Monthly Archives: July 2006

Ironman Austria Recovery: +2 weeks

Today I went swimming for the long 2 hour swim at Foothill College. I was a little hesitant due to the length of the workout, but I went anyway thinking that I would not sprint at all and only stay aerobic.
My Master’s coach of course would not oblige (ha!). He gave us some fast intervals over a long 1800m set. I knew my condition would not stand up to sprinting, so I chose only to stay aerobic and slightly under tempo stroke rate. I managed to get through the set, and even did some 50m sprints at the end.
This is in great contrast to last year. About 2 weeks after Ironman New Zealand, I could not last even a normal 1.5 hour set at this time.
Still, I went for a 1:20 bike ride afterwards and I am still unable to get to hard efforts. My heart rate still is higher than normal even when I was backing off a notch on a rolling hills ride. I avoided hills completely to keep my heart rate lower.
I am definitely recovering faster this year than last time. This is a positive thing to see: I am adapting to the stresses of Ironman training year over year. It will be interesting to see how one more week affects my recovery and my ability to sustain higher and more normal stresses.

From the MIT Center for Sports Innovation and Technology

An interesting article from Bicycling magazine, September 2006, p. 32. Great insights into bicycling aerodynamics and the science of cycling.
1. Time trialing is about efficiency, not power. It’s much easier to increase efficiency rather than increasing power.
2. Your bike accounts for only 15-20% of overall drag.
3. 75% of drag is determined by your body’s resistance against the air.
4. There is a relationship between biomechanics and power output and aerodynamics. You have to balance all 3 to maximize power output over time.
5. A non-aero helmet creates four times the drag of a non-aero wheelset. So spend money on an aero helmet!
6. How the race number is fixed to the bike matters – make it as flat as possible against the bike.
7. On a round tubed bike frame, a water bottle on the seat tube is more aero than without. It is more aero to put it there than putting it on the down tube.
8. Wearing gloves creates more drag than having a non-aero front wheel.

Ironman Austria Recovery: 6 Days After

This last week I was in London and resisted actively romping around the city too much. I found that after the race, I still had that feeling in my chest of overexertion for quite a while. I did walk around a bit, but felt drained by mid-afternoon and returned to my hotel room for a nap each day. I did nothing but walk around; no swimming or biking at all. My legs were sore, but walking around helped my circulation and reduced their soreness and stiffness. Each day, however, I took 2 packets of Emergen-C to stave off getting sick. I knew my immune system would be weakened and didn’t want to get sick out in Europe somewhere. Plus, I am sure the extra vitamin hit was helping my recovery.
By end of the week, my legs weren’t sore any more, although my left IT band still is protesting a bit. I used my foam roller a lot and it definitely helped push through the remnants of the exertions on race day.
I can definitely tell that I am recovering fast this year as I am not as wiped out as last year. Today (Saturday) I hit the pool to see how swimming felt. I only did a form workout today of 1700m, but I didn’t feel taxed at all like last year. I remember after Ironman NZ 2005, I swam Master’s 2 weeks after the race and I was feeling very wiped out midway through the workout. Today, I felt almost no elevated heart rate or feelings of not being able to continue. I did not push the workout and only did form drills, but I could tell that I might even be able to survive a usual Master’s workout.
I hope for a faster recovery as I am eager to get onto building for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim on Labor Day, and start building for the NYC Marathon coming up early November.
This coming week: lots of recovery, start biking workouts, get back into Master’s swimming, and lots of ART and Graston for healing.

Ironman Austria: Race Day Report!

The day has come!
Sunday morning I get up after a night of fitful sleep. I didn’t want to take some melatonin as I didn’t want to risk some additional drowsiness due to drug induced slumber. And I don’t put in my earplugs for fear of not hearing my wake up call. But that means that Saturday night festivities are heard all night long, especially right out my window. There must have been many people talking and laughing at the top of their lungs in German until at least 3am. I am in and out of an awake/light slumber cycle for many hours and it’s totally annoying. I finally get up at 330a and prepare my race nutrition. I get everything together and check one last time to make sure I don’t forget anything.
At 4am, I go downstairs to eat at the restaurant, which opens specially for us athletes staying at the hotel (which is also the host hotel – the Arcotel Moser Verdino). I eat lightly but hopefully enough to fill up the gas tank for a long day. After breakfast, I go upstairs, stretch a bit, gather all my stuff, and head downstairs to the bus which my tour group has booked for us to take us over to the race start.
I am remarkably calm and relaxed, unlike last year at IM NZ. I get back put my drink bottles on my bike, and my run bottles into my Run bag. I put the rest of my gels and energy bars into my bike’s Bento box, recheck the tires and everything else one more time, and then head out with some friends to the swim bag submission area. Outside that tent, I put on my wetsuit, toss all my pre-race stuff into my Swim bag, and hand that in. We then walk to the beach and pick out spot for the swim start.
The start is a mass deep water start. I get up to the front so that I can draft behind some faster people.
BOOM! The start cannon goes off and we are off crawling over each other trying to get into our swimming groove. Sighting is almost impossible and I don’t see the orange buoys. But as I get further out, I realize that the buoys I need to look for are BLUE, not orange. Geez. They couldn’t have picked a worser color. I swim past the first blue buoy no problem. In what seems like no time at all, I realize I am angled too far left for the second buoy (which I can barely see) and veer right towards it. Going around it is a mess as we all cut the corner closely and we’re all piled on top of each other.
As we turn, I realize that we are now sighting INTO the sun and can’t see anything. It turns out that I’m following a bunch of guys heading directly for this canal where the swim exit is. BUT, unknowing to us, the next invisible BLUE buoy is not on that line; it’s about 200m to the right of us. In fact, we don’t notice where the buoy is until we get almost in line with it and we realize it’s directly to the right of us! We all veer 90 degrees to the right and head towards the buoy which we must go around before heading to the canal opening. I lose about 200m there!
Finally we’re around the buoy and sort of heading in the right direction. Still we’re looking into the sun and it’s tough to see. But we all make it to the canal and now we’re all really movin’. The canal crams us all together and shoots us down the channel very quickly. We reach the swim exit and I nearly fall flat on my face because there is a steep hill to climb up as we exit the water. I make it up and run to transition.
For some reason there aren’t enough volunteers, so we all need to go to the bags and pick up our T1 bags by ourselves. It’s annoying as sometimes it’s not easy to find your bag. I find mine and jog to the changing tent.
Very interesting; inside the MEN’s tent there are WOMEN volunteers. Maybe it’s a Euro thing but I thought people might be embarassed going commando in front of strange women. Weird.
I get my wetsuit off, get my bike gear on, and head out for my bike. Again, not enough volunteers; I pick up my own bike (versus having a volunteer bring it to me) and walk jog it to the bike exit.
I mount my bike and I’m off. The first part of the first loop I’m flying down next to the lake. After sipping on my own drink, my stomach starts to bother me. I realize it’s my solution, so I ditch both of my bottles and on the next aid station I grab two of their Powerade bottles and proceed to only drink their stuff. I don’t know why my solution is giving my stomach problems, and I don’t force it and switch to something else.
Then, I reach these damn steep hills, of which there are about 6-7 of them. I don’t want to exert too much as I have another loop to go, so I try my best to get over them fast but not too hard. On each hill, there are tons of people cheering us on. They say “Hop Hop Hop” which is their version of “Go Go Go”. They also yell “Supa David!” which I think is self explanatory. It’s nice to have supporters out there.
I get back to the race start in about 3:10 or so and think that’s pretty good given the hills. I head out again, but I feel less energetic. The day is getting warmer and I’m just drinking freely now. I am going through at least one bottle of Powerade between aid stations which are approximately 20km apart. I crest the first (damn) hill and at the top, the aid station there has RUN OUT OF BOTTLES. This is bad. I just came from the previous aid station with 2 bottles and they’re both almost empty. I pull up to the Powerade table and notice he is 3 bottles, 1 without a top, and 2 that are ok. He hands me one and I ask him for the second. But he won’t give it to me. I argue with him for about a minute and he still won’t give it to me. Geez. So I pull to the next table and grab a bottle of coke, and then further down I grab a bottle of water.
The series of hills grind me down. I am jumping now immediately to my 34/25 so that I don’t attempt to wipe my legs and I’ll just spin up the hill. But my energy is quickly disappearing. At the last two hills, I am out of my seat to stretch my legs and stress them differently. Spinning up is difficult and is causing my right quad to tighten up. I am definitely glad to have my compact cranks installed and I think my bike leg would have been even worse, had I not had them. But my time goal of 12 hours is shot and it takes me about 5 minutes of talking to myself but I manage to release my ego and focus only on getting to the finish line.
I zoom back to T2 with a 6:37 bike split. Not bad considering I was 6:45 at IM NZ, whose bike course is easier than this!
In T2, at least they grab my bike to rack and I move in to grab my Run bag. I quickly switch from bike stuff to run stuff and move out onto the run. I am very conservative as I move out to the course. I do some quick time math and figure out that I am doing about a 9-9:30 minute mile, even with walk breaks through the aid stations. I am guzzling cola and some water now, and it keeps me going. Unfortunately a few km in, my left IT band starts getting flamed up. It is annoying, but I am stopping for nuthin’.
Somewhere before half way, my left hamstring threatens to cramp. I run gingerly for the next few km and then my RIGHT hamstring starts to twitch. This slows me down more as I worry about going into a full blown cramp. A few km more, and now my right quad is doing the same thing. I walk a little more now to give my legs a break.
A few times along the way, I catch up to friends and members of my tour group. I walk or run with them and we shoot the breeze, and I chat about how we’re doing. It’s nice to give and receive some support by fellow racers.
I make it to the 10 km left mark and get really pissed. I say to myself, “I can run a freakin’ 10k! Why am I just running and walking?” And at that moment, a woman doing a modified Ironman shuffle zips by me and I decide to try that. It’s basically a compact stride, but fast turnover run style. I start doing it and it actually helps! Even though I feel that some muscle fibers are actually tight, the compact shuffle allows me to move rapidly without cramping up.
I move quicker now as I do some quick time computations and realize that I can get to the finish line in under 13 hours if I don’t dilly-dally. It is still tough going but I move quickly and walk a bit, and drink lots of cola.
As I get close to the finish line, I am thwarted by the fact that I am not on a direct path to the finish line but rather on a windy path to it. It is super-annoying – to hear the crowds cheering but yet you are not moving straight for it. ARG!
I finally get to the finish chute and some of my friends’ family is there. My cramping is controlled, but I fear it may let go before I hit the finish line. And there is a damn uphill ramp at the finish line too! I hit that little ramp and fear I may fall flat on my face before I get to the top! I advance to the top, raise my hands in the air for that photo finish….and nearly stumble onto my face going DOWN ANOTHER ramp on the other side. Geez.
I am Ironman and I will not stumble to my medal.
As I reflect on this race, I find that I have many thoughts. I thought the course was fine and I need to get my strength up as I am such a weak hill climber for both biking and running.
Also, I thought this race was very poorly managed. Here are the highlights:
1. They told us we would be body marked, but nobody was. Isn’t that dangerous as they may find you floating dead in the lake and have no idea who you are?
2. Many volunteers were leaving early. Some of the stations were getting thinly manned. I shudder to think about the late finishers and how much support they got. In one instance, the volunteer at a critical turn on the bike left before all the cyclists had come in. They went off in a direction down a hill for a while before the police chased them down and turned them around! They added 40 minutes simply because of this.
3. Getting to/from the race was tough. Especially afterwards. So many racers were riding home in the dark. Not pleasant and very dangerous as lighting was poor and racers were tired and therefore, not too alert.
4. At that one station, they ran out of bottles. They need to be more prepared for this.
5. There were no bathrooms or porta-potties anywhere! Many of us pee-d on the bike course. I feel for the spectators. Even at the race start area, there were not enough bathrooms for the crowds.
6. No glo-sticks were passed out when night fell. And the course was very poorly marked and not lit at all. Again, I felt for the late finishers who were running in near pitch black darkness.
7. In the finisher’s area, there was no food. Only cups of water being filled from a hose. Wonderful.
8. In the food area, the food was pretty mediocre. When you’re depleted after the race, you want to re-carb up. Not much food there unfortunately. Oh but plenty of booze. Guess Europeans re-carb up by drinking beer.
9. They freakin’ racked the bikes by ENTRY TIME, not your entry number! When you went to pick up your bike, you had to go find your bike by figuring out when you arrived at T2. Annoying.
10. Then they made you wait in a huge, slow moving line to get out of the bike rack area. We waited at least an hour in line. There were only two people for a line of a hundred people waiting to get out.
11. During the slot rolldown meeting, you need to bring cash. I scrambled around town looking for a damn ATM which would take my ATM card and give me money!
12. They said we would get bracelets on the run to help identify who was on the first loop of the run and who was on the second. I thought I was doing something wrong or missed the bracelet area because I never got my bracelet. On the other hand, I just ran to the finish. Later, I found out they decided to not do it. Nice of them to announce it at the race briefly and then don’t do it on a whim.
13. One of our tour group got put on an IV for dehydration after he came into T2. He was feeling not too good and decided to go for the IV to make sure he was ok. When he was done with that, the medics asked if he was ok to go out on the course and he said yes, AND THEY LET HIM BACK INTO THE RACE. Unbelievable! He could have died out on the course. They should know that no matter how destroyed an Ironman athlete is, you should never ask them if they want to get back into the race. 9 times out of 10 they will say yes, even if they are totally incapacitated. Such is the spirit and determination of Ironman athletes – “Stopping is not an option”. Crossing that finish line is everything. But incredibly dangerous as well, as they test of the limits of their bodies and sometimes…exceed them.
I am not sure I will do this race again. Too many poorly managed race issues and bad logistics. Time to head somewhere else.
But first I need to improve my hill climbing strength before I attempt a race like this again. I do not want a repeat of this cramping again. Not when it is preventable. Gotta talk to my coach about altering my training to focus on hills in the coming months. We’ll see about another Ironman next year; perhaps IM Western Australia, or maybe a break from Ironman to focus on smaller races and more strength building. Onwards to Ironman recovery…
P.S. Lots of pictures but on other peoples’ cameras. I will post them as soon as I can get them!

Ironman Austria Eve: Saturday 7-15-06, Who is Otter?

It is now the eve of Ironman Austria. There is always a bit of apprehension on the day before.
Have I trained enough?
Am I ready?
What’s my strategy?
Did I pack the right things in my transition bags?
WIll I make it to the finish line?
And more.
Even after having done one Ironman, some of those questions still linger, although definitely not as many as before.
I also find that each Ironman is slightly different. In my previous post, I talk about logistics. Sometimes I think race logistics are more stressful than the race itself. How do I get all my crap over to the race area? How do I get all of it (and me) back to the hotel? You’d figure that after all these years of putting on races, race directors would find solutions to all these problems. Especially when the sport is so popular, and the price of racing is growing quite a bit. Also, attendance is at an all time high. I think they added provision for another 500 extra entrants just recently so that 2500 will start. Amazingly, there are only 250 women entered. Boy, if I was a woman, I’d be happy about that – easier chance at a Kona slot!
This morning we go to the english race briefing. They show a campy video on race preparation and it basically has all the languages baked into it. I can only imagine the problems of handling a multi-lingual race. 200 race entrants from Mexico alone!
After the race briefing, I wolf down a dish of pasta and head back to get everything together to drop off my bike and bike-run and swim-bike bags. I always wonder if I forget anything in there, but thankfully you can put more into the bags tomorrow morning before the race starts.
I get everything together, pack it into my red Triathlon Bag pack and ride off down on the run course.
Who is Otter?
About every 30 feet, there is another sign written on the ground in chalk that says, “OTTER”. Who the heck is Otter? Someone spent some serious time doing this. They made sure that the letters were very clear in chalk. And basically, it runs the length of the run course, at least in the city part.
Our tour group rags on one of the supporters and tries to get him to write our names in the same frequency on the ground. HA! Not sure if he will do it though. Another person has a better idea: let’s just all write in Sharpie on our jerseys, “I AM OTTER”. That’s easier.
Pissed Off Bus Driver
I drop off the bike and bags and head back to the bus. I get on this bus and drop a 2 euro coin into the slot. Then the driver starts screaming at me in German. He gestures wildly while yelling and I am trying to follow what he is saying. Finally I get it. I am NOT supposed to drop it into the slot but place it on this little platform where he can see it first. So I just calmly give him another 2 euro coin and he seems to calm down a bit.
But he is definitely an uptight guy. He is beeping at everyone in the road on the way back and looks to be someone with a lot of stored up angst. I am glad to finally get off this bus and away from this lunatic.
Back in the Room
I’m bummed! I forgot my camera to take shots of the bike drop off area. Here are some from the expo and race briefing at Ironman Austria Eve 2006-07-15. I take a shower and wait to meet up with some other folks who are going to this Osteria restaurant to down yet another bowl of pasta. And then it’s time for sleep and wake up around 330a to get ready to go down to the race start!

Ironman Austria Eve: 7-15-06 Logistics and Racing Ironman By Yourself

Why are race logistics always a nightmare? You’d think that the race directors would be able to cover all the details in the race booklet. Travel to and from the race area, retrieving your race equipment post-race, when/where do you turn in your race bags, picking up your bike, etc. etc.
So many details and yet it is so poorly written up. Examples:
1. At Ironman NZ, we needed reflector stickers. Why don’t they tell you that beforehand?
2. Tomorrow the race is about 3 km away from the hotel. According to the race booklet, you need to pick up your bike between 530p and midnite, and then….ride back with at least 3 bags worth of race stuff…? And…in the darkness of night? What if you want to watch your friends come in? Do you wait there and ride back even later? And in a race depleted state…!
3. At Ironman NZ, we had to turn in our bike-run bags the day before. That meant that our drink solution had to be in the bags, and got to roast a full day in the sun, as well as on race day. I was REALLY lucky that it didn’t spoil during the race. In fact, it literally spoiled about 15 minutes after I crossed the finish line when I took a final sip out of my run bottles and promptly spit it out! Supposedly here you can access your race bags the morning of the race.
I came to Ironman Austria by myself, albeit with tour group. But if you come by yourself, race logistics gets that much harder. Many have come with friends and family and at least they can help you carry your stuff home. But I have to figure this all out myself… Definitely recommend bringing one person if possible for any race.
This morning we’re off to the race briefing at 11am. We turn in our bikes and our bike-run bag later today. More later…

Friday before Ironman Austria 7-14-06

I woke up today wondering if I should go swimming with the tour group. I was kind of tired, still a little bit not over jet lag, but I dragged myself up to at least go get free breakfast. I chatted with pro Andrea Fisher over coffee and eggs, and then proceeded to get all my stuff together to go swimiming in the lake. I figured it would help keep me awake; one of the most important things I’ve learned about getting over jet lag is to KEEP MOVING. Do not sit down, do not read a book, but get up and walk around, talk to people. Once you settle down somewhere, it is easy to lose focus and then you’ll be nodding off. Not good to be nodding off on the bike or run on Ironman Sunday!
At least I found out that the water was cooler than yesterday. Very comforting! I thought I would overheat during the swim since yesterday’s swim was in water a bit warmer than today. Hopefully it will be even a little bit more cooler on Sunday.
After swimming, we came back to hang out at breakfast. Another coach with her athletes was organizing a pool to guess the sum of all their finishing times. Very amusing and interesting to see that they all guessed very close to each other!
After breakfast, I went out on a trek to find an ATM machine that would give me money. So far my ATM has worked at London Heathrow Airport and Klagenfurt airport, but not in town. How frustrating! And I’m running out of euros! As much as I’d like to think we’re in the 21st century, it’s issues like this that make me think we’re still in the dark ages. At least Klagenfurt has city-wide wifi, which is accessible in the hotel and allows me to post!
Finally I find a bank’s ATM which will give me cash. It’s really annoying. The other reason I need cash is because the Ironman Championships Kona slot roll-down meeting is on Monday, and they require you to pay $485 US to get your slot. The kicker is…you need $485 US in CASH! Who carries that much cash around? It’s silly. And they don’t take credit cards. How backward. But nevertheless, I have a combination of US dollars and euros which add up to be about $485. I am now ready for the miracle of qualifying for Kona. Very much a long shot, but you never know.
Another funny thing. The hotel has no air conditioning and it can get sweltering hot here. So glad that it’s cooled down considerably since I arrived. I hope for a relatively mild day on race day Sunday.
Later tonite, we head for the pasta party. Almost all systems are a go for Ironman!
I feel pretty good and confident. The run course is truly flat (the website did not LIE like other Ironman course descriptions), and the bike course seems very fast even though it is a constant set of rollers. Already I am thinking about next year and which Ironman to do…