Monday, October 31, 2011

October Totals and Ironman Goals

October Totals

Today is the last day of October, and since it's Monday it's a rest day. Here's how the last month of Ironman training went down:

Swim: 17,200 meters, 6 swim practices
Bike: 366 miles, 12 rides
Run: 117 miles (new PB!) 14 runs
Strength: 1 workout
Yoga: 1 hot session

Good numbers on the swim/bike/run, especially since the last week was all taper for Ironman. So almost all of that came in only 26 days. The 117 running miles is my highest running month ever, and I'm willing to bet that 366 on the bike is close to the top. This is the bulk of the Ironman build phase mileage, and seriously brought me into Iron shape.

Tomorrow I'm going to do a small (maybe 1 hour) bike/run brick, then all day on Wednesday we drive to Florida. Once we get there I will swim, bike, and run once over Thursday and Friday mornings just to be sure everything made the trek OK, and be ready to race on Saturday.

So how did the Ironman training plan play out? I absolutely loved it. The really long base building phase had me really in shape. The build phase had some seriously long workouts towards the end, and as soon as I got used to that kind of volume we go into taper madness. Since February 28, 2011:

Swim: 125,845 meters over 50 swims
Bike: 2,639.9 miles, 105 rides
Run: 785.4 miles, 121 runs

Good thing I'm not OCD for round whole numbers. I would have to go out and bike a tenth of a mile right now just to get that squared off. Wow that's a lot of miles. I've said all along that Ironman training is no joke. That's the kind of commitment it takes and the time you have to put in to cover 140.6 miles with efficiency.

Fall Outing

Yesterday was the Fall Outing with the Indian Princess program, so Bigun and I got to roll around in the woods again for a few cold hours. It was a lot of fun, and I have some neat pictures to prove it:

Bigun really knocked out a trip up the climbing wall!

Daddy fails a trip up the inversion

The group on a hike

In front of a big tree we found on the hike

Conquering the ropes course

Ironman Goals

Yes, even though it's my first Ironman I still have to set some goals.

1. Finish, don't die.
Basic survival is a fun target. As long as I cross the finish line intact and the medical personnel at the event site can treat whatever is currently ailing me I'll call the trip a success.

2. Under 14 hours
Given my typical pre-ironman speeds and the online estimation calculators available this seems like a reasonable time estimate for a worst-case scenario.

3. Swim: 1:20
My half iron swim times are regularly under 40 minutes and without the added speed from the wetsuit. If the water is calm out there I should easily be able to execute an 80 minute swim.

4. Transitions: 20 minutes
I'm going to completely change clothes both times in transitions and might end up taking my time getting through there. Since I'm not pushing for a kona slot there's no need to rush here.

5. Bike: 6:30
I'm going to start off at a pace known as "stupid easy", then after the first 20 or 30 miles upgrade to "easy". 6:30 is a 17.2 mph speed, 6:00 is an 18.6 mph speed. My typical easy pace around here is over 19 mph, and we have lots of hills to climb. There might be some wind to deal with down there, but I have high hopes for a calm day. The main goal is to have a decent run, so I don't want to drain my legs on the bike.

6. Run: 4:30
Yes, I know my current marathon PR is 4:31. I haven't run a full marathon since March 2010, so it's been about a year and a half. My next full marathon I'm going to try and break 3:30, so I figure giving myself an extra hour here can still set a marathon PR in the Ironman. I still think I can break 4 hours in the Ironman marathon, but again I just want to finish this one. Just get to the finish line alive. A one minute marathon PR would be a bonus.

Add those up for #7: 12:40 expected finish time. Well under the 14 hour original time frame.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Year Ago

I was looking back at the training log and for the last week of the ironman build phase, and in the 8 days from Sunday to Sunday I biked 180 miles and ran 43 miles. That is incomprehensible to me if I look as an outsider. I know the really fast people that are potential kona qualifiers are putting in 300 mile bike weeks and 50+ mile run weeks regularly, but I'm not the guy who does that. Sometimes I still see myself as the guy who drinks 43 beers in a week, not runs 43 miles. And I'm sure I could knock down 180 cigs instead of 180 bike miles. It still doesn't seem real.

But, really, in 9 days and 23.25 hours I will be starting IMFL. 45 minutes into the swim (7:45 am) I should be back out for the second loop by now. Trying to visualize it is tough. Accepting the fact that I'm prepared is even more difficult.

I never thought Ironman was possible for me. I'm only working with partial lung function from all of the years of smoking. I went into my first half iron (Beach 2 Battleship 2009) with the intention that 70.3 was the farthest I would ever reach. If I finished, didn't die, and felt like I could go back out there and do it again then I would consider maybe trying a full. I did finish B2B and feel like I could go do it again. In 2010 we moved from SC to NC and that took most of the year. No way I could get a full iron done then, even though I wanted to.

So I waited a year. I did another half iron, and realized how my weight was holding me back. I knew 70.3 was a manageable distance, and I knew I could be good at that distance. But the weight thing... Really the last year started in September 2010 when after the Patriot's Half I picked up a copy of Racing Weight and gave it a read. Solid book, solid science.

This journey to Ironman really became more than a plan or a goal on October 18th 2010 with this post. It became more than just a concept then. I started the weight loss phase. I knew that I would try my best to get into IMFL or Beach 2 Battleship full, with a preference for IMFL. Either way, I was going to turn iron in 2011. It still seemed like more of a concept than a reality.

I wasn't going to push 210 lbs over 140.6 miles. I had a weight loss plan from the book, and I followed it. I had a goal to get down to (165 lbs) and a timeline to finish the weight loss (2/28/11 when Ironman training plan started), and I almost made it. I started Ironman training at 175 lbs, thinking that the training plan itself would take those last 10 lbs off of me. Turns out it did, and I should be coming into race day somewhere between 165 and 170 lbs. Several of you followed my lead and started losing weight at the same time, thank you for that. I love the support I received from family and friends, and the competition generated by some really cool people.

The Snail and I had one helluva weight loss battle going, as we both kept getting faster at the same time and besting each others 5k and half marathon PR's. In the end, he beat me by 5 seconds at both distances, but I will exact my revenge in the marathon. Good luck breaking 3:30 at the Rock & Roll Savannah, I know you can do it. But you know that I will beat your time by 5 seconds come January.

The official Ironman Training Plan started on Feb 28 2011, and I started with a solid base from the weight loss phase. Base building before base building, there's nothing like it. I got used to eating for two workouts a day, and got my schedule all setup. This training plan is hard core. The midweek workouts get quite long. Sometimes it would have 2.5 hours on the bike and 1.25 hours running on a Wednesday. Really? Wednesday? Over 3 hours? When am I supposed to work?

But I did as much as I could. I added weight lifting and yoga when I could. I joined the RAM team (best decision ever!) to help out with my swimming. That meant where it called for 4 swims a week usually under an hour, I swam twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes. Same amount of time, but it worked on the schedule. The plan had 401 workouts. 383 of those actually made it onto my spreadsheet with the combined swims. With a taper left, I've done 299 so far and have 15 left to go. I'm not going to total the training plan miles until I've actually made it all the way through.

I will say that I think I picked a training plan that is designed to help you get much faster at your second or more Ironman, not just basically survive the first one. I wanted as much confidence as I could get going into IMFL, and that's what I got. But I also think I could use the same training plan, follow it a little more closely, and get faster at my second Ironman. Usually I like to switch it up the second time around and do something else to get faster, but this seems like what I should have chosen for my second Ironman.

Lots of people have started asking me how long it took me to get ready for Ironman. You could say four years, since I started running tri's in 2008. You could say 2 years, since I decided that I would pursue this at the end of 2009. But really, it all started a year ago this month. Seeing a years worth of hard work and goal setting come down to the final days of taper and race prep is a bit overwhelming. This thing, this concept, is about to become a reality. One week from today we drive in a straight shot 12.5 hours from Raleigh NC to Destin FL and get checked into the condo. Here we go.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hello Taper

The last weekend of the Ironman build phase was totally epic. Huge, nonstop, no time to rest at all weekend. I loved it. but seriously, I need a vacation from the weekend. So glad the IMFL taper starts today.

It actually started on Thursday. Evil Genius had been fighting a strep infection for a while, and after 8 straight days of getting antibiotics through injections, the pediatrician decided that it wasn't working. So they checked her into the hospital and hooked in an IV port. She called it her Special Straw (so cute!). Kelley stayed with her thursday night, her dad, Bigun, and I all went to visit and of course we didn't get home until after midnight.

Of course, EG loved being in the hospital. She could make the bed move up and down, and control her own tv. This hospital was really nice too, it had wifi, every room had flat screen tv's with internet connections and dvd players, so we hooked the room's tv into Netflix and started watching her movies. Amazing!

The IV antibiotics knocked out the infection cold, but left her with a yeast infection as a side effect. More drugs knocked that out and she came home happy and healthy after lunch friday. So of course that's when Bigun starts puking. She started fighting a sinus thing that still has her out of school today. I don't think it's a huge deal, but I really hate cleaning up puke.

Saturday I got up extra early so I could make it to the morning swim practice to make up for what I missed on thursday night being at the hospital. I then decided that it was only about 40 degrees outside, and the pool was an "indoor" pool, meaning it just has a plastic dome covering a former outdoor pool. So it was going to be way to cold to swim. Turns out I was wrong, the water was warm and I should have gone. I knew the last long bike ride of the build phase was also on tap for the day so I got in there and knocked it out early instead.

It's a good thing I did. I went to the gym and hit the stationary bike for 80 miles in the random hill setting at an 11 resistance. This is easier but longer than my typical ride in there. I was still quite drenched by the end of it, took almost 4 hours, and I could barely stand at the end long enough to walk out of there. It was a great ride, I nailed my nutrition plan down, and I wanted to get an 70+ mile ride in before taper anyway so this fit perfectly.

I got home at 12:30. Ate, showered, ate again, then went to the grocery store. Saturday night I knew was going to be Bigun's first time camping. The Indian Princess tribe was supposed to meet between 3:30 and 4 at the campsite on Jordan Lake which is on my typical outdoor bike route, so I knew it was going to be a fun trip. But, thanks to Ironman training, I had not found anything yet except the tent, and had only left myself 3 hours to shower, eat, prepare everything for the trip, and drive out there. Wow, so much for the lazy afternoon recovering from my ride and watching college football.

I volunteered to provide/prep/cook all the veggies/sides for the dinner saturday night. So I got a bunch of stuff from the store and started chopping when I got home. The whole princess thing is supposed to be daddy/daughter driven, so I really try not to ask Kelley to help me with princess stuff unless I'm really running out of time. So she went looking for sleeping bags while I chopped. After it was painfully obvious that I was in over my head she did end up cutting some potatoes while I packed up the car and gave the kids a shower before we left. We never did find the sleeping bags.

We got to the campsite a little after 4 and started unpacking. Our tent was about 20 feet from the car, so we didn't have to carry the gear 5 miles in to reach campsite Thank SBJ. Bigun helped me setup the tent before getting sucked into the group of girls and playing in the woods with her friends.

We all walked down to the lake and the girls had a lot of fun hanging out on the shore. Somebody found a dead fish in the water, so of course my daughter is the first one to reach in and pick it up, making all of the other girls squeal in horror. She has no fear in the outdoors, just like me. crazy.

We had a campfire going, so a handful of us came on back and I threw the veg on. I love cooking on a campfire. You get such a completely different flavor than cooking on anything else. Usually you can just throw the foil packs right in the coals (the girls kept calling the hot coals "lava" - ha!) and the stuff just melts in there. It's beautiful.

That's a lotta veg, y'all.

We had burgers, dogs, toppings, everybody loved it. I had one of those foil packs with banana peppers and fresh jalapeno peppers as a burger topping, and that was the big hit of the meal. The girls ran around and played for a while longer, then after it got dark we all made s'mores. Perfect. Bigun loved it. Then the strangest thing happened.

About 8:30 she told me she was ready to go to bed. Usually it's "no daddy, I want to stay up with you..." but tonight she was worn out. So we stayed in the tent telling ghost stories for a while until she told me I should leave so she could get to sleep. So strange. What an amazing kid.

Of course, 10 minutes later she came back to the campfire where the dads were starting to indulge in some firewater and watching football on some iPhones. She was walking through the woods in the dark with no flashlight or shoes. Again, no fear. that's my kid. crazy. She's hang out for a while, then go back to the tent by herself (at her insistence), then come back to the campfire, she stayed up with us just watching the dad's talk until almost 11. She was sound asleep when I made it back to the tent. It was into the low 40's already and so cold. But she kept right on snoring until just before sunrise. I didn't sleep well at all. Cold, uncomfortable, I don't think the ground was really level where I put the tent and the air mattress wasn't fully inflated anyway. So I wouldn't say I woke up "refreshed". But hey, that's camping in October.

Sunday morning had a great big breakfast. The kids were all really excited to be up and still in the woods. They all instantly went into scream and play mode.

After the breakfast I packed up our car and we all went out for a hike. The hike was about an hour, we went about 2 and half miles. That's a long hike for 6 year old legs. So of course there was a lot of "daddy can you carry me" talk, but we wouldn't have any of that. The purpose of the long hike is to earn a feather for the Indian Princesses vest, so the kids all had to walk the entire way. We got to teach them a good lesson about perseverance and finishing what you start.

And of course once we got back to the campsite and the hike was over it was "run through the woods and play with your friends" time again. Suddenly the energy that they didn't have to finish the hike came roaring back. We had lunch and came on home.

She would not. stop. playing. with the campfire. But I guess how often do you get the chance to play with fire?

Bigun's first time camping in the woods overnight was a smashing success. She absolutely loved it, felt right at home in the woods and in nature, loved getting to see the stars in the sky at night and the fish in the water by day. Raleigh's city lights are too bright to see stars at night from home.

This is Tom and his kid right before we left the campsite Sunday. In the fall of 1993, Tom and I were hanging out in the school of music after an Industry meeting when he casually mentioned "You should think about joining this fraternity" to me. The next semester I pledged, and we've been as close as brothers can be ever since. In the spring when we were away at a guys weekend with a bunch of other fraternity brothers, Tom and another Raleigh area brother were telling me about this cool Indian Princess thing, and I knew I had to get in on it. If you had told me 18 years ago that our kids were going to grow up together I would have laughed. But here we are! It's absolutely amazing how some people can stay with you for such a long time.

Driving home sunday it really started to sink in. The body aches, the pains of sleeping outside, the strange eating, it all just started wearing me down. Time for a shower and a nap and some football.

I got some advil and a shower, unpacked the car and put everything away from the trip. Got Bigun in the bath as well. We both smelled like campfire smoke and onions. Then I got dressed and ready to head out. I still had to run 20 miles.

Sunday long runs can easily turn into long bricks if saturday's bike ride is shorter than it's supposed to be. They can also feel like a brick run if you ride 80 miles on saturday, camp out saturday night, and hike 2.5 miles sunday morning. I was completely exhausted. I knew this was the last weekend of the Ironman build phase. The last chance I would have to get a 20 mile run in before IMFL.

I figured I was no more exhausted than I would be on race day, so I might as well go for it. If I only made it 5 miles and passed out then at least I gave it a shot.

I really wanted a safe environment here to allow me to bail out at any time. And I really wanted to watch some football too. So I went to the gym and grabbed a treadmill that let me watch both games on tv, and the World Cup Rugby game on NBC at the same time. I broke the run down into 5 mile segments, did all 4 of them, took a gu and refilled the Accellerade bottle between every segment.

The treadmill really likes that 7.5 mph speed. I covered the entire 20 miles at a flat 8:00 pace. Needless to say, that's the longest I've ever run that fast. I took the gels, drank the stuff, threw in some Endurolytes for good measure, and held pace throughout. No walking. Only one poo stop. By the end I thought I was going to cry as I waved goodbye to the build phase and said hello to the taper. I am fit, fast, finished and ready for the race.

I then proceeded to go home and stuff myself on chinese food and recovery drinks. Watched a movie and loaded up on Advil. I even busted out the compression socks. I did not get enough sleep last night. But it was still an amazing weekend. I need a vacation from my weekend. But that's what the taper is for.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. Every pair of pants I own is now 2" - 3" too big in the waist. I bought most of those pants in the spring when I was "done" losing weight about 10 lbs ago. It's a nice problem to have, and I'm sure it won't last long after Ironman. For the record, I'm 36 years old, 6'1", and the 32" jeans are pretty loose, most of them are 34's which is still a really small size for a grown-ass man's pants.

2. Winter has arrived in NC very briskly. High temps for the week and weekend are only 61*. I'm taking bigun camping for the first time saturday night with her Indian Princess tribe, we are both incredibly excited. It will be chilly though. At least I'll get some good pictures.

Also remember that with winter settling in, our natural vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels are going to drop. I like to supplement since the sun just doesn't shine for 14 hours a day anymore and we don't have as much skin exposed. But if you've got a food source for those I'd love to hear about it!

3. Ironman Florida is only 15 days and 22 hours away. ZOMG!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fun Trip!

I didn't talk about this new job much when I took it a few months ago, but I really do like it. They really like me too, which is nice. I am actually working from home again, and I'm based out of their Balt/Wash office in DC. So sometimes I will get brought up to the office. This time it was really cool.

I worked at home all day thursday then drove up to DC thursday night. I picked a hotel in Alexandria VA that was just a few blocks from the client's office so I could walk there for meetings friday morning. The meetings were great, client loves me. Back to my office in McLean VA and I got a few more tasks buttoned up tight. Very productive morning.

Then the fun started. A bunch of us from the office threw a crab crackin', which I believe is kind of the northern version of a pig pickin' down here. All you can eat Maryland blue crabs from this place in Arlington VA called The Quarterdeck. These crabs were amazing. Everyone else was an old hand at those things and knew exactly how to tear into them, and I had no clue. But once the head of the office showed me how to get in there, I got lots of practice.

I'm not saying Ironman training leaves you hungry. Well, actually, I am. Most people finished up after 24-30 crabs. I got closer to 50. Of course we were also getting pitchers of beer so I couldn't keep an accurate count. Needless to say a good time was had by all, and I got a ride back to the hotel a fat and happy drunk. Then it was time to meet up with my friend Shawn for dinner.

His GF grew up in the area, and I hadn't seen Shawn since march, so she picked the place. I got there late as hell but as quickly as possible. We had some fun times, went to a bar after that, it was good all the way around. The new GF is really a lot of fun. I hope she sticks around for a while.

Saturday I got up and was supposed to get in a nice run before heading back to NC, but the pitchers of beer from the night before didn't agree to those terms. I did find the Mt Vernon Trail a few blocks from the hotel, it's a really long greenway that runs along the Potomac river and George Washington Parkway that was filled with plenty of bikers, runners, and walkers. I walked it for about an hour. Completely amazing. The trail goes all the way into DC but I didn't get that far. Just walked for a while and came back.

I got checked out of the hotel in time and was back in Raleigh in good shape. The last time I went to DC I flew up and the airline lost my luggage, then some items were stolen out of my suitcase including the small point and shoot camera that I like to carry on these trips. I still haven't replaced the camera, so I have no pictures from the trip at all damnit. Not cool. And I found out at the crab crackin that they expected me to stay saturday night as well, which means I could have tried to setup more social activities and gotten tickets to the Clemson vs Maryland football game which turned out to be a great win for the Tigers. I have so many friends in the DC area I really wanted to be more social. I'm also surprised how many people that I went to high school and college with ended up in the area. At least I got to see Shawn this trip. More next time.

All that left me with Sunday to get in a long brick workout to make up for the 30 lbs of crabs I ate on Friday. I hit 40 miles on the bike and followed with a 12 mile run. I guess that will do. Still burned about 3000 calories. Towards the end of the run my quads started feeling fatigued.

Today starts the last week of the build phase. Get through this one and it's only 2 weeks of taper to go. I'm ready to see that starting line, and ready to see that finish line.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pregnant Woman

No, not Kelley. No way, no no no no. Stop that.

It's me.

The counter I use on Google told me at 8 am this morning that I was 23 days and 23 hours away from the start line at IMFL. It is almost time. The big day is almost here.

Also this morning the scale said I came in at 168.6 lbs and 16.4% body fat, the lowest numbers I've seen since college. It's the first day I've weighed in under 170 in 13 years. Even yesterday came in at 170.8 lbs.

Right now I am incredibly lean, in the best shape of my life. My endurance and aerobic capacity is through the roof, and I feel strong as an ox. And this is not a peak. This is a sustainable platform that I will be able to hold for the next month at least. There are still two weekends of long workouts in the build phase, so this might not be the highest that platform can be raised.

I am ready to turn Iron.

Today I feel like the woman who's eight and a half months pregnant. She's plush with baby, carried the kid inside for 36 weeks (my training plan is 38 weeks) and can barely move. She's asking the doctors "can I just have the kid now? When can you induce?" because she's very ready to meet the new family member and be done with the anticipation of the change.

When the doctors tell her that she's got to wait another 23 days and 23 hours.... that's not a conversation you want to be involved in. This will not end well. But it might end with a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

Wes has told me several times that your body goes Iron long before the race. Have confidence in your training plan and it will get you through the big day. I've been re-reading his reports and lead up posts from when he turned Iron at IMFL 2008. Makes me feel like Obama reading Lincoln between the time he was elected and when he took the office. Good stuff in there brother.

To continue the metaphor, Ironman is becoming another member of the family. My training takes almost as much time as I get to spend with the kids (but most of my training is done while they are in school or asleep). This is my first attempt at 140.6, and while I'm not making any promises until I see the finish line or even a few weeks after, I anticipate that it will not be my only attempt at 140.6. This concept of Ironman has affected me emotionally; mentally I'm ready for the kind of change you get when your first kid is born. This has affected my family; my wife and kids are proud of the work I'm putting in and the example I'm setting.

When I finished my first triathlon in 2008 I knew I crossed that finish line a changed man. Not just by defeating my addiction but by accepting the multisport lifestyle as a part of the way I wanted to live. This is my fourth year racing tri's. It certainly has gotten more fun since then and I've gotten faster, stronger, and more confident. Now I'm ready to give birth to the next phase and see what it will hold. And I'm pissed at the doctor for making me wait another 23 days and 23 hours. Where's my cheeseburger?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kona Envy and Hot Yoga

Facebook has been blowing up this week with pictures of Kona. Some from people that live there and are still racing the Ironman World Championships, others that are just there for the big race. The pictures are all amazing. I can't imagine what it takes to qualify (especially in my age group) or the logistics to get all of your equipment out there and compete in the event. Everyone I was tracking did really well, even better than they expected in most cases.

Of course I've tracked friends in years past but with my first ironman coming up in only 25 days it puts an entirely new perspective on it this year. Bree Wee didn't compete in the championship this year because she's doing IMFL. I'm also doing IMFL and didn't race Kona, so obviously I'm exactly like Bree? I actually feel good about this because in 2009 when I did my first half at the Beach 2 Battleship, Bree was there racing as well. I didn't know who she was then, but that's ok. First half, first full, she must be some kind of good luck charm for me.

There were a lot of really good races back on the mainland this week. Chicago marathon, Portland Marathon, Victoria half marathon. It was great seeing all of my friends putting up PR's and breaking their own expectations. It really was a fantastic weekend for racing. I haven't had a race since the OBX half in early September, and it really made me miss the environment. I know typical race distances don't coordinate with Ironman build phase training distances so it's not a good idea for me to race much right now. With 16 races done this year and only one more to go, I know I've already had a full calendar. So congrats if you raced this weekend!

Saturday I had a lot of family time. Bigun had her first sleepover at her BFF's house. This should bother me because she's 6 and her bff is a boy. But it doesn't. I like the boy. We had to keep the Evil Genius distracted the entire day to keep her from feeling left out. That's when the fun started.

I have never tried hot yoga before. Kelley found a groupon friday night for a $5 hot yoga class at a gym in North Raleigh. Saturday EG got up about the same time I did so we had breakfast together. I made it out the door and to the gym just as the class was starting, found a good spot and tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I've never actually been to a yoga class before period, much less a hot yoga studio. The heat only got up to about 85 supposedly, but the sweat was constant and intense! Overall the class was great, I got a really good sweat on, and a really good stretch on. During the relaxation phase at the end, all I could visualize was EG's face smiling at me so I really wanted to spend some time with her. I drove back home with a huge smile on my face and was the happiest and most relaxed I've been in a long time. Hot yoga gets a big thumbs up.

I gave EG a few choices for the afternoon's activity. Kelley would take Bigun to meet the boy so I needed to keep EG otherwise occupied. She chose to go for a hike on the Appalachian Tobacco Trail (ATT). This is great. So we put the top down on the convertible and rode out there about 2 pm. Of course, what's an Evil Genius going to do in this kind of situation? Fall asleep on the drive out there. Now if you wake up a sleeping 4 year old to go for a hike (she likes to run the trail), she's not going to be energetic enough to actually go anywhere. So instead of fighting it, I leaned my seat all the way back too, and we took a nap in the parking lot for about an hour. Then I drove us back home. That's when she woke up. Of course, that's when she woke up. Sleeping outside = yes!

We all made it home in time for me to get out for a 5 mile quick run (~37 minutes) before the evening's activities. Yoga and 5 miles running is not what the training plan called for, but it's what I got. And I really enjoyed all of the family time.

We took EG to her favorite burger joint even though she only eats the french fries, then to see Kung Fu Panda 2 at the dollar theater. She had a blast, and was only minimally evil.

Sunday I was really sore from the new yoga. Sore in places that yoga doesn't normally make me sore. It was really unexpected. Still, I wanted to get outside and get a nice long day of training in. After napping in the White Oak Church Rd parking lot for the ATT on saturday, it seemed like a good destination for a nice long brick. That public trail access is on my bike route anyway, so I figured I could park there, hit the roads for a longish bike ride, then hit the trail for a nice run. You may remember a few years ago I ran a full marathon on the ATT so I knew it would be an ok place to put some miles in.

I got there a bit later in the day than I had hoped, but it was still gorgeous out. 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Roberta had spent the week in the bike shop getting a final tune up before traveling to Florida (including replacing the rear brake cable), and she was ready to be ridden hard.

After 21 miles around Jordan Lake, I think she was finally satisfied. Actually I wanted to go back out for another loop, but Sunday is Runday so I needed to hit the trail. The rolling hills around the lake are creating some great resistance, and I'm really enjoying riding around that part of town. I was pleased with the speed (about an hour and 10 minutes, so over 19 mph still) but could have been faster. Really I was trying to just make sure the bike was ready for the race.

I changed clothes in the parking lot and hit the trail. I was carrying a bike bottle in each hand, one with Accelerade and one with water, and I had two gels. The trail was pretty crowded, and I got plenty of strange looks running with two water bottles. My only plan was to go out for a certain amount, then turn around and come back. I started out pretty fast.

In trail math, I realized that I ran 5 miles on saturday, and biked 21 already on Sunday. So if I ran out for 8 miles and back for 8 miles, it would give me 21 miles of biking and 21 miles of running on the weekend. A bit low on the bike, but I liked the symmetry. I should have thought about that before I took off.

I am also starting to watch the sun get a bit low, and the shadows are getting long. The leaves are also starting to change here, and sunset is around 7 pm. It's an absolutely perfect day to be on the trail. Then I remembered the sign saying the parking lot gates will be locked at 7 pm. I hit 7.5 miles on the trail at around 58 minutes into the run and decided to turn around. More trail math told me I needed to be done around 2 hours to make it out of the parking lot before the gates close. And that sun was really starting to get low.

Then around mile 11.5 I took the last gel and realized I was out of hydration and nutrition, and still 3.5 miles from the car. This is why I like to run inside on the treadmill. Yes it was beautiful on the trail, but my car won't get locked in the gym parking lot while I'm dying of dehydration beside a vacant path in the woods with no lights or water fountains if I was on the treadmill. Then the Running Is Stupid committee convenes a meeting in my head. Why am I out there? What in the world possibly makes people want to run an Ironman. This is only for the criminally insane. I walked a lot. I ran a lot with the motivation that if I didn't hurry up I was going to get locked in.

Eventually I did make it back to the parking lot, chugged water and took off. I left at 6:50 pm. The 15 mile run took a total of 2:07 so I'm going to call it a positive split. That's got to be the opposite of a negative split, right? I was glad to make it out of there alive.

Have a great week! This is the penultimate week of my Ironman Build phase before the 2 week taper kicks in. A 12 week build has been bananas, so I'm going to try and finish it strong. Week 11 should be no easier.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How I Got Fast Part 3

Part 1 - Weight Loss
Part 2 - Base building and Endurance

For this section, I want to talk specifically about how to swim faster, and how that affects your run speed.


There are lots of well documented ways to get fast at swimming, but there are still a few key points I want to drop.

  1. Swim speed is typically measured in the time it takes to cover 100 meters. Really fast pro triathletes can hold a 1:16 pace for the entire 2.4 mile swim in Ironman, finishing between 51 and 58 minutes, typically. Some pro's still come out of the water around 1:10. The slowest age groupers out on the ironman course will average around a 2:45 pace or slower and finish after the 2:30 cutoff time. Typically for olympic (0.9 miles) or half iron (1.2 miles) my swim pace will be just over 2:00. Middle of the pack open water mile times are around 40 minutes per mile. My 30 minute oly time and 40 minute half time were both good enough to get me into the top third of the field.
  2. Some tri's want you to enter a swim pace at registration to seed the start times and put the fastest swimmers at the front of the pack. My first swim pace entered was 2:30 for my first triathlon. Last night at Master's swim practice I was knocking down 1:25 hundreds like they were nothing.
  3. Improving your swim pace is all about improving your technique. It has very little to do with adding cardiovascular or muscular strength. Don't believe me? Most pools are 25 yards or 25 meters long. Count the number of strokes you have to take (both arms total), and use that as your measure of improvement. The slower swimmers will take 28-30 strokes, and the faster swimmers will only need 12-14. I'm typically around 15 or 16 strokes now.
You cannot get fast swimming on your own. There are plenty of books out there to read, including Total Immersion, one of my favorites. There are TONS of youtube videos on stroke technique. But until you get some types of coach to watch you swim and give you the corrections needed you will never really improve. Books and videos can give you lots of advice, but it takes a coach to actually watch your technique and tell you if you are doing it right. You just can't see it yourself short of using an underwater camera and watching it later.

I think the best way to get this instruction is by joining a masters team. I absolutely LOVE the Raleigh Area Masters Team that I joined back in March to get me through Ironman training. The coaches are amazing. One of the coaches there is also the track and field coach and swim team coach at NC State. She is absolutely incredible.

Before Masters I would typically swim over lunch and get in 800 - 1800 yards in around 40 minutes. Enough to get my heart rate up. average pace was around 2:00.

Last night I went to a Masters practice with the NC State coach. We covered 3000 yards in an hour and 15 minutes. Average pace was about 1:30. The warmup was 800 yards, and it was harder than any 800 yard workout I ever got by myself over lunch. Then the real work started.


Water provides resistance when you're swimming, this can be both good and bad. You want your body to glide through the water with as little friction as possible, but your arms and feet create a grip on the water to push you through.

Body position is usually the first thing that gets addressed. You want to be as flat as possible with about 90% of your body underwater. The first piece of advice I ever got from a swim coach was to swim like I was trying to hold a golf ball under my chin. Imagine your body laying flat on the surface of the water face down. Being as flat as possible means your body will create the least resistance possible from the water. This is actually controlled more by your head position than anything else.
Right. Level body position will shoot you through the water like an arrow.
Wrong. Lifting your head pushes your lower body down into the water, creating more drag.

Images taken from this great article. If you look up, your tail will drop in creating more resistance. This is why you only want to sight in open water every 5 or 6 strokes, and sight as quickly as possible then get face down again.

Bilateral breathing is the next skill you want to master. You want to take quick breaths to both the right and left sides every three or five strokes alternating sides (bilateral). Mastering this means that if you are in open water and you're constantly getting waves crashing over you from the right hand side, you will also be comfortable breathing to your left. And don't pick up your head to breathe, just rotate to one side with your chin on that shoulder as a relaxed separate motion from the body rotation. Here's a good demonstration article.

There are plenty of other form guides out there for arm technique, kick technique, breathing technique, it's kind of insane. I really like Total Immersion techniques, but your coach will know what's best. As a comparison, you can spend as much time on swim form as you would on a golf swing, and even Tiger Woods has a coach that constantly adjusts his swing.

My final word on technique will be on flip turns, there's a great debate going on with triathletes on flip turns. There are no flip turns in open water, so a lot of triathletes think you don't need to do them in the pool. Flip turns are done with your abs, and I'm all for anything that will help you work your core muscles. Also in open water, you don't get to hang onto the wall for that half a second and take the huge breath that you normally get to take at each turn. Flip turns encourage breath control. You should be able to flip, push off of the wall, and take two strokes before taking your first breath. Breath control and core work will help immensely with open water swims as well as cycling and running. Having said that, I still rarely do flip turns in my masters practices. I'm just too lazy. And I like getting the big breath at the turns.


Want to swim fast? Swim more. People who log 18,000+ yards in the pool every month will swim faster than those with less practice. Again that means more yards, not more time in the pool, more swim sessions, or more strokes. Get efficient to get faster and you'll get more laps in the same amount of time. See how it all works together? I went from swimming 3 or 4 times a week over lunch to attending two masters practices a week at most, and got so much faster. Went from averaging 7000 yards a month to 16,000 yards a month while actually spending less minutes in the pool!


I'm really a purist when it comes to swimming. I like a small nylon suit or tri shorts for racing, goggles and that's it. You can really get lots of gear for the pool, and I actually just bought a new Zoot mesh swim gear bag yesterday that's really cool. But I didn't even wear goggles for my first triathlon. Evidence:

Greenville Sprint triathlon 2008. I take my entire head out of the water to breathe, look up to sight, have no goggles on.

Since joining the masters team I've also embraced a kickboard and pull bouy, because they establish a separation and allow you to work on a specific part of your form. Pull buoys provide support for your lower body to keep it elevated. It can help you recognize the feel of being flat in the water and allow you to focus on using your arms in the stroke and on centralized body rotation.

Kick sets actually kill me. I work my legs enough in the bike and run workouts that I think I don't need to practice kicking. Hold a kick board and don't use your arms for a while. ugh. torture. Triathletes typically don't use swim kicking for forward propulsion anyway, just to maintain body position. I do still swim faster when kicking than just pulling, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy a 700 yard kick set like we did last night.

Paddles really mess with my arm entry and catch in the water, so I have a really tough time using them. Same thing with fins. They make you go so fast that I don't get to use my arms as much and that feels like I'm defeating the purpose of being out there. Plus I tend to get lots of calf and foot cramps when I use fins. It freaks me out and I don't like it. I also get calf cramps from pushing off of the wall too hard.

And since I just stuck a bunch of links out there to my favorite online swim gear website, I should mention that the outlet/clearance section of is fantastic. I've gotten some great suits from there.


How does this affect speed when running? Swimming, by nature, works your entire body. Heavy volumes of swimming will raise your overall level of fitness immensely. It works all of those tiny muscles behind your abs, in your lower back, upper back, glutes, shoulders, pecs, triceps, everything. It's the best whole body workout you will find. And there's zero impact unless you run into a wall (hey, it happens if you don't wear goggles).

Since you spend most of your time face down in the water and focus on breath control and breathing patterns, it teaches your aerobic system to process oxygen more efficiently. You will raise your VO2 Max with regular swimming. This is a huge factor in fast running. I think this is the biggest benefit runners can get from adding in regular swim workouts.


Don't start swimming while you are trying to lose weight! Yes, it's a huge calorie burner, so after a good hard swim workout I will eat twice what my normal recovery snack is. You can't swim very much and stay inside of the 1800 calorie a day intake limit/600 calorie burn limit from Step 1.

Yes we've all seen the kind of hardbodies produced by Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. But they also take in 12,000 calories a day. After you've hit your target weight, adding in swimming with a more protein based diet can really sculpt your abs, yes. You will build some amazing pecs and shoulders.

Final Word
Good form - face down, body rotated, arm taking a nice entry angle into the water. I wish my feet were higher, you should see me kicking more here. But this was at the start of the OBX half iron last month, and I tend to not kick much when there are so many other people swimming around me. Don't want to kick anyone else in the face.

Seriously. Google "masters swim team" and your city name and I'm certain there is a team or two that you can choose from. They will normally let you go a couple of times for free before you decide to join, but the workouts are so good that you will want to join.

After Ironman Florida, I'm going cut back my cycling during the winter. Regular triathlon training wants you to get in three swims, three bike rides, and three runs every week plus strength training and stretching/yoga. I want to spend the off season swimming twice a week with the RAM team, and running three or four times a week. Occasionally I'll hit the stationary bike if I miss a swim practice, and I'll get in more yoga and strength work early in the mornings. But I believe that swimming + running is going to give me the best combination for fast running over the winter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's ON!

October is finally really here! It's here with a bang too. Let's see how September turned out:

Swim: 18,400 m, 7 swims
Bike: 418.5 miles, 15 rides
Run: 107.1 miles, 13 runs
Strength: 2 sessions
Yoga: 1 session

Wow, the S/B/R is looking like I'm in an Ironman build phase. Don't forget I lost 3 days at the start of September to strep throat, then the next week (almost) was a recovery time to get back up to speed. The only race for the month was the OBX half iron, which turned out to be a fantastic weekend and wonderful race, but there was a few recovery days after the race too.

This is also the first month that's been 18k+, 400+ and 100+ on the distance totals. There have been 400+ mile bike months that only had 75 miles running, and 18k+ meter swim months with 300 bike miles. But this is the first time that it all came together cleanly. Those numbers don't play games. Plenty of people in Kona this week are lucky to get that much training done.

Kona is racing the world championships again this upcoming saturday and I have to give huge props and shout-outs to Ryan and Marni who are out there giving it their best. Good luck guys!

October has roared in like a lion! Thanks to a cold air mass that came down from Canada and covered the east coast, we went from 85 degrees on thursday and friday, to 63 degrees saturday and sunday. Today is also supposed to stay in the low 60's before getting back up to the mid-70's for the rest of the week.

This is insane. I like the 70's. Warm enough to wear shorts but you won't be uncomfortable in a sweater either. Pleasant to run in and you won't freeze your toes on the bike. Too cold for open water swims but the indoor pools we practice in are still regulation temps. Why does it really want to skim the 70's like that? The Carolina's only get about 2 weeks of fall every year anyway, and I'm afraid you just clipped what should have been a pleasant weekend.

This weekend still was pretty pleasant. Saturday I threw the bike on the trainer for 2.5 hours and got in a real solid ride while watching football. I was supposed to ride longer but Kelley's dad scored some tickets to the NC State / Ga Tech football game that started at 3:30, so we all got dressed and went out there for the game. The seats were fantastic, but we were on the home sideline and in the shade the whole time. So it got really cold - too cold for the kids. Plus State was really playing a stinker out there so we chucked the game a bit early.

Sunday was fun. I hit the gym so I could watch football while running. The Panthers really blew a decent game. The Bears were pretty dominating, but Cam Newton still ended up with some decent numbers. He only seemed to make really bad throws when he needed to make good passes. Poor mistake timing I guess.

And while I was there watching football, I ran 18 miles straight at an 8:00 pace, no walking. It was awesome. I felt great, but could have used some more nutrition if I was going farther. I got home and noticed my nipples were actually bleeding. There's a first time for everything huh? It was a solid run. My heart rate never got very high, breathing never got hard. Just solid all the way around.

Once I got some recovery nutrition in me and stopped the gunshot wounds from bleeding, it ended up being a really pleasant evening. Bigun and I did some craft projects together. She's incredibly excited about the Indian Princesses first tribe meeting tonight. Today is her first day back at school, she was tracked out for most of September. Evil Genius had a great weekend too, she's very excited about the cold weather. We sparked up the gas logs in the fireplace, and she was loving that.

The pressing question seems to be "why don't I just walk to the gym if it's across the street from my house"? Well, that has a lot of answers but it's really the same problem: where our house is. We live in the ghetto. Most nights I work out after the kids go to bed, and you don't want to walk these streets after dark. Then, we live *on* one of the busiest roads in Raleigh. It's a four lane divided boulevard that runs on one side of the NC State campus. So there's thousands of cars on there every day and it's very easy to find our house. Imagine walking across Peachtree Industrial blvd in Atlanta/Norcross. That's the closest comparison I can think of. Actually Peachtree Industrial is 6 lanes and this is only 4. But it's the same amount of traffic. I have walked it a couple of times when we've had a car in the shop or something. It's not fun. After crossing the street I have to walk through this seedy apartment complex. ugh. Driving it takes a right turn onto the big road, then left turns at the next two stop lights to get around the divided median. It's just not as easy as it sounds.

This week is a bit of a recovery week, but I'll still push it pretty hard. Last week, at 19 hours, was the biggest week in the entire training plan. Only three more weeks in the build phase before a 2 week taper.

It's ON is a reference to a calendar. We keep a dry erase calendar with that month's events, and it typically holds 5 weeks worth of data. We started the calendar this month with Sunday Oct 2nd, so the last week is actually the first week of November, including Saturday the 5th when I'll be crushing IMFL. I usually get freaked out when dates start to show up, like when I buy a gallon of milk that expires after my birthday or something. This is that freak-out moment. I have to stare down the handwriting on the calendar now for the rest of this month. We start traveling on November 1st. Time to make sure all of the final plans are in place, people are lined up to keep the kids, everything else is solid and ready for the trip. Taking Roberta into the shop today for a final tune-up. Seeing the race date on the calendar puts the timeline really into perspective. It's go time!