Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Monday, August 22, 2016
One thing I wondered about was how I would feel in the days or even weeks following an Ironman finish. Would I need a wheel chair? Would my GI tract be treating me like I was drinking water out of the East River? Would I be arthritic?
Thankfully, the answer to all of these was no. In summary, here are the consequences I personally experienced from putting my body through this. As always, YMMV.
I definitely had some soreness, especially during the first few days after the race. On the Tuesday that I returned to work, I walked slowly and deliberately although I think I managed to avoid displaying the old-man walk. By Wednesday afternoon, I felt good enough to go mow my lawn.
Fortunately, there were no issues here. Having felt kind of sick to my stomach for much of the run and not feeling all that hungry in the minutes following the finish, I was concerned that I might have some unpleasant after effects. Those never materialized and I was soon back to enjoying food and drink as always.
Okay, I sort of made that category up to discuss my toes. They did not look great. My left big toe turned purple under the nail. It was the result of a great big blood blister that I think started on the bike and got worse on the run. My right pinky toe also sported a shade of dark purple. Nothing has been especially painful, but there were definitely impacts from all of the…well…impacts.
I have heard of some folks feeling kind of a let-down after the big day is over—kind of an Ironman training post partem depression of sorts. I did not have that experience. I was not giddy at being done but just relieved and looking forward to doing some training that will be easier on my body.
Yep, I got sick afterward. A few days after the finish a minor sinus infection started to take hold. By the next weekend it had gone nearly full blown and by the start of last week it had spread to my chest. It’s been stubborn and over two weeks after the race, I’m still trying to shake it. My single piece of advice on this would be to take care of your resistance as best you can. I wish I had chugged a big bottle of orange juice the next morning.
No, not yet anyway. I am seriously looking into this but I’d like to be over the sinus infection and bronchitis first.
I am thinking about what kind of off-season training plan will keep me conditioned but not wear me out or take excessive amounts of time. I have a few good ideas that I think I’ll put into place.
For 2017, I’m excited about the prospect of doing some short-course racing (watching the Olympics certainly motivated it as well) and in the new year, I’ll be working with my coach on a plan to get better at the 51.5km type of races.
As always, thanks for reading and always feel free to use the comments section to ask anything I didn’t address here.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Days Leading Up
Total Time: 14:18:31
Post-Race and Some Observations
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Just under a year ago, I began a post with the words “This is one of the most difficult posts I’ve had to write.” I went on to chronicle the events that lead to my first and fortunately so far only DNF. It was two days after I failed to make it out of the bike stage of the 2015 Ironman Boulder due to what turned out to be nothing terribly serious. It was enough, however to make me drop out of the race and nearly every day since, I’ve thought about trying again. The day to make that attempt is nearly here.
In all candor, this race scares me a little bit. I knew going into last year that it would be challenging, but it was not until after several hours on a hot bike course that I realized just how truly difficult it would be. Add in a failure to finish and I find the prospect of trying the again a little daunting. Doing so within a month of my 47th birthday creates even more doubt.
Nevertheless, I have been training more or less constantly for most of the last two years to be in the position I am in today and I feel ready. Long and hard workouts make me tired but not exhausted. Heat is annoying but not debilitating. I’m a little anxious but not riddled with anxiety. It’s time to go out and be an Ironman and below is how I intend to do it.
No trips back and forth between Parker and Boulder this year. I’m spending most of the weekend in Boulder and I’m happy about that. I plan on arriving in town on Friday afternoon and going straight to check-in. After that, I have a downtown hotel booked and I’ll spend time there except for trips to drop off the bike and transitions bags. My wife and I enjoyed a long weekend in Boulder for the Boulder Peak race (unfortunately canceled) and had some fun. This time it’s about staying rested, hydrated and hopefully, calm.
The day before the race I have a short run of 30 minutes which is really just about keeping things loose and maybe burning off a bit of nervous energy. I’m going to do this on the creek path and cover just a small part of the run course.
Other tasks include the careful packing and double checking of my transition and special needs bag as well as making sure I have everything I need in my morning clothes bag. I don’t want to obsess, but I’ll be going over these multiple times just to be sure.
Like last year, I’ll hit the sack early but I expect some sleeplessness. I won’t say I was not tired at the end of the day last year, but I also don’t think that it had much of an impact on my race.
My hotel is less than half a mile from the special needs bag drop-off in Central Park so I’m planning on rising at about 3:00 or so Sunday morning. First order upon waking will be a breakfast consisting of a bagel and cream cheese, a bottled smoothie, a banana and probably a small cup of coffee. Race day is no day to give up caffeine!
Hurrying and scurrying to make it out to the lake on time is never a good idea so I’ll be on one of the first buses out there. Better to wait around than suffer the anxiety about making it on time. I have mixed feelings about a swim warm up. I may do a very short one but I’ll wait and see how I feel. Wetsuit legality may also factor in so no wetsuit means no warm up swim.
The remaining pre-race business includes doing my pre-race business, making sure my tires are pumped up properly and possibly locating my T1 bag though hopefully a volunteer will just hand it to me.
Assuming a wetsuit legal race, I’ll line up with the group expecting to finish in 1:10. My own finish goal is a touch slower but I’d rather be at the back of this group and maybe get a little open space. Drafting is a great idea, but I’m not confident in finding anyone who will actually be at the right pace for me to do so.
Assuming I am indeed on my own, the key is going to be finding a comfortable rhythm and remembering that the first few minutes are likely going to be uncomfortable until the field stretches out a bit.
The turns last year were insane and I don’t much care about cutting them tight this year. I’ll swim a few feet off the buoys or at whatever distance is necessary to stay out of the pushing and shoving match.
I’m a strong swimmer and all of my pool workouts have gone well this year. I did this successfully last year in just my tri shorts. I believe I am in just as good of swim shape; if I get to wear a suit, then so much the better.
Goal Time: 1:15:00
If I am wearing a wetsuits, I’ll make use of any strippers. My experience has been they are a time saver. There’s likely to be a bit of muck on my feet but I’ll address that with a towel in the tent and then I’ll don my socks. That’s right, socks on the bike. In a shorter race I would skip them but for more or less 110 miles, I’d prefer the extra protection for my feet. I’ll also be pulling a pair of bike shorts over my triathlon shorts. I’ve been training that way and it’s comfortable for me. Then it’s just a matter of applying a generous smear of chamois cream, fastening my helmet, buckling my shoes and getting out of there with a short stop to get slathered with sunscreen.
I want to be properly hydrated but I had enough water last year that I made multiple trips to the porta-potty, let go a couple of times in my suit andstill had to make one last trip before getting my bike. I’m really hoping to skip that this year and save some time.
Goal Time: 0:08:00
It’s without a doubt my weakest discipline. I’ve worked hard to be a stronger, fitter rider but I’m still a better runner and a much better swimmer. For me, the key to success here will be about managing my energy expenditure. No, I don’t want to turn in a seven hour bike split, but I am prepared for that.
When practicing on the course this summer I more or less employing my race-day strategy. A key element of that strategy is to ease up (not coast) on easier sections rather than push hard for additional speed. My own calculations suggest that cranking hard and boosting my speed in areas like the back-side of the Highway 52 hill or down the Neva and Niwot Road stretches would gain me a few minutes at best. I think I’ll be better served by giving my legs a rest when I can. The initial hills and two really long stretches along Nelson Road will be enough to ensure that my legs have more than enough opportunity to get tired. If I finish the bike stage in 6:45 instead of 6:30, do I really care? No.
I’ve not done a great job on nutrition during my practice rides but I’m getting there. I’ll be carrying 5, 100 calorie gels with me and consuming all by the time I reach special needs at which time I’ll have five more waiting for me. I’ll also be carrying a bottle with 300 calories of Gatorade and a baggie with replacement powder will also be in the special needs bag. It’s kind of a mixed bag about what else I might put in the bag. A PBJ sounds good but messy but it might be worth it. I could also do something that will not melt like peanut butter cookies. Whatever the case, it won’t be much.
From my perspective, there are two significant challenges on the course (though I’ll be prepared for the unexpected). First will be the second time around on Nelson Road. That’s at about 77 miles in so not only do I expect to be fatigued, but it may also be pretty warm (current forecasts notwithstanding). I don’t plan on stopping at a lot of aid stations but I’ll do so at the one located near Nelson and Highway 36.
The second challenge is the ride from 63rd Streetand the Diagonal Highway on loop 2 all the way up to Jay Road and then on to 26th Street. This is not a steep climb but it is consistent and again, I do anticipate having fairly sore legs (to say nothing of being saddle sore).
Last year’s bike failure ought to serve as motivation not to let it happen again however. No matter how crappy I feel, I plan to just keep going. I might have to hit an aid station and dump water on my head and down my back, but I’ll keep pushing. Unlike last year, the two big hills will not be waiting for me during the last 30 miles of the bike discipline.
The run down 26th Street/Folsom is not pure downhill, but it should afford for some easier spinning. That’s my plan for this section: higher cadence minimal resistance. There will probably also be a fair amount of standing and stretching my hip flexors as the bike winds down.
I’m looking forward to actually seeing this part of the course. It sounds like it has the highest concentration of spectators (at least for the bike) and pro-race-looking barricades down Arapahoe Avenue as you near Boulder High School.
There will still be much to do, but if I get this far, I’ll be feeling pretty good.
Goal Time: 6:40:00
I won’t walk through transition but I will jog. Pretty slowly in fact until I hand my bike to a catcher. I’m really not talented or coordinated enough to lose the shoes while they remain attached to my pedals so I think I’ll just wear them to the change tent.
Once in the tent the process ought to be simple: lose the bike shorts (which I’ll have been wearing over my tri shorts) and change out my HR monitor. My chest strap Garmin monitor, which I wore last year, is all but useless and no amount of work gets it to provide an accurate reading. Instead, I’ll be wearing my Scoshe Rhythm+ on the bike and then switching over to my wife’s Rhythm+ for the run. There’s not enough battery life in either unit for both disciplines, but one for each should do the trick. I’ll worry about getting it properly paired with my 910XT after I start running.
I’ve gone back and forth between wearing a hat or a visor. If the temperatures stay where they are forecast (around the mid 80* range) then I may go with the visor. If it looks to be closer to 90* at the time of the run start I may wear a hat so that I can put ice in it.
My running shoes are equipped with Yankz and prior to pulling them on, I’ll put on a fresh pair of socks.
It certainly won’t be as fast as other T2’s—especially given how long the overall area is—but I think I can get through fairly quickly.
Goal Time: 0:09:00
Running 26.2 miles isn’t the real challenge of an Ironman. It’s doing that distance after having already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 (or so). Some people are just naturally gifted distance runners. They may never win a 100 yard dash but they can maintain a high pace for hours on end with minimal suffering. I am not one of those people.
After a recent training ride I had a 30 minute off-the bike run. The first part of this involves going pretty much all out for five minutes and within two, I was practically hypoxic. The purpose of the workout is to prepare me for the run but not to practice how I’ll actually start.
During that same workout I felt better doing the remaining sets at what felt like a comfortable pace (around the mid nine minute range) which was encouraging.
A year ago I felt optimistic about going for ten minute stretches without a walking break but I think that may have been unrealistic. It certainly is this year. My goal instead will be a series of 5 minute runs. Initially I think I can accomplish these with just a minute’s walk in between. The course is pretty flat but there is a net drop in elevation over the first few miles.
Weather (in the form of heat) and my overall feeling of fatigue will definitely factor in but I think I can keep this up for about the first quarter or so of the run discipline. That’s where the most easterly turn-around is and there’s a consistent gain in elevation from that point.
Much as I’d like to think that I’ll be feeling better than expected, I’d rather plan on the conservative side. If I can run more and walk less, that will be great, but that’s a very best case scenario in my mind. What’s more likely is that I’ll want longer walk breaks. With that in mind, I’ll increase the walk interval to a minute and a half. Before I turn around at the west end of the course, I expect it to increase to two minutes. Regardless of the rest time, I’m going to try and keep the five minute running intervals.
Predicting all of this is more art than science and so these guidelines are just a rough outline of the plan I hope to follow but I’m realistic in my understanding that things could be far more difficult than they appear to be on paper. I’d really rather not be crossing the finish line after 10:00 but I would absolutely take that versus not finishing at all.
Chunking the run (as well as the other events) down into smaller sizes will help make it more manageable and not mentally overwhelm me. I know some part of my mind will be thinking about when this is all over which is okay; I just can’t let that come to the forefront. No doubt, things will feel a little difficult if I can hear the finishing announcements over the PA as I am just passing the halfway mark. It will just be one other thing to put out of my mind.
One positive of the run is that it’s probably the best part of the whole course. Most of it parallels Boulder Creek which is lined with trees beautiful scenery. What’s more, according to others, the spectators are in full force throughout which will be a great experience. Most of my runs have been fairly isolated experiences with no one around other than fellow athletes.
Goal Time: 5:06:00
Race Goal Time: 13:18:00
Brevity has never been my strong suit on this blog and this post has proven to be no exception. But itis a 140.6 mile race so there’s a lot to plan for.
Despite some nerves and normal self-doubt that I’m sure precedes most people’s ‘A’ races, I really do feel ready. Moreover, I feel a tug to get out and there and do this. I’ve waited and waited and really want that time to be over.
As I face the inevitable struggles on race day, I’ll be keeping one particular piece of advice in mind from my coach: maintain an attitude of gratitude. After all, how luck am I to be able to compete in and have realistic hopes of finishing an Ironman? Lucy indeed!
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I debated whether or not to even write this post but since the information is still fresh in my mind and itmight be of some value, I figured why not.
Not long after seeing that my Sunday workout last week would involve a long bike ride, it seemed logical to do it in Boulder using most of the Ironman course. I had done a similar but much shorter ride in June and not only would this now be a chance to gauge my performance against what is needed for race day, it would also be a chance to get a firsthand look at the terrain I’ll be riding in less than two weeks.
A lot can happen in that time frame and I don’t expect to be back before that but as of July 24, this is what I see.
There was actually a triathlon going on the day I showed up to train so driving up to and parking near the reservoir seemed like a bad idea. Instead, I parked near the condo I lived in way back when I was a sophomore in college. From there, it was a fairly short ride to the course proper. So while I did not actually ride 51st Street out of the Reservoir area, I think it’s safe to say it’s probably not changed.
Just south of Jay Road on the Diagonal Highway (aka 119) the shoulder of the road has been milled (i.e.: ground up into a bunch of grooves). It’s not a long stretch, maybe half a mile and I didn’t have any issues, but this is early in the course and if it’s not fixed and there is no detour around it in the right lane of the highway, I could see problems on race day.
The bike trail that passes under the highway is a clever way to get racers turned around heading back toward Longmont. However, it’s at about mile 3 of the course which means big crowds and large potential for accidents. The path can really only comfortably support racers two-a-breast and my guess is that they’ll force folks into possible single file. Be ready to slow way down and just take it easy. There’s lots of race ahead still.
After heading back out of Boulder on 119, things get better. There are some large orange, diamond shaped construction signs in the shoulder but I trust those will be moved aside. Much of the road is fresh, smooth asphalt which is good, but there are also some small bumps in that asphalt. This may be a warning to cars drifting off the road but it caused one of my water bottles to loosen and then eject when I went over a large bump turning onto Highway 52.
The Big Hills
As intimidating as the hills running up Highway 52 and Lookout Road are, they seemed much better on fresh legs and before the real heat had set in. Indeed, a steady spin saw me to the top of the first hill without much difficulty or pain. Personally, I found the Lookout Road hills (yes plural) to be more difficult.
The first hill is steep but short and starts just west of 95th Avenue. The second hill is almost two hills with a flatter (but not totally flat section) between two steeper parts. Finally, the third hill seemed comparable to the first. Once you crest it, you’ll benefit from some free speed going not only the rest of the way down Lookout, but also as you turn south on 75th Street.
Back to the Loops
The right turn onto Jay Road sees the course flatten out a bit and perhaps there is even a slight rise. It’s not especially difficult this early in the race but I did see my power increase while my speed dropped off. Once you turn left and head down 57thyou’ll get a nice downhill before a steep uphill (comparable to those on Lookout) and then you’ll be headed west on Independence Road going by the airport. Back to 47th street and out to Jay Road and then you’re starting the two main loops that make up the majority of the course.
The Climb to Broadway
Jay Road is definitely a false flat. You’ll only ride about half of it the first time you hit it but it’s the steeper half and I saw my speed drop off notably in this section. That’s just the beginning however because the ride northwest on 28th Street/Highway 36 is neither false nor flat.
It does not feel like an especially big hill, but it steeper than most realize. I ran a gauntlet of barrel shaped objects soon after turning onto the road but I again trust this will be removed. I spun this section all the way until Broadway. In fact, when you see the large barn—shaped flooring store you’ll more or less have crested the gradual but consistent hill.
Rolling Along to Neva Road
There’s a nice steep downhill after passing Broadway which most will find a pleasant respite after the climb. I enjoy the free speed as well but there are a lot of fast moving cars through this area and things have often felt tight and a little dangerous in this section. Hopefully the presence of law enforcement and lots of racers will slow drivers down, but I suggest caution.
Once you go up an equally steep hill (hopefully with some of the speed you’ve garnered from going down) you’ll pass Longhorn Road and then be out on the open section of Highway 36 as it heads toward Lyons. This is a good place to open up a little but wind could be a factor, particularly on the second lap. I had no particular problems but it did slow me down the second time I was there.
Neva to 63rd Street
This has to be the fastest, sustained part of the course. While there are a couple of hills on the early part of Neva Road, you can hit them with some speed and still keep your momentum. After making an “S” turn where Neva turns into Niwot Road, you’ve got a steady slope down. It’s a good place to pick up speed or just recover depending on your own personal race strategy.
That sounds like a street gang, but this peaceful section of road just undulates gently proving ample opportunity to gain some speed but not too much as couple of the hills are short but steep. Once you pas Ryssby Church (a famous old Scandinavian church on the east side of the road) you’ll get a pretty steep downhill before the left turn onto Nelson Road.
The Nelson Climb
I suspect many a rider has seen their plans go awry when they head west on Nelson Road. It starts off with a long shallow climb but soon after it gets steep. From the point where the first big hill starts to its crest after making the curving turn around Table Mountain is 3.8% by my calculations. I’m sure certain sections are steeper. There’s a flatter section after that but then as you turn more westerly you’ll not only experience a net climb but also hit a rather steep hill. On the second loop, this comes not long before the special needs area so there may be some rest for you afterward. Technically, the climb continues after you turn right back onto Highway 36 but I’ve found that it feels easier.
Bombing Down 36 into Lyons
All that goes up must come down and that’s quite true of this section. Being as I was training and not racing, I did take a moment to enjoy the panoramic views from high on the course. Even if you don’t get to enjoy that, the ride down is fast and rewarding. Aggressive riders will no doubt push things in the big ring, but all riders will experience some of their most sustained faster speeds all the way to Highway 66. It’s a nice section of the course with a wide shoulder that allows plenty of room to pass and be passed.
While not nearly as steep as the preceding section, the ride along Highway 66 is a net decline and I’ve found I can maintain decent speed as I make my way down it. There are some flat sections and one slight uphill before making the turn back north on 75th Street near Hygiene, but overall you’ll probably be able to increase your average speed through this section.
For those not familiar, Hygiene is a very small town through which the course passes. It has a famous reputation as a popular stop for cyclists and indeed, during both of my training rides through the area I’ve stopped into the Purple Door Market to replenish my water supplies. If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend patronizing this establishment. They’ve done a great deal to welcome the cycling community and are deserving of all the support they can get.
You obviously won’t be stopping in your race, but you will enjoy a downhill section as you move back toward the center of the loop. One word of caution I do have is regarding the train tracks that run across 75th Street just south of the market. It’s a water bottle grave yard. Last year, I ejected one of mine adding it to probably a hundred others. I don’t think anyone was getting a penalty, but losing a bottle is a penalty in and of itself.
Twists and Turns
A right turn onto St. Vrain Road will probably slow you some as you go west. A general rule is that if the mountains are in front of you, you’re going up. It’s not that bad and it’s quick before a left turn onto 65th Street which is a net decline and a good place to make up some speed. At the end the road, you’ll hit a “T” intersection with Nelson Road just a couple of blocks east of where you started the big climb earlier. Heading east on Nelson is decidedly easier, even if you begin by going up a slight hill. It’s also fairly quick and then you find yourself back on 75thStreet, south of Hygiene and headed back toward the northeastern side of the course.
The 75th Stretch
The southward trip on 75th Street is not the longest section of road on the course, but at a little over four miles, it is up there. You’ll actually be on 73rdStreet after a gentle curve about 1.5 miles in but the whole section feels pretty straight with no sharp lefts or rights. There’s even a nice downhill section ahead of Niwot Road. The leg has a net positive grade of 0.1% but it’s really a flat with on short up and one longer down.
Back to 119
Upon reaching Monarch Road, you climb very gently for about a mile and then turn left on 63rdStreet. There’s one big hump on 63rd Street just before you go down again and rejoin the Diagonal Highway heading back toward Boulder. This is a fairly unremarkable section of course but if memory serves, there is an aid station on or near that big hump. I found another large orange construction sign in the shoulder here, but again, I expect it to be gone on race day.
Finishing the Loop
The distance between 63rd Street and Jay Road on the Diagonal Highway is a little over two miles and while it’s not a steep climb (like Nelson) it is still a climb and on your second loop, you may also be feeling more pain. I also have found that wind can be a factor through here and while it might be behind you, it very likely could be right in your face as afternoon thunderstorms build. Fortunately, two miles goes by quickly on a bike and soon you’re climbing back up Jay Road.
To the Finish
If you’ve finished the loop for the first time, you’ll do all of this again. For me personally, the climb up Nelson a second time is the biggest challenge. Fortunately, there’s a nice recovery section right after.
If you’ve completed two loops, things change once you get back to the intersection of Jay Road and 28th Street. At this point you cross 28th and continue a couple of blocks west to 26th Streetwhere you turn left.
On my training ride, this was near the end but in the race you’ll still have a few miles to go. It’s a nice downhill ride all the way to Iris Avenue at which point 26th Street becomes Folsom Street. This will also be mostly downhill with the notable exception of a small climb at Valmont Road. It’s over fast however.
By the time you’re running down Folsom to Arapahoe Avenue, you’ll be very close to the finish. Though not personally experienced with it, I’m told the cruise down Arapahoe is pretty fun with that section of the street closed to traffic and barricades lining the sides.
This is another long post, but it takes a lot describe a course with so many twists and turns. The overall condition is good with no potholes, or extended rough sections to speak of. Where this is chip seal work, it’s fairly smooth and not even that noticeable.
The biggest external factors to the rider are likely to be weather in the form of heat and possibly wind (rain is also possible but likely not until after the bike discipline) and traffic which has always been well managed by the officers from Boulder Police and Sheriffs and the Colorado State Patrol.
Having the big hills at the start of the course will definitely be beneficial but it comes at the cost of a probably log jam during the Highway 119 underpass. Otherwise, I think this is a good course (albeit on the short side of 112 miles).
If you’re racing in Boulder on August 7, best of luck to you and thanks for reading!