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?

Published in Product Reviews
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


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.


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.


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:


[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.)


[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.


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, 24 January 2013 15:56

Swimming: It's What I'm Doing

[caption id="attachment_7157" align="alignright" width="300"]swimming - efficiency - triathlon - ironman Swim start at Ironman Arizona 2012[/caption] Swimming is on my training schedule 4 times per week and I will say when I first saw that I was not thrilled.  I know that swimming is my weakness but to go to the pool 4 times in a week was daunting.  Then something happened along the way and I am falling in 'like' with swimming.  The sets that I am doing are not what I have been doing for the past two years and variety is the spice of life.  For example, today I had a short recovery swim but inside of it there were a couple of descending sets.  In the past descending would have been 4x100 with each 100 getting faster.  The sets today were 6x50 and 6x100 descending every 2 which means that I have to control my pace for 2 sets before getting faster.  I have learned so much about my swimming ability in the past 7 weeks and it has been awesome. Of course when you start something new you begin to notice it everywhere.  With my new 'love' of swimming I began to notice articles and posts from bloggers and in online publications discussing different swimming sets and drills.  They seemed to be popping up everywhere, and it makes sense since this is the winter and logging outdoor bike miles is tough for much of the country.  With that free time pack your bag and head to the pool would be the theory and it is working for me. Maria and John (and I) have an aggressive goal for Ironman Texas and when it was first written down it was daunting.  Taking 15 minutes off of your bike time isn't as imposing because you have 112 miles and when you break that down that is feasible.  Even if it were the run it would be feasible but when it came off the swim the finishing time staring me in the face frightened me.  How in the world am I going to knock of 15 minutes from my swim time?  Swimming is just the warm-up right?  The race doesn't start until the bike right?  Wrong.  As I said about being a triathlete......the race starts when the canon goes off and that means swimming is part of the race. So when I read this article in yesterday it all came together and made sense.  I AM going to knock those minutes off of my finisher's time by swimming 15 minutes faster to start.  Here is the list of the article and how my training mimics the points presented: ====================

Less is More

This is great news for those who would rather be out there biking and running. If swimming is your weakest of the three disciplines, it doesn't pay off to spend several hours each week in the pool and neglecting your other workouts in the process. I am swimming more frequently but not swimming more distance or total time in the pool and that is great for my psyche.  In the past I would regularly have 2-3 days of 3000-4000y swims.  That was exhausting especially because a lot of that was drills and drills take time.  Now the swims are 2000-4000y and all mixed up with little to no rest.  Constant movement makes the time in the pool fly by and the constant change of sets makes it as if you are doing something new every time you go swimming.  For example, this week I had a 1500y continuous swim sandwiched in between much shorter sets.  When that 1500 yards was done I was on the back end of the mountain getting ready to get out of the pool.  It was perfect and made for a great day in the water, even if my overall time on that 1500 yards was a tad slower than I wanted.

Strength and Flexibility

This isn't a brand new strategy. However, it has become more important as workouts and training shift from quantity to quality. With the right strength training program, and a little yoga mixed in, it is much easier to skip the occasional pool workout altogether than it used to be. Strength training is two times per week for me and each day is only 40 minutes and that has 15 minutes of core work intertwined.  I am also doing Bikram Yoga every Friday.  When the core work was added (by the way have you joined our 30 Day Ab Challenge-Core Work on Facebook?) I could immediately see a difference in my swimming.  With the core being stronger my body is more streamlined which means a more efficient body position and that means faster swimming.  The strength is focused on the muscles that we use the most in triathlon BUT each day always has lat pull downs and seated rows.  Why?  To develop stronger back muscles which are your power muscles for swimming.

Wetsuit Technology has Improved

Most of the major wetsuit manufacturers today—Orca, Blue Seventy, 2XU, Zone 3, Speedo and Quintana Roo—offer specialized forearm panels that actually help swimmers produce a stronger pull. Well this doesn't affect me now nor will it during my two Spring races in Puerto Rico an Texas but it is not just wetsuit technology that has improved.  Swim skin technology has improved as well and when I put it on this year having a stronger core will be evident as the swim skin will have an opportunity to do a better job and result in those 15 minutes coming off the board when I exit the water of Lake Woodlands. ==================== I hope these rules of swimming will help remove any fear that you may have as you head into your spring races whether they be a first time sprint or Ironman or your 15th Ironman.  Taking advantage of new techniques will only help you get faster.  

How Often Are You Swimming?

What Tips Can You Share That Can Lead To Faster Swim Times?

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?

Published in Train
Friday, 14 December 2012 14:00

Experience.....It Helps

[caption id="attachment_6895" align="alignright" width="275"]experience_ironman_triathlon Source: Ventiq[/caption] Yesterday a handful of items came across my laptop that got me to thinking about experience in this sport and how it helps.  The first item I saw was in a LinkedIn group discussing the Ironman swim, the second came from Beth's blog about picking out a 70.3 and the last was in a conversation with Maria regarding Ironman Texas and racing. In life we go through our daily activities and once we get accustomed to doing them a certain way it becomes easier to do them, but the first time it is somewhat frightening.  Think about the first time you took the training wheels off of your bike.  You were beyond scared, and so were your parents, that you would fall and hurt yourself.  With experience in riding the bike and figuring out the balancing, braking and turning you got pretty good at riding a bike and now some of you are racing 56 or 112 miles. It's that first time that really freaks us out and then we grow and mature.  We become experienced.  The LinkedIn Group topic referred to the swim and how Ian Thorpe was quoted as saying he felt like he was going to die just before a race.  When we jump into the water at the start of the Ironman that same feeling overcomes a lot of us.  I remember being in the water at The Woodlands thinking:  HOLY SHIT I AM ABOUT TO SWIM 2.4 MILES IN AN IRONMAN.  I was beyond nervous and the only thing that calmed me down was the guy next to me who shouted exactly what I was thinking.  It made me at peace with the swim because I wasn't the only one feeling that way. When Ironman Arizona came around I didn't have any nerves about the swim and was more focused on getting into a rhythm and achieving my goal time.  Michelle said to me that I must have seen the panic on her face and told her to stay with me until the cannon went off.  I don't recall Michelle looking nervous but it must have been there and because of my experience at Texas I was not as nervous as she.  Experience paid off as I just swam and I know when I get into Lake Woodlands in May I will edge closer to the front than I was in my two previous Ironman races. It is the previous experience at Texas that I am banking on helping me get as close to 11 hours as I possibly can and it is also what got me to thinking about Beth's response to my email.  She had posted about doing a 70.3 in 2013 but wasn't sure which one.  I posted that if it made a difference I was going to most likely be racing 70.3 Augusta in September.  She replied to me and said she didn't want to have done the same course twice prior to going all in on the 140.6 distance.  I can respect that as getting experience at a different course will help plenty but for me racing Texas again is about having already been on the course.  When I get to the Woodlands I will know exactly where the hills rise and descend.  I will know where the turns are and how to either push my limits or take it slow.  All of this experience will allow me to race this course as opposed to wanting to finish. When I spoke to Maria yesterday about this topic she whole-heartedly agreed.  Her experience at Lake Placid two years ago is going to benefit her tremendously as she vies for a Kona slot at that same venue in 2013.  Not only will Maria have the experience of having raced there before she trains there a lot and knows the roads inside and out.  This is going to be a tremendous advantage to her in comparison to the other ladies in her age group who have never been there before.  I am going to take this same approach and head down to the Irvin's a few times in the new year so that I can ride the course repeatedly.  Gaining that experience and knowledge is going to be a feather in my cap when that cannon goes off in May. The saying is something about getting wiser as we get older.  In this case getting wiser means gaining more experience.  Getting more experience means going from wanting to finish to racing.  The view I have of the sport is changing in this regard and it is because of the number of Half-Ironman and Ironman distance races I have done.  With each cannon more and more knowledge of my body and of my ability is being gained.  Putting all of this to good use is one way I have learned to avoid the pitfalls of the early morning butterflies and as each races occurs those butterflies will diminish more and more.  

Do You Race The Same Venues Repeatedly?  How Does This Help You?

Published in Train
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.
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