Monday, June 16, 2008

17 things I took away from my 1st Ironman

My strategy for Brazil was to have a decent swim, a very conservative bike, and a steady paced marathon. As you can see by my split times, approximately 1:19 swim, 6:30 bike, and 4:25 marathon, I was not particularly good at any single event. However, I never made a mistake during the event in terms of major catastrophes. I remember training with a guy this fall and the one thing he told me that is true of endurance competitions is that it really is not who is the fastest, but who slows down the least. You could do a 1:00 swim, and a 5:00 bike, but if you walk five miles during the marathon you just lost that time you spent exerting yourself in the previous two events. It goes to show you that you can be terrible at three events, but never walk in the marathon and still have an Ironman around twelve hours. Long and slow, there is no rush.

1) I ran my marathon on untested shoes. They were brand new, and I only ran on them for fifteen minutes the day before the race. Turns out they worked fine, but when I took them off after the race I realized they were too small and now I will lose both big toe nails. So wear shoes ½ size bigger than the shoes you train with because after 112 miles of cycling your feet swell and keep swelling until you finish.

2) I raced on an untested nutritional plan. It is a good thing I have a stomach like a goat; I can eat nearly anything and it will not affect my race. Some people have a more finicky stomach and some foods create huge GI problems. So like every magazine/triathlon book says…. Test your nutrition before you race (see #3)

3) Stick to what you know at the aid tents. If you have never done a training run and drank half of a Coke, do not think a soda will save you from the pain you are feeling mid way through the marathon. Skip the cookies, cakes, etc. that the aid stations too. There are no miracle cures. Bring what you trained with that you know works. If you want something sweet or a special soda to drink, throw it in your special needs bag.

4) Only doing one 100-mile ride during my training. I had a solid base of about fifteen 70-90 mile rides but only one that I went beyond 100 miles. I noticed this in my race because at mile 90 I started to lose my legs. If I would have put in the time during my training to get more century rides in I would have had fresh legs at the start of the marathon.

5) The only open water swim I did during my training was in my half Ironman in October. Enough said. If I was smart I would have took my wetsuit with me on one of my trips to San Diego. Open-ocean swimming is a whole other animal. Lakes do not have waves, and swallowing lake water is much easier than stomaching sixteen ounces of salt water.

6) Follow your heart-rate monitor, but your heart-rate monitor (HRM) should not control your race. I found myself glancing at my watch every couple minutes during the bike. After a year of training you should know what zone you are in without looking. And what I have learned about heart rate training and racing is that there are never two days that your HR is the same. If you have a big meal before training your heart rate will be elevated, if you have a squabble with a companion your heart rate will be elevated, nervousness, excitement also raise your HR. Do not get me wrong, listen to your heart rate, but do not swear by it. It is a baseline, not an absolute truth. For example, my HR never was above 135 on the bike, however I trained at 140 beats per minute on every training ride I did. My average HR during my long runs was nearly 140 as well, but on the marathon during the Ironman it was hovering around 120. If I were to push my heart rate to what I trained at I would have blown up and it could have ruined my race.

7) I asked everybody for tips and tricks in Brazil about doing my first Ironman and the majority of people said, “Just have fun!” After doing it, I could not agree more. Ironman is the culmination of an entire year(s) worth of dedication, work, letdowns, and triumphs. This is your day to finally celebrate, so do not take yourself too seriously. It should be a party out there (see #8).

8) Do not take yourself too seriously! There is no reason to have a serious face during the event, not talk to fellow competitors, and freak out with nervousness days before the race. I do not know how many times during the race I tried to start a conversation with someone only to get a strange look from him or her (maybe it was the language barrier ha ha). But really, lighten up people. It is a LONG day, enjoy your time out there and share your fun with other people. When you are struggling half way through the marathon a nice conversation makes a world of difference, and be that difference maker in someone else’s race. Even a slap on the ass gets a good laugh.

9) Talk to other competitors before the event, but take advice with a grain of salt. Not everyone is an expert. You will get annoyed hearing everybody’s miracle mid-race cures, how many century rides they did, how fast they ran their last marathon, how they developed a bullet-proof nutrition plan etc. Listen, but do not listen too hard. I noticed my psyche starting to weaken as I was being overloading with Ironman foes and follies. Maybe it is just me, but hearing Ironman tips from a guy who has never finished a race carries about as much weight as a middle schooler talking about investment banking.

10) Fix small problems before they become big problems. If something even slightly bothers you during training it will only be amplified during the race. If you get a little rash anywhere on your body during a training swim, be prepared to have a HUGE rash on race day. Example: I never had a problem with chaffing under my armpits during other races, but because I did not take the time to cover myself in petroleum jelly/Body Glide I ended up with sores under my arms that hurt the entire race and took nearly a week to heal. Another example would be, when you feel a blister coming on, (keep a safety pin and band-aid with you), pop the thing and cover it with a band-aid. Taking care of these small problems before they turn into big problems just might save the race for you, or at lease make it more comfortable.

11) Slurred speech is not a horrible thing. If you think about it, you have around 2,000 calories of stored energy in your skeletal muscle at the start of a race (in the form of glycogen), you eat about 500 calories before the race, and you eat about 3,000-5,000 calories during the race, but you burn in upwards of 15,000 calories during the race. As you can see the further you get into the Ironman you are operating in a calorie deficit. From what I have researched, your body will shut down different functions in your body that are burning wasted calories in order to save that energy to keep you moving forward in the race. This is why I only remember bits and pieces of my marathon, and why, although still coherent, could barely conjure sentences late in the race. This is normal, your body is transferring energy to extremities that need it most. Think of it like a laptop computer, in order to save power you turn down the brightness on the display, this does not slow down the processing speed in any way, just lightens the power load in order to keep the internal components running longer.

12) The day after the race try and compartmentalize your entire race, your training year, and how the Ironman experience made you feel. It is important to write this down and keep it available. When you are having a tough week and get home and feel like kicking the dog, just pull out your journal/blog etc. and remember that you are an Ironman! You just completed something people only dream about, a feat accomplished by less than 1% of the population! It is a good feeling, and it saves your from kicking canines.

13) Take your time in the transition area! This is a big one. Like I said, if this is your first event you are not trying to break any records here, take your time, get yourself back together, and relax a bit. There is no reason to rush. Stretch, lay on your back, take a nap, eat something, do whatever you need to do to put yourself in the best position to finish the race. Remember the small things, if you rush putting on your socks and you leave a wrinkle in one of them it could lead to the onset of a blister. In the end, a few extra minutes in the changing tent will not kill you, but having a terrible blister and being uncomfortable during any part of the race will add minutes to your final time, and only piss you off that much more.

15) Accept your fate. No matter how many things you read or hear, things ALWAYS go wrong. Accept it, deal with it, and keep moving. You cannot prepare for everything. And best believe, everybody you will talk to about Ironman will always say, “something WILL always go wrong”. Have a plan, but keep it loose. No race is perfect, that is why all of us crazy people keep doing these stupid events.

16) CELEBRATE! Have your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, family member etc. have a special something for you at the finish. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, try and have them bring it to you as you finish. I saw many wives hand their husbands a cold beer at the finish line. I even saw guy hand his wife banana Laffy Taffy. It just makes finishing that much better.

17) Sign up for another one, and attempt to correct all the mishaps you had in the first one.


Good luck to everyone doing Ironman Couer d'Alene this weekend! Email me your bib #'s so I can follow you online!

Thanks again to my sponsors

Jeff and Joleen Ervin
Mike and Sandy Ervin
Dewey and Mary Orr
Dee Ervin
Denise Merten
Betty Crawford
Sam Barnes

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The bike, the marathon, and post-race soreness

Heading out on the bike was a bit tricky. There was about a mile of cobblestone streets to get past before you got out to the course. I actually lost a water bottle because it bounced out of my bottle cage. It was a good thing it was only water, because my other one had all my nutrition in it. My nutrition plan consisted of a bottle full of Perpetuem (about 1,200 calories), three packs of Cliff Shot Blocks, one gel with caffeine in it, and a tube of 12 tablets of Nuun (electrolytes). However, when I lost that bottle at the start of the bike that meant I did not have any water until the first aid station. Riding out on the couse was pretty amazing, Florianopolis is such a beautiful island and I could not help but to gaze at all the cool scenery I was passing. I actually missed the water bottles they offered at the aid station because I was too busy looking at the beach haha. So I think I went about an hour and ten minutes without drinking any fluids, whoops. The course was mostly flat with only two major climbs. I sipped on my Perpetuem every thirty minutes, and ate a Shot Block every so often when I was bored. As you could see by my bike time, I was not the speediest guy on the course, I think I may have got passed by the majority of the field, including about 30 guys named Pablo, 20 Juans, 15 Henrich's, and a plethora of other foreigners with similar generic national names. I felt great riding though, I never let my heart rate get above 140 even going up the hills, my strategy was to go super conservative throughout the entire 112 miles. Up until about mile 90 I felt amazing, still going slow, but I could feel fatigue starting to set in. Those last twenty-two miles were brutal for some reason. I was keeping up with my nutrition but my legs started to feel really tight and I could tell I was losing some speed and time. That was also the first time I started to feel really uncomfortable in my bike seat, it felt like it was digging into my pelvis, and in all honesty I just wanted off that damn bike. The last couple hours of the bike the wind started to pick up so I had a pretty good headwind heading back into the expo. I think the difference between my first 56 miles and my last 56 was almost 30 minutes. I think I can attribute that to a lack of 100-mile training rides, wind, and just general fatigue. I knew my bike split was slow, but I figured I would start picking people off quickly into the run.

Boy was I glad to get into transition. Once I got off the bike I could not really run, so I half-walked into the tents to get my running gear. Again there was a guy there to hand me my bags and help take off all my stuff. He was trying to talk to me but the most I could get out was mumbling. I think I was a little disoriented and dehydrated. I slammed a Gatorade in the tent and a gel and headed out on the marathon. After I passed my girlfriend and some of the families at the hospitality house (a house that all the people that went with the Endurance Sports Travel could hang out at during the race), I had a huge cramp in my left leg. I stopped and stretched a bit, re-tied my shoes and went off again. For nutrition I had two flasks of Crank Sports E-Gels each containing about four gels each so about 600 calories in each flask. After I grabbed some water at the first aid station the first loop was a blur. I do remember this huge hill that I had to walk up. The hill was enormous, and I noticed everybody taking their time walking up it, I think running it would have been a huge waste of energy. The run course consisted of one large 22-kilometer loop, and two 10-kilometer loops. The first looped seemed like it flew by, like I said I do not really remember it much. I do know that it probably took me about three miles to get my legs back from the bike course. After that I increased my pace and started to pass some of the people who passed me on the bike. After the first loop I noticed my hamstrings tightening and my knees starting to feel sore. I figured that was pretty normal so I did not pay too much attention to it. On the second loop I stopped and talked to my girlfriend for a bit (because I could use the rest), she said I looked better than most of the people that were coming past. I think she was just being nice, because I knew I probably looked like crap ha ha. On the second loop it started to get dark and I picked up my friend Grant and we pretty much ran with each other till the last mile of the race. He beat me by over an hour on the bike, but he said his shins were killing him but I convinced him to run with me. We kept each other company and the small talk helped the time go by a little easier. During the third loop it was pretty much completely dark. I noticed my speech was pretty slurred and I was starting to cramp again. I did not have any salt tablets or anything, but I knew I had some salt packets in my special needs bag. So when I got the special needs station I dumped about five salt packets into my water and slammed it down. It made me feel better for about twenty minutes then the cramping was back. My buddy handed me some Hammer Endurolytes which are a much better product for getting rid of cramping. Almost instantly I felt better. It was really funny, but I was starting to get emotional for some reason. I would think of finishing and it would make me tear up. My buddy Grant and I picked up another runner on that last loop and he confirmed the emotional thing too. That made me feel like less of a sissy ha ha. But honestly, it happened every twenty minutes or so, I would think about finishing and almost start to cry. Weird. I think at that point it was just my body trying to submit to all the pain or something. I saw the a sign saying only three kilometers left. I felt like I still had something left in the tank and I told Grant ,"Want to sprint to the finish?" He was cool with it so we took off. I assume we were running somewhere around a 7:30 mile pace those last couple miles. It felt great. My leg pain vanished and I could start to hear the crowds cheering, and of course I got emotional again. I could see the lights that lit up the finishing shoot and quickened the pace. Once I got up to the carpet and crossed the finished line I kind of lost it. The emotional thing was pretty new to me so I did not know what to think of it. I walked around for about ten seconds then my girlfriend came up and gave me a huge hug. She was trying to talk to me but I was so out of it I do not think I got one single recognizable word out. I was mumbling again. Finishing was such a surreal experience. I just kept replaying all my training, and all the tough times I had throughout the year and to finally be done flooded me with a bunch of mixed emotions. I cannot even really describe what was going through my head at that point, I think my brain was a little cloudy at the moment and at one point when I was trying to exit the finishing stage I almost fell over. Again, volunteers were there to catch me. (Ironman Brazil had the most amazing volunteers!)

I headed into the food tent but I did not have an appetite. All the pizza looked great, but food was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted a hot shower and a cold beer! I skipped the medical tent and the free massage because the wait was nearly thirty minutes. After I signed the waiver saying I was ok the volunteers handed me my medal and finishers t-shirt. It was official; I was an Ironman! I headed out to the expo so I could watch some of friends finish, but I really just wanted to get the heck back to the hotel. I could barely walk, and lost pretty much all my flexibility. I dropped my shirt and could not even bend over to pick it up. I could not even get up stairs my legs were so tight. I was sore in places that I did not even know I had. My biceps were sore from keeping my arms at a 45-degree angle the entire marathon, and my feet were throbbing (turns out my shoes were a size to small so my big toe nails turned purple). Basically I was being a huge baby. But I really was a mess, I could barely walk, could not get a complete sentence out, started to the get the shakes, and desperately wanted a hot shower and to get out of my stinky, salty, clothes. We headed back to the hotel and sure enough, no hot water. I quickly rinsed off and got in bed to warm up. About an hour later I finally got hungry. My girlfriend and I headed to the local pizza shop to celebrate. They day before the race I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but I figured it would not go down very well so we just settled for some beers. Sorry to say, it only took two glasses to fill inebriated ha ha. But still it was a nice way to finish my Ironman journey.

I will go into some analysis of my race sometime mid-week and go over all the things I took away from the whole experience.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Pre-race and the swim

Race night

I was fairly calm on Saturday night before the race (on the outside anyways). Inside I had a pretty good case of the butterflies. I knew I was not supposed to load up on food the night before because you do not really have the time to get it through your system before race day, which did not really matter because I did not have much of an appetite anyway. I did not sleep much that night, nerves mostly. An hour here and hour there, I would wake up and drink some Gatorade, fall back asleep, and soon as I felt like I was starting to get some good sleep my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Even if I had another hour to sleep I probably just would have just rolled around the bed for sixty minutes. I had a pretty good feeling I was not the only triathlete that did not sleep well that night ha ha.

Race day

Most of the hotel was already up and ready by the time I rolled out of the room. I think my girlfriend was more awake than I was. I did not eat much at the hotel breakfast; a piece of peanut butter toast, a banana, a slice fresh pineapple, a Gatorade, and a cup of Brazilian coffee (more like motor oil). I did not feel hungry, but I felt like I should try and stomach something. I noticed the pros at the table across from me dabbling with their food too so I knew I was not the only one a little nervous.

When I got the expo it was already teaming with athletes roaming in and out of the bike and transition area. When you check in for Ironman you are given six bags, one for your dry clothes that you wear before and after the race, one swim bag to put your wetsuit in after you get out of the water, one bike bag which has your cycling gear, one run bag which has your shoes, hat, etc., one ‘bike special needs’ which you can get at the 56-mile mark (you can put anything in this bag, from food to new socks, pretty much anything you think you may need), and one ‘run special needs’ bag which you can get on the 13.1 mile mark, which is again, just another bag to put stuff you may think you want or need to get you through the rest of the race. So when you get there on race day there are racks with your race number on it that you hung all your bags up so when you come in to transition to the next event you just pick out the bag you need, change, and put your current stuff you are wearing into the same bag (volunteers put the bags away for you). So anyways, I put my bags up, and then went out to fill up my bike tires. At this point I was getting even more nervous. Over the loud speaker I heard “1 hour!” Oh crap this is really happening I thought ha ha. I went back in to the expo, went to the bathroom, put on the wetsuit and headed out to the beach.

The swim

The sun was just starting to come up when I got to the water. I did a short warm up swim just to get loose. I noticed there was a pretty good set of rolling waves till about two hundred meters past the start. I knew that was going to be some trouble. After my little swim all of us athletes were corralled into a starting pin about the size of a football end zone. Talk a barrage to the senses, here I was surrounded by hundreds of foreigners speaking god knows how many languages, waves were lapping on the beach, people were whistling and cheering, there were two helicopters circling, and the announcer was giving instructions in three different languages. It was a tad bit crazy. Once the gun went off everybody started screaming and running towards the water. I placed myself somewhere near the middle of the pack close to the front. I figured it is much easier to get swam over than try to slalom through people trying in order to get position. The swim course was shaped like a big ‘M’, so you go out to the first buoy, turn around come back to the beach, run around a big inflatable power bar and the bottom of the ‘M’, then head out again to another big buoy, turn around and swim back to the beach and head into transition. The gun went off at exactly 7:00 a.m. Once we started paddling it turned into pure chaos. My stroke turned into a doggy paddle pretty much. I would poke my head out of water and look for an open space, swim to it, then do that pretty much all the way to the first buoy (about 900 meters). It seemed like everybody got the buoy at the same time. Basically people were spread out about fifty yards across and once we all got to the buoy everyone collapses into a space that is about ten yards, so again it was chaos. On the way back in I noticed to my right were a few female yellow cap swimmers, this means they were professionals (if you were not a pro you wore white swim caps). So I figured I was doing pretty good. When I got back to the beach I eagerly grabbed water from the aid station because my mouth was numb because of all the seawater I just drank. Heading back out I saw that I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. Here is where things went screwy. Midway out to the second buoy I was having a trouble sighting the big buoy because there were rolling waves that were not huge, but big enough to block your vision. So I would head in one direct poke my head out of the water and see the wave, swim some more, then realize I was off course. At one time I was tapped on the back by one of the guys on a paddleboard because I was heading off course. Because the field was pretty spread out at this point I could not find the safety in numbers like I did on the first loop. I pretty much swam in a huge ‘S’ on the last leg of the swim. I assume I swam about 500 meters extra. I just could not figure out where I was going. When I got out of the water my watch read 1:19. I was shocked! I wanted to be around a 1:05, and that meant I was fourteen minutes slower than I was in the pool just two weeks ago. Not a good way to start out the race. When I got out of the water I slowly jogged into transition, there were volunteers waiting to help take off my wetsuit. Thank was pretty nice, because I do not think I was capable of doing it myself at that point in time. When I ran into transition the volunteers saw my race number on my arm and grabbed my bags for me and one volunteer ran me over to a seat to start changing. This guy was great, he helped put my socks on, my shoes, my race belt, helmet, everything. It was great. I was rather demoralized coming out of the water, but when I got to the bike station I realized I was not the only one who had a terrible swim, because there were plenty of bikes left in the racks. I felt good heading out on the bike course, well as good as I could, I knew I still had 138.2 miles left to get through before I could call myself an Ironman.

I will get to the bike and run portion tomorrow sometime.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back from Brazil

Hey everybody! Sorry for the long absense, I did not want to sit in an internet cafe to type up a post-race report. I just got in from Rio de Janeiro yesterday and have been trying to get everything back to normal before I move into my new place. The rest of my trip went very well despite bad weather, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my vacation away from triathlons, but I am eager to start training again and preparing for the rest of my racing season. Thanks again to all who emailed me after the race, and to all of those who woke up early to track me throughout the day. My post-race report will be in a multi-part series because I cannot fit it all in in one sitting, but I hope to cover a varrying range of topics in the next couple weeks.

The days leading up to the race:

Within the first few hours of arriving at the hotel in Florianopolis I could tell the island was taken over by endurance athletes. Everywhere there were people riding their bikes and shirtless individuals running throughout the narrow city streets. Since it is mid-winter down there most of the Brazilians were in hiding. I was pretty bummed I did not have my equipment, as I could see everyone was enjoying getting their bikes built and exploring the island. The only thing I managed to do before my stuff arrived was run barefoot on the beach for about thirty minutes, but other than that I was not very active. Most of the days I woke up early for breakfast and ate with all the other athletes, layed by the beach, found a place to have lunch, read, checked my mail, went grocery shopping, ate dinner at the hotel, and went to bed early; nothing too exciting. I blogged about my little excursion on one of the days when I moved down the island for most of the day. But most of the days I just kept it low key and stayed around the hotel. I made some excellent friends in the first few days of arriving and we became meal partners and shared triathlon stories and the like, it made me feel pretty comfortable. The first two days I sat with two German guys and two ladies that were very nice and welcoming. Turns out one of the guys was the pro Olaf Sabatschus. He had just come off a Ironman win only five weeks ago, and ended up getting second overall at Ironman Brazil. Also, turns out one of the ladies I ate breakfast with was Hillary Biscay, and she ended up getting second overall too. So there I was a bright eyed age grouper unaware I was having meals with two of best professional triathletes in the world. Pretty neat huh? Finally on the third day, a guy came up to me informed that I have been sharing stories with some of the best pros competing in Brazil. both Olaf and Hillary were super nice and very unassuming, like I said I did not even know they were pros. They did not boast or brag about their successes, and were very willing to share some tips with me. I thought that was pretty cool. I honestly do not think in any other sport that would be possible. Could you imagine trying to sit down at a continental breakfast with a top NBA of MLB player? I know triathletes are not on the same level as basketball or baseball players in terms of media attention, but honestly, do you think they would let some random guy plop down next to them and ask them a bunch of questions? Probably not. Two days before the race my stuff arrived and eagerly built all my stuff and did a mini triathlon: I threw on my wetsuit and did an ocean swim infront of the hotel, transitioned into running gear, did a short run, transitioned, and rode my bike for about thirty minutes. It felt really good to finally 'feel' like a triathlete and not just a spectator. A simple analogy would be; someone in the Army going to war and upon arrival realizing that you do not have your camo clothes, boots, or weapon, and being surrounded by hundreds of others who DID have everything. Now you can understand why I marooned myself down the island on a deserted beach. It was hard to be excited about the race when I did not even know I would make it to the starting line. However, at worst, I figured if I did not get my stuff I would go the the race expo with a credit card in hand and buy all new stuff to get through the race. I figured I put in WAY too much effort and money to sit on the sidelines.

Thankfully, everything came and I was ready to rock and roll. After my mini triathlon and cleaned up and took a much needed nap, I felt like I could finally relax so sleep came pretty natural. That night was the pasta dinner (aka the carb-loading dinner). The dinner was in a huge expo center beside the transition area. I was by myself and I walked in looking for a familiar face and finally my friend Joe an Ironman vet shuffled me over to a table near all the food (great idea). He said he did Brazil last year and everybody bum-rushes the food and if you are not the first one there you will wait in line and get crappy left overs. He knew what he was talking about, because we were sitting back at our table with plates full of food while the line started snaking around the dinner hall. Joe's coach was also at the table; pro Terry Kerrigan (also the cycling coach of Joanna Zeiger). I picked his brain for the next hour while samba dancers and Brazilian drummers did their thing on the main stage. He knew his stuff, and I will blog about this in a later nutirtion post. I got his contact info so hopefully he can help me with my cycling. The one thing that triathletes do well is share information. But a few times during the night I felt like I was on the brink of information overload.

I managed to learn quite a few things during the week before the race. One main thing I learned is that everybody is different. Everybody has their own strategies that work for them. I have never met a triathlete that trains or eats the same as another triathlete. You will continuously hear people talking about 'miracle cures' that heal mid-race ailments but what works for someone most likely will not work for you. This one guy went into detail about what he puts in his run special needs bag (a bag you put items you think you might need half way through the marathon). He puts a snickers bar, a coke, and bazooka bubble gum. I could not help but laugh, but he swore by it. Other people sware by salt tablets, or drinking chicken soup, or putting salt packets in their water bottle. There are just so many variations of concoctions out there you start to question your own methods. And what is even better is that even the pros that I talked to change their nutrition plan before every Ironman. So, there is no 'one' thing that works, but a combination of various things, and one can only find out what works by trying new things at each event until you finally find something that works. Think of it like nutritional Russian roulette. I will get into my race-day report and some other things I learned in some later posts.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday night in Brazil

Hey all!

First of all... Wednesday and most of Thursday were extremly long! I left Phoenix at 7:00 a.m and got to my hotel in Floripa at 2 p.m. the following day. Unfortunately, my luggage did not make the trip. It just came tonight. But all is well, my bike will be built tomorrow and I will my first wetsuit swim in the morning sometime. I cannot let something of that nature affect me mentally. Today I hired a taxi and went about thirty miles down the island on the east coast just to get away from all the Ironman hoopla. Everybody at my hotel loves to share their secrets to training, tapering, racing, eating, and I think it just clutters the mind. I do not need to hear how many century rides you put in, or how many meters you swam etc. The environment at the hotel is one that could very easily weaken my self confidence, and I could tell I was starting to have some trouble with it. Especially not having my bike, wetsuit, and running shoes to train with I started to think that I was not prepared and did not deserve to be here. Hoopla, that is all it is. Thus my disapperance for the day. I could not train so I figured I would find some lonely beach to compartmentalize my race and get my mind right.

My bike and luggage came right before I left for the Ironman dinner so I did not even have the chance to admire my long lost ´stuff´. I sat with an excellent group of people at dinner, a British couple, 1 pro named Terry from New York, 1 guy from Oslo, Norway, and 1 guy from Chicago. The past few days we have made pretty good friends. I think that is because we are all very low key. Not your typical A-type personality triathletes. No one was over analyzing anything, we just simply enjoyed the food, and enjoyed each other´s company. It was quite nice for a change. Terry the pro from New York is also the Joanna Zeiger´s coach (top female pro). I had an excellent chat with him and he really gave me some great knowledge about everything Ironman related. I will post about this when I get home most likely. Amazing guy though, I learned a lot in the little time we spent.

Overall I feel good though. I know I will put together the best race possible given the training I have put in. It will be a great learning experience, and I cannot expect much more. Tomorrow I will have a short swim in the ocean with my buddy from Oslo then do a quick bike ride (given my bike is even built yet), and then just relax the rest of the day and try to stay off my feet. My girlfriend Nichole will be arriving in the afternoon tomorrow and I really looking forward to seeing her. She is my biggest fan, so it will be incredibly nice to have some one by my side while I get prepared for Sunday.

Friday 9:42 p.m.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Taking off

Hey everyone! This is my last blog post from Arizona. I leave tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. and I get into Florianopolis at 6:00 a.m on Thursday (2 a.m. your time). So I am in for a long day of flying and sitting in airports. From my house to the apartment we are staying at in Brazil it should take right around 28 hours. Sheesh!

Here is what this week looks like:

Monday: last swim with my coach almost 1500 meters, 20 minute run, and 1 hour bike ride at race pace (about 18.5 mph).
Tuesday: 30 minute run in my new racing flats :)
Wednesday: Travel day
Thursday: Swim 1/2 the race course so about 2000 meters, maybe a short run. Start eating lots of carbs.
Friday: Ride a little bit of the bike course, maybe an hour. Continue to carb up and add plenty of salt to my diet.
Saturday: Rest!!! and tone back the food intake.
Sunday: RACE DAY!!!!

My nervousness has been replaced by anxiousness. I just want to get down there and start racing! I have set a few goals for myself when I get down to Brazil 1) Finish the race 2) finish under 12 hours 3) get better at surfing 4) not get abducted by guerilla rebels 5) and lastly, have fun. All of those seem fairly attainable, so it should be an excellent trip. I just picked up a digital camera so I will be able to post some excellent photos when I get back. I will also try to put up a race report in the days following the race to let you know what exactly went on. You can get live progress updates during the event by going to and going to the Ironman Brazil page and clicking on 'Track an Athlete'. It will show all of my split times, and they also have a live webcam set up so you might be able to see me during legs of the the race. My bib number is 345. I will be wearing black shorts, a red tri-top, and a black hat (So will many others, but it might help?). So keep an eye out for me.

Thanks again to my friends, family, and sponsors. I could not have done this without you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rested, ready, and nervous

Rested: This past week of tapering has been a God send. However, I seemed to have lost my sleeping-in ability. No matter how late I go to bed I still wake up at six. This is what my parents do... does this mean I am getting old? One thing waking up early does afford me is getting my workouts in before it gets too hot out. Sunday was Arizona's first 100 degree day, and today it is supposed to be 105! So what do you do when it is miserably hot outside? Take naps, and watch plenty of movies :)

Ready: Lately I have been trying to tie up some loose ends before I take off on Wednesday. I got fitted on my bike again, got it tuned up, rented some race wheels (Zipp tubulars 808's/404's), bought all my nutrition, bought some new tri-shorts, my Mom sent down some new Brooks racing shoes which are sweet (Brooks Racer ST III), shaved my legs again (crappy!), took an ice bath, took copious naps, and have been packing up my stuff at my apartment because I have to move out before I leave.

Nervous: I have been freaking out a bit lately. My passport visa just got to L.A. last night!!! That means they will overnight it so it will be here tomorrow just in the nick of time. I know, I know, I probably should not have procrastinated, but I figured twenty days would be enough. Another thing that worries me is that my race wheels are what you call tubulars. There are two styles of wheels, tubulars and clinchers. Clinchers which the majority of cyclist ride every day consist of an exterior rubber tire and a separate inner-tube. So when you get a flat you just take off the rubber tire, replace the inner-tube, put the rubber tire back on, and inflate the tube, and you are ready to rock and roll again. A tubular tire is a one-piece construction. The inner-tube is sewn into the outer rubber tire. The benefits of a clincher are that you can easily replace the inner-tube when you get a flat. But typically, clinchers are much heavier and do not roll as smoothly as tubulars. Tubulars on the other hand are extremely hard to replace when you get a flat because the tire is glued on to the rim. However, the pros at my bike shop say that you average .5 to 1 mph faster when riding tubulars. One pro said "it is like riding on silk". So here is why I am a little worried. If you get a flat while riding tubulars during Ironman you have pretty much two options. 1) Quit the race or 2) Replace the entire tire, which takes alot of time, and because you do not have time to reglue the entire tire you have to take corners very very very slowly or the tire will simply fly off the rim. So it is quite risky to ride tubulars, but to be able to ride a mile an hour faster for 112 miles is worth it. Every pro uses tubulars so there must be a method to the madness.

Overall, now that I am done stressing about my passport visa, I am doing really well. My legs are finally feeling fresh, my back is feeling much better, and mentally I am starting to get my swagger back. During the end of training I was starting to have some really crappy workouts and I was really mentally drained. Now that I look back at it I think it was just my body telling me that I needed to rest. I think if I had one more hard week I would be on the brink of overtraining. This whole Ironman experience has been a pretty wild ride. Yesterday (Sunday), there was a triathlon here in Tempe called Tempe International. It is an olympic distance triathlon (swim 1500 meters, bike 26 miles, run 6 miles). Last year, Tempe International was my first ever triathlon. If you would have told me that a year later I would be doing an Ironman I would have told you that you were crazy! But, it just goes to show you that anything is possible. If you put your mind to something and truly commit to it there is nothing that can stop you. I have realized that you can talk yourself into, or out of anything you want to do. The biggest thing I have learned is how to hit the mute button on self-doubt. My coach used to say, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you are probably right."

Some news worthy information: Last week polar bears were officially put on the "threatened" species list. Scientists speculate that in less than 100 years polar bears will be extinct. How sad. (,8599,1779634,00.html)

I just wanted to say another thanks to all the people who have sponsored my Ironman endeavor:

My awesome parents Jeff and Joleen Ervin
Sam Barnes
Betty Crawford
Mike and Sandy Ervin
Dee Ervin
Dewey and Mary Orr
Denise Merten

Thanks again, you guys rock!


"When things get bad, pray they get worse and overcome them. Challenge yourself and push yourself to your limits. This is the only way to truly become great."
-Andrew Augustine

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tips from Kona Ironman veteran

There is more to doing an Ironman than just swimming, biking, and running. Like I mentioned before, there is actually a fourth sport involved with partaking in an all day triathlon event; nutrition. Without a good nutrition plan on race day you are setting yourself up for failure.

I received this email from fellow triathlete and accountant Sam Barnes of Ephrata, Washington whom had the chance to chat with a Kona Ironman veteran. In their meeting the 'Kona stud' went through what his nutrition plan was for the Ironman World Championships, and some things to expect on raceday. Mind you, because of the extreme climactic differences between the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii and other Ironman's there is some wiggle-room for caloric and electrolyte intake. However, his plan serves as an excellent baseline for any Ironman nutritional strategy. In order to alleviate confusion; this is Sam emailing me what the Kona veteran told him, and what Sam will do during his Ironman race. The stuff in parentheses are my explanations to help clarify the tri-geek vocabulary.

""The Kona guy ran me through exactly how he does nutrition on race day.
Starts carbing up (eating lots of carbohydrates like pasta, breads, fruits etc.) 3 days prior to the event with lots of water. Then on race day 2 1/2 hours before race he has bagel with PB&J, banana, and 24 oz Gatorade. Then 10 minutes before race 12 more ounces to top off. On bike, water only for first 30 minutes, then sips on second bottle which has 12 scoops of Perpetuem (pure carbohydrate mixture in powder form) and a little water (think pancake batter). The Perpetuem bottle gives him enough carbs to fuel the entire bike for his weight, about what you and I need to, he is 5'10" 160. Then he fills his second water bottle, aero bottle on handlebars at each water station, grabs water at one station, Gatorade at the next and keeps alternating for the next 112 miles. He just tosses the bottles after emptying into aero bottle. Takes a gel (gel form of pure carbohyrdate) every 45 minutes. The three back pockets of his triathlon shirt have gels, endurolytes capsules (electrolyte tablets like look like Tums tablets),and small bike tool. 4 endurolytes every hour too.

Then on the run he has one small flask bottle of hammer gel (fuel belt sized
bottle of gel form carbohydrates) in back pocket and carries a second in his hand. Drinks some gel just as arriving at each water station. Still taking 4 endurolyte capsules every hour. And that's it, no solids for him. I'll pretty much copy this but also take a ProBar energy bar (like a Powerbar or Cliff Bar) that I like for a solid on the bike. He (Kona vet) does not use a special needs bag (this is a bag you get to put your ancillary items in that you think you might need during the race) but I figure why not, put anything and everything you may need in it another perpetuem bottle, electrolyte capsules. He did drop his endurolytes on the bike at mile 80 and had to turn around and go pick them up which he said almost caused him to crash. Could have skipped picking them up if had some in a special needs bag at T2 (good point, better safe than sorry).

If it's hot wear a hat on the run vs visor and put ice in it. Always use the iced sponges (they hand these out at aid stations during the race) to put in your Jersey top, shoulders, and if you really are overheating carry ice cubes in your hands. He began to overheat at mile 5 of the run and had to walk, but another passing runner told him to start carrying ice in his hands and that helped cool him back down.

He said expect lots of unexpected bad things to happen (on swim getting hit in face just as you are starting to take in air, move to the side until you get your air back, etc.) and run through in your mind what you will do to take care of them (For instance in one race I actually had a guy unzip my wetsuit and it filled with water in the middle of the lake... no bueno). You WILL have negative thoughts especially at start, "I did not train enough" "How can I really do this for 12 hours?" Get rid of those right away by remembering your best workouts and simply plan to slow down a little every time you feel sluggish, your nutrition will catch up in a few minutes. Walk through your transitions at T1 and T2 the night before
to make sure you have everything!

He was great, real positive. Kona times were 1:05, 5:05, 4:10 (This guy is fast!). Increased his bike speed to 21.5 over final 40 even with stiff side winds. The temp on the run was in the 90's which he wasn't ready for so the slowed him down
:30. Chris Lieto (one of the fastest cyclists in Ironman circuit) told him there to get ready for the humidity and heat, he turns on his shower and rides his trainer in the bathroom for 1 houri twice a week for the 4 weeks prior to the race. Heather Fuhr (She rocks too!) told him to get better at the marathon, run a couple in training and run the last 6 miles harder than the first 20 to get your body better ready for those last 6 miles of hell. Easy for her to say, not a workout any of us would get excited about.""

I have modeled my race day plan after this guy's. It is always great to get information from someone who has been there, they really do help pave the way.

News worthy information: Former Major League Baseball star Jeff Conine will be participating in the 2008 Ironman World Championships. Check out the press release on (


"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great."
-Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tapering before Ironman (Plus a 'zoo' of a nightmare)

I am thoroughly enjoying this tapering period. Last week held concrete evidence that my body needed some time to recover. My Saturday ride before graduation was supposed to be four hours and it was more like three, and I did not run after, nor did I swim on Sunday. I noticed right when I got on the bike I did not have that oomph that I usually have starting a ride. I went on to the Ironman course and spun up a bit just to see if I had any sprinting legs today.... nope. It was rather windy again and that just added to my frustrations. So instead of trying to push through and get my normal two loops in after the first one I just turned around and headed in. I was pretty ruffled about not getting in the workout that was on my Ironman plan. But I realized that this was my body screaming "DUDE I NEED SOME REST!!!" Sometimes you just have to listen to your body, it knows what is going on.

This week calls for:

Monday: 2,500 swim
Tuesday: 1 hour bike, 30 minute run
Wednesday: 3,000 swim
Thursday: 1 hour run (6 miles)
Friday: 2,500 swim
Saturday: 2 hour bike (35 miles), 30 minute run
Sunday: DAY OFF!!!!!!

Totals: about 8 hours, 8,000 meters swimming but I will probably get in on off days and do some drilling, 12 miles running, about 60 miles biking.

Thursday is also my last day at my internship, I think Friday will be my first Friday off from work since January. This calls for some excessive celebration: sleeping in till noon! Most likely that will not happen and I will be up with the sun like normal, but it does sound heavenly.

Let's get to my dream I had last night. Feel free to comment at the bottom of the post if you know anything about dream interpretations because I would love to figure this one out.

My dream started out at some Ironman event in Europe, it must have been Lanzarote in Spain because I high-fived Chris McCormack the day before the race. The dream took me through my normal race day routine, stretching, eating, the whole nine yards. All the athletes hopped in the water and we floated there like little fishing bobbers waiting for the gun to go off. My buddy Jesse looks at me and goes, "hey man get on my feet (it means get in my draft) and just follow me the whole race" (It is fact that you can draft while swimming just like race cars do in Nascar). So we took off and it felt like I was being towed by a motor boat. We weaved our way up through the field and eventually caught up with the pros. For some reason I my arms were not getting tired so we swam harder. I ended up getting out of the water in like 37 minutes (This would be an Ironman record ha ha). Once we got into transition there was a muscular bull named Bodacious standing in front of my bike; he would not let me pass. I would try to distract him but Bodacious stood his ground and would not flinch. All the athletes were catching up to me now and taking off on the 112-mile bike ride, Bodacious did not seem interested in any of them. This stupid bull stood there for the next six hours, my bike was the only one left in the transition area. And this is when my alarm went off. I am sure if I got to sleep a bit longer I was going to turn into a matador and turn the bull into Mongolian BBQ or something :)

Anyway, dreams are weird. Subconsciously I believe the dream was telling me that I do not need to worry about the swim anymore and the 112-mile bike will be the 'bull' of the race for me. I do not even want to know what animal would have shown up for my run ha ha. Most likely an elephant, or a rhino; both slow beasts with poor endurance capabilities.

I have been watching the weather down in Florianopolis, Brazil and it appeals to be quite the quagmire. Although the highs are only in the upper 70's the humidity was 100% yesterday. This means I will sweat like a fat kid in Bikrams Yoga when I race (Google Bikrams and you will get the joke). When you sweat your body loses its electrolytes especially your sodium content which is key to endurance performance. There is a neat little product out by NUUN that is a better tasting salt tablet that helps replenish this lost sodium. I will experiment with it this week during a bike ride in the heat to see how my body reacts. Most likely it will do fine, and I will implement it by dropping one of these tablets into my gatorade every hour during the Ironman.


"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
-Yogi Berra

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ironman triathlete Jason Lester

Jason's the man. This guy is such an inspiration!

Lessons learned

I have only one more significant workout before I officially start tapering. This Saturday before graduation I have to get in a four hour bike ride followed by a short three mile run. It is rather unfortunate I do not get to celebrate my graduation in typical Arizona State University fashion, but I do not think a hangover will do me any good at this point. But I do think a fresh pint from Four Peaks Brewery does have my name on it. Naturally, consuming a hefty hand-crafted brew is an excellent source of carbohydrates :)

As for my workouts this week:

Monday: 2500 meter swim followed by a 30 minute run
Tuesday: 2 hour bike
Wednesday: 3500 swim followed by a 30 minute run
Thursday: 7 mile run (about an hour)
Friday: 4000 meter swim
Saturday: 4 hour bike (60 miles) and 30 minute run
Sunday: 2000 meter swim (mostly drills, and some speed work)

Totals: Roughly 12-13 hours, 13,000 meters of swimming, 16 miles running, almost 100 miles cycling

During my training I have noticed a few things about myself, my body, and some holes in my training regimen.

1) My body is highly finicky* about foods that I consume and their effects on my weight. Last weekend I did not eat very well and my body stored a lot of the calories right around my abdomen. But after three days of proper diet I was back to normal. It was very weird, I had a little gut for a few days while my body got rid of all the crap I ate. This also leads to my second finding.

2) Eating crappy and having a couple beers makes for a rough couple days afterwards. The first part of this week I had some terrible workouts simply because I felt 'heavy'. My legs felt like they were filled with sand and my heart rate was nearly 10 beats a minute over my normal rate during moderate activity. Stupid me, I know how important nutrition is.... especially three weeks away from Ironman.

3) Bricks are incredibly important. Bricks meaning;I will get done swimming and immediate go for a short run, or I will get done cycling and immediately go for a run. This is huge weakness of mine because I do not transition very well. After a long bike ride it usually takes me at least 2-3 miles for my legs to get to a 'normal' state again.

4) Recovery is the 4th sport associated with triathlon. I never understood its utter importance until about two months ago. Eating right after training is crucial, and getting good sleep is an absolute must! Stretching and massages are really important as well. Actually most professional triathletes have a professional massage therapist on staff and get massages at least twice a week. Ice baths have seemed to work for me too. I will start to do them a more and more frequently before Ironman because I want my legs to be as fresh as possible. I think it was Mark Allen who said, "Train harder, but recover harder". It is an excellent point, and I wish would have learned that earlier.

5) Training is addicting. It simply becomes a part of you. You get used to working out everyday, and on your off days you feel like a lazy bum. Once you implement a proper regimen you put your workouts in front of a lot of other important things. I would schedule my visits with my girlfriend around my long bike ride days, organize my doctor visits to be during my college classes but not my workouts, and I would skip class to go train because it was just such a beautiful day.

6) No matter how clearly you tell your peers about your efforts and reasons for doing triathlons they simply just do not get it, which is fine, and I do not expect them to do understand. People ask 'how long is an ironman?', and before you get through telling them about the open water swim they are already saying out loud 'holy cow I couldn't do that, you must be crazy'. People undoubtedly think finishing an Ironman is cool, but they do not understand that in order to do one, and do one well it takes YEARS of preparation. I am doing my first Ironman only a year after I starting to train seriously and I am in for a rude awakening! Your first Ironman is nothing other than a learning experience. This is why the best Ironman triathletes are in their early 30's. It just takes a long time to build up that endurance.

7) Swimming is much much harder than it looks! Hiring a coach was the best thing I have ever done. You can swim 20,000 meters a week, but if you do not have great form it is useless. I still have a long ways to go with my swimming, but it is still night and day from when I first started.

8) It is worth it. A lot of people ask, "what pleasure does this bring you exactly?" It is something like hitting a game winning home run, or hitting the game winning shot in playoffs.... rolled into one. Never have I ever had to work so hard at something and to still be a mediocre athlete. But that sense of accomplishment when you cross a finish line after 10+ hours of exertion cannot be topped by any achievement. And the sport of triathlon is one of the few sports in which you can still make the pros. In baseball or basketball your chance of making it to the pros after a high school or college career is very very minuscule. So if you do not make it in that window of opportunity between high school and finishing college you are done; the window is closed permanently. But with triathlon, if you are good enough you can earn a spot at the triathlon 'world series' at any age. And that is what keeps most of us triathletes going day in and day out. It is like our little day to suit up with the 'big club'; our one day to live out our childhood dream of making the major leagues and hitting that walk-off home run.


Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"
-George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Graduation (Plus training taper)

Well folks, I am officially done being a college student for the time being. I had my last two finals yesterday. Now I can finally focus on JUST work and training. Today being the first day of my collegiate freedom I can start to plan the rest of my racing year. After Ironman Brazil I will do a half Ironman in Chelan, Washington in July, Timex Sprint triathlon in September, Nathan Olympic triathlon at the end of September, Portland marathon October 5th, and SOMA half ironman at the end of October. It all should be a good rest of the season pending continued health and no injuries. I guess now that I am a grown up (ha ha) I should start thinking about finding a job. Any body out there willing to hire a newly-minted entrepreneurial college graduate/triathlete/traveler?

Shameless plug, I know. But seriously, I need a job.. Anyway, back to training.

This week's taper:

-4 swims: total about 12,000 meters
-3 runs: two runs that are less than 45 minutes, and one run that is 2 hours (about 13 miles)
-3 bikes: 1 hour, 2 hours, and a Saturday ride before graduation that is 4 hours (about 65 miles)
-Total: 14 hours

So technically I lied, I do not quite have a day off yet, but I swear it is coming. Maybe next weekend?

I have also been seeing a physical therapist for my lower back. It has been a real bugger lately. So after work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go in there and he stretches me out, adjusts me, and a masseuse gives me a deep-tissue massage. Trust me, you do not want this kind of a massage, and especially not from this lady. Marla the masseuse is quite the masochist. I am more sore after seeing her than I am after a long training day. She seems to find it very amusing when I am face down on the massage table whining like a little girl. I really should stretch more, I guess every other day just isn't cutting it because she has developed a programed response after I yelp in pain, "Boy...... you really should stretch more!" Thanks Marla, I am starting to get the hint.

Another aspect of my taper I am really focusing on is my diet. Because my training has been nearly cut in half, I need to cut my calories in half. This means no more 6,000 calorie days, no more Ben & Jerry's, and unfortunately no more 'guiltless' Nutter Butter and vanilla soy milk binges. If I start gaining weight now it will only result in a longer day on race day. I am cutting out nearly all processed foods and sticking to only fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. I am aiming for about 2,700to 3,000 calories per day spread out over 5-6 small meals. I figure by the time I get to Brazil I will have dropped about three pounds and on race day be at my ideal weight of 165 lbs and about 6% body fat. Ironman is in seventeen days! It is getting close and I am already getting butterflies :)


"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible."
-Doug Larson

Friday, May 2, 2008

Part two: Recovery tips

So how do you refuel your energy stores? And what should you eat post-workout?

Basic things to ingest: Protein, carbohydrates, glutamine, BCAAs, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein- helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissues. Protein also contains essential amino acids that are required by the body every day.

Carbohydrates- high glycemic index carbs (best Dextrose, Maltodextrin), and also sucrose which is a natural element found in fruits. These carbs drive up insulin levels and help protein synthesis. Basically these guys are little 'taxis' that help cram all the glycogen building nutrients into muscle cells.

Glutamine- virtually every cell in the body uses this amino acid. During times of stress the body cannot produce enough glutamine to keep up with demand. Low levels of glutamine in the body can reduce perfomance, immune function, and mood. It also promotes cell volumization, increases protein synthesis, and decrease protein breakdown.

Antioxidants- these guys help maintain the integrity of your cell membranes and increase the blood's oxygen carrying capacity. If you have low levels of antioxidants it negatively affects aerobic performance.

BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids)- low levels of BCAAs contribute to muscle fatigue. Studies have shown that if ingested after exercise athletes have greater levels of lean muscle mass retention and an ability to improve performance capacity in hot climates. For the average person, low levels of BCAAs give you a feeling of lethargy and sleepiness.

So what do I eat?

Sometimes I create a little post-workout cocktail that has been very beneficial during my training. Here is what I use:

-1 banana
-5 frozen strawberries
-5 chunks of frozen mangos
-a couple scoops of nonfat vanilla yogurt (1/2 of a yoplait)
-100% pure juice (Dole makes 100% strawberry and mango juice)
-2 scoops of whey protein isolate (about 45 grams of protein) (tofu also works great... just make sure it is silken*)
-1 scoop of glutamine (5 grams)

I actually add the protein after the shake is blended and pour the powder in while it is still blending, it seems to mix more thoroughly that way.

Total= about 400 calories, 70-100 grams of carbs, 45 grams of protein, plenty of vitamins, plenty of antioxidants, and a good amount of BCAA's.

Obviously this is a little labor intensive. But something else that works well is simply.... Chocolate Milk. Although it has a high sugar content, it is still an excellent source of carbs, good fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Plus it is cheap, and fairly portable. Slim Fast, Boost, and the generic forms of meal replacement drinks are other great choices.

Typically liquid meals are better for post-workout meals because of the rapid absorbion. Naturally it takes a lot less time to break down an ounce of liquid, than it does an ounce of something in solid form.

There are a few supplements I take when I get lazy and do not feel like mixing up a shake. Powerbar, and Hammer Nutrition have decent recovery mixes, but a company called 1st Endurance came out with a product called Ultragen that has almost all the ideal stuff in it. They are pretty spendy, but they do help you recover much faster than any other products I have tried. I have yet to come across a company that has ALL the right stuff but I will keep searching and inform you at a later date. Maybe that will be my next project after Ironman; starting my own supplement company.

As for my training this week, My big workouts were a 100-mile bike ride on Thursday after my Communication 323 final, I will have 14 mile run this Saturday. I have five swims, two little bike rides (less than 50 miles each), and two other little runs (less than 6 miles each). I should be right around 18-19 hours this week. This week is also my last BIG week before I start to taper. And guess what? Next Saturday I actually have a day off! First Saturday off in.... atleast 4 months. Gettting to sleep in sounds heavenly. Yay for me :)


"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
-Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Part One: Recovery tips (Plus a special thanks to my sponsors)

Since I have started training I have realized that post-workout nutrition is by far the most important meal of the day. This is especially true for others who work all day, have kids, a significant other, and also train. These daily stresses take a significant toll on the human body. If you do not give your body its needed nutrients it weakens your immune system which makes you more susceptible to sickness, your muscles take longer to recover, and it can cause chronic fatigue (that constant feeling of be tired ALL the time), and there are numerous other negative health aspects as well.

The biggest mistake people make it not doing anything about post-workout nutrition. In fact, most people are extremely misinformed and have cultivated a sort of 'nutritional ignorance' when it comes to this aspect of training. People who work out regularly stay lean and fit simply from the high volumes of training they are doing. Unfortunately, you can still look good without spending a whole lot of time worrying about proper food intake. It is true, skinny people are sometimes the most unhealthy people because they think they can get away with eating poorly based on their current physical composition.

Basically, the muscles are most efficient at carbohydrate and energy uptake AFTER a workout. The bulk of an athlete's post-workout calories should come during a 30-minute 'window' after you get done exercising. During this time the ingested energy (coming from protein and quality carbohydrates) will go to replenishing the depleted muscle energy stores (also called glycogen) and enhance muscle recovery. Many people subscribed to the body-builder type recovery.... protein, protein.... and more protein. However, the basic mechanism of post-workout carbohydrates is to give the muscles enough energy to stimulate protein production. Post-workout carbs decrease the rate of protein degradation in muscles, and simultaneously increase whole-body protein synthesis.

Glycogen is the energy stores in your muscles that the body uses for fuel when we have not ingested any calories. During exercise glycogen stores become depleted, and it is how you replenish glycogen that has an affect on your recovery. If you were a car, let's say you start out with a full tank of gas on Monday, you drive day in and day out and maybe on Thursday your 'fuel light' comes on. So you put five bucks in your car and drive another day, the next day put another five bucks in, but you never completely fill it back up. I am sure you have heard that your car gets better gas mileage when your car has a full tank. Just like your body, when you start out with a full tank of muscle energy (glycogen) and run it down day after day, never taking the time to refuel, your performance decreases at an alarming rate.

Synopsis: when you choose recovery foods and fluids wisely you will optimally replensish your body's energy stores and recover more quickly for your next workout. For the endurance athlete who must often train twice in one day, this is essential to prevent chronic fatigue and promote peak performance. Make sense?

I will finish up this two-part series later this week.

A special thanks for the people who have sponsored my Ironman so far:

My grandparents; Dewey and Mary Orr of Riverside, Washington

Denise Merten of Tempe, Arizona

Pro Swim Coach John Tunstall of Phoenix, Arizona

And Betty Crawford of Ephrata, Washington

Thanks a million! Every bit helps!


"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going"
-Jim Ryun

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Humble pie (plus ice baths)

It's Sunday, and thank God for that. This past week has been brutal, but at least it is over. My nineteen mile run on Thursday went exceptionally well and I managed to escape Tempe and explore the greater Phoenix area. It is surprising how much you can see when you are foot and not whizzing by things in your SUV at 45 mph. With Thursday's long run out of the way I figured that battle had been won. But Friday's long swim was average at best. And the actualization of Ironman training hit me straight in the kisser on Saturday. I needed to sleep in Saturday morning so I did just that; big mistake. I woke up at nine, did my breakfast routine and got on the road about ten for my hundred-mile bike ride. By that time it was already 90 degrees out and warming up as the hours passed. I stuck religiously to my nutrition plan; 24-ounces of fluid and a little package of fig newtons per hour. Right around 4.5 hours I could see my heart rate start rising, so I backed off the pedals, but it kept rising in to the 160's (my average heart rate during these rides is around 130). So.... this was not good. I decided to head home knowing I still had a six mile run ahead of me. The heat and sun were still beating down, and the notorious May wind was not helping at all! It honestly felt like I was training in Dubai. I got home rather unimpressed with my effort and made the transition into my running clothes and headed out the door. Not 20 minutes later was I huffing and puffing. My swift jog turned into a slow jog, then to a shuffle, then to a walk. I let my heart rate get back to my comfort zone and I took off again, this time it only took ten minutes to get to that huffing and puffing stage. Mind you this was not an all-out sprint, it was just a simple jog like I have done millions of times. But this time was different. I ended up walking home, full......from the humble pie I had just eaten, and bruised..... from the roundhouse kick my ego just took. What was supposed to be a 7-hour brick workout, turned into 5 hours and 45 minutes of piss-poor performance.

At about six that evening I finally got it out of my head. I realized that not every training day can go perfectly. I remembered one of those old quotes my coach told me in high school, "It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get back up." So I actively focused on recovery and getting my mind right for Sunday's workouts. I will go into more detail about the nutritional aspect of recovery later this week. But for my active recovery I re-hydrated with an electrolyte drink (cytomax, Gatorade works too), and did some stretching for about 45 minutes. I contemplated taking an ice bath but I did not feel like getting off the couch. I have read about ice baths and their benefits for endurance athletes before, and I have heard of Lance Armstrong and Dean Karnazes (ultra marathoner) taking them to help recover after arduous rides and runs. Here is the basic premise of taking an ice bath: when you get into an ice bath for ten to fifteen minutes, the icy cold water causes your blood vessels to tighten and drains the blood out of your legs. So when you get out of the bath, your legs fill up with 'new' blood that invigorates your muscles with oxygen to help the cells function better.

Today's workouts went much much better. I had a two-hour bike ride followed by the same six-mile run. This time I ran the whole way and it felt great. It was not as hot as Saturday, but much more windy. I think that helped me because when I started to sweat it was instantly cooled by the breeze. I felt rejuvenated knowing it was just a bad showing on Saturday not just a classic episode of being under-trained. So after my workouts today (Sunday) and after I got some food in me I figured I would finally try out the chilly recovery concoction that have been conveniently neglecting. I went to the store and picked up a few bags of ice and threw them in the tub with some cold water. Talk about not wanting to do something. Ice... water... naked... not a good combination and very unappealing. But actually once you get past CTD (Critical Testicle Depth) and sit in their for a few minutes you are in the clear. It did make my body feel more refreshed and I can already tell my legs are not nearly as sore as they have been on past weekends. Although not a pleasant experience, I will keep on doing it. Yet another thing to add to the rigors of training, school, and work and by far the least enjoyable.


"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do."
-Bob Dylan

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You know you are a triathlete when...

When asked how long your training is today you humbly answer: three to four hours.

You consider work or school as regeneration time between training sessions.

That charming "cologne" you wear to work is chlorine.

When a co-worker or friend asks if you are racing this weekend, you say "yeah, but I'm just running a 10k, so nothing too crazy".

Conversations with tri-friends concerning lubes and chafing carries no sexual connotations.

You have no trouble pushing a day's caloric intake to over 6000 calories.

Your living room has a "swim pile" a "bike pile" a "run pile" and a "weight training pile" and you pick and choose kind of like a cafeteria on your way out the door.

You have no FRIGGIN' idea what to do with yourself on your "off" day.

Your friends are insanely jealous of your tan legs. Until they realize that the tan stops at your bike shorts.

You start scheduling your weekly appointments around your training schedule.

You precede all of your non-brick workouts with "just". As in "I'm just doing a 10 mile run today" or "I'm just doing a 60 minute swim".

Anything later than 5:30 a.m. is considered sleeping in.

and lastly...

Your 'check engine' light goes on in your car and you wait months until you get it fixed, but when your bike is a little out of tune it's in the bike shop the next day.


"If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, triathlon must have taken him completely by surprise."
-PZ Pearce

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ahhh... the weekend

Another week down, now only 3 more weeks til graduation, 3 more to the end of my internships, and 5 more till Brazil. This past week was pretty hectic, I had a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up and not nearly enough time to do them all. My training week was pretty brutal and took a lot out of me. I know I complain now about all the things going on, but I do not know what I would do with myself if I had no classes, work, or training to get in. I do not deal with boredom very well. So... busy is good :)

Thursday I had a long run, about 17 miles. I recovered suprisingly well and I was not sore enough to miss my Friday workouts. I felt kind of bad because my girlfriend flew in late Friday night and I think she had hopes of sleeping in Saturday morning but I had to get up and get my bike ride in. I am not very welcoming am I? Ha ha. My ride went well though. I rode Bee Line highway and it felt like the wind was switching with each loop I did. I would ride uphill and it seemed like the wind was in my face, then on the downhill the wind would be back in my face. So needless to say I did not set any land-speed records on Saturday. Sunday however was a bit different. It felt like I had a tailwind the entire ride. I was like... wow I feel great let's pump it up a bit. Sure enough, when I got to about the half way point the wind switched and I rode all the way back home with the wind in my face. Damn you Arizona wind. I swear it is just this month that is windy... I think it may be scared of the heat because mid-May the wind will not be around when it starts getting in to the 100's. No wonder why Ironman Arizona is switching its date to November; less heat, less wind.

This week ahead is pretty heavy: in terms of both school and training schedule.

School: 2 tests, and 2 6-page papers due

Monday: 1 hour swim with my coach, 40 minute run
Tuesday: 1:30 bike ride, 30 minute run, 1 hour swim
Wednesday: 1 hour swim, 1 hour run
Thursday: 3 hour run (19 miles)
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: 6 hour bike (100 miles), 1 hour brick run
Sunday: 2:30 bike, 1 hour brick run

Total: 21 hours 10 minutes (my hardest week yet)

Honestly it is a war of atrition. I just want to GET THROUGH this week. Some of it may be ugly, but as long as a I just finish it I think it will give me a lot of confidence going in to my taper.


“A man grows most tired while standing still.”
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I met with my masters swim coach Johnathan Tunstall again on Monday and I can already feel my stroke improving. Swimming is like golf. It is a technique sport so nearly anybody can learn how to do it (some easier than others obviously). I am still not a terrific swimmer, but these next 5 weeks I am trying to get in the pool at least six days a week in hopes of giving me an extra little oomph on race day.

Here is my training schedule this week:

Monday: Brick workout: 1 hour swim followed by a 40 minute run
Tuesday: Brick workout: 30 minute swim followed by a 2 hour bike
Wednesday: Brick workout: 1 hour swim followed by a 55 minute run
Thursday: 2 hour and 40 minute run and a few hours later a 30 minute swim
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: Brick workout: 5 hour 30 minute bike followed by a 30 minute run
Sunday: Brick workout: 30 minute swim followed by a 1 hour 30 minute bike and then a 30 minute run

Total: 6 swims, 5 runs, 3 bikes
Total: 18 hours 35 minutes

On the other hand, Phoenix is starting to get hot! It has been in the 90's all week and is showing no chance of cooling down. My bike ride on Tuesday was a unbelievably strenuous, it was about 90 and windy. I have not quite adjusted to the heat so my body just sweats profusely when I am training. I am having to drink nearly 24 ounces of fluid an hour to ward of dehydration. It is actually a chore to drink and eat while riding or running because you are not necessarily thirsty or hungry at that moment but you know you have to get it down because you might feel good now but in a few hours that "feel good" feeling might not be there. And when you start skipping those little meals it will most likely just come back and bite you in the ass. So usually my nutritional goals during my long workouts are: drink 18-24 ounces of fluid an hour, and eat roughly around 300 calories an hour. I have started to experiment with different foods my stomach can handle during these long workouts. The newest workable food source has been none other than Fig Newtons. What an excellent little workout food. They are perfectly portioned, around 200 calories, low in fat, high in fiber, and actually have more carbohydrates than Cliff Bars and Powerbars. But I must say, they do not work very well when running because of their dry texture and crumble-bility (yes I just made up that word), but on the bike they work magic. A little number that has also been working well on the bike is rolled up tortillas with peanut butter and Nutella. Although messy and sometimes hard to eat will riding, they provide just enough calories to keep me going. I have yet to come up with a strategy other than race gels for the run, but I am working on a few different products at the moment. I will let you know how that goes.


"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired"
-Jules Renard

Monday, April 14, 2008

Long training week and no sleep (Plus Ironman Arizona)

Saturday I had a 5-hour ride, so I figured I would ride the Ironman course and check out the conditions. They were exactly as I expected.... hot... and windy. Both which are bad news for a triathlete. The heat is bad because it causes you to sweat out your nutrients so you have have to eat and drink twice as much in order to cope with fluid loss. Heat is also bad because it causes your core temperature to rise which makes your heart work twice as hard to pump blood to your extremities to try and keep itself cool (this also becomes worse when you are sun burnt) The wind is especially bad on the bike because it makes you work so much harder when you are in the headwind, thus raising your heart rate, exasperating your energy stores, causes you to sweat excessively, and overall just sets you up for a long demoralizing day. Thank god I was only out there for 5 hours, not 6 or 7 hours like some of the people on race day.

I have not been sleeping well lately, so after my ride on Saturday I came back and crashed for about three hours. It was much needed. And especially after a training week of nearly 18 hours my body did not recover very well. I noticed this especially after my long run on Thursday night. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I was walking very stiff and I was not sleeping through the night because my legs were so restless. Now (Monday) I am starting to feel a bit better, but still dragging. I only have a swim and an easy run today so hopefully this little recovery time will give me the boost I need to make it through this weeks training (another 18-19 hours of training).

Sunday I woke up early to go catch the swim start at Ironman Arizona. The forecast said it was going to be windier and hotter than Saturday. Not good! The swim went as expected, the pros were all out of the water under and hour, and most of my friends started to trickle in after 1:05. Heading in to the transition area everybody completely covered themselves in sunscreen in hopes of warding off a sun burn on their 112 mile bike. I heard the bike course experienced up to 40 mph wind gusts! It was not ideal race conditions and people starting dropping like flies after the first 40 miles into the bike. Even some of the pro field could not handle the heat. It was in the low 90's the majority of the day and the heat was definitely taking its toll on the competitors. I was volunteering at the finish line so I actually got to hold the tape for the 2nd and 4th place finishers. It was said that it was one of the greatest Ironman finishes of all time. Four athletes were neck and neck all the way up to the the final few miles. It was pretty cool to be standing at the finish line because there was quite the list of Ironman celebrities in attendance including 3-time Ironman champ Michael Lavato, and 24-time women's Ironman Champ Paula Newby-Fraser. NBC sports considers Paula to be the greatest female athlete of all time! So it was an honor to even be in her presence... even though she was not very nice and was not keen on talking to "volunteers" ha ha.

Besides the soreness and lack of sleep it was an amazing weekend. My girlfriend was in town which is always fantastic, I had a great experience at Ironman Arizona, and it culminated my toughest training week yet. Not an ideal weekend for most folks but I thoroughly enjoyed it :)


"Only those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible."
-Found on the back of some guy's shirt at IMAZ

Friday, April 11, 2008

Excellent training week (Plus Photographer Peter Lik)

Thursdays are typically dedicated to my long runs. So this Thursday after work I laced up the trainers and tried to make my way up the valley to Camelback mountain. My plan called for 2 1/2 hours, so about 16-17 miles. Your long runs and long bike rides are by far the most important workouts of the week because this is where you really build your endurance and teach your body to cope with being in constant motion for more than the average duration. I felt extremely good until about mile 12 when I could feel my body start to wind down. I assumed it was just because I was dehydrated or something so I took another couple gels to see if my body needed some fuel. That seemed to work for a little while. I slowed down my pace to probably a 10/min mile and then eventually to a walk. It turns out I just had to pee really bad ha ha. So after that dilemma I finished up the run but I was still a few miles from the house. I purposely ran further and turned around later so I could get my body used to sustaining constant movement over an extended period of time. So in total the workout was just under four hours. I ran about 2:50 and walked about an hour.

Friday was a recovery day. So I just had a quick 2000 meter swim. I actually hired a coach to help with my stroke mechanics. This guy works magic I tell you. He told me I have a natural swim stroke, but I lack the fundamentals that "normal" swimmers have. It takes me about 16-18 strokes to get from one length of the pool to the other, and after some drills I was easily doing it in 15 (Most pro Ironmen do it in 11). Elongating your stroke length is a huge deal for two reason, the less strokes you take the less energy you use, and the less strokes you take the longer your body glides through the water and therefore covering more distance. I plan to train with him once a week up until Brazil just to give me an extra little edge because I am not a very keen swimmer ha ha.

This Saturday will be another long workout. A 5-hour bike ride, so around 80 miles. I will be riding Bee Line again so everybody and their brother doing Ironman Arizona will be on the course checking it out most likely. So I will have plenty of friends to keep me company. Sunday will be an awesome day. I am volunteering for Ironman Arizona and they have me posted as a "finish line catcher". Basically when these people cross the finish line they pretty much collapse.Because their bodies are in motion from 8-16 hours depending on their ability the human body is not taught to withstand that much stress and when they cross the finish line their body literally shuts down because a their energy stores are completely depleted (The Chris Legh video below this post is a good example). It will also be cool because I will get to see the all the awesome pros finish then see all my good friends finish. I feel a little left out however. I was supposed to race this Ironman but after my Half Iron in October I had a terrible case of tendinitis and my knee swelled up to the size of a softball and filled with fluid... no bueno.

Oh and some other good news. The girlfriend is in town :) She has been very supportive with the whole Ironman training. She understands that I need my afternoon naps, and she understands that if I don't eat every couple hours I get snappy, and she understands that I cannot stay out late on weekends because I have a hellish training day in the morning. If I was her I wouldn't put up with me ha ha. She has been great though :) This Sunday will also be a good chance for her to see what an Ironman actually is. Most people think it is just a bunch of health freaks out proving their manhood by moving around for half the day. It is much more than that, but people rarely "get it". These events have such a good vibe to them. There really is just so much energy in the place and everyone is feeling it. The people doing these events just don't wake up one morning and go... hell I am gonna go out their and do a little Ironman today. These people dedicated their entire year to training, they sacrificed their fun time, their family time, and their work time to accomplish something that not many people have an appreciation for. So hats off to all of you guys participating in IMAZ this Sunday, you guys rock! (I will hand you a cold beer at the finish line)

Last weekend when I was in San Diego I got to see an amazing art gallery in La Jolla. Peter Lik, a native Aussie has some of the most impressive works I have ever seen!He does mostly landscape shots in the U.S. and Australia. When I walked into the gallery the first thing I asked was "are these back-lit?" The colors are so vivid and just pop right out of the frame. I promised the salesman if I ever made any money in this life time my house would be filled with his wonderful prints. Here is his website ( Check it out, but trust me the internet pictures do not even compare to the real thing. The attached picture was taken at dusk in Page, Arizona.


"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
-Thomas A. Edison