Checking In – Early 2014

This past weekend was Ironman Oceanside 70.3 and if you read my 2014 Preview - and retained any of it – you may recall that it was the first race in a season full of fun and challenging races.

I’m happy to report that I reduced my time by 4h 24min and 10 seconds over last year with a time of 00:00:00. I’m less happy to report that it was because I am still coming back from my running injury discovered in late 2013 and I’m still not fully up and running. Definitely bummed to have missed this incredible race, but my buddies Brett and Pat did well to carry the M2 flag and set a strong tone for the year.

Still, I’m having some awesome training, gaining a lot of fitness and eating the food:

I'll take all of the Nutella, please.

I’ll take all of the Nutella, please.

What is the injury and why has it taken so long?

IM-0001-0001_1

Standing tall and “straight” for the camera

My left leg has been a problem child since leading up to and through Tahoe. After time off in the fall, it continued to be a problem at Christmas. I went to see Dr. Shepherd in Powell, Ohio while home for the holidays and we found some serious imbalance and misalignment with my hips and spine. This is either because my left leg is longer than my right (by birth or growth patterns), which would be consistent with the 4mm difference in my legs during my bike fit last year, or because my muscular imbalances have thrown this platform out of whack, making my left leg “longer,” but not actually longer.

If that sounds like a bunch of jargon, just know that it means that everything is more injury prone in my left leg and it stinks. I worked with Talitha at Individual Fitness Solutions while in Dublin to develop a strength and flexibility program to try and stabilize the platform. I do this strength program at least twice a week and my attention to post workout stretching and rolling has increased ten-fold (so, so important). I also continue my body work with my main man, Andy Tubbs, who induces eye crossing pain (i.e. massage therapy). Lastly, I run in a bubble:

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

The Alter-G at M2 Revolution continues to be an absolutely essential tool for coming back from injury in a controlled, healthy manner. I’ve progress from 75% to 77% and currently 80% of my body weight, while I begin to run at speeds that look much more familiar.

The goal remains the same

It can be easy to have a negative mindset when you miss a race and the road back to health is taking much longer than originally planned. But that’s the thing – you can’t plan it and it’s silly to think you have more control over the circumstances than the hard work you put into it allows. That’s all you can do, work hard to be healthy and the return will hopefully follow.

I entered this year as one of the best triathletes in my age group in America. My goal for this year was to race well at a level that removes that qualifier – I want to be one of the best amateur triathletes, not just in my age group. The goal still remains, and the race calendar has shifted a bit later.

Stay tuned to see how it unfolds!

A big thanks to friends, family, the sports med folks I’ve worked with, M2 Revolution and GU.

2013 Review | 2014 Preview

2013 Tri collage

Howdy and happy New Year to all! After three months of non-Iron things, I’m looking forward to get crackin’ on 2014. During the off-season, I’ve been dealing with a nagging running injury to my left leg. Looking at the positive, it’s allowed me to get stronger on the bike and spend quality time doing normal human things.

The 2013 season was a great one. I continued my upward trajectory as a triathlete that I started in 2009 and set myself up to keep it rolling in 2014. Here are some highlights, things learned (always plenty) and goals for 2014.

Quick Stats:

  • 6,000 miles swam/biked/ran/stumbled/poked
  • 500 hours staring at black, white or yellow lines on the ground
  • 80 hours of Netflx with Ali
  • 615 coffees/espressos
  • 27 pounds of peanut/almond/Nutella butter (conservative)

Top wins of 2013:

1. Another great year with old and new training buddies. Notable training events:

  • M2 Amgen Tour of California Stage Ride
  • M2/Ultra-U Tahoe Training Camp
  • Mt. Shasta Century (M2 training weekend edition)

2. Raced competitively within a schedule of world renown top-tier races:

  • USAT Ranking (25-29M): 3rd in California; 17th in US
  • Age group podiums in every race except IM Tahoe
  • Top 10 amateur at EFA, Wildflower, IM Boise 70.3

3. Became a more “complete athlete” instead of a runner-triathlete:

  • Won Boise AG on bike
  • Dropped swim time at SVIT by over 5 min
  • 2nd and 3rd amateur runs @ EFA and Oceanside respectively

4. The best training block of my life in the “second half” of my season:

  • Ironman Lake Tahoe build after 70.3s and Olympics.

5. Completed the hardest Ironman I could have chosen for my first:

  • IM Lake Tahoe – started off calculated, finished gutty.

Top learning moments of 2013:

1. Unforced errors in races. All scenarios that could have been avoided with better planning and patience during the race.

2. Stomach shutting down at Boise 70.3 and IMLT. A lot of variables at play, but closer attention to nutrition will be a good start.

3. More strength, stability and flexibility throughout season. M2 TBT (total body training) at the beginning of the year and I was healthy through mid year. As volume increased and time for training stayed the same, injury prevention took a back seat and I paid for it.

4. I can go faster: Must swim with faster swimmers; bike gets better every day, continue to challenge myself; I can still run faster, goal is to get 10K down to 31 min.

5. Balance: My training was at an all time high this year, but it’s tough as a full-time working person. I learned a lot this year about how I can do this better next year.

2013 Season in Review

And up we go

EFA Podium_crop

Escape From Alcatraz

A race I’ve always wanted to do and finally got in via lottery. The course is one of the most challenging short courses in the world and competition is premier.

Highlights:

  • Fumbled swim
  • Took “new watts” into the race, biked well
  • Ran into podium finish
  • Great way to start the season 
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Escape from Alcatraz 3-Mar Tri 2:29:17 3 36 2nd Amateur run, Sand Ladder
Oceanside Transition

Oceanside Podium

Ironman 70.3 California – Oceanside

Another race that I’d been chomping at the bit to do, Oceanside is another incredibly competitive race, attracting California’s best. A fun weekend with guys in a house by the ocean, this set up for a fast race and fun times.

Highlights:

  • Competitive swim
  • Solid bike, but could have been more aggressive
  • Ran into an “IM” AG podium (4th)
  • John and Vince bread eating challenge
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Iron Man 70.3 California (Oceanside) 30-Mar LC  4:24:10 4 63 PR @ Half, PR Swim, PR Run, 3rd amateur Run
Cruising step for step against the pace plan. Rocky and Apollo, in that order.

Full extension was so good, had to post again.

Silicon Valley International 

USA Productions puts on great races local to the Bay Area that attract a lot of local talent. For perspective, the overall winner was age grouper Yoni Doron-Peters (a stud by any classification).

Highlights:

  • Swim +5min faster than last year
  • Biked hard, but couldn’t respond as well to moves as would have liked
  • Same run as last year (34min), dropped by Vince when we’d planned to turn up the pace
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Silicon Valley Tri 21-Apr Oly 2:01:53  3  9  Woof
Just some dudes goin' to drink beer on a lake. Maybe a little racing.

Wildflower medals M2

Wildflower Long Course

One of the most storied and classic races in the world, the Woodstock of Triathlon was true to itself: hot, hilly, naked Cal Poly co-eds and campfire beers.

Highlights:

  • Swim to be improved
  • Solid bike that trailed off in the last few miles
  • Studying course elevation profile pays off en route to running down AG podium and top 10 amateur spots
  • Congratulating Jesse Thomas on his 3-peat & Virgilio on beating me, shortly before dry heaving by food and being ushered to med-tent
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Wildflower Lake San Antonio 4-May LC  4:41:48  3 34  10th Amateur
Doing my best Jaws impression into the wind

Stare into the sun and show everyone how happy you are to have a trophy!

Ironman 70.3 Boise

Traveled alone to and survived a logistical pickle at this unpredictable western race. Despite a late start (1:00pm) and some killer headwinds, it would be my first AG win at an Ironman race.

Highlights:

  • Swim through the masses as the last wave of the day
  • Assert self on bike through headwinds, stomach queasy by end
  • Fought stomach and poor mojo on run, but strong bike allowed to hold off pursuers
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Iron Man 70.3 Boise 8-Jun LC  4:32:44  1 30  9th  Amateur
Enter the abyss

Overcome. Family and Vince, arms raised in the background.

Ironman Lake Tahoe

The Bay Area went into a frenzy when California got its first Ironman and it was in Tahoe. I’m sure many people were second guessing their decision on race morning at 30 degrees. A day on a challenging course at altitude had an extra wrinkle on race day.

Highlights:

  • Swim was warmer than air temperature; swam slower to set up a solid day at altitude
  • Transition one was a nightmare with a full change in a crowded tent
  • Biked according to plan, but altitude bells rang in Martis Camp; slowed final 10 miles
  • Transition two wasn’t much better
  • Run started off well, wheels fell off at mile 13 and it was all guts to the finish
2013 Races, Results Date Type Time Age Group Overall Notes
Iron Man Lake Tahoe 22-Sep IM  11:23:12  8  118 Ironman Plus. Wow.
Berkeley Hills RR

Fitbit JP Morgan race

Non-tri races

Berkeley Hills Road Race:

7th

First cycling road race, Cat 5. Played domestique to Virgilio’s podium race and nabbed a 7th place for myself. Very fun change of pace from tri racing.

JP Morgan Corporate Challenge:

8th

Fitbit represented itself well among 11K runners from companies all over the Bay Area.

Competition was stiff and the 3.6 mile race was a good ole-fashioned, elbow bumping road race. I traded surges with the chase group for an 8th place finish in 18:12.

happy-new-year-wallpaper-2014

2014 Goals:

  1. Get left leg better, sustain strength to run healthy.
  2. Sport specific goals: swim with faster people, get 100m down; up watts on bike by 10%; get run to 31 min 10K.
  3. Age group podiums are great, but trajectory means overall amateur podiums, higher USAT national ranking
  4. Ironman 70.3 World Championship Mont-Tremblont
  5. Strike balance across training, relationships, work

If all goes according to plan, this is the tentative schedule for this year:

RACE DATE EVENT PRODUCTION CITY STATE/COUNTRY Notes
3/29/2014 California 70.3 IRONMAN Oceanside CA Pending run status
4/20/2014 Silicon Valley International Triathlon USA Productions Morgan Hill CA
5/3/2014 Wildflower Long Course Tri California Lake San Antonio CA
5/18/2014 Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon (23rd Annual) USA Productions Morgan Hill CA
6/1/2014 Escape From Alcatraz IMC San Francisco CA
6/7/2014 Boise 70.3 IRONMAN Boise ID
6/8/2014 Folsom International Triathlon USA Productions Folsom CA If no Boise
6/8/2014 Folsom Long Course Triathlon USA Productions Folsom CA If no Boise
6/29/2014 California International Triathlon USA Productions Pleasanton CA
7/13/2014 Vineman 70.3 IRONMAN Santa Rosa CA
8/10/2014 USAT AG Nat’ls USAT Milwaukee WI Maybe
9/7/2014 70.3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant Quebec Goal
10/5/2014 Rancho Cordova International Triathlon USA Productions Rancho Cordova CA Maybe
10/20/2014 Oceanside Olympic Lifetime Oceanside CA Maybe

 

Thank Yous

Friends and family – Thanks to the Ohio gang, Ali and all my friends and family for your ongoing interest in and support of my progress. It fuels me to keep rippin’!

M2 – I would not have seen the progress I have seen had I not started training with M2 and the crew. Studio sessions and weekend training are all hugely imperative to development and super fun with such a great group.

GU – Thanks to GU for the products to help me to fuel and refuel this successful year. Racing for you in Boise was a great and I was happy to bring home some hardware.

SFTri Club – It was great seeing all of you out at races this year. Being a part of the community is stellar always, but especially on race day!

Fitbit – The crew at Fitbit HQ was very supportive of my racing this year, either in the office, on the after work runs or on the bike (track cycling!). Using our products allowed me to keep on my activity beyond the workouts, monitor my rest and stick to my race weight.

So that’s all for 2013! It’s been a great year and looking forward to training with my buddies and getting better with the M2 group in 2014. Health, happiness and PRs to all!

- MV

Race Report: Ironman Tahoe Pt. 1

Beach from Dan's place_2Where do I even start? A journey that began 15 months earlier, when I was sure that I wasn’t going to do a full Ironman for another few years because I was really doing well at the half Iron and Olympic distances and eh, didn’t really want to – only to find myself signing up during the Bay Area’s frenzied excitement over California finally getting a full Ironman. Having my first Iron Man “in my back yard,” training there ahead of time, not having to fly or transport my bike, folks getting excited and either racing or supporting on race weekend – it all seemed too good to pass up. So I signed up.

Countless hours of training, a full racing season that would have satisfied any athlete and more scoops of peanut butter than I could ever count and months dwindled down to weeks, melted down to days, counted down to hours and finally race day was upon us.

I can’t ever hope to capture everything I felt that day. The extreme conditions, the primal emotions and the physical exhaustion were all too much for words. So I’ll write over two posts to do it justice. In a lot of ways it still feels like cramming it in.

Getting ready

After a season of high octane 70.3 and Olympic racing, I began to stretch it out in June. It’s one thing to go fast at half the distance, but can you even complete the full distance – and go kinda fast? That was the question on my mind.

Ultra U camp

M2 and Viva Pink take on Tahoe with Ultra U

Stallion and I get Mt. Rose sexy @ 8900 ft.

Stallion and I get Mt. Rose sexy @ 8900 ft.

In what was the first toe in the water of the Tahoe build, the M2 group partnered with Ultra U for the inaugural IM Tahoe Training camp. Having the support of the Ultra U team was awesome and allowed us to focus on all things training (and eating). It was here that I would first test my chops at altitude over 3 days of swimming, biking and running. The first thing I noticed was that sense of perceived effort remained similar, while the numbers were worse – sometimes by as much as 20%. This was something I was going to have to either be OK with or learn all I could about performing at altitude. It was a great weekend to learn the course and what to expect out of my body.

As I trained for Tahoe, I took it one week at a time. Small victories, that’s how I put it. Each week, I wanted to accomplish something that was better than the week before and that was ultimately affirming of my readiness for Tahoe. A little longer and a little stronger built into a lot longer and sustained strength.

My build was better than I was ever expecting. I was the fittest I had ever been in my life. When I signed up for Ironman and for more than a year, I would even’t let myself think about Kona. I respected the distance and this course in particular. Just do the best I can and whatever happens, happens, knowing full well that a great day for me meant finishing.

Still, the numbers were telling me that if I put together the day I was capable of, Kona was entirely possible. Some key sessions:

Go deep

Go long

Shake

And bake

And so Kona actually started to become a back of the mind goal.

Mountain Man Time: Acclimatization 

My team at Fitbit was gracious enough to let me go up to Tahoe two weeks before the race to work remotely as I acclimated to the altitude. The state of web conferencing tools today is great and this worked out just fine. In fact, I knew that some of my remote working colleagues used treadmill desks, so I thought I’d make my own version:

My version of the treadmill desk. Fitbit, what's the noise threshold for the office?

My version of the treadmill desk. Fitbit, what’s the noise threshold for the office?

Dan's South Lake abode and the trusty Mt. Bike I used to rode around town

Dan’s South Lake abode and the trusty Mt. Bike I used to get around town

My buddy from Nielsen Dan Lee and his friend also from Nielsen Karina we super kind in giving me the friends and family discount to their South Lake abode. I went about my days just like I would in the city – full day of work with some basic training sessions to keep sharp. However just being at altitude during the work day, sleeping in it at night, building up the lungs on runs etc. were all getting me more acclimatized for the race.

A short jog from Dan's house, the perfect swimming hole

A short jog from Dan’s house, the perfect swimming hole

After much reading, discussing, thinking, I came to the conclusions that 2 weeks was a good amount of time (and frankly the most I could swing before the race). Altitude adjustment aside, this was really a great opportunity to spend time to myself slowing down from the crazy pace of long work days and 20 hour training weeks. Someone once told me that often it’s like we’re driving at high speeds with the windows down trying to hear what’s outside. The only way we can reflect and listen is to slow down. This was great for that.

Powerlines trail, how I love thee

Powerlines trail, I will return

Race week

I drove up to North Lake to our VRBO property <1mi from Kings Beach on Wednesday and Ali arrived by plane on that evening. A huge shout out to her as the only way I could go up early was if I took the car up and she flew into Reno. I’m sure flying over Reno to connect in Vegas wasn’t exactly what she wanted to do, but very grateful for the flexibility that allowed me to be there early!

Cabin livin'

Cabin livin’

Her mom and my folks arrived the next day and we were one big happy family inside our Tahoe cabin. I could have scratched the race and been perfectly content with the weekend (maybe).

The buzz was in full force around the area, as compression sock wearing, aero helmet touting, chest strap donning athletes strutted around the lake town. I tried to stay away from it as much as I could as I find most of the hub-bub unnecessary. A big help in handling my first Ironman race week came in the form of M2′s race week guidance, specifically his written approach to the ;tune up work outs and the mental exercises.

Finishing up a final shake out run with Dad while Mom takes a stroll

Finishing up a final shake out run with Dad while Mom takes a stroll

River run

The IM Tahoe run goes along the Truckee River, one of several incredible parts of this venue

The Storm

Most of the two weeks that I was in Tahoe before the race, the weather was agreeable if not spectacular. The few days leading into the race, high winds, winter overnight temps and precipitation were all in the forecast. The elements are out of your control and everyone has to toe the line in the same conditions, but it was tough not to let this affect us mentally. Setting up your bike at T1 in sideways freezing rain is not how you want to be spending your time a little over 12 hours before the race.

Images like this being posted the night before the race really started to move the needle:

Ritch Viola posts this picture from Squaw Valley (t2/finish line) the night before. I weep.

Ritch Viola posts this picture from Squaw Valley (t2/finish line) the night before. I weep.

Instead of worrying about things like warm up, race strategy and tactics, the questions became: It’s going to be below 30 degrees at race start, how much clothing can I wear on the bike? Will it be too much or will I be able to leverage the ad hoc clothing drop zone effectively? How much should I eat if I’m burning calories shivering? How much should I drink if I’m not sweating? WHAT IF THE ROADS HAVE ICE – which would make sense… – WILL THEY SHORTEN THE RACE? Will my first Ironman have an asterisk next to it – swim was canceled, bike was shortened?

So unnecessary. Looking back, I remember signing up and thinking – Sep. 22 is totally within reason for it to start snowing in Tahoe. But I have to say I was pretty stunned when it happened.

So for those of you keeping score at home, this would be my first Ironman with:

Starting at 6,500 and reaching as high as 7,500 feet of altitude

~8K elevation gain on the bike, ~1K on the run

Sub freezing temps @ race start

Ladies and gentlemen, Ironman Plus.