Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Kahuna - Training is Paying Off

It's funny how things eventually work out. If there has been one major thing I have learned over the past 10 years of my life it is about being PERSISTENT. Persistency, whether it be in my professional journey, family life or my training program has been proven to work. Being persistent with my training, nutrition and recovery program was a big part of the reason I had a successful race at the BIG KAHUNA long course triathlon. I have been mentioning it to my family and friends the reason I enjoy the sport of triathlon....because of the journey it takes me on. It is not necessary the race, to me it's the days, weeks, months and years it takes to improve performance. Everything you do, from nutrition, to taking ice baths, foam rolling, waking up early, sacrificing time with family and friends and spending money on all the gear, I do it for the challenge. Being able to challenge myself not only on a physical level but a mental level is the joy of this sport. This 1/2 Ironman event was the culmination of my previous 6 years of training for this 3 sport beast. In fact, a guy at the expo asked me, "How long have you been training for this event." And I told him, "6 years".

The day started off with a 4:30 wake up, which is actually sleeping in a bit compared to my normal schedule. I took my time to shower and get ready. I spent a few minutes foam rolling and doing a few movement drills to get my blood flowing and my body prepared for the day ahead. My breakfast is usually pretty light, a cliff bar, a banana and some gatorade. I nibbled on a couple fig newtons as the morning grew to keep my hunger subsided. My buddy Josh Hickey (who just did an Ironman 2 weeks before) joined me for this event. Is he crazy? Absolutely! But his optimistic attitude is inspiring to be around. There needs to be more people with his attitude. My other buddy Josh Polk (who hasn't been on a bike in a year and hasn't done a swim workout in a few months) also competed. Is he crazy? Absolutely! But for him to go out and "just do" a 1/2 Ironman is pretty cool. Hey if you are in good physical condition...why not!?

We headed to the transition area around 5:30 am. The buzz of the early morning setting at a triathlon is spectacular. Hundreds of fit athletes excited and ready to take on the same course, the same weather, the same beast. We set our transition area up and began to take everything in. I took off on my bike on a short 15 minute light spin to get the juices flowing. This eliminates any nerves that have settled. I re-rack my bike and go out on a 5 minute jog. This allows me to see the more athletes prepare and gets my legs moving a bit more. I get back, put on my wetsuit and head down to the water. I made the decision to wear shoes for the run after the swim up to transition so I set my shoes where they needed to be. This ended up being a great decision (I will explain later).

Unlike last year, there was no fog. It was cloudy but no fog, so we were going to start on time. I warmed up a bit, if that is what you call jumping in 58 degree water and did some quick paced swims to get my arms going. I would be the third wave of athletes. I had nothing on my mind except to have fun, execute my race plan and enjoy the day. I knew the training would pay off. In fact, before this event I had mentioned to a few people that "this was the best I have felt leading up to a big race." I guess we will see if I was right.

Here we are, my age group standing at the start line, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - GO. I ran out quick and immediately went to the right of the pack and found my space. This was the first event where I didn't bump or hit any of the other swimmers. It was like I had my own lane out there. I had small goals. First I wanted to get to the boats, which came quick, then I wanted to get around the pier which came quick, next get to the far buoy, which came quick, then to the next buoy. I found some good legs to get behind and followed him for quite a long time. It helped me store some energy for later. Soon before you knew it, the finish was 200 yards away. I thought to myself, long and strong and kick the legs out. I exited the water knowing I had a good swim. I ran up the ramp, rapidly took off my wetsuit where my shoes were, put on my shoes and ran up the 1/4 mile road to transition. This was a good idea because I was passing guys who got out of the water before I did, plus my wetsuit was already off so I saved time. My swim time was 31:15 and my T1 was 3:52, both respectable times.

I decided to put my biking shoes on before I got on the bike. I knew there was a small hill to climb right out of the gate so I figured it would help me get into the groove a bit faster. I made a mental note to take in fluids every 5-8 minutes, so immediately on the bike I began to sip my drink. I wasn't chugging, just sipping the whole day. And this time I used 90% gatorade during the race which seemed to help my energy. As I got into a rhythm, I began to think "today could be a good day." The first half of the bike went by quick as I must have gotten to the turnaround in 1 hour 20 minutes. I didn't wear my watch this race. I wanted to race on feel not by the time. Once I hit the 2nd half of the bike, my legs lost a bit of their spark but I pushed on. I had times where I would loose my rhythm totally and then regain it back. The last 28 miles were tough as we were fighting a head wind and some tough rolling hills. But my energy was good and I wanted to get to that run. I returned to the city streets and knew the ride was almost over, so I began to eat a bar and take in some fluids to get me through the first part of the run. I got out of my shoes on my bike, got off and returned to my transition station. My bike time was: 2:48:35 which wasn't my best time. My T2 was a fast 1 minute and 11 seconds.

Immediately when I was running, I knew my body was feeling good. I had some slight tightness in my low back and right calf so I was hoping those two things would subside so I could really take advantage of my strength. Well they did. The miles seemed to go by so fast. It was one of those runs that each mile felt like 1/2 and my rhythm was terrific. My heart rate was so steady that I was able to talk to many athletes. I pushed on the downhills and stayed consistent on the slight uphills. I made it to the half way point and was feeling a fast run. I still had great energy. I was thinking all that long and hard training is paying off. Thinking back to my long ride to Arnold and then running the 1/2 marathon the next day. All the training when we went camping at 7500 feet up is paying off. I continued to sip my bottle of gatorade and hit up 3 gels throughout the 13 miles. Quickly I was at the 3 mile to go marker. I kept my cadence high, my body relaxed and my breathing controlled. I was able to make up many spots in my age group with this run. I hit the last downhill fast, almost sprinting, smiling and feeling great. I turned to the infamous beach finish. But just like last year, it wasn't bad at all. My run time was 1:39:49, a pace of 7:37 min./mile.

My total race time was 5:04:43. So close to breaking the 5 hour mark. When I did this race in 2007 my time was 6:02. This is where I bring back persistency. It doesn't take days, or weeks or months to get better at this sport. You have to put in days, weeks and months to get better in years! You must be PERSISTENT and continue to strive for excellence. Will I break the 5 hour mark?? Absolutely yes. In fact my goal next year will be to break the 4:50 mark...why not!?

One more big thing that was on my mind...TAPER! Most triathletes go into their races with tired bodies. They never reach their maximum performance because they never allow themselves to rejuvenate and take full advantage of all their training. Learning to taper correctly is the difference of having a stellar race and a forgettable race.

I will work on improving my bike leg of the race, get an even faster run and continue to execute good nutrition. Time to put in the work....

Thank you so much to my wife, Stephanie for allowing me to train and sacrifice saturday and sunday mornings for long workouts. Having support really helps with this lifestyle.

Past writings