The Final Five


Yes, today’s title is a total rip off of Battlestar Galactica.

Yes, I know that it’s really 5 and a 1/2 weeks until IMFL.

So what is new in the last week and a half?  Nothing worth mentioning, unless you consider winning a race and be diagnosed with an avulsion fracture in your foot.

First the race.  I did the J-Hawk Latebird in Whitewater on Sunday.  It’s essentially the exact same race as the Earlybird race, just 5 (wow time goes fast) months later.  Watching the entry list and looking at past times at the race, I knew I had a decent shot at winning it.  Not knowing how I would feel with the taper from Madison, the full recovery week, and an ease back into it week – I didn’t have a goal time in my.  I was really looking at this race as being another opportunity to shake out some rust.  Long story short it went pretty good.  I was about 40 seconds fast  than in April, a little on the bike/transitions and a lot on the run.  The swim was a tad slower, but I swam EASY.  My bike power was pretty much the same as in April – I focused on keeping the PM in the 320 neighborhood and ended up with a 300 watt average.  The wind was punishing on the bike!  But it was fun.

Second (and perhaps more importantly) – on Friday I finally bit the bullet and visited a doctor about my foot.  I’ve had some nagging discomfort while running and on the first step of the day/after a long stretch of inactivity.  Usually after moving around for a bit the pain tapers off and all is good with a slight annoyance now and again.  I don’t recall exactly when I started noticing it, but it was definitely there at SORT (I remember being a little worried about the run coming in off the bike).  So I’d say it was present for at least a week or two before that.

At rest I had a general feeling of something being just slightly out of place in my foot, like it needed an adjustment, but I just could not manipulate it the way I needed.  While running there was more of a pinch on the foot strike.  No major pain or discomfort – just something.  Worst discomfort is when I have to take a right turn…

I did some research and figured it could be peroneal brevis tendinitis or some sort of bone bruise/fracture.  After talking with some folks a fracture seemed unlikely after I said “Well i did a HIM on Sunday, and then a 17 mile run on Tuesday – and the pain wasn’t that bad.”  So I went on with life treating it like tendinitis: icing it, NSAID, etc.  Got into phenomenal running shape, did a couple of races, blew up at IMWI.

Shortly before IMWI – the pain on the first step got a bit worse, but I chalked that up to being lazy with my ice routine in the week or two before.

Skipping some details – after doing a bit of a self inventory before I start the final weeks before IMFL, I decided that it would be a good idea to actually go in and get some pictures taken and see what was actually up – rather then just going on advice given while drinking a beer after a race.  Turns out the X-ray showed a nice, very visible, very evident break.  Not unlike figures 2 and 4 on this page.

Sooooooooo…. now what?  After talking with the doctor, my wife, Matt, a podiatrist I know – I’m still on for IMFL and will delay any rest and/or procedure to make things better until after IMFL.  Technically the plan is to continue running, and do the race as long as the pain does not increase significantly.  Take 6-8 weeks off of running after IMFL, possibly go back for another eval during that time, and ease back into running.  If I am still experiencing any discomfort after a break – do something to get it fixed.  During the final weeks before IMFL I may even try some water running a time or two.

I also met with a guy who makes orthotics last night and am getting a very “subtle” set made that are intended to unload the pressure from where I am feeling the discomfort – to potentially speed the healing process while training, lesson the discomfort.  I’m supposed to get them next week, so that will only leave about 4 and 1/2 weeks to get used to them – he seemed to think we could make it work, but was pretty clear that we would be rushing adaptation.  We’ll see I guess.

I’m sure some of you are like “Are you an idiot – what are you doing?”  My only response is – had I not decided to go to a doctor to get some advice on how to help treat/manage what I believed to be tendinitis – I would not know it is a fracture and would have kept on doing my thing ignorant as all get out.  At least now I am fully aware of the situation, and can make my decisions on how to interpret the signals from the feet fully informed.

How’s the training going anyways?  Good I guess.  Last week was pretty mild – only about 13 hours, I scrapped a couple biking hours because I was slow to get up on Saturday and my parents arrived for a visit earlier than I expected.

Last night I ran 1:45.  I would call it one of my most interesting runs ever.  It was kind of like eating to many chips and salsa.  It tastes really good at first.  Then after a while you feel like stopping, but you don’t because you think that maybe the good taste will come back.  Some time goes by, and then you really regret that you didn’t stop eating the salsa because it really hurts on the backside.

That was my run last night – felt great the first 60 minutes, had a couple rough stretches, but bounced back to good – than at about 1:35 it turned to just plain sucky.

I had been hoping for a 2 hour run, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  I’ve still got some really weird feelings in all three sports – kind of just a rust.  It’s like I know it’s in there, I just sort of forgot the combination to the lock to get the good feelings out along with it.  Will shoot for 2 hours for next week.

Feel decent today, and am just gonna keep moving forward with the plan.  I’ll get that combination figured out!  Tonight is 90 minutes with Coach Troy – 20,15,10,5 @ FTP.  Should be marvelous.  This AM, I did 2x(5×200 SCM @ 2:55, and held between 2:40 and 2:45).  Not a bad swim, but it felt like re-fried beans.

Post Mortem: Ironman Wisconsin 2009

It’s been a little over a week since Ironman Wisconsin.  First off, thanks to everyone for the postive thoughts and encouragement – it means a lot.  One of the things that I truly feel is beneficial in life is to look back on exceedingly positive events and exceedingly negative events and analyze them as objectively as possible to help reproduce the event or to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Without a doubt IMWI falls into the exceedinly negative category.  This past week and particularly the weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about the race, the weeks before it and have a rough picture in my mind of what I believe resulted in my [lack of] performance.

So without further ado here is a post mortem of September 13th, 2009.

4 weeks before Madison I had a bad allergy attack after Pleasant Prairie.  The week proceeded to be one of the best training weeks of the season: 2×3 hour rides @ ~230 watts; 1×112 miles @ ~235 watts – backed up with some stiff running afterwards.  The following week was good (8/24-8/30), but not as good, the difference is arguable to be honest.  However, the Friday of that week (8/28) I did an open water swim with Lauren Jensen – paranoid of another attack, I took a claritin that morning (I may have started taking one daily a few days earlier, I don’t totally recall).  From than until 9/19, I took a claritin every day.

After that initial swim I took claritin daily with the mindset of fending off an allergy attack in the last couple of weeks prior to IMWI (it does very little for me once the attack sets in) and I felt on the verge of an attack several days and felt it was the smart choice.

Beginning around 9/2 (with 20/20 hindsight), I would say that my workout performance started to slide downwards, and I began to feel odd (all 3 sports).  At the time I attributed it starting to rest.  The best way to describe how I felt would be to quote Peter Griffin of Family Guy noterity

Ok, who’s drunk, but that special kind of drunk where you’re a better driver because you know you’re drunk, you know the kind of drunk where you probably shouldn’t drive, but you do anyways because, I mean come on, you got to get your car home, right? I mean what do they expect me do, take a bus? Is that what they want? For me to take a bus? Well screw that! You take a bus.

To the day of the race – The short story of it is that I made a poor race day decision to  ignore what my body, powermeter, hrm, and part of my brain was telling me on the bike.  “The swim messed you up, and you are riding to hard for today.”  The part of my brain that drove me onwards with a glimmer of hope and determination ignored those thinking “Look, the swim was tough, but I’m a swimmer and can bounce back.  We are biking WAY below our limits, our HR is just out of whack – sooner or later it will come into line.”  And so on.  Finally at mile 9-10 of the run my mind gave out.

The truth of it  is, had I been honest with myself on the bike, and biked an effort that felt right for me on the day, I probably would have been off the bike 10 minutes later, and would have likely at least been able to run the marathon.  It would have been a long distance from my best case day of 9:29, but it would have been a hell of a lot better than my 12:07.  In fact, looking at the results, I probably would have been in strong contention for a Kona slot right around 10 hours.

So after that stream of conciousness what am I saying?
1> After talking with a couple of folks,  doing some research (thank you google and slowtwitch) – I believe that taking Claritin daily for 3+ weeks contributed to me feeling totally off in the days leading up to and including race day.  I have since stopped taking it and will see what happens.
2> I made a mistake that I preach against: I ignored all the signs and pushed ahead thinking it would work out.  In the end I simply asked to much of my fitness and paid the price.

So where do I go from here?  There are two races left on my calendar J-hawk latebird this coming weekend, followed by Ironman Florida on November 7th.  The goal for Florida is pretty much the same as Wisconsin, no creep, no goal easing…

Otherwise I am staying far away from Claritin – even if my suspicions are unfounded, I’d rather not risk it – and fortunately with the weather beginning to turn to autumn hopefully my allergies will stay nice.  The only other thing in that department is to try and baby my foot a bit and beat back the tendinitis (or whatever) down a couple notches on the pain scale.

Training – 1 week off (last week), 5 weeks hard, 1 week less hard, race week.

Quite a day

Not quite sure what to say about IMWI at this point.  I’m working on my full fledged race report, but the summary is –

Started out and felt great, got into a good draft.  Was easy and felt great (as compared to feeling exhausted and sloppy in the water on Saturday).  About 1200m into the swim (half way on the backstretch of the first loop) – something changed in my stroke and it went from an easy, smooth swim, to a bit of a struggle.

Got on the bike after getting through T1 in a bit of a daze, could not get my HR down to where I wanted, or my power up to where I wanted.  Rode faster than last year because of good conditions, on almost the exact same power.  Probably drank to much water – ~1 bottle at each aid station.  That is about double what I would normally do on a ride of this length.

Started out with a hopeful, but pragmatic view of my chances on the run.  Started out about the same as last year, but heavier in the legs and gut.  Made it until about 10 miles and I quit.  Walked to the halfway point, talked with Mary – who encouraged me to keep at it and not give up.  Shuffled through the next couple of miles fighting back tears of frustration and discomfort.  Stopped around mile 14/15 for a few minutes to collect myself – than powerwalked/hiked the remainder of the distance.

All in all – definately a disappointing day, but I have another shot in 8 weeks at IMFL.  Going to take some time this week to try and understand what happened a bit better, recover, and start to ease back into training next week.

Taking what is yours

Only a few days remain until IMWI – at this point nothing more to be done other than stay rested, safe, and doing a few snappy efforts to stay fresh.

Oh and execute the plan.  My plan is best summed up by:

No matter how hard and smart you’ve trained, know the guy who is planning on taking your spot trained just as hard and smart as you did. You don’t just get it, you have to take it. If you are not willing to do what it takes to get the job to get it done, change your expectations or don’t bother showing up. “ (ST, centermiddy, 08)

The Ember

The next item in my list of things that helps you get through the incursion of reality in your Ironman race day (or any race day for that matter), is what I call the Ember (as of last night 8-)).  In my head the ember is that thing down deep inside you, something that you can’t really describe to others, and may even have a hard time describing to yourself.  It’s that part of your soul that harbors the real reason you are out there racing, a deep, dark, powerful, possibly evil secret.  Something so capable of driving you that your mind protects you from it – least you do some really dumb day-to-day things. 

When the shit hits the fan on raceday though, your broke, 10, 15,20 miles to go until the finish line – with no idea how to get you there.  Knowing what that deep secret the drives you, telling your mind to let it out – that is when you hit the jackpot and will find yourself able to put yourself in the hurt locker.  It’s a single coal that burns hot enough to restart a forest fire and get you to the finish – happily.

The secret to being able to open that up and let it drive you, is knowing what it is.  To know what it is takes a lot of soul searching and [self] honesty.  For me, I find that the shallow things rarely drive me – beating certain person, doing a certain time, etc.  Those fail to drive me because when that person blows by me, or I see my target time slipping away because of conditions, mistakes, flats, etc – it’s a bit depressing.  Why continue to hurt yourself if you’re going to be beat, not perform well?

My race at Pleasant Prairie is a prime example of making a conscious decision to not “hurt” because my bike was having mechanical issues.  Why put out FTP level power, when it only results in slow speeds on a day with great conditions?

So what is it for me, what is my drive, my secret?  The best I can it in words is – “I’m better than this”.   Do you know yours?  If not, I think it’s worth the time to sit down and think about what drives you.  Don’t settle for the first answer that comes to mind.  Get the first answer and ask yourself – “Why that?”.  Eventually, you’ll find it.  It may be petty, it may be simple, maybe a little vain – but it will give you the power to ignore all the pain in the world.


Note: There is an article in the most recent Triathlete mag that talks about this a bit, worth the read IMO.