Friday, August 28, 2009

Other Timberman Lessons

OK, I promise to stop with the volume of postings about Timberman but indulge me with one last set of thoughts. I hope to reread this post before I sign up for any future race as well before I "toe the line" on race so. So, in no particular order, the lessons:

  1. Expect to be out there longer than you expect to be out there. This means bring (and consume) extra nutrition if you have to.
  2. When they say the parking for transition fills up at 5:30, believe them. I got to the site a little before 5:00AM, waited on line to park for about 30 minutes and got one of the last parking spots.
  3. I've still never gotten a cold bottle of fluid handed to me while on the bike (the run, in contrast, is hit and miss even within a race). Need to figure the best combination of carrying cold drinks vs. adding significant weight to the bike. I drank the warm stuff because I had to.
  4. The bottles on your bike will get thrown away at the bottle exchanges so you don't want to use ones that are too "good" but you don't want to use ones that leak when you drink out of them - like I did. Gatorade gets sticky
  5. Even though I wore the clothes I raced in previously, I needed more body glide on the inside of my arms (a new spot) as I got friction burns from my tri top. Of course, after the race my family mentioned that they didn't like the look of the one I wore anyway. Got to lose weight and fit into the team issue without muffin top on the run.
  6. My wife thought it great that I finally put sun tan lotion on before the race. I even had it ready to use in transition (but skipped that step too). Unfortunately I missed a few spots (see point 1 and point 5). I was able to get the body marking on my legs unreadable to the dismay of a volunteer so I need to learn how to put it on correctly.
  7. Dawn attempted to use her iPhone as a stopwatch. It worked great until it quickly wore down the battery. Then she had no stop watch and no phone. It didn't matter so much as there was no cell phone service at the race site.
  8. Mapmyathlete (see is a great idea only if there is good cell phone service in the area of the race. Timberman had between 0 and 1 bar at best. I don't know who was more disappointed - my family or the mapmyathlete guys. They did the right thing and said they would refunded everyone's money since it didn't work well.
  9. Pick the right course for where you are in the fitness and capability curve. Set your expectations accordingly. Even though two races may be the same distance they will be less similar than dissimilar.
  10. Know the course. Ride it, on a bike, beforehand. Driving it is better than nothing but driving it doesn't give the appreciation for the inclines.
  11. Don't go out too hard.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Return to Weight Watchers

My weight is my biggest limiter to my athletic success (sometimes trumped by my lack of brain power like at Timberman but I've almost beaten that thought to death). Even with all of the training I've been doing, my weight has been bouncing around a small range for a while now so I decided I needed to do something to break this cycle.

I've had success on Weight Watcher's in the past and I realize I need a way to jump start my metabolism into losing weight mode again so I went to a meeting this morning. The scale said 258.2. Of course, this was with clothes on but the number was not completely unexpected.

I'm going to try to follow the program as closely as possible to get on track. I don't know why I feel a little like a failure for having to go back to WW but I do. The good news was that the scale was still lower than the last time I went to WW. I know shouldn't feel bad since I'm doing something about my problem and I hope that in a few weeks and months I'll look back at this day as an "on your left" on the road to success.

Chrissie Wellington, thank you.

After Chrissie Wellington won the Timberman 70.3 Women's professional division, she stayed at the race site for hours. She helped out the volunteers by handing out finisher's medals. Although she could have, Chrissie didn't rush out of there.

She took time to talk and mingle with the "regular" folk. She spent some time with my daughter Amanda and even autographed Amanda's "triathlon cheerleader" shirt that she wears to most of my races. A young girl later asked Chrissie if she could take a picture of her. The girl said she had to do a school report on someone who changed the world for the better and wanted to do the report on Chrissie. Chrissie commented that the girl should probably pick someone more famous and more influential.

I think that Chrissie may have sold herself a little short. I know that Chrissie had an impact on a bunch of folks, including Amanda, last weekend. After the race Amanda looked up Chrissie's background, her sponsors, and became more a fan. The influence that she had is hard to measure but I feel just these short interactions with children could, in fact, change the world. Even if it doesn't, it was nice and something I think my daughter will remember forever. Above is one of the pictures that my wife took of Chrissie and Amanda.

Once again, thank you Chrissie Wellington.

Timberman: The forensic report is in.

While BikeMike may not be as famous of a medical examiner as Quincy MD (I never could get used to Oscar Madison trying to be a doctor), he did analyze the file from my power meter/bike computer to gain some insight around my worse than expected performance at Timberman.

The plan was for me to stay between 210 and 220 watts on the bike. This would save enough to allow for a decent run. The Timberman course starts out hilly and a challenge would be to keep the power in this range while being able to get me up the hills. 210watts is relatively easy for me and it would be OK to go slightly over if required to get up the hills.

Mike pointed out that the data shows that I went out way too hard. For the first 52 minutes I was, at a normalized basis, north of 260 watts which is close to my threshold. While I consciously stepped it down a little, the first 1:45 still had me north of 240w. I looked at the computer at 30 miles and saw an average of 220w but by this point the damage was done and I was already in a downward spiral. The run was over before it started.

At least there is an explanation and there are lessons somewhere in here. They are painful lessons but let's hope I am smart enough to learn them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

2009 Timberman Ironman 70.3: Making Choices

This could also be titled "I had a bad day but it could have been worse." I'm not going to go into the specifics on this post as my experiences last weekend and the lessons that I'm still sorting out in my head will be blog fodder for the next few weeks.

Weather was questionable the whole week leading up to the race with rain most days and violent thunder storms most. However, there was extended periods of decent weather and the hope was to get the race in between the storms. Race morning's weather looked fine, humid but not raining. We thought we caught a weather break.

The race start was delayed about 30 minutes as there was a car accident out on the course. This accident pulled most of the police that were scheduled to support the race with traffic duty so the whole field waited until this was cleared.

Once in the water, I had a decent swim for me. The water temperature was announced as 75 degrees so wetsuits were in order. My time (43:53) and pace (2:04/100y) was right about where it should have been (even though I wished it was a little quicker). Just a little slower than Eagleman but in very different conditions. I felt I needed to improve on drafting but coming out of the water was content.

Timberman was my first experience with wetsuit strippers. I pulled down my wetsuit, flopped on my back, the stripper ripped off the wetsuit in about 2 seconds, and then my right hamstring locked up in a cramp and wouldn't unlock. I almost couldn't get up and when I did, I couldn't unlock the muscle. I limped in the rest of transition trying to loosen it up unsuccessfully but just as I was getting on the bike, it freed up. I thought this an odd sign but it was nothing compared to what would happen next.

I consider the bike my strength. Timberman has a very challenging (that means hilly in rockstar-ese) course and the plan was to keep the power under control (210-220watts) to save myself for the run. I was pushing it a bit harder than the plan but didn't seem to be getting the speed I would normally expect. At the 30mile mark my average power was at exactly 220w but I made a choice to step it down a bit. I knew I wouldn't hit my time goals but my true goal for this race was how well I did on the run.

I felt I was eating and drinking enough but my left quad started cramping at about the 40 mile mark. I got off the bike on one of the hills to try to loosen it up and found I couldn't even walk up the hill due to the cramp. I got back on the bike and limped it in.

Something was very wrong. Maybe it was me. Maybe I went out too hard on the hills. Maybe I failed nutrition. Maybe I failed hydration. Maybe the course was too much for me at this weight. Maybe it was the humidity or the wind or the sun. Maybe something was off with the bike. My power seemed fine ( it finished at an average of 207w/NP220w as compared to Eagleman of 192w/NP197w) but with the cramps and the slow speed I was very confused.

Here is where the choice of the day was made. I thought about not going out on the run and going straight into the medical tent. I could barely walk as I was limping due to the cramps. The word which kept jumping into my brain to describe my legs was "shredded."

It would have been easy to stop but I decided to finish if I could. I realized I might not make the cutoff. I realized I probably couldn't run so I started limping and walking, eating Tums and Endurolytes to help with the cramps, drinking everything in sight. My quads would cramp on the uphills and my hamstring on the downhills. Of course, this had to be on course where they said only 20% was not uphill or downhill. My legs loosened up a bit and I would run a little until they tightened back up.

Fran and Tim came out on the course to help run me in. I will never forget that and how they helped me.

It took me a while but I finished the race. 7 hours, 53 minutes, and 22 seconds. I made the time cutoff. I got my finisher's medal, towel and water bottle. I sat in the lake for a while to have it help cool off my legs. Only then did it start to rain.

To paraphrase from Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, "I chose wisely."

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Got my tri bike back from the bike shop. Took off the aqua rack and took it for a quick shake down ride. It is ready for Timberman all clean with new rubber. I need a better name for this bike other than "The Look." Perhaps "Eye Candy" would do or does that have to wait until race wheels are in the picture?

Laid out most of my things and will pack it up tonight for the drive up to New Hampshire tomorrow morning.

All my stuff seems ready. We'll see if my mind and body are shortly.

Game on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Which bit of minutia will it be this time?

My family went away this week. The girls are at music camp in Ontario and my wife Dawn is acting as their chaperone. They did this camp last year and I think it signals, to them in some way, the end of the summer music vacation. Although a bit complicated, we've worked out the travel logistics. I'll do the 5+ hour drive up to Timberman solo, they'll fly into Boston to meet me in New Hampshire for the race on Saturday, and we'll all drive home together with Vinny the violin and Arpeggio the cello. I'm glad they will be at the race cheering me on - it always makes it more special for me.

Unfortunately I don't make it as special for them as I typically go a little bit crazy before a major race. Taper time, in addition to a physical recovery time to minimize fatigue, gives my mind opportunity to wander and I normally latch on to some bit of minutia (that I can't change). As Dawn left, she jokingly asked me which insignificant item it would be this time. So, my mind is now in full taper mode and I'm wondering myself what it would be.

Could it be that my ploy of switching my race from fat guy (Clydesdale) to old guy (M 45-49) didn't result in the earlier wave assignment that I hoped. Clydesdale's are wave 15 (the last wave) and old guys are wave 14 (second to last) while "oldest" guys (>50) go off wave 2 - go figure. So, near by parking is expected to fill up by 5:30AM, transition closes at 7:00AM with the first wave in the drink, and my wave goes off at 8:05. I realize that someone has to go in the last waves and it is going to get hot on the run for us but I did get 5 minutes out of the ploy - better than nothing.

Weather is always a candidate for my psychosis. Although there is a heat wave in the northeast this week with expected highs today and tomorrow at the race site in the high 90s, the early forecast calls for the heat to break later on in the week. There is the probability of rain later in the week but race day looks like a high mid 70s with a chance of rain. All in all, not so bad.

Water temperature, or should I say more accurately the ability to wear a wetsuit, is always a concern of mine. I don't know if wetsuiting up is in jeopardy but recent water temperatures are reported as 74ish. Where that was measured and what will the heat wave do to the water temperature are unknown. More info will come as we get closer.

I've got my bike in the shop for the last bit of tender loving care including installing some new rubber on the wheels - I'm going with Conti Gatorskins for this race. I've decided to drop the aquarack for hydration as carrying the additional weight of the bottles can't help while going up the hills in this race (I've given up on the additional weight of the rock star but we'll pick that up after the race). I'll still have 2 bottles and will reload out on the course.

Nutrition will play a part but I'll go with PB&J before the race starts, have a few bars in my pocket and put 6-7 gels taped on the bike. Should be OK if all goes per plan.

The biggest key, I think, is sleep or lack of sleep. This is what I blame as most impactful on my Eagleman performance and something that I need to try to cure. Of course, this could be a symptom rather than a cause.

And finally, there is everything else. Will something new come to haunt me? I have to get my mind around the fact that it all won't matter if I follow the plan. So, if you see some old fat guy muttering "follow the plan, follow the plan, follow the plan" in New Hampshire this weekend, realize that's me and say hi!

Rock on.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blood test results

Got some blood test results back from DrK. In summary:

Cholesterol: 184 (should be under 200)
HDL: 57 (should be over 40 per DrK)
LDL: 105 (should be under 130 per DrK) - I read online that under 100 would be optimal but under 130 is near optimal.

Everything else within normal parameters. He keeps asking me what he told me when I was too fat to be weighed on his office scale to get me to clean up my act. He wants to re-use whatever that was with other fat guys.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And then, I didn't suck.

"It takes a long time to get good" - Scott Molina

Last night I continued my Timberman taper with a LIRRC 5k race. Amanda decided to race again too. I think she was waffling since, although she has started training for the upcoming XC season, she wanted to see if she improved but she didn't want to run (pardon the pun) into a bunch of other XC girls that had been training all summer that would be looking to toast all relative newbies including Amanda.

I'm much better at writing with a sarcastic slant but I'm finding that hard to do today. I did really well in this race. I didn't come in last in my age group. I beat my previous 5K PR by over a minute. My final time was 29:57. My pace was 9:39/mile. I broke through my self imposed non-suck barrier of 10:00/mile.


Amanda, in contrast, won her AG (and got hardware), set a new PR by 30 seconds, and just missed going sub 25:00 with a 25:04.

A good, perhaps even great, race for both of us.

While I always hoped to, I didn't expect to be able to run this fast for a while. I originally defined a pace goal of non-sucking as faster than 10:00/mile. I haven't even put a target on the next milestone, "not bad," but will soon. Of course after "not bad" should come "OK, " and then hopefully at some time, "good." It may take a long time as per Scott Molina, but it will come.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A vacation from vacation

Last week I was on vacation and had one of the most intense workout weeks for me in a long time. Even though I bailed on one of the long rides (went fishing with the kids and hit a bucket at the range instead), I had a lot of volume for me at this stage of my training. Due to the terrain most of it was at a high intensity. The word which best described how I felt was late last week was "shredded." Don't worry though, I was able to gain a few pounds while on vacation - Huh?

I kept thinking it was time for a vacation from vacation. Today I'm back at work and my body has seemed to start recovery after a 4m run on Saturday and a 35 minute or so open water swim on Sunday. Of course, I need to, this week, not listen to my body as it keeps saying "do more, do more, do more." Less is best now.

The Timberman taper begins. I won't make my weight goal before the race but it is time to feel like a rock star again. A fat, old, slow rock star but a rock star none the less.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Restoring Faith in People

I run, cycle and sometime swim with a RoadID (see The type I use is a set of dog tags on a chain that I wear around my neck and while one dog tag carries a motivation message that I was awarded by the Long Island Team in Training Run team (see for that story), the other has my contact info and my wife's contact info. I originally got these so that when I was face down in a ditch on the side of the road, the authorities would know who to call to help clean up the mess. Fortunately we haven't had to see if they work for that use-case yet.

Last week during the no-frills 5K, though, I noticed my chain unhitched around my neck and the dog tag with my contact info wasn't there anymore. It must have been somewhere on the course of the 5k but I couldn't find it. The other one was still dangling on the chain so I was able to save it. I came home and after a few days got around to ordering a replacement.

Today, upon our return from vacation, there was a letter with no return address. Inside was a piece of paper with no note but with my dog tag taped to it.

The person who found it could have ignored it and left it where it was. They could have thrown it out, but they didn't. They took the time to put it in an envelope and drop it in the mail. I'm sure at some level it was an inconvenience to this person.

They may have not considered it a big deal and that, in and of itself, is a big deal. Thank you Mr. or Ms. Anonymous for returning my dog tag and more importantly, for restoring my faith in people with this simple selfless act.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2010 Eagleman Ironman 70.3

I'm in. June 13, 2010. The slow journey continues but hopefully at a little quicker pace than 2009.

Arrogant fool

"When I was a little boy, (when I was just a boy)
And the Devil would call my name (when I was just a boy)
I'd say "now who do, Who do you think you're fooling?" (when I was just a boy)"
- Paul Simon

Let's cut to the chase: I walked up part of a hill, continued on and wound up turning around before the top on my ride today admitting defeat.

I started my ride not knowing the course but conceptually realizing it would be hilly. Shortly into my ride, I did 6 miles of a hill that averaged a little over 4% incline. My Garmin says where I walked topped out at 27%. During this hill I averaged a blistering 6.2 mph and my power averaged 238w (250 NP) for the 30 minutes even after I walked. My legs were quivering and I still couldn't see where it ended. I turned around and went down the hill. Rather than go and curl up in a corner like my body wanted to, I added on another 25 miles to get me over the 40 mile mark for today's ride. This turned this ride into a real training ride totaling a little over 4200ft of climbing.

Perhaps I'm arrogant since I didn't "know" these hills but I'm disappointed with my performance. I thought the improvement in my fitness would be enough for this ride but perhaps I am only fooling myself. There is more work to do, obviously. Carrying my weight up the hill didn't help either. I got beat. I got humbled.

Luckily there is more hill work this week to redeem myself in my mind with a true rock star performance.