In the relentless pursuit of personal growth and self-fulfillment, the journeyBecoming the best version of oneself is a path worth embarking upon.This self-improvement guide is a roadmap designed to...
IRONMAN Maryland Part 1
I signed up for Ironman Maryland initially due to the reviews that said it was fast, and beautiful. Jaime started it with all the hype about it being a fast flat bike course because she despises hills, even though most of her fastest bike splits came on hilly courses. Touché. So, last year after a lot of pestering Pete, we registered and the training began. Pete, Jaime and I have been training together for about 4 years, ever since I decided to get serious about triathlon. We ingeniously started calling ourselves “PB&J”. Get it? Peanut Butter and Jelly or Pete, Brad & Jaime.
Interesting enough though, I really wanted a sub 12-hour Ironman and Jaime was shooting for a sub-13, so as much as we enjoy training together we actually ended up going our own ways. I started training at Tribal Multisport with Coach Jon Noland, and Jaime trained with Personal trainer and elite athlete Kenneth Jones.
We made all the arrangements well in advance. We had hotel reservations at the host hotel, restaurant reservations, tri-bike transport was scheduled, flights were booked and cars were rented well in advance.
We talked constantly throughout the months, confirming our plans, comparing training schedules and every once in a while, we actually did get together to train. PB&J looked strong and ready to face IRONMAN Maryland together. Unfortunately, in September, Pete ended up injuring his Achilles’ tendon and after a lot of conjecture decided it wasn’t in the cards for him this year. I told him, it would better to live and race another day than to permanently hurt himself.
We departed for the race on Wednesday, September 30 completely anxious and excited. We headed to Tampa International Airport, for an uneventful flight into Baltimore-Washington Airport. Within a half hour we were in our Jeep Compass rental and headed up Rte 50 in Maryland.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Carmine’s Pizza to carb load with pizza and salad and just as we are about to pull out of our parking space and back into traffic, Jamie’s phone rings. Ed, a friend and first time Ironman athlete, called and tells us the race has been cancelled. I could hear Jamie’s voice say, “Uh say that again…wait…wait. Let me put you on speaker.” A deep Jersey accent comes from her speaker and says “They cancelled the race.” Really? This early.
The last time WTC cancelled a race it was in Lake Tahoe and the athletes were in their wetsuits ready to jump in. They waited that long and now, 3 days before the race they were cancelling it.
We jumped on Facebook, and the IRONMAN Maryland site and were met with the validation that WTC had indeed cancelled the race. It turned out the immediate threat from Hurricane Joaquin was dire and it was in their best interest to keep the athletes, volunteers, race staff and spectators safe. Not to mention, there was already four inches of water already on the course.
We got somewhat lucky. We were able to find a flight home that night, and the hotel did not charge us a night for cancelling so late. Unfortunately, the flight back cost us just as much as the full round trip, and because we pre-paid the car we couldn’t get that back.
WTC anticipated rescheduling but couldn’t give the athletes a final decision until the following Tuesday. The wait was hard. What do you do? Do you keep tapering? Do call it a season? There was nothing to do but wait.
Late Monday night an email hit my account stating that the race was back on and it would be held on October 17th as predicted. All I can think of was “Here we go again.” What if the weather was bad again? Would we spend even more money just to go through another disappointment?
IRONMAN Maryland Part Deux
Coach Jon, put a schedule together of low duration, high intensity workouts to keep my body from degrading fitness for the next week, and I managed to squeeze out a 17 mile run with a client that felt awesome the Sunday prior. The weather outlook was good, cold, but decent. As the days passed, the forecast kept getting colder and windier, but no precipitation was even close.
This time it was going to happen.
From Tuesday on, Jamie, myself and another training partner of hers, Hunter, had a group text as we kept planning our trip. We found decent round-trip flights, Hunter found a rental house, and I again reserved a car. Of course this time I bought the trip insurance as well, which, of course, I did not need.
And on October 14th, we took off for the second time from Tampa and arrived, this time at National Airport in DC. We spent a great night at the Residence Inn in Pentagon City before heading out to Cambridge the next day.
As I drove though the rural part of Cambridge and into the long drive way of our rental home, I was surprisingly calm. Subconsciously, I think I just didn’t want to get my hopes up, but my heart rate did jump at the surprise I felt pulling into the gravel drive way. It was gorgeous!
There stood a modest one-story ranch home, but on a huge amount of acreage that backed up to a lake. It had it’s own dock, fire pit, pool, and a beautiful deck. Inside it was an open floor plan with a dining-kitchen area, huge great room and three good size bedrooms. It was decorated modestly, with wood floors and a kind of rural, yet updated and upscale charm to it. All of the appliances were current models in the kitchen and baths with flat screens in each room, and a large one, in the great room, a fireplace and gigantic sectional couch that all of us could have slept on.
What was even luckier was that it wasn’t only Hunter, Jamie and myself, but Kenneth and his parents, so by sharing it, the cost was not even half of what we would have to pay for the hotel.
I also have to say, that Ken’s parents, treated all of us like we were their kids. His Mom, Lucy, cooked and cleaned for us, and his Dad, Phil, grilled, shopped and chauffeured us around to make sure we were at the right place at the right time. It was like Ken, outsourced his parents to us. Of course that wasn’t the case. It seemed like they genuinely loved doing it.
It came time to travel over to transition and pick up our bikes, and then head to Ironman Village to check-in.
We reached transition and since Hunter and Ken already had their bikes, because Ken and his parents drove them up, they headed out to check out the swim start while Jamie and I talked to Tri-bike transport. Jamie’s bike was already in the rack, but unfortunately, mine was not to be found. My stomach took a little turn when Drew, from TBT, said I wasn’t on the list to have my bike at the race.
Luckily, he said that my bike was in the truck, but it was with the bikes that were sectioned off for the athletes that were not going to be returning.
I headed over to the transition area to scope it out and then took a quick peek at the swim start and at that point, my anxiety started to increase. This was happening. There no “ands”, “ifs or “buts”. I was going to be racing my third Ironman.
Ironman village was exactly as it was for every other Ironman and Ironman 70.3 I have raced except, because they were not able to keep all of the original volunteers procured, it was a lot slower checking in. We waited in line for close to two hours before we finally made it under the tent to pick up our packets and swag.
When we finally got through that line, we contemplated going into the Ironman store, but the line to check-out was just as long and we still wanted to get a quick workout in. In every Ironman store I have been in, for every race, the cashiers, (bless their hearts) are always so slow that you know if you do get in that line, it is going to be a lot of time.
We headed back, and unfortunately, I had yet to receive a call from Drew to tell me that he was able to dig out my bike, so the others headed out on their bikes and I decided I would just work a little while I waited for his call. At 4pm, I did receive the call and 45 minutes later I was back at the house with my bike.
Leading up to the Saturday morning, was pretty much the same as any other long race. Putting gear bags together, going over transition and nutrition plans, and quick workouts in all three events. These were basically just to make sure everything was in working order.
Did I mention Thursday night we had a campfire and made s’mores? Yeah, we did that too.
The Swim Start
I was pretty shocked at how well I slept Friday night. We had all turned in quite early, in anticipation of not being able to sleep, but I drifted off pretty fast and slept until the 4:00am alarm woke me up. None of us were in a rush as we all felt pretty prepared, and the outside temperature was only in the upper 30s. I dressed, ate and leisurely grabbed my morning bag and we headed out into the darkness.
Leaving the house I had yet to really feel nervous, but as soon as we pulled up to transition, I felt a pressure in my chest. My heart started to beat so hard, I thought it was going to crack through my rib cage and take off on me.
I looked over at Jamie, and she looked back and said,”Sh*t just got real.”
After outfitting my bike with my nutrition and helmet, I took a walk over to the actual swim start line and looked over the water. Waves didn’t seem that bad, but the water was far from calm. I could feel the wind on my skin even through the wetsuit. Luckily, while it was 38 degrees outside, but the water it was 63. That was going to work in our favor, as it was actually going to feel warmer in the water.
Around 6:40, Jamie, Hunter, Ed and I were all hanging out trying to keep warm and maintain a positive mental attitude, when the speaker echoed our announcer’s voice. The safety team had stated that the winds were causing a lot of churning in the water, so the boats and paddle boards could not take their places on the course. The solution was to shorten the course to 1.2 miles.
I should have been really excited about this, as the swim is my weakest event, but I wasn’t. I was actually a little upset not only because I wanted to prove to myself I could get out of the water within my goal, but also for Ed and Hunter as this was their first full distance Ironman.
What else could happen? First they postpone the race, and now they shorten the course. This race just seemed cursed.
That was not the end of the story. Around 7:10, an announcement was made that, the winds had died just a little and would be enough to get most of the swim in. We would do the swim, but we would be about 800 meters short.
Things just looked better. I felt redeemed and a positive relief flowed through me for about half a second. I still had to get passed the swim. If you remember from my post about my last Ironman, I was the last one out of the water to be able to cross the line. I worked a lot harder on my swim this training cycle, now I would have to prove it.
At 7:30 we lined up according to how much time we thought it would take us to swim the full 2.4 miles. I lined up at the behind the 1:30 sign and after waiting another 20 minutes to get through the line, it was my turn to jump in.
The water still frigid enough to shock my body a little, but my adrenaline kept me warm. I immediately headed to the first buoy where we would turn right and then head in triangular pattern.
I felt really good during the first lap. For the first time in an Ironman race I was actually passing people and it felt amazing. I still felt pretty strong as I made the turn for the second lap, but I did slow down a bit.
As much as I thought I loved my long sleeve wet suit, I didn’t have the mobility in my arms, that I developed during training, and I had to strain to lift my arm into a streamline position. I listened to myself hypothesize about it and I thought, “Am I really thinking this? Did I really become a decent enough swimmer to even contemplate it?”
On the second lap, the wind picked up again and I thought I was swimming in my washing machine. I got tossed around and the effort level increased. I did end up breast stroking intermittently for a few minutes to catch my breath and realign my siting, but I continued. My habit of zig zagging didn’t show up until the last straight away while I was trying to sight on the finish. The waves were pushing me in the wrong direction, but my sighting was able to put me back on a good path. I jumped out of the water and ran towards the timing mats, and as I crossed I looked down at my watch – 1:10.
1:10? Really? I had to double check it twice. If I added the 800 meters back on I would have finished around 1:25-1:30 which, was my goal.
I was so excited I sprinted to the strippers, but for some reason they didn’t help. My wet suit would just not come off of me and when it did, oh man, did I feel the weather. The wind hit me, and my soaked tri kit, like a brick wall.
I headed into the changing tent and dawned a bike kit, arm warmers, a gator neck, and gloves. By the time I added my helmet I looked like a Tri Ninja.
Ed gave us a quick rundown of the bike course the night before, as he came up earlier in the year and actually trained on it. He explained how the course was an oval and we would probably have a head wind on one of the shorter sides and away or back to transition. This would account for two blocks of 12 miles since we had two laps. I was ok with it. I would just turtle for those 24 miles. (This is a technique keeping your head down and allowing your back to come up like a turtle shell to be as aerodynamic as possible.) The rest of it my plan was to stick to 75-80% of my functional threshold power(FTP) as possible. In training that proved to be right around 20 miles per hour which should get me back to transition in 5:35, and then taking account for the wind, sub 6 hours.
No such luck. I have never ever been on a bike course where the majority of the turns were to the right, and kept being hit by the shear force of a 33 mph head wind.
I wish that were the only factor that slowed me down.
I knew because of the temperature that I would not want to drink, but due to the fact my calories were mostly in my bottles, I would have to. What I didn’t count on was that I would have to stop at a portlet every 10-15 miles to urinate. I am just not die-hard enough to urinate while I am on the bike, and we were specifically told that if athletes were caught relieving ourselves outside of designated facilities they would be DQed. That slowed me down.
From mile 40 to 50 we were all riding on the shoulder of the road, into the wind. Directly to the right of the white line were slowing rickets with very small spaces in between them. They seemed a little dangerous, so everyone was either on the right of them, or on the left and swerving to the right when traffic would come from behind.
I was in aero, with my head down, when I saw a tire in front of me, so I yelled “On your left.” The wind was so loud the person in front of me, wearing a “This Guy Needs A Beer” jersey, could not hear me. As I slowed down to keep enough bike lengths between us to satisfy the drafting rule, I noticed a motorcycle next to me. It was an official.
He pulls out a memo pad and yells to me, “At the next penalty box, tell them you have blue card.” Well, I wasn’t going to start arguing while I was the bike, so I nodded.
At the mile 56 aid station there was a penalty box, so like a good athlete I did what I was told, and so did the other seven athletes that came in behind me. There we all were. Eight, age group, athletes standing stretching while we waited for our five minutes to be up. I am all for rules, order and safety , but it’s a little ridiculous when there are eight people in the penalty box all caught doing the same thing on the same stretch of road. As this was my 3.4 hour mark on the bike, I asked the volunteer who had to time the penalties how many he had so far. He kind of smirked and said it had to be over one hundred.
At that point I just had to laugh. I got back on my bike and continued trudging through the wind.
Ten miles later, a slow burn started aching my legs. I didn’t understand it. My cadence was up, but no matter how high I shifted, I felt like my effort level was increasing. Then I heard what was a metal grinding. Yep, you guessed it. A flat in my rear tire. These were brand new tubular tires, I had installed just for the race, and now I punctured them. I had a bottle of pit stop in my jersey, so it was only a couple of minutes before I was back on my bike. With Pit Stop, I didn’t even have to take the tire off, just empty the contents of the bottle into the tire and go.
Luckily, I didn’t have to stop nearly as much the second loop as I did the first to urinate, so I picked up a little bit of time, but while keeping to my FTP goals, I could barely get above 17 mph. It felt slow and torturous.
The left turn for the last 12 miles came and I thought maybe we would catch a break and as I passed the last aid station one of the volunteers yelled, “Your on your way back, no more wind!”
The whole way back to transition, the wind hit us and kept our pace to a slow 16-17 mph.
As I dismounted my bike, I could feel not feel my toes or my hands, and I was just frigid. I tried to take off my bike gear, and it was extremely difficult. I felt like I did, during the last ironman at mile 13 of the run and I hadn’t even started the run yet.
The grumbles in the changing tent were all the same. The bike was windy, it was tough and it sucked, but it was over. A few of the guys who competed in last year’s event said they were over an hour slower than the previous year. That actually made me feel a little better.
I have a saying I give to my athletes when they start to walk or I find them giving up on themselves. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.”
For a nanosecond a thought went through my head. “I already did two of these, I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. Forget this.” Then the next nanosecond went by with my inner dialogue that said “Who are you kidding Minus? You know you are going to finish if you have to crawl across that finish line. You never quit anything in your life, what makes you think your going to do it now?” The last words that echoed in my voice were that of my coach Jon Noland. “Embrace the Suck.”
I changed the best I could with numb fingers and toes and started the run. (I found out later I spent over 20 minutes in T2. It sure didn’t feel that long. I must have taken a nap.)
The first two miles felt a little slow, then at mile three it was like the pearly gates opened up. My legs transitioned into a good running form and I took off. I felt amazing.
I kept to my strategy of walking through the water stops, which during an Ironman is every mile, but they are only a few yards long, unlike those at a major marathon, where the distance could exceed a hundred yards.
At mile seven I actually felt a side stitch which hasn’t happened in a race in years. Luckily, I still had my wits about me. What is the cause, or better yet, what is absent from my body that would possibly cause a stitch? Potassium. Wouldn’t you know it but an aid station was just fifty meters ahead of me, so I grabbed a banana. Within the next quarter mile, the stitch was gone, so I picked up speed again.
The course was two-and-a-half loops that took us from transition through a residential neighborhood, around a park, back through the neighborhood passed transition, into downtown Cambridge where it either started again, or headed to Ironman Village and Finish line.
We had been told that Cambridge was supportive of the race and even in these cold temperatures, the town was out in droves.
Along the route there were kids on their lawns cheering, a dancing banana, residents on lawn chairs, and local bands playing outside their homes. While running through downtown people were outside the bars drinking and cheering every athlete on as they passed. It was just spectacular.
I found Jamie ahead of me around mile 5 and we ended up passing each other three more times. Each time I was getting closer and closer to her. I had hoped to get closer, but in the end she did end up crossing about three minutes ahead of me.
I never ran over 90% of the run during an Ironman before. This time the only time I walked was through water stops and only stopped twice to use the portlet. Granted it was not extremely fast, but it was still over twenty minutes faster than my best Ironman.
My legs at mile twenty were very heavy and this was the half lap and the last time I would have to turn left after downtown Cambridge. I kept going, and didn’t stop but it was getting quite dark to a point where there was a portion of road where I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I just kept going.
The thing I just kept thinking in my head was one day, I would finish an Ironman and it would still be daylight.
I came out of downtown Cambridge and made the right towards the chute. I heard the announcer call my name and as I saw the arch of the finish, I wondered if I had it in me.
I ran just a little faster and jumped up, caught a little air and touched the arch. I was an Ironman. Again.
My finishing time was 13:08:53 which was actually and hour and forty-six minutes faster than my best Ironman, but if I kept the same pace on the swim, I calculated I would probably have crossed about 20 minutes later which would have given me a ninety minute personal record. In those conditions, I‘ll take it.
Of course I did not do this alone. I have to thank my coach, Jon Noland for training me (coaches need coaches too), the athletes at Tribal Multisport for pushing me further than I thought possible, the Moxie Multisport team for the help with gear, nutrition, and the support to keep me going through the long training period, my travel and housemates, Jamie, Hunter, and Ken for the great time at the house, and for keeping me sane and laughing, Ken’s parents, Phil & Lucy for the race weekend support, and last but never least, Kim for supporting me at home through this third Ironman.
I believe I have started to write this post on injuries, a number of times, trying to be as clear as possible without seeming conceited or that the information I am giving is absolute. That being said I am giving this disclaimer:
The information in this post comes from experience, my personal research and conversations with Physical Therapists, Bio-mechanical experts, Orthopedists and other athletes. I am not a physician or medical expert, so please take this information as opinion based on cognitive research. Also, there is an exception to every rule and another explanation. I do welcome comments that give constructive criticism, but I make mention to this disclaimer first.
What causes injuries?
You might be surprised to hear that there are only two reasons runners (and other athletes) get injured; accidents and imbalance. Accidents are obvious right? For example; rolling the ankle stepping off a curb, falling, being hit by a bicycle, etc.
Imbalance will cover the why’s of the rest of the injuries. The human body is designed for every system to work in synergy, therefore when one piece of the puzzle is not operating a full capacity or efficiently, the other systems have to do more work. This is when the imbalance occurs.
When talking with Physical Therapists and Bio-mechanical experts I was shocked at some of the stories I heard. One story I heard was of a football player who was training, running 100s up and down the field carrying a ball. He had extended his shoulder just barely beyond its usual range of motion, and he ended up with severe pain in his opposite quadricep. “What?!!!!” was my initial reaction, however, I was then educated on the connective tissue (ligaments, tendons etc) which can be traced from the very top of our skull, down through our torso and into the extremities. Everything is connected.
As another example, one of the most popular injuries for newer runners are the dreaded shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
Scientifically it is caused tiny micro tears of the fibers connecting the medial soleus fascia through the periosteum of the tibia where it inserts into the bone. Due to the soleus becoming so week that the constriction starts to bow the tibia. In more layman’s terms, the calf becomes so tight due to weakness and inflexibility, that the connective tissue pulls on the bone. (There is some physiological proof and complaints that more runners are getting shin splints and other injuries due to training in calf sleeves and other compression gear, but I will address this in another post.)
This same weakness, fatigue in the calf muscle can also cause another popular injury. Plantar Faciitis. In this case, instead of the connective tissue weakening through to the soleus is pulls on the plantar fascia causing inflammation which can be debilitating.
An injury can be traced either by the athlete themselves or by a professional to a point of imbalance. Most likely somewhere within the full spectrum of the athletes, body, behavior and, do I dear say it, attitude.
How can injuries be prevented?
As a coach and trainer, my first rule, and one that I increasingly live by, is “Do no harm.” Therefore, I am always asking questions starting at a high level and continuing to get more specific. (The examples below are catered more toward running, but can be used in any sport.)
- Is the effort balanced through each week? (So, no high intensity days back to back)
- Is the volume balanced? (No consecutive high mileage days)
- Is the duration balancing?
- Is there enough recovery?
- Does the periodization allow for peaking at race time, but still allow for enough rest prior to the race?
- At what time in the plan does strength training make sense?
- This can be critical. If the strength routines are not designed to not only strengthen the muscles used for the sport, but strengthen them for the way they will be utilized, it can be detrimental. For example: Heavy squats for a runner. What is targeted? The glutes, and hamstrings. How are they being utilized in a downward and upward motion causing the hamstrings and glutes to gain size in that direction. How do we run? In a forward motion right? Well if there is more pull on the glutes in the sitting position gravity will work to pull backwards. That is working against what we want. It would be better to do air squats or light dumbbell squats where the motion is more forward which would be utilizing the muscle the right way.
- Are the exercises within the workouts specifically designed to strengthen a muscle, or group of muscles, in the same way they are utilized within the sport?
- Are the intensities, duration, reps and sets balanceing within the weeks of that period in the plan?
- At what time in the plan does strength training make sense?
Form and Technique
- Does the plan take into account work on form and technique either as a full workout or within workouts?
- Is it enough? Or Is it too much? (This is obviously specific to the athlete)
- When looking at the athlete do they look symmetrical? Are there any imbalances to the eye? (over-pronator, supinator, flares,)
- Is the athlete in the right shoes and equipment?
- Is the nutrition in strategic balance, fueling the muscles properly for the sport?
- Is there enough calories? Are there too many calories? Are the calories nutritional dense?
- Is this the right time in the athletes life for this race?
- Do they have a support system?
- is the plan fitting in the athletes life with minimal impact, or is there planning for the impacts ahead of time?
- What kind of attitude does the athlete have towards training and does the plan fit that attitude? Or should there be an adjusting of attitude?
There are definitely more questions I ask, however, I think these examples give a good idea of why balance is so important.
The term “overuse” is being used quite a bit, but what is it? It’s an imbalance of planning or lacking thereof. Tracing Injuries is completed from the highest level which would be the training plan, all the way down to the balance of strength and flexibility within the connective tissue of the body. Personally, I think it is amazing that on one hand our bodies can endure a lot, but if we don’t notice those little weaknesses, it will create an imbalance that could cause and injury that may or may not keep us from doing what we love most.
Balanced Plan -> Period -> Weeks -> Workouts -> Balanced Form -> Body -> Mind
One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling. The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed. Whew!
Buying my first Bike
I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it. I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes. Every bike store had a different angle they played. One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike. Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike. Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?
I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty sure I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike. I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet. The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years. Would I really not forget how to ride a bike? The answer to that my friends is YES. It is not a skill that is forgotten. It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten. Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.
I also read something that resonated with me. The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting. At first I thought, “what? Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?” I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you. They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored. “Really?”, you ask? Yes…really.
The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension. Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places. He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back. He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me. I had no clue there was this much to it.
As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice. I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up. I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down. Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals. Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what. I followed that advice in detail. I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it. Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.
I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood. I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike. I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.
The First Ride
I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio. I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride. I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough? After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back. no big deal.”.
I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride. The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming. That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists. They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out. After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.
I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort. The wind was in my face, I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up! It was an incredibly euphoric feeling. Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.
My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals. With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late. I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side. The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain. The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going. By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site. I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.
To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store. He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.
Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:
1. Buy an entry level road bike. This is usually an aluminum alloy frame. You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.
2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes. The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for you.
3. Purchase safety equipment. Biking shorts, and a helmet to start. I would also have a set of sunglasses as well. Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too. Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.
4. Get the bike fit for you. Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.
5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats . Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats. Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.
6. Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats. When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going. Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.
7. Understand your gears. While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.
8. Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.
One last thing, you are going to fall. That is just the reality of it. You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal. The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun. It’s worth it I promise.
This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.
In my recent post, Effortless Swimming-Goof Out#1, I gave a summary of the introductory lesson in Effortless Swimming’s Mastering Freestyle Course. This course is located within the Swimprove program hosted by Brenton Ford and his Australian company Effortless Swimming. I continued with that lesson for a week which was dedicated to balance and streamlining within the water, and I recently continued with lessons 1 & 2.
Lesson 1 was specifically geared to the feel of rotating from your hips. I did this workout 3 times and I want to nickname it the Core Killer. I never thought working out in the pool with so little movement would cause such a tightness in my abs and core, but nevertheless, my abs, obliques, quads and hammies where a little tight the next day. It consisted of 1800 meters of drills, plus a warm-up and cool down making it 2400 meters total.
WU: 300m any stroke
MS: 300m Kick on side w/ shoulder to chin
300m Kick on side w/ hand-to-face
300m Kick on side w/ switch
300m Kick on side w/ arms at side
300m Kick on side w/ arms across chest
300m Kick on side w/ blockhead arms
CD:300m Easy Free
I do not have a strong kick, so I continued to use my Zoomer fins to reduce my worry of propulsion since I knew that was not the focus of the workout. Lucky for me, Brenton actually suggests the use of fins in both the written material and the videos that accompany this course.
Throughout the workout, I noticed that when it was more difficult to rotate from my hips, I was not streamlined, however when I engaged just my core, and lengthened myself, rotating the hips became a lot smoother and I did move faster to the other end of the pool. I also learned more about breathing, because when you have one shoulder out of the water and you are look at the bottom of the pool, once in a while it is nice to turn your head and breathe. The breath is quick, so I started to breathe out during the drill and breathe in when I rotated. This was never natural for me and I know it caused a lot of anxiety for me. It still isn’t natural, but it makes a lot more sense. Once I finish the lessons, I will be able to develop a relaxing pattern with this new revelation.
Lesson 2 added the arms. I kept the fins with these drills, but because there were only three drills, I dropped them afterwards and swam one thousand meters without them. I was still slow, but I noticed it was quite a bit easier. I also developed a patter of breathing for myself, which I still am not consistent with but, when my position is streamlined and I am keeping a high elbow, it is a lot easier with the new breathing patter. It makes for an interesting alert. If I begin to feel like my breathing pattern is off, most likely it is because my swimming technique as fallen apart.
WU: 300m any stroke
MS: 300m Shark Fin Drill with pause & return
300m Shark Fin Drill with practice entry
300m Shark Fin Drill with switch
10×100 Free Form Focus
CD: 300m Easy Free
This weekend will be the test. My first triathlon of the season is Sunday at the HITS Ocala Olympic Triathlon. I still have one more module of the Mastering Freestyle Course, but that will have to wait for next week. I am going to use my last workout this week to continue with the lesson 2 drills. We will see what happens. I am really excited
You can checkout the Swimprove program at www.swimprove.com
Since I have been an endurance athlete in the Tampa Bay Area for a few years, I have always felt a pull toward the Gasparilla Distance Classic. This last weekend was no different. I had the intention of possibly hanging out on the sidelines this year, but the attraction of the race and the fact that all of my racing “peeps” would be there, lured me to enter the Becks Light Challenge which consisted of the 15K, the 5k and the ever loved Half Marathon. There is another level to the challenges named the Michelob Ultra Challenge which includes all of the races in Becks Light Challenge plus the 8k, but I know myself well enough that after a half marathon the last thing I was going to want to do was run another 5 miles so I decided against it this year. Maybe next year.
The expo was pretty much the same as it always is. I enjoy being around it, and seeing my fellow running buddies, getting some samples, seeing the new shoes that are out and tasting the new products. Unfortunately, I was a little late this year, so I didn’t have the allotted time I would usually, but I did spend some time with Pearl Izumi rep, Kyle, and tried on their new product, The E:Motion Tri. Kyle mentioned it had only been available for five days at that point and after a little schmoozing I think I may have finagled a pair, of which I will review at a different time.
The race included over 27,000 entries this year, and with muli-race entries the estimates stated there were about 23,000 unique entries, which I consider to be an amazing turnout. I was pretty excited to be participating the next day, however I let the energy of the social part of running get the better of me and I did not eat very well that day or that night. I ended up paying for it the next day.
I woke up at 4:30a and took care of morning routines and ate a banana with almond butter which is usually all I need for a workout that is only 9.3 miles. Jumped in the car and headed off to the race. I found a nice spot, behind Publix and since they were sponsoring the event I didn’t think they would mind. It was a nice little hike to the start line from there, so it was perfect to warm-up and get the blood moving. I had plenty of time, so I hung with Dawn Peters, and saw a few others in the corrals while I was continuing to warm up a more thoroughly. Peculiar thing I didn’t mention earlier. In Tampa, there was a power outage in the water treatment plant because a squirrel chewed through the lines. This caused a water distress warning for all of the areas that received their water from the City of Tampa for 72 hours. We were told to drink bottled water or boil our water before drinking it. The announcer was assuring us, the water served was bottled from Zepherhills and the mixed Gatorade also used the bottled water. I caught myself wondering how much of the water, I used to brush my teeth with, made it into my system.
There was a great rendition of our national anthem sung acapella followed by the blast of the start horn.
I started feeling really good and I was charging hard at about 7:31 pace as I hit miles 1, 2 and 3. My legs were fine, my breath was under control and I just kept saying to myself; “Self, you know you have another 5k you have to do today followed by a half-marathon tomorrow don’t you?”, but the energy of the race ran away with me (pardon the pun).
At mile 4 I started to slow down and at mile 5 my whole race fell apart. Here I was, on my own training ground, turning the corner and heading for home, and I felt dizzy, my legs were not feeling great, and I was slowing to a crawl. I walked for a bit, trying to clear the toxins the lactic acid was ridding my muscles of, and motivate myself to finish this thing. I couldn’t believe I was falling apart this early. Just two weeks prior I slowed but at the 9 mile mark, so I thought I would at least be able to get through this race and shuffle through the 5k, but here I was at mile 5 and completely crashing. I kept saying to myself “The mind will quit 10 times before the body does. This is not your body, you goof, this is your mind.” I started again, with the expectation to keep running no matter how slow and just finish. Athletes, that I run with at track that are in groups below me started to pass. My friend Rich, whom has been just lifting and bulking up past me with a motivational pat on the shoulder. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I checked my posture, looked at my placement, leaned into a comfortable position and picked up my cadence, allowing for maximum efficiency and pushed on with everything I had left. At the 9 mile mark, as is tradition, I put everything I had in the last third-of-a-mile and sprinted across the line. I literally felt like I had nothing left.
I took pictures with the pretty pirates and was lucky enough to see a few of my clients whom were running the 5k about an hour later. I was so drained I was seriously contemplating just cutting out of the 5k altogether, but that little jingle went off in my head. It actually used to be an old Hefty Bag commercial that started with a little squeaky infantile voice; “Wimpy, Wimpy Wimpy.” Of course the actual commercial continues with a loud, strong, low and bold voice; “Hefty Hefty Hefty!”, but that part was missing in my head. I decided that 3 miles was not a big deal as long as I can get some fuel up a little, so I journeyed on to find some food.
This was the only disappointing portion of the Gasparilla Distance Weekend. Every other year I have participated in this race the vendors are lined up in the tunnel with fruit, beverages, smoothies, rice and beans, sandwiches bagels the works, but this year it was cut to bananas, fruit cups, granola bars and sample smoothies. I was a little disappointed, but I ate a couple of bananas, gulped a couple of smoothies, headed back to the start line.
As my readers know, I am not the fastest runner by any means, but usually fast enough to be in the front corral. This year because I really wasn’t feeling it, I put myself in the middle of the front corral. What I didn’t realize, was because there were only two corrals, the 9am and the 9:45a, there were a lot more people. After another rendition of our national anthem, which was just as good as earlier, the horn blew and we were off. Again. Or, so it seemed because even though I crossed over the start mat I was still walking. 19,000 runners in-between the two corrals, and here I was in the middle of the first one. After 400 meters I heard the announcer mention that five minutes had gone by since the start. I heard my own voice cry out, “What? Five minutes? Already?” Embarrassingly enough, I was talking to myself. I started weaving through the crowd the best I could and finally around the half way point it opened up enough to get some speed going. I was still spent, but the food I consumed filled my glycogen levels enough to finish the race. My time was a dismal 26 minutes and change, but I was happy I did it.
After the race- Saturday
After completing the ritualistic medal photos, walking, stretching, and chatting I caught up with Rich O’Dea and we headed to Four Green Fields for a couple of beers. Everyone I knew was there, so the place was hoppin’. The Tues-Thursday Starbucks run peeps were there, Progressive Run, Four Green Fields, A-Train, Shark runners, and of course Mrs. Jessica Glover behind the bar on deck. She was incredibly busy but smiling and gabbing away. I chatted for a while, met some new runners, saw some old friends like Malynn Nguyen who I haven’t seen since the 2011 Ironman, and just basically hung out and had a great time. It was a nice ending to a couple of difficult races for me.
I realized that I in no way was I talking myself out of running the Half Marathon the next day, so I devised a strategy on the way home. I needed a way to fuel and feel as fresh as possible, so I stopped on the way home and grabbed a couple of bags of ice. What for? An ice bath. I never actually indulged in an ice bath, but I have read over and over the advantages to them, one of them being rapid recovery and that, is what I needed in order to get through the next day. When I arrived home I grabbed a Coke, which would help top off my glycogen levels, ate some chicken breast and broccoli, and headed for my ice bath. Since I never actually took one of these before I knew that it would be torture if I just filled the tub with ice and water and jumped in, so I ran some barely luke warm water and got in. Slowly, I moved the water to cold and it rose above my legs and found myself getting used to the temperature. I then slowly started adding ice, and the temperature started to drop a little more rapidly, but not so much where it became too uncomfortable. I dropped the last bag of ice in and waited my 20 minutes. I have to say, it wasn’t that bad, since I allowed my body to acclimate. I am not saying it was comfortable, the ice remained frozen after all, and it was touching my skin, but I could handle it. After 20 minutes I jumped out and into a hot shower which was absolute heaven. I assessed how I felt and noticed that my legs felt somewhat rejuvenated but the test would be the next day, both waking up and running the half marathon.
The Half Marathon
I woke up the next morning and was feeling pretty good. My legs were a little tight, but not bad. I cleaned up a bit, donned my new IronGoof racing singlet and headed out to Jet City to meet up with Jessica, Cheryl, Carol and Tara Lee. That was a nice way to start the morning. Jessica, made us triple espressos and we headed to the start line, for the last time. We made a quick stop at the Team RWB tent to pick up some more runners and take some pictures.
Team RWB is one of my favorite Veteran charities. Being a Veteran myself and an ambassador, I am connected with their cause to help veterans with “invisible” injuries incorporate themselves back into civilian life through athletic endeavors. Invisible injuries would be, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), biological-chemical treated injuries, Combat Stress, and other psychological and physiological issues and disorders. As I was there, I understand more than the average person how critical this cause is, because for every injury and casualty of war there are over 25 invisible injuries affecting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, and DOD contractors.
We lined up with the rest of the pack for the Half Marathon, listened to a repeated acapella version of the Star Spangled Banner, and after the horn went off for the last time for me, we started shuffling to the start line. As with the 5k, there were a huge amount of runners for this race, so it took a while to find a way to break free. The first mile was around eleven minutes, because we had to stop twice due to the foot traffic moving towards Davis Island. The second mile was not much better at around 10 minutes, but the third is where it started to spread out a little at the end which ended up pacing around a 9:30 minute per mile. I was already way way behind schedule to even come close to the time I completed a couple of weeks earlier at the Rock n’ Roll half marathon. Once I was able to move, I did so, and sped through miles 4 – 8 between 7:30 and 8 minute miles. I felt absurdly confident and noticed the difference in my energy level since I made sure to fuel the night before, more adequately. Unfortunately, the tole I took on my body the prior day, decided to rare it’s ugly head as I passed the mile 9 marker.
All of the sudden my legs felt heavy, my breathing became more labored and even though I was adamant about my nutrition during the course, I slowed to a pace just above a 10 minute mile. I couldn’t believe it as my watch started alerting me after each of the last few miles. When i finally reached the finish line with nothing left, I was just hopeful that I was under two hours or my ego was going to take a huge blow. As I stumbled through the medal line, grabbed some water and Gatorade, I checked my Garmin’s history for my unofficial time. 1:59:17. My slowest non-triathlon half marathon in two years.
The after race activities included pictures in the VIP tent with members of the Brandon Running Association to include lovelies; Beth “B.o.B.” Shaw, Fallon “News Channel 8 Morning Anchor Hottie” Siilcox and Patricia ” Bring my own changing tent” Rossi, good friends; Ben “The Lazy Runner” Mena, Nick “Best Damn Race” Zivolich, Tim “You will never look this good” Schubert, and Chris “You can’t touch this” Wiegner. Of course there were others I cannot remember due to the fact the blood was not pooling in my brain at the time. After I chatted, drank and posed, I left for Jet City where I continued my socializing over fresh Mimosa’s made with love by Jessica.
As I drove home I reviewed the race and what the heck happened to make it so rough. I do not like excuses, so the fact that I am a little older, it was humid or the course was boring are not ideas I choose to partake in, but problems I personally created I can learn from.
- I did not fuel properly Friday night. I know better.
- I had not been putting any real distance in my recent workouts. I had been doing less distance and more interval training.
- I know I have been losing a lot of weight without trying and not feeling as energetic as usual lately and refused to address it.
My intentions to address these mistakes are:
- Revert back to being more responsible the night before race day.
- Obviously, put my longer distance runs back in while keeping a couple of interval workouts. – Lesson Learned: There is no substitute for distance.
- I am incorporating a couple of whole, wheat free, grains back into my diet. Specifically, Gluten Free Organic Oatmeal and Quinoa, to see if I can get my energy and weight back up.
How were your races and/or workouts this weekend?