Super Dave’s Down & Dirty Half – Race Report

I’ve struggled with motivation since Ironman Coeur d’Alene and decided to shut things down for the fall after the Deschutes Dash Olympic and Hood to Coast. I think this was due to the long training cycle I put myself through and the lack of racing throughout my Ironman build. Anyways, my running started to feel really good after Hood to Coast where I ran 3 legs and ~ 20 miles within a 24 hour period at faster than a 6:25/mi average pace. With the running starting to click, I decided to put in a bit of a running block. This was a chance to recharge my batteries while still building fitness. A few of my coworkers signed up for a very tough local Half Marathon here in Bend, OR and I decided to sign up last minute, about 10 days before the race.
Super Dave’s Down & Dirty Half Marathon is a popular race that features a very tough climb over the first 6.8 miles of just over 1,200 feet. Once you reach the top, you get to fly down some very technical single track trail on the famous Tiddlywinks mountain bike trail. Probably the only chance I’ll get to run on this trail without getting yelled at by mountain bikers. J

Two weeks before the race I got a pretty nasty sinus cold that has been going around. I got a lot of rest and did some very easy paced 30 minute runs but that was about the extent of my training. This is something that would probably stress some athletes out. However I am a big believer in rest leading up to races and definitely knew that the ‘hay was in the barn’ after several weeks of 40+ miles per week and a fair amount of quality.

Race morning came around, and for the most part the sickness was out. Nothing beats racing in your hometown! Waking up in your own bed, drinking your normal coffee, eating your usual breakfast – it’s amazing. We headed up to the race around 8am, and were there by 8:15 – perfect, considering that it was a casual 9am start. I hooked up with my coworkers, got a bathroom break in, warmed up and was feeling great. Despite the cool temperatures, the sun was keeping us nice and warm so I stripped down to my Pearl Izumi racing singlet and Nike arm-warmers. I got my pre-race kiss from my wife and it was time to roll!

Right before the start of Super Dave's Down & Dirty Half Marathon.

As soon as the gun went off we started flying! The race starts at the Inn at the Seventh Mountain with a flat/downhill 1/4 mile through the parking lot until taking a sharp right onto the single track trail which is where the race began. We were running 6:00/mile pace for the first few minutes which felt comfortable to me, but I knew that many of the racers were running outside of their means.

The beginning of Super Dave's Down and Dirty Half Marathon.

As soon as we hit the climbs, people started falling back and I found myself running in a small pack for the first few miles. My dad taught me to run with short strides when climbing which has always stuck with me. I elected to run without my heart rate monitor so I was really just running off of effort. The first 6.8 miles were a grind with a mostly steady climb of about 1,200 feet with several spikey sections that were over 10% grade based on Strava. About 1 mile from the peak of the run, I passed the group I was in and found myself in 10th place as we began the fun descent down Tiddlywinks.

Elevation profile of Super Dave's Down and Dirty Half Marathon.

My average pace during the climb was right at 7:25/mile and my goal for this race was to hold a 7:15 pace. I felt that I was in 1:23-1:25 open half marathon shape, and running a 1:35 on such a challenging course felt like it would be a great goal. As I began the descent I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, but I did my best to control my stride coming down hill and was able to click off 6:25-6:40 pace the entire descent. Not quite as fast as I wanted, but with the trail was very technical with a lot of turns, rocks, roots and obstacles so I knew I was putting time into my competition. Taking in Hammer Gel throughout the race (miles 5 and 10) definitely helped keep the engine going as I felt strong from start to finish.

Super Dave told us before the gun went off that we would know we were close to the finish when we hit a steep climb at the bottom of the downhill. Sure enough, around mile 12.25 I found myself grinding up a short but very steep climb and I could see the field where we finished in the distance. I knew I wasn’t going to catch 9th place so I strided out and ran it in strong for a 1:31:54 finish. This result was good for 10th overall including 3 professionals, an average pace of 7:01/mile and much faster than my initial goal of 1:35.

Overall, I am stoked on the result! The time is somewhat meaningless due to the difficulty and individuality of the race, however to place so well in relation to professionals and to feel as strong as I did is a great sign. I would definitely recommend Super Dave’s Down and Dirty Half Marathon and am looking forward to continuing to check out the trail race scene here in Bend.

Next up for me will be a subtle build in training volume, adding in some intensity to the cycling and continuing to swim at least 3x a week while I keep building my run volume and intensity. I’m enjoying the break from rigid training but excited to see my fitness to continue to build. The 2016 season is going to be a great one!

Hood to Coast 2015: The Year of the Storm

This years running of Hood to Coast was my third, and without a doubt the best one yet! What a thrilling 30 hours and 31 minutes of team support, camaraderie, good food, family time, and hard work. The last two times I’ve run H2C was with a semi-competitive team from Nike, this year was with my wife’s awesome family and I could have never imagined it would be as fun as it was.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hood to Coast – let me do a quick rewind so you can follow along. Hood to Coast, also known as ‘The Mother of all Relay’s is a 12 person relay that covers 198 miles, starting at Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, west of Portland and finishing on the beach (the ‘coast’) in Seaside, OR. The relay race consists of two vans: Van 1 and Van 2 who each have 6 runners. Each runner completes 3 legs of running distances of 4-8 miles, making it 36 total legs of running to get from ‘Hood to Coast.’

Personally, I was in Van 2 and ran Leg 9 – a tough leg with 2 fairly flat 5-5.5 milers and a final 7.75 leg with rolling hills as you near the beach. I haven’t inserted very much speed work into my training, and wasn’t sure what I would be capable of. However, after putting together our teams time estimates into a rather complicated excel document (a.k.a. ‘the spreadsheet’) I was predicted to run 6:19 pace for my first 2 legs and 6:49 for the final long leg. This didn’t quite feel within reach, so I crammed in a few last minute track workouts and showed up on race day feeling as fit and fresh as possible when taking into account how sporadic training has been for me since Ironman.

Final track workout for Hood to Coast at Cascade Middle School in Bend.

Our Van got to Sandy High School nice and early on Friday, about 2 ours before our first van was predicted to come in and make the exchange. (There are 3 major exchanges where the van’s pass off wrist ‘baton’ to the other van, which is where having a spreadsheet with predicted times is critical and clutch!) We were able to get our van decorated, hit the Honey Buckets and our first runner, my wife April was able to get her mind & body right and ready to run her first leg.

Once the final runner of Van 1 showed up, it was go time! This is where the race really begins, and we spent the next 25 hours coordinating directions so we could make it to each exchange, stopping on the side of the road to cheer on our runners, and getting some rest when time allowed. One of the advantages to running with a team who was a little slower than the fast teams I’d run with before meant that we had some additional time to support our runners, as well as some additional time to rest between legs which was awesome.

My wife looking beautiful and super strong as she started her first leg, leg 7.

Since I was running Leg 9, this meant that the legs I ran were Legs 9, 21, and 33. My first leg began around 5:30 PM and was 5.5 miles and I was predicted to run 6:19 based on the 10k time I’d entered to estimate my paces. My goal was to start steadily hard and just maintain that effort. I clicked off 6:11’ish miles for the first few and ended up averaging 6:13’s for the leg which I was super stoked on! It was a really hard effort, but short enough that I didn’t feel too much fatigue after it was done.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 9!

My 2nd Leg, Leg 21, was a tough one – not necessarily because of the terrain or distance but because it began around 3 in the morning. The title of this post suggests that weather wasn’t great, and during our vans second legs is when the storm really began. We had rain that was coming down at the intensity of my shower and lightening, but thankfully it was stayed warm and was in the low 60’s. I was predicted to run 6:22 pace for this 5 mile leg and ended up clocking 6:15 pace – it was so wet I think I just wanted to be done!

Quick picture during our 2nd legs which took place between 3-7am - running on energy and teamwork!

Link to data on Strava for Leg 21!

Between the 2nd and 3rd legs is when things got interesting, and where we learned that the storm was affecting the outcome of the race for teams. Race Officials notified us that the wind was blowing at 75mph at the coast, and that they were having to close the finish line. Further, we were told that if we wanted to finish…it would be at our own risk! Crazy! What do you do with that information?! We were 2 legs into our relay, exhausted, and had no way to know what our Van 1 runners were thinking as we didn’t have cell reception. We decided to pull into the final major exchange, rest, and wait to see what they thought when they came in to make the final pass-off. Thankfully, after a few hours the rain/wind lifted and in true Oregon fashion there was a weather shift which gave us some clear weather. By the time our runners came in, we committed to going for it and told Van 1 that we would get the job done and see them at the coast.

My final Leg, Leg 33, was the tough one. 7.75 miles of rolling hills to finish off my contribution to the relay race. I was predicted to run 6:49 pace and was hoping to be closer to 6:45’s. I started off feeling strong and consistent right around a 6:45 pace, and for the first time (for me) the van pulled over mid-way through the run to cheer for me and play my power song! It was such an awesome boost of confidence and motivation, with my brother-in-law challenging me to catch a guy who I had been chasing the whole leg. Just the boost I needed and I fought hard to reel him in right at the finish, averaging around 6:41 pace to finish off the day.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 33!

Our team rallied and made it to the coast almost 2 hours ahead of our predicted time. We met up with our 12th runner and all crossed the new, make-shift finish line together, quickly followed by more than our fair share of pizza which was well deserved. Hood to Coast ’15 was unforgettable for many reasons, the weather being the most obvious, but for me it was the awesome time spent with a family that I’m so lucky to be a part of.

Selfie with the Van 2 runners once we had made it to the coast!

Time to recover, and enjoy some un-structured training for the next few months. I don’t have any races planned, but do anticipating jumping into some local races: a 10k, half marathon, and maybe even a road-mile to capitalize on the new energy I have for running after such a great weekend. Thanks for reading!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Just like that another year of my life has come and gone, and 27 is off to an awesome start. Looking back on the last year, there were some pretty significant ‘firsts’ and I’m looking forward to this year being less chaotic, and continuing to build and establish our new life in Bend, together.
I took my birthday off from work and really made the day a ‘me day’ – which was sweet! April made me an awesome breakfast of waffles (which included plenty of marshmallow cream, peanut butter, and syrup – yes, I have the sweet tooth of a child), and then it was training day! I’d go into all of the details, but instead I’ll just recommend that you follow me on Strava 🙂

After a fun night of pizza and beer at Pacific Pizza and Brew – we headed home which meant it was time to… SIGN UP FOR IRONMAN CANADA. Super excited about Whistler ’16, and looking forward to planning out next years racing schedule. This next year, we know where we are going to be living and working, so I’m excited to be able to plan out a more thorough racing schedule and to really make some big progress. I have built a big base these last few years and think that 2016 is going to be a breakout season for me.

I'm officially signed up for Ironman Canada 2016 in Whistler, BC!

We headed up to Driftwood Campground the day after my birthday to camp on Three Creeks Lake, between Sisters, OR and Brokentop. Of all the things we could have done, going out to the woods with April – eating good food, and spending some quality time around the fire sounded best. Because it’s us, it was definitely an active weekend. We brought our paddle-boards, ran around the lake, and ran Tam MacArthur Rim which was tough, and so worth it for the view.

Enjoying some tinfoil dinner around the campfire at Driftwood Campground Running up Tam MacArthur Rim Taking a break from paddle boarding on Three Creeks Lake

I’m thankful to have a wife who is always up for an adventure, and who continues to support my goals and crazy aspirations in the world of triathlon. 27 is going to be the best year yet, I love you babe!

Patience and Consistency

It’s been just over 1 month since I crossed the line of my first Ironman at Coeur d’Alene. While I feel like a radically different athlete, I’m finding myself feeling rushed to get my speed back and also thinking non-stop about how badly I want another shot at the IM distance after my tough, 106 degree debut. After tracking Ironman Canada and Lake Placid yesterday, and seeing the varying performances by athletes who have been training/racing much longer than I – I’m realizing that I need to start practicing what I preach: the importance of patience and consistency.
I realize that the process of racing an Ironman from start to finish requires years of hard-work (consistency) but it also requires perfect execution and sticking to a plan (patience). However, what I am writing about today is the importance of trusting in that consistent training, and having the patience to fight through poor race performances, tough training days, and the constant desire to get to the ‘next level’, whatever that might be for someone.

My plan for 2016 is Ironman Canada and the goal is Kona. I believe that in 12 months, if I am consistent in how I approach my training, and patient in how I approach the progress of each day/week /month that I absolutely will be on the 25-29 podium next year.

In order to make this goal a reality, I need to continue the work that I’m already doing – I don’t need to train 20 hours a week (yet), but I need to be consistent in how I approach my training, so I’m ready for the big volume that is to come next spring. If I want to swim/bike/run the times I know I’m capable of, I will need to be hitting bigger numbers across all 3 disciplines in training – again, requiring patience to get to that point, rather than forcing this progress before I’m ready.

This post is for me, so I won’t be posting about it on twitter, Instagram, or any other social outlet. It is a reminder to myself to keep doing what I love, to trust in the plan, to be thankful for progress that is made every day, and to believe that come next July I’ll be ready for the big day. And if you’re reading, I hope you are able to find peace in a similar approach and to remember that we do this because we LOVE it and it’s all about the journey.

2015 Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon – Race Report

The three weeks after Ironman absolutely flew by! We stayed busy as we continued to get settled into our new home, and I enjoyed recovery which consisted of rest, some easy training, and a lot of really fun food. I didn’t know what my legs would have in them, but the Deschutes Dash is easily one of my favorite races so I signed up one week before race day. Mentally, I was excited to race and ready to push as hard as I could, physically.
The Swim – 1300m, 14:04 (:50/100y)

One of the best things about this race is that it’s now in my home town. I woke up comfortably at 5:45 and made it down to the race by around 7. After an easy setup in T1 and T2 (this is the 2nd year that the course has had two separate transitions) I took my time making it to the swim start just up river at Farewell Bend Park. On my way, a guy named Patrick came up to me and introduced himself, letting me know that he’d read my blog after trying to do some recon on this race, this was a super cool moment for me. If you are reading this Patrick, thank you and it was awesome to meet you!

The swim is downriver in the Deschutes, which makes for a very fast and fun swim. The 39 and under males lined up around 8 and the gun went off at 8:05. The first few minutes in any triathlon are always fast as you try to fight for position, and I found myself sitting in the top 10 by about 3 minutes in. Many of my competitors stayed close to the inside of the river, but I stayed in the deepest channel I knew about and found myself right at the front of the pack in top 5 position by about half way through. The swim felt quick, especially since only 3 weeks prior I’d swam 3800m in 1 hour, after a thankfully uneventful hard effort I was happy to exit the water in 4th place overall.

The Bike – 25 miles, 1:11:52 (20.87 mph)

After a 2 minute transition (what the heck am I doing for 2 minutes?!?!?!) I was on the bike. After a short climb up Columbia, racers are on Century Dr. for a tough and very honest 25 mile out and back ride. I focused on heart rate over power, and aimed to stay in the 162-168bpm range. I got passed by 3 guys on the way up, but was able to catch one right before the 12.5 mile turn around.

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Once you make the turn-around, it’s all about holding a fast, aerodynamic position on the bike and descending as fast as you possibly can! I enjoyed the descent, but did say my mantra (“I’m married and I love my wife”) out-loud a few times; I took the corners carefully but made up about 30 seconds on the guys that were ahead of me. I saw my wife and brother as I closed in on transition and  was stoked with a PR on this bike course of almost 3.5 minutes, a huge testament that the hard-work on the bike is paying off.

The Run – 6.2 miles, 41:07 (6:36/mi)

After a very quick transition (:52) I was off on the run. At this point I was in 8th place and within about 1 minute of 5th. Normally, the run is my absolute strength but I knew that being 3 weeks post Ironman my legs might not have their normal leg speed. My first mile clicked off in 6:27, and I found myself holding 6:30-6:40/mi the entire race which consisted of some technical trail running and a few short climbs with one, gut-buster from mile 4.5-5.

Endurance wise, I felt the best I ever have – as I don’t normally hold an even pace in an Olympic. I made one strong pass around mile 3, and ended up holding this position, closing the gap but not quite catching 6th. I crossed the finish line in 2:09:58 which was right where I hoped I’d be as my goal was 2:10. This was a big PR of almost 3 minutes for me and I was so pumped to finish with the elite guys, as this was the fastest field I’ve heard of for this race. Thanks to 10 Barrel for all of the support, Hammer Nutrition for the nutrition which was so key, and to Wattie Ink for the most comfortable kit I’ve ever raced in. Huge shout-out to Jonah Belk who finished in just over 2 hours – he is fast, humble, and has a very bright future ahead of him in this sport.

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I’ll spend the next few weeks sharpening up, focusing on speed while maintaining some endurance by incorporating long runs and rides on the weekends. I plan to race a local sprint duathlon in August to test out the legs, I’ll race Hood-to-Coast and the final test for the season will be the Aluminum Man Olympic, where I will be racing for the win.

Thanks for reading and happy training/racing!

IMCDA Race Report. “Michael Wolber…you are an Ironman!”

What an incredible day. My first Ironman is complete and I’m already looking forward to the next. Writing this recap is important for me, I learned so much throughout the preparation for and execution of the race that I hope to apply going forward in my triathlon career.
10 days out from the race, I got a glimpse into the often over-analyzed weather report and the forecasted highs were…high. They were calling for high’s well into the 100’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and there was only one thing I could do: prepare both mentally and physically. I moved workouts to the middle of the day, added layers of clothing and sauna sessions to my already hot runs as Bend was experiencing a heat wave as well. I knew that the temperature would affect my race, but I was going to be prepared. Mentally, I had to commit to checking my pride before the race started – not being focused (obsessed) with time goals, but having a plan in place to finish my first Ironman.

My wife and I drove to CDA Wednesday which was awesome; it gave us plenty of time to get to the race destination, take care of all of the race day details in advance, and to relax. There was a lot of buzz online on the Ironman CDA Facebook group, the Slowtwitch Forums, as well as around town with people saying that the race would get cut short or even cancelled because of the heat. My thoughts, prayers, and conversations quickly became centered on my desire to race the full 140.6 miles. Hundreds of hours’ worth of training, thousands of dollars, and a lot of sacrifice from my wife most importantly, but also myself went into getting to the start line – I know that my intention of racing the full Ironman was shared by many, if not all.

Over the next few days, my nerves settled after hearing from the Race Director at the required athlete briefing that Ironman and the city of CDA intended for us to race the full distance. They moved the AG start to 5:45am to help with avoiding the high temperatures, and I was confident (hopeful) that I’d be racing the full Ironman distance. I did a few tune-up workouts, ate more than my fair share of Juanita’s chips, and enjoyed relaxing in our big VRBO rental with my wife and family as they slowly arrived from Alaska and Oregon.

Race morning arrived; I was up at 3:30 and ate my usual breakfast of yogurt, granola, blueberries and honey. One cup of coffee was all I needed to get the system moving, and I woke my family up using the hilarious intercom system in the house that also played AM/FM radio at 3:45am. My wife, brother, and I hit the road at 4:15 and I was in T1 by 4:30. Perfect. They announced that we’d be racing 140.6 miles and everyone was PUMPED. I felt confident, and calm, by far the least nerves I’ve experienced before a race. I knew that this had to do with my preparation, but also the overwhelming gratitude I was feeling to be able to race and do what I love.

Saying goodbye to my family before the big day began!
Saying goodbye to my family before the big day began!

The Swim (1:00:41)

My swim training really took a turn for the better over the past season. Chris Bagg really helped me learn how to work HARD in the water at Nike Masters, and starting in the fall my average weekly swim volume was 10k or more yards each week. My threshold pace in training progressively dropped and going into this race I was confident that I was capable of a 1:00 Ironman swim.

I lined up in the under 60 minute portion for our rolling start after doing a short warm up and was ready to roll. The first 100 meters consisted of swimming hard and finding space, I found the first loop to be comfortable both with my effort but the space that I had. I came out of the water in 29 minutes and was feeling good going into loop 2. By the turn around, I started catching some of the slower swimmers and knew that my time was going to be a little slower this lap, but I was ok with that. I found some feet and followed a few guys into the finish. Out of the water in 1:00:41 and completely THRILLED with my time and most importantly the effort, it felt easy!

Coming out of the water, kissing my ring and pointing to my wife and family in the crowd. Such a cool moment!
Coming out of the water, kissing my ring and pointing to my wife and family in the crowd. Such a cool moment!

The Bike (5:50:36)

My goal going into the bike was 5:35-5:45. However, I was committed to using Power and Heart Rate to pace the day, not time. After a smooth T1 (wow, the volunteers were amazing!), I was on the bike and feeling good.

The first loop flew by! The temperature felt good, I was able to see my family a few times which was incredible, and I stuck to the plan of 120 calories every 20 minutes (Carbo Pro + HEED) and drinking as much water as I felt I needed. I came through loop 1 in 2:52, on track for a 5:45 bike which I was happy with. Going into the 2nd loop I felt fresh, but the temperature was definitely kicking up.

Heading into lap 2 feeling great
Heading into lap 2 feeling great

I was still drinking plenty of water, and peed 5 times on the bike which was great. However, around mile 85 my stomach wasn’t too pumped on taking in any more of my warm calorie mix and from that point on, it was mostly just water that I was able to take in. I’m going to write a follow-up of the learnings from this race, and electrolytes were a big one.

I came off the bike in 5:50, with my 2nd loop being about 8 minutes slower than the 1st. However, my legs felt good despite not taking in many calories over the last 50 minutes and I was excited to run.

The Run (4:34:20)

My initial time goal of 3:25 went out the window when I knew that the marathon would be happening in 105+ degree conditions. My goal going into the marathon was to keep my HR in mid Z2 which is 150 bpm or less, to walk aid stations making sure I took in plenty of fluid, and to try and enjoy it.

The beginning of a very long run
The beginning of a very long run

After a smooth T2 with the volunteers doing an amazing job of helping me cool down – I was off on the run in my Hoka Cliftons. The first mile was controlled at 7:30 pace but I knew I needed to slow down. The next 12 miles were in the 8:30-8:50 range and I came through 13.1 in 1:52. As good as my mind was feeling, I still wasn’t able to stomach many calories and knew that I was on the verge of a total bonk.

Entering the 2nd loop of the run, I was watching fellow competitors drop out of the race and medical pulling people from the race because of the effect the heat was having on them. I was so committed to finishing, that I knew a run/walk was going to be the only way I could get to the finish. The last 10 miles were slow, I couldn’t get my heart rate over 130 and my fastest mile was a 9:08 and my slowest was 15:02. It was painful, mentally and physically, but I was battling along with hundreds of others and knew that I was going to get the job done.

When I made the turn onto Sherman Avenue, I was instantly overtaken with emotion. I looked behind me and there was no one there, so I knew I was going to be able to enjoy the finishing stretch of the race. I was waving my arms up and down getting the crowd to cheer louder, and looking for my family the entire time. As soon as I hit the Ironman red carpet I saw my family and BOOM, the emotion kicked into full effect. Seeing my wife and the rest of my family was such an incredible way to finish the day and as I ran by them Mike Reilly said the famous words: “Michael Wolber…you are an Ironman!”

The end of an incredible, challenging, and life changing day
The end of an incredible, challenging, and life changing day

My Thoughts

11:34 isn’t the time I’d dreamt of, but the feeling of accomplishment that I have is indescribable. Ironman is an epic day, and one of the big things that I learned is that it’s all about how you respond to what the day brings. I learned a lot, and will save that for my next post, but I’m already talking about what’s next. I love this stuff!

Finally, but most importantly, to the love of my life, April…thank you. The journey to get to the start line was something that we did hand in hand, and without your support and sacrifice there is no way that I would have been able to do it. I love you, and I’m so thankful that you are the leader of my support crew!

Enjoying the finish right before the final finishers came through! Always an incredible moment.
Enjoying the finish right before the final finishers came through! Always an incredible moment.

Move to Bend and Training Update.

Well, a lot has happened since my last post in February. I resigned from Nike and have started a new career in Bend, my wife and I just bought our dream house, and I’m (almost) 4 weeks out from Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Wow!
Moving to Bend has always been a dream of ours, especially since we got married here last summer. To find an amazing job in the Technology industry and be able to make that dream come true has been such an incredible journey to experience, and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to do it with April. After 6 weeks of being in Bend, a house we’d been eying fell out of pending so we POUNCED on it and our offer was accepted within 24 hours. We are thrilled to have a place to call home, and I can’t wait to update my driver’s license with our new Bend, OR address!

Bend has always been my training Mecca – sitting at right around 4,000 ft., dry weather, incredible roads and running trails, and the most amazing outdoor pool – needless to say, it’s been very easy to get used to training here.

This coming Sunday I’ll be 4 weeks out from Ironman Coeur d’Alene which takes place on June 28th. I’ve put in the work and have only a few big volume weeks left before I begin the taper. I’m going to do a 3 week run taper and a 10-14 day bike taper. Once the taper begins I’ll ramp up my swim frequency and volume to 5x/week and roughly 13-15k/week. I’ve always responded well to short bursts of swimming higher frequency. I’m feeling confident with the volume and quality that I’ve hit in training and getting clearer on what I think my goals are going to be for the race.

Happy training and I hope you enjoy a few photos from our journey to Bend (really just me biking and a picture of our new home!).

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Product Review: ROKA SIM Shorts

Most of you know that I am a triathlete. As a triathlete in the Pacific Northwest, I count on racing in a wetsuit for almost every race with a few exceptions: high heat in the late summer in which water temperatures exceed 76.1 degrees (the wetsuit cut-off), when I make it to Kona where it will never be wetsuit legal, or if I happened to forget it (which would never happen because I’m an OCD triathlete). With that said, the buoyancy that you are able to achieve in the water while in a wetsuit is hard to replicate. Pool tools like the swim buoy can definitely help, as they assist in keeping the legs elevated in the water – but nothing does it like the neoprene of a wetsuit. Meet the ROKA SIM short. It’s a neoprene short that is designed for wearing in the pool to help triathletes replicate the body position and experience of a wetsuit swim. It is recommended for use in specific training swims, recovery swims, or as part of your warm-up. Additionally, I think it looks pretty awesome as well:
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Now for my review. This is my first product review, and I’m hoping to do a few more of these over the course of my Ironman Coeur d’Alene build. To be specific, ROKA has three versions of their SIM short and this is the Comp version, which sits in the middle of their offering with a retail price of $89.

What I love

  • The ability to get a real kick. For anyone who has spent time swimming with a pull buoy between your legs, you know it’s difficult to get a good kick while keeping that thing in place. I love that the ROKA SIM shorts keep my body in the perfect body position, while freeing up my legs to kick.
  • They make me FAST. I have always been faster in open water, no coincidence that this is when I’m wearing a wetsuit. I don’t come from a swimming background, but I have worked my butt off to develop as a swimmer – but any advantage helps. Without the SIM shorts, my threshold swim pace is about 1:20/100 yards. With the shorts on I’m able to hold around a 1:16/100 yard pace, I’ll take it.
  • They are convenient. I love the fact that I can throw these in my swim bag and bring them with me to the gym.
  • They look awesome. Well, my wife my not agree – but at least I’m not showing up to the pool in a wetsuit!

What I don’t love

  • The fit. They sit a little bit lower than what I am used to wearing, I’ve gotten used to it. They are definitely comfortable and true to size. I would absolutely recommend wearing a speedo or small suit under these. And to ROKA’s credit, the site is very clear that they sit low.
  • How I feel when I’m not wearing them. This isn’t ROKA’s fault, but I could see how the shorts could become a crutch for some. Although triathletes might argue that if you race in a wetsuit, why not always train in one – I would disagree. It’s important to develop proper technique in the pool, even if that means feeling slower without the SIM shorts. Plus, if I showed up to Masters with these on – I am positive that our coach wouldn’t let me in the water, and I’m not ready to swim in just a speedo!

All in all, I have been extremely pleased with the SIM shorts. It’s an incredible addition to my swimming arsenal, and it serves a great purpose for training. I have been swimming in them twice a week: one recovery swim, and my long solo saturday swims where I’m doing longer race specific intervals. ROKA’s website calls it the ‘ultimate training tool’ – and I would officially have to agree.

What is your favorite swim tool/toy?

All About That Base

As I’ve segued back into a structured training plan, I’ve been surprised at how little my appetite has changed. Today when I got to master swim practice, I saw our coach for the first time in a few weeks as he’s been traveling. The first thing he said was ‘Mike, you’re looking skinny!’ We got to talking about the balance of weight loss and triathlon training and I realized the importance of this base phase that I’m in.
I’m self coaching myself and using just about every resource available. There is a lot (a LOT) of literature out there about triathlon training, and I would say that a ton of it is conflicting. Not that this is surprising, when diving into any subject with quantitative and qualitative areas it’s usual to have different opinions and point of views. With that said, there is a lot of debate around what to do in the base phase. Some say that you should focus on short, hard intervals and training that is very different from your race specific training, while others say long and easy is the way to go – and everything in between.

In trying to put additional focus and attention on my biking and swimming, It’s made the most sense for me to go the ‘long and easy’ route. I’m running a fair amount, and will look to average 30-40 miles per week (mpw) over the next 2 months, maybe a bit more. The difference is that it is very easy running. Today I ran for 1 hour and averaged 8:42/mile. The easy mileage I’m putting in has so many benefits. I’m building up my aerobic engine and endurance without taxing my legs too much. This enables me to nail my cycling workouts while still getting in some solid mileage. It also is giving me a chance to lose some of the holiday/off-season weight as the easier mileage means my body is burning fat for the most part rather than glycogen and sugar. When I finish an easy hour run I’m not hungry and it’s much easier to manage my appetite versus when I start introducing more quality in the coming weeks and months.

The base phase definitely contains a lot of training that isn’t very stimulating. I’m certain that I’m laying a foundation that is going to have me ready to put in some real work as I continue building towards Ironman Coeur d’Alene and I’m excited to continue on this journey.

Swine Flu, You Win

Last Sunday, I posted a picture on my Instagram account telling the world, well 240 followers, that I was officially beginning my Ironman Coeur d’Alene training. The plan was plugged into Training Peaks, I had all of the gear I needed to get after it, and mentally – I was ready to rock and roll.
I woke up Monday morning feeling less than amazing. My thought was that after 2 weeks away from the routine of work, my body was just a little bit in shock to be waking up close to 6am, but my spirits were high. I packed my gym bag (Swim, Run, Lift were on the schedule), had my usual granola/yogurt/fruit breakfast + coffee, and headed to work right around 8.

As soon as I got to work I could tell I was off. After a leadership meeting in the morning, my body was feeling achy, mentally it was very hard for me to engage, and I was feeling very weak in general. I hoped that a swim/sauna would help shake things off – and headed to the gym for my usual lunch workout. After 1800 yards and sitting in the sauna without sweating, I knew I was sick. What followed the next few days was not what I had in mind for my first week of Ironman Training.

The entire week basically looked like this:

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Yep, that’s me in bed, our dog Lola keeping me company, and my wife taking a picture of me while taking care of everything else since I was OUT. I won’t get into the details of the week, but the doctor diagnosed me with H1N1/Swine Flu. For 4 straight days I fought fevers peaking out at 103.3, and was more exhausted then I’ve ever been. I also found the show Friends (I had never seen an episode before this week!), and am on my 32nd episode since Monday.

I’m thankful for my wife who took care of everything at the house and tended to everything that I needed and/or wanted, and for a body that is strong and able to kick such an awful virus. I woke up this morning feeling mostly back to myself. Week 1 of Ironman training didn’t happen like I’d hoped, but going into my first real week next week, my body is going to be ready and my immune system will be strong which is a good thing. Now I am really ready to start training!