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!

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

Physical:  Should They Be Required

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

Physicals Would Eliminate The One-Timers?

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

My Thoughts On Physicals And Triathlons

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

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

Published in Race
Monday, 25 February 2013 13:05

Body Fat - My Story Of Losing It

Body Fat Percentage has been on the tips of other blog writers finger tips for a couple of weeks now and I wanted to take some time to tell my story about body fat percentage.  I could take you back to when I weighed 175 pounds and was not in any shape other than round but for the purpose of this post my body fat percentage story will start on November 19, 2012. [caption id="attachment_6749" align="alignright" width="300"]about me - ironman arizona - triathlon - recovery meal - body fat percentage Recovery Breakfast The Day After Ironman Arizona 2012 Not pictured: hard-boiled eggs.[/caption] Why did I chose November 19, 2012 to start the story of my body fat percentage?  That was the day after Ironman Arizona and I had just spent my morning with Susan Lacke eating anything and everything.  After all I had just completed racing and I was heading into the off-season so why not.  That morning while scarfing down waffles, pancakes with Reese's pieces, hard-boiled eggs, coffee and toast I didn't realize that my 'fit' body was really not 'fit'. When I got home and I started seeing pictures of me I noticed one thing.  What was that one thing?  Well, that would be my skinny fat stomach.  As you can see from the picture below I looked like I was in shape and an 11:53 finishing time at IMAZ would say that I was, but in reality I wasn't.  I stepped on the scale and my weight was 155 pounds and my body fat percentage was 12%.  For most people, that would be ok but I had a gut and I was devastated by the pictures.  How could I talk about living a healthy lifestyle when I was running around with this pouch? [caption id="attachment_7438" align="aligncenter" width="300"]body fat percentage - ironman arizona - losing weight This picture set off a fire alarm in my head that it was time to get in the best shape of my life for Ironman Texas[/caption] I began exchanging text messages and emails with Jeff Irvin who pointed me to the book Wheat Belly.  I would say that this book was the kick-start to not only dropping weight but also body fat percentage.  Along the road I discovered that just by dropping wheat that the weight was dropping off and my body fat percentage was going in that same direction.  Simultaneously I joined Instagram and my food inspiration and time in the kitchen went in the other direction. I was making dishes that were fantastic tasting but I was keeping track of my calories, carbs, fat and protein intake.  What I noticed was not so much the calories but the carbs.  If I exceeded 300 carbs in a day I would notice little to no difference or a gain in body fat percentage regardless of the amount of training I was doing.  At that point I had a conversation with Maria about nutrient timing. Nutrient timing was the second leg of the stool that had to be installed in order to have my weight and body fat percentage drop in a healthy manner.  Since I do all of my training in the morning it was imperative that I get the majority of my daily carbohydrates in before, during and after these workouts.  I began by having a 90 or 180 calorie Endurance Sport 24 shake 1 hour prior to the training.  Depending on the intensity of the workout I would have either water or an electrolyte based drink and then that would be followed up with waffles for breakfast as recovery (side bar:  I am on Day 14 of #wafflestreak.)  The rest of the day would be filled with healthy fats (avocado, coconut) and lean protein (vegetables, eggs.) Now that my stool had two legs I needed a third to keep it balanced otherwise this 'diet' would not work.  What was that third stool?  The goal of racing Ironman Texas at 11:15 or less.  Having this goal has me keeping my diet very clean and the corresponding weight and body fat percentage reflect this.  I have had this goal for sometime but now that all three pieces of my body fat percentage stool have come together this goal is now becoming more of a reality.  My performance in the water, on the bike and on the road have shown that this formula is working and I am not about to throw a monkey wrench into it.  We are less than 90 days away and I will be disciplined to make sure that this train keeps moving forward.

Weight And Body Fat Percentage Progress:

  • Nov 29, 2012: Weight: 149.2 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 10.1%; Water%: 60.4%; Muscle Mass: 128.4 lbs
  • Dec 30, 2012: Weight: 148.0 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 9.3%; Water%: 60.9%; Muscle Mass: 127.6 lbs
  • Jan 30, 2012: Weight: 143.4 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 8.7%; Water%: 61.2%; Muscle Mass: 125.0 lbs
  • Feb 24, 2012: Weight: 140.4 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 6.0%; Water%: 63.8%; Muscle Mass: 125.2 lbs
Nearly 9 lbs lost in 3 months with a body fat percentage drop of 4.1% and maintaining a muscle mass that is fairly constant. If you think I am doing this by starving myself just take a look at my Instagram account as I have been documenting the meals that I create and eat on a daily basis.  You will notice that there is a wide variety in the meals and also in the colors of the meals which means that I am not only getting all of my macro-nutrient needs met but also my micro-nutrient needs are being met. This process is just that, a learning process.  I have seen what works and doesn't work for my body but I am also focused on my hunger queues which means I eat when hungry and not what the hands on the clock say.  This is not magic but instead science and hard work.

Have You Ever Focused On Body Fat Percentage?

Published in Train
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 13:44

Ironman Texas - The Monthly Progress Report

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

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


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


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


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


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

Life Outside Of Triathlon:

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

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

Published in Train

Embrace The Suck.

Embrace The Suck

Embrace The Suck

If you repeat the phrase Embrace The Suck enough it soon begins to get easier.  What am I talking about?  I could be talking about life, but I am referring to riding the trainer.  Putting your bike on the trainer for 1 or even 2 hours is not a big deal, but once you go past that point you have to begin to embrace the suck.  The trainer, like the treadmill, is all mental.  You know it is not going to be fun but you also know the benefits of riding the trainer. I bring this up because this weekend the weather was going to be brutally cold, and not just for Texas.  The temperature at 8am on Saturday was going to be 32* with a feels like temp of 29*.  For me if it is below 45* at the start of the ride I am contemplating riding the trainer because my hands and feet get so cold that there is no benefit to me being outside since I will not be focused on the ride but instead I will be focused on warming up.  Knowing that I was getting on the trainer I asked Maria to set me up with a trainer ride that will make the time go by.  4 hours is not a big deal to me as I have done 6 hours on the trainer before but if I have the opportunity to shake up the work out I will. The program that Maria sent off included easy sets, progressive sets and a Sufferfest video.  There was a rhythm to the workout but there were times where I muttered embrace the suck and by doing that the time flew by and I was ready to start running before I knew it.  As a person, similar to Emily and the treadmill, who enjoys the trainer there are still times I wonder what the benefits are.

Embrace The Suck Benefits:

  • No Stopping or Coasting.  As any cyclist knows there are times where you will coast or have to stop for traffic or stop lights.  On the trainer there is neither and thus you are working from the first pedal stroke until the last.
  • Workouts Done To Perfection. Since there is no stopping if your workout calls for 20 minutes at Ironman pace you know that you will get that in without being interrupted.  You can also include interval sets that will be completed without hesitation.
  • It Takes Less Time. Maria cut 30 minutes off of my overall time for the ride because of the trainer.  Theory holds that the trainer can be 20% less than the road because it is non-stop so if you ride the trainer you are going to spend 'less' time riding.
  • Weather Is Not An Issue. Neither Is Daylight. Just like the benefit of less time, there is the added benefit of doing it whenever you want.  Setup your trainer in front of the TV or the laptop and start.  No need to worry for sun rise or if the weather will hold up.
Riding the trainer is not all unicorns and rainbows though as there are a few drawbacks as well.

Embrace The Suck Disadvantages:

  • No Hills. There are no hills when it comes to riding on the trainer so if you are looking for a 'hilly' ride this is not going to benefit you.
  • Bike Handling. Bike handling is important, especially if you are racing a criterium.  Being able to handle the bike in any situation will give you confidence when riding and there is no bike handling during a trainer ride.
  • Boredom. It is easy to get board and then have your mind sway and lose focus on the sets that you have laid out for yourself.  When you are not focused your cadence can drop and the workout can suffer.
Is riding the trainer a substitute for riding outdoors?  No, but it should be included in your routine.  Why?  Besides the benefits listed above remember that change is the key to consistency and muscle adaptation.  During the week my bike can be found on the trainer as I crank away 1-2 hour sessions with 5-6 layers of clothes on working up a tremendous sweat so that I can mimic the weather that I will face in San Juan at IMTX. [caption id="attachment_7366" align="aligncenter" width="300"]embrace the suck - bike trainer - triathlon - ironman Embrace The Suck But Make It As Enjoyable As Possible.[/caption]

How Do You Embrace The Suck?

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, 19 December 2012 15:52

Streaming Live TONIGHT (December 19th)

[caption id="attachment_6917" align="alignright" width="290"]cooktraineatrace_youtubechannel_televisionshow_triathlon_ironman I Wonder If I'll Need One Of These
Source: The Guardian[/caption] Streaming live tonight (7pm EST, 4pm PST) will be our first show on the Cook Train Eat Race YouTube Channel.  Today's show will feature Katie Ingram of Run This Amazing Day, Maria Simone of No Limits Endurance Coaching and Ryan Chapman of B.A.S.E. Training and we will be discussing their role as endurance coaches as well as being athletes still competing. I have yet to come up with a name for the show so I'll take suggestions from you.  So far I have thought of the following:
  • VO To The Max
  • High Cadence
  • Today In Endurance Sports
That was all I could come up with as I have hit the wall in terms of show names.  I appreciate all the help I can get in this category. Speaking of help I will also gladly accept any questions that you would like me to answer.  I have a list of 6 questions that I would like to get to in this show but that will be dependent on how the show flows.  Right now the plan for the show is to ask one of our panelists a question and provide them with 2 minutes to answer and then each of the other panelists will get 1 minute to respond.  This will allow me to ask each panelist 2 questions and giving them the full two minutes to respond but it will all depend on how well the topic gets discussed. As I put out in an earlier post I am looking for people to participate in the show as well.  I am looking for dietitians & sports nutritionists for a panel as well as first time 140.6 finisher, first time at attempting the 140.6 distance in 2013, Kona, Vegas and Boston Qualifiers.  I would also like to talk to families who participate together in the endurance world.  If you have any interest please let me know in the comments box below. Please submit your questions for Katie, Maria and Ryan in the comments section below and I will try to get to it on the air. Here is a bit about our guests: Katie Ingram blogs at the site Run This Amazing Day.  She is an endurance coach who has recently begun a career with Training Peaks.  Katie completed her first Ironman at Coeur D'Alene in 2012 and is going to be racing at Ironman Lake Placid in 2013. Maria Simone is a Level 1 USAT Triathlon Coach and runs the business No Limits Endurance Coaching with her husband John Jenkins.  Maria is a 2x Ironman (Lake Placed 2011, Mont-Tremblant 2012) who is getting ready to make a run at a Kona slot at Lake Placed in 2013. Ryan Chapman is a Level 1 USAT Triathlon coach and certified Total Immersion Teach Professional whose business is B.A.S.E. Training and recently competed at Ironman Arizona.
Published in CTER TV
Friday, 21 December 2012 17:03

Your Season Starts Today

[caption id="attachment_6931" align="alignright" width="225"]dreams_goals_motivation_inspiration Source: Imprint Training Center[/caption] Your season starts today is what has been going through my mind all morning.  It started when I went to the pool for a brisk 2200 yards and during the swim the number 4,5,6 and in that order hit me.  That is what I need to be at in order to have a chance for qualifying for Las Vegas when I race in Puerto Rico.  They kept rolling over in my mind.  With every stroke I thought 4,5,6.  With every breath I thought 4,5,6.  With every yard passing by I thought 4,5,6. During the 400 yard set I was to be in Zone 2 which should have been around 2:01 but going over those numbers in my head I wound up swimming those 400 yards in 7:40 or 1:55.  Not a big difference in terms of time but it meant I was beginning the 4,5,6 chase.    I finished that set and went to my car with visions of 4,5,6 in my head.  When I get in my car ready to head to Bikram yoga I heard an interview with Tony Gonzalez on ESPN. Tony Gonzalez was talking to Mike & Mike about retiring after this year and the words that he said echoed inside my car for what seemed like an eternity.  Mr Gonzalez said that he could physically play for another 2-3 years but going to practice and getting ready in February was what has caused him to think of retirement. He said that if he were to win a championship it all started in February.  The off-season is where he made his season and not September through January. Going to yoga I thought about this and said today is the day that my season starts.  If I want that slot to Vegas I have to make sure that the workouts I do today are what is going to get me there.  4,5,6 starts today it doesn't start in March at the cannon.  The yoga class was great and every time the instructor asked us to stretch further I interpreted that as taking another inch toward 4,5,6.  It was not an easy class but as every pose passed by I kept reflecting on 4,5,6.  With every breath of the hot air I thought 4,5,6.  As I got dressed and went for a recovery shake I thought this recovery is helping me get to 4,5,6. Pushing past my comfort zone started when I asked Maria and John to work with me this season.  Pushing past my comfort zone started when I did my swim time trial and gave it all I had.  Pushing past my comfort zone started when I was doing my bike time trial this week and I could feel the bile building up in my throat on the second session.  Pushing past my comfort zone today so that I can race in Las Vegas in September is what I have to do. This is not a question of maybe I will do this, but more of a statement of me doing it.  I wrote a note on my laptop two weeks after Ironman Arizona with the time 5:10.  Two weeks later I found myself researching what it took at 70.3 Puerto Rico to get to Vegas for the World Championships.  I found out that just at 5:00 in the M40-44 Age Group got you there and so the numbers 4,5,6 are now on my note with the 5:10 crossed out.  It is no longer good enough to give myself some room.  I have to chase my dreams and that starts today. I am not waiting for Christmas to pass so that I have an excuse to eat everything in sight.  I am not waiting for January 1st so that I can make a resolution.  I am acting today and my resolution come January 1st will be:  KEEP GOING!  4,5,6 is what I need to achieve my dreams but my dreams start today with action.

What Your Goals For 2013?

Published in Race
Monday, 03 December 2012 15:50

Ironman Lessons Learned: The Cliche' Version

[caption id="attachment_6821" align="alignright" width="268"]ironman_triathlon_discipline_training_finishline Source: Power Creative[/caption] Ironman isn't just a race, it's a lifestyle.  So much goes into that one day that to think you can just wake up and do it is insane.  Along the journey you are going to find out A LOT about yourself and your friends, family, co-workers and the sport.  It is amazing the things that I learned going down this path.  There were so many lessons that I could write post after post after post about the lessons learned but I won't.  I know you are all a busy group with all the swimming, biking, running, stretching, strength training, core work, eating, sleeping, work, meeting friends, reading to your kids, etc that you do so I boiled it down to 5 simple clichés. Your road to Ironman will be bumpy, just accept it.  Not everything will go as planned, just accept it.  One day you will be able to swim 1:30/100y and the next day be struggling just to finish the set, just accept it.  One Monday you will be on top of the world, but by Friday you will feel like death.....just accept it.  This is how it goes, but if the following five lessons I learned can help you then it was worth every moment of putting my body and mind through it. 1- Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

I learned this because I will have raced a total of 12 races this year.  I started with a 15k in January, then a 1/2 mary, 1/2 IM and it kept going.  All the while training has to be fit in along with trying to be a husband, step-dad, partner in my business, etc.  It was more than I should have done.  When the peak training for Ironman Arizona hit I was frustrated, crabby, mad and HUNGRY.  It had all come to a crescendo during those 4 weeks and as much as I love racing I don't think this schedule is smart.  Our bodies and minds need rest, so take it.  Step back from the game.  For the past two weeks I have done what I want and when I want.  This has been the best recovery ever and I am loving it.  Sleeping in, making breakfast, talking to my wife past is all awesome and very much welcomed.  Be mindful of what you are going to put your body through and don't bite off more than you can chew.

2- Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated

The paragraph above talks about my frustrations and my crankiness and that spilled over into my home life.  I was not the best husband I could be because I was tired.  Just plain tired.  I wanted to sleep, I wanted to eat, I wanted to train and all on my time.  I tried my best to not put myself at the top of the heap but there were times when I did even when I didn't have to.  I like to get my workouts over with early in the morning so I can spend time with my family.  The problem with that is there were days where I was just too tired to do anything and yet I pushed forward to do them.  Sometimes it worked out but other times I was just a crabby asshole.  Your family and friends deserve to be treated better and so if you are tired then bow out of the event and let them have fun rather than being the thorn in the side.  If your training calls for a 4 hour bike ride but you want to be with your family then do a 3 hour bike ride and be fresh for them.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.

3- Just Say No

Did you read that last paragraph where I say to just bow out?  It is so important to know and understand your limitations.  There are only 24 hours in the day so you need to respect that.  You are training for 3 hours, you need to work for 10 hours, you need to sleep for 8 hours and that totals out to 21 hours.  You have three hours remaining so make sure you take advantage of them and don't try to do too much.  If somebody asks you to help them out think about it long and hard before you commit to it.  They may be upset that you say no but it could help save the friendship in the long run because you end up being a no-show since you fell asleep on the couch.  I know that as IMAZ training continued on I started to post less on the blog.  I stopped posting on the weekends unless there was something very compelling I wanted to say.  I have also cut back on the number of blogs that I read as I just didn't have the time and more importantly I wanted to read it and understand it.  If my eyes are glazed over then I am not really comprehending what I am looking at and this is a disservice to the writer.

4- Listen To Your Body

I cannot tell you how important this is to having a successful training cycle.  I know when I went through the first cycle for Texas that if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride well damn it I am riding for four hours no matter how tired I was.  In the cycle for Arizona if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride and I finished the loop in 3 hours and 39 minutes I got off my bike and did my run.  I got home 20 minutes faster than I expected and that was a good thing.  I didn't push it because nothing was going to be gained in that 20 minutes of riding.  When I needed a nap I took it.  If I needed to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I did.  Your body will give you the answer to all your questions so listen to it.

5- Eat All Your Veggies

This is not a ploy to convert everybody to vegetarianism but more of a reminder to treat your body like a temple.  You cannot possibly go out and ride your bike for 4 hours and do a 30 minute run and then stuff your face with Oreo's right after.  Make sure that you are recovering properly with the proper nutrients.  Get all the macronutrients that you need into your system (carbs, protein, fats) as well as your micro-nutrients.  Be smart about what you eat and when you eat it.  It is important to get that recovery shake or meal into your body within 30 minutes but after that listen for your hunger queues.  Your body will tell you when it is hungry so pay attention and then make sure you are eating something that is going to help you recover and get out the door the next day for training.  That is not to say that you shouldn't have pizza if you want it.  Go for it and enjoy the hell out of it.  You earned it and it is what your body is craving at the time but remember that you need fuel for that next workout and making wise food choices will help make that workout a bit easier.

My journey to Ironman Texas 2013 begins one week from today and I am excited.  This week is my last unstructured week and I am taking advantage of it.  I am swimming a little, riding the trainer a bit and running for however long (not how far) I want to.  I added in Bikram Yoga as well as using the rowing machine (that machine is now affectionately known as the Machine Of Death.)  I have gone to a wheat-free (not gluten-free) diet and it all feels right.  My body is telling me that it feels good and I like to hear that.  When the clock strikes on the 10th I will be rested and ready to get into the workouts again, but I also know that if something doesn't feel right I am going to back down. I have 6 months until this next Ironman and I want to get there in one piece and that starts by following the lessons I have learned in 2012.

What Lessons Have You Learned From 2012?

Published in Train
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