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Training Journal

My journal of running, training and racing.

Leadville 100 2015 - Race Report

Mark Junkans

Almost a week has passed since I ran my first true 100 miler, the Leadville 100. Being from Houston, I was very concerned about the altitude and the climbing. I don’t think that either were a real factor in my performance, however, I am still trying dissect what went wrong (and what keeps going wrong) in my ultra-distance races.

3:30 am - Like giddy, innocent new recruits, not really knowing what lies ahead.

3:30 am - Like giddy, innocent new recruits, not really knowing what lies ahead.

Pre-Race
I arrived in Denver the Sunday before the race and stayed the week with my awesome Niece Susanna and her husband Philip. I slowly acclimated to the elevation with daily hikes to 10k, 12k, and 14k. I believe that this was a good plan, as all the symptoms of altitude sickness passed by Thursday when we travelled to Leadville.

Friday was pretty laid back as I picked up my race packet and just chilled until the race briefing. Sarah (my sister), Susanna and my nephew Gavin just hung out and saw the sights of the big town of Leadville. Friday night, the rest of the support crew arrived we went over race plans and nutrition.

Start - Mayqueen - Outward Bound (mile 24.5)
I lined up at the start about 10 rows back from the front. My plan was to run by HR for the first 24 miles or so, and I was able to keep everything in check for the most part. Climbing wa good and the 1200 ft descent on Powerline was controlled fun. Nutrition was spot on with a bottle or Perpetuem, a gel and a salt tab every hour. Rolling into the Outward Bound aid station, I was right on schedule and feeling pretty good. I restocked on gels and got a new bottle, ready to go.

Outward Bound to Twin Lakes (mile 40)
The first part of this section was kind of a pain with lots of grass and road running. From there it started to climb and I just power hiked up the switchbacks until I reached the top. The descent down to Twin Lakes was some of the most fun single track I’ve run, especially when it got steep toward the bottom. My crew was supposed to meet me at the top, but couldn’t get in. So, with only one bottle of liquid and minimal fueling, I started to get behind on my nutrition. When I rolled into Twin Lakes, I was really behind from the hard downhill running and no nutrition for over an hour. I ate too quickly while getting my gear ready for Hope Pass. I used the Solomon Ultra Vest with flasks for water, along with some trekking poles for the climb.

Running into Twin Lakes for the first time.

Running into Twin Lakes for the first time.

Twin Lakes to Winfield and Back
I set out for Winfield and from the start didn’t have a lot of energy. I walked the water crossings to the start of the climb, and start the 3,600 ft ascent to the top. About 400 ft or so into the climb I started to get very woozy and had no energy. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and keep trying to power through it. Things got so bad, that I was literally stopping every 10 ft or so to relieve the dizziness I felt.

I was finally able to puke, but that didn’t really do much for my energy level. The remainder of the climb was me climbing, stopping and puking. I just couldn’t believe I was being passed by so many people, and it was getting me angry. I painstakingly reached the top of Hope Pass and stayed at the aid station for awhile, looking for anything that would get my stomach back in line. The magic cure was the potato soup that was probably 30% salt.

The descent to Winfield wasn’t fast, but it was faster than everyone else at the time. I didn’t have any climbing power, but could just let gravity do the work. I stayed in Winfield (halfway) for about 10 minutes and tried to eat and drink. Then I heard that the cutoff was only 15 minutes away. What? I’m battling the cutoff? That was not in my race plan, but I knew I needed to get going.

The climb up back up Hope Pass was faster, mainly because I kept my effort low enough not to need to stop. I still felt dizzy and weak, but eventually made it to the top. It was already getting dark when I sat down by the fire to put on my warm vest and headlamp. All around me, people were saying that there just wasn’t enough time to make the cutoff, and some were just trying to will themselves to get up.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I was not going to quit, and I wasn’t going to miss the cutoff. I started thinking about my wife, daughters and race crew that had sacrificed so I could race. Even though my race plan had gone out the window, I just wasn’t going to stop.

So I ran down the mountain in less than ideal conditions for going fast. It was dark, I had my headlamp low for fear of running out of battery, and the trail was pretty technical for nighttime running. I passed everyone I could see and finally made it to the water crossings. I honestly didn’t know how much time I had left because my watch had run out midway down. I just prayed that I would make it in time.

With about a mile left until the aid station, Susanna and Katie were waiting on the edge of the last water crossing. They had been there for over two hours, with no information about where I had been the whole time. All they knew is that I was cutting it close. They ran me into the aid station and the crew was waiting like a Nascar pit crew. I sat down, while they changed socks and shoes, refilled bottles, got me some broth to drink and sent me on my way with Sarah pacing me. I was one of the last people to leave Winfield with just minutes to spare before the 9:45 cutoff, but I had made it. 60 miles in, 40 to go.

Winfield to Half Pipe
Leaving Winfield was a straight climb up again, and my stomach wasn’t yet back. Sarah coached me through some tough, slow climbs and helped me keep going after puking a number of times. We started asking everyone who passed me if they had some ginger (I had some in my bag, but never thought to carry it). The first ginger chew I took and kept drinking my drink mix (mistake). I puked again a couple times, but kept climbing SLOWLY. Someone else offered 2 of their precious ginger chews, and I took them one at a time with nothing else. Sarah was an amazing pacer through this section, seeing the worst of me, and still finding ways to coax me forward. I can’t thank her enough.

Slowly, my stomach started to feel better and the sugar helped me feel a lot better. We finished the segment pretty strong, and were now 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I finally felt like I might just make it.

Half Pipe to Outward Bound
Katie took over pacing duties and we just kept moving quickly the whole way. I wasn’t running yet, but fast hiked the whole way, taking in more and more food and starting to feel strong again. Despite the biting cold wind, that whole segment was very enjoyable. She and I had great conversation and just kept passing people the whole way. When I arrived at Outward Bound I only had 24.5 miles left. But with the Powerline climb ahead of me, I was just sure that I would slow again to a crawl as I did on Hope Pass.

Outward Bound to May Queen
Susanne took over pacing duties and we made our way to the start of the climb. I kept telling her not to make fun of me for climbing like a 90 yr old grandma with a walker, she didn’t make any promises. We looked up the climb and it looked like a ski lift with lights all the way up from the headlamps of other runners.

As soon as we started, I just felt good. After about 5 minutes of solid climbing with no nausea, I told her we were going to catch every light we could see. We proceeded to do so all the way up the never-ending climb. I’m not sure how long we climbed, but it seemed like forever. Most of the people we passed looked like they belonged on the set of a Living Dead episode or something. To my surprise, my legs started feeling stronger the more we climbed. Frankly, this was what I was expecting out of my legs the whole race, but it seems that adequate fuel is a requirement for such exertion.

We made our way to the the trail, and started on the pretty technical section to the Aid Station. Susanna really surprised me with her ability to keep up that kind of effort on that kind of terrain. I still can’t believe she isn’t a runner, she sure has the stamina and endurance for it. We had a blast on this whole section, passing everyone we could and having fun going fast on the trails in the dark.

Finally we made it to the last aid station, and I had probably gained over 30 minutes on the cutoff on the last section. She stayed behind to get picked up while I started on the 13.5 miles to the finish.

May Queen to Finish
I ran/hiked about 6 miles to where my final pacers would be waiting at Tabor Boat Ramp. My legs were feeling strong for nearing the end of a 100 miler, and I just kept things moving. The sun was rising and I had the most amazing view of Turquoise Lake for the whole way. I can’t tell you just how beautiful and sublime this section was, running alone and thanking God for everything good in my life. This wasn’t the first time I had prayed, but it was probably the only time I felt truly grateful.

A random pacer picked me up about 3 miles in, and we ran together until we met Sarah and Katie waiting to pace me in. The final 8+ miles were a mix fast hiking and running. I had tons of fun running fast on all the downhills, and scared my sister a bit with my downhill antics.

With about 5 miles to go, we started our ascent into Leadville, and this is where the road seemed to last forever, all uphill. By that time I was just fast-hiking and we kept about a 12 min/mile pace to the end. The last mile I just wanted the race to be over, but Sarah kept reminding me to relish in the final moments of the race. My crew met me at the high school, and we finished together. It was truly a team effort, and I’ve never been so grateful for the sacrificial support of a team in my whole life. It took me 28 hours and 57 minutes to finish this race, but to me, the time didn’t even matter anymore. I didn’t quit and I didn’t give up, despite being against the ropes for so long.

There were 600 who started the race and only 320 finished. This was a little better finishing rate that average, probably because of the beautiful weather. This means that, since I was one of the very last to hit the cutoff at mile 60, I passed about 100 people over the last 40 miles. If I could only redo that 20 mile section over Hope Pass and back, it would have been a decent race. Now I have something to beat when I go back for the big sub-25 hr buckle.

The whole crew (minus Philip) finishing what was a TRUE team effort.  (I'm going to kill my sister Sarah for putting this silly hat on me in the dark when I couldn't see it.)

The whole crew (minus Philip) finishing what was a TRUE team effort.  (I'm going to kill my sister Sarah for putting this silly hat on me in the dark when I couldn't see it.)

Conclusion Thanks to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and stayed up all night to watch my progress. I felt like my wife Natalia was with me the whole time, even though she couldn’t come out to Colorado with me. I certainly kept things exciting for people.

Now, if I could just figure out that whole eating on the run for 20 plus hours thing.

All the emotions I could ever feel, right there.  And yes, that is a Sriracha bottle in my hand. That was my prize if I ran 20 hours, but Katie gave it to me anyway as a joke.

All the emotions I could ever feel, right there.  And yes, that is a Sriracha bottle in my hand. That was my prize if I ran 20 hours, but Katie gave it to me anyway as a joke.

Leadville Training - 4 Weeks from race week

Mark Junkans

This week was all about continuing with the volume and getting some good climbs during my longer runs. I haven't really had much fatigue in the legs, which is somewhat worrying, but after the weekend combo, my legs were definitely worked. I celebrated with a big bowl of ice cream and a late night watching True Detective. Just one more week where I'll hit my peak mileage for this block, then it's all maintenance from there.

Mon am - 5 easy | pm - 7 easy

Tues am - 7.5 progression to 6:10 pace | noon - 5 easy | pm - 1 mile stair climbs on CUW lakefront

Wed am - 13 easy in Milwaukee | pm - 5 - Family Hike on Memorial Park trails with 50 lb pack (Krystin)

Thur am - 12 moderate with 4 miles of bridge repeats | pm - 3 miles treadmill climb at 18% incline

Fri am - 8 easy

Sat am - 30 easy with 8 mile hill workout

Sun pm - 15 easy

Total miles for week - 111 Total hours of running - 17

Leadville Training - 5 weeks from race week

Mark Junkans

Another solid week with 4 hill workouts and back to back 20’s on the weekend. Overall energy is good, trying to get some vert on these legs isn’t easy in Houston. Basically, treadmill and overpasses are my only nearby options.

Mon am - 6 easy on treadmill

Tues am - 12 moderate (4 mile bridge workout) | pm - 3.5 easy jog with Natalia

Wed noon - 9 easy in heat | pm - 6 TM (2 @ 18% incline)

Thur am - 12 (4.5 bridge loops) | pm - 5 pushing stroller to playground

Fri noon - 8 in full heat/humidity

Sat am - 20 miles practicing nutrition (heat and humidity killed me)

Sun am - 20 miles (12 easy, 4 bridge repeats, 2 easy)

Total miles for week - 103 Total hours of running - 14.5

Leadville Training - 6 Weeks from race week

Mark Junkans

This is the first real hard week I’ve had, and my legs handled it well. Got some good climbing on bridges and treadmill (TM). I sure wish I lived somewhere hilly, but in Houston you take what you can get. I’m also hoping that this intense humidity will help build my mental capacity to suffer. Some runs I feel like I’m suffocating for the first couple miles, then it’s just a matter of not overheating. The high humidity makes it almost impossible for the body to cool off since the moisture just sticks to your skin and doesn’t evaporate.

Overall, I feel good, but I know I’m at a deficit for this race with no altitude and no mountains to run on.

Mon pm - 8.5 easy

Tues am - 10 moderate (4 mile bridge workout) | pm - 5 recovery pace

Wed am - 8 easy | pm - 6 TM (2 @ 15% incline)

Thur am - 11.5 (4 miles of bridge repeats) | pm - 5 on TM with 2x15 min@ 15% incline

Fri am - 8 easy

Sat am - 26 easy effort

Sun am - 18 at Ho Chi Minh trails

Total miles for week - 106 Total hours of running - 15.5

Leadville Trail 100 - Oh my!

Mark Junkans

On August 22 of this year, I will run the Leadville Trail 100. Here is a short description of the race from the [Leadville Race Series website].

The legendary "Race Across The Sky" 100-mile run is where it all started back in 1983. This is it. The race where legends are created and limits are tested. One hundred miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain — from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. You will give the mountain respect, and earn respect from all.

There are a few things that should be noted here:

  1. I live in Houston where the elevation is probably 25 feet above sea level according to my watch.
  2. I’ve never done a mountain race.
  3. I’ve never run a true 100 mile race (RR100 DNF at 40 because I just didn’t feel like feeling nauseous all day)
  4. There will be pain and vomitting.

One great thing is that 2 nieces of mine live in Colorado, so I will have a crew, along with my sister Sarah who is coming out to help.

My main goals for the race are:

  1. Keep an easy effort for the first half.
  2. Make the double crossing of Hope Pass with some strength left in my legs. This section finishes at mile 60, so the race isn’t near over yet.
  3. Be able to eat the whole time (no eat = no finish)
  4. Smile
  5. Glorify God and remain thankful that I’m able to do this!

I'm a bit nervous about setting a time goal for this race, simply because it’s 100 miles (and anything can go wrong in a 100 mile running race), and because it’s at altitude. After spending some time at 8-10,000 ft this summer, I know that I can run fairly strong. I don’t, however, have any illusions about being able to escape the effects of being at or above the tree line, or navigating the steep ascents and without absolutely crushing my quads.

Training will be all about volume and hills. I plan to spend 5 weeks at over 100 miles per week, and get some serious back to back long runs, peaking at 35 Saturday/20 Sunday.

The other thing I need to work on is my nutrition plan for the race. Each week I’ll tweak my gel/solids mix to try and get up to 300 calories an hour. I’ve never been able to take in more than 200/hr in a race without puking, so my gut needs lots of practice here. I’m using 1 Cor 10:31 as my tongue-in-cheek theme verse for the nutrition part of the race - “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Hopefully, I’ll either be eating or drinking, because the “whatever you do” is probably going to be puking.

Overall, I’m up for the challenge, and hopefully my wife and family won’t get tired of me talking about the race, or training, or both.

I can’t wait for the experience. I’ll take all of it, the good and the bad. In the meantime, I'm really enjoying eating all of these extra calories throughout the week (about 90% plant-based).

Boston Marathon 2014 - Race Recap

Mark Junkans

I qualified for Boston in my second marathon, the 2012 Houston Marathon. Since that time I've done several triathlons ranging from half to full ironman distance along with a 24 hour event where I ran 119 miles. Throughout this time, I’ve maintained my aerobic base, but have felt like my marathon specific skills have been going backwards instead of progressing.

After a disappointing result at the Houston Marathon in 2014 due to lot of oversees travel and some injury, I was determined to have a good race in Boston and try for a personal record. Things progressed nicely during the 10 week lead up to Boston and I finally began to feel like I was back in marathon shape. Even so, I still had a difficult time completing a couple of the more difficult long runs that included tempo and pace work. I was still hopeful that I could hit a 2:45, but a 1:23 hilly Atlanta half marathon three weeks out from the race left me concerned. That pace felt perfectly fine, but the hills were definitely a factor. Either way, I was going to do my best.

Race Day

Ken and I ready to go race. Notice his fanny pack.  I was as jealous of his fanny pack as he was of my high split shorts..

Ken and I ready to go race. Notice his fanny pack.  I was as jealous of his fanny pack as he was of my high split shorts..

Race day came and I couldn't have been more relaxed and excited at the same time. Eric, my gracious host, dropped Ken Chitwood and I off right in from of the house where I was able to wait with the Skechers Performance Elite Team. This was awesome, and we were able to just chill out and relax for a couple hours while we waited for the corrals to begin to fill up.

Livin' large at the Skechers house near the start.

Livin' large at the Skechers house near the start.

I had decided to run with Jonathan Hill from Ireland who is on the team, as we were both shooting for the same time. When the gun went off, we were caught up in a slow moving crowd, and our first mile was ridiculously easy. We both kept telling each other that this was a good thing, as our plan for the first five miles was to go out slower than goal pace anyway despite the downhills.

After mile 5 or so we were able to open up a bit, and held to below goal pace for the middle section. Our effort was so easy at this point that both of us were tempted to run harder, risking burnout later on in the race. Our pace hovered around 6:15 give or take.

Jonathan Hill and I cruising along and chatting it up near Ashland.  He killed it with a 2:45 marathon.  

Jonathan Hill and I cruising along and chatting it up near Ashland.  He killed it with a 2:45 marathon.  

At about the halfway point, my left quad started to get wonky. I told Jonathan about it and we tried to burn it off a little by increasing pace. At about mile 14 I knew things were only getting worse, so in shame I broke off and walked for about 30 seconds to try and bring it back. I cranked things up again and tried to settle back into my goal pace, but I soon hit the Newton Hills (I knew that the hills would be my nemesis since I train in flat Houston). So, instead of hammering the hills at goal pace, I decided to just take it easy and keep an even effort throughout.

After the hills I tried to rally, but knew that to do so would mean a lot of pain and a potential bonk. I just didn't think that my legs had it in them to push to the end without a blowup. I just kept a steady effort that around a 3 hr marathon pace. Part of this decision was making sure the wheels didn’t completely come off, and I honestly just wanting to enjoy last part of the race as I entered Boston. I totally fine with not hitting a PR and totally soaked in the moment. The wall to wall crowds, the wall of sound, and the runners around me were so overwhelming that I was getting pretty emotional the closer I got to the finish.

As I turned onto Boylston street, all I could think about was my dad, my mom, my family and everyone I was running for. That stretch was like a total time warp and seemed to last an eternity as the end of race tunnel vision was in full effect. I will never forget the finish, and have never been so proud to wear a race medal. Normally it would just goes into a pocket and get hung in the garage. This one is different because of what this race means for the city of Boston and for the whole running community.

Holding up my little victory sign.  God is good!

Holding up my little victory sign.  God is good!

I finished up with a time of 2:52:46 or an average pace of 6:34 per mile. I’m not entirely happy with how the race went, and still need to meet my 2014 goal of a sub 2:45 marathon. So, I'm looking for the best fall marathon to train up for. Flat, fast and cool please.

Never been more proud of a medal in all my life.

Never been more proud of a medal in all my life.

During this cycle I averaged 70-80 miles per week, and hit a couple peak weeks in the 90's. Coach Caleb was awesome, as usual, and did his best to prepare my legs for a fast race. Where I dropped the ball was in lifting weights and climbing stairs to prepare for the course. I was fast enough, but just not strong enough. That needs to change, as does my Lactate Threshold, giving me an even bigger window to work with.

For nutrition, I took two scoops of UCAN Superstarch and had about about 240 calories of Island Boost from a gel flask. I also got a sip of water from most of the aid stations, but in the final 5 miles or so just skipped them.

I will definitely be back to Boston, but with Rocky Raccon 100 Miler at the end of January, I'm not sure what kind of marathon shape I'll be in next year. Need to make some decisions….

Thank You's

  1. My wife Natalia for putting up with my training and racing schedule.
  2. My mom and siblings for tracking and cheering for me.
  3. Eric and Amy Sahlberg for hosting me at their home.
  4. Coach Caleb Masland for doing all the thinking for me in training.

Running in Nigeria - also posted on run4thecity.com

Mark Junkans

Ready or not I'll be running around the city within a week's time. I can't say that I'm completely ready, but who ever is for a 100 mile+ run. Our team is getting very excited as am I, and can't wait to get this thing done.

Last week I was in Nigeria working on a community development project, and got to run in Africa for the first time in my life. When I first started traveling there, I wasn't a runner or wasn't training for a race, so the challenges of training while in Nigeria never hit me.

It's hard to stick to a daily training program when you spend days in airports and driving. The security issues in the Niger-Delta region also present challenges for a runner from the USA. I can't just go out and run on the street in a city like Aba or Lagos, and there isn't really anywhere to run anyway as the streets are filled with people and vehicles. If I'm staying in a hotel, it's unlikely that there will be a treadmill to run on, unless it's a larger city Abuja and decent hotel.

My first run was in the village of Asaga Ohafia where I finally convinced my hosts that I needed to go run on the road. They didn't really understand what I was asking to do, but we finally decided on a road run out of town. It was kind of funny because I had a SUV full of people following me the whole way who couldn't believe that someone would run that far, even though it was only just over 8 miles.

Needless to say, I had one of the most fun training that I've ever had. I ran past villages, children, women washing clothes in the river, etc. I'm definitely doing this again next time I come. In fact, we have already started coming up with ideas for organizing a race. That would be a blast, and also probably a first. The first this time a white man running in this particular area.

All in all, I was able to get about 50 miles this week with only 1 road run. Not exaclty what I needed, but good enough. The rest was treadmill and loops on a 100 meter path (good mental training.)

IM Louisville - Race report

Mark Junkans

Short Version

Here's the down and dirty info on my first full Ironman which ended in a near DNF disaster.

Swim - 1:17 (goal 1:20)

Bike - 5:47 (goal 5:45)

Run - 6:14 (goal 3:30)

Total Time - 13:31


Long Version

After my second Ironman 70.3 this summer in Lawrence, I decided to sign up for a full Ironman race in Louisville, which took place one day before my 42nd birthday.  Shortly afterward, my sister Sarah also told me she was entering the race.  It's so cool to have a family member to share experiences with.

I was about as dialed in as I could get with the limited time I had to train.  Although I have some flexibility in my work schedule, I still have a life so I really limited my training volume except for a couple big weeks. 

I arrived in Louisville on Friday afternoon and Sarah and Curt picked me up at the airport along with their son Gavin.  From there we went to the hotel room, got some lunch and then I checked in at the expo center.  Nothing much to it except for the usual Ironman circus (people walking around in spandex, compression gear and aero helmets for no good reason).

Saturday I did 15 min each of run/bike/swim and then relaxed by the pool until it was time to check in our bikes.  After that it was relaxing and trying to stay off our feet as much as possible while the boys toured Louisville.

Race Morning

My sister Sarah and I race morning.

My sister Sarah and I race morning.

I woke up about 3am, downed my normal breakfast of Ensure plus and Musclemilk, and slept for another hour until Sarah woke up.  We had our coffee, got our gear on and made our way to the bike area to drop off our nutrition.  

From the bike transition area we walked for about a mile to the swim start and then stood in line way too long for a Porta Potty.  From there we made our way to the end of the line that was literally almost mile long (about 3 miles of walking before we even start the swim).  In line we met a couple who were doing their 11th IM and absolutely loved their attitude.  That conversation made the whole morning for me.

Swim

The swim at Louisville is a rolling start from 2 docks.  Everyone walks in single file line to the end of a dock and jumps in to start swimming.  From there we swam upstream on the Ohio River for about 3/4 mile before turning around to swim downstream.  For a little as I swim, I was very pleased that I never got tired or wanted to stop.  I credit this to the fact that I swam 5-6 times a week for the last 3 weeks before the race.  The farthest I've swam ever is 1.2 miles, and I beat my Half Ironman pace.  The only issue I really had was some cramping in my foot, so at times I had to keep my foot straight down instead of kicking.  No problem there since I don't have a strong kick anyway.  I finished the swim almost wishing that it was longer (really strange since I don't enjoy swimming laps at all).  

Swim time 1:17

From swim to T1

From swim to T1

Bike

I started the bike with the sole intent of keeping my power in check.  It always feels deceivingly easy when starting a race because of the adrenaline and fresh legs.  My average speed on the flat section was about 21 MPH with power reading slightly below my target.  From there we started into the hills and that's where the real fun began.  I've always said that I enjoy a hilly course over a flat one and this was no exception.  The countryside around Louisville was so pretty with rolling hills, trees and horse farms and I couldn't really ask for a better place to ride 112 miles.

My strategy for the hills was to conserve energy on the uphills and keep the power constant on the downhills and flats.  This seems to be the exact opposite strategy of most other riders around me.  I would get passed on the uphills by riders who had no business passing me along with the hammerheads who were probably pushing 400 watts or more.  I would then pass everyone on the downhills and pull away on the flats when they were resting from the hills.  In doing this, I conserved lots of energy and didn't shred my quads.  Toward the end of the bike race, I was passing everyone in sight even though my power was lower than my goal.  

IM Bike.jpg

I started taking in my Infinit mix as soon as I got on the bike and kept to my schedule for the first 1.5-2 hours.   After that, I began having trouble getting enough down as my stomach wasn't emptying fast enough.  By the end of the ride I still had 900 calories left over, which means I only took in 900 during the ride (not good.)  The other problem is that my calories and electrolytes were all in the same mix, meaning that I didn't get near enough electrolyte replacement and/or water.  The last hour of the bike I switched to only water so I could at least get another bottle of liquid in me, but already my legs were beginning to get goose bumps from dehydration and heat.  But, I really didn't think too much of it was I still had power in my legs.

Bike time: 5:48

Run

At the run transition I changed, grabbed my stuff and headed out.  I felt really good and started at a relaxed 7:30 pace.  By mile 3, I started to feel a little faint and stopped at the aid station to walk it out.  I then played a walk/run game hoping I would just hydrate it away.  I finished the first loop in an abysmal 2 hours wondering what the heck was going on with my body.  On the second loop I ended up on the side of the road trying to keep my head from spinning.  I got up and walked, only to go down again.  The third time I started puking and shaking and figure something must be wrong (duh).  I laid there for about 30 minutes trying to get up and was almost going to throw in the towel. 

I don't look like I'm going to puke do I?

I don't look like I'm going to puke do I?

Just then a man came up to me and asked if I had ever finished an Ironman.  I said no, this was my first one.  He then got out his drill sergeant voice and told me to get up a few times until I did.  I then trudged along like zombie until the next aid station where I drank some chick broth.  My death march continued until the turnaround with only about 6 miles to go.  From there I jogged when I could and walked when I felt dizzy.  I ran the last mile or so and got the finish line.  From there I basically laid on the sidewalk until I started to feel better.  I made a beeline to the medical room and got an IV, which made me feel much better.  I arrived back at the finish line just in time to see my sister Sarah finish her race.  Very exciting.

Run time - 6:15 (yuck!) 

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the Ironman distance but learned a couple valuable lessons.   

1. Have a backup plan for nutrition and be willing to change the plan if it isn't going right. 

2. Get stronger legs for the bike.

3. See number 1. 

I was feeling kind of ashamed of my finish until I got back to Houston and talked to a coach who told me it took him 7 races to really dial in his nutrition, and that he's also walked the marathon.  I don't want to do that again, so I'm going to switch to liquid hydration and gels/solid nutrition for next time, giving me options.  I'm also going to cut out the Maltodextrin as this seems to be the culprit (as determined by process of elimination.  It works fine for me during training, but not in races.  

Other than that, I'm thankful for the learning experience and can't wait to try it again.  I just hope it doesn't take too many times to nail a good race, because these things take time. 

Total time - 13:30'ish 

That's all that counts this time! Finished.

That's all that counts this time! Finished.

Ironman Week

Mark Junkans

My sister Sarah and I after our first triathlon ever at Lake Okoboji, IA.

My sister Sarah and I after our first triathlon ever at Lake Okoboji, IA.

This Friday I fly to meet my sistser Sarah in Louisville so we can do our fourth triathlon and our third Ironman event together.

Our first was IM 70.3 Branson last September. Our second one together was IM 70.3 Kansas this summer.

Right after that race I decided that my life just wasn't complete without doing a full Ironman this year so I signed up to race IM Louisville the day before my birthday. Shortly afterward, Sarah called me and told me she was seriously considering doing it as well, and I couldn't believe it.

A few weeks later, she told me that she was registered and I'm very excited to be sharing the experience with her. All I can say is that I wish I were as tough as she is.

Training

In deciding where to put most of my efforts in this training block, I decided that spending hours in the pool just to shave off 5 minutes wouldn't be the best use of my valuable time. The bike, however, is still an area where I can make up a lot of time and still have energy to run a full marathon. So, I reduced my running mileage, swam only enough to get me ready, and put all my energy into building my bike power and endurance. Also, since I don't yet have a powermeter, I signed on Trainerroad.com and began to do some serious bike training. I can't recomend this website enough for improving bike fitness.

Since I cut my running way back to save energy for the bike, my coach and I decided that I do speed work on Wed, endurance work on Friday and a long run on Sunday. That meant that Tuesday I had bike intervals, Wed I had run intervals, and Thursday I had bike intervals again. on Friday my legs were shot and those runs turned into recovery days to try and rest up for my 80-100 mile bike on Saturday and 16-20 mile run on Sunday.

Also, in order to not take up too much family time on Saturdays, I woke up super early and spent the first two hours on the bike trainer until the sun came up, that way I only had to be out of the house for another 2-3 hours. I have a wonderful wife who was very patient through this process, but I didn't want to be out every Saturday and miss my time with the kids or make her stay home all day.

I only swam an average of 2-3 times a week and built my volume to where I would be sure I could finish the 2.4 mile swim without expending too much energy. This means I'll be about 15-20 minutes behind the leaders when they exit the water, but I had to pick my battles.

Am I ready for this race? I guess as ready as I can be. I didn't set out this year to do a full IM, but why not? It's the question that I get asked most when I tell people I'm doing triathlons. "So, have you done an Ironman?" I'm just enough of a contrarian that I enjoy saying no.

Why have I never aspired to do an IM before now?

Time

It takes a lot of time to train for an Ironman event, but it doesn't have to take 20+ hours a week. The biggest time investment is on the bike. Moving from 2-3 hour weekly long rides to 4-6 hour rides is a big jump along with the added workouts during the week. Other than the bike, everything else has been pretty much held in check. I figured out a way keep my training at about 12-16 hours a week with only one week above 20.

Popularity and Commercialization

Another reason I never wanted to do an Ironman event is because it's become way too popular among the 1%. I don't know why, but I cringe everytime I see a type A executive roll up with a $10,000 bike and the IM logo on everything. I keep thinking to myself, why do I want to be part of a crowd that measures everything by how expensive your gear is?

Then I'm reminded that most of the participants are just average people with average jobs who have set a goal and are achieving something amazing. I can relate to that, but you won't ever see me with an WTC corporate logo tattoo or a 140.6 bumper sticker on my car. But hey, everyone is motivated differently.

Competition

Another reason I never wanted to compete in a full IM is the same reason I don't play golf. It's because I'm not as fast as the top guys in my age group, and I know it would take tons of work to get there. I know it may sound silly, but I'm never satisfied with just finishing and I also don't want to get sucked into selling my soul or sacrificing my family to earn a World Championship spot. However, with my competitive nature, I'm also never satisfied with just finishing. Since Ironman can become all-consuming, I have to seriously consider how I can cap my training load and still keep improving to the point where I'm on the podium at a larger race. I will also need to get over my hatred for swimming laps, but that's another story.

Cost

Ok, so that's the other reason I don't play golf. Even though I'm a pretty frugal triathlete, Ironman is still a costly venture. There's the entry fees, equipment, gym/pool membership, toys, nutrition, injuries, travel, coaching, etc. All this has to come out of our family budget from somewhere, and whatever I spend on this reduces reduces our vacation fund, savings, household items, etc. It's a pretty selfish endeavor for me to spend so much time and money training for races. The upside is that I'm setting an example for my daughters and hopefully helping them see that putting priorities on physical activities is better than just entertaining and feeding oneself. Is the cost worth it? Hmmm.

Either way, I'll be in Louisville this weekend to compete, and hopefully I don't completely blow up in the process. After that, it's back to doing what I love best...running!