2014 Plans, Goals and News

Now that we are over a month into 2014 I figure I should figure out what I want to do this year. I haven’t given a ton of though to what I want out of this year. I mean the usual right. lose weight, get faster, PR, blah blah blah. I do want to do all of those things, but I’m being a bit more strategic this year about my goals. I’m calling them goals instead of resolutions because I feel resolutions have a deadline at the end of December. With a goal, if I don’t meet it this year, it’s not the end of the world. I readjust and try again next year.

Goal 1 – 1:5x:xx-ish Half Marathon

My last half marathon (Raleigh City of Oaks in November) I did in 2:04. A 12 minute improvement from Tobacco Road in March on a much hillier course. I’m doing the Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon on April 13th. This is going to be my big half marathon race where I want to crush it. I’m feeling much stronger and faster than I did this time last year. I’ve got a much better base under me so I think this will be very attainable. I definitely want to go sub 2 hours, but stretch is low 1:50s.

Goal 2 – Ironman Raleigh 70.3

This was my big race last year. The only race that mattered. To some extent the same is true for this year. With only one season of Triathlon under my belt, I’m not expecting anything stupid crazy here like winning my age group or anything. I do want to cut off a large chunk of time off this race though. I did it in 7:18, which given the type of shape I was in at the start of 2013 and how poorly my bike fitness was I’m happy with. I went in wanting to finish and I did. Now I want to crush my time like with the half marathon. I think my fitness is in a great shape to do that. My swimming has improved a lot (ironic given the name of the blog right?). The main thing I need to work on for this is bike fitness and nutrition. I did not eat anywhere near enough last year.

Goal 3 – Run a marathon

I was targeting the City of Oaks full marathon last year, but it didn’t pan out. I got sidelined on too many of my long runs than I didn’t want to push it and switched to the half. I don’t regret that decision at all as my half marathon felt amazing. I executed on my race plan and felt strong from start to finish. Now I just want to do that for a full. I’m thinking a fall marathon so maybe target City of Oaks again. I know the course fairly well as I was running a lot of the route on my training runs, and I like the hills it has. It is a great, but tough course. I just need to be smarter coming off the 70.3 and not taking 2 months off. That hurt my fitness a lot last year. I need to be stricter with getting back into after a decent rest.

Plan

The plan to help me accomplish all this is pretty simple. Train smart, eat smart and listen to my body. To help with this I’m working with a coach. I’ll be working with Tri Stacey. She is great. We met when I first moved to Raleigh and I remember thinking if I ever wanted to work with a coach she is the one I want. So far she’s been great. We officially started on Feb 1 so I am very excited for a lot of improvement. I’m sure there will be other races as well. Check out the Race Schedule page for links to reports and other races I’m planning on doing.

I also want to blog a lot more this year. I am hoping to get into a regular cycle of posting a few times a week. If you have any suggestions or things you want to see let me know.

Here’s to great 2014!

Mattamuskeet Death March 2013

A support crew race report

Or ‘Why you should crew an ultra race’

Or ‘How on earth does a runner cover 65 miles?’

Back in July (I’ve been really slow and lazy about writing this) we went out to middle of nowhere eastern North Carolina to be support crew for a friend who was doing an ultra marathon. Or more specifically the Mattamuskeet Death March (or the greatest named race on earth in my opinion).

Where

The race took place in Hyde County and was a 100k (actually a little over at 65 miles) around Lake Mattamuskeet which after a bit of research has a really cool interesting history (if you are bit geeky). Here is a zoomed out picture of Google maps to give you the whole state of NC.NCMattamuskeet

The red circle is surrounding Lake Mattamuskeet and if you can’t tell based on how zoomed out the map is, that’s a pretty big freaking lake. So on the Friday night, we loaded up the car with some running clothes and a big cooler with ice and lots of food and drink and and left Raleigh to drive three hours and seemingly go back in time. It was definitely a different world out there. We’ve driven through some back country areas of North Carolina, but this was definitely the most back country of them all.

The race organizers were using a motel (where we would be staying) as the HQ for the race so we got there on Friday night and had the dinner they had prepared. A nice large portion of lasagna, salad, and iced tea and meeting up with our racer and the other member of the crew. We also got a sneak peek of what was in store for the runners. One of the features of the race, apart from having to run 65 miles in ridiculous heat and humidity was the competitors had to carry an empty ammo box the whole way. The ammo box wasn’t particularly heavy, weighing in at about 5 pounds, but it had hard corners and was a very awkward shape.

 

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After dinner, picking up the ammo box, and meeting some of the other crazy people that would be running the race we headed to the cabin we were staying in. Thankfully, because we had a larger crew than most the motel provided cabins as well. It was a pretty decent sized cabin with the second story a big open space with four double beds, so we all had our own bed. Sweet. After getting everything prepped for the next day and some instructions from our runner on how to make him eat and drink enough throughout the day we headed to bed.

What

Morning of the race we woke up at a fairly decent time considering it was a race day. Around 6:00-6:30 am to head over to the main motel and get some breakfast. When there are only 13 people competing in the race I guess you can afford to be a little lax with things. We made sure to load up the car with enough water, food, and Gatorade to last a normal person a lifetime. When we were ready to go, we headed to the start line. Going with the theme of having the best named race they, in my opinion, had the best start line as well. Here is Scott, our runner, at the start line.

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Also, along with the minimalism that was the whole race, how they marked the start line. Bonus shot of a guy emerging from using the trees as a bathroom.

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After the national anthem (played on a phone) the race started on, no joke, the lighting of one contestant’s cigarette. As I have been informed the legend himself, Lazarus Lake, was the one that started the race smoking while walking down the road across the lake. The course went across the lake, went around one side, went across the lake again, went around the other side of the lake, and then cross the lake for a third time. The runners had to run the same road across the lake 3 times. A nice mental challenge added to the race.

We came up with a plan of having whoever was in the car drive 3 miles down the road. Scott would run those three miles and then at the car refresh his water bottle, get some food, and perform any necessary first aid or maintenance (mainly cutting out holes in his shoes) After the first couple legs we had to change the intervals to every two miles as it was a very punishing day between the heat, humidity and roughly eleventy billion mosquitoes.

I had some miles I needed to get in for my training, so I ran the first couple legs with Scott and then after that between the three of us crewing him we ended up alternating running with Scott for the majority of the race. All three of the crew ran somewhere between 18 and 22 miles before the end of the race.

Here are some pictures of the race, starting with the crazy race director, Brandon, who was doing it with his ammo box HANDCUFFED to his wrist.

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Some young Marines who shot off at the start running what seemed to be an insanely quick pace for 65 miles considering the conditions. They dropped out before the end.

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The second lead group who eventually took over the lead. Three of these guys are some other Marines who would eventually cross the finish line together to share the win.

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A picture of the lake that was constantly to our side the whole day.

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One of Scott looking strong going around the first half of the lake.

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We also found the inspiration for Mater from Cars.

 

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In the motel where HQ was, where we ate, and where the eventual finish line was had this inside.

 

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After approximately 17 and half hours, around 2:30 am, Scott finished the race. Again with the minimalist yet awesome theme of the race here is the finish line with a chair and change of shoes ready for Scott.

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And here is one of our awesome racer and his whole crew (Scott the runner in the chair, and then from the left Scott number 2, Lex, and myself).

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And then this is the awesome crew shirt we all got.

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Why (good freaking question)

So overall the main takeaway from this is that Ultra runners are a crazy breed all their own. Even though the course was flat, it was brutal. The blazing heat with no shade, the humidity, and the unbelievable number of mosquitoes really took its toll on all of us. As described by the race director Brandon, “I am she, the man slayer you seek”. The constant pounding on flat roads for 17 hours seemed a cruel torture, but the runners seemed to enjoy it. I can’t speak highly enough of Brandon and all the other guys at RacENC for the organization of the race. They were constantly driving round the whole course checking on people, handing out popsicles and giving out encouragement. Not to mention they organized with the motel accommodations for all the runners and crew and several meals.

Even though the race, the location and the conditions were torturous, they never hid the fact that that was the point and everyone just went with it. So it was a nice mix of happiness and joint suffering. Hats off to them for putting on a great event. All the runners, winners, and those who didn’t finish were gracious and happy for each other which makes it that much better an event. It felt more like everyone acknowledged they were competing against the race more than they were competing against each other.

Finally, Scott was freaking AWESOME. I was destroyed just crewing for him. To overcome the conditions and the constant pounding of 65 miles of flat asphalt was amazing. He had a great race plan and he stuck to it. When we spoke to the other runners when waiting for Scott to come into the finish everyone was talking complimentary on sticking so well to a race plan. While what he accomplished was inspirational, but I can’t say I’m currently running to sign up for an Ultra…. Maybe next year.

Congrats to all the runners who participated. You guys walked like Gods amongst men around Mattamuskeet.

Triangle Triathlon 2013 Race Report

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Pre Race

I learnt my lesson from last weekend and had much better prep for this race. I had a good dinner at a reasonable time the night before. I packed up all my stuff for the race the night before and put my bike and bag in the car the night before. It cuts out a lot of the stress in the morning. Just eat breakfast, fill my water bottles and go. Had a quick breakfast and then hit the road out to Harris Lake. It was about a 30 minute drive, and got there in plenty of time to get my transition area set up.

 IMG_0318As you can see my transition area is pretty minimal. The sprints are nice because I don’t worry about bike gloves that I use on a longer ride. I have one bottle filled with water and one with EFS so that is all I use in terms of nutrition. I knew the EFS would be a must for this race since it was going to be hot and humid. I wanted to make sure I was getting the electrolytes in during the ride.

Swim

The swim was 750 meters in the lake pictured above. They announced that the water temp was 90 degrees, so I was very worried about how the swim would turn out. When I checked the water temp for Jordan Lake after my open water swim the other night it said it was 88 degrees. So I took a quick dip and swam around a little bit as a warm up. If this was 90 degrees then it was much higher than 88 in my previous swim, because it was nowhere near as hot. It was still pretty warm.

My plan for the swim was to take it pretty easy. My last sprint I wasn’t too pleased with my time, but that was my very first one. My main goal was to be a couple minutes faster. I started out on the right side of the back, far side from the buoys. It seemed I ended up between the fast pack and the slow pack which was great. I was swimming on my own for a good while with no one hitting me. Looking at the map I swam fairly straight as well which is always a bonus.

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Swim time: 17:31 (2 minute improvement from my last 750 m open water swim, this time without a wetsuit)

Bike

I was just over 3:00 minutes in T1 which is disappointing because I thought was quicker than that. That is something I need to work on. Also, they had just cut the grass we were running over, so by the time I got to my bike to put my socks and bike shoes on my feet were covered in grass. I probably lost a few seconds wiping them off.

bike1The bike was tough. Once again I was just struggling with the hills. I think the bike is the area where I have the most work to do. I mean, obviously my swimming needs works as well, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot of improvement over year in that. Not on the bike as much. A lot of the roads on this course were the same as on the 70.3 course but in reverse. Which meant I had to climb a lot of hills I remember flying down then. There was one guy for the majority of the course kept over taking me on the steep hills but then wasn’t as fast on the down hills or flat sections, so I spent a lot of time with him until the last two miles or so which was mostly downhill with some flats. Those last two miles felt great. I felt like I was more consistent with my speed.

Bike Time: 1:04:37

Run

run1By the time I got off the bike, the sun was out and it had heated up quite a bit. So I knew the run was going to be tough. I also had no idea what the run course was like having never been to the park the run was in. It started out on a road and then shortly after the start went through the gravel parking lot and then was on a gravel/mud/grass path. It was through the woods so I got eaten a live by bugs. It was clear the bike had taken it out of me, and the humidity was just brutal.

There were quite a few large puddles and muddy parts of the path as well that made the run pretty treacherous. The course was a loop and then an out and back to the finish. Once I got to the turnaround on the out and back section I knew this wasn’t going to be a pretty time. I felt like I swallowed about half a dozen bugs on just the run along. At this point I just wanted to finish and wasn’t so worried about what time I would get.

Run Time: 30:15 (Officially the slowest 5k I have run in a while)

Overall time: 1:57:14

Post Race

I was slightly disappointed in how this race went. I shouldn’t have been too surprised because I was doing nowhere near as much training as I was for my first sprint since I was in half ironman training mode at the time, but I had hoped for better. It was a great race and the volunteers were amazing as always. This was a North Carolina Triathlon series race, and they always put on great events. I’d be up for trying this race again next year to try and vindicate myself, but I’ll need to make sure to keep up the training post Raleigh 70.3 because like a fool I’ve signed up for that again. After the race I went Tyler’s in Apex with some of the IOSTC for  a couple beers. After that I headed home, had a quick shower and then drove out to Wilmington for Saturday night and spent Sunday on Wrightsville beach. So even though the race didn’t go well it was nice doing it and contributed to a pretty spectacular weekend overall.

Have a good week!

Open Water Swimming

I was originally going to talk about how I started swimming for my triathlon training, but I realized that would be way too long. I’ll save that for another post later on.

Suffice to say all the pool swimming in the world does not get you totally ready to do an open water swim. My first open water swim was 750 m at the White Lake Sprint Tri in White Lake, NC. The water was about 55 degrees. It felt freezing. It was during this swim I realized how unprepared I was for open water. I finished but my time was terrible and it was a miserable swim. After that I resolved to do more open water swimming. Since then I go almost every Wednesday night out at Jordan Lake south west of Raleigh. There were times where I was doing more open water swimming than pool swimming. Now I would say I enjoy open water much more than the pool. It’s a lot more fun. You don’t have to stop and turn every 25 yards (I’m still working on flip turns). It much more variable depending on the weather.

That being said I went open water swimming Wednesday night. It was the first time I’d been in open water since the 70.3, and it was brutal. The water was about 88 degrees. It felts like swimming in a bath. I managed to get through it. I am doing the Triangle Triathlon this weekend at Harris Lake, NC so I really wanted to get one in before then. What I learned was it is easy to get out of practice. We swam about 3/4 of a mile. Here’s a map of what I swam:

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Look at my oh so straight swimming lines. I don’t know what happened at the second turn.

I managed to get through the swim though. It was tough though. I had run in the morning in the 90% humidity so it felt like I didn’t stop sweating until about lunch time. Going and swimming in a bathtub after work really didn’t help.

I’ll be at the Triangle Triathlon this weekend so expect a race report Monday sometime. We got these at work today. Seems like the best kind of pre race nutrition.

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Have a great weekend!

Rex Wellness Triathlon Garner 2013 Race Report

Or “How to almost bonk on a sprint”

Or “Why not to go out two nights in a row before a race”

Rookie mistakes you say? Yes absolutely. Here is my race report for the first in the Rex Wellness Triathlon series. This one took place in Garner which is south of Raleigh.

Pre Race

Thankfully I packed up my bike and all my stuff the night before and loaded up the car. That meant in the morning all I had to do was fill up my waters, eat some breakfast and then hop in the car. It was only about a 20 minute drive to the Rex Wellness Center so that made it really easy. The biggest problem was getting up. As the alternative title suggests, we were out with friends Friday and Saturday nights which did nothing to help me for this race. I wasn’t out to compete, so I wasn’t taking this race too seriously, however if I had I think I may have enjoyed it a bit more.

I got my transition area all set up. As there was only 200 or so people taking part the transition are was nice and small. I talked to a few people, had a few nervous poos which is pretty standard for me before a race, and then before I knew it we were all heading inside to the pool to start the race.

Swim

The swim was a 250 yard pool swim. I’ve never done a triathlon with a pool swim before so I figured this was going to be interesting. The pool was 6 lanes and the plan was to swim 50s in the first 4 and then 25s in the last two. This was because in the last lane there was a huge staircase took up most of the width of the last lane. It seemed pretty straightforward, until they told we would be lining up along the wall of the first lane in the water. So this meant you had to swim two lengths in the first lane, as well having people along the edge of the pool in the lane while you were swimming. Most people were confused and wondered why they didn’t just have the first and last lane be 25 and the middle 4 lanes be 50s. I was worried about this, until I actually got in the pool. The first lane was wider than any of the others so it ended up working out.

We were supposed to self seed for this race. So when registering you had to put in an estimated time for a 1oo meter swim. I could have given myself a faster time, as by the time I started it was a bit of a cluster in the pool. I got out of the pool in 4:16 (although the timing mat was at the start of the transition area so it has my time at 4:43), but I probably could have done it in under 4 minutes if I wasn’t being held up by people. My main gripe about the self seeding is, there was one kid (there were lots of kids doing the race which was great, that’s not my problem) whose parents clearly have an inflated sense of his swimming ability and gave him way to quick a time. He could barely swim and was just causing everyone to slow up behind him. I eventually got to pass him at a wall pretty quickly, but some people were getting way more annoyed than I was.

Bike

The bike was where I really started to struggle. I am definitely not strong on the bike, something I have learned over and over doing all these triathlons. The course was a 5 mile out and back. Pretty straightforward, but I haven’t been spending too much time biking the past few weeks. That with the lack of sleep and a few big hills on the course just destroyed my legs. I had a average speed of just over 16 miles an hour. Not much to say about a bike course that is straight down the road and back. Just under 37 minutes for the bike.

Run

As soon as I jumped off the bike I knew these 2 miles was going to hurt. My calves cramped up straight away, something I have been battling with quite a lot this year. The run course was also pretty straightforward. 1 mile down the same road as the bike course. I had a stitch in my side and couldn’t get a good stride going. The course was pretty nice though. You went up a hill for a bit, crested the hill and the turn around was a little bit down from there. Once you got over the hill on the way back it was pretty much downhill the whole way back until the very end. I was hoping this run would be easy since it was only 2 miles and I’d be able to get a good pace going. But some with the bike, it just wasn’t happening today. Need to sleep more before races. Time: 18:33.

Post Race

Total time was 1:02:29. I was hoping to go under a hour for this race as it was a nice short one and I thought I’d be able to just go out hard and maintain that for an hour. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the few nights before the race seriously enough and ended up paying for it. Apart from my not so great racing, the race itself was great. Rex Wellness along with FSSeries put on a great race. It was a nice doing a smaller local race. A lot of people were out doing their very first triathlon and there were a lot of kids doing it as well which was awesome (apart from the one who was causing issues in the pool, but fair play to him he was trying his best). I’d definitely recommend the Rex Series to anyone especially first-timers/beginners. I’m planning on doing the other two (August and October) to complete the Tri-Peat they are putting on this year.

But for now I need to get ready for the Triangle Triathlon at Harris Lake on Saturday and focus my running on training for the City of Oaks Marathon.

Thanks for reading!

Getting Ready for Rex

This weekend is the first of the Rex Wellness Triathlon series. This is a three race series at the various Rex centers around Raleigh. The one this weekend is in Garner, just south of Raleigh. I am sticking to Sprints for the rest of the year and training for the marathon in November. This is a nice short one, a 250m swim, 10 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. They are offering a new Tri-Peat award if you do all three of the series this year, so that seems like a nice challenge to do while marathon training. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

In order to get ready for this I figured I should probably get back in the pool since I haven’t swam a single yard since the Raleigh 70.3 at the beginning of June. So after work today I headed over to the pool to see if I could still get myself from one end to the other without coughing and sputtering water and SUCCESS! I managed to swim 1000 yards, albeit very slowly. About 10 yards per second slower than where I got to training for the 70.3. It at least gave me confidence that I should be able to get through this weekend.

After swimming I headed home and went out for a nice short 3 mile run. Again, I meant to do this in the morning but everything conspired against me and I had to do it tonight. The humidity was brutal, around 85% by the time I finally got out to run. This was the first time in about 6 weeks as well I did two workouts in a day and that also took its toll. If I had been motivated enough I could have made this a swim-run brick, but I think I will save that for next week when I am doing some open water swimming at Jordan Lake.

Thanks for reading!

Human Performance Clinic

Week 1 of marathon training starts for real next week, but I got in an easy 3 miles on the treadmill yesterday afternoon. I had originally intended to get out in the morning, but it just didn’t happen and by the time work finished the temperature was 90 degrees with about 90% humidity. With all of that I figured doing the miles on the treadmill was preferable, if not very boring.

Yesterday evening however was much more interesting. I went to a clinic put on by Chris from the Human Performance Laboratory about training efficiently and how to gauge your nutrition intake based on your training. There were 2 mains points I was interested in from his talk.

Note: A lot of the points made came from Chris’s studies. My opinions will be in the Conclusion section.

Train efficiently

One point I should make is Chris himself said his attitude about training has changed a lot now that he is coaching Cross Fit. I haven’t made up my mind about cross fit mainly because I’ve never tried it and not researched it enough. I’ve read some articles from people who swear by it and the people who love it seem pretty fanatical, but I’ve also read some articles that say for endurance athletes it can lead the way to injuries. Now whether or not that is more related to the Cross Fit Endurance or just the regular Cross Fit exercises I don’t know.

The main takeaway from this section of his talk was that your high intensity training sessions are your most important training sessions of your week. Seems pretty logical to me. The interesting point came when Chris started describing what happens when you start dropping volume or regularity of your workouts but keep intensity up, your fitness (he was showing graphs related to %VO2 max) stays up. As soon as you start dropping intensity you fitness also starts dropping. This is what happens when you taper, you drop the volume of your workouts, but you keep the intensity up leading up to the race. This way you maintain your fitness for you race. Something I’ll need to keep in mind for the marathon, as I did not keep up intensity in the final week of training for the half ironman.

There was a lot more he went into about intensity which could probably be a whole post of its own, so maybe I will dig more into that in the future.

Nutrition

One of the things he mentioned the do for nutrition was to take a baseline of what you are eating now. Don’t change anything in your diet, just keep a log of what you eat for 7-14 days. Don’t do it continuously as it starts to become a major pain and take over your eating habits, but do it for 1-2 weeks to get an idea of how much of what you are eating. Then do it again in 3-6 months to see how it has changed based on your training.

Also depending on what your goals are then your nutrition and calorie intake will be different. Mainly, you need to decide if you want to lose fat, or build muscle. From some of the studies he has done they determined that in order to lose fat you will also lose a bit of muscle. This is mainly because in order to burn that fat you need to take in less calories than you burn during the day (again a fairly logical point). This is actually going to into a slight state of starvation (his word, not mine but you get the idea) You can’t really build cells if you don’t have the calories to do it because you have burned them all.

If you want to build muscle you either need to intake the same amount of calories you burn throughout the day or slightly more so they can go towards building muscle, but the studies found that you can’t just build muscle. As you are taking in these calories you will also gain a small amount of fat.

Conclusions

It was a very interesting talk, and Chris obviously could have kept talking forever. I think all of us that were there also could have kept listening because in a nutshell I think all endurance athletes are a little crazy and get particularly interested/psyched/obsessive over anything that can help their training. While I don’t know how much of this will affect my training from here on out, I think at least being aware of it will help me. The calorie intake parts seems like common sense as does some of the points he made about intensity training. The talk went on for almost 90 minutes so I can only write about some otherwise no one would read all of this. It will certainly make me take my intensity workouts (intervals/hills/long runs) and my taper more seriously which can only be a good thing.

 

Thanks for reading!