Friday, December 26, 2014

Reflections on 2014

This year was one of frustration, learning and patience. After last season's failure of qualifying for Kona I had high hopes for 2014. I had put my plans for Kona on the back-burner and would focus on two key races: the Boston Marathon and 70.3 World Champs. The first race ended with many painful miles of walking to finish and the second finished quite well considering how the rest of the year had gone.

I felt that given my improved fitness last year that I could have a good result at Boston, hopefully close to 2:50. Training, which began in December, was promising. Coach Steve had me doing some workouts that included long runs with several 5k's in the middle, and I was hitting those in around 19:30. The pace felt hard, but sustainable. However, on a long run in February things came to a crushing halt.

I was on a portion of the course in Wellesley, when my left knee began to hurt. Initially, I brushed it off as one of those strange pains that seem to come and go while running every once and a while. However, after a couple miles it was getting painfully obvious that this wasn't going away. I began to walk, realizing that it was my IT Band that was the culprit. I'd had some ITB issues about four years ago, but this seemed to come from nowhere. Mileage was lower than for previous marathons, but my body wasn't happy with how I was running.

Over the next several weeks I began doing some strengthening exercises and also started to see a chiropractor for Graston and ART. Without running the leg felt fine, but when I did try to run things would start to hurt after around 40 minutes. I played with doing two shorter runs a day, but the pain persisted. As the marathon got closer I decided to try a cortisone shot, as I felt there wasn't much else to do. The shot helped a bit, but it only got me to around mile 14 before the pain returned. The last 9-10 miles of the race were pretty ugly, as I walked from the 95 overpass to Boylston St, attempting to run several times, but only making it a few hundred yards at a time. For those who have had ITBS, you know the pain. If you haven't experienced it, an easy way to picture it is having a sharp object stab into your leg with each step - fun times! Here I am saying bye to Katie and Jackson around mile 15 - it would be walking most of the way after this.

I was frustrated, and honestly didn't know what to do. After the race I took a good chunk of time off from running and tried to focus on getting my hips and glutes stronger. I also began seeing a PT instead of the chiropractor. My first triathlon didn't take place until mid July when I was on Nantucket visiting my folks. I did a sprint and an Olympic back-to-back and ran the farthest I'd run since February in once session! I only had some mild pain and felt a little hopeful.

As the rest of the summer progressed I was still optimistic. The Olympic on Nantucket gave me hope that things would get better. At the same time I was a bit depressed, and every time I saw someone running I felt a bit jealous. As mid August rolled around I was planning on racing Timberman in NH. Going into the race my longest run was 8 miles the weekend prior, and my leg hurt for the last three miles. However, on race day things went relatively well. I had a decent swim and bike and my leg only hurt mildly during the race. Of course, my pace was much slower than in the past simply due to a lack of speed and endurance - duh!

Three weeks after Timberman was the 70.3 Worlds in Tremblant. It was my third time racing at Tremblant, and I had renewed confidence after Timberman. I got in a little training between races, then Katie, Jackson & I headed up to Quebec just a week after school began (using my two personal days for the school year up in the first week!).

Race day came, and I feel things went as well as they could considering my injury and lack of training throughout the year. I had splits of 31, 2:18 and 1:33 for a 4:30 finish. Going into the year my goal was a top 25 finish in my AG - that would have meant a time of around 4:20. What if's are hard to back up, but I felt I could have been quite close to that time if the year had gone well. Here's the bike racked and ready to roll.

I feel that injuries are a time of reflection, and a time to learn something knew. In this case, I learned that my body has limitations and that I need to listen to what my body is telling me a bit more carefully. As I get older I'm realizing that it's probably a sensible idea to mix in some specific strength exercises a few times a week to target certain areas. I plan on trying to also do one yoga session each week to work a bit more on flexibility and core strength.

After Tremblant my sights were set on another race six weeks later, the Marine Corps Maraton in VA. It was to be Katie's first marathon, and my 5th. I wrote up a 18 week training plan for her, peaking with around 45 miles and two long runs of 2:40 or so in duration. I felt that she had a chance to run under 4 hours, but that pacing would be important.

In next six weeks I managed to get in a bit more run volume, and the IT Band finally seemed to start responding to my persistent strength exercises. I was able to get in around 35-40 miles a week for four weeks, including a long run of 15+ miles. I was honestly a bit more worried about getting through the marathon than for Katie to finish in a good time.

The race was to be our first night away from Jackson, and it was a little hard for Katie. We had contemplated taking Jackson and having him stay with friends in Alexandria for the day, but we are happy that we decided to have him stay at home. On race morning we were up early, and were bussed to the start near the Pentagon. We ended up being a little rushed and had to jog to the start to be on time. The race went as well as it could have, and Katie finished in 3:56. Below are the splits for the day - we actually negatively split the race. This was undoubtedly my proudest moment of the year. I can see why coaches get excited when their athletes are successful!

Since the end of October training has been pretty minimal, trying to let my injury get 100% better. I averaged around 5-6 hours a week for November, and have only recently gotten up to around 8 hrs a week. In January I'll start working with my good friend Colin Cook at Peak Tri Coaching. Over the past few years Colin has taken his own racing to an elite level, and I want a piece of that. He is also coaching a number of athletes on Northeast Multisport, my tri team, and many have set PR's under his guidance. I'm looking forward to being under his tutelage in 2015.

Back in July we bought a new house, and we moved in right after the Marine Corps Marathon. We put on an addition, redid the kitchen, refinished all the floors, and repainted most of the house. Of course, the project took around five weeks longer than 'estimated' by our GC, but everything turned out ok in the end. One of the things I was psyched about was having the space to set up a workout area that could be permanent. Here is a shot of what I've got so far.

The treadmill is new and has already come in handy on some nasty weather days when I otherwise wouldn't be able to run or would have gone the gym in the past. With a little guy in the house it's a lot easier for one of us to jump on the treadmill for 30-60 minutes at a time rather than head outside. I imagine I'll be spending a good chunk of time here over the next 3-4 months before the weather outside gets better. In a way I'm glad I'm not doing any marathon training over the winter - I've done up to 17 miles on the treadmill, but that's pushing it. I definitely prefer outside for my long runs when possible. 

Looking ahead, with Katie's blessing, I've decided to give Kona another crack in 2015. I have registered for IM Tremblant again. My goal isn't to simply qualify, but to win my AG. Of course, this is dependent on who shows up. I know there are plenty of folks in my AG that are faster. However, I feel that if I am able to execute on race day, including nutrition (which was lacking in 2013), there aren't many people who I can't beat. I'm all to aware that IM racing can come down to seconds in terms of a KQ, and I'm hoping that this time around I won't be concerned with such a small fraction of the race day determining my end goal. One thing I've learned is that time goals in IM are pretty meaningless. It is who finishes first at the end of the day, and I plan on being damn close to that. 

I was surprised a bit this year by my ability to come close to a HIM PR in Tremblant given my low overall training volume. Here are the training volumes for the past two years:

                  SWIM                BIKE                RUN
2013:    510,000 yds        4,750 miles     1,660 miles
2014     298,000 yds        3,160 miles     1,190 miles

The overall number of hours is nearly 200 less this year. I guess that consistent training over the previous four years was able to help me out a bit. Numbers should rebound next year to be closer to the 2013 levels. 

I want to thank Steve Johnson of DarkHorse MultiSport for coaching me in 2013 and through September of 2014. His insight was helpful and I have become a better athlete as a result of working with him. THANKS STEVE!!

Here is to a happy 2015! I hope that I am able to take the lessons I've learned, move forward, and become a more resilient athlete in the future. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Europe, Timberman & 70.3 WC

Looking back, it's been a little over three months since my last post. Many things have transpired since then. First, we took a two week trip to England, Scotland & Iceland, which was amazing. We managed to see Wimbledon, Henley, and the Tour de France on three consecutive days while in England. Scotland was quite the contrast as we were staying in a mountainous area, and all of my runs were quite hilly. I also managed to swim in a chilly Scottish Loch. Our two days in Iceland were breathtaking, and is definitely on our list of places to revisit. 

Here Jackson and I are waiting for the peleton to ride by in Ripon on day 1 of the TDF:

While on our trip we were constantly in contact with our bank and lawyer, as we were selling and buying a new house on the same day. In the end everything worked out, and we closed on both the sale and purchase on July 31st. During this period of time we traveled down to visit my parents on Nantucket Island, where I did a weekend double of a sprint on Saturday and an Olympic on Sunday. On limited fitness, I was able to win my AG in both races, but was a far way off from where I would have liked my fitness to be. Having not biked for our two weeks away, having limited swimming, and battling an IT Band injury, I took the races in stride.

I was able to get in a decent five weeks or so of training prior to Timberman in mid August. My long rides were up to around 3 hours, but my runs were short, getting in 20 or less miles per week. My longest run was 8.5 miles a week prior to Timberman, and that was cut short because my IT Band hurt. I wasn't going into the race with much optimism.


Race day arrived, and I drove the hour and half from the in-laws condo in Jackson, NH to the race site, where I'd racked my bike the previous day. My swim time was a shade over 33 min - probably about what my swim fitness warranted, and I got on the bike feeling like it was time to hammer. Normally, I'm able to average in the 275-280 watt range for a HIM, but my bike legs still hadn't returned, and I averaged 256 watts, still giving me a 2:22 ride. Not awful, but I had definitely been hoping to be around 2:17-2:18.

Heading into T2 I had no clue how my body would respond. This was to be my longest run since April. The run course at Timberman is some rolling terrain with some flatter sections at the turnarounds. I was hoping to be in the low 1:30's, but my pace gradually faded and I ended up with a 1:36 run. My IT Band didn't hurt that much and really played no role in my run. The lack of run fitness and overall run volume was the main culprit here. My total race time was 4:35, good for 8th in the AG and 56th overall.

I felt like Timberman was a good test for Tremblant three weeks later. I had a little confidence in my run getting a bit faster if I was able to be relatively pain free. In between the two races, school started up again and Katie and I returned to the classroom, both of us teaching 3rd grade this year. Jackson also returned to daycare and the days of less sleep returned.

After two weeks of school, we headed up towards Tremblant on a Thursday evening, spending the night in Burlington along the way. We arrived in Tremblant around noon time on Friday, and I waited in the long registration line. Eventually, we were able to get into our hotel, which was literally feet from the run course and about a two minute walk from transition. I highly recommend staying in the village to anyone who is racing the 70.3 or 140.6. This was our third time there for a race, and it's very convenient to park your car and be able to get everywhere by foot.

I got in a short run Friday evening, then a short swim and ride on Saturday morning. I was able to catch up with Colin a bit on Saturday, and I've decided that I'll be working with him in 2015. My goal for next year is quite simple - get to Kona. Two main areas of focus going forward will be strength, especially working on getting over the IT Band issues, and nutrition for IM racing. Of course, there will probably be a fair bit of training thrown in there as well.

70.3 World Champs at Mont Tremblant:

Race morning arrived, and I headed down to breakfast, which opened at 5 AM for athletes. With the 8 AM pro start, I was actually able to go back to bed for an hour before heading to transition to set up my bike. Next stop was back to the hotel to say bye to Katie and Jackson and put on my wetsuit. It was only around 45 degrees, so I wanted to have my wetsuit on for the walk to the beach.

The start at this race was cool as usual. The fly over by a fighter jet was quickly followed by the pro start. I got in a short warmup then headed to the start with some of the fastest guys in the world. Strangely, I wasn't nervous. Maybe it was because I had no real expectations or because I had an injury plagued season. My plan was to stick to the middle of the swim course and try to find some feet to pull me around the 1.2 miles.


It turned out being my best HIM swim to date - I felt nice and relaxed and was able to do a little bit of drafting. With most racers being better than me it wasn't hard to find some feet to try and hold on to. I was pretty happy to come out of the water and see 31 min on my watch. Hopefully next year I'll be able to get down to around 30 min.

Look at all those people exiting the water who got to draft off me!


The run into T1 was pretty long, but I was able to pass a few folks, get my things on relatively quickly, and get out onto the bike course, where I quickly realized my bike legs were going to show up. The bike was pretty uneventful and I was pretty happy with the bike ride. I was about 4 min faster than on this course two years ago on similar power. I think I was smarter about my power output since this was my third time on this course (70.3 and 140.6 in last two years).

There were tons of draft packs that formed with 50+ riders in them. Luckily I was able to avoid them, but kind of disappointing to see.

This course has rolling hills for a majority of the ride. There is a seven or so mile stretch that is slightly uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. On this section I was able to cruise at around 24 mph on the way out and 28 or so on the way back. On the climbs I tried to keep the wattage below 350, but that was pretty hard, especially on the steeper stuff in the last 10k out and back near the village.

Right around the time we passed the village and headed out for the last little turn around I was passed by 5-6 guys who were riding strong. I decided I'd do my best to stick with them, and I ended up riding legally with them, passing on some of the downs and being passed on the ups. Chris Thomas was one of the guys, and I hung with him on this last bit. He has won his AG at worlds before, so being able to ride at his pace for the last 20k was kind of cool.

Bike Profile:

I went through 28 miles in 1:07, but knowing the course, realized I had no shot at a 2:14 split. The second half of the ride has more elevation gain, and I rode that part in 1:11. Looking back at the data I probably could have been slightly above 280 watts and still had a similar run - my avg HR was only 154, and it is usually in the upper 150's for a HIM.

Power Profile - Notice how I only had around 10-12 spikes of 400+ watts over the first 45 miles, but nearly 15 in the last 11 or so miles where there were some steep, punchy out of the saddle climbs:

I came off the bike feeling good, but had no clue how the run would go.The overall time on my watch heading into transition was around 2:55.


I decided to target a 7ish pace, and was able to hit that for the most part on the first loop. The run course was changed for this race from a single loop to a double loop. By doing this they essentially doubled the elevation, as the omitted part was virtually a flat 3-mile out and back. Each of the two loops included a nasty little hill near the lake that was hit in both directions, and a steep climb in the pedestrian village.

At the end of the first loop I was right around 45:30 on my watch, and had the hope that running the same time for the second loop would sneak me under the 4:30 mark for the day. Two years ago I went 4:35 in the 70.3, so I was confident I'd be able to beat that time. Unfortunately, on the second loop my lack of run fitness caught up to me and I ended up around 47 min.

I feel that if I hadn't been injured a good run on this course would have been around 1:25-1:27 and a time in the low 4:20's. However, I was still pleased with my overall race given my fitness and lack of training this year compared with last year.

Slightly Bumpy Run Profile:

My overall time was 4:30:27, good for 60th in the M35-39 and 366th overall. My goal at the start of the season had been a top 25 AG placing at this race. Looking at times, 25th in my AG was 4:20. Had training gone well this season, I could have been a little quicker on the bike and with a solid run I think I would have been pretty close to that time.

Right as I crossed the finish some guy sprinted by and did a flying karate kick, and ended up sliding down the finish ramp on his knees. Quite the photo bomb!

Moving forward, I'll be running the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October, pacing my wife Katie in her first marathon. My run training will be quite light over the next six weeks, but I should be able to get through the marathon, hopefully getting Katie a finish somewhere in the 4:00-4:30 range.

November and December will be a time to begin to really focus on working on strength training, getting my injury dealt with, and looking forward to starting to train for IMMT in 2015. I'm definitely hoping that 2015 is a much better season than 2014 has been.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Injuries and Setbacks.....

Well, here it is close to the end of June, and my season has been one to forget. Going into 2014 I had high expectations of having a fast Boston Marathon that would lead into a great tri season. Instead, the injury bug got me in February, and really hasn't let up.

It all began with a slight calf issue that developed on a longer treadmill run due to crappy winter weather. About ten days off seemed to alleviate the calf issue, but just a few weeks later I developed some IT Band pain on a long run on the Boston course. Several years ago I had a slight IT Band issue, but it resolved itself and hasn't returned since. However, this injury was here to stay. Going into Boston I was severely undertrained and was receiving Graston and ART twice a week. I even ended up getting a cortisone shot a week before the race.

I was also doing strengthening exercises for my hips and glutes, but nothing really seemed to help. I was able get a bit farther than expected without the knee pain associated with IT Band issues setting in. As a result, I ended up walking the last 9 miles, not wanting to drop out. My time of 4:38 was quite pathetic. I had been hoping for a 2:50-2:55 time based on results from last year, but it wasn't to be.

After Boston we headed off for five days in Bermuda, where I took it very easy, just swimming and getting in a nice mountain bike ride. Under Steve's guidance, I took off four weeks from running, then began to ease back into it slowly. However, after about ten days I got the pre-pain feeling on my IT Band. Thereafter followed another three weeks without running, where I ramped up my biking and swimming. I slowly began running again about two weeks ago, but only 15-20 minute runs, and still no pain - yeah!!!!

My first tri of the season, Patriot HIM, became an aqua bike. However, ten days prior to the race I came down with a nasty sinus infection and what may be allergies. I was prescribed Benadryl, Amoxicillin, Zyrtec, Flonase, and Sudafed. Quite the assortment of pills! I wasn't able to swim for that period leading into the race, and it showed. I had a crappy 36 min swim and jumped on my bike, looking forward to a 56 mile TT. I was doing well, averaging a bit over 25 mph when I got a rear flat around mile 27.5. I fixed it quickly, but only four miles later got another rear flat. It turns out my rear tire was rubbing on my chainstay and the sidwall of the tire was worn to the tube. Dejected, I began trudging back to transition and was luckily picked up by the bike support truck.

That leads into where I am currently, ten days post DNF. We are headed off for a two week trip to England, Scotland and Iceland in two days. I hope to increase my run volume while away and also hope fo find some pools to swim in. What I'm most excited about is seeing the TDF, which is starting in England this year.

I'm hoping that the trip will be a turning point, and I'll be able to attack the second half of my 2014 season, starting with a weekend double on Nantucket in mid July. After that it's Timberman 70.3 in August, then 70.3 WC three weeks later. I really hope that I have my run legs back by September and am able to place reasonably well in my AG.

Things won't be that easy training wise, as we are selling our house and closing on a new house at the end of July. We'll be moving in with the in-laws for a short time while some work is done on our new home. Hopefully, it'll be a reasonably short stay and the work on our new house gets done without any major issues.!!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 in Review

2013 has come to a close and with it brought the birth of our first child, Jackson. He was born on April Fool's Day, and he just turned 9-months old on January 1st. Seeing him grow and learn virtually something new each day has been amazing. He wants to be mobile, but isn't there quite yet! Here's the little guy on Christmas morning.

Unfortunately, at the same time that Jackson is just beginning to get mobile my Dad is going in the opposite direction.  He has Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which isn't a great combination. His memory is fading and combined with the Parkinson's, each day is a brand new learning experience of everyday activities. I'm glad that he's been able to interact with our little man. Here are my Mom & Dad with Jackson this summer.

Of course, having a baby at home made training difficult. Katie was very flexible in allowing me to get in long rides and runs over the spring and summer, but in hindsight doing an IM with a baby at home probably wasn't the best plan. I was away for 5-6 hour blocks of time on most weekends, which wasn't fair to Katie. I'm definitely enjoying spending more time with Jackson now that training is a bit lighter.

2013 began with news that I was selected by Steve Johnson of Darkhorse Multisport to be sponsored for the year, receiving free coaching. Steve immediately had me doing a lot more swimming than I had in the past, as well as different types of bike workouts. I had traditionally done the 2x20 or 3x15 interval rides at 90-95% FTP as my go to workouts, but Steve had me doing lots of shorter intervals at much higher intensities. One that I despised quite a lot was 40x30" @ around 410 watts on 30" rest. Steve slowly had me build up my run mileage, focusing on a half marathon at the end of May, which led into a June 70.3.

I ended with a time of 1:20 in the half marathon, nearly a 3 min PR and went under 4:30 for the first time in my June HIM, although I felt I left quite a lot of time on the table. Soon after those races the school year ended and Katie, Jackson and I headed to Nantucket for ten days with my folks. This is pretty much when the long runs and rides for IM prep began. I ended up doing a 4-5 hour ride virtually every weekend, with eight rides of 90+ miles, six of which were over 100, and the longest was 123 miles in 5:30 two weeks out from IMMT in early August. This ride was followed up the next day with a 20+ mile run at 7:22 pace for an average. I felt good and strong and confident about my chances of a KQ at Tremblant.

IMMT got off to a good start, and I had what I felt was a strong swim, coming out of the water in 1:06. T1 was a long run, but I got on the bike feeling my weakest leg was behind me and I was positioned well. I was very consistent on the bike, but my watts ended up a little lower than I felt I could have put out. Based on training, Steve and I felt that 240-245 watts was my target. I ended up at 232 AP and 242 NP, evenly splitting 2:33 for each of the two loops. Coming off the bike I thought I was near the top 10 in my AG and should be able to run some folks down. I felt amazing for the first several miles of the run, and may have pushed a tiny bit too hard, with the first 6 miles hitting a pace in the mid 7:20's. However, because I was feeling so great at the time I neglected to take in any nutrition, and this began to come back to haunt me. I was taking coke at the aid stations, but didn't use any of the 700 calories I had on me or any of my salt pills. I honestly don't know why I didn't take in my nutrition, but my pace began to slow, and by the last loop of the run I was running 8:15-8:30 pace. I also had to make a bathroom stop around mile 19, which didn't help.

As I approached the end of the run I was still holding out hope that I may grab one of the remaining slots for the AG. However, I was passed by two guys in the last 1/4 mile and I had nothing left, briefly trying to hang with them, finishing six seconds back. As it turned out, they each got the last two Kona slots. Looking back, I feel it was probably best that I didn't get a KQ. It would have meant another 7 weeks of longer rides and runs, and with the school year beginning, that would not have been fair for Katie, plus traveling to Hawaii with a six-month old would have been difficult.

I was crushed after the race, realizing that my one real goal for the year had eluded me by 7 little seconds. Still hungry for competition, I formulated a plan to drive 700 miles to Ontario in early September to race Muskoka 70.3 and grab a WC slot for 2014. Katie wasn't thrilled with the notion, but agreed. Three weeks after IMMT, I managed a 5th in my AG and 32nd overall at Muskoka and did get a slot for the 70.3 WC, which will be held at Tremblant. I believe a bit of redemption will be in order!

The week after returning from my sojurn to Ontario I got into the Boston Marathon, so that is my current focus. My goal is a sub 3:00 race, and if training goes well, I feel I can be somewhere in the low to mid 2:5x range. I have decided to stick with Darkhorse Multisport for the 2014 season, and Steve is helping me formulate a way to crush Boston! I'm right around 50 mpw for running, getting in one bike and two swims per week. My goal over the winter is to try and maintain my bike and swim fitness, then ramp up after Boston in April to have a strong showing at Patriot HIM, Timberman 70.3 and the 70.3 WC's. Here's my best 'hungry' race photo, hoping 2014 is a great year!