10/7/17

Cycling to Maintain and Improve Running Fitness

One of the things I feel that I do differently at Progressive Endurance for my athletes is not having them run nearly as much as they would without guidance and or under the guidance of another triathlon coach. Not one year of coaching has gone by when an athlete hasn’t questioned why they aren’t running more. The most common one I hear is along lines of, “when am I going to a 20+ mile run to get ready for my Ironman race?”, or “I think I need to be running more miles during the week.”

One of the things I noticed when I raced professionally for 3 years that anytime I (or any other athlete I competed against) had an overuse injury it was nearly always due to running. I also almost never ran more than 40 miles in a week when training about 20-25 hours a week. Why only 40 miles with that many hours of training? Because I am a firm believer that running fitness can not only be maintained, but improve, with less run mileage and focusing more on cycling. While my sample size to prove my point isn’t nearly big enough, I want to show with two case studies that happened this year that supports my theory on how running less and cycling more than most training plans can maintain and improve running fitness.

Case Study #1 – Isaac Blackman

Isaac was in his second year of training with Progressive Endurance this year. He was getting ready to do his first 70.3 race when, just one week before, he crashed his bike and fractured his clavicle. The injury was obviously a mental blow to him. 70.3 Galveston wasn’t his main focus for the year. His main goal was Age Group Worlds in the Netherlands in the middle of September. Here are his threshold run paces at the most recent test prior to the crash and the test after the MD cleared him to run again.

Run threshold prior to injury – 5:43/mile

Run threshold after injury – 5:55/mile

Isaac was unable to run for about a month and then was only able to do easier running for few weeks after that. Basically 2 months with little to no running. We focused more time on the bike and could squeeze in an additional speed session on the bike due to not running or running less. As you can see he only lost about 12 seconds per mile during the 2 months. Once he was able to run normally again, based on the feedback he gave me, we decided to keep focusing more heavily on the bike and do a long run on the weekend with speed built into it with just easier runs throughout the week. Last year, he didn’t break a 6:00/mile in the 10K off the bike in his olympic distance events. In his second to last race of the year in the middle of August, Age Group Nationals, he broke that barrier and ran a 5:56/mile. In the final race of the year, Age Group Worlds, he crushed the run and ran a 5:45/mile off the bike for a 10K. He was only running about 3 times a week. 2 of the runs were typically about 40 to 50 minute runs that were aerobic in nature.

As you can see, he did loose a little bit of speed from the injury initially but it was not that much. He quickly regained the fitness and hit a new PR by running a little less and biking more.

Case Study 2 – Mike Hermanson

Yes, I am doing a case study on myself. This is not a bragging session, but just trying to drive home my point by using an extreme example of how cycling maintained my running fitness. My most recent 5k race time when I was still running and training for triathlon was a very chilly Anthem 5K in 2015. I went out a too fast and ran about a 16:55 (5:25/mile). I obviously continued running consistently throughout the 2015 season. But after that season, I quit triathlon and started pursuing road bike racing. I ran occasionally during my bike training but I was not running enough to get my body used to it and was always sore for a few days after running 4-5 miles a couple times a week. I decided I was tired of being sore and hung up running around March of 2016. I have since moved on to focusing my racing on mountain biking in the 2017 season and haven’t ran at all since then. On October 4th, 2017 I decided to run a 5K because one of my friends and I started tossing around the idea of doing an Xterra triathlon in 2018 and because I thought if I ran well, I could use it as a case study for this blog. I hadn’t ran for about 18 months and only cycled for fitness. My legs were a bit tired from a 3.5 hour MTB ride the day before. I wasn’t concerned about running the fastest I could, but to just show how running fitness can be maintained with cycling only. I ran that 5K in 17:59 (5:47/mile). Yes, it was about 1 minute slower than the Anthem 5K, but it is incredible how I only lost a minute of time after only cycling for 1.5 years.

So what’s the take away from this blog? Here is a quick bullet point list of what I think people should consider after reading these two examples:

  1. If injured from running, take extra time than what you think to make sure you are healed up. Maintain your fitness by cycling. The extra week or 2 you take off to allow your body to completely heal will not affect your running fitness that much.

  2. Consider running less during the week and do your speed workouts and distance runs together. The body only know intensity and time, running faster for shorter distances will create the same training stress as a long slow run.

  3. While there is a time and place for a long run (I typically don’t run my athletes over 17 or 18 miles for their long runs for an IM race), you definitely don’t need to do it several times. Some people run nearly 20 miles or more every weekend for a month or two to get ready for the IM. They are not able to recover in time. You can gain a lot of running fitness just with the long bikes and bike intensity.

  4. The cardiovascular engine can be trained well on the bike and the body can recover faster from cycling as compared to running. This means you can do more consistent workouts. And consistency is the best way to build fitness.

07/31/17

70.3 Ironman Ohio Power Analysis

Progressive Endurance recently had 4 athletes take part in the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  They all did really well in this event, but I wanted to highlight two of them because they executed the bike portion of the race extremely well which set them up for a great run and finishing time.  The athletes I’ll be highlighting are Robert Strobel and Jessica Morgan.  But before we dive into that, I need to define a few terms so you can understand the lingo:

FTP (functional threshold power) – watts you can hold for an hour at max sustainable effort

NP (Normalized power) – the physiologic cost of riding in watts (a way to simplify this is removing all zeros from average power)

Average Power – the mean of all wattages produced during the race

IF (Intensity Factor) – NP divided by FTP

VI (Variable Index) – NP divided by Average power (a way of measuring pedaling efficiency)

TSS (Training Stress Score) – a way of measuring how much stress is put on your body from a ride. TSS is calculated using Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF) and ride duration.  TSS is calculated like this:

TSS = ((Time riding in seconds x IF x NP)/(FTP x 3600)) x 100

 

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s start by looking at Jessica’s power file:

The first thing a coach must do to figure out what power to push in any given race is what the estimated speed will be for the athlete.  This is because TSS is based on power and time.   The goal TSS for the bike portion of a 70.3 so you can still run well off the bike is about 170-190 TSS. I estimated Jessica’s speed to be about 19 mph for this race.  By using that speed to give me the time (in seconds) on the bike, I was able to dial in her power range for the bike.  After running a few numbers, I determined her goal power to be between 145 and 150w (76-78.5% of FTP) to try to land her close to 170-180 TSS.  I went closer to the lower end of the goal for her because she had struggled in the past with the run leg.  I wanted to keep her legs as fresh as possible without leaving too much energy on the bike course.

Jessica got pretty close to the lower end of the power goal.  At the end of the ride she averaged 137 watts with a NP of 140 watts.  With the slightly lower power numbers, she got 161 TSS for the ride.  Just a bit shy of the suggested range, but not too much.

Jessica did a fantastic job of holding steady power as evidenced by her VI being only 1.02!!  That is insanely good for being on the bike for 3 hours.  This is due to two things:  1.  her cadence was never zero and 2.  she didn’t have many spikes in power.  See how steady the pink line in her power file?  Perfect, which is next to impossible to do unless in a controlled environment, is 1.00.  This meant she didn’t burn much glycogen in her muscles and save it for the run.   Keeping that VI as close to 1.00 as possible means a lower TSS at the end of the bike.

 

Robert’s power file:

I started with the same process of determining Robert’s goal wattage for the day.  We estimated he would go about 21 mph.  As you can see by the power file, he actually was closer to 22 mph.  His goal power for the ride was 190-200w (80-84% of FTP) to land him right in the middle of the 170-190 TSS for the bike ride.  His average power was 198 and his NP was 199!  Since he was within the power goal but went faster than we thought, he ended up just under 170 TSS for the ride.  In hindsight, he could have pushed 5-10 more watts for the bike course and got within the range for a half iron distance.

Robert’s VI was 1.01!  Insane how close that was 1.00.  He did an incredible job holding steady power (as you can see by the pink line).  Same as with Jessica, he never had a cadence of zero and had very few spikes in power.

 

So why am I showing two power files that are basically identical?  Wouldn’t it be good to have something to contrast them with to show where one of them went wrong or did something better than the other?  In this case, they both did well.  The biggest difference I want you all to see is their percent of FTP that they were told to push during the race.  A lot of coaches just have a cookie cutter mentality of “an athlete must aim for x% of FTP for a half, y% of FTP for a full, and z% of FTP for an Olympic distance.”  This is simply not the case.  If I would have told Jessica to push the same percent of FTP as Robert, her FTP (when taking into consideration a faster speed due to higher power) would have been closer to 220-235 TSS.  That is way over the limit and definitely would have resulted in a lot of walking on the run.  If I would have told Robert to push the same percent of FTP as Jessica, his TSS for the ride (when taking into account a slower speed) would have been closer to 155 TSS.  That would have left him with fresh legs, but leaving a lot of time on the bike course that most likely would have resulted in a slower time.

So understanding TSS for racing is crucial to get the best results possible.  It is also crucial for a proper build and taper as you can see below by looking at both other their PMC’s (Performance Management Chart)

Jessica’s PMC:

 

Robert’s PMC:

 

I am not going to go into detail of how this chart is read and made.  But the basic idea of using TSS for all workouts is what gives you a person’s current fitness level (CTL), fatigue level (ATL) and their readiness to race (TSB).  In order to race well for an “A” race, the athlete should aim to be anywhere from +10 to +30 TSB.  This means their fatigue level is low in comparison to their fitness level).  Both Jessica and Robert were right around mid +20’s to +30.  Everyone is different.  Some athletes may race better at +10 while others race better at +30.  There in no magic formula to this, just a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for a particular athlete.

 

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, or want help with getting ready for your next race, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mike.s.hermanson@gmail.com

10/17/16

Analysis of Ironman Data

A short time ago, athletes gathered in Louisville for another Ironman race.  I had three athletes racing in midst of a little over 2500 athletes.  I wanted to take time to publish an analysis of the power data from the bike and break it down so you can learn better how to ride your bike in a Ironman race.

Before we do so, I need to define a few terms for that I will be using in the analysis of these power files:

FTP (functional threshold power) – watts you can hold for an hour at max sustainable effort

NP (Normalized power) – the physiologic cost of riding in watts (a way to simplify this is removing all zeros from average power)

Average Power – the mean of all wattages produced during the race

IF (Intensity Factor) – NP divided by FTP

VI (Variable Index) – NP divided by Average power

TSS (Training Stress Score) – a way of measuring how much stress is put on your body from a ride. TSS is calculated using Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF) and ride duration.  TSS is calculated like this:

TSS = ((Time riding in seconds x IF x NP)/(FTP x 3600)) x 100

 

Athlete #1 Power file (file was broken accidentally into 2 files)

1st 16-ish miles

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last 93-ish miles

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The first thing I want to point out is the IF of .69 average between the two files.  This athlete was biking at about 69% of their FTP.  The suggested IF to ride at for an IM ranges from 68-78%.  Again, IF = NP/FTP (you will see some professionals riding about 80% of FTP… that is because they are riding much faster than the average AGer).  IF, NP and time on the bike is what determines TSS.  The suggest TSS for a IM bike ride is 260-280. Some proven good runners off the bike can sustain as high as 300 TSS in a IM Bike split.

You can see that the sum of the 2 files’ TSS is about 284 TSS.  This athlete is on the high end of normal TSS.  I suggested he ride 160-170w because I knew based on previous calculations and estimated time on the bike he should end up in the range of 260-280 TSS.  He hit that target nearly perfectly.

Another thing I want you to see is the VI (Variable Index).  Variable index is calculated like this:  VI = NP/AVG POWER.  It is impossible to get a lower VI of 1.00 because of the way NP and AVG power is calculated.  If someone rode a VI of 1.00, it means they maintained extremely even power the entire time.  Basically keeping the power output within 10 watts+/- of the average power the entire time.  The further that VI gets away from 1.00, the less even power was produced, and thus means the rider rode very inefficiently.  Think of like driving a car.  The most efficient way to get somewhere is hitting the cruise control.  If the driver is constantly breaking and/or accelerating, the car will burn more fuel to go the same distance.  In an IM race, getting a VI of 1.05 is considered very good.  Between the two files, this athlete averaged about 1.06.  This means this athlete rode a fairly consistent power output throughout the entire 112 miles.  This is obvious in the second screen shot above by removing all the other data plots.  One can see how the line stays between two tight points most of the time.

By riding like this, an athlete sets them up for a better run off the bike for a IM race.

Athlete #2

screenshot-1

So the things I want to point out here is the TSS, NP, VI and IF.  Again, these things kind of go hand in hand.  This athlete averaged 135 watts for the bike ride.  I told the athlete to aim for about 130 watts.  So at first glance, this athlete appears to have done well.  But what you need to look closer at is HOW he averaged that 135 watts.  It wasn’t through smooth, efficient power as evidenced by his VI being 1.30 for the 112 miles.  You can see how the power data points are all over the place and not tightly packed into small range of data points.  Remember that VI is calculated like this: VI = NP/AVG power.  To get a VI as high as 1.30, your NP must be significantly higher than your average power.  NP influenced the athlete’s IF to be 90% of threshold.  Because his IF was 90% of threshold and he rode his bike for nearly 6.5 hours, his TSS was about 510!  Remember, suggested TSS for a IM bike is 260-280 TSS.  He was almost double the low end of the suggested range!  By riding like this, the athlete most likely didn’t run close to his potential.

 

As you can see, athlete #1 rode his bike more efficiently that athlete #2 and set himself up for a better run off the bike for IM Louisville.  I did get permission from both athletes to share their data while keeping them anonymous.

If you are looking for a coach that knows how to utilize a power meter for your 2017 season, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mike.s.hermanson@gmail.com

 

Infinit Nutrition discount code for 15% – ProgressiveEndurance

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11/18/15

Exit Interview

Triathlon has been a large portion of my life for the last 11 years.  I basically ate, breathed, and slept it nearly non-stop.  My journey to triathlon started from an eating disorder that, through a long recovery process, got me super interested in the fitness and the human body.  Makes sense why I gravitated towards triathlon and going to college to get my Bachelors in Nursing.  I worked hard to make it to this point of triathlon – racing professionally.  However, I’ve decided to shut it down completely and move on to something else.  Bike racing.  Why?  Here’s a short list:

1.  Frustrated with where the sport is going – If you are reading this, then I probably don’t need to explain to you what has happened to the professional race scene around the Globe, but most notably in the USA and Canada.  Ironman basically thinks professionals don’t matter due to age group participation being just as good at the non-pro races.  The pro fields are much deeper (which doesn’t bother me).  What does bother me is how far away these races are and the potential to win money at them. It doesn’t take much for 4 or 8.5 hour race to derail.  Even if an athlete ends up in the money, they can’t cover their traveling costs most of the time unless they are in the top 5 at the bigger races and top 3 at some of the smaller races.  Even placing 3rd at some races won’t cover the traveling expenses, especially if the race is out of the country.

2.  Distance to races – Prior to Ironman cutting pro races and Challenge/Rev3 doing the same, I had several within 3-4 hours to choose from. Now I have zero.  The time spent traveling to the races could be better spent with friends and family.

3.  Not excited about racing triathlon – usually after taking a couple weeks off, the thought of toeing a start line on a beach or wading in the water for the cannon to sound gets me excited.  This year was different.  I could force myself into a low level of excitement for a day or two max.  But once I started thinking about it more and talking with some friends about it, the decision to hang up triathlon was clear.

Even though the decision was clear, it wasn’t easy.  I began to think about what others would think of me.  Would they think I am a quitter?  That was the biggest fear.  I guess in a negative sense I am.  However, I like to think that I am a beginner. Not like a rookie, but as in starting a new adventure.  The last thing I want to do is go through the motions of training while dreaming of something else.

I want to be a great cyclists.  If there is one thing I learned and would change about how I approached triathlon for the first 5 or 6 years it would be the fact that I didn’t hire a coach sooner.  I’m not making the mistake again.  I’ve been talking a few coaches I believe can help me reach my goal of racing bikes professionally one day. That day may be a couple years away, but I’m not afraid of hard work.  My parents taught me how to work hard for my goals, whether they were academic, career oriented, or just personal goals.  I have a lot to learn and a lot of training to do to get my FTP higher, my weight lower (which should naturally happen from not swimming anymore), and my 30 second to 5 minute power numbers much better.  I have to learn the tactics of bike racing so I can race smart.

I’ve also challenged myself to something I don’t think a lot of cyclist do – Omniums.  Omniums are three bike races (criterum, road, and time trial) all in the same weekend.  I want to focus on endurance road while doing TT and Omniums.  I’ll race a criterium, but it will be a lower priority.  3 different ways to ride a bike, 3 separate challenges.  I guess triathlon will always effect how I approach things.

I also feel that I should say that I am sad to leave Maverick Multisport. They have treated me better than I deserve and I wish everyone on the team success as they continue in their triathlon endeavors.  I couldn’t have done it without Chris (manager of the team) getting great sponsors and being a encourager.

11/7/15

Extended rest

When I first started getting into the sport of triathlon, I never took an extended period of time off. I was too worried about loosing fitness and “getting fat.” Looking back on it, I now realized that I was still overcoming my eating disorder and never taking time off was due to low self-esteem, too obsessed with body image, and thinking I would instantly get fat. Obviously, instant body changes, for good or bad, is impossible unless you pay a ton of money for surgery. After several seasons of racing, I have now come to realize that extended time off is needed for every athlete that trains consistently. Embarrassingly, coming to this conclusion was finally solidified in my schedule last year.

In 2014, my triathlon season ended prematurely due to a severely strained muscle that conveniently waited to put me in a wheel chair for a couple days just a few seconds after crossing the finish line at Ironman Louisville. After getting out of the wheel chair, I made it around the house using a Louisville Slugger baseball bat as a cane. I slowly progressed to being able to swim after about 3 weeks, biking outside again after about a month, and running easy again after about 6 weeks. At times during this slow recovery period, I doubted if I’d ever return to the sport.

At the end of the slow recovery, I also took a vacation and laid pretty low during that week on the beach as well. Upon coming home, I started leading spin classes 3 times a week at VO2 Multisport. After a couple weeks of gaining back some fitness, I felt stronger and noticed a difference in my power numbers. I was really surprised to see how much stronger I was after that much time off.

As of right now, I’m in the middle of this break from structured training. I pulled the plug on the last race of the year, Challenge Florida, due to being burned out, sick, and fatigued. I just completed a week off of doing nothing in the form of exercise (except for a couple short bike rides on a beach cruiser and walking down the beach). I literally unplugged everything: my phone, no coaching stuff for week, and no social media stuff for my athlete accounts on Facebook and Twitter. I have to admit, I still struggle with the idea of “instant” fatness. However, I now have more control of my actions countering what my brain thinks. I thoroughly enjoyed the vacation with my wife. Relaxing on the beach/pool, waking up without an alarm clock, and loosing in every game of bocci ball we played (not sure how that happened)! But I noticed an interesting thing about myself while I was there. Prior to leaving for this trip, I wanted nothing more than to do nothing and relax and not think about the sport at all. I wanted to be a “normal” person for a little while and not be mentally engaged with the sport and training all the time. By the last day of the trip, I was really wanted to get on my bike, go for a jog, or get in the ocean/bay and go for the swim. The desire to compete came back.

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Even with the desire to come back to triathlon training, I personally don’t believe I would benefit by returning to structured training right now. I think I still need to let my body fully recover by doing other things to stay active and keep the training light for another couple weeks. 1 week just isn’t enough. I’m still looking forward to going the park to walk the dog, do some strength conditioning at the gym and do some yoga.

I also encourage the athletes that I coach (Progressive Endurance) to take a week or two off at the end of the year to do no physical activity. I also now encourage them to do something else other than swim bike run for a two or three weeks for that. It also is good for me as a coach to take care of some other coaching stuff during that time that I don’t have time for, such as getting CEU’s, writing new workouts, etc. Funny thing is, every athlete that does this I’ve coached for at least 2 consecutive years, has come back much stronger and has gotten a personal best the second year.

I mention this not only as a little shameless plug for my coaching service, but also because I wanted to give an example of some athletes that various levels of age group athletes, not just personal experience. Also, if these examples aren’t enough for you, check out some of these testimonials and how other professional athletes take some time off, what they do with the extra time, and why they do it that I found on competitor.com:

Matt Reed (2008 Olympic triathlete) uses the extra time during his off-season to talk to sponsors, plan his race schedule for next year, play with his two-year-old, and take care of chores around the house. “The craziest thing I do is Poker Night,” he joked. The two weeks totally off and two weeks easing back into training are important primarily to recharge himself mentally and respark his enthusiasm for the sport.

Peter Sagan’s (winner of three stages at the 2012 Tour de France and three stages at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana) time off may not sound like time off to a normal person. This year, he took a trip with his brother to Australia and then he was back on his bike. While he relaxes and rests, “I can’t forget that I’m an athlete,” said the member of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. But, the important difference is that when he gets back on his bike, it’s his mountain bike and instead of hitting the road for hours and hours – as cyclists are prone to do – he does some gym work and spends some time with his family as well. “We’re human, not machines,” he said.

DeeDee Trotter (2012 Olympic 400m Bronze Medalist and 4 x 400m Gold Medalist) takes six to eight weeks completely off. This year, after a busy and successful season, she had eight weeks with “absolutely no running,” she said. “The only running I do is if I’m running from my bed to my fridge.” She’ll use her last week to start some easy runs and drills before real base training begins “just so I don’t go out and completely combust,” she said. But, primarily she spends her time hanging out with friends, eating hamburgers and candy, and refilling the gas tank that has hit empty by the end of the season. “You tell yourself no 100 times a day” during the season, she said. “For eight weeks, say yes.”

10/29/15

2015 season

2015 was a year of adjusting.  Adjusting to the ever changing landscape of the professional races left in the United States.  Adjusting to increased depth and size of professional fields.  And adjusting to not having a race schedule written in stone.  Over all, I think I handled all of these new things fairly well.  The back half of the season was a little better than the first half, partially due to a better bike position that Brian Grasky helped me achieve (even while separated by 1700+ miles).  My bike times were faster and it helped me gain a little more confidence in my abilities.  I also got a new 70.3 personal best by about 5 minutes this year under Brian’s guidance.  So improvement has been made… and that is a great way to measure success.

Originally, I had one more race planned for the 2015 season before hanging it up for the season.  Challenge Florida.  After Ironman Chattanooga, where I took a gamble on the bike and paid for it on the run, I took about a week off from training and then started picking it back up again to gear up for Challenge Florida.  However, something was missing.  My mind.  My head.  Neither of them were really in the right setting to go to Florida to race hard.  My motivation to get up early before work 3 days a week for a training session was gone.  I kept telling myself, “just push this… the race will be here soon and then I can take some time off and rest the body and mind.”  I managed to go through the motions for about 3 weeks. And today I decided to pull the plug on the last race of the season for a few reasons:

1.  Anniversary trip – Leslie and I are going to Sarasota, FL for our anniversary.  Originally, the plan was to go there the week before the race and vacation.  I would get in a solid taper and do Challenge Florida to round up the season.  However, as the trip drew closer, I dreaded “missing out on vacation” due to earlier than desired bedtimes, getting up early-ish to get in some training so I wouldn’t leave leslie by the pool and on the beach by herself for hours a day.  I decided (on my own, I might add) to pull the plug to spend better quality time with my wife during our anniversary and be in a better position to celebrate our 2 years of marriage.  Leslie is a great wife, supporter, and cheerleader.  She was totally on board for me to do the race.  She was okay with spending time by herself a few hours a day to let me chase my dreams and goals.  When I told her today that I was not racing and gave her the list of why I wouldn’t be packing all my triathlon gear with me for our vacation, she tried talking me back into race.  She didn’t want to be the reason for not doing the race.  I just felt like any amount of money I could win at Challenge Florida wasn’t worth missing out on memories we could make together in Florida.

2. Physically beat up – I’ve started to get a lot of little injuries and aches/pains that weren’t around the rest of the season.  My left hip was acting up for about two weeks. I had to take about 2 weeks off from running after IM Chattanooga.  Once that healed up, I felt like I was getting shin splints in my right shin.  I also just felt fatigued all the time.

3. Mentally zapped – I’ve basically been in focused training for a year now.  I picked up my training the day we got back from our 1st anniversary trip last year by leading spin classes at VO2 Multisport.  Since then, I’ve trained, on average, 22-27 hours a week.  This kind of training requires a lot of mental discipline.  When I wasn’t training, I was thinking about the next training session.  Or, I planned how to most efficiently navigate my way through my patient load/visits for home health to get off in time to make it swim practice with the Lakeside SeaHawks, or make it to a group bike ride for the evening.  Or even how to manage training while on being on call for a week straight.  I also thought about how to make long training sessions work around other life events, such as family events/vacations, hanging out with friends, etc.  After 52 weeks of this kind of focus, I need to “unfocus!”  I need to let the brain/mind relax and just not be “on” all the time.

4. Sickness – This was what finally broke me today.  Upon everything else this little set back I felt was a sign to just hang it up for the year.  Monday evening, I started feeling a little off.  By yesterday, the cold had gotten worse.  I tried riding my bike on the computrainer yesterday at a tempo interval for a couple hours.  It felt much harder than it should have for that effort.  I was coughing up stuff, blowing my nose, and my body just felt lethargic.  I’ve raced sick this year once already at Challenge Knoxville and it went horrible.  I had a slight case of atypical pneumonia before the race.  After putting my body through all that stress (to have the worst race of recent 70.3 racing history), I came down with pneumonia so bad I couldn’t even walk without getting short of breath.  I didn’t feel like going through that again.

I always get to the point of burn out at the end of the season.  However, usually I time my last race and mental burn out pretty well.  This year, I tried starting my season a month earlier and going about 2 months longer than I have before.  It was just too much.  I ignored my mind telling me it needed a break for about a month now and I need a break more than ever.

All that being said, I am happy with the way the season played out this year.  I had fun traveling the eastern half of the USA and Puerto Rico. I was able to win a little bit of prize money along the way and had a blast doing it.  I met some really awesome people through homestays for races.  I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life… helping people/contributing to society through nursing, helping others achieve their athletic goals through my coaching services (Progressive Endurance), and continuing to travel and compete against some of the best in the world while on a great team, Maverick Multisport.

As of right now, 2016 training will most likely start off with a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.  Until then, I plan on relaxing for a week and not do a thing.  After that, I’ll probably do group exercise classes at the Northeast YMCA in Louisville.  They have some of the best classes I’ve been too (totally un-sponsored plug for the NE YMCA).

Thanks to Vibra Healthcare and Duro-last Roofing, Inc. for believing in me enough to support me financially this year.  And thanks to all the Maverick Multisport team sponsors for the support this year by supplying the best equipment to help me get the most out of every session: Argon 18, Enve Composites, JayBird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport , Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks

 

 

10/14/15

Full Circle – Enve Wheels reviews

Another season is wrapping up for me, and it’s another completed on some Enve Wheels.  I have two sets of Enve wheels.  I train on 3.9 clinchers and race on the 8.9 tubulars.  Enve has received some great reviews and awards from several places. One, from last year, is the best in class award from Triathlete Magazine for their wheels.  More recently, Enve became the official wheel of Ironman and received an award for their carbon wheel hubs from Eurobike.  My experience with these wheels have been nothing short of amazing in the last couple years.

The wheels are durable:

This year, I took a spill on my bike with my 3.9’s.  The wheels came out unscathed.  Not even the least bit out of true.  I also hit some major holes/cracks in the road with the 3.9’s and 8.9’s while training and race.  Again, these wheels took the beating and stayed true.

Fast is best:

Everyone is looking for ways to save some time on the bike.  These wheels have helped me ride considerable faster bike splits than I was prior to using the wheels.  This year I was able to have the fastest bike split at the Toughman national championship.  The 3.9’s are also a great wheels for those of you more into the road biking scene.  I do a lot of riding with some of the local cyclists in Louisville.  Many of these guys are Cat 1, Cat 2, or former professional cyclists.  My 3.9’s handle the hills, the corners, the accelerations, and are responsive enough to help me put the hurt on the other cyclists in the group.

Enve makes several other products that are also noteworthy such as: forks, road bars, socks (partnered with another sponsor, Swiftwick), bottle cages, etc.  All of Enve products have created a large amount of chatter about them when Enve debuted them.  Enve is serious about creating the best performing products on the market.  Enve provides a full circle of products to make any bike fast and appealing to the eye.

enve blog

 

Most recently, Enve also became the the official wheel of Ironman World Championships. ENVE wheels helped post the fastest bike split in Kona in 2015.

09/28/15

Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Every race is a learning experience.  Best performances and worst performances offer nuggets of truth if you take time to reflect.  The race before Ironman Chattanooga (Toughman National Championship) was one of my best put together half distance triathlons.  The way I approached that race from a taper standpoint was a little different than other races in the past.  It seemed to be something worth trying again for Ironman Chattanooga just 2 weeks after Toughman Triathlon.

I felt great doing the newly discovered taper leading up to the race.  Plenty of sleep, my legs felt fresh.  My performance management chart was almost identical to the Toughman half the week prior to the race.  I rode my computrainer for every ride the week before the race to try to get as close to the amount of TSS I wanted for each workout.  Mentally, I was ready to race.  Physically, I was fit and fresh.

Ironman morning in Chattanooga was incredibly beautiful.  It was close the first time the sun had shined all weekend.  And with the swim starting right at sunrise, it made for a great view in the water.

Ironman Chattanooga sunrise

Picture credit: Carrie Kiefer

The race started out without warning.  No countdown, no clock to know when 7:20 was arriving… just a loud cannon.  The swim started out very chaotic. The down current swim kept swimmers together a bit more than normal.  I got hit in the face and chest more in this race than I have in very long time.  I decided to swim to the outside of the group for a bit to just get into a rhythm and wait for the group to settle down a bit.  I worked my way back into the group and swam the rest of the way to Ross’s Landing where my Argon 18 bike awaited my arrival.  I believe I was around 15th or so out of the water out a group of 50 pro men.

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The bike course in Chattanooga is a challenging course.  4400 feet of climbing (about 1500 more than Ironman Louisville) and 116 miles as opposed to the standard 112 miles.  When I arrived at my bike, I noticed that someone moved it a bit and one of the rubber bands holding my shoes in a position that would allow a fast transition had snapped.  I managed to make it work without too much of a problem and then put my head down to catch the guys in front of me.  I pushed just under half distance watts for the first 10 miles or so to get into a group and then settled into a nice rhythm with a few other guys.  The group got pretty big, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t take long for it to break up.  It eventually did.  I was in a group of 4 (Trevor Desault, Ray Botelho, and Shearon).  I was spot on for my goal wattage for bike course.  My target was 295-300 watts and we were right at on that goal.  Riding at this goal would put just slightly over 280 TSS for 112 miles. Since this was 116, maybe I should have lowered that goal wattage just a bit.  We rolled up on special needs and volunteers were not even close to being ready for athletes.  The group of three rolled through without stopping.  I stopped to grab 3 bottles of my custom mix of Infinit (MAVERICK save 10%) with 150 calories of NAPLAM with caffeine mixed in.  That combination gives me 430 calories per bottle.  I waited for what seemed like an eternity to get my special needs (probably more like 30 seconds).  I got back in the saddle and decided to take a gamble and try to catch the group of 3 ahead of me.  I rode hard for 40 minutes.  I averaged 315 watts and was slowly reeling in the group.  I probably got within 75 meters of them before we mixed back in with the age group athletes to begin our second loop.  I never caught them and toasted my legs in the process.  I managed to salvage the rest of the bike leg for a respectable time, but about 10 minutes slower than what I was hoping for on this course.  (The group that I lost at special needs road my goal time for this course to the minute.)

Once I got back to transition, I decided to try to the run to see what would happen.  I was hoping my legs weren’t too cooked from the bike effort to try to catch the group earlier.  I felt pretty good for the first 4 to 5 miles.  I averaged about 6:30/mile and then I started slowing down… a lot.  I think part of it was physical.  But I think a big part of it was mental.  I just lost the motivation to keep going.  I was doing 6:30/miles and the guys I exited transition with were not getting any closer.  At the 9th mile marker, I called it a day.

IMG_2560

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The biggest thing I pulled away from this race is stopping for special needs is NOT an option if I want to be toward the front of the pro field on the bike course.  Before stopping for special needs, I was jockeying positions with other athletes for 10th to 12th place.  After stopping to wait on my special needs, attempting to ride up to the group and then over exerting myself, I fell back to probably somewhere between 20 and 25th, and lost 10 minutes on the group I rode with for the first half of the bike course.

During an Ironman distance race, I need about 2000 calories on the bike.  This is about 40% of my total calories burned during the bike.  So I need to figure out a way to carry all those calories without stopping. The only option is super concentrating my bottles of Infinit with about 6 servings of NAPALM and 2.5 servings of my custom mix.  It puts me at exactly 1000 calories per bottle.  The other thing I’d have to do with following this plan is to drink more water since I’ll be taking in less volume in liquid calories.  I think it is possible to do this with aid stations every 15 -ish miles.

Overall, I’m obviously disappointed on how it turned out, but I know I have a great result at the Iron distance inside me.  However, it’s going to have to wait until 2016.

Thanks again to all my sponsors that make it possible:

Maverick Multisport, Duro-Last Roofing, Vibra Healthcare, Argon, Enve Composites, Jay Bird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport, Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks

 

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Infinit Nutrition – used the code “MAVERICK” at checkout to save 10%
Primal Sports mud – Discount code: MAVMIKE15 will give you 20% off from 1/1/15 to
09/14/15

Toughman National Championship – 2015

This last weekend, Toughman put on their national championship race located about an hour north of New York City.  It is located at Croton Point Park (Croton-on-Hudson), and it made for a beautiful race location.  The weather didn’t look promising leading up to race day with rain in the forecast and possible thunderstorms, but it ended up being nearly perfect race conditions.  For quick recap, scroll to the bottom for the video update.  For a more in-depth race report, just keeping reading…

Swim –

The swim was in the Hudson river. It had rained the night before, so it made the water have a little more dirt turned up in it.  I under estimated how much time it would take to get to the venue and get set up, so I scrambled a bit to get to the swim start on time and found myself about the 3rd row back in the starting shoot for the swim.  The gun went off and we all made a mad dash for the river.  My goal for the swim was not so much time oriented as it was technique oriented.  I gave myself a swim stroke analysis about a week before this race and found a few things to work on to swim more efficiently.  I decided that if I focused on those things, the rest of the swim would come together.  For the most part that was true.  I was maybe a little too focused on form at the beginning when I should have been focusing on finding a faster swimmer’s feet to get behind.  Once the craziness of the first few hundred meters calmed down, I found myself just behind the lead pack of 4 swimmers.  About 2/3 of the way through the swim, one of them fell off the pack and I passed him before exiting the water.  I would guess I was somewhere between 50 and 75 meters behind the lead pack.  I knew I had my work cut out for me on the bike to catch that group.  I exited the water and T1 in 5th place.

Bike –

This bike course was no joke! 3900 feet of climbing in 56 miles!  There was literally not a flat spot on this bike course other than the first and last mile getting and out of Croton Point Park.  Once out of the park, I was greeted by the first big climb.  I would guess about 1.5 miles long, most of which was in my smallest gear.  The pavement was still wet from the rain the night before, so I was a little nervous about going down this hill since there was a swooping right hand turn at the bottom of it.  I figured I was better off taking it cautiously then spending some time at a hospital.  The first 180-degree turn was about 5 miles into the bike.  At this point, the leader was 2 minutes ahead of me and a group of two behind him was about 90 seconds ahead of me (I passed one guy going up the big hill).  I made it safely down the hill and got back into my aerobars and put my head down and pedaled hard.  I made one small adjustment to my bike prior to the race.  I cut the straw from the my profile-design aero bottle about in half so that it would allow me to get my head to a lower position.  See picture below of me trying to achieve a better position prior to the race:

1694 bike

last year’s position during Ironman Louisville.

 

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Newest and improved position that I adopted for the 2015 Toughman National Championship.

The slightly lower head position seemed to make a big difference at the race.  By the time I made it to the next 180-degree turn, the guys ahead of me formed a group of three and I was now only about 20 seconds down.  I caught them about 2-3 miles later.  It took me an hour to catch them after starting the bike… but I finally made it.  I averaged 330 watts to do so! I rolled up them fast and tried to put on a little surge as I went by them hoping that they wouldn’t be able to match my pace and I could have about a 4-5 minute lead by the time I got off the bike.  No luck though.  The 3 of them kept the legal distance behind and stayed behind me for the majority of the final 30 miles.  Two of them probably did a total of 5 miles worth of work at the front.  Just before we got back to big hill, a little rain came and wet the roads again… making the decent of the hill a little frightening for me.  I made it safely to the bottom again and continued on.  With about 8 miles to go on the bike, one of the riders in the group got a flat.  I saw this as an opportunity to try to splinter the group and get a little lead before the run.  One rider hung with me (Mario de Elias, a pro from Argentina).  We basically entered T2 at the same time.  I had my first ever race best bike split in a big race! Happy to do this on a tough course.  Lots of hard work and a little bit of playing my aero-position made a big difference from last year to this year.  I also had my race best power for a 70.3 triathlon.  323 watts from normalized power.  1.01 VI.  I felt this was a very well executed bike ride for me.

post bike

Run –

The run tends to be the best part of my race.  I felt really good coming off the bike.  I was pretty confident I could run away from Mario on this run course.  But Mario had other plans.  I left T2 probably about 10 seconds ahead of him.  The first mile was flat and fast.  5:39 was my first mile split… then the climbing started.  The pace slowed down a little… but only a little.  Over the next 5 miles we traded spots in the lead with the following mile splits: 5:46, 6:03, 5:47, 5:48, 7:03 (lots of climbing in the 6th mile while on trails).  Over those 5 miles we climbed just under 600 feet according to my Garmin.  At one point while on the trails, I took a miss-step where my foot didn’t land right.  A small cramp started on the inside of my right leg.  Over the next half mile or so, I felt it getting just a little bit tighter.  I contemplated stopping to stretch it out, but knew that every second was valuable in this situation.  I did my best to keep my stride long to prevent the muscle from cramping more.  I took a salt tab and the next aid station and the cramp went away shortly after that.  By the time we reached the highest elevation of the run, I surprisingly felt like I still had a fair amount left in my legs for the return to the finish line.  I feel that I’m good at working the down hills and getting some free speed, and was hoping for a surge for the finish line.  Mario stayed about 10-20 meters ahead of me during the next 4 miles.  At mile 11, we got to the final trail portion of the race and it was mostly slightly down hill.  I closed the gap with just over a mile to go.  Mario saw me pull up next to him and put on a surge.  I tried to go with him, but I just couldn’t find the energy to match him that morning.  My legs just ran out of juice.  I watched him pull further and further away and crossed the finish line in 2nd.

 

Overall –

I finished as the runner-up at the Toughman National Championship after one my best races (as far as numbers are concerned on the bike and the difficulty of the run course).  Just under a minute away from snagging the title and a lot of extra cash.  But Mario was a better athlete that day.  Toughman put on an excellent race.  The bike course was closed to traffic and the run course was incredible as well.  Lots of scenic views to distract you from the discomfort.  I’m looking forward to coming back next year to get one spot higher on that podium!

podium

Thanks to all my sponsors this year for making it a great season, faster than last year, and lots of fun!  Couldn’t do it without them – Maverick Multisport, Duro-Last Roofing, Vibra Healthcare, Argon, Enve Composites, Jay Bird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport, Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks

BlueSeventy – save 20% on all orders using MavMike.
BSX Athleticssave $40 on the multisport unit with code MavMike
Energy Bits – buy the most nutrient dense food on the planet and save 20% at checkout using “mike502bits.”
Infinit Nutrition – used the code “MAVERICK” at checkout to save 10%
Primal Sports mud – Discount code: MAVMIKE15 will give you 20% off from 1/1/15 to 12/31/15.; http://www.primalsportmud.com/buy.html#sthash.5UY88juh.dpbs
08/28/15

Revamping the plan, again!

This year has been rather frustrating when it comes to finding races that stick to what they promise.  I have revamped my schedule over and over again trying to get things to work.  The struggle started after Challenge Family cut the pro prize money for the majority of their North American races.  I was in the middle of a big build for Challenge AC when I got the email about the cancellation of the prize money.  I was really bummed because my improvement from 2014 has been pretty good for the Iron distance racing.  I didn’t want that fitness to go to waste, but at that point, I really didn’t feel like flying out west to do either IMCDA or Ironman Whistler… too much travel expenses.  So I settled on just doing mostly smaller races for the remaining part of the season that fit into my work and on-call schedule that was planned around all the Challenge Family races I was originally going to do.

I found about a full distance triathlon in Grand Rapids, MI that had a small amount of prize money (Titanium man).  Since my parents live fairly close to Grand Rapids, and I knew a few people in that area, I knew the travel expenses would be at a minimum and could most likely win the race.

The race was unfortunately cancelled to a small amount of lightening just shortly before I arrived at T2.  And even with a 14 minute lead at T2, the race company decided not to pay me for the win.  I was mostly likely going to run just under a 3 hour marathon, meaning that the 2nd place guy would need to run a 2:40-2:45 marathon to beat me.  (The prize money was donated to chartiy instead of paying how we finished the race at the cancellation) So I basically threw away a good amount of money for nothing… not to mention the 5500 calories of energy I expended during the bike and swim!

However, with a possible finish time of Michigan Titanium Full distance Triathlon at a 8:20, I now believe I have shot at getting to Kona as professional.  Honestly, when I first started racing as a professional, I never thought I would say that.  So, with the limited number of races available each calendar year to get to Kona as professional, I needed to try to start accumulating points as soon as possible.  So where do I race for the rest of 2015?

Chattanooga.

Chattanooga is the first North American race with KPR for 2016 this year since IM Wisconsin no longer has a pro field.  So, I am again revamping my training schedule to get a full distance triathlon in for the year.  After planning to do Challenge AC and Cedar Point, then changing to Michigan Titanium, and finally set my sights on Chattanooga.

Not only am I gearing up to race Chattanooga… I’ve already set it as a goal to win.  Last year, Matt Hanson (8:12) and Daniel Bretshcer (8:19) were first and second.  They will be in Kona gearing up for 2014 World Championship.  I’m assuming that Trevor Wuretel will be there racing.  Last year he finished in a 8:22.  So, based on those times, I believe that I could be in the mix for a possible win.  My mind is already set on it… and that is a powerful thing!