Tuesday, April 30, 2013


What is it with me and springtime colds?

Woke up yesterday feeling a little congested and with a scratchy throat, but was hoping that nothing would come of it.   Got up early today to join the group swim session, but there was no way.  Sweaty, sneezing, coughing - the whole package.  I think I did more than a dozen consecutive sneezes at one point today! Ugh!   A residual of Beaver Dam Olympic?   That ridiculous 5K I did in Chicago last week?   The triple brick this weekend?  Who knows?   All I know is that it completely and utterly sucks!

Why do these things always seem to happen when you are coming into a crucial training block for a big race (in this case Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in just over a month)?   

I have learned to remain (reasonably) calm and accept that "shit happens" in familiy life and at work and I generally stay pretty philosophical (and sometimes positively zen) when they cause me to miss a work out.   I stand by my family>work>training philosophy.  But when I get sick it annoys the crap out of me.   Should I rest?   Will trying to push through make things better or worse?

Rest for sure today and fingers crossed that this thing is short lived!

Addendum:   OK, freaky.......   Right after I finished writing this The Coachman published the One Step Beyond Newsletter that includes these words of wisdom....

Adjusting Expectations
Marty Gaal, CSCS

Part of any well-rounded athletic training program includes realistic goal setting.  Goal setting can be as simple as losing X amount of weight and 'getting into better shape,' or include targeting a specific time / performance goal at a specific event.  In the endurance athletic world the tendency is towards the latter although there is nothing wrong at all with the former.

As the season progresses, you should see measurable results via improved body composition, increased endurance, and increased speed at certain effort levels. These interim milestones allow you to adjust your future expectations upwards or downwards.

Interruptions and adjustments are a part of life.  Most adult triathletes have multiple commitments including family harmony and work-related stress like travel, deadlines, and unsupportive bosses.  Your initial goal of winning your age group in a big race may not be realistic after you had to spend two weeks visiting multiple job sites and working 15 hour days.  Or you may run into the cold hard reality that you are not, in fact, Superman or Superwoman and can only burn the candle at both ends for a few days at a time before you need time off of training to mentally rest and relax.

In an ideal world, you will successfully handle all of the above as well as the sort of training required to meet your goals.  You'll arrive at your goal race well-prepared to execute and meet or beat your personal goals.

However, that's not always the case.  Everything in sum may become overwhelming.  If this sounds like you, here are a few tips to keep yourself motivated and enjoying all the training you are able to complete.

Prioritize.  Make sure you understand what is most important to you and then work from there.  Most of us put more value into keeping our families happy and keeping our jobs. 

Adjust your time commitment and performance goals.  If your original Ironman season plan had your average hours set at 15 hours of training per week (for example), accept that this may be unrealistic for you. Slice a couple hours off and expect to be 5-10% slower than you would have been.  You can still have a great day and will be in terrific shape.

Make it social.  Endurance athletics is ultimately an individual sport where you excel through your personal work habits and individual ability. You can take some of the sting out of lowered expectations by expanding your worldview to value the social side of training with groups and friends.

Enjoy the little things. Rather than stress about not being able to repeat sub-6 minute miles (for example) on a running interval day, revel in the fact that you can do several miles at sub-6:30 pace and come back to train again the following day.

Take the long view. While this particular season or training cycle may not be the best you could have achieved had everything else in your life gone according to plan, doing the best you can with the time and energy you do have will set you up for future successes, when life outside of athletics may not be so challenging.

Success in endurance athletics is not built on one season of training and racing alone.  You may have heard of the 10,000 hour rule. This is the idea that it takes that many hours of practice to become truly skilled in an endeavor.  While it may not take quite that much time for each individual, it gives you some idea of the amount of work it takes to become really, really good.  Those superfast athletes you are hoping to mix it up with did not start out that way.  All of them have practiced consistently for years and years.  No one can jam that much practice into just one season!

When push comes to shove, your satisfaction in sport is based on simple factors: Accepting your current limitations and doing the best you can to challenge those limitations within the framework of the rest of your life. Do that, and you will have the mental capacity to repeat the athletic goal setting process for the rest of your life.   Rage against the machine and you will experience untimely burnout and frustration, which will negatively affect both your physical and mental well-being.

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is lead coach and co-founder of One Step Beyond. Marty and his wife Brianne work with endurance athletes around the globe.

No raging agaist the machine!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Another Brick in the Wall

Yestarday saw me participate in the much anticipated "triple brick" workout with several other lunatics athletes from the One Step Beyond Racing Team.

For the unititiated, a typical "brick" workout features a bike ride followed by a quick transition into a run, thus duplicating the second transition in a race.   You will occasionally also see a swim to bike brick or a reverse run to bike workout.  This one, however, was far more daunting and a new experience for me....   a triple brick.

Here's what it looked like on paper:
  • An 18 mile bike ride
  • A 30 minute run
  • Another 18 mile bike ride
  • A 25 minute run
  • Yet another 18 mile bike ride
  • A 20 minute run
Yes.  Nothing too it, right?   :-)

Yesterday morning was showery, but I was happy that we weren't scheduled to roll out of the White Oak entrance to the American Tobacco Trail until 9 am, so at least I managed to catch-up on a little sleep after a heavy week working in all Chicago last week (including a 5K race run in lab coats, but that's another story).

I was impressed by the turn out and it was great to meet a few more members of the One Step Beyond Team.   Also good to catch-up with Audrey Schipprack, who I haven't seen since a triathlon camp last year.  I also discovered that I'm not the only Brit in the team when I met Ann (Anne?) (McDonald?) - at least there will be someone who will understand my obsure curse words and sarcastic sense of humor!

Most of the gang before we started (photo credits:  The Coachman)
The first bike loop was pretty controlled.  No one wanted to burn out too soon and there was lots of jovial banter. Cory and Daniel weren't going to be limited to just 18 mile loops though and took off for something that I think was closer to 30 miles on each loop - Oh to be that young and fit!  I did manage to do my share of "pulling" on the front and felt good about that and soon we were back and ready to head out on the first 30 min out-and-back run on the trail.   The Coachman snapped another...

Does Audrey need the potty? 
Was it sloping ground?  I'm sure I'm not that much taller than everyone else!
 The first run was fine.  As always the faster guys left me behind, but I had company and chatted as we were going along.  No issues and I felt good getting back onto the bike.

When ride two started though, the pressure began to mount.  There are some seriously fast bikers out there.  Erin and Kerry went off the front while the rest of us stayed in a pack and pulled a pretty good pace.  I forgot my Garmin, so I don't have data, but it must have been comfortably 20 mph plus. I was very pleased to be able to hang on, but my legs were feeling it a bit when we got in and let's just say that I was significantly slower on my second run!

Ready for run number two
I knew that I wasn't going to be able to "hang with the big boys and girls" on the third bike lap and the speedsters left me after only a short distance into the loop.  Never-the-less I pulled up my big boy pants and set a nice cadence, determined to ride my best.  I was happy when Audrey showed-up and we paced each other in, never let up and ultimately put up what I think a very respectable performance.

The final run was an absolute slog and I was extremely happy when I reached the ten minute mark and was able to turn for home and complete an epic training session. 

(Most of) the survivors.  The Coachman made it into this shot (who wears shades when it's raining?). 
What the heck is Kerry doing?  And is Audrey desperate for a pee again?
Overall it was a horrible experience and I can't wait to do it again!  Even more exciting, there's a whole lot more fodder for blog nicknames in the above photos!  Look out people, I'm coming for you!

Post script:   Vidal lives....     at the end of the work out a couple of the ladies gave me crap about my hair and, as far as I know, this was completely unprompted by Compass, Snort or Flipper Ass.   I guess it must be true!   :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

IOS Beaver Dam Olympic Race Report

Yesterday was the Inside Out Sports Beaver Dam Olympic triathlon, which is held at Beaver Dam State Park on Falls Lake - not too far north of home.  The short travel distance and the fact that the race wasn't scheduled to start until 09:30 (very civilized!) meant that I could set my alarm for 6 am.  Nice!

Compass kindly agreed to drive and turned-up at 07:00 in her hubby's Nissan Xterra with Dunkin Donuts coffee and a tasty breakfast flatbread sandwich for me.  (Thanks Compass!)   After chatting a while we loaded The Slut into the back; double checked that I had all of my gear and nutrition and headed out for the short drive up Creedmoor Road to the event.   Note to self:   Compass has awful taste in radio stations and likes to drive while dancing with no hands on the wheel - make sure your seat belt is secure!!

We were relatively early arrivals and there was quite a bit of activity going on as the previous evening's thunderstorms with 70 mph straight line winds had blown a lot of stuff around, including the swim buoys, which were now distributed all over Falls Lake!   This ultimately resulted in the race starting a little late, but nothing too bad and the FS Series guys did a great job of pulling things back together.

It was a little chilly when we arrived, as documented by this picture of Compass:

Brrrr....   what the Hell am I doing here?
I ran down to registration/packet pick-up while Compass (who picked up her race numbers the evening before) kindly moved my gear to the transition area.   By pure coincidence we were racked right next to each other, so we were able to chat while laying out gear and chatting to several other triathletes who we know.

The Slut in all her glory
Line for Registration

Compass setting-up transition
It was nice to run into and chat to two super fast ladies who we know and who were also racked very close to us.  Shannon Lowery ultimately finished second overall lady and Caroline Kratz finished first.   Caroline is an amazing athlete who rowed for the US in the world championships and (I think) the Beijing Olympics.  She's 6 ft tall and an absolute beast on the bike (trust me I have ridden with her before!).  She has become an uber fast triathlete and, to make us hate her even more :-) she does all of this while being a mother of five.  Amazing!   Her winning time was 02:27.   That is FAST!

Soon we were ready and it was time for warm-ups.  We went for a short ride on the opening stretches of the bike course and then back for a run.  At this point we ran into one of SWMBO's friends Gina Stephens, who was delivering finish line food.  We were tempted to forget the race, take the pastries and run off to the woods for a picnic, but sanity prevailed!  

A short distance into the warm-up run I knew there was something odd going on with my right knee.  Not much I could do at this stage, so I put to the back of my mind and continued to jog while Compass did a few sprints.

Next it was wet suits on and down for a warm-up swim (especially as this was my first "in anger" outing for my new long-sleeved Xterra wet suit.  The water temperature was surprisingly pleasant and after a short swim and the usual pre-race meeting (which, sadly, this time included a moment of silence for the victims of the horrible recent events in Boston) we were ready to go!

Swim:   1500 M roughly rectangular course.

I was in the second of three start waves and it was an "in-water" (waste deep) start.   I chose to start at the front, but on the outside.  There was the usual melee for the first 50 yards or so and someone caught me a pretty good blow to the head (but politely apologized!), but I soon found some reasonably clear water and a reasonably good rhythm.   No issues with the new wet suit - phew!   The first turn buoy seemed to take an eternity to reach, but by now I was swimming among some of the "blue caps" from the wave that started three minutes ahead of us and that's always a good feeling.   Of course later I would also find myself swimming with a few speedy "pink cap" ladies from the wave behind, but that's OK - I'm realistic and there weren't too many of them!  :-)

Basically for the whole swim I felt reasonably good without pushing things too hard.  Stay in control; stay in control!   I sighted reasonably well I think, but it was a little tough on the return leg because of the sun now glaring off the water. 

Time:   32 minutes 51 seconds (including the run up to transition).

I am reasonably pleased with this.  The last Olympic swim I did was around 41 minutes (admittedly including a longer run) so I seem to be moving in the right direction.  On top of that, anecdotally, two different people we spoke to after the race who were wearing their Garmins during the swim, both said the course measured at 1.16 miles which is considerably longer than 1500 meters!

Transition One:   Uneventful.  No issues with getting the wet suit off.  Short run to bike mount.

Bike:  26.5 miles.  Tough hilly course.

I ride these roads regularly, so I knew what we were in for!   I think this is a tough course for racing because it is continually rolling terrain and there are a couple of bigger hills on Purnell and Ghoshton Roads.   I think that I rode reasonably strongly and stayed in the aero position well (as evidenced by my stiff neck this morning!) to combat the wind, which was quite sforceful at times.  As usual I chased down quite a few people and was "hunted" by many others.   Several guys from the same swim start wave as me flew by me at various parts of the ride - this always makes me wonder "if you're that damned fast on the bike, how can you possibly finish behind me in the swim?"

At one tight corner I almost "bought the farm" when I hit a pot hole, but after a bit of a death wobble and nearly riding onto the grass verge I just managed to stay upright.   I was worried that I might have punctured, but the only issue was a rubbing on my front brake that I managed to correct as I was riding.

Time:  01:28:08.   18.0 mph average.   Again, I'll take this on a difficult course.

Transition Two:  Again uneventful.

Run:   10k  (6.21 miles)

Again a pretty hilly course.  Two laps out-and-back.

I started steady and tried to keep an even pace for the first two miles.   I managed to lock the keys on my Garmin somehow, so I have no idea whether I actually achieved this!   Once I felt that I had my legs under me I tried to take it up a bit but almost immediately I felt some discomfort over my right knee.   I tool it down again and it subsided.  After a coupel more attempts I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and ran in at a steady pace.   I certainly didn't want to risk messing anything up with Ironman Raleigh 70.3 getting closer.

A nice thing about an out-and-back course is that you get to see your race buddies coming in the opposite direction and it was good to see Compass' smiling face a few times, as well as The Coachman (who was finishing the sprint distance race.  The Otter was also there cheering us on.

Compass is faster than me on the bike and, especially, the run.  She started in the wave three minutes behind me, so I knew that she would be chasing me down.  yet again I am "the hunted".   It turns out that she didn't have her best swim, so I extended that three minute advantage a bit early, but she reeled me in on the bike and was now closing on the run.  Even with having to run steady I was really hoping to cross the line before her and I just managed it.  As  soon as I crossed the line I turned around and there she was right behind me (meaning, of course, that she beat me by a little under three minutes as she started behind me).

Run Time:  55:31 (~8:55 pace)

Overall Time:   02:58:58

Final assessment:   Quite pleased with a sub three hour finish on a difficult course.  Will have to keep an eye on my knee, but otherwise a great training outing.

We spent some time "hanging" afterwards and I was able to introduce Compass to The Coachman and a few othes while we drank fluids and stuffed our faces.   I had a couple of chocolate chip cookies which the Coachman referred to as "High density recovery wafers".  Love it!

The Compass apparently having some sort of yard sale in transition after the race.

Pleased to be finished!

Goofing....    "look at the size of his gut!"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Hunter and the Hunted

So swim start waves have been posted for both the Inside Out Sports Beaver Dam Olympic Tiathlon being held this coming weekend and, more importantly, for Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in June.  Do I prefer to be the hunter or the hunted?

For those of you less familiar with triathlons, in most (but not all) races, the swim starts are staggered so as to avoid the chaos and confusion of hundreds or thousands of triathletes plunging into the water at the same time (as illustrated in the below pictures of Ironman starts in Coeur d'alene and Canada.....)

You can be absolutely sure that I would be one of the guys standing on the beach and waiting for the chaos to subside!
Beaver Dam this weekend is a smaller event (~350 people) so there are only three waves:

Men Under 40 at 09:30
Men over 40 (i.e. me!) at 09:34
Women at 09:38

No worries at all about this one.  It's very much a "C" race for me and I'm using it as a training opportunity rather than going out to try to break any records!   Starting in the middle will give me the chance to get the feel of a crowded open water swim again and (hopefully) give me some targets to chase down on the bike leg as I'm simultaneously being swallowed-up by all of the fast ladies starting behind me!   I'm pleased to be able to report that this group includes Compass, who has signed-up at the last minute.

The Ironman Raleigh 70.3 is a whole different kettle of fish!   I'm taking this one seriously!

At Rev.3 70.3 in South Carolina last October my start wave was the first among the "age groupers" and immediately after the pros.  Clearly unless one of them had some sort of medical incident or a SPECTACULARLY bad day, I wasn't going to catch any of them, so I had no one to chase all day and had to put up with being continually overtaken by the younger speedsters from the following waves (well, as I described in my race report, there was that one guy with a puncture and the other one who stopped to answer a call of nature!)  :-)   In general, I like to have a few people to use as "targets" to chase during the bike (and, now-and-again, during the run).

Here are the waves for Ironman Raleigh 70.3 start (which is a much bigger race with ~2,600 registered  competitors):

So....    it appears that I will be wearing a natty orange swim cap and again starting close to the front.  At first I wasn't sure that I liked this - I would rather have the opportunity to occasionally be a hunter rather than always being the hunted - but now that I think about it, I'm OKwith it for this particular race for a number of reasons:

1.   I do at least have the men 55 and older in front of me.   Surely there's someone in that wave slower than me?  There may also be fast swimmers from the waves behind who are less strong on the bike.

2.   Less time waiting at the start and less opportunity for nerves to take hold.

3.   It can get HOT in central North Carolina in June.  It's not going to be an issue for the swim, but it may very well be uncomfortable by the time that late morning rolls around and we're running 13.1 miles.   Better to get there sooner rather than later!

3.   If I'm not doing much overtaking on the bike there is little chance that I can pick-up an inadvertant drafting penalty - those roads are going to be pretty busy in places.

4.   High motivation to stay ahead of the likes of Compass, Snort, Flipper Ass and Rabbit, who will be starting about 45 mins behind me!

5.   With any luck I will have the opportunity to stand at the finish line after I'm done and cheer in some of my younger friends, training buddies and acquaintances who are starting behind me.

So.....   I'm OK with being "the hunted".   Bring it on and catch me if you can!

Hopefully I won't be carrying my bike, but it's the best picture I could find!  :-)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Stripper

Yes, I thought that title might catch a few people's attention....

I enjoyed a great 55 mile ride on Sunday on a gorgeous spring day here in central North Carolina.  My partner in crime for the ride was, as usual, the ever reliable Compass after Flipper Ass and Snort bailed on us claiming that they didn't want to ride the distance ahead of the Tar Heel Ten Miler this coming weekend.    Wimps!   But at least without them we didn't have to stop for the bathroom every five miles!   No....    we had to stop every five miles for something much more entertaining!

Before I go on I should remind everyone that Compass doesn't do well in cold weather.   For winter rides she routinely turns up looking like a sumo wrestler because of the number of layers she is wearing.  On top of that she wears a full mask that makes her look like a Ninja or some sort of deranged bank robber!   Many a time we have had to stop so that Compass can visit "her" pizza store somewhere in the middle of rural Durham county to warm-up half way through a ride.  [To be fair here, I have felt her hands while riding and they really do feel like blocks of ice!]

Anyway, we rolled out at 8 am and it was sunny and around 50 F.    I was wearing a thin long sleeved under-layer, a bike shirt and my bike shorts.   Compass, on the other hand had on numerous top layers, a hat under helmet, gloves and all manner of other cold weather clothing.   I thought about saying something, but who am I to judge?

Needless to say as the ride progressed the temperature warmed and so did we (assisted by a rogue pit bull terrier that decided to chase us down the road for 100 yards or so). 

About ten miles in we had to stop for Compass to remove her gloves....

    About fifteen miles in she stopped to remove a top layer.....

        About tewnty miles in we stopped so that she could take her hat off......

            The another layer had to come off.....    you get the picture.....

                  ....and so it continued for the entire ride.  I swear that if we had ridden another ten miles she would have been naked!   Best of all was when we stopped at a junction in Creedmoor and Compass told me to avert my eyes as she took off yet more layers.  After what seemed like a decent interval I turned to ask if she was ready only to see her on her bike in her sports bra and struggling to get her bike shirt back on.  Best of all there was now a line of traffic behind her enjoying the show.   I thought that one older fella in a truck was going to have a coronary!    :-)    I'm sure Sunday morning in Creedmoor has never been so exciting.....

Two famous album covers sprang to mind....

Looks just like her!

I may catch some flack for this one!

Riding with the ladies is never dull!   :-)