Friday, March 26, 2010

Thank You – Triabetes & San Diego Tri Club

The warmth and love of the triathlon community never ceases to amaze me and Triabetes continues to be one of the most amazing and touching organizations I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. Peter, the head honcho of Triabetes rallied the troops and sent a mass e-mail to the San Diego tri club. I’ll write a full post when I’m back in VA next week thanking everyone for their support. But – I GET TO RACE TOMORROW! I’m going at it bad news bears style and breaking every rule in the book – nothing new on race day – ha! I just can’t believe how willing people are to help out someone they hardly know, or don’t know at all – this sport and community is just great. See you at the finish line.

Will Not Start - Baggage

Yesterday I was on Continental Flight 602 from Newark to Los Angeles. On that flight a 70 year old man had a heart attack and we had to make an emergency landing to ensure that individual's health. While the flight attendants will tell you they are trained for your safety in flight – do not believe them. The flight attendants had no idea what the protocol was to stabilize this individual when he had the heart attack and thankfully there were passengers who were doctors aboard. At one point a woman passenger who was a doctor or nurse screamed at the flight attendenant for the epihinedrin because the man had no pulse.

We landed at 4-corners air field in Farmington, NM. This airfield serves local pilots on mainly non-commercial flights; after we landed and the man was brought to safety the workers at this airfield were snapping pictures of themselves next to the plane most likely because they had never seen a plane so large before. The manager at the airfield said to the press that while the plane could land at the field safely, taking off was not safe. All the bags and cargo needed to be removed from the plane for the plane to be able to take off safely again.

During the emergency landing the pilot rushed through turbulence; let me tell you those jets can go through hell and back and stay together, it essentially felt like we were in a nose dive. We came onto the runway steeply and at a very fast speed – everyone was thrust completely forward in their seats when the pilot slammed on the breaks as soon as we hit the run way. It then took the EMTs about 20 minutes to figure out how to get the sick man off the plane – Albuquerque, New Mexico with a full commercial airport and safe runways was just over 120 miles away from the air field we landed at; a flight time of less than 15 minutes.

I have no way of knowing if landing at that air field saved the individual's life or not, I do know that by landing at that airfield the pilot risked the lives of the 185 individuals who remained on board when we took off again. I do know that Continental has handled this entire situation awfully; we were grounded in New Mexico for 3 hours yesterday as the brains that be at Continental tried to figure out the physics behind taking off again. To do that we needed to lose 3,000 lbs – or the luggage and cargo. With the amount of time Continental spent figuring out the physics behind taking off again one would think they were advancing the thought of string-theory. One would think with all the time they spent doing that math they would have figured out a way for our luggage to get from New Meixco to California in less than 36 hours – it is a 17 hour drive (I google mapped it from the runway).

My bags will not arrive in Los Angeles until 5am tomorrow morning. My bags contain my wet suit, race nutrition, bike pedals, bike shoes, triathlon kit, fuel belt, running shoes, heart rate monitor, sun glasses and race hat. My bags contain everything I need to race tomorrow; the only thing not in my bags is my bike helmet. I am unable to race tomorrow because Continental could not figure out the logistics of getting the passenger's bags from New Mexico to California in less than 36 hours. Oceanside is about 2 hours from LA, the earliest I could have my bags tomorrow would be 7 am, after I get my bags I need an hour and ½ for pre-race nutrition prep, the earliest I could start would be 8:30 am; I will not race tomorrow.

I am at the end of my rope when it comes to facing adversity and persevering. I am mentally and emotionally drained and have nothing left to give. Before I continue, let me clarify, my heart and prayers go out to the man who had the heart attack and his family; I want no one to confuse me being emotionally drained for that – it is the adversity after that incident and the way Continental handled the incident and aftermath that has me spent. I have yet to do a triathlon which has gone off smoothly. Sure people face flat tires, injuries and obstacles everyday in triathlon; but I have poured my heart and soul into this sport, I have sacrificed so much, have given so much for a cause and I feel like the wall is just getting too big to scale any longer.

I had never worked so hard for a single athletic event before. I had believed I finally overcame the mental hurdle of just going out to have fun in triathlon, just seeing what happens and just letting the day come to me. This weekend cost me close to $1500 between flights, shipping my bike on tri bike transport, rental cars, the hotel, and the race fee – that is $1.5k that stretches my student budget about as far as it goes. Last year the crash in the Patriots Triathlon cost me $2000 to replace my bike; this sport has me essentially broke in my last semester at grad school. I give up nights with my friends for this sport, have had many sleepless nights so I could look for my post-MBA employment while training for triathlon, have spent weekends traveling just to find dry roads to bike and run on. I have nothing more to give. I don't know if I have the strength to keep scaling these walls, I'm a fighter but I don't know how much fight I have left.

In 14 years of football I don't ever recall having to face adversity like this to compete in a sport. I don't ever recall circumstances outside of my control completely breaking my heart. I pour all that I am into my workouts each day. I finally had believed I was at a place to really have fun with it tomorrow. I finally believed I was ready to just be me out on the course. After I crashed and had an awful run at the Patriots Triathlon last September I considered giving up the sport. My performance at South Carolina re-energized me. But now what? I just don't know if I have enough left in me to smile through this one and roll with it – missing this race hurts, with everything I have poured into preparing for this race over the past 5 months I just don't know how I'm going to find that spark again to challenge myself day in and day out until IMCDA. I just can't deal with anymore adversity – I've had enough.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No Fears, No Doubts, Just Enthusiasm

On Saturday I'll zip up the wet suit, clip into El Bastardo and lace up my Nike Frees for my first triathlon of 2010. Since the South Carolina half in October I've been anxiously awaiting March 27th for the California 70.3. This will be my third season of triathlon and I know I am in the best shape of my life. In my first season of triathlons I was worried about my performance, concerned about covering the distance and fearful of how my blood sugars would react. For my second season of triathlon I continually had questions about why my race day performance never seemed to equate to what I had done in training. But this year, this season something has changed; I no longer care what my time will be, I have confidence in my training, confidence in my body and enthusiasm for the sport. I no longer feel as if I am out there to prove something to myself, I'm simply out there to have fun.

It has often been said that "perfection is the enemy of good." I believe in the past I was so concerned about having a "perfect," race whether from a performance or blood sugar perspective that I never allowed myself to just breathe and have fun. For each race I would freak out if I didn't take in my pre-race nutrition at the exact moment I was supposed to or if I couldn't get in a full warm up before the race began. The truth is once you have the confidence in your preparation, training and nutrition it is really easy to not sweat the small stuff and just focus on what's important – an awesome experience where I get to challenge myself athletically. I mean let's face it I know I'm not winning my age group and really my only goal is to just be a little bit faster than in my last race; perfection is a pretty unattainable goal while having fun is easy to achieve.

I haven't yet spoken to Coach Orton about race day strategy. I know that there are 3 steep climbs on the bike, that the run is flat and that the swim is in the ocean. Since it's an ocean swim and since I'm terrified of sharks there is a chance I'll set a world record for a 1.2 mile swim! The bike will be the bike; I've made huge improvements in my ability to pace myself on the bike and mentally feel I am better prepared for the bike than I ever have been before. Last weekend while El Bastardo was traveling to California via tribike transport I took my beater road bike (that I put together myself) for an 80 mile ride, knowing I averaged just over 17 mph on that thing lets me know my legs are pretty much ready to tackle the bike course. But, and I can't believe I'm going to write this, I am really excited for the run! Coach Orton has pushed the cr*p out of me in run training, he's had me run hills, do speed work, go long, go slow, go fast and go steady. He has challenged me with sustained efforts in zone 2 followed by 20 minutes of zone 4 effort; he has had me do mile repeats at paces I never thought I would achieve. He has broken me down to build me back up and has turned me from someone who just wanted to sprint into someone who runs because they love how it feels. I have never before had more excitement for the run of a triathlon than the bike; the idea of running along the Pacific coast at the end of the race has chills running down my spine.

Best of all after the race I get to hang out with the Triabetes crew! Julie who I met out at IMAZ will be doing the race with her husband and pooch cheering her on. Nate has rounded up a bunch of the amazing people involved with Triabetes to come cheer us on. Afterwards we are all going to a bbq in Oceanside and then on Sunday morning there will be some more Triabetes meet and greets. It's just going to be incredible to have a weekend where I'm competing with my Triabetes family cheering me on.

I've put in the work and I've made the sacrifices. I'm more mentally and physically prepared for this race than any I have done in the past. Yeah, the only thing to do is just going out there on Saturday and have some fun – it's going to be a hell of a day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Little Slice Of Heaven During The Training Week From Hell

Last week was THE WEEK, the big test heading into California 70.3. I had let Coach Orton know that I'd be spending my spring break in Charlottesville with nothing to do but train, train, train and train. He catered to my sadistic nature and gave me the following challenges:



Distance/ Tempo



Warm Up, 6 X 300, 300 kick, 6 X 50 (all done hard)


Bike, run

80 miles, 20 minute run


Track Work!

8 X 800 at 3:25


Swim, Bike

Warm Up, 4 sets of 4 X 50, 50 kick between each sets, 50s done at top speed; 30 minute bike


Swim, Run

Warm up, Pyramid: 400, 350, 300, 250, 200, 150; descending with 50 kick between each, no rest


Bike, run

3 hour bike, with 2 sets of 30 minute hard effort, 3 sets of 5a effort; 45 minute run zone 2 – 3



2 hours, zone 2, 1 and ½ hours, zone 3 20 minutes, cool down


All in last week I covered above 170 miles on my bike, 30 miles on my feet and well I can't translate all those yards into miles in the pool. I was chased by close to 15 dogs (and a pack of dogs while running), nearly got into two fights with drivers of cars, was aggravated by 3 people in the pool, ate close to 1,000,000 calories, dropped my daily basal rate by 1.7 units and could barely stand by the end of my run on Sunday. Given all that, it was by far the best week of training I have ever had and I surprised the heck out of myself by some of the numbers I posted.

The week just went incredibly well, each day I honestly felt like I got stronger, and amazingly my times continued to get faster. My legs were tortured (err I mean trained) in every possible way, endurance, speed, and strength. While fatigued my legs were tested, my mind was challenged and my body was forced to push through. At the end of my training week I wrote Eric a note on my training peaks account telling him my results totally blew my mind. Over the course of the week I only had one blood sugar low while training and that was probably more due to a higher basal rate than I should have had rather than not getting in enough carbohydrates.

Before I get into the highlights of my training numbers from last week I need to vent for a moment about dogs. I love dogs, I have a dog, Moose is one of the most incredible living creatures who has ever walked the face of the earth. I want more dogs in the future, I really enjoy dogs, I can play with dogs all day long, I will wrestle with dogs, I will play fetch with dogs, I'll even share a beer with a dog. But honestly if one more gd, mother fing dog fing chases me while I'm fing working out ever fing again I am going to turn around and bite the thing in the ear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was chased by big dogs, little dogs, fat dogs, skinny dogs, dogs that bark, dogs that growl, dogs with tails and dogs with nails. I yelled at dogs, I sped past dogs, I waived to dogs, I called dogs puppy and I called dogs a** hole. Pit Bulls, American Bull Dogs, Collies, Mutts, Farm Dogs, House Dogs, and Pack Dogs all chased me last week and I'm fed up. Dogs chased me while their owners watched from the front lawn, dogs chased me while I huffed and puffed up a hill, dogs chased me on flats, down hills, around turns, in the dark and in the light. Dogs chased me in the rain, in the sun, in the cold and in the warmth. Dogs chased me all the freaking time! The icing on the cake came during my run on Sunday; I was out on a country road about 5 miles into my run and a gorgeous brown and white dog comes tear assing out of its hard barking at me, I yell at it to go home and the dog seemed to be satisfied that I ran past its property. 20 or 30 minutes later I had to pass by the house again and the pooch was waiting – not just by himself either, with 6 of its friends!!! Mr. Tough dog sees me coming and cuts me off in the road this time, barking and snarling I yell at it to go home, to no avail, the dog keeps running along side of me and nipping at my heels (most likely trying to play); I yell again, to no avail. I then stop and put my hands out to show that I mean no harm and I think the pooch backs off so I go to jog again – nope right back on my heels, I then walk backwards for about 45 seconds hands open palmed out stretched so it can see again I mean no harm, this satisfied Kujo as it then lifted a leg to pee on a bush as I was able to jog away. Honestly people, please leash your dogs, its not safe to have them running into the street, they can get hit by a car, or cause serious damage to someone on a bike and to themselves. I'm pretty close to carrying mace with me or something because I've now had way too many close calls with dogs and its just a matter of time before I get bitten or a dog crashes into my front wheel hurting both me and it.

Now onto the highlights. Saturday and Sunday were two of my best training days in history. Saturday I covered just about 60 miles in the 3 hours of riding, averaging 18.9 mph – that included a few stretches of just hanging back and spinning as per Coach Orton's instructions. During my intense efforts on the bike Saturday my speeds on the flats were topping out at 28 mph, while I was pedaling along at what seemed to be an effortless 24 mph. I felt supremely comfortable in my aero position and my legs felt like they could have pedaled forever. I thought after that effort there would be no way I could have a good brick, but my 45 minute run on Saturday was incredible. I rolled off 8:20 miles like it was nothing and felt like I easily could have run 20 miles at that pace – no pain, no fatigue, just pure endurance fun.

The big shocker came on Sunday. My zone 2 pace for the first hour and 25 minutes of my run was a stead 9:05, just a solid easy run, no stopping, no slowing, just plodding away at 9:05 with my heart rate never cresting 146 bpm. At the one hour and 25 minute mark it was time to turn it on – fire up the legs to hit zone 3. When I loaded up the data from my Garmin my jaw dropped.

Mile 10 – 7:53 pace

Mile 11 – 7:57 pace

Mile 11.6 - 7:55 pace

I cranked out sub 8 miles in the last 20 minutes of training for the hardest training week of my life. On tired legs, and burning eyes from the sweat in zone 3 I absolutely crushed the run. I'm shocked by the training week I had, Coach Orton's comment to me today: "Your strength endurance is excellent." The 2010 season can't start soon enough – I wish Cali 70.3 was tomorrow because I'm foaming at the mouth, raring to go.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Slow Down To Speed Up

I'm continually amazed by the lessons I'm learning on how to be a successful endurance athlete versus a successful football player. In football it doesn't matter if your arm is falling off while you can only see out of one eye with a leprechaun hacking away at your achelies with a hatchet, each play demands everything you have. In endurance sports quite the opposite is true. At times when the walls are closing in, when my heart rate is elevating into zones it shouldn't reach and my blood sugar is dropping faster than a penny falling from the Empire State Building, the best thing to do is throttle back to rebound. In years one and two during my evolution as a triathlete I didn't fully appreciate that lesson, Coach Egg used to tell me, you don't have to go 100% on every run and you shouldn't constantly be running in zone 5; my response, F*ck the heart rate monitor I'm just going to run by feel. The ignorance of a meat head is pure bliss. Much like a two year old learns not to touch a hot stove by getting burnt, I didn't learn to throttle back until I blew up in race after race. This past weekend I turned another corner in my growth and maturity as an endurance athlete during a hard run out in Portland.

On the West Coast Coach Orton had me doing a mixture of endurance, strength and speed workouts. Without access to my bike he wanted to challenge my legs in every possible way, Wednesday was a nice easy one hour run to keep my legs fresh after a long travel day and Thursday was a killer swim pyramid; the real fun started on Friday. Friday Coach had me doing hill repeats, my sister lives pretty close to the Willamete River out in the PDX suburbs so the hills headed down to the river are freaking steep. My garmin has the elevation grade recorded between 10% and 20%, to me the thing pretty much looked vertical. I was scheduled to do 8 one minute repeats with a 2 minute rest interval. The data for this run is really neat, I remained consistent throughout with my heart rate cresting at 168 on each interval. My speed gets slightly faster on each of the intervals, except for the 7th where I blew up just a little bit, but my 8th interval was the fastest of them all showing that I "trained not strained," as Eric is fond of saying. The run killed my legs which made Saturday's workout that much more challenging.

On Saturday I was scheduled to do an hour and ½ run with 45 minutes in zone 3 and 20 minutes in zone 4a. For those of you not familiar with HR zones, zone 3 is the zone you would use for a longer race where you are pushing yourself but can maintain that heart rate for an extended period of time. Zone 4a is the effort you would exert for a real hard run, 70 to 80% of max effort. The key is that the higher the heart rate zone you are in the faster the lactic acid in your muscles will build because the higher the hr zone the more anaerobic the workout. What makes a run that has a prolonged effort in zone 3 followed by a moderate length effort in zone 4 is that you are forced to use a combination of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers and the long effort in zone 3 has taken a lot of the juice away from your legs; add to that the amount of muscle fatigue from the hill workout and you're in for a challenging day.

For the first 2 miles of the run I felt pretty strong, I tried to stay as on top of my nutrition at my sister's house as possible and was gliding along at an 8:50 to 9:05 pace as I warmed up. The route I chose was way hillier than I thought it would be, but in 65 degree weather I wasn't too upset about that. Everything was great until the 20 minute mark, I tested my blood sugar and was surprised to see 133, much lower than it should have been at that point in the run, my vision was becoming blurry, my legs were shaky and I felt like someone was holding me back with a weight sled or something. I opted to take in a ton of water from my hydration pack, took in a gel and pounded a fuel belt bottle. I collected my thoughts for a minute or two and began to trot off at a slow 10 to 13 minute pace. My time split for mile 2 to 3 dropped to 13 and ½ minutes and my split for mile 3 to 4 was 9 minutes and 45 seconds – real slow times for a zone 3 run. I however didn't let myself become frustrated, the 20 minute recovery I did had my legs come back under me, my head clear up and overall I just felt much better. For the next 2 miles I upped my pace to 8:45 (what I'm normally at for zone 3) and felt confident headed into my 20 minute zone 4 interval.

At the one hour mark I turned on the jets and let my legs loose for the zone 4 interval. Miles 7, 8 and 9 rolled off effortlessly as I maintained a sub 8 pace and absolutely crushed the 20 minute interval. Had I tried to force through the bonk that occurred at the 20 minute mark I never would have been able to recover to complete my zone 4 effort. In the past I would have been worried at my overall pace having slowed to a 10 mile pace over a 2 mile stretch; that mindset leads to a slower split as 10 minutes quickly turns into 12 which has a way of turning into 15 (or walking). Slowing my pace let my body recovery, let the nutrition I needed enter my blood stream and let my muscles get to the point of being able to complete the run like they should. Looking at my final times with a warm up and cool down I ran at a 9:06 pace and covered 9.5 miles in an hour and 25 minutes – right where I want to be for a training run like this. For the miles that counted (5 through 9) I ran an 8:50, 8:16, 7:38, 7:51, 8:13 pace respectively; times that would put me right inline for a sub 1:50 half marathon at my next race. Slow down to speed up, I'm not sure I ever would have believed I would write those words on my blog!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dialed In

To say I've been pleased with the way training has been going would be a huge understatement. Each morning when I wake up I'm excited to see what challenge Coach Orton is going to present me with, each day is an opportunity to improve, to become a better triathlete, to spend a couple hours with a huge smile on my face because I'm pushing my physical limits. The past two days of work outs in particular have been phenomenal. Each day had challenges: diabetes related, time management related and weary muscle related. However, on Sunday and Monday I felt more dialed in than I have at any point over my three year development as an endurance athlete.

We are in the middle of finals for Q3 right now and I've been killing myself to write some bang up papers on a couple interesting topics. Not to bore you with my nerdom but the two papers have been something I call "The Four Principals of Integrating Sustainability Into Your Supply Chain," and another on "To Patent or Not To Patent: Competitive Dynamics And Intellectual Property Protection Strategies." Each paper has taken a ton of research, a lot of original thought and their fair share of my energy so getting in my workouts over the past few days has required more of a commitment than usual, but that commitment has really paid off.

On Sunday Eric tasked me with a 40 mile bike ride; the big challenge – a 20 minute time trial right in the middle of the ride. Originally I was supposed to do the time trial on Thursday but with 25 mph wind gusts in Charlottesville it really wasn't possible. On Thursday I did the time trial and averaged something like 27 mph for 10 minutes but when I went to loop back I wasn't as sheltered from the wind around the curves and nearly lost control of my bike a couple times so opted to slow it down and just get in miles.

I picked out a route on map my ride and thought I had found a 10 mile stretch of nice flat roads (like those exist in the Blue Ridge Mountains!). The 10 mile stretch I picked out was nothing close to flat but I decided to TT it anyway and my results blew me away. It wasn't so much that I turned into Alberto Contador on the bike, it was that I attacked hills while my quads were screaming and my heart rate remained pretty constant in zone 4b the entire time. When Coach Orton saw my results he replied "that was a great overall avg HR for a hilly course like this.  And even though you got tired , you avg HR for the second half was the same as the first half – good strength endurance. And it makes IM course look flat." That's not to mention that once the course flattened out over the last mile I still had enough juice to crank out a 25 mph average, my fitness is almost to where I want it to be.

Monday was an even bigger victory than Sunday however. Since I'll be traveling to Portland later this week, to hopefully land that job, Coach Orton has the week front loaded with stuff on the bike. Yesterday I had an hour and ½ trainer workout with two, 30 minute intervals in zone 4a – 4b. In January and early February my cycling form was off; my hip would seize during rides and I was putting forth way too much muscle effort for the heart rate I was in. Now that I've been able to get in a ton of miles on the road my form is back and I'm able to get into the higher zones again on the trainer without feeling like someone is taking a sickle to my quads. I absolutely crushed the two intervals, but more importantly was able to salvage a trending low blood sugar.

I was so locked into what I was doing on the trainer that I forgot to take in nutrition for the first 30 minutes of my trainer ride. By the end of my first interval (50 minutes into my ride) my blood sugar was down to 84. In the past I would have become frustrated with this or a little scared that I would encounter a big low. Instead of calling it a day I took in an extra Clif Shot Gel, and drank some extra water to speed up the nutrition absorption process. By the end of my eight minute rest interval (I took an extra 3 minutes) my blood sugar had reached 100 and I knew that 16 point jump meant my blood sugar had rebounded enough to finish up the ride. My second interval went as well as my first and I may have dropped an F-bomb at the end of my trainer ride since I was a bit pumped up about it. So in a 48 hour training period I conquered some hills, salvaged a blood sugar and finally got my heart rate to consistently stay high on the trainer, I feel pretty dialed in right now.