The Longest Ever

I was nervous about today's workout for a few reasons:

1. It was going to be my longest workout ever (not counting the IM last year)
2. I made a lot of changes to my bike set up and nutrition plan
3. My last long brick didn't go very well
4. This was my last long brick before the race so I don't have any more chances to test and/or change my strategy.

The changes to my bike set up weren't that drastic, but any time you change things there's potential for problems. I love the rear bottle cages Matt designed, but I don't really like rear bottle cages in general. Plus, due to the design of my bike those cages sit kind of high and it's tough for me to get on and off my bike quickly. Plus, I only want two bottles on my bike (I can only mount one cage on my frame). So I mounted a bottle cage between my areobars.

I loved this set up. It was great having the bottle up front. It's really easy to get a drink from and there's no more wondering if you've dropped a bottle. The bento box was new (well, kind of) and worked out, but it rubs my knees sometimes and drives me crazy, but I liked having Fig Newtons to eat and may eat two packages of them on race day. Solid food worked great today. So I'll stick with the bento box unless I figure out a way to carry Fig Newtons on my bike without it.

As for the workout, it was really tough but I survived it. There was good and bad, and one thing that I swear could only happen to me. Unreal.

Total workout - 1 mile swim, 112.8 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. 126.9 total miles.
Total time - 30 minute swim, 5:44 bike, 1:52 run. Total = 8:06.

The Swim.

I swam at the Y and started at 7:30 (that's what time the Great Floridian starts). I swam the first 4 laps hard to simulate the stress of a mass start and swimming too hard early in the swim jockeying for position. Then I settled into IM pace and tried to focus on form and staying relaxed. It was going to be a long day. I wanted a 1:40 per 100 pace or better, and every time I checked my splits they were between 1:36 and 1:40 so I hit my goal. Good swim.


Like any good triathlete, I ran out of the pool and into the locker room at full speed. I elbowed the old men, pushed them out of my way and changed as quickly as I could. I put my pants on over my wet swimsuit...no time to take it off. TRANSITIONS COUNT!

I'm kidding. After my swim I drove home and got in my tri gear. I figured it would take about 30 minutes to get home and get on the bike, so nutrition-wise I would be starting the bike roughly the same time I'd be coming out of the water if I swam a full 2.4 miles. I was on the bike by 8:30 so it was pretty close.

The Bike.

My goals were 205 watts and a VI of 1.05. Nailed it. Exactly.

The VI for hour 6 isn't really accurate. Coming through my neighborhood and coasting up to my apartment building screws up the VI a little. If I cut out the last minute of hour 6, the VI is 1.05.

My focus was riding steady and being conservative in the beginning. I felt like I was being too conservative early on and riding slow, but I did hit all my goals so it worked out. It was a good strategy, but it's really hard to hold back the first two hours when you feel really good and want to hammer the hills and get your average speed as high as possible. On lap two I still felt really good so I pushed a little harder and pushed a little harder on the hills.

Hour 3 had my highest VI, but that also included the three hills after Cross Plains so I expected it to be higher than the other hours. Hour 6 included those as well.

My nutrition worked out great, and Infinit was much better than Perpeteum. The only problem, I think, is that I didn't go with enough electrolytes. Luckily, I bought a small bag so I'll adjust that and reorder before the race. I didn't think I'd need so much sodium, but it got to me at the end (ugly).

THIS COULD ONLY HAPPEN TO ME: Two hours and fifteen minutes into the ride, I got stung by a bee. Two weeks ago I got stung on the palm of my hand while riding and that hurt. Today...well...I got stung in the balls. Right through my tri shorts. Sweet Jesus that hurt.

Being a slave to my power meter, and having a great ride going, I swatted him away and got right back at it and tried to block out the pain. Not easy. That's worth repeating: Not easy. Eventually the pain went away...eventually. That was some serious mental training. Next time I will forget all about the power data and lay down by the side of the road and cry for a while, which is what I should've done today.

And yes...I do expect there to be a "next time."

The Run.

Kia Kaha.

That means be strong. That's what the run was all about. Go out easy, settle into goal pace and hopefully hold it the whole time. Kia Kaha.

I kind of pulled that off, but I fell apart at the end because I didn't replace my electrolytes. Three miles to go, I got nauseous, lightheaded and dizzy. What really frustrates me is that I knew it was an electrolyte imbalance and I had salt pills with me but I was too tired to screw with them. I thought I could hold my pace and make it home and then deal with it. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink in a few miles so I was on the edge. It was a stupid move. I should've stayed on top of that. I never would've made it another 13.1 miles today. I had an 8:32 average going until then. I finished with an 8:36 so it wasn't all bad, but it was a struggle. Here are my splits:

The 9:08 came from standing on the side of Cross Country Road dry heaving. Once I realized I wasn't going to puke, I decided to just gut it out and get home. One foot in front of the other. Kia Kaha.

Post Workout.

I was lightheaded, nauseaus, dizzy and I couldn't catch my breath. I just ran 13 miles, and now suddenly I can't breathe. I took my blood pressure, and it was very low just like it was after the Ironman. I took a salt tab and drank some water and within minutes I felt much better. It was amazing, really. I took my blood pressure again about 10 minutes later and it was close to normal, still a little low but not bad.

Sometimes when I come home from tough workouts I feel like hell for a while and I think it might be low blood pressure due to low sodium levels. So from now on I'm going to add a salt tab to my post workout recovery after long workouts.

Overall, the workout was a success. Some things went really well, others not so well but I've learned from them. I know that Infinit is going to work for me, but I need to tweak the formula a bit. I also know that Fig Newtons worked great (I felt so much better after I ate some solid food). My new bottle mount worked. My pacing was great, and I ran well until the last few miles. I know what I need to do to fix that, so hopefully I can execute those things on race day.

And I got through my first 8 hour workout....which wasn't easy. I was hurting toward the end. It's not easy to go into a workout that long without much rest.

Kia Kaha.


A new strategy

I think the toughest workout is the long brick. Not just because it includes more than one sport and is, well, long but also because it brings into play two of the most challenging aspects of triathlon: nutrition and pacing.

Tomorrow is the last of my two *key* workouts before the Great Floridian. Aside from the Ironman last year, this will be my longest training day ever. 30 minute swim, 112 mile bike, 13 mile run. It's about getting in a lot of volume and training my body to go for hours on end, but it's also about testing my nutrition and pacing strategies, both of which I have recently made changes to.


I've been using a mix of Perpeteum, Powerbar gels, Gatorade Endurance, water and Saltstick caps. I've decided to throw that entire plan out the window and start over. Crazy? Maybe.

The new plan is built around a new product for me: Infinit. It's similar to Perpeteum (except it doesn't go bad in the heat and doesn't have soy) but allows you to customize the formula to meet your individual needs. Here's my formula:

I'll still use some Gatorade Endurance, but not much. I'll use one gel on the bike, at the end, to start the transition to my run nutrition which will be all gels, Gatorade and water. The salt tabs are gone. I don't need them unless it's crazy hot. I'll have them with me just in case, but they tend to overload me on sodium and it screws me up. The other change is solid food. I eat Fig Newtons on a lot of my long rides. I like them and they never upset my stomach, so I decided to try eating some solid food early in the ride to see if that helps me later in the workout. It's tough to be fueled only by liquids for half a day.

Here's the bike plan for tomorrow:


Pacing an ironman ride is tough. My power meter makes it much easier, but only if I pay close attention to it and respect the watts. You typically feel good at the beginning of the ride and it's easy to go too hard. Another thing that kills your ride, is having a VI (variable intensity) that's too high. Basically, that means your intensity varies - you're attacking the hills, surging... An even, steady pace is best. An ideal VI for an ironman distance ride is 1.06 or less. Tomorrow my goal is 1.05.

Here is an hour by hour analysis of two of my rides, which kind of illustrates how varying your intensity will catch up with you over time. This first one is from my brick a few weeks ago, which didn't go very well. I was worked over pretty good by the time I got off the bike.

As you can see, my VI continues to rise as my average watts continue to drop over the course of the ride. I wasn't holding my wattage steady. I was hitting the hills too hard and surging, possibly out of corners. Eventually it caught up with me and the end result was pretty ugly.

Below is the analysis of what is probably my best ride over 56 miles ever:

This ride was shorter, and my wattage higher, but I rode more consistently. My VI varies a bit more than I'd like to see but I kept it under control much more than the previous ride. The biggest differences I notice are hours 1 and 3, especially hour 1. It's very important to start out under control and not waste energy too early in the ride. With the IMWI course being pretty hilly, it's going to be tough to keep my VI really steady but that's my goal. I will be focusing very hard on this early in the ride.

Tomorrow, I'm shooting for 205 average watts. Hour 1 is going to be done at 200 watts to get warmed up and try to avoid going out too hard. Then I'll step it up a bit and try to average in the 205-208 range for the next few hours and dial it back a bit toward the end to get ready for the run. I'll be focusing on keeping my power very steady hoping that helps me come off the bike feeling strong so I can have a good run. And hopefully my nutrition plan works and everything goes smooth.


The Best Ever!

I've written about my concern about the potential heat at the Great Floridian (average race day temp = 85) so I did some research (surprise, surprise) and came up with a plan that includes hot, indoor trainer rides, the sauna and possibly some Bikram Yoga. I may dress like it's the middle of the winter and go for a run, but I doubt it.

I noticed the YMCA has a sauna so I figured I'd start there. Maybe get in the sauna a few times a week for 15-20 minutes and see how it goes. My research told me you can get mostly acclimated within 2 weeks of exposure to heat. I won't have constant exposure, and I don't plan on doing all of my rides indoors so I figured I'd stretch the timeline a bit (plus I'm still hoping for 68 degrees on race day).

The picture in the upper left is the first picture that came up when I googled sauna. Trust me on this one...the sauna at the YMCA is nothing like the one pictured.

But it's not bad, actually a little nicer than I expected...which leads me to believe no one uses it. The sign outside says the temperature inside is between 160-180 degrees and you shouldn't be in there for more than 15 minutes. Perfect. I'll do 20.

The first thing I noticed walking into the sauna was that it's really freaking hot in there. Coincidentally, that was also the second thing I noticed. I didn't get around to noticing a third thing since my brain function quickly slowed because, as has already been mentioned, it was really freaking hot in there.

To be completely honest, I expected worse. I handle the heat pretty well and felt really relaxed. Loosey goosey. Taking a deep breath was tough, but other than that I was okay. I stretched out on the bench and listened to music. The next thing I knew, my watch read 18 minutes. Only two to go.

Don't get me wrong, I was sweating a lot and my old, baggy swimsuit was soaked. It wasn't killer, but it wasn't exactly comfortable either. Upon leaving the sauna I immediately went the wrong way around the pool and had to walk all the way around to get to the locker room. I changed, got in my car and drove home. I didn't feel quite right, and quickly realized I was experiencing a phenomenon that is best described as heat-induced mental retardation. Luckily, it's a temporary condition (arguably, I'm sure) and I felt better by morning.

And that was probably the best night of sleep I have ever had. I don't remember any of it, which is what leads me to believe it was the best ever.

[I can only imagine your disappointment to find out the title "The Best Ever" isn't associated with the posted picture, but a night of sleep instead. My apologies.]


Different subject. Here's a great Ironman Wisconsin race report from Hillary Biscay (she won the female pro division last year).


It's interesting, well-written, and I learned that people other than Chris McDonald refer to Chris McDonald as Big Sexy.


Underwater Video Analysis

I think I've mentioned I've had a bad year swimming. If not, I have. It's been discouraging, and I haven't been in the pool as much as I should have. I didn't realize until the past few weeks what my problem was.

It started a few weeks ago swimming in Lake Wingra with Matt. He's a good swimmer so I have a tough time keeping up with him on a good day...and this was a bad day. He noticed I tend to cross my arms over in front of my head creating drag so he told me to keep my arms shoulder width apart. It felt like I was swimming wide (if that makes sense), but I was much faster. Most of all, I was much more motivated. I dug deep and we salvaged the workout and finished strong.

Hmmmm...has my problem been form all along? I knew I needed to improve my form; we could all use some work. But I started wondering if I had lost motivation because I was working harder in the water than last year, and going slower.

Let's back up a bit. A few years ago, I could barely swim. So I took a 3 hour clinic held by Lauren Jensen for about $75. She did some video analysis of the whole group and gave a lot of tips and showed us a ton of drills to do. I went back home and got to work and improved a lot. It took a while, but I was swimming about a 1:35 per 100 yard pace in the pool pretty consistently last spring.

I wanted more speed last year, so over the summer I paid a lot of money for one-on-one lessons. I learned some bad habits, and my form changed for the worse. This year, I've been swimming about a 1:40-1:45/100 pace. And working really hard for that.

Last week I got an e-mail from Jessica at SBR Coaching. Jim Vance from Training Bible Coaching was coming to town and giving a free 2 hour lecture on swimming. He was also doing underwater video analysis. $75 for one person - one hour. $100 for two people. I e-mailed a few people hoping I could get someone to split a session with me. Stephen was interested, and we were able to get one of the very last openings (it filled up very fast).

We met Jim at Pinnacle during our lunch break. He had us swim the length of the pool and he took video of each of us from the side. Then we swam again, and he got some video from the front. That's it. That's all the swimming we did. The rest of the hour was spent analyzing the video. The best $50 I've spent on swimming. I highly recommend video analysis if you really want to improve. It's one thing to have someone tell you what you're doing wrong; it's another to see it.

Here's the side view...

Front view...

I have a lot to improve upon, but the main things are:

- My arms are way too deep. You can see how much drag they create, especially when you watch the front view and see how my left arm starts the pull when I breathe. It's just hanging out there slowing me down.

- No gliding. My stroke is way too fast. I don't glide at all so I never really take advantage of the speed I create with the pull.

- I don't extend my arms enough. Some of this comes from digging so deep into the water. Length in the water is a key point Jim talks about, and when you pause the video you can see I'm not "long" in the water. I'm not using my height to my advantage.

- I do an "S" curve with my arms and rotate my shoulder in the process, thus losing all of the water I was "holding" when I began the catch/pull phase.

- I strain when I breathe (visible on the front view mostly). You should leave one goggle lens in the water, and I clearly do not do that.

Those are the main points I need to work on. There are other little things, but for now that's where I'm going to find speed.

I did my analysis Thursday afternoon and went to Jim's lecture Thursday evening. Great stuff. Everything he said really clicked and made sense. I only hoped that it actually resulted in faster swim times because I've been getting tired of busting my butt in the pool and going nowhere.

Jim focused on 3 points - length, pressure, direction.

Length - meaning you need to be long in the water. Reach. He talks a lot about active reach, which has helped me a lot. He doesn't just say extend your arm. He's saying reach (forcefully). Throw your arm out there with some purpose, and the result is forward momentum and body roll (seriously, it works).

Pressure - This is the catch phase. Most people tell you to "hold water" whatever that means. Jim tells you to feel the pressure against your hand and arm. Pressure - I understand what pressure means. The movement begins with bending your wrist slightly so your fingers are pointing toward the bottom of the pool, then your elbow (so it's high - 90 degree angle) and lastly your shoulder comes into play. He compares it to rock climbing, which is an analogy that helps me a ton in the water. I think about rock climbing now when I swim. You "anchor" your arm (hold water "pressure") and then extend your other arm with force (also using your core) as though you're reaching for the next place on the rock to anchor your arm. This creates body roll and momentum, and then you glide and do it again.

Direction - Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. If you put your arm in the water and do the "S" motion you may have been taught, you're creating a lot of opposing forces. If the first thing you do with your hand when it enters the water is move it to the side - toward the side wall - where do you think you're going to go? Toward the other wall. But that's not where you want to go. You want to go forward. Therefore, all of your movements need to be forward or backward. You put your arm in the water (by the way, you enter the water way in front of you - not by your goggles like Total Immersion teaches - he was big on this and if you watch video of Phelps and other world class swimmers they don't enter by their goggles) with your fingers pointed the direction you want to go - forward. All fingers enter at the same time. Then you pull straight back with as much pressure against your arm as possible.

So here are the things I'm focusing on to improve...

- Length. Keep arms high, and extend. Really extend.

- Arms enter the water shoulder width apart. I've been noticing lately how many people cross their arms over in front of their head. Check it out the next time you're lap swimming. Notice how much drag it creates and how it slows them down.

- Arms enter with force. No more passive reach. Active reach. Create body roll with reach. Be aggressive. This helps create length.

- High elbow on catch. Feel the pressure. Pull arm straight back. Wrist, elbow, shoulder. Like paddling a canoe. No one turns the oar or does a silly "S" curve with it.

- Glide. Create momentum and "don't lose speed." That's what I think when I glide. I try my best to not lose any of the speed I created. Keep the momentum.

- One goggle lens in the water when I breathe. This one is tough for me and will take a lot of time. I'm also working on keeping my head down. You should look down. This raises your hips and minimizes drag. Raise your head and your hips drop.

For right now, those are the main points I'm working on. I've had a week now to make changes to my stroke. I have to admit, reaching aggressively and putting more pressure on my arms is tiring. I'm using my lats more, which is good, but they're a little sore right now.

But the end result is that I'm back to my old stroke, the one I learned at the Lauren Jensen clinic, with improvements. I get into a really good rhythm sometimes (especially when I think about the rock climbing analogy) and can actually feel the speed in the water, which I haven't felt in a long time. I'm motivated, and enjoying swimming a lot more lately. And swimming more. Since the video analysis one week ago, I've swam 7 miles.

Oh yeah, I'm 10-12 seconds per 100 faster in the pool than I was one week ago. I'm consistently swimming 1:28-1:32 per 100 right now. I can't hold that pace for 2.4 miles right now, but if I could that would be a 62 minute Ironman swim. My goal for IMWI 2010 is to swim in about an hour. I'd love to break an hour, but I'd be super happy with 62 minutes. A week ago, it felt impossible.

Now it's time to add flip turns and see if I can drop my speed even more.

The best part...I haven't even started doing the drills Jim Vance gave me to do. I've taken his suggestions, but haven't started on the drills. I'll go into details on those in another post since this one is already way too long.


Ironman Wisconsin 2009

This week was ironweek so there was a lot going on, It was my highest volume week of the year - 21 hours - and with everything going on with the race I kept myself pretty busy. It was fun, but now it's over and I'm tired and ready for a nap this afternoon.

I knew several people doing the Ironman this year, and they covered the gamut of expected finishing times so I had my work cut out for me if I was going to see all of them on the course at some point. Lots of running around to do.

I got to the race early hoping to run into some friends and wish them luck before the start. I had good timing all morning as I ran into nearly everyone before they got into the water. I even made it in time to zip up wetsuits for Matt and Dave. Both were doing their first Ironman so they were nervous, but looked ready to go. Then I ran into the the Wimmers, also doing their first Ironman.

I stood on the helix this year and had the chance to see most everyone come out of the water. I missed a few people, but everyone I knew in the race came out of the water in good shape. Most were right on their expected times so the day was off to a great start.

I watched a little bit of the bike in Verona, but I had a 10 mile run to do so I headed home to get ready for that. I thought I knew when Dave would be coming through Verona on lap 2 so I decided to run along the course hoping to see him. Again, good timing. He came through right on schedule.

The run was where things got tough for everyone, as it typically does in an Ironman. The high temperatures and lack of cloud cover started to take its toll on the athletes.

Matt struggles in the heat, and the heat slowed him down on the run but he dug deep, kept moving forward and finished his first Ironman in 12:20. Had it been cooler I'm confident he could've broken 12 hours, which he was hoping to do. But 12:20 is a smoking fast first Ironman so I think he's happy with his time (as he should be) and I think he had fun out there.

I missed Dave on the run course, but he finished in 13:51. It's the time he predicted (he predicted 13:55), but not the time he was hoping for. The past few months have been rough for him with illnesses and a serious knee injury that's going to require surgery. He hasn't run in 6 weeks so a 13:51 is a great time, and he finished which is always the #1 goal for a first Ironman.

Brian went 11:21, Ryan went sub 12, Chris finished in about 13:30 and Johnny finished in about 16:40.

Then there are the Wimmers - Mike and Jenny. They went into this event knowing they were going to be fighting the cutoffs. They both swam sub 1:45 so they easily made the swim cutoff. Mike made the bike cutoff with about 45 minutes to spare and Jenny came in about 30 minutes later.

Mike was ahead so he had a little more time than Jenny, but both had to hustle if they were going to cross the finish line by midnight. There's a final cutoff at the halfway point of the marathon, and Jenny squeezed through with 3 minutes to spare.

They kept pushing on, but fatigue slowed their pace. I saw them around the 19 mile mark and they still had a shot but they needed to dig deep and speed up even though the fatigue was getting worse. Both were in a lot of pain, and were fighting cramps and stomach issues.

Despite the rules against pacers, I walked with Jenny from mile 19 to 21 thinking I could get her to pick up the pace enough to cross the finish line before midnight. She was too tired to run, and there wasn't enough time to walk the final 5.2 miles before 12. The race officials told her she wouldn't make it and offered to take her back to the finish line. She refused the ride.

Mike still had a shot at finishing and with all the out and backs on the run course he was coming toward us. Jenny headed on her way with a friend of hers who was waiting for her on the bike path, and I walked with Mike.

He came close, but like Jenny was too fatigued to run and there wasn't enough time to walk the rest of the way. Eventually, the officials told him he didn't have time and offered him a ride. He refused and kept walking toward the finish line.

As Mike and I got close to the finish, a few race officials came back and told Mike he needs to run to the finish line because the crowd is waiting for him. He wasn't going to be an official finisher, but the finish line was still lit up, the music was playing and crowd was cheering. Mike dug deep, ran the last .5 miles and got to cross the finish line in front of a crowd. He finished at 12:15. Jenny finished at 12:45.

Even though they didn't meet their goal of becoming "official" Ironman finishers, they showed up to do 140.6 miles and that's exactly what they did. It was inspiring to see them continue knowing their goal wasn't within reach. I think most people would have quit on that dark, lonely bike path. There were no spectators there to see them quit, so it would've been the easy road, the path of least resistance. Without hesitation, they refused to quit.

They proved they're tough enough to do an Ironman. Now they just need to prove they're fast enough. Both are signed up for next year, and I'm confident they'll find the extra fitness needed to cross the finish line by midnight in 2010.

It was a tough day with the lack of cloud cover, and everyone struggled at some point and had to dig deep to keep moving forward. No one gave up, and everyone crossed the finish line.

As for 2010, I signed up this morning. I'm already looking forward to it. It should be a fun...or at least memorable...day.