So You Want to Train for a Full 140.6 Ironman

In April of 2015 it was time to begin serious training for the Ironman Vineman that was to take place on July 25th of that same year. I had done two triathlons leading up to this event, one Olympic distance in 2013 and one Half-Iron in 2014 but nothing could prepare me for the massive amount of training that would take place over the next sixteen weeks.

For the first two triathlons I created my own training plan based off of a little research and some assumptions on how far I would need to be able to go in each sport to survive the race distance. I had also incorporated weight training and insanity workouts into the mix just for good measure. For the Olympic race, this worked out well but it became readily apparent that I was not up to par for the half-iron distance. That race was the hardest thing I had ever done and I honestly thought I wouldn’t finish. When you are on the side of the road trying to fix a flat tire with hands shaking from the onset of heat exhaustion, you come to the realization that you do not know what you are doing and need some expert help.

For the Ironman I knew I should find a training plan that could help me finish and hit my goal time of approximately fourteen hours. Luckily the Vineman had a training plan designed specifically for the race by someone who had completed the race for many years. Upon opening up the first four weeks of training, I realized immediately how bad my self-designed plans really were. Here is a sampling of the revelations in training I discovered from this plan:

  1. Train by heart rate with a heart rate monitor. This was a game changer
  2. Swim way less and with a purpose. I was swimming a ridiculous amount.
  3. Shorter distances with intervals during the week then long and slow on weekends.
  4. Short runs after most weekend bikes just to get used to transition.
  5. Full on triathlons at the end of each four-week block. This was intense but worth it.
  6. Don’t lift weights after week two. This made me so happy.
  7. Proper nutrition and supplements are super helpful. Enter Hammer Nutrition

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As a final note before I get into what it was like to train for this race it is important to say that proper gear is a must. I got a carbon fiber Cannondale, new racing gear, new shoes, a Garmin, and so much more. It was really costly (Though probably a tenth of what others spend) but all worth it to make the transition to Ironman.

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Ok, here we go!

Training for an Ironman, no matter how you cut it, is totally ridiculous. If I was single and worked a 9-5 maybe, but I was married, with one child, another on the way (Born now, hi Brianna!), in a job with long hours, and starting a PhD program. Not the best grouping of responsibilities to which to add fifteen or so hours of training. Luckily, it was quickly approaching summer, which meant slightly less intensity at work and warmth in the early morning hours.

The first four weeks were really the ramping up process so it was not too intense, only 4-5 hours of training on each Saturday and 1.5 on each Sunday, no biggie. Average of 13 hours of training each week. Even the 1.5 mile swim, 2.5 hour ride, and 1 hour run was manageable. Then I received the second block of the training plan. I had wondered in the beginning why the coach sent out the training plan staggered in blocks of four. Now I realize that it was a way to stop me from panicking and quitting had I seen the whole plan up front.

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During the second four-week block of training things started to get a bit interesting. This was the time when I started to read for my first full week of PhD class and when the doctor told Virginia that she could no longer pick up our daughter. This meant that I had to be home as much as possible and had to substitute training during naptime for reading for class. All in all this materialized as waking up earlier, like 3:30am earlier for training. Weekends also started to get tough. Over five hours of training on Saturdays followed by two hours of training on Sundays start to take a toll on family life. It was not uncommon for me to need to shift things around in order to get Sammy to gym class or to meet a job commitment.

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The worst was the five-hour full triathlon on the last day of the training block. Since I had to swim at the gym and then drive home to bike (Lest my bike get stolen) things were complicated by the fact that the gym opened at 6am on weekends. Why does it open that late on weekends? Good question. Couple that with closing at 8pm and weekend training is really hindered. This issue resulted in me biking an hour, swimming, biking, and then running. This really sucked but it was the best I could do. It was also around this time that I started burning through books on tape at a nice and expensive clip. Block two, fourteen hours of training each week.

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Week nine of training began what we call the “Triathlon Widow and Orphan” phase of the Ironman experience. Average training time per week increased to sixteen hours and there were only so many hours before Sammy awoke and when I had to go to work each day. This also began the very apparent sense of solitude. I also had to randomly travel to a Risk Summit in Oakland so, my gear came with me. Walking through a hotel lobby with a bike over your arm surrounded by suited up professionals is interesting.

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Once you pass over 4.5 hours of riding each Saturday you have to become very comfortable with yourself, especially when you are training for an Ironman all alone. The most ridiculous part of this stage of training was that I began to need to stop at home to replenish water bottles on every Saturday ride. You can only have so much water on the bike and 5 hours was my limit. There is also an alpaca farm at around mile 35, we have become friends.

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Week ten I hit 88 miles on the bike, which was a very interesting distance. This meant that I needed to start a second loop since my longest loop was 68 miles. It also meant that even though I would begin my rides at 4am I would inevitably run into the other cyclists in town as some point. There is something very satisfying about the look on their faces when they ask you what mile you are on and you reply with “Eighty” at around 9am. I was also reading a ton and basically had given up on balancing everything. My only recourse was taking Sammy along on some of my runs; the Bob Ironman stroller was a godsend.

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The final practice triathlon in week twelve was the most intense of them all; in fact, it was a true Half-Ironman. This week was also the tail end of June and super hot. In order to make sure I was prepared for what was coming in four weeks, I did the workout in order, which meant I started at 6am and finished around 2pm. By 2pm it was 97 degrees out, which was both good and bad. Bad because I almost passed out from heat exhaustion, good because the predicted high for the race was 82 degrees. Let’s just say I had almost reached my breaking point.

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Week thirteen was the peak and by far the most intense week. Topping off at seventeen hours of training, the only blessing was knowing that the taper would begin the following Monday. This was also the week I would leave for Colorado for my first class yet somehow I still had to get all my training in before leaving (OK, that didn’t work out so well). That weekend was when I realized how nonsensical training for an Ironman really is. I had to ride six hours and run thirty minutes on Saturday, but it was going to be super hot. My solution, just get up at 2:45am. 2:45!!! How stupid is that?

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Anyway, I did it and then had to follow up with a 2:30am wake up the next day to go for 2 hours of the total 2:45 run. This is because I then had to catch a flight at 8am down in Fresno. And of course I picked up the last 45min that evening in Fort Collins in the pouring rain. Cause, why not?

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Thankfully things began to calm down and that next week in Colorado I was able to get some elevation training in which would give me a big boost on race day but since I had no bike, I had to ride in doors. That is no fun, no fun at all. I’m pretty sure my cohort thought I was very strange since I would go swim most days at lunch and then workout 1-2 more times each day. But that’s ok; they know I am strange now.

The final two weeks of Ironman training are kind of odd. They are a mixture of rest, reconnecting with that family who forgot me, planning for the race itself (That is a whole other post entirely), being confused as to why I’m not running seven hours, and reading articles that tell me I am going to die during the race. Really, I searched a lot of articles and had numerous panic attacks in the final weeks. Luckily, I also had a paper due for school so that distracted me…I guess.

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Before you know it, race day is upon you and you forget what you went through leading up to it but I still say that the training is what gets you, not the race itself. 240 hours, which is 10 days of my life, went to preparing for my first Ironman and I don’t regret it for a moment.

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One Year of Adventures With Blue Apron

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A year ago this week, we received our first box of mail order meals from Blue Apron and we have not looked back. Virginia and I decided to try out this service because we had fallen into a dinnertime rut after Sammy was born. Every week had pasta Monday, grilled chicken Tuesday, pizza Wednesday, hamburger Thursday, and dinner out Friday. We also found that so much of our food was going bad in the refrigerator and we had to keep an annoying amount of spices on hand. For a while we tried cooking for the week plans but the meals were terribly unhealthy (Like six pounds of cheese a week), and I just could not spend eight hours cooking every Sunday. With our busy schedules it seemed like mail order meals were a good idea so sixty dollars later the game was on.

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Our first week of recipes, it did not go well.

I have to say that this was the best food based decision we have made in a long time. As a foodie living in Merced, where there are very few places to eat out, I was getting very food depressed and Blue Apron allowed me to bring the restaurant into our kitchen. The meals are healthy, varied, worldly, and, after you get used to them, easy to prepare. I’ve cooked dishes from twenty different countries and used ingredients I had only ever seen on Chopped… gochujang.

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The biggest plus by far was that Virginia is trying new foods and has really liked a lot of what Blue Apron has to offer, except eggs. She just won’t eat them, won’t. But we just had the “Hey, there were mushrooms in the last four meals I made, so stop saying you don’t like mushrooms” conversation. With the ability to opt out of fish and seafood, and the ability to skip weeks, Blue Apron has made this mail order thing a snap. Also, their customer service is top notch; they give me credits and free boxes every time there is any sort of issue with my shipment. And customer service is almost more important to me than the food itself.

The most fun part of this whole adventure is all the people with whom I have shared this experience. Blue Apron gives me copious amounts of free boxes to send to others and so far a dozen or so friends have signed up (I should get a cut…you hear me BA?). For those of you who may sign up here are my top ten pieces of advice for success with Blue Apron:

  1. Read the recipes completely. Seriously. Read them before you start heating up oil. Once you turn that pan on it is go time and you are going to forget stuff. Then you burn things and have to eat toast for dinner. Toast is sad.

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    Crispy Chicken Thighs with Kumquat Relish & Freekeh Salad
  2. Prepping the food takes longer than you think. Most of the time, the prep is what takes the longest, but you have to do it all before you start cooking. See #1 and the toast. I usually prep at night or in the morning so I can just cook after work.

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    Lentil Bolognese with Fettuccine & Crispy Rosemary
  3. Buy a garlic press. I fought this but it is awesome. They send you so much garlic…so much…they love it. Stop mincing and start pressing. You’re welcome.

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    Center Cut Pork Chops with Beet, Heirloom Carrot & Hazelnut Salad
  4. Never use all the lemon or lime juice. Save half of what they say and add on top of the dish if needed. I have not found one dish where the juice of an entire lemon makes any sense. Unless you really like lemony food, and are just weird.

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    Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Dressed Spinach & Candied Cashews
  5. This one is really a complaint. Stop telling me to salt and pepper to taste. Not five times in one recipe and especially not on raw meat. How the hell do I salt and pepper raw chicken to taste. Should I taste it? Do you like Salmonella, tell me Blue Apron! They never, ever give you measurements for salt and pepper so be really careful. I have ruined a few dishes this way.

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    Blackened Chile-Dusted Chicken with Zucchini Rice & Corn-Tomato Salad
  6. Read the recipe card again. Carefully now. Did you notice the one that says makes three servings? Yeah, I didn’t either for about four months. That sucks. Also, how do you make two sandwiches into three servings?

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    Roasted Poblano Chilaquiles with Sunny Side-Up Eggs & Avocado
  7. Figure out that whole recycling everything thing. Then tell me how to do it. Please.

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    Chile-Rubbed Steaks with Quick Kimchi & Tomato Rice
  8. Gochujang is really spicy. Virginia hates it. That is all.

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    Roast Port & Braised Endive with Green Apple & Endive Salad
  9. Take pictures of your food and Instagram away. People hate it, but your Blue Apron friends will totally comment and say, “I made that too, it was awesome”. Then you can feel like part of a super cool cooking club and turn your nose up at all the others. Tag Blue Apron in your pictures for some additional ego stroking. This may sounds like sarcasm, and it is, but I totally do this every time I rock out a beautiful dish.

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    Shiro Miso Soba Noodles with Poached Eggs, Yu Choy & Turnips
  10. Finally, the most important advice. Complain like hell when Blue Apron gets something wrong. As I said before their customer service is great and responsive. Sixty bucks a week is expensive so every ten dollar credit is totally worth it.

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    Goat Cheese & Kale Quiches with Butter Lettuce & Chive Salad

Well there you have it, my Blue Apron cooking advice. We love this meal delivery thing so much, we now tacked on Plated to try for six days week. Soon our pantry will be empty except for kids stuff. Now, if only Sammy would eat more than buttered pasta every day, but that is another adventure.

8 Steps to Reach Students on Twitter

8 Steps to Reach Students on Twitter

Josie Ahlquist

twitter_logoFor the last four months I have conducted interviews and made observations of social activity of 16 Senior Level Student Affairs Leaders.  These participants include positions such as Dean of Student up to Vice President & Senior Vice Chancellor in both student affairs and enrollment management.

While I am still in the midst of data analysis, a few patterns are coming across loud and clear that I wanted to share.  In particular, how I see many of these leaders using Twitter to engage with students.  I have found their use of Twitter as a tool with their campus communities to be extremely inspiring and the type of leadership behavior that all higher education professionals will need to become accustom to and competent with in the future.

Social media provides these Deans and Vice Presidents access and immediate reach to their campus communities.  The impact is all documented through conversations on Twitter itself.

For…

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Wildflower Long Course 2014: Triathlon Training Plan

Well here we go again. It’s time for training to start up again! This time it is for the Wildflower Long Course (An unbranded Half-Ironman), distances of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. After Training for two Olympic distance triathlons and competing in one, I have revised this plan based on a few things I learned over the past year:

  1. I need to spread things out a bit instead so I do not get too exhausted. I also need to vary up some of the training so it doesn’t get stale. This time around I will be doing a 4/1 week cycle so I can build longer but more slowly between recovery weeks.
  2. I did not run enough. Aside from everything, the run being the final leg means that I need to put in more miles in my Brooks.
  3. I was not fast enough in the bike and the run. I was in the middle of the pack in my swim but bottom in the other two. While I can run more, biking much more is unlikely so I need to incorporate other things into training to strengthen my legs.
  4. I need to be stronger all around. This time, I plan to build in Insanity and P90X workouts into training to help with that issue. I am also spreading out my weight workouts over two weeks and five sessions. This way I can isolate body parts more over the course of the 20 weeks.
  5. I need to get much, MUCH better in the transitions. I was literally last in the bike to run transition and close to it from swim to bike. Mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing. It was also hard to transition my legs to the new activity in the bike to the run. To fix this I have built in brick workouts (Bike to Run) at the end of every 4 week cycle. This increases each time to almost 80% of the actual distance 2 weeks before the race.
  6. I definitely need to be lighter. Every pound lost is one I do not have to carry with me. I managed to gain back 15 of the 20 pounds from the last race so my work is cut out for me but my goal is to be under 170 by May 1st. That will be close to a pound a week and 5 pounds less than the Olympic but I know I can do it. The big thing will be figuring out how to keep the weight off this time around.

While this seems daunting, I am in a much better place than December 2012 when I started training for the first Wildflower. You can see the difference in the weeks in the following picture, a much better baseline from which to start.

Tri 12-13_Page_1With I year of training under my belt, I am positive that this plan will work well for me. Though I do need to remain flexible because an 8-12 month old will throw a wrench in the plan pretty regularly. Even when she sleeps well I mess myself up by leaving the car in the garage instead of the driveway. It will be little things like that plus some travel and a unpredictable work schedule that will make things interesting but one way or another a half-ironman will be run. The really fun part is that the race is on Samantha’s birthday and those of you who read this blog know that Sam was born 2 days before the race last year (You can read that post here). This means that regardless of USAT rules and regulations, Sam will be accompanying me across the finish line. They can disqualify me if they want.

Below is the plan. Set up in 4/1 cycles with two, 2 week intervals, followed by 2 weeks of peak and weeks of taper. In the mix are a Spartan Sprint, a Spartan Super, and the D.C Half Marathon. NASPA week will be a mess and this year it is not a recovery week so we will play that one by ear, good thing it starts with Half Marathon. I’ve also spread out all the different activities across the 2 week intervals but build faster with each week. Overall, the increases from last year to this year are: Swim 20% more, Bike 14% more, and Run 70% more. The big change is the increase and isolation in strength training plus a bunch of other workouts. These include weekly Insanity workouts plus P90X and abdominal workouts every other week. I’ve also added a spin class each Friday to help with speedwork though I have to increase the intensity far beyond what the instructor does. The age and fitness levels are kind of out of sync.

Well, that’s the story, we will see how it all pans out over the next few weeks. Take a look below at the plan and let me know what you think.

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