Thursday, December 20, 2012

Random Junk

1) I got the go-ahead to sign up for IMTX. but I haven't signed up yet.  I'm not sure if that makes me smart, scared, cheap, realistic or just a procrastinator.  I'm leaning towards all of the above really.  I wish I could wait until about March, to see how my training is feeling, but that's not an option as the race is nearly sold out.  I'm concerned about trying to bike through the winter here in the north, plus I'm a little worried about trying to race in the the Texas heat after having trained in the northern cold.  In the end, however, I just need to STFU and decide.  Personal deadline, January 5th.

2) Form vs. Repetition.  There's a gym in my building and I walk by it on my way to lunch nearly everyday.   Today I saw a guy knocking out dips at an incredible rate.  The thing was, his elbows were not coming anywhere near 90 degrees.  Now, I'm not Mr. Universe or anything, but even I could see that his form was crazy wrong.  I was immediately reminded of my swimming form.  I'm sure swimmers walk into the pool area, take one look at my swim form and have the same gag reflex that I had today watching dips guy.  The only thing in my favor is that my swim form starts out half decent and degrades over the course of my workout where dips guy's form was bad from the start.  I win.

3) I've not purchased even one Christmas gift yet this year and I don't think I'm going to.  It's not that I'm all scrooge or anything, I'm just not into it.  Don't get me wrong, we (Cath and I) have been good Americans who spent a bundle getting ready for Christmas.  We've installed new light fixtures and we built a built-in bench in the dining room.  Plus we bought and installed new cabinets in the living room and a picture rail.  Actually we've done so much work on the house I'm waiting for the "were moving" discussion to pop-up.  But seriously, not one present, for anyone: wife, kids, grand-kids, mother, etc. What's wrong with me? I guess I'm just demonstrating the Christmas spirit via actions instead of gifts.  That's not too wrong, is it?

Monday, December 3, 2012

November Notes and Numbers

November was an interesting month for me.  I started to exercise again with some regularity, but nothing like actual training.  I realized that it's much easier to train against a training plan and towards a goal vs. "just getting up and going for a run".  I started strength training again and I have to ask "Why am I more sore after a 25 minute calisthenics-based strength training workout than I was after a HIM?"

On a more personal and non-triathlon note, my wife and I moved our daughter and granddaughter out after 6 months of cohabitation (our son-in-law was overseas with the Marines).  This is significant for any number of reasons that I will not get into here, but take it from me, our house is really quiet and sorta lonely.  Turns out I'm a big fan of multi-generational living.

By The (off-season) Numbers

Run: 36 miles
Bike: 0 miles
Swim: 0 laps (I still have not been in the pool since race day, but that's about to change...

The only thing on my books right now is a fast mile (running) and a 1000m time trial (swimming).

To that end I set out on Thanksgiving day with the intent of achieving my one-mile goal.  It was a horribly organized attempt that started with a warm up run to the track, which was all locked up, like it should be on a random Thursday morning.  Next I debated if I should just wait and try some other time.  Then finally  I decided to just sprint home, without any milestones or time checks, and hope that I covered enough distance to actually equal a mile.  Not exactly what I had in mind - my ending elevation was higher than my starting elevation and there were rolling hills in the middle - never the less, Strava tells me that my fastest mile was 6:44 which is 16 seconds under my 7 minute goal.  Winner.

New Goals:
Only one - GET BACK INTO THE POOL!  This should not be a problem.

So that's it for me kids.  How was your turkey month?  Did you get any training done?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What happened to October?

October came and went in a flash and (given that I’m writing this on the 18th of November) I think November will be more of the same.  Regardless, here’s the rundown.

Cycling Miles: 94
Running Miles: 34
Swimming Miles: 3.72

None of these are even close to record distances for me, but that’s fine as I raced mid-month and then took the rest of the month off.

If you follow along at home then you already know that the race was a smashing success, where I hit or just missed every goal I set for myself.

Half Iron: 05:59:20

The only thing that I hoped would happen, but that did not, was a sub two hour half-marathon.  This was a stretch goal, but I was hopeful none the less.  I ended up running it just under 2:07 which is still good for me, but several minutes off of where I though, maybe, I could be.

So with the race over, it’s on to some sort of maintenance plan and then some decision making about next year.  I know I’ll do another 70.3 or maybe two, but I’m not sure which ones yet.  There’s the Pittsburgh marathon in May, so maybe the half there to try again for a sub two.  And then there’s the elephant in the room, which is full iron distance.  And there it is in black and white…  I’m not sure if I want to go there and I’m totally sure that Cath does not want me to go there.  I guess I’ve got some thinking to do, which is good since I have some extra time since my training schedule has cooled off.

So that’s it for October.  Hopefully I will not be so late with a November recap.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Race Report - Waterman's Half IM

The race was Saturday, so my Friday schedule involved half a day of work, the drive to DC, beltway rush hour traffic and then even more rush hour traffic on 210 as we turned south away from DC into Southern Maryland.  I was not fully ready before I left for work Friday morning, which meant a late start on the drive. That meant we got to General Smallwood Park about 5 minutes after packet pick-up closed on Friday night.  No big deal, I tell myself, it's an eight o'clock start tomorrow, so plenty of time in the morning for sticking stickers.

Off to the Super-8 to check in  and then a quick drive to the local Subway for dinner.  I think I was in bed by 9:00, where I tried to sleep and eat and drink my way through the night.  I picked up the "Feed Zone Cookbook" not long before the race and I was noshing on peanut and chocolate chip rice bars, which I highly recommend as they are excellent.  

Saturday morning came bright dark and early and COLD.  There was a hard frost on the top of the car and I was wearing more of my snowboarding gear than I care to admit.  

Packet pickup went smoothly as did body marking and the other usual prerace obligations.

Other than the cold, It was a lovely day in Indian Head Maryland.

I went off to setup my transition while Cath found a spot outside of the transition area where she could take pictures.  It seemed like we were the only rule followers as transition was somewhat crowded with non-racers.  No big deal I guess.
With my transition setup, it was time to get dressed for the swim.  I can tell you from experience, there is nothing like trying to don a wet suit in 35 degree weather.  It was COLD.  My poor feet were freezing before I even got into the water and they only got worse from there.
Here is a great picture of me getting ready to swim.  Note that I'm wearing a jacket over my wet suit since it's 35 degrees outside!  I was also lucky to have Cath there to take my jacket and shoes back to the car after the start.  Also notice the winter coats and hats in the background.  Like I said, it was cold.
The swim went very well, excellently actually.  I had some trouble with my goggles - they kept filling up with water - so I spent part of the swim with my left eye closed since I did not want to stop and fix the leak.  Finally, I stopped for a second to deal with the leak and got back to swimming in stereo again.  My only issue with the swim is that it was a counterclockwise pattern.  I'm a right-side breather, so the counterclockwise pattern meant that the guide markers were always on my left and thus were hard to see.  Especially so while I was swimming with my left eye closed.  In spite of this I was able to keep the zig-zagging to a minimum and find my way around the course.

Here is a great shot of the swim finish.  At this point, I can't feel my feet and I wonder when I'll be able to feel them again...  Also, I have no explanation for the look on my face other than the fact that I've just spent 45 minutes in 61 degree water on a 35 degree day.
Swim split 00:44:26 which is 34 seconds under my 45 minute goal.  Such a great start!

T1 was pretty empty and I had a prime spot, right on the end of the line of racks.  I moved fast in T1, but I had lots to do and I was struggling somewhat with my poor feet.  Lose the wet suit, add the socks, shoes and helmet.  Quickly spray my legs and arms with sunscreen and I'm off towards the mount line.

T1 split 04:53.  Yikes.  I had no specific goal for the transitions but I wanted to try and be under eight minutes combined.

Here I am running towards the mount line with my bike. (still can't feel my feet)
I did a lot of transition practice in my race preperation and I'm really glad about that.  I don't know if you can see it in the picture or not, but I still have my watch on my wrist and I'm not wearing my bike gloves or arm warmers.  I am wearing my shoes, which I'm sure is slower than not, but I'm not that advanced yet.  Anyway, what I really practiced was switching the watch from my wrist to the handlebar mount and then putting on my gloves while I'm riding.  This went very smoothly today and it got me out of transition quickly!

I don't have any pictures of me on the bike because of the way that the course loop worked.  Maybe I'll by one or two and add them later, maybe not.  Regardless, the bike loop was gorgeous.  Lots of rolling hills and flats and not too much wind.  I did my best to stay in aero position and I also tried to stay on the large chainring as much as possible.  Actually I think I only dropped to the small ring once or twice the whole loop.

I followed my nutrition plan to a T (where does that saying come from?) and finished off about 64 ounces of water.  

Bike split 03:01:18, which is 1:18 slower than my three hour goal.

Here I am in transition after three hours on the bike. (Yikes, I still can't feel my feet)
T2 went much quicker than T1 since I had a lot less to do.  I dropped the helmet and gloves, changed shoes and picked up my sunglasses, water belt, race belt and visor and I was off.

T2 split 01:55.  Yea!  Thus my combined transition time was 06:48 which is well under my eight minute goal.

Here I am starting out on the run; still not feeling my feet.
The run was a lovely two lap, out-and-back setup.  The only thing I was really not prepared for that day was the hills on the run.  Right out of transition there was a nasty steep hill and then there was another, longer hill before mile two.  Most of my run training has been on riverfront trails, which are mostly flat.  Thus, I just was not prepared for the hills.  Guess that's something to work on for next time.

This is me finishing the first lap, and yes, I can finally feel my feet.  They came back after about mile two, at which point I wished they had not come back.  Fortunately, that only lasted for another mile or so and I was back to normal.  My first lap time was almost exactly one hour, so I was still on pace for my overall goal.
Around mile 10 my plan was to try and pickup the pace and lay down a nice kick to the finish line.  I hit the turnaround and then the mile 10 marker and I tried to kick, but I really did not have much of anything left, so I kept one eye on the road and the other on my heart monitor.  Every time the monitor dropped below where I wanted to be, I hit the spurs and tried to speed up - clearly I was having trouble maintaining pace.

I think there is a mental lesson in there somewhere, but I'm still not sure exactly where or what yet.  What I've found on longer runs and rides is that when I daydream or lose focus the time passes much faster, which is good, but that I tend to run/ride slower, which is bad.  That will be an area of future focus and investigation.

Right around mile 12 I finally looked at my watch to see my combined time - 5:48 and change.  Thus, my under six hour goal was still within reach.  I tried to kick even harder and just keep putting one foot in front of the other as fast as I could.

 Here is a short video clip of me running towards the finish line.
Run split - 02:06:49, which is almost 7 minutes slower than my two hour goal, but still fast enough to get the final time I was looking for!

Final Time - 05:59:20. Yea!  40 seconds under my six hour goal!

After the finish I felt fine, but there was a moment or two where I thought I was going to throw up.  I'm not sure why, but it was touch-and-go for a bit there.  Here is a great shot of me, almost but not throwing-up.
Finally, another shot a minute or two later, after I've had a chance to compose myself.  You can see the composure, right...
So overall it was an excellent day.  It was my first try and this distance so everything was a PR, but I actually hit or only just missed every goal I set for myself that day.  I really executed right on plan and man does that feel great.  

A special thanks goes out to Cath, my wonderful wife, who took all of the pictures and video.  Thanks babe, for the pictures and for dealing with my crazy training schedule and for spending all day waiting around for me to swim, ride or run by and wave.  I love you!

So how did your last race go?  Are you happy with your result or just happy that you stood/swam at the starting line?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Game Day, Baby, Game Day


So that sums up my feelings at this point.  The last five months of effort will be evaluated over ~six hours tomorrow.  Sort of like spending hours wrapping gifts and watching them get torn open in about five minutes.  Or spending all day cooking a great meal that gets eaten in an hour.

No matter what the outcome, I am thrilled and excited about what I've accomplished.  I'm in the best shape of my adult life.  I know more about sports nutrition than ever before.  I've trained hard and I stuck with the plan even though it was an all consuming bitch.

So on to the happy thoughts.  Tomorrow I'm going to execute the shit out of my plan and have the race that I know I'm capable of!

Goals in priority order:
1) Finish
2) Don't walk during the run
3) Hurt
4) Put EVERYTHING out there, don't leave anything on the table
5) Finish in under 6 hours
6) Have fun

I know that have fun should be a higher priority, but right now I'm not looking at it that way.  I will have fun during setup and after the race - no doubt, but during the race my focus will be about executing, not about fun.

Best of luck to everyone else who is racing this weekend, I hope you are able to get it done and do yourselves proud.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

So Long September

September was a great training month for me and I'm really excited about that.  I put down some serious miles (for me) and also some PRs that I'm very proud about.  Let's start with the numbers:

Cycling Miles: 226
Running Miles: 79
Swimming Miles: 8.6

All three are record distances for me for a training month and I'm feeling really strong right now.

In addition to the miles, I put down three personal records in September.  All three were in training runs/swims, so I hope to see even lower times in the near future.  Two of the three were first timers in that I had never covered that distance before or I had never specifically timed that distance before.  So now for the details:

1000 meter TT - 23:18 on September 22

This is not the first time I've swum this distance, but it was the first time I did it specifically as a TT.  I'm really pleased with this time because I worked so hard in the pool and it seems to have paid off.  I realize that most swimmers will look at this time and shrug, but for me this is blazing fast.  Sweet!

Half Marathon - 2:06:00 on September 13th and then...
Half Marathon - 2:00:09 on September 27th!

September 13th was the first time I have ever run this distance so I was feeling it out and trying to determine how strong I would be at the end.  Plus it was a training run so I was more interested in the training aspect vs. the PR.  Still, I was pretty close to the two hour mark and that made me very happy!

September 27th was also a training run, but I pushed a little harder at the end to try and get in under two hours - so close but yet so far.  I feel like I executed really well on both of these runs.  I was very comfortable with pace, nutrition and hydration.  I was able to run really strong and still feel like I had a lot left in the tank at the end.

So that was my September, you can clap now if you like!  Hopefully October will be just as productive, successful and exciting.

How was your September?  Did you finish any races or set any personal records?

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Goals

My first ever HIM is coming up in less than three weeks and today I found myself thinking about "the after" questions.  You know, "what are you going to do with all of that free time" and "what race is next" and "what about next year".

Anytime I pour myself into something as big as this, I always end up with the post-race blues, so this time I'm trying a different approach.  I figure if I set new, post-race goals, today then I'll still have something to look forward to on saturday night after the race is over. Sure, I'm going to take some time off to rest and recover, but then I want to get right back on the horse (so to speak) and keep training.

So, that brings me back to my goals for the rest of the year and into the early part of 2013.

I'm a new swimmer and I have been spending what I think is a ton of time in the pool. So far it has paid off in that I'm 100% confident that I can go 2km, in open water, without fear of drowning or having to stop and breast or back stroke. This is a big deal for me and I'm quite proud of this accomplishment, but back to my goal, which is to get faster!  My current PR for a 1000m time trial is 23:18, my goal is to get that down to 20:00 by April 1, 2013.  There, it's in writing and I can't take it back. Do-able?  Who knows, but I'm going to go for it. Based on fact or science or any known plan?  Hell no, at least not yet. Guess its time to go lookup swimming workout plans.

I'm not sure what my running plans are for next year, but I know that along with swimming, running will be a focus through the winter.  I've been building throughout the summer and am happy with my splits. I ran a 2:05 half marathon the other day in a training run and I had lots left in the tank when I was finished. Maybe I'll do the half in Pittsburgh in May, who knows. For now though, my goal is for a much shorter distance - one mile. I would like to run a mile in under 7 minutes before the end of the year.  My (post college) PR for a mile is 7:32, but the other day I ran a 3:11 half, so I think this is less pixie dust and 4-leaf clovers than my swimming goal.

Nope, no specific and time-bound goal here. Not for the winter anyway. Cycling is my strongest and most favorite of the Tri sports, so I will ride on nice days through the fall as swimming and running allow, but not towards any specific end.

Right, so all of this looking forward and I've forgotten to mention my goals for the race. First and foremost, my goal is to finish. Even if I end up missing a cut-off, I'm still going to finish.  If, however I happen to have a great day and I'm able to run the race that I know I'm capable of running, then my time goal is under six hours. The way I see it, it breaks down like this. I know that I can get the bike done in about three hours and the run and swim together should be about three hours, so that's how I get to six.  More specifically, every minute that I'm under one hour on the swim is a minute that I can be over two hours on the run.  I'll need to be really fast in transition, but I've been practicing the shit out of that (seriously) so I'm confident.

So there they are, in black and white, for all 3 of my readers.  Here's to a great race and then a productive and wonderful fall.

So what about you, do you still have goals left to accomplish in 2012?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Do you clean your gel packs before you use them?

I thought about this during a recent long ride as I was trying to suck/squeeze out the last bit of my last gel.  Hey, self, "Where has this pack been and how many people have had their nasty hands on it?" because you're putting it in your mouth!  I was hungry, so I pushed this thought out of my head and kept squeezing, but the thought stuck with me after I got home. 

Some of my gels I bought in case quantity and I opened the case when I got them home. These don't concern me that much. 

Others came from open cartons at REI, Performance, etc.  These cases were opened in the store and hopefully they were not touched, sneezed-on or dropped too many times before I picked them up. I guess washing these would be a good idea...

Finally, I have some "race schwag" gels. Lord only knows where these have been and which volunteer put them in my bag and when they last washed their hands (ewe).  These are now in the must wash pile.

So what do you think, am I being up tight, or do you think about this kind of stuff too?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Race Report - Pittsburgh International Triathlon

Back in May of this year I made the decision that I was going to do a triathlon.  My secret plan was to do a Half IM distance, but to play it safe, I told people I was going to do an international / Olympic distance.  Since this was new to me, I did what everyone does when they want to learn about new things, I Googled it.

My search for beginner triathlon training plans returned hundreds of useful sites and a great training plan that was complete and seemingly doable.  So with a plan in hand, I was off and running (and, of course, biking and swimming).

As I worked through the plan one topic kept coming up over and over again, which was "nothing new on race day".  Seems logical to me.  Of course, what I came to realize is that meant racing should not be new on race day, which meant I needed to get a real race under my belt before my mystical future Half IM.

Back to Google, where I find lots of useful information on the Pittsburgh Triathlon including the fact that it's scheduled for July 29th, which is a perfect spot in my training cycle, so I signed up!

Lot's of training later and it's finally the day before race day.  I cut out of work right at the crack of 5:00 and head across the river to packet pickup.

Packet pickup for my first ever triathlon.  I'm was so excited, I had to take a picture!

Saturday comes and goes and I find time to get in one final workout, attend the prerace meeting, ask all my questions and pick up a few odds and ends and then it's time for bed for a good night of sleep.

Sunday, I'm up before the sun, I gather all of my things and ride my way over to the start.  I setup transition, talk with some new people, run into my orthopedic surgeon who is swimming for a relay team, etc.  Finally, it's time to head off for the start.

As you can probably tell by the name of the blog, I'm not the strongest of swimmers.  Actually, it's the swim that has kept me out of triathlon to this point and it's the challenge of the swim that has me the most concerned and also the most interested as I approach this race.

I spent a fair amount of time in the pool in preparation  plus I took some swimming lessons at the Y from a coach who turned out to be way more knowledgeable than I expected I would find at the Y.  So anyway, I'm feeling prepared, but I'm also feeling like 1500 meters is a long way and all the rain the night before has the river raging and looking like a boiling glass of chocolate milk.  It's also not helpful that the first one-third of the swim is up stream in the aforementioned current.

Of course, the good news is that two-thirds of the swim are downstream and the raging current carries my water treading, freestyle and breast stroking ass to the end in record time!

Here's a shot of my tired ass leaving the water after the swim.
Swim split 31:49

I had some transition practice under my belt prior to the race, so I'm not unhappy with my time in T1 and the good news is I did not forget anything or get lost, etc. so I consider my first ever T1 a success.

T1 split 2:36

Again, from the name of the blog, I think you can deduce that cycling is my strongest event and this race certainly proved that to be true.  The course was a two lap affair where the first half of each lap was nearly all up hill and the second half was mostly down hill.  I tried to find a pace that would leave me energy for the run but still be fast.  I think I did fine in spite of the fact that my watch decided that today would be a good day for a vacation.

Here's a picture of me starting out on lap two.
All-in-all, a successful bike with no major issues other than dropping my chain half way through the second lap and having to get off the bike to get it reengaged.

Bike split 1:16:27

Nothing to say really about T2 other than the fact that I forgot to take off my bike gloves as the picture below proves.

T2 split 1:49

Me leaving T2 for the run, still wearing my bike gloves.  Of course I did not even realize that fact until about 30 second after this picture was taken.

The run was a flat out and back along the river.  I was concerned about my right calf since I was recovering from a bad calf cramp a couple of weeks earlier.  I ran at a comfortable pace until I hit the turnaround and then I started to pick up the pace somewhat.  In the end, I had enough energy left for a pretty strong kick to the finish.

Here are two shots taken at the line.
I'm happy with my run, but I also know that I could have done it faster had I not been worried about my calf.  Of course I'm much happier to have finished with something left vs. pushing and dealing with another calf cramp.

Run split 53:59

I am thrilled with the day and with my result.  I completed a triathlon!  The training plan worked very well, I'm happy with my nutrition plan and I'm happy with my execution.

Total Time 02:46:44

Next stop Half IM?

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm Going the Distance (Well, Half of it Actually)

I've been talking about, and training for a 70.3 mile triathlon since my knee surgery back in March. I've had several potential races in mind but the one that works best for my schedule, travel, etc. is the Waterman's Half in Marbury, MD on Saturday October 13th.  

I'm far enough along in my training and happy enough with my progress that today I finally, actually, handed over my money and signed up!  So that's it, no excuses, I'm committed and I CAN'T WAIT!

In case you're interested, here is the actual race marketing description...

What's really great is that my search for course info on this race lead me to a couple of tri blogs that I really like...  Here are the race reports and course description from those blogs.

Hopefully my race, and race report will be as interesting and inspiring as these great posts. 

The other site that I have come to love and rely on is beginner triathlete. Here is the race description from that site and also some of their member reviews from the 2011 race. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

One Deadly Summer

For Pittsburgh bicyclists, the summer of 2012 brought mayhem, injury and death.  Here is a summary of news clips.  Take a minute, read the the stories and remember to be careful out there...

7/31/2012 - wilkinsburg - cyclist killed, driver fled the scene. 

Wake up and Lick the Strap!

I don't know about you, but right now my morning routine is pretty consistent: I wake up, grab my HR monitor strap, give it a good wet lick, fasten it around my chest and then proceed to get dressed for whatever workout is on my plan.

I'm in the middle of my final build before a mid-October 70.3 so my hours right now are at peak.  This means that most days I end up following this routine in the dark, while trying to get my shirt on right-side-out and forwards.  Usually that's not an issue but many of my running shirts have no tags, so it can be hard to tell if I'm backwards and/or inside-out.

So what about you does any of this sound familiar?  Do you have any tips on the challenge of right-side-out and forwards?  I'm all ears...