IRONMAN Maryland Race Report 2019

I’m going to make this pretty short as

  1. I’m really busy
  2. I’ve done so many of these that lots of aspects are very similar
  3. I’ve left this till 6 days later and my memory is failing πŸ™‚

I’ll focus on some of the key features of the IRONMAN. This was my third and final IRONMAN of 2019 and overall it was a great experience. Every IRONMAN has something special to remember it by and this one will be jelly fish but I’ll get to that!

I read a quote just before this trip. β€œWhen you think you’re done you’re only 40% done”. I think it’s from the Navy Seals and I love that and I reminded myself of that quote throughout the run! It really speaks to powering on and is similar to another quote I have on my wall, β€œthe mind will quit a thousand times before the body ever will”. Just keep going!

I flew in to Baltimore Washington International Airport from Dallas which is about a 90 minute drive to Cambridge which is where the IRONMAN is held. I flew in Wednesday afternoon to have plenty of time before the Saturday race since final day of registration is Thursday. I decided to try Budget to rent a car who true to their name had run out of cars and so I had to wait nearly an hour along with 50 other people to actually get the car I had booked.

I typically try and stay walking distance from the start/finish but there were no hotels that close. Instead I stayed at Cambridge Comfort Inn and Suites (which was clean and did the job) which was a few miles drive away. Some people rented houses which were walking distance. Prior to arriving I had heard lots of talk of parking problems and while they did close off the streets close to the start, there was lots of parking a few minutes walk away and really was not an issue in the days leading up to the event. For the actual day of the IRONMAN you could buy a parking pass for the actual transition area if you were quick enough (there were 200 of them) which I got and was awesome!

Registration was uneventful and well organized as always. One of the things you hear about Maryland is how great the community and volunteers are and they were not exaggerating. There were signs everywhere welcoming the IRONMAN and everyone was just so friendly. It was great. During check-in you got a hand made card from a kid at the local school which was very special.

Eating choices were fairly limited in Cambridge, especially for a picky eater like me. I therefore made the drive to Easton which was about 20 minutes and had more mainstream restaurants (like Olive Garden and Panera Bread, I’m so brave in my food choices). I had Olive Garden for lunch on Thursday and Friday and pizza for dinner both nights (yay Dominos delivery). That being said Cambridge was a lovely town, lots of little stores that embraced IRONMAN and I picked up a few cool things including a little mason jar with sand from where we swam!

I also walked the one mile between the athlete village (and finish line) and the swim/bike (T1/T2) transition at the newly named Gerry Boyle Park (after the race organizer who sadly passed this year). My bike had just arrived and went and looked at the water where the second thing, aside from parking, people had talked about, the Jelly Fish. It had been very hot with little rain, perfect conditions for Jelly Fish. As I looked in the water my only thought was “oh crap”. There were so many.

Ahhhhhhh

There was so much talk about this on the Facebook groups. I wasn’t super worried though. I am a slow swimmer so I figured everyone else would have moved them out the way by the time I get there and I would also cover my arms (sleeveless wetsuit), face and feet in Vaseline. As I would learn on Saturday morning, I was wrong not to worry.

Really should have been a jelly fish not a crab πŸ™‚

Friday I went and checked in my bike, run bag and bike bag. It was very fast and I literally did nothing all day. I sat in my room and watched Have I Got News for You on YouTube. Before bed I put on my TriTats ready for the big next day. I slept really well Wednesday and Thursday night which was great. Even Friday I didn’t wake up till about 2am so got nearly 6 hours sleep so felt well rested.

I woke up and ate my protein shake, apple sauce and bagel. I headed out about 3:50 and got to the parking area at 4am which opened at 4:30 for a 5:00 transition open time. I’m a nut, what can I say. I always get to places early. At Canada by the time I got out the water I was nearly wetting myself I needed to pee so bad so this year my plan was to stop mostly drinking 3 hours before start. For the next 90 minutes I had a small bottle of electrolyte water which I stopped drinking 90 minutes before the start which is when I also ate a Gu. 30 minutes before swim start I drink my 5 hour energy. I only had to queue and use the port-a-potty once which was lucky as they were a cluster. There were 20 for about 2000 people. If people were complaining about one thing it was this. I’d never seen such a small amount of toilets for an IRONMAN.

The IRONMAN started about 6:40 and as usual was a self-seeded rolling start. I put myself at the back of 1:20 to 1:30 group which is about right for me. Because of all the Vaseline I couldn’t see very well and my goggles were tinted and a bit foggy anyway and it was dark. The sum of this was I couldn’t see and had a hell of a time sighting the buoys during the swim but that was the least of my worries as it would turn out.

The swim is two loops with the second loop a different turn point to come into the shore. Nearly as soon as the swim started people were more aggressive than usual and there was more contact in this swim than in all 14 of my other IRONMAN swims put together. I got kicked and punched in the face more times than I can count, sometimes pretty hard. I think people were basically freaking out because of the jelly fish. Which were BADDDD.

It wasn’t long into the swim when I felt the tentacles over my arm and they stung me. Again and again and again. A few times I think they actually got stuck on me and were with me along my arm for some strokes. I read you shouldn’t try to pull them off so I let them along for the ride as they continued to sting me. The stings hurt but really were not that bad. My face and feet never got stung, just my arms and hands which must have been about 50 times. All I could think was Monica from Friends, “damn all the jelly fish”. I think I was “lucky”. I heard of people that started vomiting after being stung and had to be pulled from the race 😦

True!

There was also a current at times which you had to fight against to stay straight which combined with the difficulty sighting made it tricky at times and added to the overall stress of the swim. I kept pretty straight though. I actually forgot to keep going straight on the second loop initially until someone reminded me!

Just a little wonky πŸ™‚

I exited the swim in 1:30:06 which was pretty fast considering it was a literal beating. As you got out the wetsuit strippers quickly helped you out the wetsuit and they then sprayed you with vinegar to help with the stings. I could feel them and would continue to as my arms were basically just solid red and bumpy for the first hour of the bike but after that they really didn’t bother me much.

On to the bike and what can I say, it was flattttttt. My bike computer was never outside -2 to 10 for the altitude. It was just continuous riding which for me is fine. That’s how I train, constant power and I did pretty good on the bike, 5:43:35. There was some wind at certain stages but really wasn’t a big deal. My one complaint is the aid stations were few and far between. I typically always change my Gatorade at every aid station and it never gets empty. It did on this course. It wasn’t even very hot and there was good cloud cover so I wasn’t drinking a lot, they just had really spaced out aid stations which considering its a 2 loop bike course I really didn’t understand. My average power was 183 watts which was fine as I was taking it fairly steady, saving for the run as my training going into this had not been great since IRONMAN Canada two months before. Basically you just need to train for constant work. There was no variation, no rest for your legs as you go down a hill as there aren’t any hills. With that said it went pretty quick and the scenery was nice.

After another transition (which included racking your own bike which was a first for me but understand in a small community its hard to get enough volunteers and not a big deal) it was time for the run. It was warming up and the clouds were disappearing. The course is 2.5 loops and there were lots of times there was no cover. Also there was lots of black concrete to run on which just radiated the heat back at you. You did start to feel the heat but once again it was super flat so at least you were not battling hills! Thankfully there were lots of aid stations, at most a mile between them. I think the heat really got to people, I saw a lot of people passed out on the side of the road or throwing up. Overall there was a 10% DNF (did not finish) for those that actually started which is high for Maryland. There was amazing crowd support, especially near the finish which you went past 6 times (as each loop when past it twice).

I did a steady 2 minute run, 2 minute walk for the entire marathon coming in at 5:23:29 for a total time of 12:58:09 which I was happy with. I came in the top third overall for the event and the top half of my age group.

At the end you got your medal, hat, finisher t-shirt and flag. They had tacos at the end (which I passed on) and I picked up my morning clothes bag (which they had transported from transition). However your bike and transition bags were still a mile away at transition which I then slowly walked to carrying my morning clothes bag (I would have preferred they had left it at transition πŸ™‚ ). I got my bike and bags, dropped off my bike at TriBike (who were right there) and walked about 50 yards to the car where I just sat for a moment before driving back to my hotel.

I drank a protein shake, ate a candy bar but couldn’t face eating pizza yet. As usual I completely failed to sleep so just watched TV. At midnight I was able to eat my pizza and sleep for about an hour. At 5:45 I headed to the athlete village to get inline at the store for its 7:00 open where I bought my sports finisher tech t-shirt and polo shirt then headed home.

I would definitely recommend this IRONMAN. It’s comparatively easy compared to other events because it’s so flat. Even with the jelly fish the swim really was not that bad and the community and people are just awesome!

That’s number 15 done.

Next year I have 5 including two that are on back-to-back weekends (Texas and St George) and the world championship in Kona thanks to the Legacy program. I’ll also be doing the inaugural Tulsa IRONMAN and Mont-Tremblant. Why 5? Because Kona is on 10-10-2020. By doing 4 before Kona that will make it my 20th πŸ™‚ 10-10-2020 20th πŸ˜‰

IRONMAN Canada 2019 Race Report

Before the race

It’s 3am on race morning so figured I’d start writing this events race report as I kill time until 4am when I’ll leave the room and head down to T2 to drop off nutrition in the run bag then take the shuttle to T1 to pump up tires, drop off bike nutrition and place a drink on the bike. You can’t leave nutrition over night for Canada because of the bears. If you leave food in bags the bears will come down and have a pic-a-nic as Yogi Bear would say.

I’ve been looking forward to IRONMAN Canada for a long time. I’ve always wanted to visit Canada and so my family has made this a vacation giving us 10 days in Whistler. We arrived on Wednesday to Vancouver where a quick shuttle got us to the Enterprise off-site parking (which was very efficient) got us into the SUV we hired for the trip. The 2 and a bit hour drive down was great. The Sea to Sky highway section has amazing scenery and time flies. We got a 2 bedroom suite at the Westin which is walking distance to the IRONMAN village but also gave us a bit of extra space since I typically get up very early and having a separate room for the kids in addition to a separate living area gives everyone the ability to operate at their own hours πŸ™‚ A great hotel and the room has a decent kitchen will half-size fridge, microwave, dishwasher and even a stove top. Hotel also had an ATM so I could get out Canadian dollars at a great exchange rate compared to the terrible exchange rate they try and give you at the airport. I needed to keep getting cash as a lot of places including the IRONMAN store did not take American Express. The view from the room is amazing! Also although the fitness center was not advertised to open until 6am every day during my trip they unlocked it for me at 4am so I could get my training in.

I was surprised how busy Whistler was. When it’s not ski season its mountain bike season and the mountain bikers were everywhere but all friendly and Whistler is an amazing town. Because of the population of skiers and bikers most restaurants are pizza or some kind of draft house. There are a few others but it definitely seemed like the majority. Food actually seemed very cheap in Whistler which surprised me as well as I expected it to be overpriced as mainly a tourist town. There were also a number of grocery stores and many ice creams stores as my family quickly discovered. I was told the tap water is straight from the mountains so you don’t need bottled water.

Thursday I went and checked in at the IRONMAN registration (while my family did the VIP check-in) which was fast as always except no flag this event which was a bummer (post race edit – however you got it at the finish line instead). Also because of some customs issue none of the Canada merchandise was available yet in store. It wouldn’t be until Friday afternoon you could buy the race kit and it was by Santini this event. One cool difference was the names of all the athletes were on the tri-top (and bike shirt if you got that).

Friday was just a relax day. My family did a horse riding trip while I watched a movie in the car (horse riding hurts my knees, don’t ask me why!) Saturday was bike and gear drop off. The T1 was at Rainbow Park and you had two options. The first was to head over to T2 (a parking lot near the IRONMAN village and basically in the village) and drop off run gear then get a shuttle to T2 with your bike and bike gear OR they had labelled a trail from Whistler village to Rainbow Park. It was about 2.5 miles which is what I did. I rode the bike there using the backpack they provided to carry the gear along the paved trail, dropped off bike and bike gear bag then walked back. It was a nice little ride and walk. The walk back took about 45 minutes which really wasn’t bad. I then grabbed the family and the run bag, had lunch then dropped the run bag at T2.

Saturday night to sleep at 7pm and while I woke up a few times I managed to sleep till about 2am which is a record for me. I got up, put on a layer of sunscreen and then my timing chip, watch etc. It’s going to be about 50 degrees while I wait so bought a light sweatshirt to wear and the forecast shows about 75 high however in the sun it still feels pretty warm. At 4am I’ll head out to walk to T2 (about a mile walk from the Westin) where I’ll put my run nutrition in my run bag then catch the shuttle to T1 to pump up tires, check bike and put bike nutrition in bike bag. Transition opens at 4:30 for a 6am start time which is actually a fairly short amount of time. They start very early here I think for 2 reasons; 1, because the half is at the same time so they want all the full people swimming quickly so they can start the half once the fulls have started the second loop of the two loop swim and 2, to get us off the highway as soon as possible.

Well, I guess nothing more to say right now. I’ll finish this race report once the day is done πŸ™‚ I’ve done quite a lot of cycling leading up to this one but once again barely any swimming or running because of injury. Plan is to as always easy on swim, go about 210 watts on the bike then try and 2 minute run-walk the marathon.

Post Race

Today is Tuesday, 2 days after the toughest IRONMAN event I’ve done. They were not joking about the hilly bike ride but we’ll get to that!

I left the room at 4am and got to T2 at about 4:15 and they were already letting people in to drop off nutrition in their run bag which I did and also checking everything was still there. I didn’t need body marking as I applied tri-tats the night before. I hopped on a bus which was about a 15 minute ride where I put my bike nutrition in my bike bag, put a bottle of gatorade on my bike and pumped up my tires to 100 psi. As usual there were bike techs to pump your tires up in addition to pumps around the area you could use to pump the tires yourself (which is what I did). After that you hung around a bit. It was about 50 degrees so I had a sweatshirt on and held off putting on my wet suit until about 30 minutes before the start. The view was amazing and the picture below was posted by someone on Facebook.

Amazing sunrise at Alta Lake

The pro women started at 5:45 (if I remember correctly) and the age groupers at 6 (there were no pro men). It was rolling start and I put myself in the 90 minute group and they got you in fast. I was in the water by about 6:05 I think. For Canada the half IRONMAN is the same day and I think the half people start at 7:20 am so they try and ensure all the IRONMAN full participants are on the second loop before starting the half (its a two loop swim of a rectangle course).

I wore a sleeveless wetsuit and I think the water was around 65 degrees but I wasn’t cold and it felt fine. The visibility was good and sighting the buoys was actually pretty easy except for a short part on loop 2 where the sun was directly in your eyes. I had some cramping issues which was odd and for portions of the swim I either wasn’t kicking at all and just dragging my legs or had to straighten my feet down which acted like a break. Apart from that I actually felt like I was swimming well. I did get caught by the half-IRONMAN participants on the second half of the second loop which I was expecting since I’m a slower swimmer and that knocked you around a little as their pace is obviously faster since they are doing half the distance and the people catching you are the people at the front anyway. It wasn’t too bad though as I stay on the outside. As mentioned its a rectangle swim and you don’t get out the water for the second loop, you just turn left again at the T4 red buoy to start the second loop and when you are finished the second loop you just swim forwards at the T4 buoy to exit. During the swim I felt like it had been a good steady swim however I was actually pretty slow, 1:35 which is 5 minutes slower than my normal 90 minutes. I hadn’t done much swimming as I’ve injured my right shoulder and it hurt to swim (and still did a little) so the lack of training may have been the cause or the cramps in my legs but still I got out feeling good and hadn’t drained myself.

Into the transition training tent after the awesome volunteers handed me my T1 bag where I quickly dried off, put on my tri shirt (I wore the same shirt for bike and run), applied some anti-chafe and put on some sunscreen (which they also apply as you exit the tent, the sunscreen, not anti-chafe, that would be awkward πŸ™‚ ) . As I was walking to my bike I turned on my bike computer (don’t leave it on your bike, there were reports some were stolen during this event :-(, also people had stuff stolen like glasses from their bags) so it had GPS by the time I started the actual ride. Hopped on the bike and off I went. For some reason my transition was super slow as well, 15 minutes!!!! No idea where the time went other than I had to pee really badly which took a while πŸ˜€

The bike course is two loops and to sum it up its brutal. The weather was great. Sunny but only about 75 degrees high temp but we did have some wind on second loop but didn’t seem to impact much except it seemed to try and blow you over when going fast downhill. I’m not exaggerating when I say there is no flat on the course. You are going up or you are going down. There is one part in particular, Callaghan Valley Road, oh boy. I had heard people say the name with dread and I now know why. I think it was about 10 miles of just hard up hill riding. There were large amounts of time I was going about 7 mph. It was amusing that there was a sign near the start of the road saying watch out for bears the next 10 km. I wasn’t sure if this was just to try and get you to peddle faster up the hills :-). I was actually bummed that I never saw a bear during the event.

I just need to ride faster than the other guy πŸ™‚

The good part of all the hills was you got to go down them. 10 miles of basically zooming downhill with only a few turns was pretty awesome. I got above 40 mph for a number of segments as my bike computer showed. My plan of 210 watts went out the window as there were times you were going much harder then times you were doing nothing (downhill).

Bike Stats

Because of the low temperature I was not sweating as much as usual but I was still drinking a lot so I had to pee about once an hour which actually lost me about 15 minutes overall stopping. Every hour I consumed 1.5 bottles along with a waffle and Roctane Gu (which I carried with me). The scenery during the bike was breath taking and the miles went fast (except when you were going up hill). The first loop was pretty busy as you shared the course with the half-IRONMAN participants but was much quieter on the second loop.

There were aid stations roughly every 10 miles and like everywhere else on the course the volunteers were amazing. One thing different from other IRONMAN events was the drink was Base Hydro instead of Gatorade Endurance. It was OK from a nutrient perspective but I didn’t like the peach mango flavor they had but that’s just personal preference. I do find it a little harder on my stomach but not by much but definitely added to the time of one of my breaks πŸ˜€ They had bananas, bars and gels at the aid stations in addition to the base and water bottles.

Bike total time was 6:30 but moving time was 6:15. Given how hard the course was I felt good with that time and beat the 7 hours that Lake Placid took me. I got to see my family once on the bike course so that was nice and was towards the end so that kept me going. I actually felt good during the bike and got off the bike feeling OK. This was expected since I’d done a lot of cycling due to being unable to run or swim much.

T2 was pretty quick. Grabbed my nutrition and off onto the run. My plan was to run for 2 minutes then walk for 2 minutes. This kind of worked out for the first half where I averaged 5mph but definitely slowed down on the second half which turned into walk up hill and run downhill πŸ™‚ My knees were hurting as was my little toe on right foot which I had sliced open the day before on a chair. It took me a while to work out how far a marathon was in kilometers as I tried to work out half way (21km as I now know).

The run route had some rolling hills but wasn’t that bad. It was mostly paved with a few miles of gravel trail. Aid stations were every mile that were stocked with all the usual stuff. My run was pretty slow, 5:37:40 which gave me a total time of 14:05:16 but overall I’m happy. I beat my Boulder and Lake Placid times which were easier than Canada!

At the finish time you got the great medal, t-shirt, hat and flag. Then you got your pizza and fries.

That night I didn’t sleep a wink (as usual) so at 5:30 headed to the store where I was second in line. I bought the athletic finisher t-shirt, finisher polo shirt and the finisher puffer jacket (which I planned on not getting but when I saw the puffer style jacket I couldn’t resist).

IRONMAN Canada was the toughest IRONMAN event I’ve ever done but also one of the best and I highly recommend it. Whistler is a great host town and I’m sad this was the last year IRONMAN Canada will be in Whistler but I’m sure it will still be great in the new (old) host city of Penticton. Now IRONMAN Maryland in 2 months time.

Number 14 done and despite being tired was an awesome event!

IRONMAN Texas 2019 Race Report

Lucky Number 13 πŸ™‚ Even though this was the 5th time of doing Texas on consecutive years the fact it was my 13th added a little bit of stress to this one but in the end all went well.

This is going to be a shorter report since I’ve already written Texas Race Reports a number of times and nothing major has changed since the last two around the course and logistics:

Instead I’m going to focus on a few changes I made as part of my preparation.

The biggest change for this year is I’ve been pretty much unable to run since doing a double-marathon New Years Eve-New Years Day. I damaged ligaments in my left knee which left it painful and with limited motion. It’s basically healed at this point. After seeing a joint specialist a few weeks ago before the IRONMAN to ensure using it was not going to cause further damage I found out:

  • My right elbow has tennis elbow (been hurting for months)
  • My left elbow has arthritis (dislocated it years ago while teaching Krav Maga)
  • My left knee has arthritis, cartilege loss, bone spikes/spurs/fragments (can’t remember exact term) and ligament damage (I’m old and heavy πŸ™‚ )

I felt like Batman but not in the way I really wanted πŸ™‚ Basically I’m just old and crap. The good news is the Dr said to just carry on. What will happen will happen. I’m just going to do less running training and definitely no hard running anymore in terms of intensity.

My first run was 3 miles, 2 weeks before the IRONMAN, then a 6 mile run 10 days before then 9 miles 7 days before and that was the sum of my running. Because I couldn’t run I really focused on my cycling and I read a lot of articles and focused on lower RPMs (aiming for 80-85) but higher watts as this is supposed to be better for longer endurance events as was less stress on the cardiovascular system. In training I got up to a 5.5 hour ride for 125 miles, 220 average watts at around 930 calories an hour. My heartrate was around 135 during this ride. I also did a lot of eliptical (legs only, I found the arms on eliptical with the repetative motion caused the tennis elbow) as I figured that was closest to running and did some swimming focusing on my form.

My plan was to run-walk the entire marathon for as long as I could at 2 minute intervals so run for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. I bought a little gymboss timer to wear on my race belt. I figured if I could run 9 miles/90 minutes, I should be able to run-walk for at least 3 hours, hoping to get to 4 hours then have to walk the final set of miles. My plan for the swim is to take it easy and focus on the arm form and on the bike try and hit 210 watts keeping heartrate 135 or less. I wanted to try and do well on the bike to counter the slow marathon I would have. I knew the swim would be 90 minutes. It always is, no matter what I do. 90 minutes EVERY time so I wasn’t going to gain time there.

I also bought a new Roka Maverick Pro II Sleeveless Wetsuit as I figured that would help shave seconds off my 13 hour time so a very wise investment πŸ˜€ I had my bike fully serviced, new cables, tires, chain, as good as its going to get. I also switched to Roka R1 googles in an attempt to finally find goggles that didn’t leak.

153_3rd-2509975-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2871_043253-26954598

My nutrition was mostly the same except IRONMAN switched to Gu Roctane so I switched to those in training. During the bike I also added in FitCrunch mini protein bars on alternating hours instead of waffles. This gave more calories and protein than my normal waffles.

I packed everything up per my list at https://theironbrit.com/ironman-packing-list/Β and set off Thursday morning to Houston after a quick training session. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Dallas. I stayed at the Westin again this year as it’s literally at the finish line and booked Tribike Transport valet to get my bike and transition bags from transition so I could pick them up Sunday morning from the IRONMAN village instead of walking half a mile there and back after the race. $40 well spent πŸ™‚

I got All World Athlete (AWA) status silver again for 2019 and a change this year is the special swim cap could actually be used during the IRONMAN swim (in previous years they gave you a cap but you couldn’t actually use it) so that was cool.

20190429_000652046_iOS

Daniela Ryf was racing and I’ve always admired her and she was going to be at the 12 Pro Panel. I had pizza for lunch at 11 then headed straight to the Village looking for her. I spotted her approaching and ran over and managed to get a picture!!!

20190425_165657187_iOS

Mike Reilly was also signing copies of his book at the store so I took advantage of that as well!

I bought the IRONMAN Texas 2019 tri kit from the store, drove to Target to get assorted drinks then checked into the hotel. Had a nice quiet room up on the 12th floor so that was awesome. I watched some TV then walked to the Macaroni Grill for my traditional dinner of pasta and chicken breast on the side. The staff remembered me from last year. Back to the room and asleep at 7:30.

Friday I woke up about 4am which was a sleep in for me so that was good. Rechecked all my gear bags (for the 5th time) and this time I put the smaller items, i.e. not shoes or helmet, in a large zip lock bag inside the gear bag which made it easier to check and would also water proof it more. I then proceeded to watch more TV. I headed down to the bike and gear bag check in at 9:30. It was about a half mile walk and quite pleasant. To my surprise that were letting people in ahead of the 10am start so I placed my bike, let out a little air out of the tires and put my gear bags in their place. I then headed to Macaroni Grill for a repeat meal before heading to Cinemark DBOX seats for Avengers Endgame, which was awesome! After the movie I went back to the room for a little then to Grimaldis for my traditional pre IRONMAN meal of pizza! Put on my tritats then to bed at 7:30.

I woke up at midnight. Wide awake but at least got around 4 hours of sleep which is pretty typical for me. I watched a movie then ate around 3am. Protein shake, apple sauce and a blueberry bagel. Drank some gatorade and water. Got dressed, checked morning clothes bag had everything and left the room at 4:30. Got to transition around 4:45 and it wasn’t supposed to open until 5 but I think they started letting us in at 4:55. I had a good bike spot near the front thanks to AWA status so grabbed my bike and the bike technicians pumped the tires up to 100psi. I put on a gatorade and water bottle then headed to my transition bags to check they were still there and still had all my stuff in them. I headed to the swim start. It’s about a 1 mile walk but you have plenty of time. It is at the swim start you get body marking done and also drop off special needs bags (if you use them, I don’t).

My last few IRONMANs I’ve constantly needed to pee before the swim and during the bike so I made a change. 90 minutes before swim start only small sips of drink. 60 minutes before no drink and I queue up to pee. This worked really well for me. I took my 5 hour energy and Gu Roctane about 6:20. It’s a self-seed, rolling start. I put myself in the 1:20 to 1:29 group near the back and the age groupers started at 6:40. I was getting in the water about 6:50. For my goggles what has been working in the pool was I lick my fingers and run that round the edge of the goggles to make a better seal. I then push them down like a suction cup to make a vacuum. IT WORKED!!!! No leaking at all during this swim. Roka R1 and a little bit of spit forever for John!

You have no visibility in the water, it’s just brown. The sun is rising so you need tinted googles. I was able to site the buoys pretty comfortably and I stayed towards the outside which worked well for me. Only a couple of times people zig zagged in front of me. I really focused on a few key form items that I had been practicing in the pool but really was trying to minimize effort:

  • Slight separation of fingers (I read you get a better “paddle” with 5-10 degree separation)
  • Tilting hand down as entering water
  • Hands going in around shoulder width and not crossing body
  • Legs close together and legs pretty straight

The swim felt very comfortable and if I’m honest, easy. I got out feeling completely fine, not really gassed. My time, 1:29:35. So 90 minutes πŸ™‚ No shock there. Grabbed my T1 bag, put on my tri shirt (this year I was going to wear the same shirt for bike and run), applied anti rubbing stuff, sun screen etc then headed out. I also let them apply more sun screen on the way out.

The bike course is mostly flat. There are a few little rollers but nothing major. You ride on some various roads for about 20 miles (a few bits of bad road condition) then you hit the tollroad. This is where you spend the next 80 miles. Out and back twice along a 20 mile stretch. It’s a good condition road which is nice and basically a straight line with those minimal rollers. There is zero cover though, from the sun or wind. Heading outbound there was headwind and I was only going about 18mph. Coming back I was hitting 25mph so I was fine with that. I was focused on my watts however I wasn’t hitting my target numbers but also wasn’t feeling that tired but was trying to be agressive.

My average power was about 200 and my heartrate was below 135 most of the time. Because I had been doing more bike training due to not being able to run, problems I’ve had in the past of butt and neck hurting were not there. The bike actually felt very comfortable for me and I got off the bike feeling OK. Also I never train outside, all my bike training is on a spin bike at Lifetime Fitness. This is likely not a good thing but honestly it doesn’t seem to hurt me. I focus on building the power and I’m just powering a different machine on the day. The actual bike handling is fine. Same for any running I do, on a treadmill, never outside. Someone once said to me you pay the bill in training or on the day. I feel on the bike for sure I paid in training so the day was actually great.

The only challenge I faced was the protein bars πŸ™‚ Well they were covered in chocolate. The hour 3 and 5 bars had completely melted and as I tried to unwrap melted chocolate was flying at me and I was paranoid people would think its poop so I spent a lot of energy trying to squirt it off with a water bottle (which worked) :-).

This was another change this year. When watching Kona videos I noticed people are constantly using the bottles of water to spray themselves to cool down. I did this on the bike a lot and I do think it helped. It was 85 degrees but I never really felt much impact from the sun. This also washed away the sun screen which is why I got burnt some so lesson learned. Spray water on body not shoulders πŸ™‚

Final bike time was 5:33:44 which is way better than previous years (plus last year was only 110 miles as they slightly shortened the course). At transition I changed socks and shoes (new Hoka One One Elevons instead of Nike Vomeros, another change), put on race belt, glasses and hat. Applied more sunscreen and anti-chaif and headed out. I turned on the gym boss. I had it set to audible only which was a mistake as in noisy parts I couldn’t really hear it so had to look at watch a little. Post-race I realized you can also set to a vibration mode which I’ll do for the next one. I could also see I was a little sunburnt, oh well.

The run is 3 loops and very flat. There is a lot of great crowd support and its a great run. There are sections that have shade and sections that have none. It felt HOT and heavy. I would throw water on myself and for the run my plan was Gu Roctane every 30 minutes, salt lick every mile and gatorade every aid station with sips of water inbetween. And that is what I stuck to. The pineapple Gu Roctane was revolting so I tried to stick to chocolate ones.

The 2 minute intervals worked great. I was actually able to maintain it the entire marathon, even going to 4 minute run, 2 minute walk for some parts near the end to try and speed up a little. My knee didn’t really hurt, my muscles were not dying. My goal was to average out to 5 mph by running at 6 mph then walking at 4 mph. I basically hit that goal.

IMTX2019runstats

My total running time was 5:15:47 and as you can see pretty stead intervals the entire time. This exceed my expections and the run actually went pretty fast. Normally I run at the start then have a miserable 3 hours of walking. Well that didn’t happen. By using the intervals when I was walking I was recovering and enjoying it.

My final time was 12:41:36, 6 minutes less than last year and a new PR. Considering I had done basically no running I was super happy. Even better I was in the top third of my age group which is unheard of for me!

2019txresults

20190428_224231000_iOS

And what finishing feels like πŸ™‚

The medal this year was completley awesome, it’s a postcard type theme.

The next morning I got up and started lining up for the store at 6am πŸ™‚ Bought the finisher polo and sports t-shirt. I didn’t get the jacket as I now have so many of them πŸ™‚ Got in the car, took a 5 hour energy and drove the 3.5 hour drive home on 4 hours total sleep over the last two nights. Was a bit dodgy at times πŸ™‚

20190429_122041925_iOS

Sunday I was sore but Monday I got up at 3, did an hour eliptical (easy), 90 minutes weights and actually feel pretty good. I think the run-walk intervals was huge and something I plan to use for Canada but increase the running to 4 or 6 minutes while walking 2. Obviously Canada is WAYYYYY hillier on bike and run so it will be slower but it will be an experience as its supposed to be the toughest one in North America so yay πŸ™‚

Overally very happy with this result and how good it felt during and after. On to the next one!

Things I Wish I Knew For My First IRONMAN!

I want to be super upfront that I am not an expert around IRONMAN nor a particularly good triathlete πŸ™‚ At time of writing I’ve completed 13 full distance IRONMAN events over the past 5 years and am participating in two more in 2019 (Canada and Maryland) this year and am privileged to be going to Kona in 2020 as part of the Legacy program (and will also be doing Texas, St George, Tulsa and Mont-Treblant before it in 2020) . I’ve never DNF’d (and have been part of some IRONMAN events that had high DNF rates) but am also pretty slow compared to most (my PR is 12:41 ish) but I get a little better each year. I’m the turtle that gets there in the end. Over the events I’ve learnt lessons (some painful) and wanted to try and share as much as I can in the same way many people shared with me and helped me. Lets begin:

Preparation

  • Read the Athlete Guide and go to an athlete briefing. You can read the previous years athlete guide for an idea.
  • Understand nutrition that will be on the course and if you plan to use that then train with it.Β NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!!!
  • Don’t use new gear or anything new without fully testing.Β  I learnt this lesson the hard way. On my second IRONMAN I had a mobile bike vendor tune my bike and they put on bigger tires as they said would make me go faster. They had to Dremel down some of my back break assembly to make it fit and in the end still didn’t fit but left the bigger on my front tier. Well the morning of the IRONMAN you pump up the tires to 100 psi (you don’t leave them pumped up during day before/night for fear of popping). Well when this bigger tire was pumped up to 100 PSI it no longer turned as it rubbed on the frame. I tried pushing the wheel down a little but it moved back up and in the end had to let a lot of air out my tire to enable it to spin. This was horrible. The year later they changed inner tubes but they won’t compatible with the valve extenders so couldn’t actually pump up the tires. Luckily I found this before the day of the IRONMAN!
  • Remove unnecessary moving parts eg valve extenders πŸ™‚ They have inner tubes with long valves so use those!
  • Read race reports for ideas. I try and post race reports for my events on this blog, https://theironbrit.com.
  • Make a gear checklist and check off as pack suitcase, lay out for the event and put in transition bags. I have one I use that is linked in the main menu.
  • Train with others if you can. I’ve never done this but definitely would be more fun πŸ™‚
  • A bad training session won’t ruin your ironman. Accept it and move on.
  • If something doesn’t go your way on the day it sucks but it’s ok. The only real failure is to not try.
  • Remove unnecessary stress points. If you are on your own don’t worry about car keys. Things are safe in morning clothes bag or simply stay near the finish line.
  • I place a backpack in morning clothes bag to help carry transition bags when pick them up after the IRONMAN.
  • Take a thick sharpie pen with you and write your number on all the transition bags in case the stickers come off. I also take a colored one and draw logos on them so I can spot them easier (but the volunteers get them for you at transitions anyway). Some people use tape with patterns!
  • If it may rain people take a plastic cup and make a small hole in the bottom and place it upside down over the top of the big with the string going through the hole. This helps water proof the opening at the top of the bag.
  • An alternative to the plastic cup and something that can always apply is to put the gear into a jumbo zip lock bag or tied up trash bag inside each transition bag. This protects from rain but also if its humid etc. I actually like this better than the plastic cup idea.
  • Take a towel for the T1 bag to help dry off after swim. There are separate male/female changing tents so you can change if you want.
  • If the transition area may be muddy use trash bags or shoe covers (the plastic things that cover the shoe like a shower cap πŸ™‚ ) so when you go through the mud it does not get in your bike cleats.
  • I also often use valet service so can get bike and bags the next day, $40 well spent!
  • Lose a bit of excess weight if you can. This makes it easier for the run and bike (swimming potentially harder as will sink!). I lost 30 lbs between my 2nd and 3rd IRONMANs and found the runs much easier and my joints thanked me!
  • Stick to routine, have a good breakfast (same one during training!)
  • Enjoy the pre-race meals πŸ™‚ Again stick with how you train but a cheese pizza the night before and frozen yogurt does the trick for me!
  • Do something relaxing the day before, I always go see a movie the afternoon before if I can.
  • I like to use TriTats instead of having numbers written on me πŸ™‚ Makes me feel more like a pro so I’m sure that will translate to faster times πŸ˜€

Race Day

  • Make sure you eat enough and drink enough during training and on the day. During the bike a good guide is to need to pee twice indicating drinking enough.
  • Don’t shave morning of the IRONMAN. For men the bike helmet strap just rubs and ouchy
  • Take a headlamp for the morning. Often it’s dark and you may be walking over fields or just when you’re in the porta-potties. Also helps pumping up tires and other setup on the bike in the morning
  • On race morning after you pump up tires (they have people to do it or lots of pumps around, the head lamp comes in useful here!) you can go check your transition bags are still there and mentally picture the route.

Swim

  • Enjoy it, everything will be OK but everyone is nervous. Once you get in the water everything will be fine.
  • If it’s wetsuit optional and you are not a good swimmer wear it. Many others will. You can’t age group place for Kona and a set 1000 points towards All World Athlete (AWA) status but still get full 17 hours and everything else. I sink like a stone and while I’m training towards no wetsuit I wear it if it’s optional as today I need the added buoyancy (I’m 190 lbs and 8% body fat).
  • Bring a plastic bag to help put on the wetsuit. You put your foot in the plastic bag then slide that into the legs. Goes in very easily then just pull the bag through and use on the next foot!
  • Put lubricant round your neck for the wetsuit to stop it rubbing and cutting (if you wear one).
  • Make sure you have googles that don’t leak. Look for good suction when you put them on. If they leak a little during the swim I try to leave them alone as generally I make it worse. if its really bad stop at a buoy or canoe to adjust then continue on. I use a little bit of liquid around the seals of the googles to help them get a good seal. Also keep a neutral face during the swim which helps avoid stretching the face breaking the seal.
  • The swim is a rolling, self-seed start (apart from Kona). Place yourself roughly in the right time or you’ll get stuck behind slow people and swam over by fast people. Also drafting by having your head roughly at waist level of person to your side can save energy! Not so close as you are touching them! For most age groupers drafting is not a big deal πŸ™‚
  • In the swim if nervous swim on the outside away from people. Adding even 20 meters additional distance is not going to make any real difference to your overall time.
  • Consider having a mini mouthwash available if swimming in a dirty lake in your T1 bag just to rinse away some of the yucky πŸ™‚

Bike and Run

  • When applying butt cream before the bike ride be generous and apply where you really need it (not so much over the butt cheeks but more under if you’re a guy).
  • Wear sunscreen. I got second degree sunburn on my first IRONMAN (Texas 2015) during the bike ride. I had sunscreen on but it sucked and then had to basically walk a very painful marathon.
  • Go at your training intensity or things won’t work, for example you won’t be able to absorb calories etc as you could in training. Stress will already mess with this so you’ve trained at a certain intensity, do this on the day (just for longer).
  • On the bike focus on low to mid RPMs which helps for long rides. You should practice this way.
  • If not a great runner or maybe bike took it out of you don’t be afraid of run-walk intervals. For Texas 2019 I hadn’t been able to run for over 3 months and my first run was 2 weeks before the IRONMAN. I decided to use 2 minute intervals of run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes and was able to do that the entire marathon finishing the marathon in 5:15. Not great but worked and was better than running for some then having to walk for 2-3 hours which is just miserable. By intervaling at the start the walks were a nice recovery I enjoyed and my muscles and repository system never got to the point of failure.
  • Use water bottles to squirt water on your body/shorts to cool. Try to be careful of shoulders/arms as may wash off sunscreen then get burnt. Throwing cups of water on yourself during run can also help! Ice down your shirt, why not!
  • Use salt in training and on the day. This is a huge problem I see. I take a lick of salt every mile during the run. Never found needed it during the bike.
  • You don’t get special needs bags back so if you don’t collect them make sure you don’t have anything you care about in them.
  • Have two spare inner tubes, mini pump and gas. Know how to change tire so not a source of dread. Be self sufficient.
  • Smile for pictures at the end and whenever you can.

Post Completion!

  • Encourage others and thank the volunteers who are awesome.
  • Once you finish eat soon after and have some protein. I have protein powder in the room I have when I get back.
  • When you finish you may start shaking or feel tingling, it’ll pass. Don’t panic. Your body is just a bit upset with you for what you put it through πŸ™‚ Eat and drink. I actually try to avoid sitting down until I get back to my room as once I sit down problems start. I find I just need to lay down for 15 minutes before tingling etc goes away.
  • You may not sleep the night after the IRONMAN. It’s normal. I think the caffeine, sugar, adreline etc just stops you sleeping.
  • People start queueing at the store next day at 6 :).
  • Brag the next day. Wear those finisher items and medals with pride.
  • The results site has a downloadable certificate.

2018/2019 New Years Double Race Report

Every year an amazing event is held in Allen, Texas, the New Years Double (http://www.newyearsdouble.com/). I’ve participated many years but never tried the double marathon before. New Years Eve and New Years Day the following are offered:

  • 5K
  • Half Marathon
  • Full Marathon

If you participate in Half or Full both days you can combine the medals to create a super medal and there is even a double double if you participate in the 5K each day and THEN do the half/full. I had previously participated in one of the marathons and also done the double halves. This year I decided to try the double marathon. I want to stress how well organized this is. There are multiple emails sent out walking through different aspects of the day well in advance so there is never any doubt what you need to do.

The 5K kicks off around 7:30 while the half/full marathon starts at 8:40 (this gives people time to run the 5K and then the half/full if they are insane πŸ˜‰ ) with a few waves that are staged every 2 minutes. There were a few hundred doing the half marathon I think with around a hundred running the full (at least for New Years Eve). Packet pickup is offered a few days in advance in addition to being able to collect the morning off which consists of personalized bibs and awesome shirts. A short sleeve shirt for New Years Eve, long sleeve for New Years Day.

The half and full people start together and the course is a 6.55 mile loop around Celebration Park then out along some walking paths through Allen with some nice scenery. The course has police support at any roads and is well sign-posted so you know where you are supposed to be going along with mile markers.

map

This means for the full marathon you run 4 loops. It also means often you are running in opposite directions to people multiple times. This is actually awesome. You start to get a real comradary with people waving and cheering on as you see them multiple times. Obviously the 3rd and 4th loops there are less people on the course as most of the half marathon people finish.

The course is pretty much flat with very minor inclines and declines a few times. As you can see it’s basically 600 ft of elevation gain (no idea why I have different numbers the two different days, it was the same course πŸ™‚ ). You should be able to run a good time on this course. Obviously those the time of year it’s pretty cold!

summary

You don’t need to get there much before the start. I got there about 8:00 and sat in the car till 8:30 where I used the restroom quick and then lined up for the 8:40 start. It’s very well organized and everyone is super friendly. For New Years Eve the starting temperature was about 40 going up to nearly 60 so I had a throwaway t-shirt over my thermal long sleeve. I ditched the t-shirt at about 2 miles. I had my waffles and gu’s with me and on the course about every 2 miles are aid stations with Water and Gatorade (lime). There are also port-a-potties scattered around the course at the same locations.

Because I intended to repeat the marathon the next day I wanted to take it very easy to try and minimize aches and pains so ran at a comfortable pace however I actually was going pretty fast. With about 6 miles left to go my right hip was giving me some pain but was able to run through it. In the end I came in at 4:16:10 and was actually 1st in the Clydesdale category (and with my gear on I was 196lbs despite recent weight loss). I also would have been first in my age group!

newyeareveresults

newyearsevestats

I got a cool glass (because of the number of categories and the number of people that enter you gave a good change of getting glassware!). At the end there is water and snacks.

I got home and my hip was hurting so I did some stretches, used a roller and sat in a hot bath with Epsom salts. I pretty much would have done anything to try and minimize pains and soreness thinking of repeating the next day. Chicken sacrifice was not out of the question if I believed it would have helped. For dinner I had the meal I normally have Friday night, Grimalid’s pizza and 4 ounces of cake batter frozen yogurt with scoop of kit-kat, scoop of crunch bar and squirt of caramel πŸ™‚ 2000 total calories of goodness πŸ˜‰ That pizza is all mine and I always eat it all AND some of my kids cheese pizza πŸ™‚

I didn’t sleep well and woke up at 3am. Sore and in pain but figured what the hell. Let’s try πŸ™‚ Worse case I’ll have to walk it all which would take about 6.5 hours. I worked for a few hours then got ready and everything was the same as the previous day except I was sore and hungry and tired.

I actually managed to run for the first 10 miles about 5.5 mph but just after mile 10 my right knee felt like something was ripping inside. Now I should take a step back. I wear these knee sleeves and as soon as the run started the one on my right knee slipped down to just under the knee so it was just tight just under the knee but I couldn’t pull it up because of the thermal leggings. As it turned out it was basically putting pressure on my knee which I think caused the problem. My hip also started to hurt. At this point I had to walk. The whole rest of the way….. 16 miles or 4 hours at 4mph. Ugh. Andddd, it was about 35 degrees the whole time with an icy wind. Misery. I suspected the day was going to go badly and so instead of music I was listening to The Martian audio book so that helped πŸ™‚ I tried to run occasionally but after about 40 steps my knee felt like was tearing again and in the back of my mind was the thought that I had to start my IRONMAN training and couldn’t risk any serious injury.

In the end I limped over the finish line 5:42:45, ugh πŸ™‚ It’s interesting it shows only 30 finished. I know more than that had signed up so either they didn’t finish or didn’t even start! It was really cold and I suspect there were people who did the previous day who felt like me and did the sane thing and stayed in bed πŸ™‚

newyearsdayresults

But I did it and got the outer medal and a special plate that attaches them together to create SUPER MEDAL!! It is AWESOME! I’m pretty sure I could use it as a weapon.

It was a very hard two days but it’s so well organized, the people are so friendly, you really get to interact with other runners because of the way the course is laid out and that helps keep you going. I love the shirts, the glassware and my mega medal. I highly recommend this event.

I think next year I’ll try the double-double with 5K and the Half followed by 5K and the Full. Two marathons in a row is a killer but who doesn’t like a challenge πŸ˜‰

 

Losing Weight, Hard but Not Complicated

I’ve been guilty in the past of telling people that it’s not hard to lose weight but that’s actually incorrect. The reality is that it’s not COMPLICATED to lose weight but it absolutely is hard but lets take a step back.

Before I start I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a personal trainer. In fact I’m completely unqualified πŸ™‚ I don’t have a coach or a trainer. I have no one setting me a training plan or what to eat. I’ve always done what I think is logical. What I’m sharing here are my thoughts and what has worked for me. Nothing more, nothing less.

Over the past 4 years there have been two occasions where I’ve lost weight. The first was 3 years ago after I completed my second IRONMAN and was starting to train for my third and decided I should shed some body fat so I had less weight to carry round with me. I was about 225 and the only picture I have was after the previous years IRONMAN where I had really bad sunburn πŸ™‚ (I’ll show that in a minute πŸ™‚ ) I got down to about 200 at around 12% body fat. This took about 4 months. I lost a little bit more over time at one point getting down to about 8.5% body fat and 193 lbs but recently was back up to about 11.5% fat and 200 lbs.

The next occasion I just finished. I decided to get to 8% by the end of the year to set myself up for in 2019 focusing on fitness and building more muscle.Β At the start of November (2 months ago) I was at 197.8lbs and 11.3% body fat so 22.35 lbs of body fat. Today I weighed in at 190.6lbs and 7.2% body fat so 13.72 lbs of body fat. Basically 8.5 lbs of body fat loss in 9 weeks.

So over a total of 6 months of weight loss focus (spread over multiple years though) my before and after (and yes that sunburn really hurt πŸ™‚ ).

My approach was slightly different each time. The first time my only focus was losing weight. I didn’t count calories I just basically removed all sweets, cakes, fast food, soda (which was a great thing and I’ve not drunk one now for 3 years) and most bread. I still ate my Friday pizza, still had pasta but really tried to focus on clean food. The weight fell off at about a pound and a half a week.

For this last 9 week weight loss attempt it was a little different. I wanted to lose body fat but not lose muscle and so wanted to control the weight loss and limit to about 1 lb a week. I used the Lose It app on the iPhone to log the food I ate and the exercise I did and aimed for 500 calorie deficit most days averaging about 3500 calorie deficit a week. This meant I still ate a lot of food and just altered things here and there to try and keep to 500 deficit.

I’m going to be up front about something now before we go on. I do a lot of training. Every day I do around 1.5 hours of cardio and 75 minutes of weight training. I train for Ironman events but also like to keep muscle mass so do quite a lot of weight training as well. On average this is about 1600 calories burnt which obviously means I get to eat them πŸ™‚ On Saturdays I may do 5 hours of cardio for about 4500 calories πŸ™‚ I also have quite a lot of muscle mass which helps burn calories so I still get to eat a lot of food. That is not normal for most people but hopefully as you’ll see the logic remains the same for everyone, the numbers will just be different.

Losing Weight, Not Complicated

Let’s get to the meat of losing weight and it’s not complicated. The laws of physics apply to us, specifically Einstein:

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.

As humans our energy comes from eating food and that energy is used by the activity we perform. If we have more energy coming in than we use then its stored as fat. If we use more energy than we have coming in then (mostly) that energy deficit is supplied by using our fat stores. I say mostly as our muscle can also be cannibalized for energy (and certain other materials) but all things being equal our body would rather burn fat than muscle for energy as it knows muscle is necessary and is required to help us hunt and run away from predators.

Therefore the not complicated part is basically to lose fat we just need to eat less energy than we are using through activities. The delta will mostly come from body fat.

A pound of body fat is 3500 calories so to lose a pound of fat we need to eat 3500 calories less than we are using. You see its not complicated, its just basic physics.

There are fancy diets and guidance that may help but for the most part its very simple, eat less than you use. Now there are some considerations.

  • Go see a Dr before any big change!
  • To avoid losing muscle as well as fat eat a good amount of protein (I aim for a gram of protein per pound of body weight minimum but obviously if you have a lot of weight to lose this ratio would not apply) and do some resistance training
  • Don’t try and lose weight too quickly. I think a pound a week is a good amount, i.e. 500 calorie deficit a day. If you have more weight to lose then you’ll find it easier to lose weight initially so maybe 2 lbs a week
  • Exercise will help since it burns calories but what they say is true, 80% of weight loss is in the kitchen, 20% at the gym. For years I did hours of training and put on weight because I ate so much
  • While a calorie is a calorie, some are better than others. For example candy and cakes your body can’t do anything with other than initially store as fat where as real food can actually be used for energy. The body is constantly using fat and storing fat but if we can eat good food that will help
  • Try not to eat a really large meal right before bed and instead aim for multiple smaller meals
  • It’s OK to have things you enjoy. Think moderation. 80% good, 20% bad is OK, just make sure the bad does not completely offset the good πŸ™‚ I’ll have five guys little cheeseburger and little fries. Awesome!
  • Think overall health. Losing weight is great but we also want to improve fitness and think overall health. Watch saturated fats, think heart health. If you smoke stop πŸ™‚ Watch alcohol.
  • Don’t cut out fat. We need fat and I think the body needs to know fat is coming in so it stays trained to burn fat.
  • Drink lots of water!
  • Enjoy special days. Christmas, New Years, Birthday, Valentines Day. Log the food (as best you can but can be difficult when you eat out) but don’t worry about it. A few bad days won’t really matter.
  • Watch eating out. Large food chains have to publish nutrition but smaller ones don’t which means you really don’t know what you are eating. Assume its always worse than what you think.

So how do you get started? Find something to log the calories of the food you eat. I’ve only ever used the Lose It app but I’m sure there are others. They have a lot of common foods in its catalog and you can add your own.

You need to know your base calorie requirements outside of any exercise. This is actually tricky as everyone’s body is different, peoples metabolisms are different. I have a lot of muscle mass which burns energy even when idle for example. A good place to start is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the energy you burn if you just existed, i.e. didn’t move. http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ is an easy to use resource. Put in your height, weight, age and gender and it will tell you your BMR. For example a 6 foot and 191 lbs my BMR is 1878. Go and work yours out.

Now despite what my wife may say I don’t just exist. I get up, I drive, I walk, I eat (which itself uses energy to digest food) etc. The Harris Benedict Equation gives a multiplier for the BMR to work out a base calorie requirement. You can look this up however since we will separately log the exercise we do for the exact calories I don’t want to include any exercise which means I’m just going to use 1.3 (sedentary/lightly active) since I know I do some walking as part of life which I’m not going to separately log. That gives me a base calorie requirement of 1878 * 1.3 which is 2,441.

Now the app you use may actually work this out for you and remember as you lose weight this number will change so you’ll have to update this base calorie amount as your weight drops! Lose It set my base calorie number as 2,610 which is what I’ve used. The app may also let you set a goal and automatically update your calorie goal based on your desired results. For example if you tell it you want to lose a pound a week it will remove 500 calories a day from your calorie allowance. I didn’t do that. I just say flat weight and aim for a 500 calorie deficit each day. Now I’ve lost the weight I want I’ll aim for a 0 deficit each day or maybe eat more than I burn to add muscle (that’s a whole different discussion).

This is not exact. Everyone is different as I said but its a starting point and you may tweak it. For example you have your base calorie amount and aim for 500 deficit a day. Give it a few weeks and be consistent when you weigh yourself and ideally use a body composition machine as if you start training you may actually gain muscle which will make just your weight not a good indicator. Give it a few weeks and it should average out to a pound a week (if 500 a day was your deficit). If you are losing more then it means your base use is higher, if you are losing less then it means your base is lower. Tweak as required.

What we want to do is log the food we eat (all of it!) and also if we do extra exercise we log those calories that we burnt (as we get to eat more) πŸ™‚

For example below is a fairly typical day for me. Now I eat a massive amount of food because I do a lot of exercise. On days I don’t train I eat a lot less. Remember, not complicated. Just eat less than you burn.

I had nearly 600 calorie deficit. You’ll also see every lunchtime I have about 60 calories of some kind of candy as I still have a sweet tooth. On Fridays I have pizza and ice cream which is fine. You can have the odd treat. You get the idea. It’s eye opening when you start logging food. The first time I logged the frozen yogurt with candy toppings I had by weighing as I added each part I realized it was about 800 calories with the equivalent of about 3 candy bars. After that I adjusted to 4 ounces of frozen yogurt, two scoops of topping and one squirt of caramel. Still about 450 calories but I don’t care πŸ™‚ It’s once a week.

You have a base amount of calories required for normal living, you log the extra calories through exercise, you log the calories you eat and aim for a deficit. If you do this you’ll lose weight. It’s physics. NOT COMPLICATED.

Losing Weight, It’s Hard

The equation is simple. Calories in < Calories out and we lose weight. Not complicated but it’s hard. It’s hard in a number of ways but primarily you need will power. This is why people will pay trainers (which is worthless if you don’t also get help with what you eat), pay for weight loss plans, pay for special meals. These things may help if the will power part is difficult and it definitely is but I think if you don’t have will power ultimately you are going to struggle. The key is finding ways to stay motivated and keep that will alive.

In this day and age we are basically powered by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives us pleasure, a reward if you will. It drives addiction. We eat candy, dopamine, we get a like on Facebook, dopamine and we can never get enough. We are trained now to want these highs and we get them a lot through tasty food. We get sugar highs. When we feel down we eat something tasty. This is probably the hardest part. We need will power to resist and untrain our brains a little. This was super hard for me. The first few days will be realllly hard but fight through, it gets easier and after a few weeks for the most part you won’t miss it that much. Also you’ll be eating less so you’ll be hungry which we are not used to. You may think because of the amount I eat I’m not hungry but that’s not true, I’m always hungry πŸ™‚ So hard part number 1 is will power and resisting instant gratification. As you lose weight you’ll see improvements in yourself, this will bring you gratification, others will notice and give you complements, this will bring you gratification. Just give it a little time. You will have bad days. It won’t ruin everything. You have a bad meal, it’s OK. You miss training, it’s OK. It’s happened, accept it, don’t beat yourself up and just move on.

Hard part 2 is discipline. You have to log EVERYTHING you eat and exercise you do. This takes time but you have to. Skipping things means your numbers will be off. This is not that bad for me as I tend to eat the same things for most meals with only lunch and dinner varying and even then it varies between maybe 20 different things so its up front work but then gets easier.

Hard part 3 is getting into a good routine. You should work out. Go to a gym, go to a class, go for a walk. It takes 21 days to make a habit so force yourself for 3 weeks and then it will get easier. This is where doing this with someone helps as you can help each other be accountable (hard part 1, will power). Having a goal like a 5K can help drive this.

I’m sure there are other hard things but I think it boils down to these and I think they all boil down to the will power mostly and I’m not downplaying this. It’s really hard. I love candy, I love cookie dough, I love donuts. I have kids so the house has candy everywhere, I can’t eat it. We go somewhere with cakes, I can’t eat them (mostly πŸ™‚ ). But, I promise you. When you start to see results it will be worth it. There is a saying, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I’m not sure I 100% agree but once you start getting results you’ll want more results and it will get easier. The first 4 weeks are the hardest but you get past those and it will get easier.

Once you’ve lost the weight you can’t just go back to normal. You still have to watch what you eat to keep a flat balance of calories in and calories out or you’ll gain weight again but you’ll have built good habits and it will be easier but you will always need a little bit of that will power πŸ˜‰

Also, don’t try to change everything at once. Don’t try to lose weight, learn a new language, give up cigarettes all at the same time. You have a finite amount of will power. Focus it on one thing at a time. When you think you have some spare maybe look at something else.

There you go. Losing weight is not complicated but it’s hard. It’s all will power and reach out to friends or professionals like a coach if that will help.

Good luck, you can absolutely do it.

IRONMAN Wisconsin 2018 Race Report

Number 11 done and once again I find myself saying “wow, that was a tough one!” Just once I’d like to finish one saying “well that was easier than I expected” πŸ™‚

This was an interesting event as Madison had severe flooding a few weeks before the IRONMAN which caused huge amounts of flooding and there were concerns the whole event may get cancelled, the swim may be cancelled, the bike could be cancelled etc. As it turns out the event was a full IRONAM with all the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run trimmings just with a few last minute modifications to the swim and bike to accommodate to the flooded areas. Amazing work by the race coordinator and team for still running an amazing event.

I arrived Thursday in Madison and registered on Friday. This was my first IRONMAN where the transition areas were all inside the conference center while the bikes were stored on the 4th floor of the car park (parking lot). I picked up my bike from TriBike transport (which was a ways a way for this event and was a pain getting it to and from the bike transition area but I don’t think there were many options for them).

I had a few changes this year to my equipment. I had Assioma power pedals for my bike, new bike shoes and some new swim googles as I’m trying to solve the problem of my always leaking googles πŸ™‚

Friday afternoon I packed my bags per my new gear list and had some awesome pasta and chicken from Naples 15.

Saturday morning I checked in which was smooth as always then I had the opportunity to have breakfast with the voice of IRONMAN Mike Reilly and the race coordinator along with about 7 other athletes. It was great hearing his stories and hearing from other athletes. It also triggered a few things in my head I’d never thought about before.

1, Why you have your age on your calf. I’d never understood why you have to put your age on your calf other than to add to your humiliation as the old lady overtakes you and you can see exactly how old she is and the reason for that is I’m not competitive however if you are competing in your age group you want to see the age of people to see if you are competing against them, e.g. they run past you, you see your age and so you run them down. They were complaining about people that cover up the age with socks etc. Makes total sense! Which led to point 2.

2, The big fuss over moving from mass start, to age group start to rolling, self-seed start. Now I like the self-seed rolling start as there are less people in any portion of the water and I didn’t see the big deal but it comes back to point 1. If you are competitive you can’t tell WHEN others in your age group started. Just because they are behind you on the run doesn’t mean they are actually behind you as maybe they started after you in the swim. If you do a mass start or age group start then you know you all started at the same time and so your relative position on the course is the real position which is important when you are trying to place.

Interesting stuff that doesn’t matter to me as I just try to finish but certainly understand this for competitive people!

For the rest of the day I really just relaxed, watched some movies, had pizza for lunch then the awesome pasta for dinner again, put on my tritats (badly) and got about 5 hours sleep.

Race morning woke up a bit before my 3am alarm. Had apple sauce, protein shake and some bagel. I left the room 4:40 for a 5am transition open where I quickly check my bags are still there and then got my tires pumped up to 100 and put on my drinks. This year I also took the back back they give you to carry my bags so more importantly I could use it at the END of the day when I had to stumble my way back to the hotel post event and somehow get the bike down 4 flights of stairs to TriBike πŸ™‚

Everyone hung out in the warm inside of the convention center till about 6:15 when we departed for the swim start which was moved a little bit further to accommodate for the flooded areas. I had already put on my wetsuit, I put the backpack inside my morning clothes bag and handed it in just before the swim start then put myself at the very back of the 1:21 to 1:30 group.

The age groupers started at 6:40 I think and I got in the water about 7:00. You actually had to swim out to wear the swim started but your time started as you got in the water so the swim time is slightly longer. My Garmin actually showed I swam 2.721 miles which is probably why my swim time was slightly longer than normal at 1:35. Well, also the fact that half way through the water got choppier and my googles started leaking a tiny bit. Really not much. Definitely not enough to mess with. But I did. I pushed on the googles which successfully enabled the google to completely fill with water basically blinding me in that eye. After deciding that I had not done enough damage I then tried to fix it and successfully filled the other google with water as well and this water was disgusting. Remember the flooding well lots of stuff had got washed into the water. As you swam you felt strings of stuff in your hands and you could not see a foot. The water had been closed 3 days earlier due to bacterial as 10s of thousands of gallons of waste water had washed into the lake but apparently it had disappeared πŸ™‚ Anyway I was not blind and it got to a point I had to stop, I was treading water trying to clear the googles but it was a losing battle at that point. I just had to resign myself to doing my best and just swim but those stops and the longer swim added to my time. Apart from that thought swim was just one big loop and while the chop did pick up about half way though it wasn’t that bad although I was chatting to someone at lunch today who said he stopped during the swim as he started hyper ventilating so obviously it was enough to freak some people out 😦

After getting out the water the wet suit strippers (they help you get out the wetsuit not anything else πŸ™‚ ) get you out the suit and you then had to run a little distance to the transition which was up on the 4th floor so you had to run up a twisting car ramp for 4 floors where you grabbed your bag and got changed in the indoor changing area (which was great). For the bike I bought an IRONMAN pizza bike shirt which I thought was funny however it means for the whole 2 loop bike course people would shout “Look its pizza man”. Not exactly what I wanted but oh well. People seemed to like it.

Since you were up on the 4th floor the start of the bike course was descending down the 4 levels on the car ramp (which only dawned on me at the end meant I had to go up it at the end, ugh). The weather was great. It ranged from about 55 at the start of the day to 70 at the peak but it was bright sun and I got sun burnt again during the bike even though I had two laters of sunscreen on πŸ™‚ The bike course was out about 15 miles then two loops then back 15 miles. It was hilly. Always hilly. There were some big downhills (obviously) but those are fast so you spent a lot of time going up hill. There were some pretty big ones. In one section there were 3 hills close together which were known as the three witches (but the word wasn’t witches but rhymed with it) and they were pretty tough and obviously you had to do them twice. Since I had the power peddles I was trying to maintain around 180. Now I had never used them before (I know I know, shouldn’t use new stuff) as all my training is on indoor bike where it also tells you power and 180 seems maintainable for me. As you can see from the data my power dipped as the race went on but not terribly so fairly happy with it but it definitely took a lot out of me. 5,627 ft of elevation gain according to my bike computer. The new bike shoes and pedals worked well though and I actually found them better in terms of pressure on my feet than my old ones. During the ride my drink cages came loose so had to stop and tighten them but that was on only equipment issue and I’ll take that any day of the week!! The bike course was very pretty, lots of fields and nice nature views. Great aid station support and lot of spectators at different points on the course so that was awesome as well. Definitely a great (but though) bike course. I noticed the signs are getting meaner πŸ™‚ There was the normal ones about if it was easy it would be called your Mom but now there were ones letting you know you still had a long way to go and were no where close to finishing. They were a little soul crushing :-D. They were always at the top of a very large hill as well. I think the best thing you can do is keep a steady effort and because it was a rolling course you did get recovery from the uphill fairly shortly after. As normal on the bike I used the Gatorade on the course and had a gel and waffle each hour.

At the end of the bike you cycled up the 4 levels of ramp (grrr) then into transition and a quick change into the running gear and off onto the run. There were some rolling hills but nothing terrible. The run was two loops. There seemed to be aid stations every half a mile but I’m sure that was not right πŸ™‚ But the support was awesome as were the crowds. I managed to maintain a decent pace for the first 10 miles but then got a stitch and was having issues (but a trip to the bathroom helped πŸ™‚ ). Twice during the loop you run in and out of the Madison town center which was awesome and really gets you fired up. 945 feet of elevation gain the Garmin said for the run.

The final run to the finish line was amazing, I had made a mental note to ensure I actually interacted with crowds and actually smile for the camera. Mike remembered me from the breakfast and as I crossed the line he told me good luck getting to my 12 πŸ™‚ Got my medal, hat and shirt. Grabbed my bags, got my bike, carried it down 4 flights of steps to TriBike then grabbed some pizza and back to the hotel.

My final time …..

Once back at the hotel spoke to my wife, showered, ate a little bit and then failed to really sleep other than for about an hour but when I woke up I had drenched my pillow and covers in sweat which was bizarre! Apart from that just watched TV.

In the morning I got the store about 6:05 where there were already about 30 people in the line. I bought my finisher t-shirts and polo and that was my IRONMAN adventure closed.

IRONMAN Wisconsin was awesome. I think it was a tough event but pretty much all of them have been tough this year (except Texas which I think is a fairly easy one apart from heat). The event was super well organized, the course with very interesting and the crowds are amazing. If you are looking for a challenging event then definitely recommend.