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.