Thursday, December 20, 2012

Turks and Caicos

Lana and I were planning our season early last year and we decided that a vacation was in order for us in 2012, after the dust settled from a year of racing.  Last year was a whirlwind of ironman, house buying, moving, training, racing, Lana’s first half ironman, and even a big marathon PR for the both of us.   We were more than ready to get away and slow down a little bit.  
Our adventure began last Sunday.   We made our way to St. Louis at around noon, and arrived at about 3 pm.   I ‘surprised’ Lana by taking her to the St Louis City Museum, where we first met.   After that, I surprised her again with dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, a delicious salad bar type chain that we both like.   And then, the next morning, passports in hand we left for the Windsong hotel in Providenciales (Provo to the locals) Turks and Caicos.
Monday
After a long day of travel, we touched down in Provo and were promptly greeted by a line to clear immigration and then another for customs.  Once through, we met Liege (pronounced Lee Gee) who shuffled us off to our hotel, and would become our taxi driver for most of the week.   After a few heart attacks caused by being driven down the British side of the road, we made it to our hotel. 
And then we waited at the front desk to check in…and we had our first run in with Island time.   At first I thought it was just bad service, but in reality it’s culture.   Things just happen in their own time on Provo, and no one is in a big hurry to do anything.  
We found the ocean and went for a quick swim, had dinner in our hotel, and went for a walk on the beach.   The beaches in Provo, particularly grace bay, were the draw for our trip and they didn’t disappoint.   The night sky was clear and amazing.  There was a persistent cool eastern wind.  The sand was so white that you could see it at night, and the sounds of the ocean crashing against the shore were just always present.   We went to bed pretty early that night, exhausted from a day of travel.




Tuesday
Tuesday morning Lana and I started the day off with a run.  After that we had breakfast at the hotel and walked down to the beach to snorkel. 
 We discovered that our hotel was right on a reef, maybe 100 ft from shore, called  Princess Alexandra National Park.   It was seriously the coolest place.  In just a few minutes we were snorkeling and swimming in what seemed to me to be the biggest saltwater aquarium I’d ever seen. 
I held Lana’s hand as we flippered our way through the ocean and saw the entire cast of finding nemo, a sea turtle, huge parrotfish you could hear chomping on the reef under the water, and a barracuda that Lana was sure was staring her down and considering eating her.   At one point  Lana noticed that she was being followed by an entire school of yellow finned fish, and then realized, because of her yellow flippers, she had become the lead fish.  
After snorkeling we got a shower and walked down the beach to find somewhere to eat.  



Somewhere was pretty good, it was an interesting blend of Tex/Mex and Carribean with lots of fresh fish!
That afternoon we went Kayaking and swimming (have you noticed I can’t sit still?) and then ,after a trip to the grocery store, went to Sailing Paradise for dinner.  



Sailing Paradise was some of the best food we had on the Island.   Lana and I split a platter of curried goat, jerk chicken, jerk pork, fish, fried plantains, and rice and peas.  



 We washed it down with rum punch.

I’d describe it as a small local place, in a non touristy neighborhood, set up to cater to tourists as well as locals.  They had a free shuttle, which was very nice, since it was about a 20 minute trip by car.  
We finished the day, again, with a walk along the beach, taking in the beauty of our surroundings, and enjoying each other’s company.  
Wednesday 
Wednesday we got up a little earlier and ran a bit further.   The island gets hot as the sun gets high, so ideally the running should be done by about an hour after sunrise.   We were careful to bring water because we weren’t heat acclimated.  
After breakfast we did some more swimming, and then traveled down the beach to have a picnic lunch on a secluded beach.   It was only turkey and cheese, but on an empty beach, thousands of miles away from life, with only my wife and the ocean, it was the best turkey and cheese ever.  
After lunch we checked out bikes from the hotel.   We took the bikes downtown and did some shopping.   We got a rum cake, some local rum (which is delicious and not exported ).   After that I took Lana to a local jewelry store and bought her a Larimar necklace for our second anniversary. 
Once we made it back we relaxed a bit in the hot tub, and had this evil tropical drink that was a mixture of pineapple juice, rum, rum, rum, and had a floater of Bacardi 151 on top, just in case we didn’t hit our rum quotient.   Suddenly, we were on island time too. 
That night we went to Grace’s Cottage, which was a beautiful outdoor restaurant that was a little bit fancy for us, but was really the perfect place to celebrate being married to Lana for two years now.
Thursday

Thursday morning we went on a tour with a local tour company. 

They picked us up around 8am, right at the beach in front of our hotel and we took off with two guides and 6 other visitors on a 30ft’ catamaran. 
At 8:30 in the morning, the guides starting giving us rum punch.   Apparently I looked like a guy with an overly healthy liver, and I did my best to put an end to that. 



First we took off for the barrier reef, a reef that protects the islands from the ocean.  The snorkeling there was great, even better than near our hotel.   The reef was so wide it extended as far as I could see in about every direction.
After about 30 minutes snorkeling, the tour company took us to the south side of Provo, near another small island.  Next up, we were diving for Conch!   I jumped in and immediately felt the current pushing me back.  I had to swim quite hard to make any progress forward, and after some significant effort I got about 10 feet in front of the boat.   After just a little help from a tour guide, I found my first Conch!   It was a big shell, covered in grass, that looked sorta like a chia pet, which is exactly what the tour guide said it would look like.  I dove, grabbed it, swam back to the boat, and then did another hard swim interval to get back in front to find another one.  



The tour took us to an island where we they showed us how to crack and clean the conch.  A ‘trained’ stingray was waiting just off the shore for the spare bits of conch left over as the concj was prepared.   While the tour guides worked on our lunch, we were free to explore the island a bit more.  




I found an old net of some type, strung up hammock style, that I certainly enjoyed.  



We also found quite a few large iguana’s living there.  






Lunch was served, which consisted of Conch Salad (Conch, bell pepper, tomato, habanero, and lemon/lime juice kind of like ceviche), Doritos, and more rum punch!  The guide did warn us about the punch ‘jus remember the more you be drinkin the more you be sinkin.’  I thought I was done swimming for the day though, but, I was wrong



After lunch we went snorkeling one last time, and saw a lion fish.   Then we dove for sand dollars.
By the time we got back to shore, getting off the boat was just a little difficult.   The coolest part of the trip was our new souvenir Conch shell, the previous home of our lunch.
Later that night we went to “Shark Bite” for dinner, which was a local burger kind of place where we had Conch Fritters, Jerk Chicken, and Rice and Peas.
Friday
By Friday we had really done about everything we wanted to do, and spent most of the day relaxing on the beach.   I did some swimming, fish watching, and kayaking because I sort of suck at sitting still and doing nothing.   For lunch that day we had Liege take us to “Da Conch Shack” which was pretty amazing.









We split some conch fritters!  I had curried conch, plantain fries, rice, and more rum punch.   Lana had blackened grouper tacos.  This was probably the best food on the island. 
That night we walked down to the beach and watched the last sunset of our trip, both a little sad it was almost over.  




For our last night, Lana and I went to Mango Reef. It was right on the water, in the open air, and really beautiful.  It was a great last night on the island.   We had great sushi, it was really amazing.   After that I had Dominican Paella with grilled lobster.   Lana had grilled pecan crusted fish that was really good as well.
Saturday
We woke up Saturday, got one last run in, one last swim in the ocean, and then headed back home.  
It was nice to be home, but what an amazing adventure we had.  I’m so glad I got to experience all those things, and I’m even more glad I got to share them with my wife.  To be sure, we’d rather be at home than anywhere else, but sometimes a little adventure is called for and Lana and I are pretty good at finding it. 



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2012 3:58:32.4

What Came Before…
The story of this race starts in January of 2012.   After not really being able to budge my running fitness for an entire year, I decided to try a mileage based approach.   I worked my up to between 40-50 miles a week in the winter and tried to hold it.    My biking suffered, I didn’t swim, and my running got just a very little bit better, but mostly I was flat. 
When we ran St. Pats in March of 2012 I had loads of base, but I paced myself for a slight PR and totally blew up.   I was really frustrated; running is just the sport I don’t really get.  
After a mediumish season of doing half ironman distance I decided to hire Mike Ricci from D3 Multisports to coach me and things started turning around.  My proving ground would be the Indy Monumental Marathon, and my goal was a sub 4 hour run.   Before meeting Mike, I’d either get slow mile based approaches, like above, or I’d get so much speed work, so hard, I’d just blow up and be wiped.  Mike really helped me balance the “work” with the “easy” and set me on a path that allowed me to improve quite a bit in the 8 weeks or so that I had between my last Tri and my Marathon.
Unfortunately for me, I injured my right calf in July when I got a severe cramp on a hot day, and that injury was brought center stage with my new found speed.    With about three weeks left, when it was time to taper, I was really hurt.   I couldn’t run without pain and cramping in my right calf.  
With massage, stretching, and foam rolling, I ran through it and made it to taper.   My hope was that it would heal as I rested.    I knew I’d be flat on race day, but it was what I had to work with.  
But then it got worse.   Two days before the run I was doing an easy 2 miler and my calf cramped.   I hobbled home.   That was it; I wasn’t going to be able to run.   My second DNS of the year…
Defeated, I loaded up the car for Indy.   Lana was healthy and planning a great run and I wasn’t going to miss that at least.
The night before the race, I made the decision that I would run until I couldn’t.  I was pain free, and it was a well-supported race with plenty of medical folks, so why not?
I also had a dedicated ‘pace’ team.   Seth and Logan were going to be running with me.  Logan was taking the first 6 miles, and Seth would be doing the last 20. 
The plan was a negative split, starting at about 9:30, and finishing around 8:50/

The Logan Miles
The first 6 miles, I took it pretty easy peasy as planned.   Lana took off and was way ahead of me, gone.   About one mile in Logan and I both jumped as Mark ran up behind us and grabbed my ass.  He went on to pace his wife to a PR half. 
Logan was disturbingly cheery.   He was talking about how great the race was going to be, how my injured calf was going to hold out…the whole deal.  My guess is that Seth slipped him some SSRIs in his morning coffee.  
The run was going well, my calf was holding out.   My legs were heavy, and the pace was harder than it should have been, but that’s what three weeks of over tapering/resting will do.
The Seth Miles
At mile 6 Seth jumped in and relieved Logan of his duties.   Things were pretty easy and uneventful, for at least the first 15 miles.   My legs were still heavy.  Seth talked.  And talked.   And talked.  
Starting at about mile 18 things started getting a little more serious.   My calf was starting to cramp just a little, and I’d feel occasional shots of ‘electricity’ through my leg.   I made it a point to relax the best I could.   Seth suggested I work to not fire that muscle and just run around it.   My negative split wasn’t really happening, but I was still on target to finish sub 4.  
At about mile 20, Seth started telling me a story about floating in the water in this lake, and how it was kind of this surreal experience, comparing it to a scene in Battlestar Galactica where Baltar was experiencing something similar.  
And then he was talking about the movie Gattaca, where inferior Vincent triumps over the genetically perfect Anton because of desire and passion.   You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back.  Two hours after the race, that thought was extremely inspiring, however 22 miles in I mostly thought Seth talked to much…  J
At mile 26, finish line in sight, I couldn’t hold off the injury any more.  So that was it, it held together just long enough.   My right calf cramped completely, just a few feet from the finish.   I put my foot down, and put my weight on it, forcing my calf to release.   It hurt.  It hurt alot.   Seth was visibly ready to push me over the finish, and I stumbled over the line just a few minutes ahead of 4 hours. 
On the way back to the hotel I almost fell over in the grass of the capital as my calf just totally gave out.   It locked up and wouldn’t release and I was in a lot of pain.   I was getting rained on, and was starting to shiver.  For the first time that day I was getting sort of scared.   After about 10 minutes on my back, thankfully it released and I made it back to the hotel. 
The Celebration
The best part of any big race is the celebration afterwards.   This was one of the best.   We went out to a Brazilian steak house, ate EVERYTHING, and drank an awesome bottle of Malbec.  Then there was ice cream, and more drinks.  It was a great time!  
The next morning we woke up and I registered for IMFL 2013.   Then we went to a Colts game for the afternoon.
And then…
It took me around 2 weeks to run again.  After that, it took about 6 more weeks of being very patient with the calf to finally clear that injury.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rev 3 Cedar Point – The Race Report That Didn’t Happen

So here it is.  Cedar Point was my A race for the year.  The goal of this year was to build on the bike, and build on the run, so that I could get some revenge on my 140.6 performance at IMWI. 
The Plan
Swim - I worked hard in the pool this year.  I suffered a lot.  I swam so hard that I spent as much time gasping for breath at the gutter as I did swimming I think.  And I improved.  A lot.  My best guess is I’d have gone around 33 minutes in a wet suit, give or take a minute.
Bike – My 20K TTs have always been strong.  This year I really worked to spread that fast out over 56 miles.  My best 56 miles was done in 2:38 in training.  That was two months before Cedar Point, and I was sharp.  On a clear day, on a very flat cedar point course, with agreeable wind and a taper, I was optimistically expecting 2:23.   The power numbers were working out.  It would have been great.
Run – My run still really wasn’t where I wanted it, but with some help I have been able to improve my comfort at the marathon pace speeds tremendously.  I ran a 2:09 on a hilly course, a month before, but my coach and I believed I had 1:55 in me on race day.
So, That’s 33 minutes + 143 minutes + 115 minutes + 10 minutes for transition = Right at 5 hours, give or take. 
That would have been a phenomenal time. 
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.  The day before the race we did the normal pre-race stuff.  I stood in lots of lines, got my bike set up, did some 10 minute shake down workouts, etc.  Then we got some food at the Outback Steakhouse in Sandusky and went to bed. 
I jumped up out of bed around 4am, ran to the bathroom, and threw up.  My brain went into triage mode “Maybe it was just nerves, I thought.  I’ll be ok… that’s stupid, you don’t get that nervous…ok, first thing is you need to get your prerace breakfast in you so you’re ready to race in three hours.  PB&Banana sandwich time!”  But I was nauseated at the thought of eating, and found myself in the bathroom throwing up again.  There was no way.  I was getting sick over and over, and I knew that was it.  My race was over.  I told Lana, and posted something on facebook so people wouldn’t be watching for my splits.  And I went back to bed.  The next 24 hours were a blur of vomiting, watching myth buster reruns, and sleeping.  At about 2pm I trudged through transition to pick up my bike.  For the most part I hurt too bad to be sad I wasn’t racing, but when I saw folks out on the run course my heart was broken. 
The next day, I was mostly back to normal.  I woke up wanting food, which was a good sign.  And as I ate, the feeling of loss really came over me.  I was so fit, would I have really broken 5 hours?  I don’t know.  I never will know.  I remembered back to a day a few months ago.  I worked all day with Lana to stain our deck.  Then I went out and did a long run.  And then I finished staining the deck.  I was so tired I was dead on my feet.  There were so many days like that, were I had sacrificed sleep, comfort, and sanity to build for my race.  I felt really cheated; I worked really hard, but didn’t have anything tangible to show for it. 
And then something great came out of it!  No, just kidding, not really.  There’s no happy turn of events to report.  I still feel cheated.  I still don’t have anything to show for it.  I may or may not have broken 5 hours, and I may or may not ever be in that place again.  I’ll never really know.  All I can really do though is move on and focus on the next race. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tri-The-Illini - 01:10:55.8

2nd Place AG
16th Overall
After not racing cedar point, I wanted one last triathlon for the year.  So, I jumped into Tri-The-Illini, which is one of my favorite local sprints. 
I was heavily prepping for the Indianapolis Marathon, and my body was tired, so this was a B race at best.   The last mile of the 5k would be my 52nd mile run this week, which was a big step up from my normal 35-40.
Race morning was cold.    Lining up on the cold concrete pool deck was brutal.
Swim
300M
6:14.9
2:05/100M
This swim wasn’t my best.   It was a snake pool swim, and whenever I do those I always get screwed up in the lane lines.  My GPS data showed about 1:40/100 moving pace, but all my screwing around really cost me.   Oh well, no big.
T1
52.7 seconds
Not a bad T1 for me…
Bike
14.5 Miles
38:43.4
22.4 Mph
So, my biggest goal for this race was to try to keep the bike in check.   Typically a triathlete will ride a sprint at about 92-98% FTP.   My coach felt that my bike was so strong relative to my running that it was what was keeping me from running closer to my 5k pace in sprints, so he wanted me to hold way back, towards the 90-92% range instead of my normal 95%.   I was a little nervous I’d be giving up to much, but, I was willing to take the chance.
Unfortunately about 2 miles in, my power meter went out and I was flying by RPE.   I don’t now, but I’m guessing based on my pace, that I maybe slowed down just a little bit too much.   It’s hard to say though, as the second half of the bike combined a steady head wind with a false flat and made it really hard to judge effort.
T2
01:23.7
Not bad.   My feet were so cold I had a hard time getting my shoes on fast.  
Run
5K
23:41.1
7:38/mi
For about the first 400m I just couldn’t get my feet under me.   I was running about 8:30, giving up a ton of ground, and getting discouraged.  But then I just sort of relaxed into it  and got my effort up.   I did a good job negative splitting the course, and actually finished the last 400 at about 6:40/mi , or around 20sec/mile faster than my 5k pace.  In the end, I was about 30 seconds per mile slower than my open 5k PR, which is pretty darn good.
 So, lesson learned, until I can get my bike and run more in line, I have to slow down a bit on the bike to run faster.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Race Report: Dells Rev3 70.3

Finally, I’ve made it to my first real race of the year.  On one hand, I was really happy to be racing a 70.3.  On the other, I knew this wasn’t the course for me.  The bike was hilly enough that it would use my weight against me, and kill my bike strength.  The run was hilly enough to be dangerous to my weak hamstrings and overall poor running.  It was going to be a tough day.  But, I was running better than I had been in a while.  My bike was strong.  And most importantly, I knew I was out to enjoy the day because the course took the pressure off of a PR. 
I was really excited for Lana though, this was her first 70.3.   She sure did pick a hard one!  Anyway, on with the race report. 
Swim
Time  35:38
Distance 1.2 Miles
Pace 1:51/100m
The swim was at Tommy Bartlet’s Water Show.  It was probably the coolest swim venue I’ve gotten to swim in.   I remember being 7 years old, watching the water show with my parents on vacation.  It  was pretty cool to be swimming in that same spot. 
It was a TT start, which is odd, but it was run well and things went off great. 
I metered my effort by breathing, and I think I left way too much on the table in the swim.  I finished feeling like I put out a pretty leisurely effort, and I was shocked and surprised by my time. 
There was a long uphill run, on asphalt, up to T1.  That part wasn’t so much fun. 
Bike
Time 3:00:45
Distance 56 Miles
Pace 18.58 Mph
I had ridden the course, so I knew the bike was gonna be tough.  And, it was.  I targeted .8 IF and felt great at that power level.  I was averaging about 21 mph until the 3 big climbs hit.  Then things got slow.  I tried to hold my power even, but just getting up the hills and making forward progress meant riding at 100% IF a lot of the time.  It was a climber’s course, which favored the very lite.   That isn’t me.  On the second climb, Seth flew by me looking especially strong and I’m pretty sure saying something like “weeeee, this is fun!”  Ok, so, maybe that wasn’t what he said exactly, but I sure did wish I was built to climb!
I operated in 15 minute intervals.  Every 15 minutes I’d do my best to hold .8 IF, eat a ¼ of a poptart.  Drink, and reset the clock.  Lana and I were recently watching Battlestar Galactica, and I was reminded of an episode we had recently watched where the cyclons attacked every 33 minutes, and so for days, the fleet lived 33 minutes at a time.  Every 15 minutes I’d “reset the jump clock” and go again.  It worked really well, and was a great strategy I’d use again.
After the big climbs, my pace picked up again.  I’d have averaged 21 mph, if I could have just removed those stupid hills.  Maybe I’ll stick to courses that work for me a little more next time.
I was feeling just a little weak towards the end.  I think I could have used some more calories overall, but it was a good ride in a bad place. 
Run
Time 2:09:12
Distance 13.1
Pace 9:51/mi
Out on the run I felt pretty good.  I knew it was hilly, I knew I was a weak runner, I wasn’t expecting much.  I held back on the first 5 miles, and kept it fairly easy.  I saw Emily (aka Captain Blood) right out of T2 .  In the athlete meeting the day before, we were warned NOT to swear at volunteers, and there was Emily in a volunteer shirt.  I suppressed the urge and kept jogging. 
About 5 miles in I picked it up a little bit, and turned the effort up to about a 7/10.  I saw Seth again, and he was going really hard.  And then came the hills.  They were rough, and the downhills were worse than the ups.  My hamstring issue flared back up again, and I was just hoping to avoid injury.  I walked a few of the hills, and I knew it would kill my pace, but there was just nothing I could do.  I saw Lana, about 3 miles behind me, after the turn around.  She was looking tired but strong, and I was really relieved to see her.  We both always worry about each other when we’re racing at the same time, and I was glad to know she got off the bike without any mechanicals. 
About 10 miles in I tried to turn it up again, but it wasn’t happening.  I was pretty much done, and I just held my pace.   I rolled into the finish feeling like I had raced, but with just a little in the tank.  My push was limited, because the PR was off the table.  But I had a great time, and had a good race.  I was saving that PR for cedar point in a few weeks.
Post-Race
Post-race, Rev had Brats and potato salad.  It was very “Wisconsin” and pretty tasty I thought.  I ate A LOT of potato salad, which is a bad idea in general, but it was pretty tasty that day.  Later on I watched Lana finish and we walked over to recover our bikes before joining Lana’s parents for pizza, and pancakes the next morning!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Evergreen Triathlon – Sprint - 1:39:31.1

Overall Place 7/150
AG Place 2/11
Normally I do the Olympic distance event at Evergreen, but not this year. 
This race report starts about a month prior to the race.  I spent the week in San Jose on business, away from my bike.  The combination of bad eating, abnormally high run mileage (compensating for the bad eating), and hilly topography resulted in a hamstring strain of some type.  I’ve had a weak hamstring on my right side for a long time, and that became a big problem after that week. 
At first I did what every runner with pain would do, I ignored it.  Then I started bombing some runs, and seeing my run pace drop.  I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I was hurt.  So, I took some time off.  Then I stretched, strengthened, and rehabbed the best I could.  But as the Evergreen Olympic got closer, I realized I was in no shape to run a hard 10k.
Luckily the race director let me move my entry down to the sprint.  The evergreen sprint is an interesting event in that it keeps the 40k bike.  I hadn’t done a 40k all year, but in general I’m pretty strong on the bike, so I wasn’t incredibly worried, and who knows, because of the smaller race size I might even be competitive in my AG, which I’m certainly not in the evergreen Oly. 
On race morning I got to the event, got setup, and started my warm up.  I went into the race somewhat recovered, but mostly not tapered, haven’t really only taken about 3 days easy.   As I got on the bike that morning, my hamstring immediately started complaining.  I thought it was doing better, but maybe not. 
Swim - 10:29 / 600m / 1:55/100
The swim was a little long, based on my GPS.  I also swam it very conservatively, having over done it just a bit at the Trishark sprint tri a month before.    Overall I think it went well, however I left a ton on the table.  In a 600m swim though, that’s just a few seconds, so no big.
T1 - 1:21.1
My T1 went pretty well.  I’m not fast at transitions, but I’m much improved this year. 
Bike – 1:01:20.4 / 24.8 / 24.31
My bike went pretty well.  I struggled a bit with the flying mount this time around, having maybe gotten just a little cocky about how well it went last year.  I struggled just a little keeping my head in the game on the bike as there wasn’t really anyone to race on the course.  The sprint started after all the Olympic groups, so I was able to use a lot of folks to slingshot down the course.  I felt just a little guilty using the pass zone of slower folks to accelerate me, but it’s all part of the game on the bike.  I even got a “thumbs up” from a draft marshal while I was doing it.  
I got passed by local athletes Kevin McCarthy and Mick Hannah, each on a turn, later in the race, and had to work to pass them both back.   Both made it very clear that my bike is all speed and no finesse.  That’s something I’m going to seriously work on.  I’m still skiddish in corners after a crash in 2010, and a general lack of experience, but enough is enough.  I’m probably losing a minute on my 40k cornering like an old woman in a Cadillac. 
The hamstring started whining with about 5 miles left, and I backed off just a bit.
According to the split I was around 24.3, but there’s no way.  I think the course was a bit short this time.  The winds were good though, so who knows. 
T2 – 1:29.3
My T2 didn’t go so well.  My transition spot was pretty much on the other side of transition from bike in, and I unclipped wearing my bike shoes to run my bike through T2.  That cost me a ridiculous amount of time, it was a really long run in cleats. 
If I were going to focus on this short course stuff, I’d learn how to take my shoes off on the bike and run barefoot…   But I’m not a short course athlete, so I’m not going to stress about it. 
Run - 24:59.8 / 3.1 / 8:02/mi
My run went pretty well, considering the hamstring thing.  It didn’t really start bugging me until I started racing someone else in my AG.  In the last mile it really started threating to cramp up, when I was descending a small hill, so I shortened my stride and cruised home.  In the end it held me a back a little but I still had a pretty decent run.
Afterwards
Post-race I found out I did well enough for 2nd place in my AG, which I’ll happily take on a good day.  Being that it happened on a short course race while injured, that’s a bonus. 
Lana got 5th in her AG in the Oly as well, with much more fierce competition!

Monday, July 16, 2012

24!

One of my favorite parts of summer is attending the local time trial on Tuesday nights, referred to locally as TNTT or ‘Tuesday Night Time Trial,’ run by local cycling folk hero (and beer aficionado) Mick Hannah.   It’s a 20K loop on country roads, complete with a few rollers, Illinois wind, and lots of rough chip/seal.  It’s usually a somewhat low key event, and my schedule keeps me from getting out there as much as I’d like, but I always have a good time when I do. 
Ever since last year, I’ve had a big goal at TNTT…to break an average speed of 24 mph.  I’ve come really close, so many times!  I’ve hit 23.7, 23.9, but I just couldn’t seem to flip it over to 24.
Last winter, I was tempted to sleep in a lot, but breaking 24 at TNTT got me out of bed.  I’d get up early, early in the morning every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday and jump on the trainer with that goal in mind.  I suffered through over 1,500 minutes riding at threshold intensity over the winter, trying to push myself to hit that magic number.
A few Tuesdays ago, I finally got to make an attempt at it.  The wind was finally dying down from the spring, and was blowing at about 8mph in a direction that would help more than hurt.   My bike FTP was at new heights.  Due to a recent running injury I was taper and very fresh.  This was ‘the’ Tuesday of the summer.
I really wanted 24.  It was great to have a goal, because my season this year has lacked so much direction.  For the most part I’ve felt like I was floating… What do you do, after you do an Ironman?  I don’t know.  When it was time to hurt, I haven’t really had a good answer, and I’ve raced somewhat poorly because of it. 
But, I was determined to hit that number, and as I slowly rode the course warming up, I put together my race plan.  I practiced the lines I’d corner with.  I thought about winds.  Most importantly, I prepared myself mentally for the push to come. 
I rolled up to the line, second from the back to start.   Breathing deeply, I waited anxiously for the ‘Go!’ and had my mind on 24 mph the entire time.  The first part of the course rolls a bit, there is a stop sign, and there were some winds.  Turning on to ‘2250’ the long straight away, about 3 miles in, it was just starting to hurt.
As with my half marathon earlier this year, I looked for the line, the place where I had to choose to perform, or be mediocre.  I was already there.  I did what I could to relax into the effort, control my breathing, and focus my mind on happier things.  My average speed read 23.7 Mph.  My watts were on goal. 
Lana encouraged me to keep a mental catalog of happy thoughts, to pull out when things got hard.  I was quickly digging through that catalog.  As it turned out, this was a powerful strategy to keep pushing in this type of very hard effort, and one that I’ll certainly use again.
About 7 miles in, I really starting struggling to hold my goal watts, however my speed was now approaching 25 Mph.  I knew though, that if I didn’t stay on the gas, it wouldn’t work out as I had just turned into the wind.  My mind went to that catalog of positive thoughts, and I kept pushing, using those good memories as my very own ‘Patronus Charm’ and bleeding off just a few watts as my legs worked towards failure.  
When I hit 12.2 I went all in, and I crossed the line at 12.4 totally done.  My average speed was 24.4 mph by the timers, and I had accomplished the one thing that got me out of bed on those cold winter mornings.
And there it was…24.  Mission accomplished. 
So what’s next?  Sub 30… That’s my next goal.  I’m going to ride a 20K is less than 30 minutes.  24.86 Mph. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Race Report: Trishark Classic 2012 1:12:11.3 (1:15:55.7)


Tri-Shark Classic Triathlon 1:12:11.3


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

Age Group Place: 10/53 (8/31)
Overall: (76)

Trishark #4, the open to the 2012 tri season for me.

Swim

Distance: 600y
Time: 10:46.4 (13:18.3)
100y: 1:48 (2:13)

I had a great swim this year.  I made the sprint with the fishes in my AG and hung on.  Maybe I went a little to hard, I was still feeling the swim on the bike, which I've never experienced before.

T1

I spent alot of time trying to improve my T1, and I think it worked for the most part.  Basic flow was:
-Wetsuit off half way on the run, all the way at the rack
-Glasses (under helmet straps
-Helmet
-Bike shoes clipped in and banded on

Note, I was a 9ish seconds faster last year, but I didn't swim with a wetsuit last year.

Time: 01:41.8 (1:32.9)

Bike

My bike split was exactly the same as last year.  I really underachieved here.  I think I payed a little for how hard I went on the swim, but also I was missing some of the push I needed to actually race.  I knew I was a long way from the podium and my bike ride was more of a pity party than a TT.  I ended up pulling off a power number closer to a 40K TT than a 20K.

Time: 33:28.6 (33:28)
Distance: 13 Miles
MPH: 23.3 (22.3)

T2

My T2 is much improved this year.  I'm still 20 or so seconds off from "good" but I'm 30 second from where I was...  Short course transitions have never been my thing, but I'm working at it in hopes to take a few more minutes off the long course.

Time: 01:20.6 (1:54:.0)

Run

I definately underachieved on the run.  Same excuses as the bike.  Not a fitness thing, it's my head, not my body.  I had 23's in me, I just didn't have a reason.

Time: 24:53.9 (25:42.5)
Pace: 8:02 (8:17)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Something Unplanned is Going To Happen

This is my 4th year doing Triathlons. Some people would consider me an experienced triathlete, but believe me I'm still very new. 


I do know a thing or two about racing though. Tomorrow, I'm racing The Trishark classic for the 4th year in a row, and here is what I know. In 4 years of racing, every race has had an obstacle to overcome. It might have been crazy heat, wind, snow, rain, a mechanical issue, or eating the wrong thing, but every race has a story. 


 And so, going into my 4th race I know better than say "this is the race where everything goes according to plan." Instead I'll be saying "In triathlon, anything can happen. I'll react, roll with it, and keep going. No matter what the race brings, there will be a great party afterwards and I'll be better for the experience." 


 So, my advice as a "grizzled veteran" to someone doing their first race tomorrow is this. Something unplanned will happen tomorrow, but you'll be prepared. You'll deal with it, and no matter what happens there will be a great party and a new story to tell in the end.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Periodization

This is the first, in maybe several, articles on the science behind training, as I understand it.  I think alot of coaches and athletes get periodization wrong, and make it too hard.  I'm as guilty of this as anyone.  So, lets take a shot at making this a bit easier.

Disclaimer
I'm not an exercise physiologist, or a coach, or even an especially fast athlete.  I read alot and I'm an engineer/researcher (computer science) so I do have an analytical mind but that's my only real qualification.

Quick Terminology
In this article I'm going to be talking alot about Endurance, Threshold/FTP and VO2max.  While defining those three terms could and has filled a book, here's the cliff notes:

Endurance - Your ability to ride for a really long time

Threshold/FTP  - FTP is functional threshold power.  Threshold refers to Lactate Threshold.  In both cases this refers to the fastest you can go for a "relatively long time."  In running this is 10k pace, in cycling it's roughly a 1 hour, all out time trial.

VO2max - Really what I'm talking about when I say VO2max is your velocity at VO2 max, or vVO2max.  This is your pace when you're consuming oxygen as quickly as you possibly can. 

Working at all three of these intensities is beneficial.  Which are most important depends on your goal races, and your limiters. 

What is Periodizaiton
Periodizaiton is the practice of progressing your yearly training so that you're in peak shape for your most important race or races.  The concept was invented by Tudor Bompa, as a way to vary the training stress placed on olympic athletes.  Basically, the concept was to not do the same thing every day, of every month, of every year. Joe Friel applied it to triathlon, and built some specific recommendations for base, build, and peak mesocycles. 

It all gets really complicated though, and not incredibly practical for the average age group athlete.  So, I'm going to deconstruct it a bit and tell you what I think.

Periodization Deconstructed

Rule 1:  Training Should Go From General to Specific
I'm going to make two assumptions here:
1.  Variation in training is good. 
2.  Your body adapts to the specific stressors you put on it:
-If you want to ride fast, you have to train to ride fast. 
-If you want to ride for a long time, you have to train to ride for a long time. 

Based on these assumptions, your training should be very general in the beginning of your season, addressing improving all areas of fitness.  As your race nears, your training should more resemble your race. 

Rule 2:  Keep It Real

 If you're an age grouper, like I am, this is my one caveat.  You've gotta work inside your box.  Example:  I'd benefit from training my bike endurance during the winter.  I'd be a better cyclist if I got in a 3-4 hour ride at least once per week in February. 

But I don't.  That's stupid.  I'm not going to ride the trainer, or in -20 degree weather with 30 mph winds, in the middle of winter.  So, I let my endurnace go a little.  Optimal?  No.  Real?  Yep.

Rule 4:  All Blocks Should Include SOME VO2max, Theshold, and Endurance work.  The quantity of each is determined by the previous rules and how far away your races are. 

That's really it.  Periodization means adjusting the "mix" of threshold, endurance, and VO2max work in different quantities, based on where you are in the season.

A Periodization Example

Based on my current best understanding, this is how I would (and do) peridoize training:

Mike finished an Ironman last year in September and took Oct/Nov/Dec easy.  It's January and he's ready to start training.  His plan is to do several half ironman races in 2012, with the key races being in Sept of 2012.  So, this is how I'd build his cycling year. 

Block 0  (Survive Winter) 8-12 Weeks
Mike is stuck indoors in the winter.  He's willing to rid the trainer for 60-90 minutes before he becomes homocidal.  So, we'll do the best we can with that situation by writing lots of intervals to break up the monotony.  Those intervals will target mostly FTP power, but also VO2.  We'll throw in some sufferfest videos for variety.

Block 1 (Get Endurance Back) 6 Weeks
Mike is finally able to get outside, but where he lives the wind sucks.  So, we'll work in some longer rides to build back the endurance Mike lost, but we'll train by hours, not miles, because plenty of his time will be spent riding 7 mph into a 30 mph headwind. 

At the end of May, Mike field tested at 3.4 W/Kg FTP, up from 3.2 last season, which is a nice gain.  Mike's 3 minute power looks like 4 W/Kg, which, is going to limit further FTP development, so that's a limiter.

Block 2 (General Race Prep) 4-6 Weeks
So, now the weather is nice, Mike has his durability back, and he has some short triathlons in his future.  In this general block, Mike is going to do workouts to address VO2max power, FTP power, and Endurance.  He's going to focus in on VO2max power, because he knows that's his weakest point. 

Block 3 (Race Build) 4-6 Weeks
Hopefully, Mike has made some improvements to VO2max power at this point.  He will have field tested again.  As his race gets closer his training will start looking more like his racing.  He will continue to do a little work in this area, and a little FTP work, but the focus will shift to getting ready to race the fitness he has.  He will start doing more workouts with race pace interval added. 

Block 4 (Peak) 4-6 Weeks including taper

At this point, Mike is going to field test one last time and use this information to set his power zones for racing.  The vast majority of the work in this block will be based on race pace efforts, with a SMALL amount of VO2 and FTP still mixed in.  One other note, when doing race pace work, is to break it up.  It's really easy to do so much race prep, that you leave your race on the training course.  Don't do that.


Summary

So, my take on periodization isn't the same as the other stuff you might read.  Some coaches recommend only low intensity work during certain phases, for example.  Others recommend only high intensity.  I'm preaching the middle road. 

So, said simply...
  • Training Should Go From General to Specific
  • Keep it Simple
  • Do what you can and want to do, and don't burn yourself out if this is a hobby
  • All phases should contain VO2max, Threshold, and Endurance components, in varying quantities, based on how far away your races are.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 Illinois Half Marathon - 1:45:11



This is going to be a crazy race report, it's more about my life than my race. It will be a complicated read, and it tells a story 6 weeks long, but I'm telling the story this way because racing and life are so often just perfect analogs of one another for us crazy few endurance athletes.

Pre Race

Lana and I woke up at 4:30, in a Red Roof Inn in Champaign, after running a 5k the night before. Completing both the 5k and the half netted us a special award, so we duffed the run the previous night.

Breakfast was peanut butter and honey on white bread. Then off to the races. It was stormy morning, and the temp was in the high 40s. The wind was about 20 mph SSE. The rain cleared before the 7am start.

I met my friend Mark and a coworker of his before the start. He was planning on pacing his friend to a 1:44:xx finish. My PR for the half was last year's race where I ran 1:46:34. I knew that if I had a PR in me for today, it would be small and hard fought, and my plan was to stick behind Mark as long as I could and see what happens at mile 10.

The national anthem was sung, we smashed up to the front of our corral, and we were off. After the first mile, my legs already hurt, but I was still conversational. A long winter of aerobic base training my run seemed to have left me with a big aerobic engine and a body unaccustomed running hard. This was going to hurt. Races are, and have always been where I fight against myself.

4 Weeks Prior, Wednesday

“I'm very sorry, but you have a leak in your aortic valve my friend.” A few weeks prior my low heart rate earned me a trip to visit a cardiologist. Then there was a 24 hour halter, a stress test, and echo, and a few EKGs. It was all a big joke. I exercise, I have awesome lipid levels, my resting heart rate is in the low 30s, I'm as fit as people get. But then it wasn't a joke anymore. I had a leak...in my heart.

“That's not good” was the only response I could muster. My new cardiologist gave me the gist of it. It's mild to moderate, whatever that means. Maybe I've always had it, or maybe it happened recently. Maybe it will never get worse, or maybe it will. Maybe I'll need open heart surgery someday. Maybe I'll need a valve replacement that comes from a dead person, or one from another place in my heart...but maybe it would be a mechanical valve that would require me to live the rest of my life on blood thinners. Increased risk of bleeding. The end of my days on a racing and competing. Maybe. Or maybe nothing. Or maybe nothing until I'm 80. Where do you go from there?

Where I went wasn't a great place. Worst case scenario. Plan for the worst. Identify the weakest link. Mitigate risk. But that didn't work here. The cold analystics that I apply to engineering computer systems maybe applies to a population of cardiac patients, but not a single person. I'm the single point of failure, the non redundant node. Nothing I could do. Where do you go from there? Where I went was to the lobby. I texted Lana. I had fought so hard to get my life back, to come back from where I was to be here.  And now this.  I sat down and cried. I was totally overwhelmed.

Mile 2

I stuck by Mark. My legs warmed up a little bit and I felt a little better. I never had that “wow, this is easy” taper feeling though. I didn't want to think about how bad it was going to get when the suck found me. For now I just tried to live in the moment. I'd worry about mile 2, mile 13 was a lifetime away.

4 Weeks Prior, Thursday

I didn't even want to get out of bed. I went between panicked, resolved to fight, ready to quit, and back again as I analyzed my new condition. I learned about it, thought about it, and tried to wrap my head and my emotions around the situation. But I did get up. That morning at 5am I did a 2x15 minute bike ride at 95% Threshold. When it got hard I quit. I can count the times I've walked away from a workout on one hand. This was one of them. I was afraid my heart would quit. I'd need to monitor my blood pressure daily now. It was sky high suddenly. I was a ball of stress.

Mile 4

My lungs were starting to work a little harder, my legs were feeling better. I was still in this. I choked down a gu and picked up a few cups of water as we turned into a head wind. Mark was dropping the pace just a little bit, doing a great job leading us towards a 1:44 goal.

3 Weeks Ago

Every morning I wake up, stand in front of the mirror, and brush my teeth. When I do, I'm reminded of my previous life. The 400 pound me is gone now, but not forgotten. I'm reminded of that person every time I look in the mirror and see the 20 pounds of loose skin hanging from body. I carry it with me every day as a reminder.  I had something new to carry with me now.

I spoke to a few other cardiologists, and I got some better news. Alot of the time, the thing I had doesn't get any worse, maybe it will never get worse for me. When it does get worse, it's usually when people are alot older than I am. I was maybe reaching acceptance, maybe, but I had something new to carry around.  I'd need to avoid salt, and take medicine to keep my blood pressure super humanly low.  

Mile 7

I still kept hanging on. It still wasn't easy. I was purposely keeping my blood sugar higher than normal to take the edge off. My legs were starting to fail. Before the suck had really found me, I was in a place where I could no longer will my legs to turn over at the speed required to stick the pace. Frustrating, but I dug deeper. The line was 10 miles. I had to make it to mile 10, then I could gut out the last 5k. Even if I couldn't drop my pace, Mark had banked us enough time that I could PR. If I could just hold on a little longer.

2 Weeks Ago

Friend, uber endurance runner, and cardiologist Dennis tried to ease my mind about the situation. After talking to him I was reassured. Alot of the time it just doesn't get any worse. Nothing is for sure in life, but if the news is that I might need heart surgery when I'm 70...well, who can't say that?

Sometimes it degrades really quickly, but I'm not sometimes. This is probably something I did to myself with uncontrolled high blood pressure, when I was 400 pounds, doing my best to commit suicide by food.  

It's a hard lesson to learn. There are things you can do to yourself that can't be undone by an older wiser you. It's an obvious lesson, I suppose. Life is hard, but success for me has always been measured more by “showing up every day” and less about winning the big race.

My mind went to a quote I just saw in a friend's email signature:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
-Rocky Balboa

Mile 10

I made it, Mark was still in sight, but I was falling off the back. He was dropping to the 7:30s I guessed, and I couldn't follow. I surged, tried to catch up, and then fell back and recovered into a sustainable pace. If I could hold on, I could PR.

Mile 11
The suck finally found me. The seconds ticked by, everything hurt, and my goal became to get to mile 12 at my current pace. My brain disassociated with the physical stuff. A PR was still possible. I couldn't will my legs any faster, so I just focused on trying to be as economical as possible.

There may be a day I can't do this anymore. My heart valve might give out. Or maybe it will be my knee, that was supposed to never work well again, but it does.

My mind went to something else I heard, this time not from Rocky but from Aragorn, in “The Return of the King.”

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! 

There may be a day when I can't do this anymore, but that day isn't this day. Finally I was able to let the suffering in, let it wash over me, and welcome its familiarity.

And I got faster.


Mile 12-13.1


I saw Seth and Ryan (who ran the half in 74 minutes...wow) running a cool down around mile 13.  I was in my groove and rushing to the finish.  I had just enough to kick a little bit on the .1.  I crossed the line in 1:47 gun time, a PR for sure. I walked a bit to cool down but I was a real mess.  There was no way I could have run another step.  

Finish

It's no secret I'm not much of a runner. A 1:45 half is nothing special to be sure, as far as 30-34M goes at least, but today I did pretty good. (And in the words of Billy Madison “It was hard for me, so back off!”) I put it all on the table, there was nothing else left. I finished running my 5k pace, in complete agony, but smiling, proud of where I was able to take myself. I crossed the line in 1:45:11 chip time, 666th out of 6756.

Splits

1 – 8:11
2 – 8:01
3 – 7:56
4 – 7:56
5 – 7:51
6 – 7:39
7 – 7:59
8 – 7:44
9 – 7:46
10 – 7:59
11 – 7:56
12 - 8:08
13 – 7:53
13.1 – 7:22

The Next Day

I regained consciousness at about 6:30. I moved my legs and pain was reintroduced into the vocabulary of my mind. Ouch. William was moving down stairs. I was hungry and there was a bowl of oatmeal with my name on it. I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was my beautiful wife laying next to me. Yesterday I fought against myself and won. I was up for an easy Sunday morning. I can't help but feel very lucky.

A few days ago I told Curt from “Running on Guinness” that sometimes it's like having two different lives, coming from where he and I were to where I am now. That's true, but also, getting from there to here has involved so many struggles and hard fought victories, of which a screwed up heart valve is just the newest.

“my life has been extraordinary
blessed and cursed and won
time heals but i'm forever broken
by and by the way...


i know that i am meant for this world”
-Muzzel, Smashing Pumpkins