Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:44

Race Strategy For 70.3 San Juan

[caption id="attachment_7590" align="alignright" width="300"]race strategy - san juan night - ironman Source: Ironman San Juan[/caption] Race strategy is something that I have had in the past but not something I focused on.  My typical race strategy would have been get through the swim, maintain heart rate on the bike and then run and try to negative split the run.  As with most race strategies that are not detailed this meant absolutely nothing because as soon as I was in the water I would fire off the line as if my hair was on fire.  With that I would typically lose steam within the first 400 meters and then have to just get through the swim as best I could and then regroup after seeing a disappointing time on my watch.  Not a great way to race.  Allow me to say that this race strategy has been for 70.3 distance races or less because an Ironman is just a different animal altogether but I'm sure Maria is reading this and saying:  no sir you will have a race strategy for Ironman Texas. When you register for a race do you go into it thinking about race strategy?  Maybe strategy comes into play as you see how your training is going?  How about having a fall back in case the initial strategy falls apart on you?  These are some of the questions that I ask myself before hitting register as well as in the weeks leading up to the race.  My race strategy, I have always thought, should not just include that specific race but also how it plays into the grand scheme of things.  For example, if I am running a 15K but the 'A' for the year is Ironman Texas then giving everything I have to that race doesn't make sense if it is within one month of IMTX but race strategy would be different if that race is in January.  Clearly there are different scenarios under which you would operate and having a clear 'A' goal is going to benefit you in determining how that race strategy is going to be developed and executed.  This is where, for me, it is imperative that I have a coach.  Left to my own devices I would register for every race and run every one of them as hard as I could i.e. 2012 where I finally burnt out by the time Ironman Arizona came around. Working with Maria and John means that the previous race strategy is out the window and a very detailed strategy is in place.  During our time together we have been in contact with each other on an almost daily basis whether it be through our bi-weekly conference calls, Facebook, Twitter or email.  I have essentially turned anything relating to triathlon over to them.  This means that just about everyday from December 10th until May 18th has been tailored around Ironman Texas and that includes race strategy for 70.3 San Juan this weekend.  When Maria, John and I first met we discussed my goals and the conclusion was that IMTX 2013 was the A race and that everything we did was going to focus on that day.  Racing San Juan was in the cards but it would be with the mindset that if the race did not go as planned in terms of time that if I executed the race strategy that I would not hurt my ability to get to my goal time of 11:15 or less in May. Over the past 3 months I have chronicled my experiences with each training session as well as my metrics (weight, body fat%, water %, muscle mass) and this is to help them determine what was happening to me as I was going through their prescribed sessions.  I also have been far more detailed in how my body feels during the training, how much sleep, how my home life is going and just about anything else you can think of.  This all culminated in putting pen to paper for a race strategy for this Sunday. I have a goal for this race but it really doesn't matter.  I want to race as hard as I can yet focusing on the strategy and heart rate zones.  This includes where my heart rate should be on the uphills as well as the downhills of the bike and run.  We discussed where I should be setting up in the water for the swim and how to approach those first 200-300 meters and then adjusting for the rest of the swim.  I am a detailed person so knowing, and having, all of this information is making me happy.  If I follow the numbers then I will execute the race strategy perfectly and should finish within a time of ........... Here is my race strategy for Sunday: [caption id="attachment_7591" align="alignright" width="300"]race strategy - san juan - ironman - elmorro - triathlon Source: Ironman San Juan[/caption]

Swim Race Strategy:

Set up on the outside of the swim, which means to the left, and at the front.  When the gun goes off swim the first 200-300 meters at a mod-hard to hard pace.  Having done set after set after set of different paces and knowing what that mod-hard should feel like I do not need to guess what I am doing in those first few moments. After those first 200-300 meters, which will be easy to know because it will be somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd buoy I will 'drop' my speed down to a steady state.  At this point I will start to angle toward the first turn buoy which will be a right hand turn.  Staying steady around the second turn buoy all the way to the finish will provide me with an expected swim time of 35 minutes.  If I swim this race in 35 minutes I will have gained 6 minutes of my time from last year.

Bike Race Strategy:

I have always tried to race the bike section conservatively because I have wanted to keep my legs fresh for the run but that is mostly because I have been scared about my fitness and whether or not  I could have the run I wanted.  With the plan that I have laid out I do not have to worry about the run.  Why?  I do not need to worry about the run because I am on the bike.  Part of the race strategy is to race in the moment and not worry about what is coming up and certainly forget about what just past. On the bike my first 3-5 miles are to be raced in my Z2 heart rate zone and then inch up to be between 148bpm and 150bpm.  This is about 10-15bpm faster than what I raced last year at and I finished in 2:46 last year.  The key though is not just the average rate but also not to exceed 155bpm on the uphills.  This will keep in in a steady state that will allow me to race without blowing up.  Of course I have to remember that the 155 will not show up while going up the hill but will show up within 30 seconds of the finished climb. I do not have a time goal for this section of the race but if I am able to execute the race strategy of 148bpm and 150bpm then I should finish within 2:40 and 2:45 but of course heat and humidity will be a factor.  That being noted I am charged with getting two bottles of liquids into my system for every hour so we are looking at 6 bottles.  Since I will only carry two bottles, with concentrated calories, then I will have to grab bottles off the course which I have never done in a 70.3  but I am ready and I know this will help me stay hydrated and get to the run in the best shape I can be to race the 13.1 miles. [caption id="attachment_7592" align="alignright" width="300"]race strategy - san juan - hill - ironman The 'San Francisco Treat Hill' On The Run Course That You Get To Climb Twice.
Source: Ironman San Juan[/caption]

Run Race Strategy:

As I mentioned earlier all previous 70.3 races were to run and try to negative split the race.  This is very difficult to do because you have wear and tear from the swim and bike on them and temperatures change over the course of two hours.  Taking note of where my training runs have been and what we want to see happen in terms of recovery so that I can get back to IMTX training our race strategy is being split into 4 parts. The reason we have 4 parts is that San Juan is a double out and back so you have 4 'separate' legs of the run.  The first leg I will be running in the 148-150bpm range followed by legs 2 and 3 in the 155bpm range.  Finally the run home will be in the 165 range.  With uphills I will hit 155 in leg 1, 165 in legs 2 & 3 and 170 in leg 4.  Following this should set me up for a finish in the 1:50 range which is 7 minutes faster than last year.

Do You Incorporate Race Strategy Into Your Yearly Training Plan?

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_7569" align="alignright" width="228"]taper - meal plan - triathlon - ironman Have You Ever Experienced This During Taper?
Source: Drink2That[/caption] Taper week got started a little bit early as I got sick for the first time in over 4 years.  You read that correct.  I have not been sick since I met Karen which she reminded me of when I went to the Doctor's office on Saturday.  The stress in the house has been building up as I noted in my post regarding stress and cortisol levels from last week. Being sick gave me some time to think about how I would survive taper week.  Typically, taper week drives people mad because they are no longer working out for hours on end and instead having to sit by as the world passes by or it would seem.  As I was laying in my bed I started thinking about how I was going to survive this taper week since it was now going to be longer than one week.

3 Tips For Surviving Taper Week:


Tip #1: Meal Plan For The Week

This may not be something that you do on a consistent basis but during taper week I think it is imperative.  Since we, athletes, are so keen on checking off boxes making a meal plan for the week and then sticking to it allows us to continue our Type A personalities.  Also, by making a meal plan we can control our caloric intake since our training volume will be drastically reduced and what do people do when they are bored?  They eat.  If you have a meal plan then you can avoid that boredom eating that seems to take over. I meal plan every Sunday evening for the upcoming week based on the volume of training I'll be doing and extending this into taper week is not a big deal.  If you don't do this it may take some time to get used to but in the long run it will pay off.  I use My Fitness Pal as I think it is the most comprehensive database along with being able to track macro and micro nutrients.

Tip #2: Understand That Your Workouts Still Have Purpose

I have heard and seen athletes dawdle their way through the taper week workouts and it amazes me.  If you are going into the workout with such a lazy attitude you may as well skip the workout because being lazy while working out could result in injury and that would be worse than not working out at all. The workouts that are scheduled during taper week still have meaning as they are keeping your muscles warm.  It is also during taper week that your body is getting stronger as it repairs itself from all the weeks of tearing it down.  Understanding that this is what is happening during taper week may set you up for a successful taper since there is the need to know that what we are doing, or not doing, is helping us have a great race.

Tip #3: Review, Review and Review Again Your Race Strategy

[caption id="attachment_7570" align="alignright" width="400"]taper - survival - tips - ironman - triathlon Simple Graph Says It All!
Source: Fast At Forty[/caption] With the extra free time on your hands taper week is the ideal time to review your race strategy.  You do have a race strategy right?  If your training has been executed to the best of your ability then you will know how the race SHOULD play out.  Of course not everything during a triathlon plays out the way it is supposed to but if you embed the race strategy into your head there is a better chance it will play out that way as opposed to 'winging' it. During taper week I will be repeating my heart rate zones for the bike and run legs of 70.3 San Juan.  I will also be going over the swim strategy that Maria and John laid out for me.  Repeating these over and over to myself will provide me with a clear path from the gun going off to the crossing of the finish line.  During heavy volume weeks thinking about race strategy is very difficult, but during taper week there is more time to focus. Taper week can be difficult for some, especially heading into a new race.  That 'new' can be a new distance of triathlon or just getting into triathlon in the first place and the key to surviving taper week is to distract yourself as much as possible.  Setting up clear goals for your meals, focusing on your strategy and going into your workouts with purpose will allow you to get through the week without too much stress or concern.

What Are Your Tips For Surviving Taper Week?

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_7548" align="alignright" width="398"]physicals - triathlon - racing - ironman - death - doctor Source: Triathlon Magazine[/caption] Physicals - do you get one every year?  I know I do and especially as training for Ironman starts.  The question of physicals is coming up again because of the tragedy that occurred at Escape From Alcatraz in which a competitor died during the swim portion.  As it would seem to be, most of the fatalities in triathlon, occur during the swim portion and there are theories.
  1. Athletes are not prepared for the start of the swim and heart rates rise rapidly.
  2. Athletes are not prepared for the frigid temps of some of the races.
What I have not heard is that the athletes are not prepared for the event.  This has brought me to as a few questions about our sport.

Physical:  Should They Be Required

The first question is are physicals necessary as evidence that an athlete is in shape to handle the rigors of the event?  If physicals are required at what level should they be required?  Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman, Ironman.  Where do you draw the line?  Who is responsible for disclosing an issue if one is detected:  Doctor or Athlete? Our sport is expensive and thus requiring a physical would only add to the cost but would it save lives and yet another question evolves from this.  Let's take a look at my race schedule from last year: Prior to which race should I be getting a physical?  All of them?  The first one for the year?  I went to the doctor prior to San Juan and was given a clean bill of health and I didn't even think of going back for any other race including Ironman Arizona.  I mean why would I?  I was healthy and only getting healthier with all the exercise and clean eating I was doing. What you don't see here though is the nerves that climb as the timing of the race gets closer and closer and I'm not sure a physical can detect that.  For example, let's assume I went to get a second physical prior to the race in October.  Assume I was given a clean bill of health and was told I could race.  Those tests could not have predicted that I would freeze up in the water and have to swim kayak to kayak for the first 400 meters of the race like I did.  My mind got in the way and I panicked and gave myself a curse filled talking to so that I could swim the remaining 1100 meters to get on my bike. That day in October was the coldest day I have ever raced in and as I was running to my bike I contemplated DNF'ing, putting my sweat pants on and heading inside the hotel to grab some coffee and let the others race away.  No physical in the world would have predicted a complete panic attack in the water but that is exactly what happened. [caption id="attachment_7547" align="alignright" width="283"]physicals - triathlon - doctor - racing Source: NY Times[/caption]

Physicals Would Eliminate The One-Timers?

For argument's sake let's say that USAT required physicals but only prior to Half-Ironman and Ironman races.  Would this eliminate those that want to do these distances as a bucket list check-off and is that fair? The popularity of triathlon has been booming for a few years and I love that so many want to get involved but if they are getting into the sport to just say they did it are they risking too much and is it worth it?  Would you exchange your life for the chance to race a 140.6 event if you weren't prepared?  I don't know about you but to me it isn't worth it, but I have also decided to make this my lifestyle and consider myself to be an ambassador of the sport. I want as many people to get involved as they can but I also want them to do it safely and commit.  This means that if you are not fit to go 140.6 or 70.3 miles within the given time frame then you should probably not register for the race.  Start with something smaller and work your way up to see if you even want to attempt the distance because you may find that you don't want to. Now all that being said would a physical determine how prepared somebody would be prior to the event.  If you get a physical in January and your race isn't until May how would the physical help, and again, would that push people away from the sport even though they truly want to change their life?

My Thoughts On Physicals And Triathlons

I have asked lots of questions but have not given a definitive answer to this question, until now.  My answer is NO to mandatory physicals.  There is so much that can change between the date of the physical and the event date.  There is another added cost that may not prove anything not to mention the logistics of providing that information to the race director when you register. We all know the inherent risks when we push "register" and that is that this is a physically demanding sport that requires training and preparation.  If you fail to do your part then you are not only risking yourself but also the competitors around you.  A physical cannot determine how much you have trained after that specific point in time so making them mandatory doesn't make sense to me.

What Are Your Thoughts On Mandatory Physicals For Participating In Triathlon?

Published in Race
Monday, 04 March 2013 15:28

3 Tips To Improve Your Health

We are all looking for ways to improve our health without putting in too much effort.....well that is what society wants.  If you are reading this blog then you are most likely doing what you can to improve your health but we always need one of the following:
  1. Motivation and Inspiration.
  2. Change from our normal routine.
  3. Reminder
  4. Tips
The three healthy tips I am going to provide you below are ones that I have written about in their own posts but as I enter into taper I realize that these three tips are going to be what keeps me healthy over the next two weeks.  In addition to keeping me healthy they are going to be reinforced habits that make it easier to fall back into the routine after the 70.3 San Juan race is completed.

3 Tips To Improve Your Health

[caption id="attachment_7504" align="alignright" width="240"]sleep - health - benefits - triathlon Source: Health[/caption] 1. Sleep Sleeping is imperative regardless of what those people who tell you they can function on 4 hours of sleep.  I say that is complete non-sense as I manage to get through on 6 hours some days but I know that will catch up to me.  This usually happens during a peak week when I am asleep on the couch at 8pm and waking up at 5am for a solid 9 hours of sleep and getting up to go at it again. Lately I have been running on those 6 hours per week but two weeks ago after yoga was complete I came home and stared at my laptop and could barely read the words.  I was wiped out and needed to sleep.  I put my head down for a 30 minute nap because anything longer than that is sleep and would affect me that evening.  I wound up waking up 3 hours later.  Obviously my body required more rest because when I woke up I felt great and my body felt like it was healthy again. I have written about getting 8 hours of sleep previously, that you can read here but here are the highlights;
  1. Sleep deprivation was linked to metabolizing glucose less efficiently in addition to the fact that levels of cortisol were higher.
  2. The glucose levels for the group were no longer normal during the sleep deprivation week and resembled those found in the elderly.  Since we know that glucose and glycogen (stored glucose) are the energy sources behind the ability of an endurance athlete to perform one can conclude that getting enough sleep is very important.
  3. What the study doesn’t address is how much sleep is enough?  I don’t know that getting 8 hours is perfect but I do know that getting 4 hours is not enough and not just because of the glycogen stores, but because your mind is not in the game.  You have a tendency to lose focus with sleep deprivation and this is caused by the increase in cortisol.  If your mind is not focused then the task at hand is going to be more and more difficult to perform.  Think about your best race and how well you slept the night before and think about your worst race and how you slept the night be.
[caption id="attachment_7503" align="alignright" width="285"]massage - health - triathlon - benefits Source: Men's Health[/caption]

2. Massage And A.R.T.

Yesterday I rode a portion of the Ironman Texas course and then drove home and straight to a massage.  That means that yesterday was 4 hours in the saddle, 3+ hours in the car and 1.5 hours on the table.  How did this make me feel?  I felt healthy on the bike, then a slug in the car and rejuvenated with a renewed focus after the massage.  The massage was much-needed and being two weeks before the race it was perfectly timed. Regular massage can do a couple of things can help to improve the status of your health:
  • Massage increases the blood flow to muscles to help speed the healing process by flushing out metabolic waste. By having the muscle healed faster an athlete can resume training at a quicker pace and build up their strength to compete at a higher level than before.
  • In addition to healing quicker, a massage will allow an athlete the opportunity to reconnect with their body. The mind will be able to decipher which muscles are sore/fatigues and need to be treated more often. It can bring awareness to those areas that are not functioning properly and in the long run help prevent injury.
A good rule of thumb is to get a massage at the beginning of the week of a race so that your muscles are not so relaxed that the body takes longer to get acclimated to the racing speed. Receiving a massage will put the athlete in a tranquil mood and while that is wonderful for the mind, the body needs to be capable of racing and be able to stand the rigors of the race. In addition to getting a massage early on race week it is recommended to get one immediately after a race and if that is not possible at least within one day and with their regular therapist. Massage is not the only way to get these feelings to improve your health.  Going to an A.R.T. professional will also help you.  Regular visits to your A.R.T. professional will help you because it can focus on injuries before they become to bothersome and force you off your feet.  In addition to that it will help your muscle balance which improves your health and overall efficiency for participating in your chosen sport. If it is possible try to combine A.R.T. and massage.  I have scheduled days with a 15-20 minute A.R.T. session followed by a 30 minute massage that has me walking out of the office in a state of mind that is focused on my health and well-being.  In addition to that I am relaxed and ready to focus on what remains in my day. [caption id="attachment_7393" align="alignright" width="300"]yoga - health - triathlon - ironman - balance Source: Eat Breathe Blog[/caption] 3. Yoga I recently wrote about how yoga and swimming are the best of friends but that isn't the first time I have written about yoga and the sport of triathlon.  I have this post and this post that you can read.  I believe yoga has allowed me to not only become a better athlete but a better person because I am able to focus my mind on the tasks at hand no matter the task. My mental health has improved quite a bit and I am more relaxed than I used to be and reducing stress helps reduce cortisol levels, which as you read above, you know helps improve your overall health.  Keeping your cortisol in check will make your days better. Here are a few points about yoga:
  • Yoga is a form based movement.  If you have poor form in yoga you will fall over.  By focusing on your core you will improve your balance and a stronger core will lead to improved health.
  • Yoga focuses on breathing.  To get deeper into your stretches you need to breath and losing that focus will cause the body to not react the way we would like.  Have you ever been so mad that you don't even realize that you aren't breathing which causes stress on the body.  By focusing on your breathe your anger will come down and you will be able to make better decisions.
  • Yoga has poses the force you to back bend and get the spine engaged.  The spine is a key component of your core and having a stronger spine will also improve your balance.
If you practice these three on a consistent basis then your health will improve.  If you are an athlete and you incorporate these items into your routine and training you will see improved performance and in the end that is why we do what we do.  We want to improve our performance but to do that you have to improve your health.  Incorporating more sleep, massage/A.R.T. and yoga in your routine will be beneficial to your health.

Which Of These Three Do You Incorporate Into Improving Your Health?

Published in Train
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 13:44

Ironman Texas - The Monthly Progress Report

Ironman Texas Is In 95 Days......what?

Ironman Texas is now officially less than 100 days away and I am not sure where the time went or what that means in regards to my training.  The day snuck up on me and shocked me when there was a post in the Ironman Texas 2013 Group on Facebook last week that it was 100 days away.  Does my lack of knowledge as to when the race is mean that I am so focused on my training and outside life that I failed to pay attention?  Does it mean that I am being cavalier toward the race seeing as it will be my third full Ironman in a calendar year? I thought long and hard about what my lack of focus about the day that Ironman Texas will take place and have come to a single conclusion.  I am having a blast in this training cycle that the race does not faze me.  In the lead up to Ironman Texas and Ironman Arizona in 2012 I was so focused on my performance in the race that I lost sight of the fun that training brings.  This cycle has been quite the opposite and there are a few reasons:
  • Coaching change.  Just after Ironman Arizona was over I switched over from Claudia to Maria and John of No Limits Endurance coaching.  The switch brought with it an excitement and renewed passion for training.
  • I have been doing all of my long weekend rides with two different groups.  Both groups bring a great sense of camaraderie at different speeds.  There is the Dallas Athletes Racing group which is very fast and forces me to chase them all over North Texas thus elevating my heart rate beyond Z3 sometimes.  The other group is a bunch of friends I swam with last summer that is at a little bit (not much) more casual in terms of the banter back and forth and allows me to pull every now and again.  Both groups have been beneficial to my cycling.
  • Diet change.  I have been fueling my workouts and then tapering off throughout the day.  I haven noticed an uptick in energy and my workouts are not at all sluggish.  That, and Instagram provides a lot of inspiration and motivation for creating good-looking, great tasting dishes.
Here is how I would evaluate my Ironman Texas 2013 Month of January 10-February 10: [caption id="attachment_7302" align="alignright" width="283"]Ironman Texas - Monthly Progress Report - Planned - Triathlon Lots of different activities keeps the mind and body fresh for training[/caption]


I couldn't be happier with the progress that has been made.  If you recall from last month's post Maria, John and I have a goal for the Ironman Texas swim of 1:15.  Fearful at first of what that meant I can now say that it is more than feasible. Yesterday I had a swim set that was supposed to be in the steady range based on the last 800 yard TT I had done.  That time was anywhere from 1:55-2:00/100y.  The main set finished with an average of ~ 1:45/100y and I wound up negative splitting the set and to my wonder I was not fatigued in the slightest during the swim.  There will have to be a new 800 yard TT to re-evaluate my zones since my EZ and cool down swims are now bordering on what was once steady to mod-hard.


It is hard for me to gauge my progress here because more than anything else I had an epiphany during a 4 hour ride that the long rides should be treated like long runs.  On your weekend long run you don't run them as if they are at race pace.  Maybe an interval here and there but not the entire run.  Last year for both Ironman Texas and Arizona nearly all the rides were trying to mimic race pace.  In hindsight that was foolish and didn't help my chances of having great rides for the races. This go around I am pulling back more on the heart rate and following Maria's plan to a T (except for 1 ride where she gave me a talking too!) and I feel good about it.  Instead of getting off the bike and feeling wiped out to the point that a 30 minute transition run seemed like it would take forever I now have a good idea of what my legs are going to feel like for the first two miles of the run and those times are in sync with where my easy runs have been in terms of pace and heart rate.


As mentioned previously I am not running as much in this cycle as I have in the past but there is still progress being made.  My plan has moved my long runs to Wednesday and I have noticed that my HR is staying the same and there are some increases in speed.  This could be because of the variation or the improved efficiency of my body from cycling as much as I am meaning less wear and tear from running.  Either way I will take it. There is a goal to run a sub-4 hour marathon at Ironman Texas and I know I have it in me but this training cycle is giving me heightened confidence that it can be done. [caption id="attachment_7301" align="alignright" width="281"]Ironman Texas - Monthly Progress - Completed - Triathlon Completed Duration Looks A Lot Like Planned Duration. Hitting the schedule is more than a check box routine.[/caption]


As of yesterday morning I am down 13 pounds and 3.5% body fat from my return home from Ironman Arizona.  In the past month I have lost nearly 7 pounds and approximately 0.5% body fat.  With about 5 weeks to go before 70.3 San Juan I am near what I had previously perceived to be my ideal race weight.  I say perceived because in reading Matt Fitzgerald's Racing Weight book (if I did the math correctly) I would be at my optimal race weight at 139 pounds. This process of getting leaner has been 'easy' because of the fact that I am eating very, very, very clean.  I thank Instagram for that in part but also have been living by my three tips for a healthy lifestyle: consistency, change and cheat.

Life Outside Of Triathlon:

I am happy with where I am at outside of triathlon.  I have been going out to meet friends for dinner, riding with new friends has created some great memories and the fact that Karen and I are about to put our house up for sale does not have me a nervous wreck like in the past. I am a creature of habit and Karen and I have found our footing when it comes to training for Ironman (me) and ultra-marathons (her).  Our routine consists of me early morning training and home in time to take the little one to school with Karen picking him up.  On the weekends when the little guy is with us Karen runs on Saturday and I watch him and will take him to the gym while I swim and then I ride long on Sunday and Karen has time with him.  On weekend's we don't have him we both train long on Saturday morning and have the evening to spend time with each other.  We have finally figured this whole thing out. In the past month training has intensified but it has been gradual and not to the point of breaking me and I like that.  I have been able to find time to focus on growing my web design and digital marketing agency while also building a bigger and better Cook Train Eat Race brand.  In addition to that I have been able to take on a monthly blog writing opportunity with TriDigest as well as adding another monthly writing for Fitblogger.  I have been asked to do a couple of other articles for which I am grateful. Ironman Texas is less than 100 days away and I am comfortable with that.

How Far Away Is Your A Race And How Is Your Progress Coming Along?

Published in Train
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:44

Transition Area Tips

On Saturday I ran a 15k race and afterwards was speaking to a friend who mentioned that she would be doing her first sprint tri in March.  After smiling with pride she quickly said to me:  "I am going to need some advice from you on setting up my transition area.  The race director last year said that he would take stuff out of transition if it were too crowded and I'm nervous."  I am paraphrasing there because I can't remember everything she said but I immediately knew she needed some transition area tips.  Ideas on how to keep a transition area clean and neat so as not to impinge on other athlete's equipment but obviously to make it easier to get in and out of. In 2012 Karen did her first triathlon and she too asked me if I had any transition area tips.  Instead of giving them to her I just went and setup her mat for her.  Her friend then came by and asked for help as well.  After the conversation this weekend I realized that not everybody understands the hows and the why of setting up a transition area and would need some help. These transition area tips are directly from how I setup my mat and others may do it differently but other than the fiasco that was Ironman Arizona I manage to get in and out of transition very fast.  Also, let it be known that for distances shorter than half-ironman I am not wearing socks on the bike or the run so take that into account as well.  Lastly, in these transition area tips you will not see a comment regarding clipping your bike shoes in before the race because I don't do flying mounts (I like my stuff where it is) and so if you are going to do flying mounts then skip the cycling shoes part.

Transition Area Tips


  • Be cognizant of the space that you have and only work in that space.  Do not bring stools or chairs or coolers into your transition area.  It is not needed and just takes up valuable space.  Keep your gear to a minimum and work with what the course supplies if you can.
  • Look for the Swim In/Bike Out/Bike In/Run Out signs.
  • Know what row your bike is in so when you get out of the water you don't waste time running around looking for your bike.

[caption id="attachment_7077" align="alignright" width="194"]transition area tips - triathlon - ironman Source: Empty Age[/caption]

T1 Setup (From Swim To Bike)

  • On your bike handlebars have your helmet with the front facing your body (upside down) so that when you grab it is just a flip and it is on your head in the right direction.  Inside of your helmet though put your race belt with big and on top of that your sunglasses.  This will set you up to put your sunglasses on first then your race belt then your helmet.  Now you move to Tip #3.
  • Have your shoes facing away with the straps opened up (top strap only if you have tri shoes) from you so all you have to do is slip your feet in and then close the strap down.
  • Grab your bike and head to the Bike Out but don't get on your bike until you are at the mount line.

T2 Setup (From Bike To Swim)

  • Have your running shoes pointing in the same direction of the cycling shoes which is away from you so that you can slip your feet in.
  • Have hat or visor on top of shoes so you remember to put it on and it will also help you to remember to take off your bike helmet since you can't fit a baseball hat over the top of a bike helmet.
  • If you are taking a handheld on the course have it next to your shoes so you can pick up as you begin to exit transition.
  • Flip your race belt around as you are running toward the run out area.
  • If it is hot out then keep your handheld in a small foam cooler in ice toward the back of your mat.  This will help you on the run since the water will be cold and the cooler is small and out-of-the-way.

Do You Have Any Transition Area Tips To Share?

Published in Race
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
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 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, 24 October 2012 13:58

Attitude Is Everything

[caption id="attachment_6654" align="alignright" width="300"]attitude_positive_effect_motivation Source: N2 Growth[/caption] Attitude and how your approach a specific task or tasks will be the one determining factor of success or failure even before you attempt the task.  This came up today for me when I went to the pool to do a 4000 yard set.  When I first got there I was tired and did not want to be there.  The set was not going to be hard but it would take me near 1.5 hours to complete and that seemed daunting.  Add to the fact that the night before I felt sick to my stomach (literally!)  I woke up late and it just seemed that all the stars were lined up against me. As with any pool swim I do not want to do I always say to myself:  get through the warm-up and see what happens.  I got in the water and it was COLD.  I did the warm-up and chose to push on to the drills and kick sets.  Still feeling cold but also feeling like I could get through the set I went on.  I got to the main set and made a number in my head to hit (1:50/100y) and would not be satisfied with anything that was slower than that. After the first 300 I was right on target, then the second.  The 2 sets of 200 were there.  The 6 sets of 100s were right there and my attitude was changed.  I wanted to be in that water and for longer than I needed to be.  I was having a great time and while I was not pushing myself to get into the 1:30s I was actually enjoying the water at 5am.  It was no longer cold.  The set was no longer going to be long.  Everything was clicking and I felt on top of the world.  In one short swim stroke my attitude changed and all was bright (even if it was still dark outside.) When I got home I turned on ESPN's Mike and Mike and they were talking about Cam Newton.  How is attitude was just hurting himself and his teammates.  I have seen the video clip from the post game news conference after the Panthers were crushed by the Giants and I could see right there that his attitude was shot.  He had this look in his eye (when they were open) and this inflection in his voice that said he was defeated.  I knew then that his season would be a nightmare for him, but then I read that teammates had spoken to him and I expected different.  It does seem to have worked.  Before we get to the second news conference take a look at this clip after the Panthers loss to the New York Giants.
The Panthers lost again this past weekend and his attitude had not changed.  I am not sure when he will get it that what he says and how he acts has an impact on not only his performance but that of his teammates.  If I were on the Panthers and I saw this guy at the podium talking this way there is no way I would get excited to follow him onto the football field.  Now, while I believe that most players in the NFL have a lot of self-motivation I also believe that all people need to have leaders.  Fair or not, Cam Newton is the face of the franchise and those the de facto leader and he needs to act like one. If you have not seen the clip of the second news conference, take a look here and let me know if you would want to play with a guy who looked like this:
As a triathlete there are going to be days and races that not everything goes right. You may have a horrible swim but you need to put that behind you and focus on the bike and the run.  You may finish with a terrible run and while there is not another event to help fix that there is the opportunity to recover with a great meal and the family/friends that were there to support you. A few weeks ago I raced the US Open Championships here in Dallas and while I have not put up a race report a few of you know what happened.  I had a horrible race.  It was 45* the day of the race and the warmest part was the 70* water or so I thought.  I jumped into the lake and when the gun went off and my arms moved my legs didn't.  I struggled to get to the 200 meter buoy and I grabbed a kayak.  I talked to the woman for about 5 minutes and when I said to her that this was not my first open water swim and that I was an Ironman a flicker of hope went off.  I decided to swim kayak to kayak until I finished even if it took me 2 hours.  I swam to the next kayak doing nothing but pulling myself as my legs were not working.  Then it was off the next kayak and the kayak after that.  Once I was hanging onto the 4th kayak my attitude changed.  I am a FUCKING Ironman and off I went.  Pissed off that I was still in the water and pissed off that my legs were not cooperating.  I swam the rest of the way and when I hit the dock I knew I was going to finish the race. I got on my bike and I was freezing.  I mean like a Puerto Ricansicle.  I was shivering and teeth were chattering.  Feet were numb and hands were barely working.  I had two words going through my head the entire 24.8 miles.....motherf'er and finish!  At one point I tried to drink from my water bottle and my hands were so numb that could not grip the bottle and it dropped.  Even that didn't deter me because I was going to finish and finish I did despite all the hurdles.  The run was horrendous and both Achilles and calf muscles locked up.  It hurt so much that I was brought to tears at the end of the race but I finished.  My attitude got me to that finish line even though the day was horrible.  Best part:  I went to breakfast with Karen and had a great Sunday sitting on the couch with her.

Attitude Is Everything

Published in Race
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