Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting ready to race again - for the last time in 2011

One last race - the Anthem sprint triathlon on December 3rd. It will be chilly coming out of the pool and hopping on to the bike. I am going to use that to my advantage ... I do not get cold very easily.

The training is going well this week. I have already had two weight training sessions and two yoga sessions. I had a wonderful and long swim workout on Monday and had quite a reaction to the chlorine in the gym pool. I have been itching since Monday and had a sinus flare up to boot.

I really like spin sessions. I can go hard in these sessions without worrying with traffic. I need to do my own sessions so that I can stretch out the length. I need to start doing 2 and 3 hour spin sessions followed by a short treadmill run. In fact, it is not a bad situation to be able to simulate all the sports in a non-race setting to work on strategies, nutrition and new equipment. I may also buy a bike trainer to allow me to spin at home too. Triathloning has proven to be expensive. I think I have most of the equipment I need.

There are some fresh changes / expansions coming for both the blog and my training in the next few weeks. I begin next week with some lactic threshold testing (going as hard as I can until I vomit to see what my body can handle) ... and then I begin more intense run and swim training. My next two races are not until the end of January (half marathon) and February (sprint triathlon). Here is the deal - I am motivated now that I have seen the St. George course because I now know more about HOW I need to train. Essentially, I am going to use these changes to replace my race preparation ... so that I won't miss getting ready for events.

Go! Go! Go!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I have seen St. George and it is good!

After the Thanksgiving triathlon, Carrie, Baron and I headed out on the drive to St. George, UT. The goal was to get out of town, clear our lungs and preview the Ironman St. George course.

The surrounding area is scenic. The temperatures on my ride day were awesome! I like cooler weather. 50-60 degrees is a range with which I can easily deal even on the bike at 40+ miles per hour.

I was a little tired from the drive and the race on the previous day ... but I felt better after some breakfast at the Fairway Grill in St. George. We drove up to Sand Hollow State Park and the guards let me in on the bike to see the reservoir. It is water! I snapped a few photos, reset the garmin and the bike computer. I was off to ride this allegedly "killer" bike course.

The first few miles are pleasing! I will enjoy emerging from the deeps of the water to ride downhill for about 7 miles before the road juts upward. I am trying to not become too reliant on gagedtry to run this race. At my current level of fitness, this first hill is probably a 13 mph race-paced effort. It is steep, but not super steep. This incline is followed by another great downhill.

This rolling terrain interrupted by short steep bursts describe this whole route. I have seen all of the course. The most disappointing part may be that the pavement is a bit sub par. I suppose I am spoiled by the Phoenix and Scottsdale streets.

I left St. George feeling confident that I can finish the race. If I do my job over the next few months, I can make this an enjoyable race AND have a decent finishing time. I am so happy that I chose St. George for my first Ironman.

I have some more adjustments to make to the nutrition plan this week. I have to recooperate a bit from a crazy November and move on to one more event that will conclude my 2012 triathlon season. It is a USAT sanctioned sprint race in Anthem, AZ.

Happy Thanksgiving ... how 'bout a triathlon to start the holiday?

For many years Carrie and I spent our Thanksgiving rock climbing in Joshua Tree, CA. This was already a departure from a "traditional" American Thanksgiving celebration.

For the past few years, we were close enough to our families to resume a more traditional gathering ... but this year we were back out west and in more of an active lifestyle.

-Small race report-

It was a chilly start to the YMCA Turkey Triathlon. It was in the upper 40s when I arrived at 5:15am to pick up my packet. There were 375 participants in the reverse triathlon that included a 2 mile run, 12 mile bike and 400m swim. Aside from the Solana Beach sprint race, this was the largest sprint race I have done ... some fast chicas and dudes showed up for a little Thanksgiving competition. Good! Let's do this.

- The Run -

The fastest pace I have held across two miles since I was 16 years old. I held a 6:13 pace. I believe I could have maintained it for a full 3.1 which would have put me at a sub 19 minute 5k. Needless to say this is exciting for me because I am starting my half-marathon training next week. Run time - 12:27. After my usual fast transition I was off on the bike.

- The Bike -

The bike time is good. I did not feel strong. I rode the new Specialized tri bike. It was my first race on this bike. This bike has a total of 50 miles on it so far ... I think I just need a little more time to adjust to the positioning and gearing. I averaged 22.6 mph on the bike for a 12 mile time of 32 minutes. I went to the wrong rack with the bike - so I cost myself about 25 seconds in transition looking for the correct rack. Someone had thrown their towel over top of my bright yellow bag that I always use to mark my spot. I am in 14th place overall! Let's get in the water.

- The swim -

I am glad I have been swimming so much this month - because this swim would have been brutal without the ramped up training. Two things mattered here: 1) The swim was last. 2) This is a 50 meter pool. I do not train in a 50 meter pool. This was the second time I have ever been in a 50 meter pool in my life. My swimming has been in either open water (which I still prefer) or a 25 meter pool. The swim was not awful - but my pace was slowed over my last 400m effort. 10:26.

Total time - 55:02 - 3rd in the age group and 24th among the men overall.

I have to STOP making mental mistakes when I am on the bike. This frightens me a bit. I am too focused on output on the bike to notice much else about what is going on around me. This is the fourth race I have had some sort of decisioning issue related to the bike leg. FOCUS!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2012 officially got ginormous yesterday ...

"Will I get a slot at IMAZ 2012?" "I heard there are more volunteers than there are slots."

After the rule change to allow the 2011 racers to sign up for 2012 the day before their 2011 race, I thought for certain that I would be left out in the mild desert temps searching for a November 2012 race other than IMAZ. (I was going to say "left out in the cold" there but for some of my friends it is never cold in Arizona).

So with my bright green IronTeam volunteer shirt and a folding chair, I headed to Tempe early on Monday morning. I was 90% sure I would not get a slot. I was wrong! I am in for IMAZ in November 2012.

So that means I have to be very wise and stick to my plans. I need to get a brief base period prior to building for St. George in May ... then I need to be super diligent about the recovery from that race prior to jumping back into a brief base mode and then build back to IMAZ. I need to stick with my nutrition plan. I need to listen to my joints and muscles. I need to keep my mental status in check. If I follow the plan, 2012 will be an epic year in my life.

What's the rush? What's the hurry? Why two 140.6 races in one year?

I suppose I am making up for wasted time. I suppose this is my release. I suppose that I feel like I want to do these now while my body seems willing to do pretty much what I ask it to do (except drop these last few pounds).

Adding to the many things I have learned in 2011 through this training is that I should have always chased my given desire to be physically fit through endurance exercise. It's fun for me. I have known for a long time that I could go and go and go on things while others faded. The bike race I did on Saturday is proof that I love the punishment. I grunted and groaned for about 60 of those 111 miles, but never once did I wish I was not participating. I never said to myself "Why am I doing this?"

What are YOU not doing that you know you SHOULD be doing?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Congrats to IronPeople!

We spent the day volunteering at bike aid #2 at Ironman Arizona. It was a ton of work but fun to watch.

Congrats to Dan Quick, Ashley Robota, Bruce McHenry, Rodney Kinney, Colin Tetreault, Isabel Brady, John Landry, Adam Folts and Shawna Glazier-Folts ... you all are IronPeople!

Did my part as a volunteer

Saturday, November 19, 2011

29th Annual El Tour de Tucson -111 mile "tour ride"

This was my first time to do this event. Holy cow! This is a very difficult event. Make no mistake, this is a race when you have people trying to get in under the specified time.

2:30am came early - especially with NO sleep. I tried. I went to bed at 8pm. It did not work.

I have so much to say about this race ... but I want to formulate it when I am not beat down tired.

I went for a sub five hour performance. The unofficial time is 5:00:48. Get this - they handed me a Platinum medal anyway. I suspect they are correcting for the rolling start and for the fact that it was 111 miles rather than the 109 mile standard distance.

Either way ... I have the platinum medal and I know I was sub 5! More later!


Still buzzing with excitement after the 4 hours and 58 minutes of the El Tour de Tucson. Doing this ride in under 5 hours is a challenge. I barely made it, but I can honestly say I can look back and say "Yes, I gave that all I had." I have retraced the whole event and there was not a moment where I wasn't 100% engaged in what I was doing. Aside from losing a bit of steam on some of the sustained hill sections and cramping up at miles 91 and 103 I have no regrets or complaints.

Here is a less than brief race report.

At 2:30 am my silly "rooster" alarm on my dumb phone woke me. Time to go make the donuts. I managed to sleep from 8pm to 9pm and then again from 1am to 2:30am. Yes, that is 2 and a half hours of sleep after a long day at work and then wrangling my self down to Tucson.

Why 2:30am Bryonman? Well, the folks that are hoping for Platinum that are not already of Platinum status traditionally begin lining up in their position at the start line at 3:30am on race day. So I took my time, fooded up and drove 10 miles from my hotel over to the Tucson Convention Center. After paying $10.00 to park in a lot that I paid just $5.00 for less than 10 hours earlier, I too headed to the start line. It was 4:00am. There were already 150 people (at least) lined up waiting to begin the quest ... 3 hours from now. The outside temperature - a balmy 51 degrees. I do not get cold easily, but 51 degrees in bike shorts and a bike jersey is darn chilly. Laugh if you want, but I found myself going to the port-a-john to warm up. How pleasant is that?

BANG! Did that? Was that? It was the starting pistol. Thank goodness. Time to warm up. Except there was no warm up. Myself and 3200 of my closest friends where ripping down the streets of Tucson at nearly 30mph. Chaos!

If you have never cycled at high speed with a GIANT pack of people it is impressive, scary, intense, maddening and amazing. By giant pack, I do not mean 20 people ... I mean 200+. In fact, I spent MOST of this 111 miles with a cycle within inches of me on all four sides. I'd say my bike wheel got hit about 10 times throughout the day. I did not return the favor to the cyclist in front of me all day. Almost, but not quite.

El Tour has what they call "river crossings". Arizonans know that a river does not have to include water. These are dry river beds with packed gravel. Crossing #1 happened quickly. It caught me off guard a little. I managed to ride through it and dodge the people that fell over due to being hit by another cyclist or just choosing a bad line. Being a mountain biker helps with my bike handling abilities. Some of these road riders have never been on a mountain bike and it shows.

I rode next to major league baseball player Barry Bonds for about 15 minutes during the ride. Even traded a few words back and forth with him. He seemed happy to be there. It is hard to bag on a guy who is out trying new things. He bought his bike a year ago and he's already doing 111 mile races? Props to Barry. He finished in 5hours 47minutes.

The first 35 miles is uphill and the group I was in killed that 35 miles in about 1 hour and 30 minutes. I knew this was too fast for me but thought, "hey, that is the magic of being able to draft." From mile 38 to 60 just flew by. It was the easiest portion of the course. There was a ton of downhill. I knew I had many many more miles, so I pulled back the intensity and went for consistency and body position.

Then we rolled up on the second river crossing. Again, no water ... just lots and lots of loose sand, tipped over bikes and bottoms of shoes going over handlebars. I rode most of this crossing too whilst dodging my less fortunate comrades. I did dismount for the final hill climb out of the ravine because I did not have the correct tires to climb a 30 degree sandy slope.

Then the uphill started.

That is when I found out that the 80 or so cyclists I had been riding with for the past 60 miles were the chase group and most of them were pro cyclists. Uh oh! I picked the wrong group to snuggle up to for the ride. These guys were machines on the uphill. I mean like 20 mph on a decent incline. I was fading fast. I backed off the pace at mile 62 because I had to eat and did not want do eat a solid meal in the peleton.

Then it got lonely ... except for the wind howling in my face. Great! Uphill into the wind after going out too hard for the first 62 miles. I looked down at my friend Garmin ... average 23.9 mph - for 62 miles? Are you serious? I tapped the bezel to make sure it was right. I don't know why I tapped the bezel. I just did. I did not need to average this to make it under 5 hours. What am I doing?

I am literally riding alone. I can see no one behind me. "That group in front of you is only 9 minutes back from the lead group. Go catch them.", a spectator yells to me. Thanks my friend, but that group in front of me just dropped me like Demi dropped Ashton ... quickly and without words. I am over half way through this ride and I am only 9 minutes back from the lead group. It started to psych me out. I have a history of this behavior. I get freaked out when someone mentions something that makes me realize I am actually performing really well. I start getting worried about maintaining the pace.

Mile 70 is a barrier mile for me that I have to break through every time I get there. I was in a rolling set of hills somewhere in Tucson riding alone into the wind when I looked down and saw 75.6 miles on my odometer. Holy cow, I am still in this. I can still do it.

Whoosh - a bright green tandem passes me on a slight downhill. They had about 10 riders with them too! This is my chance to really get back in this ... so I jumped in the draft line. Life was good again. Timing is everything. I had just realized that I could still finish in under five hours when a group of cyclists show up. If I had just had the realization that I COULD NOT finish in under five hours, I probably would have let them fly on by without grabbing their tail. There is a life lesson.

75 to 90 went by quickly. After a train crossing and a hard sprint to catch up to the chase group I started cramping up in my left hamstring and right calf ... at the same time. I ate a Nuun tablet - chewing it up and letting it fizz in my mouth for a moment and chasing it with water. In less than a minute the cramp went away. I managed to stay with the pack! Cramps suck. I have to figure this out before St. George, I thought to myself.

The last 20 miles of this ride are defeating. The road is rough, the scenery is blah and it is on a slight uphill and add in the wind and you have a fantastic opportunity for hostility. The pack started getting frustrated with one another. Not me. I have no business talking smack to these guys and gals that are pro cyclists. I slowly make my way toward the back of the pack and let them work out their hostility on pulling me to the finish line.

I stayed with them until the sprint to the finish. Who finishes a ride with an uphill? You stay classy Tucson! The home stretch was flat and I did get to pass a few of the pros that had emptied the tank on the last uphill. It was nice to know I could still get 30mph on a flat that far into a ride.

"Did we get it?", I asked a fellow rider. "Nope. We missed it by 20 seconds or so." Crap! All that work. About that time a soldier volunteering at the race came by and she was marking people's bib numbers. "Is this gold or platinum", another cyclist asks. "Oh, this is platinum, you all made it!" I literally wanted to eat my bike because A) I was hungry for real food and B) I was so excited that they were giving us the platinum!

I just walked around like a zombie for 15 minutes looking for water. They were out at the final aid station. I came to my senses and took my happy self over to claim my medal. High fives from volunteers. I tried to cry but my eyes were so dry from staring into the wind for 5 hours, there wasn't anything there!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Changing routine without changing anything

I have decided that I like routine. Here's a new approach I am taking to help eliminate both my body's specific adaptation to my training and what some athletes consider to be the ho-hum of Ironman base training.

I decide prior to each training session how hard I am going to go and I pick out a goal to focus on for just that sesssion. I love training. I love progress. I want to keep this enjoyment level throughout the journey. I have often heard and said "attitude determines behavior". I believe in that phrase. If your behavior drives your attitude in Ironman training I believe burnout is highly likely. In other words, if you use the outcomes of your training or racing determine your attitude; the highs and lows could cause mental fatigue.

This week I have already swam 3000+ meters, biked over 50 miles and have two awesome Yoga sessions under my belt. I am trying to finish leaning out ... which is a bit of a struggle. It's working, but it is moving pretty slow. I suppose it should because it is the last 5% of body fat I want to get rid of to get to the goal. So far, I have been able to maintain my lean body mass. The point of doing this now is that I want to get lean, let my body adjust to the new state of things and then build back or build upon my existing strength and endurance.

Get up and do something. Change does not happen from the couch.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Splashed and Dashed

That was tough!

The swim started well and finished better. I had very few issues sighting or being groped in the water. Here is the big deal to me ... my 1500 meter swim time on October 2nd was 39:55. Today my 1500 meter swim time was 32:17. I love to see progress. I am still slow, but I am working my way down to more reasonable swim times.

The water temperature was 61 degrees. It felt great to me. My wet suit tore at the seam in the shoulder. I will have to take it in to see if someone will help me fix it. I have only swam in it four times. I think, given the option, I would choose a sleeveless wetsuit over the long sleeve. My new new goggles rock! They are Aqua Spheres with the larger face mask.

After leaving the water ... my quads felt very heavy. I am not sure if I kicked too much or too little on the swim. My run pace was slower than normal, but I am still okay with the deal overall.

I was second in my age group to another Team Triple Sportster - Tony Christianson. He's fast in the water.

Carrie and I just got back from a 22 mile bike ride to finish the training for the day. It is so nice to not have to deal with 100+ degree heat.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day -

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - Jose Narosky

"Think of veterans past and thank the veterans that are present." - Bryan Howell - 11/10/11.

You do not have to agree with war or conflict to show respect for those who serve. Tomorrow is an important day. Live it to your highest standard. Then repeat.

Introspection. Lots of introspection this week. When this first phase of the triathlon journey is mature I will sit down and write an e-book. The digital download will be mostly about the journey, the training and the science. I want to throw in some Kentucky-boy philosophy. I hope it will be somewhat thought-provoking for the readers. 'It is what it is' if the book turns out to be a comedy.

Swimming. Swam over 4000m in three sessions this week. The swim sessions have gone very well. This is in preparation for the splash and dash event in Tempe on Saturday. Nothing like a little 62 degree water to wake you up at 7:30am.

Running. Two fast treadmill 5Ks after my swim sessions this week are beginning to change my hatred of the "mouse on a wheel" torture device. I even ran the 5K uphill today. I am curious to see how it translates on Saturday - and more importantly how it will continue to trend for my future run races.

Biking. I learned how to replace cables and the derailleurs on a road bike this week. I even understand the dreaded limit screws on the bike components. The lift/spin/yoga session on Tuesday was awesome. We will probably bike both days this weekend so that I can rebuild some saddle time to prepare for the Tour de Tucson.

Remind me to tell the story about my NutrEval and the subsequent injections on Tuesday afternoon. I want to save that story for the book!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swim, swam, swum.

So I swam Sunday. I swam yesterday. I swam this morning. I am swimming tomorrow. Lately, I have swum a whole heap.

So at SOMA I completed a 2000 meter swim. This is my longest swim to date in "race" conditions. Saturday I am competing in a Splash and Dash in Tempe. It is a 3000 meter swim followed by a 5K run. It should be fun.

I used to loathe swimming. Now, it is less of a chore. Is it my favorite of the three? No. I think it is clear that I love the bike. Swimming is something I could see doing long term ... if I can find a way around one big thing.

I think all the chlorine is causing me to get and stay congested. It has been almost a month now since I started fighting sinus issues. I've been to the doctor and taken the antibiotics. They helped, but I think the issue lingers. Anyone have any advice or experience with this issue? I am not going to have the luxury of swimming much less for the next year so I need to get this straightened out.

Oh and tonight is Killer Tuesday. Lift, spin and yoga.

By the way, it finally cooled off in the desert ... but we went straight into "winter". The mild temperature days were overwritten with 100 degree days. Oh well. It could be worse.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

115 miles on the Computrainer - St. George bike course

Now I know a little about the famous/infamous St. George bike course.

All I had to do was drive to Scottsdale to see the St George, UT course. Joe Courtney of Sonic Fitness has the system. It is a great setup.

According to the Computrainer system the course is mostly uphill. Sometimes gradual (1% to 4%) and sometimes ridiculous (6% to 12%). There is a little bit of downhill at the back of the loop. I believe it is about 80 miles of uphill out of the 112 total miles. It took me around 6.5 hours to complete. Not as fast as I would like, but it was training and not race day. I approached it as such.

The trainer might be tougher than the real course. Here's why. Reason #1: There is no coasting. If you stop pedaling the resistance on the trainer stops the back wheel very quickly. Reason #2: If I am outside on a 6%+ downhill my max speed is around 52 mph. On the trainer my max speed in a full-out sprint was about 40mph.

The trainer might be easier than the real course. Here's why. Reason #1: The road surface is consistent and smooth on the trainer. There is no added resistance due to changing pavement conditions while you are on the trainer. Reason #2: Wind. If it is a windy day in St. George on May 5th 2012 ... this will add a giant dimension to this already difficult course.

Either way, I pedaled for 6.5 hours solid yesterday (literally no breaks) and that cannot be bad training. It gets my cycling back up to the mileage I was riding in the summer and it was a good prep for the Tour de Tucson ride (111 miles) coming up in a couple of weeks.

I have long week ahead with both training and work. Wish me luck. I have lots of swimming to do to prep for the splash and dash coming up next Saturday. 3000 meters in the water + a 3.1 mile run.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back to a normal training schedule

Welcome to November! On Monday I did the stairmaster for 3.5 miles and 165 floors. I like the stairmaster. Always will. I also ran another 2 miles on the treadmill. I am trying to learn to like running on the treadmill. I prefer outdoor running. We then capped off the day with a swim and some weight lifting. A good Halloween workout. We ate steaks and sweet potatoes afterwards.

Yesterday I went to the gym at O-Dark:30 to have a self-driven spin session. The 1.5 hour session flew by. It was the first workout where I was able and felt comfortable wearing my iPod. I never wear the iPod on outdoor workouts. I need to be able to hear traffic. I do not want to get accustomed to having the iPod because they are not race legal.

Last night we lifted weights and did another hour of spin - this time in our regular class. So 2.5 hours of spinning and another 45 minutes of weight lifting. A good training day.

I have swim lessons tonight. I am hoping that I have almost fixed my timing issues. I just need to keep thinking "relax, stretch and drive with the hips".

I have started to plan 2012's races. I am also shooting for a 1h 30 minute half marathon time in the Desert Classic on January 28th ... so the training plan for that effort starts soon.

I have a huge brick workout on tap for Saturday. A computrainer session at Sonic fitness. I am riding the St. George course in a virtual cycling session. So for at least 6 hours I will be mashing pedals on Saturday. I intend to do a short run afterwards just to see how it feels to run after 112 miles on the bike.