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“We let our battles choose us.” – Lorde
I set a PR on what was not the fastest course I have ever raced and for sure not fast on that day. I bet it’s Not even the second or third fastest course. With heat and wind it was average for an ironman frankly making my PR feel legit.
I made a lot of changes heading into the race and I think it’s worth noting what I changed and what worked and what things I can do and didn’t.
The first thing was a serious commitment to strength straining. Not just in the off season. Not just going to the gym and hoping by looking at weights I would cause me to absorb their magical powers. I went into the gym like an MMA fighter and got rowdy. I made the gym my key workouts for much of the year and left hobbled. I did work. I went in there will malice and ill intentions to hurt myself. At the height of my strength training it was a non stop 90 minutes of functional strength work and my heart rate never dropped below 140 and hit 180-190 often. It was a crazy productive gym session. I puked, I cried I got stronger and stronger. I think most triathletes I know train at the gym like gym dudes train on a track. They show up and hope without intentional focused motivated work they will get fitted. You get out what you put in. Or you you get out what you put out ( in terms of effort).
I also raced less and kept the strength work right into my taper. In years past I dropped the gym work in Spain and never got back to it. This time I lifted in Spain and right up until 10 days out. I would not lift Bc I was doing early season races and this I skipped those and the excuses they generated in terms of avoiding the strength work.
I also did core core core and strength training up to and during the taper. Looking at the pics from the race I had my best run form. Run strong and you will run fast.
I also cut my final prep down from 21 to 16 days. At my age I don’t think I can do 21 days straight of hardcore training. I did a hard half iron 6 weeks out then took 6 days easier (but lifted twice!) and then did my final prep which was full on.
I also did more speed in final prep with intervals in my race simulators rather than race effort work. Going above and below race effort and pace was good as it gave me a bit more speed on race day.
Don’t think I skipped base! In fact I did one of my longest rides a mountainous 135 mile bike ride on Saturday then a 20 mile run Sunday for a big iron-base weekend 5 weeks out.
I made a few nutritional changes. First I went with real food in the form of Carb BOOM, which is like if nature made a gel. I also switched to caffeine pills during the race.
I also did a full and meaningful caffeine detox and was off the sauce 5 days out which made the pills work that much better. I did have decaf a few times, but it’s decaf and I didn’t over due it.
A meaningful change was also how little I races coming into this one. I did only two half irons and one of those was my race-simulator 6 weeks out so it did double duty. That’s and the LA tri Championships was my prep races. I love racing but my gun only holds so many bullets…like 2.
I also boosted my hematocrit levels from 42 to 46 using an altitude tent. I didn’t feel different but the science is there and it seems to show that that extra 4 points is meaningful. It’s the same effect (though not as strong, but has the added bonus of being ethical and legal) as taking EPO which sadly works. Amazingly you only need to sleep at altitude for a short period of time to have to work. If you want to rent mine this fall let me know.
Lastly I focused hard on my head. I spent a lot of time seeking motivation. I am going to post about this in a separate post but it was a big part of my taper.
HERE ARE THE THINGS I DIDNT NAIL:
My bike was a disaster coming into the event. I spent the day prior frantically trying to get stuff fixed. That’s so rookie.
I need to eat more on the bike. I think now that I have found Carb BOOM I will be able to get down a lot more calories. AC was the first time with them because they are on course and I loved them but I think I need 2 x the amount I used.
While I need to eat more race day I need to eat less in the months leading up! I was 2-3kg over my ideal race weight heading in makings miserable for my taper.
It also cost me a better Wild Flower. I need to get to race weight in April if not March.
I failed to race my bike enough. Nothing makes me strong like bike races and while I raced some I need more. I also need more ITT races. I did one and it was perfect. I need more of that! All the motivation and effort of bike racing but on my awesome Valdora Tri bike!
I need to spend more time on my tri bike doing big gear strength intervals too. I was comfy on my TT bike and road a PR but need more strength work which I skipped. I did ride huge mountains in Spain which helps a ton. But as soon as I come back I need to jump on my Valdora TT bold and help transfer those gains at SLB to flat land TT riding. AC is a flat course.
“Back to the Front.” – Metallica
I was about to win the Harryman half ironman distance race; when I ran right pasted the turn around while staring at my watch not paying attention to the course. Never mind that it was two laps and I had done this turn before or that it’s clearly marked. Sometimes I am just stupid and 4 hours into a race is one of those times.
Imagines of my four 2nd places came flooding back. I started to question my destiny at this point. I was second at Harryman in 2013 after leading for 4 hours, 2nd at Patriot 2009 losing by 100 yards after leading for 70.2 miles. I took 2nd at the Set Up in event Kentic half in 2008 after leading for all of the bike to a freak young kid I later coached, and in 2005 my pro half debut had me loosing to an ITU guy from Canada at the Montauk Half. Now about to win the hardest of all those courses, the Harryman I thought I pulled defeat from the jaws of victory! Gah!
Harryman is hard. Honestly, it’s brutal though very pretty. The swim is cold, though always warmer than we think it will be and honestly not so cold as to be a problem. It was 60 , I think. This year, like last year I got off the front at the start and stayed there. I swam perfectly straight in the glassy clean water on the well marked course and only saw a pro woman behind me at the 1/2 way point. Thanks Xterra Wetsuits! Warm, fast, comfortable and once again first. WINTHESWIM!
I got out on the bike and tried to just ride hard. The course is a series of downhills and tight turns with some short step climbs until to get to a 180 degree turn at the bottom of the long downhill that causes you to start a massive 2 mile climb. This is what defines this course and makes it awesome. Oh, and it’s 4 laps. Bike racers race here and think this is hard. Bike racers and triathletes are like west coast and easy coast surfers. When west coast surfers or bike racers say a wave or a climb is big you know it’s big! So with 4 laps that’s 8 miles of steep climbs just on this one section! I was doing this race for the 3rd time and for the third time blew up on the bike. Laps 1-2 had me building my lead to 4 minutes and lap 3 had me giving all but 90 seconds if it back. I rallied on lap 4 and pushed again to enter t2 as second place was entering. Once again my Valdora Bike and Evil Racing Cult Wheels got me to T2 first. On a course like that a light bike and wheel set is critical.
The run is hard but nothing like the bike. I dropped the hammer as best as I could for the first out and back and got to the turn to see I had put time in. At the end of lap 1 I had even more time and this race was mine. I kept a good pace and was tinkering with my watch when I ran right by the cone and giant sign that said “turn around.”
The road went to a swamp. When I saw a back of turkey vultures starring at me like “you lost? You look tired. Lay down, we are hungry” I realized this wasn’t right. I was kinda confused bc I had been racing for over 4 hours at this point and simple brain functions kinda get hard. I was like “NO NOT AGAIN!!!! Not another 2nd place!” I finally turned around and when I saw the turn around sign I also saw 2nd and 3rd place who look to be having a nice battle which I was now in. Doh! They looked at me confused. but to end the confusing I ran two sub 6 minute miles until I was out of sight. Didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. I was happy to have the legs for that late into the run.
Some races you want to win because it’s a big event. But other races are so hard they stay smaller. Cult like. I dig that. After all, how many ppl will take on a race that’s 1 mile long (57 mile bike) and takes 40 minutes longer than all others because of the course? I loved winning Harryman because I love Harryman. I love that it’s insanely hard and brutally painful. That I did it twice prior only to be so hobbled from the bike to run more of an ironman pace rather than half ironman pace makes it one of my favorites. Long live brutal events!
Thanks to Red11 for keeping my skin happy, and to Champion Systems for making me look good out on the course and podium with the sweetest custom clothing. Also , come join me for the NYC marathon and run with me and www.teamcontinuum.net free coaching by me, entry into this sold out classic and also help people fighting cancer.
Ten Tips for Coaching
I write to and as an athlete a lot. But I recently got recognized by Brooks as a coach and I realized that after more than a decade of coaching and hundreds of athletes in that time, I might have some words of wisdom to share with other coaching out there. Here are 10 ideas on coaching:
1) coaching is 80 percent listening and 20 percent talking. Athletes know themselves best. Athletes will often tell you what you need to know to coach them. You need to ask them; you need to see the process as collaborative. They have critical feed back for you. Listen.
2) ask questions you know the answer to. Having an athlete reach the conclusion will vest them in the process. Athletes need to understand why they are doing something; this is critical if it’s something they don’t want to do. Get them to the answer with the right question and they will do the work and buy into the plan.
3) be emotionally supportive. Athletes need encouragement more than we think. Even top athletes.
4) be motivational. Find out what drives them and go with that. Training plans are important but for the right athlete dropping an f-bomb in the training plan or some other motivational element might be the difference between doing the workout and doing it well.
This is even more important if you call someone out and try tough love. Always add the love. This is as important with men; who don’t want to be honest about how much support they need because it’s “unmanly.” Trust me, they often want high fives and hugs too.
5) it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself when your athletes fail. Blame yourself if you fail them; but that is different. Your athletes come to you imperfect as all humans are. They come with mental and physical injuries and limitations that are beyond your control. With lives that can’t mesh with their dreams or expectations. You can’t fix that. We tend to exalt coaches in popular film and tv. I am all for having an impact in peoples lives. But when most of triathletes come to me they are adults. Busy adults with full lives. I am a part of it, but my impact on them is likely limited. You can and should listen, address their concerns and problems and offer help when you can but when they fail it’s easy to blame yourself and easier to accept the blame if they are the type to place blame on you. But you do them a disservice if you don’t make them face themselves and the reasons they failed which is likely their own and not yours.
6) It IS your fault if you don’t make them a training plan and leave them hanging. It IS your fault if you don’t answer emails or texts. It is your fault if you don’t know what the hell you are doing. If you can’t meet those standards: don’t coach.
7) Don’t take too much credit. You didn’t do the work. You didn’t turn yourself inside out to win the race. You didn’t suffer during each workout. When an athlete wins be proud of them for sure but remember this is their moment not yours. It would be great if they shared some of it with you; but they don’t have too; they earned it and deserve it. If this is about you, you are likely missing the fact that coaching is a supporting role and you won’t find satisfaction in this job.
8) Don’t confuse you and them. Your goals and experiences aren’t theirs. Take each athlete on their own terms and know this has nothing to do with you. Coaches in endurance sports are not rock stars; we are roadies. It’s a service industry job. Check your ego at the door because it won’t get much out of it.
9) There is no “one way.” Don’t be afraid to depart from your own ideas. Each athlete is different and needs different things. Sometimes you need to do the exact opposite with one athlete that you do with 95 percent of others or what worked for yourself. Be open to that.
10) Don’t chase fads. After 10+ years I have watched a lot of things come and go. The stuff that remains is what works. Avoid the latest and greatest and settle down your athletes when they read about fads in the sport. For sure educate yourself and be on top of evolution but don’t chase fads. Your job is to know the difference between the two.
“This life choose me. What god could make it stop, make it end / All these years pushed to the ledge?” Rise Against.
In 1998 I did my first tri and got my first copy of inside triathlon (remember the oversize format?) and the first story I read was about Wild Flower. It was THE race. It was the start of the year and the biggest event outside Kona. It drew the best; and had a mix of burning man; Woodstock and tri all in one weekend long holiday to our religion, an evil racing cult. It survived into the modern era despite huge market forces that can’t seem to extinguish one simple truth: Wild Flower isn’t a WTC event; it’s far far far better. Better course, better organization, better treatment of athletes, better crowds and something no WTC 70.3 event has: a history and sense of community. 30000 freaks in the woods bonded by sweat, mud and gears.
For me this is a pilgrimage. A trip across the country to the other coast to pay homage and to circle the sport’s Kabul 3 times (one rotation each of swimming biking and running). I am less concerned about how I race personally and more concerned that I honor this race, with a good effort, good performance and empty myself like the righteous pilgrim I hope I am. Honestly, the 70.3 distance have passed me by. The crop of 70.3 specialists and ITU speedsters dominate this distance along with a handful if freaks that can blaze ironmans too and I need to go twice as long to catch any of them. But it’s a perfect tune up for me as I prep for Challenge Atlantic City in late June and I feel primed for a good race and some fast spits. So with the pressure gone and nothing to lose, I am going into this one for me. To return to Mecca and hear the call to prayer and to once again honor the spirit of sport and to suffer the practices my religion. Sport is good, Sport is great.
I generally don’t do a ton of product reviews but I don’t have any sponsors that do anti chaffing products and though why not test drive Red 11 Sport in Spain. With 28 days of training there if my flesh was gonna get raw this would be the place. I love doing extreme stuff and seeing if I can break a product.
My first though was how small it was. A nice compact tin, which was great for travel. I opened it and could tell It’s non staining, petroleum free and has a clean smell to it. It says it’s for nipples but most runners will tell you arms, legs and “down there” also need some protection and I put it al the place for my first long run.
I really liked the thickness. It was soft enough to go on easy but thick enough to only need to add a wee bit, in fact one tin lasted the entire month.
So after it passed the run test I figured I would try some off label uses for it. Cyclist have all kinds of creams and honestly they make me feel like I am sitting in a used diaper. I used some on the normal hot spots where the saddle friction can get bad and it worked great. I like it for cycling more than cycling products because I only had to use a thin protective layer and it left me without that wet, cold, weird feeling.
I road 500k a week, ran 100k and for the entire trip didn’t have one bit of skin that was chaffed. I also think it has some skin healing and anti bacteria elements to it that promote healthy skin generally.
You can get yours at http://red11sport.com
Sign up for it. Pull the trigger sitting on the sofa in the warm comfort of your home. Reg for the hardest race of your life. It’s not just a race, that is the easy part. It’s the life change it takes to get the start; to get to the finish. Nothing about it is easy. Countless hard moments from that day until THE day. Countless cold dark mornings, cold dark runs after the sub went down. Countless rides in rain, snow or starring at clock on a wall.
That was 14 years ago. It’s been a lifetime of hard. A lifetime of work. A lifetime of not taking the easy way. It was so long ago I forgot there was an easy way. I forgot there was a path through life that wasn’t exhausting and grueling. I forgot that there was any way but the hard way. The path of most resistance. But isn’t it resistance that makes one stronger?
I would be lying to you if I said I made a choice. This life choose me. I couldn’t resist the path of resistance; like a month to a flame. I never saw the easy way because I never looked for it. I NEED this struggle because without it; I don’t know I am alive and this is my life for as long as I can remember. Did I sign up for a race 14 years ago or a lifetime? Is it an endurance event or is this life the thing we ultimately endure because it doesn’t seem like a race anymore, it just seems like existence and I wouldn’t want to be any other way.
Come to SLB X!!!! Super crazy deal if you reg by 4/15/14! 985 for the whole camp! That’s a space in our awesome farmhouse and compound and food prepared by a holistic chef! Plus coaching bike mechanics, airport transportation and all the pain you want!
Reg here: https://www.bikereg.com/strong-like-bull-training-camps
So come or watch as we go and you sit in freezing cold and snow unable to ride your bike outside!
After 14 days of training hard I wasn’t sure what the final 7 would look like and I just kept going until I cracked, then I did more. It worked out and I really feel strong as hell. Well, I felt strong, now I feel shattered but that’s what the recovery week is for! I literally drooled on myself just sitting on the plane which caused christine to burst into exhausted giggles.
Here is the blow by blow…huge thanks to Amrita for making my nutrition solid when I reach into my pocket and the support of the camp.
Friday: 1 hour run. Propose to christine / 2 hour ride up with christine on the pico. Not the hardest ride but, ya know, we got engaged! (3)
Saturday: 6 hour Zone 2 ride (6) (9) longest ride at that point and just kept it’s base and it went down ok.
Sunday: 3 hour ride with local team. Race like and brutal. 1 hour “run” legs trashed. (4) (13) they had a local stud who could hammer and I had good legs and was over 300 watts much of the time. It was perfect hard intervals. Super hard, 10-20 minutes and then we would regroup. The two of us dropped 30-50 guys repeatedly. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta finally getting my cycling power up.
Monday: 3k swim/5.5 hour rid/ 30 min brick run (7) (20) all day ironman style work. Also legs cooked.
Tuesdays: 1 hour strength / 3:15 bike with many hard efforts and 5000 feet of climbing / brick run 45 minutes. (5) (25) felt good and stomped out 300-400w on most of the climbs. Kinda shocked given the lifting session before the ride and the duration of the day prior. That said alternating between long days and hard days seems to be working.
Wednesday: 1 hour swim/ 2 hour run over mountains. (3) (28) hard to rock some tourism stuff with the camp but also like 1 good run a week to keep it real. He climb was hard.
Thursday: 100 mile ride (6.5) (34.5) put in 3 good intervals but mostly base and my longest ride yet. Last day so just wanted to wreck myself generally so tossed in the hard efforts. Mission accomplished. I am done.
Foto of us on the pico moments after I proposed.