Monday, February 28, 2011

New Orleans and Louisville Bike Courses

Ironman 70.3 New Orleans Bike Course

Ironman Louisville Bike Course

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Endurance Athlete's Diet ~ A Very Confusing Subject

As I got deeper and deeper into the black hole of triathlon training and racing, I began to understand, really quick, that an endurance triathlete has special nutrition needs.  It's not just about pasta, pasta and more pasta.

Some of the unscientific research I did allowed me to change my eating habits, what I thought, were for the best.  And I think for the most part, I was successful.

I experimented with carb-loading the week of the event, two nights before, the night before.  I knew (at the beginning) nothing about recovery food, what you're supposed to eat/drink immediately after a long and/or intense workout.  I thought a large bottle, or two, of Gatorade would do the trick.  After all, I was just thirsty and hot!

But, as I read more and more, I began to find out and realize there are foods that I  need to eat, some I need to avoid, what times I need to eat and how much I need to eat.  This is where the confusion began.

So, just like I realized the need to have a tri coach; someone who could put in writing what I need to do, when, at what pace, heart rate, etc., I was soon wishing and hoping that I could find someone that could tell me what and when to eat.  BUT, a reputable sports nutritionist, I have learned, will not do that for you.  They will teach you how to make choices, good choices.  Dang!

When I received the P90X Diet book I thought I would be in heaven. After all, here's a program that'll tell me what and when to eat.  Well, that it does.  However, most recipes in the book are written for "cooks" and that I am not.  Don't get me wrong, I know my way around a kitchen, I know my way very good.  I have worked in the food industry for some twenty years, so I know how to hold a knife without making my index finger part of the ingredients in my recipe.  But, with that being said, if a dish has more than three ingredients, and/or if I can't pronounce it, chances are I am NOT going to make it.

I few weeks back I was introduced to the Paleo Diet for Athletes.  I am reading the book over and over again.  It is so full of good information.  Information I have been looking for for months. It's an easy read and well explained.  I am learning about the five stages of nutrition, something I had never thought about.  But again, the recipes, oh... the darn recipes.

Don't get me wrong, I eat pretty healthy.  I have given up (five months now) fried food in any form, way or fashion.  I don't crave it any longer.  I have reduced the consumption of red meat to once per week.  Lean red meat at that.  I had given up eggs because I have issues with Cholesterol.  So bacon is not part of my diet any longer either.  I am now using egg whites.  Sweets are almost a thing of the past.  I do indulge in some sort of reward every now and then.  I also suffer from shell fish allergies so I have stayed away from sea food.  I have learned to like and really enjoy fish; salmon, grouper, trout, etc., but again, finding "wild" fish as opposed to farm raised is a difficult task.

When my youngest daughter came home from college for Christmas she made the comment that our pantry and refrigerator were extremely "boring".  "Dad, there are no fun foods in the house".

When grocery shopping, I have learned to read the labels, taking special note at the product's first ingredient.  I realize that the further processed the product, the worst it is for you.  Free range fed farm animals are much better for you.  Try finding meat at the grocery store that is free range fed.

All the changes I made have contributed to the drastic "physical" change I have experienced.  As mentioned on a prior post, my body fat percentage is 9.6 and I know it could be lower if I could get rid of what's left of that "tire" around my mid section.  So, with information I'm gathering on a daily basis, I am going to teach my body to start using more fat for energy than carbs.  Should I be successful in this, I feel that "gut" will disappear.

Anyone out there with simple, athlete friendly recipes that you'd like to share?  I welcome all suggestions!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Will P90X Work For Triathletes?

I am, once again, honored to be mentioned (at length) on a post by regarding my adventures with P90X.

And before you ask... NO, the picture next to the portion of the article about yours truly, is NOT me!

To view this post, click here.

167 Miles Closer To My Goal

Over the past two of weeks, I have logged 167 swim, spin-trainer, run miles.  80 two weeks ago, 87 last week.  I guess that makes training for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, en-route to Ironman Louisville, officially on!

(2.5m swimming, 61m spin/trainer, 16.5m running)

(2.5m swimming, 66m spin/trainer, 18.5 running)

The Swim:  I feel the swim now more than I've ever had before.  I feel stronger and smoother as I go down the lap pool; lap after lap.  It takes a few laps to get warmed up.  I still want to start off fast so I have to concentrate on keeping it slow.  Slow IS Fast!  I have also concentrated on form.  I'm focusing on keeping my stroke long, reaching and holding for a second, then a smooth and strong pull with a stronger follow through.  Also, I have worked on keeping my head down for when I lift it even a bit, I feel the drag and my butt falls.

The Bike:  Up until yesterday, the weather had not been conducive to outdoor riding.  I'm hoping that the weather has finally broken and I can get some serious outdoor saddle miles.  So, spinning and the trainer it has been for me.  Monday night spin class is pretty awesome, great teacher and good times!  The trainer, although not the ideal situation, it has done its job.  I set it up in front of the tv and off I go.  I have had a difficult time getting my heart rate up where my coach wants it.  He tells me not to worry, yet.  He says the true test will come when I ride outside.  I have worked hard at getting my cadence as close to 90 as possible.  For the most part it wanders between 82 and 90.  Much improvement from last year, when it vacillated around 70-75.  This is the first year I use a trainer, so I'm not sure how trainer mph will translate to road mph.  But, if I can do on the road, what I've been doing on the trainer, I will be one happy camper.

The Run:  This is where I see the most improvement.  I have to work hard at keeping my heart rate (down) where coach wants it.  It feels to easy.  He tells me to be patient and work the plan, so I do.  I feel stronger and smoother on the road.  Yesterday's 10m run produced no ankle pain, I was pleasantly surprised.  I run shorter distance with my Newton Sir Isaac's and longer distances with my Newton Distancia shoes.

Strength Conditioning:  I feel that I have neglected this area of training, a bit.  I guess after 90 non-stop days of P90X, conditioning only a couple of times per week seems negligible, but again, I am told that this is exactly what I need to do, so again, I do it!

This whole experience still seems surreal to me.  The fact that I'm training for Ironman Louisville still is something that is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  Sometimes I just close my eyes and imagine myself crossing the finish line with all my family and friends cheering me on.... that my friends will be priceless!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In Serious Need of Focus Adjustment

For the past five months very little has mattered.  The focus has been solely on IM Louisville 2011.  With good reason.  It's gonna be one hell of a ride!  It already is.

Training has started in full force.  A bit early you may ask.  Well, that's where the focus has to be adjusted.  On April 17, 2011 I will be competing in IM 70.3 New Orleans.  A 70.3 is no small feat!  Granted, half the distance of an Ironman, but no small feat nonetheless.

I have completed two IM 70.3 events, Augusta 2009 and Steelhead 2010.  Both of these events brought a whole new level of focus out of me.  Every training moment was dedicated to the successful completion of these races.

But recently I have been taking New Orleans for granted, and that cannot be good!  Together with my coach we agreed that N.O. would be a great training race.  Maybe that was the problem.  A "training race"?  How can you think of a 70.3 distance triathlon as a training race?

So starting today, my focus is going to be on New Orleans.  I will train, compete and finish New Orleans as I have in the past.  I will go in with a goal in mind.  Because of the above mentioned reasons I have not thought about it, so a goal I do not have.  But I will.

Friday, February 4, 2011

TriCrowd Featured Blogger

A few days back, I received an intriguing tweet. "Hi Mauricio, we're big fans of your blog. Wondering if you would be interested in being a featured blogger on our site."

According to their website,, they are a "triathlon community website put together by everyday triathletes.  It's a site for everyone who enjoys leading an active lifestyle and being connected to the triathlon community."  Well, that would be me; "an everyday triathlete, enjoys an active lifestyle, loves being connected to the tri community.

On March 11, 2008, almost three years ago, I wrote my first post, "Bitten by 'The Bug'"  I have used this medium mostly to document the trials and errors, pains and successes of a journey that started almost a year prior to that.  This blog has become a source of motivation for me, and as I have pleasantly found out, a source of motivation for a few others.  I've been willing to share with whomever wishes to listen.

And now to have my blog featured on another site..well, its an honor I have gladly accepted.  Thank you TriCrowd.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ironman Races Ranked By Finish Times

How tough an Ironman race is subjective.  A lot of  factors come into play when making that call.  Albeit all boast the same distance, 140.6 miles (2.4m swim, 112m bike, 26.2m run), conditions and courses vary, making each course unique in its challenges and degree of difficulty.  Even within the same race, at different times, the course may seem more or less difficult than in years past.

So how do you rank the races by degree of difficulty?

Raymond Britt, a veteran Ironman triathlete and Boston Marathoner, has researched and ranked the top 25 toughest Ironman Races based on average "finishers time".  His results, and detail explanations of the research, can be viewed in detail here.

In the mean time, here are a few snapshots of his findings.

 This image shows the average finish time of the 25 ranked Ironman Races.

This image shows the average finish time for the 2.4 mile swim course.

This image shows the average finish time for the 112 mile bike course.

This image shows the average finish time for the 26.2 run course.

I have always contended that:  If you start choosing a race because of degree of difficulty, swim course, bike course or run course, because of historical weather conditions or because of any other factor you may think proper and important, you're never going to find the "perfect" race.

Just pick the one you want to do, for whatever reasons you may have.  Make sure these reasons are yours and yours alone, then train for the worst and hope for the best.

I have my reasons for choosing Ironman Louisville as my Ironman of choice.  And to be brutally honest with you... I hate swimming in the ocean!  I have heard everything from "you're nuts, crazy, out of your mind" to "I love that course" and everything in between.  Again, everyone has their own opinions.

Choosing a "tough" race doesn't make it any harder.  140.6 miles are 140.6 miles in any language, any venue, any country...any way you look at it.

Happy Training!
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Should I Train With A Heart Rate Monitor?

Guest post by Coach Barry Baird of Endurance Geeks.

"One of the questions I hear time and again relate to how someone actually benefits from a VO2 test and establishing heart rate training zones. So I would like to take this opportunity to explore the question in some detail.

No doubt you’ve heard the terms “Aerobic” and “Anaerobic” thrown around in conversation. For anyone that is aspiring to peak endurance performance – or just wanting to drop a few pounds and stay in shape – these terms are ultra important. Luckily, the concepts are relatively simple:

·         The Aerobic system burns mostly fat
·         The Anaerobic system burns mostly carbohydrates

As a source of fuel, fat is certainly the most abundant; it provides hours of energy. Carbohydrates, in the form of muscle and liver glycogen, deliver energy – but it comes at a higher cost. Glycogen is consumed faster than it can be replaced.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that the systems are not either on or off. In other words, we’re always burning some mixture of fats and carbohydrates to produce energy. That’s why energy gels, nutrition bars, and other products providing concentrated carbohydrates are used on long rides and runs – we need to keep replenishing our carbohydrates.

So the key for endurance athletes and those looking to stay fit and trim is to burn the most abundant fuel available – fat! Or, a higher percentage of fats relative to carbohydrates.

But how do we control what fuels we burn?

It’s All In The Zones
Unlocking your metabolism is as easy as strapping on a heart rate monitor and exercising within specific zones. A key heart rate indicator is Anaerobic Threshold (AT). AT indicates the point at which your body can no longer deliver oxygen to your muscles in quantities necessary to burn fat as a primary fuel source. As the stores of muscle glycogen are depleted, your energy begins to decrease – and if you’re able to continue exercising through the fatigue, eventually liver glycogen is utilized…and that’s pretty much when you either “hit the wall” or “bonk.” Not a good feeling!

There is a variety of methods for determining Anaerobic Threshold – problem is, most methods are merely averages of people in your age and weight group.

A Better Way
A more accurate way to get your Anaerobic Threshold and target heart rate zones is to measure how much oxygen your body is using as you increase the intensity of your workout. This can be accomplished through VO2 testing. Through a simple, graded exercise test, you can target Anaerobic Threshold and determine a range of zones corresponding to recovery, aerobic or endurance, tempo, and interval workouts.

Beyond the Aerobic Zone
Of course, as an athlete, you know you have to take things outside the endurance zone – Race Pace Runs, Fartleks, Track Intervals…workouts that push your body into new levels of fitness. It just comes down to knowing when and how much intensity to add. And that’s where knowing your heart rate zones can make all the difference.

Benefits of Knowing Your Zones
With all that being said, what are the advantages of VO2 testing and knowing your heart rate training zones. By far, the biggest advantage is that you get accurate answers (not from a one size fits all formula) and take the guess work out of training. Here are some more of the specifics…

  • Monitor Your Intensity Level: Are your recovery days truly allowing your body to recover? Are your speed intervals truly pushing you to the next level or do it just “feel” like you are giving an adequate effort. If you know your zones, you know you are training at the right level to maximize performance.

  • Prevent Over-Training: For some very competitive athletes, every workout can be a fine line between optimal training and over-training. Heart rate zone training helps to avoid unnecessary stress on your body. You can maximize the efficiency of your training, while minimizing the potential for injury.
  • Prevent Under-Training: Usually less common, but some athletes are not tapping into their true potential and can handle more intense training. There are some potential Ironmen/Ironwomen/Boston Qualifiers out there, and they don’t even know it!

  • Pacing: What intensity level should I be at for endurance workouts, tempo workouts, speed work on the track, etc.? Am I aerobic or anaerobic? Knowing your zones eliminates the guess work." 
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