Monday, December 20, 2010

A ride I'll hold off doing again until I'm near race-fit...

...but first, the boring stuff: My Achilles is doing pretty well. I've been to PT twice now, and there was some improvement in just the three days between sessions. The therapist is optimistic I'll be running again within the next couple of weeks. However, he wants me to do some aqua jogging in chest deep water first to see how that goes.

Otherwise, I'm doing a few lower leg stretches as well as some heel drops (though only to neutral -- i.e., I do the exercise on a flat surface so it's impossible for my heel to drop far enough to create an acute angle relative to my leg). I also do an odd exercise where I hold my ankle stable with one hand and rotate my heel to the side with the other. At PT today, I could feel a drastic improvement in movement while doing that exercise, which the therapist tells me is a good sign.

Without running, I'm left with riding to keep me sane. (Swimming is no help in this regard.) The weather in Denver has been unseasonably warm, and I've been able to ride outside every weekend in December. I had today off work, so I took advantage of the weather and drove up to Boulder for a trip up Flagstaff. From downtown Boulder to Gross reservoir is right around 13 miles, but it took me about an hour and a half to make the trip up. The trip down is much quicker -- 30 minutes, and I descended even slower than normal because of wet, sand-strewn roads.

The problem with this ride is it forces my HR up beyond my FTP HR. One section in particular had me up to 175 bpm at 4 mph, and that's with a compact crank. My fitness isn't great right now, but this ride would be tough even in pretty good shape. Still, it's a fun ride if you've got proper gearing.

Today's atypical cloud cover made me feel like I was back in Michigan, at least until I looked West:

A leg-burning climb (well, the entire way up is basically like this):

Damage from one of the many fires to scorch Boulder this fall:

Gross Reservoir, situated at just over 7,000 feet:

After Gross Reservoir, I was hoping to reach Peak-to-Peak Highway, but after heading down this dirt road for a while I came across a sign informing me that I still had 6.5 miles of dirt road climbing to thanks:

The elevation profile and my HR -- I tried not to go much over 160 bpm:

I started heading up Gold Hill after descending Flagstaff, but I was too exhausted to get further than a few miles up. Following a few months without much training, I'm far from indefatigable.

Oh, and here's some grainy footage set to a bad Daft Punk remix of Tom Danielson setting a record for the climb:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Official Diagnosis: Achilles Tendinopathy

I just returned from a visit to the CU Sports Med clinic in Denver. Dr. Poddar's diagnosis is Achilles tendinopathy. Stacey, you got it right way back in September.

According to the doc, there are two varieties of Achilles tendinopathy. The kind I've got is where the Achilles is damaged where it inserts into the heel. That doesn't surprise me given that my heel is the only place where my pain is sharp.

After the diagnosis, the doc had me do a one-legged squat test. One stipulation is that one's torso must remain completely upright while performing the squat. On my first attempt, I was able to squat but only because I leaned forward. The doc reminded me to keep my torso upright and had me attempt another squat. With my torso vertical, I could only bend my knee a small amount before it would wobble inward laterally. That, the doc told me, is a sign that I need to work on my hip and core strength. Without improving my strength there, I'm likely to get more overuse injuries. The upside is that overuse injuries can be drastically reduced by completing a few simple exercises (I think that's anecdotal, but the doc referenced some research as well).

I received a handout with a few exercises to do 3-5 times/week. Glancing them over, I thought they'd be a cake walk. First up, there's a leg lift exercise (that link also has a good photo of the one-legged squat test). Next, there's the one-legged bridge (also: a sure-fire way to impress the ladies). Another exercise is kinda like the plank pose in yoga -- basically lying on one's side with one elbow against the ground and raising one's hips into alignment. Finally, I'm to do some calf exercises where I start nearly on my tip-toes and slowly lower my heel until my foot is level.

I'll also head to PT this week or next to get some additional pointers.

Additionally, for those with ITBS, here's a link promoting hip abductor strength as a cure to ITBS.

Oh, and on the positive side I can ride and swim with doc's approval. Running, however, will have to wait 8-10 weeks or until my pain is gone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Training in a different sense

First, thanks for the advice and encouraging comments folks have left.

My ankle had been doing better...until yesterday. I'm not sure if it was a bit of jogging outside, a big-gear bike ride, or an aqua jog, but something I did in the past few days made my ankle sore once again. The big-gear ride was a test to see if I can ride long this weekend. My ankle failed the test.

Things that help:
(1) Getting Retuled -- Todd raised my seat, installed wedges to rotate my feet thereby more evening distributing my pedaling load laterally across my foot, moved my cleats to the lateral outside of my shoes (again, more evenly distributing my pedalling load), and moved my aerobars up and toward me. I've extremely comfortable and think the new shoe/cleat/seat height modifications will help me ride a bit while I recover.
(2) Cork heel risers in my shoes seemed to reduce my pain almost immediately.
(3) I wear an ankle brace when I'm walking around a lot. The brace prevents me from twisting my foot, which is good because my ankle is most painful when I twist while under load.
(4) The Stick massage -- When I first had Stacey roll this thing over my calf, it was so painful she could barely press down. Now she can press as hard as she's able and I'm fine.

Anyhow, I'm off to a sports med doc the week after this coming one. Hopefully he tells me more than rest, ice, etc.

In the meantime, I've gained almost 10 pounds. My power:HR ratio is an all time low. I've been reduced to aqua-jogging. Aqua-jogging! Oh well, my fitness will recovery (however, the dignity I've lost from aqua-jogging may be gone forever). Still, so long as I recovery by February I should be good for IMCdA.

Instead of training myself, I now train my new puppy, Ozzy:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Achilles tendinitis (tendiopathy)

Damn. Two weeks sans running and one week without riding and my foot is doing no better. Looking at common running injuries in view of my symptoms leads me to believe that I've got Achilles tendiopathy. Two things that make a person highly susceptible to Achilles issues are limited ankle flexibility and weak calves. I'm the poster boy for limited ankle flexibility, and based on their size there is no way my calves can be very strong. Also, the heel pain I referenced in a prior post may be right where my Achilles connect to my calcaneus. (Who needs a doctor when I've got books and the internet? I say that only half joking.)

Still, there are two reasons I'm not sure this is an Achilles issue. First up is that the pain in my heel may be a bit below where the Achilles is joined. Second is that I also have dull pain along the top of my foot, though perhaps this could be the result of some other tendon carrying an extra burden to compensate for my malfunctioning Achilles.

My plan for the short term is to ice two or three times a day, start some heel drops (eccentric loading), wear my compression socks to promote blood flow to the Achilles, wear shoes all day (the goal is to raise my heel to take stress of the Achilles), get a massage and/or ART, and give things another week. [FYI: Here's the heel drop protocol.] I'm also going to buy some new cleats for my old trainer cycling shoes and perhaps move the cleats rearward, though I don't plan on riding for the next few days so this is somewhat a moot issue. If I'm not feeling better by next Friday, I'll visit a doctor.

I'm also considering some kinesio-tape and a Strassburg sock, although with so many injury prevention gimmicks on the market it's hard to discern what's actually effective and what's just snake oil. Kinesio-tape would be great if it stabilizes my Achilles enough that I can swim and ride without causing further aggravation.

Another concern I have is figuring out what can I do to stay active. At this point, I'd be fine without running for a month or two if I can still swim and ride. I need some form of physical activity every day! Yet right now even swimming aggravates my Achilles. Maybe I'll do a short swim today and will avoid kicking just to see how it goes.

Taking a bit of a longer outlook, as a former hockey player skate skiing has a strong appeal. If my Achilles issue persists, and if a skate ski boots prevent Achilles movement as I imagine they do, then I'll definitely get some skate skiis so I can get outside this winter. Maybe I will get back to weight lifting and focus on exercises that don't stress my Achilles. This could be an opportunity to focus on strength, flexibility, and all that other boring stuff that many folks say is important to staying injury free.

My biggest fear is that I'm going to be immobilized for months or longer. My second biggest fear is developing chronic Achilles tendiopathy and being constantly injured.

I'm looking forward to my races next summer so much that I'll be extremely disappointed if I can get this issue straightened out in time to be at least moderately fit come summer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No riding, no running

Injury Update
Well, my heel has been feeling slightly better, but the rest of my left ankle is pretty messed up. The tendons or ligaments on the top/outside of my left foot and the inside of my foot above my heel are tight and sore. I'm going to take a week off riding and another week off running. I think my morning trainer rides have been too hard too frequently, and that I've over-stressed my ankle by not allowing sufficient time for recovery. Better now than this coming spring... Hopefully swimming loosens everything up and aids recovery.

Great race yesterday. Ironman gets a lot of flack for being as exciting as watching paint dry, but if you're an informed viewer the race is very exciting. Even Stacey enjoyed watching the entire race and was even on the edge of our couch for the last hour of the race. The coverage was actually pretty good, too.

Once Raelert caught Macca at around mile 22 but failed to make a pass I put my money on Macca. Macca seems so stubborn, experienced, and shrewd that I'd take him over anyone else under those circumstances. It wasn't too surprising to see Macca make a move at an aid station, but it was amazing how quickly he dropped Raelert. Raelert must have expended everything he had just to catch Macca.

Preliminary 2011 race schedule:
June 26 -- Ironman Couer D'Alene (celebrating Stacey and my one year anniversary!)
July 10 -- Boulder Peak (haven't signed up yet; perhaps too soon after CdA)
July 17 (?) -- Centurion Cycling Boulder (my first bike-only race)
July 24 (?) -- Mount Evans Hill Climb (my second bike-only race)
August 7 -- Boulder 70.3
September 11 -- 70.3 World Championships (now in Vegas)

I could use another two or three spring or early summer events in the Denver area to fill out my schedule. I'll look for some trail runs and maybe a half-marathon in the spring. Suggestions appreciated.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Still Can't Run...

Heel Issue
After a week off from running, I headed out yesterday for a jog. My foot was feeling pretty good, though admittedly not perfect, and a few minutes into the run I knew it was time to head back. I ended up jogging for just 15 minutes. Despite the week off and the very short jog, I still had more pain than last week.

Without running, my "training" has consisted of a hard trainer ride every morning and then a swim some evenings. On weekends I manage one long-ish ride (circa 3:30). Now with the foot pain remaining I'm considering dropping the intensity and/or frequency of my trainer rides, even though my foot feel fine before, during, and after riding.

I've also started taking some Motrin to reduce any inflammation, icing my heel, and wearing a Zoot compression sock to bed at night. This little injury also has me considering scheduling a monthly massage, as perhaps that'd reduce the likelihood of injury in the future.

I'm not concerned with time off of running since my next event isn't for a long time, but I really enjoy running and want to get back to it.

Kona is tomorrow, as is the University of Michigan v. mid-rate state university football game. My plan is to sync a trainer ride with the IM world champs and put in a 4+ hour effort on the trainer with a fair amount of that at IM effort based on HR. I'll be flipping back and forth between the race and the football game on my computer.

Go Blue!

Next year
Finally, I'm starting to think about my race schedule for next year, and so far I'm definitely doing IM CdA in June and Boulder 70.3 in August. The big news in the world of Ironman is that the 70.3 world champs will be moving from Clearwater, Florida to Las Vegas next year. While I've never been to Vegas and honestly think the town sounds like the worst place on Earth, I'd be tempted to do the race if the bike course is sufficiently challenging that I'd break up drafting. We'll see...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Endurance Conspiracy

Anyone want a free Endurance Conspiracy shirt? It's a size XL, which I tried my best to shrink down to a medium via a boiling water bath --> hot dryer session to no avail. (A bit too optimistic, perhaps.) I'd say the shirt is a large after my attempted shrinking. It's a white shirt and I'm too lazy to take a photo or check out their website to see if I can find the same one...still, it's free so you've got nothing to lose!

Also, for those going to Kona, check out the Gu Energy house for some free stuff. Details here:

Finally, I ran this morning. Even though my run was short and slow, it was a bad idea. My foot was feeling good the past two days, now it doesn't. I'll take several more days off running. Be resilient, body!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Foot pain

I've been fortunate to have never had to take time off of running due to an injury. I'm knocking on wood that that streak continues. My left foot has been troubling me lately. The first sign that something was awry was my heel hurt if set my foot on my coffee table. The weight of my foot and leg was enough to produce pain on the backside of my heel about a half inch or an inch above the bottom of my foot.

A week or so later, I started to feel pain in my heel at the start of each run. The pain goes away once I get going (that or I block it out) and is never excruciating. The tinge of pain occurs when I roll my heel off the ground to transition my weight onto my toes. I even have pain if I press directly onto my heel.

(Pain location...)

Last night I woke up to use the bathroom, and my ankle didn't want to move. I basically limped to the john. I can't figure out what the connection could be between my heel pain and the tightness in my foot at times. Hmm...maybe I'll take a few days off running and see what happens.

The main goal is to avoid any prolonged period sans running. Fitness at this point in the year isn't important, but consistency is.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Golden Gate Canyon Pictures

I'm always happy when race season ends and I can ride without worrying about my effort level, worrying about data, or otherwise being concerned with how my ride goes. It's not that I don't like training, but riding just for fun is more relaxing. This weekend I got in my first long ride since IMLou when Stacey and I ventured up Golden Gate Canyon. After a quick drive over to Golden, we began the long, long climb up to 9,000+ feet. Golden Gate Canyon is the hardest of all the climbs I've done since moving to Denver. It's 18 miles long and, even though the elevation is about the same as other climbs to Peak to Peak Hwy, takes a long time.

When we started the climb, I thought there were some low clouds.

Shortly into the climb we were out of the clouds, but the road kept heading up.

After passing a forest fire (much closer than the one shown below), I realized that the haze in Golden was mostly the result of fires.

A few miles into the climb, Stacey and I turned onto a less busy road (Crawford) because Golden Gate Canyon has a bit too much traffic. Several miles later the road turned to dirt. Not only that, but the dirt section was loose and predominately downhill. Not the best terrain to be riding one's tri-bike...

We ended up walking one hilly section that neither of us wanted to ride down (one of the photos below is looking back up the hill, which is steeper than it appears). The 180 degree turn at the bottom was part of our concern. If I had my road bike, however...

All-in-all, a nice autumn ride. Somehow, even the descent back to Golden has some climbing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Detailed IM Louisville Race Report

[I must have made a mistaken copying links for some of the photos. Click on the photos to see the whole images.]

(Louisville pre-race)

Starting with an update of the past two weeks:
I have been extremely busy with work the past two weeks -- I actually had three days sans training this week because work has been taking up so much of my time. Still, over Labor Day weekend I went on a three-day hiking trip with Stacey and my parents. Carrying a 40-60 pound pack for three days made for some good base training. Being the triathlon nerd that I am, I wore my HR monitor for the first day and was able to average 113 bpm for the time we were moving (about 5 hours). As a side note, My advice to Stacey is to incorporate more hike-type workouts into her routine because her HR gets pretty high as soon as she starts running. Perhaps some base-work would be of benefit to her.

I've been thinking about how to most effectively prepare for IM CdA next June in the event that I remain this busy for the next several months. Besides making room for one long ride on the weekend and a long run midweek, I'd likely only have time for one workout per weekday and not a very long one at that. I'll likely talk that one over with the coach in the next few weeks...

Okay, to the race report:

Training Summary
Training went great leading up to the race. I saw some fantastic power numbers, numbers like holding 245-250 W at sub-150 bpm during longer intervals on the trainer. Being at altitude, I was encourage that perhaps those numbers would be even better where there's more oxygen in the air. I also completed some tough track workouts on brutally hot days. One day in particular comes to mind: Stacey and I went to Harvard Gulch for a run on the dirt track. We started our run at 1:00pm in 95 degree heat, and then I cranked out 18 miles in just over 2 hours even as the temp increased and the sun shone brightly. Stacey, having to slow dramatically to keep in HR in check due to the heat, was impressed. I even got in a few huge weeks of training volume, with a peak week of around 30 hours. In summary, a few weeks out from the race I was very, very confident in my fitness.


(Stacey applying sunscreen where the sun surprisingly does shine when riding a tri-bike, and Conor proving that he is NOT applying sun screen to my backside.)

Then, I became very busy with work two weeks out from the race. This is fine, since triathlon is a hobby and secondary in importance to work. The timing also wasn't too bad, either, since I was starting to taper. Still, my stress level increased to less than ideal levels. Also because of work, my trip out to Louisville was very brief -- fly out Friday, fly home Monday.

Despite the stress, once I got to the airport the Friday before the race I felt relieved. I had just started reading Born to Run, and while reading I began to remember how much fun I have racing Ironmans. The book put me in the perfect mental state to race. I've got some similar books that I'll put off reading until before my next big race.

Once in Louisville, everything went smoothly (well, other than getting pulled over Friday evening while driving a rental car for forgetting to turn on the lights...but in my defense my car's lights automatically turn on so I'm not in the habit of turning the switch myself). I met up with Jake from Zoot at the expo and he hooked me up with a SpeetZoot swim skin. Jake and Zoot have been great to me all year. I don't give Zoot stuff enough praise on my blog, so let me take this opportunity to say that in all honesty Zoot's shoes and tri compression shorts are some of the best products I've ever used. If Zoot boots me from the Ultra Team next year, I would still happily spend my own hard-earned cash to buy their products. The compression shorts are bar-none the best tri-shorts I've worn, no exaggeration.

Stacey and I stayed with my parents and my brother Conor and his wife Teresa at my cousin's husband's parents' house just outside of Louisville. Conor was racing his first IM, and Conor and Teresa did an awesome job of stocking the house with good food and getting all the stuff for my pre-race meals. Thanks guys! After dinner we settled in to watch Hot Tub Time Machine and then got to bed really early.

Like all of Saturday, Sunday morning was without any issues. Conor and I were in transition right at 5:00 am and headed off to the swim start just 15 minutes or so later. Still, but the time we got to the swim start we were well back from the front of the line. (Please WTC, stop permitting people to save spots in line!) We had an hour to kill waiting in line, but the time to relax was nice. I wasn't the least bit nervous, just like last year at the same time.


(Running down the ramp with Conor and doing my best dork pose before heading into the water.)

Once the race started, the line moved quickly and soon Conor and I were jumping into the disgusting Ohio river. I focused on a high turnover and was constantly passing people (seems all the slow folks start at the front of the swim). Having a time-trial start allows those that start at the back to see just how poorly so many of the competitors swim. I saw a surprising large amount of backstroke, breast stroke, and even just bobbing right at the beginning of the swim. Odd...

The swim went by very fast. I wondered if I'd swam sub-1:00 because the time went by so quickly -- perhaps there had been a current, I thought. My breathing was also very controlled, and I think being at a lower elevation had a lot to do with it. I occasionally did four-stroke breathing, and even then I wasn't out of breath.

I exited the water in 1:06. Not bad, but not as fast as the swim felt. Still, 6 minutes ahead of last year's pace.

After an uneventful T1, I was off on my Orbea. The start of the ride was very comfortable, as should be the case for an Ironman. Despite the comfortable effort, my HR was a bit high, right in the 150-152 bpm range. As soon as the crowd of riders thinned out a bit, I rode really easy to let my HR fall to 145 bpm. Once my HR dropped I resumed riding at my IM perceived exertion. Now, my HR stayed under 150 bpm and sometimes dropped to the low 140s despite pushing 220-230 W. For the first 40 miles I didn't compulsively check my HR or power, but when I did they were both inline with my expectations.

(I get my head a bit lower on the fast sections, but otherwise not looking too bad. My hands are a tad higher than normal, but I like this position.)

There's an out-and-back section starting about 45 minutes into the ride with some of the largest hills on the course. This section was extremely crowded and made for some dangerous riding. At one point, frustrated by the riding style of the guys around me, I eased off to 200 W on an uphill so the guys I was around would ride away from me. I was confident that I'd catch and pass them later, but for now I just wanted to avoid getting caught up in their sprinting-slowing-sprinting-slowing style of riding.

There was one guy in particular that I passed on every flat and that re-passed me every uphill. A few hours into the ride, as he passed me going uphill, he said something like "Man, you stick right to your wattage." Little does he know that I ride the uphills around 270 W and the flats around 220 W -- hardly sticking right to a wattage. Yet guys like this unknowingly push 350 W on every hill. I even told him that actually he is going way too hard on the hills, and he replied that that's how he likes to ride. What are guys like this thinking? These must be the Slowtwitchers whose sole goal is passing people on the bike, no matter the costs on the run. (I know, I know, I have the same complaint after every big race, but Louisville's time trial start only exacerbates the problem.)

As the bike progressed, the temperature and humidity rose. After 2.5 hours my power began to drop off. Check out this comparison of my bike splits from this year and last year at Louisville:

FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 23 mi (57:47) 23.88 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 40 mi (44:45) 22.79 mph
THIRD BIKE SEGMENT 70.5 mi (1:25:00) 21.53 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 112 mi (1:59:10) 20.90 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:06:42) 21.91 mph

FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 22 mi (1:01:47) 21.36 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 37 mi (43:32) 20.67 mph
THIRD BIKE SEGMENT 67 mi (1:25:43) 21.00 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 112 mi (1:56:16) 23.22 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:07:18) 21.87 mph

I could analyze this in greater detail (Did I overcook the start of the bike? Did the heat just kill me? The course was slightly different -- was that the reason for the speed difference during the first segment?), but I'll save that for another post.

By the end of this year's bike I was suffering. Others were, too, as there were a lot of competitors at the side of the road -- several of them vomiting or seeking shade. At mile 100 or so I passed a guy that had gone down in a ditch. He appeared to be severely cramped, but I couldn't tell for sure. There was a fire station ahead, and I tried to tell the fire fighters that when I passed by on the way out to help the guy. This time, however, no one was outside the station, so I circled back and rode into the station's bay to get some help for the guy down the road. (As an aside, I think it's fine if competitors do not stop to help one another. After all, it's a race -- don't sign up if you expect all the other competitors to stop for you.)

I suffered through the last 10 miles of the bike, most of it without water due to the odd aid station placement toward the end of the bike course, knowing that the run was going to be very difficult. My suffering is a bit confounding. I had peed once on the bike and had to go again at the start of the run, so dehydration didn't seem to be a cause. Perhaps my body needs a lot of blood circulation near my skin for cooling and that's why my performance suffers. I don't know enough about physiology to really make all that educated of a guess.

Oh, and for my future reference, my nutrition on the bike consisted solely of liquid calories and gels. I was hydrating so much that I had no problem drinking enough sports drink to take in 350 calories an hour. I only needed a small sip from my flask full of Vanilla Bean Gu every 10 or 20 miles. I was even drinking water on top of the 48 oz. of sports drink/hr that I consumed. Around the 3.5 and 4.5 hour marks of the bike I popped a Salt Stick salt tablet in hopes of keeping my water to sodium ratio in balance. I was sweating so much that my face was crusted over with salt. Even my eye lashes were full of salt. It was like waking up in the morning with those weird crystals in the corners of one's eyes, except mine were crystals of salt.

Data: 199 W average (4 W less than last year but a slightly faster overall time); 147 bpm average.

(I can't get the file to open with PowerAgent so my analysis is pretty limited.)


(Not looking fresh starting the run. What's up with the horrific heal strike that appears to be imminent?)

I am always happy to get off the bike at the end of a 112 mile ride, usually because I'm excited for the run to start. I was especially looking forward to entering T2 on this day, although this time it was because I was totally exhausted. As I mentioned in my brief report, dropping out went through my head. I told myself that last year I didn't feel spectacular off the bike and amazed myself with a sub-3:00 run. Maybe I'd still reel off a great run and finish in the top 10.

Those thoughts vanished after a few strides. My legs had no spring. My stride felt short and choppy. Last year I blazed through the first 3 miles at 5:42/mile. This year, barely under 7:00/mile. My HR was right where I expected -- 160 bpm or a few bpm lower -- but my pace was sssslllloooowwww.

Four miles into the run and I began feeling better. I became optimistic. Some brief cloud cover blocked the sun, and my pace quicken to 6:30/mile for a half mile or so. Once the cloud cover passed, I heated back up and slowed back down.

I took a salt pill (Endurolyte brand? something with about 1/10 the salt of the Salt Stick tablets) right before every aid station and then grabbed a Coke and then a water. Fueling went well and I peed three times during the run! Some of that was probably fluid I'd taken in on the bike. Still, even with a high level of fluid intake there was no pooling in my stomach and I craved more water. I think the salt + coke + water is the perfect fuel strategy for me on an IM run.

Around mile 12 I passed Conor going the other way and he appeared to be suffering. It was a tough day for a first IM and knowing how much I was struggling even with my level of fitness and experience I figured he was likely having a tough day. He ultimately dropped out after puking in a porta-john and then cramping badly shortly after I saw him. There's always next year...

At this point I still had ran every step and talked myself into running every step until at least mile 16. I made it to mile 16 still feeling alright and didn't walk that aid station. At mile 19 my pace plummeted to 9:00/mile on a slightly uphill and with a HR over 160 bpm. I decided to walk every other aid station. At mile 21 I changed to talking every aid station because I didn't think I could make it two miles without walking. The aid station walks allowed me to rest enough that my pace between aid stations increased enough to offset the pace lost from walking. I even walked the mile 25 aid station even though the finish was just over 1 mile away.

As I approached the finished I once again felt a surge of achievement for having made it through the day. It was a very hard run for me and took all my determination to complete it. I thought my time was going to be horrible, but ended up with a not-too-shabby-on-any-day (and great for a 95 degree/90% humidity day) 3:20 run split. I even ran the last 1/4 mile at sub-6:00 pace due to the adrenaline rush that comes when one approaches the finish line.

(Five miles are missing about midway through the race. I must have accidentally stopped my watch and didn't notice for a while.)

Still, it's hard to be satisfied with a 3:20 run when (1) that's more than 25 minutes off my time from last year and (2) I lost my AG because I was out-run. Of the top three guys in my AG, I had the fastest swim by more than five minutes. Since when do I out swim someone by 5 minutes and not beat that person?

Total: 9:38, my second fastest IM and the toughest conditions of any IM by far.

Anyhow, I crossed the finish line feeling good physically, meaning I didn't need to go to the med-tent and felt like I could actually eat something. I had myself weighed at the med-tent just to be safe, and I was only 5 pounds lighter than normal. If I can hydrate myself to the extent that I only lose 5 pounds on a day as hot as this one, I think that means my nutrition is dialed in pretty well.

15th overall, just like last year. 2nd in my AG, just like last year.

I felt great just a few days after the race. I ran three days afterward and didn't feel fatigued. Once again, my rapid recovery suggests I wasn't able to empty the tank and really fatigue my muscles. It's tough to do one IM a year, and then have it not go perfect. Could I have gone sub-9:00 on an ideal day? Did I have the fitness for a 4:50 or 4:55 bike? Will I ever finish top 10 overall? I can't answer these questions, but the race allowed me to test my will-power and I am happy with how I responded. Testing myself is the appeal of doing Ironman regardless of the outcome, and that's not limited to race day. I'm happy with my race performance in the harsh conditions and I enjoy training more than ever. Another year passes and the allure of Ironman hasn't diminished.

Thanks to Stacey for her endless support of my pursuit of my perfect race, thanks to Chuckie for the coaching and training support, thanks to Zoot Sports and Jake at Zoot in particular for providing me with awesome training and racing gear that I don't plug nearly enough, thanks to Orbea and Zipp for also providing top-notch gear, and thanks to my family for cheering for me and for having everything organized when I arrived in Kentucky.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ironman Number 5 in the Bag

Quick summary: HOT! As the heat picked up on the bike, my power dropped off. By mile 100 my face was covered with sale. There was so much salt building up around my eyes that I had to pull off chuncks of it. I took in almost all my calories from liquid (and the other 400 or 500 were Gu) and was pounding water. The heat on the bike took its toll, and my pace and power dropped way off throughout the bike.

I started the run considering dropping out. Then I though I don't want to get in that habit. If I got to the point that I couldn't run and still had loads of miles to go, then I'd drop out. Until then, keep going. Plus, it's really hard to tell how I'll feel once I start the run.

...and then ten feet into the run I knew I'd be a tough day. I had no jump in my step. Still, I held 7:00/mile or only a bit slower for the first 7 miles. I gradually slowed to 8:00/mile, and I was a-hurtin'. I walked 5 or 6 aid stations, though I think my pace between stations is faster when I walked than when I run to the stations to the extent that it was pretty even.

Overall, 1:06 swim (okay) + 5:06 bike (no bad considering the heat-induced drop off) + 3:20 run (really good considering the 95 degree temp with very, very few clouds).

2nd in my AG for the third IM in a row (though I suppose there's a chance the results will be updated and I'll drop a spot or two). I just cared about finishing, though, given the conditions. I was told a few times I was 6 minutes back of #1 in my AG, but that was probably on course time not including the time trial swim (incidentally, the dude finished ended up finishing something like 6 minutes ahead of me).

Physically, I'm feeling not too bad. I only lost 5 pounds throughout the race and even peed a few times during the run.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MAF test

Well, I've been extremely busy with work as of late, so the blog has taken a back seat. I update sporadically until Louisville. I should write a race plan this weekend so that I start to focus on the race. It's hard to focus with so much other stuff going on. My diet hasn't been great lately (too many work-related lunches -- one at a pizza place, one with fried chicken), but I sneak in fruit frequently and finish the day off with a huge salad.

Workouts of note as of late:

Fun ride with 20 x [30 sec hard, 30 sec easy] then 40 x [15 sec hard, 15 sec easy]. For the 30 second efforts I did most in the 340-350 W range before building to 370 W for the last several. For the 15 sec efforts, I averaged 257 W for the entire 20 minutes. I blasted some Girl Talk on the iPod to keep things going.

Now I'm out the door for today's second workout: a 45 min swim.

MAF test - 6 miles, Harvard Gulch, 85 degrees, sunny, PE was 5 or 6/10
Avg HR for the 6 miles was 148 bpm and my paces were: (1) 6:57, (2) 7:11, (3) 7:18, (4) 7:25, (5) 7:19, (6) 7:19. I didn't feel like heat was an issue.

400m in 1:23
800m in 2:57
1200m in 4:39
1600m in 6:21
1600m in 6:23
1200m in 4:42
800m in 2:59
400m in 1:24

Those times are for an effort a notch below really hard, something like 95%.

Also, some easy riding and swimming.

5:30 ride with 5 hrs at 129 bpm. I rode a bit past Evergreen and back. It's not as nice as Boulder, but it sure beats Birmingham, MI.

Also, easy swimming.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ellen Hart

(ASI did a good job with the Boulder 70.3 photos. I thought this one in particular was cool. I'm tempted to buy the high resolution photo.)

Buring the Boulder 70.3 last weekend, I was at about mile 9 on the run as I ran along an out-and-back section. A lady running the other direction was looking very strong. It took me the next 3.5 miles to catch up to her, and when I did I was amazed to see that she was 52 years old. She had the physique of a 30 year old professional triathlete. I asked her if she was really 52, and she said she was and that I better speed up or she'd beat me to the finish.

I had to look her up online, and it turns out she has run in the Olympic trials for the marathon, won Boulder Bolder twice, and even almost made the Olympics trials in the marathon at age 48. ABC made a made-for-TV movie about her and her struggles with bulimia called "Dying to be Perfect". She's also a graduate of Harvard and CU law school. Slacker. If you check out my race photos here -- -- she's the lady finished at the same time as me. Fifty two years old...

Anyhow, training has been pretty easy for the past week. I've put in about two hours a day, with about half of that in the pool. My runs have all been very easy -- 8:30 to 9:00/mile pace. Riding has also been easy, with my toughest workout including a 60 minute ride with a whole bunch of 2 minute "hard", 1 minute "easy" repetitions. My "hard" reps started at IM effort and increased to a bit above HIM effort.

I feel recovered from the race, but haven't test myself yet. Better to err on the side of caution with Louisville fast approaching. Chuckie suggested that my recovery may be quicker than normal because I wasn't able to go to the bottom of the well during the race (see the second half of my run). Today will be a bit of a test, as it includes a long (6 hr) but moderately paced ride. Then tomorrow I get to do a track run. Track runs are fun because I get to run fast.

The only other workout of note is yesterday's swim. Stacey joined me for a bunch of hard 100s. While we used to be very evenly matched swimmers, since I started working hard on my swim last year I usually finish 3 or 4 seconds ahead of her in a 100. Somehow, though, she picked up the pace big time yesterday and beat me on most of the 100s. What the...??? She loves it when she can beat me. I might have to start sneaking in extra time in the pool so that doesn't happen anymore!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boulder 70.3 Race Report

One of these days, I'll put together my perfect race. Over the past year I've had a lot of races where my bike or run is solid, and I'm even happy when my swim doesn't take me completely out of contention for the AG win. Yet in every race I've also had a lack luster discipline. That happened again today, and this time where I least expected it -- on the run.

Knowing I veer left, I lined up on the far right so that other swimmers would box me in and prevent me from heading off course. I kept my turnover high and even found a few pairs of feet to sit on at times. About 1250m into the swim, I felt something against my neck and thought it was a strand of sea weed. I grabbed the thing I yanked it, only to pull off my own goggles. Oops. I quickly put the goggles back on even though they were flooded with water. To my surprise, my vision was amazing. Turns out I've been having sighting issues only because my goggles are completely fogged up. With goggles full of water, I could see everything -- picking a line and finding feet to sit on have never been so easy. I've found few strategies to prevent goggle fog and hopefully I'll perfect on before Louisville.

The swim went well for me and I exited in 31:24, good for 14th out of 86 in my age group. That's five minutes off my competitors' times, but I was also off by five minutes at the shorter Boulder Peak swim. That's progress, I suppose.

This is a fast bike course. Even though it's two loops, it seems like the route is 3/4 downhill.

Heading out of T1, I kept an eye on the SRM and kept my power below 300W. It's easy to crush the first few minutes of the bike, but that's not a wise strategy. Still, when the first few miles are crowded I'm will to put out a bit more power than would otherwise be prudent.

About 5 miles into the ride two-time IM world champ Tim DeBoom passed me (due to the wave format and Tim being much faster than me, he was on his second loop while I was on my first). I was actually able to legally hang onto him for a bit, and even had to sit up at times to avoid getting too close, before he pulled away on an uphill. The rest of the pro pack following Tim soon passed. These guys ride hard uphill, and for a while I put out more watts than I wanted to keep pace. I was hoping to legally ride their train for the rest of the loop. My lack of legal drafting experience got the better of me, however, and I allowed such a large gap to open that I was no longer getting any benefit. I'd have had to push real hard to catch back up, and even then I was afraid of getting a penalty. Anyhow, there's an out and back 15 miles later and I was able to see that they only put about a minute on me during that time.

I drank a lot on the bike. Two Gatorade, almost two waters, and a few Gus. That's probably IM equivalent fueling at about 400 cal/hr. A tad much for a half, but my stomach was quickly taking care of any pooling from the big gulps I was taking.

Usually at the end of a hard 56 mile ride my legs are beat. Actually, they're typically beat about 40 miles in, and I spend the last 16 miles really focusing to keep the effort up. Today, however, that was never an issue. I got off the bike feeling better than I can ever remember for a half. Not that there was no fatigue, but I never had to dig deep on the bike.

Time: 2:10 (a whopping 8 minute PR for a 56 mile ride). This ride moved me up to second in my AG and in position to get the win with a really good run.

239 average W (yes, just 239 W for 25.8 mph)
243 W normalized
87 rpm average
164 bpm average (wow, is that high!)
48.8 max speed (where'd that happen? St Vrain?)

I left T2 2:44 into my race. That meant a 1:20 run, two minutes of my PR, would give me a 4:04 half IM. Great, I thought, don't push too hard, just hang onto 6:00-6:15/mile and run right around 1:20. No need to try for 1:18 only to blow up and run 1:30.

The run started great. I was easily hitting 6:00/mile (well, not easily, but below maybe 0.5/10 below the PE I think I can hold for a half). I was really thinking I could hold that pace until mile 9 or 10 and then go all in from there. Through the first half of the race, my plan was working. 6:08/mile for the first 6.55 miles -- right on track for 1:20 and feeling good.

(Chuckie shot this cool photo during the run.)

Then, pretty shortly after mile 7, I recognized some trouble. There's a short hill and my PE climbed way up just to get over the thing. I had a bit of fluid pooling in my stomach, but I craved water. That's always the worst situation -- the one thing you want the most will only exacerbate your other problem. The temp was hot at 90 degrees or so, but not unbearable and not unlike what I've been training in.

I think some salt pills would have aided my digestion, allowing me to take in more water and Coke. I haven't been successful racing in heat, and fueling is one primary reason for that (or at least that's my present theory). Yes, this is another "oh, I'd have gone faster if I had nailed my nutrition" race report. I apologize for that, but I *think* it's the case. My run strength is there and my endurance is there, so there's no reason to fade other than heat (which wasn't that bad) and fueling.

Anyhow, I dropped to 6:46/mile for the last 6.55 miles and finished the run in 1:24. Bah! A 1:20 would have put me right in the vicinity of Brian Schaning, a fast dude and the eventual AG winner, and while I'm not the fastest runner in triathlon I'd be glad to have a race come down to the run.

So, there ya have it. Acceptable swim, fast bike, good 1st half of the run, bad second half of the run. Overall, I still finished 2nd in my AG and 16th overall. Plus my bike was only about 5 minutes back of some of the top guys in the sport. Now just to put it all together!

Finally, congrats to Stacey on her race. She was worried because between planning our wedding and starting a new job, she hasn't focused on training for the past several months. She still hung on and just missed her 6 hour target (despite a run a whole 40 minutes off her PR). Stacey tells me the real highlights of her race were seeing Craig Alexander, Andy Potts, and Michael Lovato.

(This picture is from and was taken before the Boulder Peak.)

Alright, I'm off to continue eating and drinking amazing quantities of food and liquid. It's probably a sign of dehydration that I can drink about 100 oz. of fluid after the race and not have to "use it."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week Summary

I had a few less than idea workouts this week, but that happens. I've been on a roll as of late so there's no need to be discouraged.

Also, I have finally looked at my swim videos. I'll post a critique tomorrow. There's a lot to critique.

Oh, and congrats to Conor for a stellar Steelhead this past weekend. That should set you up nicely for Louisville. Just be sure not to ramp things back up too quickly at the beginning of this week.

Now on with the show...

August 1
(1) It's August already? Wow. After a tough ride yesterday (see below), I was curious how my legs would react. Today's ride was up to Ward and then over to Niwot High School for a track run. On the climb to Ward I pushed IM effort up until mile 15, averaging 235 W at 143 bpm for 1:05. Once I hit mile 15, gravity and the steepness of the road forced my effort up a bit, and I spent the next ten minutes averaging 256 W and 151 bpm. PE crept up toward the end of the ride, I think just due to muscle tiredness (particularly in the bum). Anyhow, good numbers for me but aided by the terrain.

(2) The post-ride track run went alright. The original plan was 5 miles at 6:00/mile. My HR was 160 bpm after the first mile and 170 after the second. A combination of heat and dehydration were likely responsible for the high HR. CV altered the plan and had me do a bunch of 400s and a few 200s, all at about 6:00/mile pace. The 400s are pretty easy for me, as it's not until 200m in that I even start breathing deeply.

(3) I finished off the weekend with a 15 minute flop.

July 31
(1) The day got off to a good start. I began with a 1:00 run with 2 miles at 6:20/mile pace, but otherwise easy.

(2) After the run I headed up to Boulder to join CV and the gang for a 5 hour ride. My instructions were to do 3 hours at IM pace (~220 W). The best thing I can say about my ride was that the first hour went well. I was cruising along pushing 220-240 W and a HR in the high 140s and feeling great. The second hour didn't go too bad, I guess, but by the time the third hour rolled around I was "in a spot of bother" as Phil Liggett would say. My power dropped way off, my HR stayed high, my stomach was full of fluid, and I had no energy.

I think I know the cause of my issue. First, it was a hot day. Second, my nutrition plan for the ride was real foods, or at least somewhat real foods (e.g., things that strike a good balance between staying edible in my pocket for five hours on a 95 degree day and including only non-machine made ingredients, such as Whole Foods energy nuggets with lots of nuts and fruit and LaraBars). So, I've got a high sweat rate due to the conditions and I'm combating that by taking in a lot of water (not sports drink), yet I am taking in almost no sodium. A few hours into the ride, and suddenly water stops leaving my stomach, I get dehydrated, etc. etc. That's my theory, anyhow.

My ride ended basically limping back to Boulder at <180 W. Still, I averaged over 22 mph for the three hours at IM intensity on terrain similar to Louisville and hit 100 miles in 4:45 despite said limping home.

(3) Very short flop.

July 30
(1) 3400m swim with a 1000m time trial. My time was 17:25, with the first 500m in 8:38 and the second in 8:47. I'm no Grant Hackett.

(2) 1 hour run with 40 minutes at 150 bpm. I averaged 6:52/mile at 152 bpm for those 40 minutes on terrain a bit more challenging than Louisville. Nice. That speed felt easy and I kept having the desire to run around 6:30/mile.

July 29
(1) 4500m swim. I did 3200m or so of this swim earlier in the week, but CV made me do the whole thing all over again since I didn't get the entire 4500m in. Not too bad, really.

(2) Extra curricular: 1 hour spin

(3) 30 minute easy run with Stacey. I did not feel that great. Usually these jogs are effortless, like walking, but this day I had a slight side-stitch.

July 28 - Death Run
(1) 2:15 run scheduled, 2:00 complete. I just fell apart. The only other time I can recall feeling this bad on a run is during the latter stages of a marathon or IM. The goal was to warm-up, start running 6:45-7:00/mile, and then cool-down. Sounded easy enough on paper.

My expectation was for a 150-155 bpm HR, yet after 40 minutes my HR was approaching 160 bpm. It started hitting 165 bpm on hills, and I made the executive decision to pull the plug on running by pace. Hour 1: 7:00/mile at 160 bpm average.

I switched to running at 155 bpm for the second hour. Despite slowing to 7:37/mile, I only made it another 30 minutes before making executive decision #2: get home ASAP. I dropped my pace to balance minimizing suffering and getting home quickly.

The hike is Aspen may have taken more out of me than I realized, and it showed during this run. (Again, just my theory.)

(2) Flop.

July 27
(1) Swim. This is the one I mentioned above. I did 3200m of the scheduled 4500m. Hey, a man's got to work! (CV noted on the schedule that if I couldn't fit the whole thing in, I just needed to wake up earlier.)

(2) Tempo ride w/ 1:30 at 230-240 W. I did nine 10 minute intervals with 2 minutes easy pedaling between. Average watts were 245-248 for all sets, and my HR average gradually increased from 143 bpm to 148 bpm. Solid and pretty easy, PE-wise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Aspen Photos

July 25
Spin with Stacey up to Maroon Bells. They're definitely over-rated, and I'd recommend the Electric Pass hike as having superior scenery.

July 24
Stacey and I went on a 6 hour hike from the end of Castle Creek Rd (~10,000 ft.) to Electric Pass at 13,500 ft. This was a great hike and left my legs very sore for two days. I carried about 25 lbs of stuff, but that's not that much.

July 23
Stacey and I rode over Independence Pass. Stacey allowed me to ride ahead and turn around occasionally. The ride goes from 7,800 feet to 12,200 feet in 25 miles. The altitude doesn't bother me much, though I didn't have my power meter to check power:HR. After Independence Pass, we went back through town then up to 10,000 feet again to the end of Castle Creek Rd. After eating a selection of breads and spreads at the Pine Creek Restaurant (amazing views, btw), we cruised back into town. This ride was 5+ hours.

July 22
I got in a quick run along a trail above town. Nice views of the town along the way.