Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Winter Doldrums

Recovery, illness and injury are all things hyper-competitive athletes can have a hard time dealing with.  Six weeks ago I finished second at Ultraman World Championships, by just over 5 minutes in a 22.5 hour race.  To say that left me motivated for the next time, is an understatement.  Ready, set --RECOVER.

The Team!
Me, Adam Ellenstein, Jen Howard, Ryan Toner, Inaki de la Parra

A race that demanding takes a huge recovery.  Muscles respond quickly.  Muscularly I felt fine after a week.  Ligaments, tendons, hormone levels, etc take much longer - it will be more than three months before I return to baseline on a cellular level - at best.  I finished Day 1 and threw up.  I finished Day 2 shivering uncontrollably.  I finished Day 3 and threw up.  Two days after the race I got sick for over a week.  I got better, went home for the holidays, and got sick again - I spent New Years Eve and New Years day sleeping.  In between I did some maintenance workouts - basically getting out of shape slowly.  Did I want to do more, push harder - absolutely.  But my coach helps keep me in check and focused on the ultimate goal.

My crew always had my back 

Did we have loftier goals for this years Ultraman?  We did.  In some respects we fell far short; in other respects we were a lot closer to exceeding them than I thought we'd be.  In a race that is nearly a day long, that passes through multiple climate zones, and is held over three days, there are a lot of variables.  I came to this race fitter and stronger than I ever had; this was the first time I truly felt I was racing the distance.  I knew there would be lessons to learn and it has been good to take the month of December, process what happened, and ruminate on those lessons.  It hasn't made my desire to get out and attack any less.

I would rather lose on my competitor's best day than beat them on their worst -
this dude pushed me to my limit and I look forward to another battle in the future!

It also makes missing the short baby workouts even harder.  Because I got sick after the race I took two weeks completely off any workouts instead of one.  I missed a short run over New Years - it's not much and I remind myself that it's better in the long run to recover and stay healthy, but it doesn't make it any easier in the moment.  I remind myself that I came back strong in 2016 - I didn't do a single workout for 5 weeks after that Ultraman, when I crashed during the race and developed an infection in one of my wounds.


My coach and I also developed a plan over a year ago, to race UM in 2017 then wait until 2020.  This was to recover properly (physically and mentally), learn lessons and build upon those lessons to be at the absolute top of my game when I came back.  Racing this distance year after year we feel does not leave room to truly recover and peak at the highest level; a high level for sure but that is not what we're after. 

And I can relate to many of my athletes' who are anxious about getting out of shape.  It is a similar anxiety when overcoming over-training or injury.  Patience and focus are key.  I have one athlete, who I have coached for a number of years now that has exhibited this patience and focus beautifully - she was used to high volume when she came to me but she was also experiencing several concerning over-training symptoms. We started slow. Unfortunately she experienced a rather brutal injury (unrelated to training) less than six months after we started, and we had to back off even more.  The next two years were up and down - it took nearly three years to build back to real run training.  We made sure to focus on things that would build to long term success and health.  There were a great many issues with her return to run training, based on the injury so we took that slow - focused on strength and bike development.  While two years ago things seemed daunting and uncertain, her patience and focus, has yielded wonderful results and she will be competing professionally in 2018. There are a ridiculous number of people with physical ability and many coaches are bothered by the "waste" of that ability when they see it undeveloped.  Why do we not look at this mental toughness, this focus, this patience the same way?  When I was a young swim coach I had coached a group of 7-8 year olds with one 9 year old in it.  The 9 year old was the slowest one in the group.  But he listened - took in everything I said and asked questions.  It was abnormal focus and patience for someone.  When he was 10 he was improving but still miserable slow.  When he was 11 he made some strides but continued to lag behind his peers.  When he was 12 he hit his growth spurt and everything clicked.  He went from one of the slowest in the group to one of the fastest in the state over all strokes and distances.  All of a sudden one of the kids who had "no talent" was one everyone thought had the most "talent." 

Consistency is the key to success - unexceptional looking workouts completed day in and day out will trump exceptional workouts completed inconsistently.  Don't take my word for it though; here is a link to Eliud Kipchoge's training in his lead up to his win in Berlin last year:

Sometimes this consistency can take the form of a walk, or short dynamic stretch routine - consistency does not necessarily mean time consuming. Consistency also refers to consistent rest and recovery.  We all love to hear about the crazy workouts that great athletes perform, but what we gloss over in reading about those workouts is the years of consistency and slow progression that led to those workouts.  Articles like these are far more useful to the general population, in my opinion, as they help promote long term health and consistency:

Rest and recovery isn't glamorous; neither is consistency.  But if you want the Shalene Flanagan moment you need to have the patience to take the good with the bad and the focus and determination to stay the course. So many people have the potential to do this - what that moment is depends on the person and their goals - what it amounts to is getting the most out of yourself.  That might be running in the Olympic Trials, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, attaining partner in a law firm, or making sure your family spends 30 minutes of quality time together each day, etc, etc...

The winter can exacerbate a lot of the anxiety around illness or injury.  The cold weather and short days can be tough on mood and motivation for anyone.  The holidays can affect people differently as well with unhealthy food, stressful schedules, emotional stress - it can easily feel like things are spiraling.  We can only handle so much stress - this needs to be taken into consideration as well - and if life stress is high, training stress will necessarily need to be lower.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Early season running!

Over the month of April I raced four out of five weekends over a variety of distances. I entered these races with varying degrees of freshness and fatigue and approached each with different strategies and goals, with the main aim of the month to test out my legs and get a big picture of where my speed and fitness were on the run.  Biggest takeaways:

1. My speed and fitness are right where I'd like them to be for this point in the season.
2. I'm a much stronger runner/racer when I demonstrate some patience up front, ease into the effort and push hard over the middle/finishing miles.
3. I love running long :)

PR's set this month:
15k - 53:18
10M - 57:10
20k - 1:11:29
Half - 1:15:37
Marathon - 2:49:29
50k - 3:25:09

Van Metre 5M race (links lead to my strava profile for each race) - 3rd overall, 28:17

Legs were really fatigued heading into this one...two guys went out ahead of me and it was too hot an effort so I backed off and did my own thing from the start.  Ran a very consistent race and was relatively happy with the speed - was right on my PR for the distance (the course being approx .1 mi long).  Wasn't exactly where I thought I'd be for 5M but hard to account for the fatigue in the legs.

Photo cred: Jen Howard
Thanks for coming out and cheering, Jen!

Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon
 - 7th overall, 1:15:37

The week of the 5M I had nailed a 10 x 1 mile workout, holding 540-545 pace.  I figured if I ran this well I could get down to that effort and possibly get under 1:16:00 (547 pace). I was quite a bit more rested for this race than the 5M the week before, so was confident my legs would respond if I eased in and this is about as non-technical, flat, and fast as it gets - a rail trail that was a simple out and back.  If you are in the Virginia Beach area, this trail is the superhighway of rail trails -wide and open, well maintained and beautiful!

New flats (Skechers GoMeb 5) and new Base Performance kit
for my April races - Both served me very well today!

My plan was to dial in sub-6s for the first 5k, then adjust down to that 545 pace.  I started out in ninth, with two groups of four ahead and went through the 5k in 1817 (554 pace).  At that point I noticed one of the guys that had gone out in the lead was coming back pretty quickly, so I picked it up to pass him by the 4 mile mark and held effort to the turn - felt great and hit the turn exactly as I wanted.  Did time checks to the runners up front and wasn't really close to any (almost 2 minutes to the closest runner) but there was the lead wheelchair athlete about 40" up the road.  After the turn I tried to reel her in and did so by mile 9.  She was strong - tried encouraging her and told her not to let me pass, and she pushed ahead every time I got within a step.  The last 5k got more and more painful and there was about a mile stretch near the end where we were just side by side.  Just after the 12 mile mark I said five minutes left - let's surge in (I could also see a guy way up fading and wanted to see if I could catch him).  She had a strong surge and I just tried to hang on,  but no way!  She did drag me past that guy though and nudged him right around mile 13 - you just never know how things are going to go in the last 10% of a race.  It's possible to put a lot of time into the people that go out too hard right at the end - I try and remind myself of that in the middle of longer races.  Ended up being a 3:10 PR!

Crystal City 5k Fridays, Week 3 - 9th overall, 17:04

My 5K PR came from this series in 2015 - I knew the course and knew it was competitive. Since this was a shorter race, and one where I knew a lead pack would form, my goal here was to get up and race with the front as long as I could.  Well, the pace was aggressive from the start and I was only able to hold on till approx 2k - my HR was beyond maxed out and my legs just had no strength in them.  They actually felt very similar at the start to what they had in the 5M.  Difference was I backed off and ran my own race there, with steady splits (my peak 5k from that race was a 1658).  Here we went through the mile in 506 (turns, wind and elev made this the slowest mile for the leaders).  When I ran 1637 two years earlier we went through that mark in 519.  Then I just died - legs were heavy and couldn't turn them over and really ate it coming up the slight incline around 4k.  Finished in 1704 and my last mile was slower than what I had held over the last 10 in the half.  No lack of effort, just the difference in how the body responds to different strategies.  No regrets on choosing to run this way as it was a fantastic learning tool to see what happens when you run too hard too soon vs. what I had done a couple weeks prior at the 5M.  

Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug Ultra 50k - 1st Overall, 3:25:09

This was my first standalone ultra (I've done the double marathon as part of Ultraman twice though).  And I hadn't done a marathon since 2009 Philly, outside of an iron distance triathlon.  I was super psyched to test myself out over distance. I had a number of goals entering this race: to test out easing in over the first 10k, as I will at Ultraman was definitely one; the second was to see if I could hang onto 19:30 5k splits from there till the end, and get in under 3:20 (which was also the course record). 

So I went out patient, and in third place.  Averaged roughly 7:00 for the first 4.5 miles, took a stop in the porto-potty, then built into 620 pace by mile 7.  By mile 8  I was in the lead and cruised 610-620 miles from there through the end of the second loop.  The logistics of this race were there was approx a 4 mile out and back to start and finish this race with three loops of Lake Waramaug in between. A beautiful place to run! With about 10 miles to go I started to slowly crack off the pace - I knew I could up the effort and hang onto pace for a little while longer, but wasn't sure if that would lead to a total blow up so with that amount of time left I readjusted to what I felt was a sustainable effort.  I was pleasantly surprised that turned out to be 645s and I was able to  hold that till the end, setting a new marathon PR by 11 seconds over the last 26.2 miles!  While I would have liked to have set the course record, I'm actually happier that I cracked off that 615 pace and found my strength and fitness to be strong enough to only fade 30" per mile and still cruise sub-7s.  That gives me a lot of confidence heading into the double marathon, knowing I can push in the middle and still have the strength to get home strong.    

Looking forward to hitting a couple triathlons over the next month and pushing my run legs off the bike!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Athlete Spotlight: Jonathan Puchalski

By the Numbers:

2 years 4 months - Time working together
3 - Ironman finishes (Placid 2015, Mont Tremblant 2016, IMMD 2016)
14:58:57 - IM PR from Lake Placid (1:24:47 swim, 6:41:10 bike, 6:30:40 run)
1 - Ultraman finish (Florida 2017)
31:53:22 - Ultraman Florida Finish Time

Toughness Factor:

Two days before he toed the line at his second IM, in Mont Tremblant, Jonathan crashed his bike.  He bruised some ribs and separated his shoulder.  He started and finished the race anyway, on a brutal day where it down-poured his entire time on the bike.  Admittedly, there is probably a bit of overlap between recklessness and toughness...but if you can persevere through that, chances are there's not going to be much that will get in your way.

Most Recent Accomplishment: Ultraman Florida

Ultraman Florida is a 3-day stage triathlon that takes place in Central Florida in mid-February.  The first day consists of a 6.2 mile swim and 91 mile bike; the second day takes athletes on a 171 mile bike course; the final days challenges the athletes to run 52.4 miles.  Each day must be completed in under 12 hrs.

Day 1 - 9:57:02 (4:33:58 Swim; 5:23:04 Bike)
Day 2 - 10:01:43
Day 3 - 11:54:37

Jonathan and his pacer at the beginning of the clay roads, mile 33
"From the beginning of the dirt road until mile 50, I've never worked harder, physically or mentally.  Around mile 42 I hit my other big mental block and didn't think I could finish in time.  I kept pushing and the miles were slower than I wanted.  I guess I had seen my athlete last year basically walk a huge part of the last 6 miles and so I had it in my mind that if I could have 18 min/mile ahead of me at mile 46, then I'd be good.  But that wasn't happening. At mile 42 I realized I'd have to keep the same pace more or less.   Somehow over the next 8 miles I didn't give up -- I literally gave everything I had.  And at mile 50 with almost 50 minutes left before the cut-off, I finally knew I was going to make it.  That was the only time the whole run that I finally thought it was realistic..."

Entering the finish chute on Day 3 - Ultraman Finisher!

What's Next?

Rev3 Quassy Half in June: The Beast of the East!
Inaugural Alaskman in July: Water temps in the low 50s; last 10k of run climbs 4000ft
Savageman 70.0 in September:  5000+ ft of climbing on bike; grades of 30%
IM Florida in November

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Ultraman World Championships

If you don't believe more words are better in a race report, you may want to stop here.  I tried to keep it short, but failed miserably...and there will be more!  There were many things I learned from this race and the entire experience that I will take forward with me.   I will get more into that in my next post, along with my plans for 2016.  For now, here is my account of how the race went down.

Day 1 – 10k swim: 2:26:03; 90 mile bike - 5:50:04, Total: 8:16:07

The swim couldn’t have gone better.  I knew there were a couple fast swimmers in the field so I was expecting to be duking it out for a little while in the water.  I knew from experience that there was a fray at the start with all the kayaks grouped together 100-200m into the swim; Adam and I planned to rendezvous 800m out so that he wouldn’t be caught up.  I was pleasantly surprised that I had the lead from the start and was swimming relaxed.   I thought it was a tougher swim than when I competed previously, in 2011, but Adam kept a super straight line (6.26 miles on my Garmin).  Around the halfway mark I picked up the effort, but it actually resulted in me going slower – so I quickly reverted back to a longer stroke that cut through the swells more efficiently.  And after looking at my Garmin I was even happier with my swim – the first two 1000 yd intervals were approximately 12:30, while we were in the Bay, then the next 9 1000’s held pretty steady at 13:30’s. 

The MAN at work - if it was a fast swim year it's because
Adam kept such a straight line and everyone followed him!
May be the only swimmer who likes a full sleeve wetsuit

I wanted to be relatively quick in transition – I got in and Jen had everything laid out for me, with Ryan up the hill with my bike.  Everything went really smooth and I was in and out in 1:45, on the long 1500 ft climb over the first 10k of the bike.  My HR was high immediately, but only by a few beats and the power was exactly where I wanted it and felt good.  I hoped to settle in over the climb but it didn’t end up happening.  After the first climb the course rolls between 1000-2000 ft and I was able to settle in, lower my HR and get into a rhythm.  Honestly, I felt great and was super psyched to be maintaining my lead out front.  As we passed the halfway point in the bike the winds kicked up – from mile 45-60 there were some crazy crosswinds combined with wet roads and a 2000 ft descent.  I was unsteady through here and took this super cautious.  Still, I went through mile 52 with an 8 minute lead.  Unfortunately as we approached the last 30 mile, 4000 ft climb I started to feel nauseous.  I had been ready to up the power output into the 230-240 range, but instead it dropped into the 160-170 range.  Right as this started Mike Coughlin came by me like a freight train.  Some days you got it and some days you don’t.  I kept forcing calories in, but the mantra came to be live to fight another day.  Up the climb Dave Kalinowski and Billy Edwards came by me, both looking super strong.  At the end of the day I was happy to only be sitting 6 and 8 minutes behind each of them.

Heading down to South Point - Mile 50 Day 1

Day 2 – 171.4 Mile bike: 8:23:18, Total: 16:39:25

Opening descent from Volcano

After vomiting immediately following the Day 1 ride and having GI issues all through the night I was expecting a long day 2.  Fortunately we changed up the nutrition plan slightly and it appeared to solve all problems as I had no GI issues all day.  The day began with the typical light wind, rain and darkness for the 24 mile descent form Volcano.  In 2011 I was super skittish and spent almost no time in the aero bars.  This year while being much improved, I still lined up in the middle.  Sure enough the top group of 10-14 took off immediately and I never saw them again on the hill.  That said, I averaged 29 mph and hit that first turn ten minutes faster.  My crew also told me I was only 6 min down on the leaders so I was super pumped.  I settled into a relaxed cadence, pushing 200w – my plan was to stay easy/relaxed to Hilo and then really push.  Around this time I was going back and forth with Chris Draper – I enjoyed that as we had biked most of the day 2 in 2011 together. 

Around mile 40, as I was approaching Red Rd I flatted.  Luckily Marty Raymond was there and was able to loan me a front wheel as the gash in the tire was too large.  I lost somewhere around 5-8 minutes, but it was a sloppy day so I wasn’t too concerned about the time loss – there was still a big day of racing.  Less than two miles later I was at the turn to Red Rd. and as I went into the corner my rear brakes clamped down, I lost control and went down, skidding a bit across the pavement.  I quickly bounced up, checked the bike and myself.  Bike was fine.  I had three gashes on my forearm that were bleeding pretty good and had formed a contusion around the larger two; my ankle had taken some impact and my hip hurt but there was no rip in the tri suit.  My crew had seen me go down; Adam was closest and I asked him if I needed to get my arm cleaned up – he said to just continue.  That was exactly what I needed to hear.  I was quickly back up and going.  The impact had been on my left side, but I found my lower right back to be tightening up.  Over the next few miles I jumped out of the saddle frequently to loosen up my back.  Eventually I got back in the aero bars (which was painful as that’s where my wounds were – luckily the pressure on the aero pads cauterized the wound).  It wasn’t fun peeling my arm off to climb though.  The next 40 miles to Hilo were uneventful.  I lost the magnet for my power meter in the crash so I was a bit blind, but I had established a baseline HR that I maintained through Hilo. 

Climbing up to Waimea

After I left Hilo my crew was telling me there were four guys up the road so I pushed to catch them.  I was feeling good.  I was thinking back to the 12 hr rides Inaki and I had done in early October that came followed the UM course for the next 54 miles.  I was ready to race!  I caught the four guys my crew had told me about pretty quickly; Trout was the last I passed and he moved back around me pretty quickly.  I was happy to ride with him through the rest of the gulches so I settled in about 50m behind for awhile.  As we approached a construction zone with a 1-lane bridge (we had been warned we’d most likely all get stuck for a while here) I caught back up and we both made the light.  I pulled up next to him on the bridge and said “that was a freebie,” pulled in front and promptly got a flat. Jinxed myself.  His crew called mine and I was back on the road in 4-5 minutes.  

I didn’t see anyone for the next 30 miles.  As I was climbing from up to Waimea though we got reports of 2 serious crashes – my friends Christian Isakson and Scott McDermott crashed separately and badly and needed to be taken to the hospital.  Both are home now, but have a long road to recovery ahead and all thoughts and prayers are appreciated.  With the knowledge that the winds were once again pretty crazy and the roads wet, I had my crew swap out my front wheel for my training wheel at the 2500 ft line.  This went really quick.  Then I was moving again.  Around this time I caught Inaki – I knew he wasn’t having a great day but he was fighting tough.  Seeing him got me pumped as we approached the Kohalas – he was encouraging me to push.  We had done a 75 mile ride 2 weeks earlier that ended with a 20 minute FTP effort going up the Kohalas.  I tried to channel that and push the same way I had that day and felt like I was flying.  The Kohalas are a beautiful place and I felt much more comfortable pushing here than I did in 2011. Near the top I came within a minute of Trout again, but hung back as I knew how skittish I was on descents.  Sure enough this stretched my limits – it was a much tougher descent than 2011.  We had similar wind, rain (downpouring at times) and the braking situation/crash had gotten in my head a bit.  I was 5 minutes slower coming down in the race than I was with Inaki 2 weeks before – and trembling with both fear and borderline hypothermia.  I crossed the line nearly 40 minutes faster than 2011 – probably my best day of racing on a bike.  When everything shook out, I remained in 4th place, 18 minutes behind Billy, 2:20 ahead of Tony O’Keefe and 40 minutes ahead of super runner, Miro Kregar – it was going to be a battle in the lava fields!  I had thoughts of second at the beginning of the day, but David can ride and he slammed that door in my face with authority – his 7:31 is scary good – and it took the greatest performance Day 2 has ever seen (by 11+ minutes) by Mike Coughlin to beat him.  

A little banged up but -- Finished! 
Huge thanks to Helen (on Mike's crew) for bandaging me up!

Day 3 – 52.4 Mile Run: 6:49:23, Total: 23:28:48

This was the day I was waiting for; my favorite day.  My biggest goal for Ultraman was to push the back half of the run – to see how I would respond mentally, especially considering my lack of miles entering the event.  I entered with confidence though; I was running well aerobically and had been able to get in a 90 minute and 2 hr progression run in my training.  While this was on the low end, I was confident that I hit an adequate mix of volume and intensity to run a solid double marathon.  The day started off with a huge tailwind.  It was warm and humid and I started sweating quickly.  My HR was also a little higher than I expected it to be, but the pace was quick as well – I found myself with a group (Billy, Tony, Mike Coughlin, Mike Owen, and David) – Miro and Kevin Willis had immediately sped off the front. 

I was racing for third – I figured if I ran well Miro couldn’t put 40 minutes into me and that I would put the 18 minutes I needed into Billy.  Tony, on the other hand, had a history of strong runs and was not nearly as far back as I would have liked.  Around the 10k mark I ran up on Tony’s shoulder and we chatted a bit – but at 7 miles I had to make a Poop stop.  It was only a 2 minute stop but that was all he needed.  Shortly after that stop we hit a headwind for a couple miles – rough!  I tried to relax into it, lean forward and not push as it was very early in the day.  Through Kawaihai I felt good – my legs felt heavy from the start in 2011, and today they felt fresh.  At the 30km mark we hit a mile long hill – I ran/walked this to keep my HR down, maintaining the 2 minute gap to Tony as we turned onto the Queen K.  Here I was joined by my pacer, Ryan Toner.  The plan was for him to stay with me for 20 miles (miles 20-40) and get me through this area strong.  We were cruising pretty well for the first 12 miles, passing the marathon at 3:21:21, and the 50km at 3:59:34.  Throughout this entire stretch I couldn’t reel in Tony at all – he maintained his 2 minute lead and we remained in a virtual tie. 

Ryan and I in sync around the marathon -
Ryan paced me for 14 miles, and got me through the roughest part
My legs were starting to feel the effects of the day.  Shortly after the 50k we hit the largest climb – Ryan had dropped out for a mile and had rejoined me and I was feeling awful by now.  I was in a run/walk up the climb – we had decided on 60 seconds run/15 seconds walk – and I forced Ryan to give me 15 second time checks.  I was hurting and Tony was gone.  I told myself that he was simply too strong – his consistent pace had broken me and I was justifying fourth and figuring out what I needed to run to stay under 7:30 for the day.  Somewhere in here my crew started giving me Coke in addition to the other Gu’s I was taking – the extra calories was exactly what I needed. 
Says it all - these guys were rock stars and got me through this quickly!
As we crested the climb I saw my parents – they had flown in the night before.  I still felt awful, but when I saw them I knew I had to start running…and I did so begrudgingly.   Jen started running with me here and for what it’s worth I never walked again.  I started feeling better and better and was enjoying the fact that she was breathing heavy and having a hard time keeping up.  She dropped out short of 2 miles, as we were approaching the 88 mile marker.  I had gotten the time gap to Tony at 8 minutes and knew if I was to make up the 6 minutes I needed I would have to move now.  The 88 mile marker was a key landmark for me as I had come out and done 2 x 20 minute tempo on that stretch (from 88-91 I had averaged 6:09/mile).  I set a goal that I wanted to come within 1:30/mile of that and picked up the effort.  I had set my watch to autolap in 4 mile intervals and interval 11 had just started.  I looked down at my watch and saw 7:07 pace and was super psyched; the next time I looked the pace was 6:53!  My crew was getting pumped watching me surge and the time gap was coming down rapidly (6:45 after 1 mile, then 4:30).  I passed a couple people- and could see Tony up the road and they told me Miro and Mike Coughlin were just past him.  Miles 40-44 were at 6:59 pace and 44-48 were at 7:09 pace.

I tried to maintain the pace but was starting to fatigue from the effort.  I really wanted to catch Mike and push him to the finish – he was close to both the course and World records.  My surge stalled out though – came within 40 seconds of him but couldn’t close.   Around this time my HS buddy, Kimon, and his girlfriend Judy surprised me on the course – was totally the boost I needed!  Judy did cartwheels down the shoulder and Kimon ran with me for a couple hundred meters and I got new life.  The last 4 miles I faded to 7:32 pace, but it would have been worse without that jolt.  Both Mike and I got caught at the second to last light – Mike’s crew had been incredible all day cheering and offering support and when I got stuck here Khai made sure I was ready to finish strong.  He ran with me the next 200m and made me surge to get through the final light.  When I looked at my data, days later, and isolated the last .75 miles I saw that his encouragement pushed me to close out at 6:45 pace. 

Tremendous support!
This was by far the best day of racing of my life – and I owe it to my crew, encouragement from Mike’s crew, and the competitive drive of the guys I shared the course with.    

Sunday, November 1, 2015

UM Training: 2011 vs. 2015 Aug-Oct comparison

2011 volume for Aug-Oct:

August: 43,600m swimming, 983 miles cycling and 155 miles running (55 workouts, 91 total hours)

September: 36,900m swimming, 660 miles cycling, 155 miles running (51 workouts, 80 hrs)

October:   27,500m swimming, 673 miles cycling, 157 miles running (39 workouts, 70 hrs)

This year my volume for Aug-Oct is as follows:

August: 46,400m swimming, 1006 miles cycling, 2.5 miles running (41 workouts, 82 hrs)

September: 54,100m swimming, 670 miles cycling, 15.7 miles running (33 workouts, 57 hrs)

October:  70,800m swimming, 1166 miles cycling, 72 miles running (50 workouts, 97 hrs)

Swims over 7km: 5
Longest Swim: 8 miles (12,900m) on September 4th
Planning to get in one more swim of 9k

*In 2011, only swims over 7km were 8500m on August 19th and 7800m on November 9th

Bikes over 120 miles: 5 (7 over 100)
Longest Ride: 195 miles with 14,400 ft of elevation gain on October 11th
Planning to get in one more ride of 125 miles

*In 2011 last ride over 100 miles was on October 23rd and only 5 over 100 (only 2 after Aug 21)

Runs over 6 miles: 4
Longest Run 13.35 miles on October 31st
Planning on 3 more runs above 6 miles (18, 13, 8.5)

*In 2011 had long runs of 21, 25, 30 and 38 miles spaced 3 weeks apart.  Did those as run/walk (3, 4, 5 and 6 hrs).  Also mixed in two 2-hr progression runs (16 miles ea).  Longest run was on October 29th, 4 weeks out.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

From Injury to Ultraman: Quick update on the Journey

It's been an interesting season.  I am in a very different place than I thought I was going to be five months ago.  A quick recap of the year:

This machine is fast!  Can't wait to finally race it in 8 weeks.  

- Put in more pre-season work than I ever had and was running and biking better than I ever have.  This included PR's on the run from every distance from 2 miles to 20k, as well as a 2.5' PR at the 70.3 run distance in my only race.

- A still unknown/undiagnosed injury that causes extreme tightness in my hip flexors/groin/lower abs

- No exercise from Memorial Day through early August

- Event Director for CT Challenge Bike Ride in late July, a ride that funds programming for cancer survivors, where 1350 riders raised over $2.5M

- Return to Bike and Swim Training during the 2nd week of August; a much quicker return to strength on the bike than expected (very pleasantly surprised!)

- 8 mile swim race Labor Day weekend, 4th overall in 3:20:04, which was my longest swim ever - felt strong throughout which was a nice surprise as well.  Though the dirty river led to an infected saddle sore which gave me a 104 fever for 3 days.  On the bright side I lost 7 lbs of the 10 I gained over the summer while I wasn't training - Almost back to race weight!

- After the CT Challenge, decided to change the model of my event management business (Gone Running Events) from a contract model to one where we put on our own events.  Hired a super talented woman to work with me part-time over the  next year, in preparation for our event schedule. Much more on this to come!

So now, I am sitting in the airport, on my way to Kona for the next 12 days.  Looking forward to taking in all the events of IMWC race week and getting in a great training block for Ultraman, with fellow Lifesport Coach Inaki de la Parra.  I'm really looking forward to all the Professional Development opportunities I'll have while I'm out for the race as well - especially attending Training Peaks University which has been on my list for a couple years now.

My brand new bike bag...fingers crossed it makes it safely!

As far as my UM training is going, I will post a bit more about that later but it will be entirely swim/bike based as I am still not running more than 30 min at a time, every 3-4 days.  As crazy as it sounds though I'm starting to get the impression that will be enough to reestablish the muscle memory and ignite the muscles enough to tap into the aerobic strength'established through the swim and bike training.  Looking forward to  what the next 8 weeks have to offer!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Heading to the Big Island in November!!!

This was a big week for me - on Sunday I kicked off my race season at Challenge Knoxville, and on Wednesday I was officially accepted into Ultraman World Championships.  Of the two, I was and am vastly more excited about the latter; I identify with that race - the test of endurance, the people, the place, the atmosphere in a way that can best be describe as spiritual.  I consider myself fortunate to have been able to have had the experience once, and beyond lucky to find myself in a position to go back again. 

When I went there in 2011, one of my competitors, Mike Coughlin, described his introduction and preparation for the event, which were many years apart.  He made the simple statement that he wanted to wait to compete until he was sure he could give the event the respect it deserved, by being able to give everything he had of himself.  To him this meant preparing his body to it's absolute peak prior to his arrival, and he did just that.  It was inspiring to watch.

Mike and I before the event
This was not the route I took.  After crewing in 2010, I impulsively signed up for my first Ironman, that night, to satisfy the minimum qualification.  I respected the distance, but I did it as quickly as possible, going from a very casual triathlete, with no regimented training to UM finisher in one year. I've wanted to come back to Ultraman ever since I finished, but Mike's words have stuck with me. His performance in 2011 is perhaps the gutsiest I have ever witnessed - racing controlled and aggressively over all three days, less than 2 weeks after being hospitalized for being hit by a car on his bike.  I want to be the best version of myself when I step into the water on November 27th.

I'm looking forward to confronting what scares me most about racing - the long descents on the bike, the wind tossing the bike around, and whether or not I can respond positively and meet the challenge that comes with the soul-searching blackness at mile 45 of the double-marathon.  That's my favorite part - that one moment.  All the training, all the hours, focused on that singular moment late on Day 3 when the accumulation of pain and fatigue throughout the run, as well as the whole event becomes almost unbearable - will I be able to respond mentally or will I crack?

What I love most about this event is that, even though that moment is solitary by nature, I will have a fantastic support team around me to share the experience.  There are many support systems along the way that will make this journey possible.  Every race preparation has those support systems.  This is one of the only events that not only allows you, but requires you to bring those supports out onto the course with you.  I am super excited that my friends Adam Ellenstein and Ryan Toner, along with my sister, Jen, will be my crew in November, and know that I am in very positive and capable hands!

My crew in 2011: My Parents and incredible friend and training partner, Christian McEvoy

So, Knoxville, was a first test for this season.  The swim was ok, the bike course owned me and the run was fantastic.  I wasn't expecting much on the swim.  I was swimming really well in mid-April but had not gotten in many sessions since.  I was expecting to be 4+ min down and likely with the third group coming out of the water.  I got thrashed at the start and rather than fight for 1500m, I settled in the back, with the idea that I'd draft.  Well, my lack of open water swimming showed - I was all over the map.  I'd lift my head and be 10m to the right of the train, swim back to the feet, put my head down and be off to the side again.  I was very happy to find out after the race that I was only 3' down on the leaders and with the second group out of the water.

By the time we got on the bike it was downpour raining and this kept up for most of the ride.  The course is pretty technical to begin with, which was going to be a challenge - in the rain, on a new bike, with a disc for the first time ever-it was way beyond my capacity.  I took the descents super cautious - when the course did open up a couple times I was very encouraged to see that I was pushing 270-280w comfortably, 30-40w higher than I was riding last year.

This is a fast machine!  I'll do it justice soon.

I came off the bike with the idea that I could salvage the day with a decent run.  I knew I had been running well in training and was psyched to test this off the bike.  As an age grouper in 2012 and early 2013 I was running 1:23:45-1:24:45 consistently.  Since, I had not had one decent run.  I started relaxed and at mile one looked down to see a 6:02 split.  At that point I knew it was going to be a good run.  I stayed relaxed through the early hills, at 6:17 pace, upped the pace just before the turnaround, and covered the second 5 mile segment at 6:12 pace.  The last 5K were mostly flat, with a climb to the finish and was completely redlined at 6:02 pace for this segment - 1:21:47, for a 2' pr for the run split. 

So lots of encouraging elements from the race - not ideal overall, but feeling really good heading into the rest of the season.  Will be toeing the line at Challenge Quassy in two weeks and Eagleman 70.3 the week after that.

Hopefully I won't encounter this on the drive home next time: