Friday, July 30, 2010

Back in Minnesota

Travelled back to my home state and tonight i find myself hanging at the table in my parent's lake cottage--good to be here again!

I'm racing tomorrow in a race I know nothing about. It's the first time there has ever been a triathlon up here--about 10 miles from our lake cottage. I don't know anyone in the race. It's a qtr mile swim/17 mile bike and a 2.4 mile run--not your typical sprint but I'm not complaining about that!

I brought my TT bike and it's all set to go--out there in my rental car. I did a short pre-race workout this evening and my legs are still sore, stiff and sluggish. I can still feel the effects of the intense PT i did on Wednesday--I do think all of they intense work on my glutes, hammies, flexors, etc. is taking a toll in how my legs feel day-to-day. I still think its a real benefit but its probably not a real plus for my near-term racing plans.

In any event, I do fully expect to see a bounce back from Stone Harbor--I don't expect to be fully recovered but I certainly hope to do better than on the 18th....we'll see!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stone Harbor Race Report

It's a little late and not very pretty but here it is:

2010 Stone Harbor Sprint Triathlon
Race Report #9: July 18th, 2010


I returned to the site of my first triathlon after a long hiatus from racing this Jersey classic. This triathlon consists of a quarter-mile swim in a bay off the inter-coastal, an 11.6- mile, 3-loop course of the very flat Stone Harbor island roads, followed by a similarly flat 5K.

This was my 9th race of the 2010 season and 95th of my career. Since the race was just 14 days after IM Germany, I knew that my race performance would likely suffer. I was, however, interested in finding out if the PT program I had started was having any early impact on the hip issues that were so problematic for me at IM Germany. Wes and Brian were both racing in my AG—strong triathletes I’d have trouble beating when I was 100%--so I was hoping to try to sneak in a 3rd place finish. I didn’t know how likely that was given a number of unknown competitors and the unknown state of my body post IM. Anyways, I hoped to have some fun and do the best that I could.

The Swim

Race morning dawned very hot (we were in the midst of a multi-week heat wave), clear and with a modest (say 10 mph) wind. I was racing in the 1st wave, which was a nice courtesy that I probably didn’t deserve given my anticipated performance. I treaded water next to Brian and Wes right before the gun and Brian told me he was going to try to stay on my feet as long as possible.

At the gun I went out very hard but was immediately surprised to see a significant number of people surging away from me. One of these was Wes whom I’ve out swum in the past and I expected to out-swim today given my strong swim performance this year. This was not to be today however. I felt uncoordinated and a little out of breadth as I fell further behind. I could feel Brian banging away on my feet. I was just 50 yards into the race and I could tell I was “off”—more so than I had anticipated.

Thankfully this was just a sprint so I only had to endure a few minutes of this uncomfortable swim. I exited the water in an elapsed time of 6:43 (average HR of 151 bpm), which is very underwhelming. I actually swam 6:33 back in 2006 and I am a significantly better swimmer today than back then. My relative performance confirmed this as I was only 3rd out of 22 in my AG (90.9 %-tile) and 85th out of 369 overall (77.2 %-tile). I expected a bit of a performance decline but not this much.

Competitively, Wes was 33 seconds ahead of me and a fellow names Fones was also 15 seconds faster. Brian was just 20 seconds back.

Transition One

Unremarkable transition, although I felt on the slowish side. I executed T1 in 1:58 with an average HR of 163. I had the 69th fastest T1 overall and was 3rd once again in the AG race. I dropped a full 30 seconds to Wes and left T1 63 seconds behind. I was quite a bit faster than the other top swimmers and left T2 in 2nd—with a 24 second advantage over Fones and 45 seconds up on Brian.

The Bike

I was very interested to see if I could ride hard on my TT bike and not experience the sharp pain and discomfort that I felt in Germany. In that regard, this ride was a success. My left hip is definitely not normal but I did not have a repeat of the German agony.
That said, it was apparent to me almost right away that I did not have anything on the bike. I had trouble hitting 200 watts even though my HR was elevated well above 160. I was trying very hard but simply had nothing in the tank. I was getting passed by people whom I normally easily out-distance. I tried to grin and bear it, but I was shocked by how little power I had.

I completed the ride in 29:48 with an average HR of 164 and an average power of 195 watts. To put this in perspective, consider how this compares to my two prior short-course races that I did just before IM Germany:

Presidential Lakes 26.1 miles 241 watts 156 bpm
St. Andrews 15.5 250 162
Stone Harbor 11.5 195 164

Further, the three prior times I rode this course in Stone Harbor my times were: 28:28, 28:28, and 28:27. This fall-off in performance, while not unexpected to a degree, was none-the-less shocking to me.

Not surprisingly, my competitive performance suffered. I had the 4th fastest bike leg in my AG and only 20th OA (94.9 %-tile). While I was still in 2nd in the AG, I was now a full 84 seconds behind Wes and only 5 seconds ahead of a rapidly closing Brian—who were both having great races.

Transition Two

As I dismounted, I heard Rob, the RD call out Brian’s name and I chuckled to myself—I was way out of my leg today. I half-heartedly jogged through T2 resigned to my fate. I completed T2 in 1:43, which was only 13th best in my AG and 170th OA. Brian ran past as I was screwing around in T2 and I cheered him on. Finally I headed out for what was sure to be a very slow run.

The Run

My elapsed time when I started the run was just over 40 minutes and I thought if I could finish somewhere around 64/65 minutes maybe I’d have a chance to grab 3rd—though I doubted it—usually you need a 61 or so to get on the podium. The only time I had finished in the top 3 here was a 2nd place in 2006 when I finished with a 60:43.

Much like the bike, I had no power running. My legs were very dead. Sluggish would have been an improvement. My first mile was 8:15 with a 166 HR—I was working at a pretty hard level but running about 1:15+ slower per mile than I should have been. Miles 2 and 3 were much the same and I finally jogged across the line with a run of 25:27 (average HR of 168). I’m not sure, but that may be my slowest 5K ever—even slower than my first Stone Harbor triathlon, way back in 2001. Not a pretty picture.

I finished with an overall time of 65:37, which was only good enough for 5th in my AG and 50th OA (86.7 %-tile). I was 7th and 118th respectively on the run. This 5th place finish snapped a streak of 29 consecutive Short Course podiums for me that dated all the way back to August of 2006.

Oh well. I wasn’t ready to race and I had a real bad race. No other way to look at it. Time to fix my hip, recover from Germany, and get ready for Kona. And so I shall!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back in the flow

Stats from last week:

23:51 training time including 3 hours of PT/core work
4900 yards swimming
248 miles biking
31 miles running

Obviously a little light on the swim. A couple of w/os were missed due to afternoon storms or cut short due to fatigue from the heat impacting my runs and bikes. I'll put more emphasis on the swim over the next few weeks.

I'll back off a bit this week with the travel to Minnesota and the race on Saturday and then August will be my biggest month of the year....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hot, hot, hot.

Man--the heat here is unrelenting. it has been above 90 degrees ever since I returned from IM Germany 3 weeks ago. It was above 90 there as well and was quite warm here before I left. I don't think it's been less than 90 for over a month.

Yesterday did a 4 hour ride--I left at 7:30 and it was already 86. when I finished it was 95 degrees and the heat index was 110 degrees--very humid. I drained two 24 oz bottles by mile 45 and had to stop and refill. It's brutal.

I know this is good prep for Kona but I have to say the unrelenting nature of the heat seems debilitating. It's hard to really push speed sessions on the bike and run--I start to feel like throwing up very early in the workouts. the good news is that the water is quite warm in these parts so I'm doing my open water swims without my wetsuit which is something that this boy really needs to do a lot of.

OK--time to stop long run awaits. It's already 87 degrees with a heat index of 94--at 8:40am. fun, fun, fun!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Road to 100

Grinding along with a more normal IM training week so feeling a bit tired as we speak. The PT seems to really be helping although it is quite fatiguing as well. Longish ride tomorrow so hope the good news keeps rolling.

I found out that there is a sprint triathlon in Walker, Minnesota at the same time I am visiting my parents next weekend--who would have thought? In any event, I think I now know the rest of my triathlon race schedule between now and Kona--here it is:

7/31 Race 96 Walker Sprint Triathlon Walker, MN
8/15 Race 97 Tuckahoe Sprint Tuckahoe, NJ
9/4 Race 98 Marlton Sprint Marlton, NJ
9/12 Race 99 Diamondman Sprint Bear, DE
10/9 Race 100 IM Hawaii Kona, HI

Also, I've posted a slideshow from IM Germany on my website:

Still owe you a Stone Harbor race report....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dead Legs

Raced the local Stone Harbor Sprint Tri yesterday--nothing like rolling out of bed just 0.54 miles from transition!

As expected I had no pop in the legs (or my swim) yesterday. I'll post a short race report in the next day or two but I was a bit surprised at how dead my legs were. I was a good 5 minutes slower than "normal" (I've done this race 5 times before). As an example of what I'm talking about, my watts only averaged around 190 even though my HR was in the low 160s...this is a good 60+ watts less than that effort usually delivers.

No real surprises coming just two weeks after a very hot and demanding IM in Germany but I was a bit taken aback by how little zip I had. I may be one of those guys who takes a long time to recover from an IM.

In any event, as I previously posted, I intended the SH triathlon to be a "line in the sand" marking a return to serious training and (after 4 weeks "off"--the 2 week taper and 2 week recovery from IM Germany)--and so today was the start of the push for Kona--the 3rd mega-cycle of my training year. I'm 81 days away from the big show as of this Monday.

After an intense hour with my PT guy--I was drenched in sweat...(BTW--I really think this is going to work...the really good news from the race yesterday is i was able to ride in race mode with little of the pain I had experienced at IM Germany. My glutes and ITB were very tight still--I definitely noticed them--but this was probably more a function of the intense workouts I had last week...we'll see)...anyways, after the PT I rode my bike for 3:40 in the mid-day heat and humidity (it was about 92 degrees and quite humid--and windy as well). I'm not saying I was a champ on this ride but I got her done--obviously good work for the conditions at Kona.

Besides getting 4 more sprints in before Kona (I know this is silly but I think it would be cool to have Kona be my 100th triathlon) I only have eyes for Kona now. It's great to simplify things. From a triathlon perspective, the only thing that matters now is getting across that finish line on October 9th--and that's the way we are going to run things from here on out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting back to normal?

The main focus of the last 13 days after IM Germany has been on letting my body recover and get back to "normal". Last week I did seven and a half hours of "training"--most of it was light spinning. This week will probably end up being double that with a few runs thrown in.

I'm actually racing tomorrow in the Stone Harbor triathlon--which is clearly a questionable call. It's a goofy local sprint which actually was my first triathlon back in 2001. I'm not ready to race and I don't have any expectations about my performance except that I'll probably end up being slow and a little annoyed by that fact. I wanted to use the race as a line in the sand marking my transition from post IM recovery to a serious training phase that will deliver me to Kona, which is 84 days from today.

My number one goal in this next period is to get my left hip healthy. I must find a way to avoid a debilitating repeat of my bike/run at IM Germany. To the end, I had a physical evaluation by a corrective exercise physical therapist. He was clearly able to diagnose my left/right imbalances and my significant deficincies in my hip flexors and most of my core muscle systems. I've started a multi-week cycle of 3 times per week of core/hip focused training and aggressive assissted stretching of my ITB. This has been an eye-opening experience so far. I've had three sessions to date and my glutes, hip flexors, etc are very sore and stiff. I have hope that this will ultimately correct my hip problem--I must get it fixed....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

IM germany Race Report

2010 Ironman Germany: European Championship
Race Report #8: July 4th, 2010


Before qualifying for Kona earlier this year I had signed up for IM Germany (as my main Hawaii qualifier). After much soul-searching, I decided to go ahead and do the race even though I had already qualified. It was to be my 8th race of the 2010 campaign and the 94th triathlon of my career—and also my 7th Ironman.

I’ve been fighting the effects of a bike crash eight weeks ago that has adversely affected my left hip flexors. It tends to evidence itself on my TT bike in hard, aggressive rides—like what you do in an IM. I’ve been aggressively pursuing Physical Therapy and it seemed in recent weeks that I was making progress and as a result I was hopeful I’d be able to get after the bike in this race.

My goal, for this race, at the beginning of the year was to break 11 hours and failing that break my prior best IM time of 11:19. However, over the last 10 days, Frankfurt (where the race is held) was locked into an unusual heat wave and among other things the water temp in the lake where we were to swim had raised from 66 degrees to over 80 degrees on race morning. As a result, for only the 2nd time in the 9 years of this race, wetsuits and speed suits were ruled illegal.

The temperature the day before the race was 98+ degrees. I saw the temp reading on the top of the Samsung building just before the Germany/Argentina World Cup game read 109 degrees (obviously out in the sun). Hey—it was very hot! Further, construction on the bike course had caused race organizers to lengthen the bike course from 180 to 185 kilometers—a little more than 115 miles versus the standard 112.

I arrived just 45 hours before the race and after going through all my pre-race activities I found myself sitting in my room on Saturday night, July 3rd unable to sleep (in fact I would get just 2-3 hours of sleep in the final 70 hours that led up to the start of the race). I was unable to sleep because the AC in my room sucked (sorry for the vulgar term but I’m trying to be accurate here) and it was over 90 degrees in my room.

With all of this, I decided that I’d need to back off of my race goals by a considerable amount. I wanted to have a safe and conservative swim, a moderate, but restrained bike and then run as much as I could in the afternoon heat. I felt something between 12 and 13 hours made more sense to shoot for—if I felt great, I’d go for the former and if I had problems I’d just focus on finishing without really hurting myself.

With this as background, my phone rang at 3am for my “wake-up” call and I hopped up and headed down to the restaurant for a quick bite of bread, Nutella and jam, some breakfast potatoes and coffee. Here is what happened after that:

The Swim

I left with the other members of the XC group at 5:05 am and drove straight out to the swim/T1 site, which is about 12 km from downtown Frankfurt, where we were staying. Being with the XC group was very nice (even though I wasn’t competing for a Kona slot) as we were able to drive straight up to Transition as opposed to taking the busses from downtown.

My final preparations were fairly simple (uncover the bike, pump the tires, check the drive train and make sure my T1 bag was good to go (which I had already done about five times including the evening before when we first racked up). The last thing I did was turn on my “TrackMyAthlete” GPS tracking device—which would subsequently turn out to be a big hit with the fans back home.

When I had first learned about the no wetsuit/no speed suit ruling I asked around and discovered that most people were swimming in specifically designed swim gear that either went over their tri suits or they took off in T1. I decided to go to the Expo and purchase one for myself. I talked to the 2XU folks and ended up buying an “elite” one-piece tri-suit with no front seams, no pockets, no mesh and the zipper in back. They assured me it was legal and that it would create less drag for me in the swim.

I have to say I was very nervous about this swim. My swims this year have been exceptionally good and I’ve definitely become a much better swimmer over the last 6-8 months as I usually win my AG in local sprint swims now. However, all of these swims have been in my wetsuit and frankly I haven’t practiced (at all) swimming open water without a wetsuit. My plan was to do so in August and September to prepare me for the Kona swim. I planned these swims to be in salt water (which is much easier than fresh water to swim in without a wetsuit). In any event, I was quite worried about swimming 2.4 miles in a fresh water lake—which would be the first time that I have ever done so. I tried to calm myself down and decided to swim way wide to avoid any conflict. This may seem like I was acting like a wimp and not the hard-core triathlon veteran that I seem to be and I’d say that is a very valid criticism.

With that as background, I “bravely” strode towards the water of the Langener Waldsee with my new one-piece only to have a chiseled looking, German speaking, hairless dude (I assume he was German) come up to me at the entrance to the swim area and shake his head and finger at me while saying a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand—I’m not sure if he was even from this planet. At the end he said: “controlled”. I (my guess is) expressed confusion so he repeated his spiel ending up once again with “Controlled!!” I shrugged my shoulders and tried to walk towards the water whereupon he grabbed me (fairly forcibly) and said “Verboten, Controlled!”

I must admit, with my fragile psyche, this was a little intimidating. I smiled and asked, “Why?” He said “English?” I said: (in my mind, “duh”) “yes” and he told me to stay put and went to get someone else—I contemplated making a run for it. A new guy, who appeared to be a clone of the first guy came up and said I was “Controlled”. I smiled and asked again, “why”. He said my tri-suit was silicone treated and not allowed and that I would have to stand in the control area during the swim (what he actually said took about 90 seconds to convey but I’m pretty confident this is what he meant.)

My first reaction was that he was most certainly “full of it” as I had seen a bunch of folks with identical tri-suits. However, the race start was getting close and I decided getting into an extended discussion at this time with the Germans about the rules was probably not my optimal strategy. I briefly thought again about making a run for it—there were lots of folks streaming by—maybe I could sneak by somewhere else. Instead, I asked if I could just go back to T1 and put my other tri-shorts on. He smiled and said of-course. I said: “So let me see, I can stay here and be “controlled” for the duration of the swim or I can go change?” He said: “Yes”. I said: “Hmmmm—I guess I’ll change.”

And so I did. I jogged back and changed and took my HR monitor off. It was just I, my shorts and my goggles facing 2.4 miles and the swim was just 7 minutes away. I hurried down to the water and joined the other yellow-capped triathletes. They actually have two waves of swimmers at IM GER—about 300 or so pros and elites who go off at 6:45 and the other 2400+ that go off at 7:00am. Because I was part of the XC group I was in the former group which I first thought was going to be a huge advantage. With my wetsuit, I could draft the faster swimmers and swim in an un-crowded swim environment and maybe smoke a 62-64 minute swim split. Unfortunately, the wetsuit (and silicone) ban changed this calculus for me quite a bit, as I was soon to learn.

The swim at IM GER is in an old rock quarry and involves two distinct loops of 2100 and 1700 meters respectively with a very short—say 30 meters—sand run in between. The first loop was counter-clockwise, which I like as I breathe mostly on the left, and I swam out and lined up as far right (away from the buoys) as I could. The water felt very nice—too warm to do an IM swim in but it felt comforting none-the-less. They played the German national anthem (which strikes me as a somber affair) and I spent a few quiet moments thinking of my family back home, especially my daughter Jenny, who’s 22nd birthday I was missing in this selfish endeavor, and the words of my youngest Alex, who told me to make sure that whatever happed I came back home.

I told myself that I could do this; I was fine. Time to conquer this silly fear—I can swim a long ways—this is no different. And then the cannon sounded. I treaded water for 5 seconds and then started. I vectored even further right. My plan was simply to establish a comfortable, easy stroke that I could confidently repeat as long as necessary to reach the distant shore.

I felt strong right from the start. After about 200 meters my curiosity perked up and I looked around at the field while taking a couple of breaststrokes. There was no one within 30 yards of me and I was behind about 95% of the pack. OK—let’s get to work. BTW—it was a beautiful morning, still only in the mid 70s with some cloud cover and no breath of wind.

The first lap was pretty easy. My confidence was soaring and I knew that I had this. Towards the end of the first lap the first red cap guy came streaming by me—he had made up 15 minutes in less than 2100 meters—he had to be swimming around a minute per hundred—mind boggling. In any event, after what seemed to me like a very long time I reached the shore with a first lap elapsed time of 44:19, which, if the distance was truly 2100 meters, works out to be about 1:56/100 yards—a full 20 seconds/100 (or about 7 minutes) slower than I have routinely time trialed in my wetsuit this spring. I looked at my watch and knew that straight away—my original (with wetsuit goal) was to swim 36-37 minutes for the first lap. I was still pretty psyched—I just wanted to get safely through the swim and I knew now that I would. I glanced back at the folks behind and saw a huge blob of red caps not that far behind and headed my way—Oh-oh! No time to gawk so I quickly jumped back in for lap two.

The second lap was clockwise so I moved to the left and had to throw in right side breaths every now and then to check out the rest of the field. Several trains of very fast red caps came plowing through and I did my best to stay out of their way. I was aware that I was tiring and slowly down considerably. I could feel my lower body drifting downward creating more drag. I kept reminding myself of all of my stroke keys and kept trying to improve my mechanics. I had mixed results here, as I was unusually tired during this swim.

I rounded the far end of the second lap and kept pushing for home. Several swimmers passed me on the left as I determined that they where swimming to a big yellow buoy that marked the side of the course and was not on the direct line to the finish. The last 300 meters or so required a bit of tactical maneuvering through other swimmers but the good news is that at the end of an IM swim everyone is tired and not too aggressive.

At long last I was able to stand and I let out a sigh of relief. I looked skyward and silently gave thanks and looked at my watch as I hit the shore in a total elapsed time of 85:04. This means I swam the second 1700 meters with an average pace of 2:12/100 yards, which was a 14% decline in pace from the first lap. Obviously, this is a very slow IM swim, and is in-fact the second slowest of my 7 IM races:

IMFL 2004 77:26
IMWA 2005 85:47
IMWI 2006 79:50
IMFL 2007 66:25
IMAUS 2008 73:48
IMCAN 2008 76:22
IMGER 2010 85:04

The result is disappointing in that all my training this spring clearly indicated that I was ready (with a wetsuit) to swim 63-64 minutes today. However, I wasn’t thinking about that as I exited the swim. I was happy to have it behind me but I was very aware of how tiring the swim was. The metabolic cost of swimming without a wetsuit on this morning was very high for me. I think the physical stress of the swim combined with my lack of sleep coming into the swim both contributed to make me feel quite fatigued—far more than I should have been. Frankly, I felt like lying down to take a nap. But I did not and I looked up the hill and began to get my mind wrapped around the bike to come.

From a comparative perspective, I finished 65th out of the 194 competitors in my AG (67th %-tile). Strangely enough, this turns out to be my second best AG %-tile finish (IMFL 2007 was better at 76 %-tile). Overall, I had the 1425th fastest (LOL) swim out of 2435 competitors overall (42nd %-tile). Generally, my AG and OA %-tiles are very comparable but I think the overall numbers are skewed downward in this race due to the unusually high number of (young) men in the race (80%).

Transition One

The transition here involves a 150-meter or so run up a quite steep hill that is covered in deep loose sand. Lots of folks were trying to run up the hill but it seemed a better use of my energy to walk briskly to the top. Once there, I started to jog towards the transition zone.

I grabbed my T1 bag of the hook (#106) and went into the changing tent. I put my HR monitor on and my tri top (had to get help here to get it over my went body). I put my shot blocks and Enduralytes in the two back pockets. I put my socks and shoes on and then rubbed suntan lotion all over my exposed areas. I put some white arm coolers on, grabbed my glasses and headed out of the changing tent.

I ran the 100 meters or so to my bike rack, donned my helmet and headed out of the transition area. My total elapsed time for T1 was 8:43. This is a comparatively slow transition—if I was really focused on it I probably could have done something like 5 minutes, but this seemed like the right way to execute T-1 this morning. My HR was under control (although my HR monitor on my watch was not registering) and I mounted my bike for the long ride ahead.

The Bike

As I mentioned earlier, this bike course had 5k added to its length due to construction not far from the town center. The course started from the swim site and traveled mostly north for about 12k where we passed the T2/run start area before heading out of town to the north and east for the first of two counter-clockwise loops.

The course features 4 significant climbs per loop and has over 3300 feet of climbing. The northern portion of each loop was generally going up with 3 of the big climbs and lots of rollers and twists and turns through quite a number of smallish German villages. The southern portion of each loop was generally downhill (although today into the prevailing wind flow) but also featured the biggest climb, “Heartbreak Hill”.

I hopped on my bike and carefully picked my way through all of the traffic on the narrow lake access road. We made the turn towards Frankfurt and I tried to focus carefully on my power output. I was quite surprised to see very high numbers (250-280 watts) with little perceived effort. At this early stage my legs felt awesome and I had to back off to keep my power output below the 200-watt limit I had set for the first section of the course. Plenty of folks were blowing past me but I was fine playing it conservative early on. I could always go harder later if I felt like it.

Very quickly into the ride my left hip—around my ITB area—began to flash with pain. By just five miles the pain was quite pronounced. This was a very bad sign. I expected that there was a good chance that my hip would flare up at some point during the ride but I expected it much latter in the ride. In my five 115-mile training rides, I’d usually get through at least 80 miles until my hip pain became really bothersome. That said, I was hopeful that this early pain might subside as the ride progressed.

The ride into Frankfurt is frequently downhill and I quickly reached the city center. We flashed passed the bike finish/T2 area (elapsed time of 23:22) and already the crowds were thick and vocal. We wound our way northward and to the east through the near-in suburbs. I was riding fast and felt fresh but my hip pain was not going away—if anything it seemed to be increasing.

Twelve miles into the first lap we reached the first of the four-featured climbs named: “The Beast”. This is a relatively short (about 3 kilometers), but steepish climb, which I surmounted pretty easily in my 39/26. I was able to keep the power around 300 watts, which led to quite a few other folks passing me. This was not a concern.

A few more minutes up the road we reached a climb aptly named: “The Hell”. This actually was a relatively short (I’d say about 1 kilometer or so) and not too steep hill. However, it earned its nickname because it was all on those fabled European cobblestones. I had never really ridden cobbies before so I was a little apprehensive about how to tackle them. In a word, they sucked! (That word again). I had to climb out of my saddle and everything was shaking violently. I can’t believe I didn’t eject any of my bottles. Others apparently were less lucky as there was plenty of bottles, tubes, CO2 cartridges, etc. strewn about. The crowd support (I think—I was distracted) was fantastic here with large numbers of folks cheering very loudly and banging various things together. Rock music was blasting from somewhere. It helped get me up the climb and I tried to not think about how many of them were there to see the inevitable crashes and yard sales.

I successfully crested the climb and tried to collect myself after all the shaking. In short order, at about 30 total miles of the ride we came upon the 3rd climb, the “Huhnerberg”. At about 5k, this is the longest climb on the course. It was of modest steepness and that combined with the boisterous crowds led to pretty easy climbing. The crest was followed by a long, swooping descent where I decided to rest my hip and just coast.

My hip was now a full-blown, major problem for me. The pain was the worse I’ve ever felt in my ITB region. I was now a bit concerned about my ability to finish. It was very difficult for me to lie down in the aero position and for a large portion of the rest of the race I sat up to relieve the pressure on my hip (in all of the race pictures I’m riding up on the hoods and not in my aero position). I also decided to coast all of the descents to try to save my hip as much as possible. The pain continued and grew throughout the rest of the ride and it became so great that I began to get a nauseous feeling. I won’t comment anymore (at length) on this problem except to say it dominated both my physical and mental world for the entire remaining portion of the ride.

The middle 30k of the 86k loop was a series of rolling hills and twisty roads that took us through one little village after another. Towns like: Niederdorfelden, Rendel, Burg-Grafenrode, Ilbenstadt, Bruchenbrucken, Ossenheim and Ober-Wollstadt. The locals were out in force—cheering and drinking—it was quite a festive atmosphere. The ride reminded me of IM Austria as we wound our way through the countryside.

Along the way I dropped my chain once—clear operator error--as I dropped from the 55 to the 39—a big drop for sure but clearly a mistake. I hopped off and had to hem and hoe to get going up the hill where I dropped it on. Later I pulled over and peed by the side of the road. We were told during the pre-race briefing that peeing on the bike was punishable by a 6 minute penalty but pulling over out in farmland was A-ok. This was in direct contrast to IMFL where they literally arrested you (it happened to a couple of people) for peeing on the side of the road. While I lost a bit a time this was a good sign and I was very focused on drinking a lot, eating and taking my salt tablets.

A brief aside on the weather. It was quite a bit better than the two prior days, though still quite stressful. It was overcast which made a big difference compared to the 109 degrees I saw the day before. The temp was “only” in the mid 80s or so on the bike and it felt reasonably comfortable. It was definitely more humid than the prior couple of days so I was sweating a lot but I seemed to be doing a good job at staying on my hydration/nutrition plan.

With about 10 miles left in the loop we reached the last of the major climbs, the famous: “Heartbreak Hill”. This was another climb of about 5k but being closer to downtown was literally packed with a very vocal and encouraging mob. We triathletes were packed close together and the crowd was right next to us urging us onward. Despite my discomfort, I couldn’t help smiling at the crowd—they were fantastic.

After cresting Heartbreak Hill, the final miles of the loop back into Frankfurt were mostly downhill. I continued to coast, getting pasted right and left. Nearing the downtown underpass I hit a bump and it launched my bottle containing my entire flat changing equipment and my bike tools. It shot under a parked car so I had to spend some time stopping, going back and fishing it out.

Finally I rolled past the transition area with a first loop time of 2:45:05 or about a dismal 19.8 mph. On a normal day I think I’m good for a 2:25 or so on this course but I was resigned now to a very slow bike time as I was trying to do everything I could to just nurse my hip to the finish of the bike.

The second loop was more of the same. The sun began to break through and it was feeling hotter by the minute. The pain in my hip was very significant and never-ending and my ability to deal with it was becoming diminished as my fatigue grew.
This was probably the hardest and one of the least enjoyable rides of my triathlon career. This is too bad because the course looks like it would be a great deal of fun on a normal day.

I finally finished my second loop some 14 minutes slower than the first--only averaging 17.8 mph. My total elapsed time for the bike ride as a whole was 6:07:59. This would turn out to be my slowest IM bike ride, but if adjusted for the extra 5k my 112-mile time was about 5:58, which is a bit faster than I did at IMAUS in 2008 and IMWI in 2006. Amazingly, I only lost about 140 places overall—it sure seemed like more folks than that passed me.

My average power ended up being just 135 watts—which is less than I average on my active recovery ride days. All of my 115-mile training rides were faster than today’s effort and I was a good 35-50 watts higher on those rides as well. My HR only averaged 132bpm and my average cadence was just 59 rpm (all of these numbers were of-course greatly impacted by all of the coasting I did).

Transition Two

I “hopped” off my bike and gave it to one of the “helfers”. My hip was so stiff I had to walk bent over a bit at the waist. It took me a minute or more to walk the 50 yards to the transition tent. I was very concerned about my ability to even run given the stiffness. I tried stretching and took my time in transition while hoping I could rally a bit and actually run for a while—I was very worried I’d have to walk the whole marathon and with a 15 hour cut-off, and my glacial bike, I actually thought there might be a chance that I wouldn’t make it. I tried banishing those thoughts and after doing all the T2 things I exited with a T2 of 7:10.

The Run

I tried running but only got about 100 yards or so before my hip said no. I decided that I best start trying to walk briskly and hope that my hip loosened up. I ended up walking the first two kilometers (8:58/116 bpm) and (9:51/113). During this time I took a couple of Advil and that seemed to help my hip pretty quickly. My hip seemed to be loosening up and so I gave running another shot and was pleased to see that I could actually run reasonably easily. My mood brightened considerably. If I could do this for a while, then I should be able to finish well under the cut-off time.

The run-course straddles the river in the heart of the downtown area and encompasses 4 laps. The run is dead flat with the exception of the two bridge crosses each lap. After I started running, I was able to run a nice easy pace all through the first lap—I was focused on keeping my HR low (less than 150) as I knew I was going to have a very slow race no matter what I did—I just wanted to finish and avoid the medical tent. Here is how the remaining kilometers passed on my first lap:

K3: 7:11 128bpm
K4: 7:18 137
K5: 6:10 147
K6: 6:06 147
K7: 6:33 148
K8: 6:19 149
K9: 6:36 149
K10: 7:28 139
K10.5 3:08 143

I finished the first lap in 75:36 (a far cry from my original plan of 58-60 minutes—oh well, at least I was running). My pace looks surprisingly choppy but I was actually running a pretty consistent pace. What was changing each split was if there was an aid station during the kilometer or not. I followed a pretty elaborate pattern at each age station: I’d get 2 cups of ice and put one in my hat and the other in my tri-suit. I’d grab another glass of ice and pour several glasses of coke or water into it and then drink them—I was getting about 12-16 ounces every 1.5 kilometers or so. I also took care to eat my Enduralytes (30 during the run) to keep from cramping.

I cruised through the finish area and headed out to my second lap. I felt pretty good all things considered. My hip was no longer bothering me (apparently it’s a bike thing) and I was making steady, albeit quite slow progress around the run course. The sun was now blazing and the temp had climbed into the high 80s and low 90s—not as bad as the prior two days but still not the kind of day you really wanted to run a marathon on—especially an Ironman marathon. Even though I was feeling better I tried to remain very conservative—I knew that the heat and my fatigue were likely to get me down the road. Here is what my kilometer splits looked like for lap two:

K11.5 6:31 146
K12.5 7:08 146
K13.5 6:28 147
K14.5 6:53 142
K15.5 6:35 149
K16.5 6:30 149
K17.5 7:18 143
K18.5 6:29 148
K19.5 6:53 149
K20.5 7:23 143
K21 3:21 150

My second lap passed in 71:29—more than four minutes faster than my first lap. However, I was really beginning to feel the heat and as I left the finish area for the 2nd time I began to wonder how much longer I could keep up my current pace.

I ran the next kilometer in 7:52/149 as towards the end of that split I began to feel quite nauseous and dizzy. It was clear to me that despite all of my efforts at hydration; the heat was getting to me. I started walking at the beginning of kilo 22 and I would try to start running again a couple of times each kilo but would get that same overwhelming dizziness/sickness feeling. Finally, I resigned myself to walk the 3rd lap to ensure that I could make it all the way. My splits of-course, reflect that decision:

K22 7:52 149
K23 10:12 127
K24 10:04 118
K25 9:51 117
K26 9:46 116
K27 10:10 115
K28 10:12 111
K29 9:21 123
K30 8:44 126
K31 9:59 116
K31.5 5:12 111

As the last couple of splits indicate, I began to run again towards the end of the 3rd lap. It wasn’t much but it seemed like I had stabilized and I was now very confident in my ability to finish this thing. My third lap was an extremely slow 92:17 but this was no longer a concern—I was just focused on finishing this thing and I was very confident I would.

So much so that I started the fourth lap intent on trying to run again. I ran pretty well for a kilometer but then started to feel a little woozy again. I backed off and walked the next kilometer and then ran again—I basically mixed slow running with fast walking the rest of the way.

A quick comment on the armbands. Each lap, about 80% of the way through they gave you a different colored armband—first yellow, then green, turquoise and finally pink. These were a strange sign of status amongst us triathletes. In the beginning I was very envious of others who had a green or even a turquoise band while I only had a yellow. But as the race progressed and my status grew (while those who had greater status had finished and were no longer on the course) I finally became the top dog with my pink armband. I have to say, even though my performance was quite disappointing from an absolute perspective, I felt very good about how I had hung in there today and the fact that I was going to finish my 7th Ironman. With about two miles to go I began to get a little teary-eyed and pumped about the finish that was soon to come.

For those of you so inclined, here are my kilometer splits down the stretch:

K32.5 6:36 139
K33.5 9:48 124
K34.5 7:06 140
K35.5 10:03 121
K36.5 8:32 124
K37.5 9:31 123
K38.5 9:33 117
K39.5 10:00 115
K40.5 9:45 114
K41.5 8:29 125
K42 4:42 122
K42.2 2:07 139

When I finally reached the transition area I was able to take the coveted right-hand turn and avoid yet another lap. I ran up the red carpeting pretty much by myself into the Romerplatz finishing area. The crowds were dense in the corridor that led to the finish in this historic square. Finally I was there and the crowds were packed into the bleachers some 30+ rows high. I hammed it up quite a bit. I slapped five with lots of kids. I stopped and put my hand to my ear and I was rewarded with a deafening cheer. I looked up at everyone and clapped for them. I was filled with a great deal of gratitude. Although I had fell far short of my dreams on this day, I had persevered against some tough challenges and here I was finally finishing Ironman Germany!

My “run” split was 5:44:34 and I fell to 1813th place (wow!) OA and 134th in my AG. At least I wasn’t last. My final time ended up being 13:33:35—not quite my worse Ironman time but close—IMWA was slower when I had to walk the whole marathon due to a knee in need of surgery. But I was done!

I went to the athlete garden and called home and talked to Judy. I grabbed a beer and some type of a sausage—both turned out to be bad calls. I decided I needed to get my bike quickly (the beer went right to my head) and ride the mile or so back to my hotel. I did all of that without much drama and I must say, at the end of it all, I didn’t feel that bad. I never really taxed my aerobic fitness on this day, with all of my problems, and hopefully that means I’ll bounce back quickly!


Here are my take-a-ways:

1. I obviously fell far short of my goals in this race. I know why, but I still have to deal the fact that I failed form a performance perspective today.
2. The (non-wetsuit) swim and the heat will benefit me at Kona. I didn’t expect either for this race and I was not prepared for them either. But I did persevere and I’m confident as I do the specific prep for Kona that I’ll do better in October.
3. I have to fix my hip. This is un-chartered territory for me. It may be just my tri-bike and I can adjust to it over time but clearly the better course is to fix the gross imbalances in my core—I’ve started a 3X/week program with a Physical Trainer to do so.
4. I hung in there. I’ve done it before and I did it again. It wasn’t my day, but I ultimately got the job done. I’m proud of that.
5. Gratitude—I have so much to be thankful for to be able to get this done—so many people have supported me.
6. I’m still hungry—my dream day of Kona is just 3 months away—bring it on!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

tough day at the office

Here are the headlines--I'll work on a race report on the way home....

Non-wetsuit swim so very slow for me (I am a lousy non-wetsuit swimmer especially when I haven't practiced it). worse than the time penalty was the metabolic cost--I was pretty tired after the swim for sure...

On the bike, easrly on I had great power but my hip acted up almost immediately--by mile 5. Very debilitating. Unable to stay in aero position and the pain was intense. Had to just coast down all the descents just to try to maske it throgh the bike--135 watts! (my easy spin watt target is 150).

Of the bike I could barely walk--took a long time in transition and decided to just walk the marathon for a while hoping my hip would loosen up. It did and I actually ran a negative split for the second lap. Heat got to me and i was feeling very sick and dizzy--forced to walk to stay on my feet. Very slow, though pleasant 2nd half-marathon.

Just tried to get to the finish safe and sound and in this I was successful--feel pretty good tonight all things considered.

Need to fix my hip soon!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

10 hours to go

Well the Germans are feeling pretty good right now with their 4 nil whipping of Argentina--lots of cars driving around with the German tri colors honking their horns.

we had a little front blow through a while ago and the temp has dropped all the way to 86 degrees--thanks for minor miracles!

Going to try to get a couple of hours of sleep tonight. Up at 3 or so to eat some bread and jelly (alas--no peanut butter to be found--I have a fruit and nut bar I may munch for a little protein).

latest forecast says there is a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon which I personally would welcome--pray for rain!

Locked and loaded

About 15 hours to game time and I'm all checked in and ready to go. The schedule didn't work out for me to get my pre-race swim in today so it's just put the goggles on and go tomorrow.

Officially no wetsuit as they are forecasting 80 degree water tomorrow. I saw 43 degrees (109 F!) on the Samsung building this afternoon. that was obviously in the sun as it really is (only) 93 or so right now.

I've decided to treat tomorrow as: 1. a dress rehearsal for Kona; and 2. an exercise in restraint and surviability. Here's the plan:

- I'm going to try to swim very easy--especially for the first loop. I'm a little intimidated by a fresh water non-wetsuit swim and my prime objective is avoid any drama--I'll gladly take the time penalty.

-for both transitions, I'm going to take a bit of extra time to make sure I have plenty of sun lotion on and that I hydrate a bit before getting on with it.

-I'm going to ride my bike pretty much like a training ride in NJ--say 175-185 watts. I know this will get me up to close to 6 hours but so be it. I need to be super conservative to ensure that I can actually finish this race.

-the run will be what it is. I'll go from aid station to aid station. I expect to walk--maybe a lot--during the race...if it's really brutal, I'll start early.

-the goal is to finish--the time is no longer on my agenda although ny guess is that it will be on the wrong side of 12 hours (at least). I've got 15 to get this in the books and I'll take em all if necessary!

Seen any sheep?

I watched the two world cup games yesterday--bummer for Africa! While I had trouble at times staying awake during the games, when it came time to get some sleep--no way. finally about 3:30 am this morning I went under and got about 4 hours--my first sleep over the last 45 hours. I was a zombie when I woke up and went out for a 15 minute run and a 30 minute ride--News flash! It's still hot.

No changes on the forecast and it was more or less confirmed about no wetsuit. This will make the swim slower but I must confess it makes me a bit nervous as well. I just like the confiedence in the water the suit gives me...I'll be happy when I finally exit the water tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a long but mostly pleasant ride tomorrow. I'm going to be very conservative--tomorrow is not the day I'll set my PR. I just want to get off the bike with enough left to get myself around the run course, one way or the other.

I went to the Pasta party last night--Germans like to drink beer--I hope to join them tomorrow night!

OK--time to pack my Transition bags and check in--then it's off to a local establishment to watch Germany and Argentina...

Friday, July 2, 2010

On the ground in Frankfurt

Uneventful flight that actually arrived about 75 minutes early. Unpacked and set-up my bike and tested it all without any drama. Registered and am in the process of preparing the three bags (no special needs for the euros!)--will finish tonight as we check all the stuff in tomorrow shortly after noon.

The big elephant in the room is of-course the heat. right now (6:15 pm) its 94 degrees. I"ve rediscovered the joy of european air-conditioning and I'd say it's about 85 degrees in my room--should make for a good sleep!

I went out to the lake today and the water temp was above 80 degrees and the rumor is no wetsuits.

The weather forecast for sunday is a high of 89 but with more humidity--dew point reaching 68 degrees (if you know dew points you know what that means!)

so there you go....

Prime objective is to finish at this point.....bummed about the weather though--it's a long ways to come to deal with conditions like these....

Yes, I know--HTFU

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Germany M50-54 Census

Wasting some time here getting ready to go.....

There are 227 people entered in the M50-54 AG. 167 are German (74%). France has 11, the USA has 8 followed by Great Britian, Belgium, and Italy with 5 and Switzerland has 4. 23 countries in total in my AG.

This is billed as the Euro Championship--and I know it is widely regarded as the most competive field in IM besides Kona but it will definitely be a German affair....

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go....

Yes, soon I'll be leaving on an airplane....

So looking pretty certain like a very hot one on race day--most forecasts putting it up over 90 degrees. Monday and Tuesday look to be in the 60s so it looks like I'm just missing a nice weather window.

The water temp is right at cut-off now and with the heat of the next couple of days my guess is we will go no wetsuit--going to be an uncomfortably warm swim in any event.

Here is how i plan to adjust. On the swim, I'll back my HR down to 148-150 from 152-155. Doesn't sound like much but it is a noticeably easier effort. I don't want to overheat on the swim. time wise, instead of 64-66 minutes, I'll probably be looking at 73-77 minutes.

On the bike I was planning on a watt range of 200-215 watts--hoping to average around 210 watts (I did 215 at IM Florida in 2007). I'll probably back that down by 10 watts or so (5 % less effort) and try to average around 200 watts. this is about 10-15 minutes slower so instead of a 5:25 (remember it's 185km, not the normal 180km) I'll look for more like a 5:35-5:40.

So this puts me at 7 hours or so out of T2 and with the heat, I'll be moving from aid station to aid station on the run and trying to stop and hydrate andf douse myself with ice and icewater. Under 12 hours might be the more sensible plan...

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to try to go as fast as I can. I'm excited to give it a try. I just need to be mindful of the environmental conditions. I've never raced an IM in this kind of heat before--several halfs and those were extremely difficult--lots of walking....In any event, this should be a good dress rehearsal for Kona!