Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday and Tuesday

So I'm easing into some semblance, albeit a very light one, of a training routine. Typically I'm more of a time than a distance person anyway so seeing myself doing a couple of 30 min workouts a day for the next few weeks shouldn't be a problem as I gently move from no training, to unstructured training, to short structured workouts.

Tuesday I played basketball for 30 min in the Vibram 5 Fingers. Or VFF for short. I can really tell my stride is smoothing out. But here are a couple of other interesting things I've noticed. I've been wearing these for a little over a month. Mostly I've worn them to work and any other time I've needed to leave the house. I've also taught my yoga classes at the bike shop in them (think concrete floors in the winter). What I've noticed is my jump shot has gotten way better both in accuracy and in elevation. Meaning I not only shoot better, but I jump higher too. I think it has to do with balance and better connection through my feet in the VFF's. One of the things my rolfer (a structural integration body worker) likes to talk about is how often the body is thrown out of alignment because of poor connection through the feet. She says having the feet "firmly" connected deeply affects both our sense of balance and our ability to generate force and power in our movements. After running around in the VFF's for a month I'm starting to see what she means.

After my antics on the basketball court, I swam for 30 min. This was pretty simple following a pattern I used for most of the year last year for my drill workouts. 50m drill, 100m fist swim, 100m swim. The majority of this swim focused on my body rotation and getting the sense of generating force with my core.

Wednesday was an easy (at least it should have been easy) 45 min bike at the Veloway. This time I actually went out on to the South Mopac loop. You'd think I'd have gotten my competitive nature satiated from last year. But no, that was obviously not the case. During this time of year I really focus on two things, keeping my heart rate deeply aerobic 120-130bpm and my pedal stroke. Apparently the combination of having not been on the bike much and not wearing my monitor and the loss of fitness that goes along with not doing anything for a month, my idea of what "feels" easy and about 125 bpm is actually about 140 bpm now. That and the fact I was riding along with a couple of other guys. Still aerobic mind you, just not deeply aerobic. But I think that is to be expected. I've learned it takes a great deal of patience and discipline to train at heart rates like that. It is especially difficult after a layoff. So we'll see how things progress.

I am glad to see my hamstring issues appear to be healing well. I'm using a combination of yoga, Tai Chi and strength work. So far so good. Oh well got to get a move on. The day's getting away from me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Beginnings And Vibram 5 Finger Shoes

So I started training again. Nothing too intense. Just a 30 min swim and a 30 min bike. At least I think it was 30 min. I didn't wear my heart rate monitor so I just sort of looked at my watch and went from there.

I find it interesting how much more you feel after a break in routine. Not bad stuff mind you, but how much more aware I am of what's going on in my body and how it is working. It's as if I've been asleep, or perhaps numbed, to the finer sensations of movement. And that's probably the most overlooked reasons for taking a break. Aside from recovery of energy levels and tissue restoration, taking time off allows you to get back to the point where you can actually feel what you are doing.

To that end I've decided to change the shoes I train in to something more "useful." Right before Ironman Arizona, I got a pair of Vibram 5 Finger shoes (if you can call them that). They look more like foot "gloves" to be honest. At any rate I've been wearing them non stop since I got home from Arizona. This seems to be a natural progression for me. I've been wearing and training in the Nike Free 3.0's for about 2 years now after wearing the Nike Free 5.0 for a couple of years before that. I haven't spent much time in anything else. But while walking in the Vibrams for hours a day was not an issue, running in them took some getting used to. Even as flexible and low profile as the Nike Free 3.0's are, the Vibrams are in another universe altogether when it comes to running shoes.

To get used to running in them for longer and longer periods of time, I've decided to spend some time in the gym playing basketball in them. This has given me the ability to learn how to wear them under some pretty varied conditions requiring both speed and coordination while allowing me to retrain my feet and body to run properly at multiple intensities. Plus it is just plain fun learning how to take off and land without breaking my feet. I figure after a month of this running for 20 to 30 minutes will be a snap. I'll keep you posted and write a decent review after I've had them for a bit. All I know is the Vibrams are going to be my training shoe of choice. I'll use the Nike Free 3.0's to race in.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adaptation - A 2009 Training Review

In the past on this blog I've been more forthcoming about my training and getting back into shape than I have been lately. Recently I've asked myself why this changed. After the examining the full spectrum of reasons, ranging from the change in my work schedule from nights to days, or from the obligations that come from training, teaching yoga, leading bootcamps and trying to work full time at a "real" job, I think I finally have gotten to the core of the issue. In the time leading up to my first Ironman at Ironman Arizona, my doubts of whether or not I'd even make it to the start of the race seemed to grow exponentially. And I have good reason to have felt that way. Traditionally, I've been injury prone. And I've tended to allow other things, professional and personal, come between me and my triathlon related goals.

Not to say that hasn't been the case this year as well. But for some reason this year things have changed. I mean I still had to deal with things like a dislocated cuboid bone in my left foot, nerve damage and a dislocated bone in my other foot, flair ups of achilles tendonosis in both legs, knee issues, IT band, shoulder, calf pulls, and lower back stuff. I've also had issues with work, on call scheduling, work related training and meetings outside of my normal hours and personal issues that at times seemed insurmountable. And lets not forget my first race this season where I almost puked in the water, and found myself both nauseous and disoriented in the middle of a lake. Or what about all of the stuff that has happened with my equipment this year (see my other posts)? We can also add the juicer I managed to "burn out" a few weeks out from Arizona to that list too. Really, my list of mishaps does seem endless. Needless to say, all of these things created some major anxiety throughout the months leading up to the ironman. That is until I began seeing the gains in my training that appeared to come from my decision to "drink" a good deal of my daily nutrition.

In retrospect, I probably needed my head examined for even buying that plane ticket to Arizona. Especially given what happened at Longhorn 70.3. And man, given what I experienced in the last couple of weeks of training prior to race day, I not only had my doubts about completing that first Ironman, but a healthy dose of pure, simple fear as well. My respect for the people who have completed an Ironman anywhere in any time has gone way, way up. No matter how fit you are 140.6 miles is still a monumental distance to cover.

So here's the thing. This is why I still went to race in Arizona. In spite of getting sick and then having someone aggravate my right knee again by digging their thumbs the same spot that had been hit with the bike pump at the Longhorn 70.3 in the four weeks leading up to the race - this year, in spite of everything I've experienced I've had more fun than I can ever recall. Even when I was racing before and was younger and much faster. Its funny. Leading up to the half Ironman, I was doing workouts my younger self would have crawled home in a heap of sweat and quivering muscles and not come back for more for at least a week. And here was getting up and doing it all over again the next day. And that gets me to the real point of this post.


Even with all of the set backs I encountered this year I started to see the results of adaptation taking place. Before I got sick, I had some really good results in my training leading up to this point. I was looking over my wattage output from my trainer power intervals for the season and prior to the Longhorn 70.3 I was averaging 25 watts more than I was at the start of the season. During a 100 mile solo effort on rolling hills my average heart rate was 134 on a very, very windy day. Whereas earlier this year my average HR on a 20 mile "flat" time trial was 158 at the same speed.

On the run I saw my ability to cover more and more ground at better speeds with lower heart rates too. The week prior to the 70.3 I ran 16 miles after two hard hours on the bike with an average heart rate of 143 at an 8:05 per mile pace. But the main thing was I was having no problem running two or three days in a row at that point. That really amazed me.

When all of this Ironman business started, I had to give some serious thought as to how best to create the most favorable conditions for my success at trying to cover this distance. But beyond covering the distance the ultimate goal was to create a body with a level of fitness capable in 3 years to be able to "race" at that distance. For me that is going "wire to wire" from each event to the next with a constant but sustainable effort. And I know this is what we most often think of when the word "Adaptation" comes to mind in terms of our triathlon related work. And granted, I think from the results my body and its capacity to handle training and racing stresses has changed for the better. But like most terms we use in the sport (or life for that matter), like "core," or "economy," "adaptation" can have a much more profound side if we take the time to examine it not just in terms of bodily response to training stimuli, but also how it relates to the larger context of our lives.

So as my year comes to a close and my training pendulum has swung decidedly to the recovery side of things, I have time to ponder what do I feel my most important adaptation for 2009 was? The thing is I don't believe my physical adaptation was the most important change that took place over the course of the year. Sure being fitter and healthier were great but for me I think the most important adaptation came when I learned to trust listening to my own body in spite of the lofty goals I had set.

In yoga there is a term known as "ahimsa" which can be translated loosely to mean "doing no harm" or "practicing non violence." So often in sport, accomplishments are pursued to the exclusion of things like harmony and joy. We can tend to overemphasize the outcome and push our bodies and ourselves further than is necessary or wise even with a long held goal clearly in sight. We can get caught up in, I don't know, the moment, our own self doubt, what have you and lose sight of ourselves. In the past, I was a repeated offender and I know it. That's why I couldn't race for 5 years prior to starting this blog. What I learned in the interim with the help of my yoga practice is this type of behavior can be considered an act of self inflicted violence. By demanding more than the body is ready or capable of delivering at any particular moment, we are doing harm both to ourselves and the goals we so strongly desire to reach be it a long coveted yoga pose or a place on the podium in a race. Understanding this delicate balance between our goals and desires and our well being can be a hard thing to master in any of life's arenas, but in triathlon the consequences of not understanding this balance can be both swift and painful. Remembering there is just as much value in the journey as the destination really changed my perspective and allowed me to enjoy my season whether I was racing as fast as I could or just out enjoying the scenery. Personally, this is where I found myself truly adapting this year. I found myself coming more into a space where I readily accepted where I was at any moment in any race or training session and let that be that. And because of it I'm healthier and happier. I accomplished all of my goals for the season and for the first time that I can remember I wasn't injured at the end of it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How I Eat Now & Why

So lately, I've had a few people asking about my diet. Aside from the weight loss perspective, which is way overrated, most of the people asking are the ones who've noticed the benefits I've enjoyed from it. Personally I look at how I eat as less of a "diet" and more of a "pattern of eating" that allows me to do what I like doing which is to work out "A LOT". But aside from allowing me to workout more frequently and with higher intensities, there are other benefits too.

These are some I've noticed:

  • Lower resting heart rate
  • More restful sleep in less time
  • More lean muscle/strength and flexibility
  • Healthier skin/hair
  • More energy
  • Better concentration
  • Better moods
  • Faster recovery

I started using this pattern of eating about 8 weeks before Ironman Arizona with the intent of reverting to a more conventional style of eating once the race was over. The changes I noticed in 2 weeks were so staggering, I decided to keep eating the same way after the race. I think the reason for the change was I had a sense that I was short on training time and my body wasn't ready for the physical challenge of an Ironman. Because I felt I couldn't "work out" enough, I had to figure out a way to create the necessary transformation in the time I had left. It occurred to me if I could pack my body with as many nutrients as I could leading up to the race, then at least my body had a chance to be "nutritionally" ready even if it wasn't physically up to the task. But after 2 weeks I was so much stronger, more flexible and visibly fitter, I knew I was on to something. So the eating "pattern" is pretty simple. I start the day with food in liquid form (fresh juices of fruits and veggies) moving from juice to smoothies. Snack on nuts and seeds. As the day progresses fruits and salad are eaten depending on appetite. Eat what I want for dinner.

Now some details.

The juices are from seasonal fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, and chard. But also there are things like carrots, broccoli, asparagus and parsley. I also always include beets because they promote healthy liver function which aids in systemic detoxification. The fruits used can vary according to personal taste and seasonal availability, but they also add volume to the total juice yield. I like to use grapes, oranges, blueberries, grapefruit, pineapple and watermelon. The goal is to make the juices as nutrient dense as possible creating a liquid food that is high in quality but low in calories. I drink about 24 to 32oz of juice like this daily and this is typically "first and second" breakfast. I don't worry too much about calories but from past experience 8oz of juice is probably about 150 calories which is enough for me to start my day mildly satiated for a couple of hours before drinking more juice. It also allows for a morning workout not impeded by feeling stuffed and sluggish. But more importantly if you were to take the term "Break Fast" literally, you would start eating after a fast, even one lasting 10 or so hours, moderately allowing your system a chance to "warm" up to heavier digestive work later on.

Once the liquid food is done, then I'll make a smoothie. There are some similarities between the juice and the smoothie in terms of what goes into making it but as a base I start with a blend of coconut water and coconut milk. The coconut water provides a good supply of electrolytes while the coconut milk adds some base nutrients and needed fat. From there frozen fruits and veggies are added again. One difference from smoothies you may by around town is I add lots of leafy greens (usually frozen, but not always) to this. Typically as it is easier to juice the stalks of the greens in the juicer, so I save the leaves for the smoothies. Aside from fruits and veggies and I few things I don't or can't juice, I add goji berries, stevia (if I need something a little sweeter), a blend of hemp, rice, and pea proteins, powdered chlorella, E3 Live (a green algae superfood), chia seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and dates.

Interestingly the combination of vegetable proteins from the greens and the hemp, rice and pea protein powder seems to work better for me in building muscle than when I used a single source like hemp or soy alone. Also there is some new research on pea protein that suggests it aids in efficient kidney function. Better kidney function = healthier system overall. Again think detoxification.

Basically, if its good for me or has a purpose nutritionally its either in the juice or the smoothie. If I won't eat it cooked or raw but is healthy, its probably in either the juice or the smoothie where I can disguise the taste enough to drink it. Between the juice and the smoothie, I get more than enough servings of fruits and veggies and a whole slew of things I probably should eat but couldn't get enough of if I was eating solid food all day. And that's the reason I started eating this way. From everything I've read, we don't get enough quality nutrition in the typical American diet to support optimal health hence widespread issues our society faces with obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Also by drinking juice and smoothies, I save my system the trouble of having to break down a bunch of solid food and nutrients are available in greater amounts more quickly. Its a question of time and energy. Energy I'm now not using to break down food is energy that is saved for other things like working out, recovery, or just reading a book. Less energy and time spent digesting food is more energy and time to do other stuff that is more important to me. If I save an hour this way, that's an hour I could be working out or recovering from working out. The solid food I eat at the end of my day, a few hours before bed, provides fiber and gives me the sensation fullness. It lets me eat normally and socially and keeps me from feeling as though I'm depriving myself of the foods I enjoy. I still eat things I like, just not all day long. Also by eating this meal last and before bed, my body has all night to digest the food while I'm asleep thus eliminating the feeling of drowsiness I used to feel when I ate solid food all day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ironman Arizona Race Report

So on the plane to Phoenix, I asked myself a question.

"Why are you going to Arizona?"

Given my complete lack of training for the past month, this seemed like a good question to ask. Between illness and injury my training since Longhorn 70.3 was nonexistent, leaving me feeling unprepared and hugely uncertain. Long runs in the prior 4 weeks, 0. Long bikes in the past 4 weeks, 0. Longest straight swim, 1500. It was as if my season ended in October and I forgot to tell myself. So I wasn't even close to being in top form.

The question hung in my head until about mid-flight.

"Why are you going to Arizona?"

Then an answer came and it surprised me.

"You are going to Arizona to get stronger."

Prior to my race I wasn't sure what that meant but at various points during the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run things were definitely clearer.

For an Ironman newbie like me, the Arizona swim is visually and logistically daunting. The out and back 2.4 mile course followed a gently curving shoreline. In the days before the race I walked across the Scottsdale Street bridge several times and each time I thought, "Dude. That's far." But it wasn't just swimming almost to the edge of the horizon and back that had me worried. Arizona would be my first MASS swim start ever. I don't know how many of you have ever done a swim with 2000 other participants all starting at the same time, but as an Ironman virgin, this was just added another challenge for me to face. Looking at starts from prior years on YouTube, the Arizona swim looked more like a massive death match held in a washing machine than a triathlon. Also Arizona has a "wading" start. You are already in the water when the cannon goes off. The thing about this is you are in the water for a full 15 minutes prior to this. Race morning water temps were about 62 degrees.

I hadn't raced (or trained for that matter) in temps that cold, but opted to go with a silicone cap under my race cap. This turned out to be a good move for me keeping my head comfortable for the whole swim. I lined up in the back determined to stay out of as much of the frenzy as possible and thinking I could have an easier time sighting buoys. The only flaw in this strategy is that it failed to take into account my swimming has actually gotten a bit better. About half way to the turn around, I had caught a good deal of the age groupers and while not quite the melee I'll assume present at the race start I then had to contend with navigating around people while staying on course. On the way back, someone kept slapping at my feet which triggered cramps in both calfs. Later another errant arm would slap my left hamstring causing another cramp there as well. I came out of the water with cramps in both legs but had a solid swim effort where I managed to maintain a solid pace for me the entire way. Even with the cramping in the water I was able to hobble into the changing tent and then get out on the bike.

The bike was a three loop course and unfortunately the cramps from the swim would force me to change my ride plan. While the right leg warmed up after the first turn around on the bike course at about mile 18, the left calf and hamstring stayed tight and sore the entire 112 miles. And for some reason both knees became sore during the bike. My guess is because of the trauma to my hamstrings my quads were overcompensating putting stress on my knees. I kept having to get off the bike at every other aid station to massage my hamstrings and calf and give my knees a break. At this point I decide to look at the bike leg as a 112 bike tour and not stress over it. I managed to cover all 112 miles this way but I figured if I was going to finish the whole race this was a way to give me the best chance at completing the course. From this point on all time goals were forgotten.

Once back in transition from the bike, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could actually run, though I could still feel the twinge in my left calf and hamstring. I ran the first two miles like I was running a 5k, looked at my heart rate and forced myself to slow down and walk through the aid stations. This worked well until about mile 13 when the tightness in my calf grew from the size of a pebble to the size of a fist. I stopped to work it out and ran 5 more miles when my legs just completely gave out. The walk from mile 18 to the finish was long and painful. And I was resolved to walking up to the line but somehow found the strength to trot across.

In retrospect, it all seems surreal. I was strong in places I didn't expect, making decisions that got me through a very, very long day. But I was also patient and surprised when I wasn't strong at all like the second loop of the run where I had no sense of time having been completely out of gas at the end of the first loop. But somehow I managed to run the second loop at a steady pace. In the closing moments, I had to marvel at the fact I was still moving even though the day hadn't played out as I'd planned - shoot my whole year didn't play out as planned - I was there and I actually completed an Ironman. Still processing that one...

I came to Arizona to get stronger.

But the strength I found wasn't at all in the places I expected.

The real strength I found was from all of the energy from everyone I came into contact with throughout the day. I really got a sense that no one does a race like that without some help. Help from family, friends, training partners, doctors, massage therapists, race volunteers (over 3000 for Arizona, almost 1.5 per triathlete - all of whom were absolutely amazing), spectators, and other athletes. And I think that's why I like tri's so much. It is the sense of community I feel when I race or train. No matter what your goals are or why you race, everyone is really pulling for you to meet or exceed them. And that's pretty cool.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Day Before Ironman Arizona

Usually the, "What the hell was I thinking?" creeps into my mind somewhere toward the end of a race I'm feeling underprepared for. This time, it has been my constant companion since boarding a plane for Arizona. Ok so, I know nerves are normal. And that's when you have prepared. But in my case, the last couple of weeks - heck, the last couple of months the fact that I boarded a plane and even showed up in Tempe in the first place has me really questioning my sanity.

So here's what happened in the last two weeks. For a week I was "couldn't crawl out of bed if I wanted to sick." Yep. Sick. I never get sick. Ever. But there I was in bed without the energy for much besides sleeping which I did averaging about 12-14 hours per day. If that wasn't enough, prior to that I burned out my juicer. When 75% of your daily nutrition comes from one machine and it goes down, your life is affected in a big way. Then finally, once I had a new juicer and had gotten over what ever bug had me down, I went in for a final massage a week before I was scheduled to leave for Tempe. I almost skipped this appointment because, I wasn't really having any physical issues that "needed" addressing for the race. Mind you there are always things you "can" work on if you are a symmetry freak like me and so there was that one thing that I could get looked at with my right IT band. To make a long story short, the massage antagonized the same spot on my knee that the bicycle pump at Longhorn 70.3 had smacked. So great. Now I can't walk, or tie my shoes, or bend my right leg and thus from that point on there was no more cycling or running. Not that there'd been a lot anyway because of being sick.

But. I got on the plane anyway. The human body is really an odd creation. When I tell you that I woke up Thursday morning and couldn't walk down a flight of stairs without pain, I would not be lying. I also would not be lying if I also said that on the flight from Austin to Phoenix, I could almost feel my knee healing. I got off the plane in Arizona without a hint of the prior pain or stiffness. A miracle.

Anyway, so here I am on the eve of my first Ironman. Nervous, doesn't seem to cover what I'm feeling. But what I do know is that no matter what happens out there, I'm going to keep moving forward. See you all on the other side. ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Longhorn 70.3 Race Report

The picture to the left probably defined my day at the Austin Longhorn 70.3 race this last Sunday. The right cleat broke right outside T1.

I took a couple of days to think about my experience during the race before writing about it in detail. Long story short I wanted a time about 1:00 to 1:15 (one hour to one hour 15 min) faster than the one I finished with. But in retrospect, I suppose the moral of this race is sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes we get what we need. I needed to feel comfortable swimming in a wetsuit. I needed to test using all liquid nutrition versus a combination of both. And what I really needed was a very long workout.

And, partially because of the cleats I got all of these things. I found out I was actually pretty comfortable swimming in a wetsuit for the first time. I found I'm not suited for using all liquid nutrition and so will go with a combination of solid and liquid nutrition from now on. And I got a very long workout under race-like conditions. Honestly, this was what I'd been telling myself and some friends in the weeks leading up to the race. I just wanted to work on my pacing for my first Ironman.

But, hey I'm human. And I possess that same "curiosity" most athletes have about testing limits and seeing how fast they can go - especially on race day. So when I woke up all thoughts of pacing and long workouts faded. And that's why some prayers are answered and others aren't.

So as I rode to the swim start on the bus, an errant bike pump hit me in my right knee. Within the few minutes it took to go from the parking lot to the swim start my knee was swollen and sore. Needless to say, I had serious reservations about running or cycling at that point. But I knew I could still swim so, I put on my wetsuit and thought perhaps the cold water would bring a bit of the swelling down. It didn't, but it got me in the water.

My swim plan was to take it easy and get used to the wetsuit out to the first turn, then if I felt good I'd open it up a bit. The first turn seemed to take forever to reach, but I was comfortable and my stroke felt good. After the turn I put in a bit more effort and wound up catching some of the folks that had passed me. I would swim with this pack until we all got back to shore.

Out of the water, my knee was still stiff and a bit painful but I decided to see how it felt on the bike before bagging the race. Once on the bike I found I had the added challenge of a broken cleat (hence the picture at the start of this blog) also on the right leg. At this point my first thought was, "Hey I had a great swim, I'm cool with stopping right here." But as I looked at my cleat a very wise and thoughtful race volunteer said, "Hey man, you can ride with one leg." So off I went on a 56 mile bike ride with a swollen knee and a busted cleat - only able to clip in to the pedals with my left leg. While it seemed like a doable thing at the time, I cannot tell you what a real pain in the ass that decision turned out to be - literally. Needless to say low back and piriformis pain would be my constant companions for the next 56 agonizing miles. Things got a little better when I decided to ride less from efficiency and a high cadence and more into strength with larger gearing. This was the only way to keep the right foot from slipping off the platform so often.

The ride is also where I determined I would not be using all liquid nutrition for the Ironman. No matter how much fuel I consumed, I was still hungry. I don't ride well when I'm distracted by a growling stomach. I had about 800 calories on the bike which should have been sufficient, but looking at what was in my solid nutrition versus the liquid nutrition I tried for this event, the difference was pretty clear. It isn't just calories, but what those calories are made up of that matters. Lesson learned.

By the time I reached T2, I was hungry, sore, more fatigued than normal for a 50ish mile ride, and still sporting a swollen knee. The cramps in my left leg started right before mile 1. I surmised this was happening because the leg did most of the work on the bike. But I could have been imagining it. So the run became "run only as far and as fast as you can without cramping". By about mile 7 or so things seemed to have stabilized and I wound up running more and only walking when I went through aid stations.

I must say, I've never done a race quite like that either in distance, format, or in the number of minor challenges I experienced. But I can say, I did have a good time even with all of the stuff that was going on. I was never in any physical distress that was unbearable. And I found really like triathlons no matter what place on the course I find myself in. I got the long day I needed and now know a pace I can sustain for quite a while even on a bum leg or with a broken bike cleat. I'd say that's information worth having, especially if you can enjoy yourself while you gather it. Train well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Long Horn 70.3 Race Report Prequel

I did this today. I'll write more about my race and post pics tomorrow. Right now I just want to say, the best part of the race for me was the swim. If you know me, then you'll understand exactly the kind of day I had and why I "Almost" called it a day right after getting out of the water. I do want to thank the race organizers and all the volunteers, the course and the support was amazing. Well done. Now I need some sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book Review: The Thrive Diet

A few weeks ago I read The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier. It took me all of 3 hours. Not to say I read fast. The time spent reading just flew by because so much of what the book talks about, I've believed for some time. I just wasn't implementing it all. So for the last 2 weeks I've been applying what I learned from the book and implementing what I already knew and have to say I'm hooked. At first I only committed to eat this way until after IMAZ. But as I write this blog I realize I'm probably going to eat this way from now on. Bottom line is not only do I feel better, but my training has gotten better as well.

The book in a nutshell is Brazier's contribution to the nutrition side of training, racing and recovery. Normally when I read books about nutrition, especially about training related nutrition, I come away more than a little disappointed. Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, I get a little disturbed with what I consider largely as misinformation about athletes choosing a completely vegetable based diet. Unfortunately, it is its vegetable based nature that is probably why Brazier's book isn't discussed and considered as a serious option for optimal eating, training, and racing more.

Brazier takes time to explain that eating in the majority of North American culture is not for function but other emotional and social reasons. This is why the typical diet is one of excess in quantity and lacking in actual nutrition. He points out that eating less is an option when the body has the proper nutrition to fuel its activity and recovery. Brazier explains a lower caloric intake is actually beneficial to an endurance athlete in particular because when higher nutrient sources are used in easily digestible forms, the body has more energy available for recovery and performance. It is his opinion that it is because of improper nutrition that people find themselves craving things like sugar and fat in excess which then throws the body out of balance. Over time the accumulated stresses of training and racing loads along with suboptimal eating patterns combine to set up a vicious cycle of poor eating, impaired or interrupted training and recovery, and a lower overall quality of life that many simply call burn out. Prolonged, the state of imbalance caused by faulty eating and the resultant stresses sets up a cycle leading to illness, premature aging and increased body fat. The accumulated stresses Brazier links to poor eating become more and more noticeable to the athlete as they begin limit the ability to train consistently and recover adequately. Though personally I find his tendency to lump the myriad of consequences of poor eating under the singular umbrella he refers to as "stress," I found his knowledge on the subject of nutrition and its effects on health and athletic recovery very sound.

Essentially Brazier looks at food as fuel, some fuels burning cleaner and more efficiently in the body than others and thus take less energy to digest fully while creating less waste, or in Braziers language, stress in the body. He is careful to state that training and racing are also forms of stress placed on the body noting that some stresses are beneficial for growth and development. What Brazier attempts to do with the Thrive Diet is to have our food support that growth by taking the wasteful and stressful aspects food can have on our bodies out of the equation of nutrition and performance. This in his words leads to not only a stronger, leaner body capable of racing better, but a person who is healthier and happier overall and more likely to reach and experience their true potential.

While the Thrive Diet in practice is not complex, it is vegan and largely raw, and it does run counter to what most Americans would consider a balanced meal. And overall it is probably lower in calories. But after following just a couple of the guidelines in the diet closely for the last couple of weeks a few things stand out.

The cover of Brazier's book claims by following this way of eating you will be leaner (have a lower body fat percentage), while increasing lean muscle mass, sleep more restfully, experience increased energy, and have a stronger immune system. From my experience over the last few weeks, I can honestly say Brazier's claims have all been on the mark. I have lost about 5 pounds and definitely look more muscular. But what is most amazing to me has been the recovery time I've seen. Workouts that would have left me using the railing in my house to get up and down the stairs for about 24 hours because my legs were so trashed are now a thing of the past. I am also getting by on far less sleep and still feeling rested. Daily runs are also looking more and more possible which would be a huge boost to my future overall fitness I'm sure. And all I'm doing is adhering more strongly to the notion that the more nutrients in my diet the better. I'm drinking several glasses of organic fruit and vegetable juice a day along with a protein smoothie. I have also lowered the consumption of Soy where possible. I have found I need to be more conscious of the quality and amount of beneficial fat in my diet and I'm looking into sources to include this. But to say I've seen a dramatic transformation in just 3 weeks would be an understatement. If you are serious about your triathlon performance, and just the overall quality of you experience of your life in general, I highly suggest you give Thrive a look.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Week So Far

So I'm back on the bike and running more, with a few swims thrown in for good measure. Monday was a 90 minute run followed by a 1 hour bike and a 30 min drill swim. The swim was more for recovery and to cool off while loosening up. In the midst of these workouts was a yoga class. Tuesday was another yoga class followed by 2 hour tempo ride at race pace.

I'm starting to see some gains in strength on the bike. Its about time. I can't tell you wattage because I don't ride with electronics except a HR monitor (though I am thinking about getting a Garmin for next season) but I do know I am pushing bigger gears without blowing up and my average time on the loop has been steadily going down at the same HR/effort. As a disclaimer, I do use wattage during workouts on the trainer with the Tacx but I don't know how reliable that is. The way I see it is if the numbers go up as I get better, that's all that matters really.

Anyway, today was a 60 minute run @ 8:00 per mile pace followed by a 90 minute recovery ride (HR ceiling of 135). Tomorrow is the beginning of the week's swim focused work with a 4k workout followed by a 60 minute recovery run. Let's see how that goes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Things Are Getting Back On Track

And some other things aren't.  So first up is my tri bike.  You know, I've always thought my guardian angel pulled double shifts or something but now I'm certain of it.  Basically, because of rain, shifting personal commitments, and a general aversion to my tri bike these last couple of weeks, I stayed off the bike.  Good thing too.  Apparently, the fork the tri shop loaned me hadn't been put on properly (it was missing a part which could have caused yet another accident).  I'd take my guardian angel out for a drink but I need her alert and on her toes it would seem.  A heart felt "thank you", will have to do.

My training this week has been good.  Almost inspiring.  I'm feeling like something has shifted in the water and I'm getting in touch with my power points there.  I probably haven't talked about "power points" all that much in my prior posts.  And not the program that sucks the life out of any meeting in corporate America (at least in my opinion it does).  No, I'm talking about those points in physical movement that have the most potential to propel you forward with the greatest amount of speed and the least amount of effort.

I began thinking about "power points" a couple of years ago when I was riding after recovering from a pulled hamstring.  Because of the injury and my desire to restore base fitness, I opted to ride VERY slowly.  Rides of 2-3 hours on a looped course with a heart rate maximum of 130.  Typically on these rides my average heart rate was about 120 cresting 128 only on the loop's sole hill.  But by riding that slowly for sooooo long, I became aware of points in my pedal stroke where even with a low heart rate ceiling, I was able to generate more speed without incurring a perceptible physical cost.  So now I spend a great deal of time maximizing my use of these "points" in my pedal stroke on each ride.

At any rate, I began to wonder if I could find similar power points in my running and swimming.  Running was pretty easy to find but swimming had proven elusive.  Then I began to swim more and more with fist gloves and slow down my stroke cycle to focus on where and how to apply force to the water.  That's when I found it (or them).  So now with the same perceived effort in the water I've lopped about 50 seconds off my 1000m swim time.

I'm also seeing some really promising results from doing some fine tuning of my diet.  My recovery from hard/long workouts has been shorter and I have more energy throughout the day.  Huge, huge, huge.  I'll write more about this soon.

At any rate today was a fairly good one training wise starting with a 90 minute tempo run at 8:00 pace with an average HR of 150.  I didn't feel all that hot when I started out and wasn't sure I'd run that long or maintain that pace but toward the end I started using some of the techniques I've learned from practicing yoga and ran more from my core than my legs.  

After soaking my legs in Barton Springs for 15 minutes and a smoothie, I was out on the tri bike for a 2:00 hour tempo ride.  This was also comfortable.  I got to try my new racing wheels out and maintained a pace of 20mph with a heart rate average of 145.  

Tomorrow, I'll swim and do some yoga.  Its a recovery day!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Murphy's Law

Some things appear to be harder to move away from than others.  And one would have to wonder what the deeper message is.  So, first we'll go with the positives.  Yesterday was Labor Day and I was supposed to be racing but my procrastination may have saved me some serious pain.  Fortunately it turns out the race filled up before I could sign up for it so instead of having this happen during the bike leg of an olympic distance triathlon, I was about 20 minutes from home at an empty intersection waiting on a light to change.

Honestly, I'm not really sure what I should feel at this point other than thankful.  And basically the pictures say everything that needs to be said -- except for the fact that I have an awesome friend in Gioconda who says she still wants to ride with me after having to take a cab back from my first bike malfunction a couple of weeks ago.  Fortunately this time the only damage done this morning was her ride got cut short.  The first time she missed teaching a yoga class (if you are in Austin and want to give yoga a try, I highly recommend Gioconda especially if you ride a bike).  I think I'm going to take a couple of days off and ponder a few things while I get my bikes fixed and my head back in order.  

If you missed the other malfunctions I've experienced here is a visual list for you.

The tri bike.
The busted derailluer clamp on the road bike 
The busted racing goggles 
The rusted brake cable from the tri bike
The busted fistglove

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What We Have Here...

Is yet another equipment failure.  If you saw my last post, you'll know what I'm talking about.  This time out, it was my front derailleur clamp that broke.  And I was fortunate.  1) I was watching this happen so I stopped pedaling before doing even more damage, and 2) I had stopped pedaling so I didn't lose control of the bike when the chain seized.  

And I suppose I can count myself lucky that I was on my road bike at the time and this was a recovery week so the ride was only supposed to be 2 hours (it wound up being 1:15).  

The repairs will probably take about 2 weeks because the hanger is probably still under warranty.  But we have to ship it to them so they can look at it before sending out a replacement.  I don't know why we can't just send photos?  This is 2009.  But whatever.  

So for the rest of the week it has been back on my tri bike on the trainer.  Not a bad thing really.  I'm considering training up to about 80 percent of my weekly milage on the trainer versus on the roads.  What this will mean is that I will have more of an opportunity to focus on growing stronger under more controlled conditions.

I've been putting in more work in the pool this week as well and turning my attention to doing long sets for endurance as well as a bit more pace based work in the medium length sets.   All in all I'm feeling pretty good with my strength and fitness right now.  As for the bike and the other malfunctions, I guess its just all part of the process.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And Sometimes Things Go Wrong

I find it amazing how committed to training you can get when there is an Ironman staring you in the face.  Images of athletes reduced to crawling to the finish come to mind quite easily.  Once I rode with a woman training for her first Ironman who said her only goal was to "Finish upright and unassisted."  I like that goal.  It is succinct and to the point.  So as I've realized my first Ironman is around the corner, I've come to terms with a day long event filled with some suffering.  What I haven't come to terms with is the idea of crawling to the finish so, I've been more focused on my training than ever.  

As I've become more diligent and showed up for my key workouts, I've been more aware of the need to plan ahead in case of some sort of "gotcha."  When I did tech support for my friends' computers as I quoted them a price for the work, I always gave them this disclaimer, "This is how much it will be to fix your computer as long as there isn't a 'gotcha' -- and there is always a 'gotcha'."  

I'm going to have to keep this in mind as I get closer and closer to my race.  The picture above shows just a couple of things I've had to deal with in the last few weeks.  All equipment failures.  First is the broken pair of googles.  This happened 2/3 of the way through the main set on my key swim workout during the week.  The interesting thing is these goggles are brand new.  They are my racing goggles.  So before this swim I'd only worn them twice, in the two races I've done this year.  Ironically my training goggles are 3 years old and I had just ordered their replacements.  I was only swimming in the racing goggles in the interim until my new pair arrived.  I guess I should consider myself fortunate because if I hadn't used them, the next time I had them on would have been an olympic distance tri in the middle of a lake.  

Behind the swim goggles, is the former rear brake cable for my tri bike.  It is totally rusted.  So the story here is I was getting ready to go to do a practice ride with some new equipment I had just bought the day before a time trial.  Took the bike out to the Veloway, got it set up and "look ma, no brakes..."  That weekend I was racing.  Fortunately, I was able to get ALL the cables on the bike replaced because they were all rusted through.  Oh yeah and had to get new cable housing too.  Apparently according to my mechanic, the cabling was cheap and had oxidized because of the humidity.  He was surprised that my bike had been built with it.  As was I.  But again, I was saved from racing without brakes or faulty goggles because of some seemingly random decision.

The last item is a Fistglove.  I use this to further isolate the hand from the nervous system while swimming to learn the proper use of the rest of the arm.  It broke in the beginning of the workout.  Not a big deal, I just took it off and swam with my fists the rest of the practice.  But given everything else, it was just one more thing to go wrong and, with the wrong mindset, could have wound up being an excuse not to train.   And that's the point of this post I suppose.  We all have things get in the way of our training.  Sometimes they are show stoppers and other times they are just merely tests of our resolve.  Doesn't matter in the end I suppose as long as you have a clearly stated goal and keep moving for it.  Mine is to finish my first Ironman "Upright and unassisted."  

Saturday, August 15, 2009

P90X And Triathlon

I get a large number of visits on this blog daily because of my experiences with the P90X work out program. And a few of these are from triathletes who are considering whether or not the program can help them with reach their multisport goals. I've tried to be as detailed as possible about my take on P90X and its benefits. For someone who doesn't have a lot of time and wants a strength program that is varied and well structured, I'd say it is well worth the investment of about $130 to $300 to assemble all the necessary equipment. If you want to know what I think about P90X then read the weekly posts. Sure you can look at the end result, but that won't give you the information you need about what it was like trying to do the program and maintain some semblance of triathlon specific work.  That, in a nutshell, was hard. Very hard.

But here's the thing. What I found doing P90X, and I'd wager you'd find this doing any coherent, focused functional strength program, is my endurance increased along with my strength. Translation, I was able to work longer, at a faster rate, more efficiently when it was all said and done. Did I look like the folks on TV? Nope. But honestly, I really didn't care about that. What I got from doing P90X for 90 days was a faster return to the level of fitness I enjoyed prior to my 5 year hiatus.

I've had quite a bit of time to consider to effects of P90X on Triathlon training having almost 2 years since I did my first workout pass. First I will say I do believe it is possible to do both P90X and Tri training. I've said that all along. But what I've also said is there are caveats. The main one being the results you are looking for from the program. If those results are more on the appearance side, then I'd definitely tone down the tri specific work until I "looked" the way I wanted.

On the other hand if you wanted to use P90X as a basis for enhancing tri performance, then I think with some modification to the routine it could be done with great success for all distances. 

Why do I say this? I say this because many athletes tend to overlook the importance of basic strength in triathlon and focus an overly large amount of time on endurance. And when I speak of strength I'm talking about a concept beyond lifting weights in the gym a couple of hours a week in the midst of swimming, biking and running throughout the week. When I speak of strength, I'm speaking about things like range of motion, connective tissue, power, balance, coordination, muscular access, and muscular endurance. 

The more I consider the way time is or can be spent preparing for Triathlon of any distance, the more I feel that each of the three sports are techniques to be learned and mastered, and the results you see on race day are from the successful integration and application of full bodied strength and technique work. P90X can certainly assist in creating that. You simply need to know when, where, and how to apply it in the scheme of your other tri specific training.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When It Rains... We Still Train!

Actually, it has been raining a bit more lately in Austin giving us a welcome break from the seasonally early and hot weather.  I for one am quite thankful for this.  Rain doesn't really affect my training much.  I ride or run indoors and use the time for either more specificity in my workouts or get my testing done to actually "plan" my workouts.  A win, win really.  

 This week I got to the track to get some testing done so I could try to dial in my running a bit more.  For the most part all of my running so far this year has been unstructured.   Some of this was by design, some of it wasn't.  At any rate I went to the track.   The thing about going to the track was I thought I was getting faster.  How I felt in my last race pointed to this but courses and conditions can easily change.  The only way to really know how fast you are running in my opinion is to go to the track.  That's what they are made for.  And that's probably why I hadn't stepped on one in over a year.  But I digress.  

 The workout was simple.  Warm up with some plyometric work, then get things going with 8 400 meter intervals.  Next would be the 1 mile time trial that I would be basing my steady state work on for the next block of training.  This would be capped off with a 1.5 mile run to a flight of stairs.  At the stairs there would be 15 min solid of stair running followed by a 1.5 mile "jog" back to the track for a 1 mile barefoot cooldown.  The whole workout was slated for about an hour and 30 minutes.  I clocked in at about 1:27 (1 hour 27 min).  


The intervals went well and looked like this: 

 1:21 HR 156

1:21 HR 158

1:23 HR 160

1:23 HR 160

1:19 HR 162

1:19 HR 162

1:17 HR 164

1:16 HR 166

The mile TT was done in 6:22.9 with splits of:

1:35 HR 155

1:36 HR 160

1:36 HR 163

1:35 HR 163


For some reason (basically my endurance sucks) I've always found intervals much easier than steady state work.  But that's why we train weaknesses.  And why I’m going to work on this now.  But I also find this type of work gives me a more fine tuned sense of pace which helps when it comes to measuring out efforts for longer distances.  What I will do is take the time of 6:23 and add 1:15 to it and this will be my threshold for steady state track work for the next 3 weeks until my next test.  Each mile of the workout will be done at between 7:28 to 7:30 pace per mile.  This means each lap on the track will be done at about 1:52 per 403m.   My goal here isn’t to get “faster”.  It is to build endurance for longer events maintaining an even, efficient pace.  I’ll start out with 3miles and work up from there eventually getting up to 10 miles on the track or 40 laps.  I’ll know I’m doing what I’ve planned when each 400m lap is almost identical.  And that is both the beauty and the challenge in this type of work but over time my body should run this pace no matter what and for as long as necessary if properly fueled.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Race Report - August 2, 2009

This weekend I did Jack's Generic Triathlon in Austin, Tx.  This is one of the best small venue races I can think of.  Okay, so technically you will probably hear tell about the swim that takes place in a "pond" about the size of someone's backyard.  But aside from that, personally I feel Jack's does all of the little things right.  There are a gazillion volunteers who all know what's going on and are ready to help.  The food and drink post race are abundant.  The course is well marked and everything starts on time.  I've done this race twice and it ranks up there as one of my all time favorites.  

So about my race.  Well, first off I feel much better writing this race report than the last one.  But I suppose any race result would have been better than what happened my last time out.  If you haven't read about it and want to see a post about my worst race experience ever, look here.  

Ironically, I wasn't sure race morning I would participate.  I had spent most of my time between the last race and this one trying to figure out what went wrong on my first outing.  To be honest, I got a lot of theories about what could have happened but nothing concrete.  So I was left with a huge sense of uncertainty about my training methods, my body, and at some points my decision to race again in the first place.  Also leading up to this race I didn't feel I had put in adequate training between seeking an array of medical opinions, to just feeling off, and meeting work and social obligations.  Add to this my fear of a repeat episode in the water where there would be nausea, dizziness, and sudden unexplained muscle fatigue, you can understand why I was not overly anxious to race.  

In a way this was just like starting something for the first time again.  I had to just put one foot in front of the other, get out of the house and see what happened.  Because I didn't know what to expect in the water, I babied the swim, and sighted minimally, rounding the course by feel.  About half way through, I knew I was okay and was able to relax.  One positive sign was I was never concerned about where aid was in the water.  As I said in the beginning, if there is a knock on this race, it has to be the "pond" it takes place in.  Because the water area is so small and there are ski ramps in it that funnel swimmers together on the long straight sections, unless you  are a very, very fast swimmer, you really never find clear water.  Basically swimming in this pond feels like one big swimmer's mosh pit.  Aside from that, though my swim was slow it went well and I was comfortable the entire time.

Once on the bike, I got up the first climb right out of transition and then settled in.  This section of the bike is mostly flat or downhill and seemed wind aided.  Again because my swim was not stellar, I had the enjoyable sensation of passing people the entire ride.  My pace, I felt was good but not blistering and I could tell this was because I hadn't been riding as consistently since my last outing.  Though overall I felt better on the bike than I had a few weeks earlier, I didn't have the leg turnover I like and I found myself easing up a bit on the climbs.  I will note, after the first 1/4 of the course, the going got much more difficult.  There are several good long gradual ascents and the wind was either a headwind or frontal crosswind the rest of the way.  So not your standard "flatish" timetrial bike.  

With about 2 miles to go, my bladder started to complain.  Depending on how you look at signals like that you can either be happy you got the urge before the run, or you can wish you got the urge about half way through the run to help you push a little toward the finish.  Unfortunately for me I got mine on the bike and it was a strong one.  I don't like to run uncomfortably for long periods of time because it is distracting so, I transitioned and headed out onto the run course which fortunately passed right in front of the Porta Potties, I ducked in and took care of things and ducked out.  So here's the thing.  That quick stop, somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds by my estimate slowed my run time average by 10 to 15 seconds per mile.  I'd never thought of it that way until I was calculating it out on the run in my head.  But at least now I was comfortable.  Surprisingly it felt really good on the run, I wasn't pushing things but I knew my pace was solid because it felt good and I caught and passed quite a few guys in my age group.  The run course at Jack's Generic is a straight out and back affair.  The going out being a bit tougher due to the gradual climb for a mile and a half.  Coming back of course is a bit easier so my goal was to keep it steady going out and open my stride a bit coming back in.  This seemed to work well and my legs didn't feel bad at all and my heart rate stayed low (relatively speaking) going out and coming back.  I think the highest I saw it was 160, the average was 154.  This was probably the best feedback I think I've gotten this year because that's the lowest heart rate I've ever had in any race.  My pace, adjusted for the pit stop wound up being about a 7:30 mile.  Last year on the same course I ran an 8:00 mile pace with an average HR of 172.  So this was progress.  I crossed the finish line feeling as though I put in a solid effort but like I could have kept going like that all day.  I'm happy with that because the day is coming soon when I'll have to be able to keep that up all day.

I wound up finishing 9th in my AG which had almost 60 guys in it.  This was an improvement from last year where I finished 13 in the AG out of about 35 guys.  So I'll take that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting Back To Normal

Wherever that is...

At any rate I started this week the way I like to start all my training weeks and that is with functional strength work.  

Lately I've been reading Chuckie V's blog and actively trying to incorporate some of his ideas where I can.  Sadly strength work is not one of the things I used (took, borrowed, stole).  But to be fair, and I'm perfectly happy to admit this,  the posts I've seen where he talks about strength training for triathletes say I'm not old enough to worry about it yet.  I can live with that.  

But that did start me thinking more and more about the different ideas people can have about strength; how to develop it and how to apply it properly.  As a committed experiment of one, the best thing I have to add is that I feel endurance athletes need to rethink the entire concept of strength training altogether.  I will acknowledge, lately I've been seeing more and more people expand their definition and experience of strength work by using programs like CrossFit, P90x, pilates, or Boot Camp style workouts to get more from their bodies.  I honestly believe this is a good thing as we move from the traditional "bodybuilding centric" paradigm and begin to incorporate more functional bodyweight and balance movements into the mix.

And that's why I left the yoga and functional strength work in my schedule after reading ideas from Chuckie V, Gordo and a few others.  I think I've settled on a pattern of work and recovery that takes advantage of the available free time in my schedule and allows from some quality work on the days that I am working my normal job.  The reason I've taken the time to sit down and do this (again) is I felt I still wasn't making the most of my time.  Even though I've seen some real gains in my training, my body composition continues to improve and move more into the lean muscle side of things, I was still struggling to fit in key workouts in each sport.  Some of this can be rectified by using a single word much more often, "No," if you were wondering.

So this weeks work so far was something like this.  Monday 1 hour of functional strength work: about 150 pushups, 50 pullups, 30 single leg squats per leg, 20 min of jump rope, 10 min running stairs and 15 min of core burning work(I'm still on fire, moving from sitting to standing is difficult).  There was also a 30 min easy run. Tuesday was 2 hours cycling and 1 hour swim with Tabata intervals in each workout thrown in for good measure.  Wednesday was 1:30 cycling and trips to get rolfed and some acupuncture.  I decided to do some housekeeping and post this blog otherwise there would have been a swim as well.  Like I said the schedule is a work in progress.  As am I.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Race Report - July 12 2009

This isn't a blog I'm looking forward to writing.  It isn't easy facing up to expectations and goals after a lot of hard effort and you miss the mark so completely.   

In the grand scheme of things 10 minutes (this is about how far off I was from my projected time based on my training coming into the race) really isn't a large chunk of time.  It is about as long as it takes to run into a tri store and pick up a couple of GUs and some lace locks.

This weekend I was in the Iron Brother's Super Sprint Tri in Grand Prairie.  Because my season will go into late November this year I started my racing later so, this was my first race of 2009.  The race is short which means I can train normally and get a feel for some of the new equipment and bike adjustments I've made since last year.   

The picture here to the left is probably the best moment I had the entire morning.  From the time I got into the water and started swimming, I just felt off.  Things were manageable until I rounded the first buoy but shortly after that is when things just went from feeling off to being dizzy and nauseous.  I had no idea what was going on.  And I really began to struggle.  Not to the point of panic mind you, but I was incredibly uncomfortable.  Needless to say a simple 400 meter swim became a test of patience and survival.  And given the way I was feeling I was pretty sure, I was done for the day once I reached the boat ramp.

So, after some backstroke, breaststroke, and a chat with one of the guys in a canoe as I treaded water who informed me the water temp was almost 90 degrees (probably not the cause of the nausea, but certainly not helping my situation any) I finally emerged from the water dizzy, probably overheated, but in one piece.  Oh yeah, max heart rate in the swim, 211 (This is not a typo).

I took my time getting to the bike.  In the transition area as I cooled off a little, I took the attitude of "Let's just see how this goes..."  How it went was I suffered.  I've been working on my cycling a lot in the off season and this was one area where I really wanted to see some improvement.  But I still felt like crap so I settled into a gear and a cadence I could stand and just went at it.  The good thing about a crappy swim is you spend all of your time on the bike passing people.  This can make you feel a little better even if you still want to puke.  

After the turn around, things got a little tougher because the slight cross wind became more of a frontal assault.  But I was happy with my effort.  A glance at my heart rate monitor was encouraging, I was spinning a larger gear than I had the year before and my heart rate was 154.  Last year I had an average heart rate on that course of 158 and I was feeling great and it wasn't windy.  I wasn't moving fast, but I wasn't floundering like I had in the water.

Coming into transition, I was fully committed to ending my day with the bike ride,  but somehow found shoes on my feet and WALKED out of transition.  I think I ran about 10 steps before stopping with a cramp under my right arch.  "That's it," I thought.  "I'm having one of the worst races ever and I'm not about to get injured because of my own stupidity."  So I proceeded to walk and would have walked the rest of the run had it not been for a "guardian angel" on the course who ran by me saying "I've been on your feet all race, don't stop now!"  

So I started running with her.  Her pace wasn't uncomfortable so, for the first time all day I wasn't struggling, though I still was dealing with the nausea.  But my foot wasn't cramping and that was a relief.  She was having a hard time with her breathing and began to slow so, I slowed down to stay with her and talked to her about focusing on her footsteps instead of her breathing.  Each time she slowed, I slowed as well.  Finally her husband came and ran with her just before the mile marker and I felt he could run the rest of the way with her.  

I think I went through the 1 mile point at about 10:50 given the walking I'd been doing.  At this point I decided my legs felt great even though the rest of me didn't and if I kept running like that I'd have to run for longer than I wanted so, I let my legs take over.  My second mile was a 6:55.   

Given the day I was having and the expectations I had going into the race, I think I would have rather forgotten the whole thing.  But one of the reasons I race is to learn things about myself I would otherwise not discover such as how I respond when things aren't going my way.  This race was one of those days where I had to come face to face with my expectations and the reality of my capacity at the moment not meeting.  I think this is what allows me to improve not only in a sport I love, but also in other areas of my life.  

The moment of truth came for me not as I crossed the finish line, but when I started writing this blog and I began to realize some of the experiences I was struggling with from my day actually offered me the very information I sought anyway.  As I said, racing for me is a quest for information about who it is I am and what I am capable of even when things don't go as planned.  What I learned as I sat down to write was so small as to almost go totally unnoticed.  Basically what I wanted to know yesterday was if my training was working.  So this is what I found out.  I ran a sub 7 min mile.  I haven't run one of those in a tri since I started doing them again 2 years ago.  And I was sick.  I had a bike split that was 5 sec faster than the year before under much more distressing conditions, both internally and externally.  And my heart rate average was 5 bps lower than last year...  As for the swim, well until the nausea hit I just might have at least equaled last year's time and the water temp that day was no where near 90 degrees.  Oh and even with all the nausea, I never did cover the course or any race volunteers with my pre race meal.  And for that, I'm so very thankful...