Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Wait is Over!

In one hour the wait will finally be over! For the first time in nearly a month I'll put on the bike shorts and climb on the bike to kickoff the 2011 season with a session of "Midnight Madness". I've been excited for this ride for 2 months when I decided my start to the 2011 season would be on November 1st. This past Wednesday I hit the 6 month mark of surgery on my achilles tendon. It was so much longer than I or the surgeon ever predicted. My recent rehab with physical therapist Dan White has gone extremely well and I believe I am ready to begin training for the 2011 season. I will be at 17 workouts this week...6 runs, 5 rides, 3 swims, and 3 times weight lifting. I will also fit in all the small things like core work, plyometrics, lunges, push-ups, running drills...etc. Although I still wake up with some stiffness every morning in my tendon the progress I have made through Dan's running build-up over the past 10 weeks has me knowing I'm ready to begin this long journey. It will be a 6 month and 7 day lead-up to Ironman St. George. I am ready to flip the switch to training and healthy eating to help me get to my peak race weight. I know the importance of preparation. Although St. George feels like forever away it is important to me to use every day to get a little bit better. Some days that means I'll let my legs and lungs burn like hell. Some days that will mean to train easy so I can recover for the next hard efforts. Redeveloping the mindset that I can compete with anyone is one of my top goals for the year. That will come with the inceases in fitness that I make on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I have a quote on my workout book from Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander that states "So much of the fun in this sport is the process of getting the body in great shape." That's the truth. I love the super hero feeling of being in amazing shape. That process will begin in less than an hour. I hope you'll enjoy following the journey and that it may inspire you to believe in something you never thought was possible. I've long ago begun to dream of a podium finish in St. George. I hope you'll dream big goals for yourself and if following this blog can help I'll be thrilled.

I'm super excited to begin training knowing I have lots of great supporters who have stayed by my side with patience through the frustrations of the 2010 season. Laurel Darren, who I got another awesome massage from on Friday will help so much with my recovery. Bruce Grell, owner of Healthy Habits is still helping me take care of everything I need on the bike leg, Dr. Bob Kaminski from Kaminski Pain and Performance Care continues to be a huge believer in my abilities and provides me with ART to keep my body ready for the training volume, Kiwami Triathlon Wear who made the jersey I'm still looking forward to wearing through my 1st professional race, and of course GU Energy is simply the best at keeping me fueled for long workouts. GU has released a new flavor of Chomps...Watermelon! They are absolutely fantastic. I have to hide them from Jen and Payton because they both think they are the most delicious "fruit snacks" in the house. Lastly, but certainly most important is my family. Jen is super supportive of this journey and it wouldn't be possible without her. There are some long training days and nights that just wouldn't be possible without her having the same vision for success that I have. I love you guys and hope to inspire Payton and Owen to DREAM BIG as they watch daddy get in the best shape of his life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

A couple weeks ago I began reading a book called Racing Weight which is written by fitness guru Matt Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has written a number of books on training for triathlons. He put a lot of research into a book that is quickly becoming known as one of the best on the topics of the importance of being lean in order to compete at peak performance in endurance sports. Each week during a mid-week post I plan to write some of the most interesting and important points I get from this book related to triathlon race weight. The book is written for any endurance athlete.
This is a topic I knew I needed to be reading about as I begin training for the 2011 season. It is possibly the number one factor in how fit I get. Before my injury I weighed in at 153 lbs. That was 10 lbs. lighter than when I earned my professional license. I could tell a huge difference by being just 10 lbs. lighter. Some of the things I've memory...since I left the book at school are...
1. The difference between weighing 160 lbs. and 150 lbs. is about 6.5% effort in running. I know this. I have felt the difference. I'm currently about 172 lbs. and I can tell how much more difficult running is at any pace than it was when I weighed 153.
2. The body has a crazy way of knowing when you are getting ready for a big race. It wants to help you get to peak race weight and it will happen naturally if you are training hard and eating healthy. There is no diet pill in the world that will help more than training hard and eating healthy.
3. It is very normal to gain weight in the off-season. This should be expected due to the change in training and the message the body gets that a peak race is nowhere on the radar. Fitzgerald recommends gaining no more than 8% of body weight during the offseason which I have exceeded by about 3%. Not good...I have lots of work to do. The good thing is I have many months ahead of me to do this.
4. Peak racing weight should include considerations of both body weight and body fat percentage.
5. Peak racing weight will yield the greatest benefits in running, next in cycling (especially on hilly courses) and finally in swimming.
6. Adding lean muscle will help to lower body fat % (another benefit to strength training) because muscle will burn many more calories at rest than fat will. I believe it was something like 1 lb. of mucle burns 50 calories each day while 1 lb. of fat burns about 2 calories each day.

I'll remember the book for next week's notes but hopefully you are able to learn something from these posts. Train smart...DREAM BIG!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Website Address and Updates

I can hardly wait to begin training for the 2011 season one week from tomorrow. It's been nearly 1 month since I've been in the pool or on the bike. The time away from those have me more excited than ever to get going. I'll kick things off with Midnight Madness next Monday morning at 12:00 midnight with a ride on the bike trainer. In my time off I've been running about 35 miles a week the past 3 weeks and lifting weights two times a week.
My brother Jason was in a terrible car accident last time I posted. I'm thrilled to say that he is home from the hospital and his attitude is incredible. I spoke to him yesterday and he said he is learning to do many things with 1 arm that most of us take for granted...things like putting shoes and socks on, buttoning pants...etc. Jason told me he asked the doctor when he can go to the pool to start swimming and they said probably this week. I know he's excited to begin working out again and I think he'll really surprise himself by how much he can still do. I hope to be able to get in the pool with him when he's in town for Thanksgiving.

I was recently frustrated to find out that my old website address had expired and someone in Russia had purchased it. After lots of phone calls I found out that the renewal information had gone into my spam inbox of my e-mail which I didn't even know existed. After the web address expired it was put up for sale and someone in Russia purchased it. She has been kind enough to link an old copy of my blog to that address but it is not updated. If you know anyone who may be interested in reading about this journey please tell them the address has changed to The only difference is .net instead of .com
On Friday our school staff ran a mile on our new track. It is one way we are hoping to motivate kids to work hard. They will see what we ran and it will give them times to shoot for. I was really excited to see nearly every staff member participating in the voluntary mile. I was excited as it was the first time running since my surgery that I would be going as hard as I could over any distance. I made sure to get a good warm up in which probably looked silly but I did not want to run an all out mile on my achilles without being properly warmed up. I hoped to be able to run under 5:00 but I know my fitness is bad right now and I thought I would be around 5:08. I ran the first lap in 71 which I thought was maybe a bit too fast. My 2nd lap was 74 so I hit the 1/2 way point at 2:25 (4:50 pace). My next 400 was 75 even though I thought I was pushing hard since I know the 3rd quarter of any race is always the toughest. I had more left than I thought as I finished my last lap in 70 for a finish time of 4:50. It was a good confidence booster for me mostly because my achilles didn't hurt a bit before or afterwards and I also ran much faster than expected. I also know that is not a time I'd be happy with 2 months from now so I have lots of work cut out for me over the next weeks as I begin training in hopes of making the podium at Ironman St. George on May 7.

On Sunday Jen and I took the kids to a local race called the Pumpkin Dash. The race offered two different distances, a 4k or an 8k (2.5 and 5 miles respectively). I chose the 4k knowing I'm not at all ready for an all out 8k yet. Jen is in great shape and took on the 8k. I was hoping to be able to run 5:25 pace but realized early in the race I wasn't going to be able to do that just 2 days after running the mile hard. I was still a bit sore and I'm not in shape to recover that quickly right now. I went through the mile in 5:23 but I was already hurting. I hit the 2 mile mark at 11:00 and made it to the finish in 13:38 (right about 5:30 pace). Jen was awesome. She went through the half way point in 14:45 which was way under her best 5 mile pace. She was running with one other girl at the time. Jen pulled away over the 2nd half of the race and finished in a time of 29:35 which was almost a minute personal best for her over 5 miles. I continue to be super impressed and proud of how well she is running while maintaining her busy work schedule and being Super Mom.
I'm in the process of reading the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald and I am learning a lot about how much of a difference weight makes in endurance sports. It is something I've always struggled with coming from a family with a history of obesity. I'm 20 lbs. heavy right now and I know my running and biking times will drop considerably as I approach my racing weight in the low 150's like I was at before my surgery. I plan to do a mid-week post highlighting some of the most important things I've gotten from this book each week until I have it finished.

It's been a frustrating year for me dealing with this achilles injury and surgery that for the most part kept me from racing. I'm looking forward to beginning a new year next week and putting these frustrations behind me. I know it will be a long road but I'm as motivated as ever to begin. My pro license is a 2 year license and this is year 2. It's now or never for me in 2011. I've been thinking a lot about my season goals and I can't wait to begin working towards them. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In the blink of an eye...

Monday morning was perfect out. The temperatures were cool and there was not a trace of wind. Our junior high kids would be running the school mile on a brand new track. In all my classes I told them how perfect the conditions were for running. We've had a problem over the years of having many kids who "don't try" in the mile. For most it's a way to cope for not being the best. They think if they "don't try" they won't be criticized for not being the best. I reminded all my classes on Monday that running the mile was a personal challenge. It is something that they should all strive for improvement in through the course of the year. I told them, "If the best you can do is 12 minutes, run 12 minutes...if it's 6 minutes then run 6 minutes." I reminded them there are millions of people in this world who are not capable of running a mile due to physical disabilities. Those people would love to have the abilities of these students. Run the mile and do the best you can with what you have. You never know when you won't be able to do the things you take for granted.
On Monday night at about 8:30 I was in the shower when Jen answered the phone. I could tell something was very wrong. I turned the water off as Jen came in with a deep look of sadness and told me my oldest brother Jason had been in a serious car accident on his way home from work. Jason is a brother I have drawn deep inspiration from. A few years back he had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. He was obese and knew he needed to do something quick. He lost over 100 lbs. but a couple years ago those pounds started to creep back up on him. It was then that Jason turned to triathlon to live a healthier lifestyle. He competed in his first sprint distance triathlon 2 summers ago and did the Hy-Vee Triathlon as a relay with my wife Jen and his wife Deb. He vowed to do it alone the next year. This past year Jason has worked extremely hard. He did the same sprint triathlon that he did last year and dropped over 35 minutes!! He was working very hard and was ready to do the Olympic Distance triathlon in Des Moines last June. He called me afterwards and was really disappointed that due to weather it had been shortened to a sprint triathlon. He finished and it was his best race ever. What was more inspiring to me is that he finished with a tear in his meniscus that he had gotten through training in the months leading up to Hy-Vee. He put off going to the doctor because he was afraid they would tell him not to race. He did the race...because he could. I tailgaited with him at the Iowa game this past Saturday and Jason told me his knee was healed and he was excited to get back to training for next year's races. After getting the call my 2 other brothers and I drove to Des Moines to see him late last night. We got there after midnight and my parents prepared us for what we would see. Jason lost his left arm from the shoulder in the accident. He was heavily sedated and was on a ventilator. It was tough to see but miraculously he was alive and it appears he has no serious brain injury or spinal cord injuries. Today the doctors woke him up and I was able to see him and talk to him. He responded by trying to open his eyes. He was able to shake his head when I asked him questions and he could squeeze my hand and move his toes. I told him I expected to see him in a triathlon again some day and he shook his head in agreement. I told him how proud I was to be his brother and I could see the smile on his face. I left Des Moines this afternoon to return home to Jen and the kids. My mom said tonight they took him off the ventilator and took the tubes out of his mouth and he has been talking a little bit. He has a tremendous work ethic and has so much to look forward to. God has given him a second chance in life and I know he'll make the most of it. Jason reminds me of my late grandpa Lehman who showed me what toughness is all about. He showed me how a relentless work ethic can lead to success and I know Jason will make it through these challenges. Although he's got a tough battle ahead he has so much to look forward to. He will watch his kids grow up, see them graduate from high school, watch them get married...he will be an awesome grandfather to their children. He will still watch the cubs and hawkeyes and I wouldn't put it past him to do another triathlon. Whether he does or not I'll always be proud of him.
Back to Monday afternoon...I went out on my 8th period prep to run the mile with the kids during their gym class. They ran it in 2 sections. I said I would run whatever the fastest kid wanted to run. In the first section I ran with a good sized boy who said he wasn't going to try until I coaxed him into doing his best. He ran 6:18. He was really excited. I got back on the line to run with the 2nd section next and one of the kids said, "Why are you running it again?" I didn't even need to answer as a different kid gave the perfect response for me. He said, "Because he can." God has blessed me with so many gifts. I run, swim, and bike because I can. I know not to take that for granted and was reminded of this later in the day when I got the call about my brother. Jason didn't compete in triathlons to win. He did it to model good healthy fitness habits for his children. He did it "because he can." I will enter the 2011 season on November 1 and the day can't come soon enough. I will compete this year for my make him show him how much he has inspired me. I will compete with the best because I can. In the blink of an eye that gift may be taken away. I'll enjoy it while I have it. I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers for my brother. I love you Jason. I'm so glad to still have you in my life. DREAM BIG!