This place doesn't seem to get old. I have 9 qualifications in as many years I've been a triathlete, 2004 being my first time racing here. This race comes with some baggage as well, as I have only started 6 prior races here and have finished 5. I  always enjoy the Island, and I entirely love the concept of a true world championship for Amateur triathletes. What I mean by "true" is simply based on the history of this place, and the evolution of the race. This event had 28 qualifying Ironman races in 2012, and will have 29 in 2013. Of these races, with the exception of 3, there are 50 total qualifying slots for the average 2500 amateurs throughout the race series.  The M45 group had an average of 4 qualifiers per race this year, and thus around 110 Ironman qualifiers and a few from the 70.3 series races out there as well as the 3 IM events with double the slots for a total of around 130. Throw in those from the lottery and a total of 170-190 M45 athletes is typical. Of these, there will essentially be 28 Ironman M45 division champions here, with the exception of a few that are injured, or cannot race for whatever reason. This is the environment I enjoy. Head to head with the fastest assembled men in each division, on one day. Those that have never been hear or raced here, and say to their friends, "good luck, we know you can podium", either have no idea how competitive this race is, or just don't understand what Kona is. The year my wife Ann went entirely undefeated, breaking course records in her Ironman, 70.3 as well as ITU, and being crowned world champion in ITU as the top female amateur....she was 6th, missing the podium by just a few minutes. So, it is important to remain grounded. Important to know where you stand. If you were 3rd in the division, or received a roll down and you had a good qualifying race? There is a 99% chance or greater that you will not podium (nothing is 100%). For myself? A goal of top 25 in the M45 would place me amongst the group of division champions who have also qualified here. I have placed in the top 50 a few times, even on those years I came in as a division champion, which placed me in the second tier. So, top 25 is a realistic goal for someone in the middle of the age group at age 47. I realize anything can happen, and my training this season has gone very well, setting me up to capitalize on any others who don't have a stellar race, and thus I am prepared to reach for more and not to "settle" if I am having a good race. 

Pulled out 20 years of written logs last week. 11 years of competitive running and the past 9 years of triathlon[/caption] I pulled out my logs last week. Yes, 20 years of training and racing, 2 years per log. Writing down every workout, how I feel, logging summaries of blocks going into races, tapering, and recovery. This has allowed me to make simple analyses of past performances and repeat the things that lead to good performance, and eliminate those workouts or techniques that are not as effective. Since I entered triathlon in 2004, and raced Hawaii that year, I have documented each season. I have not fully repeated every season, but have subtle tweaks, thus enabling me to capitialize on the effective strategies and techniques. Even once I found the best coach I could hope for, who sent me workouts each week for 5 years, I wrote down everything we did together, and offering him feedback based on direct evidence. Maintaining a good old fashioned written log allows me to quickly reference races, big weeks, and summary pages. This allows an athlete to objectively review their season. 


 This is a summary of workout block Time Trials and my Long Runs going into IMWA, my PR of 9:11 in 2007. I did this the week prior to race day. 


This allows me to quickly reference data for future training. This is how you learn from mistakes and repeat the positive workouts that lead to positive outcomes. This is how you improve. In my case racing at age 47, this is how you either maintain year to year, or keep the losses to a minimum. So, if you do not do this as an athlete, don't count on your coach to do it for you. This is the athlete's responsibility. In coaching Aleck for his 3:16 marathon at Kona in 2011, I drew from effective running workouts I utilized in 2004 and 2005, over 6 years ago, after studying my logs. This is effective. If you don't utilize this strategy, then you are missing a component that can make you significantly better. 


The Seven Deadly Sins









The controlled emotional state of resentfulness for events that that may or may not be under our control. The state of anger will lead to a negative effect on a person's  thoughts, behavior, feelings, view of the world,  and will diminish your physical well being. Negativity will leas to an emotional distraction, and will undermine your goal as an athlete. Of those previously discussed, anger is the characteristic that can be completely under your control and thus, the consequences of one's choice to alter the outcome of an event. 


Athletes I have trained become angry when they don't have results they wanted. Yet, their goals are far too lofty. An athlete doesn't keep a log, is unorganized, and never has an inclination to analyze their season. Yet they are angry season after season when the improvements aren't there.  Angry because they expect upon hiring a coach they will automatically improve without any work on their part.  We make choices. We choose to react to events or results. Reaction with anger wastes time and energy, and leads to no positive outcome in endurance sport. 


The Fallout

I have been quietly training to high fitness all summer, since CdA. My ankle injury from IM Texas in 2011 has been pain free for 6 weeks and my running has gained nearly 100% strength. My cycling is as strong as ever. Lastly, my swim, upon attending numerous masters sessions with Dennis Baker this summer, is the strongest it's been for 3-4 years. So, going into Kona this year, well prepared and ready to race from start to finish. Taper has gone perfect and my fitness has grown to its highest level of the year, a week before race day. 

So, cycling down Alii 5 days prior to race day, along the sea wall, my front wheel struck the edge of a reflector. This burst my tire and flipped my wheel 90 degrees, launching me off the front and right of my bike. I struck the sea wall with my left chest and neck with my head over the wall looking straight down at the rocks about 8 feet below. Instead of continuing to flip onto the rocks, somehow my legs settled downward, drawing my weight backwards and I fell back off the wall onto the pavement. 

After the fallout and a couple hours in the ER, I have 2 distracted rib fractures and a fracture of the transverse process of my 2nd thoracic vertebrae. Some ugly road and wall rash on my hip, back, right leg, and left arm. The next morning it was clear I had whiplash injury with severe spasms in my neck and shoulders. The distracted rib fractures of stretched my intercostal nerve, resulting in sudden burning pain across my ribs that's nearly unbearable for about 5 seconds, and occurs without warning over and over

again. Regardless of the outcome, I knew immediately upon crashing that I was out of the race



I have appreciated all the comments by those close to me regarding my situation. The comments "oh my God Dave you must be devastated" or "man that has got to suck sooo much" do not bother me. I presume those (with good intentions) that have commented to me in this way do not realize I can qualify here every year and have raced here 6 times. So, to me, I realize the race will be here another day. This Saturday however, I cannot race. 

When a friend of my told me he would be unbelievably pissed off, and why I was not angry with the whole situation I explained to him that it is a total waste of emotional energy to be angry. Events cannot be changed, I've raced here 6 previous times, and it's not the "most important" thing in my life that I race Hawaii. I will simply race again...that's it. It is difficult to understand for some I suppose, because they place ironman events on such a high level compared to other things in life. More importantly, have diminished foresight to realize racing is just what it I've been racing endurance events for more than 25 years now. I understand that I will simply race again, and events that occur that alter immediate plans cannot be reversed. 

Dirk Bockel, 3rd last year at Kona in 2011, broke his hand on Monday of this week. Luke McKenzie coming in best shape of his life 2 years ago injured his back a couple of weeks before Kona. There are numerous examples of high level pro's, who are racing for their income for the year, sponsors, and their livelihood, who incur injuries right before their biggest race of the year. Yet, Dirk and Luke both show up throughout the race week at Kona at all their media events, their autograph and appearances, etc. This is the mind of an athlete. They don't dwell on events that cannot be changed, and they don't allow anger to alter their outlook. 

Anger is the first and acceptable reaction to an unwanted or unexpected poor outcome to an event. Take a moment to realize the immediate past cannot be changed. Then begin looking to the future, and how the behavior you embrace may alter the events to come.  Utilize negative events to draw from and instead re-gain focus on your goals, even if that means placing your current goal on hold. 


When someone you know has a negative event happen to them that prevents them from competing in a race they've trained 6 months for? Instead of saying, "wow that sucks" or "you must be devastated" or "man that's terrible for you"....

instead try...

"Dont' worry you'll race again" or "You've been down before, you'll be back soon", or "You'll get 'em on the next one". This takes your projection of negativity, and changes it to allow positivity to infuse into the situation. 

Glass half full.

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Ironman Coeur d' Alene 2012 - Superbia

Dave Ciaverella - Friday, July 06, 2012

Big day at Ironman Coeur d' Alene 2012 for the Portland racing team, Ironheads Multisport! Although not all represented in our photo on race week, we had 30+ teammates racing this year, and another 30+ spectators.


        Ironheads Multisport Racing Team, 2012 IM CdA squad

Congratulations to my Summit Performance athletes at Ironman Coeur d' Alene. The podium saw 4 of us, and 3 secured Kona qualifications. Thus far for 2012, Summit will have 4 at the start at Ironman Hawaii. With 3 races left for a few of my athletes, I could have up to 4 more. As was apparent on race day in Coeur d' Alene, things have to come together nearly perfectly to secure one of the very few slots to Hawaii. Mistakes, errors in Judgement, and adversity occur, but the margin of error is much less with the 50 total allocated slots for Kona. I say "nearly perfect" because the perfect day is actually a fantasy we chase in sport. There are very few, if any perfect days in a sport that requires determination, focus, and the ability to develop contingency strategies throughout a very long day of competition.

David Lowe 12:36, M65 Champion

Kaytee Petross 10:37, F30 5/118

Aleck Alleckson 9:51, M35 5/272

Bill Thompson 10:01, M35 10/272

Michael Owen 10:04 (PR), M30 10/252

Bonnie Jensen 11:26, F35 10/122

Bob Rakoz 11:10, M45 11/201

Darin Shields 10:49, M45 20/201

George Camera 11:07 (PR) M30 51/252

David Christian 11:12 M35 56/272

DJ DeAustria 12:06 M45 69/201


                                 Settling in on the bike


So you believe that staring straight in front of you during the entire race is more Aerodynamic? Well, you are wrong. I took this photo of Armstrong at the TdF on his 50k time trial, and on the right is a pic of Luke McKenzie. The most Aero position of the head is angled or looking down with the front surface area of the helmet contacting the air, rather than the face. Of course passing, cycling through areas with spectators present, and cornering you want to keep your eyes in front of you. However, on those long stretches and long ascents/descents, looking down, keeping an eye on my watts, only glancing up intermittently to keep site of the road directly in front of me is the best strategy. This is free time, and this technique should always be taken advantage of. No the fairing/tail does not have to be laying on your back to be aero. The more surface area of the leading edge of the helmet that contacts the air, the more aero you will be. This is presuming 75% of your chest isn't upward smashing into the air. If your position is this? Just forget about aerodynamics. These details become especially significant when you have 22 miles of headwind in each of 2 loops. I have not only said this to my athletes that choose to ride with our group on many occasions, I have heard it in seminars in which many of my athletes have been sitting with me. If you forgot this strategy it's probably because you don't practice it on your relentless weekly time trials.

So, the race in summary?

The Good: Patience resulted in a 2nd place finish in M45 and my 9th Kona qualification and hopefully, October will see my 7th start at Ironman Hawaii.

The Bad: Headwinds out about 22 miles to the turn-around on both loops resulted in slower times on the bike. If you are a speed or time oriented athlete, you likely ran into some issues with this.

The Ugly: Dare I say? The swim again. No issues with wrist as that is 95% healed. Just swam off course a bit and didn't negotiate the field well.



So this was in my fortune found in my dessert cookie the evening before the race. I finished up my pile of white rice, chicken breast and egg whites. I had the confidence to know I would be in contention off the bike, and my swim would be fair to average. However, the unknown would be my ongoing right navicular (ankle) fracture, now a chronic stress fracture,  and a full thickness tear of my Peroneus Brevis tendon, as remnants from Ironman Texas in May of 2011. This prevented me from utilizing my full running build up throughout the season, with a total of 5 runs over 16 miles in the 6 months going into CdA. My runs were not only cut short, but prior to Texas I was trotting at 7:20-30 pace for my ten 18 milers going in, and for Cda I was topping out at 7:50-8:10 pace for the few long runs I was able to complete. Of those, the end of the runs would be the routine...ankle pain, then fluid building up, then inability to put pressure on the midfoot, and finishing up the final 10 minutes running on the balls of my feet to relieve the pressure on the ankle and many times running 10 pace or walking.

So, I showed this fortune to Ann, then slid it into my pocket. I realized that I would not need luck to finish this race, but would need to utilize patience and strategy. I usually think I have had very good luck in racing, but when I actually think back to the 8 podium full ironman finishes covering 3 age divisions in the last 7 years, and 3 top 26 overall male finishes,  then maybe luck doesn't have much to do with it. A great single race once every 2, 3 or 4 years verses good races consistently every year? I think the athlete with ability will remain consistent.

So both pro and amateur athletes who do not care to pay attention to details, lack the ability to discern their mistakes and thus cannot correct them, and do not have the foresight to determine what is needed to race effectively over 8-10 hours will get lucky here and there. However, they will lack the consistency, which I personally believe characterizes the ability of an athlete in his or her sport.

Bad luck in many but not all circumstances,  is what we bring on ourselves due to the refusal or inability to adapt, or deduct various scenario's based on the real-time race situation. So with my injuries on race-day, I took it slow through transition, mounting and dismounting the bike carefully, and staring directly in front of me for most of the 26 miles on the run, avoiding every rock, crack, ledge, and potential surface that would result in a torque to my ankle, and thus leading to a DNF in this race. I was fortunate to not have any "bad luck" during the run despite a period of significant pain in the ankle from 2.5 to about 3 hours, but I increased my odds of not having an issue by paying careful attention to what is directly in front of me...not for 3, 5 or 12 miles, but for 26 miles. In addition, I opted to run on the dirt trail along the paved course every single chance I could get throughout the entire race, knowing that avoiding the pavement, even if that meant taking long turns on the outside, it would buy me 5, 10 or maybe 20 more minutes of running pain-free. Locking on 7:55-8 pace even though my heart rate was 112, 22 beats lower than my typical ironman marathon, allowed me to get as far as I could without pain. Allowing the 2 M45 to pass me without choosing to run with them or keep them even in sight would buy me time. I was able to lose the critical 3 additional pounds in the 2 weeks going into the race even though it was very difficult on some days of self-sacrifice. This allowed me to maintain strength while increasing my power:weight ratio on the bike, in hopes to gain a minute or two to buy me more time on the uncertain run.

So in the end, you make the decisions or lack of decisions that lead to various outcomes of your race, and you are the master of your own result. Luck is a minor contributor, but ability to execute in training and on race day far outweigh. Lastly, sure...had I got a flat I would not be going to Kona and that's bad luck. But, that will not happen every race fortunately.


The 7 Deadly Sins









When projected inward, the motivator.

When projected outward, the destroyer.

With the positive connotation, Superbia, or Pride, refers to an inner-directed sense of attachment. This emotion requires the development of the strong sense of self-confidence, and can result in the athlete's mastery of the ability to overcome external adversity.

When directed outward however, pride can result in an inflated sense of one's own personal accomplishments, and an inflated over-confidence during both training and competition. This in turn leads to an unrealistic expectations, which leads to poor decisions that are directed by emotions rather than objective outcomes, and eventually leads to a sub-optimal race performance.

Aristotle alluded to a consensus that a person who thinks they are worthy of greater things, but is actually unworthy of them based on prior actions, is vain. However, those that accomplish greater things in the belief that their prior actions and suffering has led them to that point, carry pride.

This paradox can be difficult to manage.  The subtleties associated with an athlete's mismanagement of the emotions associated with pride can undermine training, racing, and ultimately the goal. Fortunately, whether an athlete internalizes or externalizes the trait is not inherent, but rather a learned behavior. You choose to project confidence, and you choose to project vanity.


When you are on your 20 x 100 set and someone in the lane beside you passes you, do you feel the need to go with them or beat them to the wall?


When you are on a time trial or long hill with a group of others, do you have to show you can be the first one finished? Do you have to be up with the leaders even though you are clearly over your target efforts?


You are on your track workout and people are on the track as well. You push those final stretches in to be certain everyone see's how fast you are running?

These simple examples are the externalization of pride, and characterize the vain athlete. This athlete cares only what others may think of them, and will sacrifice their performance on race day in order to look awesome in a workout. This athlete projects vanity, which is actually a mask to hide their own insecurities. The vain athlete will subsequently hide their modifications of the scheduled workouts, and will not simply come clean with their coach so they can get back on track. They will be too vain to ask for help, despite racing mediocre or poorly time after time. 

Do you believe it is easy for me to watch someone hitting the wall before me during an entire 4k swim? Stare at someone's back on a long hill knowing full well I am well under the red? Trot in at 6:30 pace on a mile track interval when others are running past me at 6 pace? Projecting vanity is the easy way. Internalizing your pride is difficult many times, but is more healthy. Knowing you can do something, yet withholding, is far more difficult. You learn more about yourself as an athlete by staying one half step behind someone then you do in front of them.

I tend to project facts of someone asks me something regarding my training or racing plan. When asked how I projected myself on the bike before ironman CdA, I would simply answer, "I'll have the strongest or one of the strongest M45 bike splits."  I don't interpret this as externalized pride/vanity, but simply stating the fact of my bike fitness for that race.

When asked how I projected myself on the run before ironman CdA, I would answer, "I don't know if I can make it past 18 miles. Beyond 18, my ankle may not hold up and if I am in too much stress, I'll drop out." This is again stating the facts on my injury going into that race.


Losing the race on the run

I knew inside myself that I would likely get off the bike in first or very close to first. Then I knew I would hold close to 8/mile pace on the run in order to get as far as I could before the final Kona slot passed me. I did not know when or if this would happen. I remained quiet regarding my pre-race predictions. On the run, as the M45 first and second place positions passed me running only 15 sec per mile faster at the time, I had to swallow my pride and stick to my plan. Running with them or close behind them at 7:45 pace may have resulted in me walking at mile 20 and throwing my Kona slot away before I could even contend for it during the last 10k. At mile 18? I was in a bit of pain every time I struck my right foot, and is was much worse on the downhills. I struggled to mile 22 with confidence I could finish at my current 9/mile pace, but unclear where the 4th M45 was behind me. Upon being told by fellow teammate that the M45 2nd was only 2 minutes in front of me, I did the math. Realizing that is 30 sec per mile to make up presuming he is running 8:30 pace, I got on my toes and forgot about the pain as I lifted my pace to 7:15.  I told myself I was a runner and I would not allow myself to lose a position or a Kona slot by just a few seconds, especially with 4.2 miles to go.  I could manage 30 minutes of pain. I allowed my pride to internalize and drive me, and the pain subsided. I was able to over-take the 2nd place position at mile 25 and secure a definite Kona slot.  The consequences of  racing my own race, and not racing my competitors' early on in the run resulted in a different outcome for me.

Had I allowed my vanity to control my race early on? The circumstances could have very well been different and I am confident I would have either walked or dropped late in the race.

To sum it up?

Internalizing pride can be used as a driving force in training and competition, which results in both physical and psychological advantages.

Externalizing pride is vanity. This athlete is too occupied looking over to others and measuring himself up.  He is too busy looking down at others slower than him. Thus, he can never see what is up in front of him, and will lose site of his goal.

In short, walk quietly....but carry a big stick.

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Dave Ciaverella - Monday, June 18, 2012

The 7 Deadly Sins (2)










Pleasure is legitimate when controlled. Similar to an athlete's gratification during aerobic and muscular development, the process of maximum efficiency without damage.


Luxuria, or Lust,  is the self-destructive drive for pleasure out of proportion to its worth. This is of course, one of the primary limiters I've seen in athletes in the past 17 years of running and triathlon coaching. When trained correctly, an athlete can attain a high level of fitness. Without trust in a coach or without the insight to self-evaluate, this level of fitness can become a crutch.  The 'more is better' method of training is common, and is in fact is one of the primary limiters of many athletes. "If I ran 6 minute pace in the final weeks going into my key race in June, then why not build to 6 pace in January, then I'll be able to go 5:15 pace by June." The repeated injuries, poor race-day performance, chronic fatigue following "break through workouts" in February prior to a key race in August are all sequelae of an athlete's self-destructive drive for over-achieving results.

I have numerous examples of athletes who believe they and race sub 9:45 Ironman or girls who believe they can race under 10 hours, and yet their personal bests are 90 minutes slower than their goal. Poorly thought out goals, especially arbitrarily setting lofty goals that are inconsistent with the realistic achievements based on past performances can lead to greed in a program. This of course leads to under achievement on race day. 



The lust for speed without consideration or realizing the gravity of the potential poor outcome, verses the small additional benefit. I ran 6 x 800 last week of which my goal was 3 minutes. All were with a 400 jog recovery in 2 minutes. My splits? 3:00.65, 3:00.42, 3:00.78, 2:59.85, 3:00.25, 3:00.92. The rest intervals? All on 2 minutes with the exception of one at 1:59  (I saved these on my Garmin for those who would like to see my splits at CdA). Now, I very well could have run to a 2:55, 2:45 and even 2:40 the way my legs felt...fresh and lively and HR in low Z4. However, with my Ironman marathon goal pace (if I can finish the run due to ongoing ankle injury) on race day, of 8-8:10 pace, 2+ minutes per mile faster for 800's is plenty fast to gain the benefit I need metabolically. So why not run faster if my legs feel great? I could have, but the risk of potential injury lies in pushing beyond the 95% range of effort, and I felt I was around 90% as it was. 

The take home points in this is the concept of "knowing" I can run faster, but choosing not to do so at the risk of potential injury. This also ties in with the Gluttony blog last week, wanting more and more without consideration of the potential negative consequences. This holds true in life, and is a concept evident in not only one's professional career, but in their personal and athletic traits as well. The long run scenario of an athlete pushing faster and faster throughout the run, throwing caution to the wind, because they feel like they will gain additional benefit by stressing their legs. Hopes to gain strength by tearing down. I ran a whopping 8:20 average per mile on my 17.5 mile long run 2 weeks ago, and before that, 8:30 pace for 14 miles on two occasions. Was it difficult for me to "trot" at this slow pace? No it wasn't.  I am aware of the benefits I am gaining by this. Of course, running 7:30 pace for 17 or 18 miles was entirely possible for me, but the risk of worsening my ongoing right ankle injury was in my mind. You see, by running slow, I was able to actually complete the run and an hour later, felt like I could easily run again if needed.  Did I not gain any benefit at this slow pace long run? Do I even have to explain this?


My own lust for speed is always there, but I know the outcome of engaging the temptation because of my numerous failures in the past. I showed my neighbor boy Ciaran my running log from 1994 when I trained with Maher and I think he was a bit surprised to see my splits on the track for my typical 6 x 1 mile workout on Tuesdays (4:38-4:41 range, and all with a 2 minute jog 400 recovery continuous run), as well as my 20x400 workout on Thursdays (59-62 seconds per 400, and all with a 1 minute jog 200 recovery continuous run). I remember how fast I was when I was 29 years old. For me, I actually have run a sub 31 minute 10k and a 15 minute 5k, and I know what it's like to run fast. Still, I have to withhold my lust to go anywhere near those types of paces or I will not ever reach my age adjusted potential in racing. 

Simply put, I would choose to utilize my "speed" on race day. 


Swimming is no different. This is why I establish swimming pace zones for my athletes. Now, it's not necessarily for the purpose of an athlete holding "exactly" 2 seconds faster than T0/100 pace, or T+5 pace for instance. It's purely an attempt to teach the athlete that there are actually various paces in the water, and swimming long intervals, short intervals, medium length tempos, and long slower swims all have a purpose. Just like running, all function to increase various metabolic states that improve performance over time. Constantly pushing in the anaerobic state utilizes the entirely wrong system that is more conducive to long open water racing. I said constantly...not never. Hard intervals are necessary when done with some concept of timing and how they influence the over-all plan. Jumping in masters and just hammering every workout? Sure...then see how you do 5 months later on race day. This is evident in comments I hear and read on Facebook each and every winter regarding on how strong someone is in the water and how fast they are getting. On race week or the week after the race? I don't see any comments on how fast the race went....just another excuse on wind, waves, temperature, and the myriad of others.  



This is probably one of the most blatantly ignored concepts I see in both amateur and pro athlete's I've known over the years. The lust for wattage on the bike, whether climbing, time trialing, or just riding....this is the silent killer that can undermine an athletes race performance each and every time.  Running is a bit more obvious in that the potential damage being done becomes readily apparent many times when the lust for speed becomes too great. However, on the bike, without the impact dynamics associated, the over-consumption of the utilization of power beyond what is necessary is more insidious. I have heard (too many times to count) over the years, after seeing an athletes power file and their watts being 1 sometimes 2 entire zones too high for a time trial or longer ride..."but coach, it felt easy". 

The "felt easy" comeback after being caught under-mining the coaching program is by far the most common excuse and cop-out that I have heard over the years.  This is the athlete giving in to their lust for more power, without a clear understanding or foresight on the potential implications down the road as race day approaches.  You ride with other athletes that have Ironman bike splits 30-45 minutes faster, so you then time trial with them, ride hills with them, and ride long with them. Yet, as race day approaches you become more burnt out, and have another mediocre race. The foresight? Well, consider this. Those athletes you are riding with are riding their intervals in middle Z4, uphill in Z4, and averaging their rides in Z2. Yet you are in Z5 on your intervals, Z5 or Z6 on the hills, and averaging mid to high Z3 for your ride. Thus, you over-train while those you are attempting to ride with who are 30 minutes faster on race day are in their proper zones. Thus, on race day they go on to race another consistent race or improve, while you have a mediocre or slower bike split that is fraught with excuses. "But coach, the only way I can improve is to ride with people faster than me..."and the cycle continues. The lack of understanding, the lack of trust, then the lack of results.


Speed and Power, the deadly duo 

Ahhh, the lust to be like those that are simply faster than ourselves. Now this is not a poor goal. But, it is commonly an unrealistic goal. The lust for speed and power will lead to unrealistic goals for where you are in your development. This does not mean that someday, if your core genetic physiology allows, and you have the psychological fortitude, you could be as fast as those 90-120 minutes in front of you in an Ironman. However, as I've stated numerous times to my athletes, goals must be achievable, and incremental.  The lust to achieve far beyond your current ability will leave you frustrated, because you will fail each and every time. If my coach Sabatschus, who has biked a 4:15 bike split in Ironman were to go riding with me and we did a 45 minute TT at "Z4 power", would I bike side by side with him? God forbid...pass him? Knowing my coach as a 365 watt threshold and mine is 275?  Try to imagine my long runs with Coach Maher, who ran a 2:10 marathon and 29 min 10k, when he would trot at 5:30 pace with Steve Jones (the marathon world record holder at the time 2:07, and Maher's coach). Now picture myself, an aspiring marathon running with a 2:30 average marathon, 20 minutes slower than my coach...and I catch them and run with them on their long run at 10 minutes faster than my PR marathon pace. Do these examples sound hysterical? Well, I see these examples in real-time. Right now. This triathlon.


"I follow your plan 90% coach", yet that other 10% is an upward trend to push too hard in both cycling and running, well then you are responsible for your own gamble.  I have clearly stated to Aleck Alleckson (9:26 Kona at age 38), that yes I do change workouts from my coach, who has more knowledge in his finger than many coaches out there...however, I subtract from his program because I sense my legs are not recovered yet or I have a long shift at work, etc. Yes, I find myself backing off workouts here and there, and sometimes taking a workout right off my schedule. I have virtually never "added" to the pre-existing program. 


Self Control, and Controlling your workout 

Try cycling and running with others that are similar or a bit slower than you Ironman based on their actual results. This will allow you to control your workouts, and remain within your physiologic parameters that result in improvement based on your own ability. This is far better than working out with those more than 5% or so faster, as this will lead to you not having control in the workout, and leads to the temptation of pushing too hard when unnecessary. Try purposely time trialing behind someone 30 seconds and running 5 seconds behind someone, even though you know you could over-take them....don't. This not only trains your mind to cope with someone in front of you, but will lead to increased self-awareness and self-control. These learned behaviors translate in to a better executed race.  If an athlete passes you on race day, you will be more resistant to the temptation to race them, thus deviating from your own race plan. Those athletes who create their own competitions in their own mind are those that lust for acknowledgement. However, they want this in the workouts day-to-day and thus, when everyone is paying attention on race day...have sub-optimal results.  Psychologically, those athletes that spend so much energy in workouts racing others, and even racing themselves, could find themselves mentally fatigued on race day. 


Trust me, I've said it many your racing for race day. You will then be able to achieve something beyond what you may believe you are capable of.  If you are on the receiving end of this? Be the bigger athlete, resist the urge to "show them what you're made of", and practice control in your workouts, and you will be rewarded on race day and will then be able to let loose and show everyone what you are made of, and those results will be real, and in writing. 


The sport of triathlon has been built on the commodity of emotion.  This is a positive attribute to the sport I firmly believe. However, do not allow the emotion to result in a lust to over-achieve by training and competing based on other athletes goals. Allow your coach to guide you in the development of your own personal goals. Take a step-wise approach with a long-term plan, and do not expect immediate results if the goal is lofty (dropping 60-90 minutes off Ironman to gain a Kona slot for instance). These things are not impossible, but are far more probable with a plan of realistic incremental goals met along the way.


Goals should be realistic based on who you are as an athlete

Goals should be incremental based on prior success

Goals should have a defined path to achievement

Goals should not be based on others' abilities. Be your own athlete


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The 7 Deadly Sins (1)

Dave Ciaverella - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Firstly,  BIG congrats to those Summit Performance Athletes completing a very difficult Ironman St George on May 5th. David Christian, M35 28th in his highest placing ever in an IM Scott Sutton, M25 and completing his first ever IM and did it on one hell of a day Eric Mcrae, M45 who battled the elements all day and never ever gave up You three should be justifiably proud of your accomplishment. _______________________________________________________________________________


 I'll make an attempt to convey some historical character flaws, by covering one per blog over the next few weeks. This is by no means an attempt to relate a religious connotation to cycling, running, or triathlon. However, the historical relevance is undisputed in it's direct correlation to the flaws I commonly see in athletes. Flaws that are commonly ignored by athletes, and are, in fact, the crutch that holds them back from achieving their goals in sport. The 7 deadly sins. 










Gula The over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. In discussion at Summit Tucson camp this spring, I suggested that athletes should in fact, allow themselves to function throughout the day with hunger twice a week, typically on the recovery days. This is presuming the athlete has put a quick thought into recovery from the workout(s) preceding the recovery day (Sat, Sunday big workouts, followed by Monday recovery day). I asked David Christian what his method was in dropping 10 pounds off his prior "race weight" going into Ironman St George and he replied, "Monday's were the key." David recovered properly off his weekend workouts, and on his lighter day Monday would eat very light, without consuming any unnecessary calories. This lead to a 1-2 pound weight loss per week. Eating light can of course harm an athlete, and those athlete's that I see eating a salad after a 70 mile bike ride or 16 mile run are in fact, harming themselves in terms of recovery. "Eating for the workout tomorrow" is another common misnomer and while not entirely incorrect, is not the optimal approach to proper weight loss. "Eating for the workout just completed" will allow for more rapid recovery, and will then lead to optimal successive workouts. I showed athletes at Camp how it is simple to estimate how many carbohydrate (THE rate limiting agent in exercise and the critical agent to replace between workouts for optimal performance) is needed based on the length and type as well as general intensity of the workout. This included the baseline carbohydrate needed for normal function of bodily systems on a day to day basis. Once you know this, and you know how rapid glycogen synthesis occurs (also detailed at camp, 50 grams every 2 hours), then it's easy to estimate how much you need in the 24 hours following a glycogen taxing or depletion workout.


"Do not confuse fatigue with hunger" is another concept I attempted to reinforce at camp. If you ride 80 miles, and you take proper recovery after, then eat the correct quantity of carbohydrate and protein 2 hours later, then more carbs before bedtime to assure proper glycogen synthesis over-night...then you feel a bit fatigued the next day. Well, that is due to the lack of repolarization of muscle fibers associated with a labor intensive workout completed 18 hours prior. If you have taken the proper amount of carbs and protein to recover from that workout, and the additional amount for your normal physiology, then you are done! If you only have a swim the next day or a very light short run or spin, then it is unnecessary to consume high carb food just because you have some residual fatigue. This leads to weight gain. This is exactly how some athletes actually gain weight during a camp. Gaining weight during a training camp simply means the athlete does not know how to eat and does not have a concept of how to properly recover, simple as that. A coach may disagree with this but sorry, they are wrong. You can lose just a small amount of weight at a camp (caloric weight not water weight) and get away with it, but the optimal outcome is to remain iso-caloric, meaning very similar weight before...and after camp. So, in confusing expected residual fatigue with hunger, leads indirectly leads to gluttony. 


Now the more common form is readily apparent. Its about your conscious decision to make the wrong choices in you diet to simple please yourself. Ordering the big  piece of cake, eating the 1/3 box of cereal at night, the 2 cups (4 servings) of ice cream, the full-fat buttered popcorn, the full-fat dish at PF Changs, the fast food, etc. Now these are quite obvious. The more subtle choices are those of eating a candy bar on a ride instead of a protein bar, and justifying it by thinking "I'm burning plenty of calories today", or "I know pro's that do it (and I know many athletically ignorant pro's). Choosing to skip the 400 calorie recovery drink and opting to get the cheeseburger and fries instead. Choosing whole eggs, cheese,  and sausage for your omelet instead of egg whites, no cheese, and substitute mushrooms for sausage. Whole-cheese vegi pizza instead of simply asking them to weight out 1/3 of the normal amount of cheese when you order. Yes I can go on with numerous examples of gluttony but I think you get the picture. 


Now, I am a firm believer in reward behavior. The benefits of this concept are well established. This is why I bought crispy bacon and 1/2 order stuffed french toast with my breakfast the day after IM St George, and even though I pulled out of the race, I still had one hell of a ride and a 12 mile brick, and thus rewarded myself. This is far different from eating this type of breakfast every weekend after a long run or long ride. I had 2 McDonald's cheeseburgers the night of St George as well (12 grams of fat each), and I specifically remember the last time I had a McDonald's cheeseburger, and it was in November of 2005, the night of Ann's first qualification for Kona (I was rewarding myself in her accomplishment!). This is not a load of bull, this was the last time I had a cheeseburger from McDonalds. Now, every ironman I have some form of reward meal, as well as the next day, but it simply varies each time. Regardless, you can bet it will be something I have deprived myself of for many months going into the race, and thus is even more pleasing after I've "earned" those meals. I discussed self-deprivation in a prior blog. 


Self deprivation in a reasonable form is a powerful strategy in the psychological preparation for a key event. In fact, I bought 2 packages of Pretzel M&M's (5 grams fat each) 3 days before St George. I am certain David, Kelly or Ann didn't notice because this was not my intent, but I purposely left both packages on the kitchen counter and walked by them every day  going into the race. Each time I saw them, and especially in the evenings, the urge to open one and eat the entirely unnecessary pre-race calories was there. However, I deprived myself intentionally in those days going into the race, and I became stronger because of it. I had one of the packages the night following the race while packing my bike and trust me they were far better in that moment then if I had given in to my desire to eat them pre-race. What was my solution in those day's going into the race?  Instead of opening the candy, I ate a low-fat greek yogurt, a red grapefruit, or rice and eggs. It was a simple as that. Ask Aleck Alleckson, why I had him drinking a form of hot vinegar in the weeks leading up to his first Kona qualification 2 years back. He will tell you my response when he asked me what the benefits were preceding the race. Well, on race day, as he ran sub 7 pace in the final 10k of the marathon, there was no question in his mind that he in fact sacrificed more than anyone else and he deserved that Kona slot more than anyone else in his division. Radical? Maybe...but used correctly, a powerful tool. 


We, as a society, are generally raised to "finish everything on your plate", and this leads to bad behavior habits as adults. In addition, as I explained at camp, you will not pass out or die if you allow yourself to be just a bit hungry throughout the day. You do not have to place calories in your mouth each and every time you feel the slightest bit of hunger, or when your bored. Instead, allow yourself to remain a little hungry through the day. This is not just a practice of self deprivation and a method to increase your psycological strength, but it's physiologically an advantage. By maintaining lower insulin levels, and thus higher glucagon hormonal levels throughout the day, your metabolism remains catabolic. Slight catabolism throughout the day will make you stronger by maintaining the shift to fatty acid metabolism, and preventing the anabolic state that results with insulin secretion. This will in turn lead to a slightly higher efficiency of fat utilization. Sorry to disappoint some of you but "organic" does not translate to "low calorie" or "good for you". Some of the most unhealthy people I know eat almost exclusively organic and/or vegan. This is not a pass to consume massive amounts of calories. 


Finally, the opposing character trait to gluttony is temperance. 

Practice temperance

Practice some reasonable self-deprivation, but also reward yourself occasionally

Stop being weak, and become stronger

Regardless if you are a 14 hour ironman athlete, or an 8:30 athlete

This applies to all

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Ironman St George

Dave Ciaverella - Friday, May 04, 2012

[caption id="attachment_1591" align="aligncenter" width="585"] On the bike course with David Christian. David has reached his highest fitness as a Triathlete and is ready to go[/caption] My Disadvantages going into Ironman St George 1. Crash last week with non-displaced fracture of right hand 2. Worked 75 hour work week, 7 consecutive nights ending Friday 8 days out from race day 3. Still hampered by cartilage damage from right ankle fractures 50 weeks ago 4. Only 5 Long runs of 2 hours, longest run of 2:10 one week ago 5. It's hot 6. It's windy My Advantages going into Ironman St George 1. Crash last week with non-displaced fracture of right hand 2. Worked 75 hour work week, 7 consecutive nights ending Friday 8 days out from race day 3. Still hampered by cartilage damage from right ankle fractures 50 weeks ago 4. Only 5 Long runs of 2 hours, longest run of 2:10 one week ago 5. It's hot 6. It's windy Ready

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Ironman St George, Utah

Dave Ciaverella - Friday, May 04, 2012


On the bike course with David Christian. David has reached his highest fitness as a Triathlete and is ready to go


My Disadvantages going into Ironman St George 

1. Crash last week with non-displaced fracture of right hand

2. Worked 75 hour work week, 7 consecutive nights ending Friday 8 days out from race 

3. Still hampered by cartilage damage from right ankle fractures 50 weeks ago 

4. Only 5 Long runs of 2 hours, longest run of 2:10 one week ago 

5. Limited to swimming fist drill with right hand

6. It's hot

7. It's windy 


My Advantages going into Ironman St George 

1. Crash last week with non-displaced fracture of right hand

2. Worked 75 hour work week, 7 consecutive nights ending Friday 8 days out from race  

3. Still hampered by cartilage damage from right ankle fractures 50 weeks ago 

4. Only 5 Long runs of 2 hours, longest run of 2:10 one week ago 

5. Limited to swimming fist drill with right hand

6. It's hot

7. It's windy


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Deprivation, Indulgence, and Balance

Dave Ciaverella - Monday, April 16, 2012

Thanks to our camp assistant coaches Aleck Alleckson (Summit Coaching) James Williams (Zing 3 Coaching), Ann Ciaverella (Summit Coaching) and our mechanic Greg Nyhus. Those who helped provide transportation, provision of goods and were overall critical to the camp's success, Karon and Bob Rakoz, as well as David Lowe. Thanks to Blue Seventy for the goggles and other supplies. Lastly and most importantly, Gary Walleson, Scott Benjamin and Chris Budreaux of Athlete's Lounge in Portland for their financial,  cycling gear, and nutritional (meaning all the wine and beer Gary bought as well) contributions to make this camp complete.  This was the 8th camp conducted over the past several years  and the theme was simple. No wasting hours throughout the week driving to a pool. No wasting hours cooking. No running on sidewalks. Virtual guarantee of sun and warm weather. Sound like my coaches' camp in Spain? Ann and I have done the Spain camp twice and realized the major disadvantages of many (including ours) camps in the U.S. So, I decided to try to bring the concept here, more local. The venue was a lodge setting with selected menu personalized for our group for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was able to negotiate private dining for the group to allow more social experience just amongst us. The pool was on-site with a simple walk across the parking lot in the mornings, 8 lanes of which we were given 5-6 open lanes depending on the day. The running was a 2 mile short run on part bike lane and dirt shoulder to a local state park with trails and park roads with no traffic. The cycling?'s Tucson. I chose routes throughout the week that would take us out each corner of Tucson,  in each direction, so the group got a good feel for the area. Gates Pass, Pistol Hill and Saguro National Park, Mt Lemmon, and Twin Peaks to Dove Mountain and Oro Valley to encompass the long rides. These concepts work and provided the atmosphere athletes are starving for when it comes to a triathlon camp. Not a group of people who pay a lot of money to get together and ride all week. But, a concept of providing a complete product for athletes. A product deserving for the relentless gouging we all experience in the sport by our sanctioning agencies, WTC, "minimum lodging requirements at races", product, etc etc. You get the picture.

(I limited the camp to 30 total. 26 Athletes and 4 coaches)


Deprivation In discussing various topics of feeding habits of triathletes during one of my nutrition lectures, I was drawn off topic by a question on daily requirements. This was to be covered in my 3rd lecture on proper recovery, but I used this opportunity to make a point. Many of us have been raised to eat until feeling immediately full, to satisfaction. This almost ideological belief has contributed to the issues we have seen over the past 2 generations as far as weight gain, and the host of morbidity that ensues. Ask yourself, how long can you go throughout the day feeling hunger....  

(Getting ready for the morning swim at the lodge)


I am hungry most of the time. In fact, I am hungry right now while writing this piece. This concept is essential to proper weight loss, strength, and health. How could this be? I showed athletes how to simply calculate how many total calories they burn based on the type, intensity, and duration of a workout, and to correlate this with basic metabolic needs throughout the day. Now this doesn't have to be precise, but only an estimation. Getting close will put most athletes in the 99th percentile in self-awareness on their own, without resorting to fad diets and ridiculous concepts of pill-popping, so common in this sport. Maintaining a "slightly catabolic" state, resulting in lower baseline insulin levels and higher glucagon levels throughout the day will lead to trickling weight loss over time. This is accomplished by choosing the proper low glycemic index foods for starters. No, "organic" or "natural" doesn't mean low fat or low glycemic index. Even different fruits for instance, can have a widely variable glycemic index and some of course can cause insulin spikes in the same manner that eating a tablespoon of cane sugar or honey. Maintaining a slightly catabolic state leads to a positive protein balance, and maintenance of the amino acid pool. No, not popping expensive amino acids, but acquiring them naturally by always targeting proper protein consumption, utilizing a wide source of high bio-available proteins, as well as in the correct combinations. Trust me, this is not difficult. It  may be for some who do not take the time to learn, and for those cachectic vegans I see everywhere that believe simply going off all meat products makes them healthier. The bottom line? Stop eating until you are completely full. Remain just a bit hungry and allow the feedback mechanisms of satiety to function. Stop eating every single time you feel the slightest bit of hunger. No, you will not die and you will not pass out if you feel slightly hungry. Lastly, learn the methods of practical deprivation. Depriving one's self of the dietary pleasures we are bombarded with every day will make you stronger. I intentionally walk right up to the donut counter at the hospital and take a good look at the huge variety of big, creamy, chocolate donuts in the mornings when I get in. Then I walk over, grab a spoon and walk back to my office and eat my low fat yogurt or grapefruit (sometimes both if I'm famished). Yes, I want the snack every time I see it. However, I intentionally deprive myself of the indulgence. On race day? You bet...I know I've sacrificed, and I know the person running with me coming to the finish likely hasn't. I am now at the advantage. Simple. 

(Mike Huber pulls up Mt Lemmon)


Indulgence Eat, sleep and ......triathlon. This is the purpose of a focused camp. Sorry to disappoint some of you but you will not gain the benefits by logging hundreds of long slow miles in the saddle, at the expense of diminished quality of run and swim workouts. However, a camp should feel like exactly that. A camp. Creating an atmosphere of not only practicing triathlon training methods, but thinking about triathlon in it's true sense of strategies in training and nutrition goes much farther then feeling satisfied because you can't get out of bed due to fatigue, on the third day of camp. Indulging yourself by not only miles and meters, but by knowledge in the sport. Not anecdotal mindless propaganda that is empty of truth, but concepts that are rational, evidence based, and practiced by those who have seen extreme benefits. I have been to numerous camps and have seen first hand. Athletes will, for the most part, do whatever the coach instructs. Why? Because athletes trust that the coach knows. How do you know that the coach knows? To me it's simple. Look at the results. Not the immediate results, but the results on race day. Not the result of one single athlete, but the overall results of the group you are coaching. So many athletes and coaches have the inability to correlate this simple relationship. Is you worst race of the season your "key race" you've trained 6 months for? As you approach your race a month out are you saying to yourself, "I can't wait for taper" or "I just want to get this race over with?" These are signs of either the athlete not following the coach's plan.



(Mike Huber and Wayne Warrington on Mt Lemmon)                                     

These concepts, believe it or not, are initiated as early as winter and spring, and yes, can begin with training camps who's goal is to indulge the athlete with more work then then can realistically handle. Well, realistically "handle" may not be the correct choice of words, as you would be amazed of what athletes can actually handle in a camp. However, being able to handle large volume, but not gaining strength off that volume is where mistakes are made. I would rather indulge athletes in knowledge and method. I would rather have athletes leave the training camp strong, and not even necessarily needing a day off. I would rather have the athlete remain strong a month later, and not lose 3, 4, or 7 days of workouts a week after camp due to illness that is blamed on the "flight back" or "my kids" or "my co-workers". Trust me, I've heard and witnessed all of it. All that money and time spent on a camp, only to then go backwards a week later, then race mediocre off it. I 've seen it too many times to count, and as well, I've seen it repeated over and over again. This is not our goal. This isn't to say we should have solid and relevant goals in a training camp, but it's up the the coaches to maintain control over their athletes. I decided to lead group 2 on a 1 hour ride the day after Gates Pass ride, and I showed them what a "zone 3" ride is all about. There wasn't much talking in the group because the effort was quite a bit, especially for those who rode the 65 mile Gates Pass ride the day before also in Zone 3. For me, I rode Gates Pass in low to mid Z2 and thus, on our short 1 hour ride I was feeling fully recovered to the point of maintaining sub threshold at a cadence of 30 up most of the climbs with a heart rate under 120. However, this short effort at an average of IM wattage took it's toll on those who decided to push too hard on the preceding ride. I was hoping this left an impression in those who probably were excited and rode too hard the day prior, in the concept of gaining strength by training wise, as opposed to gaining strength by tearing yourself down. Putting together 7 quality rides and 6 quality runs in 9 days will lead to a much higher end result in the weeks following the camp then struggling through the long slow miles to prove you can finish. Indulgence of power, riding too much in Zone 5, especially on hills is also over-achieving and will lead to a poor result on race day. Over-training scenarios begin with training camps and can set a poor precedent for the upcoming weeks leading into a key race. Zone 5 efforts can be done effectively when practiced with the correct timing. These efforts also can be done frequently, but when combined with distance, especially at a camp, can result in several scenarios. Injury is of course the obvious, but inducing a peak early in the season is more difficult to detect, and of course initiation of chronic over-training stress is so insidious it leads to denial by the athlete, and eventual failure in their key events. These are the athletes that shine at camp, then miss their Kona slot, miss the podium, or drop out. Amateurs are not the only victims because I 've seen this in pro's as well. Who remembers the numbers you put up at a camp when you under-perform on race day. It's the results you have on race day that will define you.


(Kaytee Petross, Jim Irvine, and Aleck Alleckson negotiate the trails on our 16 miler)


It's not Lactate In one of my lectures on concepts of power and performance, I surprised many of the athletes by informing them the "burning" in the legs and fatigue they feel is not lactate, and then while looking at a few glassy-eyes, explained the evidence based science behind my statement. Likewise, I explained in my Recovery lecture, how to calculate your expenditure, and by knowing the rate at which you can achieve complete glycogen recovery, how to properly eat for complete recovery. Many, and I'll say nearly all athletes entirely ignore this important component of training. Instead, they simply indulge in poor caloric foods and those that lead to sub-optimal recovery because they had "a tough workout". The next day and even on day 2, if they are feeling fatigued, they misinterpret this as needing more calories. This is exactly why many athletes gain weight on 30+ hour training weeks. "But coach, we need all that fat because we are burning all those calories"...wrong. Losing weight is not optimal in many scenarios as well, but remaining isocaloric with attention to recovery is optimal, and will lead to increasing strength throughout the camp without unnecessary consumption of calories. Now, I am not one to trample on someone's party. Of course I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement and the occasional high caloric treat as a reward to a good day of training. This is necessary and as I explained in my 3rd lecture, has been shown conclusively to result in positive results during training and on race day. Lastly, what fun would a training camp be finishing on Easter, if we did not have a "peep war" the night of the final long ride....that Bill Thompson easily won (we will see next year). The bottom line? Don't misinterpret tiredness and fatigue with hunger. Feeling fatigued does not equate to the athlete needing more calories. Don't feed yourself each and every time you feel just the slightest bit of hunger or you're just bored. 



(From Left, Karon Rakoz, Ann Ciaverella, Marie Gansemer, Amanda DeBlauw)


Balance A friend who is also a cyclist in Tucson had our group over for dinner during camp for an awesome pasta dinner. I talked to him a few days after camp, while getting him prepared for his State time trial qualification race the following weekend, in the Male 70 category (yes he not only passed the male 70 leader at 5k into the 20K TT, but subsequently passed the 60 year olds, then the 50 year olds). He said to me that night, "Dave, as a cyclist I realized there is something different between ironman athletes and cyclists". I asked "what", expecting to hear something on how we are all nuts. He said, "cycling is a sport to most of us, but to you...triathlon is not a sport, it's a religion."  Jokingly I said, "well, beware of false prophets..." He is right. We sacrifice work, family, vacations, free time...all for the sake of trying to achieve satisfaction on race day. Well, some of us do...others gain their satisfaction by showing what they can do during the workout-phase leading up to their race, only to then under-perform when it counts. Regardless, this sport does require that degree of sacrifice and self-deprivation that does in a way carry religious connotations. Likewise, indulgence is required, in terms of complete dedication to the sport and all it has to offer. Deprivation to the extreme leads to fanaticism, while indulgence to the extreme leads to gluttony. So in these extremes there lies a balance. Finding your center, and maintaining your balance will lead you to your goals. Don't get caught up in the ridiculous blitz of half-truth information out there, which I read every month in our own magazine on the sport. Don't constantly seek some secret magic pill that claims to get you to your goals. Instead, be mindful in who you are, and what your realistic goals are based on where you are right now. When you achieve those goals, set out to then improve on them. Finding your own balance will lead you to success in this sport, and in life. Reflect back and try to look at yourself from someone else's perspective, instead of always looking at yourself from your own narrow perspective. Those that cannot or refuse to make personal gains in these areas will continue to under-achieve. I think we are on our way to finding this balance, even on a large week of dedicated training. It's been a week and I have yet to hear of anyone being sick, and in fact everyone I've talked to has told me they continue to feel strong and have been able to maintain quality workouts without over-resting this past week. So, I think we are approaching the concept I am looking for in an effective training camp. High level balanced training, daily nutrition and recovery instruction, an educational didactic series, combined with a pleasant social experience is a formula that can lead to success. 


(Groups 1 and 2 in Saguaro national park, Summit Performance Camp 2012)

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Ironman New Zealand - race prep

Dave Ciaverella - Saturday, February 25, 2012

March 3rd is my first race since May of 2011. After the summer off with my mid foot fracture, an attempt to initiate running in October increased my confidence as I ran 5 days nearly pain free, but then side-tracked with an L2-3 disc herniation which laid me up until December. So, it begins in the second week of December, very easy 10 minute pace jogs and light trainer spins as well as a couple 1200 meter swims per week. I continued the slow progression and in January was up to 10 mile runs at 9 pace, still spinning indoors on the trainer but my bike fitness was rapidly developing as usual. Swimming...well, not too motivated at a peak of 6k per week. Big camp in end of January in Tucson allowed me to log 45 miles of running, primarily on dirt, and my first two 16 mile runs. I realized my left foot (Navicular) remains injured as the pain begins about 1:45-2 hour mark of my runs, even at an easy 8:30-9 pace, and rapidly becomes disabling as I slow down to 10  pace in order to ease the pain with foot strike. Regardless, I was able to log my single outdoor long ride of 5.5 hours during that week with 8K climbing so fairly happy with outcome. Since the camp, 1 ride outdoors and one additional long run of 16, and a moderate run of 14 miles. "Ironman Prep"? Since initiating my training early December 2011: Number of outdoor rides = 6 Number of long runs 16 miles = 3 Number of Bricks = Zero Race weight = 158 lbs. Wow I actually hit this one. Right where I want to be. There are no miracles I greatly appreciate the wishes of all my friends and athletes with the "you'll kick ass" and "dont' worry you'll hammer" comments throughout the week. However, I hope this is just people being nice and not an attitude that actually believes that someone with minimal outdoor training and 10 weeks into an Ironman prep can just go out and race at a high level. This is not reality. I wonder sometimes if people actually think I take drugs or something....I mean, I've run 3 long runs. My Chronic stress level on the bike is at 42.5 and going into Ironman Texas last year I held a Chronic stress of 62 for the 6 weeks going into the race. In mapping my chronic stress last year in the final week of Feb? Yep...42.0. So, yes I AM in a very similar fitness now, compared to my fitness this time in 2011. So, sure I am confident I could race a half ironman fairly well. However, I could not have raced Ironman Texas in March of 2011...I continued to build on my stress levels unitl Texas in May. So, it is not much different this season. I simply am not at the physiology or preparation to have an outstanding race. This is reality. If I don't adjust my race will end in disaster. Hope is not lost in that....I am hopeful that the 3rd M45 at New Zealand could be me.  No, I don't have this false sense of ability that many in this sport have...thinking I can just waltz in to an ironman and win the division. Sure, I have won the M45 division in 2 ironman races in the past two seasons, but I was in far better endurance fitness for those events. Hence my cockiness (I am certain you'll remember) that I put into writing going into those events. Such comments from IM Texas such as, "Texas yellow bellies" and IM Brazil on, "my plan to take down Glah". You will not see these types of statements for IM New Zealand...because I am not confident in this race, because I know I cannot rise to the level necessary to win a division in a WTC ironman event. However, IF I can manage to find another 10 miles on my ankle in the marathon, despite not doing one brick yet this year and only riding one ride over 60 miles....a 3rd  place finish will likely be the final qualification slot to Ironman Hawaii. Last time I raced down here was Australia in 2007, in which at age 42 I was able to post a 9:11. Yet, that was the only Ironman since taking up the sport in 2004, that I missed the Hawaii slot with 5th place in the M40. The final Hawaii slot that year was 3rd  place and was a 9 hours....beyond my reach. So, I am fully confident that there will be those from Australia as well as Asia competing here again given that New Zealand sold out in March of 2011. I full expect the top 2 M45 athletes to be under 9:30. For me? impossible on this course in my current fitness. this remains possible for me. The unknown factor is my foot. My third 16 miler last week was uneventful until the 1:50 mark and we passed from dirt trail to pavement. Within 2 minutes on pavement my left ankle became sore to the point that it shut me down from 7:30 pace to 10 pace over the final mile.  Fortunately,  I finally received a complicated ankle brace in the mail 2 days ago, which was backordered. I ran my final run of 14 miles yesterday, 8 days out from race, in the brace. The pain was present but tolerable. The brace definitely helped, as I was able to hold 8:40 pace on the same road I was running 10 pace a week ago. The drawback is that the brace takes a good 2 minutes to put on and secure the 6 straps, and must go over a sock that rises 1/3 up my shin so the brace doesn't scrape the skin. So, I suspect my T2 will be a good 4 minutes and I will be running the marathon in a long cycling sock. Still, there remains the unknown. What happens when I get to that 2 hour mark, around 15 miles, and need to run another 90-1:45 minutes on this ankle? We will see. The strategy is to have Ann tell me what place I am off the bike as I finish the first of 3 laps on the marathon. If I am not in a significant lead on 3rd place...then I drop the event and call it my first brick of the season at 8 miles off a 112 mile TT. This is not life and's only an ironman. I won't be crawling across the finish line for a 6th or 8th place just to say I finished.  If I am not in direct contention for a Kona slot, I will save my legs and chronic injury for ironman CdA in June. I've done enough of these to realize, yes...there are more to come. As well, I am a realistic athlete. I don't put myself up on some "fitness pedistal" when I know I am not there. Likewise...I know what it takes to get to Kona having 8 qualification races myself, and I know what it takes to win a division. I won't lie to myself and think I will be blessed with some gift of performing far and above my fitness level on race day next week. So, thanks for the good luck wishes to those who have emailed and texted. Off with Ann today Friday, and we arrive Sunday 6 days out. I will of course squeeze in another longer ride of 2.5 hours Sunday evening or Monday morning with about an hour of inervals. Not much of a taper but in this particular case, I am gaining strength from each workout so I think only a 3-4 day taper is necessary. Thanks Olaf for you guidance and confidence in me. After the race, some much needed solo time with Ann as we plan on some drinking, eating, and sight seeing on the South Island.

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Zone 3? Not Me....

Dave Ciaverella - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ask Yourself

1: Do I feel pressure to bike or run the same loop at the same or faster pace/time?

2: Do I feel uncomfortable falling off the back on a group ride or run even though I am tired?

3: Do I feel pressured to be toward the front or at least finish toward the front on every group workout?

4: On a typical ride or run, and an unknown rider passes decisively, do I lose pride? Do I feel pressured to have to catch up to him?

5: Do I often go out for a ride alone or with others as a nice aerobic or recovery pace and it turns into the world championships?

6: Do I believe that riding less than an hour or running less than 30 minutes is a waste of time and not worth the trouble?

7: Do I feel riding in low Z2 Power on the bike is just too easy for me and is a waste of time?

8: Do I have to be 1/2 step in front of the person jogging next to me, even on an easy recovery run?

9: Do I begin and end any rides with sore legs? Do I have to meet a predetermined pace on all my runs?

10: Am I proud of my average speeds and my record of "climbs won" on rides, and believe that others really care?

11: Do I swim a pace within 2 seconds per 100 pace whether I am swimming a 600 or 3 x 200, or 4x150 sets?

12: Do I have to be the first one to touch the wall when swimming adjacent to someone I don't even know?

13: Do I look at other swimmers in lanes beside me and create my own personal race with them, even though they are doing a completely different workout?

14: Do I think swim drills are a waste of time and when doing drills, can't wait to get them done so push the pace on them?

15: Have I had another mediocre season with a specific reason for each and every single sub-par performance in every race?

16: Lastly, do I find myself in "peak" fitness 3-4 months prior to a key event, and workout performances trickle downward as the race approaches?

If you answered "yes" to any one of these, then you are at risk, and the more you answered yes, the higher your risk of another mediocre race. The zone 3 syndrome. This is part of the chronic over-training syndrome I see in many athletes I have trained with, and have coached.

I consider "zone 3 syndrome" a power zone 3 problem typically on the bike, but more of a pace oriented problem on the run and in the pool.  On the bike, heart rate is not useful as a determinant of this syndrome. This is because you can easily produce power in zone 3 and remain in heart rate zones 1 and 2, especially as you become fit, and even on long rides.

The Fallout

"Awesome" or "PR" workouts, then periods of several missed workouts due to fatigue.

Running slower or feeling fatigued in the water for sometimes weeks at a stretch, missing numerous key workout variables.

Cancelling workouts.

Inability to "go fast" for the short periods necessary as prescribed by the coach.

Some riders unfortunately, especially  ironman athletes, train like this week after week. The log looks great, yet they consistently run 10-11 hour ironman races when they have the physiology and endurance to run well under 10 or run 5 hour half ironman when they should be near 4:30.  They lose their podium slot, they lose their Kona slot, they may drop out. They always have an excuse that's unrelated to training preparation. Even athletes who should break 12 hours in an ironman, yet race to a 12:45, 13 hour or slower. Pro men who race inconsistently ranging from mid 8's to 9:30 or repeated DNF's, and can't figure out why the huge variation in performances. It effects every athlete, at every level.

"I was fatigued", "too much salt intake", "not enough salt intake", "dehydrated", "too hydrated", "running shoes didn't fit right" , "head cold race week", "too hot", "too cold", "bike made funny noise", "changed my bike position race week" I need to go on with these actual excuses I have heard in the past? The excuses vary widely but never encompass the method of training in the several months prior to race day.

Know Yourself

So many athletes try for too much too early, or just try to shoot for the moon for a race in one giant leap instead of taking a few steps into the water first. Realize that maybe you should not be in "peak fitness" and feel like conquering the world...4 months from race day.

Don't Be Proud

Be confident. I am hardly ever at my "race intensity" in workouts, and very few people have seen me race. I am a completely different person when I race. Much of this is because I am physically prepared, and race consistently, even with adversity. More importantly, I am emotionally prepared. I believe spending too much time in the "race zone" emotionally in workouts tends to burn an athlete out.


Now, don't get me wrong, I am all about detail and creating a mental vision of the race in workouts, but that's mostly in terms of nutrition and visualizing my goals during my TT training, run speed work, and key swim sessions. This does not mean I recreate the race setting as far as race intensity goes. My longest time trial on the bike was 50 minutes at 250 watts going into California 70.3 in my prep for ironman Texas in 2011. My normalized wattage for nearly every ride was in the middle to higher end of zone 2, and average wattage low zone 2. So, how is it possible with an average wattage of 190-200 in workouts and my best effort of 250 watts in a 50 minute time trial, that I was able to average 257 watts for 56 miles at California? If this seems impossible to you and you think I'm bull-shitting, then you lack the knowledge. If you're a coach and don't understand this, you should re-evaluate your skills.

Race Results

So, the zone 3 syndrome athlete tends to put too much into workouts, not  resting enough, and not really racing all out.

Just marginally competing ride after ride, run after run, and swim after swim. Then they lose their competitive spirit on race day, the day that counts. They lose the "snap" in their legs, the mental awareness that should increase during the race, but instead the fatigue sets in early.

This athlete can't wait until a "3 week taper" or the upcoming rest week because they are chronically tired. When it comes time to do an interval in Zone 4 or Zone 5 power? They cant muster up the performance. Likewise, they hit power goals for the first 50-75% of an interval and then trickle off.  So, they don't get much benefit of near-threshold and threshold training.  As a consequence,  they can't generate consistent strength throughout their key race.

The result is a  race at  or perhaps only 20-30 watts above their "recovery ride watts".

Trust me, it only gets worse on the run.

6 months of training wasted. Then, for the next big race...all over again.

Here's a  piece of advice. If it doesn't work for you, try something different. Something different doesn't mean more work. Train in your own element. Stop lying to yourself and your coach by using your own created "don't ask don't tell" policy. Stop tweaking every single workout upward because of your insecurities as an athlete and mistrust of your coach.

Uncover your weaknesses, expose them, then eliminate them.

Save the racing for race day.

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The Wall

Dave Ciaverella - Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ironman Texas May 20, 2011

I can’t thank enough, the love of my life and training partner Ann, for being on the course with updates, and just being there for me. She was spot on where she needed to be and her encouragement as well as presence were invaluable.

Thanks Coach Olaf Sabatschus for your guidance and your >20 year knowledge in ironman racing and training that you have translated into successful coaching. You are a diamond in the rough my friend.

Thanks for the text’s and words of encouragement race week. Knowing some members of my family are watching via internet, as well as friends is always beneficial. My big brother Chuck and wife Wendy, niece Ashley, my parents, and life-long friends are there with me in spirit, and that’s important. Aleck Alleckson, who I trained with side by side for the past 6 months in preparation for this race…thanks for driving me to be the best I can be when it counts, on race day. He and I have now raced Cali 70.3 and IM Texas, both finishing within a minute or two despite having completely different individual strengths in the sport. This is not by chance…we’ve managed to increase each others weaknesses while maintaining our strengths, and I believe this translates into being on our “A” game on race day. Not in some random workout…but on race day.

My trash talk going into the race was purely out of gest and we have to have fun in this sport or it gets a bit old. I knew this race would be less competitive being the inaugural event (for amateurs…the quality pros of course showed due to this race giving the highest prize purse at 100k, of any ironman other than Kona). Regardless, I don’t look at race rosters going into races. It simply just doesn’t make a difference in my game-plan going in. I enjoy seeing how the race unfolds in “real-time” as I am in it, and making some decisions on the fly rather than with some pre-existing knowledge of whom is there racing with me. So, having some fun talking shit about my competition was purely off the cuff. I know how difficult these things are completing 15 now, and I know anything can go wrong that is out of my control on race day. However, I will say…don’t confuse confidence with cockiness. I am not cocky…but I am confident. I went in to win the division and I knew if I had a consistent race I would be competing closely with the leader(s).  I was never considering second, even though the leader was 30 seconds in front of me for 13 miles of the run, and I had no idea who was coming from behind. Of course I could have finished much worse, even began walking…but that is not part of my mind-set during the event.


The Course

Swim: Certainly not fast. No wet suit and the 700  meter length narrow 4 ft deep canal to the finish was similar to a washing machine. Strong swimmers such as Aleck excelled in this environment. Weaker swimmers such as myself have to struggle a bit.

T1 and T2: Fast and organized.

Bike: Course is more hilly than touted at 1600 ft ascent. My altimeter matched others I talked to in the race at just over 2300 ft ascent, in about a 50 mile segment of the course. Not significantly challenging, but not lightning fast either. The vast majority of hills are rolling and staying in aero position is required. The shifting of my gears was almost constant for most of the race due to the undulation. Wet black asphalt on sharp curves resulted in a few accidents. Rough chip seal and road repairs were as expected, but not that bad. The nasty headwinds touted at the pre race meeting were only for about 30 miles and only at 15 mph or so. The harsh headwind coming in the final 8 miles we had all week, 25 mph or so..calmed to maybe 10 quite normal conditions. Nothing extreme weather wise.

Run: The Achilles heel of many in the sport. You can ignore the race information that states, “shaded run on trails in the woodlands”. There is maybe a total of 30 minutes of actual shade, and 3 hours of open exposed direct sun. The course is technical with alot of turns, negotiation of several curbs and ledges, etc. The crowd however was spectacular for me and there were no real “dead areas” on the run course…there were spectators everywhere. The humidity and heat killed many people’s races here and you had to run smart to do well. I was passing hundreds walking in my third loop. I passed 6-8 pro’s walking, and moved from 10th amateur to 5th by passing 5 M30/M35 guys that were slogging at 10 minute pace the final lap. Had these guys had more normal races, my amateur placing would have been quite normal for me, as I’ve finished in the 10-15th amateur placing in several ironman races. This one was higher due to the luck of a few guys bonking ahead of me…which is unusual to have such a high percentage of guys toward the front slow down so much, but it is what it is.

The Good: Consistency. My 4th ironman race placing in the top 30 overall. My highest amateur finish at 5th. My second Division win in a WTC ironman event. My 7th consecutive Division Podium  finish (top 5) in ironman events other than world championships covering 3 age divisions. In fact, Ann reminded me yesterday that I have only missed a division podium in one non-Kona ironman…my first at CdA in 2004.

The Bad: Whoa…my swim at this race was about 90-120 seconds slower than I thought it would be. Lack of a wet suit hurts us non-swimmers a bit and definitely put me at a bit of a disadvantage. Swimming a 1:06 was my 5th slowest swim ever out of 15 ironman races, including Kona. Complete perfect races rarely occur.

The Ugly: My chronic right ankle instability (courtesy of IMAZ in 2010) haunted me for the second race. The chronic aching of my tibiotalar joint starting at mile 16 was not unlike my long runs this year, in which my joint would ache at about the 2 hour mark. However….rolling it off the edge of the sidewalk at about mile 23 and re-spraining it was completely unexpected and my error in judgement.

I had a vision a week after finishing California 70.3 with nearly an identical time as my athlete Aleck Alleckson. Our power on the bike in that race was nearly identical, and our heart rate on the run as well. In the workouts after that race,  it was uncanny how our bike wattage and run heart rate parameters were almost identical. It became almost a game to me, asking Aleck his power on the bike rides,  time trials,  and HR during runs, and nearly each and every time, we were within 5-8 watts on the bike and 3-5 heart beats on the runs. This was not that unusual to me in that we trained greater than 80% of all workouts together this year, specifically for the Texas event.

One morning during our final big week of training a month out, I woke up and thought…well, Aleck needs to get to Kona…I’m already there. So, I anticipate he will be at least 5 minutes ahead of me out of the water, and if I can bike smart I can push to catch him by transition, then pace him out on the run.

I told Ann this that week, then told Aleck a week later. To me, I was certainly willing to push the bike in the final hour if all was going well, catch Aleck, and run with him as long as I could to keep him on pace and controlled…”teaming up” so to speak against his competition in the M35.

This worked out for me as (who I thought was) the leader in the M45 caught me on the bike at about mile 70 during the long stretch in the headwinds. I was biking alone for about an hour when he passed in a group of 4 guys. This group I can’t complain about because they were, like the pro’s, biking legal distance apart with the exception of the small upgrades in which they would accordion together a bit closer for a couple of seconds then break off again. I mentioned something to two of them as I passed the group that they better be careful. Trouble was, that for an hour each time I would pass them, on any slight down grade they would pass me back because I was using each and every down grade to sit up on my seat and stretch my low back which was aching and very close to spasm. I decided I needed to sit up and use downhills as a few seconds to stretch in order to prevent an event to my back that could put me out of the race.

The 3rd M45 finisher at the awards Shawn Bonsell mentioned this to me. He told me he was thinking I was hurting because I was sitting up and stretching on all the downhills when he caught me.


Is Their Anybody Out There?
Every race I’ve done where I am racing the final 3 hours up toward the front of the field is extremely barren. I mean…there just aren’t any people to catch, and those that are there…are spread several minutes apart. Sometimes on the bike I am thinking, where the hell is everyone? I thought for a minute this past weekend I may have made a wrong turn on one long stretch because I rode about 10 minutes, nearly 4 miles and didn’t see one person…not even volunteers.

I passed maybe 10 total guys in the final 2.5 hours of the bike at Texas….so, just being able to pass  someone and say, “hey man nice day” as I pass…and as that person passes you awhile later and gives you a nod…its nice in a way. To stress the point, there is nothing wrong or illegal about coasting 5 seconds as you ride up on someone from behind, and enter their draft zone. You have 20 seconds to pass. I use this to my advantage and advise my athletes to do the same. Each and every time you can get a “free” 5 second coast from passing someone in a race will add to your strength at the end of the day. This is totally legal and a race strategy I’ve used since I raced my first race at CdA in 2004. In fact, everyone reading this should realize in my 15 IM and 40+ HIM races I have never received a penalty. Why? The answer is stupidly simple…because I don’t draft AND I don’t even put myself in a situation where there is even a question of a draft, or block or other penalty. This is so plainly simple and obvious to me…as well as Ann who has never once received a penalty in any of her races…ever. So those of you who see my 4:50 bike splits (3 times now) before you jump to a conclusion out of disbelief because of my age or whatever…forget my time…look at my wattage. I rode 260 watts at IMWA in 2007 in 35 miles of headwind, 226 watts at IM Brazil last year with at least 12 turn-arounds on the course and 2000 feet of climbs, and 223 watts this past weekend at IM Texas on 2300 ft of climbs and about a 30 mile stretch of headwinds. How did I bike the same time with less power at Brazil and TX compared to WA? It’s about power to weight ratio. My Scott Plasma is at least 2 lbs lighter than my Queen K that I was racing on at WA and my race weight was 3 lbs lighter. This translates to covering the same distance utilizing less wattage….I’m on a rant….sorry.

Regardless, it’s the wattage, not the speed that is the target for me. Although certainly looking at a race data set in retrospect, it’s fun to see the 23.1 mph speed that I maintained over a 112 mile distance.

Time To Go
So, as we entered the rough stretch of chip-seal, near mile 90, I began my push. The next long road off the first turn I could see maybe a mile up and the road, maybe 3 minutes or so. There was a guy about a minute up, then one more person way up in front of this guy who was barely discernible,  who looked like a vague orange and blue dot on a red bike. I was certain this was Aleck. I looked behind my back and saw Shawn (M45 2nd) about 30 seconds back. Time to go was the exact thought in my head as I pressed my lap split on my power meter module and rode off.  I didn’t really pay too much attention to power in that I capped myself at 235 watts, and was completely uncertain if I could hold this for an hour in my attempt to catch Aleck. It’s difficult to explain the intensity both mentally and physically when you begin pushing hard at the 90 mile mark of a 112 mile time trial. The fatigue in the legs, my heart rate moving from low zone 2 to zone 4, the rapid breathing…all of which are potential deadly signs in an ironman. Looking at my speed the final 54 minutes and a distance of 22.09 miles….24.1 mph. I passed one single person in this final hour, which turned out to be the actual leader in the M45 I think. My pass was decisive and brisk to the point that he didn’t attempt to hang in my sights.

The final push in the last 11 miles on my power profile analysis software and Garmin showed 24.6 mph….which I felt because my legs were burning to the point that I had to take short 3-5 second breaks from pedaling to clear the fatigue. This was beyond my push in Brazil and I have never in my 7 years as a triathlete pushed this hard on the bike at the end of an ironman bike segment. However, as I approached town, there was Aleck about 30 seconds ahead of me. As I dismounted the bike, I saw Aleck running ahead of me to his T2 bag. “Perfect” was my exact thought.

The Thin Ice

Think of final race preparation as creating a layer of razor-thin ice. You need to cross this with precision, foresight, and remain centered in thought. Athletes create cracks in the ice in their preparation leading up to the race, during race week, and in the race itself. Those with the least number of cracks in the ice will have the better chance of not falling through. I was smooth as silk going into this race, even though I actually peaked a couple of weeks back as stated in my blog then. However, a peak can be sustained for a few weeks for certain if you know you are peaking, and take measures to prevent over-stepping in the weeks leading into the key event. I created a few cracks in the ice upon initiating the plan of an attempt to catch Aleck in the final hour on the bike. Certainly this was a risk. However, I had no pre-existing cracks in the ice and I was able to remain stable despite the push at the end. My short taper, pre-race preparation, and high level of rest during race week left me in this state of confidence that I could take a few chances out on the course and get away with it. Athletes who create numerous cracks in the ice only set themselves up for difficulty and face a high risk of a terminating event occurring if only a minor set back ensues during the race. The more prepared you are, the more you can recognize which details are important and target them, the more likely you will be able to handle difficulty. This is one of the major differences in consistency in training and performance amongst most athletes.


Run Like Hell
This was perfect! I had to urinate in transition which held me up a few seconds, but as I ran out Aleck was there 5 seconds in front of me. I yelled, “dude I’m coming man!” I  Ran up to Aleck at 6:30 pace for a minute then we settled into our 7:40ish target. This was just a little too fast then I had planned by about 5 sec per mile, but I knew that this was Aleck’s goal pace at least to mile 16 as per his pre-race plan.

At mile 2 the M45 I passed toward the end of the bike ran by and greeted us, then ran up ahead. There was never an inclination to move ahead and challenge him this soon. This guy was running like hell at low 7′s in an ironman, and I firmly believe there are not many M45′s in the U.S. that can lay down a 3:05 marathon split off a sub 5 bike…in hot humid conditions such as these. I was betting this guy was not one of them,  and let him go. He got as far as 30 seconds in front of us, then remained there. After a mile or so, I could still see him ahead, and I was certain he had already slowed to our pace of 7:40′s, so it was then I knew it was only a matter of time.

is a statement I made on facebook a couple of days before the race. I thought of this while watching the M45 leader for 12 miles run up ahead of us. I wrote this statement on facebook, full well knowing only a few of my athletes would understand what I meant. In the marathon of an ironman, patience is the prime objective, and having the foresight to full well know a bonk is a high probability, it’s not wise to stress the patience here. I have said too many times to count in past blogs, that in training, it’s more difficult to remain behind someone than in front. It’s easy to hammer up the hills and hammer out of your zones in speed work in order to be out front. I mean, anyone can do that…just hammer. However, having the patience to exert a controlled effort in training..all the time, will train you eventually to acquire this strategy in racing. So, with the M45 leader ahead of me, and now running the same pace as me…I knew exactly where his limits were. However, with me behind him, he had no clue what my limits were, or how I felt.

Mile 8, Aleck and I kept running stride for stride, the M45 now 10 seconds ahead and a M35 in Aleck’s AG about 30 sec ahead. It was awesome to run through the crowds as teammates side by side and dozens of people yelling, “go shoes!” and “wow look at those guys’ shoes!”. Running in brilliant orange and blue shoes with matching uniforms and visors/sunglasses…and being up there toward the front of the field was one of the coolest things I’ve ever encountered in an ironman.

Mile 14, we come up on the M45 and pass. I won’t disclose my personal race strategy here, but suffice to say I was confident in this pass because we never picked up the pace and in fact were slowing. He came to us. Somewhere a few minutes later, Aleck’s M35 3rd place competitor came to us, and we passed.

Comfortably Numb
I have never raced an ironman without the knowledge of what is inevitable. Running 7:40-7:50ish was so deceptively easy the first 16 miles, until the open exposure in the sun begins to take its toll. The insidious dehydration, basically losing more fluids on the run than you can absorb from replenishment leads to the eventual weight loss beyond 3% of body weight, in which every percent thereafter can lead to a 10% drop in performance. The low vascular volume leads to increase in core temperature, which leads to even more rapid loss of plasma water, exacerbating the condition. It is critical to keep the glucose flowing in its simple most rapidly absorbable form. It is critical to keep the low dose sodium going as well, just enough to prevent the rare event of hyponatremia, but to enhance the absorption of glucose and increase water retention. Knowing all this, yet still the bonk ensues.

I passed Ann somewhere, I don’t know where but somewhere around mile 17….as I was running alone about 30sec up on Aleck as he fell back a bit. I tried to tell her I was bonking, but a barely discernible whisper came out. I felt weak, tired, and depleted within a short span of 2 miles. I recognized this and again told myself to maintain the nutrition plan, do not deviate, and to keep the losses to a minimum. My mind is blank and only focused on moving forward.

But regardless, there is was, the proverbial wall. This conscious haunting barrier that remains present and unrelenting. Mile 18. “Hang on…keep the stride short…ignore the aching in your ankle”. I remember this but the rest is blank.

Mile 19. Somewhere Aleck passed me as I realized my shoe was untied and slipping off because it was saturated with water and urine. I quickly tied the other shoe of course while I was stopped…to prevent a second stop in case the other shoe string was loose as well.

Mile 20. “Aleck is right there…gotta be 20 seconds..just run 1 mile and get up there, then it will be easy”. Mile 21, I look down, my HR is now in high zone 4, my stride feels better, and I feel myself breathing. Deep breaths are beginning to predominate over my shallow struggling breaths. Aleck is 10 seconds, as I stared at his back. I look down and I am at Z 4/5 jct and starting to roll.

Mile 22…running directly behind Aleck and as I come up on him, “dude I’m here man…let’s go, its only 30 minutes…”…”man if I see that clock ONE SECOND over 9:30 then I’m waiting for you so we can finish this thing together…”

I look down, 7:20 pace as I awaken and begin to race. Zig-zagging through 3 a -breast walkers on narrow winding course. “on your right”…”on your left”…”coming through the middle!” were three variations of what I was yelling depending on the opening I saw as I approached other racers.

Mile 23…racing down a hill toward the canal I yell “on left” as I approach 3 from the Mexico Triathlon team, all walking on the right side of the course. As I approach the furthest on the left hears me running up and steps to his left right in front of me. I braise his shoulder as I step left and off the ledge of the sidewalk. I find myself yelling “FU**” as I fall to the ground and the pain shoots from my right ankle right up my shin. Are you kidding me? I pop up and walk with the help of one of the team Mexico guys and they ask if I’m ok..I don’t reply I just start hobbling forward. 5 steps…10 steps…sore to take off and land on the mid foot so I go to my toes and this is relieving. Within a minute I am racing again and feel nothing as I pass mile 24.

I see Aleck approaching from the other direction as we turn the last turn-around and I felt so relieved because even though a while ago he looked like he was ready to crumble. Yet, now….he was running hard! My thought was, “Aleck is in his zone…excellent!”

As I pass a large crowd along the canal, everything was a blur as I looked left to the canal, dizzy…then forward. I hear, “go shoes!” from someone who sounded like they were yelling from a tunnel. I feel no pain. I feel no weakness….I feel nothing except forward motion. I look down…heart rate top of zone 5…6:52 pace….comfortably numb.


The Wall
I can’t explain these things on a physiologic level. Sometimes racing is from the subconsciousness, and we draw from strengths we didn’t know we had. I have smacked into the wall in each and every ironman from the beginning in 2004 though. The height and thickness of that wall has varied depending on too many variables to count. Brazil the wall was extreme as I ran 9 minute mile pace for 8 miles. Kona 2004 the wall was 10 min pace for 10 miles. In Texas the wall was 8:40ish pace for 4 miles. You can’t predict the severity or duration. However, you can prepare yourself and keep losses to a minimum.

I was in the gym at All-Star fitness center last year and met a guy who was discussing “Cross-Fit” training with me. He told me, “man…I’d love to see some of you triathletes workout with us…I don’t think you could make it over our wall.” My reply to him was, “dude…you want to climb a wall? Do an ironman…that’s a wall”. He chuckled, and I laughed as well.

Climbing the wall? It’s not impossible, and not improbable. Just finishing…you’ve made it over your wall.

However, I didn’t climb any wall on Saturday. I tore down my wall. This, no matter how old you are, and no matter what your level of competition…

is racing.


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