General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman? Rss Feed  
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2017-08-15 4:17 PM

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Subject: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?


2017-08-15 5:13 PM
in reply to: b2run


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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Originally posted by b2run

I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?


If you've trained, I highly doubt you will hit the wall.
Assuming you don't run into hydration/nutrition/injury type thing. Which again, is all part of the training.
I suppose if you wayyy overhammer on the bike, it'd be a possibility too.

I've done a little less than a handful of 70.3 and I've never hit "the wall".
In fact, I've never hit "the wall". Mainly because I don't like discomfort....and I've never run more than 15 miles.
On a bike, you can always dial it back...a lot...still move forward.

Basically...I'm in awe of marathoners...despite the fact I intend to locomate myself 26.2 miles down the road sometime...I'm not sure I could pull off a marathon. Well, I suppose I could, but the appeal is limited.

Let's put it this way. I'm not sure that I would get much satisfaction out of a marathon. I really have no massive inclination to do one. Oddly, a full ironman with 26.2 isn't out of the question for me. Only because my plan would be to simply go as far as I could possibly could go. 3 strides before I hit the wall, I would stop and shamble the rest of the way and call it good. As my cousin who's a marathoner on the edge of Boston qualifying puts it this way. "A marathon, you're trying to go as fast as you can. For 26.2 at the end of an Ironman....as an admitted bucketlister you're just trying to not go too slow."

Doesn't mean there aren't mental games to be played. But a mental wall is shattered with thought. A physical wall is quite different.

In my mind, a "decent" marathon is wayyy, wayyyyyy harder than a "decent" 70.3....whatever that means.
Assuming you're a competent swimmer and either a moderate cyclist...or a fair cyclist who knows his/her limits.
I know my limits. When I'm laboring, I dial it back. I don't like laboring. But, I can chug right along.

I think most non runners like me are more likely to hit the wall on the run. It's my least favorite. It's the grind for me. You might find that hopping off the bike is the most exciting part of the day and cranking off 13.1 is "nothing" compared to a marathon.
2017-08-15 7:04 PM
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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Not really, and if/when I do hit a rough patch, it's not at three hours and not like hitting the wall in a marathon. As others have mentioned, the key to not having some kind of sudden drop-off of energy/performance is pacing, nutrition, and hydration. A common mistake is to push the bike too hard for one's fitness level, and/or skimp on hydration and nutrition on the bike leg. This is easy to do with the aid of race-day adrenaline. Plus your legs will feel fresher after taper than they normally do in training, and you'll be riding with lots of other people, many of whom are faster/fitter/more experienced. So there's the temptation to push harder than you are ready to do. That will almost always come back to "bite" at some point on the run--could be a gradual or sudden loss of energy ("bonk"), cramping, or both. Unless you are a pro or a really top age-grouper, by the time you are into the run, you will be beyond the three-hour point. Once you are running, your body will be less able to absorb the nutrition and hydration that might help--you can put in more fluids and calories on the bike, so you should make sure to keep on top of it there (but not take in TOO much-that causes other kinds of problems).

Personally I have never "hit the wall" in a HIM, particularly in the way that marathoners think of the wall (sudden, nearly total loss of energy and the will to go forward). I've done maybe 12 marathons, and really only felt like I "hit the wall" in one of them--probably a combination of poor pacing, total inexperience, and pretty much no nutrition (this was before gu was even invented--maybe we had some Gatorade. That was it!) Have also had that "wall" feeling on a couple of really long hikes and walking out from a hard climb--I would assume a combination of fatigue from a long day and insufficient fuel in the system.

I have had significant cramping on a HIM run three times, all in pretty similar conditions--cold wetsuit swim, cool weather for most/all of the bike leg, hills on the bike and run, sudden onset of cramps after a hill on the run course between 9 and 10 miles. Possibly could be overambitious pacing on the bike, but I think more likely something about being cold leading to muscular tension/tightness, which maybe makes me fatigue faster. Nothing unique to the HIM distance--I struggled with this in run races from 5K to marathon in cold conditions.

Can't stress enough the need to work out a plan that works for you in training and stick to it (unless you need to modify it for weather conditions) regardless of what others around you are doing.

Edited by Hot Runner 2017-08-15 7:05 PM
2017-08-15 8:58 PM
in reply to: b2run


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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
For me, it's a different experience. In marathons, it's a muscular endurance issue and my quads would start to cramp as I pushed harder in the last four miles. In half irons, muscular endurance wasn't the limiter, but rather aerobic endurance and fueling. Good luck, have fun, you learn a lot by doing.
2017-08-15 10:35 PM
in reply to: b2run

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

Originally posted by b2run I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?

 

I am not sure if it is a wall.  In marathons I will be running a long feeling great at mile 18-20 then at mile 20-1/2 I will feel tierd and by mile 21 I can't barely even walk let along do a slow jog and a run is out of the questions.  I defiantly feel when I exhaust the glycogen storage in my liver on in a half ironman but I am not in my L4 Heart heart rate zone.  I am in my L3 and things are different. Everything moves slower and you can work our way through it. When my glycogen levels are feeling depleted I start to feel weak for about 10 minutes as my body is forced to transition from one fuel source to another.  I don't crash as fast or as hard as I do in a Marathon though and am able to recover from it.  At about 40 miles into the bike ride I get that tiered feeling but if I push hard for about 10 minutes i come out of it and get the second wind.  My body shifts gears into other energy sources and I am able to keep going until the end of the race.  Yes I feel the energy drain about 3-1/2 hours into the race (a little later than a marathon since I am at a lower intensity), but it doesn't cripple me.  It just takes some adjustment for about 10 minutes and I start to feel good again. 

2017-08-16 12:00 AM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Quite possibly there are gender differences in this as well as differences in individual physiology. Women tend to burn fat earlier and more efficiently in endurance events, which slows the rate at which we deplete glycogen. Probably, having been in endurance sports for years, my body's also pretty adapted to do this. (Both genders tend to improve glycogen sparing over time with endurance training.) It may just be that the event is simply not long enough for me to "hit the wall" with sensible pacing and fueling--might be different in full IM! The few "wall" experiences I've had since my first marathon have all been on difficult hikes/climbs in the 10-12 hour range. The HIM cramping is a lot different. In each case, if you had told me to do over the swim or bike after the run, I could have done so if absolutely necessary (albeit probably considerably slower) just not kept running at any speed. Really a muscular fatigue issue, probably not glycogen depletion.


2017-08-16 5:50 AM
in reply to: b2run

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Originally posted by b2run

I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?


The problem with the sentence "hitting the wall" is people have different opinions of what it means. The most accepted definition is when your glycogen stores are depleted and you have no more energy to continue.

You can hit the wall in a HIM. Some of the things that will make it different than a marathon are :

The rate at which you deplete your glycogen stores depends on the intensity you are going at. Some people in Z2 will be using VERY little of their glycogen stores. Some people will be using a lot. This depends on your metabolism and your diet. But typically a Marathon is done at a little higher level of intensity bonking will occur sooner. The higher the intensity the more you are using your glycogen stores.

It is much easier to take on calories in a HIM therefore delaying emptying your stores. The bike is the place to do it. You don't have a great opportunity to fuel in a marathon.

If you find the right intensity to not be burning to much glycogen, you fuel properly during the bike and you manage the pace on the run you should be good.

I know people that can do a reasonable HIM on very few calories.
A friend of mine tried doing a full on 0 calories and almost made it. He wanted to see how far one could go. We are talking about a sub 10hr IMer.


2017-08-16 6:28 AM
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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

I personally think that 99% of people who say they "hit the wall" really just got to the point where the race began to stink. That's not hitting the wall.If you're pushing, you're going to get to a "dark place" towards the end of a race. Where your body is going beyond where you've gone in training for and your mind is just tired of fighting. I hit the "dark place" in every race I do.

Below are examples of hitting the wall. Your race may have got to the suckage point, but not to the point where your body simply stops doing what you tell it:

Skip to 0:48 here: https://youtu.be/VbWsQMabczM

https://youtu.be/MTn1v5TGK_w

Will you hit the dark place in your HIM? Yeah, if you're doing it right. Will you "hit the wall" where your body is depleted of glycogen and your muscles stop working? Very likely not.





Edited by 3mar 2017-08-16 6:32 AM
2017-08-16 9:21 AM
in reply to: 3mar

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

That's been my understanding too. The wall expression is from the rather abrupt onset for the reasons mentioned, not just getting tired and into a dark place.

There are loads of accounts of people walking the run section in the HIM.

2017-08-16 11:05 AM
in reply to: b2run

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Can someone clarify the science on this? I was told that during a marathon, you get energy from the last meals you had for the first 5 - 10 km. Then you start taking from your glycogen stores. You pull from your glycogen stores until about 30 km (more if you've trained well). That's when the body has to start breaking down muscle to get its energy because it's too slow to try and get it from the fat stores.
Does this mean that during a half ironman, the glycogen stores last longer, you fuel better during the race, or you get energy from fat stores?
2017-08-16 11:24 AM
in reply to: marcag

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

 

The problem with the sentence "hitting the wall" is people have different opinions of what it means. The most accepted definition is when your glycogen stores are depleted and you have no more energy to continue. You can hit the wall in a HIM.  

 

I took AP biology my senior year of high school and had to study the Lactate Cycle, the Alcohol Cycle, Krebs Cycle, Ketosis, etc. From the AP biology class room definition the "runner's wall" was when your glycogen stores are depleted.  :-)

If you are running at a high intensity race type pace you are probably using 80% glycogen and 20% fat to fuel your activity.  If you deplete your energy at that point and 80% of your fueling is lost you go be reduced to a crawl.  If you are doing an easy jog you are probably burning 20% glycogen and 80% fat.  If you deplete your glycogen at that point you are probably going to feel weak and have to slow things down a little bit but you not going to have to stop jogging and it isn't going to effect you very dramatically.   Fat fuels you baseline activity.  Some have a higher baseline than others (i.e. burn fat at higher intensities).  Once you pass that base line glycogen is required to meet any additional energy requirement.  So going up a hill, passing people, going out strong, or kicking at the end you depend on you glycogen storage.  That is why pacing is so important.  The harder you start out the higher rate your burn glycogen to fat.  Most of the pacing strategies for marathon say to go slower than your target race pace for the first 6 miles.  This is because you get your body to burn more fat and you can save your glycogen.  After you body is set to burn fat at a certain level most people (but again this individual) can speed up and still maintain the higher level of fat burning.  If you start out fast and later slow down you are likewise going to lock into a higher glycogen to fat rate and continue to burn the higher glycogen rate when you slow down.

Refueling does not restore glycogen to you liver (your post work out recovery is what does that).  Refueling sends glycogen to your blood stream.  When my liver glycogen storage runs out and and my body has to draw all of its glycogen from the blood stream I feel the transition.  I have run out of liver glycogen in as short as a 10 mile race when I do the race in the morning fasting.  I have gone as long as 20 miles when I start a run with the carbs all tapped off and pace myself well.      



2017-08-16 2:06 PM
in reply to: 3mar


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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Originally posted by 3mar


I personally think that 99% of people who say they "hit the wall" really just got to the point where the race began to stink. That's not hitting the wall.


That's a better way of quantifying what I called the "mental wall".
I hit that all the time. I can hit that if I have to climb more than two flights of stairs.
Sometimes I hit it before I've done anything...just sitting there on the edge of the pool for 5 minutes convincing myself it won't be too cold and that I won't be extremely bored for the next hour.
Or when I play that game on an easy 6 mile run...."I'll get to 3 miles and have a nice walk. I know I could power through it, but it's kinda humid today and I'm supposed to be enjoying this at some level."

I hit that wall all the time.

I think I'm pretty good at avoiding hitting the real wall. I've already shown a grand propensity to dial it back. Also, I like food. It's rare these days with the amount of time I'm spending riding or running that I'm not wolfing down on a Payday, Salted Nut Roll, or a ham sammich. And I love the taste of Gatorade. Always have. But I refuse to drink it unless I'm doing "more than an hour". That's the former fat guy in me trying to not gain weight. If I'm doing more than an hour....game on.

That being said, I have yet to run more than 15 miles. So, that's getting into some uncharted territory for me.
2017-08-16 2:55 PM
in reply to: marcag

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

Originally posted by marcag
Originally posted by b2run I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?
The problem with the sentence "hitting the wall" is people have different opinions of what it means. The most accepted definition is when your glycogen stores are depleted and you have no more energy to continue. You can hit the wall in a HIM. Some of the things that will make it different than a marathon are : The rate at which you deplete your glycogen stores depends on the intensity you are going at. Some people in Z2 will be using VERY little of their glycogen stores. Some people will be using a lot. This depends on your metabolism and your diet. But typically a Marathon is done at a little higher level of intensity bonking will occur sooner. The higher the intensity the more you are using your glycogen stores. It is much easier to take on calories in a HIM therefore delaying emptying your stores. The bike is the place to do it. You don't have a great opportunity to fuel in a marathon. If you find the right intensity to not be burning to much glycogen, you fuel properly during the bike and you manage the pace on the run you should be good. I know people that can do a reasonable HIM on very few calories. A friend of mine tried doing a full on 0 calories and almost made it. He wanted to see how far one could go. We are talking about a sub 10hr IMer.

I've only hit "the wall" once in my life.  Mile 24.5 of a marathon, and I just totally lost it.  I went from grinding through a 9:10 pace (I had already slowed down) to walking...to holding onto a fence while my legs shook...and it all happened in a matter of a minute.  I laid down on the side of the road and told volunteers that I was DONE...I couldn't finish.  They looked at me like I was crazy..being so close to the finish...and I told them they don't understand that my body had just shut down and I no longer had control of myself.  Luckily, after I got some sugar into my system (glycogen replacement), after maybe 20 minutes of sitting/laying on the side of the road, I was okay to walk to the finish but only because I didn't want to wait another hour for someone to come pick me up.  If there was someone there to take me to the finish so I could go home, I would have, because I was honestly afraid my legs would give out and I would fall on my face by simply walking.  A police officer on a bike was nice enough to escort me until I got to about 200 meters from the finish line.

To me...that's the wall.  And as Marc mentioned, as long as you're not racing a HIM at a really high intensity and not eating...you should be safe.  It's just really hard to eat during a marathon, and it's right at that intensity level where you're using a lot of glycogen.  Pace yourself reasonably and take in steady calories like you do in training and the wall shouldn't be a problem.  It's not to say you won't get really tired, cramp, or have to slow down a lot if you go too hard, but a HIM usually isn't a race you bonk/hit the wall at.

2017-08-16 3:48 PM
in reply to: 3mar

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

Originally posted by 3mar I personally think that 99% of people who say they "hit the wall" really just got to the point where the race began to stink. That's not hitting the wall.If you're pushing, you're going to get to a "dark place" towards the end of a race. Where your body is going beyond where you've gone in training for and your mind is just tired of fighting. I hit the "dark place" in every race I do. Below are examples of hitting the wall. Your race may have got to the suckage point, but not to the point where your body simply stops doing what you tell it: Skip to 0:48 here: https://youtu.be/VbWsQMabczMhttps://youtu.be/MTn1v5TGK_w Will you hit the dark place in your HIM? Yeah, if you're doing it right. Will you "hit the wall" where your body is depleted of glycogen and your muscles stop working? Very likely not.

I had never seen the second video before, that is simply stunning.

2017-08-16 6:43 PM
in reply to: b2run


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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?

Originally posted by b2run I'm going to do my first half ironman in about a month. I don't hear anyone talking about hitting the wall during a half. Typically I hit the wall about 3 hours in when I was doing marathons. Is it going to hit about the same time?

 

No, you won't hit the wall in the way you hit it in a marathon. In the marathon, most people who were well prepared but hit that wall describe "perfectly ok energy, no cardio problems whatsoever, but legs cramping and not functioning anymore." Their leg muscular endurance basically completely fails them as its been overstressed in the running motion.

 

The S/B/R of a HIM changes the stresses on your body/legs so you won't do the death march shuffle you do when you hit the wall at mile 20-22 of a marathon. 

 

In most cases of hitting the marathon wall, there's nothing to do that will save you. People don't come back and run their 7min/mile race pace after hitting the mile 22 wall in a marathon, even if they walk the next 3 miles, take in calories, etc. 

 

In contrast, provided you're decently prepared for the HIM, even if you overbiked and thus are slowed to a shuffle on the run, you'll likely be able to slow down the pace for awhile until your legs get some juice back, and start performing decently well again. This is because the bike stress is different from the run stress on the legs. So don't give up immediately when you feel kinda awful in the early miles of a run after T2 - I've surprised myself with how much better I feel later on the run in several HIMs despite feeling like I was going to DNF in miles 1-3.

 

Again, the key here is that you've prepared decently and are racing at a realistic pace. 

 

 

2017-08-17 1:28 PM
in reply to: ziggie204

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Subject: RE: Do you "hit the wall" in a half ironman?
Originally posted by ziggie204

For me, it's a different experience. In marathons, it's a muscular endurance issue and my quads would start to cramp as I pushed harder in the last four miles. In half irons, muscular endurance wasn't the limiter, but rather aerobic endurance and fueling. Good luck, have fun, you learn a lot by doing.


Agree. Unless you go completely off training or fall to surge temptations during bike the typical limiter is aerobic and fueling. You can see that in the run later in the day...people are clearly aerobically challenged and/or out of fuel.

For your first one, I strongly suggest you stay in your fat-burning energy zone till the last half of the run. Of course, no one ever does that.


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