Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vegas 2013 - Heat Acclimation Tips

--Suggestions for successful heat acclimation at end of post; you won't offend me if you skip down.--

The latest issue of LAVA arrived recently and among great articles about the winners an even more enlightening article was written by Jordan Rapp about his own failed performance. He breaks down what went wrong and the likely explanations. What hit me the most about this article was not the content, although it was strikingly similar to my own Vegas problems, but the speed at which he processed it into written thought. I am much more eager to write about success than failure, although we usually learn more from the latter, hence the three month delay on this post.
Before I get into the acclimation issues, here are some brief thoughts on the race itself. Race morning dawned, oddly enough, with rain and cooler than expected temperatures. My swim was similar to last year with a 31:52 and it was a struggle to find a rhythm with my toes cramping up after the half way point. The rain continued for the first half of the bike or so at which point it began to get warm and steamy. The bike felt good until about the last major uphill in which my legs completely left me and turned what was looking like a comfortable sub 2:30 into a 2:33. Out on to the run my pace did not match my effort and I was running slow. Just as I did the previous year, and despite trying to cool myself every way I could, I was bent over on the side of the road at mile 10 trying to figure out what went wrong. I jog/walked the last 3 miles dragging myself to the line with my slowest half marathon ever (1:49) and my slowest 70.3 ever 4:59.
What did go wrong?
Similar to Jordan I made the mistake of not being completely acclimated to the heat. Although it makes me feel slightly better that a professional who races much more often than myself would make a similar mistake, this is little consolation since I have made this mistake several other times. I should have prepared properly given past experiences, not the least of which was at the same race the previous year. Like Jordan I have a proven strategy I've used to prepare for races in the heat which involves uncomfortable methods such as no fans, extra clothing, and space heaters if needed in the weeks leading up to the race. Ironically, my best acclimation preparation has come early in the season when I was most worried about coming from a cool climate to a warm climate. Upon further break down of every single half ironman distance race in the last three years (not kidding) I also noticed several other trends in the successful races including at least four days of QUALITY acclimation training per week in the previous three weeks. Both the frequency and type of acclimation training were likely my major downfall as I still performed my acclimation training as I had in the past, albeit with less frequency and trying to substitute overdressed outdoor cycling with indoor trainer riding without a fan.
Other readings have confirmed these methods such as successes had by Ron Daws in preparation for the hot olympics coming from mild climate (T. Noakes, The Running Lore). Perhaps I am more predisposed to heat exhaustion thanks to my northern upbringing or just plain old genetics. But I have seen others find success with this obstacle. Regardless, though I feel like looking for all cool climate races next year, I know I must further make adjustments in my training to reduce the chances of heat exhaustion so I can attempt more warm weather races.

Final thoughts for heat acclimation...
1) I have never had luck cooling myself during a race in which I was overheating. It's like using a garden hose on a house fire. It will get you to the finish but nowhere near your goal pace.
2) Obviously, the ideal way to acclimate is to arrive at the race site several weeks prior to the race. Lets be honest if you have a job other than professional triathlete it ain't happening.
3) Tolerance to heat needs to be built up in the 3-4 weeks (minimum) prior to the race with acclimation workouts of overdressing, turning off fans indoors and space heaters if needed to bring air temperature and humidity up.
4) Acclimation workout duration or intensity needs to be gradually increased over at least 3-4 weeks which can be a bit difficult to mesh with reduced training of a taper. In Noakes' book (The Running Lore) he recommends building from 30 min to 120 min and using your long run. When I've tried to do too much too late and close to the race I just end up getting heat exhaustion in the workout itself, which is obviously counterproductive. START EARLY!
5) Running with over dressing and indoor cycling workouts are the easier methods to obtain the desired core temps.
6) Hydrate to thirst (T. Noakes, Waterlogged). Have available liquids for what your body is actually experiencing and desiring, not the current outdoor temperature.
7) Be safe and listen to your body.

Here is a related article from Torbjorn Sindballe with a similar protocol.ørn-sindballe’s-perspective-heat-management-through-acclimatization_4889

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Triathlon Training Camp

As much as I love sitting on my trainer and riding the flat roads of central KS day in and day out eventually the hills beckon to prepare for the up coming season end championship races. I say that only half sarcastically because in reality I really don't mind my normal training regimen which enables me to hang out closer to home. But I know if I truly want to give an honest effort at a hilly course like 70.3 Worlds in Las Vegas I must do the training to help better prepare. To that extent I have done some short , albeit intense, weekend training camps away from home the past couple years in the time lead up. This year I chose to do several of these, each with a different focus. I have a favorite training spot with a few hills on the Smokey Valley Road by Lindsborg. I visit there periodically and went out there a few weeks prior to my Branson training camp to get the legs thinking about hills again before the bigger ones in Branson. There are only a few hills so it's a better place to do repeats than anything.
For the second year I attended Joe Company's (Endurance Company) training camp at Branson, MO. The timing of this camp works out nicely as it is three weeks out from Worlds and is definitely the hardest weekend of training I have all year. I have written about the training from last years camp in a previous post (here) and we followed a similar regimen of swimming in Table Rock, cycling on the High Road, and brick running; as well as reconing the Branson Rev 3 course. Joe pulled out all the stops this year and improved an already great camp by bringing in retired pro cyclist Scott Moninger (below) and dietician Cassie Dimmick. Both were amazing and offered up an amazing amount of information.
Joe does a great job to keep all the workouts flexible so you can do more or less mileage as desired. I would highly recommend it, especially if you plan to do the Rev 3 race in the future. 
I finished off my block of training by trying a new location at Wilson Lake near Wilson, KS on I70 between Salina and Hays. This is a terrific spot if you're within a couple hours with both short and long climbs for biking and minimal traffic. Not to mention they boast having the clearest lake in KS. I tried it out and they weren't lying according to the few lakes I've been in. They also have one of the best mountain bike trails in KS with the Swtichgrass Trail. I caught some glimpses of the trail hugging the lake side cliffs and will definitely go back to test it out.
We will see if these training camps pay dividends come Sunday. On to Vegas.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mid Summer Race Report

Ironman Kansas 70.3 is forever my unicorn. That's a "Gone in 60 Seconds" reference if you haven't seen it. Fabled creature…impossible to capture despite numerous attempts. Although last year's race was somewhat a departure from this with a 2nd AG 7th AM, there always seems to be a number of things that go wrong. I'm starting to think it could be me. This year, coming off of a better than expected 28.57 swim, a guy spilled his bike right in front of me on our way out of transition and I had no where to go but over his bike and to the ground. This was not the end of my race but it did epitomize what has become my unicorn. After a solid 2.19 bike I finished with a ho-hum 91min run. I did get the opportunity pre-race at the Tri Club lunch to meet the two eventual pro winners: 5 time world champ Craig Alexander and Emma-Kate Lidbury. The best thing about this race has been my brother's resilience to continue to come watch my attempts.
The rest of my June and July race schedule were my usual stops at El Dorado and Mudwater Triathlons, both of which I won. At El Dorado I had the pleasant surprise of receiving a new Coleman travel grill for my victory (below). At Mudwater we had a rain delay and then a shortened bike course to make sure we got it in. This made things more interesting as my chief competition for the day, Jeff Francis, is a much stronger swimmer than myself so I would not have as much room to reel him in. It took me the entire 15M bike to ride down his 4 minute swim lead and then finished off the race with a 36.37 10k to secure the win.

Monday, May 27, 2013

6 peat, 3 peat, and a flat tire

The weekend following Galveston I got right back at the local tri circuit and defending my title at the Spring Migration Triathlon. This race is almost always the windiest I do all year and this year was no different. It's a true Kansas race and I enjoy the challenge it presents. Although it was not one of my faster performances on the course it was a good effort coming off the half iron the week before.
Two weeks later we were on our way to Columbia, MO for TriZou. Not counting the year I wrecked this race has been good to me with a couple of amateur titles and now three elite titles. We love staying with Joe and Amy Company and it's been fun watching our families grow year to year to where our kids are now old enough to interact and play together. RD Mark Livesay once again trusted me with the mic so I could thank my beautiful wife, coach, and the amazing people of Columbia I get to hang out with for a weekend every year.

Last weekend we let our sense of adventure finally get the better of us as we decided to camp out the night before KS 5150. Now we love to camp, but this time we had a 10 month old and there was severe weather in the forecast. Severe weather in KS in May means thunderstorms and high winds at the best and tornadoes at the worst. By midnight the storms hadn't even arrived yet and Stephan had already decided he didn't want to sleep. I ended up sitting with him in the van and watching the storms come and go as Yvette and Corynn held down the tent and actually got a little sleep. In the morning the lightening had not subsided and the race was delayed a half hour. Once we got underway at 8am they had cancelled the swim despite clearing conditions and we headed out in TT start format on the bike.
I rode solid, however my day would be plagued with bike problems; first a chain that jumped off a pulley and I had to dismount to pop it back on, then with two miles to go a punctured tire (glass?) which was big enough that the fix-a-flat couldn't seal it and I had to pull off the rear wheel and change the tube. All in all I lost about 6 1/2 minutes according to my garmin. That is also about the time I lost by overall so it may have been a close race for the win but that's all part of racing and I was glad to rally for the day's best amateur run split. 
 In two weeks I'm back on the same course at Clinton State park for Kansas 70.3. Hopefully the result is a little better.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ironman Texas 70.3

This was my second year to put Texas 70.3 on the schedule. Last year I flew down (Texas 70.3 2012) but this year I decided to make the long drive with my good friend Bob Sanderson. He was also interested in competing and since we had taken a road trip last year (Branson Training Camp) we thought we would double our distance and head out again.
Race day was a beautiful one with temps in the low 70's and a light breeze coming off the gulf. The swim was uneventful, and having only several swim workouts under my belt due to a shoulder issue that had me out of the pool for a month, I settled in with the goal of completion. The result was far better with my shoulder behaving and getting around in around 31 minutes. I was looking more forward to the bike and run which have both been going well in training this year. My fitness proved to be coming along and I cruised the bike course 11min faster (2.16) than last year and followed it up with a similar 1.22 run as last year. Total time was 4.14 and a PR for the distance which was a nice bonus. As you can see from the picture we both took honors in our age group...Bob 2nd in the 60-64 and myself 3rd in 30-34 (12th overall amateur). We had a great time and I'm sure this won't be the last of our road trips.
A week later I successfully defended my title for the 6th time at Spring Migration Triathlon, Emporia, KS.
This week, in what has become a family favorite, we head back to Columbia, MO for TriZou sprint triathlon for the 7th year. This race has garnered quite a bit of history for me with my first big amateur win my first year there, two elite title wins in TriZou 2011 and TriZou 2012, as well as the many great people we have gotten to know there including our home stay for the last few years with my great friend and advisor Joe Company and his family.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BXC Pro Bike Fit

Throughout my early harrier days as a high school and college cross country runner, and then as I transitioned into triathlon, my training and racing philosophy has always been old school. Keep it simple, train hard and long, and race without holding back. I figured if I'd done the work in practice it wouldn't matter how many grams I was saving with part A over B. As I've gotten farther into my amateur triathlon racing career I have slowly become more interested in how attention to some of the details can benefit extra speed as well as stay injury free to hopefully lengthen the years I am able to race at a competitive level.
An example of this was my decision to add regular massage to my regimen last year which I have continued now for about a year and a half. Working with Eddie Ulloa at his Eddie U. Massage Clinic has added another level to my recovery and performance that I didn't previously have and frankly didn't think I needed. A second example was partnering with my coach, Joe Company, who has provided great feedback on my training.
This off-season I wanted to take a deeper look at my riding position. As I mentioned I wasn't too particular on details early on so in 2004 I bought my first tri bike based purely on what appeared to be the best buy in my price range for that year's models. I performed a quick search to determine the preferred body angles for the tri position since I already had access to the measurement equipment in our exercise science lab at OU. Once I was in the ballpark I adjusted until I had achieved comfort.
After eight years riding in pretty much that first position I decided it was time to have a professional bike fitter give me some feedback. I used Patrick Scanga at Bicycle X-Change in Wichita, KS who I have a good relationship with and trust his opinion. If you want to make a family outing of it like we did my wife and kids had a good time searching for the downtown troll sculpture while Pat and I got to work.
I found this to be a very educational experience. Although I thought I was aware of my position on the bike there were just some things that could only be noticed by the trained eye of another observer. Because we are all different shapes and sizes having a trained eye to make adjustments to position, and even equipment if necessary, to achieve YOUR ideal fit can have a big impact on both comfort and performance. If, like me, you never took the time for this important step it is never too late. I think you will be surprised how a Pro Bike Fit could benefit your riding. Additionally, your body undergoes change as you age including your strength and flexibility. This was part of my reason for working with Pat since I have had some injuries and no longer am able to ride the position I started with. Likewise, if you're just getting started I recommend getting a Pro Bike Fit, or even the less expensive Performance Bike Fit depending on your goals, as part of your initial investment with purchase of bike and accessories. Your fit on the bike will have as much, or likely more of a factor on performance than the bike itself.
What can you expect? After spending time with Pat I would say you can expect a quality fitter to assess your individual needs such as biomechanics, flexibility, experience, riding goals, etc. You can expect to spend probably 45-60 minutes; and although their will be a fee for the service think of this as part of your investment that is just as important as your choice of pedals, shoes, and the bike itself. Then you can hit the roads this spring with the confidence you're dialed in with your machine.