Sunday, October 27, 2013

10/21 - 10/27 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

My Dessert of the Week: Pomegranates and Greek Yogurt
After a week of rest, this week I got back to work in a mini-build for my last race of the season at Ironman Arizona. I don't have my tri bike back yet from Hawaii, so the Ironman Austin 70.3 and Ironman Florida double was scratched. However, even if I had my bike back and time to drive to Austin, I probably would have scratched the race to focus solely on Ironman Arizona.

A big part of my decision to focus on Ironman Arizona comes down to the progression of the sport. Every day the sport gets more competitive and to have success I need focus. I am confident I could continue to race back-to-back races and put out average performances, and even have some success. However, a lot of my desire to do that in the past was predicated on gaining experience. And I have gained a ton of experience over my first two years as a professional, but going forward I am looking to travel less, have more builds leading up to races, and ultimately perform to a level my body is truly capable of.

With that being said, it was an interesting week. As I wrote before the Ironman World Championship, I decided to commit to the University of Arizona Rec Center for all my swim and treadmill work. The facilities are great, but the commute is 30 miles on a 45lb bike that weighs more like 65 with all my daily gear. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, and it is certainly my choice, it just presents a bit of learning curve. And although I struggled midweek with fatigue, somehow by the end of the week it seemed like my body had adapted to my new lifestyle. It is too early to see what is going to come of it in terms of performances, but I think it could be a good change of pace. We shall see. Till next week here are:

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 328 Miles / 30 hours 03 minutes
Swim: 29,900 yards / ~17 miles / 8 hours 00 minutes
Bike: 272 miles / 16 hours 36 minutes
Run: 40 miles / 4 hours 41 minutes
Core:  0 hours 45 minutes

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ironman Race Report World Championship Kona Hawaii Thomas Gerlach

Anyone that took a look at my 2013 race schedule knows that I had the Ironman World Championship on it from the day it was released at the start of the year. However, putting the Ironman World Championship on your race schedule and actually getting there are two completely different things all together. I won't go into the nitty-gritty of what it took to get there but I will say that it was incredibly tough.

The reward for that hard work was that last week I got to toe the line with the best in the sport in the event that put triathlon on the map. I got to toe the line with world champions and Olympians who had won medals and world championships before I even knew the sport of triathlon existed. Needless to say it was validation of how far I have come. It was validation of how hard I worked to get there. Although you can fake a lot of things in life, you can't fake the slow-but-steady growth I have achieved year-after-year. That growth came with more hours dedicated to the sport than I think anyone realizes - even myself.

2013 Ironman World Champion Triathlon Mural
Mural with the name of each participant in it.

I'm by no means done racing, but after qualifying, the Ironman World Championship was to be my dessert for the year. I was realistic with my expectations knowing that my swim weakness was going to make for a tough day where safety is often found in numbers. This being my first year as a pro, I lowered my own expectations a bit further. With that being said I had set a goal to be in the top 40 and proudly I came in 39th. The time was only a few minutes faster than my time as an age-grouper, but it was a completely different ballgame racing out of the pro wave than it was as an age-grouper. Here is a recap of my week and race at the 2013 Ironman World Championship

Pre-Race:

At airport with homestay Paul and Katie
I arrived in Kona on the Monday before the race which took place on Saturday. I was less concerned about heat coming into the race as I had just had an 8-day stint in Tucson where it was very hot and sunny. However, the humidity was clearly going to take some work and I found myself sweating shortly after I landed doing nothing more than walking from the plane to the baggage claim.

The first order of business was to head down to Kona to get in a swim and cool off. Then it was off to pick up my bike from Tri Bike Transport. I have still managed to avoid flying with a bike box and I can't imagine myself traveling with my bike considering I bring everything and the kitchen sink with me. 2XU was kind enough to give me ride back home to my homestay (by the airport) where I got to bond with Katie and Paul.

Katie and Paul were a couple that had just moved to Hawaii earlier in the year from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where they were very involved with Ironman. To say the least, I can't speak enough about how passionate Paul and Katie are about Ironman. For the triathletes out there, you can't truly understand how hard some volunteers work. Paul and Katie are everywhere as a volunteers and if you were there then I'm sure you were blessed with their humor and helpfulness throughout the week. And there efforts existed outside of race week too. In fact they got up every day since October 1st and worked straight thru and past the race. Race day included a 23 hour effort from 2am to 1am the next morning.

As for the pre-race work, well my race day acclimation was going well in regards to heat and humidity. I was having no problem adjusting to Kona time, and I was sleeping well. Built up fatigue was being shed and I felt as strong as ever on the swim, bike, and run. I was ready to race.

Fueling before the race at the Farmer's Market in Kona




Race Morning:

Katie and Paul were up and long gone before my 4:15am wake-up. At 4:25am my dad and sister, who came over to spectate and support me, picked me up and I was down in Kona by 4:40am. I headed over to the transition to get my bike ready. The pro field had a secure area and everything was pretty calm. I had everything pumped and ready to go early and that gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts before the start of the race. I got my swim skin on and a brand new pair of Aquasphere Cayenne goggles and was in the water by 6:15am for the pro start.

Sea Urchin Ironman World Championship Kona Triathlon
Left-overs from a Sea Urchin at Dig Me Beach, Kailua-Kona
After a short warm-up I headed over to the seawall where I decided to hang on the big tractor tires that are there for protection for the boats that are normally docked there. It was here that I made the mistake of putting my feet up against the seawall and in the process stepped on a sea urchin. It was a painful lesson to learn and my only concern was that I wasn't bleeding. I pulled my foot off the wall and took a look. No blood. Only some spines stuck in my foot. For a minute I wondered if it would be a problem at all on the bike or run, but with the adrenaline of the day I never noticed it.

Shortly there after I left the tire and set my sights on the feet I wanted to swim on. Before I knew it, the paddle boards circling in front of us to keep us at bay, had turned parallel and the gun fired.

Swim (1:00:02):

Somewhere in the middle
The start was much less aggressive than anticipated and I found myself in good position and with the main group. After a significant period of time I could still see the lead paddle boarder and I thought I was in decent shape. That is until the competitor directly in front of me let the gap open. Although I am very familiar and capable of closing gaps on the bike, my swim is not strong enough to be able to close gaps on the swim. Of course if I was more aggressive in the first place then I probably wouldn't have this problem. The end result was I was stuck on the feet of Canadian Ben Cotter as I watched the group swim away.

When Chris Legh came by I opted to hop on his feet and continued to the turnaround boat in the middle of the ocean.We rounded the half-way point to shore, and then proceeded to take the final turn buoy on the right instead of just keeping it on our right. I knew we didn't need to go the extra distance but Chris being the legend he is, I was more than ok to follow his lead and I had already set my mind on letting Chris dictate the first part of the bike anyway.

Bike (4:49:53):

Heading out of transition
In to T1 and I got out before Chris, but I was more than happy to let the legend of the sport lead as I saved some energy. We went up Kuakini, back down, up Palani and out on to the Queen-K. At the top Chris "Macca" McCormick was there at the corner where he mentioned that I should ride harder, but I was more than happy with my pace. I underswam, now I was underbiking. I was in a good position, I was saving energy, I was being patient.

As Chris and I rolled on the Queen-K, Ben Cotter came by and now he would dictate the pace as I enjoyed being the third wheel. We started to reel in some of the guys from the 2nd pack including Ian Mikelson who had swam about 6 minutes faster but clearly wasn't feeling great.

A couple of times Chris let the gap open up to levels I was uncomfortable with and I did the required surging to close the gap. Each time Chris took me up on my offer to close the gap.

As we headed out to Kawaihea, little did I know that my dad and sister were racing on the side roads to meet me there. My dad is very talented in getting to places to spectate, but what I didn't know is that my dad had slipped in the shower earlier that morning and he had a growing hematoma that landed him in the ER and they missed the swim. They just made it out Kaiwaheahe to see and cheer me on, but I wouldn't find out about the ER trip until after the race.

At Kawaihea Chris let a sizeable gap open up that he left me to close. I was beginning to think that Chris was doing this purposefully so that would be the last gap I would allow to open in the first place. Although in a three person train, spaced 12 meters apart, the best position is always the last position, I would now be the second man. Climbing up to Hawi we picked up my former roomate from Portugal, Pedro Gomes, but I also picked up a sensation that something might be wrong. It was the out of the saddle climbing up to Hawi that I first noticed my front tire getting a little spongy. It wasn't concerning but something to keep an eye on.




At Hawi we reached the turn around and my sister captured the above video. On the descent of Hawi normally the cross winds are fierce and can be down right terrifying. I was beginning to realize that I surely had a slow flat and was losing air more quickly as the pressure was on the front wheel. It was also at this point that Ben Cotter and Chris Legh had enough and Pedro Gomes forged ahead as I started to ride much more conservatively. I kept my eye out for a support vehicle and shifted the weight rearward to keep as much weight off the front as I could. Thankfully there was no cross-wind to speak of and handing was never an issue.

No cross winds on race day but trees can look like this in Hawi

As luck would have it, I was down to no more than 20-30 psi, when I spotted a tech service van ahead of me. I waived at them frantically and they got the message. By the time they stopped and ran the wheel to me I already had my wheel off. However I was beginning to realize that luck was no longer on my side. I was replacing an incredibly aero wheel and tire with a Vittoria Diamante training tire on a box-section, non-aero rim. I cringed that the tube inside must be a thick butyl tube and when they slammed the skewer shut they left it in the vertical position. I didn't have the heart to say thanks but no thanks, nor did I truly understand how much additional drag the wheel was going to create.

During the change I was passed by 3 pro males - the last of which was Chris Legh. I got back on the old steed and immediately set sights on catching back up to him. I figured I would catch back up to Chris Legh, tuck in, wait for the next best rider coming from behind and go with him. I knew that rider was Matt Russell and at the turnaround he was roughly 4 minutes back and had to be rolling by shortly.

I put in a bit of surge to catch back up to Chris. I was surprised at how much effort it was taking to catch back up to someone who had clearly cracked 15 miles earlier, but I was committed. In retrospect if I wanted to have the best race possible at that point then I should have stayed right there with Chris, but I didn't. Instead, when Matt Russell came by I decided to go with him, and that is where the situation got a little out of hand. I was on a kamikaze mission with Russell, but I was enjoying the hurt locker.

At some point I wised up and knew that there would be no way I could stick with Russell until the end of the ride. I opted to let Russell ride away and shifted my focus to catching two guys who I passed earlier before the flat. Once I caught them I would step off the gas and recover. The problem was the power it took to ride with them was still to great. I rode with them for all of 15 seconds before dropping off the back.

I had totally cracked at that point and I would spend the next 15 minutes recovering. Ironically, it was this part of the course where I needed the power the most. There was a ferocious headwind and there was no where to hide on the barren Queen-K. All I could do was to reflect on the situation - I had gone from so severely underbiking, to so severely overbiking, to completely cracking, but spirits were still high.

I was convinced the next person that would catch me would be the lead women, but to my surprise Ben Cotter, Chris Legh, and a few more guys were holding off the women and I was right back where I started. The effort was no longer easy, but I was committed to sticking with the group and I rolled into T2 with them.

Run (3:33:26):
Running tall down Ali'i - It wouldn't last

Running in Ironman always seems to catch up with you, and especially so on the Big Island of Hawaii with the heat and humidity. For those that have never raced at Kona, the first ten miles go up and down Ali'i drive. Although the road might not be lined 10 deep like the Chicago marathon, there is a constant flow of people providing support and encouraging you to dig deeper and run faster. One of those people is none other than Chrissie Wellington, and if you are not careful it is easy to get carried away and run too fast. But I ran controlled and overall I felt pretty good.

After a few miles of running, the urge to go to the bathroom came up, and I detoured into the porta-john. When I emerged I was greeted by the lead female pro Rachel Joyce. We would hit the turnaround at 5 miles and ran nearly all the way back into town together. It was good motivation with the added benefit that mom got to see me if she had tuned into the live broadcast back home.

On to the second part of the run course, up Palani and out on the Queen-K I went. I was still feeling pretty good, however, after a few miles on the Queen-K things started to catch up with me. I still won't know if it was the period of severe overbiking or maybe running up the infamous Palani hill too fast. Either way I was done. My stride was completely wrecked, my body was cramping bad, and I knew I was in for a long second half of the marathon. I could feel my skin burning and I was in search of some much needed sunscreen. A reminder that if I come back that I need to bring something for the shoulders.

In to the infamous Energy Lab I went and I saw Luke Bell and Pete Jacobs walking, and Dirk Bockel was not far behind. Clearly it was not their day either. Despite the short appearance of the Energy Lab, it never seems to go quick and it is where so many dreams have crumbled over the years. I was determined not to let it break my spirit. After what seemed like forever I got out of the energy lab and back on to the Queen-K. Only 10K to go and the quickest way home was simply to run home, albeit slowly.

Running thru the infamous Energy Lab,
known for not what it gives but what it takes.
Body is broken but the mind is still strong
So simply running home is what I did. It wasn't pretty, but when former World Champion and Trisports teammate Leanda Cave rolled up on my shoulder I gladly accepted the company. Both of us were really laboring and she was kind enough to share her coconut water with me which helped alleviate the cramps a bit and gave me a boost of energy to the finish.

As always the Ironman finish was an emotional experience. I saw Jayme and Jesse from 2XU out there. Jayme has stuck by my side from way back in my amateur days and it was nice to have someone who understands the progress I have made and it was nice to have my dessert as I crossed the line as the 39th pro in a time of 9:28:02.

Getting Lei'd at the finish in Kona
Although the time was only a few minutes faster than my first trip here as an age-grouper, the experiences are not comparable. Regardless I was happy to be out there and finish my first time on the Big Island competing out of the pro ranks. I learned a lot in the process and I look forward to bringing the lessons learned to my future Ironman racing.

Post Race:

Akaka Falls Ironman Triathlon Kona
My Dad and Sister and Akaka Falls
After the race I had the opportunity to spend some time seeing some sights in Hawaii with my dad and sister. We had the opportunity to explore Hapuna Beach, visit Akaka Falls, and made it to the visitor center at Mauna Kea Volcano. Although the Volcano goes up to 13,700+ feet we only took it 9,000 where the transmission on our 2-wheel drive vehicle was already smelling. If you truly want to see all that the Big Island has to offer then I definitely recommend getting a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I would also recommend bringing some warm clothes.

Before leaving the Big Island I had one last day to explore Hawaii by mountain bike. It ended up being a solo day but I visited the farmers market one last time and explored some of the more obscure beaches of the area. It was at one of those beaches where I came across four fresh young coconuts that were dangling down on a broken branch. After harvesting the coconuts I learned how to get at the coconut and enjoy it without any additional tools outside of what was provided by nature. It was nice to put those survival skills to work for a change.

Coconuts Ironman World Championship Kona
Enjoying the pick, the processing, and eating of fresh young coconuts



Thank Yous:

Overall it was a great trip and an unforgettable experience. I definitely have to thank some people for helping out. Without their support my experience would have not been the same.

Katie and Paul Burke - for opening up your home to me and loving me like I was one of your own.

All the volunteers - Ironman would never be possible without the countless number of volunteers who take time from their busy lives in order to help put on this great event.

My dad and sister - for taking on the challenge of traveling to Hawaii to support and spectate what is arguably harder than the event itself.

2XU - for your wetsuits, compression gear, trisuits and everyday training gear that rocks!! Thanks for your support since my days as an age-grouper. We have come along way since then.

Trisports - for all the great tri gear you carry and for providing it in the most earth sustainable way. You can always help support me as an athlete by using my 20% off coupon code for Trisports that is tied to my name. Each code is unique for you so please contact me thru the above "Contact" tab and I will email you back the 20% off code. Codes can be used at anytime - no waiting for a special sale. They expire 12/31/14. Please remember to fill in your email address so I can reply back to you. If you don't provide an email there is no way for me to contact you. You can also tweet at me or message me on Facebook if you prefer.

Atomic - for your endless pursuit of all the "free speed" I can get on the bike. Your specially coated chainrings, cassettes, and chain, along with wheel bearings upgrade and special derailleur pulleys give me that extra special advantage over my competitors. You to can get some "free speed" and save 10% in the process by using coupon code "TG-10" at Atomic.

Tri Bike Transport - For eliminating the hassle of taking my bike, wheels, and all my tools to Kona for me. I can't imagine lugging all that around the airport.

Cobb Saddles - for allowing me to stay aero and keep my bum comfortable for nearly 5 hours on the bike.

Powerbar - for getting me to and thru races with your fantastic nutrition products!!

Rudy Project - for protecting my head and my eyes, while keep me aero out there on the bike.

Proactive PT - for keeping me injury free with Gua Sha and massage work. I would have never made it to the start line healthy without your help.

Steve Schwartz - for your continued support of my training, racing, and overall well-being. If you need a great Realtor in Madison, WI please consider Steve.

Nick Morales of TriJuice and Herbert Krabel of Slowtwitch  - for capturing all the excitement that comes with an Ironman.

and lastly...

My competitors, for challenging me and giving me the drive to get out of bed every morning and work towards being the best athlete I can be. Without you I would never be the athlete I am today.



Sunday, October 6, 2013

9/30 - 10/6 - Professional Triathlete Training Log - Weekly Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

DIY Bike Rack
DIY bike rack my roomate made for my return
It was the first week back in the Dirty-T and it certainly did not disappoint. It was a busy week of unpacking, settling in, and also cramming in a little bit of training. On paper it may seem like I got a little carried with the volume, but much of that has to do with my decision to get a membership at the University of Arizona Rec Center to swim.

Normally I get a pool membership somewhere closer to my home, but this year I decided to bite the bullet and commit to the Rec Center. The Rec Center has always been on my mind and has always looked like a superior facility, but the distance from my home in Northwest Tucson scared me off. I refuse to drive a car and all distance for me has to be covered by bike. Depending on the route I take, it is anywhere from 30-35 city miles round-trip. Assuming I swim at least 6x a week that is a 180-210 miles right there. After one week of doing the commute I think it will end up being a nice of change of pace and I'm committed to this lifestyle thru the end of the year. If for some reason it doesn't seem to be working out I'll revert back to finding a facility closer to my home.

As for the Rec Center itself, well it certainly did not disappoint. The highlight had to be doing my long run for the week on a treadmill. Normally I am used to restarting the treadmill after one hour because every single treadmill I have ever run on shuts off at that point. The Rec Center has some Woodway treadmills and as the time approached 59:59 my anticipation grew until it hit 60:00 and continued on like a treadmill should. It is a little thing, but it was nice to have a treadmill that actually expects someone to run longer 60 minutes.

As for specifics on training, I did my last long run on Thursday, 9 days out from Kona. I did it as a variability run where I work from 8-10mph with an increase of .1mph every minute. I did this 4 times thru continuously and it is a nice way to get some work at, above, and below target race pace. I did my last long bike on Friday, 8 days out from Kona. It ended up being a little over 4 hours with 2x30 minute intervals, one below and one above race pace. Ideally I would have liked to do these sessions a littler earlier with the bike coming 10 days out and the run coming 14 days out, but the travel schedule did not allow this.

Overall I'm feeling pretty good despite the less than ideal transitional period. However, my expectations for the race are still pretty low for Kona - it is simply an honor to even toe the line. When I saw Faris Al-Sultan (2005 IM World Champion) at the Rec Center this week it was a reminder of how far I have come. I didn't even know how to swim when Faris won the race that year.

Many of my peers would love nothing more than to earn a spot on the start line of triathlon's biggest day. With the new KPR point system implemented a few years back and the increasing competition that occurs every year, many pros who found themselves on the start line year-after-year are now on the outside looking in as they try to figure out how they will make it back.

I know that on Saturday the only way I'm going to exceed my own fitness level is to have the swim of my life. On paper there is no way I can have that swim. As a result I'm in for a pretty lonely day on the bike. If I'm conservative enough on the bike I should be able to make up a few spaces on the run.

Thorsten Raddle over at Trirating.com was kind of enough to send me my own personalized graphic of how things might play out. Trirating and the stats that it is based on predicts that even finishing inside the Top 40 is a stretch so my goal is to be in the Top 40.

Projected time back at finish of 2013 IM World Championship - Kona
from leaders, top 10, 20, 30 and 40

Given the fact that I'm carrying more fatigue thru racing into this race than anyone else, I would be totally happy with a Top 40 finish. Adding to the fact that my BMI is likely higher than anyone else on the start list and that makes Hawaii a tough place to race with the sun, heat, and humidity. Those who truly know me, know this talk is just myself being rational. It isn't by coincidence that I find myself on the start list at triathlon's biggest day. It is a testament to my relentless pursuit towards excellence in very small steps and I'm happy with the progress as I come to the close, almost to the day, of 2 years as a pro. Next week my update comes from Hawaii. Until then, aloha.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 258 Miles / 24 hours 11 minutes
Swim: 21,800 yards / ~12 miles / 6 hours 17 minutes
Bike: 204 miles / 12 hours 56 minutes
Run: 41 miles / 4 hours 56 minutes
Core:  0 sessions / 0 hours 0 minutes