Monday, 23 September 2013 10:05

Drafting. You Can And Should Do It. Legally.

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

Drafting: Swimming

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

Drafting: Cycling

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

Drafting: Running

I am sure there are a lot of people out there that are laughing at this headline and questioning how in the world you draft while out on the run.  The same process that you use for swimming can apply to running as well.  If you are in a race with lots of wind getting on the hip of an athlete that can hold a pace that you are comfortable with can be a blessing.  They will act as a shield against the wind while also being that carrot for you to hold onto.  You will not gain speed from running off their hip but you will not deal with the annoyance of the wind hitting you in the face.  Same thing can be said for rain. Now, let's say that it is a perfectly fall day with little to no wind.  What do you do now?  You do the same thing but this time you aren't gaining an advantage of having the wind blocked for you instead you are gaining a psychological advantage of not worrying about anything but sticking to the hip of the athlete you are with.  For example, at Ironman Texas this year where it was as hot as the sun I wound up on the hip of Chelsea Tiner who is an elite age grouper here in Dallas.  By saying to myself that I had to stick with Chelsea as long as I could I developed a one note mentality.  Staying with her stride for stride as long as I was not cooking myself.  I would check my heart rate every now and again but we were running at a crisp pace that was not above a 5 or 6 on my RPE scale.  This was ideal because I knew that Chelsea could run and I did not have to worry about my pace and just had to stay with her stride for stride. Bike drafting is quite often abused in triathlon but if you stay within the rules you can still draft to your advantage.  In addition to that learning and executing a drafting strategy during the swim and on the run can be terrific performance enhancers as well.
Published in Race
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 07:44

Wee-Chi-Tah Trail Half-Marathon Race Report

Wee-Chi-Tah Half-Marathon Trail Race

Let's continue the story from yesterday shall we?  In case you missed it here is the recap of the Hotter N Hell Hundred Bike Race.

wee chi tah - trail run - race report

 After the bike ride we showered, had dinner and back to bed early again as we needed to get up for a half-marathon trail race.  Makes total sense doesn't it?  When the alarm went off I don't think Jeff, nor I, moved.  What in God's name were we thinking? Totally spent and dehydrated we pushed our way to the car while Bob hung back as he wasn't running and was going to head back to Austin. Before I tell you about the race let me just say that I have NEVER done a trail race.  Karen has and has told me that they are just different and you run them slower.  I thought great....run slower so more of a recovery run.  Yeah, not so much.  You start out and everybody is gung-ho and you go with the flow out of the gate.  Jeff was gone in seconds and I was caught behind other athletes, which was not a bad thing. I didn't know what to expect so going out a bit slow was fine by me.  That is until the first mile was done, my watch beeped and I saw: 8:48.  What was I thinking?  If those people were not in front of me I probably would have run a rather idiotic 7 minute mile.  Holy hell this is going to be hard was my second thought. I ran and with every step my quads screamed, then my calf, then my hamstring.  Even my arms and neck were yelling at me to stop and lay down. I hammered on and eventually wound up with two guys behind me and we were chatting while running single track.  These guys were pushing me otherwise I don't know if I would have kept on.  We were together for about 2-3 miles but on the trail that seems like an eternity of having guys breathing down your neck.  At once you want to yell at them to pass you but at the same time you are happy to have partners because you have no clue where you are or where you are going.  The small chit-chat that last 20-3o seconds and then stops for minutes helps pass the time. Now, this trail racing stuff is HARD. You are going up and down repeatedly. You are jumping over roots and rocks.  Avoiding getting hit in the face by twigs.  You have to be on your game.  At one point we went through a series of ups and down that while only 1/4 mile in length kicked my ass.  I reached the top of one of the dunes and stopped dead in my tracks.  One of the two guys, who had resorted to calling me Jeep because of my shirt yelled out: C'mon Jeep you cannot stop now. You are my pacer. I said alright let's do this and I ran not 100 feet, not 10 feet but one foot before I never saw him again. I just could not keep up the pace but I was determined not to walk.  He had given me the inspiration to run the entire race.  This was at mile 6 1/4 (yes, that is what the mile marker said) and I knew that I had about 1 hour and 10 minutes to go.  Let's do this. At one point you go over a suspension bridge that sways and rocks and I fell into the fence three times because I did not have the leg strength to hold myself up. Once past that you run up a cliff and a spectator yelled: #472 looking strong. I replied with:  You are not a very good liar.  I was done until we crossed a stream and the cold water on my feet made me want to stop and lay down.  One of the volunteers must have seen my face and said only one more mile to go. I heard this and started running, then I heard 'go you can get in under 2 hours.'  WHAT? I huffed and I puffed and I climbed the last hill then crossed the finish line and hit my stop button at 2:00:00.  HOLY SH*T are you kidding me?  Looking to go 2:30 and I beat that by 30 minutes.  I was spent. I could not stand at the finish line and the idea of doing anything other than involuntary breathing was impossible. Caught up with Jeff afterwards and he said that was the hardest trail race he had ever done.  Hands down.  I don't know if I'll go trail running anytime soon but to put down a 2 hour run on that course made my day beyond belief.  We grabbed some bananas, oranges and water then headed off to the car where I proceeded wrap a towel around my waist and strip in the parking lot because I just did not care anymore.  I was spent and tired and hungry and dirty. In other words I was done. Off to the Motel 6 for a quick shower, then out for breakfast and a two-hour ride back home.  All in a good day's work to say the least. This endurance weekend was a big boost of confidence for the rest of 2013 and truly for what lays ahead in 2014.  If my body can react to a trail run and finish in 2 hours after pouring myself over my handlebars the day before in a 100 mile race then I truly believe that a 5:30-5:45 bike split with a 3:45 run split at an Ironman next year is well within reach.  Now to work on my swim anxiety.

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

Swimming:

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

Cycling:

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

Running:

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

Ironman Texas Is In 50 Days

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

Ironman Texas - I Got Your Number !

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

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

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

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

Have You Read Triathlon Anatomy?  Thoughts?

What Triathlon Books Can You Recommend?

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

Fueling Build Phase Weekend #1

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

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

Do You Practice Your Fueling During Your Training?

Have Any Fueling Tips You Want To Share?

Published in Train
Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:16

Half-Ironman Race Comparison

Half Ironman Comparison

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

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

Half Ironman Swim:

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

Half Ironman Bike:

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

Half Ironman Run:

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

Half Ironman Races Overall:

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

Half Ironman 70.3 Rankings:

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

What Is Your Favorite Half Ironman Distance Race?

Published in Race
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:44

Ironman 70.3 San Juan Race Report

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

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

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

Ironman San Juan 70.3 Race Report

Swim:

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

Bike:

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

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

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

Run:

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

Ironman San Juan 70.3 Event:

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

Ironman San Juan - Thank You!

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="7651,7650,7649,7648,7647,7646,7645,7644,7643,7642,7641,7640,7634,7635,7636,7637,7639,7633,7632,7630,7629,7628" orderby="rand"]

Published in Race Reports
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
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 13:44

Strong Core = Strong Performance

Core. Core. Core.  We all hear it and we all know we need to strengthen it but do we?  I know that for the first two-year in this sport my core work consisted of some crunches here and there and would ignore it other than that.  I knew it was important but who has time for core work when you are riding for 3 hours and then running for 30 minutes.  Core work was ignored when I got in the pool to swim 4000 yards.  I didn't know it but I was sabotaging (unlike Bill Callahan) my performance in the sport of triathlon.  I felt fit and looked fit and had some decent races but maybe I could have been faster, and looking back at it there is no doubt about it.  The worst part is that all it takes is 15 minutes per day to get a stronger core.  Of course, abs/core are also made in the kitchen and cleaning up your diet will aid in the strengthening of your core, which by the way are the muscles from your shoulders to your thigh and not just the abs. When I started with Maria and John getting a stronger core was something they had planned for me and I was fully on-board.  In one of our first meetings I asked Maria to put together specific core exercises and input them into Training Peaks.  The reason I asked her to do that was because if it was in Training Peaks and from my coach I would do it.  I am very good at taking instruction and if it's there it gets done.  So with that being said the core work started showing up and so did the results.  Results not only in a slimmed down waist but in my performance.  I was swimming faster with much less effort than ever before.  The riding felt better too and then to be able to run fast without carrying extra weight was a real boost.  This whole core work thing was starting to make sense and before you know it we were posting about it on Facebook. The start of a conversation morphed into a group called the 30 Day Ab Challenge-Core Work on Facebook that now has 42 members.  The goal is to do 30 days straight core work for ONLY 15 minutes per day.  That is nothing but the benefits are tremendous.  Getting the motivation from the group to get the work in is terrific plus there are 41 other accountability partners and posting your done for the day is a huge confidence boost.  As we all know confidence breeds confidence.  Join the group and get on that path to a stronger core. Now we all know it from a look and feel stand point but here are some of my athletic reasons as to why your core should not be ignored:

Swimming:

[caption id="attachment_7206" align="alignright" width="300"]core - swiss-ball-hip-raise - exercise - triathlon Source: Allyssa Eleven[/caption] This is hard enough as it is, if you are not a born swimmer, but it doesn't have to be.  The one sport where I found that efficiency means the most is swimming and a strong core means a more efficient swimmer.  I have noticed that when I swim now my hips are elevated and my feet rise toward the top of the water and I believe it is because my abdomen is closer to my spine thus creating a push down on my chest.  This puts me in a position to be a more efficient swimmer and my times are reflecting this theory, but it is more than my times.  When I am done swimming a long set in Z2 (for example 1500 yards) I don't finished nearly out of breath with a burning sensation in my shoulders.  I finish in a more relaxed state ready for the next set and feeling strong. Looking for swim specific core work then try working on rotational power (Russian Twists) and strengthening your back and legs (Swiss Ball Straight Leg Bridges.)

Cycling:

[caption id="attachment_7204" align="alignright" width="300"]core - alternating superman - exercise - triathlon Source: Baylor And Brody[/caption] As triathletes we spend the most of our training time on the bike but sometimes we aren't always comfortable in that position for long periods of time.  It can be a fit issue, but if the problem persists it is probably because your core is not as strong as it should be.  In addition to that you are probably not as flexible as is necessary and that is causing a tug and pull on your muscles.  I have gone on 3 and 4 hour rides in the past few weeks with a group called Dallas Athletes Racing, and they might as well be racing.  These guys are fast on the bike and the first time I went out with them I basically held them back (there were only 4 of us.)  The next time I joined them (there were about 15 people) I was literally chasing them all over North Dallas but the beauty was that when the ride was over the run felt good.  I left my prescribed HR Zones a few times (sorry Maria) but I never felt out of breathe or winded and the best part was my hip flexors felt great as did my neck muscles from being in aero.  I know that at this time last year that was not the case and again I point to the fact that I am actually working my core muscles these days. If you want some cycling specific core work try doing a Superman (alternating) which attacks the lateral motion as your body moves side to side on the bike  or a more comprehensive movement like the Fifer Scissors which targets key cycling muscles.

Running:

This has always been the sport that I did the best at and so we are not focusing as much on it but that doesn't mean it is being ignored.  My runs are typically 15-30 minutes as a transition run off the bike with a long run in the area of 1-1.5 hours.  I have seen my speed pick up while my heart rate has stayed the same and I don't feel as if I am pulling extra weight.  When I start my run I immediately bring my belly button toward my spine and now it is no longer a chore to hold it there.  When I feel my self slowing down I notice that my core is not as engaged which leads to a small spike in my HR.  Once I realize what is going on I bring my core back in and there is a stabilizing effect to my speed and heart rate.  Now I may not be running as much but my running is not being ignored because of the core work that is being done. [caption id="attachment_7203" align="alignright" width="300"]core strength - exercise - triathlon Source: Mind And Body Yoga[/caption] Some running specific core work includes Kicking Plans and Side Planks which strengthen the transverse abdominis (a muscle that prevents excessive movement of the pelvis and lumbar spine) When you are working your core you don't have to do it for hours on end.  As I said I do 15 minutes (sometimes 18-21) per day and I get a full range of exercises in that help me with my swim, bike and run.  Here is a very easy way to take the 6 workouts above and get 18 minutes of core work in.  Start with the 1st swimming exercise and do it for 1:00 (really only about :55 as you transition to the next exercise) and do the 1st cycling for 1 minute and then the 1st running then start again.  If you do that for 3 sets you will have gotten in 18 minutes of core work while always moving and changing the muscles you are working.  Not only that but you will be working on your flexibility which is another key to core strength.

What Is Your Favorite Core Exercise?

Published in Train
Thursday, 10 January 2013 13:44

Ironman Texas - The Monthly Progress Report

Ironman Texas is in 129 days and training has been going on since December 10th so I figured a monthly update on my progress was in order.  Last year I did weekly and bi-weekly YouTube videos which were fun to make but at this point I'm not sure I have the patience to shoot, edit, upload and post so I will be going with some simple breakdowns of what has changed in the month that has just passed. Last year I raced Ironman Texas as my first 140.6 and finished in 11:59:51 without knowing what I was doing in terms of racing.  There is a lot that you learn about yourself and ability with each race but especially the iron-distance race.  I took what I learned from Texas to Arizona and unfortunately experienced a bike accident that did not lead to the day I wanted but loved the day I had.  With that experience in the tank, a change of coach(s) and a new eating plan I am preparing myself to go faster at Ironman Texas 2013 than I could have imagined when I first put on a pair of tri shorts. Here is my monthly progress report and I hope John and Maria grade me here as well: Diet: Maria and John have been a huge help for me in this department.  With our goals it is important to know not just what to eat but more importantly when to eat, and thus was the basis for my previous post about changing my diet.  I know that since I started with them back on December 10 that I weighed 150 lbs and had a body fat percentage of 10.4% (thank you off-season.)  Since then I have lost 2.4 lbs and 1.7 percentage points in body fat while maintaining my muscle mass.  I will say that with the workouts prescribed and the attention to detail about my diet I feel great and will be losing the weight needed to race Ironman Texas at my optimal weight level without much trying or 'dieting'. [caption id="attachment_7049" align="alignright" width="300"]ironmantexas_progressreport_cooktraineatrace Certainly Has Been Bike And Swim Focused[/caption] Swim: As any follower of this blog knows my swim is by far my worst discipline and it seemed that the harder I worked at it the worse I got or stayed the same which is just like getting worse.  In the past month I have seen improvements in my swim and not just in time but in how I feel in the water.  I actually am feeling the water instead of fighting it.  I have recognized key failures in my technique like putting my head down too far into the water or not getting my elbow high enough that has led to a more efficient swim.  I am not competing with Phelps and Lochte just yet but I am certainly getting faster at the same RPE. Bike: Maria and John determined that for me to hit my goal times that getting faster in the water and faster on the bike were going to be imperative.  That being said my training has been swim and bike-centric.  That being said I have developed some awesome ass muscles from sitting on the bike.  In addition to that I have been chasing my friend Jeff around the area and I mean chase since Jeff is a Kona Qualifier and a beast on the bike.  He has helped me get stronger while the training 'assignments' are keeping me conscious of my form and getting me stronger at the same time.  My bike efficiency is improving and that will benefit me on the run. Run: This discipline was determined to be my best and after the 20 minute TT that was confirmed.  Running is my strong suit so there hasn't been a lot of emphasis on it with most of my runs being 2o - 30 minutes off the bike and in Z2.  What we did figure out is that my Z2 is higher up than I originally thought so I am able to run this zone at a faster pace than I had been.  Clearly my aerobic capacity is stronger than I thought it was.  Since there hasn't been a lot going on here and the only real tangible to come out of the first month of training is that I can push harder on the run. [caption id="attachment_7050" align="alignright" width="300"]ironmantexas_training_triathlon_cooktraineatrace Do You Like Pie? I Like The Look Of This Ironman Texas Training Pie![/caption] Mental Strength: I always thought I had the ability to push myself as hard if not harder than the next person.  I have come to the realization that theory was true for training but not on race day.  When race day came around I think I was hesitant because it was about finishing.  This year that changes and with the help of M&J I am going to be racing and no longer satisfied with finishing.  I would also say that experience plays a huge role in this and that is why I believe I am now ready to race the 140.6 distance instead of just being happy with crossing the finish line.  Maria and I have talked at length about goal times for Ironman Texas and I have those numbers plastered everywhere so that every training session has value.  Sharpening the mind is going to be as important as sharpening the body in this training cycle. Outside Triathlon: Last year my focus was Ironman Texas and nothing was going to get in the way.  I think anybody attacking their first 140.6 would say the same thing so I don't feel bad about it but I certainly have learned from it.  It cannot be all things triathlon all the time.  I have re-arranged training sessions to be later in the day if need be.  I have added Bikram Yoga to my training as an active recovery day.  I am being more of a husband than last year and being aware of when training goes to far.  I am also taking notice of when training isn't going right and calling it a day or pushing through.  This is probably the most important aspect of my training cycle so far.  Last year if it was a bad training day and I pushed through it I would be upset all day.  Now if it is to the point that it isn't what it needs to be then I will call the training off.  This means I am more in tune with my body and mind than in the past and this will serve my wife and Chico well.  I am not perfect at this but I am working at it. All in all it has been a very pleasurable month starting out with a new coach and a renewed focus.  Now in 129 days we shall see where we are in the progress report arena and hopefully it will be on full display as I cross the finish line of Ironman Texas.

Are You Racing Ironman Texas This Year?

What Are You Training For And What Grade Do You Give Your Progress To Date?

 
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