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Ironman 70.3 Superfrog Training, Gear and Nutrition

Today is my first half Ironman in over 10 years. Even though my training has been more about improving my health than my fitness, I’m excited to have built back up to long course triathlon and I’m looking forward to many more to come. The following is an overview of my training, gear, and race nutrition plan.

Training:

I’ve been exclusively following the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method of training in an effort to build my aerobic system while minimizing stress on my body so I can simultaneously improve my health. Normally I would “build” up to my primary race with periods of high intensity training. However, I decided to scratch that this year to prioritize health over fitness. Accordingly, all my workouts are done with a focus on keeping my heart rate below MAF (180 minus my age). After my marathon training, I have been balancing my triathlon training more equally between biking and running with a little swimming thrown into the mix. A good week of training for me would look like:

  • 2 x Fasted Morning Run Sessions of 5-7 miles
  • 2 x Fasted Morning Bike Sessions on the trainer of 40-60min
  • 1 x Long run session of 10-14 miles
  • 1 x Long bike session of 40-60 miles (sometimes followed with a 4-8 mile run)
  • 2-3 x swim session of 20-30 minutes

My swim sessions were mostly in the evenings after work when I was feeling good and had the time. Since I am a former competitive high school swimmer, I’m not as concerned about my ability to complete the 1.2 mile distance so my swim sessions were more about maintaining my form and “feel” for the water. Swimming is like a golf swing – you need to do it consistently. Occasionally I would do a longer ocean swim with the Triathlon Club of San Diego to get more experience with open water ocean swimming.

In addition to the above, I also try to stay active when I’m in the office.

Gear:

Honestly, sometimes I’m a little embarrassed about my lack of gear know
ledge. I am definitely not a gear-head triathlete that knows about the latest tech. My philosophy is I’m going to make far more performance gains by focusing time/money on my diet, health and fitness rather than the latest tech. Therefore, my gear bag is pretty basic:

gear

General

Transition Bag – Race morning usually requires a little walk/bike to get to the transition area so an easy way to carry everything in the wee hours of the morning is essential. Transition bags are designed to hold wetsuits, multiple pairs of shoes, bike helmets, bike pumps, etc. Mine is a basic version from TYR. I’ll pack it up a day or two before to minimize stress on race morning. I just need to grab my bag and go.

Tri Short/Top – Clothes that can go from start to finish in a triathlon are essential and comfort is critical for long course races. I’m currently a fan of 2XU. It dries quickly and the shorts have the right padding for the bike without feeling like a diaper on the run.

Sunglasses – I had enough eye problems as a kid that I don’t want to muck with contacts and putting stuff in my eye. Therefore, I need prescription sunglasses that allow for a fairly strong prescription. Rudy Project sunglasses have prescription inserts that do just that. The outer, non-prescription lens on the pair I have changes based on the brightness so I can also use them like straight-up glasses in low light.

Swim

Wetsuit – Besides making an athlete faster, warmer and safer, a wetsuit isn’t required for a triathlon. I have a TYR Hurricane Cat 1 that I have come to love (after learning how to get it on correctly over this lanky 6’5″ frame). For a full sleeve wetsuit it provides ample shoulder mobility so my swim stroke isn’t constricted.

Goggles – Because I don’t wear contacts and I need to see the buoys on the swim course, I use a pair a prescription goggles. This is a great article on prescription goggles. I use AquaSphere Eagles that have interchangeable lenses.

Bike

Freshly Tuned Bike – My 2004 Felt S25 will always have a special place in my heart. This bikeis the bike I rode in my 2005 Coeur d’Alene Ironman. I don’t think I will ever be able to part with this bike even when I eventually replace it. Before this race I put on a new pair
of tires because my other ones were getting thin and I’ve been plagued by fat tires recently. I also added a rear mount dual water bottle holder for extra hydration for the SoCal heat.

Bike Shoes – I wear Bontrager Hilos that are tri-specific bike shoes. Easy to put on with a single strap and mesh venting for quick drying.

Helmet – Nothing special here…just a standard Bell road biking helmet. Once I start getting faster then I will consider upgrading to an aero helmet.

Flat Kit – I really hope I don’t need this but I’ve got an extra tube, CO2 inflator, two CO2 cartridges and tire irons just in case.

Run

Running Shoes – I’m a believer in minimalist footwear and allowing the foot to work as designed without interfering with too much support or cushion. I love Skora shoes and I’m currently using their Tempo model. I’ve also added some elastic laces so they are easy to slip on while still fitting snuggly.

Race Belt – The fastest way to put on a race number while running out of T2.

Other Misc. Items

  • Swim cap
  • Timing chip
  • Socks – TBD…13.1 miles is a little too far to go with no socks
  • Hat – for sun protection on the run
  • Body Glide
  • Bike pump and tools
  • Small towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Headphones (pre-race)
  • USAT Membership Card

Nutrition:

I’ve been training my body to more efficiently use stored body fat for fuel so I don’t need to rely on sugary gels and exogenous calories. However, I’m still going to need some amount of nutrition to maintain performance but I prefer to use healthier alternatives than what is typically offered on the course. I’m planning to take in all my solid foods on the bike because digesting a large calorie intake on the run is usually a challenge.nutrition

  • Two water bottles with a mix of coconut water and regular water.
  • One small water bottle with a chia seed slurry made with coconut water, a little honey and sea salt
  • 3 packets of Vespa – These are only 18 calories a piece but they have a peptide that helps the body use fat for fuel. These are like magic. I’ll take one about 30 minutes before the swim start and then another one every two to three hours.
  • 2-3 blueberry Phive Bars – This is a whole foods bar that is made locally with a mixture of fruit and nuts.

The weather forecast is for sun with a temperature close to 90. Gotta love SoCal! Its going to be a hot one! You can watch a live stream of the finish line and track me HERE. I’m bib 465. I’m so stoked for this race!

finish

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The Journey Is the Reward

“The journey is the reward” – Stever Robbins

This quote is the best articulation behind my goal of qualifying for Kona. Even on paper, a Kona qualification looks tough. To actually go out and do it is even tougher. Not only that…but it is only getting harder as the competition gets even faster. However, the whole intention of this ridiculous goal for an average athlete like me is the pursuit of something huge. Something that requires the kind of dedication and effort that is so transforming that achieving it doesn’t matter. Between improving my health, meeting new people, strengthening supportive relationships, and having a lot of fun, in the end, regardless of what happens, so much good should happen along the way that achievement of the goal becomes irrelevant.

I highly recommend the Living An Extraordinary Life podcast by Stever Robbins. This is as life changing as a podcast can be. In essence, it describes the relationship between success and fulfillment. The sole pursuit of success won’t necessary make you fulfilled just like the sole pursuit of fulfillment won’t necessary make you successful.

After graduating from business school, many of my decisions were made in an effort to reduce my perceived short term risk without considering the risk of not living an extraordinary life. I believed that if I worked hard and deferred gratification until I was successful, then I could live the life I truly wanted. The problem with this thinking is that “hard work” is, by definition, work that is difficult and not enjoyable. Correspondingly, the pitfalls of deferred gratification are:

  • we build systems and habits that enable us to continue to engage in hard work to the point that it could lead to a path of self-deception where we think hard work is what we enjoy and forget what it was that we truly wanted to do to begin with;
  • it prevents us from developing the skills and network necessary to do the thing that we really want to do; and
  • life happens and there is no guarantee that we will actually make it to the point of living the life we really want if we defer it long enough

Fortunately for me, I met an amazing girl (now my wife) at the end of business school that always seems to set me straight. I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for her I would be following my perfect plan of working hard and delaying gratification to the point of complete misery. Instead, the last 18 months (how long I’ve been on this Kona journey) have been some of the most fulfilling that I have ever had.

It is for that exact reason that I set this seemingly unobtainable goal because I’m having a great time pursuing it!

Photo credit: I got the photo for this post from Jesse Thomas’s Instragram. This guy is an absolute monster and he is my favorite triathlete. Not only is he a successful pro triathlete, he is also the CEO and co-founder of Picky Bars and seemingly has a great family life as well (just scroll through his Instagram pics and you’ll see what I mean). Check out his interview on Endurance Planet and you’ll definitely become a fan as well.

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Advanced Health Coaching to Improve Athletic Performance, Part 1

Health and fitness are not synonymous. As I noted in my last post, I’ve rethought my training strategy to emphasize good health and patience vs. strictly fitness. Health is the basis for longevity in sports and focusing purely on building fitness can eventually come at the cost of longevity. This is why I gravitated toward the MAF training method, since an inability to make fitness improvements under MAF may indicate underlying health issues.

MAF training varies by individual. There are no standard 16-week MAF training programs for a particular endurance event.  Therefore, I don’t follow a regimented training schedule. Instead, I stay in tune with how my body is feeling and do what feels right on a particular day.

For the past two months my improvements under MAF have plateaued and my body has felt a bit off…not bad…just not ideal. As a result, I wanted to take a deeper look into my health. Coach Tawnee Prazak started offering a new Advanced Health Coaching (AHC) consultation option which is exactly what I was looking for.

AHC differs from my previous consults with Tawnee in that she also brings in a naturopathic doctor (ND), Erica Cowan, to develop a health plan. AHC includes the following:

  1. Completion of a comprehensive health questionnaire along with providing food logs, sports history, etc.
  2. An initial consult to discuss items in #1 to figure out what lab tests should be ordered and the creation of an initial health plan
  3. Upon receiving lab results, Tawnee and Erica meet for lab analysis and creation of a health plan
  4. A follow-up consult with Tawnee and Erica to discuss the lab results and the corresponding health plan

ND’s put much more emphasis on prevention and holistic wellness (diet, lifestyle change, supplements, etc,) to support the body. They focus on the underlying causes of symptoms and not the symptoms themselves. Conventional medicine has a tendency to focus more on treating the symptoms than figuring out the root cause.

After my initial consult they recommended two lab tests: Genova GI Effects (gut health) and DUTCH Complete (hormones). A few days later they sent me my initial health plan that included recommended diet and lifestyle changes that I can start working on immediately while we are waiting for my test results. Once my test results are in, they will fine tune my health plan with much more detail. Below is a summary of their initial recommendations for me:

  • Reduce FODMAP intake
  • Limit caffeine
  • Limit/eliminate alcohol – preferably 1 month of no alcohol
  • Screen cleanse – eliminate screens after 7-8pm
  • Keep a food journal – note foods that make me feel great or trigger negative issues
  • Stick with MAF training
  • Find activities for de-stressing/parasympathetic activation
  • Turn Wifi off at night

As far as implementing the above recommendations…it is still a work in process across many of the items. One great comment that Erica made in an email to me was “Lifestyle changes are often the hardest to implement, but also the most effective!” I 100% agree! Making these lifestyle changes has been difficult. However, even with making some small progressions, I have already noticed improvements with fewer gut issues and an improved MAF pace. Even though it may be hard, it definitely seems to be worth it!

Below is what I’ve been doing to progressively implement the above recommendations:

Reduce FODMAP Intake

Tawnee sent me this great list. It is the best FODMAP foods reference I’ve seen. I eat a lot of vegetables so I was initially discouraged that most of my favorites tended to be in the “more fermentable” categories. However, Tawnee told me there is an individuation aspect to FODMAPs and that is where a food log can be a useful tool. There are indeed certain FODMAP foods that bother me more than others. I’m anxious to get my GI Effects test back to see what is going on with my gut.

Limit Caffeine

I’ve already been working on this one – check out this post. The amount of fully caffeinated coffee I drink now is a fraction of what it used to be.

Limit/Eliminate Alcohol

Ugh! San Diego is the craft beer capital of America and I also enjoy having a glass of wine in the evenings. I have never considered myself a big drinker but I’ve started to realize that I likely drank more often than I thought. My strategies for cutting back have been:

  • Order Pellegrino/sparkling water with lime at restaurants. This helps me feel like I’m getting something special without it being alcohol (helps save some money as well!)
  • When I do drink, I try to keep it to red wines from Dry Farms wine (less alcohol, sulfites and additives)
  • When I just “need” a beer I’ll have a session IPA. Session IPAs have great hop flavor like a standard IPA but the alcohol content in a session IPA is typically in the 3.5% to 5% range vs. the 5.5% to 8% of a standard IPA.

I’m down to having four or fewer drinks per week. However, I’m going to go big…30 days of no alcohol (started yesterday)!

Screen Cleanse – eliminate screens after 7-8pm

Surprisingly, this one has been easier than I thought. I shifted my non-screen activities (cleaning the kitchen, prepping for the next day, etc.) to the evening. I’ll also read a physical book before bed instead of perusing the internet/social media and/or watching TV. This also helps my productivity because I need to get all my necessary “screen work” done by 7-8pm.

Keep a Food Journal

Easy…Evernote – DONE

Stick with MAF Training – No Added Intensity

No problems here either. Except for the occasional spin class that I’ll go to with my wife, all my workouts are at my MAF heart rate. I forwent my normal training buildup to my half Ironman, which I’m only doing for fun with no performance expectations.

Find Activities for De-Stressing/Parasympathetic Activation

I don’t have a good de-stressing routine at the moment. However, I started journaling again in the evenings (which also helps with the screen cleanse). At the end of every day I’ll write down my accomplishments, memorable moments that made me happy/smile/laugh, and other reflections.

Turn Wifi Off at Night

Zero progress here but I have an idea that I’m going to try…

By the time my test results come back in another 3-4 weeks, I’m planning to fully incorporate all these lifestyle changes. Stay tuned…

Endurance Training Pyramid

Balancing Good Health with Ironman Performance Goals

Health before fitness will always be my philosophy. I am under no illusion that doing events like an Ironman, much less racing an Ironman, are necessarily healthy. Long steady state endurance efforts at >75% max heart rate are stressful and, if done chronically without proper recovery, can be downright unhealthy. Even still…I don’t think I will ever be able to shake the dream of qualifying for Kona. This dichotomy between health and Ironman performance goals has been on my mind a lot lately. So I posed a question to the coaches on my favorite podcast, Endurance Planet, about just that.

My question: Long duration tempo efforts are going to be necessary to build the strength needed to maintain mechanics/performance in late stages of a race. Therefore, is it even possible to have both aggressive health goals AND long course triathlon performance goals? Would health need to become secondary to fitness at some point during a training cycle?

Their short answer: Health should always come first and fitness is second. An athlete needs to be in good enough health so that they CAN allow themselves to go into a TEMPORARY health deficit to improve fitness.

I definitely recommend listening to the full discussion (and episode!) on podcast ATC 212.

There were two things that really stuck with me from the podcast discussion:

  1. The stress of training to race an Ironman by itself is an unhealthy endeavor. Adding in family, any type of poor diet, a full-time job, etc. makes an Ironman performance goal even more unhealthy.
  2. A Kona qualification can be achieved at any age. Be patient, get everything in place (e.g., health, family, and job), and pick the most opportune moments to really focus on building fitness. During these blocks it is OK to let health deteriorate a bit.

Based on the podcast discussion, I’ve been rethinking my current training and health strategy and I’ve developed the following framework for myself.

Endurance Training Pyramid

Essentially, the base of the pyramid is the core foundational principles of good health. The next layer focuses on building the groundwork of an endurance athlete. The upper two layers focuses on building fitness. The pyramid shading represents the “healthiness” of each layer.

I still have a ton of room for growth in many of the areas in the first and second layers so I’m not ready to progress to the point of building fitness at the expense of health. Therefore, I need to dial back my performance expectations and be patient with my training. Patience is going to be my secret weapon.

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Strategically Using Coffee to Enhance Cognitive and Endurance Performance

I love coffee. I love the taste, the smell, the effects, the intricacies of different regions/roasts, and the shops that serve it. If I had to give up either coffee or alcohol for the rest of my life…I would give up alcohol…hands down. There are multiple studies touting the benefits of coffee (check out this recent Ben Greenfield podcast titled 63 Cups of Coffee A Day & More: Five Simple Things You Can Do to Live a Longer, Healthier Life that makes the case for drinking a lot of it). Despite all of this…I’m trying to cut back. Here’s why:

Caffeine provides cognitive benefits (#duh) as well as endurance performance benefits. The kicker is that we actually need to be sensitized to caffeine to get the full effects. To get more technical, caffeine binds to adenosine receptors throughout the brain and nervous system.  Adenosine has been correlated with promoting sleep and relaxation and suppressing arousal.  When caffeine binds to adenosine receptors it blocks them from performing this function. However, our bodies are pretty adaptable and will create more adenosine receptors as a result of frequent and consistent caffeine consumption. Therefore, more and more caffeine is needed to create the same effect.

Sure sure…I could just drink even more coffee. However, too much caffeine can deplete the adrenals by constantly triggering the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can break down the body, slow down recovery, and interfere with the production of other hormones (e.g., testosterone).  As someone trying to balance family, career, and triathlon training (and trying to be successful across all three), I definitely wouldn’t consider my life low stress. Therefore, I absolutely don’t want to needlessly trigger my body to release even more cortisol. After all, training sessions don’t make you fit…RECOVERING from training sessions makes you fit. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the body doesn’t physiologically differentiate between life stress and workout stress.

Don’t get me wrong…I will never give up coffee (for many of these hilarious reasons). I also wouldn’t consider myself an over consumer of coffee either. I currently average 2-4 cups a day. For me, coffee is more habitual than it is necessary. If I don’t have my coffee in the morning I’m not going to be a train wreck. My coffee cravings often occur when I need a break or want to relax. In those situations, getting that habitual flavor of coffee is all I’m really looking for. I’ve tried tea during those times but, let’s be honest, tea isn’t coffee.

In order to remain sensitized to caffeine without dramatically reducing my coffee intake I’m doing the following:

  • A smaller cup in the morning – Instead of my giant and delicious 16oz cup in the morning, I’m working myself down to a smaller and equally delicious 8oz. I still get my morning coffee ritual but with a smaller cup.
  • Satisfying habitual cravings with decaf – A pretty obvious strategy. I prefer decaf coffee that uses the non-chemical Swiss Water Method for decaffeination. However, I don’t get too hung up on that.
  • Switching to mushroom coffee – I’m really starting to get into this coffee-cordyceps-1_1024x1024instant coffee with mushroom extract from Four Sigmatic foods for a couple of reasons: 1) It has about half the caffeine of a normal cup of coffee; 2) the mushroom extract in the different varieties provides added health benefits like boosting the immune system (chaga mushrooms), supporting the adrenal glands (cordyceps mushrooms), and nootropic and cognitive boosting effects (lion’s mane mushrooms); 3) the initial taste is unique and earthier than coffee but I really like it.

I’ve been drinking mushroom coffee a couple of different ways by either adding heavy cream and stevia, using it for my fatty coffee w/ butter and coconut oil, or just adding the powder to a normal cup of decaf to amp it up a bit.

  • Decaf “cleanse” every 4-6 weeks – During my cleanse week I’ll switch to a really good bag of decaf coffee like Bulletproof or Counter Culture. I’ll get that habitual, delicious coffee flavor with minimal caffeine. I’m going to try to time the cleanse weeks before race events.

By using the above strategies I’m hoping I can more strategically use fully caffeinated coffee for the performance benefit when I really need to crush a task or a race. Research indicates that having 3-6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight about an hour before an event will provide the most performance benefit. Granted…everyone metabolizes caffeine so I’ll need to experiment with that a bit.

In order to get the biggest bang out of coffee, I just want to make sure my body remains sensitive to caffeine and that means not overdoing the coffee…even though it tastes so good.

Wife Out of Town

Event Recaps: Pier-to-Cove Swim and San Diego International Triathlon

“When the wife is away the husband will play!” That was the theme two weekends ago when my wife was out of town and I did a back-to-back events -> The La Jolla Swim Club Pier-to-Cove swim (1.5 mile ocean swim) on Saturday followed by the San Diego International Triathlon (1k swim, 30k bike, 10k run) by Koz Events on Sunday.

Pier to Cove Swim (1.5 miles)

I signed up for this event on a whim after a co-worker told me about it the week before because it was such a great opportunity to get in some ocean swimming practice/training. Since I have never actually done a legit ocean swim before, I was a tad bit nervous about this event, especially since I just started swim training two weeks prior. As the name implies, the swim course was from the Scripps Pier to La Jolla Cove (~1.5 miles…depending on how straight you swim).

Based on my wetsuit experience in my last race, I decided to go with my sleeveless wetsuit for unimpeded arm mobility. I had my standard fatty coffee in the morning before heading to the event early to ensure I had plenty of time to find parking and check in. Besides reducing pre-race stress, I like getting to events early because it gives me a chance to meet and chat with some of the other racers. I got to talking with some people from Arizona that have done a bunch of different open water endurance swim events. Apparently there is a swim under the Golden Gate Bridge which I’m definitely adding to my bucket list.

The event started on the beach just north of the pier. Since the surf was slightly above average and the cove is just a small sandy beach surrounded by rocks, the event was precluded by a pretty serious (making it almost funny) safety talk by the lifeguards. We had had to swim out past the surf, around the pier, and then south to the cove. I’m so glad I got a pair of prescription goggles because sighting would have been a big challenge otherwise.

At this point, my Midwest roots were getting excited about the novelty of swimming in the ocean. It was a mass start with all 350+ swimmers and was WAY more low-key than a triathlon start. Instead of a full contact battle, we all sauntered out into the waves at the starting siren giving each other plenty of room to swim. Even though I have lived in San Diego for a year now I haven’t been in the ocean much and diving under waves brought my back to playing in the surf when I was a kid. Once I got out past the break I think it was the farthest I’ve ever swam out in the ocean before. I was in new territory!

I gotta say…open water swimming in the ocean is VERY different than the calm lakes of Minnesota. If I couldn’t have seen my progress along the pier I could have sworn I was going backwards at times. Swimming over waves was definitely a unique feeling. It was like swimming up and down hills. Eventually I made it around the pier and started heading south to the cove parallel to the shore. Another thing about ocean swimming is that it was hard to find a rhythm when I was constantly getting pushed around by the water, especially since it was choppy. This made sighting and swimming a straight line a lot more difficult. It got to the point that I never trusted my line so I was constantly trying to look up to sight (not efficient at all) and sometimes when I looked up I was just staring directly into a wave. This was definitely turning out to be a great learning experience.

When I finally made it just outside the surf break by the cove, there was a host of lifeguards given direction so no one ended up getting smashed into the rocks by the waves. Every time I went into a vertical position to listen to the lifeguards my calves and hips starting cramping which was not comfortable. So instead of trying to catch a wave and body surf into shore I was just in survival mode trying not to get thrashed by waves. When I finally did make it to shore it took me a minute to realize that I had to run about 10 more yards to cross the timing mat (hence he goofy grin on my face).

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When I was out of the water and started peeling off my wetsuit I realized how unfortunate it was that I forgot to throw a stick of bodyglide in my gear bag because I had pretty bad case of “rub rash” all around my shoulders (the major downfall of a sleeveless wetsuit).

My total time was was 53:40 which put me in the middle of the pack in all categories (41/84 for the overall wetsuit division; 27/49 of all males; 3/5 in the 30-34 age group)

I grabbed some of the post-race brunch buffet and made the barefoot walk/jog back to my car at the start. Time start prepping and resting for the next day’s triathlon…

San Diego International Triathlon (1k swim, 30k bike, 10k run)

SDIT Logo

Other than my shoulders feeling a bit sore, I felt pretty good in the morning. Per usual…I had my fatty coffee and got to the event early to make sure I got a decent spot in the transition area. I decided to give my full sleeve wetsuit another shot because I couldn’t handle more irritation on the “rub rash” I got from the previous day’s swim. As I got to chatting with another taller guy in the transition area about wetsuits he told me his strategy….basically I had to pull it up way more than I thought and then lean over at the waist to reveal how much more room I had to pull it up. Holy crap! That made all the difference in the world!

Transition Area

I was much more relaxed this go around waiting for the swim start. When we finally got underway and considering my goggles didn’t leak and I wasn’t fighting against my wetsuit sleeves, my swim was already 100% better than my last race. The swim was in Harbor Island’s West Basin, which was basically like swimming in a lake compared to yesterday’s ocean swim. I had some trouble sighting on the 2nd half of the swim because we were looking directly into the morning sun. When I made it to the transition area I figured I was probably in mid-pack (per usual). Going into the race I thought my swim time would be around 20 minutes so I was pleased when I checked my split as I was heading out of transition and I was at 17ish minutes.

I tend to get over excited at the start of the bike and had to remind myself to dial it back when I caught myself overdoing it. The bike course was an out an back that climbed up to the Cabrillo National Monument with two loops at the top before descending back down to the transition area. The two loops had rolling hills which is my favorite terrain. Since my age group was wave 3 it was pretty much wide open road until we started the 2nd loop. Just as I was started to get annoyed from people not obeying the passing lane rules (if you are going to pass…PASS…don’t just ride next to someone and block them from entering the passing lane), I made the turn to head back to the transition area and had open road again. The ride (descent) back was all downhill and was a ton of fun! Nothing like coasting at 38 mph on a wide open straight road! I was thinking the bike was going to take me an hour but when I checked my split as I was heading onto the run course it was around 55 minutes. #Boom

I had a buddy that happened to be in town visiting family over the weekend and their hotel was right along the run course. My swim and bike times had created a bit of a predicament because I was now 10+ minutes ahead of the time I told him that I would probably be running by their hotel. I kept on the lookout but I was sure I missed him when I got to mile three so I just went into focus mode. He did manage to see me though! Thanks for the pic Sean and coming out to spectate!

Sean Pic

The finish line was in Seaport Village so the last two miles were along Harbor drive and went past the USS Midway museum. Since this is such a well-traveled area it was not a closed course at this point. It was kinda weird because here I was in the pain zone near the end of a race running down the sidewalk, mostly by myself, amongst leisurely tourists and families out on a morning stroll. I’m sure I was quite the spectacle for unknowing onlookers.

When I crossed the finish line I still felt pretty good and I definitely didn’t leave everything out on the course. Since I’ve primarily been focusing on long course racing and building an aerobic base, I definitely don’t have that extra gear and top end speed needed for these shorter races. I gotta say…there are some freaking fast people in SoCal!

EventTime
Total Time2:03:03
Swim0:17:50
Bike0:55:15
Run0:49:57

30-34 Division Place: 17/32

It was funny – before the race I was asked what my best event was by a first time triathlete. I told him that I’m pretty average across the board. After looking at my results that was pretty accurate. Swim: 20/32, Bike: 16/32, Run: 18/32.

I didn’t spend much timing hanging around the finish area because my wife was flying back into town just after noon and I still had to get my gear (and myself) cleaned up before she got home so we could spend the rest of the day hanging out.

Overall…a pretty epic weekend!

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Move. Don’t Sit! Using my Workspace for Mobility Training

As I noted in this post on mobility, our body adapts to how it is used most frequently. For that reason, adding movement variety to our day is essential. I usually spend 30-40% of the 168 hours in a week at the office (and that doesn’t include commuting) so what I physiologically do at work has a pretty big influence on my body. Since I have a desk job and don’t want my body to adapt to a sitting position as its natural state (I would prefer to adapt to “endurance beast”), I’m always trying to incorporate different movements throughout the work day while still being uber productive.

Workspace 1

Yep….our dogs to come to work with us almost every day.

So…these are some of the tools and habits that I’ve adopted (…or still trying to adopt) when I’m at my desk to add movement variety to improve my mobility and overall health:

VariDesk Standing Desk – Our company generously offered standing desks when we moved to a new HQ building so I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to get one. This one is especially nice because it is easily adjustable to different heights.

Going Shoeless – Yep…you got it…when I’m using my standing desk I’m usually shoeless. Shoes, especially if they have raised heals, can interfere with proper foot biomechanics. For that reason, I go shoeless as much as possible. Besides, what’s the point of wearing fun socks if you never get to show them off!

Socks

Topo Anti-Fatigue Mat – Standing on hard flat ground for a majority of the day can start to get uncomfortable (especially if you aren’t wearing shoes).  Almost a year ago I supported a crowdfunding campaign for this anti-fatigue mat that helps promote dynamic standing. The reason I love this mat is it offers a variety of foot positions to foster healthier feet.massage_matrix1

Trigger Point Massage Ball – I’ll use this to roll/massage my feet when I’m on conference calls. There is a reason that I seem to be obsessed with my feet. The feet are the foundation of the body and are subject to more wear and tear than any other body part (walking a mile generates more than 60 tons of stress on each foot!!!). Numerous blog posts could be written about the importance of proper foot function for endurance athletes.

standing_desk_geek_no_chairStool (i.e., No Chair!) – When I do sit, I use a stool instead of an office chair. I swapped my chair for a stool for two main reasons 1) I think of chairs as movement junk food so I just keep it out of my space so I’m not tempted and 2) a stool promotes better sitting posture because I’m less likely to tuck my pelvis.

Using different standing positions – I’ll try and vary my standing positions during the day by resting one leg on my stool, balancing on one leg, standing in tree pose, etc. Stability (especially on my left leg) is something that I need to work on according to my FMS test results.150731163841-02-how-to-move-more-exlarge-169

Various Kneeling Positions Instead of Sitting – for even more movement variety when I do need to work on my desk….I’ll kneel in either a lunging position (making sure to switch legs every now and then) or on both knees. This also helps improve stability if I don’t lean on my desk for support.

Movement Break Reminders Every 30-60 Minutes – A couple of months ago I read the book “Don’t Just Sit There” by Katy Bowman, my favorite biomechanist. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has a desk job. It includes tips and videos on how to improve body alignment while sitting and standing, tools and products for your workspace, and key exercises to perform throughout the day. As a result, I set a reminder in Outlook to take a “Movement Break” every 30-60 minutes and I’ll do a variety of different movements and stretches. A few examples from my long list are:

  • Thoracic Stretch
  • Double Calf Stretch
  • Quad Stretch
  • Standing Pigeon Pose
  • Getting down into a deep squat
  • Bending down to touch my toes
  • Standing backbend with arms reaching behind me

Treadmill Desk

Treadmill Desk – the new work environment makes it harder to hit my 7+ hour low level activity target every week (not nearly as many walking statuses/meetings) so I’m trying to get into a better habit/routine of using the treadmill desk we have in our office. My goal is an hour a day but I’m still working on integrating this more.

All of this really has made a difference. My squat depth, mechanics, and stability have noticeably improved over the last few months. I’ve made most of this stuff a routine so I just do it without even thinking about it anymore. I’ve dramatically expanded my daily movement variety without adding ANY incremental time to my day. The power of habit/routines at its best!

So…yeah…my cube setup is unique and anyone watching me most likely thinks I’m a little odd. However…I just like to think I’m ahead of the curve. Laugh now…but I plan to be doing races into my 80s.

Fitzee Meals

Best Meal Service to Enhance Your Life, Health, and Prevent Hangriness

I enjoy cooking. I even enjoy grocery shopping and looking for the healthiest and most nutrient dense foods. I’ve optimized our grocery shopping by using CSAs (for both meat and vegetables) and Thrive Market so most of groceries are delivered to our doorstep. I’ve improved my prep skills and can dice and chop at a respectable rate. I also batch cook whenever possible to minimize setup and cleanup (why make 1 lb of meatballs when 6 lbs can be made with just a bit more time). But the thing is…meal planning and cooking still takes up a ton of time!

As much as I enjoy cooking, it takes away time from family, training, and career. Another major consideration for me is that the kitchen in our new house isn’t open to the living area so I’m completely isolated from the family when I’m cooking and cleaning up. As much as I want to have healthy meals on hand at all times, the reality is that making them isn’t my top priority.

Unfortunately, since I’m in charge of the household meal planning, when cooking doesn’t make the priority list we don’t have meals readily available. This causes one of two things to happen…and usually both 1) we succumb to takeout which can be expensive and usually isn’t healthy (especially when we give into those comfort food cravings when life is crazy) and 2) a hangry wife (NO BUENO!)

As a result, I’ve been trying to find a good meal solution service for the times when cooking won’t fit on the task list. Outsourcing low priority, but essential tasks, can be a great investment. When I factor in meal planning, grocery shopping, prep, cooking, and cleanup, the time element of making meals adds up quickly no matter how much I have optimized the process.

In true accounting/finance nerd fashion, I think about it like this:

If the meal solution service price < my food cost + value of my time – my enjoyment factor, it is worthwhile to outsource.

My time value and enjoyment factor can vary week-to-week depending on the size of the task list (and what comes in our CSA box) so I don’t always want out outsource our meals.

Armed with my equation, I’ve looked into a couple of different meal solution services but they have all had two main issues:

  1. They don’t live up to my food quality standards and I refuse to sacrifice quality for convenience.
  2. They require a subscription so I would be getting and paying meals even if the equation parameters haven’t been met.

However…

I’ve FINALLY found a solution…Fitzee Foods!

Fitzee

Fitzee Foods is the best solution I’ve found for the following reasons:

  1. Their meat quality is top notch (grass fed beef, free range chicken, nitrate and hormone free turkey)
  2. They have meals for all types of dietary preferences (paleo, gluten free, low carb, vegetarian, etc.) so I can easily find meals that have the ratio of protein, fat, and carbs I need depending on my training volume.
  3. There is no subscription so I can ensure I’m maximizing my value equation.
  4. The meals come in different sizes so we can easily eat different things if we can’t agree on what to have.. S/M sizes are great to bring to work for lunches and L/XL sizes are perfect for family dinner.
  5. The containers are oven and microwave safe so there is literally zero clean up time.
  6. Their customer service is outstanding.
  7. Not least of all…they are delicious!

I now keep a handful (or two or three) of Fitzee meals on hand at all times. Ever since I started using Fitzee Foods I have far less stress about meal planning, I have been able to spend more time with my less hangry wife, and I’ve been able to sneak in an extra training session or two during the week.

Fitzee Foods is based in San Diego which makes it extra convenient for me but they also ship nationwide. They are going to be a fridge & freezer staple for a long time to come!

Marathon Finishing Photo

Race Recap: San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

As I noted in my last post about my marathon training, gear, and race nutrition, Sunday, June 5th was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and the first marathon I’ve ran since 2005. This is my full recap of the day and some key learnings that I’ll be applying to my next race:

Race Morning:

I was up and wide awake at 4am! My pre-race breakfast was a glass of water with a heaping teaspoon of baking soda followed by a fatty coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil. I did my final gear check and packed my bag while I drank my coffee and did about 10-15 minutes of foam rolling on my calves and hamstrings because they were feeling a little tight. The start and finish lines were only 2-3 miles from our house so I biked to a spot near the starting area for a nice little warm-up and ate a coconut cream pie Larabar as I walked to starting line at Balboa Park. I made sure to get there early because I wanted to have ample time to get through gear-check and allow for one final porta-potty stop before the start. Good thing I learned my lesson from my last race…the porta-potty lines were crazy town! After about a 30 min wait, I jogged up to my starting corral. I followed some good advice from my buddy Matt and made a last-minute switch to a starting corral that was a tad bit faster than my goaled finish time so I wouldn’t get too bogged down by the crowds of runners at the start. It was a wave start format so each corral of 100-ish runners would start every 1-2 minutes to help prevent congestion of all ~30,000 runners starting at the same time.

First Half of Race:

The weather was turning out to be a perfect June gloom so it wasn’t hot and sunny like the forecast. The temperature was going to be in the mid-60s with some humidity. I took down a packet of Vespa right before I lined up in my starting corral. The starting line had lots of energy and was definitely living up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme! I was extra conscious about pacing in the beginning with a plan to start out at a pace that felt a little slow. I wanted to burn all my matches in the last 10 miles vs. being one of those runners that ends up walking in the end because they started too fast. I found a comfortable pace that was about 30-45 seconds faster than my MAF pace making sure I could easily breathe through my nose. The first 13.1 was pretty uneventful other than a quick bathroom stop at the halfway point. The only nutrition I took in was water and some Vespa (I planned to take one packet of Vespa every hour).

Back Half of Race:

This is where I started using my nutrition. I had a handheld with a coconut water chia seed slurry (see my last post for details) that I started sipping on just past the halfway point. I was feeling confident through mile 15 because my pace was steady and lots of people were walking by this time (probably because they started way too fast). At this point I was projecting my finish time to be around 3:50. Mile 18ish is when my legs started to feel it. Aerobically I was still feeling good but pace was slowing, the terrain was slightly uphill, and I was losing my form. Then I hit mile 21…which was basically when the course went up a mountain (maybe a slight exaggeration…but just slight…) for the next 1.5 miles…and this nearly crushed me. I knew I had a little cushion to break 4 hours (the top end of my goal) but it was getting dicey. I realized I couldn’t run up this mountain without completely blowing up so I felt forced to walk/jog as fast as possible.

Marathon Coure Profile

Marathon Course Profile

When I finally got to the top I knew I had to red-line it if I wanted to break 4 hours. There is a point in every marathon when it becomes all mental and this was that point for me. This is where having a reason and purpose for doing hard things is critical because you are going to need that when everything starts to hurt. It was weird…I don’t remember much between 23-25 other than trying to rest my eyes and take a nap while running. When I finally got downtown San Diego with about 1 to 1.5 miles left I knew it was going to be close. I was basically panic running at this point hoping the finish was around every turn. When I finally saw it I used everything left in the tank and crossed at 3:59:19…too close for comfort! I think the last 2-3 miles were the fastest of the entire day (going downhill definitely helped)!

Post Race:

After finishing it took every bit of energy to not sit down in the middle of the finish chute. I leaned on a barrier for a bit trying not to pass out. When I walked through the finish area I destroyed all the food they were handing out (chocolate milk, protein bars, chips, whatevs!). Walking around the finish area and biking home really helped my legs feel better. I spent the rest of the day moving around and helping my wife with errands/chores. Not only does staying active help with recovery but staying productive after an event (or long workout session) is key to keeping the family happy and getting approval to do more events in the future! I finally collapsed into bed exhausted at 8pm.

Key Learnings:

  1. I need to improve leg strength to help maintain form in the late stages of the race  strength training, longer tempo runs, and intervals/hill work.
  2. Pay more attention to course profile when training. I would have added some more hill work late in my long runs to prep for that last mountain climb.
  3. I still need to dial in my race nutrition because it felt a little too light (along with continuing to improve my aerobic system/fat burning). I’m also a really salty sweater apparently:

Salt

Splits:

My time goal going into the race was 3:45 to 3:59. I’ve never broken a four-hour marathon before!

PointTimePace
5k0:27:068:44
10K0:54:508:56
13.11:54:288:40
20M2:58:369:18
Finish3:59:199:48
Avg Pace9:09

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San Diego Marathon Training, Gear, and Race Nutrition

This Sunday is the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and the first marathon I’ve ran since 2005. Even though my training hasn’t been on point with a few disaster weeks thrown into the mix, I’m excited! This is my first “A” race of the year and my first endurance performance test in a long time. The following is an overview of my training, gear, and race nutrition plan:

Training:

I’ve been following the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method training philosophy.  I gravitated towards the MAF Method because it is a holistic approach in which performance, health, and lifestyle are all intertwined. Fitness and health are NOT the same thing. Ryan Hall is a recent example of an elite endurance runner that announced a surprising early retirement this year due to health concerns. I have no interest in sacrificing health for athletic performance.

The basic theory behind MAF training is most workouts should be done at, or below, the maximum aerobic heart rate, which is estimated to be 180 minus your age (in my case that is 147). As soon as my heart rate exceeds my aerobic max, I need to slow down/walk until it falls back below. With training, the body should get faster and more efficient at an aerobic heart rate. There are athletes that can run 6-ish min miles at a comfortable aerobic heart rate.

The magic of improving the aerobic system is that the body primarily burns fat for energy in an aerobic state. Fat burning is metabolically healthier and provides many other health benefits (more on that another time) than relying on glucose (i.e., carbs and sugar). This also means I don’t need to ingest as many carbs in a race to maintain performance. Besides…nobody really likes gels anyway.

The biggest drawbacks to the MAF method is that it requires patience and is very individualistic. You won’t be able to find a 16 week MAF training plan template online. Additionally, lifestyle factors (e.g., stress and diet) can inhibit training improvements. Therefore, if you aren’t seeing improvements in your pace at maximum aerobic heart rate, it may be caused by other health factors outside of training. There are a lot of nuances with this approach (e.g., when is OK to exceed maximum aerobic heart rate) and is the main reason why I’ve been consulting with Coach Tawnee (she is a MAF Method expert). So…if you are looking for quick performance results or just want a standard 16 week training plan..this method won’t be for you. However, if you want to be a lifelong athlete with good health…this approach is the way to go!

My typical PLANNED weekly training schedule over the last 6-8 weeks is below. Now…PLANNED is much different than ACTUAL. With our home renovation, move and work schedule…a perfect week of training was rare:

Run frequency of 4-5x per week:

  • 2 x 45-75 minutes runs at MAF heart rate in a fasted state (no eating beforehand)
  • 1 x intense run session with intervals ranging from 20 seconds to ½ mile or a moderate tempo session
  • 1 x long run at MAF heart rate with a goal of three 20 milers before the marathon. These can include fast finishes and should be used to practice race nutrition

Additionally, for some cross training, recovery, and to ease into triathlon training, 2-3 bike sessions and a few weekly swim sessions should be thrown into the mix as well. Mobility work should also continue to be a daily practice.

Check out my last training post if you want to see my build-up to the above.

Gear:

IMG_1606

Shoes: I’m a believer in minimalist footwear and allowing the foot to work as designed without interfering with too much support or cushion. I love Skora shoes and I’m currently using their Tempo model.

Socks: Nearly as important as shoes for long distance running in my mind. For the marathon and long runs I wear Wrightsocks. I use the Running II model which are double layered and are basically blister proof. They aren’t ideal on hot days because of the thickness but otherwise they are amazing.

Shirt & Shorts: I’m not too particular about either. I’m fine with a basic light weight tech t-shirt that wicks and I prefer running shorts that have a built in lining. I seem to mostly have C9 and Lululemon apparel though.

Sunglasses: I had enough eye problems as a kid that I don’t want to muck with contacts and putting stuff in my eye. Therefore, I need prescription sunglasses that allow for a fairly strong prescription. Rudy Project sunglasses have prescription inserts that do just that. The outer, non-prescription lens on the pair I have changes based on the brightness so I can also use them like straight-up glasses in low light.

Water Bottle: I like to carry some of my own hydration and I prefer a handheld water bottle to a belt. Running with a belt that is bouncing (no matter how well it fits) drives me crazy. I use this 16oz model from Amphipod. It is really comfortable, doesn’t leak, and has a pocket to carry additional nutrition (or cellphone, keys, ID, etc.) Speaking of nutrition….

Race Nutrition:

I try to avoid the franken-sugary gels and sports drinks that are on the course. Since I’ve been training my body to run more efficiently on stored body fat, I’m not planning to take in a ton of exogenous calories.

Sports Drink: I’m going to use a homemade sports drink consisting of coconut water, chia seeds, honey, and some sea salt. I’ll use about 1 to 1.5 Tbsp of chia seeds per 16oz of water and about a 3:1 ratio of chia seeds to honey. The chia seeds turn into little gummy balls and it looks gross….but is actually delicious!

Gel Alternative: Instead of gels, I’ll take in one pouch of Vespa immediately before the race and then one per hour during the race. Vespa has a peptide that supposedly helps the body use fat for fuel. Sounds a bit hokey and woo-woo but I actually noticed a difference on my training runs. Since each pouch is only 18 calories, the boost definitely wasn’t coming from the calories.

The weather forecast for Sunday is looking perfect so it should be a good time! If anyone has any interest in tracking me you can do so HERE. Wish me luck!