Long Term Goals

I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about where things are headed in 2011 and beyond with the fitness game, I’m currently under the assumption that I continue playing it. I still love it, and I’ve enjoyed making a progression through things, but Ironman was a bit of a destination and so future things needed to be sketched from scratch.

I was having all sorts of scenarios play out in my head about this and that and it was hard to sort anything out. Then I decided I needed to sit back and write down a few goals. The Ironman had been on the horizon for a long time before I got really serious about it, it was a multi-season goal, and now it’s multi-season goals that once again are making up the majority of the thoughts rolling around inside my head.

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.

Long term:

  • Reclaim balance in my life with sport. I have been trying too hard and it is mentally exhausting. I spent a year with the mental attitude of “pull out all the stops” and I can’t handle doing that anymore. I can create as many good habits as I need to and I can drop all the bad habits that I need to but I can’t live with the attitude that I need to do things that I don’t want to do. The backlash from this is unhealthy. This is also making too many things a point of stress in my life. If I’m going to train like this again I need to make the training stress the only source of stress in my life, because I can’t let myself re-do that period of time, it wasn’t healthy.
  • I need to reclaim a rest day each week with NO training. No easy training days and pretending that they’re rest except for during specific prep for the season’s A race between 8 & 3 weeks out. I’m undecided if this rule applies to a consistent block of running or not. I would like to think that it does apply. If I’m doing a MAF development challenge then I need to plan to double up once a week. I executed my first aerobic development challenge with 6 days a week of running, it found me more than 6 minutes of half marathon PR. The seventh day of training is the less value than the seventh set of workouts. If I need the seventh day worth of workouts then I can fit them into 6 days. In my mind this is quite clearly and if.
  • Make it to Kona
    • 1 hour swim (1:25/100yds)
    • 4:50 bike. (23.2 mph or 37.3 kph) – I think this is approximately 54 minute 40km TT shape i.e. FTP yields 44.4kph in fair conditions.
      • Analytical Cycling says that this is an FTP of approximately 334Watts.
      • I have absolutely no idea where I’m at.
    • 3:15 – 3:20 run (4:45/km or 7:40/mile)
    • transitions
    • contingency time

What it takes? The first two long-term goals are going to require dedication and aren’t always going to be easy, but they’re probably more important than #3. The breakdown of Part 3 goes as follows – to get the Kona slot I think I need to:

  • Treat Ironman as a race with finite duration rather than infinite duration. Unlimited endurance is unnecessary and seeking it drained me too much. Not being tired at the end of Ironman but only being sore is not the fastest way to do this sport.
  • Get my MAF run pace down to 3:50-3:52/km. This will come with consistency, but it might not come within a year. My best recorded MAF test result was at 4:02 this summer, it was a single data-point though and I think I really only achieved a MAF pace of 4:05-4:07.
  • Run a significantly faster marathon than I need to run for Ironman. Goal = 7 min miles = 3h4min
  • Get my threshold swim speed down to 1:22/100yds (10 seconds faster than what I can do now)
  • I am probably good enough to ride this fast if I decided that this was how fast I needed to ride. I could do it, but with not much confidence that I’d be running my best afterward.
  • I need to adopt a bit more of a balanced cycling program so I can strategically race the bike leg. This means I need to improve the short duration end of the power-curve. This is not to be done at the expense of totally giving up the favorable fat burning bias I’ve developed so successfully in 2010.
  • I now want to use a power meter.

In all honesty I don’t think I’ll be ready to race at this level next year. I can get there in the long term but I’m not yet ready to do it next year. Making this realization answered my questions regarding racing Ironman Cozumel in 2011. That time line is too aggressive. I can’t ever be sure I’ll qualify the next time I try Ironman, but I don’t see that it’s worth making all of the sacrifices to try it until I at least think I have a chance. The time/effort/stress cost of it is too high to rush it.

Quarq cinquo FSA SL-K

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Specific Athletic Goals for 2011

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.

Swimming:

  • Figure out how I am going to fit more swimming into my new life as a working person. I need to find my love of swimming again.
  • No swimming with the purpose of building fitness, only swimming with the purpose of being a better swimmer.

Running:

  • Twice I need to put a 6 week focus on MAF running and aim for high frequency. Learn what this does to MAF pace.
  • Run a fast marathon.
    • I feel like 7 minute miles is a rough estimate for the prerequisite I’ve estimated for Kona qualification. This will be a rough target for the year however race-day target pace will be based on evidence in training and not what I want to do.

I’m unsure of what the “minimum” is when I’ve got the MAF focus. Perhaps 30 minutes for 3 weeks immediately into 40 minutes for 3 weeks. Or 7.5kms for 3 weeks into 10kms for 3 weeks Those seem challenging yet appropriate. Keep track of MAF pace throughout this kind of training as well as through less focused training. I don’t believe I have graduated from MAF training on the run yet.

Otherwise I hope to execute a balanced run program. Be a balanced runner. 1x weekly endurance focused run, 1x intervals session with focus on 400m-1000m VO2max intervals with perfect form, 1x progression run or general tempo run designed for experience at marathon pace. During specific prep phases include a hills run where I run fast on ups and on downs (to eccentrically load the muscles and develop leg strength) plus additional easy runs (to get miles).

Cycling:

  • Learn to really race bikes.
  • Switch clubs so I have people to train on the road with and race as much as I possibly can. This means that this is the focus for May-August.

Triathlon:

  • Don’t miss out on an entire season to gain some experience racing. That would be silly, so I need to race, and 70.3 seems like the appropriate distance.

An Aside:I am no longer convinced that I tapered ideally for the bike for Ironman. When I rode my best bike splits relative to my fitness (Chinook 2009 and GWN 2010) I had not been as bike-rested as I was for Ironman and Calgary 70.3. This makes me think I should probably try to design a slightly different protocol. For example I rode a pretty serious ride two days out from GWN, long stretches above IMeffort. I think the reason is this: I have such a hard time getting actually sore from cycling using the kind of protocol I used this past year that I can work on fitness so well on the bike that as soon as I stop riding I start to loose it. There’s minimal rest required with the method of training I employed this past year. If I were training with a balanced program and loading up on muscular fatigue then perhaps I’d need to taper but if I’m not training hard, just riding a lot then I don’t need to taper from it. We’ll see next year as I intend to train with more intensity on the bike, I may well find that I need to taper on the bike to perform well.

I should be able to learn quite a bit about cycling and cycle tapering by racing bikes and doing a half Ironman without a bike taper. I may squeeze in a few short course races as well depending on how they fit in alongside bike racing. I think they’d help maintain and develop skills in mentally focusing at max steady state effort instead of cycling which will be far more strategic next year. Some power and HR data from Olympic distance racing would probably be valuable in planning future training. If I decide to do it it would have to fit into a schedule with a few specific prep run-workouts and about 3 days of unloaded training so I could actually perform well. Weekends quickly get busy in the summer, so I don’t know exactly how this will fit, the ATA schedule is not confirmed anyhow.

Season plans:

As soon as the Achilles allows – get in the pool. Start knocking down 10km weeks. Figure out how to make it fit. Figure out how to stay focused. Figure out how to love it again. If I start hating it I need to change something to make it work again. Think about swimming primary goal for swimming is getting to the pool with motivation. This needs to continue throughout the year.

Cycling through the winter.

Indoor training 2 or 3 sessions per week. Ride as much as I want to, no pressure to “get workouts in” until May.

Running until Christmas – just get back into it

starting in January:

  • 3 weeks balanced program
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 6 weeks MAF focus
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon including 10mile race.

MAF tests bi-weekly throughout

Run focus finishes with Vancouver Marathon on May 1

May – train like a maniac on the bike, long easy miles transition into balanced intensity high mileage.

Running stays balanced and easy recovery from Marathon, no rush to get run fit again keeps the pressure down.

Early June – Oliver Half Ironman

Minimal taper on bike to see how that works, I need to log the TT time though to make sure I’m ready to put out power in that position as not doing so was a recipe for disaster at Chinook 2010 on the bike leg. I’d mostly rely on residual run fitness from marathon prep, 5 weeks later is late enough to race again but it’s not really enough time to put in a good training block after the marathon. My 2009 marathon showed me that it will take a while to get my run legs back. No pressure on race day, set my sights high and just race. Love the sport and have fun. I’m not trying to benchmark or gauge progression or test a strategy, I’m just racing. It will probably be a season highlight.

June-July-August. Race bikes whenever possible. Go backpacking a couple times. Perhaps fit in a bike-tour with trailer for a few days. Minimal structured training except to fit in specific prep to race well at Bowness Stage Race, Road Provincial Championships and LaPierre Stage Race in August. If I’m feeling interested, race a late summer olympic distance triathlon. Help out friends training for IMCanada by accompanying them on their long rides when possible.

Run three times/week bi-weekly long run.

Cyclocross continues in the fall as entertainment and I don’t worry about my bike fitness. I let it fade and try to reap the rewards with some racing. This probably means I should move my long run to midweek in the fall so I can do a bit more horsing around on the ‘cross bike on the weekends.

Running – Begin focus again in September 2011

  • 6 weeks MAF focus with weekly cross country race.
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon.

Marathon in Nevada on November 20. Choose either a fast one or a really challenging hilly one depending on how the spring marathon goes. Both options exist on the same weekend, I can of course wait until after the spring marathon to decide which one I’d rather do, if I choose hills the training will of course have to reflect this choice.

Mesquite Marathon

Spring Marathon – in the city.

Vancouver Marathon

Fall Marathon – in the desert.

Sneak Peak at Ironman Attempt #2 – 2012

Take a break until Christmas and then begin structured training in January 2012 for Ironman. At which point I’ll almost certainly be a better runner. Hopefully I’ll be a more confident runner. I’ll almost certainly be a better cyclist. I’ll have a season of training with a power-meter and will have a pretty good idea about training with it in the lead-up to IM. Listening to Gordo talk about this and seeing how many people raced Kona with them has me almost convinced that there is cause and effect. It can’t be just the fact that people think they need then when they’re so widespread at the top level yet still not cheap.

Options include: Cozumel in November (AZ is similar time but I’d rather go to Mexico if I choose a late-season race), Coeur d’Alene in June, St George in April, or potentially Ironman Canada or Wisconsin at the end of the summer or potentially Brazil in late May. Brazil and Cozumel would be the faster races. We’ll presume that Cozumel will be just as competitive as everything else by that point in time. I can’t see how anything can stay stay non-competitive with people wanting to get to Kona, the first year has got to be a fluke.

I don’t know if it’s an advantage or disadvantage for me to choose a tough race or a faster and easier race. My instinct is that I shouldn’t choose a tough run course (StG is a bad idea). Choosing a hard bike course like Wisconsin seems like the strategic option, but all those rolling hills could thrash me just as much as anyone else, there isn’t really a safe bet. Wisconsin also qualifies for an entire year later which is kinda cool. I also might have the opportunity to run Boston the following spring if this marathon game is successful. If I qualified I think I’d like to do it, it would be really fun, that puts the earliest I would be ready to try Ironman well into August because I presume I’d be training to run well in Boston. I think Wisconsin becomes the preference although the financial cost of that doing that one is pretty high, it probably needs to be weighed pros/cons against Ironman Canada in more detail, but I’ve got almost a year before I’d have to sign up. Unfortunately I need to decide on which race to do before I can hear first-hand stories about Cozumel from Stefan.

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Mental Training

I have a sense that I spent a vast majority of the last year mentally training for Ironman and not so much physically training for Ironman. When I go back and look at the training log there are very very few sessions in there that were physically challenging to complete. When I look at how I trained 4 years ago when I was just getting into the sport, I was physically challenging myself a lot more than I did this season. Recently I’ve been trying to do so much all the time that the thing that’s limiting me from training better is basically fatigue management. Mental gymnastics to motivate myself into adding more aerobic training load to the table. I never wanted to go so hard one day that I was potentially sacrificing tomorrow’s training. That’s supposed to be the golden rule… but I spent 7 months on the edge of getting too tired. That was almost the only mode of training and it became a total mental game. If I recount what was physically challenging I can list it all for 2010, I can’t do that for last year, it would mean copying and pasting 5 out of 10 workouts each week most months.

Workouts where I got to a limit of what I could do during the 2010 season:

  1. One part of one ride at the spring training camp on the bike I totally challenged what I could ask myself to do. The entire rest of the camp I was too concerned with not getting too tired.
  2. My first 30km run of the year was a challenge, it was a big step up from what I was doing, muscles could barely handle it past 26kms.
  3. Sunday morning bike race way back April was a challenge, I got to race a category above what I normally am allowed into and raced HARD. It would have qualified for the list even if I hadn’t tacked on another 100kms to the back end of it to make an iron-ride out of the day as well.
  4. The Calgary Police Half marathon was a challenge, and I succeeded in going sub 90 minutes for the first time ever.
    • May had no challenges, not surprisingly I was so stressed out from organizing that race that I had no ability to challenge myself in training, only to do it.
    • 40 runs in 40 days was tough but it didn’t challenge the physical limits in any workouts, just mental ones.
  5. Highwood pass double traverse: The only time I think my endurance was challenged – completing the 300km ride.
  6. Chinook Half was only challenging on the run, I couldn’t mentally cope on the bike with frustration and lack of experience riding my TT rig. Fortunately I then I got off and lit up a great run.
    • The Ditch Bonk – challenge? er… no… Stupidity?
  7. Great White North. Challenging swim, bike and run. I had spent so much time on the edge of getting too tired that this one really knocked me down for the count. As you probably recall I got smoked.
  8. Challenging bike ride 185km two man TT “race” just prior to my mini epic camp.
  9. 3×10km poker pacing run during epic camp. No challenging riding or swimming happened all week despite netting 47 hours. Just mentally tough to get through.
  10. The 34km run 3 weeks prior to race day was a challenge, largely brought on by the heat.
  11. Ironman Canada. Challenged the pain threshold for miles 16 through 26. I’m not sure if I really should be counting this as the race, or just the run. If I use the same criteria as my other rides through the summer this ride wouldn’t actually have made the cut which as a challenging ride. I’m not sure what to think about that. It means there’s still something to accomplish out there.

In retrospect I netted 10 times physically challenging myself in the course of 6 months prior to race day and spent the rest of it on the balancing edge of getting too tired by doing too much. My gut feeling is that this ratio is not correct. Considering that 5 of those were brought on by racing and only 5 were in training on average I was challenging myself in training less than once a month?

I had a good chat with my coach today and he wasn’t overly surprised by this tally. Not nearly as surprised as I was. I mentioned the fact that I had read that Mirinda Carfrae was doing two really focused and challenging bike workouts per week all year and it looks to have paid off at the world championships. His comment was that’s all well and fine but we can’t just look at how the person trained during their last year before the race. We have to look at their whole career. I myself have been saying that Ironman training takes more than a year so I should agree. Sometimes it’s hard to agree with myself though! I did a good job of finding a coach whose philosophy I agree with, so when I now wonder and have all sorts of questions it feels kind of like I’m the one who’s saying to myself “I told you so”.

Often when I read about how people who are better than me train, they have designed a training schedule where there are key sessions to show up for… and you physically challenge yourself each time you go do them. Step 1: Get mentally charged up for the workout. Step 2. Go nuts! I did mentally get charged up for a few workouts this summer… and they all got listed here. I had a schedule and mindset where everything was just a part of the whole and you had to dole out your ability to train carefully so you could do it all. I did get faster on the run since February but I’m not totally convinced that I got a whole lot on the bike or the swim.. I slapped together 3 x 20 hours weeks in a row in February in the middle of winter when I had less than 8 hours a day of sunlight to deal with and the cards were stacked against me. Later on in the summer I was equally fatigued from putting together a string of 20-22 hour weeks. I think that means I was a bit too close to the edge of being too tired for too long. Getting to that edge is important, it makes you strong for Ironman but I’m not convinced I need to go there and sit there for months at a time. Going to visit is nice, but a few weeks visit a few times a season is probably enough.

I made a chart that shows my moving average equivalent hours of work representative of RPE and it starts out when Steven started coaching me at 1.4. We did a 30/30/30 challenge and by the end of it I was down to 1.3. I stayed right around 1.3 all the way until we neared the end of the 40/40/40 at which point it falls off to 1.25 and it stayed there through until late July. During August and my taper it rose up to 1.35 by race day. In comparison to the season prior, I spent the winter “low” at 1.35 and it increased and increased my intensity along with with my training load. Then I overdid it a bit towards the end with the intensity and volume getting a bit out of control at 1.55 and I wound up flat for my season ending race. Along the way though, I had some fantastic performances and I got really really fit. I might have had a higher functional threshold power last year than I did this year. I absolutely would not have been surprised if I had power data to back this guess up. It was not a slouch on the bike this year but I might not be faster. I saw my average speeds from our Icefields Double Traverse last July and I don’t think I could have done any better this year.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

What does this trend tell me? I think it’s saying I beat myself down too hard in late May and June. My average training intensity was falling at a point in the season where the “big base” should have already been built. I would think that with 12 weeks to go to Ironman that you should be thinking about picking up the specificity which would mean trading in some of the long long long slow slow slow, for Ironman pace and perhaps paring back a bit of the overall load to do so. I hampered the ability to design things that way by racing a few times during this part of the year. I would have ideally made the turn towards gradually rising intensity at the beginning of June rather than the middle of July. Making that shift earlier probably would have meant I would have have trained with a bit more intensity, stressed the muscles a bit more and been a bit stronger. It would have meant I had a bit more power at IM effort. Maybe it would have meant I could have run faster from mile 16 through to the finish.

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Ironman Training – A retrospective

Ironman training is not really a one year thing.

I’m talking about the kind of training that it takes to do Ironman as a race. The vast majority of people out there are not doing Ironman as a race, they’re doing Ironman as a stunt. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it’s a stunt, a “look at me, let’s see if I can do this” kind of undertaking and it does not require what I’m about to describe. I also know that it doesn’t take more than one year to prepare to do the stunt called Ironman because hundreds of people do it every year, they watch the race on Sunday, sign up on Monday, and start training on Tuesday. The next year they make their way to the finish line on Sunday and are spending Monday spending in the merchandise tent outfitting themselves with all kinds of clothing and widgets with M-dot insignia to tell everyone that they were successful at the Ironman stunt.

Ironman was conceived as a race and to tackle Ironman with any sort of race-mentality or race-approach there’s a requisite level of ability in swimming, cycling and running required. I wasn’t keen on attempting 226kms of racing until I was going to do 226kms of racing and not just performing the stunt. I would recommend the same thing, and to do that requires a few years of learning to swim, bike, and run. Learning what different paces feel like in the pool and on the road. Learning approximately how long you can last for a variety of these different paces. Learning that you can push your body to do a bit more than you know is possible. Learning what kind of effort it takes to do 25kph 30kph 35kph and 40kph on the road with your bike. Learning what it feels like to accumulate fatigue over the course of a period of tough training and learning to trust your body to recover and get stronger when you unload training stress. Learning how to change a flat tyre on your bike. Learning how to request a higher level of performance from your body on race day than you do on any other random given day of the week. Learning how to consume food and nutrition while exercising at intensities that allow for it. Learning how much clothing is appropriate to wear in a vast array of differing environmental conditions. I think those are all prerequisites to deciding to try and race an Ironman. None of it is necessarily difficult but I believe that all of it is important, without those basic skills, you would have too much experience to gain that you’re going to be unable to train yourself effectively without getting caught up addressing details throughout the preceding year. When push comes to shove, you need to direct your attention to training your body rather than learning how to train your body. Learn in the minor leagues, perform in the majors.

It would be awfully nice to have completed all three legs of an Ironman as stand-alone events prior to race day. The confidence boosting aspect of not setting a record longest ride, longest swim, or longest run at the same time as trying to race Ironman is worthwhile. If you’re out there for the stunt, then disregard this, why not make Ironman your longest swim, longest bike and longest run. The stunt is just all the more impressive if you do it that way. If you’re racing though, the extra stress is nothing but bad news for you. You’ll likely do the swim and ride durations many times throughout the year but likely will never do the run in that final year if you’re being intelligent about it. (Full article about why that would be considered intelligence) In short: the recovery from doing so will cost you too many days recovering of the 365 in that last year to be of net-benefit. Thus to have previously run a marathon at some point in your athletic career is a real asset.

I did 800 hours in the preceding 12 months. That averages to about 16 hours a week. I did 700 the year before that. Ironman takes a lot of training so you’d better love training. Even Ironman athletes who are way on the low end of the spectrum with an average of around 10 hours per week are still doing more than an hour a day on average. That is a lot of training. The 800 hours level of volume is almost certainly more than what you need to be able to race, but it’s not unreasonably high by any stretch of the imagination compared to others in the sport. 800 hours is likely somewhere close to what is required to get yourself in and around the 10 hour mark.

That said, you don’t need to do it fast to have a good time. My biggest goal this season was to have fun. Luckily for me training is fun, especially riding. I think I would have had just as much fun on race-day if I did it in 12 hours if 12 hours was what I was prepared to do as a best effort. My second goal was to finish (an important goal for first timers!). My third goal was to run the entire marathon. I didn’t have a time goal but rather a time target of 10 hours to keep me on track for what I knew I could do rather than what I hoped I could do. I was within a percentage of that in the end and so I’m at peace with it despite agonizing over that one minute quite a bit in the following week. Be careful about setting goals, they can make the sport a lot less enjoyable. On a slightly related note I think it’s mightily important to get approval from the people in your life before you try and train 800 hours. That’s a lot of hours.

Running

Despite what you may like to believe, I believe that triathlon is all about the run. You may cite examples of various race outcomes that might seem to suggest otherwise but on average over the many years that this sport has evolved and changed, it’s the best runners who are the best triathletes. That doesn’t mean that they don’t ride well, or swim well, but more often than not it’s the guys who can approach the run like it’s an ace in the hole that are performing to their potential. They need to be smart about the bike ride but they don’t need to worry about going too hard, they’re good enough runners that they can do portions of the bike “too hard” when it’s strategically advantageous to do so and still run extremely close to their potential. Treating a triathlon as though the run leg is the most important makes you want to be a great swimmer and a great rider. You’re going to train hard on the bike because you want to arrive to T2 ready to lay down a run split that is within only a few percent of your open run time over that distance. This means running the whole marathon no exceptions. Having the ability to run that entire marathon is going to make or break any charade of whether or not you raced Ironman. To do that you need to make yourself into a runner. (You’re also going to have to be a cyclist so you can ride 180kms to even start that run running).

A year ago I wouldn’t consider myself to be a runner. Now I would. I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary except make running a priority. My biggest run week was at around 90 kms. Based on the decision of my coach I took a low intensity approach and tried to target high frequency. Many weeks I ran every day if only a bit. For basically all of it I used a heart rate cap of 162bpm which is my maximum aerobic function heart rate. How you settle on a heart-rate to use can be as the result of gas analysis while running on a treadmill or guessed at by some combination of formulas as originally explored by Dr. Phil Maffetone. Get your google search going and you can find all sorts of info on this approach and will likely also find this endorsement from uuber-Ironman-runner Mark Allen. The purpose is/was to develop durability and efficiency at around IMpace, which is going to be aerobic and likely sub-maximally so. There are a lot of people out there who will tell you that you don’t need speedwork for Ironman because you will not run fast, no-one runs fast. When you’re building up your durability and making aerobic development this is totally correct. There’s a point to doing some fast running though as on occasion it’s necessary to make your muscles sore and to develop run strength. Not doing this is going to result in your legs giving up before you lungs and that’s what happened to me. It’s the better of the two options though, because if you’re not fit enough you go really really slow despite how strong you are, if you’re not quite strong enough you’ll slow a bit but it just really hurts. Speedwork: that’s icing on the cake, so you first need the cake. I got the cake baked but didn’t have the time to ice it completely on my first go-round. If someday I am going to try it again I’d hope to be able to put some more icing on the cake, but I wouldn’t force it, you’ve got to be confident that you’ve got that cake baked first. So, back to the strict aerobic cake baking strategy… The strategy means you often run tired but never run sore. Tired running is where you’re going to make your biggest leaps in running economy and if you’re challenging yourself with the volume this is also a great place to be developing mental fortitude. This is the kind of mental strength you need as it’s race-specific. Mimi from Endurance Corner stated it like this: “Train tired. Learn to push through fatigue that is driven largely by volume, not intensity. Being able to get the job done when tired builds capacity for concentration.” As the race approaches, it comes time to choose a realistic target pace and run a lot at that target pace so you know what it feels like. Ideally you do this enough that it becomes default pace and when you leave T2 you don’t need to think too much, on race day you’ll just run.

Where to start? If you’re unable to run 45 minutes every other day for a statistically significant duration (ie, twice running 45 minutes in three days doesn’t suggest that you could do it forever) then that’s the first target. Get to the point where you feel like you could do 45 minutes every other day for the rest of your life. Once there, starting daily running even if just for short durations is a great way to boost the run volume and start working on efficiency and durability. There are numerous ways to do it including a 30 day run challenge where you try and run 30 times in 30 days with some minimum duration. There area a boatload of variations on this challenge including increasing the duration or varying the minimum. I did a 30 minute minimum for 30 days and then a 40 minute minimum for 40 days in my lead-up to Ironman. A friend did a 40 minute minimum for a month and there’s talk of a crew of us trying 100 runs in 100 days starting on New Years Day 2011 to build a big run base for next summer. (20×20min 30×30min, 40×40min, 10xhalf marathon is one proposed minimum, 100×10kms is another which has the added bonus that you’d also conquer 1000kms during the challenge which is at least as good a number as any other (stats are stupid but they’re also fun.).

The Swim

I’m a mediocre swimmer at best so I don’t think you should take a whole lot of stock in my advice on how to swim well. My biggest swim week was at around 20 kms but it only happened before I was trying to boost volume in the other disciplines. Throughout the rest of the year I tried to swim more than 10 kms more weeks than not. I swam as much as I could with a coach on deck. I also made an effort to try to swim intervals rather than just zombie swimming in the pool for an hour. I also tracked progress at how fast I could do a 4000 yard TimeTrial approximately each month. Lots of the stats from those Friday-night swim TTs made it into this blog so you can see my progression and retrogression and re-progression if you want by using the search box. This mentally prepares you to pace a long swim and it should show you progression of your speed when your training is working. I got the idea from Chuckie Veylupek, who is a mighty fine swimmer as far as triathletes go and a beacon of hope for people who start swimming later in life. The same concept (track progress on long swim) was reinforced by my coach Steven Lord when he came on board. Ideally you’ll want to see improvements in your 4000yd speed.

4000yd speed is supposed to be threshold speed, so you could also use Mr. Smooth’s critical swim speed calculator or the threshold speed calculator formula suggested by TrainingPeaks. They’re the same calculation, and I think the same one that my coach uses/used (same results anyway). Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim though and that can’t be avoided, so doing the long swim is a demon you’re going to have to face eventually… better to start sooner rather than later.

When the improvements arise, look at what you’ve been doing and then keep doing it! Like I said I am not yet a good swimmer but I felt like I prepared with a high degree of specificity for what this swim would be like and thus did an acceptable job on race day. You don’t need to do all strokes in the pool but if you swim enough it is a good thing to do them all as you get more in tune with how your body moves in the water than if you just do front crawl. I will be doing more varied strokes next season. I also am kicking myself for not learning to flip turn ages ago. Partly because it makes you faster but partly because it forces you to hold your breath for a bit on every single length. Despite never flip turning during the race that’s an Ironman specific skill. When you get hit and splashed and dragged under you’re going to have to skip a breath now and again and you damn well need to be able to do it and keep swimming otherwise the hitting and dragging and splashing is going to continue. Flip turning is now on the menu of things to tackle for me.

The Bike

It’s not all about the bike, but if you want to be an Ironman you need to spend an awful lot of time on your bike. So the first order of business would be to get some good shorts and get comfortable riding a lot. Get a sore ass. If you can ride with effort long enough that you are having a hard time sitting on your bike. Then you’re probably riding enough. It happens to me when I get past 400 miles in 4 days.

This year between Jan and race-day I rode 10000 kms. Biggest week was 1000 kms. I targeted 400kms most weeks since May and accomplished the target basically whenever I didn’t have an excuse (ie no bike to ride). I once did 300kms in a day to see what a 10 hour day was like. You certainly don’t need to do this, but it is confidence building if you can. Do it in 10 weeks out at the latest if you do or it will interrupt your training close to the race when it counts more.

Most weekends since April I rode more than 6 hours one day and the other day some other combination of riding and running totaling more than 4 hours, often 5 or 6. I rode my TT bike a lot, but did recovery rides on my road bike. I often rode alone, I also often rode with groups. You can do both only if you ride a lot. If you only ride a bit you need to ride alone or at least don’t draft and make sure you’re the one setting the pace so you’re learning pace judgement at the same time. Now that I write that I realize: essentially all of my riding this year was self-selected pace. When I group-rode I did pace setting for a vast majority of the time. That’s a big coup and it made a big difference. Sitting on the front of a paceline into a headwind sitting straight upright to make a big draft and trying to keep a group together is good motivation to keep the power steady and high.

In the off season I rode inside on a stationary bike with a weighted flywheel. It’s lousy riding but it makes for a good workout as everything is some form of drill or interval. There’s no such thing as an easy ride inside, you’ll loose your mind if you try to do it. I made a point this year in the out-of-season season to nudge up my cadence a bit and really work on my pedal stroke. These weren’t weaknesses, they were already strengths, but neuromuscular efficiency is of high importance when you’re going to be riding a lot and so I made a point of focusing on them while inside. Riding aero doesn’t become too important until ~8 weeks out from a race (in my opinion) at which point you’ve got to switch and then start riding aero almost exclusively. I wouldn’t bother being strict with it at all and ride the aerobars if you want to but never force yourself if you don’t want to during out-of-season season, sit up let yourself breathe fully and don’t restrict your hip angle. You’ll be a better cyclist and get a better workout as a result.

I often rode more than 200kms and during the last two months did up to 50% of my long rides at IMeffort. Lots of 20,30,60 minute intervals at IM pace with 25% duration easy between each. That’s the formula for “Muscular Endurance” according to Joe Friel. I’d rather just call it what it is, TT specificity. Not a lot of sprinting since April, but in the winter I did lots of drills and shorter intervals to make the most of my time when riding stationary bikes. Then on race day I rode conservative the whole way. I never worked hard on the bike at all, this might sound crazy as I was fastest in my AG, that’s true though. Luckily I was able to get ahead of this traffic jam though:

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

IM effort on the bike takes learning. What I ended up targeting would be described by this highly unscientific formula:

~10 beats per minute below the highest HR you’ve ever averaged in a half Ironman and still run within 2% of your open Half Marathon time after it.

Likely unless you’ve been around the block a few times you don’t have an actual datapoint for this. It’s likely ~20bpm lower than your running Maximum aerobic function HR. In retrospect I may have been able to push a bit harder on the bike during Ironman. It’s also likely true that I could have pushed slightly harder on the bike in the Half Ironman I was basing this estimate on as I ran a Half marathon PR, so I was within 0% of my PR instead of the 2% or so that I would have allowed for. When I trained at IMeffort I typically tried to average the ceiling of what I would eventually actually attempt on race day. IMeffort in training often netted me around 37-39kph and on race day I did less than 35 which was partly due to conditions but partly intentional, to take it easy in the race.

Training Load

You’re going to want to take an out-of-season break from structured training sometime in the winter to recharge a bit and relax. Then once you get going again the key will be to stay uninjured and healthy all the way through to the race without any gaps in your training. That’s a tall order. Until you take that break you should be stretching yourself a bit and finding out what kind of weekly volume is sustainable and manageable. It’s OK if you get too tired once or twice and have to back it off to recover. The idea being that once the real season starts in earnest you’re not going to make mistakes of biting off more than you can chew… because at that point you’re sacrificing race-performance if you miss training. During the pre-season season, you’re just learning how your body responds so pay attention to it and write a lot of stuff down. How far out from the race you want to “start” your buildup is a matter of preference. Many professionals often do 11 months of it every year but they’re fitting in some mid-season R&R as well. I did 8 months of gung-ho and it was a bit long and I think that 6 months would be more ideal. Ideal is a relative term. If the weather decides to be minus 40 then I better decide to not try and do 20 hour training weeks. On the contrary, when you’re motivated to train because there’s no snow on the roads in the middle of February you should capitalize on it and ride your bike!

One other note that I only remedied mid-season was that when you look at your training log in week by week chunks it is easy to miss details like one back-end loaded week being followed by a front-end loaded week. Those sorts of things can make you more tired or more rested than you believe should be the case. I switched to calculating an acute stress score and a chronic stress score in a similar manner to that done by TrainingPeaks’ WKO+ language and as a result I got a much better handle on it. I’ve yet to settle on what I believe to be the best way to calculate race-readiness as the training stress balance metric used by WKO+ leaves something to be desired, the problem is that I haven’t pinpointed it yet. What I’ve got is pretty good, it gives me a curve of where my fitness would go if I stopped training right now. It would rise for a while while I rested and then start to fall. I’ve also used it as a gauge on how much training stress I think I should be able to handle… perhaps I’ll write a bit on that in the future.

I’ll leave this post off with a comparison between my planned training stress and my actual execution of training during my taper for Ironman. I was basically able to execute exactly what I wanted to during the final month.

taper plan

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Recovery is over

Recovery is over. I’m training hard enough as of this week to make my quads sore which should be a sign that I’m no longer holding anything back. In case there was any uncertainty, for me that’s a good thing. Some pretty tough intervals on Monday, a 750m swim TT with fins on Tuesday morning, a cyclocross race on Tuesday evening and a cross country running race on Wednesday evening. My legs are shelled and I’m loving it! I think I can tell I’ve lost some fitness over the last 6 weeks since I was last “training hard” with 3 weeks of taper and three weeks of recovery. I have no lingering fatigue from Ironman at this stage though. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell I spent the summer training for it, I certainly can. I’m not fast, that’s how I can tell. I spent all summer getting “long” instead of getting “fast” and so it’s taking me some serious time to dig up what fast is like. I am surprisingly capable of driving my HR way up and holding it there. That’s not a problem. I though I might just not be able to sustain a mega-high heart rate for a long duration but I’ve run the last two cross country races at an average HR over 180 bpm which for me is high! I also netted a new HRmax for the season last night at 197bpm. Still quite a ways short of what I think I could probably do if I was trying to test for it directly but that’s high nonetheless. The things that I’m really not good at include creating huge accelerations on the bike back-to-back-to-back. Pretty quickly I find myself unable to drop the hammer when I’m trying to launch myself out of a corner and am just pedaling along without any gusto with the high effort and high heart rate. I also am miserable at running down hills. This is actually really sad for me because I thought I used to be good at this, better than average at least. In no uncertain terms though – I am not good at this right now. I can’t spin the legs over as quickly as I need to be able to do to run down any hill with serious speed and momentum. Hopefully I can make amends on this in the next few weeks though as I’m going to throw away a lot of time at Winterstart in Banff if I can’t launch myself down that hill full tilt in November.

I should also point out that this great movie was made of the Ironman race in Penticton last month and I star in it around the 2:45 point. Take a look:

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The Run

This post is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here).

Out of T2 I felt fantastic. Having mostly jogged transition I was ready to hit full stride the instant I was on the pavement and immediately dialed in all my attention to the pace I was planning to run, I narrowed my focus and started dealing with the splits one by one. My garmin was going to take a split each 500m for me. 5:00/km is the goal, 4:50 is too fast 5:10 is too slow. All the stuff in between is probably alright, because worrying about 5 seconds here and there will make me go crazy. It took a bit to start getting them right but by the time I’d hit the first mile I was on track. I was carrying a bottle with two cans of cola in it with extra electrolytes added. It was still partly frozen slush as I drank and had 90% gone by the first aid station so I dropped it there rather than carrying an empty bottle for another mile and took a stop at the toilet to empty my bladder. That bottle drank and my stomach feeling perfect, my energy levels up and my body temperature back within normal ranges all had settled me down, I ran, I breathed and I let my heart beat. That’s about it. I didn’t think, I just rode on auto-pilot, 500 meters at a time.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

By three kilometers in I had shaken off the early run nerves. I was hitting splits on target. I would continue to get every split correct, or be able to get back on track for the next split all the way through until 10 miles where the hills begin. I was repeating the same pattern each aid station. Check if it’s a multiple of three, if it is, eat a gel drink some water, if it’s not, drink some coke and gatorade. By mile 3 I was adding ice to my top. I’d stash it there and finish with the eating or drinking and then while I ran I’d redistribute the ice that was stashed at my chest into my arm-coolers either in the crook of my elbows where the veins are at the surface or on my wrists where the veins are on the surface. I was staying cool, calm and focused, predominantly on not running too hard. I hadn’t worked hard yet. It was 3pm in the afternoon.

Race Splits

I caught one of the pro men who was trundling along at about this point. He’d had a 15 minute head start on me but I caught him just as Matt Lieto was going the other way. I gave Matt a big cheer but he wasn’t doing so good apparently surviving instead of stalking the guys ahead of him. Too bad, I was rooting for the guy. In any case it prompted myself and Lewis to start chatting. He was having a rough day and I trucked along up the first hill (and really the only one of significant consequence when heading south) with him and then dropped him on the descent when I let my legs run down the far side. I trucked along towards the turn-around some splits faster and some slower but all were ok I thought, I trusted the average was 5:00/km instead of trying to calculate anything, don’t think, just run.

I made the turn and grabbed my special needs bag, I had another bottle of salted coke in there but I didn’t take it, just took a fruit leather and a mini ziploc with gummy coke bottles and left all the other stuff there on the ground. I gave Dad a hug, and then started running again. I didn’t see Mom, she would have got a hug too, but apparently I waved at her when I thought I was just waving to the crowd. Oops. I saw my brother with his camera out, did some eating and got back to focused running again up the hills back towards home. Some of the splits here in the middle weren’t so stellar but they were not a disaster either. I reached the big climb that I’d gapped Lewis on at that point and hunkered down thinking to myself “don’t let you HR come up too much” and I didn’t but threw away some more time taking it easy on the ascent and relatively easy on the descent instead of letting my legs run full tilt down the back. Down the steepest hill and into the toilet at the next aid station, I thought I had to go or at least I felt like I had to go while running, apparently not, the body does weird stuff. Soon back on the road I skipped taking any calories at the next stop, just water and some ice in the arms. The gut feeling was gone quite quickly as I ran through the next stretch but I had discovered some cramping in my quads, rector femoris, probably brought on by the hills, the stopping, the sitting, the standing, the starting, they weren’t too bad initially but my function deteriorated slowly and my running form got a bit modified. I got a quick cramp in my left hamstring at one point and hop skipped to a stop, I leaned forward and stretched it out and got back running in a couple seconds. Not bad, just keep moving. I had crossed the 10 miles to go point with 1 hour 21 minutes left on the clock to stay inside 10 hours. I had now all but run out of that contingency time even though I didn’t think I had been using it. I had a minute to spare on top of the 5 minute pace and that was it. I had made it to within 10 miles of the finish before I started to contemplate what remained in the task ahead. Not bad at all. I knew that salt was likely not going to do nothing for my legs but it wasn’t going to do anything bad. I pulled out my little stash of salt pills and ate a dozen of them all in one shot. I swallowed them dry, who needs water to swallow a handful of pills? I’m going to be an Ironman by the end of the day. I narrowed my focus again and got back to trying at knocking off those 5 minute kilometers.

Now it wasn’t a matter of effort. I couldn’t expend any effort without my muscles failing me so I trotted along just as fast as I could go never really being able to push or try hard at all. I had visualized and imagined so many times getting to some point in the run where I was tired and I just needed to dig deep and bury myself on the run in to the finish. Now I couldn’t, I couldn’t try as hard as I wanted to try. I was fit enough, I was fueled enough, I was mentally strong enough but my muscles were just not strong enough to run any faster than I was going. I wasn’t really slowing down initially from the pace I had been running prior to the onset of the cramps but eventually I did, going up the gradual hill back into town put the reigns on me and I slowed enough that I would now find myself for the first time having to run faster than 5:00/km to get under that 10 hour barrier. Reaching the top of the hill with about 4 kms to go I could see down to the lake, a 2km long gradual descent and then a flat 2kms along Lakeshore before the finish. My ‘fastest capable pace’ quickened a bit but I was still just running easy. I felt like I wanted to start sprinting but my legs would have none of it. At 40kms I checked my watch for the first time to check the actual time of the day while on the run. I had about 11 minutes to run 2.2 kms. I still felt it was possible and gave it my best shot. I was within earshot of the finish when Steve King was getting the crowd to start cheering in people to nip under 10 hours. Today it wasn’t going to happen and I knew it. I let off the gas with a couple hundred meters to go. Spotted a high five in the finish chute, stopped and walked along the blue carpet for a moment, my first steps walking on the entire marathon, and soaked it up there were so many people cheering it was on the border of overwhelming so I stopped and turned and gave a big wave and finally I made my way over and broke the tape and made my way across the line.

Finish Finish

The Garmin file is here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/47041360 my heart rate monitor was doing stupid stuff for the first hour and a half and then settled in. I had quit watching it after the first 100 meters so never noticed what it was saying when it started to report correct information in the second half. Not that it really mattered anyway.

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Ironman Results

The race report is in three parts. The Swim (here) The Bike (here) and The Run (here). Results are below.

Ironman Canada

Thanks to Reuben Krabbe for shooting this photo in pouring rain and what my Edge500 recorded as 12oC. Official results are here… detailed splits of the run showing my pacing are in the appropriate portion of the race report:

BIB AGE STATE/COUNTRY PROFESSION
184 24 EDMONTON AB CAN STUDENT (OF TRIATHLON)

SWIM BIKE RUN OVERALL RANK DIV.POS.
1:05:00 5:13:50 3:36:44 10:01:19 97 3

LEG DISTANCE PACE RANK DIV.POS.
TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (1:05:00) 1:42/100m 542 11
FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 42 mi. (1:52:44) 22.35 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 70 mi. (3:21:06) 20.89 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:13:50) 21.41 mph 83 4
FIRST RUN SEGMENT 13.1 mi. (1:47:15) 8:11/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 13.1 mi. (1:49:29) 8:21/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (3:36:44) 8:16/mile 97 3
   
TRANSITION TIME
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 2:42
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 3:03
   

 

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The last big one

Split speeds and HR

Gotta post the “lows” as well as the “highs”. I set out today to run 3 hours, the second hour at goal pace and the third hour was supposed to be faster than goal pace. I tried to do it when it was hot out. It was really hot out. I made a route that looped past my house twice so I could drink and reload on fuel, and I selected a course that was hilly for the middle third, just like the race-course in Penticton. There were some successes despite the obvious discrepancy between reality and where the “goal line” is indicating what my average pace should have done if I would have been running exactly 5:00min/kms after the first hour.

Successes on an unsuccessful day:

  • I ran my second longest run of my life. (34.3kms)
  • I had zero cramping whatsoever.
  • I had a totally overwhelming urge to quit and lay down at 26.5kms. I had been really pushing it for the first 20 minutes of that third hour and was holding my splits under a 5:10 pace, which was already not on track for what I was supposed to be doing, but was at least relatively close. My HR was rising though and I was getting pretty close to total detonation. I am pretty proud to announce that I didn’t stop and lay down under a tree. I was able to negotiate myself into slowing down a bit, getting my HR back down closer to 160bpm for 2kms and feeling much better about my situation. The miracle here was that even though I felt like I was totally throwing the run out the window it was only costing me about 10 seconds per 500m split. From there I got back on track a bit better and did what I’d consider acceptable running through to the end. Giving up some time during that mini recovery section made all the difference and I got back on the bandwagon before the end of the run.
  • DeSoto Coolwings work well when you can keep them wet, especially with cool water. They are a liability if you can’t keep them wet. And they’re about equivalent to having nothing if you’re pouring warm water on them. Luckily in the race, I have essentially unlimited access to water and ice to tuck into them.
  • I was able to tell my body to run fast on the downhills during the middle hilly section. Despite not hitting pace on the uphills I was making up for it by cruising the downhills with good speed, these sections of the run probably are contributing the most to my post-run aches and pains, but I have the confidence to run fast downhill when I can, I don’t think I need to prove this to myself anymore before the race, but it was good to do so today. I suffer a lot lugging my 85kgs up the hills so I need to capitalize where I can use that weight to my advantage. I attribute this to putting a lot of focus on fast turnover this past year and often brick running at 0% gradient on the treadmill during the winter when I was forced to be inside.
  • I could eat whatever I wanted despite the hot temperatures and high heart rates. I also noted that I can drink about 500mls in one go without making the stomach contents slosh beyond what is an acceptable level of uncomfortable. I didn’t run out of energy at all, or at least I was so preoccupied with being hot, and the high effort level to keep going that I felt like I had lots of energy.
  • My hip flexors and quads were not phased at all by this run… historically they did the most complaining when I did big runs. This time it was the hamstrings that led the revolt after I wrapped it up.
  • My racing shoes felt good up to 34kms so I’ll use them at Ironman instead of my more robust daily training shoes to loose a hundred grams off each foot. The longest I’d run in them had been 21kms previously so I wasn’t sure if I’d want the extra padding or not: I don’t.
  • My chin wasn’t hot at all and I’m not cutting my goatee. I do need a haircut because my head was baking though.
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Great White North 2010

Today’s post in three acts. There was also a prequel to this blog entry available here, which has all the graphy goodness so you don’t want to miss it.

Act 1 – A Story

Bring a steak knife to the carbo-dinner for Great White North 2011! The steak was great, but the flimsy knife given to cut it was not.

Simmon and I rolled out of Edmonton shortly before six with a mostly blue sky greeting us as we headed west towards the lake. Between the time we arrived and pumped up my tyres (running new tires on both front and back now… conti-podium on front conti-sprinter on rear) the cloud cover came in and by the time the race started it was a grey day. The weather was fantastically forgiving, not punishing you for making small errors in early pace judgement and inadequate fueling/drinking in the same way that blast furnace heat would.

Prior to the start I did my best to stay away from the large crowds of stressed out triathletes and was able to stay calm while 750 other people managed to seem to do everything but. No real start line was drawn but the waters edge was what I believed to be implied. With the 10 second warning there were people up to knee deep in the lake and arranged myself into what was a third row kind of position. The start was quick but not crazy and a general desire to not get punched in the face seemed to prevail amongst the melee of arms and legs so despite looking like an absolute washing machine every time I lifted my eyes to sight there was minimal actually hitting and kicking going on. The 400 meters to the first turn went by quickly with mostly 2 stroke breathing and the occasional 3 stroke to change sides with hopes of avoiding breathing in big splashes of water. Then we hit the brakes… and we hit the brakes HARD. 750 people all needed to make the turn at the first buoy and to do so people were slowing so quickly that I slid right up someone’s back as I was trying to glide coast into the traffic jam. Then zoom, sprinting out of the corner to clear the bunch. The drafting opportunities were fantastic and I took advantage of many of them as we progressed in to the beach and I was back to bilateral breathing for the rest of the way. The approaching shallows of the lake-shore were tasted before they were seen or felt. All the muck (muck is just a nice way of saying goose poo I’m sure) was churned up and I had a good laugh as I stood up and jogged around the buoy for lap 2. I hoped to swim the same perceived pace as the previous lap but this was easier said than done. Getting through a thick pack of swimmers is no easy thing, especially when there’s the occasional person swimming perpendicular to the generally perceived direction of flow. I had a good laugh inside on more than one occasion and placed myself in some very excellent drafts… but the effort level on lap 2 was lower than I would have liked, there wasn’t much I could do. I can’t really complain about the clowns swimming zig-zag all the way along the course, if I was a faster swimmer I wouldn’t have to deal with it… and that’s no-ones fault but my own.

T2 was pretty quick, I heard Steve King announce my name as I headed out of the lake and also heard him mention Travis Anderson at about the same time so I hoped to see him on the bike and wish him a good race. Tough luck, Travis’ transition was slower than mine and I wouldn’t see him until well into the run. I gave Glenn a big high five and he stripped my wetsuit like a real champion, one swoop and it was off, and then so was I. Helmet, shoes, number. Go! No fancy ITU mount for me today, the bike course started on an uphill with no room to coast so I put my shoes on at the bike rack and the executed a mount that any cyclocrosser could have been proud of. I think I probably passed 30 athletes in transition and another 5 at the mount line while I flew through the air before landing on my seat. Good thing too as I had been the 99th swimmer out of the water and I wanted as little traffic ahead of me as possible.

When I saw my HR for the first time on the bike it registered at 175bpm… which was only 2 bpm shy of the maximum it would see for the day which occurred somewhere in the process of my heroically fast transition and mount. I took it almost silly-easy as we rolled down the long gradual hill away from the lake towards town with a tailwind, I followed another dude at a legal distance as he did the job of shouting at everyone else that he was passing them on their left and I could just follow suit. This was nice and it saved me adrenaline, stress and lots of breaths. Once we turned south my HR had recovered back to a level were I felt like I should be allowed to start turning the pedals with any effort I passed the shouter as he had served my purpose and drove off. My HR was too high through town, 160bpm or thereabouts, and kept it easy as I waited for it to come down. Was it taking this long to recover from a hard swim? Was it just taking time to redistribute the blood through my body to the big movers in my legs? No stress, just keep riding easy, I unintentionally jettisoned a bottle of gatorade as we crossed the railway. I was evidently not the only person to loose stuff there as there were bottles aplenty lying in the curb. I didn’t really care about getting those calories or picking up other drink on the course as there were so many aid stations. Off I rolled.

By the time I passed Mike Downey (the fastest UofA Tri-club swimmer of the day @ 28:58 – huge props!) my HR had settled down to 155 with me starting to pedal with any effort. I wished him luck as I was now able to start riding a steady pace. I continued on at the steady pace adding in periods of moderate effort when we went up slight inclines through first a long crosswind and then a headwind section. I rolled through 40kms at 60:48 ride time and calculated myself to have an average speed of ~39.5kph. This was pretty slow but considering I’d basically coasted down the hill away from the lake and hadn’t done any work yet I wasn’t worried. It would pick up as I had now started to get into a groove and could ride as I felt I wanted to and had planned to. I soon saw Dave sporting his compression socks and saw he was riding with Kelly and Annette, whom I presumed to be the leading females. I chatted with Annette and then set off. I calculated Dave’s average speed through 40kms to have been between 38 and 38.5 kph presuming he swam 2 minutes faster than me, I figured he was having a good day and was happy for him as I started to enter lonely territory in the race. There was no-one around, more motorbikes than cyclists! I suppose that the marshals want to make sure that the leaders aren’t cheating, but the real issues are back in the packs, which would inevitably be forming without enforcement from officials. When I caught the next cyclist I realized why, it was the lead female, Kristina, to whom I relayed the info that Annette and Kelly appeared to be riding with eachother quite a ways back.

I eventually caught another mini-group of three cyclists just at the top of the hill near Genesee and was getting water and a banana as the leaders started to go the other way and I missed seeing who was who. I wasn’t planning on trying to take a split at the turnaround but I was interested to know which place Stefan was in, and where sat overall. I made the turn and rolled off back down the hill through the valley. Big gears, huge speed, then suddenly not enough gears and just coasting. I was focused on getting another banana eaten in the aero position on the descent, so I didn’t get to see where all my friends were ranked in the field. I noticed a couple as they whipped by my peripheral vision. I climbed the second time out of the river valley very reserved even though the plan had been to start picking up the effort here to moderate or even somewhat hard on the return. I was rolling well off the top of the hill with the sidewind and was going quick, I could feel the sidewind harder than it was before and was getting excited to drill it with the tailwind as soon as we turned right. Schooler passed me as I slowed for a bottle of water in the aid station, but I took some energy from the big crowd at the only reasonably spectator vantage point on the bike course and got up and put in a minute of hard effort to catch back up to Schooler (he was racing for a team so he was irrelevant but I was interested to see what kind of pace he would ride). I rolled along near him for a while and then took over in front when my steady effort was bringing me near to the end of his draft zone, eventually he would re-assume the pace setting. But when he slowed again and I went by I realized why he was no longer maintaining his speed. He couldn’t ride the aerobars anymore! I joked that if you want to race like a triathlete you’ve got to train like a triathlete. He smiled and complained about not being able to sit down anymore. When I went around the corner back into the sidewind I thought I could hear his carbon wheels behind me, perhaps though it was just the deafening sound of my disc going around the corner at 35kph. Off I shot into the sidewind. I waited until there were some trees along the road to lessen the sidewind so I could relieve myself into the ditch while coasting without getting blown over. I then set a new PR, for the fastest speed grass watering job I’d ever done. 40kph. By the end of the bike I’d consumed 1200 calories, although the number is a bit vague because I have to estimate how much HEED I took from the aid station to drink instead of the planned gatorade which got dropped. All in all this was a good amount and I was happy and confident with how it felt (well, the fact that it didn’t feel like anything!)

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I coasted into T2 quite happy with my ride knowing that I’d kept it conserved enough to run fast but had still put down a satisfactorily quick ride, I waved to the crowd which gave me a great cheer and hopped off my bike. I had my bike racked and my socks and shoes put on quite efficiently and then was off.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Almost immediately I could tell that the muscles in my lower legs were tight. The most concerning spot was just on the outside of my right shin, Extensor Digitorum Longus, and it wasn’t happy. (Thanks to this great resource for the muscle ID and treatment suggestions: Athletes Treating Athletes) It wasn’t classic shin splits but it wasn’t nice. My goal was to try to just run at a 1:30 half marathon pace until 8kms and if my HR was low then it was just effort in the bank that I could spend on the second chunk of the run. I could see Cal Zaryski ahead and knew that he would be running closer to a 1:22-1:25 pace, so I told myself if he wasn’t putting time into me then I was going too fast. This likely sounds like a counterproductive racing strategy, but my goal is to make it to the finish line as fast as I possibly can, not to compete and so this wasn’t a hard pill to swallow at all. I was largely concentrating on trying to be able to run at all with the frustration of my lower legs and didn’t control my pace as well as I could have or should have. It took until about 4kms at which point I had finally got my pace dialed back. It was partly the fact that my HR had come up that helped slow me back down to goal pace, this is something that continues to need practice, not necessarily in general, but specifically in brick workouts: running patiently slowly with a low HR.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Pace/HR Chart

From 4kms through to 8kms I felt fine. I was increasingly frustrated as I passed through successive aid stations that did not have any gels on hand for me. This was frustrating and I tried to figure out how I was going to make up for the calories I’d planned to down from the gels which I had understood by the emails to have been promised at the aid stations. I tried drinking the flat coke, but it was flatter at some aid stations than it was at others. After a couple tries of that I wasn’t happy and switched to drinking HEED at each of the aid stations, this turned out OK. It meant that I missed the opportunity to try and feed on the run as I would have liked to have practiced for Penticton. Such is life.

At around 8kms I was hoping to switch to HR based running and lift it up to 162 bpm. It took me a while of just observing the HR before I decided I had actually better close the gap between the HR I was running and the target I had set. I came across an intersection where Ben and Lindsay were volunteering and they gave me the extra boost to make the change. Ben’s voice sounded really encouraging when I saw him and I believed him when he said I was running well, from there on I ran well, then a long stretch of tailwind pushed me along for a while and I kinda tricked myself by thinking the wind would push me like it does on a bike… it doesn’t really, but it makes you feel better about your running and I ran well. Then into the headwind I paid the price for cheating my brain into thinking the headwind had previously helped and was now hurting. I ran hard into that headwind, and when I got out of the wind I ran even harder. Once I was within 5kms of the finish I made the dangerous calculation of how fast I’d have to run to still meet the goal of a sub 1:30 run. The answer was 4.8 minutes (That information is dangerous, it could have slowed me down if I was not feeling good) but the motivation continued as I was quite regularly seeing other members of our club. The traffic on the path through the one final stretch and I had to do some cross country to get around the big clumps. With a mile left I broke out into an uphill headwind section and things weren’t pretty but I stuck with it, and then inside the last kilometer there were people watching… you have to run fast when people are watching!

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

I didn’t realize that there was a clock for me to see at the finish line until I was almost under it at which point I had to make a mad dash to get in under 4:14, which I did. Not that I had to sprint the last 10 meters, because I’d beaten sixth place by more than 6 minutes! After the finish I was really dizzy just like Chinook two weeks prior. This time it lasted an uncomfortably long time and I just lay on the pavement waiting for it to go away. Once I got up and walked over to sit in the golf cart and drank a bunch of calories was able to stand up again without feeling so bad, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Act 2 – Race Plan Execution

Stay calm at the start, stay away from groups of over-stressed people. Permission to be nervous but stay calm.

Just an on-shore warmup like I normally do before getting into the pool. Line up near the front, second row in center for the beach start. Run in to get going quick, don’t spike HR with a sprint.

Go hard for up to 200m if I can tell that there are feet around I should be catching. Hopefully something is found and I’ll settle into a moderately hard effort on someone’s feet or the same thing if I have to swim on my own. Hopefully I’m ahead of people who will be swimming faster than me so I can pick up some feet as they come around. Don’t redline for too long.

Keys to swimming well: long strokes, quick transition from hand entry to vertical forearm, don’t let legs snake after the torso through the water. Finish the strokes.

Aim to swim the second lap at same perceived pace as the first. If I’m alone, key is to find a rhythm and sight well to stay on course.

Goal: No specific goal set for swim other than to do my best. Aim for a slightly higher effort level than Chinook, anticipate that with an accurate course a 32-33 minute swim is possible.

Not able to go too hard off the start due to immediate congestion. Probably wasn’t close enough to the front, the wide start also meant that fast people were likely spread very widely. The bottleneck was going to happen anyways though. Did same or lower effort than Chinook Half and hence the reason I was a tad off my target time with the swim.

Bike General Strategy: Reserved effort on the flats to start, settle in and ride fast and efficient. Work harder through the rolling hills by the bacon farm and the two climbs in the middle of the course, maintain harder effort on the way back. Sight off of the remaining cyclists ahead of me and reel them in, don’t race to T2, but begin racing for the finish line with about 40km to go on the bike, meaning ~2.5 hours left in the race. Stay on track for ~1100 calories minimum.

Total food: 2×24oz bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories. three half bananas = 180 calories. 2 tube shot bloks = 400 calories, 3 gels 3×110 = 330 calories. If I want bananas then I don’t eat the gels, grab water along the way, ensure I drink minimum 1 bottle, 2 if hot.

Do not pace off of other cyclists, they are likely going too slow. Enjoy the ride, say hello to team-mates that I see while on course. . When passing stronger cyclists especially near the front of the race, take a drink first as a regulatory measure so that I know I’m not breathing that hard and then go past with sufficient speed that they’re not generally going to feel confident to come with me.

Let HR gradually rise towards 150bpm rather than hammering to get it up there. Fast cadence in headwind, run the big gears in tailwind with slower cadence, keep the power output smooth and my body aerodynamic. Aim to conserve momentum.

Once back into the smaller streets on the way back into town remain cautious, sprinting corners is only going to induce cramping so might as well be gentle here.

Goal: Average HR > 150bpm. Mentally pace bike to begin racing home from Genesee.

Incorrectly anticipated I’d be starting the bike with a HR that was going to need to come up to 150bpm instead of a HR that needed to come down to 150bpm. I think I made the right decision taking it so easy on the bike, if I were to have raced with no HRM I definitely would have been faster through this stretch, whether or not it would have cost me though is an open question… My heart rate wouldn’t have come down unless I took it easy, so I would have been faster but it would have been at the expense of doing it… and then likely the rest of the bike at an even higher effort. Nailed the goal with 152bpm on the bike, able to ride aero the whole time without any issues of muscular discomfort in glute-med or lumbar back, although I did find the shorts less comfortable today than at Chinook, likely because this course is only out of aero position for a grand total of 11 corners and optionally on two hills. Whereas Chinook has bum-shifting opportunities at less corners but more climbs are relatively notable durations out of the saddle. At the end of the race I thought about switching shorts for IM but on sober second thought IMC has a course with more opportunities for ass-relief than GWN so I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Run General Strategy: Gradual start to the run, reserved on first out and back, 4:16 pace cap until the school, then with about 2/3 of the run remaining aim to pick it up through final hour, building pace.

first 8kms: focus on breathing, want feeling like I’m running easier than during a MAF test, notably short of breakpoint of deep breathing. Keep it capped at 1:30 half marathon pace, MAF HR cap. Let people get away from me if they are going to get away from me, self control.

On the way to turnaround, Run efficiently. Picking up pace from first 8kms slightly, goal to run 4:10kms or MAF HR whichever is faster. HR cap at 172bpm.

On the way back from turnaround Go Hard! MAF Pace is target, MAF HR is the absolute floor of acceptable effort. Keep lifting knees and picking up my heels, maintain proper running stride even if tired

Final mile back from junction: keep it flying! No need to sprint unless I’m contesting a position as this will exasperate recovery.

Nutrition: Gels at the aid stations, 3 miles, 6miles, 9miles. HEED at all aid stations. Water on body and ice if available and heat warrants it.

Goal: Run sub 1:30

As discussed in Act 1, I struggled with quite a bit of discomfort and then was focused on doing what it took to run and experimentation with how that felt, it meant that I didn’t have the mental focus on getting the pace quite right. I was able to dial it back as I was aware that I was going too fast but it took a while to reel myself back sufficiently. Picked up to MAF HR nicely once I tried and got in a groove, I found the pace feedback every 500m to be variable due to aid stations etc so paid less and less attention to it as I went because I knew that it was acceptable. Ran harder in the last mile than I needed to but I was seizing the opportunity and having a blast doing it, so if it means I hurt more the day after then that’s fine.

Act 3 – The Club

Stefan put in a good effort on the day, he really pushed it on the bike hoping that he could win the “fastest bike” prime which he did and then still managed to run well. Dave also had a great performance, he didn’t look like a champion when he rounded the last bend and came into view but, with 100 meters to go he pulled his form back together and ran across the finish nicely inside 4:30 which is really a great performance. Darren passed Andrea on the run which I wasn’t totally sure if he’d manage when I saw them go by in the other direction, but I’m sure makes him secretly super happy! The womens team wrapped up a win in their division with a swim that was more anticipated than any other swim in the history of triathlon, a bike ride from Shari that showed everyone who was boss with the 6th fastest female bike split of the day, and a personal best half marathon to wrap it up. Travis rounded out a great swim and frustrating bike ride where he struggled to feel good about putting food down with a run that is much more respectable than he gives himself credit for. Then came two big surprises. Or perhaps they weren’t surprises, just well guarded secrets regarding the performances that they knew they had it store but weren’t willing to divulge? Mike Downey made his HIM debut in 5 hours (if we give him the 30 second benefit of the doubt just like the Boston Marathon, which of course, we will) with the aforementioned swim a quick bike and a good run. The rumour from the spectators is that he needs to work on his transition though! Then Lesley cruised across the finish line with a mighty fine “crash course in last minute training” performance, breaking her PR from last year on this course with a notably improved bike leg. While she seemed to be chalking it up to “I don’t know how”, I think the consistency of training through ‘cross season and through the early winter when the majority of people do nothing of substance, and she maintained consistency did a wonder of good, combined of course with chasing Travis around on some challenging bike rides. Michele cruised across the finish in her debut performance having suffered a rather lengthy flat tire pit-stop on the bike putting together a run within only a couple minutes of her open half marathon performance in April, which has got to make her happy. Not far behind, Jen Moroz cruised in with a full trio of times that I believe she will be happy with, having also made her debut at the distance. Anita chopped an enormous 23 minutes off her time from last year, greatly improving both her ride and her run. Aisling also scored her first finish at the HIM distance and was quite pleased with it all things considered at the finish.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010
Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2010

Thanks to Becky for not getting mad at me when I stole some photos of the race from Facebook without asking her

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Chinook 2010

Race Report 2010

  • No HRM… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • No spare tubular… I’m stupid and left it at home
  • Swim. COLD!
  • Bike. No fun
  • Run. Totally incredible

There’s basically all you need to know… but I’ll record the day for posterity sake, I’m sure one day someone will want to remember it even though today I don’t really.

Tapered my running after completing 40 runs in 40 days on June 9th, big bike weekend prior and consistent swimming during race-week. Rested up enough to get TSB back definitively on positive side for the first time in 36 days. Still tired on Thursday, felt good Friday and felt physically great on Saturday morning despite being mentally not so great… impacted by some forgetfulness (see preamble).

Swim: Goal was to practice drafting in the open water as much as I could but keep to a moderate effort. Started front row and with a little beach run I was way off in front of the pack, got off to a moderate effort start, no need to hammer as people were just gingerly getting going due to the cold this all seemed really weird to me, then things started to pick up at maybe 300m, at which point people started to pass me, I tried a few sets of feet as they went past and held some for a while each but eventually lost them all. By 500m I had picked up a good draft and held it until maybe 800 feeling just steady. At this point I got pretty dizzy, not because of waves I don’t think, probably a cold head, but I just grimaced and dealt with it, trying to focus on three stroke breathing until the end of the first lap. I passed 5 people on the beach run and caught some feet upon re-entry but quickly lost them and swam by myself at a steady pace till 1500. At this point I got a draft and held it to the finish again. Got a bit dizzy through the same section, this was the shaded part of the lake so that’s why I’m pretty sure it was a cold-induced dizziness. 19th/120 on the swim.

35:48 – distance was supposed to be 2km but everyone seemed to think it was a bit long. I swam totally within myself but did think that I had swum a very straight line and had kept the pressure on. I thought for sure this was going to be closer to a 33min swim until the results went up. Disappointed but not surprised based on a recent 1 hour swim TT last week where I managed only about this pace.

T1: Hands were a wreck in T1, luckily the strippers got me out of my suit and I was on my way. I decided to run hard to try and warm up at least a bit before mounting the bike. In retrospect I do think this was a good decision, I did get on the bike relatively quite a bit warmer than leaving the lake.

Bike: Race plan was to average 150bpm, having no HRM (see preamble) I was going to just try and average an RPE of 14/20 and 16/20 on the big hills, which would likely get me around 150bpm under race circumstances. Out the start I felt like the bike was all a strange muscular effort and breathing/HR was low… Did not feel like I was strong on this bike at all… I’m strong on the road bike right now, the TT bike was not feeling great. Eating and drinking got underway and was doing OK, pulling in lots of people and I’d worked my way into fourth. I was certainly not feeling strong on the bike, searching around through different cadences and not able to find something that felt good and strong and fast. Similar trouble to early May on the TT bike for the first time in the season, just couldn’t get in a powerful groove.

Flatted my rear tyre at about 30kms. Very frustrated with myself and had a big internal debate about what to do, kept riding while I would decide but focus was lost. Dad was parked maybe 5km up the road and I opted to stop, and put my training wheel on the rear at 35kms and accept a DQ for the race for accepting outside help and then get going. Did the swap, and spent the next 10miles not focusing well, not riding hard, not doing anything right. Got more frustrated with myself, sad, angry… etc. At halfway I tried to turn things around a bit but struggled to do so. Average pace picked up due to general downhill and sections of tailwind, this was probably deceiving as I felt a bit better about it but wasn’t really making up as much time as I could have been. I caught myself dropping into easier gears when I probably shouldn’t have been, certainly not having fun at this point. Then started to get an achy lower back… race plan was to avoid having this happen as I anticipated it meant I was going too hard. When it happened I backed off the intensity, this was the wrong choice as I was already going too slow, I was likely just out of practice on the aeros and should have kept pushing. Wrapped up the effort with 1km to go and rolled into transition in third place off the bike.

Last minute announcement that they’d be serving HEED instead of gatorade despite posting otherwise on the website. I had tried HEED before and know that I do like it so this wasn’t going to be an issue except that they’re slightly less calorie dense and I didn’t know what size bottles we’d get. (Aside: Oh well, this is what athletes deal with when corporate multinationals decide to adopt targeted marketing campaigns… do you think this makes me want to buy more Gatorade now? Honestly, what kind of marketing genius thought this policy up?) 340 calories gatorade. 300 calories HEED. 260 calories powerbar and a banana ~120calories. No gels. = 1020 calories. Ate two hammergels, raspberry was nice, and drank HEED on the run at every aid station where I could get a volunteer to pay any attention to me, this was not a majority of aid stations unfortunately.

2:38:10 96 km. Second overall, 7 minutes slower than last year. 6 minutes slower than fastest cyclist on the day. Map (started at about 2.5 km into ride).

Run: My plan was to run a strategic combination of MAF heart rate governed pace and tested MAF pace from two weeks ago. This was ambitious, and became more ambitious when the heart rate strap was left at home and I was now basically going to have to run purely according to pace and RPE (goal 16/20 – cap 17/20). Brick was super and I felt great going out onto the run, felt fresher than in any transition run in training, highly motivated to try and redeem my day with a good run split as I had done a lousy job on the bike and was going to get DQ’d after the race anyways due to the wheel change and I knew it (because I planned to request it). Split the first 500m in 2:02 (exactly MAF pace) and was mighty proud of myself. Ran through to 4kms basically all at MAF pace except for the aid station where congestion (with Olympic race) caused trouble with me trying to get what I wanted, ran myself into second place, soon caught by Jeremy in third, we ran together from 5km through until 10.55km (halfway). I felt like I was taking it easy here and just cruising along next to him despite logging a couple splits below 4:00 pace here. As we passed transition I ducked in where I took a quick pee and he got maybe 80m up the road. I subsequently lost a bit of time to him through kms 11-16 despite lifting the effort level. I struggled to run 4:15-4:20 pace and got a bit worried when I split one at 4:30 pace. I pulled my socks up then and started to focus on the finish line and my pace improved. I actually started to gain back on Jeremy through the fourth quarter of the run meaning he faded even harder than me, which is what I anticipated based on his breathing when running side by side, but his fade started quite a bit later and in the end he ran the fastest split of the day so who am I to suggest otherwise. Kudos to Stefan for the win, good bike ride and good run, when you get both right you typically have a good day, and he got both done quite nicely indeed.

Splits: Green is up heartbreak hill, which has been re-landscaped and re-paved and is nowhere as steep as it was last year. Blue is the pee break.

Photo from gallery: Weblog Photos

1:30:09 Placed second overall in run, goal was to run within 2% of my open half marathon PR, which I certainly did, only 22 seconds slower that my PR, and considering a porta-potty break, this is totally impressive.Map.

Overall: 4:44:06. A hair over 2 minutes off my time last year. Similar swim, 7min slower on bike, 9 min faster on run. I went and talked to the race director afterward and told him that he needed to DQ me for outside help, he wasn’t really sure that he wanted to do that but in the end that’s what he and the other official decided. This was a very costly mistake, mentally it cost me on the ride a lot, and cost me some really good data from the run, what was my HR actually doing during the third quarter of the race?

Lessons learned:

  • I need to log a lot of time on the TT bike in the next 2 weeks, even if it’s all easy, riding that bike allows me to feel powerful on that bike and that’s what’s necessary for me to ride to my potential. I also think I’m going to experiment with raising the seat up a bit to de-stress the quads slightly. I also think I should probably try to almost ride in the aerobars by a large majority until Ironman, or at least never go a week where I’m not logging at least some serious time on it.
  • Swim frequency needs to stay higher than it has been. 4 day weekends between Thursday nights and Tuesday nights have caused some trouble I think, it means the Tuesday swim is almost always a write-off in terms of getting in some quality swimming as it’s hampered by re-familiarization with the water.
  • Run – I’m doing well. Hopes are high for continued development, but some tougher run sessions lie ahead, when I lifted the effort level in the third quarter I actually dropped in speed slightly. Negative splitting my longer runs should become a strategic plan.
  • I discussed how to avoid costly mistakes like forgetting gear with my mom, there is no easy answer. I had everything packed, and then double checked, and then left one bag on my bed when loading the car. I have a checklist, but these things only work when things go according to your plan. The best laid plans are only plans. What do you do?

Chinook is behind me for 2010, and I’m looking forward: two weeks until the GWN. I will be mentally stronger on July 4 than I was on Saturday, I’ll also be considerably less rested, faster? who knows, but it will be fun to mark myself up against Paul Tichelaar’s anticipated sub 4 hour time. To wrap up I’ll re-post a quote that I scooped from the EnduranceCorner website today:

“Feelings are a choice.” – Scott Molina

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