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Fat to Fit: Ironman Lake Placid Race Plan

2013 Ironman Lake Placid

From my view in the Crowne Plaza great room where I write every morning I can see dozens of competitors out swimming the course. I’ll do the same in a couple of hours. The pic above is out that window.

Yesterday we spent more time strolling around Lake Placid. Not much of an agenda but to be with each other. The anxiety of a few days ago has faded now that we are here and the details are taken care of. I’ll turn in my bike and transition bags today. Tomorrow we race.

I love to race. The excitement before is one of my favorite parts.

Riley has become our photographer. She’s developing a great eye. Warms my heart. I’m going to have to post an album of here Ironman Lake Placid street photography.

Greg Rittler Ironman Lake Placid 2013

In less than 24 hours I’ll be getting in the water to start the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid. You know it’s real when they put your name on the back of a shirt.

Ironman Lake Placid tshirt

For now I’m content to sit, drink some coffee, and review my race details. There’s an incredible amount to think about for a rookie ironman. The plan is just to make sure I don’t make any needless mistakes (I’m sure I’ll make other mistakes). Here’s my race plan for tomorrow including my transition bag setup, the race schedule, my goals, and how I want to think during the race.

I think there is a 1% chance that my race goes according to my plan. I’ve been told time and time again that the key is to have a plan and then deal with reality when the plan falls apart. I could be two hours later than this plan or half an hour faster.

You don’t know what you are made of until you do it. I will know in about 36 hours.

Transitions Bags

Morning/Swim Bag

  • wetsuit
  • tri bottoms (wearing these)
  • goggles (2 pairs)
  • swim cap
  • timing chip
  • body glide
  • gel
  • Gu chomps
  • Garmin 910xt

On Bike

  • saddlebag
  • 2 tubes
  • 2 CO2
  • patch
  • tire irons
  • 2 bottles of Infinit Go Far

Bike Bag

  • helmet
  • chest strap
  • shoes in large plastic baggie
  • socks
  • gloves
  • glasses
  • sunscreen
  • tri top
  • EDGE 810
  • Towel
  • chamois buttr

Bike Special Needs

  • 2 bottles of Infinit Go Far
  • 1 Gel flask with Infinit Napalm
  • chamois Buttr
  • wipes
  • paper towels
  • 1 Tube
  • 1 CO2

Run Bag

  • shoes in large plastic baggie
  • compression socks
  • singlet/shorts (Not planning on using just in case)
  • number belt with race number
  • little towel
  • skin lube
  • 1 bottle of Intinit Jet Fuel
  • 1 gel flask Infinit Napalm
  • wipes
  • paper towel

Run Special Needs Bag

  • 1 bottle of Infinit Jet Fuel
  • 1 gel Flask Infinit Napalm
  • wipes
  • paper towel
  • skin lube

Race Plan

  • charge garmins the night before

Morning

  • 4:00am wake up
  • eat
    • energy bar
    • coffee
  • review race plan
  • poop
  • dress
    • tri bottoms
    • sweats/hoodie
    • tshirt
    • shoes/socks
    • hat/gloves
  • fill bottles
  • 5:00am leave for transition
    • backpack with bottles
    • pump
    • special needs bags
    • phone/headphones
  • check bike/bottles/air in tires
  • eat Gu Chomps

Swim

  • 6:00am get wetsuit on and head to swim start
  • give Elise backpack/phone/headphones
  • 6:15am eat gel
  • 6:30am swim start (wave start might be 6:45am)
  • swim goal: 1.5 hours
  • start with 1:30 time group
  • relax and NEVER get winded. enjoy this. this will be a beautiful morning swim in the rain.
  • find some feet and follow along.
  • if this takes longer than you think that’s fine: you’ll make it up running because you are conserving for the run.
  • 8:15am head for T1 at a slow trot not hurried
    • enjoy the morning
    • soak it in
    • you are just getting warmed up.
    • thank everyone you see helping along the course

Transition 1

  • dry off
  • socks/shoes/chest strap/tri top
  • grab Infinit Napalm gel flask
  • helmet
  • glasses
  • chamois buttr
  • gloves
  • stop for 20 seconds before you leave and make sure you have everything

Bike

  • 8:30pm bike start
  • bike goal: 6.5 hours
  • easy and steady all day long
  • turn off your brain. you are a machine. you ride 112 mile in your sleep.
  • climbing? what climbing?
  • start WAY easy and settle into a decent pace with a nice easy cadence
  • eat & drink 1 shot of gel & 1 bottle per hour
  • replace bottles with perform as needed
  • at special needs trade out bottles and gel flask
  • thank everyone you see helping along the course
  • 3:00pm head for T2 at a slow steady pace
    • no hurry
    • enjoy the day
    • you are about to start marathon #5
    • you are feeling good because you chilled for the swim and bike
    • thank everyone you see helping along the course

Transition 2

  • compression socks
  • shoes
  • skin lube
  • grab race belt
  • grab Infinit Napalm gel flask
  • grab Infinit Jet Fuel bottle
  • stop for 20 seconds before you leave and make sure you have everything

Run

  • 3:10pm start run
  • run goal: 4:15
  • everything else was the warm up. your race just started
  • thank everyone you see helping along the course
  • miles 1-3: no faster than 9 minute miles. drink. relax. this should feel easy
  • miles 4-13: find your pace and focus on easy, steady, good, form
  • miles 14-20: let yourself go, ignore the garmin, enjoy the run, you LOVE to run even when it is hard
  • miles 21-25: you’ve been here before
    • feels like hell…it’s supposed to hurt
    • you can do ANYTHING for an hour
    • you are almost an Ironman
    • you’ve spent a year of your life getting ready for this
    • this pain is your last initiation right
  • Mile 26: this is the victory lap. you love last miles. soak it in because it will be over soon.

7:40 Finish

  • Cry…you know you will
  • Hug and kiss Elise and my kiddos. They made all this possible.
  • Rest for a couple of days 🙂

Keep moving forward,

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Fat to Fit: Ironman Lake Placid – The Unexpected Impact

Ironman Lake Placid Backpack 2013When I registered for Ironman Lake Placid I knew how much I would need to train. In fact, the initial months of training for Ironman Lake Placid involved cutting back my training time. I rested, lost a little more weight, and began to rebuild my body to prepare for a new challenge. The training for Ironman even in the most intensive weeks was about the amount of time I’ve trained for other events that I’ve done.

The hours of training was expected. The unexpected was the rest of the impact of preparing for Ironman. The things that aren’t written on the training plans.

Going it alone

My first marathon I trained almost every long run with my cousin John. We spent the last three months of training putting in runs together. We would run solo during the week but most weekends when we were going out for our one to three hour long runs we would be together. We motivated each other and helped each other get to the finish.

When I began riding a bike a large part of the draw was the group of people that I met that became fast friends as we pursued the cycling obsession together. One of my longest standing friends in the world has been a cyclist for years and he’d been telling me for a long time to get on the bike. When I finally broke down and started riding with Greg and his buddies I immediately had a new group of friends that were equally as passionate and committed to cycling as I was. Many of these friends I now count among my closest.

I started doing Coppermine Crossfit in February 2012 with a very small band of committed friends. Almost to a person each friend is still doing Crossfit. Each workout is a chance to be with these friends and watch each other develop as athletes. It so much easier to push myself beyond my previous “limits” when I am in the room with others that are pursuing their goals together.

I could tell you about dozens of people that I spend time with because of other exercise as well: running partners, riding friends, friends I play Ultimate with, Adventures for the Cure teammates.

But that all had to change the last 8 months. When you are training as specifically and focused as you need to for Ironman it’s challenging to find friends to do that with. Every workout has specific goals, intervals, and focuses. Unless you find training partners that are training for the same event and are very similar to you in fitness, it just doesn’t work to try to train for Ironman in a group.

I’ve spend most of the last 8 months training alone. I enjoy being alone and sometimes yearn for solitude but I would still prefer to spend more of my time training with a partner or a group.

The Details

I thought once I had an Ironman training plan in place I would pretty much have the preparation figured out. Then you just go do the work in the pool, on the bike, and running. I’m good at that part.

But the reality is that the training details are only a fraction of what is needed to be ready for the Ironman starting line. For first-time Ironman (and inexperienced triathletes) there are hundreds of details that you need to figure out to prepare for race day.

  • Setting up your bike for fit and aero performance
  • How to manage your nutrition while exercising
  • How to manage your nutrition when you are not exercising
  • What gear to use for every activity
  • How to schedule all of the training hours and still have a life
  • Where to stay for for Ironman and other trip related details
  • How to pack your transition bags
  • What to wear the day of the event
  • Learning how to transition between activities
  • How to manage nutrition race day for a 12-15 hour event

Each of these by themselves is not that big of a deal. Add them all together and there are a lot of details to manage. Even the day before we left for Lake Placid I was still settling final last minute details.

The Dark Moments

I’ve talked about the dark moments before. Most days I wake up ready to put the work in and get out the door. I love to ride, run, and swim (yes I’ve even learned to love swimming). Even though I love the training there are moments when the last thing I want to do is sit on my bike for yet another two hours after I’ve already been out for four. There are times when I just don’t want run in the rain because that is when I have the time to run. There are times when I’m tired of being as slow as I am in the pool.

Fortunately these moments pass. Usually they are an indicator I need more rest. An extra day off and a little more sleep usually gets me recharged and ready to carry on.

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The Infectiousness

Ironman is infectious. When I tell people I am doing an Ironman there are many reactions. The most common is about how inspiring it is to see someone pursuing a dream like Ironman.

One of my friends shared yesterday that some of my fat to fit posts have made it onto one of their friends Facebook wall even though their friend is in the Czech Republic. Elise’s friends have shared how they have watched me pursue this dream and how fun it is. I have followers on Strava from all over the world (literally) because of hearing about my journey.

I’m honored and humbled when I hear these stories. That’s the positive of the infection. There’s another part of infection.

Ironman is all consuming. It takes up whatever space is left in life and consumes it. I don’t think it has to be that way. But for a rookie triathlete and first time Ironman contender it does. It’s pretty rare to go an hour or two without thinking about some Ironman related thought. Like a bodily infection it will take over left unchecked. At least for me.

At times I mentally slap myself in the face and say, “quite thinking about the stupid race.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The Support

It’s astounding how much support I’ve received pursuing Ironman.

Much of the support is from expected places. My riding, running, ultimate friends, and Adventures for the Cure teammates have been over the top supportive. They offered words of encouragement, they’ve lent me gear, they’ve given me wisdom. At times they simply say “keep moving forward.”

I can’t tell you how much that means. Often these words have come at the perfect time during the dark moments.

The unexpected support comes from places you don’t realize. Elise joked yesterday that when I jumped into Mirror Lake for a practice swim on the course [pic] it reminded her of when she used to send the kids off to kindergarten to make new friends. It’s a great image that is so true. You can’t be a part of this without coming back with new, supportive, encouraging, relationships.

Put two people preparing for the Ironman in the same room it will take about 60 seconds to start trading stories, training strategies, race plans, gear advice. This usually starts with “What are you planning to do about ________________?” You can’t do this alone and fortunately there are fellow obsessors out there that share your passion.

I also can’t thank Joe’s Bike Shop, Infinit Nutrition, and Adventures for the Cure enough. At it’s most fundamental you need the right gear, the right nutrition, and the right strategy to do an Ironman. Each of these organizations have been HUGE in helping me get ready for Ironman Lake Placid. I quite literally couldn’t have done it without them. There support is invaluable.

And then there is my family. There isn’t a way to express how much it means to me to be supported the way I am by my family. You know you have a supportive wife when she says things like “get out there and do your workout! you have an Ironman to get ready for!” Most weekend planning conversations start with “what do you need to do from a training perspective this weekend?”

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I think in every event I’ve done my son Josh is the first to text me. It usually goes like this:

  • “Are you finished?”
  • “How’d you do?”
  • “That’s awesome!”
  • “I’m proud of you pop!”

You can’t buy that kind of support. That’s worth the price right there.

The Ironman impact on my family is huge. There are moments when everyone is sick of my training, thinking about training, or planning our lives around training. And they should be. The cost is enormous.

But the vast majority of the time my family is the first to encourage, first to support, and first to sacrifice as I chase this wild thing called Ironman. For Elise and my kids this isn’t just my Ironman. It’s their Ironman.

The Change

Every Ironman I’ve ever met has told me this:

Ironman will change your life.

At times it was easy to shrug that off. It sounds cliche.

But I know it is true. Ironman has changed me already. I can’t describe it. And I don’t want to try until I’m done.

But I know I won’t be the same on the other side.

Keep moving forward,

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Fat to Fit: Ironman Lake Placid – It’s Here

It’s here. 2013 Ironman Lake Placid Race Week.

July 23, 2012 at 2:59pm I forwarded Elise this email with a very simple message:

Officially insane. Just need to find the VW bus

Ironman Lake Placid Registration

That seems like a lifetime ago. And it also seems like yesterday. That moment, like so many others that matter, changed my life.

That was before my first and only other triathlon, Savageman. Before I knew just how much it would take to get to Lake Placid well trained and ready to race. Before I knew how weird triathletes were: obsessing about details that I now obsess about. Before I had any idea how incredibly rewarding this entire experience would be. Before I knew how deeply Ironman training would change me.

And I haven’t even raced yet.

One year and one day later we packed up the sport wagon (our Mazda 5 which we refuse to call a mini van) and with Riley and Seth in tow we headed to Lake Placid. The adventure begins.

Arriving at Ironman Lake Placid 2013

We arrive around 7:30pm and settled into the Crowne Plaza Lake Placid. According to Seth the elevators are nicer than other hotels. The views are spectacular over Mirror Lake where the swim will take place. There are athletes everywhere. The hotel reminds me of Skytop in the Poconos where my grandparents took us as kids to vacation with them. The weather is like Deep Creek Lake, home away from home in Maryland: crisp, cool, clean. It’s 57 degrees when we pull in.

Dinner at Milano's North in Lake Placid

After unpacking we drive through town and find what the front desk claims to be the best pizza in town: Milano’s North on main street. If it’s not the best in town I want to find the other place. Milano’s is terrific: brick oven pizza with great toppings, awesome bread to start the meal, great atmosphere.

My support crew is top notch. I couldn’t ask for more support on this journey than I’ve gotten from Elise and the kids. They roll their eyes when I wheel the bike out of the house for every trip we take, or when I bring up for the 1,000th time some race detail I’m thinking about. But they are my biggest champions. If I haven’t told you lately, I am married to an incredible woman.

Ironman Lake Placid Evening Walk

I have no idea what to expect this week. I’m a bundle of excited energy combined with an appropriately healthy dose of fear. This is unusual for me. I rarely get nervous before races. But the awe inspiring atmosphere, the number of athletes, the formidable event all cause me to feel vastly different about this than other races.

I’m emotional. I’m rarely emotional. I can be stoic in many ways. But here I tear up easily. It feels like I’m watching a chick flick about my own life. I was 265 lbs a very short time ago. Overweight, out of breath, unable to conceive of doing an Ironman. Now I’m approaching what will be the hardest day of my life physically and I’m looking forward to it. It doesn’t seem real.

With the nerves, the excitement, the atmosphere I rely on a couple of things that I know. I’m well trained. I’m well rested. I have done everything I can to prepare for the gun when it goes off at 6:30am on Sunday.

I know for now what my job is:

  • To be in the moment
  • To appreciate this opportunity
  • To be grateful and not take this for granted

God gives unique moments in life. This is one of them that I won’t forget.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. I woke up to this weather this morning out of the front door. It’s going to be a great week.

Crowne Plaza Lake Placid View

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Race Report: 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix

Hilly Billy 2013 StartThe 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix was hour for hour the hardest race I’ve done to date. I’ve done some very tough races. And some of the longer races have been harder overall for me. But for the length of race Hilly Billy was TOUGH. It was hot, hard, and long. But it was still a blast. I was racing with a number of friends and AFC teammates so I was looking forward to a great day suffering some of the  roughest “roads” (a term I use very loosely) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. That’s what we got…plus a lot more.

The start was a neutral start so we rolled down the hill from the finish area, climbed a little, and ended up by the main road where we would have a very fast downhill start. I wasn’t jonesing to be in the front but also didn’t want to get stuck behind too many riders when we hit the fire roads so I started just about midway back in the pack near a few of my teammates and friends.

The start was fast, downhill, and dangerous. Fortunately everyone around me stayed upright and it wasn’t long before we hit gravel and started climbing. That lead to a very hard effort for about fifteen minutes to stay with the folks around me and even pick up a few spots before reaching the top of the first climb. My heart rate was skyrocketing but I wanted to work hard and then settle in to a sustainable pace.

Hilly Billy 2013 Gravel

I chose to ride a mountain bike for the race after talking to quite a few veterans. After last years Hilly Billy Roubaix racers I knew were immediately saying they wish they had done it on a mountain bike rather than a cross bike. Many of them changed their minds and reverted to cross bike talk but I chose to go with their post race assessment rather than their current opinion. My friend Alain told me the weekend before the race: ride your MTB and you will thank me. He was right.

I gave up some time but my day was a lot more comfortable than my cross bike friends. I’ve found a lot of cross riders hate riding a mountain bike for an American Ultra Cross event (“It’s a cross event for cross bikes”) but the podiums are filled with both kinds of bikes so it really comes down to picking what works well for you. After riding my Trek Superfly for three National Ultra Endurance races, cross country races, and 2012 Iron Cross I knew it would feel great to ride for Hilly Billy Roubaix 2013.

I would have liked different tires but I was leaving after Hilly Billy for two weeks of vacation and then coming home to the Patapsco 100 the day after I returned so I stuck with my Maxxis Ignitors. Ideally I would have Maxxis Aspens or even cross tires mounted tubeless on my Bontrager Race X Lite TLR wheels but I didn’t want to risk a problem at Patapsco so I stuck with what I had.

I could feel it when I tried to stick with cross riders on the roads. But it was fun to bomb the descents and on one section of deep mud ruts I passed dozens of folks who were somewhat gingerly going around the mud pits.

Hilly Billy 2013 Mud

The short summary my day was this: climb and lose a few spots each climb, descend and gain a few spots each descent, or tuck in on the roads and try to hang with riders on cross bikes. This race is a climbfest. And the course is a nutty combination of gravel, road, mud, hard pack, etc. It has a little of everything and a lot of gravel.

It was HOT. My race plan called for me to stop at one aid station at mile 38 and refill my camelback. I thought that 140 ounces of Hammer Perpetuem (two 70oz camelbacks) in a 5.5 hour race would be plenty. So I blew through the first aid station without stopping.

Big mistake. I should have at least topped off with water. The temps were in the mid 90’s and by mile 30 I was out of liquid and I was dying. I spent the next 8 miles just trying to survive and get to aid two where I had Hammer Perpetuem powder in a baggie ready to refill my camelback.

I rolled into aid two parched. There were a lot of unhappy people at aid two. It was rough and the heat was taking it’s toll. My friends, Alain and Dave, were both there and both were struggling with cramps. I refilled, drank about a bottle full of gatorade, and kept rolling.

Once I refilled with liquid I felt much better. I wasn’t fresh but it I’m used to just plodding along at a reasonable pace and I settled in with a small group.

Around mile 50 I started having cramping issues. I’ve ridden 10,000 miles in the last 18 months and have never once had a single cramp. Today was my day. I rode through them and fought with them on and off. A couple of times I walked a steep hill section just to give my legs a break and that seemed to keep the cramps at bay. At mile 58 I refilled the camelback with straight gatorade because I didn’t have any Perpetuem. Once I drank enough of that the cramps disappeared.

Miles 58 to the end were more of the same back country West Virgina and Pennsylvania gravel roads, ATV trails, and roads. The climbfest suffering continued and the descents continued to be a welcome reprieve from the hot climbing.

Hilly Billy 2013 Finish

I was shooting for 5.5 hours for the race but knew because of the heat that was going to suffer. Around midway I changed my goal to be sub six hours. I finished in  6:07. Not the result I wanted but given the conditions I was happy. Another race with room for improvement next year. The 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix was race number 7 of the year for me. I finished 37 in the over 40s and 102  overall. I love Ultra Cross Racing. Looking forward to Three Peaks in September and then Iron Cross in October to finish out my American Ultra Cross races this year.

My AFC teammates posted some impressive results:

  • Adam Driscoll: 2nd overall and 1st under 40.
  • Lance Byrd: 2nd single speed division behind the overall winner, Gerry Pfug who is having an incredible season with his second overall win on a freaking single speed bike (he won the Mohican 100 overall).
  • Andrew Dunlap: 7th under 40 division…awesome race.
  • Jerry Jackson: 17th over 40 division.
  • Kyle Olak: 6th in the clydesdales.
  • Alain Philippe and Matt Cooper had rough days: Matt had a flat early on and Alain bonked pretty hard after having an incredible race last year.

Alain and I will be duo’ing it tomorrow for the Patapsco 100. I’m REALLY looking forward to that.

Keep moving forward,

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Why I Do What I Do

  • It’s not about Kona. Although I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the support I have gotten from you and REALLY hope that I win and can compete in the Ironman World Championship.
  • It’s not even about the Ironman Lake Placid. Although I want to compete at the highest level I can in 6 weeks.
  • It’s not about the National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series event. Although I think about these events more than any other events I am participating in. I’m a little obsessed.
  • It’s not about a faster marathon. Although I want to run a 3:30 marathon eventually.
  • It’s not about Ultra Cross races with my friends. Even though next weekend I will be screaming down some wicked fast gravel roads and climbing some soul crushing hills in West Virginia with some of my closest friends. We actually think it’s fun.
  • It’s not about running my first Ultra marathon. Although lately I’m thinking more and more about running for 12 hours in the woods. I have fantasized about running this insanity someday.

So why do I do what I do?

I’m not afraid of dying. I’m going to die someday and meet my maker. Honestly I think that will be the best day of my life.

I do what I do because I am afraid of not living.

Fat to fit results

Three years ago Riley graduated from Riderwood Elementary School and Josh graduated from Dumbarton Middle School.

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Friday Riley graduated from Dumbarton Middle School. Yesterday was her 14th birthday. Her dad was living for the events. Not dying for them.

Riley Rittler Birthday

Someday I’ll die on this side of eternity. Could be tomorrow. Could be 60 years from now. Until then I want to live. This fat guy was dying three years ago.

Greg Rittler ex fat guy

Keep moving forward,

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Fueling for Endurance Events

Wildcat 100 Aid Station Drop Bag

How I Fuel For Endurance Events

I love endurance racing. I’m not the fastest guy out there. I’ll never win a single event that I enter into. It’s not about winning events for me. It’s about being out there and pushing myself. Seeing what my body can endure. Then improving my fitness and skills over time. At the end of the day the endurance events just keep me healthy and motivated. That’s really the end goal for me.

For the last 18 months that has been 4 marathons (Baltimore 2x, Marine Corp, & Rock n Roll USA), 2 ultra cross races (Iron Cross & Southern Cross with Hilly Billy coming up next weekend), and 3 National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series (Cohutta 100, Wildcat 100, & Mohican 100). My first cycling event was the 125 mile, 16k of climbing, 2013 Diabolical Double Gran Fondo.

Like I said, I love endurance racing.

When you are getting ready to get out and ride for 2-3 hours you don’t have to think much about nutrition. Most athletes make sure they have liquid and maybe a gel or some other kind of carb filled nutritional product. That’s about all you need.

When you are getting ready to run for 3-4 hours or ride for 8-12 it’s a different story. You need a plan and then you need to be able to execute on that plan. Otherwise you will be bonking which takes a very tough day and makes it 10x harder. I’ve seen people laying on the side of road or trail that simple ran out of fuel. These are great athletes that trained hard but simple can’t keep going because they let themselves get to a very bad place.

My Endurance Fueling Routine

Nutrition starts the week of the race. I generally ease up a little on my somewhat disciplined eating and take in 300-500 more calories per day than usual. That’s often eating a dessert or an afternoon snack that I wouldn’t normally have. The idea is to have your body topped off with carbohydrates by the time you get to race morning.

I’ve also made the mistake of over loading the week before and arriving at the starting line feeling too heavy as well. I can take carbo loading to entirely different levels if I let myself go crazy. So I try to be moderate. I stick with eating a little more each day and try to avoid bingeing.

Race Morning

Race morning I eat three things. As soon as I wake up I’ll have a Hammer bar. I’ve been crushing the cranberry flavor lately. This gives me 220 calories early on and gets my system working. About half an hour later I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal with fixings for another 350 calories. Finally I’ll take a shot from a one of my Hammer flasks within 15 minutes of race time. This adds the quick burning carbs you want at the start of the race. All of this is with my normal big cup of coffee.

After The Start

Once riding, I try to consume 360 calories per hour. I read somewhere that two times your body weight was a good starting point for hourly consumption in terms of calories for endurance events. I am generally weighing around 180 at the moment (unfortunately) so that’s 360 for me.

I take the calories entirely from liquid or gels. I’ve tried a lot of different things and found this to be the most reliable way to take in the calories and also save as much time as possible on the bike. I carry a 70oz camelback with Hammer Perpetuem  (that’s 810 calories) and one 5 oz Hammer flask filled with Expresso Hammer Gel (that’s 450 calories). I’ve tried using bars and other products but I don’t really like having to chew things and I try to avoid wrappers and other things I don’t want to think about during the race. Camelback and flask are simple and give me what I need.

Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem Hammer Gel Recoverite

I try to drink 1/3 of the camelback every hour and I take a shot of Hammer Expresso each hour. I keep an eye on my time and start taking the gel every hour on the hour as my time ticks by. If I start to feel weak I’ll take an extra shot of the gel if I need to.

Making this happen during races is quick and efficient. At aid stations with drop bags I simply swap out Hammer gel flasks, dump a pre measured baggie of Hammer Perpeteum into my camelback and then add water. I’m usually in and out of the aid station in two minutes. For races without drop bags I could easily carry the extra flask and baggie.

So far this combination has worked flawlessly. No cramps and I still have energy to get through the race.

Everyone is very different and it takes some experimentation to find what works for you. My friend Pat (who is regularly on the podium for the same events I do) eats over 1,000 calories before a race and then 500+ calories per hour. He is 30+ pounds lighter than I am. Another friend of ours who is also very competitive takes in 220 calories per hour and weighs about 160 pounds. Bottom line is you have to find what works for you.

Post Race

After the race, I try to be careful to replenish myself well. I drink a dose of Hammer Recoverite within 15 minutes or so of finishing and another after an hour if I haven’t eaten yet. I find this greatly reduces my tendency to seriously binge after the race. And it’s putting the right stuff back into my system to help me recover.

Hammer Nutrition for Ultra Endurance Events

I owe a lot to Hammer for their support of my efforts. Since the beginning of my fat to fit journey I’ve used their products. As I march toward Ironman Lake Placid and hopefully Kona, they have supplied the nutritional products I use. I’m very grateful for their partnership as I continue my journey from fat to fit. This highly average, everyday athlete is honored by their assistance as I try to be the fittest, 41 year old, ex fat guy I can be.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii through the Kona Inspired program. Voting ends tomorrow, July 15th. To hear my story and vote today click here: http://gregrittler.com/kona. Thanks!

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2013 Race Report: Mohican 100 NUE Series Event

Mohican 100 National Ultra Endurance Series

Mohican was my fourth cycling road trip for the year. Here’s a recap of the trips to date:

  • Southern Cross – Dahlonega GA – 675 Miles
  • Cohutta 100 – Ducktown TN – 614 Miles
  • Wildcat 100 – Rosendale NY – 267 Mile
  • Mohican 100 – Loudonville OH – 408 Mile

Mohican 100 is the fifth stop in the 2013 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Mountain Bike Series. After my DNF at Cohutta and the mudfest at Wildcat I was hoping for great weather for my third NUE series race. The forecast looked like light rain all day as of the night before the race.

My race week prep went smoothly. I arrived in Loudonville, OH at about 4pm on Friday. I learned a lot on the way to Mohican:

  1. Loudonville is smack in the middle of Ohio.
  2. I thought Ohio was flat. I was wrong.
  3. Central Ohio might be the worst cell coverage in the country. I lost coverage about 20 miles into Ohio and got service back when I returned to West Virginia. Strangely enough I had a slight signal at my tent where I was camping so I could at least text Elise at bedtime.
  4. There are a lot of Amish people in the middle of Ohio. They like to ride bikes so they seem like good folks to me.

I setup my tent, checked into the race, and left my drop bags at the check in. I changed and rolled out for a pre ride on the early section of the course. 20 minutes into the ride it started raining lightly, then steadily, then pouring, then buckets. I headed back to the campsite and changed to go grab dinner.

I met Pat Blair, Jed Prentice, Mike Tabasko, and Dan Atkins for pizza at Trails End Pizza. It was the young speedy guys and me. We had some great pizza and I asked the young veterans as many questions as I could without being completely obnoxious.

I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before National Ultra Endurance Series events so I’ve adopted the practice. I hit up D’s Dari-Ette for some soft ice cream then headed back to the Mohican Adventures campground to sleep. It was still pouring so after saying goodnight to Elise I hit the sack at around 9:30. It rained most of the night.

Fortunately, I can sleep through almost anything. I woke up at 11:30pm to go to the bathroom and there was a huge party going on in the campsite down the hill from me. It didn’t bother me but I’m sure it drove some lighter sleeping racers crazy.

Race morning is getting to be pretty routine: wake up two hours prior to race, pack up my tent, grab coffee & breakfast, hit the bathroom, kit up, get the bike ready, ride to the start. The downtown Loudonville start was energetic and the weather was great. With 550 people registered Mohican is a big race compared to the other NUE races that I have done.

Mohican 100 National Ultra Endurance Series

The start was predictably crowded. There were a few wrecks right off the line. Two behind me and one in front. The one in front tangled up Jed and Mike. The guy was laid out on the pavement looking rough. When you are about to race 100 miles, staying upright from the start seems like a pretty good idea. You’ve got 7-12 hours to catch whoever you are worried about. Chill.

The start is straight out of town and up a nice, steep, climb. Kim’s Bikes, the local Loudonville bike shop, gives a $200 preem to the first rider to the top so a lot of the speedy riders take off fast. I went off the line quickly enough that I warmed up fast but not so fast that I was going to regret it later. With 550 riders out there my goal was to get in the woods in the first 100 or so and I did that.

Once in the woods I was one happy dirt lover. The Mohican single track is awesome, beautiful, and fast. It was a bit of a conga line for a little while but everyone moved well and there wasn’t the mud induced walking we had to deal with at Wildcat. In spite of the rain the previous night the trails were in good shape. I was dreading a Wildcat mudfest repeat but that didn’t happen.

I blew through aid station one without stopping. After a few NUE races and other endurance races, I’ve settled into a routine for nutrition. I carry a 70oz camelback full of sports drink and a 5 oz flask of Hammer Expresso gel. I can get 3-5 hours into the race before I need to stop at all. I love the ease of the Hammer flask and the Expresso gel flavor and consistency work well for me. Add the benefit of caffeine for a long day and I’ve found what seems to work.

The single track lasted all the way to the 2nd aid station at mile 34 where I filled the camelback and swapped the flask for a new one. I was in and out of the aid station in 2 minutes.

Miles 34-50 were a mix of roads, fire roads, and single track. I stopped briefly at aid three to top off the camelback. Right after aid three we dropped into more single track and the 100k and 100m courses split.

I’m loving the course so far. The woods are awesome and beautiful. There is plenty of climbing but no soul crushing climbs.  The course was always climbing or descending. Not much in between. At the bottom of one fire road a crowd of volunteers was cheering loudly and ringing cowbells which always boosts the spirits. No matter where you are in the pack being cheered for and encouraged on is great.

Especially halfway through a 100 mile race.

There was one bad section of mud in the middle of the day. Everyone walked up a steep, muddy, grade. It felt like Wildcat but it only lasted for a few minutes. Once over the top the course heads down the water bars. There are essentially 2×10’s in the middle of the trail creating the water bars. It’s still muddy so most people are walking but I keep riding and clear all the water bars without problems.

One of my favorite things about endurance mountain bike racing is the people you meet. I’ve come back from every race with new friends. It’s amazing how much you can get to know someone when you’ve got a few hours to pedal together. There is tremendous camaraderie that happens when you suffer with someone on a bike.

I met a few of these new friends after the water bars and we started working together to share the wind. I spent about an hour with a rider in a Garmin kit from New Mexico. Nice guy that grew up in Ohio but had been in New Mexico for years. He was a super light guy so he’d drop me on every climb and then I’d catch him on the flats and downs.

By the time we hit the rail trail around mile 60 I had also met Chris Bryce, Matthew Grant, and Shannon Tenwalde. The four of us spent the next 10 miles pulling each other at a healthy pace across the rail trail to aid station four. Shannon ended up on the podium as the 5th place women’s finisher. She was riding strong and doing more than her fair share along the rail trail.

Time passes quickly when you are with good people.

We arrived at aid four and I refilled the camelback for the last time and grabbed my last gel flask filled with Hammer Expresso. Nutritionally I was feeling great even after 70+ miles. My legs felt weak but I knew they’d be fine. I just needed to keep moving.

In every endurance event I’ve done the last 20% seem to follow a progression:

  • The dark moment: “This is hell and will never end”
  • The boost: “I am almost there”
  • The euphoric: “I finished!”

As hard as these events are I think the last 20% is what makes them worth it. The last 20% is when you conquer something. It’s the pain before the victory that makes the accomplishment real.

Mohican was no different. Leaving aid four we hit gravel roads and short sections of trails until we arrived back at Mohican Adventures for the last single track. It was a great finish: fast and flowy single track back to the campground. As I passed under the finish line banner I heard my name announced on the sound system.

I thanked Chris, Grant, and Shannon for helping me get through. They were a huge boost. Garmin guy had dropped off a while ago so I didn’t get a chance to thank him. I put the bike on top of the car, hopped in the shower, and hit the road.

One of my main goals for 2013 was to finish one of the NUE events in under 10 hours. I finished this one in 10:20. 63rd place out of 138 who began the race (109 finished, 31 DNF’s).

I’m getting close to my goal for this year and I have three more NUE races I’m planning on racing: Hampshire 100, Fool’s Gold 100, & Shenandoah 100. Here’s what’s coming up:

Keep moving forward,

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National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE): Mohican Race Week Schedule

Mohican 100 National Ultra Endurance Series

Prepping for Mohican 100: #5 in the National Ultra Endurance Series

Race weeks are a combination of getting extra rest and obsessing about details. Add Ironman training (I’m 60 days away form Ironman Lake Placid) and the schedule gets a little nutty. Fortunately, my Ironman training plan this week had a race planned so the schedule worked out nicely.

Last week was the hardest week yet on the training front:

  • 3 long swims: 3500 yards each. These are longest swims I’ve ever done.
  • 3 bike rides including a 60 mile, 8k climbfest in Western Maryland.
  • 3 runs including my first legit long run ramping up mileage for Lake Placid (14 miles of hills in Western Maryland).
  • My first bricks (combo of two of these activities) ever.
  • 2 crossfit workouts including one that SHREDDED my abs.
  • My first open water swim.

I definitely put my time in. It helped to have a holiday weekend to use for some of the longer rides and runs. I love the hard weeks. My body usually responds well and feels great after those weeks.

So what does the week after that look like getting ready for the Mohican 100 National Ultra Endurance series mountain bike race look like? Here are the highlights:

Monday:

  • Get some rest.
  • Relax.
  • Put together my checklist for the race (I’ve become slightly obsessed with checklists using Workflowy).
  • Eat reasonably well including a little extra protein to recover from the weekend suffering.

Tuesday:

  • Coppermine Crossfit in the a.m. 80% effort. I’ve shredded myself the week of a race before doing Crossfit and it doesn’t work out well.
  • Swimming at the Towson YMCA (3,500 yards of timed intervals).
  • Ultimate Frisbee (2 hours) in the evening. This is how I get speed work in most weeks.
  • This will be the hardest day of the week and the last hard workouts before the race.
  • Check on my bike which is having the frame replaced under warranty at Joe’s Bike Shop.
  • Fortunately the frame is in so I don’t have to do Mohican on my new Trek Rig single speed. I’ve had a blast riding it while my Trek Superfly is in the shop but I’ll leave the racing 100’s on one to Pat Blair. I like to suffer but I’m not ready for that yet.
  • Eat relatively light. I’m still working toward my 165 lbs “someday” weight goal.

Wednesday:

  • 1.5 hour MTB ride and 30 minute run. Both moderate with a couple of hard efforts.
  • This is my third brick getting ready for IMLP.
  • Eat relatively light.
  • Get to bed a little earlier than usual.

Thursday:

  • Very easy bike ride just to make sure the wheels are ready for the race.
  • Very easy 30 minute swim.
  • I’ll eat a little more today. I’ve heard from a number of sources that carbo loading is really best done two days prior to race and then a light increase in carbs the day before.
  • Get 90% packed on Thursday night (the checklist makes this super fast).
  • Add Stan’s to my wheels to make sure I am as protected from flats as I can. I’ve had two flat problems in races and both were errors on my part. One I let the Stan’s dry out and the other I mounted my tires without enough time to make sure they were holding air properly. Both things that I can control. Otherwise Stan’s has treated me fine.
  • Get to bed a little earlier than usual.

Friday:

  • Breakfast with Riley.
  • Pack the car.
  • Kiss Elise.
  • Get on the road around 9am.
  • That puts me in Ohio at 3:30 or so.
  • Setup camp. I like to camp if I’m alone or with others that like to camp. I’m solo this weekend.
  • Quick trail pre ride with some teammates and friends.
  • Moderate dinner with said teammates and friends.
  • Ice cream. I read Jeremiah Bishop does this so I will for the rest of my life. Cyclists are nuts that way.
  • Bed by 9:30.

Saturday:

  • RACE DAY!
  • Since I’m camping at the race site I can sleep until about 5:00 a.m.
  • Normal race morning routine: wake up/eat 2-3 cliff bars/coffee/bathroom/kit up/ride to start/eat a gel/race.
  • Shorter races I might warm up but I’m going to be on the trails for 10+ hours. I think I’ll get warmed up fast enough.
  • Race.
  • Finish (primary goal). Finish in 10 hours (secondary goal).
  • Drink a recovery drink and eat something at the finish.
  • Shower.
  • Pack.
  • Drive home.

Sunday:

  • If I can finish in ten hours I should be home by 1:00a.m.
  • Rest.
  • Spend time with my family and remember how incredibly grateful I am for them and that I get to go do this.
  • Act like I didn’t race 100 miles on my MTB the day before (this helps cut down on the “I don’t know why you do these thing” comments).

My friend Lindy said to me last week, “Your life exhausts me.” I don’t know why but I come home energized and ready to re-engage after a hard weekend race. It’s life giving for me. I’m usually more plugged in with my family, friends, work, etc. Strange how that works.

Keep moving forward.

Greg

p.s. I have a ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity to go to the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii this October. View my story, vote, and share here. Voting for the first round ends May 31. Thanks!

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Fat to Fit: The Magic Strava Elixir

stravaI started flossing in 2007. Prior to that I never flossed. Not once.

My dentist, Willie DeVeas, has a hygienist that told me my “gum scores” were low, whatever that means. I had 3’s & 4’s and healthy is 1’s and 2’s. I wanted to be healthy.

So now I floss, most days anyways. My gum scores are good: 1’s & 2’s.

I received a letter from my doctor last Friday. Here’s the important part:

Surendra Marur Doctor GBMC

The 2010 letter from my doctor didn’t read like that. It read more like a Steven King novel gone bad. I’ve made serious progress.

I love numbers. Don’t know why. For some reason if you give me a way to keep score about almost anything I’ll not only keep score but I’ll want to make sure I have the best score possible. I’m just a little competitive.

Strava is my scorekeeper for fitness. Before I pedaled anything, my friend Greg was bugging me about logging my runs on this app called Strava. I didn’t see the point so I ignored Greg for a while.

A few months later, I bought a bike and started riding with Greg and some of his friends. They all used Strava. I broke down and signed up. On the next ride I turned on the iPhone app and recorded my ride.

Nifty. Now I could see a map of where I had gone, my speed, who I had ridden with, etc. But that was just the beginning. Within a few weeks I was tracking progress, meeting new people, learning more about training, and trying to best my previous times on segments.

The best part: I get to be a part of a community of athletes that pursue the same endeavors that I pursue. A community that encourages & supports each other. What a gift that is.

My dental health is drastically different because of gum scores. My overall health is drastically different because of lab reports.

My fitness is drastically different because of Strava.

Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve seen in the last 18 months using Strava:

I’ve made friends. These aren’t just “exercise acquaintances.” These are real, live, “in the flesh” friends. I met my friend Alain on January 28, 2012. I was riding with Andrew, Pete, Tom, Jerry, and Greg when a rider in an Adventures for the Cure kit came pedaling along next to us. We introduced ourselves and I recognized Alain from Strava. We had been following each other. 16 months later, I’ve ridden thousands of miles with Alain and spent hundreds of hours in the saddle on his wheel.

My fitness level has improved significantly. I was a fat runner for twenty years. I ran at the same pace (slow) for the same time (not long) for all of that time. When I joined Strava, I started to see each run and think about my performance. I’ll never forget this run. This was the fastest I had run in a LONG time. I’ve since run faster five milers but that was a breakthrough for me. The fat guy had made progress. Seeing my activities on Strava fuels my ability to push myself a little more each time (or take it easy if I should be recovering). Whether running, riding, or swimming, I keep seeing my fitness level improve as I progress as an athlete.

I have a very real tangible way of tracking goals. Last year my goal was simple: cover 100 miles per week by running, biking, swimming, or any other way I can move my body. That’s 5,200 miles per year. I knew if I did that I would continue to get fit and stay healthy. I passed that mark in August and at the end of the year I had covered about 7,000 miles. Strava did the work of tracking my goals. I just looked at the results and kept moving.

Strava makes it easy to learn from others. I learned most of the trails that I ride from following my friend Chris on Strava. When I started riding a mountain bike I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t even know Chris at the time, but I followed him on Strava. I would look at where Chris had ridden and follow his routes. My friend Jen rode an 85 mile ride that had over 9,000 feet of climbing last summer. That’s a lot of climbing for our area. So I downloaded a file from Strava onto my Garmin and off I went riding the same route.

And the secret behind all of this? It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. You can track runs and rides on your phone or on a Garmin. But either way, it couldn’t be easier to track your progress. Press start, go ride or run, press stop, upload. That’s it.

Numbers matter. The important ones anyways. Just ask my doctor.

Keep moving forward,

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Fat to Fit: Making and Finding Free Time

The reward for reaching my weight loss goalI’m very busy.

I have one wife, four kids, one business with many clients, one business partner, five team members on staff, lots of family, a few friends, a couple of boards that I serve on. I also like to write. I like movies and TV. I love to read.

I’m very busy.

When I started getting more fit I heard three comments more than any others:

  • I don’t know how to make time.
  • I don’t have much free time.
  • I don’t know how to find time.

Here’s the reality about time:

  • If I could make time I would be the richest man in the world.
  • There is also no such thing as free time.
  • And the truth is time finds me. I do not find it.

We all have the same sixty seconds per minute, sixty minutes per hour, twenty-four hours per day, and seven days per week. Time has no favorites. Time respects no one. Time treats us all consistently.

When I needed to make significant changes in my life I knew that I would have deal with time differently. And I didn’t know how to do that given all of the commitments in my life.

So I did what I often do: I began looking at the fit people around me to see how they did it all. A couple of things popped out right away. Others I learned over time (pun intended).

Here are some of my observations so far:

Fit people don’t treat exercise as an afterthought. Fit people are often busy, have significant responsibilities in a many aspects of life, and are often the people you might think would spend the least amount of time on fitness. Fit people treat fitness like any other responsibility in life. It doesn’t get put on the calendar after everything else. It gets accounted for and prioritized along with every other commitment.

Fit people use time for staying fit that other people don’t think of. When I finished my first marathon in the fall of 2011 I did most of my midweek training at Meadowood Regional Park while Seth had soccer practice. He would love for me to stay and watch practice the whole time. But the long term benefit for our family of my being healthy was an easy tradeoff. Have swim practice for kids? Great time to run. Travel for business? Pack your shoes. Need to run an errand? Ride your bike.

Fit people don’t sabotage their efforts by making it harder than it needs to be. When I first started to make major changes I would workout 7-10 hours a week. On average I was burning 6000 extra calories per week. The problem was I would eat a snack at night and drink a few high calorie drinks (beer for me at the time) that would offset all that exercise in no time. Fit people realize that controlling food intake is as important as any amount of exercise. And there is no use wasting time exercising only to pile the pounds back on with added food.

Fit people are often flexible and willing to improvise with their time. Great training plans get botched all the time by conflicts and obstacles that get in the way. Fit people improvise and are flexible. But they still put the time in. It just might not look like it did on paper.

Fit people often set time bound goals and give themselves carrots. It might be trying to get a better time in a particular race, a different number on the scale by a certain date, or an incentive that you get when you reach a milestone. Most fit people I know have goals. In my case, a carrot was the scooter in the picture above. I told myself when I reached 185 lbs I was going to buy it. I hit that number in April of 2012 and I bought the it that month. I love it. It’s a blast to drive (and gets 80 mpg). I ride it everywhere I can.

Fit people don’t make excuses. They just don’t. When time pressures come they suck it up and deal with it. They might rearrange their schedule, squeeze in something that doesn’t seem to fit, or negotiate with other obligations to make sure they can do what they need to so that they can achieve their goals. But they don’t sit back and blame other things for not reaching their goals.

Fit people create communities and help each other stay fit. Whether it’s my ultimate friends that play together Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons, my cycling friends that ride together Saturday and Sunday mornings (and often during the week as well), my friends at Coppermine Crossfit who wake up at 5:30am to get to a 6:00am WOD, or my running buddies that meet together early Sunday mornings. Fit people find other fit people and build communities and calendars around what they love to do to stay fit.

Fit people make sacrifices and difficult choices. I sacrifice sleep more than anything. Saturday and Sunday mornings I’m typically riding or running 2-5 hours. I like to do that as early as possible so that I am done and still have most of the day to be with my family or do other things that need to get done. During the week I am up early to either work so I can get done in time to play ultimate or ride after work, or I am up early to ride. I can get 30-40 miles on the bike in by 7am if I’m up early. This isn’t ideal. I don’t recommend sleeping as little as I do. It’s just the sacrifice I’m willing to make at this point in my life context. I sacrifice other things as well. My social time is generally with people who are pursuing similar activities. I rarely just hangout with friends unless it is combined with a run, ride, etc. Again, that may not be the ideal. But it’s the price I’m willing to pay right now. There are plenty of things I won’t sacrifice for fitness, these are some I will.

I’m still learning how to make time to be fit. I’d love to hear any ideas you have for using your time to stay fit well.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. Speaking of time. I’ll be needing to carve out another block of time to train for The Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii if I can get there. Want to help?

View, vote, and share my Kona Inspired contest entry here.

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