Tips for Quality Run Training
- Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices for IRONMAN training.
- Distinguish what your greatest limiter is. Is it physiological, i.e. engine capacity, specific fitness, ability to tolerate heat, ability to process calories? Or is it a mechanical ability to sustain pace? Work specifically on these limiters.
- Your greatest fitness gains will come from accumulating as much threshold and subthreshold (tempo) work as possible but see the previous two bullets again to guide you. Remember, easy running should still form the bulk of your work.
- Do anything faster, like VO2 max work, if your event needs it (like a sprint race), either on an incline, i.e. hill repeats, or on the bike such as all-out 30 second efforts.
- Try to simulate race conditions on a regular basis to see how your run holds up under those conditions, loads and speeds. Being very fit and being able to hold a specific pace on a flat course under cool conditions does not add up on race day if you have hills, heat and a tough windy bike to contend with.
- If you don’t lose a lot of speed off the bike relative to your open run ability, don’t overdo the brick-work; it’s risky training of little physiological value. Evaluate your workouts in terms of what run training you need versus running that you feel you have to do to be confident on race day. These are often not the same thing.
- Determine whether you hold your form during the course of your run in a race. You can ascertain this with early and late video during longer quality sessions. Address what shows up. It will always be related to fitness and fatigue, but the fixes may come from either more specific training or some supplemental work in the gym.
Do you have any other tips for training?
Please leave a comment with your tip
September 25 was going to be my day. The Ironman Augusta 70.3 triathlon was finally here. The race I had been training so hard for on one of my favorite courses. It was four-and-a-half months since Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 and I was going to be ready to get my vindication and PR like I never had before. This was going to be my glory day. I knew it.
TRAVEL AND EXPO
Driving up from Tampa, was a piece of cake. I had the presence of some beautiful and talented athletes; Maria Lopez Vijayanagar, Nancy Hepner, and our own personal driver, Jamie Breibart. Between awesome conversations, laughing and completing some work, the time flew by. Before we knew it, we were pulling up to the Marriott Hotel which housed the Augusta Convention center.
This was the first time ever, I stayed in the Ironman Augusta 70.3 host hotel. Actually, it was the first time I ever stayed in a race’s host hotel and I was excited.
The pounding of my pulse intensified with every step we took towards the expo. Check-in was a breeze especially on Friday afternoon since most of the athletes would probably wait until Saturday. The next thing I knew, I had my cool new swim bag containing my packet, t-shirt, and swag. A few moments later, I was standing in line to buy the traditional extras. Some athletes always get that year’s t-shirt, some pick something different every time, I get a coffee mug and water bottle with the race logo.
The vendors that provided booths were of the same variety as usual. Cliff bars, a local gear shop, BASE salts, a new pet food sponsor, and of course my friend Scott Rigsby with his foundation.
I have mentioned Scott in a few other posts. He was the first double amputee to finish the Kona World Championship Ironman. He went on to form a foundation to help soldiers with disabilities; The Scott Rigsby Foundation.
With that completed, we headed down to Mellow Mushroom for some much-deserved carbs to include one of our favorite carbohydrates. BEER. Craft Beer because I am a snob like that. If you ever get to try their Mega-Veggie pizza, go for it. It is magnificent, especially if the tofu is traded out for avocado.
After a long conversation at the bar that included my last drink before the race, it was time to get a good night sleep.
That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Two nights prior I always prescribe a good nights sleep and only awake when the body is ready. This allows for maximal recovery for race day with ample healing of any inflammation.
I have no idea why. but sleep evaded me most of the night. I still felt rested upon getting out of bed around 7 am, but not as much as I would have liked.
RACE DAY EVE
It was a toss-up of whether to go and jump in the river with our wetsuits or not. Nancy had never swum in open water with a wetsuit and was nervous about the swim. I was also anxious to jump in to get a feel for the temperature and if my wetsuit was still functioning properly, so we headed down to the swim start.
We suited up and jumped in. The temperature was a little chilly at first, but within ten strokes it felt glorious. The current was running about 2 knots, so my strokes to the first buoy felt like slicing through butter.
Jaime and I waited at the first buoy while Nancy caught up to us. Her boyfriend Hans had arrived the night before and being a marathon swimmer, he was incredibly comfortable in the water. He talked her through jumping in and they met us at the buoy.
We splashed around and played like kids for a few minutes before we decided to head back. Now that was work. It was like swimming on a treadmill. We ended up swimming to the side and shimming up the dock instead. Funny thing was there was no way to use your legs to get on the floating dock. I muscled myself up and then brought up Jamie, Hans and finally Nancy. That was an experience.
To make matters worse there was a locked gate in front of us with nothing on either side except water. We had to carefully hang on the outer chain link fence to get around the locked gate door. It was like a pre-70.3 obstacle course.
With Nancy now comforted with the buoyancy of her wetsuit, and a real confidence booster for myself, we headed back to the hotel to get a quick ride in.
Maria and I headed out and on Broad St for about a mile when I heard Oscar Alvarez, a teammate from our national team Moxie Multisport, yell from the Holiday Inn. I have never had the chance to ride or even get to know Oscar so I was excited when he flagged us down. Donna Adams also joined us, from Moxie, as we headed out of town for about 15 minutes. We turned around and headed back.
I toggled through all my gears to include my small chainring knowing that there were some new hills added to the course. Everything seemed to work very smoothly, which just increased the intensity my excitement.
After dropping off Oscar and Donna at their hotels, Maria and I pedaled back to pick up Nancy and Jamie. I completed attaching the stickers on my bike and changed into regular shoes for the jog back. I, unintentionally, put my debit card and license in a bento box on my bike, and we headed out.
Again, things went very smoothly. We rode right in, racked our bikes and headed out. I had a pretty good position sitting almost the very middle of the transition area, just a few positions to the left of the aisle.
It didn’t seem like anyone wanted to jog back, and I was ok with that. However, about half-a-mile out, I remembered that I had my credit card and license on my bike. I gave my helmet to the ladies while telling them I would catch up and I started running back to transition.
This is the first season in seven-and-a-half years I have had any type of injuries. Earlier in the year, I was suffering from a stress reaction in one of my right metatarsals and lately, I had been suffering from some Achilles tendinitis. It was so wonderful to run and not feel any of that pain.
Running into transition I caught the site of April from my local team, Outspokin Multisport. I stopped and chatted for a quick second before continuing on to rescue my stuff. Confidently, I ran back out feeling really strong. I was lucky to run into two more Moxie teammates, Josh Otstot and Alex Bautista before finally catching up to Maria and Jaime.
The confidence was brimming with me throughout dinner at a local sushi and hibachi restaurant. I had rice, chicken and little sushi to fulfill my balance of carbs, protein, and good fats.
Fueled and completely prepped for the race, I fell asleep and remained in restful slumber until the alarms went off at 4:00 am.
Ironman rotates the start waves of their races, in order be fair to all of the Age Groups. In other words, while one year the 45-49 age group might be in an earlier wave, the following year that same group would be scheduled later. This year my age group was starting later at 8:28 am.
Since we didn’t need to travel to transition to setup race-ready, we dressed comfortably and headed out to the buses to be transported to the transition site.
Over the years, my experience in setting up my transition has been drastically reduced. I now can do a full setup and walk-through in just a few minutes where before it would take a lot longer. As I started placing bottles in the cages I noticed my rear tire was completely flat.
While a lot of athletes would consider this bad luck, I was grateful that I found it now rather than on the course. Not to mention, there was a maintenance crew here that would be far faster at repairing it than I would.
As it turned out, I was correct in that assumption. I handed the mechanic a tube, and they pulled my back wheel, changed the tube to include adding an extender, returned the wheel to my bike all within just a few minutes. With that, I was set up and ready to rock n’ roll.
Announcements flooded the air during our setup time in transition, of which most were normal except for the one big kicker.
“We are making history today. For the first time in Ironman Augusta history the swim will be not wet suit legal for age group awards.”
This was a little bit of a surprise. This was one of the reasons I loved this race. I am not the fastest swimmer but allow me a downstream swim in a wetsuit and I can hold my own. Unfortunately, now I just lost one of my advantages.
All the way back to the hotel, I took part in a lot of self-talk. Telling myself, that I had done the distance in the pool hundreds of times, and as the river was fresh water that is all this was. I also still had the advantage of the current which was moving between 1.5 and 2 knots. Not to mention, my transition time should be faster.
This calmed me down, as we headed back up to the room to prepare for our start times.
My breakfast of oatmeal, a banana, a cliff bar, and coffee went down easily as my anxiety slowly started to grow. I rolled out my legs, did some dynamic stretching, dressed, and headed over to Jaime’s room to pass the time before heading down to the swim start.
At 7:30 we walked down to the swim start as Nancy had an 8:04 start time, followed by me at 8:28, and Jaime at 8:40. As this would be Maria’s last race in the Pro division, she was already on the course.
I was pushing all of my positive energy to the forefront of my mind for Nancy. She was comfortable in the water during our test swim the previous day and while she could’ve still used her wetsuit, it would have meant starting at 9:30. With the temp already at 77 degrees that would have been for an even hotter race. I applauded her for deciding to go without and starting with her wave.
Before I knew it I gave hugs to Jaime, a number of other friends and teammates, and was in line with the rest of my age group.
At 8:24 the staff moved us to the dock where we would start. Usually, there is a rope start-line ten or so meters from the dock. This year they wanted us to start touching the dock. Due to the number of triathletes in my group, there was not enough dock to allow everyone a water start, so I was forced to stand on the dock and jump in when the horn blew at 8:28.
As I jumped in, the cool water prickled my skin as I surfaced and started my stroke. The anxiety completely wore off, and my heart rate decreased when I found my rhythm. I kept my mind quiet, focusing on reaching as far as I could while driving my hip down pulling myself through the water like a ladder.
I have written and said before, I am not the fastest swimmer by far. Actually, I am downright slow, but I have been working on it every season. You can imagine my surprise when I reached and found a foot there. I couldn’t believe it either, I caught someone. There truly is a first time for everything.
As I was maneuvering around the swimmer and was surprised again by a kick to my hand. Then I was boxed in a group and I thought, “This is great, I can just hang in here and take advantage of the draft.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t last. The athletes on either side of me started swimming into me, throwing off my rhythm and the athletes in front slowed down so I was now getting kicked in the head.
I pulled back into a breaststroke and swam out of the way. It took a minute or so to get my breath and site line back so I could find my rhythm again.
Unfortunately, I experienced a similar scenario a little while later, with me resolving it in the same fashion. I was feeling a little peeved, but on the other hand, I was fascinated that I was forced to pass some of my fellow age group athletes in my weakest event.
With a huge smile on my face, I pulled off my cap and goggles as I ran into transition. I looked down at my watch and saw 34 minutes and change. That was a PR for me, not by much, but gave me a huge energy boost crossing the mount line as I began the bike portion.
This season was all about the bike. I have been focused on increased efficiency and speed on the bike during my training and my earlier results have proved that it had worked.
My ride felt like silk on the early portion of the bike. The derailleur was moving through my gear changes like butter, my goal power was ranging perfectly between 180 and 190 watts and my speed was a consistent 22 mile per hour. I felt like I was unstoppable.
The first set of hills uneventfully came and went without any kind of changes in effort level. The excitement was radiating from me because everything seemed to be coming together. I stuck to my nutrition plan and wattage like glue and just kept passing people.
Another set of inclines came around mile 38. These were the grade of hills that bring your speed down to 9 miles an hour. I kept a cool head knowing that what goes up, must come down and I would make up the speed on the decline.
At mile 42, I noticed my time. Big Mistake. All of the sudden I was concerned that I was under 21 miles an hour of which I was consistent for the ride prior. Had I really slowed down that much? My goal was 21 mph, and I was thinking it was conservative. It would allow me to finish the bike in 2:39, but now that goal was in danger.
Around mile 45, I started to feel a little sluggish, so I took an extra gel and finished the formula in the current reservoir. Unfortunately, it took awhile for my digestive system to process the extra calories, as the following five miles felt very slow.
The last five miles were either downhill or pretty flat. I was consistently riding between 22 and 23 MPH, but it wasn’t enough. I rolled into T-2 in 2:48.
Just prior to the dismount line, my thoughts went to the run. I had decided I just needed to pick-up the pace 15-20 seconds for a few of the miles and I might just be able to make a lot of it up. Even if I didn’t hit my goal of 5:17, I would still PR.
I was ready to hit the dismount line running into T-2, but when swung my leg over my seat a pain in my hip almost made me fall. “What the hell?” were the words that came out of my mouth for everyone to hear.
I tried to run my bike into T-2, but they would not move. My legs just refused to do anything other than walk. My thoughts drifted to other races and my internal dialogue was encouraging reflecting my previous history of my legs waiting to transition at mile 3.
I changed my shoes, grabbed my race belt and hat and headed out, with a brief stop at the portlet. I tried to jog a little, but a stabbing pain was radiating both hips, so I walked very briskly. No problem, I strategized taking in a little more salt, some water and jogging to mile 3 where my legs would magically open up and I would finish around 2 hours. The goal not reached but still a PR.
Unfortunately, it never happened. Mile 3 came and went with me running slowly for a tenth to a quarter mile before having to walk. The pain radiating through my legs while running, but disappearing while walking.
I went back to my training. Asking myself what I thought was happening physiologically. Tracing the muscles radiating from the hips, and assessing each individual pathway. I was at a complete loss. I had no idea what was going on.
Over the next few miles, I did everything possible to go from aid station to aid station stuffing ice down my shorts trying to numb my hips. Unfortunately, the temperature and humidity were increasing as well. I didn’t feel like it was really that warm, but I noticed all the walkers.
The last four times I did this race, there were finishers that walked, but I didn’t recall the immense number of walkers I was noticing. There were more athletes walking than running. It didn’t make me feel any better, but there was definitely something going on.
The first time I completed Augusta I recall it being even hotter, but not nearly the amount of walkers I was noticing this year.
The rest of the run was more of the same. a quarter to a half mile of running and then I walked until the pain subsided. I was constantly making deals with myself to run just a little longer each time.
After 2 hours, mile 10 was the marker I was finally able to surpass feeling completely defeated, angry, in pain and embarrassed. I was doubting everything I ever learned, my ability as an athlete and as a coach. If I couldn’t get through a 70.3 in less than 6 hours what right did I have to coach other people?
When I finally turned the corner towards the finish line, Maria, Jaime, and Hans all had their cameras or phones out. I was trying to signal to them not to take a pic because I felt so ashamed.
Crossing the finish line was completely anti-climactic as my watch blinked 6:16. The slowest time since my first 70.3. I didn’t care about it and I almost passed up the people handing out the medals. At the time I am writing this I still have not hung the medal on my wall with the others.
I grabbed a coke from the food tent and proceeded to find Jaime, Maria, and Hans. We watched Nancy run by just prior to the halfway point, cheering her on and encouraging her to keep moving forward.
After that, I followed Maria back to the hotel and we chatted. She expressed her disappointment with her race, especially the run. I tried to be upbeat, but my thoughts were very negative. I really don’t like being that way. It makes me feel weak.
I left the celebration early that night and went back to the room. I packed and escaped into the mindless abyss of television just wanting the day to be over.
Over the next days, I reviewed the race, trying to resolve my issues on the run. I realized there is one crucial element of my training that I neglected this season. Massage.
In the past, my regimen included regular visits to my License Massage Therapist. That habit has been occurring for every season of training for five years prior. I completely neglected this avenue of my training this season. Was this the answer? I have no idea, but I will be taking that lesson and integrating back into my routine.
The release of negativity was a relief since returning home. My coach, Jon Noland, always says the best thing an athlete can have is a short-term memory. I have taken the lessons from this race, and now I am moving on to my next challenge.
If you didn’t have an opportunity to read the epic writing in the previous post, I discussed the reason “why” I ran the NYC Marathon, then I highly recommend that you do. Not just because the writing was fantastic, but it is my hope that the recap will be more emotionally moving.
Delta carried us to New York City and back with no issues. I was upgraded to the business class on my departing flight, and returned to Tampa in economy class. Even with my average size, I felt extremely cramped in economy. Scott and his six-foot-one-inch frame looked extremely uncomfortable. It is obvious, that Delta increased their upgraded business class at the expense of the comfort of the economy class passengers. My suggestion to anyone flying Delta to the NYC Marathon, just include the cost of the upgrade if the flight it over 3 hours.
The plans were made well in advance for room and board. After each of us declared our opinions for a hotel of choice, one of our teammates found a condo in Chelsea that would accommodate all of us comfortably and provide a full kitchen to save a little money on meals.
Per an email from VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) we were to pick up the keys at a local pizza restaurant located next door to the building housing the condo.
Team Tampa PKD arrived around 4 pm and the employees working that afternoon had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. Of course, we called the management company and were basically told they did not receive the contract. When we had the contract in hand we called the agency back but no one would answer our calls.
Here we were, in New York City, on marathon weekend, not to mention the third and fourth game of the World Series, homeless.
Teammate Kevin O’Brien to the rescue. Kevin works for a landscape development company and happens to travel quite a bit, which was lucky for us. With his Hilton Honors status we were able to procure two rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Tribeca. Thank you Kevin.
The rooms were updated, immaculate and comfortable. Another, nice little value add of the Hilton Honors was the choice of extra points or free breakfast. Kevin being the generous person he is, opted for the free breakfast for us which again helped save a little bit of money. Again, Thank you Kevin.
With all of us now settled, we headed to the Javits Center to pick up our NYC Marathon packets. The bibs numbered up to 72,999. It still amazes me how easy it is to retrieve a bib, swag and t-shirt at the expo. It runs like a well oiled machine.
The Javits Center
There is a booth for every few thousand bib numbers. The athlete walks up to the booth that includes their bib number, shows ID and their registration card. Then they receive their NYC Marathon bib and other instructions, verify their info and then walk towards the t-shirt area where on the way, they pick up a plastic swag bag that also serves as the gear bag for the race. The official NYC Marathon t-shirt area is well-marked with a line for the different sizes and within a few minutes of walking into the expo, the athlete has bib, swag and t-shirt.
That isn’t the most exciting part of the NYC Marathon expo. There are vendors from all over the country whom give runners have the opportunity to try and buy the latest gear and gadgets.
One aspect of the expo I really enjoy, is the aura and feeling of the environment. There is an excitement in the air of the larger expos that increases my heart rate a little and excites me to race. It is probably one of my most favorite parts of any race weekend.
The following day we made another visit to the expo simply to walk around and make some purchases. I found a couple of vendors that I had met at other races and made some new contacts for product reviews. Stay tuned.
I have loved New York City since the first moment I stepped into Manhattan years ago. I have a lot of friends here, and I just really enjoy the pace and excitement of the city.
There is always one place, that is mandatory to visit, at least once, every time I am in town. John’s Pizza. I couldn’t believe my ears, when Rich and Kevin decided not to partake. It was their loss, so Scott and I headed over to John’s for lunch. Carb loading, baby, I just love it.
I could write a full post on John’s, so I wont go into the heavenly scrumptiousness of their pizza here, but trust this self-proclaimed, pizza connoisseur, when I say the explosion of flavors that emanate from each bite, redefines the word delicious.
Saturday night, we were scheduled to have dinner with the PKD Foundation and the other runners from different areas at Carmine’s. Scott, Kevin, Karen and I were all pretty familiar with the city and had even known of Carmine’s as it is pretty well-known.
That night we entered the subway and got off at 42nd street in order to head over to 44th where Carmine’s was located, as we started up the stairs from the station, Scott mentions the address which made Kevin and I do a double take. 2400 W Broadway, which was Broadway and 90th street. At the moment we were on 44th st which means we were 46 blocks away. That was a few miles from where we were at that point.
Of course like men we decided that maybe the address was wrong and went up anyway. As it turns out, it was correct. There was a newer Carmine’s uptown and we were in the wrong place and already fashionably late.
It ended up working out for us again. We caught the subway up to 86th and when we arrived, food was just being served. How long could this luck hold, right?
The dinner was fantastic and we met a bunch of really amazing people who were just as passionate about running for PKD as we were.
Like good little runners we went back to the hotel and retired for the night in anticipation for the NYC Marathon the next morning.
As I mentioned both in the last post and in my NYC Marathon recap from last year; the logistics for this race are not the most convenient. It involves a ferry to Staten Island then a bus to security, a decent walk to the assigned village and finally another walk to the specific corral.
An announcement came out from the NYC Marathon staff, about two months prior to sign up for transportation to the start and of course we all missed and ended up getting assigned the 5:45am ferry to Staten Island. Since three of us had already experienced the ferry and knew that there was no accountability, we decided to just take the 7am ferry instead, not only giving us a little more time in the morning, but also keeping us out of the chilly temps for a couple of hours.
The lesson I learned here was there are two choices, either go by the scheduled time and arrive with a lot of time to spare, sit around have some coffee and bagels while waiting for the start, or go a little later and hope to make it to the corral at the time of your scheduled start.
We took the latter ferry and ended up having to wait for two ferries to get over to the island and then when finally getting on the bus, the traffic was so heavy we ended up having to rush to the corrals in order to make the 9:40 start. It was probably perfect for the rest of the team that had later starts, but for Rich and I it was a little tight. Personally, I do prefer the latter.
I found my green village, dropped off my gear bag with my long sleeve shirt and pants, and headed to the corral just prior to the 9am cut-off to enter the corral. Now I had about half-an-hour to stretch and use the portlet one last time.
I was talking to a woman from Basel, England when I heard my name being called. Ryan Wallace, was a Facebook friend and runner I met at last year’s race. A really fun guy to hang with, so after chatting for a bit we found we were looking at accomplishing the goal of 3:50 or better. Score! Someone to run with.
In the Start Corral
They opened up the corral to head closer to the start line around 9:30am, and just after the final note to one of the most beautiful renditions of our national anthem I have ever heard, sung by opera singer (and runner) Susanna Phillips Huntington, and announcements by the executive director, the gun went off and we were running.
The NYC Marathon is the largest marathon in the world. Largest meaning the most athletes run the course of any marathon in the world.. This year there were over 50,000 finishers. It boasts spectacular views, fantastic support from the spectators, and a challenging course. The route takes the runners through all five major boroughs of the city, starting in Staten Island, crossing the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn, heading north into Queens crossing the 59th St bridge, then into Manhattan crossing the Queensboro Bridge, north into the Bronx over the Willis Ave Bridge, turning south back into Manhattan over the Madison Avenue bridge and then finally the incline to the finish line in the heart of Central Park.
The experience this year was better than last, as the temperatures were much better as we started around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and just a little breeze versus the 30 degree temps and 33 mph winds from 2014.
Ryan, his friend, and I started the NYC Marathon conservative for the first couple of miles, but as we rounded the first 5k I noticed we started to increase our pace. I only was witness to it due to calculating my 5k under 27 minutes, which being under a 9 minute mile that soon, concerned me a little, but I was feeling really strong.
The spectators in the NYC Marathon are everywhere and they clap, yell and scream not only for their family and friends, but for any one they seem to be inspired by. Statistics pretty much show, that even know there were over 50,000 athletes running this race, and hundreds of thousands of finishers in marathons all over the world, less than 1% of the population has finished a marathon. In other words there were a lot of people to be inspired by during this race and the spectators expressed that.
The Goof peeking out behind Ryan
Ryan and I ran together up to about mile nine, constantly telling each other to slow down, yet neither of us could hold a slower pace for very long. About that point, a pressure emanating from my bladder was increasing to a point where I was just not comfortable any longer, so I speeded up to the mile 10 aid station to relieve myself. My thinking was speed up, use the facilitates and then speed back up just enough to catch Ryan again.
Unfortunately, we didn’t cross paths again during the race. I was out there on my own, all by myself. It was just me and 50,000 of my closest friends.
There was plenty to see as I continued on my NYC Marathon journey. Achilles International volunteers were out in droves this year with guides helping blind and other challenged runners through the race. Guides would run in a formation with one tethered to the blind runner and then three-to-four others running on each side of them constantly helping to clear a path through the crowd. It was so motivating, that I knew somewhere down the line in my own journey I would have to help like that in some way in the future.
As I crossed the 13.1 mile marker of this NYC Marathon, and saw the clock I realized that I had been running for an hour and fifty minutes. That for me was fast, but I was still feeling really strong. The sights of the area’s architecture, parks, people and the smells of the local restaurants were consistently keeping my mind occupied as I just let my legs decide what they were going to do.
I was concerned though. I know enough about myself, that keeping this pace would have it’s consequences toward the final miles.
My favorite bridge on NYC Marathon course is the Queensboro bridge. It feels like it never ends, but the view of Manhattan and the Hudson is spectacular. Not to mention, the completion of the bridge is a u-turn with a horde of spectators that it feels like a roar of excitement is exuded from them. I felt a boost of energy when I crossed mile 16.
I was actually a little impressed with myself as I hadn’t really slowed as of yet. It is usually around this mile marker that begins the stiffness of the previous miles.
The next checkpoint for me is usually mile 18, but that too came and went without any real pain. My inner dialogue started having delusions of grandeur of possibly finishing the race around the 3:40 mark which be a huge PR for me.
As I crossed the Willis avenue bridge, I felt the start of a twinge in my left leg and a smile crept across my face and out loud I said to myself,”There it is.”
The NYC Marathon mile 20 clock showed I was two hours and fifty-two minutes into the race, which was already better than last year. My thinking at that point was that I could pretty much slow to a ten minute mile at this point and still cross under four hours, but that didn’t happen.
Mile 21 came at just three hours which was a first in a while for me. I am usually only at 20 by three hours and here I was a full mile closer to the finish. My period of optimism was cut short by a stiffness in my right leg that quickly became painful.
I walked though the next NYC Marathon aid station and grabbed a banana from the hand of a volunteer thinking just get some more glycogen to my legs so I finish this last five miles.
What little stride I had became periods of walking between miles 22 and 23 as the pain started to sear and engulf the rest of my leg. It was getting harder and harder to bend my right knee as the stiffness was setting in.
Central Park came and the crowds were getting louder and more dense. I did not want to walk through the park with all these people. I wanted to run in strong, but the pain was getting more and more intense. I actually yelled at myself, “C’mon legs. WTF are you doing!!!”
My mind drifted to Erika at that moment. As I was trying to run stiff-legged and just suffer through this intense pain, I thought that this frustration and uncomfortable feeling must be what Erika feels all the time. The disappointment at feeling run down, the pain that comes with these huge cysts on her Kidneys and the eternal uncomfortable feeling that keeps her from sleep and just enjoying life, must be one hundred times worse that what I was feeling.
If Erika had to continually go through this pain, then I could at least endure it until I reach the finish line.
I didn’t stop running, no matter how much it hurt. I thought about Erika and the last couple of years of misery she must have been going through, and how Jennifer would also have to also have a painful times ahead through her recovery from donating a kidney. It kept me going as I really felt like I was going through it for them.
I am not a totally idiot, I know that running the NYC Marathon of which I enjoy doing, really would do nothing for either of them. It was the fundraising and support where we as a team were doing the most good. Maybe it was for me. Maybe because I was not able to donate my kidney, that I the pain I was feeling now was so that I could empathize with both of them.
The NYC Marathon finish line was just as glorious as the other marathons I have completed. I was extremely happy to cross in 3:56 and at least beat my time from last year by about 10 minutes.
My official NYC Marathon finisher was medal handed to me, I was congratulated by a volunteer and ushered through to take continue the long mile walk to retrieve my gear bag. I was engulfed on all four sides with athletes as we all did the marathon shuffle through the park. There was a sense of peace and a little giddiness that filled the air.
We all did something extraordinary today. Whatever the reason “why”, we were bound at that moment by the accomplishment and conclusion of a journey that started with the decision to embark, the hours of training and the final step across the NYC Marathon Finish LIne.
Once dressed in dry clothes, I found Rich and we headed out to The Keg Room which was where Team Tampa PKD would gather back together. As Rich and I were in the first wave, where he PR’d at an incredible time of 3:27, we arrived first. Kevin, whom was actually in the last wave to take off, showed up next followed closely by Karen and finally Scott. Everyone finished and accomplished what they set out to do, but I was most proud of Scott.
Scott had micro tears in his gastrocnemius muscle (Calf) and had been trying to rehab it for the last couple of weeks. I really didn’t think he would finish the NYC Marathon and we all told him it would have been ok if he didn’t . He did though and under 5 hours with walking. He also said that he felt like he didn’t feel like he did anymore damage.
I am proud of the whole team. Team Tampa PKD was able to raise over 20,000 for PKD, finish the NYC Marathon and, most importantly, find a kidney donor for Erika.
Team Tampa PKD – (L to R) Scott Bragan, Rich O’Dea, Karen Dempsey, Brad Minus, & Kevin O’Brien
What kind of challenge are you partaking in or plan to journey towards?
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.
The View from our DC Hotel
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!
Our Cambridge Ironman HQ
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.
The Goof, Ken, Hunter, Jaime & Ed before a swim workout
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.
Happy Hump Day! Workout Wednesday’s will consist of favorite workout of mine that I either have prescribed to my clients or have been assigned by MY Coach. It might also be a favorite of yours. Feel free to send me any workouts you like. There will be an objective for every workout for specificity.
Run Strength – Hill Repeats
I am not a huge fan of weights or being in the gym. As the summer wore on and Florida continued to increase in heat I found myself spending more and more time in the gym and on the treadmill, but I still prefer to be outside. This workout will work leg strength as a replacement for a gym resistance workout or a supplement to. It can be done either on the Treadmill or outside with a hill that takes 2-3 minutes to run up, or here in Florida we use parking garages.
WU (Warm-up): Run Drills & Dynamic Stretching
1-2 miles @ conversational pace
MS (Main Set):
Hill Bounders on uphill
Recover for 30 sec – 2 minutes
Speed over strides on Downhill
Repeat for up to 30 minutes
CD (Cool Down): 1-2 miles @ conversational pace
Lunges & Static Stretches
Objective: Leg strength, Aerobic capacity, Form Development & Confidence on Hills
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): 5-7 on the uphills (Talking should be very difficult)
Description: Run a hilly course. Do not try to run fast on the uphills but rather concentrate on a good knee lift, strong arm swing, uplifted chest and full push-off extension in your back leg. Practice running efficiently on the downhills with high turnover and enough of a forward lean that your front leg lands directly under you.
Hill Bounders: go up the hill with a bouncy action and a good posture, concentrating on a good knee lift and arm swing with a “snap” with your ankle. You should be thinking Spring up the hill. Jog until recovered at the top.
Speed Over striders: Run down the hill with out breaking but increasing your cadence with the steepness of the hill. Instead of completely striding out elongating your stride, focus on increasing your cadence with a normal stride.
Biggest Mistakes: Running too fast up the hill rather than concentrating on form. Running too hard up the hill and getting into too much oxygen debt. This is not desirable in this phase .Putting more stress on the legs than they are ready for with too much bounding or downhill running and getting injured. Precipitating your peak with repeated speed bursts. Some people tend to develop speed very quickly once they start doing the hill circuit. If this is the case, go very easy with downhill striding and on the stride-outs. You’ll still have plenty of time to develop speed to maximum. Premature speed development would only lead to premature peaking and this should be avoided.
Warning: The first week of hill training is one of the times where injury is most likely to occur. This is a very demanding exercise, so be overly cautious and feel your way gradually. After about 2 weeks in this phase your legs could feel very tired and you may feel you’re actually slower. This is normal and will pass within a couple of weeks of consistently completing the workout.
I hope you enjoy this one. I know I do.
What kind of workout do you do for run strength?