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Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3…My First Half Ironman?

I sat anxiously by my laptop on October 1st, 2010 while on vacation in Lake Placid, NY awaiting the 10AM start of online registration for the inaugural Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3 Triathlon. I submitted my $275 which would then commit the next year to training for my first “Ironman”-branded event. I had been tossing the the half-iron distance around since it would be the next logical progression in my pursuit of a full iron distance. When I saw the ad in Triathlete Magazine, I thought that this was a sign that this was the race for me since it was so close to home. The eventual outcome was one I never expected.

From October 2010 until May 2011, I focused on building a solid base of endurance which ultimately ended totaling 2x the distance of each discipline in the half-iron distance per week : Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112, and run 26. My wife and I were heading to Peru for 2 weeks at the end of May to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and then spend 4 days in the Peruvian Amazon exploring the jungle. Hiking at high altitude would be the perfect recovery before kicking training into high gear. Upon returning from Peru I turned my training over to my coach Scott at TriYourLimits . Scott would prescribe weekly workouts for me via Workoutlog.com and I log on each day complete the workout and upload my Garmin with my results. The training was very gradual with a recovery week thrown in every 4th week. Things went very smoothly and I did not incur any injuries as I had the previous season coaching myself. I knew I needed a coach to guide me because I would easily overtrain doing it myself.

The season flew by. I competed in the Patriot Sprint Triathlon in Bath, PA by Piranha Sports in July. That turned out to be a bit of a mess. The bike leg was cancelled due to last minute oil and chipping of the roads thanks to the idiots at PennDOT. The swim was really bad for me personally. I tried to get in the mix and got kind of freaked out. Water was VERY warm too. Never got into any real rhythm. Run was equally bad with concrete quads the whole time. Good wake up call though.

In September I competed in the Steelman Olympic Triathlon at Lake Nockamixon. This was a much better performance. Had a great swim, 0.9mil in 29 min, and I felt really comfortable. Probably was my best swim(33:04min/mi pace) so far and it was the longest(0.9mi) too. Bike leg was 18.8mph avg speed, which is ok for a pretty hilly course. I was trying to hold back a bit to save my legs for the run. The run was another story. The sun popped out and, with all the rain we had, it going very humid. I don’t fare well in hot humid conditions. a 58min 10k is nothing to write home about. Even had to walk a couple times.

The rest of the season was all training for Ironman Pocono. I followed my training plan pretty much to a T. 2 weeks prior I started into my taper and things really started feeling good then. I felt really fast(relatively) and had to hold myself back a bit sometimes. I was feeling like this could be a good race. I had a little bit of anxiety the week before, but when the rains started coming down that began to dwindle a bit. I was watching the current-level forecasts on the NOAA website for the Delaware River and it wasn’t looking swimmable. On Friday before the race they announced that the swim leg would be cancelled. Strike 1!

With the swim cancelled, my anxiety all but disappeared. I still wanted to have a good bike and run, but without the swim it just isn’t a triathlon. We headed up to the Fernwood Resort in Stroudsburg, PA on IMG_0675.PNGSaturday and checked in at the expo. I attended the athlete meeting and got the details. There would be a time trial start for the bike and they would just run down the rows in T1 telling each athlete to go every couple seconds. They had changed the bike course multiple times due to roads washing out. Forecast was for rain all night into the morning and cold. Fortunately the winds were supposed to be light. We ran my bike over to T1 and then dropped my run bag over at T2 at Stroudsburg HS. It was crazy with everyone driving all over the place to drop their gear everywhere. Logicstically it was not well thought out.

We stopped at Thai Thani on Rt. 611 for some lunch. Yeah Thai food for a pre-race meal…probably not a great idea. I had Masaman curry which is not very spicy, so it should not be an issue. We then checked into our room at the Fernwood. I had reserved a suite so I thought we would have a decent room atleast. The room stunk and was very musty. There was a heart-shaped tub and a sauna in the room. The tub was probably why the smell was so bad and the sauna didn’t even work. Place overall was kind of old and rundown. A bit disappointing. We stopped over to see some friends that also were competing and shot the breeze with them for a bit. I hit the pasta dinner later and there was no one there. It was pretty basic, but fine.

I woke up around 4AM on Sunday and had bagels & peanut butter and coffee. Deciding how many layers to put on was a bit of a decision. I took extra stuff with me and figured I could hash that out while waiting around in T1. I met our friends in the lobby and we jumped on the yellow school bus shuttle and headed over to T1 at Smithfield Beach in Delaware Water Gap. It was interesting listening to the conversations on the bus. I chatted with a couple guys who were next to me in T1 most of the morning in between taking a half-dozen piss breaks in the woods. The clouds actually broke for a few minutes while we waited but did not last too long. Finally they started calling people off to start and after over an hour we were on our way. River Road through DWG was very smooth and slick feeling. It had a major camber and made you feel like you were going to slide right into the woods. I hesitated to get in the aerobars. We hit the first big hill after a few miles and there was people walking their bikes all over the place. I dropped down to an easy gear and spun my way up. I told myself I was not going to take any chances and just wanted to finish in piece.

The next hour on the bike went pretty smoothly. I didn’t look at my time until after an hour and was surprised that I was averaging over 18MPH. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast. Hmmm….I could finish in under 3 hours?…Which was what my original goal was. They had a figure-8 configuration in the course and while cutting across the middle road I heard something metal against the road. I thought hopefully I just ran over something? Then a guy passed me and said “man you are dropping metal all over the road.” I looked down at my bottom bracket and my left crank arm was totally loose. I could see the teeth from the inside shaft that runs through the middle. Bottom Bracket“This cannot be happening” I thought to myself. I pulled over to the side and through my bike down. I walked back to try to find the pieces I was missing but no avail. About 20 people went by me asking if I was ok or needed anything. Yeah right! You are wizzing by me at 20MPH in a race…are you really going to stop? They were out of ear shot before they finished getting the words out. Save your breath people!

The walk back to my bike was a tough one. I was mad and disappointed. I could not believe it was going to end this way. All the hours of training I put in and it all comes down to my bike falling apart. I got back to my bike and tried to ride it some more, but it eventually would not even turn the chain anymore. I ended up walking a mile and a half until the SAG van at the cutoff crew was coming down the road I had covered earlier in the ride. He stopped to ask what was wrong and said he could not do anything about that. They loaded my bike in the van and the driver asked for my number. He then got on the race radio and called in the words that made it all sink in….”1769 DNF!!!” I could feel my stomach drop instantly. I felt close to breaking down.

There was another guy and girl in the van already. The girl sat in the passenger seat and seemed pretty upset. The guy was quite jovial and helped lighten up the mood a bit. We had to retrace much of the course I had already ridden following the last rider. He was stopping every few minutes and it was pure torture. It started getting late in the morning and I figured my wife was getting worried since I hadn’t been seen yet. The guy in the van had a phone so I left her a message. We picked up more riders as we went and eventually we filled up the van and had to head back to T2 early…thank god! The van became somewhat of a support group for DNF-ers. My wife eventually got the message and called me back. We eventually got back to T2 and there was major traffic jams in Stroudsburg due to the race and telephone pole being down. I grabbed my running stuff in T2, called my wife and headed towards downtown where she was waiting with one of our friends on Main St.

IMG_1111.JPGWhile walking towards town, athletes were coming past me with their finishers medals around their necks and the silver foil blankets on. That didn’t help! My wife came around the corner and things really hit home then. We collected ourselves and heard that we had to go back to T2 to get my clothes from the morning. We picked that stuff up and skirted downtown to get to our car. It was an early Bonefish Grill night. Finally I thought there is no way I am going to waste all this training I have done. I jumped on my iPhone and looked to see if there were any more Ironman 70.3’s this season…Miami on Oct 30th! Bingo!

My wife was all for it too and I began making arrangements that night. I had never expected to be going to Miami, but hey you never know what adventure lies around the corner. So the training will continue for another month. It should be a good race with a swim and a flat bike and run course. We are spending a little more than I had planned, but it should be a great experience. It could end up being the greatest thing to happen when you look back on it. Stay tuned for more on that in future posts.

IM Pocono 70.3 Training Week #3 – Finding My HR Zones

My coach recommended that I head down to Cadence in Manayunk and get my Lactate Threshold tested after my constantly whining about this zone 2 issue. This way I could establish what my zones really are. It was $150 for the test but I needed the piece of mind and thought it would be worth it. I gave them a call and made an appointment for Saturday afternoon. In the meantime I started doing some googling about heart rate zones. The zones that were set up in my WorkoutLog had been set using the old 220-age and then just taking the percentages from the difference. Looking around I realized how old and out-of-date this method is. There are some different formulas out there and after trying them out I already saw a big difference. The one I used was from the RunnersWeb.com site, which used a 208- 0.7 * Age to get my max HR. This gave me another bpm, which helped a little bit. This biggest change was in calculating the zones. Instead of just taking percentages of the difference, it subtracted my resting HR which and took the percentages from that. This made a huge difference. After doing a couple runs with that, I was not residing more in Zone 3 than zone 4. I still wasn’t in zone 2, but I am getting there.
The rest of the week played out well. I did a hill ride workout on Tuesday, where I was supposed to keep a 85+ cadence while going up and down hills. Many of the hills around me have a pretty high grade, so I found myself pushing the pedals pretty hard. My tri bike doesn’t have a really “granny” gear, so it got a little tough trying to maintain that cadence. My cadence sensor crapped out on me too so I had no idea what I was really doing. The rest of the week I was really starting to feel a bit taxed. Not sure if it was that hill ride or just 3 weeks of training taking its toll. I was not totally wiped out, but just felt like things were a little more effort than normal.
On Friday I had the day off from work, so I got back to Dutch Springs again for another open water swim(OWS). Did a little over 1.3 miles in 45 mins. Took a couple little breaks in there, but did better than previous week. Some kid on a kayak came paddling over to me and asked me “what is wrong?” I said “wrong with what?” He said “why are you swimming over here?” I replied with “because I want to.” and continued swimming.
On Saturday, my wife and I headed down to Cadence for my LT test. I met Jack, who was conducting the test, at the counter and he took me upstairs to get started. I asked me a bunch of questions about what I am training for and general info. I needed a current running race pace so he could figure out where to start the test. The only pace I could remember was the half marathon I did last year. I did a olympic tri last september, but could not remember my time. I did the half averaging just over an 8 min/mile, so he started a little below that.
He started me out at 7.4 mph(8:06 pace) for 4 mins and then took a blood sample. He then immediately jacked it up another few tenths of a mph and took another sample after 3 mins. He did this 3 more times util we got to about 8.5 mph. He concluded pretty quickly that I was more efficient in the middle of the test than at the beginning and end. My most efficient pace was around 7:45 min/mile, which I was pretty psyched with. Of course did that mean I was slacking on my half marathon? Well, after he calculated everything it turns out that my zone 2 range goes all the way up to 152 bpm, which is right around where my HR hangs when I am in cruising mode. My Max HR is also higher than what the 220-Age calculation gives me. All-in-all it was well worth it to get the test because now I at least have a baseline to start at.
On Sunday afternoon, I got out for my long run down at the Lehigh Parkway. It was very humid, but my run felt so much better because I could just run like I feel like and not stressing over my HR zone. And low and behold it was mostly all in zone 2. Finally!
Training Week 3 stats were a little lower since I moved my long bike from Saturday to Monday because of the LT Test. Week 4 will be a recovery week, so things get tapered a bit. Happy 4th of July!

IM Pocono 70.3 Training Week #2

Week #2 training went well. Swam 5,466 yds in 2:18, biked 84.7 miles in 5:09, and ran 13 miles in 2:27 hours. Still battling with my heart rate zones and getting into zone 2. Running in what is supposed to be zone 2 is just impossible, and I am just not feeling like I am doing anything after these runs. I finally got over to Dutch Springs for my LSD(Long slow distance) swim on Friday. Got in a 1.1 mile swim in about 38 mins. Felt good to be swimming out of the pool for a change.
After my swim on Friday I headed over to see some friends who live nearby. Ended up having a few beers, which I paid for on Saturday. Finally got out for my long ride on Saturday, which helped feel much better. My wife joined me for part of my long run on Sunday down at the Lehigh Parkway. Since I was running so slow to get in “zone 2”, she was able to run a little longer than she usually does.
With 2 weeks under my belt I am feeling really good. Hard to believe I have exercised every day for the last 2 weeks.

Week 1 of IM Pocono 70.3 Training – Finding Zone 2…

Last week(6/13/2011) was my first training plan week for Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3 on October 2, 2011. The training went quite well and actually felt pretty easy despite the increase in volume. The hardest part of this week was trying to stay in heart rate zone #2. For me Zone 2, which is 60-70% of my estimated maximum(~178 bpm), ranges between 107-125 bpm. While I am able to attain this zone on the bike, the run is a whole different matter.

Last year I began Chirunning, which allowed me to increase my distances through more efficient running technique. This technique makes running a more relaxing activity and I don’t feel like I am gasping for breath anymore. Despite this, when I strap the old HR monitor on it tells a different story. Running at the slowest possible pace still jacks my HR up to around 150bpm, which is in Zone 4. The only way I am able to get to zone 2 is by walking. So there in lies my dilemma for the week. Is it better to stay in Zone 2 despite having to walk to do so? Or should I just run as slow as possible and hope that eventually my heart will get down to Zone 2?

 View my Training Log…

Week #1 Totals
Type Distance Duration Avg Pace # Time in Zones
Bike 80.4 mi 04:59 16.0 mph 3 HEART RATE

Z1 : 50-60% 00:15 89 – 107
Z2 : 60-70% 02:08 107 – 125
Z3 : 70-80% 02:32 125 – 142
Z4 : 80-90% 00:19 142 – 160
Z5 : 90-100% 00:00 160 – 178
Run 13.4 mi 02:06 09:29/mi 3 HEART RATE

Z1 : 50-60% 00:03 89 – 107
Z2 : 60-70% 00:05 107 – 125
Z3 : 70-80% 00:18 125 – 142
Z4 : 80-90% 01:33 142 – 160
Z5 : 90-100% 00:12 160 – 178
Swim 5425.0 yd 01:58 02:10/100yd 3
Total Duration: 09:03   9