Monday, September 12, 2011

Good News On Many Fronts

Wow...  what an incredible week this has been.  So much has happened...    So without further ado lets get to it....

The Big Announcement!:

Tuesday was the one year anniversary of my first date with the girl.  At the end of an amazing night together and a bit of trickery and despite the pouring rain and awful weather, I proposed to the girl against the backdrop of Newport Harbour under the gazebo.  She said yes!  So happy happy days!  There is certainly a lot more to our relationship than training related things, but the amazing support and encouragement I get everyday from the girl has been such an amazing motivator this past year.  She's amazing, and fabulous, and every day I wake up thankfull she's come into my life.  So I'm very excited about spending the rest of my life with her.  Oh, and did I mention if all goes well and we can get in we'll be racing Ironman Florida together next year?  Even without our common intrest in swim/bike/run I know we'd be just as happy together, but I really do love that we can share in such things.   And yes...   if you're wondering...   some part of our wedding will involve a workout!  I'm thinking either a morning swim (we're going to get married on a beach) or a morning run will be offered to all guests!

Best Support Group Ever!:

I don't know that I've talked much about just how supportive the girl is about things I care a lot about.  She's amazing in that regard.  She's only just recently divulged that she's working on brining quite the large group of spectators to come and watch me take on my first Ironman in seven weeks!  As of right now my future in laws, and some fantastic friends in the Georgia/Florida area are hoping to be able to make it to cheer me and my fellow Tri-New England teammates on.  As well as rallying the troops the girl has also already ordered posterboard to make signs with, and becuase she's even more amazing than that she's had custom T-shirts made up for everyone!  She has gone ahead and designed and had made a bunch of different "Team Wisdom" tshirts with fun sayings on them to cheer me on!  I'm truly lucky to have someone so supportive of my goals!  I love it!  and I love her!

Here's a pic of the front and back of one of the shirts for the support crew!

Yep...  she's amazing!  And I love her!

Ok...  enough mushiness...  and onto some other items...


I had an interesting conversation with some fellow triathletes yesterday at a local race.   We were chatting about sneakers.  I happened to be wearing a pair of my new favorite shoes.  To which one friend said "I hate those sneakers!!", and another said "I love brand X shoes!", and I said "But I LOVE these sneakers!".  Point is...   we all have our preferences.  There is no correct shoe for everyone.  But this is hardly breaking news.  The other bit we talked about was  Which is my new favorite running shoe source.  They offer free shipping for purchases AND for returns.  So lately I've been ordering large batches of sneakers to try out.  I'll wait for a nice day outside and then go run in several different pairs for a little bit to see how they feel.  I keep the ones I want (if any) and return those that I don't.  I did this recently with a bunch of different Zoot sneakers until I found my perfect 70.3 distance racing flat.  (Zoot  Ultra Tempo 4.0).  However as comfy as the Zoots are for shorter distance races, they just don't offer enough support for a marathon, and I wanted to find the right shoe for my Ironman.  Something lightweight, but supportive.  I've run plenty of marathons already mostly in Nike's and Asics.  But all of those shoes were very heavy and at this point as my run form develops a bit too cushy and supportive with giant heel areas.  So I've been looking for something new.  I decided since K-Swiss does so much sponsoring of professional triathletes and seems to inject a lot of money  into the sport it would be good of me to give their products a try.  So I ordered up 3 different pairs to try out and here are my quick impressions of them.

First up on the testing block are the below pictured K-Swiss K-Ona.  Initially when I ordered these I thought they had the potential to be either a mid to long distance race shoe, or a mid to long distance everyday training shoe.  In the end they turned out to be neither for me.  My impression of the K-Ona from the first step was that they are a very very stiff shoe.  Its as if someone has screwed a 2x4 to the bottom of the shoe so they won't flex.  They just felt very stiff, dead, and non responsive to me.  I imagine though that despite the fact I can't stand this feature that theres a large group of runners somewhere that love it.  So to each their own, and this shoe was definitely not for me.  Had it been a bit cheaper I would have kept them for some everyday about town sneakers as they are quite snappy looking...    but I have a wedding to pay for so back they go!


Nex up for a test are the K-Swiss Kwiky Blade Light.  These are billed as a minimilist running shoe and they deliver just that.  Putting these sneakers on feels like putting on slippers.  Theres just not much to them.  They are extremely lightweight and very flexible.  Definitely what I would consider a racing flat.  For me personally I wasn't a huge fan of the toe box as it felt quite narrow and somewhat constricting to my feet.  On top of this they just didn't feel like the offered enough support for me.  Theres a narrow line between too much and not enough, and for me these fell into the not enough category.  So back they will go as well.  I think I could survive a 5K in these but thats about it.  Definitely NOT an ironman shoe....  and to be honest I didn't think they would be.  I just wanted to try them out.

K-SWISS Kwiky Blade Light

Last but not least on the chopping block were the K-Swiss Blade Light Run.  On paper the descriptions for these read as the ideal mid to long distance race/training shoe for me.  About the right weight for the amount of support I like (10 oz), but not overly heavy or too cushy.  I wouldn't call it a racing flat by any means but it fits nicely between one of those and a heavy distance trainer with extra cushioning like the Asics Gel Kayanos that I like to run it when my feet feel beat to hell and I need some extra cushion.  These shoes felt great as soon as I put them on so I decided to give them a longer test right out of the box.  So I went for my usual five mile from the house round trip.  Right out of the gate I felt like no break in was needed.  They flexed in all the right places and had just the right amount of support and cushion.  They felt like sneakers should, which is to say that felt like they weren't there.  If you are noticing your shoes then they are the wrong shoes for you.  Then the really good bit happened...  I ran downhill in them.  Absolutely hands down the most comfortable and fastest downhill running shoe I've ever worn.  I was FLYING down the gentle slope back towards the house at the end of the run.  Lately thats been a source of discomfort with my leg issues and it was completely pain and discomfort free for me.  Which was amazing!  So at this point I knew I had a keeper and it was time to test a bit further to see what I could and couldn't use this shoe for.  More on that in the next segment of this post.  Needless to say if you are looking for a comfortable mid-weight racing shoe for longer distance efforts and triathlons this is definitely worth looking at.

K-SWISS Blade Light Run

Going Long!:

Perhaps related to my new favorite sneakers, or perhaps just positive gains from careful training I've had some serious running breakthroughs last week and my strongest week of running yet!  It started with a shorter run early in the week.  A simple 60 minute affair.  I've been trying not to look at my garmin too much when I run and pace purely by feel.  I will admit to checking my pace occasionally but nowhere near as much as I used to.  After a couple of miles into my run I checked on my pace.  I was holding an average pace of SUB 8!!!  This isn't fast for me...    but its fast for me since the injury.  Its especially fast for me since the injury at the current level of exertion I was feeling which wasn't a lot.  Sub 8 used to be effortless for me and this summer its been hard to come by for any length of time.  So I just kept running at what felt like the same level of exertion.  The short version of the story is that my average pace for the run kept increasting.  Whats even better about this is that the return leg of my run is slightly uphill.  In the end I averaged something like 7:50s for the run.  I was pretty thrilled with this as its about 40 seconds per mile faster than what I've been running the same time and course for lately.  

So with all this confidence and new found speed at my disposal I headed out for my long run of the week a couple of days later.  This was to be a 2:45 minute run of approximately 18 miles.  I headed out feeling good  wearing the K-Swiss Blade Lights.  I figured it was time to try them on a long run and see how they feel at mile 15.  I'm happy to report at mile 15 they still feel like they aren't there.  Just how I want them to feel.  I started out this run feeling good and planned to hold a 9 minute per mile pace.  My last long run that was my goal as well but RPE at that pace was high so I ended up averaging around 9:30 a mile in the end.  It was a bit of a slog fest for me and had me wondering how the Ironman was going to feel.  But this run was going great and I was off to a much better start.  But there was a part of my brain wondering how things would feel towards the end.  Fortunately things toward the end felt just as good as the beginning!  I average 8:50/mile for the run and felt great and still had more in the tank when it was over.  Just the way I'm supposed to feel!  So once again I'd shaved 40 seconds per mile off my run without really trying anything new other than new sneakers.  So was it the sneakers?  improvements in fitness?  I don't know... frankly I don't care.  I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and I'm feeling more and more confident that I'm actually IMPROVING upon my leg injury instead of doing harm to it.  I'm feeling more and more confident about the Ironman run as it gets closer and closer which is perfect!

But wait theres more!!!

Firmman Half Iron Relay Team Race Report:

I did the bike leg of a half iron relay yesterday with some team mates from the club.  My friend Brad did the swim, I did the bike and CJ did the run.  None of us tapered for the event in any way or had done any special training for it.  Brad is getting ready for Kona (his second Ironman of the year!), and CJ is always running and training for something.  I think he's actually deep in the midst of marathon training currenlty.  So our plan was just to leave it all out and the course and have a fun day.

Brad finished the swim in 24 minutes and change!  Amazing!  He's quite the swimmer!  It was really choppy out there which I thought might slow him down.  Apparently NOT!  Despite having to slog his way through a huge pile of seaweed to get out of the ocean Brad came running into transition and the seaweed covered timing chip was moved onto my leg and I was off!

Ok... here we go...   a 56 mile time trial on not very fresh legs.  This should be FUN!    I had decided that my goal was to aim for a 180watt average.  I figured that would get me just above a 21mph average for a 2:3X finish time.  I really wanted to go sub 2:40.  So off I went hammering away right from the get go.  In the first few miles I was thinking about the year before when I used these first few to warm up and settle in after the swim.  Today I hammered right from the start and was really going to go for it.  Somewhere around mile ten with a 185watt average I wondering if I was going to explode as I'd gone out too hard initially.  I wasn't worried about the next thirty minutes, I was worried about the last thirty minutes...   Oh well.  There's only one way to find out.  I remembered reading this article from one of the pro's talking about sometimes you have to epicly fail to learn your limits.  Well today was a good day to epicly fail!  So off I went.  It wasn't much later I was off of the long boring straight part of the course on route 1 and into whats known as the KFR loop which is a rolling technical section of the course.  I like this section as it keeps your brain occupied and challenged.  In and out of the saddle, in and out of the big ring, and I hammered as best I could through this section.  With all the climbing I was concerned about my average speed, but I was on target for power and that was the most important thing.  When I came out of KFR I checked my average speed for the first time.  21.3mph and 185 watt average at around 30 miles into the day.  AWESOME!  Right on target and if I got lucky and got a tailwind on the way in I was guarnteed to go 2:3X.  As I rode towards the turnound it became uncertain that I would have a tailwind.  I didn't feel like I had one now and my speed and power didn't indicate I had a tailwind, but I felt some strange gusts / crosswinds / and saw a few indicators such as flags that it didn't look good. 

Just after the turnaround I hit the mile 40 marker and was still right on power/speed target and then it hit me.  The headwinds...    DAMN!!!  By mile 45 I was suffering HARD.  Wind right in my face, great big pain in my legs and a never ending supply of false flats and slight climbs right into the wind.  My legs were burning.  I started going through various mantras trying to get my head of the pain.  "SHUT UP LEGS!" (said with my best Jens Voigt accent) and "I think I can" turned quickly into "I don't have to run, I don't have to run!" hoping that would push me to go even harder.  I was spiking into the 200 watt range and still not hitting 21 mph.  Crap!  I spent the next 16 miles realizing two things...

1.  Tapering is good, and my legs feel belt to holy ironman hell.
2.  My power is holding but my average speed is dropping

So at this point I just made my best pain face, and grabbed the most comfortable chair I could find in the pain cave and did my best to hold on.  Those slight climbs never stopped, the wind seemed to get stronger and it was an eternity before I finally hit the turn off the main road towards the finish area.  A volunteer yelled "one mile to go!" and I almost stopped to hug him.  With the finish area close it was feet out of the shoes, quick dismount and into transition for the timing chip handoff.

A few seconds later CJ was off and running and I was gasping for breath in transition with my part done for the day.  In the end I did really well and I'm quite pleased despite just missing my 2:3X goal.  I did average 180 Watts exactly (i'm getting really good at pacing with power!), had an average speed of 20.7mph, and rode a 2:42:xx  which isn't bad.  If I'd had fresher legs I know I could have gone 2:3X.  I didn't feel like i would have run all that well of that power goal but had I tapered its certainly possible.

It wasn't much later that Brad and I spotted CJ running up the beach into the finish chute!  CJ had a great run of 1:33 although he said he had a few issues in the closing miles and cramps but put together a great run as far as I'm concerned!  Together as a team we went 4:41:55.  We had a great day and a lot of fun too.  Lots of other Tri-NE team mates around and racing made the day even more fun.  I love the presence my club has at races where we race, support, and volunteer.  Makes for a great day.

And as if that wasn't good enough I ended the day by buying ice cream for the girl and two local Navy students we sponsor while they are away from home who all came out to volunteer on the run course.  Perfect end to the day, and a perfect end to an amazing week!!

Seven weeks to go till B2B!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Problem With Training 17 hours a week is....

....that you never have any time to update your blog!  (among other things!)  I am also absolutely EXHAUSTED!  This last week has been a nonstop marathon of training/work/life/love.  Its all been amazing, and inspiring, and fun, but I've had nonstop plans for every single day and night since I got home from Raleigh which was a busy week in itself.  So here's the updates....

I last updated with my Timberman race report.  I completed that race on Sunday, spent Monday at home recovering and resting and then headed off to Raleigh on tuesday morning.  As usual it was a busy week with many 12+ hour days on concrete floors.  Which on tired beat up legs after Timberman was not fun and left me with nothing in the tank to train with.  So I only got in one training session that entire week in the end.  Pretty sad.  I rode a spin bike for an hour and then ran for 20 mintues.  That was it.  Fortunately my training plan called for a recovery week so thats what were going to call it.  I wasn't planning on doing a lot of volume that week but I was hoping for 5-6 hours of easy work.  Oh well...   you can't win them all and you HAVE to listen to your body.  And my body said it didn't want to do anything.

I got home to Rhode Island on Monday night exactly 2 hours after the power to my home was restored after it was out for almost 48 hours thanks to hurricane Irene.  So Monday was spent working and travelling.

Tuesday morning I woke up and it was time to get back to business!  I'm happy to say it was a great training week.  In the end I logged 14 hours of training this week at the beginning of another large build block.  Some highlights of the week were....


-my local pool is closed for maintenance so I did nothing but swim in the ocean this week.  Tuesday I did a swim with the local group here and then I tried to swim with the girl on friday morning.  It was one of those rare flat calm beautifull days in the ocean...  and wouldn't you know it my shoulder was very very angry and sore.  I think I must have tweaked it at work a little throwing cable around or slep on it funny or something as I only made it a half mile before my shoulder insisted I get out of the water.  I was mad as I hate to waste an opportunity to swim when the ocean is that lovely to be in and the girl has the day off! 
-I'm happy to say however that I got in a 2.3 mile ocean swim in pretty damn difficult conditions today with the girl.  It was pretty brutal and I was fighting to get anywhere in the chop and current we swam against.  It  was pretty gnarly out there today.  But I did it!  The girl and I are also slowly learning how to swim together which is hard as she is so much faster than I am. 


-great interval session on tuesday on the trainer in my driveway as there was just too much debris all over the roads from the hurricane to do a speed session out there.
-easy spin on thursday for an hour with a nice brick run afterwards.
-Fantastic 5 hour 85 or so mile ride on Saturday with some friends from Tri-NE.  Epic nutrition failure (I tried Infinit for the first time and it just isn't for me) so I started to bonk at hour 3.  Managed to get some gatorade at a store stop and ate a powerbar and eventually recovered.  I was falling off the pace a bit in the third hour but by hour 4 I was back on form and keeping up with the boys.  The last hour was by far the hardest as we fought through some nasty headwinds and then I did my best to keep up with the end of ride sprint fest battle.  I did at least manage to hold the wheels of the faster guys even though theres no way I could have pulled around them.
-So all in all a great week on the bike.

-greatest amount of progress here!
-broke through my fear of running beyond two hours on my funky right leg and logged my first run of over 13 miles since January with a 17.5 miler in 2:45.  Not fast, but thats not the point.
-tried out a variety of Kswiss shoes that showed up here thanks to Zappos and I'm pretty sure I've found my Ironman sneaker, and what is easily the best sneaker I've ever worn to run downhill in.  By a LOT.  More on that later this week with a bit of a mini review.

So...   not a bad week.  The journey continues.  My biggest current issues are:
-I need to finish buttoning up my nutrition plan which is very close now
-continue to improve my long run
-continue to get stronger at ocean swimming while still logging the distances I need

Other random bits...
-switching to gatorskin tires for the rest of my training to try and cut down on recent flats.
-signed up to race the FIRM half iron length triathon next weekend as part of a relay team.  I'll be racing the bike portion and planning on turning myself inside out and seeing what happens.  I'm hoping for a fast time, or an epic explosion.
-got a fantastic present from the girl and great news is brewing about some additional support for raceday!  more on that later this week too.

Ok...  time for me to go tip over and get some rest.  I'm beat!  Off day tomorrow!  Hooooray!  I can't wait!