IRONMAN Boulder 2014

IRONMAN Boulder 2014
IRONMAN Boulder 2014 - Photo Courtesy of Nils Nilsen @N2PhotoServices
former professional couch potato and dorito eater with no fitness background to 4 x IRONMAN triathlete. blogging so you can be inspired to be active in your life! there's no 'can't' - just think of when you will take that first step!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vision Quest Coaching Assessment, Field Test, Pool Session, & Intensity Barf Ride


so, shortly after the bank of america chicago marathon...probably wednesday, october 12, something caught up with me. i caught a bug that harassed me like crazy until probably this past monday when i felt semi-normal. it was a bad cold that turned into a sinus infection that turned into me having little to no hearing in one ear etc etc.

i hate getting sick...

nevertheless, i am feeling 'normal' once again! for those of you that know me in person, you know that this is nearly impossible because i tread the 'crazy' line VERY closely. actually, you'd probably agree that i am well beyond that line most of the time! ;)




my journey with vision quest coaching started last friday, october 21, 2011, at the tail end of my bug...

early that morning, i drove up to vision quest highland park (part of the trek store there) courtesy of dave noda's car. THANKS, DAVE!

i was to go through a bike assessment with THE robbie ventura. honestly, i had NO idea who he was. and, i say this with the MOST respect to robbie. the most i knew about celebrity cyclists was that there was lance and then the dopers. i think i heard from one person or another how he was some type of big wig that competed professionally and rode with lance armstrong.

well, i decided not to google stalk him so i wasn't ENTIRELY intimidated when i met him for this assessment. i'm glad i didn't.

i was already nervous because i had absolutely NO idea what i was getting myself into. for some reason, i thought i was going to be going balls out on the treadmill and bike trainer with tons of wires hooked up to me. and, of course i had to make it MORE awkward by asking him to agree to being videotaped and to videotape me using the flip cam that i brought along... (remember, i'm blogging and vlogging because i expect you all to keep me accountable! so, it's your fault too! ;) )

let me start by saying that he is probably one of the nicest guys with an extreme passion for VQ and is VERY excited to share his passion and experience with others so they can get their own glimpse at the type of glory he has experienced in his life as a professional athlete. i'd like to emphasize 'glimpse' because, let's face it, the majority of us are probably NOT in the running for a podium spot!

we simply are looking to prove to ourselves (and those childhood bullies) that we CAN accomplish what many folks believe to be "crazy".


i was that guy that decided to go from the couch & dorito eating to marathon training in 2007. in 2008, my mother saw me in brooklyn about 8 miles into the NYC marathon...i stopped briefly to give her, my aunt, uncle, and partner at the time a hug... apparently, after i continued on up the hill, she asked, "now, why do they do this?!?"

she's probably among the majority with that inquiry. and, we can help them out at the end of the day by summarizing it as this: "we do it cuz we can. and, we continue to challenge ourselves to prove to OURSELVES how much stronger we can become over time. OH, and we look more bada$$ while we are on those journeys as well!"


so, robbie took the time to explain what we were going to do during our time together (which ended up around 3 hours) and then we proceeded with the assessment. i thought of it as a test, though. but, they're just words, right?

i signed documents stating that i wouldn't dope, that i will not sue, and that i'm clear for this activity via my doctor.

he took my weight.

he used those awful fat calipers on me...then told me i was lean (WHEW!)

we then went to do some strength, stability, and flexibility tests.

strength and stability were a 9-10/10 overall according to him. i was quite proud of that.

HOWEVER, what we did notice while on the bike during the cycling assessment was that my left leg was doing about 25-50% MORE work than my left even after minor adjustments to my setup.

this is more than likely linked to the broken sesamoid that i have in my right foot and my hip/glute medius issues/tightness on that side as well...all from my running.

so, he prescribed single leg drills on the bike, single legged squats, and lateral band strengthening exercises.

easy, right? well...i gotta DO the exercises! ;)

HOPEFULLY, i'll nip this issue in the bud sooner than later!

he also wants me to get a grasp on swim technique and to get comfortable with doing laps and increase the cycling volume. for the former, remember, i can't swim. i'll provide more details on that when i share with you my pool experience that i had this past thursday. for the latter, i've been able to make a dent in that via a couple classes at VQ...i'll tell you more about those as well.

at the conclusion of my cycling assessment, we learned that my aerobic fitness...well...frankly...SUCKS right now. and, that makes sense because i've been MAYBE running once a week since the beginning of june while july and august were tainted with cigarettes as well. and, i was being good if i got to the gym about twice a week too.

(ok, i'm done beating myself into the ground.)

this final assessment was based on many numbers, which included my power output while pedaling and my blood sugar levels. (yes, he pricked my finger several times and it was sore for the rest of the day!)

here is some video from that assessment where robbie summarizes what we are going to be doing, calls me out for barely working out recently, and then me in action on the bike...



part of the end of my assessment involved a conversation on which program i would end up linking into and then which coach would work best for me. we narrowed it down to a coach in switzerland as well as one locally in chicago. after weighing the options and having a great conversation with each of them, i decided to move forward with a coach in chicago.

the reason for this selection was because i know how neurotic i can be. so, after a workout, i often wouldn't mind some immediate feedback based on how i felt. so, reaching out to my coach locally via phone would allow me to access this chicago coach without waking him up in the middle of the night like i would if i was attempting to reach my coach overseas. there is also the plus that i will have the opportunity to see him in person at some of the workouts so he can kick my a$$ in person as well!

his name is dan litwora (@cdanrun). here he is finishing the 2009 ironman world championships in kona:


my biggest fear of dan is just that...he's dan. he's accomplished. many of his athletes go to kona. and, here i am the one that can barely swim more than half the pool. but, he didn't outright refuse me. so, with him i proceed. i'm excited and nervous at the same time.

this morning, i received my training peaks coach request from him so this is becoming all the more real every second!


i was told to remember 'my number' coming out of my assessment. frankly, i forgot to ask and was reminded to remember that my number is 165. honestly, i don't entirely understand anything about this number other than i THINK it's my 'power' number.

so...i show up to VQ chicago on tuesday at the advisement of dave noda to see how i test against this number of 165 'in the field'. it was myself and a married couple doing the actual test. there were others there doing their own workouts and/or stretching... ALL of them, along with bryce who led the session, were my BIGGEST cheerleaders! i had BARELY met any of them. it was my FIRST class there. and they were SCREAMING at me to fight and push harder and harder!

HOLY SH*T, THAT WAS F^N AWESOME! i had such a HIGH after going through that TWICE!!

oh...ha! maybe, you'd like to know what my numbers were... they were 229 for the first one (which matters most apparently) and then 213 for the second. according to bryce, that's not too bad and shows a base of endurance. i thought it was bad because i was so far from 229 the second time around.

the assessment was similar to what i did with robbie but was a tad harder i think... maybe, it was because the power was determined this time and we were trying to figure it out during that assessment four days earlier.

nevertheless, that's how i did. and, my new number jumped from 165 to 218. dan will take that number and do what he will with it. i will also use it in my classes on the computrainer.

once i fully understand, i'll try my best to explain it to you at another time.


on thursday, i went to northside college prep for an 8pm pool workout. for me, this was REALLY nerve wracking to walk into because I went in KNOWING full well that I basically couldn't swim!

yet again, i was relieved to find some more vq athletes that were friendly and not judgmental of my rookie status. they had huge encouraging smiles on their faces and were nothing but encouraging!

melissa, the coach, was awesome.

she called me out basically saying that she couldn't see what i needed help with or if i could be helped at all if i didn't get off the bench and get in the pool and do something so she knew what type of mess she was dealing with.

i finally caved and got in.

i think i did some technique that i had learned from a class that i took months ago... i THINK it was torpedo... where i just moved my feet.

i got to half way through the pool to where i saw that i wouldn't be able to stand up if i stopped any further past the line and then walked slowly, fighting the water, back to the start of the lane.

she told me that i had a pretty decent kick.

insert *GASP* here!

SO...from this encouraging statement, i was suddenly less worried.

we spent time with the kickboard, with which i made friends quickly. in fact, we became best friends by the end of the evening. i worked on my kick first. then, she had me alternate using my arms so i could learn freestyle...

i did pretty well with the kickboard. however, once i moved away from the kickboard and tried to put it all together without it while she wasn't looking, she came back and noticed that i lost my good kick and stroke.


after i got those items down to a semi-medocre level, we put some fins on me. what was cool about these things was how fast they propelled me in the water without my arms! insert the arms, and i'm flying past mr. phelps at universe record pace!

ok...i'll calm down!

what i DID notice using fins, however, was how my left side was stronger! remember when i told you earlier how it was pointed out that my power on the bike was better/stronger on the left than the right?

well, i noticed myself slowly turning to the right when using the fins and..because i like to hypothesize...i attribute this to the right hip/glute weakness/imbalance issue. who knows! hopefully, dan, melissa, marcia et al will guide me on whether my assumption is legit!

in sum, and most importantly, i walked away that evening feeling MUCH better about my "can't swim" lie i've been telling apparently. i'm not THAT bad. but, i know i have A LOT of work to do in order to get where i need to be! diligence and hard work is a must here!


i got the okay to go to this 90 minute class taught by vq's dave noda. i don't entirely know what i was doing except that there was...

a warmup...

a part where i had to be at 18-22 mph

a part where i had to be at 13-15 mph

ending back at 18-22 mph

...there were recoveries peppered between the various sets that we did. each set included sudden 30 second climbs where we were to try to maintain our speed/cadence. only for one or two of the climbs were we told to try to go a tad faster.

it was all fine until about 70-80 minutes in, i SUDDENLY felt like puking! i didn't think i had worked THAT hard. so, was it my inability to realize my actual perceived exertion? or, was it the crossover between my body burning my breakfast to burning fat?

i didn't have any gatorade type fuel during this ride and was only having water here and there as my mouth dried out. the reason for no sports drink was because i was told to try going at least two hours without it for now in order to train my body to burn fat instead of relying on regularly feeding in calories.

now, i could have TOTALLY heard that wrong but i'm PRETTY sure that's what i was suppose to do. we'll see what i learn from the good 'ol coach dan on this one as well!


i had a great first 'official' week! lots learned! awesome people met! lots of confidence in the bank! i hope to continue this awesome momentum!


so, what'd y'all learn today during this reading? i'm crazy? i can't write? i have a lot to say? i'm random? i should probably send these out separately instead of one big chunk?


and, thanks for keeping me honest by checking in on me!


  1. Great job Ken...great journey, enjoy it!!

  2. thanks a lot, jayme! it's folks like YOU that keep fuel in my fire! i look forward to continuing to share with you! =)

  3. Way to go Ken. I had no idea you had signed up! I'm training with Well Fit this year, so if you ever feel like cross-pollinating your training pool pls contact me!

  4. PS this is @ChristyTris

  5. haha! THANKS, @CHRISTYTRIS! :) you played a HUGE role in this predicament i now find myself in, young lady! and, THANK YOU! :)

  6. Great first week! Assume the coach in Switzerland was Tobias? Love him. I was at VQ camp with him last year, but yes, training with a coach on the other side of the ocean could be challenging Heard great things about Dan - you'll be in good hands. Can't wait to follow the rest of your journey!

  7. hi sue! yes, it most certainly WAS senor tobias! he's was such a nice and understanding guy! thanks for keeping me in check, young lady! ;)

  8. haha! THANKS, @CHRISTYTRIS! you played a HUGE role in this predicament i now find myself in, young lady! and, THANK YOU!