Friday, April 25, 2014

Qualities and Characteristics of Elite Endurance Athletes (An Opinion Piece)

In my short time in this sport, I have learned many things.  I have always been a person that once I start doing something, I will read, ask questions, ask more questions, read more, and do whatever I can to learn as much about it as possible.  This is a somewhat "anal" characteristic of mine, but I have always been this way.  I used to cry when I got B's in grade school(my parents didn't care as long as I tried, and I received no rewards or punishments either way).

My goal is to ultimately reach whatever potential I have in this sport.  In order to do this, I like to look at what others have done and find what has worked for them.  I do not believe that you should compare yourself to these elite athletes, because everyone is different and they clearly have put in the work to get there.  However, looking at common qualities of these athletes is one of the most effective ways(in my opinion) to get to your own potential.

Here are the qualities and characteristics (in my opinion) that elite endurance athletes possess.  I doubt that anyone possesses all of these, maybe Mark Allen?  You may or may not agree with some or all of these, but it was helpful for me to look at a variety of elite triathletes, runners, cyclists, etc. to find similar qualities that yielded their success.

An elite endurance athlete:

1.  Has the ability to say no to fun.  I can guarantee you that many elite athletes would love to be out late grabbing drinks most Friday nights.  But, I also guarantee you that many, if not all of them, have had to tell a good friend (despite their endless pleas) that they needed to get home to sleep before their 5 hour bike or brick workout.  This is not easy to do.  You will take much ridicule(I know from experience).  They may scare away some people with this lifestyle, but the true one's will remain.  The best athletes find a good balance.

2.  Has a different idea of things that can actually be fun.  Fun for elite athletes is not binge drinking until you close out a bar.  Their fun lies in pushing themselves further and harder than they have ever gone before.  They embrace the sore feeling that occurs after a hard brick.  They quickly forget the deep hole that they had to dig out of in a recent race, and quickly sign up for the next one.  Pain=FUN for these select people.

3.  Still has the ability to let loose and have fun.  I also know plenty of great athletes that can throw back a few.  After Ironman 70.3 San Juan, I was able to sit next to Tim O'Donnell and Mirinda Carfrae at dinner.  You would expect elite athletes to have a great diet.  This was also after a race that Tim crashed out of and Mirinda crashed as well and uncharacteristically struggled on the run(probably due to a crash).  I look over to see Mirinda downing a plate of Nachos and a glass of wine and Tim eating a burger with possibly 3 patties on it, no joke, and a beer.  They know what times they are able to relax and enjoy bad food, beer, wine, etc.

4.  Has some sort of formal or informal background in athletics.  This does not have to been in endurance sports(although my mom and dad did me a great disservice by making me learn how to swim at the age of  25).   Mirinda Carfrae was a basketball player who was too short.  Craig Alexander didn't make it as a European soccer player.  They were able to learn coordination and endurance from a young age.  They are able to read opponents and adapt to situations.

5.  Has a high level of pain tolerance.  Any athlete who tells you that they haven't practiced or trained in pain is either a liar or probably isn't very good.  They understand that soreness will eventually go away and find ways mentally to push through it.  They hit a point where their body is rebelling, but their mind and focus push them on.  For any that watched the Boston Marathon, look at Meb's face the last 5K.  It was grit that got him through the last few miles.

6.  Has good time management and planning skills.  Elite athletes.  Especially those with families and other jobs, which most do have, need to be able to manage their time in a way that allows them to balance their workout schedule with other responsibilities.  Some have 40+ hours a week to work and still have to fit in 15-20 hours of training.  They need to be as efficient as possible with their time, and they also need to be able to plan ahead to find ways to get these workouts in.  I have seen moms on a trainer at soccer games, heard of people wearing their swimsuit to work for a quick transition, and others that take a working lunch at their desk, run on their lunch break, and then workout again after work.  Whatever they can do to get it done, they do it.

7.  Has a job.  Lets face it.  These sports are expensive.  With baseline TT bikes averaging close to $2,000 a pop, Bike shoes, Running shoes, Swimsuits, Goggles, Wetsuits, Transportation, Race fees, Bike transport fees, etc.  This can add up quick.  This doesn't even take into account other things that are needed to shave of precious seconds: aero helmets, Disk wheels, racing tires, etc.  If you do not have a source of income, your career in this sport will be brief.

8.  Has the ability to take criticism(from others and yourself).  Great athletes need to be coach-able.  They need to understand that they do not know everything and that others can have a lot to teach them.  Ultimately, you need to be able to take criticism.  Are you crossing over when swimming?  Does your cycling cadence need to be higher/lower?  Did you start that half-marathon way too fast?  If you cannot take this constructive criticism and adapt, then the results will stay the same.

I have also noticed that the best athletes seem to be their own worse critic.  They finish a race that they may have even had a PR, but they can still immediately tell you 3 things that they didn't do well.  These athletes do well because they know that performing well does not mean that they performed perfectly.  There are always things to improve.

9.   Has an understanding that "failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be."  This was said by one of the smartest men I have ever read, John Wooden.  This ties into what was written above.  If something is going/went wrong in a race, training, etc., they seek to immediately find the cause, and they look to rectify it.

10.  Can occasionally suffer from short term memory loss.  My uncle Bobby who was also my sophomore basketball coach once told me that the best free throw shooters had bad short term memory.  He meant this as if a shooter missed his first free throw, he was able to forget about it and not allow it to affect his next shot.  I think that this is applied to good triathletes, runners, etc.

Most athletes have a bad race, or two, or twenty.  Many triathletes have crashed their bike, lost their goggles in a swim, bonked on a run.  But, most of them probably didn't quit either.  There comes a point in a race for almost every endurance athlete where they are in almost too much pain to continue.  They vow to never put themselves through this again.  However, as soon as the race is over, they seem to quickly forget the pain that they were in and sign up for another race.  Being able to move on from bad experiences and races is essential.

11.  Has confidence aka "Swagger."  Even the most modest athletes in the world have confidence.  Many times this confidence comes from knowledge that they have done all that they can in preparation for the race.  It is unfortunate that when you look up the definition of "swagger" in the dictionary that it is associated with arrogance.  It may involve some sort of arrogance, but my definition of swagger is to walk with a chip on your shoulder.  It means going into every situation expecting to win, because you know you have the capability.

One quote that comes to mind came from Sebastian Kienle in the NBC Broadcast of the Ironman World Championship this year.  From all interviews that I have seen from him, he appears very modest and down to earth.  I have even heard him speak of still being under the radar despite his successes(2X 70.3 World Champ).  However, when talking about setting the blistering pace for his competition during the bike leg of the Ironman World Championship, he claimed on air “If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them.”

Is this cocky?  Maybe.  But, he has proven himself to be one of the top cyclists in the sport.  He is just stating something that he knows to be true.  That is what i mean by confidence and swagger.

12.  They are practice heroes/heroines.   I had a teammate during my sophomore year of college soccer who came in as a freshman center midfielder.  The problem was, with his position, he had to play behind two center midfielders who ended up being two and three time All Americans respectively.  This meant that pretty much all of his first year, he would never see the field.  But, he was unbelievable in practice.  He would make the first team guys work incredibly hard and embarassed them on more than one occasion.  He was well liked but was referred to as the "Practice Hero."  He made them work every day, and they most likely need to give some of the credit to him for their successes.  He also went on to be an All Conference player.

That was a long introduction to the concept that good triathletes know how to train and they are good at it.  An endurance athlete cannot just be a "Gamer."  They need to be able to push themselves day in and day out to know what they can do on race day.  They are great at pushing themselves past their discomfort zones each day and really enjoy the challenge that each day of training brings.

13.  Able to think on the fly.  No triathlete has had every race in their career go exactly to plan.  Inevitably, you will lose nutrition, you will get a flat on the bike,  as well as many other mishaps.  When you lose that nutrition, how can you adjust your race plan.  When you flat on the bike, how do you fix it and adjust mentally for the rest of the race?  You need to be prepared for all eventualities and adapt accordingly.

14.  Good at being bored.  Face it.  When you start doing endurance sports, you have a lot of time to yourself.  3-6 hours on a bike.  1-4 hours on a run.  Hours staring at a lane line.....the same lane line.  These athletes find good ways to beat this boredom.  They think about a lot of stuff, focus on their power, nutrition, etc.  They learn that all these workouts that seem endless, do in fact, actually end at some point.

15.  Competitive.  They are incredibly competitive.  Many of these athletes are incredibly friendly.  However, when it comes time to race, they can put their game faces on.  Mirinda Carfrae said in the most recent Ironman Broadcast, "It took me a few years to learn that your friends actually aren't your friends on race day."  She was not saying that her competitors are mean people.  I am sure that she would even go have a drink or two with a few of them after.  But when it is time to race, GAME ON!

16.  Good support.  You cannot compete well in this sport without good support.  You need to have supportive family and supportive friends.  They do not necessarily need to be a race Sherpa, but they need to understand your lifestyle and what it takes to this.  Strange smells, lots of gear, lots of food, laundry, etc.  The list goes on.  It takes a lot to be supportive of this life, but it is necessary for success and sanity.

17.  Feel anxious when unable to work out.  For most people, it is hard to get out of bed and work out.  For these athletes, it is much more stressful to stay in bed.  Inactivity, rest, and tapering are difficult because it goes against the routine that has become so commonplace.  It seems like the more mature athletes do a better job of this.  It is a hard skill to learn to relax and to understand that fitness isn't lost in a day.

18.  Good self talk and visualization.  When I think of this, so many different articles come to mind.  However, one that really sticks out to be was by Jesse Thomas.  He states, "positive mantras are used successfully by just about every professional athlete I’ve ever known, and are recommended by any sports psychologist and coach I’ve ever used. Yes, it feels funny to tell yourself something corny and positive mid-race or workout, but it works. If you want to take your racing to the next level, embrace the crazy!"

They use this to get through training, races, and the stress of everyday life.

19.  Insatiable appetites.  Say what you want about these people, but they can eat.  In order to maintain weight and keep consistent energy, they need to consume a lot of calories.  The Michael Phelps diet which gained popularity a few years back is no joke.  I know many athletes that eat all day every day.  The Golden Rule seems to be eat until you aren't hungry anymore, then, eat more.

20.  They enjoy this.  Although this may be a job to many, they enjoy the challenge of getting out of bed everyday and pushing to the limit.  They love to test their bodies and see how fast and how far they can go.  They love the challenge. The love the competition.  Working out is not a task.  It is a part of who they are.

When looking back on this list, the most encouraging thing to me is that nearly all of these habits and characteristics can be learned.  I hope to achieve as many of these as possible in order to get to my own potential.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

San Juan 70.3

When you pick an 'A' race in the beginning of the season, not only are you setting yourself up for some long trainer hours in the winter, but you are also most likely racing in an environment that would seem completely foreign to us Northerners.  That situation, coupled with the winter that we had here in Minnesota, I put in more hours on a trainer and treadmill than I thought was possible for me a few months ago.

Ironman San Juan 70.3 was my first ever Half Ironman a year ago.  Ever since that race, I have been hooked and set myself on this journey to become as good as I possibly can at this sport of triathlon.  I did not know what I was capable of, but I knew that I really enjoyed pushing myself to the limit of my capabilities.  The one thing that I learned about myself is that despite the lack of training, I had a strong ability to push myself far past a point of discomfort and suffer well.

I knew that as soon as this race ended last year that I wanted to do it again.  It is an absolutely beautiful country, I love the support, and I wanted the chance to see exactly how far I had come in a year.  It is hard to compare one race to another, because there are so many factors that come into play: hills, wind, heat, etc.  However, I wanted to prove that all the work that I had done in the past year after taking up this sport had started to pay off.

Last year, I had no expectations.  I had no real strong idea of what I could do.  This year, I had goals.  I had ambitions.  I had a strong idea of what I could do.  Here were the results.

Swim: 46:52
T1: 4:49
Bike: 3:02:31
T2: 2:43
Run: 1:29:16
Overall:                    5:27:17- 27th AG, 276th OA

Swim:     39:10
T1:           4:13
Bike:      2:31:47
T2:           2:27
Run:        1:31:32
Overall:                     4:49:09-  7th AG, 36th OA

Now for the Race Report:

Days Leading up to the Race:

On Friday, my mother, father, Ryan, and I flew into Puerto Rico and got to check in and pick up our bikes.  The plan was to just relax, pick up the packets, and eat.  It was cool to see the expo and get settled in to the hotel.  We did not workout today, but it was nice to stretch the legs out and walk around to see where the race would start and the transition are.  We were able to eat a nice dinner at the bar downstairs and enjoy a few drinks.  Our waitress was fantastic, and I haven't met someone who loved to dance while serving food as much as she did.  By the end of the night, she had even showed us a video of a style of dance for every letter of the alphabet on her phone and replicated some of the moves while it was playing....Awesome.   After that, we went up to the room and got a great night of sleep.

Pre-Race Swim
On Saturday, we woke up early and my buddy Ryan and I, who was doing the race with me, got out at about 7am to go riding around whatever part of San Juan that we could find.  I was very anxious to get outside as I had been on nothing but a trainer for 4 months and was hoping I still knew how to balance.  However, it was hard to find good roads, and we were unable to get any consistent speed.  We even hit one of the cobbled patches and my room key popped out of the middle section of storage where I keep my nutrition.  I should have known then that this was a bit of foreshadowing for the race to come as my bike did not want to hold on to anything this trip, but I will get to that more later.

We did a quick swim and a short run following that.  Afterwards, we went to this awesome breakfast buffet at the hotel where I ate enough omelets, oatmeal, and yogurt to satisfy me for a long time.  The rest of the day was very uneventful other than catching the end of the pro-panel with a few local triathletes, Starky and Ben Collins.  However, the highlight of that was the chance to have a conversation with Helle Fredrickson who actually won the women's race.  She was so nice and really easy on the eyes too!

We grabbed a nice dinner and were able to get to bed at a good time for the race.


I woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off at 5:00am.  I actually felt wide awake shockingly since we had lost an hour.  I ate a Power Bar, grabbed my transition bags, and Ryan and I started out towards the transition area.  

I was able to pump my new ZIPP wheels with no issues(I felt so sorry for those 3 people whose tires popped at about 5:30am in the transition) and get back to finish another Cookie Dough Power Bar and a half sleeve of shot blocks.  We rested a bit and made our way to the swim start to catch the pro's going off.

I was able to get a quick swim warm up.  I drank a bit more water and hoped in the water for our swim wave which started around 7:15am.

I could already tell that it was going to be a hot day as I was already sweating in a tank top and shorts, but we will get to that more later.


Leading up to this race, I still was not completely comfortable in a race in the open water.  I still had never actually swam an entire race without panic.  I had never swam a race where I swam with my face in the water for a majority.

I took a spot a bit to the outside when the horn sounded.  However, this time I fell into a good rhythm right away.  I still stayed a bit to the outside for the first half which cost me some time.  Eventually, after we made the first turn, I found a group to swim with and hitched a ride for the first time in my triathlon career.  I still swam very much within myself this race, but I am very glad to take what I learned and the comfort I felt into all my future races.  I plan to swim much more aggressively next time.

I was able to pick up some speed and kick out my legs a bit.  I ran up the ramp and looked at my watch.  39:00.  This tells me a few things.  One, I do not need to be afraid of the water anymore.  Two, I need to swim much more aggressively next time.  Three, I still have a ways to go in the water in order to be competitive.  Although I was glad to finally not be taken completely out of the race by the swim.

Swim stats:
Overall place- 472
Age Group place- 30


Ran up the 1/3 mile transition.  Popped on my shoes and hopped on my bike and started to get to work.  This part of the race I knew was going to be interesting.  A year ago, I dreading being on two wheels for 56 miles.  Now, this was the part of the race I was most excited about.  My previous best was somewhere around 2:44.  However, since that race, I had improved my FTP by about 35 watts and thanks to Coach Liz(who everyone needs to hire like yesterday), I had nearly doubled my time in the saddle in the first few months of the year, from this year to last.  I was confident and ready to grind.

Right out of transition, you have to weave out of town on roads that are not ideal for speed or passing.  I took this time to orient myself and get used to being on two wheels again.  I had decided before this race to not ride with my PowerTap Computer. I knew that the temperature was going to be ridiculous compared to my training environment, and wanted to race my race and not stress about the numbers.  I know what hard feels like and felt like through all the hours I had put in, I could gauge how hard to push.

Once we hit the highway, it was time to get to work.  All I could think of was something that one of my biking friends told me a few days before, "Nick, rip their legs off!"

That was my mantra which I repeated for the 56 miles.  This bike ride was incredibly uneventful for the first 17 miles.  The first 17 miles, I got through all of my nutrition exactly as planned, I popped about 8 salt pills, and finished that loop in just under 43 minutes.  The tailwind was nice.  I had planned to grab a bottle of water and Gatorade at the first aid station and work through them in the next hour along with my second sleeve of shot blocks and salt tabs.  All was going exactly to plan, until it wasn't.

I grabbed the water and the Gatorade put them in my back holders and continued on.  About 2 minutes down the road, I hit a bump and heard a splash and realized that the Gatorade had just launched from my cage.  The next aid station was not for another 17 miles.  I knew that I had enough calories in my pack to deal with the lost of the Gatorade, but I was beginning to worry about the loss of hydration.  It was 80 and I was beginning to sweat a lot.  I tried to ration the water as best I could and get down the full sleeve of shot blocks in the next 45 minutes.  

The coolest part of the ride for me came in this portion when the 5th and 6th place pro road past me on their second loop.  I was feeling pretty good and decided to see how far I could follow them at the legal drafting distance.  I was actually able to hold on for about 5 miles to the point where they needed to go straight back into town  and I needed to turn around for my second loop.

I reached the next aid station, tossed the old bottle, and grabbed two more.  Two minutes down the road, bump, splat, another bottle gone.  I knew I was in trouble then.  When you have been training in Minnesota in at worst, 70 degree indoor weather with 32 oz of drink per hour, and now I was in 85 degree weather with only 20 per hour, there is going to be trouble.

I actually still felt really strong on the bike, but for the first time in my life was unable to pee.  For all who know me, if I am unable to pee, it is a BIG problem as I have the smallest bladder in the world.  However, I didn't want to panic and hoped that my running legs would still be there when the time came.  

I rode the last few miles a bit more conservative in hopes that I could get to my water in the transition and still get to work on what is normally my strongest part of the race.  

I rode into transition.  Bike racked.  Shoes and socks on.  Drank water.  Ate more Shot Blocks.  Put on a hat(this turned out to be a life saver). Ran out of transition.

Bike stats:
Overall place- 60
Age Group place- 5


Five steps into the run I knew that this was going to be a battle.  I started off and immediately saw my mom.  I yelled at her, "I have two side stitches and they hurt!!!"  I swallowed a salt tab, somehow without water, and they started to go away.  I still was able to keep my goal pace of around 6:35 for the first mile and actually hit a tail wind at the end which helped me to get through the first mile comfortably at 6:23.

Right after that, I started to realize how hot it was, but I really wasn't sweating much anymore.  There was salt all down the legs of my tri-shorts.  I hit the first aid station and started gulping water, Gatorade, and put ice in my hat.  

I repeated this pretty much every aid station for the remainder of the race.

Despite the absurd inclines and heat, I was actually feeling pretty decent through the first 6 miles repeating this routine, and the times reflected that.

Mile 1- 6:23 
Mile 2- 6:33
Mile 3- 6:29
Mile 4- 6:22
Mile 5- 6:51
Mile 6- 6:28

It was at this point where things started to go downhill.  My lack of hydration caught up to me.  I started cramping and went to reach for a salt tab.  I realized I had none left, and all that remained was some salt that stuck to my fingers as I pulled out.  I did the only thing that made sense and tried to lick all of it off of my fingers.  This honestly helped a little but not much.  I still was able to salvage a decent pace which was still far below what I was hoping to sustain for the race.  However, I still had not been passed by anyone, so I had some semblance of confidence.  I continued to trudge along.

Mile 7- 6:51
Mile 8- 6:46
Mile 9- 7:06
Mile 10- 7:05

This is where things started to suck.  I was overheated, under-hydrated despite my attempts to salvage what had happened on the bike, and I started to doubt.  Until this point of the race, I had never walked any part of any race, ever.  I tried to hold out for as long as I could, but going up the incline out of the reservation, I walked.  Anyone who has ever walked in a race knows that once you start walking, it is soooooo easy to want to keep walking.  I decided that I would give myself 15 seconds and go again.  I started up again and made a mental note that from this point forward that I would only walk in aid stations no matter how slow my run got.  I think this ultimately helped me to keep an okay pace until the end.

I got the rest of the way through the hills and could not wait for the end.  I saw my buddy Ryan about a mile away from the finish.  I knew at that point that I needed to make sure I was running to the finish.  I knew everyone was having a tough day, but didn't want him to see me struggling in hopes that it could give him some confidence to push hard to the end.  We exchanged some quick words and I made my way through the last turn to the finish.  
Even after thousands of games,
These two still come to watch
every time!
Mile 11- 8:25
Mile 12- 7:48
Mile 13- 7:48

I finally ran through the shoot and immediately saw my parents.  I went over to them and laid down for what felt like an hour.  They were soooo awesome and we walked over to the tent where I grabbed a recovery drink and a beer.  

Run stats:
Overall place- 19
Age Group place- 2(Although the one in front of me was DQed)

Post Race:

I found out soon after that I had finished 7th in my AG and was 28th overall.  I 
knew that the overall place would probably drop as the 30-34 and 35-39 AG's 
were after us, but I was so happy to see the improvement.  

After hanging around a bit, we went back to the hotel, showered quick and 
immediately went to go get some fruity drinks with umbrellas.  We sat by the 
beach the rest of the day and truly took everything in.  It was fun to reflect on
the race and how brutal it was to come from Minnesota and run in this weather.

Overall, reflecting on this race, I am pretty happy with how everything went.  The race was not flawless and I still have so much to learn and do, but being able to improve over 38 minutes from last year was awesome to see.  My swim is still an area in which I need major help.  My cycling can only keep improving.  And I vow to make sure that next race, my run is my best part again.

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement.  I am ready to take a bit of rest this week and start up again soon!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Final Preparations and Lessons Learned

Finally, after a big training block and a long Minnesota winter, we are finally in the taper and race week.  About this time last year, I was a nervous wreck.  I was only a few days from my first ever open water swim.  I had only biked over 50 miles four times, two of them indoors.  I suffered through most of it with poor nutrition and hydration.  I had also only ever run over 13 miles twice and had never run more than 4 miles after cycling.

With that being said, the race didn't go poorly for my first 70.3, but it could have gone a lot better.  Although one thing that I can take away is that it was enough to get me hooked on the sport.  Since that day, a ton has changed.  I hired a coach, learned the importance of structure, nutrition, recovery, and also learned what real mileage is.

Since the start of this block of training which started the first day in October, here are the totals:

I have learned soooo much about myself and the sport in the past months.  Here are the top lessons that I took away from the past few months(in no particular order):

1.  Recovery-  If I try to kill myself every day in every workout, I am going to suffer and not improve.  Active recovery is important.  Taking rest is also very important.  Getting enough sleep is essential.  But having structured training with progression, overload, and recovery weeks is the only thing that will yield good results for me.

2.  Nutrition-  I have learn how important nutrition is for sustaining long periods of exercise.  To put it in perspective, in my first half ironman, I ate a sleeve of shot blocks, a Zone Perfect Bar, and drank water.   I also took nothing in on the run.  I was very fortunate to not Bonk.   I have been smart enough on this training block to try a few different nutrition plans, powders, gels, etc. to find out what works for me. 

I have discovered what my body needs to maintain a healthy weight and perform well.  Also, I learned that weight isn't as important as being able to perform well.  And I am glad to say that no one recently has told me that I need to go eat a cheeseburger because I look sick.

3.  Adaptation-  The ability to work with a coach to adapt workouts based on travel, family, and other obligations is key.  For example, I have been to San Diego, Portland, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Chicago, and other various parts of the country in the last few months for work.  Thus, typical weekend long rides are not an option many times.  I had to move a lot of my long rides to the week days.  Which also meant that there were a few days that I started rides at 4:30am, but there is a sense of accomplishment when you have burned 2500 calories before most people are awake for breakfast.

4.  Planning-  When you have to travel, work, and still fit 16-17 hours of training in a week, you need to be very active in planning when you can get these done.  I would normally have to figure out on Sunday how the next Sunday-Monday were going to work.  Getting one workout in before work and one at night after.  

When I was traveling to various parts of the country, these websites became my best friends.‎

- Most masters programs were so awesome at contacting me back when I emailed them, and all but one let me drop in for free

-Mapping routes is important, especially in areas like where I was staying near Vegas that has some interesting places around the hotel.

5. Let life get in the way sometimes-  In my first go at this, I never deviated from the plan.  If I had a long ride on Saturday, I was in bed at 10pm Friday.  No drinks, no hanging out with friends, etc.  I would never do more than or less than I should and made sure to do everything straight to the plan.  I was anal, irritable, and not fun at times.  Now I may still be all of those things(I hope not), but I feel I have grown.  Last week, I ran with a friend who is training for Boston on a 20+ mile run that she had for a few miles.  Was this on the training plan?  No.  But will it ultimately kill all the fitness that I have gained in the past months?  No.  However, last year, I would not have done this.  I would have told this friend no, and missed out on the chance to not only help her get through part of a 3 hour run, but also the chance to catch up and enjoy running.

I believe in the long haul that this is much more important.  Have drinks, run with friends.  Still get what you need done, but do not become a drone.

I also have a race plan.  I am going to leave out some of the timing and wattage details, but here it is:

Pre race routine (dinner, breakfast, arrival at race site, warm up)

Dinner-  I am going to stick with a lean meat, some rice and some plantains
Breakfast- 2 powerbars and an apple while sipping on a drink of 3plenish mix
Warm up- Keep drinking 3plenish

2 – Goal paces and how you will achieve them (pacing)

Swim-  I want to stay comfortable and hopefully come out of the water around....  I have panicked every swim so far and ended up swimming heads up for most of.  My goal is to make sure that I actually swim this whole race and not suffer a panic attack

Bike- I want to stay at around 80% of my FTP.  I know I am capable and have felt really strong on the bike recently.  I just want to stay within my pace and with the disk and Zipp 808's, I think I can PR with those watts.

These will make me go FAST

Run-  Take the first 3 miles at a pace 15 seconds slower than my goal pace and get down to goal pace at mile 3.  These will vary because the course is soooo hilly, but I have a good idea of where I can push and where I know the times will be slower based on last year.  

3 – Fueling & hydration strategy

plan on carrying 3 sleeves of Clif Blocks on the bike.  Finishing 2 for sure and see where I am at.  Taking a bottle of water and a bottle of 3plenish mix on the bike.  Finishing those in the first hour and grabbing Perform and Water as needed on the course.  Salt Tab every 20 minutes.

4 – Motivation & mindset (using technical, tactical & self-encouragement cues to focus & motivate your performance)

I like to write things on my arm when I race to help get me through the rough times.  The two that I know I am going to use this time are: 

RTT- Remember the trainer.  To remind me of all those solo 3-3.5 hour rides by myself in my basement.  Doing this for 2:30 should be easy right? 

ATE- All things End.  Helps me to remember that all pain ends and I will not be in this water, on this bike, or running forever.  Also, reminds me when this pain hits to go through a checklist of nutrition, pacing, etc.

Thoughts on some others???

Other important points include:

1 – Noting any important aspects of the race course (check the course maps, etc).

Swim is calm start in a Bay.  Last 500 may get choppy as we go out in the ocean for a bit.  I know this and should be fine.

Bike is straight out and back twice along the coast-line.  Plenty of room for passing, etc.  Shouldn't be an issue.

Run is hilly as crap lol.  And there is a 1.5 mile stretch when there is no aid station twice on the run.  Just need to make sure if necessary to take a water with me on this stretch if i need it.

2 – Knowing the weather forecast (temperature, humidity, wind) & how you will adapt your plan to conditions

It is going to be hot and humid.  No rain on the forecast, possible wind.  Hopefully, the heat training I have done is enough.

In the end, it is about doing what I know I am capable of and trusting in myself.  Time to go and do it...