It’s been too long!

Wow, it has almost been 3 weeks since I last posted.  It would be cool to be able to say that so much has gone on since Ironman Wisconsin but really I have just been focusing on relaxing during my down time and focusing on school.  I am now in my “clinicals” for the teaching program I am in.  I am currently semi student teaching at a high school right now but more so observing the teacher and trying to learn as much as I can.  I am getting used to the dreaded 6:20 alarm that wakes me up every week day.

But as far as training goes I am a little over a week out from the Chicago Marathon so my training has been run, run, run, and run.  It is a nice change up from the 16-20 hour training weeks of triathlon training.  I am running about 40-50ish miles a week and training about 7 hours so that is A LOT of down time from the 16 hours I am used to.  So what am I doing during this time?  Sleeping!  I have always taken naps during training but now I am usually able to nap and not set an alarm after school or my observations.  This is great because my body is still doing a bit of recovery from the Ironman so my body needs all the rest it can get.

If you read my Ironman Wisconsin RR you knowthat I had some leg issues during the race.  I can say that they are gone.  That’s the good part.  The bad part is no one I have talked to knows exactly what the hell is doing on.  I have seen a Chiropractor, and still seeing him, talked to a sports nutritionist and many others but no one has a definative reasoning for what has been happening. I have been told that it was probably a “perfect storm” of things happening that caused it.  I have also heard, and this is kind of what I thought as well, that my body reacts to tapering in an unusual way.  It basically goes into full recovery mode when I drop my hours and does not like it when I workout because it wants my muscles to recover and not stress themselves.  So for my next IM, whenever it is, I might try a longer taper which involves a more gradual decrease in training or maybe I will try less tapering and hope my muscles can repair themselves during that time.  But I have plenty of time to do some research and talk to more people about that.

But now my focus is on the Chicago Marathon and my sub 3 hour goal.  We will see how this plays out.  I know I have the endurance, it just depends on if I have enough sustainable speed to run at that pace for that long.  But I am still working on my strategy and I will see how my legs feel at the end of next week and completely set my plan.  Oh, and I am also officially registered for the Boston Marathon next spring!  My goal of running all of the World Marathon Majors will be one less after Aprile 15th.


Boston Marathon entry!



Best/Worst race ever: IM Wisconsin race report

So after yesterday’s race and all that happened during the day I figured I would get this race report out quicker so anyone who was curious on what exactly happened can read about it while it’s fresh in their minds.

Race Week

Woke up on Monday and went for a run.  Nothing special about that but what happened on the run stayed with me until race day.  During the run my quads totally seized up on me.  And not normal cramps, like they tightened and nothing I could do would get them back.  Ok, that has happened before, let me get my massage and I will be good as new.  Massage was Tuesday so I had 4 full days before the race.  Wednesday I tried to go for a bike ride but couldn’t manage more than 10 minutes before my glute and hamstring locked up on me, tried a run, quads and calves locked up.  Well this is terrible!  Oh well, let me totally rest the next few days.  So I stretched, foam rolled, and took ice baths in hopes that it would help.

Saturday comes along and my legs aren’t really sore, sweet!  So I go for my normal day before a race bike ride but bam, glute and hamstring lock up on me.  Again tried to run but couldn’t make it 5 minutes before my quads and calves gave out.  Now I started to worry.  Less than 24 hours until Ironman Wisconsin and I could not run more than 5 minutes without pain!

I really need to figure out what is going on here because it is terrible.  It has happened before both Ironman races, with this being far worse than Texas, and there seems to be no reason for it.  I am not dehydrated, I get enough electrolytes, and they do not feel like normal cramps.  They are very, very painful and nothing I can do gets rid of them for more than a few minutes.  And they aren’t isolated; it’s both legs from calf to glute.  And they lasted for a week plus this time.  Ok so let’s fast forward to Sunday.

Race Morning

I woke up at 4, ate my chocolate chip muffin and had my 2 Ensure drinks with some EFS like usual.  Headed down to get my bike ready for the day, nothing special here.  I was racing around adding things to my gear bags then all of a sudden I could barely walk.  Holy shit!  Worst possible thing to happen 40 minutes before the start of an Ironman.  So I limp down the helix to where my girlfriend and parents are waiting and break down a bit.  Was all my hard work and time going to be for nothing?!  Quickly I realized I had to at least try to do it.  Luckily my parents and girlfriend were very supportive either way but I know for sure my dad wanted me to do it.

Swim: 1:06:19 31st AG and 301 overall

My original plan for the race was to start out middle and a few rows back.  But with my legs feeling like crap I decided to start wide in hopes or staying out of any fighting for position.  And I was right.  Granted starting way wide and making wide turns probably cost me a few minutes but not having to fight with anyone for position was great.  My legs felt ok during most of the swim thanks to my wetsuit so I was able to have a nice 2 beat kick.  But by no means were they feeling good.  The water felt good and I liked the one loop swim.  It actually went by fairly quick considering everything.

Exiting the swim

Transition 1: 25:53 (is that a record?!)

I hop out of the water and start to jog to the wetsuit strippers.  Get my wetsuit off and start jogging up the helix.  And here we go again, I can barely walk.  So now thoughts are going through my head, do I even start the bike?  Can I ride?  But I knew I had to at least start the bike, my parents and girlfriend were out on the course somewhere waiting for me.  Lucky for me there were some massage therapists so I had someone work on me for about 10 minutes.  Then I walked out to my bike and made a call to my dad telling him I was not sure if I could bike but I was going to try.  So off I went.

Bike: 7:00:34 (6:30 moving time) 129th AG and 1603 overall 138 average power/167 norm power

Well I will probably sum up the bike ride in a few paragraphs because it was the same thing over and over.  I started off the bike not being able to pedal without excruciating pain.  So I would pedal then coast then pedal then coast.  A few miles in was my first stop to stretch, and I have to say triathletes are amazingly helpful and supportive, I would say that 80% of people who passed me while I was stretching asked if I was ok and needed help.  A few more miles go by and I see a girl and a guy changing a flat and I stop to ask if I can help.  I basically have resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race so I change her flat then head back on the road.  And for the next 20-30 minutes my legs didn’t feel like crap.  Ok so maybe things are turning around.  But right as I was thinking that the glutes started locking up again.  Pretty much both of my legs were locking up but the thing that I felt the most were the glutes.

The feeling not terrible, feeling like crap was a very common theme during the ride.  But I kept pushing because I wanted to at least see my girlfriend and parents once.  I thought they were going to be at one of the big hills but they weren’t.  So after a very mentally and physically painful 53 miles I see them in Verona.  I stop and tell them what’s going on and also stretch.  They were all supportive and I think my mom and girlfriend wanted me to stop because they thought I would injure myself.  But my dad, being a guy who broke his hip then drove home from Wisconsin, was pretty much saying go and see how you feel and if you need to drop out call us and we will get you.  So off I go with the special needs pick up being my next goal.  Again, I was starting to not feel terrible so my head was back in the game.

It was a chilly bike ride to go along with a painful one.

I get my special needs bag, crush my peanut butter M&Ms then start another climb.  And this was more than painful, so after a bit I tell myself it’s time.  Pull over and wait for a SAG vehicle or an official then go to medical.  But the problem was I was not close to an aid station and I didn’t want to sit around for a long time so I get back on my bike and head to the next aid station.  Feeling not terrible again, then get to a hill and feel like crap, then stop and stretch.  But by that time I was like 45 miles from the end so I said screw it, even if it takes 3 hours to finish those 45 miles I would rather drop out during the run knowing I tried each leg of the race.  I see my family again at one of the big hills and tell them I would least finish the bike then see how I felt during the marathon.  So now I was calculating how long it would take me to finish the bike.  Ok, a 7 hour split would put me at 8.5 hours which means I would have 8.5 hours to walk the marathon.  Notice how I said “walk”, at that point I thought there was no way whatsoever that I would be able to jog let alone run because of how my legs felt in the morning.  I ended up HAMMERING about 25 minutes towards the end of the ride because I actually felt ok so I just Time Trialed and went as fast as I could, figuring what would it really do to my legs?

Transition 2: 16:41 (combined transition times of 42 minutes!)

I hop off my bike and start to jog a bit, legs didn’t feel as bad as I expected.  I got my gear bag and put my shoes on and saw the amazing massage therapists again!  So for the next 10+ minutes he worked out, or tried to, all the tension in my legs.

Run: 3:54:55 93rd AG and 1000 overall 8:57 min/mile

I get out of transition and decide to try to run, “wow, I am running!”.  That is all I could think about, now how long will it last?  One step at a time.  I started off running about 8:30-9 minute miles in the hopes it was slow enough that my legs would hold up.  But the key to this run was making sure I was taking shorter steps and having proper form.  I think I upped my cadence so I would not stride out too much; not that my legs would even be able to have a good stride at this point.  I was pretty much doing a fast shuffle.

The whole run I was looking at the ground about 5 feet in front of me trying to think about anything but running.  I was going by feel and trying to keep my pace no slower than 9:15 min/mile if I could.  Now when would my legs give out?  The answer to that is never!  Maybe it was the fact that I was thinking about anything else in the world besides running, maybe it was my legs telling me that I had won the battle and they would give in and get me to the finish as fast as they could.  But either way I was ecstatic.  I saw my girlfriend and parents on State Street on both loops and towards the end of the loop then at the finish.  When I saw them on State Street the second time I told my girlfriend that I was going to collapse at the finish.  She has seen that happen on videos I have shown her and told me that if that happened to me she would freak out, and who wouldn’t?  So I decided to give her a heads up. My brother and his girlfriend had also showed up at that time as well, so I had a good supporting crew out there!   I thought I was going to collapse because I was going to run the last few miles as fast as I could and figured my legs would just give out on me.  But they did not even after running a low 7 minute last mile plus.

Running through Camp Randall Stadium the first time. I tried to give a thumbs up but the pain in my face is visible.

The course was pretty fun, except for the big hills on Observatory, those were brutal.  Going up was bad but going down, especially the 2nd loop, was as bad if not worse.  Running down State Street was also fun; there was a lot of fan support which made the run a bit easier.  Another cool thing about my run time is I gained 36 spots in my AG and 603 overall during the run!

Total time: 12:44:22 for 93rd AG and 1000th overall

Pure relief and joy at the finish. This was a very emotional race for me.

I sit here at my computer today more sore than I have ever been in my life but at the same time what I did yesterday was the biggest athletic accomplishment of my life.  I pushed through so much pain and fought with my body and mind all day and I won!  I would have been fine with a DNF because I knew I had given it my all but finishing that race and hearing that amazing phrase “Jeremy Rielley from Evanston, Illinois, you are an Ironman!” was well worth all of the pain of yesterday and the pain I will be in the next few days!  know there is plenty of stuff I am missing out on in this report but if I put it all in there it would end up being like 10 pages, so you’re welcome!

Ironman Wisconsin run strategy

We are now under 48 hours until the start of Ironman Wisconsin!  Today was a day I was planning on sleeping in then getting up whenever and heading to Madison.  Well, looks like my body has gotten used to the 6:15 wake ups because I woke up at 6:45 this morning.  I might have been able to get back to sleep but then I started thinking about the race and once that happened there was no way in hell I would be able to go back to sleep.  That just means my afternoon nap will be that much better today!

Here is the final installment of my “race strategy”!  The run, the death march, the crawl, whatever people call an Ironman run it is tough.  For me it is a run.  I feel that I am in great running shape and I showed that at Texas, even though I went out too fast, and have consistently showed in training that I have the run fitness.  But the two most important things to a good run are a well paced bike leg and dialed in nutrition.  Without these two things the run will turn into the death march or crawl, or at least a very painfully slow run.  I have dialed my nutrition in over this season and have shown that I have been able to run after long bike rides during my “brick” workouts.  The well paced bike should happen, as laid out in my “Bike strategy” post.  I will gladly let people crush the bike then catch them on the run.

So the plan for the run is to start SLOW.  At Texas I felt amazing starting the run and had the mindset where I might as well run a fairly fast pace until I had to slow down because that would bank some time.  While it might have worked out to not totally kill my run it is not the best run strategy since in any marathon, let alone an Ironman marathon, does not start until mile 20 of the run.  I will for sure have to tell myself to slow the hell down at the start and start ticking miles off one by one but I know that will benefit me over the whole 26.2 miles.  My goal pace for this run is 7:45-8:00 min/mile depending on how I am feeling.  So I will start out at that upper end of my goal then hopefully run faster towards the end.  I am going to mentally break down the race into 6 mile segments, with the final 2.2 being the last segment.  This helps my mind not think about the whole distance.  I become focused on finishing each segment.  The tough part of the race will be at the end of lap one when I run right by the finish line.  This is always tough and I had to do it twice at Texas.  Luckily the spectator support is supposed to be amazing on the whole course besides running through Camp Randall Stadium.

I am lucky enough to have my parents and my girlfriend coming to the race with me so they will be out supporting me the whole time.  And my brother, who lives in Madison, will be there at some point.  I cannot express how excited I am to do this race.  My legs are starting to come around after my massage Tuesday.  It still isn’t totally “real” to me that I will be out on the course for 10+ hours Sunday but I know once I get to check in today and see all the people and all the craziness in Madison it will hit me.

Ironman Wisconsin bike strategy

Here is the 2nd installment of my “Ironman Wisconsin Race Strategy”.  This bike course is TOUGH.  And what makes it even more tough is the fact that I live in an area with zero hills.  I had the chance a few weeks ago to ride the course and I am very, very happy I was able to.  I learned a lot about the course and kind of figured out how I wanted to go after the course.

The main objective of this bike is to ride within myself.  That might sound easy and simple but in a race with a lot of hills and spectators that can get kind of tough.  After the swim adrenaline is at an all time high and it takes a lot to just take a deep breath and ride my race.  I am lucky that I have a power meter that tells me how hard I am working without all the added variables of heart rate.  So main goal #1 is to ride at my wattage.  For this distance, I am hoping to ride around 170-180 watts for my average power.  My 2nd goal is to not power up hills or go way above my threshold power.  That will be tough on a few of the hills because they are steep but I will be happy to let people pass me on those hills only to re-pass them on the way down or during the run.  I put on a compact crank, 50×34, for this race and I am happy I did it.  I am riding with an 11-25 rear cassette so I feel comfortable with my gearing.

My 3rd objective of this race is to climb the whole hill.  Well duh!  But what I really mean is some people start to rest when they get to the top of the hill but that costs valuable time, especially over this course since there are so many hills.  So my plan is to get to the top of the hill the shift to my 50 and power down the hills until I run out of gears.  Once I start to spin out at around 30-35 MPH I will coast and rest the legs a bit but I do not want to just coast the whole hill because, again, that loses time over the course of the race.

It is said that an Ironman doesn’t start until mile 80 of the bike.  This is because so many people ride the course too hard at the start then fade at the end.  This kind of happened to me in Texas so I want to make sure I take it easy for the first loop of the course then reassess how I feel.  The biggest part about an Ironman is nutrition.  I am lucky that I have a pretty strong stomach so I have yet to, knock on wood, have GI issues during a race.  But I have a pretty dialed in nutrition plan for the race.  I will have 2 bottles mixed with First Endurance EFS Fruit Punch (3 scoops per bottle) mixed with 2 ounces of Liquid Shot Vanilla.  I will also have a flask with Kona Mocha Liquid Shot.  To go along with the liquid calories I will have a few Bonk Breaker bars.  I will pick up water at each aid station to put in my Torhans aero bottle up front.  I might pick up a bottle or two of Ironman Perform as well depending on how I feel.  Some might think this is crazy but I have to be specific and have everything planned out to make sure my body is fueled properly for a 10+ hour race.  Oh and I will also have a can of Coke and some Peanut Butter M&Ms in my special needs bag for a little pick me up!

So there you have it.  I probably left something out but that is the gist of my bike plan.  I will probably write up my run strategy tomorrow but I am also going to have to pack up and clean my bike tomorrow since I am heading up to Madison Friday morning!

Ironman Wisconsin Swim Strategy (and August training hours)

Holy crap, as I look at my countdown app I see 4 days, 16 hours, 11 minutes, and 25 seconds until Ironman Wisconsin!  I was sitting in class today and I got very anxious thinking about the race, in a good way though.  I am very excited and very prepared for this race.  For the next few days I will try to lay out my strategy for the different legs of the race.  I have thought about these over and over and over (and over) and pretty much have them memorized but I figured why not let the few readers I have read what I am hoping to do in the race!  So here is the first installment, the swim!

At IM Texas I swam a non-wetsuit 1:10 and thought that was slow for me.  I could have been faster but many things prevented that.  Up until last week I was thinking I could swim under a 1:05 since it will be wetsuit legal, baring a heat wave, Sunday.  Last Friday I did a 1.5 mile open water swim at a comfortable pace and when I got out of the water saw that my pace was 1:28 min/100 yards.  That was a nice surprise because that would equate to a 1:02 over 2.4 miles.  Now I am not sure what sighting will be like during the race but I am looking to go anywhere from 58-1:05.  I know that is a big time frame but I think if I feel good I can swim the 58 but if I am not feeling great I won’t push it too hard which is where the 1:05 is.  My objective for the swim is to push for the first few hundred and not get beat up too much then settle in to a nice comfortable pace and hopefully find some people to draft off of to make the swim that much easier.  The swim strategy is simple and to the point.  I am still not sure where I will line up in the water but within a few rows on the front and more than likely middle to outside the buoy so I can try to swim the exact distance and not have to swim extra by starting out too wide.  Now I just have to hope my strategy goes as planned!  More installments will be coming for the bike and run so look for those if you care.

Now down to the August training hours.  I had a great month of training.  I ended up my big training with two straight 20 hour weeks so my volume is there.  My hourly volume for August was almost 10 hours more than any other month and my bike miles were more.  So here they are…

Swim: 50520 yards in 15 hours and 24 minutes (highest monthly total)

Bike: 748 miles in 40 hours (highest monthly total)

Run: 154 miles in 20 hours and 55 minutes

Total: 77 hours and 40 minutes

Let’s just hope all those extra bike miles pay off on Sunday, which I think they will!

Xterra Vector Pro wetsuit review

I have never done a product review before because I was not sure who would care about what I had to say about a certain product.  That’s a funny statement because I LOVE reading product reviews from “normal” people before buying something.  But what changed my mind was this wetsuit.  It changed my mind because it made swimming in a wetsuit feel good.

So a little background on my swimming.  I am not a swimmer in the least, I picked up swimming in 2010 when I signed up for the Chicago Sprint Triathlon.  That is also when I rented the wetsuit I had been using for the last few years in races.  It was an entry-level suit and was very tight on my shoulders.  I just figured that’s how a wetsuit was supposed to be, it was just the price to pay for the buoyancy of the suit.  And having said that I was happy when races were not wetsuit swims.  And given my swimming background you might think I am crazy, no one besides really good swimmers want non wetsuit swims but I hated my wetsuit so much I would prefer to lose speed and go without it than wear it.

But after one particular swim in the lake a few months ago I realized that I needed to figure out if it was my wetsuit or all wetsuits that were not comfortable.  It was coming down to crunch time for Ironman Wisconsin and I knew I did not want to wear that wetsuit for an hour plus because I am not sure if my arms could have made it.  Luckily being a part of the Snapple Triathlon Team I got an amazing discount on the Xterra Vector Pro Wetsuit.  My first swim was amazing.  The neoprene felt very flexible and the arms and shoulders fit great.  The suit felt very fast in the water too and allowed me to swim the way I wanted to swim without putting too much pressure on my shoulders.  That was key because burning too many “matches” during the swim of an Ironman just leads to a long, long day.

Yesterday I went for my last longish open water swim, 1.5 miles.  I swam my usual route in Lake Michigan.  I have my Garmin beep every .25 miles so I know how far I have gone.  After the first beep I looked down, “nice, faster than usual”.  Then came the second beep, “still on that same pace”.  Then third and forth beeps.  So my pace was faster than it has ever been and I cannot say it was the wind causing a current in the lake since I was going north and south equally.  I finish and look at my watch and for the 1.5 miles I swam it in 38 minutes and change.  That pace is 1:28 minutes/100 yards which would put me at around a 1:02 for the Ironman swim.  That was a great confidence booster with under 9 days until Ironman Wisconsin.

So moral of the story is, find a good wetsuit!  I am lucky enough to have great sponsors with Snapple so I was able to get this great suit.  The one thing I will say is that Xterra has an AMAZING return/exchange policy so if you try a suit and it’s not right for you, you can return it and get your money back.  So thank you Xterra for making me enjoy swimming in a wetsuit!