Thursday, December 17, 2009

When To Get Serious Again?

With thoughts of qualifying for Kona, doing your first Ironman, completing your first 70.3 or simply doing a triathlon many of us believe starting the training process sooner is better than later. My take on this is when you start your training depends on a number of things, and let me clarify that what I mean by 'start training' is commencing a program of structured workouts where each session has a purpose and a goal and you are following a structured periodized program.
So what might influence when you start? Firstly how long and arduous your current season was.  Ask yourself how hard and how often you raced, how long your season was from that first race in anger to the your last race of the year.  How healthy were you, meaning were you forced to take time off at all during the season due to illness/injury?  How experienced are you, do you have several years of endurance training in the bank or are you relatively new to the rigors of training for three very aerobic sports?  The last and arguably most important question is how motivated are you to get back into things mentally.  If you don't feel a fire in your belly to be out there running, swimming laps and/or riding your bike then wait until that desire returns and then start working out with some structure and not before.  I have seen many athletes burn out in my 20 years of racing, training and coaching, mostly it is mental fatigue and rarely physical!

Some guidllines I use with my athletes:
  • If your season started in April (or earlier) and finished in October/November my suggestion is you do not even consider formal, prescriptive training until January 1st.  If by the New Year you feel ready to rock then great, if not and you don't have an early season 'A' race then you can afford to leave it until February.  Now let me clarify before I move on that informal, unstructured training must still take place during this time off, it is absolutely the wrong thing to do to take time completely off!
  • If you are new to the sport (less than three seasons) then formal training is acceptable as early as November 1st provided the volume/intensity are low and the focus is on skills and limiter development.  The caveat here is mental readiness and good health as alluded to above.
  • If you have multiple years of consistent training (more than five) and your 'A' race is in July or later then in my mind their is no need to start focused training until January/February.
  • If you were ill or injured more than once in the current season and had to have a week or more of forced rest then no matter when your next 'A' race is I would not advise commencing formal training until February 1st or later.
When to start formal training is always something that should be discussed with your athletes.  Don't be afraid to force an athlete to take a break, very ofen they will thank you for it in the long run.  There will always be those anomalies out there who are able to absorb training load and simply LOVE working out, provided they exhibit good health and are injuru free I see no danger with them continuing with a prescriptive type of program year round!

That's it for now, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ironman World Championships

For those of you who might be unaware I qualified to race at the Ironman World Championships at 70.3 Honu on May 30th this year.  Honu is one of the few 70.3 races that has qualifying spots and for me it seemed the obvious way to try and punch my ticket as it is a better distance for me.  Knowing that it was within my ability to get a Kona slot at this race I made it a focus and trained very consistently towards that objective.  As you all now know it went well and I achieved my goals - a podium finish and a Kona slot.
I took a break after Honu due to the level of preparation that had gone into that race, this break unfortunately got extended as I was hit by a car while riding my bike in Coeur d’Alene during Ironman week.  It did not set me back too much but did dent my confidence a little and I definitely saw my fitness (especially run fitness) decline between the end of June into the early part of August.  Most of this was due to back pain suffered as a result of the accident and the confusion caused to my body by all the Chiropractic treatments I was receiving.
For those interested my weekly averages for swim/bike/run from June through to the end of August were:
·       June – SWIM 6800 YARDS, BIKE 104 MILES, RUN 16 MILES
·       July – SWIM 6660 YARDS, BIKE 188 MILES, RUN 26 MILES
·       August – SWIM 6400 YARDS, BIKE 166 MILES, RUN 22 MILES
·       September – SWIM 10,500 YARDS, BIKE 163 MILES, RUN 28 MILES
I have always advocated quality over quantity but do realize the importance of running frequency and volume for a successful race.  I knew going in my durability would be a little questionable with only one road run of two hours and one trail run of just under two hours during that four month period.
In order to give myself a chance at using the fitness that I did have on race day I planned to get to Kona two weeks ahead of time.  This was a good plan as it gave me the opportunity to acclimate and settle into Hawaii time.  It also gave me a great opportunity to refresh myself with the course and see how my feedback mechanisms (pace/power) behaved in the heat/humidity so I could better dial them in for race day.  I tracked and logged every bike/run workout in detail and often did the exact same routes so as to make the data more comparable.  The big variance was the weather day to day which I could not control so I simply got on with it.
I made no conscious dietary changes leading into this race and would actually say I was leaner going into Honu than I was going into this race (just check out the photos ;-)).  No good reason, I simply did not want to exclude anything from my diet going in as I felt I had already made enough sacrifices along the road to getting here.
My biggest concern going into race week was how my heart would hold up during the swim.  This has been a big source of stress over the past several months since the incident at Black Hills where I was forced to stop during the swim.  I genuinely believe it was stress related (I have experienced a similar arrythmia before) but the last place I needed it to manifest itself was here!!!  With this in the back of my mind and the long build I had mentally let alone physically going into this race I think I was more anxious and wound up than usual.  No question this is counter productive but I simply tried to get all the pre race stuff taken care of as early as I possibly could and settle down hoping the ‘taper’ helped out with my dodgy heart!  Now before any of you get too concerned about this it is not uncommon for an ‘athletic’ heart during times of stress (physical/emotional) to react this way.
Race week went smoothly.  Cindy was a huge help and drove me around and helped me get everything I needed sorted out such as my bike, gluing on tubulars, cooking for me and generally being an awesome ‘iron mate’.  I tried to keep a low profile and stay away from all the craziness during race week (you have to see it to believe it) which was difficult.  I had to work two half days for TYR (Monday and Tuesday) which meant a little more time than I would have liked on my feet but nothing too serious.  Workouts were going smoothly until Thursday where I swam in the morning for 20 minutes without issue and then later in the day did a bike/run workout of 1 hour/30 minutes.  It was a very hot day, the hottest so far during my stay however I thought I had acclimated sufficiently for it to not cause any issues.  My heart rate on the run that day was 15 beats higher for the same given pace I had been running at for the past 10 days.  I tried to put it out of my mind and blamed it on the heat and the fact I was running in the afternoon at peak temps.
My mind had the chance to relax on Thursday evening having dinner with Alexis, JP and her parents Dave and Kathy.  A truly great night was had by all and the conversation and wine were flowing (don’t worry I only had two glasses), it did a lot to take my mind off race day and was a lot of fun, thanks you guys ;-).
On Friday I did no training.  I have done this before for Ironman races and it has not worked against me as far as I can tell.  I was still active, walking about and getting my bike and gear checked in and chatting to a few folks I know along the way.  Friday went by quickly and before I knew it I was back at the house with my feet up and Cindy cooking up my pre-race meal of salad and pasta, yum!  An early night after getting all my swim gear and nutrition together and I hoped for a sound night of sleep.  Oh I should mention throughout the day on Friday I drank Pedialyte diluted down, this I believe was a huge factor in keeping the cramp at bay during the race as those of you that know me know I have a very high sweat rate and high sodium loss through that sweat.
Funny thing on race morning was Cindy waking up ahead of me and turning on the coffee machine.  Now this never happens as whether racing or not Cindy is always the second one to get out of bed.  In a strange way it actually made me relax a little, not sure exactly why but it did.  I went back to Oatmeal, UDO’s, and Banana for my pre race breakfast.  Along with this I drank a 500ml bottle of nuun, finished off the small amount of Pedialyte I had left over from Friday and my two cups of coffee.  I felt good, obviously a little anxious but good none the less.  Cindy drove me down to town (we were approx four miles out of town) at around 4:45am.  I arrived at body marking and my line was the shortest, very cool.  I even got filmed by Universal TV while they applied my numbers with the stamps that are the norm in Kona.  This year only arms were being marked which I thought was cool as that would mean less scrubbing in the shower post race and only potential ‘tattoos’ on my arms and not both arms and legs!  I left body marking gave Cindy a hug and a kiss and walked into transition.  I set up my Garmin, pumped my tires, put my water bottles on the bike (one with water, one with gu2o) and then went to find Cindy.  One of the coolest things about race week (and race morning) was hanging out with my friend Nick Kinsey, a super cool guy who has been racing triathlons since the mid 80’s.  He used to hold the fastest IM time for a Brit and has been on the podium before at Kona as well as winning his AG at many international IM events around the world.  Fun to be around he helped make race morning a real hoot and further helped ease my nerves.  Another very cool thing about race morning was hanging out with Thomas Hellriegel (IM Canada course record holder, and former IM world champion).  He is a lovely guy and so willing to simply chat about the thing he loves, triathlon!  I have huge respect and admiration for Thomas, a true gentleman and great ambassador for our sport.
Okay back to the race.  No warm up for this one other than a few strokes in the bay before heading towards the swim start to tread water for 10 minutes, warm up enough I think.  My big concern was a repeat of my Black Hills experience, this was not the place to have to stop mid swim.  I would not have the luxury here of clear water to gather my thoughts, I would simply be pummeled by the masses of people on my feet.  Fortunately my strategy of treating the swim like a warm up (something I confess I have never done before even in IM events) worked.  I swam very conservatively, I started the swim like a warm up set, I truly did, and I think this helped a lot.  It was very cool in that I was so fresh I could bridge gaps when I wanted, move left or right as needed and just stay calm.  I know I am competent enough to rely on my good stroke mechanics and don’t have to go out like a mad man.  The swim was a success.  I swam in the Sayonara swim skin, which although fast is arguably the most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn to swim in.  About half way through the swim I had chafed under my arms so badly that every stroke stung and I was in a lot of pain.  I simply put it out of my mind and hoped they had Vaseline in T1!  Under my swim skin I wore my Vo2 Vest and nothing else as I intended to put on cycling shorts for the bike (I am getting soft in my old age).
Transition was not fast but methodical, no sense in rushing today I was not looking for the podium I was more concerned with comfort.  I biked ‘easy’ for the first 30 minutes and then built from there.  My AP for the first 10 miles was 209W, average HR 141.  I was targeting sub 140 HR and close to 200W, this was close enough and certainly I paced this section of the ride better than most of my peers!  I rode very evenly, here are my numbers by 10 mile increments:
·       To 10 Miles – AP 209, AVG HR 141
·       To 20 Miles – AP 206.5, AVG HR 143
·       To 30 Miles – AP 198.5, AVG HR 142
·       To 40 Miles – AP 196.5, AVG HR 143
·       To 50 Miles – AP203, AVG HR 142
·       To 60 Miles – AP 206, AVG HR 144
·       To 70 Miles – AP 193, AVG HR 144
·       To 80 Miles – AP 207, AVG HR 146
·       To 90 Miles – AP 191, AVG HR 142
·       To 100 Miles – AP 203, AVG HR 144
·       To 110 Miles – AP 188, AVG HR  144
·       To 112 Miles – AP 163, AVG HR 139
The last 30 miles were into a strong headwind, I focused on keeping on top of calories and salt and just about everyone seemed to be in survival mode for this section of the ride.  I still had power when I needed it and tried to ride even although with all the other riders in close proximity it made this difficult as I had to surge away at times and then drop back to stay legal. I came off the bike knowing I had ridden well and with an even application of effort (other than the times I had to surge to get away from people or drop back after being passed).  Although from my numbers is looks like I faded in the last 12 miles I made a conscious decision during this stage of the ride to conserve energy as you can see from my declining power.

The run.  I took my time in T2 as you can probably tell ;-).  Managed to leave my 310xt on my bike (doh!) and sent a volunteer to go get it while I changed shorts (wore bike shorts for the ride).  He came back fast so there was no real delay.  I headed out very easy and relaxed although the very first part of the run is uphill which kind of sucks.  I settled into a nice rhythm and began my cooling strategy of walking aid stations, using ice, drinking water and popping thermolytes.  I ran very even and held my pace around or just under 8’s for the first 6-8 miles.  I decided to walk up Palani (very steep long hill) to keep my HR down and was glad I did.  The first 10 miles of the run here are the hottest and most humid (it is sheltered so no cooling trade winds) so I was glad to be getting on the Queen K where I knew the trade winds would be blowing and offer some respite from the humidity.  I was running with a guy who was very even paced and seemed to be intent on breaking 3:30 as I was.  He was great until about mile 15-16 when he started to suffer and I had to leave him, felt bad about this as he had been a perfect run partner.  I did not bonk or crack I just progressively faded and slowed in the last half of the run.  I know why.  I simply lack run miles.  My avg weekly mileage over the last three months was, Sept 28miles/week, August 22miles/week, July 26miles/week.  Simply not enough to build the durability and resilience necessary to sustain a moderate pace over 26.2 off the back of the ride.  Going forward I need to safely be running 40 miles/week for a sustained period of 12-16 weeks.  No worries I can make this happen ;-)

Overall I am not unhappy with the outcome.  Yes I would have liked to break 10 hours but hey wouldn’t we all ;-).  A solid day at the office!  I think I in hindsight I could have spent less time walking through the aid stations (they are very long here in Kona), there were times where quite often I would have to ask very clearly where the cola/water/ice were as it was not very clear, this meant a little more time than necessary spent walking.  Other than this I ran the entire run with the exception of three or four brief stops to stretch out the early stages of cramp in my left adductor and right hamstring.  I think this is actually my best Ironman run ever given the heat and humidity which was extreme on this day.  Simply read some of the race reports out there now and you will get an idea how hot it was out there.  No-one really ran ‘fast’ bar the off person such as Miranda Carfrae.  Even Crowie recorded his slowest run split in his three times racing here.

I would like to say a special thank you to my wife Cindy for all of her support during race week and in the weeks and months leading up to the race.  I would also like to thank all of my team mates and friends who sent well wishes and words of wisdom to me during race week.  I truly felt your positive energy out there on race day.  I actually taped a piece of paper to my aero bars with amongst other things ‘team mates’ written on it, this helped keep me focused on the task in hand.  I would also like to thank my best friend Ben Garrard who I knew was sharing the experience with me on Ironman live back in the UK as well as Nick Kinsey whose humor and warm nature helped ease my nerves during race week.  This list would not be complete without thanking my sponsors, TYR (that Sayonara is quick), blueseventy (the Element goggle is simply perfect for me), GU (whose gels I used exclusively out on the course), nuun, and Veloce Velo.
I am back to reality on Friday, this has been a wonderful three weeks shared with some wonderful people.  I am now ready to work my tail off getting Vo2 Performance Center set up and ready for its grand opening on November 1st.  I hope you will all join me there for a celebration of multisport and a bright future.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Honu 70.3 Race Report

I awoke at 3:45am and crept out of the bedroom leaving Cindy to sleep a little longer. After taking in some water, I poured my first cup of coffee and put my bagel in the toaster. I took my time consuming it (which I had spread with banana, honey and peanut butter) and continued to sip on water. I checked email and then began to get ready to leave the house. Cindy was now up and we debated about which areas we could sunscreen without annoying the body markers and have our numbers smear and come straight off upon hitting the salty water at Hapuna. I like to be at the venue for around 5:30am for a 7am race start, earlier if it works. This way I have time to remedy any major issues such as flat tubular, forgetting something (still time to go back), and I also give myself plenty of time to warm up, review the entry and exit to transition and check out the swim course to pick the best line (it was only put out the morning before race day). As it was a split transition we had already dropped off our run bags the day before so could not check these before we got to T2.

All went smoothly with the exception of me leaving one of my drink bottles in the fridge, this bottle contained a concentrated electrolyte solution composed of Gatorlytes and ELoad (totaled about 2000mg sodium/potassium/magnesium). It was not a disaster as I had brought enough extra endurolytes to empty a few into a bottle, combined with some Eload Cindy was kind enough to share from her super concentrated bottle, thanks my love!

T1 was going to be a little different for me as I had elected (due to concerns about burning the soles of my feet in T2) to put my socks on then instead of wait for T2, this seemed prudent given the experience of Steve Bailey and Rocky Ursino when they did the race in previous years, both of whom burnt their feet on the asphalt in T2! I later found out that T2 was now grass covered, however not a deal breaker. Happy that I had everything sorted out Cindy and I ran around the parking lot for five minutes by way of a light aerobic warm up. I would have ran more but felt the already very clear, hot and humid conditions would make this counter productive for a pale Englishman. More sunscreen, applied bodyglide, grabbed swim stuff and headed down to the beach.

The field was big for a 70.3 and somewhat unique for a half distance race was the mass start (normally these races have wave starts), this was a little daunting as there were 1400 people signed up so I expected some contact and traffic jams. I had a secret weapon for the swim, the TYR Sayonara Swim Skin. After a decent length swim warm up which included a few accelerations I felt good, now it was choosing where to position myself. I ended up lining up on the front towards the left of the start line, this seemed like a decent spot, a direct line to the first buoy which was about 300 meters off shore. Some of the swimmers around me were talking expected swim times and I heard some 28’s, and 29’s in there so I thought this was a decent spot and justified my front line starting position. It also meant I expected some company for the opening section. The gun fired and off we went. The swim was very smooth, I had clear water to the first buoy where I met a small amount of congestion but nothing serious. There really was little to no contact despite being in a pack for most of the swim. I looked for a draft where one presented itself but was otherwise content breaking my own water, always conscious that the size of our group meant the water was less ‘thick’ anyway and quicker than being alone. Navigation was very good amongst our group but I was never really sure how fast we were swimming, I was very comfortable and my stroke felt good but I could not be sure what this would result in time wise. Exiting the water I immediately tried to get my swim skin off, problem number one, it was stuck! Amazing what a little adrenalin can do as I ripped the zipper clean off and wrestled the suit off my shoulders and torso, no big deal (other than a damaged garment). Swim time 28:02, very solid for a non wetsuit swim. My T1 was smooth and methodical as usual, suit off, helmet on, shoes on, fanny pack on (with my nutrition, a can of pitstop and my electrolytes in it) and headed out of transition to the mount line. It was a decent climb immediately out of T1 and so not leaving my shoes clipped on the pedals was smart, many people struggled here and were as usual over geared. Once on the bike I started my Garmin (which was ready to go as I had left it on my aerobars) and settled into a rhythm. My goal was to ride at 150bpm, a HR average I figured would yield something around a 2:30 bike split on this course given average wind and thereby leave me in contention with most of the other fast AG’ers.

I settled into the ride keeping a constant eye on my HR to ensure I was not over working or being lazy. The plan worked well. I geared down for all the climbs to keep the HR in check and worked hard on flat sections and descents. Typically a lot of overly aggressive guys rode by me on all of the early climbs only for me to pass them all back on the descents and some of the flatter sections. There were a couple of occasions where I had to ride a fraction harder than I would have liked to avoid blocking and/or drafting violations but these were not significant enough to be detrimental. There was some wind on the climb up to Havi, which was the toughest part of the course. It is here that Rae Shaw passed me, the ego in me wanted to ride with her (could not have a local girl beating me even if it is was the fastest AG cyclist at Kona last year!) but wanting to have a good run and manage my day in the heat (did I say it was very hot with clear skies and zero shade???) was far more important. I let her go and proceeded to the turnaround. Approaching the turnaround I hit a small bump in the road and felt my saddle come loose, not good! I told myself that provided I stayed seated my weight would keep it in position. It was a worrying moment. The return was fast, there was a five mile section after the turn where I averaged 30.5 mph!

I focused on keeping on top of my nutrition, managing my HR, and staying aero. There were one or two occasions on the return I let my mind wander and lo and behold my HR dropped a few beats, staying on task and in the moment is such a critical race day skill, I advise you all to work on it at every opportunity (the Race Rehearsal workouts I performed leading up to this race were critical in helping me with this) the remainder of the bike had me crossing my fingers my saddle did not fall off and keeping my HR where it needed to be (note, no power meter on my race wheels but I have done enough riding this year in race rehearsal workouts to know exactly how hard I could ride with respect to HR in order to have the run I know I am capable of).

Coming into T2 I relaxed a little and stretched out my calves, low back, hip flexors and shoulders. I had a swift T2 as I already had my socks on and simply needed to rack my bike, put on my running shoes and hat (no visor, will tell you why later) and grab my nuun tube filled with endurolytes. I had a lot of confidence in my running off the bike until I arrived in Kona the Sunday before the race. The heat and humidity compromises the body’s ability to work hard aerobically whilst maintaining core temperature at a somewhat normal level. The lack of evaporation of sweat off the body dramatically impedes the body’s ability to keep itself cool and as a result it needs to work harder on this process whilst still delivering oxygenated blood at a rate required to run the pace you ask of it. This meant that for a speed I was running comfortably off the bike in RR workouts in Seattle was yielding a HR 8-10bpm higher than it should have been. I had thought long and hard about this during race week and hoped I would adjust at least a little otherwise I would be running a 7:20-7:30 pace for a HR that resulted in a 6:30-6:40 pace in Seattle. I read and read papers on the effects of racing in the heat, spoke to Chris Whyte and several other athletes and coaches about it and concluded that I would probably be running 30-40 seconds per mile slower here in order to keep the HR in check and give my body a fighting chance at not overheating.

I headed out of T2 at a very conservative pace and was reassured by a bunch of fast AG athletes charging off into the distance, I was confident they would come back to me! At most of the aid stations I would take water, Gatorade and lots of ice. The ice went under my hat (can’t do this with a visor), down my vest and into my shorts. This was a great tactic to help ensure my body stayed somewhat cool given the 85-90 degree heat with very high humidity. I clocked off the first couple of miles at 7:20 pace then started to catch runners who were ahead of me. I stayed very focused and tried to keep my HR around 160. This was clearly not going to happen and I told myself provided it did not go above 165 and I felt good (a relative term) then running it a little high would be fine (highest average HR for a given mile on the run was 164, highest max was 172). I found some semblance of rhythm, which was difficult given the nature of the course. The run course was multi-terrain on a wide variety of surfaces, uphills, downhills, sharp turns, dead turns, concrete, asphalt, grass, lava rock, a real experience. I concentrated on short strides on the climbs, and relaxing on the descents. I ran the course well and continued to pass other runners, in fact I was passing quite a lot of fast AG athletes. I finally saw a guy who I thought was likely to win my AG on the long out and back part of the course (Dennis Meeker, 9:15 in Kona and now a member of Team Timex), around mile nine, he was walking! I asked if he was okay and he said he had shut down. I was excited at seeing him walking although knew I was still a mile or so behind him. I nearly got carried away and started picking up the pace only to remind myself that I might need this for later in the race. As Dennis was walking and I was still running something in the region of 7:20’s I quickly caught him, I gave him a tap on the butt and asked him to run with me, he reiterated how he was spent and I pushed on. The next person I passed was Sam McGlone who I had been gaining on for the last several miles. Wow I thought if the women’s run course record holder is struggling then it must truly be a tough day out here. Now at mile 10.5 or so I had no real idea where I was in the field, I was getting no feedback from people on the course only some support from people I knew including Rae’s boyfriend Lang Reynolds. I saw a lot of Lang as he was shadowing Rae who I had passed on the run at around mile three, she looked strong and would go on to place third female overall! I guessed I was up there and knew I was getting back more places overall even though I could not tell which AG they were in (note: AG’s were not marked on calves for this event, a trend I think will be common going forward). I had passed a couple of pro men and pro women so knew I was having a decent race but was really not sure about the overall.

Anyhow back to the race. I had been feeling some twinges of cramp in my calves from around mile eight and as a result had shortened my stride a little, no big deal I thought as long as I held off full blown cramp and was not forced to stretch it out. The last three miles were crazy, more grass, some crazy sharp descents on concrete golf paths and a lot of turns. Low and behold at about mile 11 I get my first full on hamstring cramp in my left leg. I had to stop and stretch it. Sam re passed me. I got going as soon as I could and shortened my stride even further. I made it another mile or so and had a recurrence of the full blown cramp, stretched again, some other dude passed me who I had earlier run down. More coke, Gatorade and ice and I pushed on for the last mile. Perhaps 500 meters from the finish I got a third and final cramp, stopped and stretched it, looked over my shoulder and saw two guys who I had earlier run down gaining on me. I said a little prayer, held it together and finished strong without any further cramping. Whew, what a race! I was greeted by Amanda Balding (Luke McKenzie’s girlfriend) who did not finish the race (mechanical problems) and she said there were very few people in front of me. I walked over to the results board and they had already posted the first page. I finished 27th overall and was 3rd in my AG (the biggest AG in the race). The two guys in front of me were both Hawaiian residents meaning they were eligible for the Big Island and Hawaiian Island Kona spots. I grabbed a guy (one of the two who finished right behind me, both from Oahu) and asked him what the deal was with big island slots and he seemed to think they were obligated to take the Hawaiian resident slots. If this was the case then I was 1st non Hawaiian in my AG and would get a Hawaii slot, wow! As it turned out I did indeed get an automatic slot, no roll down stress, what a bonus. I tell myself due to my heavy sweat rate that I am not good in the heat, after this performance I do have a few things to work on but am confident that I can put together a race to justify my fitness come October 10th! Watch this space……..

I would like to say a special thank you to my wife Cindy who put up with me over the course of the week and tolerated my paranoia over my elevated HR during race week workouts. Thanks to Kirk and Marne Sall for letting us share their apartment and being cool with us following our own agenda. Also thank you to Ryan Dolan from TYR who very generously gave Sayonara swim skins to Marne, Kevin Steinbuch, Steve Bailey and Rae Shaw. He also took Cindy and I out to a fabulous dinner with his wife Shawn at Huggo’s on the Sunday evening after the race. Finally thanks to Deb Rubens, Kevin Steinbuch, and Win Van Pelt, all of whom carried the Vo2Multisport flag proudly on race day wearing their team kit with pride and all having solid results (Deb did not race but was a most enthusiastic supporter).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Run Happy

A Brooks marketing slogan, 'Run Happy' often has my mind engaged when I am out running alongside Lake Skaha, Penticton (picture left), on my local trails in Cougar Mountain, knocking out a set of mile repeats at the Mercer Island Middle School Track, or joining Cindy my wonderful wife for a four mile recovery run on the pipeline trail near my home.

When I run my mind is free, my thoughts are clear and I love nothing more than listening to the depth of my breathing, the thumping of my heart and the sound as my foot strikes the earth time and time again tapping out a rhythm I have become more and more familiar with over recent weeks and months.

2009 has been something of a running renaissance for me. Those that know me well know me as the guy that never ran more than 30km's a week (yes that is under 19 miles a week!) in preparation for my first ironman, the guy that keeps threatening to run an open marathon but would rather save the legs for something more worthwhile (in my mind anyway), the guy that used to run hard and fast everytime he ran (I had too right I was only running 18 miles a week!!), the guy that has never had (touch wood) any serious running related injury that has forced a rest period.

As I get older in triathlon years (this year will represent 20 years since my first triathlon and I am 36 im May) and older physically I am having to look at previously unexplored training territory. This year it has been a commitment to myself to run more frequently and build more robustness and durability. It has also been a commitment to try and surpass my running PR's from years gone by (most of my run PR's were acheived in the late 80's early 90's, with just one coming in recent years). My tactic is simple Run Happy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rock n Roll Arizona

Cindy and I raced the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix on Sunday, the nicest thing about the weekend was just getting away from Seattle for a few days and having time to ourselves to just relax and catch up. Its funny, even though we both 'work from home' there are still days that go by without us really spending any quality time together. Phoenix provided that opportunity.

The weekend got off to an auspicious start. On the plane I was reading Runners World and saw an advert for the Rock n Roll races. I glanced at the dates and saw that Phoenix was on the 18th, hmmmm I thought to myself, surely that is a printing error as we were due to fly out early on that day! Well it was not a printing error and indeed the race was on Sunday not Saturday as I had first thought! No drama, upon landing and checking into the hotel I rebooked a return flight to leave at 3pm on Sunday to ensure we had time to race, shower, relax and then fly! The bonus was it meant that Friday was now wide open and could become a training day, sweet! My favorite Phoenix/Tempe trailhead is South Mtn (near the golf course) and the running there is awesome. I did not want to get carried away so only planned on an hour. I think some of the climbs surprised Cindy a little but I kept assuring her it would not effect her performance on Sunday, I think I was right! The Garmin had me at 5.47 miles in 47.40 (avg 8.42) given the terrain this was a solid run and it was sooooo nice to run shirtless for a change.

One thing that stood out on this trip was the amount of food I ate. I must have consumed half my body weight in food in the two full days before the race, don't know why, just the gluttonous Taurean coming out in me I think! On the Saturday (as penance) we went along to the ASU student rec center for a swim. As I was waiting on the deck of one of the three pools (yes three pools) a group was forming around me that turned out to be the Sun Devil Masters, how could I resist joining in especially when the coach turned out to be from Liverpool (small world). A brief warm up and a set of 5x200 (best average) I climbed out and went to find Cindy who was sunning herself across at one of the other pools (she did swim, honest!).

Race day dawned and transit etc was made very easy as we were lucky enough to be registered as VIP's, this is huge at these events as it opens up free shuttles, nice bathrooms, places to change etc. I have to thank Kim Williams at Sugoi for hooking Cindy and I up here, thanks Kim you are a star. Cindy and I warmed up and used the bathroom and headed to corral 1 (for athletes between 1:00 and 1:35). The start was smooth and I quickly settled into a rhythm. No HR strap (forgot it) so relied on PE and pace. Felt 'okay' all the way through the race and genuinely nothing eventful happened. Finished strong, no dramas in a time of 1:24.44 (6.28 avg). I was not overjoyed as I know I am in better running shape than this. Honestly I put it down to carrying a few extra pounds at the moment (don't laugh) and just not really feeling it on the day. Cindy had a similar performance, solid but training has indicated she could run faster. Her time of 1:33.45 was a new PR (never to be sneezed at) and placed her 10th in her division (great considering 22,000 athletes competed). I managed (somehow) to finish in the top 100 and will live to fight another day and will hopefully replicate my times of old (1:20-1:22) this season.

We both had an awesome weekend and will be back at this race in the future although next time if the Seattle Winter cooperates we will do the Marathon (this would be my first open Marathon). Don't hold me to that though.....

The Tucson camps are fast approaching and I can't wait to get down there. Cindy and finished the itinerary today and it looks awesome, we were both really excited about how the days have worked out. Week three should be very special as my best friend (Ben Garrard) is over for that week. Cindy has given me permission to ride with him lots that week while she does support, hopefully my limited computrainer riding will allow me to keep up!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bridle Trails - The Season Opener

For many of us Bridle Trails is the first event of the New Year (except if you were disciplined enough to do a resolution run) and boy what an event! Last year several of us took part in the 50km relay and as much fun as this was I think it dawned on us that standing around in the rain when it is cold and muddy is not a whole lot of fun. So this year we opted for the individual events (5 and 10 mile races) and decided that the extra time could be spent eating pizza and drinking beer at New York Pizza in Kirkland, a smart option I think most of you will agree!

It was a great way to start the year and I think that the decision to do the individual events worked out as we all actually got to spend even more time together (in good moods) than we did last year during the four or five hours that it took us to get through the relay.

Conditions were a little muddy but not as bad as I had expected, the most difficult element of the run was navigating around some of the five mile runners who started five minutes before the 10 milers. I spent the majority of my second loop alone which was soothing in a muddy kind of way. The team all did great, we had some awesome performances and more importantly we all had fun and enjoyed pizza and beer afterwards (well me not so much as my stomach was a little churned up from the effort).

Looking forward to the next team event likely to be the Mercer Island Half Marathon, come join us!