05/31/13

Raleigh 70.3 Prerace

This year has presented me with several different challenges.  Some of them physical (Achilles tendinitis off and on for a couple months), race nutrition as I’ve had to adjust to racing at higher intensities, and even some mental challenges.

I’ve talked to a few people recently about my mental struggles for this year.    Just a little over a year ago, I was racing age group athletes and always finishing toward the front of pack.  Depending on when my wave started, I was constantly passing people.  It gave me a constant motivator to keep pushing it.  A simple game of cat and mouse – just pick off the next person.  Now my races always start with the first wave of professional athletes.  I can usually hold my own somewhere in the middle of the pack during 1.2-mile swims.  After getting out of the swim, I can typically pick off a couple riders, but over the course of 56-miles, it does make it mentally tougher to stay focused and keep the effort going.  The run is the same way.  Maybe pass a couple people, but for 13.1 miles, the loneliness really starts wearing on me.  Keeping my head in the right place, pushing the negative thoughts out gets harder and harder as the race goes on.

This next part may seem irrelevant at first, but it will come full-circle at the end.

A few days ago, I watched a documentary called “Hungry for Change.”  It talked about people need to redefine their definition of “sugar,” start reading the ingredients on the foods they buy, and start eating foods with antioxidants.  The point being made was that your body will start feeling better and even looking better to others.  They even mentioned the importance of “self-pep talks.”  One person on the documentary said to put something in the mirror and say words of affirmation to yourself.  These words of affirmation will come into play and prevent those negative thoughts of even forming in your head.  Where the brain goes, the body goes.  Thus making the body perform better.

The last couple days, I’ve pictured myself swimming long and lean, biking with the wattage in mind and seeing my feet pedal in a fluid circular motion pushing and pulling through the full pedal stroke, and running with a forward lean pushing sub-6 minute miles.  I’ve pictured my bike nutrition positioned on my bike and how often to take in the calories.  I’ve seen the hills in my head on the bike and powering up them and tucking to maximize the downhill sections.  And most importantly, I’ve pictured the finish line finishing strong.  I’ve also made a point of mentally telling myself that I’m fast, powerful, and lean… over and over again.  And, as cheesy as it sounds, it seems to be working.

I also talked with my host for this race, Brooks, about the thoughts in my head.  He has a few athletes he coaches, some of which are elite, and has had the same talk with them.  He agreed that there needed to be a mental shift, grit the teeth, and do the work.  If someone wants it bad enough and puts in the work, the results will come.

I am feeling good about this race on Sunday now.  A few days ago, negative thoughts were in my head.  I wondered why I even try to compete to against some of these guys.  I realized, though, that improvements are being made since last year.

So when race morning comes around, I will be listening to the voices in my head that are positive and watching a preview of a spectacular race.

05/19/13

Ironman Texas Race Report

A few years ago in training for triathlons, I learned that sticking to the original plan for the season is almost always the best thing to do.  I learned that by adding more and more races to my schedule and went through a cycle of racing, recovering (or at least trying), tapering, and racing again.  This worked out well for the first few races, but after a month or so of it, I just couldn’t keep going.  The rest of my season suffered and I was left disappointed and frustrated.  Instead of chalking things up, I kept on adding more races to the schedule looking for just “one more good race” of the season.  But it never really happened.  I finished the year worn out mentally and physically.

Ironman Texas was originally going to be a practice run for Ironman Louisville later this year.  I felt good going into the race about 2 weeks out and decided that I may take a stab at the entire race.  I wanted to get a PR on a course that, on paper, looks easier than other Ironman courses I’ve done before.  So I prepared myself mentally to take on the entire distance and filled my transition bags and special needs bags with everything I needed.

Race day started with a 4:15 wake up call.  My friend, Chris, and our host for the weekend, Will, made our way to transition to make the final preparations we needed to for the race.  The swim start was about a mile walk from transition.  I dropped off my special needs bags and made my way to the swim start to get warmed up with the pros in the water.  The pro field was very large… about 40 in the male wave.  We took off at the sound a gun and found myself in a poor location for getting in with the faster swimmers.  I fell behind and ended up pulling a group of about 5 or 6 swimmers behind me for the rest of the swim.  The group I was in ended up getting to the swim exit at about the same time… 59 minutes.  I felt that this swim was a bit slow for me, but I didn’t let it bother me too much.  I can’t change the past and can only control what I have I left in the race.  So it was on to the bike.

I started out focusing on taking in nutrition and fluids to make up for the caloric loss in the swim.  I got my wattage dialed in that I wanted to hold and felt great.  I was rolling along and a nice consistent pace and slowly catching some of the pro field that beat me out of the swim.  The first 60 miles or so was a net gain in elevation.  I was taking in my electrolytes and calories just as I had planned.  I grabbed my special needs bag at mile 60, which was full with 3 bottles of Infinit and a flask of NAPALM.  However, at this point, I was running low on my electrolyte tabs and eventually ran out about mile 70.  The sun was completely out at this time and the wind was in my face at about 20 mph.  At times, I felt the warm air radiating off the ground and it felt as if I was in a convection oven.  Needless to say, my sweat rate was pretty high and without the salt tabs and adequate water intake, my biking legs stopped functioning rather quickly.  I decided to just ride it in nice a easy and go back to the original plan of saving my legs for Raleigh 70.3 and using it as a practice run for IM Louisville.

I did learn a few things in this race that should help in IM Louisville since the heat and humidity were very comparable to the weather I would expect to be in Louisville.  The biggest thing I learned was the need for some better electrolyte replacement during the bike leg.

Since I saved my legs for Raleigh, I’m excited to race this half ironman race with legs that won’t be so tired and flat.

05/8/13

Ironman Texas Prerace

A little less than two weeks out from my first Ironman distance race of the season.  10 days to be exact.  I feel good… almost eerily good.  I’ve never felt this way before an Iron distance race before.

Looking over the past few years of racing Iron distance events, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t physically and mentally exhausted before going into the taper for a the 140.6 mile race.  The last couple years, all I wanted to do the entire month before the race was sleep.  My training those years was forced.  I very rarely felt good for the long training rides and most of the running workouts were a struggle to just get through within the intensity that I needed to be doing them as prescribed.

This year is different… for a few reasons.  I think the two biggest reasons are my reduced work load at the hospital.  Last year I was working 3 days per week.  Now I’m doing 2 days per week and doing some personal coaching for fellow triathletes (Progressive Endurance).  The other big change is the coaching that I’ve been under since the middle of February.  The workouts seem to be much more tailored to me with specific wattages to hold, and race specific training… and even some race simulations to build some confidence before going into the race.  Of course, there are many other reason to why this year is different.  A big thanks to my sponsors to making it much more affordable to do this triathlete business by donating product, money, and various other services.  Pure Fit has helped with my strength endurance and overall fitness level by getting me in the gym twice per week to do some strength training, which I have never done before.

Instead of being worn down and physically exhausted and completely drained mentally, I’m feeling great… and the confidence of doing well is there too.  My wattages are up significantly from last year and I feel comfortable holding them for duration needed to complete the bike in good shape.   Hopefully about a 4:45 bike split.   About 10 days ago, I raced the Derby Marathon in my hometown of Louisville, and ran a 2:39.  I am hoping that after getting off the bike, I’ll have have endurance and will have fueled properly to get me through the run around the 3-hour mark.

A month ago, I swam a 26 minute 1.2 mile swim  in Galveston.  I am hoping for a 54-ish minute swim, add in 5 minutes for transitions 1 and 2 and it puts me right around the 9 hour mark for an Iron distance race.  I would love to hit that time… in my mind it’s a huge bench mark.  A sub-9 hour Ironman!

Because I feel so good about this race, I’ve decided to change my original plan for the race.  I was going to use it as practice run for Ironman Louisville and stop after the bike (or after 10K of running).  I’ve decided to go for it.  All in.  Leave nothing on the course.

Cya at the starting line…