An "Epic" Weekend

"From here on in, it really gets grim. For 99% of the people still left at this point, they are possessed with one thing, finishing. They’re saying to themselves one thing, “If I can just be standing at the finish, I've won,” and they’re right.

But, for the gifted few, for our 1% who are still competing, that are still racing, they’re more than standing. They’re wondering, can I catch that guy up there? And what about the guys behind me, are they coming up on me, are they picking up on me, can I get him? Because let me tell you something. This is it. The last hour of this triathlon, on the pavement, at 110 degrees, that’s when we’re going to find out who the hell the Ironman really is!”

Bruce Dern, Freewheeling Films, 1982

Ever since I found out about Epic Camp, I've wanted to do it.  Someday I hope to, but for now I have to settle for my own versions of Epic Camp.

For those unfamiliar, Epic Camp is a triathlon camp where elite competitors train for a week and do tons of volume.  There's a points competition for completing workouts, so it's a little more than just getting together and training.  It's about pushing yourself, and being pushed, and finding the next level.  Their tagline:  There's NO easy way.

I didn't sign up for an Ironman because it's easy.  Quite the opposite.  

Last year two months out from Ironman Wisconsin I did a 3-day training camp with a friend and the Endurance Nation group.  We did a lot in 3 days and I felt it helped me step things up to the next level for the remainder of my training.  So this year I did the same thing, except I was solo this time around.  

Friday:  6 hours 40 minutes

I took the day off work and did a long brick.  I biked 112 miles at ironman intensity and then ran 50 minutes.  I was hoping the workout wouldn't take as long as it did, but that's what it's like riding on my new hardcase tires on my training wheels.  So far they've done a good job resisting flats, but they are anything but fast.  It's not really a problem, except long workouts take a little longer now.  Last year I stopped training by time and distance, and started training by training stress.  It's a better system, but it gets tricky when bouncing around from bike to bike like I do because training stress is calculated by time and power, so a slower wheelset means I'm on the bike longer which means 112 miles yields a higher training stress score than it would with my race wheels.  That's great for race day, but it can get tricky for training because I have to calculate my training stress ahead of time and I don't always know how long a workout will take.

Anyway, I was on the bike for 5:40 with most of it at ironman intensity.  My power dropped off toward the end because I was having stomach issues and was vomiting.  If you've never vomited on a bike at 20+ mph (and you probably haven't because you're normal), it gets pretty messy...especially after 6 or 7 times.  So the ride ended pretty rough which means the run started rough.  I threw up once or twice on the run but eventually started feeling better and was able to drop my pace down to about an 8:10 pace vs. the 8:50 pace I started with.  

It wasn't the workout I'd hoped for, but I got it done and logged 366 training stress points for the day (for comparison, Ironman Wisconsin gave me 538 training stress points).  

I'd actually started the day with slightly tired legs from my Wednesday workout, and surprisingly my legs felt better at the end of the day than the beginning.  My stomach was a mess, but I was feeling pretty good about the rest of the weekend.

Saturday:  6 hours.

I had a 6 hour ride planned, which I figured would be about 125 miles but I ended up around 115.  With the exception of fading a bit from fatigue (and more stomach problems although no vomiting) in the last hour, I rode to the power I had planned on (10 watts below ironman power) so it was a good ride.

I know what you might be thinking.  "I thought you said you trained by training stress and not time or distance."  It's true, I do.  I wanted about 300 training stress points and 6 hours should have given me that.  I ended with 288 so I was close.  Had I not faded in the final hour I would have nailed it.  That's how it can get tricky, but in the end watching training stress points rather than hours or distance allows me to manage the training load (and fatigue) much better. 

Sunday:  3 hours 45 minutes

I got up early and ran on the Ironman Wisconsin course.  Last year I did my longest run of the year on this weekend.  It was the same weekend as the Centurion bike race and I ran in a nasty thunderstorm and had a great run.  I woke up Sunday at 4:30 and heard some thunder and lightening.  Perfect.  

I ran only by time and figured I'd get in around 18 miles.  The past few weeks I've done my long run in the heat of the afternoon and it was 68 degrees when I started my run Sunday and only 74 when I finished.  It was humid, but it was also raining.  It was awesome.  I felt great and for some reason I absolutely love doing long runs in the rain.  The puddles, the mud....I don't care.  I loved it.  Man, that was fun.  I'd repeat that run every single weekend if I could.  Same course, same conditions.

There were several triathletes on the course too so that helped keep me motivated.  I did my run/walk and worked on race day nutrition.  In the end, I got in 19.6 miles at an average pace of 7:40 (my walk breaks cost me about 10 seconds per mile on my average so I was running around a 7:30 pace).  The final hour and 15 minutes was at a 7:35 pace with the last 10 minutes at a 7:14 pace (no walk break).  It felt so good to finish strong.  That run scored me 270 training stress points, although I think it should be more like 250 because I think my run/walk throws off training peaks....close enough.

Later in the day I got in around 3600 yards in the pool, and luckily a friend showed up because I was going to swim easy the whole time and just get in some volume.  I got bored and joined him on his workout and got in a little quality work in the pool to end a big training weekend.  I don't calculate training stress for swimming so that's a big, fat zero.

Totals for the weekend:

16 hours and 40 minutes of training
1:15 in the pool
3:20 running
12:05 cycling

Training Stress Points = 934.5

Training Peaks calculates my Training Stress Balance (TSB) which measures my level of fatigue.  Negative 10 to positive 10 is a good range to be in.  Positive numbers mean you're well rested, negative means you're getting tired.  Monday morning my TSB was negative 64.  

Tired. Very tired.  

You can push yourself into big negative numbers from time to time and come out okay, but experience has taught me that it's not a place to hang around.  That's when over-reaching/over-training symptoms come in.  This week is a recovery week so easy workouts and lots of rest.  I dug a hole so deep it's going to take until Sunday before I see a positive TSB again.

But what about the vomiting?

I was pretty confused by this.  I felt great Friday until the last hour of the bike, when I started to feel pretty full, bloated and started belching a lot, which lasted through the run.  Then I started vomiting.  Saturday I started getting similar symptoms toward the end of the ride.  Sunday was much better, but I still had a few times when I thought I had those symptoms coming on.

At first I blamed the couple of Hammer gels I did on the bike.  I don't typically do gels on the bike, but then it didn't make sense.  I take Hammer gels all the time on the run and never have problems.

Then I thought it was too many salt pills, which it could have been. That's not entirely ruled out, but I don't think I had such an excessive amount that I would get sick.  I took in the same amount I did at IMWI last year and in all my training workouts last year.  It seemed like the salt pills kept me going so it's weird that they would have the opposite effect this year...but it's possible.

Then I read that you shouldn't mix Hammer Nutrition products with simple sugars.  Oops, I did that.  I drank 3 bottles of Ironman Perform (it's like Gatorade for those unfamiliar with it).  But....wait a minute.  I mix Hammer gels with Red Bull on the run all the time and never have a problem. 

Something doesn't add up.

So I thought about it....what products upset my stomach?  Why can I take Hammer gels, but not Gu or Powerbar gels?  They upset my stomach.  Why was I noticing similar issues starting on my run on Sunday with Honey Stinger gels?  What's different about Honey Stinger gels?  How are the sugars in Red Bull different from Ironman Perform? 

Some of you may have guessed already.  


I don't think I can handle fructose.  Honey Stinger gels have honey in them, which has fructose.  Gu has fructose.  Powerbar gels have fructose.  Ironman Perform has fructose.  Apples and bananas upset my stomach if I have more than one in a day - fructose.

Hammer Nutrition products....no fructose.  Red Bull...no fructose.   

Have I found the problem?  Maybe.  I have to test it out.  I have a long ride in a couple of weeks where I'll cut out fructose and see how it goes.  But I'm thinking about taking one of my longer rides and taking in a lot of fructose and seeing what happens.  If I can make myself sick on fructose, I'll have my answer.  I'll have to make sure I don't take in too much sodium on that ride though so I know it's fructose and not sodium that's causing the problems.

I'm not looking forward to that workout.      


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