Category Archives: Training

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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!

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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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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:

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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!

Coach Tawnee

My First Coaching Consultation and Adding Training Volume

The 2016 race season is approaching so it is time to start focusing on increasing my fitness and training volume. In the past, I always got by with self-coaching and building my own training plan using the principles in Joe Friel’s book The Triathlete Training Bible. However, since my ultimate dream goal is a Kona Qualification, which will require significant performance improvement, it is time to admit that I need help from an expert. A good coach should provide an objective viewpoint that a self-coached athlete would never get and help across all aspects of racing (race planning, training, nutrition, technique, gear, etc.).

Additionally, I wanted to get a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Having the ability to go through a full range of movement and the stability to control that movement is paramount to avoiding injury. A FMS is basically a series of seven movements to identify limitations and asymmetries in movement patterns. A score of zero to three is given for each movement. This score is then used to identify the best corrective exercises to restore optimal movement patterns. As I noted in a previous post, I don’t exactly have the best mobility (being tall and lanky isn’t so helpful in this area) so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any major mobility issues before ramping up training volume. I’m in this for the long game and don’t want to be suffering overuse injuries in the future.

I knew straight away who I wanted as a coach, Tawnee Prazak, endurance coach extraordinaire and host of my favorite podcast, Endurance Planet. She also has a great blog at tritawn.com. I love her holistic approach and focus on overall health vs. just athletic performance. She is based in SoCal so when we moved to San Diego I had to see if she would be willing to meet with me. I couldn’t believe it when she responded to my email and agreed to a consult because she is essentially a celebrity trainer in the endurance world.

It was about an hour drive to the Laguna Beach area where her gym is located. I was actually pretty nervous to meet her, which didn’t turn out to be a problem because she was super welcoming and we got straight down to business. We discussed my goals, why I raced, my previous training history and results, why now was a good time to get back into racing, and lifestyle factors that went way beyond just training and racing (family, diet, stress, career, etc.). It was an amazing conversation that lasted nearly an hour but felt more like 5 minutes. After our conversation she took me through a FMS which taught me a lot about my body. For an added bonus, I got to meet her mom on the way out!

About a week later Tawnee sent me the result of my FMS. I scored a 12, not great but better than I expected. A “passing” score is 15 or greater with no scoring imbalances between the right and left side and no scores of 1 on a movement. I had imbalances in my shoulder mobility (lingering high school football injury) and got a 1 on the deep squat and inline lunge.

She also sent me a list of corrective exercises, where to focus my training, and a suggested weekly training schedule. One thing I like about Tawnee’s coaching philosophy is that she won’t just build someone a training plan for the season to blindly follow. She is either going to be your full-time coach or just help provide direction through a consult, which is what I did. I still like to think I know enough about training and nutrition that I don’t need a full-time coach (yet).

The following are some of the key takeaways and things she told me to work on:

  1. Relationships need to come first
  2. Training volume needs to be at least 10 hours per week (this can include walking).
  3. Increasing running volume is the primary objective (especially with my upcoming marathon) with a focus on aerobic training by keeping my heart rate below MAF (essentially 180 minus your age). No intensity until I feel stronger and fitter.
    • At least three run sessions per week with a key long run session that should progressively build to three hours (not including a walking warm-up and cool-down)
    • Some weeks should include Triple Runs (30-60 min morning run, 30-60 min evening run, and another 30-60 min morning run)
  4. Mobility work should be done everyday using a list of exercises she gave me based on my FMS results.
  5. Two days a week of cross training: strength training, swimming, biking, or weighted hiking. I’ve primarily been doing strength training with a focus on stability exercises using another list of exercises based on my FMS results.
  6. Two days a week are open and should focus on active recovery and fun: yoga, focused mobility, easy swimming/cycling, paddle boarding, etc.

I’ve been following this program for about two weeks now and I feel phenomenal! I haven’t been tracking my workout results because I’m just trying to focus on workout consistency to start but I can already feel improvement. I don’t have a heart rate monitor yet so I’ve been relying on perceived exertion on my runs vs. my actual heart rate. That is soon going to change because I just ordered a Timex heart rate monitor for less than $50. A heart rate monitor will also open the door to fitness testing to track training effectiveness and results.

i gotta say…this coaching consult was well worth the investment! I’ll definitely be scheduling another one soon.

Happy training!