Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Excuses, excuses

I've been really busy with the house construction lately. My wife and I are contracting it ourselves, and taking on additional responsibilities here and there. An ongoing job we've had has been cleaning up after all the contractors, and leveling the lot with dirt - see my 2 best friends below, Thomas and Percy.

I don't know what we were thinking, but we also took on the job of laying all of our tile ourselves. Wow, what a job. Even with knee pads, I still have calluses on my knees.

I think we might have a little drainage problem on our courtyard. The girls were going to help us by bailing out - it didn't take long for the fight to break out. Thank God no one got plague or cholera.

We had a great holiday weekend. Our oldest daughter turns 16 this week - she had a party Saturday with one of her friends whose birthday is also this week.

So I have not done much training since Gulf Coast tri. Excuses, excuses. But I did have my final fitting for my new BMC/Zipp/SRAM/CycleOps bike. I had it done at Precision Bikes with Mark Miller in Lafayette, LA - he was awesome. It's now fitted perfectly for me, and it's absolutely freaking incredible! I still cannot believe that it's mine, and I'm looking so forward to getting to know it a lot better.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

GCT - The Run

What can I say about the run? I got off the bike and changed into running clothes. It felt so good to have running shoes on. I left out of transition and felt the usual heavy legs. We ran along the beach area for a while, then started doing turns through neighborhoods. Some of the locals were grilling and having a great time along the course. Some manned their hoses to water us down - their support was awesome.

I found it really difficult to get into the run for the first 6 miles or so - I just couldn't find a comfortable pace, and nothing seemed to be working right. I tried to settle in, and focused on fluids at the aid stations - it was very hot by this time, and there was no shade at all on this course. I also took a Gu at mile 6 which I think helped a lot. The midpoint of the run is a state park on the beach that is desolate, sandy, and hot. Somehow, during the run through this place, I settled in and started feeling better. I picked up my pace and felt like a horse headed for the barn.

Got through the second half much easier than the first. My daughters were waiting for me at the end, and 2 of them ran across the line with me - the other 2 ran across with Lisa. What a relief to be able to stop moving!

In the end, I'm very happy with the Gulf Coast Triathlon. I think the conditions weren't ideal this year, but they weren't ideal for anyone - we're all in the same boat. I was not able to train as much as I wanted to because of our building our house right now, but things will slow down soon as we finish construction.

Watch out, Steelhead.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

GCT - The Bike

I started off the bike with a stomach full of sea water from the swim. I drank some plain water in transition, rationalizing that I could dilute the sea water into Gatorade. I had one water bottle on my bike with one empty cage - I planned to pick up a Gatorade at the first aid station at mile 10.

Within the first 10 miles, I saw 3 or 4 people walking back to transition with their bikes on their backs - obviously their race was over for whatever reason. At the first aid station, I grabbed a bottle of orange Endurance, opened the top, and took a few sips. I went to put it into the cage in front of my seat and the cage broke - off went my bottle. Luckily it didn't get tangled in my bike and flip me over (or anyone else). That left me with one bottle of water in one cage, but there were aid stations every 10 miles.

The course was an out and back for the most part. The ride out was with the wind, the ride back in was against the wind. That's exactly opposite of what I like. The roads for the most part were smooth and flat. There was one hill - a bridge we had to cross on the way out and the way back in.

The ride back in was tough. Mentally, things got a lot easier around mile 45, especially once we got back to the beach area.

Final bike time 3:13 - I was hoping for under 3 hours.

But guess what - no crashes, no flats. And, boy, it always feels so good to get off the bike, no matter what your time is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GCT - The Swim

The night before the race was pretty low key. I went to bed early and went right to sleep. Woke up several times during the night, wondering if I had overslept. Finally got up, got all of our stuff together, and headed over to transition.

We got to transition about 30 minutes before the race start. Organized everything for the bike and the run, and took all my swim stuff to the beach. While I was pulling on my wetsuit, my wife and I saw Shirly Perly and her husband Dave - it was great to meet them in person. We all marveled at the Gulf, and hoped the swim would go OK.

The start was a wave start, and mine was one of the last waves. I stood and watched as each wave took off, wetsuits and swim caps bobbing up and over crashing waves in the surf. Finally my wave was called into the waiting area, and after 5 minutes we were off.

Getting through the breakers was difficult. I finally decided just to go under them as they broke. The water was cold as it seeped through my wetsuit. I finally got out far enough that I could start to actually swim. It was almost like we were swimming in a fog - there was just chaos, with a bunch of swimmers, all being swirled around in waves up and down.

It was very easy to lose your course - the only way to see the buoys was to look when I was at the peak of a wave. There was an overcast sky which dulled the color of the green and orange buoys against the horizon. I constantly had to spot, with the rough water tossing me around. The course was out 900 yds, over 200, then back in 900.

Right at about 1100 yards, as I turned the first inbound buoy, I decided to stop looking for buoys and just spot off of the resort back on the beach - it was much easier to see. As I put my face back in the water to swim, I saw immediately beneath me a fish that was about half my length. Now I know my goggles magnify somewhat, but it seemed close enough for me to reach out and touch it. I looked more closely at it to figure out what kind of fish it was. Hummm...bluish gray color, torpedo shape, dorsal fin, no scales. It was a very small shark, and it was hovering right under me. Strangely, I had no sense of fear or panic because it was so small. It swam below me maybe 20 or 30 seconds, then it was gone. It was actually a pretty cool experience. Once it was out of sight, I got back to the task of plugging away at getting back to shore.

I reached the second sand bar, walked across it, then swam the rest of the way in, trying to avoid being slammed by a breaker. I got back on shore, took off my wetsuit, and showered the salt water off in a run-through shower.

Final swim time was 49 minutes, which I was thrilled with, given the conditions.

I learned after the race was over that 38 year old Patrick Kane had died on the swim that morning. I'm still very disturbed by this fact, and very saddened for his family.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

GCT race report - Part 1

I'm back from the Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 - it was quite an experience.

Overall time - 6:42. Only other 70.3 - Steelhead 2006, 7:52.

It's gonna take me several posts to cover all the details.

We drove 6.5 hours down to Panama City Beach on Friday. The car was packed - remember, I travel with 5 women. I mistakenly thought that I would have the most bags packed, with all the tri stuff I had to bring. Ha - wrong. None of them know what they're going to feel like wearing, so they bring everything they might want to wear. Also, no can seem to sync their bladders on these long car trips - someone's always got to go.

We arrived in PCB in the early afternoon, and headed for registration. We walked around the expo a bit, and racked our bikes. Then we headed for the beach with the kids.

Let's talk about sharks. I was very disturbed recently by the death of the triathlete in California who was attacked by the great white. Florida is even worse than California in terms of shark attacks. So we're on the beach in PCB at 3:00 in the afternoon. I'm playing in the surf with my 13 and 11 year old daughters. My wife and older daughters are laying out on the beach. I go and sit in the sand at the water's edge to rest a while. The younger girls come out of the water to tell me they saw some sting rays swimming in a circle, which sounds really strange to me. They point to what they're talking about. I look up and not 15 feet from me in 2 feet of water is an 8 foot shark! Totally freaked everyone at the beach. Some young guys from PCB said it was probably a sand shark going after small fish in shallow water, and it wouldn't attack humans. They said the bad sharks like bulls are out past the second sand bar. I thought to myself, "Yeah, where we'll be swimming tomorrow morning at 6:15 am - feeding time!"

My wife was really freaked out about it all. Her intial reaction was to call the whole thing off for herself. Then we saw Ryan, a fellow blogger, who is from Pensacola - he did a good job of calming things down by explaining that, although there are plenty of sharks in the Gulf, they would all pretty much scatter with all of the activity of the triathlon traffic. All but one, that is. More about that when I tell you about my swim.

A bit about my race nutrition. I had a long discussion with my Vision Quest coach Dan prior to GCT. He gave me several good pointers for pre-race issues, like don't eat a bunch of fiber the day before the race - too much bulk in the gut the following day. He advised me not to drink Gatorade or take gels before the race - those don't mix well with all the salt water I'd drink on the swim (and did I drink a bunch!). For breakfast, have a starch (like a bagel) with some fat on it (like peanut butter or cream cheese) - the fat slows absorption of the carbs somewhat for the race. He thought on the bike that I would need about one gel per hour, which I did, and another gel about 6 or 7 miles into the run, which I also did. I brought some crackers on the bike with me also and snacked on a few of those as I rode - he thought it was a good idea to have some food with me that had a little substance to it. Hydration-wise, on the bike I had water and Gatorade bottles on my bike - I think I drank 2 bottles of water, and 1 bottle of Gatorade. On the run, Dan told me to drink at each mile at the aid station - a few sips of Gatorade and a few gulps of water would be all that I needed. He was right.

Overall, I feel my nutrition plan was good. I was not hungry at all at the end - I usually finish long events starving. I was never nauseated or thirsty, either. I was very happy with nutrition and hydration, and hope things will be the same in November.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


When it comes to food, I am a southern Louisiana boy through and through.

I like crawfish. I like fried crawfish. I like fried crawfish mopped through buttery etouffee sauce. After fried hush puppies. And a cup of gumbo. With a side of cheesy seafood fettucini. With a big draft beer. Before a rich dessert like bananas foster. And a nightcap. And fried beignets the next morning. With creamy cafe-au-lait. And lots of sugar.

I make no excuses for liking these foods. In fact, I love them. It's what I grew up on - it's ingrained into me. I have no desire to ever remove these foods from my diet. To do so would be nearly impossible, as it's so much a part of our Cajun culture. Call it denial. Call it self-destructive behavior. Call it what you want - they stay.

In moderation, of course, and countered with exercise, but they stay.

As a physician, I see what poor nutrition habits can do to a body. The obesity epidemic is real, and the prevalence of obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc., is staggering. A poor diet, coupled with physical inactivity, can be devastating. And we're not just talking about morbid obesity, either. We know that carrying around as little as 15-20 extra pounds in visceral fat long-term can be very damaging, also.

I've decided to study nutrition, especially as it relates to my full distance Ironman. As a physician, I feel I have a lot to learn and a lot of opportunities to share what I learn. Weight management is an important part of nutrition and a big motivator of people monitoring their eating patterns. But I'm more interested in how my diet affects so many other things in my life other than my weight - cancer prevention, energy levels during the day/during tri events, moods, arthritis, life longevity, mentation, etc.

I would also like to focus on triathlon/endurance sports nutrition so that I can try to optimize my performance in November at Ironman Florida. It seems like nutrition is so important to get right for good performance at an endurance event, yet so many get it wrong and tank. Why is that? I'd like to study the mistakes people make so that I don't make them, too.

I'm really not looking for major changes in my diet. We all know that major changes in behavior don't usually stick anyway. What I am looking for is easy, small changes I can make that will possibly help me live a longer, healthier, happier life. Why not?

I am a physician, but I am no expert in nutrition. I will study nutrition and share what I learn in my future posts, or as my future posts. If you have any burning questions about general nutrition or nutrition in endurance sports, let me know - I'll look it up for you.

Right after I eat my big bowl of Blue Bell ice cream. With chocolate syrup. And crushed Oreos.