It Takes Time To Go Fast

For future reference:

“Faster finishers (those under 10 hours 30 minutes) tend ot average greater traning volumes than slower finishers. On average, the faster men and women trained approximately 14 hours per week, broken down into 2.5 hours of swimming, 7.5 hours of cycling and 4 hours of running.”

  • Triathlete magazine “Would You make A Good Ironman”? October, 2016



BQ(Q) – Frank

Wow, here’s a cool and mysterious one which came in through the online form. Frank was an all American cross country runner and pro triathlete in the 1990s. Here he shares his story of the first time he qualified for Boston. Frank didn’t give us his last name, but I’m definitely curious to learn more. Get in touch Frank if you want to share more of your story!





Age (at the time of first BQ):



6 feet

Weight (at the time of first BQ):


At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Carolina Marathon 1990


Tell us a little about the race.

Early Feb. 50 and drizzling. Was first marathon, though was All-American NCAA XC and 1500m. Had been on the triathlon pro circuit. Made a bet for beers to run sub 6:00 pace for as long as we could then get beers. Finished in 2:28.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

14 years

Did you run in college or high school?


What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?


How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?


Approximately how many races did you run in that year?


Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?


Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?


Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Had run HS 77-81, NCAA 81-85 Nike Farm Team 86 Triathlon as a Professional 87-92. So I was swimming 20,000meters/wk, Biking 100-250 mi/wk and doing strength training. For 3 month before the BQ, run mileage was only 11mpw.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Fartlek, hills and track work were all elements.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Patience and persistence. Unplug and enjoy trail running.
Take care of maintenance with rehab/prehab. Strength train. Yoga and Pilates. Diet and sleep. Some barefooting and form work. All of these are key.

Review: Wellington’s A Life Without Limits

A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey
Chrissie Wellington

Chrissie Wellington is one of the most successful triathletes of all time. But she’s more than that. She’s an activist for environmental issues, a legit player in the world of international development, and a survivor of a serious eating disorder and more.
She covers all of this in her much better than I expected memoir.
Honestly, I figured I’d get the usual – plucky athlete trains hard, gains success, remains humble. What I got instead was plucky girl battles eating disorder, becomes mid-level political operative in the world of international development, travels the world, starts doing triathlon, getting really good, works with controversial coach, becomes best in the world. It’s a good story, competently told.

Wellington has had a fascinating life. But perhaps most fascinating to triathletes and fans of endurance sports is her relationship with the very controversial Brett Sutton. Sutton, who was once convicted of having a relationship with an underage athlete, is legendary for how hard he is on his athletes, and how unorthodox his training regime can be. Wellington documents some of that. She tells of how he pitted her against other athletes, how he put them through incredibly punishing sessions, how he would lock himself in his room for days at a time, emailing the athletes their work outs. It’s fascinating stuff. I’m left with the opinion that while Sutton did create Wellington, one of the top five greatest female triathletes of all time, he also has created a lot of wreckage in others athletes who trained with him. I’d be curious to read a memoir of one of his athletes who ended up not being as successful.

Anyway, worth the read if this is your thing.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Fitzgerald’s Iron War

Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run
Matt Fitzgerald

In 1989 Mark Allen and Dave Scott, two of the greatest triathletes of all time, competed in what is still the closest, and my all measures, greatest Ironman world championship. This book is the story of those men, that race, and the early days of triathlon. It is also one of the best books on endurance sports I have ever read.

Sure you get the story of the 89 Kona world championships, and the backstory on two of the most fascinating endurance athletes of all time (Scott, hyperactive, incredibly driven, old school; Allen, innovative, spiritual, haunted) but you also get so much of the history of the sport, the physiology (and psychology) behind elite performance, and some thoughtful ruminations on what it means to be an aging elite athlete.

If you’re interested in endurance sports, whatever they may be, this is a book for you. Hell, even if you’re just interested in what it takes for fascinating people to be the best in the world at what they do, you’ll find this one interesting. Very pleased I took the time to read this one.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg

You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Tr iathlon

As the subtitle suggests, You Are An Ironman traces the stories of six age groupers as they train for, and race, Ironman Arizona. Given my obsession with mortals attempting events of long distance, and the fact that the author is a New York Times reporter, I was really looking forward to this one.

It was a bit if a let down.

In following the six athletes, Steinberg jumps back and forth between the characters. The book is two pages on an soldier in Colorado, struggling to find the time to train followed by a page on a mother in Sacramento juggling her five kids, followed by three paragraphs on a teacher in Arizona whose Ironman dreams have hurt his family’s finances, followed by a page on a husband and wife in South Carolina who train together to raise money for charities. It’s all a bit confusing. Further, it appears Steinberg never really got to know these people. Much of the insight into their inner lives (such as it is) comes from the personal blogs of the athletes, and all of their experiences are told from their perspective, with little context given. We read, briefly, that one participant’s wife isn’t particularly supportive, but we don’t her from her as to why.  We learn that one woman has a deep religious faith, but we don’t learn how that plays out in her life.

Its all a bit surface level.

Still, there were moments of inspiration. Many of these people overcame incredible setbacks on their way to the race, including cancer, injuries, and just the stresses of everyday life.  Training for an Ironman is an incredible time commitment, and much of it is absurdly boring. Steinberg’s attempt to make it interesting left me wanting more context on the life of the athletes, yet it still almost brought me to tears when while reading of their struggles, especially in the race itself.

I’m going to rate this one as recommended for the enthusiast. If you’re interested in what it takes to train for the Ironman culture, you’ll appreciate this. If not, you’re better off with something else.

Friday Inspiration: Why Endurance Athletes Choose to Suffer

Like everyone in the northeast, I’m sick of this winter. I’m sick of the cold, and the ice, and the half frozen black slush. More than anything else, I’m sick of running on the treadmill. On the weekends, I generally head outside, regardless of the weather. But during the week, when I’m often running before dawn, or after dark, I tend to head to the basement treadmill. It gets dull, but it gives me loads of time to watch inspiring videos.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Ironman coverage. The Kona championships, the regional championships, inspiration videos edited together by amateurs. Basically its been just lots and lots of nights watching videos of people in spandex, suffering. Last night, I watched the end of the 2014 North American Championship.  At the end of the video, when the final runners of the day were trying to squeak in by the midnight deadline, I got goddamn emotional.  Why? Because I’m a softie? Yes. But also because these efforts touched something inside me.

Of course, the Ironman is a contrived event, as are all modern endurance events, and of course these people volunteered (and in fact paid) for this experience. But that doesn’t make the suffering any less real or the accomplishment any less meaningful.

Many have hypothesized that the rise in popularity of endurance events among the first world middle class is tied to a longing to be physically challenged in a way that the “real” world no longer presents – that in  what has become a post scarcity economy (for certain demographics), people feel the need prove themselves in a visceral, physical way. I think there’s something to that. I see it in myself, and my friends, and I saw it in the athletes in this video.

Many people (including myself) make fun of this desire to suffer for no reason.  I understand why it can seem silly. It’s certainly a luxury.* And endurance athletes definitely take themselves too seriously at times. But watch the last ten minutes of this video, and think about all that went into getting these athletes to that place, and tell me you aren’t at least a little inspired.

*An Ironman entrance fee alone will run you about $700, the gear and time can raise that price considerably.

Race Autopsy: 2006 New York City Triathlon

Originally written for another blog. I haven’t edited this at all since it was published in 2006.


I really underestimated the amount of shit that has to get done before you even start a triathlon. There’s the pre race briefing, where they tell you where everything is, and how the water in the Hudson is clean (honest!). Then you drop off the bike at the transition area the night before and after a fit full night of sleep, I was up at 3 a.m. to set up my transition area.

When I got to the transition area at five am, the sun wasn’t even up. The floodlights were on in the transition area, and not having a clue as to what I was supposed to do, I looked at the people around me for a guide as to what to do. I laid out the equipment and chatted with a number of much more experienced triathletes around me until six a.m. when I headed off to the race start.

The Swim

The swim course was from 100th street down to the boat basin at 79th, and as soon as the pros went off a couple minutes before six, it was obvious the current was going to be in our favor. I saw one woman float on her back down the river and still finish the stage in the allotted time.

Before the race, I was terribly nervous about the swim since I had had such trouble in the Liberty Swim in May. I told myself to just put my head in the water and go for it, counting my strokes and not worrying about where I was in the race.

When the horn went off, I was at the back of the pack, but all the open water swimming I have done recently must have paid off, because by the time I got out of the water, I was feeling strong, and at the front of the heat.

It took me 19:56 to finish the swim. That’s a full ten minutes faster than I was expecting. I felt strong coming out of the water, and was confident that I was going to at the very least be able to finish this thing.

The Bike

I need to do a lot more work on my biking. I got fucking destroyed by the dudes around me. I think this was for three reasons:

  1. I had taken the bike leg for granted and hadn’t trained nearly hard enough for it. I didn’t put in enough long rides and had done no speed work, so it isn’t surprising that I was getting smoked.
  2. Add to my lack of training the fact that I was riding a mid eighties steel bike and many of the guys passing be were riding time trial bikes or at least bikes with the aero bar setup. I need to rethink the design of my bike and possibly invest in a new handle bar set up. My sub par equipment isn’t an excuse for how badly I preformed on the bike, but a more tri specific set up would certainly help.
  3. Finally, I didn’t know how to pace myself since the run was still to come and that affected my speed. In hindsight, I could have gone out a lot harder on the bike. Lesson learned.

I finished the bike leg in 1:30:25. That can definitely be improved on.
The Run

It was well into the nineties by the time the run started, and all I was interested in doing was finishing. I passed more people than passed me. I finished the run in 62:48. My run could always use improvement, but I’m not going to beat myself up over ten minute miles in those conditions.

Total time for the event was 3:05:02. All in all, I’m proud as hell to have finished the thing, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Now, I have to concentrate on training for the Hartford marathon, but I have to say, I’m hooked triathlons. Is it too early to be thinking about a half iron man?