Tag Archives: Training

Ironman #3 Wisconsin

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Here it was…  Race Week!  The weeks leading up to race week were busy with the day job, coaching, swim lessons, and trying to plan a fundraiser for my Arizona 70.3.  It (race week) snuck up on me like Ashton on Punk’d.  This Ironman was different, I was having a hard time overcoming some nagging injuries and for the first time, my work really affected some of my long training days.   Anyways, we flew into Madison on Thursday and stayed with family outside of the Madison.  This was awesome because I rarely get to see family in the midwest.  It also kept me out of the excitement and I was able to focus on things for the race and stay off my feet for the most part.

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Sunday morning I arrived early and got everything situated with my bike and my bags.  My race support crew had already begun her plan for the day of spectating and supporting me.  What was cool about this race is that everything is inside.  That means no dirt or grass, but it was a long run UP to transition.  I got into the chute early so that I wouldn’t be just getting into the water as the gun went off.  As we made our way out to the start line there was a 9/11 tribute and the national anthem was playing.  I was getting ready to get this show on the road.

The Swim: 1:13:xx
56_m-100735778-digital_highres-1364_104123-3746856The cannon went off, and whoa.   This mass start was a washing machine the entire 2.4 miles.  From the start I had some people not just brushing my feet, they were grabbing them and holding (WTF?).  So I kindly kicked them in the face.  I’m sorry (#notsorry), but you don’t need to be holding onto someone’s feet when they are trying to swim.  It’s dangerous for them.  So for 1 hour and 13 minutes I endured a constant body to body contact sport.   Thankfully I am very confident in swimming and didn’t have any issue’s of panicking.   I can see how beginners hate the mass starts, it can get downright insane.  From the swim I had a nice run up the parking ramp up to transition.

The Bike: 6:26:xx
8_m-100735778-digital_highres-1364_022787-3746808There really isn’t much to write about when it comes to one of the best supported bike courses by the community other than, it was fan-f8ckin-tastic.   Getting out the doors and finding that a volunteer had my bike ready to go was awesome.   I rode it down the helix and got my Edge 1000 situated and my HR turned on.  The first thing I noted that was missing was my power was gone.  It wasn’t pairing or something.   So I took 2-3 minutes to mess with it, and then said F it.   I was to ride this old school by HR zone and feel.  Humming along at an avg 20 MPH my HR didn’t go above 141-150 much and I didn’t feel like I was over-extended which was good.  The hills were rolling and the climbs were easy since you had a really good downhill leading up to it.  There was only 2 hills that presenting a challenge:  Barlow and some other.   I had driven the course the day before with my family.   I knew what to expect so I tried to conserve leading up to it.   Then finally it where there.  Both sides of the climb were lined with fans cheering everyone up the hill.  There were people unclipping at the bottom and mid-way through.  As I approached the guy next to me looked at the hill and said F-This, and unclipped.  I powered up it out of the saddle and felt surprisingly good.   The other hill wasn’t as bad, but again it was Tour De France style cheering which helped out alot.  I got to special needs and as I was swapping out my bike bottles I was hit by another rider.  I went to the ground pretty hard and was totally unexpected.  Could tell that something was wrong once I started pedaling again and my entire right side of my butt started to really hurt.  Thankfully I didn’t have to ride up Barlow again, but loop 2 had more wind.  As I headed back to Madison, I was really worried about being able to run.  As much as I wanted to let the crash disrupt my race and get frustrated, I kept remembering what I tell my own athletes:  Don’t waste anytime worrying about stuff you can’t control, all it does is waste time and energy.   So I kept my head up and hit T2.

Run: 5:33:xx
As I set out on the run I didn’t really know what to expect since I did virtually no research into this course.   I wanted to be healthy enough to run it.  I was a bit concerned about my legs from the bike accident but I set out anyways.  At this point the course was very high in energy as we ran through the capital area and out around the University of Wisconsin campus.  Soon we were on the field of Badger Stadium which as awesome.   It’s been a while since I was on the field and it was great to relive some of the memories of being a football player under the lights.   I was cruising a 10-12 min mile as I was walking up the hills and had a positive mindset the entire time.   As I approached the first turn around I was able to see my family out there cheering me on.  This was a welcome sight since I’m normally doing these things with my main girl as my on-course support.  The Base Performance tent is always the life of the party out on the course.  Matt Miller and Tony Demakis always have the energy to get everyone going, and being a part of their team is a blast.  The 2nd loop I decided it was time to enjoy some of the scenery, so I walked the entire field of badger stadium.  When’s the next time I’m going to be on the field?  Here I was at mile 20 and it was still light out and I was feeling really good still.  Everyone has read stories about the finish line at Wisconsin, it’s what sucked me into wanting to do it.  As I approached mile 25, you can see the energy on both sides of the street.   As you’re running through it, you suck the energy in and you turn the corners to the chute and it’s nothing short of amazement.   The community there is fantastic and the best that I have encountered at any of my races of any distance.  As I was running down the finish chute I made sure that there was plenty of time between me and the next person.  I was pretty happy to have a 5:30 marathon time after everything.

I really recommend this race to any athlete who wants to do an Ironman.  I believe the course and the community really set this race apart from all the others.  Yes there are so many other races out there that have scenic courses and great community support, so what makes this one different?   In my opinion having Mike Reilly there and the transition being inside really bring it out, but what brings it over the top is the bike course support from the community.  Having them out there on those climbs kept us all going and lifted our spirits.

 

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Believe in Yourself… ACHIEVE GREATNESS

Base ProgressionFirst half marathon ever back in 2008, couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk.  Took me over 3 hours to finish… 3:16:09 to be exact.  Every step I took was filled with a constant battle of a version of myself saying “This is stupid, I’m no runner.  I’m Fat, these people are fast.  I don’t belong here.”  The other version saying “If that guy can do it, you can do it.  It might take you all day long, but you will cross that finish line.”  Back then I couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk.  So I walk/ran, I ran what I could and then walked till I could run again.  I did a 5K earlier that August in my quest for weight loss with a time of 37:45 and I wanted to die afterwards.  In fact after both races even though I finished, I let that negative self-talk tell me that in fact I was not a runner.  I made up my mind that I hated running.  For 2 years I let this train of thought derail my weight loss and I stopped running all together.

Then in 2010 I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon again (pictured above on the left).  I had some friends sign up and they wanted me to run it with them.  I agreed to.   Here I was faced with the same voices in my head, negative and positive.  This time I couldn’t run at all… I walked my way to a 3:49:01 finish.  That’s right, I walked all 13.1 miles.  There was a level of dissatisfaction in knowing that I couldn’t run a whole mile.  I felt deflated and let down.  I wasn’t proud of finishing in a little under 4 hours.  I let the negative self-talk win again for years to come.  I didn’t have any guidance from anyone.  Social Media was just starting to take off, and it’s nothing like it is today for people.  I kept telling myself I have to try harder, and when I failed I’d beat myself up over it.  Most people know how it goes… I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, I don’t belong here.   Almost everyone who’s overweight knows that mentality.  We believe that this is OK, and that if we aren’t hard on ourselves no one else will be. We see what the fitness industry puts out as the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, or the CrossFit mantra that you need to have bloodied shins or hands.   No one tells us right off the bat, that this is wrong and destructive.  It’s not just destructive to our bodies, it’s destructive to who we are.

I let this mentality drive me to the gym every morning.  I lifted the weights, I ate according to what the “experts” said in the articles.  Nothing was changing, the scale was the same number week in and week out… 270-290lbs.  My body fat% was stuck in the same rut of 21% to 25%.  Like anyone who’s trying to lose weight, this infuriated me more than someone cutting me off.  I’d frantically look at what I was eating, what I was doing to work out.  I know I chatted the ears off some friends over it as well.  None of it made sense, and I didn’t pay any attention to it at the time.  I neglected how I thought of myself and how I thought of how I approached things.  I not once thought of how my negative mindset was like shooting myself in the foot on a daily basis.  Sadly this was not the defining moment where my life changed and I had that a-ha moment.  I let this continue into triathlon training.  It got me through training, racing, and training.  Inside it was the same frantic beat myself up over it.  The search through the data revealed nothing, so I’d train even harder.  I knew the saying, you need  time to recover yada, yada, yada, but I didn’t believe it.  Remember… no pain no gain.  I knew the workout smarter, not harder stuff.  I didn’t believe it, and I made the excuse that it didn’t pertain to me because I was fat.  Fat people didn’t have the luxury to recover.  We can rest/recover when we’re dead.   I rationalized it all with “I’m harder on myself than anyone else.”  I didn’t do it publically either.  I did it when no one else was watching.  We and I, in my opinion make/made up reasons to keep thinking that way and give us a way out, “I’m trying to, I’m a work in progress, or I can’t”.  Les Brown has a saying that when we fight for our limitations, we can keep them.   That is what I have done and many others continue to do.

Finally, at some point down the road I started to embrace that I wasn’t ever going to be a fast triathlete.  Yes, I was a fast Clydesdale triathlete, but I wasn’t a fast triathlete.  It probably was the best and most profound choice.  It was around this time that I actually started to believe in myself.  I embraced “I might not be fast, but I’m doing it, and I’m having fun!”  I was able to change my entire mindset towards everything.   When I stopped worrying about how fast I was, it was a whole new world that opened up.  I stopped worrying about being lean and thin, and just let my body do what it was going to do.  Sure enough it did, I changed my diet to be more metabolically efficient.  It really aligned with how I look at food for fuel now, instead of some having to be some pleasurable experience.  Good things were starting to happen.  It might have been while I was training for my first Ironman that I started to really believe in myself.   There is something to be said that changes you when you start physically going farther than you thought you could.

When you realize there is good in you, you start to see the good around you as well.  Then good things start to happen TO you.  It starts with realizing that there is good in you.  You can hear it from all the people in the world, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t mean a thing to you.  Why is that?  Because you’re so blinded by disbelief that you can’t see it.  As a friend says “fantasy land”  I had that frame of mind as well at one time.  We call it fantasy land because we are so blinded by our ways that we decided that we can’t accept it another way.   It’s not a fantasy land at all.  We see it all around us in every day life.  Facebook is really big with this we see a wilderness picture with a nice saying on it, then a few thousand likes.   What we need is a believe button, how many people believe this?  Embrace your faults, be kind to yourself, be positive, the list goes on and on.  It’s POSSIBLE, for you to love yourself and NOT be seen as a narcissist or self-centered.  It’s NOT bad to love yourself.   All of a sudden more weight started to come off more as I stopped fixating on what I ate to what the experts where saying, and I ate according to what I felt was right for me (#metabolic efficiency). Just so you know I just ate 2 whoopee pie’s from last night all at once (yes I enjoy food at times).   My training started to get better and better.  I finished my 2nd Ironman slower than my first and with an injury.  I didn’t beat myself up for it, I didn’t look at what I didn’t do, I didn’t have that negative mindset through the entire race.  There was no voice that was saying quit, you can’t do this.

Then last month I was surprised to find out that Base Performance had chosen my Ironman Louisville finisher photo to be used in their ad in Triathlete Magazine (pictured upper right).  It wasn’t till I was writing this blog post that it came to me.  I DID achieve greatness that day.  I shed some of the demons that really plagued me through training, through racing, through weight loss, through diet missteps.   The ad is for Base Performance products, but for me it’s something completely different.  It’s the defining moment to date for all the blood, sweat, tears, and mental fights I’ve had with myself to overcome my own hurdles.  That picture and phrase together, show me that no matter what comes my way, I will over come it.  It might not be easy, I might fail a few times, but I’m going to overcome it.  I just found out that they are going to be using the same ad in next months magazine as well!

As several people have told me, and I believe them now.  You can tell by your smile that you’re a great person.  The picture in the lower right that I’m using for my book and I use for my health coach site (www.chrisholleyhealthcoach.com) really show that I am happy with myself, I don’t obsess over the negative around me, I look at the positive around me, and that I care about people’s health.

 

 

 

2015 – A Look Back

It’s been a while since I last wrote and for good reason there has been a lot of things going on since I did Ironman Louisville.  Moved into a new apartment with the girlfriend, finished my IRONMAN Certified Coach certification, finished up my Advanced Nutrition Diploma, enrolled in my local community college for their nutrition program, and got signed up for my US Masters Swimming level 1 and 2 certifications.

What a year 2015 has been.  Back in January I had a general direction of the year I wanted to have and I knew there would be some choices that I had to make.  Some where easy, and some where hard, but I didn’t have any idea that I would end up where I am now.  I am ending the year as an IRONMAN Certified Coach, USMS ALTS (Adult Learn to Swim) Coach, and soon to be Holistic Health Coach.  Through my weight loss and life transformations of being a drinker to now I’ve inspired many people to take control of their own lives and that it’s possible.  I have a great girlfriend whom I love and we recently have our own place.   Now I didn’t have an exact plan for anything, but I had a nice general direction.

I lost a good friend this year Darryl and while we lost contact as I tried to get my life back on track and he was getting his life on track there I’ll always remember his laugh.  I regret losing contact with him, but sometimes things do happen and you can’t beat yourself up over them.  I had to get my life in order for me, and the important part is that each one of us is better for knowing each other.   As long as I can remember his laugh, he’ll always be around.  I also had the chance to visit my dads grave when I did Ironman Louisville and say some final thoughts to a man I didn’t really know, but felt that there was some closure to an unknown and unfinished chapter in my life.  Thankfully I don’t let things get me down, and I’m able to keep myself up and keep going.

When I look back though I can only see so many positive things that have happened to me, which has been a direct reflection of the positive things that I’ve tried to do for other people.  My mentality has always been “Lead by Example”, and so far it’s inspired more people then I could have ever imagined.  As I slowly start to build my coaching business both for health and wellness and endurance multisport the basis for everything I do is to stay positive and have faith in yourself both mentally and physically.   In the words of the late Greg Plitt “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is just enough!”

Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete – Dina Griffin @ eNRG

Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete
Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD, METS II
Sport Dietitian
Certified Level II Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist
Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete
Before we get into the “meat” of this article, let it be known that I am not trying to cause any controversy or debate as to whether vegetarian or vegan nutrition patterns are superior or inferior to omnivorous patterns.  There are many reasons athletes choose to follow plant-based patterns such as ethical, moral, spiritual, and/or health reasons; there are also many militant perspectives to try to persuade you one direction or another.  The purpose of this article is to highlight a few concerns for vegetarian and vegan endurance athletes from a sport dietitian perspective and to provide a short Metabolic Efficiency case study on a recent female athlete with whom I worked.
*Abbreviation you will see throughout this article:  PBEA = plant-based endurance athlete
For those who need a clarification on “vegan”vs. “vegetarian”, here is a brief description:
  • Vegan:  Avoids all animal foods, animal by-products and any food that contains any animal-derived food in it. This means no meat, poultry, dairy, fish, or eggs in any form or contained in any other food (such as baked goods). True vegan followers avoid honey, animal broths, and gelatin.
  • Vegetarian:  There are different “levels”such as those who permit eggs, dairy, or fish. All other animal foods are avoided.
Next, let us highlight some issues and concerns in the context of plant-based nutrition patterns.
Protein
While true there are ample plant-based sources of protein, I can report that many of the PBEAs with whom I have worked truly have inadequate protein intakes.  Following nutrition periodization principles, there are certain times of the training year (and within certain types of training blocks) where protein needs are increased based on the volume and intensity of training. This is a common area where I see PBEAs struggle or are simply unaware of their body’s needs.  This particularly holds true for athletes who are restricting their dietary intake to pursue weight loss. Protein intakes can range from 1.2-2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.55-1.1 grams per pound of body weight) depending on health and training. This can be difficult to achieve for some PBEAs, especially if they have several food “dislikes”and are not a fan of cooking.
Tips:
  • Know your protein sources.  For vegan followers, these include the general categories of legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils, peas, etc.; try sprouting to improve the nutrient profile and digestibility), nuts/seeds, nut/seed butters, soy foods, whole grains, seitan, spirulina, sprouts and protein powders. Yes, there is protein in vegetables (such as leafy greens), but you must eat A LOT of vegetables. Vegetarians have more flexibility in protein sources if including eggs and dairy.
  • Vary your protein sources.  This may seem like an obvious one, but I see countless PBEAs who eat the same thing every day with little variety.  Know that not all proteins are the same, meaning the amino acid content can be quite variable. There are “indispensable”amino acids which must come from dietary sources since the body cannot make them. Supplementation of amino acids may be necessary, especially for ultra PBEAs or those in strength-building training blocks.
  • Keep it clean. It’s interesting how many PBEAs eat processed and refined foods for their protein sources, yet these items can be loaded with fillers and synthetic ingredients. Do the body better by keeping your protein sources as simple as possible.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
 
If you are a PBEA who is an ultra runner, long course triathlete, or a female, micronutrient deficiencies are more common than you realize.
Tips:
  • Work with a board certified sport dietitian who can assess your nutrition intake and physical training patterns. Food choices can be optimized to enhance the micronutrient quality. Appropriate supplementation can be recommended as it fits your own specific needs.
  • Get regular blood work. The blood work you get with your typical annual physical is rarely adequate for PBEAs. Seek guidance from a board certified sport dietitian so that appropriate labs can be ordered.
  • Variety in food intake will help.  If you refuse to follow the above tips, then I strongly recommend you get into the habit of eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
A Metabolic Efficiency Case Study:  The Female Vegetarian Endurance Athlete
 
Many PBEAs assume that to improve metabolic efficiency (how your body uses fat and carbohydrate as an energy source at rest and during exercise), you have to convert to omnivore patterns and eat gobs of steak. While omnivores have more flexibility in food choices to facilitate metabolic efficiency, it is not necessary to begin eating animal proteins to make an impact on how your body uses its fuel sources. The underlying “trick”is to learn how to put together foods to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout daily eating.
Meet “Dee”, a female marathoner in her 50s who is a lacto-ovo vegetarian (no soy). Her goals were to find out her metabolic efficiency (M.E.) level and to lose weight.  Her daily nutrition resembled this prior to beginning the M.E. journey:
  • breakfast: coffee, bagel, cream cheese prior to run OR 2 eggs with wheat toast if no run
  • post-run: baked good from coffee shop
  • lunch: veggie dog on wheat bun with ketchup, mustard
  • snack: nonfat greek yogurt
  • dinner: “fake” meat with spaghetti or risotto or pizza
This is her M.E. test data before making any nutrition changes:
As you can see in the graph, Dee was unable to utilize fat as a predominant energy source in her running paces.  After the testing, we reviewed her food preferences and devised strategies for her to begin changing her food combinations to promote M.E.  Her new nutrition day resembled more of this:
  • breakfast:  oats/quinoa with walnuts + 1 egg before run OR eggs, veggies, cheese if no run
  • snack: full-fat greek yogurt with berries
  • lunch: wheat tortilla with beans, seitan, veggies, avocado or cheese
  • snack: almonds
  • dinner: roasted veggies or salad with a whole grain and protein source such as BeyondMeat or legumes
A blood workup found that Dee was headed towards iron deficiency anemia. She also had low levels of vitamin B12, zinc, and vitamin D. This explained some of the fatigue and sluggishness she had felt during her recent training runs. Dietary suggestions were made in addition to providing her supplementation recommendations.
Dee continued with her running program, which involved 4-5 days of training per week. When she returned to the eNRG performance facility for her second M.E. test 4 months later, she had lost 9 pounds. She reported feeling stronger for her runs and having good energy throughout her days.  Here are the results of her second M.E. test:
Through her training and her dietary changes, her Metabolic Efficiency Point moved to within her targeted marathon goal pace. She ended up with a new PR and reports feeling in great health with the M.E. lifestyle.
In summary, if you are a PBEA, I recommend working with a sport dietitian who can assess your needs (in conjunction with your goals) and guide you towards optimal health within your food preference parameters. Improvements in Metabolic Efficiency can align with your health and performance goals with further dietary and training fine-tuning.  To all of the PBEAs out there, give it a try!
-Dina

Metabolic Efficiency Part 2–The Weight is Coming Off!

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So I started this whole Metabolic Efficiency thing at 243lbs back on July 21st and since then I’m down to 226lbs.  I knew the basics to it, burn more fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate.  I knew that it didn’t include counting calories.  I knew that it included the whole low-carb high fat diet.   I had my doubts about it, because it went against everything that you learn from personal training and in terms of fueling the body during long endurance sports.   I also know that 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories of energy and 1 gram of carbohydrate gives you 4.  So you have more than 2 times the amount of energy in fat then carbohydrate.  However, your bodies preferred method of energy is carbohydrate.

So how am I going to get my body to burn more fat and less carbs… well decrease the carbs and increase the fats!   Been doing this for 2 weeks now, and surprisingly I’m eating more spinach, squash, zucchini, and kale then I ever have before.   I’m eating more fish (I try not to eat beef, pork, or chicken), and I’ve reintroduced actually bacon and butter back into my diet!   Little did I know that even though I’m eating tons of greens/carbs I never really knew how low value of carbs they were and filling.   Stuffing my face with spinach and kale (about 2-4 ounces) every day is hard work.  You can see from my MFP (My Fitness Pal) screenshot that I eat… a lot.

MFP

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In doing so, I’ve actually started to become accustom to finding that I’m enjoying cooking more, and looking at more veggies, and the side effect is little to no sugar!  So you can see that even with 80 grams of carbs I’m still getting most of my energy from “healthy” fat sources.  You can see on there avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and butter.   Now keep in mind yes I’m under my calorie goal by MFP… I don’t count calories so I couldn’t care less about it.

So what about my performance during my workouts?  Let’s just say that I can go 2 hours without needing anything besides maybe water and electrolyte salts on a hot day.  How do I know this?   Well I got a Metabolic Efficiency Profile test does that tells me what % fat vs carbohydrate I’m burning at various intensities.   I now know that if my heart rate is cruising at 151 (Z2) I’m burning roughly 75% of my calories from fat… and with 2000 calories of stored carbohydrate I’m going to go for a while.  If my HR is racing at 155 then I’m reaching that 50% cross over area where I’m getting half my energy from fat and from stored carbs.   So since I’m a slow runner I can now start increasing my effort while trying to maximize my fat burning engine so I don’t need to worry about all those sugar based drinks and gu’s out there that could cause all those wonderful GI issues.  So what do I take on those long training days that are 2+ hours?   I hate Generation UCAN, which is a super starch designed not to spike your insulin levels so you can keep burning fat, and not sugar.  Yeah it can get a bit goopy but so far, it’s working out great!

So now that the science behind it is out of the way, I’m 2 weeks into it.   I haven’t felt any energy crashes.  I raced Solana Beach Triathlon on nothing but water and felt great the entire time.  Took 4th in my division, I’m ok with that cause once again I’ve been training for an Ironman, not a Sprint.  I’m down almost 14lbs, mostly fat.  I’m sitting at approximately 18% BF and I’m feeling like things are falling into place.  Putting on some muscle to get some power back on the bike and I’ve never really ran at this weight for a long time so I’m going to be curious to see how my body adapts to being not just lighter but leaner.

Escape from Alcatraz–Race Report and More.

311843_200101088_XLargeCrossing the finish line of what is one of the most iconic triathlons in the world.  I did it, I completed it, I escaped from Alcatraz.   There is a certain allure about doing this race around the triathlon world that I exists in.  I was told it’s a bucket list race and that everyone should try it.  It’s a lottery style entry with 2 drawings.  The first drawing for obvious reasons, but the second drawing is for the slots that the weren’t claimed by the first wave of people.  So you really have 2 shots of getting in this race.   Well I signed up for the lottery with ZERO thought about actually getting in.  I’m pretty sure I was peer-pressured into it.  Needless to say I didn’t make the first round but I did make the second round.  You jump off a boat in San Francisco Bay right next to Alcatraz Island and swim to the shore by the Marina Green.  This water is notorious for being cold and choppy and having a hell of a current that can sweep you towards the Golden Gate.  Then you bike 18 miles through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.  It’s a very technical course with a lot of ups and downs 10299154_10155729472820192_2422600405623214181_nand sharp turns.  Then run is along the same course as the bike down to a beach and then up the notorious “Sand Ladder” shown to the left.  Then it’s a run back down and through a long chute with lots of spectators to finish things off.  The weather also plays a huge role in how this race goes as well.  You didn’t know what you were going to get till race morning.

Pre-Race: I got into town Saturday morning before the race.  I jumped a 7AM flight and landed at 8:30AM.  After the public transportation and Uber to the hotel it was 10:30 so I had them drop me off at the expo.  The line for packet pickup was incredible and was wrapped around for 2+ hours.  There was a lot of excitement in the air as I ended up talking to several athletes and found my friends from San Diego and met some new Fil Am Tri Club members.  I didn’t really pay much attention to the athlete briefing and in retrospect I didn’t really need to.  There has been such a flood of information flowing through me from a lot of sources to where I felt really prepared.  The day though was just go go go and I didn’t really have time to relax as much as I had liked to.  Either way I felt really prepared for this race and was in bed by 9AM with a 3:30AM wake up time.  We weren’t allowed to rack our bikes the night before so I followed my buddy Kevin and his friend to the transition time.  We had to be on the shuttle to the boat by 5:00AM so we left the hotel at 4:15AM.  Thankfully my girl made me my PB&Banana Bagel, and out the door I went.  It was COLD that early, but once we hit transition there was a lot of excitement in the air as I got my transition setup.  I was right at the end which was even better.  I found Kevin who was wrapping up his transition and we got on the shuttle to the boat.

The Swim (35:50):  At 6:35 the boat launched and we were on our way.  There was no turning back.  It was a one way trip for 2000 triathletes.  The excitement on the boat was amazing and there was a lot of nervous swimmers out there as well who seemed really anxious.  I felt confident, I had a game plan.  Jump off the boat on the far left or to the far right and then sight for the 2 ugly apartment buildings and then follow the shore line.  I figured worst thing that happens is that I undershoot the exit and swim down current to it.  By 7AM I had my wetsuit on completely and was pouring water in it to get the water layer present and warmed up for the jump into the 60 degree water.  I had my booties on, and I was outside on the deck warming up with Andy Potts who I’d met the day before.  We wished each other a great race and then before I knew it, it was time for the National Anthem.  The announcer then called the time it was 7:25 and the pro’s lined up first, the doors were open.   The water temp was 60 degree’s with a current of 6 knots going towards the ocean, with minimal chop.  The horn goes off and the pro’s jump off but then everyone jumped right behind them.  There was no pause and I approached the right side and jumped in the water.  It was a total rush.  I could see the lead boat lights and I figured that now I’d just sight off that and keep it dead ahead of me.  This worked the entire time till my goggles fogged up on me.  After stopping and clearing them I was probably 1/2 a mile off shore and I cut the inside to swim right into the exit exactly as planned.  I exited the water and then ran to the shoes I planned to run back to transition in.

311843_200089360_XLargeThe Bike (1:06:45):  I spent 10:30 in T1 (which included the 800M run back to the T1 area.  I really wanted to take my time and just enjoy the race experience.  This was after all probably the only time I’m ever going to do the race.  Once on the bike I knew what was coming, 2 miles of flat and then the climbs.  I took the course very conservatively.  Some of the down hills you could hear people slamming their breaks and you could smell brake pads in the air.  I saw one person being taken away in an ambulance who appeared to go over the handle bars.  The road conditions weren’t all that great either, so I felt I made the right choice to really play it safe and not over do it.  I had my Base Performance Rocket Fuel (Base Aminos, Base Hydro, Base Electrolyte Salts, and Karbolyn) and a bottle of water for nutrition on the bike.  I averaged 16.2 MPH on the road bike which I’m ok with.  It was a technical course and crowded.  Along the course you could see the fog just pouring in, and moving.  It was thick as you can see from the picture.  As I approached the bike in, I told myself I’m 2/3rds the way done.  I got this and to enjoy the run.  There are a lot of climbs, so take it easy and just enjoy the experience.

The Run (1:20:36):  I spent 4 mins in T2 again just taking my time.  By this time the crowd was really big and cheering for everyone coming in and going out of transition.  I saw my girl on the way out, gave her a high five and went on my merry way.  I was cruising a nice 10:30 min mile pace which for me, I’m happy with.  Been dealing with some foot issue’s that limited my running but I also knew that the climbs were coming so I didn’t want to push it either.  I hit the first hill and I just kept telling myself short steps and look ahead.  Just like my coach told me.  Outside of having to walk up some stairs because it was single file and there were people walking up at this point.  I was cruising about an 11:30 min mile uphill which I felt great still.  As I was going out I saw Andy Potts and Eric Lagerstrom battling it out for first.  Of course I cheered Andy on.  We ran down a trail to the beach and ran on Baker Beach for while.  Then around mile 5 it happened, the sand ladder.  I looked up and everyone was walking it.  I was going to walk it.  The wood beams were covered with sand and there was just no room to run up it.  Everyone who was walking up it was joking around and we were laughing and just enjoying things.  Little did we know that it was being filmed, so we all put on smiles at the top.  From this point it was all downhill from here.  I started cruising and then at some point right around mile 5.5 I slipped on some dirt and fell down.  I recovered nicely but the body got a bit banged up.  I walked it out a bit to make sure there was nothing mechanically wrong with me.  The knee’s moved without pain and there wasn’t any tight muscles.   I walked a bit more to shake it off and once we hit the flat final 1.5 miles I just kept up a constant jog.  I saw some friends just coming out on the run and cheered them on.  I took some time at the aid stations to wash off some of the dirt that I was covered in (have to look good for the pictures).  As I approached the chute I looked around to make sure there was no last minute sprinters and I relished the accomplishment that I just completed as I crossed the finish line.  My final time was 3:17:xx but all in all I don’t care.  I had a lot of fun.  The race is awesome and such a rush from start to finish.

Reflecting Back:  Even with my fall, there was not a bad moment I had in this race at all.  It was much better than I expected and anticipated.  A race that I’ve heard several people say they have done it.  It was a badge of honor type race.  I’ve joined the group of athletes who have escaped from Alcatraz.  I watched video on the swim, I’ve swam the distance before.  My girl and I went out on a boat tour the day after the race and I looked at the swim from above the water verses being inside it.  It makes the race feel like an even better accomplishment.  It’s one thing to swim down here in San Diego where the water’s pretty darn clear and warm.  It’s another to jump off a perfectly good boat into San Francisco Bay next to Alcatraz and swim to short.  It wasn’t more than 4 years ago that I would have told myself I was insane to even attempt it, never the less complete the damn thing.

Ironman Arizona Race Report

0823_098542Here it is my race report.  First I’d like to thank my coach Julie Dunkle and the group that I trained with.  Without you girls it would not have been as much fun.  Also want to thank my parents for supporting me through all this and my kid sister Jill who was my sherpa and handled a lot of stuff for me on race day.

Arriving in Tempe on Thursday allowed me to handle a lot of the athlete requirements before everyone got into town.  This helped keep a lot of pressure off of me.  Saturday was gear check day for my bike and my gear bags which helped even more come race morning.

Race Morning:
Thankfully I got to bed early and I slept like a rock!  Woke up and ate 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches while sipping some water.  Got the rest of my special needs bags set to go went through my race checklist and once everything was good my sister and I went down to the race venue.  It opened at 5AM and we were there around 5:15AM.   Once down there I had to get my nutrition into my bike and everything all set that I couldn’t leave overnight.  Got my special needs bags dropped off, dropped my friends off at the pool, and completely forgot about putting my salt sticks into my bike as well putting on my HR monitor.  Said good bye to the kid sister and got in line for the swim start.

Swim:0823_076121
I positioned myself up towards the front to avoid having to swim over people.  As I treaded water and waited for the gun to go off I was anxious to get started.   The excitement in the air was astonishing.  As the cannon (not a gun or horn) went off the washing mashing began and for me it didn’t stop till I got out of the water.  I swam a 1:10 which I was pretty disgusted with but I also wasn’t swimming as fast as I could.  I held back some because I had a 112 mile bike and a marathon to do.  So I wanted to conserve some energy seeing as though I’d never gone so far in my life.  I settled into a good rhythm away from some people and just kept swimming.   The turns got a bit crowded but nothing crazy.  On the return there was some waves pushing from the rear which helped and the sun was not in our eyes anymore.   I didn’t wear my Garmin this time around I kept it on my bike.  I didn’t really have any issue’s exiting the water but once I was out finding a wetsuit stripper that was available was a bit interesting.  Finally after that was done I trotted into the transition tent.

Bike:
0823_020538I was fully expecting to get a 5 hour ride with at least 20 MPH average here.  I jumped on the bike feeling great   It wasn’t till we got to a clearing that I had felt the wind gusts and knew it was going to be a long day…  Once I turned onto the Bee Line Hwy it was 11 miles of straight headwinds all the way out and then tailwind all the way back.  I didn’t have my HR strap on but I don’t use HR when riding since I have my Power2Max Power Meter.  I kept my watts under 214 to keep me in Zone 2.  Even going downhill I didn’t want to hammer it out too fast and not have any legs to battle the headwind going back.   With each successive loop the winds kept getting stronger and stronger eventually slowing me down to 8MPH at some points.   During the bike I also had 4 damn flats… 4 of them.  As that 5th hour ticked away I just kept riding to get to the run.   My nutrition was dead on (could have used more salt sticks) but I felt great getting off the bike and ready to hit the run.   The change to the speedfill bottle on the frame and the aerobar bottle holder worked out great!  I kept my APX in the bottle and then the water bottles from the aid stations in the aerobar holster.

Run:WP_20141116_15_39_57_Pro
My plan here was to run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute all at an easy pace for the first loop and then crank out some more intensity.  Grabbed some water at the first aid station along with Gu Chomps (Not sure I should have).  Then ran into Stuart from the Tri Club and we chit chatted and both were along the same run/walk plan.  We were cruising a nice 11 min mile pace which I was OK with.   At the 2nd aid station I took some cola (I wanted a caffeine pick up after the head winds.  Well the cola was not flat by any means and right around mile 3 I started to feel gassy… very gassy.  I was burping hoping it was just gas and then you have that ah-ha moment where as they say “Don’t trust a fart”.  I told John and Stuart that I’d catch up to them.  I spent the next 10 minutes or so in that porta-john.  Then it seemed I would repeat that for the next 10 miles except only taking in water, pretzels and grapes.  I didn’t know if that combination would help but in my mind my thought process was like this.  Pretzels to help absorb any carbonation, water to help dilute the cola more, and grapes for the sugars.   I don’t know if it was the “best” thing but for me it worked.  I started to feel human again around mile 12 and I was off to run/walking with enjoyment (Yes I said enjoyment).  I saw my parents when I started the 2nd lap and asked where some others were and they said they are out there running.  I was relieved they made the bike cut-off.  I stopped at my special needs bag and changed out my shoes (I shouldn’t have done this either).  Why did I change out my shoes when the one’s I was wearing seemed perfectly ok.  Either way I started running again with my 4/1 ratio.  Around mile 16 I was in a daze of things tunnel vision to just make it to the far turn around and that’s when I asked a volunteer for some water and instead she gave me perform.  Well, after that perform went down the hatch in about 15-20 seconds it was coming back up along with everything else in my stomach.   I took some water and tried to jog it out a bit which was fine for a bit and ended up puking a couple more times.   Finally at the mile 20 or so turn around I had been feeling really good.  Then my coach Julie started running with me for a bit and we had a chit chat.  She asked if I was alright and I said not really.  Explained the stomach stuff to her.  She said I was going to make it, even if I ended up walking the rest of the way I was going to make it.   By this time by feet were really starting to hurt (damn shoes, I knew it was the shoes).  I should have never changed them out.  I hit mile 24 and I could hear the finish line.

The Finish:0823_090644
At mile 24 once I started to hear everyone being called an Ironman everything kind of hit me.  I really was going to make it, I really was going to become an Ironman.  I didn’t care about the time I was going to make it.  I started thinking about how many people supported me through this.  How I wish my father could have been alive to find out that his oldest son had turned his life around from a heavy drinker to an Ironman and an inspiration.   I wished my grandparents were still around as well.  Finally as I turned the final corner down the finish chute I remember seeing the lights.  I remember seeing all the hands wanting hi-fives.  I remember hearing “Christopher Holley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.  I couldn’t tell you my emotions at that moment.  I can’t tell you what else I heard.  I can’t even tell you at what point I got my medal.  I don’t even remember taking the finisher picture.   I remember seeing Rhonda at some point which surprised me that she made it out.  I remember my parents meeting her and not much else after that.

Coming Too:WP_20141116_21_21_58_Pro
My parents went back to the hotel they were tired, I could tell by their smiles that I made them proud.  I still had to watch the rest of Team Dunkle come in.  I heard some of the ladies and Henry finish but I couldn’t make it through everything in time to cheer them on going down the chute.  Nicole had finished as well but couldn’t move fast enough either.   Finally I made my way around everyone to the inside turn of the finish shoot.  As the final hour approached more and more of the ladies from Team Dunkle finished.  They had did it.  My certain someone had finished and I was so proud.   Finally Erika crossed the finish line all smiles.  She was soo excited she ran down the far side of the chute away from her dad and she hi-fived every single hand she could.  We all did it, we all become an Ironman that day.

Wrapping Up:
I still can’t believe it’s over just like that.  It was a 5 month journey that brought me to places that I’d never been both physically and mentally.  As I look back at the race day while writing this.  I had a LOT of fun.  At the end of the day that’s what being an athlete is all about… FUN.