We first met Alain Friedrich when he was a Team Freespeed member based out of London. After he moved back to Switzerland, Alain stopped using Precision Hydration and unfortunately suffered from some nasty cramping issues at IM Cozumel last year. He saw the correlation, got back in touch and started using PH 1500 again.
In September he finished Ironman Mallorca in a personal best of 8 hours 45 minutes, which made him first amateur and 8th overall (leaving several professionals in his wake!). We caught up with him recently to find out what went wrong in Mexico and how he turned things around in Spain…
So Alain, before we dive in and analyse Cozumel/Mallorca, could you tell folks what your typical training week looks like in the run up to a key race?
I’ll tell you what, why don’t I just share my training plan with you ;-)
Swim only (rest day)
A.M. Aerobic run
P.M. Hard bike
A.M. Hard swim
P.M. Aerobic bike
A.M. Easy run
P.M. Hard run (double run day!)
Swim only (rest day)
Long, hard bike ride plus optional run off the bike
Long run (usually progressive to above race pace)
Is there a type of training session you swear by and try to never miss?
I rarely miss my long bike ride on Saturday. This is a 4-5 hour ride which – based on the wattage – is harder than the race. So, if I can hammer this session. I know I am ready.
As an elite age-grouper, how do you balance work and life with training?
This is the most difficult part of being an amateur triathlete. I try to only do quality sessions and have two weekdays where I only do one session. The rest of the time and the weekends are for my fiancée and friends. But as is the case for most age-groupers, I sometimes struggle with getting the right balance, especially in the weeks leading into a big race.
You got in touch with us again after a hydration fail in Cozumel, what happened out there?
I drank lots of water but my mistake was that I failed to take in enough sodium. So, I was just further diluting my blood sodium levels. I didn't have my PH with me and was talking the on-course drinks (Powerbar I think). It totally failed, I cramped very early in the race and the rest of the day was about survival and damage limitation. It was a humbling experience and I learned a lot from it.
Ok, so what did you do differently at Ironman Mallorca? What was your hydration/nutrition strategy this time around?
From my experience at Cozumel, I knew that I needed to approach nutrition/hydration more professionally and so I laid out a clear plan for how I would hydrate and fuel up. Based on my high sweat rate (I lose close to 2 litres an hour!) and knowing my sweat sodium concentration from my PH sweat test, I calculated the exact amount of fluid and sodium I would need to take in during the race.
I strictly separated nutrition from hydration. From a hydration perspective, I had 3 750ml water bottles with me on my bike, all with PH 1500 in them, so I always had plenty of electrolyte to hand! At every aid station, I would grab one bottle of plain water and drink from that roughly every 10-15 minutes whilst sipping from my high concentration electrolyte bottles. This way, I ensured I had a constant supply of sodium to replace what I was losing, without having to take mess around with salt tablets on the bike. This worked very well.
In terms of fuelling up, I had one bottle with gels only which I would sip about every 15-20 minutes on the bike. On the run, I carried gels and took one every 20-30 minutes.
Did you adapt your race plan for the heat as well?
I did. During the swim, I consciously held back a little and was very comfortable. Once on the bike, I rode the first hour very conservatively at the lowest wattage of my entire race. This was my plan. I wanted to be strong at the end. I rode hard during the third hour of the race, where I averaged over 285 watts. This was because I knew I had to get in front up the mountain in order to be able to descend on my own. The last hour was easy again and I came in to T2 with great legs.
On first 15k of the run, I felt great. I was still taking in water/sodium and carbs and was able to run sub 4min/kms very comfortably. After 20k, the suffering started but I tried to keep the pace as high as possible. Looking at my stats, I did fade pretty badly in the last 10k though. Next time, I’ll try to start out even slower and hopefully I won’t fade as much towards the end. I’m making real progress with my strategy for racing in hotter climates but I still have some way to go.
But overall, I was very happy that I was able to execute my hydration/nutrition strategy so well. In the end, this is why the race went so much better than the disaster that was Cozumel. And you can’t really argue with a personal best in 27 degree heat…
Sounds like you’ve had a pretty gruelling year but that you’ve made real progress! What’s next for you?
My 2017 target is definitely getting to Kona. But, I haven’t planned anything yet as I want to have a proper rest during the off-season so that I’m motivated to start 2017 well. I know that I won’t be able to perform as well as I did in Mallorca on the Big Island. I have a very high sweat rate (close to 2 litres per hour!) and I don’t think the race suits me that well. But who knows! All I can do is try to turn up at the start line in the best shape possible….