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San Francisco, California and, Carrboro, North Carolina, United States

Monday, June 27, 2011

Week of June 19-26

Monday was a morning swim and nice zone 1-2 bike ride.  Alex McDonald joined me for the swim and ride, and it's great to see how much stronger Alex is getting.  It's amazing that only a few months ago he was in a wheel chair with two broken legs.

Tuesday always means Pro Swim Practice and Coach Dave delivered.  We had another great practice and we're all getting so strong in the water.  Dave's an excellent coach.  Highlight of the practice was an all out 200 and I almost went under 2 minutes.  I came in 2:00.4, quite a bit faster than my first Pro Swim Workout in February!

Tuesday evening was a long run with a 20 minute section at 5:13-5:18 pace.  That was a tough run.      

Wednesday's workouts called for a 2 hour session on the trainer followed by a transition run (and swim in the evening).  After yesterday's run, the bike was tough but the T-Run went well and there was no cramping on the run or the afternoon swim.  I think the salt is working.   

Thursday was more Pro Swim and a nine mile run in the afternoon.

Thursday evening my nephews from Indiana joined us for a couple of days.  It was great seeing the kids and Adam and Natalie.   

Friday morning I hit my swim workout and had another strong swim.  After the swim I headed out for two hour ride.  The ride was followed up with a trip to the Raleigh Children's Museum and a showing of Cars 2.  Everyone enjoyed it.    

Saturday means the P-Ride and it was another good effort with some long pulls and even some jumps off the front of the group.  It felt great to be riding fast.  However, the weather was very warm and the heat and humidity got to me.  Fortunately my better half joined me for my second half of my Saturday ride, so I was able to put in four hours on the bike.

Post P-Ride with my better half.

Sunday means a long run.  I ran around Chapel Hill and ended the workout with two miles at tempo pace.  I hit the two miles at 5:30 pace and called it a day.  Wow, 90 degrees is warm but this weather is making me stronger. 

Mark joined me for an easy 3,000 yards in the water and with that, the weekend training was finished. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Race Site for the Bandits
Triathlon Challenge
I decided to race this weekend because I wanted to clear my mind of not finishing at Eagleman 70.3.  Fortunately, my coach agreed and we decided I should race the Bandits Challenge Triathlon in Wilkesboro, NC-- just a couple hour drive from Chapel Hill. As a few other elite atheltes from the North Carolina area would be racing, it looked like there would be some good competition.   

I traveld to Wilkesboro with a fellow elite triathlete (Mark) and we checked out the course Friday evening. We'd been hearing rumors that the course was tough, but I was pretty sure that all that NorCal hill climbing coudln't be beat. But upon investigating the course I was impressed! The course was packed with hills on the bike and a run that included an 18% hill that we humble racers would have to summit twice! This was no race for the weak.     

Swim -- 19:26 (Fastest split of the day)

There was another strong swimmer  (Dave) in the elite wave and my coach and I decided that the best strategy was to take it out fast and see if I could get away.  My coach did not want me to settle for finding Dave's feet and swimming his pace. At the start, I took the swim out fast. After about 300 meters Dave was on my feet, and I contemplated slowing my pace and letting him pull me.  However, I remembered what my coach wanted me to do so instead of slowing, I surged and created a small gap. After a few more accelerations over the next 500 meters, I expanded the gap to about 20 meters and pulled about 30-40 meters away by the end of the swim. I exited the water with the fastest split of the day and headed into transition in first place.     

Bike -- 1:10:02 (Fastest split of the day and course record)
I learned what Bandits is all about straight out of transition as I took the nasty, steep climb to the top of a dam. I hammered it, and settled into a nice pace. At mile 2, I encountered the longest climb on the course. The climb isn’t very steep (about 7-9% grade), but it is over a mile long. I surged to the top, and looking over my shoulder, estimated that I had expanded the 30 second lead I had in transition into at least a minute.  The remainder of the course is 25 miles of rolling hills with some tough climbs.  I continued to push the pace and I entered the second transition with about a four and half minute lead. 

Run -- 37:47 (Second fastest split of the day)
The run course at Bandits is what makes this race famous. There are three VERY steep climbs, but fortunately, they're not very long.  First,  is the same climb out of the transition area up to the top of the dam at the start of the bike. However, the climb on the other side of the dam that racers climb twice on the two-loop run course is crazy hard.  Words just don’t do it justice. The race director estimates that over 90% of all participants walk the hill during the race. 

After conquering the first climb, running the flat out and back I section, I descended to the other side of the dam and prepared myself for the 18% climb on the way back.  Wow, when I hit the climb it hurt, just like all those super steep hills in San Francisco. Staying focused and keeping my running form, I made it to the top of the hill.  I had to do the out an back section and then the hill one more time.  I had lost a little bit of my lead on the first loop, but still had a gap of over 3 minutes.  After running the out and back, I went down the steep hill and began to think about staying focued on the way back up.  The second trip up the hill was tough.  My quads and calves were screaming, I wanted to walk, but I kept my focus and made it to the top.  I enjoyed the run into the finish.  I was shooting for the course record (2:13:29) and I thought I could have it.  As I ran down the finish shoot, I saw the clock ticking away 2:08:55, 56, 57.  I was very happy I had the course record and put together an exceptional race.  I put my arms up and finished in 2:09:06 and set a new record. Full results here. Winning is always fun, and it helped me keep positive and confident as I move into the next phase of training. Plus, it's fun to race with all of my new training buddies and the Chapel Hill crew had a strong showing. Mark finished 4th overall, and several friends from my swim group also had really strong finishes. It was really nice to see lots of friendly faces out there.

Sunday included a long ride with Elizabeth and Josh.  A perfect end to great week of training and racing.

Happy Father's Day!   

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Rest After Eagleman

There was no rest for the weary after Eagleman 70.3.  Before I describe the week of training, I first have to give major props to my Honda Fit for averaging 44 miles to gallon for the roughly 800 mile drive.  

My legs were sore on Monday.  All cramping had taken its toll.  So the workouts called for an easy swim and a 90 minute bike.  Fellow pro triathlete and fast forward triathlon owner/coach Alex McDonald joined me for the swim and ride and provided some great insight with respect to my nutrition problems.  Thanks Alex!

Tuesday morning meant I was back at the Pro Swim Workout.  My coach Dave Williams took no time to throw us into the fire.  The main set was a tough one: (i) 4 X 100 @ 1:10, 200 easy; (ii) 4 X 100 @ 1:05, 200 easy, (iii) 4 X 100 @ 1:15, 200 easy, and (iv) 4 X 100 @ 1:05, 200 easy.  For the first set of 4 100s on the 1:05, I made 3 but missed number 4.  I dug deep on the second round and made all of them.  I was back to swimming fast and my confidence in the pool was up after having a less than stellar performance on Sunday.  

I followed the swim up with another easy ride.  

Wednesday was a moderate swim of 4000 yards and 7 mile run.  I was back to feeling strong.  

Thursday another Pro Swim Workout and another tough one at that.  The main set was a 400 fast and 300 fast, and I came through in 4:21 and 3:10 respectively.  My swim is feeling great in the pool, I just need to put it together in a 70.3 race.  The weather forecast called for thunder and lightening, so I decided to stay inside for my bike ride.  The trainer ride was not too bad, as I was able to watch the movie No Limits, the Prefontaine story on Netflix.    

I'm looking forward to this weekend.  On Saturday I'll be racing the Bandits Triathlon.   

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Easgleman 70.3

Eagleman 70.3 was a tough race.  The weather was not particularly warm (only 82 degrees) but the day was very humid, with the humidity level about 90%.  I did not finish the race but did learn quite a bit and was generally happy with my performance.  I made some mistakes but I also made some improvements and I stayed positive through the whole race.  I also learned what part of my nutrition game plan I need to revise.  

Swim 27:10
I have been swimming excellently in the pool and was looking forward to a great swim today.  The pro field separate into two groups quickly, a group to the far right and a group to the far left.  I found myself at the far right.  I was swimming with some strong swimmers, but the guys to left had taken a better line to the turn buoy and were quickly ahead of us.  I've been working on staying positive and my mental preparation paid off.  I focused on my swim form and came out of the water in 8th place, right behind Richie Cunningham and James Cotter. 

My feet on top of my shoes.  The cyclist
next to me missed the group.
Bike 2:11:03
I had an excellent start to the bike.  James Cotter and Richie Cunningham created a small gap at the end of the swim by dolphining the last 50 yards.  Out of transition, the guys were about 200 meters ahead of me.  Knowing how important it is to ride with strong riders, I jumped on my bike and started pedalling as fast as I could.  This was very much like a ITU race, I didn't put my feet into the shoes for the first mile of the ride.  Once I made it up to them I put my feet into the cycling shoes and we were off.   James Cotter and I begin to rotate taking pulls and we kept the early pace about 27 mph.  However, Richie opted not to pull and decided his best bet would be to let James and I do all the work on the bike.  Looking back at this James and I should have forced Richie to do his fair share of work, but we did not, so Richie got a free ride for 56 miles (it paid off for Richie, he ran his way from 9th off the bike into 2nd place).  James and I worked well together and I led the group into transition 2 in 7th place.     

I jumped off the bike and once my feet landed on the ground both calves cramped up.  I limped to the bike rack, hung up the bike and slipped on my shoes.  I was hoping the run would loosen up my legs and I could hold a decent pace.  I thought a 1:20-1:24 would be great and likely place me in the top 6 or 7.  I started off at a 6:15/mile pace and knocked out the first 2 miles.  They were not easy but at least I was making progress.  I was passed by James and Richie, so I found myself in 9th place, but holding strong.  I had a big lead over 10th, so I was looking forward to my first top 10 finish.  I kept running, putting together miles between 6:40 and 7:00 pace.  I hit the turn around and was still in 9th place, only 6.5 miles to go.  After the turn around I felt great and put together a mile and half of 6:05 pace.  I thought wow, I'm finally running, now just to keep it together and maybe move up a place.  However, at mile 9, things unraveled.  I started cramping badly.  My pace quickly dropped down to 8:00 pace.  In between miles 9 and 10 I was passed by Andrew Hodges and now I was in 10th place.  It was at mile 10 my body just gave way.  Both calves and quads were done, they completely seized up in a total cramp.  I could not even walk.  At that point, I decided to call it a day.  I didn't want to damage my muscles any further and wanted to make sure I was good to go for the next few weeks of training.      

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Week of Eagleman 70.3 (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)

Eagleman 70.3 is fast approaching and I am feeling well and fit.  For a taper week I decrease the volume and the intensity of the workouts.  The days right before the race are usually quite easy, with just enough work to keep me feeling fresh and ready to go. 

Monday was a recovery ride.  I really enjoy the opportunity to ride with Elizabeth, so she joined me for the ride and we went out Monday morning and rode roughly 85 minutes around Carborro.  A great way to start the week.

I followed the ride up with a swim at the Triangle Aquatic Center.  It was excellent to swim long course meters.  After putting in 3500 meters it was time for lunch.

Tuesday morning means it's time for a Pro Swim workout.  The key sets were a 500 for time and 100 time.  I swam well and put in some good work on my form.  I'm feeling great in the water and hope it translates to a first group swim on Sunday.

Tuesday's evening workout called for 5 x 800s @ 2:26.  I ran each on the 2:26 and felt strong.  With a warm up and cool down I ran 9 miles.  I finished the day with a dinner at my favorite casual restaurant, Carrburritos.

Wednesday called for a 90 minute ride with 10 one minute efforts at 95%.

I took the Time Trial bike out and the ride went great.  I really pushed the 10 one minute efforts.  In addition, the weather was warm and not many cars were on the road, another perfect day of riding.

3 more days to race day!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Saturday and Sunday (June 4 and 5)

I am racing Eagleman 70.3 next weekend, so this weekend's training was toned down from last weekend.  My Saturday ride called for a lower effort than the usual P-Ride so fellow fellow North Carolina pro Justin Park and I opted out of the P-Ride headed out for our own ride. 

It was an absolutely perfect day for riding, a wonderful way to start the weekend.  The ride was relatively easy, with only one 30 minute sustained effort.  Justin and I put together a strong effort two hours into the ride, and then rode back into to town for the transition run. 

The T-Run went well.  I took out the first mile at a fast pace, coming through in 5:12. The rest of the run was easy and nice way to end the training session.

Sunday called for a 12 mile run and a light swim.  Justin joined me for the run.  The run felt great, I am acclimating to the weather and feel fit for next weekend.   

I swam easy, only 2000 yards all focusing on swimming smoothly and working on my form.  My better half, Elizabeth, joined me for the swim and then we headed out for a nice dinner, a perfect way to end the weekend.   

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Doctor and New Drugs

While living in California, I had a great network of health care professionals helping me stay healthy and physically fit.  I had been working with a GI specialist, a nutritionist, and massage therapist/acupuncturist, and their combined efforts helped me race my way back into professional status last year.   
It's always difficult to establish new doctors after a big move. Fortunately, there are great medical resources in Chapel Hill, but it still takes time to get all of the pieces in place. As I met friends in town, I began asking for doctor recommendations and also did some web research on Crohn's specialists. I found a primary care physician and set up an appointment for an physical and to get a referral to the Chron's group at UNC. The physical went well and I was really impressed that my primary care physician took a lot of time with me to really explore my medical needs. She made me feel really comfortable and well-cared for. Other than the flare up I've expreincing, I'm glad to report I have a clean bill of health. Plus, I walked away with a referral to a GI specialist. 

On Tuesday I met with my new doctor at the UNC Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.   We discussed my medical history, my current condition and how my athletic goals and working life affect my Crohn's. We then began to discuss my options for getting my flare up under control, and ideally, in remission.  My doctor offered me three options for new medication, each with its benefits and drawbacks. My doctor outlined his preferred treatment, which he was confident would eliminate my symptoms, but could also cause side effects that would negatively affect my training and racing. He suggested that the other treatments would also help me feel better, but would likely be slightly less effective in getting me into remission.

To be honest, it felt like a really big decision. On the one hand, getting into remission would be amazing. On the other hand, I am so used to living with my symptoms -- and training through them -- that I'm not sure that the benefits would outweigh the risks. I'm just not sure that I'm willing to trade off my training success as I work to rebuild my fitness, especially if there are alternative treatments with less risks (though also, likely, less rewards). 

My doctor and I talked through the options, and I decided to follow the more conservative approach. But even this approach had a snag. Before I even picked up the new perscription, I consulted the US Anti-Doping Assoication website to see if the drug was on the 'banned' list. Indeed, it was, though I can file for a Theraputic Use Exemption (TUE).  I am currently in the process of applying for the exemption and will hopefully be on the new medication within the next few weeks.  Until then I am taking my current medications, taking my supplements, and trying to increase my hours of sleep.