Me and My Foam Roller

Swim-Bike-Run, Work-Eat-Sleep, Family, Volunteer

Mar-26 Week Review… I Finally Ran the Chubb Trail

Last week’s training was not unforgettable, but was also typical.  I had a tough run because I continue to not get my nutrition right every single day.  What happens is I do not eat enough because I get engrossed in my work.  When you love your job it is very easy to forget you need to take time to eat.  I also had two separate bike rides that were hilly courses and I ended up being disappointed with my overall performance.  IMCDA’s bike course is going to be challenging and it is going to be a long day out there.  I’d like my bike pace to improve about 25% to lessen the grueling experience I am going to endure.

On the positive side I had a 2000 yard time trial that took me 38:14 to complete.  This is my best performance so far at this distance.  My 100 yard splits were consistently between 1:52 and 1:58.  I was very pleased with my endurance during this workout.  Finally, I had a hilly BRICK and managed the run quite well.  So am improving in this area as well.

For training week #19 I had 16.5 hours of training; generating 5.6 miles of swimming, 91.8 miles of biking, 22.0 miles of running, and 2 core fitness sessions.

On Sunday I got to cap off my training week by running the Chubb Trail for the first time!  I have been wanting to run this trail for about a year now, but have held off due to the challenge I have heard it poses.  I got to share this run with another St. Louis Tri Club member (who is also going to IMCDA!) and her husband.  It was a challenging and wonderful experience.  Once we came down off the bluffs and ran along the river it was just quiet, and beautiful, and peaceful.  I definitely think this is a trail I will be running many times as the isolation it offers is great for time spent in reflection and thought.

My total training mileage for Ironman Coeur d’Alene is: 58.7 miles of swimming, 944.9 miles of biking, 241.4 miles of running, 24 core fitness sessions.

Continuous Improvement

In recent weeks I have written about working on improving my swim stroke (here and here), and I also wrote about a bad workout and the lessons learned.  Yesterday I had my first workout opportunities to see what improvements I have made.  One opportunity I expected, the other had to be recognized while it was happening.

The Expected Opportunity

I had a mixed swim of drills and time trials.  The time trials were 600y, 450y, and 450y.  I felt strong and fluid in the water.  I knew I was coming close to getting my form right, the way my coach was wanting.  The 3 time trial times ended up being my fastest ever!  They were: 600y – 10:53 (1:49/100y), 450y – 8:12 (1:49/100y), and 450y – 8:21 (1:51/100y).  So now it’s time to go back to my coach and swim with her again, and I’m sure I’ll be given new things to work on.

The Unexpected Opportunity

I had a speedwork run workout that was comprised of 5 3 minute hard efforts with 3 minute recoveries between each.  My split on the first interval was really good at a 9:16 pace, but I noticed that my heart rate had climbed into the high 170s.  I knew something was off.  On the second interval I had a 9:45 pace and the right side of my abdomen was tightening up.  During the third interval I got side stitch so bad I nearly doubled over in pain and ended up with a 10:03 pace.  I recognized this workout was not going well and my efforts were not as strong as I’d liked.  I decided to calm things down by walking the third recovery.  The fourth and fifth intervals were more of the same as the third, with paces of 10:36 and 10:22.  I finished out the run with an easy 25 minute cool down with my dog.  While these times were not great results, they were good results and I did not quit the workout.  I made the most of what I had at that time, handled the situation constructively, and did the best I could.

Upon reflection of the difficult run workout, I recognized that I had not been properly hydrated and probably should have eaten one more meal during the day before the workout.  It seems I’ve done this to myself before, so I remain a work in progress.

Mar-19 Week Review… Two Strong Bricks

In the sport of triathlon we have a workout called a BRICK where the primary purpose is train getting your running legs under you.  A BRICK workout is to do a bike workout, then quickly get off the bike, and do a run workout.  Hence, BRICK stands for Bike – Run – ICK!  The “ICK!” is as in “blech, ick, I’m gonna hurl!”  I can honestly say that getting my running legs under me is physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Comparable, but not equal, experiences include powerlifting workouts,  backpacking up a mountain, and portaging a canoe.  So far, nothing is more challenging and can hurt worse than a BRICK.

BRICKs can be set up an infinite number of ways.  Last summer, when I was training for Branson, I did one BRICK a week leading up to the race.  I started with an easy ride and easy run, then maybe ride first 75% easy last 25% hard and run first 25% hard last 75% easy, then through the weeks shift those percentages so more and more of the workout is spent going hard.  To me, going hard means training around your race pace.

Recently, with my Ironman training BRICKs, I’ve been experiencing a problem I’ve never run into before.  When get off the bike and start my run I usually hold back and let my legs get underneath me until I settle into my running rhythm/stride.  Once this happens, I pick up my pace to a comfortable sustainable aerobic race pace.  Lately when I’ve been picking up my pace my heart rate just disproportionately explodes, and end up spending the rest of the run fighting to keep it under control.

This week my coach gave me a BRICK to start the week and end the week.  The first BRICK has a bike that was shorter in time, but included power intervals.  The second one’s bike was an easy aerobic effort, but longer in time.  In both workouts I absolutely nailed the runs!  It was a fantastic feeling to finally put together some strong BRICKs!

Of course, the BRICKs will only get harder from here and I’ll still have the challenge of continuous improvement with these while keeping my heart rate under control.  But, it appears that my body is changing and adapting, and with that comes the confidence to try harder.

For training week #18 I had 11.5 hours of training; generating 2.7 miles of swimming, 68.7 miles of biking, 16.3 miles of running, and 2 core fitness sessions.  During this week I also completed the 4th month of training from Ironman Coeur d’Alene; generating 17.3 miles of swimming, 281.4 miles of biking, 67.5 miles of running, and 9 core fitness sessions.  3ish months to go until IMCDA!

BRICK #1 run splits
mile 1 – 11:41, 147 ave HR
mile 2 – 10:43, 152 ave HR
mile 3 – 10:37, 158 ave HR
mile 4 – 11:08, 153 ave HR
final 0.24 mile – 10:47 pace, 149 ave HR

BRICK #2 run splits
first 0.46 mile – 10:46 pace, 132 ave HR
next 1.0 mile – 10:19, 149 ave HR
next 1.0 mile – 10:13, 154 ave HR
next 0.59 mile – 10:12 pace, 159 ave HR

My total training mileage for Ironman Coeur d’Alene is: 53.1 miles of swimming, 853.1 miles of biking, 219.5 miles of running, 22 core fitness sessions.

Mar-12 Week Review… Weekend Cram Session

I have gotten increasingly disciplined about doing workouts on the day my coach assigns them (instead of moving them around or pushing them to later in the week).  Last week was my best week in this regard until Friday.  I was juggling priorities and meeting deadlines all week, and getting my workouts in when they were scheduled.  On Friday I had a lot of appointments, and I had to get in a 90 minute recovery ride and swim continuously for 2000 yards.  I had to get all this done by 4:30 when my wife and I planned on heading down to Cape Girardeau to volunteer at and cheer for runners in the Howard Aslinger Endurance Weekend.  The ride and the swim never happened (I got everything else done though!).

Because the two Friday workouts were recovery workouts I decided to do my Saturday workouts in the morning and my Friday workouts in the afternoon.  For the week I had 12 hours of training; generating 3.7 miles of swimming, 71.9 miles of biking, and 18.9 miles of running.  Here’s what my weekend cram session looked like:


8:55 AM       90 minute run, completed 8.07 miles (at an 11:09 pace, my longest run and my best endurance run ever)
10:45 AM    30 minutes of core fitness
11:15 AM     25 minutes of foam rolling and stretching
1:10 PM        80 minute ride, completed 20.4 miles (15.2mph average)
3:35 PM        2000 yard swim, completed in 40:04 (at a 2:00/100y pace, my best endurance swim ever)
5:30 PM        20 minutes of massaging my legs
11:20 PM      iced legs for 30 minutes


8:00 AM       swim 2200 yards of intervals, completed in 52:22
10:oo AM     2 hour 20 minute ride of intervals: 15 minutes race pace / 15 minutes very easy recovery, completed 33.5 miles (14.6mph average)
12:20 PM      off the bike 45 minute run, completed 3.8 miles (11:53 pace)
1:05 PM        20 minutes of foam rolling and stretching
6:00 PM        drank a beer
6:30 PM        drank another beer
8:30 PM        massaged legs and glutes
9:15 PM         iced legs for 25 minutes
9:40 PM        iced right glute, fell asleep with ice pack on me

When I got home from my Sunday workout I had a Board meeting to go to with the St. Louis Triathlon Club (I serve as Treasurer for 2012), but my wife had had enough.  She wasn’t feeling well and there was laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping to do, and a dog that badly needed a long walk.  She wanted my help and she needed to rest.  I mention this because one sacrifice that goes largely unnoticed in my Ironman training is my wife’s sacrifice.  While I’m out doing all this stuff, she’s running our household.  On Sunday, while I was training, she reached a threshold and when I came home I had to stop my life and help her.  When these moments occur, I respect them.  Otherwise I run the risk of not getting to spend next weekend being a triathlete.

My total training mileage for Ironman Coeur d’Alene is: 50.4 miles of swimming, 784.4 miles of biking, 203.2 miles of running.

Reflections on a Bad Workout

Yesterday after work I had my first bad running workout in a really long time (as in I can’t remember the last bad one).  6 months ago when I had bad workout I would quit early and have a bit of a frustrated mental blow-up.  These days I’ve learned to accept that workouts don’t always go as planned and you have to adjust accordingly so that you can still get some kind of workout completed (it’s just not going to be the one you want).  This is a learned attitude taught to me by my coach and a few of my triathlete / endurance training friends that I consider mentors.  They know who they are, and to them I say, “THANK YOU!”

After the workout I spent some time in reflection to see if I could learn anything.

Here are the events leading up to the workout… Starting with the night before, my wife and I couldn’t agree on whether the winter comforter should come off the bed. I wanted it off. I lost the discussion. I sweat like a fool into the middle of the night until I cranked up the air conditioner.  In the morning had to get up at 4 AM for some endurance testing a 5 AM. Net result, 5ish hours of really bad sleep. To get through yesterday I had 7 cups of coffee which effected my appetite and water consumption, resulting in me eating poorly through the day. By the time I went out for this run I was dehydrated, operating with poor nutrition, and was crashing from the caffeine high.

During the run I was having real difficulty in pushing myself and following the workout instructions.  I knew I was having a bad run.  So I shifted gears and ignored the intervals in the workout, but still tried to run at a pace the workout was generally asking for.  I stopped the workout early because I had become aware my form had gotten sloppy (I was kind of swaying with each step, maybe getting light headed).

As I recovered in the park (foam rolling and stretching) I thought about how I had just quit a workout.  I thought about what were excuses and what was reality.  I questioned why did this happen and what can I do differently.

The lessons learned are:

  • create an environment for a good night’s sleep, every night
  • seriously knock off the caffeine dependency for getting through the day
  • fuel my body all day long

My one excuse:

  • when I reach a point of quitting I just need to slow down, collect myself, ditch the workout, and finish with an easy effort

As I was walking back to my car I said to myself, “Oh well. It was bound to happen. I’m watching a movie tonight, drinking water, going to bed early, and starting fresh tomorrow.”

Mar-5 Week Review… Longest Run So Far

This past week I had 14 hours of training, which is on the high end of my experience so far.  I ended up generating 4.7 miles of swimming, 77.1 miles of biking, and 15.0 miles of running.  I also, I am very proud to say, completed both of my core fitness workouts!  This week I did a poorer job of planning for my workouts and allowing time for stretching.  Because I skimped on my recovery, my legs and knees were sore for Sunday’s long run and they are more sore than usual today (Monday’s are my rest day).

Saturday Long Ride

I did a 3 hour out-and-back ride on The Great River Road from Alton to Pere Marquette State Park.  The way out was with a tail wind, and the coming back was head on into constant 12 to 15 MPH wind.  To give you an idea of how much this wind effected the ride, on the way out we rode around an easy 18mph and on the way back is more like 13mph with effort.  Also on the way back the sun was setting, and while it was beautiful to view the sunset on the river, it also got more and more cold.  My training instructions for this ride were to take it easy and play with nutrition.  I took various snacks I enjoy and ate them at the times I thought I would like them least. I had water soaked chia seeds at 20 min, honey stinger waffle at 70 min, mixed nuts and craisens at 130 min, sharkies at 150 min. The only thing I didn’t didn’t enjoy was the sharkies. I’ll try chomps next time.  Right at the end of the ride I was wearing out, getting uncomfortable, and ready to get off my bike.  I covered 41.5 miles total, so I need to triple my “I’m done with this” threshold for Ironman.  All in all, it was a great ride including stopping for fudge in Grafton!

Sunday Long Run

This was a timed run for 77 minutes, meaning it would be the longest run of my life.  I went to Forest Park and ran the gravel trail that goes around the perimeter of the park.  I ended up running 6.45 miles in 1:18:39 (click on the link to see the run), meaning this run became my first 10k distance run!  Adding to the challenge of this run the last 27 minutes was in a cold rain.

My total training mileage for Ironman Coeur d’Alene is: 46.7 miles of swimming, 712.5 miles of biking, 184.2 miles of running.

My Experience with Compartment Syndrome

This is the story of my struggle to become a runner…

During the spring semester of my freshman year in high school I joined the strength / powerlifting team and continued this sport all the way through high school and into my freshman year of college.  In high school I was one of the top competitors in my weight class for all 4 years, and my senior year I won my weight class at the Show-Me State Games.  As result, I developed and  carry a lot of muscle mass on my 5 foot 1 inch body.

During my freshman year of college (spring of ’95) I ripped out the bottom half of the cartilage capsule in my right shoulder socket.  I had laser surgery and many months of physical therapy.  When I was recovered I never went back to weight lifting at the same level as before the injury.

Since then, or at least as long as I can remember, I had issues with my calves my adult life.  I have never enjoyed running and can remember it being difficult even in grade school.  However, I do not have a clear memory if this was related to my calves, but it could have been.

The issue with my calves were I could induce cramping while:

  • sustained walking at a brisk pace
  • walking on an incline (like up all the ramps at Busch Stadium)
  • walking while carrying or pushing something heavy (like my niece in her stroller one time at The Zoo)
  • doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, climbing flights of stairs
  • running for more than a half mile

The cramping always occurred in the same place, the lateral compartments of both calves.  However, the right was always worse than the left.  The cramping event is basically the same thing as an erection, but it was in my calves.  The outside of calves get very hard and very tight.  I have joked I could hammer nails with them while they’re cramped.  The muscle actually bulged out of my calf about 1 centimeter.  It was very painful, and I would lose range of motion in my foot and the ability to walk.  The only remedy was to sit down and wait for my calves to relax.  After cramping the outside of my calves were sore and I could feel it for several days.  I later learned that each cramping event was severely damaging the effected muscle tissue.

In 2008 I chose to start doing triathlons as way of having a healthy hobby.  I figured to have the lifestyle of a triathlete is to live a healthy life at least 5 days a week.  Plus I have friends that are cyclists and marathoners, and I wanted to be a part of that and I really liked the idea of being multi-disciplined.  Because I knew my calves would be a problem (not to mention they were a quality of life issue too), in December 2008 I started once getting a full body stretching session and A.R.T. done on my calves.  I also got myofascial integration massage every three weeks.  I was told I was a pronator when I ran and I started practicing having better lower leg posture (This later turned out to be false.  I am actually a neutral runner with a mid-foot strike).  I also started stretching my calves about twice a day and was periodically using a foam roll.  During all this I was training my three triathlon events twice a week.

It should be noted until then that I had never had my calves diagnosed by a doctor.  I had mentioned the condition to my general practitioner, a orthopedist I saw for a different problem, and my chiropractor.  In all cases the response was either “I’ve never heard of that” or “sounds like tendonitis”.  I had also asked my runner friends and they’d never come across my symptoms.  It became clear to me this condition was either rare or misunderstood or both.

Up until March 2009 my calves were still a periodic problem.  There were days when I would run less than a mile or for less than 10 minutes and they would cramp up.  There were other days when it felt like I could run forever, like I was Forrest Gump.  One day I even ran 2.8 miles, which is the furthest I’ve ever run in my life!  I was so happy!  People had mentioned to me that hydration and nutrition may be a factor in the “randomness” of this cramping.  That being properly hydrated before and during a run, and making sure I had just loaded up on potassium, sodium, protein, magnesium, and vitamin B had all been mentioned to me.  It had been suggested drinking 8oz of Gatorade for every 20 minutes of running, even while running.

On April 5, 2009 I did a timed indoor triathlon (10 min swim, 30 min bike, 20 min run).  My goal was to finish the event running, and I did it!

Eventually I began to notice how much all this was costing.  In fact, from that December through April I had spent $1,700 on taking care of my calves.  I quickly realized I could not continue doing this forever and decided to see a sports medicine doctor.  He took my history, x-rays, and did an ultra-sound on my calves.  He discovered I had tendonosis (and not tendonitis) in the tendons around my ankle.  This was part of the damage done from all the cramping.  He was concerned I had Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome.  In July 2009 I tested positive for compartment syndrome in the lateral and deep posterior compartments.  I actually set a record for his office for the blood pressure in one of my compartments!

I was concerned the recommendation from the results of the test is going to be surgery.  I had read about the surgery and it sounded barbaric to me.  However, the other option is therapy and I’d seen how costly that can be.  I saw four orthopedists to find someone who preferably worked with athletes, was experienced at doing the surgery (since the condition is rare), and had a good recovery plan.  In August 2009 I had surgery, a bilateral fasciotomy with all four compartments released.

In Nov 2009 I finished physical therapy and in Dec 2009 started training for the 2010 tri season.  I did 3 tris in April/May/June 2010 and ended up getting shin splints.  That was my first injury for just being a normal runner!  Kinda cool after everything else!  After I recovered from that and got back to training I did a biathlon and a 5k in October 2010.

Since then I have run over 440 miles, and all my aches, pains, and injuries in my legs have been typical stuff any runner would experience. I am just a normal runner now.

From surgery to runner…


Thinking About the Current Flaw in My Swim Stroke

This past Sunday I did a 40 minute continuous swim.  No intervals, no equipment, no nothing. Just swimming.  That’s plenty of time for my mind to wander, so this post is a semi stream of consciousness from that swim.

Nearly from the start of the swim I recognized I was really mentally focused, and was very aware of not crossing over while breathing.  This is the flaw my coach noticed in my swim stroke last week.  When you breathe you should look like the guy in the 4:00 segment of the video.  Instead, I kind look like (but hopefully not nearly as bad) the guy in the 3:30 and 6:45 segments.

Basically, when I breathe my body rotates so that my mouth can clear the water and I let my arm follow the rotation.  I then take my stroke and my arm travels diagonally through the water and across my chest.  This makes for poor propulsion even though I am giving the same effort as a non-breathing stroke.  In other words, I am wasting a stoke every time I breathe.  This gets compounded very quickly because I breathe every 3 to 5 strokes.  Very simply, I waste 20% to 33% of my strokes.

I became very focused on making sure I wasn’t crossing over while breathing.  I did this by making sure I was gliding (not taking a stroke) when I was breathing.  I ended up noticing this caused a short pause in my stroke (which I know should not be there only for when I am breathing… your rhythm should be the same regardless of breathing), and when the pause happened my kicking either stopped or slowed down.  This made me aware that my kicking and my strokes are rhythmic and related to each other.  It occurred to me that this should not be the case, that they should operate independently of each other.  That I should have a kicking rhythm and a stroke rhythm that do not depend on each other.

So I thought about why I do this for a while and I realized that I have always wanted to play guitar.  I have tried throughout the years, but can never get strumming and changing chords to happen rhythmically.

My dusty old guitar, largely unused, tucked away in the back of a closet…

It occurred to me that swimming and playing guitar are mentally the same thing, that they both require having two different things going on at the same time.  So while I digested this I decided to incorporate the catch-up drill into my stroke to create a bit of a glide every time I stroked instead of every time I breathed (like what they show at 4:30 in the above video).  While doing all of this I kept reminding myself that everything comes from the hips (as demonstrated in the segment at 4:15).

At this point in my swim I had developed a checklist to bring all this together: 1) Did I glide / incorporate the catch-up drill in my stroke, 2) am I a continuously kicking at the same rhythm, 3) am I using my hips with every stroke.  I’d say the last 7 laps of my swim I’d cleared all the thoughts from my head and focused on the checklist with each stroke.

Feb-27 Week Review… What an Active Recovery Week Looks Like

This past week of training was what’s called an active recovery week.  I only had 11 hours and 15 minutes of scheduled training, and ended up generating 3.5 miles of swimming, 45.7 miles of biking, and 16.35 miles of running.  There were also 2 core fitness sessions scheduled immediately after runs.  This is the first time my coach emphasized doing my core fitness after runs.  I took advantage of the warmer weather and did these sessions in the park right after cooling down from my runs.  I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to future core sessions like this.

My active recovery week was comprised of 3 aerobic swims, 3 rides (two of which were aerobic efforts), and 3 runs (two of which were aerobic).  The run and bike workouts that required more effort were:

Run Speedwork

This run called for repeats of 1000 meters, 2000m, 1000m, and 1000m with 400m recoveries.  This is basically stretching out last week’s run workout that I put down personal best paces.  My goal for this run was to do the intervals around 10:26 and around an average HR of 155 (which is where I think my lactic threshold is). Splits for the intervals were: 6:14 at 10:04/mi pace at 158 ave HR, 13:01 at 10:30/mi pace at 159 ave HR, 6:44 at 10:52/mi at 155 ave HR, 6:16 at 10:07/mi pace at 156 ave HR.  The really cool thing about this run?  Total distance was 5.8 miles!  The longest I’ve ever run!

A Hilly Ride

I went out for a 2 hour ride that included over 2000 feet of climbing.  The route and the workout can be viewed here:  As you can see from the heart rate and elevation graphs, there were a few really good efforts put in.

My total training mileage for Ironman Coeur d’Alene is: 42.0 miles of swimming, 635.4 miles of biking, 169.2 miles of running.

One Stroke Back Today, Two Strokes Forward Tomorrow

For lunch yesterday I attended one of my coach’s masters swims.  I usually go to her swims about twice a month.  I always walk away with something to improve on.

The main set of my workout included 3 5 X 100s at a very fast pace.  I was so excited to be doing these.  I was going to throw down and push myself right up to my aerobic limit on every single one.  Even before I got in the water I was already excited to see what my times would be.

I got in the first 3 intervals real strong and then I noticed my coach up on the deck following me.  I knew I was being watched.  It’s not a bad thing, but it is a weird thing.  I start getting self-conscious and thinking about all the things she’s ever told me and checking myself that I am doing them.  I guess I should probably just keep doing what I’m doing at that time rather than going into auto-correct mode.

She noticed a flaw in my stroke and when I got to the end of my lane she coached me on it. So even though it’s weird knowing somebody is watching me and I know they are going to critique me, it is totally worth it.  She asked me to incorporate working on it for the rest of my work out, which meant slowing down.  I was a bit disappointed and I lost some of my initial excitement.  But I re-channeled this into a new focus of working on correcting my flaw while still trying to follow the initial intent of the workout.

When I got home I checked my times.  They were: set 1 – 1:55, 1:59, 1:58, 1:59, (got coached here) 2:06;  set 2 – 2:08, 2:10, 2:12, 2:15, 2:17;  set 3 – 2:14, 2:13, 2:10, 2:14, 2:13.  It’s easy to see that I did get slower.  But here’s the cool thing, I was still just as fast as when I last did a similar workout in the middle of January even though I was intentionally slowing down a bit for this workout.  And I expect once I correct this flaw in my stroke my new 100 repeat times will be around 1:50 or better…. even better than my best effort for this workout.

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