Michael Piermarini came to me via the TrainingPeaks Coach Match program in July. He had qualified to represent the US at the Long Course Duathlon World Championships at Powerman Zofingen in Switzerland in September and was looking for a coach to help him train for the event.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Powerman Zofingen is brutal and is considered by many as the toughest duathlon in the world. The event consists of a 10k run, 150k bike and 30k run, all over very hilly terrain, including several trail and dirt sections on the runs. Racers are also faced with changing and often nasty weather conditions as well which creates unique preparation and mental challenges for the athlete.
Michael had a background in running and multi-sport, but had never done an event longer than a half ironman prior to this, and had never ridden his bike that far, nor had he faced climbing of the likes of Zofingen before. Our primary goal was finishing, and any place targets beyond that would be a bonus. Given this, we focused primarily on building volume both on the run and bike to ensure both mentally and physically he could cover the distance. We also focused on pacing and developing a race and nutrition plan that he could execute confidently on race day. We spent a lot of time looking beyond just fitness and discussing mental prep along with gear and clothing given the likely conditions expected at the race.
In the end, he pulled off a great result and hit all of his goals for the event. What follows is Michael’s post race analysis:
“I wanted to send an update on the event itself and some thoughts moving forward.
First and foremost, thank you for preparing me for the event in Switzerland itself. It seriously wouldn't have been possible without your assistance and guidance. You kept me grounded and highly focused throughout the training process, which helped make crossing the finish line possible. Thank you so much for everything. I know we normally talk about the specifics of training but I want you to know that it wouldn't have been possible or achievable without you, so bask in it and know how sincerely grateful I am! Thank you George!
Overall: the event itself was a truly amazing experience. Just being in the meeting rooms and at the starting line next to some of the world’s best athletes was tremendous. I never thought I would be standing there, let alone performing on the course.
From a course perspective, it was brutal. Absolutely brutal. The mountains were no joke and most people walked or DNF. Even the woman's overall winner (Pooley) from Great Britain walked the hills. The first run was extremely fun, it started off nearly vertical and then slowly came down hill, winding through off and on road terrain. It was two loops. I picked it up a bit on the second loop as the athletes spread out. I believe it was 39 minutes or so. Not bad given the inclines (I would say 16-18%+ the first 2.5-3k). A lot of people walked the second lap and even more dropped out...surprising
Transition one was decently quick (90 seconds). The bike course started off at a decent 2% incline the first 10k or so. Then the first big climb came up. There was a big group of us together and they were handing out penalties left and right. There were 18 referees and I saw at least 25-30 cards handed out. The first hill had a significant incline % increase towards the top and then flattened out and came downhill. I didn't pedal the downhill and just cruised to save my legs. We then came through a little town and made a U-turn. At this point, my face dropped and my mouth was WIDE open...the hill coming up was insane. The next 5-10k was the toughest part of the bike course. Averaged 5-7 mph up the entire hill. Athletes, top athletes, were walking their bikes up...I stayed on and just plugged through, staying focused and riding the ups and downs of the road to gain momentum where I could.
At the top, it leveled out and went rolling, FAST hills for a bit. Then the last hill came up and it was a windy one through the forest. It POURED hard the entire first lap and half of the second one. I would have hit the downhills a little harder but with the sharp turns in the mountains and wet roads, I wanted to play it conservative and not go flying off the edge. A lot of accidents on the course itself (broken legs, arms, etc.). My family said that there were people pulling off the bike course every lap.
I just tried to stay consistent on the bike course itself, not improve, but maintain. I think I did that but haven't quite looked at the data yet.
Once in transition again, (80-90 seconds) I took off and started. This was the most grueling run course I have ever experienced. The first 3k were all uphill and a mix of on and off road. Then it went downhill just slightly before picking back up. There were 3 really big inclines on each 15k loop of the run course. I broke it down and tried to crush them one at a time. People were walking right and left (both men and women). This is where everyone looked destroyed and defeated. More people dropped out here. I tried to stay as consistent as possible.
Feeling wise, I felt great throughout. I lost feeling in my legs during the first 5k of the second run course and just kept going. Again, consistency and respect for the course was my focus. Honestly, had I known there was only a 10 minute gap between where I finished overall and a podium spot, I would have pushed a little harder. I respected the course and ran my own race. I started 106th overall and finished 66th. 5th in my age with a 5 minute gap between 4th and a 10 minute between 3rd.
Thank you again!”
Glad Michael was able to experience success in such a memorable event and super happy to have helped him take on this amazing challenge!