Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 2 (The Swim)

If you missed Part 1 of my race report, you can read it here. 

So I left off with me jumping into the river. The 2.4 mile swim course for IMLOU consists of going upstream approximately 0.8 miles, then turning around and going approximately 1.6 miles downstream to the finish.

When I jumped in the water, I immediately started to swim hard. I wanted to get away from everyone else and find some "clean" water. When I say "clean", I obviously don't mean the literal sense of the word - this is the Ohio River after all. What I was looking for was a less-crowded spot, where I could get in a good rhythm without constantly being bumped, punched and kicked.

The upstream portion takes you between Towhead Island and the shore. From swimming in this channel before, and thinking back to my Fluids class in Engineering school, I know that the current is slower closest to the banks. So during the first part of the IMLOU swim (when swimming upstream), it would benefit you to hug the edge of the island. I started to head over that way, but as I looked to my left, I saw that it was very crowded over there. So I decided that I would rather fight a little more current and stay by myself. 

I was breathing to my right, but every once in a while, I would breath to my left just to see if things had cleared out any over near the island. They never did, so I stayed on my line. The buoys were also to the left, so I was having to look up ahead to sight every 10-15 stokes to make sure I was swimming fairly straight. It's pretty easy to stay on course in the channel, since it's only about 25 yards wide.

After what seemed like an hour, I finally reached the turn-around buoy. I made the turn and could almost immediately feel the current assisting me. The turn-around was pretty crowded and I caught a hand to the left eye. It knocked my goggles up on my face, but not enough to force me to stop and adjust them. I did a quick assessment and could tell that there was no water leaking in, so I just left them alone. They weren't comfortable anymore, but I just blocked it out and kept going.

After I had made the turn, I decided once again to find some clean water. The buoys were on my left again and they seemed to be awful close to the island. So I let everyone else swim on the buoy line and I headed more toward the middle of the river. As I mentioned above, the current is slowest closer to the banks - and conversely, it's faster in the middle of the river. So now that we were swimming with the current, the middle of the river would provide the most advantage. I extended my stroke length in order to take maximum advantage of this aid from the current.

Note the difference in my speed after the turnaround point (shown by the arrow).

After swimming for a little bit, I started trying to see the swim exit. I knew that it was at Joe's Crab Shack, so I began looking for Joe's roof. After 3-4 attempts, I finally spotted it way up river. My next 2-3 sightings were to try and find which bridge pylons were on that line. The course takes you under two bridges (see picture below), so sighting off of the bridge closest to where I was at the time would be easier than trying to find Joe's roof each time I looked up. 

While most people were to my left on the buoy line, I was joined passed by several other swimmers out where I was. I tried to tag on to their feet to get a little bit of a draft, but I could only hang on for a few seconds. At one point, I jumped behind a woman that was only swimming slightly faster than I was. I inadvertently hit her feet a few times and then all of the sudden, she stopped. She seemed to be adjusting her goggles, but then as soon as I went by, she jumped right on MY feet. I could feel her behind me for several minutes. I guess she decided she wasn't going to let me draft off of her, but she would be more than happy to take advantage of my wake!

Near the end of the swim, I was getting some negative thoughts. I didn't look at my watch once during the swim. Since I didn't know how far I had swam, the total time would have been irrelevant. I could have looked at my pace per 100 meters, but I didn't want to break my rhythm to stop and check it. For some reason, I had the feeling that I was swimming slow. Maybe it was the fact that I was all alone and was getting passed by the only people close to me. Whatever the reason, I was trying to mentally prepare myself for a swim time slower than my goal of a sub 1:20. I was thinking about what a time of 1:25-1:30 would mean for my overall goal of a sub 12 hour race. Due to my bike pacing strategy, I knew that I wasn't going to make up 10 minutes on the bike, so could I run a marathon in just over 4 hours? These were the thoughts that I allowed to creep into my mind only an hour into the race. 

My Garmin swim path.
The yellow line shows the most direct route from the turn-around to the swim exit. Looks like I swam pretty close to the optimal route!

Just before I exited the water, I forced myself to get rid of these negative thoughts and focused on positives. I knew that I still felt really strong and I had completed the swim at a pace that wasn't going to hurt my bike or run. I started to invision what I needed to do once I reached the transition tent. I mentally went through all the items in my Bike Gear bag and what order I needed to pull everything out in order to make the most efficient use of my time.

I reached the temporary steps and was helped out of the water by a volunteer. I walked a few steps just to make sure I had my legs under me...then I looked down at my watch...1 hour and 9 minutes! I was very releved and excited by this time. It was even almost 3 minutes faster than my time from two years ago - when my swim training my much better. Maybe the current was stronger this year, but I didn't care - I was pumped!

All of my negative thoughts were gone and I immediately felt great about the way my day was going to go!

2.4 mile swim
1:49 / 100m pace
1:39 / 100yd pace
87th out of 335 in my Age Group
703rd out of 2600 Overall

Part 3 of my race report will take me through T1 and the 112 mile bike course.

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 1 (Pre-Race)

Instead of having a blog post that would take you an hour to read, I'm going to break my Ironman Louisville Race Report into several smaller posts. The first one will cover everything I did from the time I woke up until we jumped in the water.

Before I actually get to the morning of the race, I wanted to mention that all three of my children had a little cold the week leading up to the race. Stuffy noses and coughs. When this started early in the week, I thought that I would surely have the same symptoms come race day. All week long, I was sure to wash my hands, drink plenty of water and several times a day, I put doTERRA Essential Oils on. Specifically, the On Guard blend. We use essential oils in our house daily and this stuff works. I woke up on race day and never had a single sign of a cold - despite having snot smeared on my face several times and and being breathed on by sick kids all week!

My alarm clock woke me up at 3:30am. I was happy with the fact that I was actually in a pretty deep sleep at the time. I didn't toss and turn too much as my nerves were pretty calm. I hopped out of bed full of energy and ready to get the long day started. I took care of my business in the bathroom (very important aspect of race morning), and then I heated up my boiled sweet potato.

As I ate my sweet potato and almond butter (good mix of complex carbs and fats), I filled up my water bottles and double-checked all of my gear that I had to take with me. Dropping off my Bike Gear and Run Gear transition bags the day before makes for a pretty short race day check list. As I finished filling my bottles, Jeremy showed up. He was also racing and only lives three doors down (isn't that a band?), so we decided to ride together.

I gave Jessica a kiss goodbye and we were out the door. We wanted to get a spot near the front of the swim start line, so Jeremy and I, along with our friends Bill and Shawn had come up with a plan. We all four met up at the swim start and Jeremy and Shawn waited in line while Bill and I went down to transition to put bottles on our bikes, pump up our tires, etc. Then we took their spot in line while they did the same. It worked out pretty well, but despite getting down to the swim start at 4:30, we still cut it a little close. Jeremy and Shawn didn't get back to the line until around 6:30...and the race stared at 7! The only nervous time I had all morning was when I thought that they weren't going to get back to the line before the race started!

The only thing I forgot to do when I was in transition was calibrate my bike power meter to my watch. This wasn't a big deal, but I just had to remember to do it once I got on my bike after the swim.

When Bill and I get back down to the line, we had to body marked. One of by pet-peeves is have my number be neat. Don't ask me why, but I get pissed if they look sloppy. There are at least 10 people doing body marking, so I watched a few of them before deciding witch one to have do my numbers. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I'm not normal.

Waiting in line at the swim start. From left to right (Jeff, Scott, Me, Chip, Bill and Shawn). Jeremy was also with us, but I guess he was in the bathroom or something...
While we waited in line, we got to talk to lots of fellow Landsharks and competitors from out of town. Standing in line with friends and cutting-up helps keep everyone loose. Being able to race with friends is one of the things that I love most about triathlons. While your race results are shown as an individual, it's definitely a team sport.

I popped some Clif Shot Blocks around 6:30 for a little blood sugar spike and a bit of caffeine - making sure to chase them with almost a full bottle of water. I had been sipping on water all morning. I had even dissolved a NUUN tablet in one of the bottles. I knew that it was going to be a hot day and I wanted to make sure I was on top of my hydration from the beginning. I also took time to put on some sunscreen. I packed another tube in my Run Gear bag so that I could re-apply before the run. I did lots of research on what sun screen to use and several triathlete message boards and reviews recommended Planet Sun. I have to give it my seal of approval as well. After spending 12 hours in the sun, my arms were only slightly red and I have no sun burn.

The National Anthem was sung and then My Old Kentucky Home was played by Steve Buttleman, the official bugler of the Kentucky Derby. It gives me cold-chills every time! Then at 6:50am, the pro's race started. We watched them swim upsteam until they were out of sight, then the volunteers lead the line of almost 3000 athlete's down to the docks.

I reached down and got my goggles and hands wet. I put on my goggles and swim cap and was ready to rock and roll. This is the only part where I remember being nervous. Just standing there waiting to start. It seemed like a long time, but it was really only just a few minutes. The cannon fired and the first athlete's started to jump off of the docks into the water. The line slowly started to move and before I knew it, I hit the start button on my watch and jumped in! My 2013 Ironman Louisville race had begun!

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ironman Training Review

While I never really stopped training after my 2012 season was over, my "official" Ironman Louisville 2013 training started 36 weeks ago. I started with a basic outline of the plan I followed in 2011, which was called Triathlon Dominator, and then I modified it considerably to fit my goals and plan for this year. I knew that we had baby #3 coming in January and with the other two only being 3-1/2 and 20 months old at the time, I had to develop a training plan that would give me maximum results on minimum time. 

I do lots of research and listen to lots of podcasts on swim/bike/run training and racing. Over the last few years I had started to develop some ideas as to how I could do another Ironman with minimal impact on my family and work. I've always been against any program or diet that is touted as the "easy way" to get to your goal with minimal effort. All fad diets are popular because the seem so simple and are promoted as a simple way to lose weight...and they all fail. I say this just to make sure that everyone understands that my training plan was not the "easy" way to train for an Ironman, because I honestly struggled to get through a lot of the workouts. 

According to the Ironman website, the average Age Group (non-professional) athlete trains between 18 and 30 hours a week. Average training distances per week are Swim (7 miles), Bike (232 miles) and Run (48 miles). I knew that none of these were an option for me. I needed a plan that would allow me to do 90-95% of my training early (4:00am-6:00am). This meant that my bike rides would all be on the trainer and my runs would be in the dark. Swims would require me to be waiting at the door of the gym when they opened up at 5:00am. 

I logged all of my workouts with Training Peaks. I usually only planned my training schedule 2 weeks in advance. This allowed me to change it on the fly several times when I had to go out of town for work or I felt that I was too fatigued to do the planned workout at the effort required to make it meaningful. 

So after all was said and done, here are my totals from the last 36 weeks:

Hours Trained Per Week

Average Training Hours Per Week = 7.35
Average Distance Covered Per Week = 78.66 miles

Total Hours For Each Discipline:
Swim = 47 hours, 46 minutes (1 hour 19 minutes per week)
Bike = 129 hours, 19 minutes (3 hours 35 minutes per week)
Run = 69 hours 19 minutes (1 hour 56 minutes per week)
Strength Work = 18 hours 15 minutes (30 minutes per week)

Total Miles For Each Discipline:
Swim = 84.84 miles (2.35 miles per week)
Bike = 2,225.00 miles (61.81 miles per week)
Run = 521.87 miles (14.50 miles per week)

So is it possible to complete an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) on less than 8 hours a week of training? We'll find out in three days!

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is The Underpants Run??!!

I had planned on reviewing the Professional Field for 2013 Ironman Louisville today, but since there is no list of said athlete's anywhere to be found, I decided to go in a different direction.

This Saturday (the day before Ironman), there will be around 50-100 people running on the riverfront in just their underwear. If this event were held at night, there might be some arrests made, but since it takes place at 11:30 in the morning, the local law enforcement decides to let the Indecent Exposure violations slide. 

So what is the point of this event? It's two-fold. First of all, it's a good way for those racing Ironman the next day to have some fun and get their mind off of the race for a little while. The second purpose is to raise money for a good cause. This year's Louisville Underpants Run will be raising funds for my favorite local charity, The Kids Center. The mini-marathon team that I train each year also raises money for the kids and it's just a wonderful place. Check out their website if you have a few minutes.

So why underpants? It all started 16 years ago at the site of the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The original run was in 1998 and was done by three guys as a protest. They were upset that they couldn't wear their Speedo's into restaurants and stores in Kona. After this first year, the event took off and more and more people started to run in their undies each year a few days before the big race. I have a feeling that at first it was done to make fun of these original guys and their "protest", but either way, it eventually got so big that it started to become and organized event and then a fundraiser.

Five years ago, a friend of mine, Kevin Brooks, decided to put on a local underpants run just like the one they do in Hawaii. So the day before Ironman Louisville each year, we have the Louisville Underpants Run. He does a wonderful job organizing the 1.5 mile run and I'm thrilled that he decided to pick the Kids Center as the charity each of the last two years. Believe it or not, organizing this event is not a full-time, year-round job. Kevin also custom paints helmets and bikes, so if you want to stand out from the crowd at your next race, give him a shout. Here's his page

I'll be out there Saturday morning in some form of underwear. This is the best I will probably ever look in my under-roo's, so I might as well show off all of the hard work!

Here are some pictures from the last few years. If you are in Louisville, come on down to the Belle of Louisville on Saturday morning. You can show up in regular running gear if you want, but be sure and bring a donation and get ready to laugh! You can register online or just show up.

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Welcome to Ironman Week!

It's officially Ironman week in Louisville! Most people living in the city won't know this until Saturday or Sunday, but in my circle of triathlon friends, it's all anyone is talking about.

I thought that I would use this post to take a look back at the history of this event. But before Ironman came to town, there was a triathlon known as "TriAmerica" held in the Derby City. This Olympic Distance race was held here from 2002-2006. It was part of a series of races held around the country. Right on the heels of this race series leaving Louisville after 2006, Ironman swooped in.

On October 4th, 2006, it's was announced that Ironman was bringing a full-distance triathlon to Louisville. Rumors were that the event was going to be a Half-Ironman, but after getting a look at the city and seeing the possibilities of it being a huge event, they decided to go with a Full (one of only eight full IM's in the country at that time). Here is how the official announcement from Ironman read:

"The 2.4 mile swim for Ford Ironman Louisville will take place in the Ohio River and the bike and run course will take athletes throughout various areas of Louisville to include not only downtown but also Prospect, Clifton, the city of LaGrange, Clarksville, Ind. and Butchertown.

Athletes can register for the event beginning on October 21 at 3 p.m. EST by visiting The 2007 event will reach capacity at 2,100 athletes and includes a $50,000 professional prize purse. For event-related questions, contact the Event Director, Steve Meckfessel via email at"
The thing that make IMLOU unique was the swim in the Ohio River. At this point, all Ironman races started on a shore and were a mass-start. Logistically, this was impossible to do here in Louisville; so they came up with a time-trial start. Athlete's would enter the water one and a time. This original contract was to have the race in Louisville for five years (2007-2011). This was also the first venture for the World Triathlon Corp. (WTC) into the event organizing helm. 

Chris McDonald just after winning the Inaugural IM Louisville.
Australian Chris McDonald crossed the finish line first to win the inaugural race, which was sponsored by Ford. His time was 8:38:39. The female winner was Heather Gollnick (9:23:22). After that first year, the finish line at Fourth Street Live! became a huge selling point for race organizers. The unique finish shoot was featured in several triathlon publications and word spread quickly online that this finish line rivaled that of the World Championship in Kona, HI.

The 2008 race was won by Max Longree in 8:33:58 (including a 2:48 marathon), with previous champion Chris McDonald coming in 21 minutes after Longree. Max quickly became a fan favorite after he gobbled down a huge cheeseburger from the Hard Rock Cafe, which is right at the finish line. He came back and trained here in the summer of 2009, gaining lots of local support. The women's winner in 2008 was Mariska Kramer-Postma with a time of 9:54:17.

2009 was the first year that I volunteered at the race. After completing my first triathlon (a sprint) in the summer of 2008, I was hooked on the sport and just wanted to be around an Ironman event. I volunteered in T1 and got see everyone exit the water and start the bike. In the third year of the race, there was a third different champion. This time around it was Viktor Zyemtsev in a course-record time of 8:25:27.  Max Longree finished 5th. The weather was very cooperative (high was 81F) and the times showed it. The woman's winner was Nina Kraft in 9:20:21 - another course record.

As ideal as the weather was in 2009, it was the opposite in 2010. With temperatures reaching into the mid-90's, athlete's and spectators suffered. I was again volunteering in T1 and I remember it being very 8am! The average finish time was over 47 minutes slower than the year before. A fourth different champion was crowned when Paul Ambrose crossed the line in 8:29:59. Rebekah Keat won the women's title in 9:33:15. I signed up for IMLOU 2011 a few days after the 2010 race...I was officially going to be an Ironman!

2011 was the fifth year of the race and just a few days before the gun when off, it was announced that WTC extended the contract another five years (through 2016). Stats showing that Ironman pumps over $5 Million into the local economy each year were released. The fact can't be argued that this is a huge event for the city of Louisville and almost everyone was happy to see the contract extended. 2011 delivered the first 2-time IMLOU Champion when Chris McDonald once again ran down the finish shoot at Fourth Street Live! first with a time of 8:27:36. Nina Kraft became the first repeat women's Champion with a time of 9:38:14.

With the contract renewal came a new title sponsor. The 2012 race was officially called the Norton Sports Health Louisville Ironman. I was back to volunteering, this time at the swim start. With temperatures back in the mid-90's, the times were slower. The top finisher on the men's side was Patrick Evoe. His winning time of 8:42:44 was the slowest in the six years of the event. The women's race was the closest yet, with Bree Wee winning in 9:36:27, just 1 minute and 47 seconds ahead of Jackie Arendt.

What till the 2013 race look like? I'll preview the pro field tomorrow.

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

9 Tips For The Last 9 Days Before Ironman Louisville

My second Ironman is only nine days away. The taper is in full effect and my workouts are short and sweet! I'm trying to stay rested and basically not do anything to hurt myself before the race. I do lots of things all season long to try and stay healthy and well (both physically and mentally), but leading up to a race as big as Ironman, there are a few more things to think about.

So here's a list if 9 things that I will be doing over the next 9 days:

1. Study the Athlete Guide - Ironman publishes a race-specific guide for each event that they hold. The guide is full of very useful information, even for those of us that have done the race in the past. I've already downloaded the guide (which you can find here), printed it out and went through marking/highlighting things that I thought were important or that I didn't know. This includes the maps of the swim, bike and run courses. If I'm not sure about a particular section of the course, I might head out and drive it. At some point in the next few days, I will go back through the guide and write down things that I want to remember on race day or as I pack up my gear bags (see item # 8 for more on this).

2. Make a Plan for Transitions and Aid Stations - I've done enough triathlons to be able to speed through T1 and T2 quickly...but this isn't any ordinary race. There is no clipping your shoes on your bike. No laying out your shoes and hat for the run. For Ironman races, you can have nothing on the ground in transition. So it will be a little bit different transitioning from swim to bike and from bike to run. I will go over in my head (and maybe on paper) what all I need to do several times before race day. I will also think about what I want to do at the Aid Stations on the bike and run. As I approach the stations on the bike, what will I try to grab from the volunteers? On both the bike and run, what order do I want to get stuff? Where will I put it once I grab it? These things need to be thought out ahead of time. Aid Stations are a prime spot for wrecks on the bike, so I want to have a plan to get in and get out!

3. Spend Time With The Foam Roller - As my workouts get shorter and less intense, my muscles are starting to get some much needed R&R. Several times over the next nine days, I will work the foam roller on my legs and back, trying to hunt down tight spots. Two years ago before Ironman I had several deep tissue massages; this time around, I'll find the trouble spots myself. As I move up and down my legs, if I feel a tender spot, I will hold it there for 20-30 seconds and then move on. Hopefully doing this every few days will break up adhesions and scar tissue and increase blood flow, promoting recovery and performance.

4. Be Very Conscious of What I Eat - Not that I'm not normally very particular about my diet, but in the days leading up to the race, it's critical to keep your gut in good shape. I've already started to limit carbohydrates as my taper started at the beginning of this week. There's no need to pack on extra pounds now. I will be sure not to introduce any new foods and will be careful to limit fiber in the two days before race day. I will increase carbohydrates slightly the days before the race, but I will not be "carb loading". My diet has been about 70-75% fats and proteins for the last two months, so my body is decently efficient at using fat as a fuel. I don't need to stuff myself with carbs the day before the race to ensure that I will have enough fuel to get through. I will also continue to take a Digestive Enzyme supplement and take a swig of Apple Cider Vinegar every night to help promote digestion.

5. Strict No Caffeine and No Sugar - Outside of some tea now and then, I don't drink anything with caffeine in it. But during Ironman, I will take some liquid and gels that contain it. In order to maximize their effectiveness, I will abstain from caffeine for the two weeks leading up to a race. Studies have proven that caffeine is an effective (and legal) performance enhancer, but only when used the right way. Sugar is a drug - bottom line. I don't eat much sugar during a normal week, but I might slip in something here or there...but not race week.  I'm going to three kids birthday parties between now and the race, so resisting cake and ice cream is going to be difficult. The liquid fuel that I will drink on the bike and run contains Dextrose and Maltodextrine, which are sugars that will absorb quickly into my blood stream for energy.  This will be a huge jolt to my system since it's not used to having sugar as a fuel source. This stuff is not healthy, and other than race day and long training rides, I would not recommend consuming it!

6. Drink Adequate Amounts of Water - There's not much worse than starting a long race in the hole. I want to be fully hydrated on race morning. So I will pay extra close attention to my water intake and make sure that I'm hydrated, but not over hydrated. If my urine gets clear, then I need to back off. If it's dark yellow, I need to drink more. The color of lemonade is what I'm shooting for!

7. Get Info To Spectators - Most people that compete in an Ironman race will have family and friends that want to come out on the course to support them. Don't just tell them to show up on the bike or run course and wait for hours hoping to see you. Rent a GPS Tracker from MyAthleteLive or give them maps and try to estimate a time range when you will be at certain places on the course. Tell them what you will be wearing and what your bike looks like - or better yet, send them a picture of you wearing your race gear so they can know what to look for. Spectators have just as long of a day as the people racing, don't make their day any more difficult than it has to be!

8. Plan Out Your Gear Bags - Each person gets 5 gear bags.
  • Morning Clothes bag - stuff that you want to wear at the swim start, but that you aren't going to be swimming in (i.e. shoes, shirt, shorts, pre-race food, etc.)
  • Bike Gear bag - everything for T1 (i.e. bike shoes, helmet, race bib number, maybe a change of clothes, etc.)
  • Bike Special Needs bag - you will get this around the half-way point of the bike (i.e. more nutrition, a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, etc.)
  • Run Gear bag - everything for T2 (i.e. running shoes, hat, socks, run nutrition, etc.)
  • Run Special Needs bag - you will get this around the half-way point of the run (i.e. spare socks, more nutrition, petrolum jelly for blisters, etc.)
Think about all of these bags and what you will need. Write down a list now and then keep it handy so you can add more things as you think of them between now and race day.

9. Thank Your Support Crew - Family and friends have put up with your training and non-stop triathlon talk for 9-12 months now. The race is finally here and I'm sure they are just as thankful as you are that it will all be over soon. Take some time to individually thank those that have made sacrifices so that you could do this race. They are proud of you, but they will appreciate the gesture. Maybe once things have settled down, treat your significant other to a day out without the kids, or a nice dinner. Whatever it is, give them something special - they deserve it!

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

So Just How Hard Is Ironman Louisville?

Before I get into this post, I wanted to mention that four years ago today I started this blog. I really wasn't sure what it would turn into or if I would even keep up with it. It has evolved a lot since my first post, and instead of just telling readers about my training; over 450 posts later, I now try to write posts that relate to all people, not just athletes. I appreciate all of my readers and I continue to be amazed at the amount of traffic that I get. Each month, I average around 1,800 views...crazy.

So on to the topic at hand...Ironman Louisville (IMLOU). It's only 17 days away now, so lots of my thoughts are now consumed by the race. I'm approaching this Ironman differently than I did my first one back in 2011. I have a very detailed plan this time around and I'm excited/anxious to see how it all unfolds. My race plan has evolved over the last few weeks after lots of research and self-testing. Some of the research that I came across was very interesting. A website called does a wonderful job taking race results and analyzing the crap out of them (my kind of people). So I've looked at all of the data from last year's race, and here is what I've learned...

There are 27 Ironman races held every year (not counting the World Championship). Louisville is consistently ranked in the top 3-4 toughest of those 27. In 2012, it was the third toughest Ironman race in the world based on average finish time. All of the races are the same distance, so average finish time is a pretty good indication of how difficult the 140.6 miles are. The average finish time for IMLOU in 2012 was 13 hours and 41 minutes. Compare that to the "easiest" Ironman, Austria, where the average finish time last year was over two hours faster!

What makes IMLOU so tough? It doesn't have the slowest average swim time of all the races, or bike split, or even the slowest run...but when you combine all three and sprinkle in a little lot of heat and humidity, IMLOU jumps up near the top of the list. Despite slight difference in the weather, the average times over the last four years have been pretty steady.

What jumps out to me is the amount of DNF's (Did Not Finish). Last year, IMLOU had an astonishing 14% DNF rate (it was 16% in 2010 and 7% in 2011). That means that 14% of the people that jumped in the Ohio River that morning never made it to the finish line. Most other Ironman's have a DNF rate in the single digits, usually around 5%. I attribute this higher than usual DNF rate to the weather...although you think that people would know what to expect and would try to acclimate to the heat and scale back expectations before showing up in Louisville in late August!

When you dig a little deeper into the results, you see that for my Age Group (M35-39), the average bike split was 6:27 and the average run split was 5:19. The average total race finish time was 13:30. So the average guy in my age group spent 47.8% of their time on the bike and 39.4% of their total race time on the run. Let's compare these percentages to those of the Professional Males. The Pro's bike split made up 51.7% of their total time, while the run was only 37.2%. If I look at just the top 15 finishers in my Age Group, the average bike & run percentages were 52% & 35%. So what this tells me is that the strongest/smartest triathletes (those that have a very specific race plan), are spending a larger amount of their total race time on the bike. I'm sure that they could go faster on the bike, but they have mastered the art of pacing the bike so that they have enough legs left for a strong run.

If you look at this scatter chart of all 2012 IMLOU finishers, you will see that there were a lot more people that "Rode Too Fast" (top left), than people that rode slow and ran fast (bottom right).

Riding too fast is easy to do and it's going to take a lot of focus and ego-checking on my part to stick to my plan on the bike. I'll get passed a lot, but at the end of the day, the only time that matters is the total finish time. This is not a cycling-only race!

The only other race where I have had a chance to implement this strategy was the Cardinal Half-Ironman last month. I paced the bike and ended up having my fastest ever Half-Ironman run split. So I trust that it's a good I just have to execute!

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Staying Hydrated

Check out this clip from The Waterboy:

Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) was right. Water is better. Sports drinks are full of bad stuff, but I won't get into that now. I wanted to use this post to talk about how to properly acclimate and hydrate when exercising in the heat.

The human body regulates internal temperature through radiation, conduction, convection and evaporation (yay, engineering terms!!). The one that is most critical to athletes is evaporation, aka sweating. When sweat is secreted through your pores onto the surface of your skin, it evaporates and changes from a liquid to a gas. This cools your skin. So in order to actually cool your body, the sweat must evaporate. That's why when it's humid outside, it's harder to keep cool. In dry conditions, this sweat evaporates more quickly - cooling the body more efficiently. But in order to sweat, your body needs to by hydrated.

Dehydration is a term that is thrown around a lot. The medical definition is that it's a "reduction in the total body water content." When fluid is lost from the body through sweat, the osmolality of the blood increases. This rise stimulates the brain to release a hormone, whose function is to increase water reabsorption by the kidney. The kidney then reduces the amount of fluid it secretes - reducing urine flow into the bladder. If you do not do something to reverse this process, you become dehydrated. The good news is that our body knows when this is happening. At the same time, another part of the brain is stimulated, increasing your thirst. In the ideal situation, you drink more water - the kidney starts to secret more fluid - your bladder fills - and you pee. So the first symptom of dehydration is thirst. If you do not quench your thirst, the body activates a series of emergency adaptations that prolong life...but trying to continue to exercise while the the body is going into "emergency mode" is what causes serious problems.

I want first address how much or how often you should be drinking water when exercising. There are lots of formulas out there to calculate your required fluid intake. Some are based on distance covered in training (7-10 ounces of water for every mile covered). Some are based on the amount of time you are exercising (12-24 ounces per hour). Some are based on your body weight (0.5-1 ounce per pound).  Some people even suggest that you set a schedule (drink three sips of water every 10 minutes).

Personally, I don't think that any of these are good methods. Everyone has a different sweat rate. The best way to determine how much water you need is to weigh yourself naked before and then after your workout. If you take in adequate water, these weights should be close to the same.  If they are not, you need to take in 24 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost. Then revise your fluid intake next time you workout and try to dial it in. Note that you must do a workout at race-pace intensity in order to know how much to drink during a race.

Personally, I know that if I have to pee about once an hour while I'm exercising, then I'm taking in adequate fluids. If I don't get that urge after about 45-60 minutes, I will immediately start to increase my water intake. I've used this method on all of my long rides and runs while training for Ironman and my post-workout weight is always within a pound or so of my pre-workout weight.

There's also the "Tim Noakes" school of thought. He proposes that your body possesses mechanisms to self-regulate and will tell you (through the thirst mechanism) that you need water. He says that you should only drink when you are thirsty and never on a set schedule or based on an amount per hour or body weight - no matter how extreme the physical activity. He sites several studies where runners have finished races with a body weight 10-12% less than when the race started and showed no signs of dehydration. Furthermore, he suggests that most people drink too much water during an organized race - leading to a whole other list of problems. All that being said, when pushed, Noakes does recommend fluid intake in the range of 13-26 ounces of water per hour across all endurance events (based on his studies)...which is not far from what others suggest is necessary.

You can drink an adequate amount of water and still not have the race you wanted. Heat and humidity play a huge role in what your body is capable of. Gradually exposing yourself to heat stress improves your ability to tolerate heat. These changes improve heat transfer from the body core to the skin and improve cardiovascular function.

There are several ways to acclimate to heat. In order to do so, you have to put yourself in a hot environment fairly often. The most obvious way is to do your workouts outside, in the heat of the day. Moving 2-3 workouts per week to the hottest parts of the day will help your body learn how to exercise in the heat and humidity. 

If you don't have the option to exercise in the afternoon, you can expose your body to heat other ways. One option is to exercise while wearing more clothing than you normally would. You might get some weird looks running in Under Armour in July, but who cares. 

Another strategy is to use saunas or steam rooms. This is what I did leading up to Ironman Louisville in 2011. I would sit in the steam room at the gym for 30 minutes twice a week. I did this for six weeks leading up to the race. Boy, do I have some interesting stories from those sessions - people do weird stuff in a steam room! 

This summer, I haven't trained much in the afternoon heat, and I no longer have time to go to gym and sit in a steam room; so I'm trying another method this time around. I'm turning my truck into a "sweat locker" for my drive home from work every day. It's about a 25-30 minute drive and I wear some sweats and crank up the heat as high as it will go. It's not particularly fun, but neither is being forced to walk the entire marathon of an Ironman!

No matter what your method of heat acclimation, be sure to drink plenty of water while you are sweating! The human body is amazing, it will teach itself how to cool down properly if given the chance.

The other thing to consider when exercising in the heat is the fact that the more lean you are, the easier it is for your body to cool itself. If your muscles are heating up during exercise and the distance between your muscle and your skin is very close, the heat will come off of your core much faster. Just image trying to exercise in the heat with a coat on. Fat acts as insulation - and you don't want to trap the heat inside!

So the take-away from all this is that you need to be proactive about training or racing in the heat. Know how much water you need to drink based on the conditions and try to acclimate your body to the heat prior to race day. 

You might be wondering about sodium intake. From studies I've seen, your body has more than enough sodium on board to make it through any workout or race (even Ironman) without the need for supplementing. That salt you see on your skin as you sweat is just your body getting rid of excess sodium, likely from food you have consumed in the previous 24 hours.  Knowing this, there is no harm in taking sodium supplements or salt tablets during a race if it makes you feel better (placebo effect is real). Your body will just sweat out the excess anyway.

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor's websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Share This