Coach Patrick’s October Recap / November Planning

I spent the better part of October not training. I have to be honest and say that this is my favorite time of the year. :-) I am adamant about taking two weeks off from total exercise at the end of every season. It's all too easy to get back into training when my body is not ready; I consider this the price I pay for being active the other 50 weeks of the year.

Not all was lost however, as I continue to remain focused on my food and I was very active in my regular scheduled life. The sheer amount of house projects I have postponed have made for a fantastic transition training plan!!!

I also used this time to lay out a tentative plan for the 2016 season. This is a large part of why I enjoy this time of year: nothing motivates me like setting big goals in trying to figure out how to achieve them.

In 2016 I will be racing both Texas and Chattanooga. I chose Texas because I'm looking for a fast race, Chattanooga because it's a Team event. you're nicely into two parts that will give me plenty of opportunity to both train up but also recover between events.

The goal is a pretty audacious one – I am targeting the nine-hour barrier.

I have to be honest and say that it's hard for me even to look at that sentence on my screen. It's an incredible leap from where I am now, but certainly within reach. I have to be honest with myself – I have one or two more years of peak endurance performance before the tide begins to shift!

I feel like the past two years has seen a solid progression in both my fitness and my ability to execute. I have had two sub 9:30 minute races in Texas and a low 9:30 at Tremblant; my bike splits are consistently under five hours regardless of the course.

The biggest confidence booster however, is my most recent performance in Hawaii. I really feel like that race represents the pinnacle of my ability to plan – and execute! – a solid race.

All of that said, aiming for nine hours means making some significant changes to my program.

Most of all I need to get back on the swim train. I really need to have this close to one hour swim as possible. This will be challenging in Texas because it is a non-wetsuit legal swim; definitely attainable in Chattanooga given the currents of the river. Regardless, you will definitely see me swimming a lot more if you follow me on Strava!!!

The bike will be what it is. I will continue to work towards being able to hold closer to .74 versus .7 on race day. At Texas this “should” net me a 4:36 bike; in Chattanooga my time is predicted to be closer to 4:50 (this is where a faster swim time will help!).

Either way, the magic has to happen on the run. I am very pleased with my body composition work for the season. I'm going to do my best to maintain that heading into 2016. My run execution has been good, but not great. I have run a 3:15 in Texas before so there's hope for a faster run if I can speed up my transitions and stay cool while keeping the effort up. Chattanooga will be another story altogether, the run course there is LEGIT. I have run a 3:18 at Lake Placid, so I know I have the ability to run fast in the hills. Now we just have to see if it's possible on race day.

But enough of playing the time game. What am I actually doing?

My early-season focus has been exclusively on the run. I will be building up for approximately 10 weeks, my goal is to have two big run weeks north of 60 miles. I am also spending some good time in the pool. It's hard not to be on my bike right now, especially given the beautiful fall weather. But I have a much greater incentive to improve my runs and swim times… So I need to invest my time wisely.

I will transition from this one focus to a six-week high intensity block very similar to the else is to get rejuvenated. Then it's on to a more traditional Ironman training program into Texas. Along the way I will be doing my usual training events: the January volume camp in Clermont, Florida (slots still open, join me here) as well as some form of training weekend in Texas (mid-March). Of course, there will be the annual pilgrimage to North Carolina for our Blue Ridge Cycling Camp (waitlist open, info and sign up here).

Thanks for reading, and as always thanks for your continued support and daily motivation. I am going to need your expertise and advice more than ever as I embark on this journey.

Let's Crush 2016 Together!!!

~ Coach P

2014 Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report -- 9:37, 3rd AG, 25th OA!

Short Version

For those of you who skip to the end of the book, here's your shortcut to save you from scrolling all the way down the page. I went 9:37 good enough for 3rd AG, 25th OA and earn my sixth trip to the World Championships.


This was an interesting year for me as I was returning from my not-so-great 2013 campaign of two collarbone surgeries -- August to put a plate in; November to take the infected plate out. From mid-August to essentially January I was under strict "no sweating!" guidelines to reduce the chance of infection. 4.5 months of minimal physical exertion when 96% of my body was 100% fine -- ugh.

Many of you reading this helped me make it through that tough time -- either directly or indirectly -- and I want you to know that I super appreciate it.

The Long Season

I skipped the OutSeason (Endurance Nation's winter training program) for the first time since I don't know when. Instead I went into a run-focused build-up as the Boston Marathon was on my calendar. Since I wasn't running with intensity, I turned it into a volume game and logged lots of long slow runs including a 40-miler on my 40th birthday.

It was off Texas to run another Endurance Nation PreRace Training Camp in The Woodlands. It was nice to get back on the bike for some long rides and to connect with teammates new and old.

Then it was off to Boston where I ran my slowest time ever, clearly feeling the effects of inconsistent training and getting carried away with my birthday.

Then a quick turnaround to the Blue Ridge Cycling Camp, Rev3Quassy, and our 12th consecutive Lake Placid Camp. Along the way my bike and run fitness were moving along and I was slowly working on the swim. Rev3Quassy was encouraging as I was 10 minutes faster than the prior year on less training -- and my shoulder didn't hurt in the swim.

Fast forward to July and it was all Tremblant time. We ran our first training camp up here, putting 20 folks through the bike course (twice!) and swimming once and doing one full loop of the run. It was really important for me to see the venue/course in order to put my race plan together. I thought both the bike and run courses were fair but challenging, and it was great to mentally prepare for the parts that we're going to be sneaky hard on race day.

Over the final 8 weeks I was actually training for a race again. It was exciting but nerve-wracking; I could only look at numbers from past years of training and things looked pretty solid. My run times were close, my bike fitness was better and swimming seemed equal. I targeted body composition (salad anyone?) for an additional edge and rolled into race week ready to go but as nervous as a newbie...not having raced since Kona 2012.

Race Week

I was really excited to see the Team here in Tremblant. Between racers and supporters, it was a veritable Who's Who of Endurance Nation -- veterans to newbies. Our Team Dinner saw 75+ people on hand and the Four Keys talk was also similarly well-attended. But the question on everyone's mind was the weather.

All week it was wet and cold. It's cooler here in the foothills of The Laurentians, so everyday starts in mid-fifties. But the clouds and rain were keeping the temps in the mid-sixties vs the typical mid-seventies. I had to adjust my T1 plan to allow for arm warmers instead of coolers and light gloves. I spent the rest of the week obsessing about my bike, my gear bags, etc.

Race Morning

It was dry and I didn't care about much else. :) Temps were good and it was a 3-minute walk from the room to transition. I was body marked and confirmed bike and bags were all set. It was off to swim start and Team picture at 5:45...perhaps my fastest pre-race check ever.

It was great to see the Team one last time and get some hi-fives and hugs with that knowing look in the eyes. Ironman means so much in different ways to everyone; and JT Thompson kept it real with some awesome energy.

I dropped off my Dry Clothes bag and headed to the warm up area. I had my final gel and then got in a nice 15-minute warm up swim...a first for me. Over to the start and lined up in my wave. As we waited for our turn we cheered on the folks who ran past us, having missed their start times. :)

The Swim - 1:03:4x

With the wave swim approach in effect, I "just" had 343 people to contend with. I was on the buoy line and second row. The gun goes off and we all wade in; after the first wave dove I gave it a second and then swam inside the buoy line. I was literally untouched until the 1,000 meter mark when a poor swimmer from Wave 2 hit me with some whip kick action.

With the wind from the NorthWest, we had a little headwind/chop to contend with. Nothing as bad as I usually have at home, but it was enough to be disruptive. The turns were a bit crowded but on the return I was right back inside the line for a free ride back. I only wandered a bit off course here, so I was pumped to hear Mike Reilly say that my group was swimming 1:07 to 1:10 -- as I was 6' behind Wave One that meant I was about a 1:04.

T1: Swim to Bike

This is a long run on the road, but I had plenty of shouts and didn't know that my calves (with EN tattoos of course). My bag was in the second row, 9th bag, and in line with the entrance to the changing area. Run. Grab. Run. Shoes. Helmet. Walk to bike.

I took a minute to put some food in my trishort pockets...probably lost 30" there as it wasn't easy...much easier when riding so I need to figure that out. Then again I lost food time by putting on arm warmers too. I did make the game time decision not to use my gloves as I didn’t feel that cold and I was concerned I might not be able to access my food / pockets with them on. Easy trip to my bike and a simple mount and I was off.

The Bike -- 5:08:xx

I got clipped in and started the computer. powermeter. Tried powermeter. Turned off Garmin and powermeter. Then, after about three minutes of just coming to terms with no powermeter I tried again and success!  This was the first time I turned on my Garmin, synced it up and then left it on while I maybe that’s par for the course?

My goals for the bike were to ride about 250 watts, normalized power. I expected to see some higher numbers in the 275 range for steep hills, but I was confident I could do it. I ended up riding 244w NP, which is my best ever in an IM. And that included seven rolling pee breaks as it was pretty cool but I kept on drinking like a fool. My Variability Index was 5% of my watts into space, but all in I was happy with how I rode the day.

The course is beautiful, but early on there were NO MARSHALS. One of the pros had crashed and they were all there, it seemed, as I passed. So on the outbound section of 117 on lap one was crazy. I was passed on the right side at least ten times (!) but most of this was because the draft packs were terrible.

I don’t mean “race drafting” whereby there are groups together as in Kona, I mean straight up, two inches from the wheel in front of me, not using my aerobars, and coasting type drafting. I honestly didn’t think triathletes could draft _that_ well. It was about this time that John Withrow rolled up, pulling 5 guys that had just jumped off my wheel...we made a few jokes but quickly decided to just let them go. This allowed me to refocus on my pacing and nutrition as I could tell the headwind we had out was going to be much harder on the second lap.

The road quality was awesome; you could actually put your head down and ride super aero unlike many other courses. But the hills of Lac Superior were legit. It’s one thing to ride them in training or pre-race, it’s another after a swim and a solid first 48 miles. I did my best to hold the power down and be smart, and almost everyone around me was standing up and killing themselves which gave me consolation. I even saw my family on the start of the second lap, which was a huge emotional boost.

The second lap of the bike was still cloudy and the winds had totally picked up. I really got aero and passed a ton of folks out here, including several of the jokers doing the early race drafting. Things started to get really quiet, with no one passing me after mile 15 of the bike and me slowly eating up the faders. The second climb series was harder but I was able to stay in my box. I was really passing folks on the downhill sections now as they were shelled from climbing.

Overall I was really worried about the bike and my competition, but four plus hours at some solid watts really sorts everything out. I need to remember that. For the data geeks, here the “main” file on Strava -- it’s missing the first ½ mile due to no powermeter.

T2: Bike to Run

I had a solid dismount thanks to Tim Cronk’s previous race reports (thanks!) and hit the tent. Got my bag and got to work. With my socks, shoes, race number and FuelBelt on, I started walking out of the tent with my ziplock bag to put on my hat, arm coolers, watch and stock up on more food and salt while walking (thanks Al Truscott for this tip!). I saw my family and walked over to give them a kiss and check in.

The Run - 3:17:xx

I had no idea where I was in my AG when I started, but I figured I was doing fairly well given how quiet things were. My only target was to run with my heart rate between 140 and 145 beats per minute, after keeping it as low as possible in the first 2.5 miles due to the steep hills.

Outbound on the first lap was pretty darn quiet. I didn’t pass the first runner until mile four! Running back in I could see a lot of really really fit doodes near me. Somewhere in here I was passed by the second and third place female PROs as well, so another sign things were going pretty well. Returning over the hills to town my heart rate felt good low (sub-140) and I kept it there. I was drinking and using ice as the sun had come out...and I would go on to pee a total of five times on the run (yes, while running).

Just before the end of Lap One, super Endurance Nation athlete Tim Cronk let me know I was in sixth place in my AG. I figured there were seven slots based on Lake Placid so I knew there was work to be done. Ran through town to high five the family and start the second lap.

Lap Two was insanely crowded. Tons of folks were still running but the roads and especially the bike path were like the mall during a Black Friday sale. I had to run off the side, on the wrong side, everywhere but straight. It was here, about mile 15.5 where I was passed by another person in my AG, putting me into 7th place and on the bubble.

I worked hard to keep up with him but he was moving and eventually I lost him in the crowds. I just kept running at my pace and made a commitment to run the rest of the aid stations (no more walk breaks!) and keep the pressure on. No eye contact with the folks behind me after the turn around -- game face time!

In here I saw a motorcycle escorting the third place female PRO, so I started stalking her. That gave me a good carrot to follow and I was really in the zone. No more “HIs” or high fives for the Team or fans...I was hurting switching to mainly coke and keeping the pressure on. About mile 22.5 I saw sixth place in my AG again and he was coming back to me! I started doing the mental math on what it would take and planned to make the pass just before mile 26 as we climbed into town. Running un and downhill was really taking it’s toll, but mentally I was in the zone.

About mile 25, trying to pass a clump of walkers, I bumped someone and my Garmin 305 flew off -- so no splits or HR data for me, sorry! -- and right after on a very steep hill at mile 25 I made the pass. I ran as hard as I humanly could over the last mile, and could see at the Special Needs area loop that he was not on my heels. I did my best to enjoy the final crowds through the downtown area while I chased down the third place female PRO.

I realized I was going to crash her finish party in the last moment, but there was no way to stop my legs. I just flashed the EN gang sign and then went to congratulate her on a great race.

The Finish - 9:37:xx, 3rd AG and 25th OA

Imagine my surprise when I found out I was third in my AG. Turns out that fourth and fifth place had cracked on the second lap and were lost in the crowds of other runners. It was great to see my biggest fans right behind the finish; apparently they had no issue finding me with the massive EN billboard on my head and the other EN kit, EN tattoos and EN gang sign display. That had alone probably cost me 10” per mile in wind resistance! :)

Lessons Learned

Overall I was super pumped at how well I stayed in the game menally for the run, and reaped the reward of third place. In retrospect I also made a great decision to let the early drafters go and follow my own pacing on the bike.

It is also interesting to see that I am still so engaged in racing Ironman. This was my 19th Ironman, and I am still into it. Even crazier for me to think is that this was the sixth consecutive Ironman in which I have raced and qualified for Kona. I missed two years for my broken hip (2010) and my collarbone (2013), but otherwise my performances have kept me in contention in my age group regardless of my race choice. That is definitely NOT lost on me.

I think there are some places I could improve for my next race:

  • I need to work on flexibility of my hamstrings and lower back as I had some relatively early discomfort on the bike.

  • I have to do a better job of staying super aero. I spent a lot of time looking up the road for some reason and really caught myself in hour four just not being aero enough.

  • I really like the Freezer Ziplock transition trick and will keep that for the future.

  • I was a bit aggressive with my effort on the bike and will need to be careful on days that it’s not so cool / overcast.

  • I will take confidence in my running form / comfort in the early miles. I was lower than my goal HR (never looked at pace) and it paid off with the ability to really focus over the final 8 miles.

Finally, THANKS!

So many of you have supported me over the years. Some of you directly with advice, comfort and a kick in the pants. Others have been leaders for me; just by following your exploits and hard work I am educated and inspired to improve every year, every race.  

Some of you have really risen above and beyond as my journey continues -- my amazing wife Maura and my two girls who put up with my training and general geeking out.

My good friend and stalwart supporter, Vinu Malik who has given so much -- starting before my first Ironman in Florida back in 2001!!!! -- to make sure I am at my best for every event.

To my fellow teammates who continue to raise their own personal bars and make us all better by association..I am so proud of you all and can’t wait to hear about your races and support you in your next endeavor!

Boston Marathon 2013 Race Report

My attempt at running the Boston Marathon in 2013 was one of good intentions and a whole lot of reality. I had initially signed up to do it as part of build to a mid-season Ironman (Placid or Tremblant). But then I opted for a late-season race for some "breathing room" after 4 IMs in 16 months had me beat up, so Boston was going to be a target race since I'd have plenty of time to recover. But then my world turned upside down early in the year, meaning I had great intentions but little to work with on the fitness side. 

My longest run had been a 15 miler, about eight weeks prior to race day. I began to have some foot pain so I cut the running back and thanks to some ART work (Chiropractic Performance rocks!). I was still hitting the bike with some intensity and quality, but nothing major. Stress levels meant I really wasn't focused on the diet and I came into race day about at about 193 knowing that I had the fitness to run a great half marathon. 

Race morning was great heading out to Hopkinton with my friends. I wasn't as nervous as I was excited for my first race since October of last year, and my first Boston since 2011's tailwind year. Pre-race was uneventful and pretty fun. I was in my corral with 5' to go to the start...beautiful weather on tap and 20,000+ running friends to share it with!!!

The Early Miles

Things started out with a huge emphasis on fun. It took about four minutes to hit the starting line and starting the watch. Nothing like a 1,000+ watches "beeping" simultaneously!  The early miles were the usual craziness. Everyone swerving and dodging to get into a better position, endangering others along the way. I think the biggest offender was around mile three, with a runner literally walking backwards through the field. Just crazy. 

Hitting My Stride: Miles 3 to 13

By about Mile Three I was feeling pretty good and was feeling okay. I wasn't really looking at the watch but in retrospect these miles were just slightly too fast. I had 7:00/mile fitness but I was turning in 6:50s or slightly better. 

By the time I hit halfway, I was at 1:30 and on pace for a good day. I could tell that I was accelerating based on the clocks for each mile, but it didn't feel that hard....yet....

Taking A Break (and Bonus Family Time!): Mile 14

By the time I made it through the awesome Wellesley cheering section and the town of Wellesley, I needed a quick pit stop. I used the stop to also tighten my laces and then it was off to find the clan.

They were at mile 14-ish, on the right, with the EN flag. So great to see them out there and get some great hi fives! What a lift!

The (Downhill) Hurt Begins: Mile 15

Soon after seeing the family we begin a serious decent into Newton Lower Falls...and it was here that my quads started to really bark at me. As in how they feel the day after the race, except I am still racing...can't be good. This was one of my slower early miles, if only because I couldn't actually run down the hill. 

I began planning ahead for the hills of Newton. I knew I'd be okay heading up or going flat, but that the downhills would be trouble. I paced the hills pretty well only loosing 10 to 20 seconds per mile off my average pace at the time. The crowds certainly helped, as did some extra special coke thanks to Breakthrough Performance Coaching!!

My worst mile on the day was in here, trying to will myself down the other side of Heartbreak Hill. My legs were veritably locked here, and I was really worried about the final 10k of the race. 

Pushing Through the Fog (Not A Wall this Time): Final 5 miles

I saw Todd from TTBikeFit in Cleveland Circle and I could tell by how he looked at me that it wasn't pretty. Probably worse than I thought. This was all a mental game of convincing myself that every mile was one closer to the finish and that stopping wasn't an option. 

I did walk for 10 seconds after an aid station around mile 22 or 23...but then I was back at it. Coming into Kenmore Square was great, and by the time I got there I knew I would be under the 3:10 qualifying benchmark. 

Running up Hereford and then left on Boylston remains just an epic that every serious runner just has to experience. I was able to kick it up a gear and finish with a really awesome grimace on my face. 

Future Changes

I will be back next year to race in 2014, and I will be targeting the race as an "A" event for me. I think the biggest deltas I can make are on body composition (8 lbs overweight hurts!!) and on my cadence. It was about 86 per minute early on, and I think that slightly longer stride might have been partly what hurt me.

The Post Race Blur

The tragic events of the marathon bombing have affected so many of us, our friends and our running family. It has put a lot of what I do into much greater perspective, and has really shown just how great a community we have here as endurance athletes. To learn more about how you can help, please view this additional post on the Marathon Nation blog