Sunday, June 27, 2010

Glub Glub Glub

It's official.  I've finally had enough of swimming - at least for a little while.  Nine of the last eleven days I've had a workout in the pool.  I'm not complaining.  The workouts are all going according to the plan. I just miss my bike, and, as surprised as I am to say it, I miss running.

The good news is that I've actually been able to do a couple short runs in the last few days.  I hadn't run for almost two weeks because of my stupid foot.  On Thursday, I did a quick 2-mile jaunt around the neighborhood.  I was able to do it at my usual pace, so at least I know the foot still works.  I could still feel something wasn't right though and didn't want to press my luck and risk making the injury worse.

Yesterday - Saturday - the scheduled workout was essentially a reverse Olympic-length triathlon.  Olympic (AKA International distance) races are a .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 10K (6.2 mile) Run.  However, this time around I would start with the run and then move onto the bike and swim.  I decided to drive to my health club, which is conveniently adjacent to a running trail and several good cycling roads.

It only took about a mile of running for me to realize that something was off.  It could be that the foot was still a little wonky from Thursday's run, but it started to hurt pretty quick into the workout on Saturday.  I ended up cutting the running part in half and limped back to the car to start the bike.  My splits were 9:30 per mile - which is right on target with race pace from Liberty, but there wasn't any way that I could have put in another 30 minutes of running without setting myself up for another week of recovery.

The bike portion went well.  I was able to keep my average speed over 18MPH during a 30 mile loop through Excelsior, Orono, Wayzata and Minnetonka.  This is just as smidge slower than race pace two weeks ago, and this time I had to deal with stop lights, traffic and other things that aren't an issue during a race.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

By the time I hit the pool, I was starting to run out of gas.  My caloric intake was pretty small compared to the Liberty race, and it showed.  But, I was still able to crank out 1 mile (1750 yards) in 29 minutes.  That's a 1:40/100y average pace, which is actually faster than my race pace at Liberty.  But since it was in the pool, rather than in a lake and I wasn't contending with wind, waves and other swimmers, I won't break my arm patting myself on the back.

Overall, I was pleased with the workout.  I'm feeling like I'm at about 90% of where my fitness was prior to Liberty. 

So, 'How's the foot?' you ask?  Eh.  It's better than it was last week, but there's still enough pain to have me worried.  Tomorrow starts a a bike-centric week. The next run won't come until next Thursday.  Hopefully, that'll give my foot the time it needs to get back to normal.  I'm also thinking of giving Superfeet a try.  I don't like the idea of spending $40 on insoles, but they'll be worth it if I can get back to my usual running volume again.

That's all for now.  Hopefully in the next few days I'll be bitching and moaning about my sore booty and not about my sore foot-sy.  Later y'all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Few Words About Recovery

This will be my first fitness-related post since completing the Liberty 1/2 Ironman 10 days ago.  The theme for last week was recovery.  As well as the race went for me, (you can check out the race report here) I was pretty battered up after the race - more so that I initially realized.  Other than a hefty blister on my right big-toe, I couldn't SEE anything wrong with my body at first.  There were the usual aches and pains, but nothing that shouldn't have worn off after a couple of days. 

On Sunday I spent most of my time in the recliner hovering between nap time and TV time.  Essentially, I was a giant waste of skin for a good 24 hours.  When Monday rolled around, that gnarly blister was healing, my quads felt fine and my calves were only a little tight.  But, there was a new pain that I wasn't anticipating - my left foot hurt like a sonuvabitch when I walked on it.  It would be okay for about 6 steps and then continue to get worse until I had to either find something to lean on, or just hop around.  So, I decided to tough it out through work and do the whole 'waste of skin' thing at home again. 
When I got to Tuesday and my foot hadn't gotten any better, I started to worry.  Torn tendons or (gasp!) broken bones could keep me off my feet for a couple of months during some of the most critical training time.  I was lucky enough to get an appointment with a specialist that could see me the same day.   

I limped my way through the hospital - somehow walking on my tip-toes felt better - and met with the doc.  The good news was that, from what they could tell, I hadn't broken or torn anything.  The bad news was that I had a case of tendinitis affecting my peroneus longus and peroneus brevis.  He showed my how to wrap my foot with athletic tape to keep the pain down and told me to take copious amounts of Advil until it stopped hurting.  However, I was supposed to keep activity to a minimum.  In short, I could still swim, but probably shouldn't bike and DEFINITELY shouldn't run.  Bah.

Those two blue bands wrapping around my ankle sure are fickle little jerks.  Oh, and thanks for the diagram Wiki!

Wednesday was another rest day - I spent the day driving to northern Minnesota to celebrate my Mom's birthday.  Then finally, on Thursday I was able to do my first actual workout since the race.  That's 4 days off in a row.  Now, keep in mind, I haven't taken two consecutive days off since early April and haven’t taken 3 days since last year.  By this time, I was starting to get a little twitchy, kind of like a drug addict going through withdrawal, except minus the 'imaginary-ants-crawling-on-the-skin' part.

On Thursday, the pool felt great, colder than I remember, but still great.  I did, however, learn that athletic tape is not waterproof.  Not good.  On Friday, I did another pool workout and then tried out an easy bike ride - 11 miles at 16mph.  The foot still hurt some, but it was a manageable pain.  That said, 11 miles was probably plenty. 
On Saturday I did another pool workout followed by a little longer bike. This time I was able to push a little harder and the pain wasn't too bad.  I mean, it wasn't GONE, but I don't think it affected my performance.

Sunday was just a quick bike, but I could push even harder - almost to a normal workout pace. In the mean time, regular walking was still a pain.  It was worst in the mornings, and then the tendons seem to loosen up throughout the day.  It had been over a week since the race and I hadn't tried walking any faster than a modest stride.  

In the mean time, I was getting ready to start my first 'theme week' in the training plan.  For the next 3 weeks, each week of the plan will focus on one discipline.  For June 21 through June 27, it’ll be the swim.  The following week will be the run, and the last week will be the bike, followed by a rest week. 

Having the swim this week has been a blessing.  I haven’t had to cut out any workouts yet as my first run isn’t supposed to take place until tomorrow.  The foot is slowly getting better.  It feels more numb now and less hurt-y. I was able to grunt through mowing the lawn last night and I’m hoping that I can re-introduce it (albeit gingerly) to running tomorrow evening. The plan calls for a low-effort 30-minute run, but this can easily be shortened if there is any pain.   The worst-case scenario is that there is still substantial pain after the run and I have to take a longer break from running.  If that’s the case, I’ll have to do my bike-centric week next and save the running for July. 

It’s frustrating to say the least.  After doing better than I was hoping at Liberty, I really wanted to hit the ground running (pun intended) for the next 3 weeks.  Running is still my weakest discipline and the one I’m most hesitant about for Madison.  Being unable to run for almost 2 weeks, and potentially more is a tough pill to swallow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today was a special day for my mom.  She celebrated her [year removed to protect the innocent] birthday.  She lives and works up at Covenant Pines Bible Camp in McGregor, MN - about 2 1/2 hours outside of town.  To mark the occasion, I took the day off of work and headed up to surprise her at camp.

She didn't want to make a big deal out of it.  Yeah.  Like THAT'S going to stop me from drawing attention to her.

First, I called her by cell from the parking lot and proceeded to sneak into the office and scare the stuffing out of her - in a good way.  Pretty soon after that, it was time for lunch, so we headed over to the dining hall.  It was here that we got all the campers to sing her 'Happy Birthday' while she paraded around the room.

After lunch, we strolled over to check the camp mailbox, where she found a package from my Uncle Dave.
That Dave's a funny guy.

Then we found another care package addressed to her from my sister and her husband.
Flowers addressed to 'Kathy Birkstorm'.  Eh.  Close enough.

We walked around camp for a little while, chatted, checked out what the campers were up to and spoke with the staff.  Good stuff.  Then, we headed back to the camp office where we dug into my birthday present for her - a big ol' ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.
I know what you're thinking.  No. We did not use the paper cutter to slice the cake.

After the cake I had to get ready to hit the road.  So I gave her a hug and snapped one last photo before heading back to town.
 One last mug for the camera before taking off.

It was a good day - a heckuva lot better than a long day at work.  Happy birthday mom!

You'll also notice that I didn't mention anything about my training for the last couple of days.  I'll post shortly about the less-than-enjoyable recovery process following last weekend's race.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Liberty 1/2 Ironman Race Report

Yesterday was the big day - my 2nd half-iron distance event and likely my biggest test before the Big Kahuna. Get comfy folks, this is gonna be a long one.  Oh, and you may want to check out my last post to get an idea of what my goals were.

The Night Before

By Friday afternoon I had completely lost interest in work, so I spent a good chunk of time combing through the weather reports and putting together a checklist of clothing and other items for the next day. On the way home I stopped at Target for a few last-minute necessities and got a funny look from the cashier as they checked out my purchase of Shot Bloks, Chocolate Milk and Vaseline.

Once home, The Wife and I decided to bail on making dinner for ourselves and ordered out instead. Enter: Chinese Takeout. At the very least it would be easy on my stomach and provide me with a few carbs for Saturday. After dinner I got to work on the checklist.

First, I cleaned and lubed the bike, tested the gearing, hooked up my new Podium Quest water bottle and tied on my race number. Next, I made five piles of gear: one each for before the race, during the swim, Transition #1, Transition #2 and post race. The swim, bike and run gear all went in my big orange tub. The pre-race gear went in the bathroom and the post-race gear went into a plastic bag. Then, I mixed up some Perpetuem and stuck my nutrition in the fridge. The last thing to do was load everything I could into the car so I didn't have to think about it the next day.

The last thing on the agenda was the little matter of hair removal. Well, one empty clipper battery and two razor blades later I was ready to go. My dome was smooth and polished, my legs were frictionless and my torso was completely hairless. It looked like a small dog had exploded in our bathtub and I now had the appearance of a pre-adolescent boy. Awesome.


The alarm went off at 4:30 the next morning. Ugh. I hopped in the shower for a few minutes to wake up. That helped. Then I suited up with my tri shorts and top, heart rate strap and warmups. Breakfast was a warm bagel with peanut butter, washed down with some Gatorade. I did a final check of essentials and headed out the door at 5:00. By 5:30 I was rolling into the parking lot at Baker Park.

I usually like to get to the course early for a race, and today was no different. I was fortunate to grab a spot in the nearest lot to the transition so that I didn't have to carry my gear too far.  I grabbed a nice spot near the 'Bike Out' area so that I wouldn't have to run too far in my bike shoes.  Over the next hour, I set up my gear, made a few trips to the port-o-pottys and walked around just kind of absorbing the experience.  At 7:00 I met up with a few new friends from the Beginner Triathlete forums.  Good peeps, not to mention fast - Steve and Ben even ended up coming in 8th and 9th in the Olympic distance.  Way to go guys!

After the meet-and-greet, I finished strapping up my wetsuit and headed down to the lake for a little swim.  The air temperature was around 60 degrees, but the water temp was close to 70, so I really only got cold once I got OUT of the water.  A few minutes later, I watched the first wave (Elites, Clydesdales, Athenas and relay teams) head out into the lake.  Three minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim

Our wave took off and I aimed for the 2nd buoy.  I started out on the slow side because I didn't want to get caught up in any thrashing that would only serve to frustrate me and not contribute to a faster time.  After about 200 yards I hit a good cruising speed and started passing some of the guys in my wave that probably started a bit too fast and were starting to fizzle.  It wasn't too bad, but there were a few clumps of dudes that were a chore to get around, but by the time we hit the first turn, things had thinned out.

On the return leg, the chop started to pick up and I felt like I was getting blown into shore.  Every time I lifted my head to sight, I found that I had drifted a couple yards off course.  At least, with the overcast skies, I didn't have to stare into the sun to find the course again.  Pretty soon I was catching up to some of the swimmers in the first wave.

I usually don't like holding back on effort during a race.  Frankly, I just don't have the discipline for that kind of thing.  So, taking it easy on the swim was difficult.  I kept reminding myself that today was about pacing, and having enough gas in the tank for the run.  I trudged out of the lake and crossed the timing mat at 36:08.  That was 3 seconds slower than my last (and only other) 1/2 iron distance race.  That puts my 100-yard splits at 1:43.  I'd have preferred to be closer to 1:35 or 1:40, but I'll chalk the slower time up to the wind and navigation errors.  I was 63rd out of 248 for the swim leg, so maybe I did better than I thought.  The only thing left to do was strip off the wetsuit and throw on my cycling gear before hitting the road.

The Bike

The roads out in the western suburbs are the closest thing I have to a home course.  I ride 'em several times per week and have ridden the course loop multiple times leading up to the race.  There weren't likely to be any surprises out there.  For the first 20 miles, I had two things on my mind - 1. Get my heart rate down and 2. Keep my cadence up.

My first heart rate check clocked me at 167 BPM.  Uh oh.  I shifted down a gear or two and took a couple of deep breaths.  Eventually it got down into the low 150s.  It wasn't the 135-140 that I was looking for, but I felt relaxed.  This is supposed to be a learning experience after all, and who am I to argue?

Since I had a pretty good swim, and ended up as one of the first couple-dozen people out on the bike that could mean only one thing: getting passed by a constant parade of carbon fiber and penis-shaped helmets.  That's fine.  I know those dudes are fast, and I hope to get there soon, but I've only been at this for a year and a half, so there's still plenty of room for improvement. 

The weather continued to cooperate.  Temps were in the mid-60s, the skies were overcast and the wind was minimal.  It was a great morning to ride.

I set my Garmin to go off every 20 minutes so I would be reminded to take in water, Perpetuem and Shot Bloks.  Then every 60 minutes I took in some Endurolytes to try to stave off cramping.  This was working fine, but after 2 hours on the course, I started to get a little tired of Shot Bloks.  I'll have to pack a better variety of food for the Madison in September.

At least I knew that I was sufficiently hydrated.  By mile 40 I had to pee.  Bad.  So, I decided to 'drop ballast' at the next downhill.  After a minute or two of meaningless stage fright (I mean honestly, I'm essentially alone on the course and I get stage fright?  Seriously?) the mission was accomplished.  I had baptized myself into triathlete-ism.  Man.  That felt GOOD, and I could finally focus on pedaling again.

The last 10 miles of the course were an out-and-back along the same course as the Tuesday Night Timetrial series.  It gave me a chance to see my buddies on carbon fiber again as well as all the other cyclists that were hot on my tail.  There's a nice long downhill to finish off the course which gave me a chance to spin to a higher cadence for a couple of minutes.  Evidently, this is supposed to help you get your 'sea legs' back after cycling. 

The Run

I hopped off the bike and monkeyed around with my socks to get them 'just right' before heading out onto the course.  My legs felt, for lack of a better term, 'oogy', but at least they weren't cramping.  A couple hundred yards into the course I was hit by the famous woodchip hill.  It's a 100-yard long jerk of a hill with little or no traction.  Blech.  Once that we were directed onto a nicely paved trail and over towards Lake Katrina. 

Just after mile 2 I saw the race leader heading back the other direction like a freakin' gazelle.  Sheesh.  If I could only be that fast.  My goals were likely a bit more modest than his.  I just wanted to take a few miles to find my groove and then try to keep my splits around 9:30 per mile.

The race organizers had their act together and had aid stations set up ever mile with water, Heed, gels and some other treats.  At mile 2 I took a gel, but had trouble ripping off the top and decided to stow it instead.  At mile 4 I grabbed a marathon bar, but looking at it made my stomach a little ornery, so at mile 5 I handed it to another volunteer and said 'here ya go, I changed my mind'.  From there on out I stuck to Heed for calories and water (mostly poured down my back) to keep me cool. 

A funny thing happened just after mile 4.  Up until that point I had Kevin Quinn's 'Evolve' stuck in my head - you know to keep the pace.  Go ahead, click on the link and tell me it isn't catchy.  I'll wait.  Okay, now.  At mile 4 my Garmin told me that I just ran a 9:33 split, which was right in line with my plan for the day.  Then I though to myself 'I love it when a plan comes together'.  That made me think about Hannibal Smith, which in turn made me thing about the A-Team, until then, you guessed it.  I had the A-Team Theme Song stuck in my head for the remainder of the run.  Excellent.

My splits for the middle portion of the run surprised the heck out of me.  At first when I pulled an 8:53 on mile 5, I thought that I should pull back, but my mile times continued to stay right around 9:00 through the 10th mile.  During this time it started to sprinkle, then it rained, then it downright poured.  I didn't care.  I just kept running with a big stupid smile on my face.  During the last few miles I was really starting to feel it - the fatigue I mean.  I think I was finally running out of gas.  The only thing left to do was be a big boy and gut it out through the finish.  Here are the splits, including the last little fifth of a mile:

1:27 (.18)

I hit the woodchip hill again (this time going down).  The rain had made the ground even squishier.  It was like running down a lumpy sponge.  At the bottom of the hill, the course turned right to follow the shoreline - where I started this whole race, back when the Earth was still cooling.  Then, I could finally see the finish line.  I trotted in with the best form I could muster.  I must have still been grinning like an idiot, because the announcer said something to the effect of:  'here comes Eric Bergstrom, and look at him smiling!'.

I broke the line with a time of 5:49, which was 11 minutes faster than my 'best case scenario' and a full 44 minutes better than the Square Lake 1/2 Iron last year.  Better yet, my run time dropped from 2:53 to 2:04.  Yippee!

At that point the work was done.  I hung around for a few minutes to chat with some of the other finishers and volunteers.  It's amazing how you feel like you can be friends with just about anybody after doing something like this.  Then, I headed back up to transition and slowly loaded everything back into the car.

Before heading home, I checked out the post-race barbeque and snarfed down a steak sandwich and some fruit in about 30-seconds flat.  Yummers. 

Well, there you have it.  If you made it through reading the whole thing - thanks.  I'll be back in a day or two to talk about the recovery process.  Later y'all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strategy and Goals for the Liberty Half Irornman

This Saturday will be my first big test of the season.  I'll be racing in the Liberty 1/2 Ironman out in Maple Plain. 

This is the only 1/2 Iron distance race that I'll compete in before the Ironman in September.  There are only 3 races of that length within a reasonable distance of home.  I'll be out of town for the Chisago 1/2 Ironman in July, and the Square Lake Long Course race is the same day as the Ironman.

First, I want to get a good read on my nutritional needs.  I've done a few practice rides out on the course and feel like I've got a pretty good idea of what to consume on the bike.  Solid food will be a combination of Shot Bloks and Endurolytes.  Liquids will consist of a 3-hour bottle of Hammer Perpetuem and as mush H2O as needed to keep from feeling thirsty.

They'll have plenty of options for fuel on the run.  I'll try to get in a few gels and energy drink during the 1st hour of the run so there's enough gas in my tank.  For the 2nd half of the run I just want to keep the water and Endurolyte (salt) intake up, since there won't be a chance do digest many useful calories as I get closer to the finish.

The second think I want to pay attention to is my pacing.  I'm not terribly worried about my swim.  My latest 100-yard splits in the pool have been around 1:35.  As long as I stay relaxed and focus on sighing, I should be able to keep my time under 35 minutes without too much of a problem.

The most critical leg is going to be the bike.  I have a habit of getting too whipped up on the bike and not leaving enough gas in the tank for the run.  Last year this had disastrous effects at the Square Lake 1/2 Ironman.  I pushed WAY too hard on the bike.  My splits were great, but I ended up dehydrated and my legs cramped for most of the 13-mile run.  It was terrible.

For Saturday, I'll aim to keep my heart rate in the 135-140 BPM range and keep my cadence at or above 90 RPM.  If that means I end up with slower splits, then fine.  If I had to pick a time for the 56 mile bike I'd say somewhere around 3:20.  We'll see.

The run strategy is pretty simple: Keep my mile splits under 10:00.  I'm hoping that the first 3 miles will be my slowest.  During the middle of the race, I'd like to keep the splits around 9:30.  For the last few miles, I'll hold on with whatever I've got left.  Shoot.  It's not like I need to save my energy for another workout that day.  If I can finish the 13-mile run in under 2 hours, I'll be thrilled.

So, let's summarize.  Swim = smooth & steady.  Bike = conservative with lots of eating.  Run = consistent & aggressive (at the end).  The "I'll be Thrilled if I can Break this Goal Time" : 6-hours even.  Keep your fingers crossed for this one folks.

We'll see if I'm able to execute this plan.  Whether I succeed or fail, It'll be a good barometer for the full Ironman Race in 3 months.  The important part is to have some take-aways and apply them to my training.  At least that's what the adult in me says.  The kid in me says 'You're going to this race to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and you're all out of bubble gum'. 

Later kids.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My First Product Review - Speedo Endurance

Well, here you go.  My first product review.  I went with my training swim shorts because they're one thing where I actually have quite a bit of experience with different types of products. 

When I first started training, I used just a standard pair of swim trunks.  They're made to last forever, but swimming with all of that fabric along with two giant pockets was akin to wearing a parachute on my ass.

Next, I moved on to a pair of jammers.  Imagine a pair of cycling shorts, except without the padded tush.  Comfy?  Yes.  Aero hydro-dynamic?  Sure.  But after about a dozen workouts, I noticed a problem.  Those suckers started to wear thin.  Literally.  Regardless of how well I took care of them and how well they were rinsed afterwords, the elastic was wearing away.  First, they started to sag, and my jammers turned into capris.  Second, they started to become see-through.  I don't have to tell you that transparent swim shorts does not benefit anybody.

For the next year, I tried different shorts (jammers, square-leg, briefs) from several different companies (TYR, Dolphin, Speedo) but they all developed the same sagging and thinning problems after a month or two.  Finally, I tried a pare of Speedo Endurance Shorts:

For those of you hoping to see me MODEL the Speedo.  Shame on you.  Perverts.

They seem to be made of a different fabric.  It's thicker and a bit less stretchy, especially the leg grippers..  My thighs definitely get the 'stuffed-sausage' effect when I'm wearing them.  But, they're still plenty skin-tight to allow for easy movement in the water.

However, the best thing about these shorts is that they're freaking INDESTRUCTIBLE.  I've been wearing the same pair for 8 months and they have yet to show any significant signs of wear.  I don't rinse them consistently and sometimes they just end up balled up in my towel for a couple of days.  In short, I treat them like crap - but they still hold up.

You can find the square leg variety on-line and in most big-box sporting goods stores for between $30 and $40, which is about $10 more than their less-durable counterparts.  But when you consider that they last at least 4 times as long as standard shorts, I think they're worth every cent.

There you have it.  My first review.  That wasn't too tough now, was it?

I hope to be back in the next couple of days to talk about my 1/2 Ironman this weekend.  It'll be a good opportunity to test my nutrition and pacing and get a good idea of what next September will be like.  Toodles.