Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:44

Ironman Arizona In Pictures

Ironman Arizona is over a week old and you may or may not have read the race report.  Maybe you skipped that and read the comparison to Ironman Texas.  Maybe you just didn't want to read so I don't leave you out I put together a video montage from pictures taken by friends, family and a paid service.  Enjoy.

Published in Race Reports
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 14:07

Ironman Arizona versus Ironman Texas

Ironman Arizona and Ironman Texas are the first two of many Ironman races I plan on doing and so I wanted to write a post that will compare the two.  The reason I want to compare the two is that Ironman Arizona sold out in 40 seconds and there will be people out there that are upset they didn't get in but can still race an Ironman if they truly wanted to.  If you do the research you can find other races that are open and are terrific races to enter. I want to break this down into more than just the swim, bike and run since the Ironman race is more than just three events.  There is location, the expo. athlete check-in and finish line amongst other items to discuss.  Let's get into this shall we: Location: 
  • ironmantexas_triathlon_thewoodlandsIMTX takes place in The Woodlands which is just north of Houston.  If you are flying you would have to fly into the George Bush International Airport and then drive to the race site.  The drive isn't horrible but it is something else to tack onto your trip.  The Woodlands itself is a sprawling metroplex that is downright gorgeous.  There are pine trees (this is important to those of us living in Dallas and don't see many trees) and lots of places to eat and shop.
  • IMAZ takes place in Tempe which is just east of Phoenix.  If you fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport the drive to Tempe is very short.  The beauty of the location of the race is that everything is close in proximity.  You can get to Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale or Chandler rather easily.  The race is located just outside of Arizona State University so there are plenty of places to eat at along Mill Avenue due to the population.
  • Edge:  Ironman Arizona
Weather:
  • IMTX is in May and while that is technically spring it can get very hot at that time of the year.  Also, this part of Texas is very humid and thus the air just seems to stick to you.  This year the temperature during the race reached 93*.
  • IMAZ is in mid-November and since there is no humidity in Phoenix the weather feels a bit chillier than the thermometer shows.  The temperature on race day this year reached 83* but was not as hot as that would seem.
  • Edge:  Ironman Arizona
Swim:
  • The swim at Texas takes place in Lake Woodlands which is a man-made lake.  The water temp this year was 80.1* which meant it was wetsuit optional.  If you chose to go the wetsuit route you started 10 minutes after those that chose to go sans-wetsuit.  The start at IMTX is a bit nuts as there isn't much room to maneuver, but after about 400 meters or so it opens up slightly as the pack thins out.  At the turn buoys it gets cramped again but the worst part is when you make a right turn down the canal.  The canal is quite possibly 10 human lengths wide and the contact picks up quite a bit in here.  The benefit of the canal is there are spectators lined up all along the canal cheering you on and that gives you quite a boost.
  • Arizona presents a different set of circumstances.  The water temp this year was 64.1* and was wetsuit legal as well as bootie legal.  The mass start is not unlike Texas except that there is room to swim after the first 200 meters instead of 400 meters.  There can be an issue on the out portion of the swim with the sunrise, but it isn't horrible.  There is the ever-present issue of turn buoys but once past that the return leg is a straight shot.  The other issue is getting out of the water.  The steps are relatively high and so you have to pull yourself up and be sure to use the volunteers to get you out of the water.
  • Edge:  Ironman Arizona (by a thin margin as the contact in Texas is slightly worse than the water temps in Arizona)
Bike:
  • Texas has a 112 mile loop that has about 1600 feet of climbing.  There is only one section that you MAY have to stand up for but otherwise this is a very flat race course.  The scenery is gorgeous and while you deal with the heat there is one section in which you travel through a state park that is shaded fairly well and helps out tremendously.  The aid stations are well stocked and the special needs bag area is well-marked.  The upside to the one loop is that the pack has the ability to separate itself from each other.  The faster riders will pull away from the slower riders and there is not issue with congestion.  One downside is on the return back to transition you have to make a few turns through a neighborhood that can slow you down but in the grand scheme this is minor.
  • Arizona is a 3 loop bike course and has about 1500 feet of climbing.  There isn't any area on this course that would require you to stand up and peddle.  You are in the great wide open which can involve some strong winds depending on race day as well as time of day you are on the course.  The biggest issue with the 3 loop course is that all 2000 riders are out there together and thus the faster riders have to handle their bikes very well in order to avoid any issues with the slower riders.  The aid stations are well stocked as well but there is no shade at all.  The temperatures don't necessarily warrant the NEED for shade but even if they did you would be out of luck as you are exposed to the sun the entire ride.
  • Edge:  Ironman Texas.  The one loop course is a much better experience than riding the same loop 3 times.
Run:
  • ironmanarizona_triathlon_tempeTexas is a 3 loop course that has nothing resembling a bump let alone a hill.  The course is flat and fast and the best part of the course is running up and down the canal.  This area is lined with fans cheering loudly along with the opportunity to truly be inspired to finish because you can hear Mike Reilly calling out names and saying You.Are.An.Ironman.  The downside to this race course is the one strip of grass that you do a 180* turn on and climb a 5 foot embankment but otherwise this is a runner's course.
  • Arizona is also a 3 loop course but there are lots of turns as you make a figure 8 over Tempe Town Lake.  My biggest issue with the course was the gravel and grass that you run across and it is not flat so as the sun goes down there is the opportunity to sprain an ankle.  The course support is great and especially near Mile 3 / Mile 8 of the run where you can see family/friends 6 times as well as just the party atmosphere.
  • Edge: Ironman Texas.  The run allows you to run and not have to worry about a sprained ankle on uneven gravel or grass.
Finish Line:
  • You cannot complain about either finish line as there is a ton of excitement and Mike Reilly calling out your name.  If you want a pro and a con to each here they are:
    • Texas:
      • Pro:  If your finish time is around the 13.5 hour mark then you will finish in the sun.  Even if you finish later than that you will not feel cold as the temperatures do not drop drastically when the sun goes down.
      • Con: The finish line is quite a bit away from the transition area making for a difficult walk to pick up all your gear after the race.
    • Arizona:
      • Pro: Finishing under the lights is amazing.  It is like being a professional athlete when the lights go on and it is literally your time to shine.
      • Con: When the sun goes down it gets down right cold.  Take the mylar blanket.
  • Edge:  Push
Spectators/Volunteers:
  • These races don't exist without these people and at both races they are exemplary.  The entire race you are being helped by the volunteers and pushed by the spectators.  You truly feel like a rock star or a professional athlete or POTUS but however you care to describe it you are certainly being helped by all of the people along the way.
  • Edge: Push
Post Race Food:
  • While I had the unfortunate incident of being told I need more protein after the race the spread at Ironman Texas is better (and bigger of course.)  There are burritos and cookies, chips, brownies, soda, water and the usual bananas and oranges.  Arizona had french fries with ketchup and pizza.  Nothing wrong with pizza but when you don't eat cheese these leaves you with not much to choose from.  There were cookies (not many) and bananas, oranges and grapes as well.
  • Restaurants near Lake Woodlands are plenty and thus being able to go there is also a great plus to this race.  Arizona also has terrific eateries nearby that you can eat at then go back to watch as people cross late into the night.
  • Edge:  Ironman Texas due to the immediate after race food.
When I reflect back on both races I find myself nodding to the race that took place in The Woodlands and saying that is a better race.  I think the fact that the bike course is one loop with a run course that is better outweighs the location of Arizona or the clearer sighting for swimming.

Have You Done An Ironman Race?  If so, which is your favorite and why?

Published in Race
Friday, 09 November 2012 20:35

Ironman Arizona 2012 Goals

Ironman Arizona is officially in the T-Minus single digit days.  9 days until the cannon goes off and I embark on my second Ironman race of this year.  Leading up to taper week I was nothing but exhausted and hungry and just wanted to get the race over with.  Now that I am in my taper (check out my taper tips here) I have been able to put my game face on as my body has been healing and getting plenty of rest while fine tuning the last bit of race prep.  That last bit is nothing more than reminding my legs that there is a race coming up and they need to be prepared. As with any race I reflect on the training and how well/poor it has gone before determining what my goals should be.  I then toy with the idea of whether or not I want to let the world in on my thoughts.  Is letting my goals out of the bag a way to set myself up for failure if I don't reach them?  Is it a way for me to gauge what I have done in training so that I can prepare for the next race?  Is it a way for me to motivate myself when I am at Mile 100 of the bike or Mile 18 of the run?  The answer is yes to all of these questions.  I enjoy putting a goal out there for everybody to read because it gives me motivation to chase those numbers.  Simultaneously it gives me the opportunity to gauge how well the training went and thus what needs to be tweaked for the next event, because there will be a next event. Ironman Arizona presents a few intriguing scenarios for me.  The first is that this swim will be wetsuit legal, where as Ironman Texas was not.  The other scenario is that the bike is 3 loops of approximately 37 miles.  IMTX was one large 112 mile loop and I enjoyed that immensely as the sites and the sounds were different throughout the race.  Having 3 loops on the run at IMTX was great because I knew where I was the entire time and I am hoping the same holds true for the bike here at IMAZ.  The run is 3 loops at IMAZ and I enjoyed that previously so hopefully I can enjoy that again this time around. Swim Goals: I swam IMTX in 1:36 without a wetsuit so I have that working for me.  In addition to that I have been doing a minimum of a 1 mile swim, and the majority of the time a 2+ mile swim in the open water every Friday for the past two months. That has given me some terrific data to dissect and analyze and so I feel comfortable saying that my swim time will fall somewhere in the 1:25-1:28 range. I have been swimming the 2+ miles in the range of 1:11-1:15 but you have to throw in water temp (currently holding at 68*) and about 2,000 of my closest friends.  The one benefit I have going for me is that we are doing a counter-clockwise swim and I breathe to my left so finding the buoys shouldn't be too difficult outside of the fact that we swim directly into the sun when we start. Bike Goals: For me this is where I should be able to make up some time as I am more familiar with my nutrition and what I need to get through the 112 miles.  If you recall I consumed so much liquid on the bike at IMTX that I wound up throwing up twice.  I have dialed in my nutrition and adjusted my bike to the point that I will have 2 water bottles filled with 440 calories each (880 total), 3 HoneyStingers (1 at the start and then every two hours - 480 calories) and 1 bottle of EFS Liquid Shot in the Kona-Mocha flavor (400 calories.)  This will provide me with 1,760 calories and I will take water off the course every 10 miles or so to stay hydrated. With a goal time of 5:50-5:55 (18.9mph - 19.2mph) I would have consumed just under 300 calories per hour and that should be more than enough to avoid any issues whether they be over-consuming or bonking.  This goal time is just slightly faster than IMTX which I finished in 6:05 or 18.4 mph.  The course at Arizona has an elevation gain of approximately 1500 feet while Texas was at 1600 feet.  Very comparable. Run Goals: This is where I think I have made the most improvement and the majority of that is mental.  Going into Texas I was concerned about running the marathon and the pain and a lot of that had to do with the marathon I had endured at Las Vegas in December.  I hurt a lot after the Las Vegas marathon and I think that was still on my mind when I was in The Woodlands.  I ran a respectable 4:09 at Texas which is 20 minutes faster than my first marathon but was definitely not what I believe I am capable of. I have knocked out 20 and 22 miles runs during this training cycle at an easy 9:00/mi pace.  When I say easy I don't mean that it was just something I did, but it was more of a pace that did not knock me over and did not make me feel as if I was going to pass out.  I believe that my endurance and my mental capacity at this point can have me running a 3:50 marathon.  If I cross the line anywhere between 3:50 and 3:55 I will be happy with that outcome.  A 3:50 marathon is a 19 minute improvement and I have a much better plan than I did at Texas. My plan is to walk for 10 seconds at every other aid station starting at Mile 2.  This will cut down on the time I spend walking which I did quite a bit of at Texas.  I also plan to not carry a hand-held water bottle and instead take water off the course.  That handheld felt like an anchor when I was on the 2nd loop and wanted to throw it in the garbage.  This time I will have a flask of EFS Liquid Shot in my shorts pocket along with 2 HoneyStingers in my jersey top.  That will provide me with 720 calories and just under 240 calories per hour. When I tally up all these times I am looking at a finish time of: 11:05-11:18 then throw in 10 minutes of transition and the final goal time is 11:15-11:28 I cannot tell you how ecstatic I would be with that time but even more so if it is 11:18.  The race is on November 18th (11/18) and my father's birthday is November 18th.  If I am near the finish line around 11:15 I will wait and cross at 11:18 in honor of my Dad. I will be sporting bib #1572 if you care to spend some time on Ironman.com tracking my progress through the dessert.  Of course, as Karen Whitlock pointed out 1572 is a 12 surrounded by another 12 (5+7) and that just happens to be my birthday as well (12/12.)  As some might say.....that's a whole lotta karma. So there you have it folks.  Thanks for reading and if you are racing IMAZ or plan to be out there let me know so we can try to get together.
Published in Race
Thursday, 08 November 2012 15:22

Surviving Taper Week

[caption id="attachment_6714" align="alignright" width="244"]taper_triathlon_tips_ironman Source: Fast At Forty[/caption] Taper week(s) can be stressful for some as they feel that they are not at the fitness level for the upcoming event.  They may feel that they need to do more in order to get to the starting line and thus taper week can cause such a big stress.  The scenario doesn't have to unfold that way.  Taper is something that should be embraced and looked at as the opportunity to get stronger and faster and mentally ready for the race. I have been through 3 tapers this year and am in the process of going through my 4th major taper.  I will say that as this year has gone on and my experience in triathlon has grown my ability to accept taper has increased.  Through trial and error I am able to truly enjoy this taper and I am going give you a few points of what I am doing to enjoy this time.  I would be grateful if you provided your tips and tricks to surviving taper so that I can continue to get better at it. Surviving Taper Week Tips:
  • Embrace it.  You have put in days, weeks, months of hard work and now is the time to slow down and get the body ready to go on race day.  The race is the icing on the cake and should be enjoyed but if you get to the race as a bundle of nerves always questioning whether or not you did enough you will not enjoy the race.  Getting rid of the nerves, as much as possible, occurs during taper so embrace the change in structure.
  • Plan to do something for yourself during this time.  In these three weeks of taper I have had my mother visit for a week, been to Grand Rapids, Michigan to hang out with Kevin and Jennie and attend a Notre Dame football game, gotten a massage, getting a haircut and pedicure and finally going to a movie in a theatre and staying awake the entire movie.
  • Stay in the shower for an extra 5 minutes and relax.  Let the hot/warm water run over you and just relax and let go.
  • Do your workouts at different times of the day so that it is not something you are chasing.  Get it in on your schedule instead of creating a schedule for everything else around your workout.
  • Call the family and friends you haven't spoken to in months.  Catch up and DON'T talk about your race unless they ask you about it and then defer it with answers like:  I'm ready and it's going to be fun.  Bring the conversation back to them since they probably know everything about your training from your Twitter and Facebook updates.
  • Read a book.  Read a magazine.  Read the newspaper while drinking coffee/tea on the front porch (and read a real paper and not on your laptop/iPad)
  • Taper your calorie consumption to match your training.  It is not unusual to gain 2 pounds during this time but if you are worried about it use a journal or online tracking (My Fitness Pal) to keep track of your calories consumption.
These are a few of the tips/tricks I have been doing for the last couple of weeks and will continue into next week when I travel to Arizona on Thursday.  Obviously, experience plays a huge role in being able to embrace the taper.  I am not the ball of nerves I was prior to Ironman Texas and more in a relaxed state with a focus that is also greater than it was for IMTX.

What Are Your Tips And Tricks For Surviving Taper?

 
Published in Train
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 17:20

Open Water Swimming

[caption id="attachment_6694" align="alignright" width="300"]openwaterswimming_ironman_triathlon_training Source: Triathlon.com / Photo: Erik Isakson[/caption] Open water swimming would seem to be coming to an end as the triathlon season is winding down but in my best kid voice:  I don't want to stop open water swimming.  Since mid-June I have been doing an open water swim at the lake near my house and it has been every Friday since August 7th that I have done the swim thanks to an invitation from Michelle.  Ever since that glorious day in the lake I have consistently swam 2 miles every Friday and it has done wonders not only for my swim technique and sighting in the open water but also for relaxing my mind and body. When I put on that swim cap and goggles and head out for this swim I forget about the entire week of lactate threshold running and hill repeats on the bike.  This 1+ hour of training is my peace of mind and I l do not want to stop doing it.  The weather here in Texas is around 50* at 7:00am and that is when I plunk my body into the lake and while the water temp is cool it is warmer than 50*.  I submerge my body and go and it is wonderful. When the temperatures continue to creep downward will I have the motivation to submerge myself into that cold water?  My answer as of today is yes.  Maybe I don't swim 2 miles but I will continue to swim.  I want to continue to open water swim so that when March and 70.3 Puerto Rico comes around I am ready to go and don't have to start all over again.  Let's not forget that Ironman Texas is in May and I want to have a drastic improvement on my 1:36 from that race. Swimming is not my strongest sport and any type of improvement here is going to help my overall race.  I have gotten out of the water thinking that I swam a certain time only to be disappointed at what I see.  I am not looking for leaps and bounds improvement but if I can knock that 1:36 at the 2.4 mile distance down to 1:25 (without wetsuit) and 1:20 (with wetsuit) then we are looking at an 11 minute improvement at Ironman Texas in 2013.  That would set me up for a tremendous race and the only way to do that is to continue to get better at open water swimming. Another way to get better at open water swimming is going to be in going to the pool consistently during the off-season.  Working on drills and sets and streamlining and technique and repeating until I am so tired of the pool that I never want to go back.  I need to embrace my inner Nemo during the winter at both the pool, but especially in the open water since 70.3 and 140.6 distance races don't take place in a pool. While searching for different tips and tricks on the internet I came across this article for pool swimming that would seem to be a good change of pace to what I have been doing in terms of drills.  This article also provides a couple of swim sets to help test out how the consistent and hard swimming is working.  I know in the past year I have seen an improvement and I am thrilled to see it but I also know there is more to be done. See You In The Lake!

Do You Swim In The Open Water In The Offseason?

How Have You Improved Your Swim?

Published in Train
Monday, 29 October 2012 20:40

Ironman Arizona Update

[caption id="attachment_6664" align="alignright" width="276"]IMAZ_ironmanarizona_triathlon_140.6 Source: My Running Doc[/caption] An Ironman Arizona update is long overdue.  I thought about this post yesterday for quite some time and how our bodies go through the ups and downs of training, but more so our minds.  Our bodies will move as long as our minds tell us to and whether it is faster or slower than we want to go the process all begins between the ears. This training cycle has been mostly positive.  With the experience of having just gone through one cycle for Ironman Texas I knew what I had to do to have a successful trip around the training calendar this time.  I knew that if I was to run for 1 hour that if I got to the end of my loop in 58:29 I did not have to do the remaining 1:31 to fully realize my potential.  This training cycle was going to be a smart one.  One where I did not fall asleep on the couch at 8:00p EVERY single night (even on rest days.) So as the weeks ticked off the calendar and I was staying up past the witching hour of 8pm and even up to 10pm I was feeling great.  That is until the peak weeks hit. For the past three weeks my training has looked like this in terms of hours and minutes: 22:36; 20:08; 22:29 and the week prior to that was 16:37 and only because I raced the US Open Championships that week otherwise a 20 hour week would have been in order.  Peak week training is a bitch.  Every fiber of your being hates waking up, hates training and mostly craves sleep and carbs. I would get up and go to the gym to swim and lift and could not wait to get out of there.  I would get on the trainer in my garage and spend 20 minutes going through Netflix just to watch something to keep me occupied for the next 2-3 hours.  Running was my saving grace.  It was my way of getting out of the gym and off the bike, but there were days when intervals were scheduled.....and those hurt.  They hurt bad.  You just couldn't wait for them to be over no matter how long they were (mile repeats, 800s, 400s.....didn't matter.) Then this past Friday I was heading to the lake for my Friday open water swim of 2 miles.  Thursday night a cold front moved in and it was about 45* on Friday morning, but worse than that the winds were howling.  We had sustained winds of 24 mph and when I got to the lake and saw the water crashing ashore I thought twice about getting into the water as safety was the only thought I had.  When my swim training partner showed up we chatted for about 10 minutes about it and we both decided to call it a day and not go in the water.  For the first time in a few months I was taking a rest day (not really as I had gone to the gym to lift and do core work prior) and it was going to be glorious.  I ate and lounged and worked and did not feel exhausted. This Saturday I got on the trainer for a 6 hour tour of my bedroom.  I layered up the clothes and made sure no fan was on.  The heat would kick on and I was going to sweat and sweat I did.  I was pedaling as if this was my last ride forever.  I was ticking up sub-3:00 miles and smiling.  I was practicing my fueling and hydration all the while watching Food Network, Cooking Channel, CNN, ESPN, NFL Network and sending out Tweets and Facebook posts.  It was going great even for a 6 hour trainer ride.  In case you are wondering it was 34* when I woke up on Saturday morning and there was no way I was going to suffer through 6 hours in the bitter cold. Once the ride was over I laced up my sneakers and out the door for a one hour - lactate threshold run.  I had laid out a course that I would run on Sunday that should take me about an hour.  Once I started running I felt great.  The first mile went by and my Garmin said 7:20.  WTF?  I was on cruise control and not breathing heavy and the 2nd mile showed 7:10.....huh?  Before I knew it I was back at my front door in under an hour and had covered 7.85 miles.  I was on cloud 9 and barged through the door hootering and a hollering about how ready I was for Arizona.  A rest day does wonders for the body. Sunday was a 22 mile run and I just nailed it.  I setup a 7.3 mile loop with the approximate elevation of Ironman Arizona.  I also setup a water station at mile 2.6, 5.1 and 7.3.  I would stop here and take a sip of water and walk for 10 seconds just like IMAZ.  This was going to be my test run before the big day.  I carried a HoneyStinger in my sleeve and a bottle of EFS Kona Mocha with me.  I would get all my calories and water without having to carry too much.....just as I plan to do in Tempe.  I ran the first loop in 1:06, the 2nd loop in 1:05 and the third loop in 1:03.  I got faster as the miles clicked off and my heart rate was never too elevated.  I knew that I was ready and the pain and torture of peak cycle had ended. My mind only knows the ups of this training cycle.  The ideas that were in my head during those 4 peak weeks are a distant memory, one to not be remembered until they come around again for Ironman Texas. Similar to the stock market with its ups and downs and corrections this Ironman training cycle has not only lifted me up but slammed me down.  It has shown me I have what it takes to be faster, but also made me question why I was doing it in the first place.  It has proven to me that I can get faster even when I don't think I can, but it has also slowed me down when I needed to.  When I cross the finish line on November 18 I will look back at this weekend as the one that was the perfect training session, but in reality it has been every single workout on every single day with the proper recovery that will have gotten me to that point. Ironman training has its ups and downs for sure, but in the end it will end on a high note because of who I have become through these days, weeks and months.
Published in Train
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:49

What's Your Motivation?

[caption id="attachment_6629" align="alignright" width="271"]triathlon_motivation_inspiration_ironman Source: CK-MultiSport Coaching[/caption] Motivation is a word that gets thrown around quite a bit?  I am motivated to run.  I am not motivated to run.  Where did my motivation go?  I am a very self-motivated person and a lot of that comes from my competitiveness.  I am always trying to improve my standing against myself.  Last month I had 5 sales this month I want 6.  It is almost never-ending regardless of what I am talking about.  I know it drives my wife crazy and it is also how I can relate to a guy like Roger Clemens (competitor not drug user) when reports are that he brushed his wife back in a wiffle ball game.  I get it....I may not do it but I get it. Right now I am in the midst of peak training for Ironman Arizona and getting up in the morning is getting harder and harder.  The workouts are getting harder and they are getting longer.  The mental push to sustain this lifestyle through peak training can be hard.  Who am I kidding?  It is downright crazy someday.  There are days when that alarm goes off and all I want to do is say F U World I am laying here, but then one of two things happens.  Karen finally gets angry that I have hit the snooze button for the 10th time and tells me to get up or I turned the alarm off and she pushes me out of the bed and tells me to get going. At that point I am walking around the bedroom and the bathroom like a drunk on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.  I have no clue what time it is or where I am at but I know some form of exercise is coming.  As I get on the trainer for the 3rd time this week (this is true) or I pack my swim bag for 4000+ yards of swimming I start talking to myself about what I am going to do.  For example, today's workout was 1:30 on the trainer with 8x5min at Anaerobic Threshold with 1 min Recovery followed by 30 minutes of running at a steady anaerobic threshold.  HOLY SHIT!  Uhh.....Coach I'd like to make it to Arizona ALIVE! Once I got on the bike I started pedaling and my legs felt alright but I was just warming up and after 20 minutes I would start my sets.  I got engrossed in a terrible movie and when the sets started I hardly noticed the pain in my legs, that is until the last 3 sets.  It was at that point that I could have punched babies and started thinking about the run.  30 minutes anaerobic threshold just means run really fast for as long as you can, but wait it says steady.  Ok, so pull back a bit so that you stay steady but wait that wouldn't be AT.  My motivation for this run was starting to slip. At first I wanted to tie my record for running 4 miles off the bike in 30 minutes that I had set over two years ago and had not matched until yesterday when I ran 4.14 miles off the bike (yesterday's set was a steady 1 hour at Half-Ironman pace or 20+ mph).  I had my motivation for this run but then my legs started to really hurt.  Combination of a year-long of Ironman training, 5am start and just the volume from last week (23 hours of training.)  I was done and if I ran a 9 minute per mile pace I would know that it would hurt and that it would be pushing it at that point. Thing is I had sent a text to my coach a few weeks ago when she asked me how I was feeling.  I told her that I felt good (not great) and that I came to a realization.  It was going to hurt no matter what pace I went at and this was for swim, bike or run.  So why not just do it as fast as you can and the pain would go away faster.  Logical wouldn't you say? So when I started running I decided I was going to run not only hard but run a harder course than I ran yesterday.  I was going to prove I had a lot left in my tank to not only do the interval set, but also capture the 4 mile flag.  I was determined and I was going to do it.  All the sudden, Mr Motivation was back and all it took was a memory.  A memory lit my competitive fire inside me and off I went.  I hit that first mile at 7:26 and I thought that this was going to be a close call since I know that 7:30/mile would equal 4 miles in 30 minutes.  Second mile was 7:27 and I actually felt good even though I was breathing so heavy.  I was pumping my arms and legs going up every hill I could find.  This was not going to be a 4 mile run around a track.  My thought at this point was that if the training was extremely hard than the race would be cake. When I saw the 30:00 on the Garmin and I hit stop I could not remember if I had heard 4 beeps from the tell all machine.  I looked down and the number was 3.93 miles.  I fell just shy of hitting that 4 mile mark on a much harder course.  I was not happy and when I went into the garage to gather all my gear from the trainer ride I had the following thought:

Dad - I am sorry that I could not get to 4 miles today but rest assured that on November 18 I will run as hard as I possibly can to make you proud.

The motivation to get up every morning stopped being about me.  It stopped being about getting to 4 miles in 30 minutes.  It stopped about being a 2x Ironman in the same year.  It was now bigger than anything I could imagine.  I have about 30 days until the cannon goes off in Tempe, Arizona and I now know what will not just get me to the starting line but to the finish line.

The motivation will change between today and that day but in the end when I reflect on Ironman Arizona I will know what the underlying motivation truly was.

I also want to say Thank You to my wife, Karen, for putting up with peak training AGAIN.  I know it is not easy on you or the family but I want you to know I appreciate your ability to allow me to get out every morning to do what I do.  Without you this doesn't happen (and some mornings that is a literal statement.)

What Is Your Motivation?

Published in Train
Thursday, 11 October 2012 15:40

It's A War - Make No Mistake

[caption id="attachment_6598" align="alignright" width="262"]mentaltoughness_ironman_triathlon_war Source: PopScreen[/caption] Ironman is a war and don't be fooled by the joy and smiles at the finish line of the competitors.  They are smiling because they won the biggest civil war anybody will ever be a part of.  Civil War?  Yes, it is a Civil War.  You versus your mind.  You versus your body.  Ironman is not about beating the guy next to you because you will never know how he or she feels but you will certainly know how you feel. Today during my run I thought about the war that will rage within me on November 18th and I wrote a letter/story about it and here it is: ==================== To Those About To Race Ironman: When you pull down your swim cap and place your goggles over your eyes you have just announced that the fight is about to begin. You swim into the masses and some people think that the person to their left and the person to their right is their competition, but their competition is the person within themselves.  There will be questions that you ask yourself and you better have an answer prepared. The cannon goes off and signals the first shot in the fight.  The blood surges and the masses move but again you are not waging war against the competition.  You are about to engage in hand to hand combat with yourself. With each swim stroke comes another body blow and another announcement that your victory lies 140.6 miles away and you will do what it takes to get there.  That first buoy seems to be days away but when you get there you have just planted your flag into the landscape and are ready to take on the next battle in this war. After each buoy know that you have made a major move on the board and are gaining ground on victory.  The exit ramp is nothing more than the first days signal that this battle is over and there are two more to go.  Recoup in transition and prepare mentally for Round 2. As you take off on the bike your goal is to prepare your troops for the last battle.  The battle that will determine who wins the war. Stock your troops with nutrition and liquid.  Prepare them for what is about to come.  You have a long ways to go on the bike and the questions will begin to be asked once the adrenaline from the swim battle are gone.  Your mind will tell your body that it is time to slow down and your body has to react to this and tell the mind that it will not tolerate negative thoughts. Soon thereafter the body will tell the mind that it wants to quit because it hurts too much.  Your mind will have to remind the body that this in not the time to stop.  That the body can stop after victory has been claimed. You pedal and you eat and you drink and it is all second-hand nature because you trained for this for months and maybe years.  Auto-Pilot takes over and you do not recognize your body nor your mind as it just moves like a well oiled machine.  You see the final mile marker and know that your mind and your body have cooperated long enough to bring you to this point.....the dismount line. You are so ecstatic to be here but quickly you must recognize that the uphill battle is about to start.  Once you take that first step you know it is about to get harder and harder.  You move to the beat of your own drum as you are so excited to be off the bike.  Your legs move you forward but then that first hill shows up and you start to feel the lead in your legs. At this point your mind has to reach into its bag of tricks to remind the body that this will be over soon enough and then it can sit back and relax.  You crest the hill and you start moving again and you feel good but then your mind wanders and it realizes how much pain you are in and wants to shut down.  Your body quickly decides that now is not the time to quit.  And there in lies the truth.  Ask yourself if you want to stop or if you want to quit.  By responding with: I Will Not Quit your body continues to move forward. This back and forth will repeat itself over and over but know that with every step you take you are closer to victory.  You are closer to leaving the battleground and entering the area where all the spoils are laid out for the victors. Visualize that treasure and chase it down.  Your body will react favorably and your mind will not know what is going on until the end and by then you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor. Make no mistake about this sport.  The moment you hit the Register Now button you have declared war.  You will battle over and over again but when you cross the finish line you will lay claim as the victor over both your mind and your body.  Celebrate like a king because you are. ====================
I have about 5 1/2 weeks to go until Ironman Arizona and training of the mind is beginning in earnest.  I know that I will push my envelope to the edge of the table and will see just what my body has to give but to do that my mind has to be prepared to absorb the pain.  It has to make the decision that quit is a four letter word and that no matter where I am at the course another swim stroke or pedal push or step brings me closer to my goal of finishing.  Finish what you started.
Published in Race
[caption id="attachment_6585" align="alignright" width="300"]kona_ironman_worldchampionships_triathlon Source: Ironman[/caption] The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii are less than one week away and my excitement for this event builds with every article I read.  Kona is essentially the ultimate dream for triathletes, and is probably the number one reason any of us got into this crazy sport to begin with.  The story of most triathletes goes something like this:  I was watching the Kona race on TV and thought to myself why can't I do that.  Nobody ever thinks about what it takes to get to the finish of an Ironman race let alone what is involved in actually qualifying for the Ironman World Championships but rather:  Why Not Me? Al Trautwig gives each athlete, professional or amateur, a life bigger than the one we see unfold on race day.  We are taken into the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean and then the grueling bike ride and the finish down Ali'i Drive.  We are there every step of the way and Trautwig's voice gives it a heightened sense of appeal.  We are practically jumping out of our couch cushions ready to ride those 112 miles. I know that for me Kona is the ultimate dream.  I have no clue on whether or not I can get there but that goal/dream is alive and well inside of me.  I find myself talking to Macca and Crowie during my runs.  Through the hottest of days here in Texas I envision myself running through the energy lab step for step with Mirinda Carfrae.  When I enter the water I am not drafting off of some person I never met before but instead I am swimming stroke for stroke with Andy Potts.  This is my Kona and someday it will be the real thing. And with that it is time to layout the predictions for this upcoming race.  The fields are stacked to the brim with talent.  Both the Men's and Women's races could be the second coming of the Iron War between Allen and Scott.  There are so many talented athletes with a real shot at winning this event that when the finish line tape is broken there will not be a surprise because you will say to yourself:  Yeah I can see how/why he/she won.  They had the talent and a great year leading up to this race. Here are my predictions for this years Ironman World Championships:   [caption id="attachment_6583" align="alignright" width="194"]kona_ironman_worldchampionships_triathlon Source: Slowtwitch
Chris McCormack[/caption] Men:
  1. Chris McCormack
  2. Craig Alexander
  3. Jordan Rapp
  4. Andreas Raelert
  5. Andy Potts
The easiest thing would be to predict that Crowie wins again and that is not lost on me.  The guy is a machine when it comes to Kona and every year he seems to get better and better.  The difference to me is that this year Chris McCormack did not race 140.6 mile races but instead tried to make the Australian Olympic Team.  What does this mean? It means that he left the long rides and run and focused his training on getting faster.  He already has a base to complete the 140.6 miles at a fast pace so this attention to speed will serve him well I believe.  For example, if it comes down to a sprint for the final 5K would you take the guy who has been training at fast speeds or the guy who has been training for long course?  Give me the guy whose focus has been on speed. I believe Jordan Rapp becomes a household name to those outside of the triathlon world.  He has won Ironman Texas and Ironman New York this year and seems poised both physically and mentally to challenge the best in the word at Kona.  Mr Raelert can never be counted out and maybe this year is the year that he puts it all together to put a charge into the field on the run.  Andy Potts is my wild card in the men's division.  I say that because in the past he has not fared that well at this distance but this year he blew up the field at Ironman Lake Placid.  He did the same again a few weeks ago at Branson 70.3.  He passed up the Toyota US Open Championships this year to focus on Kona and based on his 70.3 Ironman World Championship results I would say he is ready to stay with the big dogs.   [caption id="attachment_6584" align="alignright" width="221"]kona_ironman_worldchampionships_triathlon Source: Ironman
Mirinda Carfrae[/caption] Women:
  1. Mirinda Carfrae
  2. Caroline Steffan
  3. Rachel Joyce
  4. Mary Beth Ellis
  5. Kelly Williamson
With Chrissie Wellington not racing this year the common theme will be:  this is anybody's race.  My question is:  Is it really?  We have seen how well Mirinda can do based on results of the past two years.  She is able to track down anybody on the run and that is her strength, but based on reports this year she has really focused her training on becoming a better cyclist. As we have seen with the men's field and Crowie last year and McCormack the year before this race can be won on the bike.  If Carfrae's training on the bike pays off she could easily run away with the title this year.  But hold on......not so fast my friends.  The ladies she is racing against will have something to say about that.  They are not slouches and all bring a pretty impressive lifetime and 2012 resume to the party. Caroline Steffan will be toward the front of the swim and it would not be a surprise to see her heading into T2 with the lead as she is a tremendous athlete on the bike.  The one thing that I think that could hurt Steffan is how dominant she has been this year.  Having dominated just about every race she entered she is now faced with a difficult course in a difficult climate with the best in the world chasing her down and will she be able to hang onto the lead I believe she will have heading into T2. The next three are a toss-up.  Joyce, Ellis and Williamson have all had terrific racing seasons and truth be told.....anyone of them could win this World Championships this year.  Rachel Joyce has been steadily improving her performance at Kona to finish 4th last year and actually passing Steffan in the finisher's chute.  She also brings with her a sub-9 performance at the 140.6 distance at Ironman Melbourne. Mary Beth Ellis would be the wild card here if not for Kelly Williamson, but Ellis is no slouch.  Take a look at her wins this year and you may see a mirror image of Jordan Rapp. Ellis won both Ironman Texas and Ironman New York (as did Rapp) and is well rested heading to the big island this year.  The rest may serve her well as she was not well rested going into last year's event. Finally, Kelly Williamson.....a local (to Texas that is) athlete who has not raced an Ironman event this year but is on this list because of her ability to run off the bike.  She had the fastest run split at the HyVee 5150 Championships as well as the 70.3 World Championships.  If you can run then you have a chance and Williamson can run. That is my take on this awesome event.....what's yours?

Who Do You Think Win's The Ironman World Championships This Year?

Published in Race
Thursday, 27 September 2012 16:27

Adversity.....

[caption id="attachment_6524" align="alignright" width="300"]adversity_triathlon_training_racing Source: JM Baseman Blog[/caption] Adversity in a training session or a race is going to happen.  It is inevitable and it seems that today I have read three or four pieces that discussed adversity.  As I was reading them I was taken back to my big ring issue in Puerto Rico, my brake issue at Ironman Texas, the tune-up problem prior to Maine and the wheel mechanical during Maine.  At each one of these events there was a problem but rather than throwing the whole day away and really months of training I gathered myself up, dusted myself up and tried again (wait is that a Beyonce' song?) If you don't recall these issues from above let me refresh your memory: Puerto Rico:  When I got to Puerto Rico the bike looked great.  It had just been tuned up and was ready for the first race of the year.  I went on a warm-up ride with Juan and could feel the chain slipping with just about every pedal stroke.  I was distraught over this and decided to bring it to the mechanic at athlete check-in with about an hour to go before transition closed for the night. After much waiting around my bike was finally in the hands of the mechanic and after a few minutes he told me that the big ring teeth were bent and he didn't have any more big rings or a chain to replace the old one with.  I went to another place to buy the chain and while doing that Juan spoke to another mechanic there and they said they would sell me a big ring if it couldn't be fixed. The original mechanic took out a dremel and after about 15 minutes of grinding teeth he told me the bike was set and ready to go.  I quickly paid and got the bike into the transition area before it closed for the night.  At first I was panic-stricken and tried to think of how this could happen and when I realized what it was I knew that it was my fault and I had nobody to blame.  I kept as calm as possible on the outside (inside I was wreck but knew there was nothing I could do) and when it all went back to normal I was thrilled and ready to race. Ironman Texas: Again after taking a spin on the bike with Juan to dial it all in I noticed something was wrong with the brakes.  They weren't stopping me enough and I was concerned enough to bring it in.  Having been through the mechanic deal just a few months prior I was in full control of my emotions.  I knew it was nothing more than changing brake pads and so I was comfortable with leaving my bike with them, going for lunch with Juan and then going back to pick up El Diablo and deposit him in transition. While having had the experience from San Juan the biggest difference was that Juan and I went out on our tune-up ride EARLY.  Much earlier than we did in Puerto Rico.  This allowed me to not have my back up against the wall and thus allow me to relax a bit.  Better than that was seeing Sterns from my local tri shop here in Dallas working the booth and knew he would take care of my bike as he had for a year already. Rev3 Maine:  Prior to the race in Maine I had a full tune-up done with cable replacements and all.  It was about 2 days prior to me leaving that Sterns called to tell me there was an issue and the bike had to be shipped to Specialized.  I freaked out about it because there was no way the bike could head out, be fixed and be back in time for me to race.  Sterns said that he would call them and see what he could figure out on his own at the shop. In the meantime I started thinking of what I could do.  Could I rent a bike?  Maybe borrow a bike but from who?  I thought immediately of the joke that Kevin had thrown out on Twitter just a few days prior.  Mandy and I are relatively close to the same height.  I know it would not be ideal but I figured roll with it and if I had to I would ask her to borrow her bike for the ride.  It would have been uncomfortable but it would only have been for a few hours.  Fortunately Sterns called and he was able to take care of everything I needed and off to Maine I went. Well at Mile 22 a spoke decided to brake.  I was in the middle of the race and there was nothing I could do but deal with it.  I tried to bend it and then tried to flex and break the spoke but nothing worked.  I got rather mad and decided to walk it off.  I was at the base of the biggest hill to date on the ride and lifted the bike overhead and walked up that hill.  I gained composure and realized as I was flexing the spoke previously it was also sliding out.  I kept working on that and before I knew it the spoke was free and I was riding again, although not at a typical 70.3 pace. The point is that at some point adversity and issue (some mechanical and some nutrition) will affect you.  How you deal with it will determine how well the race goes.  No race is perfect.  It may never happen.  There will always be ways to improve but take those issues and turn them into lessons.  Lessons to work into your next training cycle which will in turn make for a better race the next time.  Stay focused on the task at hand and that task is to finish the race.
What Adversity/Issues Have You Dealt With?
Published in Train
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