Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shipping Up to (North of) Boston...

This space has gone dormant over the past few months for a multitude of reasons. Some comes from my depression following an injury-plagued six weeks post-Charleston Marathon. Some comes from being homesick. And some others, well, elsewhere.

At any rate, things being what they were, I've been given a fantastic opportunity. So I'm proud to say that I'll be moving back to Maine at the end of the month to work for Vont Performance Digital Marketing. Hannah will follow later this summer. For the interim, I'll be couch surfing. So...if you have some space in the Portland area...can I spend a week or two at your place?

It's bittersweet to be leaving after investing so much of myself into Rev3. That said, I'm not really leaving so much as relocating. I'll be helping out with some of the races and being a brand ambassador. So you'll still see me at selected Rev3 races (Knoxville, Quassy, Maine, and Cedar Point...with who knows what else). I'll also be working a little with Maine Running Company.

There are countless people to thank here: Charlie, Carole, Alex, Tim, Ashley, Alison, Lisa, Mark, Mike, Greg, Tommy, Lenny, Senior, Debbie and the rest of the extended Rev3 family for their support over the past few years; all of the Rev3 team members (yeah, you count in the above but you all are some of the best people I've ever met); Ted, Tom and the VONT team for giving me the current opportunity; Hannah, for putting up with me and supporting me...

I'm sad, but I'm excited. Onward and upward...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monkey Wrench: Season Schedule Update

Don't wanna be your monkey wrench
One more indecent accident
I'd rather leave than suffer this
I'll never be your monkey wrench...

Well, all good things must come to an end. My streak of being injury-free lasted all of 10 months.

Last time, as you'll recall, it was my pirifomis issue that almost knocked me right out of Quassy.

Well, this time, I got lucky and unlucky.

So, as you might've read in my report from the Charleston Marathon, I ran into some issues with my Achilles during training. It started with a "short" long run in December of 10 miles, where it was a little icy on a downhill. I followed that up with a session at the Rev3 Kickr Studio where I, for some reason I  am still looking for, decided it'd be smart to try and race Tim a little bit. My Achilles swelled a bit that day. I iced, stretched, and rolled; all seemed well.

I hit the next few workouts with no more than a little mild discomfort of "hey, I guess I tweaked it a little, but it's not changing my stride and it doesn't hurt" and plowed on ahead. Recovery weeks came and all felt fantastic.

And then the wheels came apart, with a long run where it locked on up. Had to tweak the running plans to reflect that, really trying to baby it. Hit my next and final long run without any pain. No big deal.

Until, of course, it was a big deal on race day.

I've been taking it very easy on the running front since, getting some active recovery in and riding the bike a little bit. Things started to loosen on back up, although there still was some swelling.

I had a nice Battenkill training ride planned out for last Saturday. As it turns out, there was a good group ride coming together of a local cycling team. It'd be good to get to know some people in the community, as well as talk about the Kickr studio and the forthcoming store opening.

So off I went with Tim and Todd (awesome local guy who comes to the rides at the shop). We rolled through the first 20 miles in short order. Pretty fast group. Legs weren't feeling great, but we were there. Took 2nd in a KOM, pulled the chase group for a little bit, hung out in the back...just cruising with the group.

We took a turn onto some really solid rollers. The ride suddenly became surge-stall. It was sapping the crap out of my legs, but I was holding on. Until the 2nd to last roller...when I went to get out of the saddle to hit the climb hard...

...and something went "pop."

Immediately everything in the calf and Achilles region on that side got very warm, very fast, and very painful. Worse, I was off the back and twisting in the wind. It was time to bite the tip of my tongue off and try to claw my way back to the ride.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA. Well, that was futile. Took me all of about 10 seconds to realize that wasn't going to happen.

Luckily, Tim, Todd, and I had previously discussed pulling off the ride at the next route junction, which came up in about a mile. We were 30 miles into the ride and there was no way of getting out of this ride without an additional 25-30 miles worth of work.

Needless to say, the inside of my cheek is still raw from how much I gouged out of it riding. Also discovered just how much I need a new set of cleats and pedals (which may be part of the problem in the first place...anyways).

Got myself to get it checked out: partially ruptured/torn Achilles tendon. Probably from that slip on the run, made worse when I biked on it, and consistently partially healed and re-injured ever since.

The Path Forward
Allowed to aqua jog, swim, and hit the weight pile. So doing that for the time being until I can begin running and cycling rehab.

This for sure knocks me out of 140.6 training, and Battenkill may be in jeopardy as well. So currently looking at what to do in the late summer timeframe that won't majorly conflict with the race schedule of Rev3. We'll see what happens.

Until then, though, it's time to focus on the weaknesses and get back to being healthy. And then hit the training hard again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Time Bomb: Charleston Marathon Race Report

I *ahem* have a bit of a reputation for blowing up spectacularly in races. If you've been around these parts, you've seen it in the following events: Timberman 70.3 in 2011; Boston Marathon, Rev3 Maine, Rev3 Cedar Point in 2012; the Mid-Winter Classic, Rev3 Quassy (well, different story, but still), and Rev3 Cedar Point in 2013.

That's a lot of races.

Now, many of these were of my own volition. Outside of Boston, the 2011-2012 campaigns were me being an idiot on the bike and faltering on the run as I deserved. Race like a moron, suffer like a moron.

As for 2013: well, the Mid-Winter Classic featured my left calf seizing at the 7 mile mark and gutting it out to the end. Quassy had my infamous vasovagal response. And Cedar Point was a combo of pre-race exhaustion, stress, and nutrition error, coupled with probably being undertrained.

So, piling all that together, we've been working on a lot of different things: work on the nutrition front and discovering some intolerances; a new coach that has been extremely beneficial; a renewed focus on the process and taking joys in the daily training and not just the focus on the race itself. It's been extremely rewarding so far.

When starting to work with John, he wanted to put an early marathon on the calendar. Outside of Boston 2012 (news flash: it was hot as hell), I hadn't raced a marathon. So really, this would be my first serious crack at the distance and really relished the opportunity to set out a new run PR.

Training went well. I had two hiccups along the way. The first was during my elimination diet with Christine: I got incredibly sick as all of the processed foods and caffeine was cut out of my diet. Crushing migraine, fever, you name it, I had it. Knocked me out for a 4 day stretch in November. But I managed to hit all my workouts from there on out, so I felt comfortable with the amount of training.

The second was a little more worrisome. My left Achilles' had started to act up during one of my weekend long runs in December. I took it easy with it and it seemed to calm itself down. However, in my second-to-last long run, that calf/Achilles seized on up at the 14.5 mile mark. I shut that run down and focused on stretching, rolling, massaging, and otherwise keeping that as happy and as loose as I could. The next week was my last hard week, where everything felt decent again. Crisis averted, I thought.

Taper was a good hard cutdown. It felt really good to recover, do some relaxing, and otherwise bounce back from all of the mileage. Based upon the 800 prediction workout, I was in about 3:05-3:07 shape. I thought that it'd be smarter to go a little more conservative and look for 3:10-3:15 out of the race.

And then it was here: go time. We drove down on Friday to Charleston, about 7.5 hours if you don't stop or 8.5 when you have the dog with you. We brought Dylan along and he was a champ.

Saturday AM: wake up. Coffee. Had a scone. Headed over to the race site; holy crap, this race is bigger than I thought. 5000 of us idiots between the half and the full. Good times.

And soon it was time to get into the starting chute. I opted to line-up with the 3:15 pace group. There was no pace group faster than this. Also, I figured it'd be smarter to run conservatively to start off with and then pick up the pace at the end, rather than be all "bank time up front." There's no such thing.

No real warning given; just a "30 seconds to go" mark. Oh, OK, guess I should get nervous now.

Air horn, and away we go.

Everyone takes off. Sizing people up pretty quickly, you get a decent idea as to who is blowing up their 13.1 and 26.2 mile journeys in the first mile. There are some people who are blowing your doors off, huffing. Then there are others who are also blowing your doors off while having a complete conversation about how sick they were earlier in the week, and how they just want to "jog it in under 3 hours." I hate those guys.

Anyways, the first couple of miles along the waterfront are gorgeous. I felt myself very relaxed, just cruising along, ticking off miles between 7:08 and 7:15. Not focused on pace, but instead on the effort. I want this to feel a little too easy, like I have a lot more to give, like I'm not forcing the issue. I want to be able to really start putting the work in at mile 10. I kept reminding myself that I needed to remain conservative.

At about mile 3 we turn away from the water and into the wind. Charleston was getting a good 15-20 MPH wind out of the west to northwest. This meant this 7 mile stretch was directly into the wind. Luckily, the half and the full courses ran with one another to this point, so there was good conversation to be had and a good number of people to help break the wind and pace with.

10 Mile mark reached in 72:55. That was only 41 seconds slower than what I ran the Mid-Winter Classic in last year. But this time, I felt strong rather than stumbling my way on down to the finish. At this point I started to lift my effort ever so slightly. At this point, we split away from the half and onto an out-and-back; two miles down, two miles back. At 11 the mens leader was on his way back. So I was only two miles behind, which really gave me a lift. 12 was a nice clip as well.

Then we turned around and hey, what do you know, here's the headwind again. I look around and realize I'm three minutes up on the 3:15 group. Score! Halfway home and we're still feeling strong. One of the guys I'd been running with decided to put the afterburners on. He said he thought he'd see me again. He was wrong. We meandered our way back towards where we exited, and got a little shield from the breeze.

At 14 we re-joined the half course. It was easy to let the pace drop here, as we really came back into the headwind again and we were mixing in with the 10:00-11:00/mile half athletes. Luckily, it is a four-lane road so it wasn't too crowded. There were four of us in a row making our way through the crowd. I was determined to stick with this group as, after conferring, we were all looking to run about the same time. That and, well, the scenery wasn't so bad, either. (I apologized to Hannah later.)

Mile 16 and we're still ticking along. The half course splits away again. Eight miles up in here and I'll see this point again. Liking it.

We're about to roll towards an aid station when...

The left Achilles goes. It wasn't a pop, or a snap. But something just went right, along with the sudden increase of what felt like something warm, like a rush of blood, to the area. It slows me down immediately. But the pain isn't unbearable. It just sucks.

I take stock of the situation. Every step hurts, but it doesn't stop me. I'm finishing this race.

I hit the aid station and make sure I get some Gatorade, some water, and some of my own calories into me. And we keep running.

At 18 the 3:15 pace group makes its way past me. They're friendly, asking how everyone's holding up. I try with every ounce of my being to stay with them. At first I'm towards the front of the group. I'm grimacing but hanging tough. I start to slide backwards through them as the pain becomes a little more intense. Soon I'm barely hanging on. I'm digging so far down into the depths of pain tears start to roll out of my eyes. I'm grinding my teeth.

And I still fall backwards out of the group and the gap starts to open. I dig further. I'm tempted to scream. But it does no good. They're pulling away.

When the elastic snaps, it snaps. Try as you might, you won't quite get there.

I re-assess. We're 19 miles in. I can survive for 7.2 miles of torture. Each and every step will be a lesson of how far I'm willing to go down the rabbit hole. Give everything you have. Empty the well. Run as fast as you can for every moment.

I grind my way through the next 5 miles. I'm in no-man's-land: I'm faster than the majority of the race but been left behind by the truly fast. I get picked off by three or four people, and pass a few others that had blown up and were walking.

Mile 24 moves us onto a twisting concrete path. This is agony. I contemplate why I do these things in the first place, but immediately find the answer: to learn more about your character and your desire. And dammit, this is fun. Most of the time.

We now move off the concrete and onto a dirt path. Oh, God, my calf is gone. Just chop it off. I won't notice. It can't hurt much worse.

At 25.5 I pick up a guy who looks like he's been miserable for a while. He told me he'd gone out way too hard and has been Gallowalking the last 4 miles. We both were in an equal amount of hell. But one look to one another at that point sealed our fate: we were going to race each other to the line.

It must've been hilarious to watch, as the pace says our "racing" may have been more like crawling. But we were going to leave it all out on the course. He took the lead to start, and then I really put on the gas as we made our third-to-last turn.

I'm pretty sure you can see how miserable I am. Also, OW.
We came into town, weaved around the block, and made it. In the end, I nipped him by two seconds. Final totals: 3:28:49, 85th OA, 10th M25-29.

I crossed the line, immediately cramped on that left side, and had to grab onto the crowd fencing. Managed to work it out enough so that I could take a finisher picture. I then got an immediate ticket to the massage and PT tent, which was awesome. Got me to a point where I could actually move a little bit.

And, of course, the reward for a hard day's work:
Michelob Ultra will never taste this decent again.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gear Review: Litespeed Ci2

Confession Time: Up until this year, I had never ridden a road bike.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In my years in triathlon, I went straight whole-hog into the game. I bought my Felt B16; when that went down, I moved to the Blue Triad EX; then to a Specialized Shiv Tri Pro; back to a Blue Triad EX. I'd figured that since I was going to be spending large amounts of time in the aero position, I might as well grow accustomed to it as well as becoming more adept at handling that type of bike.

There were, of course, drawbacks to this approach, with the largest being no group rides out of shops. Although tri bikes were welcomed, you either were 30 meters off the back or off the front in order to ride in the aerobars. And with the different seatpost angles (more on that in a minute), it is less than ideal to be cranking away for a couple of hours out of aero.

So along it went, until after Cedar Point. You see, your scribe is currently without any bike in the first place. Instead, I've been tasked (if you could call it that) with riding some of the bikes that we will be selling out of Rev3 Multisport. I've started off with two bikes from American Bicycle Group, the fine folks behind Litespeed and Quintana Roo (the latter of which is the bike sponsor of the race series).

To wit, for the purposes of full disclosure: I have not been compensated by ABG, Litespeed, Quintana Roo, or any of its representatives or subsidiaries in any way. These are bikes that are under ownership of either Rev3 Multisport or the race series. I have simply taken my fit coordinates, applied those coordinates to the bike, and gone riding.

First up: the Litespeed Ci2.

The Macro-Scale Stuff: TT/Tri vs. Road, Frame Materials, and a History of Litespeed
This part of the conversation is going to be *ahem* a bit long-winded. (I can already see the eye rolls from a bunch of you, saying "No kidding, you're always long-winded." I digress.) But bear with me.

First, let's talk about the geometry of the bike. Or, for lack of a better term, the way this bike fits and is constructed. Generally, there are two types of fit for performance riding: road position and TT/tri position. The road position will feature more pressure rearward on the bike, reaching forward towards the hoods or drops. The TT/tri position, meanwhile, shifts forward onto the aerobars and with it requires pelvic rotation on the saddle.

Now, you can ride a road position on a TT/tri bike, and you can ride a TT/tri position on a road bike. The question then is of comfort, handling, and optimization. A TT/triathlon bike will feature a steeper angle from the bottom bracket to the seatpost and saddle; this to help promote riding forward and rotating on your pelvis. It helps distribute your weight across the platform of the bike, also helping with the handling. Meanwhile, a road bike's seat tube angle is shallower, trying to put pressure towards the rear, as you lightly come forward to be able to touch the hoods/drops.

So, if you're looking to race triathlon seriously, it's worth getting a true TT/tri frame. But if you're dabbling in triathlon while also looking for something to be able to ride the roads a fair bit with groups on the weekends, then the Ci2 could be in your wheelhouse.

I say this because in some ways, triathlon and time trialing have led to some revolutions on the road bike side as well. Although weight is still king for many cyclists, aerodynamics are now playing an ever-larger role in the design of road bikes. Why? Well, because drag (the force of wind applied against you while riding) costs you power. If you have less drag, more of your power translates into speed. More speed is definitely better than less, especially if it takes the same amount of power to get there. This is a large part of the success of the aero wheel industry (which we'll get into in other posts), and now you're seeing it come out more and more in actual frame building.
Image courtesy of Volvo Speed.

What helps get us there is the use of carbon fiber. Carbon is still a relative newcomer to the frame building game. Traditional, bikes have been built with metals and alloys: steel, aluminum, and titanium are three examples. But carbon is a bit of a different animal.

Carbon fiber lay-up involves the lay-up of different sheets of the polymer. You then introduce a resin, which hardens the fiber into the shape applied. In the purposes of bicycle building, there is a mold (essentially, a "negative" of the bike) that these sheets are laid into. The resin is applied, and voila! Out comes this new shape.

The advantage of carbon is that it is typically lighter than a comparable alloy frame. Also, you can mold it into different shapes. There's also flexibility and stiffness available based on the type of sheet used in a particular region. As an example, the bike can feature a different lay-up near the bottom bracket and crank, versus the stem or seatpost. You want that bottom bracket to be stiff for maximum power transfer, but you don't want the bike to ride too harshly, so you use a different lay-up to allow for more compliance in that area to smooth out rougher road surfaces. After all, a bike is only as good as it is ridden, and if the frame is so stiff that you can't ride it...well, that doesn't do anybody any good.

Which brings us all around to the manufacturer in question today: Litespeed. You see, Litespeed has been one of the finest crafters of titanium bicycles, starting in 1986. They were innovators in frame design with the alloy. Most famously, their expertise in frame building led a certain U.S. Postal Service rider to ride their frame, re-badged as a Trek, to two individual time-trial victories in the 1999 Tour de France.

However, titanium can only get you so far these days. In 2010, Litespeed introduced their first full line-up of carbon-fiber bikes. They now feature a complete line-up of road bikes: the carbon L, M, and C series and the titanium T series.

The Techno-Babble

The Ci2 sits in the aero road frame category for Litespeed. The C series is designed with aerodynamics fully in mind; every tube shape is designed to help save watts. Litespeed claims that the C series saves you 20.4 watts versus a standard, round-tube bike. I'm not here to validate that claim by saying, "Yes, it actually was worth 20.4 watts!" My purpose, instead, is to determine whether this bike is successful in its mission.

So, what exactly is the mission of the Ci2? Well, for starters, all the C series frames feature the same frame design. Where they differ is in carbon-layup. The C3, Ci2, and C1 all feature 30T modulus carbon fiber. The C1R features 60T carbon fiber. What's that mean? The C3, Ci2, and C1 will all ride a little more compliantly than the stiffer C1R.

The bike is built around the BB30 bottom bracket standard. Without diving too deep into the wormhole that is bottom bracket standards, BB30 bikes feature internal bearings that press/snap into the frame. You then have a crank with a spindle width of 68 millimeters. The advantage of those internal bearings? The bike is overall narrower, so you don't need the frame to be as stiff as it would be if it were wider there. So you get similar power transmission out of a bike that might give you a little more road compliance. It is my personal favorite bottom bracket standard.

So, if the majority of the C series features the same frame, what is the distinction between the C3, Ci2, and C1? Component specification. The C3 features Shimano's "entry-level" performance line of 105. Keep in mind, 105 is far from entry-level. But in the world of performance products, 105 from Shimano and Rival from SRAM are your starter kits. It also comes with Easton EA30/50 stem and bars and the workhorse Shimano R500 wheelset.

The Ci2 steps up to Shimano's Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting system. Yes, electronic. The advantages of electronic? Auto-trim of the front derailleur (no more chainline rub in cross-gears!) and that, once it's set, you'll have crisp shifting, every time. The disadvantage? If you run out of're hosed. This groupset doesn't eliminate the need to replace consummables (chainrings, cassettes, and chains) but it does eliminate the need to add mechanical cables to that equation. Also, we start to get a bit more aerodynamic on the wheel choice: the Easton EA50 set. It's a 30 millimeter deep aluminum set, giving you some aero benefit while still being durable enough to beat on everyday.

The C1 is Shimano Ultegra mechanical. Why is the "higher" end bike mechanical? Weight, for one. But also, some cyclists still prefer good old mechanical shifting. There's also a host of slight component spec-upgrades from the Ci2.

So, looking at the product line, the Ci2 is meant as that midline, performance model in the C series line-up. It comes with a respectable selection of components. It also helps that non-mechanically inclined athlete with the electronic shifting. Simply charge the battery, re-install, and away we go.

Competitors for this bike would include the Specialized Venge Expert Ultegra, the Cervelo S3 Ultegra Di2, and the Felt AR3 EPS. (EPS is Campagnalo's electronic shifting system.)

Here's the full component breakdown of the model, as it would stands on the sales floor of your local bike dealer:

  • Frame: Aero 30T Carbon
  • Fork: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Headset: FSA ZS Taper
  • Seatpost: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Rear Dereailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 53 x 39
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
  • Shift/Brake Levers: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-25
  • Chain: FSA Team Issue
  • Wheels: Easton EA50 Aero
  • Stem: Easton EA70
  • Bars: Easton EA70
  • Saddle: Fizik Arione
  • Tires: Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick
I test-rode both the medium-large and the large size Ci2, with the large being the preferred frame size.

The Ride: How's it feel?
Well, let's get my major niggle out of the way first: I hated the saddle. Me and Fizik just aren't friends with one another. That said, saddles are a major contact point for the bike. If you don't get your saddle selection right, nothing about the rest of the bike can be right, no matter how well it is set-up. For myself, this means I'm riding a Cobb SHC170 for road fit and an ISM Adamo Road for triathlon. The same holds true for your bars, and your pedals. If you're not comfortable on board your bike, start there.

OK, so now that we've gotten that part out of the way:

I landed smack dab between sizes on this bike. I could use the reach (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the medium-large and the stack (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the large. After riding around a fair bit, I determined that I preferred the fit off the large. I found it easier to play around with reach here, personally, with stem length than anything else.

Alright, so we've settled the fit in, got it to the fit coordinates, and made all of the adjustments. So now, time to play around.

The first thing I noticed after clipping in was the smooth acceleration of the bike. This isn't a "snappy" frame, where you can really feel every pedal stroke. Instead, this is like a diesel: constant, continual acceleration until it hits terminal velocity.

Once up to speed, the frame really starts to shine. The tube shapes have definitely paid dividends, as this bike wants to stay at speed once it is there. It simply cuts through the wind. It also cuts out a lot of road vibration as well. Our roads here in northern Virginia make Maine's seem pristine by comparison. We're talking a little chip-seal, some dirt/gravel, some pavement from 1972, some concrete is all handled adeptly. Credit, too, those Easton wheels for helping out with compliance and without falling out of true.

Shifting is as crisp as you would expect electronic shifting to be: direct, precise, authoritative. I've personally preferred SRAM shifting for years, although Di2 might make me a believer in Shimano. The brakes scrub speed well, even in wet/muddy conditions.

Of course, there has to be some kind of trade-off when it comes to the rideability of this particular frame. After all, it can't excel at everything! This isn't the world's best climbing bike. We have a solid 1.2 mile torture chamber known as Ridge Road, featuring a deliciously nasty continual 8%+ climb. So, of course, I ride it all the time.

All of that great, smooth road compliance means the bike feels ever so slightly soft while really trying to mash on the pedals on Ridge Road. Some of that, in my opinion, lays not in the fault of the frame, but moreso of the component spec.

Although this bike is BB30, it comes with a Shimano crank on it. Shimano cranks require the Shimano Hollowtech bottom bracket, which installs outward of the frame. So remember those advantages of BB30 that we'd talked about before? Well, now it's gone. As a side note, for 2014 Litespeed has changed over to a native BB30 crank. So this part of the discussion will probably be rendered moot!

That being said, it has more than held its own on more respectable grades that you'd be more likely to find on most of your rides. It is smooth, fast, and downright fun to ride and easy to care for. What more could you ask for?

In totality, I'd highly recommend this bike for most athletes. The aerodynamic advantage is there. If you're a mountain goat, step up to the C1R. But for most people, this is going to make your life much, much easier. Spend less time wrenching. Spend more time riding.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I've Taken All and I've Endured... day it all will fade I'm sure...
         --Foo Fighters, I'll Stick Around

My coach is trying to kill me.

Let me explain.

John has, shall we say, a very *ahem* unique method of motivation:
As many of you are aware, I'm training for the Charleston, SC Marathon in January. We stand just under 4 weeks away from me toeing the line of a race again. Crazy to think! But then again, outside of a couple of 5Ks in November and December, I haven't really attempted racing since the Cedar Point disast-debacle. So...we're due.

To give you an idea of John's ideas on training load, let me illustrate using a classic from the Paulo Sousa meme thread on Slowtwitch:

 To take you through a sample week: one recovery day. Run slow. Run trails. Run uphill. Run fast. Run long. Run long with tempo. Bike hard. Bike long. Swim somewhere in there. And oh yeah, get some core work done too.

Add on top of this that I got to spend the better part of two days with a sledgehammer and a crowbar taking out about 2500 square feet worth of engineered hardwood that was overglued to the floor (evidently, the previous tenant used the glue to LEVEL THE FLOOR)...and I'm *ahem* tired.

But it's all going to the right place. I've never run this much before healthily. I feel strong. Running is coming easier and easier. On some of these long runs, I just start jamming out 7:00 pace without really thinking about it. Of course, I then slow down when I realize what the hell I'm doing (don't leave your race in a workout).

This week, though, is the test: have a predictor run tomorrow (basically, what I can punch out for that test workout is a great indicator of marathon time/pace) and a 20-mile progression run on the weekend (get to test out that indicated pace).

Bring it, John. You haven't killed me yet.

Under that same token, I've been doing a lot of work with Christine Lynch to figure out what the ruddy hell has been wrong with my stomach.

As you've probably tired of reading in this space, I've had a lot of challenges with my gut. Whether it's pre-race, during the race, post-race, cramping, vomiting, etc. I was tired of it. Plus, Christine is the one that took this phenomenal photo of me in the medical tent at Cedar Point:

So...she's seen me in some pretty bad spots before.

After some consulting, we decided that the best approach would be to follow an elimination diet for the better part of 6 weeks. What's an elimination diet, you ask? You pretty much get rid of anything and everything that could possibly be a food intolerance. So...pretty restrictive overall. You then add foods back in, one item at a time, to test how your body responds to things.

Add that on top of the training from John...and there were some days where I certainly contemplated putting my head through a wall. (There was in fact a day where I got violently ill from cutting my coffee habit off cold turkey. Worst migraine ever, fever, chills, you name it I got it.)

Well, as it turns out, I'm intolerant of soy and don't handle fructose well under training load. So, out goes soy out of the regular diet, and finding new sports nutrition that doesn't contain fructose in it. Good times. But as we've done this, we've gotten rid of almost all of the symptoms that I used to deal with. It's awesome.

Christine's also helping out on the daily diet front, trying to find some more healthy recipes, etc. that aren't simply "lay protein over massive spring mix and spinach salad, add balsamic vinaigrette (good luck finding one that doesn't have soybean oil in it!)" which, although delicious, is awfully repetitive. We're getting there.

It's been an awesome experience, getting to know what works in my system and how it responds under the volume John's putting me under. It's been, dare we say, fun. One of the biggest lessons out of all of this is enjoying the process of what works for me as an athlete, and even what doesn't work. Then taking those lessons and applying it to racing.

Still a little ways to go before that happens. Time to keep slogging onward.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Off-Season Ramblings: What I'm Upto, Where I'm Headed in 2014

Been a long time since I’ve invaded this space…

Much of that has to do with the inherent lack of time that I’ve had since the last time I wrote. The training from John has definitely kept me busy as I start heading into the 2014 racing season. Also, we produced our last three races of 2013 and are pulling things together to get the store open for March 1st. So you’ll forgive me if I haven’t been as detailed as I might otherwise be.

Speaking of the 2014 racing schedule, things are really starting to fall into place. As I mentioned in my previous posting, John and I are taking the long view to my attack on a Kona slot. I’m simply not there yet. And so attempting a 2014 Kona qualification would be simply a fool’s errand.

Instead, we are looking at a two-year approach. This year will focus on my weaknesses. My biggest hurdle is myself; mentally, staying committed, staying in the uncomfortable zone of pushing hard when the going gets tough. Yes, I’ve suffered in races; hell, you’ve heard it here before. But having that mental ability to stay laser focused when all things are screaming don’t.

My other two weaknesses are the swim (still) and finishing the run strong. I’ve had some great front-half runs but I’ve never closed a race quite the way I’ve wanted to. There’s two reasons for that: not staying committed to the swim to make the improvements necessary to it, and not having the run experience in order to trust it.

That changes this year. The 2014 racing schedule includes a lot of things that are different, all with the mindset of improvement.

January 18th, 2014: Charleston Marathon
A marathon, you ask? Well, I’ve only run one of them. And I’d like to run one of them at least decently, and not on a mere 6 weeks of training. So if you’ve been following my Twitter and Strava feeds…this is what all that running is for!

April 5-6, 2014: Tour of the Battenkill
My climbing on the bike last year was pathetic. There’s no other excuse for it. I simply didn’t have the same biking legs when the road started to pitch vertically. So, what better way to improve it than to go into the greatest one-day classic America has that features 6000’ of climbing over 65 miles with plenty of dirt roads to go along with it?

April 26, 2014: HITS Marble Falls 140.6
This will be attempt #2 at 140.6 racing. This is part racing, and part market research to see how HITS is doing. I certainly hope for them to do well; after all, the market is better with competition.  But it’ll also be a good, hard, hot challenge, which is what is most likely for when I decide to make my assault on WTC. *hint on 2015 schedule planning*

June 9, 2014: White Mountains Triathlon
You may recall me calling this the hardest, dumbest race I’ve ever done. I’m also a glutton for punishment.

This is all I can say for now. I’ve got to consult with John more to figure out the remainder of the schedule. Will it make sense for me to do more long-course racing? Should I instead focus on short, fast, intense efforts to try and take that speed to the long-course level? That’s what we’re going to find out.

I’m also planning on entering a swim meet for the first time…ever. If you’re going to get fast in the water, you best learn how to suffer. And how better to suffer than by racing? Nothing hurts more than swimming hard. Nothing.

In all, I’m excited to see where this next step in the process heads. It’s been a joy to get to where I am now, and really stoked to see where it heads to.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End: 2013 Recap and 2014 Preview

Well, then. That didn't go as planned.

2013 has been a hell of a year. There's been many ups and many downs along the way. To recap, in short order, the year since January:

Had to buy (another) new bike.
Started training for the full-distance race at Cedar Point.
Enjoyed the remainder of ski season with my best friend, Josh.
Started masters swimming.
Worked the Boston expo, was supposed to be there on Marathon Monday, and wasn't because Hannah's grandfather was so ill.
Lost Hannah's grandfather.
I got hurt.
Went to Quassy and had the whole Control-Alt-Delete experience.
Went to Williamsburg and came home with a big decision to make.
Decided to move to Virginia and join the workforce of Rev3.
Moved and sold said new bike.
Got on board a new old bike.
Swam/biked/ran some.
Went to Wisconsin. Trained. Came back.
PR'd at Rev3 Maine.
Got ready for Cedar Point.

And then Cedar Point happened. To spare you all many of the pretty disturbing details: I swam what I wanted to swim, right around 1:10 (1:11:XX). Got out and ran out onto the bike. Went very light on the pedals to start the effort.

Well, at least I looked #PRO.

Almost immediately, I couldn't put anything into the system. Just felt terrible. But I still had good legs, kept the effort right at that easy level. Felt like I could go all day. This went until I started vomiting at mile 60, which counted for the remainder of the bike. Awesome.

Right around mile 90 I knew my day would come to an end at the end of the bike, but I couldn't do it myself. I needed Hannah there to help make the decision for me. And we all decided that yes, I should bag it. I then took my third trip to the medical tent of the season, where I found out I lost a little more than 5% of my body weight throughout the effort.

Well then.

2013's been a hell of a year. I can't complain about anything. But, as the post title suggests, there's a lot to be changing.

I'm incredibly thankful of the coaching I've received via Doug Welling of The Sustainable Athlete over the past two seasons. I wouldn't be where I am in the sport without him, and his methods are second-to-none. I can't speak highly enough of him. If you're reading this, and you're in New England, and you want an awesome coach: Doug's your man.

That said, I felt with my move to Virginia, it was also time to start shaking things up on the athletic front. For 2014, I've decided to head on with John Hirsch of Evil Racing Cult/CREW fame. Seeing as I've been pilfering some of his phrasing for a while (including the trademarked blanket of hatred and self-loathing one), it was high time to sign on up. I'm excited. We've hit it off well with schedule building for 2014 and seeing where things will take us.

In the interim period of recovery (hey, when you look like this at the end of a race, you should probably take some time off):

I've been enjoying running and riding as I see fit. And dreaming big. Although I was planning on taking my shot at Kona 2014...well, we've pushed it back. And this is where I think working with John will be good for me: to dream, then draw up the appropriate plan of attack to get there, which may mean putting it on a different timeline than initially anticipated. And so 2014 is dedicated to working my ass off to get to where I want to be.

So where shall it take me? Well, that's for another post. But I'll be doing some things I haven't done before: open marathon with proper training before it; a little cycling event called Battenkill; and more.

But now? Now, I'll enjoy where I've been. Satisfied? Never.