Monday, December 23, 2013

Post-Booger and Food Poisoning Running Extravaganza

The gang is skiing up in Flagstaff, so I'm doing the flexible bachelor schedule thing for 48 hours, meaning, when it's still fun.  I had a nice run: home to top of Sabino Cyn and back after work, 14.6 mi with 2,000-ish feet of elevation gain, in just a little over 2hr.  Like many first runs/rides back from idleness, it felt like a bit of an exorcism.

I started out feeling truly crappy, like I was covered in a thick layer of fat and boogers, which makes sense given the last few days.  Didn't get much better, form didn't really click, and I finished feeling like I was covered in a layer of fat, boogers, sweat, and sports drink.  But I finshed pretty strong.  And the views were nice:

Coming down Sabino Canyon:

Almost home.  Ventana Cyn at sunset.  There's a nice hotel there.

Time for dinner in front of the TV.

Friday, December 6, 2013

IMAZ 2013 RR: Sub-10 and Tenth in M45-49!!

10/292 in M45-49, 144/2700-ish overall.  Yep, that's the punch line, and a happy one!

But first things first.  The race itself: If you're reading this not because you have an abiding interest in relatively benign endurance sports-based midlife crises, but because you're considering doing an Ironman, then let me get right to the point: This race is the best, period.  It's a pain in the neck to get into the race, but it's worth it.  IMAZ has moderate temperatures, great race support, a flat course, and a hub airport right nearby.  And if you're local, an M-dot branded IM within driving distance is money in the bank.  Unfortunately, so many people agree with this sentiment.  Many sign up almost two years ahead of time to volunteer a year beforehand instead of paying the $1400-ish dollars for a foundation spot one year in advance.  Try to register 51 weeks ahead of time, and you just may be out of luck.    

There are a few seasoned endurance athletes who grumble that IMAZ is too easy, but that's a hollow argument for just about everybody, and a false dichotomy for most of those who remain.  Doing IMAZ doesn't preclude you from doing Norseman, IM Lake Tahoe, or their ilk.  Soak up IMAZ's flatness, its pleasantness, its SPEED!  

Now to the race itself.


The steed on Triathlete Magazine
 The steed got a little press from:
Unlike last year, I got my gear and life together several days ahead of time.  I didn't go to work on the morning of the final day of check-in.  This saved much anguish.  The only smarter thing I did was not doing the race at the same time as my wife and fellow parent of three children.  Some things seem so obvious in hindsight.  But not flailing around like a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest clearly left me more rested and energized for the race.  A good night's sleep, a bunch of caffeine, and a big bowl of oatmeal also helped.


View of the swim from Karen's Kayak
The swim remains a mass start from the water, preceded by several minutes of bobbing and shivering.  The goal was to get away from the crowds as quickly as possible, but this didn’t really happen.  Prerace visualizations involved majestically soaring to the front of the swim pack with long, smooth strokes.  Reality more closely resembled a mosh pit, more so than the previous year.  The first twenty minutes were bumpy, and I had to deliberately reel myself in, calm down, and slow down.  

Things spread out more, and I got a good amount of open water on the second half.  I finished in 59:46, not as fast as last year, but under an hour. 

T1 was faster than last year, which made up for the slower swim.  I didn’t fool around with compression socks or any other gimmicky nonsense.  Helmet, shoes, stow the wetsuit, go.

Just a little ride. . .
The first of three laps of the bike was about getting loose and settled.  HR was about 6-10 BPM higher than what I’d seen on long rides.  I stayed right at goal wattage, and by the turnaround, I was starting to settle in and feel comfortable.  I’d hoped to crack 5 hours, and the first lap wound up at 1:40.  Right on target.  Nutrition (Infinit Custom) was going down faster than expected, and I worried a little that my elevated HR indicated higher energy consumption and glycogen depletion.  During the second lap, I picked up the extra nutrition bottle from special needs.  

I also noticed that I, and some of my competitors, were picking up “friends,” some of whom kept the required 4 bike length distance, some of whom didn’t.  The shamelessness of some of the drafting I saw amazed me: one woman who wound up winning her age group and punching a Kona ticket, stayed less than a bike length behind the rider in front of her for more than a whole lap.   Another pro did the same.  At any rate, lap #2 went down in 1:38.  Even though I’d been keeping a legal distance, my average power dropped 10 watts for the same speed.  I mused at the energy savings the true wheelsuckers were getting. 

At the turnaround, I spotted the fam and we exchanged cheers, which was heartening.

The sense of impending marathon on lap #3 got me worried.  This led to a couple of decisions—one good, one bad.  I eased off on my pace just a little, which was good, and I sucked down a bunch of nutrition in the last 10 miles, which turned out not to be so good.  I finished in 5:00:38, almost exactly as planned, and 39 tantalizing seconds away from sub-5 hours.

T2: Where you realize that wanting to be done with a 112 mile bike ride and
wanting to run a marathon are not necessarily the same thing. . .
T2 involved a little more fumbling than expected.  The waistpack/hat bundle that had netted me a laser-quick transition at the Soma 70.3 triathlon last month seemed somehow less intuitive, and I got out in 2:28.

Only 4 miles into it, and still running strong.
My previous two Ironman marathons were basically solid three mile transition runs followed by 23 mile sufferfests.  More consistency on long rides and runs this year led me to hope that I could avoid this fate, and run well all the way through.  But I  felt full, sloshy, and heartburn pretty much right away.  Keeping the focus on form, I drank what I could: mostly water.  Infinit was hard to stomach.  This was worrisome  and a little perplexing, as I’d done the same runs and rides with my current fuel in training, without the symptoms I was experiencing.  In hindsight, I’d probably taken in more calories on the bike than I had in training.  .  .  But the first 13.1 went relatively well.  Curry Hill flew by under me, barely noticed.  With a slightly higher than expected HR, I was holding right around 8 minute miles.  Right on target.   It seemed like my goal of going sub-10 hours was in the bag, and I wondered how close I could get to the 9:30 range.

But then I began to slow.  Inability to hydrate or get down calories was catching up with me.  By mile 17, I decided to walk the aid stations so I could drink two waters and cokes at each, in the hope of catching up and getting re-energized.  It helped a little.  The temptation to give up and do serious walking loomed large.  Again, I hadn’t imagined this much of a struggle this soon.  My goals were in peril if not lost.   But it there’s one thing medical residency training has taught me, it’s to carry on as well as possible in less than perfect circumstances no matter how grim things looked.  I set aside my nascent whininess, brought my mind back to technique, and started a gratitude list in my mind.  Still healthy, still married, still employed, still alive.  How bad could any self-inflicted discomfort really be, relative to the pain and misfortune I get to see patients and families experience every day at work?  Soon I was a little happier/weepier/punchier, if not faster. 
The rooting section!

I decided to run through the aid stations at miles 23-25 with minimal hydration.  Not enough fluid might be a problem, but fluid was making me cramp, so I figured it would be a wash.  At mile 25, I finally glanced at the overall time on my watch, which I’d been avoiding for the whole run.  9:48.  1.2 miles in 12 minutes to get to the finish line under 10 hours! I knew if I pushed it, I’d make it. I also knew it would really hurt: I’d kept my pace just below the cramping/nauseous threshold, and this was a deliberate venture into that realm.  Hopefully it wouldn’t backfire.  

But I told myself, Temporary suffering’s got nothing on knowing I could’ve gone sub-10 and didn’t give it my all. . .

I cranked it in pretty hard.  At mile 26, a spectator said that I had three minutes to finish under 10 hours.  I didn’t look at the watch, as I was going as hard as I could, and feeling it.  Coming up towards the chute, my buddy Vince greeted me with a fusillade of shutter clicks and a smile.  I did my best impression of a smile in return.  Turning into the chute, I saw the clock at the finish, mere yards away: 9:58:34.  I was going to make it under 10! As much as it hurt, I ran hard through the finish.  9:58:59!!  I was elated.

Warming up in Medical
The volunteer who helped me sit down afterwards wound up leading me to the medical tent when I began shivering uncontrollably.  I got wrapped up in a blanket and fed chicken soup while he got my morning clothes.  Vince, coach Bill Daniell, and the family visited with me while I warmed up.   Later was an unhinged sushi fest, followed by a well-earned lazy evening.  Mission accomplished!

To take stock briefly: PR by 40 minutes, 30 minutes faster on the run, right on pace for the bike, a hair slower on the swim.  Nutrition was better, but still in need of significant improvement.  Antacids, more nutrition on the bike, less nutrition on the bike. . .it’s not clear to me what’s best.  But the good news is that there’s some chance that I may not have to wait to turn 50 to contemplate a serious run at a Kona slot. . .tune in next year.

Battle scars, or something like that:

Beat up feet
Wetsuit abrasion
Probably got banged during the
swim.  And not a very manly
looking bruise at that.
In closing, I want to thank my wife and our kids for putting up with this nuttiness.  It’s easy to see in retrospect what I asked everyone to give up for a few months, but harder in the moment.  Thanks also to those who helped me get back from a hip fracture 357 days before this race to where I am today: My Orthopedic colleague Dr. Jordan Smith, who fixed it, Dr. Pat Boyle, who too care of me, John Woolf at ProActiv Physical Therapy for getting me going, Melissa Hollmann at Peak Action Physical Therapy for getting the hip loose enough to really perform, Charlie Roach Chinese Medicine for getting the energy flowing again, Brian Grasky for extensive help with running form, Vince and the gang for the online support and numerous laughs, and coach Bill Daniell for designing a plan that did an excellent job of making the most of limited time.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

IMAZ 2013 Race Plan

So on this coming Sunday November 17, I'm having another go at Ironman.  This will be number three, and my second in Tempe.  Following is my plan.

But first, a season recap.  It's been a surprisingly productive year, given that I'll be 357 days post hip fracture on race day.  After a month of recovery and several more of rehab, it's been essentially injury-free.  The unintended bike focus has given me more watts to work with.  Reinventing my run form, with the personal help of coach Brian Grasky and the virtual help of Bobby McGee, has made speed more effortless.  Swim, well, whatever.  It's about the same.  My coach, Bill Daniell, is a superlatively good swimmer.  Maybe some TrainingPeaks osmosis will happen.

It's probable that consistent and unrelenting training has improved the ratio of slowtwitch to fast twitch muscle fibers, increased the number of fat-oxidizing mitochondria in the intracellular matrix of my myocytes, and improved the capillary density in relevant muscle beds.  But what is undoubtedly true is that systematic neglect of upper body strength training coupled with 2 1/2 years of SBR has led to a vast improvement in the critical and well-researched Ass to Arm Ratio (AAR).  (see for further details) 

Yes, what used to be a fairly balanced physique is looking more and more like that of a competitive triathlete.   Observe these actual, unretouched photos:




Plus, I've lost THREE WHOLE POUNDS since last year! Look out, world! 

Anyhow, to the plan: Start off the morning the normal way, with the core macro- and micronutrients that encourage firm and regular bowel movements: Oatmeal in coconut water; high-dose caffeine; fluids.  Maybe throw in a couple of salt tabs for good measure.  But not on the oatmeal.  After distal GI tract success, it’s time to head down to Tempe Beach Park, so I can mill around with fellow racers and urinate surreptitiously in my wetsuit while consuming sports drink.  (Note to first-timers: Wet footprints on the sidewalk are not due to anyone having pre-swum the course.)  Then into the water, where if memory serves, we bob around at the start line in the mid-to-low 60s murk of Tempe Town Lake until the race director confirms that at least 50% of competitors have begun shivering convulsively.  Then the cannon sounds.  

The ass to arm ratio thing hurts me in the swim, but since I'm one of those contemptibly well-reimbursed Age Group triathletes, I can afford a nice DeSoto T1 wetsuit that does a marvelous job of floating my disproportionately dense derriere.  My swim goals are to avoid trying too hard and wasting energy, to get clobbered and to clobber as little as possible, and to move on to the fun stuff, AKA the bike and most of the run, ASAP.  Some people think there are curves that can be legally straightened on the swim course, and I suspect they're right.  Pre-examining the course will be key.  I went :58 last year in the swim.  It’d be nice to break an hour again, but not nice enough to work hard at it.

After spending roughly an hour in the water warming up the wrong muscles, there's nothing like a barefoot shuffle through T1 to send the HR skyrocketing.  Hopefully I can get the bike computer turned on soon enough to see if I've managed to break my personal best for max heart rate.  

One key element of the bike plan is to actually have the bike computer on the bike this year, instead of in the pocket of my morning clothes.  Also, I plan to actually recharge the 310XT I’m going to use for the run.  It was very retro of me to do an electronics-free Ironman last year, but not a do-over.

Mostly, the bike leg is about getting ready for the run.  My plan for pre-watering the wetsuit has got nothing on what I’m going to do to that poor bike.  Priorities are: 1) Go as fast as possible without overdoing it, and 2) Get so dang hydrated that my back teeth will be floating by the end.  This means drink, pee, drink, pee, repeat, repeat, repeat.  One thing I’m doing differently is going fluid only (Infinit Custom), all isoosmolar to hypoosmolar, depending on how much I'm sweating.   Quite possibly my previous bonks were due in some part to a high solute load in the gut drawing fluid out of the intravascular space, and Infinit has worked flawlessly in training.  And if I can manage over the next week to avoid whatever questionable sort of food that caused untimely gastroenteritis last year, I should be good to go from a GI point of view.

The bike iteself: Same one, new paint job:

At the turnarounds, I'll keep an eye out for the fam.  But I’m well aware that watching daddy go around in circles for ten-ish hours may very well not be on the tippy-top of our brood's “fun” list.  So I hope they enjoy the zoo or whatever, and I’ll probably see them at the finish.

I’ve got my wattage limits, and this year, I’m actually going to stick to them.  It’s unclear how fast a well-behaved bike leg will be, but last year was 5:07, with a few minutes of extra stop time to address aforementioned GI problems.  Best guess: 5:05, + or - ten minutes.  Assuming a well-executed race, this is the wild card with regards to my overall finishing time.

For the run, my last two 26.2 mile death marches were neither enjoyable nor productive, and hopefully the nutrition, pacing, and fitness problems have been solved.  With any luck, my new and improved run form will carry me as far and fast as possible before things get tough.   Besting a 4:24 split should be no problem if all goes reasonably well.  I should hopefully even go a good bit faster than 4:00. Last year was 10:39 overall, and I’m hoping to go sub-10 this year.  Given that M45-49 appears to be more stacked than the cast of Baywatch, I imagine I’d have to go a good deal faster than that to be in contention for Kona slots or the podium.  We’ll see.  Not expecting it this year, but eternally hopeful. . . 

Most importantly, I’m going to keep in mind that this is all optional, and all for fun.  The jerk who yelled profanities at me on the bike last year because I didn’t hear him and finish my pass/get out of his way quickly enough may have gotten his coveted Kona slot, but if that’s what it takes, I’m not interested.  Nothing I do next Sunday will result in a pay raise or cut.  There isn't a finishing time so fast that it will improve my marriage, nor one so poor that it will get me sleeping on the couch.  So, priorities: Fun, gratitude for health, family support and friends, fun, fun, fun!

Except maybe the last few miles.  But after that, it’s dinnertime.  For a week or two.  Which will be fun.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Iron Run Simulation Lite

Friday was a 5.5 hr aerobic ride, and a bit of a Country/Western ride at that.  I dropped my chain twice, the power meter died, the Garmin battery ran out.  Then going up the last hill home, the chain shifted into the spokes and I keeled over onto the pavement, getting a bit of road rash. 

Upon arriving home, I was relieved to see that the dog was still alive and Karen hadn't left me for a Texas cowpoke.   :) 

I worked last night, then put in a 2.25 hr run.  To make it interesting, I figured I'd divide it in thirds, start out easy, go medium, then see if I had enough to kick it up to a higher gear for the last part.  Poker run versus progressive.  Pace for both "laps" 1 and 2 felt sustainable. Lap 3 effort was with the finish in mind: I knew I couldn't keep it up much longer than the scheduled end of the run.  It went pretty much as planned, but that higher gear was more of an RPE increase than a speed increase, as my legs were tired and the Mercury had climbed from 81 to 91 degrees.  Still able to drink water/infinit for last part, just not as much, and probably not enough for a run of more than a few miles.  Here's my little Excel breakdown:

The segment time and the time per mile differed with either segments less than one mile or water bottle refill stops, of which there were many.  17-20 ft/mile up or down changed my pace by about 20 sec/mile, so I adjusted accordingly to get an estimated flat pace.  I was pretty happy both with the overall pace and the fact that the first 2 laps felt very sustainable in terms of HR, muscular endurance, and ability to get enough fluid/calories onboard.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Attack of the Killer Migraine, er, Virus

Yesterday was an unexpected downer.  After a fairly long, brick-filled weekend of training in Flagstaff, AZ, I was slated for an easy swim in the AM.  During the swim, I started to feel a little hungover (of course without cause, other than a long run the previous evening).  Drinking water didn't help.  I left the pool early due to a splitting headache with nausea.  I figured the obvious: dehydration.  Work today didn't start until 3pm, so I went home and hydrated like a fool (lessons of early college years gone by were not lost  ;)).  Hydration didn't help, and I was feeling pretty wretched every time I stood up, so by lunchtime, I called out of work.

Next guess was that I had a BAMF migraine.  So despite nausea, I threw down some Advil and caffeine, which eventually helped.  A head full of medical factoids leads one to contemplate all sorts of heinous possibilities, but I reined it in.  It was a migraine, plain and simple.  When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.  Unless you're in Africa.

Haven't had a migraine since late teens.  But it's suddenly time to figure out how to avoid 'em.  Realistically, I did a bunch of stressful things in the last 48 hours, and one of them, or some of them in combo, was/were the trigger:

--3 Hr. Mt. Bike race Saturday, followed by 20 minute run
--Long hypothermic bike ride on Sunday in Flagstaff, AZ: 4.25 hrs in 50 degrees and rain.
--Long, normothermic car ride back to Tucson.
--Long, sweaty 1hr 22 min run Sunday night right before bed with only water, and probably not enough. (Tucson was mid->high 80s, immediately post-rain, which is to say that it was so farking humid that I was growing armpit and crotch moss)
--Not enough fluid after run.
--Generally more physical stress with IM build (big surprise there)
--Not enough sleep lately (not sure that one's getting better until retirement)
--Just used Infinit for the first time.

Hopefully it wasn't that last one, as Infinit worked quite well in all other ways.  I think its ingredients are pretty simple, so I hope not.

Most of it was dehydration, I think coupled with opposite temp stresses (haven't really done alternating hypothermic and hyperthermic bricks). I think it's easy to forget that it takes more than a few glasses of water at night to rehydrate after a real sweatfest.  But there's no denying that some things trigger unpleasant headaches: diet soda; anything with nitrites; anything with MSG.  Dehydration may be the next item, or it may be something else.

A natural part of aging, I suppose: The dietary road grows narrower.  But the horizon grows broader. 

Edit--A coworker described exactly these symptoms a few days later.  His wife got it, too.  Seems that the most likely cause was a virus.  But I'd still say that the extreme training left me susceptible.

Monday, August 5, 2013

XTERRA Snow Valley, Part III: 21K Trail Run

. . .in American English, that's a Half Marathon. . .

The swan song for the XTERRA weekend was an  trail run, on hiking/cross-country trails across the street from the Snow Valley Ski Area.  It took some searching to find an elevation profile, but I found someone else's file from a race on Garmin connect.

Preparing for the race was mercifully simple compared to a triathlon: Shoes, shorts, shirt, ready to go.  Water bottle, holder, 310xt, iPhone and headphones, and HR strap were added as useful but unnecessary extras.  Karen and the kids dropped me off and headed for Big Bear Lake for a couple hours of fishing.  I was at the starting line with just a few minutes to spare.  Time for a quick limber-up, and then we were off. 

Doing some maneuvering at the start.
My legs were initially not so thrilled about the prospect of more hill climbing.  Even though I'd been drinking, eating, and replacing electrolytes religiously since the XTERRA Points tri yesterday, I still felt depleted and dehydrated.  It seems to take a fair bit more than 18 hours to completely restore and rebalance fluids and electrolytes in all body compartments.  No surprise there.

As intended, this was going to be a good opportunity to work on running in less than optimal conditions.  So I pretended it was an Ironman Marathon: focus on form; maintain a sustainable pace, and accept what my body had left without trying to force more out of it

It's not always easy on the ego to let people pass me.  But it is an essential lesson for racing in general, and far more so for Iron Distance racing, where going just a little too fast can lead to miles of walking during the marathon.  And to be blunt about it, I need work on it.  So I kept asking myself: Am I passing this person because there's some imaginary reason I think I should be in front of them, or because staying behind them is actually slowing me down? Unless it's come down to a sprint to the finish line, there's really no other good reason to pass.

Running efficiently downhill on trails is not unlike skiing the moguls.  It's important to stay balanced and centered, to land feet carefully and with the proper amount of force to guide one down the trail, and like with moguls, to keep one's vision 3 or so footfalls ahead in order to remain smooth.   Going too fast equals loss of control and a crash; going too slow and "overbraking" is actually more work than going the "right" speed.  There's a balance.  Luckily, I've spent most of my adult life running trails, so it was pretty much second nature. 

A fellow competitor who was running in front of me for awhile made a video of the race.  It's a good overview of the race and the scenery.  Plus, I'm in it:

Somebody's pet pig can be seen at 1:30.  The race itself starts at 1:44.  I'm running behind him at about 2:50 and I can't hear him because I'm taking acoustic inspiration from iTunes.  Then again at 4:30, and we chat briefly at 5:30.

During the last half of the race, I pushed the effort level up just a hair.  As with the IM marathon, this was not reflected in my pace.  But form stayed together.  I went 57 min for the first 11K, 63 for the last 10, for a total time of 2 hours and 54 seconds.  Just over 2 hrs.  :-\  Makes me wish I'd paid a little closer attention to the watch. . .

Overall, it was a scenic and fun run.  It was also a confidence booster in terms of how well I ran tired.  But the race awards suffered from the same logistical hassle as the XTERRA tri: I would've had to wait around for 1+ hours to get my little plaque for being 2nd in my AG.  I wanted to/couldn't/didn't.  It just seemed too selfish to make everyone sit around and wait again.  Our vacation had, up to that point, been all about the parents and what we wanted instead of the kids' fun.

But over the next week, we wound up doing OK in the kids of all ages fun department:  Speedboating around Big Bear Lake, hitting Huntington and Newport Beach, going to Disneyland, and checking out Street Skating and Freestlye Moto-X at the X-Games:

Mama's Driving the boat like a wild woman.  Family facepalm.
The teen is banking hard and fast, imitating mama.  Only 2 years and she can get a learner's permit!!  :-\

Huntington Beach on the iPhone panorama feature

. . .but that was last week.  Today was the first day of school for the older two, and today is the day that I officially start prep for Ironman Arizona in November.  We're right back into the full swing.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

XTERRA Snow Valley, Part II: Points Triathlon

Saturday was the Points triathlon, the longer of the two tri options.  Karen and I were both excited to do our first XTERRA tri.  Karen was particuarly thrilled that XTERRANS, if you will, seemed to share her contempt for mornings.  The race started not at 5:30, 6, or even 7 am, but at a mind-bogglingly late NINE AM.  She and her slacker night people mountain biker cohorts would just be hitting their strides as I started to look for somewhere quiet and out of the way to nap. . .

We arrived at 8am, set up T2 at the bottom of the hill, and rode/walked up the 2/3 mile climb to the teeny, tiny lake and T1.  Setup was a free-for-all, so I just grabbed an available slot in the first rack, between a couple of really fast looking people.  None of them seemed to be setting out their elbow and hip pads for the bike leg.  And they all had clipless (meaning the ones you clip into) pedals.  Not this rookie.  Platform pedals only.  And my Hokas.  I'm not that good.  Yet.  If ever.

I felt pretty casual about the whole thing: It would be a quick swim, a few trips up and down the ski hill on the bike, and then a hilly 6.2 mile run.  Not much to stress about, and a good chance to work on pacing, nutrition, and of course, mountain bike skills. 

The swim was off fairly quickly.  I started off at a comfortable speed and didn't really get going until the last lap.  The expected hypoxia for a 7,000 foot swim was mitigated by my easy start.  XTERRA tri swimmers have a reputation, and it seemed to me not unfounded.  They were both slower and more aggressive: noticeably more jostling; pulling; hitting, a fair bit of it clearly intentional as opposed to the almost universally incidental/accidental collisions I've had in road tri swims.  A fellow competitior who had a hard time keeping his hands off my backside (repetitively) got to experience some of my old water polo skills.  >;-}  Per my watch, the swim was done in 14:30, about 1:28/100 meters.  Blah.  Pretty much IM pace.  Maybe I should have warmed up.  Or pushed it like the short swim it was.

Given the official swim split time, T1 took me about 2 minutes, which wasn't bad given that I threw on elbow pads, hip pads, a backpack, and sunglasses, in addition to the usual shoes and helmet.

Conscious of the fact that we had to climb the ski hill three times, I set my effort level deliberately at tempo pace.  My new platform pedals with little grippy knobs were money: they gave almost as much traction as if I were clipped in, but with the ability to stop myself from falling over given the high likelihood I would lose balance and/or need to clip out quickly. 

Falling on dirt shouldn't scare me so much, but there was that whole femoral neck fracture thing just eight months ago.  And on this bike. 

I'm going to need to get over that one.  Some MTB skills would certainly help that.  ;-)

I almost made it all the way to the top without walking, but I pulled out into a more scree-covered track to pass and spun out.  Overall, I had to hike the bike three times, all due to poor route selection or biking technique.  But mostly climbing went well.  With my feet free to move around on the pedals, I found that putting the midfoot, instead of the forefoot, over the center/axle of the pedal made a substantial improvement in my ability to climb.  This shouldn't be a total surprise, as I use midfoot position cleats on my road shoes.  Except when I leave them at home and need to buy new shoes for a race. . .

I seemed to be able to lean forward with greater ease, which made a pretty big difference on climbs with grades in the 15-20+% range.  With the same level of effort, I climbed past people with whom I had been merely keeping pace before.  Granted, they shot right past me on the downhill. . . 

Haven't seen this on a road course.  Yet.
In keeping with my general lack of MTB skills and experience, I went downhill cautiously.  Halfway down the first hill, the bike started feeling wobbly.  The rear tire had flatted.  I got to do a MTB tire change commando style, and like everything else, it was slow.  For posterity's sake, I hung onto the unsubtle culprit, at right:

This was, pun definitely intended, the nail in the coffin of any lingering competitive notions for this race, putting me abruptly back with folks more my speed, including Karen.  Like pretty much everyone else, she whipped past me on the downhill, but I caught up with her on the uphills. 

I wasn't knocking the cover off the ball in terms of raw speed, but neither was I cramping nor hyperventilating with effort on the climbs.  There was definitely a range of knowledge of pacing and nutrition out there, and if nothing else, I knew my limits well in this area.  Total time was 1:52 for 13+ miles.  Running speed.  Ouchie.

Bike leg elevation, HR, and speed

Exiting T2.  The dude's probably all like, whoa, check out the helmet-hawk on him.  (Photo by Elissa)

Speaking of which, the run was every bit as hilly as the bike, and even a bit more so on the 24% grade of "Diablo Hill," which everyone walked on the way up, and skid-slid-walked on the way down.  There weren't any flats to speak of on the run course, just ups and downs.  I worked on staying loose, efficient, and sub-threshold, even on the climbs.  Maybe some day, my mountain bike skills will improve to the point that I get off the bike with people as fast or faster than me in the run, but next I got to do something fun that I hadn't done since my first few months in road triathlons: Run down a bunch of competitors.  :-)

Woohoo! Passing skinny people! (Photo by Elissa)

Doing a new type of race was a good opportunity for me to contemplate triathlon and my relationship to it.  I didn't start off competitive in triathlon, yet here I am.  It grew bit by bit: Outswimming and running a few people down in my first tri; beating a bunch of skinny people; beating a few more skinny people in the next one; hitting an average speed on the bike over 20 mph; and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, being two spots off the podium at a World Championship qualifying race, waiting around for a roll-down slot, and thinking that what was once a distant and farfetched pipedream--qualifying for Kona--might not be all that unrealistic, or far off.  For the last 18 months, I have been deliberately and rather thoroughly dedicated myself to that goal, embracing my own competitiveness, even when rehabbing a busted hip. . . 

So it was certainly different to do a race in which I had no hope of excelling.  And I quite enjoyed it, which I think is a good sign.  My involvement in triathlon doesn't seem excessive to me, despite what your average Joe or Jane likely thinks about roughly 12 hours/week of S-B-R, ramping up to as much as 20 for the 2-3 months preceding an Ironman.  How this impacts the kids is another question worthy of another post, or two, or three.  Soon.

Karen finishes! Better-than-professional photo by Josh.
In terms of race logistics/support, this was an exceptionally well run and organized race.  My only complaint was that the race organizers wouldn't simply hand out awards: If we wanted to collect it, we had to wait 1 1/2 hours after finishing so Karen could collect her 2nd place in age group plaque.  This may not seem like much of a problem for most, but we spent not only our time, but our kids' free time/parent time/vacation time waiting around for us to collect our little codpieces instead of getting back to more family-centered activity, which wore thin for all involved awfully quickly.  One single quanta of race director flexibility on this one would have made a big difference in our kids' schedules, and correspondingly, our levels of parent guilt.

On the whole, though, it was a good race, a great MTB adventure, and a do-over.  Not to mention the piece de resistance: I won a lottery prize! Yes, that's right, helmet cleaner and deodorizer! The mind truly boggles to think of all those years I'd been living without, toiling under a grimy helmet, in blissful, stinky ignorance of the solution to (one of) my aesthetic problem(s).  But no more.  Now we'll get to be the family with the shiny, great-smelling helmets! 

Unless you want it and send me an SASE.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

XTERRA Snow Valley, Part I:

Had fun pre-riding.  Kids rode too, as far as they could given the steep and sandy trails.  No, that's not a preemptive excuse, but the MTB is definitely a growth area for me:

One of the benefits of pre-riding, is, of course, working out the kinks.  One major kink I found turned out to be a residual Tucson thorn that flatted my tire. 

When I use a CO2 cartridge to fix a road bike flat, I pre-inflate to 20 or so PSI with the hand pump and check the tire fit before topping it off with the cartridge.  This leaves the new tire right around 100 PSI.  I attempted the same strategy with a MTB green slime tube and a 25 gram CO2 cartridge.  Apparently, this pushed the pressure too high.  Results were less than sublime.  Feel free to add your own caption.  We did:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Rest Week"

Ah, a planned lull in training, courtesy of my new coach, Bill Daniell.  I've been beatin' the legs hard, and now it's time for the prescribed chance to recover, so they can come back stronger.  Eight mere hours of a possible 168 spent on exertion, and not even anything especially strenuous.  It's a virtual mini-vacation from all that sweating and straining, paddling and plodding, spinning and stretching.  By the numbers, this is about six more hours to do with as I see fit.  Doesn't that sound wonderful?

For most folks, maybe.

I, for one, happen to like all that exertion, and not just the fresh air and the joy of motion, but the neurochemical result: endorphins and adrenalin, my other favorite mood elevators, Mother Nature's very own Speedball.  Yes, almost nothing else makes my least favorite coworkers easier to put up with than a couple of heaping scoops of endogenous opioids and catecholamines. . . 

Love me.  Take me.  You know you want it.
But perhaps most of all, I love not having to think so much about what goes in my mouth.  More desserts, more snacks, less self-restraint required to get where I want. 

Or so I think. 

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that one of the few remaining low-hanging fruit left for me in the quest for triathlon excellence is getting a better handle on diet.  Even though I've done at least 5-10 hours/week of exercise for my entire adult life, my weight has vacillated within a 45 pound range.  For the last few years, I've been on the lower end.  But not the lowest, and not as light as I imagine I could be without losing strength. 

So dietary discipline actually has always appealed to me, in a "Mañana" sort of way.  It's a handy coincidence that this week is when Karen and I have committed to start writing out everything we eat in anticipation of a consultation with Grasky Endurance's resident nutritionist and triathlon coach Brandon Nichols.

Hey, hun! What's for dessert?
In addition to more core exercise, foam rolling, and hot tubbing (Did I mention house chores? That's the most likely use for any "extra" time I think I have!), this week will be an opportunity to be more disciplined and aware.  How hard can that be, really? I spend basically all of my active SBR time focusing on how to be smooth and efficient.  What's the big deal about a little more self-awareness?

Already, I've skipped that extra morning bagel, replacing with an apple.   Not so hard, at any given moment, one would think.  Except at night, when my IQ plummets to that of an australopithecus, right along will my will to resist wayward impulses to consume sweets . . . 

OK, it's going to be a pitched battle.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ironman 70.3 St. George Race Report

. . .with implicit hip fracture update:

Many moons ago before the busted hip in November, I signed up for the newer, slimmer, better, IM 70.3 St. George, lured by the promises of a beautiful and challenging course less than one day of driving away from our base camp in Tucson, and by extra 70.3 World Championship slots.  After the hip fracture, I tried to withdraw.  But even with a medical excuse, WTC would only go so far as to give me $75 back.  Plus, Karen was signed up, and we figured it would either be a fun family vacation or a weekend date with someone watching the kids.  So I held onto the registration, fully expecting to do just the swim and bike only, as a rehab assignment.  Karen and I wound up going together, with my folks watching the kids at home.  Woohoo!! Date time!!  When we thought about it, we realized it had been 2-3 years or so since we'd gone away without the kids. . .

Race logistics were made somewhat hectic by the separate locations of T1 and T2.  Showing up an hour later than expected because we forgot Utah was on Mountain Time didn't help.  Leaving my bike shoes at the shop in Tucson that gave the bike a last-minute tune-up didn't help either.  A stuck chain and busted chain blocker seemed like the coup d'grace.  My lack of planning cost me a nap, and netted me an unexpected new pair of bike shoes and two panicked trips to Bicycles Unlimited in St. George, where the very helpful service staff totally hooked me up and got things back in order.

This is my ass, getting saved.  Mostly.  Except for the next time.

I thought I was done with pre-race stress, but not yet.

All went as planned until the next morning when I tried to top off the air in the tires.  The removable valve core at the end of the extension came loose and jammed up a pump that a fellow competitor had so graciously lent me.  I tried to knock the stuck part out, but the head of the pump just broke.  I wanted to get the pump-lender's info so I could send her a replacement, but she took the rest of her pump and left, or maybe stormed off, quickly.  Damn.

My superstitious mind noted, with a fair bit of relief, that this was the third bad thing that had happened to the bike.  My rational mind called BS, and suggested that I not take anything for granted.

So, the race.

Equipment: DeSoto T1 Wetsuit and neoprene cap, silicone earplugs
Time: 28:19

I downed a bottle of Ironman Peform while waiting for the second M45-49 wave, which was at 7:54, 59 minutes after the pros had started.  This led to the wetsuit wee-wee equivalent of the "one cheek sneak."  I just kept walking around until the wet footprints dried up.

The water was 60 degrees, a temperature which seemed awfully cold in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, but somehow didn't seem so bad in Sand Hollow Park, Utah.  My De Soto T1 2-piece wetsuit is absolute money--buoyant in the legs, flexible in the shoulders, more than sufficiently warm for every race I've done.  A neoprene cap and silicone earplugs helped immensely (don't underestimate the discomfort and vertigo that can be caused by a continuous flow of cold water right next to your vestibular apparatus and brain).  I was borderline hot by the end.

The wave start was unremarkable.  I grabbed a spot on the front line with no resistance or jostling.  The horn went off, and I took long, easy strokes, instead of sprinting.  I started out feeling smooth and a little lackadaisical, which was perfect.  Kicking was minimal to nonexistent, except for two instances: to wake up the legs at the end before I got out, and when the dude who hung on my feet for most of the way hit my feet a couple times in a row.  He seemed to get the hint.  There was often someone in front of me, and water visibility was good, so I didn't have to sight much, except to occasionally avoid meandering swimmers from previous heats.  It went pretty well for a first swim of the year, particularly given that I've been borderline neglectful of swimming.

T1: 3:30

It went OK, given the hassles associated with new, bike-only shoes.  I skipped the wetsuit strippers, which probably saved some time.  Cooking spray to the arms and legs before putting on the wetsuit helped it come off quickly.

 Equipment: QR Illicito, Zipp 808 FC Clinchers, front and rear, Quarq Rotor Powermeter, SRAM red 11-28 cassette, QXL 54/39 rings, Garneau Vorttice Helmet with Visor, Garmin 800
Time: 2:34:45

I actually paid for this pic, which is why it's bigger and doesn't have a copyright symbol on it.
The bike leg is among the hilliest 70.3 courses around, but no more so than many rides around Tucson.  Lots of climbs and dives, with some rollers, and a couple of flat sections.  It was a little cryptic to decipher from the course map, but was well marked on race day.  It was listed as having 2552 feet of elevation gain, but my elevation-corrected GPS file showed 3700, which I think is more accurate.  Strangely, some of the pros' files listed on Trainingpeaks, which covered the same course and presumably used the same elevation correction algorithm, showed closer to 3,000 feet.

I started off the bike with higher than expected HR and lower than expected watts.  This is the last part of the swim to run transition: Waiting for the arms to cool off and stop sucking up so much of the cardiac output.  Eventually they did, and I settled into my planned 260-270W range.  HR remained a little higher than expected--high- instead of mid-130s.  But I didn't feel like I was pushing it too hard, so I let that be.  The course was beautiful and fun.  The "big climb" on the course--Snow Canyon--took a little speed away, but was easier than a corresponding 4 mile stretch on Mt. Lemmon.  Not a biggie.  The dive-bomb down the hill--reaching 46.8 MPH, was easy and fun, as the winds were minimal.  Finishing the bike course was little more than rolling down the hill to T2.  I let wattage bump up to 300 or so on hills.  Heart rate stayed sub-threshold.  Final numbers: Avg. Speed 21.71 MPH, NP 267, AP 257, VI 1.04 (with some strategic coasting), Avg. HR 139, Avg Cadence 84.

T2: 4:15

Slow, but there was no hurry whatsoever.  Mentally, my race was done.  I'd hit my expected swim and bike times, now it was rehab run city.  I checked my bike power results before leaving, and made a bathroom stop that I didn't really need.

Equipment: Race Tucson top/bottom, Hoka Bondi B shoes, Garmin 310xt, Headsweats Visor.
Time: 1:58:35

Again, the elevation on this course was more than listed.  I had 1,429 on the Trainingpeaks-corrected GPS file, which seems a little much, but the race guide said 709.  Others had mentioned 1100-1200 feet.

I wasn't sure if I was going to do the whole run, as I hadn't done a run over 8 miles since the busted hip.  So I took it a mile at a time.  Pace felt easy, so I worked on pushing my fluid intake a little, drinking 1-2 cups of water and perform at each aid station.  It remained easy until about mile 10, but at that point, all that was left was to roll down the last hill.  Aching legs notwithstanding, I finished without falling off the (not terribly fast) pace.  I was, surprisingly, 20th/213 for my age group and 250th/2000+ overall.  A healthy me would have been competitive for WC slots.   Like a true Red Sox fan, I say, "next year. . ."

Karen rolled in a little later, and we soaked up the post-race food and relaxation for awhile before hopping in the car.  Particularly noteworthy were the three-flavored (or at least three colored) rocketship popsicles, straight from childhood.  On the way home, we drove past Zion National Park.  Definitely a must-see for next year!

On the whole, it was an amazing race.  As friends and teammates alike are planning to do it again next year, we almost undoubtedly will, too.  Next year, and for all future M-dot races, I think we're going to show up at least two days before the race, instead of just the day before.  Logistical sanity cannot but help not only race results but enjoyment.

Results for team Quigley:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rehab Update: Attitude Management

I've had the distinct pleasure of being able to start running again in a real way recently, and this is a good thing.  But since November 26, workouts have been, to mangle a cheater's quote, all about the bike.  I was back on the stationary bike within two weeks post fracture, and back on the real bike at about seven weeks.  Since then, bike power numbers have not just recovered, but improved noticeably, mostly because I've done little else but ride.  I'm hitting historical tempo level wattage in Zone 2, and threshold wattage with a tempo HR.  With swim continuing to be solid, it was easy to even imagine that my tri ability as a whole was getting better. . .

. . .until I started running.  Despite feeling as if my bike and swim fitness is pretty advanced, run fitness just isn't.  When running, I've gotten to the point that I'm moving pretty smoothly, but speed just isn't there.  What feels like a 7 minute mile is more like 7 miles per hour.  The recovery from a 45 minute to 1 hour "easy" run feels like what it should have been after a 10K.  And most vexing of all, probably 50% of the apparent wattage improvement on the bike appears to have gotten lost in sore running legs.

Somehow, I find this surprising, when by any rational standard, it shouldn't be.

I'm impatient to be further along than I am.  The hazard of this, clearly, is running myself into injury.  I find myself reeling in my unreasonable expectations, talking myself down from unreasonable disappointment, and trying to put it all in perspective.

So here goes:

--An athletic year in the life of a 45 year-old following a hip fracture is most reasonably devoted to rehab, not PRs.  But perceived improvement, particularly in something so reproducible and constant as bike power, has tempted me to think otherwise.  There I go again. . .

--And where am I relative to expectations? A couple months ago, I wasn't even going to bring my running shoes to 70.3 St. George.  And now, there's a decent chance I'll do the whole 13.1.  Perspective is the key to happiness.  Expectations are its enemy.

--First and foremost, triathlon--meaning all three disciplines--is an event unto itself, and all disciplines are interrelated.  It's a bit delusional to think that I'd improved AS A TRIATHETE merely by upping bike power, when I couldn't even run.  Even though bike numbers have taken it in the shorts of late, collective multisport fitness has come along dramatically by merely being able to run.

--Oh yeah, and am I remembering to have fun, and appreciate what I have, instead of dwelling on what isn't?

An answer, in the form of tonight's runset:


Sunday, March 17, 2013

More LV: Red Rocks Loop And Surrounding Roads

Some days I roll out of bed earlier than I'd like, get my dragging butt on the bike with a slightly dragging rear brake along with dragging Gatorskin tires, Mr. Tuffy liners, and thick, puncture-proof tubes that are both highly resistant to flats and to speed, . . .but then have an amazing ride anyway.  Including this three hour ride, I've put in 11 hours of Ass-In-Saddle Time this week.  This is far and away more than I've done since busting my hip, and I'm pretty dang stoked about that.  Just 'cuz I like data, here's the Trainingpeaks chart:

Power and speed unimpressive but steady. No surprises there.

Data is fun, but beside the point.  The Red Rocks Loop, west of LV, was a beautiful ride, with many riders to spur one on.  The loop proper is in the upper left corner of the photo:

Start/Ending point was the Red Rocks Casino

I started the ride out by headlamp at oh-dark-hundred in order to get back to the conference in a timely fashion, as there were things actually worth attending this AM.   This allowed me to be there, iPhone in hand, for the dawn:

 The Red Rocks loop itself was beautiful.  The first four or so miles were uphill at a 5% grade, and was somewhat deceptively steep.  Numerous roadies were there burning up the hill, making me wish that I'd had a bit of leftover leg strength to try to outrace them. 

 The local tortoises were too smart to be out on the road, particularly the downhill.  I topped 40 MPH without pedaling, and could've likely hit 50 if I'd been feeling bold.

On the way back to the hotel, I got passed by a roadie.   Initially I raced him, but then decided to practice not getting hooked into racing people who are outpacing me, as I am wont to do in triathlon.  With a twinge of regret, I let him go.  He started easing up, and slowly the gap closed.  I stopped 8 or so meters off his rear wheel and worked on "not drafting" per triathlon rules.  It sure was notably easier to pedal when I was "not drafting" this close to someone.

After a solid finish, I freshened up and headed down for some education and socialization.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lake Mead Ride

View from the turnaround on today's Lake Mead ride.  Made with the iPhone "Photosynth" pano app (free).  Ride was 3 hrs of tempo w/some intervals.  Legs still sore from playing on Mt. Lemmon, but I got into it.  I'm pretty sure the "NS" on the mile marker stands for "NO SMOKING." Or maybe North Shore.  Naah.

It was a little cloudy, which washed out the orange colors on the rocks some.  But it also kept the temp down to mid 70s instead of the predicted 90 degrees.  Orange rocks, dark blue water are beautiful.  When vivid, orange and blue create maximum color contrast, as they're on opposite sides of the color wheel.

I cowboyed up and ran for 40 min (walk/run) after, even though I was hungry as a bear.  Odds are I will be hungry after the bike leg next time I do an Ironman.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Avalanche Training

This weekend, we went to Flagstaff, AZ to do Avalanche Safety training, in the hope of being able to both Backcountry Ski more and survive.  We were out for 3 days in beautiful, warm weather (40F in the day), digging holes in the ground, learning to analyze the snowpack, and skiing around the backcountry having a good ol' time.  Our younger 2 came and did ski lessons all day.  The oldest stayed back in Tucson with a friend so she wouldn't miss basketball.

I brought my tri bike with the intention of riding at altitude (Flagstaff is 7000'; Tucson is a mere 2800').  But I opted to catch up on a major sleep debt that started with our drive back from vacation last week, and included 2 overnight calls in the hospital this week.  The recently snowed-upon roads were pretty manky and dirty anyway.

Given work and kid schedule, this was definitely my last ski trip.  I think it's good for my longevity in Tri/IM to have other activities, but now the SBR begins in earnest!


We (4 of the participants) rescued 4 dummies buried on a steep run using transcievers, poles, and shovels, in less than 30 min.

In the parking lot at Arizona Snowbowl! 

Gotta love truth in Advertising! Karen contemplates the merch.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stair Torture Machine Threshold Test

Per the PT, I got to start off with 20 min of 30 sec run/30 sec walk.  Manna from heaven.   :)

Then, a 45 min ramp-up through threshold on the Draconian Stair Torture machine, 30 min of elliptical, and 30 min of swim.  Moderation is for other people. 

The stair torture machine has a wattage readout, and just for the sheer geekiness of it, I recorded my wattages and heart rates for the ascending 5 minute intervals.  Here's the data, which corresponds pretty well to a lactate threshold/VO2max test:

Presumably, the machine's wattage algorithm is fairly accurate.  Power is force times velocity, which in this case would be:

Power = Mass x acceleration x upward velocity

Mass (weight) was entered to the nearest pound.  The machine measured upward velocity, and acceleration is your standard acceleration due to gravity.  It's calculating force against gravity at a known upward velocity (assuming one doesn't hold onto the railings), and asks for my weight to the nearest pound. 

One year ago when I tested LTHR for bike, it was 147.  Power at this HR was about 315W.  Run LTHR is 155, with a power output of about 330W.  This corresponds to a threshold power/weight ratio of either 3.7W/kg or 3.9W/kg depending on which threshold value I use.  The correlation with bike power is unlikely to be perfect, but hopefully it's pretty good, as it indicates some improvement over my test from a year ago (285W).

Not bad for a big 'ol fella who busted his hip less than 3 mo ago.