Athlete Guide

My Father’s Wisdom

Listen Here

My father was born almost six years before The Great Crash of 1929. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), he grew up during the Great Depression. The one storyline I distinctly remember him telling me several times was about his father and the family’s good fortune during one of America’s most difficult eras.

His father, my grandfather, worked for the U.S. Postal Service which gave the family quite a bit of security knowing he had a job. Every now and then, I would ask dad about the depression and the only take-away messages I remember are:

  • there are no guarantees in life.
  • a secure job will keep food on the table.

He talked about how lucky the family was to have a regular income. Times were still tough, but not as tough as waiting in bread lines.

As I reflect back on those conversations more than 40 years ago, there were things he didn’t talk about. He didn’t talk about all the people out of work during the 1930’s. He didn’t talk about how hungry other kids in the neighborhood were. I learned all that in school and from old newspaper articles.

So here I am today, working in a decent job that allows me to put food on the table, keep a roof over my head and do the sport I love. I got here because this is what I planned on doing. Yet there’s something I didn’t plan on: heartache. I do not feel bad for attaining my current position in life. Instead, I feel guilty that I am still working while millions are predicted to be out of work soon due to the coronavirus pandemic. In my little sphere of influence already, people close to me have been laid off. It is heart wrenching to know that there are good people out there who want work, but can’t in the short term. Some times the short term is too long to wait for a recovery.

All of dad’s wisdom never prepared me for this.

And do you want to know what’s ironic? Dad left his secure job for one of the least secure professions in the world: show business.

But feeling terrible for the unfortunate doesn’t help anyone. I know what I have to do. I must keep working as long as I can to help our sagging economy and put food on my family’s table. I need to continue training for a race that was cancelled a week ago. Above all, I need to act in charitable ways. I hope you will too.

Until next time…

COVID-19 Race Rescheduled

As both readers of this blog know, since December I’ve been training for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga with a target date of May 17, 2020. Now that the race has been rescheduled to August 23, 2020, I have a training decision to make:

  • Do I continue the race specific training which has me peaking around May 17? or
  • Do I scale back to a general prep (base) period?

Periodization

If you are not familiar with the concept of periodization, race specific training is what athletes focus on as they get closer to a goal race. The workouts during this period resemble the target race pace. There will be a few intervals of higher intensity thrown in here and there, but for most workouts, race like intensity is the main focus.

The base period is a foundation of general preparation which precedes the race specific training. It usually consists of long, low intensity workouts.

The content of each phase actually depends on the athlete and the goal race. In my case, I was training for a long course race (IRONMAN 70.3) and following a somewhat traditional periodization plan.

Because my target race was moved farther out in the year, the training I’m doing now is probably not appropriate for the new race date. So here’s what I’m going to do and I hope it helps others make their decision of how to handle training for their new race dates.

Stay The Course

I’m going to train as though I will race on May 17 even though there is no official race on that day. This mean bringing my fitness to a race ready state. The alternative is to drop back to a general prep phase/period and focus my race build-up fitness 12 to 16 weeks out from my next race. The problem with that is two fold: 1) I don’t know what my next long course race is and 2) I don’t want to waste the long course fitness that I’ve gained already.

This actually presents a unique opportunity to test my training before an official race. On or about May 17 I plan to swim, bike and run all 70.3 miles as close to race pace as possible. There will be challenges such as motor vehicle traffic, no aid stations, no fancy finish line and no VIP tent for me to snub my nose at. If it works as I expect, I should have a good idea of how my training worked and what we can change for the next long course race which will probably be sometime in late summer or early fall. That should give me plenty of time to recover, start over in a general prep phase and then build up to a higher level of fitness.

Conclusion

Yes. COVID-19 sucks. It has taken many lives and threatens many more. It has caused incredible economic damage and is destroying livelihoods. To keep things in perspective, triathlon is not essential for the health of the world population at this time, so it is completely understandable that races are cancelled or rescheduled.

On the other hand, we individuals need to find the hope and motivation that will get us through these dark days. For me, that hope and motivation come from the dream to do great things as a triathlete and I know I’m not alone. A rescheduled race is not nearly as much of a challenge when you keep in mind that some people won’t make it through this epidemic at all. I wish the best for everyone.

Until next time…

Is IRONMAN In Hot Water… Again?

Before we dig into the meat of today’s post, let’s celebrate a new comment on the TriRiot Home Page.

This one is a single word: Garden. Not as wordy as the last comment, but probably just as meaningful. I think these comments belong to a secret code and once I assemble all of them, I’ll know their true meaning.

Now on to today’s post…

Screw You, COVID-19

COVID-19 sucks.

There. I said it. Everyone else is saying it so I figured I’d better join in. My first A race of the season was rescheduled, but that’s not why I’m using choice words (like “sucks”) in regard to COVID-19. It’s just a devastating virus. That’s all there is to it.

Come On, IRONMAN!

The IRONMAN Group is receiving some negative comments for the way they are handling race cancellations and rescheduling. It’s easy to focus anger at IRONMAN because they are a corporation. Andrew Messick, the CEO, is not often seen or portrayed as one of the rank-and-file. (As a contrast, four billion people just love the Dalai Lama and he claims to be nothing more than a regular monk). So yes, it is easy to take out aggressions on WTC or the IRONMAN Group if you see them as little more than a money hungry behemoth that leaves the little guy drowning in its wake.

The Complaint

The complaint is simple. Complainers want IRONMAN to quickly make a decision as to the fate of their races in the face of COVID-19. I can understand. Athletes want to know if they have to change travel plans and how to modify their training. However, dealing with dozens of cancellations, postponements, etc. is a horrendous task for IRONMAN and all the local race directors.

The Defense

I’m not an IRONMAN insider, so I’m not going to try to defend them with facts and figures and legal precedence. But I do know how difficult these situations are on a race company. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew put many miles of the IRONMAN North Carolina bike course under water and destroyed several communities along that course. It was devastating. The IRONMAN reps worked closely with our race director and course directors to find a solution. They could have easily pulled out and said, “See ya next year.” But they stayed and worked out a modified course. It was 56 miles short, but at least many of us had our day.

Flood Waters Covering the Road
Hurricane Matthew flooding.

During the decision process, social media lit up with negative comments about how IRONMAN should have been more transparent. I’m guessing those comments represented about 3 to 5% of the registered athletes. What those athletes couldn’t see was that many people were working behind the scenes for them so they could have a race. Also, because IRONMAN wanted to make things right, it gave all athletes a voucher for discounted entry into a race for the following year and donated money to the communities most affected.

I don’t want you to think I’m holding them up as a model of good corporate citizenship, but they did try to make things right.

Then, in 2018, Hurricane Florence dropped so much water on the region, that even more of the bike course was submerged than in 2016 and a key area of the bike course was completely washed a way (U.S. Hwy 421). That race simply had to be canceled, but not until all options were explored. These decisions were not taken lightly.

Now What?

So here we are in 2020 and facing the first large scale pandemic since 1918 and IRONMAN has some decisions to make: not just about one race. They have to consider many races across the globe and how to handle them. Then they have to figure out how to help the individual athletes.

I’ve been affected like many others and for me it is IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. Yesterday, the news finally came out that the race would be rescheduled. I’m lucky because they gave me six weeks notice. They also gave me some choices. I can either stay with the race in Chattanooga on the new date or I can transfer my registration to one of three other races. In my opinion, they’ve gone way beyond what they needed to do to keep me as a customer. There are reasons I don’t like racing in Mdot branded events, but those reasons are outweighed by the reasons I like it. Not only that, registration is a contract and that contract does not require IRONMAN to do much for me if a race is cancelled due to circumstances out of their control.

If IRONMAN is still trying to decide the fate of your upcoming race, I’m truly sorry. I know the feeling. But please cut them some slack. They work very hard to be a big, profit oriented corporation. And they work very hard to give you a fantastic race experience. I see nothing wrong with either.

Until next time…

Should You Eat Like A Caveman?

Just because our prehistoric ancestors ate a certain diet, does not mean it is the best diet for our performance as an athlete.

Quantitative Genetics

When I was in school, I took a class in genetics. Actually, I took many classes in genetics, but I want to focus on one in particular. There is a field of study called quantitative genetics and it’s a fascinating look into they way genetics works on a large scale. You may have heard of the term, heritability, which comes from this discipline within the world of genetics.

Anyway, my first class in quantitative genetics was taught by a fantastic professor who knew how to make her students think. She said something within the first few weeks of class that scared the crap out of me. She said something along the lines of

… with all the possible combinations of DNA resulting in defects, it is truly amazing that we are alive.

Really? From a statistical point of view she may have been right, but to think that I could drop dead at any moment from a chromosomal aberration or a deleterious mutation was pretty scary. What she said makes sense within the context of the laws of evolution that govern species survival.

Ancient Diets

Some people talk about eating like a prehistoric cave dweller. Presumably, that’s the diet that helped shape humans’ ability to hunt, gather, reproduce, and survive. Evolution favored the human that survived long enough to reproduce. I guess the “paleo” diet advocates believe that a prehistoric diet will help them be healthier and live longer.

I don’t deny some of those claims, but a diet that favors survival of the species does not mean it will help a 56 year old qualify for Kona. I don’t want to insult anyone or say anyone is wrong for adopting a paleo or keto diet. The results of some scientific investigations suggest they have merit. However, I do wish to offer a perspective which I have yet to read or hear in the popular media.

As a prehistoric creature, the human must have eaten a diet that promoted a certain level of health to allow it survival in very difficult times. But evolution only cares about survival to reproduce. It doesn’t care that you want to live to 100. It doesn’t care that you want to finish a triathlon. In fact, it doesn’t care if you have a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger (I’m talking Arnold from 40 years ago). It doesn’t matter that everyone lived a short life. The only winners were the ones who reproduced the most.

The Modern Human

Any genetic combination was allowed to survive as long as it lived long enough to reproduce. Most of us today competing in triathlon are much older than any of our prehistoric ancestors. Most of us have already reproduced and most of us have already proven our worthiness of survival (in the eyes of evolution). It doesn’t matter if modern medicine has intervened in our survival, because that’s part of evolution too.

My point is that we can’t justify a diet’s merit toward triathlon performance based on its relation to the diet of our prehistoric cousins. I’m not saying we need to eat processed foods, but I am saying that we are doing things with our bodies that prehistoric evolution never had to deal with: almost all of us are living longer.

So What Is Best?

Modern humans have to deal with choices like never before. Strawberries in January? Mangos in Arizona? A complete meal in a box? Low carb? High carb?

We are never going to know which combination of foods will allow us to express our absolute best performance on race day, but we can definitely find out which ones hold us back. It all comes down to trial and error with a disciplined approach.

Training for triathlon is not only about heart, muscle and mind. It’s also about training the gut. Of the three sports nutritionists I recently interviewed, all mentioned this concept and expressed how important it is. And after five weeks of training under the guidance of a nutritionist, I believe it.

Here’s What You Can Do

The key to finding what works is to know your choices, start with one of them, then follow a disciplined method.

  1. Practice your daily nutrition and record your observations. How do you feel? Did you get diarrhea? Did you have more energy? What else is noteable?
  2. During training days practice prerace meals, bike fueling, run fueling and record your observations. Did you get water belly? Did you have GI distress? How much were you able to consume (kcal, ml, g, etc).
  3. When something doesn’t work, what could you have done differently to make it work? If you can’t think of anything or you don’t have a coach forcing you to try again then move on to another option. Otherwise, try to make it work.
  4. Above all, be consistent just like you are with the rest of your training and record everything.

That’s about all I know on that subject. Until next time…

A Sigh Of Relief… sort of

Did you hear that?…

That was a collective sigh of relief from the triathlon community.

For quite some time now, the Professional Triathlete’s Organization (PTO) was attempting to purchase WTC and The IRONMAN Group from Wanda Sports.

I have nothing against the PTO. They have good goals for the professional athletes. But I did not want them to command the destiny of IRONMAN races. This is totally selfish on my part, because I was concerned that the PTO would turn the biggest IRONMAN event, the daddy of ’em all, into an annual, professional only media blitz. That’s right, I predicted that if PTO owned Kona, age-groupers like myself would be pushed out.

My concerns may be unfounded, but not far fetched, and I’m not alone in this. Triathlon Taren, in a recent podcast expressed a similar concern of what the PTO might have done to IRONMAN.

The bottom line is that Wanda Sports Group is selling The IRONMAN Group… but not to the PTO. The winning bidder is a family owned business called Advance that, according to a press release published in Endurance Sportswire,

…believes in the long-term strength of its [IRONMAN’s] well-recognized brands and the dedication of its athletes, communities, employees and fans.

We still don’t know what plans Advance has for IRONMAN, so my big, loud sigh of relief may be somewhat temporary.

Can’t Escape Talking About Coronavirus

I’m sure you’re not wondering, but I’m going to tell you anyway. We still don’t know if IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga will be cancelled, rescheduled or left alone. Either way my training continues as though the event will go on. If it does get cancelled, I plan on peaking anyway and having my own event. I get to be the race director, announcer and athlete. That way if I have a complaint I can only blame myself and when I cross the finish line I can say whatever I want about myself.

Fried Shallot Rings Optional

For the past five years, I’ve been posting YouTube videos and writing blog posts about most anything that crosses my mind. Usually, I can find a way to bring it back to triathlon or endurance sport. But today I’m stumped.

When I say, “… crosses my mind.”, I mean that loosely. My mind is more of a country cross roads than the intersection of 72nd Street and Broadway in NYC’s Manhattan.

So why am I stumped? TriRiot posts don’t attract too much attention so the comments are sparse. When someone does comment, it’s usually something related to the post on which they are commenting. Today I received the following comment:

I had no idea that fried shallot rings added alluring flavor, to the spring rolls. And crunch? OMG. I want some now!

First, let me say that I have never… ever… ever posted about fried shallot rings or spring rolls. Onion rings and dinner rolls, maybe.

Obviously this commenter knows something about triathlon nutrition that all the experts have overlooked. This can not be a random comment. What troller would use the words, “alluring” and “optional” in the same sentence?

Remember the old spy movies? There would be a scene where one spy sitting at a restaurant table says to the waiter,

“Does today’s special come with a side of Russian dressing or do I have to bring my own? “

Then the waiter, who is really a spy in disguise, replies with something just as strange,

Yes. And the fried shallot rings add alluring flavor and crunch to the spring rolls, as well, but they’re optional.

I think my commenter either works for the CIA, the KGB or the CDC. Too bad I don’t, because I have no idea what that comment means.

If there is a run on fried shallot rings or spring rolls in the near future, I’m applying for a job with the CIA.

Six Feet And Counting

I figured out how to convince everyone to observe the rules of social distancing.

As you know, our virus epidemic has prompted our good government to recommend that everyone maintain a distance of six feet from everyone else. With over seven billion people on this planet and most of the surface made of water, I doubt there’s enough room, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

After my bike ride this morning, I stopped in to the grill at Johnson’s Corner. If you have ever raced IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina then you’ve passed Johnson’s Corner at least two times (maybe not if you took a wrong, but I’m sure that’s never happened to you).

This grill/store is a typical country store that you might find out here: small, narrow paths between the shelves of candy bars, canned goods, refrigerated drinks and fishing tackle. There are a few tables and benches for eating and socializing, but recently those were overturned so no one could sit down due to current epidemic and health orders from the government.

When I walked in I must have been something to stare at. My Spam cycling jersey is kind of bright.

Anyway, there were a few customers inside that must not have gotten the memo about social distancing. They were off to one side, so I didn’t have to deal with them and I wasn’t about to say something. That would just piss them off.

While I was waiting for my hamburgers, I was thinking about this social distancing issue and it suddenly occurred to me that stores in our area are in the midst of a run on toilet paper. Everyone is even making jokes about it.

So here’s the real issue:

in public you have no way of knowing who around you has already run out of toilet paper.

That’s enough to keep me six feet way from anyone… unless she is handing me my bag of burgers.

Even with the smell of hand sanitizer on my hands, those are some of the best burgers in Pender County.

That’s My Bag

Why do transition bags have to be so big? Lori has been using this one I got from Setup Events (great race company, BTW).

Lori carrying huge transition bag.
Some transition bags are more like duffle bags

ME: That bag is huge. It is soooooo big.

YOU: How big is it?

ME: It’s so big, those goggles I thought I left at home were actually hiding way down in the bottom.

ME: It’s so big three of our cats went missing for an hour. Guess where they were sleeping.

ME: It’s so big the neighbors thought Lori kicked me out of the house when I carried it to the car.

ME: It’s so big Kenny Baker and Billy Barty can have a wrestling match in it.

YOU: Enough already. Get over it.

ME: ok

The Right People

Did I just get relocated to Winnipeg, MB, Canada? My run this morning was freezing!

OK. I’m exaggerating, but it was cold.

It’s a twenty five minute drive in a cozy warm car from the TriRiot ranch to Marty’s house which is where we met to run. The usual meeting time is 5:15AM, but I like to arrive about 10 minutes early so I can sit in the car and relax a bit before running.

As I pulled up the driveway, I could see Marty coming out of the front door, but the wind had such a terrible bite, that as soon as it hit him, he turned around and went back inside.

Keep in mind that cold is a relative thing. I’m sure a resident of Winnipeg, MB would find this weather quite balmy.

By the time Marty, fully covered from head to toe, reemerged from his house, John was pulling up and then we ran.

Running with them is much like running in any small group of runners. We start out with about 20 yards of silent reflection which amounts to each of us thinking, “why the hell am I out in this cold weather at 5:15AM?”. Then either Marty or I break the silence with some small talk:

Marty: “So how’s work?”

LG: “Not bad.” “How are the kids?”

Marty: “Good. All good.” “John’s not talking to us today”

John: “”

Small talk is almost always followed by a little more silence. Then by the time we reach the half mile mark, the real conversation begins. Sometimes it’s lively. Sometimes one of us does all the talking. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we just bitch about the world as it is.

The three of us represent diverse religions and political ideologies so you can imagine how hot the topics might get.

How is it that such different people can get along? It doesn’t matter what we talk about and it doesn’t matter what insults get thrown about. We always part ways with a smile and sincerely wish each other well.

Sometimes a good workout is good, not because the intervals are just right. Sometimes a good workout is good, because it’s done with the right people.

I’ll Take the Corona. You Keep the Virus.

63 Days Until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

I may be way off on that 63 day number above. If this virus gets its way, IM70.3 Chatty might be postponed. Many races have already been postponed or canceled.

The impact of this situation on daily life is being felt everywhere. Last week the honorable governor of the great state of North Carolina declared that there should be no public gatherings of 100 or more people. The pool that Lori and I swim in every Sunday is closed for who knows how long.

I hear just recently that our governor reduced the number that can gather in public from 100 to 50. If that number keeps dropping I may have to cancel my “group” run with Marty and John tomorrow morning.

I’m not usually one to buy in to conspiracy theories, but here’s one that our great government should investigate: Zwift, the indoor cycling company. Follow this logic (if you can call it logic).

  1. Zwift has been a booming business lately. Cyclists and triathletes have been enjoying winter trainer rides.
  2. Winter in the Northern hemisphere is coming to an end and cyclists want to ride outside. I certainly do.
  3. Global warming could shorten winters leading to more cyclists riding outside.
  4. COVID-19 comes along and Zwift convinces everyone to stay inside “for their health” (wink wink).
  5. “And while you’re inside, you might as well subscribe to Zwift to be sure you get in your training”

If you followed that logic, you might believe this too. I think Mr. Trump is a cyclist who likes to ride outside. That must be why he pulled us out of the Paris Accord. I was hoping he’d get us back in or, at least, get us into a Honda Accord, but I guess neither is going to happen.

Even if Zwift is innocent, there are plenty of other companies out there making a lot of money on COVID-19. The stock market may be crashing, but hand sanitizer and soap demand are booming. My hands permanently smell like a combination of Purell and Nutragena.

Here’s one that I simply don’t understand: toilet paper. For Pete’s sake, will someone please explain to me why there is a run on toilet paper during a virus pandemic. Charmin stock prices must be through the roof! Personally, I’m not concerned about running out of toilet paper. I’d be more concerned about running out of food or medications. If necessary, I can use my gas station receipts and wash my hands.

Races will be canceled. Schools will be closed. Public events will be postponed. But life will go on and we’ll come out on the other side. We may be a bit damaged or bruised by then, but if we keep our hands clean and obey simple rules of hygiene, we should be ok.

That 70 year old bomb shelter in the back yard might make a good quarantine hut for a few weeks.