To some, it might sound counterintuitive, but for me, straight running races are harder and take more of a toll on the body and recovery than Ironman racing because it is difficult to run as hard in a triathlon as one does in a straight running race. Think about it. If you have ever been at the finish of both an Ironman and a marathon, you have probably noticed that at the finish of an Ironman, the racers are jubilant. They are high-fiving the spectators; grabbing their kids to run in with them (until WTC banned that) and have huge smiles plastered onto their faces. At marathons, most the finishers (I’m talking the sub 4:30 range) look terrible. Some are bent over; most are grimacing and for whatever reason they all look 50 shades of white. I think that racing a stand-alone marathon is way harder than racing an Ironman because in a running race, it is really easy to go all out in the first few miles and then blow up. An Ironman distance race is just one long aerobic day. With extra gel packs and residual blisters, buckets of Gatorade and Mike Reilly at the finish.
Every now and then I meet someone who has decided to run a half or full marathon without “really” training for it. This potential execution is what I have recently coined “COUCH TO COURSE” racing and I more or less tested its perils on the Eagleman course last Sunday. Eagleman 70.3 was (finally) the first race of my ’13 season. For just over 3 months, I’ve had a couple of issues that have kept me off of some training and all of running and racing. The last solid run I had was the first week of March. Since April, I’ve been battling Achilles tendonitis and have done, save a couple of test jogs, 98 percent of my running in the pool. Does pool running equally translate to dry land running? Read on…………
Late start in wave 18 or 20 (I don’t remember) and I basically swam alone BUT on course the entire time. I was surprised that my swim time was 34:XX. Most racers who swam in my range felt that the swim was about 3 minutes long; which would make sense because after Wave 3 or 5, (I forget-I would need to reference “Slowtwitch”) the course was lengthened by a tenth-plus of a mile (1.35 instead of 1.2 miles) due to a course official moving one of the buoys into deeper water. 31 minutes. 34 minutes. Whatever, I’m racing my age group and we were all together.
Coulda shoulda woulda maybe could I have gone a couple of minutes faster? Still, I had my fastest 70.3 bike split EVEH so I’ll take it (even though I sat up a few extra times). My power output increased by 20 watts compared to my last 70.3 race and (Vegas 70.3 Worlds) and I was biking at my usual perceived ½ Ironman effort. A big shout out to Anna Gerber and Gina Correll for pulling me around the last 8 weeks. 2:38XX.
FROM COUCH TO COURSE. Can one go from basically not running for 13 weeks to racing the run in a half ironman? Yes and no……..Yes, it is doeable. But it hurts like hell and expect to be slower (I was). Honestly, I have never ever ever been that uncomfortable in a race except during the last 6 miles of my first 2 marathons when I bonked and hit those proverbial walls. And I’m a runner, dammit! From mile 2, it was pretty painful (why were my muscles screaming at me?) and for the first time in a LONG time during a long course race, I was passed by someone in my age group on the run (insert picture of shriveled-up ego HERE). Surprisingly, the said achillles was fine; but my quads and calves were on fire. I barely got through most of the course; walked every aid station and just felt WRECKED. Damn, I thought, the run is usually the FUN part. Just after mile 12, I ran into Geoff and Jeff Donatello and stopped and chatted them up for 30 seconds or so. Jeff told me that I had .7 miles left so I gamely limped off and got it together for a smiling finish shoot run. In my guestimation, I was probably 9-13 minutes off my usual run split. In hindsight-you can COMPLETE a distance run on 13 weeks of aqua jogging, but its very difficult to RACE one. I’m not sure if I will ever race another long course race without real run training in the bank. Run time: 1:49:XX; 8th in AG. 5:07XX
I caught a cold—was it from the eastern seaboard air conditioning? from travel? Who knows? Pre-race, I was holding it at bay with a very clean and green alkaline diet but then it hit me full bore the day after (a day of racing and a night of wine and French Fries will undoubtedly create a nice, welcoming, acidic environment in which sickness can thrive—you go, head cold!).
This week, I more or less embarked on my first juice”ish” cleanse. Which is a little ironic because I am a partner in Juice Nation, an organic juice and smoothie bar in Solana Beach. We feature an entire Juice Cleanse section on our menu (full disclosure: I have never done one). So there I was on Thursday: more sore than if I had raced a stand alone marathon; not yet able to do any sort of workout and stuffy and sick with a tremendous cold. I felt fat and flabby from of couple of days of dirty eating and no exercise. Why not a juice cleanse? Well…..sorta….
Thursday, June 13th
6:00 am. Green Tea with Steamed Soy Milk
7:30 a.m. Baked Sweet Potato with Daiya Cheese and Hemp Seeds (I know, this is not sounding at all like a juice cleanse)
9:00 a.m. BRIGHT IDEA SWITCHES ON IN MY BRAIN TO EMBARK ON A JUICE CLEANSE (the Leslie Myers way)
11:00 a.m. 16 ounces Grapefruit/Beet/Cucumber/Coconut Water/Jalapeno Juice
12:00 p.m. 16 ounces GT Kombucha
12:30 p.m. A pint of blueberries
2:30 p.m. 16 ounces Green Supreme Juice (Cucumber, Broccoli, Lemon, Apples, Cilantro, Parsley and Celery
4:30 p.m. 16 ounces Grapefruit/Beet/Cucumber/Coconut Water/Jalapeno Juice
5:45 p.m. Brothy Vegan Pho with minimal rice noodles and lotsa green leafy thai basil, cilantro, spinach and bok choy
Also consumed in the day: 4 gluten free crackers; 1 ounce tempeh; 1 tsp peanut butter
Friday and Saturday were pretty much a repeat as I consumed about a half gallon of fresh raw vegetable juice as well as some Kombucha, green tea, raw fruit and vegetables, a few bites of gourmet raw food and chia pudding. By Saturday morning, I had only a trace of lactic acid left in my quads and my cold was almost gone. I did my first workout of the week-1:45 steady bike. And I lost 3 pounds but its probably because I laid off the wine and the French Fries. Now just a sec; wine is raw juice, right?
Even though it wasn’t my best race, I view Eagleman 70.3 as a success. Against some stiff competition, I placed in the top 10. I was fortunate to be able to run, albeit slow, the distance and I came away from race able to get back into training (even though it was delayed for a few days due acute soreness and a cold). I learned that I will always discourage people from “COUCH TO COURSE” racing unless they are sadists (and I know some of those) or I genuinely just don’t like them. I’m happy to have started the season and now look forward to some Ironman training. Whistler, her I come.
P.S. Forgot to mention my new pre-race meal: quinoa with hemp seeds, seaweed flakes, peanut butter and banana. It worked!