2019 IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant - Bib #24

One recent improvement to my pre-race routine includes being able to eat real food and not throw up race morning. As well as only having a slightly more subdued version of pre-race nerves. Still the same every-increasing pressure and expectations from within but no longer am I shaking in my boots for 48 hours prior to each start. This has been an enjoyable development over the last six months, however I was worried I would be right back at square one with my first race in the pro field. I was obviously very excited to finally race at the top level, but was also filled with a lot of uncertainty leading up to the start. How would the race unfold, can I keep up with these people, is anyone going to talk to me, did I prepare enough, is my equipment going to work, what sort of legs will I have on the marathon? Despite these thoughts, I was relatively calm race morning and was able to get a decent night of sleep, woke up without any difficulty and got about 1000 calories down as I warmed up and got ready for the effort. 

Photo: Talbot Cox @talbotcox

Photo: Talbot Cox @talbotcox

With about five minutes until race start the pro wave was called down to the edge of the water. This was already different, gone was the 3000 person self seeded cue and in was an orderly line of 25 athletes. Although brief, I felt good after my swim warm up and was ready for the initial surge of pace. The (very loud) cannon went off and the next 30 seconds were a frantic combination of high knee jumping through the water, hoping I got the timing right on my dive and then a few hard cycles of real swimming before assessing the situation. In hindsight, I guess this should not have surprised me but it was one of the more orderly swim starts I have participated in. As we sorted ourselves out I could see that two or three athletes had swim away very quickly but I was within sight of the front of the main pack. About halfway through the first leg, the group started to thin out and I ended up swimming at the front of it through the halfway point with a decent pack in tow. Through 1.2 miles, I felt controlled effort wise and my breathing was becoming more and more relaxed as we continued to swim. The main issue was my swim cap, around the second turn it started to slip off so I made the decision to stop for a stroke and pull it back down. Still not sure whether I should have just let it go, but I always have littering on my mind and hopefully it was not too disruptive to those following. As we headed back towards shore my coach and fellow racer, Andrew Yoder came by looking like he wanted to push the pace, so I happily found his feet and did my best to get the draft without running into him every stroke. I can only speculate, but I think he would give me a 5/10 for that. Always learning. As we approached the shore I was feeling good but ready to be done swimming. I switched to a six beat kick from the last buoy into shore in the hopes of getting some blood flowing. This proved less than useful and I was definitely hanging on for a moment or two during the run to T1. By the end of the carpeted jog towards the changing tent I had regained my wits and was focused on being efficient and getting everything right through transition. My wetsuit came off easily, socks went on without any creases, gels and salt pills all made it into my pockets and I even remembered to put my helmet on. Progress. I finished the swim in a time of 50:30, which put me 5th in the pro field out of the water and 10th overall. 

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I had been looking forward to getting back out on the bike every since I stopped mid race three weeks earlier. I was happy with how my body handled the swing in training load, so the plan was largely the same power and nutrition wise. The only change is that the on course nutrition is BASE instead of Gatorade, which I have not practiced with, so, in an attempt to learn from New Zealand, I was carrying an additional 500 calories on my person. To start the bike spit I had my front water reservoir about 50% full (mainly so it did not spill in the rack), my down tube bottle with 1580 calories (15 scoops carbo pro, 1 scratch), 6 gels and a film canister of salt pills. Right in the 2300 - 2400 calorie range where I have been aiming recently. Early on in the bike split I constantly reminded myself to stick to my own plan. 260 watts did not feel like much for the first hour and it was difficult to watch three athletes come by me. However, it was not difficult to talk myself out of chasing, I knew I wanted to run a successful marathon and nothing changed about my fitness in the past three weeks, so control it was. Other than those who passed me in the first few miles out of town I was largely able to bike my own race. The Mont Tremblant course is essentially two loops of two out and backs, the first one mainly on highway over constantly rolling terrain and the second shorter section made up of repeated short but steep hills. On the highway section I focused on maintaining consistent power and good aerodynamic posture. The aid stations seemed to be spaced perfectly for my needs as I was getting through an entire front reservoir between each station. Throughout the course the volunteers were attentive and engaged, making life easy for us athletes. On the hillier, second section of the loop I knew it was going to be hard to control power so I did my best to at least keep the effort within reason while also using the steeper parts as a good chance to stretch the legs and back. As was my experience three years ago, this hillier section was a great change of pace and I left feeling better than on the way in. The second loop on the bike was very similar to the first, although as everyone's pace settled a bit I passed one fading athlete and was pleasantly surprised with how things were opening up behind me. I worked through a few small waves of feelings from various parts of the body, but in general things felt great on the bike and I really enjoyed the effort. Through half way I was about 263 watts and my goal way 260 watts so I knew it was all about controlling the pressure and getting all of my nutrition down and processed for the rest of my time on the bike. I was very pleased with how my 1500 calorie bottle worked out, I never had any stomach issues and was able to space it evenly over the first 4.5 hours, keeping the concentration correct in my stomach with copious amounts of water. I ate all six gels at about 45 minute intervals and consumed about 10 of my salt pills on the bike split. Recently, I have been trying to consume just water for the last portion of the bike split, my thought is that it will clear things out and avoid the concentrated sugar gut that can often form. I finished the second lap feeling in control and ready to run, things were going well aerobically and I was really enjoying racing. I finished the bike in 4:51:02 which was 8th in the pro field and 9th overall. I normalized 261 watts and consumed all of the 2380 calories I brought with me. Two down, one to go. 

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Mid gel, everyone eats gels.

Mid gel, everyone eats gels.

Legs worked today, and it was about time. Out of the tent I felt really strong, I had to constantly slow myself down. I was seeing paces on my wrist I had no business running and kept controlling whenever possible. Within the first half mile my stomach had decided it was okay with running and from there on out I had zero digestive issues. Which is awesome. Having been passed by one runner about two miles in I spent the majority of the run in 8th place. I was definitely surprised with how the race had shaped up till this point and had not expected to find myself in the money, but I did and there was no time to act surprised, I was in a race. Through the first 7 miles I had kept the pace just under 7:00/mile which was slightly faster than expected but the body was feeling good and I was yet to feel any loss of control or signs of a bonk. The first thoughts of, oh boy you better control this, were at about mile 10. I have found the limit enough times in both training and racing to know some very early signs of when things are going to go off the rails. I was not going to allow that to happen here, so I dialed back the pace to low 7:00’s from mile 10 - 20. I focused on consuming as much as possible at every aid station as well as not taking anything out of my legs on the hills. One of the unique challenges on the Mont Tremblant run course is the drastic change in feel and emotion on various points of the course. As you run through and then leave town, you are surrounded by people on all sides, sitting, biking and even riding the bus. There is energy everywhere, which can make you push too hard or get you out of a rut during a bad moment. The middle portion of the course is on a bike path, which has no people, just lots of athletes trying to race their own Ironman. There is also a change in terrain, out of town the roads are open and rolling, on the path it is flat with full shade but no wind. The first lap reminded me of all these small nuances and I felt like I was able to control my effort at key times much more effectively on the second lap. Nutrition wise, this was by far the most successful I have ever been at eating on an IM run. I never had any issues of feeling full or any other GI distress. I ate 4 of the 6 gels I brought, had at least another 4 salt pills, water at both ends of every aid station and was even able to add in coke or redbull depending on what was handed in my direction. It felt like I was actually racing and making decisions for probably the first time in an IM run. More of that please. The last 8 miles were hard. Legs were screaming big time on every stride by the last 30 minutes. The biggest things missing from my last three attempts at the IM distance was this feeling. It hurt very good. I enjoyed every moment of it, I knew I had gotten the effort right, probably couldn't have really gone any harder and as long as I kept my head down and kept working I would make it to the line. The crowds of the last two miles were a welcomed boost, everything hurt, even muscles that have nothing to do with running, but I had allowed myself to do some math and I knew I was close to an 8 something Ironman. There was nothing left in the tank for the hills so even at the end I controlled up the inclines with the hope of maintaining some semblance of form over the line. I crossed the line with about three seconds to spare to 9 hours and I was done. I enjoyed the whole 8:59:57, but it felt so good to stop. In the end I finished in 7th place in the M Pro field and 10th overall. I had no idea where my fitness and race execution was going to get me at the end of the day so 7th place was a great surprise and a nice bonus to the weekend. What I am most pleased with is how I was able to stick to a plan and have it go almost exactly as intended. I know, more often that not this will not be the case, so I can appreciate the days when it all goes to plan. Days like last Sunday are the reason I do this sport. 

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The rest of my year will be IM Chattanooga on September 29th, followed by Indian Wells 70.3 on December 8th. Back to work. 

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Mr Klein's IM Lake Placid Race Report

Expectations and Pre-Race Thoughts

Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) had the distinction of being both my A-race and my first race of the season. After taking a year off from triathlon, I had been feeling anxious to get back into race mode. I was also excited to see the results of actually training for a triathlon. Coming off a collegiate swimming career, I had previously relied on endurance from distance training and natural fitness to get me through triathlons. This was my first time working with a coach, and I knew that my training over the last seven months was well thought out. I was ready.

The Plan 

  • Swim. Approximately 1:00 – 1:05 on the swim. Be aggressive, but do not expend any energy. If possible, find someone at a similar or slightly faster pace and draft off them to conserve energy. Keep the cable in sight. Use the swim to get the pre-race jitters out of the way.

  • Bike. Maintain a normalized power of 160-170 for the bike. Keep heart rate under 150 bpm, but ideally closer to 140 (or lower). Keep head position steady. Eat every 20 minutes, and drink at least every 10. 

  • Run. Cap HR at 155, but try to stay between 140-150. Do not blow out the energy in the first few miles – it’s a long race. Maintain hydration. Hope that the leg cramps decide not to show up today. 

  • Nutrition. I used Science in Sport (SiS) electrolyte powder, carbohydrate bars, and gels.

Swim

Although my goal swim was in the low 1:00 mark, I placed myself in the sub 1:00 group. IMLP’s swimmers have a reputation of seeding themselves faster than they will actually finish, and so I wanted to get ahead of any athletes who were a bit…overeager. Additionally, I wanted to get ahead of the mass pack which would no doubt involve a fair amount of aggression as swimmers would jockey for a spot on the cable. 

The first 1000 yards went off like any other open water swim. There was a fight for position during the first 500 yards as the lead bunch formed into a pace line. Rounding Turn 2 (~1000 yds), I made my only ‘mistake’ of the swim when I got too comfortable with the reduced need to spot and overshot the turn by about 20 yards. Not a big deal, but it was a fitting mistake considering that a sense of direction was never my strong suit. 

I was able to find a swimmer slightly faster than me to draft behind for the second 1000 yards. This was my strategy going into the swim, and I was able to stay on his feet for most of the straightaway. I was surprised by how many people were swimming off the cable – some by over 25 yards to the left. Yes, this would reduce the traffic they would encounter, but swimming away from the pack seemed unnecessary given that we were still on the first lap and had clear, open water in front of us. 

Lap 1: 29:14

The first half of the second loop went about as well as the second half of the first loop. Although I continued to draft off the guy ahead of me, we were caught by a chase pack which had engulfed the two of us by buoy 5 (~2900 yds). For context, the IMLP swim course is a rectangle with eight yellow buoys on the way away from the start, two red buoys to mark the turns at the other end of Mirror Lake, and eight orange buoys on the way back to shore.

By the time our group rounded Turn 2 and was on the homestretch, I encountered probably the hardest challenge of the swim: the slower age groupers. The open water quickly devolved from an organized pace line to an ‘every-man-for-yourself’ maelstrom. Sighting was required, but mainly to look out for other swimmers rather than check if we were on course. I had to figure out who was ahead of me, if there were gaps to shoot, and if it was easier to swim through or swim around the athletes ahead of me. As rushed as it may seem, that chaos is one of my favorite things about open water swimming – it requires more thinking and aggression than swimming in a pool. 

Before long, I saw an orange buoy with an “8” followed by a red buoy with a T3, meaning I had reached the end of the lap. I was feeling really strong, not out of breath, but strong. The race was on.

Lap 2: 30:14

Total Swim: 59:14. 1:00 goal complete.

Transition #1

The transition involves a long-ish run (at least a quarter mile) from Mirror Lake to transition. This was the first time I had ever used a wetsuit stripper (and the first time I had ever used a wetsuit), and so the process of being told to lie down on the ground as a volunteer yanked my wetsuit off my legs in one smooth motion was interesting, but efficient. I entered transition, grabbed my bike gear bag, and ran into the changing tent.

The volunteers were great, and I was fortunate to be in the changing tent with relatively few athletes (most were still in the water). While I was putting on my socks, shoes, and rubbing some chamois cream on my thighs, the volunteer was getting my glasses, helmet, and gloves ready to go. Transition times were significantly slower than every other triathlon I had previously done. What I thought was a really slow transition was actually 5th in my AG. Taking an extra minute or two in the changing tent doesn’t mean too much in a 10+ hour race.

Transition 1: 6:03

Bike

I read a sentence on a blog post somewhere which stuck with me throughout my longer training rides: “In Ironman, do the bike you should, not the bike you could.” I knew it was important to keep a consistent pedal stroke and monitor my power output, but I also wanted to ride a race I could be proud of. This meant that I would race to my plan: not an easy ride, but not an over-aggressive ride that would destroy my run.

The climbs out of Lake Placid are inconspicuously long, and I’m thankful that I came out in June to practice the course as I knew to take this section slow and smooth. I saw a few cyclists absolutely pounding the opening hills, and I remember thinking that they were insane – we still had 9 more hours of racing left!

The downhill screamer to Keene is one of my favorite parts of the course. I hit a new speed record for the year, and it was nice to have a section where I could bank some free miles. Then came the flats to Wilmington and soon, the severely underrated climb out of Wilmington. Again, some bikers were flying up the hill looking like they were cranking more watts than a professional cyclist on a hors catégorie mountain. Later, I saw several of them walking on the marathon…

Even on the long climb back to Lake Placid, I was feeling good – much better than I was expecting. My power was at my goal watts, my body was feeling fine, and I was hitting my nutrition. When I rode into Lake Placid, I looked down at my computer to mark the lap and saw a 2:54 – more than 20 minutes faster than my anticipated lap split (3:15). Rather than excitement, this actually caused a good deal of anxiety starting the next lap, and I worried I had killed the rest of my race by taking the first lap too aggressively. But I was still feeling strong, I was having fun, and the crowds were cheering me on through town. Riding down Mirror Lake Drive, I pounded my chest and yelled with the crowd, rejuvenated by the energy of the spectators lining the streets. I saw my parents, grandparents, and a friend from college who came up to watch me race, all recognizable by their matching blue shirts with a picture of me printed on the front. The anxiety quickly disappeared. 

Lap 1: 2:54

Chris Klein IRONMAN Lake Placid family t-shirt

Chris Klein IRONMAN Lake Placid family t-shirt

But sure enough, the problems started on the second lap. Earlier than in my training runs, my body started to reject the carbohydrate bars I was eating, and my electrolyte drink seemed less and less appealing with every sip. I started missing scheduled eating and drinking periods. On what began as a cloudy day, the sun started to break through the clouds, and brought with it rising temperatures on the exposed roads. 

Finally, on the climb passed Whiteface, I cracked. My quads cramped up several times, requiring me to pull over to the side of the road and try to massage them out. But worse than the cramps, massive headwinds, absent on the first lap, hampered any forward progress I was making when I would resume my rides. My two training partners, Matt and Katie, both passed me as I was trying to massage out a cramp, and, truth be told, I took relief in seeing familiar faces. Although I appreciated the “are you ok?’s” from concerned cyclists as they rode passed me parked on the side of the road, it was a little demoralizing recognizing that I still had to make it to Lake Placid in order to even start the run. 

After finally getting back on my bike, Mile 100 is where I hit my low point. I was well aware that mental toughness was necessary to finish this race strong, but I was not expecting to have my attitude tested so early in the day. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got to the top of the Northwood Road climb (the short, sneaky climb after the three bears) and enjoyed the coast to transition. Even with the pain, I still finished the lap ten minutes over my anticipated lap split. 

Despite all of the negative emotions mentioned in the previous three paragraphs, I was still having fun. In a sense, nothing was awry…yet. Ironman is a hard race, plain and simple. I knew I was going to struggle with the bike, and although it wasn’t perfect, I made it. Every problem I encountered, I anticipated and had a plan. Race day preparation is an undervalued benefit of having a coach, and as a result, panic mode never set in. Instead, I was ahead of schedule, I was faster than my training rides, and I was still feeling strong enough to run a marathon. Furthermore, I wasn’t hurting alone. Pictures may speak louder than words, but facial expressions in Ironman are an open book for describing how an athlete is feeling. Based on the emotionless faces and glassy, empty eyes, my pain was in good company.

Lap 2: 3:23

Total bike: 6:17. 6:30 goal complete

Transition #2

After crossing the dismount line and handing my bike off to a volunteer, I decided that the path to the changing tent was more deserving of a walk than a run. My legs were hurting, and all I could think about was getting out of my biking shoes. In the tent, I took off my helmet, swapped my socks and shoes, threw a bag of sodium gels in my pocket, quickly downed some fluids, and headed off on my run. Just like in Transition 1, I thought I was moving slowly in T2, but my time was actually above average for age groupers. 

Transition: 5:43

Run

Despite all of the pain I had felt during the last 20 miles of the bike and heading into transition, I actually felt great for the start of the run. I set my watch to focus solely on my heart rate. I used the opening downhills to lengthen my stride and stretch out my quads and calves. I was moving, and with my speed came energy – I was back to having fun! 

One aspect of the race I haven’t touched on too much yet is the crowds. I’ve never seen more support in a race than from the fans and volunteers in Lake Placid. Coming out of transition, I heard more cheers of “let’s go” and “come on, Chris” than in all of my previous races combined. It felt very personal, like they were cheering for me instead of the usual casual clap as spectators wait for their athlete(s) of focus. There were also the fans who tried to be more…unique. The spectator on the ski jump hill at Mile 2/9/15/22 who high-5’d everyone with Facebook foam fingers. The fraternity squad at Mile 1/10/14/23 who cheered for everyone while parading around in their underwear. The aisle of fans on Mirror Lake Drive who tried to motivate the nutrition-depleted runners as they “death marched” to the completion of their first lap. Their energy was contagious and set a new standard that I fear will never be matched by another race nor another crowd. 

But outside of Lake Placid and down Riverside Drive (Miles 3-9 and 16-22), spectators could not easily watch the race and the non-athletes were limited to the volunteers working at aid stations and the medical tent. The lack of cheering fans shouting encouragement diminished the environment to the sight of expressionless runners trying to get to the next aid station and the sounds of running shoes shuffling down the road. The course, on the other hand, was shaded and pretty with the road running adjacent to a small stream.

Early in the run, I was still feeling strong. I was holding around 8:45’s but my HR was starting to rise, still within the 150 range. Many athletes had started walking (my assumption being those who tried to overdo the bike), and truth be told, the number of runners I passed in those opening miles was encouraging. I linked up with another runner who was holding my pace and we chatted for the next 5 miles until the run turnaround when the exhaustion finally caught up to him and he resorted to the ‘death march.’ 

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For me, the struggle began around Mile 8. My heart rate had started to creep into the 150s and low 160s, and even though I eased my pace to 9:30’s, I had a hard time getting my heart rate to come down. I spent the aid stations trying to get as many calories and fluids as I could into my system – water, Gatorade, bananas, chips and pretzels, more Gatorade, more water, ice to hold in my hands and mouth – but my irregular nutrition patterns on the bike had started to wear me down. Mile 9 was the ski jump hill climb, and after walking up the hill I found I couldn’t engage my feet to run again. I was stuck. Then came the cramps: calves, quads, hamstrings, even my groin. My state could best be described by my stop at special needs (Mile 12) when I had a seven-year old volunteer named Gio and his dad help me change my socks. The cramping in my legs was so bad that I couldn’t move/engage the small tendons and muscles without my body wrenching in agony. One of my favorite pictures taken at Lake Placid was on the run where it looks like I’m laughing and shrugging my shoulders. In reality, my dad had yelled to me, “You’re almost there!”, to which I responded, “Dad, what are you talking about? I’m shuffling like a tap dancer, and I still have a half marathon to go!”

Lap 1: 2:07

The only aspect of the race for which I did not prepare was the amount of GI distress that I would encounter, and I do not think I could have prepared for that type of pain. From the start of the second lap, I felt sick, and I knew that throwing up would only deplete me of the electrolytes my body had yet to process and desperately needed. At Mile 14, I found Coach Jim on the course and even asked him if I should throw up – he advised against it. After 9.5 hours of work, my body was fighting back, and I was about to head back out to the isolation of Riverside Drive. 

As it turns out, a bathroom break was really what I needed at the time, and when I came out of a porta potty at Mile 15, I saw Matt about 50 feet ahead of me looking like he was in a very similar condition as I was. We made a pact to finish the race together, and our pacing switched to three minutes of running/jogging/shuffling followed by one minute of walking. Between the GI distress and the ever-present leg cramps, the hurt was real. We both knew the key to finishing was to keep moving, even if it meant a slow walk. Looking around us, the ‘death march’ present on the first lap had evolved to a ‘death march of zombies,’ but the three minutes of running/consistent movement and the mental relief of running with a training partner gave me the strength to keep going. Around Mile 21, Matt and I were joined by Julie Smith, another Upper Valley triathlete, and the motivation and positive encouragement present in the Upper Valley progressed the time, both physically and mentally.

Chris Klein, Julie Smith & Matthew Goff - IRONMAN Lake Placid run

Chris Klein, Julie Smith & Matthew Goff - IRONMAN Lake Placid run

As we climbed back into Lake Placid, the crowds brought us to the finish line. Spectators lined Main Street and Mirror Lake Drive, and the high-5’s and screaming fans were moving. My legs were starting to give out from the cramping, and Matt waited for me to briefly massage them out while Julie finished her own race. From the final aid station, Matt and I decided to make one final, consistent run to the finish line. 

As we entered the Olympic speed skating oval, my emotions kicked in and I started tearing up. Every step brought back a memory from this year’s training, from my initial struggles with a six-mile treadmill run to my first bike over two hours. Unfortunately, I do not remember Mike Reilly saying my name as I approached the finish line – I was too busy taking in my surroundings. Matt and I put and arm around each other and crossed the line. We gave each other a hug. A volunteer put the medal around my neck. I bent down and allowed some tears to fall. The hardest race I had ever done was over. I found Katie, and she, Matt, and I took a group picture. My friend from college helped me out of the oval and up a hill to where some spectators had camped out, and I promptly fell into Jim’s arms in a half-hug/half-collapse. He kept repeating in my ear, “You are an Ironman, buddy.” After 45 minutes, I hobbled into the medical and massage tents to receive some much-needed care on my legs. 

Lap 2: 2:52

Total Run: 4:59

Final Time: 12:39:44

Closing Thoughts

I allowed myself a week before attempting any sort of workout. After seven months on the grind, my body deserved a break. 

Although I was hurting during the final part of the bike and most of the run, I do not regret many of my in-race decisions. Could I have eased off the power on the flats during lap one of the bike? Maybe. But then maybe I would have been hit with more of the headwinds. Should I have taken the opening miles of the runs easier? Probably. But my heart rate was in my target range. I finished in a competitive time, and I am proud of my accomplishment. I’m also proud to have finished the Lake Placid course for my first Ironman – those hills are no joke! 

Now we know how to adjust the training if I were to race IMLP again. The majority of the training this year was spent building a fitness base. Now, the base is there, and I will improve my stability and power on the bike, and to add in some appropriate IM pace work on the run.

My next race, SwimRun Casco Bay, is soon, only two weeks after Lake Placid. I’m excited to incorporate some speed in place of aerobic work, and race in an event which combines my two stronger legs of a triathlon. Plus, a 13-mile race is much shorter than an Ironman. After that, Lake George Olympic, so the distances only decrease from here!

I couldn’t have finished this race if it wasn’t for the Endurance Drive tribe, and so a massive thank you goes out to Coach Jim & Endurance Drive teammates Matt & Katie. 

Keep on driving  – Chris Klein

Chris finished SwimRun Casco Bay with an overall second place finish in the solo division. Great work, Chris! 

Chris Klein, Katie Clayton & Matthew Goff - post IRONMAN Lake Placid

Chris Klein, Katie Clayton & Matthew Goff - post IRONMAN Lake Placid

Life update - IM training, Lake Placid, change of plans, first race as a pro.

As was the case last year, my mid-summer plans included a long block of training into an Ironman/Olympic two week race block. 


Training 

Training

The training portion of this plan was a very enjoyable seven weeks of IM specific work, with a move to Tucson, Arizona thrown in the middle. Having just come off of three 70.3’s I was eager to return to the training needed for long course specific fitness. Although still a strong race, Eagleman was less than satisfying and for me nothing helps move on from a poor result more than hard work. New Zealand seemed a long time in the past and I knew my running and strength on the bike had come a long way since. After a relatively cool spring in Southern California, it had started to warm up significantly and practicing race nutrition and hydration seemed constant at times. Although, I knew I was about to move to Tucson, so my gauge of what is hot was about to be shifted again. Looking back on the block I think I am most satisfied with the progression of my running. Not only have I been able to stay healthy through an increased running load and strong work in the other two sports, but I have also started to find the hints of speed I will one day need. I know there is still a long way to go, but it has been encouraging to see the progress. It continues to amaze me how much longer running has taken to come around to where I think it should be in relation to biking and work in the pool. After about a month of training post Eagleman, Nyssa and I packed up all of our things, loaded a U-Haul, convinced the cats it was time to get in a car and we were off. Thanks to a lot of help from Nyssa’s dad, Cary, things went off without a hitch and one day later we were living in Tucson and it was right back to work. I spent the first week here finishing the bulk of my Ironman training, unpacking and organizing from the move. Followed immediately by repacking everything for a three week trip to the east coast. 


Lake Placid

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My travels to the East Coast started off with an early morning trip to the local Tucson airport, only to quickly return home having had my flights canceled and pushed back a day. Luckily, I had a scheduled day off for training to make it across the country so I was able to flip days and make the shift back into training mode for one more day back in Tucson. The next day I tried again and all went to plan until I arrived in Manchester, NH and was informed one of my bags had not made the same journey. Somehow, Southwest still does not track bags and I will leave it at that. One of the goals for this travel experience was keeping my cool and although I thought I did a better than usual job, my lack of patience was tested multiple times. Luckily, I have people like Nyssa and Jim in my life to keep me calm and in Jim’s case save me from an equipment point of view while my bag, as it turns out, was hanging out in Cincinnati. It was an eventful few days of travel, make do training and after a lot of calling Southwest, mainly by Nyssa if I am honest, all was resolved. As I mentioned above, I was happy to be in great company as well as in a great location, back in the upper valley for a few days before heading out to Placid. Despite all of the small setbacks, the most important things, such as energy levels, my health and my fitness were all best to date, so it was easy to stay relatively positive. Having moved more or less all over the country over the last two years, it is amazing to see just how different climate, flora and fauna can be across this country. Every time I go back to New England I am appreciative of the foliage and changeable weather, although I suppose the opposite reasons are largely why we moved to Arizona. Nyssa arrived to New England late on Wednesday and I think we both enjoyed the scenery during our drive the next day through the Adirondacks and finally to Lake Placid, New York.  

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For this race, we decided to stay a few miles out of town at the Hungry Trout resort. Our room had a small kitchenette so I was able to more or less maintain a consistent diet and eat on my own schedule. Our place was right on the rolling uphill portion of the course back into town so I was able to practice on the course twice pre-race without much hassle or wasted time. I have learned to prioritize being able to get my sessions done quietly and spend as little time on my feet and around crowds as possible in the days leading up to a race, I think we got these things just right this time. Another good sign is a new ability to sleep the night before a race. Historically, I have struggled with the night right before a race, whether it be nerves and an upset stomach or worrying about my temperature and staying hydrated; they were rarely real nights of sleep. This time I slept remarkably well, I was ready to go. 

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Race morning was smooth and I had the sense that I knew my plan and there was nothing to stress about. We arrived at the right time, I had all the right things in my bag, I timed my trips to the bathroom and crowd avoidance well, I was never in a rush and was even able to hop in the water for a splash before race start. Once I enter the water for a warm-up the nerves are usually gone, today was no different. I made my way to the front of the 50-1:00 swim group and waited for the start. Even in an Ironman, the pace is always too hot for my liking off the bat, there is really no option other than to play the game, so I swam hard with the pack. One athlete got away from the pack early and I had no desire to chase so I found the underwater cable and a pair of feet and largely sat in for the whole first lap. I felt smooth and controlled, it is amazing how much of a difference not picking your head up to swim makes. Especially with a wetsuit on the effort is very rewarding. Lap two was chaos. All those things I said about being in control and not sighting disappeared, the front pack and I were immediately into a sea of swimmers on their first lap. Of course most want to be on the cable but you were not allowed to cut to the inside of the buoys, so I found myself constantly switching between the inside and outside of the pack, repeatedly convincing myself I saw clear paths, only to run into feet three strokes later. Maybe I am crazy but why can’t we just swim on the inside for the first loop and the outside for the second loop? There is still a cable, the lengths can of course be slightly adjusted, the flow naturally feeds outwards on the second loop, makes sense to me. Anyway, I eventually made it out of the swim in 52:02, I then spontaneously and for the first time decided to use the wetsuit strippers, kinda nice actually and made my way down the lengthy jog towards the skating arena. I avoided many of my previous mistakes, including but not limited to, grabbing the correct bag, getting everything in my back pockets securely and putting on my helmet prior to touching my bike. I may have even passed a few people. Out on the bike I immediately felt strong and in control of my numbers. My plan was to normalize no more than 260 watts and keep the effort capped at 280 on the steeper sections or if the situation called for a bit more pressure. Over the first few miles a group of four athletes including myself formed and it took about ten more miles for us to sort things out with one rider heading off the front, I settled into second and the other two faded after their initial surges. I was happy to let the leading athlete go as I was already controlling a lot to keep the power at 260 and all I wanted was to run an enjoyable, strong marathon. I came through the halfway point in 2:24, three minutes off the leading rider and feeling very comfortable with my situation. My nutrition was still on plan and my stomach was processing everything I was consuming. Core temp was under control and unlike most races, I had not dropped anything.  Only a few minutes later, my race was more or less over. On one of the sweeping turns out of town my stem broke under the compression, my front bottle then hit my wheel and flew off and I was left with handlebars that, although thankfully still attached, had a solid two inches of vertical play. I had been using an adjustable stem with no issues for the past two months but for whatever reason that corner on this day was too much and the teeth sheared off. Luckily, I was able to control myself and slow down, strangely right near a bunch of policeman and corner workers who very kindly started digging through their gear bags to find an allen wrench as soon as we figured out what had happened. It was difficult to control my emotions, but I stayed calm. The volunteers were being so helpful, I almost did not have time to be upset. After a few minutes of scrambling around trying to find tools, I finally was able to get some pressure on the screw with an allen wrench and a pair of pliers. Quite sketchy, and I did not have a lot of confidence in the strength of the fix, but I got back on and did my best to resume the race. I told myself this is no different than a flat, you are still in control, even a ten minute gap is nothing on the run if things go well. I had also lost my only source of water when the stem broke so was very thirsty by this point. I tried positivity, but my bike was broken and I was not going to wish that away. When I finally got to the first aid station near the cross country center the volunteers had what seemed like an entire bike shop setup on the side of the road. They took the front end apart, cleaned out all the shavings, torqued it all back down, but I could still move the bars and it was unsafe to continue. My reality of my race being over settled in once the rush surrounding actually fixing my machine was over. Tough feeling, but the volunteers at that first aid station really kept me together. Watching them give people support as they went through for the next 30 minutes was very impressive to watch. I was unhappy to be there but could not help but smile watching them sprint to give everyone bottles or whatever they needed. I was also able to borrow a phone and call Nyssa to make sure everyone knew there was no crash or what not, just race over. 

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Nyssa and my coach, Andrew Yoder get a lot of credit for controlling the next few hours. I was pretty upset once I was back to a quiet place and the last hour or two of shifting emotions and mindset started to settle in, but it did not take long for the three of us to figure out a new plan and shift my mentality to the next race. Again, thanks to the help of some very nice people I was able to get my elite license and register for the Ironman in Mont Tremblant, Canada. As I mentioned above, my plan was to race two weeks later at Olympic Nationals in Cleveland, Ohio and spend the middle two weeks relaxing with family and friends in New Hampshire, Connecticut, NYC, and Lancaster. The big downside to the change of race plans was missing the time to relax and see all of my east coast people. However, once everything was finalized race wise my mindset had shifted and it was time to get back to work. 


Training


One day later and much earlier than originally planned, Nyssa and I were back in Tucson and it was straight back into a short block to get some work back in the legs and keep everything I had in the tank heading into Placid ready to go for Mont-Tremblant. As you might expect, it is quite hot in the desert at the moment and properly training here has required full focus from a hydration, nutrition and heat management point of view. Even though it has not actually been that long, I have really enjoyed my training here in Tucson. The bike path is a huge upgrade, we are surrounded by mountains and even most normal roads have great shoulders. Spending as little time in and around traffic is a big focus for me and so far Tucson has allowed me to get great sessions while rarely using open roads. Easy and endurance rides have been outside pretty much regardless of the heat with intervals or more specific work on the TT bike indoors on the trainer. Running has been either very early in the am or during the sunset hour in the evening. All bike rides start with a camelback stuffed with ice and a little water. Even if they are frozen bottles on the frame are hot within minutes but the water on my back has been staying cold through most of the first two hours. Moving to Tucson has brought the morning person and morning trainer in me back out after a year of slightly more sleep filled mornings. It has been really enjoyable getting up pre sunrise most days and getting to work right away. 

Triathlon cycling training


It goes without saying that I am pretty excited for my first race as a professional. I have been thinking about and working towards this specific goal for most of my adult life. I knew there was no chance of anything professional as a swimmer but I always knew I was willing to do the work at endurance athletics in general and triathlon has proven to be the outlet that best displays that work ethic. Racing as a pro has been somewhere on my mind from the very first race I ever entered, back then it was a crazy thought. Then, during my time at Dartmouth things started to click but it also became obviously I could not perform at a high level as both a college swim coach and a high level triathlete. The more I trained and raced the more the idea seemed a lot less crazy. I vividly remember when I decided I would make this happen for real. I was on training trip with the Dartmouth swimmers in Hawaii and was on my typical morning jog. The contrast of what I was currently spending most of my time doing and what I felt when I trained had never been so obvious and I decided I would make it happen. It took another 15 months to finally leave coaching and another 15 months of full time training and racing to make it happen, but it worked and now I get to race as a professional. This is obviously not the finish line and now I am looking forward to maximizing every aspect of my life to be the best long course triathlete I can be. 


It is not lost on me that this is a pretty unique opportunity that most people will never have, I fully intend on making the most of it. It is also worth repeating and repeating a few more times how appreciative I am of all the help I have gotten along the way. Whether it be financial support, coaching and life advice, solid training buddies or just people who decided I was not kidding when I said I wanted to do this, I am really appreciative of your assistance. Onwards. 


2019 IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report

2019 IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report by Katie Clayton

IRONMAN Lake Placid is done and dusted! After dreaming about crossing the Placid finish line for over a year and a lot of training (in 2019 alone I ran swam 296,222 yards, biked 4397 miles, and ran 932 miles), I’m pleased to report that IRONMAN Lake Placid was a success. I finished with a smile and punched my ticket to the October IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. Here are my thoughts on the course, the experience, and my plans until the next one!

Taper: I have a tendency to go into big training weekends and even some races with some built-up fatigue, but Jim made sure that I was fully rested for Placid. After months of 18+ hour training weeks, it was a huge change to go out for a 45-minute spin and call it a day, but I knew that the rest would pay off. I made it my priority to sleep a ton, eat a ton, and de-stress, and seeing my heart rate nice and low on the workouts confirmed that the taper was working. By the time we left for Placid, I was antsy and ready to channel all of my pent-up energy into the race.

Swim: Fast forward to the line-up for the 2.4 mile swim in Mirror Lake. Matthew, Chris and I got as close as we could to the front of the corral so we could start the swim in one of the earlier waves. Jim told us that most people tend to overestimate their swim time, so it’s best to start out up front. Chris lined up with the swimmers under an hour and Matthew and I were right behind him in the 1:01-1:10 group. The gun went off at 6:40, and we were in the water with the rolling start by 6:41. 

I was immediately struck by how many people were near me, but I tried to stay calm and find the underwater cable as soon as possible. There was lots of splashing and thrashing going on and I was kicked a few times as everyone found their groove. Once I got on the cable, I was surprised to see how many people were swimming to my left (avoiding the cable) -- it seemed just as crowded over there. I kept my eyes down and tried to swim smooth without overdoing it. 

The one disadvantage to swimming on the cable is that if you don’t sight, you won’t know when buoys are approaching, so I was pushed under a few of the big yellow triangles as I tried to swim through them. It was a little jarring at first but I tried to do a better job of picking my head up occasionally and/or not breaking my stroke if I hit a buoy. 

By the time I reached the first right hand corner, my left goggle had filled with water so I quickly picked my head up to fix it. Then as I made the turn I momentarily lost the cable, and it took me a little while to fight my way back onto it. Once I did, I came back around, finished the first loop, tried to fix my goggles again as I exited and then re-entered the water, and started all over. 

The second loop wasn’t as strong as the first; I felt fine, but most of the people around me on the cable seemed to be going much slower than they had on their first loop and I felt like I was at the mercy of the speed of traffic. I tried to fight my way around people who were particularly slow or who were splashing a lot or kicking too hard, but I ultimately decided that the energy it took to do that wasn’t worth the seconds I would save. After getting kicked and tangled in the turn buoys at least three or four more times, I backed off the pace and tried to just cruise in for the bike. Swim time was 1:11:06, and while I would have liked to go under 1:10, I really was at the mercy of traffic and I was just happy to be out of the water. 

T1: Once I got out of the water, some awesome wetsuit strippers helped me get my wetsuit off, and then I jogged down the blue carpet to transition. I passed the entire crew of Dartmouth supporters who were awesome and totally put a smile on my face. I grabbed my bike bag, got some help from some volunteers in the change tent to put on shoes, socks, helmet, and sunglasses, and before I knew it, I was on the bike course.

Bike: My heart rate was high as soon as I started the bike, and unfortunately it never really came down. I’m not sure if it was the swim, the excitement, the caffeine, or some combination of the three, but I kept seeing my HR in the 150s even though my watts weren’t out of control. Usually it stays fairly low in training (at The Endurance Drive Ironman Lake Placid training weekend I averaged 140 on the 112-mile course at race watts), so I was a little concerned about it and unsure whether to trust my HR or watts. I ultimately decided that watts was a more reliable metric so I focused on aiming for a normalized power (NP) of 160-170 watts - our race plan. Those watts came easily in the first hour on the climbs out of Placid. I focused on floating the uphills and crushing the descents (especially the Keene descent) and was happy to see that I was riding alongside some fast-looking people. Overall, the first lap felt good and was largely uneventful, and I came back into town in 2:52 (almost 20 minutes faster than my training weekend) with 164 NP for the lap. 

I stayed on top of nutrition with a bottle of Skratch and a Larabar in the first hour, a bottle of Infinit in the second hour, and a bottle of Skratch and a Clif bar in the third hour. I switched out my bottles at bike special needs for two Infinit and one Skratch after lap 1 and headed out on lap 2, where I was excited to see the entire support squad at Run Aid Station #2 cheering me on and my parents in the car coming into Placid from Sleepy Hollow near River Rd. It was after leaving town again that I started to feel the first loop, though, and I decided to back off the pace and watts so I could try to get my HR down. I was getting increasingly worried about the run because my HR had been in Zone 3 for most of the day, and I didn’t want to end up walking the marathon. I got it down to 150 and below, but my watts were definitely lower by then and I knew my pace wasn’t as strong as the first loop.

Morale had been pretty low from the Haselton Road turnaround to the top of the Papa Bear hill. I kept up with nutrition and hydration (one bottle of Infinit during hours 4 and 6, a Bonk Breaker and a bottle of Skratch during hour 5), but there was a strong headwind from Haselton Road to the end that made me feel like I was riding a trainer. I ended up making friends with a couple of people who were struggling along with me and commiserating over we were all so ready to get off the bike. After my loop 2 from hell, total bike time was 6:01:34, 159 NP. 

T2: Coming back into town at the end of lap 2 was awesome - the spectators were fantastic and I was SO HAPPY to give my bike away to the volunteers in transition and get my run shoes on. I made a quick stop at the port-a-potty, switched shoes, grabbed my gels, race belt, and hat, and I was off.

Run: My legs felt a little bit like jelly as I came down the hill by Lisa G’s, but they weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. I was able to throw down a few 8-minute miles without my heart rate spiking and I got a huge morale boost with all of my friends at the mile 2 run aid station. I saw Jim soon after that and he let me know that there was one girl in my AG who was 27 minutes up the road. That was actually pretty comforting because I didn’t feel like I needed to push it to catch her (the lead seemed way too big for an AG win to be realistic), and I was happy with a second-place AG finish for my first Ironman. I continued on down the hill and turned left onto River Rd., jogging through each aid station to grab hydration and nutrition.

I had a little bit of a side stitch and was feeling nauseous, so I couldn’t easily stomach the gels I had brought with me. I grabbed coke and base salt at the aid stations instead, and those went down easily. Unfortunately, my HR was spiking above 160 and it was getting really hot out, so I decided to tone down the pace to see if I could get my HR below the 155 cap Jim and I had planned. I ran an 8:45, then was above 9:00/mile, and I was feeling pretty bad but determined I could hold a pace in the 9s at a reasonable (155-160) HR. I continued to grab coke and salt and not walk the aid stations because I worried that if I started to walk, I wouldn’t start running again.

After finishing up the River Rd. section, I jogged back up the big hill and ran into Jim at mile 9ish. He informed me that the age grouper ahead of me was running 11s and 12s, and her lead had shrunk to 16 minutes. He told me to just keep doing what I was doing, running 9s without my HR blowing up and taking in whatever I could at the aid stations, so I did. I grabbed ice to throw down my shirt and dumped water on my head whenever I had the chance, and I kept the pace and HR steady. I ran up the Lisa G’s hill (which honestly was not as bad as I thought it would be), did the Mirror Lake Drive portion and saw more friends and family, and then headed out for lap 2.

I realized my shoe was untied at mile 13, so I stopped right before going back down the Lisa G’s hill to tie it and nearly fell over, but I righted myself and kept it up. When I saw Jim next at mile 15, he said I was only 6 minutes behind my competitor. If neither of our paces changed, I would catch her. But I was hurting big time, and walking sounded more and more appealing with every aid station. I also missed the coke at a few aid stations and only took in ice water with poor hand-offs, so I was worried about my nutrition and hydration status. Still, I gritted my teeth and kept running with my eye on the number on everyone’s calves for someone in my age group.

As I came down River Rd., I got a little bit of a second wind and continued to throw down 9s with a little less pain. Finally, just before the turnaround, I saw the girl who I thought was my competitor ahead. She was running, but my shuffle was faster than her shuffle, so I passed by her (we both gave each other some encouragement) and hit the turnaround. I didn’t look back after that, but I picked up the pace by a little bit out of fear that she would chase me down. 

By the time I made it off River Rd., I knew I had built up a bit of a lead, but I was really worried about my hydration and nutrition status. I was starting to feel dizzy and I didn’t want to pass out or DNF with so little to go. For the first time on the run, I walked up half of the hill after River Rd. just to keep my HR in control. I started running again as soon as I reached the top and met Jim and Connor around mile 22. While I couldn’t smile, I was happy that they were blasting my favorite songs on their portable speaker. Jim yelled that I had an 11-minute lead and reminded me to keep fueling, keep hydrating. I was pretty close to my breaking point but I continued on, ready to taste the finish.

By the time I got to the Lisa G’s hill I was pretty much done, so I speed-walked up part of it to avoid passing out and clocked my first 10-minute mile of the day, but I was able to pick it up again after getting to the top. My parents and friends were cheering on Mirror Lake Drive, and as I made it to the out-and-back I knew that all I needed to do was run another mile - just one. I rounded the corner, picked up the pace to sub-9s, and laid down everything I had left. I entered the transition area, rounded the track, and saw all of my friends and family along the finishing chute. I somehow managed to smile, and I crossed the finish line with a run time of 3:59:51. I then promptly semi-collapsed into Matthew’s parents’ arms (they were volunteering at the finish) and was carted into the med tent where I made friends with some amazing volunteers who were the first to hear me say, “I think I just qualified for Kona.” Total finish time: 11:22:19.

After: I was fine after I cooled down and got some fluids in me, and getting to hang out on the grass with my friends and family, watch Matthew, Chris, and Julie finish, and relive the whole experience for days after was arguably even better than the race, which was physically and mentally agonizing. Despite the agony of 140.6 miles, I decided to take the Kona slot, because I think that after a few more days of relaxing and active recovery only, I’ll be ready to get back into training mode. After all, this is the IRONMAN World Championships we’re talking about! It’ll be a little crazy to balance more Ironman training with a move out to California in a month and the start of my PhD program in political science at Stanford, but come on - it’s Kona!!!

Thanks a million to Jim and the tribe for everything they have done to support me on this journey. I’m pumped that it isn’t over yet! - Katie Clayton

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The strong athlete

Successful athletes are strong athletes, and strength comes from a focused, intentional, weighted strength program. Let’s break down what that means. As endurance athletes, we have three primary physical systems to improve:

  1. Aerobic: 80% of training is Zone 2 aerobic foundation work, while the other 20% is harder efforts. Endurance athletes love to move their bodies, so they check this box easily with a proper, periodized training plan.

  2. Metabolic: This goes together with Zone 2 aerobic training. Athletes improve their fat to carbohydrate burn ratio with a combination of focused training and healthy eating.

  3. Muscular: Sports science shows that a robust, weighted strength program is critical to improve endurance athletes’ athletic performance. Increased strength means more power, force, and speed. Elite athletes know this, too. So, why is there so much confusion and skepticism from citizen athletes about picking up something heavier than a craft beer? Let’s pull this apart!

First things first: The strength routine you enjoy and do consistently is a check in the “win” column. It may not be the most effective strength program, but if you are doing something, you’ve started down a positive path. That path might include exercises that use your body weight, resistance bands, yoga, pilates, TRX, and/or bosu balls. A routine like this can be helpful, because it helps maintain your fitness and activate your core. But if you are not getting appreciably stronger with this routine -- and if it feels “comfortable” -- there is lots of room for improvement. 

The “meat” of a weighted strength program

A weighted strength program moves beyond core activation exercises and incorporates weights, resistance, and machinery to help you build power. Ideally, the exact routine you follow should be determined by a professional and tailored to your weaknesses, imbalances, range of motion, and sport goals. With that said, you can count on your program to incorporate some of the following full-body compound exercises or variations thereof:

  • Squats, leg presses, deadlifts & lunges.   

  • Lat pulls, rows & pull ups.  

  • Bench and shoulder presses. 

  • Back extensions and bridges.

You should always warm up with some light aerobic activity followed by some body weight or lighter weighted exercises, focusing on executing your perfect lift technique. Start with reps of 10-15 with lighter loads and then progress the weight and decrease the reps to 5-8. Take plenty of rest (90 seconds to 2 minutes). The goal is to execute your best form at increasing loads, not to get another cardio workout. 

Use whatever equipment is readily available: barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and/or machines. If it’s heavy, it will work. There are a thousand things you can lift, and a thousand weighted strength exercises. Pick the ones that challenge large muscles and draw on your full body. When your routine feels easy, it means it’s time to change it up (usually every 6-8 weeks). 

Your goal is to move heavy things 2-3x per week for 30 to 60 minutes. This shouldn’t be an epic session; get in, lift heavy, get out. Recent studies have shown that one set of 5-8 reps per large body part 2-3x per week will increase strength.  

When should I lift?

Plan 9-10 months of the year to lift heavy and 2-3 months for a core/maintenance routine. It won’t be beneficial if you gain strength in November but your “A” race is in July. Schedule heavy strength in the off season and Base period, and taper it for the Build/Race season. This means you should keep that gym membership active year round -- or build yourself a fancier pain cave!

How do I incorporate lifting?

An effective strength program follows this general arc:

  • Find and hire a professional: a strength & conditioning coach, Physical Therapist (PT), or a personal trainer with competent weight training experience.

  • Work with your coach to assess your range of motion and identify body weaknesses and imbalances. This will prepare you to start a strength program. Your coach should teach you proper lifting technique with body or lighter weights at first.  

    • Plan B: If you don’t have access to a local professional (nearly every gym has an instructor available), competent strength coaches post tons of videos on YouTube. (We’re happy to help you sort out who is legit and who is not.) You’ll need to proceed carefully as you won’t have the benefit of in-person technique feedback. But armed with a full length mirror and knowledge, you can make progress. 

  • Start your program gradually, adding load and progression over time as you gain strength.  After a few introductory sessions, your workout should feel challenging to the point of “wow, that was a super hard 8 reps!”

  • Try to separate your aerobic sessions from your lift sessions. Aerobic activity can lessen the effects of strength training. But if you need to go back-to-back with an aerobic and strength session, don’t let the goal of perfection stand in the way of progress.

Benefits of going heavy

If a new drink mix enhanced your body with the below traits, you would gladly pay a hefty monthly fee to access it. The benefits of a proper weighted strength program are the following: 

  • Improve force production. If you increase your ground (run), pedal (bike), water (swim), or pole (ski) force, you increase your speed. You will have more lasting power throughout your workouts and races, allowing you to finish strong.

  • Increase lean muscle and shed body fat. Who doesn’t want to look good? That’s half the appeal of endurance sports!

  • Improve efficiency and economy. Go faster with less effort. 

  • Eliminate muscle and tendon niggles and prevent major injuries. This alone should send you sprinting to the gym! 

  • Like Zone 2 training that builds your aerobic engine, lifting provides the muscular foundation for all physical activity. Big aerobic fitness pays huge dividends in endurance racing, and the same is true for a robust, strong body. Stack the two foundations and you have an endurance castle.

  • Stepping back further, some of the most important benefits of being an athlete are long-term health and longevity. A strong body will serve you not only on course, but leaning into the car with grocery bags, shoveling the driveway, or moving furniture. We want you strong now, in the future, and in all aspects of your life.

Additional reasons to pump iron

If you hired a coach and completed their swim, bike, and/or run program but never got faster, you would fire them. The point of training is to improve. If your current strength routine does not result in a stronger, faster body, why would you continue with it? Don’t settle for status quo strength. Become the athlete you are meant to be.

On race day, you should be most afraid of the competitor who is less aerobically trained than you are but is much stronger. Strength, like big fitness, allows an athlete to do things on the race course that weaker athletes can’t. It allows you to animate and control the race.

Finally, if you were to describe the characteristics of your favorite athletes, strength would make the top five. Whether it’s triathlon, ultrarunning, swimming, cycling, soccer, dance, or wrestling, the best in sport are super fit, skilled, and strong. 

Who should do weighted strength?

Everyone should lift weights! But if you are a novice, Masters, or aspiring Front of the Pack (FOP) age grouper, lifting is all the more important. If you are in your mid 20s to early 30s with a significant athletic background, your biggest challenges tend to fall in the aerobic and metabolic efficiency buckets, so you can make aerobic efficiency your first priority -- but don’t forget to lift sometimes.

Will I get huge like Arnold?  

No. Period. End of story. You will, however, start to feel and look great. As a time crunched athlete, you will love the return on investment: the speed, the power and look. If you are a 40+ year old athlete, you will start to look and feel 10, 20, or 30 years younger. Convinced yet?

A progressive, weighted strength program will round you out as a complete athlete and healthy person. Lifting will give you an edge and forge a sword to take into race battle. Plus, who doesn’t like to hear, “You look great! You’ve been working out?!” So get strong and don’t forget to flex! - Jim

Reference Papers: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29249083

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2012/07000/Resistance_Training_is_Medicine___Effects_of.13.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854344

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0

Strong Athlete

Triathlon in the midst of tragedy

Describe this weekend in one word: eventful. The Endurance Drive crew and several Dartmouth club athletes traveled to Franconia, NH to race the White Mountains Olympic triathlon. The weather was perfect and our big fitness showed—despite a heavy training week, little to no tapering, and not really warming up, we grabbed nine spots on the podium including four top age group finishes and second overall on the women’s side. Although we were excited to have a great race, the weekend was most memorable because of what happened on Friday. On the drive to Jim’s house in Randolph after picking up our race packets, we were one of the first cars on the scene of a horrific crash on Route 2 that killed seven motorcyclists and injured three others.

Around 6:30 pm on Friday, a pickup truck with a trailer jackknifed into a group of ex-marines on motorcycles who had just left their hotel. We arrived just after the crash to find motorcyclists and other witnesses stumbling around, metal and pieces of motorcycles scattered all over the road, and the pickup truck on fire with all of its airbags deployed. No emergency vehicles had arrived.

It took a minute for everyone in our cars to realize the gravity of the situation, but we then jumped out of our cars and sprang into action to do what we could to help. We called 911, tried to help move survivors and witnesses off the road and away from the burning truck, ran back down Route 2 to stop other cars from trying to get through and make room for EMS vehicles, took some video footage for the police, and tried to help people who had witnessed the crash calm down. However, we quickly realized how much the situation was far out of our hands. We would later describe the scene as walking into the aftermath of a plane crash, with bodies, machine parts, and fire on all sides. Ultimately, we had to come to terms with our helplessness in a horrific situation unlike any we had experienced before.

We left the scene as the first fire trucks were arriving and drove another hour to get around the site of the crash. Everyone was in some degree of shock. One moment we were going through life, cracking jokes, singing in the car, and getting ready to race a triathlon. The next we were transported into a nightmare, witnessing tragedy, death, and raw human emotion. All we could do was try to remain calm, clear the area for emergency responders, and try to provide support for survivors in varying states of emotional distress.

We got to Jim’s late Friday night, hugged each other, ate some pizza, and packed up for the race. After living through the aftermath of a crash that the NH state police captain called worse than any he has ever seen, all we could do was move on and try to live life with a greater appreciation for our health, the experiences we get to have every day, and each other. Our thoughts remain with the victims and their families.  - Katie & Matt

White Mtn Triathlon race report

Top Characteristics of High Performers

What separates the average person from a top performer?  Sure, some athletes hit the DNA lottery -- but that’s rarely the differentiator.  Most top athletes are regular people with effective habits, detailed schedules, big goals, and a superior mindset. The following twelve traits summarize their success:

1) Accountable:  High performers are accountable to themselves, their coach, and their support network. They set realistic expectations, negotiate time “on” and “off” with their family and friends, and remain accountable through successes and downturns.

2) Clarity: High performers have clear goals, strategies, and tactics. In an age of overwhelming information, they focus on “best practices” and timeless wisdom. Understanding that passion is a paradox, they use it to elevate their performance and navigate away from distractions and false summits.

3) Confident: High performers balance ego, competence, and humility to display a healthy confidence. Top performers know their boundaries and how to push them. Their confidence comes from internal motivation rather than external wins.

4) Curious: High performers read, listen, and learn from top coaches, scientists, writers, and peers. Engaging with their craft, they seek specific and general knowledge to improve their performance. They leverage knowledge from one discipline to another. For example, they can seamlessly transfer the technique skills they pick up in the pool to their posture and efficiency while running.

5) Disciplined:  Time is the scarcest resource, and time discipline rules high performers’ days. They patiently add volume and consistency, the primary athletic performance-drivers. They develop routines to rise early, place their “big workout rocks” first, and make every waking hour productive. They schedule meals, sleep, and recovery. On a micro and macro-level, their training plans are focused and mindful.

Don’t think you have time to workout? Read this:  ‘Not Just a Maid’: The Ultra-Running Domestic Workers of Hong Kong

6) Driven: High performers rise to the challenge daily. They are comfortable being uncomfortable. When something is difficult, they work harder rather than back off. (You might say they have an endurance drive!)

7) Integrity: High performers act with integrity when people are looking and when they are not. They and their tribe value and promote strength of character. Even when training alone, they will not cheat or take shortcuts.

8) Optimistic: High performers maintain a positive outlook. They consider challenges and failures to be learning experiences. Their outlook on sport and life is a long-term game with an upward, positive trend. To paraphrase Naval Ravikant, optimists build a skill set that “looks like work to others but feels like play to them.”

9) Organized: High performers anticipate their needs for the next workout and prepare them well in advance. They remember their bike shoes, arrive on time, know the route and workout goal, bring snacks, and have a post-workout dry shirt and meal prepared.

10) Present: Shiny objects and shallow games do not distract high performers. They immerse themselves in their craft and their relationships, developing deep connections with the task at hand and the people around them. In the pool, they don’t stare at the black line; they focus on a taut core, proper hip rotation, and the catch and pull position. They know that every second presents an opportunity to improve.  

11) Principled: High performers establish principles to process information, handle a variety of situations, and arrive at sound decisions. They know that low mental friction facilitates action, and a clear personal philosophy steers the ship to calm waters.  

12) Rational: High performers understand context and make logical decisions. They know that taper and rest periods are the “other side” of the fitness formula. They know which data metrics to monitor, and when, and which ones to ignore given the training cycle and goal. In other words, they know when and what to obsess over and when to let go.

Encouragingly, the above skills require no additional physical effort. They represent working smarter, not harder. These mental strategies work like compound interest, with dividends rolling in long after the habit has formed. So get out there and be accountable, seek clarity, maintain confidence, think curiously, practice discipline, find your drive, act with integrity, stay optimistic, get organized, be present, define your principles, and act rationally. Do all that and you’ll be a high performer, too! -Jim

Triathlon cycling training

Tracking & Planning Your Life Stress Score (LSS)

TrainingPeaks allows athletes and coaches to track workouts and performance with a physiological stress metric known as Training Stress Score (TSS; a detailed explanation is here). In brief, TSS is a metric that takes into account the time and intensity of your workout relative to your threshold heart rate, power, or pace. For example, an easy 2K swim might yield 35 TSS. A 40K bike time trial or a 15K run at your race pace equates to about 100 TSS. A 20-mile all day hike with big elevation could be as high as 500 TSS. TSS is a useful data tool for short- and long-term planning, and the patterns it reveals can help both athletes and coaches make training and racing decisions.

But if TSS only cares about the duration of our workout and our threshold performance values, how do we account for the other stress in our lives when making decisions about how we train and race? The psychological strain that comes from a busy job, a hectic household, travel, or demands from school can all have huge impacts on our overall well-being. To account for mental stress in our overall training plans, I employ an original metric: Life Stress Score (LSS). The goal of LSS is to capture and anticipate stress that isn’t always physiological, but has an equally large impact on your physical training and race performance.

How does LSS work in practice? When an athlete is heading into a stressful work period, a major family event, or significant travel, we scale back the time and intensity of their workouts to free up mental and physical resources. For our student athletes preparing for final exams, we plan a recovery week with fewer sessions and less intensity, and delay longer workouts until after the tests are done. We keep physical activity at a maintenance level, or minimum effective dose, during this time, but we communicate with our athletes about which types of workouts will serve as academic performance enhancers (easy run with friends) and which will add to the stress (hill repeats at 6 am). This dialogue provides athletes with the physical and mental space they need to study and ace their engineering final. It’s a key part of our person first, athlete second approach at The Endurance Drive.

If you are training for a major endurance event (IRONMAN, IRONMAN 70.3, ultrarun, SwimRun, bike stage race), travel to the event can be another major LSS factor that drains athletes. Combine packing lists with coordinating time off with unfamiliar environments with inadequate sleep, and you run the risk of feeling much more frantic and stressed than usual. To feel both physically and mentally fresh on race day, you should plug in LSS, along with your TSS, into your race week plan. Scale back your workouts, don’t be overly ambitious about getting sessions in on days when you’re in transit, and do everything you can to stick to your routine. That, in combination with a close look at TrainingPeaks’ Training Score Balance, will help you arrive at the starting line at an appropriate level of mental and physical preparedness.

How much LSS you should assign to travel, work, school, or other stressful life events is more art than science. But by listening to your body during times of stress, you can begin to associate them with equivalent workouts. For example, after overnight air travel, I feel like I just ran a half marathon, which equates to around 150 (L)TSS. Figuring out what to pack and other logistics the day before a race might be 50 (L)TSS. Athletes tend to become attuned to their TSS scores for any given workout. You can use that same sense to think through your upcoming stressful events and input some LSS into your plan.

Stress is stress, whether physical or psychological. It all pulls from the same limited resources your body has. Your body hourglass has finite grains of sand each day, and every stressful event pulls sand at a greater rate through the funnel. When the top of the hourglass is empty, it’s empty. So sprinkle some LSS into your training plan for a 360-degree view of endurance event planning. We hope it helps you arrive at your big training weekends and race day physically and mentally prepared. -Jim

Hawaii_Pool_Life_Stress_Score

IRONMAN Lake Placid Simulation Weekend

The Endurance Drive crew traveled to Lake Placid, NY, in early June for an IRONMAN simulation weekend to prepare for IM Lake Placid in July. The weekend included two loops on the bike course (112 miles) and one loop of the run course (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and the second loop of the run course (13.1 miles) on Sunday. Cool temperatures and thunderstorms in the forecast kept us from swimming in Mirror Lake, but we came out of the weekend with a ton of race knowledge and a fitness bump that will carry us through the next eight weeks of training. Here are some key takeaways from our simulation:

  • Have a plan going into any training weekend or race. This means that you know beforehand what bike watts and/or heart rate you will aim to sustain during your ride, and what pace and HR you know you can hold for 26.2 miles on the run. Don’t experiment with going harder in the first half of either leg -- you’ll certainly pay for it later.

  • Bike pacing is key. It’s important to focus on having a smooth and sustainable bike pace if you want to run strong off the bike. This means that the first 56 miles should feel like a walk (or bike) in the park. The two loop course at IRONMAN Lake Placid is advantageous in this regard; when you come back into town for the first time, you want to feel fresh.

  • Nutrition can derail your race in a matter of minutes. On the bike, you should be drinking a few sips every 10 minutes and eating a few bites every 20 minutes. Fuel early and often on the bike because it’s easier to take in calories and carbs there than on the run. Also: if you don’t want to end up doubled over on the roadside and losing the contents of your stomach, always take gels with water!

  • You can be familiar with a course without being familiar with a distance. If you drive an IRONMAN course or bike or run parts of it, that’s good, but the bike and run are whole different animals on the second loop than on the first.

  • IRONMAN Lake Placid in particular is a challenging course. The bulk of the hills are in the second half of the bike loop. Most people lament the climbs from Wilmington back to Lake Placid -- the climb up Whiteface, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears -- but the truth is that the hills start as soon as you finish the descent into Keene. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in and out of aero, fighting your way home.

  • IRONMAN is a mental game. Your mind will go to some dark places, especially during the second half of the bike and run. Develop some strategies on hand that will help you get out of those dark places -- high five someone else on the course, repeat a mantra, think about all of the movies you like, force yourself to smile. Know what will help you boost morale and hit your mental second wind. Force yourself into these dark places by participating going long.

  • IRONMAN is hard! Just because a lot of people sign up for these races doesn’t make them easy. The reality is that most people do not properly train, and end up in survival mode from late in the bike or early in the run to the finish. To truly race an IRONMAN, you must be super fit and super tough -- well beyond what you thought you were capable of and what you thought was necessary.

  • Despite the challenge, IRONMAN is extremely rewarding. There is something very special about sweaty hugs, Strava caption brainstorming sessions, and burgers and ice cream to celebrate shared endurance accomplishments. Just think how great it will feel when you can share this feeling with the thousands of other racers and your entire support network on race day.

After a little bit of much-needed R&R, we’re excited to jump into another eight weeks of training this week. Our simulation weekend taught us that IRONMAN will be a challenge -- but we love challenges, and we’re confident that this is one we want to tackle head-on. Lake Placid, get ready, because the Endurance Drive is coming back to town. -Katie and Jim

Ironman_stop_light_lake_placid

You can / you should: Ten endurance miscues and calibrations

1. You can (easily) sign up for an Ironman or an ultra run; you should consider your experience and time commitment to train for that distance.

2. You can add another interval; you should stick to the workout plan, finishing with energy.

3. You can increase weekly training time; you should follow your overall training arc.

4. You can run (considerably) faster; you should focus on aerobic efficiency in zone 2.

5. You can race faster in the first half; you should pace wisely and aim for negative splits.

6. You can produce higher power than IRONMAN watts; you should train at IRONMAN watts (and distance) as you get closer to your race.

7. You can swim five minutes faster in an IRONMAN; you should swim with ease and comfort considering that it’s a long day.

8. You can perform a long workout with minimum food and hydration; you should have and execute a personalized and best practices nutrition plan that will carry you through race day.

9. You can add workouts to your recovery or taper week; you should recover and adapt.

10. You can eat a pan of brownies post workout; you should eat your macronutrients (and a brownie).

We have many opportunities to “can,” but disciplined athletes know how to “should.” “Can” is the easy path, while “should” trends uphill. Which road will you choose? -Jim

***

Bonus calibrations from Coach Katie:

You can do all of your mid-run speedwork on downhills so it feels easier; you should incorporate race pace into flat and uphill terrain to better prepare for hilly races.

You can ignore a niggle during your workout and tell yourself that you’ll deal with it when the workout is done; you should back off when your body is telling you something is wrong.

stop_trail_sign_10_endurance_calibrations