Brian Reynolds Training Plan and Race Strategy Earn Him a 4:10 Finish in His First Half-Iron!

July 2nd, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Brian Reynolds, Team OAM Now Triathlete

Finish LineA few weekends ago, I completed my first half ironman distance at the Grand Rapids Triathlon. Grand Rapids was an “A” race that I trained for, for the past 7 months.  When Mark Olson (my coach) and I sat down last September, we set a goal to break 4:15.  To accomplish my goal, I woke at 4:20am in the mornings to go to master’s swim group for 1.5 hours and swam at least 5000 yards per day, three times a week. I was doing 2-4 quality runs and 2-4 bike rides per week.  Between the months of February and May, I focused more on my running to prepare for the Fifth Third River Bank 25 run, my other “A” race, and resumed regular triathlon training after.

After Fifth Third, I developed peroneal tendonitis in my left foot which meant I had to reduce my running significantly.  Fortunately, I was able to swim and bike just fine. I found my foot injury to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to focus on my biking which was lacking at the time. Mark had to modify my training to include a several longer rides of 2 hours or more. In a 6 week span, I increased my Functional Threshold Power by 8% which is significant improvement in a short amount of time. During that span, I had some of my best bike workouts ever. My body was craving cycling. The more I rode, the more my body responded to the challenge. These long rides also gave me the opportunity to work on my nutrition which was the biggest unknown to me because I’ve never raced a Half Ironman before, let alone competed for over 4 hours.

One week before the race, I did the GR tri practice swim where I picked up my new Aquaman wetsuit. The wetsuit uses Metal Cell technology which enables the neoprene to stay close to the skin to help keep you warm by allowing less water to get into the suit. People like me, who have very little body fat, find this extra warmth beneficial because it means I’m burning less energy in the water. In addition, the expected water temp on race day was 66 degs F so the suit would come in handy.  After swim practice, I rode the course on my TT racing bike to do a pre-race workout. The workout was to go easy the first hour, then ride at race pace effort the last hour.  Overall, I felt good throughout the ride, but in in the last ten minutes of the ride, I was uncomfortable, as if I was running out of energy.  After the ride I did an hour run.  During the run, I felt okay for the first mile, but then I began to feel terrible during the 2nd and 3rd miles.  I recognized this “terrible feeling” as being low on glucose, so I started to take in calories until I started to feel better.  The calories helped and I began to run more normal again. This was an important discovery a week before the race because it made me realize that I needed to take in more calories on the bike. Before I started the bike leg, I would have already burned through glucose during the swim; thus, I would have to make up for the glucose loss on the bike.

On race day, I woke up at 4:20am to rain and scattered thunderstorms, so I wasn’t sure if the race would even start. When I arrived at the race site, there was a light drizzle and everything was soaked. In fact, I had to pin my number to my bike because it wouldn’t stick otherwise. In the transition area, I placed my running equipment in a large plastic bag to keep it dry. After setting up transition, it was time to get my wetsuit on and head towards the start.

The race directors let us into the water about 5 minutes before my wave start. With minimal fog over the water, I knew sighting would be a much easier task for the swim. Still, there was not much time to warm up, so I just jumped up and down in the water to get my breathing in check and move my arms around. There were at least a 100 people in my wave. When the race started, the first 150 yards were very congested; I was getting hit on my side and legs. At about 300 yards, the field started to spread out, but with several swimmers around me, it was easy to find a body to draft behind. At .4 miles I found a strong swimmer to draft behind for the rest of the swim, making this leg much easier. I felt strong and smooth. I could have pushed harder, but thought I’d save it for the bike.

"GRT-BIKE"T1 was fast and smooth. The cycling roads were wet with several puddles requiring navigation, but with no rain falling, it was workable. I went easy for the first 5 minutes, and then I started to target my goal race pace wattage. While I only passed 3 people, I was feeling good through 15 miles.  After 15, my legs were a little fatigued, evident from my high cadence riding.  When I got to Saranac, the top 4 riders of the race caught me. We rode as a group over the hilly sections from miles 16-18.  When we turned right and started to head south, I lost contact. My wattage was gradually dropping throughout the race, so I switched my focus on spinning and getting calories in my system. Luckily, on the way back, I had a tailwind to help with my average speed. I took a few extra calories on the bike to make sure I had enough energy for the run. The last 10 miles of the ride, I looked forward to the run as it is my strongest discipline.

"GRT-HALF-BE"After a tough bike leg, I slipped on my dry shoes and exited the transition area quickly. I was able to get into a running rhythm very quickly. When I saw that my first mile split was a 5:42, I knew I would be all right, assuming I continued to take in calories throughout the run.  The uphill sections were tough, but I was able to get back on pace on the downhills. I maintained a consistent pace and passed about 8 people during the run. The last 100 yards of the race was my favorite because I saw the clock read 4:10:??, and I knew I would achieve my time goal.  After the finish, my legs were super sore. I had to sit down and drink Mountain Dew to recover. After 20 minutes I felt much better.

Overall, I am very happy with my results. I finished 4th overall and won my age group. My official time was 4:10:40 which was under my 4:15 time goal. I would like to thank Mark Olson and Kalamazoo Masters for setting me up for success. I want to thank the Grand Rapids Triathlon organizers for putting on a great event. Congrats to my OAM Now teammates who competed as well. I plan on doing this event again next year.


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