Inaugural FCS Kids Tri Team Season Wraps-Up!

The FCS Kids Tri Team 2014 season was a huge success!!!  The team was coached by Kim Baumgartner, a USAT Level I and Youth and Junior certified coach and her husband Ben Baumgartner, a USA Cycling Level III coach.  The focus of the team was to introduce kids to triathlon and teach them the skills they needed to succeed in a fun and safe environment while pushing them to discover just how much they could accomplish when they put their minds to it!  The plan was to keep the first year small and controlled to ensure each of the athletes was given the attention they needed to succeed and have fun.  Our season kicked off in Mid-May meeting every Sunday night with a great group of kids USAT ages 7-14 (USAT age is the athlete’s age as of 31 Dec 2014).  With pool options limited for the early season and so many kids already participating on swim team, we decided to focus our weekly practices on Bike and Run, and offer a separate swim option for those kids needing additional help.  Each practice was something a little different and built in complexity as the season progressed.  Athletes learned bike handling skills, shifting, flying-mounts and dismounts, transitioning from swim to bike and bike to run, run form and improved their speed and power with track work, short bricks, and core strength work.  The kids worked really hard, but had a blast!!!  We promoted lots of friendly competitions, relays, and challenges and tried to end each practice with a game that the kids enjoyed.  Sharks and Minnows ended up being a favorite!

One of the favorite practices for the coaches and kids was our Tour De France tribute where each athlete competed in a sprint race to try and earn the “Green” jersey, and also the King of the Mountain competition involving a race to the top of a hill.  We even crowned our own “Yellow” jersey and “White” jersey by combining the results of the two races.  Another fun practice was our Father’s Day long-ride at Mason Neck State Park followed by a cookout.  We ended the season in August with a family relay race around the lake in Kingstowne, finishing up with a pizza party.

We designated 3 local races as “Team” races, supported by coaches and a team tent.  While racing was optional, we had a great turnout and saw team members on the podium at each event!  The first race was the Kids Tri Too event in June held at the Freedom and Aquatic Center.  This was several athlete’s first-ever triathlon and it was fantastic to see them all enjoying themselves and crossing the line as proud as could be. 10500303_808721095815188_1492362481065553105_n The next event was our biggest one.  We also went to the BRATS Sizzling Summer Youth event in Vint Hill, and the Charles County Youth Tri in Waldorf in July.  Several team members competed in additional events around the area as well!  It was such a blast seeing these kids grow both as triathletes and as a team throughout the season.  Next year we plan to start the season a bit earlier for those who want to get ready for some early season races in May, and also plan to organize a group to go to USAT Youth Nationals in August. We will also be adding a practice option in Reston and for those athletes ready to take their training to the next step we plan to offer a Performance Prep Team in Kingstown!


NEW for 2015:

FCS Kids Team (ages 6 – 15) practices in 2 locations: Kingstowne and Reston!!  Early Session practices begin in April, Main session June – Mid August.  Practices are once a week on Sunday evenings (1.5 hours between 5pm and 8pm depending on age)

Performance Prep Team (PPT) for ages (11-17) Pre-season Bike Program offered Jan – Mar, regular practices begin in April.  Performance Prep Team option is in Kingstowne only.

Uniforms! All team members will be able to purchase uniforms (tri suits, singlets, bike jerseys, and possibly swim suits).  ITU style tri suits will be mandatory for PPT members participating in draft legal events.

Check out the website for more information www.fexycoaching/kids or contact Coach Kim with questions or to be added to the distro list!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

IM Nooga Pre-Camp Recap

Last weekend we were lucky enough to pair a early season training camp preparing for IM TX (Lindsay), 70.3 Raleigh (Xavier and Slake) IMCDA (Coach Scott, Coach Shelly and Lindsay) and Challenge AC (Xavier) with a scouting of the Ironman Chattanooga course that many people we coach and are Teammates with will be racing. We will also be holding an Ironman Chattanooga Camp August 7-10 2014.

We had a few goals in our training/prep:
- Learn the Ironman Courses (bike, run mostly but also understand the swim setup)
- Get two long rides in - one on the Ironman course as well as a harder ride with mountain climbs (plenty of options for mountains in Nooga!)
- Swim most days including a long swim of 5k+ and 4k+
- Secure a locations for camp August 7-10
- Do a long run on the course – only goal not successful as it was hurricane weather on long run day

Swim Practice - Heading to the YMCA for another long swim set

Swim Practice – Heading to the YMCA for another long swim set

Our hotel – the Residence Inn downtown, was about .2 of a mile from transition and a 1/2 a mile walk to the YMCA where we did all of our swim training. The river was 52 degrees – no thank you ;). Day 1 we did a 5k swim and then followed it up with a semi-long run on the Ironman course (the Riverwalk portion) which was extremely scenic, especially with the sun setting over the river!

Day 2 – The goal for day 2 was to get in a shorter swim and then ride all or most of the Ironman course. It was a beautiful day – but turned quite windy. We learned quite a bit about the bike course (will save that for the next post) but in general it’s scenic with lots of farm animals, a fair number of railroad crossings (none are hazardous) and wind which from the south can be an issue as it’s relatively flat to rolling between two mountain ridges creating a funnel of wind.  :). Then some ran off the bike.

Bike Course - Left Turn onto Tennessee avenue

Bike Course – Left Turn onto Tennessee avenue

Bike Course - stretch on bike course along 193

Bike Course – stretch on bike course along 193

Day 3 – Day 3 was another longer swim, this time 4k, followed by a much more challenging bike ride up and over two mountains. The first climb was about 1400 feet over 6 miles and the second was 1700 feet again over 6 miles. Once on the second mountain we stayed up top for a long time and were lucky to have some amazing views of Chattanooga. The descent was pretty awesome with some really cool switchbacks. We hope to do a version of this ride at our camp.

Ride Day - Michelle and Lindsay at the top on Suck Creek Climb - 6 miles at 4%

Ride Day – Michelle and Lindsay at the top on Suck Creek Climb – 6 miles at 4%

Day 4 – Unfortunately this day was a really chilly washout but we did secure the location for our swim clinic/swim practice portion of camp the beautiful McCallie School in Chattanooga. We will also be doing a full simulation of the swim in the Tennessee river supported by kayaks another day.

Athletic Center at McCallie School

Athletic Center at McCallie School

Overall, the trip was a big success all around…Lots of training on and scouting of the IM Nooga course and surrounding areas. 
Next up our previews/pictures of the bike and run courses!

Posted in Camps, Coaching, Ironman, Run, Swim, Training, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

How to qualify for the Boston Marathon

For the secret to qualifying for the Boston Marathon please wire $10,000USD to account number 123456.  Once funds have been confirmed a Nigerian prince will come to your door with an unmarked envelope containing a secret training plan… 

Seriously, the secret to qualifying for the Boston Marathon isn’t really secret at all.  Here is what you need to do: 

1)   Run a lot and I mean a lot of miles.  At least 700 or more over the course of 16 weeks.  Volume could potentially be the most important aspect to wringing every bit of running performance out of your body.  Without the miles, the rest will be difficult to accomplish.

2)   Run often.  Most serious runners are running six days a week and on many of those days running more than once a day.  The repetition of running every day is critical to developing the capillaries and the strength required to attain optimal marathon performance.  Cutting out a day here or there or doing cross-training sounds good in “Runner’s World” but there is no substitute for running.

3)   Prioritize your training over other things and by that I mean life.  Many times I hear people say things like “I am doing to do my long run Friday because I want to go out drinking Friday night.”  Bars are great but they won’t get you a strong marathon time.  Ideally you are doing your long run the exact same day you would do your race and at the same time conditioning your body to run long on that day and at that time.

4)   Which leads me to another point: make your training as specific as possible to your goal race.  Once you have picked your goal race (more on that later) study the course and try and figure out what you will need to do to be prepared.  I had to qualify for Boston at the Big Sur Marathon.  Consequently I went and ran up and down hills in the mountains prior to my race.  I know that I would not have qualified without this specific preparation. 

5)   Pick a goal race.  And only one.  Lately the trend in marathoning and running in general is to run many races and to “have a backup.”  If you look at the marathoning schedules of the pros they are generally running 2-3 marathons A YEAR, not a month.  You can’t peak for more than one marathon every 6 months.  You might be able to recover from a bad performance where you did not give 100% effort and then do another race shortly thereafter but you certainly won’t peak.

6)   Try and bring discipline to the other areas of your life that contribute to your performance i.e. eat right and “normally,” maintain some strength training so you don’t become unbalanced or have muscle atrophy in  non-running muscles, try and get as much sleep as you need to avoid over-training and severe fatigue.

7)   Do anything that will make you more able to accomplish the first 6 items.  That could be pick a plan to follow or hire a coach or wear pink compression socks.  Do whatever it takes to squeeze the maximum running performance and energy out of your body! 

Happy Running!

Coach Andrew

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

It Takes a Village

It takes a village comes from an African proverb, and when it comes to triathlon, it may apply to us more than most other sports. As an athlete, and especially as a coach, I believe we need to explore a variety of perspectives, not only to find what might work best for each of us – and for my athletes -but also to learn more about ourselves and to help us function best in each of the disciplines. Chris “Macca” McCormack shares in his book “I Came to Win” that he’s made many of his major breakthroughs by learning from champions in other sports. He claims to have borrowed ideas from tennis, boxing, bodybuilding, and from sprinters to help address what were his weaknesses. His attitude is that if others have figured out how to solve similar problems or challenges you might have, you can learn from them to help you. I often see or hear the recommendation: “swim with swimmers, ride with cyclists, and run with runners to be the best triathlete. Learn from and train with the specialists.” As both athlete and coach, I’ve been trying to learn from anyone willing to share a gem of knowledge, including every coach I, or my kids work with and every athlete that I’ve trained with or raced against. I consider my training and racing all an experiment. And I continue to learn, as a result. Since my first attempt at the Ironman distance in 2010, I’ve been working with FeXY Coach Scott Baldwin as my triathlon coach, and he is fantastic. I’ve relied on him for race ideas and for making sure that I’m not doing too much, or too little, and to advise me with his more than 100 races’ experience. But in my continuing quest to learn, Scott isn’t my only coach. In my Masters program for swimming, I get to work with two long-time swimmers and coaches – one who was a sprinter, who emphasizes lots of yards to help get strong, and another who was a long distance swimmer, who emphasizes stroke mechanics and efficiency in the water. The combination of both of their perspectives helped me drop six minutes in my Ironman swim time. In cycling, I ride with two groups nearby. One group includes an Olympian cyclist, who offers not only tips (critique, actually) from time to time, but he can relied upon to offer a challenging pace. From these rides, I’ve gained strength in my cycling and have improved my bike handling skills. And conscious of what the aging process can do to a body, I work with a strength trainer, who is also well-versed in chemistry. From him, I work on functional strength and have learned a great deal about how nutrition can support my training. And, the most important learning may come from family and friends who support this time-consuming hobby. They help us keep both balance and perspective on all of this. The phrase “it takes a village…” is attributed to an African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”, but when researched further, the phrase is an amalgam of several cultures across Africa that have conveyed this similar sentiment in different ways. For us as triathletes, the one that comes closest may be this one: ‘Omwana taba womoi,’ the translation being: ‘A child belongs not to one parent or home.’ Triathletes are part of many families, with many parents and many points of view.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

JFK 50 Race Report or what I think about when I run 50 miles

Ooops the gun went off.  Where’s the start.  Here we go start my GPS.  Yes it’s going.  How do my legs feel this morning?  Pretty good I think, loose it seems.  Man people are really taking off running fast!  Oh there’s Erik.  “How are you man?” Funny how people are running up this huge hill.  Time to walk.  Finally up the hill and onto the Appalacian Trail.  Wow that lady is wearing some really crazy compression socks/tights.  I wonder if they are supposed to be sexy?  They look like thigh highs.  I have to ask.  “Ohhh, they are so you can pee.” Ultra-runners are so crazy.  This stretch of road is steeper than the trail.  Time to walk again.  It is cold on top of this ridge.  The wind is cutting through me.  That’s OK I’m still warm enough.  Don’t forget to drink. Time to take first salt pill and eat something.   Now it’s time for the rocks.  I hate rocks.  I’m glad I ran on them all summerDSC_0016 though because this doesn’t feel so hard.  Ouch that hurt.  Damn rocks. Oh the first aid station.  There’s Miles.  Sweet hug!  Grab a pretzel, don’t forget to eat.  Too early for Coke, try and hold out.  Up the hill into the cold woods.  More rocks, more hills.  I can’t remember if this stretch is 15 or 16.  Ok well stop thinking about it just run and take it easy.  Don’t run up that hill just walk.  OK finally the downhill is starting, but its still rocky.  Arg.  I hate rocks.  Oh now we are going down down down.  This is good.  Can’t wait to run again.  Oh yes solid pavement.  There’s Miles again!!  Where’s the aid station.  Oh no aid yet, at the bottom near the towpath.  I’m hungry.  Need solids, I’m behind on solids.  Hungry hungry hungry.  Finally the aid station.  Yum uncrustables LOVE!  And Coke, time for some Coke.  Towpath?  Time to go.  Gotta’ make up time.  740?  Too fast?  No keep going keep running I don’t want to be on this towpath all day.  “RUNNER LEFT.” DSC_0077Damn 5am starters hogging the trail.  UGH.  Oh boy this is going to get old.  I’m moving though.  Keep drinking, keep eating.  “RUNNER LEFT.”  UGH.  Need   to   conserve energy.  Eat drink.  Salt tab.  Towpath, more towpath.  Fewer 5am starters.  This is good.  Picking up 7am starters. Suckers, went out too fast.  Why’d you go out so fast?  Miles ticking by.  This is good.  Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about 50 miles being a long way to run.  Why do I do this stuff?  This hurts wow this hurts.  Why? Why? Why?  How could I do that?  What was I thinking? Why am I here oh yeah because I hate sitting, running better.  When do we get done with the towpath again?  Can’t remember 42?  43?  Think my GPS is off.  Think so, must be sign says Mile 38 and I have 39.  There’s Miles.  I need a hug.  Keep running keep running.  I can’t take this IMG_0626gotta’ get off this towpath.  Speed up push don’t let down.  Keep the pedal down.  Oh finally last aid station.  Coke, chips, coke.  Keep running.  Time to walk.  Up the hill.  Look at that funny dog sitting on his bed.  No soupthanks just want to get done.  This hill hurts keep moving.  Run to that pole don’t stop no stopping keep running no walking need to walk.  No cramps no cramps no cramps keep moving stretch calf on that hill keep moving.  Run run keep running Mile 2 OK just keep moving to the finish.  Last aid station can’t talk need coke and chips yes I’ll just point thanks.  What it’s downhill from here they always lie wait it is downhill OK pick up the pace one mile to go you liar oh it is close I remember that store.  That trooper is stopping traffic keep moving no cramp you stupid hamstring why keep running almost done.  I see the red lights oh yes that’s the finish homestretch home stretch oh yes across the line I’m done.  Don’t forget to stop GPS.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Off Season Ideas by Coach Leslie

While the off-season allows your mind and body a break, one thing to watch out for is gaining weight. You might still be feeding the endurance athlete in you, but when you’re not working out as much or for as long or intense a session, the number of calories you are consuming may start to exceed the number of calories you’re burning, leading to more of you than you want to train with, come January. One thing I would recommend is to avoid any racing nutrition during the off-season. Don’t bring gels, blocks, or much of any packaged nutrition with you on your next ride or run, unless of course you’re riding or running longer than 90 minutes (and inserting some intervals in there). Now that we’re seeing lower temperatures outside, if you’re enjoying your off-season rides and runs outdoors, you won’t sweat as much, so you’ll have less to replace. And, as a general rule, if you’re fueling for your workouts (i.e. eating before your workouts) and keeping the workout steady state and not too long, your “recovery” food afterwards should be the next appropriate meal or a healthy snack. Another recommendation to keep the weight gain at a minimum is during the off-season you might want to increase your strength training. It’s a time when a hard session won’t ruin your next speed session or workout, as the strength session becomes the workout, instead. Ideally, begin with body weight exercises before you put weights in your hands. Once you can do some real (chest to the floor) push-ups (10 in a row?), and a few pull-ups (4-6 for women, 10 for men?), only then would I think about adding weights to the equation. We’re triathletes, not body builders – so go for functional strength movements. Add a few yoga movements to every session to open things up (namely hips and your back) and finish with a couple of planks and L-sits (hold for as long as you can) and your more muscular body will help burn some of those holiday calories.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Run Free

Of late I have observed that runners these days carry a lot of equipment while they run. The popularity of running and the influx of new runners have spawned many new products to assist runners and make them feel more comfortable, run faster, or distract them in some way from the task at hand.

I just did Ragnar and was sitting by the side of the road in my van half asleep watching runner after runner plod by laden down with iphone and case, compression socks, hat, water bottle, belt for fuel and on and on and on. All of a sudden a lone runner flew by, a younger guy running fast and striding by the others. The thing that struck me the most was that he was wearing nothing but split shorts and his shoes and socks. Obviously he was in the zone, flowing down the road, striding out, completely immersed in the task at hand, nothing to distract him from the rhythm of his breathing and the sound of his shoes on the pavement.

Frequently when I run I set out with no watch and none of the recent accoutrements of running. Just the least amount of clothing and my light Nike Airs that give me comfort but keep my feet light and my cadence high. My recommendation to all runners is to Run Free. Pick a run during the week and ditch all the stuff. Pick a distance that you can run comfortably and know the distance and where you do not need to be concerned with time.

As you set out listen to your breathing, listen to your feet, ask yourself are you clomping? Are you running too hard? Too easy? Get in a rhythm and start to feel what it is like to flow along the road. Think of it as a moving meditation and let thoughts enter your brain, ponder them, and then let them go. Or don’t think about anything at all except the surface of the road and the noises around you, birds chirping, wind blowing through the leaves, whatever catches your attention. Practice stealth running. Quick feet, forward lean, light steps, keep your arms moving forward not side to side and look up and around and anticipate the next turn the next jump your next move. As you do this I know you will have a moment, even fleeting where you feel what it is like to really run and flow along the road and think that you could run forever.

It might not last that long, maybe to the next hill or the next light when you are interrupted but try and savor the moment and remember it and bring it back into your mind the next time you feel like you are slogging or need a lift on a long run. Fall is the best time of year to run free.

Go ahead, give it a run!

Coach Andrew

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

My Experiment with Metabolic Efficiency, Part 1

In 2013 I took the year off from training (for the most part) and racing. The mental and physical break was excellent but now it’s time to get back to business. With a longer break from training than I have had in probably 8 or so years, a few extra pounds came along with loss of fitness. 

I had done quite a bit of reading about the Whole30 program and decided to try it. It’s basically strict paleo for 30 days. I started on Monday Aug 26th and knew I had 41 days until we leave for Hawaii so decided to stay on it until we leave. You can read more about the Whole30 here: My normal diet of late is that of a typical endurance athlete, but with way more carbs and way more junk than anyone needs. As a part of this experiment I removed the following items:
1. Diet soda and artificial sweeteners
2. Processed carbs (bread, pasta, crackers…)
3. Sports nutrition
4. Alcohol (held out 20 days and now am having a few drinks 1x a week)
5. Beans/Legumes (I found this to be the least “bad” of the foods so had beans 1-2 times)
6. Dairy (if a salad at a restaurant had cheese I ate it, I had a bunless burger a few times with a slice of cheese, but didn’t purchase any for our home)
7. SUGAR!!

My diet has basically become:
1. Veggies and fruit (fruit somewhat in moderation as it is higher in sugar)
2. Meat sources (grass fed, organic, higher quality meats – fatty cuts are ok as long as they come from healthful sources)
3. LOTS of eggs
4. Healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil and olive oil

From the Whole30 website the point of this diet is to “think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.”  There are a lot more benefits that you can read about above but I really just wanted to get rid of sugar and lose a few pounds.

Once I started the Whole30 I remembered my reading/study in the concept of metabolic efficiency (attended Bob Seebohar’s USAT Coaching course on it in 2010 and read his book, Metabolic Efficiency Training) and remembered that this way of eating could help me burn more fat while training than carbs. The concept/benefits of metabolic efficiency are to burn more fat and conserve carbohydrate stores while reducing the likelihood of some sort of stomach or GI distress during training and racing. “Metabolic Efficiency describes the relationship between fat and carbohydrate oxidation across a variety of exercise intensities.”(Metabolic Efficiency Training, back cover).

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to test on day 1 of my experiment. But, I did test on day 24. Without an initial baseline test it’s impossible to completely know, but my gut says I was quite a carb burner. My diet had a high percentage of calories from carbs, and even a shorter bike ride of 2-3 hours I would need calories or not feel so good. The two ways to improve metabolic efficiency are to do aerobic level training (think zone 1/2 runs and bikes) and eat a balanced diet not too high in carbohydrates. Both come into play in improving efficiency. My workouts, mostly running at this point, were far from perfect. To say my runs were painful, especially for the first 2-3 weeks, is an understatement. This is NOT a fun adjustment. I felt winded, heart rates through the roof and just felt so flat/tired. I needed to take a bunch of walk breaks. My body was really missing the carbs. I understood that I hadn’t been running much at all the month or so prior so I should feel out of shape, but this was beyond that. Then sometime around 3 weeks into the experiment, I started feeling better. Maybe not 100%, but certainly better. Something switched and I didn’t need large amounts of carbs to get through workouts.

So back to the metabolic efficiency test I did with Coach Eric Sorensen on day 24 (contact him if interested at The test is pretty simple, and sub-maximal so not THAT painful like a VO2 max or FTP test. I ran on a treadmill (or can be done on a bike), starting very easy, wearing a mask to collect the gases that I exhaled. To keep from going too deep into the science the output of the test is a 5 minute average of my percentage of carb versus fat burned at each pace. We went from 12 minute miles to 8:49 miles.

photo (1)The chart below details my results. From 12 minute miles to around 10:10 pace I burn about 55% of my calories from fat stores and 45% from carbohydrates (muscle glycogen). At the 9:40 pace I hit my crossover point where I start burning more carbohydrates than fats. Coach Eric said this is one of the best tests he has seen :). Most people that test don’t even have a cross-over point as they burn more carbs from the start of the test at the slowest paces. I plan on testing again this winter and the goal is to burn a higher % of fat at the slower intensities as well as moving that crossover point to faster intensities. My Coach, Scott Baldwin, and I will use these results to better tailor my training paces and see if I need to add more aerobic training. 

I also consulted with a Metabolic Efficiency expert, Dina Griffin, at She helped me see that I am on a good path towards becoming more efficient and gave me some guidelines and great ideas to follow. Definitely a worthwhile resource to help me in the future. I am learning a lot about how to fuel during my long workouts.

Bottom line, this test and becoming metabolically efficient isn’t a big deal for short course. We all hold enough glycogen to get through a sprint or an olympic. But the ability to burn more fats and rely less on eating lots of carbs during the race can be a huge impact in Ironman distance racing. Less calories also is a less chance of GI distress (which I have had on the bike in the past). 

In about a month (I’m on day 29 now) I have dropped 12 pounds, gotten fitter and perhaps have become more metabolically efficient. More to come.

(also thanks to Lindsay Ludlow and Cynthia Revesman for some Whole30/Paleo pointers!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

IMMT Race Report

A little perspective…I did my first tri in 2009 and my first Ironman in 2011 at Louisville with another one just 6 weeks later…..    After that whirlwind, I took 2012 off from Ironman and it was supposed to be Ben’s turn. With 2 kids, simultaneously training for IM would be just too tough.  Unfortunately about 6 weeks before Louisville, he had a “small accident” on the bike and ended up with a 40cm titanium rod in his femur…  He was really bummed about not becoming an Ironman and knew he had to try again even if he had to walk the marathon.  But wait….  I wanted to do an IM in 2013….  Hmmmmm what to do…..   SO we decided we’d go with the team to Mont Tremblant, we’d stagger our long rides on the weekends and work around schedules during peak training to get there – we could do this!  And with Ben essentially starting over, we knew he was not going to be able to get to the same volume anyway and it was more about getting him to finish without hurting himself along the way.

My goals were a little different…I had always been a strong runner – but I struggled with a strong run off the bike at longer distances…so my 2012 focus was on being able make that happen at the half distance.  And I finally was able to do that.  So 2013 became trying to run strong off of a stronger bike, and I also knew I had some work to do on the swim….  So in Nov, I asked Coach Shelly for help and we went to work.  I went 12:38 in Louisville and really wanted to go sub 12, and as close to 11:30 as I could get at IMMT.  It was a long 9 months of training that taught me a lot and which paid off on race day!

Mont Tremblant

We left Tuesday night and drove for about 3 hours before crashing  and finished the drive on Wed after picking Ben’s sister up in Montreal.  We arrived at the team house around 7pm grateful to be out of the car.  The next few days were a rush of last minute rides, runs, and swims, checking over bike and gear, exploring the town, and thankfully, just playing shuttle for Ben’s sister and the kids since she helped keep them occupied and entertained – as did our housemates!  Oh and did I mention puzzling?  Lesson #1 – don’t ever spend the 2 days before a race bending over a jigsaw puzzle!    But Mont Tremblant was truly a beautiful place with plenty of things to keep everyone occupied and unlike some of the other races we’ve been to, the community truly seemed happy to have us!



We arrived at Transition approximately 5:45 thanks to a ride from one of our teammate’s Dad, pumped tires ~110, put bottles and nutrition on bike…  Outside temp was low 50’s, with projected temp of 56 by 0800.  I decided not to swim in my singlet and put it in T1 bag.  We headed down to the FeXY tent by the swim start by about 6:15.  Not gonna lie – I had a few minutes there where I was asking myself why the heck was I really doing this??  This was different than previous races though.  Previously it was nerves – can I do this? What is it going to take to do this etc… this was – in order to do what I wanted to do I knew I was going to have to push to the limits and put myself into the hurt locker.  This was realizing how bad I knew I was going to have to hurt and why would I do that?  We made it to the tent and felt a bit better..  We headed into swim start area at about 6:30. Ben’s wave went off at 6:45 and I was at 7… Took a GU at 6:35ish to top up glycogen.

The Swim

I lined up in second row about ¾ of the way to the outside.  I’ve gotten a lot better, but I’m still not a “fast” swimmer. It was a beach start and the water temp had been 70-74 the previous days.  It was announced race morning that the temp was 66’F.  I had swam in a sleeveless the previous day and it was chilly for the first minute or two but then it was fine so stuck with sleeveless. The water felt fine- warmer in fact than my practice swim on Fri morning.  I was in the last wave and I was concerned about slower people from previous waves but at least I knew I wouldn’t get swum over!  The gun went off and I went in up to thigh high water and started swimming.  Tried not to start out too hard and to find my pace and rhythm quickly.  I feel like I did well at that.  After the first few minutes I felt good and actually found some feet that I followed for 5 min or so (longer than I ever have done that before).  The sun was just over the horizon directly to my right which made breathing to the right difficult.  So I settled into a 2-2-2-4, or 2-2-4 rhythm.  I didn’t actually site very much at all, there were enough bubbles and feet around me that I was just swimming straight – every 5-6 stroke I’d peek and I was dead on, so actually backed off and started only sighting probably every 8-10 strokes a lot of the time.  By about the 1K mark I was catching people from the next 2 waves and started having to swim around people.  I felt like I got into a funk for a bit, and started to feel my hip flexor pulling which has been an issue in previous open water swims.  I tried to concentrate on pushing that head down and my form and that helped.  Shortly thereafter I could see the first turn about 3 buoys up.  It was a bit congested and I was on the inside.  I checked my watch and saw 33 – yes – right on pace (I was hoping for a 1:10)!.  The second turn buoy -  200 M across was 37 and my arms were fine, I felt good and was confident I could hit 33 on the way back to hit the 1:10 I was hoping for.  I had intended to try and hit outside a bit more to get away from the congestion but found myself no longer swimming straight.  I think there were some boats that sent some waves and I actually felt a little vertigo for a minute or two like I couldn’t tell which direction I was swimming.  About 5 min into the way back I found some open water and pushed for a good few minutes and then I started finding the slower swimmers from 2-3 waves ahead of me.  And more often than not they were swimming side by side and I had to go around.  I got kicked in the face once and had to re-set my goggles.  I also at one point got a big whiff of boat exhaust that made me a bit nauseous.  But I very rarely “stopped” swimming – I just had to go around, and I felt like I was swimming strong.  My arms actually felt good, I was concentrating on form, and pushing that head down, and my hip was holding.  I remember checking my watch when I could see the exit and it was 54.  I felt like I could swim the rest in 16 min, but then I hit some shallow water, and I had that feeling when you are looking at the bottom and swimming and it seems like the bottom isn’t moving,  I checked my form and I felt strong, checked my effort and I was definitely still pushing, so just sucked it up and swam but I definitely felt like that last part just took longer than it should have.  When I got closer to the exit then I could see the ground moving again which was weird.  I was a little bummed when I stood up and looked down at my watch and saw 1:14 and knew it would be another minute til I crossed the mat – how did I lose 5 minutes on the way back???   But I knew that aside from taking the outside line I did all I could – I swam about as hard as I could have and kept my focus well.  Then I peeked behind me and saw the hundreds of people behind me and felt better – just as Slake snapped my sports bra!  I hadn’t seen him but apparently somehow I came out right in front of him!  Got out of the water (narrow exit area…) hit the strippers grabbed my suit and ran to the tent (passing a few people on the way).


That was a long run!  But thankfully they had the whole way carpeted so it was no problem on bare feet.  I ran into the tent had a great volunteer who told me to sit – she dumped my bag out, helped me put on my singlet and started putting on sunscreen on my back and arms as I put on my helmet, glasses and shoes.  I was not cold at all, which I knew meant my core was warm enough to head out on the bike without the arm warmers I had stashed in my bag.  I really had to pee, and they didn’t have porta potties in or near the tent (really??) they also did not have a nutrition table….  I forgot to put sunscreen on my face too…. Which I’m paying for now…  so I stuffed my gels in my pocket and ran out (peeing along the way…) to my bike.  The bike racks were TIGHT and I was thankful to see volunteers at the racks, grabbing your bike for you.  SO I grabbed mine and ran out – hopped on and was on my way.


Hit lap on the garmin to get it to bike mode, and then went to flip it to the inside of wrist and accidently hit lap again…. Doh!  Had to reset the watch to get it back to bike mode… dammit – now I wasn’t sure how long the swim or transition were to know my total time for the race…Headed out past all the FeXY folks and heard the kids yelling “MOM!!!”- once past I grabbed my first gel that I would’ve done in T1 if I had water.  Then tried to settle.  It was hard to hold back – but it was congested which actually helped just sit back.  Shortly thereafter I noticed my power dropping out.  I got to the first 10K – turn onto 117N, and popped 2 salt tabs.  I had already taken about half of my first bottle of Roctane.  I tried to keep watts about 170ish on the first climb out of town, but the power reading kept dropping and when it would come back in it would say 200 before dropping out again.  Shortly before the turnaround I finished my bottle of Roctane, and downed a honey stinger (total of 500 calories so far – I think too much in hind site…).  I had passed teammates Laura, Ernie and Matt on the way out and saw KWed and Sara next up and figured I’d catch them by the end of the first loop. I had seen Ben too and wanted to keep him about the same…  At the first aid station after the turn around I grabbed a water bottle, and then soon took the next 2 salt tabs.  About 5 min later I started feeling my right hamstring pull.  They had been bugging me strangely all week (bending over doing that dang jigsaw puzzle for hours at the house didn’t help) but I’ve never actually had a real problem with a hamstring before and it was getting worse quickly. Hoping it was a salt thing and knowing I had just taken some –  I made myself drink some water and a few swigs of the next Roctane bottle.  About 10-15 min later the hamstring started to ease up and never came back…By this time I had given up on power meter, but when it did come back I was close to what I was supposed to be doing depending on flat/up etc…  Heading into St Jovite I took a Honey Stinger bar.  Heading out back to Montee Ryan it was really thinning out.  I caught KWed and we talked for a few as I dug out the next salt tabs.  She was doing well and happy to be almost half way done with the bike.  Heading back to town there is a single file part that I got stuck behind a few idiots which slowed me down. As most folks know – I ‘m NOT a terrific descender – so if I’m not braking – you should not be!!!!  But this is where I started to realize I was getting tired, I really had to pee and I felt too full.  Coming back to the resort area and hitting the hills was tough but I was excited realizing I was probably right about at a 3 hour first loop  - right where I wanted!!!  I caught Sara on the way out on the backside to the last turnaround.  And I know I saw a 40 something mph at one point on the hills back to town – I’ve never broken 40 before even on a straight hill pedaling to the max!  But Sure enough coming back in I hit 3:01.  I finished the Roctane bottle (have I said I really had to pee) before special needs – at special needs, I took a few sips of coke (probably should have taken more), and grabbed my extra bottles and snickers bar.  Ate the snickers bar on the way back out.  I think that was too much – I had had way too much solid food.  By that point I had consumed almost 900 cal – half of it solids.  It just sat in my stomach.  When we got away from town towards the 117 the wind picked up and I realized it was getting hot….  I started to just feel blah… I was sleepy tired, and couldn’t concentrate.  I popped more salt, but it didn’t seem to help.  And when my power did come back it was low…like going up the hill at 115…what – 115 going uphill????    my feet were starting to hurt and I was actually wondering how the hell I was going to even finish – I’ve never felt that out of it before – like I could fall asleep just sitting there pedaling.  I was actually wondering if I was “coherent” enough at one point to be safe.  I made it the next aid station and just stopped and peed.   By now it was probably close to an hour since the snickers, and I pulled out the chomps and took a few of those.  No kidding about 5 min later I started to feel like I was coming back – not entirely, but getting better.  So ate a few more chomps and some roctane.  About 10 min later I was at the turn around and feeling much better, although much to my Angst, the wind STILL seemed to be a head wind – I was like – no I just turned around it should be at my back now!!!!.  About half way back to St Jovite I was still hurting a bit, but by then it was count down mode – I was 2/3 of the way done.  At mile 85 I remember thinking I feel better now than I did at mile 85 in Ohio…. That’s a good thing…  I kept on those chomps as those things really seemed to perk me up.  By the time I was back on Montee Ryan I was feeling good and although I knew I had lost time, I knew I’d be under 6:20. It wasn’t the 6:10 I wanted, but after how bad I felt for the first hour of that second loop – I had come back strong.  I also realized at the turnaround that I had put a few minutes into Ben and that I’d be catching him on the very early part of the run.  I also very much started getting excited about the run.  Maybe too excited as we turned in towards T2 and I pulled my feet out of my shoes, and tried to dismount – catching my leg on my gorilla cage and falling on my ass on the red carpet…. Nice….  Thankfully my bike catcher first picked me up, then said “I got it you go” – as he bent down to grab my bike!  SO big lesson learned – careful of too much real solids – I think the honey stinger bar + the snickers just sat in my stomach and I had pushed too hard on the first loop preventing my stomach from digesting them….  In training I always lean heavy on the solids at first when my body can digest them better, but  on race day – need to remember that I’m not starting on the bike…  I’m coming out of an hour+ swim and the HR is already up! 


Nice and fast, even though I looked down and saw the red streak and a bruise already forming on my calf from where I caught it on the cage.  I could feel it with every step and was hoping it would ease up for the run….  It didn’t but it didn’t get worse either…  into the tent, I dumped everything out, grabbed my GUs, reserve chamois cream, (which I needed later for under arm chaffing) visor and race belt and off I went.  I stopped at the sunscreen table because I knew my face needed it…  so probably could’ve shave 20-30 sec off there if I had my own.  Put on race belt and visor on the run and headed out.

Started off feeling great – 8:45 felt effortless.  I came out of the chute and turned toward the lake.  To my surprise there was Brandon who ran with me up the hill and told me how Ben was doing and where Lex and Becca were.  Even up the hill, 9:00 no problem felt great – ooh I was gonna have to be patient and not start too hard!  I popped 1 salt tab at the first aid station along with some water and a sip or two of power aid.  The next aid station I popped a gel with some water.  By now I was out in town still holding 8:50-9:00 trying to keep it there and not go too fast.  When I got to the Petit Du Nord I was in heaven… I had just seen Beaman who said Ben was a minute ahead and that surface was nice – I was down to running 8:45-8:50 and had to hold back.  About a mile ahead I saw Tom who said Ben was really close and in fact I could see him.  I caught up to him and we talked for a few, then he was almost to a walk break and I stopped to take a rock out of my shoe that had been bugging me –  then said see ya later and kept on going.  I took the second salt tab around mile 7.  Somewhere on the way back – I feel like mile 8 or 9 I started to feel twinges in my IT bands… crap – I haven’t had IT band pain since 2011… and its never been in both knees at the same time – right where it goes over that little bump and attaches.  So I tried to pay attention to form.  Energy wise I was feeling okay, but knew the hurt was coming and coming soon.  Around mile 10 I passed Christian, and also took my first coke…. A little early, but knew it had been awhile since I had caffeine… continued with coke every aid station.  When I got back into town and those hills hit… ooh, those IT bands let me know that second lap was not gonna be easy.  But I saw Lex and Becca and everyone else and put on my happy face and ran up that damn hill.  Then I knew special needs was near.  I had some chomps and the bracelet Lex had made me.  Grabbed it and went through the resort….  Man that was hard to go that close to the finish and keep going!  But I was at 1:58 for the first lap – yes!  I knew the second lap was gonna hurt, but also knew I would be okay if I didn’t start out pushing too hard.  So I let myself slow down for those hills – by now my IT bands were screaming….knowing that I would be able to push a little more on the soft gravel flats… opened my chomps and grabbed 2.  Looking at pictures I was definitely hinged forward at the hip – not sure if that was the cause or a symptom, but I’m sure it was related.  Got back to the trail and felt a bit better.  Ate a few more chomps and felt better again.  I also took the last 2 salt tabs around there.  I remember getting to the 32K mark and was like – ok – if I can pull a 1 hour 10K I’ve got a 4:06 marathon, and that helped me focus and stay motivated.  I felt pretty good for the rest of the trail running 9:30ish and was thinking 4:05 was possible if the IT bands held.  Once I got back to the asphalt though and had to run down the path for that little out and back I was hurting again.  I remember the 4K to go and there being this little hill, and on the first step up my leg almost gave.  I panicked and had to fight back tears which made me unable to breathe.  I had to fight to gain control.  That last 4K was bad… every step was excruciating.  Any time I saw an elevation change I was like crap please let my legs hold, just let them hold.  And the downs were even worse!  On that last hill, its like 2K to go and I remember seeing Steve V and he was running with me, I couldn’t even talk I was fighting tears….  Finally at the 1K mark I knew I was there, but it didn’t make the pain any less.  I skipped the last 2 aid stations entirely because I didn’t want to slow down for fear of not being able to pick it back up.  Then I hit the turn for the home stretch down the cobblestone street and then- finally the pain subsided as I could see and hear the finish.  I saw the Schallers and high fived them, then down the way saw Brandon and then Becca and Lex and the next thing you know I crossed the line.  I remember seeing 12:13 and I was like – did I do it – did I get 12?  Remember my garmin had gotten screwed up, so I knew I came out of the water at 1:15 and that my bike was bout 6:17, but I didn’t know what my transitions were, so worst case I was thinking 15 minutes which meant I needed a 4:10-4:12 or better to go sub 12… but I didn’t know for sure and that’s part of what pushed me on the marathon.  But I had to stop and ask someone what time it was to know for sure that I made it sub 12!  It never even occurred to me to just look at what time it was!!!  As it turns out I went 11:48, a 50 min PR and the crowning event – a 4:05 marathon! 

All in all a good day – I think if I had a better line on the way back I could’ve been a few minutes faster on the swim.  Ben was 34 minutes at the first turn buoy and he swam a 1:09.  The bike…. that nutrition screwed me, but I’m happy I was able to trouble shoot and push through it – I was NOT giving up.  The run can’t really ask for much more.  The IT bands were definitely the limiter as opposed to fitness.  Not that I had all that much more to give, but if the IT bands were not so bad I probably woulda shaved another minute or two on the last hills.  But I definitely left everything I had on the course, there was not anything left in me.  And even now a week after the race as I’m sitting on the couch having only worked out once and not caring (and I’m that OCD athlete that FREAKS out if something is not green in training peaks!), I know that I definitely gave it everything I had which means mentally I had a good race.

Although I’m still enjoying being lazy for now - Coach Shelly and I are already scheming for next year  – I have a lot more work cut out for me and can’t wait!


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Long Road Back

About a month ago my brother-in-law said something interesting to me…”Nothing tastes as good as being in shape feels.” Do not worry I am not going to bore you with the virtues of maintaining an appropriate diet, caloric intakes, caloric burn rates, ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fats or about training so much that you have the body to make magazine covers (although it would be cool to be on a cover) or how to get a kilogram to watt ratio that would make professional cyclists jealous. Instead, it is going to be about the pitfalls of being inconsistent. Today’s poster child for inconsistency — “me”. Yes that is right I am actually going to criticize myself and take full responsibility for my own actions and decisions. I know that is a novel concept these days.

For years now I have struggled with my own fitness and associated weight. My weight has always been directly linked to my lack of fitness and episodic poor eating habits. My poor fitness, like right now, has always been directly linked to my internal motivation to train and be fit. If you were to graph these over time it would like a sine wave and an ugly one at that. I would train, eat right and become very fit only to stop training, become unfit, eat poorly and become overweight (at least by my standards). Every time I got back into great shape and at a healthy weight I would swear up and down to myself that I would never allow it to happen again. Each time I would fail. I am not a psychologist, I do not play one on TV and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Even after years of introspection I still have no idea why I continually repeat the past. Sure I could make excuses for right now. I could say that last summer I had just come off my third Ironman in four years (burnt out), retired from my job (wanted to do nothing) and started a demanding full-time graduate program (all consuming) at the age of 43 and that staying fit just did not make the “cut” on the priority list. I could make that excuse but it would be just that, an excuse, and you know what they say about those.

The fact is that in this one area of my personal life I truly lack consistency. For all the pride I have taken over the years in everything from my job performance to self-discipline, in the area of training and healthy eating consistency I get an “F”. So at this point you are probably saying “Tom, what is the point, why are you babbling about this”. Well the point is I want you to learn from my mistakes. When I was 25 I could eat whatever I wanted and get back into shape rapidly. That just is not the case anymore. The amount of time it now takes me to get my weight down and get back into shape is directly related to my age. I am not a doctor either so I am not going to spew out the scientific details about age and associated metabolic rates or muscle fiber recovery. I am simply going to say what we all know, as you grow older your metabolism slows down and your body does not recover as fast. Being out of shape and overweight only exacerbates the situation. Therefore, it is a real struggle to become fit again as you grow old.

This brings us to where I am today; struggling to become fit once again. It started slowly back in May with the occasional “trot”. I am not going to call what I did running. That continued into June with no real consistency but at least I was getting out there while simultaneously beginning to alter my diet. As July hit I finally decided to start riding a bike again. While I remembered the pure joy of riding it was painful both physically and mentally. It has gotten better with each ride and each run but it is still a struggle and will be for some time to come. I try not to think about how far I have “fallen” in a year. Thursday night I finished up a 90 minute mountain bike ride with some friends and I was talking about how this time last year I was putting my bike in the Ironman Lake Placid transition area for the next day’s race and now I am just trying to be comfortable riding my bike for 60-90 minutes or running for 30-45 minutes. They told me what I already knew, “hey you have got to start somewhere and at least you are getting out there”. I know deep down that had I only been consistent in maintaining my fitness for the past year I would not be going through this struggle yet again.

You are probably wondering what motivated me to become fit again. Maybe it is because I am tired of wearing my “fat” clothes. You know the ones I am talking about. The clothes that are hidden in your drawers, closets and bins that you do not want to donate in the off chance that you might need them again someday even though you told yourself you never would. Or maybe it is because I continually see Twitter and Facebook posts from all the people I know who are crisscrossing the country racing. Or maybe it is because my brother-in-law is right; nothing does taste as good as being fit feels.

At my age I have a long road ahead of me until I am fit again but it is a road worth traveling. Maybe this time I will finally be able to break the cycle of inconsistency. I hope you all can stay consistent, eat right, get out there and exercise 3 or 4 times a week unlike me for the past 9 months. Always remember that you do not need to be training 15-20 hours a week for an Ironman to be a healthy and fit individual; you just need to be consistent in eating right and exercising appropriately.

I think it is time I put the laptop down and go for a bike ride. Until next time my friends.

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off