Road to Ironman South Africa – 20 Weeks To Go

A brief training update here…

Ironman South Africa is just about 20 weeks away now, and life is good.  Weekend rides are sitting at about 3 hours on the indoor trainer, and I’m keeping things around an average of 125-135 BPM depending on variances in intensity.  I’m happy with the way things are going this far out – I’m just developing my base on the bike, which even at 135 BPM average is carrying me 56 miles in 3 hours, which feels very comfortable.

One annoyance has been getting back into calculated nutrition.  I do wish I had kept closer notes on what was working in my IM Louisville prep, because now I’m working from memory – and not always a great one.  I’ve got the basic components – remembering past numbers while responding to my current body composition, and using the longer rides to narrow in on combinations of products and timings that work.  The product elements will remain constant – Gu gels (always Strawberry-Banana…so good), Ironman Perform in 3x concentration for 3 hr bottles, and water.  This is for the bike segment, but things obviously get more complex off the bike and as I begin focusing on the broader race.  I have concepts and memories of the past, but it will take a few trips to Dubai and some long rides in the heat to really zone in.  It’s the need for patience in this regard, though, that has me slightly stressed…I’m just not good at waiting.

My run is coming along nicely, as you may have read that I’ve switched from heel striking to fore/midfoot striking.  So far so good, just with minor complications.  Achilles stress is par for the course in this transition, and that’s just an issue to manage and be cautious of (at least that’s how I’m envisioning it right now).  There is still some soreness around the stress fracture/bone bruise on my left leg, but MUCH less than I had with heel striking – I just don’t think it’s going to go away completely before IMSA, and I’ve come to terms with managing it.  The run just doesn’t concern me for my first Ironman, regardless of difficulties caused by missing workouts due to bone strain.  At the end of the day, I can hobble if needed.  If I die on the bike, though, I’m done.  I have no question of my ability, with a solid foundation in endurance fitness, to gut out the run.

The swim – well, that’s coming along as well as it can on dry land.  I had one swim in a real pool in Afghanistan, and the water was around 55 degrees – RIDICULOUS.  My ears hurt for 2 days after even with a thick swim cap, and I just won’t do it again (especially since the 1 pool has since been closed…).  So I’m stuck to dry land and am on a swim-focused lifting routine – 60 intense minutes 2x/week.  Also 2x/week, I’m doing a swim-immitative resistance band workout that is meant to mimic the water resistance and the exact movements, and I can feel that I’m hitting all the right muscles.  I’m happy with it, but nervous to hit the real pool in December when I’m out of Afghanistan for a few days to see how it translates.

Time will tell!  So 20 weeks away and I’m on 7-8 workouts a week and feeling pretty good.  And the biggest positive of all – which came WAAAAY out of left field and was completely unexpected – is that I have absolutely loved every trainer ride! (see previous post about this same phenomenon).  Strangely enough, I just can’t wait to hop on in the evenings and on weekends…good thing to, because I really don’t have a choice!



To follow this blog, click “Subscribe” on the right sidebar and enter your e-mail


What I Learned in India

I had a full week off for yet another Afghan holiday last week, and decided to sneak in some quality, low-cost outdoor time by flying over to India for a few days (no seriously, low-cost…it’s only a 90-minute flight from here).  Since I can’t run outside at all in Afghanistan (or bike, or walk, or do anything outside), I figured I’d see how my indoor training was stacking up to an outdoor, real-world environment.

Just 3 weeks ago, I quit running heel-toe almost cold turkey, and I wanted to see if my new form would make the grade when I didn’t have the controlled environment of the treadmill to keep me safe.  I started adapting my form by letting my body decide exactly how it would shape up, and all I would consciously change would be my strike – I would strike on the balls of my feet now rather than on my heels.  I found my body shifting forward, but not enough to compensate (at least on the treadmill) for the new angle of my foot striking the ground, and so I found my foot smacking loudly at every pace.

I DID notice, however, the following: with heel striking, I have major pain in the area of my bone bruise/stress fracture on the inside of my lower left leg after EVERY run (nagging for over a year now…), and long runs would put me out for 2-4 days (super annoying when trying to build volume).  BUT…with forefoot striking, all of that pain went away.  And I mean ALL of it.  Even on longer runs, I was ready to go again right away.   The only problem was the huge pressure that this new style of running was putting on my Achilles tendon – not something I want to abuse since I have a full season of treadmill running coming up (notoriously hard on the Achilles).

So what did I do?  I went YouTube shopping for a nice half-way solution that would (hopefully) give me the best of both worlds.  And what did I find?  Well, I think just that!  “Midfoot” striking.  Awesome.  Check out the video below that explains this form of striking quite well.

India was all about testing this out in “the real world”, and it worked!  The highlight was an 65 minute run at an 8:30 pace in which I tweaked and experimented – all just getting my body position and my foot striking where I wanted it, and all within the structure of “good form running” as described above.  Not only did I finish the run with zero pain on my chronically crappy lower left tibia, but the pressure on my Achilles compared to forefoot running seemed to cut way down.  A few subsequent runs taking advantage of the vacation from indoor training proved the same, and I was left to bask in the sunshine and natural beauty of Rishikesh well dreaming of a much-less-painful return to training.

Rishikesh, India...not a bad getaway, eh?

So all in all, I learned the following about my running form – and running in general:


  1. Heel strike running hurts my bones and jolts my lower back
  2. Forefoot strike running hurts my Achilles tendon and strains my calfs
  3. Midfoot strike running doesn’t hurt my Achilles nearly as much, but still takes the pressure off of my bones


  1. Leaning forward and focusing on striking my foot directly below my body provides an extra bit of seemingly “free” propulsion
  2. As this blog (LINK) points out, midfoot striking “lessens injury, because landing on your heel ‘opposes the natural way your foot lands when you run’. When you land on your heel, your ankles and knees have absolutely no chance of minimizing shock…When you run midfoot, your foot has a chance of minizing impact. Your calves act as shock absorbers. Your ankles and knees suffer less impact.”
  3. Reading on a few forums, the consensus seems to be that midfoot striking is faster.


  1. With forefoot and midfoot striking, I found that in the early-going, a loss of focus can mean slamming your feet with more of a jar to your bones than heel striking
  2. Going cold-turkey away from heel striking is painful – doing it again, I probably would have been more gradual about it (building up over 3-4 weeks maybe
  3. I am still trying to figure it out, but it seems that midfoot striking saps more energy than heel striking.  This may be a make-or-break at the Iron distance (or maybe just have to build strength there).
  4. Do NOT run with a banana through a gang of Langur monkeys.  Tried it, and I was left nutrition-less on my run because of it.  Next time, I’m sticking with Gu – much lower street value (I swear those monkeys had intimidating tats and brass knuckles).

See what I mean?! These guys are hard asses!!

 To subscribe to this blog, enter your e-mail address and click “Subscribe” on the right sidebar

Our Anti-Rest Culture – Excerpt from Macca’s “I’m Here to Win”

The following is an excerpt from Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win (p. 147-8), which I found especially interesting.  The guy has raced almost 2 dozen times each year at peak levels – in the last decade or so including multiple Ironmans in each of those seasons – and he’s never been substantially injured in his entire career.  Among other things, it seems, this comes from his mentality towards rest and recovery.  Read on…

An Anti-Rest Culture

A lot of the problems with triathletes’ training arise because they don’t address flaws in their training when they’re younger.  When they age,  their training is built around that “more is always better” idea, and injuries become inevitable.  You have to adapt your training as you age – not just in terms of your repetitions, but your entire approach.  That’s part of the advantage of experience.

It’s not easy to get other athletes to try my way, though, because ours is an anti-rest culture.  Heck, Western civilization is mostly anti-rest!  The sport has always been fearful of the word recovery, as thought needing to recover means you’re a big wimp who can’t take it.  If you know anything about fitness or exercise, you know that when you work out, no matter how tough you are, you tear muscle fibers and cause inflammation in joints and connective tissue.  Recovery lets those things heal.  Without it, you’re gonna get hurt, period.

If you are paying a coach to get you ready for a big race, then you are going to make that coach justify the cost of hiring him.  So if he says, “Today, you’re going to swim five kilometers and do speed training on the track, then tomorrow you’re going to rest,” you’re probably going to lose it.  “What?  Rest?  I’m paying you to tell me to rest?”  Too many athletes feel the need to justify themselves by how much they work.

It’s okay to rest.  I’ve said this in speeches and gotten standing ovations.  But in the modern world, that’s just not a popular idea.  Outside of sport, in business, people boast about getting only two hours of sleep and still going into work.  They’re stressed, they’re not sleeping, and they wonder why they feel like hell all the time.  It’s like the less you sleep, they more hardcore you are.  Translate that to the triathlete world and it’s “Look at me, I ran twenty kilometers yesterday after riding for six hours.”

That’s the monster that’s human nature.  We train to look good to other people, to look good to ourselves, to justify the cost of a coach, or as some sort of inoculation against the fear that we won’t have what it takes on race day.  But we rarely train for the only reason that matters: to be the best we can be in body and mind, and deliver our finest possible performance on race day, regardless of the result.

To subscribe to this blog, enter your e-mail in the right sidebar and click “Subscribe”.

%d bloggers like this: