IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene 2021

My second IRONMAN of 2021 (4 weeks after Tulsa), and while this got off to a rocky start (American Airlines changed terminal 3 times and then delayed the flight by 3 hours as they couldn’t find a crew) once I was actually at the Coeur D’Alene (CDA) resort (where I stayed) I quickly started to love CDA! The driver that picked me up from the airport (Steve) was just the nicest person and had lived in CDA a long time. I choose to arrive on Thursday for the Sunday event in case there were flight issues and obviously glad I did. I had registered for a 9am Friday IRONMAN registration time so it really didn’t matter what time I arrived Thursday.

A week before all talk on the forum had changed from water temperature (definitely wet suit legal, around 65) to the outside temperature which was at one point up to around 102 but in the end it was 100 degrees so, well still horrible. My plan (like Tulsa) was to basically drink water with Nuun (electrolytes) for the 3 days leading up so I would be well hydrated. Water on it’s own will actually flush out your electrolytes and they even stressed that during the athlete briefing.

This was a few days before and made me cry slightly.

Check-in at CDA resort had been online so once I arrived it took 30 seconds for them to check my name and give me my room key. Up to my room in the tower (5th floor) and WOW. The view was just amazing. I unpacked and tried to get to sleep.

I woke up at 1:15am (2 hour time difference and I normally get up at 3am CST) and hotel gym didn’t open until 6am so that was no good. I therefore decided to run outside. So at 2am I went for a 6 mile gentle run around the town and must have said to myself at least 5 times “wow, this place is beautiful”. It had lots of nice little stores, the kind you see in the movies in small towns. This is where I need to retire to! Once back to the room, showered, did a bit of work and at 5:40 went for the 1 mile walk to the Lakeside store to buy milk and a few other things (that opened at 6am). Was a nice little store and the checkout lady was very friendly and chatty.

So beautiful at 5:30 am!
I had to get a picture with the moose 🙂

Back at the room ran to they gym for 15 minutes of quick weights, attended a work meeting then had cereal. The IRONMAN village was 5 minutes from the resort so at about 8:45 I headed out for registration which was super fast. No flag, no poster and a generic back pack (booo) and like Tulsa you got your number assigned at the registration so no names on the bibs, I got 1087. You also picked up a card for bike check-in time slot for Saturday. I grabbed a 9-10.

Then through the store where bought a few things and, like Tulsa, the finisher gear was already available. Quite a few vendors in the village and then grabbed my bike from TriBike and back to the hotel counting the minutes until I could eat lunch!

Lunch was pizza at Fire Pizza which was tasty. I looked around the stores, bought some things at the dog store, toy store and candy store (for the family, honest) and then back to the hotel. On my way into the resort I saw Lionel Sanders and he was kind enough to take a selfie!

I had to record my Azure weekly update video which took about an hour to record/edit and then packed my “bags”. Now, CDA in 2021 is a “traditional” transition and this was evident (and had been communicated in advance) that there were no run or bike transition bags. You got a morning clothes bag (not really sure why) and then bike/run special needs. With a traditional transition you have a larger area at the bike rack but all you gear is just at the bike rack however you organize it. They said they had six bikes per rack instead of the normal ten to give you more space. This means you basically take everything down with you Sunday. The only thing you drop off Saturday is your bike! I always put my gear in a zip lock bag anyway so I just prepared my gear the same way. All of my nutrition is in the fridge hoping to try and keep it slightly cooler for as long as possible.

I watched the athlete briefing (there was also in person options). Dinner was spaghetti bolognese at Tito’s (and cheesy garlic bread AND the awesome garlic loaf they just brought out, so much food) and after that was just back to the hotel to relax. Sleep at 7 and hopefully up at 3.

Well, woke up at 2am and had a little 2 hour walk at about 4am and it was already starting to get light. It is because of how early it gets light IM CDA starts at 5am for the professionals and 5:35 for the age groupers. The 5:35 is to allow the pros to complete the first lap before us age groupers get in their way. I sat around watching movies then checked my bike in at 9am then proceeded to just focus on relaxing, hydrating and pizza for lunch then pasta with chicken for dinner. Like Tulsa I showered, put on my tritats and applied my first layer of sunscreen. 7pm bed time with alarm set for 2am since transition opens at 4am.

I didn’t really sleep well and at 2am got up had some chocolate milk, a blueberry bagel and just continued hydrating. I put on another layer of sunscreen and tried to relax. At 3:50 I left the room and headed to the single transition that would be home base all day! Weather forecast was still calling for 100 degrees!

This next part is after the event as I sit at the airport waiting to fly home. Brutal, that is the only word that sums it up, just brutal. The air temperature did indeed hit 100 however when you consider the roads radiate the heat (and are designed to for melting snow) the actual conditions were worse. When the pros finished (which was just as it was getting the hottest) a reporter on the local news showed the asphalt was 135 degrees so no clue what it would have been 5 hours later after 100 degrees. You were being cooked from both directions. My bike computer said it registered 109 as the max. After all the smoke cleared out of 2085 people who started the day, only 1535 finished, 26.4% DNF (did not finish) including a number of pros like Heather Jackson and Lauren Brandon. Lionel Sanders also suffered stomach issues and finished an hour behind the winner, Sam Long. The average DNF for IRONMAN is 5% (7% for Kona).

Pretty much summed up the day

But I did finish, it was just hell pretty much for the majority of the time 🙂 Let’s rewind.

You setup everything at your spot. I opted to just put my bags under my bike, I didn’t lay anything out but others laid down a towel and arranged everything ready. Whatever worked for the individual.

Great lake swim

The swim was a basically an out and back two loop affair. You get out of the water briefly between loops to run over a timing mat and then back out again (this proves you actually did 2 loops not 1). It was a self seed based on estimated finish time and they let 3 people in every 5 seconds. There was the opportunity to quickly get in the water so acclimatize then rejoin the queue if you wanted to (no thanks, I’ll just take the shock when I start :-)). The water was about 70 degrees and felt great. I had no issues in my sleeveless wet suit other than my hands getting a little cold. The water was pretty clear and overall a nice swim. I got kicked in the head pretty hard once and hit in the head once which was mainly people zigzagging around. I think everyone is a bit out of practice 🙂 I really liked the two loops, the swim felt shorter being broken up into basically 4 parts, swim out, swim back then repeat. I’m going to try and focus on that in future swims as often I have no clue how far I’ve gone nor how much further. There were great volunteers to help you out the water between loops and at the end (but like Tulsa, no wet suit strippers, you were on your own). Swim time was 45 minutes first lap and 50 the second lap. I think the second lap was slightly longer if you consider lap 2 you have to cut back over so overall I think were similar speeds.

On to the bike. My transition was very slow (15 minutes). I was taking time to apply more sunscreen etc but honestly given the projected heat I knew it was going to be a “finish” day as opposed to any time goal. The bike was two loops. There was lots of discussion about how much elevation gain there really was. Officially it was 7000, some bike computers said 5300. My watch said one number and the bike computer a completely different one but I would say it was hilly. There were a couple of very LONGGG climbs. Now what goes up must come down and you got to go down fast which was fun but you spent a lot of time going up hills. There was a do not pass section on one of the big down hills which was understandable given the bit of road we had but frustrating. I along with a few others got stuck behind someone just riding their breaks the entire time down on the first loop. They need to ride their race and it was no wrong doing for them, just sucked it impacted us 🙂

There were plenty of well stocked aid stations and made a point of replacing water and Gatorade at every aid station to get cold ones. The heat was OK on the first loop and as I started the second loop I was feeling pretty good and confident. That would not last.

Great picture from Justin Luau

It was getting hotter as I started the second loop and everything was just a bit tougher. I stuck to my nutrition and drinking (a waffle every hour and a gel every hour combined with water/Nuun and Gatorade) but for the entire second loop didn’t pee once (compared to twice on the first loop) and it did occur to me “I’m not drinking enough”. It was just harder. I wasn’t a huge amount slower but was slower. I wasn’t putting out the same power. Towards the end it was at the 100 degrees (but actually hotter because of the ground radiation) but it was very dry so you were not pouring with sweat, it just evaporated. My shorts and shirt were just crusted with salt. As I was finishing my loop 2 I saw people starting the loop and about half were pushing their bikes up the first climb. Very rarely have I seen people pushing bikes up the hills and these were not super steep, just very long and I remember feeling so sorry for these people that were going to be pushing bikes up a lot of hills in bike shoes which would be torture. My feet were hurting a little and I think they were basically cooking. But all that said I was quite happy with my bike time given the hilly course and very tough conditions. I sat for nearly the entire ride and my cadence was about 70 the entire time and tried to keep average power about 190 when peddling but obviously with all the hills there were periods much higher and periods of 0 (when I was going wheeee down hill).

At transition my leg cramped up for about 3 seconds when I lifted it over the bike to dismount but that was the only time I had any cramping in my legs (phew). Once again I took time to put on more sunscreen but my protein bar had melted into sludge and was inedible and my 5 hour energy was the temperature of coffee and not drinkable. I had put them both in a little thermal wallet so that test failed 🙂 back to the drawing board. My gel was also really hot but that I had to just take. My plan for the run was to adjust my speed to keep heart rate below 135. Well, my heart rate was 135 before starting so, yeah. Also I didn’t need to pee at T2 so I was pretty sure I was dehydrated big time so decided to walk a little to try and rehydrate but the problem is once you go into a deficit its hard to recover especially when you are still moving in 100 degree sunshine with more radiating up from the pavement under you.

My nutrition plan was a gel every 20 minutes and occasionally grab some potato chips when available. I had some Nuun to add to water in a little bottle but didn’t have many left after the bike so that was a problem. For the first hour I was able to run/walk and did the first of 3 loops in 2 hours however as I started the second loop I realized a number of things.

Firstly the crowds were amazing. The locals were so supportive. So many people were out with hoses drenching us to help cool us down. There were people giving out ice pops during loop 1 & 2 (they had gone by loop 3) and those ice pops were almost life changing events. In my head angels were singing. In total I had 2 orange and 2 grape ice pops. Those people are hero’s and statues of them handing out ice pops should be forged in bronze and put out on the lake shore to remind us of them forever. But I digress. All those amazing people with hoses soaking us was great, it helped cool us but there is something else jets of water does, it washes off all the sunscreen that was not even applying that well anyway because of how messed up my skin was. So as I started loop 2 I realized my legs, hands, back were all getting burnt. I kept applying more sunscreen but was not applying well and then could not use the hoses anymore so wasn’t cooling down. I decided not getting badly burned was more important than cooling given I got second degree sunburn during my first IRONMAN back in 2015 Texas.

The second thing I noticed was the idea of Gatorade, gels was now repulsive to me. I just didn’t want to drink Gatorade or eat gel. I knew I needed the calories but my body was just rejecting it. I could force down sips of Gatorade and a bit of gel but not much so that meant now I was dehydrated and not getting enough calories. Yay, only 17 miles to go. I decided to not really try and run on the second loop and to instead try to focus on getting my body working again by drinking more but ultimately all I could do was slow the decline 🙂 By loop 3 I was struggling and any running was exhausting. My sun burn was worse BUT at least the sun was setting during my 3rd loop so less direct sun and more shadow so the sun burn problem went away. About 4 miles left I drank a bit of chicken broth and Pepsi and helped a little. At this point my lips and hands were tingling a lot which for me is a sign of imminent crashing (I think its blood sugar too low) and the Pepsi/broth helped. With only 2 miles to go I was struggling so much.

During this whole time I was passing people passed out on the ground being tended to by the amazing fire department and volunteers. People were throwing up all around. I made a point to ask people if they were OK which is pretty stupid really “oh yes I’m fantastic, I just decided to stop and pretend I’m dying laying on the ground/throwing up over this tree, thanks for asking”. No one replied like that but mentally they all said that to me.

I had not slept well last few nights and it was now late so I was mentally tired as well consider the 2 hour difference from Texas and the fact I normally go to sleep at 8pm. Even though I only had 2 miles to go it actually crossed my mind to just fall on the floor so this would end but I quickly came to my senses and plodded on. As the finish line approached and I turned the final corner I started “running”. In my head I was running but I suspect my body was doing something no one else would call running but whatever. As I crossed the finish line and Mike Reilly called out “John Savill YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” it was worth it. I remember looking up at him, giving him a thumb up and he gave me a big old smile.

As I crossed the finish line my legs just went and the volunteers caught me. They proceeded to hold me up, get my medal, hat and t-shirt then walked/carried me to the photo spot. “You better be quick with this one” they said to the photographer. They kept asking if anyone was with me and seemed concerned I didn’t and wanted to take me to medical.

Survived!

I told them I just needed food so they got me to the food tent and it was bratwurst in buns!! I thought it would be pizza and it did not seem appealing but I needed food. I got a brat in a bun, put on ketchup and took a bite. Fireworks exploded into the sky, harps gently played. It was amazing and I instantly felt better. I ate the whole thing, went to transition and packed up my stuff. Took my bike to Tri Bike Transport then went back to the food tent to get a second one which was an equally life changing experience as the first. I walked the few hundred yards to the resort and collapsed on the bed.

Once I had a little rest I had 3 glasses of chocolate milk, a Twix finger, showered, applied silver skin lotion on my burns and went to bed where I didn’t sleep a wink all night as usual. At 4 I just got up, showered again and went for a little walk. I took some pictures of the medal 🙂

IRONMAN even used my picture in the Medal Monday post which was cool 🙂 The Facebook forum was full of people discussing how it was the hardest IRONMAN ever and it was the certainly the hardest one I have ever done. The bike course was tough and the heat just destroyed. Kudos to everyone whether you finished or not. If you DNF’d don’t let this stop you from trying another. This was an anomaly and they are not normally THIS hard!

My standard finisher pose 😀

I would just like to thank everyone involved. It was a fantastic day even in harsh conditions. The IRONMAN team, the volunteers, the crowds, the police, medical, fire department, everyone was just awesome. Without them I never would have finished. You are all amazing! Thank you!

Finally a huge thank you to my amazing wife for supporting me on my never ending crazy goals 🙂

IRONMAN Tulsa 2021 Race Report

2020 was supposed to be a big IRONMAN year for me culminating in Kona as part of legacy program but Covid stopped that and so all 5 of my 2020 races were postponed. Texas in 2021 got pushed to October (which I can’t do because its the same weekend as Kona so no 10th anniversary belt buckle for me 😦 ) which makes Tulsa my first IRONMAN in 18 months and my first in this new post-Covid world. I still have CDA next month, pretty sure Mont Tremblant won’t happen and then Kona.

I’ll start out saying I was completely unconditioned for this race. I only started swimming again 3 weeks before the event and had literally done no running. My bike was the only thing I had really been training so my expectations were super low for the marathon portion! I don’t think I actually believed it would happen 😀

The lead up was fairly standard except no race numbers were given in advance (I’m AWA and still didn’t get in advance), and the athlete guide was only available a couple of weeks before. A lot of this is because they were not sure the event would actually happen which is apparent in a number of other ways. Also at the last minute the CDC changed mask guidance however there were still a number of distancing measures. I thought I’d summarize all of them quickly but note, there seem like a lot BUT none of this really took away from the amazing day.

  • Register in advance for registration time. This was not enforced, and I was able to actually register earlier than my time slot
  • Virtual athlete briefing and welcome video
  • Only athletes allowed in village
  • Bib etc. not personalized
  • Gear check-in time slot given at registration (bike and bag drop off for T1/T2)
  • No poster or flag
  • Swim cap was generic IRONMAN, no event name on it
  • Shirts don’t have date on (but did have participant names on the back)
  • Finisher gear was for sale straight away in the store
  • Wear mask on bus from T2 to T1 at start of day
  • No body marking or sunscreen people
  • Staggered swim start but that was fairly standard anyway and there was no social distancing that I could see other than different wait sections (corrals) but within those everyone bunched up 🙂
  • No wetsuit strippers but did help with zip and getting out water
  • No changing tents (but then someone said there WAS one at T2 no one knew about!)
  • On run did not hand drink/nutrition to athletes mostly. Nutrition and drinks were handed to you on bike
  • Gear is left with bike or bike rack if point to point (like a half)
  • Mount own bike at T2 but you are going there anyway
  • Handed you medal in hat, shirt, did remove chip for you. Still helped if needed. Picture at end still taken
  • Finisher medal – no date on it
  • Family cannot pick up bike/gear (no ticket)

One big change is a couple of weeks before the event you had to register for a packet pick-up time which was a one hour window on one of the two registration days leading up to the event (Thursday and Friday for a Sunday event). I picked a 3:00 Thursday session since was driving up Thursday morning.

I left home about 7:30 am and it was pouring rain all the way up to Tulsa. I arrived about 12:00 and went straight to the athlete village. Even though my appointment was 3pm it looked pretty empty (it was still pouring with rain) so I headed over and they didn’t even ask. There was no temperature check they just asked basically “any Covid symptoms” and then let you on your way. You got allocated your race number as you arrive (I got 418 as obviously was one of the first). The downside is no name on your bib etc. You got your timing chip, race cap, stickers etc as usual. Got your 5 gear bags and backpack but NO poster and NO flag. This is because of the cost of printing things that I think they were not sure would happen.

Tulsa is the most logistically complex event I’ve ever done. There is the swim start which is a mile walk from T1 which is a 20 minute drive from T2 which is a half mile walk from the finish. This means IRONMAN have various elaborate options to make your life easier. For example you could get a voucher and TriBike Transport would take your bike from T2 to T1 and rack it for you (you would drop it off to them Saturday and take your bike transition bag with you on Sunday morning). They also had shuttles picking people up from downtown to take them the 1 mile to T2 on Sunday morning and then from T2 another shuttle to T1 and then you walk to swim start. If you were going to drop your own bike off at T1 Saturday you picked a time slot and got a little card for when you would drop the bike (and bike gear) off at T1 yourself and then you would drive to T2 to drop off run gear bag. If on race day you were not getting a shuttle you picked a parking pass for T2 or downtown. You get the idea. Honestly I found the sheer logistics kind of stressful as did others. One problem is the T2 (where you have to go at the end of the day to pick up gear) is a mile walk back to downtown hotels (where they had shuttles in the morning) but you can’t get on shuttles with a bike after so basically you are faced with walking a mile with all your gear at the end or driving. Unlike previous IRONMAN events only athletes are allowed at the village, start, finish and T2 (meaning family can’t pick up gear for you). I decided to take my own bike to T1 on Saturday and would walk back at the end on Sunday.

In the store they did have Tulsa gear (no date on any of it) but they did have names on shirts and what was interesting is they also had finisher gear out (jackets, shirts etc). I did buy the finisher shirt as it meant I didn’t need to get to the store at 6:30 AM Monday to get one. The finisher gear was black on black soooo you can’t really see much and if I remember this t-shirt was $90!

I didn’t get to really see the village because, well, there was so much rain and I just ran to the car. One thing they seemed to go above and beyond was communication. They texted updates including water temperature on Friday which made it clear it would be wet suit legal (it was 68 Friday night) and I really think were trying to do all they could to communicate to help the athletes. The athlete briefing was also virtual but gave great detail.

I stayed at the Hyatt which was a nice hotel, was a mile walk to T1/village and had a really nice restaurant which I used for burger and pasta 🙂 I also visited Hurts Donuts and Andolini’s pizza.

Saturday came and all the worrying about logistics was (as normal) not required. There was lots of parking at the lake (T1) to drop off the bike and bike gear bag. They did not take a picture of your bike and your bike bag was just left with your bike. At T2 you dropped off your run gear bag at the bike rack where you will leave your bike. As had been notified, no changing tents were visible which made sense with the gear bag next to the bike, you change there as required. The process was very smooth though. For the rest of the day I just kept sipping on electrolyte water, had pizza for lunch and pasta with chicken breast for dinner.

The other worry was the roads were described as something out of a horror movie by everyone that drove them. Pot holes everywhere, gravel, mud, you name it. Also the weather forecast was constantly changing but as we got closer it became clear it would be raining for the entire bike ride (and it did). So wet roads and poor road conditions. Yay. As it turned out this was not an exaggeration.

At 5:30 I had a shower, applied my Tri Tats then put on a layer of sunscreen. At 6:30 to bed.

Alarm went off at 2:00 am but I was already awake as for some reason slept terribly. I got up and had a protein shake, half a bagel, applied another layer of sunscreen, put on my tri shorts, timing chip, tri watch, Ironman wedding ring 🙂 Also a shirt just to wear in transition and some comfy flip-flops. I had decided to just walk to T1 and that at the end of the day I would just handle the 1 mile walk back with bike and bags.

I left the room at 3:15 as was bored just waiting so got to T2 (where the buses to T1 were leaving from) at about 3:40 and they already let people in to T2 to check their run bag and there were buses letting you on already so I hoped on. They had masks to give you if you needed one. This was the only time you needed a mask all day. It was maybe a 30 minute drive but had a great conversation on the bus.

At T1 as usual there were bike pumps available and bike mechanics if you needed help. The headlamp I always carry was super useful as it was pretty dark. I pumped my tires up to 95 PSI as rain was forecast and with all the pot holes people talked about I felt 95 was a compromise as I really had zero clue what to do 😀 We knew it was going to be wetsuit legal but they announced 67 degrees. I only have a sleeveless wetsuit and was a little worried about getting cold but it was totally fine.

They walked us over to the swim start which was about a mile walk away. They walked us over based on our estimated start times. The idea being when we got to the start we would be in corrals to help separation but that didn’t work out as I get the feeling the plan changed. We were originally told to have throw away shoes for the walk from T1 to swim start but on the day they said morning clothes drop off would be a swim start so you no longer had to throw them away. Also at swim start you could put on wetsuit if you wanted so they walked us over on projected swim time but then once you were there they did not put you in corrals, you just all mingled until you felt like going into a corral which meant the corrals were no longer time based but all mixed together. People attempted to move between as they asked people what time they thought they would be but was a bit of a cluster 🙂 I don’t think it was a huge problem and a minor teething issue.

As they released each corral you lined up into about 4 lines at the swim start arch and we were going in every 3 seconds I think. As I entered the water it was “wow, this is cold” but forgot about it pretty quick. The course was a point-to-point but really just a rectangle single loop (with one side longer than the other obviously 🙂 ). The water was just thick brown, you could see zero, not even your own arm. On top of the water the visibility was good and I had no problem sighting the buoys. I used clear goggles and was using “snake and pig” brand which were awesome, no leaks! Support on the swim was great with lots of canoes and I read many stories of people helping swimmers who were struggling, talking to them to calm them and helping them regain themselves and carry on. That really was a theme, the volunteers, the spectators and the IRONMAN team were all amazing. Also there was not really any mad clashing with other swimmers as you were pretty spread out. Towards the end of the swim my hands were getting cold but overall it was totally fine. It also started to rain. Oh good I thought.

I was 95 minutes so a bit slower than my normal 90 but considering I had done almost no swimming I was fine with it. There were people to help you get out the water and while there were no wetsuit strippers there were still people to help unzip the wetsuit to at least get you started. You ran to the bike rack (where your T1 bag was as well) where you got changed as there were no change tents. Not going to lie I missed having a chair 🙂 There were volunteers to make sure you were OK. You put your wetsuit etc into the T1 bag, grabbed your bike and on your way. On my way with my brand new Canyon I’d only done about 5 miles on in total.

The bike was a standard 112 mile course with a couple of big hills but overall the elevation was fine. My Garmin said it was 5,300 feet of elevation gain and in total it took me 6 hours 10 which I was fine with. But it was raining so the roads were wet and the roads were bad. So many pot holes, so much gravel and put that with the wet roads it meant I was actually going faster UP the hills than down them as I was squeezing my poor new breaks who really were not doing very much 🙂

The bike had aid stations every 15 miles or so and they were handing out the nutrition like any other IRONMAN. I had to pee at every aid station and it took me 2 hours to realize I was drinking too much. I was used to training in my garage in the heat. Well in the cold rain I was not sweating so I slowed down my drinking and that fixed that.

The bad roads really were not exaggerated. To IRONMAN’s credit there was orange paint everywhere warning you but there were sections of the bike course that were a disaster scene. So many people with flats, people with broken bikes, people had crashed. You just needed Adagio for Strings playing and it would have been complete. I think if it had been just the bad roads or just the wet roads it would have been OK but both together was just a nightmare. At many times there were signs “Poor road conditions ahead” and in my head I was thinking “WORSE THAN THIS???”. I had images of parent bikes telling their little trike children if they were bad they would be sent to ride on Tulsa roads.

I was lucky and escaped issues. The bike ride actually went pretty quickly, I think because you were not just mindless peddling. It was like a video game really focusing on the road to map out your line to try and minimize impact on the bike and bunny hopping at certain points. I’m much stronger on bike than swim so I was pretty much constantly overtaking people which was tough because people were not staying right because of road conditions and nervousness. Understandable, but made it challenging. I think the bike course was nice, the aid stations were well stocked but honestly I don’t remember much about the course because I was just laser focused on the road pretty much the entire time.

During the bike I ate a waffle each hour and 1 gel each hour. I used the on course gels as I switched to them (Maurten) during training and actually now prefer then over Gu. It’s a strange jello type consistency but I like it. I drank some Gatorade and some water with Nuun.

The bike was point to point so into T2 I went. The bike went to plan. I averaged about 180 watts (which is what I trained at) and I got off actually feeling pretty good. You rack your own bike (because you have to go there anywhere as that is where you T2 bag is) and I changed socks, shoes, hat sitting on the floor at the bike rack. NOTE we were told no changing tent but the next day someone posted to Facebook “I was volunteering in the changing tent at T2 and no one came in”. It seems like they had a small changing tent but never told us. I didn’t bother putting on sunglasses as although the rain had just stopped there was no sun (although somehow I still got slightly burned?). Off onto the 2 loop run along the park that had loads of great crowds and it was a nice, flat course.

My original plan was to run/walk 1-minute intervals until my quads gave in due to lack of conditioning which I figured would be about an hour and then walk the rest. I did this at first but quickly realized if I did this till my quads failed I’d then be hobbling and slow for the rest of the marathon. I therefore changed plan and power walked, figuring I’d try and do random little runs where possible. This worked but was obviously slow.

Aid stations were every mile and were well stocked. Volunteers were not supposed to hand you nutrition but made sure cups etc were easily available and never ran out of anything. I spoke to a few people but generally I was too slow for the people running and too fast for the people walking so was generally pretty lonely. At one point I caught up to the guy I had spoke to on the bus who was having hip problems and walked with him for about 10 minutes but then went off on my power walk again.

With about 400 yards to the finish a member of the crowd ran up next to me (as I was still power walking) “come on big fella, you’re inspiring me, run with me” so I started running with him and he ran with me until we basically got to the last turn where I carried on running across that finish line. Slow but happy! Thank you random stranger 🙂

At the finish they handed you the medal in a hat, got your finisher shirt for you and took off your timing chip.

Once again very well organized. Got your picture taken and on your way!

You then grabbed your morning clothes bag and went to the food tent. Now this was a disaster for me. It was burgers, hot dogs and steak but the line was insane. I was too tired to stand in a line for 10 minutes so I figured I’d grab food somewhere else later (a mistake).

There was a shuttle to take you from finish to T2 to collect bike and bags. I asked people where it was but no one really seemed to know. I went in a general direction and there was a flag saying shuttle but no one was there and I wasn’t sure if it was correct. Fortunately a family were walking to T2 and they knew the way so I walked the .5 mile with them, grabbed my bike and bags then walked the 1 mile back to my hotel. Where everything was shut and no food available. Nooooooo. I had a protein shake and a donut. That was it 😦

I’ve said it already but the IRONMAN team, volunteers and crowds in Tulsa were amazing. Some of the best I’ve ever seen at an IRONMAN. The negatives of Tulsa (roads, rain) were really nothing IRONMAN could do anything about as I suspect were the logistic complexities as they have to work around road access, locations for transition etc. but they did a good job of removing as much pain around the various locations as possible.

Up next CDA!

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 🙂

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. “When 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, “the 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 🙂

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 😦

Ouch

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 🙂

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 🙂 ). 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 🙂 10-10-2020 20th 😉

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 ) . 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 😀

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 🙂

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 😀 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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 )

I felt like Batman but not in the way I really wanted 🙂 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 😀 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/ 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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 Bought the finisher polo and sports t-shirt. I didn’t get the jacket as I now have so many of them 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 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. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!!!
  • Don’t use new gear or anything new without fully testing.  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 🙂 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 🙂
  • 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 🙂 ) 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 🙂 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 🙂 Makes me feel more like a pro so I’m sure that will translate to faster times 😀

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 🙂
  • 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 🙂

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 🙂 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 😉 ) 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 🙂 ). 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 🙂 2000 total calories of goodness 😉 That pizza is all mine and I always eat it all AND some of my kids cheese pizza 🙂

I didn’t sleep well and woke up at 3am. Sore and in pain but figured what the hell. Let’s try 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 😉

 

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 🙂 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 🙂 (I’ll show that in a minute 🙂 ) 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. 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.

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 🙂 On Saturdays I may do 5 hours of cardio for about 4500 calories 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 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) 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 ). 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 😉

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.