Athlete Guide

Day 78 – Junk Pile

I’ve lost track of how many days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga 2020, but the training goes on. I was sick yesterday: REST DAY! YAY! Here’s the fourth photo for #triathlonchallenge.

This photo, by itself, really has no appeal. As I look at it now, it just seems uninteresting. The reason I chose this photo is because you can learn something about a triathlete by their transition area (TA). In my experience, a neat, clean area is usually the sign of an efficient athlete. It belongs to someone who knows what they are doing. Others lay out everything they own. Some athletes bring so much junk into the TA that you might think they are having a yard sale.

How many water bottles do you really need… for a sprint?

Day 77 – Bigger Than Life

Chicago Triple Challenge

In 2009, seven of us from Wilmington competed in the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge. After the supersprint, we were all in a good mood and ready to take on the sprint and olympic races the following day. Why we wanted to pose in front of a giant symbol of America’s favorite fast food is beyond me, but we did it and you can tell we were having fun.

Day 76 – The Last Athlete

So there’s a hashtag on Facebook: #triathlonchallenge. I’m not sure if it’s a big deal or a local thing, but apparently it’s associated with a challenge. And I’ve been properly challenged.

It goes something like this: Sami challenges me to post a picture every day for the next 10 days. I can’t write a caption. I can’t write an explanation. I just post the pictures with the hashtag and then nominate someone else to do the same thing. The goal is to spread the joy of triathlon to all the unsuspecting Facebook friends.

For the next several blog posts, I’m going to post the same pictures with short explanations.

The last athlete on the IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina bike course

It was mile 53 of the IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina bike course and the cut off time was a couple of minutes away. Drivers were irritated by the traffic and cops were yelling at us to close the course. The athlete in the picture gave it a good shot, but it just wasn’t her day. There would be no IRONMAN victory for her that day.

Day 75 – Left Turn, Clyde


Don’t click away. You’re going to love this video. If you’ve already seen it, then you might like the story behind it…

An Epic Race

In 2008, a race company called SetUp Events and the Wilmington Family YMCA joined forces to put on one of the most extensive events in the SE North Carolina region. It was a USAT sanctioned ultra (iron) distance triathlon that covered four counties plus the cities of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.

Athletes began their day on the beach of Banks Channel and ended their day at the USS North Carolina, a battleship turned museum across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. The name of the race: Beach 2 Battleship.

To Turn Or Not To Turn

The race was a logistical nightmare for several reasons. First of all, it was a point to point race. Second, it included a full iron distance race and a half iron distance race. If the full distance bike course had been two loops then the half course could easily have been a single loop. However, that was not the case. Half course athletes had to make a left turn at mile 33 while the full course athletes kept going straight.

You probably know where I’m going with this. Read on anyway.

Athletes are responsible for knowing the course. It says that in almost every athlete guide (I think it says that in almost every athlete guide). Yet race directors do their best to place directional volunteers at crucial intersections and turning points. There were at least six volunteers at this intersection where the half course athletes were required to turn left. Volunteers stood along the road for 200 yards leading up to the intersection yelling, “FULL ATHLETES GO STRAIGHT. HALF ATHLETES TURN LEFT.” The pavement was marked with bright orange paint. There were cones in the road. There were sandwich board signs on the side of the road. In 2016 I even posted a video that explained the intersection in detail (It’s a really good video ;-))

The Unlucky Few

Without fail. Every year. At least one half course athlete would go straight and/or at least one full course athlete would turn left. That’s to be expected. Some people don’t listen.

The part of the story that gets me is that most, not all, but most of these directionally challenged athletes blamed the race director for their mistake. One year I was driving the van that rides around the bike course looking for athletes that need help. At mile 40 of the full course, there was a young woman who was clearly in last place. I drove along side of her, rolled down the passenger window and asked how she was doing. I had no intention of pulling her from the course, because at her current speed she had a chance to finish before the cutoff. She spent the next 60 seconds yelling at me about how she got lost because she turned left at that “confusing” intersection. Apparently, she didn’t see any of the signs or notice the cones. Neither did she see or hear the volunteers. I guess she didn’t study the course map either.

I heard reports from my friends at the aid stations the she was still complaining to anyone within earshot of her. I believe them, because I was at the bike finish when she rolled in. She had just made the cutoff and I could hear her bitching to the spectators and volunteers about how she got lost. She was so angry that she quit the race and never came out of transition to start the run.

I heard second hand about another case study: the long course athlete that rode the entire half course. I don’t know how true this is, but when he came into transition he knew something was wrong by the distance on his bike computer. He claimed he had no idea that he was on the wrong course. For 23 miles he had no idea that he was on the wrong course! I heard that our race director, being the nice guy he is, drove this athlete out to mile 56 and dropped him off so he could continue his full course race. Did the race director actually do that? I don’t know.

So that’s the story behind the video. Just do me a favor and please study the course maps for your next race. Because if you get lost, it’s not the race director’s fault.

Until tomorrow…

Day 74 – What Does Stupid Feel Like?

We are now 74 days into training for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga and I’m feeling pretty good about my progress. But I’m feeling pretty stupid about what I did today. (No. I did not put on my wetsuit backwards again).

I use TrainingPeaks (TP) to plan workouts and store data. I love it. I’ve used their web based service since 2007 and have never had a problem. I use Final Surge also, but I don’t like it as much as TrainingPeaks.

Creating a workout in TP is easy. I like to do that so I can compare the planned workout with the actual results. So that’s what I did last night: I created a workout with all the intervals.

Comparing actual workout stats (pink) with the planned workout (blue)

After the workout, my Garmin watch faithfully synchronized all the numbers with my sortofsmartphone which is supposed to send the data to TP.

My usual MO is to go directly to the TP app and analyze my workout. This time, however, I was having problems. The TP app opened on my laptop, but the workout data was not there. Neither was the planned workout. Everything I did was gone!

I reentered all the planned workout details into a new workout, but TP gave me an error. It said my workout had been deleted. W. T. F. ? I repeated this process two times and got the same results.

I went nuts: absolutely ballistic. I was ready to dump TP and go with Final Surge. Of course, my ballistic behavior was all kept inside. Had I let it out, the other patrons in the coffee house where I get WiFi would have called the police. I didn’t need the police. I just needed WiFi.

Oh Jeez, I realized. I need WiFi. The WiFi on my computer was turned off. I turned it on and apologized to no one for going ballistic, but I did feel stupid.

I love TP.

Until tomorrow…

Day 73 – Triathlon Nutrition Secrets

I am so ashamed. Normally, junk food is not a legitimate food group, but today it supplied overt 30% of my calories in a 30 minute display of desperation.

From 8AM to 2PM, the screen of my Macbook computer assaulted my eyes with numbers, charts, graphs, pictures, data and blue light. It was relentless. The problems my coworkers and I had been trying to resolve were a lot tougher than most problems we’d faced before. It took three of us to conclude that we had no idea how to solve it.

To make matters worse, the weather outside was getting stormy. I actually like stormy weather, but what made the matters worse was the wind: it blew open my louvered window. At this point, most people would just shut and latch the window, but not me. There is nothing to keep that window latched shut and, because it is louvered, the only way to shut it is from outside. The mini blinds rattled and crashed against the window trim until I could take it no more. At that point I was emotionally and mentally bankrupt. My shit inventory was so low I had none to give.

Sometimes the best way to solve this emotional state is to go for a walk and that’s exactly what I did. I walked to the corner store to get a snack. I’m sure you’ve heard of a food desert. This store is a food void: a food black hole. The shelves are stocked full of highly processed, chemically enhanced, neatly packaged “treats” that most civilized humans would recognize as “bad for you.”

I grabbed a package of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts (2 pastries, 400Cal), a jumbo all-natural Angus beef stick (130Cal), and Little Debbie creme filled cupcakes (10000000Cal), but that’s not all. A meal like that needs to be washed down with a 20oz Vanilla Coca Cola (250Cal). And all that was under $7.00… what a deal!

The woman behind the counter nicely bagged my goodies without judgement. Had I been the store clerk, I would have been muttering under my breath and passing all kinds of judgement on anyone who would buy all that crap that some people call food. I was certainly judging myself quite harshly for it.

The cupcakes were the first to be devoured. They were down the hatch before I even got back to the office. Next was the beef stick, then the toaster pastries and lastly, the Coke.

That was seven hours ago. I’m still feeling ill. Why do I do that kind of thing? I know better. Maybe it’s because I gave up donuts and pancakes so now my body is pissed off and does this to get back at me. I hate to think of what kind of workout I’m going to have in the morning if this is my fuel.

Until tomorrow…

Day 72 – Living the Dream

101 Days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga (I think)

My first A race of the season is 101 days away according to Alexa. I have no idea who Alexa is, but she(it) invaded our home on Christmas day last year. She’s good at answering simple questions, but she sucks at giving advice.

Me: Alexa, What’s the point? I go to work everyday to a job that’s not fun. It’s not for me. Oh, sure… the coworkers are great and a steady paycheck is nice, but I dread spending so much time at that office when I could be out riding my bike or filming new TriRiot episodes. Work has me so busy, I haven’t had time to pay the bills or put shoes on the horses. What should I do? Should I take early retirement? Should I just leave and be a Wal-Mart greeter for the next 20 years? Alexa, what should I do?

Alexa: Let’s play a game. I have quiz games and interactive stories.

Me: Alexa, put yourself up for sale on my Amazon account.

Until tomorrow…

Day 69 – Comedy on a Treadmill

There’s nothing funny about doing a long run on a treadmill, unless you are Fred Allen.

Fred was a great vaudevillian who made millions laugh from the stage and through the radio.

“My hometown was so dull that one time the tide went out and it never came back”

Fred Allen

He even wrote a book called “Treadmill to Oblivion.”

And that’s how I justify writing about a comedian on a blog site called TriRiot.

The book is actually a pretty good read if you like the golden age of comedy. But the descriptions of how hard he worked to make a good radio show are not so different than the efforts we put into making ourselves good triathletes.

Life is an endurance event. Training for triathlon is training for life.

Until tomorrow…

Day 68 – Work Stress, Training Stress

My purpose in this post is to share with you an observation that I’ve made about our sources of stress and what we can do about them.

It’s Been a Busy Week

It’s ironic that today marks the end of one of my busiest weeks with respect to work, because it is also my longest training week so far: 7+ hours. I don’t know how I’ve been able to juggle both schedules, but no one is threatening to fire me or divorce me or suggest I pickup a different sport like darts.

And 7 hours of workouts is just the beginning!

I’m always amazed at how much we think we can get done in a week compared to how much we can actually get done. Just when I think I’ve hit my limit, the boss asks for something else or there’s a family crisis that needs my attention. In a way, this is a good thing, because we are capable of more than we think we are. In another way, it could be a bad thing, because each additional activity adds a bit of stress to the body and the mind. So how do we find that balance?

Work Stress

I’m not very good at finding that balance, because at work I have a “yes” problem. For example:

Coworker: “Hey, LG. Can you help me develop a set of database queries to summarize the latest production data, identify inefficiencies, list all of our shortcomings and solve global climate change?”

Me: “Sure!”

This kind of thing doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I just bite the bullet and work a bit more without consideration of the stress I’m accumulating. Unfortunately, the only estimate of work or family stress is time spent doing something stressful. I can’t make a generalization of overstress symptoms, but I can tell you about my experience. When I get stressed from work and family, I experience some, if not all, of the following symptoms:

  • decreased work performance
  • lowered motivation
  • poor sleep
  • irritability
  • chronic fatigue
  • depression
  • increased appetite

Training Stress

Training for triathlon requires the same balance of pushing ourselves to the limits, but not over the limits. The first lactate threshold is one such limit. The second lactate threshold is another limit. The body can easily be pushed beyond these limits, but if it is done too often, there is a price to pay. For triathletes, the price is overtraining which is recognized by any combination of its symptoms like stagnant performance gains, chronic fatigue, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sore muscles, depression and lowered motivation.

Different sources of stress. Similar symptoms.

Do triathletes have a type A personality? I’ve heard we do. I’ve also heard that because we have type A personalities, we tend to push our low intensity workouts harder than we should which leads to more than the optimal amount of physiological stress.

Manage The Stress

Now for that observation I told you about in the first paragraph of this post.

There are a myriad of self help gurus out there that will tell you how to manage the emotional, mental and psychological stresses that accumulate in your life. Their solutions include expensive retreats, expensive drugs, illegal drugs, herbs, meditation, group counseling, group therapy, pet therapy, massage therapy, hard to find teas, essential oils, energy healing and whatever else. I can attest that some of these work for me, but I’ve spent a lot of money finding out which ones work and which ones don’t. I still haven’t tried the expensive retreats or expensive drugs yet.

On the other hand, managing physiological stress due to training is far simpler: heart rate. You can get fancy with lactate testing and VO2max testing, but even those are ultimately used to calculate heart rate zones. Heart rate is a very good estimator of the physiological impact. It’s not perfect and zones have to be recalculated over time if the body is adapting to training, but heart rate is 1) inexpensive to measure and 2) not as invasive as drawing blood every 10 minutes to measure lactate.

What you do with this information is up to you. I was just in a sharing mood.

Until tomorrow…

Day 67 – Every Moment

We are the sum total of our experiences…

BJ Neblett, Author.