Sunday, December 16, 2012


Whenever there is behavior change, there are setbacks.  I refer to these setbacks as "speed bumps" because it really isn't a major setback but rather something that makes you slow down and proceed with caution.  I had one of the speed bumps last week in my preparation to pace one of my athletes for the Brazil 135 in January.

The week prior, I had covered 22 miles for my long run so I had plans to progress to 24-25 miles the following week (actually 9 days later).  The run started out great as I shared a few miles with my wife then parted ways for a few miles and then had the opportunity to run with one of my athletes, Brandon, for about 6 miles.  All was good, energy was high and I left Brandon around mile 15 to continue on my long run journey.

At mile 19, I began feeling a bit of discomfort along my left IT band and knew immediately what was  in store.  I had IT band issues during the early days of Ironman racing and had "fond" memories of the imbalance.  I was about 6 miles from home and continued on, slowing my pace, in hopes that it would not make it worse.

It wasn't until about mile 22 when I really started to feel it and had to alternate slow running with walk breaks.  I even picked up a smooth rock along the way and would massage the muscle belly in my gluteal region during my walk breaks as that alleviated some of the pain.

Upon arriving home, I immediately rolled on my TP Therapy Grid and begin some self massage to help the recovery.  As with almost any IT band issue, it is usually not the IT band itself but the muscles above it that cause it to track differently across the knee, causing pain.  I could pinpoint that it was my piriformis and spent a bit of time nurturing the muscle.  The next 2 days were a bit painful but after that, and very aggressive rehab with the Grid and massage, I was able to walk without pain.  

It is obvious to me that my body is not happy with the somewhat abrupt increase in running miles in preparation for the Brazil 135.  My new plan to be able to pace my athlete for Brazil next month is to run more frequently but cover moderate distances (12-18 miles) rather than one monster long run per week.  Frequency often times supports better mechanics and overall fitness.  Acknowledging this speed bump and making slight alterations will allow me to get in more quality miles without as big of a stress on my musculoskeletal system.

The very good news about that 25 mile run was my nutrition.  My energy level remained very constant during and I only consumed 100 calories worth of chocolate Generation UCAN, 20 ounces of water and 3 SaltStick capsules during my 3 hour and 30 minute effort.  Prior to the run, I had my normal breakfast/smoothie concoction that I have written about previously.

I have also been experimenting with my daily carbohydrate intake and periodizing it to my training sessions (some days less, some days more carbohydrate).  More on that in my next blog post.

Lesson of the day: you will encounter speed bumps in life and sport.  What matters is how you let them affect you and what you will do once you encounter them.  While I was a bit upset at this IT band issue at first, I was able to turn that negative energy into developing a new plan that will still help me achieve my goal but by following a different path.

In life, there are many paths we can take.  Some right, some wrong.  Sometimes you don't know if they will lead you in the right direction until you embark on the journey.  Be sure that you constantly reevaluate your path and have a plan in case one path doesn't work out the way you had planned.

Until next time...Happy Holidays!

Coach Bob

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Training Adaptations

I have been emphasizing my nutritional changes throughout my nutrition experiment (with good reason) but I have had many comments and questions pertaining to my training and the adaptations taking place.  Since I am fresh off my long run, I thought I would review what has been happening in the last four weeks in terms of my training.

First off, I have been sick for the last 10 days (which led to laryngitis for 4 days).  I am just getting over this now and combined with my crazy travel schedule as of late, I admit that finding the time to run, swim and strength training (I'm not cycling too much) has been challenging.  The illness put a damper on my long runs but my basic goal the past five weeks was to try to hit the pool 2-3 times per week and run 3-4 times per week, even if the runs were short on a hotel treadmill.  Doing an ultra is all about time on feet and I'm not new to this type of training regimen.  Any opportunity I have to walk around or be on my feet has been beneficial.  Thus, all of my presentations and walking endless miles through airports and parking lots have actually been a blessing in disguise!

Let me get to my long runs and provide you the progression that has happened in the last five weeks:

  • Week of October 15: long run of 18 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:27 min/mile, 751 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 268 (a measure of training stress score that I monitor in Training Peaks)

  • Week of October 22: long run of 14 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 794 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 287

  • Week of October 29: Metabolic efficiency testing week; long run consisted of 7 miles during my test; weekly TSS of 108

  • Week of November 5: long run split due to time, treadmill runs of 2x8 miles separated by 4 hours, average pace of each 7:38 min/mile; weekly TSS of 87

  • Week of November 12: long run of 13 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 741 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 136

  • Week of November 19: long run of 22 miles, felt great, no calories on this run and only 20 ounces of water that took just over 3 hours, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 1470 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 306

It appears that my physical training adaptations are progressing, even in spite of not putting in many miles (or as many as I should with the ultra 7 weeks away!).  This further supports the fact that exercise, while a very important part of the metabolic efficiency improvement equation, only accounts for up to 25%.  The most robust changes come from altering the nutrition.

This high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate nutrition plan has been nothing short of spectacular for my body and I hope you can see by the distances, vertical feet gained and paces, that my body is adapting from the physical side as well.

Just a small tidbit (because I know I will get asked) about today's 22 mile run:

  • 7:30: breakfast of 3 eggs fried in coconut oil, 4 sausage links, 16 ounces of smoothie (pineapple, banana, coconut, coconut milk, half and half, olive oil, chia seed gel, whey protein powder, ice); roughly 35 grams of carbohydrate

  • 9:45: pre-run snack of 1 tbsp natural peanut butter with 1 tbsp homemade chocolate coconut butter; roughly 8 grams of carbohydrate

  • Long run: 20 ounces of water, no calories, energy level was fine

  • Post-long run: not too hungry but dehydrated, had 3 ounces of pineapple juice with water, 10 almonds and iced tea (caffeine free); roughly 8 grams of carbohydrate

I am off to enjoy my recovery by putting on my 110 Play Harder compression tights.  Tomorrow morning is masters swim practice with Coach Susan from Elite Multisport Coaching, which always promises to be challenging!

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chocoholic no more!

It's no secret that I love my chocolate (at least I didn't think it was!).  Always have and up until the last few weeks, I thought I always would.  My nutrition experiment has had many profound changes as you have read about in my previous blog posts but none more shocking than my recent response to chocolate that I had.

After initially beginning my high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate experiment on October 1, 2012, I immediately noticed that my cravings for anything with sugar in it subsided.  I have to admit that it was a bit odd but I listened to my body and did not feed it anything that it did not want.  About a week ago, I decided (even though I wasn't "attracted" to it) to try chocolate again to test the waters out a bit.

I chose my favorite of course, dark chocolate, and begin with one small morsel that I allowed to melt in my mouth.  I like to enjoy these pleasures slowly because, as I always tell others, your taste buds are on your tongue, not in your stomach.  There is no rush to get the food down the hatch, especially when it comes to something as delicious as chocolate!  So, my chocolate experiment went something like this:

  • Old self: "oh boy, I can't wait, this is going to be SO good!"
  • Eat chocolate, let it dissolve in my mouth...
  • New self (adapted to low carb, high fat diet): "Hmmm...that doesn't taste like I remember it.  Should I try another?"
Okay, so when I ask myself if I should try more chocolate, there is something going on.  In the past, I would shovel in my mouth without question but now, now I am questioning it?  What's going on?

Well, of course, I know exactly what is going on.  This nutrition experiment is such a robust way of controlling blood sugar (and improving metabolic efficiency by the way), that my sugar cravings have disappeared.  I'm not sure how I feel about this based on my past relationship with chocolate just yet but I will tell you that living life without cravings now is liberating.  I no longer begin my days wondering when the cravings will rear their ugly heads.  I now have control over my body more because of optimizing my blood sugar and I am able to listen to my hunger and satiety cues much better now that my sugar cravings have been put to rest.

This is more support of the intense relationship between nutrients and hormones as it relates to eating.  No matter how you do it, be sure to put controlling your blood sugar as top priority in your life as you enter this holiday season.

Oh, and if you are wondering, for the first time in a VERY long time, my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of turkey (white and dark meat) with mayonnaise on top, a small serving (like 6-7 pieces) of green bean casserole, 5 of my cauliflower/bacon/cheese "biscuits" and my choice of beverage was half and half/coconut milk mixed with one scoop of Life Time Fitness chocolate whey protein powder (yes, I brought it to Thanksgiving dinner because I knew I needed some fat!).  My normal gorge of dessert was replaced with having one bite (yes, I was able to stop quite easily) of my wife's homemade pumpkin/cream cheese roll.

There you have up is another Metabolic Efficiency test in a couple of weeks followed by a very comprehensive blood work panel that will explore many other health markers, thanks to my friends at Life Time Fitness.  Results coming...

Coach Bob

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The results are in...

Survey says...well, I'm not quite sure there are words to describe the results that I have discovered in the past 4 weeks of my nutrition experiment.  Before I divulge the quantitative data which, to be honest, was the icing on the cake for me, let me recap what I have been up to these last 4 weeks.

I have completely overhauled my daily nutrition from being vegetarian to consuming animal products.  This has proven quite enjoyable in taste, blood sugar control, energy levels and recovery from training. Many have asked what my daily nutrition looks like now versus then so here's a snapshot to help understand:


  • Vegetarian based diet consisted of fruit based protein smoothies, copious amounts of trail mix with dried fruit, beans, nut butters, tofu and other soy products (ie-fake meat) and at least 4-5 servings of fruit per day.  Dark chocolate was a huge craving that I tried to fight off daily.
  • Animal based diet consists of vegetable based, high fat smoothies, very little nuts (but when eaten, I choose almonds and peanuts for their lower carbohydrate content), cheese (like it is going out of style), deli meat, ground turkey/beef, turkey bacon (transitioning to the real stuff this week), coconut butter (favorite snack), coconut milk, half and half, peanut butter in small quantities, 5-6 servings of vegetables per day, only 1 serving of fruit per day (if that), steak (love it!), chicken and of course, I can't leave out mayonnaise, of which I can eat by the spoonful!

I have been running and swimming about 3 times per week each and strength training 2-3 times per week.  All of my long runs average between 8:00-8:30 minute/mile pace and I am up to 18 miles as my longest.

As I have reported in the past, my body weight decreased by six pounds (and is still stable at the new weight), and while I did not measure my body fat, I am noticeably leaner (specifically in my mid-section).  This has also equated into better training for ultra-running and my swimming speed is the same, even though I am not doing much speed work in the pool.

All of this qualitative feedback is great and I am at the point of wanting to continue just based on what I have felt.  However, my quantitative mind has had unanswered questions and unproven theories thus I wanted to be sure that my metabolic efficiency and lab blood results supported this new nutrition program.  

One thing to understand before I share the results is that I, like many individuals, have had some genetic cards that have been dealt to me that are not too favorable.  I have family history of cardiovascular disease and have not traditionally had good blood lipids (specifically, triglycerides and HDL).  As you can imagine, any elevations of these markers (since they are risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome) would make me immediately think twice about continuing my experiment.

Luckily, I do not have to make that decision.  I performed a metabolic efficiency test and had blood work (cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) before I began and have just repeated the tests last week at the first month interval.  Wait for it...wait for it...BAM!

Pre-metabolic efficiency test: 9/28/2012

One-month into nutrition experiment: November 3, 2012:

As you can see, my body's ability to use fat as energy is tremendous.  More importantly to note is that I could not achieve a Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) due to physical fatigue, not metabolic fatigue.  I had to extend one stage further than my test on 9/28/2012 but still could not achieve a MEP (I haven't been doing any run speed work so it is of no surprise that my legs wouldn't go faster!).  Regardless, I saw the trend developing and could hypothesize that my MEP would likely happen at around 9.5-9.8 miles per hour, which by the way is closer to my lactate threshold but more about that in a future blog post.

As an interesting aside, most scientific research reports that the MEP (where fat and carbohydrate crossover due to the body needing more carbohydrate) happens between 63-65% of VO2max.  While I did not have a MEP, the last stage (where I was still using 61% of my energy from fat) was 89% of my VO2max.  Interesting, isn't it?  As I continue to educate others about, when researchers were looking into this concept decades ago, they only looked at the physical exercise manipulation of enhanced fat oxidation.  They did not look at the manipulation of daily nutrition and the impact that it has on the body's ability to use internal fat stores.  

Even more importantly were my blood results.  As I mentioned, I have family history of chronic diseases and my blood lipid profile is of extreme concern to me. 

Be sure you are sitting down before you read this next part.  On my low carbohydrate diet (about 10% or less of total calories), a moderate protein diet (20-25%) and a high fat diet (>60-70%), I feared the obvious (as many of us have been led to believe in the past from a variety of "credible" sources).  Much to my surprise, it was the exact opposite!!!  

Here are my blood lipid results from 9/28 to 11/3:
  • Total cholesterol decreased by 4%
  • LDL cholesterol decreased by 6%
  • HDL cholesterol INcreased by 13%
  • VLDL cholesterol decreased by 55%
  • Triglycerides decreased by 41%
Keep in mind that the fat that I am eating is not all unsaturated.  In fact, saturated fats are a large part of my diet now.  My next blood test will be a bit more in depth to determine particle sizes to get a better picture of lipid composition but for now, I am extremely pleased with the positive results of my blood lipid panel.

Well, well, well.  I now have quantitative data to support my qualitative assessments and to be honest, it was a bit shocking at first.  To be able to combine both is powerful and I am eager to move forward with my experiment with even more excitement!

Stay next blog will detail my feelings of eating chocolate again (haven't had the urge to in the last 4 weeks so I want to test the emotional connection to one of my favorite foods).  Should be interesting!

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Monday, October 22, 2012


I have received many questions regarding how my ultra running training is going during my nutrition experiment and I will note a few interesting facts in this short blog update.

The first is that I am up to 18 miles for my long run.  This was done on Sunday and an increase of 5 miles from seven days prior.  As a coach educator, I often like to explore the "why" behind common fallacies and one of them is the 10% "rule".  In short, it has been stated that volume should not be increased from one week to another more than 10%.  I, along with many other ultra runners (and triathletes) have disproved that "rule" quite often and with much success (defined as no injuries).  What allowed me to increase my mileage by about 39% in one week?  Smart training but even more important, intelligent recovery.

As I always say (and teach), "stress + recovery = adaptation".  Now, I am certainly not sitting on my butt in between long runs but I try to control my recovery opportunities with a careful eye.  Included in my personal recovery strategies are: river baths, compression clothing, foam rolling, self massage, sleep, proper nutrition (more on that in a bit), hydration and overall management of my life/work balance.  There are many opportunities that present themselves outside of the traditional rest day and I urge all athletes to explore these while listening to their bodies.

I must say that the 18 miles I put in this weekend went by quick.  Not once did my motivation falter nor did my energy level.  My low carbohydrate, high fat diet is definitely doing the trick with improving my satiety and maintaining consistent energy levels.  I haven't run that far since training for Leadville years ago and I was a bit surprised that while the legs were a bit fatigued upon finishing, there were no negative body signs that I had experienced pre-nutrition experiment.  I would normally be trashed after a run like this: grouchy, needing to sleep immediately, not fun to be around.  You get the picture.  But this weekend it was nothing of the sort!  Even better was the fact that my legs felt fully recovered by the next morning before team swim practice.

Am I controlling the inflammatory process more efficiently with this alteration in my nutrition?  How can that be with eating such a high fat diet?  It is impossible.  Or is it?  I do believe it is time that many endurance athletes begin to rethink what they are putting in their bodies and in what proportions.

I am so elated with my progress so far that I am constructing a webinar on the topic of "Carbohydrate Unloading".  Look for it in January.

Tomorrow is an aggressive 12 mile run with over 1500 feet of vertical gain in 2.5 miles.  Let's put this nutrition plan to the test, less than two days after my 18 mile run.

Stay tuned...I'm just getting warmed up!

Coach Bob

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 weeks and a speedbump

Three weeks into my experiment and I finally found my first "speedbump" in this new dietary intervention.  Even though I have had nothing but amazing progress and extremely positive effects from this dietary manipulation, it was bound to happen I suppose.  It has not been my weekly travel as a derailment (actually, that is quite easy with a little planning and preparation).  Nor has it been my energy levels as those continue to be through the roof.  I find that I can easily run for 2-3 hours with very few calories and I can maintain swim intensity throughout a 1.5 hour masters swim practice. speedbump, while related to my training, is not affecting my performance but rather my body temperature!  As you recall, I have dropped 6 pounds from day 1 until now and with that has come changes in body composition.  Each time I have gotten into the pool to swim (about 3 times per week), I have noticed that my rest intervals must be more strategically timed to prevent my body getting too cold.  Yes, I have finally given in to wearing a swim cap in an attempt to maintain my body temperature somewhat.  Now, I am certainly not complaining as I see this as a very positive speed bump and one that I will accept with pride.  If you see me in the water, please don't stop me too long to chat as you will likely see my lips become discolored and my body begin to shake uncontrollably!  

On a similar note, I have been enjoying this nutrition plan and approach each new day as an experiment to determine what low carbohydrate meal I can put together while attempting to increase the fat significantly.  Tonight, I embarked on making pizza except there was no bread or wheat base.  My crust was made out of chopped/pulverized cauliflower mixed with spices, eggs and cheese.  I topped it with a few slices of Roma tomatoes and more cheese and voila!  It was such a great, low carbohydrate substitute to one of my most favorite foods in the world.  My wife and kids loved it and I do believe it will become a staple in this household for many years to come.  Next time, I'm going to load it with Genoa salami and crushed Italian sausage to add a little zest to it!

Training continues to progress nicely.  My travel puts a damper on some of my long runs but I will be putting this to the test tomorrow with a 15 mile run to determine how well I recover before the next morning's masters swim practice.  To date, my recovery from up to 2 1/4 hour runs has been phenomenal.  No muscle soreness.  No unnecessary mental fatigue.

I can't wait to get quantitative data on myself to justify the great feelings and experience I am having so far!

Until next go around...

Coach Bob

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ups and downs

Funny title because as I write this, it is day 13 of my nutrition experiment and I have had absolutely no "downs" during the first stage of morphing into a meat eater again.  In fact, as each day progresses, it more positives seem to appear!  I could not be happier to report that this experiment is going better than expected.  Of course, qualitative feedback is great and just the fact that my energy levels are through the roof and my recovery from training is excellent but numbers don't lie.  I am eager to peruse the quantitative feedback as I get more and more into this experiment.

My body weight is stable now, down about 6 pounds from when I first started.  I will perform another metabolic efficiency assessment in 2 weeks so I can compare day 1 to day 30 and I will perform another blood analysis at month 3.  

It took me the first week to really get a handle on carbohydrate counting.  I kept a detailed food log and counted carbohydrates religiously.  Now, I am off the food log as I know how to navigate this low carbohydrate/high fat diet much more effectively.  I know how to put the foods together, how to moderate my carbohydrate intake and I finally have a grasp on how to get enough fat in my diet to keep my calories up and satiety high.  It is still a slow introduction to animal products but I did buy chicken at the store this week and plan on delving into cooking it in the next few days.  My animal product consumption to date has included eggs, cheese, deli turkey, deli ham, turkey bacon (a lot of it!), and a teeny bit of plain Greek yogurt from time to time.

As for training, I am traveling a lot more than usual now so I am fitting in as many opportunities to run and swim as possible as I prepare for my pacing adventure for my athlete in January (I am training for a 100 mile run of which I will be running with my athlete...).  About every 3-4 days, I increase my long run by about 3 miles and am currently up to 13.5 miles.  I am cycling once as I coach our Elite Multisport Coaching age-group team and am doing a lot of functional strength with my body weight, explosive movements, TRX and traditional moving weights about 3-4 times per week.  I am also swimming 2-4 times per week (one with our Elite Multisport Coaching age-group team).

Prior to this experiment, I would crash and burn after my long runs.  I would literally have to take a nap immediately afterwards then my mood would crash the rest of the day and let's just say that I was not the most pleasant person to be around.  That's one reason my wife doesn't want me training for long endurance events anymore. However, since I began this nutrition experiment, I am not as fatigued after long runs and in fact, from a muscular standpoint, I have much faster recovery with far less soreness.  All bonus points in my book.

As I continue on this journey, I am re-discovering my love for animal products (I did grow up Italian thus meat products were always a staple) and getting more brave each week as I introduce new kinds of meats.  I have had nothing but positive results in the past couple of weeks and I look forward to continuing to note if this will alter my blood lipids and what it will do for performance as I approach longer runs of 20 miles and more.

The Colorado nights are getting a bit colder so I experimented a bit in the kitchen last night to come up with a killer cup of hot cocoa.  If you are interested, here are the ingredients:

Unsweetened coconut milk
Half and half (optional)
Dark cocoa baking powder
A few drops of alcohol free liquid Stevia
Coconut butter

If you know me, you know that I never measure anything.  Just combine these until you have the right taste for you and enjoy on a cool night.  My kids love it which says something!

Stay tuned...until my next update when I should have a few more miles of running under my belt to test my energy levels.  And even more exciting, I will be implementing this protocol with a couple of the athletes whom I coach (and my colleague Dina Griffin, Sport Dietitian at Fuel4mance will also be trying it as she begins her Ironman training) so I will be collecting some additional data on different ages, genders and types of endurance athletes!

Coach Bob

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 5 Update

Five days have progressed since I introduced my new daily nutrition plan to my body and I must say, there have been quite a few interesting things to note.

The first is that I am consistent in keeping my daily carbohydrate intake between 60-75 grams.  I really thought it would be more difficult but it is not.  I am getting a hang of what foods to put together (specifically meat products since those have not been part of my daily nutrition for the past 10 years) and the timing in which I should eat.  I am listening to my hunger signals and my satiety is greatly improved.  I am pleasantly surprised how much less I have to eat to sustain my hunger but also my performance.

Secondly, my energy levels have been through the roof!  Not surprising but I have no lulls throughout the day, I wake up not as ravenous and the big bonus is that I have no hunger issues after dinner any longer (there is about 3-4 hours between the time I finish dinner and the time I go to bed).

Third is that fact that my affinity (or cravings if you will) for sweet treats has markedly decreased.  Now, you should understand that I have quite the sweet tooth but my wife had some almond M&M’s out in a bowl the other day on the table and I walked right by them.  I mean I stopped briefly and assessed my biological need for them and it was not there.  What?  That never happens! Additionally, my emotional need for sweets is almost gone.  Amazing!  In fact, I haven’t had any chocolate or anything sweet since I started aside from a few dried cranberries in a nut based trail mix and my chocolate whey protein powder.  Strange but my taste buds seem to be more sensitive as I can really taste the sweetness in the small amount of nuts I eat (especially almonds and cashews).

Next up, my teeth.  Okay this may sound strange but I do not have that sugar film (I call it fuzzy teeth) on my teeth any longer and I am sure my dentist will be happy about this one!  

Lastly, I have been monitoring my body weight for trend analysis purposes and I am down 5-6 pounds in this short time.  Now, I can’t really afford to lose much and never actually want to lose weight but I am definitely leaner, less hungry, have no sugar cravings and am more mood stable throughout the day.

Can it get any better?  I sure hope so as I begin to explore how my body does on this plan as my running miles increase exponentially in the next few months.

Stay tuned...this is just getting fun!

Coach Bob

Monday, October 1, 2012

And so it begins...

My journey has begun!  Not only am I training my body to be able to run 100 miles in 3.5 months but more importantly, I have begun my completely revamped daily nutrition plan.  Revamped, in fact, is quite the understatement!

But first, let me describe my reasoning for this journey/experiment.  I have been described quite often as the salmon swimming upstream.  I always question the "why" of conventional wisdom in an effort to better understand mechanisms but more importantly, how I can be a better sport dietitian, coach and athlete.  This has worked in my favor as the concepts of Nutrition Periodization and Metabolic Efficiency were born out of not only my curiosity but also my desire to provide better and more useful information to athletes.

It is no wonder that I use myself as a guinea pig and this is by far the craziest of experiments I have done on myself.  I mean, I have trained my body for a 40 mile run in 4 weeks, have done an Ironman on 8 weeks of run training after breaking my foot and walked the last half of my first Leadville 100 due to a tibial stress fracture.  Sometimes, my judgement is not the best but this time around, I am eager and extremely excited to determine how this new experiment affects many aspects of my health and performance.

I have followed a mostly vegetarian (by mostly I mean I have included dairy and eggs) for about the past 10 years.  I am asked "why?" quite a bit about that and I must say that my response is based more on how my body felt.  It felt good, or at least what I thought was good.  However, after 2 days of my experiment, I am already redefining what my "good" really is.

Get ready for this and grab a seat because if you know me, you will need to be sitting down...I am disembarking from my vegetarian lifestyle for 3-4 months as I prepare my body as an ultra-runner again.  Yep.  Full on meat products.  I'm talking chicken, fish, beef, turkey and sausage!  Back to my Italian roots and similar to how I grew up.  Why?  Well, very simply put, I am trying to improve my health (improved blood lipids) and performance (improved metabolic efficiency) and I will document my entire journey as I progress.

I have my baseline blood lipids and my metabolic efficiency results.  My metabolic efficiency has never been textbook (because many of the protein food sources I ate were ridden with carbohydrates) so I expect to see a robust change in my fat burning capacity (which suits ultra-running perfect!).  It will be interesting to see what my eating plan will do to my blood lipids because, well, I am following a low carbohydrate, high fat diet.  Yes, I said it!

Here's the plan:

  • Week 1-2: eat less than 100 grams of carbohydrate per day, 25-35 grams of protein per meal and as much fat as I can
  • Week 3-4: same plan but eat less than 75 grams of carbohydrate per day
  • Week 5 and beyond: same as above but eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day
  • No starches at all (nada, grains, wheat, etc.)
  • Run 4-5 times per week (one sprint session, 1-2 very aerobic based on my metabolic efficiency results and the rest hitting the trails in the mountains)
I thought this would be extremely difficult but the first two days of implementation have been super easy aside from figuring out some meal ideas.  As you can imagine, not eating meat for years makes it challenging to construct meals and cook with meat.  Nonetheless, it is becoming easier.  But even better is the fact that even though I am restricting my carbohydrate intake to less than 100 grams per day, I have consumed 59 and 72 grams on day 1 and 2, respectively.  Much, much easier than I thought it would be!

Here's a snapshot of my daily nutrition for those who are interested:

Day 1, 59 grams of carbohydrate:
  • Smoothie with water, heavy cream, chia seeds, kale, spinach, carrots, bananas, olive oil, peanut butter, whey protein powder, chocolate Generation UCAN plus 1 fried egg (fried in butter)
  • 1 egg white
    • 8 mile run
  • 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder (3 grams of carbohydrate per scoop) with heavy whipping cream
  • 1 nectarine
  • 2 string cheeses
  • 1 ounce turkey
  • 1/2 ounce cheese
  • 1/2 cucumber with 3 ounces cheese and 3 ounces turkey
  • 1 ounce cashews
  • 1 piece romaine lettuce with 6 ounces of tuna with mustard and mayo, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese and 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 10 black olives
Day 2, 72 grams of carbohydrate:
  • Same smoothie as Day 1 plus one egg white
  • 1 scoop of Lifetime Fitness FastFuel with water and heavy whipping cream consumed before and after swim practice
    • 1'15" masters swim
  • 1 nectarine
  • 8 slices cucumber with 3 ounces of cheese and turkey with mayo on each slice
  • 10 black olives
  • 2 ounces cashews and almonds
  • 2 slices cheese
    • 15 mile bike ride with Teens that TRI
  • 1 Italian sausage, 3/4 cup mashed cauliflower, 3 celery sticks with cream cheese, 1 ounce cheese, 3 ounces tuna with mustard and mayo

There you have it.  I'm a bit surprised at how little food I am eating and more importantly, how satiated I am.  To be expected from a scientific point of view but feeling it is true validation.

My biggest challenge so far is finding enough fat.  I know it sounds strange but I'm working on it.  I spent more than an hour in the grocery store this weekend searching for full fat products.  Harder than it seems.

My energy level is extremely consistent.  I am able to train on very minimal carbohydrates (I normally consumed a minimum of 200+ grams per day).  My mood is consistent and good and I will say that I actually enjoy eating meat once again.

This is going to be a truly epic journey.  Stay tuned for my next blog post.  They will be much more frequent so I can share my progress as it is happening.

Coach Bob

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The last hoorah!

This past weekend saw my last triathlon of the season.  It was bittersweet as I was excited to race but knew my fitness was a bit lower than it had been a few weeks ago.  I monitor this quantitatively through my training stress by utilizing a power meter and GPS device.  My form was on and was rested due to a busy work week that included travel.  Forced rest but not ideal form.

For the first time in years, I was actually looking forward to what came after this race.  I certainly did not let that distract my mental preparation or even my excitement to compete but I do have to admit, the commitment has been set and anticipation high for my next journey.  More on that later.  

Back to race weekend.  The day prior my wonderful wife was participating in the Golden Leaf Half Marathon which is a trail run from Snowmass to Aspen.  She drove up with some friends and I staffed the house with the kiddos.  We had an action packed day on Saturday which included driving over 200 miles shuttling my little superstars to their soccer games and gymnastics meet.  It was a long day but never once did I catch myself becoming disengaged with the task that followed on Sunday.

I’ll admit, race morning came way too soon.  A 4:30am wake-up call was a bit unpleasant and it took longer than expected to get the burning sensation out of my eyes.  I was out the door at 5:00am on my way to Longmont, Colorado for the 5th annual Oktoberfest Sprint Triathlon, which is put on by Without Limits (they do a great job with all of their races!).  I arrived at the transition and felt like a rock star because I was about the 10th athlete there which meant I got to park right next to the transition area and had a clean shot to the porta-potties without a wait!  

Sprint triathlons, for me, are defined by the word “pain”.  It is a very short effort that is basically a test of how hard you can push without freaking yourself out and slowing down.  I slipped on my TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit and headed to the water for my swim warm-up.  Unlike my previous race in Des Moines, we were offered a generous warm-up in the water, even after the first heat went off.  I was in the third wave and knew I had the young guns ahead of me to catch. 

Before my wave began, I had a calm feeling come across my body.  I found myself in a very comfortable and relaxing place without too much nervousness.  It was then that my excitement for my future journey entered my head.  “Not now”, I whispered and focused on the task at hand.  I quickly visualized my swim, transitions, bike and run and proceeded to line up.

This was the same exact course that I had done in my first race of the season, the Without Limits Summer Open.  The difference this time around was that there were no gail force winds to affect my race, specifically my swim.  The lake was much calmer and I immediately felt my swim stroke as I began the race.  Before I knew it, I was vertical again making my way to the transition area.  Upon mounting my bike and heading out on the three loop course, I had set a goal for myself to average at least 24.5 miles per hour and keep my power output approximately 20 watts above my FTP (functional threshold power).  That was a bit difficult because I found myself having to pay much closer attention to the large amount of athletes I encountered during the three loop course.  I was passing people right and left and the roads at times were a little bumpier than expected thus I could not look down too often at my power meter.

I used RPE to gauge my effort and was pleased after coming into T2.  My legs were not fried but I know I had worked.  A quick T2 and I was out for the run.  

The run is where I had my highest expectations.  While I did have a time goal, I did not focus on that the least bit.  I do not race with a watch so it is all perceived effort that guides me.  Specifically, my breathing.  I told myself before the race that my breathing was going to be extremely labored on the run (because well, it was only a 5k!) and I would do my best once again disassociating my mind from my body.

Similar to the race back in May, I once again had no feeling in my feet after getting off the bike.  Step after step on the run, I kept thinking that they would warm-up, that I would be able to feel my push-off but unfortunately, that didn’t happen until the turnaround.  Not to worry, I re-focused on my breathing and let my body flow with high cadence.  I was able to use one of the two gradual uphills to my advantage, picking off athlete after athlete and the second gradual hill forced me to initiate an attack against a fellow competitor in my age-group.

An attack should be meaningful and without hesitation.  My breathing was already labored but I knew I had about 1 mile to the finish and I had to seal the deal without allowing my competitor a chance to stay with me.  I attacked, he responded and I heard him tuck in behind me.  I threw down a bit faster cadence and he was gone.  I commend him for a valiant effort, especially considering we were on an uphill!

The last 3/4 mile were a blur. I tried with all my might to keep my head looking down and forward but at times felt it creeping up and back due to my fatigue.  Push, push, push.  Fast feet.  With about 100 meters to go, I threw it into the next gear, gritted my teeth and gave it my all.  I rounded the corner, saw the finish line and engaged in a full sprint to the line.

While I did not physically collapse (still waiting for that one!), I felt like it but the cordial volunteer took my chip off and I proceeded onto congratulating my fellow competitors at the line before heading off for a short “cool-down” run.  Based on my run effort, I was sure hoping that it correlated into the goal time I had set for myself, especially running “blind” without a watch.

Results were up.  I felt like I had a solid, well-executed race throughout and was extremely pleased with my day.  I ended up averaging 1:28/100 for the swim which was a bit slower than I had hoped but before getting down, I quickly reminded myself that my swim frequency was much lower coming into this race.  Not an excuse, just a plain, hard fact.  I averaged 25.1 miles per hour on the bike which was higher than I set my goal for but my normalized power was a bit less than anticipated.  Hmm, could I have gone harder on the bike?  The numbers seemed to have suggested that which is why I love comparing and utilizing qualitative effort assessment with quantitative analysis.  The run, well it was interesting for sure.  This was definitely the biggest success of the day and one that I embraced because I was able to accurately assess my body cues which correlated to the performance I sought.  I ended up running an 18:51 5k off the bike, averaging 6:05 minute miles.  I have never run a sub 19 minute off the bike in my entire triathlon career so as you can imagine, I was elated.

My competitors were definitely better than me on this day.  Even with my solid effort, I came away with 4th in my age-group and 18th overall.  Certainly not disappointing, especially considering that I missed the podium by 8 seconds but even more importantly, 1st and 4th were separated by a mere 26 seconds.  I congratulate all of my fellow competitors for their great efforts on a fantastic last triathlon of the season.

Oh yes, you may be wondering about my next journey.  Well, let’s just say that it includes putting in a few more miles on the trails in the next few months.  I have less than 4 months to prepare my body to pace one of my athletes for the Brazil 135 (the South American equivalent to Badwater).  Throughout my junior not only will I be testing a more aggressive periodization training strategy but I will also be implementing a completely different nutrition plan, supported with blood work analysis and metabolic efficiency testing along the way.  This will be a good one, definitely worth making note of and seeing what impact it has on Coach Bob.  Much learning will follow!

My blogs will become much more frequent so I can share my progress with fellow athletes.  Be sure to stay tuned!

Coach Bob

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Number 7

I had an absolutely fantastic trip to Des Moines, Iowa over Labor Day weekend.  My oldest son qualified for his third Ironkids National Championship race and of course, we were going to reward his hard efforts in qualifying during the season.  There also happened to be an adult race the next day.  I hadn't realized the 5150 championship race was one of the highlight races but because I did not participate in a qualifying race, I could only enter the citizens race.  I did excitedly because I had made the decision to race amateur elite for the first time in my triathlon career, which proved to be quite a challenge!

Back to the Ironkids National Championship.  My youth and junior teams, Kids that TRI and Teens that TRI, had 28 team members qualify and make the trip to Iowa to reward themselves with the season ending National Championships.  It was a great venue, although a bit unfriendly for spectators, for the team to participate.  Every single one of our team members did fantastic and all had fun and were honored with participating.  We had some solid finishes also of which provided us the 2nd overall team award (for the second year in a row).  My oldest son had, literally, the race of his life in terms of execution.  Everything from his swim, bike, run and transitions was spot on with no faltering.  Mounts and dismounts were great, finish line kick was awesome and his attitude and professionalism made me proud!  For his efforts, he was awarded 7th overall in his age-group and 10th overall among all 9-11 year olds (over 300). We enjoyed some great time after his race hanging out with the team and our friends we made the drive with from Colorado.  Shortly after spending the day on my feet, I had to switch my focus to my race.  Oh yea, I had a race didn't I?

I was extremely excited for my race after I switched hats from coach to athlete because my son was going to be there watching.  I love leading by example but the real truth is: my son inspires me.  He may not know the full reason why just yet but he soon will.  Everything that he does in his life inspires me to be my best and I want to show him how much I appreciate who he is.  One of the ways I do this is by racing.  It may not make sense but then again, it just may!  Whenever I race, I always write 6 letters on my thumb knuckles.  Three on the left which are CNK (the first initials of my kids) and three on the right which are KTT (Kids that TRI).  When I race, I race for my kids and my team.  I race because I am inspired by who they are and what they do.  I race because I want to inspire them by who I am and what I do.  Quite simply, I think of it as a roundabout (less complex in nature though than driving through one!).  A full circle of showing respect and admiration for one another.

I also race because I have a teensy weeny competitive streak in me.  Yes, I let the cat out of the bag!  Of course, I always want to do well but first and foremost is proper skill implementation of all three sports plus transition.  I pride myself on the little things and focus on them and my process goals.  If I do well with these, I will be rewarded with a good outcome goal.

Racing amateur elite was exciting.  I was in the first wave, was not too crowded on the swim and did not have to worry about the heat of the day.  The water temperature was flirting with the 78 degree mark in the previous days but it was deemed wetsuit legal on race morning.  I had planned for the opposite but to my delight, I was able to use my TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit in the swim!  Much to my dismay, my race started without a swim warm-up because we were not allowed to get in the water.  Stretchcords, while a staple in my warm-up sequence, was not enough for my body to become activated.  My muscles did not receive the "attention" they needed and thus my muscles were a bit tight throughout the swim.  No problem I thought, just swim as fast as you can and don't worry about it...that just wastes energy.  The swim was definitely the most gloomy part of my day and while I did not come out of my wave last, I wasn't in the position I had expected.  Again, I didn't let that get to me and entered the transition area ready to bike.

A few days before the race while coaching my Teens that TRI open water swim practice, I had cut the bottom of my foot pretty bad upon entering the water and it was right under my arch.  It was pretty painful and while it hurt to walk, I didn't let it bother me.  "The race is going to hurt anyway because of my intensity, what's a little cut on the bottom of my foot going to do?".  Again, my mantra of not sweating the small stuff...This cut prevented me from running barefoot without a lot of pain so I opted to put my cycling shoes on in transition and run with them to the mount line.  Luckily, it was a grassy transition area so no risk of slipping.  Onto my flying mount and I was off on the bike!

The bike was a bit strange in that I didn't find my legs until about mile 5.  I am usually able to flip the switch a bit sooner but I theorized it was because I did not engage in my normal warm-up routine with a short swim.  No matter, once I found my legs, it was off to the races and race I did!  A fellow competitor and I were playing cat and mouse for about 10 miles but I finally put him behind me on a few of the hills (my specialty being from Colorado!).  He did catch me again with about 8 miles remaining and he brought a few of his "friends".  We all used each other's energy to bring out the best in us and this accelerated our performance (and muscular effort) to the finish line.  As we were jockeying for position, I couldn't help to notice the ages on their calves...all in the 20-29 age group.  And of course, all they saw on mine was "E".  No age-group so I wondered if they were trying to guess this "old man's" age!.

Coming off the bike into transition, I felt incredible.  A good friend of mine was at the dismount line and while I did not see him (I focus way too much internally), I did hear him cheering and yelling my placing.  He said I was in 11th position in the amateur elite group.  Not bad I thought but definitely not acceptable either (the competitor in me talking).  I headed out at a very good pace.  Interestingly, it was very comfortable.  I could feel the cut on the bottom of my foot with each step but disassociated it from my mental state.  I focused on my breathing which was very controlled.  My cadence was high, my upper body comfortable and I was picking off people from the first race at a rapid pace.  It was right around mile 1 when I started feeling some quad cramps coming, which was odd since I haven't had that happen before in a race.  At this point, feeling strong, I had to make a decision.  Slow down and let hope they go away or keep going and see what happens.  If you know me, you know which option I chose: the latter.  If they are going to hit, let them but I am not slowing down until they force me to.  That was my thought process.  Luckily, they only remained an annoyance and did not "pop".  Being in the performance zone mentally, I was able to block them out for the most part and just focus on my breathing and cadence once again.

Mile 1, mile 2, mile 3....they all seemed somewhat easy.  When I finally hit downtown Des Moines there were more people cheering, a few familiar families from Kids that TRI who stayed to watch me race and at that point, I could see the Capitol, which was the finish line.  I knew there were a few jogs around side streets before I entered the finish chute so I took it in stride and kept pushing, pushing, pushing.  I had not driven the course so while I knew there was a hill toward the finish, I did not know what it looked like.  Upon making the second to last turn, it stared me straight in the face.  "Really?", I thought.  It was a hill but nothing like I am used to.  I noted the athletes in front of me, put my head down and attacked the hill.  Luckily, my friend was once again placed strategically on the course and yelled out a reminder of "fast feet".  Quickly, I shifted into a high cadence, pumped my arms and powered up the hill.  I was a bit anaerobic at the top but then made a sharp left to the finish line.  The problem was that the finish line was on the complete other side of the grandstands.  That didn't matter though.  My son was in the stands watching and while I did not see him, he told me afterwards that I passed about 10 people in the last 300-400 meters before the finish line.  The facial expression on my finish line photo validates the work it took to do that!

I was extremely pleased with my race.  I had a few speedbumps but none that prevented me from not having fun and pushing my body's limits.  After finishing, I shared some race stories with a couple of Kompetitive Edge team members (Andrew, Eric and Trish) and met my friend Bobby, who was supporting me throughout the day.  Then, it was off to find my son and share an embrace of pride with him.  He loved the race and I loved having him there.  I told him that he was my inspiration throughout the entire day, especially during my sprint finish.  He asked me what I was thinking about when I was sprinting to the line, passing fellow athletes.  I thought for a second and responded, "inspiring others to do the same".   When I take off sprinting, I want others to follow.  He smiled, we hugged and then waited for my best friend to finish his race (his first triathlon in 2 years).

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend with great successes throughout.  Are you wondering why I titled this blog, "The Number 7"?  Well, my son eloquently pointed out that both he and I finished 7th in our categories.  Coincidence or not, I believe that there is a underlying message there.

Many people are wondering if I will try to race amateur elite next year.  Well, looking back, I would have won my age-group in Des Moines by over 2 1/2 minutes.  The question I ask myself is if there is a challenge out there that would help to inspire others to do something they have not believed they could do...hmmm.  See we will.  See we will!

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


You Only Live Once...

I first heard this acronym from a few of my Teens that TRI team members and it really resonated with me.  Not in a stupid sense but in a more practical, "why not" sense.  In most everything I do, I seem to be that fish continually swimming upstream, rarely relinquishing to standards that others refer to as "because that's the way we do it".  I like to challenge conventional wisdom and by doing so, I have discovered quite a few new opportunities both in my career and my life.

I grew up an athlete (soccer player) and it was always my dream to become a professional athlete someday.  I didn't know what sport and frankly, it didn't matter.  I wanted to know what it felt like to be labeled a "pro".  I wasn't the best athlete growing up but put in the work and got the attention of coaches.  In fact, I was recruited for a few soccer scholarships coming out of high school but didn't take them.  I blame it on the lack of maturity and support I had in decision making but while I do think back about what could have been, I am more focused on what can be.  The athletic path that has paved my life has allowed me to make a career out of what I love doing and I owe that to growing up in sport.

When I first got into triathlon (sophomore year in college), I failed miserably, mostly due to lack of direction and no formal knowledge of the sport.  I swam in cycling shorts (if you can call it swimming!), rode my mountain bike with knobby tires but blazed the run (always my specialty due to my soccer background).  I wasn't last but was pretty close.  However, something clicked in me...the challenge to be better.

Since then, I have developed the knowledge of coaching, physiology, strength training, nutrition and life balance to be somewhat successful in the sport as an age-grouper.  But wanting to be a pro has still remained in the back of my head the past 19 years since beginning the multisport journey.  I did okay in my triathlon hobby, usually placing in the top 20% or so but it wasn't until I left the sport to pursue ultra-running and cycling and came back to triathlon where I realized that I had much more potential for short distances.  Don't get me wrong, I love going long but I am not the quickest out there.  I have noticed that my ability to endure a high amount of pain for a short amount of time (similar to soccer) is a strength and I used that last year by doing mostly sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

My 2011 triathlon season was spectacular.  I felt great at short course racing, did much more anaerobic training and allowed more time for family and coaching (all pluses in my book!).  Interestingly, my results were much better than they were about 10 years ago and even though there has been some biological degradation due to age, I am much stronger and faster than I was in my youth in the sport of triathlon.

It showed this past weekend when I raced the Steamboat Triathlon.  Similar to my mantra of not being a triathlete but rather a swimmer, cyclist and runner, I pushed my body and while I needed about 1-2 more days of a taper (I keep track of that quantitatively with my training stress), I had a very good race. Good as defined by shaving 6 minutes off of my Olympic triathlon distance PR from last year.  I did something I never thought I could do, which was breaking the 2:15 barrier.  After coming in at 2:11 on a somewhat hilly course at altitude, I re-evaluated my progression in the sport.

I am going to Ironkids Nationals with my Kids that TRI team on Labor Day weekend and there just happens to be a HyVee age-group race the next day.  My son was excited because he says he wants to watch me race but I think he really wants to see the pro's race after me.  Nonetheless, I will be racing but it will be a first for me.  After much thought and counsel from my 11 year-old son, I have decided to race amateur elite.  To do this, you must provide proof that you have done an Oly distance race this season that has been sub 2:15.  There was some initial fear in the decision but as my son said quite eloquently, "Dad, why don't you challenge yourself by racing guys faster than you".  Yes, son, you are so right and you have been listening to your dad/coach.  Of course the 40-44 age-group is screaming fast already but this 40 year-old is going to follow his dream since he had since he was little.  While I will not be a professional, racing amateur elite will provide me a glimpse (and the pain) of what it means to enter a different category of racing.  The young guns will certainly force me to lay everything on the line in an attempt to earn the right to call myself an amateur elite, even if only for one race.

I know I will certainly be giving up a shot at the podium for my normal age-group but as the fish continually swimming upstream, I am all about the challenge that I have set out for myself.  I can only hope others will follow some of their dreams that they have set out for themselves at some point in their lives.  You are never too old...


Coach Bob

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I am not a triathlete

Eye-catching title, isn't it?  I am celebrating my 19th year as an endurance athlete and like most athletes, have learned quite a bit in my progression of the sport, especially considering I grew up playing competitive soccer and basketball for fun.  Looking back on my sport "career" and my recent triathlon training and performances, I have realized quite a few things that I never really paid attention to.

The first is that the body's energy systems do in fact matter when developing a training program.  I received a gift from my parents in the form of more fast-twitch muscle fibers.  While it hurts more, I do pretty well at pushing my anaerobic energy system window.  This is why I have seen so much success the past two years of my triathlon career.  I have focused mostly on short-course racing: sprint and Olympic distance tri's  Luckily, it doesn't involve a ton of training but rather focused, quality training along with smart, well-planned and executed recovery.  Nothing compared to when I was ultra-running and cycling and while I thoroughly enjoyed my alone time on trails and the monster, slower days of training, it did not fit my energy system dominance.   This lower volume of training has allowed me to add more intensity, which I frequently monitor through Training Peaks (this is how I monitor my progression with my stress and recovery so I can promote optimal adaptation).

Admittedly, I almost had to focus on lower volume and higher intensity to keep up with my Teens that TRI team.  These guys and gals are getting fast and I felt compelled to exemplify what could happen at an "older" age if you train correctly with balancing life, stress and training.  No joke, I also wanted bragging rights of still being able to be faster than them (which will likely not happen next year but I will not go down without a fight!).

Now, this shift in focus from slow, long volume training to fast, high intensity training has been quite a mental exercise also.  In my training, I specifically prepare my mental game for workouts so that every quality, intense workout is a race simulation for my mental game.  I show up with my race day mentality at least 3 times per week in sessions and the other sessions are spent trying to stay ahead of or chase my Teens that TRI team.  The latter is very important to note because as I circulate among the Teens that TRI in swimming, cycling and running, I am constantly doing high-intensity, short anaerobic bouts of exercise...further enhancing my anaerobic energy system.

Interestingly, this type of training has also allowed me to focus on my mental tenacity.  When I am training in the pool, I am a swimmer.  I never once think about what I did before I got in the pool that may have fatigued me or what I will be doing after the swim in terms of a training session.  I train in the moment and give it my all.  When I am on the bike doing high intensity work, I never once think of the short and fast run off I have afterwards.  I am a cyclist only both physically and mentally.  When I hit the run, definitely one of my strengths (thank you soccer!), I never think about running off the bike.  I see myself as a 5k or 10k runner, one that has no pain but the mental focus that runners have and the ability to disassociate my mind from my body.  I don't care how hard the bike was and more importantly, I don't make mental excuses about how I fatigued myself prior to the run.  I am not a triathlete.

I had a great conversation with one of my athletes recently and we were discussing "happy places".  I told him my happy place in training (you can think of it as a motivator also) was my competition.  I don't know who my competitors are and frankly, I do not care.  What I focus on during quality training sessions is being better than each one of my competitors.  My happy place in racing shifts from an extrinsic focus of my competition to an intrinsic sense of purpose: my family.  I race to make my family and myself proud.  I want my kids to be inspired by what I do, by how I race, never give up and how I can be extremely friendly before, during and after a race but a ruthless competitor at the same time.  I want to show my family what good sportsmanship looks like while exemplifying the true heart of a competitor.

This strategy in training has led to tremendous success in my triathlon racing the past two seasons and while I know I have not quite mastered it just yet, I continue to perfect my mental and physical training skills to enhance my triathlon career.  The bonus is that I get to pass this knowledge onto the athletes with whom I work with through not only Kids that TRI and Teens that TRI but also my adult athletes at Elite Multisport Coaching.

Develop the mantra: "I am a swimmer, I am a cyclist and I am a runner" and you will reap the benefits of being a good triathlete.  You see, if you approach training and racing thinking you are a triathlete, you will likely be slow because you will always have some type of mental self sabotage where you make an excuse for a poor swim, bike or run session.  Train to your potential without excuses and without regrets.  Train hard and recover smart.

Until my next rant...

Coach Bob

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I had the fortunate pleasure of traveling to West Des Moines, Iowa this past weekend to coach my youth and juniors at a series of races.  Up on Saturday was Ironkids and Sunday was Flatlands Youth and Junior Elite racing.  It was an exciting and non-stop weekend that culminated in many great coaching, parenting and life lessons, some of which I would like to share in no particular order.

1. First up...a 10+ hour drive with 3 kids is actually not that bad until their critical boredom factor has been reached.  Prepare with movies if you are lucky enough to have in car entertainment or the necessary technology.  If not, prepare for World War III.

2. Fitting a family of five into a small hotel room for four nights is challenging.  Counteract this by choosing a hotel with a pool.

3. Free hotel breakfasts are only beneficial if you can actually find a quality source of protein.  Luckily, they had hard boiled eggs and omelette's every morning.  Even more lucky is when your kids will eat them.  Back up plan should be milk or a conveniently located HyVee grocery store that is less than 1/2 mile from the hotel.  We became regular customers and my new favorite product is the chocolate flavored smoothie from Bolthouse Farms.  It has a blend of whey and soy protein which has been shown in recent research to provide a better time release supply of amino acids to the muscles.

4. When traveling to a state that is hotter than you can describe, it is a good idea to be prepared.  I should have brought umbrellas for shade but did have a waist pack with two water bottles.  Unfortunately, water gets warm quickly and the continuous sweat production on my body never went away.  I never depended so much on air conditioning so much before!

5. When trying to cool off your team members prior to a race, as funny as it may be, do not ask them to shove ice in their trisuits with the assumption that they will be able to prevent the ice to go below the waist into sensitive areas.  It doesn't work...but it is quite humorous to witness teenage boys dancing around and yelling!

6. If you are expecting to cool yourself off by jumping in a lake in Iowa, think again.  It just doesn't work.  The lakes are not the same temperature as Colorado and there is nothing refreshing about them.  Better off buying bags of ice and carrying them around.

7. There is nothing refreshing about having a cooler full of ice and ice cold water dumped on your head in the middle of a hot Iowa day.  It melted upon contact and only made me jealous that I could not keep it on my body somehow.  Not even walking around with ice in my shirt did the trick.

8. I do believe the nicest people on the planet live in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Hospitality seemed to have been bred into them from a very young age and made me so appreciative!

9. Try as you may but your daily nutrition plan will be derailed somehow during a long travel excursion.  I was lucky to keep it minimized to two meals and without GI suffering.  Plan ahead and find a good grocery store.

10. Never complain about the heat in the midwest, especially if you will be going back to visit in 6 weeks because your oldest son qualified for Ironkids National Championships.  Bad mojo.

There you have it...a lighthearted look at my trip to Iowa!

Coach Bob

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon

I had made a point this year, now my second year back into triathlon after taking a 4 year hiatus to train for 100 mile run and mountain bike races, to participate in 4 triathlons that I have never done in Colorado.  Yesterday was the completion of my second of the season: the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon.  My hat goes off to Peggy the race director for a great race from start to finish, especially considering the fact that she had to change the bike course the week of the race due to the High Park Fire.

I went into this race with forced rest as I caught an illness the week of the race.  I decided to shut it down the week of the race and just coach my age-group and youth/junior teams instead of doing any structured training.  No matter how many times I teach it to athletes or coaches, I am always amazed at the healing process of recovery.  I was able to have one of the best races of my career at Loveland and I am going to expound on some of my thoughts leading into and coming out of the race that I think will be educational for all of you reading this.

Thought provokers:

1. Looking back on my training in the past month, I have not done much volume at all.  I would guess about 75% of my training is by commuting on my bike or coaching my adult age-group and youth/junior teams.  No planned speed sessions except for a once a week masters swim practice.

2. I try to swim at least 3 times per week but weekly mileage is only around 7000-8000 yards.  Two swims are done in open water with my TYR Freak wetsuit.  I am putting 100% emphasis on my pull and the mechanics associated with catching the water.  I don't care about hand or arm entry, balance or rotation now.  Those are skills that I have already acquired.  By focusing on my pull, I have been able to reduce my swim time significantly.  Interestingly, I can hold my own in the pool but am definitely not a pool swimmer due to a poor kick.  I prefer open water with a wetsuit!

3. Back to my training...I have not done any structured speed or interval training for the past month outside of coaching my teams.  Much of my coaching will involve hanging back with a group then trying to catch a lead group to provide feedback/instructions so I am getting anaerobic work but no specific work to recovery sets.  Low volume and decent intensity has been my unstructured plan the past month.

4. My nutrition has been pretty good.  Metabolic efficiency agrees very well with my body.  Of course, I have my misses and I embrace them but 90% of the time, I focus on combining protein with veggies and fruit.  Admittedly, I am a smoothie-holic.  I can't start my day without one of my whole food smoothie concoctions.

5. Race nutrition for the short Olympic distance tri that I did yesterday was typical: 2 packets of Generation UCAN chocolate with a pinch of cinnamon, consumed in the hour before the race.  I also like to take about 4-5mg/caffeine/kg body weight through the First Endurance Pre-Race product 90 minutes before race start.  Throughout the race, it is mostly water although I did put a vial of The Right Stuff in my bottle yesterday due to the heat and drank 1/2 bottle.

6. I have been experimenting more and more with race tactics since I coach them with my youth and junior team.  Yesterday, I implemented flawless race tactics which gained me 2nd in my age-group and 11th overall.  Let me discuss those a bit as I think there are some great lessons that can be taken from them.

The swim
After my neuromuscular and dynamic warm-up, I put on my TYR Freak wetsuit and hopped in the water for my typical 5 minute warm-up.  I never felt my stroke and felt very heavy in my arms.  I didn't let this get in my head.  I simply shrugged it off, got out of the water and lined up to race.  Upon the start of the race, I was fortunate to seed myself behind my teammate Paige, who I swim with in the pool.  She was my barometer and I knew if I could stay close to her, I would have a good swim.  Once the swim began, I felt unbelievable.  My catch was strong, I was drafting behind Paige and my sighting was spot on.  Upon exiting the water, I thought I had a good swim but it wasn't until after reached transition and I saw Paige at her bike that I knew that I had rocked the swim.  I averaged a 1:26/100 yard, which is extremely good for me.

The bike
My transition was flawless.  Shoes on my pedals, rubber bands holding my shoes for a lightning fast mount and away I went on the bike.  I was a cyclist and I attacked the bike as fast as I could, not thinking about what impact it would have on my run.  I believe this is a huge mistake most triathletes make as they try to "save" their legs for the run.  I was playing cat and mouse with a 27 year-old pro and ended up averaging 23.4 miles per hour and had a normalized power of 220 watts.  Solid ride.

The run
I did not wear a watch or Garmin for the race as I have been experimenting with racing by feel to tap into my internal cues.  Upon exiting T2, my legs felt heavy but I didn't let it get to me.  I simply shortened my stride and increased my cadence for the first 1/2 mile until I found my running legs again.  Ahead of me were 4 guys so they became my rabbits.  My mantra for the run was very simple, "if you feel good, go harder".  There were many uncomfortable times for me but I was able to dissociate my brain from my body to not feel the physical pain.  I began picking off competitors right and left and luckily, most were in my age-group.  I happened upon a gentleman in my age-group that was holding a great pace and high cadence so I decided to tuck in behind him and do a little assessment.  As I caught my breath a bit, I was able to note that his upper body was getting fatigued.  I also realized that we were getting a bit faster because he knew I was behind him.  I ran with him for about a mile and then told myself that I would make my move at mile 3.  I didn't pop it but gradually increased my cadence once we hit mile 3.  I don't look back at my competitors but listen for their breathing and footsteps.  I could hear myself slowly getting farther and farther away from him and while I was laboring more, the pace was sustainable.  That is, until I happened to catch a glimpse of another person about 100 meters in front of me.  I had no idea what age-group he was in but, being just a teensy weensy competitive, I knew that I had to do my best to catch him.

I was already running at threshold effort so catching him would be no easy task.  I focused on my cadence, relaxed my upper body and breathing and slowly built my pace.  He got closer and closer and when I finally came up to him, I was elated.  Just catching him was my goal!  Now, I had never done this race and did not have a chance to look at the run map so I did not really know where the finish line was.  I could hear it but we took many turns and loops around the finish area.  I had to be strategic with my pass because I didn't know his abilities but I was confident in my finish kick.  I have a good anaerobically developed energy system and know that I can be competitive at the finish line if it comes down to a sprint.  I made my pass on a corner, said "nice job" to him and hoped that my assessment of where the finish line was accurate.  Upon passing him, I didn't accelerate too fast.  I wanted to see if he countered.  He did a bit so I accelerated more and it was this one that allowed me to get ahead of him for good.  Once a few steps ahead, I put on the burners and approached the finish.  Except what I thought was the finish wasn't!  Oh boy, I had methodically planned my pass and my sprint to the wrong finish.  It turned out to be the aquabike finish but my finish was luckily only about 25 meters beyond that!  Thankfully, I had just enough left in me to finish strong and hold my spot.

After crossing the line, I made a point to congratulate my fellow competitors for a great race then cheered on the rest of the Elite Multisport Coaching and Kompetitive Edge team.  Good sportsmanship is an important part of my race!

It was a great day and fantastic learning opportunity for me in many ways.  I hope you were able to gleam a few tidbits that may help you with your future training and racing!

Interestingly, I had the 16th fastest swim in my age-group, 2nd fastest bike and 1st fastest run.

Until next time...

Coach Bob