Ironman Lake Placid 2016 Race Report

The Background:

As most folks know, IMLP 2016 was to be my 8th Ironman race, and 4th time to jump into Mirror Lake for the start of the event.  But IMLP was going to be my first time to start an Ironman post open heart surgery.  Therein lies the story.


Flashback to July 2016 when I learned I needed surgery to repair a severely leaking mitral valve.  I asked my chosen surgeon if I needed to withdraw from the Ironman race and he suggested that if I had the surgery in September, I should be ready to start training in January.  So putting my trust in him and the rest of the medical team, I went ahead with the surgery and kept the date for IMLP

January through June my training was ok, if not completely consistent.  I battled mental demons that told me there was just no way I would be ready for IMLP, that my bike times would barely make the cut offs and my run would NEVER come around.  I kept plugging away as consistently as I could, but between a job change and kitchen remodel job, keeping a consistent training schedule was a challenge.

I did continue strength training, working with a trainer at Lifetime Fitness who put me through grueling hour long HIIT sessions.  They were kicking my ass, and while I didn’t recognize it at the time, were really helping my swim/bike/run.

I had Syracuse 70.3 on the schedule and was looking forward to putting all three disciplines together in one day.  I DID NOT expect the course to chew me up like it did.  I managed to finish just inside the cut offs, having had a very tough bike and completely walking the entire 13.1 miles of the run.

I was at my lowest mental point after that race, and had convinced myself that I needed to drop out of IMLP.  I was looking at another 4 weeks of big volume and couldn’t see the point of doing all that, only to miss the cut offs.

In the vein of “never make an important decision in an emotional state” I didn’t pull the trigger on withdrawal.  I did some soul searching and re-evaluated WHY I was doing this race in the first place. When I started training in January I was going to give myself the best possible chance to finish, but to only worry about what I could control (stay inside my box) and let go of the stuff outside my control   I also began to do the math to figure out exactly what it would take to make all the cut-offs and finish under 17hrs.

Having some data to go by really helped, and it seemed that my training really fell together in the last few weeks.  I rode several 100+ mile hilly rides (thanks TeamNRGY!) each one feeling better than the last at least in feeling, if not in overall time.  My long swims were consistently in the 1:05-1:10 time frame.  I also landed on a walk-run plan that seemed to work, although I was woefully short of run volume.

The Lead-Up:

LP Cottage

We planned to stay for a full week (Thursday through Wednesday) and we rented a small cottage in town.  We really scored on location, size, amenities and location.  Everything was a very easy walk from our cottage.  We arrived late afternoon on Thursday and hustled over to do the VIP registration for Fran and the athlete registration for myself.  Since I’ve been doing Ironman racing for 11 years, these events become a mini-home coming.  I couldn’t walk more than 5 minutes before seeing someone I’ve known from past races, or from social media, or hearing my name called from across the street.  It’s one of the reasons I was so very grateful to be back to participate in the event.  It’s a wonderful community.

Friday was spent hanging out, running last minute errands and visiting with friends and teammates, swimming a full loop of the lake and just soaking in the experience.

Saturday was bagging up gear, parceling out nutrition, checking in bike and gear bags, trying to settle nerves and mental preparation.

Race Day:

Since we were so close to transition and the lake, and I had ordered Tri-Tats (love them!) I knew I could skip body marking, AND wait back at our cottage to stay out of the stressful pre-race transition zone.  Stacy Marcus came by early with her sister in law, and we went down to set up transition, put nutrition on bikes, pump tires etc.  Then we went back to the cottage to wait in a more calming environment.  The rest of Stacy’s family showed up and we all walked down to the lake.  Last minute hugs and some tears all around, into the wetsuits, a quick warmup swim, then into the cattle-pens for the wait to start.

My plan was to try to seed with the 1:00-1:10 group, but because of the crowding I found myself standing with the 1:20-1:40 group.  I was trying not to stress on this, but became increasingly crowded into smaller spaces.  Once the race started though, I was able to sneak to one side of the crowd and get closer to my predicted pace group.

As some of you know, I had a second goal at IMLP this year.  In 2012 I DNF’ed due to a panic attack in the water.  I really wanted some payback for that failure.  So it was nice that Jason Santarcangelo and mom Kathleen were there at the water’s edge to see me off.  They were the first ‘family’ I saw when DNF’ed in 2012 and it seemed to close that circle for me when they were the last folks who saw me enter the water this year.

My race plan was to finish the swim in 1:05-1:10, bike in 8:00-8:15.  Factoring up to 30 min for both transitions, left me about 7:30 to finish the marathon.

Nutrition plan was water, Endurolytes and EAAs (3 caps every 45 min).  Solid food to be taken off the course if I felt I needed or wanted it.  I had packs of peanut butter cheese crackers as treats simply for my sanity.  I did not plan on taking any gels, carb drinks or other sugar-based stuff.  This plan had worked really well in training but it was the first time I had tried it in an Ironman race.

I really wanted to stay out of the scrum as much as possible, and stick to my 1:40-1:45/meter pace that I’ve developed in training.  I really wanted to get on the wire as quickly as possible, but didn’t feel like fighting for it.  I knew that if I got within 2-3 yards of the wire, I’d start to get pulled along in the current of other swimmers.  I quickly fell into a groove of swimming, and started to pass people.  I passed far more than passed me, and at times found some fast feet to draft behind.  I came out of the water in 1:06:40, with close to even splits.

Jason was right there to greet me as I exited the water and you can see the sense of relief and determination on my face as I got my payback and headed out on the bike.

Swim w:Jason2

In and out of T1 in 10:17, and onto the bike.  I know I had the widest grin on my face for the first loop of the bike.  I thought to myself “I woke up on the green side of the grass this morning, and am racing Ironman again.  It doesn’t get much better!”  The first climb out of town felt pretty good and smooth. Down the descent into Keene felt smooth and comfortable, topping out around 40mph.  On the flats into Jay I kept down a manageable power output and just kept hydrating and pedaling.  I was getting passed by a LOT of folks, but I knew that would be the case and never really felt bad about it.  I was focused on my plan, racing in the mile I was in at the time.


I hit bike special needs around after 3:45 bike time knowing that it was a bit too fast.  I knew that lap two would bite me because of it.  I loaded up fresh tube of EAAs, some other goodies, did a bit of stretching and off to the second lap.


The climb out of town was harder and overall pace was lower on the second lap.  I really, really struggled from mile 90 into the finish.  Neck & shoulders were tight, power numbers were way down, but I just kept moving forward.  These last miles, especially the last 11 miles uphill back to town which takes over an hour (for me on this day) were the darkest part of the race.  It was the hottest part of the day, I had developed a hot spot on my left big toe that was killing me and I could hardly keep my head up from the neck pain.  All I could focus on was turning the pedals over.  Thankfully I had the 28 tooth sprocket in the rear to help me crawl up the hills.

Finally, back into T2 in 8:03, and off on the run 10 minutes later.  I had my own receiving line just inside T2 when Jason, Steven Richardson and Steven Grossman all jumped up to congratulate me and push me forward!

My run strategy was to do 5 min run/2 min walk as long as possible.  By my watch I had over 8 hours left to complete the race and I knew I could power walk the marathon and make the cutoff.  My confidence got a big boost from that math, and another boost from seeing Rob & Nicole Martzen, Lori Carlo, Jess Hagenbuch and Brenda Ross, on the course, and another MAJOR surge of happiness, getting a HUGE hug from Fran.


I was able to keep up the run/walk plan only for a short time, then settled into power walking the hills, slow walking the steeper hills, and jogging between points when I could.  It was great to see Fran Caggiano-Swenson at the Mirror Lake turn around on the first lap!  After the first lap of the run course I had 4:30 remaining before midnight, and I knew I would make it in.  At that point I wanted to savor every minute so I talked to a lot of other athletes who were also finishing up their race.  I heard a LOT of great stories of courage, devotion, and discipline at the back end of the race.  The folks who are the 16-17hr racers have to really be in tune with their WHY in order to be out there so long.  Almost to a person there was a higher meaning for their race that was driving them forward.  Truly inspiring times and my favorite part of the race up to that point.

Finally, back into town, through the INTERMINABLE last two mile out and back on Mirror Lake Drive, I knew it was my turn to be an Ironman again.  I was sore, tired, blistered and sunburnt, but none of that mattered.  I was alive, healthy and racing Ironman.  My wife Fran was at the finish line waiting to put the medal around my neck, and I began to run.  Through the Hoka Arch, around the final turn of the ice track and heard Mike Reilly call out my name and give me a high-five.  Cross the finish line and into the arms of my love..

Finish wFran1

It doesn’t get ANY better than that.

Ironman Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

As you may or may not know, Syracuse 70.3 was my first triathlon race after having open heart surgery in September 2015.

All along my recovery and training, I had stated that my goal was simply to get to the start line healthy and ready to race. I had
no race goals other than to finish.

The race turned out to be a fine example of “You get what you ask for”

When I signed up for the race, I was working a different job and Fran wasn’t working at all. Between sign up and race date, we both started working new jobs. I had planned to take off the Friday before and Monday after the race in order to have a more relaxed race experience, with the expectation that Fran would be along to help celebrate my return to racing.

Since Fran’s vacation hours are limited, we decided that she would stay home and cheer me on remotely. I drove up to Syracuse
on Friday. I checked into the hotel, zipped over to the venue to go through registration. Doing this on Friday afternoon meant no lines and I was in and out in no time.

Saturday my TeamNRGY teammates arrived and we made plans to meet for a quick bike & run. Jan Swenson and I did a quick bike, and found a beautiful paved trail along the Erie Canal for running. We thought this would be more fun than running around the office park near our hotel, so we rode back to the hotel, picked up Fran Caggiano-Swenson and drove back to the trail. Fran had a 40 min run, where Jan & I had much shorter runs to do, so we let Fran take off while we finished our runs. Afterwards, Jan & I explored a bit more of the trail network, and the found Fran finishing up her run.

Afterwards, Jan needed to register, so they went over to the venue. I prepped my bike for check in and headed over to transition shortly afterwards. I also prepped for a quick swim to check conditions at the lake. Everything went smoothly, check in was simple and fast, there were changing rooms at the lake and I was able to get everything sorted out and done. I always like talking to people at the venue the day before a race. Everyone is excited and nervous, but really happy to be there.

Afterwards, Jan & Fran and I met up for dinner at a local restaurant. Great food with great company always makes for a nice way to get ready for race day. (Thanks again Jan!).

Race morning – Alarm went off at 3:30am. As usual, I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, but I still felt rested and ready to rock. Coffee & food, then grabbed my gear and headed out the door.

I like to get to the race venue as early as possible so I can get parked, get transition setup and do my transition reconnaissance. I will walk from the swim exit to T1, plan my route from T1 entrance to my bike to bike-out exit, then plan bike-in to T2, and the run out. Syracuse 70.3 has a great transition area that is easy to navigate so route planning is pretty straightforward.

The day was going to be hot and sunny, so after body marking I got fully covered in sunscreen and put on my wetsuit. It was pretty chilly race morning, and I had forgotten my sweatshirt at the hotel. So getting in the wetsuit was something of a relief.

I met up with Jan & Fran, and found Mark Silverstein who was also racing. We got all our requisite pictures and selfies and tried to relax before the gun went off to start the races. Syracuse is a wave start race. Jan was in an early wave, I was in wave 7 and Mark was in wave 8.

Swim: 34min. Not much to say. Simple out & back 1.2 swim. A bit muddy at first, with some weeds to deal with, but nothing really difficult. I didn’t start feeling good about the swim until after the first 1000 yards. I just didn’t seem to be able to get into any rhythm. So I slowed down, focused on my breathing and tried to relax and let the race come to me. Pretty soon I was catching swimmers from earlier waves and I knew I was moving along better.

T1: 7:41 – pretty slow. There is a long run between the beach and T1, over bare asphalt. I have wussy feet and hate stepping on sharp rocks, so I walked to transition area. I made sure to apply MORE sunscreen and wasn’t in any real hurry through T1.

Bike: 3:58:24/14.09mph avg. The Syracuse bike course is seriously challenging. Coming out of T1, the first 2 miles are descending, but then it starts to climb steadily with no real breaks over the next 11 miles. I wasn’t even close to warmed up when the climbing hit, and sustained climbing has been a challenge for me, post surgery. All I could do was focus on keeping my HR as low as possible, sit in an easy gear and spin. It seemed that EVERYONE was passing me on this climb.

Through mile 42, the course is flat to rolling, with lots of opportunities to get aero and pick up some speed. Again, I was keeping HR in check. It took a long time to get it back down into a high Z1 range due to all the initial climbing. I knew the run was going to be hot, so I wanted to save as much as possible for the run leg.

Early in the bike, my gut started to rebel. Although I was using products that had worked really well through my training and I was staying on target for eating/drinking the heat was starting to get to me. I started getting nauseous and bloated. I knew my only hope was to keep pouring down water in the hope that my gut would settle out. Unfortunately that never happened.

At about mile 42 the course drops sharply, and right into another very steep, but short climb. About 1/2 way up the climb I mentally shut down and stopped riding. I thought if I could gag up the bloat I would feel better, but couldn’t make myself do it. I took a couple of minutes to refocus, clipped back in an started riding. I realized that I was not going to have a spectacular day, and was going to have to just push through to complete the event.

T2: 5:02. Again with the sunscreen, shoes, hat, blue cooling towel, and off I went.

Run: 3:42:42, 17:04/mile – Worst. Run. Ever. My plan was to do a run/walk using my Garmin timer function. Unfortunately I discovered that I can’t start that function while I’m in “Triathlon” mode. I spent a lot of time walking out of T1 and through the 1st part of the course futzing with my watch before giving up.

The first part of the course is across grass, winding around a grassy parking area, with a couple of off-camber segments. As much as I tried to run, my HR would jump up uncomfortably at the most minor climb and I’d back off. After about a mile or so of this, I mentally shut off and started walking. After another mile or so, my feet started blistering and I knew any chance of running effectively was done. I was power-walking well, keeping myself under 15:00 pace until I got to the first major climb. This sucker was a no-shit wall, about a 5.5% average grade and close to a full mile long. My HR soared, my pace slowed and my mental game left the field.

Full on survival-slog-death-march-mode engaged.

After that it was simply a matter of #relentlessforwardprogress, while doing the mental math to figure out if I would make the race cutoff. The heat continued to build, topping 90F. I was downing icewater at every aid station, and soaking my head and my cooling towel. I never felt over heated or dehydrated, until the last couple of miles of the race.

I was in a pretty dark place at this point. While I never really considered quitting the race, I had really questioned the wisdom of trying to do this again after surgery. I also had some very hard conversations with myself about my training and what went wrong to bring me to walking an entire 1/2 marathon.

About 11.5 miles into the run, I looked up to see a racer in discussion with a race official on a bike and a medical official on an ATV. I could hear the discussion as the racer was asking for a ride back to transition and was dropping out of the race. The driver of the ATV said she would come back to get him, but needed to pick someone else up further back in the race. She took off and almost immediately afterward, the racer collapsed onto the ground. I jogged/limped up to the scene and heard the race official on the bike call for immediate medical assistance. At this point the racer was only semi-coherent, but in serious pain from cramps in his calves. I started to help massage out his calves, and I could see many of the muscles twitching uncontrollably. After a couple minutes of pressure to release the cramps they relaxed and the guy was trying to stand up. We had to keep him down and had to explain that he had passed out. He was a bit confused, but finally realized what happened and stayed on the ground. I draped my blue towel across his chest and told him to lie still. Pretty quickly additional race volunteers showed up and took over the scene. I told him to keep the cooling towel and headed on my way. Within a minute or so two ATVs came down the hill to attend to him, and shortly after I saw one headed back to transition with the racer sitting up, blue towel over his head in the back. He gave me a big smile and thumbs up.

Finish: I managed to limp into the finish about 30 minutes inside the cut off. 8:28:58 finish time. Worst performance ever. 3:06 off my PR for the 1/2…

At the finish I took my medal, got my cap and finisher picture and tried to just be happy in the moment. That didn’t last as I immediately began to focus on how I was going to finish inside the cutoff at IMLP in just 5 weeks. The athletes food left at the finish wasn’t particularly appealing, there weren’t very many chairs to sit on, and I knew I still had to walk a couple of miles to gather my gear at one end of the race, and schlep it all back to the other end where I was parked. In the finishers tent, I told Jan and Fran that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t start IMLP as I couldn’t see any way I would be able to finish inside the cut off. I was pretty depressed.

Got back to the room and saw all the congratulations and cheers from Facebook friends, and TeamNRGY emails. While I appreciated every one of them, I still felt really bad about the race and upcoming plans for IMLP and IMAC later in the year. After a couple of hours of stewing in my negative thoughts, I finally got hungry and went out on my own for some food. I begged off going out with Jan and Fran as I knew I’d be pretty sullen and withdrawn. I needed more time to process what had happened.

Follow up:
My feet were pretty well shredded with blisters from the walking. I’ve worn the same shoe & sock sets in other events and had no problems, but it seems that the stride difference between walking and running caused massive problems. I managed to drive home the following day without any major issues. Once I got home I began to rationally contemplate what happened. Lessons learned:

Training: I spent a lot of time working on my bike riding, since I knew the IMLP course is unforgiving. I did so at the expense of a substantial amount of run training. I won’t go into the details, since the numbers are really embarrassing, but suffice it to say that my lack of run training, more than anything else, was the cause of the meltdown on the run course at Syracuse. You get the race you train for.

Mental Game: I’ve spent a lot of time in the past getting myself mentally prepared for a race, using various visualization techniques. This year, I think I talked myself out of a better result, simply by focusing on my post OHS-emotional and mental recovery and not enough on race preparation and execution. You get the race you prepare for. Also, I think I mentally talked myself out of a workable run-walk strategy at Syracuse. The heat was bad, but not so much that I couldn’t have executed some amount of run walk within the HR zones I planned.

Next up: I’ve adjusted my training plans for the next 5 weeks to give me the BEST opportunity to finish IMLP within the 17hr limit. All I can do is execute against the plan, line up on July 24th, and give it the best shot I can. As much as any endurance race is a mental challenge, IMLP2016, and weeks leading up to it will be entirely about digging deeply inside myself, and pulling out the best I have.

Coda: On Tuesday, I reached out to the race director to pass on my contact info to the racer who collapsed on the course. Since I didn’t see him in the medical tent, I was worried that something serious had occurred. On Tuesday evening I got a phone call from the athlete who collapsed on the course. He left a wonderful voice mail message and I was able to call him back and chat for bit. He was most grateful for the help that I gave him, and is now a raving fan of the blue cooling towel, which I told him to keep as a race-memento. After our conversation, I figured that maybe there was a different reason I was at the back end of the race, struggling to finish. That realization brought a big smile and a renewed passion to go after IMLP.

Where did the time go?

I knew that I hadn’t posted updates in a while, but I didn’t think it was two months, so here is the summary for Jan & Feb


I’m a bit surprised that the bike volume was about the same for both Jan & Feb, since I rode the Tour of Sufferlandria in early Feb, and I figured that would have bumped up my bike volume a bit more.  But ToS was a great block of bike training.  Hard efforts and some really tough days mentally, but I got them all done.  I tried to carry the training through the following weeks, but fell apart last week after the 60 miler for the Sourlands Semi Classic.  I was tired, flat and truly suffered the last 15 miles of that tough ride.  I took four full days off and got back to an easy TRX class this past Friday, then a solid 38 mile ride on Saturday.  I definitely needed a break.

This coming month will be tough with a full 6 day trip to Orlando for SANS pen-test training, leaving me little time for IM training.  I’m thinking that 30-45 min bike or run each morning and 30-45 min bike or run each evening should keep my volume where it needs to be.  I think that the hotel has a decent fitness center, so time and energy management will be my biggest challenge.  That and diet. I struggle with eating well on the road.

Speaking of diet, I’ve been slipping back into some bad habits again, so I do need to get back on the ‘eat cleaner’ bandwagon.  Sugar and sweet treats are my kryptonite.

Strength training has been going pretty well, but I’m stagnating a bit.  I need to come up with a new routine that I can fit into 30-40 min after TRX class, or find a different set of classes.

March through mid-April will need to include a big run block.  First big event is the Rutgers 1/2 marathon.  No way I’m going to be ready to even start that sucker unless I get back to regular running.  Tula will be quite happy about that.  She loves running with her daddy…

Speaking of which, looks like it’s time to get out and run…  Till next time…

Training & Recovery 7-27 December

13 Dec 2015-12-27_21-01-29

Week ending 13 Dec

20 Dec 2015-12-27_21-02-22

Week ending 20 December

27 Dec 2015-12-27_21-03-06

Week ending 27 December

Wow, three weeks behind with the updates.  I suppose I can blame the holidays, a heavy workload or just being lazy.  Probably some of all three.

Recovery and training progresses well.  I’m hooked up with some great friends around the country in a virtual “support network” to keep us all motivated and training hard through the holidays.  It has really helped me a lot as there have been any number of days these past weeks where I just didn’t want to train.  But the thought of having to explain why I slacked off to this group was just the extra oomph I needed to get back on the bike trainer, or off to the pool, or out the door in the very early morning to the gym.

Over the last week, I’ve really begun to feel normal again.  Friday was 14 weeks out and I had a great 5k run that had me match my Turkey Trot race pace, but at 15bpm lower heart rate.  That was a huge metric for me.  The next day I rode a 26ish bike loop, at a relatively casual HR and felt totally solid, including the long climb up Allen Rd at the end of the ride.  Another huge mental boost for me.

I’m swimming with a great Masters group on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and am about to jump into a much faster lane at the beginning of the year.  I’m currently leading my lane (1:50 pace lane) and am coming in well ahead of the listed pace.  So I’m being encouraged to move up, and will do so in two weeks.

January starts the bike segment of the USAT challenge and I’m going to switch into HIIT mode with TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest.  I’ll start with an FTP test on Saturday (2 Jan) and then try to hit 2 HIIT workouts and a long bike each week.  The week of 3-8 Jan I’ll have to figure out some way of training while I’m on the road for work.

Also starting January I’m going to switch out TRX classes for free weights, starting up with my normal winter program again.

Next week is supposed to be another short work week, but I know that I’ll be working a lot to get ready for the onsite stuff the following week.  Staying motivated and consistently training is going to be hard, but there are lot of people supporting me and pushing me forward.  It’s nice to have friends to which I’m accountable and can give me the encouragement (and large quantities of good-natured ribbing) that keep me recovering.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Again, and again, and again:  Consistency is key.  Something is better than nothing, and it ALL adds up.
  2. Tracking my metrics (HR, pace, power etc) has been really important to keep myself mentally sharp and not get too depressed about ‘where I was before’.  The big gains I’ve earned since surgery are clearly evident.
  3. Diet needs to improve.  The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to the diet that furthers my training.  Food is fuel.

Training & Recovery 30 November – 6 December


The “off-season” is often a time to set up challenges, streaks or other gimmicks to keep training going.  I’m as guilty as the next person of really slacking off in the cold winter months, so I certainly understand the appeal of the challenge.  In discussions with other friends the subject came up about “junk miles” during these challenges. “Junk Miles” being a catch all for simply going out and swimming/biking/running or just “working out” simply to keep the streak going.  I think there is some merit to that for elite or even top-tier challengers.  But on the other hand for the 90% of us that participate in endurance sports for health, fitness and fun, the winter streak or challenge can be a good way to stay off the couch.

I usually participate in the USAT National Challenge each year, and this year I’m leading the Somerset County YMCA Multisport Club program.  Doing so makes my effort extra visible, so I’m going to try and stay on track, AND lead a number of workouts during the challenge.  I can’t keep up with a lot of the members (yet), but I can do bike trainer workouts or swim sessions and not have to chase people all day.

In the past, I’ve often just used these challenges to log “base miles” but it appears there is some science that says ‘base mileage’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be, especially for the time constrained amateur athlete.  So I’m going into each workout with a specific plan in order to improve a particular aspect of my fitness.  My swims are going to focus on form, specifically maintaining good form during very hard efforts.  On the bike, it’s seated hill climbing and regaining raw power.  On the run, it’s simply getting back to actually “running” instead of walking or walk-runs.

All of that is a very longwinded way of explaining this weeks workouts.  The USAT Challenge has extra points for swims in December, bike workouts in January and running in February.  So this week I had three swims, two bikes and one run.  The swims went pretty well, with Mon/Wed spent leading my lane for masters swim sessions.  I’m able to snap off some 1:15ish 100s and am doing so without getting choppy.  Thursday morning’s bike ride was miserable, just not feeling it after about 45 min, but stuck it out for the full 1:15.  Saturday’s ride was the exact opposite, as I was able to hold a reasonable pace for the whole ride, and didn’t completely run out of gas.  I did the same route that I rode on Thanksgiving afternoon, and felt a whole lot better.  Sunday’s run was the high point.  I decided to do a true walk/run split, by 1/4 mile segments.  That knocked 11 minutes off the same 5.5 mile route I did last week, and I felt strong and solid the whole way around both loops.  The run gave me just an additional bit of encouragement that I am improving and that I can continue to get back to at least the paces that I had prior to OHS.

Also, Sunday marked the longest unbroken streak of workouts since OHS.  11 straight days.  I’m certainly feeling the cumulative effects, and will be doing additional rolling/compression and other recovery work to make sure I don’t end up injured.  I’m going to press on through next week w/out a break to see how the body reacts.

In the coming weeks I’ll be doing the Tour of Sufferlandria again in January, and ramping up mileage & intensity for the 10k NJ Trail Series run in February.

It’s going to be a great winter.

Training & Recovery 23-29 November


It didn’t feel like 6 hours of training, but there it is…  Mon & Wed I missed BOTH swims.  Mon I turned off the alarm vs hitting the snooze button (Doh!) and overslept.  Wed I got to the pool only to realize that I had forgotten my swim gear at home.  (Doh!).

But I had a good 5k running with a friend at the Morristown Turkey Trot, clocking a 38:15, over 3min faster than the Swamp Devil 5k and a tad over 12:00 per mile.  Slow, but a nice improvement over two weeks.  I suffered a bit on the bike ride later in the afternoon, but it was good to get out for a bit.  I think I went out way to hard on the bike, trying to keep up with Hootus, and that lead to suffering at the end of the ride.

The long “run” on Friday was my standard two-loops of Natirar with Tula.  I wasn’t feeling it when I started so I just planned to keep HR in ZR/low-Z1 and ignore pace.  I was surprised when I was having trouble getting HR into Z1 after a mile at under 15:00.  I decided to push up the two hills each loop which did get my HR into upper Z1, but it never felt really hard.  I was pretty happy with the pace results at the end of the walk and physically felt awesome; like I could have gone a bit longer.  I think I’m about a week or two away from actually RUNNING during my shorter runs, or a true run/walk approach to my long runs.  I’m also seeing HR drop pretty quickly after harder efforts, which is always a nice sign of improving fitness.

TRX classes are also starting to pay off.  I’m feeling stronger in my core, arms and legs, and the exercises are getting to be a bit easier to complete without surgical area discomfort (core, chest).  HR is a bit lower during the workouts as well.  A couple more weeks like this and I’ll be adding progressions to the moves.  Yay..

Monday starts two big challenges.  First, Fran starts at The Max Challenge, and I’m going to join her in the diet portion.  I need to really clean up my diet, and want to support her, so this is an excellent time to do so.  Second, the annual USAT Challenge starts up with a month of swimming in December.  I’m going to use the swimming in December to pile on a lot of base HR (ZR-Z1) training without a lot of joint stress on my body.  I’ll probably swim 3-4 days a week, Mon-Wed with the masters group at the Y, and Friday evenings and (possibly) Sunday afternoons.  I’m also going to throw in two 30 min base ‘walk/runs’ on the treadmill after TRX classes on Tues/Fri mornings.  The rest of the week I’ll do some easy bike rides to spin out my legs and maybe one longer bike ride on the trainer or outside depending on the weather.

Total workout times will likely stay in the 8-10 hour range.  I’m hoping that workload at my job continues at the same pace so I can keep up with this workout/recovery program.  So far it seems to be working.

Training & Recovery 16-22 November


Not a great week.  Was pretty tired on Thursday, so made it a rest day, and never really got motivated to do anything sunday.  Still got some solid work done.  Two great swims and two great TRX sessions.  TRX is getting better as I’m able to do more with less soreness or HR spikes.  The Turkey Ride on Saturday with Cyclecraft was a TON of fun.  Beautiful skies, lots of people and got to ride with great friends.

Maybe the week was better than I thought

On the recovery note, the cardiologist took me off my last med (enalapril) so my BP is rising a bit, but I’m no longer dizzy when standing up.  I’m going to continue to monitor BP closely and we’ll see where it stabilizes.

Going into a busy holiday week is always hard on my training schedule, but I’m looking forward to being with family and friends and ESPECIALLY a short work week.


Training & Recovery 9-15 November


Back to a full week of training.  Had a disappointing ride on Wednesday, just could not keep moving for the full 90 minutes I planned.  Simply ran out of gas.  But the week got better as I kept hitting the workouts.  Thursday I hit Masters swim and found my mojo again.  It was hard, and I was whipped at the end, but it was a complete, solid workout.  Saturday I experimented with my BP meds, and had a better bike workout, doing the full 90 min while watching the Ironman World Championship on TV.  It was a great ride, and a very emotional experiences.  I so love this sport, and as Sean Astin put it “I love identifying as an Ironman athlete, it’s badass”  Just writing those words makes me smile.

Sunday I ran my first post-OHS race at the Swamp Devil 5k.  I felt good and the weather was fantastic.  I started off at 11min pace, but that quickly started to slip.  I ended up power-walking the last mile simply to keep my HR under 150.  I finished in just under 42 min, which is a bit less than twice my 5k PR.  I felt bad about being so far behind my past level of run fitness, and was questioning whether I’ll ever get back to where I was before.  But I have control over my training and diet, so I’ll do what I can to hit all my goals in those areas and see what happens.

Lessons learned:

  • I have a great support network.  It was wonderful to have a bunch of friends waiting for me at the 5k finish line to cheer me in.
  • I’m really grateful for the new Masters swim sessions.  They are going to kick my ass each and every session, which will help my overall cardio fitness.
  • You can never be too well informed about your health.  I’m learning a lot about my medications and potential impact on my training and fitness.

Training & Recovery 2-8 Nov


Short entry for a recovery week.  I was feeling a bit run down by Friday, and decided to make this week a lighter, recovery week and focus on swimming and TRX.  Well, the best laid plans often go awry.  I over extended myself on Tuesday’s TRX session (though I really thought I was going easy) and I could barely get out of bed Wed morning from DOMS.  I tend to forget how fast muscle strength drops off at my age.  So Wed/Thu/Fri were simply off days.  I probably didn’t need all three days to recover, so I picked it back up on Saturday with a 90 min bike ride and Sunday with a 90 min hike.  The bike ride sucked from the outset.  Very low pace, struggling with low BP sensations, and complete lack of power on any incline.  Sunday’s hike was better, but still pretty weak on the hills.  As HR increases, I tend to get dizzy, similar to how I feel if I stand up too fast.  I’m almost positive it’s the BP meds.  I think it’s time to meet with the cardiologist again and discuss my meds.

Lessons learned:

  • A solid reminder that we don’t get stronger from the workouts, we get stronger from the recovery.  Train Hard, Recover Harder.
  • Stretching and movement are VERY important after strength training sessions.  Keep the DOMS monster at bay.
  • A well planned recovery week isn’t a failure!  It sets you up for achieving more in the following weeks.

Training & Recovery 26 Oct -1 Nov


Another solid week of recovery & training.  Two post-OHS firsts this week:  First swim in the YMCA pool (Wednesday), first outdoor bike ride (Saturday).

I was a nervous about the swim on Wednesday.  There is a new Masters group forming at the YMCA and I new there would be a lot of people there I knew.  I also knew I was in no shape to participate with the group.  I was also oddly self conscious about my scar.  It’s healed up nicely without any keloids, but it’s VERY visible, and I knew I was going to get a lot of stares.  I just decided to own the scar and the story and head into the pool.  I had a nice chat with Coach Ed, and said “hello” to the swimmers I knew, before I headed into the warmer pool for an easy workout.  I figured I’d just swim 100s until I felt out of breath.  I managed to knock off 1200 yards in about 26 minutes, doing the 100s on the 2:00-2:10, and coming in at 1:35-1:38.  I probably could have pushed to 1500, but just decided to call it a success while I still felt really good. I felt totally comfortable in the water, flip turns and all, and the surprising pace just goes to show how good form goes a VERY long way in maintaining swim speed.

Saturday was going to be a really nice day in the afternoon, and I wanted to get back outside on the new bike.  Again, I was nervous since my trainer rides have been so slow.  I had planned to ride out through the condo development and just do loops in the bike lane, but my ego got the better of me and I headed into the swamp to ride the brandy-new pavement on Whitebridge Rd. That also had the advantage of being a very flat out and bike ride.  I didn’t have a goal other than to be out for about an hour.  I felt really good and finished the hour with around 14 miles. At one point I’m clicking along in a solid Z1 pace at  around 15mph.  I did fatigue pretty quickly, and pace dropped off after about 45 minutes, but it felt really good to cruise on the bike again.  Especially on brand new pavement.  Like buttah!

Walking/running has been the hardest to come back.  I’m pushing my walking pace, and can now hold sub 17s for 2.5 hrs, and sub-16s for 5 miles.  I did do a very little running on two of the 5 mile walks, running for the 1st minute of miles 2, 3, 4 and 5.  HR went all the way up to 157 on one of the runs, but each time my HR came back down pretty quickly once I returned to walking.

That makes for three solid weeks of training.  As I type this on Sunday night, I’m feeling a bit of fatigue, but nothing beyond what I’d usually feel after 8hrs of training this week.  Resting HR and BP are good.  Legs are just a bit tired from today’s long walk (9 miles, 2:22).  I’m debating taking a recovery week next week, dropping training to around 5 hours.  On the other hand, I do want to get more swimming, and try TRX sessions, as well as more outdoor biking.  I think I should be able to put something together that gets the job done.

As for physical recovery, I don’t have much discomfort in my chest any longer, but have an annoying ‘click’ like sensation, mostly when lying on my back.  I can’t seem to recreate it on demand reliably, and it doesn’t seem to come from my breastbone.  I’ve had it for as long as I can remember post OHS.  It’s not getting worse, but doesn’t seem to be getting any better either.  It’s something that I’ll have to monitor and if it changes, ask Dr. Dixon about it.  It’s just annoying as hell.

What is really funny (to me) is these past three weeks are the MOST consistent training block I’ve had all year.

Lessons Learned:

(1) Don’t forget the lessons you’ve already learned so far.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  You own your reaction to any situation, and NEVER let an emotional situation derail your training.  Your training is building your emotional maturity by serving as an outlet for your frustration.

(2) Consistency is king.  This is rule #1

(3) Patience is queen.  This is rule #2