Radical Immersion

Ironman Training with Life, Marriage, Children & Work


South Africa’s Kyle Buckingham was the winner (along with Amber Ferreira from New Hampshire) at Ironman Lake Placid.  I saw a post on Twitter this morning that said his Normalized Power was 305.  That is a bit of perspective on my new FTP.  In other power related news, this blog post from Linsey Corbin gives insight into how many watts she recently pushed to win in Austria.

Crowded Calendar

Last weekend was a blur.  On Friday there was a pep rally for the kids’ swim team.  Saturday we went to two swim meets then I did a long run of 2+ hours where I nearly set a p.r. for the half marathon distance missing out by about 20 seconds.  The run went well until about mile 12 at which point the wheels started coming off.  Unfortunately, it was a 15+ mile run.  Later that night we watched a movie with hundreds of neighbors on an open field adjacent to a local playground.  Cinema Del Ray is a wonderful, monthly summer institution but not so good on the back and legs when you are sore.  Bright and early on Sunday I took the tribe about an hour down the interstate for their first triathlon.  It was big fun and pictures will follow.  E, D and J all competed and had fun.

Sunday afternoon I did a long ride.  Ran track on Tuesday night and did a brick on Wednesday after work.  Yesterday morning I went out to repeat the FTP test that I did in late May.  With 9 mph wind out of the north, I averaged 25.2 mph for 20 minutes.  More importantly, my average watts went up from 270.2 to 292 which increased the FTP from 257 to 277.  All in all, that is about an 8 percent gain in two months.  I was aiming for 300 — and I know there is plenty of room for improvement.  I’ll give it another go before we go to Maine next month.


Twenty Minutes on Hains Point -- New FTP of 277.4 with 292 watt average.

Twenty Minutes on Hains Point — New FTP of 277.4 with 292 watt average.


At work, the past two weeks have been as busy as any two week period I can remember in years.  All of this makes for one very crowded calendar and some very sound sleeping.

Shifty Hip Pain — Pigeon

For the last several years, as my running volume would increase so would the frequency and intensity of a soreness, a sharp pain actually, on the right side of my lower back.  It would come in at about the level of my belt and about 45 degrees around my body from the spine to the point of my hip.

I haven’t had this pain since springtime when I’ve been so focused on improving my run form.  This change of course was prompted by nagging hamstring tenderness and the big blowout of my calf.

However, in the past week the volume of work has definitely started to go up.   The old familiar pain has not come around but a new, substitute pain has crept into my life.  Also found in the right hip, but it is broader and covers a larger area about the size of a fist.  The area is closer to the side of my body and lower — practically where my butt muscles attach to the hip.  It is also more of a soreness and a dull ache than the sharp pain that would jab at me from my lower back in the past.

Either way, it is annoying.  This morning I got on the floor and used the roller.  It is a devious little bit of foam.  Hopefully it will help me sort this out in the near term.  In the long term, I must figure out what it is about my bike form or running style that is out of balance and causing this problem.

As I was flopping about the floor this morning, it made me think that I really ought to try harder to practice pigeon pose.  It is a yoga pose that I have absolutely no success with and it is a hip opener.

Shaved and Dangerous

I’ve been convinced for years, these guys went looking for data.

Approximately 70 seconds per 40 kilometers.

Montclair Triathlon — Nine Years in the Making

Nine years ago, I took part in the 18th Annual High Country Triathlon in Banner Elk, North Carolina.  Immediately afterward, we went on a family camping trip.  We prepared more for the camping part of the trip than I did for the race.  Nonetheless, something started there and shortly after completing that first race I registered for a 70.3 the following spring.  The race has its charms — a lovely little lake, an out-and-back bike course that climbs and descends over the local ridge line of the Appalachians, and a one-of-a-kind reverse order to the events with the five kilometer run coming first and the finish line on the beach after the swim.

Last weekend I went back to the sprint distance for the first time since that rookie race.  I rode my own bike instead of borrowing a friend’s bike.  I didn’t crash.  I was able to run the whole way with no walking.  And, I may have had as much fun as the first time out.

Sunday I was in the little community of Montclair, Virginia with six others from the Tri 360 team and 310 other individual participants.  I ended up first in my age group out of 42 finishers and 10th overall with a time of 1:08:47.42.  The breakdown for the three sections is 11:27.98 for the swim (4th overall and third male), 31:47:34 for the bike (7th overall and 6th male) and 22:27.54 for the run (55th overall with a 7:15 minute mile pace.)

I’m not really sure how the results work because I was awarded the top place for my age group but the guy who won fifth place was 40 years old but listed in an “Open” division.  He also turned in the fastest swim split and fastest bike split of the day.

Wearing the club gear and holding my new paperweight.  Old men can still race!

Wearing the club gear and holding my new paperweight. Old men can still race!

I’ve now done 26 triathlons.  I’m going to keep at it as long as they stay fun.  If Montclair is an indicator, they will be fun for quite a while.

The Nuts & Bolts of Montclair
  • I was passed in the last few meters of the run by a hard charging 15 year old.  I could hear the crowd urging us on and he was obviously closing a gap, but there was nothing I could do.  I simply had no more juice in my legs.  As it turns out, according to the magic of Garmin the last little bit of my run was at a 5:46 pace and my heart rate spiked to 163.  He still blew the doors off of me.
  • Speaking of run splits, I did a 7:24 followed by a second mile at 7:49.  The second mile was nearly all uphill at about a two to three percent grade.  The last mile came back down to 6:56 pace.  Those are respectable times but when you note that my swim and bike splits were both top ten and I only turned in the 55th fastest run, it is clear where I need to focus.
  • My average cadence on the bike was 92 and it got all the way up to 117.  That is good — I’m finally developing some of those fast twitch muscle fibers.
  • The power and speed numbers for the bike are a bit hard to read.  It seems that I forgot to hit stop on the Garmin as I racked my bike.  As a result, Garmin thinks my ride was three hours long.
If you look closely, you can identify where I put my feet in the shoes in the first two minutes and the four distinct U-turns where power dropped to zero.

If you look closely, you can identify where I put my feet in the shoes in the first two minutes and the four distinct U-turns where power dropped to zero.


  • The maximum average power over 20 minutes was 264 watts and I did an average 259 watts over the 31 minute ride.  I had been hoping to break 270 which is the number I did in a test last month and produced my current FTP of 257.  Alas, I think the downhills did me in.  Even though I kept pressure on the pedals and used every gear on the cassette, at several points you can see the power drop down around 200 watts.
  • My strongest one minute average power came right at the beginning.  There is a 5 percent grade up to the main road and the second minute of the bike shows a 325 watt average.
  • There isn’t much to say about the swim.  I wore the Roka Viper speedsuit and I love it as much as the day I got it.  I took off to the front of wave three at the start, was caught by the eventual swim “winner” just after the first 100 meter buoy, tried to draft but only stayed with him for another 75 meters or so, and then chugged along until I was finished.
  • I took a Gu Roctane about 20 minutes before the swim and two sips of Perform during the bike but otherwise didn’t worry about food and energy until it was all over.
  • I really like racing with the data on the bike but the course was crowded enough and we were going fast enough that I didn’t spend much time looking down at the Garmin.
  • Both transition times were about one minute and change (1:38 and 1:28).  That is good and can always be better.
  • At this URL, you can find short video clips of me running across the beach after the swim and coming into the finish chute after crossing the dam.  Funny thing, the 15 year old mentioned above is in both clips.  In the first one he is a few steps behind me and in the final shot you can see him make the pass about 10 meters from the finish line.


A Month With Hearing Loss

Don’t get kicked in the head.  That is my free Internet medical advice of the day.

It has been one month since the episode at the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 and I have still not healed up properly.  However, I’m on the right track.  After ten days of medications and several visits to the ENT, I was diagnosed with pretty significant hearing loss, a broken eardrum and likely a hairline fracture to the jaw.  Yesterday I went back for a check up.  I have regained much of the hearing loss although it takes 23 decibels for me to hear something in my left ear and only five in my right ear.  The hole in the eardrum is not healed yet and the volume inside my ear is 5.5 something or other which means the test is also measuring some of the space behind the eardrum.  For comparison sake, it should be between 1.0 and 1.5 and my right ear volume measured at 1.1.

The prognosis is still good.  There is still a probability — because I’m healthy and there has been some progress in the past four weeks — that the eardrum will heal on its own and full hearing will return.  I’m next due back in six weeks for another checkup.  In the meantime, I have a custom fit, molded silicon earplug to use during any water activity including showers.  I have a constant annoyance with my ear and hearing — mainly because it is different or not balanced with my right ear.  Occasionally I have a ringing but it never lasts more than about 20 minutes.

It is frustrating and I’ve learned a lot of sympathy for others with genuine long-term physical problems.

What else?  I turned 40, did a sprint triathlon for only the second time ever, registered for an Ironman in 2015 and have recommitted to good, clean eating for the month of July.  Starting today — at 191 pounds — I’m forgoing added sugars and grains for the next many weeks.  Likely as not, I’ll get some posts put together on each of these topics.



Something Old, Something New

Last weekend we went to a friend’s wedding.  As a result, I missed out on the all-important long ride of the week.  I didn’t use Sunday to “make up for it” but I did mix things up a bit by doing a ride of 2:10 with some relatively short intervals sprinkled in followed immediately by the long run of the week.  Running close to 10 miles off the bike was a real confidence booster as to the healthy and overall worthiness of my legs.  Was it fast enough or full of hills?  No.  But it was a good, solid, long and hot effort and a step in the right direction.

For whatever reason, this morning while commuting I remembered a trick that I tried for the first time during the Raleigh race two weeks ago.  I picked it up watching Rinny Carfrae on Kona last autumn.  During the run I took a cup of ice every few aid stations and dumped it unceremoniously down the front of my shorts.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Pain, shock, relief — these reactions all crossed my mind before the first time.  The objective is to do what you can without slowing down to keep your body temperature under control.  My guess is that unlike dumping ice in my shirt which falls out the bottom very quickly, stuffing ice in my mouth which makes it hard to breath, this technique puts the ice near the femoral artery yet doesn’t affect the running stride in any way.

It worked.  To my surprise, there wasn’t much of a physical reaction.  There was neither shock nor awe.  It didn’t hurt, or feel awful like a cold shower.  It was simply okay and then as the ice melted and cold water dripped down my legs, there was a bit of relief.  Going south of the waistband with any sort of shock — thermal or otherwise — is a risky proposition.  There are a lot of nerves and sensitive bits in the region.  Nonetheless, this is a technique that I can endorse for scorching hot days.

Track Night

Last night the workout was 3×1200 with 400 meters between each followed by 3×400 with 200 meters in between.

I still need to learn a lot about pacing.  My fitness is also not back to where it was in the winter.  But, I think my form is improving and that is something.  Hopefully it is something that helps ward off injury.

The splits/pace were 4:34/6:13, 4:52/6:29 and 5:07/6:52 for the 1200s.  There was typically about three minutes in between each one.  The splits/pace for the 400s were grouped a little closer at 1:36/6:25, 1:30/6:00 and 1:29/6:00.  There was typically about two minutes and 15 minutes between each of the 400s.  However, after the last one I took an additional two minute rest and then jumped in with the third group (I was running far in the back of group two) for their final 400 and turned in a 1:26.

In all, it was a soggy 6.78 miles (due to nearly 60 percent humidity) but a step in the right direction.

Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth

I’ve been reading to the kids nearly every night for 10 years.

Before lunch I went for a “long run” as I try to get my leg back into regular use and on track for training for Ironman Maryland in September.  I went down a mostly flat road and into Crystal City where there was a criterium taking place, The Air Force Classic.  The place was a riot of color and noise and spectators.  It was marvelous.  I wish that could go to more bike races.

At any rate, for some reason it made me think of the beautiful artwork Eric Carle creates for children’s books.

Later, after I’d been back to the house, taken the kids out for the afternoon, made and cleaned up dinner, I realized that my run time today was stupendously slow.

Slothlike.  Entirely unlike the peloton I watched whiz past for several laps.

No matter.  Sometimes it is more important to get out there for an hour and see the vibrancy of life happening than it is to run fast.


A Fine Mess

Last weekend we tackled Raleigh.  It was a reprise — of sorts — of the 2013 Raleigh campaign.  Dana had organized everything and the whole tribe was waiting when I got home around 12.30 for our noon departure to the land of the pines.

Again, we celebrated Esme’s birthday with her pal Ava and Ava’s warm, generous, funny and talented family, the Roark’s of Raleigh.  Like last year, we had a lovely dinner with Esme’s godmother and our dear friend Anna.  We also hit up the Char Grill on the way out of town for cheeseburgers.  However, this year was all sorts of different.  Let me recount a few of the ways.

  1. Dana’s family were not able to attend and witness firsthand her awesomeness.
  2. The Roark’s hosted the entire tribe for a sleepover the night before the race and then entertained the kids throughout the long race day.  This was a godsend.  Also, we decided that in the future only one of us can do day long races at a time.  It is simply too much to foist the tribe on anyone for that length of time.  Besides, what if something were to go wrong and keep us from picking up the tribe after the race?  FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING
  3. It was not Dana’s first triathlon.  By her account, she didn’t do nearly the level of preparation and wasn’t ready.  In 2013, she soared through the whole day with nary a problem.  In 2014, she started with a mild panic and probably would have been happy to get off her bike somewhere in the hills of Holly Springs.
  4. It wasn’t as hot as 2013.
  5. It was a day with more wind.
  6. I started the race with seven runs under my belt — that is, for all of March, April and May I had run seven times and only two were more than 30 minutes.  My swim training was in a good to very good spot and cycling was somewhere in between with nearly all of March lost to a calf injury but steady work for 6-8 weeks pre-race.  I also raced for the first time without socks — and the last time.
  7. I rode without Aaron’s deep front wheel, my back wheel cover or his long tail helmet.  I did ride with a new Giro Air Attack, hockey helmet style, modified aero helmet and liked it a great deal.  It vents far better than I expected.
  8. I rode significantly slower this year over the same course.  In fact it was nearly 15 minutes slower.  Wind, poor execution on the hills, the fact that I left both of my bottles in the hotel and didn’t bring them to T1, who knows?  I rode more slowly.  On the upside, I really liked riding with the Garmin 500 and the feedback it provided.  It told me when to let someone go early in the ride because it would have been possible to ride 250-270 watts at his pace, but my target was 230-235 so I let him go.
  9. I was not absent for Dana’s finish.  I walked up the course 1200 meters and texted to the tribe so that they would be waiting at the finish line for her.  Then after snapping a few photos (to follow) in front of the historic state capitol building, I ran ahead and met her at the chute.  She is amazing.  I could say more, but why?  She is amazing.
  10. Unlike last year, I did not race out of my mind and turn in a result that was both awesome and surprising.  Recall last year I set a personal record at this distance by nearly 20 minutes and qualified for the World Championships via a roll down slot.  This year, I was about on track with projections coming in at 5:15, finished 48th in my age group and didn’t tear up the course so much as make my way around it in a workmanlike way.  Following the advice of my physical therapist, I followed a run/walk plan for the last leg of the race — running about 20-25 minutes and then walking 90 seconds to two minutes to regain composure and really make sure my form was spot on.
  11. For the first time in nearly two dozen races, I went straight to the medical tent at the end of the race.  More on that below.

I swam about two and a half minutes faster than in 2013.  However, last year I was second out of the water in my age group and this year 4th — actually 6th.  I think that I out swam two guys who made it to the timing mat ahead of me.

As I put my hands down, following my last stroke, on the boat ramp and prepared to stand up I took a kick to the side of the head that made me see stars, spun me around and deposited me in a few inches of water on my neoprene padded bum.  The best I can tell is that as I took one last look up to judge my final strokes, the guy in front of me to the left was standing up.  He must have stood upright, and paused to get his bearings.  Meanwhile, I swam up two strokes and got right in the danger zone.  I took his foot directly onto my left ear.

As a kid I worked on farms.  Mostly on one farm — Olson Acres.  Rarely did I work with the animals but it was standard advice not to mess around behind the horses or the cows.  I’m not saying this other guy is a horse, but he sure kicked like one.

At any rate, the next thing I recall is a race official person making his way across the boat ramp and through the water to get to my aid.  He was saying something to me or asking me something.  I didn’t hear it.  Without thinking — had I been thinking this would have been the wrong decision — I ran away from him, out of the water and to the furthest point along the line of volunteers stripping wetsuits.  While my head hurt, especially the ear, it wasn’t until about an hour later I realized I couldn’t hear out of my left ear.  Someone passed me who had been trailing close but not necessarily drafting for quite a while.  I looked up and thought — don’t be an asshat: Be quiet or wish him well.  He came by with a smile and warned me that at the bottom of a little hill coming up were a rough railroad crossing.  I had to ask him to repeat it twice and then thanked him as he sped off.

I reached up and found scabby, granular bits of dried blood in my ear that felt like sand.  But, without dizziness, double vision or vomiting, I just plowed on thinking that if something went wrong I’d pull over and wait for an official sag wagon.

After the race, the medical team assessed me and diagnosed earwax blocking the canal and holding in water.  They were very serious about concussion related symptoms and unanimous that I didn’t have one which was a huge relief because it was only then I that I thought about it and realized that I stayed out on the course nearly five hours with a head injury.  Stupid.

It was only the day before that Josephine had been pushed down in a scrum at the start of an Ironkids race.  She had been so excited to participate and within moments she was being trampled.  She emerged with scraped hands and a massive gray and purple goose egg bruise in the center of her forehead.  Within 24 hours I had just reviewed all that medical science has to offer via the Internet on concussions and their effects.

Status — Josephine is doing well.  She tried out for the school talent show on Monday and is scheduled to ride her unicycle while playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the recorder.  Yesterday she started with the diving team at the local pool and looked graceful and comfortable.  As for me, I have a persistent ringing in my left ear and a horrible, nerves on edge attitude.  I have a headache.

On Monday the ENT said the inside of my ear looked like a meatball.  It definitely wasn’t wax — the blockage was due to skin and other tissue that has dislodged.  He said that all the skin on the ear canal was missing and that he didn’t think I broke the eardrum but wouldn’t know until the swelling and other possibly infection related swelling went down.  I’m on a painkiller, a steroid and a antibiotic.  Oh, and it is possible that I have a hairline fracture in my head or jaw but since the treatment is simply rest that the x-ray would not be worth doing.  Yesterday afternoon I shut my mouth all the way for the first time since Sunday.



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