and while he can walk, he definitely can’t do any activity such as running that would jostle his neck and he can’t drive since he can’t turn his neck.  I just can’t wait until he feels better.


Still cute! 

So now onto ironman training updates – sometimes I feel like my weeks could be race reports; I am learning so much each week!  This last week was a solid 15 hours of training and was a slightly different format; usually I run on tired legs on Sundays, but this week would be my longest run and my only really “long” run of the IMTX training so it was a bit different.  I know, 2:30 hours or 17-18 miles doesn’t seem that long considering a marathon is 26.2 miles, but I have been doing a lot of medium-paced, more intense runs, and LOTS of running off the bike.  And, from my understanding, the fitness gains start to decrease and risk of injury increases after a certain time/distance, especially considering the current training ironman training load.  Sure, I could probably go a couple more miles to make it closer to a 20-mile run, but it is questionable if the benefits outweigh the risk.  I am saving my best for race day!

Summary of the week:

Tuesday – 2:45 long brick (I love that so many of you commented on this and also love interval training!)

Wednesday – 1 hr swim + 30 mins core

Thursday – 2:30 long brick


Lake 288 just south of H-town

Friday – 1 hr OWS (open water swim). This felt so good it was almost scary. I was completely amazed how quickly the swim went by, how much straighter I was swimming (partly thanks to bilateral breathing) and how good I felt. Of course, swimming in my wetsuit helped (the water was 70deg so a little chilly). I did 4 laps of the perimeter of Lake 288, and by the second I thought, eh, I’m not even going to check my watch, I’ll just keep going. At the 3rd I still felt okay and checked my watch and was around 45 minutes so I did one final lap to make it an hour. I was not pushing it, just swimming steady, and my watch says I did 3800yds in 1 hour; maybe my watch was off, but either way I was pretty stoked. I kept thinking of all those 40 degree mornings in the pool and how they were paying off! Swimming has been a lot of hard work, but I’m not afraid to say that I really stuck with the swim workouts all winter and gave it my all in each of them, so now I’m seeing the rewards of following my program!  I’m still a little leery of the non-wetsuit swim, but I’ll get over it.

Saturday – 1 hr bike + 2:30 long run

This would be my longest run of the whole program and also my longest run in the last 4 years or so. I knew I could do this, but I was also a little curious about how it would go considering it was my one shot at a long run before IMTX. I planned ahead quite a bit since I’d be doing this run solo. My nutrition strategy (at Marni’s recommendation) was to have flasks in each hand and also a nutrition stop with cooler that I would circle back to at least every 30 minutes:

  • Have a flask of water on hand at all times
  • In the other hand have a flask of 2.5 oz Infinit Napalm per hour (replace every 60 minutes). Take sips every half mile or so.
  • At my nutrition stop which I would pass every 30 minutes, a cooler with: 1 bottle Nuun, 1 bottle cold water for flask refills and squirting on head for cooling, ice in a Ziploc baggie for cooling, the extra napalm flasks, and a couple of Gu Roctane gels if I needed them (I have run with Gu’s before and they are on the course so they are “back up” for me). I also put a small cup of flat (warm) coke outside the cooler since this would be served at IMTX and I wanted to practice with it.

I went to Houston’s Memorial park where there is a 1.25 mile bike loop and an almost-3 mile running trail (dirt but flat and packed), so I could warm up on my bike for 1 hour first, then do loops around the running trail and have my nutrition and car nearby. Running a 3-mile loop for 17 miles doesn’t sound super exciting at first, but it allowed me to have everything nearby and actually I could get in a lot of people watching since it’s a popular running area.  The loop or out-and-back running concept is growing on me since it lets me break the run into sections and take breaks at my nutrition stop.

My IM pacing goal is around 8:30 – 8:45 min/mile for the current conditions, not including walks, and I planned to walk 20-30 seconds after each mile to delay fatigue and reset form, and I would also take a 2 minute walk break every 60 minutes to help lower the heart rate.  When I started running back in 2009, I NEVER walked because I saw walking as giving up or failing, and was afraid I would not start running again.  Now that I have seen the benefits I am a completely converted runner and can’t imagine running without them.  I really think they help me both mentally and physically.  I had my Garmin 910xt and would run for 1 mile, hit lap, walk 20-30 sec depending on how I felt (more if needed), then hit lap and run again. I mentally broke the run into 3 sections: the first two loops I would “hold back” a bit, second two loops “run steady” and third set of two loops I could pick it up if I felt good, however, I knew it would be much warmer at this point (60degF warming to 80 and sunny), and in reality that if I maintained my pace or a little above during these last loops that would be a good outcome.

I did my bike ride (just 1 hr steady pace) then transitioned to the run. My first two loops of the run felt so nice and easy, so I really had to hold back to not run an 8:00-8:15 minute pace. I finished my first Napalm flask and found it was working really well for me to time the Napalm by taking sips every ½ mile – once mid-mile and once during my walk break, plus sips of the water flask as needed.  It sounds silly, but I made sure to squeeze my flask so as not to gulp in air extra air, and I think this, plus the timing helped my stomach.

By the second and third loop, it was getting warmer, but didn’t feel too bad; I could keep around an 8:20-8:30 pace and felt fine. I took a small cup of coke after the 4th & also the 5th loop and my stomach was happy with that, it felt refreshing, and I also put ice in my sports bra (front & back) and squirted ice water on my head around laps 3 & 5.  By the third set of loops it was quite sunny and warm.  I was working more to hold the 8:30 pace and my HR was higher, so I was really happy I had started the run slowly.  I think mile 15 is where things got a bit harder and I did get some tightness in my right hip, so it helped to stretch it out during my walk breaks.  There was also a little achiness in my joints eventually, but I think this is pretty normal for a long run. I think anything over a couple hours you will start to feel something different.

I ended the run and felt pretty happy overall, though could feel some fatigue. Of course, I would have loved to feel “great” by the end of the run, but considering all the training load lately and adjusting to warmer temps, I was happy with what my body could do and even more happier when later that day and the next morning I was feeling pretty good – no significant aches, pains or soreness.  I didn’t quite have a negative split, but I’m still happy with an overall pace of 8:50 (8:43 moving average) which includes the walking and stops for refills.

I started recovery immediately with some milk and then bought a couple bags of ice at the gas station for a ten minute ice bath at home.  I wasn’t even sure I really needed the ice bath, but did it as precaution just in case.  I find it helps reduce achiness later.  And of course I was decked out in compression gear.


Loving my birthday 110% socks!!

Sunday – 3 hr bike.  Just an easy, steady bike – felt great!!

Now I’m on to Week 9 – my last hard build.  I’m excited to see how next weekend goes (OWS + 112 mi bike on the IMTX course + 20-30 min run) – it will be a long day, but hopefully a good race simulation where I can practice all my gear, nutrition, and mental strength. Marni has given me a great plan so far and thinks everything is falling into place, so I’m going with it!

4 thoughts on “Ironman Texas Week 4: Long Run Nutrition & Pacing Strategies

    1. Hi Leslie – thank you so much! No, that is lake 288 which is south of Houston, but for the race we will swim in Lake Woodlands which is just north of town (a bit murkier too).

  1. poor david! hope he feels better soon. that’s a really impressive run time, too… i run my long runs around that pace too. see you can run a 3:30 marathon too! (not during the ironman race, another time :))

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