Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ironman Training

I have fielded many questions on how I trained for 2 Ironmans Triathlons in a week. Let me preface my answer by saying that I am not new to endurance sports and did my first triathlon in 1996. My first marathon was several years ago and my first Ironman was in 2005.

I say this because there are many beginner triathletes (defined as someone who has been doing triathlons consistently for less than 5 years) that want to do an Ironman Triathlon because....well, their friends did it so they want to also.

While this is GREAT for the sport, I caution those beginners who are reading this not to follow in my training footsteps as my training volume worked for me and may very well not work for you. Consult a trained professional if you decide to do 2 Ironman Triathlons in a week (I consulted one at Endurance Sports Institute and it proved invaluable).

So, with that "disclaimer" out of the way, the idea to get me ready to undertake what I considered a daunting task was to get my Training Stress Score (as calculated by my coach and not some on-line generic calculation) so high that when I actually completed the first Ironman of the week on August 31, 2008 (Ironman Louisville 2008) it would not be a shock to my system, but would rather feel like a long training day.

Please feel free to peruse my training logs, which are all open access to view. Just click on the lefthand side of the webpage to view the logs, week by week.

In summary, here is what my total weekly volume looked like from January 1, 2008 up to the first Ironman of the week. (click on graph below to enlarge)

As you can see, I didn't do a ton of volume. Having a coach that knows you well allows you to train SMART and not to train HARD. Being successful at endurance training is just like being successful at endurance racing; you need to become highly efficient and "saddle time" is a "waste of time" if there is no purpose to the workout other than just "being on the bike". If you find yourself needing to just get "saddle time" to get used to the high mileage, then it may be a good idea to not attempt to do 2 Ironmans in a week, as injury may result.

Every single ride I did over 100 miles (about 5-6 times) there was a purpose and a focused heart rate zone I needed to be in. This allowed my body to continue to increase its endurance capacity and therefore had a "purpose".

Below is a pie chart that breaks down the mileage I did in each discipline from January 1 2008 including BOTH Ironman races. The distance/volume for both Ironman races are what make up the "281.20 miles, 7.453% race" portion of the chart. The pie chart below includes biking and running distances within "brick" workouts; which were a bike ride then a run immediately following. Sometimes they were single bricks and sometimes they were double bricks. I mention this because the bike distance and run distances are slightly lower than what I actually did because of this. (click on the chart below to enlarge)

Please help make a difference -

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


2 Ironmans in a week has officially been written in the book. On Sunday, September 7, 2008 I accomplished what I secretly thought was a VERY lofty goal that had a pretty big chance of not being accomplished due to injury, sickness, or just plain can't finish.

But the mission has been completed and for those interested, here is how Ironman Wisconsin 2008 went down:

SWIM: I swam at 40%-50% of maximum race effort. Wanted to just take it easy because I know for an Ironman race, going 50% effort or 90% effort is just going to get me 10 minutes....not worth the effort since I had NO IDEA how I would perform only 156 hours since my last Ironman triathlon.

Swim time: 1 hour 11 minutes

BIKE: I modified my nutrition from last week at Ironman Louisville so that I wouldn't have the same gastrointestinal issues on the bike as I did IM Louisville. It worked. I felt only slight gastrointestinal issues for about 20 min, but fixed it and never felt them again. Had a heart rate cap of 150 beats per minute, meaning I should not exceed this heart rate at anytime during the bike (150bpm is my maximum lactate steady state heart rate) but raced most of the race at 140+ heart rate except for the hills where I rested (literally rested while climbing the hills). Since I was "scared" of the marathon and expected the wheels to fall off during the run portion of this race due to my "mission of 2 Ironmans in a week" I took it TOTALLY EASY on the hills.

What does "totally easy" on the hills mean? Well, with no exaggeration, I rested on the hills. I climbed them at about 30-40 revolutions per minute, sat up out of my aerobars, and let my heart rate DROP during the climbs to around 130bpm staying relaxed and breathing through my nose. Yes, I was cycling uphill at around 3-4 miles per hour (no joke) but I really didn't want to blow my legs out and walk the marathon...too long of a day. People were walking alongside my bike as I climbed and they were going the same speed as I was.

My right knee started to bother me and get tender around mile 40; which scared me because I felt this was Ironman Louisville rearing its ugly head (can you say "injury"). I felt that I may be overdoing this 2 Ironman thing and this was just one bad idea I I babied it on the bike pressing more on the left leg...but stopped that pretty quickly once I realized my overcompensation was going to cause something else to hurt by the time the 112m bike was done. My right knee didn't get anymore tender once I stopped babying it, but it also didn't get any better.

Wind on the 2nd loop picked up a bit, but nothing serious. Around 10-13mph is all, nothing I haven't ridden in before so I just stuck my head down and kept working...keeping my heart rate firmly into the 140-148bpm just below my maximum lactate steady state heart rate of 150bpm. It worked well because I finished about 5 minutes faster than my Ironman Louisville bike split. I was happy but not surprised at my split getting off the bike.

Bike time: 6 hours 5 minutes

RUN: My coach told me that I should pretty much ignore my heart rate and run by Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) since my heart rate would probably be doing weird things by this time, esp after I did an Ironman just a week ago. He told me to run at an effort that felt like I was working just a little bit...but not too hard.

Ok, check.

Out of the second transition I took 2 doses of Aleve tablets to help any pain that might start in my right knee and then I started runninng at this RPE...just run so I felt like I was working just a little bit, but nothing too hard. 1st split 8:34 minutes per mile. For those of you who don't know me....that's historically VERY fast for an Ironman mile pace for me. But I didn't question it, I felt good, and was running at the appropriate RPE so I kept it up.

Well I ran like Forrest Gump. I just kept runnin' and runnin' and runnin' and miles 4, 7, 10, 13, all came and went and I didn't slow down! I thought to myself....what the hell is going on? I walked the hills to save my legs because my history has shown me that I always slow down to a walk/run pace around Mile 18 and then it's then just survival mode for the rest of the Ironman race. But it didn't happen! I kept churning out an 8:25-8:30 minutes per mile pace and figured eventually it would catch up to me and I would have stop and do a walk/run (aka the Ironman Shuffle) until the finish line but I didn't care and I just kept up my RPE where I was told to and let the pace continue be what it was. I didn't feel any need to slow down, so I didn't.

A fellow racer who slowly passed me about mile 18 asked..."how do you feel?" I replied "unbelievably amazing." He turned to me with a look of confusion, didn't say another word and just kept going...but that's how I felt...unbelievably amazing!

Oh yeah I almost forgot, the 2nd loop of the run (miles 13-26) I walked a little slower on the hills because, as I mentioned already, I really thought I would slow down around mile 18ish and I wanted to save my legs the best I could for what I thought would be the inevitable Ironman Shuffle that was forthcoming.

Well once mile 20, 21, and 22 came along and I was still throwing down 8:30min/miles I just couldn't contain myself (although I did). I was so amazingly excited about what I was about to accomplish.

See, there are these goosebumps you get at the end of an Ironman triathlon with the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs just for you (for that minute and a half as you run down the finish chute) and they have the rock music playing and Mike Reilly is yelling to everyone "you are an Ironman"...yeah, those goosebumps...well, I got those goosebumps early and they came around mile 23 when I thought about what I was about to accomplish...the fastest Ironman race ever for me. Goosebumps, goosebumps, goosebumps.

I crossed the finish line in the daylight (something I've never done before in an Ironman) and crushed my Personal Best time by over an hour with a finish time of 11 hours and 38 minutes.

A miracle occurred in Madison, Wisconsin and it happened on Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 6:38pm when I crossed that finish line.

I have no idea how I did it or why it happened but to this day I still can't believe what I have accomplished...something honestly well beyond what I expected or even thought I was capable of.

I must tip my hat to my coach. He's an unbelievable coach that obviously knows what he's doing. I have no idea what he puts in that flux capacitor of his to spit out the weekly training plans he's been giving me...but he obviously did it right.

After 12 years in the sport of triathlon, several 24 hour adventure races, several 10k rucksack runs in the military, blah, blah, blah, I thought I knew my body and its athletic endurance ability.

Well, I guess not! Smile

I am firmly planted on Cloud 9 and the view is amazing from up here.

I have coined a new phrase out of this experience: "You have not tasted success until you have succeeded at something you truly thought not possible"

Please help make a difference -

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ironman Wisconsin

Well yesterday was the final leg of my mission.  I had no idea what would happen but suspected the wheels would fall off in the marathon portion of the race and I would walk most of it.

What ended up happening was something that surprised everyone, especially me.

I felt unbelievable on the marathon portion and just keep running and running like forest gump...all the way to the finish line and beat my Personal Record for an Ironman race by over 1 hour!!

I still can't believe it happened and I suppose only endurance athletes may comprehend how big of a deal this is....but trust me, doing something you had no idea if you could complete (2 ironmans in a week) and then just hitting the ball out of the park when you did it....well....just is so truly amazing that I am firmly sitting on Cloud 9 today and will most likely be here all week. (Ha ha ha)

Full race report to follow shortly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ironman Recovery Week

Well, this week is all about recovery.

I've received so many questions about how I plan to attempt to recover a bit from Ironman Louisville so that I have the ability to complete Ironman Wisconsin. So here's what I'm doing this week to recover and get ready to race again.

  1. I got a massage immediately after I finished Ironman Louisville, got another 1 hr massage on Tuesday, will get another 1 hr massage on thursday, and get a final 30 min massage on Saturday before the Ironman Wisconsin race.
  2. I am taking a nightly dose of Hammer Nutrition's Whey protein protocal; which raises the human growth hormone production during sleep. It also contains Glutamine; which promotes the immune system so I don't get sick from wearing down my body so much.
  3. I'm sleeping in compression tights ( to improve blood circulation in my legs.
  4. I'm taking (and have been for about 2 months now) Hammer Nutrition's "Daily Essentials" Premium Insurance Caps, Mito Caps, and Race Caps Supreme.
  5. I'm downing Ensure like there is no tomorrow (six 350 calorie cans each day) to jack up my caloric intake this week since I burned 10,000-12,000 calories this past Sunday and will burn another 10,000-12,000 calories again this coming Sunday.
  6. Drinking about 34 ounces of water an hour to continue to flush out the toxins and help with recovery.
  7. Taking Hammer Nutrition REM caps each night so I get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  8. Went aqua jogging for 10-15 minutes and did some backstroke for about 10 minutes on Tuesday night to keep the blood flowing through the muscles and promote repair and recovery of the muscle fibers.
  9. Took an ice bath immediately following the post-race massage on sunday. BBBRRRRRR!!
  10. Playing with my son each day to keep my spirits up and allow my body to produce those great beneficial hormones it produces when we laugh and have fun!
So that's it. We'll see what happens on Sunday. (yikes!)

Please help make a difference -

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ironman Louisville 2008 Race Report

Mission #1 Accomplished.

The goal was to take this first Ironman this week at 50% race effort so the wheels don't fall off at Ironman Wisconsin next weekend.

SWIM: TT start, kinda strange for an Ironman. I prefer the mass start. Anyway, got to swim start and just lollygagged through the swim...even did some backstroke for much of it to mix it up a bit and balance out the muscle effort. Ended up swimming pretty far off course due to the backstroke...oh well. Funny part of the swim was that I had to swim about 30 degrees off center in order to swim straight because the current was pushing into the KY shore. Swim time 1:17

BIKE: I rode this course in it's entirety about a month ago so I knew exactly what to expect; which we all know is a good thing. Some rookie yelled out during the first 12 miles of the bike to cyclists passing him "Hey slow down you guys, this is a 112 mile bike." I was so flabbergasted and pissed off at the audacity of this guy that I retorted as loud as I could, Holy #^@ are you serious? I didn't know this was 112 miles. Why didn't anyone tell me this was 112 miles. Thank you so much for letting us know. (that guy was unbelievable)

Anyway, 1st leg of the bike was fine but the middle of the bike I started to have some nutritional issues (aka gastro issues) so my IM experience tells me "If you feel, If you don't...slow down" so I slowed my HR down well into zone 1 (approx 120bpm) for about 3 hours or so and finally realized what was going on, fixed the problem and was able to ramp back up to mid zone 2 (approx 145bpm) for the last 30 miles of the bike...but the gastro issues took their toll and my legs were getting pretty heavy and tired towards the end of the bike. Total bike time 6:11 (18.1mph avg)

RUN: Ah yes, the wonderful marathon. I could NOT stop thinking about IMWI next week the entire race so the first 8 miles of the run I instilled a run/walk effort even though I felt great. From miles 8-18 I just focused on my nutrition plan; which was 1 race cap supreme, 1 mito cap, and 1 endurolyte at the top of the hour, 1 hammer gel at the top of the hour, then whatever I felt like in between; which happened to be pretzels and oranges.

Stopped for about 5-7 min around mile 18 to help a lady that looked pretty bad as she gazed up at me and asked me to help her. So I stopped, assessed her the best I could (she was cold and nauseous but not dizzy yet), sat her down and talked her off the ledge. She kept saying she was on track to break 12 hrs with only 7 miles to go and that she was really pissed off about it. I told her it was ok and only a race and not her life. I pointed to a fellow racer passing by to get the cop at the next intersection and have him come back here with his radio. Waited with her until the cop came and then went on my merry way.

Rest of the marathon was a little strange as my RPE and my mental exertion was not in sync. My mental exertion was about 30%-40% (i.e. I didn't have to dig down deep at all) but my legs/muscles just weren't responding. Usually it's the opposite for me during an IM. Kinda curious.

Well, finished right about where I predicted I would (13ish) with a final time of 13:17. Probably could have gone sub 13 but just couldn't stop thinking about IMWI...that idea just kept freaking me out during this race and really made me take it easy the entire time.

I took my resting HR this morning and it is already back down to normal; which is very strange. I will check it again tomorrow.

Please help make a difference -

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Kevin at was nice enough to interview me and talk about what it is I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and what the disease of Aplastic Anemia is all about.

Take a moment to listen if you haven't already.


Please help make a difference -

Friday, August 22, 2008

Too much it too little

Well, today is 8 days out from Ironman Louisville and 15 days out from Ironman Wisconsin and I can't believe I'm still "burned out" from all the training. I know I'm doing less and less workouts each day and each week until races week, but I still am not feeling the restlessness I typically feel during taper.

Normally I can't wait to get my workout it and the workouts don't seem like they're enough to keep me "happy" because they're too short, but I'm not feeling that this year....strange. Not sure what to make of it, if anything, but I started to notice it a couple days ago. I'm just not into it. Normally at this time I'm all jacked up and cleaning my bike with a toothpick, making lists for transition and packing, thinking about what to bring and what to wear and how to fuel, etc etc.

Not for these Ironman races...I am thinking a little bit about what to wear but don't care about cleaning my bike and haven't even put on my race cassette on my rear wheel yet. I still have my time trial 11-21 cassette on and will race with both Ironman races with a 12-25 but haven't event bothered to put it on the bike yet.

Very strange feeling this time during taper...

Normally too much training is too little for me, but it appears that this time around to little training is too much.

Looking at this as the glass half full, I am ready and trained for these races and so physically I'm ready to rock and roll. Mentally I'm just not on edge or super excited as I was in previous Ironman races; which could very well be a good thing. I'm just viewing these races today as just something I've been doing.

2.4 mile swim? no worries, I've done more than that in the pool...a few times too.

112 mile bike? no problemo. I've done 8 bike rides each weekend of 100 miles or more (give or take 2-3 miles)

26.2 mile run? no problemo. I can walk the whole thing if I need to. :)

But I still find it curious that I'm in the "burned out" stage still this close to races week. Hopefully when I get down to Louisville the excitement of the race venue and all the other athletes will get me back into the "little kid excitement" stage that I've always felt at Ironman.

Please help make a difference -