Monday, October 22, 2007

South Carolina Half Ironman, September 30, 2007

After my disastrous DNF at Ironman Louisville last month (race report). I really wanted a decent result in the South Carolina Half Ironman, Sept 30, 2007. A special race for me since this was where Anna and I had our second “date” in 2003 (she got up before dawn, drove 1 hour by herself to watch a guy she’d known 1 week punish himself for 5 hours in this painful looking sport she’d never seen before called triathlon . . . I knew she was the one that day!). That was the reason I proposed to her at this race last year after crashing on the bike and running 7 miles with her diamond ring in my bloody hand. (2006 SC Half Ironman race report).

In light of last year, a funny thing did happen this year before we even left the house at 4:45 am race morning. Our arms full with Janna, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, breakfast bagels, etc., and . . . oh, yeah, my race stuff already in the car. (Our pre-race packing is a little more involved now.) Suddenly Anna can’t find her diamond engagement ring - the very one I smuggled to this race under her nose last year and gave to her at mile 64! We spend 20 minutes (that we didn’t have btw) frantically searching Janna’s diaper and clothes, tossing sofa cushions, bed linens, and moving furniture . . . the house looked like it had been hit by an earthquake or vandals when . . . “got it!” . . . on the dark carpet underneath a piece of furniture. No way could we go to this race without it since I spilled a lot of blood to give it to her last year! Now 25 minutes late, it made for a little more “spirited” 70 mile drive to the race for the 7:30 a.m. start, but we made it. No worries mate. (Maybe she should have kept it in her shoe like I did last year. :-))

The swim was barely wetsuit legal (water temp 76 degrees). I had a good swim, about the same as last year. 1.2 miles. The water was calm and I felt very comfortable, having no trouble spotting the buoys heading due east on the way out into the blinding sunrise. Fortunately I wore dark goggles and had cleaned them with anti-fog solution. Swimming with fogged goggles into a blinding sun makes a long and difficult swim – been there! Swimming is my weakest event, and the hardest for me to train. I can do bike and run workouts at odd times and places, but the pool doesn’t travel with me or stay open on my schedule. I came out of the water about where I needed to be, top 10 or so in my division, always hoping for a few minutes faster, but many of the swim times appeared a few minutes long after the race. But no time to fret in T1. Time to attack the bike.

My race strategy is always the same: limit losses on the swim, attack the bike and make big time gains, then keep pushing and see if I can hold it or move up on the run.

A quick check of my blood sugar on my One Touch Ultra Meter in transition showed I was way too high, over 300! Ugh!! Not again! That’s very rare after the swim, but I knew it was my fault for hastily drinking some high carb drink and eating half of a Clif Bar right before the swim, concerned that it was dropping. I was a little afraid to bolus too much insulin right now, so I’d try to bring it down naturally on the bike.

I know the bike course well, my 4th time in this race. 56 miles, lots of rolling hills, and gradual climbs and descents. The air temperature was unusually cool, mid 50s Fahrenheit, so dehydration and sweat loss was not a concern like in hot weather and full Ironman distance races (i.e., IM Louisville). But because I was fighting a 300 high blood sugar, I could not consume as many carbs as I needed. (Hmmm. . . race a half Ironman on a starvation diet, yeh, . . . this will work out well.) I drank only two 25 ounce bottles of straight water and only one 18 ounce Gatorade (35 grams carbs), and ate just 1 Clif Bar (42 grams carbs). That’s enough hydration but less than half the calories and carbs I need for cycling 2 ½ hours at race pace. My testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute earlier this month showed that I need about 70 – 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, so about 180 grams for a half Ironman bike. I consumed only 77 grams.

Maybe that was a reason, because this year I had my worst bike time ever, 2:35, only 30th fastest out of about 450. I was even passed twice in 56 miles, which rarely happens to me, but I never know all of the fast cyclist in the field and where they may have come out of the water. This year was also more windy, so I expected to be slower, but I rode 9th fastest overall in 2005, and 16th overall last year (even peeling some of my back tumbling down the asphalt). Maybe this year I’ve been changing too many diapers! Ha!

A quick check of the blood sugar in T2 on my One Touch UltraMini meter showed it was still above 300. Ugh!! But too high is better than too low as long as the stomach is okay, and I still felt strong. But I knew I was going to hit the wall soon running 13.1 miles if I could not get some calories and carbs in me. You can’t do a half Ironman triathlon on 1 Clif Bar and 1 bottle of Gatorade. I also spent what seemed like forever emptying the bladder in T2. (okay, sorry for the details but that’s part of being a diabetic triathlete!) I knew the high blood sugar was causing that usual kidney flush of all my fluids trying to purge me of all that sugar. Dehydration and nausea would be a major problem if this were a hot day and longer than a half Ironman. I punched in a quick bolus of 3 units of insulin on my Omnipod PDM in transition, and let it inject as I took off running, 13.1 miles (half marathon) to go.

A funny thing happened as I started running . . . I felt great. Comfortable, in control. I can always tell in the first 500 meters when I do a quick “system check.” Stomach? Feels good. Quads? A little sore, but plenty left there. Hamstrings, calves, Achilles? Check, check, check. I had every reason to feel horrible, high blood sugar, no carbs in me, building dehydration, and a poor bike time . . . but it was cool weather and I felt great. I saw Anna holding Janna in the crowd about 500 meters out of transition and stopped for 2 quick kisses for both as I ran by. I’ll always have time for that.

I decided to hold a 7:30 pace pretty comfortably, waiting for my blood sugar to come down. Finally I sucked down a gel at about mile 3, and took in some Gatorade about every other mile. At about mile 4 I saw my friend Peter Kotland coming the other way from the turn-around, a few minutes ahead of me running strong in 3rd place overall. Since I still felt good I wanted to run fast the 1st lap to build a cushion in case I did hit the wall in lap 2.

I sucked down another gel at mile 7 and still felt strong. Maybe I can hold this pace to the end. It got harder (imagine that) but I kept the same 7:30 – 7:40 pace as the miles 8, 9, and 10 ticked off. I was passed a few times over the 13.1 miles, and passed a few others. Even on my best days, I expect to get passed by some of the elite runners in the field, so I felt good that was not happening much today. On the 2nd lap it got harder to tell who was on their 1st or 2nd lap as slower athletes were starting on their 1st lap.

I ran a 1:40:30 half marathon for a 7:40 pace so I was pleased that I stayed consistent the whole run. I made it to the line in 4:58, not my best by any means, and about 10 to 15 minutes off my target time, but good enough for 2nd out of 64 in my age group, 37th overall out of about 450. I was hoping to be top 20 but my slow bike (12 minutes slower than last year) and transitions killed that. But I was glad to be able to run well. My blood sugar at the finish was a stellar 128. Perfecto! That small bolus and 13.1 miles of running had really brought it down from over 300 at the start of the run. I felt good at the finish but was happy to have a seat and take the rest of the day off!

Next for me is the Half Ironman in Miami, FL November 11. See you then, and keep going for that Finish Line. You will get there.

[Note: A few hours after the race I developed a nasty sore throat and congestion, and spent the next 3 days fighting a miserable cold. I didn’t feel it race morning, but maybe that had something to do with my poor bike split…or all that time changing diapers.]

US Pro Cycling National Championship - Sept. 2, Greenville, S.C.

One of the great things about living in Greenville, S.C. is the fantastic cycling routes. Not too much traffic and the mountains are just few miles away. I guess USA Cycling figured that out when they placed the US Pro National Championship here for 2006-2008 over Labor Day Weekend.

My friend Rich Hincapie lives here and operates Hincapie Sportswear in Greenville. Hincapie Sportwear makes the best cycling and triathlon apparel and has been a great supporter of mine, and I enjoy supporting them. (You might recognize me "holding up" some of the cycling apparel on their website. Ha!) I've loved racing on the Hincapie Sports Triathlon Team in 2006 and 2007.

Rich's brother George lives here in Greenville and is also good friend. If you follow cycling at all you probably know George as a teammate of Lance Armstrong for all 7 of his Tour de France wins, and himself a 9 time finisher of the Tour. George also won the US National Championship in 2006 the first year we had it in our "hometown" of Greenville.

In 2007, George came in second to Levi Liephiemer. Anna and I had a super time at the post race party at Hincapie Sportswear headquarters. Thanks to my sponsor Nutrisoda for providing all the fantistic Nutrisoda flavors for the event!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Joslin Diabetes Center – Newport Under the Stars event

On September 17-19, 2007, for the second year in a row Anna and I had the honor to attend the great fundraising event for the Joslin Diabetes Center in Newport, R.I. called Newport Under the Stars. It’s several days of events with celebrity guests and Joslin supporters in beautiful Newport. Golf, a regatta on America’s Cup racing yachts and a spectacular gala dinner. I was honored to be the host of the gala dinner.
Some of the other guests included Willie Garson who played Stanford Blatch on HBO's Sex in the City. Willie is as much fun in person as he is on the show. Anna loves the show and we had a lot of fun with Willie. He’s a great supporter of Joslin, attended this event last year, and hosted the regatta this year.

Also attending was Jeffrey Donovan from the show Burn Notice on the USA Network . Jeffrey plays a spy who’s been “burned” and taken out of circulation. A cool show so check it out. Anna had a lot of fun one afternoon shopping with Jeffrey’s girlfriend, Kathryn Kovarik

Another great friend we met last year was comedian Jonathan Pessin from L.A. So much fun to be around and another real supporter of Joslin. Another celeb guest was Jason Sehorn, formerly of the NY Giants and now with Fox Sports, who hosted the golf tournament.

I was so honored to speak at the dinner gala, held in the beautiful Marble House Mansion in Newport. Joslin is the worlds best diabetes research and treatment facility! I will support them until we cure this disease, so please join me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon, September 15, 2007 – 25th overall, 3rd place AG

Tugaloo is a hard race for Olympic distance, but I really like it. 1.5k swim, 42k bike, 10k run in north Georgia, about 1 hour out of Atlanta. It was the George State Championship and always attracts a good field from the southeast. A really hilly bike and run that lights a fire in the quads. I was anxious to race after my disaster at Ironman Louisville 3 weeks ago. I was really glad to do well at Tugaloo, 3rd out of 56 in my age group, top 25 out of 550 overall. Olympic distance is a lot of fun – none of the nutrition and pacing issues of Ironman, just go all out all the time! (I'd just gotten back from sweat testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute 5 days earlier. See below)

My swim was . . . decent. Good but not great. That story is getting kind of old, don’t you think? My swim split was 12th out of 56 in my age group, about where it usually is, top 20% or so. Tugaloo is a time trial swim start, which I like because I can immediately get “free water” and don’t have to battle the bodies so much. As usual, my Omnipod insulin pump did perfect on my left triceps (see cycling photo). Thanks Omnipod!

Did my usual quick finger prick check of the BS (that would be blood sugar) in T1 on my One Touch UltraMini meter. I hate to stop to finger prick blood in such a short race when every second really counts, but the One Touch gives me results in just 5 seconds and its always dependable! I need that peace of mind before I head out on the bike. There’s too much danger hammering 25 mph on the bike, 40 mph down hills, without knowing my blood sugar. It was good, 125 mg/dl.

I crushed the bike as hard as I could. I love this bike course. It is only 42k, a little over 26 miles, but real hilly. I bet my heart rate never got below my AT (anaerobic threshold) the whole time. That means I had lactic acid simmering in my quads for 26 miles. I think I was taking out some frustration from my pitiful performance and disastrous bike in Louisville. Last year I actually rode 50 seconds faster, but I think it was more windy this year. Averaged just over 23 mph, posting the 2nd fastest bike split in my age group - about where I usually am . . .good in the swim, really good on the bike. Now let’s see if I can be good on the run.

Starting the run I knew I was up among the leaders. There were about 550 in the race and I felt like I was in the top 20 – 30 overall. Hard to tell since it was a time trial swim start, so I did not know where some of the athletes started. This just makes you go all out the whole time (at least it does me) since you don’t really know exactly where you stand at any point. I felt really good on the run – “good” in a “this hurts like hell because I’m going as hard as I can” kinda way. I was holding about a 6:45 pace the first 4 miles, even though it was a murderously hilly and twisty course through a state park. Lots of turns and short ups and downs that really pummel your quads! One short descent was so steep a guy running just ahead of me almost wiped out. I’ve never scene that on the run.

I held my position almost the entire run. I was pleased to run just over a 43 minute 10k, a 7:00 minute pace, so I slowed a bit the last 2 miles but good enough for the 6th fastest run in my age group. So what does the 12th fastest swim, 2nd fastest bike, and 6th fastest run mean? 25th overall, 3rd in my age group, a little plaque and a little redemption from Louisville. Only 10 minutes separated the top 10 through 25, so it was really tight.

Next race for me is the South Carolina Half Ironman in 2 weeks. I’m hoping to get in the top 20 overall and win my age group. We’ll see. I’m going to go hard. See you then!

Testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute

Some people say the Ironman is 10% fitness and 90% nutrition. Perhaps a bit exaggerated, but you get the point. But for me racing Ironman with type 1 diabetes, it’s true. It’s the difference between a dreaded DNF (Did not Finish) vomiting or suffering in the medical tent, and hammering to the Finish Line.

I’ve had several unpleasant Ironman races that probably were caused by nothing other than nutrition and hydration mistakes. The ITU Long Course World Championship in Canberra, Australia in November, 2006 (race report) was one of those dehydration bad days. After that race, the medical staff with Team USA contacted the best place in the world to figure out my nutrition and hydration needs: The Gatorade Sports Science Institute. It took several months, and I quickly learned that they don’t let just anybody in there. GSSI is where some of the world’s best (i.e. highest paid) athletes have gone for testing – Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and other NBA and NFL greats. Amazing that they even let me in the door, so I made sure we worked fast before they wised up. Ha!

They weighed me when I arrived, recorded body fat and took a pre-test urine sample for electrolyte analysis. Then it was one hour on the bike at my “Ironman race pace.” The equipment is in a little chamber that reminds me of high school chemistry lab with a treadmill and stationary bike. They can adjust the temperature and humidity to any conditions. Some winter athletes (skiers) etc need testing in cold temperatures, other athletes need arid, dry heat, and some need humidity. The scientists and I selected a “hot and humid” testing condition for me to simulate most of my races and training.

They put sweat patches on my quads, chest, forehead, forearm and back, even a plastic bag over my left forearm and hand to collect several ounces of sweat. Then it was 1 hour of cycling. After the cycling, they weighed me again, took another urine sample, and within 10 minutes I was on the treadmill for another hour of running at an Ironman marathon race pace. After 2 hours of working out, one more trip to the scale and I was done.

The GSSI scientists analyzed the results and now I have a true picture of my nutrition and hydration needs. If you’re interested, they determined that I am a heavy sweater (I figured that was coming), sweating an average of 2.2 liters per hour. I have an extremely high sodium concentration in my sweat, 2.2 grams per liter. The test also showed that I need 75 – 85 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Factor in my often unpredictable high or low blood sugar from diabetes and the result is . . . . “high risk for dehydration and heat illness.” Uh, . . . ya' think? See Ironman Louiville.

Fortunately they gave me several nutrition and hydration recommendations to meet my needs. I look forward to experimenting with them in training and my next Ironman race!