Monday, September 18, 2017

Training for Triathlons at 69--Body Fat and Racing Weight--Post 4

I carried my granddaughter around one day last week.  For about 8 hours I carried her, played with her on the floor, picked her up and shower her things, and did a lot of walking around carrying her facing outwards.  There were minimal nap and food breaks.

She weighs 15 pounds.

I was exhausted at the end of the day.

I planned on losing 15 pounds of fat and so far it isn't going well.

But carrying that extra 15 pounds around demonstrated to me how much energy 15 pounds takes to carry around.  I definitely have got to get that 15 pounds off.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Training for Triathlons at 69--Body Fat and Racing Weight--Post 3

Monday is a good day to take an official weight.  I am down 2 pounds and since I had two social events to get through this weekend I am thrilled.  Now, can I keep the momentum?

As I suspected a 20.2% body fat does give me difficulties when trying to calculate a racing weight.  According to Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight, page 36, I should aim for a body fat of 18.4%.  Making the weight calculation (lean weight 142 = 178*(1-0.202, body fat = 36, racing weight 171.5 = 142/0.828) racing weight is 171.5. 

That is way too much.

BMI is another check and to get a BMI under 25.0 (overweight) I have to weight 164; a good 7 pounds less than Fitzgerald’s book.  At 164 I would have a body fat of about 13%.

A third check is my coach who is exactly 20 years younger than me, only half an inch taller and weighs exactly 30 pounds less than me.   There is no way that I should be 24 pounds heavier than him just because I am 20 years older.

What gives?  What at weight should I be?

Let’s go back to body fat. says 50+ racers should be in the 8-17% range.  If I take 13% as a midpoint I am back to what BMI said.  Hum.  The American Council on Exercise says the range for athletes is 6-13%.  Hum again.

My conclusion is that I should expect my best racing weight to be 163 lbs. (142/0.87).  That is losing fifteen pounds of fat and no muscle.  Not impossible but almost so.

Let’s see how this week goes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Training for Triathlons at 69--Racing Weight and Body Fat Post 2

It is Sunday September 10th and I managed my way through Wine Tasting and a football party at a local sports bar.  I haven’t lost any weight but I also haven’t gained any. 

I am not “dieting” but cleaning up my diet.  The weight is supposed to come off slowly but surely if I clean it up and manage my eating.  That is the promise.

But I can’t help wondering what my weight should be.  So I have done some research and calculations.

Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight is a good starting point.  I need a current body fat percentage.  I have one of those scales that measures body fat it but the number is way too low (16.7%).  So I go on a Goggle search for body fat charts and calculators.

One site I find,, gives a couple of charts.  One gives the “Ideal Body Fat” for fitness or athletes between 6% and 17%.  The second chart adjusts the body fat percentage for age but stops at age 55 with a percentage of 21%.  It doesn’t discriminate between ideal for average men and those of us trying to be athletes.

My research turned up nothing more specific with almost all using the same “Ideal Body Fat” chart.

Next I calculated my body fat.

The Body Fat Navy calculator says my body fat is 22%. The Health Status site, which took a lot more measurements, calculated my body fat at 20.19%  (  The used a subset of measurements and calculated body fat at 20.2%. 

I like the Health Status number (20.2%) because it uses more measurements (like thighs—I have big cycling thighs) and not just because it is the smaller number.  Actually I suspect the lower number will cause me more problems when I try to calculate ideal racing weight.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Racing Triathlons at 69--Racing Weight Post 1

Aging up next year to the 70-74 age-group makes me want to race better.  I have now done five triathlons (two at 67 and three this year at 69); finishing all toward the back of the pack.  What would it take to be at least mid-pack?

According to Matt Fitzgerald in Racing Weight the number one predictor of finish time is body fat percentage.  The number two predictor is body weight.  And third best predictor is average weekly training time.

I am 5’8”, weight 178 pounds, am 22% body fat, and have a BMI of 27.1 (over weight).  Clearly this is the place to start.  But I have known this for years and have made relatively little progress.  Two years ago I raced at 172 and that was as light has I have been in many years.

Further, no one wants me to “diet”.  My triathlon coach gives about the same advice as Fitzgerald does in his book.  Clean up your diet, reduce calories very modestly (300-500 a day), and keep training. 

Cleaning up my diet is really the challenge.  I do love all the bad foods.  But even more challenging is the activities we have that include food (and usually the bad food).  For example this week there was my granddaughter’s birthday dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, homemade ice cream, and cake), a Labor Day cookout at a friends (cheeseburgers and all the side dishes), Wine Tasting Club (more like wine drinking and eating), and a Saturday night football party at a local sports bar.

Training and racing triathlons is my own obsession and I don’t want it to affect my friends in anyway.  Having friends who are Jewish, vegans, vegetarians, or are on the latest diet craze can drive you crazy trying to entertain.  I don’t want my friends worrying about what I eat.

So my challenge is how to clean up my diet and reduce calories some while not turning my life and those around me upside down.  Maybe I am going at this wrong but I am going to start this terrifically difficult task by writing about it and keeping the impact to myself.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Racing Triathlons at 69--Boulder 70.3

Raced the Boulder Half Ironman (aka 70.3) Saturday. Swam 1.2 miles in about an hour, biked 56 miles in about 3:30 and ran 13.1 miles in about 3 hours. Total time was 7:49 which is about 10 minutes faster than my last 70.3 and about 10 minutes slower than I had planned. But, any triathlon that I finish is a success.

While I consider the race a success, a lot went wrong or didn't go as expected starting with the swim.

It is a long walk from the bike transition area to the swim start and not kind to bare feet.  I should have purchased some cheap flip flops to through away.  I managed to get to the start area without hurting my feet carrying my wetsuit and dressed in my tri shorts.  I also carried my spray to help get the wetsuit on but had no way to keep it.  So I tossed about $10 of spray away.

The start was delayed 45 minutes or more because of traffic getting to the race.  That was fine with me.  I swam in the warmup pool and got my stroke and breathing relaxed.  I set my Garmin to Triathlon so I could get accurate times.  But forgot to start it when the swim began and didn't think to start it until into T1.  When the swim started I had no idea what time it was.

The swim was not as good as I expected.  I swam from one buoy to another.  That had the benefit of swimming pretty much in a straight line.  It had the disadvantage of being with a lot of other swimmers, getting kicked, getting my legs punched, and getting swam over.  Still, I hit my time goal for the swim.

Other than not getting an accurate time in T1, the bike went without incident.  I wasn't as fast as I hoped to be but still finished the ride a few minutes ahead of plan.  But I had no idea what my total time was.

The run started well.  I planned to keep to my run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute plan and keep my pace relaxed.  Last 70.3 I faded the last half and had to do a tired walk.  I set a comfortable 2:47 goal.

But at mile 4 my right leg buckled.  The IT band just at the knee hurt and won't support me while running.  I tired running until the leg hurt then walking it off.  That worked for about 2 more miles and then my run was so short and slow it made no sense to keep trying to run.

The run route is a two loop course so I was about a mile from finishing the first loop.  After a short debate with myself that sort of went "you can stop in a mile and call it an injury" or "are you kidding, I have finished the swim, I am going to finish this damn thing".  

Now I have only ran 6 miles, my bike ride was relaxing (I love biking), and the swim was relaxed.  I am not tired.  So I did a power walk for the next 7+ miles averaging 14:40 a mile.  When I finished the first loop I asked for a time of day, assumed I did the swim in an hour and T1 in ten minutes, and calculated that I would have no trouble finishing in time.

One piece of good planning was that I had trained doing power walks.  I assumed that I might have to do one someday so often I finished a run with a mile or more of power walking.  It proved vital.

Triathlons, especially long form ones, have the opportunity for many things to go wrong.  What you do and what you have prepared to do when things go wrong can save your day.  I would be so mad at myself today if I had quit racing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Racing a Triathlon at 69--Olympic Tri

Sunday I raced the Boulder Peaks Olympic Triathlon (0.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike with 1500 feet of climbs, and a 10K run). Any triathlon that I finish is a successful race. But to consider it a good race I need to do each phase as well as I can. 
I did not run well.
Up at 3:50am, make breakfast and leave at 4:30. Park and get equipment set up. Body marking at 5:30 (your age is on left calf which can be interesting). In the warmup swim area at 6. Race starts at 7. My wave goes off at 7:40.
Swim and bike go about to plan.  The swim out was straight into the sun which actually helped.  Just swim into the sun.  But the leg back I tired and when I tire I wander.  Ended up swimming 1719 yards which isn't too bad.
The bike route climbed Olde Stage road which has a 1,000 feet of climbs from the swim area.  I had to stop once and walk some of the steepest part.  Then when screaming downhill a strap broke on the top tube bag.  The bag rolled upside down, dumping my gels and salt tablets, and then slide between my legs to harass my legs the rest of the ride.   
Within the first mile of the run I knew I was going to be a very ugly run. I had expected to do the entire race in four hours. It took 4:14.  Everything went wrong on the run starting with my own errors.  I focused on clearing T2 fast and it still took me almost 5 minutes.  And I forgot to take my water bottle and a handkerchief.  Later a dog cut in front of me and tripped me.  The dog got the worst of it but it still made me angry given how tired I was.
I neither race nor chase in triathlons. My only goals are to have fun and do each phase as well as I can. There are VERY few newbies in my age group. The man next to me was doing his 100th triathlon (I beat him by several minutes). 
Overall, a successful but poor race.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Training for Triathlons at 69--Practice Race

I did a practice Olympic Tri this week and relearned an important lesson.

I started with a 1650 yard swim in a 25 yard pool.  Because the pool is a few miles from my house I never intended to try and simulate the transitions.

The cycling route has a 1,000 feet of climbs in the first six miles including some sections at 15% grade.  I wanted to test the impact on time of having to walk the steepest section.  It added 2 minutes which isn't much of a penalty.  It might even be advantageous given the effort required to ride it.

The real ride begins with about seven miles to go with a series of rollers, some steep.  I was to take these rollers hard; especially cresting them fast.  Which I did.

But I didn't drink enough on the bike.  Maybe I drank half a bottle and it should have been closer to two.  The effect was that I started the 10K run dehydrated although I didn't realize it at the time.

But from the beginning of the run I could tell I was going to have a very hard time.  In fact I had to stop at about 5.75 miles because I was just straining too much.  It was only after when I was trying to figure out what went wrong did I realize I hadn't drank enough.  In fact my body weight was down five pounds from start to finish.

And that is way too much.

Lesson relearned.  Drink and eat on the bike.  Even an Olympic which "only" goes for about four hours requires hydration and nutrition.