Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Orangeman Triathlon Race Report

First, I want to thank Jamie for her unending support of my racing and being my number one fan.  Secondly, I want to thank Tom and Blair for getting out of bed early and coming to support me.  It's awesome to have the support of people that care about you.  (Also, thank you guys and gals for the awesome pictures and video below.)  

Finally, here is the race report.  It's a little long but this is how I will remember it when I have long forgotten.  

Days before race:
Putting together my race nutrition days before the race
I was smart enough to break down every meal from Friday night on, including how much insulin to give myself.  I then had a break down of how many carbohydrates I would eat per hour during the race.  This included pre-race, per hour on the bike and per hour on the run.  From here I had a regiment of overnight basal rates, race basal (which was Levemir [levemir is a long acting insulin that lasts for nearly 12 hours] over night and during the race, no sense in letting the pump ruin my race) and a good idea of what my bolus rates should be during the race (this was however an estimate having never done a race of this length prior).   Looking back, I will say I was spot on with the nutrition.  The days before worked, the race day worked.  The only real issue was a slightly low bolus before the race.  

No matter what though, I feel like it's really hard to bolus dead on in a race.  The Medtronic pump isn't the best for reaching into the pocket, setting a bolus (I have it preset in 0.5 unit increments) and then eating.  This however, is more of an excuse; the more I race, the more I learn and the easier it gets.   Looking back a year ago, I am far and away better at racing with the diabetes, from the 5k all the way up to this Half-Ironman.  Thanks Mom and Dad for my type-A genes.  As long as it's planned, there is at least a good idea of what should happen.  

Up early, 4:10am.  Three hours prior to the race.  Bolus with an injection (once again, no need for the pump to ruin my morning) and eat ten minutes later.  (I woke up at 181, my mistake, I was low prior to bed and had too many carbs, I knew it was too many but lows prior to bed are scary.)  Ninety-minutes later after setting up transition I was 182, dead on for my plan.  

Jamie and I laughing before the race.
This is when some of the planning goes a little haywire.  Although I knew a spike in blood sugars might happen, it was (and still is) difficult mentally to bolus for it.  Once again, the more I race, the more comfortable I will become bolusing for "nerves".   Twenty minutes after my 182, I was 206.  That spike doesn't just happen, nerves happen.  I gave myself some insulin, then my Levemir balas injection.  

Right before the race I had my planned Ensure shake.  350 calories, 49 grams carb and plenty of vitamins to keep my going.  A small bolus.  Right before the swim however the adrenaline was still going strong.  It's been a long time since I was this nervous before an event.  Probably back to my baseball days actually.  My blood sugar ended up at before the swim start 286.  Tom was next to me (also has diabetes) when I took that blood sugar.  I told him I thought it would come down in the swim, his confidence back reaffirmed my thought.  To depths of the sea I went.

Third group, 7:06 start, it was a little late but what race isn't.  Beach start, run in.  Waves were small luckily.  The course was a little odd, a lot more turns than usual, in the shape of an L.  Out, right turn, straight, right turn, right turn, long back, left turn, in.  

Besides the entire group going eastward (toward land) on the last major straight away I would say the swim went very well.  Especially for an ocean swim.  If this was a lake swim my time would be even lower, everything considered I am very (very very) happy.  Near the end of the swim I thought to myself, "I still feel really good, I am totally ready for this race".  

Swim Exit.
The groups become bunched around the buoys but this happens in nearly every open water swim, although it seemed to happen a little more this time.  My total time for the swim was 40 minutes, making the time in the water (on my watch around 38 minutes).  I'm really happy with that.  I have improved vastly since I started this journey.  Considering I couldn't even really "swim" when I graduated college and now I can do a 1.2 mile swim in the ocean, comfortably and relaxed at that, it makes me happy.   If not for Jamie I'd still probably be in the shallow end with floaties on.  My swimming from this point on will only improve.

Rating: A

Transition 1
A looooong run up a cliff (another downfall of an ocean swim).  I tried to go slow to keep the heart rate from spiking (as did most people).  

For taking the wetsuit off, this is the best transition I have ever.  I have zero complaints, it went well.  Looking back, I would put my cycling shoes on near the bike instead of having them rubber banded to the bike.  There was a large hill leaving the transition (750 feet incline), right before mounting I decided to put my shoes on instead of trying to do it quickly on the bike.  In a six hour race, no need to rush everything.   Four and a half minutes in transition.  Very good considering the run up the hill.  This is also where I know my swimming has improved, I never really had that "disorientation" in transition.

Rating: A-

O yes, not a full A because for the second triathlon in a row I didn't look to see where the "bike out" was located and started running the wrong way.  Oppppssss.  Dear parents near me on the other side of the fence, sorry for the choice words trying to find it.  

Not the best course, no passing zone for the first few miles.  That's no fun behind a slow person.  I thought the guy behind me was going to have an anxiety attack from not being able to pass the woman in front of me.  In a weird way I was happy though, it forced me to warm up.  The bad part is I couldn't check my blood sugar for some time (don't even ask, I'm not checking in transition, a nondiabetic doesn't have to do that so I'm not going to).  When I did, about six miles in, 206.  One click of the pump, 0.5, down to 181 in no time.  I was able to keep it in the 180's until the turn around 28 miles in.  

Here's where the difficult parts come in.  (Stay with me the following charts are in two pieces because I screwed up my Garmin watch mounted on my bike.)  

This is the first 13 miles.  
As you can see from the chart, after going up that initial hill we then began a long climb to the turn around.  The course was a beautiful out and back.  Besides a complete nutrition plan I will say the smartest thing I did was drive the course the day before.  (I definitely learned that I always need to do this in long course triathlon.)  I knew it would be a long climb to the top.  Miles 18-28 (below) being the worst of it.  It was beautiful but just like all hills, it's a long way to the top.  

The last 40 something miles, after getting the watch restarted.
The climb was long but I made it.  The thing I am good at (considering my 189 pounds, not a lot in the "real world" but a lot in cycling terms), is climbing.  It hurts but I don't mind it (kind of sick isn't it).  Means your arrive.

The thing that doesn't make me feel alive?  Coming back down.  I passed a lot of people going up but got passed on my way down.  I topped out at 42 miles-an-hour.  You know, I do a lot of things to make my life better by using triathlon; I eat better, I go to bed on time, very disciplined.  However, one thing I have a really hard time doing is going faster down a hill.  I've never even had a bad experience but something bugs me.  The longer I ride hopefully the better I get (once again Blair is right, I could gain a lot of time here).  

The cramping started about five miles from the top.  Not terrible but it was there.  I started popping electrolyte pills at a much higher rate then I had planned.  I wanted to drink more but didn't really "decide" to do until going downhill.  Well, you can't really do that.  Grabbing a bottle at 35mph doesn't really work.  We passed the last aid station, I didn't grab water, planning to grab my last bottle and... disaster.  Reached back and my bottle dropped.  No more water.  

Near the end of the ride.
Begin learning curve!  Next race I need to drink far far more water on the bike.  Looking back, in my swim and bike combined I drank 30oz of water.  That's four hours and only 30oz, I drink more than that at work in four hours.  Plus I have a very high sweat rate.  I should have been taking water in like it's my job but I didn't.  I need to learn to start drinking the second I get on the bike.  When I first began in triathlon I couldn't drink when I first got on the bike because I would swallow so much water during the swim but those days are long gone, it's time to learn to drink more water.  

Another thing that would make the bike much easier is aero bars.  I've ridden in aero a lot but had no aero bars for this race.  I thought being a tough bike course with many switchbacks I wouldn't need them.  Wrong.  Some times after the swim you just need a place to relax.  Not to mention, it would be much easier to take my blood sugar while on aero bars.  Before my next race I will get some aero bars.  With a road bike there is no way to take my hands off safely in a race.  

Overall I am still very happy with my bike split.  Besides the lack of water, which would make the wheels come off the wagon later, it was good.  

Bike: A-  (I was thinking B or B+ but this is my first half distance race, can I really complain with such a tough course?  As I've heard, can't complain after a PR [personal record].)

Transition 2
Off the bike, shoes on. No complaints.  

Transition 2: A-

I started to feel the inner right quad cramp right away but then .75 miles in, hamstring lock.  Awful.  I mean I couldn't even bend the left leg.  I was able to limp into the aid station one mile in.  Drank who knows how much water, stretched and tried to run again.  It hurt, a lot.  It was back and forth like this the first three miles until the turn around, all up hill.  

The thoughts at this point aren't fun.  "Why did I screw up my race like this, how could I be so stupid."  But then, there becomes this weird acceptance.  Almost like "okay fine, this is a life lesson".   A grieving process.   At this point I knew I wouldn't hit my six hour goal.  Considering the course, can I really complain?  

Run course elevation from my Garmin watch.

Near the end of the first loop.
The first three miles or so were completely uphill.  Just an awful time for me.  Cramps, drink water, run, cramp, drink water, run.  Going back toward the start line (two loop course) wasn't as bad.  This is the first time I have truly experienced the "it never always gets worse".  Meaning, it goes from good to bad back to good in endurance sports.  It would hurt so bad then I would think I could run the rest then hurt and cramp again.  

Seeing Jamie and my friends at the turn around really gave me a good lift.  I needed to see them, it helped a lot.  It hurt but I knew I could finish.  At this point I swore this wouldn't happen again.  That this too, was a learning experience.  

I knew my nutrition was solid.  How did I know?  My thoughts were positive.  One thing I've really experienced and learned through research is that negative thoughts many times in a race are tied to nutrition.  (This happens with my diabetes as well, negative thoughts in the brain typically mean a high blood sugar.)  Plus although I was cramping my energy level felt good.  It's like putting a bouncy ball in a small area, it can't bounce very far.  

Coming to the end of the run.
The run was tough but I knew a lot of other people struggled too.  Making my struggles not seem as bad.  Guys with Ironman tattoos that look like they are in great shape walking.  Jamie and Tom at the turn around heard one athlete say, "who ever made this course is a masochist".  

The course was also long, I'm not complaining but it was.  Near 14 miles on my watch.  Jamie brought it before I had ever even said something, other athlete's weren't so happy. O well, instead of doing a 70.3, it looks like I've done a "70.3 PLUS" as Tom put it.

Run: O lord, D+

Overall, it was a rough course and it is only my fault that I cramped.  One thing I can say, I put myself in a position to be under six hours with an ocean swim and a hard hill climb.   Plus I need to remember my run training has severally lacked, with the groin injury and some IT band issues.  I should be happy with simply being in that position for my first one.  It makes me even more excited about the Soma Triathlon with my Dad as numero uno spectator.  A lake swim and a much flatter ride/run.

At the finish.
The night before the race I had written on my hand, "Relax Big Guy" and "33".  The Relax quote is for my Dad, who would always tell me that before going to bat in baseball.  Indeed, it may be the most calming thing I can think to tell myself.  I can hear him say it in my head, calming me in those tough dark moments.  The 33 is for something Coach Hartman once told me when I asked him why he was riding the stairmaster for 33 minutes instead of just 30; "because anyone can ride for 30".   I knew the 33 would remind me that the body always has more to give, always.

I need to remember the only person I am really racing is myself.  I'll never be a pro, never be in the four hour range, I do this for fun, do this to better myself and my diabetes.  There is no reason to stress over the small things.  Triathlon has taught me that, I can tell you baseball never taught me that.  As I stated before "it never always gets worse", it's a reflection of life.  

Overall: B-
From left to right: Jamie, Myself, Tom, Blair, Christian

Overall:      6:30:38.3

Swim:         40:02.9 (2:04 per 100 pace)
T1:              4:26.4
Bike:           3:20:52.5 (16.72 mph pace)
                    04:05:20 total time before run
T2:              1:30.5
Run:            2:23:45 (10:57/mile pace)

What I learned
  • In long course triathlons no need to rush putting on the cycling shoes.  
  • During the bike portion only bring two water bottles to save weight, grabbing a new bottle at each aid station drinking as much as possible. 
  • Include in nutrition plan; electrolytes.  
  • Aero bars, enough said.  

"Do the thing and have the power"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Don't let anything limit you....

All of the participants in the Orangeman Triathlon received an email about a week ago asking for a "human interest story" about their participation.  Below is what I submitted.

"With self-disclipline most anything is possible."
-Theodore Roosevelt


I read a lot of literature on nutrition; cyclist bonking, marathoners running out of energy, all of these stories about total depletion of glycogen after total failure of an athlete’s nutrition plan.  Each time I think, “I wish it were just that simple”.  

That’s because I have Type 1 Diabetes.  An autoimmune disease in which the body destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that creates insulin.  Unlike most athletes who only have to think about their fuel, I have to think about the balance that fuel brings to my blood glucose level. 

Normally dealing with diabetes is a lot of simple math; carbohydrates (not sugar like everyone thinks), insulin, and ratios of the two.  Throw in an ocean swim, a hard run or a big brick workout and everything turns from a simple addition problem to a calc equation.   If endurance sports are a series of yes and no questions, then endurance sports with diabetes is a series of jeopardy. 

I’m one of the lucky ones though.  I’ve always been strong, never letting it slow me down.  In my mind a challenge that others will never even know about.   That’s why I run for Insulindependence; a nonprofit that believes using exercise as a way to help manage ones diabetes.  I want to show all the kids and adults out there with diabetes that have ever been told they can’t do something that they can do anything.    

Sunday, September 18, 2011

6 Days out

As I sit with an excellent runners high six days out from the Orangeman Triathlon I think about the coming race.  The training that has gone into it.  How life has changed since signing up for the race.  The things I have learned about my diabetes over the last four months.   How my job has changed.  The bike wreck.  I've gotten engaged.  

Everything feels good going into the race.  Although I'm not totally in the shape I'd like to be in for the race, I feel good.  I'm at my goal race weight, my bike training has gone very well and my swimming has improved.  The training has gone well the last three weeks.  Prior to that things were a little difficult.  The bike crash caused me to stop running for about three weeks.  Previous to that my IT band bothered me after the Ragnar Relay.  All and all though, things feel good.  

While the ocean tide may slow me down, the uphill bike course could slow the bike wheels and the lack of run training may lead to an idle run, my nutrition plan and diabetes won't stop me.  Over the previous two weeks I have been planning and testing my diabetes plan, knowing just how to eat and bolus the day before along with levemir (12 hour long acting insulin) overnight and during the race.  So sorry Medtronic, even if your pump let's me down, it won't have an affect.  

Tomorrow morning and Tuesday I will test my race morning nutrition to make certain I know exactly the bolus I need.  While everything could still go sour, I'm taking all the precautions.  My notebook is packed with examples and the planning.  

Going into the race I'm going to dedicate the race to Jamie and my parents.  For all their love and support with my crazy training, knowing how much it makes me a better person and helps my diabetes.

"I wanted to run my race. I didn't want to sit there and play games and see who could kick the hardest. I wanted it to be a race."
Marla Runyan, Olympian

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekend Training

Not only has the training been good this weekend but life has also been good with the SDSU Football opener on Saturday night and the Twins-Angels game in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon.   Both were really fun, making for a fun labor day weekend.

On Saturday morning Jamie and I went for a ride of nearly 40 miles then I went back out for another 18 mile loop trying to finish off what my training plan had listed.  This is the first time I have gone for an extended workout with the Dexcom Sensor, which proved to be more than helpful.  

While it's tough to see in the picture (thanks to the plastic bag keeping my nasty sweat off) it's easy to see the basic straight line across.  In both workouts this weekend I kept my blood sugar in perfect check, ending my 58 mile bike with a BS of 134 and my Sunday long run with a BS of 115. 

I never felt comfortable on the bike this weekend, the whole ride was slightly off.  Honestly, the last ten miles were probably my best, I'm guessing a product of the mind thinking it was near over.  The long run couldn't have gone better though for not having a "long" run in over a month, I ended up with a 13.5 mile run holding a steady pace finishing under the two hour mark.  

The Dexcom lasted over eleven days, it's projected for seven but I wanted to see how long it would last.  I honestly can't believe how great it is, making living with the 'betes much easier.  Not to mention making exercise that much better.  

During my Sunday run I stopped on the 101 to take a picture of the sunset.
 "The Truth is that Running Hurts. No one gets faster without meeting their personal pain barrier straight on."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

O to be Running Again!

The groin... goooood to go!  Finally.

Monday I was able to run on a treadmill for an hour.  While even thinking of the word "treadmill" is painful, I enjoyed each second of it, happy to be running again.  Wednesday I was even able to do speed work.  I could feel the lack of running during the speed work but hey, I can't complain.  I'll tell you what though, I'm glad I waited and didn't push it, excited once again about the half-iron distance race in September.

I was also able to get in a solid ride this morning, 31 miles before work.  I woke up before 5:00am having a pretty high blood sugar from the pizza the night before (even if it was gluten free that cheese sure slowed down the digestion).  

You know that saying, "the night is always darkest before the dawn".  Don't worry it's true, night is pitch black right before the sun comes up.  Still need to get that light and clearer glasses to protect the eyes.  (Note to walkers and runners, wear a light or at least bright clothes!)

The Dexcom (continuous glucose monitor) is working even better than I could have imagined.  Frankly, I love it.  I can now finally see the trends I have only heard about.  Example?  I've already learned the importance of bolusing before a meal.  I can easily see the rise and fall of the blood sugar with a post meal bolus proving an insulin injection isn't just like the body.  A person with diabetes always have to think ahead.  

Swim tomorrow, long ride over 60 miles on Saturday with a ten minute transition run.  Then the longest run in a long time on Sunday, fifteen total miles.  

With the big three day weekend I will be doing an ocean swim on Monday morning in Oceanside.   Same course as before, out and around the Oceanside Pier.  Guess what though?  There have been shark sighting recently in Southern California.  Check out the picture below. 

"It never gets easier, you just go faster."

Greg LeMond

Healing Powers

Written on August 25 on a flight from San Diego to Chicago.

The groin ended up putting a damper on Sunday's swim workout.  About 200 yards into the swim workout my kick was worthless, it was like dragging a log.  Trying to use the pull buoy to finish the workout I ended up going another 1,000 yards before completely pulling out.  I hit the lane line with my arm and shooting pain went down my leg, reminding my body how all the nerves and tissue are endlessly connected.  More ice, more rest.  

I went home, tried to correct the now all too high blood sugar thanks to not finishing what should have been over an hour swim workout.  I knew though that the leg hadn't been bothering me during bike training so long as I stay in the saddle during climbs so I still planned to go the distance on that workout.  

I got it in.  The whole 60 mile bike.  Jamie went with me for the first 40 miles and I finished the last 20 by myself.  Honestly, it was the toughest mental 20 miles I'd had in a long time.  I don't know if I gained a lot of fitness that last 20 but what I didn't gain physically I gained mentality.  Maybe that's part of the point, stick with it even in those times when the body doesn't want to do it.  

I've been more than impressed with Jamie since getting her a bike.  She has powered through workouts, gaining fitness on the bike quickly.  Her first weekend out riding over 30 miles with Blair and I, now she can power through the 40 without a problem.  She's also getting faster quick, gaining comfort and learning how to ride.  Soon we will have her climbing the hills and drafting with ease.  

Right now I'm writing this on a plane heading to Chicago for Insulindependence's regional event, the Chicago Triathlon.  If not for the groin I would have competed along with our team members but the rest is good for me.  The groin has vastly improved since that Sunday swim, having swam on Thursday morning with the master's group for the entire workout without a problem.  

What I've learned over time though is not to try to come back too soon.  I will resist the temptation to run until next week, let the body fully recovery and see how it feels with a light workout first.  

On the diabetes front I was finally able to get a Dexcom this week.  So far I love it, it's unreal how close it gets to actual blood sugars.  I absolutely can not wait until labor day weekend to go on a long ride and run with it, allowing me to see trends and data for a whole workout, not simply a moment in time like taking a normal blood sugar reading.