Did you see this? Gunhild Swanson finishing Western States 100

Hey, quick shout out to everyone who finished a brutally hot Ironman Coeur d’Alene yesterday. Great job!

While that was happening, 70 year old Gunhild Swanson was setting the bar for inspiration one notch higher by finishing the Western States 100 with just 6 seconds to spare! You have to watch this video.

The Golden Minute – Western States 2015

Gunhild Swanson's historic finish.

Posted by Western States Endurance Run on Sunday, June 28, 2015

What an accomplishment!

From my continuing series: How not to race St. George.

This year, my first tri was once again set to be in St. George, Utah. I love this race. I love the hills, the desert, swimming in Sand Hollow, the amazing pro field, and the huge crowd of local Utah athletes I’ve come to know.

Race Prep

Pool? Who needs a pool? (saw this here)

Pool? Who needs a pool? (saw this here)

Despite my training being a little hit-or-miss this year, I was going into the race cautiously optimistic. I’d run my best-ever marathon in January, and twice-weekly computrainer sessions with the BAM Fam since the beginning of the year had me feeling pretty good on the bike. My swim had been horribly neglected, I’d only swum 5 times since IronMan CDA last summer! Despite that, I’d been doing some body-weight core workouts, and felt like I was reasonably strong. A confirmation swim at the pool had me doing 1.2 miles only a couple minutes slower than last year.

Training prep, self-score: 7/10

Here’s where I may have made a mistake. I’d recently attended a talk given by Anthony Almada about Vitargo for use by endurance athletes. He made a lot of really good points about race day nutrition and how most endurance athletes go into a race with lower glycogen stores than they could. The one thing he said that really caught my eye was that instead of eating a little extra carbohydrate a couple days before the race, he recommended 5 to 5.5 grams per pound of body weight for three days before the race. For me, that means 2700 calories, just from carbs each day. I decided to try that.

I also picked up a container of Vitargo, and tried it out during a test ride. Apparently this stuff is basically a starch that is extracted from Barley (but could also be extracted from potatoes or other starchy vegetables or grains). It tastes like if you’d way-overboiled some pasta, to the point that the noodles were just goo and the water was about half gone, and then drank that. Not a lot of flavor. Goes down pretty easy, and they say you can absorb 1.7x more calories with this stuff than with a maltodextrine-based gel. So, the plan was, two bottles of this containing about 800 calories to be consumed on the bike.

Here’s where things went extra-wrong. While at a pro meet-and-greet at High Knees Cycling, I was talking with a friend who was also doing this Vitargo plan. He emphasized that I had to have some electrolyte in there! It was going to be very hot on race day. But guess what? I forgot my enduralyte capsules — I only had three in my bento box. So, this began the search for some kind of suitable electrolyte to add. Apparently this was on everyone else’s mind too, because we couldn’t find anything, and I ended up pulling the trigger on some PediaLite powder from Wallmart. You’re probably saying, “WAIT, ISN’T THAT THE FIRST RULE OF RACE DAY — DON’T DO ANYTHING NEW!”. Yeah, well, I wish you’d been there to say that in person.

Meanwhile, I’m basically stuffing myself on carbs for several days. The night before the race, I mixxed up my bottles of nutrition with the pedialyte and had them ready to go.

Race Morning
Here we’re going to enter a bit of “wah wah wah” from me. I’ll be as brief as possible. My problem is that I get migraine headaches. It happens maybe once or twice a month, and is usually triggered by fatigue, bad eating, irregular sleep, and stress. If you have migraines, you know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t it is much worse than just “having a headache”. You can get sick to your stomach, your vision gets weird, eventually you’ll end up in a ball in a dark place somewhere. Fortunately, there are drugs called Sumatriptans that can make migraines go away. But, they can also make you feel a bit weird too.

The night before the race, I felt an overwhelming fatigue, which looking back on it was a warning that I was getting a migraine. But, I thought I was just wiped out. I should have taken something for it then, and this might have been a different story.

Then next morning, I woke up sweating and nauseous before the alarm. But, thought I’d maybe feel better once I got moving. I got my stuff on, grabbed my gear and headed over the busses (our hotel was only a block away). When we got to transition, I wrote a text to Michelle to grab an Imitrex (headache pill) before she left, but then thought “maybe I’ll feel better later, and I’m not sure I should take one of those and race”. So, I didn’t send it.

Also, my new “diet” seemed to result in me spending an inordinate amount of time in the bathrooms before the start (this is a tri blog, I know you want to know this), so the morning was really pretty enjoyable.

Soon, Michelle and her brothers arrived. We were able to see the first pros exit the water since my wave started so late. Then, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head down to the water.

The Race
As we came to the water’s edge I noticed almost everyone in my age group staying only ankle-deep. I think there was some apprehension about the temperature. But, from past cold races I know the best thing is to just get in and try to get your face in the water (see mammalian dive response). Soon enough, we were swimming out the start — none too soon either since as soon as we reached the start buoy the gun went off for our wave.

Swim – I started out with a steady turnover that I knew I’d be comfortable with, and maybe it was the cool water, but I actually did start to feel a bit better. The swim was fairly uneventful, I felt like I was moving along but it was really hard to tell. Before long I was rounding the last turn headed for the dock. I ran up the ramp, and picked the biggest guy in the wetsuit stripper lineup, grabbed my gear and went.

Bike – When I first hopped on my bike, I think the shot of adrenaline from all the action in transition had me feeling pretty good. I saw Michelle and the Bros on the way out, and took off out of Sand Hollow. But, when I turned up the first hill I got the feeling things weren’t quite right. I almost immediately felt fatigued.

Then, grabbing a bottle I took a gulp of… the most acrid, foul-tasting, over-flavored concoction I think I’ve ever tasted. I’d followed the directions on the pedialyte pack, but I don’t know if I was just more sensitive to flavor at that moment, or if they think it should be way-more flavored than I do, but it was so bad I felt like I could barely swallow it.

What followed is a long ride consisting of a head feeling increasingly worse, a stomach feeling ever more sour, and a body-engine feeling more-and-more underpowered. I stopped at and aid station, dumped out half of the bottles and refilled the rest with water, hoping that would dull the taste, but it was still just too much. Eventually, I just gave up on using any of it.

By the time we were on Snow Canyon Blvd I was being passed by a steady stream of riders. Another quick stop emptied what little I had in my stomach, and I concluded the main reason I wasn’t turning around here was a ride-of-shame backward along the course. Once I started up the canyon, I thought “maybe if I up the effort, and get my heart going I’ll actually feel better”. So, I got out of the saddle, and pushed it a bit. While mentally it felt better to be passing people again, it didn’t feel any better overall. I turned onto Highway 18 knowing I was done.

Long story short, I had the disappointment of telling Michelle and her brothers I was going to DNF at T2. There, I found a volunteer and turned in my number. The sad part is, that after making it back to the hotel, a couple of Imitrex and a two hour nap had me feeling 90% better.

What did I learn this time
Well, I think I have to learn the same things multiple times before they stick. But, here’s what I think are lessons from the race:

  1. Listen to your body. If I’d been paying attention, I could have recognized what was going on the night before the race.
  2. The obvious, don’t do anything new on race day. Adding an electrolyte I’d never used before was just a completely block-headed maneuver.
  3. Don’t completely up-end your routine. I can race well without totally changing my diet and eating habits right before a race. I’d have been better-off doing that and mildly upping my carb consumption.

I will say that I never felt like I was running low on energy nutrition-wise. I didn’t have energy, but it wasn’t the same as that running-on-empty feeling. That probably had a lot to do with the slow pace, but maybe in that respect the carbo loading was a benefit. The vitargo I would put as inconclusive. I’ll try it again in another race — with no flavors.

So, that’s it, my second DNF.

Congratulations to all the athletes from Salt Lake out there, many of whom had PRs. It was a beautiful day for a race. I’ll look forward to publishing a more successful report for my next one!

Get a little inspiration this morning

You can watch Boston coverage live:

[edit:] Wow, Rita Jeptu broke the Women’s Boston marathon record with a 2:18:57! She ran about 5:18 per mile. 8th fastest Women’s marathon ever run (and this was on Boston’s hilly course!)

Also, Meb Keflezighi looks like he’s digging DEEP for a strong finish. He’s not far out.
Go Meb! He’d be the first American champion since 1983! It’s going to be very close though…

[update] Aaah, he’s putting up a valiant effort, but he only has a 10 second lead. 7 minutes to go.

[update] IT’S ONLY 8 SECONDS!!!



Come on Meb!



That was awesome. Perfect tribute to the race, couldn’t be better for Boston, America, and runners everywhere. Wow, men’s and women’s races were both fantastic.

Also, Shalane Flanagan set a new US Women’s record. Fantastic!

Estimated Kona Slots for IronMan Texas 2014

For you crazy people who love hot and flat, I present an estimate of the Kona slot allocation for IM Texas 2014. It’s going to be super-competitive so hats off to the tough men and women able to snag one of only 50 IronMan World Championship slots available in Texas this year! There are only 50 to go around, and 2,826 people that want one.

So, here are the total by age group:

Age Group Count Spots Time Last Year Numeric Odds
F18-24 14 1 12:01:48 7.1
F25-29 71 1 10:34:27 1.4
F30-34 124 2 10:55:00 1.6
F35-39 106 2 10:36:54 1.9
F40-44 131 2 10:36:31 1.5
F45-49 102 2 11:01:10 2
F50-54 66 1 11:18:37 1.5
F55-59 24 1 11:24:55 4.2
F60-64 9 1 12:11:17 11.1
F65-69 4 1 16:07:22 25
F70-74 1 1 any 100

Age Group Count Spots Time Last Year Numeric Odds
M18-24 54 1 10:24:30 1.9
M25-29 182 3 9:40:46 1.6
M30-34 321 4 9:18:06 1.2
M35-39 381 5 9:53:03 1.3
M40-44 529 7 10:10:53 1.3
M45-49 337 5 10:01:06 1.5
M50-54 202 3 10:44:52 1.5
M55-59 93 2 11:25:07 2.2
M60-64 48 1 11:27:50 2.1
M65-69 16 1 11:54:01 6.3
M70-74 6 1 14:27:37 16.7
M75-79 4 1 any 25
M80-84 1 1 any 100

To calculate the Kona spots you take the total available (50) assign one to each age group represented, then divide the others proportionally.

The “time last year” shows the time raced last year for the number on the bubble this year. And, the “odds” column shows the percentage of participants in that age group who will qualify.

These will change on race day depending on the proportions of actual starters. Last year, for instance M75-79 had registered racers, but no starters. In that case, the slot will roll to the next most appropriate group in the same gender based on proportionality.

The age groups that would potentially pick one up would be M35-39 and F50-54.

A large group from Utah will be trekking down to the Lone Star State for the race. Good luck everyone!

Review: AudioFlood WaterProof iPod and Headphones

Recently I’ve been struggling to re-build my motivation for swimming. Last year in the build up to IronMan Coeur D’Alene I’d put in the effort and built a fairly good swim base. And, it paid off with a PR swim (Imagine that, hard work = results!).

While I like swimming, if I had to choose between swimming, biking, or running, swimming would lose every time. The tedium of staring at that blue line gets to me and makes it hard to do a solid solo workout. So, when AudioFlood asked if I’d like to try out their waterproof ipod shuffle I was all for it.

Contents of the AudioFlood box -- the ipod & headphones, the waterproof headphones, a pouch, and alternate ear bud sizes.

Contents of the AudioFlood box — the ipod & headphones, the waterproof headphones, & some extras.

When the product first arrived, I was surprised at how “normal” it looked. Other than a small bit of plastic I could see near the on/off switch, it really didn’t look any different from a regular iPod Shuffle. It’s not obvious that it is waterproof.

In the case you get :

  • The iPod in its original apple case, including the non-waterproof earbuds.
  • A set of waterproof earphones.
  • Some alternative earphone plug sizes.
  • An Underwater Audio swim cap.
  • A small tube of crazy glue to attach your plugs.
  • A small nylon bag.

I loaded up some music and set off to my local rec center for only the 3rd time since CDA (I know, so bad!) for a workout. I listen to a lot of podcasts but swimming seems to call for something a little more rhythmic, so Daft Punk it was.

The supplied earphones (their “true short-cord headphones”) at first have a medium sized earplug. I found those to be a little too small for me. I have some kind of freakishly large head and hands, usually wearing large gloves and hats but small/medium shirts/pants. Other than a little water leaking in my one ear the plugs generally stayed in place. I really like the length of the cord, it’s just long enough to reach from your ears, down your back to the ipod on your waist — not too long and not too short. Coils near the ears take up any extra slack.

The audio quality is OK. It’s not not going to be replacing your Beats Audio headphones any time soon, but try taking those in the pool! If water gets in your ear while swimming, obviously the audio stops working in that ear until you re-seat the earplug. I switched to the larger size on a second trip, and they stayed secure.

The iPod itself worked just as advertised. Just put it on and go, you already know how it works. I liked the small size, and it really wasn’t noticeable while you were swimming, which is great. They definitely put some good thought into the cord, it’s really nice the way it stays out of your way. You can buy the ipod alone or with the headphones. Bundled, the headphones are only $15 more than the iPod alone, so probably worth trying them first.

The Verdict: This tool will find a permanent place in my swim bag. With a little practice I can hopefully sing along in my head and accurately count my laps. I might have to start wearing my Garmin for long steady swims — just get in and swim to the rhythm.

Product: Audio Flood Waterproof iPod and Headphones
Price as Reviewed: $140 (iPod only for $125)
Website: http://www.audioflood.com/

Disclaimer: I was provided this product for free, but I’m not receiving any other compensation for my review. If you’d like me to review your product, feel free to contact me.

And now, lose yourself to dance:

Maybe there is something to this strength training thing…

You know I’m basically a sucker for any story where a person’s attitude belies their age. So, check out this story of Sam Bryant Jr.

2013 IronMan Coeur D’Alene Race Report

For this race report, I’m going to write it in short sections. Kind of like the really fun and interesting audio book we listened to on the way to Coeur D’Alene, called The Sex Lives of Cannibals — except this won’t nearly as long, or be as funny, or as interesting.

I was going into the race this year with high expectations. My training had gone well. And, this being my 4th IM I felt like I knew what was in store — I was ready to race this race. But, the final story of each IronMan is, in the end, written on the day and not before.

Chapter 1. Race saved, before it even started.

Sometimes this guy can be your very best friend:

Cars why!?!? This guy saved me at CDA.

Cars, why!?!? This guy saved me at CDA.

Continue Reading…

Great Comic About Running


I’ve seen The Oatmeal off-and-on for a while now, but this new one on running is pretty great. Applies equally well to triathlon. It’s all about the author’s motivation for running. Both funny and true — check it out, I’m sure you’ll find something to identify with.

I particularly liked Part 6.

(BTW, I will be posting a CDA race report. Eventually.)

IronMan Coeur D’Alene: Go Time!

[ Update: Here’s the tracking link on IronMan.com (bib number 2215). See you all tomorrow! ]

The CDA host hotel. The swim course is just beyond the marina.

The CDA host hotel tonight. The swim course is just beyond the marina.

We’re here in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for Sunday’s race. This will be my fourth IronMan, and while I of course wish I’d done this-or-that differently/better/more in my training, I feel like I’m going to PR this thing!

I’ve been training since February, and I’ve logged more running, more biking, and more swimming than any other year. My hip issues are mostly behind me–it’s feeling good. I know the course, I know my equipment, I know how to deal with my nutrition for an IM. I’m at a perfect race weight. The weather, it’s been raining for days, is now looking perfect for race day. So, basically it’s all coming together.

Here's about what you see on the swim. Point to a landmark and just keep going!

From the swim today. Here’s about what you see. Point to a landmark and just keep going!

I swam today and yesterday, and what a difference a day makes. Yesterday, wind, rain and waves. Today, beautiful sunshine and happy people.

We had a chance to catch up with many friends from Salt Lake up here to do the race today. I’m excited to see how they do — I can think of at least six who are primed to do the best races of their lives! Can’t wait to see that.

One unusual thing — I had a mechanical on my pre-race ride! I’ve been really lucky with my gear generally, but today I went out to ride the run course and my rear derailleur was REALLY stiff. It would go really easy shifting from low to high gears, but I had to sit up and crank the lever to move to lower gears. So, at about 4:00 I rode it over to the bike mechanics in the expo — they spotted the problem (or a problem) right away, will fix it overnight, and have it ready by 10:00 AM! What a great service. And, goes to show the importance of doing your pre-race test ride.

So, tomorrow, one last day of relaxation before the race on Sunday.
Then, it’s go time!

Interesting new idea: Clip on aerobars and adjustable seat post.

Most triathletes have bike issues. Issues with having too many bikes that is. You did your first tri on a mountain bike, and while you had a great time, watching everyone else whizzing by all day had you shopping for a new bike.

Pro bikes at the 2012 IronMan St. George

Pro bikes at the 2012 IronMan St. George

But, what to get? Going for a tri bike may give you an edge in races, but also a chronic case of aero-position-neck. Or, a road bike that offers comfort, versatility, and safety — you could go ride with your roadie friends without them saying “you brought your tri bike?”.

Ideal number of bikes = n + 1
(where n is the number you currently own…)

Of course, the answer is both! But, for many without the resources (or burning desire to spend more on bikes than their car) that may not be an option — at least until the tri addiction grows to become completely unmanageable. And, the truth is, in the age of shaped carbon tubes, a nice road bike loses very little to a tri bike. The main problem is position.

One of the reasons tri bikes help your performance, is that they tend to rotate you forward to a steeper seating position. It’s more aerodynamic, and you can rest your weight on your elbows. It’s like a climber that “goes skeletal” letting his bones hold him up instead of his muscles. I’ve also heard people say the steeper angle will save your hamstrings for the run, but really your hip angle will be about the same, so I’m not sure about that. But, either way, the end result is you burn less energy, to go faster.

Well here’s an idea, make your seat post angle easily adjust between road bike postion and a steeper tri bike position. And, how about some aerobars with a quick release? That’s the idea of the Switch Aero System. They’re currently raising money (and it’s going quite well) to make this prototype a reality.


Honestly, this sounds like a great idea to me. Take the extra $$ you save by skipping a second bike and get a better road bike. Add on some nice aero wheels (that you can now afford) and I think the dollar-per-second saved equation starts looking pretty good.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting idea. Check out their kick starter campaign here.

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