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Don't chase the perfect race

November 28, 2017 - About focusing on things you should control

 I’ve tried to analyse my race right away after the finish line watching my Garmin, but it has been a dense and intense weekend and I didn’t have time to put the thoughts together.

I liked to say to myself it was a really good race, but not perfect! I blamed small episodes like the flying bottles or falling down on the run, but my coach definitely caught what it was.


Let’s recap...

One of the inviting reasons I decided to compete in Bahrain for the second time was the assignment of Kona slots for Military people and due to my profession I was qualifying for that. South Africa for World Championship 70.3 was inviting as well, but having an easier way to Hawaii was definitely something that I would target! I said to myself “Live every moment during race day and don’t fall in the Ironman aspirational Triathlete game” and my thoughts for Kona and South Africa helped me only in race preparation to keep myself motivated; I obliged myself not to take them with me on the bike and on the run (in the swim I never have time to think!!!).


The days before the race I fuelled properly, carb loaded smoothly and kept always a bottle with fluids with me. I was also curious to see the effects of a diet very close to plant based (not yet fully plant powered). 

Sleep was ok even if the night before I had the usual pizza but there was too much garlic for my standards (I think there should be a prohibition rule that forbids non Italian chefs to make pizza with garlic and pineapple).

In the morning I had bread and marmalade, coffee, sport drink, energy bar and my body was acting like I expected and like I wanted, not to live any drama in the toilets at the transition areas.

In the days preceding the race I thought about the strategy and spoke to my friend Marco, strong swimmer. Bahrain like many races have a rolling swim start, and people are not very disciplined in choosing their spot. Last year for example I found a lot of traffic  which made me start the bike very nervous. So this year I said to Marco I would try to stay at his feet starting in the sub 30’ group. The thing is if you are able to start with the fast guys your race makes sense in terms of competition because if you know them by face you know what your place is. 

In the last months of training I felt I had built a pretty quick pace up to 400-500 meters swimming consistently at 1:35 per 100 mt. I thought that I would be at least quite comfortable at the start and then I would extend my swim in less trafficked waters.

So I started fast looking at Marco’s feet. Surprisingly I found traffic of people much slower than me, but this time I tried to play smart sighting good reference landmarks and doing my own trajectory especially in the longest leg where I had to settle in my OK plateau of 1:40 per 100 mt.

After climbing the steep slope to get out of the water I stopped my watch and glanced at the time. 31:28 for a 1:39 pace! I congratulated with myself and I rushed in T1 where I found Marco finishing his procedures.

I jumped on the bike just after the mount line and bottles flew on the ground... turned back and picked them up!!! 

I said to myself not to get angry and to control my emotions in order to get the HR where I wanted.

Strong cross wind initially then tail for about 20 km inbound the Formula 1 circuit. HR went back happily in the briefed zone after 20 minutes and I tried to keep the effort and the power smooth with no hard spikes.

I knew that the critical moment still had to come.

In general I don’t care if people draft. They are cheating just themselves! But if they stay at my wheel and put me in trouble, well! I don’t like that move. Approaching the Formula 1 circuit a group of 2/3 guys reached my wheel. And stationed there. I made them signs to pass, I stood on the seat, I slowed down... nothing! Referees on the motorbikes passed us but for obvious reasons no flags. It took me 10 minutes of frustration to understand what they were doing and how to overcome their non sporty attitude and finally I decided that it was time to ride alone again. But the wind was not helping because as soon as we exited the circuit the wind was a wall and those guys were even happier to stay at my wheel.


In those situations is so difficult to push even 2 watts more! But at a certain point I was caught by Sam (one of the AG winners!). It made look so easy pushing into the wind that I got motivated again and was able to finally detach from the “drafters”.

When the road bends towards the Bahrain World Trade Center and the wind turns to tail you know that it’s done. Time to focus on cadence and get ready for the run.

I’m not mentioning anything new when I say that the adrenaline you feel in T2 makes you run unexpected paces! You need to focus on cadence and HR, the race is still long.

What Ironman did this time for the run was a 4 loops up and down the freeway overpasses. That’s not my thing. The first 10 km I ran like I wanted and expected 4:25/4:30 pace… The second half I suffered a lot. I think it was a mix of everything. I don’t like slopes for sure, but I remember starting to overheat even if I was very disciplined in cooling down with sponges and water, plus having gels and chews.


Normally the fuel plan considers different temperatures and the quantity of liquids increases with the higher temperatures. For the expected temperatures on race day I calculated about 3 litres of Energy drink. This doesn’t make me auto sufficient with what I load on the bike because I can reach maximum 2,3 liters, so I had to take a bottle from the aid stations after the 45 km mark.

When I reached the last aid station on the bike, where I should have been empty, I still had half full bottle.

Feeling good I didn’t perceive it like a threat. But it hit me in the legs in the last part of the run. 

It is almost impossible to catch up in the run with the fuel you didn’t take during the bike leg. Stomach starts to close and you don’t want to stop to drink and reset. So we know the answer… Keep pushing!

Finally the finish line.

Many lessons learned from this race to get better in the next one! 


In The Triathlete’s Training Bible, Joe Friel at a certain point speaks about the team. Triathlon long races as we know are individual efforts, but to train our skills and talents we are not alone. That’s why we have the difficult daily homework to create our own team.


In my team I cannot do without family! Motivated by inspiring my daughter, I have said this many times “It’s for her and not only for me that I chase fitness in the sport!”. The normal act of my wife preparing a meal or relieving me from some of the family duties is priceless. 

In my team I cannot do without my coach! Having always something to work on is a normal process to improve, but when the recommandation comes from a credible source like Ryan McReady it becomes fundamental.

In my team I cannot do without my phisyo, Doc Morana and CRYO. Ageing body needs some help to recover and maintain the best status possible.

In my team I cannot do without my Squad of friends (#BauccoSquadME) and all the Tri Family friends (Marco and Roberta, Giorgia the Logistic Master), with a special mention to Simone… we never argue enough!

Acknowledging all of this makes you stronger regardless of the result, the time and the slot for World Champions. 



AJ Baucco Coaching is world class triathlon coaching for age group athletes of all ability levels. We specialize in Full Service Triathlon Coaching, but we also create Focused Training Plans for athletes that like a more hands off approach. Feel free to contact us with any questions or to set up an informational phone call.

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