Thursday, December 29, 2011

Swim Stroke Analysis

A few weeks ago, our local triathlon club, The Louisville Landsharks, held a 100 x 100 swim relay challenge. Teams had to complete 10,000 yards as fast as possible. Our team was able to complete the challenge in around 2 hours and 20 minutes (1:24/100yd avg. pace) and finished in second place out of eight teams.

At some point during this relay, I was video taped by fellow Landshark Jeremy Brown with his cool underwater camera. I finally had a chance to download this video and take a look at my underwater stroke mechanics. I'm sure a trained swim coach would be able to pick this apart better than me, but I did notice a few things that I need to correct.

Here's the full video. It consists of two segments, I'm in the black/white shorts.

So the first thing that I noticed was that my legs are separating when I rotate to breath. Here's a screen shot of what I'm doing:

Here's what it should look like:

Looks like I'm over-rotating a little as well.

Next thing I noticed was that whatever side I am breathing to, my opposite arm pull is crossing over my mid-line. In the picture below, I just completed a breath on my right side, my left arm is crossing over my body's mid-line:

Here's what it should look like:

If you look at my right arm pull when breathing on the right, it's a whole lot better:

Looks very similar to the ideal position:

So I would love to have some more feedback on my stroke. If you or anyone you know has any pointers, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Food Guide for the Holiday's

So this time of year it's easy to pack on a few pounds. Everywhere you look, there are homemade candies and cookies. Not to mention all the holiday parties with all the food and adult beverages. Plus, that Santa guy is  around so much, he just makes you want to be fat and jolly. So how do you survive without gaining weight? Here are a few tips...

  • Don't try to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Years. Maintaining your current weight should be a will be hard enough just to do that!

  • Set aside 10-15 minutes, 3-4 days  a week to exercise. I'm not talking about going for a walk or getting on the treadmill for an easy jog. In order to get the most out of the short amount of time that you have, do some quick intervals. Such as jumping jacks, burpees, running in place, quick push-ups, quick squats, mountain climbers, etc. Do these repeatably for 10-15 minutes with only about 20 seconds rest between each. Burns lots of calories (6 times more than aerobic exercise).

  • Don't over-indulge. It's easy to go back for a second or third helping when everything tastes so good, but try and limit yourself to one plate full.

  • While filling up your plate, make smart choices. Eat only your favorite foods and don't stuff yourself with things that you can do without.

  • Save some room for a dessert. Don't eat until you are stuffed. If you are eye-balling a piece of pie or a gingerbread cookie, leave some room for it...try to avoid that feeling of being uncomfortably full.

  • Going crazy at one or two meals over the course of the holidays is ok. If you want to go all out on Christmas dinner or if the food at your work party is the best thing you've ever tasted...go ahead and eat. One large meal won't make you gain weight...just go light at the next few meals after your indulgence.

Most importantly, enjoy the holidays...knowing that come January 1st, you are going to eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis. If you limit yourself now and don't enjoy any holiday sweets, it will make eating healthy in January harder.

Friday, December 16, 2011

True Financial Cost Of Doing an Ironman

So people are always asking me how much I trained for Ironman. They want to know how many hours a week I devoted to swimming, biking and running. I spent about 12-15 hours a week training...which is about half of what the majority of Ironman triathletes do. I've shared my training strategy before, so I won't go into it now.

What I want to cover here is what my family sacrificed financially for me to train for and complete an Ironman. So here's quick rundown of my triathlon related expenses from 2011:

Hammer Nutrition products (mostly gels and Perpetuem)- $270.10
Recover-Ease - $79.98
Athlytes (electrolyte capsules)- $46.96

Bike Gel Flask & Spare Flask - $ 28.66
Swim Jammers (shorts) - $ 20.94
Tri Shorts - $70.00
MyAthlete Tracking System - $44.95
Scape Sunscreen -$26.98
Goggles - $49.27
KT tape - $43.85
Race Number Belt - $12.76
Foam Roller - $42.95
Spare tubes, CO2 cartridges - $18.57
Indoor Bike Trainer - $289.77

Race Registrations
USAT Membership - $39.00
Shelbyville Sprint - $45.00
Taylorsville Tri - $100.00
Cardinal Tri - $125.00
Ironman Louisville - $603.75
Ohio River Open Water Swim - $35.00
TriFest - $70.00

Triathlon Dominator Training Program - $97.00
Swim Coaching - $280.00
Bike Fit - $175.00
Deep Tissue Massages - $150.00

So the grand total ends up being $2,765.49!

Worth every penny!

This list doesn't include my new Argon E-112 bike, which I probably wouldn't have purchased if I wasn't doing Ironman. I needed a true TT/Tri bike anyway, but I most likely would have put it off another year. The bike ended up costing me a little over $2,000.00 - so factor that in if you want.

What I also don't have shown here are all of the things provided to me at no charge by my sponsors. This includes three pair of running shoes, socks, tri jersey and shorts, six PT sessions, and straight cash. So without Swag's, Dr. Rudy Ellis Sports Medicine Clinic and Air Equipment Company, this would have been much worse!

Doing Ironman was a fantastic experience and I loved every almost every minute of the training and racing. I will do one again someday I'm sure...just not in 2012!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ironman World Championship on NBC

This Saturday NBC will air their coverage of the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship. The actual race took place on October 8th in Kona, Hawaii. Why someone (NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports, Versus, etc.) can't seem to find a way to show a live broadcast of this race, I have no idea. I understand that NBC wants to show you all the back stories and be able to show human intestest pieces, but why can't they do both. Someone could broadcast the race live and then NBC could do their production to be shown in December, as it always is. It's not like those really interested in the race don't already know who won and how it played out. Ok, I'm off my soap box now.

Here's some of what you will see at 4:30pm on Saturday:

  • The amazing story of cancer survivor Teri Griege. She completed the 140.6 mile race despite going through chemotherapy for the majority of her training and having with 12" of her colon and much of her liver removed.
  • Legend Lew Hollander. For anyone that has watched this broadcast in the past, this name should be familiar. Lew is 81 years old. If my memory is correct, he's completed this race 22 times now. His goal is to live to be 120...he's well on the way.
  • Another guy in the 80+ age group is France Cokan. He came to the US as an immigrant in 1959 with $11 in his pocket. This IM was is 44th!
  • 23 year old Firefighter Jonathan Roth. He was diagnosed with Familial Polyposis at age 16. He had to have his entire large intestine removed. For those layperson, the large intestine is where all the nutrients from food is absorbed by the body. I could see where this would make doing an Ironman a challenge! Not only did he finish the race, he did it in just over 10 hours!
Along with these stories, they will also show some of the pro race. Spoiler alert! Here's how that went.

Here's a preview of the NBC broadcast. I recommend you record it. I know I will...and I will watch it several times over the next few months. I find it very motivating!

In other news, I did run that Santa Sprint 5K last Saturday. I started out too fast (6:31 first mile) and then struggled to hang on. My lungs and legs were burning like crazy the last mile and I nearly vomited at the finish line. My time was 21:41 (6:58 min/mile pace) - my GPS showed 3.14 miles...I could have done without that extra .04! I'm not sure how this fared overall or in my age group. It was a small race, so it might be a few weeks before results are posted.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Santa Sprint 5K

It came to my attention last week that the company I work for was one of the sponsors for a little 5K here in Louisville. So even though I'm not exactly in shape to run a 5K (been training for endurance races for over a year and I'm still about 10 pounds heavy), I'm going to lace up the shoes in the morning and run 3.1 miles.

The race is called the Santa Sprint. Although I can't find a map of the course, it's described as being "flat"...which would be nice. The race runs along historic Frankfort Avenue in the Crescent Hill and Clifton neighborhoods and is celebrating it's 16th year.

Proceeds from the race go to United Crescent Hill Ministries. UCHM is a community outreach group that offers programs for youth and seniors as well as providing for the underprivileged on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If it wasn't for this great organization and my company being a sponsor, there's no way I would be doing this race...I'm definitely not feeling fast!

Depending on the weather, I may or may not be pushing my 2-year old in a stroller. If I do, I have no clue what my time will be. If it's too cold and I end up running solo, I'd like to break 22 minutes...a far cry from my 20.03 PR.

In other news, the dates for the spring Shelbyville Triathlon Series have been released. The four-race series will take place on January 29th, February 19th, March 25th and April 15th. I usually just do one of these races, but this year I'm planning on racing all four. Riding outdoors in January and February should be interesting!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Check Your Finger Lengths

There have been numerous studies over the last few years that focus on "digit-ratio". All of these studies involve the length of your index finger (2D) vs. the length of your ring finger (4D). In women, the length of both fingers is usually equal. In men, the ringer finger is usually slightly longer.

No that you've examined your finger lengths (you know you did), I'll tell you what the research has shown.

Apparently, our fingers hold information about how much testosterone and estrogen we were exposed to in the womb. So, the longer one's ring finger relative to one's index finger (small 2D:4D), the more testosterone you had. And that testosterone has an effect on the brain, and on the body. If a boy has an increased amount of testosterone before birth, he is likely to be born with a very efficient heart and vascular system.

A few of these studies even looked at fetuses as early as nine weeks gestation and found that the ratio was already established and did not change...even through puberty.

Another researcher found that men with smaller ratios also had higher mental toughness, optimism and aptitude towards sports.

Some people are even starting to look at finger lengths of young people in an attempt to predict future athletic ability. I'm sure there are some coaches out there somewhere that are already sneaking a peek at a recruit's hands.

Some of these studies even related one's sexual preference, musical abilities, and the likelihood of having autism or getting cancer to their digit ratio...but I won't go into any of that here.

Think I'm making this stuff up? Do a quick internet search for "index and ring finger length" and see what you find! 
So the good news for me is that my ring finger is indeed longer than my index finger (see picture to the right).

All of these studies are quick to note that simply having a relatively long ring finger does not necessarily guarantee either talent or success in sports. Many, many other factors play important roles in developing your full potential.

So there's your conversation starter for those awkward moments around the Thanksgiving table!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Off Season Weight Lifting

I'm finally getting back into a routine. I've settled into doing short, high-intensity training sessions. Right now I'm swimming once a week, while biking and running twice a week. Most weeks I end up taking two days off completely...hope to cut this back down to one soon. In addition to my triathlon specific training, I'm doing something new this off season - power lifting.

After my 30-45 minute training session each morning, I hit the weights. I'm focusing on doing what are traditionally known as power lighting or Olympic style lifts. I use heavy weight and only do 3 sets of 6-8 reps of each. Here's what I currently do in a typical week:

Swim (30-45 minutes of intervals)
Lifting (bench press - flat or incline, dumbbell flys, dips, abs)

Bike (Spin class or 45 minute of interval work)
Lifting (squats, leg press, stiff-leg dead lift, calf raises, hip abductors)

Run (30-45 minute tempo or fartlek run)
Lifting (military press, upright rows, bicep curls)

Bike (Spin class or 45 minute of interval work)
Lifting (Deadlift, clean & jerk, lat pull-downs, rows, abs) 

FRIDAY - off

Run (30-40 minute run at steady pace)
No lifting, stretching and hip strengthening exercises

So what benefit do I expect to get from doing this type of strength training (other than getting some muscle back that I've lost)? To build a stronger foundation for power and strength in the water, on the bike, and on the pavement.

I know that a lot of triathletes and runners shy away from this type of heavy lifting because they don't want to pack on too much muscle. After all, added weight will only slow you down, right? While there's definitely a fine line between being strong and being too heavy, 3 months of this type of lifting isn't going to get me so big that my neck disappears. 

I'm constantly amazed at what the human body can do and how it can adapt. Triathlon and other endurance events use slow twitch muscles. As a result of spending 9+ months training my slow twitch muscles for Ironman, my fast twitch muscle fibers have shrunk. The days of me sprinting up and and down a basketball court or playing racquetball are years on the past...and it shows. While I was in the best shape of my life while training for Ironman, I doubt I would have been able to play a full court game of basketball or even jump high enough to grab the rim. I plan on doing (as of right now) lots of shorter races next season. I will be calling some fast twitch fibers into action for these races, so I'm trying to wake them up now!

Another benefit to this type of lifting is to rebuild the tendons, ligaments and joints that took a beating this past season. This will hopefully reduce the risk of injury in 2012. 

If you plan on implementing some or all of these lifts into your off season routine, please follow the links above and concentrate on your form by doing them in front of a mirror. I started using very light weights to get my form down before stepping up to the heavy stuff. Doing these lifts with incorrect form will always result in an injury.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Comparison: Ironman and Natural Childbirth

Ok, so based on the title of this blog, I'm sure that I already have some women ready to give me a piece of their mind. Obviously, I have never, and will never, experience child birth first hand. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying that I could even do it...but just hear me out on the similarities. By the way, I have discussed this with my wife on several occasions and she agrees with me (for the most part).

I've had the privilege of witnessing my awesome wife deliver our two beautiful children. I was right by her side from the moment the contractions started until we were holding our newborns. I went to every single Obstetrician appointment with both children (I even call her our OB). I didn't miss a single Bradley Method class before our first child was born and coached her through both labors. I've witnessed it all...up close and personal. 

I've also completed an Ironman triathlon. I trained for 8+ months and completed a 2.4 mile open-water swim, 112 mile bike ride and then ran a full 26.2 mile marathon...all in 12 hours.

All three of theses events (birth of my two children and Ironman) were life-changing experiences for my wife and I. Both required a great amount of physical and mental strength. It's really hard to put into words what it takes to get through labor without pain medication or to complete an Ironman. You can't adequately describe it to anyone that hasn't done it themselves and you aren't even sure if you can do it yourself...until you do. Once you do it, you love to talk about it and to hear other people's stories about how they did it.

Some other similarities between natural childbirth and Ironman :
  • You train/plan for 8-9 months for both
  • The anticipation build-up is almost too much to handle
  • Learning to control your breathing and muscle tension is critical to success
  • Somewhere along the way, you will question yourself and your preperation
  • You are going to have to go to the bathroom at some point. It will most likely be at an inconvenient time.
  • It's a long journey...somewhere between 10 and 16 hours are typical for both.
  • Support from friends/family is essential
  • Both have "transitions". Ironman transitions are much easier!
  • The worst part is right before the finish, but you know that you are almost there, so you push through the pain
  • Whatever pain you had to endure is quickly forgotten once you see the end is in sight
  • The experience makes you amazed at what the human body is capable of
  • Both are accomplishments that you can brag about for the rest of your life
  • Within a few days, you forget about how hard it was and are ready to do it again
  • You will probably walk and little funny for a few days afterward
  • Nursing injuries will be required for a few weeks once it's over
Feel free to add any other similarities that you can think of.
One HUGE difference is the prize that you get at the end. All I have for Ironman is a hat, shirt and a medal. My wife got real, live babies!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Running Myths

The more you run, the more you want to know about how to improve your stride, increase your pace, extend your distance and prevent injuries. You start to read articles online and in magazines. You pick up tips from other runners that you talk to. Heck, maybe you even read a blog or two! With all this information, you are going to come across lots of things that are just not true. So what are some of the bigger myths that are floating around the world of running?

> Stretch before you run. FALSE! If you want to avoid injuries, I beg NOT do static stretching before you run! Stretching muscles before they have warmed up is a recipe for disaster. While the jury is still out on whether stretching at all is beneficial, there is no debate that by stretching muscles after they are warm and loose drastically reduces your risk for injury. I prefer to do active stretching prior to a run. Some skipping, kick-butts, grapevines and single leg swings. Save the toe touches and quad stretches for after your workout!

> Strength Training is not important. FALSE! If you follow this blog, you know that lack of strength training led to an injury four months ago that I am still dealing with. Sure, running makes your leg muscles strong, but using resistance or weights adds even more strength...improving performance and helping to avoid injuries that result from unknown weak areas or overuse.

> Running is hard on your knees. FALSE! This is one myth that has been out there for a long time. Non-runners or people that jumped into running too quickly will tell you that it will destroy your knees. I challenge you to find a study that proves this. You won't find one, it doesn't exist. You need to do cross-training and strengthening exercises in addition to your running, but I promise you...done correctly, running is not detrimental to the life of your knees.

> Minimal shoes will cure all injuries. FALSE! You knew this one was coming. If you go out and buy a pair of barefoot or minimalist shoes and start to run in them, you will actually increase your chance of an injury. It's the latest craze, so people believe the hype. These types of shoes help to improve your form, but it's nothing that can't be done while wearing your "normal", cushioned shoes. In fact, new research even shows that heel-striking isn't even bad as long as you land under your hips. I'm not saying that minimalist shoes are bad, but use them in moderation...especially at first!

> Long Slow Distance running is the only way to train for a half or full marathon. FALSE! I've done eleven half marathons and two full marathons (include those as part of triathlons). I've trained for these several different ways. I've also written training programs for other runners/triathletes that are doing these long distance races. I can tell you from experience that you do not need to go out and do long, slow runs in order to get the stamina necessary to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. If you go out and run slow during your training, all you are doing is training yourself to run slow. The majority of your workouts should consist of fast running (intervals, tempo runs, fartleks) and hill work. You can do a long run once in a while to test your fueling or just prepare yourself mentally for running a long time...but even these runs are not necessary to prepare for a long race.

> Cramps are caused by dehydration or low sodium. FALSE! This is going to fly in the face of just about everything else you read, but I've recently come across some interesting data. Muscle cramps or spasms are most often caused by fatigue, not lack of water or sodium. While staying well hydrated and nourished is important, studies are now showing that if you drink before you are thirsty, all you are doing is adding water weight. You should only drink to thirst. Drink only when you are thirsty, not every time you see water. This is a lot easier to do if you carry your own water with you and don't rely on the aid stations. The human body also has an amazing ability to retain sodium. If you are seeing salt in your sweat, all you are doing is excreting the excess sodium that your body is holding from the food that you have eaten recently. Don't believe Gatorade or Powerade...your body has more than enough sodium/electrolytes to make it through a marathon. Don't get me wrong, I've believed that you needed a certain amount of sodium intake per hour during long runs (I took electrolyte capsules during all of my half and full Ironman triathlons this year), but I now think that this was unnecessary. More on all of this in a future post. If you think I'm crazy, check out this link.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Popular Gear

Each year, during the Ironman World Championship race in Hawai'i, a count of what gear everyone is using is done. I find this interesting, so I thought that I would share it. 

Speed Suits:
TYR - 411
Blue70 - 316
XTerra - 96
Aquasphere - 51

Cervelo - 488
Trek - 185
Felt - 124
Specialized - 122
Scott - 96
Cannondale - 79
QR - 61
Argon 18 - 57
Kuota - 55
Orbea - 53

Asics - 337
Saucony - 247
Kswiss - 209
Newton - 187
Brooks - 143
Nike - 100
Mizuno - 96
Zoot - 86
Adidas - 86
New Balance - 38

If you want to see the full lists, they can be found at

There are some interesting things at the bottom of these lists. For instance, one person apparently wore Crocs? I find it hard to believe the someone ran a marathon in Croc sandals! 

There was also a misguided runner that did the full 26.2 miles in Vibram five-fingers. They must have just finished reading "Born to Run". If the race were on grass, I would understand this more.

There was also someone that rode the 112 miles on a mountain bike. I've seen lots of newbies on mountain bikes at sprint distance races, where you are riding anywhere from 12 to 16 miles...but to ride one for 112 miles? Why? Who are you trying to impress?!? 

Personally, I ride an Argon 18 and run in Asics. I'm not cool enough to own a speed suit!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding Your Ideal Racing Weight

In August of 2006, I weighed 206 pounds. I was lifting pretty heavy back then and was doing very little cardio (doing triathlon's was not even on my radar). I didn't eat very good and although I thought that losing a few pounds would do me some good, I could have never imagined myself weighing 38 pounds less (168) as I did five years later on the morning of Ironman Louisville. I felt "healthy" back then, but I felt like a lean, mean, fighting machine this past summer while training for IM.

In the 8 weeks since IM, I've managed to gain 17 pounds. It's pretty easy to do when you aren't working out very much and you eat pretty much whatever you feel like. My weight has actually stabilized around 185 now and I have no doubt that once I get back into training for next season, the extra weight will come right off.

So the question now becomes, what is my ideal weight? While I felt really fast racing at 168, I also felt that I lost a lot of muscle getting down to this weight and I lacked the power on the bike that I had two seasons ago when I was weighing in around 180. I searched the internet and referenced some triathlon and running websites to find a formula that could tell me what my optimal race weight is.

The "ideal weight" calculator most used by non-athlete's in the BMI (Body Mass Index). This calculator works ok, but it does not factor in body fat/muscle composition. Having 5 pounds of lean muscle is obviously healthier than carrying around 5 pounds of fat. At  my current weight of 185, I have a BMI of 26.5...which puts me in the "Overweight" category. Even at my IM race weight of 168, I'm at the top end of the "normal" category. So obviously, this calculator is useless to athletes.

So what other calculators are out there? There's the waist to hip ratio calculator (WHR). You simply measure the circumference of your waist and the largest point on your hips and divide the two numbers. I'm going to be in a friend's wedding, so I was actually just measured for a tux last week. My waist measurement is a 32 and my hips are a 41. This gives me a ratio of 0.78 (32/41). Anything below 0.95 puts you at low risk for health problems related to obesity. Nice info to have, but it still doesn't tell me what my ideal weight is.

Another option is to compare my weight to other 33 year old males that are my height (5'10"). I found a website that let's you plug in your age, height and sex and then tells you what the average weight is for others in this demographic. Mine came out to be 173 pounds. This seems pretty reasonable to me, but the "average" person is not an athlete trying to compete at a high level.

If you have been following this blog for over a year, you know that I followed a training plan outlined by Joe Friel for my 2010 triathlon season. I remembered seeing a blog entry from Joe some time ago that discussed finding your ideal race weight. A quick Google search led me right to it. In this blog post, he discussed how much extra force is required to ride a bike up a hill or run when you are carrying extra weight. I can tell you that the runs that I've done since IM have not been as easy as those I did this summer. Imagine going out for a run carrying a 15 pound dumbbell! Joe goes on to give a calculation to find what your ideal racing weight might be, that perfect combination of weight and power. To find this weight, start by taking your weight in pounds and divide it by your height in inches. For me, this currently looks like 185/70 = 2.64. The typical, high-performance, male triathlete is in the 2.1 to 2.3 pounds per inch range. Females are in the 1.9 to 2.1 pounds per inch range. 

In order to excel with a weight that puts you above the ranges listed, you would need to have a higher than normal power output. So what would my weight need to be for me to race in the range Joe describes? Amazingly it is 147 to 161 pounds! I honestly cannot imagine myself getting down to this weight, and frankly, I'm not an elite-level triathlete, so I don't have to! 

So what am I going to do with all of this knowledge? I'm going to try and find the optimal combination of power and speed. I'm going to hit the weights this off-season and put on some muscle for added power. Then, come January, I'll start to get lean and lose any excess body fat that I have. I imagine that this will put me in the mid 170's...where I was most of 2011. Check out my weight chart below from the past 10 months. 

It's obvious that there isn't an ideal weight calculator that works for everyone. Depending on what your ultimate goal is, you can train and race in a wide weight range and still be successful. As for me, I'm enjoying my off-season weight and don't plan on giving up my second helpings at dinner or my bedtime snack anytime soon...especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why This Ironman is WEAK

I've never considered myself weak. Before I started training for triathlons, I lifted weights. I was one of those dudes in the gym that loaded up the bench press or squat rack and pushed out some reps while grunting uncontrollably. In fact, if my memory is correct, once upon a time I could bench press 335 pounds and squat over 500 pounds. Impressed? Yeah, I was "on swole".

A lot of triathlete's and runners have never done strength training. Though I didn't hit the weights nearly as hard once I decided to train for endurance races, I still mixed in some free weights a few times a week. I knew the importance of keeping your muscles and joints strong.

So when I first noticed the pain in my IT Band 6 weeks out from Ironman, I was surprised when my Physical Therapist told me I was weak. To be more hips were weak. So how do weak hips translate to a knee injury?

Weak hip muscles cause a runner's form to fall apart. The hips can't adequately control the motion of the legs...especially after several long runs in a row (which was my critical mistake). When your hips are not strong enough to keep your legs in line, it places stress on the knee and it's surrounding joints, ligaments and tissue. After logging over 50 hard miles in a ten day period in July, my IT band was swollen, inflamed and too tight to do me any good. I couldn't even run 2 minutes without being in pain. Weak hips can also lead to Patellofemiral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), which is that pain just below your knee cap...a very common injury for runners.

So what did I do to get ready for Ironman...where I was expected to run 26.2 miles? I slowly started strengthening my hips, glutes and core. Along with doing these exercises, I was using my foam roller almost nightly and doing lots of stretching.

In the days after Ironman, my IT band hurt just walking down steps. I took a complete month off of running...while continuing to do my hip and glute strength training. I'm the only male at the gym that ever uses the hip abductor and glute machines!
Over the last two weeks, I've had three short runs with very little pain in my IT band. The running hasn't been easy due to the fact that I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I was just 6 weeks ago, but running without pain is a great feeling.

So don't make the same mistake that I did. Even if you are doing strength training already, add in some hip strengthening exercises to your routine. I used (and still use) the five exercises outlined in Ben Greenfield's The Bulletproof Knee.

Ben charges for this program, so I'm not going to give away his secrets for free. If you don't want to pony up the cash to get his program (worth every penny...not running for almost two months because of an injury is horrible), you should be able to find some hip and glute strengthening exercises online somewhere.

As for my recent training, after a month of taking it easy and packing on the pounds following Ironman, I'm back into a little bit of a routine. I try to swim, bike and run at least once a week now. I'm hoping to up this to twice a week over the next few weeks. I'm doing lots of interval work in the pool and on the bike trainer - I'm done with the long, slow stuff! My 2012 season is starting to come together, more on this later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Ironman World Championship Recap

The race started at 1pm Eastern Time, so I had my laptop all set up and ready to view the race live on I was able to catch the entire swim and the start of the bike leg while the kids were napping. Once they woke up, we headed out to Harvest Homecoming (if you are not from the Louisville area, this is a little vendor fair in southern Indiana). By the time we made it home, the pro men were about 5 miles into the run...perfect timing.

After getting the kids to bed, I sat back down with my computer and was able to watch the last hour or so of the race. It was nowhere near as exciting as last year's finish, but there was plenty of drama.

Chris Lieto had a six minute lead off of the bike...and we all knew what was going to happen. Lieto always leads off of the bike. He's a dominant rider, but then he just can't hold a fast enough pace on the run to hold off the stronger runners. By mile four, Craig Alexander had passed Lieto for the lead. By the halfway point of the marathon, Alexander was up over two minutes on Andreas Raelert and Peter Jacobs. Alexander stretched the lead and by the 20 mile mark, it was going to take a miracle for anyone to catch him. The commentators were doing the math and knew that if he kept his current pace, he would be close to breaking the course record! With just under two miles to go Alexander stopped. He reached down and grabbed his feet, stretching out his hamstrings. He started to run again...then stopped to stretch. Was he cramping? Did he know that the record was within reach? After stopping a third time, he lowered his head and sprinted home. He crossed the line in an amazing time of 8:03:56, twelve seconds faster than the record set by Luc Van Lierde in 1996. This was Alexander's third Ironman World Championship, putting him in an elite group.

Pete Jacobs passed Raelert for second. Dirk Bockel was fourth and Timo Bracht rounded out the top five. For the record, I correctly predicted two of the top three and also had Bracht to finish 8th.

The women's race was a little more exciting. Chrissie Wellington had a bike wreck while training last week. No one knew the extend of her injuries. The road rash on her elbow was obvious, but if you've ever found yourself lying on the pavement next to your bike, you know that lots of other things are going to hurt. Wellington came out of the water almost 10 minutes behind the leaders...a lead too big for any ordinary triathlete to make up in the World Championship. Julie Dibens and Caroline Steffen took off on the bike after having great swims. As I watched the ladies exit the water, I kept wondering, "where's Chrissie?". I was thinking that maybe she was injured more than anyone knew and had a shoulder injury that was hampering her in the water. When I returned later in the evening and picked up the action at the end of the bike leg, she was over 20 minute behind Dibens!

As Alexander was pulling away in the men's race, the attention quickly turned to the women. Wellington came off the bike running sub-6 minute miles and was cutting into Dibens lead at an alarming rate. In fact, it only took 8 miles for people to catch Dibens. First it was Caroline Steffen. Then Dibens was then passed by Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce...before dropping out. Steffen and Cave were now both in the sights of Wellington. Chrissie's pace was just too much. She overtook Steffen with around 7 miles to go and quickly extended her lead to over two minutes. Mirinda Carfrae (last year's champion) had been running down the competition all day as well, but despite having the fastest run ever, she couldn't catch Chrissie and finished second. Cave held on for third. Rachel Joyce and Caroline Steffen rounded out the top five.

 If you are keeping score, I also correctly predicted the top two women. I had Cave coming in 6th and Steffen fourth.

Fun and exciting race, I can't wait to see the NBC broadcast in December. 

On another note, congrats to my two local buds, Scott and Mike. They finished in 13:15:21 and 10:56:55 respectively. Awesome race guys!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ironman World Championship Predictions

It's the "Super Bowl" of traithlon, so of course I'm going to pick a winner. To my knowledge, Vegas has not yet made it possible to wager on this I'm going to make my predictions by giving my odds on the top pro men and women crossing the line first. Of course, all gambling is for entertainment purposes only.

#1: Craig Alexander (AUS) -- 5-2
#10: Andreas Raelert (GER) -- 3-1
#6: Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) -- 4-1
#3: Tim O'Donnell (USA) -- 7-2
#2: Raynard Tissink (RSA) -- 9-2
#5: Faris Al-Sultan (GER) -- 8-1
#25: Chris Lieto (USA) -- 9-1
#9: Timo Bracht (GER) -- 12-1

My wager would look like this: 
Trifecta Box: 1-6-3
Show bet: 3, 25
Longshot to win: 9

It's going to be an exciting race. Last years champion is not racing on the mens side, so it will be interesting to see if Craig Alexander can capture his third title or if someone new will take the crown.

#102: Chrissie Wellington (GBR) -- 5-4
#101: Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) -- 5-2
#124: Linsey Corbin (USA) -- 3-1
#103: Caroline Steffen (SUI) -- 4-1
#108: Julie Dibens (GBR) -- 5-1
#107: Leanda Cave (GBR) -- 7-1
#128: Mary Beth Ellis (USA) -- 9-1

My wager would look like this: 
Trifecta Box: 102-108-103
Show bet: 107
Longshot to win: 128

Chrissie Wellington won in '07, '08 & '09. She dropped out the morning of the race last year because of an illness. Her races since then have indicated that if anything, she has improved since her 2009 race in Kona. It will be a surprise if anyone can hang with her. Mirinda took advantage of Chrissie's absence last year to win, but her time was around 4 minutes slower than what Chrissie ran in 2009.

You can follow the race live on Saturday starting at 1pm on

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Kona Week!

If you have been involved in the world of triathlon for any period of time, hearing "Kona" only means one thing...the Ironman World Championship. If you are not immersed in triathlon, than Koan probably brings thoughts of coffee, a restaurant or maybe just place in Hawaii. A race this Saturday on the big island will crown the 2011 Ironman World Champion. If you want details on the race, you can check out the blog posts I did before the race a few years ago:

History of the Ironman




Last year I discussed who gets to race in Kona and how they get there. Most of the 1800 athletes qualify, thus making it a true World Championship. You can qualify at any full Ironman distance race and few half-Ironman races. There were a total of 65 people that qualified for Kona at Ironman Louisville,this year 43 men and 22 women. Qualifying spots are rewarded based on where you finished in your age group. Usually the top 2-3 from each age group get a spot in the big race. I finished 112th in my age group, just two hours and twenty-three minutes behind the final 30-34 year old male qualifier. Those slow transition times killed me!

The other way to get to the starting line in Kona is to enter and win a lottery. There are only 200 spots awarded to lottery winners each year. This year, the winner from Kentucky, Scott Panella, happens to be someone that is a member of our local triathlon club and someone that I've gotten to know pretty well this year. Scott completed a half-Ironman earlier this season to satisfy the requirement needed to start the race this Saturday. He has never finished (only did the swim and bike by choice at IMLOU) a full Ironman race and I'm sure that he's excited to make one of the toughest in the world his first!

I also know a local triathlete, Mike Hermanson, that qualified for Kona by running a 9:32:50 at IMLOU...yeah, he's fast. He's not a pro, but beat lots of them and came in 18th Overall here in Louisville. Yes, that's correct, 18th overall.

Good luck to both Scott and Mike...represent The 'Ville and enjoy the race/vacation!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Performance Level Percentages

I have a subscription to a magazine called Running Times. I'm not sure why or how I get it, but once a month it shows up in my mailbox. It has some good articles, but like most magazines I get, I can blaze through it in about 20 minutes. 

I typically save my magazines if I know that I have a trip coming up that involves flying. Having a stack to read through while waiting at the gate or on the plane makes the time go by faster. 

On a recent flight to Cleveland I started reading the October issue of Running Times. I came across an article titled "Advanced Math" by Rachel Toor. The article talked about Performance Level Percentages (PLP). 

Using these percentages is a great way to see how compare with runners your same age. Sure, races have age group categories and you can see how you stack up to people in a 5 year range, but your results will vary greatly depending on what race it is and how many people enter. The author of this article compared using PLP to grading on a curve. I like the comparison.

The PLP formula uses 100% as world-record class. 90-100% is world class; 80-90% is national class; 70-80% is regional class; and 60-70% is local class. Below 60% doesn't mean that you should toss the running shoes in the trash, it simply means that your time for the given distance is not in the top 40%.

I know that some people just run for fun and could care less about how their times compare to their peers. I'm not one of those people. I love to run and while I have no false hopes of becoming a world class or even national class runner, I do like to see my times improve through training. I also like to see if what I'm doing is respectable for my age. 

I looked at some of my road races from back in the spring. Here are my percentages:

Time - 20:03
PLP - 65.1%
70% PLP time is 18:39

Time - 44:07
PLP - 61.6%
70% PLP time is 38:48

Time - 1:14:00
PLP - 60.2%
70% PLP time is 1:03:41

Time - 1:37:27
PLP - 60.9%
70% PLP time is 1:24:44

So, I'm a "local" class runner in all categories (by the skin of my teeth!). I don't really care about the label, but now that I've found this tool, it will be fun to see if I can hold or improve the percentages as I get older. Other than setting PR's, I would like to get closer to 70% in all of my races. I like setting big goals!

There are several PLP calculators available online. Here's a link to the one that I used:

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