Ironman Texas Race Report

I figured it best to allow a day or two to decompress the physical and emotional madness that was Ironman Texas 2016 before deciding what to put down in writing for a race report.  So much to consider,… The last minute swim course change from flooding in the canal that led to a 2 Transition race.  The highly anticipated, debated and MEME’d 95 mile bike course that included 83 turns, creating immense draft packs, resulting in penalty tents filled with age groupers and pros, three times capacity.  The craziest transformation of a run course I’ve ever experienced, from heat stroke to hypothermia in a flash, that left competitors stranded and unaware what to do, divided between finishing or taking refuge from the elements for significant safety concerns.  Or the spirit of the athletes and volunteers who overcame it all to make the best of what the day could throw at them.

Finisher

Loan Ironman Finisher

Ironman Texas was intended to be a retribution race for me after backing out in 2015 due to injury.  I wanted to see how I would do with an early season Ironman, having traditionally raced late Summer Full’s that had me feeling beaten up after early season success.  In addition I was encouraged by multiple friends/teammates who committed to pulling the trigger in 2016, as well as a good friend in Houston who offered a bed to sleep on and transportation to and from Houston to the Woodlands (thanks again Shawna and Chris!).

The drama began about a month out from race day when it was determined a bike course was yet to be established, later found out due to a districts rejection, but then exasperated by torrential flooding that wreaked havoc on the Woodlands and left transition under water.  The comments and MEME’s that ensued on the Facebook group – Ironman Texas 20XX were enough to impact productivity at work for weeks.

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Adding insult to injury Ironman was forced to change the swim course the day before due to flooding in the canal.  This meant a quick adjustment to add a separate T1 at Northshore Park, about a mile from T2 (adding back another mile to the 18 mile short bike course J ). A flash flood warning, ensuing rain, wind and even hail was the final steak that quite literally blew the top off this race.  They say if you don’t like the weather in Texas wait 5 minutes.  The truth to this statement was never so obvious as when the sky opened up on the last loop of the run course unleashing hell  –

The honest truth is although I wish any of these variables had been justification for my performance I cannot make excuses.  In the end it was most likely the unavoidable heat and humidity that did me and almost everyone I knew out there in.

Swim (1:06:26 non-wetsuit) 28th

My goal for the swim was simple – don’t leave any unnecessary energy in the water.  I wanted the day to be a bike, run instead of the traditional swim, bike, run with a relaxed 1 hour wetsuit/1:05 non-wetsuit swim.  I was thankful to my swim coach Gerry Rodrigues and all the work we’ve been doing at Tower26, along with some added speed in my new Roka swim skin to exit the water in 1:06 feeling fresh and ready to go.  Nothing really note worthy about the swim course except that the 83 degree water temp was much hotter than I have ever experienced before.  Although it felt good it may have helped contribute tomy downward dehydration spiral.  Humidity at the swim start = 100%.

Bike (4:13:07 22.6mph) 34th

Bike Course

I learned a couple lessons here.  Immediately as I pedaled out on the bike I noticed my left piaraformus seize up (realizing I had skipped my typical pre-race warmup/stretches).  The pain only got worse and worse until I decided “F-it, I’m not going to let this happen to me in a 3rd Ironman!”  I stopped my bike, handed it to a volunteer and lied down on my back to stretch both sides for a good 20 seconds each.  The pain went away!!  Lesson #1 – It’s never worth it to suffer for hours to save a few seconds.  If something can be fixed take the time to fix it.

My plan was simple, 220 watts avg (I knew my lap avg would be less due the turns but wanted to focus on my 10 sec avg and max).  My power goal was only intended to be secondary to my HR which I wanted to keep at or below 150bpm.  In all my training I had found HR at or below 150bpm at that power, some mornings in the 130’s.  Today it was immediately in the 160’s.  I hoped it would go down but it didn’t, it only grew higher, up into the 170’s for the last hour plus.  At that high HR it is almost impossible for me to consume nutrition efficiently.  I knew my race was screwed, but I thought I would keep going to turn a decent bike split, despite my uncharacteristically high HR and relatively low power.   I fuelled meticously and kept my sleeves, jersey and head cool with water from every aid station, and despite my HR felt ok, until about the last couple miles.

Lesson #2 – Ironman pelotons.   I don’t know what the lesson was here.  I have never seen so much blatent drafting before but the 83+ turns brought everyone together into what seemed like a first 40 mile criterion, before the race officials penalized as many riders as they could grab.  I remember hearing “once you enter the draft zone you have no more than 10 seconds to pass” but there were more than 30 riders strung together, were we expected to move up all 30 at once??  Ahead of the pack I was at 300 watts, inside about 170 watts.  Only reasonable option was to drop off and let everyone pass.  This did not seem acceptable.  Though I was one of the few not to receive a penalty I am guilty.  Funny thing is that I was caught again by the same wave that served their penalty less than an hour later.  Seemed like no real penalty after all considering.

As I got to transition and approached the dismount line I leaned down to unstrap my right cleat and my left side seized up from calf to hamstring.  I could only take one food out, leaving the other shoe on.  As I raised my right leg over the saddle at the line everything south of my waist cramped up.  I knew I was done.  I had to stand there for a stretch of time that felt like forever while some cheered and some laughed.  I finally passed my bike to a volunteer and hobbled into transition.

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Run (5:58 LOL)

I had passed two friends on the bike that I knew were coming up so I decided to take my time and wait so I had someone to hobble with.  The dialog between me and my buddy Tim on the Bike with about 10 miles left going like this  –

Me – Holy #$!@, Tim Maxon, how you doing??

Maxon – I’m completely $#%ed, how about you??

Me – About to blow up any second!!  See you later.

Leaving T2 we jogged side by side the first 4 miles or so before I decided to see what I had left in the tank.  It wasn’t much but it got me about one full lap of slow jogging.  I sat down under a tent at mile 10 and waited, attempting to get any nutrition down until Maxon appeared again.  My pee was a mutant green and glowing so I knew my body was on the verge of something spectacular it had never done before.

We instituted a 0.1 mile walk to 0.2 mile shuffle for another 4 miles before bumping into a fellow Tower26’er and female pro friend EK who was coming in on her 3rd and final lap.  I decided I would help run her in despite my state and managed 3 or 4, 8 minute miles side by side.  To my disbelief, even at an 8min/mile my HR was in the 180’s building to 191 before I completely lost it and let her finish.  After that short effort I was so destroyed that there was nothing left but to hobble the last 10 miles.

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My buddy Tim and I met up again and agreed to walk until we couldn’t any more, deciding that as long as nothing became dangerous (injury wise) we would continue for as long as it would take.  As we began our 3rd and final lap the sky turned black and lightning started striking before the sky opened up with torrential rain and wind following with hail.  It was so bad we decided to take shelter under a tent, helping to keep it down with 4 other volunteers by holding on for fear of it blowing away.  At a point we even took refuge in separate porta-potties from the hail.  It turned so cold we were both shivering, freezing from the rain.  Luckily we found a couple garbage bags and hobbled along through inches of resting water.

The mental gravity of 10 miles walking no faster than 17 min/mile was simply moronic, but we did it.  Only the last quarter mile did we “race” which must have looked ridiculous, but despite the pain it was fun.  The day before we had said how great it was to come together to do races like this, followed by the exclamation 24 hours later “NEVER AGAIN!!”.  Still, in hindsight it wasn’t quite so bad, perhaps I’ve repressed some of the anguish, but somehow grateful to have finished considering the circumstances.

Finish

Take Away

The definition of insanity is completing the same action over and over with the expectation of a different outcome.  Saturday was my 6th attempt at the Full distance with at least 4 bad experiences and slower times in each of the last 3.  When I competed in my first Ironman, Lake Placid 2011, I hadn’t done a single century, never ran off the bike, was a nutritional mess, but managed a pretty great 10:45 considering on a hilly course.  The next time I took things more seriously and ran a 3:20 marathon off the bike still feeling unsatisfied.  Since I have had two renowned coaching programs including three amazing coaches, dialed in my nutrition and fueling, brought my 70.3 time down 10 minutes each season from 4:50 to 4:20, yet have suffered over the 140 mile distance, while seeing other friends and teammates have great success.  I know that I’m getting fitter, more experienced and capable, my TrainingPeaks keeps getting greener and greener.  I should be more distraught if it wasn’t for a growing comfort with disappointment.

As my friend and I walked those last 10 miles of the marathon, we got into conversation around is this really worth it??  My friend just completing a 4:18 70.3 weeks earlier, both of us very capable ex-collegiate runners, having dedicated so much time, energy and expense and then forced to crawl 6 hours for a finisher medal.  The problem is we both idolize the athletes and the lifestyle, but the reality is the Ironman dream is alienating and often unhealthy for what we put our bodies through.  I remember hearing “I’m done with Full’s, I’m sticking to 70.3s.”  And why not?? 70.3’s are great!  You can actually race them HARD, as in 6 minute miles off a very fast bike and swim and feel great the next day.  They don’t cost $750 a pop and somehow World Championships are easier to qualify for 1000%.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m still feeling the Ironman blues.  I demand to have my race at the distance once in my life, to get off the bike ready to run a marathon and not on the verge of death, but at the same time I demand to have a life as well.  Friday I was pumped to be racing Ironman with my friends, Saturday I agreed to NEVER AGAIN, Monday I was looking at CdA.   Perhaps I need some soul searching to figure out what’s right for me and what the next step is in search of that goal.  Undeniably I love training, the friends and lifestyle, the purpose and reward.  I think it would have so much greater meaning to have back the sense of achievement I had grown accustomed to in 2014.

Silver lining is Vineman is 8 weeks away, it will be a quality race filled with locals and my body is rebounding well.  It is my standing PR at 4:25 (with a 1:21 off the bike).  I’d like to figure out what the heck is going on with my heart but am hopeful it can all come together by then.  Oddly looking forward to getting back at it!

 

Ironman Texas – Miles of Trials, Trials of Miles (Last BIG weekend)

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With Texas only 3 weeks away it’s time for everyone to post on the Facebook how impressive there final large weekend of training has been.  This aspect has been somewhat overshadowed on the Ironman Texas 20XX FB group by the recent flooding and lack of a bike course, but still present.  I’m not sure what I enjoy reading about more, those who have gone out and completed greater than an Ironman in swim, bike, run training in just 2 days or those who still have to dust off their bike for it’s inaugural first outdoor ride of the season.  The answer is the MEME’s, for sure the MEME’s –

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I’d like to just take a moment and reflect.  There was a time when I dreaded overload, or whatever it was called, but since I’ve grown to appreciate it greatly.  I don’t know how many more years will afford me the privilege of a weekend, 2 or 3 with the sole intention of eating, sleeping and training (that last piece being the important differentiatior from couch potato and weekend warrior).  It’s nice to be able to run 20 miles after a swim workout, bike a century in the morning with a run off and still feel pretty damn good.  It’s nice to feel justified in slamming meal after meal while watching TV before passing out at 8pm.  It’s nice to get help on the big efforts from training partners and give a call the minute you get home to see how your triathlon buddies did on the east coast.

I finished my last few miles yesterday thinking “damn, this doesn’t feel too bad!”  The harsh reality following “I don’t look forward to doing this for 20 more miles, after a 2.4 mile swim, in 100 degree temps, strong winds and high humidity” the hell that’s already been described to me numerous times.  But I’ve done my work, as prescribed.  This will be my 7th Full Ironman.  I’ve taken all expectations out of the thing.  I know my day will eventually come, but am open to the fact that it might take a while, as in years.  I don’t really remember my first 6 or so Marathon attempts but I STRONGLY recall the moment of crossing the finish line for my first BQ and sub 3.

So we’ll see what will happen.  I’m honestly very excited to see what unfolds…

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Typical Sunday morning bike group ride pit stop at Trancas

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Ironman practice fueling

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Transition on the beach from the back of my Jeep

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2.2lbs of salmon

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She said either meal would be good for 2 people, so I got 2 of each

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PCH selfie

Final Ride

Final century data

Final Run

Century brick run off averages (1 mile up/1 mile down)

 

Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

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Race Plan

This past Saturday was my third time at Oceanside 70.3 in three years, but first time crossing the finish line.  In 2014 I was there to spectate and in 2015 I raced the unofficial aquabike (coming off of a calf injury) so it was a real nice experience, despite what may follow, to be capable of completing this race for the first time, in front of so many familiar faces.  As an early season race and with such great competition I believe Matt Dixon said it best in his pre-race talk – “set no expectations, not low expectation”.  Because of the early season aspect and not being able to get in the proper warm up (no pre-swim in the harbor)  I decided to approach my race strategy different than I would typically mid-season.  Also, being un-coached, at least not 1-on-1 this year, I didn’t get a race plan like so many years past, leaving it for me on my own.  Therefore, here is what i decided upon in the days leading up –

Race Plan 2

Execution

Swim (32:20)

The idea behind my swim strategy wasn’t to go out easy by any means.  The combination of no proper swim warm-up and a conversation with coach Gerry Rodrigues of Tower26 prior about not having practiced strong swim starts off of the gun, as well as similar direction from Matt Dixon the day before led me to try a slightly easier start (perceived effort only).  I felt I was swim fit and wanted to swim my own race with very good sighting rather than race to find feet and trust the person or group ahead.  The outcome was an underwhelming result.  I was sure I would see a 29:XX on my watch peeling off my newer and hopefully faster Roka wetsuit, but was disappointed to see a 32:08 instead (my slowest swim in years, and almost a full 2 minutes behind my time last year).

Oceanside Swim

Bike (2:28:10)

Oceanside bike

My plan for the bike was to settle in easier (first 5-10 minutes) in an attempt to bring down my HR sooner and get in the right fuel and hydration early on.  My only real hope was to find myself at about 160 bpm pushing 260 watts, a comfortable target from the past.  Headed out of T1 I was passed by people like I wasn’t even moving.  I remember a guy yelling “OUT OF THE WAY, on your LEFT!!” going up the first hill.  Looking down I was at 300 watts, so he must have been well over 400 watts (I passed him back 15 minutes later, huffing and puffing).  After 15 minutes I decided I was ready and settled into a lap split target of 260 watts.  I rode the hills no bigger than 270 and descents no less than 250.  My power has never been so consistent yet I was amazed by the people I traded places with passing me so aggressively than blowing up soon after.  The effort felt just right, hard but almost conversational still, however I watched my HR, eager to see it come down from mid 170’s after the swim, and was alarmed to see it never did.  I would have liked to be at 160 bpm but averaged 170 bpm for the whole duration.  Here’s a comparison of my bike to last year –

Oceanside Bike Graph

The unsettling reality when your HR and watts don’t add up is you’re somewhat doomed.  You can follow HR and have a terrible bike split or stick to output and risk being destroyed for the run.  I made the decision early on better to blaze up in a flame of glory.

Run (1:29:49)

Oceanside run

My plan from above was to start off about 6:40 and descend the pace, following HR.  My last 3 70.3 run splits have been between 6:08-6:15 average (1:21), however that was before the calf issues.  I looked at results from last year where the top 5 in my AG were all at or above 1:30, so with this in mind I decided to be reserved in the first half, anticipating a tough run.  The first mile felt easy but I noticed very quick my pace was not going anywhere.  I held onto 6:40-6:50’s for the first loop, hoping to drop into the 6:20’s for the second half but the reality was my HR was still screaming and that wasn’t to be.  Still I never blew up, which leads me to believe I ran a good race considering.

Oceanside Run Graph

Fun Benefit

I wan to get into the habit of recalling one fun or beneficial aspect of every race.  For this one, most notionally I suffered NO piraformus pain at all on the bike.  I attribute this to a good warm up, massaging and stretching my piraformus and adductors, but also the Yoga I have been taking twice a week over the last 5 months to improve flexibility and overall body posture.  Piraformus pain has been a consistent nightmare over the last few years so to not have it to contend with is a dream come true.

Also great was spending the weekend with two good friends who have been training partners and mentors over the years.  There apartment was only 0.5 miles from Ironman village, things couldn’t have been any easier compared to my last race battle with the elements.  Looking forward greatly to heading down to Texas with these guys in 5 weeks.

Matt Sabrina

Learned experience

I feel at my current level it is necessary to go out strong in the swim.  “Strong” can be a relative term but next time I race a 70.3 I intend to stick with the lead pack or as close to it as I can.  I’m less concerned about this for Texas, but I can’t sacrifice the minutes in Vineman.  Sub 30 needs to be the new standard, no exceptions!

Area to improve

Clearly my run.  I don’t expect it to come over night but intend to build back into 6:00 pace after Texas.  Losing a competitive edge through lack of confidence is a sad thing.  I know I have the ability but also know I need to listen to my body if I want to stay off the sidelines.  I remain excited and optimistic about this aspect.

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Photo Credit Reilly Smith

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Scenic Transition

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Well deserving of my thimble of beer afterward

 

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Me and race sherpa Sabrina Swift (Sebastion Kienle in the background)

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Beautiful Oceanside at sunset

Bungalow Girl

Bungalow 2

It’s difficult to explain the Bungalow to an outsider for the joy and misery it has brought me over the years.  It is the quintessential LA experience, $11 beers, ocean sunset views, upscale atmosphere, Ray Bans, perfect hair and absurd cleavage.  Full of the most beautiful people imaginable with the ugliest of personalities.  You’re likely to bump into a celebrity every once in a while, or the rest of the time someone who thinks/acts like they are.  Last I was there, and this is 100% true, I overheard two girls making fun of a blind guy with cane in hand –

Can you help me find the girl I came with?

Is she your girlfriend?

Well, we just started dating..

That’s nice, where did you meet, the Sunglass Hut??

Still I make appearances there for birthdays/special occasions or at the end of the night pending the typical infinite and unwavering line outside.  Arriving is always a terrible experience but after only a few overpriced beers it transforms into something greater, like a Steven Segal movie perhaps, appalling yet unintentionally entertaining.  If you can enjoy watching the crowds without interacting, appreciate the beautiful scenery and enjoy the company you came with it is a great option.  The downside is the inevitable aftermath of being convinced to commingle by your friends.  Each time I say no, I’ve learned my lesson, but after repeated requests and some liquid encouragement I make the same mistake, or am approached, generally when unsolicited.

The story of Bungalow Girl takes place on an evening I decided to drop in to catch up briefly with a couple of recently engaged friends.  We showed up early enough to avoid a line, with the intentions of sharing a beer or two due to early morning workouts.    At the time Colin and I were standing by the bar, innocently talking when a girl abruptly barged into our conversation throwing a crunched up $10 bill in my face.

Crazy Girl

“Is this all I am” she said “an object to be bought, a pretty thing to be impressed with money?!?”

“Wooah, calm down” I said, “what are you talking about??”

She went on to explain how all the guys at the bar were “stuck up rich douches” who believed they could impress any girl by throwing money around.  She was clearly upset, a little drunk, younger (around 23) and something of a hot mess.  She went on to explain that like me she was new to LA and struggling to meet quality people, so against my better judgment I agreed to hear her out.

“It’s so hard finding anyone real around here…”

“Well you’re problem’s simple, you’re looking in the wrong places.  What else should you expect from spot like this??”

“Well where should I look then??”

“I’ve found a lot of success from clubs and athletic groups.  When people share interests they’re much more likely to bond and be worthy of talking to.  I have to admit though it’s been hard, it took a good year for me to find friends and feel comfortable in a new area so far from home.”

As we talked I found myself warming up to her.  There was very little interest at first but the more I got to know her the more I felt we had in common.

She went on to explain how she came out to the West Coast solo, that she had a decent education and had recently taken a good job responsible for the move.  She mentioned that she was into running and looking for a group to train with.

“There’s lots of good groups I can recommend…”

She also said she had been on a few dates, all with horrible outcomes.  Just finding girl friends seemed impossible.

“I might have some female friends you’d be interested in hanging out with…”

By this point it had been 45 minutes of talking to this girl and I hadn’t been able to catch up with the couple I had shown up with, but I was feeling much more comfortable with and even a little into her despite the rude introduction.

“Listen” I said, “I feel bad ignoring my friends any longer but it has been nice speaking with you.  Why don’t I give you my number just in case you’d like to get together, even as friends only.”

Offering my number vs asking for hers is a safe way for me to extend an invitation without the fear of rejection, or at least I had thought.

Her response “ohh, I would NEVER call you!”

I could not believe this comeback.  After her 45 minutes of complaining about how hard it is to meet friends or anyone nice, after her approaching me, and after nothing offensive or misleading in any way she had to shut me down in such a rude fashion.

“I can give you my number” she said, to which I replied “I’m ok”, and walked off.

My only vindication from the encounter was seeing her carried out by the bouncers hours later.  A slight victory to why I was hesitant and never should have gotten involved in the first place.  A flaw in my character to give the benefit of the doubt I suppose.

Fatality

I shouldn’t be surprised, I’ve seen this before.  What is it that makes a certain person feel better from bringing someone else down?  Like some twisted game of war where by winning the battle you absorb the other’s confidence for your own.  Louis CK does a funny skit on this in which presented with the common phrase when approaching women “what do you have to lose?” he responds with “A FUCKING LOT!”  18 years later I can still vividly remember getting shot down on the deck of some cruise boat at our 8th grade Washington DC school trip.  I had nothing to gain then.

The realities of present day dating in the setting of LA are much harsher, where the stakes are higher and the standards through the roof.  Sometimes I feel like we’ve lost touch of the whole point of this thing, blinded by superficial guide lines we’ve established and perhaps since forgotten why.  I’ve seen beautiful women do terrible things claiming insecurity and fortunate guys take their blessings for granted, throwing opportunity away for the chance at the next thrill, the 5% of both sexes doing enough damage to ruin things for the rest of us.  I used to get angry at these people but now I feel sad for how difficult it must be for them to find happiness.

I’ve learned through experience the best strategy, when approaching new people, for dating, friendship or whatever is to hope for the best but expect the worst and allow them to show you something worthy of effort without allowing for any personal vulnerability.  With the case of Bungalow Girl how might this apply?  On the surface everything would remain the same, but internally I’d remain emotionally shielded and when the finishing move of “ohh, I would NEVER call you!” came I would just smile and walk away unaffected.  Much easier said than done, but with practice not unachievable.  And as a silver lining, the bad experiences and personalities only serve for greater appreciation for the good and quality people in your life.  I still believe finding one good apple in a sea of rotten ones is worth the search.

Desert Triathlon Race Report

Race View

The Desert Triathlon is a great early season race opportunity in beautiful Palm Springs during a very unpredictable and tumultuous time of year.  In 2015 Saturday’s Sprint fell during a wind storm and Sunday’s Olympic was a wash out (which made things difficult considering I was camping).  I hoped things might be different this time but unfortunately I was wrong.

Race Prep

All I’ll say here is that I had a plan, a good plan, that all went to shit once a surprise wind storm turned what should have been an enjoyable prerace camping experience into a fight for my life.

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Perfect Campsite

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Spectacular View

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Discovered a great place to carb load (nice Jeep parking spot)

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I know it’s not right, but this is a C race and it was delicious!

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Everything all OCD situated and ready for the morning

8:01 rolls around and God unleashes hell…

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Jeep blocking the wind, picknick table on both sides with straps tieing the tent down (poles removed and top blown off)

5:15am, things get even more interesting as winds pick up to gusts of 70mph!!

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The pathetic aftermath

Race Day

Race morning was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  I was kept awake most of the night from the wind, leading up to the morning when at 5:30am I was hit with gusts so vicious I abandoned camp thinking I might die.  At 6:30am they announced the race would be on but they didn’t know when.  At that point my nutrition and pre-race planning was shot but I did my best, packing up what was left of the tent and searching for expensive equipment through the debris.  By the time I got to transition, not knowing when and even if the race was on I heard “please exit, transition will be closing soon”.  I didn’t get a chance to warm up but at that point, probably before even, I decided to let go of what was out of my hands and just do my best.  The result –

Swim

Swim Start

First into the water, led to the turn around then drafted to the exit (didn’t feel worth the energy to break away).  2nd fastest swim in my wave but still comparatively pretty slow.

Swim Exit

Bike

Bike

If only I felt as good as I looked out there.  Power was pathetic, lower than my last 70.3 watts and still painful.  HR in the 180’s.

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Run

Run

This was just a continuation of my underwhelming bike performance.  Pace was slower than my last HIM but HR was climbed to 180bpm again.  I can attribute the lack of pace to no speed work this year, however I was running healthy.

Desert Run

Recap

Despite all the headaches it was great just to be out there racing again after a tough 2015 sidelined me in almost every triathlon I entered.  Most notable I was reminded the feeling of overtaking someone on the bike and run, remembering equally as well the anger of getting passed.  More fuel for the fire!  Oceanside and Texas are really what it’s all about.  Happy and hopeful to keep the momentum while staying healthy.

Podium

1st in AG

 

Hollywood Girl

I began my dating app experience much later in life than the rest after the foolish decision to buy a Windows phone set me back 2 years.  Watching all the connections and hearing stories, good with the bad, I was anxious to get started the moment I upgraded devices.  First and most obvious download was the infamous Tinder, renown as a hook up app but also responsible for significant relationships for several of my friends.  Though I have played around with dating sites in the past like Match.com I felt like a stranger entering new waters with this one.  Here’s take #1 –

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Paraphrased – Nice guy Dave, relatively new to the area, looking to find someone with similar interests, first time Tinder user

Crickets…  I began like a kid waiting on Santa, checking my phone repeatedly the first hour, but days and weeks went by with only tiny bites.  When I started I would search through countless profiles looking for attributes I thought matched my interests but after only a short time I found myself swiping right, often without even looking, on every profile until no one was left in my area.  My original search criteria was girls between 27-31 years of age within a range of 3 miles but over time those standards relaxed to 21-35 years of age within 10 miles.

I was becoming down and frustrated with my initial failure until I brought it up to a female friend who offered to look at my profile and provide some tips.  She quickly started searching through my FB pictures updating my images and addressing my description.  She opened with height (6’-1”) claiming ‘no one likes to date a short guy’, then mentioned good career because ‘no one likes a cheap skate’.  She changed interested in triathlon to “elite athlete” and concluded with adventurous and outgoing.  I felt like some of the info could be construed as misleading but in my better interests allowed it.  When I viewed her image choices I noticed all the ‘nice guy Dave’ pics were replaced with athletic shots, the majority not even showing my face, but again I decided as a girl she would know best and permitted it.

Dating Pics

Side note – as a female my friend is an attractive girl and when yielding my phone couldn’t grasp the difference between the sexes when it comes to swiping left/right.  She seemed confused after being selective with her first few choices and getting no matches.  I had to explain to her that it takes work.  This could be me but I’m guessing it’s a greater trend between males and females on all sites (apparently there are 99 men for every single available female).

So the next morning I woke up to see something shocking, I had 5 matches on my phone!!  My productivity had grown by 10,000%!  In addition there was something I had never seen before, a message in my inbox, the first time a female had broken the ice.

There are tiered levels of success and I won’t just throw myself under the bus at every opportunity, but present day matching isn’t as big of a deal as I make it out to be.  It’s not so hard to get a connection, but from those matches to get a response, continue with a conversation, get a number and then make it out on a date.. the chances of success go down compoundingly.

So for the rest of this recap, to protect the name of this particular female (although she doesn’t deserve it) I will refer to her as Hollywood.  Hollywood’s message read out like this –

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The conversation continued with some small talk over the next day or so when she through me a curve ball.  She asked for my Instigram, which I agreeably sent her, and through connecting I got to see hers.  It was full of images in underwear and bathing suits in racy and suggestive poses.

 

I asked her what that was about to which she responded she was an actress and model including some underwear adds, but nothing objectionable.  My immediate thought was uhh ohh, RED FLAG, RED FLAG, but I decided, against my better judgment, that it would be wrong to dismiss her just because of her looks.  After all, she was the one who contacted me first and had been doing most of the initiating.  The following is what continued up to the promise of a first date –

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What was very obvious to me at the time yet I hesitated to bring up is that working in El Segundo and living in Santa Monica meant making it to Beverly Hills on a weekday would be absolute torture.  I didn’t want to miss out on a person to person opportunity, but for anyone who’s lived here or seen The Californians on SNL knows that traffic is no joke and that the route I would have to take is worst case scenario. Never the less, against my better judgment I decided it would be worth the struggle for a potential connection.

I ran out the door of my office at 4:55pm and headed home to Santa Monica, checking Waze on my route to see if I b-lined it home I would have 7 minutes to eat before heading to Beverly Hills if I wanted to make it on time.  Distance to location – 21.9 miles, Drive time – up to 2 hours 10 minutes.

Urth Drive

To pass the time I called a friend from back east who I had lived with and gone on numerous “dating opportunities” including countless late nights at our home bar Thirsty Buffalo with a 4am last call, the most desperate “dating” hour being between 3 and 4am.  We caught up for a while and before I knew it 2 hours in the Jeep had flown by.  I finished by telling him that I was seeing a model actress, and joked about never knowing in LA.

I found parking, made the walk and ended at Urth with 10 minutes to spare to the following message –

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To which I agreed.  It was a 30 minute drive or 20 minute walk so I decided to keep my parking and meet her.  I reached the hotel and messaged her back.

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30 minutes later…

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15 minutes later (about an hour and a half since I arrived in BH, over 3 hours since I left my job)..

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When she finally arrived I could see right away she looked good, not amazing but like her photos.  I complimented her hair and went in for a friendly hug.  Leaning in with her shoulder she responded with a light, impersonal and slightly awkward embrace.  She looked at me and said “you look nothing like your pictures!”, to which I responded “you mean in a good way I hope”.  She just looked down.  I asked if she wanted to go back to Urth.  She said “you’re welcome to walk back and I’ll meet you there” which I now realize was her first try at an exit strategy.  I suggested we just stay in the lobby and that I’d buy her a drink.  I began small talk asking why she’s new to Tinder.  She said –

Well I just broke up with my boyfriend, actually we broke up last month, but just stopped sleeping together this week, like yesterday.

Ok…  (I tried to respond and work through the awkwardness)  What’s it like being a model in LA?

I need to stop things here and let you know I have no interest in you.  I’m looking for someone a bit more…

Rich, good looking, successful perhaps???

She just smirked and looked down.

Well I guess I’ll just walk back to Urth.

Why don’t you do that.

On the way out she decided to twist the knife one more time.

What’s it like dating on Tinder?  You think I’ll find anybody nice?

I think you’ll find out soon enough

As I walked back to my car feeling dejected I wrote up a Facebook post about what had just gone down –

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By the next day I had 50 responses.  A few light heartedly poked fun, most were apologetic, but what I picked up on were the number of messages claiming similar experiences.  Dating can be fun and miserable at the same time and I have been fortunate/unfortunate enough to have known the full spectrum over the last 10 years or so.  I don’t look forward to the bad experiences but I hope to learn from them.  Meeting Hollywood taught me it’s ok to sometimes judge a book by its cover, out of self-preservation.  That might sound wrong but in the context of dating in LA it’s often what works.  I recently had a day at the Bungalow where a friend suggested I introduce myself to her friends who were high profile model/actress types.  I should have known better but I continue to fall for it every time.  It’s not a matter of good or bad just different and I’m learning if you want to find like-minded individuals with similar interests you need to walk in the same circles, and never go searching at places like the Bungalow.  However this may be another example of “do what I say, not as I do” as I’m sure to be back in the same places playing the same game, attractive people being the curse and benefit of living in the heart of beauty and superficiality.

 

LA Marathon Weekend and Reflections

This past weekend is one I have been hyping for a while now.  Between the US Olympic Trials on Saturday and the LA Marathon on Sunday I knew there’d be no shortage of inspiration between the elites and dozens of friends racing.  Fortunate for me, through my association with the LA Tri Club, I was one of 24 riders who were privileged to ride the course on Saturday offering support for media and race management.  My job was 3rd/4th differential for the women, the deciding spot for the 3rd and final ticket to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  This meant I had to pace 3rd place women until media support requested a time difference at which point I would split my watch, wait till 4th woman, and then sprint back up to 3rd place.  I began with Kellyn Taylor, then picked up Kara Goucher briefly before pacing Desiree Linden for most of the race.  The support for Desiree from the crowd was so strong that it was almost impossible to hear my radio most of the stretch up Figueroa by Staples.  The whole experience between shooting around on my bike on a closed off Downtown course and following some of the best and most renowned runners was a once in a lifetime.

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Bike Support

LA Tri Club Bike Support

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Pacing Desiree around a 3 loop course – Photo credit Jon Flor

I wasn’t expecting to run Sunday but was fortunate again to have a friend ask me to do a charity relay with her.  I was looking forward to spectating but in hind sight this was the best possible opportunity because it allowed me to start the race, bumping into most friends participating to wish them good luck, and then make it to the finish to cheer on the same athletes I was running shoulder-to-shoulder with.  I never intended to race the half but rather use it as a training opportunity and fitness gauge for 2016 considering I’ve been hesitant to do any sort of running tests after last year’s calf strain that sidelined me for basically the entire year.

Execution was fairly perfect.  I joined a fellow T26er, pro triathlete and all around stud Carly Johann to run the first half mile at an easy and relaxed 7:00 minute pace, before settling into 6:20’s and finishing 6 to sub 6 strong for the last 3.  Here’s the result next to my 2014 LA marathon where I ran a 2:51 –

Marathon Splits

Marathon Graph

What does this information mean??  I don’t know.  What does it matter?  I’m not sure, probably nothing.  The point with this blog is that I’m attempting to care again, and put significance on my efforts regardless of the outcome.  In 2014 I started my season with a 1:15 open half (PR), followed by a 2:51 full (PR) and went on to run two 1:21 13.1’s off the bike in both 70.3’s including a fastest run split of the day.  In 2015 after a debilitating calf strain I didn’t have a result to be proud of, and as a result felt like I had nothing to write.  Sunday I didn’t run that fast, in consideration to previous results, but I was out there running comfortably, which is a huge improvement to where I was same time last year.

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The last few years have been a tremendous learning experience for me concerning why it is we do what we do, which is particular to the individual, be it to go fast, or enjoy the act of racing, look/feel good etc.  The easiest way to find out what you really miss is to get hurt, this past year being my first experience with injury.  I’ve started back on the same track I began in 2015, with a different perspective from learned experiences, knowing my next event could be a PR/DQ or anything inbetween, but I’m happy to be part of the ride again.

 

Next stop, Desert Tri in 3 weeks…

Leslie Party

Post Race party – Photo credit Leslie Cohen

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Handing out chocolates to the runners at mile 24 – Photo credit Adrian Valdivieso

 

Race Report 2015 – Ironman Lake Tahoe

ironman-longSad to acknowledge that it’s late September and I am sitting down to write my first official race report of 2015.  Even sadder to revive so many difficult memories from this past weekend’s Ironman Lake Tahoe, without a doubt the most challenging triathlon experience of my life.  HOWEVER, I want to start by acknowledging, despite all the struggles and disappointing outcome, that this was a success and that I have multiple positive takeaway’s in the form of valuable learning experiences AND am proud to have finished when the option to drop out seemed so obvious, to end my season a 4 time Ironman.

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The obstacles for this weekend, on and off the course, were significant to say the least.  Right from the start I showed up 5 mins after the apparent cutoff for my rental car and as a result had to search around to get something I didn’t want at twice the price.  I almost grabbed the perfect hatchback Toyota however it was snatched from me by an elderly couple because she liked “the color”.  In the days leading up there were varying concerns about weather and smoke, considering there were fires burning similar to the ones that contaminated the air and cancelled last year’s race and predictions of cold temperatures comparable to that of 2013, where frigid air caused a 20% DNF rate, the highest of any Ironman ever.  The race was at elevation (getting up to 7,200ft at Brockway Summit) and although I wasn’t completely sure how I’d respond if Mammoth training trip was any indication I knew the answer would be “not good, really not good!!”.  And to top it off my calf still didn’t feel right, which is a very intimidating feeling for going into an Ironman.  I had told friends and teammates that the theme of the race was “no expectations” however I was still asked if I intended to win, run a sub-3 marathon and get a Kona spot.  The pressure to do well enough and remedy my Ironman Lake Placid first ever DNF was surely there and in a big way.

Jumping into it, Pre-race Strategy

My only direction for this race was to “take it easy” and disregard data in an effort to stay out of my own head.  I had heard multiple stories of athletes who followed this strategy resulting with a PR, Kona spot, Pro card and eventual World Championship, however I knew that this would not be my “taking it easy”.  Taking it easy for me would mean a slow and controlled swim, followed by a smooth and also slow bike (with lots of fueling), and a slow but hopefully consistent run resulting in a favorable experience for once, void of pain with a time that didn’t matter.  There were two goals that I had, knowing if I could achieve either that I would have a successful day.  #1 Goal) solve my piriformis problem.  In every triathlon since Placid 2011 I have gotten out of the water with at least some glute/lower back pain ranging from annoying to agonizing and completely debilitating.   To remedy this my plan was to loosen the glutes with the Vyper massage roller first thing in the morning, get a good run and banded side walk to hit the adductors, and long stretch of the hamstrings, glutes and piriformis, something I have never really done.  #2 Goal) being run comfortably off the bike no matter how slow of a bike that would take.

Swim

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I took the swim SUPER easy.  Lining up in the 1-1:10 wave and trudging in slowly (also pissing myself) while everyone charged the water around me.  I swam to the inside of the yellow buoys to avoid other swimmers, losing their draft but evading all the mayhem.   My only concern was thinking of the right mental playlist to distract me while taking smooth even strokes.   As I approached the swim exit, after the water had become waist deep, I stopped for 30 seconds, foot over knee sitting into it to get a deep stretch on both sides.  I could see a 1 on the clock but the rest was obstructed by a flag.  I was expecting a 1:2X.XX, or perhaps a 1:1XX.XX at best, so I was shocked to see the next digit a “0” and amazed to see another “0” after that.  “Could I possibly break an hour?!?”  From there I jogged it in and was so happy to see a 59:48 swim time on results, regardless of how short the course might have been, pleased to have at least one new PR this season.

Bike

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Things did not start off well here and they ended worse.  I had heard one of the volunteers yell out “athletes, the temperature outside is currently 39 degrees”, so I was happy I had taken the time to change out of my speedo for a dry kit, jacket and gloves.  The temps were manageable enough in the sun but heading into the shade by Squaw they dropped very notably.  Fun new thing, within a mile into the bike race my front right shifter decided to pop off the aerobar horns.  It just dangled there, still allowing me to shift electronically but providing no support and making me fearful that this expensive component would pop-off.  When I stopped at an aid station around mile 30 I was able to shed my jacket and fix the shifter with duct tape as best as possible.

I didn’t do my homework on the course so my only thought until about mile 50 was how beautiful everything looked and how surprisingly little hills there were.  This was very short sided as I found out the majority of climbing was in a 3 mile section with 1000ft of steady ascending up Brockway Summit.  I wanted to do the first climb controlled and completely comfortable however running out of gears I struggled to get up, knowing I’d have to do it a second time.  By my next lap I was strangely completely toasted, to the extent that I was looking for a nice spot on the shoulder to not just stop but collapse over.   This was around mile 90.  By the time I got to 100 something was definitely wrong.  I just felt REALLY bad, the kind of bad you’d feel lying at home sick from work, not the kind you’d hope for with an Ironman marathon to go.  Athletes were passing me left and right at this point.  All I wanted to do is make it to T2, where I could assess the damage, without passing out.

On a positive note I was so happy to hear my name cheered by surprise spectators Larry, Ash and Hillary.  Their voices energized me, if not just briefly, every time I saw them which ended up being multiple times on the course.  The police crew on the Brockway climb weren’t bad to look at either J

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T2 (0:48)

When I approached T2 I barely knew who I was.  I couldn’t really speak, was weaving all around and assumed I had the wrong bag when putting on my shoes because I couldn’t get them on.  Turns out my feet were swollen to the extent my elastic laces were barely big enough.  The volunteers told me to go to medical where I lied down on the floor for the next 30 mins, drinking some sort of apple juice to replenish my system.  Funniest moment of the race was when one of the volunteers explained in detail the science of why my blood was splitting due to the elevation and how my body was basically murdering itself.  I thanked him for this information but kindly asked him to stop talking.

The unintended benefit about being in medical is that you assume the world is over until you see others with blood dripping down their face, puking or shitting themselves uncontrollably, and think ‘maybe I’m ok’.  After 40 mins on the ground I noticed some LA Tri Club friends coming in and decided I’d at least try for a bit, running with LA Tri King Jeff Gust as long as I could.

Run

The run started out surprisingly well!  The pace was 8:30 or slower and I was enjoying the scenery, spectators and company.  All the sugar I had ingested in medical allowed my body to function reasonably again.  We had bumped into our cheering squad in the village and the first 4 miles had unbelievable views of Squaw and the surrounding mountains.

I left Jeff soon after that and ran comfortably until the first turn around at mile 9.7.  I had no watch so no indication of pace, which I LOVED.  On the way back into town I picked up a couple running buddies, offering words of encouragement going shoulder-to-shoulder one aid station at a time.  Having someone to lead provided a lot of value in a race that had no more time significance for me.  I ran next to one girl for a bit that said almost nothing until in pain she requested I tell her a story.   We continued for a few miles and I did my best to keep her distracted with quirky stories until my legs started to seize up and I had to break away.

Running solo through about mile 15 I noticed it becoming very difficult to speak.  The volunteers would ask at each aid station what I needed, holding cups of ice, water, Power Aid, Red Bull, etc.  I would smile, stare blankly at them, and grab cups randomly.  At mile 19 my calf was beginning to act up so I taped it and decided I would only walk from there on.  In the 4 Ironman’s I had done previously I’ve never had to give up running completely to walk, so I was in new territory with the realization that I had 6 slow miles left to go.  In all honesty though it wasn’t that bad!  I had a lot of fun out there talking to other athletes, hearing their stories and thanking the volunteers for their support.  With the sun setting just as I began to see the finishing area I was filled with an immense feeling of happiness and gratification for getting there.  In all my previous Ironmans I ran through the finishing shoot emotionless, stopping only to pause my watch on the line.  This time I was encouraged to slow down and take everything in.

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Take away

If you look back at my times this past weekends performance may seem like a regression in the sport – 10:46 (IMLP21011), 10:31 (IMLP2013), 10:14 (IMMT2014)… 12:30 (IMLT2015).  To be honest I am still a little disappointed with the outcome knowing that I put in the work and followed my coaches plan every step of the way.  In a bulletin calling attention to Jesse Thomas’s first Ironman and consequent first Ironman win he wrote –

“If you commit to the process, and love the journey, the results always come.  Always.”

I’ve never had trouble committing to the process in the last 5 years I’ve taken this sport seriously.  What I have had trouble with lately is enjoying the journey when the results didn’t come.  This sport isn’t my job, it’s my passion, yet I’ve treated it like business recently and allowed myself to be consumed by negative energy dwelling on the setbacks and let downs.  In Placid this year I was so adamant about having my entitled race that when the first thing went wrong (back pain out of the water and quick flat on the bike) I withdrew mentally and in doing so gave up on any chance of success.  At Tahoe many things went wrong, and I mean MANY (acknowledging now there was nothing in my power that could have been done for a race worthy performance), but with every set back there was an opportunity for success and I feel that I answered in a matter that I can be proud of.  When the weather got cold I dressed up to stay warm, when my bike broke I kept cool and taped it back together without hesitation, when the elevation got to be too much I backed off and turned to medical, and when my calf went I walked to that finish line.  My time may not be what I would have wanted but looking back at race pictures I’m happy to see something I didn’t in the last three attempts, a smile at every opportunity throughout the day.

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The clear difference between my finishing shoot experience in 2014 vs 2015

Ironman is very attractive to me in how relatable it is to so many themes in life.  There will be days when you’re presented with positives and others (sometimes weeks, months or even years)with set-backs and disappointments but with every challenge lies an opportunity, depending on how you approach it.  Success is not always measured in time but in disposition.  I am certain that success is ahead and that achievement of my goals is obtainable.  How long until I get there is unclear but I understand now that the path will be shorter if I can maintain a positive attitude and always remember to enjoy the journey.

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LA Tri Club Lake Tahoe Squad

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Quality training partners and friends

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Buffalo Triathlon Club Lake Tahoe Squad (unofficial Dave’s)

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Ash and Larry drove two consecutive all nighter’s to be there to cheer us on, more impressive than finishing the race in my mind.

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Post race celebration

Lake Placid Ironman Training Countdown

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I wanted to put down in writing, and through photos represent the journey which is Ironman Big Week training leading up to my 3rd and possibly final Lake Placid, under the guidance of Mat Dixon and Purplepatch.  This is not intended to be a boring data report or an over the top emotional depiction, but rather a lighthearted account of the work leading up to a significant moment of my year so that I can look back on race day eve and recollect how far I’ve come.

3 Weeks4th of July weekend.  Big mistake to put my last significant training weekend on the biggest holiday of the summer!!  The combination of feeling tired, fun things happening and a lack of motivation got to me, but not in completely disastrous fashion.  The plan for this long weekend included back to back 3 and 4 hour bike workouts, following a Thursday 3.5 hour double hard ride session and brick.  Running was light, for the weekend, but I knew there would be a 2 hour run on Tuesday, which I was more fearful for the risk of injury than the run itself.  As a bonus we received possibly the hardest swim session of the summer Friday, when I was expecting a leisurely Country Club workout after a night out for a friends birthday.  Gerry called us together to say ‘sometimes due to traffic, an alarm not going off, etc, we show up late without adequate time to warm up’ and that today we would be preparing for this with a 20 minute BSE TT off the blocks without a stroke to warm up.  It didn’t feel that fast but I was very happy with my result (1450 in 19:45, 1:21/100, 0:01 off my 1k TT pace!).

Saturday I was planning a big gear ride and opted to join the Gusto 4th of July Mt Baldy ride which ended up to be much more difficult than I had originally expected (7000ft in just 30 miles including 2000ft in just 4 miles as we climbed to the lifts).  3 hours turned into 4.5 and I was completely fried by the end however it was a fun and beautiful ride.

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They closed GMR to be exclusive to cyclists, still there were at least two big accidents.  Following was a 4th party at the Bungalow in typical LA fashion which prompted my second long ride to be moved to Monday but I got it in and had a good 2 hour run on Tuesday.

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4 WeeksAfter Mammoth it was decided I needed a chance to stop and refresh the batteries.  I was planning to race Ventura Olympic (Breath of Life) but my calves were still questionable and even if not I was completely drained from the weekend.  As such I rode easy, took some down time and came back on the weekend to hit my main workouts.  The results were in a word encouraging.  I had a good swim Saturday (super solid splits!), proved I could run long with an easy 90 minutes following and came back to crush my bike workout the next day (6×10 min building efforts with last 2 BSE (324 watts, 341 watts)).

Sat Swim

At this point I just wanted to feel on track, not derailed.  I’ve been more tired lately than ever but I know this is how I should feel.

5 WeeksMammoth Mountain Training Trip

I spent this past weekend up at 8000 ft in Mammoth CA training with the Cloud 9 Endurance Team in their preparation for Ironman Boulder.  I love destination training trips and have been looking forward to this for a while.  My coached objectives were very clear and simple – 1) Practice proper fueling and nutrition and 2) have fun, that’s it!  No watts, durations, intervals, etc.  Unfortunately I fell short on both tasks to at least some respect but still it was an awesome trip.

Friday morning I rode up together with a couple other LA based triathletes.  We arrived mid-afternoon to get in a beautiful swim in June Lake before an equally beautiful PM run in the mountains.

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Saturday we had a colossal brick, which was intended to be 3 loops totaling 110 miles of biking with 3×3 mile run sections in-between.   I chose to ride my P1 which meant no power.  This was to encourage going be feel rather than chasing numbers at elevation which would either crush my spirits or leave me toasted on the side of the road.  The beginning was fun, the middle I picked up the effort a little but still felt comfortable, then when I pushed up the pace in the last bike and run section I experienced a blow up like no other.  The wind was strong on the last loop which created a fast out at 30mph (average speed for 22 miles!!) and a head wind coming in and back up to our condo like nothing I’ve experienced before, forcing us to work together in a pace line just to survive.

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Following the workout I experienced either dehydration or elevation sickness which included pale skin, headache, 105 bpm resting HR and feelings of intense cold (shivering) even though my body was very warm.  I was upset and even embarrassed by this because I had been preaching the importance of fueling and hydrating in such a big workout meanwhile I was the one on the couch in a death state while everyone else was having fun.  This could have been caused by all the sugary crap I inhaled, concentrated Perform, gels, gu’s, candy bars, Red Bull, etc, or poor nutrition the day before (we had a real bad experience at dinner where after waiting an hour and twenty minutes our server came and told us there was no food left).

The unfortunate part of the weekend for me was that I let me performance impact my attitude when it should have been the other way around.  I am getting to a part in the season where I get so paranoid about what I’m doing it’s easy to forget why I’m doing it in the first place, which is to have fun.  I noticed the best performances from the weekend came from those that carried positive energy throughout, while training and when goofing around in-between.   As I move forward I need to remember to keep it simple, let go of what I can’t control and always have fun.

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6 WeeksIn keeping with the trend of longest workout, having done a 7.5k yard swim in the pool two weekends ago, and a broken 28 mile run last Sunday, this weekend had me doing a 120 mile ride, my 6th ride in 7 days.  I’ve been asked more than a few times why the excessively long sessions and to be honest, after my few years in this sport, I don’t know.  I guess it’s to build both physical and mental resilience however I question these days at what point reward turns to risk with the amount of injuries that have been popping up.  The bottom line is even though hard swims, 20 mile runs and 6 hour rides may seem ridiculous, in the context of Ironman there is no escaping the overbearing reality on race day that ‘YES you need to run a marathon off a 112 mile bike’.  Having the right mindset and conditioning in the legs to get through 26.2 miles, and much more to race every inch, requires some tough days in the months and weeks leading up.

This week my bike miles were higher than normal, at over 250 miles and 15 hours, but my run miles are what’s significant.  I did not lace up my shoes once, coming off of that big run last Sunday and the resulting soreness in my calf.  I’m not quite sure what to say about it, other than I’m in the best running shape of my life and my worst.  I can run farther and faster than in previous seasons but with the constant fear that my calf could give out at any moment.  I have been icing, wearing compression, even got a much needed massage, but don’t know where it’s going to lead.  I want so badly to show off what’s under the hood, and will inevitably have some anxiety in the back of my mind leading up through race day and all the way to 26.2 miles.  I guess it’s back to the age long concept of trusting in the program and believing in progress, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

I will say it’s very exciting hearing from so many friends battling through some major workouts on the way to their A races.  For an individual sport there is such a large component of comradery.  Here’s my favorite post following Sunday’s Facebook update –

Jenny Comment

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7 Weeks7 weeks out and the goal of this weekend was clear, run a shit ton of miles Sunday in the form of a 2.5 hour morning run and 40 min evening run.  The mood was set on Saturday’s optional T26 swim (optional meaning ‘do it’ in my vocabulary) where the main portion was a ‘limbo set’, 8 x descending 200’s from 3:15 to 2:40.  My biggest pet peeve in the pool is when people go too strong, especially in warm-up, then either get out or die by the end of the session.  I aimed to reach the wall with 5-10 seconds rest even with the large interval to start while the lane next to me went out hard (5-10 seconds ahead), then were unable to complete the set, missing the last interval while the lane I headed came in a good 5 seconds early on the 2:40.  Afterward Chris, who was second in my lane and is on the same Ironman training plan, shared my sentiment that it was a good workout, fast but surprisingly easy.

The reason I felt the need to go into detail on the swim is it parallels a theme that many make the mistake of in Ironman which is NOONE CARES HOW FAST YOU WENT OUT IF YOU DON’T FINISH!  You will often hear people saying how ‘things were going so well until…’  I knew if I were to have a good run day I would need to pace myself on the front 90 minutes to finish the main set of the workout, alternating above and below IM pace each 5 minutes for the last hour.  I lapped 30 minutes for data but turned off pace so that I could run by HR and feel.  the first 30 ended up being a comfortable 7:24/mile at an awesomely low 135bpm, then 7:00/mile and 6/51/mile (still at 149bpm) before getting into the set, bouncing back and forth between 6:15 and 7:20/mile.  2.5 hours is a long run but I never felt tired or bored even through 22 miles, which was made easier by the 10 or so other triathletes I bumped into on Ocean Ave.

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Later I made the return for my final 40 minutes on the pact sand path starting out super easy and stopping to take a couple pictures, before finishing off strong and controlled at 6:40/mile.  I was only 0.5 miles from my apartment when my left soleus began to bother me, but it didn’t effect pace so I finished.  Afterward the pain increased feeling similar to my last calf issue but in a different area.  I woke up multiple times during the night, not because of pain but the anxiety of another injury.  In the morning it felt much better but still soar.

2 Things – First, over 3 hours and nearly 28 miles is a lot of running for one day, especially considering where I’ve come from over the last few months.  I was nervous to begin and happy until the last 3 minutes where my leg began to hurt, which leads me to my second consideration, trusting the program.  I can’t be held accountable for what happens, good or bad, I’ve put all my eggs in the Purplepatch basket this season and am hoping things pay off.  I am incredibly fit, but at the same time feel that my body is very weak and susceptible to injury.  As I ran I envisioned myself like an egg, which is super strong if you were to try and crush it in your palm, but once a crack develops… well, you know.

Longest run done, next weekend it will be my longest brick, a full workday on the bike and run!!

Pool party relaxing between morning and evening sessions

Pool party relaxing between morning and evening sessions

Week 8

8 Weeks

This was my first BIG weekend in a while.  What’s “big” concerning Ironman training??  A combination of volume and intensity to the extent of a 6 hour interval based brick Saturday and near 5 mile swim workout Sunday morning with a 100 minute run following.  Without the intensity I would consider this like any other weekend, but to push an hour of near 300 watts in the middle of a 90 mile ride with hour run ending in low 6’s off the bike and then have a STRONG 7.5k swim session the following morning with long run after is a lot for one weekend.  It reverted me back to my old practice of working out, eating as much as possible, then getting in bed and repeat.  I don’t like putting everything aside for training but when necessary I’ll embrace the experience and enjoy the dedication.

Coast2Coast Charity swim with T26

Coast2Coast Charity swim with T26

I did make it to both a movie Saturday night and BBQ Sunday evening, relatively on time and without falling asleep!  I imagine there will be fewer normal weekends then big weekends in the next two months, but I’m ok with it.  The reward will be on race day!

Relaxing at the movies, the perfect down time activity!

Relaxing at the movies, the perfect down time activity!

Week 9

9 Weeks

This weekend was a big step forward in training with my running progress, culminating with 18×800 following a strong morning T26 workout.  They say after injury to be careful not to increase more than either distance, pace or running terrain at a time, and thus the thought of 9 sub 6 miles on a hard curved surface in route to 14 had me apprehensive about the dangers involved.   Therefore I opted to move the workout to the soft, straight and slightly elevated surface of Ocean Ave.

Ocean Ave soft surface running path

Ocean Ave soft surface running path

Very pleasantly surprised with the result!!  Consistent 2:50’s on the way down and 3:00’s on the way up, to about the second every time, except for the last couple where I dropped the hammer a little.  More impressive than the pace was my overall feeling throughout the duration.  All the anerobic work we’ve been doing in the pool has helped improve my recovery time significantly to the point that I could hit 100’s on 1:25, feeling good after only a few seconds rest, than cruise sub 6/mile 800’s on the trail with only a minutes recovery through 13 miles or so.

I’m not a coach, nor a stage rider, so I’m not sure how indicative rapid recovery is as a performance indicator for a race as long and steady as Ironman, but I’m hopeful it’s a good sign.  Either way I’m happy to be back to strong healthy running again with a greater sense of appreciation for every mile.

Sunday I had a 6 hour ride on the calendar but cut it at 5:30 so I could meet some friends for Memorial Day drinks.  This time I opted for fun over training and indulged for quite a while.  Not the greatest recovery practice after near 6 hours of exercise but got to live a little.

Week 10

Habits

Yesterday I heard a segment on the radio concerning bad habits that are toxic in relationships and it got me reflecting a bit on the habits I’ve picked up with training, good, bad as well as those that could come across either way depending on how you look at it (so like me to make everything about training!).

Earlier this year I had my first injury at 30 years old and it was very terrifying for the first time not to be able to do what I love.  As a result of my fear, to correct the issue and never let it happen again, I turned to professionals (seeing 3 separate PT’s) and read a lot, researching online about prevention.  I also picked up a coach realizing it was beyond me to manage things on my own without the knowledge of the physical component and perspective concerning the emotional aspect.  I was very frustrated about conflicting information at the top level PT#1 – “what you need is light massage and STEM on the site of the tear”, PT#2 – “ultrasound and deep tissue massage are required and on a completely different area than previously treated”, PT#3 – “your calves are fine, it’s your running dynamics and muscular imbalances that are to blame…”  I was ordered deep tissue massage to break apart scar tissue than told it is very damaging to the injured muscle.  I heard stretching is good than was explained to that static stretching is the worst thing I can do.  Conflicting information, one after the other, and from the most highly recommended of experts.

Not to go too far off on a tangent but the experience led me to practices which I am positive have helped build the momentum I am finally feeling in the last few weeks.  I am listening to my body with a new respect that things can and will go wrong if I push too hard.  I have been wearing compression on the calves when I run (despite being made fun of multiple times) and am sticking to flat soft surfaces (running loops exclusively on Ocean Ave dirt path or on a treadmill), following hard runs with ice.  I have been rolling after most workouts (making it a time priority) and do the major stretches that were recommended to me and said to be safe.  Most importantly I have been listening to my coach, doing every workout exactly as prescribed, recovering like a pro, and seeking interjection when my body hasn’t responded as desired.  All seemingly good things!

Reflecting on my first statement about toxic habits and looking at things with a different lens I am contemplating my ‘progress’ differently.  A strong desire to ‘be safe’ has left me doing almost all my rides on the trainer/runs on the treadmill, despite it being beautiful and perfect outdoors for the same activities.  I’ve been deviating from opportunities to ‘stick to the plan’, passing on a charity century and ride to MT Baldy to watch the Tour of California with friends this past weekend to ride solo than lie on the couch instead.  With the Memorial Day long weekend coming up I have been invited to a couple fun parties but am considering skipping out to get some massive scheduled workouts in.

Habits – training solo, passing on fun, making sacrifices for the ultimate objective. 

Good/Bad – completely up to the individual.

I guess it’s all about the perspective.  When you’re doing well and everything clicks it’s easy to question a bit the things you might be passing on however when the wheels come off and disaster mode strikes you’re quickly willing to do anything/pay anything to get back to where you were.  My current coach has mentioned to me the importance of balance, saying it is important to layer training on top of life and not vice versa.  The bottom line is I’m not complaining, I am so happy to be where I am.  I’m just always thinking about if/how I can be a little better with my decisions, not to be a better athlete but on how to squeeze a little bit more out of my day, always curious what everyone else is thinking/doing as well.

Looking forward – Ironman Texas was just this last weekend and it was great to hear so many good stories between performances there and in Knoxville.  Texas was to be my 3rd triathlon this season however, with the calf it’s now it’s late May and I haven’t completed one.  With limited races the success of my season has been hung on only a couple events, mainly Ironman Lake Placid with the fall back of Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I feel writing this post now was a good idea because it’ll be neat to look back in 4 months to reflect on the decisions I’ve made to determine how they’ve paid off.

10 weeks to go until Placid, I am very excited about the work ahead!!

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