Radical Immersion

Ironman Training with Life, Marriage, Children & Work

Calibration II

For at least two years I have coveted a power meter.  I bought the Stages Cycling offering at the first of February and have been eagerly waiting for its arrival.  It came this week — while I was on crutches.

This morning Noah did some backyard wrenching and installed the new cranks and a bottom bracket.  All that remains to be done is to pair the meter with the new watch from Garmin.

Tucked in behind the new crank arm is the power meter.  It works by measuring micro strains in the metal of the crank.

Tucked in behind the new crank arm is the power meter. It works by measuring micro strains in the metal of the crank.

Oh, and to get my legs back to the place where they can handle pedaling.

Today I noticed that one week after injuring my leg while playing tag with the kids, a bruise has emerged.  It is a dark, ugly mark on the calf.  I also went to the pool to try to stretch out my leg underwater.  I could actually walk but only for about a dozen steps before everything locked up.  Walking in the pool is far superior to walking around on land with crutches.

I’m trying to be patient.  Soon enough.  Soon enough I’ll get back outside and will be using my legs again.


One week ago I tore the muscles in my right calf.  It hurt about as much as you imagine.  I’ve been on crutches since.  Thankfully, I should be done with them sometime in the next week.

The prognosis is good.  After about a week to ten days I should be able to walk without pain.  After three to four weeks, it should feel healed.  After six to eight weeks, it should actually be healed and I can begin training again.  No surgery.  No cast.  No extensive use of medications.

The prognosis is also a huge challenge.  I was looking forward to a Half Marathon next month and going to the Raleigh Half Ironman on June 1.  I have to recalibrate my expectations for the spring and summer.  I won’t be able to do the Half Marathon and as of now, I may be able to participate in the Raleigh Half Ironman but I may not.  It will be determined by the rate of recovery.  Either way, I won’t be racing so much as covering the distance.

Harumph.  Maybe I’ll add a race in July to my plans.  Regardless, it looks like a bid to qualify for the World Championships in Mont-Tremblant is officially off the table.  Harumph Harumph.

On the bright side, muscles heal better than joints and nothing was damaged to the point that it will require a lifetime of limitations.


Friday I received an email indicating that the power meter from Stages Cycling finally shipped.  I was thrilled.  I had spent three full days in Iowa and two days in Illinois — with minimal training — and it seemed like a good indication of things to come.  A change to my training methods to accompany better weather and more consistent sessions.

Saturday I joined Tri360 for their group ride.  I’ve done the ride many times, it is full of hills, and this time I had a horrible time getting up them.  I felt flat and without any oomph.  Immediately after, I went for a 4+ mile brick run.  It was the best part of the workout.  The first two miles were within .75 seconds of one another.  I made the turn and picked up the pace a bit.  The third mile on the WO&D trail was some 20 seconds faster than the second.  The fourth mile was another 23 seconds faster than the third.  I finished the last .34 miles a a hair under 7:00 minute mile pace.

It is always rewarding to get a workout right.  It is more rewarding when that feeling comes on the heals of a crap session.  After a quick shower, walk of the dog and lunch, I took the kids to a new playground.

We played Monster Tag.  Guess who was the monster.  During the third round of the game, I raced up a slide and as my foot planted I felt my right calf pop.  I couldn’t put weight on my leg.  It was terribly painful to the point of being nauseating.

A kindly neighbor drove me home after his wife helped me to the van.  Dana came home a few hours later.  Moments before she drove me to the ER for an exam, a stranger from Twitter and a fellow age group triathlete from Alexandria dropped off crutches for me to borrow.

What happened?  The folks at the hospital affirm that the Achilles tendon is intact.  They put a fiberglass splint on my leg from the toes to just below the knee.  The diagnosis is torn muscle tissue.  How much or how severe?  Time will tell.  Oh, and the orthopedic surgeon may have something to say about that.  That’s right, my next stop on the way to recovery is to see an orthopedist.

Instead of getting fit and moving into more consistent training, I’m grouchy, laying about the house and my leg cannot bear any weight.

That is a change I could do without.

4-5 Weeks for Delivery

I did it.  Today I bought a power meter.


I didn’t realize they were behind on production and it would take 4-5 weeks to ship.  Damn.  Also, I didn’t realize that just this week Stages Cycling signed to provide power meters to Team Sky.  I guess all that worrying and homework I did about whether or not to get the meter and what kind sort of goes out the window.  I mean, good enough for Wiggo and Froome-inator then good enough for me?


Weight on My Shoulders

I’ve gained weight.

There I said it.  It is easy to see.  I feel it — like a sluggish envelope suctioned around my “real body.”  And, it is grossing me out.

It has both been a cause and an effect of a general blah I’ve had for about two months.  Trouble with my left leg led to almost zero running.  Cold, ambivalence and darkness have curtailed riding.  Calories in and not enough energy out through training.

However, I’ve been swimming a fair amount.  Last night, I managed 3,100 yards including a set of 13×200 r. :15.  I averaged about 1:17 and for all practical purposes descended the whole set.  The first one was in 2:40 and the last in 2:29 and near the end three in a row were 2:32.

It felt good.  It wasn’t great.  Great swims cannot be justly described with words — only experienced.  I wasn’t floating above the water, never tiring, but neither was I pushing through it like a barge.  Despite descending the set I never felt the proverbial piano land on my shoulders.  And that may be what it takes to bring me back to the right path, the healthy path, a slimmer more fit path.

I bet she could do repeat 200s forever — and on a faster interval.

Bum Therapy

I went to physical therapy yesterday.  It was humbling.  There were all sorts of exercises that I couldn’t do or could do with marginal efficacy on my right side but simply failed when I tried on the left.

For example, one legged squats were hard on the right side and I had all sorts of balance problems.  On the left, I could only drop down about two inches.  Same results when I tried to go up on my tiptoes using only one leg at a time.

It was a wee bit scary too.  I hate going to doctors and have an irrational fear of hospitals — mainly the fear was of the unknown.  Beyond the balance boards, stretch cords and various weights, the doctor vibe was pretty strong when I walked in the door.  I expected him to tell me that I had some sort of defect that could only be corrected with major surgery.

It was also uplifting.  There is a path forward.  Though I’m only supposed to run twice this week for 15-20 minutes each, he said I should be “doing triathlons for a long long time.”  I’m scheduled for follow up appointments each of the next three weeks.  But I’ll come back to that in a moment.  First let’s revisit what brought me to the point of seeking help.

My left hamstring is strained.  Not pulled, not torn, not debilitating — but tweaked.  It feels tight about half of the time I’m awake.  It is worse after a run.  The issue surfaced in November about a week and a half after my first track workout.  I tried more stretching.  I tried rolling.  I tried heat.  Then I tried a week off with no running.  After two runs and more soreness, I went three weeks off.  The strain persists.

So I went to a doctor.  He is a PhD doctor and he definitely knew his way around the human body.

He pushed and prodded.  He demonstrated simple exercises that flummoxed me.  He watched me walk barefoot then took video of me running on a treadmill from several angles.  He was calm and thorough and strikes me as the kind of guy who would be extremely good at Scrabble — he was curious and willing to look at a hundred things in various combinations before he made any comments or committed to one diagnosis or another.

We talked about my training load, weight, foot strike, shoes and past injuries.  He was thorough — and nice — and painfully honest about inadequacies.  Even if he had not been so clear, the videos were irrefutable.  We watched them before and after drills.  Side by side.  In slow motion.  From the rear and from the side.  My form is not pretty.  I run ugly.

My gluteus muscles are far too weak.  As I land with each footfall, my ankles drop in a bit and pronate which brings the knees slightly out of alignment if you think of a vertical line from shoulder to hip to knee to ankle.  I run with too much bounce; there is too much vertical displacement with each step.  Instead of gliding along and sliding forward, I leap off my back foot and travel up and forward wasting a great deal of energy (going up) and bringing a lot more force down on each leg (coming down.)  He thinks my stride is probably a bit too long.  Also, I do not have the forefoot strike that I thought I did.  Looking at the video, it was clearly a heel strike and inconsistent too.  The left foot typically comes down more on the heel than the right.

The prescription is to strengthen all the muscles — starting with my big ass — that should support my legs during good running form.  This should relieve some of the stress on the hamstrings and they will heal themselves.  He gave me some exercises to do each day to work on my upper legs and core strength.

As much as it made me happy that there is a fairly clear path back to good health, it also surprised me.  I have a big bum.  Sir Mix-A-Lot should be the president of my fan club.  As it turns out, the junk in my trunk is just junk and not doing me much good at all.

Due to poor form, the muscle groups in my legs and hips did not develop over the past several years in balance.  So over the next several weeks I’ll be clenching my cheeks a lot throughout the day, during various exercises and drills and even as I run slowly to build up bum strength.

World’s Top 10 Extreme Triathlons – Let me know what events I missed!


For the extreme, the crazy and the extremely crazy.

Originally posted on #ShutUpLegs :

Interval training yesterday @athletelab but if I don't put everything in, how will I do these events?

Interval training yesterday @athletelab but if I don’t put everything in, how will I do these events?

With all these training for the Deca Ironman in June for some sick reason you always think what’s next? Well here was a quick list that I had stored in an old saddle bag.

1. Double Brutal, Llanberis, Wales (@BrutalTriathlon)

Looks scenic, bet the swimmer is hurting though
Looks scenic, bet the swimmer is hurting though

On the 20/21st Sept (2014) competitors will set out on a 4.8 mile swim in the beautiful (cold though!) Lake Padarn, followed by a brutal 224mile cycle which will continue into the darkness. With aching legs and a sore ass – seriously just take a week off work and pedal all day everyday to toughen that backside up – you will set out on a ultra marathon of 52 miles up yet more hills, much like this:

When you are just about standing up,vomiting from 36hours of energy bars and your head swimming with nausea, you probably won't mind the rain
When you are just about standing up,vomiting from…

View original 1,571 more words

Resolved: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim

In 1999, I swam the GCBS in 2:03:59.  It was about a week before my 25th birthday.

The following year, I finished eight places lower in the standings at 104th and came up the beach in 1:56:05.

The day before my 28th birthday, I turned in a best time of 1:54:28 and my worst finish, 163rd in the field.  According to one way of thinking, 2002 was also the second “easiest” GCBS race.

I’ve been to the race at least four other times.  Once to do the 1 mile swim and twice to cheer and spectate with the tribe while Dana tackled the 1 mile swim.  My final entry in the GCBS was 11 years ago.  I was about to turn 29 and crossed the bay in 1:45:10 for 41st place.

At this link, you can see a cool chart (with all of my crossings) showing finish times across nearly two decade’s worth of entries.  To date, there have been more than 6,103 swimmers making 13,861 crossings during the GCBS.

The race is for charity and it is difficult to secure an entry unless you swam the previous year.  I’ve entered a lottery and will hopefully get a bib number later this month for the 2014 race.  It will be 15 years since I first walked down the beach at Sandy Point and more than a decade since my best showing.  I’m older, slower to recover and have a lot more going on at home.  I’m also in better shape and have hopefully learned something about endurance activities in the past few years.

In addition to the distance which translates to time in the water, major factors that are out of control of participants include tidal currents, water temperature, wind and thus chop and swell, and sea nettles.  It is neither an impossible swim, nor for the weak of heart.

Resolved: If I get in this year will be my best ever.  (With a hat tip to Diana Nyad.)

An arial view taken for a 1970s era postcard. Sandy Point Beach and the start is to the lower left, the finish is on the right side of the bridge across the Bay.

Out with the old, in with the New Year

It is time for the annual post about training totals from the previous year.  I’ll be honest here, there is a sort of quiet accomplishment that comes from looking at the tallies.  It doesn’t last.  The feeling doesn’t motivate me to go do the next session or to be better this year but it does feel nice for a few moments.

The 2012 post is here and the 2011 post can be found here.

Looking back, it was a fantastic year.  Fantastic like the root word, of a fantasy world.  I did not have an injury.  Dana and I raced together — twice.  We saw good friends in North Carolina and worked it around two race weekends.  I qualified for the 70.3 World Championships.  The whole tribe went to Lake Placid and we had great fun in the outdoors.  I raced at the 70.3 World Championships!  There were new friends and old friendships made deeper.  I had a best time at Savageman by ten minutes.

The total time training and total distances were all up this year over last year.  I swam 204,265 yards (116 miles), 3,855.88 miles on the bike, and 1,006.63 miles running.  These efforts were 42, 29.9 and 23.8 percent greater than last year.  In all, there were 397 hours and 56 minutes doing the three disciplines which is more than 16 and one half days.  On top of that, I rode approximately 2,200 miles commuting to and from work.


The biggest month was July (37k) which was nearly three times larger than the smallest volume month, August when I did nearly 14k.  I did 69 swim workouts which is up 20+ percent on the 49 from 2012 and light years ahead of the 24 I did in 2011.  Swim workouts were 11.23 percent of total time training in the three disciplines which is up, but not much, from last year’s 10.1 percent.  I finally saw a meaningful improvement — not a lot, but evident — in the pace too.  My average time was 1.31 minutes per 100 yards which is an improvement over the past few years of 1.35, 1.36 and 1.34 minutes per hundred.


The overall training pace improved again.  The trajectory has been 15.78 mph (2010), 16.36 mph (2011), 17.53 mph (2012) and this year saw another jump to 18.26 mph on average.  Cycling was 52.97 percent of training time which is nearly identical to the proportion from last year.  Once again, June was the biggest month for mileage however, the June 2013 total of 616.75 towers over the 509 done in June 2012.  There were four months with more than 400 miles.  I put in 121 rides, up from 88 last year, including seven consecutive months of 10 or more.  However, the average distance of each ride dropped to 31.87 miles from 33.72 in 2012.


Running accounts for 33 percent of the workout time in 2013.  Starting in March, there were five consecutive months with at least 15 run workouts and August had 14.  The average pace was 8.44 minutes per mile or about a 8:26.  A typical run was 7 miles and throughout the year I did 145 run workouts or about one every 2 and one half days.  Between New Year’s Day and the Olympic Oval at Lake Placid, I ran 733.76 miles including four straight months of more than 112 miles each.  From July 29 to the end of the year, I only covered 272.87 miles.


My performance at Las Vegas was a bust — I went for it on the bike and blew up horribly after having a mediocre bike split.  I learned in Raleigh that with good hydration, I can do a 13.1 mile run on two gels.  I’m sure that with some more attention to detail and being smart about training, I can turn front of the pack swimming into a few really great splits which may put me in the position of riding with tactics.  Savageman continues to be about the experience, not the clock.

Heading into 2014, I won’t be training for an Ironman.  I have a nagging strain in my left hamstring and behind the knee.  I have begun running once a week with a group on a track to do intervals.  I know what it feels like to race at 175 pounds and I like it.  All in all, things are looking good.  In a word, fantastic.

Strange Sights

Riding the trainer is a strange activity.

No matter what diversions I plan it becomes a head game after about twenty minutes.  Books, magazines, radio, movies, social media on a tablet — all of them fail to hold my attention once I’ve really committed to a good full-on sweat using the trainer.

My brain shouts “Stop” and then whimpers, “At Least Ease Up.”  I ride like an amateur but bargain and negotiate like a pro.  Keep the cadence up through this song.  Don’t shift down until the end of the article.  Stay on the aero bars for 10 more minutes.

Tonight, I saw things.  I saw strange things.  After about five minutes, I saw a wispy gray string in front of my face.  I was wearing a hat — to help keep the sweat out of my eyes — and just below the edge of the bill there was a strand of something.  I thought it was a piece of spider web.  I had no good idea how it got there, but I was in the garage.  Spiders live in the garage.  Maybe it blew in from outside.  Maybe it broke off of a web above me.  I tried to brush it away but never found it.  It disappeared.  Then it was back but only for a moment.

After about 25 minutes, I saw an opossum wander aimlessly across the driveway.  They are ugly, strange looking creatures.  I yelled and clapped and it turned and ambled back toward the neighbor’s house.

Another 15 minutes and I figured out the mystery gossamer floating intermittently in front of me.  It was steam coming off my sweating face in the 49 degree night air.

I bet ol’ Mr. Opossum thought I looked pretty strange too.  Pedaling furiously, going nowhere, huffing and sweating like a beast, I was lit up under fluorescent lights in the dark of the night.  A strange sight, I’m sure.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers