The donut zone

Krispy Kreme doughnut

Krispy Kreme donuts provide the essential nutrition I need to beat out the competition.

Today I finally participated in an event I have missed for the last two years–Fleet Feet Bloomington’s Krispy Kreme Challenge Fun Run! Styled as a family fun run, racers traverse a one-mile loop for three miles. The twist is that during each mile runners enter an area dubbed “the donut zone” where they must consume a Krispy Kreme glazed donut before proceeding. There is no winner per se, but the first 75 finishers receive a special Headsweats visor commemorating the event. I wanted one of these visor just as much as I wanted to eat three donuts (which was a lot).

I signed up and coaxed my friend and frequent relay team member Kelly Ruiter into racing too. It was a great turnout for the event which was also a part of Fleet Feet’s two-year anniversary. I had the chance during registration to not eat a donut by making a $5 donation to St. Jude, but I passed. Not on making the donation. I happily made a donation, but skipped getting the stick that let me pass through the donut zone once without eating. After all, I did not do the donut run to NOT eat donuts.

Kelly Ruiter and Steven Barcus

Kelly and I proudly pose in our spiffy new Krispy Kreme Challenge Fun Run visors.

The run was great. I took it easy but maintained a 7:30 clip overall, including the time during which I was eating my donuts. Normally Krispy Kremes melt in your mouth, but the combination of a dry mouth and high heart rate made getting each down a bit of an effort. They were still tasty of course. I quickly figured out that the trick was to fully consume 75% of the donut and then then shove the last 25% in my mouth and chew it as I was running. The part that requires technical skill is not choking while running with a mouth full of donut!

In the end I received my visor and had a great time on the run. I am pretty sure I finished in the top 10 too, but the event was about fun and donuts, so there were no official rankings. It was nice to see some familiar faces and chat with friends–all while downing some of the best donuts money can buy! Well done Fleet Feet! Have a happy birthday!

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Upgrades

I have spent the past few weeks learning to manage my back injury. I say “manage” since despite being discharged from physical therapy, pain persists. Fortunately it is not at the level it was at before. So I am getting back to training and rebuilding my volume. More on that in my next post. Today I want to talk about some gear upgrades!

Triathlon is an expensive sport in case you’re not aware. As such, I’ve always tried to develop a policy of using gear until it is no longer usable. The past few months have found me with the need to replace several key items, and I am absolutely stoked debut some new gear.

Garmin Forerunner 920xt

This watch boots up and finds satellites much faster than my old one. Still a lot  to learn until I master this one.

The first item I replaced was my old Garmin Forerunner 305. This thing has gotten me through a lot and I have forced it to limp along well past its lifetime. I knew it was time to say goodbye when the screen refused to display anything. After 5 years of use I upgraded to the latest watch from Garmin, the Forerunner 920XT. This is a great watch. In addition to synching well with Garmin Connect, the biggest change for me is the ability to track swim data, which has been helpful. I am not sure that I am loving the feature that lets you see alerts and messages on the watch, because when I am training I like to focus solely on training. Finding out my clan castle has been attacked, I have been invited to a Facebook event, or my dry cleaning is ready is not really urgent when I am cranking out intervals! Still, cool to have and I look forward to experimenting with other data collection and training features.

HUUB Archimedes 3:5

I love the look and feel of this wetsuit. It is a lot lighter and flexible than what I’m used to.

Next to go was my wetsuit. When I entered triathlon I bought a starter kit that came with a Tyr Hurricane Cat 1. This is a good enough wetsuit for beginners, but 3-4 years of racing have worn this thing down. I had patched it repeatedly, but that was becoming a futile effort, so I decided to retire it. I considered several wetsuits, including the Blueseventy Helix and Tyr Hurricane Cat 5. In the end I chose the HUUB Archimedes 3:5. The Archimedes is a high-end wet suit and has a neoprene distribution that is intended to help correct sinking legs. Having not yet mastered technique, this sounded like a great fit. I did a LOT of research on these wetsuits and found the Helix and Archimedes to be similar in terms of performance, but in the end HUUB won out. I was not a fan of this year’s Helix style. I have already taken the Archimedes out once in open water and was very impressed. I could definitely see the difference between a $150 wetsuit and a $800 wetsuit! I can’t wait to put some more miles in open water wearing it.

Lastly, I have begun to upgrade my triathlon clothes. My tri kit was a bit worn so I picked up a new one from 2XU. Not much to say about the kit at the moment. It looks good, matches the bike, and felt good on a 50-mile ride. I am eager to see if it chafes or does well after 80 or 100 miles. If so, this could be what I wear at IM Louisville.

Thanks for reading. I’m in the middle of a training boot camp this week to get some of the fitness back I lost while injured. Look for an update on that soon.

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Down and out

life bar

Anyone have any red medicine. Or a fairy?

They say all things come in threes. If that’s the case I am glad to be done with my third sickness/injury of the season. I just hope that this means I will be free and clear of any training deterrence for the rest of the season.

A few weeks ago both feet and right knee started really bothering me during workouts. On one occasion it even kept me from finishing a long run. I did the usual remedies–I stretched, I rested, I even switched out my shoes. After around 10 days…BOOM! All better. Ready to rock!

Wrong.

A bad cold took up residence inside my head and decided to wreak havoc on me. It was especially annoying since I had just been sick around Christmas. Once again I did my usual remedies–I rested, I ate especially well, and I imbibed enough drugs to start my own pharmacy. After 7 days…BOOM! All better. Surely now I was ready to rock.

Wrong. WRONG!

After getting over my cold I promptly received a visit from the Random-Back-Injury Fairy. Why do I say random? Because I have no clue how it got this way. It didn’t happen in training. I didn’t take a fall. I don’t remember getting hit by a bus or trampled by hippos. Yet nonetheless my lower back feels like someone took dull-ended iron rebar and jabbed me over and over. I tried my normal remedies–foam roll, stretch, child’s pose, rest. And 7 days later…still crap.

Are you kidding me?!

Okay. Zen Steve. Go to your happy place…

Alright. I am hoping to be better in a couple of days. My coach has given me a stretching regimen and I will incorporate some light cardio to loosen up. Maybe in the spirit of recovery some strong drinks to loosen the muscles and a massage may be in order. Here’s to getting my first injuries of the year out of the way! Should be all clear for the rest of the year…right world?

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Best laid plans

Um hello…is this thing on? Okay good. Steve Barcus here and I am back! After October’s blog post I decided the number one rule of content management, continually roll out fresh content, didn’t apply to me. That’s not to say I wasn’t writing some great posts, it just wasn’t for my personal blog. But with this post all will be made right. For in this post I unveil what I’ve been up to for the past few months and my plans for 2015!

Let’s get to it.

It may be the off season, but I have been making some solid progress. I took a few weeks after Border Wars to exercise causally and then jumped right into off-season training. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the trainer and treadmill, with long weekend workouts hitting around or above two hours. I’ve also been getting a lot of volume in at the pool. Really I think the workouts I have been doing are quite a bit more advanced than in past years. On top of that I am on a specially designed strength training regimen. I was skeptical at first, but am really seeing and feeling the results. If I’m not careful people will start looking at me and thinking I’m actually an athlete!

In short February has barely begun and I already feel like I have built some speed and stamina I can take into the main season.

Only 250 days until Ironman Louisville?  Whatever. I'll be ready in 248.

Or maybe it’ll take 249. Either way, PLENTY of time.

And I’m going to need it. As of today I have 250 days until IRONMAN Louisville! Honestly it feels good to have another big race year. It was nice taking it easy last year, but there is something satisfying about really grinding through training.

So to that end, my race schedule is up. I’ve also included a few other training events I am doing. Plus I may pick up another triathlon or two, or possibly a relay. But there is reason to the madness. Science even, thanks to Laura Wheatley, my coach. (Very glad to be working with her again). I will begin the year building running volume and utilize that volume a bit in a half marathon and then a marathon. I’m hoping to get a new PR out of the marathon and am fairly certain I can do it, barring injury.

Next I’ll leverage that volume and jump into my biking and swimming training. I am going to for sure do one 70.3 triathlon this summer and a couple of shorter races. I may do another 70.3 tri if I feel like I have been able to spend enough time in Louisville riding the course and getting to know the area. I am being careful not to load up on too many races though. Races are great, but do take time away from training and building fitness. In the end it is all about performing at Lousiville.

Laura thinks I should be able to royally improve my time at Louisville. I think she’s right. I’m going into this knowing what I need to do. I have already improved in strength and speed. I have a whole bunch of people who want to train with me and that are doing the same race. Plus I have challenged myself with something extra this year: I am going to try to really push it during my races. I have a tendency to play it safe, because I don’t want to blow up on the course–a fine strategy, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That’s all for now. Next time I will share some of the purchases I have and plan to make for the new season.

Thanks for reading!

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Race recap: Border Wars

Bridge over Mississippi River in Alton Illinois

A lot of the race took us along and over the Mississippi for the run and bike.

Border Wars, held in Alton Illinois, along the border between Illinois and Missouri, pits races from the East against racers from the West in a 70.3 mile triathlon. For me this race was an opportunity to put some of my good fitness gains to use at the end of the season.

The race was great overall, and I would highly recommend it. Even considering that it was in its first year, it was still well-organized, held on a great venue, and boasted some of the finest SWAG around. It had some growing pains like any first year race, but will certainly improve on these things next year.

Rather than walk you through the entire race, I will instead share one story from the experience.

Border Wars features two transition areas, with T2 being at the finish. So on race morning you have to drive to T2, set up the area for running, and then take prearranged street cars to T1. To ensure that more than 300 racers don’t try to sleep in and take the street cars all at once, organizers told racers when they were supposed to be on their car at predetermined times. I was one of the lucky few who had to be ON THE CAR at 6 a.m. Meaning I had to get up at a bit after 5 a.m. for an 8 a.m. race start…I’m not a morning person!

So I did it. I got up. Staged T2. Rode the street car to the T1 area…a pitch black transition area. They hadn’t arranged for lights (little details that will be fixed next year). Also it was around 44 degrees. So I fumbled in the dark, setting up T1. At this point I am pretty good at setting up my areas, so even in the cold and darkness it only took a few minutes.

After that I just sat around and waited…and waited…and waited. I hung out with fellow Blo-No area athlete Matt Cuttell and we exchanged tips and race strategies. I also made small talk with some other athletes around. Finally it was time to get in the water.

I was looking forward to this since at the previous day’s pre-race meeting we were told water temperature was right around 70 though it would feel MUCH warmer since we would be standing in the cold. “It is wet suit legal though,” they said. “You’ll adjust to the warmth.”

Swim at Border Wars

Where we were actually swimming.

The gun fired and I along with other racers went charging into the water.

OH MY GOD! THIS WATER IS FREAKING FRIGID!!!

The shock of the cold came without any warning. I tried calming myself. I tried dunking my head a few times to get used to the temperature. Each time my body fought against me, barely being able to stand the temps. The other athletes were dealing with the same thing. We were all mentally prepared for water that felt too warm, not like ice.

Arctic ocean

Where it felt like we were swimming

For the first hundred yards or so everyone swam with their heads out of the water–extremely unusual for a triathlon. I kept urging myself forward and berating myself to get my head in the water. My body kept fighting me, gasping against the chilly water and air. For a split second I even considered bowing out of the race.

You LOSER! Get your face down in that water and start swimming. You will not embarrass yourself with quitting, you wimp!

Considering quitting roused the voice in my head that has nothing but contempt for giving up. (For the record, I cleaned up the language in the quote above.) Nonetheless I began swimming, looking forward to getting out of the water, dreading jumping onto my bike while soaking wet, and dreaming of a 13.1 mile run along the Mississippi in 58 degree temps.

I found out after the swim that the water temp was around 56 degrees. How it was confused for 70, I’ll never know, but 14 degrees makes a BIG difference!


So how did it all turn out?

Awesome!

Out of 344 finishers, I placed 67th, with a final time of 5:26:57. A new P.R.!

Here’s the breakdown:

Swim: 37:59

T1: 7:15

Bike: 2:50:04

T2: 3:31:58

Run: 1:48:05

That put me as #16 in my age group out of 39. Overall it was a great race for me. T1 was slow because I made the decision to towel off and put on a soft shell jacket for the ride (a great decision). The bike and run went well too. Next time I need to push it harder on the bike and run through. I think part of me is afraid of blowing up on the course, so I don’t work hard enough. I am confident that I will shave several minutes off my 70.3 time next year.

So should you do Border Wars? Absolutely! As I said the venue is great and it is a good time of the year for a season ender. Plus the post race barbecue is delicious! I would already be signed up for this one if IRONMAN Louisville wasn’t the weekend after it. Don’t let my adventure through darkness, cold, and frigid waters scare you away. We need people to represent the EAST! Fight on easterners, fight on.

 

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A break up letter

Dear Blue Running Shoes,

Image: Asics Gel Kayano running shoes

My blue Asics Gel Kayanos join the ranks of my exes.

Wow. I never imagined I’d be writing a letter like this. I wish I could do this in person, but this is the only way I can get my thoughts together.

First off, I think you’re great. We’ve had a lot of fantastic memories. Afternoon runs, weekends away together, good times, bad times…for a while you were a good fit for me. But now I’m afraid that time has passed.

In the beginning everything was so new and fun. I loved taking you around and showing you off to my friends. (I got a lot of compliments on your style and looks.) But what I loved most was the support you provided. However in the last few weeks that support has all but faded. In fact it has become painful to be around you.

We could assume we are having a rough patch and hope things will get better, but we’d just be kidding ourselves. Honestly more and more I see myself with shoes that are younger and able to support me–especially through all of my running and triathlons. And let’s face it–time has not been kind to you.

Image: Asics Gel Kayano 20 running shoes

My new awesome Asics Gel Kayano 20s, which will make their race debut at Border Wars.

Please know you’ll always have a special place in the trunk of my car. I hope we can see each other from time to time. And who knows? If things don’t work out with my next pair of shoes, maybe we can go out sometime and catch up.

Thank you for everything, especially getting me through my 5k this weekend. I was thrilled to finish in under 20 minutes (a goal of mine ours), and getting first place was all but a shock to me. It was a grand gesture on your part, but unfortunately too little too late. I’ll try to remember the times like this when you were there for me, rather than the times you were not.

Yours in friendship,

Steve

P.S. Please keep the lock laces. I bought those for you as a gift and want you to have them.

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5 Unspoken rules for triathletes

The way you treat your fellow racers off the track is just as important, if not more important, than how you treat them during a race. I sat down with some fellow athletes and nonathletes and had a conversation about some of the subtleties of interacting with other triathletes. There are always exceptions to the rules, but here are a few we thought stood out and might surprise some outside of the triathlon, cycling, swimming, and running cultures.

1.   No time!

Unless someone is a good friend, don’t ask directly for their time after a race. You can ask “how did the race go?” but if the time isn’t offered, it could be considered rude to press them.

2.   Don’t play it too cool

Another day on the job for you could be above and beyond another athlete’s wildest dreams. Responding with a bored “I got another Kona slot.” or “I smoked everyone out there. I wish someone could give me some competition.” could easily offend. It is okay to be proud of yourself. Everyone loves a good winner.

3.   The “s” word

In my triathlon club, saying the “s” word (slow) is taboo. Someone might be not as fast as another racer, but they are still out there giving it their all. And calling yourself s*** is no good either if the person next to you isn’t as fast as you. You might be making fun of a time you got that the person next to you would kill for. If you are calling yourself the s-word, by proxy you may be accidentally doing the same to them.

4.   Pacing a racer

Pacing could possibly be one of the nicest things you can do for another racer. You’re sacrificing your own race to make sure they reach their goal, whether it is a specific time or just finishing. But what about when you finally reach the finish line? Do you run ahead, fall back, or cross with them? We had a few perspectives on this one, but in the end decided it is best to talk it over in advance. If all else fails, yielding the finish line to your friend can be a very grand gesture.

5.   The first beer

Who gets the first beer after a long day of training or a particularly tough race? All bets are off and all courtesies are dropped. Knock over the elderly, push a child out of the way–whatever it takes to be the first to the cooler! You earned it.

Image finish line

Thanks to Dennis Killian, Lauren McDonald, Mick Hannah, Kelly Ruiter, and David Ford for sharing their input. Do you agree? Disagree? What did we miss? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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