Physcial Therapy

I've been going to Sport and Spine on the East side for a couple of months now.  I had to go to PT a few years ago with my torn tendon and that was okay, but I wasn't impressed.  Progress was minimal and we did the exact same thing every time...even though I wasn't making much progress.  This time has been completely different though.  

I've been making great progress and we've been trying a lot of different things.  As soon as it seems I'm not responding anymore, Joe (my PT) mixes things up.  Initially we focused on massage and foam rolling to try and get my muscles to loosen up.  They were locked up all the way down my glute, hamstring and especially my left calf.  The muscles were so tight I couldn't bend over to lift the toilet seat without bending my knees.  The massage and foam rolling hurt, but after a couple of weeks things started to loosen up and my mobility began to return.

Then we moved on to dry needling and continued foam rolling, massage, etc.  At this point I was able to ride again but wasn't swimming or running and I still had numbness all the way down my leg.  I wasn't limping anymore and was getting around a lot better.  I had lost strength in my left calf so I wasn't walking with my normal gait yet, but there was big improvement.

Joe believed a good part of my problem was my piriformis muscle pinching my sciatic nerve.  We don't know if that was caused by my herniated disc or not (chicken and the egg) but that was the focus of most of my PT.  The dry needling was interesting, and in a strange way I enjoyed it, but it wasn't very effective for me.  I only did a couple of sessions and then we moved on to Astym (similar to Graston, but not as harsh).  Astym was the magic bullet.  

 With Astym, they take plastic tools and scrape the area they're treating. For me, that was my left leg and foot.  The thinking behind Astym is that the scraping creates micro-trauma under the skin and your body then sends blood to that area to heal.  So it stimulates blood flow which speeds up healing.  

It only took a few sessions of Astym and the numbness began to disappear.  At this point, I was cycling but hadn't been swimming or running in 2 months.  My PT wanted me to go to the pool to see if I could handle it.  That went well, so swimming was added to my cycling.  2/3 of the way there.

We continued with massage, foam rolling, Astym and now some strengthening work to try to regain the strength I lost in my left leg, especially my left calf. He wanted me to go aqua jogging to start working on the running motion and to see how my body handled that without the pounding of real running.  So, on a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I went for my first run.  Ten minutes...outdoors.  He said aqua jogging, but it was raining out so I figured that was close enough.

Wow...that was rough.  Ten minutes....ten ugly minutes.  My form was sloppy and my left leg was stomping the ground flat footed like I had no control over it.  I was sure I was running with a limp but Courtney said I didn't look quite that bad.  Fitness was hovering right around zero.  I ran an easy pace, but it was far from easy.  The only hill I had to climb was brutal.  I was huffing and puffing like I was on day 1 of a couch to 5K program.  Two months was my longest break from running since I started in late 2007.  I couldn't believe how much fitness I'd lost.  

I survived the run with no issues, other than horrible form and zero fitness.  My disc/piriformis handled it well...although my left calf was extremely sore for 4 or 5 days after this.  Then I ran again.  Still ugly...still very unfit...but a little progress.  When the pain in my calf went away, I ran again. 

Today, the numbness is gone and my strength is returning.  I'm swimming, cycling and running, although running is still a bit limited.  My form is improving, but still has a ways to go.  This week I will run 3 times for 30 minutes each time. There's an Alter-G treadmill at the West side location of Sport and Spine which I may try to use to get in a few more miles...and because I think they're interesting and would love to try one out.

So that's where I'm at. Unfit but recovering and back to triathlon training...and registered for the Puerto Rico 70.3.  :)

13 weeks til race day.  I have my work cut out for me.


Injury Update

Unfortunately, I missed Ironman Chattanooga.  I was hoping that maybe things would improve suddenly and I would be able to race, but I had some pretty extreme sciatic pain radiating down my leg for about two weeks which included numbness and weakness in my leg.  I couldn't lift my left heel off the ground and was walking with a limp.  I figured even if I could get through the race, I wouldn't be able to perform my best and would probably make things worse so I cancelled the hotel and skipped the race.

That left me wondering what to do.  I was hoping to qualify for Kona and felt like my fitness was there.  My last two attempts to get back to the big island didn't go well and now attempt number three came and went and I wasn't even on the starting line. Should I sign up for another Ironman?  Should I just give up on Kona and focus on halfs?  I had a couple of good half ironmans this year and really enjoy that distance.  My year of olympics was fun too.  Maybe I should focus on those.

Then I saw a Facebook post stating that Ironman Wisconsin had less than 100 slots left.  Hmmmm.....  I've done Wisconsin a few times so I felt tempted to pick a different race, something new...but IMWI is the easiest one for me to do in terms of logistics.  I get to sleep in my own bed the night before the race.  I can train on the course all year.  It's easy for my family to come watch.  Etc.

I talked it over with Courtney and then limped over to my computer and registered (yes, I paid for the refund insurance). We decided one last shot at Kona was in order, and that IMWI made the most sense.  Then we'll pick a couple of 70.3s to travel to so we still get to see some new places.

I wanted an early season race, and a little bit of research led me to the San Juan 70.3 in Puerto Rico.  I haven't registered yet, but I did book the hotel. 


If I'm going to be on that starting line on March 15, 2015, I need to get healed.  I had an MRI which showed a bulged disc at L5-S1.  I started PT last week and he thinks I have two things going on - the bulged disc (which the doc says is mildly hitting the sciatic nerve) and piriformis syndrome (he thinks my piriformis has tightened up and is pinching my sciatic nerve causing the majority of my problems).  

I'll write more about my PT in my next post.  Right now, I'm about 5 weeks out from my initial injury and I've made a lot of progress.  I still have a long ways to go, but I'm no longer limping, I'm able to ride and I can now lift my left heel off the ground 10 times.  I still have numbness all the way down my left hamstring, calf and into my toes, but my strength is returning.  



This season was going really well.  My training was great.  My FTP was at an all time high, I was running well and my swimming was as strong as ever.  I had two great 70.3s finishing 3rd and 1st in my age group.  I came out of the water in 3rd in one of them, which is my best ever swim.  I was also running about 10 minutes faster in 70.3s than I have in the past.  I felt like I was on track for a good day in Chattanooga and hopefully another Kona slot.

Then came an old injury....my back.  I hurt my back two days before AG Nationals.  I strained some muscles in the middle of my back, and I managed to get it loosened up enough to race fairly well at Nationals so while it wasn't my best weekend of racing, it wasn't horrible either.  I even snuck in there for a Team USA qualifying slot in the sprint race so I get to be a part of Team USA again next year.

After Nationals, my back healed and I thought all was good.  Just a minor setback...it happens.  Two days before Worlds, it went again.  This time during a warm up workout and this time it was my lower back.  I survived Worlds, but my back issues made the trip very difficult.  Flying with a bike with back pain isn't fun.

Worlds was worse than Nationals, and my back cost me about 2 weeks of training.  One of those weeks was supposed to be an easy week so that wasn't a problem, but it cost me a build week as I let it heal.

After that I managed a week and a half of really solid workouts and felt like I might be on track again.  Then, earlier this week, my lower back pain returned.  I made an appointment with a chiro who took the situation from bad to worse and left me with sciatic pain so bad I couldn't even stand up and walk around.  That was a couple of days ago.  The next day, Courtney convinced me to go to urgent care where they gave me a muscle relaxant.  That helped with the pain, but the problem still persists.  It's now Sunday, day 4 of sciatica.  I have pain radiating down my left hamstring and calf into my foot.  I have numbness and tingling and my calf has locked up.  I can now stand and walk around, but I'm walking with a limp.  

Ironman Chattanooga is a week away. I can barely walk and haven't done a workout in 4 days.  I'm not sure this thing is going to go away in time for the race, and even if it does what damage might I do if I race?  So as of right now, I'm not sure I'm going to be heading down to TN.  

To make matters even worse, my dad changed up his chemo schedule to try and come down to watch the race.  He was on a 3-week schedule, but moved a treatment ahead to give himself time to recover to make the trip.  That treatment didn't go well, and he's in the hospital and can no longer make the trip.

So here I am trying to decide what to do.  Do I go down and try to race?  Do I skip it?  If I do skip it, do I sign up for Cozumel?  Do I sign up for an Ironman next year?  Do I give up on the iron distance and focus on 70.3s?  I had a lot of fun with those this year.  Unfortunately, The Austin and Miami 70.3s are sold out or I would consider adding one of those to my 2014 schedule.  

I haven't made a decision yet, and I haven't given up on Chattanooga yet....but I have given up on the hopes of getting a Kona slot.  I don't see that happening.  My back has cost me too much training over the past 6 weeks or so. 

I'll post a Worlds race report soon.  It was a pretty cool event.  


Race Report: Muncie 70.3

The week after the Janesville tri, I headed down to Indiana for the Muncie 70.3.  My training had gone well after Kansas, especially my swimming, so I was hoping to finally break 30 minutes in the swim.  I set a goal earlier this year to break 90 minutes on a half ironman run, and since I just missed that at Kansas that carried over to this race.  I'd never done Muncie, but knew there were plenty of rolling hills on the run so I wasn't so sure that goal was going to get checked off the list, but I figured I'd try.  My other goal was to get a top 5 in my age group.

The swim course.

Waiting for my wave to start.

Swim (30:43)

I lined up on the front row and the guy next to me quickly got in front and I sat on his feet.  Once I got in line, it felt too easy.  That was the mistake I made in Kansas and hoping to avoid that mistake I decided to move out of the draft to test it out and see how the effort felt without the draft.  On my own, I started passing him and then a quick look up showed only two guys just a little ways ahead.  I put in a hard effort and got on their feet.  The pace felt good so I focused on staying on their feet.

This is where things got really frustrating.  There are 5 minutes between waves.  We caught the wave ahead of us within 2-3 buoys.  Then we caught the wave two waves ahead of us well before the first corner.  That was the men's 35-39, I believe.  We were maybe a third of what way through the swim and we'd already made up 10 minutes on some of those guys.  It was carnage.  Sidestroking, backstroking, breaststroking, floating, etc.  I lost the two guys I was swimming with and spent the rest of the time dodging people.  I missed my sub-30 goal and came out of the water pretty frustrated.  I really wanted to hit that goal, and I felt like I'd dropped a lot of time to my competitors working through the waves.  

What I didn't know was that no one in my AG broke 30 minutes and that I was coming out of the water in 3rd, only 32 seconds behind the leader.  Even though I didn't hit my goal, that makes this my best every half ironman swim.  My previous best would have been Kansas where I came out of the water in 10th in my AG. 

Wetsuit strippers.
 T1 (2:24)

Transition was smooth.  There's a long uphill run from the swim to the bike racks so I tried to be quick, but controlled.  I transitioned 34 seconds quicker than the swim leader - and faster than the guy who came out of the water in second - so I left T1 a couple seconds in the lead.  I had no idea.

Bike (2:17:01 - 24.5 mph)

 The bike is flat and fast.  Most of it is on a closed highway where you do two out and backs.  There really isn't a whole lot to say about the bike.  I watched my power, but not really close.  The more experience I get, the more I race by feel and kind of watch my power but don't let it completely dictate my race.  If I'm feeling good, I go with it.  If not, I don't push it just to hit a number which is something I would have done in the past.  Race WITH power, not TO power.  In the end, my average power was exactly the same as Kansas.

I felt like I might be in the top 10 in my AG so I was looking for my competitors.  I never found any, and that was a little frustrating.  Where were they?  I usually catch people on the bike.  In retrospect, it makes sense.  I left T1 with the lead and set the fastest bike split in my AG. 

As far as bike courses go, this was okay but I definitely preferred Kansas.  The roads were better in Kansas and I like rolling hills.  

T2 (1:23)

Quick and smooth.  

Run (1:35:16 - 7:16 pace)

The run has a lot of rollers, but wasn't as hilly as I was expecting.  I felt pretty good at the start of the run and settled in at a 6:50 pace.  I really thought I was going to hit my goal.  Everything was going well.

I don't know if it was the Skratch or what, but not long after drinking some (about 20-30 minutes into the run) I got the worst side ache ever.  Oh man, that sucked.  My pace slowed and I started looking for excuses to walk to see if it would ease up.  The volunteers at the aid stations were holding out cups yelling, "water" which was the prefect excuse to walk for a bit and drink some water.  

I still wasn't seeing anyone in my age group and the rollers were starting to get to me.  My side hurt, my legs were tired and as with most 70.3s, it felt much hotter than it actually was.  We had great weather, and suddenly I'm at the halfway point hurting much more than expected.  I knew my sub 90 wasn't happening and even at the turn around point I couldn't find anyone in my age group so I just kept plugging away, clicking off the miles trying to get to the finish line.  Eventually the side ache went away and I was able to step up the pace a bit toward the end. 

I can't say the run was a disaster, but it definitely wasn't the run I felt I had trained for.  I didn't over-bike so that wasn't the problem.  I'm not sure what happened out there.  I think the run would have been a few minutes better had I not gotten the side ache.  That was a rough 30-40 minutes.  I knew going in that sub-90 was going to be tough with all the rollers so I was thinking matching my Kansas split would be a good accomplishment.  I missed that by a few minutes.

Next year.

Overall (4:26:47 - 1st AG, 35th overall)

Even though I didn't get my sub-30 swim or sub-90 run, I did get my first age group win at a 70.3 so it was a successful race.  My training is going really well this year and things are coming together.  Like Kansas, I turned down my 70.3 Worlds slot because I'm doing ITU Worlds the weekend before. I wish I could do both. 

After Muncie, my IM Chattanooga training block started.  I did a big two-week block of work and then had a recover week leading into AG Nats (which is tomorrow and Sunday).  Then it's another block of work, then ITU Worlds, then one last block of work and a taper.    



Race Report: Janesville Tri

I wasn't planning on doing the Janesville tri this year, mostly because I don't like the beginning and end of the bike course.  The roads are horrible, and the intersections in town don't feel patrolled very well and they make me nervous.  I've had a few cars pull out in front of me at this race. There's a lead vehicle, but there's only so much they can do so when I come to an intersection and see a car pulling up to a 4-way stop I start chanting to myself "don't go, don't go, don't go...."  I've been the lead cyclist at other events and the police do a much, much better job controlling traffic and I feel much safer. Once I get out of town, I really like the course and don't worry about traffic. 

That said, I decided to do Janesville because my dad said he could go.  Chemo beat his white blood cell down, and so at the last minute he wasn't able to go. I considered sleeping in and watching the Tour, but opted to race instead.

The swim is a TT start and being last year's winner I got to start first. I've had a bit of a swim breakthrough recently so was feeling pretty confident that I could have a good swim.  I wasn't sure who all my competitors were, but I knew 2nd and 3rd from last year weren't there.  I did see Daniel Pearson, who beat me at the Cudahy duathlon last year by out running me by minutes (he can run).  He opted not to wear a wetsuit, which I felt was a mistake.  He gave me some free time on the swim.  

I swam well and since I got to start first I was the first swimmer out of the water.  That's a first for me.

Coming out of the water.
Being from Janesville, I knew the driver of the lead vehicle and she let Courtney ride along so she got some pics of me on the bike.  The bike was pretty uneventful.  I was first on the bike, and set the fastest bike split so I managed to extend my lead.

Heading out into the country, my favorite part of the course.

Fresh blacktop.  I was loving it.

I really enjoyed this part of the course.

The end of the new blacktop, heading toward town again.

Lead vehicle selfie.

Wanna see what I mean about the intersections?  Watch these videos.  Where is the cop when I go through the first intersection in the first video?  It's a 4-way stop.  If a car is there and they don't know there's a race, even if they see me, they won't necessarily assume I'm not stopping. If they go, I lose.  

In the second video you can see a volunteer, but not in the middle of the road so I can't see them so I don't know if the intersection is controlled or not.  And you can see the police arriving...late.  Well done, Janesville police.  Well done.

Once I got onto the run, I checked my watch and started looking for Daniel.  I figured I needed at least 2 minutes on him.  

I also know the lead cyclist on the run.  That's Brent.  Gotta love hometown races.

I saw the second cyclist coming in and estimated I had around 2 minutes on him.  Next was Daniel, and I estimated around 3.5 minutes.  That should be enough, but you can't take it for granted.  I tried pushing the pace, but really struggled in the first half of the run.  I actually rode easier than I'm capable of so I should have felt better on the run, but I just couldn't get moving. The first half of the run has a pretty good climb, and I only managed a 6:34 pace.  Not good enough.  Like most races, I felt much better after the first mile and a half (maybe I'm getting old, but it seems to take me a mile and a half to get my running legs under me).  After that, I managed a 6:03 pace for the second half of the run.  It's got plenty of downhill, but I'll take it.  

In the end, it was enough to hold off Daniel by about 90 seconds.  Being the first one in the water, I led this race wire to wire.  That's a first for me.  Honestly, it's a little more fun passing people, but I won't complain.  :)

Thanks to Joy Carr for taking this pic.  I was told she has a son, 5 years old I think, who ran a mile in about 6:30 (not a real big surprise - mom's a runner and dad's a Kona qualifier).  I wonder if he can swim and bike too.  If I do this race next year, I may have to watch out for him.  My ego can handle getting beat - it happens more often than not - but losing to a 6 year old might be a little tough to take.  :)

So I wasn't going to do the race, but I did and had a lot of fun so I'm glad I didn't skip it.  I defended my title, saw some friends, and I think Courtney had a good time riding in the lead vehicle which is a first for her.

Long race report for a race I was going to skip.

Next up is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12.  I checked out the participant list and notice the guy who took 2nd in my age group in KS is doing Muncie.  I was 3rd in KS, so this is the guy I was chasing.  He out swam me by a lot.  I out biked him by a minute or two and our run splits were almost exactly the same.  I'm feeling better about my swim and I plan on pushing the bike a bit harder.  I'm sure there are others I don't know who will get in the mix, so it should be an interesting race. I'm looking forward to it.  


Race Report: Kansas 70.3

Sorry about the lack of pics.  I had to do this race alone.  I took the GoPro with me to get some pics of the venue and then completely forgot to take pictures.  

My last few long course tris haven't been my best, for various reasons, so I was really hoping to put everything together and get some long course confidence back.  So that was my main goal.  A few other goals were to break 4:30, break 1:30 on the run, and break 30 minutes on the swim.  

This race is always threatened by thunderstorms so I was watching the weather pretty closely.  This year, the storms rolled through on Saturday and race day had a forecast of 65-70 degrees, cloudy skies and 8-10 mph NNE winds.  Perfect.  No excuses.

The Swim (31:18)

I lined up on the front row with the goal of finding some good feet and finally getting my sub-30 half ironman swim.  The conditions were good and the course was well marked so I felt like I had a good shot. When the gun went off, the guy to the right of me took off and I fought for his feet.  I found them, and just as quickly lost them.  He swam a 26 something so there's no way I could have hung with him. I soon found myself  in a usual position of no draft.  I feel like this is a mistake I make way too often so I looked around and soon found some feet and stuck with those the rest of the way.  This is the best I've ever done drafting in a triathlon, so that's a win.  But I chose the wrong feet.  I knew we were toward the front of our wave, and he was the only one in my wave I saw near me so I felt like he would be going sub-30. 

This is what frustrates me the most with swimming.  You don't get any feedback on pace out there, so you think things are going well and you come out of the water and see you're slower than you thought you should have been.  I'm not a good judge of pace in the water. I felt like we were going faster.  

I came out of the water in 10th in my age group, so not bad, but I really felt like I had a faster swim in me.  If not sub-30, closer to 30 than 31.  

It is what it is and normally a swim slower than 31 minutes would frustrate me but for some reason today it didn't.  I looked at my watch, determined I chose the wrong feet and moved on.  I chose to sit on his feet the whole way so I put my time in his hands so I can't really complain.   

Next time. 

The Bike  (2:22:05)

I did all my long bricks in training at about 245-250 watts and ran well off those.  I felt pretty good out there, but opted to ride a bit more conservatively at just a tad under 240 watts.  That wasn't my plan going in, and I never really thought about it.  I just did it, probably because deep down I wanted a sub 1:30 more than a good bike split.

I had a fair amount of traffic the first half, but was pretty much solo the whole second half and had more headwind and hills so my average speed dropped a bit, but power remained steady.  I hadn't seen anyone in my age group in a long time and hadn't gotten passed by anyone on the bike, so I suspected I might be in the top 5 in my AG.  

I thought I'd bike a little closer to 2:20, but was happy with a 2:22, especially since I came off the bike feeling pretty good. I have to say, I really liked this bike course.  It's what most 70.3 bike courses should be, I think.  A few decent climbs, lots of rollers, decent roads, little to no car traffic.  It was an honest course. It's not super challenging, but it's got enough climbing that you have to work for it.  It's also fast enough that you can still throw down a decent split. And no potholes to dodge.  I liked that.

The Run (1:32:08)

I came off the bike feeling pretty good.  I settled in to a 6:50 pace and held it there for a while focusing on trying to get in some calories and water and just getting into a rhythm.  This course has a few out and backs, and those are great when you're racing for position.  I kept looking for people in my age group.  It was tough because ages are marked on calves so you can't see them when people are running toward you, and numbers don't always indicate which AG you're in (I wish we had something like colored bibs or colored timing chip bands to indicate age group...something).

Around mile 4 I spotted a guy in my AG.  I checked my watch.  I was nearing a turn around so I'd be able to get a split.  He had a little more than 4 minutes on me.  I wasn't sure, but I suspected he may be running in 2nd, which would put me 3rd.  Obviously he swam and/or biked faster than me....but can he run?  I was determined to find out.

I started pushing the pace seeing if I could reel him in.  I spotted him toward another turn around after the halfway point and checked my watch.  I had closed the gap to around 2 and a half minutes.  I wasn't sure I'd have time to catch him, but I thought I might.  I kept pushing.  Around the hour mark, I hit the only hill on the course for the second time (two loop run) and that was it.  I was cooked.  One stupid hill and I was done.

My pace began slipping.  I grabbed some Coke at the next aid station and stepped up the pace....or so I thought.  It sure did feel like I was running faster, but my pace dropped even more.  Just like that I went from being on pace to breaking 90 minutes to doing damage control.  My pace continued slipping, and I began wondering if anyone was catching me.  I got another split on the guy I was chasing and the gap was back to around 4 minutes.  Motivation was slipping as a sub 1:30 was out of the question and it didn't look like anyone was close enough to catch me.  I just tried to hang on and not lose too much more time from that point on.

Overall:  4:28:35.  41st overall.  3rd AG.  

Overall, I'm really happy with this race. I feel like I put it all together and had a good day, placed well in my AG, hit some of my goals, and I raced hard and went for it.  I have some things to work on, but there were a lot of positives.  

After the race I drove 8 hours home.  That sucked more than the final 30 minutes of the run.

Random notes:

- After the race, my hamstrings and glutes were really sore.  My quads felt fine.  Maybe some more hamstring/glute strengthening is needed.  Weak hamstrings is what caused my torn tendon.  I've been slacking on my strengthening.

- I need to run more hills. 

- I need to pick a good fall/winter half marathon and work on my half marathon time.  I feel like I run well in half ironmans compared to my half marathon PR (which is 1:32, but it's from 2008).  

- I feel like my best half ironman swim performance relative to my potential came at Door County a few years ago when I was doing lots of metronome work in open water.  Time to dig out the H2O Audio again.

- I need to swim harder in races.  I think I swim too easy sometimes. 

- I would really appreciate it if people could write their half ironman swim PR on their feet so I know whose feet to follow.

- I need a new wetsuit.  That Xterra hasn't held up well.  Lots of holes.

- I need to change my BTA bottle cage.  The one Trek makes for the new Speed Concept doesn't hold the water bottles WTC hands out very well.  I lost one and somehow caught the other (I really should get an award for that catch - it was pretty good).

- I need to start the run with a water bottle.  I get dehydrated out there and struggle to get enough water from paper cups.  

- Clif Blocks.  Mmmmmm....

- The Pearl Izumi Octane suit is awesome.  Fast, comfy and no silly tri tan.

That's all I can think of right now.  My next half is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12.  I've got some work to do if I'm going to break 1:30 on the run there.  The run course is hillier than KS.  It also has potential to be very hot.  

This race gave me some much needed confidence, so I'm motivated to train hard and hopefully do well at Muncie.



Double Du Weekend: Delafield Du Race Report

Last year I did my double du weekend where I did the Beloit Duathlon and the Delafield Duathlon on back to back days.  I was very consistent with my duathlon finishes last year.  2nd overall in every one I did.  After grabbing the win at the final Beloit Du, I was hoping I could back that up on Sunday at the Delafield du.

This race was a 3.1 mile run, 16 mile bike, 3.1 mile bike so a little longer than Beloit.  I wasn't sure how my legs would respond so I tried to go out a little on the easy side and build into it.  I was in the third wave and ran in 3rd place for about half the run before moving to the lead in my wave.      

Heading out on the bike.

The bike went well. I managed a little over 20 watts more than last year, although my average speed was the same since it was windier this year. I managed to reel in the leader from the first wave and pull a bit of a gap before reaching T2.

Having caught the leader from the first wave, I came into T2 with a decent lead. I managed to hold on for the overall win, so it was a successful double du weekend.  Unfortunately, with Beloit calling it quits I won't be able to do this challenge again next year.  

This event was extra special because I got to race with two athletes I'm coaching.   

Me and Cristian, who had a great day and got an AG award.

Me and Michelle, who also had a good day and finished 2nd overall female.


This weekend I'm heading down to Kansas for the 70.3.  It should be an interesting weekend.  I've never done this race, and it will be my first time traveling to a triathlon alone.  Courtney usually goes with me, but she's at a music festival with her family this weekend.  That left me and my parents, and that fell apart when we found out my dad has cancer.   

It is what it is.

My Team USA kit arrived today.  Worlds is less than 3 months away.



Farewell to a favorite race - The Beloit Biathlon

If you've been following my blog for a while, you've probably read a Beloit Biathlon (Duathlon) race report.  It was my very first multisport race in 2007 and I've done it every year since.   My parents have come to watch most years, have volunteered a few times and I've gotten to know the race director over the years.  This year was it's 25th and final year.  I've had a lot of fun at this race over the years and I'm sad to see it go.

It was a short race - 2 mile run, 11 mile bike, 2 mile run - but it was fun.  I love duathlons and I wish more people would make them a part of their season.

 The first two years I went so hard on the bike I had to walk part of the second run so my goal every year was to not walk.  In 2009 I accomplished that and managed to get my very first overall win.  The next couple of years were my head to head battles with Ian.  Those were fun years.  The past couple of years the attendance started to decline.

My results over the years - 34th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st.  

This year attendance was down so it was a small group.  It was chilly, but otherwise a very nice morning for a race (the race director told me they only had 3 rainy days over 25 years - I raced one of them).   

I was able to pull a small gap on the first run coming into T1 and then extended my lead on the bike and held on to win my 3rd overall win.  My parents came out to watch.  It was a good way to close down a fun event that introduced me to multisports.  I'm going to miss this event, but like the race director said in his farewell speech, "It's been fun, but it's time to move on."

A few pics from the years...

Me and my parents.  2014

2008.  First bike in transition.  Goal = No walking.  Fail.

Me and the race director.  2012.

Me and my parents.  2009.

2009.  First overall win.

My parents working the bike dismount line.

Oh the agony. 

Me vs Ian.  Dead even coming into T2.  2010.  The most fun I had.  What a great race we had that year.  Ian won, but I loved every minute of it.

Me and Courtney. 2010.

An image from the bike course.

Last year I did the double du weekend - Beloit on Saturday and Delafield on Sunday and I did that again this year so I'll post my Delafield race report in a few days.


Race Report: Crazylegs Classic 8K

This past Saturday was the Crazylegs Classic 8K.  Back in 2008, I ran the race in 32:40 and then set two goals - break 30 minutes and get into the top 100 overall.  I've been working on those goals since.

My training has gone really well this year so I felt like I had a good chance.  I also figured, with my 40th birthday later this year, I better get the job done soon because I'm not getting any younger and this isn't going to get any easier. 

It seems this race always has bad weather - cold, windy and rainy - but not this year.  It was sunny, warm and winds were about 10 mph.  Perfect.  No excuses.

The first mile is mostly downhill so my plan was to run that a little faster than goal pace figuring the effort level would be the same.  Then you hit Observatory hill, which is tough and definitely costs some time.  I was hoping to hit the end of Observatory with my average right at a 6 minute pace.  Then I planned on settling in and trying to run just a tad faster than goal pace because the last mile and a half has some rollers and is uphill and it's hard to maintain pace.

Everything went (mostly) according to plan.  I crossed the one mile mark at a 5:50 pace and finished Observatory with an average pace of 5:57.  Right on target. I pushed the pace the next couple of miles and my overall average pace was about 5:53 with two miles left.  I started fading a bit, and the final mile was well off pace.  I just couldn't hold a sub-6 pace anymore and ran about a 6:07 pace for the final mile.  My overall average pace according to my Garmin was 5:58, which would be a sub-30 8K...except I finished in 30:10 with a distance of 5.06.  So no sub-30 again.  10 seconds short.

I know others that had more than 5 miles too so it appears the course may be a tad long.  But it's the same course every year so the goal remains the same.  I'll need to target a 5:55 average pace or better for next year.  

I did manage to crack the top 100 finishing in 93rd place so I get to check that goal off the list.  Unfortunately, the one I really wanted was sub-30.  It's disappointing not to hit that goal, but I did PR and continue my trend of improving at this race.  

2008 - 32:40
2009 - 32:01
2010 - 31:02
2011 - Injured - did the walk
2012 - Injured 
2013 - 30:36
2014 - 30:10

That progression leads me to believe I should (finally) break 30 minutes next year.  So my goal carries forward again.

As I've said many times after this race....Next Year!


New Bike

I decided it was time for a new bike.  I've been on a Cannondale Slice since 2008 and haven't gotten a new bike since I got a new road bike back in 2010.  There's nothing wrong with my Slice.  I just had the itch for a new bike.

I did a little shopping around and narrowed it down to a Cervelo P5 or a Trek Speed Concept.  Although the Cervelo is technically a faster bike (slightly) I decided to go with the Trek.  The brakes on the Cervelo aren't compatible with Di2 so I wouldn't be able to have shifters on the horns, and I figured if I'm going to go with Di2 I want the shifters on the horns.  I also really like the knob that allows you to make micro adjustments on the tilt of the saddle on the Trek.  That's pretty cool.  Sometimes it's the little things.

I've had some frustrating moments in the past dealing with bike shops, so I wasn't sure where I wanted to go to buy the bike.  A friend of mine recommended Machinery Row, and that's where Courtney bought her bike last year and she was happy with them, so I went to Machinery Row.  They were great to work with.  We worked out a good deal on a Project One Speed Concept and a Retul bike fit.  I'm very happy I decided to go with them.       

For those that don't know what Project One is, it's Trek's custom bike option.  You get to pick all the components and customize the paint.  Project One is pretty cool, but there are almost too many options.  I designed and redesigned my bike many times.  In the end, I went with this:

A friend of mine is a Project One painter, and I contacted him and he was able to find my order and paint my bike for me.  We grew up together and went to the same school all the way through high school.  It's pretty cool that all these years later I got to have my new bike painted by him.  He's a great painter and did a fantastic job.  He posted this pic on Facebook when he was prepping my frame:


I got my bike a few weeks ago and had the Retul fit done at Machinery Row.  After the fit, I got some video and compared it to my old fit and everything is almost exactly the same.  I'm really happy about that because I had a good fit on my Slice and spent a ton of time working on it.  

I haven't spent much time on my bike yet, and the few rides I have done have been on the trainer (because winter is never going to end) so it's hard to comment on it, but I think I'm going to like it.  Here's a picture of the final bike:


If the weather holds up, my first race of the year will be the Cherry Valley 20K Time Trial on April 13. 


My 4 Favorite Swim Tools

I think swim tools - pull buoys, paddles, fins, snorkels, etc - can be good, and I've definitely found some benefit using them.  However, I think you need to be careful and limit how much you use them or they become a crutch, especially the pull buoy.  I use the pull buoy some, but I try not to use it a lot.  I think a lot of triathlete use the pull buoy too much, partly because they read somewhere that it mimics wetsuit swimming.  That may or may not be true, I don't know, but I do know that using it too much makes me lazy.  I find that I don't engage my core as much when using the pull buoy, so I try to focus on that when using it and since the buoy is taking the kick out of the equation I try to put a lot of focus on my catch and pull (it is a pull buoy, afterall) so I'm not just going through the motions and making swimming easier by using it.  

One thing I do like the buoy for is days I'm completely smashed from other workouts.  If I'm seriously struggling in the pool because I'm really tired, I might grab the buoy and throw on some paddles and work on my catch/pull and see if I can still get in some quality work.  Fortunately, those days are pretty rare.

Here are 4 of my favorite swim tools:

Finis Tempo Trainer

Easily my favorite.  This thing changed my swimming.  I use it mainly for pacing long sets. Right now I'm swimming my 1000s at a 1:25 pace so I set this to beep every minute twenty-five and then I get feedback the whole time.  Chasing the beeps keeps my mind occupied so the long sets aren't so boring, and I know instantly if I'm falling off pace.  It was pretty eye-opening the first time I used it.  I started out way too fast and completely fell off pace by the halfway point.  I've gotten a lot better at pacing using this.  A LOT better.  Once I get comfortable at a pace, I bump it up one second and work on that pace for a while. It's a good way to slowly build your pace, and before you know it you're several seconds per 100 faster on your long sets.  You can also use it to work on your stroke rate, which I'll start doing soon as I begin to build toward my first half ironman of the season.

Finis Freestyler Paddle

I have some hand entry issues.  I turn my left hand out and then pull it under my body, and I angle my right hand a little sometimes so when I start my pull it's slicing through the water rather than catching a lot of water.  These paddles are helping me work on those issues.  They're a form building paddle rather than strength building.  They're designed to come off if you don't swim with good form.  I find they do help, and I've been using them in my warm up and cool down lately to help me focus on those issues and get in touch with good form prior to starting my main set.  They're fairly small paddles so they don't increase the surface area of your hand much, so I don't see much risk of shoulder injury with these.  I've never had any shoulder issues with any paddles, but I never swim hard with paddles. 


Finis Agility Paddle

Can you tell I like Finis products?  I just bought these, and although I haven't swam with them much yet I really like them.  These might quickly become my go to paddles.  They're kind of a mix between the Freestyle and a strength paddle.  They're designed to force good form, but they have a little more surface area than the Freestyler.  These don't have any straps so if you don't swim with a good hand entry or catch, they'll easily come off.  All you do is slip your thumb through the hole, and you squeeze the paddle a bit with your thumb to help keep it in place.  From there, it's water pressure that holds it against your hand.  

When I first put them on, with my very first stroke I angled my right hand a bit and these immediately pulled away from my hand.  Instant feedback.  They take more concentration than regular paddles with straps, but that's a good thing.  And without straps, you can take these on and off very quickly so you could work them into a set that doesn't have much rest and still hit your intervals.  I'll probably use these for my paddle workouts rather than my Speedo Contour paddles (good paddles, but I love paddles that force good form) and I think I'm going to rotate between these and the Freestyler for use during warm ups.

Speedo Ankle Band

This is a cruel little swim tool, but a good one.  Like the Tempo Trainer, this can really be eye opening.  I haven't done tons of work with bands yet, so I can't really comment yet on how much they've helped me improve (if at all) but I think they're a good tool and now that masters is over and I'm swimming on my own I'm working them into my sets on Mondays and Fridays.  Right now, I'm doing 4x50 on 1:15 with bands only (you might need to start with bands and a buoy) right after my warm up.  I started out hitting the wall in about 44 seconds and have managed to bring that down to 40 so I think I'm going to tighten up the interval to a minute and see if I can start coming in under 40 seconds.  Then I'm going to increase those to 75s and then 100s.  A good stroke rate helps and so does engaging the core to keep your legs toward the surface  (see goofy video). 

So those are my 4 favorite swim tools right now. 

Here's a great blog post from an outstanding coach, Joel Filliol:  http://joelfilliol.blogspot.com/2012/01/most-popular-post-on-this-blog-is-is.html

They're all great tips, but I think #21 is my favorite and it's probably the number one thing I don't like about masters programs - they never repeat workouts.  We repeat bike and run workouts all the time, and can easily see our progress when we do, but for some reason swimming always needs a new workout.  I love repeating sets so I can watch my times and see if I'm improving.  It keeps me motivated.



Bike Workout: Over/Unders

I thought I'd share one of my favorite threshold workouts.  It's called Over/Unders.  I haven't written about this yet - because I haven't really written about anything lately - but I found out late last year that I have exercise-induced asthma.  Being able to breathe has completely changed my training, and this workout is a prime example.  It would trigger an asthma attack and the workout would quickly spiral down the drain.  But now that I have that under control, I'm loving this workout.  It's tough, but time goes quickly and you get a pretty good bang for your buck in terms of getting in a lot of work in a fairly short period of time.

The workout:

Warm up (15-25 minutes)
    In the warm up I include a 5' effort building from 70% to 100% of FTP.  Then I ride easy for a bit and then do 3x30" (30") at 100-120% of FTP.  Then I ride easy for a few minutes and start the main set.

Main Set (55 minutes)
3x [3x (3' @ 90-95% of FTP, 2' @ 105-110% of FTP)]  
5' Easy between intervals

 Cool Down

So the main set is basically three 15-minute intervals where you alternate 3 minutes at 90-95% of FTP and 2 minutes at about 105% of FTP.  You should end each interval with an average power around threshold.  Bouncing back and forth above and below threshold really breaks up the intervals and makes time go quickly. 

Here's what it looks like. Yellow is power. 


Consistency is King (Swimming)

I've known for a while that consistency is king in training, but it has been my coaching the past year that has really driven that lesson home.  When my athletes stay consistent and keep getting the work done, they improve.  There have been a few big breakthroughs, but they've only come after months of consistent hard work. 

Consistency is tough because it requires discipline and patience.  It's logging the work day after day, trusting the plan...the process.  You have to love the process and enjoy the small victories, being just a little faster or stronger than a few weeks ago.  Those little victories add up over time.  Plan the work, work the plan.

I've always been consistent, but this year I decided to make consistency a primary goal.  To help with my consistency, I changed up my schedule.  My most inconsistent sport is swimming so I addressed that first.  In the past, I often scheduled swims on the weekends, but sometimes missed those for various reasons (excuses).  So I decided not to schedule any weekend swims and come up with a schedule I can and will stick with.  M/W/F mornings.  I'll add weekend swims at the lake this summer for additional volume. 

My training log showed that I struggle to get to the pool the most in January and February, so I signed up for a masters class.  The class is now over, and I'm glad to be back on my own.  It was a good class, but I didn't like the pool.  But masters got me into the habit of getting up early and swimming before work so it was worth it.  I've only missed two days of swimming so far this year due to the flu.  My swimming has never been this consistent.

I didn't even feel like I was swimming all that much.  I wasn't focusing on it. I just got up early and went to the pool 3 times per week with the goal of getting in at least 10,000 yards per week (which meant I had to swim an extra long cool down at masters sometimes).  

I decided to compare my Q1 swim volumes from 2008-2014 to see how my consistency compared to previous years.  2012 is the only year I did a big swim-focus block in the winter. It's also the year I swam my best Ironman time (1:04).  I was a little surprised by the outcome.  I didn't expect this winter to be so much higher than previous winters, and so close to the year I focused on swimming.

2014 includes planned workouts through the end of the month.

So... I've logged more yards than usual.  Big deal, right?  The real question is: am I a better swimmer because of it?

Yes.  I'm hitting times I've never hit before. I just swam 10x100 on 1:25 the other day for the first time.  I hit 1:14-1:16 on my 100s and then followed that up with a 1000 at a 1:25 pace.  The best I'd done previously was 10x100 on 1:30 hitting about 1:15s.  I didn't follow that up with a 1000 though.  I followed it up with a nap.

Now that I'm swimming on my own, I'm doing a threshold set on Mondays, swimming right around CSS (Critical Swim Speed).  Wednesdays is a volume day so I swim long endurance sets.  Today, the main set was 4x1000 at a 1:25 pace.  I use my Finis Tempo Trainer to pace those.  Fridays are "Fast Fridays" and those workouts include lots of fast swimming, sprints, fins, ankle bands, etc.  

The key is to find a schedule you can and will stick to and just do it.  No excuses.  I can't think of a single day at masters that was all that great.  I had good days and bad days, but mainly I just kept logging the yards day in and day out, week after week.  I never had a breakthrough.  I just kept plugging away and now I'm a little bit faster than I used to be.  Consistency.