Monday, August 28, 2017

Bulldog 50K

I rarely write a race report for a pure running race, but this one was epic.  I had done Ironman Santa Rosa four weeks ago and decided to use that fitness to do a 50K trail race.  I’ve done the Bulldog 25K three times before, and had done the reverse course as a 50K about 4 years ago in a driving rainstorm (more of a muddy slog than a running race).  I was planning to use this race as training for a 50 mile trail race in October (more on the later).  As usual, or so it seems lately, life dealt me a series of challenges over the last couple weeks, but it didn’t really matter because i was recovering from Ironman Santa Rosa (and Boulder prior to that), and really never did much running in the intervening 4 weeks.  Still, I felt good coming into this race and got a good night’s sleep the night before, actually too good!  I had earplugs in and slept through my alarm!  I literally had to get up and immediately drive to the race, forgoing my usual morning routine, which always includes some cleansing of my colon (no one ever talks about that, but all of us athletes know the importance of this usual bodily function).  I got to the race with some time to spare, but never really completed this part of my pre-race routine.  There were no port-a-potties on the course, so managing my nutrition just got a little more critical.  I decided to stick purely to liquid for the race.

I had my new Nathan vest with two bottles in it, which I had pre-filled with 100 cal of Tailwind Nutrition each.  I had also frozen them overnight and they were providing some good cooling at the beginning of the race. I had also filled a plastic bottle with Tailwind and planned to carry it for awhile.  This extra bottle ultimately carried a good deal of importance.  The race started and I just set out at a comfortable pace.  The first mile is flat and I found myself running it right about 9 minute pace.  The next mile included a hill, which I walked.  I had set out to walk all of the climbs on the first loop of the course, and I was going to be disciplined.  The third mile had a good deal of rocky singletrack, which I took carefully, no need to trip and fall early in this race.  I passed the MASH set (yes, that’s where this course runs by) and got to the first aid station feeling good.  I had drank my plastic bottle full of Tailwind, saving the Nathan bottles for the climb.  I took in some extra water and gatorade at this stop and immediately headed up the infamous Bulldog climb.

I read an article yesterday about the Bulldog climb.  By my garmin, it’s 3.2 miles with 1750 feet of climbing.  The author of the article stated that GPS in inaccurate on this climb, so I’ll choose to believe him in order to enhance the epic nature of the day.  Perhaps the climb is as long as 3.5 miles and has up to 2000 feet of climbing.  The temperatures were already in the mid 70’s by the time we hit the climb.  The average incline is 10-11%, with pitches up to 20%, the worst of which occur towards the top of the climb.  I power walked the whole way, except for short stretches where it flattened out, which I ran, and my pace was ~16-17 minutes/mile, which is pretty close to what I’ve done up this climb in the past.  I did the climb, according to strava, in 53 minutes, slower than my fastest time running the climb all out by about 10 minutes.  Not bad, however, considering that I had a full 50K to do.  

When you reach the top of Bulldog, there is about a mile downhill on a fire road.  The rains this past winter has made most of these roads rocky and the footing was not easy.  With my propensity to trip and fall, I was careful, a pattern I’d follow all day, which kept me safe, but also slowed me down.  I arrived at the second aid station, and had drank my plastic bottle of fluids, as well as one of the Nathan bottles.  The rest of the loop is not downhill by any means, in fact, it seems like there are more and more climbs.  The first climb is on rocks and is up and down, which requires care not to slip.  I continued to walk the uphill sections and run the flats and downhills.  Once the course came to the longest, and steepest, downhill section, I felt good, but needed to be cautious due to the amount of rocks on the trail.  Next is a technical single track section, which required great care  

Once I got to the bottom it was time to cross a stream.  From previous experience, and a recommendation from my coach, I’d learned to just splash through rather than try to walk on the rocks.  My feet would dry out.  After hitting the last aid station, there was the last remaining climb.  I continued to feel fine throughout this first loop, By the time I came to the start again, my watch read right around 3 hours.  This was about 20 minutes slower than previous years of doing only the 25K, and I still felt good and was ready for the second loop!  

By the time I hit the first aid station at the bottom of the Bulldog climb, I still felt well, but I was about to make my first major mistake of the day.  I grabbed some coke, filled my water bottles, but threw out my extra bottle.  This was a huge mistake.  I felt fine the first half of the climb, but   the temperatures had risen above 90 degrees on the fully exposed trail and I realized that I’d started slowing down.  I also had run out of fluids.  My HR was skyrocketing and my 16 minute per mile pace had risen by 3-5 minutes/mile.  I knew that I had to get to the top so that I could make the one mile run down to the aid station, which I ultimately did.  When I got to the aid station I took my time, sat down, drank a few glasses of fluid and got myself some recovery time.  Thank goodness for my ironman training and experience.  The extra time was not wasted, although the remainder of my run took a lot of concentration and was definitely slower than the first time.  With that said, I still ran all of the downhills and the flats and walked the remaining climbs. 

When I got to the last mile, I looked back and there were two runners about 100 yards behind me.  I didn’t know the age of the man, but wondered if he might be in my age group.  I kept running, stopping to walk briefly every so often to briefly recover.  The distance between me and the runners behind me kept getting closer and closer, and with about 100 yards to go I could feel him about 10 yards behind.  I gave it everything I had, and managed to finish 4 seconds ahead of him, and yes, he was in my age group.  So, I kept my 6th place age group finish, having once again left it all out on the race course.  

My first loop was done in about 3 hours and a few minutes and my second loop took about 40-45 minute longer.  The Bulldog climb was a good 12 minutes longer, and my aid station stops were easily 10 minutes longer.  I definitely was slower the remainder of the loop, but have to say that I’m pretty happy with how I did, considering the tough conditions out on the course.  

I love this course, the race is an incredible challenge, and I must say that I expect to do the 50K again in the future!  Of note, it’s two full days later and my quads are reminding me that I gave this race everything I had!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kona Legacy spot and my least enjoyable Ironman

I did not expect that my legacy qualifying 12th Ironman would end up being my least enjoyable IronMan ever. But there were reasons. It probably begin four weeks before the race with my decision to take a five day business trip to Israel. Well, the trip itself probably had no impact on my preparation, but the impact on my body was probably greater than I had given credence to. The whole idea of tapering is to reduce stress and not just physical stress to the body but the physiological and emotional stress. I definitely did not do this in the weeks prior to IronMan Santa Rosa. There were a number of life stresses that also contributed. With that said my training is been great up to IronMan Boulder, which was seven weeks before Iron Man Santa Rosa. I even got in a really solid week of training the week before my trip to Israel. I also fell and tweaked my left ribcage, which caused me some consternation and kept me from running the ladt 3 weeks. I was starting to feel pretty good a week before the race and then on the Monday prior to the race my wife came down with a cold, so trying to dodge a bullet I left one day early.  On Wednesday I drove to Santa Rosa and registered. I was beginning to feel the greater effects of the cold, but interestingly being in IronMan village and registering made me feel a little better. I got back to my hotel and began what was going to be the next 2 1/2 days pretty much laying in bed watching television and taking it easy. Additionally I had my liquid wellness formula which I was taking every few hours which is an herbal supplement and some zinc lozenges which I was also taking. I did go out on my bike on Thursday for about 15 minutes. My legs felt good but I quickly cut my ride short and went back to my room when I realized that I wasn't feeling that great. My nose was running and my throat still felt a little scratchy. I also took some other "extreme" measures including avoiding politics on television and the Internet which these days I find somewhat stressful. By Friday I was feeling a little better and was trying to maintain a positive attitude which I had hoped would be helpful. On Thursday night I went to sleep at around 9 o'clock trying to get my body ready for an early bedtime on Friday and on Friday night I went to bed at seven and slept pretty well until my alarm woke me at 2:30 in the morning. I had my now typical morning breakfast of avocado and olive oil and a sweet potato and began drinking some coconut water. My nose was a little stuffed but not bad and I was actually feeling fairly good. The problem with the cold is you might wake up feeling a little better in the morning but as the day goes on you start feeling worse. I have noticed this the last few days. When I went outside to my car to drive to the buses I realized it was kind of chilly and I had not brought a jacket of any sort, thinking that it would be relatively warm because of the recent weather.  This of lack of planning is a little unusual for me especially as I had driven to the race and could've brought anything along with me. I realized I would just have to make sure I spent some time in the change tent where it would be a little warmer. I took the bus which was about 45 minute ride just trying to rest and relax on the way to the venue. When I got to the course venue I went and checked my bike which was fine put my nutrition on my bike and in my bike and made sure I put my car key on my bike as well so I have a way of getting home after the race and went to the change that. The water temperature had been gradually rising all week and it had actually broken the threshold of 76.1° the day before but clearly the organizers of this race had concluded that they wanted everyone wearing wetsuits so they somehow managed to find a place in the water that was 76.1° and thus this was a wetsuit legal race. Part of me was disappointed as I had brought my swimskin and I wasn't all that worried about not being able to wear a wetsuit especially since I've been struggling with some ribs issues for the weeks leading up to the race and I'm never sure how my chest feels with a wetsuit on. On the other hand I knew that being cold was not a good thing with the cold I was fighting and was happy to be able to put on my wetsuit as quickly as possible to keep me warm prior to the race. That is what I did and I got my wetsuit on and then made my way down to the start area and seeded myself relatively close to the front and before I knew it it was time to get in the water. The water did not feel cold which is not surprising and I actually felt pretty good as I took my first strokes I actually felt very solid during my swim.  I felt my form was good.  I felt I stayed on a good line, I did feel a little bit of the cold every so often in my head. With that said again the time went by pretty quickly  and I actually felt like I had had a solid swim. A couple of notes on the swim. It was not the easiest swim to draft on based on the turbidity of the water. I did finally get to use my skill in making turns at the turn bouy's which I had rarely used in previous IronMan. So before I knew it I was out of the water, thinking I'd had a decent time only to find ultimately that this was my slowest IronMan swimming ever at one hour 26 minutes, of note I have not been in the water very much prior to this race because my pool was being re-plastered, no I have definitely gotten some solid work on my VASA swim trainer which may have helped me feel like I was swimming strong but it may have been somewhat wasted effort if my form was not dialed in. Historically I have gotten by my swims with good form and I do have to wonder if that may be slipping a little bit.   Certainly something to work out and work on going forward. The transition was a fairly hard one in the sense that it was a quarter mile uphill slog to T1 which I walked strongly and calmly and with purpose.  There were wetsuit strippers about halfway up that I had my wetsuit off and I made a quick change in the changing tent, putting on my bike shoes (they did not allow shoes to be on the bike and I found out why when I got to start), and put on my glasses and my helmet. I decided to wear my regular glasses because my new helmet has a tinted visor which ultimately was a very good choice. I grabbed my bike and and walked it to the mount line where I realized that as soon as I mounted my bike we had a very short uphill climb. This is the reason not to have shoes on the bike in advance, it was also a reason I should've had my gearing a little lower as I had been expecting an immediate descent.  I ended up having to just manage to go up a short climb in a little bit too high gear although I did not push it and just used it as an opportunity to stretch my legs a little further. Before I knew it I was on the first major descent and quickly realized that I still had a cold. This was going to be sort of the defining theme of at least the first part of my race. I realized early on that from the neck up I wasn't really feeling good and I tried not to fight myself a little bit in the first 30 miles or so with those negative thoughts which is part of the reason I said this race was the least enjoyable of all IronMan's. I also realized quickly on the descent that my heart rate was over 160. Even not pedaling wasn't really getting my HR down very quickly and my heart rate stayed above 150 for the first hour and a half I had a decision to make and that was whether to be a slave to my heart rate or to listen to how my legs felt my legs actually felt pretty good. So I chose to listen to my legs and assumed my heart rate was 10 to 15 beats higher than it should be due to my cold I just went with that. The other thing that I noticed was it was still a little chilly out that wasn't helping the way I felt. Ironically, I began to look forward to it warming up, which turned out to be insightful. By the time it warmed up a little later in the bike ride any symptoms of my cold had no longer become noticeable. The first half of this bike ride is where the vast majority of the hills are any climbing wise. Honestly I never felt like there were any sustained climbs and there were a lot of rollers which I began to strategize on and felt like I handled it very effectively bringing speed into them and trying to pick up speed right at the crest of the hill and bring it to the next downhill. I traded places back-and-forth with a number of riders as I often do losing some speed on some of the uphills and gaining it again on the down hills and flats.  I did take great pains to try to modulate my effort so as not to Spike my heart rate but still had trouble keeping my heart rate much lower than 145 which was supposed to be my goal heart rate in the latter half of the bike. It didn't take much for my heart rate to Spike about 150 as well of note when I looked at my data the night after the race I found my normalized power was very consistent from the beginning to the end of the bike portion of the race at 160 W. I definitely did go up higher at times to attack some hills but also use the descents for recovery purposes. Occasionally I took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, but by and large this bike ride was about finishing the bike. With that said my legs felt good and I never really struggled much on the bike or ever felt like I couldn't wait to get off on except for a few moments later in the ride that I will come too. My nutrition plan went great. I had brought a red potato with olive oil and salt which I finished the first hour and I brought a total of 1400 cal of Tailwind nutrition which I had finished just around four hours into the bike ride. From there I had two bottles or partial bottles of Gatorade endurance and supplemented with water. When I hit town at around 60 miles the course flattened out and it was 2 1/2 loops around Santa Rosa most of which were pretty flat again with some rollers and one freeway overpass that we hit twice and I decided to attack it hard to get to the top and then just Coast the other side which served me pretty well.  when I got to the 90 mile mark after passing through the bike finish area for the second time I was still feeling pretty solid.  I never really felt like I couldn't wait to get off the bike also by this time my left knee had been feeling a little soreness. I've had this intermittently and had had my bikefit adjusted last year and haven't had a problem since.  It never really was much of a problem it was just more of an annoyance something to take note of.  The first loop went great, I did feel like my second loop was a little harder and around mile 100 I decided to back off just a little in my effort in order to feel a little better coming off the bike. By the time I was nearing the end of the bike ride I wasn't feeling my cold anymore and felt I had done a good job of ignoring it. As I came to the bike dismount I got out of my shoes and put my feet on top of my pedals where I did a flying dismount and realized my legs were pretty dead. I wasn't really worried as I knew my legs would come around. I have to admit I was a little more concerned about the impact of my heart rate on how I would do but pretty much The only thing that kept me from averaging 20 miles an hour on this course were the hills in the first half. My normalized power was 160 which I believe is one of my better bike efforts and was pretty close to what are I hoped it would be. Over the years my transitions have continued to improve and this was no exception I got into the change tent, wiped my feet off putting Vaseline on them put my socks on and my shoes on my hat on and my fuel belt and was out of the tent and onto the run. My legs were a little heavy but I just settled into a run pace that was comfortable and looked at my watch and I was probably hovering between 930 pace and 10 minute pace and just endeavored to get out and move forward running and finding a comfortable rhythm and pace. I stopped at the first aid station and had a banana and some orange and some Gatorade and my stomach felt good which was unusual for me and was encouraging. I made sure to maintain my hydration and continue dto make my way out on the three loop course.  a good portion of the course was on packed dirt and gravel which actually made that much easier on the legs there was also a fair amount of shade on the course and the temperature never went above 85 it was still a little warm. I managed pretty well through the first loop and the first half of the first loop is mostly a slight downhill along the creek and then the second half of the loop is obviously a little uphill along the creek and I did notice my pace slowing down on the uphill portion to over 10 minute pace and a little closer to 11 minute pace I was a little concerned that I was falling down but realized that also may have been the grade. I continued to drink water and Gatorade and put ice on myself. I started out on the second loop and I began to realize that I was probably going to have some issues. I thought I was just starting to feel the effects of the day and I realized that if I pushed too hard it could really have a significant effect on the latter half of my run and so I began to take walking breaks. I have to admit that I was feeling somewhat lousy at this point and begin focusing on the fact that I just needed to finish to get my legacy spot and that became my focus. However, in the back of my head I knew that if I was smart, stayed hydrated got a little rest and recovery I could reevaluate on the last loop. One of the nice things about struggling during IronMan is it does give me the opportunity to walk and to meet people which I did and talk to a number of folks. By the time I was walking on my second loop there were folks starting their first loop who were a little stronger and actually helped me at times to get back going again. I tried not to walk for sustained distances and use the walking to regain my energy. I also noticed as I started the second loop I felt my pulse and it was racing. I'd taken my heart rate monitor off at the end of the bike which is probably a good thing but I imagine during that first loop my heart rate was pretty high. At around mile 15 I went to an aide station was trying to decide what to drink and realized it was finally time to drink Coke. So I started Coke and made sure I put ice in it which made it even better and I started to think about the last loop with the mindset that when I started the third loop I would try to get back to running and use walking breakd strategically when I need it. At about mile 21 or so I started mixing Coke with Redbull and was really doing a better job of doing mostly running with occasional short walking breaks. I managed to keep my pace close to 11 minute mile pace through this. With three miles to go my left quad began tightening (maybe because of the left knee), but it never went into a full spasm.  I knew that at the final turn around there's a turn to the finish what I didn't realize was how long of a distance it was after that turn. I thought it was pretty short and so when I hit that mark I was determined to run and it turned out it was about half a mile or so, the last half-mile I ran and it certainly set me up to feel pretty well spent at the end.  I went down the finishing shoot imploring the crowd to cheer and when I got to the finish line I put up my hands with 10 plus two fingers for my 12 Ironman's and my legacy spot. I was surprised to find my parents in the finish greeting and have my mother put on my finishing metal. My parents had done the VIP program and they allowed them to come in for this moment. So, I've done 12 Ironman's in eight years. I will go to Kona (when, is related to the waitlist, making 2 to 3 years most likely). In the meantime, I keep learning about life and my body and what I'm capable of through the ironman experience.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ironman Boulder 2017 Race Recap

Ironman Boulder would be my 11th Ironman, all since I turned 50, and now I'm almost 58 (already 58 in triathlon years).  One more after this and I'll get a Legacy spot in Kona.  I'm signed up for Santa Rosa in just 7 weeks.  I did come to Boulder a week in advance to acclimate to the altitude and was feeling pretty good prior to race day.

I woke up with my alarm at 2:40 am, having slept pretty well since just after 7am.  I had awakened around 12:30 and and eaten my avocado/bell pepper/olive oil and salt mix.  I ate a sweet potato, and drank some water with electrolytes.  I felt good and ready for my day.  Arriving at the reservoir on the first bus there was no pressure and I felt very relaxed, go my tires pumped up and used the port-a-potty one last time.  No issues.  Got my wetsuit on and made my way to the starting corral early, where I sat down for a little while.  The only think I noticed all morning was that my voice was a little hoarse for some reason, but I felt good, ready and loose.  I seeded myself towards the front and we made our way down to the water.  They had the swim start set up so that only one person at a time actually went through the gate at the end, which made the water entry quite easy and not stressful at all.  This allowed me to immediately get on the buoy line, where I literally stayed the entire race.  As best as I can tell from my garmin distance, I did a decent job of not weaving from the line.  The water was perfect, 68 degrees and I felt comfortable in my wetsuit.  Finding feet in the Boulder reservoir was impossible, for me, not being able to see much even a foot in front.  I didn’t want to stress on this, so I just focused on a strong regular stroke.  I felt good, in fact, felt like I was moving very comfortably, not too easy, not too hard.  Only got hit a few times the entire swim, and then, nothing significant.  Never swallowed water as well!  There are two turns on the swim course, and after the first turn I did notice the water getting choppy.  Considering what were probably 10 mph winds on the bike, this was probably when the winds came up.  Since the pros started more than 15 minutes before the age groupers, that may be why their swim times were more normal.  They were almost finished when the winds came up.  Nevertheless, I just shortened my stroke a little and kept moving forward.  I made the second turn and headed back to the swim finish, again, comfortably with a solid stroke.  Every so often I would kick hard to move my legs and keep the blood flowing so I’d feel good when I got upright.  I came out of the swim, unzipped my wetsuit and made my way to the wetsuit strippers.  

Swim time-1:20:16, Overall-519, Gender-428, AG-27, from an AG placement perspective, this is pretty close to where I normally am, with the exception of Chattanooga, where I seem to do much better (perhaps because there’s no wetsuit and I have good form, and I’ve been able to draft, and find the current).  Still, the top two guys swam 9-10 minutes faster.  Any efforts to improve speed still need to focus on the bike and run:)

T1:  I had a little trouble getting my left arm out of my wetsuit, costing me several seconds, but then after my suit was stripped, I got my bag, went my favorite bench on the way to the changing tent, took off my goggles and swim cap, put on my glasses, headband and helmet, put my wetsuit in the bag, and grabbed my aero cycling gloves.  Jogged with my bag through the changing tent, handed the bag to a volunteer and went to the sunscreen folks, who applied sunscreen while I put on my gloves (realized prior to the race that this was the best time to put on my gloves, which takes a little focus).  I jogged to my bike, got it off the rack and jogged to the start.  I had put my shoes on my bike, saving time in transition and keeping me from jogging in my tri bike shoes.  Got on the bike easily, right foot in and left foot on top of the shoe and went through the start.

T1 Time-5:22, First two guys in age group took 5:12 and 6:10…my T1 work has paid off, no time lost here!

As I rode from the start, I put my left foot in my shoe and dialed both feet in, on my way!  I took the short, steep hill just out of the Rez comfortably, my HR was right around 140 as I began, but I just relaxed and allowed it to come down to ~135 as I made my way up the false flat that defines the first segment of this bike course. My bike ride was pretty simple.  My legs never felt good for some reason.  I rode right at my HR of 135, rarely going up to about 140-142 when I pushed up climbs or short hills.  I stayed measured on all of the climbs, and in fact, as the bike ride went on, I felt a little better going up Nelson each time.  My bike splits were incredibly consistent for the entire race.  In fact, if anything, I went little faster during the 3rd loop, especially as I got more comfortable with the downhill sections and allowed my speed to go up a little higher.  The feeling in my legs never got worse.  If I had to describe it, I’d say that my legs were sluggish and felt a little uncomfortable, but that feeling never got worse.  While the bike never felt hard, I would say that I probably felt a little tired of being on my bike towards the end.  Mentally, I used my meditation techniques to stay focused and relaxed.  People passed me going uphill and I caught and passed them going downhill and on the flats, same as usual. 

My nutrition was good, but if there’s any area that I need to consider in relation to what happened to me on the run, this is probably it.  I brought 1300 cal of Tailwind with me and drank all of it.  I probably also took in 200 cal of gatorade towards the end.  I took two packets of almond butter (200 cal) during the first hour.  I took about 8 MAP tablets throughout the latter half of the bike.  I drank water regularly, but not too much. 

I also feel like I did a really good job staying aero for most of the bike, occasionally sitting up to stretch when going uphill with a tailwind. 

I didn’t pee during the bike, but did so during T2.  I got my feet out of my bike shoes as I turned the corner to the bike finish and did a “flying” dismount. 

Bike time-6:12:17, Overall-434, Gender-370, AG-16, 11th fastest bike split in my AG

Of note, my bike split was 15 minutes slower than last year, but the fastest guys in my AG were  15-20 minutes slower than last year.  Also, the course was long by about 2 miles, and it was hillier, having to go up the false flat and Nelson one more time;  making my time very comparable to last year’s time in relation to my power output.

T2:It was good to be off the bike, and I jogged to the bike drop-off this year, handed off my bike, jogged to pick up my bag and jogged to the changing tent.  I sat down and a nice volunteer helped me, though I didn’t need much help.  I took off my helmet and headband, put on my cap, wiped down each foot with a towel with vaseline on it (I’d already put powder in my socks), put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my race belt and was off!  Quick transition, one of my best.  I stopped to pee (took less than a minute), not light, but not too dark (not dehydrated), stopped to fill up my water bottles and get a little more sunscreen and hug my friend Shelly.  

T2 Time-5:58

The top guys in my age group took 4-5 minutes, so, I really only lost one minute peeing.  Honestly, couldn’t have done this any faster, and it also showed consistency in my transition execution.

I got out on the run course and immediately tried to focus on going easy and keeping my pace down to 10 minute pace.  I actually had trouble doing so!  I wanted to run at 9 minute pace naturally, but by the end of the first mile (slight downhill) was honing in on the 10 minute pace.  Of note, I felt really good!  First of all, it felt great to be running rather than biking.  My feet felt good and bouncy in my Hoka’s and I just felt comfortable.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be for long.  My first mile was 9:30 (HR 137) and I actually ran through the first aid station, grabbing some water and gatorade.  I had 100 cal of Tailwind in my bottles and drank that within the first two miles.  My second my was 9:57 (HR 141)  and I made sure to walk through the aid station where I think I actually grabbed some coke and water and put ice down my suit.  Mile 3 was 10:11, a slight uphill, and I was feeling relatively comfortable, my legs were ok in particular, but I began noticing that my low back was stiffening up on my.  My HR had come up slightly to ~144, though I really wasn’t focused on that.  I began doing my meditative breathing to keep myself from focusing on my back.  Mile 4 was 10:07, a slight downhill and I continued my “comfortable” effort.  I say “comfortable,” because my legs felt fine, but my back was definitely giving me problems.  Still, I successfully “ignored” the pain/tightness, and just focused on my run.  As I ran out to the outermost part of the course, I kept grabbing coke at the aid stations and putting ice down my top. Mile 5  9:59, Mile 6 10:04, Mile 7 10:16.   And, now the climb back to the start/finish and the top of the canyon.  Mile 8 10:49, Mile 9 11:23,  Mile 10 10:39,  Mile 11 11:32, Mile 12 11:34, Mile 13 10:04, Mile 14 10:55, Mile 15 10:33; my back was still bothering me, but I kept focused on meditating the pain “away.”  There is no question that throughout this period my back was really bothering, but I also started feeling sick and feeling like the nutrition wasn’t getting absorbed around Mile 15-16; and I began to lengthen my walking break through the aid station.  I had been drinking coke, but it now didn’t really seem to be right…always the interesting phenomenon during an ironman.  You know what you want and what you can and can’t take.  Nothing was really appealing to me at this point, and my pace started to slip a little over the next few miles, due to some additional walking, but not too much. Mile 16 11:45,  Mile 17 11:22, Mile 18 11:59, Mile 19 12:40, now the wheels are beginning to slip,  mile 20 12:58, Mile 21 14:33, and the wheels have come off.  I realized that if I tried to run at this point that I would either throw up or pass out, or both.  I also knew that I had Santa Rosa IM in 7 weeks.  No need to wreck my next race, considering that I wasn’t looking at a podium here. Mile 22 14:28…at this point my Garmin battery read low and I stopped recording…I walked until the final turnaround just before Mile 25, after getting some “manna from heaven” around 24 miles, chicken broth!  I actually felt good enough to run most of the last downhill mile, probably around 10 minute pace, stopping to walk a little before the final turn down the red carpet to the finish.  I exhorted the crowd to make a lot of noise and stopped for a good picture at the finish line.  

Run time-5:15:04, actually had the 9th fastest run in my AG, six guys went under 5 hours. 

Final Time:  12:58:57, Overall-406, Gender-325, AG-10

If I’d been able to maintain my pace over the last 9-10 miles, I might have gained one place in my AG, not really worth the effort and the risk.  I’m actually quite happy with my effort and my result.  Now, I just need to recover and start training for #12, which I plan to give my all, despite the fact that it will qualify me for the Legacy program and a guaranteed trip to Kona!

On a side note, I’m recovering quickly.  Just a little IT soreness and stiffness throughout my body, but no hot spots and no quad soreness.  Not too bad for an ironman.  In fact, 2 days later, in Washington, D.C., here for some meetings, I’ve already walked 5 miles (including my ritual visit to the Lincoln Memorial) today.  Great recovery stuff!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Unfinished Business

Saint George and I have a very long history. In 2010 I completed my first Ironman there. At the time the run course was clearly one of the most challenging in Ironman history. Of course, for an Ironman it was two loops. I never forget getting to the base of the first major climb on the run course and realizing that there was no way that I was going to run up that hill or many of the hills. Interestingly in 2012, when the run course changed to be in the city with very little climbing, I ended up running my best Ironman run from a time perspective. Two years ago I decided to do the 70.3 and unfortunately as I put on my running shoes my low back went into a severe spasm, which clearly and quickly made it very easy to see that I was not going to run up any hills. That run became a huge slog, and in fact, I ultimately decided that that was the end of my St. George racing days. Fast-forward two years and finding myself in excellent running shape I decided a couple of months ago to take one more shot at the St. George run course. My goal from the very beginning was to run the run course and not walk. Two weeks before the race I had some spasming in my left low back which ultimately turned out to be related to some sacroiliac joint issues. The pain came and went as did the spasms, and as I got closer to race day I knew that I would be OK, albeit I would probably have some discomfort. This wasn't that new for me, as I've had similar situations prior to Ironman races, in particular Chattanooga in 2014 when I had one of my best Ironman races. I arrived in St. George two days before the race and registered. The day before the race my back was feeling reasonably well, but I suffered from some gastrointestinal distress. I'm not sure whether it was something I had eaten or whether I had a short term bug but suffice it to say my system was pretty well cleaned out, although it also felt a little raw. I was a little concerned as to how this would affect me nutritionally during the race, but I wasn't that concerned knowing that I would be sticking only to liquid nutrition and that my caloric needs were not as great as they used to be with my new lower carbohydrate diet. With that said on race morning I actually had the opposite problem, whereas normally I have no trouble getting cleaned out prior to starting the race, I was having difficulty on race morning. This led to a few trips to the Porta potty that were not successful but one last trip about a half an hour prior to the start of the race at least had me feeling like I would be OK. I had put on my new HUUB wetsuit, which I've been concerned was a little too tight. I made sure there were no tight spots on the wetsuit but I did notice that my shoulders were pulled a little bit forward in this new wetsuit. That said it was going to be what it was going to be and I'd already decided to swim easy, bike easy, run easy until it got hard, and that was my race plan. Before I knew it it was time to get in the water and as I swam to the starting point I felt reasonably comfortable in my new wetsuit.  However, I did not feel like I could swim hard and feel comfortable. With that in mind as the gun sounded I just tried to get into a rhythm. And because of this discomfort, I realized I absolutely did not want to get in the mix of thrashing arms and generally try to stay clear of the masses. I believe that this ultimately led me to some zigzagging on the swim course, which my Garmin ultimately showed that I swim nearly 2200 yards. That probably is what accounted for a swim time at 41 minutes, easily the slowest swim time I've ever had for a half Ironman. With that said I did not use up any matches on this swim and felt fine coming out of the water. I quickly got to my bike, sat down to put on my helmet, I unracked my bike and got out of transition in a relatively quick time. I got on my bike and just started pedaling easily, looked down at my heart rate and I had one focus for my bike ride which was to keep my heart rate under 145. It was already a little windy by the time the bike started probably with winds around 10 miles an hour sometimes the winds were in front and sometimes the winds were behind. I endeavored to stay in my aero position as much as possible. I had forgotten how many climbs there were on this bike course The St. George 70.3 bike course does not really have rollers, it has climes and descents. Again, my goal was to stay very comfortable on the bike and to not burn any matches prior to the run. As is very common for me I did get passed by some people going uphill and rarely got passed going downhill. I did get passed by more cyclists on the flats than usual but once again I was trying not to expend excess energy. I had very little trouble staying in the moment during the bike on what is easily one of the most beautiful bike courses around. I never really felt tired while occasionally my quads felt a little burn but marginally so. I finally reached the snow canyon climb on which there might of been a tailwind but to which I just focused on spinning as I went up the climb and not pushing too hard, while staying comfortable. As I got to the top of the climb I changed to my large chain ring and dropped my chain. I actually ended up unclipping briefly while changing into my lower chain ring briefly and then back into the higher one and somehow managed to get the chain back on without having to get off my bike. Now it was time to do the final 10 miles back into St. George but it was also time for the winds to pick up to 20 to 30 miles an hour with Crosswinds making the descent much more challenging and much less relaxing. In fact I don't believe anyone passed me on the last 10 miles of the bike ride and I passed a number of people. That said I had to be careful in the Crosswinds and the headwinds clearly scrubbed some time that probably ended up leading to a slower bike time than I had expected. Of note I came out of the water 41st in my age group and my bike time was the 43rd fastest time in the age group. So, I came off the bike probably around 40th or so in my age group. I did a flying dismount and as I started walking with my bike into transition I noticed that my back felt a little stiff, so I did try to run a little bit to the bike rack just loosen up. I racked my bike sat down put on my socks and my shoes my hat and my race belt and ran out of transition, realizing that I left on my Aero gloves on my hands. I briefly thought about turning around and leaving them but that didn't make any sense so I realized that I would just run with them on, which actually turned out to be a good idea. As soon as I got out of the transition I saw some Porta potty's and realize that I had a full bladder, So I stopped. This took at least a minute, perhaps a little longer, which added to my runtime for my 1st mile. As I started to run my low back was feeling a little stiff, But fortunately there was no spasm of the sort that I had two years ago. I just endeavored to get into a consistent run form. I did not worry about running too hard and fast but to start running. The first 2 miles are very gradual uppill and my pace was close to 10 minute mile pace. I grabbed some water at the aide stations as well as some Gatorade some ice and a little bit of Coke as I walked through the aide stations very briefly. Mentally, I felt reasonably good physically I did feel somewhat tired but I found myself able to maintain a consistent run effort. When I hit the 8% climb I found myself able to run up the climb which I've never done in three previous attempts on this run course. That was clearly a confidence booster, and quickly became my pattern on the run course. The St. George run course is all up or down and the uphill never felt like a problem and the down hills were fine as well. Also, the 20 to 30 mile an hour winds continued during the run course sometimes at my back and sometimes in my face. I never let this bother me and occasionally tried, when possible, to get behind another runner in order to draft. Unfortunately this was very uncommon primarily because I was passing so many people running consistently. Turns out that I probably passed over 250 runners during the run part of the race. But heat started to pick up during the run and probably got to 90° although this never really either bothered me. I did put ice in my jersey at most aide stations and occasionally was able to put ice in my hands which actually was much easier with my aero gloves on, note to self for Ironman Boulder". My nutrition on the run course was primarily Coke and occasional Redbull and some water. I didn't worry about drinking too much as for a race of this length I wasn't overly concerned about me becoming too dehydrated. After 9 miles I even stopped walking at the aide stations and just ran the rest of the way my pace settling in at approximately 8:30 per mile pace. I was breathing hard and my heart rate probably rarely went above 150 or 155. Ironically I felt like I only had one gear that I was running in the entire time although I was very comfortable in that gear. I was never really able to pick it up more than that but I also never felt like I needed to drop down a notch at all either. My final run time was two hours and five minutes included my Porta potty stop and so my average running pace was under 9:30/mile. This turned out to be the 15th fastest run time in my age group. I ended up passing at least 15 people in my AG to finish 25th out of 117, and 750th overall out of 2000 people.