Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Future of Cycling

LIGGETT: Welcome to the Tour de France – the most epic race in the world!  With the new rule changes this year’s edition promises to be one of the most exciting ever.  I’m Phil Liggett – and I’m proud to welcome my new commentating partner, Lance Armstrong!

ARMSTRONG: Thank you Phil.  I’m very happy to be back at the Tour.

LIGGETT:  We’re happy to have you back.  I think the whole cycling community owes you an apology for how you were treated a few years ago. 

ARMSTRONG: Well, that’s all in the past.  I just feel fortunate that the public has supported me through some difficult times.

LIGGETT:  Not only did the public support you – but I think everyone would agree that we have your popularity to thank for the new exciting racing we have this year.

ARMSTRONG: Cycling surely is more popular than ever Phil.  As a fan of the cycling – it’s great to see UCI taking a leading role in showing how science can help give us a more exciting and entertaining sport.

LIGGETT: That’s for sure.  It was only a matter of time before everyone realized how outdated and biased our anti-drugs in sports views were.  How can you possibly be against substances that improve health and performance?

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely Phil.  Many of these drugs are simply substances already found in the human body.  They just give these guys a helping hand and makes the sport more entertaining for everyone.

LIGGETT:  Entertaining is the word!  Why, these boys travel up these mountains nearly at the speed that you used to go down them!

ARMSTRONG: Ha! (laughing) You aren’t kidding Phil.  It’s pretty incredible what these guys are doing this year.  Unbelievable performances.

LIGGETT: Of course – no changes come without some controversy.  Today at the start the peloton was blocked by a group of protestors claiming to be former cyclists who refused to continue to compete under the new rules.  They say that they don’t think it’s fair for them to risk their “health”.

ARMSTRONG: These people are the worst.  To borrow my friend Bradley Wiggins’ word – they are truly “wankers.”  These medications improve health!  They are just a bunch of bitter and jealous people – who don’t have what it takes to compete in the world’s toughest sport.  They should just shut up and get out there and train!

LIGGETT: Well said Lance.  If they love the sport so much, than maybe they should spend more time on their bikes instead of running their mouths all the time.

Enough of that rubbish – let’s get back to what matters – today’s stage.  We have our first mountain stage of the Tour today – which should be interesting because it will be the first time we see use of the new “Easy-IV’s”.

ARMSTRONG: Yes.  Earlier in the year we saw some riders have a difficult time injecting epinephrine directly into their hearts during the climbs.  I’ve tried it Phil – it is really difficult to provide enough force while on a bike to get that needle all the way into the heart.

LIGGETT: I bet!  Now, if I’m not mistaken – you’ve got one of these “Easy-IV’s” installed on yourself – right?

ARMSTRONG: That’s right Phil.  As you can see (unbuttoning his shirt) – it’s a simple lightweight plastic tube.  It’s hardly noticeable. All you need to do is take off the top – wipe with some alcohol and inject the epinephrine.  It’s goes straight to your heart.  What’s really nice is that with this new system there isn’t the need for any needles.

LIGGETT: Yes, that was an early complaint from the environmental crowd.  They worried about all the syringes the boys were throwing off into the weeds.  I always said – don’t worry about them – the fans will gobble them up in no time!  What a great souvenir!    

ARMSTRONG: (laughing) Well – regardless Phil – folks don’t have to worry about that anymore.

LIGGETT: I heard that you also had a pace maker installed?

ARMSTRONG: That’s right Phil.  It’s great to have that little bit extra control over heart rate – the medications are helpful – but it’s hard to make small changes to heart rate.

LIGGETT: Although the drugs are powerful stuff!  I followed your advice and had a consult with Dr. Ferrari.  I haven’t felt this good in years!  I tell you – I might be out on the tour next year! (laughing)

ARMSTRONG: The man is a miracle worker.  I’m so glad he’s been welcomed back into the sport – he has so much to teach these young men.

LIGGETT: Lance, let’s answer some questions from the fans.  Ted from Seattle writes – “I have son who loves to ride his three wheeler in the neighborhood.  Racing is obviously several years away, but I was curious when I should start him on EPO?”

ARMSTRONG: Great question Ted.  I know many parents are nervous about medicating their children from an early age – but, that’s exactly when you need to do it.  The developmental stages of life are when these medications can make the most difference.  EPO is a great one to start with.  As everybody knows – EPO is a substance your body makes anyways – it’s completely natural.  And the younger you start – the more of a chance your body has to get used to pumping thicker blood.  Back when I was riding we were told to keep our hematocrit under 50 – well, some of these guys who have been taking EPO since they were kids can safely get close to 60.  Pretty amazing stuff.

LIGGETT: Agreed.  Well Ted  - there’s your answer.  The sooner the better.  And remember – all the other smart parents of future Tour winners are doing the same.

AMSTRONG: Absolutely.

LIGGETT: Frank from Houston writes, “One thing I’ve been disappointed with the new rules is that we don’t know what these guys are taking.  I was hoping to find out what the latest and greatest drugs are so that I can kick some butt in my local 5k!”

ARMSTRONG: (laughing) Well Frank – I certainly understand your frustration.  But, you have to remember that there’s a lot of money and prestige at stake for these teams.  They can’t just make their specific medication cocktails public – it’s what gives their guys an edge.  However, the science is changing so quickly – whatever the guys are using this year will be considered like “water and bread” on the tour next year.  I’m in talks with some of the teams to make the cocktail of the winning team available to the public after the Tour.  That way guys like you can “kick butt” at your local 5k’s and the teams can keep their secrets.

LIGGETT: I think it’s obvious that the main winner with these new changes is the general public.  Scientists are learning incredible new things about the human body and our ability to improve it through these competitions.

ARMSTRONG: That’s right Phil.  It might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the cure for cancer came directly from research done on these bike riders.  It’s all about overcoming the limitations of the human body.  Truly inspirational stuff.

LIGGETT: Well, that’s all the time we have for e-mails.  The boys are just about at the base of the big climb.  Join us after this word from our sponsor Easy IV’s  for what promises to be an epic conclusion to today’s stage!

(cut to commercial)

LIGGETT: (off mike) Let’s just hope for no more heart attacks!

ARMSTRONG:  (off mike) It’s all part of the race these days.  Guys always took risks on descents.  It’s the same thing.  Although some of these guys are technically having “myocardial infarctions” – it’s not like they’re 55 years old and 300 pounds.  They’re healthy enough to take it.  And it sure does make the racing exciting!

LIGGETT:  I’ll say it does!  I think I about had a heart attack the first time I saw I guy just plop down off his bike on the middle of a climb! (laughing)

ARMSTRONG: (laughing) I know – it almost seems normal now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I was sub-10 at Ironman Wisconsin Part II

5. Course Preview: Back in June I was looking at the Wisonsin Ironman facebook page when I saw a comment wondering who else was doing the "Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure."  That sounds interesting - I thought to myself.  I found out that it was organized by a local triathlon club in Madison.  The weekend included a dinner on Friday with full course preview and a talk about "power" on the bike.  On Saturday there was a morning swim in Lake Monona and then a bike ride out in Verona - where the 40 mile loop begins.  On Sunday was a chance to do one-loop (13.1 mile) of the run course.

I had been thinking that I needed to get out to Madison to look over the course.  I had heard that the bike course was especially difficult and that it helped to know what was coming up.  When I saw they were offering this all for free (a word you never hear in triathlons) I knew I had to jump on it.  Luckily I didn't have anything planned for the next weekend - so after a brief talk to my wife - I signed up and found a cheap hotel room.

The guys from Team Evotri, SBR Coaching, and Rocket Bicycle Studio who organized WIBA did an awesome job.  They gave us just enough information on Friday night to be helpful without overwhelming us.  Getting a chance to get in the same body of water with close to 100 people definitely helped me feel more comfortable on race day.  The bike course preview though was key.  I ended up doing two of the 40 mile loops plus ~10 miles out and back on the stick portion.  So, I ended up with around 100 miles and saw everything except for the first/last 6 miles of the bike course. 

I started out riding with a seemingly strong group of guys.  By around 30 miles it was evident that these guys were good riders who weren't in their best shape.  It's one interesting thing difference I've found between runners and cyclists.  Strong cyclists are much more worried about proving how great they are on training rides.  Even if they are out of shape they will kill themselves the first part of a ride - eventually they usually blow up.

One guy who was with the group initially, but fell off came back to the group as we stopped at an intersection.  The two of us ended up riding the last 70 miles of the ride together.  He was a marketing guy from Chicago and had never done a group ride - he wasn't comfortable sticking on our wheels (you need to stay ~1 foot off the guy in front of you to get a decent draft) which is why he fell off early.  This guy obviously had some decent cardio - but he hadn't competed in any sport in college.  He was just one of those talented type A guys who get the most out of what they have.

Luckily he also wanted to get a little run off the bike.  I felt pretty good for just having biked 100 miles, but I'll be honest, he pushed me on the run - we were probably going close to six minute pace in the first couple of miles.

He had to go back to Chicago that day - but, I found somebody else to run with on Sunday.  The guy who had talked about "power" on Friday night ended up running the course on Sunday.  For those of you who don't know - "power" is related to the bike.  Basically it's a measure of how hard it is to get your pedals to move.  If you never changed your gear you would be putting out a much higher power going up hills than you would going down hills.  The secret to riding a smart race is keeping your power (i.e. effort) as even as possible throughout the race - especially on an up and down course like Wisconsin.  You want to minimize any power spikes - which means going into a much lower gear when you are climbing.  Too many guys feel like they have to "win" every hill and it ends up costing them over the long run.  So, I got to pick his brain for over 90 minutes.  He was a Kona qualifier at a previous IM Wisconsin - so, I certainly came away with some great information.

 I didn't mean to write this much about WIBA - but, it is a testament to just how important that weekend was in my success a couple months later. 

4. Weather: If you go on right now - click on the monthly weather forecast for Madison - go back to September and you'll see that September 9th had a low of 51 and a high of 72 degrees.  I'm not sure I need to say anything more than that.  In previous years they've had highs close to 100 degrees and they've had highs in the 50's with rain all day.  Both of these conditions take a lot of energy out of you.  What I got was pretty much perfect and I would be a fool to not admit that those conditions played a big part in getting under 10 hours.

3. Moving to Omaha: People from the coasts are probably chuckling to themselves right now, but Omaha was a perfect place to train for IM Wisconsin.  I signed up for Wisconsin while Kendra was being recruited for her job in Omaha.  I saw that it was within driving distance (flying with a bike is a pain).  I also saw that the terrain was remarkably similar.  People think of Nebraska as the flat state before you get to Colorado.  Yes, much of the western part of the state is flat - but Omaha is in the Missouri River Valley.  East coast folks - think about the land near the Patapsco River or the Susquehanna and you'll know what much of the land around Omaha is like.

The night we got to Omaha I needed to stretch my legs - so, I went on a little 15-20 minute run on the trail behind our house.  Something felt so right.  I've never lived so close to a trail before.  It's not that long of a trail - but it's indicative of what there is in the rest of Omaha.  The city has 40-50 miles of paved trails - mostly on top of levees along side streams.  Many of these trails are out in the open, so you get the full effect of summer Nebraska winds (15-20 mph is not uncommon) and they are relatively unused - so, you can push yourself for long periods of time without running into any traffic and there are hardly any crossing of intersections - so, you don't have to worry about cars.

The day after we drove into Omaha I met our first neighbors - Niki and her kids Ryan and Hannah.  Somehow the conversation turned to running - it turned out that both Niki and her husband Gerald ran in college.  Not only that, but Gerald had been doing triathlons for close to 10 years and he organized track workouts and open water swims in the summer.  Gerald isn't just another triathlete - he has gone very close to breaking 2 hours for the Olympic distance.  Not only did he tell me about all the local stuff going on - he ended up being a great training partner for swimming.  We swam together 2-3 times a week at 6am for close to eight months.  Jim certainly helped me a lot with my stroke, but swimming with Gerald meant that I was strong enough to take advantage of Jim's coaching.

2. Man of Leisure: Back in college my coach used to say that the best distance runners are lazy.  This sounds like a contradiction - but what he meant was that the best distance runners focus on pushing themselves in training and racing.  The rest of their life is rather boring.  Most people competing in an Ironman have a full-time job and other responsibilities - like being a parent.  For those of you who don't know I'm in the middle of career change.  I'm hoping to get into school as a Physician Assistant.  I quit my job in August of last year to focus on my classes.  Right now I'm finishing up my last two pre-reqs and waiting to hear about interviews this December.

During the summer the classes I needed weren't available.  I actually did try to find a job - but, I didn't even get interviews for the jobs I wanted.  Although the money would have been nice - it did leave me with a lot of free time.  My only activities this summer were applying to PA school, searching for a part-time job, and training.  This meant that I could do all of my training during the day - I could eat at normal times - and I was able to get a lot of rest.

You cannot reap the benefits of training if you don't have time to recover properly from workouts.  It's really that simple.  I knew I would have some extra time this summer, which is part of the reason why I signed up for an Ironman after only a year of doing triathlons.
1. My Lovely Wife: The first Ironman book in our house was not purchased by me.  Way before Kendra and I ever met she had caught the Ironman bug.  Now, Kendra had never taken swim lessons - she didn't even own a bike - but, she was enthralled with the idea of the Ironman and read a few books about it.  Having a supportive spouse when you are training 20 hours a week is incredibly important.  There are many days when you don't want to go out for a 3 hour ride followed by a 45 minute run - if your spouse keeps complaining about how they never see you anymore it makes it just that much more easy to not push yourself on your training.

Kendra likes to joke that she's my "stage mom" when it comes to running and triathlons.  It's almost a little scary how accurate that is.  She wanted me to do an Ironman before I even wanted to do one.  The only way that I could convince her that I should do the JFK 50 miler back in 2009 was that it would be good preparation for an Ironman. 

Watching an Ironman can be really boring.  So, Kendra decided that she was going to volunteer at Wisconsin.  She helped out in the female changing room during the swim to bike transition and then she gave out transition bags to participants from the bike to the run.  She made sure that she was stationed in the right place to hand me my bag.  I had no idea where she would be - so, it was awesome to see her in the bag room, jumping up and down while she was holding out my bag to me.  The transition room has about 20 volunteers in it (mostly female) and there were only about three participants in the room when I came through.  So, pretty much all attention was on us.  I gave her a hug and kiss as she handed me the bag - and the whole room went crazy.  Then I heard her yell "crush the run!" as I headed over to the changing room. 

Just after I crossed the finish line I saw Kendra again - she ran up to me and gave me a big hug.  Tears were running down her face as she told me how proud she was of me.  It was an incredible moment.  Nobody can do an Ironman on their own - you have to get support from a lot of people - there is no way I would have done this well (or maybe have even attempted an Ironman) without the love and support from Kendra.  Thank you Love.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Charles Pierce

For those of you who don’t know him – Charles Pierce is a sports writer.  He writes for Grantland and sometimes appears on NPR.  Usually I really like him – but he’s written a few articles recently for Grantland that appear to glorify drug cheats.  As I am apparently the only person who cares about doping in sports – I thought I’d write a reply to his most recent article on Ben Johnson and the “9.79” documentary.
In his attempt to glorify, or at least de-stigmatize, known dopers, Pierce is doing a great disservice to all athletes.  The question of whether drugs in sports should be condoned is very different than whether drugs in general should be condoned in society.  In the context of competition there will always be pressure to come up with a new drug that improves performance, with little to no pressure to make sure it’s safe. 

There was a survey a few years ago that showed many Olympic athletes would take decades off their life in order to medal in the Olympics.   Yes, there are performance enhancing drugs that can be used safely under the care of a doctor – but, do you really think that the most competitive people on the planet are going to be satisfied with the “safe” drugs when they know everybody else is taking the same thing?

Pierce says that he “saw Ben Johnson win an Olympic gold medal on the track and then lose it in the laboratory.”  He misses an important step – Johnson won it in the laboratory, then won it on the track, and finally lost it again in the laboratory.  Does Pierce not understand how much these drugs improve performance?  In many endurance event the effect is said to be 10% - if that were true of the 100m that would be a full second.  Basically it would close to impossible to be competitive and drug-free at the same time.  Don’t  our best athletes deserve better than to be treated like race horses?

Most world class athletes have learned to listen to whatever their coach tells them to do – it’s one of the things that makes them great. I have empathy for the incredibly difficult choice that athletes must make when someone they trust tells them that “it’s ok to take this” – “everybody else is doing it”.  However, that empathy does not extend to not holding them accountable for their bad decisions – especially when they made the same decision hundreds of times over decades.

Pierce is not the only sports journalist who seems to either not care about doping (Michael Wilbon).  They see that sports fans don’t seem to care – so why should they?  The answer is that we need to save athletes from themselves.  As a society, we need to make sure that athletes don’t have to take unnecessary risks in order to compete.  Our journalists should make an effort to remind the public why they should care.  With all the recent hubbub about doping (Armstrong etc) – I have yet to see a lengthy article talking to athletes who have had major consequences from doping – or from family members of those who have died from doping – not to mention athletes who were cheated out of glory because they competed clean.

I hope that this open condoning of doping athletes is a passing fad – I just hope that an athlete doesn’t have to die to remind us why drugs have no place in competition.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I was sub-10 at Ironman Wisconsin Part I

10. Patience: Endurance training and racing is about timing when your hardest effort is going to be - and knowing how long you can sustain that hard effort.  My first lesson about how peak fitness has a shelf life came when I was in college.  In the early spring of my senior year everything finally seemed to come together.  I won both the 3k and 5k at conference for indoors.  About 3 weeks later I ran my PR of 29:59 for 10k at the Alabama Relays.  In that race I actually had a huge negative split - my first 5k was 15:14 and my second was 14:45.  My coach was yelling at me with 600m to go that I had a shot at going under 30 minutes.  I ran a 65 second last quarter to just get under.

Another few weeks later I ran the 5k at the Sea Ray Relays in Tennessee.  I don't remember the time, but I remember being disappointed.  Then came the Penn Relays 10k.  I went out too fast (just over 14:40) and paid dearly for it.  I ran close to 16:00 for my second half.  A few weeks after that was conference.  The same guys who I dominated in February had no probably dispatching me in May.  Nothing had changed in my training - I hadn't gotten injured - I just didn't have anything left after a long year of racing and training.

Since it worked so well for Boston in 2009 (my PR year - 2:32.35), I've tried to stick to around a 22 week training cycle.  I do low volume and low intensity training most of the rest of the year - but nothing too hard.  This year I was still coming off an injury to my hamstring/glute that had given me problems since just before my Chicago marathon in 2010 - so, I gave myself some extra time.  I hardly ran a step in January of this year - of course I was swimming and riding a trainer - but I stayed off my feet.

I also had very few true race efforts over my training cycle.  I only had three triathlons - Kansas 70.3 in June, an Olympic at the Omaha Triathlon at the beginning of August, and Ironman Wisconsin.  I ran a couple of half-marathons and some 10k's, but always as training runs.  I didn't run all out at a road race in all of 2012.  I also very rarely went to the track.  I did 3-4 track workouts all summer.  My reasoning was that track workouts help with V02 max.  You don't need to work on your V02 max for an Ironman.

I also did only three training rides over 4.5 hours.  Most of my rides were in the 3-3.5 hour range with 30-45 minute run off the bike.  However, I was doing these at least 3 times per week.  I didn't have to squeeze a bunch of training in on my weekends.  More on that later.
All of this holding back meant that I peaked exactly when I wanted to peak.  There are advantages to having raced for over 20 years.

9. Nutrition during training and during the race:  When I was an exchange student in Germany I was friends with a Ukranian-Canadian named Orest.  He claimed that "a meal isn't a meal unless there is meat."  At the time I laughed him off - but, I have to say that I have gotten into the habit of making sure that I get protein at every meal.  I started doing this back in Baltimore after meeting with my friend and nutritionist Melissa Majumdar.  Of course - she gave me lots of other great advice as well.  Most important is getting nutrients from a variety of sources - and making sure you are getting enough calories to support your training.

I peaked at 20-22 hours per week of training - usually split into 50% bike, 25% swim, 25% run.  It is a struggle to make sure you are getting enough calories, especially given the hot summer we had.  Anytime I biked more than 2 hours I took in calories on the bike and downed a muscle milk right after I came in the door after my run.  Not only did this help me to not get behind on calories, but it helped my body to learn how to metabolize food while I was exercising.

In terms of nutrition during the race - I learned a lot from running the JFK 50 miler in 2009.  Alyssa Godesky, an accomplished ultra runner and triathlete, helped me to put together a nutrition plan for that race.  She helped me to understand that when it comes to events longer than a marathon "the stomach is more important than the legs."  My nutrition plan for Wisconsin was very similar to what I did for JFK - except that I bumped up my calories.  I learned that smart endurance athletes use their watch to see if it's time to eat or drink - not to check mile splits.

8. 21 years of endurance racing: I'm now 35 - I ran my first half-marathon when I was 14 years old.  I ran 1:28:06 and ended up in the fetal position in the back of my parents' minivan.  I remember watching the adult runners drink beer and dance to a live band afterwards - I thought they were crazy.  But I also fell in love with the long distance race on that day.  The race was from the small town of Dexter, MI along the Huron River to my hometown of Ann Arbor.  Running on foot from one town to another - it was like an adventure from a fairy tale or something.

About three years after graduating from college I ran my first marathon in Los Angeles (I was going to grad school in San Diego at the time).  It was an awful experience.  I didn't do much marathon specific training - I kind of just cobbled together training I had done in college and made sure I ran long runs at least once per week.  It was a warm day and I don't think I took in any calories except for gatorade.  Around mile 17 I had to stop and pour water over my head to cool off.  I heard an ambulance in the distance - I was sure they were coming for me.  My parents had decided to make the trip all the way from Michigan.  I'm glad they did.  There was no way I could have driven myself from LA back to San Diego.  Again I found myself in the fetal position in the back of a car driven by my mom.

I won't go through my entire marathon career (I've run ~9), but suffice to say that I've had my share of "learning experiences."  All that time has also allowed me to put a lot of money in the bank in terms of my fitness.  Many people don't peak in longer events until their mid-thirties.  You simply need that amount of time of constant training for your body to realize its full potential.

7. Swim training/positioning: Before 18 months ago I had never taken a swim lesson that didn't focus mostly on blowing bubbles.  On a cold day in February of 2011 I tried my first swim.  After about 5 minutes in the pool I realized I'd need a lesson just to learn how to breathe correctly (I guess all that bubble blowing hadn't helped).  I eventually could swim pretty comfortably for an hour in the pool, but when the day of my first triathlon came in May of 2011 - it was another disaster.  The guys around me all seemed to know what they were doing.  I felt completely out of my league.  Then the race started - looking back, I'm not sure that I remembered to breathe until about 30 seconds into the race.  The result was that I completely hyperventalated.  I couldn't put my head in the water because it felt like I was getting water boarded.  Eventually I calmed down a little - but the damage was done.  It was a victory for me to get my head together enough to do a decent bike and run.

I swam a lot with my neighbor Gerald since I've moved to Nebraska last November.  I even took another lesson last February, which helped to give me a little power on my stroke.  More importantly, I found a group of folks who swam once a week in open water.  I started this year still not feeling comfortable in the water - and these folks were fast - so, I got left behind a lot.  I can still remember a swim in May when I finally felt comfortable.  It was a huge turning point.

Unfortunately, I couldn't translate all this progress and work into a race.  In June I swam a disappointingly slow 42 minutes at Kansas 70.3.  I thought I had been in shape for a time in the low to mid 30's.  The conditions were pretty bad.  We were 1 degree fereignheit on the wrong side of the temperature cutoff for wetsuits.  There was also a 20 mph crosswind, which led to 2-3 foot waves.  Still, I felt like I should have gone faster.  So, I finally got a coach.  Jim met with me once a week - giving me lots of pointers on my stroke. Here is a list of all the parts of my stroke that needed help -I wasn't sculling at the beginning of the stroke (this led me to bring in my arm close to my body too early), poor arm angle at point of entry into the water, poor arm extension, arm hesitation at the top of my stroke when I was breathing, not kicking from my hips, not pointing my toes, no body rotation, not pushing all the way through on the bottom of my stroke etc.  At first I felt slower, because it was hard to coordinate all this new information.  But, after about 4-5 weeks of working with Jim it started to feel more natural.
Jim also told me I should watch the 1500m freestyle final in the Olympics.  I did - and watching Sun Yang changed the way I thought about swimming.  First of all - he hardly kicks.  All of his power is generated on his stroke and body rotation.  Also - he glides pretty long between each stroke.  It's not like running - where you need to have good turnover to be efficient.  In swimming you actually are more efficient when you take less strokes.  Here is a video of Yang's 1500m world record from the Olympics this year.

Let's get to the actual day of the race.  As I wrote in my race report, I went in the water very early.  I had at least 25 minutes of floating/treading water before the start.  All that time meant that I didn't have to hurry into the water - it also meant that I could scout out the best place to start.  The swim was my biggest worry of the day next to having a mechanical on the bike.  As the cannon boomed I had plenty of space, but I was also in a great position to take advantage of the all the fast swimmers in the few rows in front of me.  Another benifit was that they changed the swim this year to 1 lap from 2 laps.  This meant that there was a long ways for people to spread out before the first left turn.  I did get a kick to the goggles on that turn - but it wasn't anything too bad.  My 1:03 was certainly still surprising to me - I had planned for a 1:15 - even though I thought that I could go around 1:07-1:08.  It was my first successfull swim in an actual race ever.  Pretty good timing.

6. Not having a major mechanical on the bike:  If I could put all these factors into different domains they would be "things I did well that I knew would help me", "risky things I did which could have turned out either well or poorly", "things I should have known, but didn't until it was too late" and finally "just dumb luck."  This one obviously falls into the latter domain.  My garage is littered with old tubes that went flat on rides this spring and summer.  I don't know why I had these problems - but it made me pretty nervous about making it through 112 miles without another issue.

I did have my front derrailuer crack on me - but, in the end I think that helped me to save energy for the run.  There are many things about the triathlon that make it more complicated than just running - but, learning to understand how to care for your bike and keep it running well is probably one of the hardest things to learn.  I'm not a gear head.  I do my best to keep my bike in the best possibe condition - but, it's been a long learning curve for me.  So, I have to be happy in the end that I made it through 112 miles upright and within 8 minutes of my goal time. 

In part II I'll write about how the course preview, weather, moving to Omaha, my lovely wife, and being a "man of leisure" helped me attain my goals.