Annual Training Log - Swim, Bike and Run Miles for the 2013 Triathlon Year

In 2012 I did my first ever yearly tally of training miles. That post can be found here. In this post I will present my 2013 training log. For reference my training years start in December and do0 not coincide with the calendar year.

For comparison I also have Chris "Macca" McCormack's training miles for the 2002 year. He is a 2x Ironman World Champion and according to his book, "I'm Here to Win", in 2002 he swam 720 miles, biked 18,275 miles, and ran 2,907 miles. That seems like a lot of miles and especially on the bike. Here is how my 2013 season compares:

Here are my yearly swimbike, and run totals:

Total: 10,895 Miles / 1012 hours 

Swim: 638 miles (1,122,000 yards)  / 288 hours
Bike: 8,584, miles / 496 hours
Run: 1,728 miles /  211 hours
Core:  17 hours 

Those numbers come out to an average of 84.33 hours per month, and 19.46 hours per week. Weekly mileage is 12.3 miles (21,500 yards) swimming, 165 miles biking, and 33 miles running.

For those looking for a little more granular data by month then here you go:
Total Training Hours By Month For 2013 Season

Treadmill Workouts for Winter Running Triathletes

My Current Paincave -
The University of Arizona Rec Center
Now that winter is upon us I thought I would compile some of my favorite treadmill workouts. Treadmills can be great tool to improve running by allowing me to:

#1) Run more miles - Treadmill running is easier on my body. I can run longer and recovery is shorter than running outside on concrete and asphalt. Ultimately it is a great tool for increasing my volume.

#2) Drive cadence - The nature of treadmills tend to be good in driving cadence and good form.

#3) Reduce chance of injury - Besides slipping on ice, avoiding cars, etc, running on treadmills usually results in running in a warmer environment. I'm a big fan of running in warmer environments because ultimately it results in less joint and tendon stiffness. The youngsters might not appreciate this but I can assure them that they will appreciate it as they get older.

As for actual workouts, I'll give you a couple of sample workouts that I do. Let's call my threshold pace 5:25.

The Threshold Workout: Very similar to the popular cycling workout where the emphasis is on threshold work at, near, or above your threshold pace. The goal here is to work at raising my lactate threshold or the "sustainable speed" that I have.

Warm-up: 10-15 minutes starting at 6mph. Increase by .1mph every 15 seconds. By 5 minutes I am at 8mph, at 10 minutes I am at 10mph. Continue until I reach the starting point for my mainset (usually between 10.8 and 11.2. Afterward set back to 7.0mph or easy jogging pace for 2-3 minutes of recovery.

Mainset: 2x20 minutes. Start at a point that is a little bit below threshold. Say 10.8 for now and increase by .1 every 3 minutes. If I start at 10.8 that would leave me at 11.4 for the final segment. Recover for 5 minutes at easy pace. Then start the next one .2 above the starting point of the first one.

Cool-down: Easy jogging 5-10 mins. I do this as descending back down from say 8mph to 6mph decrementing by .1mph every 15 seconds, or 30 seconds depending on the length of cool down.

The Accelerated Tempo: A more aggressive tempo workout that takes me to the mental breaking point and beyond. The goal here is that I am doing a V02 max interval at the end of some significant running. I like this workout on the treadmill because it is short, and is constantly building and reinforcing positive/growing thoughts. In addition you get to see your cardiovascular and respiratory systems transform. You are aware of when you start sweating, breathing hard, building up significant amounts of lactate and really suffering. These can be extremely motivating because generally you are going to want to quit and the strong minded will always "embrace the suck" and breakthrough. Breaking through mental barriers is often times more important than physical barriers. Lastly I like this workout as it gives my body a chance to warm up and adapt before the pace gets really high.

Warm-up: 10 minutes starting at 6mph. Increase by .1mph every 15 seconds until I reach at 8mph. Hold steady until I reach 10 minutes.

Mainset: 40 minutes. Starting at 8mph increase by .1mph every minute. I have 40 minutes but I will keep on pushing this so it could be 45 minutes by the end. 40 minutes puts me at 12mph. 45 minutes puts me at 12.5mph.

Cool-down: Set at 4mph until I get some semblance of recovery and then bump to 6mph and jog easy for 5-10 minutes.

Again these are my workouts with my pace. Always consult a physician and your coach before starting any fitness regimen. In addition, if you want to use these workouts with the intended benefit then they will have to be adjusted based on your own capabilities.

Pro Ironman Taper Triathlon Taper For 2013 Ironman Arizona

The Ironman Taper: Keeping the fire going,
while recovering is always a delicate balancing act
In this post I will precisely outline my Ironman triathlon taper for the 2013 Ironman Arizona race. No two tapers are the same for me, but the key to the Ironman Arizona taper was that it also coincided with the end of the season. That meant there would be no races afterwards to worry about. This resulted in an adjustment to my taper to include more work just below, at, or above race pace, than I typically do. It didn't differ in any meaningful way from the taper I outline before the taper began. I have not included warm-up, or cool-down efforts, just mainsets. I always warm-up and cool-down at a very easy pace. In addition, all race pace efforts were also done at a race pace cadence which for me is about 95. Here is the that taper:

Thur (Day 10): Bike 1:38:25, 35.18 miles, 254 NP, 211 AP. Mainset as 2x longer intervals at, or just above race pace, in this case 16 mins at 283 watts, 20 min at 290 watts, then some work above goal race pace, 4:17 at 347 watts. The times were just a function of the limitations of the road I was riding on. Then 4x1 min, at or just above threshold, with 90 seconds recovery between efforts.

Fri (Day 9): 6k swim with 4000 time trial as mainset. Easy 30 mile bike to and from pool, 177 watts, 1:52:43, peak 1 min 264 watts.

Sat (Day 8): 10 mile run, midday in scorching heat and sun on varied terrain at race pace for most of it. Miles were, 7:00, 6:53, 6:43, 6:49, 6:49, 6:25, 6:49, 6:55, 6:44, cool-down.

Sun (Day 7): Swim 5K in the pool with wetsuit on. Mainset 4x(400 @ race pace, 50 kick, 50 easy), 4x400 on 6 with paddles, long interval to allow body to cool down from wetsuit, sunny and warm. Goal was to get familiar with wetsuit swimming again as it had been nearly two months since my last wetsuit swim. Bike to and from pool, 30 miles, 1:56:03, 185 watts. 5x intervals, 1-3 mins in length, at race pace.

Mon (Day 6): Run 7.19 miles, 53:20, mainset 7x 1/2 mile intervals at or slightly faster than race pace (6:23-6:43), with ~1:15 recovery between intervals. 4 strides working up to threshold pace at end of stride.

Tue (Day 5): Commute to PT, 15 miles, mainset 3x10 minutes near race pace with 2:30 rest between, 260 watts, 257 watts, and 269 watts. Commute to pool easy 5 miles, Swim 4K with mainset as 10x200 on the 2:45 in 232, 231, 229, 229, 228, 227, 226, 225, 224, 222. Easy commute home in dark. 35 miles total, 2:11:36.

Wed (Day 4): Run 5.48 miles, 41:08, mainset as 4x 1/2 mile, at, or slightly faster than race pace (6:27 - 6:46) with 90 seconds recovery. 2 strides working toward half-IM pace.

Thur (Day 3): Commute to the pool, 15 miles easy, swim 45 minutes with the mainset as 4x200, 8x100 descending on the 1:30. Wall times were 237, 234, 231, 229, 116, 115, 114, 113, 112, 111, 111, 111, 111. Bike home with 3x 1-2 min intervals at race pace, 10 mins near, but below race pace (252 watts), 5:30 near, but below race pace (243 watts).

Fri (Day 2): Rest Day with travel & pro meeting, visit Atomic and 2XU at the expo.

Sat (Day 1): 20 minute swim in Tempe Town Lake with a few efforts bridging up to other swimmers, then resting for 15-45 seconds, and then bridging quickly to the next group of swimmers and so on. After completing one lap, hopped out, and hopped back in to do another half lap or so. Biked 27 minutes, ~9 miles, with 3x3 at race pace, the rest was easy spin.

Sun (Race Day): 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

2013 Ironman Arizona Race Report

Going into Ironman Arizona I wasn't sure what to expect. If you have been following along then you may have noticed that since moving back to Arizona I did a 180 on my training. I threw out the TT bike and I threw out most of the structured bike work in favor of completely "ad hoc" biking. That biking consisted of catching roadies on my commuter bike and playing games with the traffic lights. I also let the run down a bit in favor of the swim. In the end the strategy paid off in my opinion. Although my day of racing fell apart around the 18 mile mark of the run, it wasn't for lack of run fitness, I simply fired a few too many bullets during the bike. The result was painful last 8 miles but I still hung on for an 8:25:01 12th place finish, as 3rd American at the 2013 Ironman Arizona. Here is a recap of the day:

Right before hopping into the abyss that is Tempe Town Lake
Swim (53:49): One of the EMTs was late to the event and thus we were delayed getting into the water. Normally we hop in around 6:30 but we weren't allowed in until just after 6:40. I was the first one in the water and I was surprised that I was also the first one to swim the 200+ meters to get to the start line. Usually there is some turbos that come flying by. My initial plan was to stick far right. I started there the previous year and it worked out real well, but the announcer Mike Reilly, and the support crew on kayaks, was telling everyone to start left. I was confused on why they were telling us that, but everyone seemed to be shifting to the left and I followed suit. However, instead of finding myself next to guys I wanted to swim with, I found myself next to guys I didn't. It was too late, the gun was about to go.

The gun fired and the sloppy mess of strokes and contact started immediately. It was absolutely brutal, by far the most violent swim of the year and I wasn't getting anywhere in it. Mentally I had prepared to be aggressive but these people just seemed to want to waste energy instead of conserve it. At one point I took a look back and it seemed like I was dead last at the 200 meter mark. I also saw a nice big group that had formed far to my right and was now about 50 meters ahead. Although there is always safety in numbers I decided to leave the comfort and safety of the pack and veered at a 45 degree angle to the right. At the time I was thinking, "what are you doing", but I swam hard and the gap was falling. I kept swimming and told myself I had to catch that group - that was my race.

Exiting Swim with Trevor Wurtele
After a few hundred meters I did the unimaginable, I had clawed on to the back of the train. I rewarded myself with some rest and recovery from the surge it took. To my surprise I wasn't overheating like I normally do after such a high effort. After a bit of recovery I continued clawing forward. After a few hundred more meters I found myself sitting at the front behind the lead swimmer, and in between the two swimmers directly in front of me. I knew the swimmer ahead to the left was fellow Illinois pro Jared Milam because of the sleeveless wetsuit he had on, and I knew the swimmer to my right was Trevor Wurtele because I could read the number on his cap. I was exactly where I needed to be.

From there on forward I just took it easy. The pace grew a little weak in the middle portion of the swim but I wasn't going to waste any energy in moving the group forward a little faster. I exited the swim with guys, or ahead of guys, that had been handing it to me all year.

Checking out who else is making haste out of T1
Bike (4:20:35): With so many guys coming out at once I wanted to make sure I had a quick transition be the the first one out of T1. Coming out of T1 someone told me that Jordan Rapp was only 30 seconds up. I took a quick look and saw Trevor Wurtele making haste and decided I would gamble early and see if I could get a visual on Rapp. In retrospect it was a match that didn't need to be burned, and I would have loved to have that one back.

After wasting that match, I held back and waited for the others to catch back up. For the first 25 miles it would be myself, Trevor, and Jonathon Shearon trying to string out the riders and make them suffer. A few more matches were burned, a few guys got dropped and I put the matchbox away and let Trevor do most of the heavy lifting as we completed lap 1.

On lap 2, Victor Del Corral (eventual winner) must have grown leery of trying to ride in the back of a group and the natural accordion effect that starts to occur as we pass age groupers on their first lap. He moved to the front and I was happy to have to two pre-race favorites pushing and dictating the pace. I myself also wanted to stay at the front so I wouldn't have to burn any more matches closing large gaps that can occasionally open up.

Sitting 3rd wheel out on lap 1 behind Trevor Wurtele and Jonathon Shearon
Lap 2 is also where we started to catch some of the swimmers who got kicked out of the lead group. This always presents a problem because they almost always want to latch on to the group, but 4 out of 5 times they quickly decide the effort is too great and drop off. It requires a delicate balance to recognize a rider who is jumping off the train and giving the train too much ground that is left to close. I haven't mastered the process yet and I still seem to burn mini-matches in the process.

Assessing the competition

On to lap 3 and the time gap to the lead pack was quickly coming down. Jordan Rapp had made his way to, and completely passed the front group. Pedro Gomes was the only one not to be decimated by Rapp's pace and sat in 2nd. 5 miles into loop 3 and we picked up and spit out the lead swim group. That lead group included: Matty Reed, Joe Umphenhour, and ITU speedsters, but Ironman rookies, Matt Chrabot and Ritchie Nicholls. In the process I noticed that we had completely cracked most of our own initial group with the exception of Denmark's Jens Petersen-Bach, who I knew was riding a very smart race and would finish 3rd.
First few steps after 112 miles are always painful

Run (3:07:01): I came off the bike in 3rd place with Victor Del Corral and Trevor Wuertle and we were 6.5 minutes back from Jordan Rapp. I made a quick transition and I was the first to exit transition, but 3rd place wouldn't last long as I was quickly passed by Wuertle and then Del Corral. Then Jens Petersen-Bach came by, as did Denis Chevrot from France, and Marc Duelsen from Germany. I had quickly found myself in 8th place and in the last money spot but with a nice gap to the rest of the

I was running ok but I didn't have that snap, snap, snap in the legs that I'm still trying to find. Although, I did do a good job of staying cool, keeping hydrated and fueled up. It was 1x gel every 3 miles, with some cola in between and a salt pill as well. Towards the end of the first lap Matt Charbot made the pass and I fell to 9th.

Onto lap 2 and the crowd support was there as always. I saw TJ Tollakson who reminded to increase my cadence and lift my hips. I did the best I could in kicking over the feet and clawed my way back to repass Charbot and back into 8th. I would run in 8th giving it everything I could until friend and fellow American Matt Russell made the pass for 8th. I tried to go with him but I only lasted 200 meters and I knew my day was done, it would now be to get to the finish and focus on 2014. Along the way I got passed by a few more guys and would end up 12th but mentally fueled for 2014.

End of a long 2013 season, 2014 starts soon
Overall (8:25:01 / 12th Pro): I was happy with the race. I burned a few too many matches on the bike
that I would have loved to have back on the run, but overall I can't complain. I went in knowing I was going to go for it on the bike and I did just that. I was super stoked with the swim and the swim progress I made. Some others said the run form looked better too which is a step in the right direction. I am also stoked that I was able to keep the bike at the highest level ever - 3 watts more than 2012 - while only having 5 TT rides since mid-September. It is exciting because it means I can keep getting the majority of miles from bike commuting and that keeps one less car off the road!!!

Although I am on the Ironman Cozumel start list and I am mentally fresh to give it a go, I am choosing to head home for Thanksgiving to see family instead. The race schedule is not set for 2014 but it will likely look similar to 2013. Here are some of the people and companies that helped make the 2013 Ironman Arizona race a success:

Thank Yous:

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.

All the Ironman officials - for giving us the cleanest race we could have.

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.

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.

Atomic - for your endless pursuit of all the engineered "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 engineered "free speed" and save 10% in the process by using coupon code "TG-10" at Atomic.

Cobb Saddles - for allowing me to stay aero and keep my bum comfortable for nearly 5 hours on the bike. Your saddles provide the foundation for every bike ride I take.

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

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  - 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.

And all of you for taking the time to read this, follow my journey, tweet, share, like and support me as an athlete :)

10/28 - 11/10 - Professional Triathlete Training Log and Update - Swim, Bike, and Run Miles

These bike workshop repair units
around Tucson are a big help to bike commuting
As many have noticed, I have fallen off the pace the past few weeks with my normal weekly updates. It has been nearly two years of writing every week and although I believe in consistency, I am re-evaluating how much I want to write in the future. As I wander through the internet, and casually talk to friends, I get this incredible sense of burn-out right now in the pro ranks. I actually can't believe it. Everyone seems just to be shutting it down and I have read so many postmortems that it reminds me of the financial crisis of 2008. Contrasting that, this is the time of the year when so many "young guns" destroyed their fellow age-groupers and have decided to move to the pro ranks. They have unbridled enthusiasm, and want to start their onslaught immediately.

As I turn things back to me I can't help but wonder why I have this calm balance. I'm happy with slow, but steady growth, and I attribute that philosophy for getting me to where I am today. Patience is what I constantly remind myself. Truthfully, despite a long season, longer than probably any other athlete, I really see no reason for it to end. Yes I have my final race at Ironman Arizona in 6 days. And yes, I'll probably take a little bit of time off afterward, but I'm already excited about working on my weaknesses in preparation for the 2014 season. Simply put, I enjoy the process of being a triathlete. I enjoy the lifestyle of a triathlete. I enjoy the simplicity that I have created in my own lifestyle, and I attribute that simplicity to allowing me to train as hard as I do and race as often as I can. 

But getting back to my weekly updates, I didn't want people to think the lack of consistency had anything to do with the rest of the doom-and-gloom from my fellow peers. I had been thinking about changing the frequency of updates, especially in the winter months, but it mostly had to do with a hefty change to my lifestyle. Those changes included a heavy dose of hard swimming, while combining that with more commuting miles, and workouts strung together without the few hours of rest that I am used to. I have been figuring out a way to incorporate strength work back into my schedule and I took some time to do some other interviews, one can be found at the following if you are interested.

I'll post more about Ironman Arizona later this week. I will say that I am feeling really good despite an abundance of volume. I have tapered down the run mostly in an effort to keep the legs fresh. I have gone into almost every race this year on tired legs and I want to see how they can perform with a little rest while keeping the bike and swim volume high. On the one downside, I did pick up a little bit of tendinitis in my knees that most likely was the result of the high-load, low cadence bike work that I have been doing in excess. Although it continues to get better and better, and I have no doubt that I will barely notice it on race day, it is one of those things I will evaluate on race day.

My weekly swimbike, and run totals for October 28th - November 3rd:

Total: 223 Miles / 22 hours 46 minutes
Swim: 31,700 yards / ~18 miles / 8 hours 22 minutes
Bike: 182 miles / 11 hours 14 minutes
Run: 23 miles / 2 hours 39 minutes
Core: 0 hours 30 minutes

My weekly swimbike, and run totals for November 4th - November 10th:

Total: 305 Miles / 24 hours 42 minutes
Swim: 21,400 yards / ~12 miles / 5 hours 43 minutes
Bike: 263 miles / 13 hours 46 minutes
Run: 31 miles / 3 hours 42 minutes
Core: 1 hours 30 minutes

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

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


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 to 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 too 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.

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 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

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

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