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Friday, July 20

A house of Iron (Part 2)

Physical conditioning for Ironman has been anything but parochial in manner. Similar to my methods of mental and nutritional training, it reflects a deep desire to pursue all things in life wholisticly.

Early on (Jan, Feb, Mar) I incorporated P90x and other such body weight activities for strength, Yoga or stretching for flexibility, and speed or hill training for cardiovascular capacity.  It has been important to me to not let any one activity dominate my physical conditioning which is why I would occasionally incorporate other activities such as soccer, basketball, ice skating, rock and ice climbing, hiking, and skiing.

The reason I posited such an approach to training was to avoid weak links in my conditioning in order to prevent injury allowing me to train in my core activities (swimming, cycling, and running) at a high level throughout the past six months.

I guess the big question would be: 'Did it pay off?'  Maybe.  I still had physical issues such as hip tightness and IT band stresses.  What I do know is that I'm very happy with where I'm at and how far I've come which is what will ultimately carry the most weight come Sunday morning.

The following is a collection of my Ironman training experience.

Total time since April 1st: 15.8 hours
Cumulative length: ~21 miles

Swimming is a matter of technique.  The first 10-15 minutes are tough; getting the breathing down, concentrating on stroke, body position, and glide, and getting over the fear that I'm drowning.  After that it's repetition and focus:  tuning out the gargling sounds of the water around my ears, avoiding the occasional inhale of water, and not letting my mind drift from my technique.

Piseco Lake, NY
Forging the sea
Total time since Jan 1st:  102 hours
Cumulative length:  ~2000 miles

In January I feared the cycling leg of Ironman because of its sheer length.  What I've learned is to stay calm in the saddle, avoid jostling from side to side, keep my upper body relaxed and shoulders extended.  All the while keeping a tight reign on feelings of pain and discomfort as these are signals that my form may be slipping and that a simple shift one way or the other can prevent the dominoes from falling.

The Fuel
The Vehicle
The scenery
The Journey - 115 miles in 6:25
Total time:  90 hours
Cumulative length:  ~677 miles

By far my favorite activity throughout training.  Running, for me, is like getting a good nights sleep or relaxing at your favorite place; it offers a sense of freedom from persistent thoughts and stresses culminating from life's responsibilities.  My mental health improves the minute my legs break into a run.

However, during a triathlon the run is definitely the wildcard.  The swim happens when your the freshest, the bike happens thereafter but you are able to drink and eat almost limitless as the jostling is minimal and therefore cramping is less likely.

The run is where it all begins to break down.  If you didn't drink enough on the bike be ready for a good round of stitches.  If you didn't eat enough don't count on getting much down running.  If you ate too much or the wrong thing, look out for a stomach fit to ache.  The list goes on.  I've never been good at roulette; Tinman and Syracuse 70.3 have taught me much and I will apply every bit of it.

Crisp morning
My favorite place, the trail
Racing with friends along the way:
My perspective on racing is that you get to challenge yourself while scrubbing shoulders with people who are out to have just as much fun as you.  It really is contagious and never stops to thrill me.  Here is a collection of events that helped tune my race day anxieties.

Seneca 7 - 1st place men's team
32 mile mountain adventure, Pemi Loop, NH
Tupper Lake Tinman - 42nd
Boilermaker 15k - 226th
On Sunday the 22nd of July 2012 I will put my efforts to the ultimate test.  It's clear to me now that the only way out of this beautiful house is through the pain...

 IM #1157

Wednesday, July 18

An Iron Foundation (Part 1)

Have you ever gotten the urge to challenge yourself beyond your wildest imagination? Have you ever thought to yourself “I could never do that,” after hearing how a person defied their individual limitations and accomplished something so huge it seemed inconceivable?

Throughout my brief personal history I have truely been galvanized by people who dare to achieve fascinating levels of athletic ability in the hopes to put themselves to the test.  Or as I like to perceive it, an adventure of the mind, body, and spirit.

This is exactly what brought me to my computer 12 months ago as I sat there clicking the ‘refresh’ button on the Ironman Lake Placid website. Knowing that this particular IM event sells out sometimes within minutes of opening, I was feeling rather anxious. Twelve noon struck and once again I clicked the refresh icon. Suddenly my screen began loading what looked like an application form. How could this be!? I sat there staring and trembling slightly as I wasn’t expecting such a result. I, deep down, wanted it to be sold out as I knew IM required a commitment of time, energy, and money that I had never encountered in my previous athletic endeavors.

An IM distance triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run (aka a marathon).  These distances might seem arbitrary, however, they were selected out of a competitive dispute in 1979 between three men over which sporting event in Hawaii was the most grueling, the Waikiki 2.4 mile rough water swim, the Around-Oahu bike race or the Honolulu Marathon.

Borne from this competition Ironman took form and has increased in popularity among the endurance community ever since.  Ironman has become a worthy athletic goal by which to test one’s physical and mental abilities.

Mentally I have been building up for this very moment, the decision.  To digress, in 2009 the biggest block, in my mind, was the marathon as I had never ran more than 10 miles at that time.  How does one deal with such a block? 

My approach was to register for a Marathon and make it my focus for the next four months.  

Rochester Marathon
To further my mental preparation I decided in 2010 to compete in the Tupper Lake Tinman half distance triathlon (1.2 Swim, 56 Bike, 13.1 Run).  

My brother and I in Tupper Lake
Keeping pace with my goal, throughout 2011 I ran the Wakely Dam Ultra (a 32.5 mile unaided trail run) and Ironman Syracuse 70.3.  

Wakely Dam Ultra
Syracuse 70.3
Each event brought me closer, mentally, to not only breaking down these barriers but also refining my training and nutrition approach.

Ironman training has not only proved to be a test of my physical abilities but of both my mental strength to endure the long training events and a test of my time management skills.  Squeezing 15-20 hours a week into an already tight schedule can be a daunting task. 

In a long distance triathlon such as Ironman there are really four components of the race: the swim, the bike, the run, and nutrition throughout the race. I placed a large focus on the nutrition portion both during and between training events. My diet drew from the philosophies contained within a book I read last fall, “The China Study.” The short of it is I have completed the last 6 months of training by eating a 90-95% vegan diet (ie. no meat or animal products) which was about 35-40% raw . TCS defines a diet consisting entirely of whole plant based foods. A typical day of eating would look like this:

-Breakfast: Oatmeal & a slice of bread with Avacado

Rolled oats, cashews, filberts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, raspberries, and blueberries
-Lunch: Homemade granola with dried or fresh fruit
-Dinner: Salad with a grain (rice, spelt, barley, etc) and a bean (black, pinto, kidney, etc)

Spinach with onions, hummus, grapes, honeydew, freekah, and balsamic
-Snacks: dried fruit, fresh fruit, trail mix, oatmeal, nut butter and bread     
Toast with avacado tomato and salt

-Other aspects: Plenty of vitamin D in the form of sunshine, .75 to 1 gallon of water daily, a shot of wheatgrass juice 3-4 times per week
Along with tracking my performance, diet, and training I have also been tracking such details as my Cholesterol, resting heart rate, weight, and happiness. 

            -Cholesterol - These results were rather profound.  My family has a genetic tendency to have high cholesterol and a predisposition for heart disease.  It’s a focus of mine, nutritionally, to avoid this undesirable heirloom that has been passed to me.

                        -December 2011:
Total – 213
Triglyceride – 59
HDL (good) – 74
LDL (bad) – 127
Ratio (Total/HDL) – 2.88
                        -June 2012:
                                    Total – 146
                                    Triglyceride – 56
                                    HDL – 76
                                    LDL – 59
                                    Ratio – 1.92

            -Heart Rate - I have always been fascinated to hear how low the resting heart rates of top performing athletes are.  Training your cardiovascular system, through aerobic activity, to operate at a lower heart rate helps the body to be more efficient in transferring oxygen and nutrients while conserving the necessary energy needed to perform at high intensity or for long amounts of time.
                        -January 2012:             50 Beats/Minute
                        -June 2012:                  45 BPM

            -Weight – A fear of mine was that I would be burning a ton of calories and not be able to sustain myself given the foods that I would be eating.  It turns out that we can glean every vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) that we can from meat and dairy (with an exception of B12) from plant based sources all the while being more bio-available upon consumption.  I made an effort to incorporate foods that contained amounts of each macronutrient as to not be deficient (avacados – fats; nuts – fats and protein; potatoes & fruit – carbs; & lots of fiberous plants).
-January 2012:             133.5 lbs
                        -June 2012:                  132 lbs

            -Happiness – This one is somewhat controversial.  How might one accurately track their happiness?  I guess the best answer is that if happiness is something that you are dedicated to perusing in your life then you will likely find a way.  For me, I qualified each day at the end of the day by giving it a rating (borrowed from Sammi J) and assigning each symbol a percentage:
J’ is 100%
                        ‘+’ is 75%
                        ‘=’ is 50%
                        ‘-‘ is 25%
                        ‘x’ is 0%

            Then at the end of the month I would average these values out into one number.  This gave me the results below.  I began to notice that such things as not exercising enough, exercising too much (low energy and little time for other things), eating poorly, not getting enough social time, improper balance of work and personal time all played a roll in predicting this score.  I drew from the book ‘Thrive’ in determining just what aspects of life influenced my happiness.  

-Jan 2012:                    57%
                        -Feb:                            74%
                        -Mar:                           61%
                        -Apr:                            78%
                        -May:                           69%
                        -June:                           88%

Happiness was an important aspect of training for me mostly because if I wasn’t in a good mood I was less likely to train or eat according to my plan.  Focusing on this helped me to be consistent and predict feelings and emotions which correlated almost directly to my training schedule.

The dedication I have placed on Ironman nutrition and mental preparation laid the foundation on which I was able to build a house consisting of three rooms: swimming, biking, and running.