Sunday, December 8, 2013

Physiology of Run Training

     Since it's the end of my semester, and I am just starting training again, I decided to make a series of posts regarding the training for triathlon (or the sports individually) from a physiological perspective and how it relates to what we as athletes do every day.

     I want to start with running for a few reasons. First, it's usually my favorite activity, I am currently coaching at high school team, and I have read a lot into the physiology of it and include that in my master's thesis.

     For triathletes, usually the "season" takes off in early spring and culminates around the fall. Most athletes, myself included, will train for two peaks within a season; one in the late spring, and the second in the fall. Because of this, I think it is very important to start finding the events in which you wish to race early, and you can plan your training from there.

     I think it is rudimentary to look at phases of training as black and white. Traditionally, a season of run training may look something like: 6-8 weeks of base, 4-6 weeks of aerobic specific training (tempo runs, fartleks, etc), and finally shorter speed training for the last few weeks of the season. While this is a pretty good plan, I think it is important to blend each of these phases while training.

    Backing up, lets delve into some of the physiology behind running fast. Your training should reflect well upon your racing goals. The first variable of importance will be lactate threshold. This is the point where your body cannot buffer lactic acid anymore because you are consuming more oxygen than you can take in and process. When exercising at a lower intensity, you are generally in what is known as "aerobic" exercise. Enough oxygen is present to fulfill the requirements of glycololysis (the method for which ATP is produced). As the intensity increases, the body requires more oxygen to keep up with the muscles' increased work load. At a certain point, the intensity crosses a point known as the lactate threshold, and the lactic acid produced as a byproduct of glycolysis can no longer be "buffered" by carnosine, and the body can only exercise in this "anaerobic state" for a few minutes. Because this lactate threshold pace is a pace that many 5k-10k runners and spring to olympic distance triathletes must operate in, I think it is very important to be cognizant of it and how to improve it.
   
    In order to improve lactate threshold, it is good to run at or around that pace for an extended period of time (no surprises here). The best way to know this pace would be from a lactate analysis in a physiology lab, but it can be reasonably estimated from various online calculators. One of my favorite ones is http://www.mcmillanrunning.com. I think it can overestimate training paces at times, but it is not a bad idea to follow. To improve lactate threshold, tempo runs can help tremendously. During the winter or build season, I like to do longer tempo runs of 8-10 miles slightly slower than lactate threshold pace because it works a bit more on strength that will be called upon later. I will shorten those tempo runs to the calculated lactate threshold pace as the spring comes and races are closer. These workouts are a staple of my "base training" plan. I like to try to get on soft surfaces and run them off the track during the winter, but as they approach pace, I think they are good to do on a track where you can consistently measure times. Keep in mind, these runs are getting faster through the year, and by race season, they are to be done at a pace that will lower your lactate threshold or "LT". If you run way faster than your threshold, you will be unable to complete the 20-30 minutes of LT running, so it is good to lock into your goal LT pace. This is generally slightly slower than goal 10K race pace. Keep in mind, these runs at LT are only a piece of the picture.

    Next up is the long run. For triathletes, I think it is important to get a long run in for musculophysical reasons. Running long (25% or so of your weekly mileage). The long ride for triathletes takes care of some advances of long runs because your body becomes more efficient at fueling itself, but I think they are both necessary. For running specifically, the long run is a great workout and should be a staple of most build phases. Not only does it make the legs stronger physically (often a limiting factor in races 5K and up), but it also is a good mental test. I like to get 2- hour long runs in the winter at a pretty good base pace. You can find some recommended base paces, but from a physiological perspective, you want to run fast enough to be working, but not getting close to LT or a workout pace. From early Lydiard running days, the long run was emphasized for all runners racing events from 800 meters to the marathon. I believe there is a good reason to develop the aerobic system for all athletes as well, and the long run is a good method to improve musculoskeletal fitness. Furthermore, for marathon and ironman athletes, the long run allows for practice of proper fueling for the race. Practicing eating those foods which you hope to consume in the race. The long run can continue well into the season, but during the race season, the total distance should decrease with the intention of maintenance rather than lengthening.

     VO2 max is sort of a "buzz word" in running physiology. VO2 max is the maximal uptake of oxygen your body can consume during exercise. There are a number of apparatuses a VO2 max test may be done on, but for most, a treadmill will elicit the highest number (because more muscle groups are being worked, and therefore more oxygen must be proliferated). The VO2 max test consists of slowly increasing the grade and speed of a treadmill while monitoring VO2 and respiratory exchange ratio. (the ratio of oxygen consumed and CO2 expelled). A VO2 max test may also be estimated from an all out 6-8 minute run. There are more tables that will estimate VO2 max from 5K times. I do not think the actual number is completely necessary, but rather training of this "physiological ceiling" is important. Your VO2 max is as efficient as your body can be, and it is not highly trainable. When you do VO2 max workouts, they are very high intensity, and should be introduced about 3-4 weeks before your races start. As the season goes on, it is important to work more on VO2 max workouts than the others. An example of a VO2 max workout that I like is 6-8*600 or 5* 1000 meter repasts around 3200 or 3k pace. This should be a pretty intense session, and the rest should be 3 minutes or so. I like to get the 'feel' of running at this VO2 max pace. it is pretty well corroborated with 3K race pace, so it is likely faster than you will ever be running in a triathlon, but it is important to be efficient at this pace, so slower paces also become more efficient.

     The last topic I want to mention is maximal speed. I think there are usually two very polar schools of thoughts on this. One thinks it is of upmost importance in olympic distance racing and 5k-10k work, and the other thinks it is completely unimportant. As usual, the truth lies in the middle. It is important to have a fast top end speed for efficiency, but should not be the top point of emphasis. For this, during the build phase, 6-10 strides after maintenance runs help to maintain foot speed. Later in competition, workouts such as 10 200s with 200 recovery at mile race pace, followed by 10 200 uphills are good ways to maximize neurological efficiency and maximize your speed. These fast pace efforts can include "hill sprints' or 10- second hard efforts up hills at the end of maintenance runs to improve biomechanics and neurological efficiency.

As a finishing part of this post, it is important to run fast if you wish to race fast! Just consistent slow running can only get you fit, but not sharp. Doing faster pace efforts are beneficial to everybody! But, caution should be taken to ensure proper recovery from them.

Here is a sample outline of a mini season (6 month block) of just the run training.
Weeks 1-6 include building mileage and varying the paces of runs. Not every run should be the same pace! Strides should be done every run and hill sprints 1-2 times per week. A weekly long run should be added (20% of total mileage for runners only, and likely more for triathletes since they are not getting high running numbers). On days when you feel good, pick up the pace and see how it feels. Designate one or two days where you can do a fartlek such as 1 minute on/1 off, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4 and back down.
Weeks 7-12 Should continue emphasis on strength with longer LT runs. Find the level for which you are comfortable to run a bit slower than your LT pace for 40-60 minutes. Long runs should stay at a good distance. Strides should be continued. Hill repeats are another good workout to do for strength during this time. I would structure a week something like
     M- Maintenance run with 6-10 strides, T- Hill repeats, W- X train or easy run Th- Maintenance run with strides, F- 40-60 minutes slightly slower than LT pace Sat- Easy and Sun- Long run
Weeks 12-16 Now, racing is usually looming, and it is important to begin running at a pace where you want to race. Tuesdays can be switched for harder VO2 max type work, and tempos can be slightly shorter but faster. The long run is less important to be lengthy, and recovery becomes more important.
End of the cycle Continuation of what you are doing with the inclusion of some fast efforts well below race pace and all other workouts look to recover. 10- days out of a peak race, I like to do a hard session to lower muscle pH and simulate the race conditions well.

That is my running philosophy and some vague ideas about running. If you have any specific training or physiology questions, please do not hesitate to e- mail me at dan.feeney31@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013 In Review

So it has come to the end of the triathlon season where seasonal reports abound and mixed feelings about the season usually hover in the air. It is a time for reflection on the year, your career thus far, and what you hope to accomplish in the future. Here is a short recap after I graduated undergrad at University of Delaware in Exercise physiology with minors in chemistry and spanish.

During the early season, I opened up at two continental cups in Florida, with a 29th in Clermont and a flat out in Sarasota. Pretty bummed about those, but prior to flatting in Sarasota, I had been in the mix for a top 10 finish. That gave me confidence moving forward.

Following those races, I had a fire inside me from a missed opportunity. I raced the Delaware Valley Duathlon, a local duathlon on a hilly course in 30 degree tempos. I won and set a current course record in the process, opening with a 15:39 5k leg on a hilly XC type course and gaining a minute on the closest racer.

Myself, Dave Slavinski (2nd), and Holden Comeau (3rd)



Following that, I raced in Barbados for my highest ever continental cup placing, 7th with the 3rd fastest run split. A recap of the race is shown here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTg4GZXQjXw
It was a rainy and difficult race, but I had a great outcome and I was excited.
Coming out of the chase pack racing hard
I ambitiously raced two non drafting races following Barbados in Knoxville for REV 3 knox and the 5150 Colombia Triathlon placing 19th and 12th respectively. Those were tough races for me with not having the top end 40K bike to really compete. I was still very happy with Colombia and loved the REV 3 vibe.
Highlight of REV 3 knox was coming out of the water next to Conrad, the Caveman Stoltz, 2* Olympian and multiple world champ in XTERRA
I traveled to the ITU continental cup in Dallas two weeks after Colombia 5150, but my rear deraileur got banged and damaged on the way there, causing major problems after swimming with the second pack. This was a pretty tough race for me. I did get to stay with three Canadian friends, Andrew Bysice, Aaron Thomas, and Emma Lujon, showing how ITU brings people together!

I took a mid season break before racing Philly Triathlon (or Tri Rock Philly), coming 7th professional in a not- so- great mid season race, where I just was happy to get it done. From there, I went to NJ for the NJ State triathlon to race some studs on the bike. I came 3rd in a race where I just did not have the run legs to close after a very hard 26 mph average bike.

Back to ITU racing in August for Elite Under- 23 World Duathlon Championships in Ottawa, ON, Canada. A few weeks of run specific work had me working hard, but not quite making the top group. A first 5k of only 15:20 did not make the cut, and I was chasing hard. I ended up 12th overall, not a bad result, but not what I had hoped for. Still a great race at a high level.
Above, on the second run leg and below working hard in the bike group as shown by the grit!

I then traveled north to Maine for REV 3 maine in probably my best non draft race of the year, despite only coming 15th. I swam well, biked a very solid 60 minutes even on a fair course, and ran 33:50 off a non draft bike. I was again happy, but not satisfied. Also, the day after the race, I began formal studying for my Masters in Biomechanics and Applied Physiology. Hopefully, once I am done that, I can afford to just train without school and maximize my potential.

In early September, I raced a local 5k with good prize money, Teri's Run, where I came 7th in a time of 14:59. First time breaking 15 in awhile, so that was good news!

I had two plane bad races in September including a hasty attempt at Savageman half iron distance race, while being quite underprepared. I had the race lead 30 miles into the bike, but by mile 40, I was toast. Then, I traveled to San Juan for a continental cup where I received a swift kick in the head and raced the rest of the event in a fog, later to find out, I had a minor concussion. I again roomed with three Canadians, Andrew Bysice, Tyler Bredschneider, and Domi Jamnecki. It's cool making friends across countries!

I did a hard effort on a 10- mile "light trail" race only 2 miles from my house in Newark, De where I ran mostly with my roommate, Andy Weaver for a 53:09 finishing time (2nd to him, and faster to the previous course record). It is mostly crushed rock and dirt trail along a river.
Myself, Andy Weaver, and Mike DiGenarro at the start

I shook that  mini concussion off for my final race of the year, the F1 double- super sprint triathlon in San Diego. I got to stay with two friends who live out there, and everybody racing knew one another. The individual event was extremely difficult, I do not think my HR has ever been that high for that long. With 800 meter bike loops and 6- corners, it was quite hard to get a break. Then we raced again in a relay format. I raced with my friend, Jason Pederson and we came 4th in another very hard effort. These races are definitely not friendly to runners, but an awesome opportunity to get better at ITU racing. I look forward to racing in more.




I am finishing up the 2013 season with Rothman 8K in Philly, November 16th with the hopes of running 24:45 or so. I feel like my run fitness is really high, and I'd like to end with a good 8k time. Looking forward to getting training for 2014 and a schedule on the way.




Monday, August 26, 2013

REV 3 Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Last weekend, I headed 8- hours north up the east coast to Old Orchard Beach, Maine for my second REV 3 race of the weekend. The start list was extremely deep with 37- male pro starters, making it the largest non- drafting pro field I have ever raced.

Swim:
21:31, 90 seconds behind the leaders.
The swim was a run in to the Atlantic, a big rectangle, and long run out to t1 (0.3 miles). I got out pretty poorly on the start and found myself getting clobbered by the large pro field. I broke out of the second pack by the bouy at 400 meters, but did not catch the front pack. It was a bit disappointing because from the splits, there was a pack around 20 minutes and a second pack at 22 minutes with me lying in the middle. I did love my new Roka Maverick Pro and that made me feel much more comfortable than I ever have in a wetsuit swim. I have never enjoyed wetsuit swimming, but with this suit it feels much better.

Bike: 1:00:37, 24.8 mph
After the long run to T1, I got out of my wetsuit quickly and onto the bike in a sea of age groupers doing the half. It was fairly congested initially, but it broke up shortly thereafter. I was soon caught by part of that second group and I rode with Alex Willis, Vezina (CAN), and Justin Roeder for the majority of the ride. With the pro rules of staggered riding, it definitely makes for an interesting "dance" when the field is so large. We rode through a few fast swimmers, and we had a few people ride through us that retrospectively, I wish I had tried to go with. I felt like I was riding hard for 5 miles but the remaining 20 felt very comfortable. There was a group not too far up the road that rode mid 57 minutes. That may have been a bit too fast but I think I am getting close to that speed.  We came off the bike in 20-22nd position.

Run: 34:05, 5:30 pace
This was my best 10k in a triathlon of this season. I have been focusing a lot of biking/swimming for the past 1.5 years and I lack a lot of the speed I had when I ran track PR's. That is ok, because I am starting to get some of that back as I have been able to workout with my roommate, Andy Weaver, and the high school kids I am coaching. With getting the other two sports caught up to my running, I am feeling like a more well rounded triathlete. Just 2- years ago, I would swim decently, bike very slowly, then run a low 32' run. That was not effective to "race" a triathlon, so I am happy with my progress.

Next up is Savageman 70.0 distance triathlon... What? yeah, that was an interesting choice to sign up for that as my first long course triathlon! I am excited to race it and get a taste of this monstrous race.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

U23 World Duathlon Champs

This last weekend I had the opportunity to race U23 World Duathlon champs in Ottawa.  This is an ITU event and brought in quite a lot of talent. Only being 8.5 hours from my house, it was a great chance to get in an ITU race.  It even had a local feel as my mom, girlfriend, and her family came out to support.

Ottawa is a beautiful city and it was great to get there a few days before the race.

Onto the race. I had put in some great workouts heading into this race with a recent 3k just under 9:00 feeling comfortable and thinking that would be the pace for the first 5k of the race. I was a bit off as we took off and the first run was 14:35 for the leaders.  I ran mid 15:20s and was left in a bike pack of 6 that worked pretty well but we were unable to bridge up. I could feel similar calf cramping to last year's world du champs, so I was determined to stretch that and not let it lock up.

The bike had a very technical section each lap (3 lap course) with a crit style 4- corners and two chicanes and a 180 all rolled up together.  We could not ride this before the race, so it was a bit difficult seeing the scene for the first time.  As each lap went by, the turns felt more comfortable and it was a nice technical reminder.  At one point, a seagull was right on the apex of a corner we were coming to. Thankfully nobody hit it, but I thought that bird was about to get popped.

On the second run, I could feel my calves hurting a bit, so I eased into it.  It was only a 2.5 km run though, so that slow start certainly hurt my chances at a great split.  I finished up 12th overall for the U23 elite world champs.  Not the result I had hoped for, but not a bad day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Jersey State Triathlon Addition to Schedule

I am really excited to add the New Jersey State Triathlon to my schedule this year.  After joining with the Philly Pro Tri team, I saw that this was one of their key team races.  This race draws large numbers with a sprint on Saturday followed by an Olympic distance on Sunday.  Because of this "festival" format, there will be a great range of talent, ability, and goals present at the race. The sprint is Saturday, June 20th and the olympic is the day following.

For information about the race, check out http://www.cgiracing.com/newjerseystatetri/Home.aspx
to see their website.  There will be an elite wave as well as standard age group waves, so there is room for all!

I have a few thoughts on the race in general as to why I wanted to race it.  First, it has all the makings to become a major city race in the future (in my opinion).  It reminds me of how the Philadelphia Triathlon started as it grew in size and eventually attracted a world class field as well as a huge age group field.  Secondly, the course is really scenic.  From a video on their website, you can see the calm waters for the swim, a flat and seriously fast bike ride, and a great run in the park.  A lot of people say triathlon needs to incorporate more hills, but I think both a hilly course and a flat course are just about the same difficulty.  There are plenty of hilly races I've done (Del Valley Du, REV3 Knox, Columbia) that are definitely difficult, but you can move out of the saddle and never lose focus because things are always changing. A flat course makes an athlete stay motivated the entire time as you must stay tucked on the aero bars and focused on your output.

That's all for now.  If you are looking for a great race in the mid Atlantic area, check out The NJ State Triathlon and lets race!

Dallas Mishap

Nobody ever wants to detail a bad experience for them, but it helps to learn and grow from those times. The Dallas continental cup was certainly one of those experiences for me.  I arrived to the race Thursday before the Saturday race. After a few flight delays, I got into Dallas around 11 pm and found a cab to my hotel with three Canadian athletes I knew from other races. I did not assemble my bike until the next day, and all seemed fine.  I did my standard pre race routine of short swim, bike, and runs and plenty of sitting down and hydrating. All seemed okay, albeit feeling a little sluggish.

Come race morning (after splitting a pull out bed with Andrew Bysice), Andrew, Aaron Thomas and myself went to ride to the course and my bike was making a pretty terrible grinding sound.  I got to the race and an official threatened to disqualify all of us for "riding on the girls' run course." The funny thing was, we were not on the girls course at all.  After explaining this to an ITU official, the initial race official walked away with no other words and we were cleared to start.

On the way over, my deraileur was not working unless I was in the little ring. Definitely not good for a pancake flat ITU course. I brought it over to the race mechanic, and he eventually said he would take a look at it. I honestly have flown with my bike many times, and take good care of it, so I do not feel as though this was at my own fault. I always take the deraileur off to fly, but anyway this mechanic did not seem too happy to help. Regardless, he found out that part of my deraileur must have been "dinged" and although I did not feel it the day before, it was slowly getting worse by riding.  He tried to bend it back to the best of his abilities but I realistically only had 2-3 gears in the big ring. Those were the 12 and 13 cog in the back. After this adrenaline surge of trying to fix my bike, the officials moved the start up 20 minutes to hope to avoid the bad weather.  I was pretty frazzled and tried to keep my cool.

The race start went pretty well and I exited the water at the back of the second group (15:44- swim was short by a good bit).  We were told we were 50 second down to the leaders, and I was pretty excited to be in such a large group with some solid cyclists in it.  Then I was quickly reminded of my deraileur problems.  Every acceleration, I could not match as I was grinding in a big gear. After desperately trying to maintain contact with the group, My deraileur completely snapped into the little ring. I do not know the mechanism for how this happened, but I could not get it back into the big ring.  At this point, I was forced to call it quits as the group I was in rode up and away and I was in a small third pack for a bit but with no shifting, it did not help me and I eventually pulled off. That group was eventually lapped out anyway, and I know I could not have continued to ride in the little ring. Certainly not the outcome I had hoped for, but only a learning experience and I have to accept that it's part of the sport. Next up, Philly Triathlon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Columbia Triathlon

May 19th marked the 30th anniversary of the Columbia Triathlon- the oldest in the mid- atlantic region. I had looked to race this event last year, but was injured.  I was excited to race this year as I heard the course was a hilly bike and run.

Going into the race, I did not want to taper too much as I have U23 Nationals in Dallas the first weekend in June.  Tapering too often will just lead to multiple poor performances.  It's a catch- 22 because you never want to perform below standards, but you also cannot always be at the top of your game.

The race was pretty stacked with the likes of Cam Dye, Andrew Yoder, Bevan Docherty, Brett McMahn, and many of the guys who were top 5 in Knoxville.  I was happy to get a really hard race in two weeks out from Dallas.
I am not gawking at Olympic medalist, I am just excited to race






The swim was non- wetsuit for the pros (wetsuit for AG'ers) and I got a chance to try wearing a swim skin. Seemed to work pretty well except for the overwhelming compression on the "family jewels." Anyway, the swim went out pretty hard from the gun as a new pro with a killer swim gapped the field.  I found myself behind the lead pack of 8 or so with only one person on my feet.  As the lead pack moved forward, I could not get up to them.  The rest of the swim was just me on my own with Chris Foster on my hip.  Got out in 19:28 about 80 seconds back of Cam Dye, etc. Not a bad swim- much better than Knoxville, but still have a ways to go.

The bike was the best part of this race for me.  While I still have not been able to swap my crank for a standard 53 tooth, I was limited heavily on downhills by my 50 in the front.  I averaged 23.5 mph for the race- a good bit faster than Knoxville on an arguably easier course. I made every effort to not immediately let Chris Foster get away or Kalb VanOrt when he came past I stuck with him in sight for as long as possible. The only other person I saw was Jason Pederson, who dropped his chain twice while he would pass me- then chain drop. That was unfortunate but we eventually finished the bike leg together. 1:04:20 for 25.2 miles

The run was okay.  I immediately got a side stitch that was not enjoying the downhills.  The stitch was a killer until about mile 4, when I finally dropped feeling sorry for myself and caught Hunter (who had a monster swim) and closed in on, but didn't catch James Seear. 35:20 was not a good split, but many of the other runners in the field had off run days too on such a hilly course.


Overall it was an okay day.  In such a stacked field, I was happy to be 13th at age 22, but I need to continue improving. I loved the course and will certainly be back next year.
Lastly, my "home stay" was really my family! I got to visit my Uncle and his wife and two kids, which was an awesome way to stay. My Mom and girlfriend came too, which made me feel pretty comfortable before the race, regardless of the outcome.

Finis Fulcrum Paddles

A few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to wear test something from the Aqua Gear Swim Shop (http://www.aquagear.com).  The company has a great website with a feature that asks if you need help right upon logging on. You can choose to live chat with a representative, or just click no. There are many educated people that can help you choose the correct paddles, bouys, or any other accessories.

The accessory I needed was paddles.  I choose the Finis Fulcrum paddles, which have 5- sizes based on body stature.  I have the large, white paddles.
My initial impression of the paddles was that they allowed you to control their motion better than paddles with no cut out at the bottom. The problem with many paddles is that they allow swimmers to navigate with poor form leading to shoulder injuries. When using paddles, it's very important to get an early catch in the first quadrant of your stroke.  These help promote this "early vertical catch" and do not allow you to drop your elbow.  The early vertical catch became widely publicized in the late 90's when the Aussies started swimming very fast, and the "EVC" has stood the test of time.  I, personally, have always had a wide catch that is a big stroke flaw.  No paddles will "fix" your stroke, but these really allow you to feel if your catch is too wide.  This attribute has been a huge help to me.

Another aspect I love about the paddles is that they are good for all strokes. When swim coaches are having a bad morning, and they assign a butterfly set with some paddle work (or IM), I do not mind using these paddles for any stroke. Using other style paddles has made my shoulders scream in agony! Being a triathlete, I never truly enjoy a butterfly set, but when paddles are added, I think the lifeguards become on edge.

One other note about Aqua Gear is the awesome customer service they provide.  As internet shopping becomes more popular, internet- customer service will become paramount.  I cannot express how easy and helpful they made the process.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The "Very Average" Race

Last weekend, I tried my hand at an Olympic distance, non draft race down in Knoxville, TN.  REV 3 Knoxville has been a very competitive race the last couple of years, and I was eager to get to race a REV 3 event. I had only heard positive things about the race company, and I can add that I had a great experience at the race (before and after) despite the cold temps (I hate cold, 58 degree water), and rain. They did a great job to make everybody have a world class experience.

I got into Knoxville a few days before the race and the race site was right below my hotel, which is such a great convenience.  I met up with some of the REV 3 staff, and thanked them for having me race their pro race.  The day before the race, I tested out the water and it was undeniably cold.  Yes, my body warmed up well in my XTERRA wetsuit, but my head was frozen. It would prove to be difficult conditions for the race.

One example of how REV 3 is pushing the sport forward is this PRO transition area.
On race morning, I woke up at 5 am to shake out. It was not raining yet, but by the end of my run, I felt drops coming.  For the 8 am pro start, the rain was coming down steadily and it was pretty cold on the ground.  We jumped in and "warmed up" a bit before the cannon.  Immediately, my goggles fogged up. I was wearing older sweedish ones I had that felt like the straps were more snug than my main sweeds that broke the day before. It may have been that combined with the frigid temps that made my vision limited.  I could not sight ahead of me with this, so I sighted to a green cap in my wave.  Knowing that the different colored caps were given to past winners and/or world champs, I figured I was safe.  I exited next to that green cap, who happened to be Conrad Stoltz (5 time XTERRA World Champ, and 2- time Olympian).  Problem with this situation was, he could bike about 5 minutes or more into me.  I swam slower than many people that I can usually swim with, and this was completely my fault for poor sighting and being comfortable sighting off somebody else and not leaders.
I am running up the boat ramp right behind Conrad and Dan McIntosh.
video
After a quick T1, exiting before both those that I came out of the water with (advantage of ITU racing is quick transitions), I was quickly and unceremoniously passed by Conrad. I tried to match him but was pretty anaerobic and couldn't maintain his pace and power.  My legs just did not have much power to them. I also did not get to ride the course the day before, so I was pretty cautious on the downhills, which cost a bit of time.  I did pass 2 cars on descents, so that was a mixture of cool and scary. I was about 2- minutes down to the main pack at the only turn around on the course, and about 1:30 up on another pack. I was riding solo, and gave up some more time the second half to both groups. James Burns and a few guys from US Pro Tri team caught me 2- miles from transition and we rode in together (legally).
video
My feet were frozen. More frozen than the Del Valley duathlon a few weeks ago. My second toe was curled up under my foot when I got off my bike and was slowly returning to its normal position.  Getting running shoes on was tough, but I took off with James Burns. We dropped a few guys early and were running well through 2.7 miles together. It was fun running with him as we raced a conference 10K track final a few years ago together in the CAA conference.  We both are victims of teams being cut.  Muscularly, I had nothing left when he made a move on me, so I just did as much as I could to limit the damage.  34:20 was my 10K split, which was okay. Again, just an average day. I am glad I finished, but know I can do a lot better than this.
video
After the race, I showered (and thawed out) and got going home. I have two weeks until another non draft race in Columbia, MD and then two more until the Dallas Continental Cup, which is my big goal race to run well in during the first half of the season as the U23 winner gets a bid to World champs.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bridgetown Continental Cup

This weekend, I traveled down to Barbados for a continental cup. I got down to Barbados two days before the race on Sunday, April 22nd. Training leading up to the race was tough with the very sketchy riding on small roads with lots of cars, but it was fun being in a different country.
The swim was nice to train for since I could walk from my hotel room to the ocean and get in great swimming right in front of me!

The morning of the race featured what a lot of Barbados people called "liquid sunshine" or rain.  The country gets very little rain until the summer, so the roads were covered in oil and became very slick. I was slightly excited about this as I felt comfortable handling my bike on slick rainy roads. With two 180 degree turns, this would be paramount.
I got on the pontoon next to two guys who I have biked with in past races, so I figured I was in a good spot.  I started the swim well and was swimming next to Andrew Bysice and Jason Wilson (the eventual winner) the whole time.  I felt comfortable exiting the water in 9:50 with the leader only 10 seconds up on me.  I was stoked to be that far up and thought if I was in that group, I could win or get top 3.  That was, until T1 when I failed to buckle my helmet for a good 20 seconds and watched that group ride away. That was frustrating, and then a crash caused a lead group of 5 guys to get ahead on the bike and we never caught them.
The bike was chaotic as there were so many crashes, and guys were putting their feet on the ground to make the 180- degree turns. I never had to do that and even made a small break with Eric Lagerstrom after a 180 turn when people took it very slowly.  The break did not materialize, but it was good to keep the pressure up. After riding fairly comfortably, I was confident in my run.
I got out of T2 hard in pursuit.  Alex Hinton got a small gap on me early, and we caught some of the early leaders.  I moved from 8th to 7th in the last 1/2 mile and was pretty happy, but not satisfied.  If I had not had the hiccup in T1, I could have contended, but with variable change, there is really no telling of what would have happened.   

Next race up is REV3 Knoxville in two weeks time. Time to get on the TT bike.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Delaware Valley Duathlon and Philly Pro Team

Last weekend, I decided to get a tune up race in before heading to Barbados for a continental cup later in April.  I traveled to the Delaware Valley Duathlon with the knowledge there were a few other fast guys that would make for a good race. I had raced Dave Slavinski and Holden Comeau before and knew they were both very good multisport athletes. They are both training for longer course races, so this would probably be an advantage to me for this particular race. The distances were 5k run/ 25k bike/ 5k run.

Pre Race:
Woke up at 6 AM to do a 15' run with some drills. Was COLD! 30 degrees with winds 20 mph from the northwest. I was immediately scared about biking with no booty covers! My feet were going to be in for a cold morning. After coffee and some PowerBar energy chews (cola flavored), got to the race site to set up and do a long warm up.


1st 5K: Went out solid but very controlled. Dave was right behind me for 0.5 miles and then he said he would see me on the bike (after joking about my goofy running form, which I completely agree is odd). I felt pretty comfortable the whole first 5k and had garnered about a 30 second lead with a 15:47 first 5k.

The Bike: Was Cold! http://app.strava.com/activities/47532495 is the strava file from the race. It's visible as to how hilly the ride is. You are almost never riding flat, so it was either uphill or screaming down (where the feet really started to get numb). First race since Philly Tri last year on a TT bike, so my goal was to just maintain my lead. I was expecting to see either Dave or Holden come by me during the ride as I was unsure of how far ahead I was.  At the first turn around, I had 40" to Dave and I believe one minute to Holden.  The second turn around (about 2-3 miles from the finish) I still had 40 seconds, but on Holden this time.

The 2nd run: Felt a little cramping on the run and the end of the bike so I tried to drink. Mostly calf pain and I didn't want to repeat duathlon worlds last year.  The 32 degree weather probably didn't help my muscles stay warm either.  I started out the run very gingerly as my calves were objecting a bit, but as my legs warmed up, I was able to speed up.  Didn't have to push the second run much and ran a conservative 17:10 for the win
 
Dave, myself, and Holden L to R
Had a very nice talk with Holden after the race about developing as a triathlete, especially during the swim. Just another example of the great community in triathlon.

I also won a pair of Scott running shoes. These shoes are awesome, the T2 EVO are really awesome. I wore them the day after the race for a 15 mile long run and they were awesome.  I am looking forward to trying more Scott shoes as it's a company I've never tried before.

Also, I will be working with the Philly Pro Triathlon Team starting immediately.  They are a great group of guys racing together and an awesome organization trying to professionalize triathlon even more. I am excited to begin working with them.

Only about 11 days until the Bridgetown, Barbados continental cup. Starting to rest up and get ready for another big race.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Florida double to start 2013

Hey all!

Been a few weeks since my last update as I've been busy training, working at the motor control/biomechanics lab at Univ of Delaware, and TA'ing a few undergraduate classes! It's been a busy time, but I was excited to go down to Clermont and Sarasota, Fl to start the 2013 race season. I flew down Thursday, March 7th before Clermont continental cup.  I had a fantastic "home stay" at the AAA triathlon camp run by John and Jodi Hoovis. This place located just 20 minutes from the national training center in Clermont is a triathlon haven! They have all the facilities you could wish for as a triathlete, and a bunch of us were staying there between the races. After Clermont, I went to a home stay for one night, then stayed in a very shady $40/night hotel for one night as I went back to Delaware to speak at the Salesianum Sports Banquet. That was a really fun experience, and they flew me home for one day to speak there; what an honor! After that, I flew back down to Florida on Wednesday, stayed at the AAA tri camp that night, then down to Sarasota on Thursday. This trip was quite the whirlwind.

I also must say I've met some great friends over this trip. Others with me at the AAA tri camp were Connor Murphy, Lawrence Fanous, Andrew McCartney, Jonathan Rodriguez, and Graham Leitch, as well as the Portuguese National Team, and a few others for a day or two. So many nationalities staying under one roof made for a really fun time. 

Clermont:

I landed feeling fairly sick and honestly lacking the competitive edge to race my best. I had a headache and just felt drained in the two days leading up to the race. Once the gun went off for the swim, I was immediately behind Sam Holmes, who had a great start.  I tried to keep composure and swim my heart out! This year, the swim was an actual swim and felt on the long side (as if the swim legs aren't already long enough!). I exited the swim in okay position, but it was only my third swim in a wetsuit in the previous 9 months, so I was not as prepared as I should have been (my fault!).
10:20 was my official split and I was a few seconds down to the chase pack, but still ahead of the third pack.
The bike went well. My group caught Andrew Starkowytz and I was certainly hoping being an uber biker, he could TT us up to the front. He was not feeling well, so we were eventually caught by the third pack.  I can say there was some shady riding by one person in our pack who almost caused a crash, but thankfully the rubber stayed down!
The run was very "meh." I was happy to finish the slightly long 5.3k in 17:13 (or about 5:14 pace). I was just happy to have the first race out of the way.  A few people that I know I am better than beat me, but I can only use it as motivation for the future.

After a few days, I flew home to speak at my high school (Salesianum) for their senior sports banquet.  I was super honored they wanted to hear my story and it was great to be home for one night.
I wore a different kind of "suit" for this! No lycra.

The next day, I was back in Florida and rejuvenated and ready to race Sarasota.

Sarasota:
The swim was a pontoon start with some fast swimmers including my fellow home stayer Andrew McCartney, Tommy Z, Joe Maloy, and Lucas F.  In essence, they broke off the front, a solid pack of swimmers was about 20 seconds behind them, and then about 40 seconds back to a pack of runners.  I came out of the water just in front of Nicholas S and Kaleb VanOrt, who I knew were strong cyclists and good runners as well.  I figured we could work together nicely
video
We had begun to suck packs up in front of us and we were really flying. We caught three or four small packs and eventually became the main chase pack about 1:45 down on the leaders! Looking at my garmin, we were averaging over 26 mph for the first 15 miles.
video
I am the one with the green lid in second position.  I found I was able to hit the tangents really well and keep my speed up, which definitely made others hurt a bit if they tapped the breaks coming into the turns as they needed to sprint to get out. Thanks to my mom for getting the vid!

Then disaster struck, as I was coming through transition, just past the wheel station, I pinch flatted my rear tire. After not causing a crash, I had to figure out what to do. 2 laps to go, and I figured I'd ride as hard as I could go. Riding a clincher with 19mm tires that are flat doesn't work well.  All the hard work and awesome positioning I had done came to nothing.  It's super frustrating for something like this to happen, but it is part of this sport, and I can take a few things away from it.  I am biking strong, and I was right in the mix to put together a top 15 finish.  I definitely could have secured a spot for U23 worlds but I was not able to run after a long 10K with no air in the tires. I should have done a few things in retrospect such as putting caffelatex in the tires or putting training wheels in the wheel stop (although I had passed it and would still have ridden 5k before being able to access it).

Onward and upward! After this dissapointment, I want to show that I am in shape and am a world class athlete.  I head to Barbados next month for the Bridgetown continental cup to make up for lost chances here- and I will remember this to fuel the fire.  That's all for now!




Friday, January 11, 2013

Kiwami

Today I will be giving a review of the Kiwami Amphibian 008 triathlon suit.  Kiwami was nice enough to partner with me for the 2012 season, and hopefully beyond.  I wore the Amphibian 008 with ITU customization on there.  Above is the uniform I wore in the Clermont Continental Cup.  Some of the features of the Amphibian 008 include:
           Being the lightest speedsuit on the markey (weighing about 100 grams).
           Having a flat zipper and cord that are easy to pull down if it is warm, but will not come off in the combative ITU style open water swim.
          It just FEELS FAST.

I have worn suits by other companies when I began dabbling in triathlon, and I have always preferred a one piece suit.   The Amphibian is the fastest feeling suit i have worn, and it has never felt too hot when racing in the hot conditions such as Texas or Florida.

There are other suits by Kiwami if you are not looking for a back-zip single piece suit.

The Kiaman is a front zipper suit that still provides all the comfort and speedy feel of the amphibian, but also a pad for longer races.
Also, the Prima Top and Bottom combination provide a great two piece suit to keep cool in a long course style event.

Lastly, here is a shot of the suit I wore for the majority of the 2012 season including the 2012 USAT Elite Nationals in Buffalo, NY.