Sunday, September 23, 2012

Redemption - The Leadman 125

At the last minute, I registered for the Leadman 125 race in Bend, Oregon as a "redemption" race for my DNF (Did Not Finish!) at Half Ironman World Championships 2 weeks ago.

So myself and my friend Derek Garcia  drove down to beautiful Bend, and met up with an athlete who I coach (Jim McIntosh) to survey the bike course - which started up at about 5000 feet elevation at chilly Cultus Lake and ended with a screaming fast descent down into Bend, Oregon.

For this race, I planned on using a whole new nutrition protocol, which I talked about in detail in this Endurance Planet podcast, but which basically involved:

1) UCAN Superstarch - eat 2 servings for breakfast (mashed with a banana) and then one densely mixed bottle of UCAN (200 calories per hour) on the bike downtube and one Nathan running flask for the run (also mixed for about 200 calories per hour).

2) Energy28 Superfood - slam one just before the swim, and then one serving of it mixed in with each serving of UCAN - for both flavor and some extra energy boosting compounds, like Maca and Rhodiola (Energy28 also has about 35 calories a serving).

3) 5 Master Amino Pattern capsules per hour (to keep my blood amino acid levels up).

Basically, with this 1-2-3 combo, I'm giving my body a slow release sugar with some amino acids in it, and deriving the remainder of my energy from my body's own fat stores - which basically means I'm eating 200 calories less per hour than I normally do during a race. You can really geek out on this nutrition protocol by clicking here, if you'd like. 


As I expected with a late season race in the Pacific Northwest, race morning was dark and cold. Our bus driver got lost on the way up to Cultus Lake, so I arrived at the transition area in just enough time to put my water bottle on my bike, use the porta-potty, and rush into the tent to put on my wetsuit.

Unfortunately, I'd grabbed the wrong wetsuit from the stash of wetsuits in my garage (my BlueSeventy Helix was stolen at the Troika Triathlon), and I found myself feeling like I was being strangled in a tiny wetsuit with arms and legs that came up to my elbows and knees!

But the water was cold enough to where I did not want to venture out without a wetsuit, so I wore it.

I ran into the water and made it to the swim start just as my wave took off...


Feeling like I was hyperventilating the whole time, I managed to get onto the feet of  a faster swimmer and hold on for dear life for the 2.5K swim. He dropped me about 200m from the finish, but at that point I was simply relieved not to have A) frozen or B) ripped my wetsuit.

I swam this swim the same way I approach my Half Ironman swims - no pacing or holding back. Just swim as hard as you can (without breaking form) from start to finish.

As I came out of the water and ran into T2, struggling to emerge form my tiny wetsuit, I had no clue what place I was in, but knew that I was freaking cold!

When I arrived to my bike, I saw that the bike beside me was already gone, which I hate to see. So I skipped the important step of putting on gloves, or arm warmers, or socks, and just took off.


Thanks to my hasty transition out of transition, for the first 15 miles of the bike I watched my fingers slowly turn blue. I couldn't hold my water bottle or eat anything because my hands were so cold! I just kept opening and closing my fingers, hoping they'd warm up soon so I could eat and drink.

By about the 15 mile mark, I had passed everyone on the bike and caught the leader, Jeff Smith. Since my legs were feeling good, I decided to put a move on him too, so I passed him, put the hammer down and didn't look back for the next 5 miles.

When I finally did turn around, Jeff was still there! He hasn't lost his last 9 races, so I should've known better than to think I could drop him that early in the race...

For the rest of the 65 mile ride, including the 50+ mile per hour descent into Bend, Jeff and I raced neck to neck, taking turns holding the lead all the way into run transition, where Jeff rode in about 20 feet ahead of me...


I beat Jeff out of transition, but at that point, I was thoroughly parched, and wasn't sure I was going to be able to maintain the intensity I wanted for the 10 mile run. My strategy was to simply run this race just like a 10K, then hold on for dear life in the last 4 miles.

But my lips and throat were completely bone dry, since I only had one bottle of water during the entire bike ride. Every time I went cycling through an aid station, they simply weren't ready with the water bottles. That's the hazard of leading the race!

As I worried about my hydration, Jeff caught me quickly, and we reached a Y in the road after just 1 mile. It wasn't marked. One option was to run along the river and the other was to climb a steep 1/4 mile hill.

I'm not sure why, but we both took off up the steep hill, and it wasn't until we got to the top of it that we realized we ran completely off course. It's a horrible sinking feeling when you're in the lead and you lost precious minutes running the wrong way, but once again, that's the hazard of being in front.


So we took off back down the hill, and now Jeff was in front of me. For the next 4 miles, I tried to keep him in sight, and by mile 5, I saw him not run through an aid station, but actually briefly stop to drink water at the aid station, which (no offense Jeff) to mean is a sign of weakness in a run of this distance, and suggests that you might be hurting.

I was hurting too, but that's the point where I put my head down and my move. I passed Jeff by the end of that aid station, and didn't look back for the next 2 miles.

At mile 7, I glanced back and didn't see anyone.

But not wanting to take any chances, and knowing that the 34 and older age division started 6 minutes behind us, so someone could actually still beat me, I kept the throttle down all the way to the finish line, and ended up winning the overall race title by a little under 3 minutes.


So despite barely making the swim start, wearing a tiny wetsuit, and getting lost on the run, I managed to squeak out the overall win for Leadman 125!

The best part is that with that different nutrition protocol, my gut felt fine after the race (none of the usual bad gas, post race sugar burps, caffeine downers, or anything like that!).

Here I am with my finisher's tape:

So what's next? Myself and a group of 15 athletes will be headed to Thailand this winter to do a double triathlon in beautiful Phuket (where even the triathlons have a happy ending). ;)

Leave your questions, comments or feedback below.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Happened In Vegas (Hopefully Stays In Vegas)

At the end of this post, I've got a quick question for you that I'd love to hear your feedback on...

I must admit that I felt pretty dang good coming into the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas.

Really good, actually.

My legs were a-popping and I was ready to lay down the smack and back it up. After a tough race (see my previous post) at ITU Long Course World Championships in Spain, I raced a Half Ironman "tune-up" a few weeks ago, where I took third overall (Troika Triathlon) and have just felt really fantastic lately.

I've raced long enough to know when my body is ready for a solid performance, and this seriously threatened to be it.


But the mishaps started the night of the race.

At 2am, the hotel room next door woke my roommate Graeme and I up with a very loud hip-hop song on repeat. It was literally shaking the wall.

Then the jackrabbit-like humping started, with a guy who kept shouting "F*&^ me harder! F*&^ me harder!"

You gotta be kidding me. After about 45 minutes, hotel security shut them down and we finally got back to sleep.


Despite being a bit sleepy, the swim went well.

But soon as I hopped on my bike, though, something felt funny.

On the first hill up and out of transition, people were passing me left and right. I shrugged it off and just waiting for my legs to "come around".

Just to be sure, at the top of the hill, I pulled aside and checked my tire pressure. Everything was good...


Then, on the downhill, as I slid to the front of my saddle, the whole saddle went nose down. I had just gotten a bike fit, and had been messing around with my fit afterwards.

Obviously, I failed to tighten the seat enough.

No big deal, I thought, and I slammed my butt down into the saddle to correct it. 

Then the real trouble started. My entire seat post slid down. Yet another mechanical adjusting failure on my part.

So I rode the next 5 miles standing up, until I found a tech motorcycle and did a quick tool adjustment on my seat.

By this time, I figured I was screwed for a podium finish, but tried to keep my head in the game.


But I just kept getting passed, despite me working harder than ever on the bike.

No offense, ladies, but there were women riding by me who had numbers like "48", "49" and "50" written on the back of their calves.

That just doesn't happen to me in races!


So at mile 40, I pulled over for a third time, and this time I spun my rear disc.

Even though I had checked it the day before, I must have jostled it laying the bike down in the minivan, because the brake caliper was shoved up against the disc.

I'd been riding with brakes on for the past 40 miles.

At that point I was mentally ready to be done, and knew I wasn't going to be anywhere near the podium division finish I was looking for.


I "soft pedaled" back into transition, ready to throw in the towel.

The screaming spectators and crowds got me inspired to jump into the run.

However, when you're running a race in over 100 degrees heat, you need a reason to be out there, and at that point, my reason had faded. A finisher's medal was not enough incentive for me to punish my body for the next 90 minutes.

So at mile 3, I walked it in and called it a day.


Here I sit in Vegas, getting ready to end a tough experience with a hard drink.

But there's one more thing:

When I have an experience like this, I need a redemption race. Something to give myself a mental boost of positivity, go prove to myself that I'm fast, go use the fitness I built up for this race, and ensure that everything is OK.

So here's my question for you:

Where do you think I should race? I'm ready anytime in the next 2-3 weeks. You name the place and I'll try to make it happen - Olympic up to Half Ironman...go!