Monday, September 23, 2013

Blog 2.0

My blog has transformed into much more than the training and racing updates that I was doing when I started this four years ago.

I now also share lots of insight into my thoughts on eating and over health and wellness. So with this in mind, I've decided to change the name and layout of my blog.

I'm hoping that this will help me reach a much more diverse audience.

If you have any specific topics that you would like me to write about, feel free to leave a comment.

It's hard to believe, but I just passed 60,500 all-time views and I'm now averaging close to 60 views a day! So thanks to everyone that stops by. I hope to keep you coming back in the future.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tri For Sight Race Report

I was up at 4:00am and out the door by 4:30am. I arrived at the race site and checked in to get my athlete packet. Unfortunately, they lost my #28 bib number. So I improvised and cut the bike number sticker and cut some slits in it so I could put it on my race number belt. This is the reason I always take tape and scissors to races - you never know when they might come in handy.

After I got all of that situated, I set up transition and then waited. It was only about 6:15am and the race didn't start for another hour. I kept my jacket on for a long time, but took it off so I could leave it in transition - and the closed it at 6:30am. So for the next hour, I was freezing! I literally had goose bumps and was shivering. The temperature was in the high 40's, which is great...if you are moving!

After the pre-race meeting (which took what seemed like hours), we made our way up to the pool to line up for the swim start. I was #28, so I was 28th in line to get in the pool. I was trying to get my muscles loose while waiting in line. My hip flexors were particularly tight. I was jumping up and down, swinging my legs, doing squats, etc. But nothing was getting me warm, and they didn't allow anyone in the pool to get warmed-up.

So needless to say, when I jumped in the water and tried to immediately swim at a fast pace - it didn't work out too well. I seriously felt like I was swimming in sludge. Every stroke was hard. I know that it normally takes me 200-300 meters to get loose during a normal workout (when I'm not freezing cold). So the fact that this was only a 400 meter swim didn't bode well. I was passed by someone about 150 meters in and I even had to abandon doing flip-turns because I couldn't catch my breath. I was passed by another two people in the last 100 and knew that my time was slow, but I was not prepared to see HOW slow. When I got out of the pool and started to run down to transition, I had to look at my watch three times to make sure I was seeing it correctly. It was easily a full minute slower than I thought I would do. Not a good start to the race.

400 meter swim
7:36 (1:54/100m)
10th out of 25 in my Age Group
75th out of 290 Overall

I had a pretty fast transition. Socks on, helmet on, then ran my bike to the mounting line. Only issue was the visor on my helmet was fogged up from the dew. So I had to wipe that off as I started riding.

5th out of 25 in my Age Group
19th out of 290 Overall

The first mile of the bike course takes you out of the Spindletop property. I used this time to get my feet in my shoes and to get my visor cleared off. I then settled in once we were out on the main road and began setting my sights on riders up ahead of me. I picked them off one at a time. I was only passed once and I caught back up with this guy shortly after I was passed. The course is pretty flat with some rolling hills. I stayed in the big chain ring the whole time and stood up to push it over the hills (opposite of my Ironman bike strategy). I peddled hard and only let up on the turns. I was breathing heavy and my legs were burning. I forgot how much a Sprint race hurts. I was pretty happy with my bike, but I would have liked to been better than 5th in my Age Group.

13 mile bike
35:48.6 (21.8 mph)
Nominal Power = 252W
5th out of 25 in my Age Group
14th out of 290 Overall 

The second transition was very fast. I racked my bike, pulled my helmet off, slipped on my shoes, grabbed my race belt and was gone. No hat, no sunglasses. For a 5K, I can suffer with the sun in my face.

1st out of 25 in my Age Group
7th out of 290 Overall

The run was three out-and-backs. Since it was a sprint, I started out fast and kept pushing it. I passed a few guys early, then didn't get anyone else. The out and backs allowed me to see how far people were ahead of and behind me. I was gaining ground on the runner ahead of me in the last mile, but never did catch him. The last two miles of the run were difficult. My legs and lungs hurt. I just pushed through and counted down the quarter-miles until the end. My last mile was my fastest (6:27), so I was encouraged by the fact that I had enough left in the tank to push it to the finish line.

5K (3.1 mile) run
20:29.2 (6:36 min/mile)
3rd out of 25 in my Age Group
16th out of 290 Overall

My goal was to finish in the top two in my Age Group. The bad swim kept this from happening. I didn't lose ground on anyone on the bike or run. A better swim and I would have met my goal and qualified for the 2014 National Championship. I picked a very competitive race to try and qualify. Finishing 12th Overall in a race with almost 300 people and only 4th in your Age Group is tough to swallow. 

Total Time
4th out of 25 in my Age Group
12th out of 290 Overall

My swim times were slower this year than the last in almost every race...I need to get back into a weekly swim group and get my speed back!

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tri For Sight Race Preview

This Sunday I will toe the line for my last Triathlon of the 2013 season. I'm always a little sad when the final race comes around. I will have plenty of running races to occupy my time until the 2014 triathlon season starts, but it's still a little bitter-sweet.

This will be my first time racing the Susan Bradley-Cox Tri for Sight. The race is in Lexington, which is the main reason that it hasn't made it on my race schedule before now. In previous years, the race was a Sprint/Olympic hybrid, consisting of an 800 meter swim, 19+ mile bike ride and a 4 mile run. This year, they've changed the course to make it a true Sprint Distance race (400m swim, 13 mile bike, 5K run).

The race has a unique name and history. All proceeds go to eye research at the University of Kentucky and the race is named after the most decorated triathlete every to come from the state of Kentucky. You can check out Susan Bradley-Cox's profile here.

I have to admit, I'm very impressed with how organized this race is. I haven't even been to the venue yet and I can already tell that there will be no issues with coordination or organization. I've recieved several emails from the race director this past week and they have even posted a list of participants online with everyone's bib number and age group/category. This is great info to have prior to race morning.

The race starts 7:30, but I have to be there pretty early to pick up my packet (between 5:30 and 6:00). I like getting to races early, but seeing how this race is a little over an hour from my house, it's going to be an early wake-up call!

So I obviously want to finish the season on a high note and do well in this race. Ultimately, my goal is to finish first or second in my Age Group. There are 27 athletes that have registered in the Male, age 35-39 category. Since the race is in Lexington, I don't recognize any of the names, so I'm not sure what the competition will be like. But it does appear that 3 of the top 4 finishers in the Age Group from last year are racing again, so it's going to take a strong race on my part to crack the top two.

For most people, doing a Sprint distance race three weeks after an Ironman might seem sort of crazy. That would be true if my Ironman training had been traditional - consisting of lots of long, slow rides and runs. But since I did high-intensity, low-volume training instead, my legs are already used to the speed work. That being said, there's definitely going to be some pain involved in this one...I think Sprints are very demanding if they are done right. We'll just see what my mind and body have left after a long season of racing!

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

2013 Ironman Louisville Video

Instead of trying to post all of the video and pictures from the race, I compiled them all into this little video...enjoy.

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 4 (The Run)

As I mentioned in Part 3 of my report, I had a nice boost of energy during the last 10 miles of the bike. I pushed out my fastest splits of the 112 miles, all while holding a steady power and having my heart rate actually decrease slightly. I think I know how and why this happened, but I'll talk about that in a future post.

I rolled into T2 feeling great and ready to take on a marathon. I handed my bike off to a volunteer (I always feel like a pro when I get to do this), ran down the shoot and grabbed by Run Gear bag. There were volunteers getting bags for people, but I guess my number didn't get called out. It wasn't a big deal because I knew exactly where my bag was lying on the ground.

I got into the changing tent and switched into my tri shorts. I changed socks, slipped on my running shoes, put on some more Planet Sun sunscreen, put my race number on my belt, threw my hat on, then grabbed my fuel belt and sunglasses as I headed out.

109th out of 335 in my Age Group
792nd out of 2600 Overall

My strategy on the run was two-fold. Priority number one was to keep my heart rate below 150. I figured that I would be able to hold a 9:30 per mile pace and keep my HR low enough. So that's what I did. I checked my HR and pace pretty often that first mile. I was feeling strong but was being very mindful to keep from going out too fast. I found myself running next to a guy named Ryan during the second mile. He was from Milwaukee and we were running about the same pace. We chatted about sports and helped pass the time.

Much like the bike aid stations, I had a very specific plan for the run aid stations. I would grab wet sponges at the start of the station. I would start to walk as I unzipped my tri top and stuffed them down close to my core. I would then grab a cup of water and drink it all. I would take a second cup and dump it down my back as I walked. Then I would take a cup of ice, dump the ice in my hat and put my hat back on my head as I exited the aid station and started to run again. This process meant that I would be walking for about 30 seconds each aid station. They were approximately a mile apart, so I was running around a 9:30-9:45 min/mile pace and walking 30 seconds each mile.

I was honestly surprised by how low my heart rate was. It was hovering in the high 120's. Based on the one long run I did in the heat while training, I fully expected to be watching it climb into the 140's pretty early into the run. Here's a chart of my heart rate for the entire 26.2 miles.

The dips are when I was walking the aid stations. Even just walking for a few seconds would cause my HR to drop 15-20 beats per minute. This probably was a factor in being able to keep it so low.

I saw my family for the first time around mile 6. I was feeling great and it was good to see everyone cheering me on. The turnaround is just past mile 7. By this time, I was passing people at a pretty steady rate. My energy levels were still high and I was still holding a running pace of 9:30 miles with no reason to slow down.

Run pace chart - the dips each mile are while I walked the Aid Stations

My fuel belt had four unmixed bottles of Infinit on it. At the first aid station, I filled one up with water and mixed it. I was taking a big drink from this bottle once each mile - usually when I thought of it between the aid stations. I went through the first bottle and then filled up the second one around mile 8 or 9. The nutrition plan for the run was to stick with my custom blend of Infinit as long as my stomach was able to handle it. I had enough to last me 4 hours. Somewhere about half way through that second bottle, I started to get cramps in my stomach. This was around mile 11 or 12. Once my stomach was no longer digesting the Infinit, I planned to switch to an even more simple sugar - Coke.

It was around mile 7 that I realized the water I was pouring down my back was running all the way down into my shoes. My socks were soaked and I could feel some friction - not good. From that point on at the aid stations, I would actually stop for a second, bend over, and then dump the water over my neck - keeping it from running down my legs into my shoes. Once I realized that my socks were wet and I could feel my stomach sloshing around, I just wanted to make it to Special Needs, witch is around mile 13.

A friend of mine, Dan, was on the course in a devil costume. I ran into him around mile 12. He ran with me for about half a mile and I remember asking him where the Special Needs station was...I desperately wanted some dry socks and to sit down for a minute to let my stomach settle.

A volunteer helped me get on some dry socks once I got to Special Needs. I had some electrolyte/salt tablets and chamois cream in the bag too, but I didn't need either of those. When I last did IMLOU in 2011, I was taking electrolyte tablets all day long. I was popping 2-4 an hour from the time I got on the bike until I finished the run. Since then, I've done some research and found out that the human body doesn't need the extra sodium or electrolytes - even in the heat. This fly's in the face of everything that people will tell you about a hot race, but I felt confident that I would be fine. So this year I didn't fool with the tablets...and I didn't need them, despite the 90 degree temperature. For full disclosure, my Infinit mix does contain some electrolytes and sodium, but nowhere near the amounts that you will hear people recommending. Along this line, I will mention that my sweat did not contain any salt. When I finally cooled off after the race and my sweat had dried, there were no while streaks or spots on my arms.

Back to the race. After stopping at Special Needs, I had trouble getting back to the 9:30 pace that I had been running. For the next few miles, my running pace was closer to 9:50-10:00. I was starting to feel tired and hot. My run started around 2:30pm, so by this time, it was close to 5:00pm - the hottest part of the day. I was still doing the same routine at each aid station, but this time I was also grabbing a cup of Coke and taking a drink or two of it before getting the ice into my hat at the end. My stomach was still sloshing, so at first I was only taking a sip or two for fear that I was just filling my stomach with liquids that were not making it to my bloodstream.

I guess the slower pace helped get some blood flow back to my gut, because around mile 20 the sloshing and cramping had stopped. This is around the time when I started to count down the miles. The final turn-around is between miles 19 and 20. So once I made that turn and started back toward downtown, I knew that the end was close. I took a moment to assess how I was feeling. Since the Infinit was no longer working, I had dumped my fuel belt off with my parents around mile 18. My legs were feeling good, but my hips were hurting. I knew that my form was breaking down. I decided to hold my current pace until mile 23 and then see what I had left for the final 5K.

I was surprised at how quickly my heart rate jumped once I increased the effort. If you look back at the chart above, you can see my HR climb at mile 23 and continue to increase until the finish. Once I started to run harder, I switched my watch over to see my total time for the day. I was just under 11 and a half hours at that point. I did some quick math and knew that in order to beat my goal of 12 hours, I would have to run through the final aid stations instead of walking. So I decided to forgo the sponges and ice and just grab a water and a Coke. I would take a drink of the Coke, toss the cup, then drink the whole cup of water.

I got to mile 24 and decided that I felt good enough to pick up the pace some more. I ran that mile in 9:26. Once I got to the 25 mile marker, I felt the adrenaline kick in. I skipped the final aid station completely ran the last 1.2 miles with all I had left. I somehow managed to run the last mile in 8:26 - my fastest mile split of the marathon!

As I ran down the finish shoot, I had tunnel vision. The crowd noise went away and I just thought about how happy I was to have executed the entire race just as I had planned. I crossed the line well under the 12 hour mark (over 4 and a half minutes to spare). As soon as I stopped running, I felt all the blood leave my face and immediately started to look for a volunteer to lean on. I spotted my parents and then took a few minutes to sit down and rest before walking to get my Finisher's shirt and hat.

26.2 mile run
(10:04 min/mile pace)
63rd out of 335 in my Age Group
456th out of 2600 Overall
Average heart rate - 127 bpm

I was looking all over for my wife and kids. I knew that they were going to be there, but I wanted to see them. I walked around the end of the barricade and spotted them coming down the sidewalk...four smiling faces instantly made me feel better!

After sitting on the ground and talking for a while, we took some pictures and then everyone headed home. It had been about 45 minutes since my race ended and I was still feeling light-headed and my stomach was cramping again. So I decided to walk down to the Medical "tent". They checked my vitals and told me that I didn't need an IV bag. So I just stayed there until I had to pee. There was no blood in the urine, so they let me go.

I took the shuttle back down to the transition area and walked my bike and gear bags about a half a mile to my car. I was surprised by how good I felt. My legs were tired, but not "just finished an Ironman" tired. I had thoughts of "did I wait too late to push it on the run?".  I immediately dismissed those thoughts. Once I got to the car, I was very excited to see that I had over 40 text messages and Facebook comments from the day. I'm very blessed to have such a great group of friends and family!

Total Time
75th out of 335 in my Age Group
534th out of 2600 Overall

Gear Used:
Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Jersey and Shorts
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
Tifosi Dolomite sunglasses
Garmin 910XT watch
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike
Sram S60 / S80 wheelset (borrowed from Mr. Scott Panella)
Bike Javelin aero helmet
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 7 shoes

Nutrition used:
  • (1) Medium Sweet Potato with Almond Butter (about 3 hrs before race)
  • Water bottle with NUUN tablet
  • (1 pack) GU Chomps - ate about 30 minutes before race start
  • (4) Bottles full of Infinit - 10 scoops total (1690 calories)
  • (2) 24oz. bottle of water - replaced bottle at each aid station
  • (4) GU Roctane gels - followed by 8-10 oz of water (400 calories)
  • (2) Small bottles full of Infinit - 2 scoop total (338 calories)
  • Water at all aid stations / Coke at the last 7-8 aid stations

There will be some more posts later disecting the bike and run portions of the race, but this is it for now. I'm very happy with my race and happy that it's post-Ironman blues for me!

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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ironman Louisville Race Report - Part 3 (The Bike)

So I ended Part 2 with me exiting the water after the 2.4 mile swim. My transition time officially started after I got to the top of the steps coming out of the river. There is then a pretty significant run to get to the changing tent. After exiting the water, you run through a shoot (lined with people on both sides), across a short bridge, down some steps, down a sidewalk, across the Great Lawn to grab your Bike Gear bag, then into the changing tent. From the water exit to the tent is close to a quarter mile.

Path from swim exit to transition tent
So as I mentioned in the swim report, I was happy with my time in the water and was feeling great as I entered the changing tent. I had a pretty good plan as to what I needed to do in the tent, but after changing into my bike shorts, I kind of just started grabbing stuff out of my bag and putting it on as I pulled it out. Socks, bike shoes, heart rate monitor chest stap, tri top, chamois cream, race number belt with GPS tracker, and finally, my helmet.

I ran out of the tent and started checking the numbers on the end of the bike racks to try and find the right one. I was number 1762. I don't remember how the racks were numbered, but I found the right one and started down the isle, looking for Flash. I spotter her, grabbed her off the rack and ran out of transition.

I had a little bit of trouble getting my feet cliped in the pedals, but that was after crossing the timing mat, so those few seconds were counted toward my bike split. Overall, my T1 wasn't the fastest, but I did everything I needed to in the quickest time possible - no complaints.

110th out of 335 in my Age Group
843th out of 2600 Overall

As soon as I got on my bike and made the turn onto River Road, I unclipped my right foot and coasted for a few seconds so that I could calibrate my power meter. I meant to do this when I was in transition before the swim start, but I forgot. But I knew that I had to have an accurate power reading in order to execute my bike, so I didn't mind losing another few seconds.

My plan for the bike was pretty straight-froward. I would ride based strictly on power, not on heart rate, not perceived exertion, not on speed.  I set up my Garmin watch screen to show me three things while I was on the bike. 1) Normalized Power, 2) Current Power (a 3 second average), 3) Total Time Elapsed. I didn't want to see my heart rate or my speed. I had the auto-lap set to every 5 miles, so that was the only gauge I had of how far I'd gone. I also know the course pretty well, so I had an good idea of what my mileage was at any given time.

So once I had my power meter calibrated, I settled in on River Road heading out of town. My nutrition plan was also pretty simple. I would take a drink or two of my custom Infinit mix every 15 minutes (I had 3 hours worth mixed up in the two bottles in my rear cage). At 40 minutes past every hour (i.e, 1:40, 2:40, 3:40, etc.), I would take a GU Roctane gel. I would also drink clear water from the aerobar bottle as I felt necessary - based on thirst. So I was constantly looking down at my watch to check my power level and to make sure I took in my nutrition at the right times. For six straight hours I was looking down at my watch every 15-20 seconds...for SIX hours. This actually kept my mind from wondering and made the time go by pretty fast.

The plan was to keep my Normalized Power (NP) between 65-68% of FTP (which equals 175 to 183 Watts)...regardless of how long it took me to complete the 112 miles, I was not going to let me NP get out of this range.

The first 10 miles are pretty flat, so there's not much gear-changing or technical turns to keep your mind occupied. I basically used this time to settle in and take stock of how I felt. I know that my heart rate is always a little high after transitions and after going from horizontal (swimming) to vertical (biking), it always takes my legs a little bit of time to feel normal. Looking back at my data, my HR was 152 when I started the bike - it would never get that high again, even on the steepest climb.

Once we make the left turn onto US-42, the course becomes more technical. From this point on, watching my power output would be critical. I kept a close eye on my current power number on the climbs, making sure to keep it as low as possible and never letting it get up to my Function Threshold (FTP) of 269. Making this happen requires lots of gear shifting and being able to shift early enough on the climbs to keep from having to stand up or mash the gears. Check out the chart below of my power level for the whole bike split. I only jumped above FTP about 5-6 times and only for a second or two each time.

Going out on 42 is where I started to get passed a lot. Being one of the first swimmers in the water means that faster swimmers and riders are going to be catching up with you all day. I knew this was going to happen and just made sure to drop back out of the passing zone each time someone came up on my left (or squeezed by on my right - which happened more than it should have!).

The out and back is a fun part of the course for me. It contains the longest, steepest climbs of the day, but it also provides the fastest descents - which I love. I'm all about the free speed and I shift to my smallest gear and peddle down the hills until I start free-wheeling, then I get as aerodynamic as possible and fly! These downhills are where I pass all the people back up that push past me going up the inclines. My top speed of the day was 43 mph, which I hit twice on this out and back portion. This speed almost makes up for the uphill portions, where looking back, I was cruising along somewhere between 7 and 9 mph.

As I mentioned earlier, I refused to push it up hills. In fact, I only came out of my seat on a hill twice all day. Both times were on a little hill on Old Sligo Road. Not standing to get up this hill means that you will literally fall over. The rest of the day, I would shift it down into "granny gear" and focus on maintaining a smooth pedal stroke and watch my power levels. I would be passed by several people on literally every hill. Most of the time they were standing up, mashing the pedals in a high gear, trying to get to the top of the hill as fast as possible. This was exactly what I did during this race two years ago. But not this time. I would chuckle to myself sometimes as they hammered past me. Then I'd see them immediately relax at the top of the hill and coast down...while I would quickly downshift and go flying past them. Then we would yo-yo again on the next hill.

The goal for my 112 mile ride was consistency. I wanted to maintain an even power level all day. With all of the hills, it's hard to compare segments of the course to one another. So my 5 mile splits are not much use when trying to see how steady I kept my power. But what I can do is compare my first loop to my second loop. The first loop is basically from mile 30 to mile 60. Then it's repeated from miles 60 to 90. So here's what my two loops looked like:

Loop 1
Loop 2

So if you compare this same stretch of the course the first time I did it and the second time, you can see that I was pretty consistent. My NP dropped slightly on the second loop, but not much. But my Variability Index (VI) was 1.05 for both. This means that I didn't vary much from the NP either loop. If you look at just the time of each loop, it appears that I was 6 minutes slower the second time around - but you have to factor in that the Special Needs stop was part of the second loop. I was at a complete stop for about 2 minutes getting stuff out of my bag and rubbing on some chamois cream (oh yeah!). This stop at Special Needs also explains the slightly lower average HR on the second loop. My HR dropped all the way down to 90 bpm while I was stopped.

Coming off of the second loop - around mile 85 or so, I started to get really uncomfortable. Without getting too graphic, the spot that actually rests on my bike saddle was getting really sore. I tried to reposition myself, but it did no good. I knew that the last 10 miles were flat, and I wanted to make sure that I could stay in aero position during this stretch and keep my power steady in order to get as much speed as possible. As I passed Zorn Ave on River Road (around mile 109), my lower back was getting really tight and I had to stand-up and stretch it for just a few seconds. Of course, as soon as I stand up, I see Jessica and the kids on the side of the road. She's snapping pictures of me riding in the most awkward looking position ever (see picture to the right). It was actually kind of funny. I managed to sit back in my seat and wave to them as I went by.

The last 10 miles of the ride were very productive. I passed lots of people that I could tell were happy the hills were over and were just kind or riding on autopilot back into town. I ended up averaging 21.2 mph during this stretch, with an average power of 169W and an average HR of only 111. Although I didn't know what my HR was at any time during the bike, I could tell by my breathing that I was not exerting much energy. I knew this by the fact that I could easily breath through only my nose. I tested this out several times throughout the day - just a little trick I picked up to make sure I'm not over-exerting myself. If I need to open my mouth to breath during an endurance ride like this, then I'm pushing it too hard.

I rolled back in to transition feeling good. I was even a little surprised at my bike split. I fully expected to be slower than my 6:08 time from two years ago, based on my strategy for this race, but I looked at my watch as I rolled over the timing mat and saw that it was 6:07 and some change.

112 Mile Bike
6:07:29 (18.3 mph avg.)
132nd out of 335 in my Age Group
864th out of 2600 Overall
NP = 178W
VI = 1.05
Avg HR = 116 bpm

I was very pleased with myself for having the mental toughness and focus to keep my NP right where I wanted it to be. I also knew that my hydration was good to go as I peed on the bike 6 or 7 times (I lost count). I knew that I had set myself up for a solid run!

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

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