Thursday, October 27, 2011

Popular Gear

Each year, during the Ironman World Championship race in Hawai'i, a count of what gear everyone is using is done. I find this interesting, so I thought that I would share it. 

Speed Suits:
TYR - 411
Blue70 - 316
XTerra - 96
Aquasphere - 51

Cervelo - 488
Trek - 185
Felt - 124
Specialized - 122
Scott - 96
Cannondale - 79
QR - 61
Argon 18 - 57
Kuota - 55
Orbea - 53

Asics - 337
Saucony - 247
Kswiss - 209
Newton - 187
Brooks - 143
Nike - 100
Mizuno - 96
Zoot - 86
Adidas - 86
New Balance - 38

If you want to see the full lists, they can be found at

There are some interesting things at the bottom of these lists. For instance, one person apparently wore Crocs? I find it hard to believe the someone ran a marathon in Croc sandals! 

There was also a misguided runner that did the full 26.2 miles in Vibram five-fingers. They must have just finished reading "Born to Run". If the race were on grass, I would understand this more.

There was also someone that rode the 112 miles on a mountain bike. I've seen lots of newbies on mountain bikes at sprint distance races, where you are riding anywhere from 12 to 16 miles...but to ride one for 112 miles? Why? Who are you trying to impress?!? 

Personally, I ride an Argon 18 and run in Asics. I'm not cool enough to own a speed suit!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding Your Ideal Racing Weight

In August of 2006, I weighed 206 pounds. I was lifting pretty heavy back then and was doing very little cardio (doing triathlon's was not even on my radar). I didn't eat very good and although I thought that losing a few pounds would do me some good, I could have never imagined myself weighing 38 pounds less (168) as I did five years later on the morning of Ironman Louisville. I felt "healthy" back then, but I felt like a lean, mean, fighting machine this past summer while training for IM.

In the 8 weeks since IM, I've managed to gain 17 pounds. It's pretty easy to do when you aren't working out very much and you eat pretty much whatever you feel like. My weight has actually stabilized around 185 now and I have no doubt that once I get back into training for next season, the extra weight will come right off.

So the question now becomes, what is my ideal weight? While I felt really fast racing at 168, I also felt that I lost a lot of muscle getting down to this weight and I lacked the power on the bike that I had two seasons ago when I was weighing in around 180. I searched the internet and referenced some triathlon and running websites to find a formula that could tell me what my optimal race weight is.

The "ideal weight" calculator most used by non-athlete's in the BMI (Body Mass Index). This calculator works ok, but it does not factor in body fat/muscle composition. Having 5 pounds of lean muscle is obviously healthier than carrying around 5 pounds of fat. At  my current weight of 185, I have a BMI of 26.5...which puts me in the "Overweight" category. Even at my IM race weight of 168, I'm at the top end of the "normal" category. So obviously, this calculator is useless to athletes.

So what other calculators are out there? There's the waist to hip ratio calculator (WHR). You simply measure the circumference of your waist and the largest point on your hips and divide the two numbers. I'm going to be in a friend's wedding, so I was actually just measured for a tux last week. My waist measurement is a 32 and my hips are a 41. This gives me a ratio of 0.78 (32/41). Anything below 0.95 puts you at low risk for health problems related to obesity. Nice info to have, but it still doesn't tell me what my ideal weight is.

Another option is to compare my weight to other 33 year old males that are my height (5'10"). I found a website that let's you plug in your age, height and sex and then tells you what the average weight is for others in this demographic. Mine came out to be 173 pounds. This seems pretty reasonable to me, but the "average" person is not an athlete trying to compete at a high level.

If you have been following this blog for over a year, you know that I followed a training plan outlined by Joe Friel for my 2010 triathlon season. I remembered seeing a blog entry from Joe some time ago that discussed finding your ideal race weight. A quick Google search led me right to it. In this blog post, he discussed how much extra force is required to ride a bike up a hill or run when you are carrying extra weight. I can tell you that the runs that I've done since IM have not been as easy as those I did this summer. Imagine going out for a run carrying a 15 pound dumbbell! Joe goes on to give a calculation to find what your ideal racing weight might be, that perfect combination of weight and power. To find this weight, start by taking your weight in pounds and divide it by your height in inches. For me, this currently looks like 185/70 = 2.64. The typical, high-performance, male triathlete is in the 2.1 to 2.3 pounds per inch range. Females are in the 1.9 to 2.1 pounds per inch range. 

In order to excel with a weight that puts you above the ranges listed, you would need to have a higher than normal power output. So what would my weight need to be for me to race in the range Joe describes? Amazingly it is 147 to 161 pounds! I honestly cannot imagine myself getting down to this weight, and frankly, I'm not an elite-level triathlete, so I don't have to! 

So what am I going to do with all of this knowledge? I'm going to try and find the optimal combination of power and speed. I'm going to hit the weights this off-season and put on some muscle for added power. Then, come January, I'll start to get lean and lose any excess body fat that I have. I imagine that this will put me in the mid 170's...where I was most of 2011. Check out my weight chart below from the past 10 months. 

It's obvious that there isn't an ideal weight calculator that works for everyone. Depending on what your ultimate goal is, you can train and race in a wide weight range and still be successful. As for me, I'm enjoying my off-season weight and don't plan on giving up my second helpings at dinner or my bedtime snack anytime soon...especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why This Ironman is WEAK

I've never considered myself weak. Before I started training for triathlons, I lifted weights. I was one of those dudes in the gym that loaded up the bench press or squat rack and pushed out some reps while grunting uncontrollably. In fact, if my memory is correct, once upon a time I could bench press 335 pounds and squat over 500 pounds. Impressed? Yeah, I was "on swole".

A lot of triathlete's and runners have never done strength training. Though I didn't hit the weights nearly as hard once I decided to train for endurance races, I still mixed in some free weights a few times a week. I knew the importance of keeping your muscles and joints strong.

So when I first noticed the pain in my IT Band 6 weeks out from Ironman, I was surprised when my Physical Therapist told me I was weak. To be more hips were weak. So how do weak hips translate to a knee injury?

Weak hip muscles cause a runner's form to fall apart. The hips can't adequately control the motion of the legs...especially after several long runs in a row (which was my critical mistake). When your hips are not strong enough to keep your legs in line, it places stress on the knee and it's surrounding joints, ligaments and tissue. After logging over 50 hard miles in a ten day period in July, my IT band was swollen, inflamed and too tight to do me any good. I couldn't even run 2 minutes without being in pain. Weak hips can also lead to Patellofemiral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), which is that pain just below your knee cap...a very common injury for runners.

So what did I do to get ready for Ironman...where I was expected to run 26.2 miles? I slowly started strengthening my hips, glutes and core. Along with doing these exercises, I was using my foam roller almost nightly and doing lots of stretching.

In the days after Ironman, my IT band hurt just walking down steps. I took a complete month off of running...while continuing to do my hip and glute strength training. I'm the only male at the gym that ever uses the hip abductor and glute machines!
Over the last two weeks, I've had three short runs with very little pain in my IT band. The running hasn't been easy due to the fact that I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I was just 6 weeks ago, but running without pain is a great feeling.

So don't make the same mistake that I did. Even if you are doing strength training already, add in some hip strengthening exercises to your routine. I used (and still use) the five exercises outlined in Ben Greenfield's The Bulletproof Knee.

Ben charges for this program, so I'm not going to give away his secrets for free. If you don't want to pony up the cash to get his program (worth every penny...not running for almost two months because of an injury is horrible), you should be able to find some hip and glute strengthening exercises online somewhere.

As for my recent training, after a month of taking it easy and packing on the pounds following Ironman, I'm back into a little bit of a routine. I try to swim, bike and run at least once a week now. I'm hoping to up this to twice a week over the next few weeks. I'm doing lots of interval work in the pool and on the bike trainer - I'm done with the long, slow stuff! My 2012 season is starting to come together, more on this later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Ironman World Championship Recap

The race started at 1pm Eastern Time, so I had my laptop all set up and ready to view the race live on I was able to catch the entire swim and the start of the bike leg while the kids were napping. Once they woke up, we headed out to Harvest Homecoming (if you are not from the Louisville area, this is a little vendor fair in southern Indiana). By the time we made it home, the pro men were about 5 miles into the run...perfect timing.

After getting the kids to bed, I sat back down with my computer and was able to watch the last hour or so of the race. It was nowhere near as exciting as last year's finish, but there was plenty of drama.

Chris Lieto had a six minute lead off of the bike...and we all knew what was going to happen. Lieto always leads off of the bike. He's a dominant rider, but then he just can't hold a fast enough pace on the run to hold off the stronger runners. By mile four, Craig Alexander had passed Lieto for the lead. By the halfway point of the marathon, Alexander was up over two minutes on Andreas Raelert and Peter Jacobs. Alexander stretched the lead and by the 20 mile mark, it was going to take a miracle for anyone to catch him. The commentators were doing the math and knew that if he kept his current pace, he would be close to breaking the course record! With just under two miles to go Alexander stopped. He reached down and grabbed his feet, stretching out his hamstrings. He started to run again...then stopped to stretch. Was he cramping? Did he know that the record was within reach? After stopping a third time, he lowered his head and sprinted home. He crossed the line in an amazing time of 8:03:56, twelve seconds faster than the record set by Luc Van Lierde in 1996. This was Alexander's third Ironman World Championship, putting him in an elite group.

Pete Jacobs passed Raelert for second. Dirk Bockel was fourth and Timo Bracht rounded out the top five. For the record, I correctly predicted two of the top three and also had Bracht to finish 8th.

The women's race was a little more exciting. Chrissie Wellington had a bike wreck while training last week. No one knew the extend of her injuries. The road rash on her elbow was obvious, but if you've ever found yourself lying on the pavement next to your bike, you know that lots of other things are going to hurt. Wellington came out of the water almost 10 minutes behind the leaders...a lead too big for any ordinary triathlete to make up in the World Championship. Julie Dibens and Caroline Steffen took off on the bike after having great swims. As I watched the ladies exit the water, I kept wondering, "where's Chrissie?". I was thinking that maybe she was injured more than anyone knew and had a shoulder injury that was hampering her in the water. When I returned later in the evening and picked up the action at the end of the bike leg, she was over 20 minute behind Dibens!

As Alexander was pulling away in the men's race, the attention quickly turned to the women. Wellington came off the bike running sub-6 minute miles and was cutting into Dibens lead at an alarming rate. In fact, it only took 8 miles for people to catch Dibens. First it was Caroline Steffen. Then Dibens was then passed by Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce...before dropping out. Steffen and Cave were now both in the sights of Wellington. Chrissie's pace was just too much. She overtook Steffen with around 7 miles to go and quickly extended her lead to over two minutes. Mirinda Carfrae (last year's champion) had been running down the competition all day as well, but despite having the fastest run ever, she couldn't catch Chrissie and finished second. Cave held on for third. Rachel Joyce and Caroline Steffen rounded out the top five.

 If you are keeping score, I also correctly predicted the top two women. I had Cave coming in 6th and Steffen fourth.

Fun and exciting race, I can't wait to see the NBC broadcast in December. 

On another note, congrats to my two local buds, Scott and Mike. They finished in 13:15:21 and 10:56:55 respectively. Awesome race guys!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ironman World Championship Predictions

It's the "Super Bowl" of traithlon, so of course I'm going to pick a winner. To my knowledge, Vegas has not yet made it possible to wager on this I'm going to make my predictions by giving my odds on the top pro men and women crossing the line first. Of course, all gambling is for entertainment purposes only.

#1: Craig Alexander (AUS) -- 5-2
#10: Andreas Raelert (GER) -- 3-1
#6: Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) -- 4-1
#3: Tim O'Donnell (USA) -- 7-2
#2: Raynard Tissink (RSA) -- 9-2
#5: Faris Al-Sultan (GER) -- 8-1
#25: Chris Lieto (USA) -- 9-1
#9: Timo Bracht (GER) -- 12-1

My wager would look like this: 
Trifecta Box: 1-6-3
Show bet: 3, 25
Longshot to win: 9

It's going to be an exciting race. Last years champion is not racing on the mens side, so it will be interesting to see if Craig Alexander can capture his third title or if someone new will take the crown.

#102: Chrissie Wellington (GBR) -- 5-4
#101: Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) -- 5-2
#124: Linsey Corbin (USA) -- 3-1
#103: Caroline Steffen (SUI) -- 4-1
#108: Julie Dibens (GBR) -- 5-1
#107: Leanda Cave (GBR) -- 7-1
#128: Mary Beth Ellis (USA) -- 9-1

My wager would look like this: 
Trifecta Box: 102-108-103
Show bet: 107
Longshot to win: 128

Chrissie Wellington won in '07, '08 & '09. She dropped out the morning of the race last year because of an illness. Her races since then have indicated that if anything, she has improved since her 2009 race in Kona. It will be a surprise if anyone can hang with her. Mirinda took advantage of Chrissie's absence last year to win, but her time was around 4 minutes slower than what Chrissie ran in 2009.

You can follow the race live on Saturday starting at 1pm on

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Kona Week!

If you have been involved in the world of triathlon for any period of time, hearing "Kona" only means one thing...the Ironman World Championship. If you are not immersed in triathlon, than Koan probably brings thoughts of coffee, a restaurant or maybe just place in Hawaii. A race this Saturday on the big island will crown the 2011 Ironman World Champion. If you want details on the race, you can check out the blog posts I did before the race a few years ago:

History of the Ironman




Last year I discussed who gets to race in Kona and how they get there. Most of the 1800 athletes qualify, thus making it a true World Championship. You can qualify at any full Ironman distance race and few half-Ironman races. There were a total of 65 people that qualified for Kona at Ironman Louisville,this year 43 men and 22 women. Qualifying spots are rewarded based on where you finished in your age group. Usually the top 2-3 from each age group get a spot in the big race. I finished 112th in my age group, just two hours and twenty-three minutes behind the final 30-34 year old male qualifier. Those slow transition times killed me!

The other way to get to the starting line in Kona is to enter and win a lottery. There are only 200 spots awarded to lottery winners each year. This year, the winner from Kentucky, Scott Panella, happens to be someone that is a member of our local triathlon club and someone that I've gotten to know pretty well this year. Scott completed a half-Ironman earlier this season to satisfy the requirement needed to start the race this Saturday. He has never finished (only did the swim and bike by choice at IMLOU) a full Ironman race and I'm sure that he's excited to make one of the toughest in the world his first!

I also know a local triathlete, Mike Hermanson, that qualified for Kona by running a 9:32:50 at IMLOU...yeah, he's fast. He's not a pro, but beat lots of them and came in 18th Overall here in Louisville. Yes, that's correct, 18th overall.

Good luck to both Scott and Mike...represent The 'Ville and enjoy the race/vacation!

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