Sunday, September 27, 2009


I used to be perplexed when reading some bike workout in a traithlon magazine or training book that includes an hour-long climb. An hour-long climb? I didn't think there was such a thing within a 500 mile radius of where I lived. Hell, a five minute climb was huge by my standards.

No longer. The big announcement referenced in my last blog is that Stacey and I are moving to Denver in mid to late October. That should make for a very welcome change from Detroit suburbs/exurbs, where moving around outside of a car is frowned upon. It will be nice to live somewhere that people understand the appeal of being outside, where people do more on their weekends than get together to drink or golf or drink and golf, where having a BMI under 25 does not make one an outcast (okay, that's a bit harsh), where pictures in Outside magazine seem more like reality than fantasy.

The move should be good for training, but also for improving my quality of life outside of training. I really look forward to doing some hiking, camping, mountain biking, and maybe even skiing. I look forward to 300 days of sunshine per year. In Michigan in the winter it seems like month-long stretches without a sunny day are common. I could go on and on, but I think everyone that reads this understands Stacey and my motivations.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Big announcement... coming soon, just as soon as everything is set in stone (although I think all two people that actually read my blog already know).

Anyhow, I got in a good ride yesterday. After a few minutes warm-up, I decided to ride as long as I could in the 53x12. Of course, I kept my cadence low so that I got a strength workout instead of a killer anaerobic, super-high HR workout. I'd only shift when going uphill and my cadence dropped below 40 or so, or when approaching a stop sign or stop light. I ended up doing 2 x 45 minutes of that separated by a short spin around Marshall, and I finished with normal riding for the final 30 minutes. Total: 2:15. I followed that up with an easy 30 minute run in the evening with Stacey.

Wednesday I just did a 1:15 run with a HR around 145 bpm. I felt very smooth, especially for the first half-hour. I had hoped to get in a swim in Goguac Lake, but ended up just talking about the aforementioned big announcement with Stacey. Today and tomorrow I hope to swim at MSU.

Finally, I signed up for a final race of the season, the Last Chance triathlon in Rend City, IL. It's an interesting format. 1.5k swim, 67k ride, 15k run. I like the ratio of swim to bike + run. It willl be my brother Conor's first triathlon, so that should be entertaining.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Point to Point Ride

This past Saturday I did a 106 mile point-to-point ride from Battle Creek to Plymouth via Marshall, Albion, Jackson, Chelsea, Dexter and Ann Arbor and then got a ride home from Stacey after having dinner with her family. I anticipated wind at my back, as wind typically blows from the West, but instead rode into a slight headwind all day. As a result, the ride took a longer than expected 6h15min at 178W avg. My legs weren't even tired and I could have easily gone another few hours. It was a beautiful day and riding through mostly farmland was a great way to spend it. It's nice to do a leisurely ride without worrying about watts, HR or any of that stuff.

On Sunday Stacey and I went to Ft. Custer, just outside Battle Creek, for a 1h45min trail run. We should have checked out the lake there to see how swimable it is (it can't be too bad, because Ft. Custer hosts an Xterra race).

On Monday I did an easy run and an easy ride. 1h30min total.

Today the plan is to ride over to Coldbrook County Park to do a swim, assuming I can find my old and illfitting wesuit (I broke the zipper on my race wetsuit during a training swim a month or two ago).

Friday, September 18, 2009

2010 Plan

First up, here's the view from just outside the hotel my family stayed at out in Avon, CO, courtesy of Terry Seabass:

Wouldn't it be nice to live somewhere that one could see a view like this everyday?

2009 Recap
I didn't race too much, just four triathlons and a single running race that was basically a training run. I may fit in another traithlon and hopefully a few running races this fall, but otherwise the season is basically over.

Going back to May, I raced pretty well at the Triple-T, my first race of the season, showing improvement in my swim times and getting stronger relative to the field as the weekend went on. My swim is holding me back relative to top guys, and my bike is close to the top but still a bit slow. My running was good, fastest OA in one of the olympics and second fastest in the half. Overall, a great start to the season and an indication that I'm continuing to improve on all fronts.

Two weeks after the Triple-T I raced a half IM, the Race for Recovery. I had a 38 minute swim in the choppy waters of Lake Erie, though I can't chalk all the blame to the choppy waters because the top guys still had pretty good swim times. While spotting during the swim at the Triple-T was a piece of cake, it was more difficult here due to the waves. I partially made up for the swim with a race-best 2:18 bike split, a new PR by 5 minutes or so. Finally, I finished the race off with a solid 1:22 run, also a PR for the distance by 4 minutes. I'm happy with both my bike and run, which propelled me to a 4:20 final time, but my swim took me out of contention.

Next up was my first IM for the year, Lake Placid. I got off to a great start with a 31 minute first loop on the swim, but faded a bit to 34 minutes for the second loop. Still, an improvement of several minutes over LP '08. The bike was a bit draining, and I think my nutrition issues began on the bike. I need to drink enough that I have to pee a few times on the bike, but I don't think I went even once here. My bike time was an improvement of a few minutes of LP '08, but I finished the bike feeling too drained. My run time was not spectacular, but I consider it my biggest accomplishment because I ran every step. I finished the race in the med-tent after a new PR of 9:41. Pros: improving swim and bike, ran every step. Cons: messed up nutrition, swim needs to be sub-one hour, too depleted off the bike (likely related to bad nutrition).

Finally, I completed IM #2, Louisville, just a few weeks after IMLP. My swim was a god-awful 1:12, my bike a respectable 5:07 (IIRC), and my run a stellar 2:54. Pros: awesome run, good mental strength after getting off to a bad start. Cons: swim, swim, swim, and my bike needs some work as it's still about 20 minutes slower than the top guys.

To summarize the year, the clear theme is my sub-par swim. I have been making strides, but I simply cannot give up 10 minutes in a half and 20 minutes in a full-IM and still expect to finish high. My bike is very good relative to AGers, but I want it to be good relative to pros. I haven't been biking for too long, 5 years with minimal trianing the first half of that time, so I expect my bike to continue to improve merely by continuing to ride. My run is good, and I believe I can maintain it through the winter even if I place a greater focus on swimming.

2010 Goals
My primary goal is to qualify for Kona. I qualified at both IMLP and IMLou this year, but passed on both slots. In 2010 I would accept a slot. I've got two chances to qualify: Oceanside 70.3 in March and IMLou in August. Qualifying at Oceanside is going to require some swim improvement, as I don't have as much time to make up for a horrible swim as in a full IM. Qualifying at IMLou shouldn't be too tough assuming I don't have any disasters in training or during the race, as I've qualified comfortably at both IMs this year.

My secondary goal is to improve so that I can be competitive should I race as a pro in 2011. I'd be close now if my swim were substantially better, but I still have a lot of room to improve.

How am I going to acheive my 2010 goals? First, I'm going to swim a lot. I want to be in the pool 5 days a week. I will join a masters swim group, hopefully one with a good, hands-on coach. Another area of swimming that I need improvement on is open water swimming. My races where the course isn't easily visible and/or where the water has been choppy are much worse than my races where spotting is not challenge. I will do more open water swimming to work on spotting, swimming a good line, etc.

Second, I'm going to continue to develop my base on the bike and running. I can acheive my first 2010 goal, qualifying for Kona, without much improvement in either. I want to acheive long term development so that in 2011 I'm as good as I can be.

2010 Training Plan
Since IM Louisville a few weeks back I've remained very active, getting in a few
hikes, swims and good rides out in Colorado. Still, I feel pretty well recovered from Louisville and will get back into a regular training routine shortly.

My thought is to break winter training up into two portions. The first portion is between now and January 24, 2010, nine weeks before Oceanside on March 27, 2010. The second poriton is from January 24 to March 27. During the first portion, I will work on base for runnning and biking while swimming as much as possible. I will do one long run of 1.5-2 hours per week and one long ride of 3-5 hours per week. Most of my running and biking sessions will have a low HR cap, maybe 145 while running (except any running races I do) and 140 while riding, though I will review the workouts I did this past winter and early spring to refine my approach. Once the weather forces me onto the trainer for my long rides, I will break long rides up by running 15-30 mintues after every hour or two of riding. I will take rest or recovery days when my body tells me to, when I have a very busy day, or when my motivation just isn't there (which doesn't happen often).

Come January 24, I have an eight week focused build toward Oceanside with a one week taper. I've never really tapered for a half before, but my guess is one week would be sufficient. During these eight weeks I will begin building toward HIM speed. Each will I will do a ride with portions at HIM effort, another ride getting in some threshold work, and a long ride. Depending on my recovery, I may get in a harder run each week, and that run would probably slowly build toward HIM speed without going much over it. If I'm too tired from biking to run hard during the first three weeks, I will bike easier on weeks 4 and 8 and do one or two harder runs each of those weeks.

After Oceanside, I will take some time off (a week, perhaps) to recuperate mentally and physically before beginning to build toward IMLou. I also want to race a lot more in 2010 than I did in 2009. One bad thing about a mid-season IM, such as LP, is that training gets in the way of racing. A late season IM (well, hopefully two late seaons IMs) should allow me to race a lot more.

Other Aspects of Improvement
There are a host of areas where little changes can make a big difference. Some of these are things that are good not just for training but my overall health and quality of life.
- Diet: I drastically improved my diet around June 2009. I'm going to continue refining the type of food I eat. Meat, fish, nuts, fruits, veggies, healthy oils, and good carbs (sweet potatos, fruit, processed items like Larabars) before/during/after workouts as necessary. "Worse" carbs, like sugar, after hard workouts. I hope to acheive steady body composition improvements, but by eating quality food and not by calorie counting or dieting. Also, I'm going to try to maintain a lazer-like focus on diet during the eight weeks before Oceanside and Louisville, my A-races.
- Sleep: I slept 7 or 7.5 hours most nights last year. I need to get another hour on most nights and another two hours after tough workouts.
- Stress: Having a job I did not find fulfilling was very stressful. I need to find a job that I enjoy more. Reducing my stress level will improve my athletic performance, but more importantly improve my overall happiness.
- Core strength: I am committing to five minutes of core work each weekday morning. I'll be using Josh Cox's routine (see the video at I like his lower back stuff, too.
- Stretching: I should work on my lower back flexibility and opening my hips. This could allow me to keep or improve my current bike position, which is perfectly comfortable until the latter stages of an IM ride. I will try to find a quick routine I can do after workouts two or three times a week.
- Equipment: My bike is dated. It has a 2004 or 2005 aluminum frame. From what I've read, a top-end frame could save me five minutes or more, and I would expect most carbon frames to be more comfortable than my uber-stiff steed. While I'd like a new bike (or at least a new frame), I think my money could be better spent since long term development is a main goal of mine. I think I'd prioritize a Computrainer and Vasatrainer over a new frame. A Computrainer would hopefully improve my enjoyment of indoor riding, while a Vasatrainer may help me beat driftwood down the Ohio. Plus, I could probably get both pieces of equipment used for the price of a new frame. Really though, my equipment is plenty good to meet my goals for 2010.
- Group training: If possible, I'd like to work with a group for some workouts, just to change things up. Certainly swimming with a group will be one of my highest priorities for the year, but I'd also enjoy riding with others and maybe the occasional group run or track workout.
- Mental: I'm getting to the point where I cannot expect every split in every race to be a PR, even on the same course. Recognize that improvement is a slow and steady process and do not get discouraged if each race isn't better than the one before it. Remember, my goal is to be as good as possible for 2011.

And that's that. Lots of areas to improve, lots of work that can be done. One great thing about Ironman is there are so many things to improve upon. Executing a perfect race could take years and years of work.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vail pass

Stacey and I, along with the rest of my family, are staying out in Avon, CO for a few days for a wedding. The town sits at around 7,500 feet and is tucked into a valley along highway 70 that includes a bunch of well known skiing towns.

The hotel we're at has an awesome 25 yard outdoor salt-water pool. It's nice to rest at the wall and have a mountain view. I've swam the past two days, though nothing too tough. Swimming at altitude is tough - I've really got to keep the pace low to even be able to swim 200 yards non-stop.

The riding is great around here, too. Yesterday Stacey and I rode 50 or so miles up to Vail Pass and back. The ride begins at 7,500 feet and tops out around 10,600 feet. The ride is basically a small uphill gradient for 15 miles and then a steeper uphill gradient for the next 10 miles. The elevation didn't give me much of a problem, though once again I didn't push the pace (well, at certain times I had no choice but to work hard or else I'd have had to walk my bike). I kinda wish I had my powermeter with me to see my HR and power just to see how they're effected by the elevation.

Today I did my first run since IMLou. I found a trail and ran uphill for 3.5 miles through the Beaver Creek ski area. I was gasping for air the entire ascent despite averaging about 10 min/mile on the way up. I used my brother's Garmin, which he has set to auto-pause when one's pace drops below a threshold. At every steep uphill section the Garmin would beep to signify that it was auto-pausing because my speed was so slow the device took it as me being stopped. After 35 minutes, I turned around and ran back, taking a slightly longer route. In total I ran a bit over one hour and got in 7.5 miles. It was a fun but not easy run.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Boulder riding

Stacey and I made it out to Colorado a few days ago and have been staying in Ft. Collins. Yesterday, our second full day at elevation, we drove down to Boulder to check the town out and go for a ride. I decided on a loop including Left Hand Canyon and Highway 72 (Peak to Peak). We also decided to climb Old Stage Coach Road on the way to Left Hand Canyon just for good measure.

Riding out of Boulder was easy enough, although the city is busy and somewhat congested, especially due to traffic-delaying construction along Broadway, a main thoroughfare into and out of town. Once we began climbing Lee Hill/Old Stage Coach Road Stacey started feeling the effects of the high altitude. She had to stop midway up the climb to regain her breath. "I think this may be the hardest [or maybe steepest] climb on the route", I told her. After her break, Stacey powered on and we descended to Left Hand Canyon. A sign near where we turned onto Left Hand Canyon informed us that the town of Ward was 10.5 miles away. I didn't realize that those 10.5 miles were all uphill, nor did I know that Ward sat around 9300 ft.

I didn't feel any effects from altitude on the way to Ward. Granted, I wasn't pushing it, but I wasn't going recovery pace either. Stacey was struggling, though. I'd loop back to her every 15 minutes or so, and once we were pretty far along the climb her struggling increased. Shortly before Ward, she had to stop due to shortness of breath and had trouble regaining her breath. Neither of us realized we were at 8500 feet or so. Despite her struggles, we continued on to Ward because we were so close.

Ward is a tiny mountain town (pop. 169) that I've since learned was originally a bustling mining town that was one of the wealthiest towns in the state. Now the only thing there is a general store. A handful of apparently feral dogs roamed free. Two older riders were sitting on a bench in front of the general store. I asked how much climbing the remainder of our route included hoping the answer would encourage Stacey. Stacey added that she wasn't used to riding under these conditions because we're from Michigan. As it turns out, one of older riders was from Detroit and went to U of M before moving to Boulder, where he has happily remained for nearly 30 years. I thought that maybe he was me in 30 years.

After our stop, we continued climbing, only this time we only had to climb a bit before hitting Peak to Peak Highway. I've found conflicting numbers, but its elevation appears to be 9200 to 9600 feet. I began to notice some shortness of breath climbing I'd normally consider a fairly small and easy climb a few miles into Peak to Peak. Other than that climb, I doubt I would have noticed the altitude had I not been aware of it and feeling for signs of its influence.

The scenery along Peak to Peak is absolutely stunning. One especially awesome part of the ride is a large U-shaped descent around a valley. A cathedral is pearched atop a steep sheet of rock in the center of the valley.

Save for the small aforementioned climb on Peak to Peak, past Ward the route is nearly all downhill. It was fun to just look around. Low traffic, good road surfaces, fantastic views, tough climbs, pleasant drivers (many actually wave!)...Boulder appears to have it all.

However, Stacey may have gotten a bit of altitude sickness. She was pretty tired after our ride and went to bed shortly after we got back to Ft Collins. An hour later she was naseous, and another hour later she was vomiting up the delicious Juanita's burrito she consumed post-ride. She's doing all better now, though. Maybe riding to >9000 ft on one's second day at elevation isn't a good idea.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

IM Lou Summary, In Detail

Right off the bat, I did not think I was capable of a 2:55 IM run, at least not this year. Sure, I've thought to myself that at some point in the future I can run sub-three hours in an IM, but I thought that was two or three more years of hard training down the line. 3:05 or 3:10 seemed like a more realistic yet still very ambitious goal for the run. I'm ecstatic about my run split.

Back to the week or so before the race, I had a lot going on. I left my job (permanently, that is) on the Thursday before the race. All week I was a bit stressed trying to wrap-up everything at the office to ensure the transition went smoothly and that my former employer wouldn't skip a beat once I left, not to mention the stress of trying to figure out what to do next! On top of that, Stacey and I are moving out of our apartment starting tomorrow, just three days after the race. Immediately after that, we're driving out to Colorado for about a week of relaxation, a job interview for Stacey, a family wedding, and just scoping the place out in general. Needless to say, all of this had me stressed out. I was not going into the race under ideal conditions, but I didn't know that'd be the case when I signed up a year ago.

With all that going on, I couldn't focus much on the race until two days before the race. Still, packing all my gear, driving down to Lou, and getting my gear organized for the race and into the transition area the day before hand went extremely smooth. At my first IM two years ago I spent nearly an entire day getting my gear in order, so to do so in such short order made me feel like I was missing something, or that I was taking things too lackadaisically. I had plenty of time to lounge. Big thanks to Stacey for packing two grocery bags and a cooler full of good food so that I didn't need to worry about pre-race meals and to Conor and Teresa for driving down there with me and helping make everything as easy for me as possible.

When race morning rolled around, I was extremely calm. I even leisurely skimmed the Detroit Freep Press online while eating my breakfast and read to my great horror that the University of Michigan is being accused by former and possibly current players of NCAA violations. AHH! Anyhow, once I got to transition, I spent all of five minutes readying my bike and made it over to the swim start in time to get a decent place in line.

About that swim time...1:12 is not what I was hoping for. I thought I executed well enough while swimming. I was focused and kept my effort up. Perhaps I didn't spot well. Perhaps I swam a bad line. Previewing the swim course wasn't possible for me, so I was winging it to some extent. Next year, I'll try to do a bit more research about the course. When I looked at my watch upon exiting the water, I was dissapointed, but I told myself that maybe the current was odd and that perhaps everyone's swim times were off. Without knowing for sure that my time was bad relative to the field - and I didn't yet know that because I only knew my time - I was able to remain positive.

As I said in my short race summary, the bike was tougher than expected. On the positive side, the time trial start meant I rarely had to pass packs of people and as a result I was able to race my own race without fear of violating drafting rules by not passing quickly enough or by getting caught in a pack. I was quickly able to settle in to a comfortable pace that didn't violate my predetermined power cap. I kept the wattage at a moderate level, 250-300 W uphill depending on the slope and apparent duration of each climb. (On a side note, and I am not trying to be condescending here, but AG guys really, really, really need to learn how to pace themselves. Five or ten guys, all without power meters but almost all with carbon bikes and wheels, would pass me on every hill while I was riding circa 275 W only for me to fly by them on the next flat while only pushing 190-200 W. I would bet that these guys are setting themselves up for awful run splits by attacking each climb like its a hill-top finish in the Tour de France. When I first got a power meter, I was amazed by how easy it is to put out the watts when going uphill, so I would urge each of these guys to at least test one out.)

My bike nutrition seemed to go well. I urinated four or five times on the bike, mostly in the first 70 miles. Despite all that pee, I remained thirsty and so I continued to drink plenty of Gatorade. I didn't drink any water, even while eating my Powerbars and gel.

My bike pacing was about right. Around mile 80 I started to tire and had to push through it. My lower back was getting pretty sore. At Lake Placid, this isn't an issue because there's so much climbing toward the end of the bike that I'm out of the aero position a lot. At Lou, however, the last 20 miles are best handled while predominantly in the aerobars. Before next year, I've got to increase lower back flexibility or adjust my position a bit. I haven't had time to check out my power file yet, but I averaged 214 W without zeros and 147 bpm (which I do not think is accurate despite my CPU battery change because the CPU showed my HR as >170 bpm during my easy ride the day before the race).

One final note about the bike: There were WAY too many cars on the course. During many portions of the ride, neither lane was closed to vehicular traffic. Cars were often stuck between riders, prevented by oncoming traffic from passing or even moving away from the right lane line. I was held up numerous times on the second loop of the ride because a car would be stuck behind a slower rider. It seems that a better solution for both drivers and racers would be to close one lane to traffic and have all cars travel in a single direction. One reason I choose to race Ironman brand events is their typically excellent race organization (another reason is top-notch competition). I was not impressed with the traffic control at this race.

Near the end of the ride, I felt just slightly better than at the end of my ride in Lake Placid. I wasn't hurting quite as bad, but I wasn't feeling great. My legs were shelled, or so I thought. Also, I was again dissapointed with my bike split. 5:07 is only a few minutes faster than at IMLP, which has a reputation for a much harder ride. Maybe my expectations were not in line with the difficulty of the Louisville course, but I was anticipating sub-five hours. Still, I was off the bike in just over 6:20, which I thought should still put me in position to potentially win my AG.

Once off the bike, I felt great. My fatigue was gone. I sped off running what I thought to be around 6:45 to 7:00/mile, but what was in reality sub-6:00/mile. (One might wonder why I didn't notice my pace was so fast, seeing as I wear a Garmin, and my answer is that I don't care about my pace because I don't have much control over it.) I kept my HR in check, and was happy to see it at 153 bpm a quarter mile or so into the run and at 154 bpm running slightly down hill off the bridge near the start of the run. I checked again a few more times during the first three miles and every time my HR was right about 160 bpm.

The first three miles of running went by quick. At Lake Placid, the first mile marker of the run seemed to take forever to reach, while now I was past mile 3 in seemingly no time. Stay calm and slow, I told myself, there's a lot of racing left. I was popping a salt pill or two right before each aid station, then drinking just coke and water. Since I was dissapointed with both my swim and bike, I avoided looking at my run time or pace for almost the entire run. I didn't want to risk being further discouraged. Instead, I just kept going, always trying to keep myself from running too hard. I went through the halfway marker still feeling good, but knew I was on the verge of having to dig a bit deeper.

I wanted to push it until mile 20 and then let the anticipation of the finish carry me from there. I told myself I'd check my run pace at mile 21. If I was running well, which I suspected I was, I would get some positive affirmation that would further help carry me to the end. At mile 21 I checked my watch and was amazed to see that only 2:20 had elapsed since I left T2. My god, I realized, I can run well under 3:00 if I keep pace! I just pushed to the end, never walking a step for the second IM in a row, and finished in 9:20. It felt pretty good.

Immediately post race, I felt pretty good. No stomach issues all run. Indeed, the run felt easier than any stand alone marathon I've run. Dealing with muscular fatigue isn't too bad, much better than puking and going to the med tent.

So that's that. A 21 minute PR despite a dissapointed swim and what seemed at the time to be a dissapointing, all due to a run that far exceeded my expectations. Once again, I finish a race and immediately think, "Okay, what do I need to do to improve from here?" The answer is pretty obvious. In my next post, I plan on discussing my thoughts for the upcoming so-called "off-season".