1000 Yard TT

I swam my 1000 yard TT for the Dark Star ePostal Swim Meet today.  To give a little background, I typically swim about 8000-15000 yards per week.  In the swimming world, that's not much volume.  In fact, for elite swimmers that's one day of swimming.  

So, with my plan of improving my swim this winter, I ramped up my volume to about 25,000 yards per week.  It was a big jump, and put a hurting on my left shoulder so I decided to make this week a very low volume easy week to make sure I don't injure myself.  Prior to this week, I had put in a little more than 90,000 yards in 28 days.  Big volume for me.

So with this being an easy week, I was well rested and in the best swim shape of my life going into this TT.  Needless to say, I was expecting a PR.  Not hoping.  Expecting.

My previous best for 1000 yards was 14:00.

I started out somewhat conservative hoping I could pace myself well enough to negative split the TT and finish strong and fast.  I didn't check all of my splits, but I did see that I started out with a 1:22 then a 1:20. I hit the halfway point at 6:46, a 1:21 pace.  This had me on target to break 13:30, so that became my new goal.  I was feeling strong so breaking 14 was a given in my mind. I needed to completely fall apart not to break 14 at this point.

So I bumped up the effort on the second half trying to continue building my pace little by little so that I was swimming all out for the last 100 yards.  I finished in a time of 13:23, a 1:20 per 100/yard average pace and a PR by 37 seconds.  

Best of all, I finished feeling like there's more in the tank.  I think I could have pushed a little harder early on, but I was already swimming a PR pace and didn't want to blow up.  I wasn't sure what I was capable of, so I don't feel like I didn't pace it well.  I just think there's another PR coming down the road.

First half = 6:46  (1:21 pace)
Second half = 6:37 (1:19 pace)
Total = 13:23 (1:20 pace)


Mental Barriers

Everyone has mental barriers.  It might be the fear of open water swimming or swimming in a group.  It might be running a certain distance or pace.  For me, I have different barriers for each discipline and they've developed over years.  They came from plateaus, failures, poor training, etc.  But regardless of how they developed, they exist and need to be addressed.  

Devil's Lake swim last summer.


Swimming is a tough one.  I can't really define my mental barrier easily, but it appears to be somewhat fitness related.  I don't have confidence in the water.  I don't believe I can swim hard for 2.4 miles (by hard, I mean a good solid Ironman pace, not all out).  My form has always fallen apart after about 30 minutes of swimming and because of that I've gone out too easy in the past couple of Ironmans and had slow swims.  I've also lost confidence through failure in swimming.  I've set out several times to set a PR and come up short.  This has hurt my confidence and left me questioning my ability to swim well.  A lot of this has come from me not putting in enough time in the pool.  If I ever skip a workout, it's swimming.  It's the sport I feel I can't master, but to be brutally honest with myself I've never put in the time or effort required.

No more!

This winter I'm committed to improving my swimming, and I'm doing it the way I've improved in the other two disciplines:  volume.  I'm going to swim and swim and swim.  More is more.  In the last 28 days I've logged more than 90,000 yards in the pool (more than 52 miles).  I have my 1000 yard time trial coming up this Friday so hopefully I'll see some improvement and set a new PR.  14 minutes flat is my current PR so I'm looking to break that mark on Friday.

Taken during the 24-hour indoor TT.  Feb 2011.


300 watts.  That's the barrier, and it drives me crazy.  When I started cycling in 2006, it didn't take that long to get my threshold* up to 280 watts.  That's where it was when I raced my first Ironman in 2008 (IMWI).  Since it grew so quickly, I figured it keep on going for a while.  I knew there would be a plateau, but I didn't think I was so close to it.  The following year I improved my threshold a bit and have more or less been stuck around that 300 mark for a couple of years.  My endurance has improved, but my threshold has been a sticking point.

Sometimes it's physical and I'm not strong enough to break 300, but many times it's mental.  I see a number in the 300s and I subconsciously back off because I don't believe I can hold it for an hour.  I've tried to hit 300+ and failed in the past many times.

In the 24 hour TT a few weeks ago I put out 295 watts for an hour.  That's a good place to be for November, but again I was short of 300.  

To address this, I'm doing plenty of threshold work and going back to what I did when I started cycling - weightlifting.  I know a lot of people claim it doesn't help, but I'm going to try it out for myself.  I'm pretty old school when it comes to weights.  No fancy schmancy machines for me (except leg extensions and leg curls, but that's only because of my knee injury).  I prefer a dusty old squat rack.  I'm working my way up gradually.  I've made progress, but still I'm squatting 50 lbs less than I did in high school.  I've got a ways to go.

I also tell myself, when I do threshold work, that I belong in the 300s.  If my wattage isn't 300+, I'm slacking and not reaching my potential.  I'm convincing myself I belong in the 300s, not below.  It's a mind game.  I have a one-hour TT coming up in early Jan so I'll have a chance to test myself.  300+ or bust.

This is from a threshold workout I did a little over a week ago - 287w for 20 minutes, 301w for 15 minutes, 316w for 10 minutes and 342w for 5 minutes.  I finished it off with some Ironman-paced work.  It was a solid workout.

I dug up an old pic.  This is the halfway point of the run at IMWI '08.


6 minute miles.  I set a 5K PR of 19:19 in 2008 and since then have only brought it down to 18:55.  That's a 6:05 pace. I know I have it in me to run a sub-6 pace for a 5K.  It's mental, just like my 300 watt barrier.  I see numbers that start with a 5 and I start thinking I need to pace myself because I can't hold it.  I've tried many times and come up short on this one.

One thing I've discovered is that I'm not running enough 5K paced work.  I put in a lot of time doing solid distance work, but I'm not putting in enough sub-7 minute miles to really develop the endurance and confidence I need to run a sub-6 5K pace.  

Unfortunately, my knee has been giving me a lot of problems again so running is on the back burner.  I need to get these tendons healed before I can address this barrier, and it may not happen until late in 2012.  

Until then, my focus will be on smashing my swim and bike barriers.  Hopefully, I can break through those this year and then I'll work on my run barrier for 2013.

Barriers can be frustrating, and they definitely hold us back, but without them the reward isn't as great.  PRs are fun, but smashing through a long-time mental barrier is incredibly rewarding....or so I hear.  I've yet to crack these.  

My first opportunity will by my cycling TT.  Swimming will be the Galveston 70.3 in April.  I can set all the PRs I want in the pool until then, but it's race day that counts.  That's my real barrier.  My goal will be to break 30 minutes in the swim.

*threshold is the max power you can hold for one hour. 


Big Swim Set

I want to do the classic swim set 100x100 on 100.  For those unfamiliar, that means you swim 100 yards 100 times leaving every 100 seconds (one minute and forty seconds). 

Since I've been swimming a lot lately, I decided to do a bit of a test set Sunday morning.  I swam 60x100 on 100.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  It sounds like a tough swim because that's a lot of 100s, but when you think about the total time it takes (one hour and forty minutes) it doesn't sound that bad. I work out for two hours or more all the time, so an hour forty shouldn't be so bad, right?


As it turns out, this wasn't tough at all.  In fact, it was kind of easy.  I started out pretty easy and swam the first 5 as a warm up swimming about a 1:30 per 100 yard pace. From then on, I swam the rest of them between 1:23 and 1:30 with the large majority of them being 1:26-1:28.  I felt comfortable the whole time and the pace was easy.  I don't even think my heart rate hit 130 at all.  

So I'm feeling confident about the 100x100 on 100.  That workout will take nearly 3 hours (you can do 36 100s on 1:40 in an hour) so I'll try to get some people to join me, at least for part of it, to keep things interesting.  

A look at my weekly swim volume for the year shows why I had a bad swim in Kona.  It also shows why my shoulders are so tired and sore right now.

2011 Swim Volume by Week

I swam just under 24,000 yards this week which put me back in the lead in the December swim challenge on Slowtwitch.  Luckily for me, the competition is based on volume and not speed.  There are some very fast swimmers in the competition.  

I'm Supersquid. 

I don't have a lot of time left to do my 1000 yard TT for the Dark Star ePostal swim meet.  I'm thinking I'll do that this week, maybe over the weekend.  The goal is to break 14 minutes.  That's my current PR.  Coming off two weeks of my highest volume ever, I'm feeling good about my chances.  


Later in the day, I got out for what could be my last outdoor ride of the year.  Hopefully not, but I'm not counting on more outdoor miles.  It was 43 and sunny, and in December in Wisconsin....that's riding weather.  

About to head out for what may be my last outdoor ride of 2011.


Aerobic Swimming (More is More)

Aerobic vs. anaerobic.  Intensity vs. Long Slow Distance (LSD - which should be called Long Steady Distance in my opinion, maybe then it wouldn't be so misunderstood).  High volume vs. low volume.  The debates go on and on with no end or resolution in sight.  

But I'm not writing this post to start a debate.  I'm writing about my swimming plan this winter, and how I intend to improve my swimming once and for all.  I'm sure you can guess by the subject line that my plan is going to include a lot of aerobic swimming.  A LOT.  I can see you cringing and crying out, "you have to swim fast to swim fast."  I hear you, and don't disagree.  Let me explain my position, and hopefully you'll see my logic.  Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a while to see the results.

Before I begin explaining myself, I'll apologize for the length of this post.  I have a feeling it's going to be a long one.  I get wordy when writing about training methods.  I love this stuff.

Let me begin by defining a term that I feel is often misinterpreted.  Aerobic exercise means "with oxygen." It does not mean "easy."  Yes, aerobic exercise can be easy, but that is not the definition of the word aerobic.  Anaerobic exercise means "without oxygen."   Anaerobic workouts include very short, very intense efforts.  Those efforts are difficult, and since aerobic exercise is the opposite of anaerobic exercise, I believe people think aerobic exercise must be easy since it's the opposite.  Not true.

As for it being slow, well, that's relative.  Yes, it's slow when you compare it to your top end speed.  And your aerobic speed may in fact be a pace that you consider slow in the grand scheme of things if you're not aerobically fit.  All the more reason to address and improve your aerobic fitness.

Plus, triathlon is an aerobic sport so it makes sense to be aerobically fit.  One of the biggest limiters for most triathletes is their inability to hold steady efforts for sustained durations.  Endurance, not top end speed.  I discovered this was my limiter a few years ago and have been working on it since, and continue to work on it.

I'm aerobically fit on the bike.  I can ride forever at 80% of max HR and, if I'm on my tri bike, that's usually 20+ mph.  Not "fast" when compared to my top end speed but not so slow that I think it qualifies at Long Slow Distance.  Steady, yes.  

I can hold 80% of max HR on the run for hours, and in training runs that's usually a 7:30 pace or better.  I've yet to hold that pace in an Ironman.  Hopefully, I will someday.  

I am not, however, an aerobically fit swimmer.

How do I know this?

My form falls apart on long intervals and I can't hold even splits.  I can do 50s and 100s, but make me do 200 and above and I'm a disaster.  I've focused on short intervals for so long that I have a terrible time pacing myself.  I start out too hard and fade.  The end result is a swimmer that isn't aerobically fit who lacks confidence in his ability to swim hard for any real distance (ironman). 

So my plan is to log a lot of time in the pool, and most of it being aerobic (90% or more).  I've tried several things to improve my swimming, but this is the one I haven't really tried yet.  I haven't done big volume yet and built a base.

The Plan:

1. Rebuild my swim fitness after several weeks away from the pool after Kona.  This is done.  I swam a little before Thanksgiving, and since Thanksgiving I've been in the pool 13 days straight and logged 45,350 yards (25 miles).  

2. Threshold test to determine anaerobic threshold speed.  USA Swimming has a test and so does Swim Smooth.  I haven't decided which one I'll do yet.  Possibly both and see how they compare.  This is something I will continue to test periodically so I can adjust my pace as necessary. 

3.  Log A LOT of yards at and below threshold speed.  90% or more of my training will be at aerobic speeds.  It may be slower than I want to swim, but that means I need to improve my aerobic conditioning if I want to swim faster.  The goal is to improve my threshold speed, much like the goal with cycling is to improve your threshold power. 

4.  Long sets.  4x1000, 6x500, 10x400, 10x200, etc.  Aerobic speeds, steady pacing, little rest.  I'll do some sprints here and there, but very little.  I need endurance.  These long sets will also teach me to hold my form for long durations.

5. Continue with my 1000 yard time trials to monitor progress.  Here are last year's times:

 1/9 – 17:13

2/13 – 15:37

3/12 – 15:08

4/10 – 15:15

 5/7 – 14:52
 6/2 - 14:37
8/13 - 14:00

I was in terrible shape for the first one, so I improved about 90 seconds, not 3 minutes.  I signed up for the Finding Freestyle Dark Star ePostal Swim Meet.  That's a postal swim meet (epostal since it's online and you don't actually mail in your results) where you have until 12/23 to swim a 1000 yard TT and send in your results. So I'll be swimming my 1000 yard TT soon to see where I'm starting off my 2012 training. 

6.  Work on stroke rate.  I recently bought a Finis Tempo Trainer and I love it.  I've read in several places that a higher stroke rate is crucial to open water success (here's one of them), and my stroke rate is too slow.  The one and only time I worked on increasing my stroke rate I set my half ironman PR.  I'll be putting in a lot of work on that this year.  I've also been using the Tempo Trainer to help with pacing on long sets.  I've been doing 4x1000 at a 1:30 per 100/yard pace.  I set the tempo trainer to beep every 45 seconds so I get feedback every 50 yards.  Then I let it beep twice between sets so I get 90 seconds rest.  I don't even need a pace clock.  (side note: if you're thinking of getting a Tempo Trainer, do it.  They're great tools, but get the Tempo Trainer Pro.  I'll probably upgrade.  I didn't know about it when I bought mine).

7.  Form work. As always, I will continue to work on form, but it's not going to be the focus this time around.  I personally think form is over-emphasized in swimming. I'm not saying it's not important, and if your form is horrible that's definitely the place to start (if you swim about 2:00 per 100 yards, work on your form).  By over-emphasized, I think there's so much talk about how much swimming is all about form that it gets triathletes (me included) thinking  that there's a magical fix to our stoke that will suddenly have us swimming a 1:15 pace effortlessly.  Form matters, but so does fitness.  It's time for me to address fitness, which I believe will also improve my form.  

8. Swim A LOT.  Did I already say that?  

Before I wrap this up, I want to address one more thing:  what about swimming faster to swim faster?  

Yes, I agree you have to swim fast to swim fast.  However, I don't need to swim fast.  A one hour Ironman swim is a 1:24 per 100 yard pace.  That's not fast.  That's steady..  1:00 per 100 is fast.  

Yes, I will do some speed work and swim fast sometimes, but that will not be the foundation of my program. First I need a base.  I've been so focused on swim speed the past few years that I've never really taken the time to build a base.  

Swim long and taper.


An Update

The past couple of weeks have been kind of busy with work and the holidays so I haven't had much time to write.  So I thought I'd write up a quick update.

Gluten Free Month

My gluten free month went well.  I didn't really write much about it, but it was good.  I actually enjoyed it.  It was difficult at times, but I think I developed some new habits.  I got used to eating salads for lunch, and now I prefer them over the sandwiches I was eating.  Going gluten free is a great way to clean up your eating because a lot of the processed bad foods have gluten so you have to avoid them.  You're forced to eat real foods.

I didn't quite make it the whole month, though.  My boss found a new job and November 30 was his last day we had a going away pizza party for lunch so I decided to end my streak a day early.  Since then, I've had some gluten to test things out and have found that I definitely have a threshold.  A little bit and I don't really notice it, but a little more and I feel like crap.  Mini Wheats put me over my threshold.  I don't know how I used to eat those for breakfast all the time.  

I felt better not eating gluten, so I'll probably stick with a gluten free diet but I won't be super strict.  If I want to go out for a burger and fries, I will.  If I want a sandwich, I'll eat one.  But I think, for the most part, I'll try to stick with the diet I ate last month because I felt a lot better and was eating much healthier.  


I haven't officially begun my 2012 training program yet so I'm still in the "train as I feel like it" stage.  That stage, believe it or not, has included lots of swimming.  I am determined to improve my swim for next year.  So I'm swimming a lot.  Since Thanksgiving, I've swam more than 30,000 yards (this is as of Sunday morning, and I'll be swimming about 4,000 yards today).  Volume.  More is more.  I'm also going to be working on my increasing my stroke rate (more on that in a future blog post).

My knee

I was hoping I wouldn't have to write about my knee anymore, but the pain has returned.  I did a track workout to prepare for some turkey trots and an upcoming alumni indoor track meet.  I felt fine during the workout, but the day after the tendons in my knee were stiff and sore.  I don't think I tore them again, but I definitely did some damage so I haven't been doing much running in the past two weeks to play it smart and make sure it heals so I don't have another major setback like earlier this year.  I've also hit the weight room again.  Doing one-legged hamstring curls, I noticed my right hamstring is still much weaker than my left which either caused the injury or is a result of the injury.  Either way, I will be hitting the weight room this winter to balance out those muscles and build more strength in the muscles that support my knee.  


I've read a couple of really good books lately that I'm planning on writing about so I'll try to get that done soon.  


I've been using Twitter lately, so please follow me on Twitter.  I need some followers, otherwise it's kind of pointless tweeting.




24 Hours of Pain

This past weekend, I participated in a 24-hour Indoor Team Time Trial at SBR Coaching.  It's a team event done on Computrainers.  Each member of the team rides one hour, and the team with the most miles at the end wins. The race started Friday at 5pm and ended Saturday at 5pm.  Most members of the team ride twice, some only once.  I rode twice - 11pm and 4pm.  SBR did one of these last spring - March, I think - and it was such a success, and a lot of fun, that they brought it back this winter with one in November and another one in February.  My team won the event last year so we came back to defend our title.  

Our team was the same as last time with the exception of our name.  We were now StravaJava.  Huh?  It turns out there's a really cool site that's like Facebook for cyclists: Strava.  Check it out:  www.strava.com.

My first TT.  11pm-midnight.

My first ride was at 11pm, and my team had a 4-5 mile lead.  Competition was tight.  Last year I went in with the plan of riding sub-threshold for both rides.  I rode at 11pm and again at 7am, and that seemed like a good plan - try to average the same wattage for both rides.  It worked out well, but this year I opted for the other option - do threshold in the first TT and see if you can back it up again in the second.

There is a third way to ride this TT, but first I want to go over my power file a bit.  I'm improving at time trialing, but it's still a skill I have yet to master.  It's more mental than anything, I think.

1 Hour.  295 watts. 83 rpm.
 At first glance, this looks like really solid pacing.  The short drop off at the end is because they switch riders every hour so we actually only TT for about 57 minutes.  I wanted a full hour so I kept going after my ride ended and the resistance on the computrainer dropped off so my power dropped while I manually increased the resistance so I could continue.  

But upon further inspection, my pacing needs work.  I averaged 294 watts for the first 20 minutes.  289 for the second 20, and 297 for the final 20.  That's not terrible, but I have a bad habit of dropping my power in the middle of a TT, and I need to be building my power.  I'm happy with my overall average.  It's a good place to be right now, but I didn't go there to average 295.  I went there aiming for 300, and I believe I had it in my legs.  It was my brain that failed me.  

Nothing new.

I was the strongest rider in that heat by quite a bit so I extended the team lead by about 5 miles.  Throughout the night, our lead continued to grow from the 9 miles when I left to "does it matter?"

By the time I returned for my final ride - the final hour of the race - we had more than a 40 mile lead which meant I didn't even need to ride.  No pressure.

Ride 2.  57 minutes 280 watts.  85 rpm.

Not quite so steady this time.  But I did have some distractions (other than my tired legs):

Slacking a little during the final TT.

We successfully defended out title.  The team gave me the "trophy" to hold onto until Feb when we will attempt to make it 3 for 3.

We dominated the dojo.

I mentioned there is a third way to ride this event. You've got sub-threshold, threshold and...

A rider on another team during the 3-4am shift went out really hard for the first ten minutes.  Then he faded a bit, and faded a little more, but kept pushing.  Eventually, my team caught him so he dug deep and tried to pick up the pace and hang on to the lead.  With three minutes to go, he stopped, got off his bike, vomited and went into a full-body cramp.  I heard all this second hand, so I don't know how bad it really was but it sounds like he was in rough shape.  He was okay, eventually, but I bet he's in no hurry to do an hour on the computrainer again.  Ouch. 

SBR also has a series of indoor time trials throughout the winter that I've done for years.  The next one is January 7.  One hour.  I've got 8 weeks to get my time trialing together and break through this barrier (more on that in an up-coming post).

BTW - Never google "vomit" under google images.  


Search Terms

There's a feature Blogger has that allows you to analyze the stats for your blog such as where your readers are, your popular posts, how people find your blog, things like that.  It's pretty rare that I use it, but I check it out from time to time.  Today I was playing around with it and decided to see what search terms people are using to find my blog.  I expected searches like Ironman Wisconsin blog or triathlon blog or something along those lines.


Not one of them has triathlon, ironman, swim, bike, run....nothing.  And when I blogged about the old men wandering around the locker room naked, it never occurred to me that people would actually be searching for....well... you know.  

I used a picture of the muppets chef in this post about going to the farmers market for the first time so that explains those searches.   I didn't know that many people searched for the muppets chef, but at least it's not disturbing.

And my vacation to Florida after IMWI 2010 included a trip to Harry Potter Land.

Now that I know my audience better, I've decided to take the blog in a new direction.  Au naturel elderly culinary fantasy.  Lots of naked old men hanging out with the muppet chef at Harry Potter Land. Gotta give the people what they want.  My blog is going to be so popular.

Be careful what you search for.



A while ago I was searching for some clean eating food blogs hoping for some ideas and inspiration to help clean up my diet.  In my search, I stumbled upon a blog called Clean Eating Chelsey.  If you like food blogs that are updated a lot, and I mean a lot, this is the blog for you. I can't keep up with her, and even super-reader Courtney has a tough time.  

Every Wednesday she does "What I Ate Wednesday" and posts everything she ate that day.  The best I can tell, this idea came from a blog called Peas and Crayons. It seems it has become a regular thing among the food blog community.  

Even though this isn't a food blog, I thought I'd give What I Ate Wednesday a try.  Here's what I ate today on my new gluten-free, healthy-eating diet.


Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Oats with chia seeds (for omega-3s), cinnamon and shredded coconut, two scrambled eggs, a low-sodium V8 and coffee (yeah, still decaf).


Morning Snack:

Mid-morning, I had a salad that was primarily spinach with some butter lettuce mixed in.  I added celery, raisins, garbanzo beans and goat cheese.  I'm loving the goat cheese on salads.


Lunch was mostly left-overs from dinner last night.  A pork chop, boiled red potatoes, a banana, yogurt, cucumber and a couple of squares of dark chocolate (probably the first time in my life a chocolate bar is going to last an entire week).


Afternoon snack:

Cashew Cookie Larabar.  I also had an apple and some raisins when I got home from work before heading to the pool to swim.    


Grilled mahi mahi, cauliflower puree, roasted asparagus and a couple of squares of dark chocolate.  

That's my day in food.  I'm not sure if I'm going to make What I Ate Wednesday a regular thing, but I thought it would be fun to try.  I will say, though, that having to post everything you ate in a day for everyone to see really makes you think about your food choices that day.  Maybe I should post my meals everyday.  That should ensure I eat healthy.  


Gluten Free?

For a while now, I've been wondering if I'm sensitive to gluten.  I know I'm not allergic to it or have Celiacs, but I think I may be sensitive.  So I decided to cut out gluten for the month of November to see how I feel.  

I have a few reasons for doing this, one of them being my belief I may be sensitive to gluten.  One other reason is that I eat a lot of gluten....and I mean a lot.  I typically start the day with cereal.  I eat sandwiches for lunch, and dinner if I'm rushed for time.  I eat bagels, pasta, crackers, etc.  I don't remember the last time I went an entire day without a piece of bread. 

My second reason to cut out gluten is to force me to find other foods to eat.  I'm not buying gluten free bread, cereal or bagels, at least for the month of November.  I'm trying to stick with foods that are naturally gluten free.  This will keep me from taking short cuts and living off cereal and sandwiches.  If I continue with gluten free living, I'll buy some of those products from time to time.

Another reason is that the more I read about grains, the more convinced I'm becoming that they're not good for you....especially wheat.  I'm still eating grains like quinoa right now because I'm not yet fully convinced grains are bad for you.  More research is needed.

One problem with my experiment is that I'm not only cutting out gluten, so if I feel great at the end of the month it will be hard to tell for sure if it's the lack of gluten or the improved diet.  Ideally, I would eat the same foods while only cutting out gluten.  But I've decided to use this as an opportunity to make changes to my diet and eat healthier overall.  I'll eat some gluten at the end of the month to see how I react.

My rules for my gluten free month:

 - No gluten/wheat (obviously)
 - No candy with the exception of dark chocolate
 - Fish at least twice a week
 - A salad every day

So it's more of a change in diet than just a gluten free test. 



A Kona Video

Sometimes I get so hung up on training hard, racing fast, reaching my potential, seeing what I'm capable of, etc.... that I forget to step back and just enjoy the moment.  Then I see a video like this, and it brings me back to reality.  Yes, I want to train hard and find out what my ultimate potential is in triathlon, but in the end it doesn't really matter as much as the overall experience. The fun.  The memories.  

They say those who focus only on results get burned out.  Results are great, and I'm definitely driven by them, but in the end there's a lot more going on and if you forget to take it in and enjoy the memories you'll soon find yourself looking for a new hobby.  

This is a video shot from a lottery winner, meaning he didn't qualify for Ironman Hawaii, but instead won his slot through the lottery system.  He has a GoPro and some video editing skills.  It's a very good video.




Race Report: Ironman Hawaii

Pre-race:  I got up at 4 and ate my breakfast.   My left calf was very stiff (no idea why).  I tried stretching it and massaging it, but that only made it sore so I left it alone and hoped it wouldn't bother me during the race.  I gathered all my things and left for the race around 5.

Once at the race site, I dropped off my run special needs (no special needs for the bike this time) got body marked (they stamp the numbers - very cool) and then pumped up the tires on my bike and added my nutrition to my bike.  You don't have access to your transition bags so I didn't spend much time in transition.  I tried to be calm and cool, like it's just any old race, but that's tough to do when you walk to transition next to Mirinda Carfrae and there are cameras everywhere.  I was nervous.

A little after the pro start, I got in line to get in the water.  My plan was to start over by the Ford banner.  I watched video from previous years and it didn't look as hectic over there.  

The Swim:  1:15

The cannon fired and I was prepared for the roughest swim of my life.  It was rough for the first few minutes, then I noticed the gap to my right that never really filled in so I moved over and had clean water for a while.  It was smooth going for a while, but then things bunched up again and it got rough again.  Later, I found some clean water again.  Overall, it was a rough swim at times, but not the worst I've experienced.

Right before the cannon.

I thought I might be capable of a 1:05, but thought I might be as slow as 1:10.  There were some swells that rolled in about halfway, and I've heard a lot of people mention they had slow swims.  It seems like the good swimmers still had fast swim times, but the mediocre swimmers struggled more and had very slow times.  I'm not really sure why my time was so slow.  The swells slowed me down some, but I think part of it was mental.  I was nervous and intimidated and I didn't get in there and mix it up enough.  Had I been more aggressive, I may have had a better swim.  It's hard to say.  Obviously, I have more work to do in the pool.  Every Ironman I do I swim slower than the first.  This is getting old.

One thing that's different about Hawaii, is that I've noticed swim times are all across the board.  The guy who won my age group swam a 1:09.  You wouldn't expect that from an age group winner.  It's a tough swim.  

Transition:  4:20

T1 was okay.  I was disappointed to see my swim time, but not surprised.  It felt like I was in the water a long time.  Transition was very busy and I had no help.  I washed the salt water off with the hose, and accidentally got a lot of water in my eyes and my contacts were very blurry as I tried to get ready for the bike.  I thought I might have to pull them out and ride without them but they cleared up before I left T1.  I put on my heart rate strap, tri top, arm coolers, watch, race belt, helmet and shoes.  I opted to play it safe and not keep my shoes on my bike.  There wasn't a lot of time to get in your shoes before the first hill, and I thought it would be crowded so I thought this might be faster overall and I think it was.

The Bike:  5:20

This was not a good ride for me.  Early on, my legs felt okay but never great.  People were riding so hard through town and I was riding 5-10 watts below my goal so I got passed a lot.  Once on the Queen K and away from the spectators, people calmed down and I was able to work my way through some of the packs as I stepped up my power to goal power.  I was concerned about having troubles avoiding drafting, but that wasn't really a problem.  I had to work at it from time to time, but most people were trying hard to ride legal so once things thinned out a bit it wasn't really a problem.

Coming into Hot Corner for the first time.

I settled in on the Queen K, hit the first aid station, drank some water and threw up.  Luckily, I had some practice vomiting on the bike so I've gotten pretty good at it.  I had a feeling this was a sign I was in for a very rough day.  I think I may have taken in too much salt water during the swim because after this I was fine.  My Perpetuem and Hammer bars sat well and never upset my stomach.  Weird.

I heard the winds in Hawi didn't start until late in the climb for the faster swimmers.  Unfortunately, I had a headwind the whole way up the climb and I watched my average speed go from 22.6 down to below 21.  The way out of Hawi was a blast.  I love going fast so I was doing 40+ mph and passing people like they were tied to a pole.  It was fun....and easier than expected.  We basically had a headwind, then a tailwind at Hawi.  We didn't really get the dreaded cross winds.  We did to an extent, but not bad and not nearly as bad as the day I trained up there.  

The way back from Kawaihae to the airport was a grind both mentally and physically.  Most of the way was into a headwind.  My watts dropped, my head ached, my legs ached and my average speed was dropping. I typically feel good at mile 100, but I didn't this time.  I was mentally exhausted, weak, tired and very humbled by the long line of athletes still in front of me.  The bike is my strength, and I didn't pass all that many people overall. Looking back, I don't think I drank enough water but I think there was more going on.  I'm not sure what exactly, but I don't think my problem was only dehydration.  I felt weak and mentally spent.  I was ready to be done. 

When I get like that, it typically means I'm low on electrolytes so I made sure to take in some extra salt pills, but that didn't bring me back.  I only averaged about 185 watts the final 90 minutes of the ride.  Based on what I trained for, I should have biked a 5:05-5:10 so I was off by quite a bit.

While I was suffering on the bike, the parents were enjoying smoothies by the ocean.

Coming off the bike into T2, my legs were stiff and sore and running was a struggle.  My left calf was tight.  My spirits were really low.  I didn't anticipate feeling this beat down coming off the bike.  I expected to be hot and possibly a little dehydrated, but I thought my legs would feel strong.

T2:  4:40

T2 was slower than it should have been because I really couldn't run around transition like I wanted.  I was moving very slow.  My legs didn't want to move.  Once I got into the change tent, I sprayed on some sunscreen, put on my running shoes, put on my fuel belt and grabbed my bike water bottle filled with water with an Endurolyte Fizz tablet in there.  

The Run:  3:42

Starting the run, I was mentally preparing to be out there a very long time.  I wasn't sure how I was going to run a marathon.  My legs felt like I was at mile 20 already.  But I didn't go to Hawaii to quit.  I kept telling myself that. 

At the start of the run I had two ziplock bags in my fuel belt - one with my salt pills and Fizz tablets, which I stuffed in my tri top pocket, and one with a pepto pill and Tylenol.  I take the pepto at the start of the run as a pre-caution.  It helps keep my stomach settled.  The Tylenol was what I really wanted, and, of course, I dropped one of the Tylenol pills and it disappeared.  Crap.  I soon remembered I had two extra Tylenol in my fuel belt so I took those, but now I was out of Tylenol less than a quarter mile into the run.  

I drank the water bottle (24 oz) within the first mile.  I was very thirsty.  Then I drank one of my fuel belt bottles of Red Bull and refilled it at the aid stations.  I took cold sponges and ice at the aid stations.  A couple of miles in and I was loosening up and starting to feel better.  Not good, but better.  My average pace was 8:20, not what I wanted but good considering. 

Early in the run on Ali'i.

I held the 8:20 pace for most of the marathon (if you looked at my splits on ironmanlive, they were wrong the whole day - I was never sub 8 and not slower than 8:30 until late in the marathon - I really wish they'd post accurate splits because Courtney thought I really came alive out there when she saw my second split).  

I made a huge mistake out there though.  I got away from my race plan.  I was tired, physically and mentally, and it felt easier to just drink a little from the aid stations from time to time than refill my bottles.  I had a plan that included filling my fuel belt bottles at the aid stations and only drinking from them so I could track my water intake and make sure I drank enough.  I needed to drink about 5-6 fuel belt bottles of water per hour.  I drank about 8-9 total for the entire marathon.  I took water at aid stations, but not enough, and by not using my bottles I had no idea how much I was drinking.  I felt like I was running in a fog.  I wasn't really focused like I typically am.  I wasn't executing my race plan.  I was just moving along the run course making things up as I went.   

On the Queen K, I felt okay (possibly because clouds had rolled in and covered the sun - it was still hot but not quite as bad) and pushed the pace a bit.  My legs had loosened up and I began to think I was going to negative split the marathon.  By the turn around at the energy lab, I was getting tired.  Then I hit special needs (about mile 17) where I got more gels for the second half of the run and more salt pills and more fuel belt bottles with Red Bull.  The way out of the energy lab is a gradual uphill.  We had a slight tailwind, which was absolute torture.  It wasn't enough to give you a push.  It felt like it was moving the same speed I was so that made the air feel dead, calm, and I could feel the heat radiating off the ground.  The group I was running with was running 8 minute miles into the energy lab and now we were all running a 9:10 pace.  

I figured I'd pick it up again on the Queen K, but I never recovered from the energy lab.  My legs ached and I felt like I was in my first ironman willing my legs to keep running.  An 8:50 pace felt like absolute torture, and that was all I could manage so that was the new goal.  Run an 8:50 pace for nine minutes and thirty seconds and walk for 30 seconds.  Red Bull did nothing top pick me up and I had to force the water and gels.  I had no interest in food or water....or running, for that matter.

Mentally and physically, the final 6.2 miles of this race were the toughest I've ever run.  The bottoms of my feet hurt, my quads ached, my calf was tight, etc.  I wanted to admit defeat.  I wanted to walk it in.  This race had chewed me up and spit me out.  

But I said I was going to leave it all out there.  And, obviously, I was still able to run.  So I continued on and eventually I made it to Palini and down Kuakini and back on to Ali'i for the final time.  The crowd was loud and thick and I heard the finish line long before I made it there.  I was in absolute agony, but I told myself to take it in and cherish the moment.  Thinking about running down Ali'i got me through my training this year.  This was it.  This was the moment I dreamed about.  The crowd was the biggest I've ever run through.  They filled the street giving us only a narrow path to run through.  They were loud...very loud.

Coming down the finishing chute.

The finish line was very welcome.  I was ready to be done.  I heard Mike Riley call me an Ironman for the first time ever, but I didn't see my time.  I had lost interest in that hours ago.  

Volunteers grabbed me, threw a towel around me and forced me to keep walking.  They took me to a spot in transition where they dumped ice water over my head.  Then they took me over to the food tent and showed me where I can get my medal and t-shirt.  They asked if it was my first Kona.  I said it was and they asked how it went.  I told them it was a rough day for me.  One of them said, "well it couldn't have been too rough because you broke 10:30."  "I broke 10:30?"

10:27:51 is my official time.

They say you don't have your best race the first time you go to Kona.  I heard it before the race, but didn't believe it.  After the race, everyone I talked to said the same thing.  Your first Kona is tough.

So I didn't have as good of a day as I'd hoped for, but looking back it could have been much worse.  I was pretty steady all day, but a little slower everywhere than I wanted to be.  I broke 10:30 and finished in the top 50%.  Most importantly, I finished the Ironman World Championships and had a very memorable day.   It wasn't fun like I'd hoped or promised it would be, but it left me wanting more.  I've seen and experienced the next level.  I feel like I have unfinished business out there.  I want to go back.  I can't stop thinking about it.  

I need to go back.

After the finish.

It's hard to describe, but Kona is a very special race.  I had a tougher day than expected, but I'm not going to make excuses or complain about a 10:30.  I'm very proud of my accomplishment, and from the way it sounds finishing 12 minutes slower than your qualifying time isn't bad for a first timer.   This race was difficult, and it got the better of me.  

But the whole week was fun.  It's a completely different Ironman experience.  It's the biggest race of the year, yet at the same time it's a celebration. Everything is on a bigger level, over the top.  It's awesome.  

I thought this course would be easier than Wisconsin, and the only real difference would be tough competition and heat and possibly some strong winds.  But this race is a lot tougher than Wisconsin, physically and especially mentally.  The bike course has about as much climbing, it's just not as technical.  But it beats you down.  It's hot and desolate and the winds are relentless (the winds pick up later in the morning so it's very important to swim fast and get to Hawi quickly and start the journey back to Kona).  The run course is hot and has 50% more climbing and half of the run is on a lonely highway with no spectators. Everyone out there is fast and the second you let up, you get passed by a lot of people.  1,000 people went sub-11 out there.  It was a humbling day, that's for sure.


In my next post, I've got some photos and video of the finish line after dark and I might post some pics from the week I haven't posted yet and talk about what made Kona so different.  Then I'll stop going on and on about this race, I promise.  

It's time to start planning 2012.  



Kona Expectations

As I write this, it's less than 12 hours from the start of the race.  I'm sitting out on the deck, in the dark, listening to the ocean.  I guess you could say it's the calm before the storm.

I'm nervous, intimidated, scared, confident, excited, anxious....you name it.  I'm looking forward to the race, and I think it's going to be a very memorable day.  Yet at the same time, I can't help but feel a little out of my league.  I'm about to race against the best in the world.  I'm just some 36 year-old kid from Wisconsin who likes to train a lot.  Do I really deserve to line up and race against the best in the world?  Am I really ready for this?  

Obviously, I'm filled with some self-doubt tonight.  I guess that's to be expected.  I keep telling myself I deserve my place on the line and that I'm ready to tackle this course and race against the best.  I've improved my swimming and have swam a 1:03 for 4200 yards in the pool a couple of times now (that's really good for me).  I've put in a few of the best long bike rides of my life.  Some of them were downright brutal, and I hit numbers that I couldn't hit last year.  I've also had 3 of the best long runs of my life this year.  And I absolutely nailed my long brick 3 weeks ago. 

I'm stronger than I was in Wisconsin last year.  I'm 10 pounds lighter.  I'm more experienced.  I've learned a ton about nutrition and hydration this year.  Yet, I still question if I'm ready.

My expectations/goals:

I don't have any.  Seriously.  

Well....I don't have any time goals.  I do have one goal, and that's to race smart, race hard, and leave absolutely everything on the course.  If I do that, I'll be happy with my time regardless of what it is.

My Plan:

For the swim, I'm going to start to the left by the Ford banner.  I've watched the videos of previous years and it looks like there's less traffic over there.  I have no idea what to expect time-wise.  I don't have a speedsuit so I'm swimming in my tri shorts only (no top).  I'll be super happy with a 1:05, but I'm expecting another 1:10.  Until I prove otherwise, I appear to be a 1:10 swimmer.

Transition is going to be a little longer than usual, I think.  I'm putting on my heart rate monitor (I debated this, but I like to see the numbers when I race since I see them when I train), my tri top, my arm coolers, my watch, my race number, my helmet and my bike shoes.  You can keep your bike shoes clipped in here, but you don't have tons of time to get in your shoes before the first small hill on Palini and I think it will be very crowded so I'm playing it safe. 

For the bike, I'm going out conservative and I'm going to let people pass me.  My focus in the beginning will be hydration, electrolytes and getting in some food.  Once I hit the Queen K, I'll settle in, focus on hydration and bike toward Kawaihai.  Then it's climbing up to Hawi where the winds are so I need to be sure to eat and be well hydrated in case eating and drinking is tough in the winds.  On the way back, I'll keep my power steady and try to pass some of the people who may have over-biked in the beginning and passed me early on.  I love the second half of the bike, so my focus will be on that.  I have no idea what to expect for a bike time, but I'm thinking a 5:15 or better is possible if the winds aren't too bad.  

T2 shouldn't be bad.  Socks, shoes, fuel belt, sunscreen and visor.  I turn on my Garmin late in the bike so it can find satellites so I'll be all set to go as soon as I leave T2.  I also have a bike bottle with Endurolyte Fizz in my T2 bag so I'll grab that on my way out so I have that to drink from so I can get in plenty of water early in the run.  When it's gone, I'll ditch the bottle.  I have two bottles of Red Bull in my fuel belt along with Hammer gels, salt pills, Fizz tablets and Tylenol. 

The run is where things can fall apart so it's really hard to say how this will go.  I'll be doing my run/walk (9:30 running, :30 walking).  I'm shooting for a 7:45-8:00 average pace.  The heat will determine this.  I'll start out conservative and hope to pick things up around the mid-point.  Almost no one negative splits Ironman marathons so I'm not really aiming for that (although that would be the ultimate goal). I'll start out conservative, pick it up after a few miles throughout the middle portion of the marathon and hang on for dear life at the end.  I believe I'm capable of a 3:30 or better, but we'll see.  

I know that might sound like time goals, but those are just predictions based on my training.  I'm not setting goals for this race.  I'm just going to do my best and hope I can finish saying that was absolutely everything I had on this particular day.

Okay....one more goal:  have fun.  

My first Ironman was a fun, memorable experience.  You only get one first.  Kona is such a big deal that I'm hoping this experience ends up being similar to my first Ironman.  I'm hoping for a second first.