Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Bike: Setup Matters

The success of my bike leg in triathlon has resulted from everything but the power I am able to produce. I have been successful because of attention to detail. All the little things. They add up. Big time. I do have a few advantages. For one, no sponsors means I can pick the best equipment available. But it's also more than that. More than equipment. It's race strategy. How you apply your available power and when. So, how do you get to a sub-5 Ironman bike split on 2.67 W/kg? In no particular order:

1. The Helmet
An aero helmet is not just about finding the most aerodynamic helmet, it is about finding the helmet that matches your body shape and riding style best. For me, I move my head up and down often to relieve stress on my neck from the low riding position I utilize. Because of this, I wanted a helmet that would not penalize me when my head was down, but one that also still had a tail on it that would add some weight and pressure behind the head to also help alleviate weight on the neck with the head facing forward. The John Cobb designed Rudy Project Wingspan helmet was designed in the wind tunnel to fit well with many different back structures and the head facing up or down.
The only thing it is missing is a hole on top to more easily dump water in without having to tilt the head in a non-aerodynamic position.

2. The Front Aero Bottle.
For awhile I played around with having an actual bottle here, but found for anything hot or longer than half-Ironman, I just would not drink enough. For me, the effort to get the bottle out of the cage not only kept me from drinking as much as I would like to, it also moved me out of an aero position while I had to tilt my head up to drink. This also prevented the constant sipping technique that is much more efficient for hydration that can be employed with a straw sticking directly in your face. When I went back to the simple, but proven, Profile Design aerodrink, racing in the heat became easy again. However, I might consider upgrading to something that might be a bit more aerodynamic, like this in the future.

3. Front Brake
While upgrading to the TriRig Omega front brake was probably just as much for looks as for time savings, an estimated 2W (from this article here is still 2W. And at my lower level of power production and speeds, quite important.

4. Cable Routing
One thing the Omega front brake allowed, was also a much more efficient cable route that sends the cable right in front of the bike and not out to one side. The other cables have similarly been routed behind the cockpit structure and into the bike frame, thoroughly out of the way.

5. Flat Repair Kit
I wanted a flat repair kit that could tuck up underneath the seat as much as possible and be small and compact. An Ironman race is too long to go without one.

6. Nutrition Storage
For nutrition, I wanted something easy to access, aerodynamic, with strong sidewalls that wouldn't let it fall to one side where my knees would constantly brush it and become irritated, while also holding 4-6 emergency gels (for when I miss grabs at the aid stations) and a cut-up Larabar to keep my stomach from growling. The DarkSpeedWorks Speedpack 483 met these needs perfectly.

7. Crankset
While I had to give up the solid TT chainrings to go with the Quarq Sram Red powermeter, the tradeoff was well worth it. At Ironman Texas the course profile is rolling with a tailwind out and a headwind back in. I chose to hold a lower power on the way out with the wind as well and lots of people to pass, and then increased power by about 8% on the way back into a headwind with no one in sight except for a few athletes that had blown up in the heat and were just struggling to make it back in. With no one around to pace off of for a good 40 miles into a headwind on the back stretch, the only way I was able to keep the speed up was to simply keep hitting those numbers on the screen. The powermeter also allowed me to keep from riding over threshold on the few steep hills encountered, as well as to keep the power up a little on downhills with tailwind. All of which help to make for a more efficient ride where a strong run is possible.

8. The Components
Now why would these matter? Well an old chain and worn out components can cost several watts. Leading up to the race, the newest cassette was chosen, the rear derailleur cleaned, and a new chain installed. For the next big race though, I will have my chain stripped and re-lubed with this process here

9. The Saddle
While not directly related to aerodynamics, the John Cobb V-Flow Plus saddle aids in allowing me to comfortably ride in a very forward position (sometimes referred to "on the rivet") where I am powerful and aerodynamic.

10. The Cockpit
While nothing too special from the stock felt cockpit has been done here, it has been lowered with an effectively shorter, horizontal stem to get as close to the top tube as possible for slightly better frame aerodynamics. The most important part here is that I am comfortable and low.

11. The Wheel/Tire Combo
Aside from body position, the wheel/tire combo is the most important piece of aerodynamics. Flo Wheels aren't the lightest, but they are some of the very best aerodynamically, which is what matters most (see this article for weight vs aero Next was matching the correct tire to the wheel for the fastest wheel/tire combination. For this, a 23c Continental GP4000S was chosen for the front tire because of test results from this article that show a much lower drag over the current Vittoria Evo Corsa that was being used. After that, rolling resistance is of primary concern. Rolling resistance test results can be found here with information about why it is so important here With that information on hand, Vittoria latex tubes were ordered and the Vittoria Evo Corsa was left on the rear tire for the lower rolling resistance offered by each. Eventually, the Evo Corsa will be replaced by another GP4000S or Michelin ProRace 4 for the aerodynamics these tires offer on the Flo Wheelsets, but with the leading edge of the rear tire being mostly blocked by the frame of the bike, it is not a current concern. Whatever wheels you use, it is very important that the front tire, at least, matches well aerodynamically with the wheel. Lastly, a wheelbuilder disc cover was also added to make the rear Flo 90 into a similar profile of the Flo Disc, which can lead to a large reduction in drag at higher yaw angles (see above link for Flo wind tunnel results).

12. The Bike
What I wanted here was very simple. A frame that had some aerodynamic testing, simply to ensure it wasn't a relative brick in the end. But, since frame aerodynamics are such a small part of the equation, the most important thing I wanted from the bike was the right stack and reach coordinates to provide the ultra low and comfortable fit I was looking for.

13. The Fit
The fit was designed to be a low, compact position that still allowed good leg turnover without challenging my hip flexibility and kept my chest open to facilitate breathing. I was able to do both of these with a retul fit that first put my hands together at the front, but angled my elbows to align with my hips to open up my chest without losing aerodynamics; and second, utilizing shorter 170mm crank arms to keep my hip flexors and calves from working too hard at the top of each pedal stroke due to a tighter hip angle than optimal with the stock length 175mm crank arms. The cockpit was also designed to be shortened 20mm with a 90mm stem in order to move center of gravity rearwards slightly for better handling characteristics and control.

Front Profile: Here you can see the cables are hidden, the front brake is seemless and the elbows are in line with the hips with the hands generally together.

Side Profile: Here you can see the flat back, the face forward profile of the helmet, the covered Speedpak, the tucked in flat repair kit, and the open hip angle allowing comfortable pedaling.

Head Down Profile: A common position during Ironman to relieve stress on my neck, and why I wanted the short, slanted tail of the Cobb Designed helmet to get optimal aerodynamics here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Swimlabs- What I Learned

After much frustration from lots of swimming and little progress over the last couple years, I finally decided to have my stroke analyzed by someone who knows what they're doing. For this, I went to Swimlabs in Denver for a complete stroke analysis and video. What I found is this:

1. My catch is good. What I thought was the single biggest flaw in my stroke was perfectly fine. I was performing a good high elbow catch with decent starting hand position (need to go a little deeper) and getting a grip on a good amount of water.

2. What followed was not good. I kept my elbow high, almost to the very top of the water, and was thus not able to grab much water through the rest of my stroke. In order to get still water to grab onto I needed to pull at a much deeper level.

3. From there, it did not get better. Instead of pushing hard out the back with strong triceps I chopped my stroke short and exited the water with no final push. This is likely a throwback from my high school days as a sprinter where that final push wasn't necessarily as useful in my high cadence, no form thrashing that somehow wasn't slow.

4. The final problem with the pull phase was that I simply did not have the strength to accelerate through the swim stroke time and time again. Because of the good form of my catch, large paddles were recommended to help develop this strength (it should be noted, paddles, especially large ones, should not be used without proper form).

5. After that, out of the water, form was good, but it was recommended that a straighter arm recovery could be beneficial for optimal higher cadence open water endurance swimming as it redirected the momentum of the arm instead of stopping it and starting in a new plane of motion. I had previously wondered why so many professional triathletes did this and now I know. However, since it deals with out of the water movement, it is last on my priority list to attempt to change. Though I am definitely not doing any more "fingertip" drills.

6. The final major flaw on my swim stroke was a tendency to occasionally flail the legs apart on my two beat kick. Though this maneuver is like a parachute for drag, simply swimming more seems to keep this from happening and is not currently a concern.

So with all those problems fixed or being worked on I now finally feel like I'm swimming properly. Now I just got to do a crap ton more of it...

A Few Swim Tips

So now that I'm in off-season with nothing to train for and a knee to heal up, what do I do? Go straight to intensive studying of the swim stroke and proceed to immediately jump to my biggest swimming week yet (just hit my 3rd straight day of a hard 5k swim off a 20k week). So with all this swimming, I've also been able to observe a lot of other swimmers in the pool. Upon seeing these mistakes made time and time again with more swimmers than I can count, I'd like to go over my top 3 common mistakes I see in the many novice swimmers at the pool.

1. Crossing over the body's center line. This is the big one. The most common by far, and the easiest to spot (or simply most common because it is the easiest to spot). I particularly see this on the opposite arm when the swimmer is lifting (should be rotating...) the head to breath. When their head lifts/rotates, the arm moves in, crosses the center line and pulls the body off its axis of rotation.

2. Straight arm catch. Not getting the elbow high on the catch to pull back on the water and instead pushing down on the water first, causing the legs to drop to react to the force. This move can also cause shoulder problems, particularly with paddles (I should know, I experienced it years ago).

3. Ultra low cadence. While getting cadence up to as high as an elite swimmer is something I am struggling with and working very hard on myself, a cadence that is too low can make it very difficult/almost impossible to get into any kind of rhythm. It also means less oxygen delivery to the muscles from opportunities to breathe. Wherever your level, you can likely benefit from working on getting more comfortable at a higher cadence.

If you know you do one or more of those, don't worry, in the next post I'll cover some of my own flaws I have recently discovered about my stroke upon Swimlabs video analysis.

2nd Ironman: The Fixes That Worked

Though my 2nd Ironman at Louisville this year wasn't much of a success due to the bike mechanical that left me by the side of the road for an hour and 20' waiting for the entire race to pass me, I was still able to finish and test my theoretical fixes I had in place for the problems I encountered at the first. (See May 2013 post "First Ironman: Mistakes and Lessons ")

1. Swimming easier. My form never broke down and I actually swam faster for a much, much easier effort with little to no swimming going into the race. Though the course was likely 6' faster from current, I was still 3' faster which suggests that very little time was lost from this strategy and that next time a balance between the two will yield not only the best time but the best result.

2. Waiting to pee on the bike. I skipped the port-a-potty in T1 in favor of a nice downhill stretch on the bike. When shooting for Kona, minutes and seconds count.

3. Leaving a bottle cage empty to place extra bottles from aid stations. This was a big one. It allowed me to keep much cooler by grabbing not only the Gatorade bottle I would need for nutrition but also a water bottle to use only to periodically douse my head and body with water. I had planned on finding a different flat tire setup to add a cage to the rear of my bike, but ended up just racing with no regular bottles and only some initial water in my front aero bottle. This worked perfectly. It allowed me to stash a regular bottle for cooling in my single frame cage and then grab a Gatorade bottle at the end of the aid station to refill the aero bottle (while still allowing some tweaking of the Gatorade concentration later on in the race with the bottle of water on the frame). I found no need for anything more.

4. Wearing a hat on the run. The hat I got from Vegas 70.3 last year was white and made of coolmax material so I decided to try that. The difference was big. While the heat was much less than Texas (about 5° lower, but the big difference was the amount of shade and an extra close aid station instead of one extra far apart), instead of feeling like I was melting for the entire run, I actually felt COLD. Being able to stuff ice inside the hat to keep the head cold was a major benefit in the heat.

5. Bending the head when pouring water over it on the run. This simple trick worked perfectly for keeping water out of the shoes. My feet stayed dry for about 18 miles, and by that time, I don't care if things are getting a bit wet and squishy. The Hoka Bondi S2's worked great.

Overall, it was a positive and very enjoyable experience. Can't wait for Ironman Boulder in 2014!

End of Season Update

Well everything after my first Ironman at Texas has, frankly, been very tough. There has been plenty to talk of, however, none of it very positive. Basically, I have bounced in and out of overtraining for several months and more recently a flare up of runner's knee that turned out to be much worse than originally perceived which have led to a LOT of either laying around doing nothing or going out to happy hour to stave off the disappointment of not being able to train.

It started about 18 days after Ironman. I didn't realize it then, but looking back this was the workout that did it. For two weeks I did next to nothing. Until it was time to race at Best of the US. An opportunity I could not pass up. Best of the US went, in large part, uneventful. For me, a low 23' swim for an Olympic was decent, however, it put me in DFL for the division. Luckily, there were other racers in the elite division of the Leon's Triathlon to come out of the water around me. On the bike, it was a slow day. Watts weren't great, but the course, being cold and windy with rough roads, did not suit my strengths. Still, I pushed as hard as I could on the bike and was just happy to find my legs didn't give out on me on the run as I barely broke 40' for the 10k, passing only 2 people in the division. At this point though, I figured, I was now on my way back to recovery. How wrong that was...

The workout started out as a nice easy ride back in Tulsa, OK, at the famous Wednesday Night Ride. And I did go easy. Until the legs started to feel really good. Really powerful. I started to ride tempo for a bit. It felt good. Really good. And that's when I saw them. The fast group. Forty to fifty Category 1-3 cyclists about to haul ass on the final stretch on Avery drive building into a massive finishing sprint. I decided to see if I could catch up. I was there quicker than I thought. But they were just getting moving. Once I had passed all but three or four, I became noticed, and they weren't about to let a triathlete have even a few seconds of glory. The pace got hot, and I was already maxed out trying to at least make it to the front for a second or two before dropping dead where I stood. Luckily, I had my race wheels and tires still attached from the previous race and was making it difficult. After what seemed an eternity, I made the pass; and promptly was swallowed up. With my heart in my mouth, I jumped out of the aerobars and tucked in for the ride, somehow surviving until the final sprint. Turns out, that 15' was the hardest I had ever rode for that time period and yielded a very good new 10' power. I was ecstatic.

That's when it all came unraveled. The next days' recovery runs became tougher and tougher, until that Sunday I tried to race a small aquathlon and found myself struggling to run a 9' mile for the 5k run. The next weekend was a sprint triathlon where I ran my slowest 5k in years and could barely hold Ironman watts for the bike leg. I thought I was simply out of shape, as it didn't feel the same as when I was overtrained last year. My resting heart rate was even still within parameters. But when I tried to breathe, it felt like I couldn't get oxygen. I decided this was a time to suck it up and push on. Two weeks later, I had built back up to a solid century ride with good power, but my heart rate was high the entire time. Too high. Things still weren't right. I had to rest.

After a few more weeks of rest just not doing what it should, I had started to finally realize it could be overtraining. Not the type I had experienced last year, but a different kind. Overtraining of a different nervous system. Until this point, I hadn't realized there were multiple types of overtraining. Last time, it was parasympathetic. This time, the sympathetic system. My only option was, sigh, much more rest.

Luckily, it hadn't gotten too bad. It was almost as if I had been bouncing back and forth across the line during the first half of the summer. It was mid-July now, however, and Ironman Louisville loomed just 6 weeks away. Three weeks later I had no idea where my fitness would be, but I was going to race the Boulder 70.3 because one, I had signed up and two, I had paid for it. It turned out to be the first day in months that I was finally healthy. I cruised to a sub-5 finish with ease, despite poor fitness and the atmosphere of a race making it difficult to treat the day as a training one.

Two and a half hard weeks later though and I had the majority of my fitness back and was ready to give it my all for my last shot at Kona this year. Ironman Louisville started out well enough, with a swim time 3' faster than at Texas despite no time in the pool for the last two months and swimming much easier (course was likely 6' faster with current). With a faster and more efficient transition I started the bike a solid 5' ahead of my Texas split and target power was feeling relatively easy. I was ready to blitz the course and hope my run fitness was good enough for a spot. Twenty-five miles in, on a steep hill, I shifted hard to my easiest gear and instantly regretted it. The chain had gotten stuck between the derailleur and wheel. It would be an hour and 20' before SAG finally was able to get into the area and get the chain loose. I literally had to wait for every single person in the race to pass me. My shot at Kona was gone for the year.

If there was an opportunity to quit the race right there, I would have took it. But I had to at least bike back to transition, so I figured I might as well take the long way in. From there, I rode endurance watts in and tested my new strategies for keeping cool in the heat. I figured I would walk most of the run. But after a few miles I joined up with some good company and decided to run him in for a 12:31 finish. My additional heat strategies worked well enough I almost felt cold in the 90 degree heat during the run. Heart rate stayed stuck at a 145 average the entire run, 30 beats below what I raced at in Texas! Overall, I was pleased to be able to finish around 11:10ish for an easy endurance pace and very proud of my mental strength for pushing through what was an extremely painful run and bike in a very different way. With a long ride of 3 hours and a long run of 1:20 as prep for the race, everything that normally doesn't hurt was incredibly painful. Back, shoulders, neck on the bike. FEET on the run. I was worried my feet might fall off after 15 miles. After 26.2...

After a dismal end to an otherwise successful season, I had to finish with a bang. Instead of training for Kona I figured I would train for a marathon. Three weeks away should be plenty of time, right? And it would have, if it wasn't for an old runner's knee flare up from two weeks of hard cycling, hiking, and trail running out in Moab and along the coast of California. The Denver Marathon became my first DNF from injury. It was too much too fast and I should have known, might have known, if I hadn't been having so much fun being able to hike, bike and run to my heart's content.

Lesson learned? It's not just knowing when to back off but also how much for how long and how to properly come back.

Monday, May 20, 2013

First Ironman: Mistakes and Lessons

After my first Ironman in the Woodlands of Texas this past weekend, I have begun to reflect on all that could have been improved upon during the race, as well as what went right. Luckily for me, the most important parts all went near perfect, however there were several mistakes made.

  • Not coating bike shoe hot spot(s) in Vaseline (not sure how I forgot this one...)
  • Using the bathroom in T1. Took a very long time to get my one-piece suit down when soaking wet and then spent even longer loosing all the morning beverages.
  • Not going over the new transition routine thoroughly enough beforehand. I not only left my speedsuit on when putting on my bike shoes and had to take them off and put them on again, but I also spent about 5 seconds staring at my bike trying to remember how to get on it with another 5-10 trying to clip my first shoe in (the flying mount has become second nature but take that away and I'm as clueless as everyone else in the post-swim race fog).
  • Forgetting important things like all of the electrolyte capsules, taping some emergency gels to the bike, and a hat/visor to hold in ice and cold water while providing shade for the run.
  • Not doing any riding in the backup tri shoes that actually vent air to cool the feet and have a drain hole so that the shoe doesn't just fill up with the fluids occasionally running down your leg. (Note: this required that these shoes, though better suited for the conditions, not be used)
  • Putting sweet peach tea in the bottle that you would later decided needs to be used to douse the head and body in an effort to keep cool.
  • Not having enough bottle cages (I had one plus my aero drink bottle). Without anywhere to actually hold a bottle, I almost wrecked when I tried to grab two bottles at an aid station.
  • Not replacing the seriously worn grips and pads on the bike. When wet, it made it very difficult to grab the bike with one hand that is also holding a bottle at the same time (see previous mistake about almost wrecking).
  • Wearing big heavy shoes (Hokas) that hold water on the run. With the heat index close to 100 or over on the run, I was actually making squishing noises from the first aid station on.
  • And the most important, stop trying to taper by feel. A week before the race, my legs were trashed, and though I was good to go by raceday and my fitness was phenomenal, I was not nearly rested enough to peak.
Things that just hurt:
  • The pain of swimming with tightly suctioned goggles for over an hour.
  • The pain of swimming for over an hour.
  • Wearing a speedsuit that is so tight it actually cuts into your chest.
  • Biking alone for hours into a headwind.
  • Running barefoot on pavement in transition that is so hot, it literally burns your feet.
  • Running 26.2 miles on burned feet in wet, heavy, soggy socks and shoes.
  • Running 26.2 miles on legs with a bit too much pre-race fatigue.
Things that went right:
  • Swim position: I lined up on the far left, about 5 rows deep and had clean water the entire way.
  • Bike setup: Flo wheels with disc cover, an Evo Corsa rear tire, GP4000S front tire, latex tubes, TriRig Omega brake and Wingspan helmet worked beautifully! With the majority of the roads being smooth, 184W average yielded 22.5mph on a windy day.
  • Mental Toughness: Running from aid station to aid station, just barely making it before you collapse is no way to run for 20+ miles, but it can be done!
  • Gameplan: After a slow swim, I decided to relax and enjoy the day as much as possible (and I did really enjoy the first half of the bike!).
And finally my Hydration/Nutrition Strategy, the single most important reason for my success. I went completely by feel, listened to my body, and never stopped drinking. It was near perfect. I started the bike and ended the bike with the first and last 10 miles or so being almost exclusively water with one gel tossed in. In between, I drank a progressively stronger mix of the on-course perform, with a gel tossed in occasionally when I felt it necessary. When my stomach felt in need of solid food, I ate a piece of the Lara Bar I cut into thirds. Of course, I had to pee about 4 times in the first 2/3 of the bike, however, this was absolutely necessary for staying hydrated. On the run, I went with mostly water until my stomach distress from all the Perform on the bike blew out. I listened to my body, and if I still had some discomfort from taking a gel a couple miles back, I took Perform and Coke instead. If I felt discomfort from those, I took a gel and water. It was almost too easy. Coming into each aid station, I grabbed what was most appetizing along with ice and additional water to keep cool and kept moving. My heart rate never budged until the last few miles. I stayed cool, hydrated and fueled and it paved the way to success on what would otherwise have been a bad day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ironman: The Toughest and Most Rewarding Event I've Done

It all started with the Friday before the race. Not immediately before, but a week before. I hit a wall. I couldn't make it through a simple recovery workout. I could barely hold 8:30/mi pace. Even fatigued, I still had no problem running sub 7:30 pace with ease until this point. I had gone too hard. In my quest for every last bit of fitness, I had upped the intensity with my decreased volume during taper. Only, I upped it too much and did not included enough rest. I was in serious trouble for my first Ironman.

Come raceday though, I was ready to rock. The day before I had felt good for the first time. Fitness was excellent, and I had enough rest to race. I would need another week of rest to actually hit form. However, with good fitness, racing fast with a good bit of fatigue is possible. It just hurts a lot more. And boy did it ever hurt...

The morning of raceday started just fine with a breakfast of oatmeal, a banana, chocolate muffin, yogurt, green tea, some electrolyte drink, and a Lara bar. I was getting transition ready, however, and realized they were closing it 15' before what I thought I had seen posted. Uh oh. A mad rush ensued, and I barely got the tires aired up and everything together in time. Upon getting back to the car to drive to swim start, I realized I still had my run visor and my electrolyte pills. This was not good. There was nothing I could do to add them now.

For the start I decided the inside (left) was the best position. It required treading water for 10 minutes before hand, but it was perfect. I started about 5 rows back (at the true swim start line) and had clean water for the entire swim. Occasionally of course someone tried (or did) swim over or across me or two people converged to sandwhich me, but all of that is part of open water swimming (what makes it fun). None of the turns were all that crowded where I was and several times large gaps opened in front of me making it difficult to keep a decent draft. However, because of the seemingly lack of people around me, I though I might be swimming well enough to post a decent time. Unfortunately, this was not the case and I should have known as I struggled to keep my cadence high for most of it and I could tell that I was having trouble keeping my body position as well.

Even with the swim being slower for most than normal, I was slow for me. Very slow. I posted a 1:10, 5' off my slowest estimate from my swim training in Florida. However, a week off swimming during travel had devastated my swim speed and I should have known that it would not magically reappear.

This turned out to be a good thing though, as I threw out my Kona aspirations, and changed the game plan to simply finishing and enjoying the experience. After spending seemingly forever in transition trying to figure out how to quickly put on bike shoes and then having to take them off because I still had my speedsuit on, I was on the bike and ready to roll.

Immediately, the power was there, but it wasn't easy. And the heart rate was too high. It was at half-Ironman HR and not dropping. So I backed it off 20W or so with the idea to just enjoy the ride. However, this was still much more uncomfortable than it should have been, though the legs had no problem making it with ease. It was actually quite fun passing people for the first 50 or 60 miles, but that's when I ran out of people to pass and found myself stuck going back into the wind with hardly a soul in sight. Things got tough. Very tough. However, the legs still made power easily (it was simply very uncomfortable to ride, possibly more due to the heat than anything else) so I upped it to target watts around mile 70 and held for the remainder.

Magically, after I hit the century mark in the fastest time ever for me (4:26!), I started feeling really really good. Until I got really hungry and realized the last gel that I thought I had was not there! With 5 miles left to ride, I got desperate and started hitting up the riders that I was now passing again for anything they could spare. I lucked out when a woman with a foreign accent understood me enough to pass off a gel containing writing I could not read. Soon I was back on the power blazing toward the run that I was certain that I was going to decimate. For an incredibly windy day (more so on the way back in of course...), I was surprised and exhilarated with the time, especially for the conservative wattage I held. I hit 4:58 which was what I had estimated for target wattage (about 10w higher than my normalized wattage for the ride). The new setup with the Flo wheels, disc cover, conti gp4000s front, Evo corsa rear, latex tubes, Rudy Project helmet, TriRig Omega brake, and my normal slammed position worked out very well!

In transition, the pavement was hot. Some I heard got up to 2nd degree burns. All I know is my feet still hurt from it days later. I shrugged it off and coated the feet in Vaseline though because I had a marathon to run! But I didn't feel good like I thought I should have. It was more of a struggle than I expected and I felt like I was running quite slow (though it turns out I split sub 7 for that first mile). After a long bathroom break (the 6th I think after the one in T1 and the 4ish times on the bike), I was feeling better. For about a quarter mile and then the legs decided they just didn't want to work properly. Not to mention the bloated feeling and gas from all the Perform on the bike. I was soon struggling just to make it to the next aid station and forced to a quick shuffle in order to simply keep moving. I knew right here it was going to be an even longer day than I had thought, but I was determined to finish and holding out hope that if I kept moving I might catch a resurgence somewhere down the line.

While I did finally blow out (literally...) all of the indigestion problems I was having, I was able to pick up the pace slightly for a few miles, but I never did get that resurgence. It was a struggle the entire way. It was just like my first half-Ironman I did, except when I got to 13.1 miles, I still had another 13.1 to go. But I do not give up. I do not quit. I do not stop moving. Tough races where I can outlast, out suffer, and shuffle past the faster athletes who stop moving is where I shine. And suffer I did. More than ever before by a factor too high to estimate. Only a few really know where the body's limits are (Julie Moss to name one) and most are not prepared to push them there, especially when things are not going perfectly to plan. But I am. Though I thankfully didn't hit them today, it was not for lack of trying. For the last six miles, every other step, a muscle in my upper calf, lower calf, or hamstring threatened to buckle me if my core was not strong enough to keep my balance. The cramps were so severe, I wasn't sure if I could finish until a half mile to go. But the body will keep moving if you will it to.

In the last few miles I tried electrolyte capsules I bummed off another competitor. Unfortunately for me, the cramps were from overuse. They weren't going to stop until I did. With my 3 long runs this year at 15-16 miles (why I was able to come into this race uninjured), it was no surprise that these muscles were rebelling particularly when, mistake #onetoomany, I thought it a good idea to wear my Hokas to run in. While they were, in fact, fantastic in many aspects, with the temperature in the 90's and humidity bringing the heat index up much higher, they were also soaked and making loud squishing noises from mile 2 on. It must have been comical to all that I passed!

Now as an engineer, I normally prep for races much better than this, but this time, I let myself get distracted and completely dropped the ball! However, a tough as nails mentality and a near perfect nutrition/hydration strategy got me through the day in what was to be the most unbelievable result I could have imagined. I was beyond ecstatic to post a sub-10 time at my first Ironman when I crossed the line in 9:53:15 with a brutal 3:35 run. Even more so when I realized that because of the tough conditions, this year it was good enough for 5th in AG and 24th amateur! This race will definitely be a race that I will always remember and cherish, not just for the time and placement, but for the wonderful suffering it took to get there. The greatest accomplishments always involve the most sacrifice, the most work, and the most pain. For me, this was one of them.