Yesterday, I ran the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA for the 4th time. Last year I had gotten a new personal best time of 1:45:10 since the first time I ran the race back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:41. 6 years older and over a minute faster.
This year my plan was to start out a little slower so that I had a little more energy for the last half of the race. The second half of the race runs through the Lehigh Parkway which has some crushed stone paths and this short, steep little hills that seem to suck the life out of my legs.
I also planned to down a caffeinated gel around the halfway aid station so I had a little extra energy too. Last year I didn’t eat anything and I thought that may have left me a little depleted at the end.
The race started out well. I was running in the 7:45-7:55/mi pace and was feeling quite comfortable. Heading into the Parkway I kept my cadence steady and slowed a bit on the uphills to try to save my legs a bit. The hills still took their toll on my quads but I managed to keep a little quicker pace than last year.
At around mile 9, I looked at my Garmin virtual race partner and it showed I was about a minute ahead of last year. Hold steady now! Next thing I hear someone say the 1:45 pace group was coming up behind me. WTH?
The pace group passed me on one of the final little inclines and it kind of took some wind out of my sails. I never looked back at my Garmin to see if I really was over 1:45 because I thought it would depress me more. Now I wish I would have.
So I crossed the finish line in 1:45:20. I didn’t realize until I got home, but I had finished 10 seconds slower than last year. It is a bit frustrating to think that a little extra effort and I could have beaten last years time. Well, one thing is for sure I am pretty consistent I guess. Next up, Ironman Boulder!
The French Creek Triathlon was my first triathlon event of the year. I didn’t know a whole lot about the race, but the timing of it fit well into my schedule. After checking out the race course and past results on their website, I knew I was up for a challenging event. Most of the prior years’ Olympic distance finish times in my age group were hovering around the 3-hour mark. A bit long for typical Olympic distance events. Usually, I am around the 2:30 time frame for Olympic distance tris. Having mountain biked at French Creek in the past, I knew it was hilly and the bike and run course solidified this.
I drove an hour up to French Creek State Park on Saturday, via the beautiful back roads of the Oley Valley, to pick up my race packet and do a little bike/run brick workout to preview the course a bit. The bike route was definitely hilly and most of the roads were in nice shape except for a partial stretch of Rt 345 that is in dire need of repaving.
I had to delay my course recon ride a bit while the French Creek”Tough Kids” triathlon was finishing up. It was pretty cool seeing all these little kids out there giving it their all. While I was waiting a minivan pulled up and the guy driving rolled the window down and introduced himself. It was Todd Hydock, another Amrita Ambassador that lives in the Philadelphia area. I had known of Todd but had never met him in person. We chatted for a while until the kids race had finished. Todd was doing the sprint race on Sunday, so we would talk more on Sunday.
Race swag was pretty nice for a small event. They had a nice white race tech shirt and a Clean Bottle water bottle. I had always wanted to get a Clean Bottle but never got around to getting one. There was also a reusable cloth tote bag and some other items from Brandywine Valley tourism too.
It was pretty dark for the ride up and it was just barely cracking light when I arrived at the race venue. It had rained heavily overnight and was still overcast which kept things dark until I got to transition.
I found an empty space on the rack right at the swim-in/run-out end of transition. Everyone else seemed to be congregating towards the other end. I preferred having space. It was still quite damp out, so I was happy to suit up early with my wetsuit.
I gingerly made my down to the swim start in bare feet to get in a little warm-up swim before the race. I was the first one in the water. Water wasn’t too bad. A little cool but perfect for a wetsuit swim. The water was a light, muddy color but not so dark you couldn’t see at all.
I had a lot of time before my wave start since it was the 2nd to last wave. My toes were pretty much numb by the time the race started. I really need to remember to bring some old flips or socks or something. I chatted a bit with a lady named, Jennifer from NJ, who was also outfitted in full Amrita Kit. She was not an Ambassador but knew Arshad and was a loyal Amrita customer.
I also ran into Amy & Bill Kline who are good friends with my old tri-blogger-buddy Shanna. I have run into them a lot over the last couple years and they are really nice to talk too. I didn’t know it after the race, but it was their 17th wedding anniversary that day. Pretty cool to be doing a triathlon for your anniversary!
Finally, my wave was up. I sauntered into the water and was trying to stay back a little and to the left. The problem was everyone was staying back from the starting line. I was not about to stay back that far, so I ended up moving past everyone to the start line which was about waist deep. Not exactly where I like to be, but if they are going to lag back I might as well take the head start.
The first 200 yards kind of sucked like it usually does. It is just full of anxiety and nervous energy that it makes it hard to breathe. There was a little bit of bumping since some of the faster guys were going past or over me. Eventually, things settled out and got into my pace.
I had mostly clear water from there on out. Although I could have used some drafting help, not having to deal with others is nice too. I maintained a pretty steady swim and held steady for the rest of the two loop course. I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water.
I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water. It ready somewhere around 27 minutes, which is ok for me. I was hoping for faster but whatever. The worst thing is that the timing mats are the entrance/exit to transition, not at the swim exit. And it was at least tenth of a mile run to transition over little rocks. So my swim time ended up being around 28 minutes. I hate that!
The 1st transition went rather smoothly. Ditched the wetsuit and popped on my bike shoes, helmet and off I went. Ba-da-bing…ba-da-boom!
There were practically no flat sections on this entire bike course! You are either going up or going down. Nothing in between.
The road conditions are mostly good, except for one smaller section on Rt 345 that is in SEVERE need of paving. It also would appear to be a well-shaded course, but hard to tell when it was so overcast. The road was also pretty wet
from the rain the night before.
My goal on this leg was to not overcook my legs on the hills and save something for the run. I would also try to bomb the downhills as much as possible and use “gravity” to my advantage.
I feel I executed that plan fairly well. It was surely not the fastest of rides, but my legs were still pretty fresh at the end. I ate one and a half Amrita Bars and 2 bottles of Skratch Labs during the ride. It is pretty easy to eat when you are climbing hills all morning.
T2 was a bit of a blunder. I left my running shoes tied in a double know…duh!! So I was there fumbling around with that for far too long. It was such a rookie mistake. I also put socks on, which cost me some more time. Despite that, I still got out in 2 minutes and looking at the results probably would not have made much difference in the end anyway.
The run started out flat for about a 1/4 mile and then it was up…and up…and up…for the first 4 miles. As soon as my legs were getting accustomed to running, the hills started. There was one section along a small lake that flattened out for a little bit, but then it was up again. The Olympic course also took a left, when the Sprint athletes went right back to the finish, to enjoy another larger hill climb. By the time I reached the top my legs were screaming. I even walked about 10 yards or so just to get my HR down a little bit.
After the 2nd turnaround at the top of the last hill, it was all downhill for 2 miles to the finish. Ihave to say that last two miles were actually pretty fun. You knew you could just coast it in at that point. I felt bad for all the other athletes who were coming up those hills and was trying to give them some encouragement as I cruised past them.
I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. The last 2 miles actually refreshed me a bit. Finish time was 3:01 and a few seconds. Not the best time for a Olympic distance event, but this was not your ordinary Olympic distance race.
After the race, I met up Amy & Bill, My Amrita-buddy Todd, and also Terry & Sean Fenoff who I had met at my a strength training workshop that my strength coach had a couple years ago.
I stopped by the timing booth and looked at the posted race results. I saw that I came in 4th in my age group, which left me a little disappointed that I missed the podium by one place! Ugh…so close!
I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around at that point and started packing up my bike and things in transition. I was also texting my wife telling her I got 4th in AG. While I was doing that Bill had stopped by and congratulated me on getting 3rd Place in my AG???!!! What??!! He informed me that the 1st place guy in my age group won the overall 1st place for the race, so that got me into 3rd! SWEET!!
I immediately text my wife back and said “scratch that…I actually got 3rd!” She was a little bummed that she wasn’t there now. So back I went and hung out for the post-race awards. It was pretty cool since Bill & Amy both won their Age Groups and they announced that it was their 17th wedding anniversary too! Also, Terry, Sean and Todd all podiumed too. So it was pretty cool to see everyone up there.
I was pretty happy to finally get a podium finish in triathlon. I have been doing this for over 8 years and have yet to get a podium in a triathlon. I got one for running races and duathlons, but never a triathlon. I think the build up of experience over the years with good coaches and my focus on strength training this year is making a difference.
Last season I had to bail out on the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on the morning of due to a nasty stomach bug. I was looking forward to putting that behind me and getting another result here under my belt.
To make things a little more interesting, I also challenged a friend from work, who we’ll call “Stéphane” to protect his anonymity, to this race. Stéphane is a much younger, lighter and naturally faster runner than I am, but I hoped that the longer distance may help level the playing field a bit. Also, the added competition may help motivate me to a new personal best time.
This race had given me my current standing half marathon PR back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:47 at a 8:06min/mi pace. I was also about 20 lbs lighter(165lbs) and 6 years younger(41) back then. Could I really beat this 6-year-old PR carrying another 20lbs and being over a half a decade older? I felt like I could, but who knows.
The weather turned out to be perfect running weather. Sunny, clear and in the mid-50’s. I made it to the starting line without issue and with plenty of time. Stéphane and I chatted a bit as the 5k-ers took off. We were lined up pretty close to the front, so not to get caught up in the herd. I had got caught up in this the first time I did this race and suffered 2 of my slowest miles until I got past this group.
The gun went off and we were on our way. Stéphane was off and quickly out of site into the leading pack. I stayed back and tried to settle into a somewhat comfortable pace without getting caught up in the start of the race over-eagerness. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace was in the low 7 min/mi. Whoa…nelly!
My first mile was a 7:15 which is more like my 5k pace. I toned it down a bit and settled into around 7:30min/mi pace. While this seemed a bit fast for me, it was feeling right. I pretty much maintained this pace for the first half of the race, which runs along Martin Luther King Blvd and is mostly flat.
As I approached the first turnaround near South 4th St., I saw my coach, Todd Wiley, flying by very close to the leaders of the race. He would end up finishing 6th overall!
I soon saw Stéphane, heading back as I went by the Parkettes Gymnastics gym. He was about a quarter mile ahead of me, but still not out of reach if he had issues later on. But could I keep up this pace and catch him.
I hit the 10k split timer just past the 15th street bridge which read 46:57! This would be a 10k PR time for me??? WTH?!
I made the left turn over the steep little bridge into the Lehigh Parkway. As I hit the gravel path things started to slow down a bit. Was the loose gravel stealing my energy or was it the steep incline of the bridge and the little hill that followed taking the wind out of my sails? My legs were starting to rebel a bit.
As I reached the next two steep hills before the red covered bridge turnaround my pace was slowing to a 8:30 min/mi pace. I could feel the fatigue really starting to hurt now. I was starting to question whether I could sustain the personal best time I had started with.
I tried to hit most every water stop and get at least a mouthful of water in at each without stopping. I know that I don’t need much hydration a race of this duration. Getting a swig every 15 mins or so is good for me. I stuffed down an Amrita Bar right before the start and had another one broken up into pieces in my Spibelt if I needed more. The problem is getting the bar out of the Spibelt seemed like it would take more time to get out than it would be worth, so I pressed on.
After a couple slower miles in the parkway, I was able to pick things up a little during the 11th mile. Miles 12 and 13 were a little slow again as my legs were really hurting. I knew there was no catching up with Stéphane unless he was having a really bad day. The thought that that may be a possibility kept me pushing on.
I finally made the last turn down along Cedar Beach and up into J. Birney Crum Stadium. I was so glad to be almost done. My Garmin was reading 1:44 and some change so I was pretty sure I had a new PR, but not sure where my speed co-worker was.
As I crossed the line, I grabbed my medal and saw Stéphane standing there already finished. Ahhh! I got so caught up in trying to catch him that my PR seemed to be of no significance to me. I was also a bit disappointed that I slowed as the race went on. A sign that I probably went out too fast.
Ok, I just PR’d my Half-Marathon time by over 2 freakin’ minutes??!!! What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn’t until a little later when I met up with my coach who asked how I did. My initial reaction was that of disappointment but then followed up with I PR’d by over two minutes. He was like what? He was then like “that’s awesome!” I thought huh, yeah what am I disappointed about? I guess sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Last week I was talking about it with my strength coach, Fernando, and explaining how I was able to PR that race being 6 years older and 20 lbs heavier. Fernando said you are “older and faster” and I added “and fatter too”. Hence the title Older, Fatter, and Faster! Pretty funny.
I have actually dropped about 15 lbs so far since the beginning of this season and am on track to lose at least another 15 by Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Getting down another 15 lbs will only serve to make me that much faster. I have PR’d both races I have done this season, so I am off to a good start and the sky is the limit here.
Next up is the French Creek Olympic Distance Triathlon in late May. This will be a good indicator of where my triathlon fitness lies by putting together all the disciplines. I am anticipating some improvement in the swim with some of the changes in technique I have made that have improved my times in the pool. Running off the bike will be interesting to see if I can sustain my improved pace with some bike legs. 2016 is proving to be off to a good start to a hopeful season.
Six weeks ago I had this compulsive idea to sign up for the Blues Cruise 50k Ultra Trail run. I found out about the race through a friend who had done it a few years ago and it has always been floating around in my mind. I really didn’t have any real intentions to do another race after finishing the Steelman Olympic Tri in August. I always wanted to try doing an ultra-running event and something finally jarred me to sign up for this one. I had already fallen pretty deeply into off-season mode at this point and had already gained about 13 lbs, so getting into greater-than-marathon shape would be a bit of a stretch. I changed my goal to basically building up some longer than marathon endurance and not really focus on speed. Instead, I would just enjoy the being out on the trail for the day.
My weekly training for the race consisted of more difficult hour trail run, a bit slower less technical run, then one longer LSD run on Saturday, followed by another hour run the Sunday to shake out the previous days run. Rest days would be sprinkled in between. The long Saturday runs started out at 2.5 hours and worked up to around 4.5 hours before tapering a week out from the event. I have to say I really enjoyed getting off the road and into the woods for my training runs. I am fortunate to have a ski area a couple miles from my home that has some pretty technical mountain biking trails that make for serious trail running. Along with a few face plants and turned ankles. Trail running will quickly teach you to lift your feet.
I also had a week of vacation in Asheville, NC thrown in there which was a help. If you are not familiar with Asheville, it is a very outdoorsy and active place. There are vast amount excellent mountain biking trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest just outside of the city which make for fabulous trail running. So I was able to log some good miles down there trail running and mountain biking. We had planned this trip before I signed up for the race, but it could not have worked out better. I would also recommend picking up Trish Browns’ book “Asheville Trail Running: Taking Bent Creek and the Mountains-to-sea Stride” which is a great resource for the trails down there.
On Sunday, October 4th I headed down to Blue Marsh Lake near Reading, PA for my first trail ultramarathon. I hadn’t overly advertised that I was doing this event since I didn’t have any great expectations about my performance. I just wanted to complete it in whatever time it took. It is the off-season and this was to just be something fun and different to do. I heard that the ultra running scene is a bit more laid back and fun compared to the typical road running scene where people are obsessed with times and pace. That sounded a bit more my style and I was looking forward to it. Also, the thought of running in the woods all day sounded like a lot of fun. Wow…running just for the fun of it? What a concept?!
When I arrived at the lake, I followed another car into the Dry Brooks Day Use area where the race start was located. I followed him down to a parking lot where people were setting up some tables and tents. I was surprised to see that we were the first runners there. This was really odd given I was only an hour earlier than the start of the race. I thought “Wow…this really is laid back!” After I made a trip to the port-O-john, the guy from the other car asked if I was running in the race. I said “Yes.” He said, “I don’t think this is for the race.” Just after the words left his mouth a lady below yelled “Are you guys here for the race?” She then followed up with “it is down below closer to the lake.” Doh! So we drove around the other parking lots and finally found the one with the race start on the other side of the hill. There was a race sign down the road with an arrow on it, but it was past the point where we had made a left turn. Not a great placement.
Despite being a little later now, there still was not a large amount of racers in the parking lot. I headed over to the bib pickup table to get my race number(#295) and some swag. We got a really nice, soft long-sleeved tech shirt and a running hat plus some race flyers and RoadId coupons in the bag. We would also get a long sleeve 3/4-zip pullover for finishing the event. A pretty good deal considering it was only a $70 race. I have done tri’s costing double that and got much less.
It was a relatively cool & cloudy morning ranging in the low 50’s(F) which was perfect for a run. We had recently gotten a ton of rain in the last week, so I had no idea how muddy the trails were going to be. Fortunately, it stopped the day before and was holding off for the day. The forecast actually showed a high of 60 and partly cloudy with a bit of wind. I hung out in the car and just chilled while more people rolled into the venue. I told my wife Denise not to come because I didn’t want her to have to sit around there for what would probably be about 6 hours or so and it was silly to drive two cars there. I told her I would post updates on my Instagram and also turn on the Live Tracking feature on my Garmin 920xt so she could watch my progress in real time. That is if it worked this time and I had cell coverage.
At 8:10 I started getting ready. I was carrying my running Camelbak which was stocked with a few Amrita Bars and some Osmos Hydration mix packets which I was trying out. I also had a drop bag that I would pickup at the 18-mile aid station. I packed a PB&J, some rice chips, Skratch hydration mix and a fresh pair of socks. I had purchased a pair of CEP compression socks a couple days before the race, which I got more for the protection from the elements than the compression. I packed the other pair of socks in case I didn’t like the high compression socks.
And We’re Off…
I headed over to the race start, dropped off my drop-bag along the way, and lined up at the back of the start line. I snapped a quick selfie to let my wife know it was starting. It wasn’t long before they were calling out the last few seconds countdown to the start and then we were off.
The herd of around 400 runners gently ambled up the road and then broke off onto the trail. We then were down on “all fours” as we maneuvered under a gate that kept motor vehicles off the trail. It was starting to feel more like a steeplechase run than an ultra. I quickly regretted lining up so far back in the pack as I got stuck in a long line of slower runners as we made our way through the singletrack trails. I kept trying to spot some passing area ahead while still maintaining some view of the immediate trail coming underfoot. In hindsight, getting behind some slower runners may have been a good thing since it kept me from going out too fast.
Trail running is a whole different animal compared to road running. Not only do you have to pay attention to the typical personal things while running but you also have roots, rocks and hills to deal with. Not to mention other runners in front of you, which only gives you a split second to make decisions or else you are doing a face plant in the dirt. If you are not focused and in-the-moment while trail running, you will be done pretty quickly. And not in a good way. In addition, you most likely have a few pounds of water strapped to you and anything else you need to carry along. The aid stations are usually a bit more spread out due to the inaccessibility to the trails.
The First 10 Miles
The first 10 miles were pretty easy. The terrain was fairly flat and once I got past the slower folks I was able to pick up my pace a bit. My mile splits decreased down to a 10min/mi pace by my 10th mile. I did get slowed down by a bee sting on the back of my right calf and I turned my ankle about 3 times. I thought my new socks had a tag or pin poking in the leg, but I eventually realized I had been stung. The socks did a good job of protecting me from the weeds hanging over the trail, but they don’t do much against bees.
I also have a bad left ankle that frequently rolls on my for no apparent reason. This usually happens on flat terrain too, so I can never blame it on something when it happens and I just have to look stupid. Well, it didn’t fail to happen 3 times on the flattest part of the race. The last one really hurt too and I wasn’t sure if I would recover from it. Of course, it happened when I was in the middle of a long line of runners and everyone was asking if I was ok. It did eventually shake out and I continued on.
I took in extra water at each aid station along with some pieces of boiled potatoes with salt on them. In between aid stops I would nibble on an Amrita Bar that I neatly stashed into the little pocket on my Camelbak strap. I would slurp some water from the hydration pack routinely as I ran along. I was eager to drain it to get some weight off my hips, but I guess that would require taking a pee which I only did once.
Things Start to Get More Difficult
So much for the easy stuff. At mile 10 I finally encountered the much-anticipated hill known by mountain bikers as “The Judge.” On Strava it is known as the Stump Ln Climb. I have ridden it, or should I say walked my bike up it before, so I knew what I was in for. It averages a 14% grade of 3/10’s of a mile but has sections that are almost up to 30% grade. Going down the other side was no treat either. It was a little more of a switchback trail which helped level out the steepness.
Things started to get a bit tougher from the “The Judge” on. We climbed about 1000 feet in elevation gain over the next 6 miles, where we only about 800 in the first 10 miles. My pace started to creep back into the 11-12 min/mile range. My plan was to walk fast up the hills, bomb the downhills and steady on the flats. I started getting some tightness in my hip flexors which was fighting for my attention. I tried to ignore it and figured it would go away eventually or just be replaced by something else that hurt more.
I hit the mile 18 aid station and they retrieved my drop bag for me. I was really that hungry for my PB&J but could feel some hydration setting in. I was starting to accumulate some salt which was quite visible on my black Amrita tech shirt. I poured a Skratch Labs Lemon-Lime Matcha pack into my hydration bladder and topped it off with some water. I crushed my bag of rice chips and funneled it down my throat. I also snagged some more potatoes which taste so good during an endurance event. The mile 18 aid station is the one with the ladies in the German Lederhosen outfits, so I was in no rush to leave.
Eventually, I left mile 18 aid station and pushed on. After mile 20, things started really tightening up and hurt a bit. The 1300 additional feet of climbing we did over the next 10 miles surely didn’t help at all. I was also starting to cramp up in my inner thigh/groin area which I thought was odd for running. This would be more expected playing hockey or something with a skating motion, but not running. I finally had to give in and stop to stretch it out. I watched a handful of people that I had passed earlier trot by me. One guy who I had been running with most of the day went by and held his hands up saying “what’s going on?” That was a bit heart-breaking.
In Familiar Territory
I finally reached the dam spillway that feeds the Tulpehocken Creek which is familiar territory. I knew I was only a couple miles from the finish at that point and I was relieved. I also realized that the sun had come out and it was a particularly nice day. The nice breeze kept the temperature in the perfect running temperature zone. We spilled out onto the road that leads into the parking lot for the dam but it was mostly uphill. Everyone in front of me was walking and I succumbed to the peer pressure and joined them. The pavement just hurt. My feet hurt with every step. I could have really used a pair of Hoka’s right now. I was now looking forward to getting back on the trail again. Never happy!
We came to a sign that marked the entry back to the trail and made a sharp left which led to another steep climb up a grassy hill. Ugh! I started to run again as I reached the top of the hill. It was a good thing too. As I made my way around the hill I saw a trucker hat with the Wyoming bucking horse symbol on it. My foggy mind even recognized that hat! Under it emerged my wife Denise who decided to surprise me by driving out and meeting me on the trail. It was the push I needed to get me through the last mile or two. We ran together back to the parking lot that she parked at and then I continued on.
As I crossed the driveway a few equestrians were coming up the drive as well. One tried to shortcut me to the trail but I managed to beat them to it. I pushed on and back into a more wooded section again. The equestrians caught up to me again and were running up my back. I decided to let them pass since it seemed like they were going faster than I. They were not very friendly when they passed me and they slowed down again after they passed me. I was coming right up the back of them and it was looking as if I would have to pass them. At the last minute, they sped up and then I never had to deal with them again.
We crossed another driveway and Denise was standing there snapping a couple more pictures as I slowly ambled by. I knew this was the drive that I rode in on the morning to get to the race start so I knew I was almost there. We ran along a farm field and I saw a couple guys standing along the trail with finishers shirts on cheering us on. We made a quick left after that and then I recognized the start/finsh line area. I passed one other guy before the finish who looked like he was struggling a bit.
I finally reached the grassy area before the finish line and there quite a few people there cheering the finishers on. Right before I got to the finish line, a little girl came running across in front of me(see her in pic below) oblivious that I was coming. I had to slow down and grab her by the shoulder so she didn’t run into me. Everyone got a laugh out of it though. I crossed the line in 6:29:25, which was a tad bit slower than I had hoped, but I can’t ask for much since I only started training for it 6 weeks before. I was happy just to have completed the distance and was able to enjoy the day. I am hoping my legs will keep that endurance in their muscle memory so the next time I do an Ironman Marathon it will seem short.
Given this was my first “ultra” distance running event, one of the first questions I thought to myself and my wife asked was “Will you do another one?” I think probably will. I already started searching on UltraSignup.com. I don’t know if I will do the same race or even the same distance, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. I like being off-road and in the woods and I like the more laid back culture of the people that participate in these events. I would like to do something in a place that is a bit more rugged and deeper forest. I would probably want to try a little longer distance such as a 40 or 50 miler. Even a 100k may not be out of the question.
How am I feeling? A bit fatigued actually . Not terrible but I can feel the stress of heavy load. The weather has also been unseasonably warm for Spring which is kind of taking its toll on me. I do not do well in warmer temperatures. Usually I am even worse in the beginning until I acclimatize a bit.
Despite feeling a bit fatigued, I am still having some good workouts. I even skipped a few workouts last week and still ended up with more volume than I had planned. On Monday, I took the day off of training and just mowed my lawn instead. I wore my HR monitor and Garmin so I counted it as a workout. We’ll just call that active recovery. 🙂 I needed that day after not having a long run the Sunday before.
There was a couple cooler days during the week that I ended up going longer just because it felt good. I am trying to listen to my body and go with the flow a bit. My HRV continued to decline a bit earlier in the week, but gradually improved as the weekend approached. I then saw a slight drop again after my long run on Saturday, but held steady after a long bike on Sunday.
There is still a bunch of data points lying on the left of the iThlete Training Guide below. Big indicator of lower energy levels.
I had planned on riding a local 64 mile charity ride, called the Dream Come True(DCT) ride on Sunday so I moved my long run to Saturday this week. I was a bit nervous about my run on Saturday since I self-destructed on the run the week before. During the week I ordered a new Camelbak Octane LR Hydration Pack to help alleviate running out of water on my long runs again. My FuelBelt was not cutting it. I was glad I did, because it was really hot again and I drank every bit of it. I actually emptied the bladder as I was on my cooldown walking up my street.
I also played it a bit conservatively too and kept my pace around 10:00/mi just to make sure i got the volume in that I wanted. I also had several extra pounds of water strapped to my back which must have slowed me down a bit. I was happy to have a good long and successful run and I was able to put the previous week behind me.
On Sunday I woke up early, for me on weekend anyway, to do the DCT ride. The ride was only 64 miles and I wanted to get about 5 hours in. Usually 5 hours for an LSD ride would be about 80 miles for me, so I tacked on a few extra miles getting to and from the ride start at the Trexlertown Velodrome.
The ride was pretty flat for the first half and was along many of the roads I typically ride. I rode along with a girl from work and a couple of her friends for the first half. I eventually latched on to a couple guys with orange helmets around the Kempton area that were going my typical pace. A few other guys joined them and a pace line was formed. I stayed behind them about 10m or so and avoided most of their draft. I don’t want to get used to that. Also the stretch of road from Kempton to Werley’s Corners is awesome for getting down into the aerobars and just cruising.
I ended up bagging the final rest stop and just heading for the finish. It was getting kind of hot and humid out too, so I was eager get home. My legs were a bit stiff early in the day too since I had run long the day before. I don’t typically do that, so it was a bit different riding on tired legs. I did seem to get a second wind though on the last half of the DCT ride which worked out well since that half had all the climbs in it.
I ended up with around 80 miles in just under 5 hours. Not a too bad for a pretty mellow ride. It was a good end to another build week.
My fatigue level(pink) in the Training Peaks PMC chart below is peaking out a bit at the end of the week. My plan is to do a few easier days early in the week before I head up to Lake Placid for a training camp over the holiday weekend. I want to go into that fresh in order to take advantage a that big training block.
Dutch Springs was pretty empty that afternoon. There were a handful of divers and myself in the whole place. I suited up and filled up my SaferSwimmer “Dry” bag up with a few items.
I put my GoPro camera in there in case I wanted to take some pictures along with my iPhone so I could try the Garmin LiveTracking with my 920xt and my old Garmin 910xt just to compare the tracking from above the water. I put my iPhone in a ziploc bad as some added protection just in case some water got in and that was the only thing that was not waterproof. I also through in my car keys. I have used the SaferSwimmer bag a few times and have never had any water get inside the bag part, so I was pretty confident everything would be ok.
I had a really nice swim. The water was cool, but not bad at all. Especially with my full sleeve wetsuit and my neoprene swim cap on. I noticed a lot more fish during my first loop around, so I stopped at the dock where I got in and pulled out my camera so I could take some pictures during my swim. When I pulled the camera out, everything seemed to be nice and dry inside. I stuffed my camera in my wetsuit and headed back out again. I got some cool shots of the trout and bass that were swimming around that day. I also managed to get a couple miles swim in too.
I swam around underwater with my GoPro a bit getting some video and pictures of some of the trout that were near the “reef” where I start my swim. There were some nice size rainbows and palominos. I also managed to get a little underwater selfie action too.
When I finished my swim, I unclipped my dry bag from around my waist and threw it on the dock. When I opened up the bag, my stomach dropped a bit as I noticed a large amount of water inside. I remembered that I had my phone in ziploc, so I hoped that that had protected it. I reached for the phone immediately. I held up the ziploc bag and saw that it too was filled with water. Ughh!
Now what???!! I was LiveTracking on iPhone with my Garmin 920xt and had it send my wife a email telling her this. Now, if she looks at the tracking it would have probably stopped in the middle of this quarry. I had no way to text or call her to tell her this either.
I got changed and packed up my stuff and headed out. There was no one around or I would have asked to borrow someones’ phone so I could let my wife know I was ok. I was trying to think of where the nearest AT&T store was so I could upgrade my phone. I am almost paid off on my phone so it isn’t a big deal to upgrade. Thing is I really didn’t want to move to a bigger phone which is why I haven’t upgraded my iPhone 5s to begin with. I guess I have no choice now.
It is amazing to realize how much I use my phone when you don’t have one. I would have searched Google Maps for the closest AT&T store, but could not do that. It was also Friday afternoon, so I would have checked traffic on the highways too. I decided to try going to the Apple Store and see if I could upgrade there. I thought I could use one of the devices in the store to let my wife know I was ok too.
I was not able to upgrade my phone at the Apple Store since I still owed a few dollars on my AT&T Next payments, so I had to go into the mall AT&T store and upgrade. I was finally online again with a new iPhone 6 after a couple hours. I immediately iMessaged my wife.
My wife called me after I sent her a message. She had gotten down work about a half hour before and texted me several times. There was no response. She then opened the Garmin LiveTrack email and viewed my GPS track which had stopped dead in the middle of Dutch Springs Quarry. She tried calling and it went right to voicemail. She had started to worry now. Fortunately it was for only 20 minutes before I finally talked to her.
Crazy day! Lesson Learned: Don’t put anything that cannot get wet into your SaferSwimmer DryBag!
Dutch Springs is making some accomodations for open water swimmers ! I recently received the following email from them which contains the details. If you want to get on the mailing list, give them a shout by going to their contact page
Open Water Swim Training at Dutch Springs – You spoke and we listened!
Over the past few months, we have spoken to many of you to get ideas and feedback about swim training here at Dutch Springs.
We are excited to announce a special Swim Training Only ticket package!
Three ticket package for $45 – that’s only $15 per visit!
Valid seven days a week, Memorial Day through Labor Day
With this offer, we do have some concerns so we have established a few guidelines to monitor use of this package.
This is a special offer for those entering Dutch Springs only to do open water swimming. It is not valid for entry into Dutch Springs to scuba dive or visit the Aqua Park/Sky Challenge, or any other non-swim training activity.
Upon purchasing this package, you will receive a pass with three $15 entries loaded onto the card. We will scan the card at entry, keep the card at our Gate House, and scan the card again and return it to you upon your exit.
Maximum time in the park is two hours per entry. If you should need more time, you must notify us upon purchasing the package.
Dutch Springs will contact violators of these guidelines and privileges may be revoked. We hope you understand these guidelines and take advantage of this offer. We feel it’s a win-win for both Dutch Springs and Open Water Swimmers!
As a reminder, during shoulder seasons when the Aqua Park is closed (April-May and September through November), the normal general admission price is $15 with no time restrictions! Therefore, during these time periods you do not have to purchase the three-ticket package.
Remember! A variety of season passes are also available to meet your needs!
$175 Summer Pass; Valid seven days a week, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Visiting Dutch Springs only 12 times will make up for the price of the pass!
$120 Weekday Pass; Valid Monday–Friday from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Visiting Dutch Springs only eight times will make up for the price of the pass!
$290 Unlimited Pass; Valid seven days week from the time of purchase until March 2016!
PLUS, with these passes, you have unlimited time inside the park during park hours*!
If you have already purchased a season pass and determine that one of these options is better suited for you, contact us by May 15 to transfer your pass to the option you’d prefer.
*Dutch Springs has extended park hours in July and August! Starting July 1, the park will be open from 10am-7:45pmWednesday throughSaturday! More time to swim! Sunday through Tuesday, park hours will remain 10am-5pm.
Wednesday Night Clinics Run by Endurance Multisport Experts
On select Wednesday nights, Endurance Multi Sport will be hosting special swim clinics, created to teach skills and tactics of open water swimming, as well as fitting you for the perfect wet suit! More details on these clinics including dates and times will be coming soon!
Open Water Swim Challenge at Dutch Springs
As we are getting more involved in the swimming community, we are committed to providing more opportunities and exciting events for swimmers. We’d like to know your thoughts on Dutch Springs hosting an Open Water Swim Challenge on September 13, 2015. We understand it is after most competitions, but because of our busy summer schedule, September is the best time for us to host it. Please send us a short response, letting us know your interest. If we receive good feedback and have interest, we will host the swim – our first one ever!
Dutch Springs Survey
Tell us more about you! Please click the link below to fill out a short survey to help us create an even better environment for your open water swimming at Dutch Springs!
One of the things I love about triathlon is that you can be constantly learning new things and techniques. The sport is relatively young and very complex, so it provides for a wealth of new discoveries. I love taking new techniques, trying them out and putting them to the test. Every once-in-a-while you pick up a little “nugget” that really makes a huge difference. One past example for me was when I discovered Chirunning, which took me from struggling to run 3 miles to efficiently running 6-7 over a very short time period. I still utilize these techniques and they have forever changed my performance for the positive.
Well, yesterday I think stumbled upon another one. I know that strength training is import, but I struggle every year to maintain a consistent program through the season. I had the gym that I go to create a program for me for triathlon, which consistent of a few functional movement exercises and a bunch of traditional “body building” style muscle isolation exercises . While the functional movements were a nice addition, there was no explanation what they did or why I should do them. As I move through other isolation-style exercises(ie. db chest press, cable rows, leg extensions, cable curls and pushdowns), I struggled in my head to understand how they apply. I knew there has to be somthing better.
Sometime last year I stumbled upon a workshop in November called the “Ultimate Off-Season Strength Training Workshop” by Todd Wiley and Fernando Paredes in nearby Doylestown, PA. I thought this may be the perfect thing I need to get on track in the off-season. Unfortunately the workshop was rescheduled for January 10th, so I struggled along with my previous workout until the date finally arrived.
On January 10th I drove down to the Fusion Fitness Studio near Doylestown, bright and early to attend the full day seminar. I met Todd and Fernando when I arrived. The “gym” or studio was quite different than I expected. There were no racks of free weights and dumbells lining the walls. Instead there were lots of bands, a large tractor tire, and a few cable-type machines I had never seen before. I was the first to arrive and eventually others sauntered in before we started.
Todd Wiley, who is a former pro triathlete and currently well-known coach, gave some of his background and explained how Fernando’s techniques had basically revived his worn-out body after 25 years of training. He had basically given up training until going through this program. Fernando took over and went on to explain the theory behind what he does and why it works. He used great analogies too, to really help you understand the concepts. I was all ears. I instantly knew this was that different program what I was looking for.
One of the example Fernando used that really hit home was when he asked, “Would you use a football, golf, basketball or body-building strength training program for Triathlon?” Obviously we all replied “No”, but he pointed out that we were doing just that. Hmmm? He also went on to explain that we need to train the body as a full system how everything is connected. Therefore we need to train it that way. He stated that by making our body more efficient, we could than perform at the maximum performance we are all capable of. It all made a lot of sense.
We then moved on to each of us(about 20-25 of us) performing 3 parts of a Functional Movement Screening(FMS) test. The tests consisted of a deep squat while holding a bar above our head, holding our arms out and pulling each arm behind our backs and measuring the distance between our hands, and lying on our backs raising each leg individually up as far as we could. These three tests would be rated on a scale of 1-3, 3 being good, to indicate where are muscular deficiencies and imbalances were. The first step is to correct these items so that the rest of the body did not need to compensate. As I figured, my shoulders were my biggest imbalance(L-1,R-2) due to my past injuries. My hips also showed up as weak(1’s) which is also affected by the shoulder issues.
Next, Fernando split us up into groups based on how we scored on the test. Each group had a different corrective exercise to do to resolve their weak area. The shoulder group were also given the hip exercises to do since they related. These basic looking exercises were actually quite challenging to do when done correctly. Fernando explained that by doing these each day we can correct our weakness and imbalances and bring the whole body into a more harmonious system.
The remainder of the morning we moved on to his core Restoration & Fitness routines for overall body strength. These are the typical routines you would do a few times a week as your strength training all season long. Fernando also pointed out that the word “core”, that seems to be thrown around quite profusely these days, is more than just your abdominal area. It is your whole upper torso or upper core and your legs or lower core too. It is all one big connected system. The exercises we did were so atypical from the traditional strength exercises we normally do. There was a lot of band and plain body only style movements. An open mind is surely required for those old-school weightlifters. But, I could tell that this stuff is effective by how it involved many different parts of your body and also your brain too. It is a very “Whole-istic” program. I also found myself thinking that all of this stuff can easily be done in the comfort of my own my home and I could probably save a few dollars on the gym membership. We were even given set of bands to take home as part of the workshop.
After a lunch break, we went through some of the more advanced “Performance” routines that we could eventually progress to over time. Todd then spoke about bringing it all together and implementing this in with our overall triathlon training program and some other assorted tips.
Dr. John K Marino, a certified sports physician and Ironman, and his assistant Nikky spoke for a bit on injury prevention using foam rollers and lacrosse balls, which I personally do fairly regularly. He kind of lost me though when he dismissed Chirunning over Pose and other running programs, because it was too “out there” and “up on the toes.” It was pretty obvious he was not very familiar with Chirunning since it heavily stresses a midfoot strike and not being “up on the toes” as he stated. But whatever, not everyone can know everything about everything.
Finally, we wrapped up with a highly motivational and tear-jerking story by Derek Fitzgerald. If you haven’t heard of Derek, he had battled and survived cancer, suffered from extreme heart-failure, actually dying twice, received a new heart transplant and ended finishing Ironman Lake Placid 2013 only two years later. It is an amazing story. I had heard about him myself right after I had completed my first Ironman Lake Placid that same year. Derek, with the help of Fernando, has basically rebuilt his body from all the surgies and entrophy he had undertaken and is now a endurance machine that fully honors that person who donated their heart to him. He also has a plethora of endurance events planned for this year culminating in a bike across the USA, from LA to Atlantic City, to raise awareness of Cancer and Heart Disease. Check out his website at http://www.recycledman.com for more details and how to help him out.
After a quick Q&A session we wrapped up the workshop promptly at 5:30pm. It was a long day, but I felt I had a full toolbox to take with me. I think that these routines, done on a consistent basis, will give me a little more to eeke out some more performance improvements in my racing. Anything that will get me closer to that sub 12 hour Ironman I am all in. So, I hope to start implementing this immediately and I will try to touch on any improvement I see in my weekly updates heading to Ironman Coueur d’Alene. I will also be attending a Toddy Wiley Lake Placid camp this year which I think Ferndando will also be participating in too. So hopefully we will get some more information as we go.
The goal of this past week was to keep a somewhat active without getting carried away. I needed to keep reminding myself that I already have the fitness I need and that nothing I do now will increase that, but I can only ruin that by overtraining. I planned the week by doing two workout of each discipline. The weather last week was also amazing, which made it even harder to keep it short.
I REALLY felt great this past week. Cycling especially! It barely feels like I am exerting myself and I am holding a 18 MPH avg pace on both rides. I am avoiding any longer climbs just to keep it light. Everything feels ready to go for Timberman 70.3.
If you have read this blog before, you may recall my dealings with getting stung on the bike several times last year. You can check out here and here for more on that. I was thinking the other day how I had not been stung at all this year, but that came to an end when I was cutting the grass the other night and I ran over a hornets nest in the ground. I got whacked on the hand and knee which swelled up pretty good that night.
I also cut my finger while trying to talk and cut peppers the other night. I am not a multitasker for sure. I cut right through half of my finger nail and my finger and it was hard to stop the bleeding. It eventually did, but my nail keeps catching on things.
On Saturday Denise and I volunteered for our local Alburtis 5k race which we have done for the last several years. We usually help out with registration and packet pickup and then I take photos of all the runners which we sell to help raise some extra money for the Alburtis Area Community Center. Turnout was fairly decent this year and we had the timing done by Pretzel City Sports which takes some of the complication out of the process. The Alburtis Tavern was a big sponsor again and they provided drink coupons to any one participating or involved with the race.
Ironman Coeur d’Alene Update
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have registered for Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015. I had originally thought I would be taking a year off from doing any full Ironmans, but things change. I got the green light from my wife, so I wasted no time gettting on that. It feels good to have another race to look forward to and I am already thinking about what I want to do differently next season. I will be posting a lessons learned post from Ironman Lake Placid 2014 soon.
I have already purchased our airline tickets IMCDA since I thought they were fairly reasonable. I also have a place to stay in the works right now which I found on AirBnb. It is located about 20 minutes out of town and on the edge of the National Forest. It will be a good location for activity I think since we are going to be vacationing the week after the event.
I am planning using TriBike Transport for getting my bike out there. This was recommended by Maria, from RunningALife.com, since she had used this service last year. I weighed the prices and pros & cons and this seemed like the best option. For $325 they will deliver my bike intact to the race location and return it back again. The only downside is that I have to drive it down to Cadence Bike Shop in Manayunk(near Philadelphia, PA) the week before the race and then pick it up again after. It is about an hour each way. Other options were cheaper, but required breaking bike down, packing it up, having somewhere to ship it and carrying it around with me. We will be staying out there for the week after and I really didn’t want to deal with that. The Quintana Roo rentals was another option, but it is almost the same price depending on the bike and you have no power meter and some bike you never rode before.
Well, next week will be another easy taper week. The pool I go to is closed for maintenance next week so no swimming until I get up to
Lake Winnipesaukee later in the week. I am planning on doing 2 rest days Monday and Thursday, with a couple light workouts in between. Looks like a long drive on either THursday night or Friday morning.
I decided I needed to see some new territory on my long bike ride this week. This along with Longswamp Township decided to cover their entire road system in oil & chips, confirmed that I needed to get out of dodge. I searched around the internet for some century rides and came up with the Round The Valley century out in Lebanon County. It was only an hour and twenty minutes west via a easy drive on I-78 and the registration was a mere $30 + $15 for day of registration. The ride was described as scenic and challenging on the website, and it certainly lived up to that.
The ride started at the Campbeltown Fire Station where i arrived around 7:30am. The parking lot was nowhere near full, which I was rather surprised. It was a pretty low key event. I went inside, registered and made a bathroom stop and headed on my way. They offered a vegetarian option for post-race food which I was happy to see. I also picked up some car window stickers displaying the 4 feet law for vehicles which I will gladly post in my back window.
I noticed on my drive it was quite windy, but it had seemed to subside a bit since arriving. The ride wound out through some beautiful farmlands and then ascending with a nice climb into some wooded mountainside. The roads were all well marked with an orange “V” with a circle around it with the pointy end of the V indicating the direction. The wind had picked up a bit but the ride was very well protected and it really did not cause that much issue.
The ride had a great variety of scenery as well as terrain. We went through some tiny old Furnace villages, gamelands, and forests. My favorite part was the long flat stretch through the Mt. Gretna area. It was mostly flat, well-shaded and nicely paved large shoulder. I was able to get down in the aerobars for the majority of the stretch just cruise.
I was really surprised at the size of the shoulder on most of the roads on this ride. I really didn’t think that PennDOT knew what a paved shoulder was, but apparently they do in this part of PA. The majority of the roads were in very good condition on the ride with only a few that were a little rough. I only remember hitting one that was recently oil and chipped, but they must have swept up the extra chips because it was pretty nice. Apparently Longswamp Township does not know what sweeping up chips is all about.
The rest stops had a good assortment of foods with water and Gatorade. Not quite the level of the Suburban Cyclists for the Nockamixon ride, but more than adequate. I actually skipped a couple of the stops all together since I brought my own race-day nutrition consisting of Amrita Bars, Skratch Labs and Chunks of Energy. There was also SAG vehicles monitoring the ride which was probably difficult since it was not very well attended by riders.
I was frequently riding alone but would occasionally pass people here and there. It was reassuring to see others every so often just to make sure I didn’t miss a turn. On one wide-shouldered section of Rt 322 I came up behind 2 guys and a girl with matching kit going at a pretty casual pace. Instead of moving single file and letting me pass, the guy put his arm around the girl and started pushing her faster. What the hell is that? Then the third guy on the left, who had been riding just a foot or so behind them sped up and put his around the other guy. WTF? Is this a love-in or a bike ride? So they still would not let me by and the traffic was steady enough I could not get out in the traffic lane. They eventually caught up to another pack with similar kit on that was going even slower, so with no vehicles I was finally able to get out and pass by them. I really don’t understand why they could not let me by them.
I have to say this is probably one the best century rides I have ridden so far. The scenery and challenge of the course was extraordinary. I cannot believe this ride is not more well-known. If you have a chance to ride this course or do the actual ride next June I would highly recommend it.