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.

Sunday, 05 October 2014 17:36

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Course Review

2014 Ironman Chattanooga was supposed to have stories told about the bike and only the bike.  The other two sports, swim and run, were to be add-ons to the event that was going to be remembered as the day that the bike portion of an Ironman nearly buried everybody.  When the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was announced it became about the elevation.  How the race was going to have 4,000 feet of elevation per loop for a total of 8,000 and everybody was worried.  Then when that rhetoric died down, WTC officials made a change to the course for safety reasons and it added 4 miles.  All the sudden all the nerves were frayed because we were no longer racing 112 miles and now would be racing 116.  All the worry and all the nerves was everywhere and to the point that I left the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga Facebook page.  This blog post is going to give you an idea about the race course and my thoughts about it.  As you may have guessed by now the race was not about the bike but really about the swim and the run.

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Swim

The swim is point to point and conducted in a fashion that is exactly like Ironman Louisville in which the athletes drop in off of a dock.  There is no mass swim start and that should help athletes with their anxiety on race morning. The temperature of the water at the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was 77* which meant that it was wetsuit optional.  Those that chose to wear a wetsuit would have to wait until all those that did not entered the water.  The pros went off at 7:25 which is about 35 minutes later than normal which is due to the late sunrise later in the year and the sun having to peak out over the mountains. The river's current is controlled by the Tennessee Valley water authority and on this day it was moving, although slower than the practice swim the day before.  Trying to predict the flow rate would be pointless and instead focusing on your stroke and getting down the river as fast as you can would be better. Whether you are a strong swimmer or not the current and drop-in start will help alleviate any anxiety and more than likely allow you to PR at the Ironman distance swim. [caption id="attachment_9690" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Swim Course - Triathlon Follow the river and avoid the island is all you need to do.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Bike

As I mentioned the rage prior to the start of the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was all about the bike.  As it turned out the bike was benign.  There are rollers and a couple of sections in which you had to drop to the small chain ring and spin up but if you did that and recovered on the downhill then stayed within yourself on the flats then this bike course is nothing more than a challenge and not impossible. There are a couple of sections where the turns are tight, like the left onto Hog Jowl Road, and having the ability to handle your bike will come into play.  The bike is a lollipop in which you leave the state of Tennessee and enter Georgia on a straight path.  Once you make the left onto Hog Jowl Road you are heading back and toward the special needs area which is at approximately Mile 52.  A few miles past the special needs area and you are making a left to start loop 2 or a right to head back toward the Ironman Village and where you will enter transition area. The roads on the bike course are extremely smooth with a few spots that are very well-marked but overall there is no need to worry about launching bottles once you are out on the course.  Where you need to concern yourself with these types of things is as you leave transition and then re-enter.  You will go over a few railroad track crossings that can cause bottles to launch if you hit them wrong. Other than the few sharp turns and the few train track scenarios this bike course is challenging but not impossible.  Whatever went up surely went down and there were plenty of flats with which you could regain the speed you may have lost climbing. [caption id="attachment_9689" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Bike Course Review - Triathlon The bike course is challenging but fair. Rollers with a few climbs but extremely smooth roads and lots of support.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Run

The 2014 Ironman Chattanooga run is downright nasty.  This was extremely challenging and forced you to consider your racing strategy.  This run course was not one in which you could just let the legs open and go because if you did you would pay for it.  When I discussed the run course I was told that it was 700 feet of elevation gain which is not that bad over 26.2 miles except that the conversation failed to mention that it was 650-700 feet of elevation gain on 13.1 miles and you had to do that twice which amounted to 1300 feet of elevation gain. The run course is split into two loops that you run twice.  The first 8 miles are fairly flat but the next 5 are extremely hilly.  When you leave transition you run 1 mile up a hill and then enter the swim park where you can run and gain a feeling for your legs coming off the bike and the hill.  What is on this portion of the course that I do not understand is an aid station that forces you to make a 90 degree left turn to run for 25 feet and then around a cone and back out for 25 feet where you make another sharp left turn and onto the river path.  I am sure that they could have extended the finish line past where it was 50 feet and avoided this section altogether.  Making athletes make 3 sharp turns on tired legs does not make much sense. When you leave the park you make a right turn onto the shoulder of a highway and it is lonely.  Car going by and nothing to look at until you come up to a bridge where you can see the aquarium.  This is a terrific sight, especially on loop 2, except it does not give you any idea as to what lays before you.  And what lays before you may make some people cry.  The following 5 miles are nothing more than a test of will and strength.  Run the elevation changes wisely and you will get through this without a problem.  Try to muscle through it and you will pay dearly for it on loop 2. The elevation changes are constant here with little to no flat sections.  If you think the downhills will help I suggest you rethink that concept since you will be pounding your quads and knees on the way down before making the right turn to go back up the hill.  That is how the 5 mile section unfolds.  That being said there are people all along the course in this section and the music is playing and the crowd is a huge pick me up. [caption id="attachment_9688" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Run Course Review - Triathlon An extremely challenging course on the back side where 5 miles may seem like 10 but the other 8 miles of each loop are very runable.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Race Course Overall Review

I found the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race course to be challenging but fair.  There were no major sections, other than 3 miles on the run, that you were on your own.  With the staggered swim start there are athletes on the bike course everywhere and chatting is certainly an option.  The run course brings the pain but simultaneously it allows you to strategize and then execute. This race is one that I would recommend to all.  The weather was ideal this time of the year.  The roads on the bike course are like glass.  The swim is downstream and then the marathon brings you a challenge but it is not impossible to conquer. If you have questions about the course beyond what I described please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.   [video width="856" height="480" mp4="http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JasonBahamundi.mp4"][/video]

Three simple lessons are all I am capable of writing about at this point but there were far more. These three simple lessons happen to stand out far more than the others and it they are something that I think those that are starting in the Ironman training and racing arena can benefit from as well as those veterans that may have lost their way, the same way I had. When I say I lost my way I am referring to the constant training and racing for 18 plus months while racing Ironman Texas twice and Ironman Arizona. I did not realize it as I was going through it but burn out existed and triathlon had become a job and not fun the way it was when I started (well not the first sprint triathlon for those of you that know the story.) Once IMTX was finished and I was heading back to Dallas I could not wait to put the bike on the rack and leave it and everything that came with triathlon in a bag. For the first time in years I had no races on my schedule and it was glorious. No boxes to check, no nutrition to purchase, no concern about nearly anything. After a few months I was having a conversation with Jeff and the idea of joining him on a 50 mile trail race sounded like fun and that morphed into a 100 mile trail race. The training at the start was daunting but it soon became a way of life and one that I enjoyed. After completing the 50 and the 100 ultra trail runs I believed I was ready to train for an Ironman. This time around I was not going to hire a coach and instead craft my own training plan and then do as much as I could with friends which were the key to reinvigorating my passion for Ironman distance races. Here are the Three Simple Lessons I learned from training for and racing Ironman Chattanooga 2014.

  1. Make It Fun

[caption id="attachment_9721" align="alignright" width="225"]fun - lessons - ironman chattanooga Source: Relevant Childrens Ministry[/caption] As I mentioned I trained with a group of friends as much as I possibly could. Mid-week we would swim in Lake Grapevine and on the weekends it was full of long rides and runs. I believe that you should do a few training rides/runs on your own since you are going to be on the course by yourself but having friends around to crack jokes with and remove the anxiety was a tremendous help. I am very fortunate that 12-13 of the FWTri Club decided to race IMCHOO and more fortunate that 5 of us decided to share a house together. Having them around during all the prep work and bike drop off and swim practice and race day travel made it so much easier that I am considering renting a house for Maryland and inviting them there (or anybody reading this) just so that I am not alone on race morning. You can read the blog post about the crew at Ironman Chattanooga from friend and training partner Old Stude by clicking this link.

  1. Less Is More Unless More Is More

What exactly does this mean? Yeah, I do not know either but it sounded good and it probably drew a few eyeballs to the point. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that the less I trained (in terms of length of time) the better it was for my psychologically and that the more I trained (in terms of duration of workouts) the better I felt I was prepared to tackle the Ironman distance. For example, most training plans may include one 20+ mile run but the training plan I put together included three(3) 20+ mile training runs with weeks that touched 60+ miles of running. From the bike I not only included long rides of 60-120 miles on a Saturday but then added in triple bricks of 20 mile rides and 4 miles run for three sets the following day. These workout sessions left me trashed but having the proper recovery days and weeks built-in put me in and ideal place to execute a race plan and draw on the pain of the experience and apply it to race day.

  1. Race The Course Not Your Expectations

I say this in regards to Chattanooga specifically but it is a terrific general rule. Going into Ironman Chattanooga there was a lot of uproar over the course being 4 miles longer than the standard 112 miles and that the elevation was going to be so brutal that by the time you were done your Garmin files would like you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Neither of these came into play for me on this course because I raced the course and not what all the social media sound bites were. The course had a moderate elevation gain but it was mostly rollers and the 4 extra miles were never noticeable. Yes, I screwed up after two hours by not taking in any calories for about an hour (Be careful how much you dilute your gels!) Once I put Perform into my system it was like rocket fuel and the body was much better. Another scenario in which this popped up is the run at Ironman Chattanooga. Reflecting on it weeks later I realize that I put my mind into a scenario in which the hills on the back half of the run were impossible and I needed to walk to conserve energy for the finish. What a mistake! Had I raced the course and ran until I could not anymore then I would have met my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon at an Ironman. I let the course defeat me that day because I expected it to be harder than it was.   With ultra trail run training in full effect now I need to remember these simple lessons so that I can exceed my goal of breaking 24 hours at Rocky Raccoon at the end of January. To that point I am running 21 miles this weekend but it will be broken down into 12 on my own and then back to back 5k and 10k races with friends. This will make the day fun and break down that long run into manageable parts.

Do You Keep Track Of Lessons Learned?


 Ironman Chattanooga 2014 is a race that will never be forgotten. The day was ideal, but better than that was the ability to spend the days leading up to the race and then on the course with friends I have been training with for years. I also got to see a lot of cyber friends out on the course and that made the day more magical. Later this week I will post about the course at Ironman Chattanooga but this post will be about how the day unfolded for me in terms of swim, bike and run

. Ironman Chattanooga – Swim

As everybody is aware by now the swim at Ironman Chattanooga is FAST. I am talking about ridiculously fast. The few days leading up to race day there was wonder about water temp. Would it be wetsuit legal or optional? As of Saturday evening the water temp was 77* but I had pretty much made up my mind but was hoping that I would not have to make a decision. When Sunday morning rolled around and I checked Facebook at 4:30am it said the water temp was still 77*. Time to make the final decision! As I sat at the kitchen table of our house I thought about my ranking in the M40-44 Age group and realized that I was not going to finish in a place where Kona was a choice so I went with the wetsuit. When asked why I was wearing one I responded with: I already proved my manhood by not wearing one at Ironman Texas in 2012 and 2013 and this time I am wearing one. At the race site we were bused to the swim start. Standing in line there were a lot of nervous faces but I did not feel nervous. As a matter of fact, my nerves sort of disappeared on Saturday afternoon after checking in my bike and the gear bags. It was as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders that day. Now, at the swim start I felt loose. I put on my wetsuit and walked with my training partners and once we hit the green carpet I started to dance. This was it, this was going to be the day I had trained for. As we got on the manmade 'dock' and I watched athletes prepare to jump in the water and seeming to not know what to do I just jumped in with both feet, literally. I popped up out of the water and started swimming. I could feel the current pushing me downstream and the buoys seemed to be coming up rather quickly. I picked my spot right on the buoys as there seemed to be no traffic there while left and right there were plenty of athletes. I was cruising and counting the numbers on the buoys. From the practice swim I remembered the number 9 so I figured that there were 9 total. As I quickly found out there are 9 yellow buoys (1.2 miles) and 9 orange buoys (1.2 miles) and then the turn to the finish. All along I think I was touched or did touch a total of 5 people. There was next to no contact and I had a very clean line the entire way. When I reached the turn buoy I had no clue what my time was but felt it was around the 1:20 mark which would have been a 10 minute swim PR. As I climbed the stairs to exit the river and looked down at my watch and saw 00:58:XX I could not believe my eyes. This put a spring in my step and I found the closest volunteer to strip my wetsuit off of me. What I did not realize is that the person taking my wetsuit off was not a wetsuit stripper. They were much further down the dock. I ran right past all the people laying down and up the steepest of ramps and into T1.

Transition From Swim To Bike – T1

After grabbing my bike bag I headed toward the changing tent where I stopped without ever going in. All I needed to do was put on my helmet, sunglasses and socks so there was no reason to enter the tent. As I was pulling my socks on a volunteer was walking by and asked if I were done with my swim gear. I told him yes and started to put it into the bag when he told me to not worry about it anymore and with that I took off with my cycling shoes in my hand. The run from the changing tent to my bike was long and I did not want to wear my cycling shoes because of the opportunity to fall down. It was the right move as I ran past a lot of people who were walking gingerly in their shoes. I grabbed my bike and ran toward the downhill slope where the mount line was and finally put on my shoes. A few short steps later and I was on the bike for the 116 mile journey. 


Ironman Chattanooga - Bike The Ironman Chattanooga bike course was all the discussion for months. First it was the elevation and then it turned into the extra 4 miles. None of these things we could control so I never put much into them. My worry was more about having a solid bike ride to set me up to break 4 hours at the Ironman marathon. Whatever the elevation or mileage I had to stay within myself. I approached the ride in the same manner as ultra trail running. I would go easy up the hills, recover on the downhills and then stay within myself on the flats. As we left town it felt as if I had a tailwind but I was not sure. What I was sure about was the road conditions. They were like glass except for a few areas. These roads were pristine and I could just feel the wheels rolling with little to no extra effort. I was stunned when I hit the mile 10, 20, 30,40 and so on markers and was faster than 20 mph. Could this be happening? What was my heart rate? What was my effort level? All these things were in check and so I just went with what felt right. On loop 1 what I did notice was a lot of athletes on the side of the road fixing flats. I could not figure out why there were so many, but later found out that there was some sabotage in terms of tacks and oil spills. It is unfortunate that these things happened because the bike course was challenging but fair and did not need to have this throw a monkey wrench into what was a perfect day. On the course I had the fortune of meeting a handful of people who I had met through social media. Having this type of support proved to be invaluable especially when I rode up on two people whom I admire greatly. First I caught up with Drum whom I have been training with for a while now and had the pleasure of racing Ironman Arizona with in 2012. Second, was catching up to KC and was able to seeing her smiling face and hearing that she was feeling awesome. Finishing loop 2 I knew I wanted to back it down a bit to save my legs for the run. I was told that the run was an 8 mile 'easy' loop and a 5 mile 'extremely hilly' loop and if I was going to run sub-4 I needed to back it down and get my legs under me which I did. There is no better feeling than seeing the Bike In sign and knowing that with just a short marathon you are going to cross the finish line. With my feet out of my shoes I handed my bike and helmet to a volunteer and took off for the run gear bag.

Transition From Bike To Swim – T2

Once again, I chose not to go into the tent to change. All I had to do was put on my running shoes (Hoka One One Rapa Nui) and a hat. I grabbed my race belt and as I was heading through the tent asked a volunteer if I could give him my bag and when he said yes I took off. Into T2 and out in just over 2 minutes. Time to FLY as the Hoka shoe says.

Ironman Chattanooga - Run

Nobody talked about the run leading up to race day but when I ran down the soaked mat that was the swim out hill I realized that this was going to be an up and down kind of run. You come down that steep hill and run along the river to a section that just seems to keep going up and up and up. Finally you are in the park where the swim starts and that is flat. This was a blessing but when the miles were ticking off at under 8:30/mi I knew I had to pull back. My goal was to run as far as I could until I needed to walk an aid station. At the same time I was fighting myself in regards to having the strength when miles 21 and 22 came up. It was a battle of the mind and body. Once you come through the park you make a right turn and run alongside a highway. This was a desolate area and it seemed like the aid stations grew further away from each other. This was not a part of the race course that I will recall fondly. It just seemed lonely and it was you, your legs, your mind and nothing else. Just keep moving was my mantra. After that stretch you cross over a bridge and into a community that is brutal. It is a pure beat down with no flat sections and only climbing or descending. At this point I decided I was going to walk the uphills so that I could save my legs for the downhills. At this same time I started to calculate finish times. Could I possibly finish in 11 hours? I had no idea what the marathon time was and I could not be bothered with playing with my watch. It was not worth it to spend energy calculating these things. I took an average of 10:00/mi, considering the hills, and calculated from that particular mile marker to the finish. I started out with 11:01, then 11:02 and then 11:04. It seemed as if the 11 hour Ironman was slipping away and then I met Steven with about 1.2 miles to go. Steven and I ran together the entire last portion of the race. We were in step with each other and chatting the entire time. He motivated me to keep moving. At one point he said to me: I am not going to sprint to the finish. My response: Dude, I AM sprinting right now. As we came down the final hill and into the finisher's chute I could not stop smiling and could not believe that the race was over. The 13 weeks of hard-core periodization training was culminating in a finish line that was as spectacular as any I have crossed. I fist bumped Steven and then crossed. I waited to look at my watch as I wanted the video and pictures to show my face and my smile. Finally, I looked down and pressed the Lap button on my Garmin and saw 11:00:XX. I nearly broke down into tears. I could not believe my eyes and had moments where I surely must have mis-hit my watch buttons and I was not seeing the full-time. I walked with the volunteer and picked up my hat and shirt when I asked her about getting my medal. She responded with: You are wearing it. Right then and there I knew that I left everything I had out on the course.

Ironman Chattanooga Racing- Conclusion

I will blog about my periodization training in a future blog post along with my review of the Ironman Chattanooga race course.  This blog post is about my experience on the course and the weekend and I would be wrong if I did not mention the following: * Thank you to my wife Karen for all that she has done for me.  She believed over a year ago that I could be an 11 hour Ironman and that belief came true on Sunday September 28th. * Thank you to the LTF Crew of The Sherriff, Goat, Dog Bait, Diaper Boy, Drum / PB, Wade, Stick, and Teri.  We trained together all summer long and had more laughs than miles and for that I am truly grateful. * Thank you to my buddies Jeff and Kevin for having followed a training plan that was sport specific two years ago that I could adapt to triathlon training. * Thank you to the friends I have made through social media, especially KC, who I got to meet before the race, on the course and then celebrate with after crossing the finish line. * Thank you to Ironman and the city of Chattanooga for hosting us.

ironman chattanooga - triathlon - race - endurance sports 

[caption id="attachment_5829" align="alignright" width="360"]ironman_triathlon_race_strategy Formulate A Plan And Stick To It[/caption] Bucket Challenge was all over the interwebs for a few weeks and seems to have become extinct but for me it is still holding steady but not because I want to pour ice over my head but as a strategy for racing Ironman Chattanooga. There is the simple comparison between the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the marathon at the end of an Ironman and that would be:  It is going to hurt but I just have to do it.  For me, the bucket challenge became a racing strategy. I am not sure how this strategy came about and maybe it is because of all the Ice Bucket Challenge videos I was watching and had been tagged in but I have come up with a strategy to help me run the marathon at a pace that will allow me to achieve my goal of sub-4 hours. The strategy is simple in that I will visualize three buckets and as each mile passes I will be ‘pouring’ that time into the respective bucket.  All the buckets are on a pulley system and tied to each other so as one bucket fills the others are affected. The three buckets will have the paces of 8:45 per mile, 9:00 per mile and 9:15 per mile.  Why these paces?  I broke down my run from Ironman Texas in 2013 and for me to achieve my goal I will need to run 9 miles at 8:45/mile, 9 miles at 9:00/mile and 8.2 miles at 9:15/mile.  This breakdown is the result of how my paces changed as I ran the three loops at IMTX. Ironman Chattanooga does not have three loops but instead it has two.  For me, to say I need to run 1:55 and 1:55 to get to 3:50 for the marathon is not something I can comprehend.  I need smaller goals that I can visualize and process as the race goes on.  Also, since I do not have any idea of what the course will look like I cannot say that I will run the first 9 miles at x:xx/mi and then the next 9 at x:xx/mi. The bucket system allows me to now worry about a set of 9 miles all at one time.  Instead I can focus on the mile that I am running at that moment.  I tried this system out on the last long run of 23 miles and it worked perfectly.  I have used it for shorter runs as well and it works great for me. I start out the run by saying 9-9-8 and as each mile passes by I can remove a number from that list.  For example, if the first mile is 9:15 then I am now at 9-9-7.  When the second mile passes at 8:35 I am now at 8-9-7.  This keeps me engaged with my splits while not worrying about how fast I need to run the first group.  I can focus purely on the here and now.  The beauty is that as the first bucket fills up it allows that last bucket to move from 9:15/mi to 9:20/mi and slower.  Being a competitive person this works terrifically because as I move along I will want to fill up that first bucket with the fastest, well paced, miles possible. The marathon at the end of an Ironman can be a wild card in terms of the days performance.  Did you ride too hard and are now suffering?  Has the temperature or humidity risen to unbearable levels?  Did you fail your nutrition strategy?  Anything can happen over the course of those 26.2 miles and by having a strategy that is simple to follow and easy to understand can help make that run just a bit more easy to tolerate.  

What Type Of Ironman Marathon Strategy Have You Used?

Monday, 01 September 2014 14:14

Racing versus Doing An Ironman Or Any Event

Racing Kona This October.....not DOING Kona this October.
Racing.  Just the word alone gets my adrenaline rushing.  I hear the word racing and I think about the work that goes into a successful race and I get excited.  I want to create a plan, execute the plan, push my mind, body and soul past its pre-set limitations so that when race day comes I am ready.  This year I will be racing only twice, which sounds odd, but it is where I have decided to focus my attention.  I already raced the Lake Martin 100 and in four weeks will be racing Ironman Chattanooga. Why am I only racing twice this year?  It is because of what I pointed out in the first paragraph.  I am pushing my mind, body and soul past the limitations that I have set upon myself.  I want to test my physical as well as mental parameters.  I want to know that I can reach those expectations and then blow by them.  How am I doing that?  By focusing purely on racing and not doing. A few weeks ago I was listening to ESPN Radio with Cris Carter talking about his entrance into the NFL Hall of Fame.  His co-host asked him how he got into the Hall of Fame and his response hit me and stuck with me.  He said that he was willing to do what others weren't.  Stay after practice and catch 100 balls.  Stay after practice and work on getting his feet in bounds.  Wake up early before practice and run hills and stadium steps.  Wake up early before practice and study his playbook.  Studying the playbook from other positions in case he needed to help a teammate out or line up in that position due to injury and he wanted to know what to do.  The extra step.  The ability to take what he was given and push himself past that limitation to create a new bar for him to reach for. I have always said that I may not be the fastest or the strongest but there is nobody out there who is going to out work me.  I will push my body until it wants to give up and then I tell it to shut up and keep moving.  I will pack up all my gear the night before so I am ready to go when the alarm sounds and do not hit snooze.  I have a car full of gear so when a friend asks if I want to ride I do not have to think about getting ready as I already am.  When I am out on the road or in the lake  I am thinking to myself that nobody else is up and doing what I am doing.  Nobody else will have something come up in their personal life and adjust their training to get it in but rather they would just blow it off.  Those last two statements aren't 100% true but I would guess that more than 50% of the people training for an Ironman or a 100 Mile Ultra-Trail Marathon would not.  I am willing to go beyond my limitations to achieve MY greatness. This leads me to the question of racing versus doing an Ironman.  When I am asked what is next on my calendar, I respond with:  I am RACING Ironman Chattanooga at the end of September.  The next question is typically: What's after that?  My response?  I am racing Rocky Raccoon 100.  I am not DOING an Ironman.  I think when you have that answer you strip away any chance you have at achieving your greatness.  You are already setting yourself up to just get by. You are going to be the person that skips a workout or doesn't pay attention to proper rest and recovery because your goal is to just do an Ironman.  For me, that is unacceptable.  I am going to pay attention to my sleep patterns, to what/how/when I eat.  I am going to focus on how my training plan is strung together so that I am going to be able to race when the canon goes off.  There are going to be plenty of opportunities on race day to not achieve those goals, but being unprepared is not going to be one of them. I understand that not everybody wants to race and that some will want to check off a bucket list item and I do not hold that against them.  What I think they are doing though is cheating themselves.  What if they went into the event with the idea of racing it?  Maybe they would love it more than the stress of wondering if they are going to make the cut-offs?  Maybe it would have more meaning to them than just saying I did an Ironman.  I know I want to see what greatness I am capable of.  Of course, that greatness is defined by me and not by anybody else. For example, the three levels of greatness I am looking to achieve in the next two races are:

  1. 11:30 finish time at Ironman Chattanooga (PR --> 11:53)
  2. sub-4 Hour Marathon at Ironman Chattanooga (PR --> 4:06)
  3. Sub-24 Hour finish at Rocky Raccoon 100 (PR --> 27:53)

This is how I am determining my greatness and why I will be racing those two events and not merely doing them.  Can you define your greatness by crossing the finish line of these events?  Sure.  The questions you have to ask yourself though is:  did I push myself to get there?  Did I face my fears and chase them down?  Did I do everything in my power to get my toes close to the edge?  I never want to finish a race and think:  I could have done more.  Has that happened?  Yes it has and it has left a sour taste in my mouth.  For example, at LM100 the last 7 miles I completely walked.  Yes my body was tattered and my mind was nothing more than a jumbled mess but sitting here today and for the past few months I reflect on those 7 miles.  I could have run more and finished close to 27 hours.  I could have pushed my body and my mind just a bit more to finish stronger than I did.  That same scenario will not unfold at RR100 at the end of January, especially if I am to hit that sub-24 hour goal. Some will think that I am questioning their goals and that is not my intention.  My question is are you merely going to the starting line to do the race or are you toeing the starting line fully prepared for racing the event?  Pushing yourself so that you have to ask if what you are doing is insane.  I do not care if it is a 5k or an Ironman because we all have different agendas but regardless of distance or type of event are you doing or racing? Racing an Ironman is what I will be doing when I get to Chattanooga but I will not be just doing an Ironman.  My body will ask me to quit and my mind will tell it to shut up.  My mind will question its own sanity when the pain in my legs rockets through to my back, arms and neck but the body will continue to push forward.  Through 11 weeks of training I have fully prepared myself to suffer, but when I am done racing I fully expect to have achieved my own level of greatness.

Are you racing or doing?

  [caption id="attachment_9650" align="alignright" width="259"]rapa nui - hoka one one - running - product review Source: Running Warehouse[/caption] Rapa Nui.  No clue what it means but I can give you my interpretation in the same amount of characters:  Love ‘Em. It is no secret that I am a Hoka One One shoe wearer and unofficial brand ambassador.  I say unofficial because Hoka has not contacted me to write blog posts and deliver social media updates about my glowing and growing praise for the shoes.  This time around I will be giving you my review of the Rapa Nui, which is one of three shoes I recently purchased because they were all on clearance. At the time of the purchase the Stinson Tarmac that I had been using for nearly a year were wearing down on me and coming to the end of their life span, although I still have them in my possession for those just in case moments.  Along with the Rapa Nui, I purchased a pair of Conquests which I will be testing out this upcoming week as I take on a high volume running week in preparation for Ironman Chattanooga.  The third pair I purchased was the Stinson Tarmac Trail Shoes which will get their workout in once I begin training for Rocky Raccoon 100 in October. As you may know I do not write reviews for shoes until after I have run 50 or more miles in them.  I think that after 50 miles you have a good idea of how the shoe is going to respond, how you are responding to the shoe and can give an honest and open opinion. You have probably guessed from the first paragraph that I love the Rapa Nui and you would not be wrong (way to go Columbo!)  From the moment I put the shoes on I could tell I was going to like them.  The first idea I got that these were going to be keepers was that they were white and they probably shined coming out of the box the way that gold aura shines out of the briefcase when Marcellus opens it up in Pulp Fiction. Once out of the box and on my feet I put in a handful of short 3 mile to 5 mile runs.  I did not want to run too long in them as I needed to make sure that there would be no issues as I passed that 5 mile marker.  For the past two weekends I have conducted broken 9 and 12 mile runs.  These put me into the 50 mile category and gave me the opportunity to write the Rapa Nui product review. Hoka One One is known to have a rather large sole on their shoes and these are a tad less in terms of size than the Bondi or Stinson yet they responded well.  From the first few steps until the last portion of the run on Sunday morning I could feel the response of the shoe in terms of landing and push-off.  I was surprised by this, only because with less of a maximalist look I was not 100% sure that the shoe would act the way the Hoka was intended.  Sure enough the Rapa Nui did exactly as it was intended which was to provide maximum cushion which allowed me to run as much as I did while cycling 265 miles in one week. In my review of the Bondi B shoe I noted that the shoe was stiff and to this day I can still feel the stiffness although it is not a hindrance to running, or running fast.  What the Rapa Nui does is it bridges the gap between the Stinson Tarmac and Bondi B in terms of stiffness.  The Stinson is relatively loose in comparison to the other two and the Rapa Nui provides a bit more stiffness which is relatively unnoticeable but is still there. Just like the three previous pairs of Hoka I have reviewed, the Rapa Nui provides for maximum recovery.  These shoes are amazing when it comes to being able to get back out the door despite the miles that you are putting on.  In addition to that recovery, the shoes allow you to run further and further because the impact is minimized by the fact that they are in the maximalist category. I know a lot of people choose to not run in Hoka because aesthetically they are not appealing and I get it. I was that way too but today I have made the decision that the Hoka One One, including these Rapa Nui, will be the only shoes I run in.  The level of comfort they provide, the ability to go further, and more often are enough for me and isn’t that the reason we run?  Do we really care that the person who is on the sideline injured or not able to get back out the door thinks when it comes to the look of the Hoka?  I for one do not as I know I am maximizing my time on the road.

Have You Run In The Rapa Nui Or Any Other Hoka One One Shoe?

Ironman Chattanooga training experiment of n=1 has reached the end of the first three-week cycle.  This week is pure recovery as I allow my body to get stronger as well as prepare to tackle the 2nd three week cycle. If you are new to my blog then you are probably asking yourself what are these cycles he is talking about.  Allow me to clarify for a moment.  Starting with Ironman Texas in 2012 I embarked on training for and racing 3 Ironman races over the course of 12 months.  Of course you do not just jump into an Ironman, you have to train for it.  That means that my focus for nearly 18 months was Ironman.  When I crossed the finish line of the final event, Ironman Texas 2013 I was burned out.  I needed to get away from the sport and do other things. It was then that I rode my bike for nearly 1,600 miles over the course of two months and trained for Rocky Raccoon 50 and Lake Martin 100.  Through those endeavors I came to realize that I am a much better cyclist when I focus mostly on cycling and the same would be true for running.  You learn economies of efficiency when that is your focus and I decided to bring that over to Ironman training. Since I was burned out I also realized that I could not go through 6 months of training.  When I combined the idea of a shortened schedule with sport specific focus I came up with a 13 week plan that has two weeks of taper (15 full weeks leading up to Ironman Chattanooga) in which I would be able to train for an Ironman, be focused and yet still be able to have a conversation with my wife past 8:00pm.  It seemed like a win-win for all.  Was it? The training plan breaks down into 4 week cycles with Week 1 being bike focused, Week 2 focuses on swimming, Week 3 is a run week and week 4 is recover y from it all.  I am in Week 4 so I thought now would be a good time to assess the first three weeks from the training as well as my nutrition and outside life.

Bike –

The first week had a schedule of 264 miles of cycling.  The plan called for 60 miles on Saturday and 60 miles on Sunday with the remaining miles being on the trainer during the week.  Getting on the trainer was not going to just be a recovery spin.  These were doing to be intervals, mile repeats, hills, etc to Sufferfest videos. Mother Nature had other ideas and I finished the week with over 200 miles but what happened on my Sunday long ride gave me a boost of confidence that this plan would work.  During the ride I was told by those in the pack that they could tell the difference between my fitness from two weeks prior and that day.  We managed to average 20 mph over the 60 miles and my heart rate average was 144bpm which is Z2 for me. The run off the bike was also a focus and I did 4 mile brick runs for each ride and with each passing day I got stronger to the point that after that 60 mile ride I ran 4 miles at an 8:12/mi pace at a hear rate of 154bpm which is in the middle of Zone 2.

Swim –

The reason that the second week is swim week is to allow me to recover from the heavy bike week and prepare for the upcoming heavy run week.  This worked to a T and I found that my progress along the way in swimming was unprecedented. I make every attempt to get in open water swim practice as much as possible and through that my swims in the pool have also gotten stronger.  Some background information for thought.  My warm-up pace in the past would have been 1:55-2:00/100 yards.  During this week I noticed that my warm-up pace had gotten down to 1:45-1:50/100 yards.  That would have been a great way to start and end this conversation but the real news is what I noticed during my swim speed sets. In those 18 months of training I may have swam sub-1:40/100 yards a total of 2x.  I did all I could to get that low but it never happened.  During a 2500 yard swim set I did a 500 race set that consisted of (100, 2x50, 4x25, 2x50, 100).  The first 100 I finished in 1:30 and the second I finished in 1:36.  My swimming was becoming more efficient. When I jumped into the lake I found that I was gliding more and not getting gassed when I got to the end of the 0.5 mile loop or even on the return leg.  I began to swim the 1.2 mile loop without a wetsuit in an average of 38 minutes.  My wetsuit 1.2 mile PR is ~38 minutes.  Swimming was getting stronger and the confidence has certainly been built.

Run –

This entire theory was built on the ultra-marathon training that Jeff and I did.  I was running 6 days a week back then and finding that I got stronger as the week went on.  Of course, proper recovery and refueling aided in that and this was something I would carry into this week of running 62 miles. I had weaved in easy runs with speed work as well as a long run.  The terrain would vary as would the paces and by the end of the week I found myself running efficiently and with a lower HR than I expected at the end of this three-week cycle. The speed work I did was on back to back days with 2x4x2 one day and the next day a 3x1 mile repeat.  The 4 miles were to be run at what I project to be my IM tempo pace of 8:30-8:45/mile.  I finished those 4 miles at an average pace of 8:10/mile.  The next day I went out and did those mile repeats on a 1 mile stretch of road, not a track since races aren’t run on the track, at an average pace of 7:00/mile.  Yes, the speed was still there despite all the miles I was logging. The Saturday long run of 23 miles averaged out to a 9:13/mi pace with my heart rate barely out of Zone 1.  I was dehydrated by the end of this run but still managed to feel confident with the way the week had unfolded.

Nutrition –

I started this cycle the day after getting back from vacation.  My weight on the Monday this all started was 152 pounds and a body fat % of 10.8%.  This was the heaviest I had been in forever but it allowed me to enjoy myself and perform a reality check in regards to getting back in shape. As of today I am at 145 pounds with a BF% of 8.5%.  My ideal race weight depending on who you talk to is 144 lbs and 10% body fat.  Now that I am right around that number staying there will be paramount, but not hard. In the past I have maintained my weight through IM training because of all the recovery food you consume and thus losing weight has not been something I have been successful at doing despite trying.

Outside of Triathlon –

On Saturday as I convinced Karen to go get froyo with me I asked her what she thought of the way this plan was unfolding.  How was it impacting her and Chico in terms of me being around, me being irritable and me helping around the house. She responded that the way the plan was unfolding seemed to be working very well.  I was no longer falling asleep on the couch at 8pm.  I was calling her to ask if she wanted to get brunch when training was over instead of focusing on getting in all the naps.  We managed to watch movies, have conversations and the like. At work I find myself more alert and able to handle the responsibilities much better than I did for those 18 months and I am sure my employer is happy, as is my paycheck.

Conclusion –

I am going to withhold the statement that this plan is 100% successful as I still have the months of July and August to go through but so far so good.  The real determining factor will be what unfolds on September 28th at the race but getting there is shaping up to be more enjoyable as well as functional in terms of getting stronger and faster.

Would The Ironman Chattanooga Training Plan Appeal To You?

  [caption id="attachment_9642" align="aligncenter" width="605"]ironman chattanooga training - triathlon - sport focus In order: Bike, Swim, Run weeks followed by overall numbers[/caption]

Cycling was the main focus for the first week of Ironman Chattanooga training and it kicked me in the face.  I struggled more than I expected but I also found out that I can take all those struggles and turn them into victories.  I also learned that the plan I have put together for myself, with its sport specific weeks, proved to be successful. As many of you know I have decided to go without a coach for this next Ironman race.  I have truly enjoyed working with both Claudia and Maria but I needed to hit the reset button while also trying out something new.  In training for the Lake Martin 100 I found out that being sport specific, in terms of training, helped me greatly as I was able to become a better runner and a large part of that was being able to overcome the mental hurdles that would come up. Taking that same approach to triathlon was not easy to do.  For years I have been on the swim 3-4x, bike 3-4x, run 3-4x theory.  That plan seemed to work but in the back of my head I kept wondering if there was something else that could be done.  By changing my routine I have gone outside of the box of triathlon and will be focused on becoming a better cyclist, a better runner and a better swimmer. This past week was Bike Week 1.  My plan was to ride approximately 265 miles while running 24 (all brick runs of 4 miles) and swimming a total of 5000 yards.  I wound up finishing at 80% of my overall plan in terms of hours, but what I noticed at the end of the week was that my cycling was much better than I had expected, and that also translated to faster times running of the bike.  The swimming was nothing more than recovery and to break up the monotony therefore nothing to truly be able to gauge. The cycling wound up at 81% of overall planned time because of a late night meeting on Friday and torrential rain on Sunday that led me to only being able to get through 2 hours on the trainer before the mind decided it had enough.  The majority of the riding in this Bike Week 1 was on the trainer and while I would rather ride outdoors I need to be more efficient with my time. What came out of this week were the following two quotes while on the road with my buddies and these comments not only gave me a confidence boost but also gave me a peek into how well this particular type of training was working for me.

  • Quote 1:  Your fitness on this ride has improved dramatically from the ride we did two weeks ago.
  • Quote 2: Great job on pulling us up that hill at the end of this ride.  I was exhausted but did what I had to do to keep up with you and you did not look like you were struggling.

I cannot tell you if working on the sports instead of triathlon will prove to be the best plan but after a week it looks good.  I was asked why I decided to train this way and my comment back was that as triathletes we are so focused on getting in that number of swim, bike and runs that we lose focus on becoming better at each of the sports.  I think that by being able to focus all your energy on that one sport you will learn to become more efficient and we all know efficiency equals speed. This week is Swim Week 1 with a planned 20,000 yards of swimming over the course of approximately 8 hours.  My running miles will stay about the same, but the number of bike miles drops dramatically this week and will allow my legs to recover as they head into week 3 which is a running week with lots of miles. Can this method be successful?  Only time will tell, but after the first 7 days I feel like a stronger cyclist in comparison to Day 1 which was the main goal of the first week of Ironman Chattanooga training. [caption id="attachment_9619" align="aligncenter" width="300"]cycling - ironman - chattanooga - training 15 hours of workouts with 11 of them in the saddle.
Can sport specific training weeks make me a better triathlete?[/caption]

What Has Been Your Experience With Sport Specific Training?

Have You Done Cycling Specific Week Only In Training For An Ironman?

Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:24

3:56 versus 4:06. What Is The Difference?

[caption id="attachment_9613" align="alignright" width="225"]3:56 marathon - ironman - goal - running Finishing the marathon at IMTX 2013.[/caption] 3:56.  This is an arbitrary number but it made so much sense to me during my run in Myrtle Beach while on vacation.  I kept repeating this number over and over.  I was essentially cheering myself on to a 3:56 and all the while I was comparing it to 4:06.  The chant in my head eventually became 3:56 versus 4:06, 3:56 versus 4:06.  Every time I felt like I could not take another step in the pea soup humidity I heard those words and was able to keep moving until the run was finally over and I doubled over in a pool of sweat and exhaustion.  Deep down I knew I could do it but it took a simple and somewhat silly mantra to push me to that level. Now, what does 3:56 mean?  As I mentioned previously, this number is arbitrary but at the same time it is also a number that is below 4 hours.  A sub-4 hour marathon is my goal, and has been, for the Ironman marathon.  For some reason this is the holy grail for me.  I could take 2:20 in the water and ride for 7 hours but if I broke 4 hours in the marathon I would be smiling from ear to ear.  Why? No clue, but it is what it is. When you break down the 4:06 pace versus the 3:56 pace you get a difference of :23/mile.  That may or may not seem like much but to me it looks like they are worlds apart.  Why? The reason is that in the three Ironman races I have competed in my times have looked like this:  4:09, 4:06, 4:06.  Yes the last two are identical and both have their own stories.  The first 4:06 happened at IMAZ 2012 after a bike wreck where my hip was throbbing and making a running motion with my right arm was difficult.  The second 4:06 happened at IMTX 2013 where we were racing on the surface of the sun with lava running over the ground.  I believe the heat index that day was 110*.  Honestly, it felt like 1,010* but I managed a 4:06 and the 15th fastest marathon for M40-44. When I look back at those two races I could come up with the excuse that had this not happened or that not happened I would have run that sub-4, but ifs do not help you accomplish your goals.  Training hard and focusing will help me accomplish my goals.  Do I have a 3:56 in me?  Sure I do.  When you look at my stand-alone marathon PR time of 3:31 and add 10%-12% for it being an Ironman marathon you get times of 3:52-3:56.  Maybe I am cheating myself by looking at 3:56 and should be targeting 3:52, but that mantra does not roll of the tongue the way 3:56 versus 4:06 does. [caption id="attachment_9614" align="alignright" width="276"]3:56 marathon - ironman - goal - running The bike wreck at IMAZ most likely wrecked my chances at a sub-4 hour marathon that day.[/caption] The numbers tell me that I am capable.  The fact that I am fairly well recovered from Lake Martin 100 and have not been training for 3 Ironman races in 12 months is an indication that I should be going into IMTN as fresh as I can possibly be.  When I review my per mile paces for the 3 loops at IMTX they look like this:  9:09/mile, 9:27/mile, 9:40/mile.  The slowing down is expected but what does that translate into when the goal is 3:56 or a 9:00/mile pace. If my math is correct then the first 8.9 miles have to be run at a pace of 8:47/mi and then the degeneration to 9:07/mi for the next 8.9 miles and finally down to 9:28/mi.  These are not impossible paces but it also fails to take into account that this bike ride, weather, time of year and a million other variables are going to be different in Chattanooga in comparison to The Woodlands. These sorts of things are out of my control but what is in my control is my mental approach to breaking 4 hours.  Training hard and smart, recovering well and preparing my body for the rigors of the race will be done, but in those moments when it is me versus my mind I have to be able to continue to repeat the mantra 3:56 versus 4:06.

Will Ironman Chattanooga Be The Race I Break 4 Hours?

Altra Torin is a zero drop shoe I purchased when the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Trail race ended.  I had the idea that getting into a zero drop shoe would be a good idea because of the varying drop I currently have in my shoe rotation.  I am running in Hoka One One Stinson, Bondi B and Mafate as well as the Brooks Launch.  All of these shoes have different heel to toe drops thus allowing different muscles in my feet and legs to get a workout and thus build a stronger lower body. I chose the Altra Torin because it was on sale and figured it would be a good shoe to test out at the cost I was purchasing it at.  When the box arrived I was excited and ready to run but knew that I would not be giving the shoe a fair shot if I wore it immediately after the LM100.  I needed to recover and so I did for nearly a month before putting the Altra Torin on my feet.  When I did I witnessed and felt something I had never felt before and so the first reaction was one of amazement and excitement. The Altra Torin, like all the other Altra Running shoes, has a very wide toe box.  My foot did not feel cramped one bit inside of the shoe.  It felt unbelievable and I thought that I would really love the shoe.  The maiden voyage was nice and steady without too much stress on my body.  Let's just say that this was our first run in which we were just getting acquainted, similar to a first date.  We were both hesitant to really give too much of ourselves to the other because if it did not work out we had not invested too much into it. I have taken the Altra Torin out for about 50 miles at this point and while the wide open spaces of the toe box are always welcome the lack of cushioning on this model gives me an uneasy feeling as I run.  I noticed, a few times, where my knee would feel the stress of the landing.  I focused on form tremendously when I wore the Altra Torin and that transferred over to the Hoka models but unlike the Altra, the Hoka never caused me any issues with my knees and I attest that to the amount of cushioning that the Hoka offers. [caption id="attachment_9608" align="alignright" width="275"]altra torin - altra olympus - product review - running Altra Olympus Zero Drop With Maximum Cushioning
Source: Altra Running[/caption] Altra does make a shoe, the Olympus, that is a maximum cushion shoe with the zero drop and I believe that will be a better fit for me.  I loved the amount of room my toes were given but I could not get past the soreness in my knee from running in them.  By the way, this soreness is not something that lasted for days, but more like a couple of hours.  It was not excruciating pain but it was noticeable and when I am running I do not want anything to bother me especially my feet or legs.  The Olympus could be the perfect marriage of cushioning and comfort. Besides the wide open toe box, the Altra Torin, has helped me improve my running form.  The shoes come with a pictures showing running form from the proper angle of the body and because I wanted to removed the ache in my knee I paid extreme attention to that form.  When I switched back to the Hoka I carried that form over and I could tell the difference in my ability to run.  I was capable of running more efficiently and in the long-game of endurance sports efficiency is the key to success. While the Altra Torin is not the end all be all running shoe for me it has given the insight into what I truly want out of a shoe.  As a matter of fact I have noticed that the Stinson has less room in the toe box than the Bondi B although I love the Stinson more than the Bondi B.  I believe that when I purchase the Altra Olympus I will be on very happy to have that shoe in my rotation and be able to get back to strengthening muscles in my feet and in my legs.

Do You Run In The Altra Torin?  Your Thoughts?

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