Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tri-Season Done

I concluded my triathlon season on Sunday with the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 here in Austin. The organization this year was much better than last year. My compliments to the race staff and volunteers. Ya'll made it a great event.

The weather was near perfect for the race. Cool temperatures greeted us on Sunday, with temps in the low 60's. It would get warmer. Although my overall time was not a personal best, I did see improvement over last year's race. My swim, bike and run were all faster. Gotta work those transitions a little quicker. I'm giving away too much time in there. Having to pack my wetsuit in the small bag they gave us required more skill than I could muster at that moment. We'll get it next time.

Our wave departed just after 8:00 am. I positioned myself out to the side to hopefully find open water a little faster and avoid the scrum that inevitably occurs at the swim start. Unfortunately, my left goggle immediately filled up with water. I stopped and tried to clear it without success. I swam over to the first kayak to steady myself while I worked on the problem. The people on shore must've thought I was already freaking out and ready to start the backstroke 100m in. But I fooled them. The goggle problem proved to be a continuing issue. So I said screw it, and swam 1.2 miles with one eye open. My swim was about what I expected, but you can always hope for a faster time. Nonetheless, I felt my swim was improved over last year. (38:53)

My goal was to finish in 5 hours or better. To do this, I was going to have to push it on the bike. Coach Maurice told me I needed to go around 80 - 85 percent but push it. I needed to be off the bike just over 3 hours into the race to have any chance. For the most part I achieved my goal. I was right at 80-85 percent the whole way. This year's course eliminated a couple of the tougher hills, so I felt my overall average would be good. At one point I was up to 22.5 mph avg. A little head-wind on the return trip knocked it down a bit, to 21.74 mph for 56 miles. 2:34 bike split - my fastest yet in a 70.3 race. I got off the bike between 3:15 and 3:20. I would have to have a spectacular run to make 5 hours.

Starting the run, I could tell my legs were pretty trashed from the effort on the bike. I deliberately pushed the bike to see how my legs reacted. Not great but not bad either. My stomach was cramping a bit, which I attribute to drinking a highly concentrated mixture of CarboPro and EFS (Lemon Lime) with out enough water. I drank water for the first couple of water stops and this cleared up. From there on I relied mainly on water and flattened Coca Cola and a few salt tabs to get me through the run. I had flashes where I felt really good, but they were short-lived.

Longhorn employed a 3-loop run course this year. Some folks don't like this, but I don't mind it. I like seeing my friends and other racers coming and going. It's motivating. Plus after two loops, you're over half-way through the run. By this time, I was struggling a bit on the run and it was apparent, I was not going to make my time goal. So I decided to have some fun, and ran the last loop in a plastic Viking helmet and carrying a plastic war axe I picked up at the Halloween Store. I got a good reaction from the crowd and that kept me going. Vikings don't crater at the Ironman, do they? It was good fun. My run split ended up at 1:49 (8:19 / mile pace). Overall finishing time of 5:11 (one minute off my personal best on a flatter course). Thanks to all the volunteers and my T3 teammates for making it a lot of fun.

So, now I'm officially in the off-season, whatever that means. I will take some time to recover and continue to coach my people at AustinFit on Saturday mornings as we get them ready for the Austin Marathon. Other than that, I don't really have a plan.

Last year, I set out to improve my cycling, and for the most part that's happened. My bike averages were up over last year. And I saw improvement throughout the season. (The Tour de France always inspires me to suffer a little more and hang on to the lead group for as long as I can). Last year's Longhorn I averaged 20.7 mph. New Orleans was right at 21 mph. Sunday's Longhorn at 21.74 mph was encouraging. Now my cycling seems to be approximately even with my running at least from my overall rankings. The swim continues to hold me back.....Looks like I have an off-season plan in the making.

The tri-season was long and short at the same time. I only competed in four races. An Ironman (Idaho), 2 Halfs - New Orleans and Longhorn, and one Sprint (Jack's Generic Tri). I volunteered at CapTex, Danskin, and AustinTri setting up the swim course for all three. So it was a full season overall. I can't wait to get started on the next adventure. Stayed tuned...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ironman Coeur D'Alene

June 21, 2009....."It was a dark and stormy night..."

The day we had all been training for had finally arrived. In the days leading up to race day, we all made our last minute preparations. One final swim, one final ride, get packed, unpack and pack again, go through the checklist, bring this, don't bring that etc. Then haul ourselves to Idaho. For my family and me, that was the toughest part. The Ironman started on Wednesday when we left the house.

Our flight got screwed up....well we missed it. Crowds were horrible at the airport, we arrived a little late and the perfect storm of circumstances resulted in us missing our flight. We were able to get a new flight arrangement that flew us from Austin to LA to Seattle to Spokane. Instead of arriving at 10:44 am in Idaho, we arrived at 7:00 pm. Not so easy on Benjamin or the parents of this 3 1/2 year old bundle of energy.

The following day, I got checked in at the Ironman Village, got some Ironman swag, went for a swim in Lake CDA (Colder than Barton Springs but refreshing and clear), one last minute ride to ensure the bike was working properly. A few last minute things, and I was ready to go.

The weather leading up to race day was a bit spotty. A little sun, a little rain, a little chill in the air. We all anxiously watched the forecast to see what race day would bring. Fortunately, the predictions continued to improve and we were greeted on race morning with partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50's with predicted highs in the 60's and a chance of rain in the late afternoon. The wind was up a bit. The lake was choppy.

We positioned ourselves at the far end of the beach in a vain attempt to find clear swimming. The gun goes off at 7:00 am. Into the surf we go. We've got 17 hours to finish this thing. The swim was choppy with 1 to 2 foot waves in spots. It was like a washing machine. I tried to stay calm and find a good tempo. The first loop was encouraging time wise and I was sure the second would be faster now that we were all spread out. Wrong. Three minutes slower. I was a bit disappointed at first, but It seems we all had slower than expected swim times, and I was still on track to meet my time goal. To the bike.....

Due to the temperatures, I donned an extra cycling jersey over my tri-top. Others opted for jackets and arm warmers. I tried to settle in on the bike. Pacing is the key. I made up my mind to hold back as best I could on the first loop. I had driven the bike course twice and knew the hills were nothing to be trifled with. The course looped out and back along the lakeside. Nice scenery and then pushed north out of town. I had the wind at my back. I arrived in Hayden where the racers were greeted with the first "hill." A small climb.....sort of an appetizer to what was to come. The next fifteen miles was a constant up and down struggle. These hills were serious. Someone had posted signs at the roadside that said "Legs of Zeus." I'll take whatever motivation I can get. I tried to spin up the hills the best I could. I played cat and mouse with a few other riders.....I would pass them on the hills and they would go flying by on the downhill only to repeat the same dance on the next climb. I rolled back into to town, thinking..."I've got to do that all over again." I took it one section at a time, one hill at a time. On the last hill, I was seriously thinking about all those Step-Ups coach Pain made us do in core class. I think it paid off. Also, seeing fellow T3'rs on the course was great motivation. I was off the bike in a little over 6 hours. I was still on track to reach my time goal. Now if I could just put together a half-assed marathon.

I trotted into transition after handing off my bike. This was encouraging. My legs actually felt pretty good at this point. I left transition with Logan D. and Kevin B. We ran the first out and back at around an 8:00 min/mile pace. Yikes. Too fast. Kevin and I pressed ahead, at about mile 3, Kevin asked me "what kind of pace are you trying to run?" I told him "not THIS pace" We continued to try slowing. I didn't want to crater and have to walk it in. The miles continued to pass. The final turn around is on a hill. I was determined to run the hill even if it was barely a shuffle. The first loop went well, I was encouraged. The rain and wind started moving in.

I started the second loop, still on a steady, but slow pace. I was on track. I hadn't taken in very much in calories and knew this could be a problem later on. I reached mile 16. Two hours to go 10 miles to be under 12 hours. Surely, I could go 10 miles in 2 hours. Well let's keep pushing on. With nine miles to go, I needed calories. Gels weren't appealing, nor was the concoction of CarboPro and Nuun in my bottle. I decided to rely on Coca-Cola and Chicken Broth the rest of the way. I reached the final turn around and considered walking the hill. I wanted to run it if possible. I told myself, "an Ironman would run that hill." I shuffled up the hill made the turn. Only 5 miles to go. I had over an hour to make my time. Well let's keep pushing all the same. The final miles melted away. The T3 sherpas on the course were fantastic. Everytime I thought about walking, I knew they would see me, so I kept going. Somehow I missed the 25 mile marker. No matter, the last mile seemed like only 1/2 mile. The final turn on Sherman Avenue and I had 7 blocks to go. All downhill. Carrie B. caught me with about 50 meters to go. She sprinted ahead, fists pumping in triumph. For a moment I considered going with her, but the legs were pretty baked at this point. Instead I slowed to high-five some of the hands extended over the barriers. Something I had not done in the past. I wanted to savor the moment. I finished. The clock read 11:46:40. I made it with time to spare.

Diane and Benjamin greeted me at the end of the chute. We shared a hug and a few tears of joy. After warming up in the med-tent with some chicken broth and getting into some warm clothes, we stayed to cheer on as many of our teammates as we could.

This report would not be complete without giving thanks to my family, friends, teammates, coaches and supporters. Ya'll are the best. You've kept me motivated, healthy, and somewhat sane through this past six months. Thanks for putting up with me. I love you all.

After some well deserved recovery, I'll be off to the next challenge. I'll keep you posted.....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's On....

And it has been a bit hectic of late. We completed our last few workouts in the past weeks. Trying to recover from the hellish amount of training we've endured. We have ridden in cold, wind, rain and hail. Sometimes all at the same time. We've run in bonechilling cold and stifling humidity that was so bad I drank water the rest of the day and still couldn't get my weight back to normal. We've stood shivering on the deck in January waiting to jump in the pool. And made the mad dash back to the locker room before a layer of ice forms on our wet bodies.

No, all of our workouts have not gone as planned. We've had to cut corners and roll with the punches as family life and factors beyond our control get in the way. But, have we done enough. Time will tell. We have.

We are fewer now than when we started back in January. Some have chosen to drop out because it didn't fit with their current goals. Others have been forced out due to injury. For those who didn't make the journey with us on the roads, you were with us in spirit and for those who were forced out due to injury, I can only say....."This one's for you."

We are ready to depart and do this thing called Ironman. 140.6 miles really doesn't seem that far at this point. Just another long training day with over 2000 of our closest friends. One June 21st in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho at 7:00 am, we will each embark on the day's journey of highs and lows. We've learned something about ourselves this past 6 months. Whatever our motivations for being here, we all seek to push our limits and see what we're made of. Oh....and to hear Mike Reilly say...... "(your name here).....You are an IRONMAN!!!!"

Wish us luck and follow us on line at www.ironmanlive.com.


Friday, May 29, 2009

It's been a while..

I haven't posted in some time. Either I'm too tired to write or just plain didn't feel like it. The miles have ramped up since the last time I posted. Here are some highlights...
1. A Twenty mile run the Friday of mother's day weekend. I met Joe Blackistone at 6:00 am and we were off. I swear it was 100 % humidity. The last ten kicked my ass. I somehow managed to make it to work, where I was...ahem....less than productive.
2. We've had injuries and accidents a plenty. The low-light was losing Maria to a broken arm. We were having a great ride. At the time of the accident we weren't going any more than 10 mph when she touched someone's wheel and went down. Instant broken arm. Highlight of the ordeal: when asked by the EMT to rate her pain level on a scale of 0-10, she replied..."zero."
3. Logan seems to be recovering from his injured shoulder. He's still battling some aches and pains. We all are.
4. As for me, I'm reduced to running about once a week due to heel pain. Still I managed a 7:54 / mile pace off the bike for 13 miles last weekend. This was following 40 brisk miles on the bike.
5. The heel is feeling better, now I have to resist the urge to pound out some useless junk miles in the next two weeks.
6. Getting excited about the race. I find I'm more distracted at the office and at home. Daydreaming about race day. Trusting our that our training has been enough for me to reach my goals.
6. The rainout day two weekend ago was an adventure. Riding through driving rain down Hwy 620 and beating it back to the house with my fellow T3'rs in tow. Nothing like hot cup of coffee and a dry jersey to shake out the chills. 78 miles would have to be enough.
7. The impromptu happy hour that followed helped also. I heart Maudies'
8. Two 100 plus mile rides should be enough. Armadillo Hill Country Classic was great. Mixed it up with some roadies and held my own.
9. CapTexTri was last weekend. The team did great. I was on the boat with T-Pain. :)
10. Getting ready to race.

That's all for now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Professional Bike Fit

Wednesday, I went for a "professional" bike fit over at Source Endurance. They use the retul computerized fitting system to get you into the optimum position on the bike. It was interesting to say the least. I learned that my left leg is somewhat shorter than my right leg. I know, this is a common occurrence in most folks, but it's always a bit unsettling to get confirmation that your a mutant. :0 Anyway, I was told that my bike set up was such that I was not getting the most bang for my buck so to speak. My left hip was a bit too far forward which made it difficult for me to engage my hip flexors and use my hamstrings and glutes through the pedal stroke. The solution....a rather large thick shim underneath the cleat on my left shoe. This brought my hip into line with my right. Next up was the saddle height. When we were all done, my saddle height had risen approximately two centimeters. We lowered the front handle bars a bit which did not feel uncomfortable or seem to interfere with sighting down the road.

I tested the new set up this morning at morning spin class at T3. I feel somewhat "taller" and in line on the bicycle and I feel like I'm getting more extension through the pedal stroke. I really felt it at times in my hamstrings and glutes. Maybe this bike fit thing holds water. I'll let you know. I feel like it was money well spent. I recommend it to anyone looking to dial in their bike position for maximum efficiency.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back from New Orleans Ironman 70.3

I'm back. A little sore, plenty sun-burned, and recovering from Sunday's Ironman 70.3 in New Orleans. It was the inaugural race in the "Big Easy" and they put on a nice race. They had over 4000 volunteers on the course and the crowds at the finish line were great.

We had awesome weather on Saturday with sunny skies and coolish temperatures and very little wind. That was Saturday. I awoke Sunday to a light mist falling and high humidity. 99% humidity to be exact. The skies were overcast and the winds were supposed to pick up as the day progressed.

This is the largest 70.3 race in the world according to race organizers. As such there were wave starts. It took 1 1/2 hours to get everyone in the water. My wave was the second of three waves in the 40-44 age group. We left at 8:12 am, an hour and 12 minutes since the pro waves departed. I figured I'd give McCormack et al a head start.

The swim was in the salty water of Lake Ponchartrain. It was a point to point swim that progressed down the sea wall to transition at the University of New Orleans. The water was really nice. It was cool and smooth. I felt like I was making good progress, but my watch said 37 minutes as I got to the end. Not what I had hoped for. After wading ashore and crossing the timing mat my "swim" time had ballooned to just over 39 mins. GRRRR.

The transition area was huge, I decided to take my time at my bike, making sure I took everything with me. I did a quick search for the sun-screen I had forgotten to slather on my white-assed body, but couldn't find it. Still not sure where the sunscreen went. By this time the heat and wind were picking up.

The bike course was an out and back to East New Orleans. The wind was across us and slightly with us on the way out. We followed the hurrican protectin levy along the lake, a concrete paved road with lots of seams and bumps. I saw the pro's returning from the bike course at this point. I gave a shout out to Macca as he went by and saw Natasha Badman. She wasn't smiling. There were a couple of climbs over a draw bridge and overpasses, other than that the course was pretty flat.

We were warned at the mandatory race meeting that we might encounter wild-life out at the far east end of the course. The road travels through the marshes, and it is not uncommon for travelers to see wild pigs, nutria, snakes, and.....alligators. Not the small "cute" alligators" that you see as "pets" or that sometimes find there way into the plumbing in Florida. We're talking Gators!!! Eight, ten, twelve feet in length. One of the locals said they hit them like we do deer here in Central Texas. There was something to look forward to. I'd dodged tumbleweeds in Arizona. Now gators in LA. Unfortunately, there were no gator sightings.

The race course passes by a Folger's coffee roasting facility. So for about 1/2 mile we were treated to the smell of roasted coffee. Not bad. The wind was in our face coming back in. All the same it wasn't the type of wind we've been dealing with here the past month or so. The new Felt B2R sliced through the wind nicely and I was off the bike in 2:38 (21 miles per hour avg). I can live with that. Now off to the run.

I left transition for the run, a point to point course that finished at Jackson Square in the French Quarter. As I came down the chute, I was greeted by my lovely wife, Diane and our son Benjamin cheering for me. Our hosts for the weekend, Angela and Darran were there as well. That gave me a boost. In the first mile, I saw a guy applying sunscreen to his wife/girlfriend as she ran. I came along side and asked if I could have a squeeze (no...not of his wife). He gladly agreed. I now had some sun protection.

I went through the first mile in a little over 8 minutes. That's good, I usually pick it up as I get my legs under me. The legs never responded. I continued to slog along at 8:30 / mile pace. The miles seemed really long. We got a little shade in the city park and some more coming down Esplanade into the French Quarter. A turn on Decatur and on to Jackson Square. I didn't have much left at this point, but managed to run it on in. Finished in 5:16. 42nd out of 283 in my age group. 344 overall. Top 15%. I had hoped for closer to 5 hours, but considering I ran 20 miles the weekend before, I'll take it.

Now we continue on to Idaho.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

If there's one thing you can count on, is that your training plan will go awry at some point. Maybe at many points. Work, family, logistics and simply time can all play havoc with the schedule. That was the case this weekend.

We were supposed to get 100 miles in on the bike and 20 miles running. I know, I know, and no I'm not f---ing crazy. The weather was the culprit, yet again. It's seems like every weekend lately has had at least one crappy day, if not both days. Crappy weather is not such a big deal if you're trying to get in a run. Biking is another story. The weather, once again was extraordinarily windy, due to a late season winter storm that's blanketing the mid-west with snow. Wichita, KS my wife's hometown got two feet!!!

The only day I could ride was on Saturday, they should change the name to Wind-day. I rode the Rosedale Ride, a charity ride that supports special needs kids here in Austin. I set off to ride the 62 mile loop and follow that up with 43 more to get the 100. After it took us 3 hrs, 45 min to get through the first 62, we were collectively "done." My riding partner Laura went home and did two more hours on the trainer. She's a champ. I vegged and ruminated on what a crappy cyclist I am. OK, pity party OVER. It was just a tough day to be on a bike with a steady NW wind between 20 and 30 mph.

I made up for it today with a 20 mile run. We started at 6:30 and got through the first ten, feeling good. We met up with some of our training partners and set off on the last 10. I felt great up through 15 miles. Then it got a little tough. It doesn't matter how good an athlete you are, or how in shape you are, anything beyond 15-16 miles, hurts. I stayed steady, even on the final two miles and finished 20 miles in 2 hr 36 min. My Garmin said I average 7:49 per mile. Not bad for a one-eyed fatman like me. :) (If you get the movie reference, give yourself a gold-star)

All in all a good training weekend. Next up is New Orleans Ironman 70.3 next weekend. I can't wait.

BTW: Congrats to all the Cap 10K finishers, ya'll looked great out there today.