I completed the half Ironman 70.3 Ohio!

On July 25, 2021, I completed the half Ironman 70.3 in Ohio, USA. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life! But I had so much support from family, friends, and volunteers on the race course. Thank you!!

My times:

SWIM (1.2 Miles, 1.9 Kilometers) = 00:44:59

T1 SWIM-TO-BIKE = 00:08:11

BIKE (56 Mi, 90 K) = 3:00:22

T2 BIKE-TO-RUN = 00:08:31

RUN (13.1 Mi, 21.1 K) = 2:37:59

TOTAL TIME = 6:40:02

I am planning on doing a more in-depth analysis of the race.

I’m looking forward to the full Ironman Wisconsin in September, which will double all the distances.

This is a simple notification that I did the half Ironman.

So for now, time to celebrate!

Grant at the finish line of IM OH 70.3, July 25, 2021

Ironman 70.3 Packing List and Day-by-Day plan

It’s two days before race day, which is Sunday, July 25th. It’s the half Ironman 70.3. I’ve done all my tapering and relaxing these past two weeks. I’ve already put in the miles and hours of training. Now is when I need to finalize the packing list and plan out each item for each step. I use Trello to organize checklists so they’re easy to understand.

Take a look at my packing list and day by day plan.

I’ll talk to you after the race!

Ironman Training: 2021 vs. 2020

In 2021, I did things better than in 2020.

In 2021, I started doing longer swim sessions and once per day. In 2020, I was doing two-a-days and shortening the swim. But I’m not a strong swimmer, so I need to spend more time in the water.

In 2021, I started doing more brick workouts. A brick is a combination of bike then run, in that order. A brick trains your body to get used to running right after biking. I was only doing one brick workout per week in 2020. But in 2021, I was doing at least 2-3 bricks per week.

In 2021, I took swim lessons from a coach. I learned so much about efficiency and power that I would not have picked up on my own. In 2020, it was me, myself, and I.

In 2021, I got fitted onto my bike in a road position and aero position. I also got aero bars. In 2021, I will race in the aero position, which is much faster and more comfortable. In 2020, I only had the road, upright position to ride in.

In 2021, I got another pair of goggles. These goggles are anti-fog. In 2020, I only had one pair of cheap goggles. Also in 2021, I bought a wetsuit that I didn’t have in 2020.

In 2021, I got calf compression sleeves for my legs. These reduce muscle fatigue for races or intense workouts. In 2020, I was relying on my bare legs.

In 2021, I started practicing with nutrition. I tested out 3-4 different endurance mix powders and took them on long workouts. For what it’s worth, I landed on Infinit Performance Nutrition. I also bought the Maurten gels and Quantum bars that will on course at the race. I bought Salt Sticks and took them everywhere. I trained with a mix of Gatorade and water. In 2020, I was trying out a things without much discipline.

In 2021, I started running with a water bottle. I can’t understate how important this is. I will race with a water bottle containing my Infinit endurance mix. And, I can refill the bottle with water and Gatorade and cola. This way, I can sip on fluids in between aid stations.

There were other smaller things I did differently from 2020 to 2021, but these are the big ones.

One thing that remains the same is the commitment and motivation from 2020. That has only grown in resolve in 2021.

Ironman Training Blocks: from August 2019 to July 2021

I started training to do an Ironman triathlon since August, 2019. But from then until now, I’ve gone through ups and downs in my training. Below are some summaries of the distances / durations per week of each discipline: swim, bike, and run. My training has been split up into distinct blocks.

  1. First, in August 2019, I decided to go all-in. I had been experienced in biking. I had run occasionally but not seriously over the last few years. But I hadn’t swum in many years. So, I found a training program online (thanks, Josh Muskin!). I adapted the training program to my schedule. I began to train 5-6 days per week. At first, I eased into swimming. But I started with short distances while I learned the form. I filled out the rest of my time with biking and running.
  2. In the winter, I continued to swim in the pool, run outside, and bike inside. I joined a Zwift indoor bike training program in early 2020 (Dec-Feb, 2020) which got me into great biking shape. I took a couple weeks off from swimming due to some vacation around the end of 2019.
  3. In mid-March, 2020, I went on another vacation to Miami. That was the exact week when the US closed down due to COVID-19. Our flight actually arrived back to Minneapolis on March 16th, the very day that closures were mandated.
  4. After that, I went into a slump. I stopped swimming (my planned swim durations remain in grey, but my actual durations sank to 0). I began biking and running more, while paying attention to the events. Eventually, one by one all my Ironman and triathlon events were canceled in 2020.
  5. For the summer of 2020, I kept in running shape. I focused mostly on biking far and fast. I went on century rides and fast sprints. I just wanted to stay in shape. By the end of August, 2020, my running culminated in my first marathon, unassisted.
  6. From September until the end of December, I went into slump number two. I stopped biking, running, and didn’t start swimming. My Ironman events were being rescheduled until 12 months from September, and I knew I couldn’t keep up my momentum from then until September, 2021. Instead, I did indoor yoga, stretching, and gained a bunch of weight.
  7. In late December, 2020, I started up indoor biking again. Soon after that, in January, 2021 I started running outside consistently as well. I ratcheted back my yoga. I was competing in online Zwift bike races, which raised my fitness level again.
  8. Then in May, 2021 I restarted swimming. I took swimming lessons. And I got smarter and more focused on my biking and running.
  9. Now that we’re in July, I have two more months until the full Ironman distance, in September. I’ve trained smarter in 2021, not necessarily harder. With two years of training under my belt, I am ready!
Screenshot from Grant’s TrainingPeaks, August 2019 to July 2021

Screenshot from Grant’s TrainingPeaks, August 2019 to July 2021

Screenshot from Grant’s TrainingPeaks, August 2019 to July 2021

Screenshot from Grant’s TrainingPeaks, August 2019 to July 2021

The Ironman Gratitude Post

It’s odd to express gratitude to people for their help when I haven’t even completed my goal yet. What if I fail? Then all that help goes to waste, right?

Nope. Honestly, I appreciate so much the advice and support and attention that I’ve received from the following LONG list of people. I’m sure I’ve missed many more people, so the list is probably longer.

This has shown me that the journey and community support has already affected me deeper than the actual Ironman day itself. Pausing to notice gratitude has reassured me that regardless of what happens on September 12th, I’ve been changed for the better.

It’s incredible. I mention Ironman Triathlon, and immediately everyone gives genuinely good advice or knows someone who’s done the thing. Even if they don’t have anything to offer, they express admiration for my journey, which is enough to keep me going.

If you commit yourself to a crazy goal, generally people are good. They will support you to get there.

That said, here’s my list of Thank Yous below…

Grant circa 2019, forcing a smile knowing there’s a long road ahead

Thank you to…

Sahyli, my wife, for generally just putting up with me and supporting my obsession.

Mom, for reminding me that I can do anything.

Dad, for showing me the right way to approach solving problems.

Peter, for always asking the right questions at the right time.

Luis, for pushing this idea and giving me all the knowledge I needed to get started. I was at a crossroads in life, and you helped me choose the right direction.

Fernando, for reminding everyone that this is part of my identify now.

Cindy, for all of her relevant and reassuring advice.

Chris, for giving me the hunger after we got 3rd place in my first triathlon.

Kevin, for connecting me to everyone he knows that’s even remotely related to fitness.

Team SMILES and the TK ride, for keeping me bike-fit and bike-smart.

Tom, for allowing me to swim in his lake and hosting triathlons.

Francisco, for ordering my race kit.

Christian, for giving a fantastic gear recommendation.

Ben, for giving me race day advice.

The cyclist who recommended I stuff a PB&J sandwich down my shirt for the bike leg.

Team CRYO-GEN HAUTACAM, for pushing my anaerobic limits and for giving me great nutrition advice.

Anna, for teaching me how to not sink.

Brennan, for teaching me how to reach in the water.

Taylor, for reminding me how fast I can run.

The Brownings, for giving me so much useful nutrition and training and race-day advice when I didn’t know I needed it.

Nick Bare, for inspiring me to push hard.

David Goggins, for demonstrating what the human body can do when you push.

Wim Hof, for demonstrating what the human body can do when you focus.

Lionel Sanders, for teaching me the most detailed and genuine perspective of a triathlon athlete life.

Jordan Peterson, for putting into words the most important things that were just beyond my comprehension.

Coach Cox, for persuading me objectively that I can beat the time limit.

Don and Melanie Fink, for writing the literal book on Ironman preparation.

Josh Muskin, for his fantastic training regimen.

Lionel Vujasin, for entertaining me with his intense Zwift races.

Lucas Brunelle, for teaching me how to ride a bike.

Safa Brian and Terry Barentsen, for teaching me how not to ride a bike.

Saturno Movement, for keeping me in touch with my body.

SoCalBikePT, for teaching me how to climb.

Dr. Peter Attia, for showing me how to maintain a diet I can handle.

Dr. Alexander, for correcting my hips and back.

Dr. Spennewyn, for fixing my knees.

Matt Cama, for teaching me how to run.

Chris the Bike Fit Guru, for fitting me onto my bike which was worth every cent.

Not to mention, I need to thank the Ironman Group itself as well as all the different gear, nutrition, apps, places, and tools I have accumulated over the years that keep me going.

Thank you!!!

My Ironman Triathlon Journey (T-minus 3 months)

There’s a lot I’ve been doing for myself recently. I’ve been focusing on consuming positive content. I’ve been reading more. But I’ve been writing less.

Over the past two years, I have been spending much more time building an obsession on completing an Ironman Triathlon: 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run.

Grant, circa 2020

I’ll post more about this in the upcoming weeks. But today is simply an announcement of accountability. To practice, I have a half distance Ironman triathlon on July 25, 2021 in Delaware, Ohio. Then I have the full Ironman distance triathlon on September 12, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin.

This has been a challenge I’ve been obsessing over since August, 2019. At that time, I decided I would complete an Ironman as a way of challenging and guiding my life. In September, 2019, I began training. But by March, 2020, everything was closing and events were canceled that summer. It was brutal to wait another year due to COVID restrictions. I’m sure many people gave up on their dreams after what 2020 dealt to them.

But I’m back, and I began training again in January, 2021.

Yesterday, I went for a 45-minute bike ride at Ironman race pace. Then I ran for 1.5 hours at Ironman race pace (maybe a little faster). On Tuesday, I have my 2nd swim lesson to refine my technique for endurance. Yesterday was the first day when I knew that I could do it.

I will complete the Ironman on September 12, 2021; there are no “unlesses.” I’m asking you to hold me accountable. Blogging, social media, and producing something into the world is as good for the producer as it is for the consumers. They are accountability tools.

Until then, I will continue the grinding.

Me Against Myself – Reflections on my first triathlon

Photo by Sahyli

I completed my first triathlon on Saturday, July 11th, 2020 with friends. It was an amazing experience. This triathlon is the first of many for me. I am planning to take on longer triathlon distances. So, this was a good test.

Stats

International Distance: 800m Swim, 24.8 mile Bike, 6.2 mile Run

Actual Distances Recorded with Garmin Forerunner 945: 856m Swim, 25.36 mile Bike, 6.25 mile Run

21:42 800m Swim (2:18 per 100m pace)

2:24 T1

1:17:29 Bike (19.6 mph, 331W or 3.7W/kg normalized power)

1:45:19 Overall time at Bike finish

1:54 T2

1:01:28 Run

2:48:41 Overall time at Run finish (5th)

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 74F -> 81F with 60-75% humidity (hot but not scorching)

Summary

For future triathlons, I should switch my mindset from “me against others” to “me against myself.”

Reflections

Swim –> Good! Need to reduce heart-rate.

I did better than expected on the swim. I hadn’t trained for the swim because I stopped in March due to pools closing from COVID-19. I swam once on the course a few days before the event.

I started behind the stronger swimmers. I followed their lines. I tried a new approach of taking a breath on one stroke, and then looking ahead above the waterline on the other stroke. I switched stroking sides only a few times.

I took the pace steady. I was breathing without too much effort. I was mostly relaxed and not tense. However, my heart rate was still high for the duration of the swim–tempo pace rather than base pace.

T1 –> Solid!

The first transition from swim to bike was good. 2-3 minutes is a good transition time. I was a bit dizzy but not delirious. My heart-rate was high throughout the transition, so I didn’t relax too much. I didn’t know where others were. I knew some were ahead but I didn’t look behind to see where I was in the pack.

Bike –> Too excited, too hard!

I’m a stronger at biking than the other areas. I was pushing it hard after a few minutes of eating a Gu, drinking some water, and getting my gloves on. There were a few stops at red-lights. But I was pushing at relatively close to my FTP for the duration (about 90% of FTP). And near the end, with a few miles to go, I got excited. I had excess energy. I ramped up the effort. I realized I could maybe catch up to the leaders. I gapped some other riders who were pacing it more steady. My heart-rate was high for the bike: at tempo pace rather than base pace. I finished strong. I had switched my mindset to trying to win.

T2 –> Fine

I was fast during T2, with less than 2 minutes. By then, I was in race mode. I was ready to hit the run hard and overtake the leaders, wherever they were on course. My feet were wet from the swim in my socks, so I changed my socks. However I could have spent more time drying my feet before changing, because the 2nd socks got wet, too. I had planned to eat another Gu, but my stomach was uncomfortable so I didn’t.

Run –> Overextended

The run started off fine in the first mile, around 8:21 pace. It was a hard first mile though. My legs were wobbly and my arms were weak. My stomach was very uncomfortable from the fluids I chugged during the bike. After 1.5 miles, I wretched after a water stop. The 2nd mile and 3rd miles were slower, in the 9:00s and 10:00s. At that point I had to start walking up some hills. My heart-rate was way too high even while running at the relatively slower pace. I caught up with my wife Sahyli who was just doing the run. We walked & ran together for about 1.5 miles. Then for the last 1.5 miles I ran through the finish, increasing the pace.

For the duration of the run, I hit the wall. My legs were slow and feeling like molasses; my breathing was labored and heavy; my stomach was upset the whole way. At 2 miles in, I switched my mindset from trying to win to trying to finish without dropping out. I passed a few runners and was passed. I had a small sprint in the last half-mile. I was exhausted by the finish line.

For next time

For longer triathlons, I should maintain a new mindset: finish the race against myself. The mindset should not be trying to win. I saw the benefits of racing “me against myself” in the swim. As a result, I mostly ignored other competitors, not worrying about “trying to keep up.” I was in tune with my body and cadence. I finished the swim with energy and clarity and confidence.

The bike was my chance to make up time, so I switched my mindset to trying to race my competitors. I finished the bike ride tense and with a sense of urgency. This caused undue stress. Instead, I should spend more time listening to my body and relaxing for the ride. Since I am stronger biker, I can ease up on the effort and still manage a good time.

For the run, I can start out waaaaaay slower for the first mile. I should practically be at a fast walking pace around 10:00 min/mile. This is to shake up the legs from the bike and get them used to the effort. And especially, I should manage my heart-rate to get it down to a tempo pace rather than a hard anaerobic effort. After steadying the heart-rate to a manageable rate, I can steadily speed up the pace while maintaining that heart-rate.

There is a lot of excitement coming out of transition, but that adrenaline wears off within the first few minutes of the run.

I had one Gu before the swim and one Gu before the bike. After the bike, my stomach was feeling bad so I didn’t have another one. I drank almost 2L of water during the bike. One Liter was mixed with supplement and another Liter was regular water. I chugged the water too fast, causing serious discomfort for the run. I’ve got to take smaller sips during the bike. And I should drink water on the run rather than being a camel and storing the water on the bike. There were a couple of water stops on the run but I only had a couple of sips from paper cups. I didn’t pee for the whole race, nor did I feel the need to.

I should also consider carrying a water bottle for the run because I sweat a lot. And I should take some salt sticks or similar easy-to-consume nutritions for the run.

The run is a hard transition after the bike, and so I should continue to practice bricks to simulate the transition with high fatigue.

Ironman Triathlon, here I come.