Tom Lehr

About Tom Lehr

I grew up in Ohio & went to THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) but I was smart enough to move south where it's warmer. My brother, an experienced triathlete, planned on doing Granite Falls so I figured I'd have to "tri" one since it was close by. 1 Tri turned into 11 my 1st year and then 18 2nd year. I've done over 60 triathlons now & love every one of them. My favorite race last year was Ironman Louisville, my 2nd full Ironman event. Lots' to learn! (like proper nutrition & hydration!). I love the bike, am improving my run and have a lot to learn on the swim! :)

How can I get faster?

Hypothetical conversation:

Triathlete:   Hey Coach.  I’ve done all the basic things to improve my overall time.  I’ve worked on my swim technique, ridden more miles and hills, and done extensive running training including intervals & hill work.  What can I do to get faster?  

Coach:         Do you really want to know what else you can do?

Triathlete:  Yes.  Let me know and I’ll do it!!

Coach:         Get more sleep and lose some weight.

Triathlete:  No, I want to know what ELSE I can do to get faster & stronger!!!  

Ha, ha. It sounds funny but have you ever skipped over those ideas?

It seems we always want some magical technique or workout.   Or maybe just longer, harder workouts.   But when given such a simple thing as “Get more sleep & lose weight”, many triathletes just skip that.

If you are in that boat, I recommend you really think about that suggestion & reconsider.    After the 2018 season, I looked ahead to 2019 and saw some big goals.  I asked myself the same question and really thoughtfully considered getting more rest and losing some weight.  So I started in October of 2018 making sure my eating habits didn’t get out of whack at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s Eve parties/holiday over-eating.   Not to say I didn’t eat SOME sweets and 2nd helpings at Thanksgiving but I really tried not to overdo it.  Smaller portions of desserts, more prudent choices of what to eat, etc.   My usual routine of gaining weight in the off-season only to have to work hard to lose it early in the following year was broken.   It really wasn’t that hard to do.  It just required a focus & commitment.    I saw the benefits in training and early races in 2019.    One training example:  My spring training includes a triple brick session.   I compared my triple brick stats from 2019 back to 2018.   In 2019, I weighed about 10 lbs less than the previous year and was 14 seconds/mile faster on round 2 (Zone 2) and 3 seconds  faster per mile on round 3 (Faster) with SAME heart rate!!   Your specific weight loss & run speed will vary, but all else being equal, you’ll be able to run faster and with less effort when you drop some weight!   So do it!! 

From a sleep standpoint, I was given a heart rate tool (WHOOP!) to test.   Only after using that was I clearly aware that I was getting only about 6 hours of sleep per night on average.   The Whoop! device has a sleep coach and it was recommending more sleep so I decided to try to get more sleep.  Now I’m averaging about 7 ½ hours of sleep per night.   This is a 25% improvement in sleep time from what I was averaging before.   Not only do I feel more rested, the workouts don’t seem as hard since I’m not as tired.   And as my coach says “Sleep is the best type of recovery you can get!”.   I think this has also made a difference in me not getting injured this year.   I have been doing more core/strengthening work so that has definitely helped, but I do think getting more sleep has an impact on how you feel, your attitude, how your body responds to training and how much it is ready to take on more strain.   So I would really encourage you to try to get more sleep.   You’ll see a difference and your family likely will too! 😊

So getting more sleep and losing weight is something anyone can do.  You just have to make a decision and DO IT!!   I highly recommend it as I’ve seen the results it’s had on my racing this year.  You won’t regret it and will enjoy the many benefits that come your way as a result.  Good Luck!!

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report.

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report. Completed my 5th Ironman Distance event. I’ve learned a lot in the 2 Ironmans I did this year. After my first Ironman in 2015, I set a goal to do at least 1 Ironman a year, get stronger/faster and learn a lot to be ready to put it all together in 2019 when I move up to the next Age Group. Despite having my 2 slowest* Ironmans ever this year, I feel like I’m right on track. The big takeaway from this race was that I think I nailed my nutrition, finally! When I finished the race, they asked if I needed to go to medical and I said: No, I’m fine. It was a nice way to finish the race…followed by a big hug from my Mom (Valerie Lehr) & brother (Jeff Lehr)!!

Hamstring: Since straining my left hamstring on September 1st, I’ve had numerous PT sessions & dry needling (both in North Carolina at The Running PTs) & in Ohio) done to try to get it in shape to run the marathon. I rested it some and did elliptical “runs” too. Tried a longer run on Sept 13th, but had to stop running just before Mile 15 because of soreness. More PT & Dry needling, rest & elliptical “Runs”. A week before the Ironman, I rode 2 hours and then attempted a brick run. Had to stop 1 mile in due to soreness. That didn’t give me a great feeling about running an Ironman in a week after a 116 mile bike!! It’s possible it was sore due to dry needing 2 days before. The week before the race, I enjoyed my taper. Also had a 2 hour massage that ended up going to 3 hours by Lynn at Seoul 2 Soul Massage Therapy. She was AWESOME and really helped/stretched me. I ended my therapy the Friday before the race in Chattanooga with a light/laser treatment that is supposed to reduce inflammation & I also had them apply KT tape to help limit the stretching of the hamstring during the run. I wasn’t optimistic in being able to run the full marathon after an 116 mile bike, given I had to stop the training runs and that it hurt only after a mile run a week before the race. But surprise, surprise…it held up the whole race! Thanks for all the prayers & well wishes. They worked! 

Ironman Lake Placid – Keep to your schedule!

Completed Ironman Lake Placid in what was my toughest ironman to date on a mostly rainy, windy day.  1.75 hours of sleep is not enough sleep the night before an Ironman event!

A few reasons for the sleep issue: The AirBnb we stayed at only had a window air conditioner and it didn’t work that well. I didn’t lay out a rigid schedule & stick to it like I usually do for a race. Also arrived on site on Friday so less time required more diligent time management. So hot temps & a bit extra stress from finishing things “just-in-time” put me on edge. Good lesson hopefully learned.

Certain courses match my strengths & weaknesses better than others. I learned Placid isn’t a great fit for me. River/current swims are better for me than Lake swims for me & the bike course had one large descent instead of multiple descents spread throughout. I did enjoy the run & think I would have done a bit better on the run with more of a full night’s sleep (5-6 hours).

 

Washington Sprint: Transitions were the difference for a win

Starting Gun

Do you ever practice or think about Transitions?   Sure, you do your swim, bike & run training, but do you ever “train” or practice your transitions?   Do you look to see what the athletes with the fastest transition times spend vs. what time you spend in transitions and then think about how you can trim off seconds on your time?  Maybe you can skip putting socks on (practice running with no socks first!)   I know it’s only seconds and not much of a big deal compared to swim, bike & run times.   But someday, it may be the difference between on the podium and not being on the podium.   In my case, it was the difference for winning the whole event.

Washington Sprint 2017:    The water quality of the Pamlico River wasn’t good enough to swim in so this year’s event was changed to a Duathlon format.    I knew there were some pretty fast runners in the event, so my goal was to stay near them in the first run (0.5 miles), put as much distance on them as I could in the bike and try to hold them off in the final 5K.    I was in 6th Place going into T1 but with the fastest T1 transition time, I left the Transition Area in 2nd Place.   It was a nice mental boost having a quick transition and I quickly passed the fastest runner on the bike.  I was able to build about a 2 minute lead on the bike over the next 2 competitors.   Now came the final run.  I made a note of the time as I reached the midpoint of the “out & back” run.   I had about a 40 second lead.  I had no idea if that was enough but I was definitely worried as 2 runners running together tend to push each other.  I had to push myself and kept telling myself they were getting closer and catching me.  I was running scared.  In the end, I was able to cross the finish line in 1st place.  The margin of victory:  15 seconds.      My total transition time was 35 seconds.   What was the total transition time of the 2nd place athlete?  1:12 which is a difference of 37 seconds!    His transition time cost him the win!  

Don’t let your transition time cost you.   Practice it.  Ask others how they do it.  Try new things and you will be faster.   It’s not much time, but someday it may make a difference.   My brother, Brian, taught me all he learned in his first 5 years of triathlon.  I’m very thankful that he impressed on me the importance of a quick transition time.  It really isn’t that hard if you get in the habit of being quick, efficient and stingy with every second.   In this case, it gave me my 1st win in a Duathlon!

 

 

Boston Marathon – Worth the effort

BUCKET LIST item complete. The Boston Marathon: Best race of my life! That’s odd for me to say given that “Competitive” would be the word I’d choose to best describe me and this race was anything but competitive for me. But to run the most legendary and exclusive marathon in the world …and do it with 2 great friends, Allison Manning Van Tassel and Geraldine J Walker, was the most FUN I’ve ever had at any race. And that includes when I won a triathlon in my 1st season doing triathlons.

Overall time: 3:49:05 Avg pace 8:44 1st 15 miles: Pace 8:59 Last 11 miles 8:34 Negative split the pace by 25 seconds per mile over the toughest part of the course!. Happy to finish strong.

Injury/Training – In retrospect, maybe straining my hamstring in mid-January was a good thing! It made me appreciate when I CAN train even more. Helped me tune in to signs that I might be over doing it. And allowed me the chance to just run this race for the fun of it…like a Victory lap…instead of trying to beat my previous time & re-qualify for Boston @ Boston. With only a 10 mile run and two 15 mile runs in the 3 weeks prior to race day, no hill training since mid-Jan and no taper, I’m VERY happy with just being able to complete my 2nd marathon and to finish the way I did on Newton & Citgo Hills.

Fun! – In the truest sense of the word. Usually not one of the first words I’d associate with a race, but this race was SO much fun! No pressure to win age group or place in top x overall. No hard time goals given my injury in Jan. Running it with 2 great friends. And The Boston Marathon crowd was AMAZING. That will truly spoil it for any other race (save one).

Epic – I bought a great book called Boston, a Century of Running : Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. It’s out of print but easy to find. I’d recommend buying that & reading it. Gave me a great appreciation for the history of this marathon, providing great insight as to how women snuck on the course and were finally given the right to run it the same as men, had great tales of overcoming obstacles, great battles (Beardsley vs. Salazar), etc. Made running through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton and the finish on Boylston Street all that more special.

Best Parts
1) Running with great friends Allison & Geraldine! Two beautiful ladies who made me laugh and enjoy the whole race weekend. Fun times at the Expo, Italian dinners & DESSERTS!!!, walking around Boston, prepping & running the race, free massages afterwards!, and ending it at Fenway Park & Cheers. A weekend & race day I’ll never forget!! Love ya, ladies!!!
2) Boston Crowd – Just WOW. Young and old lined a majority of the 26 miles. Creative, fun, and always cheering. Other race crowds beware because this is a high bar setter.

Race Notes
Newton Hills – I drove the course on Sunday. I was a little surprised that the famous 4 Newton Hills, including Heartbreak Hill, weren’t as steep as I had imagined because they didn’t look very steep or ominous. But it did make sense what I had heard/read that it’s not so much the steepness of the hills as opposed to where they come in the race.
Citgo Hill – This hill seemed actually the hardest of all. Probably due to the fact I had no 20 mile runs in training and no hill work. This was near the end so I had tired legs.
Final stretch turning off Commonwealth, going up Hereford St before turning down Boylston was amazing. Soaking in the wall-to-wall crowd lining the street, packed bleachers and the famous Boston Marathon finish line. Still pinching myself I got to run this marathon.
Wellesley Scream Tunnel – You could definitely hear the ladies’ high pitched screams giving fair notice what was ahead. Though I didn’t kiss any of them, I did give/get a lot of high fives and gave many behind my back. One woman was leaning WAY to far over…I got distracted so I lost a few seconds there! grin emoticon:D
Boston College – Actually to me, the most spirited cheering section along the course. Great turnout from the college boys & girls. A long section of high fives behind my back and I caught a rose that someone was holding while my hand was behind my back. So I took the rose and clenched it between my teeth and ran that way for a while. It made me feel like an Ohio State player who had just beaten Michigan to qualify for a trip to the Rose Bowl! Go BUCKS!!!
Mini Trampolines in Natick – I had a BLAST being silly during this race and I was probably at my best during this short section in Natick. They had probably 10 mini trampolines on the side of the road with kids/people bouncing on them. So I “Bounced” from one to the next giving them high-fives as I past. They really got a kick out of that & so did I. Sure wish I had a video of this or me passing Boston College.
Stolen Popsicle bites! Someone was handing out popsicles so I grabbed one. I was holding it up kinda like a torch & the crowd was laughing. Then a runner came up, grabbed my hand and bit off the top! We both laughed and she ran on….then I saw her get an ice popsicle….so I waited until she just finished a bite and was holding it up…and I grabbed her hand and took a bite from her ice pop!! We both laughed and I said “Have a great race!”. What fun.
Favorite signs: Run Fast, I just farted. If a marathon was easy, it would be called “Your mom”! Free bum punch (pinch?), Free hugs (missed it though), Hey Random Stranger – Great job!
Free massages & footwork. Great post race massages, short wait and even had podiatrists available to evaulate & treat your feet/toenails. Great service at a great (FREE!) price.
After party at Fenway Park! Now that’s a nice after party!. Got to go in the Red Sox dugout, see the famous Green Monster, etc. Icing on the cake!

THANKS!!! I did not get to Boston on my own. First of all, I want to thank J Heydt Philbeck for planting the seed in my mind that I could & should try to qualify for Boston. He believed in what I could do before I ever thought it was possible. I wouldn’t have ever run a marathon if my brother Brian Lehr hadn’t peaked my interest in triathlons and coached me to a very successful 1st season in triathlons. Coach Brooks Doughtie of All Out MultiSport has challenged me, been a great friend, and does more than a triathlon coach should be expected to do…and he does it with a great heart. Thanks for getting me as ready as I could be given the hamstring injury! Friends and training partners like Allison, Robert, Geraldine, Elite Team members, IOS riders & runners and fellow IOS & Grasshopper triathlon club friends. It’s such a blessing to be involved with people like you who are overcomers and keep going despite many obstacles. If you have a dream to qualify/run Boston one day, I truly hope you do. It will be so worth it. Let me know if you need my help in any way. I’d love to see you do it!!

#GOTSOME, #EPIC, #MEMORYTOLASTALIFETIME, #FRIENDS, #TRAININGPARTNERS, #FUNRACEISNOTANOXYMORON, #BOSTONCROWD, #TRAININGFORIRONMAN, #2NDMARATHON, #BOSTONPR, #JERRYMUSTBQ

Wilmington YMCA Sprint

Nice sprint course!   While it wasn’t wetsuit legal, the race (swim) was held in the channel near Wrightsville Beach so it had the extra buoyancy benefit of saltwater and an incoming tide.  You’ll definitely set a PR for a 1500 Meter distance swim!!

The main reason I decided to do this event was because the swim and transition areas are also included in the Beach2Battleship Full Iron distance event that I’m doing next month.   Anytime you can train on a course ahead of time, I think it’s a great idea.    This gave me experience on the swim and I learned where NOT to swim (over by the docks!).   So I’ll benefit in my B2B swim because I have a little more experience from Wilmington YMCA Sprint.

What did I learn?  Take advantage of training on a course ahead of the actual race day.   It will help ensure you make the right turns, learn tricky spots on the bike and give you an additional comfort level when race day arrives.  You’ll view the course on race day as an “old friend” you’ve come to visit instead of “someone you just met”.    This really helps on race day as you don’t have to worry about things like where to turn, etc.  And you’ll have extra confidence to boot!  Try it out and see!!

Dear PPD Beach2Battleship

Dated:  June 6th, 2015                (6 Days after I broke my collarbone in a cycling accident)

You probably haven’t heard but in case you do, I was thrown a curve ball recently in the form of a broken collarbone in a cycling accident. Don’t worry. There will be no deferral. I’ll still be meeting you on October 17th. The date I’ve set for completing my 1st Full Iron distance event has not changed. My goal time has not increased….only my determination. It’s been 3 days since the surgery to install a plate & 9 screws and my body is doing well. I had no pain during my 2 hour stationary bike ride today. My training and race plans between now and then may have changed a little but don’t you worry, the end goal is still the same. Looking forward to our epic meeting on a Saturday in October in 133 days.

Rookie Full Iron Distance Triathlete,
Tom Lehr

White Lake Half

 My first Half Iron Distance event.   I couldn’t have asked for a better venue and weather.   Calm lake and wetsuit legal.  Temps a little chilly to start the bike which meant the run wouldn’t be too hot.  Just a few minutes before getting ready to head down to the swim start, I wiped the grass off my tires with a towel and noticed a white spot on my rear tire.  Uh oh.   It looked like a stone but I couldn’t tell for sure so I asked one of the Open Males to see what he thought.  He said he thought it was maybe a tread or part of the inside of the tire and I “should be ok”.  Not a confidence inspiring statement to hear just before your first Half.  I really didn’t have much time to switch to my backup tire and I didn’t hear any air leaking.  In addition, I ride with the pink liquid in the tires that fills pin pricks automatically so I figured that would stop a leak if it did penetrate.  After the race, I removed it and found that it was in fact 2 tiny stones wedged together but they had not penetrated the inner tube.   I’ll take a little good fortune!  J

With the swim being my weakest of the 3 legs, the words “Wetsuit legal swim” are 3 words that I love to hear!   Nice calm swim and I was out of the lake in 32:46.     Had a good transition and onto the bike…

So I had previously decided to only take 1 bottle and switch out twice for water on the course.   Turns out this wasn’t the best strategy.  Sometimes you have to learn from experience.   So given I didn’t need to stop at the first water bottle handoff, I thought it would be good to practice the bottle exchange.  I didn’t slow down much and BAM…the bottle bounced right out of my hand!  Hmm…let’s try that again…there was another volunteer so I tried it again…BAM…2nd bottle bounced out again.  Ok.   Learned something there…my speed was too fast to grab the bottle so I definitely needed to slow down more because turning around for a bottle would cost a lot more time that slowing down a little.     2nd water bottle stop…slowed down more…Success on the handoff!   Swigged some water..then went to put the snap cap back on the Deer Park water bottle…WHAT?!?  No blue cap!!   Not good.  I have a horizontal water bottle holder in between my aero bars.  The instant I lay the water bottle down, water pours out with no lid!  Not good.   So I ride the next ~15 miles with my finger stuck in the top of the water bottle to keep the water from coming out!   I thought to myself “You’ll laugh at this AFTER the race is over!”.   What are you going to do, right?   Races rarely go perfectly.   Stuff happens to you in a race.  So when it does, just think “Oh…here’s one of those times that “stuff” is happening…..now what’s the best I can do given this situation?”   So when “stuff” happens, you just have to make the best of it!     Now when I got to the 3rd and last water stop, I had another successful exchange…and this time, it had a blue cap on it!   YEAH!!!   The little things in life that make you happy!

Since this was my 1st Half, keeping fueled properly was a new thing for me during a race since it’s not as critical during Sprint & Olympic triathlons.  My strategy was to take a gel pack every 45 minutes, a salt pill every hour and eat part of a powerbar ever so often…and drink!    It worked out ok but I remember thinking…jeez, this is way to complex and a lot to remember.   This lead to me going to a liquid only strategy in future Long Course events (which is working out a lot better for me).

So I had a good bike (2:31:30)  and felt good for my run.  White Lake has a nice flat run course.  Was keeping to my target pace and felt pretty good on the run until around mile 7.  Then it started getting harder but at least I had made the turn at the lake and was heading back to the finish line.  Had a couple people pass me on the run who were doing the International distance race but I didn’t know that for sure so it urged me on and gave me incentive to try to keep up with someone else.   Finally the finish line in sight and I finished with a time of 4:44:04!   Very happy with that result for my 1st Half.

What did I learn?   It’s better to take multiple water/fuel bottles with you than to depend on water out on the course.   I’d realized that, for me, a liquid fuel solution (Infinite – Available at Inside Out Sports)  is a much easier way to go in long distance events.  Keep a positive attitude because when situations happen to you like the stone in the tire or cap on the water bottle, you just have to make the best of it and continue on with your race!

Tobacco Road Marathon

I know, I know.  “A marathon blog entry on a triathlon team website?  How does that fit in here?”

Well, I’ve done Sprint and Olympic/International Distance triathlons in my previous 2 years racing but had never done a Half or Full Iron Distance event.   So I decided this was my year to do both.   So I figured that since I was going to do a Full Iron Distance event, I had better run a marathon first.        So when getting ready for a marathon (or any race), I always seek out people who have done one before and ask for their advice.  (I advise this as a good step for any race!)  What I heard most often was “Oh, the marathon doesn’t start till Mile 20!   That’s when you might ‘hit the wall’!”.    So there is some debate over whether you should actually run 20 or more miles in your training leading up to your marathon.   There’s no question in my mind that I think running several training sessions over 20 miles makes sense.   I didn’t want to have to wait until race day to know what it was like to hit that 20 mile mark and keep running.   The extra confidence in knowing that I had done it before was worthwhile just to have more peace of mind and confidence in myself.   My race day strategy was to follow a pace group, 3:25 in my case.   I’d recommend this if you can tie into a pace group in your race.   Now our pace group actually finished in about 3:24 so it’s not exact but pretty close.   I think keeping a constant pace for the whole race throughout is key.    If you can allocate budget for a coach, I’d recommend that if you really want to be effective.  If you can’t do that now, you can get some free training plans on Hal Higdon’s website (http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51135/Marathon-Training-Guide)

What did I learn?   I’d highly recommend training for a marathon in the offseason.  Get in several training session of over 20 miles in distance.   That will help your confidence on race day.   And running a marathon will not only prepare you for the longer distance triathlons, but it makes a 5K or 10K race seem short!    Nice by-product!!