The last couple weeks have felt a bit different than the last couple years of training. Which is good after a humbling experience in Panama.
Before going into the Panama, I knew I needed to shake things up after the race and get a new coach. I didn’t know who to go with, but I had a few people in mind that I wanted to talk to when getting back from my trip.
Before leaving for Panama, I made a detour to Tucson, AZ for an FCA camp. When a friend of mine asked me to go, I was a little hesitant from a financial perspective since if I don’t work I don’t get paid since going PRN at the hospital. However, I decided that 2013 was going to be different for me and not be so conservative with money. I figured that the opportunity that I have now won’t be here forever and I should take advantage of it. With that thought process, I found myself boarding a plane to Tucson before going to Panama and spent a week out there.
While I was there, I met a coach named Brian Grasky who is a lot like me (a big numbers person, likes using power meters for training, but also laid back). He also race professionally for a bit before getting injured and was forced into an early retirement from the sport. I was able to talk to him before leaving for Panama and we worked out the logistics of coaching.
Fast forward to the week I got home from Panama and I found my training load increasing, which is exactly what I wanted and felt I needed. I went PRN at the hospital to allow me more time to train properly and recover better. Brian did a fantastic job picking up where I was at training-wise and got me on course for making 2013 a successful season. My training hours have jumped from mid-teens to low 20’s right now, and I expect them to slowly increase to the mid-20’s eventually.
I have increased my time in the pool to 4 or 5 days per week and also running/cycling about one more day per week as well. In just three weeks of this, I’ve noticed some improvement. For example, in masters a couple days ago we had to do a few 200 meters all out and I completed them about 2 seconds faster than I could before leaving for Panama.
The feedback I get from Brian is fantastic as well. It’s refreshing to have that communication.
Even though it wasn’t the smartest thing to not work for a pay period (no pay check for a month sucks!), I feel that God had a purpose for me to go to FCA Endurance camp for several reasons. I was able to get to know some friends from Louisville better and spend some time with them outside of organizing local events and training. I was also blessed by all the friends that I met out there during the week and also was able to meet my new coach and spend time with him before he knew I was looking for a new one.
I looking forward to working with Brian more in the future, and hopefully make one or two trips out to AZ this summer for some training and testing.
When it comes to nutrition, I like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of how to fuel properly throughout the day and post-workouts to recovery properly and try to be as lean as possible. Lots of diets come and go (Atkins, low fat, etc.), usually with a lot of hype and with little success for people. True, people may loose weight from these fad diets. But it’s always interesting to check the person’s overall body composition before and after. For example, Atkins diet causes people to loose weight quickly, but in the end their body fat percentage is often higher and the toxins in someone’s body from having to use protein instead of fat and carbs as a fuel source is something that a lot of people don’t know about.
Paleo diet seems to be the next diet fad that has hit America. However, I do believe there is something to be said about this diet. From what I understand about this diet, grains, milk, beans/legumes are off limits. The diet promotes a high fat and protein diet from lean meats and nuts/seeds. Carbohydrates are obtained through starchy vegetables, such a sweet potato.
I hate jumping on board with fad diets until I have time to think them through and see if it would work for me as an endurance junkie. I think that if I took this diet to the extreme, I would lack energy since I need lots of carbohydrates to fuel my workouts, recovery, and just have energy throughout the day. Also, I’m not a big meat person… I prefer to cook without it and use beans/legumes instead. However, I think that it could be good thing to do occasionally (maybe 3 or so meals a week… or late night snacking). So I made my first Paleo diet meal with one modification… I added some feta cheese to this delicious salad:
- 1 bag (9 ounce) of spinach
- 1 bag (7 ounce) of craisins or dried fruit (i used dried pomegranates)
- 1 cup chopped chicken (i cooked an entire chicken in the crock pot and divided the meat into fourths, bagging the other three bags of meat from the chicken and throwing it in the freezer. The entire chicken was only $5)
- 2/3 cup pistachios
- 8 ounce block of Feta cheese – shredded/crumbled
- 2 pears, chopped
I started going to Pure Fit around the middle of November, and have seen some tremendous results in my strength, core stability, and over all fitness. I really look forward to the workouts… and now there is even more incentive to work hard: The Body Transformation Challenge.
It is an 8-week contest to see how much body fat percentage a person/team can loose. There is about $1500 on the table, with additional incentives as well. This contest is very simple:
1. Make a team of four people – they can be members or non-members
2. Initial body fat testing – this is the last week to get involved on the contest. Depending on whether you’re a girl or guy, they use an ultrasound machine in 3 to 4 parts of your body to measure your body fat percentage. They also check your weight, waist line and hip circumference.
3. Come to classes for 8 weeks – people have access to Pure Fit’s boot camp classes and have access to some information about how diet plays a role in loosing body fat percentage
4. Remeasure body fat at the end of the contest – each percent body fat lost isn’t equal. For easy math sake, if someone goes from 10% to 9%, that is a 10% total drop, or 10 “points.” If someone goes from 20% to 19% that is a 5% drop in total body fat loss, or 5 “points.” The team with the most points at the end wins money to be divided evenly. Also the person with the most points gets money as well.
This is is a great thing that Pure Fit is doing that really looks at the whole picture of health. Too many people are too stuck on weight as their number. Weight itself doesn’t say whether or not you’re healthy or not. For example, when I started swimming my junior year of high school, I went from 145 lbs to 165 lbs in 3 or 4 months of swimming. That’s a 20 pound weight gain in a short amount of time, but I believe I was much healthier after swimming. I also put on another 10 lbs my senior year of swimming. So if you put on weight, it isn’t always a bad thing… muscle weighs more than fat and burns a ton more calories per day.
Again, this is the last week to get started on the contest. So if you think you’re interested, get yourself to Pure Fit and accept the challenge!
This trip toPanamataught me a lot of the different things. I learned how to get by on $18 of cash for 5 days, how to navigate a city with only about 10% of the roads marked by road signs, combining English and Spanish and charades simultaneously to communicate with the same person, and many other things. However, I also was reminded of one important thing while here… how good we have it inAmerica. Below are just a few things that I think many of us take for granted… or at least I know that I do
- Grocery shopping – There were two different places I could shop for food while in Panama that were within a 5 or so minute walk from the hostel. I did my best to only buy enough food for a week, but still have enough variety to get all the nutrients that I needed. I ended up eating a lot of eggs, lentils, and split peas for protein, peanuts and peanut butter for fat (in addition to the egg yolks), and rice and corn tortillas for carbohydrates. The trick was to buy a bunch of food that didn’t need refrigerating since there was only so much room to use in the small dorm fridge that was shared by everyone. However, when it came to finding a large variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, the stores were lacking. One of the stores only had some lettuce, carrots, green beans, and peppers for fresh vegetables. Anything else was frozen or canned (which wasn’t much to speak of).. They also didn’t have a large variety of peanut butter to choose from. I only found on natural peanut butter, the rest were laden with hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar. It’s crazy to think that I can walk into almost any grocery store inLouisvilleand find fruits and vegetables from all over the world any time of year, countless different kinds of peanut butter or another nut butter, and a large variety of different brands of corn tortillas in either white or yellow corn or flour. The one thing the stores did have better than US stores was the over abundance of eggs that came from chickens that were fed correctly. How could I tell? The eggs were brown and the yolks were an orange-ish color instead of a bright yellow.
- Pool availability – I sometimes find myself grumbling that the pools don’t open up early enough on the weekends for me to get a swim in before work. I also complain that Mary T. Meagher isn’t open on Sundays. I also wish that I could get a swim in after work sometimes, but by the time I get off and drive to the pool, I’d only have a 30-45 minute swim. Lastly, I think thatLouisvilledoesn’t have very many pools for the size of the city. I feel as if I have no room to complain anymore. InPanama City, I think there are only two pools that are open to the public, one on each end of the city. The three times I went to the pool, I only successfully got one swim workout. They have such strange hours that vary from day to day. The pool closest to me is closed on Mondays, and open from 8-11:45 am and again from 1-2:45. The first time I went, I arrived at 2:15. No sense in changing to swim for 15 minutes. I found their hours posted and decided to try again the next day when they opened up at 1. I showed up at 12:45 and discovered the whole facility was empty. Someone informed me there was a soccer game on campus and the pool wouldn’t open this afternoon. I know that soccer is huge in every country other than theUSA, but I find it weird that it shuts down a whole campus. When I life guarded at IWU in college, even if there was a big basketball game or soccer game on campus during normal pool hours, the pool would be open.
- Open roads – I nearly died a few times trying to ride my bike in town. After one try, I realized it wasn’t safe or effective. It took me a good hour or so of driving to get out of town far enough to find some roads that weren’t heavily traveled. And of those roads, only a handful of roads are paved well enough for road cycling. I know that several people in the States get riled up about not having a bike lane on roads, or complain about traffic. Even though the roads in Louisville don’t have much of a shoulder to ride on and many don’t have bike lanes (and the ones that do only last for a few blocks and then stop, getting you to… well… nowhere), I’m just thankful to have the ability to ride on virtually any road and have it paved well enough to allow me to ride on them.
- Running – The whole time inPanama, I saw two people running for the sake of running. I don’t blame the rest of the population within the city. I tried running the morning before I left to shake out my legs a little bit. They were still a bit heavy from Sunday’s race, but I also felt that high level of smog and exhaust within the city made it hard to run. The sidewalks, if the roads had them, often had uncovered manholes to the sewer system below. I nearly stepped in a couple of them the first time I went out for a jog at night. The cars are parked on the sidewalks and they zip in and out of the businesses without even looking for people… or they just don’t care figuring the pedestrian will get out of their way.
- Housing – what’s that “reality” TV show that people go out and look for their dream home… or first home? House hunters, or something like that, right? The person/people often time have a hard time deciding if 3 or 5 bedrooms are enough and if the bathroom is big enough, or whether or not it should have a pool and/or hot tub. I often thought that these people were a bit over-the-top, but it struck me again when I was out riding my bike back and forth a short patch of road in the country that was safe enough to ride on. I passed by a few “villages” that had families living in a shack about 10 x 10 ft that was literally scrap metal, fabric, pieces of wood, or some other sort of old building material leaning against each other to form some sort of shelter. You see these things on TV now and then, or maybe in a movie, but how sad it is to actually see it in person. We complain if the room is too cold/hot, if the appliance breaks or malfunctions, or if we don’t like the color of the walls. I wonder what things these families complain about. Probably a lot less than we do and they don’t have heat/AC or running water in their houses.
These are just some of the things that I’ve noticed. I think that it’s important, as an American, to remember that we have it really good back home. We should bite our tongue and remember those less fortunate.
From the start of this trip, there has been a common theme – “overcoming adversity.” I won’t go into all the details of the events (they are blogged about in previous posts since January 23rd), but I’ll give you a bullet list:
- Being rerouted on my original flight schedule to Tucson
- Dropped off a the wrong place by the taxi that was about ¾ mile from where we needed be
- Headset missing from bike when it arrived in Tucson
- Wheels/tires not glued
- Valve extenders not working – unable to inflate tires à bought new valve extenders which weren’t compatible with my tires à ripped off tires and bought the correct valve extenders and more glue for my tubular tires
- My friend Larry broke his clavicle just as we started our bike ride up to Mt. Lemmon
- Not able to find hostel the night I arrived in Panama
- Crazy drivers (so far no accidents or even a scratch on the car!)
- GPS not working at all – navigating downtown Panama by guessing is always fun
- Foreign country with very little Spanish speaking ability – although it has gotten better since being here!
My… what an eventful last 10 days it has been! The race was no different. Just as I did through all the previous obstacles and frustration from this trip, I learned things about myself and how to take some punches along the way.
Race Prep – patience is a virtue
I parked in about the same place I did the day before and walked the rest of the way to Trump Hotel to avoid paying for parking slightly closer. As with most athletes and spectators, I hopped on a bus to get to start of the race. I got there with plenty of time to get myself all set up in transition and walk the 1.2 miles to the swim start. I jumped in off a dock into the water expecting to plummet into nice warm water. Unfortunately, it was anything but warm. The water temperature dropped significantly from the days before. No official temperature was taken, but I’m guessing it was in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. I think the line for wetsuits for pros in swims less than 3000 meters is about 68 degrees, so it was borderline wetsuit legal. But, none of packed our wetsuits, so we all were in the same boat.
The men’s wave was supposed to start at 6:50. It didn’t start until about 7:40 due to difficulties getting the bike course clear and having enough volunteers at the aid stations. So after we waited around for 50 minutes trying to stay warm, we finally got back in the water to start the race.
Swim – 1.2 miles
The swim was at the mouth of the panama canal… and the sun was right in our face to start the swim. My goal was to stay right next to the buoys the entire time since I knew the current would be stronger the closer to the center of the canal we were. With the sun in my face and waves from boats, I found myself much closer to shore than I intended, which ended up making me much slower than planned.
Bike – 56 miles
For anyone that has done Kona before, you know to respect the heat and the wind. It’s no different in Panama. The pavement in Panama may not go through lava fields, but the wind seems to hit from the front and the side the entire time. I would almost go as far to say that if Hawai’i ever sinks or blows up, they should consider moving it to Panama.
Below is an elevation profile of the bike course:
The bike course in Panama not only has wind and heat, but a total of just over 1900 feet in climbing. As a reference, IM Louisville has 2000 feet of climbing… but it’s spaced out over 112 miles instead of 56 miles. My goal was to be between 300 and 305 average watts for the 56-mile ride. I hit the turn around point, about 50 kilometers and averaged about 310 watts for the first 1:07. (This is a huge improvement from last year when I would average 300 watts for the 40K of an Olympic distance race and average between 25-26 mph). The way out we had a head wind and cross wind, and for some strange reason, we also had one on the way back in to town. Just before getting to the turn around, I noticed the top 6 or so guys riding in a pack. By my judgment, all of them should have received a drafting penalty. They were clearly closer than 10 meters off the back wheel of the person in front of them. Not saying I would have caught them, since they are better athletes than me, but it does bother me that drafting still occurs without penalty in the professional rankings.
With the wind and heat, I quickly became dehydrated and was unable to replenish the lost fluids. During the 56-mile ride, I went through about 3.5 bottles of fluid. I probably should have done closer to 5 bottles (about 125 ounces instead of 90 ounces). I knew I was in trouble when I got off the bike to start the run and didn’t even feel the need to pee yet.
Run – 13.1 miles
Just before getting off the bike I toyed with the idea of chalking up the race. I reminded myself of how I was dedicating this race to my grandpa that passed away about 10 days ago. I knew he was watching and would be disappointed if I didn’t complete the task set before me, as he always did. My grandpa was a hard worker, my dad is a hard worker, and I don’t want to be the one to break that trend. I passed Manuel Huerta just before getting off the bike and could tell that was going to DNF. (About 25% of the male field DNF’d this race.) I struggled finding my running legs. It wasn’t a lack of calories (I consumed about 1100 calories on the bike ride), it was a fluid volume problem. I grabbed every glass of water I could, popped salt tabs, stuck ice in my uniform, and took sips of NAPALM. I could feel my body starting to function better, but with as dehydrated as I was, there was no way my muscles were going to behave the way I wanted. I passed a few people getting loaded up on stretchers into ambulances that appeared to suffer from dehydration or heat exhaustion. The run became about finishing in one piece. I picked off a few more people, which some of them eventually DNF’d as well and crossed the finish line pointing to the sky thanking God for overcoming another obstacle in the trip and to my grandpa who I’m sure if running/flying faster than I was today!
As with all the other obstacles in this trip before race day, I learned a few things.
- Don’t sign up for big races hoping to walk away with money. The reason why times are slow on these courses is because the course is extremely difficult (only one person broke 4 hours today).
- Pick races with less prize money and KPR (Kona Points Ranking)
- Change training to accommodate for where I was lacking
- Always drink more than you think you need
- Keep on improving by focusing on my weak areas (mainly the biking portion)
- Treat every quality training session with the tenacity of race day
All that being said, where’s the beach, the surf board and the snorkeling gear… it’s time to (keep) playing!
Well in just a few short hours, the 2013 season will start with a swim in the Panama Canal. I must admit, the butterflies are starting to set up camp in my stomach.
I was able to sleep until about 8 o’clock this morning. Waking up to breakfast already prepared or being prepared has been a nice treat. I ate breakfast and decided to make my way down to the Trump Hotel early… not know how long it would take to get there with the traffic (even though it was a saturday morning) and not being able to count on the GPS for getting me there. And let me tell ya… it was a good thing I left early. My GPS, even with the coordinates plugged in from Google maps, couldn’t even get it right. Thankfully, I knew the building I was shooting for by looking at pictures on-line the day before. The GPS shot me way past it… about 3 miles or so. I finally just turned it off and started just weaving my way around the city until I couldn’t get any closer to the hotel. I parked the car and walked about 3/4 of a mile to the Hotel.
I did the athlete check-in as usual, nothing special here. I made a lap around the race expo and didn’t see anything free to grab, so I went to the Ironman Store across the foyer. I have a tradition that I started, sort of on accident, with my first IM race in 2007 in Wisconsin of buying a pint glass specific to the race. Not every race has one. But if they do, I make sure to grab one. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a huge drinker or beer expert… so I’m not really sure why I feel the need to get one, other than adding clutter to my collection of race souvenirs, hats, and finisher medals. I walked up to the cash register to pay for it, and noticed my credit card was MISSING! I had a moment of panic and remembered that I had left them in my shorts pocket for when I went to the ATM the other day. I did have some cash on me, and decided to just pay with that.
I walked back to my car to get the bike. I made it all the way there and started digging around in my backpack for my keys. NO KEYS!! This was a bit more than a moment of panic. I tried retracing the steps in my mind about when I knew I had my keys and if/when I picked them up. I remember having them in my had when I entered the Ironman Store. I remember setting them down with looking for my credit card, but don’t remember them being in my had after leaving the store. I walked back as quick as I could to the store with worst case scenerios running through my head of having Thrifty car rentals charging me an arm and leg to replace the key, not being able to race since my bike was locked in my car, and having no transportation for the rest of the trip. I walked straight to the store once I got off the elevator and frantically asked if anyone had seen my keys. Thankfully, the lady had them behind the counter waiting for me to come back. I made another trek to the car, put my bike together and rode it back to the hotel and caught a shuttle bus to the pier where transition will be held.
The bus wasn’t exactly bike and passenger friendly. We had to put the bikes on the bus on one side of the isle and sit on the other:
We set up transition and walked back to the bus… but not before getting a few pictures of course:
After the bus ride back, I had a couple hours to kill before the Pro meeting. I listened to the age group meeting, and ran into a person from high school, Jessica Anderson, who is her doing the race for the second time. I sat in and listened to the Pro Panel Q & A. Lost of talent up there… Olympic Qualifiers, multiple 70.3 and IM distance winners. I admittedly thought to myself, “what am I doing here??” I pushed that negative thought out of my head and recomposed my thoughts. “I am here living my dream, racing against the best. I’m here to have fun, be it finishing first, middle, or last. I’m here giving the sport back to God who first gave it to me to help me overcome depression and an eating disorder. I’m here to escape winter and get a tan!”
The pro meeting went over some of the basics of the race, with in depth information about the course and what to expect on race day. I was a little surprised to hear some of the questions the other pros were asking. It made it sound like this was our first triathlon ever! I was sitting next to Paul Ambrose and noticed he was a little frustrated with the questions as well. One question did strike me as odd: “Will you be drug testing the top 5 or so finishers?” I was informed that last year when Lance Armstrong raced and finished 2nd, he was the only one out of the top 6 guys that didn’t get tested! Crazy… it seems that even WTC was in on the Lance Armstrong scandal. Is anyone out there playing fair these days?!?
Anyways… the only thing left to do now is get some dinner, make breakfast for tomorrow and stay hydrated. With these warm temperatures, that is easier said than done!
I’ve been in Panama City, Panama for a total of two days now. I wish that I would have known some things about the country before getting here. So, if you plan on visiting this country, please read the following carefully!
1. Stay as close to where you want to be as possible – I’m staying at a hostel called Hostel Aleman. It’s a nice place to stay. Free breakfast cooked fresh with farm fresh eggs, freshly made juice, fresh cut pineapple and watermelon, and toast have all been on the menu every day. It’s only about 4 or 5 miles from the host hotel (the Trump Towers), but it takes a good 30 minutes to go that far by car if traffic is bad… which is most of the time. To avoid as many headaches as possible, avoid renting a car and get a taxi ride from the airport to your lodging location while here. The roads are very confusing and they resemble a drawing that a 2 year old made.
2. Rules of the road (or lack thereof) – Panamanians drive on the right side of the road… and that’s about the only thing you can count on. The number of lanes in the road has nothing to do with the number of rows of cars on the road. I was driving down the corridor today and people started passing me on the shoulder and then nosing their way back into the flow of traffic when the shoulder stopped at the bridge. No… it wasn’t nosing their way back in… it was “get out of my way or you’ll be responsible for me going over the barrier to the street below” back into the flow of traffic. Police officers put their flashers on just to get around you. They aren’t chasing anyone… they would rather not get caught for drafting, I guess. Stop signs are going out of style here. They can only be found at a few street corners. You may be on the main road in the intersection… but that doesn’t give you the right of way. Always be cautious. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get on the main road or cross the main road, eventually you’re going to have to just gun it and go for it. Otherwise not only will you be stuck at the intersection for the unforeseeable future, but you’ll make all the cars behind you angry and a chorus of honking will start after about 5 seconds of being stationary.
Honking doesn’t exactly mean “move.” If a taxi is empty of a passenger, they communicate with walkers to let them know they don’t have a customer by honking their horn and staring at the pedestrian. Buses honk their horn almost non-stop to let you know that something much bigger than you is coming up behind. Most of these buses are easily noticeable with their graffiti purposely painted on them and things that look like pom-poms on the wheels that stream along when the bus is moving.
If there is an empty spot, you must take it… no hesitation. If you think about things like, “is there someone in blind spot,” or “put blinker on first then move,” you’ve waited to long and now that spot you needed to get to is gone. Just move and be sure to be aggressive. Only stop if the other person doesn’t and hope that they see you!
I don’t even want to confess about how many traffic violations I did just today. I just hope that I can shake these bad habits when I return to Louisville.
3. Always wear your clothes – It’s a bit warm in Panama… mid 90’s most days. I went for a walk today and decided I’d work on my tan at the same time. I didn’t make it but 5 minutes down the road and a cop stopped me and sent me back to put a shirt on. I guess I’ll be coming home with a nice farmers tan that will probably last the entire summer.
4. GPS status – If you’re lucky enough to own a smart phone… or maybe not stuck in the stone age of phones, like me, don’t bother renting a GPS unit if you do decide to get a car. I’ve resorted to finding the GPS coordinates of places on the internet and then searching for it that way. My GPS couldn’t even find the Host Hotel (the Trump Towers), or the park where transition is staged at. I usually don’t even take the roads it asks me to take and try to run parallel to the route on a side street because the main roads are so congested with traffic. Lesson learned here… either get a smart phone (which isn’t going to happen) or take a taxi everywhere. But, I’m stubborn and figured if I rented a car I better use it. So I’m stuck being frustrated.
Once this race is done, I’m going to get as far from the city as possible and find a nice beach and/or mountain area to hang out in. I’ll wake up early to get out of town and get back late at night hopefully after the traffic is manageable. Playa La Angosta looks to be nice…