Talent vs. Skill

Talent is something that is innate. You are born with it and if lucky enough to notice and nurture it during your formative years, can achieve some level of success.

Skill, on the other hand, is developed through practice. Practice that can take result in massive capacity for achievement, as a result of months or even years of steady and consistent work.

For any endeavor there is a combination of talent and skill that come to bear in order to determine the final outcome.

A highly talented person with a very poor work ethic will not achieve success over the long-term, though some “lucky” moments of short-term success are bound to occur. Think about the students who seem to get A’s without studying, or the high school swimmers who crush school records with poor physical shape and a lazy attitude in practice.

However, someone with a dedicated focus on cultivating skill will slowly – and inevitably – become successful over the long-term, even if the gains take a while to show up.

If I had to choose between being innately talented – or highly skilled – I’ll take the latter any day, even it requires some hard work on my part to develop.

Skill, once developed, is enduring. The trick is to not give up too soon.

Lake Stevens 70.3 Triathlon Race Report 2011

Nice hardware!

Headed to Lake Stevens last Sunday for a half-ironman triathlon. The half-ironman distance is now being referred to as ‘70.3’ as this is the combined distance in miles of the swim/bike/run legs combined. I still like calling them half-ironman races since the term 70.3 doesn’t really mean much in my mind.

With just a couple of weeks of recovery from the White River 50, my legs were not sore but definitely were feeling tired in the lead-up to the race. My primary motivation for racing were to join a bunch of other athletes from my team, VO2 Multisport, and also to race what was sure to be a very scenic bike course (and one I rode in training a few weeks ago). The weather was also promising to be awesome, with temperatures in the 70’s with some cloud cover in the morning.

Pre-Race

I like races where you can just roll up a few minutes – maybe an hour – before the start, register and go. This was NOT one of those races! By chance I was talking with a friend who was racing as well on Friday night (the race was on Sunday) and she mentioned that we needed to check in on Saturday. I had no clue since I hadn’t read any of the pre-race instructions yet, saving that task for the night before the race. Indeed, all athletes needed to make the drive up to Lake Stevens, check-in and drop off their bikes, then drive back up on race day! I drove up, took care of things and then returned back home for an early dinner, a short run and some stretching.

The swim course.

My race gear:

  • Swim: TYR Hurricane 5 wetsuit, Blue Seventy mirrored goggles, DeSoto 1-piece triathlon racing suit
  • Bike: Cervelo P3 w/ Williams Carbon Wheels (80mm deep), sunglasses (I didn’t end up using), race belt, Shimano shoes
  • Run: Brooks GTS Racer shoes, visor

My nutrition plan was:

  • Swim: nothing 馃檪
  • Bike: 250 calories/hr (2 packs chomps and hammer gel flask with 5 gels), 2 endurolytes per hour; one bottle water per hour (it wasn’t very hot)
  • Run: 8 ounces of coke per hour; 8 ounces water per hour (at most….adjust depending on temperature)

My goal pacing was:

  • Swim: take it easy, 35 minutes.
  • Bike: stick to 140 watts on the first lap and 150 watts on the second (my FTP is 175 if you know what that means). this was a conservative plan, but again I wanted to be able to run strong. Shooting for 3 hours but the goal was to stick to the wattage plan and whatever time that resulted in would be fine. Hoped for a 3 hour or faster bike time.
  • Run: first 5K 8 min/miles; next 10K 7:45 min/miles; last 5K 7:30 min/miles or faster. Time of ~1:40 or so.
  • Total time: 5hrs 20mins (assume 2:30 transitions)
The rocketship (1103). Due to my late signup (I registered 5 days before the race), I had the world's worst transition spot. I had to run all the way through the transition zone to enter/leave.

Swim

The swim went in waves – each with ~100 people. As such, the start was relatively calm. The course was simple, a long rectangle. There was also a wire running under the water (the buoys were tied to it) that you could follow to make sighting a non-issue. I never ended up seeing the wire once, since there were so many folks crowded around it. I just swam a little off to the side, and out of the crowds.

Each wave jumped off the dock in the distance and tread water between the yellow buoys for a few minutes before a horn was blown to signal the start.

Sighting went well, floated in and out of drafts. At one point was kicked in the head pretty hard but shook that off and it didn’t slow me down much.With the wave start – was reeling in swimmers from previous waves. Came out of the water feeling good and had a feeling my time was decent (wasn’t sure of that, didn’t see a clock).

Bike

Started off the bike conservatively, letting my legs warm up and as usual a boatload of people past me. The course was a hilly 25 mile loop done twice (plus an out and back portion back to the transition area to make it a full 56 miles). I slowly built up to a steady pace, and closing out on my first loop, my power numbers were a little high (averaged 150 watts for the first lap). I wasn’t so worried about it since I felt very fresh and didn’t feel like I was pushing.

Throughout the bike I saw a bunch of friends who were also racing. Focused on nailing my nutrition and hydration and came off the bike with a time that was slower than expected, but my average watts were what I planned and my legs felt pretty fresh.

Came off the bike with 148 average watts (or so), averaged a little over 18mph with over 3 hours on the clock. Wasn’t so happy with the total time but other than that felt good.

Run

Run out? Sure! But first...to the porta potty!

Hit the porta potty and then started the run. Off the bike my feet (I’ve been battling plantar fascia issues for the past 5 months) hurt pretty bad. That was normal and I just took it easy for a couple of miles for my feet to loosen up. At one point, I stopped and took off my left shoe, convinced there was a rock in it…there was no rock…it was just the muscles in my feet all bound up! That stop cost me about 45 seconds.

After 20 minutes my feet relaxed and I was able to pick up the pace. My strategy of taking in 2-4 ounces of coke and then alternating with water at each aid station worked wonderfully well. I skipped a few aid stations since I felt well hydrated and didn’t want to overdo it. I am a huge fan of racing on Coke….the stuff is incredible and I’ve had no stomach issues using it for IMCDA, White River 50 or in this race.

The sun started to come out and I was dumping water on my head and staying cool, but felt good overall and after the first lap, picked up the pace a little. I also had to make a porta potty stop that cost me just over a minute of time. Next time I need to be sure about eating dinner earlier the night before and sticking to a liquid breakfast!

VO2 Inspiration Station! Photo by Cindy Bigglestone (I think).

With about 5K to go, I picked up the pace again, running as hard as I could. With a mile to go I was really was going all out. I couldn’t have gone faster if a tiger was chasing me. I looked at my watch and realized that a sub 1:40 run split was possible if I really pushed. During the last few miles it became obvious to me that I should have pushed harder on the first lap. I left too much on the table again.

I cross the line totally exhausted but relieved to be done.

While I didn’t beat my time goal I was very close, and my splits were almost dead-on to what I wanted. Without my porta-potty stops (two of them) and my little shoe incident I would have been very close to my time goal.

The final score:

The final score!

Lessons

I learned a bunch of things in this race.

  1. Pay attention to your meals the day before and morning of a race. I was very relaxed going into this race. Since my previous few races were longer (IMCDA and White River), I really was totally relaxed and not one bit nervous for this one. As a result, I didn’t pay as much attention to my pre-race nutrition plan. The porta potty stops were totally preventable by eating a lighter dinner earlier the day before and having a liquid breakfast.
  2. At Ironman races they pass out skinny water bottles on the bike course, and these bottles slip right out of the bottle cage on my bike when I stand out of the saddle to climb! I never noticed this before, but lost two bottles due to this. I need to replace that downtube bottle holder with a Gorilla Cage.
  3. I stuck to my wattage plan on the bike, but probably left 10 minutes (at least) on the table. I should have pushed harder on the bike. I don’t think that would have affected my run.
  4. My first 10K on the run was too slow. I was being cautious, but I should have pushed the pace a little harder. I left a few minutes on the table there.
VO2 crew post race (I'm on the left).

Seasons

The universe operates in terms of cycles – or seasons as I like to call them.

This applies to obvious things in our environment – like the changing weather throughout the year; as well as other things like relationships that come – and go – and then come back together again, businesses that thrive – wither and then come back to life, or as was the case of my White River 50 experience, emotions that go from good –聽 to terrible – to oh my god I’m gonna die – to great….all over the course of a few hours of racing.

The seasonal nature of things plays in out so many ways.

I’ve seen this enough in my own life that I know it’s how things work. Sometimes the seasons play out over the course of a few hours. Other times it takes many years…but they always do play out.

Yogis have understood the seasonal nature of things at a cosmic scale for thousands of years.

Acknowledge the seasons and know that when things are not going so well…they are bound to improve. Likewise, when things are going great – take the opportunity to “prepare for winter” – that is to say, remember your successes and draw on them stay strong and confident in your purpose when things become challenging. This is where journals become powerful tools, as do vision boards, affirmations or regular meditation on a positive intention.

A look at the first climb during my White River 50 mile run.

White River 50 Mile Ultramarathon 2011 Race Report

The White River 50 Miler was totally awesome. I signed up for the race many months ago, but the week prior if you asked me if I was going to run it, I would have laughed at you. I was dealing with a few injuries and still not recovered from Ironman CDA. However, a subtle but important mental shift made all the difference.

Instead of thinking about this as a race or some kind of extreme endurance event. I simply though about it as “just a fun day in the mountains.” I literally told myself this out loud. Good thing I live alone or my roommate would have thought I was psycho! Eventually, I came to truly believe what I was saying and I totally realized that doing the event was not only possible, but it could actually be sorta fun.

Our playground for the White River 50! Yes - that is Mt. Rainier.

I also managed to give my friend Sean a little prodding…and he decided to run it as well (on practically no training!). It also helped that two good friends Charles and Jenny were also signed up to run. My game plan was to just go as far as I can without risking any major damage to my body. I was fully prepared to drop out if I thought I would injure myself.

The course was 44 miles of single-track trail (the other 6 miles are on a dirt fire road) in the pristine White River wilderness near Mount Rainier (in the hills surrounding Crystal Mountain Ski Resort). The views from the course are mind-boggling good. Many times I caught myself just staring off to the right or left – with epic views of Mt. Rainer and the Cascades.

Besides being gorgeous, the course is gnarly. In terms of sheer elevation gain and general course difficulty, it rivals the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon in my opinion. What makes CCUM a little tougher is not so much the course, but the weather (it was over 100 degrees in some parts of CCUM) and the general remoteness of the race and travel involved in getting there.

White River has ~10,000 feet of climbing split into two MASSIVE CLIMBS followed by crazy long descents.

I can’t overestimate these climbs. It felt like running up Mt Si (for those of you in Seattle you will know what I mean) and then some….and then running down about the same distance…then repeating that effort! For veteran ultra trail runners this might not seem like a ton, but for me it was.

Sean’s blog has a great image comparing the White River course to the Boston Marathon with its infamous “Heartbreak Hill” that is worth checking out.

I’ll break down the race into Pre-Race, Race, Post Race and Lessons Learned.

Pre Race

  • Found a last minute room for the race at the Crystal Mountain resort. It was a few miles from the start line, and right where race registration and other pre-race stuff was happening. Very convenient!
  • My gear (pictured below) was pretty basic. With weather predicted in the mid-70’s to low-80’s and sunny, I was planning to wear a t-shirt (North Face Flight Series) and shorts (Nike running shorts) along with a visor and sunglasses (they sat on top of my head most of the day since the course was mostly shaded).聽 I wore my Inov-8 Roclite 295’s for the first 37 miles (hilly and gnarly trail) and Brooks GTS Racers for the final 13 miles (downhill and flat/smooth trail).
Gear
  • Fueling Strategy (250 calories per hour). I wanted to stick to simple food and get most of my calories in via gel to prevent any stomach issues and maximize absorption. Some people want sandwiches and real food (cookies, chips, etc) during these race (and the aid stations are stocked with this stuff!) but I try to stick to simple sugars. I fueled on:
  1. Hammer Gel (in flasks, run with 1 flask and the rest in drop bags). I went through 15 servings of Hammer Gel along with 3 GU packs from aid stations.
  2. GU Chomps (in drop bags). I went through 6 bags of chomps.
  3. Hammer Endurolytes (2 per hour – more if sunny/hot)
  4. Cola (after 37 miles – provided on course). I consumed about 32 oz of cola in the last 2 hours.
  5. Coconut water (in drop bag at 32 mile point). I consumed an entire 32 oz Zico container.
  6. Banana pieces (at aid stations). I consumed 4-5 pieces.
  • The course has a ton of aid stations, with the options for dropbags at a bunch (like 6-8 places) along the course. Still, it was recommend that runners use two handheld bottles (or the equivalent) to get them through longer stretched. I wore an Amphipod 22oz handheld and a waist-belt with two 10oz Amphipod bottles and a pouch to carry GU Chomps and Endurolyte tablets. I was very happy with this approach.
Sean made this handy cheat sheet that we each carried. I circled the aid stations where I placed drop bags. Took this photo post-race, it is soaked with sweat, coke and god knows what else.
  • I used three drop bags. In each I placed 2 packs of GU Chomps, in 2 of them I had spare socks (only ended up changing socks once),聽 and in the last drop bag I had a different pair of shoes (a pair with more cushion for the long 6 mile descent after the second climb – around 37 miles in). I also had a liter of coconut water in a drop bag…that I snagged at around 32 miles in (halfway up the second climb).
  • The race featured all kinds of cool (and random) swag….in addition to a t-shirt and socks, we got a drink “cozie,” a pen, an umbrella and a trucker hat (at the finish)! Much of the swag was provided by SCOTT sports, who sponsored the event.
  • The pre-race meeting was held in a small bar right in the little lodge/hotel we were staying at. Pretty cool vibe. A lot of people seemed to have already run the course at least a few times. With around 300 entrants (240-something actually ran), this was the biggest field yet.
  • Ate a massive pasta dinner at the pre-race carbo load and hit the sack early to prepare for the 6:30am start. Both Sean and I decided to forgo the “early start”..convinced that we wouldn’t need to worry about hitting the time cut-offs…we had 13 hours to finish the course officially (14 hours with an early start). I ended up regretting this decision later on during the day. More on this later!
  • After hitting the porta potty and getting drop bags in their appropriate spots, I headed to the race start – a dirt road along a flat mid-forest airstrip for small aircraft (a giant grass field). I positioned myself towards the middle of the pack, along with my friends.

The Race

Somewhere on the course. Looks pretty...I don't remember it at all..must have been zone out! Photo by http://www.nwtrailruns.com/
  • Miles 1-4 to Aid Station #1 @ Camp Sheppard: I trotted along with my friends, and the whole field was just running in a giant pace-line it seemed. I kept my eyes on the trail and the shoes in front of my as we meandered along pretty flat and winding trail. The pace was totally slow and comfortable – on purpose! In one spot there was a downed tree to climb up and over, but overall this trail was pretty straightforward. I almost tripped about a dozen times….and realized I needed to really pay attention to the trail and not zone out. We rolled through the first aid station around 4 miles in – I topped off a water bottle and carried on. The whole time I focused on taking in Hammer Gel and staying relaxed.
  • Miles 4-12 to Aid Station #2 @ Ranger Creek: This stretch of trail begins flatish…then the first mountain climb of the course begins! Over a six-mile stretch we climb almost 3000 feet! If you aren’t sure if that is a lot or not…let me just say that it is. It’s like climbing more than the height of Mt. Si (Seattle-ites will know what I mean). I focused on nutrition and hydration, power hiking any of the uphill portions and running short stretches of flatish trail throughout the climb. I was right next to Sean for most of this portion of the run and he kept me entertained (as well as another runner) a very long joke that took like an hour to tell 馃檪 .
That mountain in the distance is the first climb...we started at the base at the left hand side, and run up to the top and then along the ridgeline to the right hand side of the picture.
  • Miles 12-17 to Aid Station #3 @ Corral Pass: Think the first climb was done? No way! The first couple miles of this stretch continue climbing for another 400 feet, then it flattens out to a rolling section along Corral Pass. Epic views of Mt Rainier and lush valleys almost make the pain go away. There is an out and back section here where you get to see where the competition is. During this stretch I felt quite good, running most of it. I saw some more friends, including Barefoot Ted during the out-and-back portion. There was some snow on the course, but they did such a great job building snow steps and putting in some fixed lines that it wasn’t much of an issue. My Inov-8 Roclite 295’s did an amazing job keeping me firmly grounded.
  • Miles 17-22 Aid Station #4 @ Ranger Creek: We continue the out-and-back portion of the trail, and then begin a long descent…6.8 miles on a single track trail! At first it was a relief to be running downhill. After a mile this thought changed as my legs were starting to totally fry. I took a few short walk breaks on the downhill to let my feet/quads recover.
Sean looking strong. He trained all of 4 days to prep for this race (no joke) and finished in under 12 hours.
  • Miles 22-27 Aid Station #5 @ Buck Creek: The downhill continues and at times Sean and I wonder if we are off trail or something. There aren’t many other runners around and it seemed crazy to run downhill this long. Well, it is crazy to run downhill this long, but we were not off trail! Eventually…..we hit flat ground, thank goodness, and emerged near the race start area to take on more aid. I felt better after a few miles of flat ground, and Sean pulled ahead of me a bit so I was pretty much on my own here. Felt fine overall and started to mentally prepare for the second mountain climb to come – which is over 8 miles long!
  • Miles 27-32: Aid Station #6 @ Fawn Ridge: After a few miles of flat terrain, we began to climb. I caught up with Sean and my friends Charles and Jenny also caught us. We power hiked together up the mountain. This mountain was a little shorter than the last one, but steeper! After taking aid – and refilling my water bottles with coconut water from my drop bag (it’s amazing stuff…need to do this again next time, and at my next Ironman race) I powered through and kept climbing. I felt good and decided to push a little harder, breaking away from my friends and pushing up the climb. At this point time-wise I was a little nervous of the aid station cut-offs. We were about 1 hour ahead of the aid station cutoff time at this point….this race really had a pretty aggressive required pace to avoid being pulled from the course. Maybe I should have taking the early start after all? This would have given an extra hour of cushion to finish. Oh well…nothing I can do about that right now.
  • Miles 32-37 Aid Station #7 @ SunTop: Does this climb ever end? It went on and on and on and on. At one point some mountain bikers passed me and I asked how much further and they said “you’re almost there…maybe a mile at most.” Total Liars!!!! 馃檪聽 That climb kept going for eons. I powered through, eventually emerging on Sun Top, enjoying the epic views of the mountains and downing some watermelon, filling my shirt and hat with ice and changing my shoes into a more cushioned road shoe (Brooks GT Racers). I was still over an hour ahead of the aid station cut-off. The next 6 miles would feature a long downhill on a dirt road. At this point, I really did feel relieved since I knew that I would finish the race no matter what.
  • Miles 37-43 Aid Station #8 @ Skookum Flats: I knew this part of the course would be challenging for me. I’ve been battling Plantar Fasciitis since CCUM and while it wasn’t affecting me so far, this long downhill on a dirt road was scary. I started running down the hill, and after half a mile had to stop. My feet felt like they were going to explode. Over the course of the next few miles I did more walking than running, and tons of people passed me. Fitness really didn’t mean anything at this point….my feet just couldn’t handle the pounding. At points I was walking backwards to take the pressure off my feet. Sean caught up with me and we made it down to the end of this segment together, as he was also battling some IT band issues.I again started to worry about missing the cut-off time for the next aid station.
  • Miles 43-50 TO THE FINISH! Once we hit the aid station at Skookum flat, Sean waved goodbye and hammered the final stretch in a successful attempt to break 12 hours. I loaded up my water bottles with Coke, and walked the first 1/2 mile along the flat and well cushioned trail. By this time my feet had recovered and stopped throbbing, so I started running. I felt better and better every mile so I picked up the pace, reeling in many runners that passed me during the long downhill. After a seemingly endless 7 miles, I emerged onto a road and gave it everything I had for the last quarter-mile into the finish.
  • Final Time =12hrs 13mins 54secs (201/244 runners).
Me = DONE!

Post Race

What I love about ultras is the everyone just seems to hang around for a long time at the finish. Even with my late finish, all the athletes were still there, including the top finishers (many of whom congratulated me and the other finishers!). This kind vibe is unique to the sport. There was a great potato bar with tons of toppings and other food for refueling.

The first thing I did upon finishing was take off my shoes and sit down. My feet were so sore I could hardly walk, but the rest of me (my legs in general) felt surprisingly good! I’m looking forward to getting this plantar fascia problem solved. Even the next day, my feet were the most sore part of my body. My legs recovered surprisingly quickly – though I still feel like am a little more tired than normal during hard training sessions – and it has been a couple of weeks since the race. It will probably take a full month to feel 100% normal.

Back at the hotel, in a post race coma.

Lessons Learned

Barefoot Ted once told me that running 100 mile is like living a lifetime in a single day – with all of its ups and downs. I’ve never done a 100 miler, but I can say 50 miles of running/power hiking has that kind of feeling and definitely takes you to places you don’t go in typical daily life. All kind of emotions come up unexpectedly. I went from feeling pretty darn depressed at mile 38 to feeling re-energized and ready to rock and roll by mile 45. Things go from bad to good to worse to amazing – sometimes in the course of 10 miles! Knowing that things will get better when you feel like crap is powerful knowledge and can power you through some really tough times. This great quote I blogged a few weeks ago came to mind several times during the run:

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn -Harriet Beecher Stowe

I witnessed the power of staying present to what was around me, and not getting caught in any kind of negative self-talk. Staying positive is absolutely critical. At one point in the race (around mile 32), I was hiking with a man who had done the race several times and was a veteran ultra-runner. He was talking constantly, and often just complaining about stuff and generally not being positive. After 10 minutes I had enough, and pushed ahead fast to get away from him and his negativity! Staying upbeat when positive is that important when you are pushing that hard.

In terms of nutrition and fueling, when all else fails – really nailing nutrition is so important and can help you finish a race that you have no business finishing 馃檪 . I made a nutrition plan, stuck to it – and had no issues with digestion or hydration. I also learned that coconut water is like liquid gold during a hot race and coke is jet fuel and worth drinking plentifully during the final couple hours of a long event.

My last lesson is that conventional wisdom – the kind that says you need to run a lot and be super healthy to run an ultra – is totally wrong. I came into the race with a bum knee and feet, but did what I could to get healthy before the race and approached it with the attitude of just enjoying the day in the mountains and seeing what would happen. Things ended up working out for the best – but I was fully prepared to drop out if my health was at risk.

I think a lot of people can complete these kind of events – and they should not let someone else tell them they haven’t trained enough or aren’t ready for it. If you really want it bad enough you can do it. I am totally convinced that any reasonably fit human being can complete a 50 miler with a marginal amount of training. Just go into the challenge with a positive mindset.

Breakfast stop at "Waipiti Woolies" coffee shop and store on the way back from White River the day after the race..

Having Fun with my New Breville Juicer

I’ve been wanting to get a juicer for a while. My Vita-Mix is awesome but I like drinking thinner juices and not just thick smoothies every now and then. Juicing is also a great way to power through a large quantity of vegetables in short order.

I also watched Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. I’ve seen it listed on Netflix for a while, but thought it would just be another boring story about why eating fruits and veggies are important. Today, I decided to watch it while laying in a catatonic state on my couch (after an epic morning of swim/bike/run training!).

Boy was I wrong. This documentary is really good. So good it motivated me to go out and buy a juicer. Calling around to a few local stores, they were all out of the model I wanted (the one featured in the documentary) – a Breville Juicer. I called Sur La Table and they mentioned that they only had 1 left, and that the entire chain was seeing a huge demand for them. They had new clue why…so I told them.

Anyway, I made my first juice today and it tastes awesome! So good, I’m going to make another right now 馃檪

Ingredients (all organic)

  • 3 Dino Kale leaves
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 small piece ginger
  • 1/2 small lemon
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 3 large celery stalks

This made a tall 16 ounce glass of amazing juice!

Endurance

Life is a marathon and not a sprint.

Even more correctly stated, life is an ultra-marathon and not a sprint.

Ultra-marathons are often held on rugged terrain in all kinds of weather and conditions. It’s rare when you run an ultra non-stop from start to finish. Pacing is critical. You learn to take advantage of flats and downhills to run, and conserve energy on climbs by walking often. Fueling is also critical: with hydration, electrolytes and steady flow of calories.

You go through all kinds of highs and lows in these races…people talk about the proverbial “second wind”. In an ultra you will come across a second, third and maybe even fourth or fifth “wind”! Staying positive (through self-talk and encouraging others on the course) is key.

Life mirrors this.

Proper rest and nutrition are critical to performing well at work and in my ability to be aware during the day (nothing like low blood sugar to get me day-dreaming!).When I eat a lot of garbage I don’t perform well at work and my relationships suffer.

I push through the lows – challenging projects, conversations, etc. – knowing that things will get better if I just stay focused and keep making progress. It really does help to stay positive even when things don’t go well in the short-term…..knowing that the long-term successful outcomes are often preceded by bouts of short-term struggle.

Coming into the finish of The North Face 50K Ultramarathon in December 2010 (San Fran, CA).

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Plan

If you are not a tri-geek like me…you might not want to bother reading any more of this post 馃檪

Here is my detailed race plan for Ironman CDA. It helps to write things down, even if in these types of races NOTHING seems to go as planned! The act of writing at least gives the illusion of control and some peace of mind. It also gives me a chance to make sure my fueling and pacing strategies are right.

Leaving tomorrow for Idaho.

*****

IMCDA Race Plan. Ravi Raman. 6/26/2011

Overall goal聽 = FINISH! Anticipated pacing as follows:

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Swim: 1:10 relaxed and easy, focus on drafting and conserving energy

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T1: 4 mins

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Bike: 7hrs with focus on nutrition and keeping knee under control

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T2: 4 mins

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Run: 4:30 with focus on a stronger second half of the marathon

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Estimate time: 12:50

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The time goals provided are simply for pacing purposes. Until I hit half-way in the marathon I will not be pushing even if I feel great. My singular goal is to finish this race and enjoy the experience.

Friday:

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 5am: Wake up, Yoga in my trailer (yes, I’m staying in a trailer down by the lake!).

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

路聽 聽聽聽聽聽Afternoon: Athlete Check-in

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 7pm: Dinner at Macaroni grill (pasta and plain salad)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10pm: Bed

Saturday

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 5am: Cliff bar

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 7am: Mini race rehearsal of swim 15min followed by 20min bike and 15min run. A accelerations during each.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Recovery drink

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9am: PT and foam roller, stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Noon: Treatment at ART booth, KT Tape application

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Noon: Lunch – sandwich and fruit

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Afternoon: Bike and gear check-in

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 6pm: Dinner at Macaroni grill (pasta – low fiber)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 9pm: Bed

Sunday: RACE DAY!

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 4am: 1 Cliff Bar + 1 Banana + Coffee (350 cal)聽 + 24 oz water w/ Nuun

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 7am: Race!

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Before Midnight: Finish!

Gear T1 Bag (Transition Area)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 KT Tape

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 2 GU

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 GU Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Water bottle

Gear T2 Bag (Transition Area)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 KT Tape

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 2 GU聽 w/ Caffeine

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Water bottle

Gear Bike Special Needs

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hammer Gel Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10 Endurolytes

Gear Run Special needs

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hammer Gel Flask

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 10 Endurolytes

Morning Nutrition Before the Race

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Early Pre-Race: 1 Cliff Bar + 1 Banana + Coffee (350 cal)聽 + 24 oz water w/ Nuun

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Just Before Swim: 1 GU + Bottle Nuun聽 (100 cal)

Pre-Race Warm Up and Swim

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Light yoga/stretching

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 200 yards easy warm up

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Swim goal is to finish in 1:10 and feel well rested for the bike/run

T1 approach

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab T bag

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Put on socks, shoes, glasses, helmet

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Put gel flask in pocket (only drink and eat after 15 minutes of riding)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T1 time <4 minutes

Bike strategy

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Goal is to finish 馃檪 in 7 hours and keep under control

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Watts Avg 122-30 (FTP 175 @70-5%)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Nutrition of 300 cal/hr (Hammer Gel + Gu Chomps) + Nuun

路聽聽聽聽聽 聽2 gel + 1/2 chomps pack per hour + 2 endurolytes tab

T2 approach

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab T bag

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Rack bike and take off helmet

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Put on visor and shoes聽 and bodyglide

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Grab Hammer Gel flask + water bottle

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 T2 time <4 minutes

Run strategy

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Goal is to finish 馃檪 in under 4.5 hours and have an awesome time

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Strategy to walk every aid station no matter what (until halfway point)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Run at 10 min/miles through halfway including walking aid stations (~ 30 seconds/mile)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Run at 9 min/miles for last half if feeling great

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Run: 250 cal/hr (Hammer Gel, cola聽 & sports drink)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 First 5 miles: 2 gel + 1 cola/sports drink per hour

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 After 5 miles: switch to all cola + sports drink

Setting Good Goals

Goals. Setting them too high just leads to let-down. Setting them too low leads to no motivation.

The art of setting good goals is to find that happy medium where the thing you are after is big enough to drive you forward but also achievable enough to be within reach. For me, I tend to skew a little towards the “too big” end of the spectrum on purpose. I am more driven to reach for something just out of reach!

Also goals often end up getting clouded by expectations of others or some form of competition. That’s another trap. If you want to run a 5K in under 22 minutes, but are running it with a friend who wants to go under 20 minutes, you might be tempted to make their goal your own. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Equally worse are goals predicated on the performance of others (e.g. the goal being to beat your friend in the 5K). That outcome is impossible to control and can lead to wacky approaches to race preparation. You might even be selling yourself short (maybe you are capable of an 18 minute 5k?)

I always make sure my goals are defined in my own terms, and wholly within my power (barring some big external factor like weather or equipment in the case of a race).

For Ironman CDA this Sunday. My goal is simple = to finish and enjoy the process.

I have zero care about time and am willing to be out there as long as it takes. I know that it will be painful (very painful at times) and know from experience that whenever things get really bad they usually become good (or at least bearable) shortly thereafter. The trick is not giving up when things get bad.

Lake Meridan 2.4 Mile Swim Race 2011

Post race at Lake Meridian.

Last night I hit up the Friday Night Swim Race at Lake Meridian. It was a great event. Pretty low-key with a nice BBQ after (just like Hagg Lake, swimmers know how to do it right).

This event was fun since about a dozen VO2 Multisport athletes (my team) also raced, with many of doing Ironman CDA next week. This was a great race prep session.

My goal was to finish in 1:05. Logic being I did a 1:09 at Hagg Lake and during that race:

  • I sighted very poorly
  • I wore an older wetsuit (that is slower and leaks water)
  • I have had a few extra weeks of training, with lots of open water sessions
  • Know it’s possible for me to swim faster (my last Ironman swim was 1:01)

Well, that didn’t happen, I finished in 1:10.

I’m still happy with the time as the true goal is to make it out of the swim at CDA in around 70 minutes without being super tired. I am confident I can achieve that goal (especially with the massive drafting that happens with 2000 swimmers in an Ironman). However I was really expecting to swim faster so I’ll need to reflect on what I can improve.

Here’s how it all went down:

  • Pre-race: I ended up getting to the race site early. Good idea as there was epic traffic for folks getting there from Seattle (Kent, WA is about 25 miles south of the city). Several athletes got there just minutes before the start.
  • Warm-up: Swam about 5 minutes. The water was not too cold (probably mid 60’s).
  • Course: Two clockwise loops of a large rectangular route. They had multicolored buoy’s (orange, yellow and green). The yellow buoys were furthest away and also the toughest to see. If it wasn’t for the setting sun, signting wouldn’t have been an issue. Definitely a good race for mirrorized goggles to eliminate glare.
  • Start: The field wasn’t that big, I guesstimate 80 people in a deep water start.
  • 1/4 mile: I start at the front and cruise to the first buoy, with some jostling around with others. Nothing violent like an Ironman start, folks were pretty civil.
  • 1/2 mile: Doing a good job drafting. it’s tough to see the buoy’s with the sun directly in line with them. I just follow the feet in front of me and stay relaxed.
  • 1 .2 mile: Rounding a few more buoy’s and complete the first lap, I lose the draft and from here on out pretty must swim alone, with the occasional pass-by that I draft from. Sighting is going pretty well. Feeling good.
  • 1.5 mile: I notice someone drafting behind me for a few hundred yards, I round a buoy and get really disoriented and end up pointing in the wrong direction towards the wrong buoy. Before I go far the person behind me point me in the right direction (thanks David!) and I continue on my way.
  • 1.6 mile: I start feeling cramps in my right calf and also in my right ribs and back! This rarely happens for me. I end up swimming with my right foot flexed from here on out to keep the cramps from coming on full strength.
  • 2.4 mile: I come onto shore and run across the timing mat. Seeing the time, 1:10 I almost don’t believe it. Seems way too slow given my past times and I didn’t feel like I was swimming slow compared to Hagg Lake.

Full results posted here.

Pre-Rae Glamour Shot

Lessons learned:

  • Hydrate well during the day for a night race. I have no doubt this was the cause for my cramps.
  • Fight to stay in the draft, it’s worth a little extra energy early to save a lot later.
  • Swim more. I’ve been swimming for less than 3 months after a 7 year hiatus. I can’t expect to return to my old form without putting in some time.
  • Strength work. After IMCDA I definitely need to put in some more swim-strength specific work with paddles, stretch cords and pull ups along with core work. My aerobic fitness felt fine during the race but arms sure were tired.

One week to Ironman!

Breaking Through

Popular 4-wheel drive vehicle in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. Also very stubborn.

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn

Harriet Beecher Stowe

There’s a fine line between pushing beyond a plateau and breaking through, and just being stubborn and driving yourself into the ground. The only way to know that line is to cross it occasionally, reflect on those experiences and learn something from them and then keep moving forward.

For me, I’ve come to know that line very well. When I need to pull back it’s always clear as day (assuming I’m willing to listen!) with strong signals coming through from my body and social circle. Whereas when I need to push through there is always tons of ambiguity and a lack of power in my own decision capacity.

In the later cases, where I’m not sure if I should just give up and quit or push on, I’ve never regretted working a little harder (and smarter) to see what just might happen if I persist.

Keeping an Open Mind – Knee Pain and ART

You never know what little tip or trick will make all the difference.

In debugging the issue with my knee, I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how to treat it. The opinions I’ve gotten back are both informed and uninformed. The uninformed opinions are mostly to the tune of ‘just rest Ravi, your body needs time to heal.’ A sports doctor even told me that, without much in the way of further diagnosis (I have since found to another doctor 馃檪 ).

I agree with rest and relaxation, but without proper treatment injuries will just come back. Getting to the heart of the matter is what I’m interested in not just taking tons of time off.

The informed opinions, provided all kinds of ideas. One in particular, was to try ART – Active Release Therapy, a form of deep tissue massage. Thanks Debbie at Fitness Forward for that tip! She’s a multiple time Iron-woman and Kona finisher and understands the athlete’s mindset. After just two treatments it’s helped tremendously. I will be getting two treatments per week up until Ironman CDA.

In addition, I’m doing the following every day:

  • Icing my knee with two bags of frozen peas every day, typically after training.
  • Foam roller rolling. Focused on the entire leg from the heel to the hip and on the inside and outside.
  • Lacrosse ball rolling. I roll the ball on my quad near my knee, holding it at points where I feel some tightness for 10-20 seconds at a time. Tennis balls also work.
  • Physical therapy exercises. Monster walks with a stretch band. One legged squats. Leg lifts laying on my side. These are designed to strengthen my glutes which will help with knee stabilization while cycling and running.
  • Core. A whole bunch of exercises, 5-10 minutes worth.
  • Yoga. I do the poses at home, focused on quad, hamstrings, calf and hips. Mostly long holds and deepening poses:聽 Downdog, Updog, Low lunge, Half-pidgeon, Double-pidgeon, Forward fold, Straddle legs forward fold, etc.

Whether or not I am able to actually do the ride/run at Ironman, I’m holding out hope and as a result stumbling onto all kinds of ways to heal my body and get strong for later races and years of training and racing. It pays to be curious and not just commit to a specific course of action without keeping an open mind.

Hagg Lake Open Water Swim 2011 Race Report

Swimmers 'warming up' at Hagg Lake.

Yesterday, I played hooky from the World Domination Summit to visit Hagg Lake for an open water swim race. The place was awesome. It’s a big lake in the middle of pretty epic farm country and rolling hills less than 1 hour west of Portland. The roads near the lake are smooth, with big shoulders and not a lot of traffic. I saw a TON of triathletes with fancy bikes and wheels using the parking lots around the lake as staging areas for a long day of training.

The swim featured a few events. 1/2 mile, 1.2 mile (2000 meters) and 2.4 mile (4000 meters and Ironman swim distance). A lot of people did both the 1/2 and the 1.2 mile races. A few did all three. I was contemplating it but in the end just did the 2.4 miler as a test run leading up to Ironman CDA. Even though my knee is still not totally healed, I am going to toe the line at CDA and at least do the swim portion. Maybe more if it heals fast enough.

The 2.4 mile race was the last to go. We started at 10:30am, which was nice not to be half-asleep when the race started. My goal for the swim was to have a solid day of training at hit expected IM pace or faster. I thought a sub 65 minute time would be nice (my last two Ironman swims were right around 60 minutes, but I’m not in that kind of shape yet). My new super hero outfit didn’t arrive in time so I used an old costume (from Quintana Roo).

Waiting to get in the water for the start. There was no beach so we all started from the water.

The course was two ginormous loops (1.2 miles each) around a rhomboidal course (really…it definitely wasn’t a rectangle, don’t know why they didn’t make it a rectangle). It was all left turns and counter-clockwise in direction which suits me fine as I breath on my left so navigating would be easier.

Here’s how it went down

  • 1 hour before swim start: a large number of people are milling about while wearing their wetsuits. I assume they are racing the 1.2 mile event and think nothing of it. I don’t know how big the field is…maybe a 150 or so in the 2.4 mile race? I’m guessing.
  • 50 minutes before swim start: there are still quite a few people wearing wetsuits, but the 1.2 mile event already started and we have a crazy long time before the 2.4 mile start! I guess they just like the way they look in neoprene. I’m half-asleep in the grass listening to my iPod.
  • 30 minutes before swim start: contemplate putting on my wetsuit, as most of the other racers are doing warm ups. I quickly squash the idea and go back to napping.
  • 20 minutes before start: boy, people really take their warm up seriously! Some people are swimming like a mile before the race even starts! I find swimming in cold water as a means of warming a complete oxymoron. The first 500 meters of the race will be my warm up. I go back to napping.
  • 15 minutes before start: I put on my wetsuit.
  • 5 minutes before start: I get in the water. It’s brown near the shore and dark emerald-green elsewhere. Not clear at all, but super clean otherwise. There are almost no waves and temps are not bad at all. It felt like 62 degrees. The sun starts shining!
  • Start: I pretty much start in the front, and 100 people pass me in the first 100 meters. People are sprinting like they are going for an Olympic 100 meter gold medal. Typical.
  • 200 meters: a girl motors by me WITHOUT A WETSUIT! I can’t believe it. She’s the only person I saw without a wetsuit out there. There was a non-wetsuit division for awards but most folks were sane and wore some neoprene.
  • 500 meters: We pass the second buoy and turn hard left. I start passing a crap-load of people who went out way too hard.
  • 800 meters: By this time there are only a couple of people near me and drafting is really tough. The water is so dark and can’t really see their feet to stay close and we keep drifting apart.
  • 1000 meters: By now we are on the far side of the course and the waves are kicking it. Gentle rollers really. Nothing too bad but definitely need to kick harder and work at it to get a clear breath in. Notice I tend to swimming slightly askew. In fact, for the whole race I tended to veer to the right a little between buoys instead of swimming a straight line.
  • 1200 meters: Hit some random piece of wood floating in the water. A branch or something. No big deal.
  • 1400 meters: Realize I’m swimming at a complete tangent from where I should be swimming to. Damn, this is gonna be a long swim.
  • 2000 meters (first loop done): Settle into a rhythm.
  • 2500 meters: my goggle fills up a tiny bit each time I pick my head up to sight. That sucks.
  • 3000 meters: Feel like my wetsuit is waterlogged and bogging me down a little. Arms feel fine. A bit tired but not too bad. Not cold at all.
  • 3500 meters: Clearly see the finish line and attempt to push hard the last 500 meters, but my arms really only have 1 gear at this point, so I stick with it. I’m pretty much swimming alone. In fact, for the entire race I only drafted about 10% of the time (most of it in the first 500 meters).
  • 4000 meters & FINISH:聽 Get out of the water and run across the little finish line. Felt pretty good. A little whoosy as is normal after swimming hard. Didn’t feel totally dead though. Within a few minutes I felt totally fine.
  • MY TIME = 69 minutes (I don’t know how many seconds, the results aren’t posted online yet). I think I was like 12/25 in my 30-39 age group. Scanning the results that were posted after the race, a sub-hour finish time in the 4000 meter race would be a very respectable time, and would place you well in most age groups.

For reference, the overall men’s winner was a teenager who swam 50 minutes flat (fast!) and the women’s winner did something like 56-57 minutes.

A couple of things that I learned for my next swim race (I’m doing another 2.4 mile race in a couple of weeks).

  1. Make sure goggles have good suction. Mine were too lose to start and filled up a little.
  2. Get a better fitting wetsuit. Done! My TYR Hurricane C5 suite arrived today!
  3. Work on sighting. This includes practicing not sighting too often. I sight every 12 strokes or so. Each time I look up it slows me down, so I need to train to sight less, but more accurately. I also veer slightly to the right as I swim over long distances, not sure why but need to fix it.
  4. Work on drafting. You save a ton of energy drafting. With a small field, it’s tough to hang on a set of legs (unlike Ironman where there are a couple thousand feet to draft from!). However, there is probably some better strategy for drafting in small races that I can employ.

Post race, they had an awesome BBQ, with all swimmers getting free burgers (and veggie burgers) and other food items to go long with the post-race awards ceremony.The sun was shining and everyone was happy.

I highly recommend this race. There were a ton of people there who seemed to be doing their first open water race, and a lot of triathletes prepping for summer race season. The scenery is amazing too. Next year, I’m going to take my bike and follow-up the swim with some riding in the country roads and hills.

Dealing with Setbacks: Part II

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Cycling (mounta...
Image via Wikipedia

This past weekend was not a good one for my knee. After encountering a strange injury a few weeks ago, I took it really easy for two weeks. I swam and didn’t run or ride my bike. Elliptical machine, as boring as it is, didn’t cause pain so I hit that quite a bit.

Last week I felt great, totally pain-free, so started riding my road bike. Did an hour on Monday and then again on Tuesday. Zero pain.

I pedaled hard up a few hills and could not feel any pain no matter how hard I tried.

Went for a couple runs (both less than 30 minutes), and only felt a little residual tightness in my knee towards the final minutes of the runs. Nothing major and it went away quickly.

Saturday, I felt 100% so decided to go for a spin on my time trial bike, the rocketship. It was a 50 mile ride, about 3 hours long at an easy pace but up and down some good hills.

After an hour I felt a little discomfort and after 90 minutes it was clear something was not right. I made it to the end of the ride, futzing around with my bike a couple of times to see if the position change would help. Nothing did.

At the end of my ride, I headed into VO2 Multisport for a bike fit. When I got home I also changed out my pedals, as I think my new Speedplay Zero pedals are the cause of this whole knee issue. Speedplay pedals are known for being GOOD for people with knee problems, but I’ve since learned that in many cases they cause knee issues in some people.

I rode Shimano Dura-Ace pedals for years, and those pedals are what I have on my rode bike (which I rode earlier in the week pain-free) but this year I decided to switch. Even after trying to narrow in the float on my Speedplay’s (which I thought would solve the problem prior to my 50 mile ride on Saturday), I think they are just causing too much lower-leg movement which aggravates my knee. A few epic long rides on those pedals did some damage that is healing very slowly.

So the day after my 50 mile ride my knee was in awful shape. It was painful to walk and going down stairs was impossible. Now, a couple of days later, I can walk fine, but there is a lot of soreness still.

Visiting my doctor today, he still doesn’t think XRAY/MRI is needed. The prognosis is that I have bruised some fatty tissue in the knee, and I need to give it another three weeks to heal completely. Then I can, assuming I have fixed the root-cause problem of bike fit and pedals, slowly build back into my running and riding.

So there you have it, the setbacks continue. On the positive side, I’ve been swimming more and after coming out of this whole process and healing I’ll know a heck of a lot more about how to build a strong and injury proof human endurance machine!

Adaptation

The peas knees!

The best laid plans can and often do go astray, but that doesn’t mean goals need to be thrown out the window.

I’ve been dealing with a few aches and pains. Plantar Fascia issues that have kept my running mileage terribly low (almost non-existent) since Copper Canyon, and recently a knee strain that has kept me off the bike for the better part of a week. It hurts pretty bad to walk down stairs, but walking flat ground or up stairs is almost pain free (just a little uncomfortable).

With Ironman under 8 weeks out, this is not the time to be backing off training, but a broken body doesn’t race well either. As a compromise, I’ve been swimming up a storm and even hit the elliptical machine (I avoid normally avoid “fitness equipment” like the plague) since it is one thing I can do pretty much pain-free.

I think the trick to achieving any kind of goal is being willing to adapt along the way to what life throws at you. That’s the spirit of what I’m doing right now. Keeping my overall fitness up any way I can, and getting my body back down to a healthier racing weight (about 8 pounds under where I am right now).

Momentum

We learn in learn in high school physics that it is easier to maintain momentum than it is to聽 re-capture it once lost.

In life, the longer you follow a new routine (e.g. dietary, waking up early, exercising more, etc.) the better chance it has at sticking (40 days is a magic number).

Likewise, in business, besting a competitor requires not just delivering a competitive product with solid features, but doing so consistently and over long enough time to re-gain momentum in your favor. Markets and customers don’t shift on a dime.

Ironman CDA Training Camp

Just returned home from a 4 day Ironman CDA training camp with VO2 Multisport. As much as I like doing my training solo, it is really nice to get in with a group now and then.

I trained far harder and longer and “smarter” than I would have on my own. By smarter I mean that I was really adhering to a better routine of nutrition both during and before/after exercise. This is needed with long training days back to back.

I also paid better attention to pacing – more specifically – while biking, making sure to go easy on long hills and push the downhills instead of just coasting. This is a good strategy to conserve energy while maintaining overall speed during a long race.

I think groups can provide positive peer pressure in this way. I also learned a ton of tips and tricks from talking with the other 8 campers, some of whom have done many Ironman’s and some of whom are shooting for their first with Ironman CDA on June 26th, 2011. This will be my 3rd Ironman.

Looking forward to the race just a few months from now.

The Comparison Game

I wonder how Moses Mosop feels right now. You see, just this past Monday, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai won the Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds 鈥 the fastest anyone has ever run the 26.2 mile distance. Moses Mosop finished 4 seconds behind him.

Mutai strides ahead of Mosop as they approach the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston Monday, April 18, 2011. / AP Photo / Elise Amendola

The performances of these men were just astonishing. Can you imagine running 26.2 miles at 4:45 pace? How about the fact that they ran mile 25 in 4:25!

Reading the press deluge following the event, hardly any mention of Mosop appeared. At most his performance was alluded to in the form of “Mutai won by 4 seconds”. Even then his name wasn’t often mentioned. Despite his superhuman performance does Moses feel inadequate for not having won? I suppose he is the only one who knows.

Everyone makes comparisons. It’s how we get along in the world. I compare myself with others and therefore know that I am unique. We can take the comparison game too far and make it a game of one-upsmanship or excessive competition. If we come in 2nd place out of 1,000 competitors, we feel bad for not being first instead of proud for having bested 998.

I was reading an article about a man who finished a grueling 100 mile trail ultra marathon race. One would expect him to to proud of having achieved such a spectacular thing. Instead, he was upset and almost ashamed for it having taking him almost 30 hours to complete the event, instead of the “sub 24 hour” mark that is deemed noteworthy for many 100 mile courses. He missed out on getting a special belt-buckle prize for finishing in under 24 hours, and as a result spoke of his achievement in a few poor light.

I see the same thing with many Ironman triathletes. Instead of being proud of their achievements they are too often upset at having not done better than they did! Not qualifying for Kona. Not placing in their age group. Not setting a PR. Not beating their friends who were also racing 馃檪 .

It’s too bad. I think the whole point of trying great things is to enjoy the journey and the result, regardless of the outcome.

When comparisons with your own wacky expectations or with how someone else performs prevents you from enjoying your experience – you know something is up!

Boston Marathon 2011

Boston Marathon
Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps one day I’ll have the speed and luck to qualify and compete in the Boston Marathon. Today there were epic performances. A new world-best time and American-best time. It’s only a matter of time before we see a sub 2-hour marathon.

The pace is crazy fast. The men are running sub 4:45 miles continuously for 26.2 miles! Also, watch at how light and smooth their form is. Landing on their fore and mid-foot and the top of their heads are barely moving up and down (no wasted energy). Watch the men’s winner Geoffrey Mutai from Kenya, he is even more light and smooth than the others.

Here is a highlight clip of the race:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LPRZs3UrVY]

Weather Shouldn’t Stop You From Doing What You Love

Suited up for a 30 mile bike ride on the rocket ship.

My rocket ship - 2010 Cervelo P3

Little did I know that over the course of my ~2 hour bike ride the weather would do this crazy dance:

1. Partly Sunny

2. Violent Hailstorm

3. Torrential Rain

4. Cloudy and Dry

5. Violent Hailstorm

6.Moderate Downpour

7. Light Sprinkles

10 miles into the ride, when #2 started聽 – I considered catching a bus and bailing on the ride. It was super painful with the hail and I wasn’t wearing sunglasses and had to ride with my head down and one hand shielding my eyes. Instead I saw a little espresso stand and waited it out for 10 minutes.

When #3 began, I headed out again, riding more slowly since the ground was full of hail ball bearings. My Gore-Tex running jacket totally saved me as it kept my core completely dry, even though my fingers and toes were quite cold. Keeping the intensity up helped to keep me warm. Had the weather started with #2 I wouldn’t have gone riding at all, but in the end I’m glad I did.

Weather doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you love, though it helps to be prepared with the right gear. My next gear purchases will be Gore-Tex cycling shoe covers and clear rain glasses.

Copper Canyon Adventure and Ultramarathon

World class ultrarunner Scott Jurek running with Arnulfo a few years ago before the Copper Canyon Ultra. Source: barefootted.com

Ever since hearing about the Tarahumara from Tony Robbins at a workshop several years ago (Tony was sharing tips on fitness and endurance), I’ve dreamed about visiting the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Reading Born to Run a short while later got me really excited and upon meeting Caballo Blanco (Micah True) and Barefoot Ted in Seattle and hearing about their efforts to help the Raramuri (means “running people”…and is what the Tarahumara call themselves), I realized that the only thing stopping me from doing it was a strong commitment to do so.聽 So here I go, on Saturday (February 26th, 2011) I’m leaving to visit the Copper Canyons. I’ll stay there for a few days and also compete in the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, an epic 50 mile endurance run through amazing off-road terrain.

View of the Copper Canyons. Source: David B Bell

The race has been organized by Caballo for several years, and serves as a celebration of the Raramuri way of life as well as a fund raiser to support them through the Norawas De Raramuri foundation. Running comes naturally to the people that live in the canyons, as it is their primary mode of transportation between villages, given the terrain is too extreme for roads and cars. Running is also a form of play, with villages playing a “ball game” that often lasts for several days and involves kicking a small wooden ball along a dirt path, covering upwards of 100K+ at a time! Yes, all for fun. For these strong and kind people, running 50 miles really is nothing big. They run in simple sandals made from old tires, wear simple cotton clothing and having fancy in terms of energy gels, bars or camelbacks for hydration. Despite their simple approach, they are incredibly fast! For me, it will be a big mental and physical test and be the longest I’ve ever run in one stretch (when I say run I really mean jog/walk!).

The Copper Canyon Ultramarathon will feature around 20-30 “non-local” runners (mostly from the US) and over 200 Tarahumara runners. Non-local runners have all donated funds that will go back to support local villages, and every local finisher will receive 100Kg’s of corn (their primary food). The top finishers will a lot more corn (I think the winner gets 1 ton!).

Copper Canyons deep in the heart of Mexico. Source: www.graphicmaps.com

The canyons, are very remote – requiring a 3+ day journey (each way!) just to get to the start of the race. I’ll be flying into El Paso, Texas and meeting a handful of runners. After an overnight stay at a cheap motel we’ll meet a guide who is taking us via van across the border (very quickly passing through Juarez!) for a 2 1/2 day overland journey to the edge of the Copper Canyons. After a night’s stay at a hotel we will then hike around 18 miles down into the canyons, to the small village of Urique that will serve as the “race headquarters.” I’ll spend 3 days in Urique hiking the entire race course with other runners, exploring the canyons and relaxing as much as possible. I’ll be staying in some very simple dorm-style accommodations. Hiking 50 miles on rugged terrain 3 days before a race might not be the best race taper strategy, but this is more about seeing the canyons and meeting the people than racing per se 馃檪 . I’ve also heard they have amazing grapefruit orchards in the canyons – if this is true I’ll be in heaven!

It’s also the case that the diet of the Tarahumara is primarily vegetarian – based on corn, chia, beans and fruits and vegetables. There is some meat in their diet, but it is limited simply due to cost and the limited land for animal farming. As a vegetarian, this is all good with me!

On March 6th, the race will begin. The course will have a lot of elevation change, I think something on the order of 8-9000 feet of climbing in total (and then descending the same). Some of the course is on old dirt roads and some is on single track. Temperatures in the canyons will be a dry 80-85 degrees during the day and as low as 45-50 in the evenings. In terms of aid station, I’m still unclear exactly what will be offered, though I’m assured there will be “enough”! I’m betting on water and fruit along the course in at least a couple of spots since the route is a figure 8 and will pass through the village a couple of times. My race strategy is to use an Amphipod waist belt to carry around 40 ounces, and an Amphipod hand bottle for another 20 ounces. I’ll carry 600 calories in energy gel (in a gel flask), a bunch of almonds, a Cliff Bar and electrolyte tablets (1 per hour at least). If the aid station situation isn’t ideal, I’ll carry another bottle.

My expectations for the race itself are simply to finish with a smile on my face. Under 10 hours would be awesome, but I recognize that it might take around 12 hours. I really don’t know what will happen to my body after 32 miles (the longest I’ve run) so it’s all uncharted territory. The only important thing as far I am concerned is to finish before dark (we start at 6am) and not get lost…navigating the trails in the dark won’t be fun (or safe).

I won’t have internet access while I’m down there, so however this adventure goes down, you’ll get an update when I return.

Hasta Luego!