Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What happened?

Today was my first day back at the office after my DNF (which should have been a DNS...more on that in a bit) at Ironman Canada. My first day back to my "normal" routine. Except I got home from work and there was no swimming, biking or running to be done. Doctors orders. And it feels so foreign to me. Its not that I've never had a day off. Its that I don't even have the option to SBR - and theres no foreseeable date in the immediate future when I'll be able to get back to what is actually my normal routine. I'm injured. I have an injury. Which has been hard for me to grasp. I've been "injured" before. But before now, nothing has ever prevented me from actually doing what I love most. Coming to terms with the fact that there is something wrong with me that I can't immediately fix is very frustrating. And pisses me off even more because there's not a clear path to getting better. No, "take this pill" or "do these exercises". I'm much better at delaying gratification now then I was 5 or even a few years ago - and thats sort of the scenario that I'm in now. I want to be "normal" again. I want the gratification of getting back to doing what I enjoy most.

I've admittedly gone pretty dark in the week or so after the race. My closest friends know whats going on - because they asked. Otherwise I probably wouldnt have shared anything with anyone. My coworkers know because I've got numerous doctors appointments on the calendar. I was disappointed, upset, angry, hurt, confused and everything in between. All because I simply didnt get to race. Which from the outside looking in seems like a pretty insignificant problem. And for the most part I'd agree. I've come to terms with triathlon being simply a hobby. It's a very serious hobby of mine. One that takes up anywhere from 10-20 hours of my week, all year. But it is only a hobby. It doesnt provide my income. And ultimately I'd prefer it not even define me as a person. But no matter, if you invest 8 months of your time working towards a singular goal, it's going to hurt when you're denied the chance to even compete. And hurt it did. On the day. During the days after. And even as I write this. But in the week or so since, with some very thoughtful words and poignant advice from close friends I've come to terms with everything. And more importantly, I was reminded why I do all of this anyway. I enjoy the process. Almost as much as the expression of all the work done on race day. Swimming, biking and running is my release. It's more than just part of my routine - it's part of me.

So what happened exactly? My DNF at Canada was probably a long time in the making. Unfortunately. And let the following be a lesson to anyone with lingering aches or pains. As much as 18 months ago or longer even, I started experiencing numbness and tingling down the back side of my right leg. It seemed to start on the right side of my low back with some tightness and occasional mild pain. And it would always be most noticeable while seated at my desk. When it first started, I'd adjust the height of my chair, angle of the seat of my chair, amount of lumbar support, etc. Nothing seemed to alleviate the issue - apart from just getting up and walking around or doing some light stretching. Some days it'd be worse than others but it was never debilitating in any way. Regardless, I went to get it checked out shortly after the numbness/tingling started. At the time, my ortho said it was probably a mild herniation in my low back but that he couldnt confirm without an MRI. So he ordered one. And, I of course, didn't go/get it done. Because these issues would come and go. And sometimes they'd go for long stretches at a time and I'd all but forget that I might even have a herniation at all. This was sometime in 2011 as far as I can remember. Yeah, I know.

Flash forward to 2013, and the numbness/tingling would still show up, but never was really that much of an issue. Just like it always had been. More of an annoyance. And just about the time I'd feel like it was becoming more than an annoyance, it'd go away. Either that or I just became so comfortable with the issues that it all just started to feel normal when it was being only mildly aggravating. And then when it'd really flare up would be when I noticed? I dont know. I did, about 8 months ago, switch to a $15 fold out aluminum chair because it seemed to alleviate things. At least more so than the fancy $1000 chair we're provided. So clearly, in hindsight, things werent okay. I'd also like to note that it didnt really seem like things would worsen with more hours spent SBRing. Meaning, the severity of the numbness/tingling didn't seem to be correlated with a bump in my training load. It sort of seemed at random. But I admittedly can be a bit aloof at connecting dots like that. When I get sick, I generally just chalk it up as just me getting sick. I never seem to think to much about why or how it might have happened.

Anyway, flash forward again to the Monday before I was to toe the line at Ironman Canada (two weeks from yesterday and 6 days from race day). I'd literally just wrapped up the biggest block of training of my life. My power and garmin files pointed to fitness I've never had. I was nailing workouts and recovering well. The changes in my training this year really seemed to have been making an impact on my fitness. I was excited. SO excited to express it all on that Sunday. Everything had gone so well. But as I was pulling our luggage out of our storage unit, my worst nightmare happened. I bent over to set down the last piece, after trying to have been mindful of moving around the heavier things in our unit just to get to the luggage, and as I went to raise back up, my lower back seized or spasmed or just otherwise erupted in pain. I immediately collapsed to the ground in a pain I've never felt. I couldn't move. Literally. I just sat there on all fours. Instantly my mind started racing. I crawled back into the apartment (storage unit is across the hall from our apt) and laid face up in the middle of the living room screaming in pain and not knowing what to do. I first tried to get a hold of my massage therapist. Actually, Joelle did. I couldn't do anything. She was out of town. Joelle then called her father whom thankfully is a Doctor and was able to prescribe me a muscle relaxer, prescription anti inflammatory and pain reliever. It was unfortunately late in the evening so we werent able to pick up any of the meds until the following morning. Joelle had to work from home on Tuesday because I had a hard time even making it to the bathroom. It was 36 hours before I could even walk standing straight up.

Once able to walk, I saw my massage therapist. I ended up seeing her 3 times before my flight on Thursday morning. And in my desperation, went to a chiropractor. I thought maybe something just needed to "release". Of course I was no better after. Thankfully, I had packed my bike away on Sunday evening but even getting to the airport seemed like a task that might not be possible. One of my good friends, Mike, volunteered not only to pick Joelle and I up at our place the night before our flight, but also let us stay at his place in Jersey City AND THEN drove us to the airport in the morning. (I might not even have been able to make the trip without his help so big thanks to you buddy!) The plane ride was pretty terrible. I was pumped full of muscle relaxers and anti inflammatory meds though, so I managed well enough. Upon arrival in Vancouver, my mom and her husband met us at the airport and again carted my bike and bags around. By that evening after walking around normally all day, I felt I needed to try/test if I could even run so Joelle, my brother and I set off on what turned out to be a 20 minute jog. With only mild pain during, I truly started thinking I might pull it off on Sunday. Not only did I think I'd be able to cover 140.6 miles swimming, biking and running but I also thought I'd do it fast enough to qualify for Kona. I thought this because I had to. I'd put in too much work, sacrificed too much to not even be given the chance. I was obviously delusional. Everyone around me probably knew that but never let me feel that and I didn't let myself feel it at the time. At least not consciously.

Come race morning after having spent all but 20 minutes of my week doing absolutely nothing but resting and hoping that my back would be fine, I woke up to prepare for the task before me. And I felt pretty good. I still needed to gingerly bend over to pull up my pants but ignored that and told myself that I basically was just going to be lying on top of my bike for 112 miles - its not like I needed to support myself or otherwise "use" my back. A mildly crazy thought. Went about my normal race morning routine and started getting things set up. Much to my dismay, not only did my powermeter literally die on me that morning in transition but my garmin also locked up. For anyone not aware of what sort of tragedy this alone is - losing not only power but also HR on a course with as much climbing as canada - well, it really couldn't have gotten any worse. Even if I made it to the bike now, I had no idea how to pace myself over the 112 mile ride. I'd be riding blind. I freaked out for a few minutes but calmed and told myself that I'd "figure it out" - and by that I was literally planning on asking someone who seemed to be moving at a pace that I wanted to be moving at what sort of power they were producing and then stay at a legal distance behind them. Or so that was my plan.

I made it through the swim with only moderate pain and actually 15th in my AG, in an Ironman distance swim PR time even though I felt I took it pretty easy. Rushed through transition and swung my leg over my bike not knowing what to expect as I hadnt ridden it since before I hurt my back. From the very first pedal stroke I knew it was bad. Sharp pain shot through my lower back with each subsequent pedal stroke. I thought maybe it'd warm up/loosen up. But it only got worse. I struggled from the beginning and then while climbing one of the many climbs, my glute locked up which then sent my back into a spasm and I was done. All that work. All the sacrifices made. Time spent. For nothing. Or so thats the only place I could allow my mind to go while laying on the side of the road, on my back, staring up at the beautiful sky and snow covered mountain tops surrounding me. Such an amazing place to be on what was supposed to be the day that I put it all together - and I'm on the side of the road with a pain in my back that simply will not allow me to go on. At one point, surrounded by race volunteers, I even attempted to try to stand back up and get on my bike. Which of course proved futile.

I did my best to put on a happy face for the rest of Joelle and I's time in Whistler because it truly is a gorgeous place. But all I could think about was getting home and getting things "figured out". I've seen my ortho/PT twice since I've been back (returned on Friday). My back is so inflamed and locked up that I/they can't really do anything until the inflammation goes down. It was again agreed that its, most likely, a herniated disc and the spasm was a protective measure of a back that was under stress. The body's way of putting on the brakes. Enough is enough. I was in the office on Friday and again today. Still inflamed. Still incredibly tight. If its still like this by the beginning of next week it's agreed that I'll need an MRI to really look at whats going on. And then a cortisone shot or even epidural (BIG NEEDLES) to bring down the inflammation. While the timing probably couldn't have been worse it also, in a way, couldnt be better. My season was going to be winding down soon regardless of my injury - kona or no kona. I'll at least have the entire fall and winter if needed, to get things sorted. And while its still not clear about how to actually go about "fixing" things, I'll at least know more soon enough. And I'll have to be okay with that.

That was long. But needed for me. I needed to get this all down in writing. For those that made it through, let my experience be a lesson to you. Don't ignore those little niggles. Those little pains. They might not present themselves as real issues days or weeks or even months after. And they might not ever. But they also could end your season.

I'll get back on the bike soon enough. Lace up my shoes. Throw on my goggles. And I'll come back next year with even more fitness than this year. Because all that work this year was not wasted. It's not going anywhere. It's in the bank. It's just going to have to continue gaining interest a bit longer than I expected before I get to cash in on it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red Bank 2013 - Breakthrough

Oh, Red Bank. Never a boring day. And 2013 didn't disappoint. For a number of reasons. But before I get into my actual report of the race, I need to preface a bit.

Red Bank has been the start of my tri season for the past two years but this year had me kicking things off in Tempe for a long-er course race. It went alright and is detailed here. But I've been suffering from some serious lack of motivation. Though lack of motivation probably isnt the best description because I've still been getting the work done. Trainings just become such a burden. Exercising for 15 or more hours a week, while working a full time job and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life is never really that enjoyable but I've never lacked that fire to get out and get the work done like I have for the last few months. I guess thats the best way to describe it all - I just lack that fire/desire. But, all my numbers look good. I'm swimming faster than ever, powers up and I've not seen this sort of run speed - ever. So its all sort of weird what I've been going through mentally. And none of that changed heading into Red Bank.

Race morning was wet and cold. And I was having none of it. While it wasnt raining at the start, it had been off and on all night and more rain was right around the corner. I had two buddies also racing and told Mike that if it was raining at the start, I wasnt racing. Looking for any out. And of course, it wasn't raining at the start so I started prepping to race. Red Bank, now in its third year, has grown every year since its debut. There were over 700 people racing (apparently) on the day, despite the crappy conditions. And because of that, transition was crowded, port o potty lines were long and check in was a bit messy. Each year, they've had an "open/elite" wave that you could register for online prior to race day but not this year. They still had it, but you had to enter on race morning. Which I did, along with my other buddy Matt.

SWIM - 22:XX
Transition closed and all of the athletes made their way out to the dock area. Its a deep water start race so you have to lower yourself into the water and then swim out to the start line. But because of the massive amount of people and my lack of urgency, I didnt notice that the elite wave was already in the water preparing for the start. As I'm getting zipped up, I see 15 or so athletes in green caps take off. Even though I had a yellow cap (that messy check in process), I knew that was the elite wave. I started hollering "what wave is that?!" as I'm rushing the person zipping me up. "Thats the elite wave." Great. No gun or megaphone or any other indication of a start. I run down to the race director frantically asking what wave just went off. "The elite wave but you've got a yellow cap, so you're fine." Quickly explaining that I'm in the elite wave, I look down over the edge of the 6 feet tallish pier and ask how deep the water is below and get a stern "DON'T DO THAT" from the race director. So then sprint to the closest ladder into the water, jump in and start sprinting. By this time, the groups passed the first buoy and I pull up thinking its senseless to try to proceed given that I lost last year by seconds, not minutes. I pulled up and considered just jumping in with my age group but then put my head back down and took back off. Much to my surprise, I see another green cap heading out the same time as I and we're both swimming nearly the same pace - like we're trying to swim away from Jaws. Turns out it was Matt! He didn't realize it until we got out of the water but we ended up swimming with each other for nearly the entire swim. I was on the gas from the start and swam a little harder than anticipated, obviously, to try to make up some ground. My swim fitness is better than ever (thanks to Red Tide Masters team) and despite giving up over 2 minutes to the group at the start, I had passed all but 4 people by the time I exited. I swam 19:30 in 2012 and officially 21:58 this year. I'd like to think I swam a little faster than the year before so its possible I gave up more than 2:30 at the start. BAH! Nothing like keeping things interesting.

BIKE - 1:03
As I headed out on the bike, Brian from PBN Nutrition yelled out that I was down 5 minutes to the leader. I figured it'd be that much considering the mishap at the start but still sounded like a lot to make up in an olympic. But put my head down and started the chase. My legs were immediately there. My plan was to go out at 280 watts for the first 15ish minutes, evaluate and bump it up, down or hold steady accordingly. But considering how I was feeling, I jumped out at 290-300 and just held steady the rest of the way putting on a tiny surge in the last 10 minutes of the ride. The ride was pretty uneventful. Its a slow course with lots of turns and was wet so not ideal for going fast. I managed to catch two people but still had two more in front of me. But, they were relatively close - I was coming into transition as they were coming out. I do want to call out some numbers which I normally dont do. The following are from 2012 and 2013 power files.

Metric 2012 2013
NP 280 295
AP 278290
AVG Heart Rate 162159

These clearly show a stronger ride this year but most importantly is the run that came after each.
RUN - 37:07 
I knew I had two people in front of me and was confident I'd catch one of them since I knew who it was. Was not sure of the other. And heading out, I couldn't see anyone. Its an out and back course so knew I'd see them at some point even if it wasnt until the turnaround. Knowing that, much like the bike, I just put my head down and started running. Not paying much attention to my heart rate or pace - just...hunting. Just past the 1 mile mark, you come around a corner and head over a bridge. Its maybe a quarter mile long and then turns into neighborhoods where things wind, head through a bit of trail and then hit a straight section where the turnaround lies. Just as I rounded the corner to get on the bridge, I could see 2nd place just getting ready to make the turn into the neighborhood. And then I got really hungry. The pass was made somewhere before we headed into the trail section of the run. I honestly dont even remember when exactly. Was focused on finding the leader who I knew was close. Once through the wooded trail bit and on the straight section with the turnaround, I could see the leader. Made the final pass right at the turnaround - or what the turnaround ended up being for he and I. We apparently made it out there before anyone else and while there was a sign, the cones were another tenth of a mile up the road along with a police car. The leader ran to those cones/cop car, so I followed. As we approached, the officer yelled out that we should have turned around "back there!". Excellent. So I give up over 2 minutes at the start and now have just added another .2 miles to my run. Making the pass and realizing that I now just gave the chasers back ANOTHER solid minute, I put together two of my fastest miles of the race. Third place was close, but once I hit mile 5 I knew I had it. I've never felt so good running at the pace I was. And thats literally the most exciting piece of this race. I crossed the line with my first overall win at the Olympic distance and was beyond stoked! 
Despite running 6.37 miles instead of 6.2, my pace on the day equates to nearly a 36 minute flat 10K. Officially, my run split was just over 37. But knowing I have 36 minute flat run speed in my legs (and maybe more!), a relatively big bike and strong swim just makes me feel like I can compete nearly anywhere. And since I'm so proud of my run, heres the numbers (dozed off a bit in that trail section of mile 3):

Despite running an additional .17 miles, I still ran 17 seconds per mile faster than I did in 2012 at the exact same HR. Which is huge! 
As the title mentions - I think I've hit a bit of a breakthrough. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leadman 125 Recap

The start of 2013 race season happened a bit earlier than usual this year, kicking off at the Leadman 125 race in Tempe, AZ. I usually don't race this early in the year, let alone this long (typically open season in May with an Olympic). The Leadman race seemed like a fun event considering the unique distance (1.5 mile swim vs 1.2, 68 mile bike vs 56 and just over 8 mile trail run vs 13.1), in nice weather and a great excuse to get out and see my pops! 

"The Pops" and I

The quick summary is it was a solid early season B type race. I swam well, biked conservatively having only 3 rides over 4 hours coming into the race and then ran sort of okay, but not really. The rocky trails that wound up and down through Papago park were a bit of a surprise and I certainly wasn't wearing the right kind of shoes for the type of running required. Placed 2nd in AG after removing pro/overall field results and something like top 15 overall, again after removing the pro field (the results detailed were a bit confusing and still not entirely sure of overall placement).  Some highlights as follows:

But first, a picture of the lady...Okay, moving on.

1. Finally feel like I nailed my day before and race day nutrition. Which is great news considering it was the first race of the year. Its not necessarily that things weren't working prior but feel I've netted out on what seems ideal. In conjunction, my body almost seems to know a race is approaching and starts, uh, clearing things out the day prior. Which is always appreciated on race morning when port o potty's can be hard to come by.

2. Speaking of race morning, it was largely a non event. Though, its not race day for me unless I forget something or slightly mess something up. On this morning upon setting up transition I  discovered, much to my dismay, that my Garmin was dead. I distinctly remember charging it prior to leaving for my trip so have to assume someone snuck into my dads condo and turned it on to sabotage my run. That said, I doubt it affected it too much. 

3. My swim fitness seems better than its ever been. I swam pretty comfortably and got out of the water feeling fresh because of this and my super fast Xterra Vendetta wetsuit. But not completely without issue. After swimming 1.5 miles, you're most always a little discombobulated exiting the water and getting vertical again. It was a deep water, mass start - meaning we walked down some steps lowered over the edge of Tempe town lake (or inner city cess pool) and treaded water until the gun went off. You had to exit using those same stairs though they barely reached the waters edge. I swam up to the stairs and was immediately yanked out of the water by two volunteers before I even realized what was going on. As such, my left shin slammed into the metal steps leaving a nice gash. Though I didn't realize until my wetsuit and I ended our wrestling match and I was headed out onto the bike. (My wetsuit is like 10-0 against me in T1. Got to figure that out. Cut the legs shorter or something.)

4. Knowing my over two hour bike fitness isn't quite where its typically at this time of year and the ride being 12 miles longer than a standard 70.3, I rode conservatively. (But thats by design as I've been working on lifting the left side of my power curve and haven't had much long intense efforts. Thats all about to change. Yay! Or yay if 4-6 hour rides sound like a splendid time.) I tried to ignore those additional 12 miles and ride at my late season 70.3 power but surrendered that idea as being naive...and stupid. The ride was largely a non event though quite boring and congested considering it was a four loop urban course with lots of turns and a sprint and Olympic distance race going on at the same time. Not ideal but the organizers did a solid job with what was provided. OH! Annnd, I nailed my first attempt at a flying dismount which basically means I'm pro. Just need to work on flying mounts. 

Note the shoes still attached. All sorts of awesome.

5. The run. One thing I always intend to do is recon courses. But relaxing the days prior always takes precedence - for better or worse. I really could have benefitted from just a weeee bit of recon. I raced IM AZ about 18 months ago and wrongfully assumed this course would be at least sort of similar since it shared the same transition area, swim and some of the bike. It was about as similar as Brad Pitt and I's flowing locks of hair. Started flat and paved, then moved to rocky, winding, dirt trails that went up and down, flattened out for a bit, then more up and down trails, then flat. To someone who runs in NYC it felt like I was nearly rock climbing at times. And although I couldn't find a rhythm and tweaked my ankle twice because I was wearing the worst possible shoe for this type of terrain (lunaracers), it was sort of fun. 

The one they call "desert dude" and I talking about how much fun we had.

6. Sunscreen is smart. Thankfully I remembered this and applied liberally before donning my wetsuit. BUT, I was wearing a super slick two piece Kiwami kit which means when im on the bike, my lower back becomes exposed as my jersey rides up my back. So, I've got a gnarly burn/tan line across the bottom of my back above my short line that extends an inch or two up my back. 

A solid day. Not overjoyed with my effort nor deeply disappointed. About what I expected and took away some valuable learnings. Like, run faster regardless of terrain. 

Only the best recovery nutrition.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Awesomeness of a Great Bicycle Fitting

It's been a while.

More importantly, I've actually got something worthwhile to share. I've not raced since last fall so no races to report on and because my typing fingers are lazy, theres been not a single post from me in months. No one really wants to read about my training. But people may want to read about why getting fit to your bicycle and having said fit tuned up/checked on at least once a year is invaluable. Invaluable for numerous reasons. Of which I'll detail in a hot sec.

I went to see my friend, sponsor and bike-fit-guru-master-fitting-genius, Jonathan Blyer at Acme Bicycle Co this past Friday. We've been working together for nearly two years now. I originally found JB via Slowtwitch under their list of F.I.S.T. certified fitters in my area. JB was performing fits out of his apartment at the time. But oh how the times have changed. Over the past two years, the fit shop that was once a spare bedroom is now a full blown, state of the art bike fit studio complete with Retul motion capture technology and the crazy awesome Guru Dynamic Fit Unit. Through a partnership with TRIBY3 Performance Coaching owner Greg Close the studio also now does double duty as a computrainer training studio. Its a one stop shop for all things bike related and I love it. I just want to hang out at the shop and talk about bikes and drink espresso. If you haven't been, I highly recommend (force) you check the studio out and even more importantly book a session of your own with Jonathan. If you dont think you need to now, you might change your mind by the end of this entry.

Back to why I was visiting. As mentioned above, JB fit me on my original Speed Concept nearly two years ago and I've been riding essentially that same position ever since. I've gone through a bike or two since the original fit but have carried my fit numbers over to each bike. One would think that after having ridden the same position for two years (and yes I should have been back to see him much earlier), that things would be rosy. Well, we're humans, not machines. Things change. Our bodies change. While sometimes the human body can be very adaptable, there are other times where optimizing makes much more sense. I've been having some pain in my right calf/right leg that sometimes has flared up in my achilles. Potentially scary stuff. One of the main reasons I wanted to get over to see him. But also to jump on board the Guru DFU and see what we'd net out on with a blank canvas of sorts.

Your day at Acme would be just the same as mine - probably even more in depth. Jonathan would talk to you about your goals, what distances you race, where or what you've been having trouble with, what you're looking to get out of your fit, etc. He knows me pretty well so some of that stuff we didnt have to go through but he did start off by evaluating my flexibility, looking for any asymmetries before we got on the DFU and just watching me walk around barefoot. I then jumped on my bike which was hooked up to a trainer and got warmed up before jumping on the DFU. Meanwhile, JB input my current fit numbers into the computer which is connected to the DFU (if you're still wondering what exactly that is, have a look at the Acme homepage) to get it set up in the position I was currently riding in.

JB getting my current touch points entered into the computer. Thats the DFU behind him.
After the warm up, I hopped on board the DFU which had now been setup to mimic my fit and started pedaling. The DFU is hooked up to a computrainer and I was able to adjust the level of resistance (power) during the fit to see how changes were affecting my power output dynamically. Meaing, I NEVER HAD TO STOP PEDALING. I dont know JBs inner wizardy/magic, but he slowly made adjustments as I pedaled my little heart out. Thats whats so cool about the whole process. It all happens in real time. JB would make changes - bringing the front end up/down, forward/back, seat up/down and forward/back - and in real time I could be like "no no no...move it back" or "YES, right there" (yes, this was just a bicycle fitting). This process went on for quite some time and JB has the ability to save specific "positions" throughout the process as well as the original position. So, for example, we netted out on a couple "preferred positions" and then quickly would switch back to my old position and I could feel the changes in real time. Needless to say, my old position is no more.

Once at a point where he was comfortable where we were and I agreed on the amazingness, it was time to get me set up with the Retul Motion Capture System to confirm everything. JB connected a cord with various sensors from elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle and some place on my foot. A device set up next to me captured my movements and recorded every angle of my fit and displays them on screen. We did that for both my left and right side. JB used all of the numbers on screen to verify that I was within acceptable ranges for things like knee angle, hip angle, knee tracking, etc. Its sort of like power data. Useless if you dont know what you're doing with it but invaluable if you do. And JB does.

At that point, I was finally done with what felt like a solid bike workout and JB attempted to transfer over my new fit numbers to my bike. BUT, because I'm an expert dunce and forgot the various spacers and such for my bikes integrated front end, we could only make the changes to the saddle position while at the shop. But I'm relatively competent when it comes to working on my bike, so no big deal. I simply took the numbers home and made the changes to my bike over the weekend. I do want to stress though that this is generally part of the process and I just managed to forget some very important pieces.

So, what does this all mean and how did my fit change? Well, for starters, my saddles was in fact, too high. Much too high. And probably the culprit of my ongoing calf issue. So the saddle came down by about 2.5cm and also came forward just a bit. Additionally, he adjusted the position of my cleats and gave me some inserts for support of my arch. On the front end, my pads came up! The horror. Low is better right? Uh, not if you cant hold your position. So up we go and boy does it feel good. This weekend, I spent more total time in my aerobars than any previous ride this year and the power came by so much easier. A great fit isnt going to give you fitness, but it will allow you to tap into the fitness you already have more readily and more easily. And thats what we've done with mine. I'm super pumped and looking forward to getting out on my tri bike even more in the coming weeks.

Moral of the story - if you havent been fit, go do it now at Acme. If you have been fit but are encountering issues or feel like there might be an area that needs some work, go get a tune up/check up. I promise it will be some of the best money you spend on this sport.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"The journey is the reward."

This was one of the late Steve Jobs favorite maxims. He'd share this during executive retreats, board meetings and daily meetings with his closest staff. I feel its something to keep in mind at all times.

Recently, I had someone ask me a series of questions which seemed quite random at face value. I was confused but answered any way. But followed up with a question of my own - "Why the random questions?".  To which the response was, "I wanted to see if you were results or process driven". Turns out my answers painted a picture of me being a mix of both which I'd probably agree with.

The content of my writing here is mostly about sport but the title of this post applies to any and everything we do. While my answers point to me being a mix of process and results driven, too often I find myself fixated on a result - or rather, how to obtain a specific result (maybe thats the mix of both at play?). I'll be the first to tell anyone who'll listen that having a very defined list of goals is paramount to actually achieving those goals. This applies to not just sport but ones career, personal relationships, professional relationships or simple self improvement and everything in between. But simply having goals and working towards those goals with too much tunnel vision means you miss out on very valuable learnings along the way.

I've had a few "failures" this year in regards to sport which got me down at times. Made me question myself, my motivations, my coach and anything else that came to mind. I'd have my mind racing trying to "figure it out". Pin point where it all went wrong. At some point I allowed myself to reflect on the journey, the process, which proved helpful and insightful. But what if I was more attentive throughout? Not just reflective in failure but in success - because there were successes. Often one might hear how there's so much to be learned in our successes and even more in our failures. I believe there's even more to be learned in the process or journey taken on our way towards our goals.

I challenge everyone reading to be more present in the now. Be more attentive in the process and more reflective along the way. In everything you do. Once you've achieved your next goal or milestone, you'll have many more learnings to bring with you as you work towards the next. And be more appreciative of the result.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where to start...

Good question. I've been MIA for a while in regards to posting and its probably a combination of things. It is a combination of things.

  1. I've been busy. But who's not?
  2. Racing hasn't been going well. I'm a baby. 
  3. I don't like talking much when things arent going well. I'm a baby. 
A quick recap which probably wont end up being quick:

After capping off my 2011 season with a 9:36 at IM AZ, I had big expectations for 2012. And why not? After 11 months of training I put together a pretty solid race and was feeling good about what a winter and spring of training could do for my fitness. 

And the winter and spring went incredibly well. I was hitting run mileage my legs had never seen per week and I was holding up fine and simultaneously slowly pushing my power on the bike to levels I've also never seen. Never mind that my times in the pool continued to drop. Everything was clicking. I was encouraged by my progress and itching to test my fitness. 

My season started with an olympic at Red Bank which I recapped here so wont go into detail again. Not a perfect day but certainly promising and showed me that a I could actually run. 

My first A race of the year was the Eagleman 70.3. One of only a few 70.3s in the world that offer Kona Qualifying slots and I fully intended on taking the only one available in my age group. Yes, only one slot, which meant I'd have to win my AG. Something I'd never done before. Not at a large national race anyway. Tall task? Certainly. Everyone is always getting faster - myself included. On paper, I had the fitness to put myself in a position on the day. No question. I was confident in my prep. Felt good going in. Was well prepared and well tapered. 

But didn't even get to give myself a chance after DNFing  after the bike (Did Not Finish - DNF). But the melt down started well before that. Eagleman is a notoriously hot race. And humid. Race day didn't disappoint with temps in the mid to upper 90s, high humidity and not a cloud in the sky. To make matters worse, race directors measure water temperatures at 4:30 AM and at that hour, the water was just a degree under the wetsuit cutoff (76 degrees) which meant that it would be a wetsuit legal swim. And, my age group was one of the last to go off which means warmer temps all around. I contemplated not wearing my wetsuit for fear of over heating and costing me my race but I'd never had an issue before and thought it couldnt be that bad (though I've never raced in conditions like this). Plus, I had a lot on the line. Didnt want to give up time from the very start. Bad idea. As soon as I got in the water I knew it was a bad idea. It was incredibly warm. Warm enough that I couldnt keep my goggles from fogging up. Five minutes into the swim I was grabbing at my wetsuit collar trying to let water in to cool me down but that didnt help because the water itself was warm. I had to back off my effort. I literally stopped kicking all together but even by the half way point I was starting to feel light headed. Just kept telling myself "make out of the water and you'll be able to correct it on the bike". Not so much. My heart rate would not come down. My HR was at a level that its at for efforts that are usually much more intense than what I was going at. I began getting dizzy, my vision got blurred and started swerving. I knew I was in rough shape. Some how made it back to the transition area, put my foot down and collapsed into a volunteers arms. Came back to in the med tent about 20 minutes later with an IV stuck in my arm. My day was done. Fantastic. I was crushed. Beyond disappointed. There went my chance at a Kona slot. Great job Bill. The only small positive I could draw from the whole catastrophe is that, in those types of conditions, leave the wetsuit at home. That and I had another 70.3 on my calendar just two weeks later. And another just two weeks after that. I had all this fitness built up that I never got a chance to express and I was going to let it out with vengeance in the coming weeks. 

Fast forward two weeks later and I'm at the Syracuse 70.3. I was done sulking from the result at Eagleman and prepared to have a great day. Water temps were again close to the cutoff so I opted out of the wetsuit and donned my Xterra Speedsuit. I was probably one of only a few people in my age group to do so. Swam pretty well and about what I thought I would without a wetsuit. Felt GREAT heading out on the bike. Legs were there. Power was there. Things were coming together and just about the time I thought "this might be my day", I lose most all of my First Endurance Liquid Shot calories bombing down one of the big descents. 500 of my 800 calories were gone. Had it been on the flats, I'd have probably turned around for it but with others on the course coming down the descent that made it impossible to retrieve. No sweat. I'll just feed off the course I thought. I needed to come up with 500 additional calories through 20oz bottles of Powerbar Perform even though theres not even 200 calories in an entire bottle. I did my best to manage the issue and entered T2 feeling great and knew I rode pretty well (2nd fastest bike split). I always run with another First Endurance Liquid Shot Flask filled about half full (250ish calories) on the run for a 70.3 but in my haste in T2 decided to not bring it along with me out on the run. Great job Bill! Lets really try to sabotage your day. I was about a mile in before I realized I didnt have it in my hand. Again, no big deal, I thought. I fed off the course on the bike and was feeling great. I'll be fine on the run - I felt good at the time so why think otherwise? Well, turns out my stomach doesnt like Powerbar Perform. Not one bit. The nutritional gaff on the bike was now presenting itself on the run. My stomach was in knots, distended and felt as if it might pop. No, I didnt have to crap or even feel like I had to puke. It just felt like everything I had consumed in the last few hours was bouncing around in my stomach like kids on a trampoline. I literally could hear my own gut sloshing around. I was suffering from what endurance athletes like to call gut rot. My First Endurance nutrition strategy is rock solid and has carried me through an Ironman. This stuff on the course on the other hand - not so much. Any time I tried to bump my pace up and in turn bump up my HR, my stomach protested. I felt like I had the legs but was simply incapable of getting them moving. Some might ask, "why cant you run through something like that?". Anyone involved in the sport wouldnt ask that question. Its miserable. And in turn resulted in another less than desirable day. 

No sweat! I've got another 70.3 in two weeks to try and put it together one more time. Headed back to Indiana for another crack at the Muncie 70.3. The midwest had/has been suffering from a super intense heat wave. A record number of days over 95 degrees with many of those days over 100. I had the opportunity to spend a week at my moms house leading up to the race and made it a point to get my workouts done during the hottest part of the day in attempt to prepare for the heat I knew I would face on race day. Well, turns out the heat was so hot, the race directors made an unprecedented decision and shortened the race. Many people were all up in arms over this. I didn't really care. I honestly had no interest in racing 70 miles in 104 degree temperatures, 80% humidity and a real feel of over 110 degrees. I wanted to test my fitness. Not test my ability to trudge through a death march. I was not excited to race. Watching the forecast that week was depressing. I usually wake up racing morning anxious and eager to get going. I woke up in the hotel room and really wanted none of it. My mind was in the wrong place and on top of the bad string of luck I seemed to be having, I also was starting to feel a little burnt out. A combination of things not going well and also trying to do too much racing too close together. I ended up swimming as I usually do. The heat of course affected my bike power. The bike course was shortened to 30 miles which is essentially an olympic distance course. I could barely get my power up to a pace that I can hold for 5+ hours. Came into T2 frustrated and headed out for the 10k run. Hated every minute of it. Finished the race barely making the top ten in my age group. My season was officially in the shitter. 

At that moment and for the next week, I wanted nothing to do with anything triathlon related. I couldn't wrap my head around why things were going so terribly. I had such a good off season of prep. Everything was in order. I was given three chances to put it all together and all three ended in disappointment. It wasnt fun anymore. I needed a break. So I took it. 

This past week marks my first week "back" after my week completely off. I was sort of afraid that I was going to still be discouraged but thankfully getting back into my routine felt good. The constant lethargic feeling one has after a big training week has been welcome (I say this after 6 hours on the bike yesterday and a solid 15 mile run today). And what I failed to mention earlier is that after the debacle at Eagleman I signed up for the Louisville Ironman. I knew I wouldnt be happy unless I gave myself a real shot at a Kona slot and this was my only opportunity. So, its back to big training weeks and I'm happy to report I'm looking forward to it as much as one can look forward to 15-20 hours of exercise in any given week. 

Ultimately, this is sport. Its meant to be fun no matter how seriously you take it. And I take it very seriously but needed some perspective. I had three crappy races. So what? Really though. So what? Is this my last season of racing? No. Will I have loads of other opportunities to make things happen? Absolutely. As always, things dont always go as we plan. And thats what I like to call life. Learn what you can, from not just the good but even more so from the bad, and continue moving forward. 

When it stops being fun its time to rethink things. I'm having fun again. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Red Bank 2012 - First Loser

Finally. A race. After a long winter I've learned a couple of things. The biggest being I need to get in some sort of racing earlier in the year. I actually love the process - the training, nutrition, establishing goals in training and surpassing them and then doing it again. But that process can only stay interesting for so long. I need to compete against people other than myself earlier in the year. A running race of some kind (which I've never done), a cycling race or maybe even a potato sack race.

That said, I'm happy to be able to have a race to report on. This is the second year I've done this race (might only be its second year of existence) and was looking forward to testing out all the fitness I've attained since last year. My focus this year is the 70.3 distance and more specifically, Eagleman in June but I knew it would be fun to get out and see what sort of speed I had in my legs.

Red Bank is about an hour south of the city so it made for a super early morning since the gun was supposed to go off at 7 am. My "fan club" (my girlfriend and bestest bud Dustin) and I were in the car by 4:45. Having them there is always nice and I appreciate it immensely. We munched on breakfast which for me consisted of my normal bagel, ensure and a water bottle full of First Endurance EFS Drink. 

Turns out, the race got quite a bit bigger this year. Double the participants, added a sprint and a duathlon so race morning was full of lines. Needless to say, the gun did not go off at 7. While waiting in line to pick up my race packet (bib number, timing chip, etc) I was randomly messing around with my brake levers. Not for any particular reason. Just out of boredom while waiting in line. Good thing I did. I recently swapped my brake pads and apparently didnt get a bolt tightened down enough (even though I took it out on two test rides after making the swap and this didnt present itself) when reassembling my front brake. My bike has an integrated front end which is a blessing and a curse, though I rarely have any issues. Basically the cable came loose and the brake pads were rubbing. Thankfully someone in transition had a pair of pliers (you can always count on someone having a small tool chest in transition) since my multi tool doesnt have one. Got the brake re adjusted, transition set up and quickly made my way to the port o potty with my TP in hand. 

SWIM - 19:xx
After a delayed start, the sprint waves got under way and shortly after the elite wave for the olympic distance athletes. I got my Xterra Vendetta wetsuit zipped up and jumped in. I knew that a guy named Matt Nunnaly was back this year and last year he swam a blazing 18:xx. My swim fitness has really seen some significant improvements and my plan was to try to find his feet early and see if I could hold on. Little did I know his swim fitness has also seen an improvement. I later learned that Mr. Nunnaly is a national competitive lifegaurd champion. The gun went off and, as always, it was pretty crazy from the start. I really pushed it trying to stay at the front but about 300-400 yards in realized I didn't have the speed to hold on to his pace and settled into mine. The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful since the elite wave was pretty small and we were first to go off so there was no swimming through other waves. On our way back, we were swimming straight into the rising sun and a headwind. I took down a swim assisted gulp of salt water thanks to some healthy chop and thought for sure that would come back to haunt me. Exited the water in 4th and had no idea of my time since I dont wear a watch while swimming. Joelle (girlfriend) shouted out my placing as I ran into transition and I was a little upset about that because I felt I had a strong swim. Turns out, there was quite a bit more speed this year - not just on the swim but the bike and run as well which I'll detail in a bit. I had a terrible transition as I could not get my wetsuit off. About 45 seconds slower than it should have been. Oh well. On to the bike. My strongest sport. Right?

BIKE - 1:03
This is not a fast course. Unfortunately. It seemingly turns every few miles, hits quite a few rollers and just never allows one to quite settle into a rhythm. But I knew that, had a wattage target to hit and was ready to see what that would net me. From the very start I could tell my cycling legs just werent there and I'm almost 100% sure why. About three and a half weeks ago, I started experimenting with my diet - started cooking all of my own meals, packing my lunch, etc. It was great at first. I was saving money, felt good but also started losing weight. I was encouraged at the beginning. Less weight means faster body, right? I ended up losing ten pounds in a matter of three weeks and concurrently saw a drop in my power on the bike in training. Whoops. Not intentional, but I essentially was under fueling and eating WAY too clean. All good things for anyone not exercising for hours a day and expecting their body to perform at a high level. Reached a breaking point about five days before Red Bank and I scrapped the whole experiment and went back to my "regular" diet which consists of multiple personal chefs from all round my neighborhood (my favorite being Chipotle). Was able to put on about five pounds over the next five days to get me close to my previous weight level but still felt a bit "off". Back to the race. The first 30 minutes had me contemplating just bagging the race. I was frustrated. I could not get my power up to even a high Z3 level (about 30 watts off of goal pace...a pace that I can generally hold for about two hours on any given day). I started sucking down my EFS Drink and EFS PreRace cocktail I had in my bottle hoping that it might "wake me" up. At probably about the 35 minute mark things finally started to open up. Still wasnt quite hitting my target, but much closer than the first part of the ride. Rode strong into T2 thinking I was leading the race with second and third not too far behind me. Turns out I was second into T2 by about 45 seconds and had spent the entire bike chasing the super swimmer who laid down a 16:xx swim (yikes!). Was in and out quickly and knew I had someone right on my heels. 

RUN - 37:xx
The plan was to hit 6:30 for my first mile and settle in and then start kicking up the pace. (I think coach knows that when he outlines a plan I generally subtract some from the pace or add some to the power on the bike. Bad pupil. My first mile ended up being something like 6:12ish which was still a "settle in" sort of pace but not too crazy.) Right out of transition you're hit with a steep incline which makes getting your heart rate under control a little challenging. Shortly after cresting the hill, I was passed. Damn. Should I jump on to his heels? I chose not to but looking back, maybe should have. I'm now running in third but feeling strong. About a mile and a half in we caught the super swimmer. He was running well but I was feeling great and wasn't worried about being caught by anyone else. My concern was trying to bridge the gap to the leader. The course was an out and back that hit some rolling hills and had a section of off road trail running which didnt make for the fastest run but it was a nice change of pace. Kept it interesting. At the turn around the leader passed me on his way back in and was looking good, much to my dismay. I told myself with about two miles to go I'd try to put on a bit of a surge, lay down a solid negative split and see if I couldnt bridge up to him. Well, it appeared he had the same plan and also had a solid negative split. 

I crossed the finish second overall (but first loser!) and put together a decent race despite my lack luster bike. I'm not worried about that though. My bike has always been my strongest sport. What's encouraging is my swim and run speed. I've been logging a solid 40-50 miles/week for months now on the run and about 90% of that has been all at a very easy pace. No traditional speed work. Just lots of miles and a long run with some progression. This is exactly what coach and I had planned for after IMAZ. LOTS of run miles and thankfully my legs have held up. It seems to be paying off as I felt quite comfortable sitting in at a 6 minute pace throughout that 10k. This is promising since the goal has been to stretch that speed out to 13.1. My focus since January has been the Eagleman 70.3 in June. In three weeks I'll get to see how that focus translates on the race course.

Thanks to all of my amazing sponsors - Kiwami for the race kit, Xterra for my super fast Vendetta wetsuit, EFS for keeping me fueled and GI distress free and Jonathan Blyer at Acme Bicycles for keeping my bike fit in order!

I also want to give a shout to two of my friends who also raced on Sunday. Robin Powers in only her second triathlon ever placed FIRST in her age group in the Sprint race. Her boyfriend, Mike Stefanik,  in the olympic race shaved off almost ten minutes from his time on this course last year. Super proud of both of them!