Category Archives: Triathlon and Health

Winter Trip to the Canadian Rockies

We originally had made plans to go to Lake Placid in mid-December for a little Winter ski vacation. We had plans later in the Winter to head to Arizona for a week, so we needed to get a little Winter-fix before going to some warmer climate. Planning a ski vacation to the Adirondacks in December can be a little questionable as to whether they have snow or not. Last year they had a lot of snow then, this year practically none.

So, with only a few weeks to go, we decided to change things up. Denise checked around with her friends living out West and there was not much snow to be had there either. She then came across Banff & Lake Louise in Western Alberta, Canada. They had a good November snowfall and conditions were perfect for some early season skiing. We had always wanted to go there too, so no time like the present. We quickly changed our plans and locked in our flights to Calgary.

Our departure out of Newark was an early one. We were up at 3:30 AM and on our way to

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

the airport. We dropped the car off at the usual parking place, ABC Airport Parking, who quickly whisked us away to the terminal. The airport check-in and security checks went pretty smoothly and we were on our flight just in time to see the sunrise before take-off.

 

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Houston…We Have A Problem…

Our flight to Calgary went fairly well until we tried to land in Calgary. There was a low-lying, dense fog that we had to go through to land. We could not see anything as we entered into it at the very last part of our landing. All of a sudden the runway appeared out of nowhere within feet of touching  down. Before the wheels were about to touch the pilot “hit the gas” and we were ascending at a steep and fast pace. Denise and I looked at each other saying WTH??!

Before long the pilot got on and said that the visibility was too low to land and they were going to give it another try. I believe we were possibly too far down the runway when we were about to touch-down. We then made a long sweeping turn and got back in line to land again. Fortunately, the 2nd time was much more successful. I usually don’t have an issue with flying, but I was a little uneasy after that episode.

We picked up our bags and rental car and made our way to West from Calgary to Banff. Calgary had a fresh inch or two of snow on the ground, which was a welcome sight after the warm start to Winter we had back home. The outskirts of Calgary are filled with these large walled communities of very tightly clustered housing. It seemed a bit strange to me. After flanking the city we started heading West over large open plains with the Candian Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

Canadian Rockies in Sight

Canadian Rockies in Sight

We reached the town of Canmore after about an hour and turned in to get some lunch at CrazyWeed restaurant. Denise had found this place as being one of the best ones in Canmore. She did not let us down with her research either. We had a nice lunch there and then drive through the downtown area and up to the Nordic Center to check that out. It is a pretty lively little place with lots of shops and restaurants. I think it is a more reasonable option as compared to Banff which gets a little more upper-class folks and everything is a bit more pricey.

I pre-booked the first few nights of the trip at the Juniper Hotel in Banff, which is located across  Highway 1(Trans-Canada Highway) from Banff. It sits up and above the highway and overlooks the town with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our room had a big window that allowed you to take it all in from your bed. The rates here were quite reasonable too. They have a nice restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wish we would have dined there more cause food was really good! They also have a hot tub which was not far from our room.

Canada, banff, lake louise, mountain, rockies

Juniper Inn Room-Banff, Alberta, CA
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We also dined at the Banff Brewpub(twice) and the Bison Restaurant. I really like the brewpub since they had a wide selection of food and the beers were really good. The Bison was a bit more upscale, but I didn’t find the food all that great relative to the price. There wasn’t much choice for vegan/vegetarian, so maybe carnivores would have a better luck here. Melissa’s was our go-to place for breakfast.

Skiing at Lake Louise

On Sunday, we headed about 40 minutes up Highway 1 to Lake Louise to ski. We didn’t have high expectations for the mountain, so we were pleasantly surprised by the terrain. The snow conditions were also very good for early in the season. We headed over to the Larch area in the morning which seemed to have the best conditions according to some people we talked to. There were some gnarly areas, but we found a few good runs there. After lunch, we made our way to the back bowls which contained a good amount of fluffy snow. Although with overcast sky it was impossible to see anything. It was like white-out conditions. At times I had no idea what the pitch was or if it was bumped up or not. I just pointed my skis down and hoped for the best.

All-in-all it was a good ski day. The temps were around 25F which was perfect. We had lunch at the sushi restaurant in the lodge which was quite good. We sat next to a couple of guys who pretty much ran the mountain so they gave us the scoop on the hill. We rented equipment at Wilson Sports just down the road in the Village of Lake Louise. Equipment was nice, but our skis were wider and more powder skis, so they weren’t the best match for conditions.

White Knuckles on the Icefields Parkway

On Monday, we decided to take a break from skiing and take a drive up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper, Alberta. The parkway starts at Lake Louise and heads Northwest through the heart of the most beautiful sections of the Canadian Rockies. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and takes about 3 hours to get Jasper in good weather. The only problem is that it was now the middle of the Winter and they don’t maintain the road very well during that time. Another factor was that my wife decided she wanted to drive that day. Since I can be a little bit of a control freak where driving is concerned it left me a little grumpy for the start. When we hit the start of the Parkway there was a flashing sign indicating that the roads not in great shape and to proceed at your own risk. The start of the road was covered in very bumpy ice which appeared to be several inches thick. I was not having a warm-and-fuzzy feeling for this 3 hour+ drive. My grumpiness ended rather quickly though once we got into the mountains. It was amazing! The mountain scenery with all the snow was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

The road eventually mellowed out but was still covered with snow most of the way. Locals flew passed us in large 4-wheel drive trucks like we were standing still. We ended up stopping pretty often so I could take pictures, so the trip took even longer than expected. We knew we would not get to Jasper in time to come back again before night, so we ended up turning around just past halfway where Route 11 intersects. We stopped at Peyto Lake and did a little hike through woods to a lookout overlooking the lake.

When we reached Lake Louise we decided to continue our scenic journey and head down the Bow Valley Parkway instead of taking the highway back to Banff. We were rewarded with more magnificent views and even had an Elk sighting along the way.

Skiing at Sunshine Village

On Tuesday, we headed over to Sunshine Village  after a nice breakfast at the Juniper Hotels’ restaurant. Sunshine Village is only about 6 miles up Highway 1 from Banff. It is actually behind Banff, nestled in a narrow valley between the mountains that open up to a wide bowl at the top. A 20-minute gondola ride takes you from the parking area just to the base of the mountain. You can stop off part of the way up to hit the Goat’s Eye section.

When we arrived at the base we were greeted by a very friendly staff “greeter” that gave us the whole low-down on the mountain. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining away before the snow clouds filled in later in the morning. We played around in the Wawa Bowl and Birdcage area for a bit in the morning and then eventually wound around to the Mount Standish area.

We had lunch at the Chimney Corner restaurant in the lodge, which ended up being a rather unpleasant experience. Our wait for our food took an exceptionally long time and when it finally did arrive the waitress indicated that my wife’s meal was accidentally served to another table. When my wife’s meal finally arrived, it was overdone and she asked to send it back. She also asked to get something else instead, like poutine, that would be quicker since she was hungry and we had wasted enough time in the place. When we got the bill, we noticed they had obviously comp’d us for my wife’s burger which she didn’t eat, but they still charged us for the Poutine. Given the poor experience, we were kind of surprised they didn’t just comp her meal all together as most places would typically do. We said something to our waitress who said she would talk to her manager.

Not soon after we were greeted by a slightly nervous looking younger guy who said he was the manager. We explained the situation to him and he then proceeded to tell us that we were basically wrong about our observation of how my wife’s burger was done. Really? Growing up in the restaurant business, I can tell that you that the customer is never wrong and that if they are not satisfied with their dining experience, you do whatever it takes to make it a good one. This kid was obviously a little puppet for someone else and was just following orders, but I was amazed at this. Especially in a country where everyone was so nice, this really stood out. And really, comp-ing a $10 entree to “make things right” would be no skin off their back. We are obviously not going there again, not that would have anyway. We were planning to hit one of the other bars there for Apres ski that day, but decided to bag it because I didn’t want to be paying them any more money.

Skiing at Sunshine Village pretty nice. We found a good bump run with a little tree section leading up to it.  We spent most of the afternoon on that before making our way down the Gondola back to the parking lot. We headed back into town to return our ski rentals and then grabbed another dinner at the Banff Brewpub before heading to our next destination.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort

We drove back up Highway 1 towards Lake Louise again and then about 10 minutes back down the Bow Valley Parkway to our accommodations for the next couple nights at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Baker Creek is a somewhat remote little outpost consisting of really nice little log cabins and deluxe rooms. We got there late and they left a note on the office door indicating which room we were in. The room had a little kitchen, a gas fireplace, and big hot tub. The perfect little retreat for a couple days of rest and relaxation. The temperature was also dropping to below zero(C and F)  for the next couple days, so skiing was out of the question anyway.

We were a little disappointed to find out that the restaurant at Baker Creek was closed for everything but dinner, so we would have to drive up to Lake Louise Village next day for breakfast and get groceries for any meals we wanted to eat there. I was kind of looking forward to just hanging out there, but was not meant to be. They had also just sold the place to new owners, who had taken over only a few days before, so they were in a bit of a transition period. Despite that, the place was very nice and we had a very relaxing time there.

On our jaunt up to the Lake Louise Village, we enjoyed a great breakfast at The Post Hotel and then equally good lunch at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. I also got out on the lake for some photography, but it was so cold there I could not stay out there for very long.

We also managed to get out for a little snowshoeing around Baker Creek and I was able to get a few images along the river at sunset.

Last Stop…Canmore

For the last couple nights we headed back to Canmore, Alberta to stay at the Falcon Crest Lodge. The room at Falcon Crest was more like an apartment than a room. It was very spacious, clean and new. The only bad thing was we had no view of the mountains from our room. Instead, we looked out on a walking path and another building which looked similar to it. It did have an underground parking lot which was kind of nice.

On our fist full day in Canmore, I was able to get out to the Nordic Center for some skate-skiing. Their nordic center is pretty elaborate and I was looking forward to checking it out. The only bad thing was there was a bunch of signs warning of bears still on the prowl and mountain lions which are always around. I was a little uneasy at first, but there were enough other skiers out that it didn’t appear to be an issue. I ended up getting about 10 miles in which was sufficient.

Dining out in Canmore was not a problem. We headed back to Crazyweed again which was very good, but there wine prices were outrageous.  We also tried Rocky Mountain Flatbread Pizza Co. which was also very good. Our Favorite though was CommuniTea Cafe which we ended up eating at 3 times in 2 days! They had really healthy food and it was much needed at the end of a vacation where we were eating a lot of less healthy stuff.

After dinner at the Pizza place, we headed over to the Canmore Curling Club to check that out. The bartender there was really nice and sat down and explained it all to us. Super-nice guy! There was recreational leagues going on and it was pretty funny to watch them. Looks like a very fun social thing.

On our last, full day of the trip we did a little hike up to Grassi Lakes. It was a pretty well-established trail, but it was a constant ascent on a snow covered path which made it a little tricky. I only brought one pair of YakTrax, so we had to share them by each putting one on one foot. We were quickly rewarded at the top with some beautiful little crystal-clear lakes and cascading brooks linking them together. The walk back seemed to be a little more tricky with the traction since gravity was coming into play.

We then talk a more leisurely walk along the footpath that runs along both sides of the Bow River in Canmore. Still snow-covered, but a nice little path to view the river and surrounding mountains.

This trip ended up being one of my favorites. It is surprising such a last-minute decision. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole time other than the Chimney Corner at Sunshine Village. The exchange was also a nice surprise after getting my credit card bill when I got home. I would definitely like to head back here again in the warmer months. I know it will probably be much more crowded, but if we spend more time in the backcountry we may be able to escape some of that.

Thanks for reading!

 

IMMT 2016 Training Update – February 29th 2016

I am now already a month into my official training for this seasons’ “A” race, Ironman Mont-Tremblant. My quest for a sub-12 hour Ironman last year at Coeur d’Alene left me a little high-and-dry, or more like HOT-and-dry, with DNF due to the 107(F) degree temps on race day. I am hoping Mother Nature will be a little more cooperative this year in Canada. I will also be hitting Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in June and probably a couple local tune-up races before that.

Snow Blizzard Jonas 2016

Blizzard Jonas 2016

This season I decided to go back to hiring a coach. After self-coaching the last two seasons, I felt I needed a bit of a change and a different perspective on what I have been doing. I have hired Todd Wiley, from Bucks County, PA. Todd has extensive coaching experience and was also a professional triathlete. I had met Todd last year through a strength training workshop he put on with my current strength coach, Fernando Paredes, at Fusion Fitness & Performance and also at a training camp he put on at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid last year.  I have met a number of other very successful triathletes who have been trained by Todd and having nothing but great things say about him. Several of these folks have even qualified for Kona under his guidance. Besides his experience,  Todd is a super nice guy and very easy to work with, which is so important in a coach-athlete relationship. And after working with Todd for the last 4 weeks I can definitely confirm that that is all true. I am definitely looking forward to some great outcomes in my events and also gaining some new coaching knowledge from him too.

Race weight? Not! So after having two vacations in two months(December & January), which I hope to post about soon, I started out my training season a bit on the heavy side. I didn’t hit the 2-bill club, but at the max was about 2 lbs shy of it at 198lbs. This is far-and-above my optimal 170-175 race weight for the season.  I definitely have my work cut out for me. So far I am already down about 10lbs after only 4 solid weeks of training. Progress in the right direction. Keeping tabs on my caloric intake, elimination of microbrew consumption and an increase in training load should bring everything under control well before my B race at Syracuse.

One thing I really like about Coach Todd is that he stresses the importance of strength training integrating it into my weekly training plan. I used to add it to my plan, but would frequently blow it off. Lately though, I have been realizing the importance of it and being accountable to someone else helps to make sure it gets done. I have a good feeling that it will make a huge difference in my results this season. I have been really consistent with it over the last six months and have developed a good foundation to start the season.

Swimming is starting to come around finally after taking 3 months off from the pool. I kind of felt taking that much time off was a mistake since it took me a month or so to get back to where I was prior. Now I finally starting to feel stronger again in the pool. Todd has been integrating some drill work too which has helped bring back some form to my technique.

2016-02-24 18.39.39

I have been spending a good amount of time on the bike trainer this season due to the weather. I did get out for a road ride a couple weeks ago and felt pretty strong out there. I think a lot of the pre-season work I did using TrainerRoad has laid a good foundation on the bike. My initial FTP test earlier this season was pretty low(~220’s), but my last one was up to 237. I am just starting to feel like I am outgrowing my power zones so I think the next test should put me back into the 250’s again.

I have also seen some recent progress in my running. Todd has kept most of my runs so far in the Zone 2 HR range and I am noticing my pace is increasing at the same heart rate. I also think that losing 10 lbs is a big help with that too. I usually do most of my mid-week work on my treadmill due to the lack of daylight and then get outside for my longer runs on Sunday. I definitely looking forward to the time change coming up so I can start breathing in some fresh again.

That’s about all for now. I have been slacking a bit on my blogging but definitely want to get back into the swing of things again. I have a couple posts waiting in the wings on our recent trips to Banff, Canada and Sedona, AZ during the off-season.

Happy Training!

 

 

Ironman University Certified Coach

For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module   and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.

Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.

Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.

The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened!  I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.

The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers.  The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!

ronman University Coaching Certificate

Ironman University Coaching Certificate

I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.

If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.

IRONMAN Certified Coach

IRONMAN Certified Coach

Off-Season Update and Some Swag Nov 9 2015

Just a little update here on how things are going during the “off”-season. The rebuilding process is being established and I have been laying the groundwork for a solid foundation for the upcoming season.

Miracle Mornings…

After recently reading the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I have miraculously turned into a “morning person.” I have tried many times before, but it just never stuck. But by using the techniques in this book it is becoming a reality for me. I have now been waking up early every day for over a month now, including weekends. I believe that by focusing on the things that are really important to me as the reasons to get up early has made a difference. If you are interested in getting up earlier and being more productive with your days, I would highly recommend this book.

Pump!…You Up!!

So what am I doing with all the time I have during these early mornings? Strength training! If you have followed my training updates in the past, you know how strength work typically gets bumped first. Which is common in endurance athletes. Well, I have been working with Fernando Paredes from Fusion Fitness & Performance Studio to develop a solid functional strength program. So I have been fully committed to making this a regular part of my training and it is the top priority of my “Miracle Mornings.”

This new habit is becoming even more ??? since I am really starting to feel the impact it is making in my training. My run times are dropping and I am feeling more solid from the core when I run. I really believe this will be making a difference in my performance for the upcoming season.

The Pain Cave

Over the last 6-months I have been working on getting my “Pain Cave” in my basement up to snuff so I have a good place to train during the Winter months. I happy to report that things have come along quite a bit lately. I have recently had some Radon Remediation done in the basement so that I am not sucking down radon all Winter long. I just got the post-remediation test results back and they were < 0.3 pCi/L for a week long test (anything under 0.5 is considered fresh air), so that is good news. I also picked up a 43″ 1080p flat panel TV for my Zwift bike trainer rides which really puts you in the drivers seat. I moved my smaller flat panel over the treadmill, so now I have dedicated TV’s for each or I can watch a TV show on one while doing the Zwift ride on the other. Pretty sweet!

Pain Cave November 2015

Pain Cave November 2015

Ommmm

One other aspect that I have been working on is developing my mental fitness. A strong mind is essential in endurance activities. I have also been establishing a daily meditation habit with the help of the Headspace iOS app. Meditation seems to be quite the buzzword these days, but I hear more and more endurance athletes attributing a lot of their success to it. Through my early mornings, I now have been able to establish it as a new daily habit. I have to say it is pretty relaxing, but shutting my busy mind off is no easy feat some days.

I have also been reading Matt Fitzgeralds’ new book “How Bad Do You Want It?” which delves into the mental coping mechanisms that endurance athletes utilize to command amazing performances. It has been a pretty interesting read so far and I hope to post a review on it shortly as I wind down the last couple chapters here.

iThlete HRV Guest Post

I recently did another guest post on the iThlete HRV blog about my off-season and how my Heart Rate Variability has correlated with what I have been doing lately. Be sure to check that out. iThlete is also having a 15% off all sale on all HR sensors this month, so you may want to check that out too. I highly recommend the Finger Sensor for easily checking your HRV in the morning. They are also planning on releasing some new features to the iThlete Pro App this month which I am looking forward to as well.

Weight Loss in Endurance Sports

Runner’s world recently posted this article on How Weight Loss Affects your Running Speed?  In it they claim that you can drop 20 secs/mile for every 10 lbs you lose. Multiply that by 26.2 and you got a nice PR on your hands. Add that reduction to your watts/kg rating for a 112 mile bike and you just smashed your leg PR and probably an Ironman PR as well. Really provides a good motivation to drop those excess pounds during the off-season.

Unfortunately, this is one area that my “Miracle Mornings” have not provided too much help too. I have been trying to keep my net calories around 2100, but I am still hovering around the same weight. Unfortunately, I may have to cut that net figure down a few more hundred to see anything significant without increasing training load too much. What will make this more difficult is the holiday eating season is coming up too. Should be challenging.

So, since we are on the topic of weight loss affects to endurance activity, I dug up a few more articles on the topic that I thought were helpful….

What’s my Optimal Racing Weight? | TrainingPeaks

Why is Weight So Important in Cycling? Part 1 | TrainingPeaks

Why is Weight So Important in Cycling? Part 2 | TrainingPeaks

Trainer Season…

As we are now heading into Trainer Season, DC Rainmaker just published his 2015-16 Trainer Recommendations. I would highly recommend reading this if you are in the market for a trainer this year. I will probably be saving myself over $200 this season just from reading this and getting a new controlled trainer sooner than I planned to. Worth a look.

Some Macca Drama

Looks like there is a bit of drama going on with Chris McCormack over some accusations being made from surf legend, Sunny Garcia. I first heard about this over a week ago on the TRS Radio Podcast during the beginning of episode 62 with Gordon Ramsay & Lew Hollander. But I haven’t heard anything new since then until I saw this post on Slowtwitch today. Sounds like some pretty serious allegations so we will see how that plays out.

Well, that is all I got for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the off-season and renewing their motivations for the upcoming season. Take care and happy training!

 

 

Swag Bag-October 26, 2015

Training Wisely

Some good words of wisdom from Joe Friel on Training Risk. You cannot train at high intensity all the time and if you are in zone 2 all the time you will never improve. Finding the right balance of intensity without overtraining or injury is the key to improving performance effectively. Note: The background image on this page makes this really hard to read. I would suggest copy and pasting the text to a text editor for reading.

Universal Sports Gone

Universal Sports Gone

No More Free Rides…

So my favorite virtual reality game-like training riding app, Zwift, will no longer be free. 🙁 They will be starting their subscription model on October 29th, just in time for the Winter training season. If you don’t sign up you will get a 30-day free trial at first, but then you have to pay up. Pricing is $10/month.

One new addition is a new workout mode which should give TrainerRoad a run for their money. Although from what I can see so far, TrainerRoad should be fine for sometime. DC Rainmaker did a nice review of the workout mode here which you should check out if your are interested.

No More Universal Sports Network

I have been bugging my cable provider for ages to get this channel which broadcasted many athletic endurance events. Well, I guess they are off the hook now. Bummer for those who were able to get this channel.

Carb Up!

Despite all the recent low-carb fad BS, this recent study provides additional evidence to further back up our need to for carbohydrates for performance. Check out the tables for key guidelines and formulas for calculating your carb needs.
Carbohydrates for training and competition

Not all Fats & Carbs are Created Equal

There has been a lot of BS in the media about how butter and animal fats are supposed to be good for us. Most of the study’s that these ideas were based on were severely flawed. Well, here is more sensible article on some of the fats that really are good for us. Hint, butter is not one of them. Also, a nice explanation about glycemic index which is a good inidicator of the carbs we should eat and the ones we should save for the aid stations during an Ironman.

On Not Finding Your Passion…

Funny but interesting dose of reality if you are seeking out “your passion” from Mark Manson.

I Won’t Say It. But I …

I can’t pass this one up! The World Health Organization announced today that processed meats are on the same cancer-causing level as cigarettes and formaldehyde. Yeah, not to mention that they are the biggest cause of climate change and an extremely inefficient use of resources. I would highly urge you to also check out Cowspiracy movie which is now available on Netflix.

Well, that’s all for this week. Things kind of went in a nutritional slant this week, but hope to balance things out a bit here, but that was just what I came across this week. Enjoy!

 

 

New Weekly “Swag Bag”-October 19 2015

So I am trying a little something new here. I am going to start to put together a regular weekly post containing some tips, websites, ideas, or anything I found interesting in the previous week. Hopefully, others may find these useful as well and  also it also forces me to develop a more regular posting habit. If you like this and get some benefit out of it let me know in the comments. I may play around with the day of the week it comes out, but for now I am shooting for Mondays.

My Miracle Mornings…

So, I have never been an early morning riser. I have always wanted to be and tried a few times, but it never lasted. One the rare occasions that I do get up early(usually for a race) I do feel much more productive for the rest of the day. I don’t want to jinx myself here, but I think I found my solution in the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. So far I have been up early for 6 of the last 7 days now and I am pretty confident that it is going to stick. If you have a desire to get up earlier and make your days a little more productive by attacking those things that always seem to get put off first thing in the morning, then I would highly recommend this book.

In keeping with that theme, I also came across these other posts that also provides some tips for making the most of your morning routines…

Create A Lasting Morning Routine by Making Two Changes
Why Your Morning Routine Isn’t Working, and How to Fix it

Oh Bananas…

I haven’t tried this yet, but here is an article about eating the entire banana peels along with the bananas. We eat a ton of bananas at home and our compost bin is full of them. This article shows you how you can utilize the whole thing and gain some added nutrition from them too. The B12 part kind of caught my attention since I supplement that daily.

People around the world are eating banana peels because they know something that Westerners do not

 

Time for Reflection…

Now that most triathletes’ seasons are winding down for the year, it is a good time to start looking back on what went well and what you need to work on for next season. Here is a nice article from Training Peaks that provides a brief outline on how to go about that in a SMART way…

Three Steps to Take Now to Plan Your Next Triathlon Season

Building the Foundations…

So, as we are reflecting on the past season and starting to turn our focus on the upcoming season, it is important to start laying down a foundation for all those long workouts. One of the ways I am doing that is to develop a very consistent strength routine during this off-season. I taking advantage of that extra time during my “Miracle Mornings” to lay the groundwork for a stronger foundation via strength training. While I am fortunate to have a great strength coach in Fernando Paredes at Fusion Fitness, there are a lot of good resources out there on strength training for endurance athletes. Here are few articles I came across that I thought were pretty good…

7 Hip and Core Exercises for Endurance Athletes

The Best Strength Exercises for Cyclists

One-Hour Workout: The Pros’ Strength Session

That’s all for this week and I hope you found something of use from these tips.

Thanks

 

 

Race Report: Blues Cruise 50k – My First Ultra

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.

Training?

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.

The Pre-Race

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.

Congregating at the Race Start

Congregating at the Race Start

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.

Start line selfie

Start line selfie

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.

Photos at 7-mile point compliments of funwithphotos.smugmug.com

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra

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.

The start of "The Judge"

The start of “The Judge”

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.

Another climb!

Another climb!

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.

Only 4.6 miles to go!

Only 4.6 miles to go!

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.

Happy to only have a few more miles to go!

Happy to only have a few more miles to go!

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.

Home Stretch

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.

Coming into the finish after almost running over the little girl behind me

Coming into the finish after almost running over the little girl behind me

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra

Finish Photos compliments of funwithphotos.smugmug.com

Reflecting…

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.

 

Finish Photos compliments of funwithphotos.smugmug.com

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra

2015 Blues Cruise 50k Trail Ultra