Sunday, 16 October 2016 21:38

Ironman Louisville 2016 Race Report

October 9, 2016.......Ironman Louisville took place and for the first time in a long time I was not sure how the day would unfold. This is my race report and will not be too detailed with regard to the course and will provide that in another blog post.

Prior To Race Day

My buddy Goat and I left Dallas on Wednesday for the long car ride to Louisville. We decided to break up the ride and stop in Memphis. This was a really smart move as we got into Louisville on Thursday afternoon and had plenty of time before bike check-in, practice swim, bike ride and run. All the things you need to do before you toe the line for a long day of racing.

We rented a house in the Audobon section of Louisville and it was gorgeous. The FW Tri Club had 5 athletes racing and 2 Sherpas staying in the house. We all had our own rooms and bathrooms so that we were not in each others way. My friends Jeff and Annie came out to Louisville to cheer Kevin and I on. Kevin was there with his wife Jennie and son. There was going to be plenty of support on the course with all the athletes and sherpas. This could shape up to be a fantastic day but the reality of it was that I was tired. I was tired of training. I was tired of triathlon and Ironman. I wanted this race to be over as quickly as it could be. Having the support around me that I did made a world of difference.

With bikes checked in, bags turned over, nutrition bottles filled, and dinner consumed we went to bed around 9:00pm. I laid in bed thinking about everything and could feel myself not being able to sleep. This is the first time in a long time that I can remember not falling asleep easily the day before a race. I had a lot of things swirling in my head. I was thinking about work and phone calls I had to make. I was thinking about my wife and where she would be and how she would manage on race day. I thought about the race and the goals I set for myself. The nerves were there and this was unusual.

I think the biggest stressor was the goal I had set for myself. I did not tell anybody, not even Karen what I expected as I did not want to have those expectations grow to become unreasonable but there is one person that knew exactly what I wanted to do. Ever since I met Taylor after his completion of Ironman Arizona in 2013 we have had this ongoing routine of texting each other our race goals. The day before the race I sent him the text message of what I thought my body could do and some might say it was spot on and that I know my body well.

Ironman Lousivlle_triathlon_race times

Swim

Ironman Louisville_Swim

I have anxiety when it comes to the swim of an Ironman event but having raced Ironman Chattanooga in 2014 this rolling start was exciting to me. I knew I would be able to jump in, pick a line and swim. Despite the conversation about swimming upstream for 1,400 yards I was more than happy to exchange that for the mass swim start of races past.

We dropped off bikes and got in line. We had about a mile walk to the swim start but knowing that the lines move fast I did not worry about this. We got in line and started chatting with our neighbors and the tension that normally accompanies the start of this race was gone. I pee'd in my wetsuit twice on the walk and noticed that the entire concrete area was wet despite the fact that it had not rained in days in Louisville. I laughed with my teammates and was starting to feel very loose. The tension and stress from the night before was gone.

We hit the pier area and I tapped Goat to wish him well. PUshed my goggles on tight and as I was about to jump in I noticed another athlete coming at us. The look of fear on his face with no goggles and no swim cap. I could not worry about it as I jumped in an began swimming. The line was clear and I very rarely touched anybody. I could see the buoys and got to the tip of the island in no time. I was actually surprised how quickly I got to the tip of the island. I knew I had another 500 yards until the turn around and when I got there the typical contact began as everybody bottles up around the turn buoys.

As I turned I got kicked in the face and had to stop to adjust my goggles but that would be the extent of the major contact. I wanted to swim free and clear and was away from most but as the buoys came up I found myself right on top of them. I could not figure out why I was so close but just went with it. Every now and again I would have somebody touch my foot or swim across my face but this was a relatively clear swim.

The buoys went by quickly and I was able to swim right up to the stairs and exit. Once under the swim out arch I looked at my watch and saw 1:17. Me? 1:17? Holy cow. I immediatly knew I had 8 minutes on my predicted time.

I flopped on the ground like a fish and had my wetsuit ripped off. Grabbed a cup of water on the way out and then began the run from to the transition. I yelled out my bag and they handed it to me as I made the turn down the rows of bags.

T1

I pride myself on being in and out of transition as it is still part of the race. I always choose not to go into the tents as there is nothing but ass and balls in there and they are typically very hot. I was outside the tent and put my shoes on when I heard a volunteer yell to a lady she was going in the wrong tent. I looked up and told her that she did not want to go in there.

Once my arm sleeves were on I ran through the tent and handed my bag to another wonderful volunteer. Through the tent and some sunscreen that burned like heck. I realized I had gotten a wetsuit hickey and it burned when the sunscreen went onto it.

Out to my bike where I noticed most were gone but this did not phase me as I got into the water around 8:05am which is rather late.

As I grabbed my bike and began to run to the bike out arch I was ready to ride. That is until the volunteers yelled that the mount line was further up. What I did not notice was that by further up it was about a 1:00-2:00 run to the mount line. By the time I got there I realized my transition was close to 10 minutes and thus all the swim time I gained I just gave back.

Bike

Ironman Louisville_Bike

I saw Karen, Annie and Jeff immediately and that was a good feeling. The first 10 miles from bike out are relatively flat but I had looked at the weather and knew it was a 4-7 mph wind out of the North-North East and that is exactly where were headed so we had a light headwind. Nothing too noticeable but it was there.

During these 10 miles I was just getting accustomed to the bike and I noticed that my feet were freezing. While the water was 73* the air temp was about 50*. I put on full-finger cycling gloves but my feet would suffer for the majority of the ride.

After the 10 miles you start the climbing. This first climb is steep and I had another athlete say to me, after we crescted, that he was good on that hill but was now done for all the others. We had a good laugh. I was now ready to settle into the ride and knew it would be a lot of gear shifting, climbing and descending.

This bike course is relentless for a Texan. The average gain per mile is a tad under 50ft. In Dallas-Fort Worth, we may average 35 ft/mi if we are lucky. That 15 feet does not sound like much but over 112 miles that equates to nearly 1,700 feet of climbing we do not experience here. If you climb for :30-1:00 and descend for :05-:07 there is no chance to really recover and all this adds up throughout the ride. I decided to ride to NP instead of average power because for every climb there would be a descent and thus the average power numbers would be off. I have typically ridden the DFW area to an NP of 176w but trying to stay conservative I decided to stay between NP of 155-160w.

When I finished the first loop in three hours I felt a 6 hour bike finish was plausible and my power was right where I wanted it. My mindset changed when I realized that the fatigue was building and that I had another 20 miles of climbing. I adjusted my goal mentally to 6:05-6:10 on the bike and would still be happy with that. As I passed other athletes that were bombing the descents and then incapable of climbing I was gaining confidence and realizing that I had more in my legs than I thought. I had to stick to my goal watts and pay attention to cadence on the climbs.

One part of the bike course that is phenomenal is when you ride through the town of Le Grange. There are fences and boards up lining the street and they are yelling loudly. You feel like a rockstar going through this section and it reminded me of Chattanooga. Every Ironman race should have this setup.

Once through Le Grange and the short out and back I knew I had 33 miles back to downtown Louisville. I figured I would have a tailwind at this point and tucked in. I noticed that my power was exactly where I wanted it at NP of 155w. This was going to be a good ride that would set me up for a run......until things changed. On the ride back to town I noticed that I was not pushing my watts and that I had only pee'd once on the bike. Was I losing energy? Was I dehydrated? I started to worry but then the 5.0 mile notifications went off and they were sub-15:00 which means I was riding faster than 20 mph. Oh well, could not worry about it now.

At the last aid station I took a handup of Gatorade and drank the entire bottle in less than 10 miles because I wanted to make sure I had tried to be as hydrated as possible at this point.

As I went past the swim start  I slipped my feet out of my shoes and prepared to dismount and run. When I got to the dismount line I noticed that I had ridden the second 56 miles just a bit faster than the first 56 and my legs felt like they could run. This was going to be a good test of my fitness.

T2

I handed off my bike and ran down the 'alley' to the gear bags and yelled out my number. I turned the corner and did not see it but that was because a volunteer further up the aisle had it ready to hand to me. I grabbed as I ran past and again go dressed outside of the tent. Run shoes on, hat on, and loaded up my nutrition flasks into my pockets. Race belt on as I went through the tent and then additional sunscreen. Time to run!!!

Run

Ironman Louisville_Run

I had a goal of running a sub-4:00 marathon two years ago and ran 3:58:59. I had that same goal but I felt my run training was solid and a 3:50 marathon was more than feasible. The first mile ticked off at sub-9:00 and then I saw Karen, Dave and Annie and it was an awesome sight. I was on cloud 9 as the next few miles ticked off under 9:00. I had to tell myself to be smart about this. Holding back in the first 5-6 miles would help me get to that 3:50. The reviews of this run course was that it was flat but what I noticed after we past through the University of Louisville was a short sharp descent and my quads began yelling at me. After 5,000 ft of climbing on the bike my legs were somewhat shocked to be running and at this pace. At Mile 4 I caught Goat (typically do not catch him until mile 20) and I was surprised. A slap on the ass and a fist bump and I was off. 

Since this is a double loop that is straight out and back I figured that the turn around would be at mile 6.5. That was a wrong assumption. The turn around was until mile 7+ and it was a false flat all the way to that point. Once you turned you could feel the slight descent taking hold. My watch was beeping at every mile and nothing was slower that 9:30 and that was with walking through aid stations. I was excited but I could feel my quads yelling at me. It felt as if they were at the end of the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race.

Toward the end of the first loop I ran under the Red Bull arch and saw Karen. She took pictures and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was hurting but could not muster much else. I had to keep running if I wanted to reach my goals and I was gone. I noticed that I ran the first 1/2 marathon in 1:56 and if I could repeat that I would finish in 3:52. The miles ticked off and my feet were moving but my walks through the aid stations were taking a tad longer than I wanted. When I reached the final turn around point I knew I had 6 miles to go and with 10:00 miles I could be right at 4 hours. I did not want to chance it so I made a decision that there would be no walking through aid stations. I had to grab water/coke/gatorage on the run.

As each mile ticked off I had saved :30-:45 seconds over the 10:00/mi pace. I was moving and my determination kept growing. I was doing math in my head an thought I could run a 3:55. Off my goal but still an IM marathon PR. When I had only 1 mile left to go it was time to do the gut check. Could I keep running and not break down. With about 0.75 miles to go I knew I had the run of a lifetime and began smiling. I took my sunglasses off and hung them from my jersey. I ran about 0.5 miles and they fell out. Oh shit!!! Stopping to pick them up would cost me time plus the idea of bending down to pick them up was intolerable. I did turn around and grab them. I looked up and kept going and sure enough I saw a teammate up ahead around the Red Bull arch. I came up on him, slapped him on the ass and wished him well as he headed off on his second loop.

As I started down the chute I saw another friend, Erin, who took one of the best pics of the night. The lights and sounds of the finish line were calling me. Heading down the chute my smile grew bigger and bigger. I crossed the line of my 6th finish and nearly collapsed as I had no energy left. Dehydrated, overwhelmed with a 3:56 marathon and a fantastic day at the race. I saw Karen and the tears welled up in my eyes. These race finishes are always emotional for me as I reflect on the sacrifice, time, energy that I put in, that my family puts in, that my friends put in. They are never easy to get to. They are never easy to cross but when you do it is a state of euphoria.

Finish Times

Swim - 1:18:02

T1 - 8:06

Bike - 5:54:36

T2 - 5:08

Run - 3:56:20

Overall: 11:22:12

 

Ironman Louisville_Finish Line_4th Street Live

 

Thank You

To my family and friends for dealing with me over 16 weeks of training. To the volunteers for being fantastic all day long. To WTC for putting on a first class event. To the city of Louisville for hosting us and showing us what it is like for a community to embrace Ironman weekend.

 

 

 

 

Published in Race Reports
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 06:55

Triathlon Periodization Training Works For Me

Triathlon periodization traning for Ironman Chattanooga was going to be an experiment on n=1. The reason I phrase it that way is that I was not in a control group, nor were there other examples of triathletes doing the type of training I set out for myself back in June. I did not have a clue as to what would unfold but I did know one thing. I knew that I was burnt out on triathlon. Having trained for and completed 3 Ironman distance races over the course of 12 months I could not take another 6 to 8 month training cycle. It was too much, and while I wanted to be the best I could be on race day I was not going to drive my body and mind into the ground over that long of a period of time. Approximately two years ago my buddies Jeff and Kevin trained 'together' from Texas and Michigan in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Jeff and I then took that training plan and adjusted it for the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Trail run. Knowing that I did not want to subject myself, or my family, through months of training I adapted that training plans concepts to triathlon with the goal of being ready, fresh and mentally prepared for Ironman Chattanooga. What took place over the 13 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper has led me to believe that this type of triathlon periodization training is the way to go for me. In addition to not wanting to run myself into the ground over a long period of time I wanted to also focus on the sport I was training for. In my past training cycles I approached it as a triathlete but this time would be different. The triathlon periodization training was to allow me to be a swimmer during a week, a cyclist during a week and a runner during a week. Just as important as those weeks were it was going to be imperative that I become a couch potato in the all important recovery week. [caption id="attachment_9700" align="alignright" width="300"]ironmant periodization training - swim - bike - run Lots of Miles On The Bike[/caption] Triathlon Periodization Training Overview The triathlon periodization training lays out as follows: Week 1: Large bike focus with weekends being the two days that push your mind, body and soul with a long ride on Saturday and a Triple Brick on Sunday. Week 2: Large swim focus with as many open water swims as I could get in but when in the pool focusing on form one or two days and then speed the other days. Week 3: Large run focus with a 20+ mile run on Saturday followed by a mid-teens run on Sunday that also has a recovery swim and bike in it. Week 4: Recovery week. All workouts are to be Z1-Z2 and allow the body to repair. Triathlon Periodization – Cycling Since Ironman Texas 2013 ended I knew that I was going to have to figure out a way to get faster on the bike without compromising my running ability. The idea was to ride as much as I could in one week using the trainer during the week and then getting outside for long rides with the group and then triple bricks the following day on my own. Learning to stay within myself on those long rides was key to being able to push it during the triple brick and having the ability to run on what would not be just tired legs, but exhausted legs. In case you are wondering, a triple brick consists of three brick cycles of bike and run. For me, the triple brick consisted of a 20 mile ride followed by a 4 mile run. I usually did this after having swum a mile in the open water with our group. That open water swim was a great way to get the body warmed up and ready to tackle the triple. I can say that doing a triple after a Saturday ride of 60 or 80 miles is not horrible. Doing it the day after a 120 mile ride is downright torture but I learned so much about staying within myself and running with soreness and tiredness in my legs. What I discovered after the 4th triple brick of this triathlon periodization training was that I could not only run a particular pace for the first portion of the brick but also on the last portion and everything in between. My legs were getting stronger from all the cycling as well as developing an aerobic capacity to go longer. My peak weeks of cycling were in the 250+ mile range while the off weeks were around 100 miles. These peak weeks of cycling were also the weeks where I trained the most in terms of hours with training totaling approximately 20 hours during those weeks. The beauty of this setup is that you have only one 20 hour week once a month and not for an entire month like overload weeks tend to be during traditional Ironman training cycles. Triathlon Periodization – Running While reviewing my goals for Ironman Chattanooga I knew that I was going to have to put in run work to achieve them. I set out to run a sub-4 hour Ironman marathon. Having come close the three times before I knew that this could be accomplished especially with the run base I had acquired during Lake Martin 100 training. My ability to run for a long period of time at a constant pace and heart rate was already established, but what I needed to work on was doing that type of run after having been on a bike for 6 hours and expended energy without replenishing nutrition during a one hour plus swim. What I learned during the Lake Martin training was that nutrition timing was more important than I had realized prior to embarking on that journey. I knew that I had to take in calories but timing it was important so during the runs I had scheduled of 20+ miles during those run heavy weeks I focused more on the calories I was taking in than pace. The priority was calories, heart rate and then pace and the reason for that was because if I was not fueling properly then my heart rate would spike and cause me to slow down thus reducing pace. While long runs were a large portion of the mileage I put in, there was also a focus on speed. I scheduled mile repeats as well as hill work (not nearly enough as it turned out) into my training cycle. The run heavy weeks were going to make or break me, much like when you hit Mile 17 of the Ironman marathon. I was going to be prepared for that moment when the mind wants to quit and I was not going to allow that. Getting up at 4:30am to get in a 10 mile run prior to work and then either running another 4-5 miles at lunch or working all day to come home and finish off those 4-5 miles will put you in the hurt zone mentally but it is very important to learn how to deal with that as it will happen during the Ironman marathon. My heaviest run weeks totaled 65-70 miles while the other weeks were in the 25 mile range. The hours spent during those run heavy weeks were approximately 15 hours. [caption id="attachment_9702" align="alignright" width="285"]ironman periodization training - swim - bike - run - triathlon That Other Is Transitions At Ironman Chattanooga[/caption] Triathlon Periodization – Swimming My goal for the triathlon periodization training during swim weeks was to learn to deal with my anxiety of the open water swim. This meant that I would be heading to the lake as often as possible. Prior to each of the Ironman races there were nerves, but Ironman Texas 2013 proved to be the worst. I had so much anxiety that I practically froze in the water when the canon went off and wound up exiting the swim with a time of 1:48. This put me behind mentally because I was now chasing a goal time instead of letting it chase me. My goal was to finish off these swim focused weeks feeling like Michael Phelps (without the alcohol and pot) and knowing that I was getting stronger. The thought process was that if I felt stronger in the water, then the confidence to swim in the open water would be there. I learned along the way that swimming is not a sport that you can muscle through but instead must be form focused to get the most out of your time, similar to golf. I scheduled weeks were I would swim 20,000 yards. There were days of 5,000 yards in which I would swim 2,500 yards in the morning and then either head to the lake for a 1+ mile swim or another 2,500 yards in the pool after work. The smell of chlorine permeated everything those weeks and I was as shriveled up as a raisin by the time Sunday rolled around but it was well worth it in the end. The Ironman Chattanooga swim is point to point and downstream which worked in my favor but all throughout the swim I would take inventory of my arms (using the railroad track technique), my head placement and where my hips were. Had I not spent so much time in the water during the swim heavy weeks and being exhausted during those weeks from being in the water so much I may not have known what proper technique was and how to adjust and fix any imperfections I was noticing. The heaviest swim weeks finished with between 18,000 and 21,000 yards. The off weeks totaled anywhere between 4,000 and 7,000 yards. The time spent in those heavy weeks was 14-15 hours. Triathlon Periodization – Recovery These weeks were probably the most important of them all. I viewed these weeks as if they were taper weeks where the body would mend, the mind would recover and time away from the sport would re-invigorate my desire to chase the miles. While the hours spent (anywhere between 10 and 13 hours total) may seem like a lot they were mostly spent early in the morning when the sun was still sleeping except for a few Saturday's where getting up early did not matter but rather sleeping in was the focus. The ability to spend time with family and friends, get away from the sport and focus on other tasks allowed for a rekindling of the Ironman finish line and training desire. It cannot be said enough but these weeks were heaven-sent. Triathlon Periodization – Conclusion As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was an experiment of n=1. As a matter of fact, if asked, I would not recommend this type of training to anybody who is just starting out. I would still encourage them to seek out a coach who will be able to help them structure a training plan that is complimentary of their talents and goals. This type of triathlon periodization training I would suggest to those that have completed one, if not more, 140.6 races. In addition to that if you have trained for and successfully completed a 50 mile or 100 mile ultra trail run then this type of training would not be uncommon to you and could work very well for you in terms of accomplishing the goal of crossing the finish line of a 140.6 mile race. If you have any questions about my training for Ironman Chattanooga please feel free to leave the question in the comment. And if you ask me will I use this again for my next Ironman race the answer is that the training plan has already been created.

Published in Train
Sunday, 05 October 2014 17:36

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Course Review

2014 Ironman Chattanooga was supposed to have stories told about the bike and only the bike.  The other two sports, swim and run, were to be add-ons to the event that was going to be remembered as the day that the bike portion of an Ironman nearly buried everybody.  When the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was announced it became about the elevation.  How the race was going to have 4,000 feet of elevation per loop for a total of 8,000 and everybody was worried.  Then when that rhetoric died down, WTC officials made a change to the course for safety reasons and it added 4 miles.  All the sudden all the nerves were frayed because we were no longer racing 112 miles and now would be racing 116.  All the worry and all the nerves was everywhere and to the point that I left the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga Facebook page.  This blog post is going to give you an idea about the race course and my thoughts about it.  As you may have guessed by now the race was not about the bike but really about the swim and the run.

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Swim

The swim is point to point and conducted in a fashion that is exactly like Ironman Louisville in which the athletes drop in off of a dock.  There is no mass swim start and that should help athletes with their anxiety on race morning. The temperature of the water at the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was 77* which meant that it was wetsuit optional.  Those that chose to wear a wetsuit would have to wait until all those that did not entered the water.  The pros went off at 7:25 which is about 35 minutes later than normal which is due to the late sunrise later in the year and the sun having to peak out over the mountains. The river's current is controlled by the Tennessee Valley water authority and on this day it was moving, although slower than the practice swim the day before.  Trying to predict the flow rate would be pointless and instead focusing on your stroke and getting down the river as fast as you can would be better. Whether you are a strong swimmer or not the current and drop-in start will help alleviate any anxiety and more than likely allow you to PR at the Ironman distance swim. [caption id="attachment_9690" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Swim Course - Triathlon Follow the river and avoid the island is all you need to do.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Bike

As I mentioned the rage prior to the start of the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was all about the bike.  As it turned out the bike was benign.  There are rollers and a couple of sections in which you had to drop to the small chain ring and spin up but if you did that and recovered on the downhill then stayed within yourself on the flats then this bike course is nothing more than a challenge and not impossible. There are a couple of sections where the turns are tight, like the left onto Hog Jowl Road, and having the ability to handle your bike will come into play.  The bike is a lollipop in which you leave the state of Tennessee and enter Georgia on a straight path.  Once you make the left onto Hog Jowl Road you are heading back and toward the special needs area which is at approximately Mile 52.  A few miles past the special needs area and you are making a left to start loop 2 or a right to head back toward the Ironman Village and where you will enter transition area. The roads on the bike course are extremely smooth with a few spots that are very well-marked but overall there is no need to worry about launching bottles once you are out on the course.  Where you need to concern yourself with these types of things is as you leave transition and then re-enter.  You will go over a few railroad track crossings that can cause bottles to launch if you hit them wrong. Other than the few sharp turns and the few train track scenarios this bike course is challenging but not impossible.  Whatever went up surely went down and there were plenty of flats with which you could regain the speed you may have lost climbing. [caption id="attachment_9689" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Bike Course Review - Triathlon The bike course is challenging but fair. Rollers with a few climbs but extremely smooth roads and lots of support.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Run

The 2014 Ironman Chattanooga run is downright nasty.  This was extremely challenging and forced you to consider your racing strategy.  This run course was not one in which you could just let the legs open and go because if you did you would pay for it.  When I discussed the run course I was told that it was 700 feet of elevation gain which is not that bad over 26.2 miles except that the conversation failed to mention that it was 650-700 feet of elevation gain on 13.1 miles and you had to do that twice which amounted to 1300 feet of elevation gain. The run course is split into two loops that you run twice.  The first 8 miles are fairly flat but the next 5 are extremely hilly.  When you leave transition you run 1 mile up a hill and then enter the swim park where you can run and gain a feeling for your legs coming off the bike and the hill.  What is on this portion of the course that I do not understand is an aid station that forces you to make a 90 degree left turn to run for 25 feet and then around a cone and back out for 25 feet where you make another sharp left turn and onto the river path.  I am sure that they could have extended the finish line past where it was 50 feet and avoided this section altogether.  Making athletes make 3 sharp turns on tired legs does not make much sense. When you leave the park you make a right turn onto the shoulder of a highway and it is lonely.  Car going by and nothing to look at until you come up to a bridge where you can see the aquarium.  This is a terrific sight, especially on loop 2, except it does not give you any idea as to what lays before you.  And what lays before you may make some people cry.  The following 5 miles are nothing more than a test of will and strength.  Run the elevation changes wisely and you will get through this without a problem.  Try to muscle through it and you will pay dearly for it on loop 2. The elevation changes are constant here with little to no flat sections.  If you think the downhills will help I suggest you rethink that concept since you will be pounding your quads and knees on the way down before making the right turn to go back up the hill.  That is how the 5 mile section unfolds.  That being said there are people all along the course in this section and the music is playing and the crowd is a huge pick me up. [caption id="attachment_9688" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Run Course Review - Triathlon An extremely challenging course on the back side where 5 miles may seem like 10 but the other 8 miles of each loop are very runable.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Race Course Overall Review

I found the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race course to be challenging but fair.  There were no major sections, other than 3 miles on the run, that you were on your own.  With the staggered swim start there are athletes on the bike course everywhere and chatting is certainly an option.  The run course brings the pain but simultaneously it allows you to strategize and then execute. This race is one that I would recommend to all.  The weather was ideal this time of the year.  The roads on the bike course are like glass.  The swim is downstream and then the marathon brings you a challenge but it is not impossible to conquer. If you have questions about the course beyond what I described please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.   [video width="856" height="480" mp4="http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JasonBahamundi.mp4"][/video]
Published in Race

 Ironman Chattanooga 2014 is a race that will never be forgotten. The day was ideal, but better than that was the ability to spend the days leading up to the race and then on the course with friends I have been training with for years. I also got to see a lot of cyber friends out on the course and that made the day more magical. Later this week I will post about the course at Ironman Chattanooga but this post will be about how the day unfolded for me in terms of swim, bike and run

. Ironman Chattanooga – Swim

As everybody is aware by now the swim at Ironman Chattanooga is FAST. I am talking about ridiculously fast. The few days leading up to race day there was wonder about water temp. Would it be wetsuit legal or optional? As of Saturday evening the water temp was 77* but I had pretty much made up my mind but was hoping that I would not have to make a decision. When Sunday morning rolled around and I checked Facebook at 4:30am it said the water temp was still 77*. Time to make the final decision! As I sat at the kitchen table of our house I thought about my ranking in the M40-44 Age group and realized that I was not going to finish in a place where Kona was a choice so I went with the wetsuit. When asked why I was wearing one I responded with: I already proved my manhood by not wearing one at Ironman Texas in 2012 and 2013 and this time I am wearing one. At the race site we were bused to the swim start. Standing in line there were a lot of nervous faces but I did not feel nervous. As a matter of fact, my nerves sort of disappeared on Saturday afternoon after checking in my bike and the gear bags. It was as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders that day. Now, at the swim start I felt loose. I put on my wetsuit and walked with my training partners and once we hit the green carpet I started to dance. This was it, this was going to be the day I had trained for. As we got on the manmade 'dock' and I watched athletes prepare to jump in the water and seeming to not know what to do I just jumped in with both feet, literally. I popped up out of the water and started swimming. I could feel the current pushing me downstream and the buoys seemed to be coming up rather quickly. I picked my spot right on the buoys as there seemed to be no traffic there while left and right there were plenty of athletes. I was cruising and counting the numbers on the buoys. From the practice swim I remembered the number 9 so I figured that there were 9 total. As I quickly found out there are 9 yellow buoys (1.2 miles) and 9 orange buoys (1.2 miles) and then the turn to the finish. All along I think I was touched or did touch a total of 5 people. There was next to no contact and I had a very clean line the entire way. When I reached the turn buoy I had no clue what my time was but felt it was around the 1:20 mark which would have been a 10 minute swim PR. As I climbed the stairs to exit the river and looked down at my watch and saw 00:58:XX I could not believe my eyes. This put a spring in my step and I found the closest volunteer to strip my wetsuit off of me. What I did not realize is that the person taking my wetsuit off was not a wetsuit stripper. They were much further down the dock. I ran right past all the people laying down and up the steepest of ramps and into T1.

Transition From Swim To Bike – T1

After grabbing my bike bag I headed toward the changing tent where I stopped without ever going in. All I needed to do was put on my helmet, sunglasses and socks so there was no reason to enter the tent. As I was pulling my socks on a volunteer was walking by and asked if I were done with my swim gear. I told him yes and started to put it into the bag when he told me to not worry about it anymore and with that I took off with my cycling shoes in my hand. The run from the changing tent to my bike was long and I did not want to wear my cycling shoes because of the opportunity to fall down. It was the right move as I ran past a lot of people who were walking gingerly in their shoes. I grabbed my bike and ran toward the downhill slope where the mount line was and finally put on my shoes. A few short steps later and I was on the bike for the 116 mile journey. 

 

Ironman Chattanooga - Bike The Ironman Chattanooga bike course was all the discussion for months. First it was the elevation and then it turned into the extra 4 miles. None of these things we could control so I never put much into them. My worry was more about having a solid bike ride to set me up to break 4 hours at the Ironman marathon. Whatever the elevation or mileage I had to stay within myself. I approached the ride in the same manner as ultra trail running. I would go easy up the hills, recover on the downhills and then stay within myself on the flats. As we left town it felt as if I had a tailwind but I was not sure. What I was sure about was the road conditions. They were like glass except for a few areas. These roads were pristine and I could just feel the wheels rolling with little to no extra effort. I was stunned when I hit the mile 10, 20, 30,40 and so on markers and was faster than 20 mph. Could this be happening? What was my heart rate? What was my effort level? All these things were in check and so I just went with what felt right. On loop 1 what I did notice was a lot of athletes on the side of the road fixing flats. I could not figure out why there were so many, but later found out that there was some sabotage in terms of tacks and oil spills. It is unfortunate that these things happened because the bike course was challenging but fair and did not need to have this throw a monkey wrench into what was a perfect day. On the course I had the fortune of meeting a handful of people who I had met through social media. Having this type of support proved to be invaluable especially when I rode up on two people whom I admire greatly. First I caught up with Drum whom I have been training with for a while now and had the pleasure of racing Ironman Arizona with in 2012. Second, was catching up to KC and was able to seeing her smiling face and hearing that she was feeling awesome. Finishing loop 2 I knew I wanted to back it down a bit to save my legs for the run. I was told that the run was an 8 mile 'easy' loop and a 5 mile 'extremely hilly' loop and if I was going to run sub-4 I needed to back it down and get my legs under me which I did. There is no better feeling than seeing the Bike In sign and knowing that with just a short marathon you are going to cross the finish line. With my feet out of my shoes I handed my bike and helmet to a volunteer and took off for the run gear bag.

Transition From Bike To Swim – T2

Once again, I chose not to go into the tent to change. All I had to do was put on my running shoes (Hoka One One Rapa Nui) and a hat. I grabbed my race belt and as I was heading through the tent asked a volunteer if I could give him my bag and when he said yes I took off. Into T2 and out in just over 2 minutes. Time to FLY as the Hoka shoe says.

Ironman Chattanooga - Run

Nobody talked about the run leading up to race day but when I ran down the soaked mat that was the swim out hill I realized that this was going to be an up and down kind of run. You come down that steep hill and run along the river to a section that just seems to keep going up and up and up. Finally you are in the park where the swim starts and that is flat. This was a blessing but when the miles were ticking off at under 8:30/mi I knew I had to pull back. My goal was to run as far as I could until I needed to walk an aid station. At the same time I was fighting myself in regards to having the strength when miles 21 and 22 came up. It was a battle of the mind and body. Once you come through the park you make a right turn and run alongside a highway. This was a desolate area and it seemed like the aid stations grew further away from each other. This was not a part of the race course that I will recall fondly. It just seemed lonely and it was you, your legs, your mind and nothing else. Just keep moving was my mantra. After that stretch you cross over a bridge and into a community that is brutal. It is a pure beat down with no flat sections and only climbing or descending. At this point I decided I was going to walk the uphills so that I could save my legs for the downhills. At this same time I started to calculate finish times. Could I possibly finish in 11 hours? I had no idea what the marathon time was and I could not be bothered with playing with my watch. It was not worth it to spend energy calculating these things. I took an average of 10:00/mi, considering the hills, and calculated from that particular mile marker to the finish. I started out with 11:01, then 11:02 and then 11:04. It seemed as if the 11 hour Ironman was slipping away and then I met Steven with about 1.2 miles to go. Steven and I ran together the entire last portion of the race. We were in step with each other and chatting the entire time. He motivated me to keep moving. At one point he said to me: I am not going to sprint to the finish. My response: Dude, I AM sprinting right now. As we came down the final hill and into the finisher's chute I could not stop smiling and could not believe that the race was over. The 13 weeks of hard-core periodization training was culminating in a finish line that was as spectacular as any I have crossed. I fist bumped Steven and then crossed. I waited to look at my watch as I wanted the video and pictures to show my face and my smile. Finally, I looked down and pressed the Lap button on my Garmin and saw 11:00:XX. I nearly broke down into tears. I could not believe my eyes and had moments where I surely must have mis-hit my watch buttons and I was not seeing the full-time. I walked with the volunteer and picked up my hat and shirt when I asked her about getting my medal. She responded with: You are wearing it. Right then and there I knew that I left everything I had out on the course.

Ironman Chattanooga Racing- Conclusion

I will blog about my periodization training in a future blog post along with my review of the Ironman Chattanooga race course.  This blog post is about my experience on the course and the weekend and I would be wrong if I did not mention the following: * Thank you to my wife Karen for all that she has done for me.  She believed over a year ago that I could be an 11 hour Ironman and that belief came true on Sunday September 28th. * Thank you to the LTF Crew of The Sherriff, Goat, Dog Bait, Diaper Boy, Drum / PB, Wade, Stick, and Teri.  We trained together all summer long and had more laughs than miles and for that I am truly grateful. * Thank you to my buddies Jeff and Kevin for having followed a training plan that was sport specific two years ago that I could adapt to triathlon training. * Thank you to the friends I have made through social media, especially KC, who I got to meet before the race, on the course and then celebrate with after crossing the finish line. * Thank you to Ironman and the city of Chattanooga for hosting us.

ironman chattanooga - triathlon - race - endurance sports 

Published in Race Reports

Open water swimming has become the go to for my training lately.  In large part I am doing open water swimming as a way to recover from the Lake Martin 100, but at the same time I need to improve in this facet of triathlon otherwise Ironman Chattanooga is going to take longer than it should.  In the past training cycles for Ironman races I have swum every Friday with members of the FWTri Club.  This training was extremely helpful when it comes to not just getting into the open water but also in dealing with panic attacks, which I seem to suffer from at the start of these triathlon. Last week I was a part of two open water swimming meet-ups and had another one this morning.  While having my face buried into the cold water that is both Lake Grapevine and Lake Benbrook I found myself truly focusing on form.  I took stock of where my head was along with where I was pulling from.  I would also ensure that I was swimming with a high elbow.  All of this was being done so that I was getting the full benefit of open water swimming so early in the season. These last two weeks were the first times I was in the lakes of North Texas since September of last year.  This is exactly why I would make the obvious statement that open water swimming is not like riding a bike.  The cliché that it is like riding a bike is because one a skill is learned it is not forgotten.  I can attest to the fact that open water swimming is NOTHING LIKE RIDING A BIKE.  There are so many differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in the open water that not jumping into the lake can certainly lead one to forgetting that skill. During the different open water swimming sessions I noticed the following 3 items which I will have to work on during the lead up to IMTN:

  1. Counting Strokes: In the pool you can play 'golf' and try to lengthen your stroke and be more efficient.  Unfortunately, for me, in the open water there is no wall and so counting strokes becomes even more imperative to setting a rhythm.  Ensuring that I am swimming on a rhythm will help me know when to look up to sight.
  2. Bi-Lateral Breathing: In the pool while swimming I can breathe to both sides but the moment I get into the lake that skill goes out the window and I do not even attempt to breathe to both sides.  Not having this skill in the open water leads to a more difficult time sighting for me as well as making the loop we do always seem longer on the way out and shorter on the way in.  Balancing my breathing will allow me to balance out the feeling of 'WHERE AM I?' while in the water.
  3. Pool Endurance and Open Water Swimming Endurance: Not the same……Swimming in the pool you have the wall to break up the monotony but also to give you a break.  If you swim a 100 yard or meter set fast you typically take a break and then go again.  The endurance that you are working on is not exactly the same and so getting used to pacing in the lake is something that I am working on.  I always feel great the moment I hit start on my watch and then 400 to 500 meters in I am looking for the lifeguard.  Starting out a tad slower and allowing myself to build up the endurance needs to be a focus.

Yes, open water swimming is not like riding a bike at all.  It is also not like swimming in a pool and it in itself a skill that has to be developed then sharpened with repeated trips to the lake.  In order for me to get more efficient at swimming I have to make a concerted effort to get to the lake when the OWS Swim Club decides it is time to go.  As of right now we are planning every Friday morning at 6:30am and maybe if we get a wild hair going on other days as well, but time will tell there. Open Water Swimming - north texas - grapevine - benbrook Open Water Swimming - north texas - grapevine - benbrook Open Water Swimming - north texas - grapevine - benbrook   At the ver least the spots were my open water swimming training takes place are at least gorgeous.  

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_9230" align="alignright" width="300"]swimming - endurance nation - triathlon Source: Shelton Monroe Swim Team Rapids[/caption] Endurance Nation posted an article on their site on November 19th titled: Why Swimming Year-Round Can Be Hazardous To Your A Race.  It is an enlightening article and one that all triathletes regardless of their level should read.  For those of us that are not swimmers we dread going to the pool, and especially this time of the year in the United States when the weather is not conducive to the idea of getting into a pool.  I know for me that swimming was a lost cause the moment that Ironman Texas was over.  I had zero desire to hit the water three to four days per week.  As a matter of fact it got to the point where I was barely swimming at all.  I would force myself to the pool and get in 1500 yards before calling it a day.  I had no motivation, not that there was much for running and biking either. Five months post Ironman Texas and now I can see myself getting into the pool on a more regular basis and that is what got me to thinking about this article.  Most athletes consider the winter months to be their off-season and are just not motivated to get going.  You have the holidays and all the cake and cookies, huge meals and alcohol thwarting the best laid plans.  The temperatures below your age and your bed sounds so much better.  For me, the training season began three weeks ago which would be right around Thanksgiving.  That means that I am training on a regular schedule throughout the holidays making that the focus and not the huge slice of pecan pie. Yesterday I posted about a new swim training cycle that I am starting.  I am going to the pool Monday and Tuesday morning as well as Friday evening.  My plan is to swim for 30-45 minutes and get out.  Monday will be purely recovery will very little intensity.  Tuesday's intensity will pick up and then on Friday it will be back to recovery as I prepare for the huge weekend of run volume.  Why 30-45 minutes?  It goes back to the Endurance Nation article.  In the article you read about the amount of time it takes to swim, not the actual swimming, but the time to drive, change, swim, change and drive.  Those minutes add up and I do not want to feel beholden to 2 hours of training for a simple swim. Right now my mind can process 30-45 minutes of swimming because on the easy days of running I am going 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  My easy bike spins are an hour and my strength/core sessions are 30 minutes at most.  This is breaking it down into manageable pieces for me.  Even with that setup though I can see the time-wasting away as I leave the house at 4:45am to get to the Y by 4:55am.  The Y opens at 5:00am on the dot and I am in the water no later than 5:05am.  After 40 minutes of swimming, changing and driving back home it is 6:15am.  That is 1 hour and 30 minutes for a 40 minute swim.  Luckily for me, these are not Ironman focused swim sessions and purely recovery so they are needed but the amount of time wasted can add up. When Ironman Chattanooga specific training does start-up I will have to juggle my schedule to fit in the 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minute swim sessions.  I think those longer sessions will be few and far between as I have to be home in time to get Chico off to school.  This means that in the 1 hour I have the intensity will be through the roof and I will have to be prepared for that.  How do I prepare for that?  By doing what I am doing now and going to the pool 3 times per week.  When IMTN training starts I do not want to be behind the swim eight ball.  These three days per week for the foreseeable future will help me acclimate to the water again and allow me to not fight the water but instead be friends with it. So while I agree with the Endurance Nation article in that swimming year round can be hazardous to your A race I also believe that in certain circumstances it is necessary.  I took time off from swimming but now I am back at it and the Ironman specific training has not started.  I am getting a head start on that training cycle while also allowing my body to recover from the pounding of hours and hours and miles and miles of running.

Is Endurance Nation Correct Regarding Swimming In Your Opinion?

 
Published in Train
Sunday, 15 December 2013 19:49

ICC - Week #6: And The Hits Keep On Coming

Ironman Chattanooga Challenge (ICC) entered and completed its 6th week and with that KC and I are one week closer to the toeing of the line and jumping into the river to float downstream.  We will not really float but with the amount of swimming the two of us are doing that might be the best solution for us. Remember that the ICC is to showcase how two seasoned triathletes with multiple Ironman finishes train for the race.  Since we are in different areas of the United States, different genders, different family/friend/work responsibilities you will see different types of training volume.  We also have different strengths so while I may spend more time in the water, KC may spend more time on the bike.  We are crafting our own way to the start and finish line of Ironman Chattanooga.  I do not compare my volume to her's and she is not comparing her training to mine.  We are our own athletes with our own goals.  This is true for you, the reader, as well and so while there are rules of thumb when it comes to training for an Ironman like make sure you swim, bike and run there is no one way to get there.  Keep that in mind as you read what we are putting ourselves through and looking at your training schedule [caption id="attachment_9225" align="alignright" width="300"]ironman chattanooga - rocky raccoon - triathlon - ultrarunning KC's Training Calendar. Gotta love the simplicity of tracking her training volume[/caption]

KC's Week 6 Ironman Chattanooga Challenge

Some of you may have already read part of this post on Facebook today, sorry for the repeat. Week 6 proved to be much better than last week. I felt stronger and better rested. I took it a little slower on the runs this week and focused on building up the miles during the week. I also felt like I redeemed myself with today’s long run. I can erase last week’s crapiness from my memory bank now. Today’s 20 mile run that turned into 22 miles was brought to you by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I also claim the title of The Running MacGyver. That wrapper you see in the picture above, saved my run too. My body Glide and jogbra failed me today folks, so around mile 7, I realized things were gonna get ugly, particularly in one spot. My quick thinking MacGyver skills kicked in (my Dad would have been so proud) and I began looking for a remedy, which turned out to be the candy wrapper. I carefully placed it between my skin and the jogbra and threw down the next 15 miles, no problem! For those not in the know, here is a link about MacGyver:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGyver Overall, this week was pretty good. I’ll start throwing in the swimming in January. For now, until the end of the year, I’m enjoying the running, the night biking and the crossfit stuff a lot. Upward and Onward! [caption id="attachment_9227" align="aligncenter" width="224"]ironman chattanooga - rocky raccoon - triathlon - ultrarunning Who needs Body Glide or Trislide when you have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_9226" align="aligncenter" width="224"]ironman chattanooga - rocky raccoon - triathlon - ultrarunning 20 Miles Turned Into 22. Yeah, that happens!!!!![/caption]  
~KC

Jason's Week 6 Ironman Chattanooga Challenge

This week was the week from hell when it comes to driving.  Dallas was hit with an ice storm on Friday of last week and with the temperatures being below freezing that means that ice did not really go away until Thursday.  In 10 trips into the office I was stuck in traffic on 9 of them thanks to poor driving on the ice.  It was horrible and with each passing minute the anger in me grew to rage.  I had not planned on doing so many doubles but I needed a stress relief and when I would get near home I would either choose to go swimming or go and lift and do core.  The benefit is that this gave me a way to structure my training for Rocky Raccoon and allow me to get in the pool, jump on the bike trainer and do some lifting and core work. [caption id="attachment_9224" align="alignright" width="300"]ironman chattanooga - rocky raccoon - triathlon - ultrarunning Jason's Colorful Training Peaks Calendar For Ironman Chattanooga Week 6 Training[/caption] My training plan for Rocky Raccoon 50 is very run heavy with 6 days per week of running.  The majority of the runs during the week are low mileage with Monday off.  Wednesday is the long run day mid-week.  Saturday and Sunday make up about 60% of the miles I put up.  For example, this week I ran 57.4 miles with 31.45 between Saturday and Sunday.  Trying to make sure that I am getting proper recovery I devised the following plan:
  • Monday (Rest day from running):  AM Swim; PM Bike Trainer.
  • Tuesday: AM Swim; PM Treadmill run.
  • Wednesday: AM Run; PM Bike Trainer
  • Thursday: AM Run; PM Strength/Core
  • Friday: AM Run; PM Swim
  • Saturday: Long Run
  • Sunday: AM Long Recovery Run; PM Strength / Core
My swims will be structured and between 1500 and 2200 yards because I am only going to be in the water for 30-45 minutes. I need to keep the structure of the swim this way because right now I am in no mood to get in the water but I know that I can do anything for 30-45 minutes and that will keep me motivated.  The bike trainer sessions will be one hour-long with my heart rate in Zone 1 and not much more than that.  Just pure spinning to keep the legs fresh. My long runs on the weekend I am hoping to do on the trails.  There will be days where I have to run them on the treadmill, like this past weekend.  On Saturday do to responsibilities I ran 19.32 miles on the treadmill.  You would have thought I shot the President the way people reacted to me on Facebook.  When I thought about it I realized that these people are telling me not to run on the treadmill had no real reason for telling me not to run on the treadmill.  I enjoyed running for three hours and getting lost in my own mind while also watching two movies.  Had the people proclaiming that I should be outside could provide me with scientific evidence that running on the treadmill is WAY WORSE than running on the road then I would have delayed the process but in the end it was what I needed to do to get in the 19 miles and enjoy the day with my step-son having our Saturday morning breakfast before leaving to cut down our Christmas Tree. Overall I am very happy with the way training is going so far. I had some issues during the first week of Rocky Raccoon training but have broken through that plateau and am now on my way to some very large volume weeks. As the volume increases I may have to make some adjustments to my training but that is what this is all about. Keeping your eye on the prize and making adjustments to get there.

Are You Racing Ironman Chattanooga? If So, Share Your Training Story With Us

Published in Train
Monday, 23 September 2013 10:05

Drafting. You Can And Should Do It. Legally.

Drafting in triathlons gets a lot of coverage for the negative aspects and typically only during the bike portion.  Unfortunately, there are two issues that triathletes do not do well.  One is draft on the bike in a legal manner and the other is to draft during the swim, and yes during the run.  Obviously, during the bike portion of the race there are rules and no matter what race you are in, including 140.6 mile races, there will be athletes in a pack breaking the rules.  This year while racing 70.3 San Juan I heard what sounded like a million bees coming at me.  Within a few seconds of first hearing it a pack of riders went by and try as I might to not get caught up in the draft I was pulled in.  As quickly as I could I got out of it and raced my race using my own engine and not the effects of the pack.  Clearly, this was breaking the rules but there is a way to draft on the bike without breaking the rules and I'll get into that in a moment. [caption id="attachment_8967" align="alignright" width="146"]drafting - swimming - triathlon - ironman Drafting In The Water Has To Be Developed
Source: Triathlete.com[/caption]

Drafting: Swimming

You can type in triathlon swimming drafting into Google and you will get lots of articles explaining how and why you should do it but how many of us actually practice this skill?  How many of us just hope to jump on feet in the race and hang on?  Go ahead and shake your head yes because I know that is what I have done and it has never worked.  As I am swimming and holding onto feet the following thoughts/questions go through my head:
  • Am I swimming too hard?  Am I swimming too easy?
  • Gosh I hate these bubbles going up my nose.
  • Man, I hope I don't slap this person in the feet more than once.
  • Is this person swimming straight?
When you draft in the swim you can end up swimming longer, slower, or faster than what you are capable of and a lot of this is because you have not practiced drafting in your training leading up to the race.  In order to practice drafting you obviously have to have another person with you but this isn't as hard as it sounds.  Every Friday morning a group of 5-8 friends jump into the lake and we do a 1.1-1.2 mile swim.  I typically let them go out in front of me and then I swim to catch up and draft off of their feet.  I deal with the bubbles.  I deal with slapping them on the feet.  I figure out if I am going to hard or too slow. I try to position myself in one of two areas.  Either directly behind their feet or with my head at their hip.  If I feel them passing me I will slow down so that I fall into that spot.  If I feel as if I am going to be swimming faster than them I will do just that and then push my paces to make it a tempo swim. When it comes to getting into the pool I will ask to share a lane.  I will also let them know that I am going to be swimming right off their hip as I practice my drafting.  As long as they know what I am doing there is typically not an issue.  Since I go to the same pool all the time I have learned who swims at what paces and can work that into my training. [caption id="attachment_8965" align="alignright" width="275"]drafting - illegal - triathlon - bike Illegal Drafting Lands You In The Penalty Box
Source: Triathlete.com[/caption]

Drafting: Cycling

As I wrote earlier we all know about the illegal drafting on the bike.  The packs go by and people are barely pedaling at the back of the pack and yet they are passing you.  This is beyond frustrating to see, but that doesn't mean that you cannot draft in the legal sense and use the rules to your advantage. Typically there is either a 15 or 20 second passing rule once you enter the draft zone.  Use this time to your advantage to help save your legs during the bike and prepare them for the run.  When you enter the draft zone you can get on the back wheel of the athlete in front of you and ride for a few seconds before passing them.  In that few seconds that you have you can save some energy and because of the draft you will/should be able to pass without exerting too much extra energy.  Do this throughout the race, especially a 140.6, and you can really save your legs for the run to come. One area I do not suggest leveraging the rules to your advantage is on a climb.  Trying to pass somebody using a drafting slingshot will take a lot out of your legs as you are climbing and thus may do more damage to your energy reservoir than you might save.  Throw in the fact that if you cannot pass on the climb and the referees pass by you could be hit with a 4:00 penalty thus completely negating the time savings from trying to draft. [caption id="attachment_8968" align="alignright" width="275"]drafting - triathlon - ironman - run You Can Draft On The Run As Well.
Source: Slowtwitch.com[/caption]

Drafting: Running

I am sure there are a lot of people out there that are laughing at this headline and questioning how in the world you draft while out on the run.  The same process that you use for swimming can apply to running as well.  If you are in a race with lots of wind getting on the hip of an athlete that can hold a pace that you are comfortable with can be a blessing.  They will act as a shield against the wind while also being that carrot for you to hold onto.  You will not gain speed from running off their hip but you will not deal with the annoyance of the wind hitting you in the face.  Same thing can be said for rain. Now, let's say that it is a perfectly fall day with little to no wind.  What do you do now?  You do the same thing but this time you aren't gaining an advantage of having the wind blocked for you instead you are gaining a psychological advantage of not worrying about anything but sticking to the hip of the athlete you are with.  For example, at Ironman Texas this year where it was as hot as the sun I wound up on the hip of Chelsea Tiner who is an elite age grouper here in Dallas.  By saying to myself that I had to stick with Chelsea as long as I could I developed a one note mentality.  Staying with her stride for stride as long as I was not cooking myself.  I would check my heart rate every now and again but we were running at a crisp pace that was not above a 5 or 6 on my RPE scale.  This was ideal because I knew that Chelsea could run and I did not have to worry about my pace and just had to stay with her stride for stride. Bike drafting is quite often abused in triathlon but if you stay within the rules you can still draft to your advantage.  In addition to that learning and executing a drafting strategy during the swim and on the run can be terrific performance enhancers as well.
Published in Race
[caption id="attachment_8131" align="alignright" width="259"]ironman swimsmart - triathlon - race - swimming Numbered Buoys Will Be A Big Help In The Ironman SwimSmart Initiative.
Source: DC Rainmaker[/caption] Ironman SwimSmart was announced recently and it seems everywhere I turn there are more and more opinions about it.  The opinions on this topic range from A to Z and it seems that not one has been the same.  I have put my own opinions into groups and discussed it on LinkedIn, but I also wanted to put it out here on the blog.  The Ironman SwimSmart initiative is a rather large change in my opinion but at the same time I wonder if people are making much ado about nothing.  The problem for WTC (the company that owns the Ironman brand) is that it is the lightning rod for triathlon and so when they make a decision the masses swarm to discuss it and the Ironman SwimSmart has been no different. If you don't know what the Ironman SwimSmart initiative is please read this link: IRONMAN Introduces SwimSmart Initiative in North America and understand what this initiative is all about and why it is a game changer for both the pro and con camps.  I am going to put what I think are the biggest changes in bullet form but recommend you read the post yourself for a deeper understanding. First, the Ironman SwimSmart initiative is not affecting all races but there are a number that are being affected and it could lead to a change in all races.

Ironman SwimSmart Initiative Changes By Race

  • Ironman Coeuer d'Alene, Ironman Lake Placid

    • Both will feature rolling starts in 2013. Athletes will enter the water in a continuous stream through a controlled access point, similar to how running road races are started. An athlete’s times will start when they cross timing mats under the swim arch.Athletes will be directed to self-seed on race morning based on their projected swim time. Volunteers and staff will be in the staging area with signs and will assist with this process. Self-seeding will not be mandatory, but will be encouraged. At both events, all athletes will have access to a dedicated warm-up area in the water located adjacent to the swim start.Age-group athletes will begin entering the water at 6:35 a.m. for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and 6:30 a.m. for IRONMAN Lake Placid, and will have the two hours and twenty minutes from the time the last athlete enters the water to complete the swim. An athlete’s time does not begin until he or she crosses the timing mat located below the swim arch.
  • Ironman Mont-Tremblant

    • IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant will feature a wave start based on age group. There will be eight waves with each wave entering the water five minutes apart, starting at 6:25 a.m. All athletes will have at least 17 hours to complete the entire event (subject to intermediate cutoffs). The two-hour and twenty-minute cutoff for the swim will begin when the final wave has started the swim portion of the event.
  • Ironman Florida and Ironman Lake Tahoe

    • IRONMAN Lake Tahoe and IRONMAN Florida will feature a mass start based on self-seeding. Athletes will self-seed into swim start corrals based upon their estimated swim finish time. All athletes will have the traditional 17 hours to complete the entire event (subject to intermediate cutoffs).

Ironman SwimStart Thoughts

  1. The idea that athlete's will self-seed scares me.  Have you raced a pool triathlon where they are self-seeding?  It can become a disaster and while this isn't touching a wall and going back there is a good chance, and a very good one, that slow swimmers may seed themselves toward the front to get as much time in the water as possible.  This could cause a situation where faster swimmers are swimming around slower swimmers because they did not seed themselves properly.  Races affected: IMCdA, IMLP
  2. Swim corrals can cause the same problem that corrals cause at running races.  People want to be with friends and family and line up in the wrong corrals and cause issues at the start of those running races.  Why would a swim start be any different?
  3. With athletes starting at all different times and having 17 hours to complete the race what happens to the countdown at the Ironman finish line?  Mike Reilly waving his towel encouraging people to finish as the clock creeps up on 16:59:59 yet that athlete started at 6:25am and has already missed the cut-off.  The finish line is a spectacle and is essentially taken away with the Ironman SwimStart initiative.
  4. Safety has been the reason most often stated and while I agree that the mass start can be crazy is WTC going to start making changes to other portions of the race because of safety reasons?  I crashed at IMAZ and luckily was able to continue.  What happens if an athlete cannot continue on the bike?  Will they shorten the bike portion at that point or put us all on spin bikes?  I read, not confirmed, that running deaths occur most frequently toward the end of races.  Does this mean that if that occurs at an Ironman event that the race will become 132.6 miles?  Where does the line get drawn?
  5. Why start the initiative this year?  Why not wait until 2014 and allow the athletes to choose what races they want to register for based on the new setting?  Athletes paid their money for a particular race experience and now in 5 of them that is being changed.  When the athletes pressed register, and when they go to the expo to pick up their bibs, they know what they are getting themselves into with the mass start.  We all sign a waiver regarding this and so we know the dangers heading into these races.  I am still not 100% sure, other than lawsuits, why the rush to change the start now instead of 2014.
I am sure there will be a comment made, maybe not typed in the comments section, about how if it saves one life that it is worth all the commotion.  I don't disagree with that theory that the Ironman SwimSmart initiative is worth it if it does save one life but I wonder about the change in the sport.  If people are truly concerned about mass starts or really the number of athletes at the mass start there are other races that don't have the start of 2,000+ all at once.  Ironman Louisville is a time trial start.  HITS and Rev3 have 140.6 races with less athletes starting and there are local races, such as Redman, that also have less athletes starting.

Ironman SwimStart Initiative Is Not All Bad

The Ironman SwimStart initiative is not all bad or controversial though.  I have yet to read anybody complain about the following swim course additions:
  • Numbered course buoys to assist in positioning of water assets/personnel and provide more accurate communication for locating and rescuing distressed swimmers.
  • Anchored resting rafts to be strategically placed along the swim course (please note that athletes will NOT be disqualified by resting on these floats).
  • Increased professional swim course personnel to enhance the overall athlete experience.
  • Additional rescue boat and personal watercrafts (PWC, kayaks, paddleboards, etc.).
As a person with OCD and the love of math having the ability to countdown the buoys is HUGE for me.  I love counting down as I know I am getting closer to finishing so the numbered buoys is a big lift.  Anchored resting rafts are also a big help as I know first hand what those kayaks and the volunteers can mean to an athlete.  Last year at the US Open Championships I was completely frozen.  I could barely swim and stopped at 4 different kayaks and along the way was encouraged to keep fighting.  If it weren't for the kayaks and the volunteers I probably would have pulled out of the race (probably should have considering IMAZ was around the corner and I was a popsicle but that is for another discussion.) Like anything else these days, the simple act of a press release with changes causes what seems to be mass hysteria.  This Ironman SwimStart initiative is no different and in a year from now we will all accept that it is the way it is and still plunk down $700 to race 140.6 miles.  This change does not affect my mindset to continue to live and race this lifestyle but it does make me wonder where the next line will be drawn.

What Do You  Think Of The Ironman SwimSmart Initiative?

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Published in Race
Ironman Texas is coming up Fast And Furious (Karen loves these movies and I think we are slated to see #6 soon) and I am behind on my monthly progress report.  Let's also toss in the fact that the email I got from Maria this week with the subject:  Welcome To Build Phase leads me to believe that the monthly progress reports for Ironman Texas 2013 may not be as prompt as they were during the first two months.  That email kinda scared me if I am being honest. I had every reason to be scared as well when the Training Peaks email for today had the words:  **If it doesn't hurt, you aren't pushing hard enough :)  Well ok then. I knew I was walking, or swimming, into unchartered territory but I also knew that it was an opportunity for me to improve on my Ironman Texas swim of 1:36 from last year as well as the 1:30 swim from Ironman Arizona.  Both times are by no means horrible, but can certainly be improved upon.  During today's swim session I nearly puked which tells me that I followed Maria's advice and pushed hard enough. This build phase comes with the knowledge that I will be going on a lot of solo rides to help build my mental strength.  This is not a big deal as approximately 95% of my rides last year were all solo rides.  The beginning of this year I chose to ride with faster cyclists to help improve my speed and break the monotony of riding alone.  Now that I am going back to solo rides I am sort of excited to just let it all go out there with my own thoughts, speed and understanding of where my heart rate needs to be and not worry about keeping up with the group. Since my last Ironman Texas progress report a lot of things have happened.  I have raced 70.3 San Juan, Karen and I got the flu and now she has pneumonia, we also put our house up for sale, and I have been engaged in starting a project that I have been thinking about for the past two years.  I would love to expand on the project for you but the timing is not right just yet.  Once I have gathered more information and there is more to share I will be sure to let you know.  Until then please hold tight and enjoy the rest of this post regarding my progress toward Ironman Texas 2013.

Swimming:

This was my Achilles heal last year and it reared its ugly head at Puerto Rico.  I swam a 45 minute 1.2 mile race which is 4 minutes slower that last year.  While this year was much choppier the real reason I was that much slower has to do with my sighting.  I probably swam an extra 1/4 mile that day and that cost me time and energy.  At first I was disappointed in my swim but once I got back in the pool I found that my stroke and ability to keep the paces I had before the race were still there and maybe a bit faster. Maria will be putting some open water swims on the schedule so I can work on my sighting, but I will also try to improve my sighting in the pool.  While not the same it will help in the long run.  I believe that I can swim a faster pace than 1:36 for this years race.  If I swim the goal of 1:15 than Ironman Texas 2013 will have been 21 minutes faster and that is a lifetime.  For this month I would give myself a B in the swimming category because I am swimming faster but sighting has to be worked on.  The Ironman Texas swim course is not a straight shot so sighting is going to be imperative.

Cycling:

I found myself enjoying the ride in Puerto Rico immensely even with keeping my HR higher than I have in the past.  Our goal was to maintain a 145 heart rate and I was right there but the best part was that toward the end of the ride when the climbs re-surface I didn't get worried or bothered by them.  Last year I remember thinking that this was the worst possible place to have those climbs so over the course of the year I have improved my cycling.  I told Maria in our bi-weekly chat that I felt like I could have sustained that effort for another 56 miles and that made me happy.  I was not spent and was setup for a good run. This year I finished San Juan in 2:51 which is 5 minutes slower than last year but felt much better and being that this was not the A race of the season puts me i a good position to break 6 hours at Ironman Texas.  If I am able to ride a 5:40-5:50 for the 112 miles I will have knocked off 15 to 25 minutes off of my time.  That is an eternity at the Ironman distance.  For this past month I would give my cycling a B+ as I think I have done well but there is work still left to be done.

Running:

Oh, running how I have missed thee.  Not really but the miles are not piling up the way they have in the past and that is deliberate.  Our focus has been on swim and bike and I have seen positive gains there.  That doesn't mean I haven't seen positive gains on the run though.  This week after being recovered from San Juan I went out and ran a Z2 20 minutes off the bike and my pace was down near 9:00/mile.  Typically at the HR I maintained I would have been near a 9:30/mi pace.  That improvement tells me that I am more efficient on the bike and capable of putting forth a good effort on the run. At San Juan I was able to execute the race plan of picking up my heart rate/pace over the course of the 13.1 miles and while I was tired at the end I was not fully spent as I was a year ago.  I managed to come in only 2 minutes off my time from last year and was able to pick it up as the race went along.  Last year I did not have that effort or plan and blew up half-way through the race and just wanted to end.  Over the course of the last month I have seen improvement in my efficiency which leads me to believe that a sub-4 hour marathon is feasible at Ironman Texas.  A 3:55 marathon will have shaved 15 minutes off my time from last year.  Feeling strong to date I think my running has been on par and would say that I earned a B in this past month.  Again, nothing to be ashamed of but also know that there are improvements to be made.

Ironman Texas Is In 50 Days

If somebody were to ask me today how I would do at Ironman Texas this year I would tell them that I could race and finish at or around the same time as my Ironman Arizona race which was 11:53.  Knowing that I have 50 days to hone my skills and sharpen my ability gives me faith that the 11:15 goal that I have as a target is more than feasible.  With a 25 minute improvement on the bike and a 15 minute improvement on the run and nothing else changing the end result would be 11:19 based on Ironman Texas last year or 11:13 based on Ironman Arizona. My confidence in my ability continues to grow even as the muscles get more sore, the hunger pains grow sharper and my sleeps get more deep.  The build phase is upon us and unlike build phases of the past I am fearful but excited simultaneously as I know these are pennies in the bank to the results I want at Ironman Texas.  As John is fond of saying: stay in the moment.  That means that when I am swimming that is my concern  When I am cycling that is the only thing I need to think about and when I am running the only sound i my head is the pitter-patter of my feet.

Ironman Texas - I Got Your Number !

[caption id="attachment_7756" align="aligncenter" width="553"]Ironman Texas - monthly progress report - triathlon - training Hours decreased as we headed into taper and recovery for 70.3 San Juan[/caption]
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