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.