Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I'm running again. Knock on wood but it's been 3 weeks of gradual build up and the knee is only getting better and better. Laid down a good 7 miler yesterday with NO pain and only minimal discomfort/tightness.
Looks like this may have been an IT band related issue all along, as I've been stretching the hell out of that bastard with a foam roller before every workout and doing so has made a big difference.
This is good.
Super busy with the Gloucester tri preparations/meetings but that's a good thing. We're really cooking with gas and I'm still in a semi-state of disbelief that we're actually going to have a big time sprint event in the heart of Gloucester in less than 9 months. That'll be a dream come true.
Lots of good stuff happening, but I'll save that post for after the holiday season.
Oh, and Max, if you're reading this: Believe it or not, but the "break" allowed me some time to think more about next year and I agree that it's time. Just have to figure out which race to hit.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
With Thanksgiving arriving tomorrow and winter officially just around the corner, it may seem hard to think about next summer. But some local athletic organizers and city officials are. That's because Gloucester will host a major triathlon that's being viewed as a showcase for the city that has not held that type of outdoor race in the past.
"We had a very productive meeting with Mayor Kirk last week," said Gloucester native and professional triathlete Janda Ricci-Munn. "She seemed very supportive. We're working closely with the Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association and the City Council. There's a lot of logistics to cover, but I'm 100 percent confident in saying that we'll have a race."
The Gloucester Triathlon is the brainchild of Ricci-Munn and Bill Burnett of Cohasset. The two met last summer at the Cohasset Triathlon where Burnett was the race director. After talking with Ricci-Munn, who was competing that day, the pair decided to create an event in Ricci-Munn's beloved hometown of Gloucester.
"I'd been kicking this idea around for 10 years and, after doing the race in Cohasset, I thought Bill did such a tremendous job and I appreciated how well the race was run," Ricci-Munn said.
Ricci-Munn called Cohasset "one of the best short courses I have been to." As it turned out, Burnett was looking to expand his race series from Cohasset and Marlborough to a third Massachusetts community, and Gloucester seemed a perfect fit from the get-go.
"When I saw Janda signed up for Cohasset, I was thrilled to have him there," remembered Burnett. "I talked to him before the race and afterward we exchanged e-mails."
A former All-American swimmer and experienced triathlete himself, Burnett had never been to Gloucester before Ricci-Munn took him on a prospective tour in July.
"I knew immediately that this is an incredible spot for a triathlon," Burnett said. "It's a really good community. It's huge to have him involved, he's so proud of his town. He wants to inspire an active living lifestyle."
"We want to use the downtown setting for spectators and the athletes," Ricci-Munn explained. "Gloucester is a venue like none other. Usually triathlons are held out in the sticks, away from spectators."
Burnett works in sales during the day but his real passion lies in race directing. He's organized the Cohasset Triathlon the past two summers, when 1,000 athletes participated and each paid an $80 entrance fee. Portions of the proceeds from the Gloucester Triathlon will help support the Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association and the Wellspring House, in conjunction with the Pine Street Inn in Boston.
The Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association is a nonprofit group that was founded to support Gloucester's public schools, in particular athletics and related activities for the city's youths.
The Pine Street Inn is a nonprofit organization committed to men, women, and children in need of shelter, sustenance, and the basic moral and material supports necessary to lead a dignified and stable life.
Based in Gloucester, Wellspring House works to meet basic human needs and participate in social change through the provision of emergency shelter for families, education, job training, affordable housing and family support programs.
The day of the Gloucester Triathlon is the signature moment, but there will be countless clinics, fund-raisers and beneficial byproducts of hosting the event.
"We want to get beginners involved in the sport," noted Burnett. "The training clinics will show them how to handle it and what to expect."
With so many converging on Cape Ann that weekend, Ricci-Munn sees a great opportunity for Gloucester and neighboring towns to earn some tourism dollars.
"The triathlon will definitely sell out within a month; word of it is already spreading like crazy," Ricci-Munn said. "What I'm hoping is that it will bring a lot of money into the city and generate plenty of money for the Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association, the Pine Street Inn and Wellspring House."
Burnett said he expects people from Connecticut, New York and throughout the Northeast for the event.
Plus, cheering on the athletes is one of the most important duties of the whole day, organizers said.
Richard Slate can be reached at email@example.com
ABOUT THE RACE
Information about the Gloucester Triathlon can be found online at gloucestertri.com.
Registration for the event starts at 9 a.m. Monday and a total of between 850 and 1,000 male and female competitors are expected.
Space is limited and registration is available online.
Monday, November 10, 2008
- My athletes threw down a slew of PRs for the 70.3 distance and one of them even came away with some hardware (see MAC attack below).
- Michelle and I had a great time spectating, hanging with our friends and making the most of the beautiful Florida weather.
- The drafting. Clearwater is labeled as the 70.3 "World Championship." Well yes, I suppose that it is, but I just don't see how the race organizers can feel good about the course they've chosen to contest said event. A true world championship should pit the fittest athletes in the world against each other in an event that truly tests your abilities on the swimming, cycling and running fronts. Clearwater is nothing more than a long course version of an ITU race. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone or placing blame on the athletes, because to be honest, given the course profile, I don't think that there's anyway that you could possibly hope to avoid large pack drafting. The following picture is but a small example of what I'm talking about:
MAC Attack. Mary Ann Clark of California took an AG victory at Wildflower earlier this year and proved that she was a force to be reckoned with. She ended her season with a stellar 4:34:39 performance on Saturday, which was good for 4th place overall in the Women's 35 - 39 category.
Mary Ann looked tremendous from the get-go. She raced aggressively and intelligently. The girl was "in the zone" all day and clearly amped up for this event. I don't think that I've ever seen someone dancing in the swim corral pre race! Goes to show what the right mentality will do for you on race day.
- Dave Smith of VA went 4:18 on Saturday. A HUGE PR which was good enough for 15th place in the M18 - 24 year old category. Dave is one of my hardest working athletes, and will only continue to improve year in, year out. At 23, he's got time on his side, so watch out for him in '09.
- Evan Barry came home in 4:37; a big PR despite blisters that slowed him on lap 2 of the run. Given Evan's commitment I expect a sub 4:30 out of him right out of the gate next year, unless he kicks his Half IM/70.3 season off with the Rev 3 half that is!
- Kelly Carrington, who knocked off a PR at IM Austria earlier this year, bounced back from her recent move to Denver to PR on Saturday with a 5 hour even performance. Not bad for someone who's just getting the ball rolling again on the training front. With some consistent work, I expect big things out of Kelly in '09.
- Neo Pro Nick Dufresne capped a very productive '08 season (his first full season as a Pro) with a 4:07 performance on Saturday. Nick finished 2nd overall earlier this year at the Mooseman Half in NH and has improved dramatically this year. Although shin problems (compartment syndrome?) have put a damper on his run training/performances this year, he chalked up some much needed experience by racing in Clearwater.
Frustrating Moments at Clearwater '08:
- Liam O'Connell's flat tire. The boy was ready to roll. He came out of the water in 26 min. low and was spot on through mile 30 of the bike. Shortly there-after he suffered a flat tire that took him 28 min. to fix. Despite his misfortune, he still finished the race. He had a sub 4:10 in the bag this past Saturday and the training to back it up. Official time: 4:41. A real bummer, but all things considered, still a strong performance. Liam will be back with a vengeance in '09 and I am willing to bet he will throw down a low to sub 4 hour day at Clearwater next year should he decide to return.
- Craig Lewin's knee gives out on him. A season of consistent, hard work and dedication all compromised thanks to a reckless driver who T-Boned Craig a few weeks ago. I have to give the kid credit though: He raced with 6 hairline fractures in his jaw and a bum knee that he was only manage to run on twice pre-race day over the course of the past 4 + weeks. Another one of my guys who would have gone sub 4:10 had misfortune not struck. As it stands, he limped his way home to a 4:30 performance. Guts. Watch out for Craig in '09; he finished 2nd overall at the Nutmeg half earlier this year, this being his FIRST year of real training/tri prep.
- Amanda Russell's ITB flares up. Another one of my athletes who was run off the road by a car only a few weeks back. Although her training as of late took a hit as a result, the big block of work she laid down post Muskoka still carried her through the vast majority of Sunday's race until her IT band flared up and almost forced her to abandon the race altogether. A frustrating experience for a girl with such a strong "engine" but she will bounce back and return stronger than ever.
So that's a wrap. Everyone is looking forward to some downtime and the upcoming holiday festivities (myself included). It's been a great year but it's time for a bit of a break. Sitting on the sidelines this past weekend made me realize how fortunate I am to do what I do for a living and how lucky I am to be able to live this lifestyle. I've met so many great people along the way and it was a real thrill to see so many of my friends this past weekend. I'm already itching for '09 to roll around, but there's some healing to be done before the hard work begins once again.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
In other news... I was inspired by Michellie Jones' annual training approach and have decided to shut things down for a while in order to let this knee fully heal up. Although it's substantially better now, every time I try to run more than 30 minutes over rolling terrain, the inflammation creeps back up on me. And although it pains me to admit it, the pool has only slowed my rate of recovery from the injury :( Hundreds of turns/push offs + extensive kick sets leave the knee noticeably tender after every session. It'll be tough dropping exercise cold turkey for a couple of weeks, especially since I'm FINALLY making progress in the water, but if doing so means I'll be able to REALLY start training again by Thanksgiving, I'll do what I must. I'm not looking forward to the break though, that's for sure.
Upon further research, I'm pretty confident that my nagging injury (nothing serious mind you, just bad enough to keep me from being able to train "full on") is a case of Plica Syndrome. It's similar to PFMS, but the medial discomfort is the major distinction. Whether it's related to the overpronation (which makes sense from a kinetic standpoint) or not is beyond me, but the location of the discomfort is EXACTLY what the linked article is describing. That spot is a bit sore to the touch, especially after training, and feels much better after stretching and a bit of passive recovery. Thinking back, I dealt with this same injury a handful of times both during my early 20s while training for triathlon and during my days as a youth/high school distance runner. Major doses of ibuprofen, ice and complete rest usually cleared it up within a week, but I have to admit that since the injury flared up back in September, I've only allowed myself 2 consecutive days of passive recovery; enough to bring some pronounced improvement, but not enough to kick this thing for good. Bottom line: If I'm not able to train like a PRO, I might as well not even bother training, because 30 minute runs and 2 hour easy spins don't do a thing for my fitness at this stage of the game.
Well, at least I'll be able to relate to my Clearwater athletes now; we'll all be laying around/doing nothing until 12/o1, training wise that is, effective this coming Sunday. I could stand to put on a little "chub-chub" anyway. To be honest, I'm getting sick and tired of hearing Dean Phillips complain about my weight "advantage" every time we climb a hill, so perhaps a 10lb weight gain on my part will help to level the playing field and make him happy on our Sunday long rides.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I had one of those days where I asked myself, multiple times, why the hell I even bother. Giving up income, leisure time with family and friends, a comfortable lifestyle; all to pursue a masochistic sport that offers very little in the way of financial reward despite the immense workload that's necessary to even make a name for yourself. The trials and tribulations of trying to morph from a "pro" to a "PRO" triathlete (see Chris Bagg's Blog for an explanation on this one).
As I dragged myself away from yet another ass-whoopin', I mean swim practice, tonight (that saw us cruising through 400s during our warm up segment at 5 min. or under - I can't believe how easy 1:15/100 pace is getting) and pulled out onto rt. 128 to head north towards home, I was greeted by AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to The Top (if you want to rock and roll)" on WBCN.
That song pretty much sums it up.
Back to work in the morning.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
They deserved to beat me on race day.
Yes, until this past June I "didn't" have enough time to train like a real "pro" but I'll be honest in saying that I could have prioritized my swim training and done a lot more than I did. Let's face it: Unless you have a full time job AND kids, you really don't have an excuse. You can find the time. You can find the energy. You can make it happen.
Well, I didn't, and I routinely got my ass handed to me in the water as a result.
Training with Dan Warner and the North Shore Swim Club has been a very humbling, albeit successful experience. I've got 14 year old kids making me work like a dog and guys like super swimmer Craig Lewin, Kyle Misuraca and Liam O'Connell forcing me to speed up or risk getting run over.
In one month I've gone from struggling to hit small sets of 1:15s on 1:30 to sets like 6 x 400 on 6 min. @ sub 5 min. (that was tonight's main set!)
At the end of the day, it's always the same: If you want the results, you've got to do the work, and it's not going to be easy.
There are no shortcuts.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
What I would give to run 9 or 10 miles right now...
But, there is hope. Last week, I paid a visit to my friend, professional strength coach and fellow triathlete Franco Zuccoli who thoroughly evaluated my posture, flexibility, range of motion and degree of muscular balance. In addition to a couple of other glaring issues, Franco immediately pointed out the fact that my left arch is basically completely flat and that my right arch isn't much better. He insisted that I make an appointment with orthotist Dan Bishop ASAP. As a kid, I overpronated to the point that the medial heel cups of my track spikes would actually become discolored by whatever track I was running on. Orthotics quickly cleared this issue up and allowed me to race/train pain free (I suffered from frequent bouts of achilles tendinitis as a youth runner thanks to my overpronation).
Franco's notation/recommendation was something that made a lot of sense to me and I started dwelling upon it over the weekend/early part of this week. I've always known that I overpronated, as I can actually feel my ankles rolling inward during races, especially once the fatigue sets in, but I never thought about what kind of biomechanical problems overpronation might pose. Even when I ride my ankles roll inward... In this case, overpronation would explain why I tend to start riding "duck toed" during hard efforts and why the medial heel cup on my cycling shoes makes so much contact with the crank arms that they end up looking polished.
Franco's evaluation, and his recommendations regarding our course of action on the strength training/rehab front, focused heavily upon the body's kinetic chain. I've been seeing specialist after specialist to try to "fix" this SI joint problem for over a year now, but nothing has worked. Yes, I have experienced some temporary relief here and there, but the problem has never gone away. Reason: The symptom is being treated, not the cause. Physical therapy was aimed in the right direction, but fell short in that the fundamental cause of my SI joint problem, and the knee pain that is now accompanying it, has a lot, if not everything to do with the simple equation shown above.
The short of it: The left foot in particular pronates during both running, and to a lesser degree, cycling. As a result of the overpronation, everything from the ankle up is affected biomechanically. I won't bother trying to guesstimate what the hell is going on biomechanically with my tibia/fibula, patella, femur, pelvis/SI joint and every muscle that attaches to them thanks to the overpronation, so check out this great article for a little more insight and an example of what kind of trouble overpronation can cause.
I'll tell you, it'll be a combination of euphoria and frustration if the ortotics prove to be effective. I'm dying to resume hard-core training, and will be extremely happy when I'm able to do so, but if I find out that I wasted over a year, not to mention a lot of money trying to fix a bunch of injuries that were all caused by flat arches, I'll be pretty pissed off to say the least.
Well, you live, you learn. I met with Dan today and he's very confident that the orthotics will clear my SI joint/hip flexor/knee issues up.
We shall see. I'll have them by next Wednesday. I'm optimistic at least.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Probable causes... see this great resource I stumbled upon on the web:
The good news is that I was able to ride, easily, for 25k over hilly terrain today without any pain/discomfort in the knee region. I converted the P2C into a "road" bike, complete with STI levers, drop handle bars and an "effective" seat tube angle of roughly 73 degrees (by moving the saddle into the most "aft" position possible); standard road bike geometry. I'm hoping that by including some work on the road bike each week, I'll be able to better balance out the musculature in my lower body and correct some of the imbalances that are currently rearing their ugly heads (my SI joint is still out of whack as well).
The only good that's come out of this knee problem: I'm swimming further and faster than ever thanks to my work with Dan Warner and the North Shore Swim Club. My main set on Monday: 3 x 500 @ 6:20 - 6:25 on 7 min. is a great example of the improvement I'm making under Dan. 6:20s for a set of 500s; not blazing fast, I know, but given the fact that before this month, my PR for the 500 was only 6:40, you could say that I'm pretty excited. What was most exciting was the fact that the effort that went into each one of those 500s was very controlled. It was nothing more than a tempo set and I felt on top of it every "stroke" of the way.
Well, with a little luck I'll be back at it soon enough and able to swim, bike, run and lift as much as my heart desires. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
The patella tendinitis in my right knee has failed to dissipate and I'm still unable to run for more than 20 minutes without pain. On top of that, my left hip flexor is painful and weak thanks to a strain I suffered as a result of a bike crash the week after Timberman. I've been nursing it for the past month and a half, but the extra swimming I've been logging as of late has led to a fairly pronounced flare up which is making even the simple act of walking up stairs somewhat difficult. To top it all off, my right achilles tendon is sore.
So... with less than 5 weeks to IMFL it's evident that I have run out of time. I respect the Ironman distance way too much to half ass my preparation and would much rather end my season on a high note vs. risking prolonged injury just to say that I finished an Ironman.
2008 was a great year. Although my key races didn't all go exactly as planned, I really can't complain about my results: 2 x top 5, 1 x 6th and 1 x 8th place finishes on the 70.3 circuit and a 6th place overall finish at the stacked Columbia Triathlon (Olympic distance) back in May.
Not bad... especially considering the fact that I was working 7 days/60+ hours per week right up until late June this year. I feel as though I held my own on the pro circuit in '08, and am VERY excited to begin preparing for my full fledged assault on the '09 season.
I also learned a lot about myself and what I need to do between now and April of '09 if I want to continue to improve and move up the ranks.
The most glaring deficiency in my game at the moment is, DUH, my swim.
The 2 major culprits:
1. My technique needs refinement (lots of it)
2. I don't swim nearly enough (6 - 8k of leisurely open water swimming each week won't cut it!)
Up until this point in time, swimming has always been my final priority. I've never enjoyed it because I've never been good at it. Couple this fact with the fact that until this summer I've been very limited as to how much time I can devote to my training each week, and it's easy to see how swimming would fall between the cracks and conveniently be forgotten about.
Things have changed though. I recently linked up with Dan Warner of the North Shore Swim Club. I swam 16,000 yards last week which is by far more than I've ever done in one week, and Dan has already made some pronounced improvements with my stroke. My catch/pull was pretty ugly, but thanks to Dan's keen eye, I'm already catching and pulling more water. It's mind boggling how a few small corrections can bring about such pronounced results in the water. Case in point: When were were asked to execute a main set of 3 x 3 x 100 on 1:30, 1:20 and 1:15 respectively, I thought in my mind "that set on 1:15 will be impossible for me." But... I did it, and the effort wasn't even that much of a stretch. I was shocked. The final set was 2 x 100 @ max on 3 min. and I laid down a 1:08 and 1:09... What's going on here? Not blazing fast, I know, but all intervals were executed with an open turn (I still can't do flip turns) and never felt out of control. If I'm seeing these kinds of results after just 4 sessions, I can't wait to see where things stand in 6 or 7 months!
Bike and run: Things are going well here, as usual. Out splitting Alexander, Cunninghman and Lessing on the bike up in Muskoka was a big confidence builder. Out splitting everyone on the run (Oscar Galindez included) at RI 70.3 also did quite a bit for the confidence.
But... I know that I have more in me, especially on the running front.
Thanks to my boy Dean Phillips at Fit Werx 2 in Peabody, MA, I'm constantly kept up to speed on what I need to do in order to attain and maintain the lowest coefficient of drag possible while on the bike. As such, although my power output is nothing world shattering, my ability to move very quickly and efficiently over 56 miles is pretty pronounced. If I can do what I need to do on the swimming front this Fall/Winter/Spring, I'll be much closer to the action after T1, but will still need to chase on the bike. As such, my goal heading into next year will be to not only bridge up to, but put time into the lead pack while out there on the bike course. I need to find another 15 watts of power in order to make this happen and am already looking forward to the grueling VO2max and Threshold sessions I'll be executing between Dec. and the end of next season in order to make this happen.
As for my running, I've proven myself to be a good runner, but my performances to date can be attributed more to my "strength" vs. speed. I need to do A LOT more interval work. Due to a lack of energy through most of last year, I rarely hit the track. If I want to run with the very best of them in '09, my open 10k has to improve dramatically. Watching "Crowie" throw down a 1:13 on the HILLY Muskoka 70.3 (where Cunningham went 1:18 and I turned in the 3rd fastest split with a 1:19) run course, drove home the importance of aerobic power and it's development. Progressive long runs over hilly terrain are great for building strength, but my lack of organized VO2max and threshold training on the track is currently limiting my ability to run really fast over the 13.1 mile distance. Once again, if I want to compete with the best of them, and to have any chance at placing high, or... dare I say win, I need to get a lot faster on the run front.
So... time for a much deserved break. I feel lazy and out of whack thanks to the fact that I don't have a major end of season competition to prepare for and am sidelined and unable to run or bike. Michelle and I recently booked our flights down to Clearwater to cheer my athletes on though (I have 9 heading down this year!) so at least I'll be able to live vicariously through them. I expect some BIG performances out of them on Nov. 8th, that's for sure!
As for next year, I'm incredibly excited about my season. As it stands, the key race calender looks something like:
- St. Croix 70.3
- Columbia Triathlon
- Revolution 3 Half Iron Triathlon
- Cohasset Triathlon
- Rhode Island 70.3
- Cape Ann Triathlon
- Timberman 70.3
- Muskoka 70.3
- Clearwater 70.3
When I look deep into my heart, I know that I don't have the burning desire to do an Ironman anytime soon. I love the 70.3 distance and want to take advantage of the peak years that I still have left by fully exploring and exploiting the depth of my endurance AND speed/power. I'd love to break 3:50 for the 70.3 distance and my dream goal would be to lay down splits of 25/2:04/1:12 on a course like Clearwater. Once I feel as though I've reached the point where I've gone as fast as I possibly can at the 70.3 distance, well perhaps at that point I'll move on up, but for now, I'm very content focusing upon 4 hour races.
So, that's a wrap. Back to the drawing board and off season prep a little earlier than expected. It's all good. I'm doing what I've always dreamt of doing and am savoring every experience along the way. I'm fully aware of just how lucky I am to not only be in position to fully pursue my dreams, but to live a life that is full of personal meaning and passion. The people I have met along the way make the trip all the more special, and I look forward to the roads that lie ahead.
My scratching IMFL is nothing more than a little bump in the (athletic) road and I'm in no way bummed out. If the biggest disappointment I have to face in my young life is a sore knee that keeps me from biking and running for a few weeks, then I consider myself a very lucky man. You want an example of someone facing a real problem? Look no further than this and read all about Margaret's plight.
I've got it "made in the shade" and have nothing to complain about.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The right knee has been giving me problems for over a month now and the combo of a hilly Muskoka course (not to mention the effort I had to produce to take 5th place up there) + my resuming training too quickly post Muskoka has left me with my first notable injury in years. I was able to run 30k over hilly terrain last Sunday, and laid down some solid training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but today, the knee finally gave out and the pain forced me to walk the final 2 miles of my a.m. run.
Looks like I'll have to suspend all cycling and run training for a few days and give this thing a chance to heal. We have some nasty weather headed our way this weekend anyway, so good timing, I guess. I need to convert my old P2C into a road bike, so now I'll have a chance to do so.
Unfortunately, flare ups/injury/sickness are all part of the game. I've enjoyed 3 years of relatively smooth sailing and my fitness is high. I will admit that missing some training time pre-IMFL is a bit disconcerting, but better that I take the down time now vs. roll the dice, push on and risk blowing all of October and any shot at finishing in one piece on 11/01.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I had a bunch of people set PRs, and although all the results/race reports aren't in as of 9 p.m. EST, hi-lites at this point in time include:
- Nick Dufresne's 6th place finish at the stacked Westchester Olympic Distance Triathlon (Pro race)
- Craig Lewin's 2nd place overall finish (40 sec.? off 1st!) at the Nutmegman Half Iron Triathlon in CT
- John Anthony's 3rd place overall finish at the Firmman Half Iron Triathlon in RI
Still awaiting word on how Liam and Kelly fared in Cancun. This was Liam's last chance to qualify for Clearwater '08, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. At this point in time, I have 8 athletes heading to Clearwater, so I'm hoping that Liam pulled it off today so that he can join us for the big end of season party!
9/22 update: Liam won his AG at Cancun so he's heading to Clearwater!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Hills, Rain, Wilderness, a Wetsuit Legal Swim... What more could I ask for?!?!
This race was all that it was cracked up to be and I couldn't be happier with my performance. Despite a stellar field that included the likes of Craig Alexander, Richie Cunningham, Simon Lessing, Dave Harju and rising star Daniel Bretcher, I was able to claw my way back from my typical 5+ minute swim deficit to a 5th place overall finish (see results); my second podium finish of the year on the 70.3 circuit.
Muskoka provided a very much needed boost of confidence. Recording the 2nd fastest overall bike split and third fastest overall run split against guys of this caliber makes me feel as though I've made the right decision to leave school behind and go full tilt with the coaching and athletic gig. As fast as I went on Sunday, I honestly feel as though I have A LOT more in me and will continue to work hard to improve on all three fronts.
Well, that's a wrap. Michelle has outdone me once again by writing a race/travel recap that tells it all, so I encourage you to visit her blog if you're interested to hear how we spent last weekend. She's posted some great pics as well. We were fortunate enough to make a stop in Niagara Falls on our way back down from Canada, so the weekend was nothing short of spectacular for a variety of reasons.
Back to the grind: Time to start prepping for Ironman Florida again. I can look forward to tired legs and groggy mornings for the next 4 - 5 weeks. Revisiting 70.3 mode sure was fun while it lasted!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The fitness it there now. I knew that things were looking good when I clipped off my standard 6 mile run about 2 min. faster than normal yesterday morning, and today only underscored the fact that I'm ready to roll: 30 min. of pace work @ 300+ watts felt like a walk in the park.
I guess that last weekend's Pumpkinman sprint was a much needed tune up as I can't remember the last time I've felt this good. Hell, even my swimming feels pretty strong right now. Despite zero warm-up and a hurried rush just to make it to the starting line, I had a really fun time chasing Tony, Dean and Nick (who I caught, AGAIN on the run - I don't think I'll be so lucky at Duxbury though!) and the experience has left me feeling very relaxed and excited as I gear up/taper down for Muskoka 70.3 this weekend.
So... off for a quick ocean swim tonight and then, there will be nothing left to do but pack up and stay loose with a couple of easy workouts before I hit the road on Friday.
I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing stupid happens on Sunday. We received notification that some jack-ass dumped tacks all over the Muskoka bike course. The race directors assured us that they're having all of the roads swept, but 56 miles of rolling, wet roads + tacks = increased probability for a flat. Man... I'd be pretty heated if a flat ruins my day or the day of one of my fellow competitors.
But there's no sense in worrying. Whatever will happen will happen on Sunday. I just can't wait to hit the starting line!
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Timberman 70.3: 5th place overall & my first podium finish of the year.
The short of it: I knew that I was in trouble before the day even began. Legs were dead during my pre-race warm up and things never improved once the gun sounded.
As my power file will attest, I was underpowered and completely drained on the bike yesterday. I kept hoping that the engine would warm up, but it never happened. It was 56 miles of pure misery and frustration. I felt so awful that I entertained the idea of pulling the pin once I hit T2, but upon arrival, there was no way that I could quit in front of my friends and family, so I pressed on. The fact that Chrissie Wellington was hot on my heels provided enough motivation to keep me pressing right up to the finish line and onto the podium (thank you Chrissie).
In retrospect, it was a good performance. I went 2 minutes faster than last year and held my own in a competitive field despite tired legs and low energy levels. The culprit: The big block of Ironman prep that I just laid down. I've been so tired from the extra volume that my speed and aerobic power have all but disappeared. Not the feeling I was hoping for on race day, that's for sure.
This bodes well for my next 70.3 race (Muskoka). I'm going to resume standard 70.3 prep between now and then, and the higher quality/lower volume approach should leave me sharp as a razor and ready to roll. Although forgoing a block of IM training might come back to haunt me on Nov. 1st, the Muskoka prize purse is a nice one, so there's plenty of incentive to sharpen the legs back up as I look forward to Sept. 14th. I can't wait to race in Canada by the way! We're going to stay up in Muskoka the night after the race and then drive down to Niagara Falls the next morning before we fly home from Buffalo. I'm hoping that the weather is nice because it should make for a beautiful late summer trip!
But I digress... back to Timberman: The weekend was a big success for a bunch of my athletes. I now have 10 people qualified for Clearwater, so looks like I'll be staying down in Florida an extra week after I knock off IMFL on 11/01.
That's it for now. I'm feeling too lazy to write a full recap. Michelle posted one on her blog with pics. if you'd like to check it out:
Time for some R&R. Gotta rest the legs up before I start hitting the track and TT course again next week!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Well, after finishing just outside of the podium (50 seconds), again, this past weekend, I've had enough.
I'm sick of this shit.
Timberman 70.3 is going to feature a STACKED elite field. Scroll through the "Special" entrants page and pick out the big names if you'd like.
I see no point in playing things conservatively on 8/17. I've satisfied every personal goal I've had as a triathlete and am not afraid to state for the record that I want to start beating some of the big name pros now.
I've always hated the way that people prop the super stars up and look at them as though they are untouchable. I know for a fact that I don't possess nearly as much natural ability as most of these athletes, but I also know that I'm willing to pay the price in both training and competition to give myself a shot at beating them.
This being said, as soon as my legs recover from RI 70.3, I'm going to lay it down in training the next couple of weeks so that I'm 100% ready to go for broke at Timberman.
I'd much rather take a shot this time around, even if it means that I end up "blowing up" on the run and walking to the finish line.
Enough rambling. Lots of hard work ahead. No more blogging until the dust has settled on 8/17.
Monday, July 14, 2008
- Improved Swim
- Competitive Bike Split
- Second Fastest Run Split of the Day
- 4:02:18/6th Place Overall Against a Strong International Field
I'll take it.
Still lots of work to do, but the fitness is starting to come around now that I have the time to train and recover correctly!
I'll make the most of this down week before I start prepping for Timberman. I'm going to start introducing some IM specific training into the mix now since IMFL is only 3.5 months away. I'm looking forward to upping the ante on the training front!
Congratulations to everyone who raced yesterday!
Friday, June 27, 2008
I'm ready to take the plunge for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is the fact that I'll actually have the time and energy to train (like a pro) for an Ironman. In addition, I'm just ready for a new challenge. I love the 70.3 distance, but I'm itching to go longer and try my hand at the IM game.
So why Florida??? Well, despite the fact that it's supposedly a Clearwater-esque draft fest of a race (not that that matters once feet hit the pavement), my past 2 Novembers down in the sunshine state have been pretty successful to say the least, so why not?
In the mean time, gotta put the finishing touches on my RI 70.3 prep and bring my fitness back up to par. It was a long school year and my lack of distance training sessions has left me a bit under powered. Just as well I suppose... lots of distance coming my way over the course of the next 4 months :)
Sunday, June 22, 2008
It was a bitter sweet moment this past Friday as I said good-bye to my co-workers. I had been waiting all year for this day to come, but when it finally did, I was very saddened by the fact that I was leaving such a great school district, and so many outstanding educators behind.
It's not easy to walk away from such a great job, but as I watched Evans, Zyemtsev and Lavato run down the finish line today at IMCDA, I was reminded of the fact that there's no way I'll ever end up on top of an Ironman podium while trying to juggle 2 jobs and part time training.
So it begins... I have a lot of work ahead of me.
At this point in time, I'm still way off top form, as far as long course fitness is concerned at least, and the leisurely 21 mile run that I laid down today (the longest run I've done in a couple of years, I think) made this fact indisputably clear. Let's just say that I have seen better days.
Anyway, enough complaining. I'll have the time and energy to log the big miles now, so it's time to get to it. A little extra pool time won't hurt either :)
Monday, June 9, 2008
After another hurried Friday evening flight to BWI in Maryland, Michelle and I arrived in Alexandria, VA at 11:30 p.m. and crashed at our Friend Rob O'Hanley's townhouse. Rob, a close friend of mine since High School, has been living in Alexandria for the past year or so, and although we had to drive a bit out of our way to stay with him, the extra drive time and D.C. traffic (still insane/bumper to bumper at 11 p.m.) was well worth it. It was great to see Rob again. Even better, upon our arrival, I found out that my old HS cross-country/track & field teammate Matt Ventimiglia was also crashing at Rob's as well! Matt is now a Naval aviator and stationed in Norfolk, VA. He was in town to see us that night before moving north to meet up with his wife the next morning (she was visiting friends in Annapolis).
So after a bit of catch-up time, Michelle and I hit the sack; exhausted from 8+ hours of traveling after respective full days at work.
I awoke Saturday morning and set out for my a.m. shake out run. I was expecting heat and humidity this past weekend, but the blast of hot, wet air felt more like a sauna as I stepped foot outside for my 15 min. trot. After shaking off my a.m. grogginess, we all headed out for breakfast at the local coffee shop. From there, Michelle and I said our goodbyes to Rob and tailed Matt north through D.C. and over to rt. 50. I was a bit saddened to watch as Matt veered off towards Annapolis as we approached the Bay Bridge which traverses the Chesapeake Bay.
By the time Michelle and I arrived in Cambridge, MD, the heat and humidity were at their worst. It was clearly evident that this year's race was going to be a little more challenging than the '07 rendition! No worries; just have to hydrate and pay attention to the electrolyte consumption a little more than usual.
We checked in at packet pickup and then quickly headed over to meet up with our most gracious home stay host Marge Hull. Marge's house is located just 200 meters from transition, so pre-race and race day bike racking and transition set up is a breeze. Just one less stressor to deal with before the gun goes off.
My friend Diane Haupt from Virginia Beach, VA showed up shortly after we did (she was staying with Marge as well), and we both set off for an easy 25 min. spin on the Eagleman bike course. I was feeling pretty snappy during the later stages of my shake out spin and followed this session up with a half mile of swimming to cool down. From there, it was time to rack my bike and head off to eat.
At 6:30 or so, Michelle, Marge and I met up with one of my rising stars, 24 year old Virginia Beach, VA triathlete, and fellow PE teacher, Dave Smith, for dinner. "Smitty" has made great strides forward this year as an athlete, and I was excited to finally meet him in person and watch him race. Dave was joined by his wife Rachel and a couple of friends. It just happened to be Dave's birthday, so Rachel and Co. surprised him with a cheese-cake sampler. A good time for sure.
From there, it was off to bed and early to rise. I'm not a big fan of 4:30 revelry, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Luckily, I had slept soundly, so I felt relatively refreshed Sunday morning.
As Michelle and I walked to transition, I was wishing that I had a camera on me as I caught site of one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen before a triathlon: Standing just 30 meters away from me was a guy in his middle to late 40s, tall and lanky, decked out in full Craft kit (the "Elite" suit to be exact). Now we all have our pre-race rituals, but his was a bit outlandish to say the least; I had to do a double take, make that a triple take: He lit up and smoked a cigarette!!! I looked him over 4 or 5 times. Sure enough, there were the body markings. This guy was for real and he was smoking a butt. Talk about a pre-race warm up.
Walking into transition, I got the word from Diane that pros wouldn't be able to wear wetsuits today. Uh-oh. Just 12 hours prior, I had listened as the race director informed us that we were racing under WTC/Ironman rules and, as such, pros could wear wetsuits right up to the AG cut off temp. of 78 degrees. I guess that a midnight call from USAT informed the RD that he had to stick to the 72 degree rule.
No time to worry. I shrugged off the bad news and prepped for go-time.
At 6:45 a.m. I departed shore with the pro-field. Bottom line: I got dropped within the first 10 strokes and was swimming solo from there on in. I never felt bad per say until I hit shore again and saw 00:34:xx on the race clock.
At that moment, I knew that I was in for a very, very long day. Long story short: I spent the next 56 miles on the bike working myself through constant discouragement and despair. I was hitting my goal wattage, but hating every minute of my ride. I was so upset about my piss-poor swim performance and the resulting time deficit that I will be honest in saying that I wanted to pull the pin and quit as soon as I hit T2. However, as I comtemplated the idea of quitting, my mind drifted back to my blog post on D-Day and I spent some time thinking about the many athletes that I coach who were at that very moment either suffering out on the Eagleman course, grinding it out up in NH at Mooseman, or hanging tough in MA at Firmman. They were all dealing with extreme heat and humidity. They were all experiencing their own dark moments. I wasn't injured. I wasn't sick. I was physically able to complete the race. I'd not only be committing a cowardly act by quitting, I'd be setting a poor example. I made a pact with myself to finish the damn bike course and then see how the legs felt on the run. I figured that even if I walked the entire run, that would be better than the dreaded DNF. I had enough of those back in my early 20s and never want to go there again. Quitting just because you're getting your ass kicked should never be an option.
As I rolled into T2, I was a bit surprised by the fact that I had bridged all the way up to notable US pro Paul Fritzche. We departed T2 together but it was evident by mile 1 that Paul's engine was running a little too hot. He stopped for ice and water at the first aid station and I was solo once more.
Surprisingly, the legs started rolling along by mile 2, and before I knew it, I had passed the 4 mile mark and a couple more athletes in the process. The heat & humidity were taking their toll but I continued to roll on and roll out one 6 min. mile after the next.
Due to the heat, and the fact that no one was in sight, I never left my comfort zone on the run and played it safe. I was worried about a late race melt down due to the 90 degree temps and humidity, so my only objective by the 5 mile mark was to see if I could claw my way into the top 10 and come out of this race with a bit of my pride still intact.
I finally caught a glimpse of the race leader, Paul Amey from Great Britain, heading the other way at the 5.25 mile mark. A little mental math meant that he had a 2.5+ mile lead on me which meant I was a good 15 min. down. Not too bad considering that 11 of those god damn minutes were lost in the water.
I counted off the rest of the leaders as they streamed past in the opposite direction. All of the big names were there, and the placing was pretty much what it was expected to be. As I neared the turn around/6.55 mile mark, I caught a glimpse of my Craft teammate Chris Bagg, who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had laid down the fastest bike split of the day! Chris was in 9th. Behind him was early race leader and swim stud John Kenny. I caught and passed Kenny shortly after the turnaround and then passed Chris, who was struggling badly thanks to the oppressive heat and humidity, around mile 9.
I maintained cruise control though the finish and crossed in 4:11, which was good enough for 9th place overall (8th place in the official standings since Chris Legh was DQ'd post race). I was far from excited about my performance, but took great pride in the fact that I stayed the course and dug my way out of a horrendous hole/mental funk. I won't lie: Nothing about the race was fun, and as I put this race report together, I'm still fuming about my awful swim.
I'll be honest in saying that I'm extremely discouraged by my inability to swim efficiently/quickly. I know that I'm racing against athletes who have the time and resources to train full time, but part of me feels as though I'm fighting a losing battle when it comes to the swim front. The logical side of me knows that this is a biomechanical/efficiency issue that will take time to correct, but at 32, I'm starting to wonder why I even bother. I'm walking away from a cushy job and significant percentage of my annual income by leaving teaching behind in 2 weeks, and am hoping that my decision to do so is not going to be in vain.
Only 1 way to find out how far you can really go though, so sometimes you have to roll the dice...
Congratulations to all who "competed & completed" this weekend despite the horrendous weather. I was super excited to see Dave Smith take a very close 2nd place in his AG at Eagleman and secure his Clearwater 70.3 World Championship slot in the process! Diane went on to win her AG. Another one of my athletes, pro Nick Dufresne led most of the day at the Mooseman half and held tough to take 2nd place overall! Many others endured the insane heat index and held tough to finish high up in the AG/overall standings of their respective races as well.
A tough weekend for sure, but one to remember and learn from.
Friday, June 6, 2008
This stuff never gets any easier, but then again, despite the stacked international field I'll be facing and the weather forecast that's calling for 95 degree temps and humidity, the challenge that I'm about to face pales in comparison to what thousands faced 64 years ago
I still don't understand why June 6th isn't designated as a national day of remembrance here in this country. I checked CNN.com today and there wasn't even a blurb about the D-Day invasion. It breaks my heart to think that our country's greatest generation, a group of people who sacrificed and endured so much, is slowly being forgotten and taken for granted.
I'll be thinking a lot about June 6th, 1944 when the going gets really tough out there on Sunday (and it will).
Time to roll.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sometimes you just have to get away from it all, especially when your town is suddenly overrun by beach-going tourists!
Fortunately, I know of one of Cape Ann's best kept secrets: A tiny park, perched high above the sprawling Atlantic. Best of all, this pristine locale is almost completely obscured by lush vegetation and is so far off the beaten path that hardly anyone knows of it or ventures there. Today was no exception. I'll give you a hint on it's where-abouts: look past the peninsula and note the "twin" lights...
Anyway, what better way to relax than to leave the phone and laptop behind, grab a large Italian sub (with everything on it), a bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips, a root beer, (Amanda Russell is cringing right now) and, last but not least, Michelle, and head for the hills (hint #2).
After finishing off my meal, and half of Michelle's, we both enjoyed a mid afternoon nap in the shade and awoke to take stock in the fact that this was a taste of what's to come in just 4 week's time. I can't wait for summer!!!
Well, it's back to the grind tomorrow, but at least the training will be a bit easier for the next couple of weeks. Seems like just about 50% of my crew is hitting a half Ironman/70.3 event on June 8th, so we're all in this together; everyone is ready for taper time, and I'm no exception.
Hay is in the barn as they say, so nothing left to do now but rest up, sharpen up and get ready to roll. I can't wait for 6/8!
Monday, May 19, 2008
The Bottom line: First race of the year. First race as a pro. Olympic distance course (doesn't favor me thanks to my current swim handicap). No real taper to speak of. And oh yeah... the competition: Chris McCormack (reining IronMan World Champ), Chris Lieto (top 5 Hawaii guy and super cyclist), Australian Richie Cunninham (top international 70.3/Olympic distance athlete), Greg Ramaly (top US pro), Eric Limkemenn (super swimmer, US pro rookie of the year), Paul Fritzsche (2nd place at 2007 IM Wisconsin) and the young, super talented Andrew Yoder - Just to name a few.
Let's just say that I was wondering what the hell I was doing in the same room with these guys at the pro meeting on Saturday. I felt like I was in WAY over my head.
The Short of It: Once the dust had settled on Sunday, I had finished 6th place overall, laying down the 4th fastest bike split and 2nd fastest run split of the day.
My only regret from this past weekend: Not starting my kick earlier. After passing a few other athletes out on the run course (one of whom I coach - up and comer Nick Dufresne who is fast on his way to becoming a top pro), I had reeled Limkemann in to within just 20 yards with a 1/4 mile to go. I decided to wait until we hit the final rise about 200 meters from the finish line before launching an all out assault and trying to kick by him. He must have sensed my strategy however, because he attacked that final rise and drove hard to the finish line. By the time I responded, his gap was too much to bridge and he ended up beating me by 3 seconds.
Although I had accomplished everything (and more) that I had hoped to at this race, I'll be the first to admit that it really stung to watch him standing up there on the podium with Lieto, Yoder, McCormack and Cunningham. Standing next to those guys would have been a dream come true. No matter, Eric beat me fair and square, so that's the way it goes.
Anyway, it was a GREAT weekend and a huge confidence builder. I actually feel as though I belong in the Pro field now and can't wait to mix it up with the top athletes again in 3 weeks time. Rest assured that the med team will be carrying me off on a stretcher post race though, as I am going to make sure that I've squeezed every drop of effort out of my body by the time I cross the finish line. Eagleman will serve as the US Pro Long Course Championship - top 4 Americans will receive a stipend/all expense paid trip to Holland for the ITU Long Course World Championship.
Lastly, after talking with a lot of the pros, I'm realizing how much work I still have left in front of me. The only way that I'll be able to make that final jump from good domestic pro to world class pro is by leaving school and concentrating full time on prepping to race. I need to free up a lot more time and energy for my swimming in particular (see you soon John Ogden!).
Fortunately for me though, I'm swimming in the new blueseventy Helix with TST. I set a 2 min. 1500 meter swim PR yesterday and owe much of this fact to the Helix. This was my first open water swim of the year and I could not get over how flexible the new suit was! With the new Helix, there is zero, and I mean ZERO restriction in the shoulder/lat region. I almost felt as though I was cheating by wearing that suit!!!
Oh yeah... speaking of blueseventy, check out their new BLOG
I still can't believe that blueseventy is my wetsuit/speedsuit/goggle sponsor! It's very flattering to have the best wetsuit manufacturer in the world standing behind you. Their support means the world to me and I plan on returning the favor by working my ass off this year and really improving my swim. Knocking a couple more minutes off my swim times = podium and paychecks.
Final props go out to sponsors Craft-USA for their incredible Elite Tri kit (the most comfortable I've ever worn) and PowerBar for their nutritional products which keep me going strong on race day.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Must have something to do with the new Craft Cervelo Karhu Multisport Team that I'm racing for this year I figure (blueseventy is providing wetsuits for the team). But then I remember: I did send blueseventy a proposal back in November or December of 2007...
So I open the email up and at first glance it looks like yet another rejection notification:
Thanks for your sponsorship application.
We receive an extremely high volume and quality of applicants every day, and while we’d love to say yes to every request, this is simply not possible..."
Initial reaction: No worries, I'm used to it. I'm still swimming in the Helix this year anyway!
But I read on...
"However I am happy to say you’ve been selected for full sponsorship by blueseventy."
Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. The new blueseventy Helix with torsional stretch technology is, by far, the fastest, most flexible, best fitting suit on the market (and we all know that I can use all the help I can get in the water!!!). When I tried one on last week, I couldn't believe the degree of shoulder flexibility/range of motion it allows. I can honestly say that it felt as though I wasn't even wearing a wetsuit as I stretched my arms over my head!
In addition to the Helix, I'll be sporting the full line of blueseventy products this year, from the incredibly fast pointzero3 speedsuit to their goggles to the various blueseventy accessories I'll be putting to good use on both dry land and in the frigid North Atlantic this summer.
This very lucrative offer (I'll refrain from going into detail on the specifics of the contract) was a complete surprise and I am SO excited to call bluseventy my wetsuit/swim wear sponsor!
I'll have to celebrate with another good day of training tomorrow. I might be tired, but I'll be able to count on a little extra motivation when I wake up at least!
Happy Day! :)
Sunday, April 27, 2008
In the mean time, a sample of the critical numbers from this past 4 week block that clearly indicate that it's time to race:
Average Weekly Training Volume:
- 12,500 yards swimming
- 9.5 hours cycling
- 41 miles running
Key Swim Set:
- 25 x 100 @ 1:12 - 1:13 (open turns - still can't do a flip turn!)
- 25 miles on the ECV TT course in 1 hour @ 70.3 goal wattage: 308 avg/311 norm (thank you PowerTap). Not bad considering high state of fatigue.
Key Run Sessions:
- Around the Cape Course, 25k, progressive effort, executed 2 min. faster than fastest performance from 2007. You know you're getting fit when sub 6 min. mile pace for 10+ miles, over hilly terrain, doesn't seem very hard. Must have something to do with...
- Track workouts/economy sets (started inserting into the mix this year): 16 x 1/4 mile float @ 72 on 2 min. I want to get this set down to 20 x 1/4 @ 67 on 1:45 by season's end.
And last but not least....
- 153 lbs. I'm skinny again.
Okay. Time for bed. Big week of business and teaching coming up. 8 weeks to go and then I'm a free man: Completely self employed, able to train like a full time Pro and living the dream!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I entered the final quarter of the school year, and my teaching career as a whole, yesterday. I won't hide the fact that it's been a very stressful Spring. My coaching operation has blossomed into a full time job; one that I desperately need to find more time for. I'm extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many dedicated, talented athletes. Slowly but surely my vision of coaching a well rounded mix of age group, elite age group and pro/elite athletes is coming to fruition. I find myself both inspired and motivated by the work and results that my crew continues to turn in and am very excited about all that the '08 season holds in store for them. It's going to be a great year!
In addition to training over 30 athletes, I'm honoring the commitment I made to the Manchester-Essex school district and am finishing out my time there as a P.E./Health teacher. The 50 - 60 hour per week combo of full time coaching and part time teaching (60%) doesn't leave me with a lot of free time, but I continue to pound out 18 - 20 hours per week of training as I prepare for the 2008 tri season and my real debut on the Pro circuit. Thankfully, I have a very supportive girlfriend and partner in Michelle, as she's taken on the brunt of the household chores (cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc.) and has never once complained about my having to work late into the night, 7 days per week, including Saturday and Sunday nights (our social life is basically non-existent these days!).
But... I'm getting it done. Life is nothing more than training and working at the moment, but I fully realize just how lucky I am to be completely immersed in work that I truly love. I'm thankful that I won't have to attempt to keep this pace up much longer, but when I feel as though I'm at wit's end trying to hold it all together, I think about the thousands of soldiers over in Iraq and Afghanistan; Any amount of work or training related stress that I experience is completely insignificant compared to what these men and women must face on a daily basis. Here I am, safe and sound, fretting over the fact that I have to cram 6 hours of training and another 6 hours of work into a Saturday, while our servicemen and servicewomen are worrying about IEDs, snipers and suicide bombers every second of the day. Kind of keeps things in perspective.
After completing Sunday's long ride with my brother Corey, I spent the afternoon bouncing back and forth between work and live updates from ironmanlive.com's coverage of IronMan Arizona. It was a great thrill to watch Jordan Rapp secure a 3rd place overall finish in what turned out to be the closest 4 man finish in IronMan history (top 4 men all finished within 1:20 of each other)! I'm currently planning on capping my '08 season with the Fall running of IMAZ, so watching Jordan finish so high up really motivated me to pull the trigger and do what needs to be done on the training front between the months of late September and mid November.
But until that time, I have to make sure that I stay focused upon the task at hand: Whipping myself into shape for my early season events. I figure that I'll be at about 95% of peak fitness by Eagleman come June 8th. Realistically, there's no way that I can beat the guys who are able to focus 100% of their time and energy on training and recovery. I have to accept the fact that the best that I can do is all that I can do between now and the time that school ends. From there on in however, race prep will be a cake walk! I'm already dreaming about 4 hour training days and a more relaxed work schedule. Just have to "soldier on" for 10 more weeks...
Saturday, March 1, 2008
First off, believe it or not, aero wheel selection should constitute one of your secondary priorities when trying to figure out which gear you should invest in. The amount of drag generated by your rotating wheels is a relatively small fraction of the total drag you create when riding your bike.
Now don't get me wrong; you won't find me toeing the line of a major event, or any event for that matter, without my Zipp's, but the reality of the situation is this: The differences between the various aero wheels on the market are so slight that it really doesn't matter whether you're riding a set of 404s or 808s. In all actuality, for you smaller riders, the deeper wheel set might be more of a hindrance than benefit, especially when the cross winds really start to kick up.
Most people will find a wheel set like the Zipp 606 (404 front, 808 rear) to be about as good as it gets. For those of you who weigh in on the heavier side (160+ lbs) and can handle your bike well in cross winds (very important when you're screaming down a hill @ 30+ mph!), consider an 808 set up or even the Zipp 999 (808 front, rear disc).
See the following article by Zipp for a very informative discussion on the relationship between yaw angles, wheel design and drag.
Yes, I am a very big fan of Zipp wheels. I firmly believe that they are the best wheels on the market today, both from a quality and aerodynamic standpoint, and would ride them no matter if the company supported me or not.
Worried about wheel weight??? Don't be. There's a reason that you're going to start seeing more and more pros riding clincher wheels these days, regardless of the fact that they weigh up to 1lb. more than their carbon/tubular rim counterparts. The reason: Crr, otherwise known as the coefficient of rolling resistance.
I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to do your homework before you invest in a particular set of race tires. Believe it or not, your tire selection can prove to be MUCH more important than your wheel selection. Case in point: the wrong set of tires can cost you SIGNIFICANT amounts of time during a 40k, 90k or 180k TT. To put things in perspective, I rode a particular set of tubulars at last year's Eagleman 70.3 and based off of their Crr (when compared to the fastest tires on the market) I ADDED about 90 seconds to my 90k bike split! Shaving 90 sec. would have moved me up from 8th place overall to 5th place overall - just in front of Australian triathlete and 2007 IM Louisville champion Chris McDonald!
Please review the list of tires found HERE and their various Crrs/Crr related information. Take a close look at the number of watts required to move EACH tire (when mounted to a wheel). Double that number when you consider the fact that, unless you ride a uni-cycle, your bike has 2 wheels. You may very well be surprised to note that your current tire selection is costing you MINUTES in a long course race! The goal is to find the optimal balance between a tire that offers a low Crr and HIGH puncture resistance. Dean can help you with this critical decision.
As for the tubular vs. clincher debate, you'll notice that the top clinchers do in fact roll slightly faster than the top tubulars. However... Keep in mind that there are trade offs.
A tubular will pinch flat far less often than a clincher, so you're rolling the dice just a little more often when you race on clinchers (the way that I do). If I were a short course athlete, I wouldn't worry about puncture resistance and would opt for the fastest tire on the market, i.e. the Michelin Pro2Race lite or the new Pro3Race lite which has yet to be released.
For the long course athletes who ride clinchers, the Michelin Pro2Race (my tire choice) offers solid puncture protection, but will cost you a few watts. Tubular riders would do well on the Vittoria Corsa EVO CX or the Zipp Tangente. However, MAKE SURE that you have a Pro like Mark at Fitwerx 2 glue your tires on for you, as improperly mounted/glued tubulars can greatly increase your Crr and slow you down big time!
Rider position: I won't harp on this one. This is, by far, the most important factor when looking at the relationship between power output and drag. Your goal: Get as aero as possible (i.e. reduce drag) while maintaining or improving (for those of you on bikes that just don't fit!) power output. For the long course athletes in attendance, comfort while in the aero position in another key concern, so be prepared to sacrifice a bit of drag reduction for a higher degree of comfort and a lower back that's still in one piece after 90 - 180k of hard riding.
Bottom line: Spend the money and get yourself dialed in to your optimal aero position before you drop a cent on any gear (tires excluded given their relative low cost!).
Power Meter: Along with the majority of my client base, I am training and will be racing with a power meter this year. In 5 short weeks, I have seen unprecedented gains in my cycling fitness thanks to the use of my PowerTap 2.4 wireless. Simply put, if you're not using a power meter, you are at a major disadvantage during both training and racing.
Through field testing, a power meter allows you to clearly establish your precise training zones and, as a result, expedite your rate of physiological adaptation. By pinpointing critical sustainable power outputs such as your power at 100% of VO2max (i.e. average of max 6 min. effort power), power at high end of threshold (i.e. avg. of max 20 min. power) and MLSS power (avg. power for max 60 min. effort) you not only attain a blue print of your current aerobic profile, but can distinctly determine the EXACT efforts that you will need to work at in order to improve your cycling performances!
A power meter removes all of the variables from the training equation. No matter what the course grade, wind conditions, temperatures, road surface, tire Crr, etc. etc. you'll know exactly what you need to do every time you step out the door or onto your trainer.
In a race, you'll be able to pace yourself precisely to ensure that your effort remains steady throughout and that your legs are ready to roll as soon as you dismount and hit the run course (this statement takes into account the assumption that you've kept up with your run training!).
Outside of optimizing your TT position, training and racing with a PM is by far the best investment you can make. SRM, PowerTap and Ergomo are the brands to reach for.
Frame design: Yes, a properly designed areo frame will help to reduce total drag, but not nearly to the same degree that proper rider position will. Aero frames do help, but the time savings are pretty minimal. Priority should be placed upon how well YOUR body fits a particular frame, not the other way around. Once again, Dean can help here.
Aero helmet: Another relatively inexpensive means of reducing total drag. All things being equal, a good aero helmet will probably shave about as much time off your 40k TT as a set of aero wheels when yaw angles are really low (i.e. <2 degrees). As the yaw angle increases however, so do the benefits of your aero wheels.
In closing, if I could rank the importance of the issues mentioned above, and help you to prioritize what and where you should spend your money when it comes to racing and training cycling gear, it would be this:
1. Aero/TT Position
2. Tire selection
3. Power Meter
4. Aero Wheels
5. Aero Helmet
6. Aero Frame
Last but not least, always remember that the best gear/position in the world is close to useless if your engine isn't strong! I find it very "amusing" to watch people on $7,000 bikes traveling down the road at 13 or 14 mph. during big races. I think that they forgot somewhere along the way that fitness, above all else, reigns supreme!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I'm happy to report that I just capped an excellent 4 week block of intensive training today! Despite the snow, cold, work related stress, Norwalk virus that's hitting everyone I know, etc. I've been able to "get r' done" on the training front and have attained a notable jump in fitness as a result. Knock on wood, but based off of the key workouts I've been laying down, I think that this is the fittest I've ever been in the month of February. I feel as though I'm 2 training cycles (8 - 9 weeks) away from being 100% ready to roll.
First off, thanks to CycleOps, I am the proud new owner of a PowerTap SL 2.4 wireless power meter and CycleOps Mag+ trainer. Let's just say that I have put both to VERY good use this month. I'm tempted to divulge some of the numbers that I've been laying down as of late during key workouts, but I'll keep it on the DL. You'll have to try to pull the specifics from Dean "the machine" Phillips over at Fitwerx2, as he and I share training tips and power files from time to time. For those of you not in the know, Dean is, hands down, the fastest short course cyclist and one of the very best elite triathletes in all of NE. He set the new course record at the Charlie Baker TT (Concord, MA) this past summer, averaging JUST under 30 mph for the 9.9 or 9.8 mile course. To put things further into perspective, the old record was held by professional cyclist and former US Pro Champion Mark McCormack. I'll also note that Dean broke Tyler Hamilton's old mark over at the ECV TT this summer as well. If you're looking for help with your TT position and gear selection, look no further than Dean. I trust him, Marty and Mark over at Fit Werx2 in Peabody, MA with ALL of my cycling/TT related needs.
Anyway, I enjoyed a very consistent and progressive 4 weeks of training and am looking forward to an active recovery week (on the cycling and run fronts at least!) this coming week (2/25 - 3/2).
Looking forward, March will be a very interesting month. As it stands, I'm feeling absolutely sensational in training and the wattage meter is confirming the fact I'm well ahead of schedule fitness wise. I have a couple of key cycling sessions lined up for next month that will really allow me to gauge where things stand and what I'm capable of on "the battle field." If the engine is firing the way I think it will be, then I might have to book a round trip ticket out to California to kick my long course season off a little earlier than expected.
As for the sponsorship front, I hope to announce the specifics of my new team, "Craft USA" within the next week or 2. Also, for those of you who were wondering, yes, I turned down a spot on the 2008 Team Timex pro squad and went with Craft instead. The Timex offer was a very, very generous one, and I'm still hoping that I made the right decision, but ultimately, family is most important (my brother Corey is the marketing manager at Craft).
PowerBar, my sponsor of nearly 12 years, is back on board for 2008 and 2009! As is the case with every sponsor/supporter I associate myself with, I would never utilize or promote a product that I did not firmly believe increased my chances for success on race day. I rely heavily upon PowerBar products during both training and racing and truly appreciate their grass roots support.
I'm also extremely excited about the fact that I'm receiving some great support from Zipp this year. I've always known that Zipps were the fastest wheels on the market... I just haven't always been able to afford them!!! I rode a set of their 808s to a very high degree of success in the second half of 2007, and have decided to stick to what works and roll on a set of their 808 PowerTap clinchers this season. I'm also looking forward to putting the new Zipp PowerTap disc to good use when it's available sometime later this Summer. If things continue to go as well as they are on the training front, I'm very confident that these wheels, when coupled with a correct pacing strategy (thank you PowerTap!) will lead to some pretty nasty bike splits out on the North American 70.3/long course circuit.
That'll do it for now.
See you out on the roads soon. Spring is right around the corner!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Living in Gloucester, MA has plenty of advantages, one of which is that, besides my friend Christina Robeson, who lives right up the street from me (and just narrowly missed breaking the 10 hour barrier at the 2007 Ironman Florida!), there are very few triathletes in my neck of the woods. I enjoy the fact that I'm out here at the very end of the continent, on my own little island, and don't have to face down a slew of tri-geeks every time I hit the roads or pool. I don't think that I could hack living in San Diego or Boulder. The saying "ignorance is bliss" is something that I can definitely relate to. I'm so far removed to what everyone else is doing that I don't spend any time worrying about how my workouts stack up, who looks fitter, etc. I can simply operate freely: Set a goal, design a training plan that will allow me to achieve it, and then get to work.
Last year, I had a couple of key objectives: Break 4 hours for the half I.M. distance and win the overall amateur title at the 70.3 World Championship.
Well, I broke 4 hours twice and did in fact capture the overall amateur title at Clearwater. I accomplished every objective that I set for myself last year, and see no reason why I can't do so again in 2008, although this time, there's only one goal that I'll be chasing: Breaking 3:50 for the half Ironman/70.3 distance.
To date, I've been working 2 jobs while doing my best to effectively prep for long course events. Things are going to get a lot easier come June when I finally end my teaching career and will be free to focus 100% of my efforts upon my coaching business (I'm currently training 30 athletes) and my own training & racing. However, the success that I've experienced athletically despite my juggling act and limited training time has reinforced something that I've always believed to be true about training for triathlon: Sometimes, less is more.
I could ramble on and on about how important it is to find the optimal balance between stress (hard training) and recovery (active or passive) and how this balance, ultimately, will vary from individual to individual. There's no disputing the fact that in order to compete with a high degree of success, you have to consistently get out there and bust your ass week in, week out for months on end. However... when scrolling through the message boards and reading up on what some age group and elite triathletes lay down training wise on a daily/week-to-week basis, I begin to ask myself whether the majority of triathletes out there are in this sport to see how fast they can get or to simply see how much training they can subject their bodies to on a weekly basis.
I look back to the 1996 running of the Hawaii Ironman. On that day, we saw Luc Van Lierde, a man who had never run further than 30k in training or racing, catch uber biker Thomas Hellriegel in the late stages of the marathon. Luc not only won the race that day, but set the new course record (formerly held by the legendary Mark Allen) in his first attempt at the Ironman. Less than 1 year later, he went on to set the "world best" mark for the Ironman distance: 7:50; a mark that still stands to this day. Luc's record at Roth, Germany in 1997 included the fastest swim (44 min) and run (2:36) splits ever recorded.
What impressed me most about Luc Van Lierde was his approach towards training for long course triathlon. In contrast to what athletes like Hellriegel were laying down (i.e. 800 miles per week on the bike + full run and swim loads!!!) his coach, exercise physiologist Jan Olbrect, believed that when it came to training, the goal should be to execute the LEAST amount of training necessary in order to achieve the best possible result on race day.
Any moron can go out and hammer themselves into the ground with heavy training volume day in, day out. Do this for a few months on end, taper down for a 3 or 4 weeks, and then presto: As long as you're not overly broken down, injured or sick, you'll cross the finish line and will be able to call yourself an Ironman.
Van Lierde purportedly utilized an Ironman build up that consisted of 20 - 30k swimming, 500k cycling and 90k running each week; totals that are far lower than what most pros, and even some age group triathletes record on a weekly basis when prepping for an Ironman. His total training volume, in hours, was somewhere around 27/week. Key training sessions reflected the exact stress he would subject his body to on race day. All "junk" mileage was removed from the plan. Training intensities were precisely established after blood lactate testing and analysis. His approach was nothing short of perfect.
This scientific/quality over quantity approach to long course training is what initially and continues to inspire me as both coach and athlete. Thanks to the Internet, I've had a chance to compare my own training against that of some of the top pros. Bottom line is that I'm equaling, or out splitting the times being recorded on the bike and run fronts by guys who:
- Are vastly superior to me, genetically/talent wise
- Don't have to work/can train all day
- Train 30 - 50% more than I do
I don't live at altitude. I don't have any sponsors paying my way. I don't have the god given talent... But I do have a training plan, and I'm starting to believe that in many ways, it's superior to anything that my competition is following.
We'll see: Less than 4 months until theory and practice collide.