Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Memorable Training Sessions of 2013

People in triathlon will often tell you, "Make sure you enjoy the journey." It can be easy to get sucked into the training and to let it become a grind because you are so focused on the races you have planned. It's sort of like having tunnel vision where you ignore everything that is going on around you because you're too busy staring ahead at your next race. I try to mix up my training once in a while to keep things interesting and exciting. I also have a great group of people who I train with who help keep it fun.

I just got home from my last training session of 2013. I uploaded my Garmin file and then tallied up my numbers for the year. This year I swam 204.4 miles, biked 7,028.6 miles, and ran 1,517.2 miles. The majority of those miles are training miles, not racing miles, so you can see why it is important to make it fun once in a while. To that end, I reflected on my year and picked a favorite/most memorable training session from each sport. Here they are in chronological order:

I can't remember the exact date, but I know it was sometime in the late winter or early spring. If I had to guess it was the end of February or early March. I met Steve and Mike at Genesee Valley Park for our usual weekend run. The plan was to run the first ten miles at a comfortable pace, which is what we usually do on our long runs on the weekend. The kicker was that we would then go straight into fives miles hard, all at a sub-6 minute mile pace. We went out East River Road from the park, and then turned around half way and headed back, so it was 2.5 miles out and back. Steve and Mike are both stronger runners than me, so I knew I was going to suffer. I did. I remember hoping the entire time that Mike would crack so that I could stop and slow down with him while Steve finished the set. It didn't happen. There are a couple of little hills on East River Road that, as we climbed them, I thought I was going to pop and have to stop. To top it off, Steve was chatting the whole time like he was barely breathing hard! I think the best I could offer in response was an occasional grunt. At the end of the day, I survived the run and it was a huge confidence booster for me on the running front.

We rode our bikes up a mountain!
This was a bit of a tough choice between two really great rides that I can remember, but when it comes down to choosing, it has to be my ride with Mike up Whiteface. We were up in Lake Placid to watch our friend, James Cronkwright, race IMLP and we made a training weekend out of it for ourselves. Friday morning before the race we left Lake Placid on our road bikes and headed towards Wilmington, which is about a 12 mile ride. Then we made the left hand turn and headed up Whiteface. It is just over eight miles to ascend on the road, which took us just under an hour. The majority of the climb is at about eight percent gradient. We took turns pulling on the front for a quarter of a mile at a time to help break the climb up mentally. Whiteface tops at at just over 4,000 feet above sea level. After reaching the top of the climb on our bikes we hiked on the rocks to the actual top in our bare feet figuring if we made it that far we should get to the actual peak. After that we descended back down (which is quite scary) though we didn't take any risks and we really burned out our brakes and then rode the rest of the way back to Lake Placid. All in all it was just over 40 miles, but it was an absolutely awesome ride. Making it to the top of Whiteface was extremely rewarding and the view was spectacular. I strongly recommend this ride to any cyclist.

This workout happened yesterday, so it's still fresh in my mind, but it is easily the most memorable of any swim workout I did this year. My swim partner/coach, Joel McFarland, texted me on Sunday afternoon and said he was going to go for the 100 x 100 the next day because it was his birthday. This was something I had always wanted to do at some point, but I wasn't sure if I was up for it. I thought about it for a few hours, going back and forth on whether I wanted to try it or not. Finally I texted him back and said I was in and would go as far as I could. The farthest I had ever one in the pool was 4,000 yards when Ironman training, so I had no clue how far I could make it.

Monday morning I met Joel at the pool at 5am. He explained how we would break it down and the intervals and off we went. At the half way point we took a 5-10 minute break to fuel up and get a little rest. The worst part for me was the 6,000-8,000 yard section. I knew there was still a long way to go and the shoulder and back soreness was starting to become pretty noticeable. Once we crossed 8K I knew I would be able to finish. When all was said and done it took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes to do the entire 10,000 yards. He was nice and kept on the intervals with me. It was an awesome sense of accomplishment when we finished. When we were almost finished I told him I would never complain about an Olympic distance swim again. Workouts like that can change your perspective on things.

So there are my three most memorable training sessions of the 2013 year. I'm looking forward to 2014 with many more miles finding new ways to keep it interesting. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Progression - Looking Back as I Look Forward

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started planning my 2014 race season. I also looked at some pictures from some races that I’ve done. It actually happened by accident as I scrolled through my old Facebook profile pictures. Apparently I made a habit of only updating my profile picture after races, because since 2010 my picture has always been an action shot from a race. I think it reflects pride in my accomplishments at each race that I wanted to share those pictures, but as I flipped through I thought, “Wow, I can clearly see my progression as a triathlete in the shape of my body, my form while running or cycling, and even what I’m wearing.”

I did my first triathlon in 2010 - Musselman half iron in Geneva, NY. I was in way over my head and ended up in the hospital that day and coming down with Bells Palsy a week later as a result, but I was bitten by the triathlon bug and my lifestyle took a turn for the better. Since then I’ve competed in 19 more triathlons, three duathlons, and a few scattered running races. It made me smile to reminisce of all the races I’ve done, people I’ve met, and places I’ve traveled because of this great sport. I thought it would be fun to share a small story about each of those profile pictures (along with the picture itself) and what might have been going through my head at that point. There are better pictures from each of these races, but I thought it was most appropriate to use the actual pictures I had posted.

July 2010 - This is the only documentation of me doing my first race - Musselman half iron. My good friend, Pat, came down to cheer me on that day and snapped this picture just before the finish line. I could see the clock and I was sprinting to try to come in just under…. 7 hours. I didn’t make it. Finishing time: 7:00:08. I have a lot of memories from this race. I wanted to quit about five minutes into the swim because my wetsuit was too tight and I felt claustrophobic. The only reason I didn’t was because my dad and Pat were there and I would’ve felt bad making them drive out there just to quit. I had only open water swam once before the race and it was for about five minutes. I tried Heed for the first time ever and learned my stomach doesn’t like it. After the race I threw up continuously, took multiple IV bags because I was so dehydrated, and ended up having to go to the Geneva Hospital. In this picture I was likely thinking, “Salvage some dignity and push to finish under 7! Come on! Faster!” I didn't even have the mental capacity to zip up my top before I finished so I at least looked somewhat good for the finisher photo. Basically, I look dreadful. I’ve since learned that in triathlon you wear Lycra more often than regular clothes, you cover yourself in most of your own bodily fluids at one point or another, you wear funny looking, pointy helmets on your bike, and you can generally check your dignity at the door.

June 2011 - This was my second Olympic distance race of the year - Tri Oswego. I had done the Keuka Lake Triathlon earlier that month after deciding that I should backpedal and practice with some shorter distance races before attempting another 70.3 distance race since my first two were such nightmares. At Tri Oswego, which was a really small race, I put together my first ever somewhat decent performance. I ended up 4th overall (again, small field) with a time of 2:21:51. In this photo I'm actually pretty happy (despite the look on my face). Running was never my strongest sport and it has taken some serious work to not slide backwards in races after coming off the bike, and that shows in this picture. It was another "grind it to the finish line moment" but I'm not suffering anywhere near the amount I was in the picture above. I still look like I'm carrying some extra weight from the weightlifting days and still haven't figured out the "zip up the top" thing, but it was a step in the right direction.

July 2011 - This is a picture taken by Kate McKallagat of me coming out of the water in Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island. I was smiling because I was out of the water and am done swimming for the day. I also swam around 42 minutes (without a wetsuit), which was significantly better than my 55 minute effort at Musselman the year before. I flashed my "smile big so you have a nice, new profile picture" smile during the run to transition and Kate captured the moment brilliantly. I think in this picture I look like I'm trimming down to a reasonable weight (I was probably in the 180lbs. range, down from around 195lbs. at peak weight lifting era). This race saw me take just over two hours off my effort the year before, finishing just under five hours in 4:58. I learned a lot during the off season that year as I spent a lot of time reading and studying the sport. It was an exciting day, and it was made even better because I got to share the course with my friends Pat McKallagat and Kurt Dawley, who both completed their first ever 70.3 race that day.

November 2011 - My first Ironman. I think that up to this point in my life, this day, and the moment in this picture, was probably the best moment/feeling of my life. I started triathlon because I wanted to complete an Ironman. That was always my goal. I may have been premature when I signed up for Ironman Cozumel, (At the time I signed up, my best 70.3 distance time was over 7 hours. I completed Rhode Island the summer between signing up and racing Cozumel, so I had confidence from that and knew I'd be able to finish.) but I believed I could get better and I worked hard at it. Crossing that finish line is something that is difficult for me to put into words. It's something you can feel, but is hard to express. There were a couple times during the run that my eyes teared up because I knew that I would make it. The emotions of the journey built up and I had to really fight to keep them in check. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person to feel this way. When convincing my mother she needed to come to the race, I told her that this was my wedding. I was single at the time and told her I didn't know if I'd ever get married. I said this was going to be the most important day of my life. I was lucky to have her, along with my father, sister, Kathy Same, and Becky (who snapped this picture) there that day. This picture stayed up a long time. (Notice I'm zipped up in this one. I made sure I was ready for this finish line photo.)

September 2012 - In this picture at Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains, I had really trimmed down. I was probably in the low 170lbs. range by now, and I think it's pretty noticeable from the photos. I also have a team race kit from Towpath Bike Shop, which really helps in making me look the part. It's well known by anyone who I've spoken about triathlon with that cycling is my favorite and strongest sport. The bike course at this race was fun too. I'm in my glory here. I hammered out a 2:20 bike split (which in hindsight was probably overcooking it a bit), but I was having fun. The climate was great and the roads were a little hilly and twisting, making it a bit of a technical course. I ended up finishing in 4:29:22, which was a 12 second 70.3 PR over my second Musselman attempt earlier that summer. 

November 2013 - If there is ever a feeling to top the one at Cozumel, it is captured in this picture. Derek DeMass texted this to me that night after the race, snapped from the live feed on the Ironman website. The feeling here, after putting together the race I knew I was capable of, was incredible. I committed so completely to this race in my training and made a lot of sacrifices to get here. To say this was rewarding is an understatement. I opted for the sleeved triathlon top to keep the sun off me, had my TriSports.com team shorts on, made sure I zipped up my shirt about a mile out, and just let emotion take over as I crossed the line. I was down to about my ideal race weight, weighing in at 165lbs. before I left that week for Florida. The feeling of crossing that line never gets old and the emotion of this moment is something I will never forget. 

So there is my brief look in the rearview mirror and the visual progression of my short career as a triathlete. I'm not done and hopefully I will continue to develop and grow. I've set new goals for myself and am committed to continuing the hard work. I've got some great races planned for next year and am looking forward to 2014!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 Ironman Florida

The last race on my 2013 calendar was Ironman Florida. The race was the day before my 30th birthday, so I signed up figuring it would be a great way to finish out my 20s. I’d had a pretty successful season leading up to the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, but it is funny how one disappointing race can overshadow all the others. So I went to Florida looking for a solid performance and a little redemption so I could close out the year on a good note. I felt like I had a great training block leading into Florida after Vegas, so I was excited to see if the hard work would pay off.

I got to Florida Tuesday night with my parents and our friend Kathy. She was at my first Ironman in Cozumel as well, so it was nice she was able to come with us again. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday consisted of the normal pre-race stuff: registering, practice swims in the ocean, a couple easy rides to spin the legs out, fine tuning the bike, getting my race gear ready, catching up with some friends, and of course getting good meals and plenty of rest. Becky and my sister arrived Friday morning, so it was really nice to see them and have them there as well.

As usual, I didn’t sleep all that well the night before the race. I woke up on my own accord a little before 4am. I went through my normal routine, got my stuff together that I hadn’t dropped off the day before, and had some breakfast, which was peanut butter toast and a banana. I then headed over to transition to get my stuff set up. Since it had rained the day before, I kept a lot of my stuff out of my bags that I didn’t want to be wet for race day (shoes, socks, my race shirt, etc…). I put that stuff in my transition bags, checked over my bike, set my nutrition up, and went to find a seat until the race was ready to start. About 50 minutes before the race I had my customary blueberry muffin. That has been a superstition of mine for three years, and I don’t see if changing any time soon.

I got in the water for a little warm up around 6:40am. I had a quick swim to get used to the water and then headed over to swim start. Ironman Florida still has a mass start at 7am, which I think is great. As chaotic as the first 500 meters of the swim are, it is an experience like nothing else. They did have self seeding for people to group themselves when lining up for the start, which is kind of a new thing. I lined up in the 60-70 minute predicted swim time group. My two previous Ironman swim times were 1:08 and 1:12, and I have been working really hard on my swimming since Vegas, so I set my goal at going under 1:05.

The gun went off and 2800 people charged toward the open water in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite my anxiety with swimming, it really is an incredible sight and an awesome feeling when you are in the middle of it. The swim course was a large rectangle where you swam straight out, turned left, swam about 100 meters, and then turned back to swim towards the beach. There were a few waves breaking near the beach that caused a little difficulty going out, but once you were a couple hundred meters out the water flattened pretty nicely and wasn’t too bad. The swim was very physical until after the first turn buoy. I was mixed up with a lot of people and there was plenty of hitting, smacking, and feet grabbing. When we turned to head back to shore people started spreading out and it got a little better. My strategy (given to me by my swim coach for the last two months, Joel McFarland) was to break down the swim into four small pieces and build into each section. I came out of the water after my first loop in 30 minutes even. What a confidence boost that was! I had just bested my 1.2 mile swim PR by over two minutes. I ran across the beach and dove back into the ocean for the second loop. This loop was much less physical as people had spread out, and I was even able to find some feet for a little bit and draft. I got back to the beach and looked down at my watch to see 1:03. That put me in a great place mentally heading out on the bike. (It should also be mentioned that Mike Hoffman had the 4th fastest age group swim of the day, going 53:53, which is blazing fast.)

I rolled through transition quickly, but didn’t rush. I figured it would be best to take my time and make sure I would be comfortable for the bike ride. I had opted to go with a short sleeve DeSoto tri top for this race rather than a traditional tri top. It had big pockets on the back so I could carry some solid food, which was a new part of my nutrition plan, and stick the rest of my gels back there too. This way I had nothing taped to my bike and the set up was really clean and aero. Complete bike set up: Trek Speed Concept, Shimano Ultegra components, SRAM S975 power meter crank, Bontrager top tube bento box and rear draft box, three water bottle holders (Speedfill Z4 between the arms, Bontrager cage on the seat tube, and an X-lab gorilla cage behind the seat), Zipp 808/Super 9 carbon clinchers and Continental GP4000s tires.

As I hit the mount like I went to jump on my bike and my leg hit the water bottle behind my seat. Snap. The clamp to the seat post for my cage behind the seat broke. I said several bad words. It was only the top half that cracked, so it was still holding the bottle and didn’t completely fall off. I figured the tension would crack the bottom half on the ride, but left it on the off chance it didn’t. It actually ended up holding on for the whole ride, so I was able to use it thankfully.

The bike course was really flat. The biggest climb was a bridge that we crossed twice, once at mile 10 and again around mile 102 heading back to transition. Other than that it was pretty much just try to stay in the aero bars and pace your effort. My legs felt good and I was moving right along, being careful not to overcook my legs so I could have a decent run. Louisville left a strong impression on me last year and I did not want to experience that again and end up walking through a lot of the marathon. There was a slight wind out on the course and it picked up as the day went on. Fortunately, it was blowing in a direction that it would push us home on the last 20 miles or so. I went through the first 56 miles in 2:23, setting myself up pretty well for my goal of a 4:50 bike split. It was right about this point that I entered a bit of a bad patch mentally and my legs felt a little cruddy. My family, Becky, and Kathy were out on the course at the first turn around section though, so I saw them around mile 50 and 60. It was nice to see them and have them cheer me on. That stretch of road was the only bad road on the entire course, but it was really bumpy. Everything on my bike and body rattled for those ten miles. The bike special needs area was also located on this stretch of road and I planned to use it. The volunteers were great and had my bag ready as I rolled through on my way back from the turn around. I grabbed it and kept riding, taking on my two bottles of Coke and a Snickers bar from the bag.

I came back from the out and back section and saw everyone again. I was happy to be back on smooth roads. My legs still didn’t feel great, but at least I wasn’t bouncing all over the place. The other issue that was happening at this point was I was getting eaten up by a few of the draft packs. Ironman Florida is notorious for bad drafting on the bike and it was easy to see why. A few of the groups I had ridden through and broken away from on the first half of the bike I just didn’t have the power to stay away from on the back half. I was annoyed knowing that they would all have fresher legs than me, but I can honestly say I rode clean and didn’t cheat at all. In fact, when the packs came by I just sat up and let them go rather than get mixed up with them and risk potentially getting a penalty.

Around mile 80 my legs started to feel better again. It was also at mile 80 that I rode up behind Miranda Carfrae, the 2013 Ironman World Champion. She was just validating and punching her ticket for Kona next year, so she wasn’t racing hard at all, but it was really cool to see her out on the course. When I turned south to head back towards transition I picked it up a little bit. There was one more out and back section that was about eight miles total. I counted the packs ahead of me and there were three pretty good size groups. Again I just told myself to race my pace and not get frustrated with what I couldn’t control. I pulled into transition with a bike split of 4:48:43, which included two stops to pee and my issue with the water bottle holder. I had nailed my bike plan and was again in good spirits heading into the run. Normalized power – 207. Variability index – 1.04. Average heart rate – 149. Average speed – 23.2mph.

I changed into my running shoes and headed out to the run course. The first part of the run was all about pacing. I could have definitely pushed harder, but my goal was to keep the pace comfortable and save myself a bit for the second lap. I ran conservative 7:30-7:40 minute miles for the first few miles to try to get into a rhythm. It was difficult to not push the pace because the crowd support was awesome. There were so many people lined up along the course cheering and screaming. It made you want to really go after it, but 26 miles is a long way to run and you need to make good decisions early in the run or you could very easily give all that time back and more in the later stages. I went through the first loop of the run without any walking in about one hour and forty minutes. My pacing was pretty consistent, but the legs were starting to hurt. I grabbed another Snickers and a sugar free Red Bull from my special needs bag. The Snickers tasted great. The Red Bull on the other hand, was really warm which made it taste awful. I would have loved to have been able to drink it because the caffeine would have done wonders for me, but it was just too warm to choke down. I stopped for my last bathroom break at the start of the second loop and headed out for the final 13 miles of the day. On this loop I started walking just the aid stations so I could make sure I got enough water, ice, and Coke at each one. My pace slowed a little bit, but not terribly. I had seen my friends Dave and Mike after the 6.5 mile turnaround and was looking for them again when I got back out to the park for the turnaround at mile 19.5. I was running a bit scared, trying to stay away from them at this point. We were actually in the park for about two miles, so I figured if I could get out of the park without seeing them I would be able to stay away until the finish. I saw both of them again on my way back in and we gave each other some encouragement. With about three miles to go I knew I was going to be really close to 9:30, which was the goal I had set for myself coming to the race. I gave my final push to try to get there with everything I had left in my legs at that point. I could hear the crowd get louder and louder as I approached the final turn and could see down the finishing chute. (Run time – 3:30:51)

All the time, miles, and sacrifices flashed through my mind as I went down this last stretch. The emotions of this moment are something I find very difficult to put into words, but it’s a feeling that doesn’t get old.  I crossed the finish line with an official time of 9:31:02. I had put together the race that I knew I was capable of, but was scared I wouldn’t achieve. My biggest fear going into the race was not getting my nutrition right and ending up sick like I had in Louisville. Fortunately, I had practiced my plan enough and gotten some good advice from some people to make the right changes to this important part of the race.

After the race I sat down and Becky came running over and found me. It was great to see her and she was just as happy as I was. As the rest of my family arrived, I got that feeling in my stomach and I knew what was coming next – time to throw up. I got sick in some bushes and then headed over to medical. I went in, got hooked up to and IV, and passed out. I took two bags of fluid and woke up feeling much better. Then I had one of the most entertaining moments of my day – I looked over to my right and there, laying down two cots over was my good friend, Dave. I gave a big smile and said “hey buddy!” The look on his face was absolutely priceless and he just gave me a shake of his head.

I headed out of the medical tent feeling quite a bit better and I found my family. I also ran into Mike and his family as well. We chatted about our races a bit and then decided we would go eat before meeting back at the finish line to watch the last hour and a half and cheer the final races in. That is my favorite part of an Ironman and those are the people who truly inspire me.

This season had a lot of ‘ups’ and a few ‘downs’ as well. There were some great races and a couple that weren’t what I was hoping for, but the experiences are all ones that I can learn and hopefully grow from to keep moving in the right direction. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think I can say it enough – I can’t do this without the support of so many people in my life. They help me get through the rough times and are there to celebrate the good times with.

A few special thank you’s:

I am lucky to have the support of two great companies that help me out with the things I need to train and race. Thank you James Cronkwright and all the guys at Towpath Bike Shop for everything you do for me and everyone else on the multisport team. You guys are awesome and great at what you do. Thank you Debbie Claggett and all the folks at TriSports.com for all your support this season. It has been an honor to be a part of the team and represent Trisports this year.

A huge thank you to my family for being so supportive and coming to these races to cheer me on. They wake up at 4am and travel to these races all over the place. They give up a lot of their time to help support me and cheer me on. It means a whole lot more to me to have them there to celebrate with.

I am fortunate to have a great group of friends to train with and talk about racing with to help me learn and grow in the sport – Mike Hoffman, Dave Christen, Steve Rosinski, Carl Johnston, James Chase, Derek DeMass, Becky Bader – you guys are awesome.

I give Joel McFarland all the credit for my 1:03 swim. I can’t thank Joel enough for meeting me at the pool every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 5:30am for two months to fix my messed up swim stroke and help me learn how to swim. He took minutes off my time and I came out of the water fresher than ever before. I definitely owe him some beers.

Doug Bush of Endurance Factor coaching worked with me the last few weeks of training to help put the final touches on my preparation. He gave me some great advice for power numbers, target heart rate, and nutrition that really helped bring my race together. Thanks for all the help, Doug.

Becky put up with a lot this year. She traveled all over the place and gave up so much time with her friends and family. She dealt with me when I was exhausted all the time or frustrated after a bad session. She cooked a lot of food when I was going through big training blocks. She never complained when I would go off for 6+ hour training days on the weekend. There were weeks at a time where I would leave the house at 5am, go straight to work, come home and go right on my bike for another 2-3 hours, get home, eat, and go right to bed. I might have seen her 30 minutes a day during those times. She was so supportive and understanding and I couldn’t keep going during those times without her help. Thank you for everything!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Coping With Injury and Racing

In early August I raced 70.3 Boulder. The race went quite well and I was really pleased with my result, especially considering I had never done anything at elevation before. The timing of Boulder was good because it left me about five weeks to prepare for the 70.3 World Championship after I got home. I figured I would get home, put in a solid three week block, taper, and head to Vegas ready to race. Sadly, my best laid plans quickly came undone.

After getting home from Boulder I headed up to the Adirondacks with Becky to spend some time with my family. I was excited to be able to get some good training in up there, swimming in open water, and having relatively untraveled roads to ride and run on. In between training sessions I would be able to just relax and rest. The first two days went as planned and things were going well. Tuesday morning I went for a hard interval run and ended up putting in just over 11 miles. That afternoon my right ankle started bothering me. It was a weird soreness, but nothing excruciating, so that afternoon I hopped on my bike and went out for a 40 mile ride, hitting some hills and pushing the pace pretty hard.

Wednesday morning I woke up and my ankle was still sore, maybe a little worse than the day before. It was raining pretty hard, so we decided to pack up and head home early in the day. That way I could swim in the pool and ride the trainer if I needed to. By the time we got home to Rochester, though, it was clear skies so I went out for a couple hours on my bike to do some interval work. My ankle was still hurting, but on the bike it didn’t bother me so much. Afterwards I headed to the pool and got a swim in.

This is where things started to go badly. Thursday morning I took my sore ankle out for a 10k. It hurt. Then I went to work and hoped it would feel better by the afternoon. I told myself maybe this was just something that needed to work itself out. I hadn’t done anything specific to hurt it: no rolled ankle or falls. I hadn’t really increased my run mileage that much recently. So that afternoon I went out for my second run of the day. I figured I would get in 12-13 miles and hopefully by the end of that my soreness would start to feel better. Bad idea. I got about three miles in and I was in agony. It felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my ankle with every step I took. I knew I couldn’t finish the run, so turned and headed home. I iced my ankle immediately and took some Ibuprofen. This was not in my plans.

Finally, on Friday I decided I better stop acting like an idiot and rest my ankle a bit, so I went to the pool. That afternoon I was heading to Keuka Lake to visit my friends Bob and Pam. Bob is a Physician’s Assistant and Pam is an Orthopedic NP, so I figured I would ask them what they thought about my ankle. When I got to their place I told them what was going on and showed them my ankle. The response was not good. By this point I had done enough online research to realize it was Achilles tendinitis, but it was now really, really severe (way to keep running on it, Scott). No more training. They said I was so swollen that if I did anything, even walk up the stairs wrong, I could rupture it. I was crushed. I knew it was going to take a while to heal and I was going to miss a lot of training.

That weekend I barely left the couch and I was on a strict icing and Ibuprofen program. I was absolutely miserable and grouchy. To top it off, it was beautiful all weekend. It was sunny and in the 70s. If I had to be locked up inside, couldn’t it at least have rained? I honestly don’t know how Becky put up with me that weekend. If I was her I would have punched me in the face and left the house for the weekend, leaving me in my own self pity. She was so patient and supportive though. I’m a pretty lucky guy.

Monday I drove out to see Bob and Pam again and have them check my ankle. The swelling had gone down significantly over the weekend (thanks to my strict adherence to the not doing anything active plan and lots of icing), but the pain was still there when I brought my toes up. No running or biking allowed still, but they said if I wanted to swim and it didn’t hurt when I did, I could. Since I’m the crappiest swimmer ever, I figured the extra time in the water would be good for me, and at least I would feel like I’m doing something active and get the endorphin release. I went to Canandaigua Lake every day so I could swim without having to push off the walls at the pool. Pointing my toes and pushing like that still hurt, so I figured I would be safer not doing that yet.

By the end of the week I decided to try riding again. I didn’t want to rush back too soon, but I was starting to lose my mind. I went for an easy spin and it felt so-so. The pain wasn’t like it had been, but I definitely noticed it. I decided to give it a couple more days before going again. During that time I was talking to my sister’s housemate, Beth, about it and she told me about this place she had been going to get her knee worked on. Beth had knee surgery over the summer and part of her rehab included trips to Pittsford Performance, where they do ART and electro-neuromuscular treatment. At this point I was less than two weeks out from Vegas, I was still having pain, and I hadn’t run in almost two weeks. I was ready to try anything. I made an appointment for the next day.

I knew a little about ART and had heard good things about its effectiveness. I had also heard it hurts. The neuromuscular treatments I did not know much about, but that was what they determined would be best for my situation. It also hurts. A lot. Basically they test for weak areas using electric current, find the weak spots, hook up to pads and turn up the juice as much as you can tolerate. While that’s going on you do exercises to strengthen the area that is injured, so I mainly did toe raises and heal drops. As you do that they keep turning the intensity up. You say a lot of four letter words during these treatments. I did two six minute sessions of that my first visit.

When I walked out after my first session my ankle felt the best it had since it got injured. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but I didn’t have the pain during dorsiflexion that I had been having, so that was hopefully a positive sign. I went home and rode my bike for a couple of hours. The first half hour felt great. Then the soreness started to creep back in. It didn’t get as bad as it had been, so I continued the ride. Two days later I went back for another treatment and asked if I should refrain from riding. The doctor told me I could ride and he actually wanted me to try running then next day.

The next day I went out for an easy four mile run. It was exactly nine days until Vegas. The first two miles weren’t too bad, but on the way home it started to hurt a bit. I was now debating whether or not I should even make the trip to Vegas. I seriously considered just packing it in at that point. My next appointment to see the doctor was Tuesday, so I thought I would try one more run before seeing him. Maybe it would take some time for the treatment to be effective. Sunday morning I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. I figured this way if it started to hurt I could just step off and stop rather than have to run home if I was outside somewhere. Plus the treadmill is quite a bit more forgiving on the body than the road. I started running and felt much better than Friday. In fact, rather than the 4-5 miles I was going to run, I ended up staying on the treadmill for 10k. That run gave me such a confidence boost and I believed I would at least be able to go to Vegas, race, and finish.

Tuesday I went for another treatment. Wednesday I went for another four mile run, but outside this time. I was going to be running outside on the roads on Sunday in Vegas, so I figured I might as well try it out first. That run felt much better than the first outside run did. I started to feel a bit of relief and the stress of potentially having a DNF attached to my name was melting away. Now the question became how would I hold up over 13 miles in the heat of Vegas after a tough bike course after missing so much training over those three weeks? Time would tell.

I went to Vegas and raced in the 70.3 World Championship with some of the best triathletes in the world. Perhaps I’ll write up the race report another time, but to keep this from getting too lengthy, I’ll just say that it wasn’t my best race. I had a bad swim and left T1 frustrated already. I never felt like I could get into a rhythm and get my legs going on the bike. My legs could tell they hadn’t run anything close to 13 miles in a month. But I finished and my ankle never bothered me once. I made it through the injury and was able to experience the World Championship, which if you had asked me two weeks ago if I thought I would make it through, I would have said “no”.

So, get to the point already, right? Fair enough… Here it is:

1.      Injuries happen and they suck. We never plan for them and they never come at a good time. It is part of the process and to be able to overcome them we need to adapt and adjust. 

2.   Listen to your body. When things start to hurt, maybe you need to give it a rest. We can’t push through everything like we like to think we can. Overdoing it can lead to longer lasting injuries. If I had ruptured my Achilles, I would have been out for 4-6 months. I’m fortunate that didn’t happen.

3.     Listen to those who are helping you. I firmly believe that without the help of Bob and Pam and the doctors at Pittsford Performance, I would not have made it to the finish line. I might not have even made it to the start line. I am extremely grateful for all of their help and treatment to get me back and functional for race day. It was important that I followed their advice and did what they told me to. These individuals are professionals in the medical field and if I had turned my head to what they told me, I could have ended up severely damaging my ankle.

4.     I am extremely lucky to have the support of close friends and family. During those few weeks I had many talks with people and they provided support to help me get through the tough times when I didn’t know if I’d be able to race. I was struggling during that time because I worked so hard to earn qualification to this race. It had been my goal from October of last year and I worked hard from then until May when I qualified. The thought of not being able to see that through was a really tough pill for me to swallow. Specifically I have to thank Mike, Steve, Derek, Jimmy, my parents, and the guys at the bike shop for their advice and encouragement.

5.     Becky gets her own space here. She has been incredible through everything and is probably the most patient person ever. She put up with me when I was miserable when I couldn’t train. She dealt with my frustration when I didn’t think I’d be able to race. She supported me however she could and never said a word about how difficult I was to live with for basically the entire month of August.

After the race I really struggled with my performance. I did not race to my capabilities and I was disappointed with my result. Now, a few days later, I’m coming to grips with it and I realize that at the end of the day, it’s just triathlon and it’s just a hobby for me. It’s hard to see that when you commit so much time and effort to something though. So after the race when we’re sitting there and I’m disappointed with my performance she says “It just means you’ll have to qualify again and do better next year.” Knowing that I have her support means everything. She makes just as many sacrifices as me to allow me to do this. The time she gives up with me, with friends, and with family is not small. But she gets that it is part of who I am and knows how important triathlon is to me. For that I can’t thank her enough.

6.     It’s time to set new goals. I have less than two months until Ironman Florida. I can sit around disappointed in this race, or I can set new goals and make sure I’m as prepared as possible for Florida. It’s time to get back to work...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Boulder Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Boulder was a race I put on my calendar this year when my friend, Dave Christen, invited me out to Colorado. Dave and I went to college together for two years and played soccer at Roberts Wesleyan before he transferred to Liberty University. Dave now works for Ironman and is the race director for the Boulder Tri Series, which includes 70.3 Boulder and next year will include the first ever Ironman Boulder.

My dad, sister, Becky and I flew out to Boulder on Wednesday for the Sunday race. I wanted a chance to at least acclimate a little bit to the elevation. I had never even been to elevation like this before, let alone trained or raced in it. The closest thing I’d done was ride up Whiteface with my friend, Mike, but that was only nine days prior to the race and it was only up to about 4200 feet at the top. To say I was nervous about racing at elevation was a massive understatement.

The trip out was without incident. We arrived late Wednesday morning, which is also when my bike arrived. I had sent it via FedEx the week before rather than fly with it. I don’t like having it taken apart and packed up, but there was no other option in this case. I picked up the bike box from Dave and took it over to Colorado Multisport to have them build it up. While I was there I saw Miranda Carfrae’s bike on the stand getting worked on. This shop works on all the top level pro bikes. It was pretty cool.

Thursday morning I went for an easy 10K run and then for an easy swim up at the Boulder Reservoir, where we would be swimming on Sunday. I could definitely notice a difference from running and swimming at home, but it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. That was a little confidence booster for me and made me a bit more comfortable.

Thursday afternoon we drove up to Estes Park and went to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountains were beautiful and the views were stunning. We didn’t have time to make it all the way up to the top because we got up there a bit late and it was getting dark. However, we did end up going back on Monday and we did get up to the top. It was absolutely worth it. We saw elk and bighorn sheep, and were able to hike up a ways to the top of a peak. It was awesome.

Friday was a relaxing day. I picked up my bike at Colorado Multisport and then went over to registration. When I picked my bike up they told me that my brake fairing had been cracked during shipment. They had glued it back together and made it functional, but it still sucks having that happen. At least it would work for the race and I will replace it later. After registration we drove down to Idaho Springs to meet Amber, a friend from high school. We had dinner in this little town that looked like it was out of the Wild West and then went for my first hot springs experience. Let’s just say that was an experience and leave it at that…

Saturday was pre-race day as usual. I went up to the reservoir early to get an easy spin in. My power meter was working, so that was a plus. Everything seemed to be in order with my bike so I put it back in the car and headed back to the hotel to shower and relax. At 1pm we went back over to the reservoir to watch the pro panel and attend the athlete briefing. The panel was great as this race is full of top level pros because it is where so many of them live and train. Joe Gambles (I think he wins almost every 70.3 there is…), Ben Hoffman (3 or 4 time Ironman champion), Greg Bennett (former Olympian), Melissa Hauschildt (70.3 World Champion and Olympic qualifier), and Leanda Cave (70.3 and Ironman World Champion) were all at the panel. Not too shabby…

After that was done we went out for dinner. Guess what I had? If you guessed chicken parmigiana you are catching on. After that we headed back to the hotel so I could head to bed early.

The night before the race I slept better than I normally do. I even made it all the way to my alarm before waking up. That rarely happens. I got up just after 4am, had a quick shower, and ate half a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. Then we headed over to the reservoir. It was a little chilly in the morning, which was welcome relief to the earlier heat of the week. It had stormed the night before which brought in some cooler temperatures. The storm brought a ton of hail with it, which had also brought the water temperature down to 72 from around 76, which meant it was definitely a wetsuit legal swim. Once my transition area was set up I headed over to the water to relax before jumping in for a short pre-race swim.

This race used the new swim start format, where people lined themselves up by time for the swim rather than starting in age group waves. The first wave was 30 minutes and under. I went in the second group, which was 30-32 minutes. That was a little bit optimistic for me given my results in the past, but I figured I’d see how it went. This swim start format is definitely tailored to the weaker swimmers. I ended up swimming a 32:12 with a beach start, which is a PR swim for me, but it was the hardest swim I’ve ever had in terms of fighting for space and contact. I have never been kicked and hit as much as I was in this swim. My goggles were knocked off once to the point where I had to completely stop to get the water out and fix them. I kept trying to get to the outside to find clean water but it was pretty hopeless. After the second turn I finally managed to get on the back of a group and just tried to conserve as much energy as possible. When I came out of the water and saw my time I was very pleased, but it was a frustrating swim.

The run to transition was padded with nice mats to save our feet, which was great. I got my wetsuit off pretty easily, grabbed my bike, and off I went.

The first 8-9 miles of the bike were a grind up a false flat. I had ridden some of this stretch the day before when I went out for my ride, so I knew what to expect, but it was tough. Plus my legs didn’t feel great and I could find a comfortable rhythm. The best part of the ride was how much space there was on the road. I’m used to starting in a late wave from my 70.3 races earlier this year, so being out of the water and only having a couple hundred of people in front of me was great. I was moving through traffic pretty well and by mile 12 or so I started to feel a bit better. The course was pretty fast (it was a new bike course this year) and the roads were in great condition. Around mile five I noticed that the cage I put on behind my seat was not holding my water bottle and it was almost falling out. That was my bottle of coke for the end of the ride, so I couldn’t lose it this early. Instead of fighting with it to try to get it to stay I took the bottle and stuck it down the front of my shirt and rode the last 50ish miles with it there. It beat losing it. I was careful to never push too hard and ride conservatively. I was still nervous about being at elevation and that I would suffer at some point. I still biked my way to a 2:15:09, which is a bike PR for me.

I hopped off the bike and was out onto the run course. I felt like I had asthma. The first mile or so I was breathing really hard. I was running next to a guy in my age group, and not knowing where he started I wanted to hang with him and at least not get dropped. After my breathing settled down I was able to pass him and start moving along. It was sunny and hot. There was zero shade on the run course, which circled the reservoir on a dirt road. Joe Gambles and Greg Bennett went flying by be on their second loop a couple miles into my run. It’s somewhat disheartening to see how fast they go past when you still have 11 miles to run. Anyway, on the first climb of the run course I caught another guy in my age group and moved past. Both guys I passed must have started in the first swim group though because the timing from the race showed I was second in my age group off the bike. My stomach hadn’t been feeling great since about mile 45 on the bike. I haven’t really had GI issues when racing before, and I’m still not sure what caused it, but right in front of the third aid station at mile 3 it came to a head. I puked. There were four successive dry heaves and I could feel it coming. Then just like that, boom, puke everywhere. I stopped for about 20-30 seconds to let it all out, and then moved forward. The timing was pretty fortunate because I was able to grab water immediately from the aid station and wash my face and mouth off. I returned to a jog and noticed that I actually felt better than I did before. My only concern now was whether or not that would deplete my energy before I finished. I returned to my normal pattern of coke, water, and ice at each station and the miles were ticking off. By the time I started the second loop I was feeling steady and much better than I had been. I had my eyes on a female pro up the road from me from mile one of the run and my goal was to reel her in. I picked up my pace the last couple of miles and passed her about half a mile from the finish. I ran a 1:33:05, which isn’t my best run, but it only dropped me to third place in the male 30-34 group, so it meant my third podium finish in three 70.3 races this year. Final time: 4:23:23, only about three minutes slower than my PR I set in Florida earlier this year. I raced conservatively and smart so as not to blow up too badly on the run and overall am really happy with the day.

Overall this was a great race with an outstanding pro and amateur field. The venue was beautiful with the mountains just off to the west of the course. Finally, I can’t thank Dave Christen enough for having me out to race and for everything he did for my family. He got them access to everything and got them as close to the race as possible. He went out of his way to make sure they had a great day as well. Dave knows how to put on a phenomenal race, keep the athletes safe and meet their needs, and make sure they have a fantastic experience.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Florida Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Florida was a fantastic race. Here’s my little recap (edit: it turned out to be not so little)…

I flew down with my dad and Becky on Friday afternoon. Traveling with all your race gear is a bit of a hassle, but fortunately I used TriBike Transport to get my bike there, so that was one less thing to worry about. The trip down was smooth and uneventful, which is always a good thing.

Saturday morning we drove the course before anything else. I always like to do this when traveling to a race where I don’t know the course so I can get an idea of what I’ll be in for. No surprises. After driving the course I went to packet pick up and got the registration stuff done. The village was awesome. There were tons of vendors selling merchandise and food and it was a really fun atmosphere. Everything was right at the park too, which was convenient. After registration I stuck around for the athlete briefing and then headed over to the TriBike Transport tent to pick up my bike. I swapped out my rear wheel and got the Zipp Super 9 on the back and headed out for a quick spin to loosen up the legs. About five minutes into the ride my power meter stopped working. I pulled over and played with it and my Garmin head unit to see what the problem was. I tried recalibrating it…nothing. So I continued on and finished up a quick ten miles and then went to get my bike checked out. Rather than stand in the long line at the mechanics, I went over to the SRAM/Zipp tent to see if they would check it out. This awesome guy named Carl was working in the tent and he checked it out for me. It turns out that on the bumpy road on the way out of town the magnet for the ANT+ signal for my power meter bounced off. Carl replaced the magnet and the battery for good measure and got everything all set and recalibrated for me. He told me to return the favor by getting a Zipp front wheel on the bike to replace the Reynolds. I told him I’m working on it. It was awesome service from this company.

After getting my bike ready I went and dropped it off in transition so I didn’t have to deal with it in the morning. I’ll do whatever I can do reduce the hassle on race day.

Then it was time to head back to the hotel, clean up, and go grab a pre race meal.  We went to this little Italian place where we had eaten the night before and I went with my standard chicken parmigiana. It was the same thing I’d had the night before, but whatever. If it works, don’t try to fix it. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I was laying in bed by 8pm. I slept for about an hour, then woke up for about three hours, and then slept for a couple more hours. I woke up on my own accord at 3:30am. I never sleep well before races.

I got to transition at 5am and did the normal once over check of the bike, topped off the tires, and set up my gear. It was pretty quick and easy as I had laid everything out the day before. I set things up, briefly rehearsed my transition approach, loaded on the sunscreen, and headed over to the water to get a good seat, because I was going to be waiting a while.

The male pros went off at 6:30am. My wave did not go off until 7:35am. Yuck. I ate my traditional blueberry muffin and banana breakfast about an hour before my wave and then took a gel down about five minutes before we hit the water.

The horn sounded and off we went. The water was a smoking hot 82 degrees and you could feel it. I started sweating early. The swim was in the shape of an ‘M’ with buoys on the right, which is helpful for me sighting because I breathe to the right. I did alright finding feet and drafting on the way out, but after that it was too hard because we swam in to the waves before us. It was crowded and a pretty physical swim. I took a few elbows and kicks so I generally tried to stay to myself and out of the groups. It was tough with all the corners though. I exited the water in just over 32 minutes, which is by no means quick, but it was my best half iron swim (not counting Poconos which I’m positive was quite short). I was 20th in my age group coming out of the water. Time to make up some ground on the bike…

I got through transition with no issues and had a nice flying mount (one of the volunteers even commented on it). I quickly got up to speed and got my feet in my shoes. The road right out of transition was pretty rough and there were some quick turns and little climbs, but after about two miles it got better. I went to work, but made sure I didn’t over cook myself. I kept a close eye on my power meter with a goal of keeping my power around 270, but not over. I knew with the heat I would need to save a little extra for the run. My legs felt good and the course was fast. There were a few technical spots where there were multiple, quick turns where you had to really be careful. And since I was in the 14th wave, there were also a ton of people already on the course, which was not ideal. I saw quite a bit of drafting and some really big groups that were hard to get around. It is a big frustration when I have to put on the brakes because people are riding three wide and I didn’t want to risk crossing the yellow line and getting a penalty. It is what it is though and I tried to ride as safely as I could within the laws of the sport. One of the funniest things that happened during the race was when I passed someone on one of the turns. If you’ve ever heard a Zipp disc you know it has a very distinct sound it makes as the air comes off it. It’s a loud “whoosh, whoosh” noise. As I passed this guy he looked over at me and said “That sounds awesome.” He’s right. It does. I ended up averaging 252 watts and 24.7 mph, which gave me a 2:16 bike split, and put me first off the bike in my age group. My nutrition on the bike consisted of one package of Clif Shot Bloks, three Powerbar Gels, five Saltstick pills, a bottle of Gatorade, two bottles of water (picked up from the aid stations), and a bottle of Coke.

I got my feet out of my shoes with plenty of room to spare before coming into T2. After my debacle at Flower City I made sure to be prepared this time. I hopped off my bike as I rolled up to the dismount line and ran into transition. It was another long run with my bike and I had a little trouble finding my spot because the tree I was using to help myself locate it had a twin that I went to first. I threw on socks and shoes, grabbed my race number and visor, and headed out to the run course.

I knew I was in for a little bit of suffering because the bottoms of my feet already hurt. I think I had a lot of sand on my feet when I put my cycling shoes on, so the constant rubbing while I rode had started to take its toll and gave me some blisters. The heat from the road and the soaking wet feet from all the water I doused myself with were not going to help the situation. Regardless, I went to work and told myself to run comfortably and not go out too hard. The run was a triple loop, which was nice because my dad and Becky got out on the course so I got to see them quite a bit. The run course had two pretty good hills in the first mile and a half of the 4.4 mile loop. These hills were destroying people in the heat. So many people were walking up them. I even saw a male pro (probably on his third lap) as I went up the first time that was staggering up it from side to side. They started 65 minutes before I did, so this guy was clearly tapped. I kept my salt intake up on the run to make sure my electrolytes were replenished by taking another salt pill at the start of each run loop, so three more total. At every aid station I had the same routine: water, Coke, water (mostly thrown on my face to wash off the Coke that spilled all over me), and grab as much ice as possible and stuff it down my shirt and shorts. I saw my dad and Becky for the first time about three miles into the run. They let me know at this point that they were pretty sure I was first off the bike. That gave me a little confidence boost and some additional motivation. As long as I didn’t completely blow up, I was getting a Vegas slot. Pace yourself. That’s what I kept saying to myself. Lap one was finished in 27 minutes and change, 6:22 min/mile pace. Lap two started with those hills again and there were lots of people on the road now because more people had finished the bike. It was getting hotter and people were suffering. I refused to walk at any point but I definitely slowed to an 8 min/ mile pace climbing those hills as I didn’t want to take too much out of myself. About half way through the second lap I saw Ali Rutledge, a TriSports.com teammate!
Ali and I post race.
We spoke briefly, gave each other some encouragement, and I continued on. Not far down the road I saw my dad again and he confirmed I was definitely in first place for my age group and I had a 3.5 to 4 minute lead….more confidence. I finished lap two in just over 29 minutes. I had slowed slightly, but that was still 6:47 min/mile pace and I only had 4.5 miles to go. My blisters were now killing my feet and my legs were starting to hurt. I knew this lap was going to be a “grit your teeth and embrace the suck” experience. I continued my aid station pattern and suffered through the last lap, keeping my pace at 6:55 min/mile.

I turned the corner and headed for the finish line, 98 percent sure I had won my age group. Since my wave was split in half, I had to wait five minutes to make sure no one from the second wave caught me. Time passed and no one came in, so with a time of 4:20:19, I won my first ever Ironman 70.3 age group. I ended up having the fastest bike and run splits, which was really rewarding for me and something I definitely would not have been able to do a year ago. I have been a strong biker for the past year in races, but I always gave up time on the run. Opening up my lead on the run shows all my work on that sport is paying off. I have to thank Steve Rosinski and Mike Hoffman for all the runs we’ve done together since January. Those two are phenomenal runners and have really pushed me.

After the race I took my shoes off to reveal some nasty blisters. Some were normal blisters with fluid, some were blood blisters, and some had already ripped completely open and were raw. Lovely. I drank some water, grabbed a Coke and a banana, and headed over to medical to get them cleaned out and put some bandages on. The medical tent people were great. They got me fixed up and on my way.

Eventually my stomach settled and I ate some real food while we waited to claim the Vegas spot. I got that taken care of and waited for the awards ceremony. I even grabbed a picture with women’s winner and top five Kona finisher, Mary Beth Ellis.

Me with Mary Beth Ellis!
Overall, this was a great event. Everything was well organized, the course was fast but challenging with the hills on the run and the heat, and the park had great vendors and food options for spectators. I signed up for this race with the goal of getting a Vegas spot early in the year and fortunately the day went my way and I was able to get that done. Thanks to Towpath Bike Shop and TriSports.com for all their help and support in my training and racing. They are both great companies.

Eleven days to Keuka…

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tan Lines

As spring rolls around in upstate New York it’s an exciting time of the year. It means that race season is upon us, but it also means I can finally get outside and off the trainer/treadmill routine from the winter. And with the resurrection of outdoor training and racing come the inevitable tan lines. There are lots of tan line possibilities depending on what you train and race in, and I would venture a guess that most of us have a few different lines from the variety of activities we do.

My tan lines say lot about me and where I’m at with my training. When the weather first warms up I get on my bike and ride as much as I can. I want to up my mileage and it’s way more fun to explore the countryside than stare at my basement wall. With all this outside riding come the “biking tan lines.” Included are the straight, precise lines across my biceps (or where they would be if I had any muscle in my arms) and quads and the high sock line. Then there is the watch line on the left wrist and the Road ID line on the right. I wear these lines proudly. They are an indication that I have been putting in the time and work required on my bike. I take care to make sure I properly set my sleeves and shorts in the correct position each day before I head out to avoid the gradual fade line. It’s simply not as impressive or funny looking and it is a violation of Rule #7 of the Velominati

I also have a set of running tan lines. I wear shorts and socks the same length as my bike stuff so as to reinforce those lines. I usually run without a shirt because it saves on laundry (seriously, do the math… 4 runs per week x 1 shirt per run = 4 shirts per week. 4 shirts per week x 4 weeks per month = 16 shirts per month. 16 shirts per month x 5 months where it’s warm enough to run shirtless = 80 shirts), so this implements the heart rate monitor line. I understand that I am sunning my torso slightly which will have a small impact and lessen my bike lines, but I can assure you it is not enough to take away from effect.

My pool is indoors, so I get no sun when swimming. For those of you who train at beautiful, outdoor pools, I am jealous.

Finally, there are the race tan lines. Depending on the length of the course, these usually end up more as burn lines for me despite my greatest efforts of sunscreen use. It washes off in the water and because, by nature, I sweat like a pig. Water and sweat proof my ass. These are the lines that make it look like I went and played beach volleyball in a sports bra for 10 hours using tanning oil instead of sunscreen (see photo below). I’ve also had the writing on the back of my legs burn in nicely, reminding me for a month how old I am and what my race number was. The absolute worst is when your top rides up a little bit and the small of your back burns giving you a very questionable looking tan line, especially for a male (Yes, that's me. And no, that's not an undergarment.)

Some people work hard to avoid tan lines (i.e. wear different suits, sun bathe in skimpy outfits, or spend time in the skin cancer box at Sun Tan City or the like) but I embrace them. When I take my clothes off, I want it to look like I’m still wearing my cycling kit. It's good for a laugh or two if nothing else. 

What do your tan lines say about you? Have you been outside earning them by putting in the hours? If not, it’s time to get to work. Mine are coming in nicely.

(Post IM Cozumel burn)