Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Metronome

I've had this love-hate thing going on with my metronome. I love the idea. I hate the implementation. Sound familiar? I love the idea of being a World Champion. I hate the amount of work its gonna take me to get there :-)

The verdict is mixed on cadence in running, near as I can tell. I always tell people, for every one article that is for a given study on the inter-web, I can find another that is against it. That's why I always follow the policy of trust, but verify, and I always corroborate with my own experiences.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that a runner that is moving at 160 steps a minute is not going to run as fast as a runner moving at 180 steps per minute, unless the first runner is striding far longer, with the resulting impact on form and pounding to the body.

They (the gods of the internet) say that if there is one thing you can do to improve your running in an overall profound way, cadence would be it. A high cadence shortens your stride, lessens the impact of your footfalls, optimizes the expenditure of energy, promotes a mid-foot strike, yada yada yada...

My problem is that it also encourages... exhaustion :-) You have to work equally hard at upping your cadence as you do controlling your heart rate. I haven't been running all that much, and while a lot of time in Zone 4 is appealing, my body just wasn't ready for it.

Maybe it was ready for the 85 degree temperatures.

I went to the land of flatness (Hobgood Park), and ran around the fields while Matthew kicked the soccer ball on the pitch. I ran for forty minutes, which consisted of: ten minutes warm up, then 4x5 minutes @ 180 cadence, 1 minute walking, and a five minute cool down.

This will be my model for running the rest of the year. Whether I am doing hills, intervals, tempo, long slow run, whatever, my focus will be cadence.

and let's see where this takes us....


Monday, June 28, 2010

A (sort of) Wake Up Call

My performance at my last two half Ironman races has left me in a state of reflection. You did know that I like to reflect, didn't you? Basically, I have yet to hit my goal of having a STRONG run off the bike. Hills be damned. Heat index of sun-surface like temperatures be damned. Those things just don't matter. They certainly put things into perspective, but I know.

Did I mention, I've been reflecting?

Where did I go wrong? I trained my ass off during the early part of the season. Did I burn myself out? I dialed back the intensity and upped the volume at the appropriate times. Did I not run enough? Is it coached versus self-coached? What?

I came off the run at Eagleman, never wanting to do another 70.3. I asked Dee Dee if I could cancel my Ironman. Never make decisions in the aftermath of battle when emotions run the full spectrum. After I changed up the layout on my blog, and I looked at that picture that is now my header, I smiled, and my heart filled with pride, and the love I have for what I do is still strong, and all was right with the world.

Yet, the questions remain.

After much thought, the answers to my questions lie along the path of starting over, re-inventing who I am as a triathlete. I am going to focus on the basics of nutrition, swimming, cycling, and running, and rebuild my skillset from the ground up.

To begin the process, I changed my diet. I have reduced my calories and cut out my snacks, except on days where I'm absolutely starving. I even totally gave up alcohol. This lasted for about two weeks before I began to have headaches and run fevers in the evening, like I did this past weekend. After a six-pack of Sam Adams, I've been fine. I have no idea what it is in those bottles that my body is craving, but I have to figure it out. I don't like being controlled. My weight has dropped into the high 180s, so I am making progress, but 22% body fat is a lot to carry around, and there is plenty of wiggle room.

Normally, I would have taken today off, but since I am in a transitory phase, I have been pretty much just doing what I want. I ran last Thursday, did an open water swim Saturday, and played soccer with my son all day Sunday. Boy were my legs tired. I went to the pool today to do nothing but stroke work. I spent 35 minutes swimming slower than I ever have before. It was a cathartic experience. I wrapped up the session with a round of swim golf. I swam 50 yards in 49 seconds and then 45 seconds, with 28 and 26 strokes respectively. I must be doing something right. I mean, swimming 50 yards in 45 seconds with 26 strokes is pretty damn good, I guess.

Tomorrow, I run.

It takes fives years to build a strong runner. -- Bobby McGee

That's good to know. I have two more years :-D

Next week, I start taking this shiznit serz :-)


Monday, June 21, 2010

Leave Your Ego (at the door)

A Callaway Gardens Super Sprint Triathlon Race Report

If things hadn't worked out the way they had, this would have been another "A" race for me. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, having done a half Ironman the weekend before. I was just going to go, give it my best, have a good time, and be done with it.

Callaway Gardens is located southwest of Atlanta, towards Columbus, Georgia. It's about an hour and a half away. Unlike past years, I opted not to spend the night in a hotel. With just me racing, it just seemed so unnecessary. For a while there, Dee Dee was trying to work herself into the race, but with it being her weekend to work and all, it just didn't work out. She decided she would go with me anyways. She's a great spectathlete after all.

I got up at 4:15 AM Sunday morning. Happy Father's Day to me :-) I had packed everything in the car the night before. Nothing to do but eat, grab my coffee, and head out. I stopped in Marietta to pick up Dee Dee at 5:05 AM from work. She was changing her clothes in the parking lot. That's my girl. She caught a bit of cat nap on the way down. We arrived in Pine Mountain, Georgia just as the sun was coming up, just about our usual time.

We made the mistake of telling the park attendant that Dee Dee wasn't racing, and that little flub cost us $18.00, which made me mad. I understand that the park has no way of knowing if the spectators are going to enjoy the "benefits" of the park or not, but they should have some allowance for spousal units.

After finding a place to park, we headed over to transition to grab our race packet and timing chip. I got the number "3" placed on my right calf, indicating I was in the third wave, then Dee Dee and I hit up the bathrooms while there was no waiting. By the time we grabbed my bike and got to transition, pickings were slim.

At last, a future profile picture that I really like. This is my best side after all!

I ended up setting up my transition on a rack with three (evidently new) members of the Atlanta Tri Club. One would think that they would have been taught to setup their area properly, but NOOOOO. They had their stuff spread out all over the place. I was still setting up my stuff when they left. I hung around for a while to make sure nobody messed with my stuff. A young man and his wife/girlfriend were wandering up and down the aisles looking for a place to rack their bikes, when I called out to him.

You can rack both your bikes on this rack. There's room for two more!

Are you sure, he said?

I know so, I replied.

I helped his lady friend set up her bike, as this was her first tri, and Dee Dee shared a few of her secrets with her as she set up her stuff. Callaway Gardens is a super friendly triathlon that attracts just tons of new triathletes, females, and kids, as evidenced by the following pictures:

This was so cute! The kiddos "racking" their bikes next to their parents.

Whom ever was riding this cruiser was racing in style! Check out those tires!

The plan for this race is well known. After doing this race three times, I would think so. At 7:30 AM, we grab the goggles and head down to the lake to reverse swim the race course. Usually, we arrive just in time for the athlete's pre-race meeting.

Getting ready for the warm up swim. The Garmin 310XT is in the back of the cap. Can you see my birth mark above my left butt cheek? If so, you may consider your life complete. Carry on!

The water was as warm as usual. With no other swimmers in the water, it was crystal clear as well. I had to dodge a few boats on the way over. I couldn't tell if they were amused with my swimming or not. I usually opt NOT to swim the entire 400 meters, but get out at the end of the first turn.

Reverse swimming the course. It has one ninety degree right hand turn.

The pre-race meeting had the usual stuff. This year's race had 1500 triathletes going off in 11 waves. Fifty-five percent of the racers were female. At eight o'clock sharp, the first wave of young whipper snappers went off. As the second wave got in, I made my way into the water, up front, at the end of the line. The second wave went off, and I hurried into position. I try to start this race right next to the end buoy of the starting line. I could barely stand, which was a good thing. Starting on the end avoids the walkers and the slower swimmers that hug the shore. The RD had asked us not to swim over anybody :-)

While waiting to start, the guy behind me asked me what I was going to do the swim in. He wanted to make sure he wasn't a faster swimmer than I. I told him optimistically six minutes, and he said that he would just stay behind me then. For my wave, the RD's bullhorn broke, and he had to yell the countdown. With 10 seconds to go, I started my watch and Garmin. At five, four, three, two, one, I stuck my head in the water and took off.

Some guy had snuck up on right side at the race start. He breathed on his left side, and I on my right. We stared at each other in the face as we headed down the back stretch. Somehow, I managed to veer left a bit and collided with some of the other swimmers before getting back on course. My strategy for this swim is to get to the buoy first and avoid the crowds, and I managed to make the right hand turn first, even though a few other people in my wave had been out front.

Can you see me? LOL...

Along the side, I am in deep water, swimming for the second buoy. About half way, I see another gold cap over my right shoulder. I pick up the pace and try to hold him off. I am surprised when he bridges the gap quickly and passes. My mind goes, Just damn...

At the second buoy, I catch up with the proceeding wave. I'm having to swim between people and avoid the breast strokers. Last year, the waves were four minutes apart, and I had clean water all the way to the finish. Not this year. I swam until the water was knee high, climbed out, and ran up the hill towards transition. I crossed the mat and glanced at my watch. My swim time was 7:34. I visibly winced. If there was one discipline that I felt like I could hold my own on from last year, the swim would be it. This was my slowest time ever.

Aerowyn was right where I had left her by the big tree. I had carefully set her up for transition. First my HRM, then my shirt, followed by race belt, shoes, then helmet, and I was off. I decided not to wear a tri top on the swim this year, and I wish I had. My shirt was difficult to roll down. At least I got my shoes on right and my chain was on my bike, unlike last year :-)

Also, unlike the proceeding years, I got passed a LOT on the bike. The real stud triathletes, I wasn't worried about, but there were definitely some people that I should have been able to hang with. Still, its a fun, flat to downhill course, and there are just tons of opportunity to do some big ring work. I managed to keep my HR in high zone 4 and low zone 5, which I was pretty proud of. It was an excellent test of my fitness on half Ironman recovery.

I entered the bike exit and yelled at Dee Dee. She had missed me, and I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. She was such a trooper. I woggled my way to transition and threw on my Zoots. I'm not sure what took so long, but evidently, my muscles were running out of steam.

The first half of the Callaway run is around the lake in direct sunlight. It was definitely getting warm. I grabbed some water on my way out of transition. I had opted not to take any fluids on the bike, which we know is a mistake. Around the back side of the lake, I had to walk a bit to catch my breath before running to the aid station at the first mile. My pace was suffering, and I let all my expectations go.

The second half of the run is in the woods, and thus, we had shades. My Livestrong shirt was soaking wet, but the slight breeze felt oh so good. By this time, I was getting passed by one age grouper in my wave after another. Where the bike and run courses converge (in opposite directions), there was a kid riding with her mom. Mom was on a ten speed. The kid was a bike with training wheels. That was just amazing to see.

At the side walk, we made a right hand turn for the finish, which I could hear. I managed to get my heart rate up into Zone 5 as I made one final kick for the finish. Dee Dee was there to catch the moment as I headed for the finish line.

Love the form, but oh so tired!

Some guy blew past me on the way to the finish, again, in my age group, but I was really done racing by this point and just wanted to get it over.

After crossing the finish line, I grabbed Dee Dee and headed back to the car. With a quick shower and a change, we were on the road back to Atlanta by 9:30. Dee Dee slept the whole way, while I got us home safely by 11 AM.

I was five minutes slower this year than preceding years. That's about the way things have been going for me. I realized after the race just how tired I am. I'm not sure if I pushed it too hard at the beginning of the year, or what. I just know that I am ready for a break. I have two more weeks to rest up and recoup before Ironman training starts, and I need to get my body and my mind in the right place.

And what a better way than to start that process by climbing Kennesaw Mountain? That's the Father's Day present my 14 year old gave me, and my daughter threw in a delicious Diablo burger and some beers at my local sports bar. It doesn't get any better than this.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Reflections of Eagleman

Wow! What a crazy trip. I don't think I'll ever drive that far to do another triathlon. I loved it, and never say never, but it is draining!

The controversy over the wet suit thing spilled over onto Slow Twitch. Evidently, there is some confusion over the difference between running a race by the rules, and being man or woman enough to swim 1.2 miles without a wet suit. Evidently, there was some confusion under who's auspices the event was ran. Was it WTC? Was it USTA? It is the race organizer's responsibility to make this clear long before the race is held, and I think this is why they are being flamed.

I, personally, think they did a bang up job, one of the better run races to which I have been. I can overlook the wet suit thing because, quite frankly, I'm not that scared of open water swimming anymore. I all growed up now.

What I cannot overlook is this repeated failure to go sub-6 and my dismal running performance at half Ironmans. I don't think that if I went sub-6, my dismal running performance would be much of an issue :-) I have 22 weeks until Ironman Arizona and maybe 12 weeks or so to my next half Ironman (if I do one) to figure this out. I know what needs to be worked on. I just need to figure out the how...

With that thought in mind, I am releasing my goal of sub-6 back into the wild. I am going to refocus on skills, duration, and speed, in that order, in all three sports, and allow myself to savor the little victories. My sub-6 day will come.

With that thought in mind... to battle! :-)

Have a great weekend, y'all!


Monday, June 14, 2010

The Frustration Equation

An Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

Many, many moons ago, much to my surprise, Dee Dee decided that she wanted to do a half Ironman. I admit to being a bit surprised. I mean, I was there when she finished her first Olympic distance triathlon. She was angry. At what, I have no idea. She just wanted to get into the car and get the heck outta there, which I was happy to oblige.

Yea, I encouraged Dee Dee to do a half Ironman. I'd like her to do an Ironman, but that is a fight for another day :-) When she told me she wanted to do Eagleman, I told her that it was closed. She just smiled. Imagine my surprise when she came back to me and told me that she had not one but two slots for Eagleman, one for me and one for her. I was excited. I had heard good things about Eagleman. After giving it some thought, I decided to release my charity slot to another racer and be there totally for Dee Dee, and I told the race director as much. I think the RD appreciated that.

When it came time to train, no sooner did Dee Dee get started than her mother fell seriously ill, and not at home either, visiting with family in Buffalo, NY. Dee Dee ended up having to go out of town for over a month to take care of her mom, and she could not train. After giving it some serious thought, Dee Dee decided to do the smart thing and save her first half Ironman for another time.

We agonized over what to do with Dee Dee's race entry. Finally, we decided to write the race director and ask if she could defer Dee Dee's entry until next year or transfer it to me. They didn't really want to transfer it to the next year, and she REALLY wasn't supposed to transfer it to me either, but given how things played out between the three of us, she did it anyways. I am very grateful to the Columbia Triathlon Club for this blessing. It's like I told her. I wasn't worried about the charity money. We always get back ten times what we give. It was the basic race entry that I hated to lose. I couldn't thank her enough.

Plans were made. Meals were picked and purchased for the kids. Matthew's sister was going to come stay with him for the weekend. Hotel reservations were called in. Two weeks before the race, Dee Dee was notified that she would be on jury duty that week. What next I wondered? I worried that this would screw up our departure, but it ended up being a blessing in diguise. Nobody wanted a 911 operator in training on their jury! Dee Dee was released from duty Thursday afternoon, which meant we could leave for Maryland one day early.

After sending Matthew off to his sister's, we packed the car and took off up I-85. We drove as far as we felt was necessary, and ended up spending the night in Gastonia NC, which is right outside of Charlotte. This saved us four hours on our Friday drive. On the way up to Cambridge MD, we decided that we would travel through Norfolk and cross the Bay Bridge north of Virginia Beach. The countryside was beautiful. Dee Dee and I were both surprised when the "bridge" across the bay actually dived under the water and became a tunnel, not once, but twice! That was cool, but a little intimidating... Since Dee Dee was driving, I let her enjoy the experience :-)

Once we cross over to the Eastern Shore (I didn't even KNOW that Virgina existed on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay), it took us about an hour and a half to reach Salisbury MD, where our hotel was. We decided that if we hurried, we could reach packet pick up before it closed Friday night. We got to the race site twenty minutes before it closed, which was nice. All we would need to do Saturday was drop off the bike in transition. After picking up the race packet, Dee Dee and I headed down to the park to see the race venue.

Besides a few peeps who were fishing at the race site, it looked like a typical Ironman 70.3 type site. I was encouraged that transition was so close to the swim exit. A few triathletes were there, swimming in the "river" (and I use that term loosely) in their wet suits. Off on the other side of the peninsula, Dee Dee and I saw some really big fish feeding in the fading light.

Curiosity assuaged, Dee Dee and I headed over to a little seafood restaurant on one of the canals/creeks in the downtown area. We had a nice dinner, fish for me and steak for Dee Dee, then it was back to Salisbury to get checked into the hotel. We were staying at the Marriott Courtyard. Marriott always runs a nice place, and we were not disappointed.

The nice full curtains in the room kept the light out, and we slept in and almost missed breakfast. I scooted downstairs and caught the tail end of breakfast, and when I got back upstairs, I caught hell from Dee Dee for eating without her. Oopsie!! I managed to smooth the situation over a bit by finding her some Dunkin Donuts. Not optimal, but good :-)

Once the princess was properly attired, we headed down to a sports pub on the river in Salisbury to get some lunch and watch USA play England on the big screens. It was tough for me to sit in a bar and drink tea and G2, but I managed. After the game, we headed back to Cambridge to rack the bike in transition.

I was pretty happy to score another end position in transition. That's two outta two for my recent 70.3 races.

There were a ton of bikes in transition by that time, and the streets near the park were lined with cars. Dee Dee, being the excellent race photog that she is, managed to get a great pic of the transition area from the top of the kids slide in the park.

For the first time eva, I wanted to ride the bike course and see what I was in for. Dee Dee had written down the turns in the hotel room, and the route was painted on the road as well. We took off in the car down the bike route, and despite a few challenges, managed to make it 10-15 miles down the road before I noticed that we were running out of gas. We had driven quite a ways without seeing a gas station, and I was afraid that we would run out of gas in the middle of no where. The smart thing to do was turn around and head back to town to find gas. I pronounced the bike course fully acceptable and flat as pancake, and that was that.

With a tank full of gas, we drove the thirty minutes back to Salisbury to find someplace to eat dinner. We were staying near the mall and had plenty of choices. We settled on a little Italian restaurant with no waiting. There were quite a few triathletes already eating. You can just tell who they are!

The bruschetta was really good, and I tried not to over stuff myself. We made it back to the hotel by 9 PM, and the lights were out by 10. I decided that we needed to get to the race area by at least 5:30 AM, so we would need to be outta the hotel by 10 til 5 AM or so.

Unlike Knoxville, I didn't sleep so good here. I was up multiple times, and the air conditioning just wasn't making me happy. Still, the last three or four hours were good ones, and I felt rather well rested when the alarms went off at 4:15 AM. While Dee Dee was in the shower, I took my bag downstairs and toasted my bagel. After eating it in the room, Dee Dee and I carried the rest of our stuff downstairs and checked out of the hotel. We were on the road right on time.

The race had asked us to park at a school located a mile or two from the park and ride the bus to the race park, and that's just what we did. We arrived at the park around 6 AM. I wasted no time getting set up in transition.

The announcer guy was going over the race rules. I was a bit surprised when he said the water temperature was 79 degrees and NO wet suits would be allowed. What really pissed me off was that he said the race would not be tracking those who wore wet suits, even though USTA rules allowed age groupers to wear them up to 84 degrees. He said if you wore a wet suit you would be disqualified. Sorry, but that just ain't right. Either you run a race by the rules, or you don't. Dee Dee told me later that some people went home when they heard the news :-(

By 6:20, I was done, and Dee Dee and I were waiting in the port-a-potty line. Just when it was our turn to go, a race official stepped up and said these were reserved for the police, and we would have to go and use the port-a-potties for the athletes and spectators. That was real bummer! I promptly went for a "warm up" swim, in every sense of the word, while poor Dee Dee had to suffer until the waves got well under way.

Since I aged up this year, my old age group was third and consisted of over 350 people. My new age group went tenth and had something in the range of 220 individuals. When it was our turn to go, we gathered in front of the race start. This was an in water start. With four minutes to go, we entered the water and swam to the starting line. I wanted to be in the back towards the end, but I had only gotten half way before the announcer said one minute. I hauled it towards the end of the line, and had just reached my position when the announcer counted down from five to one, and we were off. That was quite the warm up, but at least I got to start up front, pretty much by myself!

My goal for this swim was to get comfortable first, then to race. The water didn't appear too choppy from the shore, but once you were in it, it was quite turbulent. I found myself way to the outside, but since I tend to drift right, I was gradually falling back into line with main group of swimmers. I thought that I might have been drifting off line, but there was a big boat at the first turn, and I was using that to site off of. Later, I would find that my line was actually pretty straight, and I need to trust myself more in the open water.

When I swim, I have these deja vu moments where I feel like I have been swimming for way to long. I made the first right turn and took off towards the shore and the second turn buoy. I thought that the first turn was quite a long ways, but the second turn seemed just as long. I began to work really hard and focused on long smooth strokes. I rounded the second buoy and began to pass through some of the swimmers from the proceeding waves. They seemed to be spread out really well, and it really wasn't that difficult to go through them. Some of the younger peeps from the wave behind me began to pass ME at this point as well.

Shortly after rounding the second turn and heading towards the swim exit, I felt the 310XT in my swim cap buzz, indicating I had reached the mile point. I popped my head up out of the water and thought, good Lord, this course has to be long if that's 0.2 miles left. I decided not to worry about it, put my head down, and continued swimming. Again, that feeling of being a LONG time in the water was very strong.

Finally, the swim exit got closer. As I neared the exit, I noticed people were walking through waist deep water to get to shore. It kind of pissed me off that I was swimming and they were walking just as fast as I was, but I took solace in the fact that they were expending way more energy than I was. When my fingers finally touched the bottom, I stopped, climbed to my feet and walked up onto shore.

I was taken aback when I looked down at my watch and saw 44 minutes. O.M.G! I have never swam 44 minutes, or over 40 for that matter, in a half Iron distance race before. What was going on? I decided not to dwell on this, but when 10 minutes is the difference between sub-6 and not sub-6, that's a pretty disturbing turn of events.

I trotted through the run exit and into transition and went right to my bike. I had set everything up perfectly this time. I put on my heart rate monitor, race belt, then my shoes. I slipped on my helmet, grabbed my bike, and took off for the bike exit. No putting on my make up this time in transition! I shaved more than two, almost three minutes from my T1 time!

It was a straight shot out of the transition area and onto the bike course. I kinda figured that Dee Dee would not be expecting me so soon. As I got clipped in, I saw her up ahead walking with her back facing in my direction. I hollered at her, and she managed to turn and snap a few shots as I flew by.

My strategy for the bike was pretty simple. Use the first 3 to 4 miles to get my heart rate in check, then hammer in Zone 3. I did not panic when my first mile came in at 3:30-ish. I reminded myself this was what I wanted, and it would pay dividends later. Shortly, my heart rate settled and I picked up the pace, reeling in some 3 and sub-3 minute miles. A few times, my HR climbed into Zone 4, and I was careful to back off. I am always very careful to pay attention to my thighs as well. When they start complaining, I know it is time to ease back a little.

In this race, the thighs started complaining about mile 12, LOL, and I worked hard to keep them comfortably uncomfortable. Once we got out past the trees at, oh, the fifteen mile mark or so, the headwinds began to pick up, and I began to struggle to hold my pace. The left hand turn on the back of the bike course was instant relief! It was almost like free speed. The flatness of the race course demanded that we do nothing but pedal pedal pedal. I could feel the heat from the sun on my skin and the sweat. I stuck to my nutrition plan really well on this ride, and I drank all three of my bottles! Chalk that one up to a big victory.

The most notable thing for me on this ride, besides the fields of corn, was the little country girl, holding her daddy's hand watching the riders go by. They both were stranding near a pick up truck on a bridge, holding onto a crab net. It was a Kodak moment.

At about mile 47 or so, the loop closed and we were back on the bike route, but this time heading back to transition. The headwind was really strong here, and I struggled, recording two of my slowest miles. With three miles left to go, the bike and run routes converged. I was amazed at all the runners on the way out, and even more amazed at the few runners on the way in. Oh, how I wished I was fast enough to be one of the runners on the way in! Fortunately, the wind was behind us now, and I found yet another source of strength to pick it back up and head to transition. At the left hand turn before transition, Dee Dee was there to snap a few more pics and yell some encouraging words. She was a real trooper, all freakin day...

At the dismount line, I unclipped and began the long walk to my spot. While I had managed to PR my bike split by around 4 minutes, given my crappy swim time, I did not feel like a PR was on for me this day. I racked Aerowyn, slipped into my socks and shoes, put on my hat, and sprayed on more sun screen. The sun was really really beating down now. I entered the chute to the run exit and paused to grab two cups of fluids from the volunteers. Despite drinking 96 oz of fluid on the bike, I was beginning to get dehydrated.

Much like Augusta, as I headed down the road, my thighs began to cramp. Visions of Augusta 70.3 danced in my head. I immediately settled into a fast walk and hoped that they would settle down. A few minutes later, when I started running again, I was pleasantly surprised. The cramps were gone and only the usual soreness remained. I was even more surprised when I turned in a 10:40 and a 10:17 for my first two splits. Visions of a sub-6 were still dancing in my head.

Miles 3 and 4 proved this to be a pipe dream. My pace dwindled, first to 11 minute miles, then 12, then 13. At first, I was sticking to a run 4 minutes walk 1 minute cycle, and I was determined to keep at it. The problem was that I needed to take in two cups of fluids, in their entirety, at every aid station. That meant walking though the aid station and continuing to walk until I was done. I think I walked out of turn maybe two times the entire run, but eventually, I did shorten the run periods, first to three minutes, then to two.

At the first bike penalty tent, there was a young person, clad in an all black 2XU outfit collapsed on the ground. Emergency crew members were tending to him/her. I should mention at this point that the volunteers and aid stations were wonderful. They were most helpful and well stocked. I began to click off the miles, one foot in front of the other. I am getting to be old hat at this now. I cross the mat at the turn around and headed back. I knew my day was almost finished. I ran when I was supposed to, walked when I supposed to, and hit up every sprinkler and kid with a hose on the way back.

At mile 12, this sweet old lady was telling everybody, only one more mile to go, and its shady now! LOL... The athletes make a right turn along the bay. Off in the distance, I could see the park with all the tents and people. The loud speaker carried across the bay, and I could hear the athlete's names being called as they finished. The race finish never looked so far away.

Despite the encouragement from the spectators, I chose to walk a little bit more before breaking into a slow trot for the finish line. Once I hit the park, I wanted to run all the way to the finish. I was relieved when the finish line appeared in my vision. No crazy turns or circles for this boy. I was done for.

I heard Dee Dee yelling from the stands, and I managed a half hearted attempt to raise my arms as I crossed the line. The announcer did say my name and home town. I thought that was a nice touch!

Dear Lord was I ever happy to be done. A volunteer put a medal on my neck, and another took my timing chip. I grabbed a bottle of water and stopped long enough to have my picture taken, even though I didn't want to. Dee Dee found me quickly, and I handed her my water bottle to drink. She said she was dying of thirst, and all I wanted to do was go get in the river. I soaked myself for five minutes or so before climbing back out and heading to transition to gather my things.

When I paused at the check point, I noticed that my wrist band had come off during the race. As near as I could tell, it slipped off my wrist in the water. Security was kind enough to let me gather my things anyways, without much problem.

Dee Dee prodded me to go get something to eat, but truth be told, I wasn't hungry yet. The heat had surpressed my appetite. I told her that I would rather eat with her, and we could stop and get something on the way out. We strategized on what to do to get back to our car. I ended up riding the bus back to the school while Dee Dee walked with my bike towards a meeting place. When I got to the car, I changed my clothes and munched on some of Dee Dee's left over steak in the cooler. I had no trouble finding her. We loaded up Aerowyn, rearranged the luggage/junk, and headed out onto the road.

In Easton MD, which is north of Salisbury, we stopped at Popeye's for some fried chicken, which hit the spot nicely. We then continued north on 50 towards the bay bridge. We had no idea that we would run into so much traffic. Evidently, weekend traffic in Maryland sucks big time. It cost us several hours getting across the bridge, but once we did, traffic opened back up nicely. I couldn't see any reason for the back up, but we'll just chalk that one up to the herd mentality.

Highway 50 took us west to Washington DC. I opted to follow the GPS instead of the interstate signs and went into downtown. I thought it was pretty cool that I caught a fleeting glimpse of the capital building and the Washington monument. I'd never seen that part of the capital before.

We made it to Richmond VA by 8:30 PM or so. We started calling Holiday Inn to see if we could change our reservations to another hotel closer along our route. Both the original hotel and the corporate office refused to change our reservations for us. Needless to say, we were not happy with that, and we won't ever sleep in a Holiday Inn Express again.

It was 1 AM when I finally pulled into the hotel parking lot outside of Charlotte. I drove the whole way, as Dee Dee wasn't feeling well. Somehow, I managed to stay awake, but it was a monumental effort. We woke up at a decent time the next morning and finished our ride into Atlanta and Woodstock. After being on the road for so long, there's nothing quite like taking a shower in one's own home.

This is probably one of my longer race reports, but it was an epic adventure, and worthy of being recorded in detail. If you made it this long, thanks for coming along. I'll follow this one up with a reflective post on both the race and where I am going from here.

Thanks for listening :-)


Eagleman Quickie

This was not the race I wanted, but as we all know, there are things that are out of our control.  It took me 11 minutes longer to swim 1.2 miles than my slowest lake swim.  It took me 8 minutes longer than my worst 1.2 mile swim ever.  I'm still scratching my head on that one.

I shaved almost 3 minutes from my T1 time = Happy Dance :-)

The bike was close to everything I wanted it to be.  I didn't manage to keep the 20 mph average that I wanted, but I managed to have a bike PR by 4 minutes over Augusta.  I was happy with that.

T2 was as slow as ever for me.  I had to stop and put on sunscreen.

The run was just brutal.  As a matter of fact, it was the equal if not worse than my run at Florida 70.3.  The heat index was over 100 degrees, and there wasn't a single bit of shade on the entire run course.  Needless to say, once I realized that I wasn't going to run a 2:15 half marathon, I settled into survival mode.  The result was my slowest half marathon in a 70.3 ever.

After the race, Dee Dee and I got caught in traffic leaving Maryland.  We decided to go north through DC before heading south to Atlanta.  We tried to change our hotel reservation, but Holiday Inn Express just wasn't buying it.  They just lost a customer forever.  I ended up driving until 1 AM, and this after not sleeping well at all the night before and getting up at 4:15 for the race.

Full report with pics on the way!  :-)


Thursday, June 10, 2010

I want to fly

It's very rare that the alarm clock goes off before I wake up.  As the man of the house, I'm pretty much tuned in to what goes on around here at all hours of the night.  The kids.  The dogs.  The neighbors.  If that isn't enough, I have a bladder too.  The benefits of no beer are starting to show in obvious areas:  weight, sleep, eating habits, the bladder :-)  Now, I sit here typing, patiently waiting for the coffee to cut through this fog and haze.  I don't get this often, and I am rather enjoying it.

As I lay in bed this morning, I realized that tomorrow, I will be travelling 10+ hours to my second half Ironman of the season.  I also fully realized that deep down inside, I wished that it was Dee Dee racing and not I.  Not because I don't want to race.  Not at all.  Because this was Dee Dee's thing, and I am sad for her that it didn't work out.  Plus, I think I would enjoy the trip more if I could have some good beer and some chowda, LOL...

But... race, and race I will, and this fits nicely into my plans of four long races this year.  The race course in Maryland is flat as a pancake, and if there is any course that is not net downhill that is a better opportunity to go sub-6, I don't know of it.

Last night, I did my pre-race brick.  I dusted off Bags (my hybrid) and rode for forty minutes.  I had to break it up into two twenty minute sessions so I could come home and turn the chicken over in the oven :-)  I ran for fifteen minutes off the bike.  While I totally got the residual soreness in my thighs, I managed a 9 minute pace and it felt good to shake the soreness out of my legs.  I have one leeeetle swim to do today, then the packing begins, and the cooking.  I have to cook three meals for the kids.  We wouldn't want them to starve while I am gone now, would we?

ROAD TRIP!  Eagleman 70.3 or bust.  I'll try to keep y'all updated on my blog and Facebook, and for everybody else...  Y'all have a great weekend!


Monday, June 07, 2010

(Between the) Silk Sheets

One of the nice things about being a part of such a great community is that there is always somebody somewhere doing something exciting. Somebody is working towards their first marathon. Another friend is doing their first Ironman. A while back, I made the decision to quit adding people to my blog roll. For those of you who were persistent, I added you anyways :-) Now, I realize that this is just the wrong decision. Adding new peeps and making new friends keeps things fresh, ya know? I will clean up my blog roll soon, as some of you have moved to Facebook, and some of you do both.

Late late week, Sarah put out a call for riders. She had her last long bike of her training plan, and she was riding 125 miles. Just to put things into perspective, I rode 117 miles for my longest ride for Ironman Florida. I was excited about the opportunity to ride with Sarah again, but I was also excited to finally get to ride Silk Sheets. Sarah had spoken highly of the route several times, and I was looking forward to giving it a try!

Sarah wanted to be wheels on pavement at 7 AM, and I didn't want to be late. I packed my bike and bag Friday night and put them into the car. I set my bottles and food out on the counter and set the coffee maker to go off at 5:15 AM. I actually woke at 5:08 AM, before the alarm went off and had a pretty good nights sleep. I was able to take my time getting ready, and I was out the door around 5:35 or so. I made my way south and west. The sky lightened considerably by the time I pulled into Cochrane Mill Park. It was small park, and I wondered if I was in the right place. A few minutes after I got there, Sarah's friend, Wendy, pulled in, and the bike on the back of her SUV reassured me.

You know Sarah has arrived when her cute little VW bug pulls into the parking lot. We wasted no time getting suited up. I even put on sun screen again! I so smart... We had time to snap a pic before hitting the road.

Shortly there after, we took off on what was to be the first of two loops for me, four for Sarah!  The route started off with a nice little downhill before hitting the first of many rollers.  We headed north for four miles before making a left onto Cedar Grove Road.   That's one of the things that is so attractive about Silk Sheets. It has some nice rollers.  Nothing drastic, but plenty to challenge you.

We followed Cedar Grove Road for 13 miles before making a left at the bottom of the loop.  This being the weekend before my big race, I was just taking it easy, keeping Sarah company.  We rode past a little country store (in Rico, GA of all places), and also a fire station that was rumored to be biker friendly.  The bottom of the loop was by far the hilliest, but once we passed through the little town of Palmetto, GA, it was all basically down hill back to the park.

The group spent a little time there refueling.  While they were swapping out their bike bottles, I headed to the bathrooms.  At the back of the park, a gentleman was getting ready to go for a horseback ride.  He had his horses tied up to the trailers, but I didn't see the humans, just the horses.  As I approached the trailers, I heard this voice.

Say something...

I noticed that the horses were getting skittish...  As I thought to myself, hmmmm, what should I say?  I heard the voice again, this time louder and more demanding.


In my kindest, gentlest voice, I said, "Good morning, worsies!"  As I walked past the second horse, I said, "Are you going to take the rude humans for a ride?"  :-)

The rider came out from behind the trailer and thanked me, and we laughed.  The horses settled down the minute I started talking to them, and I have filed this experience away for future reference.

On the second loop, I experimented with the course feature of the Garmin 310XT.  I had downloaded it the night before.  I pressed start as we began our second loop.  The 310XT told me how far it was to each turn AND our estimated time of arrival, even as it record all of my HR data and mile splits.  That was a pretty cool feature!

On the first loop, it had been overcast and muggy, but for the second loop, the sun came out, and things started to warm up a bit.  At least the humidity died down.  The traffic also picked up.  Sarah felt like the drivers around Silk Sheets were pretty courteous, but I was not impressed.  A few times we were buzzed pretty closely, even if there was no one coming from the other direction.  At one particular point in the ride, Sarah was leading the group when a guy in a BMW decided to pass us with another car coming from the other direction.  I was deathly afraid that Sarah was going to get clocked.  Fortunately for all of us, the car coming from the other direction slowed down so the idjet in the BMW could complete his risky maneuver.  Then, there was the guy in the pick up truck coming in the opposite direction that took exception to me riding side by side with Sarah.  He laid on his horn and gestured emphatically for me to get to the side of the road.  I don't know what his problem was.  I was safely in my lane, so I just gave him the eat sh@# look and kept on riding.  I know the cycling laws in the State of Georgia.

We completed both loops in slightly over two hours each.  I said my good byes to Sarah and headed home.  She had to do that same series of loops all over again, and it was definitely warming up!  That night, I got home and downloaded my data into Sports Tracks, and my TRIMP score registered a 9 for the first loop, and a 43 for the second, LOL...  I get no credit for staying in Zone 1, which, evidently, I did for most of loop 1, then spent a little more time in Zone 2 on the second loop.

Overall, it was the perfect workout for me leading up to this week's race.  Certainly, it was little more time in the saddle than was necessary, but the intensity and overall quality of the ride was perfect, and what a better way to spend the day than helping a friend on her path to Iron?


Friday, June 04, 2010

Just Different

I haven't even bothered writing down my training schedule. After being coached for two years, I have a pretty good idea of what I need, even if what I get isn't quite as interesting. I am committed to changing this in the future though. If you don't have solid plans, with solid goals, what's the point, eh?

My Wednesday long run didn't go off as planned. I went to the pool instead, at 8:30 PM. I could have procrastinated longer, but Teh Bug was waiting, ya know? I went through some of those sets where you slow down, speed up, slow down, speed up, repeat if necessary. All in all, it was a good 2500 yard set and shows that my swim fitness is still there. No need to worry on that account.

I decided I would get up and do my long run in the morning. The next morning, I decided that I would do my long run at lunch. Around lunch, I decided I would do my long run that evening, and that's what I did. I felt like I needed to make my peace with God, in the hope that he would pity the poor fool :-)

It wasn't a bad decision. There was shade, and the sun was going down, but it was humid as... well, the Gulf Coast (minus the oil). I even patted myself on the back for bringing my fuel belt full of water. After I shook off the initial lethargy in my legs, I felt pretty darn good. Good enough, as a matter of fact, to kick it a bit. My back was still twinging a little, but nothing like last time. Still, I thought better than doing a hard effort at this late date and stuck to a run 4 walk 1 cycle.

At my three mile point, I made a right instead of a left and tacked on a 1.4 mile out and back. Navigating the hills of my neighborhood, my heart rate climbed high into Zone 4 several times and I smiled. My legs didn't feel all that great, but my body didn't feel like it was working in Zone 4, and that was very satisfying.

Over all, I did 9.8 miles in an hour and forty five minutes. I basically added 6 minutes and 1.4 miles to my last long run. This was what I needed at this point to feel confident going into my race next weekend. This weekend, I will be pacing Sarah on half of her HUGE ride of 125 miles :-) Then, Sunday, I will be using a couple of soccer matches to get some speed work in.

Y'all have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Playing Catch Up

I snuck off to the gym on Friday at lunch time. My thought process usually goes like this.

Meh... I don't wanna swim today. If I go before work, I'll be done today.

Meh... I don't wanna swim at lunch. I'll just do it on the way home.

Meh... It's too late to swim. Fine. I'll go and get it done, but it won't be fun...

I broke through on Friday and just went... When I arrived at the pool, every lane was full. By the time I changed into my bathing suit, two had opened up. That was sweet. I couldn't help but notice the triathlete in the lane next to me. He was rather athletically built, but his form was horrible. He looked like he was fighting the water most of the time, and during his stroke, he was giving up most of his power. I passed him every 9 lengths of the pool or so. At one point, I heard him cursing. I would have loved to give him some pointers, but I have learned that unasked for help is often not wanted.

For those of you that do care, you need to master the glide in your stroke. You should feel like you are gliding across the top of the water. Reach out with your hand when it is time to stroke. Then point your finger tips at the bottom of the pool and curl your arm like you are wrapping it around a barrel. Then, pull... Your hand should cross your shoulders a split second before your elbow. Don't worry about dead space in your stroke (deceleration). You can fix this after you get your catch working right (by speeding up your stroke). Feel the glide!

Saturday, I did a mini-half IM simluation: a two hour bike followed by a 50 minute run. The bike ride went well. I averaged over 18.5 mph, but I was feeling my long run from Thursday during the run off. Sunday, I was back in the pool for a 1.2 mile TT. It came in at 36 minutes and some change, a little off from my previous race results. I didn't really give it my all. I guess I shouldn't be upset by it. Eighty-eight lengths of the pool is a lot of laps!

There were two femmes swimming in the pool with me making the same mistakes in form that the tri-dood was. Is it crazy that I notice things like this now? LOL... Most of the peeps that got into the pool got out long before I did. I imagine they thought I was crazy.

Here's a pic that Beverly took of me as I crashed in her front yard after Rev3. She says I was relaxing. LOL... I like to think of it as a controlled crash :-)

Beverly keeps a nice house, and the green grass in the shade was just too luscious to pass up! In this pic, I'm still seeing somebody that needs to lose some weight!

June 13 is fast approaching! I can't believe that I'll be driving 10 hours to do a race. That's a little bit much for me, but you do what you gotta do! Last long run on tap for tonight, then its time to start winding down, and resting (this time), always resting :-)

Happy hump day!


P.S. Go see D.C. Rainmaker who is running a contest to give away a really cool scale!