Sunday, September 29, 2013

9/23 - 9/29 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

The road less traveled
The road less traveled
Moving week. It is a week that has become a regular tradition in my own life. I have moved so many times in my life that I stopped counting long ago. Despite having lots of practice it never seems to get any easier. I continue to pare down my possessions each time and I find moving to be incredibly therapeutic and stressful at the same time. And despite not tracking my moves, I do track the number of times I have driven more than 1,000 miles in a single day and I have now done that 22 times. All of those rides were solo, most were with a complete car full of stuff and bikes hanging off the back.

It may not mean much to some but it means a lot to me. To me it defines my character. Swimming, biking, running and completing an Ironman is tough, but I know many people that have done it. I really don't know anyone that travels 1,000+ miles in a car by themselves - not even the professionals. I'm sure there are people out there, but for me it is a way to set a personal benchmark of what is achievable and to compete with myself. I'm sure a time will come when I won't be able to do such epic travel days but it serves as a slice of mental training as it stands.

Speaking of mental training. So often I hear athletes talking about reading books about mental toughness or mental training. They work with coaches, they practice what they can. I rarely pipe in an add my two cents on this topic, but my own two cents is that you simply can't learn about mental toughness in a book. Mental toughness comes from experiences where you are on the edge of complete shutdown/failure/breakdown and you push thru the mental barrier that exists. So often people think the barriers are physical but sometimes you have to free your mind and see that the barrier is really not physical and it is purely a man-made mental barrier.

And although epic travel days serves as a sort of mental training for me, every trip seems to have its own sort of adversity that pops up out of nowhere. This trip this past week was no exception when I ran into a gas station on empty. I'll share a longer version of the story but the short-end is that whoever built the Kansas Turnpike should be fired and have their pension revoked.

And now for some color. The Kansas Turnpike is one of those closed-road toll-roads giving you no opportunity to get off except at very few designated places. Services are placed incredibly sparsely, in this case 56 miles between service stations.


Map showing distance between two service station
on the closed-road Kansas Turnpike


To be fair, I guess I could have got off the toll-road, drove in to Topeka to get gas, and then got back on it. But that seemed like a pretty good detour to do so and the toll-road itself was already pricey, and I really didn't want to incur any additional fees or lose any additional time.

I also assumed there would be a service station slightly after Topeka, but we all know what happens when you assume. Well, that service station never appeared and I kept going with the dash light for gas popping on and off, on and off, and on and off. I was now heading southeast and the wind was roaring from none other than the southeast. Let the record stand that the average wind speed was 15mph SSE on the day, however looking at hourly data shows an average speed of more like 21mph SSE when I was going thru.

Historical weather data for Emporia, KS on Friday, September 27th


For those not familiar with wind speed that is a pretty good clip. And this is only compounded by the fact I was out in the middle of nowhere and not in a sheltered city. I was also towing two bikes on the bike and a loaded car. Instead of the 30-35 mpg I can get, I was getting somewhere around 15 miles.

Along the route, I was going back to all the close calls I had with gas. One of the closest ones I ever had was with my Cousin Bob driving across Alligator Ally in Florida for a New Year's Eve party. But at least they warn you in Alligator Ally with signs *Hey no gas for 50 miles, fill up now*. I was shocked I was never warned. Had I been warned I would have surely stopped. For those Seinfeld fans out there, the red gas line was so far below the E that I thought it was going to break off. For those who are not Seinfeld-aware I have posted the clip below.


Anyway, it finally came to a point where the was a chance to get off the highway. There was also a tiny sign that said next services 17 miles. The only problem was my on-board computer said I only had 11 miles left. I immediately pulled over and shut down the engine. I could get off and travel down some remote road, but services that way were not really any shorter. I could get off and drive very slowly to increase MPG but who knows what the route would be like, how many turns, stop-signs traffic, etc. Plus the time to go back and forth.

In the end I just decided to roll the dice. Worst case scenario I run out of gas and I end up getting in a ride. However, I really wanted to make it for time sake and that is where the knowledge of being a triathlete came in handy with regards to aerodynamics.

It is easy for car drivers just to push the pedal but as athletes the cost is directly felt by the required increased effort and thus we have a finer appreciation for efficient driving or at least we should. And although I don't drive with the AC and I had already shut off the audio system many miles back, I went one-step further and turned off the dashboard lights and kept the Nav system off. I further waited for a 18-wheeler in the distance and came up to speed slowly. It was a good timed effort and I grabbed the best draft I could without any punches to the accelerator. I gritted my teeth for the next 17 miles. I rolled into the gas station and naturally all the pumps were occupied, but I was able to secure a pump and turn back on the car computer systems and it said I had 1 mile left.

1 mile range as I rolled into the gas station


Besides that one snafu, everything else went ok. I even had the opportunity to enjoy a completely barren and obscure road in Texas. Over the course of 100 miles I saw two vehicles on that road - I saw more than two snakes on that road. It wasn't a route that my own Nav recommend nor Bing Maps, Google Maps, or Mapquest. But the road was a surreal experience for me. It was a reminder that there are so many ways to get from Madison to Tucson. I could have taken that highway road that so many take. The safe road, the plan... but that is the beauty in life and the beauty in freedom. There are many ways to the top of the mountain and I often choose the road less traveled. Yes, it is true that if you have problems on the road less traveled that you are often SOL. However in this case I was rewarded with a much faster route, shorter route and the blissfulness that is provided to me by a quiet open road.

As for training. I debated whether the move was appropriate timing with Kona on the Horizon. I'm not so worried about a little rest, but long-haul travel with 1000+ mile day and 800 mile day isn't easy and take something out of you in a different way. Coming to Tucson allows a little better heat acclimation prior to Kona and I still got in some decent training, but overall it was a very busy week with the move and that resulted in low volume and intensity.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 212 Miles / 17 hours 04 minutes
Swim: 13,747 yards / ~8 miles / 3 hours 52 minutes
Bike: 174 miles / 9 hours 31 minutes
Run: 29 miles / 3 hours 39 minutes
Core:  0 sessions / 0 hours 0 minutes

Sunday, September 22, 2013

9/16 - 9/22 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

Theme of the week was Open Water Swimming
It is the last week writing from the summer home base in Madison, Wisconsin. Next week I'm planning to be back in Tucson, Arizona. Thanks goodness for flexible roommates who seemingly support my transient lifestyle. This past week was a good week for the Kona build filled with lots and lots of open water swimming. In fact, it has been three weeks since I last swam in a pool and I have been loving every minute of it.

For some reason the lakes around here are clearer and "appear" cleaner than anytime in the past decade. Huge thanks to 2XU for their continued support. Thanks to the them I have had the proper wetsuit for whatever the lake temps and conditions have been. Some days have been sleeveless and some have been sleeved. Some days the waters has been incredibly choppy and others it has completely flat. It has rained, it has stormed, and the sun has shined bright. Regardless it beats the pool any day of the week. For those Madison residents or people visiting Madison, here are a couple of resources for you to help plan your open water swims:

- Lake Monona Ironman Wisconsin Water Temperature Charts & Graph
- Lake Mendota Water Temperature Charts & Graph
- Previous blog post of mine with 4 different open water swims

This week is jammed back with all sorts of moving related items so I'll see you next week from the Dirty-T.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 312 Miles / 25 hours 34 minutes
Swim: 25,274 yards / ~14 miles / 6 hours 39 minutes
Bike: 252 miles / 13 hours 36 minutes
Run: 45 miles / 5 hours 18 minutes
Core:  0 sessions / 0 hours 0 minutes

Monday, September 16, 2013

9/9 - 9/15 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

Spining the cranks easy on the trails of Madison, WI
A big part of my decision to drop out of Ironman Wisconsin was to get back to work in a mini-build towards Kona. Although it was incredibly hard to pull out, I know it was the right decision, but nonetheless I still had to grapple with it. I even debated finishing the 2nd loop of the run after I wrote my post last week. Unlike an Ironman finish with a solid performance, it actually took me to Wednesday to completely right myself emotionally and mentally. Towards the end of the week I really started to feel that itch coming back and my thoughts turned to Savageman and Ironman Lake Tahoe.

I had Savageman on the calendar and it is a course that fits my strengths - the course features a 29% grade climb. The desire to do this race was only accelerated by the fact that race management was switching over for 2014 and beyond and I assumed that the Pro race may be going away under race management and it may have been the last opportunity to do this infamous race.

Ironman Lake Tahoe is another race that I really want to do. Being a first year race it is hard for anyone to come in with a real course advantage. In addition, I know with the elevation profile and cold morning temps that this race could turn into a real war of attrition - you never know if there will be a year two. The desire to do the race was only compounded further by the number of friends doing this race and it is always good to catch up with good friends.

In the middle of the week I grappled with doing these races. Sometimes staying the course is a lot more difficult than you can imagine and I had to get creative in my attempts to stay the course. This creatively included gathering up every single race chainring, cassette, chain and pulley that I had and sending them back to Atomic to be recoated. Although you can't control your actual performance on race day, the one thing you can have is a clean bike and a clean drivetrain.

At Ironman Wisconsin I was the last one to rack my bike the day before and I had the opportunity to take a gander at everyone's drivetrain. Without a doubt I had more free speed and engineered speed going for me than anyone. The attention to detail by some of my competitors was absolutely lacking. To me it is something so simple to do and the thought of racing an uncoated drivetrain was enough to turn me off racing. Why show up with anything less than the best equipment?

Once I figured out how to avoid scratching that itch, I was able to get some solid training for the week. Had I finished Ironman Wisconsin I would have never been able to do some of the work that was accomplished.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 185 Miles / 20 hours 27 minutes
Swim: 22,968 yards / ~13 miles / 6 hours 37 minutes
Bike: 119 miles / 7 hours 03 minutes
Run: 53 miles / 6 hours 31 minutes
Core:  1/2 sessions / 0 hours 15 minutes

Sunday, September 8, 2013

9/2 - 9/8 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

Today I got out there and gave it a go at my 7th Ironman Wisconsin. Living only 1 block from the finish it is tough to miss this event, and it is the only opportunity all year to sleep in my own bed for a pro race. Leading up to the race I kept a steadfast line that "I was tired" and that was the truth. However, despite the fatigue, I knew with the experience and endurance that there was an outside chance that if everything went perfect on race day that I could win Ironman Wisconsin. I knew I would feel tired all week leading up to the race and crossed my fingers that I would feel good on race day.

I knew going in that I would need a season best swim to make my dreams a reality. In the warm Lake Monona water I opted to wear a 3mm thick 2XU sleeveless wetsuit. I knew the risk for my body was too high for overheating. It was a smart choice and even though a 5mm full-sleeve wetsuit may be faster in objective tests, personal experience has told me time and time again to be conservative. So with that I lined up for the race and got settled in on the feet of the eventual female winner Jackie Arendt. It was a smart decision. There was even a point where she started to go off course and I stayed on line. I thought about venturing ahead but I have made that mistake too many times this year and instead hopped back on her feet. The result was that I came out of the water ahead of guys I have come out behind all year. It was the swim I needed and I was only 4:30 back from the leaders.

Onto the bike and I made some quick progress past a few guys. I was riding ok but not spectacular. On the day it was one of the most challenging Ironman Wisconsin's I have ever done. You wouldn't know it though as men's winner Maik Twelsiek absolutely destroyed the bike course record. After about 30 miles or so I found myself in no man's land. Nobody in front that I could see and nobody in the back either. It was a very lonely ride and I kept expecting to get gobbled up by a large group of guys but it never happened. The last 20 miles or so I completely fell apart on the bike and that is when I needed the power the most as it was mostly a headwind and quite a strong one at that.

On to the run and I was in 7th. I knew the win was long gone and the plan was to run 6 miles or so to the turn-around of loop 1 and reassess. If a podium was an option then continue, if not, then continue the first loop and call it day. It was very evident at the turnaround that unless the field completely melted that there would be no podium on this day. So the result is the official record book is a DNF. I do want to thank everyone for the cheers and support!!

So although I did not finish Ironman Wisconsin I got what I needed out of the day. One of the hardest things for me to deal with is when I am completely happy with the result but others might not understand this and I know this will be one of those times. I talked early this year with a friend and well known pro about this and despite our discussion and some good advice it is still hard to grapple with it. It is even harder because I am committed to writing every week so there is no hiding from it. And it is only compounded because I smiled a lot out there and so many people acknowledged that and supported me out there. Lastly, it is only further compounded that I felt perfectly good out there.

Overall I love the sport and I am committed to my development as an athlete. However, Ironman racing is incredibly tough and finishing today would take away from my ability to do well at Kona. It would have been worthwhile in my opinion for a podium or win in my hometown, but not for 8th. I know so many people would give lots to trade shoes and I don't want to disrespect or take away from anyone's accomplishment on the day. I really do love this sport and the lifestyle, but ultimately I want to win one of these so I hope you can understand this.

Looking forward I will reassess this week for my plans regarding Kona. As of now I am planning to head back to Tucson in a couple of weeks but hope to get in some solid training before I leave. I will give some thought about Tahoe but after talking with Mike Reilly and Bryan Rhodes I will probably scrap it.
 
My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 264 Miles / 19 hours 27 minutes
Swim: 20,575 yards / ~10 miles / 4 hours 28 minutes
Bike: 225 miles / 11 hours 25 minutes
Run: 30 miles / 3 hours 33 minutes
Core:  0 sessions / 0 hours 0 minutes

Sunday, September 1, 2013

8/26 - 9/1 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

You would think after my 3rd place performance last week at Ironman Louisville that I may have earned a tiny bit of rest between it and Ironman Wisconsin. However, that is not how I chose to reward myself. Truthfully, I felt better after Ironman Louisville than I have ever felt post Ironman. This came as quite the surprise as although I did have an easier time on the bike there, I still had to run 26.2 in 90+ degree heat. Although I felt good, the ramp up was pretty steep with Monday being a complete travel day. Tuesday was a struggle but I made drastic improvements Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

On Friday I felt good enough that I decided I would head down to Southern Illinois and race in The Great Illini Triathlon. The Great Illini Triathlon is one of those races I always wanted to do and I had it on the race schedule last year but it got cancelled because of a hurricane. The race has been won the last two outings by Andrew Starykowicz and knowing his travel plans I fully expected him to be there to make it a three-peat.

As for the race itself, well Andrew was a no-show but that turned out to be welcome blessing because the Midwest heat wave was still in full force and we probably would have killed each out there. The temperature of the water was bath water, and although "officially" 82 degrees it was still legal to wear wetsuits in this no age-group awards race. Although many opted to wear wetsuits I went without it knowing full well that the greatest enemy of the day would be dehydration from both the heat and the sun.

The loose plan for the race was to find some feet and swim their pace or just swim easy. Then bike hard until I could figure out what kind of time I was putting into my competition. The bike had 24 turns and 5 out-and-backs all with 180 degree turnarounds. I would know exactly where I stood on the bike. Then run whatever pace it took to run for the win.

Execution of the plan was no different from the plan except for a little snafu during the swim. During the warm-up ride I thought the swim course looked a little short, but it wasn't until 60 seconds to the start that Chris Sweet informed me this was a two loop swim and that we don't go around all the buoys. Some additional buoys were out for a longer 1-loop Olympic swim. I really wasn't sure what to think at the time and I didn't know if he was joking, but good on Chris for being a true gentleman of the sport and letting me know.

Not fully understanding the course I decided to hop on Chris Sweet's feet until I could figure out what the true course was. I'm color blind and I already have a really tough time sighting buoys, so I was comfortable swimming his pace until I could get things figured out. Midway thru the first loop I got tired of the pace and moved ahead only to take a wrong turn and have to swim back to a buoy. It is a reminder that I need to be prepared to know the swim course. To cut myself some slack, I don't have a lot of experience leading swims, actually I have no experience, but I will certainly be more prepared in the future.

I exited the water with a solid 1.5 minute lead and headed out on the bike. It was about 12 miles or so to the first turnaround and I would get my first time check.  The lead was already up to 7 minutes. Another 8 miles later and it was up 9 minutes. At that point I was already getting concerned with the temps. The Garmin read 86 degrees and it was only 8am. Knowing that it would be impossible to make up a significant amount of time on the bike and run, and with Ironman Wisconsin coming up, I did the smart thing and just shut it down early. I would bike the remaining 36 miles at or below IM watts.

United States Weather for 8/31/2013
Look at that Southern Illinois Heat Index
On the run and I opted for socks in this 13.1 mile run. With the feet already tore up I didn't want to risk any further injury to the feet. I started the run at solid IM pace. My only incentive to run was to get out of the heat. Tony the race director came by and asked how I was doing. I asked him what the temp and dew point was. He knew the temp had risen to 91. Running thru the cornfields of Southern Illinois provided no relief from the heat and the sun. It was getting unbearable and I could feel my skin burning. Not sunburn, like actually burning. I was taking handfuls of ice at each aid station and wiping the body down - the ice was completely gone in 10 seconds or less. Six cups of water, gels, 2 cup of cola, ice and finding some relief under the tent of each aid station is what it took. It was pretty miserable.  My first time check came at mile 4.5 or so and I had a 17 minute lead on second. I soldiered on from one aid station to the next and took the chance to cool off at each one. It wasn't pretty, but in the end I got it done.

Ridiculous 75 degree Dew Point @ Race Site

Overall it was a great race and my first ever wire-to-wire win. It is always good to be back in Southern Illinois where my triathlon career started way back in 2006. The feel of these small town events is great and I love being able to park right next to transition, register, and do packet pickup on race morning. You also tend to get a lot of lifestyle triathletes and you can still learn a thing or two from people who have been doing triathlon for 20+ years.

Learning Something New - Great Little Way Of Organizing All Those Small Items 


As for Wisconsin, well the Men's list has some 30 pro males with only 6 finishing in the money. Earlier this year I remember talking with former Ironman World Champion Michellie Jones at Wildflower. We talked about lots but one thing we specifically talked about was how too many pro's log too many run miles in high heat and then tend to get "baked" for late season racing. Well in the last 3 weeks I have logged 100 miles in 90+ degree and high-midday sun. 40 of those miles came while racing, and 13.1 came with a heat index well over 100. I could be over-cooked for this weekend's race but it is what it is. I'm going to try to let up a little this week but with Kona on the Horizon I have to continue building as well. With all that being said, I don't think a win is out of the picture, however I'm going to need a season best swim to make it happen.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 178 Miles / 19 hours 17 minutes
Swim: 28,981 yards / ~16 miles / 8 hours 37 minutes
Bike: 141 miles / 8 hours 04 minutes
Run: 21 miles / 2 hours 35 minutes
Core:  0 sessions / 0 hours 0 minutes