I’m working out consistently…well, running at least, somewhat consistently…but not having an immediate purpose if starting to take its toll.
My spring so far has sort of been built around rugby. I’ve already played one March tournament in Savannah, and I have another one coming up in NOLA in April. The plan was to make it out to rugby training with The Red Eyes once a week, maybe make a B-side match to help fill out numbers here and there, and get all my other fitness through running and some cycling on the off days.
The problem is that even rugby training jacks my back up. Bad. And the tournament I played a couple of weeks ago left me unable to run for about a week. I’m still going to make it to the NOLA tournament, but nothing in between now and then rugby-wise.
But I’m not amping up my SBR for some reason. I’m chalking up some of that to work travel and spring tasks around the house, but I’m running out of excuses.
Luckily, my Fall schedule is loaded with races–a couple of big Oly distance tris and a couple of 13.1 races right after that. So I’m going to have to start buckling down soon whether I like it or not.
Did I mention I’d like to come into serious tri training this season with a 5k PR?
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to focus on fast instead of far for this year. I took some time off after the Tour of Sufferlandria (a whole week off the bike) to recharge and get ready for some new stuff.
Lots of new stuff actually.
This spring I’m committed to (gasp) rugby for the for first time in a long time. Well…not too committed, I’m only going to practice once a week. But there’s an Old Boys tournament in NOLA this April, and I want to show up not only fit, but also with at least some of the strength and rugby mobility I’ve lost over the past couple of years.
It also helps to have held a ball recently.
This actually fits in pretty well with my efforts to try and get a little faster. I’m focusing a lot more on fast twitch in my non-rugby days with intervals. You could make the case that I’m more committed than the average rugby player because I’m going to training once a week and actually doing something on the other days. 😉
And then there’s that mobility issue–back to yoga.
The Missus has a YogaGlo subscription, and when I started checking out their offerings for endurance athletes, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m getting in a couple of short sessions each week focusing on hammies and hips, but also getting some arm and shoulder work in.
The missing piece to my whole plan is swimming. I’m not going to get in nearly enough. Saturday morning Masters is one tough workout a week, but that’s my only access to a pool. I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in at least one day of OWS, but that sort of depends on the availability of partners.
The hope is I can make it to the end of April without any injuries, a little more speed, a little more strength, a little more mobility, and ready to switch things up a little.
I was really happy with the way I kept up the fitness momentum throughout the holidays–the beginning of the “off season”. The plan was that there really wasn’t going to be an off season. I didn’t feel burned out at all, and I wanted to keep in the flow.
But in the last couple of weeks the wheels have fallen off. Well, not horribly–it’s not as if I’m not working out. But the volume has definitely fallen off.
Do I get some kind of reprieve for the fact that the intensity has picked up? I’ve been riding Sufferfest videos on Trainerroad in between rest days…does that count?
My run volume is definitely down as well, but I’m not throwing many junk miles in when I am out running. Intervals and higher paced (for me) long runs are showing up on the schedule regularly.
The fact that the schedule is a little bare right now definitely plays in. Other than the Tour of Sufferlandria, which starts next week, I don’t have much set in stone for 2014 except for an Old Boys Rugby Tournament in April.
So training is changing up a little bit for the next couple of months. I’m going to try to focus on bike improvement, run maintenance, and rugby whoop-ass. The only swimming I have planned for right now is a 1 mile OWS on Thursday nights before rugby practice. If the rugby thing falls through (what is it with these guys being able to commit?), I’ll join my local masters swim club and get some Saturday workouts in too.
I always said that if George Bush ever figured out how good my life is, he’d find some way to come and screw it up. Now, because he shut down the guv’ment for a couple of weeks, the 2014 Rocketman Triathlon has been pushed from the Spring until the Fall. My original plan was to do that 70.3 in May, then train up to a full self-supported 140.6 in October.
Now it’s looking like Rocketman will be in October as well. Push the 140.6 to November? Maybe, but that means I won’t get my best performance out of 70.3 OR the 2014 Space Coast Marathon. Boo!
New plan… Since I’m going to be a few weeks shy of peak shape for this year’s Space Coast Marathon, I’m going to run it with no watch…just run. Then I’ll do the Celebration Marathon in January, kick in a Master’s swim class beginning in February, and start training for 140.6 immediately.
There are some Spring 70.3s I may consider (Haines City?), and I’m also freed up to do the Wickham Park Ultra in May. Interested to see how far I can make it before I miss the cut off. As always, I will be on the Trainerroad for the duration.
I did this race back in 2010 when it was called the Health First Triathlon. It’s one of my favorite race courses. Check that…I think this may be my favorite race course. The race has improved since 2010, when then run was definitely short, and the swim course more confusing.
As always, when you have packet pickup at Running Zone, you know it’s going to go super smooth. They have an area of the store dedicated to packet pickup. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so close to the house. I also appreciate the fact that you are able to pick up your packet beginning on Wednesday, so you aren’t wading through a crowd of people the day before the race when you should be resting. This year’s bag included another nice t-shirt and a really nice hat with a little extra sweat band inside–very important feature to me.
Pacing: I was planning on using Neighbor Ben as something of a pacer for this race. I didn’t tell him about this, but I’m sure he was plotting my demise for weeks too. 🙂 We’re really close in everything–pretty much dead even on the swim. I think he’s a faster runner than me, and I’d guess I’m faster on the bike if we were time trialing for 40k.
That’s in stand-alone races…but tris are a different animal, and he and I approach them a little differently. I think I’m much more conservative on the bike to try to get my optimal run. I subscribe to the idea that it’s impossible to have a “great bike and a horrible run”. “Bad run” indicates over doing it on the bike, at least for me. My expectation was to finish pretty close to him on the swim, that he’d give a little more than me on the bike, and that I’d hopefully be able to close down the gap again on the run.
The best thing about Ben is that he’s a competitor. I think I’ve been missing out on pissing contests for quite a while, and I’m really happy the guy who got my attention by easily taking the ball away from me at rugby practice when I first moved here now lives right down the street. I already knew from doing some training with him that there would be no quarter given and no mercy on race day.
Oh…and he also likes old school rasslin’.
Anyway, I’ve been doing plenty of intervals on the bike, so I decided it fit nicely to attack the hills and the sections of the course with headwinds to get my intervals in for the race, relaxing a little on the flat sections and a lot on the tailwind sections. Physics says this is the correct way to ride for optimal speed if you’re interested in reading about it.
TIP: Physics is the most reliable thing in any race.
Fuel: This has been my biggest change recently. I’ve cut waaaaaaay back on sugars and grains in my diet. It got me over a hump to knock off another 5 pounds–mostly visceral fat I think. I’ve been running and riding on zero fuel to try and switch over to using fat for fuel (I have plenty) instead of sugar. I went with a banana and a Laura Bar pre-race and planned on another Laura Bar at the beginning of the bike. I had a couple of packs of Gu in my shorts, just in case, but I wasn’t planning on eating them.
Diesel racing. No bonking.
Race organization and start
Ben picked me up at 5:45 to make the haul down to Eau Gallie. We talked about 80s hair metal and our favorite Rock and Roll Pump Ups the whole way. He understands the power that is Motorhead.
Parking was simple and ample, plenty of body markers at transition, plenty of space for everyone to get set up, and no lines for chip pickup. Even the port-a-potty lines were reasonable.
I was expecting the turnout to be a little bigger. There were only 3 waves for the Olympic distance race, and my wave was 2nd to go off with 15 people in my age group (40-45), and 103 participants overall. I like being in later waves because it gives you more people to chase on the bike. Not that I’m ever in the top swim pack in my wave, but the more people you can hunt on the course, the better.
The sprint had a larger field with 204 athletes.
00:34:27 (5th in AG, 26th overall)
Ben and I swim this spot every Wednesday, and the buoys have been out for a couple weeks–no surprises showing up race morning and wondering if the course was laid out long. It was. No looking down at my watch at the finish and wondering why it took so long–I already knew it was long based on my training swims. I usually do 1500 in 28:00 +/- 30 seconds, but I knew this was going to be somewhere around 34:00. It actually felt shorter, especially on the leg going north. I thought it was maybe sub-30:00, but it didn’t worry me at all to look down and see that big number on my watch at the finish.
I think this was important because I didn’t feel any need to try and make up time on the bike. If I’d expected 28:00, it could have changed the complexion of the race. I was hoping for some rougher water because I’ve been out there training in the evenings when the water is typically much choppier and the current stronger. Anything that would give me an edge, you know?
Turns out, I did get a little bit of an edge on the swim–the edge of a rock. I cut my big toe on my right foot open when I took a dolphin dive at the very start of the swim. It played a little bit of a factor in the rest of the race, but I’m very happy with how I handled it. It was stinging for the whole swim, so I knew it was a cut, I just didn’t know how bad it was. But it had zero impact on my swim, so I decided to deal with it if and when it became an issue.
This was the best transition I’ve ever had. I went really minimal for this race. T1 consisted of of putting on a helmet and going! Shoes in the pedals already, no HR strap, etc.
I also committed to sprinting T1 and knew to (TIP) stay to the right coming off the pier to take advantage of the shower. I ran by a lot of people in T1 with the plan of jacking my HR up as high as I could. The thinking being that cranking it up would work to my advantage since I was going to put on my shoes and grab a bite to eat early in the bike. A higher HR would get the blood pumping into my legs, and I could let it recover while I was dealing with food and shoes.
Ben was turning into his bike rack about 4 steps ahead of me, so I knew I was right on track. I got to see some of my cheering section coming out of T1. It’s been reported that I wasn’t my usual smiling, cheery self. Part of that was that this was a shorter race, which made it a much more intense effort. Also, I was now thinking about dealing with the toe.
Bike (27 miles)
1:17:36 (9th in AG, 39th overall)
I love, love, love this bike course. It’s fast, with only three 90 degree turns. Not much more than feathering the breaks until the dismount is required. It’s not hilly, but the four small causeway sections keep the low-country people honest. I relish those “climbs”.
Tip: I like to eat solid food at the beginning of the bike. I wasn’t using a bento box for this race and didn’t have any electrical tape, so I just crammed a Laura Bar into my helmet. This worked great! Once I was going on the bike I just reached up and grabbed the bar and started munching. Adding this to the back of tricks!
My heart was racing pretty hard when I mounted and started north on Pineapple. I revved up to about 18 mph and put a shoe on, revved up to 18 again and put the other shoe on, grabbed the bar out of my helmet and started a high cadence pedal staying over 18 while I ate and took in some liquid. I started putting some pressure on the toe to see if I could get some new information. It felt like there was a big knot/blister on the bottom, but I couldn’t tell if it was still bleeding or what was going on. I decided I’d check it at T2 and figure out what to do about it then.
Ben passed me about a mile and a half in, and I was all the way to US1 before I could feel the HR start to come down. I knew he’d be going at it pretty hard, so I thought I was in good shape as long as he was in site. By the time we reached Pineda Causeway (6m) I was riding easy and ready to attack the climb. I took it at over 19 mph, but made sure I was riding high cadence and not mashing big gears (thanks Trainerroad!!!!). I passed a bunch of people, including Ben, on those first two bridge bumps and soaked in the recovery on the downhills.
I was going at a nice clip headed south on 513 but not pressing the HR. I estimated the wind was at our backs and that I’d need the juice when we headed north on Tropical Trail. I knew I was in a good spot when Ben passed me back about 3 miles into that stretch and I was going 23 mph.
Sure enough–headwinds as soon as we started up Tropical Trail. I focused on ignoring the numbers on my bike computer and concentrating on my effort level instead. This was going to be a 5 mile stretch of effort, and I approached it as a 15 minute Trainerroad sweet spot interval. I can’t adequately express how much Trainerroad has benefited me on the bike. I’d really like to ride this course as a straight up time trial to see how fast I could do it. I’ve done this course faster in a tri, but never as efficiently and never with so much left over for the run.
The second trip down 513 was more of the same–relatively high speed with lower effort. Ben pulled out of site, but I didn’t chase. I knew I had a little bit of work left to do on Eau Gallie causeway. It’s a little steeper and longer than Pineda, but I kept it at a high cadence and went up pretty quickly. As I crested the top I pulled my feet out of my shoes and tried to see if I could learn more about the toe. Speed picked up pretty quickly, so I wasn’t really comfortable trying to get a good look at it. Instead, I decided to spin the legs out and wait to see how my towel looked in T2 after I wiped my feet. I also realized at this point that more information wasn’t going to change anything unless I was absolutely gushing blood.
A little slower than I’d have liked, but there were extenuating circumstances. I cleaned my feet off like I normally do and saw I was definitely leaving some blood on the towel. Nothing too bad, but I made absolutely sure my socks were going to protect me as best they could. The best thing about this race was leaving T2 and seeing the oldest offspring smiling and screaming for me at the timing mat. I heard her for a looooong way down the road!
Run (10k)-High Drama
00:51:50 (4th in AG, 30th overall)
If you’ve read this far, you won’t mind how long this section is. With every triathlon I do, I become more and more convinced that it’s just a running race. This is where all the action happens.
My favorite thing about this run course is that the last three miles feature two hills. Well, they aren’t really hills, just a big bridge. They aren’t huge or anything, but that’s all up to perception, and I don’t perceive those to be insanely big hills. “You can take the boy out of Tennessee…” and all that. Again, a slight advantage for me against the lowlanders. I actually enjoy running on hills, and it just so happens that we run intervals on this bridge every Wednesday right after we swim.
As soon as I left T2 and headed up Pineapple, I could see Ben a pretty good ways up ahead. I was hoping to be a little closer at this point in the race, but the only thing I could do about it was to run. I focused on two things–high cadence and toe evaluation.
I’m not going to lie. It hurt, and the first thought I had was that I shouldn’t run and end up injured with a marathon looming in the future. I decided to keep running for a while and have a discussion with myself to help me decide what to do. Here’s that whole conversation broken down into bullet points:
What hurts worse..the toe or the rest of your body because you just got off the bike? Rest of body.
DNF is off the table, so what are you going to do…stay out here and walk a 10k? Uh…that sounds horrible. No.
You’re almost a mile in now. Look down…is your shoe bloody yet? No.
Ok, now you are a mile in. The rest of you body feels better now…is the toe pain enough to make you stop? HELL NO!
I was expecting/planning to run the first mile in 8:30 +/-10 seconds. The plan was to spend the second mile doing some math to figure out what kind of splits it would take from that point to go sub-50:00. My first mile split was 8:04. Oops.
I tried to let off the gas a little, but I think I got a little psyched out by the fact that I didn’t seem to be closing in on Ben. He’s a faster runner than me, but I thought I would have a shot at catching him if he’d overspent on the bike and I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any information about the gap between us at that point. There’s a turnaround in the 2nd mile and I noted where he passed by me on his way back and took a split to see how long it would take me to get there. I was just less than a minute behind him, but it didn’t seem like that was going to close anytime soon. Mile 2 split was 8:07.
But all of a sudden, he seemed closer. I watched him cross into the shade of a tree and took another split to see how long it took me to get to that point. Surprisingly, I was only down 35 seconds! I realized I was probably going to catch him pretty quickly at this pace, so I decided to slow down just a tad. I was 99% sure I had gone out too fast at this point and was not going to make it under 50:00–not with those hills coming up. The best thing I could do was try to regroup and get ready for the hard part. The hills were going to be my best chance to pass other people in my age group.
Mile 3 split was 8:13, and I passed by Ben just as we went up the little hill at Creel Street. As we turned onto Highland, I spotted another guy in my age group who had BLOWN by me on the bike. His head was bobbing a little, and it seemed like that small bump in the road had taken a lot out of him. I regrouped a little and passed by him, trying my best to appear fresh.
After that, I felt like I was running on my own for the most part. It’s a little scary not knowing what’s going on behind you, and there’s no way to see the gaps between athletes again on this course until somewhere around the 5 mile mark. I let the unknown of what may be happening behind me drive me forward. Whatever was going on back there, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible. Also, I knew that there were plenty of people in my age group in front of me, and I wanted to apply as much pressure on them as I could. I’m making a huge assumption here that I even entered someone else’s mind. I’m sure I didn’t, but it was helping at the time.
Mile 4 finishes near the top of the causeway, and I got there in 8:32. I was pretty happy with that split considering the hill involved, and I estimated that most of my competition couldn’t take that hill at the same pace I had. It was nice knowing that I’ve run that thing a bunch of times and have never quit on it, even when doing intervals. Race day is not the day to set a precedent like that.
The pain of a 10k was starting to build up, but I realized I’d completely forgotten about the toe!
Mile 5 is all downhill and flat, but I only ran an 8:37. I think I lost focus a little on that mile, thinking it was a gimme. Disappointing, and something I need to make sure I don’t do again, but I knew I had one more hard effort to go, and I’d soon be happy I’d given myself some breathing room.
Mile 6 up and down the causeway was an 8:32. On the climb I saw another guy in my age group (who’d also smoked me on the bike) walking. I set my sites on him and gauged that I could catch him before the top. If I did, he’d have a hard time catching me back on the downhill, leaving me about a quarter mile to hold him off. I could not believe it when he started running about 2/3 of the way up the hill. I took another shot at him, but realized he’d gotten a rest during his walk, and now the tables were turned–it was going to be tough for me to catch him on the downhill and last quarter mile.
When he glanced over his shoulder and saw me, I knew the jig was up! He ended up beating me by 17 seconds. I talked to him afterwards and we agreed that both of us had dug just a little deeper from that point. He was visiting from south Georgia and said, “man…those causeways humbled me.”
Finish Line and Post-Race Analysis
2:47:09 (6th in AG, 30th Overall)
I was spent at the finish…veins pumping battery acid just like they are supposed to be. They had nice cold towels and water for us and, as is the case for just about every race these days, nice medals. Honestly, I’m not sure a race of this distance warrants a medal, but the kids get excited about it. I’ve decided they should only give medals for races that make me consider quitting several times during the event and to swear them off forever. Or if it’s something I haven’t done yet because I don’t feel ready. So basically marathons and ultras for running, and 70.3 and up for triathlon.
Kidding, but not really. I wouldn’t mind if they gave you the option to pay a lower entry fee and opt out of the medal. I’d do that for just about every race. I’d have immediately traded my medal for an extra cold towel and a cold cold beer. Personal preference–finisher medals just don’t matter that much to me. The Missus says it’s important for the kids to see them as a physical reminder of the effort that went into getting them. I get that part of it, so let the medal awards continue!
There was plenty of fruit, water, and baked goods at the finish line. Additionally, they had beer and wings at Squid Lips after the race was officially over. We didn’t stick around for that though–opting for better quality beer by the pool at the house instead with a soundtrack featuring more Motorhead and rasslin’ conversation. I was honored to be crowned the Davidia Dr. World’s Heavyweight Champion of Endurance Sport.
I have no illusions about my ability in the short term to win my age group (2:30:00 won it). My strategy is long-term. I plan to simply out-live everyone in my age group. See you punks in a few decades.
But I’m seriously motivated by the fact that the difference between 3rd and 6th (me) was only 3 minutes. It lights a fire under my booty–I think I can find 3:00 minutes somewhere in a 2:45:00 race. I felt like we were really fighting it out the whole way (at least I was) and I’m planning to come back to this race next year faster, and maybe with a (more) decent bike.
I think I lost a little time on the run because I failed to manage my pace correctly at the start, and I also gave up a little on that 5th mile. There’s a chance I went a tad too hard on the bike and took a little off my run, but there’s just as good of a chance that I didn’t go quite as hard as I should have and left some time on the bike course. That’s really hard to tell without a power tap.
The People Who Made It Happen
As always, I want to thank my family for coming out and supporting me on race day and working their schedules around my training when necessary. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it affects them. Also, thanks to all the volunteers and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department for keeping us safe on the swim and in the intersections and manning the aid stations.
I am especially appreciative of the folks manning the medical tent who tended to my foot after the race. My toe box and sock were bloody, but luckily no stitches required. If you want to get a look at how nasty the situation was, click here. When I say “nasty” I’m mostly referring to the foot itself–not necessarily the cut. They cleaned it up (the cut, not the foot) and wrapped it for me. As I told the medic, I wanted to squeeze in as much quality medical care as possible before October 1.
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Coach Brett Blankner at Zentriathlon.com. His podcasts have made a huge impact on my training, nutrition, and race management over the last two years. A little secret: most of what he talks about applies to life in general, not just triathlon. Especially helpful for this race was an episode from a few weeks ago in which he discussed Zen racing and your ability to deal with the unexpected. What if the swim gets cancelled? What if your goggles leak? What if you accidentally drop a water bottle? What if you cut your foot open as the horn is blowing at the start? This episode was the first thing that crossed my mind when I felt the sting, and I was able to remember what I’d learned from it and remain calm.
Thanks a ton Brett! You are doing a good thing and making a difference for people!
There’s nothing like having another competitive person push, pull, and drag you to the next level of performance.
I’m a big fan of playing games during training when I’m coaching sports like rugby and baseball. Games are a great way to avoid monotony during training sessions–drills are boring and standing in line to do drills is even more boring. Games also keep the intensity of a training session higher because, unlike a drill, you can actually compete and win. Games also help create an artificial pressure.
I’m not sure why I never even tried to come up with anything for Triathlon training. Maybe it’s because I only have myself to worry about, and the monotony doesn’t bother me very much…dunno. But it’s not quite as easy to dream up endurance training games as it is in ball-related sports.
But I came up with a couple anyway–both depend on a partner.
Neighbor Ben and I were talking last week about how much benefit we’ve gotten from swimming open water only. It’s way more exciting that swimming in a pool, even if the danger is mostly perceived, and there’s so much more to deal with–sighting, chop, currents, no walls, etc. Then last week, he T-boned me during our swim and had a head-on collision with another lady. We were laughing about it the other night, but then realized we may be onto something.
What if we went out and played Open Water Tag? It would work something like this…
Both players swim out to the middle of a body of water as a warmup–say 500m or so. Player One then goes under water and holds his breath for 30 seconds. While this is happening, Player 2 swims away in any direction. At the end of the 30 seconds, Player 1 comes up and finds (sighting–key skill) Player 2 and sprints (key skill) towards him to “tag” him. Player 2 can swim anywhere he wants to avoid the tag, changing direction (key skill) at any time. However, Player 2 has to swim head-up (strength/sighting) the entire time he’s being chased.
This is another tag-type game–Interval Tag. After warming up, both players do something somewhat strenuous to take a little mustard out of both–something like 20 burpees. Player 1 then runs away on a pre-determined course while Player 2 rests for 30-45 seconds. Of course, Player 1 will be going at a jog after the burpees.
After his rest, Player 2 chases down player 1 and tags him as soon as he can. Once the tag has been made Player 1 (the original chaser) continues along the course. Remember, he just did an interval, so this will most likely be a recovery jog. At the same time, he’s going to want to put as much distance as he can between himself and Player 2.
Meanwhile, Player 2 (who was just tagged) stops to do some type of exercise like pushups/squats/plank. He should be pretty well rested at this point, but he’ll also have some urgency to finish the assigned exercises and get on with the next chase.
If you want to play a cycling game, that’s easy. Sign up for Trainerroad. It’s downright addictive in the way it gets into your head and drives you to match the prescribed power output.
The problem with the mall is that I have to go to the mall. Triple B (Bed, Bath, Beyond) is like a SkyMall you can walk through.
John R. Mathers 2 Mile Cross River Swim – This is tentatively scheduled for September 15 this year, and I can't wait. I really like the John Mathers story Rob gives us in this post. That there was a real man.
If you’ve been following along, and my sources indicate you probably haven’t been, I started the Trainerroad program a few weeks ago as a sign of my commitment to making big gains on the bike this year.
The first order of business on the Trainerroad program is to take an FTP test. I did that, and I scored 252 watts the first time around. That’s decent power, but for a guy my size, not all that impressive. I was coming into the program with a pretty dang good aerobic base, but I’d definitely let my cycling fall off.
I won’t lie–those few extra pounds I was carrying also hindered my bike speed a little. My FTP/kg was at about 2.8.
Well, the number I actually rode missed that mark by quite a bit. I ended up with a new FTP of 305.
That’s an increase of 21%. And with a concurrent drop in weight, that puts my FTP/kg at 3.5. That’s an increase of 25%!!!!
I’m not sure how that would factor in time wise, but I’m guessing that means a 40k time trial improvement of a few minutes. Minutes…not seconds. Minutes! I haven’t ridden on the road since starting the program, and honestly, I’m not too keen to get out there for a while because I’m getting unbelievable results on the trainer.
But I’m jumping right into the middle of a 40k time trial program as my cycling training for an Olympic distance race at the end of September. I’ll be flowing straight to a marathon training plan from there, so there’s going to be a focus on the run as well, at least in volume. I think after some big swims this summer I’m ok putting that on auto-pilot for a while. That doesn’t mean no swimming, but I’m not looking for gains.
But here’s the problem…
With that nice, shiny new (and big) FTP, these Trainerroad rides are going to be VERY challenging over the next few weeks. I’m pretty sure that means I’m going to be finishing a little earlier than usual on race day.
Five Ways To A Faster Run Split – Got my best 70.3 run split doing a lot of this stuff. One of the things I changed was the way I do intervals–just go hard for as long as you can, as many times as you can. I've found I'll push myself much farther than if it was prescribed, and I'll do more reps too.
First of all, it’s not a race. Got that? I’d probably have opened up with a different line if I’d gone faster. But that’s not the case.
Second of all, 3.75 miles is a really long way–at least for me. The trick to swimming distances for me has always been to just get my mind wrapped around how long I’m going to be out there, get started, and don’t stop. Swimming is different from running in that it doesn’t beat you up physically, so I’ve always had the mentality to “just keep swimming”. The strategy for this swim was to just survive it. This was much farther than I’d ever gone before, and I really didn’t know for sure what to expect physically. Fatigue has never played that big of a part in swimming for me unless I’m doing intervals, but 3.75 miles was enough to make me tired.
Thirdly, there’s no way I could pull off something like this without a ton of support. Pretty much everyone except for the top-notch swimmers (there were a few out there) needs a dedicated person in a kayak or on a SUP to carry food and liquid, keep them on course, and make sure they are safe. So thanks to Brevard’s best dentist, Ryan Osorio, for waking up early and paddling at an excruciatingly slow pace for me. Also, a huge thanks Rob Downey for coming up with this idea a few years ago and getting everyone organized. When I stumbled onto this event on his website last year, it seemed like a “one of these days” type accomplishment. But he’s created something really special in this event–something that is fun, inclusive, and has a very supportive and encouraging vibe all around it. He even hosts training OWS swims twice a week. Those were huge for me for this event and for my last 70.3. Last but not least, I want to thank The Missus for encouraging me to do this kind of stuff, taking care of the kiddos by herself when I get up early to do it, and for bringing donuts and a camera to the finish.
Some people had some concerns Saturday afternoon/night about the SW winds and the amount of chop we’d be dealing with. I’m not going to lie…that caused me to pause and reconsider a little. At one point, I even talked myself into skipping the B2B swim and going to the pool to knock out 6k instead. But I realized that wasn’t at all the same thing. The best case scenario there would be that I’d kill it at the pool and beat myself up for not going out to do the real swim. The worst case scenario for the B2B would be that I’d have to get a tow in if I couldn’t hack it. I knew realistically that wouldn’t happen unless I was attacked by manatees or something.
Ryan picked me up at 6:15 Sunday morning, and we headed over to the Eau Gallie boat launch ramp. There was already a nice sized crowd there. There was a nervous energy for sure, but completely different from triathlon energy–this was much more friendly. The water was a little choppy, but not white capping or anything like that. I was instantly glad I’d decided to do it. I’ve gone over the Eau Gallie causeway and looked at the Melbourne Causeway a million times, but it looked a lot farther today. You can sort of see the destination bridge in the background of the photo below. Squint.
We got started without a lot of fanfare. No organized waves, and no fighting for position. Everyone knew we’d be out there a while. It was really hard to get into any kind of rhythm at the start because of the chop. It wasn’t anything too crazy, but it also wasn’t going to stop. We’d be swimming into the wind all day. My biggest concern early on was to minimize the amount of water I accidentally swallowed, so I was breathing a lot higher than I usually do. Luckily, I have a lot of experience turning my head way too high, so I easily reverted back to some old habits and looked up to breathe. At times I almost felt like I was going to roll into a backstroke. Staying on course was tough too, even with a navigator. With no buoys, sighting was pretty much impossible. Ryan had to constantly adjust to herd me in the right direction. We stayed at it for quite a while, and I was surprised when Ryan got my attention and told me we’d gone about a mile in just under 40:00. I thought we were going at a much slower pace. I also thought we’d been out there much longer.
About 15 minutes later I felt a nice rush of cooler water and the surface flattened out a little. I guessed we were getting close to the first sand bar and planned rest point at about 1.3 miles in. I peaked up and saw that we were pretty close, so I picked it up a little and swam until I was scraping sand. I grabbed a bottle of liquid from the kayak and killed it, along with two or three energy bars. The only issue at the first break was that my head was hurting. I thought it was because I’d tightened my goggles up a notch the day before, but it was actually my swim cap. I ditched that and could not believe how much relief it gave me to swim without it. I wasn’t too worried about it since there were lots of swimmers out and I had Ryan right next to me to keep me safe.
The next leg was much more comfortable. I hit a nice groove and did a mile in ~33:00, which is a typical easy pace for me in the mile. At one point it felt like the water had handles and I was getting a really good pull–almost like grabbing pudding. Nice! I had a terrible song stuck in my head, so I tried to sing something different to myself and get rid of it. It kept coming back up though. Ryan grabbed my attention to tell me there were some dolphins about 30 yards away, but I never saw them. I skipped a few bubble blowing sessions to see if I could at least hear them, but no luck there. I’m just glad one of them didn’t slam into me thinking I was a fluffy water toy.
By the time we reached the next break at about 3 miles I knew for sure I was going to make it without any problems. I was starting to feel a little tired though. I knew the last leg was going to be a challenge. Pushing through fatigue isn’t a huge challenge, but I knew it was going to be important to focus and try to keep my form as best I could. I’m not a gifted swimmer to begin with, and it’s hard to focus on form when you are beginning to fatigue. In that way, swimming is a lot like running and cycling. I’d argue that it matters a lot more in swimming.
I’d stopped trying to keep anything resembling splits, but I know my pace was falling off at this point. I actually did roll into backstroke by accident once, and my stomach made a small sacrifice to the Drowned God (obligatory GoT reference) somewhere in there. Hope the fish enjoyed that!
I could see the finish was just a few hundred yards ahead, and that gave me some extra gitalong. I was expecting to swim all the way to the exit ladder, but I noticed people ahead of me standing in thigh deep water. It wasn’t long until could see the bottom and I instinctively stood up. I probably could have dolphin dove to the ladder, but I’d had enough swimming for the day, so I walked the last 50 yards or so and talked to Ryan. It was nice to listen so something besides bubbles and gasps for air.
Dave Underhill had a smoothie stand waiting for us at the finish, and that hit the spot, along with a bottle of water from The Missus. I think the only thing I was really missing out on would have been a gallon jug of water to pour over myself and get the brackish saltiness off.
I felt good about my time of 2:33:00 all things considered. Even though conditions weren’t too bad, they definitely weren’t optimal. I haven’t been swimming very much at all lately, and that was almost twice as far as my longest previous swim. I’m coming back next year looking for a big gain. This counts as a PR, and it shouldn’t be too tough for me to break it next year.
Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans – One of the things I've learned from triathlon training. Stress is stress. Traveling makes you tired too…maybe not as tired in the exact same way as a long run, but your body takes the stress regardless. It can't be discounted.
IronMan SwimSmart Initiative – Some great ideas here. Good to see they are coming up with some different ways to keep people safe and comfortable. The rolling start is a cool idea.
I was the last one in the pool last night and thought about dumping all the kickboards, pull bouys, and whatever that other junk is in the basket next to the pool into my lane and do 200-300 through it with my eyes closed.
Didn’t want to have to clean all that stuff up though.