Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Science of Swimming Tall

It’s no secret to anyone that when it comes to swimming, length matters.  The whole notion of swimming tall and lengthening your stroke while maximizing the glide is probably not foreign to you, but few bother to think of the physics behind it.  So I offer this explanation from what I’ve learned as a design engineer of marine vessels.  I introduce you to the nerd in me:

The Math

There is a basic fundamental mathematical relation that proves that two vessels, in which all other variables are the same, the longer one will have a higher velocity.  This is a relative equation defined as the speed-to-length ratio, and it holds true for watercraft of all sizes.  For example, a canoe can have the same speed-to-length ratio as a destroyer even though their speeds and lengths are remarkably different, but because their speed-to-length ratio is proportional to these two variables it is possible for the outcome to be the same (or at least very similar).

Speed-to-length ratio = V/√L

Where V is velocity in knots, and L is vessel length in feet.

So, let’s use an example that applies to us swimmers and see how length affects speed.

Given: speed-to-length ratio = 1 (this is a typical value for a proper running hull, and one that also makes sense if the hull in question is your body)

Now, let’s take two swimmers, one 5' tall and one 6' tall, and see how they compare in the formula:

1 = V/√5, V = 2.23 knots

1 = V/√6, V = 2.44 knots

You can see clearly that as length increases so does velocity.

The Physics

So, we’ve proved mathematically that length effects speed of a vessel but what’s happening that causes that?  This is where it gets interesting.  First, let’s take the glamour out of this swimming thing and say that a swimmer – when compared to a vessel type – would best mimic a barge as it moves through the water.  I’m sorry if that hurts anybody’s feelings but, obviously, a swimmer doesn’t move fast enough to get on plane, so we can hardly call ourselves a planing vessel.  And without a sail or a deep keel the swimmer is not achieving propulsion or stability by those means.  No, the swimmer is simply pushing the water in front of it out of its way – plowing through the water – no matter how good of a swimmer you think you are.  We call this a displacement vessel, as it displaces the exact volume of water in front of it that matches its own volume in order to move forward.  In fact, it’s not just the equality of volume that is present here in the motion of the displacement vessel: the wavelength of that volume of water displaced (the wake) actually also equals the length of the waterline of the vessel itself.  As it moves through the water – as optimally as this displacement vessel can – you can see the fwd crest of the wavelength right at the bow and the aft crest of the wavelength right at the stern.  This boat moves seamlessly displacing the water as it was designed.  It’s just not all that sexy when you compare it to its planing brethren like speed boats or something you might see on Hawaii 5-0.

Now, if you could pluck this vessel out of the water and immediately put one in its place that is exactly like it in every way except it is shorter, what would you see?  The wavelength displaced by the first boat is longer than the length of the boat we just dropped in its place.  It’s like a little boat has been placed in the trough of the wake of the longer one.  Remember that the fwd crest of the first boat was exactly at the bow of that boat, and the aft crest was exactly at the stern.  This shorter boat is fitting in the trough between the two.  
The shorter vessel sits in the trough created by the longer one, with the bow wave clearly providing an uphill bulge that must be overcome.
And we know it moves slower mathematically, because we already proved that, but what’s actually happening here is the smaller boat must push uphill to gain the fwd crest of the wavelength!  And of course this causes a reduction in speed.  The water simply is not getting out of the way of the shorter boat fast enough so it therefore must be moving slower.

Or, from another perspective, if the smaller boat could maintain the speed of the larger boat it would have to increase its power monumentally over the longer boat to overcome the bulge of water at its bow.  To put it into perspective, if the taller swimmer typically swims his main set of 15 100’s at 1:10/100, and the shorter swimmer typically holds 1:17/100, imagine the increase in perceived effort it would take to overcome that speed gap.

Obviously, there are shorter swimmers that are faster than taller ones, but the physics as described above could only get us this far.  At this point, it’s up to the swimmer to overcome the physics of their inheritance and apply efficiencies to their stroke and position, the mechanics of how they apply propulsion via the kick and the catch and pull.  This is exactly why we’re taught to swim “tall,” to maximize the glide and lengthen your hull as you plow through the water in front of you.  Keep those arms in front of your head as much as you can, think about your arms existing in that “forward quadrant”, and turn yourself into the longest barge you possibly can.

You can resent the swimmer in the lane next to you that stands a foot-and-a-half taller than you with his floppy long arms, gifted as he may be in physique and stature, or you can be a good little tugboat and do the work!  It’s all in the math! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Da Richter Kid Back in Da House!

Hello and happy Thanksgiving, faithful followers!  (sound of crickets chirping........)

Well, anyway, I'm back after a long hiatus! Thanks for checking in.  Waddya think of the new look?  It took forever, so I hope you like it.

I hope to put some time into some regular posts again, now that the off-season is upon us.  I kinda gotta get over this marathon hump that's in the next couple weeks, but I look forward to posting about new techniques in achieving peak fitness, the occasional scientific application to training, and of course, epic days in a triathlete's addiction to multisport!

In the next 12 months I have some exciting races ahead of me.  One of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated for me is the St Croix 70.3 (Half Ironman) in May.  As some of you may know, I tackled this race in 2007 as my first Half Ironman and it was an extremely humbling experience.  I hope to show up with a few more bullets in my pistol and my machete a bit sharper than that brutal day of torture, tears, and cramps.

Then, in November, I'll be heading to Ironman Florida for the first time.  This will be my first crack at covering 140.6 miles in completely flat terrain.  I can't wait to see what I can do tucked in aero on the bike for 112 miles rather than the undulating terrain of Coeur d'Alene and Louisville - the only courses I'm familiar with on the Ironman circuit.

So, I appreciate your interest but question your use of your this cat ain't nuttin to purr at!  But I'll give 'er a go and do my best to entertain and enlighten as long as you are willing to read!  Stay tuned for my next post as I apply a little old school naval architecture to explain mathematically why swimming "tall" equals swimming FAST!

Have a great Turkey Day!  We have LOTS to be thankful for!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Straggler in the Herd

Nobody likes to play the role of easy prey, but at the Washington Olympic Triathlon yesterday I suppose I was that straggler in the herd that looked like easy pickins. I was having an awful race, and by the time I started the run in the 100-something degree heat my heart rate was through the roof. I couldn't believe I was stopping to walk just a few steps out of T2. I'd run a block or so, and then walk til my heart eased up, then run a little more, and do it all over again. I must have looked a terrible sight as runners constantly were asking me if I was okay, handing me water, shouting something encouraging.

Volunteers are awesome, and working a water station is a difficult task even on a cool day. But one of the water stations was just overwhelmed as runners came from both directions demanding everything the volunteers would throw at them. By the 2nd time I came to this station, they didn't know what to do. The two adults running the station had their hands full, and their kids were splitting their focus between handing out cups of water and perhaps playing with blades of grass.

I asked for some water, took a swig, and downed the rest over my head. It was so cold and refreshing! As I walked by I knew it wasn't enough so I turned around to ask for a second. "Water, please!" "Can I please have some water?" "Water!" "Water!" I finally got a cup, and as I turned around to drink it a girl came running up shouting for water, grasping through the air at imaginary cups offered by imaginary people, and then it happened.......

Her eyes locked on me. As if in slow motion I was lifting this seemingly golden chalice of ice cold glacial water to my lips, and something told her there wasn't another drop in existence. In a half a second she had measured me, assessed I was too weak to fight back, licked her lips, reached her crooked claws out, snatched my cup out of my hand, and poured the entire contents of it down her gullet. As she threw the empty cup down at my feet and ran away, I hollered, "Hey, you b-.....aww, forget it."

I watched her run away as I stood there, shriveling up in the heat next to the crushed paper cup that a few seconds ago had been so precious. Sigh. 4 miles to go.......

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Looking Forward to Local Races

It's been one month since my Ironman, and I've done well to take a break from a lifestyle of training without getting too sedentary. I'm not quite in a rhythm yet where I can feel I can be competitive in the local triathlons but I'm gonna try and ramp myself up into some sort of shape that perhaps will turn in some good late season results. I just signed up for a couple races that are around the corner....

The Washington Olympic Tri is this coming Saturday. I'd love to do well here on home soil, but the reality is that my body probably hasn't bounced back to top form yet after the Ironman. And it wouldn't be realistic to harbor too many hopes come race day based off of the lackadaisical training I've been up to. So, this race will be more of a fitness test that I'll more or less just train through.

One week later is the Goldsboro Sprint, which was my first triathlon ever. I've been trying to win this one for the last 4 years or so and all I ever seem to do is come in as the first loser. Maybe this will be my year.

After these races, I intend to hit the training hard again to be ready for the Kiawah Island marathon in December as well as September's Lake Kristi Triathlon.

On a side note, I've taken up coaching! Anne Fisher linked me up with a 19 year old that's interested in taking triathlon by the horns so I'm officially in coach mode with him. This is really exciting for me as it will be fun to help him achieve some early goals in his up and coming triathlon "career" and I'm really excited to see if coaching is something that suits me.

So, happy training everyone! Stay cool out there! Man, is it miserable hot down here in the South!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Happens Next?

Well, it’s been an outstanding post-IM vacation and I can definitely say I’ve let my muscles relax as well as the rules regarding nutrition. In the last two weeks, I’ve allowed myself hot dogs, pizza, beer, ice cream, hamburgers, and fried chicken. For the record, I dove back into the wine – both the crap in glass bottles and the very fancy kind that comes in cardboard – and it didn’t work for me. I believe I’m done with that old habit. I haven’t stepped on a scale since pre-IM and I’m expecting devastating results when I mount that thing again after I get home. My plan is to hit the training hard – perhaps with a little less volume – and get myself in some sort of shape for the late summer races around my home in NC: Washington Oly, Goldsboro Sprint, Lake Kristi, and either the Washington Half Iron or maybe the Outer Banks Marathon in November.

All this down time has given me some wonderful opportunities to gaze at the beautiful mountains and reflect on a great Ironman and ponder when another attempt will be and what else I can do to top this one. As for the first issue, I’ve hardly locked my radar on the next IM but Wales and Brazil are both on my radar at the moment. It would be fun to take this project overseas! And as for take-home improvement ideas, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Don’t need the EFS Liquid Shot on the marathon. I flung that at the first aid station. A couple Gu Roctanes are sufficient.

2. I’m gonna pick a few brains a bit more and try to learn from others. I’m currently discussing the affects of First Endurance Ultragen as a pre-training fuel with a guy I met in CDA. I’m interested to see what tidbits I can pick up from fellow athletes.

3. I made a big mistake not attacking that bike leg of the IM. I was too focused on the marathon. I’ll need to put a plan together to change my approach to IM.

4. This may be crazy, but I want to give it some thought……would it be beneficial to reduce upper body muscle? Is that even possible? I’m not so sure the meat on the arms is helping me much here.

5. That lack of bike focus wasn’t just during the race. Some of those long Saturday rides really took an awful lot of gumption to get myself going. I’m thinking I’m gonna have to throw a lot more creativity at long IM-training rides. Perhaps, long one-way excursions, a day in the mountains, variable courses, personal primes to shoot for…..anything to spice those workouts up.
6. I liked that I added the Sunday evening recovery ride to my repertoire but I think that workout needs more structure to it. A one hour lollygag may not be all that beneficial.

7. Some of my metabolic affect workouts lacked intensity. I’ll try and beef those up.

8. I learned a lot and really enjoyed my marathon training plan, but the bulk of the mileage was at marathon pace or slightly below. A little more specificity might yield improvements.

9. Most of those training sessions this season felt great. And that’s good, but I don’t think I put myself in the hurt locker near enough. I need to find ways to be crueler to myself and deepen the pain threshold.

10. It’s time to get a power meter for the bike. Hopefully by Christmas.

11. Gotta get back to work on the hydration setup on the bike. I went old school at this IM with the Profile aero bottle up front and a standard down tube bottle, but there’s got to be a way to get the horizontally mounted bottle on the aero bars. In fact, an overall look at bike setup improvements is in order. Anything short of getting a Trek Speed Concept should be considered I’m thinking.

12. I really got into using my 2XU compression socks in the latter weeks of training for IM, and I used them in the marathon as well. I’d like to learn more about this technology, which socks work the best, how much compression is optimal, and whether the socks are better than the sleeves. I have plenty of theories on all this but I need more experience.

13. Never tried Red Bull in a race. Does it really boost you up that much?

14. I’m thinking about getting my USAT coaching license. I don’t know how that will help, and I don’t know if anybody would care to be coached by someone like me. Just a thought.

For now, that’s all the low hanging fruit I’ve managed to pick off the opportunity tree. I’m certainly open to suggestions. Maybe you’ve followed my training or know me well enough to see something I’m doing wrong or could improve on. I would absolutely LOVE to hear it if you have any suggestions. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2011

What the hell happened?! Not that I had a horrible race and I really do have a lot to look back on and remember as a great day, but when things went wrong in the race……and they did……..I can’t seem to figure out what the hell happened.

Everything was set up perfectly and I had my head in the game leading up to the race. On the flight into Spokane, which was full of Ironmen and women, I listened in on a conversation between two competitors – one of which I figured might be in my age group. I was already competing and figured in my own little way that I had beat him, as he couldn’t stop talking about himself and his previous performances whereas I kept to myself. His conversation was so predictable – senseless banter that everybody in the sport already knows (“You have to have patience to race Ironman.”) to fill the gaps between jabs of bragging about his palmares (“I once came within 2 minutes of qualifying for Kona. But I’m just doing this one for fun.”).

Everything was firing me up for this race. There were no holes that I could pinpoint in my lead up to this day – training was spot on, the trip over was a breeze, there was nothing to stress about. I was extremely eager to get this race underway, and in hindsight I think mentally I was peaking a couple days prior to the race. The anticipation was killing me. I knew a 10 hour Ironman would be tough and that I was a long shot to make it happen, but there was no reason I couldn’t do it and I fully intended to charge my way through it. In my head, I pictured a 1:07 swim, a 4 minute T1, a 5:15 bike split or better, a 2 minute T2, and something around a 3:30 marathon depending on how all that other stuff actually went prior to the footrace and how much gumption I had left. I hadn’t ruled out a 3:15 marathon – though it was a foolishly aggressive thought – and at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps a 3:40 would be all I could muster. But I DID expect the questionables to be on the run, not the bike! I’ve always had a solid bike. To me 112 miles in the hills of Idaho should have been just about a formality.

But I’ll get to the actual race in a second. Friday morning I wanted to hook up with some Slowtwitchers ( forum denizens) for a one hour ride on the tougher part of the bike course. JC Ramirez, a Seattle pro of Mexican descent, had organized this ride and I thought a little scouting of the course coupled with some camaraderie would be a fun start to the day. I enjoyed picking his brain and he seemed to be a genuine nice guy in the few minutes I rode with him. Although I had raced here before in 2008, and had ridden the course on the Computrainer tons of times, this glimpse of the hills was a reality check for this eastern Carolina flatlander. But I wasn’t the least bit intimidated by them. If anything, I gained confidence from the excursion as the hills felt way easier than they did on the Computrainer. I didn’t even notice that, even on the 11% grade sustained climbs, I couldn’t shift into my largest rear cog – a 25 toother. I had decided not to bring my 12-27 since the last time I used it the 26 tooth cog wasn’t working. I figured 25 would be just fine, but back around the tobacco fields of Greenville I had no way of knowing that my derailleur couldn’t muster the strength to throw the chain up that high under heavy strain.
Dr Bob and I found each other at the Ironman Expo the day before the race. We were pumped!

The only other bit of race course testing I needed to figure out was the frigid water of Lake Coeur d’Alene (and I’m not spelling that anymore, so heretofore I’ll go with CDA). Let me step back for a second and tell you that any fool could look at the water and tell there was nothing inviting about it whatsoever. Weather had been cold and if air temps had reached 65 yet you wouldn’t have guessed it. Wind was also really gusty, and the water was horribly choppy looking. Rumor was that the water was 56 degrees. Any tough guy can jump in that kind of water in the afternoon with no agenda, swim around and wave at you in all their manliness for a few minutes, and then strut out onto the beach as if it didn’t bother them, but it’s a totally different story when you know you HAVE to get in and you HAVE to swim for an hour or more and you HAVE to do this at 7 am when the air temp hasn’t even hit 50 yet. I’d argue that it takes quite a bit of internal psyching up to make you do it. Hell, none of my triathlon buddies back home wanted any part of it and they were saying so in 95 degree weather when a plunge in cold water actually mighta felt pretty darned good! So, I’d be lying if I said there was nothing to it – my head was trying to wrap around the notion of intentionally freezing myself as if it were……well, again…..a bit of a formality.

So, Saturday late morning, after dropping off my bike and transition bags at the race site, I took a plunge in the lake. I used my old Q Roo Superfull wetsuit so my Blue Seventy wetsuit wouldn’t be wet on race day. My sister, Ginger, and wife, Angie, were there with me and this was perhaps my first glimpse of the unselfish pampering that they and the rest of the family so generously shared with me.

I guess the beach at Coeur d'Alene isn't exactly all it's cracked up to be.

And I’m gonna go off again on a tangent here because it’s my report and I want to. This trip to CDA was an idea hatched over 1.5 years ago. I’m here for my amazing parents, who live about 400 miles south, but had invited my 3 sisters and I (and families) to share their 50th anniversary up here in a majestic cabin on Hayden Lake just north of CDA. We don’t get together often as you can imagine with one sister in Boise, one in Tucson, one in freakin’ Jerusalem, and Angie and I in NC. So, this is a big deal on the Richter scale. It didn’t go unnoticed in my noggin that we’d be at an Ironman venue during this trip, but it didn’t seem right to suggest doing it on my parent’s anniversary. But when mom brought the idea up and said the family would love to cheer me on, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. It was kind of like a “Well, okay, I’ll do it but only for you! Snicker, snicker!” kind of reaction. Mom had been to both of my previous Ironmans, and dad and sister Cindy had been here for the first IMCDA I did in 2008. But Ginger, who is arguably my biggest fan, was chomping at the bit to be part of this. And sister Tammy…….well, I think the idea was a bit foreign to her but she was willing to go along with it.

My wonderful wife, Angie, and I on the Lake Coeur d'Alene waterfront.

So Angie and Ginger snapped pictures of me putting on my wetsuit as if they thought it was some kind of space suit I was going to use to blast off into space and never be seen again. Maybe they just knew how cold that water was and thought there really was a chance I wouldn’t come back out. But they were so willing to hold anything I needed them to, or wait on me when they were starving to death….just lots of unselfish stuff in stark contrast to the very clear reality that everything an Ironman does in prep for his race is all about himself and so embarrassingly selfish. And if you know Angie at all, this is as yadda-yadda-yadda-ish as it gets since I can’t even pop a zit without her pouncing on me from across the room thumbs first to burst the sucker before I even attempt it. But Ginger was a wonderful surprise to my zit-popping team (so to speak).

My oldest sister, Ginger, and I chill for lunch the day before the race.

Anyway, I waded in the water nice and slow to acclimate. A female competitor was getting ready to do the same and asked if she could join me. This was her first IM and she bashfully asked me for swim tips. I gave her some pretty stereotypical advice of some sort (starting with, “If I were you I would pee right now in that wetsuit. And back up a bit because that’s what I’m doing right now.”), feeling like I was no authority to do so. As we adjusted to the freezing water, the discussion drifted to how to handle the mob scene of swimmers that would be beating up on us during the swim. That’s when she lifted her arm and showed me that it was in a Velcro cast of some sort as she had taken a spill on the bike course the day before and fractured her wrist. She was concerned about somebody hitting it in the swim. I thought she was a lot tougher than me and was very humbled. Anyway, I wished her luck and started swimming. Nothing to it really. It was cold, but expectedly so. I was ready for the race day swim.

It doesn't look THAT cold! Let's go for a dip!

Up through this I had been totally in the zone for this race. I think I even told my good friend and training buddy, Frank Fisher, that I was here to crush dreams. Frank had got into Kona through the lottery and I desperately wanted to go with him. All I had to do was crush IMCDA, and there was no reason why I wouldn’t I thought. Weather was shaping up to be in the 70’s, water temps around 58, and 5-6 mph winds. If I’m guessing, I think all those numbers were low except water temp. Way low.

Julie Dibens, who won the women's race, has a sweet Trek Speed Concept.

But something started happening the night before the race. It’s no big deal, just your standard nerves that you would expect before a race that you had put 4 months of heart and soul into. I talked to a few friends back home, which calmed me down a little. Frank was on fire with some supportive and deep words of encouragement via text. Everyone in my family was attentive to my race needs – my sister, Cindy, wouldn’t let me clean my dinner plate. They all just wanted me to have my time to myself the way I needed to and deal with the butterflies in my stomach. I distinctly had my radar locked on that marathon plan. Marathons are always tough for me to break down and I had pegged this one as a half marathon followed by a series of short distances to get me to the finish. I went to bed around 8 I think and tried not to think about the cold water. My nerves were trying to force me to worry about something.

I woke up at 3 am and began prepping for the race. I got all my nutrition in without any feeling of throwing it all up. Check. I had some coffee and my friend, CC’s, old adage that “success on race day begins with success in the bathroom” was working like clockwork. Check. I began to psych myself up for the race. No check. “What’s going on? Okay, lock in on that marathon plan. Half mary the start, break the rest of the distance down.” Nothing. I couldn’t break the run down in my head for some reason and was fearing that I’d come out of T2 with nothing in my head but the daunting idea that I had to run 26.2 miles yet wouldn’t be willing. I just rolled on with the prep and getting dressed and stuff, and tried to tap into my zone in my head whenever I could. The run plan was key to me and not because I lacked awareness of the other two events in the race, but I just knew the focus needed to be on the marathon where all the variables were as well as the bulk of the suffering.

Our cabin had these lovely steps to deal with race morning and post Ironman festivities....

I left for the race with my mom, sisters Cindy and Ginger, and Angie and they were so good to be on time. They’re always punctual, but I don’t know if Angie reinforced this knowing that something as small as making me leave later than I anticipate for a race is enough to throw me into a stupid downward spiral. They carried stuff with me to transition, where I got my race numbers put on and then went to make last minute preparations to the bike.

Sisters Ginger and Cindy keeping me calm before the swim start.

I had brought an old pump with me that I had written on the cylinder, “use me then pass me on.” I pumped the tires up and then gave it away. I went through the rest of the preparation and then found a portapotty to lighten the load one last time. I rechecked my head to see if I was in the zone I had been struggling with getting into. No go. Oh well, to hell with it. Let’s go do this thing and you’ll figure it out later, I thought. I found the girls and hung out at the beach waiting for the start to come. They were having a blast, but I was a ball of nerves.

Heck no, I'm not nervous! Geez, I hate race mornings!

After the pros started, I began the process of putting on the wetsuit. Once done, I hopped in the long line of participants to make my way to the entrance to the beach and the timing mat we had to walk across to activate our timing chips on our ankles. I immediately made for the water to acclimate and was really amazed to see how many people seemed to be foregoing this process. It’s no wonder there is always a person or two that hits the water when the gun goes off simply to turn around and quit because the water takes their breath away. There were lifeguards on kayaks about waist deep paddling back and forth to prevent us from swimming around. I suppose I can see how they didn’t want to get into a cat herding situation with us, but it didn’t offer us much room to try to get some strokes in. I swam parallel to them a bit to acclimate and then got out of the water for the National Anthem, which I could barely hear. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, was on the mike charging up the crowd but I couldn’t hear him either. When the gun went off, I didn’t hear that either. I just saw a wave of motion and dove in after them.

It's a small beach that the race starts on, so we're kinda packed in there like sardines.

I had started about 4 people back and was way right of the pack. Even though I tend to veer to the right when I swim I thought this was the best idea as I breathe to the left, and wanted to use that to see the pack as I swam and gauge my line off of the other swimmers as I breathed. In 2008, I got the shit beat out of me on this swim. 2800 other people all clambering for the same space is no picnic.

It's always amazing to me that we think this is normal activity to just jump in a lake with 2800 people and flail around for an hour or more....

But I expected my swim had improved over the years to put me slightly ahead of the brutal part of the pack. And it seemed to be working. I had just enough room all around me. I was pacing just fine and felt good in the water. I later heard those that swim in the 1:10 to 1:20 pack tended to get beat up the most, and I was ahead of that bunch. By the time I got to the first turn, I began to drift in tight against the buoy, readying myself for the slaughterfest that tends to happen as everyone vies for the tight space around the buoy. It never came – it was like I had a little safety bubble around me. But why was the lake swelling all around me?! Holy smokes, did a barge just go by? I was in some washing machine rollers of some sort between the two turn buoys and I can’t imagine what caused it, but it cleared up once I hit the straight away back to the beach.

That's a lot of folks getting ready to freeze to death together!

As soon as I got where I could stand up, my right calf locked up. Man, I never get that! What was that all about, I thought, as I ran under the swim finish arch and turned left to start my second lap. Oh geez, that better not come back to haunt me later in the race! I put it behind me and instead filled my head with the thought, “Did Mike Reilly just say 31 minutes back there?” I couldn’t believe that was right, because if it was I was swimming better than I expected of myself. I put the thought away for fear I’d learn otherwise after this next lap and just concentrated on swimming smooth. But I wasn’t. I kept veering to the right and rather than swimming a beeline against the buoys I was kinda arcing my way from one to the other. It was a little frustrating but I have to admit kinda typical of me. The washing machine was still out there at the turn buoys. Man, what is that coming from?! Then, when I hit the straight away back to the beach again, both legs locked up – quads and calves – and I stopped in my tracks and bobbed like a helpless cork. Massive Charlie horses. I panicked for a second, then willed myself to kick like crazy to see if that would free my muscles and somehow it did. But what was going on? Surely this was going to come back and haunt me later on and I’ve never been in this situation.

Swim Time: 1:05:57

I came out of the water, got my wetsuit yanked off by the strippers, grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the men’s tent. My hands were shaking from the cold and my teeth were chattering, but I skipped the arm warmers and the gloves I had packed in the bag. I had packed those items as an “on-the-spot-decision” based off of feel and they just didn’t make the cut. I fiddled with my bike shoes, and the heel of the right one flipped over on itself and I messed with it for what seemed like minutes as I muttered curses under my breath. The guy that sat next to me was very vocal about not being able to work his hands. He called for a volunteer to get him geared up. I think I said something like, “I hear ya brotha” and then took off. As I ran I shoved my coin purse of salt tablets, Powerbar chews, and Gu Roctanes in my jersey pocket and clipped my race belt around myself. No issues with grabbing the bike and taking off, though I did do a bit of a slip on the pavement in my bike shoes. Sorry, folks, I didn’t go down though in front of the crowd.

T1 Time: 4:47

Leaving on the bike, I caught a quick glimpse of Ginger and some of the other family in Tricred Red but I didn’t see who else was there. My teeth were chattering, my arms were cold, my feet had no feeling, but I knew all that would pass. I began banking some time – not really going too hard, but simply taking advantage of the first 20 miles of flat(ish) roads before the hilly section began.

But I didn’t feel……….right. There was no fire, no voice in my head smack talking, nothing. I was averaging over 22 mph, which was good but all the while I was struggling to psych myself up. Somewhere around here a guy who could have been in my age group passed me wearing all pink. I didn’t like that, petty as it is. But he looked kinda big and I thought maybe he was going out too hard and I’d reel him in when I got my head screwed on right later. Coming back into town I hit the hot corner and just knew my dad would be watching from there – the same place he was in 2008. I caught a glimpse of him and waved and nearly ran up on the back of another competitor in the hot corner. That was close!

Hitting the hills, I became aware that that 25 tooth cog – my climbing gear – had opted out of the race. Whatever. Don’t need it. I assessed where I was in the hilly section, as I had taught myself to expect what I was personally calling the “Seven Sisters” – from the Computrainer rides it looked like there were 7 hills in a row in this section. But once through it I only recalled 3. So I felt good thinking there were fewer big hills than I prepared for.

This was right near the cabin we were staying at for the week on Hayden Lake. Beautiful place for a ride.

Coming to the turnaround, there was an old guy that had set up a collection of antique bikes for display and if I hadn’t been trying to have my best race ever perhaps I’d have stopped, because they were marvelous. He had a couple of pristine big wheel bikes even. Sorry I had no way to get a picture of this. And somewhere on the course a lady was holding a clever sign that said, “Worst parade ever.” Lots of other signage, but this is all that was worth mentioning.

I hit the timing mat at the turnaround and saw my average was 21.4 mph (as far as I recall – those of you keeping up with me on the athlete tracker might have seen a slightly different number). I was fine with that. This would be a 5:15 bike split if I kept it up. This contributed to a short burst of gumption, and for a while there I thought I was out of my slump as I passed folks that had dropped me miles ago. Every now and then I stood up to stretch the legs and assess the cramping thing. Those cramps were there, looming, and I felt the threat of them popping into action the moment I started the run. They were not going away.

Then the gumption was gone, just as quickly as it had come. I came into town knowing I needed to hit the first lap in something like 2:40 to feel like I was going according to plan. I was way off. Maybe around 2:50. Now the brain began to do all kinds of horrible, ugly things. I found myself wishing for a flat tire or a busted chain so I could quit without blaming myself. I couldn’t quit in front of my family, but I kept struggling with how I could and somehow manage to live with it. I went back and forth between conceding to just finish the race in some sort of sorry time and telling myself that I could make up the deficit and get back in this thing. That latter idea just wasn’t coming into fruition on the bike though. The second time I came back into town I got passed by a chick. Salt on the wound, that’s for sure. She was hammering though! I totally envied her as she vanished up the road. Then I saw Angie, Ginger, and the crew and somehow my niece, Heather, was about 10 feet above the ground wearing a Tricredible uniform! She looked great as she threw her hands in the air cheering me on!

Once back in the hills, I heard a jet flying awfully low and craned my neck around to see what was going on. Some Navy/Marine cowboy was twisting his way through the mountains in his F/A-18 Hornet and I presumed he was showing off for a buddy maybe he knew in the race. Passing a dude on a hill, I said, “Somebody’s having a LOT more fun than we are!”

On a long straight away between two hills I saw Dr Bob Morrison coming the other way on his first lap. Dr Bob is 73 years old, the oldest competitor in the race, and a friend and inspiration from Greenville. He was more concerned about making the swim cutoff than the other two legs I expected, so I was elated to see he still had a horse in this race and perhaps was on course to get his own slot to Kona.

Coming to a downhill turn on the course, I took my second rolling pee. I can’t pedal and pee, so the bike slowed down considerably as I stood on the pedals. The spectators here were hollering, “It’s okay, just keep pedaling! You can do it!” They couldn’t see the trickle running down my leg into my shoe – they thought I was giving up! Damn, I’m not that bad off, I thought, and got back to pedaling as soon as I could. Once back in town, I couldn’t wait to get off the bike.

Bike Time: 5:33:25 (It hurts me something fierce to look at that number.)

T2 was uneventful enough. A volunteer helped me gear up, and kinda chuckled at me as I struggled to put my “Sissy Socks” on. These were also supposed to be an “on-the-spot-decision” but the calf cramps from before dictated there would be no question that I would use the compression socks. Olbas inhaler, salt tablets, Gu Roctanes in the jersey pocket, hat on, switch the glasses, a quick pee in the trough and off I went.

T2 Time: 3:25

My legs felt great! But some quick math told me I needed a 3:13 marathon to nail that 10 hour mark. Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen! I found Angie and crew in the start of the run and stopped to hug her and I told her, “Everything is going wrong. I’m just gonna try to enjoy the rest of this.” As expected, she lovingly pushed at me and said, “Just GO!!!” She HATES it when I talk negative in a race!!!! She is such a great motivation to me.

This is right after hugging Angie and telling her it wasn't going as planned, as she pushes me away to get back to running...

So, I did. I ran. I ran that first mile in 7:13 in fact. And it felt great! I knew it was too fast, but it felt awesome. I told myself to slow down but still ticked the next mile off in 7:15. After that I kinda lost track of where the mile markers were. But I had gotten back in that zone knowing Kona was pretty much out, but I could at least run this thing like I owned it. I thought about my buddy Carl Bonner, who would definitely let me know what a wussy I was if I gave up or resolved to “enjoy” any part of the race instead of giving it my all. He was right. You don’t work that hard to get here and then lollygag your way through an Ironman. You push until you suffer, and then you push a little more. So I found my gumption to get back into the plan of running the first half of this thing as if it were a half marathon, and then break the rest of it down as I needed to in order to get through to the finish. With no intention of doing so, I took a cup of Coke that was offered at one of the first feed stations. My preference is to hold off on this shot of caffeine until a meltdown, so as not to dilute its affects early in the race. I chased it down with water because of its diuretic affects and this became standard procedure at every feed station. I saw Dr Bob go by on the bike again and figured all was well on his Ironman assault.

Trucking along!

Somewhere in here a mountain bike came alongside me and I knew it was a top pro on his second lap. I can’t remember if he was in second or third, but he took FOREVER to pass me. I thought, “Dude, I’m only doing 7:15 at best, just GO!!!!” As he eased by me, I got to thinking maybe this really was a little too fast still and tried to slow down a tad more.

I got to the big hill before the turnaround and trudged up it and down the other side. I was passing LOADS of guys, but I couldn’t count a whole lot of 40-44 year old males. Seemed to me that most of them were 30-something. Coming back into town towards the turnaround, I came up on Angie and company and she yelled that I needed to keep going and that I was in 38th place in my age group. I shook my head at her in disbelief that she still thought I had a shot, but I kept motoring. I finished the first lap a couple minutes shy of 1:45.

In hindsight, I felt pretty good on the run. Musta been the Sissy Sox.

Now, I needed to start breaking this thing down because I was on the verge of doing so myself. So, I started with the idea of just getting to the point where the course gets out of town. I’d come up with a new milestone once there. But the first feed station I hit on lap 2 I altered the plan and walked through, taking sponges, Powerbar Perform, Coke, and water. I also started stuffing ice cubes down my shorts. It was fairly hot out there, and although I was managing well I was acutely aware that a meltdown was no more than one negative thought from happening. So, I decided to run to each feed station and walk through them taking in all I could.

Once out of town, I set a goal of reaching the weird industrial looking hotel on the hill, then making it to the base of the big hill at the turnaround. I was still blowing by tons of folks. Volunteers were shouting encouragement, calling me by name since it was on the race bib. But most of what I heard was along the lines of, “Go, Mr. Tricredible,” or “Nice jersey!” I wanted to thank every word of encouragement but was too exhausted to say so to all but a few of them. On the way to that last hill I came upon a little girl – maybe 7 years old – who had a microphone and was cheering on competitors something fierce. “You’re having a bodacious run! And if you don’t know what ‘bodacious’ means……..” she trailed off, probably not sure how she was going to finish that sentence. But I gave her a high five and told her I love her and her mom (I’m guessing) made one of those sounds women make when some sorry sap says something cheesy and romantic in a movie. At the base of the hill, it was a long line of folks walking up. I kept running thinking they were all being a bunch of wussies, but I’d been there before myself. Somewhere around here was the Vaseline guy from my race in 2008 (see that race report for the story). Pink guy came running down the hill at this moment, by the way. Boy was I wrong about him! I wanted to catch him but there wouldn’t be enough mileage to do so. I hit the turnaround at mile 20, popped my last salt tablets, and told myself to get up and over this hill and be done with the darned thing, and set my mind on the finish. With 3 miles to go, I took in my last bit of fluids knowing nothing was going to help me get to the finish at this point but what was already inside me.

The finishing straight-away was even more impressive than the last time I did this race. Sherman Avenue is a pretty big road through town, lined with lots of shops and restaurants, and they had it completely blocked off with barricades. It was like being in the Tour de France with massive crowds lining the barricades and you could see all the way down through the finish line, about a half mile away. Being downhill and your last few steps of the race, you can’t help but pick it up a little bit through this section. There was a guy a ways in front of me that I wasn’t going to catch, and I couldn’t see anyone coming from behind. I enjoyed my last few steps of the run, and coming into the finish chute I wasn’t going to do the high five thing with the spectators but I kinda veered to the left against the barricades unintentionally out of sheer exhaustion, and their reaction was to stick out their hands for a high-five. So, I obliged a few and then recentered myself in the chute. I crossed the finish line in 10:22:38 with a 3:35:06 marathon, a new PR for Ironman by almost 20 minutes and behind my goal by about the same margin.

I had the finishing chute to myself this year and soaked it up pretty good.

I had started the marathon 42nd in my age group and ran myself up to 26th place, and those weird cramps never were a factor. I threw my hands in the air to thank God for getting me through this, and let the volunteers guide me through the standard finishing procedure of handing me a hat and a shirt, ask me some typical questions to see if I was coherent, take my chip and get the obligatory finish photo with the IM backdrop. Angie was right there against the barricades and I went straight to her, buried my face in her shoulder, thanked her, shed a tear, and crumpled a bit. She was so proud of me and I was too. I didn’t do anything great really, and I certainly didn’t do what I had set out to do, but I sure as hell didn’t quit. I finished in 130th place out of 2800, and 26th in my age group out of 497 that started (only 376 finished).

It sure does feel good to be done!

After a quick couple pieces of pizza and some pictures with the family, I found out Dr. Bob didn’t make the bike cutoff and wasn’t allowed to finish his race. I hated it for him and was so excited to get to see him finish and now wouldn’t be able to. To be honest, I don’t know how I would have mustered the energy to do so, but there was no question that was where I intended to be. I happened on him in transition while getting my bike and we talked about the day for a little bit, and then Angie said, “Hey, there’s Craig Alexander,” and pointed to the winner of the race and 2 time World Champion getting his race bags. The three of us walked over to him and I said, “Craig, I know you’re tired and all but can we get our picture taken with you?” He was super nice and immediately asked how my race went, to which I said, “Not too good. I was trying to beat you.” We all chatted a bit. I wish I had offered him a spot on the Tricredibles team just to see how politely he would turn me down.

I got my picture taken with Craig Alexander, 2011 IM CDA winner and 2-time Kona champ!!

Sometime during the race, my mom managed to get interviewed by the local news. She aired at 11 pm that night and was quoted as saying, “I don’t know why anyone would want to do an Ironman!!!!” They showed my family and even had some footage of me biking by. My family had a great time at this thing, and Tammy thought the whole thing was a blast which floored me! It helps that CDA is a great place to watch a race, but as glad as I was that their day wasn’t totally miserable I figured we better get home and get this thing behind us so it wouldn’t be all about me anymore.

Mom getting interviewed by local news during the bike portion of the race. That's my niece, Heather, on the left playing with her hair. You can just make out that she had my race numbers written on her legs and arms in support!

I don’t know what happens next. The Kona monkey remains on my back and I don’t know if I’ll ever shrug that sucker off. The reality is that even if I had nailed a 9:59:59 Ironman I still wouldn’t have landed a slot. There were only 9 for the 497 dudes in my age group. 8 were swallowed up leaving one to roll down, and it was taken by the first name called out. He finished the race in 9:56:13. I’m not sure if missing it by 4 minutes would have been easier to swallow than missing it by 26. Of all the competitors that went under 10 hours, there were more in my age group than any other. Man, these guys are tough and I gotta say it’s humbling, humiliating, annoying and invigorating all at the same time.

My journey to get ready for this Ironman was as long and arduous as I may be capable of. We’ll see. I’m not signing up for another IM any time soon, but the fire is gonna still be there. At any rate, thanks for following this journey with me. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog, and my intention was to have it die out right after the chance of going to Kona did or take you on the journey to the lava fields with me.

My wonderful family at Ironman Coeur d'Alene! From left: Mom, Cindy, Tammy, Dad, me, and Ginger.

All I know is I’m on vacation with a great family and the last thing I want to think about is triathlon. So, hang in there! I hope I was able to share something you can use, whether Ironman is on your radar or not. If it is, pay attention to that little blip in the corner. It may be me coming around for another crack at this thing!

Here's my video of finishing Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2011!!!!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Final Exam Week

Well, I feel like I've done my homework on this one:

Bike: 2968 mi

Run: 795 mi

Swim: 119 mi

Total Hours of Swim, Bike, Run: 360

Ab Ripper X: 69 times, sometimes twice, so the equivalent of over 20,000 sit-ups

Weight Lost:12.9 lbs

Domestic Arguments Related to Training: 1

Toenail Casualties: 2 bruised, 2 fatalities

Injuries: 0

If you were to put all that swimming, biking and running together that would be 26 Ironmans, with still enough extra running mileage for 4 more marathons and 23 more 2.4 mile swims. That’s about the equivalent of an Ironman every weekend so far for 2011.

Without a doubt, this season has been the hardest I’ve ever trained for a race. Foregoing wine and beer was one of the hardest sacrifices, and I can’t wait to pop open a cool one after the race. Eating right has been tough as well, and I remember a night when Angie just couldn’t muster up the energy to cook and brought home Orange Shrimp from the Chimanese joint. I wanted it, but just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. I shoved a small mozzarella pesto pizza in the oven instead and went to bed hungry.

I’ve kept an aerial photo of Kona on race day on my bathroom mirror and looked at it at least once a day to say, “I don’t know if I’m coming, but I did everything I could today to get there.” My work computer has a countdown in the corner of the desktop telling me how many weeks I have left to IMCDA. This thing has been on my mind every day throughout the training season, which I claim to officially have begun on March 1, but it really was in the making months beforehand.

And I’ve had to hear the words at work that I should put as much effort and passion into my job as I put into training. (I think I was supposed to take that as some sort of message to step it up, but instead I immediately thought something along the lines of, “Great! My training must be right on target if even the president is noticing this is all I do!”)

So, with just one week to go, I have to say that I have no idea how race day will go but I’ve done all I can. If the Kona World Champs slot doesn’t happen……well, I haven’t prepared myself too well for the answer to “what next?”……and I honestly haven’t pumped myself up into thinking I’ve got a good shot at this…….but that might be a tough pill to swallow given the effort I’ve given this. But if the stars just don’t align, I hope I can find pride in just knowing I gave all I had and accomplished some pretty cool things in the process (like a PR half iron – even though the swim didn’t happen, giving up the sauce for 4 months, or getting down to a level of fitness I’ve never seen myself at before).

Thanks for following this journey with me all these months and be sure to track me on the Athlete Tracker on If you just want to know if I’m surviving the day, put my last name in and it will show you the last timing mat I’ve crossed. If you want to see if that Kona slot has my name on it, track males 40-44 and it should show you what place I’m in throughout the day. I figure I need to come in no higher than 9th to be assured a spot, - 10th might earn a roll-down. That’s out of 497. Ugh. Other than that, please send me all the good energy you can on race day! There will be suffering! Let’s get this fun over with!!!!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Race Day Nutrition

If I remember right, my heart rate monitor told me I burned around 10,000 calories the last time I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2008. You can’t take that much in during the race – a calorie deficit is inevitable. But you have to dial in your race day nutrition as best you can so you don’t run out of energy out there on the course. With nearly zero science behind this, but a pretty good amount of trial and error and experimentation, here’s what I’ve arrived at as my race day nutrition for Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2011:

After a couple of web searches it seems the general belief is that one can consume an average of 250 calories per hour during endurance racing, with the high being around 400 calories per hour. It’s much easier to consume these calories while cycling than running (of course, you can’t at all while you swim). That said, it looks like I have about 480 calories per hour planned on the bike for this race. Now, I should clarify that the chart above is what I am making available to myself for the race, not necessarily everything that I will consume. I figure I’ll probably actually ingest only about 80% of this, so on the bike it looks more like 385 calories/hr and on the run more like 230 calories/hr. I’ll respond to this post-race to share how it all "went down."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturdays Hurt Something Fierce.....

Last long brick...........that just happened. I set out at 8 am this morning for a 120 miler followed by a pansy ass 6 mile run. I'd been dreading it all week......cuz I've had it! I'm done with long rides. I'm done with going to the boring ass Walmart parking lot in Zebulon and torturing myself over the same hills, out and back, for 100+ miles all by myself. I'm done with this freakin' heat. I'm done with singing "This is gonna good be a good life" (Onerepublic) over and over again, or "Take me, t-t-take me, fill me with your love juice, blah blah blah blah blah blah." I don't know the words. The beat kept me going though.

So, I did this one from the house - to get it over with quicker, to make it flat and fast, to see what I could do without the hills. Last week's 6 hr ride was in the mountains, and I didn't see a flat section anywhere anyway. It was just time to hammer out here amongst the wheat fields and houses with Christmas lights still on them.

Phillip Rowan met me at mile 7. He didn't like it when I showed up with the aero helmet on spitting that this wasn't going to be a pleasure cruise and I meant to hammer. "Well, you should already have confidence after the half iron you did the other week!" he said. I joked that I wasn't going for confidence.......I was going for arrogance. (that's another story) I gave him a chance to pee, cuz I wasn't planning on stopping for that, and we rolled west.

It wasn't fun. At all. I willed myself not to be social. I don't know what Phillip was thinking about back there to pass the time. "This is gonna be a good life......" kept rolling in my head, and some '80's song I can't remember.

We were on some horribly boring roads. I had chosen highways over country roads so we'd have the right of way and fewer possibilities of hitting stop lights or signs. I had no intention of letting anything disrupt the momentum. Traffic was a constant. Boredom was even moreso.

I think it was around mile 40 that Phillip turned around. We had just spent 5 miles on a country road that was chip-sealed and covered in sand. It was the kinda road that makes you wonder why you're out there at all. It got a lot lonelier after that. I had no idea where I was, but I was heading west still.

At mile 60 I turned around. Average pace was 22.0 mph. I stopped at a gas station for fluids and let the legs take a mile or so to wake back up. At this point, I wanted to drive the pace up as far as I could all the way home. So I turtled the neck to soak up every advantage the aero helmet was giving me and I pressed the pace. 22.1.........22.2.......back to to 22.2.........22.3........wait a minute. I just passed 100 miles at 4:29! This ain't the race! I'm dying out here, man. Reassess. Okay, nail 112 miles and you can ease up the last 8. Those next 12 hurt. 6 days out of the week and the thought that I have a chance at a Kona slot hits me several times all day long. But every Saturday, doing these long bricks, I hurt. I don't wanna. I want my mommy. I want to be in that redneck pool I just passed. I want a beer...and a whole lotta wine. I want my life back.

I hit 112 miles just before the clock hit 5 hours. Cooked and dried up, I set to slackin'....but called it a "cool down." I didn't see a pothole, nailed it, and both hands came off the aero bars and chest planted onto the arm pads. I don't know how I saved it. God intervened, I suppose. A couple visions of a broken collarbone, and I was over it. And I was out of water too, as well as any food.....which is a kind word for gel. I might have ingested more calories over the last 4 months from gel and liquids than from real food. If I started a gel brand I would call it Turboslop.

Once home, I needed to regroup before the molehill of a 6 mile run that had now become Mt. Suck It. Angie offered to load me up on recovery drink (it wasn't time), ice, and I'm-not-sure-what-else-cuz-I-was-out-of-it. She was trimming hedges in the heat - her face beat red. I was playing on my bike. I wanted to trim hedges. Neighbor dude was helping her, asking me if I was insane.

I drank a Diet Pepsi, an Ironman Perform, a bottle of water. I grabbed a glob of grapes and stripped to nothing. I got in a cold shower to wake me up. I took a dump. It had been turtling on me since around mile 80. Shorts on, shoes on, flask of ice water.....let's roll.

7:30 the first mile. Flask is leaking. Cheap piece of crap. 8:00 minutes the second mile. Bummed a water refill from a fireman cleaning his driveway. Crap. I didn't stop my watch. Now I gotta make up that time. No runs allowed over 7:30 pace and now I'm 2 minutes over. Next mile 7:00 pace. Next mile I dunno. I forgot where the marker is. Next one and what little math the brain is capable of at this point says a 6:50 will do it. Bam.....I'm home in 45:00.05. Nailed it. And cooked. Whathehayelwuzzat?!?!

Angie dropped me in the ice bath, loaded me up on Ultragen, and I cleaned off. I went to tell her I was hitting the sack and she passes me a plate o' pasta and a beautiful roast beast sandwich that woulda cost $14.95 at some posh bistro. Head on the pillow singin' "this has gotta be the good life.........."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Solving the Kona Qualifying Mystery

So, 4 weeks to go. And after this weekend a big sigh of relief will be certain, once I’ve licked this last big Saturday brick workout (120 mi bike/6 mi run) and my final long run of 20 miles on Sunday.

I wanted to spend a moment to explain how this Ironman World Championships qualifying thing is supposed to work. The WTC, which is the governing body of Ironman brand races, doesn’t make it easy to make sense of the whole thing. To qualify for the World Championship event in Kona, Hawaii in October you have to do one of their qualifying events – which there are over 25 Ironman events in the world (all of which are qualifiers), and there are a handful of Half Ironman events (70.3’s, named after the distance covered in the event) that have slots through grandfather rules of being under the WTC umbrella for so long. Each of these events has a certain number of qualifying slots allocated to them.

IM CDA, in particular, has 65 slots. These slots are awarded to the top pro and age group finishers. Final slot allocation is not determined until race day, and that’s based on the number of official starters and the number of official starters in each age group. So, if 10% of the starters are in the male 40-44 age group, they get 10% of those 65 slots. If nobody shows up in an age group, those slots go to the biggest groups in the same gender.

If you qualify, you have to accept your slot the next morning, which includes paying the $700ish fee for race entry right there and then. If someone qualifies and doesn’t accept their slot (maybe they’ve been before and don’t feel the need to go again, maybe they don’t want to spend the money, whatever) then that slot rolls down until it’s accepted. Typically, that doesn’t happen a whole lot and it doesn’t roll down very far if it does so it’s best not to count on this.

So, here’s how this thing is gonna have to go down for the Richter kid as best I can figure. I’m thinking there should be 8 slots in my 40-44 age group (I’m 39, but your race age is what you will be in December so that puts me at the age of 40), which is about the max – typically male 35-39 and 40-44 are the biggest age groups. More slots, but more competition for them. Again, the number of slots is a mystery until you’re at the race. Last year at IM CDA there were 377 40-44 year old males. The winner of that age group finished in 9:37:11. Geesh! I can’t do that. So, realistically, we’re not going with the hopes of topping the age group. The guy that came in 8th place finished in 10:03:26. 10th place went in 10:06:39.

Assuming all things are equal this year – like weather, for example – this is indicating I need to nail a 10 hour race to feel like I have a good shot at taking home a Kona slot. That is in no way a cakewalk for this cat. I’ve done an 11:24:38 at IM CDA in 2008, and in 2009 I went 10:40:37 at IM Louisville. Granted, I was learning the ropes so to speak, and was not putting any pressure on myself to nab a slot at those events. This time it’s all or nothing.

A 10 hour IM at CDA for me this year might look something like a 1:07 swim (2.4 miles), a 4 minute T1 transition, a 5:13 bike (112 miles), a 2 minute T2 transition, and a 3:34 run (26.2 miles). All of those numbers are guesses, somewhere between realistic goals and what I might call “best case scenarios.” If I’ve misjudged the bike course and am remembering it as being easier than it actually is, or vice versa, the numbers could change dramatically.

So, I really don’t know how this is going to go down, but I’m in the best Ironman shape of my life and believe that the chance of earning a slot is real. Or, I could flop and “just finish.” But back in 2008 when I first attempted this distance at this very same place, “just finishing” was actually a very satisfying goal. We’ll have to see if I can up the ante this time around……

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Feeling Outstanding!

5 weeks to go to Ironman Coeur d'Alene and I am PUMPED! The last two weekend long bricks included a 110 miler at 21.4 mph and a 90 miler yesterday at the same pace. I feel like the course was comparable to CDA, and if so, I feel good about turning in a sub-5:15 ride in those hills on race day. I wish I were closer to 5 hrs to give myself more of a buffer, but with two more of those to go maybe I can push that a little before it's time to taper.

Today's 22 miler was a KEY workout. The long run has always been my nemesis, but today was EPIC. I spent all week mentally suping myself up, and yesterday I laid out every little trick in the book to put this thing together. The "centerpiece" for setting this table was Angie stepping up to ride the sag wagon and hand me Powerbar Ironman Perform drink and water, electrolytes, ice, and an encouraging word every couple miles. Phillip Rowan, Sarah Kehe, and Dave Kemble were there to keep my mind off the deteriorating legs for the last 10 miles and everything, I'm VERY happy to say, performed like a Swiss watch. 7:19/mile pace for 22.65 miles when it was all done, and I felt like I could have opened up a can for the last two or gone on for the other 3.5 miles to make it a full marathon if need be.

So with just 2 more weeks of full-on Ironman grueling training left before the final 3 week taper, I feel golden. I'm confident of a 10 hr race should everything go well (there are some things I just can't control!), and I just hope there aren't 10 or so 40-44 year old males showing up at this thing feeling the same thing about going 9:30. But it will be what it will be, I'm almost ready, and I can't wait!

Hope you had a great workout today, whatever yours was! Have a glorious Sunday!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Training Old School Style

I thought this would be a good time to lay down what the training schedule has been for IM this year, since I'm doing it "self-coached." What I've noticed to be the trend as of late in IM training is that "less is more" or, that is to say, training 20+ hours a week seems to be old school and that the coaches on the pointy end of things are suggesting as little as 10 hours a week nowadays. Though, the decrease in volume does call for an emphasis on quality rather than quality, and I suspect the latest in these new programs has no room for "trash mileage."

I like the notion, and it certainly has its benefits when you consider the bulk of us are trying to fit a full-time career, spouses, perhaps kids, and whatever else into our lives. However, I wasn't ready for this approach here in my 3rd Ironman attempt, and first at trying to get a qualifying slot to Kona. But since I have the time to dedicate to it, I wanted to see if I could handle a high volume training load and felt it would give me more confidence by race morning. So, when I contemplated my approach to this Ironman I put into the program a 4 month plan broken up as follows: 60 hours, 80 hours, 80 hours, 60 month. I've since leaned more towards counting hours by weeks, but essentially I'm following the same theme. I didn't get 80 hours in April (totaled 77) and I doubt I'll get 80 in May - having to be flexible around work, and throwing a taper in for White Lake Half Iron did rob me of a few hours. But for the most part I'm nailing the original plan while being flexible enough to modify it as necessary on the fly.

I'm finding that so far, the body is accepting the high volume training and so far I've been able to meet the demands of every workout without feeling that I'm overtraining and, thank God, without injury at this point. Let's hope this continues!

If you're interested in seeing the detailed layout of my workout plan, let me know, but I will post an abridged version for the sake of sharing the gist of this operation:

Monday (active recovery): conventional weights during lunch break, long swim after work (usually 4000 yards), recovery run

Tuesday: swim during lunch break, after work bike (intervals), run (marathon pace), short functional strength workout

Wednesday: swim during lunch break, speed or strength run after work, short core workout

Thurday: metabolic affect strength workout at lunch, intensive bike after work, short run with fartleks

Friday: off, or at most, a short, easy swim and some yoga

Saturday: long brick - 100 or more miles followed by 6 or more mile run, sometimes swim afternoon

Sunday: long run, recovery bike ride, yoga

I've mentioned the modified Hanson plan for my running program. Here's how the run program looks:

Note that week 11 looks a little odd because that was taper week for White Lake Half Iron. For me, this is very high mileage running. And in its originality, it was intended to be strictly a marathon plan. So, finding a way to weave it in amongst all the swimming and biking took some creativity. Anyway, that's the gist of it. Gotta go get lunch at Sakura now. Thanks for reading.....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

White Lake Half Iron 5/7/2011

I was freezing when I woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off, and the evacuation alarm was going off in my shorts. “Success on race day starts with success in the bathroom” and I had all kinds of success going on in that department.

A cold morning at White Lake Half?!?! This was nuts, and I clung to my Fitness coffee I’ve become addicted to, trying to evolve from, “Why do I do this?!?” to, “Let’s get this fun over with!” Dave Lovelace and Sarah Anderson – two Tricredible teammates - were up as well, trying to fuel up and psych themselves up for their first half ironman. Dave needed a song in his head to replace the one he had, so I belted out the one from the new McDonald’s commercial, “I am in love with a McDonald’s girl! She is an angel in a golden arches uniform!” I don’t think that’s what he had in mind but it was all I had to offer at the time.

Once I had everything ready, I mounted my bike and rode to the race in the darkness. The town of White Lake was surprisingly quiet at 6 am on race morning. With 500 competitors in this year’s triathlon, I didn’t see many others riding to the race. Those I did come up on I greeted with a ,”Top of the mornin’ to ya!”

I racked my bike in transition, dropped my pack, made a bee line for the Korean Space Shuttles to evacuate some stragglers, and then got my timing chip and race numbers. I saw Coach Lance Leo, who helped through my first 2 Ironmans and chatted for a couple seconds, but I didn’t see anyone else I knew. Back to transition to get everything set up just right, and then it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the water.

The weather was shaping up to be perfect. It was in the 50’s and not expected to hit 70 before noon. Fog covered the lake to where you couldn’t even see the first 100 m buoy. They announced a fog delay, so I hung out in my seal costume with Jay Carmine, another competitior and now coach, to pass the time. He looked super fit, and I hoped I could catch him on the bike after his inevitably superfast swim would put me in the rears. Some sort of announcement indicated we would start shortly, so I hopped in the water to warm up. In the water, I met up with Kit Phillips, another great competitor and overall great guy. I’m always glad that Angie and his wife tend to hook up while we race – they seem to get each other.

Kit Phillips, Wade Laufenberg, me, and Dave Lovelace.

Anyway, as we chatted away trying to keep warm in the water they announced they would make a call on the race at 8 am, in about 30 minutes. Good deal, I thought, cuz I had to take a crap something fierce. I speedwalked to the head, found a stall and struggled to get my wetsuit off. I noticed my zipper lanyard was dangling in the toilet. Nasty. I snatched it out and filled the toilet with some other stuff instead. Oh sorry. That’s nasty too, isn’t it? Well, it’s MY race report and I like to talk about farts and shit, so deal with it.

The 3 Tricredibles participating in the Half: Sarah, me, and Dave.

We all hung around for awhile and then, at around 7:45 and earlier than they stated, they called the swim off. Flustered, I ran to transition to shed the wetsuit and get my helmet on. They were going to start us at the end of the dock, as if we had just completed the swim. We would run in groups of 10, every 10 seconds, to T1 and start the bike leg. I went back and forth in my mind about wearing my running shoes and socks or starting barefoot. I saw Tom Clifford, the race favorite, getting frustrated over the same decision and at the last minute we both sprinted to get the shoes.

As I stood in the corral with the other Open and Open Master dudes and chicks right before 8, the fog miraculously dissipated. Everyone started chanting, “Let us swim!” and they vascillated over what to do. In the end, they stuck with the duathlon format as they had already let the lifeguards go. In retrospect, they made the whole decision way too early and should have stuck with the plan. I hate we missed that swim, but I know the really fast swimmers like Jay Carmine and Marty Gaal were more bummed. Marty couldn’t have worn it on his face any more clearly. It was like cutting Sampson’s hair and then telling him to go pound on someone.

The first group of 10 took off down the chute, clearly containing those most eager to contend the race including Tom Clifford and James Haycraft (a frequenter of the tri forum,, he had HTFU blazed across his butt. If you don’t know what that stands for……think about it……). A coupla seconds went by, I shook hands with Kit and Marty and wished them a good race, and our group was off. I was the third in this group to cross the mat, and sprinted past the two in front of me as if I was possessed. I yanked my P3 off the rack and took off at the back end of the first group of 10.

I was hammering on the bike, and repeatedly did an internal check to see if maybe this was a little too fast, but I was passing guys from the first pack. Nobody was passing me and I could have cared less to look back and see if anyone was coming. On White Lake Drive, I could see a lead group of 4 or 5 with a motorcycle course marshall monitoring them for any drafting. I wanted that lead pack. Just out of the town of White Lake, I came upon them, assessed my options and quickly decided they weren’t moving fast enough, I could move faster, they might crush me for doing it, but I was going to the front. I got up there feeling great, but still wondering if this was too fast. We’d have a tail wind for 30 miles, so I didn’t want that to give me a false sense of strength when the wind might have been doing a good part of the work for me.

Kit Phillips came up and shared the work at the front, as did a skinny dude in an orange uniform and Mr. HTFU. This was exactly what Chris McCormack described his experience at Kona last year – a lead pack working together without drafting. I had never experienced this before but it was clearly a smart move. I found the going tough sometimes, but for the most part very manageable. And sometimes I found I could get a soft pedal stroke in or stand for a stretch, all the while concentrating more on maintaining a safe and legal gap between me and the guy in front which took my mind off of the fatigue that was building up inside myself. But really what was happening was…….I was having FUN! WE WERE FLYING!

I’d guess we had a group of about 8 at the turn at mile 30 where you hit the headwind. I was prepared for this turning point in the race, which can be a big psychological blow as the wind hits you and you realize you’re more tired than you thought. The road also turns rough here which adds to the frustration. I had gulped some Powerbar cola chews and a Gu Roctane just prior, hoping the caffeine in both would give me a jolt. Right away though, I noticed I had let a gap open in front of me to MR. HTFU and the orange skinny guy that looked like a good runner. I wasn’t sure I could close the gap up and struggled with what to do with the situation just when Tom Clifford came by me. “Great,” I thought and figured he’d try and close the gap and I could key off of him. As we did, I popped a Hammer Nutrition Energy Surge tablet. Placebo or not, it’s supposed to release ATP into the system. I felt better though and we were hooked back up to the pointy end of the race. Tom Clifford took the reigns as we neared the only out-and-back section of the course, which is crucial as it affords you the only chance to see where you stack up against the competition. We hit the turn around in a pack of about 6 or so, with a small gap on the next group. Something very little and white looking flashed behind me – too small to be a competitor and not wearing anything familiar prior to this point either so I blew it off. Kit, a teammate of his that was also a Master, Tom, Orange Guy, Mr. HTFU, and me in group 1. I think that was all.

Over a minute back was Jay Carmine, and Marty was quite a bit after that. He looked like he was still pissed about the canceled swim.

I could see age groupers in droves behind them and figured the officials didn’t wait the 5 minutes per wave that they would have done if we had started with a swim. They probably just let everybody go every 10 seconds.

Back on the rough and (actually pretty mildly) windy highway 53 back to White Lake, that little white thing came up by me. Here was this little cricket of a man, draped over an old steel Italian road bike decked out with aerobars and some high end deep dish Hed wheels……he was pounding it out on his bike, bobbing and weaving, not at all very smooth looking……but from who knows how far back he had caught the lead group and was making his way to the front! And his calf said “OM,” so now we had a 3 way race in the Master category.

A gap opened again at some point, and Kit blazed by me to close it up. I was watching Tom Clifford and figured he knew what he was doing. When the gap opened up too much I figured maybe he was struggling, and I don’t know where the energy came from but I pulled myself across the gap on my own. I said something to Kit about how strong he was looking as I settled into the group. Coming by the motorcycle marshall, I thanked him for sticking with us to make sure everybody raced a fair race and he was very “official” as he said, “You’re welcome, sir.” Now I was in a lead pack of about 5 – lead by Mr. HTFU, then Cricket, then me, then Master IOS teammate of Kit’s, then Kit.

With about 6 miles left to bike, Kit took over. He really took the bull by the horns. I went with him wondering if anybody else was hanging on. It was getting tough to hold his pace and I was ready to get off the bike. He stretched the elastic between us in the last 2 miles and Mr. HTFU and Cricket jumped across me. I settled for this position and we came into T2. I had just biked the 56 miles in an insane 2:15:59!

3 Cervelo P3’s in T2. (Me in the background)

Heading out of T2 to start the run.

I was quick through T2, and took off running behind Kit in second place. Angie was there to take a picture and I was happy to see her as briefly as it was. She asked how I felt and I said firmly, “Good.” The legs felt great and I could not believe where I was in this race at this point! I really needed to pee but I didn’t give myself that option. I knew there were faster runners behind me and I couldn’t hold this position, but the whole top 10 goal was very, very real already. Kit was pulling away from me slightly, which I expected. My legs were turning over just fine so I let ‘em roll as they were. Kit’s OM teammate passed me and I noticed two things about him – he was laboring like crazy the way he was breathing, and he didn’t look to be as good shape as he was racing. But he blew by me and I had nothing for him. I was well under a 7 minute pace and he was trucking. Mr. HTFU came by me next running super smooth. Orange Good Runner Guy came by at some point, and I didn’t know til later that this was Ashley Ackerman, who is indeed a good runner. Then came Tom Clifford, who had a slow turnover and a strange rhythm to his breathing pattern, but he was dusting me too.

Now in 7th place overall and feeling great, I watched the podium places set up in front of me. Tom had clearly bided his time knowing full well he would run however he wanted and still finish first. But then, as we came by the water park, he stopped and started massaging his legs. I meant to say something encouraging, but I think what came out was, “Come on, Tom, you’re good!” He hollered back, “I can’t! I’m locked up!” Well I hated it for him, but I was now in 6th! Out on the highway, the same thing happened to Mr. HTFU. I told him to hang in there and that his seat was too high (a stupid inside joke on Now, I was back in 5th, but that didn’t last long as both he and Tom worked out there leg cramps and blew by me again. So, back to 7th. A Greenville runner I’m familiar with, Mike Riddle, was jogging the other way and told me I was in 5th. I thanked him for the errant information and pressed on. He was cheering on his son-in-law in his first half ironman.

I couldn’t believe the mile markers. If they were right, I had just run the first 3 miles in 19 minutes. Can I do that?! Running through White Lake, I could still see all the way to 1st place and I noticed Kit up there wasn’t running away from me. I hoped I could reel him in, cuz I was feeling good. Man, I needed to pee! I took a quick second at mile 5.5 or so to notice I was in the spot where last time I puked all over the place and quit. Not today!

If you recall from my last update, I had intended on running miles 1, 6, 7, and 13 hard. I ended up kicking that strategy to the curb since I really was running pretty good anyway just steady, but I think the thought of surging was tiring in itself as well. At mile 6 I popped my last salt tablet and Hammer Anti-Fatigue cap and started looking for Angie and friends at the turnaround. I think I saw Bert taking pictures but nobody else. I was now in 5th place again as Ashley Ackerman had dropped out for some reason. About 1 minute back…..I dunno…’s hard to do the math when your blood has drained from your brain to support the leg muscles…..I saw the Cricket and another tall orange guy. They didn’t look like they were gaining on me but I couldn’t tell. At the next feed station I took my last swig of EFS gel, popped my last ATP tablet and jettisoned everything but the Olbas menthol inhaler, which I took a hit off of shortly after. Coming back to the spot I’d marked with puke a couple years ago, my stomach was starting to feel stressed from the pee. I stopped and relieved myself on the sidewalk. This took about 45 seconds. Still nobody in sight behind me. I started running again and felt fine for a little bit, but then a little fatigue kicked in and I could tell I had slowed. I think the heat was actually starting to become noticeable. I saw behind me what I thought was the tall orange guy catching up, and I prepared to be passed again. I was…….but not by him. The little Cricket dude flew by me! Damn, that’s twice now this little guy has come by me out of nowhere! How does he do that!? Alright, back to 6th place, and orange guy is probably gonna put me in 7th. But I was still running well. I was not going backwards.

Still I was well under a 7 minute pace, which was my goal.

I saw Dave Lovelace at this point coming the other way and he was looking strong.

After mile 9, I started to use markers ahead of me to will myself through the rest of the course. “Run to that next curve and keep the same pace,” I’d tell myself. I noticed I was getting lots of encouragement from age groupers coming the other way. They would tell me what place they thought I was in (anywhere from 4th to 6th is the feedback I got) or tell me I looked smooth or “doing great!” I didn’t have the energy to return the favor, but distinctly felt like this was all backwards and that I should have been encouraging them. They looked like they were hurting more and there was plenty of carnage out there to lend a kind word too – people walking, cramping, grimacing. I was having a great race but could not bring myself to spend the energy to share it. I felt shitty and on a runner's high at the same time. Then I saw Anne, Lance’s wife, and she looked like she was struggling a bit but running strong. I cheered her on as she went by. Later I saw Sarah come by and I gave her some sort of encouragement as well.

Now, there was nothing to do but run in for the last 2 miles. Orange tall guy still hadn’t passed me and I couldn’t hear any footprints, but I was too zoned and too scared to look back. I think I picked it up for the last mile, realizing I had a shot at breaking my personal record for the half marathon.

I crossed the finish line feeling strong – not at all exhausted – and gave Angie a big sweaty kiss. She had an ice cold water all ready for me. I PR’d my open half marathon by a minute, finishing the run in 1:28.21. Total time was 3:46.05, 6th place overall and 3rd Open Master. The race had gone perfectly. Except for that swim bit….

This has got to be the sorriest race prize ever. But I guess that's not what it's really about, and I look pretty proud anyway!

I don’t know how differently it would have gone with the swim, but I’m sure it still would have been something I would have been proud of. As for the Cricket guy, I know his race would have been way different. He later told me that he was a Master's road cyclist and marathoner but a horrible swimmer, and would have given up 20 minutes to us had we swam. In the end, on the drive home, I concluded that it was a bummer about the swim but the goal of this race was to gain confidence going into the latter part of my training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene – now just 7 weeks away. I certainly did that, and feel I’m right on track to give it my all at that race. Hopefully, I’ll get to swim there!

A big thank you to Lizz and Karen for the wonderful chalk signs all over the course encouraging us Tricredibles. I noticed them all and really appreciate the hard work and the way you guys bring fun to this kind of stuff. Karen, I wanna see your pictures you took with that great big Kip camera as soon as you make them available! And of course a big thank you to Angie for her unending support and sacrifice she puts forth so that I can run and play all over the place. You’re the greatest. Finally, I thank God for just giving me the ability to get outside and do this stuff, to have the fitness to enjoy it, and hopefully there’s something in all of this that isn’t pure selfishness but something that reflects the strength through Him that makes this kind of thing possible.