Looking for the Sun

“I don’t believe in pessimism. If something doesn’t come up the way you want, forge ahead. If you think it’s going to rain, it will.” -Clint Eastwood

Flexibility was the key this week. And surely, it took a good helping to deal with the rain. Whoa! But, as everyone says, “We needed it.”

What we need in training, sure as shootin’, is to be consistent. And that’s been the name of the game for me since resuming triathlon training the second week o’ January. Since that time, I’ve logged 70,000yds in the pool, 1,300mi cycling, and 260mi running. For a guy as busy as I am, that’s not a bad base right there.

Anyway, what I love as much as the training is the thrill of racing. I’ve got a triathlon trilogy comin’ up, starting with HITS Napa Valley on 4/15. Then I’ll surely knock some time off my 2011 Wildflower time since I had just returned to the sport after a 3yr absence spent ultra-running. So here’s a snapshot of my training last week. I’m on spring break this week, so you know what that means…

Just click on the pics to make ’em bigger. You knew that already. Peace.

2011 North Face Endurance Run

It sure is tough staying motivated for these crazy events! And waking up at 2:30 to drive down and do the North Face 50 miler didn’t exactly sound like fun. I mean, I really started thinking about it at 7:30 the previous night. What do I have to do for these ultras again? Oh yeah, vaseline my feet… what shoes will I wear? What am I going to eat? Ugh. The triathlon season’s burnt me out. I just need to keep things simple, I told myself.

I finished the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson the night before. That inspired me to go completely tech-free in my race: no GPS, no iPod, not even a wrist-watch. Just go with the flow. I’ve done this before and really enjoy it. All you gotta do is listen to your body and enjoy the ride.

I recovered from Kona in mid-October and started hitting the trails. The plan was to use Pacific Coast Trail Run’s Stinson Beach 50k on 11/12 as a tune-up for North Face on 12/3. Then, Stinson was canceled due to some permitting issue. Motivation was suffering and this cancelation really took the wind out of my sails.

So, knowing full well how brutal a 50mi trail race with 10,000′ of cumulative gain can be, I believed I needed to do something special to get me excited about North Face, because at that point I started contemplating just throwing in the towel and scratching NF off the list. But, that little voice told me that that wasn’t really an option. “You signed up buddy. You’re going to need a much better excuse than “you’re not motivated.”

So, one trick I’ve always used to motivate me is to plan out a 100mi training week. To really keep me accountable, I shared my goal with the 114 eleven year-olds I teach. That should do the trick, I thought. The only down-side, is that I normally would do such a week about four weeks out from race-day, leaving me with ample time to truly absorb such a big volume of running, and running that is entirely in the woods, which takes longer and takes more out of me than running 100mi on the road.

So anyway, I enjoyed the 100+ mile week and all my students nabbed some extra-credit points since I reached my goal. Now, I had just two weeks to absorb it. Thanksgiving break was good for that. I got in some cycling and just a little bit of running. I had to really shut down the running to allow for as full a recovery as possible. Three days out from NF, my legs still felt crappy. Some more cycling got them to come around.

Starting yesterday’s 50miler at 5am, in the windy darkness, I could feel that I was taking the cake out of the oven before it was done. I knew my legs weren’t completely ready for the day ahead. To compound matters, it seemed like my lungs weren’t cooperating either and I was experiencing some annoying chest congestion. I remember thinking at one point as we were all lighting up the trail with our headlamps, that it would be so nice to turn around, run back to my car, go home, and just go back to bed. But that wise(?) old voice of experience inside said, “Just chill out. Your legs will come around. You’ve got a 100mi week in there. You can have a good day if you just stop being a baby and start focusing on your body, quieting your mind, and being patient.

Somewhere about mile 20, my legs did started really coming around. My congestion lessened and I really started to enjoy my running in the Marin Headlands. I got to the out-n-back stretch and saw all the top names in ultra-running coming back on the tight single track: Mike Wolfe, Geoff Roes, Hal Koerner, Tim Olson, Leigh Schmitt, Anna Frost, Ian Sharman, Nathan Yanko, Michael Wardian… the list goes on.

That’s the thing with ultra-running, you can absolutely count on the fact that when you feel like absolute sh*t, you know, eventually, you’ll come out of it and even feel like a man-on-fire ’cause you’re so loose and running so well, so graceful, so free, and the gratitude for this experience wells up inside of you, so much so that its intensity surges you forward and faster. I love this about ultra-running.

The line from Isaacson’s book, “nature loves simplicity,” stuck in my head and inspired me to run without a lick of technology yesterday. I get so fed up with technology everywhere in this modern life. And naturally, I would have to ask a runner, sporting his Garmin 310XT at what mile we were. I would have guessed mile 30 and he informed me we were at mile 29.5. Running into the next pygmy forest, I threw down my first caffeinated gel of the day, a double-espresso Clif Shot. That too, got me surging forward, and faster.

The thing with the 50mi distance is that you must run as steady as possible, while doing the best to control your wide range of emotions. The course change this year made it a little easier since, I gather, there was less climbing than in 2010. So, I just tried to stay steady, in a good rhythm, and taking in calories as my body needed them, while taking regular sips off my trusty Ultimate bottle.

With about 10mi to go, the 50mi course hooks up with the 50km course, and I hoped I’d catch up with some friends who were running their first 50k. And since they started at 7am, two hours, after the 50mi start, it seemed plausible, that I could see them on course, or at the finish line, soon after their finish. Indeed, I caught up with a friend I coach, David Tett, who was in good spirits, and just 8mi away from completing his first 50km trail run. David spends a lot of time in Africa, so when I was running up to him, I had to say, “Charging rhinoceros on your left.”

It’s really nice having the 50k runners out there for comradery though since bib #’s are worn on the front, you can’t easily tell who’s in the 50mi race and who’s in the 50k. So, I just made the decision to keep making as much forward progress as possible, grinding out the long, long, climb back south toward the finish. I really have to stay as present in my head as possible, because the lure of the finish makes it tough to stay in the moment, because you want so desperately to be done.

What a beautiful day to run though. Man o man, it was gorgeous out there next to the magestic Pacific Ocean. Eventually, I dragged my weary bones across the line feeling pretty darn good, all things considered. My legs, hardened by my 100mi week of trail running, really held up well and allowed me to hang in there over those final 20miles. I soon ran into a friend and asked him what time it was. He told me it was 12:38, meaning that I was well under 8 hours. Hmm, I didn’t feel like I went significantly faster than last year. So, I’m chalking it up to a faster course this year, with a bit less climbing.

My average pace for 8:20 last year was 10min/mi. This year I averaged 9:10/mi. Last year, I was significantly more conservative at the start whereas this year I went out a bit more aggressively though my chest congestion did make me back off more than I wanted to.

A 40min improvement sounds good but I feel that my race was actually a bit slower when comparing my performance to the men’s 30-39 age group relative to last year. Last year I was 12/97 (top-12%) and this year I was 18/132 (top-14%). So, it looks like I slipped a bit while noting that the competition is pretty fierce. But alas, I purposefully target races that can show me where I stand relative to the best.

I’m thinkin’ for 2012, I have to make North Face a priority. Still in love with triathlon, I’m framing the year to peak for Full Vineman in July, and then setting up August through November to peak for North Face in early December. That’s going to work out really well. I did one ultra run this year, at Salt Point 50k in August. I’ll probably hit that one again, along with a handful of others. I’ll be looking for a 50mi “tune-up” race in the fall as well. I know I can knock another 30-45min off my NF time with a proper preparation. Without a fall IM next year, there will be sufficient time to do it right. As with all things, it’s tough to have your cake and eat it too, i.e., Ironman Hawaii and North Face. And next year, I don’t want to have to pull my cake out of the oven before it’s done!

Cheers to all the runners, the event, and all the fantastic volunteers! What a grand way to end the 2011 season. What a blast!

2012: Consistency & Flexibility

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  -Henry Ford

Tis the season to establish some SMART goals. SMART, as you may well know, is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. As I’m doing for myself, I’m asking all of my athletes to create not only smart goals, but smart targets. I believe that it’s important to distinguish between goals and targets. Goals should be process based; the journey. Example: I will work to be as consistent with my workout sessions in 2012 as possible while being flexible. Targets are the desired outcomes. Example. I will break five hours in a 70.3 triathlon. As you’ve heard me say in the past, we tie our perceived success to our goals, those things over which we have control. I firmly believe that a laser-like focus on our process-based goals will most likely result in our hitting the targets at which our season is aimed. Above all, 2012 is about two things:


As an athlete and a coach, I want to ensure that we’re getting out of endurance sports what is most important, namely, happiness. Happiness, in my book, comes from living at the top of our powers in every day living while attaining the skills to meet new challenges. This has also been referred to as the flow state.

So, let’s begin 2012, with the end in mind. Let’s take the remainder of this year and craft some smart goals and targets, keeping them simple and specific, and post them in conspicuous places so that we can be reminded of why it is we choose to put ourselves through all this bull___.    😀

Here’s some good slides from webinars I’ve recently conducted on my journey to re-certifying as a USA Triathlon coach. Use them to help stir your creative juices. I will be following up with you in December on your goals and targets. We’ll put place them on your 2012 Google Doc and refer to them regularly. Please let me know if you have any questions.






Big Island Wrap-Up

It’s good to be on the other side of Ironman Hawaii. A little worse for wear, I’m pleased with how things turned out. Kona represents a wonderful opportunity to race against the best guys in my age-group from all over the world, and man o’ man, they’re getting faster every year! The race is long, as they say, but in the end, it’s surely with yourself. And I was out there to see if I could push hard enough to better my performance from 2007.

Beautiful, clear, warm water is a game-changer for me. Having good swim fitness, I was able to stay relaxed and happy over the swim course. There were some swells to deal with but I managed to not drink too much salt water. There were several occasions where we all bunched up but I would fall back and move around if it persisted and on the way back in from the turn-around, I was actually pushing myself to stay “long-n-strong” and move up. Drafting and navigation was solid.

I consider this my best executed 2.4mi swim. I exited the water fresh, happy, and visualizing a smooth transition to the bike.

Pretty psyched about the ride, I was eager but controlled starting the bike. I had some gear chatter goin’ on, so I hopped off quick and released some tension on my rear derailleur cable. Voila! Back to work and out on the Queen K Highway, I motored up the road and occasionally checked my rising average speed >>>

The conditions in the morning were ideal to ride fast and by the time I got up to the turn to Hawi I was averaging a controlled 24mph. Some good winds on the climb up to the turn-around in Hawi whittled my average speed back down to 22.6mph. Since I was shooting for a sub-5hr ride (22.4mph over 112mi), I was then confident I could build it back up on the way back to town.

Four hours in to the bike, the heat, humidity, effort, and the distance were taking their toll. At aid stations, I grabbed a bottle of water, poured half of it on me and drained the other half into my aero-bottle. Average speed was well established at 22.5. Mile markers, however, came painfully slow; 85… 90… 95… Seeing Kona rising in the distance, it became easier to stay positive and concentrate on relaxation and visualizing the bike-to-run transition.

I worked with another guy (draft-legally of course) for about 80mi. We must’ve went back-n-forth about 15 times. We were totally in sync. That was pretty cool. Saw some riders down with crashes and flats. I was fortunate to have fairly smooth sailing the whole way. Like the swim, the ride was dreamy.

I got down about 1800 liquid calories on the bike and took four Clif Shots over the ride with plenty of water; hydration was good (peed twice). Got in several Meta Salt capsules too. I felt that I’d ridden smart while still risking a bit to come in of the bike in 4:59, my best ride ever, which was encouraged by relatively mild conditions on the bike course this year.


Starting the run, I was cautiously optimistic about how it would pan out. Starting off I had a side-stitch on my right side. Trying to work that out, I was soon feeling the effects of the in-town humidity. Running the second mile in about 7min I found I was working harder than I wanted to be and backed off the effort. I grabbed cold sponges and poured ice-water on my head at all the aid stations. The marathon was having its way with me.

Things were not improving as I headed up Palani and out onto the Queen K highway. I simply forgot how tough it is for me to run well under a tropical sun, in that blasted humidity. I couldn’t seem to stay up on the balls of my feet. My turn-over was there but I just didn’t have my characteristic snap, that easy flow that followed my rides in Coeur d’Alene and Full Vineman this year.

I kept waiting for things to turn around and get back to feeling good. I tried every trick in my book. Nothing was working. I went to Coke at mile 6. As I emerged from the Natural Energy Lab, I read a note from my wife, Amanda, on a big screen marquee: “Work. Work. Work,” she had written. And that’s all it was back to town: laborious, hot, drudgery. Not used to being passed in the marathon, I was eaten up by so many runners. I started walking the final aid stations. Each time it got harder to start back up. With three to go, another athlete gave me some much needed encouragement and that inspired me to gut out the last 5k. Back to town, detached and forlorn, they continued to run me down. I finished in the back of a pack of eight guys, spent and disappointed in my run performance, though surprised I was still able to pull off a 9:40.

That’s racing. Things have gone so well this year, I was due for some hardship, in the form of falling short of my target finish time of 9:20. My build up to Kona had emphasized the swim and bike. And that’s what went well. In the end I was only four minutes off my best time in Kona from ’07.

Ironman Hawaii has been a significant thread in my life over the last decade. This time was special because my wife of one year was there at the finish to quickly cheer me up, along with some good friends.

We collected my bike and transition bags and headed back to our spectacular home-stay about a mile from the start/finish. After some BK and a shower, we headed back down to the start at about 9pm to cheer in the final finishers all the way up to midnight when 81y/o, Lew Hollander, came across the line. I wondered to myself if I could come back here in 44 years and do this. It’s mind-blowing that he’s even out there! And there was another 80y/o guy right behind him!

Chrissie Wellington and Craig Alexander stole the day and were back down at the finish greeting the final finishers. Wellington’s victory speech the next night was the best I’ve ever heard from a pro. She and Alexander are class acts, from what I know of them. I appreciate having these champs representing our growing sport.

The volunteers are off the hook in Kona! I was grateful to have friends Kim and Shelly Lydon, along with Ken Wright, out there volunteering. It was fantastic seeing them, EVERYWHERE, on race day and race week. Incredible energy. Thank you volunteers!! It was also great racing with my buddy Andy Brodziak, who qualified for Kona at Ironman UK. Andy enjoyed a strong performance at his second IM in Kona. On Monday, I got to catch up with another buddy, Russ Brandt, who I hadn’t seen since our marathon in Idaho in June. Very cool to see everyone out there.

I didn’t expect to get back into triathlon but my understanding wife is tolerating it, for now at least. I’m grateful to her for putting up with it all, supporting me every step of the way, and helping me live a more balanced (and rewarding) life.

A Big Island “Mahalo!” to Echelon Cycle & Multi-Sport for their support this year. There is no way I would have been able to re-enter triathlon without their support. Looking forward to some fall group rides and seeing them transition to their new location here in Santa Rosa.

I finally got to catch up with the Clif Bar crew at the end of the journey. Thanks to them for fueling the year. As my students say, “Clif Bar rocks!”

Thanks to my friends up at Three Dog Yoga. I’m looking forward to some mat time this fall and winter. I need it!!

Thanks to tri-coach, Dave Latourette, for all his help this year. Dave always has great and timely advice. The wisdom is appreciated!

And finally, thanks so very much to Kris & Brad for opening up their home to Amanda and I. We enjoyed our time with you. Aloha!

Looking down the road, I already have a plan mapped out to Full Vineman next summer. With three IM’s under my belt this year, I’ll have a good base coming into the 2012 season. No Kona next year but we’re talking about possibly going back in 2013. Sounds like Ironman San Luis Obispo may happen in the fall of 2012. If not, then I’m thinking about making a run at an age-group win at IM Lake Placid during the summer of 2013. Training during the month of June gives me the time to do the work necessary to get down closer to nine hours. All this, of course, is just talk. Right now, it just makes me tired thinking about it.

Looking forward to making a full recovery and getting back in the woods for some fall ultra-running. Cheers!

Hawaii Ironman – Pre-Race Jibber Jabber

Man o man, it’s no easy undertaking to step out of your life for a week. Naturally, it’ll totally be worth it come Saturday. Looking forward to getting out there and just racing my heart out and putting the ol’ exclamation point on a fantastic triathlon season.

Also, I’m excited to have my wife, Amanda, at my side for this one. She’ll be shooting out some updates through Facebook throughout the day. Be sure to check out ironmanlive.com on Saturday, 10/8. I believe my # is 1292, if I’m remembering correctly. I hear that universalsports.com will have live & FREE online coverage too.

We’ll be checking in with Clif Bar throughout the week as well, at the “Triathlounge” Should be a fun hang out, especially after the race.

On race day, I’ll be out there from 7am to about 4:30pm Kona-time (that’s 10am to 7:30pm west-coast time). So, check in to see if I was able to swim, bike, and run faster than these results from 2007:

Time is the limiting factor with triathlon training. Still, I know I’m in better shape than when I went out in ’07. I’m stronger all the way around with better nutrition and equipment. I’ve either lost fitness or I’m at a killer peak right now. Either way, it’s better to come in 10% under-trained than 1% over! We’ll see where I am toward the end of the bike. Moreover, we’ll see what the conditions on the island have to say.

Here’s what my training looks like lately (not much!) –

Final Three Weeks to Kona –

Week of 9/19 –

Mon – PM Run (:90)

Tue – AM Swim (4000)/ PM Ride (:90)

Wed – Rest Day

Thu – AM Swim (4000) / PM Ride (2:33/2700’/95deg)

Fri – Rest Day

Sat – AM Swim (3000) / PM Speed Brick-

Ride 1:48, avg T=64deg)(3 x :10 – avgs 25.7mph @ 157bpm)
Run :43, T= ~60deg (3 x 1mi – avgs 5:20pace @ 161bpm)

Sun, 9/25 – Swim (5000)

Week of 9/26 –

Mon – PM Ride (2:28/2800’/92deg)

Tue – AM Swim (4000)/ PM Ride (1:30)

Wed – AM Rest / PM Speed Brick-

Ride 1:50, avg T=91deg (3 x :08 – avgs 26.5mph @ 155bpm)
Run :43, T= ~85deg (3 x 0.5mi – avgs 5:02pace @ 155bpm)

Thu – Rest Day

Fri – AM Swim (1000)

Sat – AM Open-water Swim (:20), Bike (1:20), Run (:20)

Sun – Rest Day

Race Week –

Mon – PM Swim (3000)

Tue – AM Travel / PM open-water Swim (:45)

Wed – AM open-water Swim (:45) / PM Ride (:90)

Thu – Rest Day

Fri – AM Swim (:20), Ride (:30), Run (:10)

Sat – RACE!

Sun – Recovery

Thanks so much for following along. I do appreciate any and all the support I can get. Aloha and mahalo!!

“Stop Thinking. Let Things Happen.”

Ty Webb

Caddyshack – “Be the Ball” <<< CLICK  😀

As a coach, athlete, and a teacher, it’s always on my mind how to get the most out of ourselves on the day of the big test. In endurance sport, preparation, a smart taper, and a solid execution of a well-informed race plan represent those things over which we have control. As is often stated, however, proper mental preparation is often dismissed as insignificant, more in part, because, as multi-sport athletes, we’re busy enough! I sense that endurance sports represents a new frontier. It is my feeling that it is in to the mind we are headed next, to more effectively align our brains with our bodies, in order to surpass previous generation’s athletic achievements.

Mental skills and run coach, Bobby McGee, of Bobby McGee Endurance Sports works with all kinds of athletes, from elite level Olympic runners and triathletes, to recreational folks. With my own background in running and sport psychology, I found a mentor of sorts in McGee when I attended a USA Triathlon coaching clinic in Colorado Springs last year. I follow McGee on Facebook, as well as through his books (see below), and the webinars he hosts for USAT coaches.

Bobby McGee

First off, McGee preaches to athletes, be responsible for performance. I like to say when talking about marathon and Ironman races in particular, “respect the race by doing the appropriate level of training.” This, I feel, is a paradigm of thinking that must be central in the athlete’s mind. The law of the harvest reigns supreme: we reap what we sow.

More difficult, especially in male competitors, is to admit and face our demons, whatever shape or form they may come in. Admitting weaknesses we may feel is a sign of weakness. Vulnerability, however, has tremendous potential for growth. Purposefully placing ourselves in uncomfortable situations forces us to swallow our pride for the sake of improvement. I’m not saying it’s easy or fun, but I am saying it’s worth it.

Wanting some speed for this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I put myself in the awkward position of doing an Olympic-distance triathlon two weeks out from Cd’A, with several of my buddies. With swimming as my limiter, I worked as hard as I could on the bike and run but simply ran out of real estate to catch any of them in that race. I was definitely vulnerable by registering for that event. On the flip side, two weeks later, I did Cd’A and barely earned a Kona slot, my key objective for 2011. What would have happened had I not raced that Olympic? Would I have missed my slot by one or two places? Surely, my speed and mental toughness were sharpened by participating in that shorter, faster event. We’re grateful for having done the work.

McGee professes the incredible importance of being very clear with ourselves about what we want out of our participation in sport. Here’s his three big questions:

What do you want?

What do you have to do to get it?

Who do you have to be to achieve this?

For McGee and his highly successful athletes, simplicity equals power. We must believe that the training we’re doing will produce the results we seek. I am still very intrigued with his theory that 90% of athletes under perform in races according to their training while only 9% of athletes achieve what their training shows, while only 1% over perform. This was a paradigm shift in my own thinking and liberated me from “racing” my buddies all the time on group rides. What I finally internalized was that only on race day does it matter who crosses the line first. Athletes need to be okay trailing their buddies sometimes and not always sprinting for every town sign that pops up on the horizon. Doing so, leaves you fresh for your racing, when it really counts. That being said, I’m not against sprinting for those signs. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, but there’s a time and a place for such antics. And in the middle of an Ironman prep is probably not the ideal time to try and show your buds whose boss.

Grace. Gratitude. Guts. These are the three things McGee puts at the top of his list for success in endurance sports. We have to keep in mind that we make the conscious decision to put ourselves in these events, where our mettle will be tested. So, as McGee suggests, remind yourself when you’re out there that “you are a lucky person!” to have this opportunity to participate in something as exciting as triathlon or running long distances, etc. We are living at the top of our powers and this fact should be recognized and celebrated!

A hallmark of great athletes, McGee says, is that they totally accept that what happens to them out there. They control the controllables and let the results take care of themselves. They have absolute clarity of purpose, accept adversity, have a vivid picture of what’s possible. They create their race in immense detail before toeing the line. And above all, they let go of ego, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and learn from others who may possess the skills and knowledge they themselves may lack.

In a Facebook exchange with McGee, I had commented on a link to a mental skills article he had posted. I appreciated how he himself had been quoted in the article, stating that the most important thing we can concentrate on in a race is our technique, our form. He replied, stating that his thinking had since evolved and that such an emphasis in racing he now considered secondary to simply “being the running,” or “being the swimming,” or “being the cycling.” He went on to reference Caddyshack (“Be the ball”) as a fun way of illustrating his point. Training is a time to focus on conditioning ourselves to proper swim stroke, effective pedal stroke, and swift running economy. Racing is a time of “letting go of the process” as McGee coaches. In racing, we are fully engaged in the here and now, we are the process. McGee places feeling ahead of thinking when it comes to race time. I liken this to the saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In a race, our objective should be to arrive at a place of full integration. Simply put, body and mind are aligned. >>>

This year, I’ve been putting myself to this test; of trying this out first hand and “letting go” and just “being” the activity I find myself doing. I find the creative mind conjures up some powerful images such as the Bullet Train, while I’m cycling, for example. The Bullet Train does not dwell on its fuel consumption or if another train is going to beat it to its destination, it’s just relentlessly roars through the countryside, a completely integrated machine, aero and blazing down the tracks.  >>>

I believe it’s true that we’re not wired to envision success. The natural state of the mind is entropy. It takes energy to organize our thinking. We spend much of our lives in a process of organizing our minds in a painstaking process called education. Likewise, to perform at high levels athletically it stands to reason that our natural state of mind is to avoid failing. Of course focusing on failure ensures we do not live up to our potential and end up among McGee’s 90% of athletes who under perform according to their training. A much smaller percent of athletes have organized their thinking to a point where they are “motivated to succeed,” which implies that they have shed fears of failing and are, as McGee puts it, “always envisioning success.” When unfortunate situations arise in races, these athletes handle it by pushing the pause button, or by “changing the channel,” as my own sport psych professor, a WPGA golf pro, used to tell us.

Craig Alexander & Chrissie Wellington

So, wrapping this up, here’s some more notes from Bobby McGee as well as a mental skills questionnaire that you can use to rate your own mental preparation. As my professor stated, sport is 100% physical and 100% mental. We must attend to both if we want to climb into the 9% of athletes who can perform at the level their training suggests.

1.  Know what your capabilities are, especially on the swim and bike. Judge that according to how you feel in any moment.

2.  Practice visualization. Work on what will count on race day. Only work on what you need to.

3.  Empower yourself in terms of decision making.

4.  Vulnerability in training. Put yourself in those situations that will stretch you.

5.  Use mental imagery to encourage success. Deliberately practice.

6.  You can’t change mindset, you have to replace it. 20-50,000 repetitions are needed to make something your own. For that old mindset NOT to come back, in a specific part of a race. Also, realize and accept that you’re never going to feel fresh and springy at the end of a race. Therefore practice making parts of training sessions intentionally uncomfortable.

7.  Drop the subjective! Stay away from the “Oh, poor me.” or having to “look good” ego driven thinking. Strive to remain objective with your thinking. Take control of your mind!

8.  Empowering self talk. Find out, under pressure, what you are thinking. Habituating powerful thoughts over and over again. Say to yourself, “I am a good racer.” Tie it to process. “I do well” Use present continuous tense 2-5 words at most. Practice to reinforce. Remember, 20-50,000 times to replace old patterns of thinking.

9.  Managing race sensation.  The rhythm athlete versus the strength athlete. One can learn from the other. There’s always tough patches for each! What type of personality/athlete are you?

10.  Boom! It all comes down to one thing:  Focus.

11.  Pain management. Attempting to disassociate from the pain is never a good idea. So, ask the quads what they need. Focus on that feedback. The harder you focus the more effectively you’ll deal with the discomfort.

12.  The day versus the plan. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Leave room for changing plans on the fly. Be aware to be wise!

13.  In your racing, keep things open to possibility. Know when to deviate from the plan. This comes with experience. “Snap decisions” as author Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book, Blink.

“It is the brain, not the heart or lungs that is the critical organ. It’s the brain.”  -Sir Roger Bannister

September 2011

The time has come to resurrect the blog of yesteryear. With all the hats I wear in life, the one that I’ve grown to miss this year is the one of writer. I read once that writing, a naturally cathartic process, allows us to organize our thoughts by taking some time to reflect on the jumble of things bouncing around in our brains. Plus, with any given problem in our lives there’s usually several unique choices we can make to deal with problems. Too often we allow the loudest voice to dictate the choice we ultimately make to solve our own problem. Writing, therefore, empowers us to think for ourselves and get at the heart of the matter. Writing, like exercise, can be hell. But after we’re done, we never regret having done it.

So, here it is, September, 2011. It’s been another amazing year. Now a husband, in my 6th year teaching, coaching runners and triathletes, and struggling to train again for Ironman-distance triathlons, I’ve been stretched pretty thin. The proverbial pie has been cut into pretty small pieces but I’m not down to crumbs just yet.

As we move through this life, I know that happiness is predicated upon attaining skills to meet new challenges. We are supposed to grow into more complex beings, integrating our knowledge, skills, talents, and experiences. And man oh man, it’s a lot of work pushing that boulder up the hill year after year!

As of this writing, I’m preparing for my 4th Ironman in Hawaii. It will be my 3rd IM of 2011. My motivation is coming back now after a personal best at Full Vineman. After Vineman, I think I could have been happy being done for the year. At Coeur d’Alene in June, I was just dusting myself off from being away from the sport for a few years. Cd’A served it’s purpose and toughened me up on the bike. At Vineman, I was intrigued to learn more about myself and how three years spent ultra-running along with improved nutrition on the bike gives me greater capacity on the marathon.

A target of mine has always been to ride a sub-5 hour, 112mi bike at Ironman and run a sub-3 hour marathon off the bike. That equates to averaging 22.4mph on the bike and then holding 6:52min/mi on the run. At Coeur d’Alene and Full Vineman, I’m about five minutes off in each leg. What I lack is enough power. Especially after conditioning myself to run 50m and 100mi trail events in 2009 &amp; 2010, while enhancing my endurance, aerobic capacity, physical and mental durability, it’s done little to improve power on the bicycle, and nothing to help my swimming. But, what I’m concentrating on this year is durability.

If you want to be able to run well in the later stages of the marathon, you must be durable enough to keep pushing without the wheels coming off. Also, if you want to keep “racing” late in your marathon (as opposed to just surviving) you have to keep the calories coming in. That is why I’ve bumped my calorie intake on the bike to about 2000 calories. Doing so, gives me a full tank to run well through the entire marathon.

In his book, Breakthrough Triathlon Training, race director of the World’s Toughest Half-Ironman, Brad Kearns talks about how once an athlete has a deep base of endurance training and racing, then well-timed, quality sessions, and even races, do more to enhance peak performance than continuing to log weeks of Build-type training. Therefore, a few weeks after Vineman, I put myself through a tough 50k trail run out at Salt Point. My thinking was that this well-timed effort would give me a nice boost in running fitness while further enhancing my durability. The raced shelled me. I had no power on the climbs and it was tough being at a 50k trail run and under-performing as an ultra-runner. But, I reminded myself: this year you are not an ultra-runner.

August wore on and I resumed my triathlon training. After three weeks “off” with that 50k thrown in, my motivation to train has come back slowly. Those three weeks were planned down weeks, ones that are now permitting my mind and body for the final Build to Kona on October 8th.

Here’s where it gets interesting. On Monday, I conducted a 2:45 long run. I warmed up for about 40min and then jumped on 7min pace for 30min. After 30min I bumped it up to 6:45 pace. Then, I lowered it to 6:30 for another 30min. I’m running on soft surface with a bottle of Sustained Energy and Clif Shots. I have a HUGE emphasis right now on my cadence. I’m forcing myself to keep my leg turnover at 85-90 left foot-strikes/min. Conditioning myself to hold cadence, especially late in a run, is what I feels is probably, one of the most important factors in maintaining run speed.

After the half hour at 6:30 pace, I took a 5min jog and was pleased to discover, I had some gas left in the tank and actually wanted to run more, at a faster pace. I hit another split and just pushed hard. For just 3min I was running at 5:55. I came to a gate and decided that was enough. Any more, and I’d be over-reaching versus continuing to lean against my limits.

Starting the school year is a tremendous tax on my available energy. Learning about my 110 new students, Back to School Night, and recovering from that long run, left me feeling pretty flat, all week long. On Friday, I went out on the bike after school, and after 45min of warm-up, I skipped the turn to the big climb and just went on back to my classroom and called it a night. No energy.

Yesterday, after a good’s night’s sleep, I hopped on the tri-bike and did a ride I’ve always wanted to do: Santa Rosa to the lighthouse on Point Reyes. With my 2000 calorie bottle and plenty of water, I took the first half fairly easy. No caffeine and no music to the lighthouse at 62miles. I ate a Clif-Bar at the half-way, as well as a 100mg caffeinated Clif Shot, put on my iPod, with a special “lighthouse” playlist, and had two, approximately hour intervals where I worked pretty hard over rolling terrain. The idea is to train on similar terrain as I’ll find out on the Ironman course on the Big Island. I wore a base layer and arm-warmers to simulate riding in those hot/humid conditions. 125mi with about 8000′ of climbing, five weeks out from Kona, will be the biggest ride I’ll do. Specificity and quality of training is paramount.

Garmin Data – Bike

I had parked my car near the far trail-head of the same trail on which I conduct my long run. I transitioned at my car and within 5min I was out on the run and was delighted (and somewhat baffled) by my pace. Since Monday’s strong long run, I’d been so lethargic, lackluster, and just tired. But, off the bike yesterday, I was able to run 6:05 pace for about 30min at my optimal aerobic heart-rate. Again, I was really emphasizing my cadence and getting in a gel and water.

Salt Point is paying off. My long run on Monday was the strongest I’ve conducted. There is a strength present that was not there in 2007 coming off the bike. Instead of fearing falling apart, and then pacing too conservatively, I’m more confident in my ability to run a sub-3 off the bike in Kona, weather conditions permitting of course. I know that I do have a choice to keep my cadence high, even when I’m suffering to beat the band.

Again, to run sub-3 off the bike, I need to run 6:52/mi. Naturally, it’s nice to come off a pretty hard 7hr ride and run 6:05 for 30min. This will play into my mental game coming off a 5hr bike ride in Kona. I want 6:30s to feel easy, and for as long as possible! If I’m averaging 6:30 to 6:40 for the first 10mi in Kona, and come in and out of the Natural Energy Lab with a cumulative average of about 6:50 to 6:52, then by golly, I can choose to keep my cadence high, use my aid stations wisely, and close out my marathon at 6:52 or better. Salt Point makes it so, as well as the training and racing sown this year.

And then, there’s swimming. If I have a Ph.d in running and a Masters in cycling, then I’m in about 6th grade on the swim. I don’t let it discourage me like it has in years passed. I’ve come to put a lot of stock in the notion that we can improve our limiters but it’s our strengths that we’ll see the most growth, for obvious reasons. I know that swimming is about flow and rhythm. Long and strong. With the bulk of cycling and running behind me, I’ll take the next 5 weeks to swim quite a bit, working up to a set of 10 x 400 and see if I can knock off a few seconds/400 from the set I did about 10 days out from Vineman. God knows I’m a land creature. I have more of a runner’s body-type. I may never love the swim, this is true, but my passion for cycling and enthusiasm for running will see me through, as they always will. Swimming humbles me and I better understand now, at 37, why that is important and why I must keep at it. If I can take my swim to 7th or 8th grade, then I’ll just be that much farther up the road late in the marathon. And that would just be pretty d*mn cool.

My best in Kona is about 9:35. Naturally, I want to improve upon that and, if the Hawaiian gods see fit to give us some reasonable weather, I’d hope to establish a personal best at the distance, improving on my recent PR at Full Vineman of 9:24. And if the conditions are poor, then they’re poor for everybody racing. The process doesn’t change. As Einstein brilliantly wrote, “Full effort is full victory.”

How to Have Your Best Ironman Marathon

“A fast Ironman marathon is not about who runs the fastest, but who slows the least”  -Mark Allen

Mark Allen at the 1989 Hawaii Ironman (his first of six titles)

A lot of folks who come into Ironman Triathlon have some open (stand-alone) marathon experience, or at least some open-half marathons or half-marathons off the bike in 70.3 distance triathlons (half-Ironmans). When athletes start their first Ironman marathon and realize the toll that a 2.4mi swim and a 112mi bike has taken, they’re shocked to discover how slow their pace is compared to their open-marathon/half-marathon pace. Therefore, it’s important going into the Ironman marathon having our expectations aligned with the ultra-distance reality. Anticipation is the heart of wisdom.

Ironman comes down to one thing: the run. You can float through the swim, most times in a buoyant and cozy wetsuit, and you can coast when you’re tired on the bike. But, there is absolutely nowhere to hide on that marathon. My athletes remind me of this fact time and again after they complete their first Ironman-distance triathlon. So, naturally, that’s where I always start looking when I embark on a journey with a new athlete targeting the ultra-distance. “Where is your run?” Ideally, I’ll start working with an athlete early enough in the year, to bank some great run fitness, culminating with a spring marathon, like the Napa Valley Marathon, held in early March. Having this spring marathon in the bank serves two purposes: 1. banking some great run training along the way to the very Ironman-specific objective of having a successful open-marathon. And 2., steeling the mind against the rigors of a very demanding distance. When the athlete arrives at the second transition (bike-to-run), he draws confidence from the fact that he has that spring marathon in his legs. He knows, “If I’ve done it [at least] once, well h*ll, I can do it again.” But a strong body and mind running is only a piece of the puzzle. Success in the Ironman marathon is actually predicated upon superior bike fitness.

I remember meeting a very confident guy at an Ironman carbo-dinner once. He was there to do his first Ironman. He wasn’t shy about informing me about his running prowess. He had already run several marathons under 2:30. I told him that was awesome and it bested my marathon personal best by 10min. Having had a poor showing at my first Ironman and at the time of this conversation took place, with some five or six more IMs to my name, I advised the guy to take it easy on the bike. He wouldn’t have it. After the race, scrolling down and down some more on the results page I found him; he had a good swim, a rocking bike, but didn’t manage to break 4hrs on the run, let alone 3 like he wanted. Like me, he had to learn the hard way. Some of us are just knuckleheads. Or, some of us find out early exactly where our limits are and come back and have the race that lives up to our potential.

So the run’s the tough part. It comes at the end, after you’ve been at it for a long while. If you think about the dynamics of the event, on average, a poor swim is only going to set you back some 5-10min. A poor bike ride’s only going to add 10-15min. But, a bad run? If you started your marathon averaging 8min miles, and then started walking, you just dropped to somewhere in the neighborhood of 18min/mi and may end up adding an hour or more to your overall race time. Again, there’s nowhere to hide. This little scenario is what happened to me during my first Ironman in Lake Placid, back in 2001. I came into the sport with 2+ years of marathoning under my belt, like my acquaintance with the 2:30 marathon best. I thought I could push the bike as hard as I wanted and would be able to run a smokin’ marathon. That certainly wasn’t the case; I was walking by mile 9, completely dumbfounded. I walk-jogged my way to a 10:45 Ironman, well below my target race time. And so it goes. We learn. I would come back to Lake Placid a year later, pace the bike better and shave 45min off my overall time and qualify for the big dance in Kona. Redemption feels good.

Chrissie Wellington

The Ironman marathon really isn’t about running fast. It’s about maintaining a “slow” pace, relative to your open run times, while being okay with it in your head. Interestingly enough, Mark Allen’s first marathon actually came in his very first marathon, which was in his first Hawaii Ironman! This is fascinating from a sports psychology perspective since his experience was opposite what most peoples’ is; he immediately internalized what running a marathon under a tropical sun feels like. This certainly paved the way for his future success in Hawaii. After this initial marathon, he raced an Ironman in Europe, where it’s much cooler, and discovered that, Hey!, I can run a whole heck of a lot faster here! That was back in the day when all you had to do to get into Kona was send in your check and registration. Most folks who qualify for Kona these days do so at events that have cooler temps on the run. When they go to Hawaii with expectations to run at the same pace they ran at their qualifier, they quickly become discouraged, if they haven’t anticipated it.

It’s HOT out there on the Queen K!!

Conditions on the day really dictate how fast you’ll cover the 140.6mi. Wind and heat will slow you down. We have to be ready for this. I look to my own Kona times in 2004 and 2007. In 2007, I crossed the finish line 20min faster than in 2004! But, when I saw the results, I was about 50 places down from where I’d been just three years prior. Why? Well, mostly because the conditions were simply tougher in ’04. I took to heart what Paula Newby-Fraser said to us at the carbo-dinner two nights before the race that year: “Expect nothing. Be prepared for anything.” Again, anticipation is the heart of wisdom. That was some great wisdom coming from a great champion. I was sold.

The swim in ’04 threw some big swells at us that day. The winds on the Queen-K and coming down from Hawi were treacherous. I remember getting onto the marathon thinking I must be down by so much, having the swim I did and being considerably slower than my bike ride at my qualifying race in Placid that July. I ran on, wondering still, “How am I doing in this race, anyway?” I finished up the day chasing a buddy I’d met in Placid (who I never caught). I pushed and pushed and pushed to that magical finish line on Alii Drive. Pleased with my modest improvement over my time there in 2002. But, I was even more satisfied with the effort when I saw the results. It was striking. I ended up around 70th overall, and the 11th American (I think I was the 2nd fastest American educator!).

The moral of the story, is that it’s not over ’til it’s over. Like Mark Allen, I was naive about the race. My expectations, at the time, was “this is the hardest race on the planet. It’s going to be tough. Deal with whatever the race throws at you. Don’t fight it. Expect nothing and be prepared for anything. Listen to Newby. She’s knows what she’s talking about.”

Chris McCormack And Andreas Raelert Battle In Kona – Photo John Segasta


I now want to touch on a few areas that will help you realize your full potential in the Ironman marathon: Training, Refueling, Pacing, and Expectations.


What we’re looking for in training and what I lay out for my athletes is pretty basic:  one long run per week (2-3hrs in duration), one endurance brick (bike/run) per week (7hrs max) and one ironman-specific “speed brick.” I also like to see one endurance swim mixed in there when the local water temp’s up. In training, we’re seeking to improve not only our metabolic endurance but also our mental endurance. We have to ensure our minds are up to the lofty task of dealing with a 140.6mi endurance event!

“Endurance for the Ironman marathon is developed on the bike.”  -Luis Vargas

The brick workouts serve to teach the body that the bike ride is not the end of the workout. I like to refer to this as reality training. If we can muster the mental will to run 30-75min after having ridden for 5-7hrs, then we’ll certainly have an easier time dealing with that reality when we arrive at the second transition, and, maybe even get a little excited to get out there and pound the pavement too! No kidding.


It’s been stated exhaustingly, that eating is the fourth leg of the triathlon. This becomes increasingly true the longer the endurance event. I put down some 50-60 gels in last year’s Tahoe Rim Trail 100mi Run. You just need to keep those calories coming in. But, that’s tricky, since as the day wears on, it usually becomes increasingly difficult for our bodies to absorb those calories. Humans really weren’t designed to eat while running. We have to condition ourselves to this little trick, and do so while moving at relatively low aerobic effort levels so that there’s actually some blood flow to the stomach to pick up and use some of those calories we’re gulping down.

So, as you would surmise, we attempt to duplicate in racing the refueling strategy we’ve practiced in training. Sometimes, it actually works too! Unfortunately, all the training and fitness we’ve worked for gets wasted if our refueling plan doesn’t work in the race. It’s certainly a good plan to try and take in about 300-400 liquid calories per hour on the bike ride. I mix up a 1400-1600cal “meal” bottle that I sip (and chase with plenty of water!) over the course of the 5:00-5:15 I’m on the bike. The gulps I take early in the 112mi bike will be bigger than the gulps I take toward the end of the bike, since, it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to keep processing the high maltodextrin based “pancake batter” substance I’m using.

Kevin Buchholz, owner of Echelon Cycle & Multisport once taught me a cool trick to better ration my meal bottle. You take your estimated ride time and break them up into hours. You can then take a magic marker and place, what I’ll call, “consumption lines” on your meal bottle. Imagine, the distance between the lines at the top will be larger than the distance of the lines at the bottom given that you want to ingest more calories early, while you still can. You simply monitor your bottle level over the duration of the ride, ensuring you’re consuming enough. I like to take in calories with water on a 20min interval (time 20, 40, and 60 respectively). This eating interval, or nutrition schedule as it’s called, works like a charm at keeping my energy in balance with no spikes or crashes. And when the engine is well-fueled, it can be most efficient. We want to arrive at the bike-to-run transition in the best shape possible. Sometimes we nail it in our first attempt. Sometimes it takes years of trying, and failing, to dial in a nutrition strategy that works.

In Chris McCormack’s new book, “I’m Here to Win,” he’s written a chapter entitled “Coke, the World’s Best Sports Drink.” He reminded me that mindlessly forcing 400cal per hour into my stomach is usually not the wisest thing to do. Therefore, taking in more maltodextrin based calories early and moving to simple sugars like energy gels on the run, and, as a last resort, Coke. I’ve always held out taking Coke on the marathon until as late as possible. Now, I know when it’s time. That time usually comes for me somewhere around mile 20 of the marathon, when my exertion is the hardest it’s been all day.

Chris “Macca” McCormack

“What [Macca and his coach] decided was that as the heat picked up and my [Macca’s] heart rate climbed, I would take in less fuel as the race went on. So I start at 500 calories per hour, and then go down. At the same time I simplify the sugars, so as the blood leaves my stomach, I’m giving my body very simple sugars to break down; sugars that turn almost instantly to glucose and gives me the energy I need” [i.e., Coke!] (p.174).


Great marathon pacing starts on the bike. If you’re a strong cyclist, then you can conserve on the bike ride, leaving you with more to give your marathon. If the bike is a limiter for you, then you want to give extra attention to your refueling on the bike so that you set yourself up for an effective run. Effective meaning, not slowing rather than running fast.

Note: If you are “racing” any portion of the 112mi ride, you are going too fast!!

You must play it smart on the bike, that’s all it comes down too. Know yourself, and execute an well-informed and intelligent race plan.

As you get to within 2mi of “T2,” the bike-to-run transition, be sure to back off the effort. Allow your heart-rate to fall and your legs to flush. Transition smoothly and ease into the run, concentrating only on running easy over at least the first 5k. Then, build it from there.

Run/Walking. There’s nothing wrong with walking during your marathon, if it’s done while consuming calories with fluids through your aid stations, which typically come up every mile on the marathon. If your race-plan incorporates walking then you want to ensure you begin walking your aid stations right off the bat, in those early miles. Walk early when you don’t have to, to ensure you’re still running between aid stations late in the marathon.

Plan your aid stations. Know what you want before you arrive. Keep moving through each station. Typically, at least at WTC races, you’ll have two opportunities to get ice, gels, water, Coke, and sponges, etc.

Finally, if the Gods are smiling down on you, with 10miles to go in your marathon, you can start racing! Until this point, you want to keep the intensity at a strong training day level.

Until this point, you want to keep the intensity at a strong training day level.


Keep in mind too, that as we gain experience in racing ultra-events, our perspective changes over time. I remember, vividly, in Kona 2002, sitting in T2, simply bewildered by the daunting task before me:  running 26.2miles in 90deg heat. I had yet to learn how to pre-program my head to break the race down into more manageable pieces. Now, I look at the marathon as 26 little races inside the bigger one. It really helps me to just concentrate on maintaining my pace and form to the next aid station, whether I’m in a marathon or a 100 mile trail run. It’s all about getting to the next aid station, knowing what I’m going to do when I get there, and then re-commiting my body and mind to the next aid station down the road. Coming into the race, the only expectations I have are that I’m going to execute my process-driven race plan to the very best of my ability. I’ll worry about my time after the race.

To recap, if you’re a runner, the Ironman marathon will NEVER feel like you’re going fast. So, expect this and readjust your gauge coming in. We never really know when we’re having the race of our life, as I was in Kona 2004. Sometimes, it just feels like we’re in no man’s land, lost in a sea of foot-strikes and Dixie cups. But, surely, it ain’t over out there ’til it’s over. I’ve once won an open marathon in the final mile. You just never know who’s going to blow up and at what moment. We can only hope it’s not us!!

Let me finish up here by talking about your mental toughness in those late stages of your Ironman marathon. If you’re doing your job, it’s simply going to hurt like hell. But in a good way of course. After all, you’re in control of how much is hurts. You can stop at any moment and relieve your suffering. But that’s that draw for us: overcoming the pain and discomfort, with our minds, so that we can truly see not only our potential, but find out what we’re made of. You don’t want to be a “mental milkshake,” a term the Macca uses to describe athletes that consistently fall apart when the pressure’s on. We can all develop coping strategies, like Macca’s mental “files” to help us keep it together.

“Expect to want to quit 1000 times out there and know this is normal, not a sign that you should quit.”  -Mark Allen

I’ve conditioned myself over the years in endurance racing to narrow my focus internally as the discomfort increases, which has resulted in some wrong turns in pivotal moments of various events. But usually, this focus on the present moment, on a strong positive attitude, my conscious breathing, and my efficient form sees me through, every time. We listen to our bodies and pace and fuel all day, until the point comes where there’s 30-60min remaining. From that point, it’s certainly more about the mind than the body. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more adept at managing the discomfort. Experience has its virtues. And I’m always grateful to simply be out there, dicing it up with 50-2600 other dedicated athletes, who represent something very special to me:  the desire to live life at the top of their powers. That’s cool.

“Give 100% of what you have to give, even if you are in a 10% situation.” -Mark Allen

Coach Bob – Hawaii Ironman Marathon – October 2007

>>>  It ain’t over ’til it’s over. So Point Positive!!!  >>>


Napa Valley Marathon – 2011

What a day out on the Silverado Trail! The 33rd annual Napa Valley Marathon represents a gateway event for Point Positive athletes. Ted Neal, pictured below, knocked 20min off his personal marathon best today and is now eager to see what he can lop off of his American River 50mi time in April.  The Borg boys were out in full force, minus one or two, but grow collectively stronger with each passing day. All told, we had four Point Positive athletes complete the marathon today. Congrats to Rod, David, and Matt for their hard work and great attitudes. All these guys are just good fun to be around. Although, we all agree, Greg G.’s support from start to finish was incredibly helpful, we’d all rather see him in the race, suffering with us, if for no other reason than this way he can’t catch us doing stupid sh*t on the course, like timing us in the porta-john or almost running off course, etc. (not that these things happened today).

Ted Neal talking to a potential shoe sponsor after his marathon.
Rod Matteri and David Tett after doing battle on the marathon course.

I’m fading fast here but will say I enjoyed myself out there today. First time I ever used my Garmin in a road marathon; pretty easy to throttle back and set pace. Went out at 6:00/mi and held pretty well through 13. Took gels every 30min; decaf at 30 and 60 and 100mg Clif Shot at 1:30. That Shot and running legend “Boston” Bill Rodgers telling me to “Drink my drinks!” around the same time really got me fired up through some tough middle miles. Right around 16, I was thinking to myself, “This is great. I’ve really missed running road marathons.” Those thoughts faded about a mile or so later. Back to work.

My endurance has never been more rock-solid thanks to the last 3 years of ultra-running. I’ve built some great base, but base built running relatively slowly, compared to my pace today. All in all, I was pleased with the effort I was able to muster over the final 10k. Looking forward to running off the bike this year. Give me a good day, and I might just be able to string together some 6:52 miles for my first sub-3 Ironman marathon. A guy can dream.

Well, probably the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me late in a marathon was getting smoked at the finish by a guy dressed up like a superhero. Some guys worry about getting beat by the gals. I don’t really mind getting “chicked” since I “grew up” in Ironman racing getting chicked all the time by the female pros. But, howabout a guy dressed up like Spiderman!?! I just wasn’t having this. Turns out, this funny scenario of running down ol’ Spidey turned into some serious motivation late in the race. “I just can’t get beat by that guy, whoever the h*ll he is.”  >>>

So, I pushed and pushed and noticed the web-slinger seemed to be slowing some. With only a few hundred yards to go we were shoulder to shoulder. Yes! Wait, NO!!! Our super-hero put on a spurt to beat the band and left me trailing many seconds behind, leaving me completely bewildered and wondering how it’s possible to lose to some dude in his pajamas.

Read on…

I’d had messaged with an acquaintance, Ian Sharman, the day before on Facebook. I had looked around at the start and did not see him. So when the mask came off at the finish and I made the surreal discovery that Spiderman was Ian and Ian was Spiderman, I thought for a second I might be dreaming this whole bizarre chain of events.

Like they say, expect nothing and be prepared for anything; you just never know what will turn into a huge source of motivation late in a marathon. No doubt, without being taunted to dig deep, I would surely have run a minute or two slower today. All thanks to our friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

“Nobody knows who you are!”  (photo by Brett Rivers, another nemesis!!)
Cruising down the Silverado Trail, in pursuit of a superhero… (photo by Brett Rivers)
An unmasked Ian Sharman, complete with new/reclaimed Guiness Book world record: “Fastest marathon dressed as a super-hero.” I’ve come to find out he does this on a regular basis!!  (photo by Brett Rivers)


Back in the classroom tomorrow. Time change next weekend. And time to change gears from running to full-on triathlon training. Looking forward to my first Wildflower Long Course in May!!

Point Positive!

Long-Course Triathlon – the Basics

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed working with newer Ironman triathletes is that they soon come to terms with the fact that Ironman is less about racing, and more about patient pacing. I often reiterate that it’s actually quite boring, as opposed to bike racing, for example. Gratification, though delayed, does come when the athlete has done the requisite amount of work in training, has tapered well, and executes a smart swim and bike. “It all comes down to that marathon coach,” I’ve heard time and time again. You want to arrive at that critical junction in a long-course race confident and ready to run tough. If, with 10mi to go in the marathon, you want to race, then step on the gas, if you find you have another gear remaining that is.

Here are some notes I’ve recently compiled on setting up our year of long-course triathlon training. Let’s hit our sessions and work mindfully to maintain a healthy balance of training and recovery. Your long-term enjoyment of the sport depends on it.

First off, a periodized training plan gets us to where we want to be; breaking up large periods of times into smaller, more manageable chunks that are used to guide training in order to optimize the physiological adaptations. Determining your Optimal Aerobic Heart-Rate (OAH) is one step in the process. The OAH is the heart-rate an Iron-distance athlete would hold for the majority of the 112mi bike ride still be able to run an effective marathon.

Note: most athletes in January will notice that it’s particularly difficult to keep their heart-rates down in their OAH due in part to the fact that they are just returning to training and experiencing a reduction in aerobic efficiency. It’s January, that’s normal! With frequency and consistency, soon the athlete will be cycling and running faster while at their OAH.

Testing: I am asking all of my athletes to conduct some pre-season tests, to include a 30-45min cycling test, seated, preferably on a climb. Also, athletes will conduct a 6-10mi running test on a flat surface at their OAH. Athletes are asked to report the time at their established OAH as well as distance and pace in both the cycling and running tests. Testing continues at appropriate times within the periodized plan. It is ongoing and allows for quantification of athlete’s progress within training. We then hold ourselves accountable to the data.

It is important to know that periodization is based on the training principles of: Progression, Overload, & Specificity. As Emerson so aptly stated, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed but our ability to do has increased.” So, over time, you can do more work (but only when you’re consistent). Your body has to be really convinced your serious about your training before it makes the physiological adaptations that allow you to reach new levels. So, overload training is a vital part of any long-course training plan. You want to get faster? Then we may want to consider doing more work than we did last year, or, if time’s a factor, we need to get creative with your available time to train and specifically target those areas that are truly holding you back.

It’s January, let’s look at Running. We’re stressing the body through our run training. Cumulative run training obviously produces a strain on the body. The response is the body will, at nature’s pace, adapt physiologically, thereby increasing your running economy/efficiency. The short-term effects of your run training include: increased muscle blood flow and increased oxygen delivery to working muscles. The long-term effect of a high frequency running program are increased capillary density and increased mitochondrial density. Recall, that mitochondria are the power-house of the cell. My how your body loves the frequency. It’s the big “convincer,” which expedites those physiological adaptations!!

Moving on, here are some other notes on Long-Course racing we should be considering in the pre-season:

Ironman Performance Targets:

Fast Age-Grouper: 10-12 hours / Normal Age-Grouper: 12-14 hours /  Slower Age-Grouper: 14+ hours

Regardless of the finishing time, an Ironman event is an AEROBIC event, usually conducted in Zone 2, otherwise known as your Extensive Endurance Zone. Your OAH is the heart-rate at which you will want to sit on in order to see your peak potential in an Ironman distance event. Above 65% of your max h/r and you’re simply “burning too many matches” and you’ll experience a sub-par marathon. Extensive aerobic training as well as training to save energy, therefore, produce the biggest bang for the buck.

Specificity!! Such a big thing to keep in mind with long-course racing. 80% of what we do in Ironman preparation is addressing your muscular endurance. If you want speed, then show me you can handle consistent 15 – 20 hour training weeks without breaking down. There is a time and place for Ironman-specific speed-work and it’s not typically conducted in the overload period. Again, if you have a substantial amount of aerobic base in the bank coming into your Ironman, that and mostly that is what’s going to carry you over the race. Muscular Endurance is where it’s at.

Limiters – most people are not truly able to analyze their own limiters. That’s why people have a coach! We can talk about where you’re strong and where you still need some work. Endurance, of course, is the first place I’m going to focus.

Endurance is defined as the ability to delay or prevent the onset of fatigue. How far can you go??

Endurance workouts are general volume based workouts, at a low intensity (OAH or lower). Not only volume is important, but for swimming and running, frequency is more important to maintain the neuromechanical connections in addition to the technique required.

Quality vs. Quantity

Quality workouts are efforts that once completed, have met all of the objectives we have laid out. In general, interval or intense training sessions need to be of the highest quality possible.

Quantity (volume) refers to the simple number and volume of the workouts. For running and swimming, frequency, in general, is the key! Quantity maintains technique as well as maintains and creates those fabulous neuromechanical connections!

In reality, if you are training for more than about 12 hours per week, recovery becomes more important than the actual workouts!

Recovery!! (Muscular / Metabolic / Mental)

Muscular recovery is self- explanatory. If you are continually training and training without proper recovery, the quality of the workouts will be compromised and at some point, we will not be able to workout due to injury.

Metabolic (fuel) recovery is just as important as the muscular recovery since it’s supplying the fuel to the muscles in addition to the nutrients they need to repair themselves properly. If you are not replenishing the fuel you are using, you will, AT BEST not see the extent of the physiological adaptations you are looking for, and at worst, end up injured. A great resource for racing and training nutrition is “Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes” by Bob Seebohar, which I first introduced last January.

Mental recovery is also self-explanatory… for most age-groupers, training 2 times per day has the ability to take a toll on the person’s motivations… adding a day off into the training program each week is a great way to recharge the mental side of training! Also, a periodized plan will have recovery weeks inserted a key places, allowing the athlete’s batteries to recharge.

Swim Training >>> Demands of the Race:

2.4 mile open water swim We need to be able to cover 2.4 miles as efficiently as possible. You cannot set a new PR during the swim, but you can ensure you don’t set a new PR during the swim!

Key Swim Workouts
To Finish: Focus on endurance workouts that will allow you to comfortably swim the 2.4 miles
To Compete: Focus on longer steady-state efforts at T-Pace Ex: 5 x 500 @ Threshold Pace on 20m recovery interval, for example

Bike Training – Demands of the Race >>>

112 miles over variable terrain. We need to know the course to ensure our training is appropriate (IMAZ vs. IMWI)
For most age-groupers, it’s highly advisable that they stay in Zone 2!

Key Bike Workouts –
To Finish: Focus on endurance workouts that will allow you to comfortably ride the 112 miles in addition to some of the workouts on the next slide, but at the lower end of the recommended numbers

To Compete:

1. Maintaining the proper intensity for 5+ hours, with the proper mental focus

2.Longer efforts in Zone 4 such as 3-5 x 15 – 20min in Z4 w/ recovery equal to 75 – 100% of the work time, for example
3. Five to eight by 2 – 4min in Zone 5 w/ recovery equal to 50% the work time. Of course, these need to fit into a periodized training plan.

Run Training – Demands of the Race >>>

26.2 miles of running, after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112!!

Key Run Workouts –

To Finish: Focus on endurance workouts that will allow you to comfortably run a marathon.

To Compete:

1. Two to five  by 10 – 20min @ Steady State/Tempo effort. RPE ~7 (out of 10)

2. One and two mile repeats at Threshold pace (starting at 3 miles and working up to 10-15 in a session

Note: My post today was adapted from Ryan Riell’s USAT Webinar on Ironman Basics.