Archive for the 'Triathlon' Category

Ironman Florida 2016 Race Report

Pre-race
My wife and father-in-law came to this one which helped in several ways, George kept me company as we walked all over to turn in bags and bike the day before race day. And he and I drove the course. Granted there were about 9 turns instead of IMTX’s messed up course in May with 88. But it was really nice to know all aspects.
I can’t say that I slept and ate perfectly the week leading up to the race. There was a small historic event going on with a childhood dream of my beloved Cubs winning the World Series. And an Adele concert. Such is life, packing it all in, letting the chips fall where they may, and not worrying about it.
On race morning, I walked the 10 minutes to the race area. As I did, I noticed the wind. A wind that wasn’t there the two days previous. As I walked by a couple athletes, I remarked that maybe it’ll die down at sunrise. Wishful thinking.
I did the typical pre-race stuff—getting bike ready, placing Special Needs Bags in their place (for stops for extra stuff like pain meds, Band-Aids, extra tire/tube). Call them Just-in-Case bags. I was there early, so there was wait time. Ended up sitting next to a Chicagoan, so of course we had plenty to talk about, which served as a great distraction (he’s 44 and completed his 4th IM today). We were so distracted, at some point, I said, we’d better get our wet suits on and head out to the beach (race was wet suit legal by less than a degree Fahrenheit. I had not dipped even a toe in the Gulf in the past two days (Coach said NO practice swim, and like every day of my training since the beginning, I listened). As the sun rose, you could see the wind wreaking a little havoc with the surface. Lots of chop. But not huge breakers to push through. So I didn’t fret. Again, my new buddy, Scott, was a calming influence. We got in the corral and got mentally ready.

Swim
Jennifer was down at the beach taking pics and observing her first IM. She couldn’t believe we were voluntarily wading into the water. She could see how far out we’d swim before turning left twice and coming back (we had to do the loop twice as going too far out there was probably not a good idea). I waded in and started swimming as soon as it was deep enough. Immediately, we were tossed around like floating debris. Although we got in a steady stream (not a mass start), it was crowded and you had to fight for space. I always seem to be the guy who moves over when people cross my path. I was determined not to get kicked in the face.
One literally gets seasick out there between the waves and inevitable salt water drink. It was actually nice to get out halfway through it, and rinse my mouth and drink a little water. People lined the shore ankle deep where we crossed back towards the start–part walk, part swim.
There were a few large jellyfish down at the bottom, but they seemed content to just watch the mayhem. It was a treat to actually see in the water (again avoiding people). As with IMTX, as I got close to the finish, I took an elbow or hand to my nose. I literally said ouch out loud while taking a breath. At least my goggles did not move.
I typically swim 2.4 miles in 1:24. I didn’t catch my time at the moment of exit, so I felt like I was slower. Actually, it was a minute quicker. Quickly got peeled from my wet suit—this is one of the most critical jobs as a volunteer. He had that suit off very quickly.
I came out of the water in 150th place out of 330.

T1
Transition to bike is a lot of running. You grab your bag (I found mine before the volunteer since I taped it up with yellow duct tape to stand out). You run across the entire corral (outside it) to dressing area in the hotel. The place was mobbed. Found a seat and put on bike stuff (stayed in my tri kit this time). I couldn’t find my baggie of chamois cream right away, but there was a new package of Butt Butt’r sitting on floor right below my seat—very fortunate. My only mistake here was not taking my Advil. Then you run all the way back to where the bags are, and then run all the way back to bike rack where my Shiv was waiting.
This took a lot more time than I would have liked, perhaps two minutes longer. But what can you do. Eight or so minutes.

Bike
bikeIMFL I got on my bike and saw that 1:32 had transpired since start (my Garmin was my companion all day—I didn’t see clocks anywhere). I figured I swam poorly, so off I went on the bike, passing people immediately. Coach wanted my Normalized Power to be 190 Watts and the HR around 150 as a backup metric. At first, the HR strap wouldn’t work at all. I was thinking, that would be a problem for the run. But slowly it started to show a number inaccurately, but then accurately. Situation averted.
My NP was 210 Watts in hurry, but partially due to the fact that we turned into the NE wind fairly soon. HR was still very low. So I didn’t fret and kept passing dozens and dozens.  They just kept coming and coming. Once in a while, I’d get passed (and half of those, I passed eventually down the road).
Having driven the route, I had a good feel for how far away the turns were and where is was going to get really windy… like in your face windy. And most of the first half of the ride was just that. Having the tri bike (The Shiv) this time certainly helped. I was in the aero position 99% of the time and it helped reduce resistance.
Well-supported turns and a safe route. My only complaint was they had little kids handing out bananas. That was all I wanted half way through and as I passed those kids, they’d practically pull it away a little, nervous about a handoff with a bike blazing (not too fast) by. Twice I missed it and kept going. The third try (dozens of miles later) was successful. Had a cool refuel on the Shiv, too. As I approached a rest stop, I opened the cap to the water bladder that’s inside my frame. I grabbed a bottle at the start of the station, and was able to squeeze all the water in and toss the bottle in the garbage zone at the end of the aid station (tossing after you pass it is a time penalty). Had never done this in motion and was impressed I could do it.
Things got a little faster in the spots where we had a tailwind, but by then I was starting to fade. NP was down to 197ish. I had small scare at Mile 93ish. Some guy passed me, got in front of me and slowed down. I was immediately too close and could be penalized for drafting off of him. And of course, that’s when a motorcycle roared by with a race official. She looked at me and wagged a finger (like back off). I pointed a finger (index) at the guy in front of me to signal, he did it. But it’s my job to back off when passed. She drove off. So at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was signaled to stop at the next penalty tent (at end of ride) for five minutes of standing still (not a good place to do this) or if it was a warning. I didn’t see a red card nor her writing down my number, so I assumed it was a warning and hoped for the best. I guess it was.
Rolled into the dismount area (after some really bad wind coming through town) and handed my bike off to a volunteer. Grabbed bag and went back to changing area. Only about 20 in there at the time. I figured I had passed many–although not many had the age of 45 to 49 on their calf. So I was perplexed as to where all of them were.
I guess I passed them and just had my head down working hard because I moved from 150th to 30th in my Age Group. I was hoping to break 5 hours based on last year’s results, but I think the wind had other plans. 5:13 was good enough, around 21.5 mph average for 112 miles.

T2
A quick change. I did not change my socks (I did at IMTX, left a fold in the sock and ending up in serious pain due to the blister than formed quickly). I did put baby powder in them the night before and hoped it would be dry enough. Took pain killer this time and jogged to the exit to start the run. I was happy to start running, just knowing this was the last leg. About 4.5 minutes for this one.

Run
At IMTX, my legs were not willing to run under 10:00ish/mile. I could run, but not fast. I was very curious to see what would happen here. Coach said to warm up a little then rev to 158 HR. THAT was not going to happen. Don’t know why. Just felt comfortable at 145ish and kept it there as the pace was around 8:00/mile. Good enough. Long day.
My only discomfort around Mile 2 was I had to pee. Badly. Even though I “relieved in motion” on the bike. Twice. I couldn’t pull that off while running (on the bike, you just stand up and think happy thoughts). So I stopped at a portapotty. And was there forever. That delay actually cost me later.
So, I ran and ran and ran. The route is two loops that are out-and-back. So you see the same people and sights four times. My head just wanted to get to Mile 13 for the turnaround for the second loop. Then I knew I just had to do it once more. It kinda sucks when you see Mile 19 while running the first loop, knowing your sign is Mile 6. But I dreamt of the second loop when those teen markings would be mine.
Eating, drinking, taking salt tablets. That was the only break in the monotony. I saw the Male and Female top three athletes (labeled as such by the bike behind them). The women were 13 miles ahead of me. So strong and looking like champions.
When I got to about Mile 19 I was ready for this to be over. I could see my pace creeping up every mile. I tried to push it in the middle somewhere, but that was short-lived. At Mile 23, I did something I never have done at a race. I switched from Gatorade/water to Pepsi. Once you start Pepsi, that’s all you drink to avoid a sugar crash. It may have helped—not sure. By Mile 24, my right leg started to hurt (more than the rest of my body). I had to dig deeper and keep going knowing the Mile 25 sign was ahead and then it’s all downhill.
Then you can hear the announcer and crowd. And then you see them. I got passed by some jackwagon in my age group as I entered the finisher’s chute. Whatever dude, neither of us are going to Kona. He would have passed me anyway, because I had Jennifer and George staged to hand me the Chicago Cubs W Flag we bought just weeks ago (funny story about this I’ll save for another time). George begrudgingly handed it to me (he’s a Cleveland fan having grown up there), and I gave Jennifer a kiss. And the last 20 yards, I barely remember as I flew the W over my head.
I actually made up more ground from the swim during the run. I moved up 5 (almost 6 or 7) slots to finish 25th in my age group and 179 overall (out of 2250).

Post-race
Of course, I could barely move, but the three of us made it out to dinner. A special thank you goes out to all those friends and family keeping track of me all day. Whenever I crossed a timing mat, I thought of all of you wrapped up the excitement of the day and rooting me on. I felt your presence, believe me. There was no way I was going to give up and back down—I didn’t walk—even in aid stations. Oh, I wanted to stop, but I knew I’d be “flying the W” soon enough if I’d keep the pace up.
I wanted to crack 4 hours on the run, but that pee stop at Mile 2 (and maybe the W) cost me a few ticks over. But, who cares. The day was a success–practically the perfect race as far as avoiding surprises and mistakes. Final time: 10:50:58. At IMTX (which was 17 miles shorter on the bike, 50 minutes perhaps), I finished in 11:30ish, in 117th. I’m happy, even if my body isn’t. I’m typing this at 2:00 AM because it woke me up and my mind was swimming with all the stuff to capture in this write up! Good use of the free hour, I guess.

Ironman Texas 2016 Race Report

Pre-race:

Got up at 3:30 am, was out of the house by 4:30 and at T1 before it opened. Had plenty of time to take care of bike, add food to T1 bag, return my pump to (my most excellent Sherpa and friend) Larry, and a visit to restroom. I found my coach, Dave Jimenez, with the other Ironman U coaches and got to meet the CEO of Ironman (nice guy—told us his favorite race was Viet Nam). Water temp was steamy 81F, and only a small fraction insisted on wearing their wet suits and had to start at the end of the line. I jumped in line with those finishing around the same time and there was little time to think about what was going to happen. Somehow I was pretty calm the entire 24 hours leading up to the start—even slept about six hours.

The swim (2.4 miles):

We went in a line of sorts (a few at a time off the boat ramp). Adjusted immediately and just swam. The day before I did the practice swim and forgot my goggles and swam a half mile blind. Made this swim seem easier in a way. Didn’t tangle up with anyone really. Didn’t draft either. Had open pockets much of the time. They changed the swim to not include the canal (water unfit apparently), so we swam the entire lake (right down to the spillway, where I swear there was a current). Once I turned the corner to go back, I knew the swim was in the bag. I tried to focus on form. Sighting was no big deal. Although, it got foggy during the swim to where you couldn’t see the bridge at either end until you got close. Just swam buoy to buoy. Near the end I got clobbered by some guy and had to swim away from him. Some would drift into my path and I’d have to stop and swim towards the side they came from. Getting out was easy—great volunteers everywhere, but especially knee-deep in the water helping us out. And off to the bags and changing tent.

coming out of lake Ironman time: 1:25:03 Garmin time: 1:24:51 (about what I predicted). This is a 1:44min/100yd pace—very happy with that. Felt like I was moving, not many passed me and I passed many. Ironman said I was in 131st out of about 300 at that point. 850 in gender. 1100/3031.

T1:

Changing tent was hot. Had to find a seat first. Decided to go for comfort and get out of the tri-suit. Had food pre-loaded in sleeveless cycling jersey. Pretty smooth transition—a bit of travel in bike shoes. Volunteers slathered me in sun block (no sunburn!).

Ironman time: 6:50; Garmin 6:48

The bike (94-95 miles)

The big controversy. The original route got canned due to construction (and bad planning). It took months to figure out an alternative due to working with a different county and massive flooding. Many transferred out to another race. I wasn’t about to. This would still be a real Ironman—I don’t care what anyone says.

So for many triathletes, I’m guessing the route sucked. 85 turns. Not a lot of really long straightaways. Basically not much different than charity rides in my neck of the woods. But the road surface was much nicer and it was very well marked. Larry and I drove it the day before and got lost four times. But I remembered much of it and it helped in a few ways.

So race day, it was really hot and really humid. Coach wanted my HR to be 140-145 (my top of Zone 2) and I couldn’t get it down that low (averaged 152, so close). Especially following a few guys who I eventually let go (only to pass one much later). We haven’t had this kind of heat and humidity yet in Dallas, so I wasn’t really ready for it. I think that attributed to my higher HR as I felt fine—not panting at all. I kept to my nutrition and liquids as planned. I had the Garmin alarm me every 20 minutes like clockwork.

Tri bikes were doing just fine. I was getting passed plenty on my road bike. I was a little miffed and jealous, but I knew I couldn’t go after them—there was a little run coming up. I suppose some cranked up the speed knowing they had less miles (and the CEO of Ironman said that would be a mistake).

I rolled into Transition ready to move on and very nervous about my knees. biking

Ironman time: 4:39:00 (pace 20.43 mph); Garmin 4:39:08 20.2 mph (distance is different). Moved up to 89th place (624, 775). My daughter said she sorted the data and I ranked 40th in AG on bike.

T2:

Grabbed another bag and went into another hot tent and changed to running shorts and tech shirt. More sun block. I changed socks and did this too quickly I think—might have had a fold in the sock which turned out to be a bad thing.

Ironman and Garmin: 6:26

The Run:

This was slow sledding from the very start. I immediately had blistering going on under my left foot and the humidity was rough. Coach Dave said to run to each rest stop and then walk through. So that was the plan. This made most of my 1 miles splits come out to 10:45ish which felt really slow. And then I’d walk the rest stops even slower (11:30-12:30 pace as a result). But I was still running.

Coach Dave found me on the path on his mountain bike at Mile 11.5 and asked how I was doing. I said I was OK but running as fast as I was going to go. He said I killed the bike and was happy to see me running at all—he had taped my knee the night before and I told him it was a crap shoot on that. The knee was hurting some, but I took a pain pill for that (which doesn’t help tight quads or a blistered foot, by the way). With his encouraging words, I mustered on.

At Mile 12, it started to lightning and thunder. Then rain. Then rain really hard. By Mile 13, they told us to run to the next timing mat and they were stopping the race for up to an hour. But you had to get to the mat to keep your data right. The problem was I had no idea where that was and even so, it would take a long time to get there. The temp dropped from 95 to 66F in a hurry.

running in the rainBy Mile 14, water was flooding the sidewalks, roads, and paths. And then pea-sized hail fell. And then the wind picked up. Apparently up to 30mph—it made the rain hit me horizontally. I had to tilt my hat and head to shield my face. But I mustered on. No timing mat in sight. As I looked down into the canal, there were white caps on the water surface. It was insane. Most spectators ran for cover, but there were some crazies out there encouraging the few that were still running. 

Then it died down some and by time I got to the timing mat they had let the horde go. No stop for me.

The fortunate thing about the course was that it was three loops. I kept thinking, if I can just get to the second lap, I’ll know I’ll see each aid station, group of spectators, whatever, only one more time. But at this point, I was drenched. My non-technical clothes were carrying extra water, my feet were floating in my shoes, and I was hurting.

Even though on Mile 5 I was thinking of bagging it (just felt like 21 miles was going to be impossible), by the third loop, my goal changed to run the whole thing. Yes, stop and walk at aid stations, but run every step in between. At Mile 23, this seemed impossible. My foot was on fire (and apparently, I’m going to lose two or three toenails) and my knee was really starting to hurt (oh, I suppose there was the normal feeling of waiting to die). I had seen a local fellow triathlete, Chris, miles before and she asked how I was doing and I just shrugged my shoulders. I guess I didn’t really know how I was doing—I was keeping the same pace sorta, but it was slow. Is that good? Well, in those last three miles, I passed dozens and dozens who were walking. One gal who was walking shouted out as I passed, “Keep running dude.” I thought, yep, I’ve come this far, don’t stop running now. The pain is your new paradigm. This is who you are, hurting dude on a mission. Just keeping going.

finish line I saw Chris just before the finish. At that point, I knew I had made it. She was yelling and I was yelling. Even before the last turn before the chute, people were yelling, “you’ve done it, you’re there” and I’d scream back over the din, “YES I DID!” I was the only guy in the finishedchute when I got there. Throngs of people watched my finish and I entertained them. I pumped my fists, yelled, kissed the sky, and then put out my arms and flew up to the finish. Mike Reilly said, Jeffrey is really happy to be here because JEFFREY, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Ironman Run time: 5:16:07 Garmin: 5:16 elapsed time. Finished in 117th, 764th, and 981st.

Total 11:33:30

A Triathlete in a Cyclist’s Body

tri on a bikeI have experienced many different challenges in cycling–from crossing the United States in 40 days to climbing the mountains of France, Italy, and Colorado. The roadmap to getting to this level was simple: get on your bike and ride. Sure, there were several lessons along the way on avoiding overtraining, dehydration, and choosing your gears wisely as your gain strength. For the most part, the advice was consistent and the miles led to more ability.

About a year ago, I thought I’d add some new flavor to this activity by adding two sports: swimming and running. For years I said I never would—I knew nothing about these sports and both seemed difficult. Basically, I couldn’t swim. Yes, I could get to shore if I fell off a boat, but barely. The last time I had ran, a half-mile seemed too far.

But through this journey into Triathlon, I’ve learned quite a bit—mainly what not to do. Triathletes starting out as cyclists have a special challenge, in my opinion. There are many more mistakes to be made in the other sports, and you can’t jump in nonchalantly. As many will tell you, in a Triathlon, you swim to the bike–you bike to the run–and then the race starts.

Although I am in no way an expert of transitioning from a pure cyclist to a hopeful triathlete, I thought I’d capture the thoughts that have been rolling around in my brain on the subject, and share them with others who might benefit from learning from my mistakes.

Running:

It seems way too easy to injury yourself as a runner. The wrong gait, the wrong shoe, the wrong mileage strategy all lead to injury. In my first Half Ironman, I had to walk/run half of the run portion and dropped from 35th in my age group to lower than 70th. And it hurt. A lot.

You will be told you shouldn’t increase your miles per week by more than 10%. You will be told it is better to keep your cadence high(ish) and not worry about your pace. You might be told to keep your strides short and don’t overextend (“hide your feet” I was wisely advised). But if you don’t ask questions about this, you won’t learn about all this until it is too late. It takes a long time to recover from running injuries, too. 

Somewhere along the way, you’ll also be introduced to rolling, better stretching (even when you’re NOT running), yoga, and core workouts (especially hips and glutes!!!).

So avoid jumping in carelessly.  Assume nothing is easy.  Once you master the basics, there are tons of form and drills you’ll have to learn, too.

Swimming:

I learned swimming is all about technique. Think aerodynamics–wind passing over a car. The less you fight the water, the more efficiently you swim. This doesn’t have to be about speed—it can encompass saving you effort. Recently, I changed three things about my approach in the water and gained 10% speed while reducing the amount of effort to cover the same distance.

Like many cyclists, the hardest part was getting started. Find a beginner’s class. Tell them you know nothing. And jump in. Don’t think about it too much. As a cyclist, I already had the fitness, so it wasn’t hard to progress. Even with poor form.

Swimming in open water intimates most everyone at first.  Swim with a local Triathlon club.  They will take you through the basics and give you some comfort.  Yes, the water is dark.  Yes, you have to learn to like cooler temps than bath water.  And yes, there are living creatures nearby, but they are more afraid of you than you of them.  It takes one to two swims to get used to the concept.  After that, you will love it.  Seriously.  And you get to dress up like a super hero when you buy your first wetsuit.

While training indoors, you might have to get used to showing a little more of your body than you’d like.  But you know what?  No one cares, and frankly, no one is looking at you.  Much.  Wear a swim cap and dark goggles–no one will recognize you.  Maybe.

Cycling:

A major shift for some cyclists is giving up on drafting. Stop doing it. You will not be able to draft in a race. If the wind bothers you—embrace it. Learn to love the challenge. You will also have to learn to love indoor training (which I never preferred). At times, it is easier to execute a training day on a trainer than stopping continuously for traffic lights and cars.

If you’ve enjoyed long endurance rides most of your cycling career, get ready for more interval work. And the opposite is also true. The harder part will actually be scaling back a little if you’ve been an avid cyclist.

As a long-time cyclist, it’s easy to think you’ll make up for weaknesses in the other sports by riding really hard and gaining time during the bike portion of the race. All you’ll do is make the run harder and run out gas sooner (and all the triathetes you passed on the road get to laugh at you as they run by you). The good news is your cycling fitness will allow you to optimize your ride. Get to the run in the best shape you can.

The Bigger Picture:

Complexity goes up quite a bit when you add even one more sport to a race. You might get away with not drinking or eating enough on a ride when you can replenish when you get off the saddle. Not the case in triathlon. Many a race has been crushed by poor decision-making in the area of nutrition. Decisions about equipment can be deal-breakers, too.

In the end, the best advice I can give you is: get a coach. It is much easier to have one source of advice. This includes not just technique, nutrition, recovery, and your weekly training plan, but also your race day plan (including how to deal with transitions between sports). And good advice is even more critical when you’re injured, overtraining, or something unexpected happens.

I did the Lone Ranger approach to training for a few shorter triathlons. I got fairly far, fairly fast. Leveraging my cycling fitness, I thought I could get away with it. I was just kidding myself and ended up with ITB Syndrome. Don’t make the same mistakes—don’t assume running and swimming are the same as cycling. Especially when you will do them all in the same event.


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