Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon

Hi All!  I am back to training, now that I’ve signed up for another race.  In August, I’ll be running a half marathon from Georgetown to Idaho Springs, Colorado.  This will be the first time I’ve done this particular race, and my friend Jon told me that it’s a leg burner!  Looking forward to it, actually.  I’ve been a couch potato since running the Napa Valley Marathon in March, and I need something to get me off my butt.

Stay tuned as I post endurance sports education, training tips, gear reviews, etc.  Should be interesting, I hope.

Until then…

Train on!!!

Beautiful Ride up Lookout Mountain

Oh, the joys of fall… this may be the last day of perfect weather to ride.  Low 60’s, sunshine, not too crowded…  gotta love it.

lookout

http://www.strava.com/activities/203262677/embed/f1479818af180e823a123ff03dfc712d3e1bd564

Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado is one of the most beautiful rides around, and I’m lucky to have it right in my backyard!

Now it’s about time to start training for the Napa Valley Marathon.  Official training plan starts on October 13th, and I’ll keep everyone up to date on the progress.

Wish me luck.  Until then…

TRAIN ON!!!

Race Report – Ironman Boulder

Ironman Boulder

Boulder, Colorado, USA
Ironman Distance (swim: 2.4 miles, bike: 112 miles, run: 26.2 miles, total: 140.6 miles)

Air temperature at the start: 67 degrees. Water temperature: 69 degrees.

What a day! I felt very prepared going into the race. My nutrition plan had worked well for the Boulder Peak Triathlon, which was my ‘test race,’ so I stuck with it. Throughout the Ironman-distance race, I ended up drinking 10 full water bottles, 2 bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, 15 Hammer Gels, 4 bananas, and more salt tablets than I can remember. I was mostly happy with how the nutrition portion of the race unfolded. More on that at the end of the blog.

Pre Race – The setup for this race was different than any I had been to before, because T1 and T2 were in totally different places. We had to get our bikes set up the day before, and leave them racked in transition, but no other gear was allowed to be left there. Everything I would need for the first transition was put into a Bike Gear Bag, and that bag was dropped off with volunteers after I had racked my bike. On race morning, we’d have to park near the finish line, then take buses to the swim start. This caused a bit of anxiety, because until you actually put on the wetsuit, and get ready to go, you’re not 100% sure that everything is in order. Instead, I needed to be sure about everything before I even got on the bus to head to the start. No going back. I ended up with just about the best racking spot you can get, being the last bike on the rack, right next to the bike exit. I was next to the pro rack, so got to watch them prepare, also. Pretty cool.

Swim (2.4 miles/3,862 meters) – I had the typical anxiety that I have prior to a big swim, but was able to remain calm. I knew that I could swim the distance, even if I went from buoy to buoy. By my calculations, I would be able to complete it in 1 hour, 37 minutes, so I lined up in the 1:45-2:00 group for the rolling start. I figured those people would be just about my speed, and if I swam a little faster, that would be ok. I had a good warmup swim, then headed to the start line. What I didn’t count on was the cramping… The water was a perfect temperature, and my wetsuit was relatively comfortable, so the swim started out great, but about 300 meters into the swim (more than 3,500m still to go), my right calf cramped. Soon after that, my left calf joined in. I had to stop about every 50 meters and massage them out, which was horrible. By halfway through, my hamstrings had started to cramp as well, and by the end of the swim, every muscle in my legs were cramping. In fact, when I was about 25 meters from the finish, I had to stop for a full 2 minutes to be able to continue, and get out of the water. The good news is that I finished. The bad news is that I was further behind than I wanted to be, and that my legs were already toast. As I exited the water, my watch said 2 hours, 1 minute. Not sure where the discrepancy came from, but my official swim time says 2:07:16. Regardless, I was ahead of the 2:20:00 cutoff. On to the first transition.

T1 – I was able to jog to the area where the wetsuit strippers were waiting for me. They quickly ripped my wetsuit off, and I dashed into the changing tent. I downed a bottle of water, put my bike shoes on, and quickly applied some sunscreen. I donned my helmet as I jogged toward the bike, which was one of the last bikes still left in transition (boo). It was literally 10 steps from the exit, and 10 more to the bike mount point. Time flies, as I expected T1 to take about 5 minutes, instead it was 9:41. A ton of opportunity for improvement, for sure. The same can be said for each leg of the race.

Bike (112 miles/180.25 kilometers) – I was so happy to be on the bike! I knew it would be my favorite leg, and it didn’t disappoint. I was prepared from a nutrition standpoint, as I mentioned, so I ate and drank properly throughout the bike leg. I passed quite a few people that had handily beat me on the swim, so I felt pretty good about being able to “recalibrate” and maybe make up the half hour I had already lost. Alas, it was not to be. The toll that the swim had taken on my legs manifested itself again about 60 miles in, as my quads began to cramp. I was maintaining a pretty low heart rate (average 128) so was in the right zone, but nevertheless, my legs were certainly not up for the challenge. There was a substantial amount of climbing throughout the course, and a lot of it was concentrated in the later portions of the stage. At mile 90, after a particularly brutal climb, I stopped at an aid station for water. I decided to get off my bike and stretch for a minute, and as soon as I started walking, the cramps really kicked in. I wasn’t able to get back on the bike and start pedaling for about 8 minutes. Once I did, I was fine, but in the last few miles, there was one final tough section, called the Three Sisters. It consists of three tough, steep climbs, and although they’re not very long, their placement at the end of the bike leg made them very difficult. I made it through, even though I couldn’t stand while climbing. I’d immediately cramp and have to sit back down on the seat. I was going to finish the bike, but was not looking forward to the run. My goal time for the bike was sub-6 hours, but I finished in 7:01:15. I’m capable of better.

T2 – I handed my bike to a volunteer at the dismount point. Along with having a wetsuit stripper, the volunteer participation in transition really sets Ironman apart from other races. No need to hunt down your spot, re-rack your bike, etc. They take your bike, and off you go. The bike-to-run transition consisted of running, in bike shoes, from the dismount point, along an outdoor running track, about 1/10 mile to the changing tent, while picking up the bike gear bag along the way. There were still more gear bags there than I had anticipated, so I knew I had made up some time on other people, despite my lackluster performance on the bike. Again, time flew as I changed into my running shoes, drank water, and again applied sunscreen. What I thought was 6 or 7 minutes in transition turned out to show as 12:52 on the clock. Wow. Bad.

Run (26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers) – I was feeling a little better as I started the run, hoping to run about a mile, then walk for about a quarter mile before running again. I thought I’d be able to alternate like this, and likely finish the 26.2 miles in less than 4.5 hours, which puts me at about a 10-minute mile. I was able to run almost a mile, but was not able to maintain that pace, instead averaging about a 13.5-minute pace, with far more walking towards the latter half of the race. My marathon time ended up at 5:54:28. Way past my prediction. I did drink and eat well throughout the run, drinking at every aid station, and taking in the occasional gel, banana, or bite of powerbar. I had no GI distress, but by the end of the race, I was covered in salt so heavily that it was crusting on my skin. With less than a mile to go, I picked up the pace, and did my final mile at a sub-10 minute pace, with the final half mile at sub-9 minute pace. I finished strong, so was happy about that.

Summary and Lessons Learned

My final time was 15:25:32, which beats the 17-hour cutoff by more than an hour and a half, but doesn’t make me happy based on my own predictions. Given that fact, I will indeed by signing up for another Ironman-distance race in the near future.

Completing the Ironman has a dream I held for many years. Actually getting it done means an incredible amount to me. As it turns out, Ironman Boulder will be the largest Ironman in the world this year, with 2,812 people starting the race (3,000 registered). I finished in position 1,667. My age group (M45-49) was the second largest age group, with 392 participants. I finished in 232nd position in my age group. In all the post-race reporting that I read, the combination of starting elevation (5,430 feet/1,655 meters above sea level) and ascending/descending on the course made this the most difficult Ironman this year, as well.

I felt as though I had adequately prepared for the race. I was careful to use the word ‘adequate’ because the expectation I had set for myself was that I would ‘exceptionally’ prepare. Upon final analysis, I completed about 65-70% of the planned workouts, depending on the discipline. I only completed about 25% of the optional strength workouts, which had the biggest effect on me during the race, I think. If I had possessed better muscular endurance, I may have been able to better compensate for the leg issues I felt from the swim. My cardio fitness was better than adequate, but really didn’t come into play because I wasn’t able to push it hard enough because my legs were failing.

When I started my official training plan, in February, I weighed 189 pounds, and 17% body fat. On race day, I weighed in at 158 pounds, and my body fat was 8.8%. I likely took off too much weight (31 pounds) which affected my endurance also. I lost more than 7 pounds during the race itself, which was obviously water, and gained almost all of it back in the following 2 days. My goal weight for the next race will be 170-175 pounds, and a body fat of about 11%.

A final note on nutrition: I got a blood test in the weeks following the race, and found out my magnesium levels were low. That could have easily contributed to the cramping I encountered. Also, I believe I took in the right amount of carbs, sodium, electrolytes, etc., but it is entirely possible that I actually OVER-hydrated, and that I flushed much of the sodium out without absorbing it, and leaving my muscles deprived of that key nutrient. I’m now taking magnesium supplements, and have had no cramping issues since.

I will take all of this information, and use it to create my training and nutrition plan for the next race. Having this experience will give me a better ability to create the right base, muscular endurance, and nutrition strategy to excel in the future. Tentatively, I have decided to race in Ironman Chattanooga in 2016. This race consists of a point-to-point swim with a downriver current, a mostly-flat, single-loop bike course, and a flat, two-loop run. It takes place in late September, so the weather should be in the mid-70’s, and the elevation is far lower than where I live and train. All those factors should contribute to a better race result than I saw for Ironman Boulder.

Final Splits:

Swim: 2:07
T1: 9:41
Bike: 7:01
T2: 12:52
Run: 5:54
Overall: 15:25

I’ll keep everyone posted as to how things go, but until then…

TRAIN ON!!!

Upcoming Posts

Hi All,

Just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t disappeared… I’m working on a couple of new projects, as well as a full race report for Ironman Boulder. Sorry that I’ve been off the grid for a few weeks!

More in the next couple of days. Until then…

TRAIN ON!!

Race Report – Boulder Peak Triathlon

Boulder Peak Triathlon
Boulder, Colorado, USA
Olympic/International Distance (swim: 1.5K, bike 42K, run 10K)

It was a perfect day to race… air temp: 73 degrees, water temp: 69 degrees

Now that the Boulder Peak Triathlon has been purchased by Ironman Corporation, the race takes on the full IM personality. Big expo, IM logo everywhere, etc. I was hoping to finish in the top 15 of my age group, which would have earned me an entrance into the Hy-Vee 5150 Championships in Des Moines, IA. I did not earn that spot, but still felt like I had a very good race.

PRE RACE

I arrived right on time, exactly as planned, which was great. I was one of the first people into the transition area, so I was able to pick the ideal spot for my setup. For me, that means being at the end of a row, closest to the bike exit, so I have to run the shortest distance in my bike shoes. Of course, pre-race things happen, and for me, that meant three little hiccups. First, while laying out my gear, my brand new tri singlet split right up the middle. Fortunately, the vendor I bought it from was at the expo, and I was able to get it exchanged before the race. That would have sucked… Then, my heart rate monitor wouldn’t power on. I use a Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor that utilized ANT+ and Bluetooth, so it takes a little while to charge. It must have got turned on in my bag overnight, so it was dead. I ended up doing the race without heart rate data. Lesson learned: pack a backup strap. Check. Lastly, on the warmup swim, another participant wasn’t watching where they were going, and smashed me in the throat during her stroke. I had plenty of time to recover, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it could have been bad.

SWIM

I was most anxious about the swim. I’ve been training for many weeks now, and have had two coaching sessions, but still, I was worried. I am not a fast swimmer by any measure, but I was simply concerned about how it would be out there. The warmup swim helped, and when the race started, I just took it easy. I got passed by most of the wave that followed mine, and took a few breaks along the way, but still finished the swim in 39 minutes. I’m confident that I can keep that pace during Ironman, which means I’ll shoot for a 1:35 swim. If I can get in a decent rhythm, I can probably even get it done in less.

T1

The first transition in a while… you can practice, but race day is a whole different deal. I had a small issue getting my wetsuit off, as it snagged on my timing chip, and I had just sprinted all the way from the beach while stripping the top half of the wetsuit. I had a terrible transition time (5:52) and I think I can shave at least 2 minutes off that. I will put some time into it, but in the bigger scheme of the race, 2 minutes isn’t going to make that much difference. Next year, when I do this race again, it will be better.

BIKE

It felt great to be out on the bike after that swim and transition. I dried off very quickly, and the temp in the low 70’s really helped. It was really comfortable, and not windy at all (which it can really get on that course.) I think I could have pushed it harder, but didn’t want to burn all my matches too early. I have been using Hammer Perpetuem, and that seems to work very well. I think I passed as many people on the bike that passed me on the swim J

T2

The second transition was better, but still room for improvement. I got out in less than 4 minutes, including a potty break and another brief-but-failed attempt at getting that dang heart rate monitor to power up. I’m confident that I can get it done in less than 2 minutes.

RUN

The temp started rising, and it could be felt as I hit the pavement for the run. The first mile was asphalt, then it changed to dirt. It was an out-and-back course, so the last mile was asphalt again. I’m using Newton Gravity III shoes, which have 5 “lugs” under the forefoot. A rock got stuck between the lugs near the end, but it wasn’t an issue. I kept a pretty good pace of about 8:45/mile, and walked every aid station along the way, which bumped my pace to 9:20. I took it easier than I had to, so next year’s performance will also see improvement here.

SUMMARY

I was quite happy with the whole race. The weather, venue, nutrition, and all three legs of the race were great. Training for IM made me emphasize less on speedwork and more on endurance, so next year (if I don’t do another IM), that’ll improve, too. Now, onward to IM!!!

I will update this post with race pics when they’re available. Thanks for reading, and…

TRAIN ON!!!

Week 16/17 – A Little Science (6/2/14-6/15/14)

Since I did a special blog post to describe my experience at the GORUCK Challenge, I thought it would make sense to combine a couple of weeks of the training blog. I completed weeks 16 and 17, on my way to the 24-week goal. With just 7 weeks to go, I’m almost at the end of the Base 3 period, and getting ready for the final training phase, Build, which will finish up just before my taper.

There is no doubt that my fitness has improved. As regular reader of this blog very well know, I track everything, and I’m able to get a good idea of how, precisely, my fitness gains have come about. One of the metrics I’m using is Chronic Training Load, or CTL. To briefly describe the concept, as you regularly stress your body during training, there is obviously a cumulative effect. The three primary “glossary” terms to consider are Training Stress Score (TSS), Acute Training Load (ATL), and the metric that I’ve already mentioned, Chronic Training Load (CTL). TSS is a calculation that takes into account both intensity and duration, thus giving a more precise measurement of workout effectiveness. At the end of this post, I’ll include definitions and formulas. For the purposes of simplicity within this post, I’ll put this in the context of cycling, although these concepts apply equally to all the disciplines.

My CTL, essentially, tells me how much training stress I’ve adapted to by this point. I strive to have my CTL improve each week. It’s a 42-day average, so one huge session, or even one pretty full week, only increases the CTL by a measured amount. From other reading I’ve done, top professionals, such as Craig Alexander or Chris Macca, have a CTL of about 140 at race time. This number is less as the ability/performance level goes down, with top age-groupers at about 120 (those qualifying for Kona.) Solid finishers in age group categories may end up between 90-100. At the beginning of my training plan, I set my CTL goal to be 112 by race day. Due to various factors, such as work, cross training for GORUCK, missed workouts, and abbreviated workouts because of home obligations, I’m behind on that goal. See the chart below for where I am as of the end of Week 17. The best I can really hope for now, if I stick to the training plan 100 percent, would be a CTL of approximately 100 on race day. As you can see in the chart, one flaw in the approach was that I intended to have a CTL of 40 when the training plan began, but I was just over 20, so I began at a huge deficit. With 7 weeks to go, the discipline has to be perfect to allow my body to perform under the stress I intend to inflict upon it…

As for the last two weeks of training, the GORUCK Challenge played heavily into the schedule. In Week 16, I missed both the long ride and long run, substituting them with that epic event. In Week 17, I had some extra recovery time. The Challenge was extraordinarily hard, and I was quite sore for about 3 days. I was back in the swing of it by Wednesday, and had two very good swim workouts during the week. I made a subtle change to my stroke technique that resulted in a great improvement in my efficiency. Given that the swim is the leg that I’m most concerned about, I’m really happy to see it coming together. All told, I did more than a half-ironman distance swim on both Thursday and Friday, followed by a strong ride on Saturday, where I rode the Ironman 70.3 course the day before the event. Even though I had to change a flat, I still finished in 2h45m, so that bodes well for the bike leg. Finally, I did a half-ironman distance run on Sunday, keeping it in zone 2 the entire run, and finished in just over 2 hours.

There’s actually a great, detailed reference here for those that are as anal-retentive as I am: http://www.endurancecorner.com/wko_definitions

So, that being said, now it’s time to start making race-day predictions… IF my discipline is good, and I stick to the training plan, and IF my nutrition is solid for next 7 weeks, and IF bad things (such as flat tires) don’t happen on race day, then… my prediction of times for the race will be as follows:

Swim: 1h25m
T1: 10m
Bike: 6h20m
T2: 5m
Run: 4h45m
Total: 12h45m

I can do better than this, I think, but I want to be realistic, at the same time. After all, it is my first full Ironman…

Alright, gotta run. On the road in Chicago for the week, and have to get those workouts in!!!

Until next week…

Train on!!!

Glossary Terms (from The Power Meter Handbook, by Joe Friel)

Normalized Power (NP): An expression of average power adjusted for the range of variability of power during a ride. A better reflection of the metabolic cost (“kiloCalories”) and effort of a ride than “average power.” In running or swimming, this would be measured as Normalized Pace (NP).

Intensity Factor (IF): The ratio of a rider’s Normalized Power to Functional Threshold Power. An indicator of how challenging the workout or segment thereof was in terms of intensity only.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP): The highest mean maximal power a rider can sustain for 60 minutes. In running or swimming, this would be measure at Functional Threshold Pace (also FTP, just to make it confusing…)

Training Stress Score (TSS): The workload of a training session based on duration and intensity. TSS = (workout duration in seconds x NP x IF) / (FTP x 3600) x 100

Acute Training Load (ATL): The recent workload of training (such as the past 7 days) as defined by the frequency, intensity, and duration. Expressed as Training Stress Score per day. It’s the average of TSS/day for the most recent 7 days.

Chronic Training Load (CTL): The workload of a relatively long period of time (such as 6 weeks) defined by the frequency, intensity, and duration. Expressed as Training Stress Score per day. It’s the average of TSS/day for the most recent 42 days.