Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Few Things That Helped Me This Season

Above is a photo of me following my finish in Kona. I was hurtin…big time.It sure felt good though. 2007 was a breakthrough season for me. It was my 3rd year back in the sport and I really felt I was racing and not just surviving through these events. Every year I try to change up the training and add new things and new stimulus. Last year I added a few things which I think helped me perform well. Here are a few of them…..

1. Newton Shoes: The first time I saw Newton shoes was in St. Croix in May. Tulsa, OK isn’t exactly the center of the triathlon universe, so I was a little behind the curve. I heard some good things about them from other athletes so I bought a pair just to find out if the claims were true. At first they felt weird but as I got used to them they began to feel really good, better than any running shoe I have ever worn. I have a high arched rigid foot so a soft flexible shoe works best for me. Newton’s fit the bill perfectly. I felt that I was pushing off more efficiently and my feet were tracking better. I feel that they improve running economy, in other words they lower the energy demand of running. (See my blog entry Buffalo Springs 70.3) For me, they are doing what they are designed to do. Of course with self study n =1, it’s hard to justify it. But there are hundreds of other athletes claiming the same thing. They improved my average run mile splits by 10 to 15 seconds. This is huge! I consistently ran the fastest run splits in my age group at races this year.

2. Power Cranks: I got started using power cranks last winter. It was a bit painful at first and I rode a lot slower on them but once I adapted I felt that they improved my pedal stroke and my pedaling efficiency. I used less energy since I had developed a group of muscles, the hip flexors and adductors, which are often neglected. Like Newton’s, I feel they improved my economy. I used them exclusively from November to February. I used my TT bike with an SRM after that. I noticed when I used the power crank pedaling method for cycling that I could get my wattages to tick up another 20 to 30 with just that little extra push across the top of the pedal stroke. I also think that they helped me develop the hip flexors which contributed to better runs this year too.

3. Vasa Trainer: When the health club where I usually swim closed to remodel the pool for the entire summer, I had to return to my old haunts at the downtown Tulsa YMCA. In the mid 90’s I used to swim here with my buddy Dave Sexton. He and I used to tear each other up in the pool and then we would move over to the Vasa trainer and verbally abuse each other as we took turns on the Vasa after the pool workout. I really felt that it helped me back then. Not the abuse,.... the Vasa. When I returned to the pool some 10 years later the Vasa was still there on the deck albeit rusty but it was still functional. After my workouts of 4000 yards or so of swimming, I would move it over to the Vasa where I was able to work myself up to 20 minutes 3 x/ week just 3 weeks before Kona. When I got off this device my arms were throbbing. I don’t lift weights but I feel this device really provided me with some good functional strength to swim top times in my age group this season. I also used a drag suit in the pool all summer.

4. Yoga: I read some good things about Yoga so I got started doing it religiously last November. I didn’t have time to go to a class so I would just pop in a DVD and work along with Rodney Yee for an half and hour or an hour or so 2 or 3 times per week after the kids got to bed. I feel this really helped me with recovery and injury prevention. I now have the flexibility I had as a teenager.

5. Simulation workouts: Having been to Hawaii in 2006, I got a good feel for what the terrain and conditions were like. I constructed bike and run simulation courses. The summer weather here in Oklahoma is often more harsh than it is in Kona so that parameter was covered. On the bike, I had a course that would take me out highway 48 to Rt 66 toward Bristow, OK were I had some long grades and headwinds. My run course had a flat hot and humid Alii drive and a hill which was more severe than Palani at 10 miles. I also added some hills at around 16 miles into the run which were also run at hot and humid conditions. I did the run the day after a long ride (sometimes up to 150 miles) so the fatigue was in my legs. I ran it at a pace which was much faster than my Ironman. I wore the same clothing and used the same nutrition I planned to use in Kona and really got it down to perfection. When I started Kona in 2006 I was intimidated by the course, this year I wasn’t. The Kona course was much easier than what I had done in training.

6. Training Camps: I did two training camps with my wife, Dana, in Tucson, AZ last winter at the cycling house. It wasn’t exactly a romantic getaway. Dana referred to it as a cycling commune. The weather in Tulsa was icy and cold. Normally, in January and February we are unable to get out on our bikes but this year we were able to put in some of our biggest training weeks of the season and take on Mount Lemmon several times. The base fitness we gained from these camps was very helpful as we both had very good early season races in St. Croix in May and throughout the rest of the year.

7. Hammer Nutrition Products: I have used Hammer nutrition meal replacement drinks on long training rides and Ironman races since I got back into triathlon a few years ago. The Cycling house had a full complement of all the supplements to try for free and I got started using those this year too. With my erratic eating habits due to my work schedule along with heavy training I felt they really helped me keep on top of my nutritional needs and I didn’t get sick all season. I also took Hammer Whey before bedtime and I felt the additional protein load and glutamine helped with recovery after really hard workouts.

A few things that I am going to do next year in addition to those above in 2008 are Epic Camp New Zealand in January. This is the camp of all camps. I have always wanted to do this and see this part of the world. When I first saw this I thought these guys were crazy. The camp is shorter this year so I was able to swing it. I hope I can survive. Stay tuned. Another reason for posting the photo above; )

This year I am getting away from Ironman and do shorter races and move to faster and more intense training. I was getting into a rut with all the long distance stuff. I feel this will help me down the road if I ever decide to race Ironman in the future. It also gives me more time to be with the family and take care of what is important while still being able to do what I love.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Clearwater: The 70.3 World Championship

The last race of the season for the Chance family was the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. We brought the kids this time and made a little mini vacation out of it. Clearwater has beautiful sugary like beaches which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. We stayed at the Hilton which was very close to the race site and made it very easy. Other Tulsa area triathletes who qualified for the race and made the trip were Toby Smith, Steve Groden, and Sean Stevens. Sean brought his wife Whitney and her family. We hung out with the Tulsa crew at the beach and pool and had a few meals out. Sean and Whitney had a room adjoining ours which was nice.

The folks at WTC put on a very well organized race. Everything was top notch right down to the finest detail. I didn’t feel like doing this race but did it anyway just to experience it. Dana, on the other hand, was ready to rock it.

We arrived on Wednesday to enjoy the sun and the sand. Unfortunately, a cool front arrived with us and the weather was cold and very windy. The kids complained about the fine sand blowing into their eyes. We had to wear sweat shirts. The water was rough with some pretty stiff current. We tried to make the best of it and enjoyed the venue despite the unseasonable inclement weather.

I came to watch Dana race here last year and there appeared to be a lot more foreigners here competing this year than last. I also noticed that last year they couldn’t give the slots away and this year folks were grabbing them up at the 70.3 races I attended. I feel this race is going to be more competitive as the years pass.

We checked in at a large expo center with ample parking and a large triathlon expo there. It was actually a better set up than Hawaii. The check in procedure was similar. It was very personal and well organized.

Bike and bag check in the day prior to the event was the same as Kona but didn’t have the photographers and all the hype that Kona has. You still got your own personal volunteer that walked you through the transition area and answered all your questions though. The transition area was carpeted and very well marked.

Race morning had the helicopters with the hype and the excitement. Each wave was put into its own separate corral with a volunteer holding a sign indicating the wave. As one wave went off we were moved eventually to the next corral. Again, very well organized and well done. With the helicopters flying overhead and the announcer’s voice calling up the waves, even I was starting to get pretty hyped.

All hype aside, I chose this race to be “C” training race and just came here to have a good time and enjoy the day and preview the course. I might key on this race in the sometime in the future, but today I wanted to experiment and do a few things that I normally wouldn’t do. One was to blast the swim from the start and drop anyone who tried to hang on. I wanted to see how it would effect me on down the line. I usually keep pretty conservative and try to hold something back.

The start is a running one from the beach. You have to be pretty quick off the gun to get to the water first. I found a spot in the front row and dug my rear foot into the sand for a track like start. The starter counted down the minutes and seconds. I looked at my heart rate and it was 90. I was ready. The cannon sounded and I sprung out into the lead. Someone shoved me forward and I lost my balance and cart wheeled my arms and stumbled forward to keep myself upright just barely missing a face plant and becoming trampled by 200 other athletes in my age group.

Miraculously, I was able to stay upright and hit the water first and dolphined out as far as I could then sprinted away. I looked back under my arm and I had already gapped the next guy and put my head down and nailed it. I never felt a foot tap or drafter. They let me go. Alright!!! I was wearing my new Xterra Vector pro wetsuit. I usually hate full wetsuits because I feel restricted in the shoulders, but with the Xterra, I forgot I was even wearing a full suit. I noticed most of the others were wearing the Blue Seventy. I think I had an advantage. I didn’t have clean water for long before I started running into the 45 + age group women.

This slowed me down a bit as I had to navigate thru the red capped mine field. I couldn’t see a thing after I made the turn and headed back to shore. The sun was coming up and my prescription smoke goggles didn’t help at all with the sun’s glare that was blinding me when I tried to sight. I just looked to my right and saw the buoys and to my left and saw kayaks and just maintained the midline. Before long the pier came into view and then I was at the beach. I ran out as fast as I could. The wetsuit strippers did a great job and I was through the transition pretty fast.

I made it to my bike and was off in the lead. I hadn’t been on my bike since Kona. I was pretty busy with work and moving and never got around to unpacking it. So it just stayed in the box until I got here to Clearwater. I knew it would be just a matter of time before someone would catch me. It wasn’t long before number 719 came flying by as I started to crest the bridge off the island. A few other folks in my age group came by now and then but I was riding pretty much on my own until mile 40. At that point I was gobbled up by the packs and just rode along. There was one lane blocked off and there was no avoiding the draft. I was stuck.

At about 50 miles into the ride a marshal rode up to me and flashed me and the Italian guy beside me the red card for drafting. I couldn’t argue, I was indeed drafting. I talked to a race official about this same scenario on my plane ride home from Canada this summer. Big pack, unavoidable, what do you do? He said “sometimes we just pick a sacrificial lamb“. I guess we were both lambs. He didn’t show it to anyone else in the pack just us. If he did the penalty tents would have been overwhelmed.

Anyway, I was kind of glad that I got the card. At that point in the race, I was in the top 10 in the age group and I was thinking seriously about making a run for it when I got in just to see where it would take me. Instead I just took it easy. The race was over for me, I wouldn’t have to put myself into any discomfort. I wanted to recover fast from this race. I was completely shelled after the Kona run, and there was no need to do it again here.

I saw a lot of carnage on the road. One guy in a bloody heap at the side of the road and another was run over by a drafting marshal. I think it was the same guy that showed me the card. I heard police and ambulance sirens.

I read in the paper the next day that 9 people were taken to the hospital for “non-life treating injuries”. This course is pretty dangerous. There just needs to be some hills to break up the packs. 56 miles of flat terrain is pretty unfair to the superb cyclist.

When I got to T2, I went straight to the penalty tent and started my 4 min stopwatch. This was the first time this had happened to me so it was an experience. I should have brought a water bottle, because there were no refreshments for us. I laughed and joked with all the other unfortunate sacrificial lambs. Four minutes is a long time when you are waiting in T2 while the race passes you by.

The run was pretty fun. I usually don’t use Gatorade and Power Gels on the course, this time I tried it just to see if I had any ill effects. It went well with no stomach issues. I did the run at training run pace and cheered on other folks I knew and those that were around me. It was nice and low key with no pain. I pushed the last mile to a 6 minute pace and helped a guy from Switzerland finish strong.

I waited at the finish for all of the TAT members and congratulated them. Everybody broke 5 hrs! Toby Smith went 4:29, Dana went 4:47 and was 17th in her age group, and got a PR for the distance. Sean Stevens went 4:40 and got his PR by 27 minutes! Steve Groden went 4:36. It was a PR for him too. I was really proud of the whole Tulsa crew, they all did great.

The only option I see to make this race safer and more draft free is to close down the roads entirely and give the whole road (two lanes)to the athletes. One lane with all these cyclists is bound to get congested and clogged up. There was nowhere to go, and it’s dangerous to juke around in a pack of triathletes. It would be also ideal to take this World Championship to harder and more challenging course for all three disciplines. The non wetsuit swim, hilly and windy bike, and challenging run of St Croix 70.3 would be a great course, but the difficulty getting there, diminished number of hotels, and nasty rough roads rule it out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Matt Carnal: "Anything is Possible"

Not long ago I began working with an athlete, Matt Carnal. Matt came to me about a year ago with aspirations to do Ironman. No not just any Ironman. The Ironman…You know the one in Hawaii… The World Championships. Matt had yet to even do a triathlon, but this was something he really wanted to do. His background is college baseball and he ran a little in high school. I kindly let him know that it was very competitive to get to the event and that some people work their tails off for many years and still never get to the big show. I wasn’t really coaching people then but my wife was. He wanted some advice from us because 50% of the 2006 Oklahoma Hawaii Ironman qualifiers were living under our roof. We must have been doing something right. He ended up working with another coach but we saw one another now and then and when I saw him at a few races I offered encouragement.

Matt learned pretty quickly that there are some pretty fast dudes out there, especially in his age group, the M25-29. His first triathlon was Oceanside 70.3, and then he went to Honu 70.3 and had a better race. He had some mechanical problems on the bike at Buffalo Springs and didn’t finish, but in 2007 he got his feet wet in the sport and he got a good feel for “what it takes” to succeed and reach his ultimate goal. He contacted me again this summer and I agreed to help him. Since then we have been working toward his big goal…one step at a time.

The first step in Matt’s progression is to run a sub 3:00 marathon at Route 66 in Tulsa on November 18th. This wasn’t my idea, it was Matt’s. He has never run a marathon before but this is what he wanted to do. Sub 3 his first time out. He’s right though. To make the Kona cut in his age group he will have to have sub 3 hr open marathon speed. I gave him workouts that a sub 3 hr marathoner should be able to do and he did them. I gave him tune up races with goal times as benchmarks to see if it was a realistic goal and he even surprised me.

He got faster with each race and as the distance went up Matt was able to sustain the pace. On Oct 6th he did the Zoo Run 10K in 39:47. On Oct 27th he the did the Tulsa Run, his first 15K, in 56:51, On Nov 4th he did the Jenks half in 1:23:53. Based on his last long run pace he did on Oct 14th, and his progression in times in these last few races, he should be able to crack the 3 hour barrier if he paces himself smartly and I’m sure he will ;) These great results will steamroll into better ones and build greater confidence for further achievement down the line.

What I’ve noticed most about Matt recently is that he is focused. He has the right mental attitude and tunnel vision required to meet his goal. He is eating a proper diet, no junk. He is getting the rest he needs. He knows what he needs to do and goes out and does it. This mental attitude is often overlooked but is the most important component of achieving an Ironman goal. There are so many opportunities for letdown in a race this long. Having the right mental attitude is more than 50% in achieving success.

I will be updating Matt’s progress in his quest for Kona but for now, Ironman Kentucky this summer will have to suffice. In Ironman the slogan says "Anything is Possible". Maybe he will be in the waters of Kialua bay this October. At this pace, he very well might.

So if you are on out on the course at the Rt. 66 Marathon in Tulsa on November the 18th, give Matt a cheer.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

This Is What I Call A Big Sports Story

On page 20 B (back page) of the Tulsa World on November 4th was a small article in the corner entitled “Distance Runner Dies at 28” on the front page was a huge spread taking up half the paper “NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup” On the Channel 2 news on Saturday night it was all football and no mention about this tragic event.

On November 3rd 5.5 miles into the US Olympic Marathon Trials, Ryan Shay, one of Americas top distance runners collapsed. Bystanders and Emergency personnel quickly came to his aid and instituted CPR. He was taken to Lennox Hill Hospital in NY where he was pronounced dead. He had trained and was a personal friend of the eventual winner Ryan Hall.

To me, this is big news. I suppose with Internet, I can direct my own news interests but come on, NASCAR trumping tragedy at the Olympic Trials? What a story…. and it gets a little blurb on the last page of our local paper.

Well, I guess my taste in big news is different from the typical Oklahoman. Thank goodness for the internet. My prayers go out to the family and friends of Ryan Shay. What a way to go though, doing something you love and immersed in the race of your life.
New York Post Article