Sunday, July 24, 2016

13 Ironman Recovery Tips to Help You RECOVER FASTER From Your Race

Learned a few recovery tricks
over my 10 years of doing Ironman
Finishing an Ironman is a huge accomplishment but it is also extremely taxing on the body. 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 the 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. There isn't a magic recovery, pill, treat recovery like you treat training and take it seriously and you will benefit. You may not be able to see or feel a difference by following one single tip but do many of the tips over and over again will lead to a faster recovery.

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 then sit in them for 30 minutes before going to bed. No doubt you saw Normatec at the Ironman expo. Although expensive, they are a very pleasurable and relaxing way to move waste out of the legs. For those who can't afford Normatec there are great options that are much less expensive like the Air Relax system. I did a short comparison of the two units here: Normatec vs Air Relax and include discount codes for $100 off Normatec or 5% of Air Relax in the review.
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 1k 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 more time in the recovery compression boots - if you have them, keep using them Ideally spend 3x30 minute sessions a day, morning, breakfast, and before bed. 3x20, or 3x15 if you don't have the time.

#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 3x 1k 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 for relaxation purposes.

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 of the tissues. Walking is always good too. Your own feel is your best barometer.


Post Race - Week 2 

The focus of week 2 should be dictated by a variety of factors including your future goals. Some people will never do another triathlon or Ironman again, while others were itching to get back to training the day after the race. What is important is to be mindful of what you need personally.

Regardless of your future plans, know that you spent a lot of time training 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. It might be difficult to fill your day without the training.

Be aware that there is such a thing as the post-Ironman blues and it is a common feeling. That sense of purpose plus all the endorphins from exercise is great for mental health. My suggestion is to make fitness a life long process even if you never do another Ironman again. However 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.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ironman Race Day and Race Week Tips for Beginners / First Timers to Kona Qualifiers

Here are some simple tips for your first Ironman. This is written for the first time Ironman athlete but can be applied to previous finishers as well.

These tips come from my own experience as an average age-grouper to Ironman Champion. 2006 Ironman Wisconsin was my first Ironman and 10 years later I won it!!! I have a 4:15 Ironman bike split to my name and a 8:20 finish.

Race Week - Pre Race

#1 Less is more - This is the theme of the week. The hay is in the barn. The logistics of Ironman may keep you busy, but resist the temptation to get in any more crash training. It will only hurt you.

#2 Start planning your recovery now - It is easy to get caught up in what you need to do for the race, but few first-timers think about just how hard the event is on the their body. Luckily there are a few really basics things you can do to be PROACTIVE, like having your family members bring a protein shake to you immediately post race.  I wrote a whole separate article here on recovery that you might also want to glance at before doing your race. Pro Recovery Tips for your Ironman

#3 - Get good sleep - the night before the race you probably won't sleep well. so focus on getting to bed early and sleeping in as much as possible in the week leading up to the race. 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.

#4 - Communicate, communicate, communicate - There are lots of logistics that come with an Ironman. Only you know how much preparation you have done and chances are your coworkers, family, and friends don't actually know. Do the level of socialization that is enjoyable to you, but please communicate expectations. Now is the time to be selfish, not polite.

An example of this for me might be going out for dinner with friends. Maybe they want to go out and celebrate but I want to prioritize sleep. I will make sure I communicate my expectations before hand by telling them I want to have dinner at 6pm and be done by 7:30pm

#5 - Write a list of everything you need - There are so many pieces to Ironman it is easy to forget something at home that you need. Write a list of everything you need. Chances are if you create a list, you will still forget something. It is usually the little things, like you either forget or discover you are out of like Body Glide, that can almost always be picked up at the expo. Don't stress it.

Race Day Execution

2006 Ironman Wisconsin as my 1st Ironman /
Winning Ironman Wisconsin 10 years later at the 2015 edition
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 is supposed 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 minute miles during a regular marathon who can't muster more than 8 minutes 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. It is faster to start out slower and finish stronger then to go out too hard!! If you feel really good after 20% then you can dial it 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 give your body the chance to absorb some 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 and make your experience more enjoyable. Walking aid stations isn't giving up, you are incorporating them into your race to help you finish faster, fresher, and stronger. If you don't want to walk every one then at least walk every 3rd aid station.

#5 - Changing Clothes - If you are a first time athlete and going for just a finish, I would recommend changing clothes in transition. This way you can put on comfy bib shorts for the bike and comfy running gear. Frankly taking your time in transition, is a sure way to also have better success as well.

For those going for time, changing clothes is a big no-no - especially in T1. First off, if you have never swam 2.4 miles before in a 'race' you don't know how hard it is to lift your arms fully over your head. Taking off clothes, and putting on clothes while wet can be harder than it seems. Your heart rate is going to be high, you are going to have a ton of adrenaline, and your motor skills won't be nearly as fine. If you are someone who gets frustrated easily, you are going to spike your heart rate even further and that is not a great way to start the bike.

#6 - If food or drink keeps coming back up - You are going too hard and/or taking in too much food/sports drink. Slow down and/or give your body a chance to digest what is in your stomach. You can't force it, your body is smart and knows what it is doing. Switch to water if you need something to drink.

Practicing what a preach -
Smiling & starting slow to finish strong!!!
#7 - 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 and fresher. I practice this to this day in Ironman as a professional!

#8 - Control Your Emotions - It is super easy coming out of the swim and off the bike to plow thru transition. 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. 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!!!

#9 Enjoy the finish - Collect yourself prior to the finish and 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. Take your time and soak it all in - Ironman finishes are an amazingly powerful and positive drug :)

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

Other Ironman articles you might be interested in:
- Ironman Taper Tips + Comparision of two pro tapers for Ben Hoffman and Jesse Thomas
Recovering from your Ironman

Lastly if you are triathlete, endurance athlete, or marathoner, I have set up a FREE Q&A group on Facebook. It will always be FREE. As a long-time age-grouper I spent way too long determining what information I could trust and what I couldn't. As a TRUE student of the sport I have learned a lot, remain open-minded, and realize that so many people disseminate information blindly and then bad myths become lore. I am hoping to shed some light and simplify things for people. Feedback is always appreciated.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Giro Aerohead MIPS Triathlon Aero Helmet Review

Giro Aerohead MIPS Actual Weight - Medium
updated on 12/10/2016 to reflect 6 months of use and many races.

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. 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.

Shield is reversible with magnets inside
helmet to keep lens in place
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 comes 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 than the regular MIPS and for triathlons over-heating can be a real concern.

The helmet is nice, it feels nice, it feels sturdy, and it feels fast. It is hot however and I did have some fogging issues with this at the super humid Ironman Cozumel 70.3 race. Luckily you can easily pull the visor, and flip it upside-down on the helmet. There are internal magnets to hold it in place in this second position and they are fairly strong. Over hundreds of miles, the visor never fell off once in either position.

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 a little!!

Giro Aerohead Windtunnel Data

Friday, July 1, 2016

Best Bike Workout For Raising Your FTP - 2x20

I did my first 'semi' bike block since 2012!!! I say 'semi', because my running and swimming were still very much part of the program, however I decided to add in some specific bike workouts that targeted raising what many call the FTP.

To be clear, of the three sports, I am most naturally a biker, and my biking back in 2012, my first season as a pro, was probably some of the best riding I have ever done. Since then I have been coasting on fitness, opting instead for spending that time and energy working on my run and swim.

In addition, this year I made a switch from prior years and trained out of Clermont, Florida instead of Tucson, Arizona. Tucson was a great place to be because the climbing is great and acts as long uninterrupted workouts that are intense and provided a natural bump to fitness. Florida was a nice change of scenery, but with no extended climbs I got to April of this year and was flat. So flat, that I got dropped by someone other than Jordan Rapp, Lionel Sanders, and Matt Russell at various races. I knew it was time for a change in April but it wasn't until after I got back from Wildflower that I put in the change with a short bike block targeted at raising my FTP.

The main goal of the block was to keep it simple and focus on a specific workout that were repeatable and that I could track the progress of. Using a trainer, I opted for the famous 2x20 minutes with 5 mins rest in between intervals. This workout isn't a whole lot of fun in the moment, but the results speaks for themselves. 

Progression of average watts for 2x20 workout over time




















For reference, my weight was ~155lbs at 5 feet 9 inches. Power was measured with a SRAM Quarq.

Although my power was considerably higher by Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 (May 22nd), it wasn't until Ironman Raleigh 70.3 and Ironman Eagleman 70.3 (June 12) that I felt it apply in the race. At Eagleman, I was able to step on the gas and drop someone who dropped me back in April.

That's it. 2x20 is always a great workout. If you find my writing helpful, consider supporting my work. I have made it super simple with details here.