Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Train your weakness, race your strength!

Hopedale Duathlon Race Report

One of the most common mistakes that I see newbie triathletes making is putting way too much training time into their strongest discipline. Triathlon is all about achieving balance by eliminating weakness. Many people come to tri from a long running background. Instead of putting all their focus on swimming and biking, they will try to keep doing the same types of running workouts and volume that they did before coming into tri. This is a recipe for very ineffective tri training. It's almost absurd how little you can do in your strong sport and still maintain a high level of fitness. For example, I come from a swimming and running background, but have always lost ground on the bike leg. Over the last 5 years, I've dedicated over 60% of my TOTAL training time to biking. I achieve a high level of fitness from the bike workouts and do mostly maintenance work in the other sports. I've been focused on Ironman racing and yet I rarely run more than 25 miles a week. I generally swim 3 to 6 thousand yards. Granted most of my "strong sport" work is high quality, but it goes to show that in triathlon you have to determine your training priorities and stick to it!

All this serves as a circuitous introduction to my race report from this past weekend's duathlon endeavors. As part of my plan to save the planet (actually it's my checking account) I am doing a lot more of the smaller, local races this season. The Hopedale duathlon was a first-year event about 20 minutes from home. It was perfect timing to get in a tune-up race before Tri-Shark, my first larger, more competitive, tri in two weeks.

Outside of an off-road duathlon that I did a couple years back this was my first foray into duathlon. Although, I would never give up triathlon racing for duathlons, I do have to admit that it was nice not having to start the morning by jumping into a freezing lake! This du was a 2 mile run followed by 13 mile bike and another 2 mile run. These short distance are definitely intimidating for someone who focuses on races that last longer than the work day! I haven't ran two miles really hard since college track. This is definitely where "racing my strength" came into play. I didn't know what sort of uber-bikers might be in the field, so I knew I had to do my best to get a cushion of time on the first run. I took off in the lead from the start and was feeling strong and smooth. There was no mile mark, so I just went off my perceived exertion. I came into the transition around 10:30, which if the course was accurate, is pretty darn quick.

I didn't waste any time looking to see how close the chase group was. I jumped on my bike, determined to have a good ride. It was fairly windy so I found myself looking at my powertap more than usual. Generally a sprint, is just all out, but I tried to keep it under control in the headwind. At a couple of the corners I glimpsed a few chasers, but I just put my head down and kept going. The course was mostly flat with a few small rollers in the second half. Pretty soon I started thinking I wasn't going to get caught on the bike, which never happens. Sure enough I rolled into town still in the lead. Another solid ride for me at around an average of 270 watts and just under 24 mph. My pie-in-the-sky goal will be to hold that same effort level for twice the distance at the Hyvee triathon.

I knew I had the race wrapped up going into the second run, but I was still trying to convince myself to see if I could match the first run. This sounded great in theory but, after a hard run and ride the mind just wasn't having it. I'd like to think that under pressure I could have ran as fast or better, as it played out I ended up just a little over 11 minutes.

My long-time local training partner and competitor, Brian Rossi locked up second place overall. Brian has just ditched his Litespeed for a BMC TT02! This was something like his second ride ever on the bike. Needless to say he is pretty happy with the decision!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


So.... I've been itching to get my tri season underway and see what sort of dividends all the hard early season training is going to pay. Last year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to some great events: Wildflower, Memphis in May, Steelhead and IM Wisconsin. I really wanted to get down to Memphis in May again, but gas prices just made it unfeasible (particularly with huge Kona bills looming).

The positive side of this situation is that Central Illinois actually has an awesome multisport scene. I could probably find a multisport event for every weekend of the season within 2.5 hours! So I'm taking my limited travel funds as an opportunity to do some smaller races closer to home. 

Case in point is this weekend's Multisport Mayhem Tri in Neoga, Illinois. This small sprint race is in its third year and put on by Tony Garrett's Mattoon Beach Multisport company. Tony has a full season of tris- including a full Ironman in September all about 2 hours south of me. Nice lake for the swims and nice, flat rural roads for the bike and run portions.

If you are anywhere near the midwest, you'll agree that we've had a completely lousy spring for training. Winter-like weather pretty much hung around through April. Race morning temps this past weekend were in the 50s. I've never swam in a lake in Illinois this early in the year. The website claimed water temps to be 65, but I'm guessing that was only the top two inches! I actually despise wearing a wetsuit unless the water is really cold (I think USAT should make the wetsuit cut-off 74) so the cold temps suited me find. Getting in took your breath away, but after a little warming up, I was surprisingly comfortable in my full-sleeve 2XU wetsuit. I love being able to swim hard without overheating. I got in the draft of the leader for the first 100 yards or so, then found myself in the rare position of leading the swim- this just doesn't happen in big events. The swim was so short (around 400 meters) that I didn't worry about pacing at all. Redline the whole time. I came out of the water with the eventual overall winner (Barry Knight from Paducah, KY). We ran up the beach together and I was credited with the second fastest swim time.

My toes were only slightly numb as I tried to get my bike shoes on! I've been completely focused on getting stronger on the bike this spring and was excited to see what my legs would come up with in a race situation. I briefly led the race as Barry worked on getting his shoes on as he rode (I'm a big advocate for putting your shoes on in transition). I was soon passed, but ended up staying in second for the whole ride (14 miles). As it turns out, all the cycling work with Vision Quest coach Stan Watkins seems to be moving me in the right direction. Cycling has always been my weak sport and I've focused on it relentlessly the last 4 years or so. Thanks to my Powertap, it is easier to compare race efforts even if conditions vary. For this race I averaged 267 watts, which is very good for me. Last year I was in the 240s for my early sprint races. My legs never felt good, but I can't recall a single sprint race where they did feel good! The course was mostly flat with light winds, so I turned in my best average speed for a tri at 24 mph! Great progress, but I still ended up losing the race on the bike (you're all sobbing for me, I'm sure!). I had the 4th fastest bike split and lost about a minute to the leader (who, don't get me wrong, is an outstanding short course triathlete!).

Taking off on the run I thought I might still be able to make up the ground if there was some magic left in the legs. I put in a couple surges, but no magic. It was an out and back course, so I could see Barry in first the entire race. I was able to make up a little bit of time -which is an accomplishment in and of itself, I guess- but ended up second overall, about 30 seconds down. 3 mile run time was 17:28.

All in all, I am very happy with this result as my '08 season debut race. I wanted to get some hard efforts in before the more competitive Tri-Shark Triathlon the first weekend in June. My short distance run speed is lacking, but I haven't worked on that at all this season. If all goes as planned, I hope to be able to hold the same run pace for a full 10K at Hyvee in June which will be my only other "A" event outside Kona.

Consistency Conundrum!

I ran the Springfield Half Marathon a few weeks back. The last few years, I've gotten into the pattern where I only do running races before or after tri season. Road races are great for benchmarking and letting me know how my training is coming along. The general idea here being that training and fitness gains should be progressive both over the course of a season and the course of many seasons together. That's the general idea.

I have a tendency to forget the specifics of my PRs. Going into this most recent half marathon I knew that I had ran 1:21 something or other the year before at another race. I also know that on the right course I should be able to run significantly faster than that. Springfield started out well. I clicked off about 5 miles right at 6 flat pace which would put me well under my PR. This marathon's supposed draw is that you get to run by most of the prominent Abraham Lincoln sites in Sprinfield. This aspect was rather lost on me since after mile 5 all I was noticing was the over-abundance of hills! I actually held pace for a couple more hilly miles before a big slowdown around mile 10. I felt strong at the end and clicked off a couple good miles trying to get that PR.

Time: 1:21:08
5th overall
1st in Age group

This time was pretty low in the 1:21s so I thought a small PR looked hopeful. I went home and looked up my time from the previous year's half in St. Louis. 1:21:08.
I kid you not. Almost exactly a year apart, both races chip timed, and I run the same time to the second! Both courses were comparable in terms of hills (many). Outside of 1/2 Ironman races, I've only done 4 half marathons ever. I decided to look back so I could feel good about my long-term improvement. At the end of tri season in '06 I did a different hilly half marathon in St. Louis. Time, you ask? 1:21:09. 1 second worth of improvement over 3 years!! Granted, I don't actually know the parts of a second for each race, so in all probability it is less.

How the heck does this happen? How do I lay it on the line at 3 different half marathons and only have one second of variation between the three? Beats me! I've been running for many years though and know almost exactly how hard I can push my body. Turns out for the 1/2 marathon that is right around 1:21:08 give or take a few tenths!

To wrap-up the rest of my early season run races:
Mountain Goat 15K (lots 'o hills)
Danville, IL
56:32 (2nd overall)

As a side note when I did this same course 3 years prior I was a whole 8 seconds slower. Yipee, big drops here;)

Lake Run 12K (worst wind I have ever ran in)
Hudson, IL
44:27 (5th overall)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

C&C Triathlete Factory Camp Wrap-up!!!

One of the formative experiences of my life has been running cross country for Augustana College under hall of fame coach Paul Olsen (who also happened to be an awesome professor of literature). Before each cross country season began we boarded a tour bus and headed to Minnesota for a week-long camp. At camp we did tough workouts twice a day, but in between we bonded as a team around the campfire, during horseshoe tournaments, sand volleyball matches, canoe trips and water skiing. It was such an amazing experience -in part- because you were surrounded by enthusiastic people all working towards a common goal.

In the years following the completion of my degree I tried to replicate this experience on a small scale by taking training trips with small groups of friends. We had some great times on these trips, but it really wasn't an adequate substitute.

As I got more into triathlon, I would passionately research week-long tri camps in exotic warm locations. Price tags that often hit 4 figures prevented me from doing anything but looking!

Fast forward to this past winter. I'd had my eye on Camp Wokonda near Peoria, IL as a great possibility for hosting a tri camp. I actually convinced my wife to take her high school cross country team there for a sort of trial run camp last summer. I talked the idea over with my buddy and fellow Kona qualifier, Chris Daniels. He got excited about the project, so we decided to give it a go and created the aptly named C&C Triathlete Factory Camp. Our founding principles were to bring the tri camp experience to Illinois and make it affordable for the average triathlete.

Infamous Chris & Chris with a member of
the Hartman family who just heard about
the Hill Brick of Death!

After lots of planning and meetings the camp finally happened two weekends ago. In all, we had 14 campers. Most were beginners, but we had a few Ironman finishers in the group as well. We had a big age range and a nice split among the genders. I had probably only met 1/3 of the participants prior to camp.

Camp was Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. In total we did 2 swims, 2 bikes and 3 runs. In between workouts we had educational seminars and scarfed down huge amounts of home-cooked food (huge thanks to my mom and Chris's wife Sloan!).

Discussing Transitions

The weekend weather looked iffy with the last cold remnants of this year's perpeptual winter and some rain mixed in. Everyone was in pretty good spirits for the first drizzly trail run on Friday night. Right away we discovered what was to be a theme for the weekend: hills! Most athletes in my area of the country have very little opportunity to train on any decent hills. I love the terrain of the area around Peoria because the Illinois River bluffs make for some challenging riding and running!

Swim workouts were at a pool only 15 minutes from camp. The Sat. night session lasted almost 3 hours and was all based on Total Immersion-style drills. A couple people really took to this method and had huge improvements in their balance and strokes. It reminded me how much I like swim coaching because I can see immediate improvements as opposed to biking and running were improvements are long-term.

From the very beginning the website listed "Hill Brick of Death" for our last workout on Sunday. I did have quite a few inquiries on this one! I wanted our last workout to be a true challenge. Detweiller Park is home to the Illinois State High School cross country course. This course is mostly flat and fast. Funny thing is that the bluff right behind the course has some killer hills. The hills maintain a pretty tough grade (for Illinois) for almost a full mile. There are two hills that make a 4 mile loop, about half of which is going up! The idea was to ride as many hills as you can and then get off and run back up the same hills until you are thoroughly whipped. Many of the campers started the morning thoroughly whipped from the previous two days, so the hills really were a challenge to say the least!

A camper suffering on the hills during the
Hill Brick of Death!

All in all the camp was the tremendously positive experience I was looking for. I really feel lucky that we had such an amazing group! On Saturday we rode in a cold, drizzly rain for more than an hour and I didn't hear any complaints! Our group was very helpful around camp and stuck to the schedule which was pretty tight all weekend. Being around some newbies really re-engerized me for this season!

If you want a more detailed account of the weekend check out camper AJ's blog: Run Hard, Tri Harder. My partner in crime also has a write-up on his blog: Get Fast or Quit!

The big question has been, "Will you guys be doing this camp next year?" We're currently collecting follow-up surveys from this year's campers and adding up the bills. From the responses thus far, I think it looks promising!

A group of tired campers (and instructors)
on the last day.

Come on let's sweat (sweat sweat) baby
Let the music take control (control control)
Let the rhythm move you
Sweat (sweat sweat) sweat

"Gonna Make You Sweat"
C&C Music Factory

(I think I am really showing my age here. First I wrote about the 1980's wrestling flick Vision Quest and now I'm quoting C&C Music Factory! Geesh, after I've set the bar this high, I don't know how I can go on writing... )

New Sponsor- Infinit Nutrition!!!

A couple years back now, I spotted an ad or forum post about a new company that was offering completely customizable sports drinks. I jumped on the phone and in a few minutes was talking to Michael Folan- the mastermind behind Infinit Nutrition. It didn't take much persuading to get Mike to secure a small discount for my Tri-Shark club. We were actually the first club to get an Infinit sponsorship!

During the intervening years, I saw Mike at a bunch of races (Infinit is based out of Cincinnati, Ohio and Mike travels to many of the Ironman events). Mike even stopped in and visited the club here in Bloomington for a nutrition seminar!

I've had some good results the past few seasons and have been a steadfast advocate of Infinit since my first order. I'm glad to add Infinit Nutrition to my list of awesome sponsors for 2008!

Experienced long course triathletes will tell you that nutrition is truly the 4th discipline. This point was really driven home when I didn't quite have the race I wanted in my debut Ironman (WI in '03). So I did what most others at the time were doing: I bought a bunch of different products and mixed them to get what I wanted. I loved the taste and calorie content of a drink powder called Extran. I would mix Elete drops in because it was way short on electrolytes. Then depending on the length of the race I would sometimes add CarboPro powder to bump up the carbs. All in all it was a real pain in the butt and had a certain margin for error (particularly say if one were in a hurry packing for a race!).

Infinit is the great nutrition simplifier. New users generally fill out the online profile that asks for weight, race distances, caffeine preference, etc. From this info they come up with a drink customized to your needs. Most people will then make changes to this initial formula. If you don't like your initial formula, Infinit will create a new formula at no cost! You have complete control over everything: taste, calories, carbs, protien, electorlytes, amino acids, etc. Infinit uses all natural ingredients (no dyes, fake sugars, de-foamers, etc.). The other great part about Infinit is that it can eliminate the need for salt tablets, gels and bars. I race the Ironman bike almost completely on Infinit. The salt I need for racing is built into the formula. I get 260 calories per bottle, so I don't really need bars or gels. Because Infinit uses maltodextrin, this doesn't end up tasting too sweet or thick. Using Infinit has helped my stomach tremedously on race day!

If you are thinking this sounds like to much to manage, don't worry! Some of the best minds in triathlon have taken advantage of Infinit customization to make their own pre-set formulas. You can order pre-made formulas created by: Joe Friel (Triathlete's Training Bible, Ultrafit Coaching), Mark Allen (Mark Allen!), Mike Ricci (D3 Multisport) and Infinit.

The awesome thing about Infinit is that it really sells itself. I don't know any long-course triathlete who has really given Infinit a chance who hasn't become a total addict.

Listed below is the nutrition information for my long course formula which I've tweaked over the course of about 3 years. I've taken out all the protein and amino acids to make a very simple formula. I've found this works best for me under race conditions.

Supplement FactsServings Per Container (25)Serving Size: 2 Scoops (69.38 g)

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 262
Calories from Fat: 0
Total Fat: 0g - 0% of daily value
Saturated Fat: 0g - 0%
Sodium: 447mg - 18%
Potassium: 129mg - 4%
Total Carbohydrate: 66 - 22%
Dietary Fiber: 0g - 0%
Sugars: 19
Protein: 0 - 0%
Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene): 0 - 0%
Vitamin C: 0 - 0%
Vitamin E: 0 - 0%
Selenium: 0 - 0%
Calcium: 36 - 4%
Magnesium: 27 - 6%
Maltodextrin Dextrose Sucrose Citric Acid Natural Flavors Sodium chloride Potassium chloride Magnesium gluconate Calcium gluconate

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet