2013 Ironman Texas was raced on the surface of the sun or at least it seemed like it was.  Everywhere in America there has been a mild Spring and even here in Texas that can be said.  I checked the forecast every now and again and it showed a high of 89* and I was happy with that because last years Ironman Texas was raced in 93* heat.  A 4 degree cooler day was something to look forward to, but that never happened. I did not realize how hot it was going to get or had gotten until the race was over while Karen and I were talking to a couple near the morning clothes bag pickup.  Karen told me it was 96* and the couple we were talking to mentioned it got over 100* heat index with the humidity.  I then put it all together as to why I had some of the reactions I did during the race.  Here is how the 2013 Ironman Texas race broke down for me.

2013 Ironman Texas: Cramps, Cranks And Crying Feet The Story

2013 Ironman Texas Swim

I know what to expect at the Ironman Texas swim start having done it last year but even that did not prepare me for what was about to unfold.  The swim in Lake Woodlands is tight and when you have 2000+ athletes with anxious nerves waiting for the cannon to go off you have the makings of what is going to be a lot of contact.  Last year I was hit and was hitting for the first few minutes and then after that was always touching somebody but nothing compared to the 2013 Ironman Texas version. This year I was in constant contact with somebody until the 4th marked buoy.  It wasn't until then that I finally had some room to swim but I also know that I spent a lot of energy with a heart level that went anaerobic.  I wanted to get out of the scrum and the nerves and heart rate just kept climbing until I was able to settle into the swim.  At that point it was a matter of counting strokes to keep my head in the game and sighting on a normal routine.  The problem was that sighting was just as difficult as the water was choppier than last year.  It could have been that I was in the middle of the box or that the winds were whipping but either way I was swallowing water by the mouthful on what seemed like every breath.  This added to the anxiety as my mind wandered to whether or not the bacteria in that water was going to do a number on my GI later in the race. When I got to the first turn buoy I smiled knowing that 1/3 of the swim was over.  The 2nd turn buoy shows up quickly and I was in the middle of the 2nd third of the swim race and seemed to be able to settle a bit more.  It was then that the cramps in my calf muscles and toes decided to show up.  I have spoken with Maria a couple of times already to try to figure out what is going on since this also happened at Ironman Arizona.  I thought the problem at IMAZ was the very cold weather but the water temp in Lake Woodlands was 78* so there is no common denominator there. I brushed off the cramping as much as I possibly could but I could also feel that I was not holding the proper form in the water.  I decided to swim harder without much help from my legs to see if I could help shake off the cramps and by the time I hit the 3rd turn buoy my legs were no longer cramping.  The canal is a mind-f*ck as you think you are done but in reality still have the last 1/3rd of the swim to go and it just seemed like forever.  As I neared the end I was thrilled to know that I was finishing the swim and started getting the idea of transitioning into my head as well as the race strategy.  When I got out and saw 1:53 on the clock I was dis-heartened as I was way off my goal and saw nearly every bike gear bag gone.  I did not go into the changing tent as I did not want to sit down and reflect on the swim. I  changed outside of the tent, went inside and dropped off my bag and took some water and out to the bike rack I went.

2013 Ironman Texas Bike

I got on my bike as quickly as I could and started to focus on the race strategy as well as the nutrition plan.  Maria and John had given me a target HR of 140-144 with a cap of 150 and not to touch Zone 4.  My nutrition plan was to take in calories in the first 1.5 hours then water for the next 1.5 hours and switch back and forth.    When I started the bike I knew I was going to be in the back of the pack in terms of athletes and while controlling my heart rate removed the idea that I should also allow others to pass me on the bike.  In the first few minutes that mindset had to change and focus purely on my goals. I began passing a number of people and felt great on the bike.  My legs were not experiencing any effect from the cramping on the swim.  When my watch went off after 20 minutes I started taking in my calories.  I could start to feel the warmth and chose to take water at every aid station and drink as much as possible and pour even more over my head and down my back while inside the aid station area. When I reached the first aid station I also gave myself and internal fist pump.  At 2012 Ironman Texas I had to stop and use the porto-john and at 2012 Ironman Arizona I had a bike wreck.  Getting through that first aid station was a mental victory.  Time to settle into this race and see what the day brought me.  Then I heard what the day was going to bring me.  Something was grinding and rattling.  I could not tell where it was coming from but it reminded me of the noise I experienced at Rev3 Maine when the spoke on my wheel broke.  I made the decision right then that I was going to ride this until the wheels fell off, literally. The ride at Ironman Texas is fairly flat with only ~1600ft of climbing over the 112 miles but as I got toward the 2nd half of the ride I could feel my legs getting a bit more fatigued than I remember the previous year. I  was also drinking a lot more water at the aid stations then I could remember.  I didn't think anything of the temps until around the 100 mile marker when I ran out of my preferred nutrition.  It was at this point that I took 2 water bottles and a bottle of Perform.  I poured one bottle of water over my head, down my back and onto my legs. Approximately 5 miles past that last aid station I came to the realization that the temperatures had to be hotter than last year for me to take Perform off the course.  It is not something that I train with but I was willing to take the risk of GI distress as I knew I needed the electrolytes.  At this point of the race I had already consumed 750 calories of Herbalife24 Prolong and Perform, 400 calories of Huma Gel and 400 calories of EFS Liquid Shot and still needed the Perform. As I got toward the end of the ride I started to focus on the transition and the marathon.  What was I going to do in terms of putting on my shoes, my visor.  Where was my bike going?  What about my helmet?  What was my target heart rate for the run?  All of these thoughts were going through my head as I prepared to dismount.  When I saw the clock read 8:03 I knew I had just ridden the fastest 112 miles of my Ironman career and my energy shot up.  I had 26.2 miles between me and a 3rd IM finish. Having slipped my feet out of the cycling shoes on the bike and handed it off I started to run toward the Run Gear bags and I immediately knew something was wrong.  My feet were killing me.  The outside edges were in so much pain and every step sent a jolt up to my neck.  The confidence of the run seemed to be slipping away but I was not going to let this stop me.  If I had to walk the marathon then so be it. At the changing tent I decided not to go in again.  Having my feet out of my cycling shoes it was a matter of putting my running shoes and visor on while dropping my helmet and garbage from the ride into the bag and off to get these 26.2 miles done.

2013 Ironman Texas Run

The goal heading into this years version of Ironman Texas was to run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Having seen the clock at 8:03 and an ~3 minute transition I figured I had until 12:06 to get that 4 hour marathon under my belt.  Math is not a strong suit when it is 114.4 miles into a race and the temperatures are touching 95* but that was the last time I would think about that 4 hour marathon until toward the end but a lot transpired between those two points. When I started running I knew I wasn't going to stop at aid stations unless it was unbearable.  What I found out right away was that the pain in my feet was nearly unbearable but I was not going to start walking this early.  I had a goal and my feet would be able to rest when I was done.  That was my focus and I wasn't going to think differently.  Of course as soon as I think that the cramps in my ribs started and were exactly the ones I experienced at 70.3 Puerto Rico in March. As quickly as I could I pulled my rib out and the cramping went away.  Every step was causing an issue and I finally stopped to walk at the 5th aid station.  Once done there I started running again and did not stop until I hit the 8th aid station. At this point I had a routine going.  Each aid station I would grab two cups of ice. One cup would go into my top and the other into my shorts. I would also dump two cups of water over my head.  Every other aid station I would drink perform or water.  I also had EFS Liquid Shot in my top and would take sips of that every 20 minutes.  The routine was working for me and I was able to run. I kept checking my heart rate and it was barely getting into the 135 range when the goal was to be between 150 and 160.  The pain in my feet played a part in this as each step was more painful than the last.  Seeing the carnage out on the course I was inspired but also had to stay focused on myself.  If I spent one moment looking around I would have realized how badly I felt as well and I could not risk that.  I knew I had a cheering section around mile 6, 15 and 24 of the marathon with Michelle, Michelle, Erin and other Team Figjam members as well as Karen, Jeff and Annie and the Kingwood Tri club.  I was not able to show my emotion for having this cheering section as I focused on myself but I literally experienced chills on a 100* Heat Index day each time I passed them and picked up their energy. As I was passing the Kingwood Tri club Jeff ran with me for a few steps and I told him that my feet were in so much pain and his words back to me were the words I needed to hear:  This is your last lap.  You are doing something others don't even think about. Soak it all in.  Between those words and the words of Maria and John ringing in my head I started to run harder and the pain in my feet left.  I was all the sudden on cloud 9. Last lap to Ironman #3 in 12 months.  I WAS doing something others don't dream about. Ice, water, Perform, mantra.  Over and over.  When I reached Mile 23 and I heard the music playing I started to dance.  I knew that I was only 3 miles away.  I got passed the cheering section and was running harder than I had all night. I had 19 minutes to reach a sub-4 hour marathon as well as a possible sub-12 hour race.  I was going and when I made the turn to the finish line all the joy in the world rained down on me.  I was finished and I soaked up the finish line as I noticed 12:03 on the clock.  I raced to a sub-4 hour marathon as well as a sub-6 hour bike.  For a day that started out like sh*t it was ending on a super high note. I crossed and a volunteer grabbed me.  Then a stranger came out of nowhere to say I will take care of him.  It was Jon from Twitter who told me he was going to catch me and then the sight of all sites.  Susan Lacke ran up and gave me the biggest hug. I cannot tell you how much it meant to have her there at the finish line with a huge smile on her face. My words to her after I hugged her were:  That was the fucking hardest race I have ever run.  Her words right back: After seeing you run I will never tell you to man the fuck up again.  And with that all was right with the world.  Jon and Susan walked me toward the shirts and I saw Karen.  I grabbed her and hugged her as hard as I ever had.  Instead of crying like last year I was smiling and laughing having thought I broke 4 hours on the run.  I was thrilled. We left Susan and Jon and went to the food tent then sat down with Jeff, Annie, Lesley and the rest of the crowd. Reviewing my splits I realized that I ran a 4:06 and not a sub-4 hour marathon.  My math went wrong when I didn't factor in the 10 minutes for the pros and that killed some of the high but I checked the splits of M40-44 and realized that I ran the 15th fastest marathon of my Age Group.  Something to build on for the next one.

2013 Ironman Texas Thank You

Thank you for being as hard as you were.  Thank you for pushing my limits.  Thank you for making me question what I had inside.  Thank you for allowing me to look back and see that finishing your course is an accomplishment that can never be taken away. Thank you to all of you who supported me whether it was on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just a silent prayer.  I truly appreciate it and can only hope to give back a fraction if what you have given me.

 

Published in Race Reports
IMTX is 10 days away and that means.....well that means a lot.  It tells me that I am officially in taper mode.  It tells me that I survived overload weeks.  It tells me that the third chapter of Ironman races is coming to a close.  Having raced IMTX in 2012 and finishing off 12+ months of training for the 140.6 distance at IMTX 2013 means the world to me.  My body has survived the rigors of training.  My marriage has survived (sometimes barely) the stress that Ironman training can put on it.  Along this road I have found a lot of support as well as lost some friends and their support.  Life has changed, for the better, since the day I decided to do the first and it certainly has changed and will have changed when May 18, 2013 rolls around and IMTX is in the books. As of right now I have no races on my schedule for after IMTX and I like it this way.  I have no pressure to get back into training.  I have nothing to look forward to which means that my sole focus is to race IMTX 2013 as hard as I possibly can because there is no tomorrow.  I purposely setup my race schedule for this year in this manner because I think that the heavy race schedule of 2012 allowed me an out.  The mindset was oh, you raced IMTX 2012 in 11:59 but you can do better at IMAZ.  Oh you crashed and finished in 11:53 you still have IMTX 2013.  Same can be said for the 70.3 races I did.  There was always a tomorrow, but not this time.  This time there is no tomorrow and everything I have done for the past 5 months will be on the line and I like it that way. Some people will ask me what my goals are and to be honest with you there is only one goal because there is only one race.  Yes triathlon is a combination of three sports, but in the end it is one race and that is the only time that matters.  I have not finalized my race strategy with Maria and John but I can tell you that our goal for this years version of IMTX has been 11:15 or better.  How I get there I don't really care.  If I swim 1:15 then I have 10 hours to bike, run and transition between the sports.  If I swim 1:30 then I have 9h45m to do those activities.  My training has me pointed in that direction but no one knows what race day will bring and so I will go into this race knowing I have done everything I can to get to 11:15. Swimming: Swimming has been going extremely well.  I am very pleased with where I started and where I am today.  This is the one sport that could have been dramatically improved and it has.  When I started with Maria and John my 800 TT time was 14:50.  A few months later we did another because I could feel myself getting faster and I finished in 13:56.  The last 800 TT we did was a few weeks ago and I was down to 13:22.  That is nearly a 1m30s improvement since December over 800y.  Doesn't seem like much but if you break it down to an Ironman 2.4 mi course that would look something like this: 1:18:30 down to 1:10:30.  Also, keep in mind that when I finished that TT in December I was huffing and puffing and could have starred as the Wolf in Three Little Pigs.  When I finished the 3rd TT I was gassed but I could have gotten on my bike and put in a good start.  Can I swim a 1:10:30 at IMTX?  I have no idea but what I do know is that even if I swim that 1:18:30 I would have improved my time by 18 minutes over IMTX 2012.  I'll take that any day. Biking: This was the second discipline that the majority of the work we did in this training cycle went into.  There were days where I did not think I could get to 145bpm and hold it for an extended period of time.  There were days where I would go slightly above my target heart rate (John approved this!) and there were days where I just wished that I had a run instead of a bike session scheduled.  All the while the improvements were there.  Getting into specific heart rate zones got easier and easier and it made the confidence meter go up.  My last long bike ride I averaged 18 mph and that is with all the stops and starts that you get with riding outdoors in the Metroplex along with using stock wheels instead of race wheels.  The last component that cannot be ignored is adrenaline, which doesn't exist on those long rides by yourself but will certainly be there come race day.  I think that an increase of 1 to 1.5 mph is possible given the factors and having fresh legs for a race after a good solid taper.  At IMTX 2012 I averaged 18.4 mph and I do believe that 19.0 to 19.5 mph is something I am capable of but there are circumstances beyond my control that make this impossible to guess at.  If I finish at 19.0 mph I will be one happy athlete as I would go from 6:05 to 5:54.  I also can gain confidence in the fact that I raced a 6:02 after a wreck at IMAZ that probably caused me to lose 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep the rubber side down this time Jason! Running: The one discipline we did not focus on and yet the improvements have been drastic and quite scary.  I remember the day I hit 8:30/mi and was sitting at the bottom of Z2 and thinking to myself:  Is this for f'n real?  Am I really going nearly :30/mi faster than I would normally be for this HR?  It was bonkers to me because our focus has not been on the run but lo and behold with the fitness gains since December running gained as well.  I am really psyched about this because all along I have felt that a sub 4-hour marathon at the end of an Ironman was possible.  I believe the hardest part is going to be holding myself back from jumping off the bike and running as if my name were Roger Bannister (for you young'uns to the sport of running click here).   At IMTX 2012 I ran to a 4:09 and that was without a strategy.  IMAZ produced a 4:06 with a hanging arm so a sub-4 hour marathon is something I am certainly capable of.  My familiarity with the course and the total elevation gain of ~250 ft plays right into my strengths.  There will be pain on this run for sure as that last lap will be the bell lap and I'll be running and chasing down that 11:15 regardless of where I am after the swim and bike.  Embrace the pain for 8 miles and gloat forever about breaking 4 hours at the marathon of an Ironman......that is the dream. Outside Life: This has been beyond stressful.  I posted the other day on Twitter that if I decided to make lemonade out of all the lemons I had I could put Minute Maid out of business.  It just seems that one thing got piled onto the next and Karen and I are doing all we can to keep our heads above water.  The problem is that it is all the little stuff that drives you crazy.  We purchased new appliances for the house in the hopes of luring a buyer.  Since then we have had no showings, and about 10 minutes after the installation was done the power went out.  Karen thought it was the house but it turned out to be the neighborhood.  I then went to use the garbage disposal the next day and it wasn't working.  I went to Home Depot to get a handful of stuff but then Karen just pressed the reset button and voila the garbage disposal was working.  Little things always add up don't they. Some of the projects I have been working on professionally and personally have fallen through but because of triathlon I have been able to keep my chin up fight through it and figure out alternatives to getting those projects back.  I have to give credit to Karen for keeping me focused on IMTX as we get closer and keeping my arousal level to a 4.  Anything above that and I am putting undue stress on my body and mind and it just isn't necessary.  If anybody want to hire Karen to be their guide through taper let me know and we can figure out an hourly rate because her service has been priceless. [caption id="attachment_8096" align="aligncenter" width="553"]imtx - ironman - triathlon - texas - 140.6 IMTX Training Peaks Volume[/caption]

Are You Racing IMTX 2013?  If So, Leave Your Bib Number In Comments So We Can Track You (By We I Mean Karen!)

Published in Race
Yoga has become a regular practice for me as you may have noticed from the blog posts I wrote here and here.  What I have noticed as I enter the build phase of my training for Ironman Texas is that I want to do more yoga and not less.  I have found that yoga has helped me with my balance and allowed me to be more flexible so that I can keep my head up and my feet toward the top of the water during my swimming.  This has created a very stream lined effect where I am much more efficient than I have ever been resulting in faster swims. For the past two weekends I have had a long ride on Saturday (5 hours) followed by a split workout on Sunday (run, 2 hour minimum break, trainer, run) and during those long days you have time to think.  So much time to think that I created the Waffle-acho or Nacho-ffles (either way they were awesome after the long bike ride) but I was really thinking about how yoga has given me confidence in the pool but also on the bike.  I started to wonder how yoga directly impacted my cycling and while cruising along I realized it has allowed me to stay injury free.  All of the stretching and strengthening has given me a solid core to work from which as an endurance athlete you know that your power is in your core. I go to Bikram Yoga North Texas on a weekly basis, and it used to be on Friday as an active recovery day but with my new schedule it is now on Monday and/or Wednesday.  Yes, I am looking to go twice per week as I feel it has helped me that much.  Plus it is a terrific opportunity to refocus and set a mantra for the day.  Yoga allows me to deal with me and nothing else for 1.5 hours.  There is no cell phone, iPad, laptop or anything in that room besides me and my breath.  Similar to what happens when you are riding.  It is you and your breath as you pedal. So how does yoga help cycling you might ask.  It helps prevent injury because you are stretching which is typically the first thing that goes when the training volume picks up.  As mentioned, it strengthens the core where you power is created.  It also makes you focus and when you are on a bike for that long with only you and your thoughts there is an opportunity to lose focus. Here are a few exercises we do in Bikram Yoga that I believe have a direct impact on cycling performance.

Yoga And Cycling

Camel Pose: This pose intimidated me when I first started practicing, but over time it has become one of my favorite poses because it has proven to me that I can develop a strong back and spine which is something we need when we are spending hours in the aero position.  When we are in aero position if we have a weak spine it can create a dip thus not allowing the air to flow over you.  With a strong back and improved posture developed from doing the camel pose holding your aero position for hours becomes less of a burden on your back or your neck. [caption id="attachment_7823" align="aligncenter" width="204"]yoga - cycling - camel pose - triathlon - ironman Source:[/caption] Half Lord of the Fishes Pose: This pose is tremendous for opening up your hip flexors while also stretching the neck and shoulders.  Couple in the fact that it strengthens the spine and you have an all around pose that aids you from head to toe while on the bike.  Typically I will hear triathletes complain about neck soreness or lower back tightness from riding for long hours and this pose addresses both of those issues.  When you start out your ability to turn around may not be there and that is ok.  Do not get discouraged as that is your current level of ability but the more you practice the stronger and more flexible you become and it will be evident on the bike.  I enjoy this pose as it is the last in the sequence and I can really feel my hip flexors get stretched during this pose. [caption id="attachment_7824" align="aligncenter" width="198"]yoga - cycling - ironman - triathlete - flexibility Source: Yoga Journal[/caption] Wind-Removing Pose: This was a favorite of mine before I learned of the name and then the inner child in me took over and I laugh every time I read it.  Let's get serious for a moment (or at least me) and let me say that this pose loosens the spine and strengthens the muscles of the lower back, which of course helps you stay in aero and just be comfortable for hours on end when you are riding.  It is also a terrific abdominal workout and that helps tone and strengthen your core muscles. [caption id="attachment_7825" align="aligncenter" width="276"]yoga - cycling - triathlon - ironman - training Source: Bikram Yoga Concord[/caption] These are just a few yoga poses that I believe help me with cycling, but truth be told the entire class will benefit your endurance endeavors.  From the practice of breathing and being in the moment to stretching and strengthening muscles that are used repeatedly in training.  The health benefits of yoga when coupled with proper diet can be tremendously beneficial to your quality of life and yes that includes racing 140.6 miles powered only by your will to cross the finish line.

Do You Incorporate Yoga Into Your Training?

What Is Your Favorite Yoga Pose?

Published in Train
Monday, 08 April 2013 11:44

Do You Trust Your Speed?

Speed is a relative term because my speed may be faster or slower than your speed but what is common amongst all athletes is the trust in their speed.  When I first started in endurance sports my first race was a half-marathon that I ran in 2 hours 18 minutes or 10:34/mi.  My speed that day was on display from the outset but soon bonked and fought the good fight to the finish line.  That day created my reference point or what I refer to as my speed line. Through lots of training I brought that time down to  a PR of 1:36 or 7:21/mi for a half-marathon.  My speed line was 7:21/mi but my constant base runs were around 9:00/mi which was held at a 140 bpm.  Since all of my training is based on HR I typically just draw a connection between my HR and my paces.  I run with my watch set to total time and HR and nothing else so that I don't focus on pace and try to hit those speeds. Running isn't the only place where I have seen my speed line move from one spot to another.  Recently my swimming speed line has been consistently in the 1:45/100y pace and not feeling as if I am going to pass out from swimming so hard.  When I started triathlon that pace was typically around 2:00/100y.  The speed line has moved fast in the past few months and this is now where my dilemma regarding my speed line comes into play. [caption id="attachment_7819" align="alignright" width="270"]speed - triathlon - swimming - ironman Source: Triathlete Europe Magazine[/caption]

Do I Trust My Speed In The Water?

I ask myself this question repeatedly these days.  When I  jump into the pool and swim a 1:39/100y and not feel exhausted I wonder where this speed came from and if I can trust it.  Can I hold  1:45/100y pace for an entire 2.4 miles?  Is this something that I trust myself to do?  I have routinely would have said yes but based on a few race times like Ironman Arizona and 70.3 Puerto Rico it is hard to trust my speed.  Yes the open water and race are a lot different from the time spent in the pool, but here is where I have a counterpoint. Last year while training for IMAZ I was swimming 32:00-36:00 per 1.2 mile swims in the open water.  If you extrapolate that to the full Ironman distance you are looking at 64 minutes to 72 minutes.  I finished IMAZ in 90 minutes or WAY FAR OFF.  I trusted my speed going into the water in November and that proved to not be a great thing to do as I didn't hold that pace. Can I trust my speed these days? I am fighting a mental war between accepting the new-found speed and what has happened in the past.  It is not usual for me to question my ability but the breaking of new ground is causing me to ask myself if I can trust this speed. [caption id="attachment_7817" align="alignright" width="260"]speed - running - swimming - triathlon Source: Running Magazine[/caption]

Do I Trust My Speed In Running?

In the case of running my trust in my speed is 100%.  I have seen that 9:00/mi pace at 140 bpm drop to 8:30/mi at the same heart rate.  While it hurts to maintain a Z2 pace these days I am fully confident that I can hold these paces for a long period of time.  For example, on Sunday I had a split workout where the first run was 1h15 minutes with the final 20 minutes at Z4.  The next set started nearly 3 hours later with a 1 hour spin on the trainer followed by a steady Z2 run for an hour. During the first run I was hurting big time during the tempo portion but that should be expected to be hard.  My HR for those 20 minutes never touched 160bpm and my pace was around 8:00/mi.  I was thrilled to see the pace when the run was done.  My overall pace for this entire run was 8:22/mi. Heading into the second set I had no clue what would happen but when I started running I thought there is no way I am going to be able to hold a 10:00/mi pace.  Since my Timex never picked up a satellite I couldn't even cheat to see the mile paces as the miles ticked off.  I ran with all my heart and my speed was just not evident.  It hurt so bad and the lactic acid was almost causing me to walk.  Downloading the data when I got home I saw a pace of 8:25/mi with an average HR of 143 bpm and a max HR of 160.  My speed line has been moved. I fully trust that if I follow a race plan at Ironman Texas that there is no doubt I will run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Why?  I am in the middle of build phase and holding these paces.  With a full taper I will have fresh legs to run on but as well all know it takes a smart ride beforehand.  I am not concerned about executing a proper race plan for the bike to set me up for the run. As you can see I have the mental ability to accept my run speed but not the swim speed that I have gained in the past three months.  I am not sure why this is the case but it is and the more I get in the water, both pool and open water, I will be able to gain the confidence in my swim speed.

Have You Ever Questioned Your Speed?

What Was Your Secret In Accepting Your New Found Speed?

 
Published in Train
Swimming was the bane of my existence when I entered the world of triathlon.  I can recall my first 'training' days where I would go to the gym, jump in the pool and swim a few laps with lots of water swallowed and exhaustion setting in after 25 yards.  Swimming was what I had to do to complete a triathlon but I had really wished it was just bike, run and left the swimming for somebody else.  Over the past three years I have made a weakness into what can conceivably be a strength for me. I have been swimming 4 times per week since I started with Maria and John and when we entered build phase and the number of swims would decrease I can say that I was a little upset.  I have been enjoying my time swimming and seeing the improvements that I have been making.  Of course getting in the water as often as possible has been a huge help to my form and ability to swim faster but so are the functional strength exercises that Maria has been putting into Training Peaks. I decided that I wanted to provide you with my 5 favorite strength workouts that have an impact on my swimming ability and hopefully they will help you out as well.

Strength Exercises That Benefit Your Swimming Ability

  1. [caption id="attachment_7773" align="alignright" width="209"]swimming - triathlon - strength training - dumbbell kickback - muscles Dumbbell Kickback
    Source:[/caption]

    Dumbbell Kickback

    • How:
      • Lean on a weight bench with a dumbbell in the opposite arm from the leg on the bench.
      • Keep back straight and head in a neutral position.
      • From here raise the dumbbell back toward your feet until straight and then return to a 90* angle to your body.
    • Tips:
      • Focusing on good form is important because you can try to use a weight where you are just throwing it back and not using the triceps to generate the force to move the weight.
      • Use a weight that will allow you to take a 2 or 3 count to kickback and a 2 or 3 count to return.
    • Why:
      • This is a simple exercise that works your triceps which is important on the final phase of your stroke.
  2. Upright Row
    • How:
      • Stand with feet shoulder width apart and holding a barbell in front of you.
      • Pull weight up toward your chin and focus on keeping your elbows high and feeling the weight in your shoulders.
      • Lower weight back down and repeat.
    • Tips:
      • Use a weight that you can handle multiple reps on until the end of a 12 rep set.
      • Weights do not need to be heavy and just provide enough resistance to know that you are working.
    • Why:
      • Strong shoulders mean strong pull.
      • Strong shoulders mean less fatigue during recovery phase of the stroke.
  3. Push Up
    • How:
      • Do I need to explain how to do a push up?
      • Get on floor and PUSH YOUR BODY UP then lower and repeat.
    • Tip:
      • You can make the exercise different by moving hands closer together or further apart.
      • You can work the chest in a different manner by using a medicine ball under one hand and then switch.
    • Why:
      • The push up strengthens both the chest and the triceps which are key muscle groups to creating greater endurance and power.
  4. [caption id="attachment_7772" align="alignright" width="280"]swimming - triathlon - strength training - flutter kick - muscles Flutter Kick
    Source: Worlds Fittest[/caption] Flutter Kick
    • How:
      • Lay on your back with toes pointed and arms down by your sides.
      • Lift your shoulders and hands slight off the ground so that you can feel your core working.
      • Raise feet up about 1 foot and then kick as if you were swimming
    • Why:
      • Help improve ankle flexibility which is needed with all the run training triathletes do.
      • Helps muscle memory for foot position which will aid the kicking during the freestyle stroke.
  5. Standing Straight Arm Pull Down
    • How:
      • With a straight back facing a pulley machine grab the bar.
      • Lower the bar in an arching motion with elbows flexed a bit until palms reach upper thighs.
      • Return bar to top of machine, slowly.
    • Why:
      • The starting of this exercise mimics the initial pull phase of a freestyle stroke.
      • Mimics the swim stroke to the point that all muscles used in freestyle are used.
I have advocated strength training for triathletes since I started in the sport and my belief that is an aid has not diminished.  As we get older we need to strengthen our tendons to avoid injury and allow us to keep participating in the sport we love.  Should you always strength train?  No, there are times when it is more important than others.  When you are in your build phase or in your off-season then strength training is imperative.  When you are in your build phase then strength training plays a less important role as you are going to be swimming, biking and running longer and harder. Please also keep in mind that when you are strength training that you are not looking to become the winner of the next body building championship.  You are working on muscles that will help you in your swimming, biking and running which are your main focus.  You will also be doing all three sports which are going to help develop the muscles so the resistance training does not need to be done with heavy weights. Swimming is a sport that most triathletes are not happy about seeing on their training plan.  With these strength exercises your form and ability to swim will improve and make swimming a favorite among the three sports.

What Strength Training Exercises Do You Do?

Does Your Strength Training Focus On Swimming, Biking Or Running?

Published in Train
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]
Published in Train
 

Triathlon Anatomy by Mark Klion,MD and Troy Jacobson Book Review

  [caption id="attachment_7703" align="alignright" width="301"]triathlon - book review - troy jacobson - mark klion Troy Jacobson - Triathlon Coach[/caption] Triathlon Anatomy has a great title and authors.  The lure was cast and the hook went in deep and I purchased as soon as I could based on these two items.  Unfortunately I could not wiggle off the line and finished the book more disappointed than happy to have purchased it.  The book has terrific illustrations and great ideas but there is nothing new in the book that is eye-opening.  Knowing Troy Jacobson from the Spinervals DVD set and reading article he has written I was very excited to read some new insight into the sport of triathlon but that was lacking and was the source of my frustration with the book. If you are new to the sport this book is worth it as you can get terrific insight into what certain exercises should be done and why.  The book is terrific with illustrations as well to showcase what muscles are impacted by a certain workout as well as how it affects each specific sport.  I enjoyed reading this section but after a while the phrase (I am para-phrasing):  This is good to help with swim efficiency while building swim-specific strength and endurance.  The other exercises that are pointed out display how they affect the body for the bike and the run and the same type of catch-phrase is repeated in terms of how it benefits the body for that sport.  I found myself on the plane to and from Puerto Rico flipping the pages faster and faster as I was getting bored and at one point fell asleep mid-sentence. Now, let me say that this book is not all bad.  I think it has its place on a triathlete's book shelf but that triathlete is just getting started.  There is a discussion about triathlon distances, transitions, biomechanics of triathlon and training considerations.  One chapter goes over putting together a customized triathlon training plan and then the exercises and how they benefit triathletes.  All of it makes sense and would be a terrific read for somebody just getting started.  For those that have been involved in the sport and are truly practicing the art of triathlon this book is nothing more than a reminder of what to do but not earth-shattering. Once section that I did find to be beneficial for me was the section titled Stretches for Injury Prevention And Treatment since I am a non-stretcher.  I do my dynamic stretches before my training but when I am finished I am finished.  Essentially the only stretching I do is on Friday's at yoga and I have been fortunate enough to not sustain any injuries but I am going to take the stretches in this book and incorporate them into my evening routine.  Right now I am doing 15 minutes of core work at night so adding in 15 minutes of stretching afterwards means that I am getting in a solid 30 minutes of core/stretching to end the day and relax me before going to bed. I wish there was more good that I could say about this book but it just was not there for me.  As a person who lives the triathlon lifestyle on a daily basis this book was nothing more than a reminder of how and what training workouts benefit a triathlete and why.  For a person who is just getting started in triathlon or has done a Sprint or Olympic and is wondering how far they can go in triathlon this book will enlighten them to the workouts and reason why they should incorporate the workouts into their triathlon training plan.  The preface contains the following sentence which I think may be true for some experienced athletes but if the sport of triathlon is your lifestyle and you aren't dabbling in it then I don't think it makes sense to purchase this book:

The information presented in this book allows both novice and experienced athletes to obtain a better understanding of how the musculoskeletal system functions and responds to triathlon-specific exercises and training.

Have You Read Triathlon Anatomy?  Thoughts?

What Triathlon Books Can You Recommend?

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Published in Product Reviews
Fueling an endurance athletes lifestyle is paramount to recovery and being able to get out the door to do the next day's or even the same day's workout.  I am a big proponent of food for fuel and that recovering properly is beyond important.  Fueling or also re-fueling gives your body the nutrients it needs to continue working your training regiment.  This weekend was a story of fueling and re-fueling properly and improperly, but as normal I learned a lot about what I need to do for next weekend's workouts. As I posted in my Ironman Texas - Monthly Progress Report I have entered into the build phase which means two things:
  1. Workouts will get longer.
  2. Workouts will get harder.
Clearly, fueling properly for these workout is going to be the key to executing the workouts so that I get the most out of them.  Ironman Texas is 48 days away and while fueling before and after workouts is important, I am also re-learning to fuel during my workouts.  I say re-learning because I am trying to avoid the HoneyStingers I have grown accustomed to using as I think that lead to some of my weight gain going into and after Ironman Arizona.  HoneyStingers also have wheat and whole wheat flour in them that I have been keeping out of my diet for the past 3 months or so.

Fueling Build Phase Weekend #1

Here is how I was fueling for the workouts on the docket this weekend and how I felt before, during, and after the workouts.  Keep in mind that this is the high intensity phase or Ironman training and is not typical of what an entire training cycle looks like.  If you have specific questions based on your training please leave them in the comments or use the contact me form and I will do my best to help you out.

Saturday:

  • Training:
    • 4 hour 30 minute bike ride with a progressive increase in heart rate from Zone 1 to finish with 1 hour in Zone 3.
    • 40 minute run while keeping my heart rate in Zone 1
  • Pre-Fueling:
    • A 90 calorie shake with homemade nut butter, honey and banana on corn this.
    • 410 calories, 68g Carbohydrates, 12g Fat, 18g Protein, 11g Fiber consumed two hours prior to the workout.
  • During-Fueling:
    • 1057 calories of sports drink that also had 236g Carbohydrates, 15g Protein, 0g Fat
    • I brought a ziploc bag of dried pineapple and raisins but did not consume any.
  • Post-Fueling:
    • Vegan Banana Bread With 2 Eggs
    • 788 calories, 111g Carbohydrates, 29g Fat, 34g Protein, 19g Fiber.
    • Made sure that I hit the all-important 3:1 Carb:Protein ratio for optimal recovery.
[caption id="attachment_7765" align="aligncenter" width="300"]fuel - triathlon - training - recovery meal Vegan Banana Bread With Homemade Nut Butter, Goji Berries And Blueberries.[/caption] During the ride I felt very strong and felt I had hit the fueling properly.  Of course, at Ironman Texas I will be going harder than this ride and thus the dried pineapple and raisins will come into play and is something I will have to work into my training to make sure that it doesn't cause any GI distress.  Post-training fueling was not only ideal in the carb to protein ratio but it also tasted great and when you can have both you are doing something right.

Sunday:

  • Training:
    • 1 hour 5 minute run with progressive increases in heart rate and finish with a 20 minute tempo run.
    • After a minimum of a 2 hour recovery rode the bike on the trainer for 1 hour with interval sets.
    • 55 minute run immediately after the ride while keeping a steady pace in Zone 2.
  • Pre-Fueling:
    • The same shake but this time with no food as it was only a one hour run.  I drank the shake about 1 hour before I started the run.
    • 90 calories, 14g Carbohydrates, 2g Fat, 10g Protein
  • Post Session #1 Fueling:
    • A whey protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing the run that I would use as a recovery drink and a pre-fueling for the next training sessions.
    • 140 calories, 16g Carbohydrates, 2g Fat, 17g Protein
  • During Fueling of all three sessions:
    • Water as I figured these were shorter sets but didn't think about the cumulative effect of the three hours.
  • Post Session #2 Fueling:
    • A 3:1 Carb:Protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing the workout.
    • Egg Tostadas which had homemade corn tortillas, eggs, sweet potatoes, olives, black beans and jalapeño peppers.
    • 781 calories, 104g Carbohydrates, 20g Fat, 48g Protein, 15g Fiber
[caption id="attachment_7766" align="aligncenter" width="300"]fueling - recovery meal - triathlon - ironman Breakfast / Brunch Egg Tostadas[/caption] The weather in Dallas has gotten warm but the humidity has gone through the roof and this may have caused some dehydration on the second run.  I felt as if my legs had lead in them and I was running in molasses by the end and quickly knew I made a mistake with my fueling both between sets and during the second set.  When I look back at it I would have been smart to have a banana between sets to help my fueling for the 2nd set as well as have an electrolyte based drink with me on the trainer at the very least. Fueling is very individual and even when you think you have it nailed down there could be changes that are needed.  Maybe you live in a cold climate but your race is in a warm (or hot) location and thus your water intake needs to be adjusted.  Maybe the amount of calories needs to be increased to avoid that dreaded bonk.  This is not an exact science, not even refueling is.  I mentioned the 3:1 Carb:Protein ratio as being optimal but I have also read where 4:1 is the perfect combination.  Suffice it to say that getting in at least 3:1 is important, but so is timing.  Typically, your optimal window is between 30 minutes and 45 minutes post workout as your body is ready to take on the nutrients to refuel your body for the next day's workout.

Do You Practice Your Fueling During Your Training?

Have Any Fueling Tips You Want To Share?

Published in Train
Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:16

Half-Ironman Race Comparison

Half Ironman Comparison

I have raced 5 Half Ironman races over 4 different courses and each one has presented its own difficulties.  Some are harder on the bike or run and others showcased a difficult swim.  This is what makes it nearly impossible to compare race times of Ironman or Half Ironman events, even the ones you do more than once. As I have grown in the sport I have learned that trying to sit down and compare one race time to the next is pointless.  You can have more fitness but race slower because the things you cannot control like the weather are different.  You may have different goals based on whether or not the race is an ‘A’ race or another race to prepare you for your ‘A’ race. I wanted to write this half-ironman comparison from an events stand point and rank them for those that are looking at different races for themselves.  I will point out the swim, bike and run but not talk about if I could have done better based on circumstance.  As I continue to race Ironman and Half Iroman races I will update this comparison chart for you, the reader, to reference and make a determination on whether or not you want to register for the race. I will not only provide you with my thoughts on each section but the expo, the surrounding area and whether or not I would register to do the race again.  I will grade each race on a scale of 1-4 with 1 being the worst and 4 being the best and provide a ranked score when all the numbers are added up.

[caption id="attachment_7663" align="alignright" width="300"]half ironman - race - comparison - austin 70.3 Austin Swim Start
Source: Ironman[/caption]

Half Ironman Swim:

In the 5 different half-ironman races I have done I would say the best swim was at Rev3 Maine.  This is an ocean swim where the water is cold but not freezing and there is no question of whether or not a wetsuit should be used.  The downside to the Rev3 Maine swim is the long run from the ocean to transition but that is a very small downside. Ironman 70.3 California also has a terrific swim as you are in a protected bay and again there is no question of whether or not you are going to wear a wetsuit as it is an early season race off the Pacific Ocean.  The run to transition is short but the downside is having to wade in the water for a few minutes as the start is far off from the swim entry/exit. 70.3 Austin and 70.3 San Juan rank 3rd and 4th based on the weather conditions, which are not controllable.  At Austin we dealt with a drought which meant that we were standing in the lake with the water at our waist when we started.  In Puerto Rico you can get in the water up to the last second but the winds can have a negative effect, especially as you are nearing the end.  Austin’s run is over dirt and is not that long while Puerto Rico is on the hard concrete and is 400 meters long.
Race Water Conditions Run To Transition Wetsuit / Non-Wetsuit Overall Grade
Rev3 Maine Cold but manageable with the wetsuit Long out of the sand and onto concrete Wetsuit 4
Ironman 70.3 California Cold but manageable with the wetsuit Short run over carpet Wetsuit 3
Ironman 70.3 Austin Warm due to power plant Long run over grass and dirt Wetsuit 2
Ironman 70.3 San Juan Warm Long run over concrete Non-Wetsuit 1
[caption id="attachment_7661" align="alignright" width="275"]half ironman - race - comparison - california 70.3 California Bike Course
Source: Triathlete Magazine[/caption]

Half Ironman Bike:

The sections are very varied for these 4 races.  There is flat and fast.  There is hilly and fast.  There is hilly and slow.  There are headwinds and tailwinds along with road conditions.  When I play the races back in my mind Ironman San Juan sticks out the most.  It is a challenging bike course that does not sap you of your energy to have a good run. The elevation gain on the Ironman 70.3 San Juan course is minimal but you deal with high winds coming off the ocean, or a tropical rain storm.  The beauty is in the location.  Riding your bike on a closed highway along the ocean and then into a National park where there are lush green fields is very enjoyable and makes the time pass by quickly. Ironman 70.3 California is an extremely challenging bike course as you have three mountain climbs to deal with while you are riding through Camp Pendleton.  The course can be broken down into three sections with the out section being where you control yourself because there is a tailwind, then the climbs and then heading back into town with headwinds and all make for a difficult bike section.  The beauty and history that is Camp Pendleton makes it worth the trip alone as you get to see soldiers and their families, hear the tanks and understand that these soldiers have volunteered their time to allow us to race. Rev3 Maine has a picturesque bike course as well as some challenging sections but they are nothing in comparison to the climbs of 70.3 California.  When you are riding your bike in the Fall of the northeast you can fall into a trance like state looking at the leaves but don’t get too lost in your own head as there are a number of challenging climbs to bring you back to earth. Ironman 70.3 Austin is horrible.  I have no other way to phrase it.  The longest section of road, Route 969, is nothing but chip seal with a shoulder that falls off into a grassy ditch.  Couple that with a strong headwind and the ride is not enjoyable.  There are very few sections of this ride where one gets to enjoy the country side of Texas and can find themselves bored by what they are surrounded by.
Race Roads Climbs Scenic Overall Grade
Ironman 70.3 San Juan Some rough sections but overall roads are in great condition. Only sections are on and off highway but can be challenging depending on winds. Ocean front views and National park make this extremely enjoyable to ride. 4
Ironman 70.3 California Smooth roads throughout the entire course. Very tough climbs to the point where I saw people fall off bike or walk up them. Camp Pendleton and the Pacific make for excellent scenery. 3
Rev3 Maine Excellent road conditions with little to no chip seal. Manageable climbs that run throughout the course. Fall leaves and the beauty that is old New England. 2
Ironman 70.3 Austin Horrible. Very few but the ones that are present will challenge you. Nothing to enjoy as your focus is on the terrible road conditions. 2
[caption id="attachment_7662" align="alignright" width="290"]half ironman - race - comparison - rev3 maine Rev3 Maine Run Course
Source: Triathlete Magazine[/caption]

Half Ironman Run:

The run is where my bread is buttered and I enjoy a challenging course but I also want to let my legs out.  Finding that right combination can be tough especially after having just raced for 3.5 hours.  What constitutes a good run at that point is going to be different from the runs you put in during training that take you around your neighborhood. The three WTC races are loops while the Rev3 Maine race was an out and back.  Each one allows you to break the run down into manageable sections where you don’t think about the 13.1 miles but instead getting to and through the next section. Ironman 70.3 San Juan is very challenging with very tough climbs, but also contains flat and fast sections coupled with a terrific view of the ocean and history through the fort.  The most challenging portion of this run is the heat.  It is ever-present and there is no escaping it as there is no shade along the entire run. California presents the same scenario as San Juan with the heat and humidity plus the views of the ocean.  While San Juan has monster climbs, California has a steady climb that you do twice.  The climb at California is not steep but it lets you know that it exists. While you are running up and downhill at San Juan and California there is no climbing on the Rev3 Maine course that worries you.  In Maine you enter a crushed stone path and it is flat and fast.  My fastest half marathon race in a half-ironman came at Maine and I say it's because of the little elevation but also the beauty of the park you are running in. Lastly, there is 70.3 Austin which presents you with a steady climb but nothing to look at.  You run behind a park and through it with nothing to distract you.  If you are unfortunate enough to run when it is extremely hot you are faced with running on what I would describe as a tarmac with the heat radiating off of it.
Race Course Scenic Overall Grade
Ironman 70.3 San Juan Very challenging with climbs and false flats. Ocean views, history and Old San Juan 4
Rev3 Maine Flat and Fast Nature preserve 3
Ironman 70.3 California Challenging with steady climb and flat sections Pacific Ocean 2
Ironman 70.3 Austin Combination of a steady climb and false flats. Nothing 1
[caption id="attachment_7664" align="alignright" width="328"]half ironman - race - comparison - san juan 70.3 San Juan Run Course
Source: Ironman[/caption]

Half Ironman Races Overall:

I have said that 70.3 San Juan is my favorite course and is one that I would go to repeatedly because of the race but everything else that accompanies a race.  The volunteers, the location, the post-race meals, medals, t-shirts, swag, expo.  All of these play a role in how I rate a race.  Rather than give you a blow-by-blow description of each of these I will rate them on a scale of 1-4 and then average them out for the overall grad
Race Location Expo Medal Swag Post-Race Food Volunteers Overall Avg Score
70.3 San Juan 4 2 3 3 3 4 3.1
70.3 California 4 2 2 2 4 3 2.8
70.3 Austin 2 2 2 2 4 3 2.5
Rev3 Maine 4 2 4 3 1 4 3.0

Half Ironman 70.3 Rankings:

Race Swim Bike Run Overall Final Grade
70.3 San Juan 1 4 4 3.1 3.0
Rev3 Maine 4 2 3 3 3.0
70.3 California 3 3 2 2.8 2.7
70.3 Austin 2 2 1 2.5 1.9
Ironman 70.3 San Juan just noses out Rev3 Maine for my favorite Half Ironman distance race.  Both are in terrific locations and both present themselves with different positives and negatives but the difference for me came down to the overall experience of being in San Juan versus Old Orchard Beach but not by much. Clearly, Ironman 70.3 Austin will not be on my race schedule anytime soon.  The race is not enjoyable and outside of Little Deli And Pizza I would rather go to Austin and just eat at Magnolia Cafe.  70.3 California is certainly a race that I would do again, but it is not enough of a draw at this point to put it on the schedule over other races that I would like to do for the first time versus a second 70.3 California.

What Is Your Favorite Half Ironman Distance Race?

Published in Race
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:44

Ironman 70.3 San Juan Race Report

Ironman San Juan 70.3 is now history but it wasn't without its ups and downs.  Fortunately for me the ups far outweighed the downs.  I went into Ironman San Juan with no goal time expectations and just looking to execute the race plan that Maria, John and I set out for myself.  The goals were heart rate driven and whatever time I crossed the finish line would be my time and I was going to be happy about it. If you read the Ironman San Juan 70.3 race strategy you will note that the goals were:

  • Swim:  Moderate Hard to Hard for first 200-300 meters and then settling into a steady state from there on out for the remainder of the swim.
  • Bike: 148-150 bpm with my heart rate not to exceed 155 bpm even going up the climbs.
  • Run: Lap 1 was to be 150 bpm or less, Laps 2 and 3 with a HR of 150-160 bpm and Lap 4 no higher than 170 bpm.

When I reflect back on this race I can say with pure confidence that I hit the race strategy out of the park.  I never fixated on my time other than when I got out of the water and that is because I have been swimming a ton in preparation for Ironman Texas.  The swim at Ironman San Juan was going to be a gauge for how much I have improved in the water, or at least I thought.

Ironman San Juan 70.3 Race Report

Swim:

The strategy, as I mentioned above, was to start out moderate hard to hard for 200 - 300 meters and then settle into a smooth and steady swim.  Maria mentioned in our Google+ Hangout that the goal was 35 minutes.  This seemed feasible but I did not let the time get into my head as I know I am capable of swimming a 35 minute 1.2 mile Half-Ironman swim. As I entered into the line the butterflies finally hit and I was ready to go while having pre-game nerves at the same time.  I was not nervous about finishing, but more about making my coach's proud of what I accomplished.  This was a recurring theme throughout the race and one that inspired and motivated me to keep going with a relentless forward motion. I stood on the beach until there was 1 minute to go and then entered the water and lined up to the far left and at the very front.  The goal was to swim out and start to lean toward the buoys as the swim went along.  Since this Ironman San Juan 70.3 is a clockwise swim this would play well since I tend to bleed out right when I swim.  As soon as the gun went off I started swimming at a moderate hard pace and it felt great.  I was not kicked once nor was I slapped on the back.  I felt great and saw the second buoy and it was really close to me.  What had just happened was my first thought and then it became swim steady. As I was swimming I was seeing the buoys but it didn't register for me that I was so far to the inside that I was swimming inside the buoys now.  The chop of the water was tough to sight through and I had made such a hard right turn during the first 300 meters that I went from the far left to the far right.  My goal now was to fight to get back on the swim course.  I started swimming back left and could not get there during the next 200 meters but I was fighting and just wasting energy.  As the red turn buoy was in sight I had no choice but to really swim left and fight the chop and the other swimmers.  As you can imagine I had made a complete Z in the first portion of this swim and was very frustrated by the lack of direction.  Swimming hard for 200-300 meters to start is great but if you are not sighting properly you are wasting energy as you end up all over the course. I rounded the first and second turn buoys and was being passed by people from the previous wave but thought I was having a good swim.  The swim never felt longer than it did last year but I could really feel the chop and that was much different.  I began swimming harder in the back half and never felt tired but it was a struggle because of the current and chop of the water.  When I was about 200 meters from the bridge I started getting tossed around.  There were quite a few other swimmers there and it became a bumper car swim.  Hitting people and getting hit because the chop was so tough. Once through the bridge the chop really gets going.  It was much worse than last year and I did all I could to get to the finish and get out of the water.  I was swallowing salt water left and right and it burned my throat while now making me cough even harder.  The cough is a lingering effect of the flu from just the week prior.  Once I hit the swim exit I looked at my watch and saw 45 minutes.  This is 4 minutes slower than Ironman San Juan 2012 but I know that I swam the way the plan was laid out.

Bike:

The run from the swim exit to the transition is 400 meters and it is one of the hardest ways to get your heart rate down and ready for the bike but I controlled myself on the run and did not get too far ahead of myself.  I got into the stadium and tossed on all my gear and out of transition fairly quickly. Once you exit transition you go up a steep driveway and then travel through a part of San Juan before you head out on the highway.  One of the great parts of Ironman San Juan is that they close down the highway for the race.  This makes it a great bike course for all abilities.  I knew my race strategy and was going to be executed no matter the speed or time.  I broke the bike down into sections which would help me get through the 56 miles while not focusing on speed:

  • Section 1: Start to merge with Lap 2 (10 miles)
  • Section 2: Merge to turnaround (9 miles)
  • Section 3: Turnaround to start of Lap 2 (9 miles)
  • Section 4: Lap 2 start to turnaround (9 miles)
  • Section 5: Turnaround to lap split-off (9 miles)
  • Section 6: Lap split-off to finish (10 miles)

Each time I looked down at my bike computer I was at 145 bpm and up to 150 bpm when the head wind would hit us, which came on the way back into town twice.  The only other times when my heart rate got elevated was at the on and off ramps of the highway and the two times you ascend a bridge. While on section 3 the skies opened up and the rains came down.  It felt great at first but then it got harder and harder and started to worry me that the next 1.5 hours was going to be in a downpour.  After about 5-10 minutes it cleared up but then you could really feel the heat and humidity radiating off the ground. While sticking to the heart rate goal I also focused on getting liquids into my system.  I had two water bottles with approximately 850 calories of Herbalife24 Prolong and Prepare plus another 200 calories of EFS Liquid Shot.  I only carried two water bottles which meant that I had to take water off the course.  On the first pass I dropped the bottle and did so again on the third pass but on passes 2 and 4 I got the bottle and drank.  I managed 4 bottles of liquids in the time I was on the bike and peed once while riding. Section 5 brought with it a very difficult head-wind and lead into section 6 which was where all the climbing on the bike is.  The last 20 miles was tough but I managed to stay focused on my heart rate and not get disappointed with the overall time on the bike.

Run:

Maria and I broke down the run into 4 laps since it is a double out and back.  The strategy was to start out slow and pick up the pace throughout the run.  I have never executed a half-ironman run in this way.  Typically I try to slow down but fly out of transition and then blow up on the second half.  This time I was determined not to allow that to happen. When I started running my legs felt like they just rode 56 miles quite hard and that forced me to slow the pace.  This run is also very challenging in that it has more elevation gain than the bike.  With these two components involved I had nothing left to do but to run with my heart rate in mind. I reached the first mile quickly and then the first of the steep hills came and it was  tough but manageable.  I was fueled by the athletes walking and I was not going to let this hill beat me.  Heading toward El Morro I started to gain my running legs and just in time to head into the fort.  The fort is very hot as there is a 30 or 40 foot wall that doesn’t allow the breeze to come into play and radiates heat back onto you. I ran into and out of the fort and on the way out I came up on a wheel chair athlete that had to fight his way up the steep cobblestone.  The crowd went bananas cheering for him and it was great to see and hear. During Laps 2 and 3 I picked up my pace, per the race strategy, and was feeling great. I began passing other athletes by the bunches and knew that I was going to finish strong.  The paces were consistent and my body felt great.  I fought through the hills and the fort again and was staying focused.  Leaving the fort I knew I only had a couple of miles to go and I kept passing other athletes who were either walking or being disabled by the heat and humidity of the day. As I got to the 12 mile marker my gut began to cry out in pain.  I knew I only had 1.1 miles to go and I had to fight through it.  Every step was making the cramping worse.  I descended into the final half-mile and I could tell my pace was slowing.  Each land of the right foot caused a jarring effect into my gut that made me wince in pain.  It got so bad that I stopped for the first time in a race and tried to pull my ribs out.  I walked 10-15 steps and then started running but the pain was got worse.  I walked again and when an athlete with 41 on his calf passed me I put the feelings in my pocket and fought the pain the rest of the run. I had one last climb up and over a bridge and that is when I saw Karen.  It was such a great sight as she was cheering loudly and going crazy.  I managed to forget about the cramping for the final few hundred meters and when I crossed the finish line I finally looked at my watch and saw 5:41 and could not have been prouder of my effort.

Ironman San Juan 70.3 Event:

Ironman San Juan 70.3 lived up to its billing and memories for me.  This is the second year of racing on the island and it was more fun the second time as it was the first.  I finished 12 minutes slower this year but had a better race. The swim was more challenging with the high winds that caused more chop this year than last.  The bike was just as I remembered it with the elevation gains being at the beginning and end when you are getting on and off the highway. The roads are horrible in places but perfect in others.  The winds will take a toll on you in one direction or the other but the views are breath-taking and the majority of the ride is flat and fast. The hardest portion of Ironman San Juan is the run.  As mentioned, there is more elevation gain on the run than on the bike but if you break it down for yourself into manageable parts you can get through it unscathed. The pros turned out in full force for this year’s race and I had the pleasure of meeting Leanda Cave at the airport and Kelli Williamson at the hotel after the race.  Linsey Corbin and Faris Al-Sultan were pleasant at the pro briefing.  Linsey was also very nice when we met her after the race at the hotel. This race is a must do for the event alone but being able to spend time on a Caribbean island eating local food and soaking up the sun is the icing on the cake.  If you choose to race this event next year be sure to contact me so I can give you a de-briefing of the places to visit and eat because that is as much a part of the experience as the race itself.

Ironman San Juan - Thank You!

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