Hopes, Dreams, Aspirations, and Reality

leftvsright

It’s that time of year again.  No major races, taking things a bit easy, looking back on the year that is wrapping up, and looking forward to the year that is upcoming.

I usually find myself looking forward to the next year as being full of possibilities in life, work, triathlon and all things in general.  However, since this is a triathlon blog – I’ll focus on that!  As I was saying – in November and December anything seems possible when I think about the September or October to come.  Qualifying for Hawaii, winning my AG at a major race, 9 hours for an Ironman, 4:10 for a half – it all seems feasible.  Plenty of time to buckle down and get the work done.

Life seems great and grand and I figure out how to get myself from here to there, but then in March or so an odd thing usually starts to happen – I start to realize that “there” is a lot farther from “here” than I thought it was a few months ago.  Running sucks because it’s cold outside, cycling sucks because rarely the option to ride outside – and you have to ride so damn hard to get faster.  And I find myself reevaluating my hopes as reality starts to set in.

Just a few days ago I found myself thinking the very thoughts I usually do – “What would be a solid time to work towards for a half as say Racine?”  “What would would I have to go to think ‘Damn, I HAVE to do an Ironman’?”.

Wednesday – I was firmly smacked with a firm dose of reality when I had my foot reevaluated.  The short of it is this:

Due toe the age of the injury, it’s unlikely to heal without intervention.  Another side effect of the age is that it needs fairly major intervention to heal.  This means most likely no running for 8 weeks after the surgery at minimum, with no activity for a TBD time (likely 2-4 weeks) post surgery.  Additionally intelligence suggests that no more running until the surgery would be intelligent.  Add in that it might not be until late December or early January until I can have surgery – we are talking 15-20 weeks without running.  An added risk is that due to the age of the injury the bone may not want to heal – which would leave to getting the fragment removed.  Which is another extended healing period + other concerns.

That does a pretty good job of slamming the door on any and all flowery thoughts doesn’t it?  If your initial thoughts are somewhere along the lines of “He’s screwed.”  Well you aren’t to far off of where my thought process has drifted to in recent days.

Fortunately my wife has a calmer head than I do and helped me to realize that there are a lot of ways for me to maintain and work towards improving my fitness even with this roadblock.  She was quick to point out that there is no reason I can’t bike and swim like normal now – and even do things to maintain running fitness without aggravating my foot.

What that basically amounts to is that my off-season break is not happening now – I’m going to continue to train pretty solidly for as long as possible, get my foot fixed – and get back to things as soon as it’s safe to do so.

What does that mean for goals?  Right now the only goal on my mind is to get my foot better so that I can run again, and stay as fit as possible in the mean time.  Once that is accomplished there will be plenty of time for kicking as, taking names, and thinking flowery thoughts.

When it is all said and done, I think that I will be much more attentive to nagging pains in my body and never ASSume they are anything.

Final note: The X-ray above is my left foot mirrored so that it is orientated the same as my right foot which is the bottom one.  I’ve highlighted the fracture for your viewing pleasure.

Simple is Hard

A few rows down from where I sit in my Cubie Farm – there is a whiteboard that tends to have a thoughtful quote on it.  I make a habit of walking by the whiteboard every morning to see if there is a new quote or not.

Yesterday I was rewarded with this gem:

The dirty little secret about simple: It’s actually hard to do. That’s why most people make complex stuff. Simple requires deep thought, discipline, and patience…

The quote is from the website 37signals.com – it is the intro to an article giving a brief synopsis about the success of a few major companies.

It’s so easy for us to be lured off by the temptation of something complex – if it takes a lot to wrap our mind around it must be better, right?

Whimper Part II

Received some feedback from a friend that the analysis posted yesterday was fairly one dimensional – focusing primarily on volume and ignoring intensity and other fitness related benchmarks.

Not with a bang, but a whimper

So ends another season of triathlon.  I wish that I could say otherwise, I wish that I could be OK with my season because I had a number of good races.  The fact is I have a huge burden of disappointment right now.  I had a solid race at Racine, as well as a few solid sprint races – but the rest of my season was essentially a disaster.

So where do I go from here?  I see there as being 3 options:

1> Follow my instinct and do as Matt pondered in a comment, and plow forward convinced that my poor performance was due to weakness or a lack of fitness and proceed to stamp it out.

2> Take the other approach mentioned by Matt and back away from Triathlon as a whole for a while

3> Revisit my April 7th, 2009 post, mentioned by Jeff (in the same set of comments as linked above) – and remember that to focus on the journey of getting there – and let the result be the result.

Each approach has merit and I think would lead to a successful rebound next year.  However, I worry that each approach (alone) glosses over the real issues I am facing, leading to a successful 2010, but a potential repeat of 2009 in 2011.  The saying “those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them” comes to mind.  The tail end of my swimming career seems to have been like this – a good year, followed by a bad year, followed by a good year.

Almost as if the success experienced caused me to lose an edge that lead to fast swimming, and the disappointment of a bad season fuels success.  Looking at my triathlon career I see myself beginning to experience a similar cycle: Rockstar IMAZ 2007, poor IMH 2007, Rockstar 2008, poor 2009.  Two steps forward, followed by one step backwards.  While that may lead to success in the long run, as we see with our economic situation – the steps backwards can be heart-wrenching.

How do I break this vicious cycle?  How do I move forard a step each year without having to suffer the fallback?  That is the mystery to me – I wish I had a clear cut answer but I don’t.  I have a thought of what I am going to attempt, but I have only hope that it will pan out.

Before going there, I think it’s wise to do a review of my triathlon journey thus far.

2005vs2006vs2007vs2008vs2009

 So what does this pretty chart tell us? A lot, and at the same time nothing at all.  2009 from a volume perspective was pretty consistent with previous seasons and actually #2 in overall volume.  Here are some things that stand out to me:

1> 2008 and 2009 saw a large decrease in the amount of time I spent on strength and flexibility.  While I have never lifted weights in the traditional sense, I have always had a strength routine that I have included.

2> My swimming fell off a lot in 2008, in fact the last few months of 2008 saw a major decrease in volume across all three sports.  This decrease carried over to 2009 for swimming and running

3> My volume in 2009 is surprising, perhaps I did to much?  Or simply wasn’t organized enough with it?

While 2009 is not technically complete, enough is done to see the trend.  And because of my foot – not much running will happen until the end of the year.

Year Swim Bike Run
2005 380,741 yds 4,795 miles 1,272 miles
2006 416,137 m 6,138 miles 1,278 miles
2007 451,144 m 7,224 miles 1,410 miles
2008 373,512 m 6,375 miles 1,279 miles
2009 414,125 m 6,626 miles 1,314 miles
Year Swim Bike Run Total
2005 116 hours 333 hours 171 hours 620 hours
2006 124 hours 351 hours 174 hours 649 hours
2007 140 hours 392 hours 183 hours 715 hours
2008 114 hours 348 hours 164 hours 626 hours
2009 128 hours 349 hours 169 hours 646 hours

If I look at my cycling of 2008 vs 2009 from a kJ perspective, 2009 was generally lower by a significant amount the the previous year at that time.  What is nice about kJ is that it is a raw indicator of work and not dependent upon me accurate estimating my FTP. Below is a table of kJ by month (really 28 day sample points beginning 12/31/2007 (the “beginning” of 2008 from a training perspective). As a result of the 28 day sample, the months start to drift, so I will call them Month 1, Month 2, etc.  Month 9 ends the week of IMWI in 2008, and the week before IMWI in 2009.  Month 5 represents the month just before the Triple T.

Months 10 and 11 are included to represent IMFL 2009, not provide a comparison between 2008 and 2009.

Month 2008 2009
Month 1 18,337 11,612
Month 2 22,699 16,586
Month 3 17,037 16,619
Month 4 21,628 19,265
Month 5 26,411 21,878
Month 6 28,965 24,716
Month 7 33,709 38,764
Month 8 29,446 26,446
Month 9 24,261 30,780
Month 10 0 18,829
Month 11 3,375 27,826

 What does this mean?  First a reference point, to help understand the relation of a kJ to a ride.  IMWI 2008 – was a 4,218 kJ ride.  I had a couple long rides in August 2009 around 4,400 kJ.  So this table more or less tells me, that with the exception of two months – I did significantly less work on the bike in any given period than as compared to 2008.  Overlaying the values on-top of each other looks like this:

kj-graph

The graph highlights pretty well the gap between this year and last year in terms of work on the bike.  It’s interesting in that the big spike of work on the bike really result in some good performance shortly after at the Half and Sprint and Olympic distance.  The next interesting thing to look at is total kJ for the year as it accumulates each month.

kj-cul

Looking at it this way, it become pretty evident that the work put in on the bike was signicantly lower this year.  It took until after Madison to “break-even”.  This second kJ perspective could be a perfect explanation for why Madison was subpar – I just did not have the bike fitness to ride effectively.

So why did Florida go so horribly?  I have no idea.  My kJ had crossed the line and was the equal of 2008, the few months leading up to Florida were pretty decent if you adjust for a week off the bike after Wisconsin.  Right now, it is an enigma and something that will probably bother me for a long time – much like how not knowing how much time my flat at IMAZ bugs the hell out of me.

I didn’t graph out run mileage by month, but if we look at it from a mileage to date graph – it looks sickeningly like the graph posted just above for kJ to date.

run-mi-td

When I look at my training this way, it seems pretty evident to me that while my overall volume/work for 2009 is pretty comparable to previous years, if I cut the year short at September it’s lacking pretty significantly – on the order of close to 10%.  With most of the shortfall coming in the first few months of the year, and while the numbers during the meat of the season were the same – the foundation was lacking when push came to shove (and it shoved pretty damn hard).


Drifting back to the 3 approaches above – how do I ensure a successful and consistant season next year, but also each year that follows.  After looking at the numbers, I don’t think that any of the approaches above are appropriate – at least not alone.

I think the answer lies in falling back to the basics by incorporating all of the approaches to lay down a solid, consistent foundation of work for future seasons.  That leads me to the plan for the next “season”.  Obviously, I am not signed up for an Ironman for 2010.  Will I do one – I have no idea.  I really want to, in order to prove to myself that I haven’t lost it, but I am pretty scared to do another one soon because of the fear of yet another disaster.

The plan as it stands now is to take a short unstructure break the remainder of this week and next, and then start swimming and biking again.  I’m going to take a few weeks off of running to allow my foot to heal, time to be determined based on the outcome of my Dr. appointment next week.

Beginning in December I’ll get into a regular Swim/Bike/Run? routine to prepare myself to yet again attempt the Endurance Nation Out-Season plan – modified a little bit to add some extra volume as the plan progresses (3rd times a charm – ?)  That will take 16 weeks, which I will cap off with a week of rest and then either St. Anthony’s or the Whitewater Early Bird.  Currently I’d say it’s 70/30 in favor of St. Anthony’s.

After that I’m going to do a typical 3 + 1 base/rest cycle going into the Triple-T.  The rest of next year will be 100% dependent upon the outcome of those races and how the training goes.  The results of the litmus test might be anything ranging from shifting to several months of fitness maintenance and minimal racing, and ramp up again in 2011, to doing something like the Rev 3 Irondistance or another IM distance race that I can get into – or something anywhere inbetween. 

Right now I’d say the deciding factor is less about “performance”, but more about perspective.  Can I do the training, enjoy it, and remember to focus on the process rather than letting myself be driven by the desired outcome?

IMFL – Raceday

raceday

We did not have an alarm clock in our room, so I set both cell phones and one of my watches to wake us up.  I set them staggered 5 minutes apart to make sure any sleepiness got kicked in the butt!  Around 3:15 I woke up to use the bathroom, and in glancing at the clock on the microwave I thought it was 3:45, so when I got back in bed I just rested and thought about the race.  When the alarm didn’t come I looked again, and now it said 3:23 “ so I actually had another half hour!  Back to sleep I went.  Right on time at 4 the first alarm went off, so I jumped out of bed “ started the coffee and had two of my breakfast yogurts.

Around 4:15 I nudged Mary out of bed, and started gathering my things.  About 4:30 we left and walked the ½ mile to the Transition area.  I went in to get my bike and gear ready, and Mary walked down a little further and dropped off my special needs bags.

I got everything prepared pretty quickly “ and by a little after 6 we went inside the hotel and found a quiet corner to relax.  I listened to music on my mp3 player and visualized about my race.

Sometime around 6:30 or so “ Mary and I headed outside to the start area.  It was a lot less hectic to get to the start line “ mostly because rather than crossing the timing matt and having to enter the water right away, we were able to spread out along the beach.

6:50 “ boom off went the pros.  I moved up to the edge of the water and chatted with a couple of folks looking for someone planning to swim my speed to find some feet.

7:00 “ boom off we went.  The start was about 15 quick steps through the surf followed by a couple of dolphin dives and then swimming.  Sticking to my plan I hung back and didn’t make any strong efforts, my mission for the swim was to stay relaxed and find feet.  By the first buoy I had slipped into a group of 4 people.  Two guys in front; and then myself and another in the second row.  There may have been more behind us, I’m not sure.

I was towed through the first loop in just under 26 minutes, but I knew the second loop would be a little slower because of the shallow diagonal stretch to the outbound buoys and I presumed that it would be rougher waves on the second loop.

I got through the diagonal stretch before the driver of my group “ so I just plodded along until he came charging through  – as soon as he did myself and another person latched on, this time single file with me third.

We swam that way until the stretch that was parallel to shore “ the chop had really picked up at this point of the morning and I wasn’t able to hold on to them with the waves.  When I turned to head into shore they were about 10 yards in front, and 5-10 yards wide “ so I just continued in towards shore at the same effort of my swim.

I exited the water feeling good with 54 flat as a swim.  I moved through T1 pretty uneventfully.

I started the bike with the intent of riding easy for the first 40-60 minutes, trying to keep my power below 220, intending to start riding a closer to steady between mile 25-30, and then depending on how I was feeling push just a touch more around mile 55-60.

The first hour went pretty well, my heart rate fell relatively quickly to about 140, but didn’t seem to fall much more “ I focused on the game plan of riding easy, intending to event extend the easy riding to get Power, PE, and HR all in line.  Sometime between miles 10 and 15 a few guys started riding through, all of them riding much faster than I was, so I didn’t even try to stay with them.  One of them road up to me right around the hour mark, and it was a good opportunity to grab on and see what happened.  He and I road together for a while “ bouncing back and forth as the follower would bump up into the draft zone.  After long of this a group of 5 or 6 guys riding together rode through “ very legally IMO.  My buddy grabbed onto them and I was quickly about 100 meters behind them.

Without much added effort I was able to maintain the gap, and after about 5 minutes decided to burn a couple of matches to close the gap and sit on the back of the line.  I have to admit “ it was a neat experience to sit in a group of cyclists riding together stretched over 100 meters or so “ very much like you see of the pictures of the pro race in Hawaii.  Everyone in the group seemed to be very aware of the distance requirements and rules regarding passing.

About two hours into the race I realized that I was reaching a critical decision point:  while I was currently riding below my planned effort for this stretch (210-210 vs. 220-230), my heart rate was not coming into line with my PE and Power “ my aerobic system felt just a little to strained for an Ironman.  Do I plow forward with the plan or do I back off “ taking advantage of a flat course and the downhill/tail winded back-half and do my best to enable a strong run.  I decided that I would drive the plan until about half way and decide then.

Around this point the group passed through a major intersection and I accelerated a bit to my planned power “ this more or less pushed me from the back of the group to the front of the group “ for a few minutes.  After a bit, either I started to slow, or other guys in the group made a move also, I drifted to the back and then let myself fall off “ keeping a steady pace.

After a few minutes another group rode through (also legal), we hit special needs, and then turned onto 231 “ shortly after that a group of more guys than I can count rode through “ not legal at all.  Clustered together wheel to wheel, two wide at some points “ I just let myself drift back.  It was not quite halfway yet, but I knew that the correct choice was to back down, coast the bike in and try to run myself in to a good finish.

It took riding at ~180 watts to get my HR down that I felt comfortable with, fortunately the smooth roads, pitch and wind direction was extremely favorable and this generally resulted in speeds of 24+ mph.

The remainder of the ride was uneventful, just easy riding and positive self talk to prepare for the run.

T2 went quickly and uneventfully.  I started the run feeling better than I expected “ not great, in reach of a 9:3X if I just put out a 3:3X marathon.  The first mile passed to fast (of course), but I focused on slowing my pace, taking in hydration and nutrition.  My heart rate was sky high for the pace I was running, but I was determined to get the job done, it’s the end of the day, the end of the season.  I can sleep in the med tent after the race if I have to.  The only problem I had on the run was that every 5 to 10 minutes my breathing would get very short, and I would have to focus on my breathing to get it back into a normal breathing pattern.  I did my best to shout out encouragement to all that I saw.  I’m not sure where it happened, but somewhere between miles 10 and 11 I decided that I needed to start walking the aid stations.  I just felt that my stomach wasn’t working well and while it would cost me some short term time, the way my running pace was gradually slowing it would help to enable me to maintain an overall 9-10 minute mile pace.

I continued my walk/run pace “ and at mile 14 was confident that I would be able to pull in just under 10 hours “ almost an hour slower than my best case scenario, but not bad.  Suddenly around 16 or so, I fell apart, my aid station walking turned into a stagger.  I just kept moving forward feeling like I looked like an 80 year as I walked.  I moved through a couple of miles like this “ figuring this would be the remainder of my day.

Shortly after mile 18 “ as we turned back onto Thomas drive to head into the state park, I got mad.  Mad for wasting a year of my life to have two days like this “ more than one race that wasn’t just bad, but was a pure disaster.  What a waste of time, money, effort “ I was furious with myself. It felt like these thoughts churned in my mind for about 5 minutes, but in reality it was about 5 feet of walking “ and suddenly I was running again.  I was determined to fuel 6 miles of running on my anger, and when I hit the next mile marker and realized that I actually had 7 miles to go I was even more furious.  I ran on that anger until mile 22 or 23 when my arms started to cramp, I walked two aid stations to stretch them out and take some salt tablets.  I was able to run the last couple of miles on sheer determination to finish “ each step getting easier as I was pulling myself closer and closer to the finish line.

I finished up in 10:27 “ when all is said and done it is a pretty respectable time.  Not what I had hoped for, but I learned a lot during the day.  And when considered along with the rest of my season, perhaps a sign that I need to take a step back and refocus.

Prerace – Friday

checkin

Friday was a pretty uneventful day.  We went down for a swim, and I did a short run.  I skipped out on the bike because I broke the valve stem extender on my front tire “ and we had to spend some time searching for a way to fix it.  I ended up just falling back to the previous valve extenders I had used “ but I wasn’t super confident that Pit Stop would be super effective with it.  I cut ¼ inch or so off of my wetsuits arms and legs to help it come off easier, a small nick in the wetsuit from earlier this year had spread a bit so we also went to a dive shop to get some neoprene glue.

After the panic of fixing my brand new tires, I packed up my stuff for the race “ Mary relaxed at the pool!  After all that we walked down and checked in my bike and transition bags.  Mary and I noticed a few fast looking guys to look up after the race.

After getting back from dropping my bike off we went to drive the Run course and find a Quizno’s for dinner.  I went to bed feeling ready and confident for the race “ just the right amount of fear, hope, confidence, and doubt to have the race I had trained for.

Prerace – Thursday

stung

Thursday morning we woke up pretty early and walked down the beach to see the swim start.  After spending a few minutes down there we walked back to our room and I put on my wetsuit and we walked back down there for a swim.  I did one loop of the swim course “ trying to swim easy at what I felt would be my likely pace during the race.  The course is similar to Madison “ a giant rectangle.  Just before the end of the first long stretch of the course I reached out and felt something with my right hand, the next instant the left side of my face and neck “ from my cap to my wetsuit was on fire.  STUNG “ again, and this time it really, really hurt.  Not knowing what else to do “ and being 800m from shore, I just kept swimming.  I hit that 1k mark around 13:30 “ pretty fast, but it felt nice and easy.  I finished up the loop, scouting out shallow spots and the like on the way back that could be troublesome at the finish of the swim or the turn around.  I walked over to Mary and pulled a move straight from Tommy Boy “ œIs my neck red at all?

After the swim we walked back to the room.  I showered while Mary did some research about Jelly Fish stings on the internet “ she found that vinegar was the suggested treatment “ so off we went to Wal-Mart to get some.

Mary wanted to do a run “ so after eating some awesome homemade sandwiches “ we drove down to the state park and Mary did two loops of the circuit, while I road my bike with her.  We got a laugh out of a group of guys that went by and made a joke that I was lucky to have my disc cover on, otherwise I may not have been able to keep up with her running!!!!

We spent some time relaxing at the pool after that and then went to the pre-race dinner.

Prerace – Wednesday

wed

Mary and I both woke up early.  I had some coffee and pop tarts for breakfast.  Then I went down to the beach to do a swim.  I swam about 30 minutes “ nice and easy.  When I was about 20 minutes in I was swimming along, and all of a sudden felt like I got stung by a bunch of insects on my face.  After a split second I realized that I had probably just been  stung by a jelly-fish.  While I had only planned to swim about 10 more minutes, I swam for the shallow water near shore.  Once there I stood up for a few minutes and made sure nothing bad was going to happen.  After waiting, the stinging on my face started to subside and I didn’t feel any worse “ so I finished up my swim.  Note for next year “ I should probably either try to open water swim in my wet suit more often, or be better about my weights “ I can definitely feel the difference between swimming in my wetsuit and not swimming in it in my shoulders.

The afternoon was uneventful “ Mary  and I walked down to the Expo and registered.  The volunteer that helped me reminded me a lot of my Grandpa Bowe “ between his glasses, the peachy fuzz beard and his looks¦As we were walking back we stopped and picked up some salt tabs and found a new swimsuit for Mary.  After that I put another coat of glue on my new tires, then went and drove the bike course.

It is very flat compared to anything I have ridden.  There are a fair number of rollers on the course though.  Comparing it to Arizona it œseems to be hillier, mainly due to AZ being a 19 mile false flat, and this has some real rollers.  Other than a large bridge nothing to pull you out of the aerobars, and probably nothing to pull you out of the big ring.  The main thing making this a very fast course I think is the lack of turns, and the generally good road surface.

After that went for a bike ride on the new tires.  It went really well, followed it up with a short run.  Might need to remount the front tire “ there is a spot (the valve stem of course) that seems to be a bit noisy “ stick-unstick-stick  Annoying.

We went to Carbarra’s Italian grill for dinner.  It was OK “ not bad, but not all that memorable.

Prerace – Tuesday

mvan

We left Milwaukee around 7 AM, and flew to Atlanta and then on a small jet to Panama City.  The flight as a whole was uneventful.  When we got to Panama City “ it turned out our rental car was a Mini-Van.  It’s actually pretty sweet!  The bike arrived without issues too.

We headed to our condo, getting lost “ seems I wrote down the wrong address.  PCB is almost a clone of the Wisconsin Dells “ and it’s definitely the offseason here “ dead.  The property of our condo is beautiful and the room is OK.  Definitely not like where we stayed in Hawaii “ but a nice place to be at.

I did a short bike ride and was amazed at how flat the area I rode in was “ granted it wasn’t the whole course, but I spoke with a person who is familiar with the course at a local bike shop and he confirmed that it was all pretty much like that except for having to ride over a bridge on the way out and way back.  Incredible.

After the bike shop (I had to get some CO2, pit stop and new tires) “ we went to Wal-Mart to get some groceries for the week.  Than we just hung out, had some sandwiches for dinner and went to bed.