Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pro Recovery Tips For Your Ironman Race

First off, huge congrats on your Ironman finish!!! Here are some tips on recovering faster from your Ironman. Please note that everyone's Ironman was different and everyone will have varying amounts of soreness.

Soreness is just one easily perceived feeling from your race, but there are so many things internally that are happening to your body that you can't see or feel. It is important to not let soreness be your sole barometer for whether or not you are recovered. Your soreness will likely be gone in days, but it could take weeks or months before you are fully recovered from your Ironman.

These tips will help your entire body recovery faster:

Night of race

A must post race for DIY protein drinks
#1 - Drink a protein shake as soon as possible after the race. This will start the recovery process as soon as possible. You will get plenty of carbs at the food tent, but there are usually no easily digestible protein options so have a family member bring one of these to you shortly after the race. You can stop at the local drug store and get a six pack of Ensure or bars as well. I prefer to put some whey protein isolate in a Blender Bottle as I drink protein shakes everyday. It doesn't really matter as long as there are some quick absorbing proteins in it. Whey is quick absorbing.

#2 - Keep moving - the night of the Ironman you might have a trouble sleeping either because of pain and discomfort, or because you took a whole lot of caffeine. If need be go for a 30 minute walk before bed if you finished in the 9-14 hour range. Light movement is the best thing you can do for your body post race to flush the legs.

#3 - Sit in recovery boots. If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of recovery boots sit in them for 30 minutes before going to bed. No doubt you have seen Normatec's at Ironman Expos but you can get a similar experience for under $400 (1/6 of the price of Normatec) with the Air Relax system. The Air Relax system is very nice, as is the Normatec, but they are less affordable.
Recovery Boots - A must for flushing all the edema post Ironman
#4 - Drink another protein shake right before bed

Post Race - Day 1 

I prefer pure Whey Isolate from reputable brands like ON
#1 - Drink a protein shake for breakfast and a glass of water. Your body needs fuel and protein to continue the recovery process. Have this before your normal breakfast. Real food takes too long to break-down and you want to keep the recovery process going.

#2 - Keep moving - if there are morning festivities for the race, attend them and try to go for a light walk before and after.

#3 - Avoid caffeine - caffeine is going to add further stress to the system. Avoid it if you can as it will speed up recovery. I understand there may be situations where you need caffeine, like you have a long drive home and you need to stay awake.

#4 - Drink lots of water - your body could easily be 10lbs heavier than before the race. Ironmans are incredibly tough on the body and cankles and fluid build up (edema) is quite common. Your body is holding on to a ton of fluid for a variety of reasons, but it is important to keep drinking water to help clear waste.

For my body at my usual effort it can take days to get back to a normal weight. Depending on how fit you are, your body and body type, and how deep you had to dig in relationship to your fitness, your retention period will vary. Regardless this is not a 70.3. Ironmans really tax the body and you may not be used to this kind of swelling.

#5 - Take a nap. If you have the time take a nap. The more naps the better. Don't think of naps as being lazy, think of them as aiding the recovery process.

Bromelain ie Pineapple Enzyme -
 Natural anti-inflammatory + Breaks down proteins
#6 - Avoid NSAIDs and other painkillers. Anti-inflammatories are going to be hard on your system. If you need something for pain look to natural anti-inflammatories like Bromelain, the enzyme in Pineapple that is an anti-inflammatory. You can buy Bromelain itself which is extracted from Pineapple and is very affordable. It also aids in the breakdown of proteins which will also help the recovery process. My recommendation is this Source Naturals 2-pack. 240 tablets in total.

#7 - Drink a protein shake for lunch and dinner along with normal food.

#8 - Take short frequent walks - this really helps promote blood flow and flushes the legs.

#9 - No running - If you are an exercise junky please refrain from running. If you feel really really good you could go for a short spin at the easiest possible effort for 15 mins. Swimming is your friend - a 1,000km swim is also acceptable. Absolutely no running.

#10 - Take a Epsom Salt Bath - Epsom salt can help relieve general soreness with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) - this is what you are feeling.

Epsom salt baths can promote bloodflow and helps with DOMS

#11 - Spend time in the boots - if you have the luxury keep using the boots. Ideally 3x30 mins sessions.

#12 - Take off work - hopefully you took a few days off work for your Ironman. If not consider it.

#13 - Be cognizant of germs - post-Ironman you have little to no immune system and it is very easy to get sick. I am not a stickler in general about germs but post-Ironman it is a good thing to think about and be a little more preventative. Often times post race you can't find any hand sanitizer but it is a great thing for your family to pack.

Post Race - Day 2

Post race day 2 is very similar to post race day 1. I won't re-write the tips, but you want to continue to do everything from Day 1.

If you are traveling via air and you have a long flight you want to make sure you get up mid flight and walk around a bit. You could very easily be even more sore on day 2. In addition, you might feel an overwhelming sense of lethargy. Believe me, although you can't feel or hear it, your heart is telling you that it is very tired.

If you are up to it, and have the energy, swimming is the best rehabilitation. Keep it very short and very easy. You can do up to 3, 1000 kms a day spaced out morning, lunch and dinner. If you did a hot race, swimming helps bring down your core temp. You can also walk or do a very light spin to promote recovery.

Post Race - Day 3

Re-read day 1 and day 2. The only real change on Day 3 is I add in some foam rolling to help facilitate recovery of the muscles and tissue. You can also get a massage as a replacement for foam rolling. You can stop the epsom salt baths or you can continue as well.

If you don't already foam roll then it is a good thing to get in habit of doing. Unfortunately, my favorite foam roller is a little tough on people who don't already foam roll. If you do foam roll, you will never go back to your old foam roller once you get used to the Rumble Roller. My preference is the firm black version for home and I have the blue (softer) in the smaller version that I take with me in my carry-on.

Rumble Roller - The best 'torture device' / foam roller in the world.

Post Race - Day 4

Again re-read the prior days. There is no additions and subtractions on day 4. Day 4 is the last day of what I call the "acute recovery phase".

Post Race - Day 5-7

There is less of need for hydration and protein shakes. You can resume your normal diet and your daily coffee. Your body may or may not be back in equilibrium - if you are someone who frequently weighs themselves, you may weigh yourself but keep in mind you may still be holding on to a lot of water.

Personally I do a lot of swimming after an Ironman but I do this for a living so I need to keep working towards my next event. I will usually see a lot of fluid come out of my body during my swims on Day 3 and Day 4.

When it comes to eating, I suggest people be mindful of what they are eating. Likely your immediate soreness is gone but your body may still have weeks and months ahead of it to fully recovery.  It is perfectly acceptable to gain a few pounds, but remember your body doesn't necessarily need the same amount of fuel as it did during training.

I would keep any exercise to really easy swimming and biking to continue to promote bloodflow and recovery to the tissues. Walking is always good too. Your own feel is your best barometer.

Post Race - Week 2 and Beyond

It is hard to write tips for the masses as everyone has different goals. Some people are one and done and will never do another Ironman. Some people were itching to get back to training the day after they finished.

Regardless of your future Ironmans plans, know that you spent a lot of time and preparation for your Ironman race. You probably spent so much time that the training may have defined who you are and gave you a real sense of purpose.

FYI, there is such a thing as the post-Ironman blues and it is a common feeling. My suggestion is to make fitness a life long process even if you never do another Ironman again. Exercising is great for the brain, but if you don't feel like it then take this time and spend it on family, friends, work and other hobbies you may have neglected in your training. If you want to continue your journey start planning the next one.

If you have any feedback please let me know below!! Otherwise, congratulations on your race, I know each Ironman finish is a very special feeling. I know I look forward to my next finish, my next win, and hopefully some day a World Championship on The Big Island of Hawaii.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

First Time Ironman Tips From Age-Grouper Turned Pro

Practicing what a preach - Starting slow to finish strong!!!
For those that are not aware, I am one of the few professionals out there that has raced at the Ironman World Championship in Kona as both age-grouper (2010) and a pro (2013). Before turning professional I did over 15 Ironmans as an amatuer, and my second triathlon ever was an Ironman!!! I have a 4:15 Ironman bike split to my name and 8:20 finish with a win at Ironman Wisconsin and a second at Ironman Louisville.

Here are some simple tips for your first Ironman. This is written for the first time Ironman athlete or middle of the pack experienced Ironman triathlete. Some of these may sound repetitive. I can promise you that is for a specific reason.

1# - Slow down - Ironman is supposed to feel easy at the beginning. If it doesn't feel easy then you are definitely going too hard. Ironman gets tough somewhere around mile 18-19 of the run. If it feels easy and you get carried away then you are in for a long day. Start slow and finish strong!!!

#2 - Be Realistic, Set Goals - I see a lot of people who are running 8 min miles (3:30 marathon pace) in training, or even 7:30 (3:17 marathon pace). I realize that might sound fast based on your own goals, but the point is people are not realistic about what is possible. You have professional guys and and gals who can run 6:00 min miles during a regular marathon who can't muster more than 8 min miles in an Ironman marathon. Ironman is tough. Be realistic with your goals.

If you have a coach I am sure you have a plan. Personally, I think all first-timers should set their goals to just finish and should NOT set a specific swim, bike or run time. As strange as it is, I believe this is the fastest and most enjoyable way to finish an Ironman.

#3 - 20% Percent rule - Spend the first 20% of each segment, ie, the swim, bike, and run, below the effort you would do for the remainder of the segment. The idea is that it is faster to start out slower and finish stronger than to go out too hard. If after 20% of the segment you feel really good you can dial it back up to your original 'planned' effort. If your plan was to start easy, then start really really easy. You get my point.

#4 - Plan to walk the aid stations - if you have a coach and he/she has NOT talked to you about walking aid stations then we have a problem. I have seen even world champions walk aid stations who end up running a 2:50. Walking aid stations gives your body a quick 15 seconds to recover, lets your heart rate fall, and absorb some calories while also taking in a few more calories. Regardless of your goal, even if you don't feel the need to walk just walk every aid station, I promise it will be faster. Walking aid stations isn't giving up, you are incorporating them into your race to help you finish faster, fresher, and stronger.

#5 - If food or drink keeps coming back up - You are going too hard and or taking in too much. Slow down and/or give your body a chance to digest what is in your stomach. You can't force it, your body is smarter and knows what it is doing.

#6 - Get good sleep - the night before the race you probably won't sleep well. You will be too excited. Focus on sleeping in as much as possible and going to bed early in the days leading up the race. If you have a swim with friends on say Friday morning but didn't sleep well that night then skip the swim and sleep in. Do whatever it takes to create the proper sleeping environment for yourself. If possible take an extra day off work, say Tuesday, and just relax.

#7 - Communicate, communicate, communicate - There are a ton of logistics that come with an Ironman. Only you know how much preparation you have done and chances are if you have family and friends coming to watch that they don't know what it takes to get to this point. Do the level of socialization that is enjoyable to you, but please communicate expectations with family members. Now is the time to be selfish not polite. Example of this might be going out for dinner with family or friends. Maybe they want to go out and celebrate but you just want to go to bed. Communicate your expectations before hand. Say to them you want to have dinner promptly at 6pm and be absolutely done by 7:30pm. There are many more examples, this is just one.

Personal anecdote. My dad wanted to come watch me doing the 2010 Ironman Louisville race. On Friday night he wanted to go to a baseball game in Louisville. It was 95+ degrees out with humidity. He didn't understand that this not a good situation for someone doing an Ironman a day later, although difficult, I told him that I just wanted to sit in the hotel room with the AC.

#8 - Don't put yourself in stressful situations - like the one above, don't put yourself in stressful situations. Stress is hard on the body. Whatever is stressful to you don't do. What is stressful to some might be therapy for others. During Ironman you will do more work in a day than many people do in a year. Stress is cumulative so if you are stressing yourself out pre-race you are just making your Ironman finish more difficult. Do whatever it takes for you to shed stress. Maybe that is a solo walk, mediation, or some yoga.

#9 - Smile - If you can't smile at any point in the race you are going too hard! Seriously, I have been saying this for years, even as a professional. If you can't smile at any point in the race then please slow down. Slowing down will actually help you finish the race faster in the end. I practice this to this day in Ironman as a professional, it surely applies to first-timers.

#10 - Control Your Emotions - It is super easy coming out of the swim and off the bike to plow thru transition and onto the bike or run. You have all these screaming fans and family and you feel like a celebrity. The feeling can be truly amazing, but you need to stay focused, and slow-down. It is easy to say you are going to control yourself, but it is easier said than done. Chances are the highest your heart rate will be all day is coming out of the swim, yet people find it necessary to bolt thru transition. Slow down!!!

#8 Enjoy the moment - there are two types of Ironman finishers. Those people who run down the finishing chute 3 mins faster than their marathon pace or those those that finish 3 mins slower than their marathon pace. Personally, I would rather be the 3 mins slower person. Collect yourself prior to the finish, enjoy the amazing feeling that comes with knowing all your hard work has gone into finishing something incredible. If you sprint down the finisher chute not only do you risk a more dramatic passing out at the finish line, you will also have shortened the amazing feeling that comes with finishing an Ironman.

Ironman is a long day, as a first timer your body has never gone so far and it is far better to start out more conservatively than the other way around. Be slow and finish strong!!! Have a great race :)

Lastly, I wanted to highlight 3-products post race that I use to help recovery.

1# - Focus on simply quality protein frequently to help the repair process. Post race I am having at least 3x 30g protein shakes (morning, lunch, and dinner) for 4 days post race. I typically use Optimum Whey. I prefer pure Whey Isolate but it is more expensive. Btw, this is in addition to the normal food I am eating and the body is craving.

3x 30g Protein Shakes a day post Ironman on Mon, Tues, Wed, and Thur

#2 - No doubt you have seen the Normatec Recovery Pumps boots in a magazine or at a race. Normatecs are really great but too expensive for most people. As a result, you can get all the benefits of Normatec at 1/6th of the price by going with the Air Relax system. I will sit in these easily 2-3 a day post race for at least 30 minutes, up to 90 minutes.

Air Relax

#3 - Depending on how sore the body is (this will be wildly different depending on how hard you ran/ walked the marathon) I like to also roll out the legs starting on Tuesday or Wednesday for a Sunday Ironman. I have used this particular Rumbler Roller for years and it goes everywhere with me, but if you don't have a foam roller chances are it will probably be a little much. If you have a foam roller, chances are you don't have a Rumble Roller and once you have a Rumble Roller you never will go back. If you don't have a foam roller definitely start with the blue Rumble Roller or just start with a basic soft foam roller.

My foam roller of choice the Rumble Roller - I prefer the hard black version

Friday, July 8, 2016

Giro Aerohead Mips Triathlon Aero Helmet Fastest

Giro Aerohead Mips Actual Weight - Medium
For those that are not aware, the Giro Aerohead is appearing in the wild. I actually just got mine today. I picked up a medium (55cm-59cm) and it fits true to size in comparison to my past aero helmets.  For the weight weenies out there, mine measures in at a hefty 448 grams but given the aerodynamic promises of this helmet that will be very easily offset. Most online stores don't seem to have it in stock but you can get it next day via Amazon Prime: Giro Aerohead Mips

I wanted to briefly discuss my helmet choice for the remainder of the year. I do not have a helmet sponsor, nor would I want one. Having a helmet sponsor costs more than it is worth for almost every sponsored athlete unless it just happens to be the exact right helmet for the person.

My previous helmet was a helmet that tested well on many people at ERO. ERO is a company that tests aerodynamics outside the wind tunnel and is usually done on an indoor track. That helmet was the LG P-09. Although I hadn't actually tested the LG P-09 myself, given that it tested so well for so many people I decided that probability would dictate it being a good buying decision. I did happen to go to the wind tunnel this year and the wind tunnel confirmed the LG P-09 was the fastest helmet for me.

With that being said, there is a new sheriff in town. Giro developed this helmet in conjunction with ERO and they have put a ton of engineering behind it. Specifically the shape of the lens is where a lot of the aerodynamics of this helmet come from. Despite not testing this in the wind tunnel myself, I am going with this helmet from here on forward. Although the Giro Aerohead Ultimate MIPS is technically faster, it is also significantly warmer and for long triathlons over-heating can be a real concern.

Having had just a brief chance to ride the helmet here are my thoughts. The helmet is nice, it feels nice, it feels sturdy, and it feels fast. It does actually feel fast, granted I usually don't train on an aero helmet so coming from a non-aero helmet this make a big differences. I am not a huge visor fan, in the past I have always opted for glasses, but since this visor is designed so specifically for aerodynamics you pretty much have to wear it to get the full aero benefits. With that being said it isn't bad. I do notice that this is going to be a bit hotter for me than my P09 and I will have further to say after I race in some hot races. Look at the heat data below, I can't imagine wearing the full ultimate MIPS helmet. The visor is magnetic, and on the brutal crack-filled roads of Wisconsin, it stayed put.

Race Update (added July 14, 2016). This past weekend I had a chance to do my first race with the helmet. The bad news is that the visor popped off in transition, resulting in me having to bend over and pick it up. I kind of just threw it at the face and after the second attempt it found its place. May have cost me 3-4 seconds. The good news is that despite that I won the race, and went significantly faster than I have ever gone before, like minutes on a 19 miles course. To be fair I don't have power number comparison + all the other changes I have made this year.

Overall, this helmet is a winner and my aero helmet choice until something better comes along. The following is public marketing data from Giro. Please note, I purchased this helmet with my own money and have no support from Giro. If you want to help support my writing I encourage you purchase via this link as that helps me a tiny bit + you get some positive race karma from me!!!

Giro Aerohead Windtunnel Data