Jason Bahamundi

Jason Bahamundi

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

Monday, 26 January 2015 13:41

Setting Goals. How Do You Do It?

Setting goals is a topic of conversation that takes place constantly in the endurance world. Make one mention about a race you are doing and the first question is: What is your goal? Participating in endurance sports for the past 8 years I have been setting goals constantly but last night I was asked by Karen what my goals were for Rocky Raccoon 100 on Saturday. It caught me by surprise because I only have one goal. Why any person would be setting goals for one race unless those goals are to finish healthy with a time. If you are asking me about setting goals it is typically about a goal time and for that I can see only one time being set and not multiple times. She made mention of A, B and C goals and as hard as I tried I could not come up with A, B and C goals because my brain works like this: A Goal – the only goal I should have. The only goal I should be reaching for. People refer to this as a stretch goal but I do not understand that. Either I have trained for this time or I have not so setting a 'stretch' goal can only lead to two results:

  1. Failure but with a caveat. The person setting the stretch goal can say: Well I fell short of my stretch goal but……. It is sort of safety net against failure.
  2. Failure with lingering consequences. The person setting a stretch goal that they believe they can achieve can be setting themselves up for a mental beating if they do not come close to this number.

B Goal - This seems to be the most realistic goal when it falls into the scheme of setting A, B and C goals. By setting a B goal a person can say that they accomplished something if they hit this goal but again the question is did you train for this number or did you not train for this number. If you did then, again, this is the only goal that you need. C Goal – This is the everybody gets a trophy mentality. I did not hit the first two goals but I have to feel accomplished so set a THIRD goal and if I hit that I can say that I achieved this goal. Huh? What's the point? I am a competitive person and for me there are only two outcomes: Success or Failure. It is very black and white for me when it comes to racing and so I have one goal and one goal only and sometimes it is not a specific goal. For example, at Ironman Chattanooga my goal was to run a sub-4 hour marathon. I set a 53 minute PR at the Ironman distance and that was a great feeling but I failed to reach the 3:59:59 mark for the marathon and thus I did not achieve my goal. This means that I will be working harder than I did in 2014 when I start Ironman Maryland training because once again the goal for that race will be a sub-4 hour marathon. Back to my goal for Rocky Raccoon 100 on Saturday, I have but one goal to achieve. That goal is to run sub-24 hours. I do not care if it is 19:04 or 23:59:59. I have trained my body and mind to break 24 hours and that is the goal. If somebody were to ask me for a second goal it would be to get home by kickoff of the Super Bowl. Nothing else matters beyond breaking 24 hours. If I fail to break that number then I have failed and when I begin training for Coldwater Rumble 100 in 2016 I will have to work harder so that I can be in a position to break 24 hours. As you can tell I do not look at failure as the end all be all, but rather the start. If I buried my head and took my ball and went home every time I failed then I would not even be attempting these races because I have more failures on my belt than successes. Failure gives me the opportunity to asses and analyze my training and make changes that will help me get stronger. For example, when I trained for Lake Martin 100 I did not include any speed work and just trained in Z1-Z2 the entire 18 weeks and despite the conditions managed to finish in 27:53 despite having a sub-24 hour goal. The Rocky Raccoon 100 training incorporated speed work on a weekly basis along with running on trails plus strength and core training. I also added in flexibility and balance work to help me get stronger so that when the going gets tough and it will my body will not breakdown as quickly as it did a year ago. I do not know what the day will bring when the clock counts down at Rocky Raccoon but I can tell you that I will take every step along that course with one goal and one vision in mind. Break 24 hours and not accept anything else.

What Do You Do When Setting Goals?

Thursday, 08 January 2015 10:37

Running Slower Will Make You Faster. Huh?

If you have been involved in endurance sports long enough you have heard the statement that running slower will make you faster about 1,000,000 times. 999,999 times you have ignored that advice but I am here to tell you that you should not ignore this advice. I am also hear to tell you that it is not that straightforward. I think when people here this statement about running slower they believe that all of their training should be done slower and that magically they will get faster. The fact is that you need variation and slow is definitely one of those variations. For the past 1.5 years I have been running slowly so that I can build up my endurance while also teaching my body to burn fat for fuel which in turn allows me to go longer as evidenced by the finish of the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Run amongst other ultras with distances varying from 31 miles to 50 miles. The training plans that I have put together are a mix of slow days, recovery days (not the same as slow days), trail runs and speed work that is not done on a track. In the rest of this blog post I will highlight various points for what I have done and why I think they have benefited me in becoming faster than I was 5 years ago.

Long Runs On Trails

When I decided to run ultra trail runs I knew that it would be imperative to get on the trails so that I could get used to the change in terrain but I did not realize, until recently, the effect that running trails would have on my speed. When you get on the trail and start running you are 'forced' to slow down in comparison to running on the road but what also happens is that you are more engaged with your core, you are strengthening your ankles and simultaneously doing speed work. How are you doing speed work? No trail is just flat. There are a lot of changes in elevation on a trail so you are doing hill work which is speed work in disguise. Along with that change in elevation you are going to be changing speeds and not on a set workout like 4x1 Mile repeats. This change occurs all the time and thus you are bringing in various muscles that you are not typically using on the road.

Speed Work During Your Mid-Week Long Run

Speed work is often thought of as taking yourself to a track and doing a 1 mile warm-up followed by some sort of repeat whether that is 400, 800, 1 mile and then a cool down. This is a terrific way to get faster but I find it unrealistic for trail or road races unless that marathon you are training for is on a track. Changes in the terrain are going to be all over the course that you run so doing speed work in those conditions will enhance your ability to recall those moments during training while you are racing. One of my favorite workouts is an 8 mile run that includes speed work. I start with a 1 mile warm-up where my pace is approximately 2:00/mi slower than the tempo pace I am going to attempt to execute. After that warm-up I head into 3 sets of 3x2:00/2:00 with 0.5 mile recovery. This means that after the first mile warm-up I go for 2:00 at my goal tempo pace, which is 6:45/mi and then 2:00 at a recovery pace. I do this 3 times which will total 10 minutes. Why not 12 minutes? The reason is that last 2:00 recovery is built into the 0.5 mile recovery pace before I do the next set. After 3 sets of this tempo work I cool down until I hit 8 miles. I have a loop that I run that works perfectly for this so I would suggest you have that type of loop and if it is shorter or longer make that adjustment.

Long Runs At Zone 1 / Zone 1.5 At A Consistent Pace

When I say long runs at Z1-Z1.5 I am referring to road runs that are 15-30 miles. My goal on these long runs is to have the fastest mile and the average pace per mile is within 10 to 15 seconds of each other. I do not want to go out and set records at the beginning and then bonk toward the end. I want to run efficient and effortless for the entire time and when I am done to look at the Strava app to see that the Heart Rate graph and Speed graph are flat regardless of change in terrain. This is a mindset and one that takes time to train but once you are able to conquer this thought process you can run 'forever' and being able to run for long periods of time allows you to teach your body to use fat for fuel and that means carrying less fuel which means that you have less weight on you and eventually you will run faster.

My Evidence That This Is Working

Here is the same loop from January 2014 in comparison to January 2015. You may say that the paces are the same but take a look at the suffer score from Strava. These runs were about a year apart at approximately the same time of the day and yet the suffer score is practically 50% less and that translates to having the run take place in Zone 1 versus Zone 2.5+. Being able to run the same pace with less effort will lead to faster times as I do not burn through glycogen as quickly.

running slower - run faster - training January 2015 - Suffer Score 37running slower - run faster - trainingJanuary 2014 - Suffer Score Of 70

 

On New Year's Day I ran a 20k at a pace of 7:31/mile with over 700 feet of elevation gain and my HR never entered into Zone 4. Approximately 50% was in Zone 2 and the other 50% in Zone 3 which is more evidence that running slower I have improved my running efficiency which has led to faster times for me.

Are You A Believer In Running Slower To Get Faster?

Sunday, 25 January 2015 18:12

It's All Mental Now - Rocky Raccoon 100

It's All Mental Now is the phrase that I play repeatedly over and over in my head.  I know what it takes to get through a 100 mile ultra trail race having accomplished the feat in March of 2014 at Lake Martin but experience has taught me that no two races are the same, even on the same course.  This means that over the next 6 days I will be pouring myself into my head and strengthening the one muscle that it will take to cover the course and finish in the time that I have set for myself. The last 15 weeks of training have led to this point and along the way I have been able to accomplish  number of finished I had not expected but am able to put into my mental bag of tricks for when the race gets to the later stages.
Friday, 06 February 2015 12:13

RR100 Cast Of Characters

RR100 was a tremendously successful race for me, read the race report here, but it never unfolds the way it did without a tremendous amount of support from some key figures. This cast of characters was either on-site or very instrumental in helping me reach the finish line in 19:22 or was there during my training and pushing me to get better as each session passed. There are many people to thank so let's get this cast of characters post (poached from Old Stude) started.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - race - ultra trail

Lead Actress: Pit Crew Chief aka Karen What can I say about Karen that I have not already said? She is the rock to my insanity. PERIOD. For those of you that do not know Karen came into my life as I was getting divorced. It was a hard time in my life as everything seemed to be crashing down all around me, but as Karen is apt to do on a daily basis she puts items and life into perspective. For the past 8 years she has been able to get me to see the forest for the trees and for that I am eternally grateful. On race day Karen's job was to make sure that my crew was ready to go when their time was called but to also make sure that I had everything I needed at the transition area to make sure that I did not spend unnecessary minutes looking for things. Each time I came around to finish a loop she would yell what do you need? Hydration vest fill-up, pancake, shirts, shoes, new watch. It did not matter as she was ready and kept me moving. Karen would send text messages to my pacers on Loops 4 and 5 to find out where I was and how I was doing so she could prepare the transition area for exactly that and nothing more. Of course, after I acted like the Tasmanian Devil in the area she would have to clean it back up and get it squared away for the next loop but she never complained about it.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Oh, just a little run through the woods of Huntsville State Park with Jeff[/caption] Lead Actor: Carrot aka Jeff Irvin I 'met' Jeff nearly 6 years ago and we were both getting our feet wet in endurance sports. At the time he was writing a blog as was I and we commented back and forth and from there our friendship took off. Since then I friendship has continued to grow and if it weren't for Jeff I do not think I would be running these long races. Jeff was the person who said: We should run a 100 mile race. I told him he is nuts but I would do the 50 with him. Before I knew it I was signing up for Lake Martin 100 and cursing him ever since but that never stopped me from signing up for RR100 this year or agreeing to race Bandera 100k three weeks prior or come up with ideas of running Coldwater Rumble 100 in January of 2016. We have even discussed running across the Gobi Desert together. Yeah, he ain't right. All of that being said I rely on Jeff for his analytical ability when it comes to gear, especially when it comes to the bike. I am impatient and do not want to review anything so I let him do the research and then just buy whatever he recommends. He got me running in Hokas and come early March I will be riding with power from the Garmin Vector pedals thanks to him. His friendship has been unwavering and invaluable.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - trail - ultra - race - run

A-Train and the misfit triathletes (Carrot, Baha, D-Rog) at IMTX 2013[/caption] Supporting Actress: A-Train aka Annie Annie is Jeff's Leading Actress (wife) and is my second sister. I cannot count the number of times that Annie and I have laughed at all the stupid stuff that her husband gets me into and how I never seem to say no to him at the same time. Simultaneously, Annie has asked me to look after Jeff at the races we do together since he seems to always end up in the Medical Tent or send me text messages when I am not at the race to ask me questions about Jeff. Her ability to laugh at our stupidity while supporting us is amazing and I thank her for allowing me to be a part of these adventures. If you want a glimpse into Annie's mindset about our friendship I will tell you a quick story about the first time we met. Jeff was racing IMTX in 2011 and I volunteered for the race and Jeff decided, without talking to Annie, to offer me his house to stay at in exchange for watching their pugs. When I showed up at their hotel room to get the garage code/key to the house the following conversation took place: Jeff: Hey Annie, can you give Jason the key and garage code to the house. Annie: This makes total sense. I am handing over my house to a guy my husband met on the internet. Jason: Not only that but he is from New York and is Puerto Rican. Jeff: And he has pugs so it is totally fine. To this day we laugh about that conversation and everything that has taken place since then. Supporting Actors:

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run

Ninja and I before the start of the IDB Trail Run[/caption] Ninja aka Greg: If you read my race report then you know that Greg is a veteran of the RR100 race having finished it himself 3 years ago and then pacing every year since then. Ninja is one of the first people I ever ran a trail with. I met up with him at Cedar Ridge Preserve along with Sherrif as I was preparing for RR50 and LM100. When we were running you could tell he had an easy time on the trails as if he was born to run on them. Since that time until today I have found him to be one of the nicest people I have had the fortune to cross paths with. When I asked for pacers he was the first to respond that he was in and then took the impetus to ask if we all needed to sit down for dinner to discuss strategy. His confidence was very reassuring in the days leading up to the race and then when we were out on the course. The fact that he was open to a Bro Hug after the race was over was just icing on the cake.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Gorilla aka Jeff Bennett: This dude is my kind of crazy. There is not a challenge that has been presented to him that he has run away from. A Marine and a Kona qualifier how has ridden bike on the Tour De France course, run the Boston Marathon in a Gorilla suit, canoed for 61 hours straight and won the Burro race multiple times proves that statement to be true. Jeff was the first person I texted when Lake Martin 100 was over as we were heading back to Texas from Alabama. My message to him was: Consider this your first recruitment letter for RR100. Having paced our friend Raul at Leadville 100 and all of his experience in endurance sports plus his good-natured wit I knew I needed him on the team for the 1st part of Loop 5. It was going to get dark mentally at this point and having him draw stories from all his exploits would be the panacea to this mental downturns. It turned out to be true when Korean Charmin became the topic of choice after the Nature Center Aid Station. More on Korean Charmin in the Outtakes Post that is coming out next week.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail race

Sherrif, Old Stude aka John: I met John through the Wade 70%'ers group I started hanging out and training with in preparation for Ironman Arizona. Since that point, I would say that Sherrif has become one of my biggest inspirations and a person I respect immensely. His nickname Old Stude is not unwarranted as the dude is old but he does not let that stop him from getting better at these events. I look up to John as he does not allow anything to get in the way of him reaching his goals. Being tough regardless of circumstance is something I admire in people and Sherrif has that, but he is also the first person to lend a hand, slap you on the back and congratulate you. He is also not somebody who ACTS tough as evidenced by his finish at Ironman Chattanooga and the look of disbelief that came through his tears. John's ability to push himself inspires me to push myself and I cannot thank him enough for that. The Extras: There are so many other people who were involved in the training of this event that this would go on forever but here are a few: Lee who was willing to run the trails with me every chance he got and I appreciate him for joining me on those early weekend runs through the North Shore Trails of Lake Grapevine. Dog Bait - John was not around a lot but that is because he is retired and can go gallivant around but his message just before the race was beyond supportive and I replayed it over in my mind as the race went on.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Drum - Michelle is a fierce of a competitor as you will find but would not know it because there is always a smile on her face.  Through Strava and text messages she sent enormous amounts of support and confidence building encouragement.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run

Goat - Jeff has never met a stranger and is always prepared with a positive word(s) to help you through anything.  His ability to tell me that I am crazy but say it in a good way gave me one good laugh after another not to mention the Peanut M&Ms as fuel before Loop 5.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Train Wreck - Marc travels a long ways to come and hang out with our group for training rides and races.  He is willing to help anybody out and when I finally went to run with him in his neck of the woods he returned that by buying me breakfast.  Just the kind of guy that he is.

]rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run 

 

The RR100 Cast of Characters That Helped Me Reach 19:22

Thank You.

   

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:29

2015 Bandera 100k Race Report

2015 Bandera 100k Ultra Trail Race will not be an event I will forget for a very long time.  When Jeff mentioned that we should do this race as a great way to end the peak weeks of training for Rocky Raccoon 100 I thought it was a great idea.  When you are running 85-90 miles per week the more races you can involve the better as it takes away the monotony of running on your own, plus it allows you to test pacing and nutrition strategy. As race day neared I started to worry about the effects of running on such a difficult course would be on my legs.  I worried about injury and getting sick as the forecast was not a pretty one.  On race day all of these went away except for keeping true to my only two goals for Bandera 100k.

  • Goal 1: Stay vertical.  Do not take chances to avoid falling and what could lead to injury.
  • Goal 2: Finish under 16 hours and get yourself a lottery ticket to Western States 100.

How did the day go?  What are my thoughts on the race organization, the course, the volunteers and everything in between?  Let's find out.

Friday January 9th - The Day Before Bandera 100k

On Friday I drove 5 hours from my home in Dallas to the Flying J Ranch where Jeff had booked us a room.  On my way down he texted me that he upgraded our room to one that had a kitchen and a laundry room.  Little did we know how important that laundry room would be. When I got to the hotel and brought my bags in Jeff and I went to grab a bite to eat and then over to the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up.  While at packet pick-up we met two athletes that had run Bandera 100k the previous year and they were able to answer the three questions we had.

  1. Q: What time should we show up?  A: Get here prior to 6am so you get a close parking space and not dealing with lines.
  2. Q: How hard is it to pick up drop bags? A: Crossroads drop bag can be picked up as you are leaving the park.
  3. Q: Are there any sections on the trail that you can run? A: Yes, middle 20 for sure. First 5 tough as well as last 5.

After hearing that information we set out to eat dinner.  Keeping to the program of eating like a King for breakfast, a Prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner I decided to have a greek salad and fried pickles.  After having a bowl of fruit before bed I was set.

Saturday January 10th - Bandera 100k Race Day

4:30am wake-up call.  Breakfast of coffee, toast with peanut butter and sliced banana and it was off to the race site. I decided that I did not need drop bags on the course and just packed a bag for the start/finish line.  In that bag I had a pair of fresh shoes to change into along with a full change of clothes.  Jeff and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would make a full change of our upper body clothes regardless of how good/warm we felt.

Loop 1 - The First 31

When we lined up I repeated my 2 goals in my head as the clock was counting down.  Having Jeff with me and running into training partner Troy at the start helped to calm me down to just run and not 'race.'  Once we started moving the nerves left and it was time to execute the plan of start slow and then go slower.  We ran with all of the 100k participants for the first 5 miles which included a section that is vertical and one athlete slipping on the ice and falling backwards into Jeff who blocked him while I grabbed the front of his shirt.  I made a mental note to make sure to be careful at that spot when I came around for Loop 2. When we reached the Nachos aid station things started to clear up in terms of athletes.  The spreading out started to take place and we could start to run.  This is also the first time on the course where the sotol is not tearing you up.  The sotol cactus hurts as it pulls your skin when you run through it.  There is no avoiding the cactus so you have to suck it up and get through it as best you can. [caption id="attachment_9797" align="alignright" width="600"]bandera 100k - race report - ultra trail run Bandera 100k Course Profile[/caption] Jeff and I stuck together through the sections from Nachos to the Cross Roads Aid station and then when reached Mile 20 he mentioned to me that I could go ahead if I wanted to secure a good time because I was able to descend really well.  I told him that if I get the itch then I would go ahead.  When we hit the last mile before getting to the Cross Roads Aid station a second time I was in heaven.  I latched onto Troy's hip and we descended that last mile at a very fast pace and I was loving it.  I had a huge smile on my face and when we hit the aid station Troy and I were laughing that we were actually able to run.  I waited around for Jeff and Troy took off.  After Jeff came into the aid station we headed out and this time after about a mile I kept running and was now on my own. I kept repeating my race strategy which was to run the flats, walk the hills and cascade gracefully down the descents.  I could feel that my legs were strong and I just kept on plugging until I reached the Last Chance aid station where I grabbed a couple of Oreos and moves on. In the last 5 miles from Last Chance to the Lodge I came upon an athlete that was walking and seemed to be walking gingerly.  When I caught up to him we were chatting and he told me that he fell at the 11km mark and probably broke a rib.  When I asked if he was going to stop at the turn around he said that he would because he was having trouble breathing and could feel the rib floating.  I was in awe that this guy went past all the aid stations between the 11km mark and what was now about the his 45k mark and still moving.  Tough. Tough. Tough. When I got to the Lodge I stuck to the plan of making a full upper body change so I swapped out my wet and sweaty tops for dry tops and it felt great.  When I took off the Hoka OneOne Mafate and put on the Hoka OneOne Stinson Trail shoe it felt even better.  My feet felt light and I was ready to run.  I opened a foil packed with a FlapJacked pancake and ate it as I set out for Loop 2. [caption id="attachment_9805" align="aligncenter" width="172"]bandera 100k - ultra trail race - runner - race report Check out the mud on my shoes at the end of Loop 1[/caption]

Loop 2 - The Second 31

As I started running I could feel how light I felt.  My hydration pack felt lighter which told me that I would need to fill up at some point because being out on those trails without liquid would not be a good idea.  My feet felt great and it seemed as if the mud was not sticking as much to the Stinson as the Mafate.  The best feeling though was the fact that I was dry. During the first part of Loop 2 I kept repeating to myself that I needed to race the daylight.  I am not a fan of wearing a headlamp and with the trail being difficult and my first time on it I wanted to get as far into the loop as I could before having to wear the headlamp. [caption id="attachment_9806" align="alignright" width="199"]Bandera 100k - ultra trail race - race report Middle of Loop 2 - Notice how clean my shoes look now[/caption] It was at this point that I made the decision that aid stations were pit stops and not an opportunity to strike up conversation.  My goal was to stop at the aid station and down two cups of coke and grab two Oreos to eat as I walked.  When I hit Nachos there were about 10-15 athletes hanging around and I went right past them following my plan.  Relentless Forward Motion was the name of the game at this point. As I came upon hills that were not steep I made the decision to run them as opposed to walking them because at this point I have nothing to conserve my energy for.  I ran the flats, the uphills and descended and I felt myself getting strong.  Reaching Chapas I followed the aid station plan and kept moving. When I hit Cross Roads the first time on Loop 2 I refilled my hydration pack as well as the two Oreos and Coke and then kept on going because I knew in this section there were some steep climbs as well as the fun descent that I wanted to hit in the daylight.  I was fortunate enough to do so and when I got to Cross Roads the second time I grabbed a cup of coffee because the sun was setting and I could feel that I was getting cold when I left aid stations due to their warmth inside the tents. As I left Cross Roads I was only focused on getting to Last Chance.  4.2 miles and nothing else mattered.  During this section I came upon Ted who was Bib# 333 and I stuck to his tail as much as I could.  Eventually Ted and I ran into two other athletes and we all ran as pack for a while.  After about 1 mile one of the athletes pulled over to use nature's restroom and we kept going.  When we reached Last Chance I could tell that we were covering quite a bit of ground at a decent pace and yet my legs still felt very strong.  When we left we ran into another athlete but it was not long before it was just Ted and I. After having run 5-6 miles together we finally decided to chat.  As I found out Ted lives in Austin and is from Zimbabwe.  What a great conversation and what a great way to kill the last 4.7 miles.  At one point I told Ted that when we hit the field he did not have to worry about out sprinting me because my only goal was sub-16 and injury free.  His response was: the podium is all yours.  We had a good laugh. Ted and I were clicking off the miles and passing a few runners when I told him that I thought we were finally done passing other athletes and this was with about 1.25 miles to go.  Sure enough within minutes a head lamp appeared from behind us and I remember hearing Ted say something along the lines of: somebody caught us. That was all I needed to hear and for whatever reason I took off like a jack rabbit.  I began descending as if it were a perfectly gorgeous 55* day out with the sun shining.  Except it was below 32*, raining and muddy beyond belief.  When I finally stopped descending and realized I had smashed my toe and knew I was within 0.25 miles of the finish line I had thought I would stop running and coast in.  My legs had a different idea and I kept running.  In fact I ran so much and so hard that I wound up being that dude that passes people as they get close to the finish line.  I apologize to the two ladies I passed but my legs were moving without my control it seemed. As I crossed the finish line I looked at the clock and saw 12:52.  Not only did I eclipse 16 hours and earn a ticket into the Western States Lottery but I also beat the 14 hour goal and was now below 13 hours as well.  WHAT?!?!?! [caption id="attachment_9795" align="alignright" width="300"]bandera 100k - ultra trail runner - race report USATF 100k National Championships[/caption] The official from USATF asked if I was in the Championships and before I knew it he was handing me a medal as well as getting a belt buckle from Joe the Race Director.  I walked into the lodge area to get my gear as I was expecting to go to the car and change and then come back to get Jeff when I realized he was standing in front of me.  When I asked how he managed to close so  fast he told me that he crushed his ankle and was driven to the finish line.  I was bummed because our number one goal to stay injury free was not accomplished by Jeff.  We walked back to the car and got changed when I saw the back of the USATF medal and it showed 3rd Place M40-49.  WHAT?!?!?!?! Two days later I am still shocked by the race I had.  It was nothing I expected but I am very happy with the outcome.  More importantly I ran this morning and my legs feel pretty good.  In addition to that Jeff says his ankle is feeling much better and he thinks he will be more than ready for Rocky Raccoon 100 on January 31st.

Thank You

Thank you to Joe for putting on a wonderful race.  Thank you to all the volunteers who braved miserable conditions to support us.  Thank you to all the athletes for lining up to run and making this an experience I will never forget.  Thank you to my wife and stepson for their never-ending support of my dumb ideas.

 In-Race nutrition is a topic that seems to live a life of its own when it comes to endurance sports and I think it is because everybody is looking for the simple answer. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to in-race nutrition. This process is a set of trials and errors while you are training and then again during competition. We have all read about testing out products during training but based on the number of posts on social media that I see regarding in-race nutrition it seems that nobody is taking that to heart. This blog post is not going to give you all the answers because what I do will be and should be different from what you do. What this blog post will do is give you an idea of how my in-race nutrition has changed over the years as I have tested and tested and tested some more. When I started training for endurance events back in 2006 I had zero idea as to what was right, wrong, better, worse or even how or if I should do it. I ran my first half-marathon on nothing and by the time I reached mile 8 I was cooked. Legs were not operating properly and I was dehydrated. What were those tables along the course for anyway? Now I know. Once in-race nutrition became a part of the process I started where everybody else does. GUs. I was ripping those packages apart with my teeth and squeezing this molasses like liquid down my throat because……well because everybody else was doing it. I was consuming gels at a rate of 200 calories (2 packets) per hour. It seemed to work but always inquisitive I started researching how to be better, especially as I entered the world of triathlon. Having to fuel for 3 sports certainly would be different from 1 sport. Considering that one of the three sports takes place in the water where you do not have the chance to take in calories this certainly would require a different approach. Similar to how I started with running I followed what other people were doing. I was consuming GUs and then adding in solids in the form of Honey Stingers. On the bike I was taking in close to 300 calories per hour since I was worried that I would bonk on the run had I not had all these calories. As I entered the world of Ironman I was even more nervous about bonking and when you throw in the fact that my first Ironman was taking place in Texas where the temperature would be in the 90s and the Heat Index over 100* then it was imperative that I have a ton of calories in my system……or so I thought. I was so concerned about taking in enough calories that I wound up throwing up on the bike because my stomach was so bloated and I could not take in any more calories or liquids. After that first Ironman was behind me I knew I had to make a change. I started by getting rid of the solids. I would take in all my calories from liquids. This made life easier as there were no packages to mess with while riding and that wound up making my bike lighter as well. I would pour the powder into my water bottles until I had 250 calories per hour. This was the status quo and I followed it. Again, my fear of bonking gave me the idea that I would need this many calories. Everything seemed to be on the right track because I was not bonking and having some success at the longer races. Enter the idea of a 50 mile trail race and then even bigger with a 100 mile trail race. Training was going to be different. Nutrition was going to be different. I had to test new methods for calorie intake because I was going from a 12 hour race to a 24 hour race. Two completely different worlds. Along the way I started reading about fat adaptation and how to use fat for fuel. We have 2,000 calories in our livers from glycogen that we have grown to rely upon but there are vastly more amount of fat that we have stored that we can use for fuel. The problem is that it takes more energy to convert that fat into fuel UNLESS you have trained for it. As I embarked on these long runs I began to carry less and fewer calories in my hydration pack. On runs shorter than 1.5 hours I carried nothing but water if I carried anything at all. I was going into fat utilizing mode and it was working. I have managed to become an internal combustion machine to the point that I am now filling my hydration pack or water bottles with approximately 180 calories per hour but my intake is approximately 150-180 cal/hr. I say approximately because during long runs I am filling the hydration pack before it is empty with nothing but water and when I get back to my destination there is still liquid, and thus calories, in the pack. Long rides are no different in that I will have liquid/calories left over when the ride is over. It has taken me a number of years to get to this point but I believe that is the point. You cannot pull up an article on the internet and follow it blindly. You have to test and then re-test because each season brings different conditions. In Texas where the summer temps easily reach into triple digits the need for liquids is higher than in the winter where the temps hover around the high-30s. To give you an example of this, yesterday I ran what was supposed to be a 20k trail race. Due to inclement weather it was changed to a road race and the distance wound up at 11.35 miles. Two hours prior to the race I had a normal pre-race meal of toast with peanut butter and bananas with coffee. At the event I took two sips of water with Nuun and then the gun went off. I did not carry a water bottle as there would be aid stations on the course and if I needed something I would grab water. I would have no need for calories as my body had enough stored to last what I was predicting to be a 1 hour and 40 minute race. I wound up not taking in a single drop of water or a single calorie and finished the 11.35 miles in 1:25:12 to finish first overall (thanks to the athlete who finished third because he took a wrong turn.) Prior to working on burning fat I probably would have carried a hand-held with 150 calories in it and drank it all. Today, that is just not necessary. When I see people asking questions about in-race nutrition I tend to give them a general answer as everybody is different but unfortunately that is not what they are looking for. It is no different when somebody posts that anybody, and everybody, should be taking in 250 cal/hr minimum. Today, if I tried that method I would not only throw-up but I would be so bloated and uncomfortable. I am not saying that you should not take in any nutrition or keep it minimal but what I am saying is that you should test yourself, routinely, to see what it is you need and be precise about it. Know your sweat rate for all different conditions and be prepared to test again and again when the new season approaches. Try different nutritional products and not for just one ride or one run, but for an extended period of time to see if it does or does not work for you. There will be some guess-work on in-race nutrition but the more you test and identify needs and wants the better you will become and the less you will be guessing as to what you need or how much you need. Going from one sport to the other, or one distance to another, should not be a problem as you will know what the in-race nutrition needs of your body are. You will be able to make adjustments and successfully navigate training and competition with as little guess-work as necessary.

If You Have Any Questions About My In-Race Nutrition Feel Free To Leave A Comment.

Practice makes perfect. We have all heard this before and it may be true in some pursuits but it is not true when it comes to racing endurance sports. There are so many factors in play that unless the circumstances are exactly the same during your training and on race day you will never be able to 'practice' what it is going to be like on race day. That being said, you can put yourself into environments that closely resemble race day conditions and be as prepared as you can possibly be when the race you dreamed of unfolds into the nightmare you hoped against.

During the past 9 weeks of training for Rocky Raccoon 100 on January 31st, I have put myself into scenarios that will mimic race day as much as possible. I have started my runs at 4:30am when I can barely open my eyes. I have run the trails much harder than I should have on days prior to races so that on race day I was running on exhausted legs. I have added hill work to the end of every run so that I can develop the leg strength needed to get through those last few dozen grueling miles.

All of these things and others have been a tremendous practice but it will not make my race perfect but it certainly has helped. In the past month I have raced a 50k trail race and a 55k trail race. Finishing times were very close despite the difference in the mileage being 3 miles. At an average pace of 10:00 per mile that is 30 minutes, but the reality is that the difference was 9 minutes.

Why was the difference so close and not as long as one would expect? Here are three reasons why:

  1. Pacing. When I ran the 50k at Rockledge Rumble my final pace was 10:45 per mile but in the first half of that race I was pushing the pace at 9:30 per mile.
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 12:56

How Do You Do It? A Question I Get Quite Often

This simple question was asked of me twice in the past week and I answered quite simply as well: Because I love it. Truth be told it is far more complicated than that but in reality it is also that simple. I do the things I do because I love them. I do not have the time or patience to do things just because. When I put my training plan together I do so with a purpose. Each run during ultra training has a meaning whether that is recovery, tempo, trail or just long. Every swim, bike and run session during Ironman training has a reason. The idea of junk miles just bothers me and so I study and analyze the training and figure out what worked and what didn't.  If it worked I keep it in the plan but if I felt that it was nothing more than filler I drop it and fill that space with something I think will work. Obviously I do not just pull training sessions out of thin air so that means that I spend time reading.  Lots of reading.  Reading about training, recovery, nutrition and more all plays a part in how I do it.  I make every attempt to leave nothing to chance but also know that I cannot control everything from beginning to end and somethings will just happen regardless of how well I have planned. Back to the question that was asked and the answer I gave initially became a long conversation about my training and how they could not do it and that there was a difference.  The next question was:  I see your training and I see you working hard but what are you doing when you are not out here training with us?  That was sort of the key question to the getting to the answer of How Do You Do It? Here is the answer I gave him and maybe it can help you tackle your next training cycle for an upcoming race:

  • Understand the goals that you have laid out in front of you. This means that you must make an honest evaluation of yourself and your capabilities.  When I started racing Ironman I thought that I could be fast enough to qualify for Kona.  After the first race I was certain that I could get there because I just finished in 12 hours.  Two more races with finishes around the 12 hour mark proved to me that getting to Kona was not going to be as easy as just showing up.  For Ironman Chattanooga I wanted to PR and if that meant that I finished in 11:52 then so be it but it would be a PR.  This made a huge difference as the stress of having to go fast was removed.  I punished myself during 13 weeks of training and when I crossed the finish line in 11:00:50 in complete shock I realized that the work I put in was setup to establish the realistic goal of setting an Ironman PR.
  • Train properly according to your schedule. We all look at our schedule and see the upcoming session and get ready then head out the door.  The plan may call for an easy 5 miles but you start running and before you know it you are dropping paces only seen during a 5k race.  You are thrilled and you let everybody know by posting your Garmin watch to ALL of your social media platforms.  The next morning you go out for that 10 mile run that includes 4x1 Mile repeats and it feels as if you are running in quick sand.  The problem?  Your easy day was too hard and now that the key hard day is here you cannot perform.  Remember that easy days are easy and hard days are hard.  Stick to that and you can get through the training plan with little to no issue.
  • Proper Nutrition AND Rest AND Sleep.  I cannot stress this enough but this is just as important as nailing that track workout on your schedule. Two quotes that have stuck with me over the years are:
    1. Stress Is Stress.  This comes from my previous coach Maria Simone of No Limits Endurance.  When Maria and I would have our weekly chats in the lead-up to Ironman Texas 2013 I would scoff at this notion but the statement stuck with me and when I feel the stress coming on I focus even harder on eating properly as opposed to turning to Twix and Oreos.  I also will go to sleep at 8pm because I know that my personality is becoming more abrasive than normal and if I am not going to sleep early I am sitting on the couch without electronic devices and just staying in the here and now.
    2. Can You Fill A Car With Half The Amount Of Energy Needed To Travel A Certain Distance And Still Expect To Get There?  Essentially what this question is asking is do you expect to perform at the top of your game if your body is not filled with the energy it needs to get there.  If you do not sleep enough you will not have the energy.  If you do not properly fuel and hydrate your body you will not have the energy.  I am not saying that you cannot have a slice of chocolate cake but I am saying that you cannot have the whole cake and expect to perform at your best.
  • Pay attention to your gear. Your gear will experience wear and tear over time and will not perform in the way it was intended.  What typically happens from there is that we adjust ourselves, rather than our gear, and before long there is a twinge in your calf or a pinch in your hip.  Start by checking your shoes for wear and tear or go for a bike fit.  A millimeter here or a millimeter there can make all the difference.  I use Strava as well as Google Docs to keep track of the miles on my running shoes.  If I feel anything in my legs as I am running I immediately look at the shoe as well as the data on how many miles I have in them.  If the bottom of the shoe looks good then I pull out the insoles and replace it because that will degrade over time faster than the outsole of the shoe.

As you can see it is a bit more than the original answer of I Love It, but each of these pieces and parts allow me to love it.  By paying attention to the little things I can go out and accomplish the big things like Ironman and 100 Mile Ultra Trail runs.

Do You Have Any Tips And Tricks To How You Do It?

Last week I read a post on Facebook that mentioned that World Triathlon Corporation should require a 70.3 finish before allowing an athlete to start a 140.6 race. On the surface this seems to make sense but the more I thought about it the more I disagreed with this idea. The statement was made based on the safety of the athlete at the 140.6 distance as it seemed that a lot of people were not prepared for the race of this distance.  While I am in full agreement that it seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry is getting into the sport to just tick a box and say that they finished the distance, I do not begrudge those that just want to race one time and that is all. I get it, triathlon and specifically the 140.6 distance is not for everybody. That being said taking the approach that I just 'need to get through it' is what causes issues on the course for those that are racing the event. In addition to that it is just not safe to take the laissez-faire attitude of a finish is a finish and not train for the event. Again, on the surface the thought process makes sense but for practical reasons this is not truly enforceable. Why? Here are my reasons: • The 70.3 race and the 140.6 race are completely different animals. At a WTC event the 70.3 race is started based on age-groups. This means that you may have up to 400 athletes starting at the same time. At the 140.6 distance, in many of the WTC races, there are 2000-2800 athletes all starting at the same time. The anxiety difference is immense. As an athlete who has started and finished five(5) 70.3 events and four(4) 140.6 events I can tell you that I have no anxiety in the 70.3 event but have been a wreck at the longer distance. • An 'accomplished' athlete may not need or want to race the shorter distance and thus would be eliminated from racing the 140.6 event. Take me for example. I have not raced a Half-Ironman since Puerto Rico in March of 2013 and have no plans on racing one in 2015 either. That means that it will have been two full calendar years PLUS since the last time I raced a 70.3 event and would be forced to race one if this 'rule' were to be enacted.  In my mind having to race a 70.3 can lead to the potential for injury. I have set up my race calendar in 2014 and again in 2015 to have a 100 mile ultra trail race at the start of the year and an Ironman at the end of the year. The 100 Mile race will take approximately one month to recover from and then asking me to jump into a training program to be successful at a 70.3 doesn't add up. If you say that I can just add it to the 140.6 training cycle I will disagree with you. To me, the notion of build/taper/race/recover in the middle of the Ironman training cycle does not add up. I would rather focus for 13 straight weeks with intense training that has the proper recovery built-in than to have to go through the race process for a race that is not important to me. • Who will be in charge of monitoring the 70.3 finishes? For example, if you race a Challenge Family event as a tune-up for a WTC event who manages that? USAT? The organization running the event? If so, couldn't WTC include a provision that states that the qualifying 70.3 has to be one of their events and couldn't Challenge Family do the same? If the race organizations agree that it is ok to have the qualifying race be from another organization then would it not make sense that the 140.6 organization would have to do additional work to confirm that finish meaning a chance for higher entry fees now that there is a process in place to confirm the finish? Are we prepared for the increase in fees for 140.6 events? • Speaking of increased fees. Requiring the 70.3 finish means that the athlete has to be prepared to pay $350 for the race plus additional travel fees, taking time off from work and then paying for another 1 day USAT license if they are not paying for the year. All of this makes an expensive sport all the more expensive and yet there is still no way to prove that finishing a 70.3 is a predictor of success at the 140.6 distance. If there were a direct correlation between the two distances maybe, MAYBE having the finish as a requirement makes sense but to me they are two different races.  In the past year WTC has taken steps to make their events safer for the athletes with rolling swim starts or seeded swim starts.  They have also taken precautions on race day from unforeseen circumstances such as what happened at Ironman Lake Tahoe and Ironman Florida. I believe that there will continue to be changes to the sport as it continues to grow in popularity but I do not think that creating qualifiers that do not have the potential to predict safety or race results is the answer.

What Do You Think About Having A 70.3 Finish As A Qualifier To Start A 140.6 Event?

Wednesday, 08 October 2014 06:55

Triathlon Periodization Training Works For Me

Triathlon periodization traning for Ironman Chattanooga was going to be an experiment on n=1. The reason I phrase it that way is that I was not in a control group, nor were there other examples of triathletes doing the type of training I set out for myself back in June. I did not have a clue as to what would unfold but I did know one thing. I knew that I was burnt out on triathlon. Having trained for and completed 3 Ironman distance races over the course of 12 months I could not take another 6 to 8 month training cycle. It was too much, and while I wanted to be the best I could be on race day I was not going to drive my body and mind into the ground over that long of a period of time. Approximately two years ago my buddies Jeff and Kevin trained 'together' from Texas and Michigan in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Jeff and I then took that training plan and adjusted it for the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Trail run. Knowing that I did not want to subject myself, or my family, through months of training I adapted that training plans concepts to triathlon with the goal of being ready, fresh and mentally prepared for Ironman Chattanooga. What took place over the 13 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper has led me to believe that this type of triathlon periodization training is the way to go for me. In addition to not wanting to run myself into the ground over a long period of time I wanted to also focus on the sport I was training for. In my past training cycles I approached it as a triathlete but this time would be different. The triathlon periodization training was to allow me to be a swimmer during a week, a cyclist during a week and a runner during a week. Just as important as those weeks were it was going to be imperative that I become a couch potato in the all important recovery week. [caption id="attachment_9700" align="alignright" width="300"]ironmant periodization training - swim - bike - run Lots of Miles On The Bike[/caption] Triathlon Periodization Training Overview The triathlon periodization training lays out as follows: Week 1: Large bike focus with weekends being the two days that push your mind, body and soul with a long ride on Saturday and a Triple Brick on Sunday. Week 2: Large swim focus with as many open water swims as I could get in but when in the pool focusing on form one or two days and then speed the other days. Week 3: Large run focus with a 20+ mile run on Saturday followed by a mid-teens run on Sunday that also has a recovery swim and bike in it. Week 4: Recovery week. All workouts are to be Z1-Z2 and allow the body to repair. Triathlon Periodization – Cycling Since Ironman Texas 2013 ended I knew that I was going to have to figure out a way to get faster on the bike without compromising my running ability. The idea was to ride as much as I could in one week using the trainer during the week and then getting outside for long rides with the group and then triple bricks the following day on my own. Learning to stay within myself on those long rides was key to being able to push it during the triple brick and having the ability to run on what would not be just tired legs, but exhausted legs. In case you are wondering, a triple brick consists of three brick cycles of bike and run. For me, the triple brick consisted of a 20 mile ride followed by a 4 mile run. I usually did this after having swum a mile in the open water with our group. That open water swim was a great way to get the body warmed up and ready to tackle the triple. I can say that doing a triple after a Saturday ride of 60 or 80 miles is not horrible. Doing it the day after a 120 mile ride is downright torture but I learned so much about staying within myself and running with soreness and tiredness in my legs. What I discovered after the 4th triple brick of this triathlon periodization training was that I could not only run a particular pace for the first portion of the brick but also on the last portion and everything in between. My legs were getting stronger from all the cycling as well as developing an aerobic capacity to go longer. My peak weeks of cycling were in the 250+ mile range while the off weeks were around 100 miles. These peak weeks of cycling were also the weeks where I trained the most in terms of hours with training totaling approximately 20 hours during those weeks. The beauty of this setup is that you have only one 20 hour week once a month and not for an entire month like overload weeks tend to be during traditional Ironman training cycles. Triathlon Periodization – Running While reviewing my goals for Ironman Chattanooga I knew that I was going to have to put in run work to achieve them. I set out to run a sub-4 hour Ironman marathon. Having come close the three times before I knew that this could be accomplished especially with the run base I had acquired during Lake Martin 100 training. My ability to run for a long period of time at a constant pace and heart rate was already established, but what I needed to work on was doing that type of run after having been on a bike for 6 hours and expended energy without replenishing nutrition during a one hour plus swim. What I learned during the Lake Martin training was that nutrition timing was more important than I had realized prior to embarking on that journey. I knew that I had to take in calories but timing it was important so during the runs I had scheduled of 20+ miles during those run heavy weeks I focused more on the calories I was taking in than pace. The priority was calories, heart rate and then pace and the reason for that was because if I was not fueling properly then my heart rate would spike and cause me to slow down thus reducing pace. While long runs were a large portion of the mileage I put in, there was also a focus on speed. I scheduled mile repeats as well as hill work (not nearly enough as it turned out) into my training cycle. The run heavy weeks were going to make or break me, much like when you hit Mile 17 of the Ironman marathon. I was going to be prepared for that moment when the mind wants to quit and I was not going to allow that. Getting up at 4:30am to get in a 10 mile run prior to work and then either running another 4-5 miles at lunch or working all day to come home and finish off those 4-5 miles will put you in the hurt zone mentally but it is very important to learn how to deal with that as it will happen during the Ironman marathon. My heaviest run weeks totaled 65-70 miles while the other weeks were in the 25 mile range. The hours spent during those run heavy weeks were approximately 15 hours. [caption id="attachment_9702" align="alignright" width="285"]ironman periodization training - swim - bike - run - triathlon That Other Is Transitions At Ironman Chattanooga[/caption] Triathlon Periodization – Swimming My goal for the triathlon periodization training during swim weeks was to learn to deal with my anxiety of the open water swim. This meant that I would be heading to the lake as often as possible. Prior to each of the Ironman races there were nerves, but Ironman Texas 2013 proved to be the worst. I had so much anxiety that I practically froze in the water when the canon went off and wound up exiting the swim with a time of 1:48. This put me behind mentally because I was now chasing a goal time instead of letting it chase me. My goal was to finish off these swim focused weeks feeling like Michael Phelps (without the alcohol and pot) and knowing that I was getting stronger. The thought process was that if I felt stronger in the water, then the confidence to swim in the open water would be there. I learned along the way that swimming is not a sport that you can muscle through but instead must be form focused to get the most out of your time, similar to golf. I scheduled weeks were I would swim 20,000 yards. There were days of 5,000 yards in which I would swim 2,500 yards in the morning and then either head to the lake for a 1+ mile swim or another 2,500 yards in the pool after work. The smell of chlorine permeated everything those weeks and I was as shriveled up as a raisin by the time Sunday rolled around but it was well worth it in the end. The Ironman Chattanooga swim is point to point and downstream which worked in my favor but all throughout the swim I would take inventory of my arms (using the railroad track technique), my head placement and where my hips were. Had I not spent so much time in the water during the swim heavy weeks and being exhausted during those weeks from being in the water so much I may not have known what proper technique was and how to adjust and fix any imperfections I was noticing. The heaviest swim weeks finished with between 18,000 and 21,000 yards. The off weeks totaled anywhere between 4,000 and 7,000 yards. The time spent in those heavy weeks was 14-15 hours. Triathlon Periodization – Recovery These weeks were probably the most important of them all. I viewed these weeks as if they were taper weeks where the body would mend, the mind would recover and time away from the sport would re-invigorate my desire to chase the miles. While the hours spent (anywhere between 10 and 13 hours total) may seem like a lot they were mostly spent early in the morning when the sun was still sleeping except for a few Saturday's where getting up early did not matter but rather sleeping in was the focus. The ability to spend time with family and friends, get away from the sport and focus on other tasks allowed for a rekindling of the Ironman finish line and training desire. It cannot be said enough but these weeks were heaven-sent. Triathlon Periodization – Conclusion As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was an experiment of n=1. As a matter of fact, if asked, I would not recommend this type of training to anybody who is just starting out. I would still encourage them to seek out a coach who will be able to help them structure a training plan that is complimentary of their talents and goals. This type of triathlon periodization training I would suggest to those that have completed one, if not more, 140.6 races. In addition to that if you have trained for and successfully completed a 50 mile or 100 mile ultra trail run then this type of training would not be uncommon to you and could work very well for you in terms of accomplishing the goal of crossing the finish line of a 140.6 mile race. If you have any questions about my training for Ironman Chattanooga please feel free to leave the question in the comment. And if you ask me will I use this again for my next Ironman race the answer is that the training plan has already been created.

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