Ironman Louisville 2017 Write-Up

This past weekend, I raced Ironman Louisville.  I haven’t posted files from a race recently, so I thought it might be a good idea to go through this one.  First, the final stats:

9:10:xx. 21st male professional, out of 37.

Weather – it was a pretty unique weather day, as the air temp was around 70 deg F at race start, got up to about 80 deg while we were biking, and then cooled down to about 65 deg while we were running.  These unique conditions were the result of a cold front blowing in during the race… which also meant that we were racing in pretty strong winds all day.  Wind on the bike was generally around 15 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph.  Wind on the run was strong, but swirling, and tough to get a read on the direction.


Swim – 57:12.

Goggles – blueseventy Nero Race.

Swimskin – blueseventy PZ3tx

Water was 71.8 deg, so the pros were non-wetsuit.  We started as soon as there was any sunlight, swimming upriver for about 1000 meters.  I was settled in nicely at the back of a group, until my goggles got kicked off around 500 meters into the swim.  It was tempting to just keep going, but I knew that would end poorly, so I stopped to get my goggles back on.  This proved to be a mistake, as I lost the group that I was with, and didn’t quite have the burst to catch back up to them.  So, I ended up in no-man’s land, swimming on my own.  After we made the turn at 1000, we entered the main river channel, and it was VERY choppy.  The chop, combined with my frustration about not being able to bridge back up to my group, put me in a pretty negative mindset.  We don’t need to go into details, but there were a lot of “Why the hell am I doing this?” thoughts going through my head. That said, I kept moving forward, caught a few stragglers who also got spit off the back of groups, and ended up having a decent swim split.  Certainly not what I was hoping for, but not a disaster, either.


Bike – 4:55xx, 22.5 mph, 246 W average, 261 W normalized, 144 bpm.

IM Louisville Bike stats (2)


Frame – Quintana Roo PRsix

Shifting – Shimano Dura-Ace Di2

Wheels – Reynolds Aero 72 front, Zipp Super-9 disc rear

Basebar – Shimano PRO

Aerobars – Zipp Vuka Alumina extensions

Pedals – Look Keo Carbon Blade

Shoes – Giro SLX (with custom zipper closure)

Helmet – Giro Air Attack shield

Chain – IceFriction Tech

Tubes – Vittoria Latex

Tires – Continental Grand Prix TT

Bottom bracket & Rear Derailleur Pulleys – Hawk Racing

Saddle – Cobb V-Flow Max

Kit – Castelli Sanremo short sleeve

Nutrition – Clif gels, Clif Shot Bloks, table salt, Gatorade Endurance

I came out of T1 with Matthew Shanks, Dan Clarke, and Josezf Major. My original plan was to ride a steady 250-260 W, but I saw an opportunity to use Major as a pacer, and so I took advantage of it.  I locked myself 12 meters off his rear wheel, and went to work.  The time I was pacing off Major is shown in laps 1 & 2, above.  As can be seen, I had to average 280-290 W, just to sit 12 meters off his wheel.  My original hope was that he would settle down, and I could pace off him at a lower power, but that didn’t appear to be happening, as we were almost 20 miles into the race, and I needed 30-40 W above my goal power just to sit 12 meters back.  So, at that point, I decided I was paying too steep of a price to get a wheel to ride on, so I backed it off, and settled in to my original goal power numbers (260 W).

This was going well for the first loop on the bike, but things went a bit sideways on the 2nd “lollipop loop”.  The traffic from age groupers on their 1st lap was overwhelming, to the point of being dangerous.  The AG’ers were generally riding 2-3 abreast, on narrow roads, with live vehicle traffic.  Additionally, when passing each other, they usually didn’t check over their shoulder to see if anyone was coming, so you never knew if someone was just going to swerve left, directly into your path.  This made passing them extremely stressful, and it seemed like I spent the entire lap yelling “ON YOUR LEFT”, in an attempt to keep things safe.  Unfortunately, I allowed the stress of this get to me, and affect my race, as you can see on lap 6 (above), where my power numbers, and HR, fell off significantly.  There were other pros who handled it much better than me, so it certainly was possible to still ride well, in that situation.  This was mental weakness on my part, and something I need to work on, so that I don’t let similar situations impact my mindset/performance, in the future.

When we exited the 2nd lollipop loop, and headed back on the 20-ish miles of road to T2, we also got slammed with a headwind.  My frustration from dealing with the traffic on the 2nd loop carried over to this, and I was in a pretty bad mental spot.  Additionally, this is also where my legs really started feeling the gamble I took early in the bike.  My power fell off significantly, as can be seen on Lap 7, above.  This was doubly disastrous, as headwinds tend to magnify low power output, and it’s very easy to bleed a LOT of time on the bike, if you’re struggling to put out power into a headwind.


So, in terms of power distribution, I rode this course exactly the opposite of how I “should” have, since I cranked out my highest power output while riding with a tailwind, and my lowest power output while riding with a headwind.  That said, I stand by my approach, and would do it again, in a heartbeat.  I took a gamble early, to try to get a benefit by riding 12 meters off Major’s wheel.  It just didn’t work out.  That’s the way she goes, sometimes…


Run – 3:06:xx, 146 bpm

IM Louisville Run Stats IM Louisville Run laps

Shoes – Skechers GoMeb Speed 3

Kit – Castelli Sanremo short sleeve

Nutrition – Clif gels, table salt, coke, water Red Bull

The race plan was to take out the first 2 miles at 6:50-6:55, and then play it by ear.  This went well enough, as the first 2 miles felt easy, and I was able to continue running 6:50-7:00 pace, at a conversational effort.  There was a bathroom emergency at mile 8, but I was still through the first half marathon in 1:30:xx (including the bathroom stop), so I was in a decent spot to run sub-3.  I felt good, so I started applying some pressure at mile 15.  Mile 15 went well enough, as it was a 6:48, and didn’t feel too tough.  Unfortunately, on mile 16, my hamstrings said “noooooope”.  I started dealing with severe hamstring pain, and so I had to back it off, as I didn’t want to run myself into hamstring cramps.

From that point on, it was pretty much just a shuffle to the finish line, and I spent most of it chatting with Scott Cooper.  I wasn’t breathing hard, or working particularly hard… my hamstrings just didn’t want to run.  This was extremely frustrating, as my hamstrings are consistently a limiter on Ironman runs, either due to severe pain, or full-on cramping.  I’ll be sure to do extra work on hamstring strength/durability this winter, but I’m not sure exactly what else to do (flexibility? Bike fit?… seriously, if anyone has experience with this, please get in touch with me, so we can talk about it).

The durability/hamstring limitations on my run are very obvious from miles 16-24, as you can see that large dip in my HR, below.  On a well-executed Ironman run, the HR would have stayed steady, or risen slightly, from miles 16-24, and averaged 150-160 bpm.  But, I could only hit 146 bpm on this day, as I didn’t have quite all of the pieces together to support running at a higher HR.


Frustrating, but… so it goes.  Nothing I can do, but continue trying to fix it.


So… that’s Ironman Louisville, by the numbers!  I thought it was a cool city, and I liked the course… hope to go back one day!


The Preseason…

The most “WHAT DO I DO???” time of year is generally the winter.  The previous race season is ancient history, but the next “big” race may still be 6-7 months away.

During the winter, some folks never take a break, some folks take several months off, and some folks kind of do it “in between”.  Based on my years of racing professionally, and coaching for QT2 Systems, I’ve learned a set of principles that I think are the best, and sharing them will hopefully simplify some of your “winter decisions”, when it comes to training.

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Musselman 2016 Write-Up

This past weekend, I was lucky to race at one of my favorite events, the Musselman Half-Iron, on lovely Seneca Lake.  It’s the unofficial 70.3-mile championship of upstate NY, and it did not disappoint.  It was my 4th time at the race, and in my previous 3 attempts, I’ve finished 5th (2009), 1st (2013), and 6th (2015).

Going in, I knew we had a strong field lined up, as the last 3 men’s champions were there (myself, Matt Curbeau, and Matt Migonis), and it’d likely take a course record to win the day.

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Here we are, summer of 2016… Racing season is in full “go”, and we’re all starting to reap the benefits of all of the hours put in on the trainer over the winter.

I’ve been racing since April, but the results haven’t quite matched up with the expectations.  All of my training has been fantastic, as I’m putting up the best swim/bike workouts of my life, and my running is doing just fine.  That’s the funny thing about racing, though – it’s a “one off” event. Sometimes, it’s an accurate reflection of the training you’ve been doing, and sometimes, it just goes sideways! Haha!  But that’s part of what makes it so exciting, and it’s why we keep coming back for more.

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The Rapidly Changing Scene of Pro Iron-Distance Racing

I did my first triathlon in August, 2006, and first Ironman in June, 2007.  I earned my professional license by winning the amateur title at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2011, and I’ve been racing as a professional ever since.  Over my last 4+ years in the pro field, I’ve gone from “clueless rookie” to “less clueless veteran”, and have witnessed a rapid evolution in professional long-course triathlon.

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Getting athletes to Kona… (part 1)

For many triathletes, the “dream goal” is getting to Kona.  That’s not the goal for all triathletes, of course.  But that dream is prevalent enough so that you can assume just about everyone toeing the line at an Ironman has at least thought “Boy… I’d sure like to race at Kona one day”.  And then, if an athlete is serious enough about the sport to hire a personal coach, you can bet your butt that a Kona qualification is something floating around in the back of their mind.  As such, I view getting athletes to Kona as my “mission”… my “meal ticket”.  And honestly, that’s probably 90% of the reason I’ve been successful – I have a clear goal for where I want to get my athletes, and my ability to pay the rent depends on meeting that goal.  Point being: as with most things in life, a genuine desire to succeed, and the willingness to work for it, are the most important factors for finding success.

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Triathlon’s Dirty Little Secret

A lot of sports have their “dirty little secrets”.  In football, it’s concussions/brain trauma.  In cycling, it’s random heart attacks from drug-affected blood.  In bowling it’s… carpal tunnel syndrome?

Well, triathlon’s “dirty little secret” is skin cancer (there are 3 basic types of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma… of those 3, melanoma is by far the most likely to spread, and eventually kill).  Our sport mostly consists of a bunch of white people spending a crap ton of time out in the sun.  So yeah, we’re a “high-risk population.” I know a LOT of people in the sport who have had skin cancer, and unfortunately, I’m just the latest victim (but now survivor… hell yeah!).  The last 4-5 weeks of my life have been horrid, after I received a diagnosis of melanoma, on November 10, 2014.  The whole process culminated with surgery on Dec 9, 2014.  The surgeon dug out all of the skin around the original melanoma spot, and then also removed 3 nearby lymph nodes, to check if the cancer spread.  Fortunately, as I just found out today, the cancer did not spread.  So, it appears that I’ve dodged this bullet.

Here’s the part where things get interesting…

I originally went for a dermatology appointment on Aug 27, and showed them this spotIMG_2235[1]

(worth noting… I have no idea how long it was there. I only noticed it because I buzzed my hair for a race in August)


The dermatologist said it was “fine”, and sent me on my way.  But, the spot was still bugging me, and so my girlfriend (the lovely & talented Lisa Holt) encouraged me to get another appointment, to get it checked out again.  So, I went back on November 5, and made the dermatologist remove the spot and biopsy it.  Five days later, it came back as positive for melanoma.  I was floored, and cried for the first time in a looong time.

Luckily, it’s depth was relatively shallow, indicating that we caught it early.  And the biopsy results I got back today confirmed that the cancer did not spread (although as anyone who’s had cancer can tell you, waiting for surgery, and biopsy results, is goddamned awful… )

Here’s the point:  I’ve dodged this bullet, but only because I was so friggin’ insistent that something was wrong with that spot.  I urge you to learn the “ABCD“s of melanoma, they could literally save your life.  And the other thing to look for is the “which one of these is not like the other?” concept – i.e., if there’s a mole on your body that looks different than all of your other moles, GET IT CHECKED OUT!!!  If you catch it early, melanoma is relatively easy to treat, and cure.  But if you don’t catch it early, things can get ugly…

Luckily, I was doggedly insistent that they remove the spot. Otherwise, the doctors would have left it there, and it would slowly still be boring into my head, a ticking time bomb waiting to kill me.

I’ll leave you with a couple more nuggets of advice:

1) Sunscreen is good, but clothing is better.

2) I didn’t just get this because I’m a ginger.  Out of everyone I know who has had melanoma, I’m the only ginger.  Sure, fair-skinned folks are more susceptible to it, but ANYONE can get it.  I had a friend who died in 2011 from melanoma, and he was not a ginger…  Do not make the mistake of thinking you’re “immune” to skin cancer!  (ex. Bob Marley died of melanoma. He was definitely… not a ginger)

3) The skin “never forgets”. I’ve been super-vigilant about sun protection for the last 4 years. Unfortunately, I wasn’t vigilant about sun protection from ages 16-29.  My melanoma wasn’t caused by sun exposure from 2011 – 2014. It was caused by sun exposure from 1996 – 2010.

And… just for fun, here are my surgery scars, which will serve as a reminder of this whole mess, for the rest of my life…

IMG_2758[1]  IMG_2759[1]   IMG_2735[1]   IMG_2747[1]


Anyways… that’s that…

Keep training hard, and resting harder,

Doug MacLean


Ironman Chattanooga, & End-of-Season Update

2.4 mile swim, 116 mile bike, 26.2 mile run – 8:54:45.  18th place.


Two days ago, I raced Ironman Chattanooga.  It was a great race, with a great course, and we were welcomed warmly by the entire Chattanooga community.  I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about the event.  The highlight was my homestay with Jim & Sandra Brewer. In addition to me, they also hosted Andrew Fast, Angela Naeth Duncan and Paul Duncan.
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