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Monday, May 31, 2010

Pump and Run Race Report

We got a break from the weather Friday night for the Pump and Pant Extravaganza. It was not nearly as warm as it could have been. The race had got me back into the weight room at the gym for the last two months. In addition, I knew that I would have to watch my weight carefully. I do love the body weight lifts (or body weight calculated lifts). You can get stronger or lose weight to get more lifts. I was hoping to do both.

When I first started training for the lift my best was 32 reps (32 x 20 seconds = 10:40). That would not be enough to even place. I kept up the lifts twice a week and had some great gains. While I was training I realized that the bench press has a huge skill component. It is not simply how strong you are. I worked with the timing – I added a pause of the lift. I started to add segments to the lift. I also started to cheat a little bit with the bounce off of the chest. This allowed me to work my way up into the 40’s and then 50. I was stuck at exactly 50 reps for the last couple of weeks. And then I had a breakthrough and was able to push myself to 55 reps (55 x 20 seconds = 18:20). This would get me low – this could win the race. The bounce was saving my arms – it was not like I was being wild but I was getting more reps. The momentum allowed me to overcome the sticking point as my arms fatigued. This was working.

I made a few mistakes leading up to the race. With the run only being a 5k I continued with my normal run training. This meant intervals out on the trace on Tuesday. This was challenging – the speed stayed up (quarter miles at < 1:25) but the recovery dropped to 30 seconds. On top of this the heat and the humidity increased (as if it were possible). I failed on the intervals giving up after 9 repeats. I walked slowly back to campus. I also got back into the group ride on Thursday morning. For good measure I actually upped the swimming and had two breakthrough sessions on both Wednesday and Thursday. And if that was not enough of a ‘taper’ I challenged some friends to a flex arm hang throw down during lunch on Thursday. I could really feel this in my biceps on race morning.
I jumped on the scale Friday (race) morning and scale showed 158.0. This was not acceptable. You see I have been judging my performance on lifting 110 lbs (158.0 x 70% = 100.6). The race would be rounding up. I needed to lose a pound of weight while resting the legs and the upper body!

I was determined to not affect my performance but I need to drop a pound. I normally do not eat any salt in my meals and today would not be any different. That is just what I did not need – retain some water. I ate my normal oatmeal for breakfast and since I was not exercising there would be no second breakfast. I drank my normal coffee all morning.

Not knowing what to do with myself without being able to work out at lunch I grabbed a book and headed to the gym. I need to get my ‘lifting gloves’ from my locker. I also jumped in the sauna for 30 minutes and read my book. I was careful about the length of time.

For lunch I had another bowl of oatmeal. I had some homemade soup in the refrigerator but I knew there was a little bit of salt in the soup – so oatmeal again. I also limited myself to only 32 ounces of water for the afternoon. I normally drink about a gallon of water while sitting at my desk at work. I knew that this would not put me into dehydration but it would limit the extra weight.

After work I weighed again at home. I was seeing 156.6 (dressed in my running clothes but no shoes). This was perfect. However, it was still close. I grabbed 2 gels (with 2x caffeine) and 2 bottles of sports drink. I was going to load up on the sugars and caffeine right after I recorded my weight.

I arrived at the race site and had my bag of goodies. I got in line at the scale and took off my shoes. I nervously got on the scale. I know that scales can fluctuate. The reading was exactly 157 pounds. This was a huge relief (157.0 x 70% = 109.9). I had made my weight. I took a gel and downed a small sports drink. It took about 15 minutes before we were ready to start the lift. Robin explained all of the rules. For each lift to count - Feet had to be on the floor – check. The bar had to touch your check – check. Absolutely no bouncing off of the chest - what? Damn, damn, damn! I was going to have to lift legitimately.

The high school had 10 bench presses and they were doing different weights at each station. There were several people lifting less weight than 110 lbs but most had to lift more – some much more. The guy right before me was also lifting my weight. I let him go first and he put up a huge number – 40 reps! He was wearing board shorts and a wife beater undershirt – I was willing to bet that he could not run.

Feet on floor, bar at chest, no bounce!

Not sure what is up with my arm - fatigue.

I was next. I did a quick set of 10 pushups and I took that second gel– I take this stuff seriously. I mentally broke the lift up in 12 rep segments – I would pause for a second after each segment. In practice this would allow for me to lift 12 / 12 / 12 / 6 / 6 / ? / ? – We would see today. I was extra careful about the clean lifting. I knew that if any of the reps did not count that it would affect the entire lift. I did not want to fail mentally. I just wanted to put together a good set. It was tough. The first three segments went just like training but that is where the arms got heavy. Once I got to 36 reps I broke it down into sets of 3 – this did not work long. Then it was every single rep that I could get. This is where the bounce in practice had helped. I eked out a couple more reps for a total of 45 (45 x 20 = 15:00).

I watched my friends finish up their lifts and then we headed outside for the 2 loop 5k. My friend Neil was there and I was going to pace off of his shoulder. This strategy has allowed me to PR in the past. I saw the guy in the board shorts (he had taken off the wife beater). He was lined up right with me. A little bit of chit chat and then, bang, we were off. I settled in behind Neil and just ran. The pace was hard but manageable. I had my ‘virtual nemesis’ on my GPS watch set for a 19:00 5k. I was killing him. Putting 10’s of feet into him.

Neil and I stride for stride

However, as always, he generally is a much better pacer than I am. The pace started to get hard at the mile mark and I had to let Neil go after a mile and half (I was a couple of hundred feet ahead of the virtual trainer on my watch). My heart rate was sky high – like 190 BPM. This is okay at the end of a 5k but not in the middle. I tried to let my heart rate come back to me but it was not going to happen – I was not going to walk or anything – I just wanted to walk – NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

I watched Neil pull away. I was trying to maintain my pace and not lose too much ground. I was secure in 6th place. I was still running hard just not at the previous pace. My heart rate stayed high but my pace dropped. The race was hurting. I just went out too fast.

There were a lot of 90 degree turns during the race. I hate it when I do this but I started to look behind me during the turns – to see how ‘comfortable’ I was. He was a good ways back but that dude in the board shorts was right there! I was drifting back from Neil and this guy was gaining – it was all happening very slow but it WAS happening.

I would later look at my splits and see that the first 1.5 miles was clocked off at 9 minutes exactly (that is an 18:38 5k pace – My PR last year was 19:09) – too fast for me. No wonder I was blowing up!

There was a long straight away leading to a 90 degree turn around with a 200 yard sprint to the finish. On this first long straight way I started to hear someone coming up on me. Then I saw a shadow. @#$%!!! I was hurting but I picked the pace up. The shadow stayed with me. I rounded the 90 degree turn around and the guy was so close that I did not see him. He was right there on my shoulder! He was going to slingshot around me! I picked it up again! I was running as fast I could and just trying to hold on. It was dead heat. I crossed the finish line a few feet in front. I was able kept my 6th place finish!

Getting reeled in!

Foot race at the end


Why do we run? - because it feels so good to STOP!

As soon as I crossed the finish line I had to sit down. I have never kicked that hard at the end of a race – NEVER. A couple of minutes later I congratulated the guy behind me for a solid race and thanked him for pushing me. I needed the pressure.

Cooling down

Awards were given to the top 12 (there were 50 participants). I was really impressed with some of the placing. There were a couple of lifter type guys that put up more than 40 reps at very respectable weights. They placed high in the standings. The guy that I had the sprint with ended up with 3rd or 4th. And the second place participate was a young track girl that lifted 50% of her body weight 48 times. She also ran a 21:xx 5k. I only had a rep or so to spare. If the guy had not pushed in the race I could have drifted back in the standings – that is why I love competition.

I ended up taking first with a time of 4:54 (19:54 5K – 15:00 = 4:54). It was a great race and a lot closer than I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to run a little faster and I thought I was going to lift a little more. I got lucky. Everything came together just enough – my weight, my lifts, and my run.

Sometimes just enough really is enough! I look forward to the race next year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pump and Run - Victory

Victory is mine - no PR's for lifting or running but a win none the less!!!!

45 reps and a sub-20 5K = FIRST PLACE

Full race report to follow.

PUMP AND RUN - Go time!

The pump and run is TODAY. This challenge has gotten me back in the weight room for the last 10 weeks – wow it has been that long. I have not been overdoing but I have been making a true effort. I have been lifting the 70% of my body weight one day a week – to complete failure for multiple sets. The other bench day I would lift closer to 90% of my body weight - two plates. These sets were not always to failure but they were demanding. One day a couple of weeks ago I even tried to see what my maximum lift might be – it was not pretty – about 205 lbs. I thought I was a bit stronger than that.  I have noticed that I have a lot of endurance when lifting.  If you give me 90 seconds recovery my lifts don't drop of as much as others.  Now actual strength - that is another matter.

This competition has also made me very aware of my weight – I have been diligent – I feel like a prize fighter having to meet weight.

The competition rules are as follows:


This event will start with a weigh-in at the field house. Participants will bench press a percentage of their body weight as many consecutive times as possible. Time deductions will be awarded for each repetition completed.

The 5k run will take place 10 minutes after the last lifter has completed their lifts. 5K times will be recorded and bench press time deductions will be calculated. Overall finishing time will be calculated and winners will be awarded.

Female participants will lift 50% of their body weight and Male participants 70%.

Time Deductions per Repetition
Male/Female 39 and under               20 seconds
Male/Female 40-59                      25 seconds
Clydesdales (200lbs) /Athena (145lbs)  27 seconds
Male/Female 60+                        27 seconds

So the race / competition will take place today at 5:30PM at the Oak Grove High School – I imagine the temperature will be scorching.

With the competition taking place at 5:30PM I am sure that the temperature will be a factor – scorching I imagine. There is also a chance of thunderstorms! 

I have some pretty aggressive goals for myself. I have not run a 5K since last March (14 months ago) and I am not sure where my 5K pace is located. I hope that there will be a few rabbits for me to chase. I have had success in the past if I can hold someones shoulder. My last 5K was also a PR at 19:09 - I would love to see 18:5X!

I weighed this morning and I am pushing my upper limit for for my bench press.  I weighed in at 158 lbs - this is a good weight for me but the 70% rule will put that at 110.6 lbs.  I have done all of my 70% sessions at 110 lbs.  The weigh in will be crucial to success.

Furthermore, I lifted on Monday afternoon and my counts were totally off – like 20% off. I need a lot of things to come together to put up my best time.
If you are in the area you should really come out – there is not late fee registration or anything! See Flyer.

This race will be a lot of fun!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why I (YOU) need a triathlon coach. (overview)

Yesterday I was perusing the blog-o-sphere and came across a question that I have asked myself many times. Matty O over at Staying strong and positive was questioning a training plan that he has been following (for a couple of days anyway). He wrote, “I feel that the training sessions I was doing before I started this program were MUCH more well rounded and intense than this program recommends. … Do you typically add more mileage or time on your workouts across the board? I feel that I am slacking pretty hardcore now and yet I say, this is what the plan says I need to do???”

I have written a number of training plans for myself and for others. But when it comes down to following the training plans I always want to add more – more intensity, more volume, more speed, more reps – you get the picture.
Time to get a pair of coaches shorts

This is so short sighted. As self-trained athletes we only see the workouts in front of us. When I have used generic training plans I have rarely even looked past the current day much less the current week. I certainly have not looked at the entire training plan. I do not take into account all of the thought that has gone into the plan. Even in the simplest of plans there should be a base, build and a peak to prepare you for your A priority races.

Now when I follow my plans I always forget (disregard) why I have put these steps in place. I have a group of cyclist that I love to go out and hammer it. I have a group of runners that I love to go out and smash it. It is hard for me to have the discipline to not DO IT ALL – everyday. It is hard for me to take recovery into consideration. I have a bias when it comes to my training. I believe that I know best on a day to day basis but I am not looking at the big picture.

The times that I have followed a training plan, and I mean really followed a plan has been few and far between. But this is where I have seen the most progress. This is where I have done the best. It takes discipline and trust to follow a structured plan but the rewards are great.

To be fair, Matty O has only been following this plan for a couple of days and it may indeed need a lot of tweaking. It would appear that his current fitness is greater than the new plan recognizes.

It would be much easier to rely on a coach to make these training decisions for you. A coach can put an end to all of the second guessing. They can tailor the training plan to your lifestyle – your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. You just have to get up and just do the workout.  The training and the workouts are the easy part.

A good coach should provide the following (I did a quick brain storming session and put these in alpha order - I will elaborate on these in coming posts):

Goal Setting
Race strategies
Race weight management
Sounding board

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eating on the road

While the title of this post could easily be about gels and sports drink while cycling it is much more mundane. It is actually about driving. You see this past weekend I took a short trip to my father’s house. He lives in east Texas about 6 and half hours away.

Now I know that I am a snacker when I am bored. So to combat this practice I usually bring a ton of good foods with me for the ride. By good foods I mean baby carrots, fat free refried bean burritos, maybe some granola bars, etc.

I have eaten so many baby carrots while driving that I have even coined a term for it – carrot belly. This is when you have eaten 2 pounds of carrots in as many hours. I swear my skin is an orange tone and I have a slight belly ache.

The problem is that when I am bored I will eat. I eat non-stop. So even though I pack these good nutritious foods they are gone before I hit the highway.

I mean, I will eat the snacks and lunch in the first couple of hours. One time I was travelling to see some friends back in the Midwest. This time I had to fly and the airport is about an hour away. I had a couple of fiber one bars during the drive and another couple while at the airport. Due to some non-act of God the flight ended up being cancelled. By the time I got my airfare refunded I had consumed 12 fiber one bars – 100 + grams of fiber in about 3 hours. I was unpleasant to deal with.

So this time I took a different route. I would be driving for about 6 and half hours on Saturday and the same amount of time returning on Monday. I dug around the refrigerator before I left and I grab a single grilled chicken breast. True to my nature the chicken breast was gone in the first 2 hours. But I had nothing else to eat and I did not stop. This was enough. I did not need all of the snacks.

On the return trip I did not pack anything at all. I had a good breakfast before leaving my father’s house and I was not hungry until several hours later. I did stop and have a subway sandwich. Calorie wise, I did much better than in the past.

Sometimes planning ahead is not the right answer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

4 essential elements of multisport

You can’t open a magazine or view a website without being bombarded with the latest and greatest supplements. They have names like Xplode and Ripped Freak (yes that is a real one)  They tell you to drink this to recover faster. To take this to drop body fat.  And to take this one for unlimited energy.  While some of these items might improve your fitness that is only after you have everything else in order. Here are the essential elements to better yourself in multisport.

1. Water – You have to have this one. Proper hydration is important. You just can’t perform well, especially in the heat, if you don’t take care of your water intake. You really do not need the sports drink unless you are working out extremely hard and for more than an hour. The shakes and sports drinks are not as important as the advertisements would have you think. While they won’t hurt you they can provide a lot of sugars that your body probably does not need. Sports drink after a vigorous workout of more than an hour is not going to be a problem but you do not need to be sipping on the stuff will walking around the mall. Drink up – Hyponatremia (water Intoxication) is probably not much of a risk for most of us.

2. Food – You have to fuel the body. Performance will suffer if you work out on an empty stomach. Food is also important for post exercise recovery. Try to eat real food. This means items that do not come in a box. That’s right – fruits, vegetables, whole grains. If the food does come in a box pick the one with the fewest ingredients. Something like oatmeal is a good choice – 1 ingredient – rolled oats.

3. Exercise – You have to tax the body. You need good solid works that have structure and overload the body. There is no replacement for a solid workout from a solid training plan. You only want to work the body hard enough to adapt.

4. Sleep / recovery – The body needs time to adapt from the training load that you have provided. The muscles do not grow during the workout session. In fact that is when they are damaged. Your body needs rest and recovery built into your training plan in order to become stronger. When training hard, a nap or a few extra hours of sleep is probably better than waking up early for another strenuous work out.

Get all of the basics down.  Once you are seeing results and making gains then you can start to think about supplements.  They still won't do what they claim.  There are not any short cuts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cheers & Jeers – Strong running, Strong swimming

Cheers Continued solid running - group intervals sessions (last week and this week and the week before). 12 x quarter miles at < 1:25. The rest interval dropped to 60 seconds and the temperature and humidity through the roof. SOLID!

Jeers More of the same - Tough tempo runs. The effort has been there but the pace dropped. The heat is a factor.

Cheers - The same tempo run was also a huge success. I did not stop or let up in effort. IT was a great LT run. One of my best ever. I just wish the pace had been a little faster. Running in the heat of the day will make me a beast!

Jeers I did not make any of the group rides. I HAVE to fit at least one into my workout schedule.

Cheers Good solid swim sessions. I did 100 yard repeats that kept on pace - all 10 of them. I also did an easy 1500 yard set that rivaled some of last years time trials. The swimming is easier and faster - without even trying!

Jeers I won't get any biking in this weekend.

Cheers Going to see my dad this weekend. I will bring lots of plants back for the yard! And I will get a strong hill run.

Cheers I am taking a CPR class at the fitness center this afternoon. Only $10 bucks!

Jeers While I hate the fact that doping is in cycling (actually doping is in all sports - cycling just happens to check), whenever someone comes clean they shoot the messenger. If you want a clean sport you throw out the franchise that allows the doping. Follow the money.

Cheers I set a new MAX reps for the 70 percent bench press. The press and run race is next Friday!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Goal setting - a couple more points

I forgot a couple of other important points to setting goals. These work particularly well for me.

I am a data junky. I measure things. I write things down. Now I usually do not actually go back and run statistics on the data but the act of writing the numbers down keeps me on task. For example, I weigh myself every morning and write it down. I have been doing this for nearly 10 years. I started doing this when my weight was an issue. But, writing it down each morning keeps me honest with my weight. It is a reminder. It also makes it less likely that I will over indulge – I have to step up to the scale the next morning and the number gets recorded. No if ands or buts – the numbers don’t lie (although they can fluctuate wildly).

The act of measuring (and recording) will allow you to make better decisions – like it or not. Want to eat better. Start a food journal. If you are honest and write everything down you will be much less likely to grab a few pieces of candy out of the receptionists jar. It causes you to have personal accountability for your actions.

And speaking of accountability, tell the world of your goals. Lay it all out for your friends and family. The people around you will give you support and they will also let you know when you slip up.

I know so many people that say that they have goals but they keep them to themselves. Why? Keeping their goals hidden just provides an out. Are they afraid of failure or success? Jon Berghoff uses the phrase "Leverage your Integrity." He elaborates, "Public commitment closes the door on backing down, giving up or delaying of a dream."

If my goals are not written down and declared they are just wishes – lottery tickets if you will.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ultramarathon Video and weekly update

I can relate to that video - I can get so bonky sometimes.  More funny here.

I have said it before – “I love this time of year!” This is the time of year where everyone is getting back into the groove full force. I have cycling buddies who are hitting it hard on the group ride. I have running buddies that are hitting hard with the intervals. This has been a lot of fun.

However, the only commonality between the groups is that I have been doing both – and HARD. What this means is that I have been barely hanging on the bike and barely hanging on the run. I have thrown the training plan out the window and I have just been having fun. Well, this came to a head about a week and a half ago. Something had to give. I was doing my hardest sessions on the same days – Tuesdays and Thursdays. My body rejected this idea. I can’t do a HARD effort bike in the morning and then a HARD effort on the run three hours later.

What happened was everything started to suffer. I logically know that every workout session cannot be hard but it is so much fun. So, last week I got smart again and dialed back the HARD efforts.

This week has seen some impressive accomplishments. First, I have refocused my cycling interval sessions. These are very structured on the trainer. They are short and BITTER. Tough stuff but I will see gains. Second, I have moved the hard efforts to separate days. The running has picked up. The intervals have gotten harder and I am maintaining (this is double bonus time with the heat and humidity taking it to another level). I have determined that I can still do two-a-days but I need the HARD (breakthrough) sessions separated. Third, the swimming is getting some quality time and the times are coming down. I still need more time in the pool. And last, I had a breakthrough on the reps for the pump and run competition. The reps are moving in the right direction!

I need not forget – the training is only the stimulus – the gains come from recovery!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SMART goal setting.

Are you meeting your goals?

This is a question that is often on my mind. Hey, wait a minute; I’m getting ahead of myself.

Are you setting goals? Do you know how to set goals? I have found that all my greatest successes were from a calculated plan. Luck very rarely just happens. As the old saying goes, “You make your own luck!” And luck is easier to manufacture when you set goals. I have always had my own ways for setting goals but I ran across this fantastic acronym – SMART.

Specific –

You have heard this before. The goal has to be specific. You cannot say I want to be healthier or faster or wealthier. That won’t cut it. A specific goal will answer the basic questions of: What do you want to achieve? Why do you want to achieve this? How are you going to achieve this?

One other important aspect of the initial goal setting is to ask yourself, “Is this my goal?” You may ultimately have success but it will be much easier (and gratifying) if it is your goal.

Measurable –

The goal must be measurable. This is how you gauge your progress. This is how you know that you are going in the right direction. This can be weight on a scale, inches around your waste or seconds in a foot race. If you are using the goal to establish a new habit then this is paramount – number of time to the gym in a week, fruits and veggies in your diet, miles per week, etc. Count it, measure it, weight it – achieve it!

Attainable –

Many goals seem unobtainable. However, almost all goals can be achieved if you break them up into steps. These small “progressive goals” will allow you to have success. And these successes will keep you motivated.

I use the term comfortably hard all the time. For me this is an effort that is challenging but not drop-dead difficult. I think that this is the sweet spot on many things – training, goals, etc. If the effort is too difficult you will give up – if not today then soon. It is not a question of will power, discipline or determination.

Losing two pounds a week is better than saying a need to lose 100 pounds now. You are not instantly going to drop 10 inches off of your waist but maybe an inch or two this month is achievable. You are not going to go from the couch to a Boston BQ by this weekend.

Success builds on success.

Realistic –

Your goals need to be just out of reach. If they are too close then they are not a challenge and do not have the necessary value to motivate. On the other hand, they must be realistic – we are talking about goals not dreams and fantasies. None of us are going to the Olympics (except as spectators) and none of us are going to have the fitness magazine (read – airbrushed) beach bodies.

How do you run a sub-18 minute 5k? First you run an 18:15 and then work really, really hard. Be realistic.

Timely –

You must have a time frame of your goals. Without a since of urgency the goal will not have priority. You will think that you can miss this workout or eat that piece of cake. After all you have forever …

Putting these steps into practice and you will achieve your goals – it is just a matter of time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Editorial - Swimsuit issue - COMMITED

The swimsuit issue has hit the news stand. And, as with any swimsuit issue you are going to get letters that say cancel my subscription, etc. This is just going to happen. I am sure the editors of magazines that do swimsuit issues weigh the newsstand impact against alienating their core audience. Sports magazines continue to do, transportation magazines (car, boat, motorcycle) continue to do it.

I am trying to remember the past swimsuit issues in Triathlete magazine. I thought that they tried to show representatives of people that actually do triathlons. I guess not anymore (I don't know for sure but I remember past swimsuit issues having a little bio next to the model saying what activities they enjoyed).  The models in the swimsuit spread do not represent typical triathletes nor do their swimsuits. NOTE: I do not have a subscription to Triathlete but I did flip through the pages at the book store.

But the swimsuit models are not the news this year. The seat manufacture Fizik has a 2-page ad that shows the real champions of our sport. The caption reads “COMMITED” and the ad has sparked some controversy on the message boards. Many say that these athletes look gaunt and ill - unhealthy. While I am sure the juxtaposition between the beach body pageantry of the swimsuit layout models is being played up I think our cultural definition of health and performance has changed.

The Fizik ad is showing the pinnacle athletes of our sport. They look lean. They look fast. They look like endurance athletes. They have uneven tan lines.  They have flaws.  They are real athletes and not models. Their performance, not their looks, determines their success.

These are very different objectives than the models in a typical swimsuit layout. If I showed this photograph to my non-triathlete friends they would talk about how unhealthy these individuals appear. However, the models that are presented as healthy in most magazines are no better. The images that they represent are just more culturally accepted.

Let me know what you think of the advertisement. I think that it is a success.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cheers & Jeers – Holes, intervals and leeches

Cheers Solid running - group intervals sessions (last week and this week). 12 x quarter miles at < 1:25. SOLID!

Cheers Summer has returned. The cold has been banished for another year. We have already hit 90. I could really feel the heat and humidity.

Jeers Tough tempo runs. The effort has been there but the pace dropped – see above cheer about the summer. The heat this time of the year can really take it out of you. These hot and humid days seem to add minutes per mile to my pace.

Cheers - The HEAT makes it is harder for everyone!  If I am hurting you probably are also.

Cheers Open water swimming is back. I am glad to have some time in the open water and not having to watch a line! It was good fun ‘racing’ in the water.

Jeers While standing and talking by the bank I was attacked by dozens of leeches. Yuck!!!

Jeers Took a fall on the trace.  I had an easy run last week and was chatting too much. I was running on the dirt besides the trace and I stepped in a hole. It was like a trap door opened up. Before I even knew what was going on - down I went.

Cheers Best fall that I have ever taken! I landed flat. My entire body absorbed the fall – nothing hit hard. There was no time to react so I did not do one of those "save yourself from falling / flailing about nd end up pulling a muscle dances." Just got up and kept running.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TIPS: Flip your cleats – MacGyver or just cheap.

The frugality theme was not intentional but I might as well finish out the week. Oh the stories I could tell …

A few days before 70.3 New Orleans I was doing a comfortably hard ride out on the trace. I was starting to pick up the pace and really drive a big gear and it happened. During the down stroke with my left leg my shoe unclipped. I did not think much about it. I was starting to push really hard and maybe I twisted my foot a little bit. This was not a big concern.

But it happened again.

Well, I thought about why they were ejecting. It was only the left leg and only on full power. Why just the left side? It so happens that I always unclip from the left side when stopping or slowing down. Granted, most of my riding is not in heavy traffic with stop signs or stop lights but I would guess that I have unclipped the left pedal at least at a 10 to 1 ratio to the right side. I examined the cleats and the right side had much less wear.

I took notice of the orientation of the cleats and swapped them left for right. I took the bike for a brief yet hard test ride and there was not any additional play. Problem solved. I don’t know how much more mileage you can get out of flipping your cleats but I would guess that it could be significant – depending on wear.

Since then I have replaced my cleats. Cleats are cheap – at least my off-brand Look compatible cleats are cheap. Actually the price of replacement cleats was a consideration in selecting the pedals that I ride.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Racing is expensive - 10 ways to cut cost!

1. Register early –

For example, the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series has a tiered fee. Early registration is $95, late registration is $115 and registration at the EXPO (day before the event) is $145. Early registration is a 21 % savings over late registration and a whopping 52% savings over registering at the EXPO. You would have to really want to race if you waited until the last minute. They had a special at the New Orleans race if you signed up for next year. The fee was $65 – this was a huge savings!

2. Mail your entry form – has become the ticket master of endurance sports. I understand charging a fee for convenience but this is getting out of hand. The charge for signing up early for the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is $7.95 ($95 + 7.95 = $102.95). That is an additional 8%. When I was registering for the 70.3 New Orleans the active fee was an additional $15. Always print out the registration form and stick it in the mail. Even better, split the stamp with your racing buddies!

3. Pick a ‘non-branded’ race –

Look, the WTC (ironman) and the competitor group (rock ‘n’ roll marathon) put on a great race – but you pay for it. The Baton Rouge Beach Marathon is $65 (with pre-race dinner) and the First Light Marathon in Mobile is only $45. For iron distance triathlons, you have the Great Floridian and the beach to battleship race just to name two. These races are 40 – 50% cheaper than a branded event. On top of that you do not have to register a year in advance!

4. Car Pool –

Since you have already talked someone into racing with you (you saved the money on the stamp) you might as well split the gas. Over the winter I raced an aggressive schedule of something like 7 races in 9 weeks. I did not do a single event alone. Besides enjoying the company of my buddies, it really cut down on the cost of the day trips. At most races there were at least 2 or 3 of us. The trip would only cost a few bucks or a lunch or something for the driver. I think I traded the same $10 bill with one guy three times!

5. Pick nearby races –

Since you are driving it is better to pick races close to home. The price of a race starts to become insignificant when you factor in the cost of a hotel room in a major metropolitan area. Now you are looking at  > $100 per night plus $30 for parking.

6. Share a room –

This goes back to the car pooling. It is not much of a step up from sharing the open road to sharing a hotel room. This will cut your cost by a huge amount. Even better, stay at a friend’s house when you travel. I have made some connections near many of my race venues. Besides saving the cost of a hotel you get a home cooked meal and all of the race prediction smack down you can handle. It really is a lot more fun to stay with friends. However, you had better be prepared to have your friends stay at your house when the big race is in town. In fact for one of the New Orleans races there were about 5 of us staying in a friend’s parent’s empty house (tough housing market but the house has since sold). Sure we had to bring air mattresses and stuff but the house was quiet, clean and free.

7. Eat your own food –

People love to eat on the road. It is an easy way to blow your diet and a wad of cash. Let’s face it – restaurant food is always going to be bad for you and expensive. Hopefully you have gone with one of the previous scenarios and you are either making a day trip or staying with friends. But if not, then you should pack a lunch, a dinner and breakfast for the next day. You are going racing after all so food should not be a high priority. You really do not need that huge bowl of pasta (or the beer that goes along with it). I take a couple of granola bars for the drive, a sandwich or two for dinner and some instant oatmeal for breakfast works out great. You can also select races that have a pre-race dinner. The Baton Rouge Beach Half and Full Marathon will feed you the night before the race.

8. ‘Priceline’ the hotel –

You don’t always have to use Priceline to book the hotel. In fact, many hotel chains have a best price guarantee when you book through their website. But I do use Travelocity or Orbitz or Priceline to find the hotels that are of the quality and price that I am willing to pay. I almost always just use the services to find the ‘best deal’ before booking through the hotel website.

9. Stay at a hotel away from the race venue –

The host hotels are way expensive. If you do not mind walking a couple of blocks you can save a lot of money. For the Mardi gras marathon I was in a hotel about a half mile from the race expo and ¾ of a mile from the race start. I felt that I was in town to run a marathon so a mile or two of walking was not going to kill me. I was able to get my room for just under $100 for the night. On top of that there was curb side parking. This saved another $30.

10. Pick the “no T-shirt” option –

This really only applies to small local races. If your closet is anything like mine then it is packed with t-shirts that you do not wear. There is nothing wrong with these shirts but they are a waste of resources and a waste of your money. There are just not that many 5k shirts that wow me enough to wear them on a regular basis. I wish all local races had a no T-shirt option. They would only have to deduct $5 off of the registration – it would be a win-win situation.

Using these tips you can really save a bundle! Depending on the amount and type of racing that you do it is easy to spend thousands of dollars. Racing can require a big budget. But, you can have the experiences that you want without breaking the bank.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TIPS: Make your goggles last forever (or at least not get scratched in your gym bag).

Sable Water Optics Competitive

I got a really nice pair of very expensive Sable goggles a few months back. A friend had a few pairs and let me have a pair at wholesale (a review is in the works). They are still the most expensive goggles that I have ever owned. They come in a nice plastic case that keeps the lenses from getting scratched. This container is a great idea. I have always just thrown my ‘ordinary’ goggles in the back seat of the car or in a gym bag. After a few weeks the lenses always get scratched or damaged.

Goggle container

I would not say that I am a pack rat but I do like to look for secondary uses for disposable items. With that thought in mind I have kicked the diet soda habit. However, I have replaced the soda with a diet kool aide or some variation of flavored water. I dilute the power so that it only has a minor taste. I hope to eventually just drink plain water. But until I am able to completely taper off of this stuff I have amassed a collection of these kool aide cylinders.

Diet drink powder container

But, they just so happen to be the perfect carrying case for goggles. Scratches no more!

Cool cheap goggle container!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shower Poufs and water bottles

The other day a friend asked me about something on my bike. I do not run some super exotic tricked out triathlon bike – not by the standards of those who upgrade every year. I do have a triathlon bike that is a couple of years old and it does have an aero frame and an aero seat post and all of that stuff. But in the transition area it barely gets noticed. So when someone says “Hey James what is that on your bike?” I take notice. The next question was “Is that a shower pouf?”

You see, although it is definitely old technology, I still ride with a first generation profile design front mounted aero bottle (I’m going to refer to this as simply the bottle from now on). These things have gotten more bad reviews than I can count. Everyone hates these bottles. They hate the mounting mechanism (rubber bands), they hate the yellow spongy thingy, they hate the lack of a lid and they even hate the non-aero straw. But you still see hundreds of the dang things at every race (as evidenced by all of the yellow spongy thingies at the first big bump).

Profile Design Aero AWater Bottle

I don’t have any of these issues. It should not be this way but I have adapted to the bottle – it has not adapted to me. First, the yellow spongy thing does not go in as a vertical cylinder. Some people roll them into a donut shape and others wedge them into the bottle horizontally. Both of these methods work well. If you do stick the yellow spongy thingy in the bottle opening vertically it WILL bounce out when you hit any rough pavement. You have seen the yellow sponge graveyards at almost every race – unless of course you were leading. I doubt Andy Potts or Macca have witnesses this but I have seen it. I bet there were 300 of these in the rough pavement of 70.3 New Orleans this year (rough pavement plus starting in the second to the last wave).

I must admit that the large rubber bands are not the best solution to mounting the bottle. The bottle will fit in between most aero bars so the rubber bands are only used to keep the bottle from jostling. However, these rubber bands become brittle after a few months. After a race last year I went to pick up my bike and the rubber bands had split. The bottle hit the ground. Not the best solution. Profile design sells a bracket that is mounted to your aero bars. This bracket is used if your aero bars are too wide to hold the bottle. The bracket is supplied with a thin piece of hook and loop fastener that should hold the bottle in place. However, threading this hook and loop fastener into the bracket is very cumbersome.

So although my aero bars are definitely narrow enough I use the bracket. This raises the bottle up a little bit higher. Instead of the hook and loop fastener I use a piece of nylon strapping with a snap closure like you would find on a luggage strap. I just had one lying around but a shoe string or any other type of cord would work. Now that I think about it a piece of elastic from a set of Yankz! Would work great (I know you can buy shock cord by the foot from places like REI). I also put a couple of pieces of electrical tape around the bottle where it slides into the bracket. There are no squeaks from the bottle.

Mounting bracket with strap

Next is the splash guard. This is where the shower pouf comes into play. These are perfect replacements for the yellow spongy thingy. They actually do a much better job. The plastic mesh of the pouf is of a finer weave and really traps the liquids so that they do not splash. The shower poufs only cost about a dollar and you can get them in any color that you would like – I have a red one that coordinates with my bike! I get very little splash with my shower pouf in place.

I dispose of these at the end of every season. You see, I used to do the aquarium thing a few years ago. And one of the old techs back then was to use materials that had a huge surface area to ‘grow’ bacteria. This bacterium is used to process waste materials in the aquarium.

Red color matched shower pouf

Why am I telling you this? Well, these shower poufs are perfect if you want to culture large amounts of bacteria. And there is probably no better place than a warm sugary environment – like in the bottle mounted to the front of your bike. Yeah, if you do not clean this bottle and shower pouf after every couple of ride then you will start to see cultures. Yuck!

Now, I am lucky in that I do not drink sugary drinks when I ride. I prefer to get my calories from gels. And if I do carry sugary water while on the bike I will stick it on the down tube water bottle.

Now onto the non-aero straw. You see, there have been wind tunnel tests that show that a cylinder is one of the most non-aero shapes. On message boards, it is discussed at length on how non-aero the straw is. It is said that the straw acts like a flat piece steel the size of a piece of typing paper turned against the wind. This information can from DC Rainmaker’s blog – which by the way, I am a HUGE fan of this blog! This is based on the assumption that the straw is 12 inches long and a third of an inch wide. With my bracket and such I have cut my straw down to less than 5 inches (don’t judge me).

5 inch straw

Now this aerodynamic information came out of a wind tunnel and I am in no means implying that I am an aerodynamics genius, but I would think the non-aero straw is the least of my worries. If I can find a straw shaped like an airfoil I will try it out.

So, why have I made all of these adaptations to use this bottle? It certainly does seem like many trials and tribulations to just use a water bottle. Well, the simple fact is with the water bottle up front I tend to drink twice as much. Really! I have looked at my water consumption on my road bike (no water bottle up front) and I drink a 20 ounce bottle in 20 miles. With my triathlon bike I tend to over hydrate. It is not uncommon for me to look down and all of my water is gone in a little over an hour (the aero bottle and the down tube mounted bottle). I try not to over hydrate but I would much rather have the water in me then left on my bike when I exit transition.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heart Rate Recovery - You don't get that back!

Earlier in the week I did a 6 minute all effort on the bike trainer. These workouts are killer. My legs were burning, my heart rate was sky high (sky high for the bike anyway) and my breathing was very labored. The last time I did this workout was way back in November. I increased my average wattage by 8 or 9 percent.

But back to the workout. The protocol was as follows: 15 minute easy warm at a set wattage (150 watts – this is very easy), 6 minutes all out (the trainer is set a given slope – I just push as hard as I can) and 15 minutes easy cool down at a set wattage (150 watts – identical to the warm up).

So I did the easy warm up and loaded up the 6 minutes. I went all out for the 6 minutes and alternated between looking at the clock, my instant wattage numbers, and just staring straight down. This is very hard for me. When I finished the 6 minutes of fury I set the trainer back to the easy cool down wattage and pedaled at my usual cadence.

The cool down effort was still easy but not as easy as it was during the warm up. After the work out I noticed how my heart rates differed from the warm up and cool down. My heart rate average was 20 beats per minute higher during the cool down! That is more than 13 % higher after just 6 minutes of hard effort.

When I do hard intervals I notice the trend of a rising heart rate at the same efforts, but this got me thinking about endurance racing. And all triathlons are endurance races after all.

So, have you ever been in a race where someone just blew your doors off in the bike? And you second guessed your efforts – after all this is a race – you need to go hard. So you pick it up a notch or two and let your heart rate start to rise. The adrenaline is pumping like nobodies business. You are feeling strong! You are racing hard. You are passing people left and right!

What happens next? You end up dipping your toe into the red zone. Maybe you are just in it for a few minutes. Maybe you are pushing just a little bit too hard. That might be okay in a shorter race, but remember, you do not get that back.

When you are into the run is where you will feel those minutes in the red zone. You will be running at a hard effort but you might not being going as fast as you should. After all, you blew up a little earlier and you just can not fully recover back to normal. Twenty beats per minute in the run is an entire zone for me – almost a zone and a half. This translates into minutes per mile. I was very surprised too that my heart rate was having trouble recovering after only 6 minutes of very hard effort. My heart rate will generally drop back in line quickly after hard intervals. I guess the 6 minutes was overload.

In longer races I am overly cautious. I do not want to blow up. I do not want to be the one who is giving up tens of minutes in the run because they gained a couple of minutes on the bike. There is a fine line when pushing the bike. I am still working on how hard I can push on the bike and have a solid run.

In the short stuff you have to push hard but in longer races you have to let your ego go. You can flirt with the red zone but you can not get into it for long. You will not get those resources back – they are already spent.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mississippi tops U.S. obesity rankings - 5 years in a row

Okay, I had another post in mind but I have to jump on the soap box for just a moment. I do apologize.

No, I am not defending Mississippi and saying that other states are almost as bad. And I am not going to blame the Southern foods that everyone eats.  From the CNN article:
Mississippi has kept its U.S. heavyweight title for a fifth straight year, among both adults and children.  The percentage of adults classified as obese went up in 23 states, but Mississippi, with 32.5 percent, stayed atop the latest annual rankings ...

While deep-fried Southern cooking is legendary, Mississippi also ranks high in poverty statistics and low in education -- two factors commonly related to obesity. But Thompson said education appears to be more closely related to obesity than poverty.

"We do see obesity among people who are in lower socioeconomic levels, but we see it in higher socioeconomic levels as well," he said. "Being poor does not not make you obese, and being rich does not make you thin."
I am simply amazed at the complete lack of responsibility that people take for their lives. I do not work with poverty stricken people. I do not work with uneducated people. But I do work with people that continue to eat crap for food each and every day. I do work with people who decide to indulge themselves more often than they restrain themselves.

When I ask them why they continue to go out to eat to the all-you-can-stand buffet and various other near fast food restaurants they simply say because it is that good. Very few people in my work environment are at a healthy weight. Even fewer of them have any semblance of fitness. As I said, these people are not making these decisions because they are uneducated and they are not making their purchasing decisions because they are poverty stricken. They are making these decisions because they want instant gratification. They are not willing to make changes today so that they can live a healthier lifestyle.

As in the famous “Marshmallow Experiment” which was conducted in the 1960’s. Children were given a marshmallow and promised another, but only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some of the children could wait the 20 minutes and some could not. I believe that we are now living in an era with an endless supply of marshmallows. There is no need to wait the 20 minutes.
We know that if we eat the marshmallow another one will instantly appear regardless if we waited or not.

Unfortunately this has the cost of long term health implications.

I hate to sound so harsh but this issue hits very close to me.  I was always heavy growing up and continued to make poor choices throughout my twenties.  Temptations are everywhere but you really must look at the big picture. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Workout recap.

The following is a quick recap of my recent training. Well, as you know I did not do the Crawfishman (well no one did) so I had a good day on the Saturday before. The weather was still raining so I jumped on the trainer. For what ever reason it was unbearable!

I only rode for 30 minutes and decided to brave the mists out of doors. I ran a conservative pace for 8 miles. I was soaked the entire run but I did enjoy it. As soon as I got home I had a message about an open water swim.

I prepared a recovery shake and headed out the door. I had wanted to get an accurate measurement of our secret swimming lake. I bagged my GPS watch in a sandwich bad (I actually doubled bagged it) and put it under my swim cap. You have to remember which way you oriented the watch so that you can hit the right buttons to start and stop the watch. But once I started the watch it recorded my speed and distance just fine. I would say that it is accurate and it looks like I actually swam fairly straight!  The swim is 0.25 miles each way.  We have been doing it twice for a mile of OWS.

Secret training lake!

Today I was in the pool and did a lot of 100’s. I seemed to be getting a little faster. It was a good swim but I definitely need to be more consistent with the swim. After the swim I tested the bench press again for the pump and run challenge.

I think that I have refined my technique. I have been altering my grip placement on the bar. Obviously the closer the grip the more it works my triceps and the further out the more it works my chest. I am trying to find a balance that allows me to get the most repetitions. In addition, I am now aware that the bench press is actually a skill – not just brawn!

After work I jumped on the trainer for a much feared 6 minutes all out power test! Man I hate these. I warmed up for 15 minutes and then I started the 6 minutes of fury. This all out test is so dang painful. I had some techno music cranked up and I was suffering. I am sure that I was making primordial grunting and moaning noises. When I finished I just had to sit still for a few seconds. My legs were on fire, It has been months since I have done that test and I am happy to say that my wattage increased by 8 percent. This number also reflects not just power but performing the test better. Still, I will take an improvement any day!

Tuesday will be a group ride in the morning and a group running interval session at lunch!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crawfishman - Race report in picutres

This weekend I did something that I have never done before – I went to a triathlon that I did not compete in! It was an experience. I tried to register for the Crawfishman last week but the race was full. Since this little race is so big around here I grabbed a ride with my friends and became the official race photographer.

With the inclement weather, the race was called; I ended up looking like a genius.

It was raining from the start of the race and I had a trash bag poncho and a golf umbrella (thanks JD!). This was the first time that I have been at a triathlon that I have not thought that the swim was long –I guess the perspective is different when you are not participating!

Here is the race in pictures:

Race Finish

Rack number 1 (Sam - he won the race last year)

Swim start

Leaders of the swim

Sam exiting T1 in third

Raland after a good swim (checking his watch)

Dan - right behind Raland

Lance (no shirt), Greg to his left, and Chris (who started in a later wave) on the far left.

First female - notice both feet off the ground!

Margarita tent!

First bikers arriving to a called race.

Lance showing off his swag.

When the storm hit they pulled the few remaining swimmers from the lake and stopped any more bikes from heading out.  I have never been to a race that was called - and they should have called this race.  If I am not going to participate then this was the race to sit out.

It was nice to see the front runners all shake each others hands when they dismounted.  They congratulated each other on a tough bike.  I am sure the racers were disappointed that the race did not have a finish but I did not hear anyone complaining. 

I think everyone still had a great time!