Ironman Recovery

May 27th, 2008 by Craig

ice-bath.jpgEPO, Nandrolone, Testosterone, and all of the other new super drugs that they can’t test for yet all have one thing in common…They all help you recover faster than humanly possible.  But I believe we can recover almost as well without cheating if we do it perfectly.  The catch is that it takes a lot of time and effort that most of us don’t have.  Even the best pros in our sport often work full time jobs on the side.  But what if we did have all the time we needed?  What’s the ultimate recovery strategy?  As usual I’m wide open to everyone’s thoughts on this.  Here is what I’m thinking so far…..If I had all the time and resources in the world my recovery to do list after a big workout would be:     

  1. Nutrition #1 - After a workout there is a 15 minute window of time when your body will absorb and replace carbohydrates the best.  Contrary to popular belief this is the best time to take in simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index.  Personally, I feel the best when I combine these simple carbohydrates with a little of fat and protein as well.  My perfect nutrition here is chocolate milk.  This is also when I take an amino acid supplement.
  2. Stretching - Right after you finish your 15 minute nutrition this is the best time to stretch because your muscles are still warm. 
  3. Ice Baths - As soon as you finish stretching it is straight to the ice bath.  The colder the better and if you can do it in a Jacuzzi bath that moves the water it is even better.  Be sure your wife isn’t home to see you emerge from the bath guys…one word, shrinkage! 
  4. Nutrition #2 - After the ice bath and having gone into hypothermia, your body has probably already soaked up your 15 minute window nutrition and this is the time to put in a relatively good sized meal.  Personally, after a very hard day, red meat is a must for me. 
  5. Arnica - After eating I cover myself in this natural anti- inflammatory gel called Arnica.  Being sure to really hit the spots that are talking to me the most. 
  6. Udder Cream - I can’t remember a huge workout where I didn’t end up with some kind of chafing.  Udder cream, which was originally designed to sooth chafed udders is perfect for this.  Nuff said…
  7. Compression Tights - Okay, so I’m lathered in arnica and udder cream and somehow I manage to squeeze into my compression tights.  Ever see the Friends where Ross is trying to get his leather pants back on?  Lotion, baby powder and a cell phone…
  8. Elevation - Finally I get my legs elevated
  9. Massage - This topic could be its own blog entry.  It helps me as much, if not more than all of the above.  Get it as often as you possibly can from Jessica Gumkowski
  10. Sleep - Our bodies produce growth hormones similar to the nandrolone and testosterone that dopers might use.  While sleeping, our bodies go into overdrive producing these human growth hormones (HGH).  So the more sleep the more legal steroids.  The best rule I’ve heard on the sleep topic came from Mark Allen.  For every 60 minutes of intense exercise (that’s z3 or above for my HEP crew) you want to get an additional 20 minutes of sleep beyond your normal amount.  Feel free to sleep in your udder cream encrusted tights…

Recovery On The Fly

I have to admit that I very rarely can pull off the above recovery.  Usually I’m screeching in from a run or bike and simply worried about showering so I don’t stink for the meeting I’m already late for.  In times like these I still do my best to recover.  It goes something like this……

I usually have the chocolate milk already made and waiting for me in the fridge so I chug that down as I’m elevating my legs.  Even 5 minutes of elevation can help.  Then I hustle off to the shower and as soon as I get out and dry off I slather on the Arnica and udder cream and throw on the tights under my work clothes.  After this I grab some food….usually last night’s left over amazing food from my killer chef of a wife….. and eat as I drive to my meeting.  Finally, if it’s not too awkward, I stretch at work or during my meeting.  I’m already used to the funny looks so……..Last, but not least I try as hard as I can to turn in early for bed that night. 

One Last Thought on Recovery   

My mentors and coaches at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine have recently helped me to understand that recovery from a workout actually starts before you do the workout, and continues during the workout.  Making sure you are hydrated and fueled up well before the workout, and then staying hydrated and fueling properly during the workout is absolutely essential to speeding up recovery after the workout.

Okay everyone……please feel free to send along your recovery tricks.  I’m all ears!

Until next time, shop at using my discount code chowi-s, eat more powerbar, visit the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and tell your endurance family you love them.

Mental Training for Ironman (part 2)

May 20th, 2008 by Craig

Since last weeks posting on mental training I have had a ton of comments, conversations, and e-mails on the topic.  My knowledge has definitely grown on the topic.  Thanks everybody!  I thought I would summarize what I have learned from everyone so far and also share an amazing experience I had on the topic today.

Resting The Mind

We all know that a huge part of training is recovery, and I posed the question of how do we rest our minds.  What I have learned so far is that resting the mind doesn’t necessarily mean turning it off.  Instead, it means changing it’s focus to something else.  The best suggestion I have been given on how to do this is to read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with training or triathlon or even athletics for that matter.  I have also found that playing my guitar is perfect for this recovery time.

Goal Setting

One of the best suggestions I have been given on this topic is to set realistic goals.  This makes so much sense to me because I can remember times when I went into a race or training session with goals that didn’t seem realistic to me and it was a mental nightmare!  I wasted so much time and energy worrying about achieving these out of sight goals that it really hurt my performance.  On the flip side I can think of times when I have been confident and comfortable with my goals going into a race or training session and it made all the difference.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s important to set goals that are a little bit out of reach, but not so completely out of sight that they end up causing anxiety.

Focus On The Process and Stay In The Moment

This was by far the most common suggestion I have heard.  It came in many different forms.

Don’t concern yourself with others around you.  You have enough to worry about…….. When it starts to hurt I pretend I am in a bubble, and try to keep anything and everything from entering that bubble……..Focus on the present.  Right here, right now……Focus on your performance alone…….Focus on the process.  It’s very simply swimming, turning the pedals over and putting one foot in front of the other.  Nothing else…….Keep your head in the boat.

I love this last one.  It came from a very close friend of mine that was a rower in high school.  Her coach would urge them to not look over at the competition, but focus only on what is going on right there in the boat.  Every thought about the other boats, every glance over, only takes energy away from the power you are putting into your strokes.

A Big Slice of Humble Pie 

I had an experience today in training where I had to tell myself over and over again to “keep my head in the boat.”  I was doing a supplemental oxygen workout on the treadmill at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and I felt really good.  I was really excited and confident about the workout.  I was almost done with the warm up and getting ready to do the main set when this guy got on the treadmill right beside me and proceeded to show me what running is really all about.  I could tell he was super fit, but I couldn’t believe how fast he was running!  Here I was feeling like I was going to tear it up with my intervals, and this guy was making me look like I was jogging.  Needless to say, I had a very hard time keeping my focus on my workout.  In fact, I started to let negative thoughts creep in my mind and the confidence I started with was now doubt.  I fought it off and did my best on the intervals.  I think I even told myself out loud at one point to keep my head in the boat.  I finished the workout with some of the best numbers I have ever put up.  As I was cooling down, Paul and I were chatting and  I said, “man that guy was ripping my legs off!”  Paul told me he was running at 12.8mi/hr!!!!!  Holy #@$%!  “Who the heck was that?” I asked.  Paul informed me that I had just run shoulder to shoulder with Bevan Docherty, the 2004 Olympic Silver medalist in triathlon!  I have watched that race so many times on an old VHS tape I have.  Bevan just barely got edged out of the Gold by 7seconds by his training mate Hamish Carter.  I was elated!  Now I can always say I ran a ripping 10k workout side by side with Bevan Docherty!  I might leave out the part that we were on treadmills! :-)

Until next time, shop at using my discount code chowi-s, eat more powerbar, and tell your endurance family you love them.


Mental Training for Ironman

May 13th, 2008 by Craig

mental-prep.jpg I’ve always been very apprehensive about diving into the mental aspect of endurance athletics.  Every time I think about it I picture myself lying on a couch in a psychologists’ office delving deeper and deeper into my mind and trying to find out what draws me towards Ironman.  Frankly, the idea of finding out scares the hell out of me!  I’m afraid of letting Pandora out of the box.  I know I love this sport with all my heart and I have some deep reserve of motivation to be the best.  Why should I question this? Recently I’ve had a paradigm shift on this topic.  I’m finally realizing, I can go ahead and leave Pandora in the box, but still use my mind to improve my abilities in this sport.  It’s not about analyzing what’s going on in my head, it’s about building my mind like a muscle.  It’s training, not analyzing.  My coach, Neal Henderson, opened my eyes to this fact by explaining that my body alone can only take me so far.  I can’t just train my body to perfection and expect everything to automatically fall into place on race day just because I’m physically fit.  It’s like trying to run a high performance Indy car with the battery out of a go-cart. 

Okay…….so how in the heck do you train the mind?  I definitely don’t have the perfect answer to this question, but I’m finally starting to work on it.  I figured this blog would be a perfect place to start my stream of thoughts on the matter.  I apologize in advance if the following seems to be rambling and disconnected.  PLEASE feel free to send along your comments and ideas as I am basically starting from scratch here and welcome all the input I can get.

What does a fit mind look like?…..Here is what I have learned so far.

  • 1. Attitude absolutely controls the way the body feels.A perfect example…….one of my very close friends raced her tail off on Saturday in a Duathlon and then turned right around and nailed a 23mile long run on Sunday because she decided in her mind that she would feel good and it would go well. This same friend taught me one of my favorite sayings…..”Negative thoughts will not help a negative situation”
  • 2. Humans have the ability to get into an almost trance like state during times of peak performance. Many refer to this place as “The Zone.” I always think of Michael Jordan here. He would find this zone and it was impossible for him to miss. He would just look up at the crowd and shrug as if to say “I have no idea where this is coming from????”
  • 3. Confidence is a huge part of the minds ability to produce peak performance. My dad used to always tell me that success breeds success. It’s so true! Just look at the Rockies last season. It was all about momentum and confidence.
  • 4. Game day routine is very important.I read a story about Jerry Rice’s pre game rituals. They were insanely precise, but they seemed to be the trigger that put him in his zone.
  • 5. Visualization plays a huge part in performance. This topic was my very first blog entry. I truly believe that if a person can visualize something well enough, the mind will not know the difference between the thoughts and actually doing the action.
  • 6. The mind responds dramatically to cues given by the senses. A U2 song, the smell of a wetsuit, the sight of the Flat Irons, a mantra I say to myself, the taste of a power gel, the feel of the water……these all cause huge reactions in my mind and thus cause another huge reaction in my body. These cues can be controlled and used to our advantage.
  • 7. A relaxed and calm mind seems to be the best. Every account I have read about a person finding “The Zone” mentions something about being very relaxed or calm or in a trance. Mark Allen often speaks of getting his mind to be completely quiet. No thoughts.

Periodization of the mind?????   

My first instinct when thinking of actually training my mind is to train it exactly as I would train my body.  I spend countless hours on setting up very precise periodization for my physical training, so why not do the same for mental training.  But what would that look like?  I’m picturing an athlete saying, “I’m in the base phase of my mental training.”  What would the taper phase look like?

My basic definition of periodization is to play volume and intensity against each other in a very precise way in order to cause peak fitness at a certain time.  Very generally, this means gradually building volume and intensity together and then at some point dropping the volume off while the intensity continues to climb.

How would volume and intensity be measured when training the mind?  Maybe volume is as simple as measuring the amount of time you spend doing mental training.  For intensity, maybe it’s a measure of how specific you are.  For example, maybe low intensity mental training is just thinking generally about a race, where as very intense mental training is being able to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell every little last detail as you visualize a race. 

Mental Recovery

We have recovery days and rest days in our plans.  What does this mean on the mental side of things?  Sleeping is my first thought for resting the mind, but what about during the day?  Personally, I feel like every day for my mind right now is a 20mile track workout with a main set of 60×400m in Z5 with 5 seconds rest!  Okay…..that’s an exaggeration, but I don’t feel like I let my mind “rest” enough.  So how do I sit my mind on the couch?

I have a feeling this is going to be a huge can of worms.  I’m wide open for suggestions!  Until next time, shop at using my discount code chowie-s, eat more powerbar, and tell your endurance family

Ironman St. Croix 70.3

May 6th, 2008 by Craig

When I did my first big triathlon back in the summer of 1997 I think only 6 people close to me knew about it, including my parents.  This was the beginning of my amazing support system in the sport of triathlon.  This past weekend as I competed in the Half Ironman in St Croix, I was blown away by how much this support system has grown.  I’m truly blessed, and I know this endurance family is the reason for all the success I have had so far.  Those same 6 people are still the core of my support, but now the family has grown beyond my wildest imagination.  Here is a small glimpse into the family from my perspective followed by a recap of the race.

On Monday before the race, Dean called me up to have Jen and Bull and I over for dinner.  We have a tradition going now that he always has us over before the big races for dinner followed by his amazing Banana’s Foster!  Just the beginning of my Carb Load I guess.  Thanks Man!

Another absolute must before a big race for me is to see Jess for a massage.  Even though I screwed up and scheduled one with her for Wednesday, (the day we were leaving), she totally rearranged her schedule to get me in on Tuesday AM.  Jess is so good that most people have to book with her a month in advance, but she knew how important it was to me.  Thanks Jess!

BJ sent me one of the best quotes ever a couple days before the race.  We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.  - Aristotle  Perfect!  I needed that bad.  Thanks man!

Two weeks before the race I was just finishing a treadmill workout at the Boulder Center for Sports medicine, and Sean, the bike fitting expert there, came over.  He had a cancellation that day and spent the next hour with me doing a full on 3D bike fit totally on the house.  The same week Paul did a bike LT test for me and Neal spent a huge chunk of his time talking race strategy with me.  Thanks guys!

My parents, who haven’t missed a big race since that first one back in 1997, came down Tuesday night to go to the race with us.  What blows me away about them coming to this race was that they had a big competition with their students in Cheyenne on Tuesday morning.  This meant that when we finally made it back to Denver on Monday morning around 1:00AM they had to jump right in the car and drive to Cheyenne.  I could write a book on everything they do on race week for me, but this shows the great lengths they go to. 

My amazing wife Jen handled all of the travel arrangements.  She packed for all of us.  She made all the special meals that keep me running at my best.  She was my councilor as always through the tension of race week…….she put up with this building tension.  I can’t possibly say enough here.  This is just a snowflake falling on the tip of the iceberg.  Thanks babe!

Lisa always makes sure that we get together somehow before the big races.  We met at Colorado multisport the night before we left.  Lisa was picking up her sweet new Kuota!  I talked her into an aero helmet too, but she insisted that I take the new hard case for the helmet with me for my helmet and she gave the coolest card.  Thanks Lisa!

I had endless e-mails and phone calls and text messages and cards from team HEP.  Mike, and Kristina, and Ryan, and Prinzel, and Leanne, and Amy, and……’s a never ending list…….thanks so much guys!

Barry Siff was at the race to cover the action for 4 different tri magazines.  He was out there cheering for me all day and as soon as I finished he was instantly in the med tent to congratulate me and take pictures.  Later that night he had already sent me the pictures.  Thanks Barry! 

Okay, I know I probably went overboard here, but I’m so grateful for my support system.  I love my endurance family!  Now about the race…….

The wind was blowing at about 20 knots at the beginning of the swim.  To say the water was rough is a definite under statement.  Many times I could hardly spot the buoys because the waves were so high.  Luckily I found some good feet to follow and held on to a high Z3 to low Z4 feel.  All engines were firing well and I came out with a good group.  Heading into T1 the bike racks were still pretty full.  That’s what I like to see!  I fumbled a bit getting my arm coolers on there, but I think they definitely paid off in the end. 

The bike course in St Croix is by far the hardest course I have ever done.  It was even harder this time as the rain clouds moved in.  By 8 miles as we zipped through the very skinny streets of St. Croix the road had become very slick.  My back wheel slid out and I have no idea how I didn’t go down!  I definitely learned my lesson there.  Finally we exited town and started hitting some of the big hills.  All of the riders around me were attacking like we were doing a sprint triathlon!  I went with them the best I could.  Just before we hit the Beast, we had covered 30km in 48 minutes!  Whoa!!!!!  We are going way too hard here.  Finally on the beast, which was brutal, I let them go.  I knew I was riding too hard and I didn’t want to risk too much on the descent.  Instantly they put about 2 miles on me and I was suddenly riding all alone.  Then came the down pour.  The skies opened up and I was riding through puddles deeper than my 1080 rim.  ”Stay calm…..stay calm……ease up…….good pedal form”  I talked to myself out load.  Finally the rain died down and I reached the last 30km of the course.  This is where you really earn it in St. Croix.  There isn’t a single stretch of road in this last section that doesn’t have crazy hills or winding descents.  Holding a rhythm is incredibly hard.  Finally about mile 50 or so, the riders that got away from me came back into sight and I managed to get by them.  I have to admit though, as I went into T2 I was very scared about how hard I had just gone on the bike.  It was by far the biggest effort I have ever given in a half Ironman.  Come on running legs!

When I through on my shoes I glanced down my age group rack and only saw one bike.  Okay……I’ve got one to catch!  Following Neal’s strategy that has paid off so many time in the past I really held back for the first 5k.  “Patience…..patience…….patience”  I worked really hard to get my nutrition in and find a groove.  At 5k I was finding a good rhythm.  At mile 4 I finally passed someone, and I was pretty sure he had a 30 on his leg!  “Okay……I’m in the lead!  Stay calm….hold pace……not too hard yet!”  Finally, I hit the turn around back in town and headed out for the second loop.  About one minute after the turn around I saw the 2nd and 3rd place guys in my age group heading toward the turn around and they looked pretty good.  Without even thinking I raised my pace.  It actually kind of caught me by surprise!  “Okay….this is the pace now.  Hold on!”  My family is hugely important at this point in a race.  My Dad always makes sure he get’s to the 1mile left point.  My Mom heads out about a quarter mile from the finish and Jen and Gray are right at the finish.  Finally!……I see my day at 1 to go.  My form is totally breaking down and the pedal is on the floor.  I started counting steps here.  300 steps at a time and then start over.  There was Jen and Gray at the finish, but cruelly there is  one last turn through town.  At this point I was looking behind me every 10 steps.  There was my mom!  The streets were packed with locals all giving me high fives and the sound of the crowd was amazing!  An extra big high five to mom, a quick point to the sky for Rocky, and then the line and Jen and Gray. 


Until next time, shop at using my discount code chowie-s, eat more powerbar, and tell your endurance family you love them.