Monday, January 30, 2012

Polar Bear Triathlon Report

It's been five months since I had a "race morning", so it was kind of like learning from scratch. I had everything packed up the night before so that all I needed to do was put my bike rack on my truck, put my bike on it, and go. One bike rack doesn't fit on my new truck. Fortunately, I was able to put the third row seats down and get my bike to fit in the back with only taking the front wheel off.

So once I got all of that situated, I was on my way. In my typical fashion, I arrived very early to the race. I had plenty of time to set up my transition, check-in, get body marked and start to warm-up. It was pretty chilly setting up transition. I don't mind running in the cold, but just standing around is not fun.

Jessica and the kids showed up just before the start of the race. It's awesome to have such a supportive family...I know it wasn't easy to get them both up, dressed, fed and to a race 30 minutes away by 8:15am!

As I mentioned in the race preview, this race was in reverse. It started with a 3K run. The short run took us from the park entrance into the park and back. The route had a few small hills, but it was over so fast that it was hard to think about it too much. Since we all started together, I was able to see what place I was in. I hung with a group of two other guys most of the time, before passing one of them near the end. I finished the run in 11:22, which is a pace of 6:05 per mile (3rd fastest in my Age Group)...about 15-20 seconds per mile faster than I thought I could do. 

I entered T1 in 12th position. Although I had never done a run to bike transition, I went over it in my head a few times and managed to get out of there in exactly 30 seconds, which was the third fastest transition in the field. My quick T1 moved me up to 8th place starting the bike leg. However, I once again had trouble getting my feet in my shoes after I started going and had to stop to get this right...cost me at least 10 seconds and I was passed by one guy while sitting still. I clearly need to practice this!

The bike portion of the race was a 6 mile loop of rolling hills. The bike is usually my strength, but I was struggling. I haven't had Flash out on the road since Ironman...and it showed. The trainer just cannot simulate hills, or maybe I haven't done much hill training. Either way, I was hurting! My legs were screaming at me the whole time to slow down. I knew it was a very short ride, so I just pushed through the pain. I did the 6 mile ride in 17:23, which averages out to 20.7 mph (2nd fastest in my Age Group). I never did catch the guy that passed me early on and I was passed by another guy heading back into transition (I was slowing down getting ready to dismount and he went flying past me, then locked up his brakes - almost falling off of his bike). So I came into T2 in 10th place.

I took my feet out of my shoes and took my gloves off while riding into the park entrance. I also did the run and bike in my tri shorts, so I didn't have any pants to take off before the swim. I believe that I was the only one in shorts, but it paid off with a T2 time of 53 seconds, the fastest in the field. With this quick T2, moved me up into 6th place entering the water.

Thanks to a recommendation fellow triathlete Bill Marks, I had stashed my goggles inside the pool area. I originally had planned to put them on while running from transition to the pool, but hadn't thought about how they would fog up after going from the cold outside to the hot/humid indoor pool. So I threw them on and jumped in for the 400 yard swim. My legs were burning and my lungs and heart did not want to cooperate. I was trying to focus on good form because I knew I was tired and trying to swim faster would only slow me down (if that makes any sense). I was passed about half way through the swim and just didn't have the push to hang with him. During the final lap, I passed someone else and ended up back in 6th place overall. I did the swim in 7:11, which is a pace of 1:47 per 100 yards (fastest in my Age Group)...but very slow by my standards and at least a minute slower than I could do if the swim was first. It's weird for me to say that I'm not happy with a swim that was faster than anyone in my age group, but I've been working hard on my swim and I know that I can do better than this. Fortunately, there is only one more of these races where the swim is last, because it's not fun!

My 6th overall finish was good enough for 2nd in my age group. The winner of my age group turned in the fastest run of the day and despite being faster on the bike, swim and both transitions, I couldn't catch him. He ended up beating me by 30 seconds. That almost minute and a half lead he had after the run was too much for me to overcome. In my defense, his pace was 5:19 per way I'm touching that kind of speed!

Next race is in three weeks and the distances are a little longer, time to get back to work!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Polar Bear Triathlon

It's January, which is when most triathletes are enjoying their off-season. It's the perfect time of year to work on your swim stroke and get in some good miles on the bike trainer while watching some movies or sports. For me, it's the perfect time of year to get back into racing. I haven't been in a race since I crossed the finish line at Ironman Louisville exactly five months ago. To say that I've been anxious to get that race-day adrenaline going again is an understatement.

This Sunday I will toe the line for a Sprint distance triathlon in Shelbyville, KY. This is the first of a four-race series that takes place each month through April, this one has been given the name "Polar Bear Triathlon", for obvious reasons. The races vary in distance, with this month's being the shortest. It consists of a 3K run, 6 mile bike and 400 yard swim. Forecast for Sunday morning is calling for mostly clear skies with temperatures in the upper 20' that bike is going to be cold!

Those distances were not listed in the wrong order. Due to the outdoor temperatures, the swim is moved from first to last in the race. No one wants to go out into freezing temperatures soaking wet and get on a bike going 20 mph! This would result in lots of hypothermia. I'm pretty sure that a loss of motor skills would make it tough to bike or run.

I've never done a triathlon where the run was first and swim was last, so it will be interesting to see what it feels like to get in the water after running and biking. 

This will also be the shortest race on the face of the earth that I've ever done. With a run a little less than 2 miles, it will pretty much be an all-out sprint. Same on the bike. A six mile bike ride isn't even enough time to warmed-up. Maybe I'll just stand and mash the pedals the whole time. The swim is in an indoor 25 yard pool and will consist of "snaking" 8 lengths of the pool. Needless to say, this entire race will be less than 45 minutes and I will be at or near lactate threshold the entire time...completely opposite from Ironman. If Ironman is a marathon, this race would be a 100 meter dash.

With all that said, I'm really excited to get out there and race. With everyone starting at the same time (swim first races will be time trial starts), it will be fun to know what position you are in the whole time...making for some fun head-to-head racing.

I've never done this race before, so I'm not sure what I should expect for my time. I'm guessing about 13 minutes for the run, 17 very cold minutes for the bike and 7 minutes for the swim. Add in some time for transitions and I'm thinking I'll finish somewhere around 38-39 minutes. Last year's winner finished in just over 34 minutes...don't think I'm quite that fast!

It's been a long time since I gathered all of my gear for a race...better print out a list!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Limits Your Performance?

The two guys that I trust more than anyone else when it comes to the sport of triathlon are Joe Friel and Ben Greenfield. Both are very accomplished coaches and authors and when it comes to endurance training, I consider them to be two of the best resources available. Both Joe and Ben, through their blog and podcast, have recently discussed a topic that I find very interesting...what is your primary limiter?

There are several theories as to what keeps us from going faster or farther. At some point during a race or hard workout, you will begin to slow down, fatigue, or what some people call "bonk". You just cannot sustain the effort you want to and your body forces you to reduce your speed or intensity. So why does  this happen?

 After crossing the finish line at the 2010 Cardinal Harbour Half-Ironman.

 The theory that is most common is that exercise stops when something catastrophic occurs to your body. In this theory, fatigue is caused by physiological the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, or the depletion of glycogen in an endurance athlete. This theory proposes that when these situations occur, the body is physically forced to slow down.

Another theory, which I find more intriguing states that fatigue is physiologically based. This is known as the Central Governor Theory. This theory originated from PhD Tim Noakes and states that fatigue occurs in the brain, not the muscles. 

In this theory, the body is constantly sending signals to the subconscious brain regarding the current status of the working muscles. At some point, the brain makes a decision, based on perceived exertion, to slow down. Essentially, this theory says that brain regulates all performance, and will not let you get to catastrophic failure.

Dr. Noakes doesn't see fatigue as a physical phenomena, but purely as an emotion. When you feel like you have nothing left, it's just your brain playing a trick on you. Once you understand this, it becomes much easier to push yourself past that point where you want to slow down or quit. Under this theory, you can teach your brain that it can cope with the extra efforts.

So what do I think? I know that the physical training that you do builds your muscles so that they can handle the workload...while also training your body to function at a high level. But I believe that your brain plays a roll that is just as important, if not more, as your physical body. 

I know from personal experience, that there have been times during my workouts and races that I was able to dig deep and continue my pace and effort despite being in physical pain. This extra effort that I found came from my brain telling my body that the reward (winning my age group, or setting a PR) was more important than the risk (catastrophic muscle failure).

The more I learn about the Central Governor Theory, the more I try to push through the tough spots in a workout, training my mind to overcome the fatigue. While doing this I think about the old rap song by the Geto Boys, "My Minds" Playing Tricks On Me". Try it, it works!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Zero Calories Drinks

If you watch much TV, your are going to see commercials for zero calorie, zero sugar drinks. A few examples are Coke Zero, Pepsi Max and Powerade Zero. They all show, fit, active people enjoying the taste of their favorite beverage without any guilt...because there's no calories! Woo Hoo!

It's not a news flash that most American's are overweight. In an effort to lose some of the unwanted pounds, a lot of people have turned to diet soda instead of the regular soda...which is understandable if you've ever read the nutrition label on a non-diet can of anything. Diet soda's have been low or zero calories for a long time, but apparently people began to get the message that diet soda's weren't helping people lose weight. So now the marketing geniuses have introduced these "zero" drinks...and they are selling like crazy!

So what's so bad about these new zero calories, zero sugar drinks? Stop and think about this for a minute. If you are drinking something other than water and it has zero calories, what exactly are you putting into your body?

The answer is not good. Let's look at the ingredients in some of these drinks. We'll start with Coke Zero:

Entire list of ingredients
Carbonated Water
Caramel Color
Phosphoric Acid
Potassium Benzoate
Natural Flavors
Potassium Citrate
Acesulfame Potassium

Yummy! So let's look at some of this stuff. Nothing wrong with carbonated water and although the caramel color is something artificial generated in a lab, it's probably not all the bad for you. The one that you should be alarmed about is Asparame (aka NutraSweet). It's an artificial sweetener/sugar substitute that's considered by many experts to be one of the most dangerous food additives on the face of the earth! It's frequently associated with cancer, neurological disorders (Parkinson's and Alzheimer's), and other health issues in test animals. Read all about it here. You can find some studies that show Aspartame is fine for human consumption, but if you do a little digging, you will see that all of the research that deemed it safe was funded by corporations with financial ties to Aspartame. Meanwhile, over 90% of the independent (non-corporate funded) research found that it was unsafe. 

Aspartame happens to be found in these sodas, but all artificial sweeteners are bad, as I discussed here.

Aside from all of that good stuff, artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame have been shown to release gastric hormones when consumed - fooling your brain into thinking that there is food present, when there isn't. This leads to an appetite craving around 30-60 minutes after the stuff hits your stomach. So by making you hungry shortly after drinking it, how exactly do these drinks help you lose weight?

We also find Phosphoric Acid in Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. Does acid sound tasty to you? Me neither. It dissolves tooth enamel (leading to cavities and yellow teeth), it damages your stomach lining (leading to ulcers), it damages your bones (leading to osteoporosis) and it upsets your body's natural acid-alkaline balance.

What else do we have here, Potassium Benzoate. This is put in there to prevent the growth of yeast, mold and bacteria. You don't want mold or bacteria in your soda, right? One potential problem with this stuff is that when combined with Vitamin C (which you consume in lots of fruits and vegetables and some of the zero calorie sports drinks), it forms benzene...which even the FDA acknowledges is unsafe.

I won't go into "natural flavors", but since no one regulates what can be called "natural", there's no telling what this actually is.

Just so I don't seem biased, here are the ingredients in Pepsi Max:

Carbonated Water
Caramel Color
Phosphoric Acid
Potassium Benzoate
Natural Flavor
Acesulfame Potassium
Citric Acid
Calcium Disodium EDTA
Panax Ginseng Extract

Notice that the first five ingredients are the same for both Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. In case you were unaware, ingredients on a nutrition label are listed in order of quantity. The higher on the list, the more of this ingredient there is in the food/drink. 

I did notice that caffeine is higher up the list on the Pepsi product. A little research shows that Pepsi Max contains 69mg of caffeine - that's almost double the amount found in regular Pepsi. Caffeine in itself is not dangerous in moderation, but if you feel the need to have a caffenated drink to stay awake and focused during the day, you have some underlying health problems that need to be addressed.

So what I'm trying to tell you is that no soda, regardless of calorie or sugar content is ever good/harmless for you or your health. That being said, if you eat a healthy diet and exercise, feel free to enjoy a soda once in a while, but you are better off drinking the "regular" stuff...with real sugar and a lot less chemicals!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 Stats

So even though my training/race season doesn't exactly follow the calendar year, it's fun to look back each January and see the total amount of time and distances I logged the previous year. So here's what I did in 2011:

Swim - 90hr 5min (149.64 miles)

Bike - 156hr 15min (2,963.62 miles)

Run - 83hr 3min (599.88 miles)

TOTALS - 329hr 23min (3,713.14 miles)

Time spent lifting weights, aqua-jogging and other random cardio activities (elliptical, rowing machine, etc.) are not included in these numbers.

Just for fun, I looked at how far I could have gone from Louisville with each discipline. If I jumped in the Ohio River at downtown Louisville, 149 miles of swimming upstream would take me 20 miles past Cincinnati to a little town called California, KY...population 86 (it exists, look it up).

As for the biking, 2,963 miles would get me from Louisville to Los Angeles, then up the coast to Portland, Oregon...all on roads that can be ridden on, no Interstates.

Running south 600 miles from Louisville would have taken me to Jacksonville, Florida...or if I wanted to go northeast, I could have made it to Philadelphia.

These numbers may look crazy to a non-triathlete, but I would venture to guess that they are very low compared to most people that did an Ironman and two half-Ironman races last year. Hard to believe that I spent more time in the water than I did in my running shoes! The IT Band injury kept me from running for 7 weeks before IM and then the 3 weeks after, so I lost 10 weeks of running, which really hurt my running numbers for the year. For comparison, I ran 940 miles in 2010 and 632 in 2009.

2011 Race Results:

2/25/11 - Anthem 5K - 46th in AG, 269th Overall
3/12/11 - Rodes City Run - 53rd in AG, 325th Overall
3/26/11 - Papa John's 10 Miler - 65th in AG, 346th Overall
4/17/11 - Shelbyville Sprint Tri - 1st in AG, 7th Overall
4/30/11 - KDF miniMarathon - 61st in AG, 408th Overall
5/14/11 - Taylorsville Lake Tri - 5th in AG, 23rd Overall
6/5/11 - TriFest Tri - 2nd in AG, 10th Overall
7/9/11 - Cardinal Tri - 8th in AG, 35th Overall
8/28/11 - Ironman Louisville Tri - 112th in AG, 661st Overall

2011 was a very exciting year and with completing an Ironman, it was obviously my most accomplished year since I started doing triathlons in late 2008. Shifting to shorter races in 2012 has me excited to work on speed and not endurance...which am I better suited for? I guess we'll find out!

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