Thursday, September 27, 2012

The 20 minute 5k

As I prepare to write my year end review post and prepare myself for the coming off season.  One of the goals that has forever eluded me is the 20 minute 5k.

I was prepared to write about my plans to crush that goal this off season. 

The good news is that yesterday during my threshold testing I ran a 5k in 19:53.  A new PR by 30s.  (My old PR was on a track, this was out on a path). 

The bad news is that now I don't know what to write about.

I've been doing threshold testing across the board, even on the bike with my new fit.  Funny thing, despite being on the fit for 3 days I was still very close to my previous 20min power tests.  If I re-did the test I am confident I could match my previous best.  And on the 3 minute test I hit a PB by 12 watts.

Interesting results.  I'm a total gym-class hero right now. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm a moron...again and again and again and again

I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.
I will never touch my bike fit without professional help ever ever ever again, ever.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about what an idiot I am.  I really need to make it an annual or semi-annual thing.  In this case, its certainly past due.

Now that I have that out of the way, I went in for a retul fit.  It was mostly a precaution...or so I thought.  I figured my fit had something to do with my cramping...little did I know.

To keep this post nice and short allow me to say this.  My saddle was moved up an inch.  My saddle was also moved forward about an inch.  I had to bring my handle bars back over a centimeter, and bring them up a mm.  Plus my cleats were moved back and to the side.  To summarize, everything was wrong...and not by small amount.

Notice all the different things that needed moving...well guess what.  Between the last time I had been fit and this fit I had gotten new aero bars, base bar, stem, saddle, pedals, cleats, and components.  No need for concern there, right.

The fitter was pretty confident that my fit was indeed the reason for my cramping due to the very specific nature of the cramps and how my fit had me positioned on the bike.  Furthermore, I position myself differently when on the trainer and riding outside.  I'm much stronger on the trainer because of this.  So when I was riding outside...I was pacing too hard. 

Anyway, that's it for now.  Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ironman 70.3 World Championships - Report

For those interested in the results without the lengthy report, I finished in 5:32:33. 775th overall and 117th in my age group.  Not what I had hoped for, below is the how and why.

Before the race:
Got into Vegas on Thursday night, very late. Slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore and went to athlete check-in -- It was hot! Went to the airport and picked up my parents who came in on Friday. Everything was going well as I unpacked my bike and got it built back up.

Saturday was gear check-in day. T1 was about 30 minutes away from our hotel, I woke up early to go to the practice swim and ride/run on the opening hills. Unfortunately the parking situation was out of control, and despite getting there pretty early I didn’t find parking until it was too late. So I could not swim, but did get in a nice 10-15 minute ride on the opening hills followed by a quick run.  Checked in my bike later that day.  T2 is about 15 miles away in town, so I went there and dropped off my run gear.

After being able to riding the opening hill that day, I was not nearly as intimidated by the course. If you look at the bike course profile map, it looks very intimidating. It was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I really relaxed quite a bit after that.  The whole course was longer gradual climbs.  Slower to be sure, but not as brutal on the legs, and nothing like Kansas.

Friday and Saturday were also spent hydrating. I drank a huge amount of Gatorade and water. On Saturday evening I took 3 salt tabs to get some pre-race electrolytes. I also had an early dinner which consisted of Subway at around 3pm followed by chicken and rice at around 5:30. I was feeling really good.

Race Morning:
Everything was all set, and I took in my breakfast exactly as planned. One medium bowl of golden grahams, 1 banana, 1 10oz bottle of coconut water, and 2 24oz bottles of my Gatorade mixture. And the really good news was that I had to pee right before the swim.  I had no heartburn, slept good and felt ready to go.

The Swim:
Totally uneventful and basically perfect. It was a non-wetsuit swim so I figured I’d back off a little bit and conserve some energy. I knew I wasn’t going to go a 26:30, nor did I want to. At the end of the day I consider this a somewhat lazy swim, which was intentional.  I really needed to focus my energy on being able to run. 

I did get a little side-stitch towards the back half of the swim, but I pushed through it. I actually thought it was a good sign, that I had lots of fluids ready and waiting in my guts.

The ending was very crowded and rough as they made everyone come up and out at a small narrow pier. But I finished with a 28:23. My stopwatch had been kicked and was stopped at 24:30ish, so I didn’t really know my swim time. Knowing it now, I am perfectly content with that swim.  Yes I could have swam quite a bit faster, but it wouldn't have been worth the additional effort.

T1 is very very long (took me 4:31). First there was an extended run from the water to get to T1. Then I ran all the way through transition to get to my bike. Then after I got my bike I had to run up a winding uphill path to get out of transition. I got stuck behind an older woman that was walking up and could not get around her. My focus was on the run, so I wasn’t too worried about losing a few seconds in T1.  I have no real idea, but I think T1 was about a quarter mile long in total.

The Bike:
Looking at the profile of the bike I was very intimidated. It looked like I’d be climbing mountains for the first 5 miles. But having ridden the morning before, I was feeling much better about things. My plan had been to ride really easy in the early goings and then build it up. I’m pretty sure I came very close to that goal.

I held close to 240 for the opening 5 miles or so, 230 watts was just too low given the nature of the climbing. I was keeping a high cadence up the hill, so I wasn't really all that worried.  I was not winded and my legs felt really good. The next 5 miles or so were pretty fast with some smaller climbs. I held wattage close to the same.

From there the ride was uneventful. The course was almost entirely long gradual inclines vs. really steep climbs. And while I am slower on those kinds of climbs, they don’t crush my legs as much. Overall, based on what the Garmin was showing me, I was very happy with my ride. There was one 5 mile section where my power was low as it was an extremely fast section. And there were a couple other sections that I pushed and was in the 250-260w range. The very last 5 mile section was a litte rough and all uphill.  By then I was a bit tired, but not struggling to hold wattage at all.

I took in my 2 24oz bottles of Gatorade mixture. I had added a salt stick to the mix. Unfortunately my little box of salt sticks fell out of my pocket early in the ride. I wasn’t too concerned as I’d only intended to take a couple anyway.

About mid-way through the ride I heard my brakes rubbing. I didn't think much of it at the time, but the bike did feel a bit sluggish.  I adjusted the brakes while riding, but it didn’t help. I actually got off my bike to see what the problem was, found nothing.  After finding nothing there wasn't anything I could I just kept riding. (more on that subject later).

I finished the ride strong, and got into T2 with a time of 2:47. I was shocked at how slow my time was given the wattage I rode. But I felt really good and wasn’t going to let that worry me. I always knew I was racing myself in Vegas, and if my target wattage was only worth a 2:47 then so be it.

After the race I learned that some electricians tape holding my wheel cover onto the wheel had literally melted, fallen off and gotten lodged between my rear fork and wheel. I didn’t see it, but that was the cause of the rubbing noise I heard and probably why the bike felt sluggish. It also *might* be responsible for why by bike time was way slower than the watts I put out. There was very light wind, and given previous results and wattages I was expecting my wattage to get me home in about 2:40ish.  So  2:47 does seem kind of odd.  Unfortunately I have no real way to know what the tape cost me, if anything.

As another note, during a lot of the uphill sections I sat up off the aero bars. The reasons were simple…deep breathing and legs. I have cramped in other ½’s this year and wasn’t sure if my bike fit was partly to blame. I spent more time sitting up in this race than most if not all other races I’ve done this year.  Mostly to make sure I did some good breathing on the hills and to change bike positions.  I rarely stood on the pedals, but did a few times to stretch my legs.

I also had my HR monitor on and would occasionally check it on the bike ride. I have not seen the files yet but am pretty sure I was around 140 for most of the ride. 

Came into T2 and felt pretty good. Changed and got going.  Nothing eventful.

First off, the run course was much harder than I anticipated. The run basically consisted of a 1 mile downhill run, a 2 mile uphill run, 2 mile downhill run, repeat twice more, and then finish with about a 1 mile downhill run to the finish. We’re not talking about mountains or anything, but the climbing was a bit steeper than I anticipated. And it was almost all on blacktop…so it was like a furnace.  I believe it was in the low 80's for the race start and in the mid 90's by the time I started running.  But the blacktop really radiated the heat and it was sweltering.

I came out of T2 feeling pretty good. My fuel belt had leaked everywhere, so it didn’t have much in the way of fluids in it. But it had enough for me to hammer back about 5 oz of Gatorade and a salt stick. I took the salt stick because my quads were giving me that cramping feeling. You know the one…not muscle soreness, but the “if you make a wrong move I will go full-on cramp and screw you” feeling. I had that for the first 3.5 miles at which point I was nearing the end of the first 2 mile climb. At that point mentally I was still in good shape and felt good. I was also hoping that like in previous races the cramping feeling would go away.

But at mile 3.5 the leg cramps stopped me dead. It was both legs, quads and hamstrings. I think I was stopped for at least 2 minutes, not sure. I couldn’t move without something cramping. I literally had to stand there frozen still trying to keep both muscles somewhat stretched until they relaxed. Finally I was able to walk it off a little bit. And after that I was able to start a jog. I do not believe I stopped again except for aid stations until I started the 2nd climb. I was still hoping the cramps would go away like my other races. That was not to be. Every single step of the run I was on the edge of complete cramping. No joke, every single step, especially my right quad.

I muddled forward like that until about mile 7.5 and was generally making good progress. I certainly wasn’t running fast, but mostly running with some walking in there at aid stations and if the cramping threatened again. Again, overall I felt fine. I wanted to run and was getting pretty frustrated.  In fact that first downhill I was making some decent progress and feeling pretty good about things.  After my bike time I knew I wasn't going to hit any time goals, so I really just wanted to finish strong and feeling good.
At mile 7.5 just as I started the second 2 mile downhill section, I was actually feeling pretty good about things. I really thought that for the next 2 miles I’d be able to run down the hill, hit the aid stations, and generally feel pretty decent with only one climb remaining. My first stretch downhill was pretty good. And honestly, despite my slow times I really felt like I could be happy with my race if I was able to just run through the remainder despite some slower times.

As I was getting some momentum down the hill and running fairly decently, the worst side-stitch of my life hit really hard and really fast. I tried pulling a Macca and digging my fingers into it, massaging it, deeper breathing...nothing helped. It got to the point of being so bad I struggled to breath and was groaning/grunting with each step.

I was pissed. I’ll have to look at the files, but other than the initial cramping and aid stations I don’t think I really stopped to walk until this point. My running was slow, but it was still running.  I was also pissed off because I didn't feel bad.  I remember specifically thinking that to myself too...that if it weren't for these leg cramps I'd be doing a whole lot better because I feel pretty good and pretty strong right now.  That was incredibly frustrating.

The side stitch stayed with me down the entire hill. I tried some walk/run, but it was pretty bad and stayed with me. At this point I get a little blury as there was way more walking and a lot of cursing and frustration. I seem to remember the side stitch finally subsiding as I started up the hill for the last time (great timing). It didn’t go away, but became bearable. I did some jogging up the hill as best I could, but not being able to run down the hill like I wanted demoralized me pretty badly.

About halfway up the final climb with about 2 mile left to race I saw Aimee and my parents. I stopped to say hi and gave Aimee a kiss. Told them about the cramping and moved on. At that point I just wanted to make it enjoyable and was doing a run/walk based on how I felt. Based on the amounts I was drinking at each aid station, I doubted hydration would be an issue when I finished, but to make sure I started drinking more at each aid station. I wasn’t about to end up in medical.

I finished the run with a 2:10 and a lot of questions about this cramping. Is it really nutrition related? Is it bike fit related? It is always the same muscles that cramp, my quad (vastus medialis) Often referred to as the teardrop. (Although the Sartorius is right in that area too).

Plus my hamstring. However I don’t know that my hamstring would cramp if I didn’t have to deal with my quad. Typically my hamstring only cramps when I try to stretch my quad…not on its own.

Post race thoughts:
First I loved the race and the course. The whole area was beautiful and the race was very well run and a lot of fun. Despite my troubles I am really happy I went and would like to go back, next year if possible. 

I got to see the zip by while on the bike. Wow!! Granted I was climbing a long steady climb as they were screaming down it with their hair on fire, but those guys were hammering HARD. It was pretty cool to see.  It was like a freight train going by.

Monday my legs were still cramping with certain movements, mostly my hamstrings. The side-stitch was also sore to the touch. That’s a new one for me, side-stitch so bad it hurts the next day. My quads still hurt. Not just sore, they hurt. My hamstrings are touchy and hurt to massage.

Had the cramping not occurred my race would have been a lot different. I know for a fact that I am not pacing poorly. In Kansas it was pacing, but at Racine my power was fine, and in Vegas my pacing was fine. I've gone equally hard in training, if not harder and gotten off that bike and run a HELL of a lot harder with no cramping of any kind.  Something is causing this. Something doesn’t make sense.  I need to find out what that something is.

There really are only a few options.
It can't be my run fitness or pace because I'm getting these cramps too early.  In most cases I feel the cramping before I'm done with mile 1 and every time they have hit running paces that I routinely do in training. 

So first in my mind is my bike fit. It is vastly different from 2 years back when I never, ever cramped in a race. Waaaay more aggressive.  I'm so much lower today that while on my base bars now, I am lower than I was on my aero bars back then.  I should probably get my fit looked at again. Perhaps I am too far forward/backward on my bike and am putting too much pressure on the front of my quads. Perhaps the fit is just too aggressive. I’m really not sure.

Nutrition is a possibility. 2 years back I did ½ irons with 400-600 calories of Heed, almost no salt and just water. Never once cramped. That includes a rather hot Racine race. Maybe I need to get a salt study done. (Prior to this year I have never cramped in a race other than IMWI which I knew I was not in proper run shape for).

I should also point this out:  Despite all the fluids I took in the night before the race (at least 80-100oz of Gatorade, plus water and other stuff.) (I had to pee 4 times during the night) I also took in 70oz race morning, 90-100oz on the bike, and the 2-3 cups of fluids I took in at every aid station (5oz x12 = 60oz while running)…I still only went to the bathroom one time during the race, and it was midway through the run, and it was not very much. I got off the bike feeling rather thirsty as well.

To top it off, I did not go to the bathroom again until much later that night. Having said that, I felt perfectly fine after the race, helped pack up my stuff and walked 15 minutes to the car almost immediately. (in the burning hot sun)

I’m not really sure what else that leaves for consistent quad/hamstring cramping. It will be the subject of many discussions this off season.

As for what’s next, I have not decided, nor do I have any goals set for next season. I’d like a few weeks to be unstructured, although I may do a couple races for fun. Jhawk, or a half marathon are possibilities. I’m not sure at this point.

I am considering the possibility of doing a training half Iron at really challenging paces in an effort to replicate the cramping in training. A really hard non-stop swim followed by a challenging ride at 250+ watts, followed by a run. Not a half marathon, but a hard 4-5 miles to see if I cramp. In every race so far I’ve been ready to cramp at mile 1, so I should know pretty quickly.

Anyone with ideas or crazy suggestions let me know.  At this point I am open to suggestions.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

IM 70.3 Vegas - World Championships

So on Sunday September 9th I will be competing in Vegas.  It will be my first opportunity to compete in a race of this calibur.

The word for this race is: "Deliver".  It will be written on my forearms.  I'd write it on my forehead if I could read that.  From a preparation perspective, I am dialed in.  My fitness across the board is as strong as it was in Kansas if not a little better.  I am not injured in any ways that matter.  My training has been strong.  Mentally I am ready to go.  But I have not been terribly successful at this race all year, and its time to rectify that.  It's time to deliver. 

My plan to deliver in Vegas is pretty simple.
Drink way more.
Eat more.
Instead of hammering the bike early on - build into it slowly.
Instead of starting out at a hard run pace early, build into it.

Over the last several weeks during my longer training days, I've really focused on trying a few different things to see how they affect my body.  In particular, my nutrition plan has been a point of emphasis.  In both Kansas and Racine I really took a beating in the run.  As I look back at both races I came to the conclusion that nutrition and hydration were my biggest enemies.  Especially in Racine.  In Kansas I paced stupidly, but my fluids and salt were also way off.  In Racine I did everything I planned to do, it just was not enough. 

Vegas promises to be very hot, very hilly, and possibly windy.  From what I have heard, it is one of the most challenging 70.3 races in the world.  There are others more difficult, but not many and not by all that much.  Races like that demand good decision making, and I'd like to think I've learned my hard lessons this season.  So here are the details of my plan:

First, I need to really focus on hydration and sodium the day before the race.  I have not taken in nearly enough in races past.  I also need to take 2-4 saltsticks to load up.  I used to do that, but got away from it for some reason.  I'm also going to change my dinner to something more bland like chicken and rice.  We are staying in a nice condo, so we will do some shopping and I can cook my own stuff.  In all my races this year I've gotten up with really bad heartburn which has really hindered my ability to eat/drink on race morning.  I'd rather wake up starving and ready to eat than feeling bloated and nasty with heartburn unable to take in the fluids and calories that I need for the race.

Second, early on race morning I need to drink way more than I have been.  My best races have been when I need to pee during the race.  In Kansas I did not go once.  In Racine I only went once and it was very small.  My plan is to have roughly 60-80oz of fluid between waking up and racing (3 hours).  It will all have electrolytes.  In Racine I had maybe 30oz and for a hot race, that's not enough.  Having to pee in the water or on the bike is way better than stumbling across the finish line and going to medical.  I also plan to stop using ensure shakes and go back to a small bowl of cereal, banana, and liquid calories/sodium instead.  I've been burping up the ensure and don't like it.

Swim: I am going to swim like I did in Racine.  I sincerely doubt I'll be coming out of the water in the lead, but honestly I don't want to.  There should be several swimmers around my speed, and I would love nothing more than to draft the entire time and save my energy.  Saving/conserving energy is a primary concern.

Bike: I am going to build into the ride.  Looking at the elevation map, the first 5 miles are climbing, and I plan to take those miles very easy so I can catch my breath and get situated on the bike.  I suspect a lot of guys are like I was in Kansas and come charging out of the gates.  I would rather hold 230w and be feeling good.  The next 5-6 miles are all downhill and should be rather fast.  Holding power up will be difficult and I don't plan to worry about it. 
For me, mile 12ish is where the race really begins.  At that point I would like to build into 240-250w and see how that feels.  If that feels really good after 10-15 miles I may bump it up...but I doubt it.  The weather looks to be near 100 degrees, and I'll need to back off a bit to handle that kind of heat.
As I've never seen the course I really have no idea what to expect.  Looking at some people that did Kansas and did Vegas, I should be adding about 5min to my bike time.  And since I went too hard on the bike in Kansas, I will likely come in around a 2:37-2:40. 
I have little doubt the uber-bikers will crush that, so I'll have to be prepared for guys to rip past me on the bike.

Bike Nutrition:  The plan here is pretty simple and can be summed up in one word.  "More".  In Racine I put back about 75oz, and that wasn't enough.  In Vegas where it will be equally hot I need to put back about 100oz.  I also need to do it smarter.  I typically drink every 15min or so during a race.  At Kansas and Racine I waited to start doing that until the first 15min elapsed.  I need to start my changes right there and start drinking the moment I am on the bike and then drink every 15min.

My normal bottles of calories are a 450 calorie concoction.  I plan to continue with that and take in a little more water each time I drink (every 15min).  I'll be on the bike longer than I was in Racine, so I need to be prepared for that and take in plenty of liquids.  At this point risking a little stomach upset is worth the risk.  I can run through discomfort, I have not been able to run through dehydration.

Run: The run is where it is at.  And here is where I usually run into problems.  The vegas course is a little unique in that according to the elevation map, I will never be on a flat gradient.  It is a 3 loop course and I will either be climbime a 1.5 mile hill of 2-3% grade, or I will be running down that hill. 

The course starts me out in the middle of "the hill" running down it.  So I will probably come out of the gate a little strong running a normal half marathon pace (7:20's).  But I plan to really back off on the first uphill.  1.5 miles is a long way to be climbing, and I'm thinking an 8:00-8:15 pace is pretty reasonable for the first climb.  But I will make that decision once I see the hill as I am not really sure what 2-3% actually looks like on the road.  I've been running a lot of hills near my house, so I may be closer to an 8:00 than 8:15.  It will all depend.

Overall, the plan is to take it easy on the hills which I climb 3.5 times.  And to run with good form and pick it up on the downhill sections.  Ideally my pace will equate to something under an 8min/mile pace.  Obviously the heat will also play a large factor. 

Run Nutrition:  In the past I've relied on the course for fluids.  I generally hate the perform crap they serve but take it anyway.  I also mix it with coke over time.  This time I plan to wear a race belt.  I need to make sure I get in at least 4oz fluid every mile and the best way to do that is a bottle vs. a cup.  I can measure everything and also make sure adequate electrolytes are included.  Plus it will eliminate gulping all the air that comes with drinking and walking/running.  I'll have 24oz of fluid with me, and that should take me through the first 8 miles.  From there I will have to deal with the course as best I can. 

The way I figure it, if I have enough fluids in me at mile 8, I can most likely finish the race on minimal fluids and not be a complete wreck.  As always, I will have to adapt as the day comes. 

I'm not really worried about my time or splits.  Ideally I'd like to PR and come in under a 4:53.  From a fitness perspective I should be able to.  Its all about execution.