Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 25 summary...the Hay is in the Barn!

As they say when the work is complete...the hay is in the barn. I am 2 weeks away from my first full Ironman in St. George, Utah and I am finished with the big blocks and big days of training until a couple weeks after the race when I'll begin the process once again for some big summer races. When I began training at midnight on November 1 the race on my mind was Ironman St. George. That has been the big focus of my preparation to the 2011 season. At that time I didn't know if my surgically repaired achilles tendon would hold up through the training I intended to do for this race. With 2 weeks to go I can say it passed every test I put it through. Before the 2011 season began I had a handful of people advise me to lower my training volume for this year in an attempt to stay healthy. Although that may have been the smart thing to do it just wasn't what I could get myself to do. I'm a risk taker. With goals as high as the ones I have set for myself the only way possible I know they can be reached is to train like test my body and mind more than I ever believed possible. Now, with just two weeks to go, the hard work is complete. This past week I ran 57 miles (6 days), biked 240 (5 days), and swam 10,000 yards (4 days). I used the extended weekend to get one last big block of training in before the race that should make me stronger as I back things down over the next 12 days. On Friday I swam 2,400 yards, biked 52 miles, and ran 13 miles which included 6x 1 mile repeats with a 2 minute rest. I began those at 1/2 Ironman pace (5:45) and cut down each one running the 6th in 5:14. On Saturday I swam 3,000 yards and then did a 60 mile bike ride in crazy ridiculous wind which I've gotten quite used to this spring. Sunday I drove to Clinton to get one last long run in with Adam Bohach. We went on the absolute hilliest route I could imagine in the QC area. It was 16.2 miles of constant ups and downs and we ran it in 1 hr. 36 minutes flat (just a tad under 6:00/mile pace). We then cooled down 1.3 miles really easy to get 17.5 for the run. It was a huge confidence booster to have that run on an extremely hilly course. I'm hoping to run right around 7:00/mile in St. George with a goal marathon time of 3:05 or under. I think that can happen if I ride smart and don't trash my legs. Later in the afternoon after watching the Payton run around the yard in her Easter Egg hunt I rode 83 miles in the best weather we've had all spring. I felt pretty good considering the run I had in the morning. That was my last long ride before the race as well. The next few days won't be a big back down in training but by the weekend I'll be in full-blown taper mode hoping to get my body ready for the best race of my life. On Thursday Payton got a package in the mail from GU Energy! It was a set of GU swim caps with a note from GU that told her to share with her dad. She was super excited and put all 3 caps on her head at the same time. I was able to get one away from her for this picture. Owen must have felt left out as he can be seen in the background reaching for mine. Luckily for Payton the Easter Bunny brought her some swimming goggles to go with the cap and we have her signed up to start swim lessons this summer! She'll definitely have the coolest swim cap of all the 3 year olds!!

I was really inspired last week by the video I found of a guy named Travis who has lost an incredible amount of weight in just over a year. What inspired me the most was that Travis set a goal that most would have deemed unachievable. He was definitely DREAMING BIG and it was something I'm sure he thought about every single day. Hearing stories of people who set goals most think are impossible...and then following through to meet them is something that really motivates me. It is my hope through keeping this blog that someone reads about my own journey...a guy who once weighed over 200 lbs...deciding one day he wanted to work relentlessly to see if he could become a professional triathlete...and then following through. I hope it inspires readers somewhere to set high goals for set out to achieve the impossible. For St. George I won the gamble of training like crazy...testing myself. I won't always win that gamble...but I wouldn't do anything differently. Injury will always be a possibility. This time it wasn't in the cards and it leaves me 100% confident going into this race that I'm more fit than I've ever been. Travis provided me with more inspiration this week when he posted a video of another guy who set out to achieve the unimaginable...check this one out. It's tough to stop someone who has a goal they think about every day. What is yours? I encourage you to set one...and then work towards it every day believing the impossible isn't! We live in a society that is short-sighted. What I mean by that is people tend to work towards goals that are in the near future but have a difficult time preparing for ones that are a long ways down the road. I saw this all the time when I coached high school athletes. They had no problem working hard the week of a big race...but tell them to work hard over the summer for a race that was 5 months away...they struggled. St. George seemed like an eternity away when I woke up at midnight on November 1st to get on my bike and begin this 2011 journey. It's a race that I have thought about every day since that night. Time has gone by much quicker than I could have imagined and by keeping that long term goal in my mind every day I know I'm ready for it. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Partnership...Russell Construction

Jen and I are thrilled to announce a partnership with Russell Construction for the 2011 season! Russell Construction has been providing quality contstruction to clients in the Quad Cities and 28 states throughout the United States since 1983. Russell CEO Jim Russell and his wife Michelle have been extremely active in the community not only through business but also through giving back. As a company Russell Construction encourages employees to be active in giving back to the community they serve. Jen and I are thrilled to begin a campaign for Russell Construction called "Live Uncommon". The idea behind "Live Uncommon" is to encourage people in the community to be actively involved in making our world a better place to live. Jen and I hope to inspire members of the community to live active, healthy lifestyles, while giving back through volunteer opportunities. We are both extremely busy individuals holding full-time jobs, parenting two awesome children, and volunteering at numerous community events. Despite the business of our lifestyles we are also very active individuals. Being pysically fit is a high priority for both of us and we aim to inspire others to believe that being pysically fit is not only possible with a busy schedule, but something that is very important, not only for ourselves, but also for the example it sets for the youth in our community. In 2011 we will "Live Uncommonly" and hope that you will do the same. This week was a recovery week of training. I ran 29 miles, biked 151, and swam 13,500 yards. My goal was to take care of the pulled glute muscle I suffered last Sunday while running hills with my brothers. It has gotten much better but still isn't quite 100%. Getting that glute to 100% will continue to be my goal as I get closer to Ironman St. George which is now less than 3 weeks away. I had a great day of training today with Adam Bohach. I ran 9 miles with him this morning before deciding to stop. My glute wasn't hurting but it was clear to me i wasn't yet 100% and I didn't want to risk further damage to it as our pace was nearly 6:00/mile. Adam finished the run with 11 more miles. After that we had a great swim workout split between the Fitness Center and Augustana College. We started at the Fitness Center in Bettendorf where I wanted to try out my new Xterra Vendetta wetsuit. The suit is amazing! We did 11x 100's on 1:25 and I started off with a 1:07. It didn't feel too hard but I began slowing down as I was getting quite warm in the wetsuit while swimming in a pool that is 84 degrees. Through the 11 I averaged about 1:13-1:14. Compare that to 2 weeks ago when I did 10 100's on the 1:30 with no wetsuit and averaged 1:23. It is safe to say I'm 10 sec./100 faster with the Vendetta on which is significantly faster. What I found with the Vendetta is that it's quite obvious from the moment I jumped in that I am extremly bouyant. I swam much higher in the water than without the wetsuit on. The suit has 5 mm of neoprene which helps but what sets this suit apart from others is that it has tiny air bubbles throughout the suit that make it more bouyant than any other suit on the planet. The wetsuit rule is 5 mm of neoprene but with the added air bubbles the suit is much more bouyant than any other suit with 5 mm. The other thing I noticed that separates the Vendetta from other top of the line suits is that the arms are composed of 6 separate pieces of material which make them more flexible than other top of the line suits. Having flexible arms in a wetsuit is a key to keeping the arms from tiring quickly. It fits great and if it didn't Xterra would allow me to send it back for a free exchange of a different size. See if any other companies out there will do that. The answer is no! If you decide to purchase an Xterra suit at enter discount code SA-JPaul and you will receive a nice discount.
Following our swim at the Fitness Center we drove over to the pool at Augustana College to meet with my swim coach Stacey Zapolski. Stacey coaches a youth clinic there on Sundays and worked with us for about 30 minutes on technique before the clinic began. After the clinic we went on a 66 mile bike ride from the house. Of course the first half was into the wind just before we made the turn we realized the wind had died down to almost nothing so we wouldn't have the free ride home we were expecting. With 3 weeks to go before Ironman St. George this next week will be my last really big week of training before beginning to back things down to rest up for the race. I won't do a full 2 week taper for this race since I tapered for Ironman San Juan but I will back things down for 10 days to ensure my legs are really rested for the Ironman. I'm really excited about this challenge. I keep emphasizing to myself that I need to be able to get off the bike with good run legs. It will be a challenge as the bike course is tremendously hilly but I feel the outdoor work I've gotten in the past 4 weeks has made a huge difference in my cycling compared to Ironman San Juan. The entire race will be televised on the internet at I hope to finish at around 5:55 p.m. central time which would be 9 hrs. 10 minutes. I'm hoping to improve on my San Juan race by placing in the top 1/2 of the pro field. I can't wait! This week I ran across this video that I found tremendously inspiring. It shows the importance of living active...being healthy. It shows there are no shortcuts to being healthy. I showed it to my class this week at school and told them there was no "magic" pill that can lead to weight loss. It takes hard work, smart nutritional decisions, and a belief that anything is possible. Enjoy. DREAM BIG!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 23 Training Summary

Only 4 weeks to go until Ironman St. George...I had a great week of preparing myself for the race. My biggest focus since San Juan has been to get outside on the bike and the weather has been cooperating nicely for me. For the week I ran 53 miles, biked 230, and swam 7,000 yards. I also lifted weights twice this week and did speed drills, strides, lunges, and jumped rope. As stated however my biggest emphasis has been on the bike. Tuesday I rode up Wilkes Hill in Davenport 12 times and felt stronger than ever on the hill. I feel stronger each time I'm on this hill early in the year. It's crazy how one week to the next can make such a difference. Wednesday was my favorite group ride ever! There were at least 60 riders who showed up for this one and there were some great riders in the group. I knew it was going to be a fast ride. About 10 miles in the pace got going really hot. I stayed up front taking turns with about 12 guys leading the way through the paceline. After we came to a halt at about mile 15 I decided to work on some triathlon specific riding and stay 10 meters behind the last guy...the legal draft distance in the pro races. I noticed within a couple miles that the leaders were really starting to push the pace and the peloton was getting shelled. I kept moving up to pass the guys who were falling off. We were going nearly 30 miles per hour and I was struggling to stay in contact. Just when I looked up I saw three guys make a break off the front. I was way back and knew I needed to try to close the gap quickly or I'd be left behind. I floored it for about 5 minutes and came up about 40 yards short of those three riders before running out of gas. After 8 miles of time trialing and killing my legs they let up and I caught them. Before the ride was over there would be another 9 mile stretch of absolute killer pace. Two of the riders got away from me and I stayed with the next group of 3 about 30 seconds back as we finished the ride. This group ride was awesome because I felt like I was in a stage of Tour de Quad Cities. It was a great workout.
Since the day I decided to do an Ironman I had planned out a key workout that I wanted to complete about a month before the race. I wanted to go at least 120 miles on the bike and follow it up with a 10 mile run to see what my legs would feel like after such a long ride. The weather cooperated beautifully and I picked Saturday to be the day for this last big test workout. I did something similar before my first 1/2 Ironman 2 years ago but then I was only riding 60 miles before the 10 mile run. I began the day Saturday with a 3,500 yard swim workout. When I got home I packed my nutrition for the ride and set out solo for 120 miles. In the 120 I did 10x 10 minutes at Ironman effort followed by 10 minutes of normal mileage riding pace. My nutrition plan worked to perfection and I actually was feeling stronger near the end of the ride than when I began it. I looked at the clock when I hit mile 112 (an Ironman distance) and I was at 5 hrs. 14 minutes. I was really surprised by this since my goal in St. George is 5 hours on the bike. I couldn't beleive I was only 14 minutes off in a training ride with most of the miles at a really easy pace. I do know however that even though I chose about the hilliest route I could find it will not compare to the huge hills I'll be climbing in St. George. Immediately after the bike I took off on a 10 mile run. I picked the hilliest run I could find from my house for my best St. George simuation. The 10 miles took me up and down 14 hills. My legs felt great. I went through the first 5 miles running each of them between 5:58 and 6:04. I was 30:10 at the turnaround. On the way back I was getting really thirsty since I didn't carry anything with me for the run. I suffered a bit without nutrition and finished the 10 miles in 61 minutes 32 seconds...about 6:09 pace. It gave me great confidence that if I can keep myself from riding too hard in St. George I should be able to get off the bike ready to run a good marathon.

Sunday I was pretty sore from Saturday's big effort but my entire family got together to celebrate birthdays and my 3 brothers who are preparing to do a triathlon together this year all decided we should run a hill workout. I couldn't pass up the chance to run with them. I think it was the first time the four of us have ever worked out together. We ran to a hill not far from Justin's house and did 6 hill repeats. On the 2nd one I felt something pretty painful in my glute muscle. I should have probably stopped but I didn't want to back out on the chance to work out with them. I don't know if I pulled my glute or if it's just really sore from Saturday's workout. I'll have to monitor that this week and also make sure I keep the volume low to recover from that big day. It was awesome to see my brothers all running hard up the hill! They have really inspired me.

Jen won another race on Sunday morning in the QC. She actually only got beat by 1 guy in the race! She was under 18:00 again for the 5k. It was great seeing so many runners from the QC at the race enjoying the warm weather Mother Nature decided to bless us with. Less than 4 weeks to go...I'm really excited about this race. I think about my strategy every day. I plan to swim pretty hard early to see if I can hang with any of the guys. I hope to be under an hour for the swim in my new Xterra Vendetta wetsuit. On the bike I'll make sure to ride the 1st loop pretty comfortably hoping to keep my average speed around 22.5 mph. I would like to come off the bike in 5 hours but more importantly is to have my legs ready to run so I can go under 3:05 for the marathon. That isn't too fast of a time but this run course in St. George is ridiculous from everything I have read about the race.

One last thing to massage therapist, Laurel Darren is entered in a Max Muscle "Best Legs in America" contest and she needs your help to win the vote. Laurel is working incredibly hard to prepare for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race and is in great shape. You can vote here. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ironman St. George...5 weeks away

On November 1, 2010 I began training for the 2011 season with a goal in mind of racing my first ever Ironman and marathon on May 7th in St. George, Utah. I was coming off 6 months of minimal running following achilles tendon surgery last April 27th. There were many days when I wondered if my achilles would really hold up for a full Ironman. I wasn't sure if it would when I began but I knew I wanted to keep St. George as a big race on the calendar. Many people have asked me how I picked St. George. I've been questioned about why I would want to do an Ironman in May when I live in Iowa and winter and spring training for an Ironman isn't done in ideal conditions. I later learned from others that St. George is rated the toughest Ironman in North America and I was questioned why I would want to make it my 1st.

This St. George idea all began last year on May 1st. I was 4 days removed from surgery and was still wearing a big cast on my lower leg protecting my surgically repaired achilles tendon. I was instructed to elevate as much as possible for the 1st week to reduce swelling so I found a nice spot on the couch where I spent most of my time with my left leg propped up on the back of the couch. The Saturday of May 1st I knew Ironman St. George was happening so I logged onto the computer and watched nearly all of it live through the coverage put on by Universal Sports. As I was watching I got hooked. By the end of the day I decided that if I was healthy in 2011 I was going to race in St. George to celebrate 1 year post-surgery. I'm now less than 5 weeks away and I'm growing more anxious for this race every day. I've been preparing myself mentally for how I'm going to handle this tough course. I've read race reports, talked to people who raced it last year, and analyzed race times. I'm anxious to find out where I will stack up with the rest of the souls brave enough to conquer this beast of a course.

Over the past week I've really had a shift in my training. Through most of the first 20 weeks I was constantly pushing my body to the limits. I've worked out every day but 1 since November 1st and through most of the first 20 weeks I was taking 1 really easy day each week and the rest were filled with pretty high volume. The volume was definitely not always intense but even 3 hours of workout time was not uncommon during the easy days. This past week I began taking more really easy days between key hard workout days. With the big race fast approaching I want to make sure my key days are good ones. Although my total volume was nothing to be amazed by this week (62 run miles, 154 biking, and 12,000 swim yards) I had some really good days. Tuesday I did my first hill interval of the year on the bike at the legendary Wilkes Hill. Those are absolutely awesome for building power quickly on the bike. I have been able to see and feel improvements each week that I do this ride in the past. Wilkes is a hill that is not much longer than 1/4 mile but the grade is ridiculous! My average power output through the hill when I'm standing out of the saddle is about 650 watts to the top. Every 4th hill we stay seated and my power output is about 500 watts. This is nothing crazy but when I'm used to peaking out in the 350 range on the trainer all winter these hills really help me boost my power in a hurry. Tuesday was also a 30 minute time trial swim in the pool that my new coach, Stacey Zapolski had me do. I swam 82 lenths in 30 minutes and 1 second. That is only 65 yards short of a 1/2 Ironman distance in a pool where I have to stop and turn around every 25 yards. It is 3:00 less than I swam the 1/2 IM in Puerto Rico which tells me I'm a better swimmer than I showed.

Wednesday night I did the "group ride" in the Quad Cities which was well attended for a cold night. There were between 40 and 50 riders who began the ride. I took turns with about 7 other up front sharing the load on the pace setting. I have come to really enjoy this ride. It is really like doing a fartlek workout on a bike. The effort is constantly changing based on my position in the rotation. Near the end of the ride I like to empty the tank with a big lead out heading to the final sprint. The group always has a sprint finish near the end and I realize I'm probably never going to win the sprint but I love to see if I can reduce the number of challengers by making a big breakaway long before the sprint. I thought we had about 5 miles to go so I jumped to the front with a single goal of putting myself through shear pain for 5 miles. I knew some of the guys would get on my wheel and be able to hang. I hammered as hard as I could until my legs were fried. Just before where I thought we were finished one of the 2 guys who stayed on my wheel yelled that we were turning which meant the sprint wasn't actually for another few miles. I was shot. I had put in my solid 5 miles and had little left in the tank. After the ride finished up I got off my bike to do a 4 mile brick run at goal 1/2 Ironman pace (5:45/mile). I got into a good rhythm and ran the 4 miles in 22:14 (5:33/mile). It was a big confidence booster. Thursday and Friday were both really easy days in preparation for a big weekend of training with Adam Bohach.

Saturday I had a really tough swim workout first thing in the morning. After that I got on the bike and rode toward Clinton while Adam rode toward Le Claire. We met about 12 miles into the ride and did a 90 mile ride in super tough wind. It was awesome having Adam along to share the workload and he even added on to get over 100 for the ride. Sunday morning I drove up to Clinton to meet Adam for a long run. Jen went with since there was a 4 mile road race in Clinton. She dropped me off at 8:00 and I went with Adam for 2 hrs. 30 minutes covering 23 miles. Adam doesn't have a slow pace and we held under 6:30 pace for the majority of the run. It was hard for me to believe I was only 3 miles away from a 2:50 marathon time in a training run. We even went through the course Jen was running and saw her during our run. She won her race in a great time of 23:20. She actually only lost to 2 guys in the race. The 23 mile run was my longest ever and will be the furthest I go before St. George. The way I felt even in the last 3 miles made me realize I need to get off the bike feeling strong. If I can get to the run with good legs I should be able to have a great race. Running with Adam on these long runs has been tremendously beneficial to me. Following my run on Sunday I got to the pool for some solid drill work. After that I was got a massage from Laurel Darren and she told me if I rode my bike that evening after the massage she was going to "punch me in the face" and since I know Laurel is tough as nails I listened to her advice and didn't ride. She is smart about knowing the importance of letting me rest after getting a deep tissue massage. Good advice.

My 1 year old son Owen is obsessed with my bike. I think he has 3 shirts that have the big ring imprinted on them from falling into the grease filled crank on my bike. Our amazing daycare provider Jeanette Cotton got Owen his first bike trainer to ride for his birthday a few weeks ago. Both kids enjoy riding it next to dad when he is on the trainer. Payton hasn't quite figured out how her helmet is supposed to go yet but she's loving the trainer and I'm not too worried about her needing the helmet indoors. 5 weeks to go...the reality is here that I'm in this race...I'm 100% healthy...100% in the best shape I've ever been and I couldn't be more excited. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!!