Friday, January 15, 2016

The "WIN" Tunnel

 Last week was an epic week for me -- as it would be for any cyclist.  I got the chance to attend the Specialized Bicycle Components University (or SBCU) in Morgan Hill, California.  I spent time in the Level 2 Fit Class, getting better equipped to fit triathletes and mountain bikers on their bikes.   On the final day, one lucky participant was selected to be the guinea pig in the wind tunnel.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly experience something only a select few pros every get to do.  The class members helped fit me on my size cycle to determine the best position for me for maximum power in the most aero position possible.  I love the science behind this sport we call cycling. Amazing stuff.

Here we are with one of Specialized's physicists in action.  
This aero helmet was found to have the least drag. 

The team adjusting and tweeking my fit. 

If you can't maintain the position, it doesn't work.  But this felt dialed in.  

One happy SBCU camper.  We found the perfect fit! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The "Pony" Tale

'Twas the seconds before Ironman...

And I was in a panic. I had lost my hair tie. A level of dread suddenly rose in my chest. Could I survive the next 12 hours without something to hold my hair back? Ugh! I guess. But it would not be fun. No. No, I needed a hair tie. I fell to my knees patting the ground in search of the black elastic “pony” that had disappeared while I was securing my swim cap.

The National Anthem had been sung and athletes were beginning to file toward the swim start.  “Help!" I shouted.  "Can anyone see a hair tie on the ground?” I understood that most men wouldn't have a clue a) why I needed that tie b) why I was in such a state of stress and even c) what a “pony” even was.

But one friend did. SHE dropped down with me in search of the needle in the haystack and then jumped up and ran away. I thought she was headed toward the start with that “oh well” attitude. But seconds later she returned with the prized possession in her hand, begged off the wrist of a nearby lady spectator.

I secured my hair, gave her a hug and we joined the others down the boat ramp to start our day.

Now this may not seem like such a big deal to most. But I will never forget this act of kindness that filled my heart “three sizes that day”. In the midst of my turmoil, SHE thought not of herself, but of me.

In the spirit of Christmas and the upcoming New Year, may we be more like HER: A little more selfless, a little more loving and a little more kind. Happy holidays, friends. May your new year be wonderful and secure.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Let's Go Ride A BIke

If you've never witnessed the demeanor change in someone the minute they get on a bike -- I'm here to tell you, it's real.  I'm talking about the magical smiles that appear when a child or an adult straddles a bike and pedals off into the distance.

Working in a bike shop has taught me something about this great phenomenon.  There are times when a cyclist or triathlete comes in to pick up their hot new race bike with electrical components and lightning fast carbon wheels and aerodynamic frame.  It's like Christmas.  They oooh and aaah at their new ride, stroke it softly and crouch down to admire the gearing and pedals.  They roll it outside the store and carefully cradle it onto the bike rack and drive home with their precious cargo in tow.

Then there is the "off-the-street" casual consumer strolling by who gets a glimpse of our fat tire cruiser bikes.  They cross the street with a smile on their face to get a closer look at the delightfully colorful two-wheelers, imagining the slow speed cruising they could do around the neighborhood, or even better, as a vehicle for their next pub crawl.

Oh, but the kids are the best.  They come racing in the store to see the bike mom and dad just bought for them.  You can see the smile spread across their face and their eyes light up.  Instantly that child has a new sense of freedom.  They anticipate the feel of the wind rushing through their hair or the ability to have a little independence of their own.

If you get a chance -- go ride a bike.  Some of my favorite memories are renting the City Bikes in Washington, DC to quickly navigate the national monuments with my family.  And in Austin, my friend and I rented the City Bikes there to explore the wonderful trails and byways that were practically hidden by buildings and trees.  We laughed and smiled our way around the city for miles and miles.

It's no wonder that John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike."  Take it easy or take it slow, whatever your pleasure, go ride.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stop It

If only...

Two words I've heard over and over again in this 15-year triathlon journey I've taken.  If only I had a faster bike.  If only it wasn't so windy.  If only the rain had stopped.  If only the heat wasn't so oppressive. 

Then what?  You(I) would've run faster?  Your(my) bike split would've been better?  You(I) would've qualified for Kona in your age group?

The truth of the matter is, we triathletes are a competitive bunch.  We thrive off the minutae of more watts with less effort.  Our blood pressure starts to pump when someone passes us on a bike that we KNOW is slower than us.  We compare our times with our training partners' times -- on different courses and in completely different conditions, where nothing was the same except the distance.  It's in our DNA to go faster.  We want to improve.  It's the nature of our inner beast.

 But the competitiveness should stop there. 

In the big, bad world of competition and the thirst for more, we need to embrace the triumphs and successes of ourselves and others.  We should be proud when a friend gets his PR.  We should be truly grateful our bodies held up and we crossed the line safely. 

Because there is always going to someone better than you, faster than you and stronger than you. 

As my bike derailleur broke at mile 5 at Ironman Austin 70.3, I was forced to abandon the race and take a DNF (did not finish).  However, it gave me the opportunity to ride in the SAG vehicle over the next 50 miles of the bike course.  We passed cyclists who were riding with prosthetic legs.  We saw a blind woman who was the stoker on a tandem cycle.  We drove past fast gals and slow guys and everything in between.

What I was most impressed with, was the majority of triathletes on the course were smiling, tucked in and riding hard.  Some looked quite sleek with expensive bikes and the gear to match.  Others had ill fitting bikes and their rain jackets tied around their waists as they made their way across the farmlands toward T2.  It was fun to see the race from this perspective. 

My point is, we should all be grateful we can do these races.  Our bodies are a gift.  The ability to push the limits of what our bodies can do should be embraced and celebrated -- not diminished by others' accomplishments.   We should never be too hard on ourselves for not going as fast as we think can.  Or too cool to help a beginner who needs advice and counsel on how to lay out their transition zone. 

Let's choose to be  truly happy when others do their best.  And enjoy the journey that brought you your success.  Thank God for the little things.  Because in the end, THAT is what will make you happiest. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Moving Out of The Comfort Zone

We're closing out 2015 faster than the four-minute mile.  It's time to look ahead to 2016.  What are your goals?  What do you want to conquer in the upcoming year?  I have a quote in my laundry room wall that reads: " To get what you've never had, you must do what you've never done."

So what's it gonna be?  Let's move out of that comfort zone and dream big.  I'm here to help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Not-So-Secret Secret

It's time to preach the good word of nutrition.

My Ironman last week was ONE HOUR ahead of my goal time.  ONE HOUR!  I couldn't believe it when I crossed the Ironman Maryland finish line in 11:18.  That included a five-minute penalty for not passing quickly enough (what?), crazy circling and treacherous winds, and a shorted swim by 800 meters -- so we'll call this 140.1 just to be accurate.  (But those winds made up for any gains on the swim, you can be sure.)  This was Ironman number five for me -- so what did I do differently?  How did I improve so much after a two year hiatus and two year age-up?

It all started last January, after signing up for Ironman Maryland.  I wanted to do a strong race that met or possibly surpassed my previous PR of 12:15.  So I formulated a training plan -- that's my job. But I also hired my associate, Katie Rhodes, a registered dietician.  Katie and I had worked together at Sigma Human Performance and I was ready to put her skills to the test.

The first step in my journey was to get a metabolic test.  With this test information, I was given training zones which told me when my body was burning fat versus carbs.  This was invaluable information when it came time to base train in fat burning zones, build in sub-lactate zones and then peak into my fast and intense sessions at anaerobic capacity.  My plan was based on three week builds with one week recoveries.

Secondly, Katie and I met and we discussed my goals and desires with this race.  She would email me weekly meal plans that included my diet, my grocery list, and the percentage of carbs, fat or protein for each meal.  I quickly realized I had been eating too many carbs and not enough healthy fats.  My portions were too large, also.  So I buckled down and did not stray from her plan, eliminated a lot of the sweets and empty calories I was consuming.  And things began to change.

In the first few weeks with my nutrition plan I saw noticeable weight loss.  And with that came increased speed and power.  I was able to hold faster paces in all three disciplines.  Things plateaued after several months, but when I was consistent with my training and my diet -- I saw measurable improvements.

A few weeks prior to race day I noticed Katie begin modifying my diet to be more carb-heavy with less fats.  To prepare me for the race she prescribed specific grams of carb intake instead of my usual calorie count methods.  And again, I felt strong and not fatigued or weak when I followed her instruction.  She always provided a post-workout meal for recovery, as well.

Then it was RACE DAY.  For the first time in all my Ironmans, I not only had a race plan but a specific race-day nutrition plan.  I listed everything I was to consume on race day down to the last gram of carbohydrate and sip of water.  And I was eating WAY more than I ever had in any race.  I did not just grab whatever was available at the aid stations -- I brought my own food and utilized my special needs bags carefully.  I was dialed.

They say luck is the residue of hard work.  Well it all came together on race day.  Luck was on my side but really, the hard work and dedication paid off.  I'm ecstatic with my race time.  And I can't wait to cross the finish line at Ironman number six.  I have learned so much on this journey -- and one of the main things I can preach is that you should not ignore your diet.  As triathletes we can get away with consuming too much food and especially the wrong foods.  We will burn it off and most of us end up thin-thin on race day.

Fueling your body with high quality foods is not really a secret.  But it is the key to a faster finish.  My life has changed thanks to Katie Rhodes.  My plates are colorful and balanced.  And I will never again disregard my daily eating plan.  Good luck to all you future Ironman finishers.  Let me know if I can help get you across the line with a new PR.  Email me here or get in touch with Katie at  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ironman Maryland Race Recap by Greg Davis

Six friends traveled across the country to compete in Ironman Maryland last weekend.  We ended up with five PRs, one Kona Qualifier, and one DNF.  I finished in 11:18, well above my 12:15 goal time.  My friend Greg Davis recorded his thoughts about the race and sent it to me.  With his permission I share his story here.  

 Overall, the race is in a great location.  It is a charming town – typical of the mid-Atlantic – although it is on the eastern shore which is a little rural or rednecky. It has an interesting history of race riots in the 60’s when supposedly the town was set on fire. You can still see an invisible line acting as a divider between the good side and the bad side of the tracks.  Still a great place – many good food options.

The course was awesome.  The Choptank River can get rough because it is so close to the Chesapeake Bay, but much of the swim is protected by a marina and a little bay that was formed – unless there are gale force winds (see below). The bike course is stunning.  Gorgeous.  You do two loops through farmland with the trees changing colors for the fall and then into a wildlife refuge that is a coastal tidewater area. It is awesome.  The roads are smooth and are made for a fast ride – unless there are gale force winds (see below).  The roads are also flat.  The run does 2.5 loops which was a little weird.  It was hard to do the little half loop when you felt like you should be done.  You run along the water for some of it and through downtown - very pretty.  Overall – I loved the course.  Registration went smooth.  All of the Ironman Maryland gear was 40% off which was a sweet bonus to compensate for the race being delayed by two weeks.

Race prep went great on race morning.  Conditions were calm until about 6:00 am when the wind started blowing consistently strong.  We were all ready to go and lined up for the swim.  At 6:40 (20 minutes before the start), they announced that because of winds from 15 mph – 30 mph, they were going to have to shorten the swim to 1.2 miles. There was a small craft advisory and it wasn’t safe for the boats or the swimmers as the water was too rough.  Obviously, we were very disappointed as this puts an asterisk next to our race.  The race was going to be delayed by 30 minutes also.  At 7:15, the winds had calmed a little (down to 10 mph – 15 mph) so they announced that we would do a 3,000 meter swim which is basically 1.9 miles.  None of us understood why at that point we couldn’t just do the full 2.4 miles swim.  It was a bummer to miss out on half a mile of the swim.  Basically, we need to make stickers for our cars that say 140.1 instead of 140.6.

At 7:30, the race started. Lorie Tucker and I went in together.  Ben and Mike were at the front. Jacque was a little behind Lorie and me. I don’t know where Mark was. It was rough in the water, but not terrible.  The wind created waves that pushed us down the outside of the buoys – helping the time.  There was lots of bumping and grinding at the start of the swim which is to be expected.  At the turnaround, I really focused on getting on someone’s feet to draft and block the waves which were now head-on.  It was two loop for 3,000 meters.  Sigh. I kept it very under control during the swim and felt great coming out of the water.  It was 54 minutes which would have translated into a 1:08 – 1:09 for a full Ironman swim.  That is basically what I was expecting so I felt good about.

T1 took forever to put on arm warmers.  I realized at that point how cold I was.  Wind was blowing hard and the temps were in the 40’s with wind chill in the 30’s.  I also couldn’t get the pee going in the wetsuit so I had to stop in a port-a-potty and I peed for at least two minutes. Grrr.

Got on the bike and hurried out of transition.  It was a long way to run before the mount line.  I waited to turn on my bike computer until I was on my bike – learning my lesson from Ironman Florida.  Ironically, my Garmin would not turn on – WHAT?  I had tested it the day before with no problem.  It was just sit there on the start-up screen.  I think because the wind was blowing so hard, it got stuck trying to find a signal although it wasn’t even showing that it was looking for a signal.  I turned it off and on four different times.  I tried different positions.  Finally, I gave up and hoped it would eventually find a signal.  At this point, I had no data – no speed, no power, no heartrate.  I was just riding by feel. I was trying to keep it under control and slowly warm up. It was clear that the wind had picked up again although I didn’t know how much until later.  Finally, after 8 miles, the computer turned on and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was nice to see what I was doing.

I tried to be mellow for the first 50 – 60 miles.  My target heart rate was around 115 bpm and I wanted the power to be around 180 watts.  However, I found myself consistently higher as I fought the side wind that was growing.  Heart rate was closer to 118 – 122 and power was over 200 all the time.  It felt comfortable so I went with it.  The first 30 miles went by fast and I kept thinking how nice it was – sun was out to warm us up, the road was smooth, and the scenery beautiful.  Wind was strong, but from the side and occasional at the back to help the speed.  I knew it was going to be rough once we turned.  The rest of the bike ride was a challenge.  I tried to stay positive, but it was pretty brutal.  The wind started shifting around and I felt like I fought it hard for most of the next 80 miles.

It was blowing so hard that even in areas where trees/reeds might have blocked it in a reasonable wind (5 – 10 mph) that the wind pushed right through the trees.  I looked down several times and was holding 240 watts and only going 15 mph.  That is discouraging to be working so hard and going so slow.  I know from experience that with my race wheels on with an aero jersey and aero helmet, at 240 watts on a flat road, I should comfortably be going 22 – 23 mph.  Instead, I was seeing 15 – 19 mph.  My average speed dropped from 21 mph to 19.5 mph. I averaged 205 watts over the 112 miles which was definitely above my target. There were some dark moments out there – which was universal to everyone who did this race.  The gusts were crazy strong and knocked us around.  The wind never abated and kept shifting directions. Since we were going in a circle, I kept waiting for the tailwind, but it came much less than I would want.  I felt that it was mostly a headwind or a sidewind that still slowed you down.  We had a few miles of tailwind on lap two when you could go 25 mph by lightly peddling. There was also an 8 mile section from miles 90 – 98 which were a life saver. Unfortunately, after that, the next 12 miles were some of the worst and directly into the wind. The final two miles were a tailwind.  I was definitely fading over the last 30 miles and really struggled from Mile 98 – 112.

As seems to happen in every Ironman, my stomach started to feel very queasy around Mile 80.  This is so frustrating because I train my nutrition and it seems to work during the training, but something switches in the race and I always struggle.  I stopped taking in calories from that point on and barely drank for the next 30 miles – trying to get the stomach to settle.  Basically, it just stops digesting and absorbing food/water so anything I add in there just sits on top and makes me feel more bloated and full.

I finished the bike in 5:42.  I was hoping to do 5:15 – 5:20 and at the power I held, I should have been 5:10 or less on a more normal day.  I also dug deep to even do 5:42 so I was a little worried about the run.  I had one long pee in a port-a-potty at mile 50 – otherwise held it until the next transition.  T2 went okay, but I was a little woozy.  I was surprised how few bikes were there so I guess I had a decent ride considering the elements.

I started the run at an 8:30 pace.  This was very comfortable and was hoping to build to an 8:00 minute pace eventually.  About mile 4, the stomach kept getting queasier.  I knew from past experience that I couldn’t get much in so I tried to sip a little Gatorade and water at the aid stations – definitely no gels or food.  Every time I put anything in the stomach though it made it worse.  I decided to try Pepsi at mile 8 and 100 yard later I almost threw up everything.  I stopped all nutrition and hydration at that point.  From mile 8 – 18, I did nothing at the aid stations.  Effectively, by mile 18, I had had almost no nutrition for the last 3.5 hours (since I basically stopped at Mile 80 of the bike).  That is a bad combo when exercising that long. I started to get woozy and dizzy. I knew I had to try something.  My strategy to that point was to try to run to the aid stations and then walk the aid stations even though I wasn’t getting anything from them.  It gave me a goal and something to look forward to.  My run times were drifting higher though – I was running 9:30’s now at best.  I also had to walk a few times between aid stations.  At mile 12, I had to throw up and went through the motions, but it was just dry heaving.  I don’t know why it didn’t all come up, but I didn’t force it out.  That happened a few times. Finally, at mile 18, I knew something had to change or I wasn’t going to make it.  I was getting dizzy.  I channeled my inner Ben LeSueur at Ironman St. George and grabbed a handful of potato chips and then walked for a while.  This made a huge difference.  I was able to keep it down and started running again. From mile 20 on, my stomach settled somewhat and I was able to run between 8:00 – 8:15 minute pace.  I had also been working out some of the bloating / gas in the usual way in those middle miles which helped it to settle. It was nice to finish strong even though I was still very tired.  I think my last 5k – 10k was the fastest part of my marathon.  I had a little nauseous bout around mile 23, but it passed in a moment and I ran it in.  Run time was 4:14 which is a bummer.  I should always be under 4:00 hours in an Ironman run.

Total time was 11:08.  I was disappointed not to finish under 11:00 hours. Even with the slower bike, I thought that I would be a lock for a sub-11:00 hour race because I am such a better runner now.  I am pretty sure without the stomach problems and lack of nutrition, I would have done it comfortably – acknowledging that it would not really have been a sub-11:00 hour Ironman because of the shortened swim unless I did it around 10:40.  I saw my brother, his wife, and their triplets at Mile 20 on the run and that was fun to stop and say hi to them.  They were at the finish line also.  The culmination of seeing them at the finish and the emotional burden of the challenge I had just completed caused me to cry a little.  I was weak and my stomach hurt badly. It was cold and the wind was howling. I only talked to my brother’s family for a few minutes and then they had to go home.
I went into the food tent and just sat down. I was delirious and couldn’t move – my stomach was hurting badly again.  It took about an hour to feel better. Chicken broth helped the most. Ben gave me his space blanket to help me stop shivering.  I don’t think I had a bad race, but still didn’t put it all together.  Weather made it harder too.  I can’t stress enough how strong the wind was blowing which affected the run too.

Overall, this is still an awesome Ironman race. With normal weather conditions, this is a really fast course. If you had normal winds of 5 – 10 mph, we would have flown through this course.  Jacque sat next to a guy on the plane home.  This was his 16th Ironman.  He said it was the 2nd worst weather he has had in his races. Most telling was this – he did this race last year and his bike was 30 minutes faster last year – and he had a flat last year.  That would mean at least 35 – 40 minutes faster on the bike.  And you would be less wasted from mentally and physically fighting the wind.  I know it had a huge impact on our times.

Some other thoughts.  Our race support friends were awesome.  Greg Arnett, Emily LeSueur, and Todd and Scott Tucker were awesome. At first, I was a little hesitant to give them high fives because of how sticky / dirty my hands were, but by the end, I embraced it and they were a huge lift for me.  These guys were so supportive throughout the whole race and helped so much before and after also. They were awesome and I am very appreciative.  We all stayed together in one house which was a lot of fun.

For the rest of the crew, I was really impressed with everyone else’s times.  Ben was Ben.  Of course, he crushed it.  It was 9:41 which would have still been a sub-10:00 hour time with a full Ironman swim – even in that weather.  That is amazing.  He was 3rd in our age group and qualified for Kona.  He looked strong all day, but couldn’t believe how hard the wind was either.  Mark Hatch improved by over an hour on his best Ironman distance and looked strong all day.  His time was 10:32.  Lorie Tucker was amazing.  She was dialed in.  She finished at 11:18 barely behind me.  She would have passed me on the run if not for the potato chips at mile 18.  This from a girl who for years said she couldn’t bike or run with us because she was too slow. I am so happy for her. She looked strong all day and was 7th in her age group.  Jacque Arnett was amazing also.  This is her first Ironman and did 12:10 in that weather.  She was positive all day and did so well.  For a first Ironman with that wind, that time is a huge accomplishment.  Sadly, our two-time Kona-qualifying leader, Mike Wares, had an awful day. The chest cold that he was trying to hold at bay bloomed into a nasty chest infection on race day.  With the cold temps, cold water, and strong wind, he was freezing all day.  He banged his head on a kayak during the swim and was disoriented. He couldn’t breathe well and finally had to stop at mile 10 of the run.  It was too cold to just walk the marathon because the wind ripped through you.  All of the volunteers were bundled up in thick winter coats and we were doing the marathon in tri-clothes.  I was cold the entire run even though I was running.  Once Mike started to walk, he knew it would be too cold.  It is a huge bummer that he won’t be going to Kona with Ben next year.

That is all.  It was hard.  It always is.  Probably my last Ironman. I say probably.  It for sure won’t happen for five years or more.  Work needs to be mellower and the kids need to be more grown.  In five years, we will almost be empty-nesters so I won’t say never, but it is unlikely.  I still PR’d in the race which is not a bad effort four months after knee surgery. I still feel like I have 10:15 – 10:30 potential if I can ever get my stomach to settle during a long race.

As usual for me, this was more about the training than the race.  I love doing the hard training.  I love being with my friends doing hard stuff.  Eventually Ironman training gets to be too much – but at 60% - 70% of the required Ironman training, I love this stuff.  That is where the good memories are made.

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.