Friday, December 3, 2010

My Weight Loss Tips

If you frequent this blog, you might have noticed I've added some static pages.  One of these pages, and maybe the most important thing on this site, is a tab dedicated to how I've lost weight

People ask me, often, just how I did it.  Well, check out the weight loss tab.  It gets into the nitty gritty details.

It's a work in progress, so I expect it to continue to evolve.  Check back on it now and then, and if you have an idea that has helped you, let me know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Swim, Bike, Run, Eat: Sweet Potato Hash with Turkey and Brussels Sprouts

This is a recipe I made up while I was riding the IMOZ course on the CT last night.  Brussel Sprouts are on sale / in season and I had a pound of them in my fridge.  Even though last night was wicked busy with wedding planning, I wanted to get them used while they were still good.  Here is what I did with them.


1 small onion, minced fine because Lana doesn't really like onion :)
2 cloves of garlic
2 turkey sausages (these were Jenny O turkey Brats)
1 Sweet Potato, diced (8 oz raw)
1 pound of Brussels Sprouts
Kosher Salt, Sage, and Thyme


1.  Get your mis en place done.  Once things get moving you'll need everything ready.

2.  Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts and then trim the edge of the stem.  Cut the sprouts in half. Put the prepped sprouts in a saucier with a half cup of water and a heavy pinch of salt.  Cover and cook over medium high heat until not quite fork tender, approximately 5 minutes after they start steaming.  The reason most people don't like sprouts is because they eat sprouts cooked to oblivion.  Don't do want a good amount of crunch on these still.

3.  Cook the Turkey Sausage in a big cast iron skillet until it reaches 165 deg F, then remove from the heat and slice.

4.  Cook the diced sweet potato in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes.  Again, we aren't looking for done, we're just helping them along.

5.  Add 2 tsp of olive oil to the cast iron skillet and heat until the oil shimmers.  Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic, cook it for just a moment, and then add the sweet potato.  Let the potatoes start to carmelize before stiring.

6.  When the sweet potatoes are about half way done add the sausage and sprouts to the pan.  Continue cooking and add the thyme and sage.  Taste and season as needed. 

Nutritional Information:
Serves 2
KCal 350
Fat 15g
Carbs 35g
Protein 22g

Need more calories?  We ice cream for desert it was! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ugly Side of Recovery

So, the big events for the year are over.  Most of my blogging is about the weeks leading up to a race, but this post is all about race day to race day + 30, and the things many of us go through after a race, most of which aren't as fun as racing, or training to race.
The Post Race Blues
After both my big events for the year I was a little down.  It’s very normal to feel this way, most athletes go through it.  It’s not about not meeting goals.  In my case I did what I set out to do.  It’s more about realigning yourself.  For months, you train for this huge event.  You balance your life to train for the event, eat so you’re faster, sleep to recovery from that training, and then…it’s over.  It feels a bit like the 10 minutes after Christmas morning as a child. 
One of the best things you can do to fight the post race blues is to have a plan.  Where are you going from here?  What’s next?  The time after a race is a great time to plan your next block of training, and your next goal. 
Also, be sure to celebrate your success.  Talking about your race with friends, writing race reports, or even blogging (like I am right now), are all good ways to keep these anticlimactic feelings in check.
Supersized Weight Gains
After a race that requires me to put it all out there, I gain a TON of weight.  This didn’t really happen to me until this year, which I attribute to this being the first year I possessed the strength to really push my body to its fitness limits.  I normally weigh anywhere from about 177-182 at racing weight.  Immediately after the 70.3 and the mary my weight jumped up to the 190-200 range.  My body fat numbers based on the caliper also jumped up.  The week after the 70.3 I was measured by the Bod Pod at ISU and it was crazy high as well.  Those numbers stayed very elevated for a week, and then after one night of many many bathroom trips, all was back to normal. 
The first time it happened, after the 70.3, I freaked out a bit and started eating at a caloric deficit.  Not only did this not help the scale number but it took over a month for me to be able to push on the bike at the level I was pre-race.  I saw the big numbers, reacted with my gut instead of my head, and the result was that I screwed up my recovery.  IMPORTANT:  The week or weeks after your big event are NOT the times to be running a caloric deficit. 
Constant Hunger
I do believe that fiber, fat and protein consumption all play a role in abating hunger, however another key contributor to hunger is the volume of food you’re eating.  If you are used to eating 4000 calories of healthy food a day in the build up to a big event, and then suddenly you no longer have those energy needs and you’re back to 2000 calories a day, you’re going to be hungry. 
Here are some ways I cope with this:
1.   Meet Your Energy Needs – Even if you have some weight to lose, the weeks after a big event aren’t the weeks to lose it.  Recovery comes first, and you can’t rebuild your body nearly as quickly when running a caloric deficit.

2.   Know Recovery Requires Energy – You might want to estimate your energy needs a little on the high side when recovering from a big event.

3.   Follow Your Cravings – Within reason, indulge your cravings and consider what they are telling you.  After my 70.3 I wanted red meat, which is very unusual for me because that’s a food I eat very rarely.  So, I ate some steak, and burgers once or twice.   This was likely a signal to eat fat, protein, or perhaps increase my iron.  After the Marathon I was craving leafy green vegetables and pecans.  Again, this may have been a signal to increase my fat and iron.  Either way, making sure my diet is high in protein, healthy fat, and lots of micronutrients like iron is a great way to speed recovery and fight that hungry feeling. 

4.   Volume - Focus on high volume, nutrient dense, low caloric density foods (plants).

5.   Get A Little Fatter – This is one of those do as I say things.  My history causes me to struggle with this one.   There is a body of research that shows it’s healthy for athletes to gain a little weight in the off season, and work back down to your racing weight.  I’m clearly not good at this, but I figured I’d put it out there anyway, for the sake of completeness.

Getting Back On Your Feet

That first ride or run after a big race might be a little rough, if not on your body, on your mind.  After racing at a fully tapered race pace, that first easy run might seem not so easy.  For a few weeks though, anything more than very easy, is probably going to hurt more than help. 
1.   The Day After - After a big event, I like to take at least one day completely off.  I will spend my time walking around, which helps keep loose and increases blood flow, hopefully minimizing soreness.  The day after my 70.3, Lana and I picked blueberries at a local farm.  The day after the marathon we walked the grounds of an art museum I ran through as part of the marathon course.  Seeing the sights at a destination race is probably the most fun way to keep active post race. 
2.   Start In The Water - I always start with swimming when I’m ready to train again.  Swimming is pretty easy on the body.  It’s the shortest of the three events in a triathlon, and I’m not a strong enough swimmer to really push that hard anyway, so it tends to be a pretty safe bet that an easy swim is a good first step back to training. 
3.  Run Last – I’ll add in some high cadence low effort cycling when I’m ready.  Running comes last.
4.   No Schedules – For the 2-3 weeks following a big event, I make all my training unscheduled.  I just do as much or as little as I feel like, when I feel like doing it, as long as it’s all easy.  This is as much for the mental break as the physical rest. 
5.   Avoid Threshold Work – It’s worth saying again, the goal here is to burn some calories, flush out all the garbage in your legs and arms, and get in some active recovery.  Work at, or near, threshold breaks things down more than it speeds recovery.  It’s best to avoid training at any real intensity during a recovery period.
6.   Clear those Nagging Injuries – So, it’s been a few weeks, I’m feeling fresh and my muscles don’t hurt or feel sluggish…but is that knee still bothering me?   You know all those nagging overuse problems you developed in a big build that you’ve been ignoring? This is the time to clear them out. 

Believe me, I don't have it all figured out.  I learned alot about recovery this season though, and this is some of the stuff that has really helped me.  Hopefully it might help you too. 


Monday, November 8, 2010

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 4:11:35

I was running through a field. The ground was passing quickly under my feet and I could feel the wind against my face. My legs jerked against the plastic brace holding my knee together as I transitioned from a deep dream filled sleep to awake. It was a dream. I couldn't run. I couldn't even walk. Even if I didn't weigh 400 pounds, my recent fall on the ice left me immobile and confined to my bed. My weight, combined with a slip walking to my car, resulted in every muscle in my leg being torn away from my patella. The doctors drilled holes to reattach the torn ligaments. I lost the majority of the cartilage under my kneecap in the process. My doctor told me that with some physical therapy I'd walk again, but that I'd need a total knee replacement in a few years, and that I'd have some very severe arthritis.

I remember talking to my mom after that dream. I remember being deeply depressed, telling her that I had a dream about running, and that my injury would keep me from ever being able to run. “Well, lets face it,” she said, “It's not like you were going to be running any marathons anyway.” She was right. It was a rediculous notion.

There was one time in my life that I had legitimately tried to run. I was in first grade. I was the fat kid. There was this girl...Courtney. Courtney was the pretty, popular girl. I was enamored by her, pretty much everyone was. It was gym class. I was supposed to race her. Why? I don't remember. The teacher said go, and we ran. It was my first time (but hardly my last) being “chicked.” Courtney announced to the class that she wasn't even running, she just had walked fast for the win. I was crushed. That was the end of my first running career.

These stories, and a thousand other points of interest in the timeline of my life, were running through my head Saturday morning as I lined up with 9,000 other runners in the dark, cold 27 degree morning air, to run my first marathon. I've come a long way since that first cold morning that left me in the hospital with a messed up knee. I've become brave, and strong. I've become a person that I'm proud to be, a person that doesn't always succeed but always perseveres.

There wasn't a time that I was in danger of DNFing. There were many times that I had to talk myself out of walking. Around 22 miles in I was pretty gone. Was this the dreaded wall? I was at a point where I knew continuing to run at my current pace would result in a finish I couldn't walk away from. I chose to keep going, true, but not at that moment. That choice was made in the thousands of decisions that have defined me, and have gotten me to the starting line. So, that's the truth I found in the marathon. There was no wall for me. There was no one defining moment in the race that I had to push through and reach the other side of. There was my dream of running when I couldn't, there was my race with courtney, there was Lana waiting for me at the finish line, and as always there were the people that would take great pleasure in my failure. The choice had already been made a thousand times over, and four hours, eleven minutes, and 35 seconds after the gun went off, I proved it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Marathon Update

This weekend I'll be running in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  A fall marathon has been in the plan for a while now, but my goals are pretty modest (finish, don't die in the process) so I haven't really mentioned it.

Anyway, this Saturday I'm going to give 26.2 a shot.  My bib number is 2223 if you care to watch from afar.  You can use this link to follow us.  Lana is running the half, and her number is 6640.

In other news, I have a bunch of friends that will be doing IMFL this weekend.  Best of luck to Tim, Mark, Seth, and Jessica!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How To Lose A Couple Hundred Pounds

 Hey everyone, I don't have much time at the moment, but I wanted to get this link up.  Fitness guru, personal trainer, and Ironman triathlete Ben Greenfield interviewed me on his most recent podcast.  I'm a fan of Ben's and I was really honored to be interviewed by him.

The Interview is extremely personal.  It's one thing to write about weight loss, or post some before and after pictures, but to talk about my fears, how I felt, and what life was like before...well, it was hard to talk about and hard to listen to.  It's important though.  Obesity is a problem and it's one we need to talk about.  People need to know that you can live through it.  Anyway, please be sure to give my interview a listen...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just Me, Karma, and a pumpkin donut...

Triathletes own lots of stuff.  This is a stuff intensive sport.  For running you need load of clothes, several pairs of shoes, glasses, water bottles, gels, drinks, body glide, etc.  For biking you need a billion difference pieces of gear.  Even for swimming you need goggles, a suit, and a wetsuit, maybe a waterproof swimp3 player, a pull buoy, maybe some fins...    The list goes on and on.  Getting all your stuff organized and to a race is a logistical nightmare to be honest.  So, in racing I have lots of stuff.  I only own one piece of equipment with a name though.  Let me introduce Karma...

This is Karma, my new Cervelo P3. 

Karma isn't like my running shoes, or my gps watch, or my swim goggles.  She isn't just gear.  The relationship between cyclist and bike is, in my opinion, a spiritual thing.  This is especially true for me, as I feel I owe my second chance at life to cycling to some degree.

Karma was built from the frame up, over the last several months, from hard won Ebay auctions and saved pennies.  Every piece of her was a hard won victory with a story, a reminder of the balance in life between optimal and affordable that those business types call Return On Investment, and a tribute to the road I've traveled and will continue to travel. 

So, by now you're asking, why Karma?  Isn't that a name better suited for poll dancers than speedy bikes?  I suppose that's true.  I thought long and hard about the name for my new bike.  It's an important decision after all, if what I say about the spirituality  of cycling equipment is in any way true.  So, then, why Karma?  To remind me that in triathlon as in life, you get out of it what you put in...more or less.

This last Sunday I had the opportunity to spend about two hours with Karma, riding to nowhere in particular, and in general enjoying fall.  Most of my training these days has a great deal of structure to it.  But not on Sunday.  We went to a gas station in a small town about 20 miles away.  I had some coffee and a delicious pumpkin donut.  There was no wind.  It was a fast, perfectly temperate, fall day.  I remember thinking to myself that if I couldn't run anymore, or swim, that would be ok.  If I never got the opportunity to bike again, that would be heart breaking.  While I do believe that you do more or less get out of life what you put in, on Sunday I got back quite a bit more.  A perfect fall day, a ride with a new friend, and a pumpkin donut...what else could you want?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Triathlete’s Guide to Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is a hotly debated, and very vogue thing to be doing as a runner.  Popular though it may be, it can easily be misunderstood by Triathletes working to maximize gains in three sports all at once.   Hopefully this guide will serve as an overview into the world of running unshod and/or less shod than most. 
So, who are these barefoot runners?
The barefoot community is…um…eclectic at best.  The gurus of the barefoot world are typically wizened old runners that have been running unshod for a long time.  Luckily, they’re easy to identify because they put barefoot in front of their name.  Why?  I dunno.  Ask them.  The Yoda of the barefoot world is Barefoot Ken BobArguably the most popular barefooter however, would be Barefoot Ted.  Barefoot Ted was introduced to the world by the book “Born To Run” by Christoper McDougall, a converted barefooter himself.  (Which is a must read by the way)

So they run without shoes?
Sort of…  There are a few different types of barefoot runner.  I’ll try to explain.
Zen BarefooterThese are the hardcore folks in the barefoot world.  They run without shoes, as often as possible, on just about every surface.  They rarely wear any type of shoe, and only do it when conditions require it.  In other words, barefoot is their default.  They just dig it, they like the connection with their environment, and the feeling of running barefoot.
The Mostly Barefooter:  This is where most people in the barefoot world live.  They do some or all of their weekly miles in huaraches (sandals for running), vibram five fingers, or some other type of footwear that is made to protect your feet from the ground while still allowing you to feel barefoot.  They may still do some running completely barefoot. 
The Minimalist:  Not actually a barefooter per se, but a very close cousin.  The minimalist runs in very light trainers or racing flats with minimal heel drop and no medial posting. 
Ok, so there are various types of nuts and hippies that run without shoes, why should a Triathlete care?
Good question, glad you asked.  You did ask, right? 
The answer is luckily an easy one.  Doing some barefoot work will very likely help you become a better runner than you are now.  Here is how I see it:
Run Velocity = Aerobic Efficiency + Biomechanical Efficiency
If you want better running performance (and who doesn’t…) you need to increase one of those two variables. 
Bio-mechanical Efficiency:  (AKA Running Economy) This is your body’s ability to convert energy into velocity by way of your muscles.  Barefoot running provides immediate biofeedback on your bio-mechanics.  Pain is a wonderful teacher.  Make no mistake, you can make great strides as a runner (pun totally intended) by embracing one of the great running techniques out there, like chi, pose, or evolution running.  However, there are nuances to running in good form that you can learn from barefoot running faster or more completely in my opinion. 
Aerobic Efficiency:  I’m referring here to a combination of Lactate Threshold and VO2max.   As a triathlete you’re probably all too familiar with these terms so I’m going to lump them together into one generic term I call “Aerobic Efficiency.”  If bio-mechanical efficiency refers to the ability to convert energy into velocity, then aerobic efficiency refers to your body's ability to convert glycogen, fat, and oxygen into energy.  I imagine you’re probably asking yourself “how on earth can running without shoes help me convert more fat and oxygen into energy?”  In order to run fast you need to, at the most basic level, run a lot.  Sometimes that will be fast running, sometimes very fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes long; but it’s all running.  All that running simply adds up to lots of miles on your feet.  How do you rack up the miles?  You train.  But here’s the catch.  You can’t train if you’re injured.  How do you prevent injury?  Good running technique.
The pose/chi/evolution/barefoot movements provides a lot of (somewhat subjective, n=1 type) evidence that bio-mechanically efficient runners spend less time hurt and more time training.  A few academics and coaches are beginning to do research to confirm this.  In the process, that improvement in bio-mechanics will get you some free speed in becoming more efficient. 
My Personal Experience
I’ve been in the “minimalist” camp since last December, and I joined the “mostly barefoot” crowd after my A race this year.  Since then, I’ve seen a huge increase in run speed, but as I had already been big into minimalism, not so much of a reduction in overuses injuries.  Overall though, I’m a lot better runner than I’ve ever been.  I’m still making huge performance leaps.  Most importantly, I enjoy running now.
Is it worth it?  Yeah.  Is it a lot of work?  Yes, certainly. 
How To Run Barefoot
I’d be remiss to not talk about this briefly, but there isn’t really a need for me to go into this.  This topic has been done a lot, and it has been done by people much more qualified than I am.  I won’t bother telling you to make the transition slowly…and I won’t tell you to listen to your body…and I won’t…oh…wait…  So, if you want to give it a shot, go over to Google and read up.  Check out and

Keep Running…

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Next Step

I just read an old post from December 2008 that was talking about a 5k I ran 12:37/mi in. Looking back, I can hardly remember being that person…but that was me. I remember when I considered exercise the biggest challenge of my day, and now most days it’s the safe place I can escape and be with my thoughts. 

Last September I changed my blog from “Escape from the Cube” to “My Road to Ironman” and announced my intention to participate in IM 70.3 Steelhead, and eventually a full distance Ironman race.

This September I’m happy to announce that on September 11, 2011 I’ll be participating in Ironman Wisconsin! 

It’s been a long time getting here, and the road ahead is still very long, but now there is a date and time. Ironman, here I come…

Fighting Illini Triathlon 2010 1:13:48.7

This is my second “Fighting Illini” triathlon. The first happened in May of 09 and was called “Tri-The-Illini.” The course changed slightly, with the run between the pool and T1 signficantly increasing and the addition of about 2 miles on the bike. My 2009 times are denoted in parenthesis because it’s kind of fun to see the improvement a year can bring.

This was also my last triathlon of the 2010 season, which is both a little happy and a little sad. I like to race, that’s for sure…but my body and mind are both ready for the break that a reduction in volume will bring post season. It was rainy, my legs were still trashed from my long run two days before, and overall I was kind of “meh.” Of course I still have a marathon to run before I can call it “off season” officially. Anyway, here is the race report.

AG 2/14 (17/25)
Overall 47/332 (153/301)

Swim 300m
Rank 5 (18)
Time 6:07.6 (7:26.95)
Rate 2:02/100m (2:48/100m)

I forgot my goggles at home…Oops. Luckily I was able to buy some at the U of I ARC. They were not my awesome Aqua Sphere Kayennes, and immediately leaked, but they were better than nothing.

I really suck at those indoor pool snake swims where you have to swim under a lane line. I blow it and lose time at the wall every time. In other news, I saw a purple Tri-Shark jersey in the lane as I was passing and didn’t want to impede a team mates swim, so I swam right on top of this poor college girl (sorry, and welcome to triathlon…).

Rank 2 (10)
Time 2:27.9

It was a LONG run into T1, but I really rocked it. My secret weapon was all the barefoot running I’ve been doing. Run an 1/8 of a mile barefoot on asphalt? Sure…I do 4 miles barefoot on asphalt all the time. Zoom!

Rank (2) 6
Time 40:06.5
Speed 21.6 mph

I was pushing hard on the bike, but there were a lot of turns and the course was wet. I’m a little skittish turning still after the accidents, so I took things slow and lost some speed. Also, there was a ton of slow traffic on the course. College kids rocking out the swim crazy fast and then jumping on their Huffy Mt. Bikes. Overall, I’m a little disappointed in my late season bike performance. My NP was only 218 W, and VI was 1.04. I can do better.

Rank 8 (22)
Time 1:31.0

I’m slow in transition. Something I’d work on if my focus was short course, but for now it isn’t. Nothing really interesting here though, I just did my thing.

Rank 4 (24)
Time 23:35.7 (28:33.40)
Pace 7:36/mi (9:13/mi)

I was really happy with my run. I’ve made huge improvements over the last year in running. In this race I went from second to last in my AG to 4
th. Not too bad! Off the bike I was doing about 7:45, and once my legs opened up I was able to really start pushing. I negative split the 5k, finishing my last mile around 7:00/mi and the last .1 at around 6:34/mi.


I’m pretty happy with my overall performance. I felt my bike was weak, but my run was pretty strong and my swim was much improved. It was a great way to end the season. Post race was cool. I got to catch up with some friends and fellow Tri-Sharks, I got an awesome beer mug as an award, and I got some great harvest bread(they were a sponsor of the race)…which is like the best bread in the world. I wish I could bake like they do. YUM! 
It was a great way to end the 2010 Tri season.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Great Illini Olympic Triathlon - 2:41:37.1

AG 3/4
Overall 17/55

I was a “racing spectator” at this race. My primary goal for this event was to support Lana. This was her A race. Other than that, I had no real goal other than to have fun and get a good workout in. 
It was a very small and somewhat poorly organized race, which is kind of too bad, I would have liked her first Olympic distance race to be met with more grandeur. We didn’t really know it was as small as it was though.
Anyway, to the race report…

We woke up early and had a PB / Honey sandwich on Great Harvest bread (which is becoming a tradition for us) and some hotel room coffee. Then we set out for the race.

Swim 1500m
Rank 3
Time 30:24.4

The swim was pretty nice. We were in Lake Mattoon, which was as nice of a lake as you could hope for in South/Central IL. There was a little bit (a very little) of chop once we got out into the water, which made things interesting.

Rank 4
Time 2:51.85

I was totally wonked out of my head in T1. I was very dizzy, rapid breathing, and just in general feeling out of my head. Why? Caffeine. Too much of it in fact. Yeah, in the right dose it is ergogenic, but too much is bad. Two Caffein pills are about right for me, but not when combined with my morning coffee. Oops. Lesson Learned.

I saw Lana in T1 and she was looking strong. I cheered as much as I could and kept moving.

Bike 24.8 M
Rank 2
Time 1:12:59.35
Speed 20.4 mph

It was my first race after changing from pedals from SPD-SL to Speedplays, and it took me forever to get clipped in. After I got clipped in and got going things were ok. My NP was right around 220W, which is ok for a 40k tri split. My time was bad though and was caused by a very bad headwind for a lot of the course combined with sitting on the mount line trying to get my pedals to work. Everyone was a bit off though, so that’s ok.

I was a bit surprised to not see Lana on the bike, but I could have just missed her when I had my head down, hard to say.

Rank 3
Time 1:31.80

Just another T2 really…

Run 10K
Rank 3
Time 53:49.7
Pace 8:41/mi

I didn’t really enjoy this run. It was out on country roads that were in bad shape with real big crowns, which are hard on my hips. I set a moderately hard pace and just cruised for the most part. I had no idea how I was doing because I didn’t really see anyone on the run. I was behind the fasties in the Oly, and ahead of the fasties doing the half ironman distance, so it was a bit desolate. 
About 4 miles into the run I saw Emily S and Mark G, who were running the half. Emily was a rock star as always, making the 13 miles look as effortless as a jog on the trail. She would later go on to win 1st overall female. Mark passed me looking strong as well, and let me know that Lana had flatted on the bike course. I said something like “nuts” but it might have sounded more like “&*#$@!” He said she got it changed though, so at least there wasn’t a DNF involved. I can’t believe it. A second flat in 4 triathlons this season. Awful luck.


So, after that I finished the run and got cleaned up / switched in to spectator mode. It was really cool watching Emily S. win. It was a great learning opportunity to hear her talk about the race immediately afterwards. It was also awesome seeing my friend and fellow Tri-Shark Scott R. finish his first HIM strong and healthy (way to go Scott!!!). Mark G.’s continued bike awesomeness never ceases to amaze me as well. It’s very cool to be surrounded by so many great people.

Most importantly though, it was awesome to see all of Lana’s hard work pay off when she reached her goal and completed her first Oly. I saw the daily work that it took to get there. She worked hard and she did very well. Even after changing a flat, she managed to capture 1st in the Athena category. I also ended up with 3rd in my AG.

Post race there wasn’t really much food, other than pizza they quickly ran out of. The trophies were cool, but they were HUGE. I’m still not sure where I’m going to put the thing.

Overall, a great race!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead – 5:44:34

This race, and the training leading up to it, is what my entire season has been about.  I’ve worked hard, and I’ve learned so much about triathlon, training, nutrition, and myself along the way.  That knowledge was expensive.  It came at the cost of lots of money, a little bit of blood and pain, and some serious psychological fatigue.  Honestly, it took a lot out of me.  I can happily report that, now, a few weeks later, I can look back and see everything it added as well.  Yeah, living like this is hard sometimes, but hard isn’t always bad. At this point I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anyway, enough of that, here is what happened…
We were up at about 3:30 to get to transition.  It was a very early morning. 
For breakfast I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich on some delicious bread from Great Harvest bread in Bloomington.  Yum!
Race morning was COLD.  I was freezing, it was pouring rain, things were looking pretty bad.  Lana did her best to keep me warm in the two hours I had to wait between the close of transition and my wave start.
About an hour before my wave start I was getting hungry so I had a cliff bar and a bottle of Gatorade.  I sipped another bottle on the 1.2 mile walk down the beach to swim start. 
Age Group Place: 105
Overall: 956


My goal on the swim was 45 minutes.  I was planning on going out easy, cruising, and setting myself up for a good day.  I expected a slow swim because the end involved a ¼ mileish run up a sandy beach to T1. 
The rain had stopped by the time the race started.  The course was awesome and the water was even better.  I could see the bottom, even when the water was 10+ feet deep, the entire time.  It was really a beautiful place to swim.  

There was a bit of contact, but I kept a careful easy outside line and tried to play it safe.   I drafted a bit.  In the end, the swim was over fast and I was on my way to the bike.
I saw Lana and my parents on the way to T1, which was very nice.  I also passed a few fellow Tri-Sharks and their families/fans.  It was cool to see so many friendly faces. 

Distance: 1.2 Miles
Time: 38:08:00
100m: 1:59
Swim Div Place/Overall Place:  123/1110


Iron Distance transitions were a lot different.  There was a lot of chatting and screwing around in T1 by many of the participants.  I mostly just smiled and did my thing however.   Sun block, socks, shoes, helmet, go! 

Time: 5:37

For the most part my nutrition was pretty straight forward.  I alternated between 3 Cliff Shot Blocks and 8 oz of Gatoraid every 15 minutes.  This worked out to about 300 cals/hour.
I did have one minor emergency.  I was planning on eating cliff shot blocks that I had in plastic bags in a bento.  Well, the rain had gotten into them, creating shot block soup.  It made things very sticky, and screwed my nutrition plans a bit, but I just drank a bit more Gatorade instead.
And wow, aid stations on the bike.  That was awesome!  I loved pitching bottles and grabbing fresh nutrition from the volunteers.  It felt like I was really doing something important and big.  Super cool!  
Things went really well for me on the bike.  My goal was 3 hours @ 180W.  I ended up riding 179W and did the course in 2:45:53.  I was about 1 Mph faster than I predicted, which I’m guessing is due to a combination of my race wheel, aero helmet, and good winds.  

Distance: 56 Miles
Time: 2:45:53
Mph: 20.3
Bike Div Place/Overall Place:  98/762

I saw my parents and Lana again on the last mile of the bike, which should have really counted as part of T2.  We were corralled so tightly we could only ride about 14 Mph around the boardwalk.  Still, it was nice.  It felt like a victory lap!  

I put on fresh socks and sun block in T2, and in general caught my breath and took my time.  Things were going well, and I didn’t want to screw that up…and there was a big potential for that with me running a half after that great of a bike split. 
Time: 5:27

Running off the bike is weird.  You get used to the bike speed and want to run that fast, but you have to remind yourself not to over and over.  Especially in the first few miles before things start to suck.  The first mile for me was spent seeing my pace on the garmin hit 7:00/mi and then saying to myself “no, you run 9s dummy…slow down” over and over. 
By the second mile I had found my legs, rounded a corner, and saw a huge hill.  Having just read “Born to Run” I remembered a quote from one of the ultra runners that was something like “if you can’t see the top, walk.”  That sounded like really solid advice, so I did.  At the top I started up my run again, quickly walking each aid station to get more fluid into me.
It’s hard to do nutrition with Gatoraid on the run, since it’s hard to know how much you’re drinking in those little, often highly diluted glasses.  I did my best and supplemented with gu every 3 miles to try and shoot for about 200 calories per hour. 
About 3 miles in I saw a hill on the 2 lap course that was even bigger than the last.  This time I knew that because of the laps I’d have to run it twice.  Cruel and unusual punishment I think…

Four miles I went through an aid station, smiling and feeling good.  I took on Gatoraid and some water.   They were also offering ice, and I saw a guy in front of me put some down his shirt.  That sounded REALLY nice, so I thought I’d do the same.  At first, that ice did feel GREAT.  Unfortunately, unlike that guy in front of me, I was wearing a one piece tri suit…and as the ice worked its way down to my crotch, I discovered a new motivation to run fast and prayed that the ice would quickly melt.  (Note to self: if you didn’t practice it, don’t do it…no matter how mundane it seems)

For the most part I was running the best half I’ve ever ran.  I felt strong and good the entire time.  My pace was sticking around 9/mile, but walking the hills and aid stations was driving the average up into the near 10s.  Around mile 5 though, I figured out that as long as I kept it under 10 I was pretty much guaranteed a sub 6 hour finish time.  I REALLY wanted sub 6, so I decided to keep things pretty cool, not push it, and hit that goal. 

I walked the monster hill on both laps, and started back towards the finish. 

It wasn’t until the very last mile that some of the stress of the race started affecting me.  I definitely found myself becoming a bit emotional.  My hydration and nutrition were pretty much spot on, but I did have some stomach issues.  I’m guessing that might have been related to 6 hours of liquid foods.  I think next time I’ll practice some race breakfasts with less fiber. 

I was able to pick up the pace for the last mile and finish very strong.  It was really cool to see my parents and Lana on my way to the finish and hear the announcer say “Congratulations Mike Bernico, nice to see you!” as I crossed the finish line. 

Distance: 13.1 Miles
Time: 2:09:29
Pace: 9:54/mi
Run Div Place/Overall Place:  105/1051

So that’s it.  That’s what my first half felt like.  I hit all my goals, and executed my plan pretty much without a hitch. 

What would I have changed?  Well, I’d have probably built my milage up faster in training, backed down earlier, and worked on more speed.  I would have focused more on running form and less on the numbers.  That’s just all in the details, things to tweak for next time.  For the most part I ran a great race. 

Post race I had some cheese pizza from pizza hut (they were a race sponsor) and spent some time with Lana, Mom, and Dad.  We went out to eat later on and got some sleep.  The next morning we all met for a great breakfast that included blueberry pancakes with fresh Michigan blueberries (the best EVER) and then Lana and I went to pick some blueberries (which was a blast) before we headed back home. 

70.3 done, I see you 140.6…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Evergreen Olympic Triathlon -2:51:08.4

Last year I did the sprint at evergreen, this year was my first year doing the olympic distance. With my full attention on Steelhead, I didn't taper for this race, but rather treated it as my speedwork for the week.

To be honest, I didn't respect the distance and effort this would take. It was a very hot day, and in the end the distance got the best of me...but I learned some very valuable lessons. More on that below...

Age Group Place: 14/26
Overall: 198/426

The water was not wetsuit legal. There was a lot of congestion in the start, I think next time I'll try to keep more to the outside. Otherwise, the swim was unremarkable.

Distance: 1500m
Time: 34:22.3
100s: 2:06


I made some major improvements on transition speed in this race. It was the first race I've done without socks, so that helped a lot. I also didn't have a wetsuit to take off.

Time: 1:34.9


The bike started very well for me, but I made some really stupid choices related to nutrition. It was very hot, with a high heat index. I only had 24 oz of fluid on the bike, and it wasn't enough. I found myself rationing it. By the end of the ride I saw my power dipping, but I wasn't completely sure why yet. I was dehydrated but I didn't know it...race stupidity.

Distance: 42K
Time: 1:12:08.9
Mph: 21.6


At this point I was suspecting that I was low on water. I also knew I was low on calories. I had only put about 200 Kcal in, after an hour of biking and 34 minutes of swimming.

Time 1:45.5


The first two miles of the run went great. I was running sub 9 and feeling good. I was working to take on water and gatoraid to get my hydration up, but it was too little, too late. By mile 3 my heart rate was steadily climbing. By mile 4, I couldn't slow it down, even walking, it was pegged. I was nauseous and in bad shape. I ended up walking about a mile total. In the end, I finished an otherwise good race with the worst 10k I've run all summer.

Distance: 10K
Time: 1:01:16.8
Pace 9:52

So what did I learn. Nutrition and hydration are important, and everyone has unique needs. My hydration needs are high, and I need to keep the fluid coming in. I'd find out the next day that I sweat about 38 oz / hour, which is much less than I had coming in.

It was a disappointing performance, but luckily it happened here, so I could learn my lesson before Steelhead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Steelhead Info!!!

Bib Number 1447:  Bernico, Mike    Wave 13, Start time 8:14 M30-34

So thats that then...Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, here we come!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Conducting a Sweat Test

Yesterday I ran into a bit of trouble with dehydration at the Evergreen Olympic Triathlon.  It was hot, I was low of fluids from the day before, I didn't take the race seriously enough, and it got the best of me. 

I'll cover more about that in my upcoming race report, but for now, it's sufficient to say I needed to start taking my hydration more seriously for my upcoming 70.3.  So, for this mornings bike ride, I included a sweat test, which was designed to measure how much fluid I lost during the course of exercise.  While am planning to repeat this test a few times, and use both runs and bikes, I have to admit the preliminary results are very surprising.

This is what I did, and could be used as a "how to" to do your own sweat test.

Step 1.  Wake up, eat normally, hydrate normally, and get ready for your workout.  Before you put your workout clothes on, weigh yourself.  I was 180.4 this am, fully hydrated, with some oatmeal in me, and ready to go.

Step 2.  Record the volume of fluids you consume.  To do this I weighed the bottles I was using before and after the test.  I did a 3 hour bike with Lana today and during that time I drank 1138g of water and 1297.4g of Gatorade.  I also "relieved" myself of about 250g of fluid.  After the ride I consumed 373g of recovery drink.

Step 3.  After your workout, shower, dry off very well, and weigh yourself again.  Post workout I was 177.6 pounds.

Step 4.  Tally the amount of fluid you lost.  I converted everything to grams and then added/subtracted it all.

Starting Weight 81827.64
Small Bottle 569
Small Bottle 569
Large Bottle 706
20 oz gatoraid 591.4
Bathroom Break -250
Recovery Drink 373

Net Starting Weight 84386.04
Ending Weight 80557.58

Sweat Loss 3828.45 grams

8.44 pounds

129.47 fluid oz

Per Minute 0.63
Per Hour 38.08 fluid oz


And there you have it. Biking at about 150W, in 82 degree weather, with 72% humidity I lost 38 oz of water per hour.  I was only taking in about 12 oz of water per hour for the first two hours of the race, which was done at a higher intensity.  Additionally the temperature was much higher yesterday.  It seems clear that my hydration was insufficient to say the least. 

It's probably not reasonable for me to take in 38 oz of water per hour during my upcoming race, however I think this shows the important of going into the event as hydrated as possible, taking in at least a bottle an hour, and not letting myself get behind on electrolytes as well, since I'm likely losing 546-2187mg of sodium per hour along with that 38 oz of fluid (460-1840 mg/L, I'm likely on the high end of that scale based on how much salt is on my clothes).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tri-Shark Classic Triathlon 1:16:51.1

Note:  Since this is my second year doing Tri-Shark, I've put last years results in parenthesis for comparison.

Age Group Place: 11/36  (26/45)
Overall: 124/ (275/478)

The water was a warm 73.  The start was very crowded, and there was quite a bit of contact.  I was a bit slower than last year...I'm guessing because of the crowd, but also my Garmin showed that I swam over 700y, so the course may have been long or I could have just not been very straight on the course.

Distance: 600y
Time: 11:51.5 (11:30.2)
100y: 1:59 (1:55)


Short course transitions are a weakness of mine.  I had to wear socks because of some blisters, that doesn't help.  I also don't do that flying mount thing.  I have lots of room for improvement here, and my time vs. my AG time shows it.  I can probably pick up one or two spots in my AG place by being faster in T1. 

Time: 2:46.1 (3:02.7)

Again, traffic.  I had a hard time getting up to speed and getting around people.  Perhaps I should have ridden more aggressive, but after my recent crash I'm a bit gun shy.  Overall, I had a good bike split, riding just a bit under my current FTP of 230W. 

Time: 35:02.8 (37:32.0)
Distance: 13 Miles
MPH: 22.3 (20.8)
Normalized Power: 223W


My T2 went better than T1, but I have lots to improve on here as well.

Time: 1:18.8 (2:53.3)


This was my biggest improvement from last year.  I ran about 3 minutes over my 5k PR, about 20 seconds / mi under my threshold pace.  I'm not trained for running over threshold right now as my focus has been running long and slow.  I'm pretty much OK with how my run went. 

Time: 25:51.9 (30.16.3)
Pace: 8:20

My AG is tough, no doubt, but I also have alot to improve on as an athlete.  In order to perform better in future sprints I'm going to have to get much better in transition, be a bit more aggressive, and do some VO2 work on my run.  

That being said, I was about 9 minutes faster this year over last.  That's pretty awesome for a short course race!  I've improved alot, and I can improve alot more next year...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wiping Out - Bike Crash Report 5/18/2010

This post has been a long time coming...and so I apologize for it's "lateness."

Here is what happened:

I was taking part in my first 40K Time Trial on 5/18.  I was pushing fairly hard, while still trying to pace myself a bit.   Later powertap data would show I was at about 90% of my Critical Power/FTP.

This is the route I rode, along with my speed and power data if you are interested.

Entering the corner from 2250 to 750 the second time I swung out very wide and started my turn in.  I didn't stop peddling and didn't bleed off enough speed.  I was going approximately 22 Mph before the crash.  My wide line was made wider while adjusting for a  SSW wind at about 10 miles an hour.  Lastly my inside foot was down, keeping me from leaning correctly, when I did finally stop peddling. 

Anyway, the last thing I remember is my front wheel grabbing the gravel on the far side of 750 and thinking "well, this is going to suck."  I lost control and went forward over the handlebars.  The bike went with me, I pulled it over by my cleats.  The next thing I knew, I was laying down in a ditch full of water with a bike on top of me.  I had to pull my shoes off to get free of the bike.  At first I thought my legs were broken, but it turned out my calves were both just very very cramped from either the impact or pulling the bike over with me.  

I landed on my head and shoulder and immediately felt a good amount of pain in both.  My handlebars were bent completely forward at the stem, but that was an easy repair.  The rest of the bike appeared ridable.

A motorist stopped at the corner.  I was guessing he was going to check if I was ok.  I guessed wrong.  He pointed at me, laughed, and drove off.  What a douche...and in retrospect, kinda like Nelson from the Simpsons.  

I decided to make the repair to the bars and ride back the remaining 5 miles at an easy pace.

When I got back to the car Lana snapped these pictures on my iPhone:

So, I was a bit beat up.  My bike had a few scratches and dings, but nothing too serious.  I also decided to replace my helmet.  It look a huge amount of the impact and might have saved me from a much more serious injury.  Big thanks to Giro for their crash replacement program too, by the way.  A discount on a new lid after all this was very welcome.  The next day I was still running, but on Thursday I was seriously sore.  I was off swimming for about a week because of my shoulder pain but that was the only real impact to my training.  All in all however, I was very lucky.  It could have been pretty bad.

I still haven't gotten my nerve back in the corners, but I imagine it will come back in time.  Until then, I'm pretty much back to full speed on my training and feeling fine.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Swim, Bike, Run, Eat: Ultimate Banana French Toast

Ultimate Banana French Toast

I really love this recipe and make it just about every morning I don't have a workout planned.

1.  Soak 2 pieces of 7 grain sprouted bread in 3/4 of a cup of egg substitute (or eggs if you want...whatever is convenient).

2.  Cut a very ripe banana into 1/4 inch slices.

3.  Cook french toast in a nonstick pan lubed with a bit of non stick cooking spray. 

4.  Put half the banana slices between the two slices of bread and continue cooking the entire stack until the banana gets warm and melty.  Add some cinnamon to both slices of bread. 

5.  Put the remaining banana directly in the pan.  Keep it moving, caramelizing it, but don't let it burn.

6.  Pile the caramelized banana on top of the stack.  Use 1/2 tbsp of turbinado sugar to cover the French toast and another 1/2 tbsp between the slices. 

Calories:  420
Carbs: 77
Protein: 27.4
Fat:  1.7