Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life in the saddle

With my lower back giving me fits I knew this past week would be a good one to get a lot of miles in the saddle on the Specialized Shiv.  I have been working hard at getting rid of the extra weight I gained in Jamaica.  It had been especially difficult to stay at a good weight because I haven't been running.  Of the 3 disciplines in triathlon I have found that I lean down the quickest when I'm able to get my run mileage up.  With a really sore back I haven't been able to do that so I planned to do it on the bike.  Even though the Midwest weather is unreal nice for this time of year with cool temperatures I still put in a lot of time on the trainer.  I had a lot of nights where I climbed on the bike at 9:00 after the kids were sound asleep and rode the bike until 11:00 or later.  I had my highest bike mileage week in over 2 years and I did so on 6 days of riding instead of 7.  For the week I biked 422 miles.  It's much easier to put in this kind of volume when I'm not running.  I was even able to combine the high mileage with good quality and still felt great.  I rode 5x5 minutes hard on the trainer with 5 minutes easy recovery after each at 300 watts on Tuesday.  I have found my best training toy to be my Cycleops Powerbeam Pro trainer.  Being able to program in the wattage I want to hit is a huge benefit when I want to go hard AND when I need to keep the ride easy.  Wednesday was our weekly group ride and I got in a lot of hard efforts on that.  Friday I did short power intervals of 10x30 sec. hard/30 sec. easy, 10x 1 minute hard/1 minute easy, and 10x30 sec. hard/30 easy.  I was able to hold the 30 sec. intervals at 410 watts and the 1 minute at 390.  This is a workout I have programmed into the trainer so the resistance adjusts without me doing anything.  I like this trainer because it forces me to hit the prescribed wattage or I am unable to pedal.  I had times last year when I could not complete that power workout.  Friday I did so without ever being on the edge of cracking.  Sunday I completed the longest ride of my life.  I made it 127 miles and felt amazingly strong especially considering the week I put in.  I started the ride with Charlie Paul, Corey Towle, and Cassidy Moulton.  Those guys helped me get through the first 50 miles and then I was solo for the last 77.  I knew the conditions were perfect for a long one.  It was about 60 degrees out.  The wind was steady at near 15 mph during the last half of the ride but the route I went never was into the wind for more than 1 hour at a time.  When I hit mile 90 I was going through a hilly section from McCausland to Pleasant Valley for the 2nd time of the ride and I decided to increase the power and push all the hills.  I was shocking myself with the power I was able to hit ending such a long ride after a big bike week.  Even after mile 120 I was still climbing hills at over 600 watts which gave me confidence that my cycling legs are in a good spot right now.  With the cool temps I was able to complete the 127 mile ride on 4 bottles of water (2 with GU electrolyte tablets), 1 soda at mile 80, 1 Snickers Marathon bar, and 1 pack of GU chomps. 

In the 2 weeks since vacation I have dropped from 170 lbs. to 162.  I can tell my body fat % is declining quickly.  Attending Barre 563 has been a great thing for me.  My flexibility is better, and my strength in the hips, glutes, core, back, quads, and hip flexors has increased.  Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for a 15 day trial for only $20.00 with half of the money being donated back to iHope.  Check out www.barre563 if you are interested in giving it a try while supporting iHope at the same time.  Enter "iHope" in the checkout promotion box and 1/2 the trial fee will be donated to the foundation. 

As for the back things are finally looking up.  After not running all week I rode the bike to the Bix on Saturday morning after watching the race on television.  The plan was to ride there and meet up with good friend Randy Bill to go for 30-40 miles after he finished running the Bix in a blazing time of 36:45.  I had put some running clothes in Jen's van and wanted to test out the back when I arrived in Davenport.  I changed and headed out for a run.  It only lasted 26 seconds.  My lower back completely seized up on me.  I was forced to stop and was extremely frustrated.  I began to get really nervous about how I am going to finish the last race of the Scheels Duathlon series next week.  I rode back home with Randy and put ice on the back.  It was just throbbing with pain.  Sitting, standing, laying down...it all hurt.  It had been 4 weeks since this back pain started.  Then the craziest thing happened...I laid down flat on my back for 10 minutes.  I laid still trying to think about pulling my spine down to the floor to eliminate this big curve that the tight back muscles were forcing my spine into.  After 10 minutes I got up and the extreme pain I had been in was gone.  I went through the rest of Saturday feeling good.  On Sunday I woke up without the typical morning stiffness that I have had over the past 4 weeks.  It never hurt on the 127 mile ride and even afterwards didn't seem the least bit aggravated.  Yesterday I woke up feeling great again and after my Barre Amped class I ran 4 miles without the slightest bit of pain.  I have no idea what happened when I was laying down on Saturday but my faith tells me that God finally decided to end my suffering and my prayers were answered.  Today I feel great again.  Sitting down doesn't hurt at all.  Over the past 4 weeks sitting has been bad for my back.  Now it feels as if nothing is wrong.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the back pain is in my rear view mirror.  It's crazy for me to think that in 4 weeks I had 2 massages, iced over 40 times, got ART 8 times, took anti-inflammatory medication regularly, spent over 1 hour a day stretching and foam rolling, and none of it seemed to help.  Then after 10 minutes of laying down I got up as if nothing had ever hurt.  It certainly makes me think it was more than coincidence.  I will continue running this week in hopes of getting my run legs back under me soon. 

It was a GREAT week for Jen on the running scene.  On Thursday night Jen set the record in the Master's division of the Brady Street Sprint up the Hill.  She won by 12 seconds on the 400 meter hill and earned $500.00.  Then on Saturday morning she ran the 7 mile Bix and placed 16th in the women's field with a time of 42:24.  She was the top local female finisher earning her a 3rd trumpet in as many years of the trumpet trophy being given to the top local finisher.  It was a big confidence booster for her.  She had been doubting her running this year as a sore Achilles has forced her to run less.  The hill showed how much strength and power she has gained from attending QC Cross-Fit and then she showed she still has pretty good endurance despite not running many miles.  She has been biking about 100 miles a week and swimming a couple days.  In 3 weeks she is going to make her 1/2 Ironman debut at Pigman Longcourse.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pain in the back...

Since the last post this back has caused me to ride somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster.  It has now been over 4 weeks since my back felt normal.  I have been receiving treatment at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care and that has been helping.  Following treatment last Tuesday I did an interval running workout and the pain was about a 2 on the scale during but immediately afterwards I experienced more swelling between my lower vertebrae.  I was treated again on Thursday and things were feeling better Friday so I did my tempo run.  It was a great run.  Despite not having run much at all lately I completed 3 miles at under 6:00 pace and the pace did not feel difficult.  I was more excited about my back.  It was about a 1 on the pain scale and I experienced no swelling afterwards.  I thought I was turning a corner with this injury...

Last Saturday I made the drive to Racine, Wisconsin to watch the Racine 70.3 because I had a lot of friends and locals I knew competing in it including Robert White, who I have been coaching for about 8 weeks.  The drive to Racine was really hard on my back.  Due to where the swelling is at simply sitting is not comfortable.  My plan was to get an open water swim Sunday morning before the race and then run 1 hour while watching the competition.  Sunday morning my back was really sore which is typical when I wake up.  I stayed with Cassidy Moulton at his grandparents house and after driving from Milwaukee to Racine I got out of the car and grabbed my wetsuit.  What I saw on the lake did not look good.  The winds out of the east were causing very big waves and as I walked down closer to start my swim I had a bad feeling about swimming alone out there so I decided not to swim.  I headed out on my run after the start of the men's pro race.  My good buddy Adam Bohach was racing and I jogged from the swim start to the swim exit and every step hurt my back.  I was hoping it would loosen up but it got worse with each step.  I ended up calling the run after only 1.5 miles and a lot of frustration.  My back just throbbed while standing still.  I began to wonder how I was going to race this last Scheels Duathlon in just 2 weeks and how I was going to survive Pigman Longcourse without any running for the past month.  I can't run 2 miles let alone 13.1 after biking 56.  The race was awesome to watch.  Adam finished 11th in an extremely tough pro field.  I think he was the 3rd or 4th American finisher.  Robert White raced to a new 70.3 PR despite the tough swim conditions.  I knew the swim would cause an average swimmer to add 4-5 minutes to his or her time.  That was the case.  Robert hit out exact plan on the bike average and then gutted his way through a tough run finishing with a time of 5 hours 27 minutes.  I couldn't have been more proud of him.  My good buddy Cassidy Moulton has been dealing with a lot of injuries and hadn't ridden his bike in a month.  Adding to that he had been dealing with a calf injury that had been hurting while he ran.  He said he was going to swim and ride and if he had to walk the run he would do so.  He did way better than expected finishing around 5 hours 30 minutes.  I had a lot of people ask me if it was hard to watch.  Definitely not given the condition of my back. 

As I sit here on Thursday things are looking brighter.  I have not run this week and have continued to get treatment from Dr. Kaminski.  The swelling in my back has gone down each day.  Most of the day I don't even notice there is a problem.  Even the mornings which were terrible a week ago have become much better.  I am not optimistic about things.  I have used the lack of running to increase my bike mileage.  Last week was 255 miles on the bike and this week is headed for much higher.  I have really enjoyed attending Barre Fitness classes at the new Barre Fitness Studio on Utica Ridge.  I can tell I am getting stronger.  My glutes, core, hips, quads, and shoulders get a great workout every time.  It is getting easier for me to complete and I am less sore after every session as my body adapts.  Until the end of the month you can sign up for a 15 day unlimited trial for just $20.00 using code "iHope" at checkout.  They are donating half of the $20.00 back to iHope.  You can give it a try or get more information at www.barre563.com  I have been eating very clean and combining that with Barre Fitness workouts my body is changing quickly.  I took a picture of myself the first day of my class and I will post the after picture down the road.  Last Tuesday I tipped the scales at 170 and this AM I was 160.4. 

Speaking of iHope it has been a great week for the foundation.  Huge thanks to Joe Bondy, Bill and Deirdre Moylan, and Dr. Tuvi Mendel for making generous contributions this week.  Also, I was informed by local triathlete Brad Love that he nominated iHope for a $1000.00 grant given to a local non-profit by Crawford Company and Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems.  From all the non-profits that get nominated the general public gets to vote for their favorite.  The top 3 vote receivers are then considered by a board upon which 1 will be selected.  If you could do me a HUGE favor and vote for iHope I would greatly appreciate it.  The money would make a TREMENDOUS impact for the foundation.  It takes less than 20 seconds to vote and the link is here.  If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to iHope you can click here.  Thanks so much for your support! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Barre563 Experience

I went to my 1st ever class at Barre563 this morning.  I wanted to substitute this class for my traditional strength training session that I have done for 4 years in a weight room.  I had no idea what to expect.  I wasn't sure if Barre classes were more like dance, or yoga, or strength training.  Barre563 was opened in Davenport last month by Sarah Coon.  Sarah's husband Ryan is a multiple Ironman finisher and they recently relocated back home after spending the past few years in Nashville, Tennessee.  Ryan told me about Barre563 and I was very excited when they approached me with an idea to help iHope that will hopefully also bring awareness to what Barre563 is.  Through the end of July they are offering any new clients a 15 day trial period for $20.00 and donating 1/2 of the money to iHope.  If you sign up for the trial at www.barre563.com enter "iHope" in the promotion code space.  Barre classes have become very popular in bigger cities around the US and it won't be long before it is very popular in the QC. 

I arrived at the studio located at 4884 Utica Ridge Road about 10 minutes before the start of the 9:00 am class.  Sarah was very helpful in letting me know what equipment I would be using.  They provide everything needed.  The studio is brand new and VERY nice.  I was a bit nervous because I have been experiencing a lot of lower back pain lately and yesterday it was particularly bad.  I was worried this may aggravate my back.  The only thing I knew about Barre workouts was what I had read on their website and facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barre563/280959578707191 .  The class I did is called Barre Amped.  The class was nearly filled to capacity.  Right at 9:00 we began.  The workout was more than I could have imagined.  We started the workout with upper body exercises.  I was holding 2 lb. dumb bells thinking this was going to be easy.  Within 3 minutes I was dripping sweat and my arms were shaking uncontrollably.  I was wishing I would have used the 1 lb. dumb bells.  Barre workouts involve small muscle movements where the position is then held.  We went through upper body work for about 5 minutes and I was glad my arms did not fall off.  I got great work through my shoulders, triceps, deltoids, and upper back muscles.  I had never done any of these movements before but they were easy to follow because Sarah does them with the class and constantly gives precise feedback on how the movements are performed.  When I was not in the correct position Sarah would correct me or give verbal cues that reminded me to tighten my core muscles, keep my shoulders back,  or keep my head up. 

From the arms we then did a series of leg movements similar to squats that had my legs shaking as bad as my arms had during the upper body exercises.  The 1 hour workout went by quickly.  We completed exercises from about 15-20 different positions and it worked muscles I didn't even know I had.  With each position you make very small movements and have to hold position which was tough for me.  4 weeks ago when I saw local physical therapist Dan White for my swollen anterior tibialis Dan said he was very concerned about my hip strength.  Weak hips lead to many problems for runners.  Barre563 worked the heck out of my hip muscles.  I was on the verge of cramping through many of the exercises.  Some of the exercises involved the use of free weights, some the use of a bar that you hold, some a strap that wraps around the bar that you hold, some a ball, and many of them just pure body weight.  In addition to the strength training component of my major upper and lower body muscle groups this workout was tremendous in working my core strength as well.  Almost every exercise engages the core.  It was also very good for my flexibility.  The first 52 minutes of the class was almost entirely burning of one muscle group after another being in positions that tested my flexibility and strength at the same time.  The last 8 minutes or so was spent stretching some of the major muscle groups.  My back was much looser when I walked out than when I walked in.  I was excited about this workout within the first 10 minutes when I realized it was working my entire body rather than isolating a few major muscles like I do when I lift with traditional weights.  Muscles in my hips, glutes, abductors, and back that rarely get worked in the weight room were fried by the end of class.  Barre563 was nothing like dance although I can see why dancers would want to do the class because of the flexibility and strength that can be gained.  It reminded me just a tiny bit of yoga in that there was some stretching involved but mainly I found it to be a great full-body strength training workout.  I am excited about returning next week to Barre563. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jamaica/Training Update

The first 2 weeks into the 2nd half of the season have been up down.  Almost immediately during my first week back I was experiencing a lot of lower back tightness.  I dealt with it Monday and Tuesday and then on my interval workout Wednesday I had to pull the plug.  With each passing hard interval my back was getting tighter and tighter.  I could tell it was affecting the way I was running and I decided to stop.  Since then I have run very little.  It's frustrating because going back to my last race and my week off I have barely run 50 miles over the past month.  The lack of running allowed me to focus more time and energy on the bike and in my first week back I had a great bike workout.  I put in 321 miles on the bike that week including 3 really tough interval workouts.  I build strength quickly when I start doing interval work.  I typically am not able to combine high mileage with lots of intense work but due to the lack of running I was able to do so. 

Last week Jen and I went to Jamaica for 6 days.  It was great to get away.  In the 10 years since we have been married we have only really taken 1 vacation for more than a couple days and this was our first since our kids have been born.  It was tough being away from them for 6 days but the trip was awesome.  Since we are both extreme fitness nuts we made that part of our vacation getting up early to swim in the ocean or do some work in the "fitness center" on the resort that we called the "hot box" due to the lack of air conditioning or air flow in the room.  It was probably over 90 degrees in the room.  I didn't enjoy riding the stationary bike too much in the hot box so I found that pedaling the paddle boat in the ocean was a great alternative. 

Jen and I did some hard interval periods in the paddle boat...maybe the 1st time vacationers have done that in Jamaica.  I put in over 2 hours of paddle boating one day and it was awesome cruising around Bloody Bay in Negril.  I also did a bit of kayaking one day for my workout.  I paddled out around an island called Booby Cay which happens to be the island where Gilligans Island was filmed in the 70's.  You can see Booby Cay Island in the background of the picture above where Jen and I are standing on the beach.  There is a guy out on the island who catches lobster and puts them on the fire for you.  He left me alone after he realized I had not brought any money with me on my kayak adventure.  I also enjoyed swimming in the ocean until I got stung by a Jelly Fish.  It was my first experience with this.  I have never panicked during open water swimming in a lake but the ocean is a different story.  The abundance of creatures that can kill me scares me a bit.  I was swimming along about 1500 meters into a swim when I felt what was like an electrical shock go through my body.  I panicked and headed for the shore as quickly as possible.  I figured it was a jelly fish sting.  When I got to shore I had a big rash on my left arm and leg.  I think I got stung twice.  It itched and burned something fierce.  I got back in and headed toward the resort and within 2 minutes I saw a sting ray that scared me back out of the water. 
After running 3 days in a row my lower back was really tight and swollen so I decided to swim Saturday morning rather than run.  While swimming I saw a jelly fish right in front of my face (as you can tell from this picture they are very difficult to see until they are right in front of you) and I completely panicked and it caused my back to tighten worse than ever.  I think the sting would have been nice compared to how my back felt.  On our last day just to make sure I didn't think about ocean swimming for a long time I got stung again but this time it was not nearly as bad.  Both times I got stung I never even saw the jelly fish.  The last one got me on my wrist and I believe my watch helped protect me.  I HATE jelly fish about as much as redwing blackbirds now. 

The start of this week has been a big volume week.  I wished I could have flown Dr. Kaminski and his great staff down to Jamaica to help with my back but couldn't do so.  I got in yesterday and ran last night.  The pain was less than it has been in quite some time.  I'll put in a lot of base volume the next couple weeks to chip away at the weight I gained on the trip. 

I am proud to announce that iHope is partnering with Barre563, a new barre fitness studio on Utica Ridge Road. For every new client special (15 days of classes for only $20) purchased with an ‘iHope’ promotional code entered at check out during the month of July, Barre563 will donate $10 to the charity. Check out www.barre563.com for more information and a list of classes.  I'm really excited they recognized the great things iHope can do to help children in our community and were so gracious to extend this offer to new clients.  $20.00 for 2 weeks of unlimited classes is a tremendous offer.  The fact that 1/2 of that amount goes to iHope shows the generosity of Barre563 owner Sarah Coon.
Barre fitness classes have become very popular in larger cities and female fitness magazines over the past few years. Barre563 is the first studio dedicated to this technique in the Quad Cities. Barre classes combined elements of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. Participates rely mainly upon one's bodyweight for resistance, performing moves that target specific muscle groups, your core, and balance. Barre workouts are designed to help an individual achieve a “dancer’s body” — strong, sleek and streamlined.  I'm planning to visit Barre563 because I know it can help with my flexibility and core strength which is so important to getting into a more aerodynamic position on the bike.  The classes have gotten very popular quickly since Barre563 opened in June.  Again, the promotional code to enter for this great price is "iHope"  Barre563 also has posted updates and some feedback from those who have tried it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barre563/280959578707191

Speaking of iHope, I got word from our administration center of a VERY generous gift made to the foundation by Nick and Jessica Ludwig.  Nick and Jessica were classmates of mine at PV and I was thrilled they wanted to help with the foundation that provides technology resources to low-income students displaying outstanding character and work traits.  To help make a tax deductible contribution to the foundation you can click here.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2nd Half...

A year ago I was approaching Ironman Racine 70.3 and thought I was in the best shape of my life.  After a disastrous race I went into what I would call a triathlon depression.  I wasn't sure I wanted to continue racing with the amount of devoted training that I had put in.  I wasn't sure I wanted to continue racing as a professional in the sport.  I lacked motivation to train and was just not enjoying the sport like I had for the few years prior to Racine.  Nearly a year later I reflect back on that time and I'm sure glad I hung in there and took a long break after the season was over.  I have scaled back the amount of time I'm training.  As the kids get older things at home get busier and I once thought it wouldn't be possible to train at a high level when things got busier.  I'm learning that is not true.  I begin the 2nd half of 2013 with a very positive attitude and outlook.  I'm excited by how I raced on much less training.  I'm excited about having earned over $1,700.00 racing so far this year for iHope, the foundation we started in March to raise funds to buy iPads or other unmet needs for low-income students who possess great character and work habits.  My season goal was to raise $1,500.00 and now I think I can double that goal.  One thing that I lacked during the triathlon depression that I was consumed by prior to Racine 70.3 is visualization.  Before Racine I visualized success in the sport on a daily basis.  During the long workouts I almost always pictured myself racing alongside the best in the sport.  I think the race in Racine badly damaged my inner confidence and made me stop "dreaming BIG" for quite awhile.  Lately...without even thinking about it, I've found myself visualizing success once again.  I've found myself playing out Pigman Long Course and Beach 2 Battleship in my mind.  It's just one of the many things that has me really excited about the 2nd half of 2013.  Also exciting is that my wife Jen is starting to train for triathlons.  Everything she has done in her few races in the past is on run training and Cross-Fit.  Now she's actually swimming and biking and that excites me to see how she does.  Most of the races I'm doing she will also be doing with me. 

Last week I essentially took the entire week off.  I rode the bike twice.  I didn't run, swim, or lift weights.  It was the perfect time to let my body heal and equally important allow my body to adapt to the training and racing I've done over the last 20 weeks.  Am I in worse shape this week?  Definitely.  Is that a good thing...definitely!  I talk to too many athletes who train year round without ever taking good long breaks.  Swimmers are the worst at this.  They train like crazy, taper and peak for a big race, and then they get back in the pool after a "couple" days off.  The next season starts within a week and they struggle to drop times.  Many of them don't realize the real benefit of swimming all the long and hard yards comes after you give the body time to rest completely...2-4 weeks at a minimum.  I've always been a big believer that to get in better shape you first have to get out of shape.  It's been easy for me to remind others of this but the hardest part has been reminding myself of this.  I read the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald a couple years ago and one thing I remember is that he recommends athletes gain up to 10% of their body weight in the off-season.  I have never had a problem doing this.  In my 1 week off I gained about 5% of my body weight.  Now I'll begin the process of leaning that back down knowing that my body is rested and able to begin a new training cycle stronger than before.  I am already sore from my workouts yesterday which is a good sign that I got out of shape and now I get to tear the body down a bit and let it adapt to this new training cycle.  I don't have a race for 5 weeks so this is a perfect opportunity to get in good training without having to worry about being tired.  My first big race is 7 weeks away so I hope to be back into great shape...better than I was in the 1st half before that one.  My big focus is to be in the best shape of my life on October 26th for Beach 2 Battleship so I can chase one of my goals of breaking 9 hours for the Ironman Distance. 

I was really excited to get word of anonymous $250.00 donation to iHope this week.  That single donation will provide 1/2 of an iPad gift and could have a life-changing impact on the child that receives it.  We are nearly half way to endowing the foundation which would mean for eternity the interest will provide a $500.00 gift.  Over time I'm sure that iPads may be irrelevant.  Right now they are great tools that help students with school but some day they may be provided to all of our students.  What I do know is that there will always be a need to help close the door between the have-nots and the haves.  The key to iHope is that the students who receive the gifts MUST show a desire to want success through their character and work traits.  The students who receive the iHope gifts are tremendous individuals that simply don't have much...they have had a lot of doors closed that we aim to open for them.  If you would like to help the foundation by making a tax deductible contribution you can click here.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!