Wednesday, July 23, 2014

That's What I'm Talkin Bout, Willis!!

A couple months ago I wrote a post entitled "Are You Not Entertained?" wishing there was more race coverage for tri junkies such as myself.

I wrote, "for example, the pro field at the US 70.3 Championships was absolutely stacked. When later reading about the pro race I thought, 'man I would’ve loved to see that play out!' Combine race action with breathtaking scenery and condense it down… would that format not be highly entertaining, even for non-triathletes?"

Well, they listened!!  

If you've got 25 spare minutes, check it out here!  It's also a great watch if you're seeking a little inspiration to get you moving.

Ironman 70.3 St. George TV Coverage

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ocean Shores (WA) Toughman Race Report - Jeff Kirkland

So let me start this by saying, this was my first ever half Ironman. I started racing sprint triathlons three years ago and have been working hard to increase my distance with the ultimate goal of racing full length Ironman races. This race was my 12th triathlon and it was in an entire other level from where I started. I absolutely love to race and compete. I love the thrill of the finish line but more so, I love that feeling of the starting line.

This race was great. Very well organized and on a flat course which was a welcome sign as I am used to hill after hill. The weather was cold! It was cloudy and a high of 59 degrees. I was warmest in my wetsuit in the water.

On Friday night before the race, I made the mistake of going to the swim start and looking at the buoys which directly contributed to my lack of sleep that night. It was more like a night of panic.

The swim was a staggered start and I chose the third wave just to be safe. I started at the front of the pack and about 1,000 meters in, I caught and passed the second wave. By the end of the swim, I had caught the back of the first wave. My swim time was 38 minutes. At this point, I could have quit and it would have felt like victory. That is a PR for me! Last year I couldn't even swim an Olympic distance at that pace.

I hopped on my bike and set off on the two lap course that was along the Pacific coast. The temperature was still very cold (56 degrees) and I was soaking wet. My hands and feet were numb the entire ride but I was happy because I passed a few people and never got passed. The biggest advice I got before the race was ride slower than you think you should so I made that my goal. As I was riding, I felt like I tried to keep my effort level down a bit as to not crash on the run. When I got to mile twenty my average pace was 20mph which is moving pretty good for me on a longer race. I managed to hold a 20.1mph pace for the full 56 miles and my ride time was 2:51 which was well below my 3:30 goal and even below my "inside my mind" goal of 3:00.

Off the bike and on to the run. One thing I didn't know about this race was that 5 of the 13.1 miles was on the beach. Holy moly did that make it more difficult. By this time my training partner and I were together which made the run much more fun. As we ticked off the first mile he said only 12 more to go! I thought "ok just don't die." Two and a half miles in we hit the beach. It was brutal. It made my IT bands burn like no other but we kept on pushing. The first 6.5 miles seemed to go by fast but the last were a grind. Thankfully, I didn't bonk and kept up an ok pace. I am a runner first so my mind thinks that I should run faster than my body says after a long race. My final run time was 1:46. This is not my best half marathon time by a long shot but it is solid, all things considered, and with 5 miles of it on sand.

I crossed the finish line with a total time of 5:20 and good for 20th place overall and 5th in my killer age group of 30-39. Overall, I am very pleased with the race and the way my body felt. I have an Olympic race just 14 days after this one. It will be interesting to see what a recovery week followed by a taper week will do to that race. I will say that I am thankful for my Triple Threat team for the encouragement during this journey. Also, I would like to thank Rolf Prima wheels for hooking me up with an awesome wheel set and Honey Stinger for the nutrition. Overall, it was fun and a lot less scary than I thought it was going to be. I am already looking forward to Ironman 70.3 Henderson in October.

Related Posts:

Triple Threat Profile: Jeff Kirkland - Oregon

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Muncie Race Report - Amy Fletcher

As is the usual, I had a very busy and physically tiring week leading up to Muncie 70.3 (due to marching band - our first performance on Friday night and first competition right after the race on Saturday). I actually didn’t eat dinner Friday night because by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was go to bed, which I did, but I could not go to sleep. I got up at 4:30 and ate a bagel thin with egg white and a slice of cheese and half a cup of yogurt and headed to Prairie Creek Reservoir. I knew I was probably dehydrated due to my activity Friday, so I was sure to drink water (two 20 ounce bottles between 4:30 and 6:30). After I set up my bike and transition area, I actually slept in my car for 45 minutes. I am just realizing that I was not the least bit nervous pre-race; I’m guessing I was just too tired to get worked up about it! My wave did not start until 7:50, so I held off getting in the water until 7:30. It was wetsuit legal, but I chose not to use mine.
there's more than corn in Indiana

The swim was non-eventful except two kayakers told me to go to my right, but I was sighting well, and was headed for the turn buoy. Going to my right was actually causing me to NOT take a straight line, but they were just trying to help. On the short leg of the swim, someone behind me hit my feet at least 20 times. I moved over, I sped up, I kicked furiously 15 times, but she continued to hit my feet. I was irritated and finally stopped, then decided to get over it. After the second turn buoy, we are usually totally blind due to the rising sun in our eyes, but it was overcast and sighting was very easy. The wind was blowing, however, and there was more contact on the way to shore, but I think it was mainly due to the current pushing people around. I was relaxed the whole time... pretty slow swim, but I was also asleep when I started it, so I’m counting it a success.

Prairie Creek Reservoir - is that buoy smiling?

After a little run up the hill to transition, I found my bike with no problem. I was practicing my IMCHOO (Ironman Chattanooga) nutrition plan, so I needed to put all my food in my tri suit pockets. I stood there trying and TRYING to stuff food in my back pockets and couldn’t find the pockets. I then realized that I had only worn this suit twice before and those times were at IMLOU (Louisville), and I guess someone had helped me find the blasted POCKETS. As it turns out, there are no back pockets... there are side pockets! Ok. Felt a little stupid, but moving on....

I really had no clue how the bike would go, except that it would be slow... like 15 MPH slow because my training rides have averaged around that. Also, I put on a new saddle on Wednesday... yikes. I had ridden on this saddle once for 45 minutes and once for an hour. Neither time was I thrilled with the comfort, but it was better than the saddle I had taken off. As it turns out, that saddle is now gone and I am trying another one. I saw my husband Doug on the bike course three times (he’s the BEST) and Heather Fink (nutritionist) was also out there cheering. I also saw my friend Gary on the side of the road waiting to be picked up. I didn’t know what had happened, but he did not appear to be hurt or bloody, so I carried on. I absolutely nailed the nutrition plan, and think I'll use the same plan for IMCHOO. I ended up averaging 17.1 MPH. Happy with that... not happy with the saddle.

My T2 is usually faster than T1, but in longer runs, I wear Injinji socks to prevent blisters, and it takes sitting down to get them on. It’s worth the time it takes though to not get blisters or hot spots.

The run is hilly and is often described as taking place “on the surface of the sun” because there is no shade. By the time I was on the run, however, the developing storm clouds were moving in and it was overcast with no sun, although it was humid. Muncie volunteers are THE BEST anywhere and every aid station on the run was full service and everyone was cheering and encouraging. I again nailed the nutrition plan (until mile 10) and ran everything, including the hills, but walked the aid stations. I kept watching the storm clouds blow in, and finally, at mile 9, it started to rain. It was a brief shower and actually felt pretty good. I jumped in a port-o-let at mile 10 and apparently dropped a GU down the hatch (editor's note
: you gotta let that go). I was supposed to take a GU at mile 11, but the on-course GU had Roctane and I had never used that... since I was only 2 miles out, I skipped it and took some salt and water and continued running. The run ends with a “fake” last hill (you think you are finished, but you’re not) then there is the real last hill. As I got to the beginning of the last hill, I heard Gary cheering and telling me to attack that hill! It was SO COOL! That’s one thing that the Tri community is so good at... nearly everyone encourages everyone else. That’s why I work more races than I actually do, so I can help other people complete their goal. Gary’s bike exploded or something; I don’t know because he didn’t explain, because it’s not about what terrible thing happened to him and his race, he just got a ride back to transition and started cheering for everyone else. Gary helped hundreds of people up that last monster hill and to the finish line. That’s cool. I ran slow, but I ran it all. I chuckled when I overheard a couple behind me say, ”Wow, they certainly don’t have a shortage of hills here, do they?”

great location, reachable from many Midwest cities

Post race
I cleared out pretty quickly to get home. I started drinking and continued to drink the rest of the evening, but I really was not hungry and didn’t eat much. I did get a two hour nap before the band contest and was able to stay awake driving home afterwards. I was a little sore Sunday and took Sunday and Monday completely off. I'll start some light training mid-week. This is the longest running “Half Ironman” in the country, as this was the 35th year for the race formerly known as the Muncie Endurathon. I think that says a LOT about the Muncie community.

Related Posts:

Triple Threat Profile: Amy Fletcher - Indiana

Monday, July 14, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Sandy Altman - Ohio

Despite only recently discovering triathlon, Sandy Altman (Ohio) easily has the most impressive "adventure resume" on our national team. She's not your regular triathlon newbie either, as she is known to strike fear in the hearts of her local age group. Sandy has her sights set on USAT Nationals and a step up in distance this year, and we're thrilled to have her on our team!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I have always been involved in sports, both organized team and individual (ie. scuba diving, spelunking, kayaking/canoeing, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, and backpacking). I would work out and run to stay in shape, and when I turned 51, I decided to start entering running races. To add more toys to the mix and variety, I transitioned into triathlons. I fell in love with the training compared to just running. I am always up for more adventure.

How would you sum up last year, your first season as a triathlete, and what was the highlight/lowlight?

April 2013 was my first sprint tri, and I have only done Sprint and Olympic distance since then. The highlight was getting involved with my local team, making new friends in the sport and placing 1st/2nd in my AG (not hard when you're in my AG :) ). The low was not getting to the start line for my 1st half Ironman. I have a fear with start lines.

How has your season gone so far this year, and what are remaining goals for this year and beyond?

This season plans changed with the accepting of a work assignment out of town since spring. I slacked off on doing as many races in exchange for spending that time with family on weekends. I am still planning on competing at Nationals in the Olympic distance and doing my first 70.3 and full marathon yet this year. I have my sights set on a full Ironman for 2015 in the 55-59 AG.

Even though you're relatively new to triathlon, from what I gather you've always been very active. Can you tell us about your mountain climbing, scuba diving, and other adventures?

I co-owned an outdoor adventure brick and mortar store and ran trips and taught classes in scuba diving, spelunking, kayaking/canoeing, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, and backpacking. This involved scuba diving around the world as an instructor in caves, shipwrecks, and under ice. I enjoyed making it almost to the summit of Mt Rainier, have climbed frozen waterfalls in NY, MI, and IL, and traversed into caves, belly crawled spelunking with my son in Southern IN. I have learned to set pro for rock climbing and top roped and bouldered mostly in IN, MI and KY.

What do you do for your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I have been a physical therapist for 32 years now. Hobbies? Don't find time for hobbies lately but I use to love ballroom dancing. Nowadays, I fill my free time with loving up my Grandchildren and Golden Retriever.

Speaking with your PT hat on, what are 1-2 pieces of advice you'd give to triathletes?

I would say add strength to training and pay attention to nigs and nags as they can develop into more serious conditions quickly.

On a selfish note, any advice for someone dealing with 
sciatic nerve issues?

Sciatic nerve pain - I would recommend seeking out an MDT trained PT. A radicular symptom of pain down a leg from the back should have a particular technique from a mechanical approach.

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?

I am lacking in all 3 areas for speed, but my greatest strength would be running, then bike, and lastly swimming if we are talking time. I prefer Altra running shoes because of the wide toe box and zero heel to toe rise. I train via power meter on the bike and prefer the wider googles by Aqua Sphere because of the aging thinner skin around my eyes. (editor's note: ha!)

Tell us about your family, and is your golden retriever a dependable running partner?

I am married, a mother, and a grandmother of a 3 mo and 9 mo old. My Golden Retriever is 7 now and becomes lame if he does much more than 7 miles, but running with him off leash on trails is 100% pure joy for both of us.

You represent Ohio on our national team, yet race in multiple states... can you give us a sense of triathlon in Ohio vs. your neighbors or is it pretty much the same in each?

I have only done a couple of running races outside of IN/OH so far as I can remember - the mind is the first to go...:). The biggest difference in racing in other areas is the elevation change, both hills and actual elevation level, as it is flat as a pancake in Northwest Ohio.

Editor's note: when she's not scuba diving under ice, belly crawling through caves, or winning her age group at triathlons, some have speculated that Sandy also occasionally competes in Big Air skateboarding competitions under the pseudonym "Tom Scharr."

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Kinda Like This Drill

If there is a "nice" thing to being injured as a triathlete, it's that there's usually at least something you can work on. Hurt your shoulder wrestling with your kid or trying to open that pickle jar? Ok, swim less, bike and run more. Saddle sores the size of Arkansas? Bike less, swim and run more. You get the picture. If you've read the last two posts, you know my running has been compromised of late. I've been biking about the same as before, (with less intensity to be conservative on my leg), but have dragged myself to the water's edge a few more times than usual, including an open water swim with an awesome guy I coach here locally. Dragged is an exaggeration... it's actually been pretty fun, and I see it as an opportunity to work on my aqua skills, or lack thereof.

Word at the rumor mill is that team member Stewart Nixon has a swim drill nugget in the pipeline. He's far more the expert than me (among other reasons there is a "waters" in "Stewart"). However, here's just one drill that I thought I'd share. I've known about the "catch up" drill for a while, and you probably do too, but only recently have I really understood the benefit. I've incorporated it while warming up in the pool lately, and it really seems to help my overall timing. I've noticed I can get sloppy with my pull from time to time and out of synch with my pull and hip rotation. This seems to help. Try it out next time you hop in the deep end.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TTT Mysteries: Nervous Breakdown! The Case of the Tight End

As my kids took in their 3rd movie in the back seat, my wife and I attempted to keep some conversation going to pass the time. We were en route to our 4th of July weekend in St. George with her family, and had an hour or so left to kill. After a brief pause, here’s an abbreviated version of where the conversation turned:

“I’m still so confused by what happened with my leg at Ragnar.”

“Where exactly does it hurt?”

“Nowhere now, it doesn’t hurt at all… before it seemed to be centered here (pointing to my upper calf), but it literally hurt from my hip all the way down.”

“Did it feel like you pulled something?”

“No, it was kind of a dull, weak feeling, but really painful, and like the muscles just wouldn’t activate at all.”

“Maybe it was a nerve issue... the sciatic nerve runs right through there.”

(Grabbing her by the shirt collar and speaking with a frantic British accent) “By George, woman, you’ve cracked the case! Tell me, how did you do it?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Ok, I made up the last two lines, but when Lindsay mentioned “nerve issue” it clicked that she was spot on. She started Googling stuff, and the more she read to me, the more convinced I became.

nice bum where ya from?
In a nutshell, there’s a muscle in your butt called the piriformis… it’s nestled in there somewhere next to the gluteus maximus, and is also near the top of the sciatic nerve, which runs down your legs into the calf muscles.

According to Wikipedia:

Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder that occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or otherwise irritated by the piriformis muscle, causing pain, tingling and numbness along the path of the sciatic nerve descending down the lower thigh and into the leg.

When the piriformis muscle shortens due to trauma or overuse, it can compress the sciatic nerve beneath the muscle. This can result from activities performed in the sitting position that involve strenuous use of the legs as in rowing and bicycling. (Ding ding ding ding ding!)

Runners, bicyclists and other athletes engaging in forward-moving activities are particularly susceptible to developing piriformis syndrome if they do not engage in lateral stretching and strengthening exercises. When not balanced by lateral movement of the legs, repeated forward movements can lead to disproportionately weak hip abductors and tight adductors. This can cause the piriformis muscle to shorten and severely contract. Upon a 40% increase in piriformis size, sciatic nerve impingement is inevitable.

A highly effective and easy treatment includes stretching and strengthening these muscle groups, and warming up before physical activity. An exercise regimen targeting the gluteus medius and hip abductor muscle groups can alleviate symptoms of piriformis syndrome within days.

If you’ve ever dealt with the symptoms that I described and didn't know why, now your mystery is solved!

You know how the end of crime shows (including such staples as Scooby Doo) often flash back to show clues, or how the crime was committed? Here are my own:

Flashback 1: two Ironman 70.3's in a 5-week span

Flashback 2: ramped up interval/intensity training in the weeks following

Flashback 3: thinking during this time that I hadn’t been very consistent with stretching lately

Flashback 4: two particularly hard interval and hill repeat sessions on the bike, Jun 19 & 21

Flashback 5: feeling tight at my track workout on Jun 24, even getting down like a baseball catcher on several occasions in an effort to “limber up” – which, as I’ve now learned, gets at the ol’ piriformus!

Flashback 6: feeling twinges of what I now know is “sciatic pain” towards the end of said track workout

Flashback 7: flare up of same symptoms following pounding downhill Ragnar run (Jun 27)

The point is, despite the complexity of the human body, there are often simple answers to what ails us as athletes. We can also often look back and identify what led up to an injury. I’m still a little hesitant to run much right now, but with the case cracked, I know what I’ve gotta do: stretch, stretch, stretch, warm up, ice as needed, and get my punk piriformus in gear.

Me to piriformus “hey, just back off, man”

Piriformus: “look, I'm tired… stop workin me so hard”

Me: “how bout you shut up and lay off my sciatic nerve?”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

Since Boise 70.3 about a month ago, I’ve started to shift my training from longer stuff to more intervals & intensity. I enjoy mixing things up as the season progresses… however, I don’t enjoy when it backfires on me as it did this past weekend.

Early Friday morning through Saturday afternoon was Ragnar Wasatch Back, a team running event (check out this post for some background if you’re not familiar). I was excited to get a nice “running block” in, with 17+ mostly hilly and challenging miles.

Following a track workout last week with some 800m repeats, I had kind of a “dead leg” sensation in my right leg, like the muscles just weren’t activating at all. I (stupidly) went for a 90 min ride the following day, then had a day of rest before Ragnar. In hindsight I didn’t show enough respect to the rocky terrain of the course.

1st leg
Last year my first two runs were flat, and I pushed the pace. This year, my first (7 mi) consisted of 1-2 muddy miles up a section called Avon Pass before turning into a punishing 3 mile descent. I didn’t push hard on the downhill, but did lean forward and let gravity do most of the work. In hindsight I should’ve applied some brakes. By mile 5, when the road flattened out, the “dead leg” sensation was back… too much pounding. I finished the last 3 miles off at ~7:30 pace, but could tell that something wasn’t right.

Over the next few hours I did my best to recover before my next run, taking in some protein, stretching, etc, but my leg was locking up, especially my upper calf. Our van was a blast, but sitting didn’t help. I’d hobble out to cheer on others and try to walk it off, sit and it would get tight, then repeat throughout the day. I found a medical tent at one of the exchanges and received some active release therapy. I wished I had a wooden rod to bite down on, but it did help a lot. From then on I could walk without limping too badly, but my looming, hilly 8+ mile run was still a big question mark in my mind.

Shortly before my run I gave my legs a pep talk and attempted to jog on some grass. Even “running” 20 yards was a painful challenge. Finally my number came up again, and I gritted my teeth and limped the first mile before my gait loosened up just enough to look kind of normal. I brought my phone along to keep my wife and rest of team posted if reinforcements were needed, and it was a good feeling when I realized by mile 2 that I could do it. Every step hurt, and I was at 11 something minute pace, but I was determined to finish. My mind went back to my first half-Ironman, Michigan’s Steelhead 70.3 in 2007. I was severely undertrained, especially on the bike, and my legs were absolutely trashed on the run. Especially from mile 10 on, I wanted to walk so badly, and it was a major mental battle not to. Thinking about that gave me some inspiration, as I’d think to myself stuff like “how many steps did you walk at Steelhead? Zero! And we’re not walkin’ any today either!” No shame in walking… I was mainly just afraid I wouldn’t be able to start up again if I stopped. The last mile was entirely uphill, but I made it… easily the most painful 11:22 mile pace run of my life!

2nd leg: pain central
Our van of six runners was finally able to crash shortly after midnight, then up again before 4:00 to get to the next exchange in time. My leg felt like a foreign object, but mercifully my last run was only 2 flat miles, the shortest of them all. Anything longer and I would’ve definitely walked and/or waived the white flag of surrender. I jogged with a noticeable limp, but made it before getting a big bag of ice and some ibuprofen.

All that said, I still had a fantastic time, and highly recommend Ragnar if you get the chance.

A couple days later, I’m sore (ironically more on my left leg from over-compensating!), but I don’t feel injured… I think the combination of Boise and increased intensity of late made me vulnerable, then a few pounding downhill miles was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Or in this case, the runner’s leg.

Needless to say, I’m keeping this week very light before easing back into my routine. Could probably have used a recovery week anyway.