Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The final few days...

My first Iron distance race is this weekend! I am kind of nervous and kind of excited, so I have been going through a whole range of emotions for the past few days. But I remember being this keyed up before every "new" race distance, so it is to be expected.

As I was listening to the Everyday Cyclist podcast, Graeme was recounting his experience at a 100 mile mountain bike race. He mentioned a situation during the race were he got really pissed off and therefore did not do what he needed to do because he was reacting angrily to another rider. (In this case, he didn't take in enough food/water at the aid station and rode away in a huff -- later he DNF'd.)

His point was basically this -- Do not let your attitude during the race undo all the preparation, work, and sacrifices you have made. Because he had a bad attitude, he wasn't listening to his body and it ultimately cost him.

I know that at some point during my race, I will be in a bad mood. I need to make sure that I can identify that and work to remedy it. For me, taking some extra carbs usually helps, along with focusing on positive things, like family or friends.

Here are some tips for dealing with the pre-race jitters:

1. I look back through my training log and write down the notable workouts. This can be because they were really hard, or the weather was terrible, or I had a great achievement. Even just looking at the amount of training I have done is motivating. I tend to gloss over things that I've done in the past, but this is the time to look back and say "look at what I did!" (This is one of the times you can really reap the benefits of logging your workouts -- even if it is just the date, time/distance, and how you felt.)

2. Find a TV series or movies that will entertain you and has nothing to do with triathlon. Since I have no job, I really don't have anything to distract me from thinking about the race 24/7. I force myself to watch shows on Netflix to give me a break from worrying.

3. Be appreciative of the process. I am very lucky to be able to put all of my focus into this sport that I love and to have the health and ability to pursue my dreams. There are millions of people who do not have this opportunity.

4. Resist the urge for "panic training." In looking back at your training, you might think that you have not done enough. Maybe you got hurt, or had some event that disrupted your training. But that is the past -- you can't fix it now. Many coaches say that it is better to go in 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Your taper is time to rest up and let your body repair itself.

5. Use visualization to "pre-race." Because my shorter workouts now leave me with more time, I use that time to go over the race in my head. I record a voice memo where I talk through the whole race day, from pre-race to the finish. I'll talk about my race strategy (like HR zones), nutrition plan, and objectives for each segment, as if I were a sport commentator watching me race. Just recording this helps me to get things straight in my head and identify issues while I have time to correct them. Then I'll listen to the recording at least once a day, while doing some deep breathing. I have found this to be immensely helpful for both preparation and the actual race.

6. Don't freak out if you can't sleep the night before. Plenty of rest in the days prior will offset this. Assume that you will have problems sleeping the night before, and do what has helped you in the past.

Writing this blog has been quite therapeutic for me. Before I do my next Ironman, I'll probably look back on this and laugh.

The Norseman Extreme Triathlon is this Saturday, August 3rd in Eidfjord, Norway. Sometime in the future I'll post my nutrition plan as well as some after action comments of how the race and the fueling went. My toe is pretty much healed up, so I am ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead and to keep a positive attitude. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Triathlon 101 Class 3 Notes: Biking

With all the gear available, there is so much information we could cover here. I'm generally going to focus on basic equipment, training, and the bike portion of the race.

Great resource for how-tos is Global Cycling Network channel on YouTube.

If you are confused by the terminology, see a diagram of terms here.

  • Bike -- You can ride any kind of bike, but a road bike is a great "first bike" option.
  • Helmet -- Either a road helmet or an aero helmet, but make sure it has the safety sticker. US races will not accept the European stickers, so consider that if you are buying a helmet here.
  • Pedals -- You can use platform (regular) pedals or clipless pedals. The pedals will come with the required cleats, but make sure your shoes have the right attachment holes.
  • Spare kit -- I put mine in a small bag that goes under my seat. Include a multitool, tube, CO2 gun, tire levers.
  • Shoes -- There are road shoes, tri shoes, MTB shoes. Tri shoes will be easiest to get on and off.
  • Bottles -- You'll want to have a bottle cage or two for water bottles while you are training. There are also bottles that go between the aerobars.
  • Trainer/rollers -- These are great for indoor training during the winter. Make sure that you have a fan and lots of towels and water.
  • Pump -- It is helpful to have a floor pump with a gauge. Make sure it will fit your tire valves!

The components (parts) of the bike is usually the major determinant of price. There are three basic brands: Shimano, SRAM, and Campognolo. I would avoid Campognolo because of the limited availability in the US.

Ironman has a good article about buying a bike. 

Once you have a bike, get the bike fitted at the shop. You can get a pretty good position on your own as well.

Remember that almost everything is adjustable/changable. You can change the stem to modify your fit on the bike, as well as change out the individual components, like getting a new rear cassette that will be easier on hilly terrain. With bikes, you always need to be mindful of compatibility of parts!

Road bike tire types -- 700x23 is most common

Tire pressure -- look on tire, go for higher when dry, lower when wet, and check before every ride

Practice changing a flat tire at home. Or as the Brits call it, a puncture. Check out a demo here. It is much easier in the comfort of your living room than when on the side of the road.

Clothing - you can carry lots of stuff in bike jersey pockets, bike shorts or tri shorts, socks optional


Pre-ride check: tires, brakes, inspect the chain.

Don’t wear headphones!

Cadence -- This refers to the RPMs that you spin the pedals. At the two extremes are "mashers" (a very low cadence) and "spinners" (a very high cadence). Because you will have to run later, aim for about 90 RPM. Use the gears of your bike to change the level of effort required, but on climbs, it is acceptable to use a lower cadence (60-70). Some bike computers will tell you this data.

If you use HR, it will be lower than when you run.

The terrain will also dictate your body position
  • For flat terrain, either put your hands on the hoods for comfort, or on the drops for speed.
  • When climbing, put your hands on the bar tops and sit back to better use your glutes.
  • For max speed while descending, put your hands on the drops and get low.
  • If the terrain is very rough (like potholes or cobble sections), put your pedals at 3 and 9 o'clock, get slightly out of the saddle and use your legs and arms like shock absorbers.
Finding places to ride
  • Map My Ride has some searchable routes, but isn't as popular in Europe. This is good for planning a route and figuring out the distance, as well as researching a course.
  • My new favorite is the Hesse Bike Route planner. (Click on "radroutenplanner" on the upper left side.) 
  • There are also some good options on WikiLoc. This has good running trails as well.
  • You can ride on the road. I have found German drivers to be very courteous, but make sure you are properly signalling your turns, obeying traffic laws, and wearing clothing that makes you visible.
  • If you are going to ride on the bike paths, you will want to verify that they are paved. 

It is worthwhile to occasionally do a brick workout, by running a short distance after finishing your ride. 20 minutes should suffice. The goal is to get an appreciation for how your legs are going to feel and then understand that after a short period you'll be fine.

After your ride, wipe down your bike and chain. Make sure to re-lube the chain as well. Do not use a high pressure washer or WD-40. I have found that Simple Green and Dawn soap both work well.


During the race, the bike leg is your best chance to take in food. Your HR will be lower and allow your body to better process the calories. This is most important at races longer than three hours. Below that, you won't need to eat that much assuming that you had a good breakfast.

To rack your bike in T1 before the race, use the nose of the saddle to hang it on the bar. In T2, it will be much faster to use the brake levers.

Do not ride your bike in transition!

You cannot mount your bike until after the mount line, must dismount before the dismount line

Do not litter/abandon equipment. Usually you can discard trash at the aid stations.

It is important to always keep right and let people pass on the left. If you need to alert the rider ahead of you that you are passing, say “on your left” or “von links.”

Drafting (riding in the slipstream of another rider) is illegal in almost all triathlons. The size of the draft zone will vary -- so make sure you know what it is. For the HIM in Berlin, the draft zone was 2m x 10m and the time limit was 30 seconds. The draft zone starts at the front wheel of the person in the lead. The trail rider has a limited time to move to this point, after which, the passed rider must drop back to outside the draft zone. If I have completely confused you, this USAT video explains it well, but note the different "dimensions" involved.

When you are being passed and have to slow down, that is a good time for food/water.

Next class: Running

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I love Grosser Feldberg!

To tackle the Norseman Extreme, I need to be ready for some hills. Note the course profile below:

Norseman profile

So I have been doing a lot of training out in the Taunus Mountains, which is only about a 30 minute drive from my house. Because it hurts my toe to clip in and out of the pedals, I wanted to find a route with minimal chances of stopping. So I found a great loop that starts/ends in a remote parking area:

Since this doesn't quite compare to the 1200m of climbing in Norway, I do this loop 4 or 5 times a session.

The most notable landmark is the giant TV antenna on the top of the hill.
File:Feldberg Taunus transmitter.JPG
(Wikipedia photo)

The antenna is visible from my house, so it is a constant reminder of all the tough training I have been putting in.

This is fitting, since I'll soon be seeing another antenna, the one atop Mt. Gaustatoppen -- the finish of Norseman!
File:Gaustatoppen Telemark Norway 2012.jpg

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rice bomb

It can get prohibitively expensive to eat all those gels during training. Plus, I tend to like real food better anyways. One of my favorite workout foods is the Rice Cakes from Alan Lim's Feedzone Cookbook.

The rice cakes are basically sticky rice, eggs, and bacon that you cut into squares and wrap in foil. Since we were leaving on vacation, I put the remaining two in the freezer and then defrosted them when we returned.

Something about freezing and defrosting must mess with the binding property of the rice, because when I opened the foil packet while riding down the road, the rice barely held together. So now I had bits of rice all over my bike, rice going down my windpipe, and not much food making it to my belly. Thank goodness I had two Larabars with me as well!

On a related note, I love this cookbook. I have probably cooked more meals out of this one than all my other cookbooks combined. They are healthy, fairly simple, and make big portions to fuel my training. This one is highly recommended!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Triathlon 101: Swim class notes

Class 2 swimming
Your ultimate goal is to maximize forward propulsion and minimize drag
Swimming is very technique based!
Aerobic fitness is only part of it

About 4 EUR for entry
http://www.swimmersguide.com/ is the most complete listing I’ve found
Pool size isn’t really important
Mainz Mombach 7 days a week, 25m inside 50m outside
Kostheim (near Mainz Kastel) closed MON
Klienfeldchen closed WED
Bring 1EUR for lockers, shower shoes, shower first, putting the swim cap on before showering is easier

Lane etiquette: circle swim, keeping right, just like the autobahn, eye contact/hand gestures to people already swimming

Goggles -- make sure they fit your face, consider the color/tint, prevent fogging by licking
Caps -- put it on dry

Training aids:
Go Swim (drills)
Sprint pool swimming is different than open water swimming -- watching Michael Phelps on YouTube is not the best answer

We watched Mr. Smooth to analyze stroke technique

Open Water Swimming
Swimnights Thursday nights starting in May
Sighting - practice in the pool too!
Picking up your head throws off your body position; use the "crocodile eyes" to minimize head movement
Sight as little as required
Do this in conjunction with breathing,
Landmarks are better than buoys

Interval sets will do you more good than a non-stop session

Video of how to put on your wetsuit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEH0bWMyDnU
Help with buoyancy, not the same as surfing/scuba wetsuits
You will be faster with a wetsuit than without
Water temps for wetsuits -- up to 78 degrees, will announce race morning (Europe is generally always wetsuit legal)
Tri UK has wetsuit rental wetsuit 35GBP to rent for the season
Prices start around $200
Use plastic bags to get the suit over your feet and hands
Lube your wrists, ankles, neck, maybe armpits
Do not use vaseline -- instead use Body Glide or Pam
Don’t use your fingernails to pull up
Test your wetsuit in the pool, but make sure to rinse it out
Practice putting on your suit and don’t put it on too early on race day

You must wear the swim cap they give you at registration
Be ready and in the start area 10 min prior -- if it is a wave start, pay attention for your swim cap

If you can warm up in the water, do this! Get used to the water temp, look at the course, etc.

Start on the outside or back if you are nervous

Different types of starts -- in water, beach, other (jump off pier)
Also different ways to start -- mass (all racers together), wave (separated by groups), time trial (1 person every few seconds)
Swim courses can differ greatly. Some have multiple laps.
For the last 200-300m focus on kicking more to prepare yourself to run out of the water.
Exiting -- swim as far forward as you can, your HR will be super high

Drafting is faster than swimming alone. You can do this by following directly behind someone or off their hip. You are much more likely to make contact, so watch out.

Next class: Biking

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Well, the flavo(u)r is the same

The local PX only carries the Strawberry Banana PowerGel. The gels are a bit cheaper from the PX than on the economy, which is why I've been buying them there. But when they ran out right before my race in Berlin, I had to buy some on the economy. I figured I'd go for the same flavor because I don't have any problems with it.

But here is the weird thing...the European version isn't caffeinated:

This is actually advantageous, since now I can make my own "half-caf" mix. Based on my current plan, I'll be taking in about 20 of these on the Norseman bike leg. I'm going to guess that I'm not going to want to eat another gel for a while after this.

Another Norseman update: The race is in one month, on August 3rd. I have been able to run for 20 minutes at a time with an acceptable level of pain. To keep the inflammation down, I have been eating a lot of fresh pineapple. That is a pretty expensive habit, with prices about $3-4 each!