Thursday, September 29, 2011

Real Nasty

It's a three things thursday!


Bib numbers are up for Ironman Florida. I got number 1231. I'm also the only Flynn registered, and you can search athlete tracker by last name or bib number. So that does make it seem very real. It's coming up in just a few more weeks. Wow.


Everything I own is completely disgusting right now. The house is trashed, my bike is filthy, and my car stinks. Every minute of every day is completely consumed by work, working out, kids, eating and sleeping. I've got two big work deadlines coming up tomorrow so it's very stressful.

Yesterday I ran 9 miles over lunch in 1:10:43, a nice 7:5x pace. Then I hit the stationary bike for 21 miles after dinner, and still billed 10 hours at work. How did I get all of this done without collapsing? Kelley took the kids to the NC zoo for the day. They had a blast.

Now that I'm working from home all the time, the only place I ever drive is to the gym. It's right across the street from my house. We don't have a garage now, so the car sits outside all the time, this means I can't leave the windows down. Yesterday, for example, my easy 9 mile run still burned over 1200 calories. I was sweating buckets, and I greatly prefer to shower at home since it's right across the street. So I sit down in the car and the cloth seats soak in gallons of sweat over the 400 meter drive back home. I can't leave the windows down at home because we don't have a garage and it rains a lot here. So there is a ton of nasty sweat soaked into my seats and it's just trapped in there to fester and stink. On the plus side, I only have to put gas in my car an average of once a month.

I'm not a smelly guy. I am a pretty heavy sweater just in terms of volume, but I don't have constant BO problems like the southern redneck stereotype would imply. But I can only febreze bomb the car so many times before it can't be helped anymore. My shoes are in just as bad a shape. I can feel sweat pooling in the bottom of my shoes towards the end of these runs. It gets slippery in there. The shoes dry out and stink like you wouldn't believe. Febreze bomb can only help for so long.

I used to just toss the workout clothes onto the pile of dirty laundry. The sweat got so heavy that it actually molded some of the kids clothes, so I started hanging them up to dry before throwing them into the pile. Now the sweat drips down onto the tile floor and puddles up while I'm taking a shower after the workout. The kids complain about the puddles, but secretly I still think they want to splash in them. I have literally wrung half a cup of sweat out of my shirts before. Now it makes the entire bathroom stink.

Completely disgusting and there's nothing I can do about it. argh.

What do you mean TMI? I've never been accused of that before.

Indian Princesses

The YMCA has a program called Y-Guides and Princesses with a native american theme - it kind of rivals the girl scouts and boy scouts. I'm an eagle scout so I really wanted my kids to be able to get into some kind of scout-like activity, but I wanted to be involved. The Indian Princess program in Raleigh is the biggest program in the country. There are 14,000 kids involved here compared to only a few hundred in girl scouts. This is all about dads and daughters, and I absolutely love it. The program only runs from first through third grade, so Bigun is starting this year. We've already had two dad's only meetings, and I really like the other dad's in my tribe. Really cool guys. Monday is the first meeting with the kids. Bigun is so excited about going camping and making new friends, and getting the whole bonding thing going. It's going to be awesome!

At the same time, this is how it starts. At least I'm heavily involved in the program, not just dropping them off at dance practice or something. Before you know it, we are going to turn into full time drivers dropping one off at piano lessons and the other off somewhere else just in time to run them more places. oh, they grow up to fast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

39 Days

I really enjoyed the rest day on friday. It was so nice. Kelley's mom wanted to keep the kids for the weekend, so they went to the mountains. They had a blast seeing the Cherokee Indian dancers, playing in the stream next to their house, and just enjoying fall in the mountains. Kelley and I enjoyed the peace and quiet, just laying around watching movies all weekend.

Well, when I wasn't out Ironman training.

Friday's rest day = I didn't leave the house at all. Didn't drive anywhere, didn't check the mail, didn't even take out the trash. No exterior doors were opened. I did some yoga from netflix on demand but that was it. Another benefit of working from home is that you don't have to go outside when you don't want to.

Saturday was rainy and pretty cold for down here.. I didn't really feel like doing much. But I knew I needed to go outside sometime. Still, rainy + cold + college football on saturday = 15 mile treadmill run at the gym while I'm watching football. I switched it up and did the long run on saturday to save the bike ride for sunday when it was supposed to be warmer and not raining.

The Clemson Tigers pulled out a great win over Florida State! They moved from #21 to #13 in the national rankings thanks to the win, and while it was a quality win I kind of feel like a few of the scoring drives were given to the tigers by penalties. The quarterbacks and receivers did put on an amazing show, no doubt. But the Tigers do this every year. Start out 4-0 or 5-0, then lose to someone unranked like Wake Forest. NC State is stinking it up this year, so it's still good to see Clemson put up some wins. Now if they can just get past VA Tech next weekend....

Sunday I did actually get Roberta out on the roads around Jordan Lake. It kind of felt.... weird. I think Roberta is due for some shop time before IMFL. The cable that runs to the rear brake needs to be replaced I think, and the rear brake kept shifting over while I was riding so it was rubbing against the back tire. I don't need any extra resistance. I think the same thing was happening during my recent half iron race. Both times the bike just felt kind of sluggish, like something was keeping me from rolling at normal speed and easy cadence. Plus there was lots of extra squeaks and noises.

So I clocked 54 miles around the lake sunday afternoon, there were plenty of clouds out but it never really got over 75 degrees and never really rained. Perfect conditions for a nice ride. I saw a green snake on the road, and a hawk flying around with a fish in its claws. That was really cool. I also saw my friends Scottie and Jenny out on the roads too, they are also both training for IMFL. Very cool. The hills around the lake and the extra resistance really took a lot out of my legs. I didn't bring any gels and just went with plenty of liquid nutrition, and I think I was a bit under fueled.

Today starts week 9 of 12 in the Ironman Build phase of the training plan. 4 weeks of build and two weeks of taper. Only 39 days until Ironman. It's coming up quickly, but I feel like I'm ready. What I'm not ready for is the next 4 weekends of these crazy insane long workouts. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and they were all right! 39 days left.

Have a great week! Hope your weekend was as much fun as that one was. Big congrats to Karen who rocked Ironman 70.3 Augusta this weekend.

Update: ZOMG I read it wrong. There's only 39 days, and I initially wrote the post out thinking it was 49 days. Wow this is really coming up quicker than I can read.

Update #2: Kelley was featured on Girl With the Red Hair as the Featured Career today for being a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM). Very cool, thanks Amber!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I Got Fast Part 2

Part 1 - Weight Loss

Base Building

I didn't realize that I was really working on base building, but I was. If you remember from the Weight Loss post I knew that running burned the most calories per hour, so that needed to be the staple of my winter workouts. I still think it's important to get some cross training in, so I did that on the stationary bike as well.

The four days a week I was running was actually a base building phase - I had no idea that was going to happen. I knew I needed to keep my runs under 45 minutes. I wanted to use the treadmill to see the calorie counter on there, and I eventually figured out that the most effective workouts were burning less than 600 calories. When I ran long I didn't lose any weight. Long runs have no place in base building either.

The first thing I noticed when building my base was the basic endurance factor of not taking any walk breaks. It builds up over time like any other endurance base. First I would go a mile without walking, then two, then three. That's when I started to notice - hey I didn't have to walk for that 3 mile run. Then I could go four, five, or six miles without walking. All still at the same 10 min/mile pace.

Before the Biggest Loser 5k in Myrtle Beach SC last year, I ran a 26:35

If you want to run fast, run fast. Once I got comfortable going 10k at a 10m/m pace it got boring. So I started trying to speed it up some. Some runs turned into 5k at a 9m/m pace. Then 10k at 9m/m. This all just happened naturally.

I did start throwing some intervals in there once I got closer to my goal weight. Interval training isn't base building, but I know they were in there.

The biggest point of base building for speed is to walk less and keep the milage low. Actually don't walk at all and don't make a single run over 10k. If you run like I did 4 times a week at 3, 4, 5, or 6 miles then you've established a base of around 18 miles a week.

Endurance comes before speed

Yes I know that this is the exact opposite of the above framework for base building. But hear me out. It doesn't take much endurance, and we can use it to our advantage. It's really dealing with endurance for the event.

Now it's time to start thinking ahead to a goal. Want to run a fast 5k? After Ironman I'm going to try and break 20 minutes in a 5k. Our base training has taught us that we can run a 5k at a faster pace than 5 miles. So you want to run a 5k at a 6:23 pace (that's 19:50, or 9.4 mph)?

Get ready to run 5 miles very often. Once or twice a week hit a 5 mile tempo run, and keep trying to get that faster until you're about a 34:50 total run time. That's a 6:58 pace, or an 8.6 speed on the treadmill. 5 miles is less than 10k so it fits our base model, and the run is still under 45 minutes so it fits our calorie burn model. Actually that might end up burning too many calories.

Before the Natty Greene's 5k Foxhunt this year, thinner but before Ironman training. Ran that one in 23:43

Lots of 5 mile runs will give you the endurance you need to run a fast 5k. Going 10, 12, or 15 miles will not give you as much benefit as a solid 5 mile speed base will for a 5k. You want to set a half marathon PR? Break 2 hours for the first time? Great. Run 15 at least twice in the month before your race and you've given yourself a much better shot. Once you feel comfortable holding a given pace for 15 miles then holding a slightly faster pace for 13.1 on race day is in the bag. This also gives you a huge mental advantage.

Base and Endurance Conclusion

I didn't make a conscious decision to run lots of base miles in order to get fast, I did it to get thin. I got fast because I started with a solid base of slow miles. As I got thinner, it got easier to run faster, so I kept the same milage and just kept increasing the speed. Now it feels really awkward to run any slower than an 8:00 pace, and when running outside with no Garmin telling me to slow down my natural gate keeps about a 7:30 pace. I know how to push that up for shorter distance races and can force myself to slow down for longer races.

So build your base, then add some endurance and your speed will follow. Give it 6-15 weeks to really get a solid base established. I took 5 months leading up to my ironman training plan to really get that base established and only ran more than 6 miles three or four times. Consistency is the key. Unlock your potential!

Next up is going to be how to get fast at swimming and cycling!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Weekend's Stumblings

Ironman training is just bananas. Anyone who claims it's easy has obviously never tried it. This weekend proves my point. In fact, this weekend more than most proves that everything else around you goes bananas too!

Friday I rested while Kelley did her long run for the week. I got piles of work dumped on me from every direction. Totally buried, and still buried today. Kelley ran 6 miles.

About 2 miles in she got hit by a car. The car pulled into an intersection downtown and got caught in gridlock. We're not dealing with the brightest part of the population here obviously. The light changed, Kelley ran behind the car, the driver backed up to get out of the intersection and backed right into Kelley! Kelley jumped - landed on the trunk very Dukes of Hazzard style, then flipped the driver a bird and kept on running.

She finished the run. It scratched up the Garmin some, but the fact remains that my wife is a badass. To keep running for 4 more miles after you get hit by a car is pretty hard core.

She's also hotter than your wife. Yea I said it.

Saturday was barely over 55 degrees here and raining hard the entire day. Not conducive to any outdoor activity. So I took my long ride to the stationary bike for the first 2+ hours, and then threw Roberta on the trainer for the last hour and half. I'm logging it as a 3.5 hour ride, even though it should have been longer. The day caught up to me. I got too hungry after the second hour on the stationary at the gym, came home and ate a PB&J, then got back on the trainer. My ass did not feel like letting me go past the end of the Clemson football game which was incredible.

Needless to say that left me pretty sore for sunday. What's the ironman thing to do then? Why of course. I ran 13 miles in 1:45 first, then hopped on the bike for half an hour (10 miles), then finished it with a 3 mile runoff. An insane brick if ever I've attempted one. Made even more insane after saturday's ride.

The three mile runoff was supposed to be 7 miles. I only had three miles left to give. 16 is good enough for now, and longer than I've run in quite a while. There are a lot of this type of brick workout left on the schedule.

7 weeks to ironman. I'm working on another how I got fast post for this week too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I forgot to come up with a title

A few other notes from the OBX half from saturday:

  • I got punched in the face during the swim. First time that's happened (at least during a swim!). It was very strange to go from not being able to see other swimmers to getting hit in the face that easily.
  • I kind of freaked out a bit in my head when I felt alone in the water. I know the intercoastal waterway is not the ocean, but stupid shark week didn't know that. When you are swimming in a pack, you look up and don't see any other swimmers, boats, lifeguards and feel totally alone in the ocean - that's the stuff panic attacks are made of. And I don't get panic attacks in the water.
  • Fish who swim in a pack, and one gets separated - that's who gets eaten by a shark.
  • We used silver swim caps, which may be the most useless color ever for an ocean swim. I want neon pink or green - something that will show up underwater if the lifeguards have to pull a body out. You'll never see silver down there.
  • The rear brake on Roberta was twisted against one side of the rim - I didn't notice it until we got home. It could have been blown that way during the drive home or it could have been rubbing the whole race. I didn't check that thoroughly before the race because we got there so late. And I know better than that.
  • I think I worked harder on the bike leg than I should have. Ironman plan is to go out stupid easy and not put out an effort any harder than "easy".
  • There were a lot of extra squeaks and groans coming out of Roberta. Maybe a tune-up is in order before Ironman.
  • I know I shouldn't have left the garmin at home. After working too hard on the bike I started out running too hard. Bad combination. I can blame the heat and hydration all I want to, but I know I shouldn't have tried to run faster than a 9:00 mile and I did.
Sunday had a nice 8 mile recovery run at an 8:00 pace. Easy slow miles. Felt pretty good. Monday I took a rest day, and tuesday I skipped the lunchtime bike ride in favor of going out for wings with friends; but I still made the swim practice that evening. Yesterday I got in a decent 7 mile tempo run over lunch at a 7:30 pace, and an hour on the stationary bike after the kids went to bed. That ride felt really good, but that's the only workout that felt really good this week.

I have to allow for recovery time after the race pace effort. This weekend is supposed to hold a 5:15 bike ride on saturday, and a 1:45 run/:45 ride/1:00 run brick. That should translate into an 80 mile ride saturday, and a 18-20 mile run sunday with a 15 mile ride in the mix.

Today I am supposed to run intervals over lunch and swim tonight. Tomorrow is a 30 minute run - easy- to get ready for the long weekend. The training plan has this as one of the longest weeks of training at 17 hours. I'm thinking I should take the intervals pretty slow and maybe do some strength training/core work instead of really pushing the legs again. Keep the recovery going and still be able to get my miles in this weekend.

Congrats to all the finishers at IMMoo and Rev3 Cedar Point! Who got registered for Ironman Wisconsin for next year?

Monday, September 12, 2011

OBX Half Iron Race Report

I had never been to North Carolina's Outer Banks before, but there are plenty of cars around here with bumper stickers like "OBX", "12", "Salt Life", etc so I knew it must be popular. It's not the closest beach to us (Wilmington), or the most charming (Kure, Carolina), so there must be something special there.

Boy howdy there sure is. It's well documented that Kelley and I both hate the beach. We're just not beach people. But Nag's Head is amazing. Seriously. It's not overcommercialized like Myrtle Beach is, the water is cool and crystal clear, there were huge 8' high waves and plenty of surfers out there enjoying it. It's really a special place. If you ever get the chance to run the OBX marathon or get some vacation time down there, it will be worth the travel. OBX Marathon is a good bucket list item.

We got into town friday afternoon and made it to packet pickup about 5:15. It's right at a 3 hour drive from Raleigh. Got to see the transition area, picked up the booty bag (their term - it's a pirate theme) and headed to the hotel.

Saturday morning we got up bright and early, but not really early enough. I know the earlier we start racing it helps us avoid the mid-day heat. But geez waking up earlier on a Saturday than I do during the work week is still tough. And we did not avoid the mid-day heat. The TA closed at 6:45, we got there about 6:25, I got bodymarked and got my chip. Got my area setup, taped the gels to the top bar of Roberta, and was ready to race.

That was my first mistake. I only taped 3 gels to the top bar instead of the 5 I thought I was going to need, leaving the other two so I could throw them into the back pocket of my race suit in T1.

Hanging out before the start, the water looked really rough. I talked to a guy who did the oly last year and said it was brutal then too. The night before? The Old Swimming Hole was like glass. No current, not a chop in site. This morning? The ocean was angry at something.

All of the men doing the half started together. Half Women and all of the Olympic distance racers started in later waves. We had the countdown, and the race was on!

Swim 1.2 miles - Goal under 40 - actual 39:22 Success!!
2:02/100m pace is right inline with IMFL goals

It actually didn't start out with too much contact. The course ran counter clockwise, so the first buoy was on the left, and the tide/current was going to make us drift left. So I lined up on the right hand side of the pack.

The waves were coming in a rhythm. Once I was able to time that rhythm with my breathing it wasn't really that hard to get in good breaths. The waves were around 2' high, so I was getting tossed around pretty good. And when you look up to sight, and all you can see is a 2' high wave ready to smack you in the face it makes the buoys hard to locate. To make it worse I was completely alone. 65 men started at the same time and I couldn't find anyone.

I was either way off course or way out in front. Yea... way off course. I went right! Who goes against the current on an already treacherous course? This dumbass. I thought the tide was supposed to drift us left? So I went straight, and everyone else got dragged left. Eventually I did get my sights on a boat that was behind a buoy and make it to the first turn buoy. It was only a one lap course, so that was a long way out there. Made the right turn and we're swimming against the tide directly to make it to the second turn buoy. That actually went quicker than I expected, the course wasn't an exact triangle. That was a short side. Turned right again, and now I had the waves pushing me back toward the shore. Not the swim finish, just the general shoreline.

And I was staring directly into the sun. They had one of the big blowing men things going at the swim finish, but I couldn't see it. The sun was just starting to rise, it was just over the roofline of the houses in the background. So I had to go close to the shore, float along until the current pushed me past the finish line, then swim to it and get out. Thank goodness I used dark tinted goggles. That was really tough. Much harder than swimming in a lake.

Gasping for breath, I am so freaking glad to be done with that choppy swim.

T1: 2:44

There was a long run from the finish mat around a parking lot and back to the transition area. Some bikes were already gone, but for the most part the racks were still full. I started talking with one guy who started his watch late after the swim start, and he marked that we had been swimming for 44 minutes. So I knew then that the 5 hour goal was gone. Kind of got me down mentally for the first lap of the bike leg. Of course, it was wrong. So I have no idea how that worked. 2:44 is a pretty good T1 time. I'll take it.

Bike 56 miles: Primary Goal under 3 hours - Actual 2:53:52 Success!!!
19.3 mph is faster than any other half iron time and faster than IMFL goal pace

Secondary goal: 2:45 fail
Ideal conditions target time: 2:30 fail

The bike course was two laps with multiple out and backs. Very few roads, it was completely flat except for one rise on a bridge, and very very boring. It was pretty easy to fall asleep on this course. We came out of the airport and had to cross a 3 mile long bridge with a hump in the middle, that was really cool. The other side had one long road to go down, mostly marshland that smelled really bad to a turnaround. Then back down the stinky road. Turn right this time at the end and get a little 2 mile out and back spur before you go back across the bridge and into the airport. Turn around and do it all again. Oly riders did one lap and didn't have the extra 2 mile spur. At the end of the long road (Mashoes Rd) and the small spur there was water bottle handoffs.

For most of the first lap I was still mentally out of it thanks to the swim and transition. I also realized I forgot to grab the extra 2 gels I was going to need on the bike, so I had to recalculate my nutrition. 3 e-Gels taped to the bike (150 calories each), and 2 bottles of super strength Accelerade. Plus 1 bottle of water to take with the gels and there were 4 water bottle handoffs, so I should be able to hydrate ok.

I knew I needed to take the first e-Gel when I got off of the bridge, that's about 6 miles into the ride and should be about an hour after the start of the race. Take 1 bottle of Accelerade on each lap, that was easy math. I have to cross the bridge 4 times - out (first gel) and back for lap 1, out and back for lap 2. So right before I go back on lap 2 I should take the other gel, that should give me enough calories to get to the first aide station on the run.

I still don't remember when I took the second gel.

It seemed like the first trip across the bridge took Turns out I was riding into a pretty strong headwind. It was so flat you could see things like the hump in the middle of the bridge, and they never seemed to get any closer to you no matter how hard you pedaled. I was riding naked having left the Garmin in Raleigh, so I had no idea how fast I was going or what kind of times I was looking at. I just knew I was ready to get off of that bridge.

The first time down Masheos Road I saw lots of halfs. Half of a snake, half of a frog, plenty of half birds. Put them together and you some freaky redneck roadkill stew. It was disgusting. And it smelled bad. There was mostly marshland on either side, a few houses but nothing spectacular. A couple of nice views of the inland waterway, but nothing compared to what we saw on the bridge or the run course. Just lots of long straight flat and boring.

It was the first time that I could see who was in front of me. Everyone had to make the turnaround on Mashoes, so I could count the people who made the turn before I did and know where I was in the race. I counted 14, but that was also a guess at how many riders were in a pack. Pretty good place to be.

Coming back down Mashoes road and back across the bridge all of a sudden the wind was behind me. That was really nice for a change. I pushed a higher gear, passed a lot of people, all was right in the world. I finished off the first bottle of accelerade and swapped it out for the full one right before the end of the first lap, and I dropped the bottle. Woah, I'm already short some nutrition. Had to stop, pick up the bottle I dropped, then get on with it.

Hit the turn around....

and back out for lap #2. This time I had a lot more confidence. I knew where the headwinds and tailwinds were, how to gear for the different roads, and where the dead animals were. Time to fly through the second lap! I was smiling again finally.

Judging by the time the pictures were taken, I finished the first lap around 1:27, and the second lap in about 1:27. Wait, that's the same. I swear the second lap felt faster. And that adds up to 2:54, which is about right. Ok, so we're going with the fact that I was smiling the entire second lap, and that's why it seemed faster. I swear I was pushing a higher gear and spinning harder through the second lap.

T2: 1:06.
Transition Goal: under 5 minutes, total T-time: 3:52 Golden!!

I did actually get my feet out of my shoes before hitting the end of the bike leg, so I ran into TA in socks this time. Threw on the running shoes, grabbed the other gear and took off. That might be my fastest transition time ever!

Run 13.1 miles: Goal 1:45, actual 2:13:08 Fail!

I swear the run in the end of a half ironman has got to be one of the hardest things to keep consistent. By this point in the day, it was really heating up. Well over 90 degrees at this point, and my legs were already pretty gassed. I'm still running naked, left the garmin at home. So I have no idea what kind of pace I'm keeping, but I'm pretty sure I went out there too fast.

The run course started out by going through this field around the airstrip. There's not even a suggestion of shade there. Not even a little 2' high seedling of a tree in sight. Just a path cut through the middle of an airstrip.

When we leave the airstrip and head out onto the roads it gets interesting. This is a straight out and back course, run out 6.55 miles then turn around and head home. Aide stations every mile at the mile markers, so that's really nice. It felt like the first aide station came at me really quick.

The second aide station also came up really quick. Don't know if that was a short mile or I was running too fast. The course was filled with Oly runners too, and half runners. The bike course also had tons of oly people on there. So after the first half turnaround on the bike, I had no idea how I was placed. Right after the third mile marker/aide station, the oly turnaround point kicked in and the course got a lot less crowded. The third mile went by pretty quick too.

Funny thing happened when I got to the mile 4 aide station. It was manned by a bunch of lazy teenage girls sunbathing and one person handing out water. But they were playing a Slow Runner CD in the background! Since very few other people would recognize my brother's voice I thought it was both ironic and inspiring. I tried to ask the girls if that's what it was, but I couldn't form complete words at the time.

That fourth mile of the run was, I think, the longest slowest mile I have ever run in my life. At least until the 5th mile came up. Seriously, I was only having to walk the aide stations until that point but then the wheels started coming off and I could barely stand. I think heat exhaustion was kicking in, it felt like I had stopped sweating. That's never a good sign. I ran when I could, walked a lot, and tried to maintain proper form the whole time.

The mile 5 aide station had towels on ice, and so did mile 6. I took one each time and it was the sweetest relief ever. I hung onto that towel and it was fantastic. Having finally cooled my body down some, I could run for longer stretches of time now. And since it was only half iron people on the course at that point, there was a lot of people walking and I knew where I was placing. When I hit the turnaround at 6.55 the volunteers said I was still in line for a top 20 finish!

I got passed a few times on the way back in, and passed a few others that were walking more than me. It was still also a struggle. The course turned on to some greenway somewhere in mile 5, and that brought a lot of shade. So part of 5, all of 6, and part of 7 were mostly shaded. That also helped bring my core temp back down. I started sweating again in mile 8. That's when I knew I would be ok.

Then it was just the mental game of forcing my legs to push through the muscle soreness and lactic acid. I can't really describe the kind of pain you get running in a half iron. It kind of makes you want to run your legs through a tree chipper/grinder just to get rid of them. But you know everyone is out there suffering through the same pain and you're still passing people so you must be feeling better than them. I start moaning uncontrollably sometimes. Plenty of times I felt like I was just going to fall over, or walk off of the side of the road.

I turned one corner on the roads and there was a house with a huge muscadine trellis growing with really old vines. That smell took me right back to my grandparents farm, they grew muscadines and I grow them now in the front yard (mine aren't old enough to create a smell yet). Suddenly I felt better.

Went back through all of the same aide stations as before, the teenagers weren't all quite as lazy this time. I just like making fun of lazy teenagers. They weren't actually slacking off on the volunteer duties, all of the volunteers were really on the ball. Before you know it, or before I was fully conscious of what was happening, I was back onto the air strip heading for the finish line.

Overall: Goal - break 6 hours - actual - 5:50:11 Success!

Secondary finish goal was 5:45 - almost there!
Everything went perfect finish time: 5:0x Fail.

Overall top 20 finish: Not quite.

22/65 overall men, 7/18 age group M35-39. The next two fastest people in my age group only beat me by 40 seconds. So I didn't get the overall or age group placement that I wanted, but it was really close. They had four men break five hours this year. Take out my extra 30 minutes of walking during the run course (5:20:11) would have put me in seventh place overall and 3rd in my age group. But we all had to walk the same course and deal with the same heat.

To put this in perspective, my PR came from the Beach 2 Battleship in 2009, a 6:31 overall time with a 2:42 half marathon split. So it's a 41 minute PR and a 27 minute run PR. Last year I did the Patriot's half in 6:55 thanks to a horrid swim time, and hit the same 2:42 run split. So it's over an hour faster than last year's time. So while I still see room for improvement, I also have to recognize how far I've come.

Overall this was a fantastic race and I would not hesitate to run it again or recommend it to anyone. They run an Olympic, half iron, and sprint distances in the same weekend and if you've never been to the OBX before it is a must see destination. It was well organized, the volunteers were great, and everything happened the way it was supposed to happen on that day. Where else are going going to bike over a 3 mile long bridge?

They say you can double your half iron time and add an hour to get a fairly accurate predictor of a full ironman finish. Doubling 5:50 is 11:40, plus an hour means I can expect to come in somewhere under 13 hours for IMFL. I'm still going to keep 14 hours as my goal time. Well, after the initial goal time of just finishing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Half Preview

First, a final word on nutrition.

Thank you all so much for the great comments and feedback on the weight loss post! It was a good article and fun to write. I'll finish out the series over the next few weeks.

I would also encourage you to do as much research as you can about health and nutrition. I know Racing Weight was the only book I mentioned, but I really did a lot of research. Read some Michael Pollan, David Wolfe, even Skinny Bitch and the basic Weight Watchers guidelines play a huge part in my nutrition plan. Watch Food, Inc and Food Matters on Netflix on demand, I'm obsessed with documentaries right now anyway. Watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead recently, it is amazing!

I start out each day by filling a 20 oz bike bottle with water and chugging. I take in at least another 64 oz of water each day. Drink with every meal? water. I gave up soda's in college - best decision ever - and when you eat out you don't have to pay for a drink. saves hundreds $$ every year. From Food Matters I got the concept of superfoods, and started putting chia seeds in my oatmeal every morning. The first thing you put in your body after waking up should be water. It will break the fast you were in during sleep. Not coffee, not vitamins, but water and lots of it. That makes the rest of your morning consumption easier to digest. Food has to become a liquid form before it can be digested, so the earlier it gets into liquid form the easier it is to digest. This is why people lose weight by eating soup for lunch every day. It's much easier for the body to convert a smoothie into a liquid than a steak. That's also why juicing is such an easy way to get nutrients.

I like a 60% carb, 20% protein, 20% fat macronutrient ratio. Veggies all count as carbs, some (beans, tofu) also have plenty of protein. Avacados, olives, plenty of non-meats with good fats also have lots of protein. So that's how I made the ratio work. It really wasn't a conscious thing though. Training Peaks gives you a pie chart with a macronutrient breakdown. Racing Weight suggested 60/20/20, and that's what Training Peaks told me I was getting. The biggest concern about being a vegetarian (usually expressed by overweight meat-hogs) is that you won't get enough protein. There's plenty of protein out there for everyone.

OBX Half Ironman

Tomorrow is the OBX Half, the only half ironman I'm doing this year. It comes with 56 days left before Ironman Florida, so it's really a guage of my iron prep. My training plan actually calls for 6 hours of swim/bike/run tomorrow, so with any luck a 70.3 race will actually be a disappointment and not take as long as the plan has prescribed.

You might remember back in 2009 when I ran the Beach 2 Battleship half and was incredibly (and rightfully) concerned about it. I had specific goals that were not all met. The ones that I did not get then were passed into my second half iron last year (Patriot's half, which is also this weekend), and were still not met thanks to a challenging swim. So those goals have to roll over first:

1. Break 3 hours on the bike split
2. Break 6 hours overall time

I think if I can break 3 on the bike, then 6 won't be a problem. Those 6+ hour times also were fueled by 2:4x:xx half marathon times, and I hope to break that this year for sure.

And as I just mentioned in the weight loss post, not being able to break 3 hours in the Patriot's Half bike split last year was the main catalyst for starting the Racing Weight program. I knew I wouldn't be able to push 200 lbs to a sub-3 bike split. Now that I have lost the weight, it's time to prove my theorem.

Swim 1.2 miles: Goal 40 minutes

Swimming has been going really well this year, the RAM team kicks ass. It's a salt water swim, perfect prep for IMFL. No idea if there will be a current to deal with, but 40 minutes is a 2:04 pace which is what I've been averaging in the open water lately.

Transitions: 5 minutes total

perfectly reasonable. Should be 90 seconds each.

Bike 56 miles: 2:30

That's a 22.4 mph pace, which is slower than what I was averaging in the Lake Logan oly a few weeks ago before hitting the big climb at the end. It's a flat, fast bike course with only a few turns and lots of chances to pass people so I am optimistic.

Backup bike goal: 2:45 which is 20.3 mph, or what I averaged after the big climbs at the end of Lake Logan.

Most important bike goal: Break 3 hours - it hasn't happened in a half iron yet. Please let this be the year. This is why I lost all that weight.

Run 13.1 miles: 1:45

This takes roughly an 8:00 pace steady on the run. Who knows how long I'll be able to hold it after the swim/bike portions, but it's my target. Don't go any faster than that, don't walk unless it's really needed. In practice, I've been able to hold that pace for longer than that distance after shorter bike rides, but that is practice. So I have confidence in the goal.

Backup run goal: Just PR. Anything faster than 2:42:xx is a win.

Overall time: 40 + 5 + 2:30 + 1:45 = 5 hours

I'm quite sure that will end up being 5 hours and change, not 5 hours exactly. 5:07 is still a win.

Backup overall time goals: 40 + 5 + 3:00 + 2:00 = 5:45 or anything under 6 hours will be great.

Online is only showing 130 registrations for the half, and I'm sure some of those people will bail thanks to hurricane Irene blowing out most of the outer banks a few weekends ago. So a small field and a 5 hour time goal, I like my chances here. Could be a decent ranking in the age group or overall standings. Check back on monday for the race report, or on facebook to see how I did!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How I got fast Part 1

I'm going to write a series of posts with some details of how I got "fast". How do I know I'm fast? Other people keep telling me things like "dang John, you're really fast". I know how I made the jump from running 10 minute miles to running 7 minute miles and that's really what I'm going for here. I still compete against people running 5:30 to 6:30 miles, and I think that's fast. When I start finishing in the top 10 for my age group in triathlons, or winning small 5k's; then I'll admit to being the fastest for that day. These fast guys are putting in 16 to 18 minute 5k's.

So the first thing we have to admit is that there's always a bigger fish. My bigger fish is the 16:xx 5k that makes me feel slow. Your big fish might be the elusive sub-4 hour or 5-hour marathon. I know I might be the big fish for other people. But there's always a bigger fish.

Step 1: Weight Loss

If your goal is to complete (not compete) then weight loss should not be an issue. For years, I championed "the scale is nothing but a number" from finishing my first marathon in 5:07 to the second one in 4:31. I said I could run as many marathons as I wanted to over 200 lbs. They would all be over 4 hours and I would never get that sense of improvement, but I really could complete as many as I wanted.

Then last year at the Patriot's Half Ironman I had a goal to break 3 hours in the bike split and 6 hours overall. I picked the Patriots because the bike course was supposed to be so favorable for the sub-3 split. No excuses, can't blame the course or conditions, just have to muscle up and hit my speeds. The swim was hard so I missed the 6 hour target, finishing in 6:55 instead. But the killer was the 3:08 bike split. I knew then that I just couldn't push 200+ lbs on the bike any faster than I did that day and I would never be able to complete a full ironman by pushing 200+ lbs over 140.6 miles. I did not want to push 200 lbs around for over 140 miles.

I know plenty of clydesdales do finish ironmans. Some 200 pounders even win ironmans. But that doesn't mean I could do it. If I wanted to get faster, it was time to get lean.

I bought a copy of Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I read it, and wrote a nice review if you want the specifics of what I got from the book. I set a pretty lofty goal to have visible abdominal musculature (show the 6 pack abs), and discovered it normally requires getting a body fat percentage down in the 9-11% range before they start to show up. I bought a body fat scale from KMart and established my starting point.

Well, really my starting point was established here:

Right after the Evil Genius was born was when I started this whole gig. I was 235 lbs at my heaviest, I sold the stressful business, took a work-from-home job, stopped smoking, signed up for my first triathlon (actually registered for the race before I stopped smoking, bought a bike, or ran my first mile), and Kelley went on weight watchers and got us eating right. So for most of the last 4 years I have been floating between 195 and 205 lbs. Otherwise known as:

One of the thinner times I was racing, but still right around 200 lbs.

To achieve my goals for Racing Weight, I had to take a multilayer approach.
  • Go vegetarian - We decided to stop buying meat from the grocery store. It saves a ton of money and made the biggest difference in my health and energy levels. I would still eat meat at restaurants, but not more than once a week - a cheat meal.
  • Log everything at - Every morsel I ate and drank and every workout got logged. I didn't know I was drinking 12 cups of coffee a day, all I knew was that the free coffee machine at work kept brewing more.
  • Limit my intake to 1800 calories a day - more on that later
  • Run for weight loss - more on that later too
  • Consistent Monitoring
  • Establish a target date for completion
Ironman Florida and the Beach 2 Battleship are around the same weekend every year. My preference was IMFL, so I started with that date - 11/5/11. I'm doing this in September last year, remember. Reading the Racing Weight book, developing a race schedule for 2011, researching Ironman training plans, all with this one focused goal of completing a 140.6. I use a spreadsheet to log all of my workouts, so I loaded the training plan up into the spreadsheet.

This gave me the end date for weight loss. I knew I needed to be at my target weight by the time Ironman training started on Feb 28. An old friend from college wanted to get in on some weight loss too, so we kept weekly tabs on each other. I stayed in constant contact with the Snail, and we pushed each other to faster 5k times throughout the spring. He lost a bunch of weight in that time frame too, and got really fast, actually besting my half marathon and 5k pr's by a few seconds each. {{shakes fist like an angry old man}}

I picked my start date when I finished reading the book. I wanted to show slow, consistent progress over the time frame I allocated, and I needed some accountability. Thus was established the Monday Morning Naked Weight (MMNW). Every monday at 6 am I would weigh myself totally naked, and record the numbers on my training log spreadsheet and post them on the blog. I started at 208.8 lbs and 28.5% body fat. There's a long way to go to see 11% body fat.

The good thing about numbers is that you can multiply 208.8 times 28.5% and discover that I contained 59.45 lbs of pure fat. I know some of that is needed to function. But watch this math. 208.8 - 59.5 leaves 149.3 lbs of muscles, bones and organs. Multiply that by 11% = 165.7 lbs is my target weight to get to 11% body fat. That means if I can lose 43.1 lbs of pure fat (no muscle or water loss) then I should get there. Of course there will be some other losses, you never lose pure bodyfat. But under the other bullet points I came as close as possible!

This was the "after" shot taken yesterday. Certainly much closer to the goal, this is an iron hardened body. Less than 60 days to go until Ironman, this is about as sculpted as I'm going to get.

I still weigh myself every monday morning and record it in the spreadsheet. Yesterday I came in at 170.8, and a flat 16% bodyfat, rocking 27.3 lbs of fat. So my weight loss since I started tracking on 10/18/10 is exactly 38 lbs, and 32.13 lbs of that is pure fat. That's a pretty high muscle retention weight in my book. Watching my body fat % drop with the sheer number of pounds lost was the biggest motivator. Since I knew I wasn't losing muscle it became easy to stay strong mentally and physically, and just keep running faster.

So from the bottom up in my bullet point list, I've got my target date established and monitoring systems in place. Running for weight loss is considerably different than running for speed or endurance.

Running for weight loss

Weight loss is about establishing patterns. You eat on a schedule. You workout on a schedule. No tri training, multisport, bricks, or two-a-days. Running for weight loss has to be simple. As the pounds come off, running gets easier. That will naturally make you faster. How and how much you run can also make a difference.

Calories Count

Everyone has to establish a magic number for their own intake. If you are shorter than me (I'm 6'1"), or female, or have a higher starting weight, then your magic number will be different. The best way to find your magic number is through trial and error. It needs to be high enough to sustain bodily function, yet low enough to promote weight loss. Slow, consistent weight loss. My magic number was 1800 calories a day.

I created a free account at Training Peaks. Their food database has almost everything I would eat with calorie and micronutrient values. So everything I would eat and every workout got logged in there. I eat the same oatmeal breakfast every day now, and I cut out the snacks in between meals. Breakfast should really be the largest meal of the day, but it doesn't always work out like that. A large high carb breakfast should keep you going throughout the day, and a smaller protein based dinner or snack before bed should allow the metabolism to stay revved through the night.

Ideally, it should be 500 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, 300 for dinner, and a 200 calorie snack after dinner. That leaves 400 calories to cover the overages (a 300 calorie dinner? really?) and any post-workout recovery snack. I knew if I stayed under 1800 calories I was well setup for a loss. My typical day would take in between 1650 - 1775 calories according to training peaks. A meatless lean cuisine became a staple for lunch. Dinner was usually 3 or 4 veggies on a plate. I stayed full the whole time, and fueled up for my workouts. I cut out the pre-workout powerbar, no more sports drink during the run, and I would eat a regularly planned meal afterwards (lunch or pre-bedtime snack), so I needed no extra intake for the workouts.

Workouts needed to be no more than once a day, 5 days a week. My magic formula was 4 days of running, 1 day of cycling. Running burns more calories per mile than any other sport. This is the important part:

*Each workout should burn 400 - 600 calories.*

I liked using the treadmill for my runs because the machine calculated my calories for me. Long runs burned more than 600 calories. I would have to eat more to recover from those 8-10 mile runs, so eventually I cut those out too. As the pounds came off, the run time went down, 3-5 miles to get in that burn range went to 4-6 miles, I started getting faster, and I started walking less. The treadmill lends itself to tempo or progressive runs in this phase, not intervals or other hard core speedwork. Certainly no long runs.

However, it is a perfect opportunity to perfect your running form, and that's what I did. Forward lean, landing with a midfoot strike, pushing off with my quads, using large muscles over smaller muscles. That felt really good, and made a huge difference.

If we take a typical 5 mile run on the treadmill as our example, at the start of the plan it would look like this: Warm up, build speed up to 6.0 max, take walk breaks when needed, finish the 5 in maybe 56:xx to an hour. By the time I was ready to start ironman training (end of the weight loss phase) the same run looked like: warm up, build up speed to 7.2ish, no walk breaks needed, finish in 45:xx to 48 minutes.

Straight weight loss took me from running 10 minute miles to 8 min/miles. I was at a weight where I could conceivably begin Ironman training, so I started the plan. Time to get faster at swimming and biking now too, and see how much I could push my run speeds.

Also, today was Evil Genius's first day of the pre-k program we've got her in at the church. She's a TK Tiger now, in with the other 4 year olds. Daddy is so proud!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August ends with a whimper

It's been no secret that I hate August. I totally get Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the hottest month of the year here in the deep south. Satan can have his climate back. I just hold my breath, stay inside as much as possible, and pray for the month to be over quickly.

This year August did not disappoint. We had a wonderful time going to Tybee Island with the rest of my family, I completed my second century ride, and set a nice PR in the olympic distance triathlon on a wonderful weekend out of the heat in the NC mountains. Then a hurricane blew through very close to us, but Raleigh came out ok. My training was intense early in the month, held pretty strong through the hurricane, but then died out completely at the end.

Yep, I went to the doctor today and I do indeed have strep throat. Monday Kelley had some funk, and was down for most of the day. She hit the listerine hard, and after 24 hours felt ok. Monday night my throat got a bit scratchy, and tuesday and wednesday I was completely down. Started feeling better yesterday (Wednesday), then got really worse again so I needed to go see the doc. A quick swab later and it's confirmed as strep throat. So I go on the anti-biotics and wait for them to clear this crap out of me before I can train again. That means for the 28 days I could train in the longest month of the year:

Swim: 18,700 meters in 7 swims including one oly
Bike: 340 miles, 13 rides, one century ride, one oly
Run: 103.7 miles, 14 runs, one oly
Strength: 4 sessions
Yoga: 2 sessions

It sounds funny to mention it now, but 340 miles on the bike is actually a little light for an Ironman build phase. That number should be over 400, really closer to 500. Last month I biked 483 miles. I really love the swim and run numbers - that is Ironman strong.

September holds the promise of the Labor Day weekend! Yippee! I love labor day bike rides for some reason. It's just a great time to get out there and roll. The next weekend I'm taking friday off so we can go to the outer banks and I can hit my only half iron this year. That's going to be a blast. The course and race is still on after the hurricane, but I can't get anyone to answer the phone at the hotel we're supposed to stay at, so it might not exist anymore. Could throw a small monkey wrench into the plans.

And hopefully I'll be able to swallow real food again before then. I'm sick of eating nothing but soup.