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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mother Nature won't let winter go

Well, for the last couple of weeks we've been training hard. Those who have been through this before take some of the day to day crap in stride while some of the newbies worry about every little thing. A good lesson for all of us given the mishaps of the previous weeks and the rather, shall we say, unsavory weather conditions we've been treated to.

Two weeks ago, we had a 70-ish mile bike ride planned. Rosedale course. Flat to rolling terrain. No big deal. The weather was supposed to be a little cool with a 20% chance of light rain. We left early to get a jump on the crushers (19+ mph group). I was with Jim Opre and his band of angels. The ride started well and we had no mishaps. As we finished our first loop the skies opened. Not much, but just enough to make the roads treacherous to say the least. I also noticed that the front fork and headset on my bike was extremely loose. As we debated the wisdom of going out for another loop I attempted to tighten the headset on the bike, but then thought better of it. I'd do more damage than good. The headset was so loose I'm amazed I made it back without the entire handle-bar assembly and fork popping loose. Check your bikes before you ride kids. By this time the north wind had picked up to about 20-25 mph. The cold front had arrived. We slogged through a 40 minute brick run alternating between fighting the wind and having it blow us down the trail.

We also received word that Logan had gone down in a crash. He apparently was following Maurice and touched wheels. When this occurs the following rider almost without fail, goes down. This was no exception. A real bummer, because Logan's training had been going so well. He said as much on more than one occasion. And to be taken out by your coach, the cruelest cut of all.........hey......wait a minute....Hmmmmm. But I digress. Fortunately, Logan suffered fairly minor injuries that have him sidelined for a few weeks.

We also got word that Jeremiah broke a spoke, so he and I and Logan were both done cycling for the day.

Laurie, who hadn't ridden long the previous week, decided to go out for another loop on the bike. I suggested she lower the pressure in her tires to put a little more rubber on the road. It's what the pros do, I swear. At any rate, Laurie had a particularly nasty spill on Melber Road and ended up in the hospital with bumps and bruises. She posted the pics on the T3 website. Not good. Fortunately, no broken bones and she was back at spin practice by the following Thursday.

A day of carnage, to say the least.

This past week built on the Character 101 I referred to in an earlier post. The weather, once again wasn't going to cooperate. High winds were expected on Saturday, (a gust of over 50 mph was recorded in the area). Maurice and Chrissie changed the run to Saturday (18 miles) followed by 80 miles on the bike for Sunday. We were to do two 7 mile loops and a 4 mile loop at the Town Lake trail. First loop was to be easy, with a stronger second loop, and a final four miles being our strongest. I arrived early to get a jump start on the run. I met up with Robert and his friend Lisa from AustinFit and they joined me for the first loop. I went 8:20 / mile on the first loop. Dropped the pace to 7:45 / mile the second loop and finished the 4 mile loop around 7:30 / mile. With two miles remaining, I met up with George Schmitz. He was cruising along at a 7:30 pace and looked effortless. He said he was hurting. I couldn't tell. I rode his coattails the final 2 miles to finish off the 18. Did I mention the wind was howling???

Sunday's forecast was for less wind and cold temps early rising into the 60's. It was 34 degrees in the morning. I broke out the poor-man's feet warmers and bundled up. I departed with the early group, hoping to get about 4 1/2 hours on the bike. We pulled out on to Loop 360 and our plan changed. The wind was right out of the north, blowing steadily at 15-20 mph. Some of our group made it on traffic light and turned around, opting for 4 hours on the trainer (ugh). I put my head down and forged ahead. I rode with the group for about 100 yards and that was it for the rest of the day.

My thought was to ride ahead and then wait on them to catch up. As I pressed on the wind never let up. I averaged around 14 mph the first hour and that included some nice downhills. The second hour was worse. I saw 10 mph, 9 mph, 8 mph as I climbed hills that would normally require minimal effort. I then thought about turning around. Map my ride said the road ended at Parmer and CR 286. (36 miles in). 72 miles in these conditions wouldn't be bad, I thought. I arrived at the intersection only to find that the kind folks at Roads and Bridges had extended the road. I was going to get my 40 miles in afterall. Good times. All told, it took just under three hours to get out to the 40 mile mark.

Now for the trip back. After slogging along at 15 mph, I was suddenly doing 20 + mph. Cruising along at 25 mph. I saw 30 mph on one stretch. This was much nicer. I saw my group still on the way out. I think I had 3-4 miles on them at that point. I decided to press on. The trip back, including a stop at the convenience store for some much needed Nutter Butters took a little over 2 hours. I averaged a scorching 16.6 mph for the entire ride. Disheartening at best.

I glad I got out there and did it, in hindsight. It seemed nuts at the time. If I can ride in those conditions, I can handled just about anything. Mother Nature's made her point. Maybe we'll get a break by race day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Character Building 101

In my other life, I coach beginning marathoners through AustinFit, a subdivision of USA Fit. Since I've run 12 marathons and two ultras (50K), I feel I have a good depth of experience to draw on. Translation....I've made all the stupid mistakes and can warn the others to do as I say and not as I do. The Austin Marathon was earlier today. I saw a lot of people I know, and a lot more that I didn't know. They all were an inspiration in their enthusiasm and energy. Whether is was your first marathon or your 30th, well done.

Now that AustinFit has wrapped up for another running season, I was able to join my T3 brethren for a bit of ridin' and runnin' this weekend. Saturday's menu included an out and back 60 mile ride on Fitzhugh Road, a lightly traveled Ranch Road that meanders out to Johnson City, a small town west of Austin. Picture a ride that feels like it is uphill in both directions. Good times.

I had never been past the intersection of Ranch Road 12 and Fitzhugh, at least not for any significant distance. This was going to be uncharted territory. The weather this week in Austin was great. We had a little rain but the temperatures had come up nicely. I woke up Saturday and the temp was 53 degrees. By the time I left the house, it was 51. This did not bode well...surely it would warm up into the 60's. I searched around the various clothes baskets strewn around the house, looking for my leggings. No luck. Oh well, it'll warm up. Or so I thought.

My plan was to ride with the 18-19 mile per hour pace group for this ride. We weren't supposed to hammer it. Coaches orders. I was looking forward to a day in the saddle with my training buddies. I reached our jump off point and quickly threw on another layer and some gloves to keep out the chill. The temp in my car dipped into the high 40's on my way there. It'll warm up, no worries.

To my dismay, when I arrived, the 18-19 mile group had already left. All that remained was the crushers. We set off, into a steady north wind that would be in our face or cutting across us most of the day. I took my place at the back of the pack and tried to hang on. That lasted about 10 miles. They gradually rode off into the sunset, leaving me and Brian to fend for ourselves. At least Brian and I could catch up. Then at 20 miles, Brian turned back. Bummer. I was all by myself, to deal with the remaining hills and wind on Fitzhugh.

I was aiming for the 30 mile mark so I could turn around. I'd already been softened up by a few testy hills on the ride so far. Mile 25 came and the hills became truly disagreeable. I watched my odometer kick over to 29 miles covered and I saw the crushers returning from the turn around. Only a little further. We were supposed to turn around once we reached a cattle guard in the road. That's great, only it's at the bottom of a screaming downhill. That means...that's right genius, you've gotta go back up the way you came.

I've gone slower on a bike than I did climbing outta that hole yesterday, but not by much. I saw 9 mph, 8 mph, 6 mph...this was gonna be a long one. My Garmin told me later that there were some sections that reached 15-16% in grade. A thigh burner. I tried to find a gear I could spin and tried to stay in the moment and deal with the next obstacle...good training for the many expected and unexpected things that can happen during an Ironman.

I climbed out and kept working. I actually past a few of the early group riders. The going got easier after RR 12. I had hoped to cover the 60 miles in a little over 3 hours. I reached my car in 3:35. Discouraging to say the least, but that's Fitzhugh. Coach Mo called it a character builder and it was. The temperature never got much over 50 degrees. Mark Murray's got's some splainin' to do.

To wrap up the weekend, I treated myself to 14 miles on the Town Lake Trail today. Two 7 miles loops. With the marathon going on, I had the trail to myself for the most part. I managed an overall 7:35 pace for the run. Pretty respectable after the previous day's ride. Hopefully this weekend's training "deposit" with pay off come June.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Poor-man's feet warmers and 620 @ 15 mph

I'm a notorious wimp when it comes to biking in cold temperatures. For me, anything below about 50 degrees seems cold. Mainly it is my feet and hands that get particularly cold and make the entire bike ride miserable. I have toe-warmers that cover the front of my cycling shoes, but they don't block the wind effectively. Enter the poor-man's foot warmers.

I was on the verge of buying shoe covers or booties so I can avoid another marathon session on the bike trainer, climbing the walls. Jack Murray (Jack And Adams Bike Shop Rules - Shameless Plug) suggested a simple solution that would get me through to spring without having to spring for the booties.

This morning I geared up for my cold weather ride (it was 48). I had a long-sleeve heat shirt, a jersey, arm-warmers, leggings and gloves (I told you, I'm a wimp). To keep my feet warm I put on thick socks and then stuck my feet into an plastic HEB bag. I then put the shoe on over them. Wah-lah. Instant warmth for the feet. I rode 53 miles and I could feel my toes the entire time. Thanks Jack. That brings me to the second part of my post.

I intended to do an out and back from my house down 620 to Anderson Mill and then out Parmer for a little cruise, nothing hard. My plan was to go out about 1 1/2 hours (Approx 25-30 miles) and turn around. The ride started off pretty tough. There's good hill coming out of my neighborhood and my legs were a little dead from yesterday's run. But the hill was a little harder than it should've been. At the top of the hill, I checked my bike, the front brake was rubbing. DOH!!!

The wind seemed very calm and I was cruising along nicely, a little too nicely, I was to learn later. Going out Parmer was a snap, I was cruising up the hills at 22 mph, boy those indoor T3 cycling classes are really paying off, I thought. The only wind seemed to be blowing in from the west. I made my turn around at 26.5 miles in a little over an hour and twenty minutes. This is great. Then I turned around.

I was greeted with a fairly strong Southwest wind. It became clear in short order that I would beat up against the wind for the entire 26 miles back to the house. When you're in a constant headwind you just have to find a gear you can spin comfortably and deal with it. I made it down Parmer and Anderson Mill over to 620. The wind was coming down 620 like a wind tunnel. I was dead into it at this point. Rather than spinning out in the small ring, I decided to try grinding it out in the big ring, my thought being that the wheels will go just that much further with each revolution of the pedals. I looked down at my speed....14 mph...a little downhill..17 mph...flat....15 mph. It was a disagreeable experience. I ground it out and got back to the house right at 3 hours. It took an hour and 40 minutes to get back. I averaged 18 mph for the day. Good times.

I keep telling myself, I've ridden in worse conditions. Like Ironman Arizona 2007 when the strength of the wind dislodged a "tumbleweed" the size of a Volkswagen and took out a rider. More of a tumble-bush. So keep your head's down and keep riding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Avoiding burnout and the 100 X 100's

One of the keys to staying fresh and energized while training for the Ironman or for any endeavor is to incorporate variety into your routine. As much fun as swimming, biking and running is, it can get a little monotonous if you don't mix it up. You should be flexible and be prepared to alter your plan as your available time and conditions fluctuate. By varying your workouts and not being totally in thrall to a given prescribed training session is OK and, in fact, should be encouraged. Otherwise training becomes a chore and burnout is close at hand.

That's where the 100 X 100's comes in. On a "normal" week, my brethren and I at T3 will have a long bike ride on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday. This past Sunday was different in that T3 held it's annual 100 X 100's swim workout. This involves 10 sets of 10 one-hundred meter swims (two laps in a 25 meter pool). You can swim as much or as little as you like so long as you do it in 100 meter increments. To keep it fun and interesting, our coaches mixed in a variety of drill sets, pulling sets with paddles and sets with fins. The total distance is 10,000 meters or 6.2 miles of swimming.

We descended on the pool at 7:30 am and started swimming. Two hours later, I bowed out, having covered 6000 meters. By this time my shoulders felt like they belonged to someone else and my mouth was parched from the chlorinated water. It seemed I had stuffed and entire bag of cotton balls into my mouth and then chased it with a box of saltine crackers. No amount of water or sports drink could cure it, until I got out of the water. I know what your thinking....so where's the "fun" part of all this?

Truth be told, triathletes are a strange breed. The tougher the workout the more we like it. Oh, we'll complain the whole way, but when it's all said and done we've enjoyed ourselves more than you can know. If the conditions are tough, we're happy. If the hill is steep, we want to tell people we climbed it. If the distance is insane, we want to cover it and tell our non-triathlete friends about it, just to see the looks of abject horror on their faces when we tell them what a blast we had. So the prospect of swimming over 6 miles, early on a Sunday morning is like manna from heaven to our sick and twisted species. Oh, and there was bacon...

That's right, bacon. As alluring as 10K of swimming is, you can't go wrong by throwing a little bacon on top of it all. Coach Maurice (Mo) was poolside most of the morning whipping out flap-jacks, eggs sunny-side up, and yummy crispy bacon. Some of us made pancake, egg and bacon fold-over sandwiches to...ahem....refuel after the workout. It was a nice team building experience, and it was fun to finally see some of the really good swimmers "struggle" as they pushed through the last few 100's. Keep in mind their "struggles" still looked graceful and almost....almost effortless to those of us who swim in the lanes way on the other side of the pool.

To all who participated, it was great to see you. To those who swam all 10,000 meters, well done and......are you freaking nuts!!!!???? Cheers.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The "Meathead" Gene

When training for an Ironman it is important to avoid or at least temper what I call the "meathead" gene. It is present in all of us to some degree or another. Some control it with skill and others let it all hang out so to speak. When properly harnessed it can push you to new heights. When left to run amok, it can derail an entire race or racing season. It can be part of your training, or can infiltrate from another compartment in your life and affect everything. A super-duper human computer virus. This was my situation last Monday.

Being a husband, father, triathlete, and holding down a job places numerous and complex demands on my time and stamina. Those in my situation know this all too well. Those not in this situation, no doubt, have other obligations and people competing for their attention. Sometimes it gets frustrating and the meathead gene takes over.

Last Monday, faced with a screaming, stubborn child who wouldn't go to bed, my frustration boiled over. I had the good sense (at least) to leave the room, but that's about where my sense ended and the meathead in me took over. I pounded my fist into the wall in our kitchen. The wall gave, but not enough. My hand became swollen and it hurt, alot. X-rays the next day confirmed I cracked a bone in my hand. The fortunate thing about this episode, is that I didn't snap the bone. That would have sidelined me for at least two months and seriously jeopardized this year's Ironman prep.

I was able to get in my training for the week, for the most part. And I had a not so friendly reminder to think....just think. The worst part about it wasn't the pain in my hand, but having to sheepishly explain my idiocy (aka meatheadedness) to my friends.

The meathead gene should be kept in the box for your training, racing and pretty much all other aspects of your lives. About the only time the meathead gene can really help, is in a sprint triathlon, but only when used in small amounts. Otherwise, keep "Wild Mike" in the box. Train hard, train smart, don't punch the walls.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Every journey starts with a single step....

The distances are insane. The undertaking is daunting. You must be prepared for anything. And that's just the training. Never mind the race.

Once again, I, like many other age groupers around the world, sat at my computer with my finger perched above the submit button contemplating my registration for the Ironman and what that means. For the uninitiated, the unknowns are many. For those, repeat offenders such as myself, we know (to a degree) what registering for an Ironman race entails. Hours of swimming, biking, and running. Tinkering with equipment and nutrition. Trying to find what works in the hope that we can put it all together on race day and have the time of our lives.

The race this year is Ironman Coeur D'Alene in Northern Idaho. It is a beautiful venue with wonderful volunteers. We'll have an opportunity to see alot of scenery along the way as we cover 140.6 miles (2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of biking and a full 26.2 mile marathon). A full day indeed.

I did my first Ironman there in 2003. Fourteen and a half hours of "self-exploration." Almost all people (almost all normal people) at some point in the race wonder what the hell they have gotten themselves into. I know I felt this way after the first loop on the bike. At the time I did the race, the bike course ventured into the State of Washington making Couer D'Alene the only Ironman course that was in two States. Since that time, the course has changed. It's all in Idaho and....it's harder!!!! If that's possible.

In 2003, I trained exclusively with three triathletes, Rafael, Carlos, and David who basically made me their training donkey for the better part of 6 months. "Training with" is a bit inaccurate. What's more accurate is that we started each activity together and I would see them at the end. In between, especially on the bike, I was by myself. Lonely, but good training for some of the isolation you feel in an Ironman.

I now train with T3, an Austin based training group that I've been part of for the past four years. I'm somewhat of an antique as longevity with the team goes. Our coaches are great. They are always positive and motivating. If you can't find a workout that suits your schedule, you're doing something wrong. Probably working too much.

This year 71 of us are trekking to Idaho for the race. Amazing. Over 70 people of the 102 people from Austin and Central Texas registered for the race are with T3. This doubles the largest group T3 has ever taken to a race. Our training has just started. This week called for 9 total hours of training. I'm already behind. I can't and won't beat myself up about it....at least not much. We are all still trying to find that balance between work, family and our hobby. It takes planning and a willingness to be flexible. And a willingness to train in the dark.

In the months ahead, I'll track my training here and hopefully have a story or two to share from the trail, road or pool. We have a diverse group of people of all ages and from all walks of life. This is going to be fun.

Once more unto the breach...dear friends