Catching up – Ironman Arizona, Surgery, Recovery…

I’m surprised it’s been so long since my last post.  Things have been nuts all the way around and I didn’t even have a chance to throw together a post-IronmanArizona blog post.  The truth is that I returned from Arizona completely psyched but also staring down the barrel of a massive work schedule along with getting things ready for my December 18th surgery, so it fell by the wayside.  In a nutshell, here’s my thoughts:

On Ironman Arizona –

Some Sweet Rides

Some Sweet Rides

I arrived out in Arizona on the Friday of raceweek.  In addition to being out in AZ to volunteer (and thus solidify a spot in the 2014 race), I was looking forward to rooting on and supporting TinMen Endurance – a group of 5 heart-transplant recipients that were all racing together to raise awareness for organ donor programs.  My buddy Derek successfully finished Ironman Lake Placid in July becoming the first American to complete a full-Iron race.  We all went to dinner on Saturday evening and I had a chance to meet the guys and their families and learn about their stories.  Sadly, only two of the five were able to complete – one was jumped-on while entering the water pre-start and had to be pulled out before the gun at 7am, and another was swept off the run course late-night.  A third (Kyle Garlett) took a nasty spill on his bike a couple of weeks before the race and just couldn’t make the start.  Many of you might know Kyle from his previous Kona attempts and spotlight segments on the NBC Kona broadcasts.

The race was fantastic.  I was able to join some friends out on the bike course during the day before my volunteer shift at the finish line.  I saw a couple of nasty wipeouts – 3 loops causes WAY TOO MUCH CONGESTION and I sincerely hope the rumors of elongating it to 2 longer loops in 2014 becomes a reality.  At one intersection I saw a tri-teammate from Delaware dash into a porta-john, and shocked him when he emerged to find me holding his bike with a good luck cheer!  My time at the finish line was incredibly inspiring and while I was completely exhausted after a long day on my feet (woke at 3:30am) it’s impossible to NOT keep going while these competitors kept streaming across the finish line.  It was an honor to participate as a volunteer, regardless of my registration.

IMAZFinishLine

I headed back to my hotel and caught a couple hours of sleep, then checked out and headed to Athlete Village to get a place in line.  The word on the street was that there was an unprecedented number of volunteers gunning for slots, and the long winding line appeared to have way too many hopeful people in it.  Once the sun came up the line began to move about 7:40 am and I ended up finding my way to the front and registering for 2014.

I Guess This Makes It Real

I Guess This Makes It Real

Surgery –

My hip really felt a bit “blown up” in the days leading up to the surgery.  Just to refresh, over the past summer I felt more and more discomfort while running.  After a round of PT treating what we thought to perhaps be a “groin strain”, an arthrogram revealed a torn labrum in my left hip.  We tried a cortisone injection to no avail, so it was onto arthroscopic labrum repair.

I look calm here, but I'm totally freaking out.

I look calm here, but I’m totally freaking out.

I’m not exaggerating, I was completely losing it prior to going into the OR.  My wife was really comforting though, and before I knew it I was waking up and only wanted something to drink really bad.

So there was a little more damage than my doc thought:

Beforehip

Red and frayed = not good. This is the anterior, and more damage was seen on the other surfaces.

But, it all cleaned up nicely…

Afterhip

Nice and smooth…

So the first couple of days were tough.  I needed crutches almost all the time and the pain meds were my best friend.  I used the hell out of my 110% Compression shorts and ice – ice and compression might just be the best thing ever.  I kept up stretching and my isometric exercises, and 9 days after surgery my doc was amazed at my recovery.  I had much more range of motion than would be expected, and he cleared me for bike, elliptical, pool, and core strengthening and just about anything I felt up to EXCEPT running!

So off we go.  PT begins tomorrow, and I’ll be working with a tri-teammate who is an excellent PT as well as a Level 1 USAT coach!  I’ve already been on an exercise bike as well as an elliptical, and the crutches are no longer needed.

Ironman Arizona 2014 – you’ll be my bitch…

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.

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!

 

A little bit about me, and why I think I’m doing all this…

A few of my triathlon Twitter friends (“Tweeps” as it were) have recently blogged about their lives and got a bit personal in their approach.  I’ve recently been giving more thought to why I’m doing this and the things in my life (or missing from) that is driving me on this journey.

It’s a pretty deep issue I think.  I am sure I’m not unique in that there are aspects of my formative years as a “yoot” that have set me up for this.  I’m not going to over-share here, but I guess I’ll bullet out some of the high and low points.

I was born 1972 in the Philly burbs.  Pretty normal early childhood I guess, but from a young age I think I was trying to earn my father’s attention and admiration.  In the mid-80s – folks split up during my middle school years – it was pretty ugly.  I guess as a distraction I threw myself into band in middle school and high school.  I became heavily involved with my high school music program.  This lead to a big part of my development and my psyche, especially in the competitive arena.

Just an aside about the band thing.  Most of you might have gone to a high school with a decent band.  My high school went through my four years never placing lower than 2nd in any adjudicated competition.  That included three state championships.

Since band was about the only thing I really “owned” – I decided to major in music ed in college.  From my (high school) junior year on I also marched in the highly competitive world of Drum Corps International.  This involved auditioning for a non-profit drum and bugle corps, earning a spot, committing the time and significant money to tour tuition, and then leaving right after classes end and jumping on a 52 passenger bus for the summer.

We finished 6th in the world this summer, and I had the time of my life, pushing hard everyday.

We finished 6th in the world this summer, and I had the time of my life, pushing hard everyday.  My mullet and I are top row – 5th from right.

These drum corps tours involve rehearsal days that can easily go into the 16 hour range, very little food, sleeping on gymnasium floors and bus seats, and 128 college-aged kids all working towards the same goals.  It’s HIGHLY competitive and physically grueling.  In fact, studies have been done on the physical demands of an 12 minute performance, and the heart rate and VO2 metrics show marathon-like conditioning.  One season I went on tour with very little spring conditioning (I was working as a trainer at a local gym and was doing a lot of POWERLIFTING) at 225 lbs and low-ish bodyfat, and between June and early August I dropped down to 200 lbs at about 7% body fat.  Check out this video to see one of my old teams in action.

So in my background, I come from a highly competitively-charged  environment.  I’ve taken to other hobbies in the meantime that have a competitive angle to them – namely trap shooting.  You keep a handicap average, and in my few years of actually trying to improve I got pretty darn good.  I actually considered selling my prized trap shotgun as a way to fund the purchase of a tri bike, but I was fortunate to be able to swing the purchase without it.  I guess I thrive on trying to one-up myself, and to try to gain approval from those around me.

Here I am with my girls!

Here I am with my girls!

Fortunately my family supports me and cheers me on, and without them this wouldn’t be nearly as fun or fulfilling.

 

Bikeless, cold, and confused…

If you’re familiar with the song library of he great Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five (actually only three dudes and not five), the title of this post is a play on their song “Selfless, Cold, and Composed” – it’s a great song in the form of a jazz trio.  I’ve been known to swing periodically with my musical listening tastes, and my educational background as a high school band director (yes I was Mr. Holland’s Opus for 5 years) has given me a wide variety of music to draw from.  My iPod running playlist is hysterical.

My training has been light due to an impromptu vacation we took to the Pocono Mountains for some skiing this weekend – and boy was it cold and windy.  Unfortunately I came home with a souvenir I didn’t want and that was a stomach flu that lasted for about 4 days.  I lost about 4 pounds the wrong way too, and just today (Wednesday) I feel relatively normal.

Some good news – I finally sold my bike on Thursday to a guy that saw my ad on Craigslist.  In the three weeks I had the bike posted, I encountered one other half-serious buyer that was a good distance downstate.  Part of the sale was a pre-paid annual tune-up at a chain of local bike shops through 2017, so someone from a distance away would not find that beneficial.  Luckily the guy that bought the bike lives around the corner, and he’s 6’4″ so the 62 frame is good for him.

So Monday was an off-day, and I was still very much recovering from the stomach bug.  I hadn’t eaten anything in almost 40 hours, so I’m not sure why keeping my GuruFit appointment with my local bike shop seemed like a good idea?  I arrived at the shop wearing my bike shorts under my jeans and with my tri bike shoes and Look pedals.  I was walked to the rear of the store where a small fit studio was set up, and I saw this thing:

Not from the Starship Enterprise, nor a medieval torture device...

Not from the Starship Enterprise, nor a medieval torture device…

There are only about 40 of these units in use around the country.  My shop has had this since November, and the word is starting to get out.  The process sounds unique in that the adjustments are made real-time via servo motors and hydraulics.  Tom, the owner of the shop, had to go through quite a bit to obtain one of these systems, and then to be trained.  The process involved setting up a fairly benign triathlon posture set to my height and general flexibility fitness, so after taking some measurements he set the bike with a Zipp cockpit and a Specialized Toupe seat – these components appear to be very close to the used Cervelo I am considering purchasing from a guy on my tri team.

Front view

Front view

So once the general dimensions were placed and my pedals were attached I jumped on.  I told Tom about my bout with the flu over the weekend and he said that no big exertion was needed.  He set the Computrainer for a conservative 150 watts and I started to pedal (we eventually backed it down to 125 when I began to fall apart towards the end – it wasn’t pretty).

I can compare this process to the eye doctor, “Better here….or here?”  He began moving me into a more aggressive posture and changing angles and orientation, while also watching my cadence and my output.  Since this was my first taste of a real triathlon aero position, it was difficult to me since EVERYTHING felt odd.  The confusing part about it was that some of the adjustments were 5mm or less at a time!  Keep in mind my riding to this point has been on a standard road bike that has been too long for me, and my aerobars were hopelessly too far out to be comfortable.

GuruMonitors

 

So we worked into a series of three different “fits”, and not surprisingly they all ended up within millimeters from one another.  At that point, he put some markers on my hip, knee, and ankle and took some video for analysis.  As part of the after-action report, he will do a side-by-side with a cycling pro for a comparison (and a laugh I’m sure).  I thought ahead and found the old geometry numbers for the Cervelo Dual (P1) and gave those to him.  Unfortunately every manufacturer has a slightly different way of determining their geometry measurements, so some assumptions need to be confirmed before Tom can tell me whether or not the 58 Dual will/will not fit me in this GuruFit position we found.  He thinks it’s a good possibility it might, but there are some seatpost angle options that might be the difference.

I was pretty blasted when I was done.  I was under-nourished, slightly dehydrated, and still whoozy from the flu, but I managed to pedal pretty continuously for about 45 minutes during the session.  The price for this was $200, which is more expensive than the typical road fit.  The triathlon position is so technical that the process is much more involved to get a good position.  From what I gather, it’s comparable to the Retul system, and some of the other fit methodologies out there (and believe me I am not an expert here), but it sounds like the $200 is a pretty good value comparing to some of the other options.

So I’m hoping to get that final report in my hands shortly.  I’m looking for a green-light on that Cervelo, and then the fun will start.  Until then it’s getting back into the swing by building baseline fitness for the beginning of my program and learning how to eat/digest again!