Eye on the ball

It’s been a while since I’ve updated on this here blog, so here’s what’s latest and greatest…

This will be a bit “stream-of-consciousness”, as that’s the way I tend to write most of the time!:

  • Completely psyched about the fact this in ONE WEEK I’ll be flying to Phoenix, Arizona for my first Ironman event.  I am volunteering at Ironman Arizona, and I am very much looking forward to absorbing the race atmosphere and learning everything I possibly can from those that are battling the 140.6 beast.
  • In Arizona, I’m looking forward to meeting/greeting with the pros and friends I’ve made on Twitter.  The Slowtwitch party at Tribe Multisports seems to be the place to be.
  • Injuries – Arthroscopic hip labrum surgery is scheduled for 12/18.  In addition I broke a tooth and that needs to be extracted ASAP.  It’s an old root canal job from 19 years ago and it fractured up at the root.  It hurts but its manageable and I’m getting by.  I should be able to get it done prior to my AZ trip.
  • I applied for Team Everyman Jack – these guys are one of my favorite personal product providers.  You may or may not know that I’m a bit particular when it comes to soap and shaving products – I’ve got pretty sensitive skin and the more chemicals a product has, the more I tend to break out.  I’ve moved to old-timey wet shaving rather than cartridge razors, and EMJ lotions and washes are a go-to for me.  Meredith Kessler tweeted that they have a triathlon team and are accepting applications for age-groupers.  While I’m not necessarily “elite”, I plan on racing lots in 2014 in some big places, and I do know quite a bit about marketing and positioning products well (it’s my day job, after all).  I went ahead and applied and we’ll see what happens.  I truly love their products and I hope I have a chance to represent them in 2014!

My fitness goals between now and my rehab (which would begin on 12/19) is to (a) lose some of my excess weight through better, cleaner eating and (b) increase activity focusing on aerobic base and flexibility.  My hip is feeling a little less angry than it has been, although I swam last night and it was very sore coming out of the water (too much flexion).  I’m going to begin using paddles and a pull-buoy to work my upper body a little more.  Anything I can do that’s as non-loading as possible so as not to aggravate the general area will be fine.

I think the sheer gravity and inspiration that I’ll witness at Ironman Arizona will get me back to a better mental place – focusing on the positive and keeping my eye on the ball.  It’s about OUTCOMES here, and my primary goal will be to get to a level that allows for a 70.3 in June and a 140.6 in November.  The byproducts of those efforts will be practically endless, and I’ll have that journey for the rest of my life!

 

Ups and Downs, and Changes in Plans

I’ve been putting this post off for a while, but I guess it’s time to get it all out.

After my DNF/DNS at the Philadelphia Triathlon, I kept training focus.  I did have a small nagging pain in my left hip/pelvis that tended to flare up in the first 10 minutes of running.  I decided that this was nothing to worry about, and that I could push through it.

The discomfort would normally lessen as I ran.  Whether it was my ability to compartmentalize the discomfort and force it into the back of my mind (a desirable for any endurance athlete), or perhaps a modification to my gait and stride I do not know.  What I do know is that eventually the discomfort followed me into the pool, and began showing up at off places (rolling out of bed, stepping out of my car, climbing steps, etc).

After taking a morning run out in San Francisco (business trip) with this discomfort, I thought that this was crazy.  I decided to shut down running and focus strictly on recovery, and thought that this thing would vanish given the proper amount of rest.  Coincidentally I sustained another injury on the flight back from San Fran, as I apparently pinched my ulnar nerve (most likely in my elbow) due to the way I fell asleep in the grossly undersized coach seat on the red-eye.

I gave it a few weeks of zero running and biking, and decided just to swim it out.  It wasn’t until very recently that I noticed a trend in my Garmin data – I was slowing down big time in the pool, and feeling like I was getting a lot less speed for a lot more effort.  I’m taking this to be my compromised core (turns out it was a strain in my left iliopsoas group and adductor group – lots of little, overstretched muscles) was diminishing my kick, rotation, and leg position in the water.  Mind you I do not have proof of this, but I know my 100yd averages increased the wrong way by 20 seconds.

So for the past two weeks I’ve been shut down – zero activity.  As a result I missed the NJ State Triathlon and therefore was not able to qualify for USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee.  I’m bummed but it’s not the end of the world.  What’s a little more upsetting is that this setback has pretty much eliminated my 70.3 in September.  I just don’t think losing 6-8 weeks of bike and run and 4 weeks of pool time is going to let that happen.

But, on a positive note – therapy is going well, and I’ve been pain-free for the last several days on all functional movements.  On Monday we begin the stretching and strengthening part of the program.  I’m still a few weeks away from anything resembling training (at least in my way of thinking), but small steps in the right direction will lower the risk of a setback.

Now for the exciting part – my new massive goal is actually a 2014 task.  My wife and I are flying to Tempe Arizona this November to volunteer for Ironman Arizona, so that I can register for the 2014 race!  I know it’s completely bat-shit crazy ambitious to register for an Ironman without having successfully completed a Half Iron distance (70.3), let alone an Olympic or International distance race.  Truthfully I was amply prepared for the Olympic distance for the two races I missed this summer, and I’m confident that I would have arrived on the starting line in September ready to not just survive a 70.3 but to tackle the challenge.  I know with good rehab, a solid functional movement screening and strength and conditioning program, and actual organized coaching for 2014, I’ll be ready.  

More on that shortly.  Otherwise, I’m off to fetch my compression shorts and ice to rest and recover!

First DNF – Actually a DNS…

So we just returned from a week in the Caribbean – Turks & Caicos is a wonderful island, and the wife and kids and I had a wonderful experience at Beaches T&C.  It’s all inclusive and a terrific place for families with kids.  It’s also a safe island which made some long morning runs possible.  They also have a roped-off swim area where end to end distance was exactly a quarter mile.  It made for some excellent OWS sessions.

On Friday after our unpacking and laundry efforts were underway, I headed up to the TriRock Philly Race Expo.  I was excited and felt ready to take on my first Olympic Distance race.  I’ve been working hard and felt prepared for the distance and the intensity needed.  I was super hyped for this bigger event.

I also had a chance to meet up with an old friend of mine Derek Fitzgerald.  Derek is a cancer survivor, as well as a heart transplant recipient.  He has been to hell and back, and found endurance training as an outlet.  Derek and I are from very similar backgrounds, and we both were active in the drum and bugle corps activity (I blogged about it here) and a big part of our personality makeup is the ability to push through barriers.  Our competitive nature lends itself well to triathlon and endurance training, and while neither of us are threatening any podiums any time soon, we believe that our physical best days are in front of us.  I’ve been in touch with Derek more in the last couple of years and he’s been answering my questions as I throw them at him.  By the way, Derek has a fantastic story and you can read more on his blog here.

So Saturday I went for a short swim in the pool just to shake out the nerves and blow off some steam.  I had a quick emergency issue with my bike that my shop helped me with, but I loaded up my bike, packed my gear and transition bag and went to sleep on time.

Then I woke up around 12:15am yacking my brains out.  I have no idea how or why.  I’m assuming it was a viral bug and NOT nerves since I was excited but pretty chill and confident over the whole thing.  I was laid low for a couple of hours in which every gram of carbs and ounce of hydration left my body.

Then the tough decision had to be made.

Do I:

  1. Tough out the race in hot humid conditions, testing myself at a new longer distance and risk a terrible race experience and possibly set myself up for physical setbacks and extreme dehydration?
  2. Play it safe knowing that the odds were against me and that the two real prizes of the season were to be the NJ State Triathlon (July), a shot at USAT Age-Group Nationals (maybe a remote shot) and my Half Iron race in September?

 

I chose #2.  There is too much riding on the next couple weeks of training to get ready for the 70.3 distance.  Beyond that there are two additional things that have been added to the bucket list:

  • Philly Marathon in November
  • Ironman 140.6 race TBD in 2014.  Considering either Lake Placid (relatively nearby and able to practice the course ahead of time, but hilly as f&*k) or Arizona (early November so more time to train, modest hill elevation but its in the freakin desert for cryin out loud).

 

So in the end, I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m re-hydrated and well-fed and looking forward to cranking up the training this week.  It’s time to focus on the long goal and relaxing on the short-term in favor of the big prize.

 

Some Updates

I’ve been a bit lazy keeping things current, but I wanted to take a few moments to catch up with you…

  • I recently gave my little blog a place on Facebook.  I’m using that portal to be more of a “curator” of content and sharing what I think is the most useful or valuable to my small following.  It’s actually going to be different from what I post here, so you should pop on over ad “Like” my page – https://www.facebook.com/PersonalReboot
  • My next races are all Olympic Distances, so my focus for right now is (a) building power/speed/strength and then onto (b) distance and endurance.  This has been really evident in the pool as I’ve found that I can pretty much count on 100s coming at a 1:40ish pace when I’m going for distance.  In a set of sprint 100s (with rest intervals) I can get them down into the 1:20s, which is new for me.
  • Zone2 HR training is where its at!  For a long time over the winter and early spring I spent most (if not all) of my time below 148 bpm.  The result is that I can now go A LOT faster with a lower HR.  Case in point – I did a bike/run brick yesterday with a really short 2 mile run.  I kept my HR in Zone2 and was 2 minutes per mile FASTER than comparable runs last fall.
  • Diet – still working on it 🙂  Seriously, I am trying to work in green machine smoothies for breakfasts, some incorporating a scoop of Juvo Green Protein Powder.  It’s not cheap, but it really presents a full amino profile and actually makes a cup full of dirt taste a little better.  Also, bananas and pineapple helps that too.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of my schedule chaos.  I’ve been travelling almost weekly for work and it’s getting to the point where it drops out for the summer months.  It will pick back up in August/September, but the summertime will need to be focused on quality time and hard work.

My wife and I have stumbled upon some awesome recipes that I’ll be sharing soon.  The one that was one of the most surprising was Cauliflower Crust Pizza!  More on that later…

 

Slumping and feeling ‘meh’ – time to rally

So I very well know that nobody wants to read a “sad sack” post – “Woe is me” thing…

It’s true though – I traveled most of the last week and aside from two awesome runs (one in Baton Rouge and another around the lake in Austin) I was completely buried with travel and work-related stress.  Things are moving into the springtime “insane” period at work, and my schedule will become more and more difficult as we come closer to summertime. Additionally, without going into details the subtle dynamics of my job are becoming more complex and that is bringing about more stress than is typical.  All I can do is put my head down and plow through doing my best work and know that everything should fall into place.

I haven’t been in the pool since last weekend (4/6), and aside from a quick 30 minute spin over the weekend I haven’t been on the bike at all.  The worst part – I haven’t felt that burning, that crushing desire to get out there and move!  That bothers me.  Actually it pisses me off, as I know I’m just settling for bleh-excuses and meh-laziness.

Now this Boston-thing on top of it all – I’m incredibly angry and saddened.  They say that if you want to see humanity at its most positive, visit the finish line at a marathon.  Watching the coverage is heart-breaking, but also uplifting at the same time.

This must become my catalyst today.  I have to move things forward in a positive way.

Breakthrough Swim

I wanted to share a quick post about how important it is to engage others, group up, and find mutual support in your training.  As triathletes, this sport is widely an individual endeavor, however the preparation for this individual pursuit can (and I would argue SHOULD) be undertaken with others.

There is safety in numbers, you know...

There is safety in numbers, you know…

Last summer, soon after my friend Derek inspired me to consider taking my running for fitness’ sake to a new level via triathlon, I learned that there was a Northern Delaware triathlon team locally called the Delaware Swim and Fitness TriDawgs.  While we have over 250 members, the team is really comprised of a smaller group of very active and dedicated age-group athletes.  Several members are 140.6 multi-time finishers, and some have qualified and raced Kona, in addition to shorter course distances as well.  I participated in some Open Water Swim sessions last summer in preparation for my September and October sprints – but this spring I’ve been taking part in some organized masters swim sessions with the team.  These sessions have been by “invite only”, since we only have 6 lanes and 90 minutes of time, but I’ve learned that not only can I hang with the team, but I’m also pretty fast – or faster than I thought I was anyway!

This past week, I pressed myself hard and did a speed/power session that was shared by one of my Twitter friends:

BluebTweet

I did this same workout, but I pushed HARD!  I maxxed it out, to the point where between the 3rd and 4th sprint I puked in the pool gutter, and then kept going.

Thursday and Friday were recovery days – my upper body really felt sore, especially with all the pulling with paddles.  One thing to know – be careful about technique when doing pull drills with paddles, since the added resistance could cause undue pressure on your shoulders.

When we show up for Saturday practice, we do not know what to expect specifically.  When I saw “XX x XXX on X:XX” I knew something was up.  Once I heard the “Aw crap” mutterings, I thought “This can’t be good…”

We did our warmup, then some drills, then the coach split us up evenly across all 6 lanes. When I say “evenly”, I immediately sensed that each lane had a balance of top, middle tier, and developing swimmers.  I was the low man on the proverbial totem pole in my lane.

Our mission – (10) 100 yard sprints FULL OUT – balls to the wall – on 5 minutes.  I initially thought “On five minutes – this shouldn’t be too bad”, but I was mistaken.  For the first couple of 100s, everything was fine – I was breathing hard coming into the last 25, but I was OK.  Then in the 3rd and 4th repeat, the wall smacked in the face.  My arms didn’t want to move, and my pace went from 1:20 to 1:32-ish.  I felt like quitting, but the swimmers were cheering each other on and making a big deal of it.  Every minute a new swimmer left, and when they came into the wall to turn for the back-50 we raised the roof.

At that point, all I could do is just go with it.  It hurt like a mother-effer, but it wasn’t going to get worse, I wasn’t going to die, and if I push through it, I’ll have accomplished something.

My 100s dropped back down into the low 1:20s.  I was suddenly swimming at a level and intensity I’ve never approached before, and I was in some pain and suffering but I was dealing.

The thought crossed my mind that if I can become comfortable with finding that limit, and pushing slightly beyond while living on the edge of the suffering, I might learn how to manage that pain and find it within myself to win.  When I mean “win” I mean just winning against myself.

So my average was 1:25 over the (10) 100s.  As a point of comparison, I averaged 1:36 in my last five intervals on Wednesday night (when I puked in the gutter).

Sad but a little true.

Sad but a little true.

This drives the point home to me – I need to start running and biking with others.  If my level is actually this much higher than I thought it was in the pool, then I’m assuming that similar gains in the other segments may be found.

When you have had the opportunity to work out with a team or group, have you found another level?  After going back “solo” were you able to maintain?

On coaching, family involvement, and nutrition

To this point, my learning process in triathlon training has been largely self-discovered.  I’ve read a ton, attended webinars, subscribed to many newsletters, periodicals, and YouTube channels and have become pretty knowledgeable on a lot of the basic training methodologies.  I generally pick things up quickly when I encounter new areas of study, and I normally immerse myself in a very compulsive and “addicted” way.

My local triathlon team is “coached” but not specifically so.  Our coach leads a weekly Saturday AM swim workout, and we have optional organized Monday night track workout, Tuesday night group ride, and Wednesday night open water swims come summer time.  Our team is fed a weekly training newsletter, and we organize well at key races in the mid-Atlantic area.  These resources have been great to help me learn the basics, but lately I’ve been wondering if I should engage with a dedicated coach?

I attended a webinar with the founder of TriDot – this is a virtual coaching program built on data analytics and real training outcomes as opposed to theory.  Attendees of the webinar were invited to “apply” to enroll in a “Free-for-Feedback” program.  In short you commit to an initiation fee and then two months’ worth of training limited guidance in exchange of providing your own personal qualitative and quantitative feedback in set intervals.  If all of the commitments are met you receive a refund equal to the initiation fee and first 2 months.

I’m not sure how I feel about this – after all its a significant financial commitment for a system that sounds sensible and rooted in real outcomes, but I don’t think there’s quite enough coaching engagement for the price.  I’m happy I “qualified” (they have some basic requirements that the training candidates must meet) but I’m not certain its for me.

I think a lot of my immediate gains for this season will be pretty low-hanging fruit.  First, I need to build my overall fitness.  The one thing I want to change is training for POWER before ENDURANCE.  They say that the power thresholds become limiters down the line when endurance is built.  If your power is limited, no amount of lower zone training will make you faster, just more aerobically efficient.  I think I better understand this now, and I’m going to take the next 4 weeks to maximize power in all phases of training.

I have the power - bitches!

I have the power – bitches!

On the family side of things, my wife has really been a source of inspiration for me.  In the last month, my wife has made some profound changes – namely she’s not only gone vegan but also “Raw until 4pm”.  She has committed to yoga and strength training (doing something active every day), and has also began the practice of “trying something new at least once per week”.  It’s been incredibly inspiring to watch her discover new things, and it’s really brought us both closer together.  Not too mention, she’s lost 20 pounds in the last 30 days!

Our kids are also looking at the two of us for a positive example, and they are both asking to go outside and play more, considering more healthy food options (given their ages of 7 & 8 this is more OUR responsibility as parents), and just being more active and healthy.  We completed our winter swim team season, and they both came to me and ASKED to sign up for a kids’ triathlon.  I happened to find a good one at the end of this month that is well within their physical grasp, and they will be competing in respective 7-8 and 9-10 age groups.  We’ve had a great time getting outside when the weather cooperates and back in the pool!

Chip off the old block?  I hope so!

Chip off the old block? I hope so!

In watching my wife alter her diet – and by the way her fasting morning blood sugar has dropped about 100 points every day! – I’ve tried to make some changes in my own diet strategy.  I also recently completed Rich Roll’s book “Finding Ultra” – very much worth a read if you are an endurance athlete.  I’ve always found the word “Vegan” a little like the untouchable 3rd Rail – it typically comes with so many other social and political connotations (that I do not align with for the most part).  Still there are some great benefits to eating more like a vegan and achieving a better nutritional balance:

  1. I am eating WAY MORE veggies than ever before.  A self-confessed meat and potatoes guy, this has been a big adjustment for me, but it’s been a welcomed one.
  2. I have been having a green machine smoothie each morning for breakfast – heavy on the spinach, kale, avacado, green raw protein, coconut water, banana and pineapple.  I’ve been able to skip coffee most mornings!
  3. Eating more whole, unprocessed foods is causing me to be less hungry, and not stuff my face so much.  I still have lapses, but I’ve been pretty good.
  4. Gluten is pretty much gone from my diet at this point.  I won’t say I’m totally gluten-free, but I’m probably 85% there.  Gluten is an insidious bitch, and hides in all kinds of stuff you wouldn’t think it would be.
  5. I’ve been playing around with HerbaLife 24 products – specifically “Hydrate” and “Prolong”.  I’m going to do a full review on both sometime soon, but they work extremely well but have a couple of annoying aspects to them.  Plus they both are very expensive and not too much more effective than regular old G2 with a scoop of Blox for longer workout sessions.

All in all – my energy has been high, and I’ve been able to amp-up the intensity quite a bit.  I haven’t even begun my half iron program yet (20 weeks), but I’m ready to rock.

I think the vegan thing isn’t quite up my alley, but I do intend on getting closer to a better balance – plus I can’t envision a world where I would pass on bacon…

Sorry if this offends you...

Sorry if this offends you…

Yes...because Bacon!

Yes…because Bacon!