Multi-Sport

My Kona Journey: Part 5

November 13th, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

by Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 4”. I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

The alarm goes off at 4:00am and I’m already wide awake filled with nervous energy. I thought to myself 3 hours from now I will be toeing the line for Ironman Brasil. I woke up to rain droplets hitting our hotel. The forecast showed light rain showers and temps in the high 60s throughout the day so I put on a rain jacket to keep dry. I had my usual breakfast which was oatmeal with protein powder mixed in. After eating I walked down to our hotel lobby to take a shuttle bus to the race transition area. The shuttle ride was slow due to the pedestrian and car traffic. When I got to the transition area I dropped off my special need bags and then I went to set-up my bike. I loaded up my nutrition bottles on the bike, pumped up the tires, setup the bike computer, and pre-clipped my bike shoes.

After getting setup in transition and put on my wetsuit in a dry area and started my half mile walk to the swim start. When I got near the swim start I got into the ocean and did a 5 minute warm up swim. The ocean was really calm which put me at ease considering the tides we had a few days ago. After warming up I had 30 minutes until my 7:05am wave start for the 30-34 age group. During that time I drank some Ucan and took-in other nutrition to get fueled up before the start. The Pro men started at 6:35am and the Pro women started at 6:45am. My wave started after the Pro Women. The race officials lined us up at the start line 15 minutes prior to the start. The race was a beach start so the race officials lined us up 10 meters away from the shoreline. It felt like an eternity waiting at the start line. During the wait, I stared out into the ocean thinking to myself that this was exactly what I envisioned in my head over a 1000 times during training.

Once the volunteers moved out of the way and lowered the start-line tape it was game on. BANG!! The cannon went off and over 300 athletes sprinted into the Atlantic Ocean. I ran about 30 yards before jumping in the water to begin my swim. There was a group of 8-10 guys that took off ahead of us within the first 200 yards. I ended up swimming with a pack of 8 guys during the first half of the swim. The swim course was set up as a “M” shape meaning we swam a 2.2K out and back then another 1.6K out and back. At times it was challenging to sight the first turnaround buoy because it was still dark and my goggles were fogging up. I mainly focused on drafting behind the swimmers in my group to save as much energy as possible. Within the group there was a lot of contact- so got hit and kicked several times. We rounded the first buoy and swam back to shore. Heading back out, the sun was higher in the sky, so it was easier to sight. Hitting the shore a second time, we ran onto the beach and went around a few cones before running back into the Ocean. At this point we another 1.6K of swimming left to go..

When I entered the water again I noticed that the group that I was swimming with were more spread apart. Since I didn’t have a group to swim with, I swam behind one of the stronger swimmers from that group for the next 300 meters. At this point the 35-39 age group leaders were starting to pass us so I made a surge and got behind them. After 200 yards I lost contact with the 35-39 age group leaders and I swam solo until the swim finish. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have made a surge since I only got a small lead on the group that I swam with earlier. I came out of the 2.4 mile swim in a time of 55:08 which was a personal best for a Ironman swim. It was a fast swim considering the saltwater for the extra buoyancy and ocean currents pushing us along.

We had to run about .3 miles to the transition. I ran by my dad just before entering transition and he yelled out “You’re in 15th place”. To qualify for Kona I needed to be in the top 8 of my age group to guarantee a slot. I had a smooth T1 transition even though the transition area was slippery from the rain. There were athletes sliding and falling but luckily I had no issues. When I got on the bike and started pedaling the legs were feeling good. My mantra for the first few hours of the bike was to hold back and stay at my goal wattage. I waited 10 minutes into the bike before taking in nutrition to make sure my stomach had settled after the swim. My nutrition plan was to take 273 calories every hour which equates to one bottle per hour.

The course was mostly flat during the first 30 minutes until I got to the first major climb. The climbs were long and gradual but I made sure that I kept a steady effort. On the steeper uphill sections I would pedal standing up so I could work different muscles and give other muscles a break. I felt strong up the hills. After the hilly section it was mostly flat and fast. On the flats I stayed in the aero position. The roads were wet and periodically there would be a light rain showers. The roads were slippery so I took extra caution going around turns. I saw a few riders fall on some of the hairpin turns. There were large water puddles on the road which made it dangerous to ride through because you didn’t know what was underneath the puddle. There was one rider 50 yards ahead of me that hit a pothole and his bike catapulted him over the handlebars. He never saw the pothole because it was hidden under a water puddle.

I felt good all the way though the first lap of the bike. My first lap split was 2:27 which put me on pace to be under 5 hours for the bike. When I started the 2nd loop the winds picked up in speed which made the course slower. At the 2:45 hour mark my Quarq power meter started to malfunction due to the wet conditions. My power meter was reading very low power numbers which made it useless since the numbers had no meaning to me. To help monitor my pace/intensity I switch to my heart rate monitor. I tried to stay at around 158 bpm since this was my heart rate when I started to track it. Hard to say if that heart rate was keeping me within my proper power zones. I was just trying to keep the intensity consistent. This was the first time my power meter completely malfunctioned, so it was terrible timing that it happened in a race. Throughout my training I relied on my power to monitor my pace and intensity.

At the 3:30 hour mark my legs were favoring a lower cadence which meant that my legs were getting fatigued. At the 4 hour mark my legs were really hurting which became obvious as I was struggling on my smallest gear going up the major climbs. On the first loop the major climbs felt easy. Also I was a little behind my nutrition plan because I didn’t finish my fourth bottle until the 4:20 hour mark. The last hour of the bike was just survival mode to get to T2. I just focused on giving it everything that I had. When I finished the bike I still had a half bottle of nutrition leftover. I finished the 112 mile bike in a 5:02:50 which was a personal best.

When I got off my bike and started running through transition I was not feeling good. My legs were stiff and I didn’t feel comfortable. My goal for the marathon was to run a sub 3 hour which was a 6:53 pace. I took the first mile conservative at a 7:05 pace. During the run my stomach was a little upset so I wasn’t able to take in nutrition until 20 mins into the run. However, my running legs did start to feel better by mile 2 and I began running 6:40-50 pace. The most challenging part of the course was the first 10 km. At the 4 km mark we had to run up two very steep hills. The 2nd hill was so steep that I had to power-walk it. The descent on these hills were very steep so I had to keep the pace super slow so I didn’t fall over. I ran with another competitor side by side during the first 10km which was nice. I tried to make small talk with him but he didn’t speak very much english. We passed at least 30 people running together. I passed more people the first 10km of the race than I did during the remainder of the marathon.

After the first 10 km it was mostly flat the next 20 miles. From miles 6 to 12 I was holding 6:45 pace and was feeling good. I began opening up a gap on the my fellow competitor who I was running with side by side. I was taking in nutrition but I was still behind my nutrition plan. One hour into the run I was suppose to take 2 flasks of Infinit but I only had one. When I got near mile 13 I was starting to feel light headed and low on energy. I felt low on energy because I was behind on my calorie count. Thankfully the 2nd flask I took before mile 13 was starting to kick in and I got my energy back. I ran a 7:05 for mile 13 and then I picked up the pace to a 6:50 mins per mile.

I felt alright the next 10 km but I could tell I was on the edge of falling off pace. I KNEW if I did not keep taking my nutrition I going to hit the wall. With 12 km to go I stopped at the special needs station to pick up 2 more flasks of Infinit and took a quick walk break. This was the only time I walked besides the power-walk up the very steep hill. After the special needs I was holding onto 7:00 – 7:07 pace. It was in survival mode at this point. There were a LOT of people on the run course during my final lap. I had to maneuver around a lot of runners, which is hard when your legs and body are at their physical limits. I almost fell over when I tried to dodge a orange cone.

I was able to finish all of my nutrition with a mile left to go in the race. During the entire run I had no idea where I stood in my age group placement. With 1 km left until the finish my dad yelled out “You’re in 7th place!”. I was relieved to hear those words because I knew I qualified for Kona. I got an extra surge of energy and I was able to break 7:00 mins for the last mile. My official marathon time was a 3:00:06 which is a Ironman PR. After I finished I didn’t know the official results until a few hours later. The official results showed that I finished 2nd in my Age Group in a total time of 9 hours 4 minutes and 3 seconds. I was ecstatic! I did it! I’m going to KONA baby!

The following day was the award and the Kona slot allocation/roll down ceremonies. I got a big trophy for finishing 2nd in my age group.

After the age group and professional awards they did the Kona slot allocation and rolldown. Ironman Brasil had a total of 75 Kona Slots. For my age group they gave 8 Kona slots just like I predicted. When the announcer called my name I gladly walked on stage and accepted my slot to Kona. They gave me a Hawaiian lei and token which read “Qualified for 2017 Ironman World Championship”. The back of the token had the Ironman slogan “Anything is Possible”.

Overall Ironman Brasil was a huge success! I accomplished my main goal which was to qualify for Kona. Anything more was just icing on the cake. Now I had a place to be on October 14th, 2017 which was at the pier in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

To be continued….

 


My Kona Journey: Part 4

October 11th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 3”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” – Frank L. Gaines

It was early May and less than one month to go until Ironman Brasil!  During the month of May I did two races which were the Borgess run and the Muncie May Triathlon. I’ve ran the Borgess run 4 years in row and wanted to continue on with that tradition.  On May 6th I did the Borgess 10k run which was a “C” race for me.  I went into this race in a non-rested state since my Ironman training took priority.  I was able to get the overall win in a time of 33:32 which was the fastest time I’ve ran on that course.  I was really surprised of how well I ran considering my legs felt fatigued from training.  This race result showed that I had good run fitness which was a big confidence booster heading into Ironman Brasil.

The following weekend on May 13th I did the Muncie May Triathlon which was an Olympic distance race in Muncie, Indiana.  The race was one of the first triathlon races in the Midwest.  I was trying to find a race further South to get some warmer temps but there weren’t any others on that weekend.  The race was on a Saturday so I drove down to Muncie on Friday and checked out the course.  The water temp was 58 deg F which will be the coldest water I would ever swim in!  The bike course was a 2 loop that was mostly flat with a few rolling hills.  The run course was a out and back which had rolling terrain.

On race day there were a few delays which pushed my swim wave start to 9:50am.  Before the start I swam in the lake to get my body acclimated to the freezing water temps.  When I stuck my head in the water it took my breath away but after a few minutes my body adjusted.  I wore a skull cap to help keep my head warm.  When the race started I got off to a good start.  I was swimming with the leaders for the first 300-400 yards.  Eventually the leaders started to pull away which was unusual because I usually keep a even pace throughout the swim.  I think the cold water temps were getting to me because my body was using its energy to stay warm.  I ended up fading to 6th place coming out of the water.  I tried to stay positive and thought that once I got to the bike I would be ok and would make up those lost positions.

 

When I got to the bike I notice within the first few minutes of the ride that my power numbers were low.  I was riding 30-40 watts lower than what I expected.  On lap one I got passed by two riders and I started to get disappointed with myself.  I thought to myself “Man I did all this hard work on the bike and this was all I could show for it.”  I didn’t give up and just kept pushing.  When I started the 2nd loop I started to pick up the pace.  Within a 5 minute window my power started to gradually climb from 240 to 250 to 260 to 270 to 280 to 290 watts.  I got a 2nd wind and the engines were running on full power.  The two guys who passed me early on in the bike I could not see but I knew if I kept pushing I could catch them.  I was able to catch both with 2 miles left to go in the bike.  It turned out that I was in the lead coming off the bike so I felt confident that I had the race at hand since my run was my strongest discipline.  I managed to grow my lead and win the race.  This race showed me that ANYTHING can happen and you can go from a low point to a high point as long as you keep pushing.

After Muncie I had 2 weeks until Ironman Brasil.  The final 2 weeks were lighter workouts since I was beginning my taper.  My dad and I left for Brazil on a Tuesday (5 days before the race) and arrived in Florianopolis, Brazil on a Wednesday.  The total flight time was 15 hours through 3 different connections.  After landing in Florianopolis we had to drive 45 minutes to the hotel which was a few miles away from the race venue.  On our drive I was able to checkout the landscape and the bike course.  Florianopolis was a very hilly and pretty area.  Fortunately the bike course is mostly on the highways which is mostly flat with a few big hills along the course.  The scenery was beautiful especially near the coastline.  It definitely felt like I was in a different country because the buildings, roads, and cars were different compared to the US.

On Thursday I did a 45 minute easy run which did not feel smooth or easy.  During this run it felt like I left my running legs in Michigan.  I didn’t worry too much over this run because it could’ve been due to the long flight or the taper effect.  I knew that I was fit and that I would be ready to race.  Later than day I did the athlete check-in and checked out all the cool triathlon toys at the expo!

On Friday I did a open water swim near the Ironman start.  I probably couldn’t have picked a worse day to go for a swim.  There were 5 to 8 foot tides crashing into shore.  This made me worry because I thought this was normal and this would be the race conditions on race day.  I manage to have the courage to go for a swim but it was rough.  I was getting saltwater in my mouth.  I had a hard time sighting since I couldn’t see over the tides.  The waves were tossing me around for 30 minutes.  There was an instance when I was swimming back to shore a big wave flipped me over on my back!   After the swim I talked to a few folks about the ocean tides and they said that those conditions were not typical.  Usually the water is a lot more calm and race officials would’ve cancelled the swim in the conditions I swam in which made me feel more at ease.

The day before the race I did my final workout which was a bike and run.  I did a 25 min bike and a 15 min run.  On the bike I tested out my race equipment by placing two filled water bottles in my rear bottle cages to make sure they did not fall out while riding on the cobblestone roads.  Yes, there is a section of cobblestones for .5 miles near the start of the bike.  The good news is that my bottles did not fall out; however, the bad news was that my rear bottle cage broke!  Literally on the 2nd to last speed bump heading back to the hotel I heard a “thud” sound.  I was really surprised but it’s good that it happened now and not during the race.  If this happened during the race it would’ve had a big impact on my race since two bottles were two hours worth of nutrition.  Fortunately I was able to buy another rear bottle cage at the Ironman expo.

That late afternoon I started packing my equipment and nutrition.  For the bike I prepared five bottles of my Infinit bike blend that I would carry on the bike.  I had one bottle in my aero bars, two bottles on my frame, and two bottles in my rear bottle cages.  To take extra precautions I packed two extra bottles in my bike special needs bag just incase I lose any bottles during the race.  For the run I prepared six 10 oz flasks of my Infinite run blend.  Each flask had 30 mins worth of energy and I plan on running for 3 hours which meant I needed 6 flasks.  I would carry three flasks out of T2 and then pick up the other three flasks in special needs.

The last agenda items to do before the race day was eat and get to bed early.  We had a buffet dinner so I could pick and choose what I wanted.  I limited my fiber intake and ate foods that I was more familiar with.  Not worth experimenting with different foods in a foreign country the day before a race.  After dinner we went to bed shortly after.  It’s usually hard for me to get a good night’s sleep before the biggest race of the season.

All the hard work was done and now it was time to reap the benefits tomorrow.   I was in the best shape of my life and felt confident that I could qualify for Kona as long as I executed my race plan.  The forecast for tomorrow was rainy with the temps in the high 60s.  At least I didn’t have to worry about it being too hot:)

To be continued….


What’s in your triathlon bag?

October 5th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kathy Braginton

As another triathlon season came to a close, I began to clean out my triathlon bag and pack it away until next year.  I looked through all the items I have collected over the years and which ones have become standard items in my bag.  So, what is in your triathlon bag?

The first, and most important item, is my race day checklist.  I have used this same checklist for the last 9 years.  No matter how many times I have packed my bag, I use this list to ensure I have everything I’ll need on race day.  If you look closely at the handwritten items, you’ll see the true age of this checklist.  Does anyone still own/use an MP3 player?  I do find it amusing that I have that item listed on a USAT labeled checklist.  Use of any personal audio device at a USAT sanctioned event is a rule violation and subject to a time penalty.  I will admit that I did use an MP3 player during a race when I was first starting out and I did receive a 2:00 minute penalty as a result.  Needless to say, I no longer include that item in my bag!

The rest of the items in my bag are handy and will keep you prepared for whatever might come your way:

 

  1. No matter what the race distance:  the water, wind, and sun can really take its toll on your lips.  I use a squirt of Aquaphore on the stem of my bike.  While I am riding, I can quickly apply it to keep my lips protected without slowing me down.
  2. You never know what the race day bathroom situation may bring and there rarely is a place to wash your hands. So, for the times when you just feel the need to clean your hands, a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer is a must!
  3. Electrical tape can be used to secure gel packs on the stem of your bike for easy access during the bike leg. If you tape the gel pack over the tab at the top, it can serve as a quick release for opening the gel pack.  You also never know when you may need tape to do a last minute handlebar repair.
  4. Sidewalk chalk can be used to mark your transition area. I have only needed to use this a few times when I could not find a good visual landmark for locating my transition, however, this is not allowed at USAT sanctioned events.
  5. At race day packet pick-up, you never know what kind of race numbers you will be given and how they are to be mounted. Most triathlon bikes have odd shaped stems and seat posts and do not allow for easy attachment of race numbers.  I use a mini-stapler to quickly wrap the race number on my stem.  I have had people ask to borrow my stapler many times as they struggle to attach their race number and watch me attach mine within seconds.
  6. In addition to the stapler, I have a pair of travel scissors to assist with the race number application. Race numbers can be trimmed for a better fit.
  7. For faster transitions, I have my bike shoes already clipped in my pedals and I use rubber bands to fasten the back of my bike shoes to the frame of the bike. The bike shoes will then stay horizontal until I mount the bike. Once I start to pedal, the rubber bands will snap.
  8. The most recent item I have added is a Sharpie. Waiting in line to be body marked, can be one of the most time consuming tasks on race day.  Having your own Sharpie for body marking, can eliminate the stress and anxiety that can come from having to wait.

A few of the other items I carry are safety pins, spare tubes, baby powder, deodorant, body glide and sunscreen.  Be prepared for whatever race day may bring.  Keep your bag stocked and utilize your checklist each and every race.

 


My Kona Journey: Part 3

October 1st, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By  Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 2”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering.”

– Chris McCormack, Two-Time Ironman World Champion

My training from October 2016 to February 2017 was progressing in the right direction leading up to Ironman Brasil on May 28th.  I was more powerful on the bike and my run/swim fitness was looking good.  In fact to show off my run fitness in February I was able to run a 1:15:46 at the Portage Winterblast Half Marathon which is the fastest time I’ve ran in 5 years for a half!  My swim times in the pool were better compared to prior years.

When March rolled around my training volume was starting to pick up.  This meant that I started doing 4.5 – 6 hour bike rides and 2:00 to 2:45 hour long runs.  As my training increased to 16 – 18 hours per week I became more fatigued.  There were some days during the week where I became so fatigued that I thought I would not be able to make it to the weekend.  Going into the weekend feeling very fatigued is not good considering my big workouts which include a 5+ hour bike and 2+ hour run were on the weekend!  Some fatigue is acceptable but not to the point where you feel tired all day and have to rely on coffee to keep you awake.

There was one particular week where I had to take a off day instead of doing my scheduled bike and run workout.  My coach contacted me about how much sleep I was getting and how we could tweak the schedule so I could get more sleep.  Looking back on my past training I was waking up at 4:15 am three times per week to swim with the Kalamazoo Masters group.  To wake up that early meant I was giving up a lot of sleep considering I could wake up at 7:00am during the weekday.  This was not an issue prior to March when I was training 12-15 hours per week; however, when my training exceeded 15 hours then the lack of sleep became an issue.  I moved all of my swims to the evenings which meant I only had to get up 1 time at 5:30am per week.  I was bummed that I had to miss my morning Masters swims but I needed the extra sleep.  When I started getting more sleep I did not have any bad workouts and I had more energy throughout the week.  Getting more sleep was a game charger and I didn’t have to reduce my training. This proves once again that sleep is the best form of recovery!

Another area I wanted to improve on was my stamina on the bike.  When I did the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin my power on the bike faded the last 2 hours of the ride which costed me a lot of time.  To gain more confidence on the bike I did multiply 5+ hour rides with Ironman efforts mixed in throughout the rides. I remember one long ride I did in mid April was a 112 mile time trial at Ironman goal pace.  Sounds simple right?  Just ride as hard as you can for 112 miles.  When I did this ride it was in the 70s which was the warmest day we’ve had so far that Spring.  I could tell within the first few hours into the ride that I was not going to hit my Ironman goal pace.  The combination of the heat and being a little fatigued before starting the ride made it for a challenging day.  Instead of thinking negatively about how much this ride was going to suck I flipped the script.  I tried to think about something positive to help keep me motivated to ride hard.  For me I knew I was not going to hit my goal watts so I didn’t focus on that.  Instead I focused on maintaining the wattage that I was currently averaging and try to finish the ride strong.  When I finished the ride I did maintain my power from start to finish and I gave it everything that I had.  All we can do is take what our body gives us and make the most of it.  If I got anything from this ride then it was working on my mental toughness. In an Ironman race you are going to go through high and low points.  The key moments in a Ironman is how you manage those low points.  During those low points try not to get down on yourself and believe that you can get through it.  Focus your energy on what you can control for that given situation.

In early May I did another time trial which was a 100 miles at Ironman goal watts.  I had a great ride.  My legs were feeling great and in fact I was exceeding my goal wattage.  This ride was a big confidence booster for me because I was able to my goal wattage for Ironman Brasil.  Even though I was felt great on this ride I made sure I didn’t push the pace too hard starting out.  As I mentioned earlier during a Ironman race you will go through some high points where you are feeling great.  During these high points you need to keep a level head and use good judgement.  When an athlete feels good we have a tendency to ignore our race plan and start pushing the pace.  If we push the pace too hard too soon we usually pay the consequences later in the race and end up hurting our overall performance.

All of the long rides and runs allowed me to dial in my race nutrition plan. I started out using Ucan which I used for Ironman Wisconsin.  For some reason I could only stomach Ucan for up to 3 hours before I would get tired of the taste and my body would start rejecting it.  For a Ironman I needed a product that would work for at least 8 hours so I needed to try something else.  The new product I tried was First Endurance EFS drinks which I have used in the past and had success with it.  Base on my weight and race duration I needed to get in 250-300 calories per hour on the bike and around 210 calories per hour for the run.  When I used EFS I found the flavor to be a little over concentrated to get the calories in that I needed.  I was able to stomach EFS longer than Ucan but by the time I got to the 3.5-4 hour mark on the bike I got tired of the taste and I couldn’t take much more.

I had to rethink my nutrition once again.  I decided to give Infinite Nutrition a try.  I’ve heard good things about Infinite from other triathletes in the Trikat club and I knew they were a sponsor for Athletic Mentors and the Trikats.  For those of you who may be new to INFINIT, it is a custom-blended nutrition solution customized to fit your nutrition needs on the bike and run portions of triathlons or your nutrition needs for any type of exercise and racing.  I did a free consultation with their nutritionist specialist to create my custom blend via email.  The process was really easy.  They send you a survey to fill out to help them understand what your needs are to develop the right nutrition blend.  After the survey they created a bike and run blend for me.  The bike blend was 275 calories and the run blend was 210 calories.  In addition, the bike blend had some added whey protein to help satisfy hunger whereas the run blend does not because the protein has a tendency to cause bloating due to the liquids sloshing around while you run.  The flavor I chose for the bike bland was chocolate and the run was a fruit punch which both tasted great.

When I tried Infinit on my 5 hour ride I took 5 bottles on my bike with one 275 calories serving per bottle.  I just had to take one bottle per hour to stay on my nutrition plan which was really easy to keep track.  I was able to stomach it through 4 hours without an issue.  The last hour I struggle a little to finish the last bottle.  I contacted Infinit about it and they sent me a new blend with a little less Whey Protein in it to make it easier to digest.  On my next 5 hour ride I tried the new blend and I was able to down all 5 bottles on my ride.  In hindsight, I think the old blend would’ve still worked because I think my stomach needed time to get use to digesting that amount of calories while riding.   I did not have any issues with the Infinit run blend on my long runs so didn’t have to make any modifications to that.  Overall, I was very satisfied with Infinit’s product and service.

That all said I had my nutrition plan dialed in and I had the stamina (and confidence) on the bike to help get me a Kona slot at Ironman Brasil.  Now it was time to start racing and tapering!


Triathlon PSA: Know Thy Course – Allendale Triathlon Race Report

September 18th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Todd Anthes

My season started slow due to a few injuries and other anomalies. So, I find myself in mid-September still racing triathlon to meet team obligations, when I normally shift to a mountain/cross bike focus.

I have heard great things about the Allendale Triathlon, including a flat and fast bike, a top-notch race director and staff, an indoor transition area; #sopro bike racks, and a cross-country type run.  All were true and the event was well-run, had great volunteers, and everyone was very pleasant.  Who would have thought that a massive green house/store (i.e., Countryside Greenhouse) would be such a great venue?

I came into the race with no taper, so a really long warmup was necessary, but it still was tough when the heartrate spikes at the swim start.  The nice part of the swim is that it is never more than 3 – 4 feet deep.  The swim is in what appears to be a water retention pond.  So, if you freak out on the swim, or your heartrate spikes, or both, you can simply stand up; and I did.  In fact, I found myself in a pack of swimmers from the prior wave with no immediately apparent way out, so I simply stood up, got a different perspective, and took off again.

My swim was pretty slow as my sighting was abysmal.  The only other time I was in the open water this season was the Grand Rapids Triathlon in June.  This is not recommended if you want have a good open water swim time.  Check out the swim file and have a good laugh (note that the swim was pretty much a rectangle).

It felt pretty good to be ripping around on my tri bike; I have only been on it a handful of times this season.  The course is a big rectangle and really easy to follow, and I know the area pretty well.  Regardless, I screwed up the course.  I turned too soon when traveling south.  I had my head down and was pounding away, and when I looked up, I saw spectators on what I thought was the east-west turn road down a ways, so I made the turn.  It was too early.  And I didn’t realize it for a while, when I didn’t see anyone ahead of me (i.e., I was the last wave).  I did look behind me and saw that a couple bikers followed.  I felt horrible.

I took a left on the first paved road and got back on course. I did the same distance, but I ended up disqualifying myself after the race.  Also, I won’t write about the second wrong turn I took, but a volunteer got me back on track quickly this time.

I can’t stress enough that athletes know the event course.  Even if they *think* they know the course.  Driving the course ahead of time is a best practice. Knowledge of the turn corners is essential for the participant, and other athletes who might be following. At race pace not everyone is thinking clearly, and a mental reminder of turn is very helpful.

The run reminded me of a high school cross country meet. All dirt around a corn field.  I certainly didn’t empty the tank given my decision to disqualify myself, and race CX the race day.

After the race I spoke with the race director and timing official about my bike course error.  We all decided it was best that I be disqualified.  I didn’t complete the same course as all the other participants, and I felt bad about taking other athletes off course.

My disqualification was the right decision for a number of reasons.  In fact, an athlete asked my after the race if I went off the bike course.  She knew the course and witnessed my error.  She told me she saw some athletes follow me.  I told her that I felt horrible about the matter and told her that I disqualified myself.  If I hadn’t done that she could have rightfully questioned my integrity, especially if I accepted an award.  Remember that you are always an ambassador of your own brand, and if you are on a team, an ambassador for the team and all of its sponsors.  So, do the right thing, even if no one is looking.

All in all it was a good training day.  I was about 3 minutes off my projected time.  And I clearly gave back a minute or more on the swim, at least a minute on the bike, and a few minutes on the run.


My Kona Journey: Part 2

September 4th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 1.”  I suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”– Benjamin Franklin

My goal for the 2017 season was to race Ironman Brasil and qualify for the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.  To qualify for Hawaii I needed to get in the best shape of my life which required a smart training plan.  For starters to determine where I needed to improve my Ironman Wisconsin results and feedback from the race were reviewed.  My Ironman Wisconsin age group places for each discipline were the following: 12th in the swim, 12th in the bike, and 2nd in the run. Base on my age group placement in each discipline it appeared that my bike leg was an area of improvement since I gave up 10 – 15 minutes to my main competition.  The swim was not a big concern since the athletes that were ahead of me in the overall standings were ethier slower or 1-2 minutes faster than me.  The run was my strongest discipline so this was not a concern; however, there is some room for improvement.  In addition, the other area I wanted to work on was my race nutrition since I had stomach issues during the bike and run at Wisconsin.

The first several months of the off-season would be dedicated to improving my bike.  During the months of November through February my training would be focused on improving my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) which is the ability to sustain the highest power for about 1 hour.  FTP is one of the best indicators to predict your bike performance.  The goal was to increase my FTP because this should translate into a faster bike time at Ironman Brasil.   Even though my focus was on the bike I would still continue to swim and run 3-4 times per week.  However, the volume and intensity of the swims and runs would be lighter so I could save my legs and energy for the hard bike workouts.

I started doing light to moderate training again in early October of 2016.  My October training was light to help get my body use to training again and prevent burnout later in the season.  In November, I started my FTP power program for the bike.  Before starting the bike program I had to do a 20 minute power test.  This meant that I had to ride all-out and try to sustain the highest average power during those 20 minutes.  After riding my butt off for 20 minutes and DYING the last 5 minutes of the ride my average power was 276 watts.  It was not my best 20 minute power test but it was a starting point.  The 20 minute power test was used to calculate my FTP by taking 95% of 276 watts which would be 262 watts.  The goal was to increase my FTP by 10% by February.  My FTP of 262 watt was used to establish my power training zones.

It was time to do work!  Considering it was winter I had to do all my riding on a indoor trainer.  That being said I was getting a good “physical” workout but also a good “mental” workout as well.  The majority of my rides were between 1 to 2 hours during the weekday but on the weekends I had to ride between 2.5 to 4 hours.  To help me get through these long rides I listened to music or watched TV.  Another one that helped me get through some of these long gruelling rides was breaking up the workout in my head.  Almost all of my rides had intervals within the workout so I would focus on executing each interval and tried not to think about the entire ride itself.  For example, if my workout was a 20 min warm up, 20 min @90% FTP, and 5x 3 min hard w/ 3 min recovery I would just focus on the warm up and try not to worry about the hard sessions to follow.  After the warm up I would switch my focus on the hard 20 minute effort and mentally tell myself that once I get through this interval the rest of the ride will not be nearly as hard.  I continue this mindset on the 5x 3 hard intervals as well.

Another mental trick I used while riding was visualizing the perfect race at Ironman Brasil.  While on the indoor trainer I would visualize myself being in the race and racing against my competition to help keep me motivated.  I also had the motto that every ride I successfully completed meant that I was one step closer to reaching my Kona goal.  I believe mental toughness is just as important as being physically fit because it’s your mental toughness that will keep pushing your body to become more fit.

Each week I made slow but steady progress on the bike.  At the end of the FTP power program I did my last 20 minute power test in mid February to see the benefits of my hard work. For my final test I was able to average 302 watts which meant my new FTP was 287 watts!  My FTP improved by 9.5% which was very close to the 10% goal.  After establishing my new FTP I had a little over 3 months to go before Ironman Brasil on May 28th, 2017.  My training focus would start to shift to more specific Ironman training which meant more training volume and race pace simulation workouts.  In addition, the duration and intensity for my swim and run workouts would also increase.  The next 3 months would allow me to practice my Ironman pacing and race nutrition for Ironman Brasil.

To be continued….


Respect Your Off-Season

September 2nd, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Elaine Sheikh

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful!” – Eric Thomas, in his Secrets to Success speech at Michigan State University.

This has been my MO for years.  To paraphrase what Thomas said about NFL players, I agree that all athletes are created equal – but some work harder in the off season.  I’ve never had the athletic background some athletes have.  I didn’t run in high school.  The only swim stroke I knew when I started triathlon in 2013 was the doggie paddle.  My idea of a bicycle was my $175 Huffy from Wal-Mart.  I started at the bottom and soon triathlon was quite truly the air I breathed.  I fought for every success, every win, every pr.  I collapsed after workouts, too fatigued to unlock my front door.  I woke up at 4:00 am to train before work and get in a second workout after a 14 hour work day.  Every workout felt like it was a performance.  Every workout was make or break.  Can you relate?

Triathlon attracts type-A, success-driven people.  I’ve written in the past about balance in sport and balance in life.  If you’re a faithful blog reader, you’ll remember that I firmly supported (and still support) living a life of overall balance, but with periodic imbalance to achieve your full potential.  But sometimes, hard work doesn’t pay off in the ways you would expect.  Sometimes, it pays off for what seems like everyone around you, and it seems like you’re an anomaly.  Is this you right now?

Sometimes, it’s ok to stop.  It’s ok to rest.  I feel that now more than ever, there is pressure to avoid being labeled a “quitter.”  Pain is weakness leaving the body, right?  True, this sport is about natural selection, with many people coming and going and the strongest enduring year after year.  But sometimes, you have to respect yourself enough to take a break.  Before you drive yourself to the breaking point, through adrenal fatigue, through countless injuries, take a step back to rest and re-evaluate.  If I had stopped sooner, if I had not tried to push through the pain, if I had not tried to come back for the end of the season – maybe, just maybe, I could still be part of this sport.  Don’t be me.  We are coming up to the offseason, and if you feel the symptoms of burnout, please, make sure to practice self-care.  Success is an elusive, ever changing, ever moving target. Don’t let that target put your blinders on and distract you from the rest of your life.  If you need help planning an offseason, I’ve found that having a coach is invaluable and I highly recommend the team at Athletic Mentors for year-round individual coaching.

During this early part of my triathlon hiatus/retirement, I’ve listened to many podcasts from injured professional athletes.  Again and again, I hear the same theme that took place in my life. The constant push against your body’s limits will eventually lead to a breakdown.  And one injury leads to another.  It’s a vicious cycle.  The only way to break it is to stop.  Reset.  Start from the ground up once again.  That drive for success will never really go away, and your success may be just around the corner.  Remember that progress is not linear!

Respect your off-season.  Respect yourself.

 


Relief in Unexpected Places

August 18th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Todd Anthes

There is an old adage, it is not “if” you are going to injure your back, it’s “when.” Okay, I made that up. Granted I am not a sleep professional that you see advertised in the media, but I am someone who has recently suffered with some difficult back pain that has impacted my sport.

Running, biking, and strength training can definitely put some stress on your back. And I contend that in most situations, rest and recuperation will restore your back to its normal state.  This takes a bit more time an intention with a master’s athlete, but my back pain was not abating, and come to find out, I had unknowingly injected a variant into the process know – our bed.

A little over a year ago we needed to replace our mattress.  So, my wife and I went mattress shopping. In this regard, what was going to make her happy was what was going to make me happy. We purchased a very expensive name-brand memory foam mattress. I must say that I was not particularly fond of the mattress from the get-go; when I laid on my back, I felt like a turtle that had been flipped over. I did not enjoy this feeling, but hey, the bed was soft and the mattress salesman was very persuasive as to the benefits and quality of the mattress.

Over the past year I have stressed/injured my back, namely through racing, hard workouts, and even a long day doing yardwork. And my back was not springing back. I consulted my physical therapist and was worked with her for an extended time period. As part of this process, one day she asked me if my back hurt worse when I woke up, or at the end of the day.  Without fail, my back hurt the worst in the morning when I awoke, but got better throughout the day.  The short story is that my therapist said I should examine my mattress, specifically if it was firm enough.

My baseline test for determining what firmness would work for me involved me sleeping on the floor for a few nights. I found that this did not make my back pain any worse; in fact, it was marginally better. Armed with this knowledge, my next step was to find a much firmer mattress that would accommodate the needs of my wife and me. Initially I suggested to her that we use two twin extra-long mattresses, one to my wife’s liking and one to mine. However, we settled on a single mattress that is firm on one side and much softer on the other.  If you would have asked me about such a product before this, I would have looked incredulous.

Fast-forward a month or so after my new firm sided mattress, and a new low-profile pillow; after an extended time period where my back was giving me fits, I now feel that my back is properly recovering and I am able to regain some semblance of regular training.

 

 


New Adventures at the Ann Arbor Tri

August 9th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kathy Braginton

In search of something new and adventurous, I headed to the center of the universe for the Ann Arbor Tri presented by Epic Races. This race says it is a triathlon that is as tough as you are and I found out what tough really was.

Centered around Halfmoon Lake in the Pinckney State Recreation Area, you’ll swim the open waters of Halfmoon lake, bike the rolling country roads of the surrounding rural area, then run the Poto Trail.   The event featured 5 different races/distances (Sprint, Mini Sprint, Duathlon, Aquabike, and Sprint Relay), as well as, the Wolverine Collegiate Conference race.

The 800 meter swim was an out and back rectangle.  The lake was fairly clean with only a few patchy weed sections.  The female sprint wave was fairly large, so to avoid the masses, I chose the weeds at the start.  It turned out to be a very thick section and they were even getting caught around my neck!  Luckily, I was able to swim out of it fairly quick and get into clean water.  The out and back was West to East, so the return trip was blinding.  I was unable to see any buoys or any of the sighting objects on shore that I had made note of before the race.  I had to just swim towards the sun and actually stop several times to try and get my bearings.

The female wave was the last wave for the sprint race and was followed by the mini sprint wave.  The mini sprint was half the swim distance as the sprint, so we all converged around the same time into transition and onto the bike. This made for a very crowded bike leg for about the first 4 miles.  The road was also open to traffic, so we got caught up behind cars that were waiting to pass a few times.  The bike is described as rolling country roads.  I would describe it as large rollers and lots of them.  There were 2 in the last few miles that were out of the saddle worthy.  As most races go, what was listed as a 14 mile bike, was actually 14.6 according to my Garmin.

I came into this race ill prepared for what was really in store on the run.  I knew it was a 5 mile trail run, but really didn’t pay attention to the specific trail.  I heard the word brutal used several times before the start of the race.  Then, I realized where we were and that the trail run was the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Trail.  The Poto website lists the trail as fast and flowy trail to steep, technical climbs, to brain-rattling descents.  I’m actually glad I did not read that prior to the race.  Not knowing what was in store around the next corner,  made for more of the adventure.  I found myself several times wishing I was on my Fatty winding my way through the trails.  The run only had 2 half mile sections of paved road and both of those were uphill.  I found myself hoping the run that was listed as 5 miles would actually be short.  Unfortunately, that was not my luck and it turned out to be a painful 5.2!  I came in 7th overall with a 1st age group finish after being caught by 3 women on the run.  I’m still in awe at how fast they were able to move on those trails.

The post-race awards were listed as Grab-and-Go Awards.  This seemed unusual to me and I’m still up in the air about it.  Instead of waiting around to receive awards, you could simply report to the awards table to claim your prize.  While this method claims to get you home sooner, it is based off unofficial results as they are being posted.  The initial Female Masters winner that was listed turned out to be someone different and the actual winner had already left.

The race did offer a pretty cool finishers medal, super-soft Michigan race tee (Go Blue!), Free professional race photos, and FREE beer!  What more could you ask for?  It was definitely worth the adventure.

 


My Kona Journey: Part 1

August 4th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Brian Reynolds

“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
Sylvester Sallone

On September 12th, 2016 I was anxiously waiting in the Ironman World Championships slot allocation room at Ironman Wisconsin to find out how many slots would be given to my age group. When they posted the slot allocation sheet I saw that only two slots were given to my age group.  My heart sunk to the ground.  This meant that only two athletes would go to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I finished 4th place in my age group.  The only way I could go to Kona is if the first and second place athletes did not accept their slot.  Unfortunately when they announced the 1st and 2nd place athletes both of them accepted their Kona slot.

reynolds IM

I was very disappointed that I missed out on qualifying for Kona.  I remember feeling very confident that I would place in the top 2 in my age group considering how I felt going into the race. Note that this was my first Ironman race so I may have been a little naive:)   To quickly recap my race I started off with a great swim (58:20 swim time) and a fast T1.  I got off to a good start on the bike but was not able to keep that momentum going the entire ride.  I got passed by a lot of fast bikers but I kept a good attitude.  While on the bike I kept repeating to myself “once I get to the run I’ll run them down”.  When I got to the run I was in my comfortable zone since this was my strength.   I was able to make up a lot of places but the top two athletes in my age group were just too far ahead of me to rundown.  I ran a solid marathon time of 3:08 but would’ve needed to run a 2:58 to finish 2nd place which just wasn’t in the cards that day.

 

After my entire experience at Ironman Wisconsin it made me more determined and dedicated to qualify for Kona.  I also became more humble of the opportunity of qualifying.  I knew in order to qualify I would have to continue improving my Ironman fitness and I would have to choose a Ironman race that would give me the best shot of qualifying.

Ironman Brasil

The big question I asked myself was “What should be my next Ironman race”.  I really wanted to qualify for the 2017 Ironman World Championships so I wanted to pick a race in the Spring.  Unfortunately there was only one Ironman race in North America during the Spring and that was Ironman Texas in mid April.  However, I thought Texas was not ideal considering I would not be acclimated to the extreme Texas heat since I would be training in the cool Michigan temperatures.  This meant I had to look international.  The international races I considered was Ironman Australia, South Africa, and Brazil.  After weighing the pros and cons of each race Ironman Brazil was the best choice.

Ironman Brazil would give me the absolute best shot to qualify for Kona in 2017 for many reasons.  The first reason is they’ve historically offered more qualifying slots for my age group (30-34) than any other race.  In 2016 they handed out 11 slots!   The second reason was the temperatures during late May were between the high 60s and low 70s.  These temperatures were very ideal for me to race and perform well in considering it would require little heat acclimation.  The third reason was the time zone difference.  The race would take place in Florianopolis, Brazil which is only one hour ahead of US eastern time so didn’t need to adjust my sleep pattern.  Finally, the fourth reason was that the course suited me well given my strengths and weaknesses.  For example, the swim was in the ocean and not in a river which meant there were no water currents to assist us.  Thus the swim would favor a stronger swimmer like myself.  In addition, the course did have a few long hills which was to my advantage since I’m a good climber.

There were a few risks and concerns that I had being in a foreign country.  For one I was not familiar with the area and the food.  I knew I had to be cautious about what I ate and drank (don’t drink the water!).  My worst case scenario was getting a stomach flu or something bad before the big race.  To mitigate my concerns I decided to use Endurance Sports Travel (EST) agency to take care of the lodging, transportation, language translation, and food.  EST is an official partner with Ironman and understand/cater to the needs of the Ironman athlete very well.  Finally this would be my first time visiting South America so I could check this one off the bucket list.

Now that I had my Ironman race picked out it was time to get training!

To be continued….



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