Archive for October, 2007

Swim Clinic Details

On November 18, Coach Justin will be hosting our first Becoming an Ironman Team swimming clinic.  The focus of this clinic will be on proper freestyle technique.  After a brief warm-up, Justin and the other coaches will demonstrate the fundamentals of a proper freestyle stroke and show us drills that can help improve our technique.  This is a great chance to have Justin take a look at your stroke and give you pointers on what you can work on to become more efficient in the water.

The clinic will begin promptly at 8:00 am on Sunday, November 18 at the Middleton High School pool and will last approximately 90 minutes.  Because this is an exclusive Team event, and because of the logistical costs involved, there will be a fee of $15 for each Team member.  For those that cannot make it at 8:00 am, there will be a similar clinic (open to the public) at 9:30 am.  The fee for that clinic is $25.

If you are interested in attending the clinic, please e-mail Andy to confirm your spot.  Also, please drop off $15 fee at Endurance House sometime before (or during) the next scheduled Seminar on November 15.


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Trail Running

img_0391.jpgA dozen team members made it to the UW Arboretum on Saturday morning fand were treated to some of the best fall trail running conditions possible. Running on hard-packed and leaf-covered trails with the fall colors at their peak makes this my favorite time of year for running, but add in the facts that it was 50 degrees and sunny and that we were treated to wild turkeys and deer along the trail, and it makes for a perfect run. For those who couldn’t make it, I’ll post a couple of pictures of the trail later this week.

In addition to being a great outdoors experience, trail running can provide some real benefits to any runner — triathlete or otherwise:

  • First, running on trails is fun. You don’t always know what’s around the next corner. Sometimes, you don’t even know where you are. And that’s exactly the idea.
  • Second, for those of us constantly concerned about pace and distance, trail running can put the fun back into our running if for no other reason that the twists and turns and often tree-canopy covered nature of the trail doesn’t usually allow for accurate GPS readings — so don’t even bother with it.
  • Third, trail running helps you focus. When you’re running on one of your familiar road loops, it’s easy to get lost in daydreams about all the other things going on in your life. When you run through the woods on a trail, not only do you have to stay in the moment to see where you’re going and where your feet are landing, but the outside world just seems to fall away.
  • Fourth, trail running makes you stronger. Not only does trail running force you to constantly vary your pace, but it also strengthens all the stabilizing muscles around your knees, ankles, and feet because you’re constantly landing on uneven ground. Of course, if you’re not paying attention, this could result in a sprained ankle, but that’s all the more reason why you need to do more of it (see the point above about focus).

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Spring Teaser

With the weather starting to get colder, the Team Captains thought you might like a little teaser of the training and racing opportunities we have in store once spring finally arrives. So mark your calendars now!

First, we have an epic training weekend set up over Memorial Day – the capstone of which will be the Madison Marathon, to which all Team Members will be given free entry. For those not interested in running a personal best, the weekend will allow us to do the full Ironman distances of each discipline over the three days, with a 4000m open water swim scheduled for either Friday or Monday, a 112 or 71 mile supported ride on Saturday, and the Madison Marathon or Half-Marathon on Sunday. If you think you need a confidence builder for September, this is it!

Two weeks later, on June 7, is the inaugural version of what is sure to be a staple in the Wisconsin triathlon scene: The 1st Annual Capitol View Triathlon. Jamie has set up a great course in and around the incredible venue of Governor Nelson State Park on the north shore of Lake Mendota. I had the chance to preview the course several weeks ago and was blown away: an open water swim in a protected cove of Lake Mendota, a fast bike course in the rolling hills north of Madison, and unique cross-country style run through wide, groomed, grass trails in the park. And the best part: all Team Members race for free!

Finally, on June 22, we’ll have the chance to test our long-course racing fitness at the High Cliff Triathlon, a half-ironman about two hours northeast of Madison. High Cliff has a great reputation as a competitive but beginner-friendly race. One of the great things is that the swim is in relatively calm water and starts in waves of less than 100 athletes at a time, so it’s not as intimidating of a start as many other longer-distance triathlons. This race will be a great way to kick off Block IV as we enter the final 12-week push to Ironman Wisconsin!  Endurance House has also arranged for all Team members to receive half-price entry: that means racing for just $45 if you sign up before November 16, and $55 thereafter — that’s the cheapest half-ironman entry fee you’ll find anywhere!

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October Team Training

On Saturday, we had 15 team members turn out for a great ride consisting of loops around Observatory Hill in Paoli.  It was a perfect fall morning for riding – clear crisp air, beautiful colors, and great company.  Thanks to all those who braved the morning chill to make the workout.

Next Saturday (October 27), we will have a team run on the UW Arboretum trails, beginning at 7:00 am from the Visitors Center — about 1/2 mile into the Arboretum from Seminole Highway.  The Arboretum has a network of over 6 miles of trails ranging from single track to wide grassy paths.  Trail running is a great opportunity to work on running form and to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg, ankle, and foot that can help prevent injuries once we begin to boost up the running volume.

Check the “Team Events” link at the top of the page for updated information on our training events and locations.

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October Seminar Recap

About 20 team members attended last Thursday’s seminar on Life as a Triathlete. This seminar covered three main topics: the Becoming an Ironman training program and philosophy, the psychological aspects of Ironman, and nutrition tips for Ironman athletes. Each is summarized briefly below:

Training Program and Philosophy

Our training plan is designed around four training blocks – each 12 weeks long. The reason for this is partly based three things:

(1) Convenience – from the start of the program on October 8 we had approximately 48 weeks to work with before Ironman Wisconsin

(2) Psychology – it’s a lot easier and less daunting to view our journey to the Ironman in four separate, 12 week stages than to look at the year as a whole

(3) Science – most importantly, scientific studies on endurance athletes have conclusively shown that treating the training preparation for any key event is most effective when done in compartmentalized stages as opposed to a constant build. This is called Periodization.

Periodization was first experimented with during the 1950s, when the Soviet track and field program used the philosophy to dominate the world at key competitions. Periodization has since been refined and now refers to a specific cycle of training and rest designed to maximize your body’s performance for a specific event during a relatively narrow (3-to-5 week) time frame. Periodization differs from constant-build type programs in that it focuses on different aspects of your body’s response to training loads, while also giving your body time to recover from and adapt to that training in between stages. The primary benefits it provides over a constant build program is that it greatly reduces the risk of burnout and overtraining-related injuries and also gives the athlete a much better chance of peaking their performance at the time of their key event. The only disadvantage is that following a periodization program generally means that the athlete is not going to be in “racing form” for early season triathlons.

The science behind periodization is contained in the way our bodies adapt physiologically to increased training workloads. In terms of muscular and cardiovascular development, most people’s bodies are on a 20-day cycle. That is, we can handle and adapt to increased loads for approximately three continuous weeks, but then we have to either ease back on the training to allow our bodies to adapt and recover, or we risk break-down. Our bodies can handle only so much work before our performance starts to decrease dramatically instead of improve. The key with periodization is to work our bodies right up to that threshold and then back off for a short period (about one week) to allow our bodies to absorb the benefits of that training and come back stronger at the start of the next three-week period.

So with the exception of Block I of our training plan – where aerobic conditioning is only a secondary focus to practicing form and technique – each of our 12-week blocks will be further broken down into three three-week mini-blocks with a week of slightly lighter “recovery” training between each, as well as a week of more significant rest at the end of each major block.

Psychological Tricks of the Ironman Trade

There are seven key elements to keep in mind that will help you get through what can often be psychologically-demanding Ironman training:

  • Identify what you’re not good at. Focus on applying strategies to help turn these weaknesses into strengths.
  • Identify what motivates you. Knowing your doing all of this for some greater purpose can provide a great psychological boost during the hard times.
  • Avoid cramming. Ironman training requires a great deal of planning ahead. Don’t procrastinate so that you have to “squeeze in” training at the jeopardy of other important aspects of your life. Planning ahead can help you effectively allocate time between all of those other important things — like family — that also require your attention. If Ironman training isn’t enhancing your life in a positive way, you need to re-evaluate what your are not attending to from a planning standpoint.
  • Reward yourself. When you achieve those weekly or monthly training milestones, celebrate that fact.
  • Train with a group. For motivation, fun, and a psychological boost, group training cannot be beat. Just as important, developing bonds with other athletes who are going through the same physical and mental struggles as you are can provide a great support network.
  • Ask for help! If you don’t think you need help, you’re wrong. The whole reason we have a team is to support one another. Your family can also provide tremendous support — and probably already does so. Don’t forget to thank them.
  • Be positive. This is the most important tip to remember. There will be a lot of times — both during training and on race day — when you have the chance to get down on yourself. Don’t succumb to that temptation. Channel your thoughts and feelings positively by developing phrases that you can recite in your head that inspire you to keep going. Remember, this is a life-changing process that we are all going through together. Enjoy it.

Basic Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

We will have much more to say on this topic next spring, but there are three basic categories in which nutrition should be a consideration in your life:

  • Eating to Live. This is just a fundamental aspect of being healthy, regardless of whether or not you’re training for an Ironman. In general, you just want to follow the basic guidelines of eating a healthy diet, including:
    • Avoid high-fat content foods
    • Avoid high-sugar content foods
    • Avoid highly-processed foods (if the list of ingredients contains more than ten items or any words you can’t pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it)
    • Eat plenty of protein
    • Eat plenty of colors (i.e. fruits and vegetables)
    • Portion control!
    • Eliminate sugary fluids – unless it’s for training purposes (see below)
    • Moderate caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Eating to Train. When you work out as much as Ironman training demands, your body has special requirements above-and-beyond those above.
    • Take a vitamin supplement daily. Hopefully you are getting all the nutritional requirements you need from your diet alone, but a multi-vitamin never hurts.
    • Increase the amount of lean protein. This helps support muscle development and recovery.
    • Consider supplement products to help speed the nutrients to your muscles necessary for a speedy recovery between workouts. See Jamie for more information about what products might be best for you.
    • Listen to your body. Be aware of what you are eating and how you feel during workouts. If you’re feeling great, don’t change it! On the other hand, if you consistently have an upset stomach or other similar issues, it might be time to change your nutrition around a bit.
  • Eating to Race. Racing puts a tremendous caloric demand on your body and you need to try to replenish some of those calories in a way that is beneficial to your performance. This can be a very delicate science, and we will cover this in much greater detail once our racing season draws nearer next spring.
    • Nutrition is often called the “fourth discipline” of Ironman. The difference between finishing strong and not finishing at all is often a matter of on-course nutrition.
    • Begin experimenting now. Some people have greater tolerance for some drinks, gels, and solid foods than others. Use our longer team training sessions to try different types of race-day drinks and foods to see what works best for you.
    • Be reasonable about the calories you attempt to consume. Studies have shown that most people are only capable of absorbing approximately 300 calories per hour while racing at an Ironman-level intensity. Gatorade Endurance (which is available on the Ironman course) has 100 calories per 16 oz. bottle. Most gels are approximately 100-120 calories per pack. A Powerbar has about 230 calories. So before you load yourself down with too much nutrition on the bike or run, think about how many calories your taking in and whether they’re doing you any good.

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November Races

Even though this is the time of year that we’re preparing our minds and bodies for next year’s triathlon season and the demands of Ironman training, that doesn’t mean we can’t let the dogs loose every once in a while. Below are a couple of local events that Becoming an Ironman team members will be participating in. If any team member is already doing an event not listed, contact me and I’ll add it to the list.

Sunday, November 11: Milwaukee Jingle Bell Run – a 5K run at the Milwaukee Zoo.

  • Team member Tracy Neupert is organizing a team for this event. Watch for an e-mail concerning how you can become part of her fundraising efforts!

Thursday, November 22: Berbee Derby – a 10K and 5K in Fitchburg on the Capitol City Trail

  • This is one of the largest Thanksgiving Day races around — both the 10K and 5K have around 1000 participants each.

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The Core is the Key

Having problems mastering the “roll” essential to a fast swim time? Ever wonder why your back hurts when you try to stay in the aero position on the bike for extended periods of time? Feel your running form falling apart during the later stages of a long run?

Part of the problem may be that you lack strength in your core. The core is comprised of the muscles around your center of mass: your abs, lower back, obliques, and hip flexors. Strong muscles in your core are what enables you to roll your body during the swim, hold otherwise awkward aero positions, and continue to run upright after the muscles in your legs start to tire.

The great thing is that you can train your core muscles without having to go to the gym or use any weight machines. The best core workouts are simple and involve your body weight as resistance and minimal equipment. Below are some suggestions for exercises and resources you might want to consider as you build your Iron Core.

Exercise Suggestions

  • Crunches – there are literally dozens of different types of crunches, but some of the most effective for developing your core involve using a stability ball
  • Power Wheel Sets – the power wheel is a wheel and axel system that forces you to use your whole core. There are an unlimited number of exercises you can do with a power wheel, and all of them help to develop balance and strengthen your core muscles.
  • Roman Chairs – this can be performed on a stability ball, over the back of your couch, or on a “roman chair” at the gym. The idea is to keep your lower body stable in a horizontal position – facing downward – while you lower your upper body at the waist until you’re perpendicular with the floor and then use the muscles in your lower back to straighten back out. As you get stronger, you can add resistance by holding on to weights. This is a great exercise for those of you whose lower backs tend to hurt during extended rides in the aero position.
  • Pikes / Jackknifes – lying flat on the floor, facing upwards, bend at the waist and, keeping your legs and upper body straight, raise both up until they form a 90 degree angle — so you look like a “V”. For an additional challenge, try doing these in a push-up position with the stability wheel attached to your feet, raising your rear up in the air so that your straight legs and upper body form a 90-degree angle, forming a “Λ”.
  • Trunk Twists – these are done best with resistance. You can do twists from side to side while sitting on a stability ball and using a medicine ball for resistance, or do twists using a resistance cable attached to a door or your training partner.

Bear in mind that there are no shortage of core training information and workouts available on the internet.  And if you already belong to a gym, the trainers there can probably provide you with a wide range of core-related exercises and advise you as to technique and equipment.  However, if you would prefer to do these on your own at home, one resource that I recommend considering is the on-line training program (for $10/month) offered by Monkey Bar Gymnasium.  For that price, you can access videos describing core and body-weight exercises that can be done at home and with minimal equipment, daily workout routines for a variety of goals, and nutrition tips.

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