Couch to 100k

June 10, 2018 – Raced Ironman Boulder.  Finished 10th.

June 14, 2018 – Surgery on my right elbow and right wrist (for severe nerve impingement)

Sometime in July, 2018 – Signed up for the Bandera 100k

Aug 8, 2018 – Surgery on my lower back (for severe bulging disc at L5-S1)

In late September, 2018, after being completely sedentary for 3.5 months, I started easy running again.  I was in awful shape, and anything over 10 minutes triggered very sharp pain in my left butt cheek (residual nerve irritation).

All through October, I stayed on my strength work, and ran as much as my back allowed.  As it turns out, that wasn’t very much, but… you can only do what you can do, right?  I wasn’t going to let an upcoming race determine how much stress I placed on my body.  I was going to place stress on my body in accordance with what it could actually handle.

Eventually, one day, my back just felt awesome, so I said “let’s go”.  My training consisted of commuting to/from work (5 miles each way), doing some sort of strength at lunch (either stairs or weights), and long runs on the weekends.  In November, and early December, I was able to string together a bunch of 60-80 mile weeks, with 5,000+ feet of climbing each week.  Considering I was doing this 3 months after back surgery, and less than 2 months after being completely sedentary for so long, felt like a miracle to me.

On Dec 15, I decided to run the Boston Marathon course.  I took it easy, and cruised my way to a 3:10 time.  Everything felt great.  Muscles felt fresh the whole way, and I wasn’t even slightly sore the next day from it.  Awesome news, right?  Well, kinda…

Even though my muscles felt great (which was an excellent sign for my run durability), I developed a very sharp pain on my lower left shin (medial side, right above the ankle).

The first thought, of course, based on the location of the pain, and the recent increase in run volume, was “stress fracture”.  A stress fracture, in and of itself, isn’t the end of the world.  But it would have forced me to drop out of Bandera, which would have been a bummer.

All I knew is that it was very painful to walk, anywhere.  I had a pretty severe limp, and was in constant pain (like, even in bed).  This is never a good situation to be in, 3 weeks before a 100k.

So… what do you do?  Well, you do what you can to evaluate the injury, and set it up to heal.  I gave up all thoughts of building “fitness”, because it doesn’t matter how “fit” you are, if you’re too injured to be on the start line.  One of my mantras is “never let a 2-week injury turn into a 2-month injury”.  I try to beat this into my athlete’s heads.  Some of them listen, and some of them don’t…

This is a rough description of what I did, and hopefully will be helpful to you:

  1. I didn’t do anything that caused “bad” pain.  If it hurt, I just stopped.  After experimentation, I discovered that I could lift weights, and walk stairs, without issues.
  2. I was *very* aggressive with massage.  Both with massage from a therapist, and self-massage at home.  Most of the home work consisted of using a Trigger Point ball on my lower legs (particularly Peroneus Longus and Tibialis Anterior).  This was daily, for roughly 40-60 minutes each day.
  3. I did testing to determine if the issue was bone-related, or soft-tissue related.  I found that I could push on the tibia, jump up and down, and run my massage tools DIRECTLY on the tibia, and it didn’t make the pain any worse.  So that told me were were almost definitely dealing with a soft-tissue irritation, as opposed to a stress fracture.  If there was a fracture, the impact from those tests likely would have triggered severe pain.   Another piece of evidence giving strength to the idea that this was soft-tissue, and not bone, was the onset of the symptoms.  My shin felt totally fine during my run on the Boston Marathon course.  It didn’t start hurting until several hours later.
  4. I spent time in my Normatec boots everyday, on the “calf” program.
  5. I wore compression socks to work every day.
  6. I did a LOT of single-leg calf raises.
  7. I took ibuprofen every day.  And when that didn’t seem strong enough, I switched to indomethacin.

After roughly 10 days of this, I was finally walking totally normal, and decided I could try running again.  It went fine, so I built, and built.  Yesterday, I ran 12 miles at 6:55-ish pace, and today I ran 16 miles at 7:25-ish pace.  Both runs felt totally fine.  My leg is healthy, and ready for the Bandera 100k, in 5 days.

So that’s the whole point of this post…  I could have tried to push through the injury, and you know what?  I would have made it worse, and I wouldn’t be running Bandera next weekend.  But because I had the discipline and maturity to hold back to give my body the treatment it needed, that Tibialis Anterior strain was just a minor road bump, instead of a showstopper.

Please apply these lessons to your own training.  Don’t let insecurities, or a fragile ego, or an exercise addiction, dictate your training.  You HAVE to keep your eyes on the big picture, and make sure your training is dictated by what your body can actually handle.

Now, the hard part… going and trying to actually finish this dang 100k… eeeeep!

Sean O’Brien 100k

So… this past weekend, I flew out to LA, to run the Sean O’Brien 100k.  It’s known as one of the most brutal 100k courses out there, with over 13,000 ft of climbing, and probably not the best choice for your first ultra, but… I really wanted to run an ultra this year, and I didn’t want to do it during the summer (because that would be like throwing a bomb in the middle of tri racing season).  The timing of Sean O’Brien seemed pretty good, so… Sean O’Brien was the choice!  The course profile is below….  (note: my watch battery died at mile 53, which is why the file isn’t 62 miles)

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Ironman Louisville 2017 Write-Up

This past weekend, I raced Ironman Louisville.  I haven’t posted files from a race recently, so I thought it might be a good idea to go through this one.  First, the final stats:

9:10:xx. 21st male professional, out of 37.

Weather – it was a pretty unique weather day, as the air temp was around 70 deg F at race start, got up to about 80 deg while we were biking, and then cooled down to about 65 deg while we were running.  These unique conditions were the result of a cold front blowing in during the race… which also meant that we were racing in pretty strong winds all day.  Wind on the bike was generally around 15 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph.  Wind on the run was strong, but swirling, and tough to get a read on the direction.

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The Preseason…

The most “WHAT DO I DO???” time of year is generally the winter.  The previous race season is ancient history, but the next “big” race may still be 6-7 months away.

During the winter, some folks never take a break, some folks take several months off, and some folks kind of do it “in between”.  Based on my years of racing professionally, and coaching for QT2 Systems, I’ve learned a set of principles that I think are the best, and sharing them will hopefully simplify some of your “winter decisions”, when it comes to training.

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Musselman 2016 Write-Up

This past weekend, I was lucky to race at one of my favorite events, the Musselman Half-Iron, on lovely Seneca Lake.  It’s the unofficial 70.3-mile championship of upstate NY, and it did not disappoint.  It was my 4th time at the race, and in my previous 3 attempts, I’ve finished 5th (2009), 1st (2013), and 6th (2015).

Going in, I knew we had a strong field lined up, as the last 3 men’s champions were there (myself, Matt Curbeau, and Matt Migonis), and it’d likely take a course record to win the day.

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Here we are, summer of 2016… Racing season is in full “go”, and we’re all starting to reap the benefits of all of the hours put in on the trainer over the winter.

I’ve been racing since April, but the results haven’t quite matched up with the expectations.  All of my training has been fantastic, as I’m putting up the best swim/bike workouts of my life, and my running is doing just fine.  That’s the funny thing about racing, though – it’s a “one off” event. Sometimes, it’s an accurate reflection of the training you’ve been doing, and sometimes, it just goes sideways! Haha!  But that’s part of what makes it so exciting, and it’s why we keep coming back for more.

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The Rapidly Changing Scene of Pro Iron-Distance Racing

I did my first triathlon in August, 2006, and first Ironman in June, 2007.  I earned my professional license by winning the amateur title at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2011, and I’ve been racing as a professional ever since.  Over my last 4+ years in the pro field, I’ve gone from “clueless rookie” to “less clueless veteran”, and have witnessed a rapid evolution in professional long-course triathlon.

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Getting athletes to Kona… (part 1)

For many triathletes, the “dream goal” is getting to Kona.  That’s not the goal for all triathletes, of course.  But that dream is prevalent enough so that you can assume just about everyone toeing the line at an Ironman has at least thought “Boy… I’d sure like to race at Kona one day”.  And then, if an athlete is serious enough about the sport to hire a personal coach, you can bet your butt that a Kona qualification is something floating around in the back of their mind.  As such, I view getting athletes to Kona as my “mission”… my “meal ticket”.  And honestly, that’s probably 90% of the reason I’ve been successful – I have a clear goal for where I want to get my athletes, and my ability to pay the rent depends on meeting that goal.  Point being: as with most things in life, a genuine desire to succeed, and the willingness to work for it, are the most important factors for finding success.

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