Sunday, April 20, 2014

70.3 Puerto Rico- Stay in the moment

I was really looking forward to opening up my 2014 racing season down in Puerto Rico. My off-season strength and training blocks had gone very well and I was eager to get outside and race. My one concern was the lack of outdoor training I had accumulated since racing Kona back in October. Due to our brutal winter in the northeast, I came into the race with one outdoor bike ride and four outdoor runs. So I was looking forward to some warm conditions and testing my indoor fitness gains. I was fortunate to have my support crew with me. 70.3PRsupport Race morning started out very smooth with some beautiful conditions: 78 degrees and partly sunny 70.3PRracemorning Swim: 28:52 I made sure to get in a good warm up with my Blue Seventy skin suit: http://www.blueseventy.com/products/pz3tx. I was definitely ready to go by the time my wave went off. I was able to catch some feet to the first turn buoy, which helped set my tempo for the rest of the swim. I was happy to come out of the water with the 37th overall and 4th age group time. After a 1/3 mile run to T1 I was eager to test out my new Trek Speed Concept: 70.3PRbikeprerace Bike: 2:15:07 70.3PRbike My coach, Paul Regensberg, had prescribed a gradual build in effort for the bike and run sections since this was the first race of the year. So my goal was to stay in the moment and just flow below my normal race pace. The combination of the slightly lower effort and my nutrition game plan allowed me to come off the bike feeling very fresh. I was able to move up to 9th overall and 1st in my age group. 70.3PRbikefinish Run: 1:24:35 I felt fantastic heading out onto the run section. However, my coach's advise kept me focused on a smooth turnover. I managed to stay relatively cool and keep my internal temps low with the help of my Skins compression arm sleeves. 70.3PRrun2. The only problem I encountered on the run was a bit of cramping that started 2.5 miles into the run. In hindsight, I had gone into the run a bit low on my sodium intake. So I shortened my stride and used my 4 salt tabs strategically. I was able to keep the cramping at bay and I crossed the finish line feeling the freshest I've ever felt after 70.3 miles of racing. Finish: 4:13:17/ 6th Overall/ 2nd Amateur 70.3PRawards

Monday, March 24, 2014

Magnesium

This is the time of year that I start to ramp up my volume on the bike and overall training. As a result of this increase, I start to deplete my electrolyte levels and I will get cramps in my legs during swims and sometimes at night when I'm sleeping. This can get pretty painful and frustrating. Last year I started to supplement with Standard Process Magnesium Lactate(http://www.standardprocess.com/Products/Standard-Process/Magnesium-Lactate). I found that this really helped to alleviate my cramping issues. I still need to use salt sticks while I'm doing longer duration workouts. I have found that if I stay diligent on the magnesium and sodium intake that I can manage my cramping problems.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Standard Process 21 Detox - Follow Up

I wanted to write a quick recap of my 2014 Detoxification experience. As I stated in a earlier post, this was my fourth year participating in a healthy detox. Each year I have learned new things. This year I was able to manage my caloric needs much better. My energy levels stayed very high throughout the entire 21 days and I did not experience any caffeine withdrawal headaches at all. I did have the usual heart rate spike while the organs were detoxed, but my exercise heart rate levels quickly stabilized and even surpassed previous efficiency levels. I lost 10.2lbs and my body fat dropped 4.4% from start to finish. I'm now down at my race weight and my energy levels continue to stay very high. I was able to really dial in on my blood sugar levels this year. I now have better knowledge how to keep these levels more constant throughout the day. This was a very useful experience to kick off my year.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Metabolic Testing with the KSI Team

I love numbers and I love to break things down and analyze them. Each triathlon season I try to tackle a new variable and learn as much as I can as an athlete and coach. Over the past 14 triathlon seasons I've completed several VO2 max tests, sweat loss tests, threshold tests, wind tunnel testing, running stride analysis, and lactate tests. This season I decided I wanted to dial in on my metabolic efficiency. I have been very fortunate to have worked with the Korey Stringer Institute in the past. I've completed several of the above tests out at the IM World Championships and at the Timex Camp in the NY Giant's Performance Center under their supervision. Each time I have worked with the professionals from KSI, I have been very impressed with their attention to detail and their thirst for knowledge. It's a very friendly staff to work with. That can be important when you are being poked, prodded and hooked up to machines. Chris Thomas_1I have been very interested in learning about my metabolic efficiency ever since I returned to the Ironman distance in 2010. I have participated in over thirty five 70.3 distance races and I really have the nutrition aspect down for that distance and for shorter races. However, I have competed in the Ironman World Championship race seven times and I am still trying to figure out the best nutrition game plan for that combination of heat, wind, and humidity. Every athlete is unique. I see this all the time as a coach. Some younger athletes have lower heart rate thresholds than athletes ten plus years older even though in theory the younger athlete should have a higher threshold. There are athletes that can consume whatever they want during a race and their GI systems are totally fine throughout. While there are other athletes that have very sensitive guts. I, personally, fall into the later category. When I race, I triangulate three factors: heart rate, power, and perceived effort. I know my zones and I test frequently to make sure things are realistic and accurate. However, I have never identified my carb to fat burn ratios. My goal was to learn about several factors during the testing process. The first factor I wanted to determine was the intensity level that was the most efficient for training. The second factor I wanted to learn was how many carbs do I burn while at ironman effort and does my fat burn rate change as the intensity rises. We built my effort throughout the test until my carb to fat burn rates crossed over. At this crossover point, I was in between my 70.3 and olympic distance effort levels and my combined burn rate was up at twenty calories per minute. I was definitely ready to get off the bike at that point in the test as I had not been allowed to eat anything in over 6.5 hours. While I did have a few hunger pains by the end, I had another great experience testing with the KSI team and I have learned many things that I look forward to using in 2014.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The POWER of the early season healthy detox

This is my fourth year participating in a January detoxification. I choose to do a yearly cleanse due to the massive stress I put my body through during the race year. In addition, we all get exposed to an overload of toxins every day. I did a thorough metabolic test back in 2010 and found that my levels of tar and plastics were off the charts. The tar came from breathing the fumes from freshly paved roads and the plastics came from drinking water during my bike training from plastic bottles. So with my knowledge that I am a prime candidate for toxin overload, I start each year off with a full blood panel to see what my base levels are. Then I begin my detox. I have varied the number of days that I've participated in the detox over the years, but this year I decided to commit for the full twenty one days. There is a lot of misconceptions about detox's. Many people hear the word and they immediate think a juice cleanse that will catabolize muscle and change their metabolism. I, personally, favor participating in the Standard Process detox: This is a healthy cleanse that allows for plenty of good healthy calories throughout the 21 day process. While I'm on the cleanse I track a variety of factors: sleep amount and quality, weight, body fat, resting heart rate, energy level, and oxygen saturation. Well I'm currently twelve days into my cleanse and every factor has shown significant improvement so far. My sleep is very restful. I am sleeping straight through the night instead of waking frequently. I am down 6lbs after a bit to much holiday cheer. My body fat is down 2% and my resting heart rate has been averaging 36bpm. I feel great throughout the day. My thoughts are very clear and my energy levels are high. However when it comes time to go to sleep, I have no problems falling asleep. Also, my blood oxygen saturation readings are consistently 97-98. The idea of a cleanse can be a bit overwhelming but I am very happy that its part of my yearly routine.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ironman World Championships 2013: 35th Anniversary

This was my 7th year racing in Kona. Sometimes that experience can be good and sometimes it can…well let’s just say you know what lies ahead. The Kona race is so unique for many reasons. The course is not the most challenging, but when you add in the heat, humidity, and level of talent it all combines into one challenging race. My preparation this year was quite good coming into the race. My coach, Paul Regensberg, and I had worked on a bike focus block early in the year. Then we set my season up to slowly build into fitness so I would be peaking later in the year. I started the race season off a bit behind on my threshold levels but I used the month of June to build into form. By the time of 70.3 Worlds in September, the early season bike focus was starting to pay dividends. We then used the five weeks following the 70.3 race to fine tune some aerobic fitness. My bike and run fitness were the strongest to date as a result of the season’s plan. My swim was a little behind my 2011 fitness, but not by much. I was healthy and excited going into this year’s race, no excuses. My average training volume was 13.5 hours/week, which is right in line with my previous years. Swim: 1:01:31
I am very happy to report that my swim was relatively uneventful this year. I usually dread the start of the swim due to the hand to hand combat that normally takes place for the first 400 meters. I was able to get out well and I got clean water right away. I was so surprised by this that I had to look around me to make sure I had not gone off course. The swim out to the turn was calm and quick this year with flat water. I hit the final turn buoy at 28 minutes. The favorable currents, that we had on the way out, slowed progress a bit on the way back. I was able to keep clean water on the return trip and I exited the water feeling fresh and ready to go. It was not one of my fastest swims, but it was sufficient to put me up towards the front of the amateur race. Bike: 4:53:46
I had made my way through the first transition without any delays. I hopped on my QR Illicitio excited for the bike course. I hit my Joule GPS to start monitoring my heart rate, power, and cadence. That’s when I experienced my first pitfall of the day. My heart rate was not registering and thus my Joule was not recording any numbers (It was set to start by heart rate). I had worn my heart rate strap during the swim as I always do. The salt water must have gotten in and fried the monitor. The end result was that I spent the remainder of the day without any heart rate and power information. I went old school with perceived effort. In any Ironman, athletes are always presented with challenges that cannot be foreseen. This happened to be mine for 2013. A former pro said to me back in 2004: “that’s racing” when I experienced my seat post collapse during a race. If you race long enough, everything you can imagine will happen to you. The key is to have a back-up plan and try not to get flustered by the challenge. I attempted to at least get my power recording to start by switching my Joule over to GPS activation, but after about 5 unsuccessful minutes of scrolling through the different screens I realized it was not in the cards. I had several athletes inquire as to what the heck I was doing as they rolled past me. Finally, I decided to put my head down and get back in the race. I do all of my training and racing with heart rate and power, so I know what the perceived effort should feel like. I rolled along the first twenty five miles feeling good. It was starting to get hot, but we did not have any winds. In fact, we didn’t hit any winds until we were almost up to Hawi at the 60 mile mark. Then we caught some of the usual headwinds before we crested the hill. However, the winds were relatively mild this year. My nutrition intake was going well and everything felt in order at this point. I had managed to move up 200 places to 177th place overall at the turnaround. I started my first dose of X2 Performance just before Hawi, then I took a 2nd one right before turning back onto the Queen K heading back into Kona. I knew that the ride back into town on the Queen K would be mentally challenging and I wanted to be ready for it. The winds started to pick up around the 80 mile mark. It is not uncommon to catch a headwind here, but we also were getting a side wind. This was the first time that I had to ride with a tilt this late in the race. It almost always happens on the way up to Hawi, but not on the Queen K. My energy levels started to dip at this point, so I went to the Powerbar Performance Energy Blends. I had put three gels into a flask that I picked up at the special needs area. I worked really hard into the winds to stay aero and move forward at a decent clip. One of the classic moments I had during this section was when an athlete rolled past me in the back of a large pack of riders. As he rolls by, he says “look at this peloton”, he proceeds to stay right on the back of the pack. However, a race marshall pulled up shortly after that and nabbed a guy in the group for a drafting penalty. I felt a little better after seeing that. It can get a bit discouraging, when you are working so hard, to see packs of riders ease past you. I crossed the timing mat at mile 90 having given back 18 spots since Hawi. My energy levels were starting to drop again. So I decided to go to Cola at this point. I was hoping that the simple sugars would give me a boost and settle my stomach. It worked for a little bit, but then I really started to suffer. I came off the bike in 218th place. I had been passed by another 23 athletes over the last 22 miles. I had managed to avoid cramping the entire bike ride until I tried to get my feet out of my shoes. Both of my hamstrings locked up on me as I was rolling into the dismount area. I was able to shake one leg out, but I had to have one of the volunteers hold my bike as I pulled my foot out of my shoe still attached to the pedal. I was pretty stiff as I ran through the 2nd transition. I was not feeling well at this point, but I was hoping that things would come around once I got out on the run course. Run: 3:15:01
The best way to explain how I felt the entire run was TERRIBLE. I am used to coming off the bike and not feeling great in Ironman races, but I can usually loosen up once I get settled in after 2-3 miles. However, I just felt terrible the entire run. I was shocked when I hit my splits for the first 3 miles on my Timex Run Trainer 2.0. I was seeing 6:40sh splits, but I felt so bad. My strategy was to run for 5k then walk the next aid station. I was able to hold this strategy until the 8 mile mark. At that point I had to start walking each aid station the remainder of the race. I had to go into survival mode. I knew it was going to be a long day and my goal had changed to just keep moving. I kept telling myself that I would come around. It never happened. I had to use my salt tabs and my peppermint-ginger pills as I was cramping and my stomach felt very queasy. My lowest point came as I was exiting the natural energy lab. My left hamstring locked up on me and my stomach felt terrible. I had to stop and massage my hamstring to get it to release. I shortened my stride after that and just focused on getting to the next aid station. Once I got to the 22 mile mark, I actually started to feel a little better. I was very fatigued, but it was probably the best I had felt the entire run. I made a deal with myself that I was going to run the remainder of the race. I was a little concerned when I got to Palani. I thought my hamstrings might lock up on the downhill section. So I kept it pretty easy until I got to the bottom of the hill. Then I opened things up a bit. I felt fine muscularly and I just wanted to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. Finish: 9:15:43 7th M40-44/ 117th Overall
In summary, I was very happy with how I finished the race on this day even though I did not have the race that I was trained for. I was carrying my best fitness ever coming into the race and the weather conditions were the best I’ve ever experienced in Kona. However, that’s Ironman racing. You never know what’s going to happen during a 140.6 mile race. I hope I am fortunate enough to continue racing for many years to come.