Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chris Sweet's 2013 So Far...

Chris checks in with the team to let us know how his 2013 race season is going:

The 2013 tri season has been good to me thus far.  When other tri geeks ask me how my training has been going I've been replying that I've had really good consistency getting workouts in since January, but my overall volume has stayed lower than I would like (generally 6-10 hours per week).  My spring focus has been all about trying to regain some short course speed that I never really had in the first place. In the gene pool lottery I definitely got the go-long DNA.  Both my spring and summer "A" races are/were Olympic distance so I've tried to do a better job of hitting some shorter, hard intervals on the bike and the track. It sorta worked.  I've been racing a bunch both to build speed and reacquaint myself with short course suffering.  None of these races really needs a full-blown race report, so here's the Readers Digest version.

March 8
Cactus Classic 1/2 Trail Marathon
Forest City, IL

I know, I claimed to be working on speed and still start my season with a trail 1/2 marathon!  This race has quickly become one of my must-do favs.  The race is about 1.5 hours from me, but the terrain is unlike anything else in Illinois.  It is held in Sand Ridge State Park and it lives up to its name.  There are both lots of sand and lots of little cacti.  Not only is there sand, but it is deep and loose.  It also has hills. What's not to like?  This year there was snow on top of the sand in places (which was actually easier) and it also was very rainy and just over freezing.  I pulled off an overall win at this small-ish race with a 1:35.  I have lots of half Ironman run splits around 1:25 and regular half marathons around 1:20 so that might give you a sense of the course difficulty!

April 28
Sullivan Triathlon
Sullivan, IL

Sullivan is one of the earliest Illinois triathlons.  It is a sprint with a pool swim, then the remainder of the race is outside.  It's always a good early-season benchmark and in past years has had a few pros show up. Race conditions were cool and rainy (start keeping track of that!). No pros this year helped give me the overall win with almost a 5 minute margin.  That was my 3rd overall win at Sullivan.

400 meter pool swim 5:53
13 mile bike: 33:31, 24.3mph, 264 watts
5K run 18:26

May 5
Rev3 Knoxville Olympic
Knoxville, TN

I added Rev3 Knoxville to my schedule for two reasons. #1 I was able to combine the race travel with a library conference in Nashville, so most of my travel costs were covered. #2 My Evotri teammate, Simply Stu is a fixture at the Rev3 events and I knew we'd get to catch up a bit following our spring team training camp in Chattanooga.  All race week was rainy and cold and race day was the same.  Some of the pros raced in their swim skins to try and stay warm, some age groupers kept their wetsuits on for the bike!  The river water temperature was in the upper 50s so I spent the first 1/3 of the swim trying not to hyperventilate.  This race has a super-long run to T1 which really slowed times down. I didn't get a chance to preview the bike course and with a hard rain coming down I road really conservatively and it showed in the time (1:06).  I was pretty happy with my 37:51 run split all things considered.

1500 swim 21:17
40K bike: 1:06, 23.3mph, 243 watts
10K run: 37:51
2:10:57 blarghhh

June 2
Best of the U.S. Championship / Leon's Triathlon (Olympic)
Hammond, IN

The Best of the U.S. Championship is an interesting amateur race series.  Each state has one race per year designated as the qualifier for the championship race the following year.  The top 3 male and female racers qualify to represent their state.  I had qualified once or twice in the past, but the championship race was always either too expensive to travel to, or conflicted with something else.  I qualified last year at our local Evergreen Triathlon and the championship this year was held in conjunction with Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, IN which is only about 2 hours away. This was my "A" race for the spring and I hoped to finally get under the elusive 2 hour mark.  I went 2:00 and a few seconds at Memphis in May in 2008, but that bike course was short. After a very rainy week, race day looked good in the forecast.  Race morning I was overdressed and had to go looking for a t-shirt.  About 45 minutes before race start a cold front blew in and temps dropped into the 50s and guess what- the rain started again (but not as bad as Knoxville).  The water temp was reasonable and I knew I was going to have a good swim with lots of fast feet to draft. 21:21, check.  Onto the bike the wind was blowing, but not terribly.  I still thought I had a shot at the sub-2.  This race markets itself as "Worlds Fastest" but that seems really overblown.  The race consists of two loops and each loop had three 180 degree turnarounds.  That plus some fairly rough roads and a few small hills already put "Worlds Fastest" into doubt.  Turns out the bike course was also about 0.7 miles long.  I rode pretty well but finished with a 1:03 for 25.5 miles. Of course, I didn't know the details at the time, I just got after the run since there were already a bunch of good athletes up the road. I clicked off a superb 36:05 10K on a legitimately flat and fast run course. If the run was accurate it was definitely my fastest ever. I finished in 2:03:02 which probably would have been a touch over 2-flat with an accurate 40K bike. I finished 16th in the Best of the U.S. field and 26th overall. Normally I'd be disappointed with that kind of placing, but this was a seriously stacked field of racers.

1500 swim 21:21
40K bike 1:03:05, 246 watts
10K run 36:05

June 15
Rockford Triathlon (Olympic)
Rockford, IL

This was also a new race for me and not on my schedule originally.  It was Father's day weekend and the race was held at Rock Cut State Park in Rockford.  It seemed like an ideal way to combine a family camping trip with some racing.  That concept worked pretty well except that it rained on me again.  Pretty hard, but slightly warmer than Knoxville and Leons! This race was not that large (200+/-) but was part of a college series, so had a bunch of college teams racing.  I have to say this was one of the least-well organized events I've been to in awhile. They weren't ready for packet pickup, then they weren't ready for the race start which had to be pushed back.  Swim cap colors were messed up. The bike was quite dangerous since it was an out and back on a fairly busy road.  Lastly almost none of the run course was marked causing me (and many others including the eventual winner Thomas Gerlach) to go off course.  In the end I finished in 2:10:31 which included another long T1, another long bike course and a detour on the run.  I finished 5th overall, but missed prize money by 20 seconds which was a bit frustrating considering my run detour was at least 45 seconds.

1500 swim 24:26
40K bike 1:04:46, 23.3mph, 237 watts
10K run 39:06

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chris Sweet's Ironman Wisconsin Course Notes

Every year at WIBA, Chris Sweet presents his notes about racing Ironman Wisconsin. It's a great overview of getting through the day and should be reviewed by everyone competing in Madison. Chris was kind enough to share his notes that follow. 

In 2002, I raced my first Ironman in Wisconsin. I was a year removed from a collegiate swimming and running career and overly confident about my Ironman prospects. I had an OK debut race, but in hindsight made many rookie mistakes. Fast forward 5 years and 3 more Ironman finishes and I came back to Wisconsin a much more experienced triathlete. This time around, I raced a very smart race, went sub-10, got on the podium, and qualified for Kona. The strategies below also draw on my experiences as a USAT certified coach.

Bottom line is that after a good deal of trial and error, I learned how to race the Ironman distance. Ironman race strategy is quite similar for any course. Many of the recommendations below could be successfully applied to any Ironman. I've tried to make note of a few things that are specific to Ironman Wisconsin. These notes and strategies are geared more towards first-timers than podium chasers.

  • 7 AM start 
  • Eat a solid breakfast bet. 4:30-5:30 AM 
  • Ballpark 500-800 calories (some solid, some liquid, some protein, some fat, little to no fiber). Ideas: bagel with PB and honey, oatmeal with PB, plain white rice and a scrambled egg 
  • Speaking from experience: don’t forget your bike nutrition in the fridge! 
  • Continue sipping on sports drink until you enter the water 
  • Drop off special needs bags near Capitol building on Main Street 
  • Check over your bike 
  • Sit down, relax, until time to head to water (about 20-30 minutes prior to start) 
  • Transition closes at 6:30am. 
  • IM WI is an in-water start and it takes awhile to get everyone in. Expect to be treading/floating for quite awhile prior to the start. 
  • Goggles: I keep both a clear and tinted pair for either cloudy or sunny conditions. Anti-fog sprays can help, but letting a little lake water into your goggles and keeping it there is the only sure-fire way to beat goggle fogging. 
  • If you are a slower swimmer, start wide (to the right) and towards the back. 
  • Faster swimmers should consider swimming to the inside of the buoy line until hitting the first required turn buoy. 
  • Don’t get carried away at the start. It is a very long day. Steady pace with even breathing. 
  • Always draft off others and sight as little as possible. 
  • There is a long straightaway before the first left turn. The first turn will be congested. Do not take the inside line, stay wide! 
  • As you near the swim finish, increase your kicking for the last 5 minutes to get the blood moving in your legs again. 
  • Soon after the swim exit there will be wetsuit peelers to help you get your wetsuit off. Try to have the top unzipped and then sit down in front of the volunteers and they will strip your suit for you. 
  • Parking ramp (aka The Helix) - jog up if you are trying to qualify for Kona. Consider walking or a slow jog otherwise. This is not the place to try and make up time. 
  • Inside the Monona Terrace for T1. Don’t forget to have volunteers apply sunscreen before you get onto your bike!
  • Ride carefully down helix: not the place to pass. You’ll have plenty of road for that. 
  • If you use behind-the-saddle bottle cages make sure they won’t launch your carefully planned nutrition. Carbon cages may be light and pretty, but almost all will launch bottles- particularly if it rains. I highly recommend Elite Ciussi Gel Aluminum Cages as seen here on George Hincapie’s Paris Roubaix bike
  • The bike leg of an IM is all about proper pacing. Knowing and sticking to proper IM HR or Power zones is critical. 
  • Nutrition: nothing but fluids first 15-20 minutes out of water. After that, begin race nutrition plan. In general most athletes can take in 200-400 calories per hour. 
  • Know what works for you and also what is on course. Be willing to listen to your body and deviate from nutrition plan. 
  • Weather: It's always different! Within last 5 years people have dropped out of IM WI for both dehydration/heat stroke and hypothermia! Be prepared! 
  • Gearing- you must be able to spin up most of the hills without standing. This course is ideal for a compact crank. A compact crank has 50 and 34 tooth chainrings as opposed to a traditional 53-39. Your rear cassette (using either crank) should ideally be: 11-26 or 11-28 (again referring to teeth on the smallest and largest cogs). 
Bike Course:
  • First 15 miles or so heading out of town are relatively flat and hopefully have low winds. People always start out too fast in IM. Maintain a steady pace, they will come back later! 
  • After you pass through Verona the first time you begin some of the hillier sections. 
  • First long climb is coming into town at Mount Horeb. There is an aid station at top. For the majority of the hills you want to stay seated and spin up. It’s ok to stand to stretch out your legs and back, but not to mash the pedals. 
  • Going down Garfoot is really the only slightly technical descent on the course. If you’ve pre-ridden the course you know it is coming and how fast you can make the turns. 
  • Old Sauk is the longest climb on the course and is shortly followed by one of the steepest climbs on Timber Lane. Spin up most of Old Sauk, then you will probably need to stand for some of the Timber Lane climb. 
  • Midtown has the last (4th) significant hill. After that, it is less than 10 miles before coming into Verona to complete the first loop. 
  • Special needs will be after Fireman’s Park around the ½ way mark. 
  • What goes in Special Needs? Consider: 
    • rain jacket 
    • spare tube 
    • extra CO2 cartridges 
    • spare tire?, extra nutrition 
    • “reward” food like a Snickers bar. 
  • Taking your special needs bag on race day is optional. 
  • 2nd loop stick to your pacing and nutrition plan 
  • If you are feeling good at mile 75, you probably paced it right and then you can ramp it up a little and start reeling people in! 
  • Remember that a properly-paced IM bike leg should never be harder than your training long rides and in most cases would be a little easier. 
  • Heading back into town –hopefully without a headwind! Taper off nutrition, (and definitely stop solid foods), and switch back to mostly water about 20-30 minutes from end of bike course. 
  • Easy up the helix. A volunteer will take your bike and you will head into the terrace for T2
  • Back inside the terrace 
  • Can do a full clothes change if you want. 
  • Don’t forget more sunscreen! 
  • The run is –you guessed it- all about pacing and nutrition. 
  • Give yourself two or three easy miles to settle in and get used to running. 
  • Have a run-specific nutrition plan. Generally about ½ the calories you take per hour on the bike. 
  • A structured walk/run strategy is very effective for many age groupers. 
  • As IM run courses go, Wisconsin is not that difficult. One big hill (Observatory Dr) each loop. You should probably walk this unless you plan to run under 3:30. Even then you probably wouldn't lose time walking the hill. 
  • Heat is more of a concern on this course than hills. Wear a hat. Stay hydrated. Dump ice and water everywhere. 
  • Special needs is at the end of the first loop near the Capitol. What is in a run special needs bag? 
    • More of your planned/favorite nutrition 
    • Rain gear 
    • Long sleeve shirt or arm warmers 
    • Reward food? 
    • Change of shoes/socks? 
    • Something inspirational to get you through? 
  • Steady pace through about mile 15-16. Reassess at this point. If you are feeling decent –congratulations on proper pacing- and now it is time to really ratchet up the suffering and pick up the last 8-10 miles. People will come back to you in droves which is a nice mental boost. 
  • Take your time and enjoy the finish line!
General Thoughts
  • Thank volunteers and spectators throughout the race. Draw on their energy. 
  • Race your own race all day. 
  • Don’t stay in a funk. There will always be low points in every IM race. Figure out how to deal with it and move forward. Know and tap into your personal motivations for being out there. 
  • Have fun! You don’t have to do this, you get to do this! 
  • Smile!
Chris smiling his way through IM WI in 2007

If you are interested, my 2007 Ironman Wisconsin race report is linked here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

JP Reviews Podium Cold

JP sends in a review of a new product he's been testing. 

I just got back from a standard Saturday morning smash fest on the bike. My buddy Larry and I ripped through three seven-minute intervals at ~425 watts uphill and then hit a hard 5-mile climb called Rockstore. Rockstore is a great climb and was featured in the Tour of California. No matter how fast you ride it, it seems to sap your legs of whatever is left.

A couple years ago, that ride would have been the end of a really solid day and I would have bagged it and lounged around for the rest of the day. I might have needed to recover the following day. However, as I get further into the sport, the standard volume of workouts and weekly training load has bummed up significantly as feeding my endorphin addiction has become increasingly difficult. Full rest is rarely on the agenda. As I ramp up the training, the body needs a bit of extra love in order to bounce back. After a year of injury, I have become proactive with the little things that keep you on the road and rolling. Foam rolling, elevating your legs, and compression socks are all excellent starters. But I am always in search of the next thing. I am a tinkerer. Ice baths have always been effective for me and I came across a product that gets you the same effect and is a bit more practical.

The product is called the Podium Cold legs wraps. They are basically full-length ice wraps that you apply as a recovery aid after big days. My first use was an interesting experience. My first impression when I threw them in my freezer was surprise. They actually fold up and fit really nicely. I hadn't considered it but fitting full leg anything in your freezer is pretty impractical but the folding was quite an easy solution.

On my first use, I found putting 8 Velcro straps sort of cumbersome. They are also limited in terms of how tightly you can wrap the straps but once they were on, they felt awesome. Not too cold, but just right. I used them for 15 minutes for the first time and that amount of time seemed right as well.

Putting them to the test through the last 4 months, I have noticed less soreness as you would expect with icing. It allowed me to up my volume without carrying that deep muscle soreness that used to follow me around. The fatigue was still present but the ache was gone. I often used them twice a day on heavy multiple workout days. I found them most effective though when I combined using them with a pre-ice flushing massage. I massage my quads, calves, and hamstrings and then put the Podium colds on and it seems to help considerably more.

One thing I noticed though was when they get wet from melting; they accumulate a bit of moisture on the inside of the legs. This moisture turns to frost in the freezer and can burn your skin if you apply it directly. I solved this by wiping the wraps down with a towel and then wearing tights before using them.

Overall, my experience with the Podium Colds has been excellent. I tested these for four solid months and they have been a worthwhile addition to my routine and have helped me stay injury free through some very heavy blocks of training and racing. I use them nearly on a daily basis when really getting after it. At $99, they are a very affordable substitute for the thousand-dollar compression pump and serve a similar function of flushing your legs out, speeding recovery, and reducing soreness.

Check out their website and find them on Facebook