IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART IV
Spring is here and there are signs everywhere! As a runner who spends the majority of his time running staring at the ground 5-6 feet ahead of me, I’m surprised I notice anything going on around me. But lately, I have noticed a lot of signs out on the trail. From the little flowers that are blooming right along the edge of the path to the painted rocks that people are placing in public places and along the trail to brighten everyone’s day. The grass is greening up and judging from the hayfever I’m experiencing, I’m guessing everything is about to go from winter grey to a very colorful spring.
I have also seen some new signs out on the trail. Signs measuring the six-foot safe passing distance and reminders to please pass others in a single file way. Someone has placed a reflector sign on the unofficial path that I maintain that’s used to access the nature preserve to help them remember where to get on the path. Not sure it needed a sign because it’s really the only path like it on the abandoned frontage road, but it’s definitely a sign that someone else is utilizing my little path.
Another sign I’ve been seeing is my buddy John texting “Day Done” in our group chat that he’s completed the day’s workout. Could that be a sign that he’s joining the Gunners in Louisville this year?!?! That would be quite a sign!
IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART III
It’s a really strange time in the world right now but I am doing my best to keep some normalcy in my life, and training for my fifth Ironman is helping a lot with that. Many races scheduled for spring have either been canceled or postponed to the fall. Fortunately, my race is scheduled for mid-October and hasn’t been affected yet but I am training with crossed fingers and doing each workout with the thought in the back of my mind that if things don’t improve with this virus, I may be training for naught.
But since I’m Mr. Optomist, I’m keeping a positive outlook and will keep training for Ironman Louisville until I’m told otherwise. I’d be doing some kind of training anyway, regardless if I was signed up for a race.
The weather has started to turn a little for the better and with the warmer temps, I find myself riding outside more and relying less on the spin bike. This has reminded me a couple of things. First, a spin bike is a decent workout but it’s no substitute for riding outside. Secondly, riding outside is killing me! My butt is sore and hates me for making it sit on a bike saddle that was clearly not designed for comfort. And my calves have decided that cramping up while riding is a fine thing.
As a longtime runner, I don’t remember ever having cramps from running. It’s only when I started doing triathlons and in particular training for Ironman that they became a thing. I would get cramps in my feet when swimming, which is really weird because you aren’t even using them much. I knew when the foot cramps came on it was time for me to get out of the pool because they would get worse before they got better. Plus it gave me an excuse to quit swimming because I hate it.
Most of my rides are short enough during the week that cramps aren’t a problem. It’s the longer weekend rides that cause them. Specifically, I am referring to calf cramps. I’ll be spinning along doing just fine and then I will get that first warning twinge. I’ve gotten pretty good at backing off the intensity and avoiding the dreaded “Charley Horse”. Severe cramps really don’t occur while biking. No, they save themselves for when you are in bed trying to sleep. Move your foot just the wrong way under the covers and BOOM – Cramp City.
In all honesty, though, the cramps were a much more frequent occurrence when I was first starting out in the sport. That first year training for Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 I would experience them much more often after a long ride. But I am much more experienced now and they don’t seem to bother me as much as they used to.
Other triathletes are always looking at the reason behind the calf cramps. Some say it’s due to being dehydrated. Or not enough salt, potassium or other minerals in your diet or hydration drink. I don’t disagree with those reasons contributing to calf cramps, but I don’t think it’s the main reason. I have found a correlation to getting calf cramps with an increase in a certain activity that you haven’t been doing and/or the intensity of the new activity. Calf cramps for me are always at the beginning of a 30-week training cycle when I stop spinning an easy gear on the spin bike indoors and actually have to work when I ride outdoors. I always want to jump right back in where I left off in the late fall and ride with the same intensity that I had built up over the course of the summer. That’s a silly mistake that I always make and relearn every spring. Cramps also generally occur towards the end of a ride, when you have been spinning your legs at 90+ rpm and haven’t given them a single break.
Some athletes will also treat the symptoms of a cramp rather than why they are cramping in the first place. Somewhere someone decided that pickle juice is the wonder drink to prevent cramps. What a horrible thing to drink. And there’s a company out there that produces a drink product that claims to stop cramps as soon as you feel them coming on. This drink has a combination of ginger, cinnamon and a strong pepper in it that is supposed to re-wire your nerves to stop the cramp. That seems dumb, but the science behind it kind of makes sense. The theory is that when you over-stimulate the nerves in your muscles they go haywire. When you start to cramp you take a drink of their product (or something very strong tasting, like pickle juice) and that strong taste of it refocuses your brain away from the over-excited nerves in your cramping leg. People swear that it works. But wouldn’t you rather not cramp up than have to treat it with some crazy drink? I would.
I do find that after a few weeks of retraining my legs for the workload and backing off how hard I push myself will result in the cramping occurrence to fade and be a lot less of a problem. By the end of the training period and when race day comes, cramps will pretty much be a non-issue for me.
So I truly believe that calf cramps from cycling come from an increase in the activity from being off for a long period and then working them too hard when restarting your training regimen. It’s overexertion, plain and simple. So hopefully I will never need to carry pickle juice with me on a ride.
IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART II
When the state of Illinois mandated that we all quarantine ourselves by staying in place or staying at home, the governor allowed us to still be able to go outside to exercise as long as we maintain a safe “social” distance of six feet of separation. It was great seeing people out walking, riding bikes, and running on sidewalks and trails that were pretty much just taken advantage of by the regulars – runners and bikers like me that I see all the time, and the few neighbors that will go on a daily walk. People were making an effort to enjoy the time to get some fresh air and utilize trails that are a great benefit to our community. Until the people ruined it.
People ruin everything. Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard. In the case of our gift of being able to get outside, people ignored the mandate of avoiding group activities, openly playing soccer and basketball, and riding and running in groups. It got so bad in the city of Chicago that the mayor gave them a stern warning. And what did the people do? They ignored the warning forcing the mayor to take action and closing the Lakefront Trail, one of the most used trails in the state. No more getting exercise outdoors.
I was riding my bike on my local trail this week and I also encountered groups of people walking on the trails together and other gatherings of kids playing at parks and team related sports like basketball. I guess everyone figures if they aren’t affecting you directly there really isn’t any harm. But that isn’t true, and the reason we are staying in place and avoiding each other is to stop the spread of this deadly virus. But now I fear that our local trail may get closed as well, and that won’t make me happy. I’m betting that won’t happen, but here’s what we can do to help make sure it doesn’t happen:
Train alone instead of groups. The runners in our local running club are pretty good about doing the right thing, but group runs were still going on. Our local running club leaders implored runners to stop posting group photos so that it wasn’t appearing that we were ignoring the rules, and to consider running in much smaller groups or running alone.
Follow the safe social distancing rules as well as the trail rules. The six feet of separation rules apply to families as well as friends and other trail users. Also, if you are new to using the trail, follow the posted rules that are posted at nearly all of the trail street crossings and trailheads. The most abused trail rule of them all is “All Users Stay Right / Pass Left” yet I encounter groups all the time and have to remind them to share the trail. Other trail users following the rules shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by someone not following the rules.
Be courteous. We are all trying to enjoy the outdoors and people need to understand that what you are doing shouldn’t hinder what other trail users are doing. Walk your dog on a leash and keep him on the correct side. Cyclists should yield to pedestrians. All users should follow the signage and stop at road crossings. Be safe.
Training Week Wrap-up
Week 2 was a typical spring training week. The weather was iffy this week, so I did spend some time training indoors. This is my fifth time training for an Ironman and I have to remind myself not to overdo it too much in these early training weeks. This week I found myself pushing my running pace more than I should have and that could lead to bad things. It’s a long journey to get to race day and blowing myself up in week two is not in the plan.
Training for Ironman #5 has begun! But not without some concern. Usually, my concerns are about some nagging injury that is giving me doubt about completing my workouts, or some forgotten conflict that may pop up and cause me to miss something important, or some other dumb thing on my mind. But I never thought that a global pandemic might derail not only my training but the race itself.
When my buddies and I committed to doing Louisville again back in January, I had no idea that I would be sitting around inside my house with the government telling me to stay home and not go anywhere other than essential travel, i.e. to work, to get groceries, etc. But here we are. When the race dominoes started falling, races like the Boston Marathon and others, I knew that this might be a little more of a worry than what we were telling ourselves. Pools are now closed. Gyms are now closed. Running trails are open, but the toilets are locked! (Maybe that’s only a problem for me.) Getting the workouts in maybe a little difficult for some, but Ironman triathletes are a hardy bunch. Heck, if we can get through an actual Ironman race, we can get around these training obstacles.
My plan for this Ironman is to once again follow Don Fink’s “Be Iron Fit” competitive training plan for the next 30 weeks. It has served me well in my past four races and I have tweaked it over time to fit my abilities and needs. I don’t follow the swim plans like I did the first two times I used it. The past two races went well with just two 45-minute swims per week with a handful of longer open water swims thrown in. I won’t be able to swim for a while, as it hasn’t warmed up enough for me to open my own pool. I suspect I will start swimming in late May.
It is on the cusp of being nice enough to bike outside, but if the weather prevents that I have both a trainer at home or a spin bike at work that I can use if necessary.
I’m in pretty good shape for running this time around. I had been training for an ultramarathon that was to take place on April 3rd but it fell victim to the pandemic and got postponed. My goal for this year’s race is to try to go sub-4 hours on the run. In 2017 my run split was 4:05 at Louisville, so I think that it is reachable. I just got to learn to stay out of the porta-potties on the run course, which always rob me of time. If they are locked on race day it might not be an issue!
My ultramarathon got postponed until 12 days after Ironman Louisville, so I hope to use the 30-weeks of training to prepare me for that event as well.
So here’s to a safe 30-weeks of training, and I hope my buddies and I and everyone else training for Ironman Louisville stays healthy.
I was expecting to get back on track this week with very little deviance from the plan after swapping the past two weeks of training around and making a concession here and there. But life sometimes throws you a curveball or two.
I’m getting really tired of having nipples.
It was a nice day, somewhat cooler than the past few and I only had an hour-long run to do, so I skipped covering my nipples. Big mistake. One got chaffed and started bleeding halfway through the run. Why do men have nipples anyway? It’s not like we use them for anything. They aren’t even that interesting in my opinion. But if you are a male runner that isn’t rail-thin, you are bound to one day experience the dreaded bleeding nipple. After thirty-plus years of running, you would think that they would have calloused over by now, or somehow adapted so they don’t get chafed. But sadly no. So I guess I will start covering them with Bandaids for every run, so buy some stock now.
Ashley’s back at Valpo for one last year!
Ashley may not have been excited about returning to Valpo for one final year, but it’s only one more year! Check-in at the apartment where she stays was on Saturday, so that meant if I wanted to help move her in I needed to somehow get my important Saturday long bike in, so I moved the Sunday two-hour and 15-minute run to Friday to free up Sunday for the bike. Doing the long run on Friday meant I would have to try to make up Friday’s normal run another day. Yeah, it didn’t happen.
Why can’t summer storms come in the middle of the week?
I had moved my Saturday long ride to Sunday so I could have Saturday free and what happened? It decided to storm like crazy Sunday morning. I had planned to be out on the bike before 8 am but with the heavy rain and lightning, I waited until the radar showed that it was past. I hit the road at 10 am and was amazed by how much water had poured on us. I was soaked from the waist down from just riding through the puddles and the standing water on the roadway. I explored a little on the ride to avoid the bike trail because when the leaves and junk on the trail get wet things get a little scary. Thankfully though the ride went smooth, I had no wind going out and a tailwind coming back, and I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition today. I only felt a little low on energy getting back home, but as I switched to my running shoes for the hour-long run, I downed a Gatorade and the run went well.
Hello Saddle Sore, My Old Friend (with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)
Hello saddle sore, my old friend
It’s not nice to see you once again
Because you are literally a big pain in the ass
And it’ll take you at least a month to pass
And the cries of my pain could be heard along the road I ride
Thanks to you, you damn saddle sore.
What’s the deal with saddle sores? I use the butt cream. I use Body Glide. I make sure that anything that can chafe will get some attention. But this past couple of weeks the damn saddle sore I always get from riding showed up again. It is actually bothering me just sitting on this cushy chair right now. And don’t mistake it for a zit, because it is definitely not a zit. Matter of fact if you try to squeeze that sucker, it’s going to let you know that he’s the Captain now. Touching it hurts!!! So I generally will just coat it with some Neosporin and a Bandaid (again, buy some stock now!) and let it be. Some day when this Ironman race is over it will go away because I can guarantee that I won’t be letting my butt sit on that bike again until next year.
Last week my training buddies and I opted to switch training Weeks 22 and 23 so that we could do Week 23’s long ride together. So this week I went back to Week 22 in the Be Iron Fit training plan and did the work. Week 22 is sort of an easier week ending in a half Iron distance race, which I always do on my own instead of opting for an actual race. I am a little afraid that racing against a thousand or more other athletes could lead to an accident or other injuries that could jeopardize all of the work I have been putting in up to this point. I just prefer to tackle it on my own.
Last time I did this workout was in 2017, leading up to Ironman Louisville. I had a pretty decent day that day and had a good swim and bike. It was the run that beat me. I ended up having to cut it short and get an unofficial DNF (did not finish) to my one-man race. That day I got beat. You can read that recap here: It Beat Me
I was determined to do this one a little smarter and not suffer like I did in 2017. I looked at the weather and saw that Sunday had some rain forecasted, so I opted to do the practice race a day earlier. Saturday started out beautiful. The temperature was in the 60’s, it was overcast, and there was no wind or breeze to speak of. I jumped into the pool and got going.
I swam pretty strong, pushing myself harder than I usually do. Since my watch won’t read correctly in my pool, I just based my distance on what I have done in actual half Iron distance swims in the past. I swam for 40 minutes and then got out and prepped myself for the bike.
After reapplying Body Glide in the usual locations and fiddling with my bike and gizmos, I hopped on and hit the road. I hadn’t ridden west to Elwood in several weeks, so I decided to go that route. I knew that I would probably have to add on some extra miles, and when I got to the cemetery out there and after I looped through it once my odometer showed about 25 miles. I needed an additional 6 miles or so. I decided to explore a little and added a quick extra three miles on a nearby road or two, then started heading back.
I was keeping track of my sweating and with a couple of nature stops, I was pretty sure that I was doing pretty good with keeping on top of my hydration and fueling. I was fortunate to not have really any wind heading out and I seemed to pick up a tailwind as I was heading back, which was really rare for me. I was moving along well.
This doggo provided some entertainment toward the last third of the ride.
At about 47 miles into riding, I saw another rider coming up on a side road and eventually passed me. I could tell he was on a mission to pass me and make it known that he was Top Dog on this road. I started studying him a little – he seemed like a typical cyclist, who liked to climb out of the saddle (which I hardly ever do) and had a nice Willier bike. He was pulling away going up a slight uphill, but when we started the downhill after cresting, I pulled him back in thanks to being more aerodynamic than he was. He kept looking over his shoulder and finally slowed down and let me catch him. We chatted a little bit and he turned off on another road and I went straight toward home.
Upon getting home, I was pretty close to hitting that 56 mile ride on the nose. I ended up with an additional .75 miles due to overestimating a second out and back of about 3 miles. I came inside, downed a Gatorade, toweled myself off, switched to a running singlet, grabbed my running stuff and hit the trail.
I felt pretty good heading out until I didn’t. My route starts and ends with hills. The middle is all flat, but it was sunny now and getting warm. I was sweating a lot and with only one water bottle, I was being a little too miserly with drinking. Fortunately, I was heading toward Frankfort where I could refill my water. But I was now running on fumes. I had been consistent with eating my gels and taking a salt capsule, but the day was certainly starting to become very much like the last time I did it in 2017. But I refused to let it beat me. I started walking more, sought out more shade when I could, and just kept moving forward. The plan was to be under 2 hours for this run, but I thought early on that that was an ambitious goal. I ended up getting back home in 2:09. That’s probably pretty close to Ironman run race pace, so not quite what I wanted for a half Iron distance race pace, but more in line with what to expect in seven weeks.
I spent some time in the pool to cool off, downed a couple Gatorades, started shivering and ended up taking a 20-minute hot shower to warm me back up. I got out of the shower and jumped into bed and napped for a little bit. I was actually feeling a little worse than I did after last week’s 5-hour group ride. This was not how I expected the day to end, especially after having a really good swim and bike. Now I know not to hammer the bike too hard and to drink more. Lots more.
I was determined to not be beaten like I was in 2017, and I wasn’t. But it wasn’t pretty either. I have seven more weeks to dial this in.
Triathletes joke around about how everything gets neglected when training for an Ironman and typically cutting grass is one of the first things to get behind on. Fortunately for me, I have plenty of time to cut the grass, take care of the pool, and the other stuff that I am usually responsible for. However, I volunteered to chaperone at band camp this week like I have done the past several years and that takes three hours out of my afternoon to do things like the above. But band camp is two weeks long, and it is worth my time to watch my daughter and her group practice their way into another awesome award-winning field show. Certainly looking forward to chaperoning again this next week. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with chores on Sunday.
With the chaperoning duties to do, I did a little shuffling around with the plan to get things done.
I did my Tuesday swim on my Monday rest day. On Tuesday I got my run in on a very nice day. Wednesday was the typical bike/run brick workout that went just fine. Back to cycling on Thursday, but I pushed the swim until Friday. On Friday, I did a brief two-mile shakeout jog and then did the swim before heading to band camp. I didn’t want to overdo it because I was racing a sprint triathlon on Saturday.
Saturday was race day, and I did very well! I nabbed 2nd place in my age group and was 17th overall. You can read about it here:
After the race, my training buddies Dave and Jeff rode to Manteno to meet me after the race and then we did a group ride back home together. So cool that they came out to ride with me when they could have just ridden on their own. Although I didn’t quite get in the mileage or riding time that the plan called for, I was happy with what I accomplished.
Sunday was a long run that ended up being about 11.5 miles. I felt good on that rather warm and humid run. I got a surprise when I saw Dave’s son Alex running at me and calling my name, with Dave not too far behind. Heck, if I knew that they were still in town I would have joined them!
After that run I jumped in the pool, rehydrated, and then started catching up on my chores. First was mowing the grass, and then I did some more power washing the sidewalk that I didn’t get to a couple of weeks ago.
There’s time for training, family, and chores when training for Ironman. You just have to be resourceful.