Sunday, June 14, 2015

Race Report - 2015 Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship St. George

Forgive the ridiculously long delay in sharing my race report.  Truth be told, this whole journey often opens doors inside that are far easier and more comfortable when left closed.  Each time I started to write...I couldn't seem to pull it together.  Sorta like that IMLT 2014 race report; ya know...the one that didn't happen.  So here it is.  Hopefully amusing, but always sincere.

St. George is a phenomenal host.
First and foremost, I need to say that as my little family drove away from St. George, there were four huge smiles on our faces.  Those smiles wouldn't be there if it weren't for my wife, Adrianne.  She's shown support that I've never really known before.  We had a great little getaway, and although the race itself sort of laughed at me...I couldn't be happier.  Ironman St. George 70.3 is an absolute must do race. I actually think I might want to do it again.

My favorite time of day on race day.  Always beautiful.
Goal - Under 40 minutes
PR - 38:48
Actual 38:30

The swim felt OK.  Not great, but comfortable.  I actually was in such a different place, emotionally, that I just swam. I didn't think about the bike, but really enjoyed the morning; the water; the other racers. I found that it was pretty congested and I never really did find a rhythm because I was either being passed by someone or running into someone from three waves up who was swimming perpendicular with the course.  Man...for some I think they swam 1.5 miles, not 1.2  Ultimately I did OK. When I rounded the little island and could site the finish line I went far far to the right and just cruised in knowing that I had a long day ahead.  Beautiful, crisp, and clean.  Swim done.

T1: They had a "Clean Transition" set up?  Nothing on the ground.  It was awesome!  I just put my stuff in a bag and headed off!  Probably my best transition ever.

Goal - Don't blow up. 3:45 would be OK.  3:30 would be a good day for me.
PR - 3:28.41
Actual - 3:33.58

This was a really pretty course.  It made the suffering tolerable.  I decided that for this race I'd ride my road bike instead of my...  Wait... I rode the only bike I own: my ten year old Felt F3.  Its often a better bike than I am rider.  I put a compact up front and a 12/32 in the back for Lake Tahoe last year and knew that St. George would destroy my legs if I'd gone back to standard gearing, so I left it alone.  Mechanically, this old gal worked perfectly throughout the whole bike leg.  The big climb out of Snow Canyon was as hard as people warned me that it was going to be.  I think it started at 41 miles in.  To me it's one of those climbs that doesn't matter if it's at the beginning or the end.  It's just gonna hurt.  It wasn't as long as I though, but it was steep. That climb was the only time of the day that got pretty dark for me.  You know the dark when you say, "Why the F#@K do I do this? This is stupid."  But I bounced back and finished last 10 miles or so really strong.  I was actually really happy comin' into T2.  I knew that I did a better job with nutrition throughout the bike leg and I could feel it in my energy and attitude.  When I later discovered that I was 5 minutes off of my PR, but on a much tougher course, I was pretty happy with that.  Again...smilin'.

T2 - Clean and Simple
T2: Another clean transition.  Nothing lightening fast, but just smooth and easy.  Hit the lou on the way out which made me think I must have taken on enough fluids on the bike.  I think all is good heading out for the run.  

Goal - Don't Walk; 2:30 would even do.
PR - 2:33.15
Actual - 3:00.59

I was in great spirits coming out of T2: Cautiously optimistic.  I had just put in my best, most consistent bike performance ever.  Now I could enjoy the run. All those hours in the trails above our new Southern California home would make this course easier to bear. It wouldn't be easy, but it would be easier.  Before those thoughts could finish developing in my mind...BOOM!  STOP!  My left quad completely locked up.  I'd never ever felt even a twinge of cramps in my quads before so I had no idea what was happening.  I'd take 1 step; perfect. The next step; ouch. Next one...AHHHHHH!  DONE!  I wasn't even close to being able to walk.   I did big stretches.  BIG stretches.  Then one little baby step.  Locked up again.  I just stood there thinking, "This can't be it. Can it?  My kids and my wife are 3 miles away waiting for 'Daddy' to come by!  Really?  DNF?  I'm gonna DNF?"

After about 5 minutes of drinking, eating, stretching, praying...I could slowly walk.  10 steps, maybe 20...then stretch.  A slow walk turned into a stronger walk.  I threw in a little shuffle, then walk, then jog, then cramp.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It was a funny game I was playing with myself.  I thought I had it sorted out about the 3 mile mark, just in time to see my boys and my wife.  They deserved to see Daddy running.  It wasn't graceful, but I was running.  4 mile mark, right turn...then UP UP UP UP!  I actually laughed out loud.  The road went up so steeply I couldn't believe it was part of the course. then I remember seeing Rachel Joyce and Miranda Carfrae from my bike. They were really suffering up this part of the run.  Oh MAN this course is for real!  I saw 150 people or so just walking ahead of me.  As the road continued its course up the hill, my quads were not happy one little bit.  I walked like an invalid for several hundred yards but finally made it to the top.  "OK  did it.  Let's consider this the start of the run, OK?!?!?!?!?" I started a slow jog, just rounding a wide curve and cresting the top of the climb.  To my delight, there was an aid station at the top.  Ice, water, a sip of flat coke, then down the other side of the hill.  Yes, that's right.  Down.  The second the grade went down I felt exactly the way I did at the beginning of the run; completely locked up.  Each step I took down the hill just locked up my quad again.  I tried walking backward.  I tried walking sideways.  I even laughed to another racer (also tied in knots on the side of the road) telling him that  I was "crabby" because I was actually walking sideways like a crab.  The day pretty much stayed just like that for most of the run.  By the time I had things sorted out I was 2 hours and 15 minutes into the run with 4 miles to go.  That part was memorable.  I reminded myself to remember where I was and how fortunate I was to be doing it.  I was 4 miles away from finishing what's been a pretty tough trip.

I had struggled with 10 or so other runners for the past half hour.  Now I was running though.  I must have passed 30 people in the last half mile.  Running down the shoot I saw my kids and my wife for the 4th time throughout the day!  The clock went out the window and I ran to the edge of the mat for a couple heart felt hugs and sweaty kisses.

I have to sincerely thank ROKA wetsuits, Felt Bicycles, and Brooks Running for keeping me going.  All three products worked perfectly.  I've come to expect nothing else from each of them.  My 2015 Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championships St. George was not fast...but I'm really, really happy...and it's in the books.  Unforgettable.

A few snapshots

Two days before we left for St. George I couldn't turn my head from one side to the other; neck & back spasms. Found a magician who did some voodoo!  I learned what "cupping" is.  Heck...I think it worked!?!?!?!?

The boys love the travel element.  Always something new.  Jeffrey (7, on the right) just asked. "Daddy....are there Ironmans in France?  I want to go! 

Jeffrey and Michael happy to finally be in Utah!

Left to Right: Brad Stegge (MaccaX) 6:31
Bryan McNabb 5:33
Jeff Geiskopf 5:37
Glen McCauley 6:12
Ryan Borrowman (MaccaX) 5:31
Andy Blasquez (MaccaX) 7:23

Mommy takin' great care of the boys!  I love you babe!
Sorry it wasn't Tahoe buddy.  We'll finish that one some day.

Ready to run! 1st Ironkids Run

Great job Boys!

All this is the reward.

Beautiful morning, and well organized. The moon made the morning really beautiful.

Let's go cousin.

you too, Tim Pickering.  Keep up the great work, mate!

Well earned chill time.  Mom and Dad at the XBox!
Thanks to the MaccaX team.  Couldn't do it without you! Definitely more to come.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's the Best Bike for a Beginning Triathlete?

Many people pop onto Google and search for something like...

"Best Triathlon Bikes of 2014"

For me, however, (and I've daydreamed on those search results countless times) that search typically yields ambiguous and completely impractical answers.  A better question is probably, "What's the best triathlon bike for me!"

There's a bit of a qualification process that needs to happen before an individual can determine what's best for his or her unique needs, wants, and budget. Below are some points to consider before you break out the check book and make that investment.
  •  What do I need?  The truth is that I've seen (and in fact been beaten on occasion by) people competing in triathlons on bikes ranging from $10,000 triathlon bikes, to old steel road bikes, to mountainbikes with slicks, beach cruisers, and even BMX bikes.  Yep!  I saw a guy riding a 24" BMX bike at a local sprint triathlon. The amazing thing isn't actually what he was riding, but how fast he was!  What you'll need is a bike.  It's that simple: You need a bike.
  • What do I want? I'll caution you to be careful for what you wish for! What I thought I wanted was really what my ego wanted, not what my body, fitness, budget, and ability level needed or deserved.
I wanted a P5 like I wanted air!  Racked & Ready at Ironman California 70.3, March, 2013. This is the Cervelo P5 belonging to the reigning Ironman World Champion, Frederik Van Lierde. Likely well in excess of $10,000 US.

So how much faster would I have been on Frederik's bike, than on my own? 

None!  Seriously, I probably couldn't have even finished the race on his bike.  I could, however, have spent $10,000 looking fast in the process of DNF'ing.  In fact, I saw more than a few athletes blow up right before my eyes at Ironman California 70.3, especially going up Mt. "Mother-F'er!" (Yep! The bike course is on a military base and it feels like it.) You've got to be comfortable in order to perform, and I'd surely suffer on this state of the art beast of a bike!

  •  What is your budget? This can make a huge difference in the bike buying process. In my case I didn't have the budget that would allow for me to purchase two bikes: An Aero Tri-Bike & a road bike. So I bought a road bike.  Over the past 18 months I've ridden about 7,500 miles.  Of those 7,500 miles, exactly 144 miles were under race conditions.  That's 1.9% of my bike time. Was I battling for the lead?  Nope!  Just learning the ropes, and learning my limits.  If I did have the budget I'd absolutely have bought two bikes, and I'd love 'em and ride 'em both!  What a privilege; to race on the best bike for that particular event.  Have you ever watched an ITU race?  Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee, and Gwen Jorgansen are the very fastest Triathletes in the world racing Olympic Distance. What do they ride?  Road bikes.  Have you ever seen someone dominating the Ironman World Championships in Kona riding a road bike?  Nope! Not in the last 25 years anyway, and it'll never happen again.  Bikes a purpose built now.  If you've got the budget to stock your garage with the latest and on!  Bike the best bike that serves your purpose.  If you don't have the budget, it becomes even more critical to buy a bike that is comfortable, versatile, and dependable.
It's my opinion, especially as it applies to beginning triathletes, you need to find comfort first. The speed will come.  You'll quickly learn that comfort instills confidence, and confidence leads to speed.
  • Keep safety in mind as well. Tri bikes often leave their pilots precariously perched in that elusive, expensive, and often uncomfortable "Aero" position.  This is rarely a position ideally suited for handling and safety. "Aero" bikes typically don't handle well at all, even in the best of hands.  They'll get you there in a hurry, but what's the risk versus the return? They're also typically not very comfortable for many age group athletes, especially at the middle to the back of the pack. The less comfortable you are on the bike, the less safe you'll feel on the day.  I'm nowhere near the sharp end of the field, and getting me from the back of the pack to the front isn't going to happen with the swipe of a debit card.  It's gonna take years of blood, sweat, and tears.  Comfort, however, is going to give me confidence, strong finishes, great memories...with tons of smiles along the way.
Humble by today's standards, my 2005 Felt F3 isn't the perfect triathlon bike. It wasn't built for triathlon. but it's mine, I know it,  and I love it.
Over the years I've become an strong advocate for both Felt and Specialized bicycles.  They both build a wide range of bikes that cover a wide range of abilities and budgets. They don't have that flashy exotic Italian name, yet they are at the front of the back in all areas of cycling, from ITU to IM to Tour de France, to the downhill mountainbike world championships!  The truth as I see it is that true beginners can ride whatever the heck they want.  So find what attracts you at a local dealer, make sure you're buying something appropriate, and enjoy the ride.  As you advance in your abilities and change your longer term goals, you'll know when it's time to make that investment in "the next step up."  Maybe it'll be clip on  bars, a new wheelset, or a complete upgrade. You'll know when or if it's time to make a change.

To wrap it up, don't forget to give yourself a moment to enjoy the sport before you dive in up to your eyebrows trying to wring its neck for every extra second you can spare. Train smart! Train with a purpose! Mend your aches and pains.  Give yourself time to really fall in love with the Triathlon lifestyle and the energy at the events you participate in.  And...oh yea...don't forget the rest of your life!


Andy Blasquez

Monday, June 16, 2014

Second Race...same as the 1st..A little bit hotter and a whole lot worse!

USAP - Folsom Long Course Triathlon
70.3 Miles of soul searching; June 8th, 2014

This race was in honor of a good friend of mine, David Stanton, who just one year ago sustained a severe spinal cord injury while racing Superbikes in Northern California.  This was at the very same track that finally ended my spotty and far less successful motorcycling roadracing 'career.'  Dave, my brother Tim, and I started racing motorcycles together on the very same day, decades ago, and we've been close ever since. Dave's day to day fight for wellness and happiness is a constant source of inspiration to me, whether he knows it or not. 

Training up to this point had so at best.  To be honest, fining balance in my life has been incredibly challenging.  I had a couple of good weeks followed by a couple of soft weeks: Rinse, lather, repeat.  I know I wasn't at my best and I was anxious as hell just days before the race. But two strong sessions (one in the pool and one on the trainer) left me in good spirits prior to the race.  This was my 4th triathlon; and 2nd at the 70.3 distance.

I had a bit of an odd start to the day.  My age group, 45 and older, had a start time of 6:36AM, with instructions not to arrive later than 5AM.  That put me leaving my house at 3:15AM with the alarm set for 2:45AM. That's a pretty odd way to start a race day; at least for me.  That said, other than my morning Vitamix blends (with recipes complements of Rich Roll) I was loaded up and ready to go the night before. Then off to bed, where I always struggle to sleep.

Grateful to have one of my biggest supporters, my brother Tim, by my side on the drive up.  It's always an amusing and often insightful time when we're together.  The company really took my anxieties away.  As we sat at the gate, in a massive line of cars waiting to get into the Nimbus Flat State Park (this was a much larger event than I ever imagined) I noticed that it was already 75 degrees (24C).  This was of great concern to me as I simply can't function in the heat.  Two trips to the ER with hyperthermia has left me almost helpless under warm condition.  Fulsom in June was going to be a test, even if everything went perfectly well.

The Swim - Grateful to Ben Greenfield for continued support and good will, the wetsuit I used fit well and worked even better.  Thanks Ben!  The only other true open water swim I had completed at this point was an horrible experience at Ironman California 70.3 last year. I barely swam at all, to a 38:30 1.2 miles.  I was confident that, without incident, I could easily get under 35 minutes on this day.  I was wrong...I think.  I followed "The Boss's" (Macca's) instruction and started in front.  I swam well.  Nothing to write home about.  I took three or four short moments, each 10 seconds or so, to swim breast stroke, catch my breath, and make sure I was on target, as my sighting is not my strong suit.  I even found a rope on the ground that anchored the "Crew" lanes for the local university Crew team and followed that rope for quite a while.  I felt like I'd been gliding well, I had reasonable turnover, I was pacing myself...I even 'found feet' for the first time in my life.  I went into T2 pretty happy.  As I ran out of T2, I passed a very fast age-grouper as he just got to his bike.  He was an overall winner in a race I'd done previously.  If I was ahead of him, I must have done well.  Time 40:07

T1 Swim to Bike - MUCH better than in Oceanside, with the exception that a) I hadn't put my extra tube in my seat-pack, and b) I neglected to put my Ignite INRefresh Electrolytes into my jersey.  I DID remember not to swim with them!  One step at a time, right? Time 3:45

The Bike - I was stoked that a local racer allowed me to borrow his Zipp 404s for the race.  It was my first time using a proper wheelset and man was it nice!  Amazing feeling.  My goal was a modest-for-most 3:30:00.  This would be comparable to my prior efforts under hotter and hillier conditions.  Also, this was going to be completely done on natural foods; nothing packaged.  I would use no gels, no cytomax, etc. I used water, coconut water, dates, and almonds. I knew that if I wanted to run later, I couldn't be leaning on carbs and sugars throughout the bike leg.  I felt well and rode well for the first two hours, then hit a bit of a wall.  I felt sleepy and I couldn't shake it.  The electrolytes worked well, but I was short on accessible calories. I think I've got some nutrition work to do...for sure, and some longer saddle time too!  Time 3:31:23

T2 Bike to Run - This is where I got off the the wheels fell off.  I got off the bike and felt OK.  Honestly, I've done a half dozen centuries and the like, but I've never been so happy to just get off my bike.  I walked what seemed like forever through the transition area with hundreds of Aqua-Bikers, Sprint, and Olympic Distance finishers packing up.  Finally, all the way to the end of T2, I saw my brother and another friend.  I got off the bike, racked it, then grabbed my shoes.  I sat down to put them on and the world came crashing down.  It was 96 degrees (36C) now and all I could do was pour ice water on my head.  I was just shutting down from the heat.  I got up and hit the trails.  It was a constantly rolling 6.55 mile out and back that I'd do twice...with God's mercy. Time - 4:29

Panache Cyclewear, Co. can't be beat!

The Run - The trudge.  The MaccaX crew often boast shirts that read, "Embrace The Suck!"  That was going to be the mantra for the entire 13.1 miles.  I might have been a half mile into the run when I saw on my Garmin that my heart-rate was already above 150.  I was barely moving.  Immediately the signs of a meltdown were evident.  I was 8 minutes into a 'run' that should take me 2:10-2:20 and systems were shutting down.  I got the chills. My skin started to hurt.  I started to get nauseated, and it got worse from there.  "How the hell are these people running?" kept going through my head?  1 mile in was the first aid station.  I grabbed two cups of ice and one cup of ice water.  One cup of ice...directly down my shorts.  NOT comfortable, but at this point nothing was.  One cup I collapsed and put inside my tri top, just above my HR monitor.  That's where my heart is...right?  Let's cool it down!  The cup of water was slowly sipped all the way to the next  feed station.  All the way...1 more mile.
HUGE props to USAP for such excellent support: Ice and water everywhere!  So after shuffling and slogging through the first 6.55 miles I hit the turn around.  It was now 1PM, 106 degrees (41C) and getting warmer. There was nothing I wanted more than to just stop.  The turn around was in the shade, my brother and friend were there, nutrition, etc.  What wasn't there though...was a finishers medal.  What wasn't there was me trying to find an excuse good enough to explain to my young sons that "Daddy quit." What was there, was purpose. Time - 3:20:10

My Brooks Ghost 7s were fantastic!
I started this day in an effort to honor a good friend.  Yea, I was in hell.  Yes, this was deeper than I'd ever
had to physically dig.  But what kept going through my mind was that this day and this suffering would end...
...for me.  I would eventually get home and settle into an ice bath, then go get some dinner with the family.  For me, the struggle to simply keep moving forward would end.  For Dave, a loving father, husband, son, and friend, his easiest days are harder than this: All of 'em. To wrap up, I finished.  It was an ugly, painful, but character building day.  Total Race Time - 7:40:41

In support of Dave, I flew the "53" as I crossed the finish line. It was over 106 degrees at the finish. But it was over.  I didn't let the volunteer at the finish line put the medal on my neck.  I grabbed it out of his hands and went to cool off.  Today's finisher's medal was earned by Dave, and that was the only neck it going to go on.
Thanks Dave, for fighting the good fight.  #Inspired.

For the few of you who follow my progress as I work toward Ironman Lake Tahoe in September of this year, I'd love to hear...from a little birdy or otherwise...that you found it within yourselves to make a donation to the Stanton Family.  Normally I try to leave you with a bit of  wit or wisdom at the end of each post I make, but this time it didn't seem fitting.  I'll just ask that you follow the link below and show your support in any way you can...even if it's simply a comment or sharing his blog address or a link to this blog post.   
Dave's blog is an inspiring, well written, and candid look into his day to day life and progress. It can be found here:  /

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

There's no such thing as Race Nutrition: Beginning Triathlon Tips

As a beginner triathlete, it took me a long time to learn this one:
There is no magical sports supplement, gel, sports drink, or pill that works on race day. Nothing you find in your SWAG bag is the answer.  There is simply nutrition that works, and nutrition that doesn't, and nobody can figure that out for you...but you.

If you're training and racing regularly, daily nutrition and sports nutrition become one.  If you're training 3 or more times per week, you should be...
  • ...fueling your body with whatever it's going to need for optimal performance
  • ...fueling your body with whatever it needs while performing
  • ...fueling your body with whatever it needs to recover
  • Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Andy Blasquez
Note the ever present box of coconut water in my hand.
My long, yet unsuccessful history of involvement in endurance sports has been decorated, not with trophies and medals, but with glaring weaknesses, mistakes, and unnecessary suffering. However, since my involvement with the MaccaX group, and Chris McCormack's extended family of coaches, trainers, and mentors, every previous weaknesses is being turned into a strength.  Nutrition is no exception.  

Nutrition has always been a huge area of concern for me.  In fact, the 'concern' itself was undermining my GI system, preventing my body from getting what it needed...when it needed it.  Now, with ample help and guidance of Ben Greenfield and Rich Roll's program on MindBodyGreen.Com I'm completely dialed in. My day to day nutrition and my performance nutrition have become one.  I am truly an expert in what my body needs in order to perform optimally.  I don't mean sometimes, or pretty often, or this week, or over my last few rides.  I mean ALWAYS.  I mean, if it's a 45 minute run or a 6 hour bike session, my nutrition is nailed.  I know WHAT to take in, HOW MUCH to take in, WHEN to take take it in, and even IF I need to take in anything during my race or training session. 
And how do I feel about that?
I am Spartacus!

I've come to learn that for almost any weakness or misstep, the solution tends to be a simple one. Sports nutrition is no exception to that.  Now, don't let the word "simple" be confused with "easy."  Heck, winning Kona is simple. You just have to go faster than everyone else, right? That's pretty simple! Anyone who's tried it, however, will tell you it's not easy.  Now, although the solution to our sports nutrition problem is actually a simple one, the challenge in solving it is typically a mental/emotional one rather than a physical/nutritional one. If we don't have it worked out already, many of us blur the line between food as nutrition and food as fuel. In fact, many of us still see food as entertainment. If you're going to be your very best, you've got to buy into that.

We have to change our view of what food actually is! If we're going to race, food is fuel.  It's not called "fun." It's called food; it's fuel. It has a purpose. That's where the mental/emotional part becomes so hard.
Q: So you mean, if I'm going to be my absolute best, I can't be drinking booze and eating socially, with friends? 
A: How would I know!  I'm not you! Maybe nachos and Corona's work great for you.  However, I'm virtually certain that Krispy Kreme Donuts and Kettle One aren't ideal fuels to aid in preparation, performance, and recovery.  

How did it work for me, after all these years?  Ask yourself the following four questions:
  1. Do I actually need to take in fuel (nutrition and/or hydration) during this training session or race?
  2. What kind of fuels do I need? 
  3. How much fuel to I need?
  4. When should I take these fuels?
    • Before your event
    • During your event
    • After your event

How do I know what to eat and drink during a race or training session?

  1. Identify one nutritional elements that you know your body needs in order to perform optimally.
  2. Isolate the single element you are going to focus on, then determine what works for you.
  3. Lock that element down; it's fixed!  It's dialed!
  4. Move on to another element: Electrolytes, calories, salt, etc. and repeat the process.
  1. How much water should I drink? 
  2. Test it during training: Try 1/4 of a bottle of water every 15 minutes. Whatever you're trying, be consistent. While drinking 1/4 of a bottle of water every 15 you have to pee, or are you dehydrated?  Now adjust your intake as needed.
  3. On your next session, don't change your intake of water.
  4. Do you need more electrolytes? Start the process over with your focus on electrolytes. 

Here's what works for me:
  • 60 minutes or less: In my experience, if my session or race is going to be 60 minutes or less, I don't actually need any fuel during my race or session.  Fuel up before. Recover afterward. 
  • 60-90 minutes: I find that regardless of temperature, anything beyond 60 minutes requires hydration during my sessions.  Water or Coconut water is the only thing that works for me.  Gatorade, Powerade, etc. might as well be Kryptonite. It ties up my gut, spikes my glucose, and leads to me bonking shortly afterward.  My body can process enough 'sports drink' to keep me from bonking, leaving me completely bloated and often in pain.
  • At the 2 Hour mark: I know that if I'm not taking in calories during my session, I will bonk at the 1:45 to 2 hr. mark.  Knowing that, I tend to start taking on easy-to-digest calories at the 60 minute mark, alternating water and coconut water with that, as needed.
  • Anything over 2 hours is a long session for me: If I know I'm going out for more than 2 hours, I tend to keep my hydration consistent throughout, as noted above. I tend to start eating dates at about 60 minutes (maybe 2 dates every 30 minutes) and at the 2 hour mark I add roasted/salted almonds as well.  I appreciate that roasted almonds are not a healthy as raw, but the salt seems to help.  
  • Hours three, four, and beyond might look like this.
    • 3:00 - Water
    • 3:15 - Coconut Water
    • 3:30 - Water & Two Dates and 4 or 6 almonds
    • 3:45 - Coconut Water
    • 4:00 - Water & Two Dates and 4 to 6 almonds
    • ...continue
I've yet to finish a session or event that was so long that I was  left feeling flat, dehydrated, out of gas, or anything but well.  I have certainly been on 3 and 4 hour rides when my legs have been shattered, but I know that's because I'm pushing myself, not because my nutrition is off. 

I'm workin' on that one now.  One victory at a time!


Andy Blasquez
I'd love to have you follow me on my journey to Ironman Lake Tahoe 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Triathlon Training With Purpose: Stop exercising and start training!

~By Andy Blasquez

You may be asking, "What's the difference between Exercise and Training?" Well, my lack of understanding of these two terms is yet another in a long line of wrongs that I've had to right on my journey toward my first "Full"...                              

...Ironman Lake Tahoe 2014

Once I put my first full Ironman distance race on the calendar, I absolutely had to get serious.  I had to get real with myself.  It's kinda funny really...within this quirky little community...athletes often tweet or post the following phrase: "S*** just got REAL!"  as soon as that registration confirmation e-mail comes through. That post is typically closely followed by nausea and a bit of a lump in the throat. So, as soon as I received my confirmation of registration e-mail I knew that my training and the results of my training needed to improve dramatically.  I knew that if I was going to finish my first Ironman Triathlon, especially this Ironman Triathlon...I would have to stop dreaming and start doing.

At this point, the training schedule becomes crucial. It's easy to say, "I'm gonna do this! I'm gonna do that!" But when you document it; when you hold yourself accountable...Yes, the S*** does get very, very real.

Every session needs to have a specific purpose.  There's no more time to 'go for a ride' or 'head to the gym'. Unless you've got endless time at your disposal, each and every training session must have a clear, strategic, and specific purpose. Are you going for an LSD Run (Long Slow Distance) or looking to improve your body's ability to Flush Lactic Acid? Is tonight's goal to Increase Strength or Improve the Back End of the swim, bike, or run? Will you focus on Increasing Power or do a Negative Split session? Active Recovery? Hip and Leg function?  A Benchmark Test? The list goes on and on.

Personally, I'm still very much a rookie!  My training goal is simple: 
  • To create a routine...
  • that I can stick to...
  • that focuses on my weakest elements (of triathlon and fitness)...
  • without leaving me injured... 
  • and doesn't make my life a part of triathlon, but leaves triathlon where it needs to be for me...a part of my life.
There are many, MANY pitfalls associated with social media.  However, when used effectively, the internet and social media can...and does...improve our lives. I'm a strong advocate for associating yourself with a group of people you enjoy...AND...people you respect and admire.  Posting your sessions in an arena where your mentors can give you praise and constructive criticism is a really effective way of upping your game.  Think about it!  Weight Watchers is all about that.  Getting together and keeping each other motivated and accountable.  Improving your athletic performance works just the same way.  Post your sessions. Show your peers and mentors what you're doing. The data doesn't lie, and they can provide guidance and inspiration along the way.

What did I do, and why did I do it?
Now it's time for me to toe-the-line.The first thing I want to note about my last few weeks is the sad volume of training I've completed. About 5 1/2 hours per week. See!  This is what happens when you get 'real' with documenting
your sessions.  The truth comes out!  10-12 hours per week is what its going to take to get this done.  I'm barely half way there.  We'll see how things go from this time forward..  It's sad, but it's true, and I'm putting it out there. No room to hide!

Week of February 9 ~ 5 hours 45 minutes:
Swim: 0 Minutes:
  • At this point, I'm comfortable with my swim.  I'm not fast, but I'm not fast at anything.  I'm comfortable swimming a mile SCY (Short Course Yards) in under 30 minutes.  I figures that puts me at 35 minutes or so for a 70.3.  I'm OK with that.  BUT...I needed a bike trainer, so I put my payment into my Cyclops Fluid 2. I LOVE it.  Quiet, stable, easy to use and put away, and ultimately effective. I head back to the pool this month. Looking forward to the Zen that the pool brings.
Bike: 270 Minutes:
  • Schedule only allowed me to ride at night this week, so there it is.  Trainer sessions: 
  • 120 min. Zone 2 session to build the aerobic engine.
  • 60 min. session is called "The Classic" and is part of the MaccaX program, which I use virtually exclusively.  This session is designed to help keep your output consistent as you hit the back end of the bike leg.
  • 90 min. Hill Repeats. Designed to increase climbing strength.
Run: 75 Minutes.
  • Severe Plantar Fasciosis pain. 
  • 60 min. Treadmill session at LSD pace to see if I'm recoverying
  • 15 minute session to video record my gait, to send it over to James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution for analysis. I've never been coached by a run coach.  It shows in every step I take.
Week of February 16 ~ 5 hours 30 minutes:
Swim: 0
Bike: 330 minutes
  • 120 min. Zone 2 session to build the aerobic engine.
  • 180 min. Zone 2 session to start understanding my nutrition and lactose levels beyond the 2 hour mark.
  • 30 min. attempt at "The Wolf", another MaccaX session that not only laughed at me, but was interrupted by 'the real world'.
Run: 0
  • Orthopedic specialist who did my Achilles replacement a few years back gave me a cortisone shot
  • No running for another two weeks at least.

Week of February 23 ~ 5 hours 15 minutes
Swim: 0
Bike: 315 minutes
  • 120 min. Zone 2 for 1st 40. Then, 2 minutes at Z5 with 8 minutes at Z3. Repeat every 10 minutes through the 120 minute mark. This helps my body learn to flush lactic acid while still performing, rather than recovering.  In a race, I may unintentionally get above where I want to be with regard to heart rate and/or perceived exertion.  This session helps me get my body back under control while staying at more or less race pace.
  • 90 Minutes Outdoors!  Happy to finally get outside. Hill Repeats. Seated at a high cadence - 95-100.  I tend to really fall off in cadence as the ride goes on.  I wanted to put in 10 5 minute climbs without dropping my cadence.
  • 105 min.  "Stackers", another MaccaX session designed specifically to improve strength & power.
Run: 0

Not pretty.  Nope!  Not proud either, but it is what it is.  I can't let my self get be down about it. That's all the time I had in the schedule.  Sure...I can be upset, disappointed, or aggravated, but as cliche as it sounds, those feelings don't help.  The training hours aren't enough. They were, however, well executed, and on purpose.  This in great thanks to Chris McCormack's MaccaX program, and the MX12 VIP group on Facebook. There were no wasted moments in my weeks or in my training. My sessions were strategic and effective, and I can't really ask for more than that.

If you're going to be the very best "You," that you can be, then stop exercising and start training.  Give yourself ample warm up and cool down time.  Make sure you're nailing your nutrition; not just for today's session but proactively, getting ready for whatever tomorrow brings.  Once you make that change in mindset, then, make every session count.  Find your weaknesses and go after 'em!  Target them specifically and train on purpose! 


Andy Blasquez

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is it No Pain. No Gain. or Listen To Your Body: The Importance of REST as a part of your training.

Andy BlasquezNo.
REST is not an acronym. It doesn't stand for your insanely intense and acutely painful training session, nor some trendy IM jargon for 'moxy.'  It's capitalized to stress it's importance. Rest needs to be on the calendar, built into your training plan. Rest is as important as that LSD run.  It's as important as that brutal MVO2 session too. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the benefits from all of your suffering and all of your training comes during your rest. Miss your rest and you may as well have phoned in your training session. For many of us, however, rest may be harder than any session we see during a given month.

The importance of rest has been stressed to me, repeatedly, by some incredibly fit, mind-numbingly fast and successful triathletes. That said, as with most lessons strewn randomly on and off the beaten path of endurance sports, I have repeatedly and grossly missed the mark.  OK wait.  Is it, "No Pain. No Gain." or "Listen to you body."?  I ALWAYS screw that up!  Well, let me go on record...I'm here to advocate for the latter.

Q: So why is it so very, very important to listen closely to the messages your body is sending you?  A: Our bodies are intelligent; far more intelligent than we are.  There's nothing more apt at self preservation than...your self.

# 142 Our motto: "Always Ride Over Your Head".
I always fell into that macho crap-trap of being a 'tough guy'.  This is not boasting, but more so admitting the epic level of idiocy that I embraced as I ended my involvement in one sport and started another. 
 I once went to a late afternoon lunch with my former motorcycle racing team mates.  Typically, this was the highlight, the decompression after an always stressful day at the track. Half way through my go-to post race meal of Jack Daniels and a veggie burger my appetite was interrupted by nausea and dizziness. I though.  "F@#$!  90 minutes earlier I had a 'bit of a tip-over'. I'd better let the doc have a look."   4 days later I signed myself out of the hospital, AMA: Against Medical Advice.  I had compression fractures in my neck and back, (C3&5, T 3, 4, &5), a spiral fracture of my left femur, broken right clavicle, acromioclavicular separation, the long head bicep was detached, 8 fractures in my left hand and wrist, 5 rib fractures, (two were displaced) and an STBI with a Glasgow Coma Scale grading of 12. (a fancy name for a knock on the head). All this...but I wasn't gonna let anyone know how much I hurt.  Why?  Cuz I was an idiot!  Macho. 

Where did all of this macho, touch-guy crap leave me?  Injured.  No, not hurt.  Injured.  Trying to climb back to fitness, I ran. I did hill repeats. I rode. I did hill repeats on the bike. I swam.  I swam more.  Now...I'm covered in scars from surgeries. I walk like an old man.  "That's OK dude!  Chicks dig scars!"  Yeah, right! See how deep that load of crap goes? Even in failure, there's always room for 'macho'...right? Finally, I've learned. Better late than never. 

Had I rested when I really needed to, I'd be miles ahead of where I am now.  Years ahead, in fact.  I thought I was being tough, pushing through the pain.  I was!  I was truly "Embracing The Suck!". But I was being stupid at the same time.  The pain I was feeling during training often wasn't the "right" pain.  It wasn't DOMS, Delayed onset muscle soreness. It was 'warning signs' pain.  It was my body breaking down as the result of repeated overuse and often...improper use.  When you feel pain, think about it from a physiology point of view!  Why is your body giving you pain signals?  It's telling you that needs to heal!  It needs to repair itself. It needs rest.

Lengthened calf muscle to accommodate Achilles replacement.
Q: What happens when you don't listen?  A: Your "-itis" will turn into "-osis". In my case, doing my best to climb off out of the proverbial pain-cave, I started training with passion and a purpose. Each session was purposeful.  Unfortunately, each session was a little too intense, and more than my body could handle.  I...could handle it, but my body couldn't. I thought I ended up with a touch of Achilles tendonitis.  I was wrong, again. Icing my worn out parts eventually turned into replacing my worn out parts.  A couple of years ago I finally had my left Achilles tendon replaced.  The work done on my calf in order to accommodate the upgrade was not pretty.  With a touch of vanity, I have to say that the scars and stitches, and the lumps from a graft-jacket has banged up perhaps the only attractive parts left on my body; my legs.  In the end, however, I'm well.  The lesson, though, was lengthy, uncomfortable, and mentally taxing.

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon and results from micro-tears that happen when the musculotendinous unit is acutely overloaded with a tensile force that is too heavy and/or too sudden. Tendinitis is still a very common diagnosis, though research increasingly documents that what is thought to be tendonitis is usually tendonosis.
Tendinosis is a degeneration of the tendon’s collagen in response to chronic overuse; when overuse is continued without giving the tendon time to heal and rest, tendinosis results.

So, did you have too hard of a run?  Then keep your sessions in the pool for a couple of days. Rest those leg muscles and joints. Are your quads burning?  GOOD!  Well done!  Are your knees tender, with chronic, acute pain?  BAD!  Can't lift your arms above your waist after a huge swim session?  Good job!  Can't sleep three days later because of inflammation in the tendons of your shoulders?  Bad. Give it a rest! 

Give it a rest.
  1. Sleep is the best rest.  If you can't sleep, limit your physical activity as best you can.
  2. Include one complete rest day every 6, 7, or 8 days.
  3. Your foam roller may not improve your performance but will greatly reduce the likelihood of injury, reduce pain, and reduce perceived exertion in your next session.
  4. Vary your session: 
    1. Purpose
    2. Speed
    3. Intensity
    4. Duration
  5. NEVER overlook mental recovery
  6. Optimize your rest with specific nutrition.
  7. Push yourself physically, but don't crush your body.
  8. Push yourself mentally, but don't crush your passion or will.
  9. Your resting recovery and active recovery ought to be correlated to the level of work put out during your sessions and races.  
Enjoy yourself.  If you're not making a living doing this...enjoy yourself.  Preserve that body for as long as you can.  You don't get another one.


Andy Blasquez

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sports Nutrition: Are You Using Racing Fuel...or is it "Garbage in, Garbage out?"

Would you put cheap, pump gas in an Indy Car? ~by Andy Blasquez

Speedy Dan Clarke ~ Not just fast on 4 wheels, 
but on his road bike as well.

I can't help but be reminded of the old data-entry adage, "Garbage In! Garbage Out!" Well the same can be said about how nutrition directly influence your physical performance: Garbage in! Garbage out! 
So, would you put pump gas in an Indy Car? Of course not!  High performance cars require high performance fuels.  With the wrong fuel in your Indy Car, I doubt you could even get the thing started.  If, by some miracle, you could could, you'd never get it out of pit lane.  Racing cars just don't run on garbage, and neither do our bodies; not optimally anyway.  
The "fuel" that is required to produce optimal physical performance is not just different in quantity, but different in kind.  Assuming that you will perform at your best when your diet (your fuel) consists of pizza, beer, and Big Macs, is a mistake, plain and simply.  Why take my word for it?  Because I learned the hard way.  Now, I don't need a dozen really fast age-groupers commenting, "DUDE! I eat 4 Quarter-Pounders before every ride and I can SMOKE you, fool!"  Sir, ma'am...I'm sure you do, and I'm sure you can.  That's not the point.  The question is this: Is your performance optimal? I'm here to stress the fact that in endurance sports, especially to beginning triathletes, runners, and cyclists,  the fuel you use...all day...every day...really does matter.

IMCA 70.3 ~ 2013
A brief background, as it applies to my own nutrition an fitness.  I, since college, have considered myself overweight.  I'm 5'8" (1.73m) and in the past weighed in at about 200lbs. (90k) for most of the last 20 years.  In spite of that, and often unaware of it...I've always been really active.  I suppose folks could say, euphemistically, that I have an 'athletic' build.  To me, that simply means.. I'm far from lean; built more for MMA or rugby than churning out half-marathons and 100k weekend rides.  In fact, I often wonder why I'm not more attracted to those activities in the first place. 
15 months ago, After a bit of training in the end of 2012 and a bit more at the beginning of 2013, I did my first triathlon: the Accenture Ironman California 70.3 in Oceanside, CA.  I really, really enjoyed it.  It was everything I expected: Brutal. I crossed the finish line in 6:55.25, a whopping 3 hours after the top pros.  I also crossed the finish line at 193 lbs. (87kg). Not pretty.  Not pretty at all.

For me, this is the key to both smiles AND speed!
That was then. This is now.  With guidance from Rich Roll's program on MindBodyGreen.Com, I'm now tipping the scale at a much healthier 174 lbs. (78kg.), on my way to 165-170 lbs. on race day.  Q: Why the weight range, rather than a specific weight for race day?  A: I've never raced this lean before, and I don't want to find out, 90 miles into Ironman Lake Tahoe, that I'm actually below my ideal race weight. Never try on race-day what you haven't succeeded with in training.

Please keep in mind that I'm not writing this post as a former top-level college athlete who simply lost his way.  I'm writing it from the point of view of, "Damn!  Finally I get it!"  Truth be told, I have lost decades (yes, decades) of performance possibilities by kidding myself  and believing that my being a vegetarian is going to improve my athletic performance, that calories are calories, that avoiding certain food types...on certain going to be enough to take me to my dream.  As an avid athlete, you may understand this already.  If you don't, I'm hear to assure you that, food matters; fuel matters.  What you put into your body is as important to achieving your goals as your training.  

To perform at your prime; at your very best, there is a virtual laundry list nutritional principles that are...just that: principles; physical laws that cannot be broken.

1) When you refuel is as vital as what you refuel with.
    There's NO WAY that this is optimal nutrition
    If you fuel up too early you won't have immediate access to the fuel you took on.  You may not know that, however, until it's too late to make a difference.
  • If you fuel up too late, too near to your session or race, you may experience digestive discomfort as your body takes energy and blood away from your digestive system in order to focus on the larger muscle groups being taxed elsewhere.
  • If you are training for more than 90-120 minutes (on average), you've got to keep fueling throughout or you'll find yourself 'bonking'.  Not only does this lead to a sub-optimal session or event, it can also delay recovery and preparation for your next session.
  • If you wait too long after your session, when your systems are all begging for nutrient rich roods, your brain may tell your body, "Guess what!  We're not getting anything!" and your recovery systems go into 'damage control' rather than 'rebuild and improve' mode!
  • If you eat, as opposed to drink, a lot of nutrient rich foods within the first 30-45 minutes after finishing a tough session, you run two risks.
    • 1) Your large muscle groups are still requiring attention and energy that your digestive system needs to digest solids, so you may find yourself not feeling well after eating too soon.
    • 2) You may over eat as your body is screaming for anything and everything.  This often leads to eating too much...of the wrong the wrong time.
2) Be methodical. Be consistent:
Look at your nutrition choices, before, during, and after your sessions as a experiment. Actually it is literally a science experiment. There is only one "you". If you're at the beginning of your athletic lifestyle, you will probably make coarse adjustments in your nutrition as you don't have much background to reference. That's understandable. However, if you're a couple of years or seasons into endurance sports you'll more easily be able to narrow down what works for you.  You'll want to start pin-pointing what always works and what never does, scientifically. Only change your nutritional variables one at a time!  
As cumbersome as this may sound, it's profoundly effective. Keep a detailed log. 
Document your nutrition on a calendar: 
  • What you ate/drank the night before. 
  • What you ate/drank immediately before your race or session. 
  • What you ate/drank during your race or session. 
  • What you ate/drank immediately after your race or session. 
Document your results as well: 
  • What was your session? 
  • What was its specific purpose? 
  • How did it feel? 
  • Note your distance, pace, time, max HR, average HR, etc. 
You can keep your notes and remarks as brief as you'd like.  Even simply drawing a smiley-face or a sad-face next to you session. I guarantee that you will start noticing trends in your ‘feel’ as well as in your performance data. There really is no short-cut.

 3) Food; "fuel" affects all aspects of your body and being:
  • Digestive System ~ Organs that break down food into, vitamins,  minerals, proteins, fats, & carbohydrates. All of which the body needs for energy, growth, rest, and repair. 
    • Q: Are you giving your body a balance of all of these?
  • Skeletal System ~ Made up of bones, ligaments and tendons. Remember too that marrow (a soft, fatty tissue) produces red blood cells, many white blood cells, and other immune system cells.   
    • Q: Who knew that a compromised skeletal system could affect red blood cells, or your immune system?
  • Nervous System ~ The brain, the spinal cord, and nerves.  Emotion, mood, attitude, etc., all reside in the nervous system.  
    • Q: Have you ever felt burned out?
  • Respiratory System ~ Brings air into the body and removes carbon dioxide. For an athlete, often at rate that is 3 to 4 times as high as resting respiratory rate, compounding any respiratory issues an athlete may have. 
    • Q: Do you suffer from "Athletically Induced Asthma?"
  • Endocrine System ~ Glands produce hormones; chemicals that control bodily functions such as metabolism and growth.
  • Immune System ~ Our body's defense system against infections and diseases. 
    • Q: Have you ever gotten into a real rhythm in your training, only to find it interrupted by illness?
  • Lymphatic System ~ Also a defense system for the body, filters out organisms that cause disease, produces white blood cells, and generates disease fighting antibodies. It also distributes nutrients throughout the body, and eliminates unwanted fluids that may cause swelling.
  • Muscular System ~ Tissues that work with the skeletal system to control movement of the body. Some muscles, such as your arms and legs, are voluntary.  Others, like the ones in your heart, stomach, digestive muscles and organs, are involuntary. These are automatic. Controlled by the nervous system and hormones so you often aren’t aware of if…or how well they are working.
  • Urinary System ~ Eliminates waste from the body, in the form of urine.

    None of these systems stand alone.  Each system is interdependent. Keeping your body fueled up with the proper kind of fuel, in the proper amounts, at the right times will guarantee that you will be the best 'you' possible.

    Now bring on that guy with the 4 Quarter-Pounders.  I'm ready for a ride!

    Diabloman Triathlon 2013