Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congrats to Brooke!

One of our Tri-Prosoap team members, Brooke Rossman, qualified for the Boston Marathon last Sunday by running a 3:40:49 at the Dallas White Rock Marathon! Brooke had to run it no slower than 3:40:59 in order to qualify, which technically means she wasted 10 seconds worth of effort by finishing faster. But joking aside, with that 30+ wind in her face for most of the second half, she could have easily done a 3:30 in better conditions (or faster). Nice job, Brooke!! Can't wait to see you in Boston!!

You can read her story and follow her progress as she prepares for Boston at http://www.brooketoboston.com/.

Congrats also to all the Tri-Prosoap members that finished the Marathon. Billy and Chase are pictured above with Brooke. Jason, Michael, and Dian also ran with pride. You can check out all of their stories at the Tri-Prosoap Blog.

Anyone who has ever run a marathon or ever wants to run a marathon should go check out all their stories. After having run five myself, I can honestly say that I have experienced EVERY single thing that each of them discussed. From Jason's mid-run weight loss secrets, to Billy's emotions at the starting line, to Chase's hammies and calves cramping as he was trying to keep moving toward the finish. But what stood out the most to me were Michael's thoughts immediately after the race. I think every time I have finished a marathon I've said "Never Again" at the finish line. But after a few days (sometimes even just a few minutes) I start to think, "that wasn't so bad. I can do that again. I wonder how much faster I could go if . . . " And so it begins again.

Congrats again to all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkeys Trotting

It has been a tradition in my family for many many years to run the annual YMCA Dallas Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving morning. It's actually my favorite running event in Dallas, and was also one of my first. With everyone spread out across the country, this is the one event of the year that everyone has always been in Dallas for. And that has meant that it's the one time of the year that my entire family goes and competes at the same event at the same time, whether we are prepared for the 8 miles or not. Thankfully, tomorrow will be no exception.

As I've mentioned before, everyone in my immediate family is a runner. My dad has been running since running wasn't cool. Mom started several years ago and hasn't slowed down yet. My sister is a former Texas High School State Champion in the two mile and runner up in the mile. My wife runs, her sister runs, my sister's husband runs, and even the little ones begged to run the three mile event this year.

So tomorrow we will all toe the line once again and remember the things that we are all thankful for. For me, this year I am most thankful for my dad's ability to run. Even though he is having to settle with "only" doing the three mile event this year, that's three more miles than the doctor recently told him he would ever be able to run again. He has a ways to go before he can run another marathon, or even as fast as he would like to run 3 miles. But for now, just finishing three miles is his own personal marathon.
Never underestimate your ability to influence others around you to run/bike/swim/whatever. And you never know how far it will go. My dad ran. So my sister ran. So I ran. So my wife ran, and her sister ran. And my sister's husband ran. And finally, my mom ran (and to this day is the most dedicated of all of us!). Eventually, all of dad's grandchildren will likely run as well. I don't know where the chain will stop. But there's no doubt where it began. Thank you, dad, for always inspiring us to reach beyond our potential, and to go further than any of us thought was possible. You are truly an inspiration. And thank you, especially, for teaching us to run.

Be thankful this week for your ability to train and race. And think about that the next time you don't feel like training or racing. Seeing my dad deal with an injury that the doctors can't seem to fix has made me really think about the fact that someday I won't be able to do this anymore. People often ask me why I do Ironman events. Why do I swim, bike, and run as much as I do? Why do I put myself though that?

Because someday I won't be able to. But today is not that day. Today, I can run. Today, I can hurt and keep moving. Today, I can push myself beyond my comfort level. And for that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Injury Prevention at Tri Pro Soap

The team I race for, Tri-Pro Soap, has asked me to post some articles on the team site regarding injury prevention. I'll put the links here whenever I post on that site. Please check it out, and be sure to support Pro Soap!

http://tri-prosoap.blogspot.com/2008/11/injury-prevention-part-1-consistency-is.html

Friday, October 10, 2008

The "t-sip" Ironman 70.3

“Patience is a virtue.”

I’ve heard that all my life. And if that’s true, then I must not be all that “virtuous” because patience is something I have never had. I also think several of my readers are not very virtuous based on their comments to me recently! Many of you have told me that you are “running out of patience” in waiting on me to publish another post. I appreciate your patience (or your virtuosity??), and I apologize for the delay. It’s been a busy month.

So back to me and my patience (or lack thereof). I think that has been a problem for me in my endeavors as an endurance athlete. Lack of patience has been the fall of many an Ironman and even many more marathoners. I believe that lack of patience is what causes us to go out too fast, or speed up too early, and then blow up at the end of a race. It’s not always a lack of endurance or a lack of preparation. It’s often a lack of patience.

So as I thought about my approach to the “t-sip” Ironman 70.3 (i.e., the Longhorn 70.3, for you non-Aggies) this past weekend, I decided that because my run has been solid lately, I would be patient on the swim, patient on the bike, and then see if I could put up a solid run time. As you will see, I followed the plan, but came up a little short on the “solid run” goal.

I have had trouble since June with my swimming. Like a lot of athletes, in the pool, I’m fine. But put me in a race, and my times have been up to 30 seconds per hundred slower than in training. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you would win the overall if you just had an average swim! This has been the most frustrating thing about this race season for me. I’m spotting all the top players several minutes, and for me, that’s unacceptable. This will be a focus this off-season.

After thinking more about it, Lindsay and I decided that maybe I was just trying too hard to be fast in the swim. I was starting in the front, fighting with the fast swimmers, getting out of breath early, and thus shortening my stroke for the rest of the swim. So for this race, I decided to just take it easy, focus on my stroke, and . . . be patient. I started off to the side, and just let everyone go. But strangely, I realized that I was not getting dropped like I usually do. And I never lost my breath. My official time was just over 29 minutes. By FAR my fastest time for a swim in a half-Ironman. Yes, the general consensus is that the swim was 3-5 minutes short. But even on the high end of that estimate, that’s about the fastest I’ve ever swam 1.2 miles. Hmm, perhaps patience IS a virtue.

On to the bike. Like most of my longer races, I spent the first 10-15 miles focusing on getting fluids and calories in and just settling in to a solid pace, but not overdoing it by any means. I was in one of the last waves to start so I was passing A LOT of people early on in the bike. I spent most of the ride just telling myself to take it easy and be patient. When I lose patience, or get antsy, I end up speeding up and not leaving myself enough for a fast run. So I was patient. And aside from dropping my chain on a short climb (I actually came to a complete stop since I was climbing at the time—cost me a little time, but no need to panic), there’s not much to report on the bike. Yes, it was windy (we are in Texas!), but I managed to remain patient throughout the ride and finished in 2:32 (22 mph).

Moment of truth. Time to run. As usual, coming out of T2 I felt great. I still had to be patient, though, because 13.1 miles is too far for me to go all out right out of the gate. Plus, I ALWAYS get cramps in my lower quads about a mile in to the run of a half or full Ironman. My strategy is to hold back until the cramping comes, endure it for about half a mile until it finally goes away, and then settle into a pace that is a little faster than I feel like I can hold for 11 more miles. The first mile came and went, and I was running right at 7:00 pace. Then, right on time, my legs cramped. No worries, I’ve been through this in every long course race I’ve ever done. I think it takes your legs a couple of miles to get used to running after a long effort on the bike. If you can run through it, though, it will go away. And sure enough, by the second mile marker, all was well. Time to settle in.

I was cruising along trying to figure out if I should pick it up or remain patient when Lisa Bentley (the eventual women’s pro winner) went by me. Up to this point, no one had passed me and I was blowing by people. It makes it hard to pace properly when all your doing is passing everyone. I find it easier to work harder when someone is there to help push me along, or when someone is in front of me that I’m trying to catch. When Lisa went by I decided to run with her. I picked it up a bit, but she slowly pulled away. The first four miles were on black asphalt and were one long climb and descent after another. Lisa was dropping me on every descent, but on the climbs, I would slowly reel her in. However, by the end of the 4th mile, she had pulled away.

The last 2.5 miles of the loop is on a dirt trail. That was nice except for the sandy parts, which make you feel like you’re running in slow motion. Regardless, it was MUCH cooler on that part of the course, and it really helped break the course up into small sections that are much more manageable than a 13.1 mile run without any change of scenery. About 4.5 miles in, Pip Taylor (another pro who would finish 2nd behind Lisa) came by me. I had someone else to pace off of! I told her that Lisa was not too far ahead, but I could tell by the pace that she was not going to catch her. Pip told me that Lisa had passed her a couple of miles back, so I knew she wasn’t interested in chasing her down. I followed her for half a mile or so and then just before the hill they call “Quadzilla” I went around her. The top of Quadzilla (which I didn’t think was as bad as the rollers in the first four miles) was the 5 mile marker. I hit my watch and saw 36:11. Not too bad, but I’m slowing down from the 7:05 pace I had averaged through three miles.

The last 1.5 miles of the loop were fast. It was slightly downhill, and before I knew it, I was finished with the first loop, and back on the HOT black asphalt for 4 miles of quad killing (and morale killing) rollers! To be honest, I don’t remember much of the second lap. I think my brain shut off and I just went into auto-drive. I remember the 10 mile marker. And I remember realizing that my split for the second five miles was slower than the first (39:12, or 7:50 pace). I remember thinking that if I could just go under 30 minutes for the last 5k, that I would break 4:50. I remember Krisha yelling at me that “PAIN IS TEMPORARY!!” just as I started the last 5k. And I definitely remember feeling like the second time up Quadzilla was MUCH harder than the first. But the details of that last loop are not in my brain. I guess it was painful.

I ran the last 5k in 23:57 (which included the shuffling up Quadzilla), for a final run time of 1:39:18 (5 minutes slower than what I was hoping for), and an overall time of 4:46:20. Only good enough for 9th place in my very competitive age group, and 46th overall male.

The best news of the day was that I earned a spot in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Clearwater next year! Speaking of Clearwater . . . I checked the results from 2007. There were 156 finishers in my age group. To finish in the top 50% took a 4:35. Seriously! 4:35 was only good enough for 78th place in my age group! My 4:46 would have put me in 102nd. I realize it’s a different/faster/flatter course. But that’s unbelievable. I’ve definitely got work to do!

Qualifying for Clearwater has done a few things for me. First, it’s reinforced that patience is key in long course racing. Second, it’s made me more confident that I belong in the top 10 in major/national races. I’ve always felt like I could do it, but this is the first time I actually have. I’m finally over that hump, which brings me to the third thing this race has done for me. I am more motivated than ever to earn a Kona spot. And now, for the first time, I truly believe that I am capable of doing it. And I don’t want to wait any longer! I have run out of patience.

My goals for 2007 included proving to myself that finishing an Ironman was possible. Check. In 2008, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of qualifying for Kona. Check. Next year . . . .

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to the Basics

Whenever a sports team gets in a slump, you always hear the coaches talk about how they need to get back to the fundamentals of their sport. NBA players do the same dribbling, passing, and shooting drills that we all did in middle school. Whenever a MLB player is in a hitting slump, the coach always says, "he's just got to get back to the fundamentals of hitting." Jack Nicklaus, the great golfing legend, used to start every season by "learning" how to grip the golf club. You don't get much more basic than that for a golfer.

Personally, I've been running a lot longer than I've been swimming or biking. I come from a family of runners. My dad was runner long before it became cool in the 70s. My older sister was a Texas High School State Champion in the two mile, and was the runner-up in the mile. So when my season wasn't going the way I had hoped it would, I decided that I just needed to get back to the fundamentals of triathlon. For me, that's running.

So I ran the Labor Day 15K in Dallas yesterday. I planned on just running around 6:50 or so (my hopeful marathon pace) and then seeing what I had left for the last 5k. I ran the first two miles in 13:30 (i.e., 6:45 pace). My legs felt really heavy, tired, and slow from all the training recently. But I stuck with the pace and noticed that there was one guy in a green shirt that was way ahead of everyone and then a group of 5 guys that were only about 10 seconds ahead of me. I thought about bridging the gap so that I could just sit in with them and compete for second. But I decided to just be patient and let them come back to me. About that time, my legs started to come around, and I ran that next mile a little harder than the first two. I hit the 5k mark in 20:30 (6:37 pace per mile).

Slowly, I started picking off the stragglers as they were dropped from the group of 5. I caught all but one of them by the turnaround (which was just a little shy of half way). I wasn't sure that I could catch that last guy. He looked stronger than the rest of the group from the beginning, and I could tell that he was the one setting the pace that broke everyone else in the group. I decided that I would just hold my current pace (which had slowed a little) and just see what happens. I'm ok with 3rd.

There was a guy on a bicycle that had been riding to each mile marker and calling out times. At about the 5 mile mark, he rode up next to me. Our conversation went like this:

Bike Guy: "Looking strong. You're in second place?"
Me: "No, third. There's a guy up there with no shirt. He's in second."
Bike Guy: "Are you thinking of the guy in green?"
Me: "Yes."
Bike Guy: "Well, that guy's not part of the race. So actually, you're in second."
Me: "Really?! I guess I better go after him then. You realize, you just made my morning a whole lot more difficult?"

We both laughed, I thanked him and decided to see if I could catch the leader. I was running considerably slower than 6:00 miles, and yet, I was still within striking distance of the win. Apparently no one super fast had shown up to race the Labor Day 15K. Still, a win's a win. It's funny to me how my motivation to catch one more person changed just because I now knew that no one was in front of him. Like I said, I'm ok with 3rd. But I'm not ok with 2nd!

I decided to not let the leader get any further ahead of me, and I would pick it up at the 10k mark. I hit the 10k mark in 41:08 (making my second 5k, 20:38, or 6:39 pace).

Ok, time to chase him down. I sped up again, and was running right next to him when we hit the 7 mile marker. As most competitors will do, when I caught up to him, he matched my pace in order to stay with me. At first, I thought I would just sit with him and wait to attack later on. But I figured that I already had him a little worried, so I should attack now, while his confidence is a little shaken. If I wait, he may decide that he can run with me. Besides, there were only 2.3 miles left. What was I waiting on? So I attacked. Hard. I sped up enough for him to know that I intended on dropping him. He responded at first, but by the time I made it to a turn where I could look back, I could barely see him anymore. I ran the last 5k in 20:17 (6:32 pace - my fastest of the three 5ks).

My total time was 1:01:19 (overall average: 6:35 per mile). That's a little slower than I feel like I should be running a 15k right now if I want to go under 3 hours in a marathon this fall. But I started the race tired, and I only decided to really "race" after 2/3 of the race had already been run. Regardless, I am happy with my effort, my patience, and my strategy against the other runners. I'm also really happy with my running right now. I could have easily run further and faster than I did. For how long, or how fast, I don't know. But I think this is the best I've felt running in September, well, ever. That's a good feeling leading into the Longhorn 70.3 in a month, and a marathon in December.

Perhaps I'll have a couple of good races this year after all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trying to Put it All Together

This has been a tough year for me for racing so far. I overdid it on the bike and cramped on the run at a Half Ironman in April. I had the worst swim of my life at the Cap Tex Olympic distance race in Austin in May. My stomach didn’t cooperate during Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June, which cost me lots of time on the run. I flatted out during the 5430 and had my first DNF in Boulder in August. And I had another bad swim two weeks ago at the Arkansas State Championships that cost me an age group win and a fourth place overall. Each of those races had good elements. My swim was good in April and at the Ironman. My bike was good at the Ironman and the Cap Tex (actually, my biking has been pretty solid all year). And since the mishaps at the Ironman, I’ve been pretty happy with my running, especially my effort. I just haven’t quite been able to put all three together yet this year. Which brings me to last Sunday . . .

Sunday was the Rockwall Sprint Triathlon, which I do every year, but only because it’s local. And by “local,” I mean, it’s less than 5 minutes from my house. Even though I swore off all races produced by Ironhead (i.e., Jack Weiss) long ago, I still do this one so that I can support the local community. Never again until it is run by someone with some common sense.

The Swim – This is a pool swim so you are seeded according to swim time. I was number 27. I was glad that Cooper (one of the Tri-Prosoap members) was one person in front of me instead of one person behind me so that I wouldn't slow him down. Oddly enough, this was the first time I've ever done a pool swim and not been held up by the person in front of me. Thanks, Coop! 4:44 for a 300. Not my best swim, but not my worst either. 14 seconds slower than I had anticipated.

My transitions were pretty much right where I expected. I generally figure about a minute for T1 and 30 seconds for T2 depending on how long the run to my bike is. I ended up with 58 seconds and 29 seconds, respectively. For those of you that don't practice transitions, you should start! The shorter the race, the more important they become. Just think of the time you make up on the run because of transitions alone. 30 seconds spread over the two transitions is 10 seconds a mile on the run. Transitions are your enemy! Every second you spend in there is wasted time. Practice them often. Every time I get on or off my TT bike, I am flying on or off. If you do a brick workout, use that as an opportunity to practice transitions.

The Bike - I knew that several of the Prosoap team were up ahead of me so it really motivated me to work hard to try and catch them. However, as usual for a race this short, I felt like crap the first 10 minutes or so. Right out of the gate two guys went by me in a two-man paceline of sorts. Seriously, who cheats in a 14 mile time trial? The best part is that they kept looking back to make sure there weren't any officials around. Pathetic. One of those guys is someone I have looked up to for a long time because he was so fast. I think he’s even competed in Kona before. I lost a lot of respect for him on Sunday. And for what? A fast sprint race? Nice job.

I eventually caught up to Coop (who was also a witness to the drafting), who then passed me back about 5 minutes later. He was looking REALLY strong when he went by me so I figured he was gone. But I reeled him back in before too long. I know he's a strong runner, so I dug down to try and put a little distance between us in case I needed it to hold him off on the run. Still, I figured we would be fighting it out for the rest of the race. Toward the end I got a little more energy when I realized that I could see our fearless leader, Billy, in the distance. I didn't catch him until just before the last turn before T2. It wasn't until later that I realized he had beaten me in the swim by a minute! Come on, Billy! That's ridiculous! You beat me by a minute in a 300 yard swim?!?! I'm not even going to look to see how bad Chase beat me. When are you guys going to hold a Tri-Prosoap swim clinic to help us slow pokes out? My bike time was 35:59, or 23.3 mph. A little slower than I would have liked, but considering how awful I felt at the beginning, not too bad.


The Run - Felt strong right out of the gate. First mission, track down those cheaters! I caught them less than an mile into it. I generally like to speed up a bit when I pass someone, but in a race that short, if you can speed up, you aren't running hard enough. So I just flew by both of them and kind of chuckled to myself that they aren't quite as tough to drop when they can't help each other by drafting. About that time, the first person went by me going the other direction. Then another, and one more, and then Chase. A quick high five, and then the turn around. I went from starting in 27th position on 10 second intervals to being the 4th person running to the finish. But could I catch Chase?


I felt as good as I ever feel at this point in a race. Sprints are so different than any other distance. There's really no strategy other than to go as hard as you possibly can until you hit the finish line. I had run 6:02 pace the weekend before at DeGray, which is mostly uphill for the first half of the run. So I knew I could go under 6 minute miles if things went well. Unfortunately, I missed the turn to the finish with about 200 yards to go. I pretty much figured it out immediately, so I stopped and looked around to try and figure out where to go to get back on track. Then a guy running the other direction told me that everyone was going "back that way" and pointed toward Chase. So I trotted it in the rest of the way, frustrated, and not running very hard. I jumped the caution tape and crossed the finish line about the same time as Chase.

I don't really know how fast I would have finished, but my pace was just under 5:50 up to the point where I stopped running to figure out where I was. Based on that, I should have finished the run just under 17 minutes flat, which would have put me finishing around 59:10. 10 seconds slower than I had hoped for (remember those 14 seconds on the swim?). And enough for second overall and first in my age group. But who knows what it really would have been.


Jack hunted me (and Chase) down to yell at us for “cutting the course” even though we ran significantly further than we were supposed to since his course was so poorly marked, and he had no volunteers out there to direct traffic. He tried to disqualify us, but the head ref decided to just give us a 2 minute penalty since we in no way cheated. I’m not sure why Jack Weiss is so hateful. I won’t go into too much detail in this forum about what happened other than to say that I had little respect for the man before this race, and his actions at the finish were just inexcusable. I have gotten off course three times in my life. All three were at Jack Weiss races. I have never complained about it to anyone other than my wife and family. But he comes to me yelling at me and calling me “STUPID, GD STUPID” because I “can’t follow his clearly marked signs.” Me and about 30 others according to the head ref, Jack. I’m done with his races. It’s unfortunate because the Rockwall Kiwanis is a great group and this race is really for them, not Jack. But I am now joining the throngs of others that refuse to support anything that he is involved with.

Ending this post on a positive . . . It was a lot of fun hanging out with all the Tri-Prosoap guys. I don’t get to race with them very often since I do more long course stuff and therefore don’t race as often as a lot of them do. I hope to get to race with them more. It was a lot of fun getting cheered on by so many other competitors. It seemed like there was always someone yelling encouragement at me. It’s nice to have a team in what is usually a very lonely sport. Thanks, guys. I’m really proud to wear the Tri-Prosoap jersey; to represent you guys and the great companies that sponsor us. I just wish that jersey or those sponsors could make me swim like Chase and Billy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ryan's First Race; My First DNF


Well, I’ve delayed writing about this long enough. Yes, I DNF’d (i.e., “Did Not Finish”) in Boulder last weekend. This was the first time I have ever dropped out of a race. It was heartbreaking. I felt much better on the bike than I expected to since I had been sick for so long leading up to this race. The first 8 miles of the bike course are the hardest. It’s mostly uphill, and you feel like you should be going much faster than you are. I know that about this course, so I was telling myself to back off the entire time. I was feeling very relaxed, the pace was effortless, I was averaging well over 20mph and getting ready to pick that WAY up, when all of a sudden PSHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! And my back tire was flat. I don’t carry a spare tire (I race on tubulars so just a tube isn’t enough — you need another tire when you have a flat) in anything shorter than an Ironman. So my day was done. Almost.

This bothered me a lot more than I expected it to. I think the culmination of all the “bad races” I’ve had this year are starting to drag on me. I keep thinking all it will take is one good race to get me back on track for the season. As good as I was feeling on the bike, I thought that could have been the day that it all came together. But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead of flying into T2 and running my legs off, I rode on the back of a motorcycle holding onto my bike with one arm and the driver with the other (not an easy feat with a disc wheel dragging behind us like a sail!), and standing around waiting on Ryan to finish the bike course. When he came through, I still had my race number, so I ran with him.
Ryan did AWESOME in his first triathlon! 5:14 and change is solid for anyone doing a half Ironman, much less someone doing their FIRST half-Ironman! And this was his first TRIATHLON! I’ll let him tell you more about it. I decided with a few miles to go that I would bust out the last several on my own. Ryan was struggling, so I stayed with him until mile 11 and then ran under 6:30 pace to the finish. That felt great considering I had been on my feet all day with little to eat. Makes me wonder what could have been . . . .

Still, overall, it was a good day. Disappointing in one respect, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of running with Ryan during his first race. I will have many other opportunities to race well in a half-ironman. I will never get another chance to run with Ryan during his first race. Call it a silver lining or a blessing in disguise, but I will always cherish that flat tire. I always knew that he would be good at this. It just took me 4 years to convince him to try it. I think he’s hooked! Welcome to the club, Ry!

Krisha and I (and my parents and John) are heading to Arkansas this weekend for the Arkansas State Championships. It’s a sprint distance race, and I plan on making up for last weekend. Regardless of the outcome, anytime I get to race with my wife and my 62 year-old dad, it’s a good day!

Friday, August 8, 2008

How Fast Are You Willing To Go?


On this, the opening day of the Olympics, I was reminded of the above picture and decided to write my thoughts about it. The athlete puking up his Gatorade is Jarrod Shoemaker, who was the first male to qualify for the 2008 USA Olympic Team in the triathlon. I’m sure that picture says different things to different people. “Gross” might be a common response for many. Or “Why would he do that to himself?” for others. To me, it says that Jarrod Shoemaker is someone who is willing to hurt bad enough to win. Are you?

There is not a lot of separation physically between most US Olympic quality athletes. I believe what separates the athletes at the top is mostly mental. An athlete who clearly understands this as well as anyone is Lance Armstrong. I’m paraphrasing, but I remember him saying something along the lines of, “If it came down to who was willing to suffer the most, I was going to win every time.” Granted, Lance was faster and stronger than everyone else. But he was also willing to hurt more than they were. And he won because of it.

It's quite simple, really. SPEED HURTS. Believe it or not, I get a bigger knot in my stomach before an Olympic distance race than before a half-ironman (which is more than twice as far!) because I know what kind of pain I am about to put my body through. It's not necessarily "more painful," but it is a more intense kind of pain than you endure in longer races. Perhaps I’m not working hard enough during half-ironmans, I don’t know. But what I do know, is that regardless of what "fast" means to you, speed, for everyone, is very painful.

If you read this blog, then you know that I write a lot about how the mind will do everything it can to make you slow down. And you know that I believe the mind overreacts, which is why I have dubbed my right brain as the "Drama Queen" or DQ for short. I can almost ALWAYS go faster than DQ wants me to. We all have our own DQ. And there are lots of tricks that our DQs will play in order to try and slow us down. Just ask Jarrod Shoemaker. I’m convinced that I place high in races, not just because I am stronger or more fit, but because I am willing to hurt more than some of the guys behind me. I’m also convinced that I’m stronger than some of the guys (and women) that finish in front of me. But on that day, they are willing to hurt more than I am.

I’m not saying that you have to throw up to prove that you worked up to your level of fitness (I think the German to Shoemaker's right is giving his all as well -- he's definitely not enjoying himself). Only you can really know whether you gave your all. Personally, I’m not convinced that I have EVER raced as hard as I can. That’s a tough thing for me to admit. But I believe it is true. There’s only one thing I can do about that. I’m racing the next three weekends. Two of those are sprint distance races that will give me the opportunity to practice my willingness to hurt in a race situation. As a former coach of mine used to say, "It's not going to tickle." Regardless, it’s time to find out how fast I am willing to go.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Another Trip to Boulder

Heading back to Boulder this weekend for the 5430 Long Course Triathlon. It's a half ironman event that, unfortunately, I am not ready for. Well, I'm not as ready as I would like to be. But am I ever? I tend to complain before every race that I wish I had a little more time. This time, though, I think my concern is justified. I haven't been able to train well for the past two weeks. Ever since the giardia/flagyl war, I haven't been the same. I had another episode this week, which I think was due to the flagyl causing me to be lactose intolerant for the time being. I hope that goes away. I love me some lactose! But I'm not going to test it until after this race! I can't afford any more episodes like Monday.

After missing a bunch of training days, I did get out on the bike Wednesday. I opened it up a little to see how my stomach would react. Good news! No problems. I was amazed at how strong my legs felt and how high my power was, even though it was only an hour. I guess that's what happens when you recover! Honestly, I don't remember my legs feeling this fresh in months! Then I ran today, and again, I felt really strong. It's more likely that I'm just rested and will tire out and slow way down during the 4-5 hour effort on Sunday. But we'll see.

That's about all I've got this week. Training hasn't been great. Racing long on Sunday. My very close friend Ryan will be racing as well. It's his first triathlon! My first triathlon was an Olympic distance race, so I guess he had to one up me and go for a half-ironman! Instead of writing about his training and how he's doing, I'll just let him tell you. You can read his thoughts this week on the race, here. My favorite line: "When my body is exercised and challenged, my energy is high, my mind is sharp, and my spirit is strong."

Well put, Ryno! You're going to do great! See you tomorrow.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Controlling the Drama Queen

Everyone pushes themselves harder in a group than on their own. But there are times when you need to train on your own. So how do you really push yourself when no one's watching? To some, this is the very definition of integrity. And for me, the answer to that question is one of the keys to being successful (however you want to define "success"), not only in endurance sports, but in life. Sometimes, no matter how much integrity I think I have, the Drama Queen that is my Right Brain yells out that I can't do whatever it is I'm trying to do. And he is VERY persuasive at times. The best way to convince him that I'm not working as hard as he thinks I am is my power meter. The numbers don't lie. It tells me exactly how hard I'm pushing the pedals. But still, sometimes ME seeing the numbers is not enough when every ounce of my being is screaming for me to stop (or at least slow down). Which brings me to what I believe is the real key to controlling the Drama Queen. Accountability.

My wonderful coach, Lindsay, sees every file from every one of my rides, and she can tell exactly how hard I was working every minute of the way. That means that when she has me do 5x2 minutes Power Intervals (like she had me do this morning), then she can tell, among other things, how strong I am today (both physically AND mentally). Mentally, because she knows exactly what I’m capable of doing (even better than I know myself). So if the numbers aren't quite there, or if they fade toward the end of an interval, she can tell that I either gave up mentally, or that I’m more tired (or not as strong) than either of us realized.

A lot of how we measure my intensity against my actual power is based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (“RPE”). For example, most of my training volume is done at around a 6 on a scale of 1-10. Intervals are usually around 8-9 depending on the purpose and length of the interval. Power Intervals are a 10. In other words, it's “go as hard as you can for 2 minutes without fading or spiking at the end.” Two minutes doesn’t seem that bad, right? Well, it is worse than "that bad." Power Intervals are, without a doubt, the most difficult intervals that I am ever asked to do on a bike. In fact, they are the only thing I do (with the possible exception of running mile repeats at the track) where every time I do them, I seriously think I’m going to puke at the end of the set. I usually do these on the trainer because I feel like they are too dangerous to do on the road. I'm pretty sure that I would fall off my bike at the end of each interval if I wasn't locked into the trainer.

So at 6:00 in the morning, alone in my garage, and sitting on my trainer . . . working "as hard as I possibly can" can have several meanings. There is no chance I would work as hard as I do without knowing that my computer is recording every turn of the pedals! It’s actually just as effective as if Lindsay were standing there looking over my shoulder the entire time (because, in a way, she is). And because of that (well, let’s be honest, because of my PRIDE), I almost never back off during my cycling intervals. Otherwise, I have to explain to her why I didn't (couldn't?) do them the way she expected me to. For me, that is A LOT more painful than 5x2 minutes of suffering on the bike. Yes, even more painful than falling off my bike and puking.

No wonder my cycling has gotten so much stronger in the past year. If only someone would come up with a power meter for swimming and running! Until then, I’ve got to find some other way to convince the Drama Queen to let me work harder.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill

Finally off the Flagyl, and the metal taste is slowly leaving my mouth! That means, I'm starting to train hard again. Well, sort of. Now my son is sick, so I've missed a few workouts taking care of him. Priorities . . .


We went to Arkansas this past weekend to Mount Nebo, just outside of Dardanelle. My family--actually, the Carter family (Carter is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name)--has been going to Mount Nebo for a LONG time (over 60 years?). It’s a state park on top of what Arkansans call a "mountain." I still have family members that live up there, and my dad, who turned 62 on Sunday--Happy Birthday Daddy John! (that’s his grandpa name, which was also his grandpa’s name)--has been going there since he was a small boy. And so have I. But it wasn’t until this trip that I decided to tackle the climb up the mountain on a road bike. And, therefore, it wasn't until this trip that I actually decided to give in and start calling it a "mountain" instead of a "mole hill." It only rises about 1800 feet above sea level, but anything with that type of a climb is a mountain in my book. It’s only a 2.5 mile climb, but as the sign in the picture above indicates, it’s the most difficult 2.5 miles most of us will ever see on a bicycle!
To give you an idea, the last 4 miles or so of the climb up Loveland Pass (which was the steepest part of the Triple Bypass) took me 26 minutes. But this 2.5 mile climb took me just under 20 minutes, and I averaged more than 100 watts (that’s A LOT) more than I did on the Loveland climb. There are 12 switchbacks (I think. It's hard to count when you're working that hard), which is a lot for that short of a climb. In other words, it was the most difficult 19+ minutes I have ever spent on a bike! I cut my “climbing teeth” in and around Boulder, Colorado, on climbs like the ones here. Noticeably absent are any 18% grades. Regardless, it was only 20 minutes of a two hour ride. My first two hour ride after the illness.

No running or swimming this weekend. I planned on a long run on Sunday morning, but John and Krisha were both sick the last night so we decided to head back to Texas early in case there were any issues on the road. There weren't, and we made it home safe.

So now I have 10 days until the 5430 Long Course in Boulder. I haven't felt this unprepared for a race in quite some time. It's not an "A" race, but the plan was to go into it a little tired. Right now I'm not tired at all, and really feel under prepared. Hopefully, I can pull it all together and not embarass myself in front of everyone. This will be the first race that Lindsay has actually been to, and it will be Ryan's first triathlon, so those two things ought to motivate me to dig deep. I just need to get some quality training in this next week so that I don't feel too rusty.

One final note . . . The “Carter Family” (and the Waters, Brooks, and countless other Families) lost one of its most cherished members this past year. Alan Waters was way too young to leave us when he did. The last time I saw him was two years ago on Mount Nebo. He was very interested in my running and cycling, and I even caught him out there running one morning after we had talked about my racing the night before. I'm not sure he ever knew it, but from a very young age, I looked up to him. He was always my favorite and seemed more like a big brother to me than an older cousin. After talking with everyone this weekend, it appears that he was everyone's favorite. And for good reason. You were an exceptional person, Alan. We miss you. Even more than we ever thought was possible.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pennies do not taste good

I somehow ate some Giardia bugs recently. Apparently the only way to get giardiasis is to actually ingest . . . well, I'm not typing that here! You'll have to look it up if you want to know. But just to pique your curiosity, I read recently that because of how you get giardiasis, it is also known as "Beaver Fever." So go ahead; laugh it up. I have Beaver Fever! (Now I KNOW you'll look it up!)

I am very appreciative of modern medicine. However, I don't like to put strange chemicals in my body unless absolutely necessary. This is one of those times. I have a half ironman in two weeks, my training has been nonexistent for over a week now (other than two rides that started off ok, but ended sooner than I had hoped), and I lost over five pounds last Sunday. So time to pull out the big guns! The big guns, of course, being a nasty little antibiotic known as Flagyl. Flagyl is a miracle of science that kills everything in its wake (except for me, I hope!). I also hope that a few of my good bacteria survive the "shock and awe" that's going on in my bowels as we speak. No worries, though. I have yogurt in hand. My probiotic troops are waiting in the wings to go back to work once the Flagyl has cleared out all the bad guys! George Bush would be proud (except that I actually have a plan, so maybe not).

I've read that when you get bitten by a rattlesnake, you taste copper. Well, I can imagine what that would be like (except, of course, I don't have the excruciating pain associated with actually being bitten by a venomous snake, but that's just details) because everything I eat tastes like pennies! In fact, I don't even have to eat anything to taste those pennies. The Flagyl is doing that for me. I can taste pennies right now. And based on that taste, I doubt Jesus (or cavemen) would have eaten pennies. Trust me. I'm only supposed to be on the rattlesnake venom for another 4 days, so hopefully that taste will go away, and my training will resume.

Speaking of resuming training; I actually feel quite good today. Perhaps Lindsay will give me the go ahead to get back after it. I never thought I would have to ask her to "let me work harder," but right now she's pulling on the reins a bit. Don't tell her, but I'm going to Arkansas this weekend. And my Orbea is going with me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jesus Ate Better Than Cavemen (and so do I)

Leading up to the Ironman, I had some digestive issues during some of my runs (several of my runs, actually). And we all know what happened during the marathon at the Ironman this year! So Krisha and I started talking about what might be the problem. As you all know, I tend to over think/over analyze everything (I even re-wrote this sentence three times!), so I decided to do a little research to determine what might be the best diet for me. I’m sure this will take a little experimentation, but hopefully, I can figure out the best nutrition plan for me.

I’ve read numerous books on this subject already. One of the best, in my opinion, is Chris Carmichael’s “Food for Fitness.” It’s great because Chris takes the mystery out of making healthy choices. Everything we eat “carries” the things we need (and sometimes things we don’t need) to our bodies. The trick is to find the best “carrier” for the job. I’ve been eating according to this book for several years now, and I have become leaner, fitter, and faster. I recommend it to everyone, athlete or not. But there still may be something that I’m eating that is causing distress at times. So, I started looking at specifically what I was eating. I decided that everything is suspect. Even my organic, skinless chicken breasts, although “healthy,” may not be the best thing for me in particular (since, like training plans, nutrition plans are individual). So I started looking at other theories of eating.

A lot of other well respected coaches and triathletes argue in favor of the Paleo diet (aka, the caveman diet). The idea is that our technology to produce food has evolved way faster than our bodies have adapted to being able to digest those foods. In an effort to feed billions of people, we have learned to harvest grains and rice to make breads, pastas, etc., that are very filling, but we were never intended to eat that way. Accordingly, we should be eating like our caveman (and cavewoman!) ancestors: i.e., ONLY fresh fruits and vegetables and lean cuts of meat. No grains, beans, rice, bread, pasta, milk, cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, donuts, fettuccini alfredo, Kraft singles, French toast stuffed with blackberry preserves and cream cheese (mmmm), pizza, ice cream, peanut butter . . . you get the idea. If the caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you because we weren’t designed to eat those things. Huh?

Something about all that just sounds CRAZY to me! For one thing, where did the cavepeople that I came from live? Do I only eat things that were indigenous to that area? So, no bananas or mangos unless my cave ancestors lived in what is now Ecuador or Southeast Asia? And no bread? Or peanut butter? That can’t be right! And that got me to thinking (big surprise!). I can appreciate their logic. I agree that our bodies have not adapted (nor will they ever adapt) to certain examples of things Americans eat (I refuse to call them “food”) such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or xanthium gum (whatever that is). But I still believe that the "technology" of turning wheat into bread is not one of those examples. So what were we “designed” to eat? Well, since I believe that God made me, I turned to the Bible to see if there was anything there that might shed some light on how I should eat.

In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, Daniel and his boys were held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar. So that they could someday serve in the king’s palace, King Neb wanted Daniel and his boys to be big, strong, and handsome. So he instructed them to eat from the king’s table. Daniel didn’t like this because he found the King’s fatty meat and wine offensive (sort of like trans fats are to me – You’ll never make me eat trans fats, George Bush!!). Daniel told the official in charge of him to test him for 10 days by only feeding him vegetables and water. It wasn’t that Danny Boy was necessarily a vegetarian. He simply found the foods that the King was trying to present to him as unhealthy and offensive. In the end, Daniel 1:15 tells us that after the ten days, Daniel and his boys “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” This is a very good argument for eating like a vegetarian. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we were “designed” to eat like vegetarians. For Daniel, it was a matter of eating vegetables, or fatty, offensive meats. He chose vegetables since there apparently were no healthy alternatives. This is a good lesson for all of us when we are faced with a menu of unhealthy choices.

Next, I thought about what Jesus may have eaten (yes the obvious “What Would Jesus Eat” joke is there, but apparently some guy has already written a book about that too, and I try not to plagiarize). Jesus was not a vegetarian. He ate fish. But more importantly (pay attention Paleo Proponents!), Jesus ate “loaves of bread” (organic and whole grain, of course). And it wasn’t unleavened bread either! Manna, or unleavened bread, did not come in “loaves.” So don’t try to argue that I shouldn’t eat delicious yeasty breads! Most of the breads of the day were flatbreads (or pitas), which were made with yeast. AND there would have been no significance to the sacrifice of eating unleavened bread at the Passover Feast, if they were not allowed to eat leavened bread at other times. So there! Jesus would have sweetened things with honey, not refined sugar, and he would have gotten most of his fat from olives and olive oil.

There are no accounts (that I’m aware of) of Jesus actually eating red meat. There are places in the bible where people ate a “fattened calf” and there were shepherds so they most likely ate lamb. But this was only on special occasions. It seems that even the shepherds only ate lamb on special occasions, and certainly not every day.

Jesus turned water into wine, but as my dad would point out, there are no accounts of Jesus ever actually drinking wine. It was prevalent in the day, and personally, I doubt he would have provided wine for others if it was unhealthy to drink. Some people point to the Passover Feast and claim that Jesus drank wine. However, this is erroneous because at the Passover Feast it would have necessarily been unfermented wine, or grape juice. Regardless, like lamb, wine is something that Jesus would have likely had, but definitely not in excess, and most likely only occasionally.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should ONLY eat what Jesus ate. I’m sure had Jesus lived in Ecuador rather than Jerusalem, he would have loved bananas! What I am saying is that if Jesus ate it, then it’s probably ok for us to eat. Don't forget, Jesus was perfect. More importantly, if it was available to him, and he chose not eat it, or to only eat it every once in a while, that should be a real indication that we should either not eat it, or only eat it every once in a while. For example, red meat and cheese.

So, I’m going to focus my nutrition plan around fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, fish, olive oil, and I’ll limit my consumption of cheese, red meat, and wine, but won’t necessarily cut those out altogether. The only real difference in this and how I have eaten for the past several years is the dairy aspect. Maybe that’s been the problem. I do love cheese (just not the horrible, horrible processed stuff!). And ice cream. And pizza. And French toast stuffed with blackberry preserves and cream cheese (I’m sure Jesus would have loved that too!). But, for now at least, I’m cutting back on cheese and other dairy products. This was a lot of work, and a really long post, just to conclude that I shouldn't eat so much cheese! And I doubt that the answer to my stomach woes is simply "too much cheese." But I’ll let you know what happens.

(P.S. – If you question anything I’ve said above, please do your research before you start arguing with me. I’ve done mine, but I’ll admit that most of what I’ve said comes from my own knowledge of the Bible, and Google. Regardless, feel free to leave comments and I will answer anything you have questions about. That includes my conclusory logic.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Battle of My Left and Right Brains



Yes, I have two brains. Neither of them work properly all of the time, but between them and me, we seem to manage ok. Here is my report from the Triple Bypass. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the ride!

After (finally) finding a place to park, Ryan and I clipped in at about 6:40. The climbing started at about 6:41. The first climb is up to Squaw Pass, which tops out at 11,140 feet. It was gorgeous and not too tough (probably because it was the first climb!). We pretty much rode steady up to the first aid station, which is at the top of the climb. It was cold at the top so I put on my arm warmers for the fast ride back down the other side of the mountain. I was basically wearing the same clothing I would wear on a 100 degree day in Hades, er . . . Texas, plus some thin arm warmers. No big deal, right? Wrong. It turns out, when you are traveling on two very thin wheels at speeds of over 40 miles an hour, it's a good idea to be warm! Just try staying on your bike traveling that fast down a mountain without the ability to keep your front wheel from wobbling because you are shivering so much. The ironic part is that shivering is your brain’s way of keeping you warm so that you don’t go into hypothermia. But when choosing between 40mph worth of road rash (not to mention broken bones . . . even though I just did) and the risk of hypothermia, I choose the risk of hypothermia almost every time (especially since I was in no real danger of hypothermia!). My logical, know-it-all, dorky, left brain was eventually able to convince my touchy feely, over-reacting, hippie, risk-taking (and very cold), right brain that keeping the bike upright was more important, and the shivering in my arms stopped. One down. Two to go.

After a jaunt through Idaho Springs, we started the climb up to Loveland Pass (11,990 feet). The only really bad part of the entire course was when we actually had to get on I-70 and battle the semis. It wasn’t too long though, and eventually, we made it to an aid station 4 miles from the top of Loveland Pass. I knew this would be the steepest part of the day, so we fueled up on turkey sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, watermelon, and Cliff Blocks before heading up the last part of the climb. We guessed that it would take around 40 minutes. I felt really good coming out of that aid station (I’m sure it was the Wonder Bread and processed turkey!), so I decided to go for it. At one point I heard someone tell his riding partner (a very strong female) to “get on his wheel” (talking about me), so there was no way I was slowing down after that (both my brains are prideful!). I pulled those two for a while, and ended up ticking off all four miles in 26 minutes (14 minutes faster than my guess). That’s where we stopped for the above picture.

Knowing that my right brain is not a fast learner, I bundled up for the ride down this time (arm warmers, leg warmers, and my rain jacket). While bundling, I felt like the back of my head was going to explode! I got dizzy, and for a minute wondered if I would vomit right over the side of the mountain. Apparently, neither of my brains like working that hard at 12,000 feet since they live about 6 feet above sea level. They settled down and I felt much better about half way down the mountain, and no shivering! Two down. One to go.

After the descent we went around Lake Dillon and into a rest stop in Frisco. Once you go through Frisco, you get on a trail that leads all the way to Avon (about 40-50 miles away (pay attention Texas, you could learn something from Colorado’s trails!)). It was the easiest climb of the day, but it was by far the hardest climb of the day. It wasn’t as steep or as long as the two we had just done. But I entered a zone, not too far into that climb, that endurance athletes refer to as "bonking." Most athletes overuse the term bonking, so I rarely say it. It’s not just getting tired and not being able to work hard anymore. That's not bonking, that's you not training hard enough. Bonking is actually when your brain decides it’s time to quit, and there’s nothing the rest of your body can do to convince it otherwise. Here is the scientific explanation of what happens when you bonk, which was written by Chris Carmichael:

“The importance of carbohydrate cannot be overstated. Not only is it the primary fuel source for endurance performance, it is the primary fuel for your brain and central nervous system. The brain cannot produce energy from fat or protein on its own; it can only take glucose (sugar) from the blood. This is part of the reason bonking (running low on blood sugar) is so detrimental to performance. The confusion, nausea, and disorientation that go along with bonking are more due to the brain running low on glucose than a problem with energy-starved muscles. When push comes to shove, the brain acts defensively to make sure it gets enough fuel. It forces you to slow down or stop exercising so it can use what sugar you have left to maintain your basic bodily functions.”

In other words, if you truly bonk, you can only blame yourself because you didn’t fuel properly! (of course, if you fake bonk, you can only blame yourself because you didn't train properly!). I’ve known this for a long time. I’ve known that bonking leads to confusion, nausea, and in my case, grumpiness/irritability. But the best part about bonking is that the logical, analytical left brain can’t even figure out what the heck is going on! Logic goes out the window, and the hippie right brain takes over and screams “DUUUUDE! SOMETHING’S WRONG!!! You've killed the left brain! I'm all you have left! We have to stop, NOW! And don’t think I won’t make you puke to do it!” All you can think at that point is, “I don't want to do this anymore or ever again.” You can’t figure out that all you need is a little sugar. And all you want is to do is stop.

So when we got to Copper Mountain, we stopped. And I ate. And then, I was fine. We cruised on up to Vail Pass (10,560 feet) without any other issues. I was happy, level headed, and having fun again. Stupid right brain! All we needed was a gel! Stop overreacting! We aren’t going to freeze to death, and we certainly aren’t going to starve to death! (Does anyone else find it strange that the RIGHT side of our brain is the hippie? Genius. God is hilarious.).

This has gotten really long, so I won’t go into much detail about the last 25-30 miles other than to say that it is NOT all downhill like the deceitful map shows. And the map conveniently left off the headwind as well. In all, I only burned around 4500 calories over the 121 miles (that extra mile was from our parking spot to the start) and over 10,000 feet of climbing. Right at 7 and a half hours. Average speed: a smokin’ 16 mph.

My right brain wants to do it again next year. We still haven’t convinced the left side. He’ll come around though. He forgets things easily.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Off to Colorado

Tonight, Krisha and I (and John) fly out to Denver. We're staying with our wonderful friends Ryan and Gayle (and Austin and Wyatt). We haven't met Wyatt yet, so we're excited for that. And we haven't seen Austin since last fall, so that's just as exciting.
Friday, I'll be at CTS to get the new road bike fitted, and to do some training with Lindsay. Then on Saturday, the real purpose of the trip. The Triple Bypass! No, not open heart surgery. I can do that in Dallas. What I can't do in Dallas is ride a bike over the Continental Divide. I talked a little about it in my last post. The ride climbs more than 10,000 feet over three climbs and 120 miles. It starts in Evergreen, and ends just outside of Vail. For those of you who have made the drive from Denver to Vail, this ride is not as easy as taking I-70. I-70 was built so that you don't have to drive the route we'll be riding. I can't wait!
If you're keeping up with Le Tour right now, check out this article by Chris Carmichael, which compares the Tour to the Triple Bypass.
See you next week . . .

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stop all your whining!

Athletes are a whiny bunch. Most want perfect conditions all the time. Well, too bad. Especially for me. Because I live in Texas. Where it's windy and hot. Always. If you live and train here, don't be surprised when you go outside and your skin melts. It's Texas! I bet our Alaskan friends don't go outside in winter and say, "Holy crap, it's cold! And dark! I thought it was noon?" Of course it's cold and dark at noon in the winter! It's Alaska! But more on that later . . .

I had last Friday off for the 4th of July (hooray, America!). I like to take advantage of long weekends by getting in lots of good miles on the bike, even if it's only two weeks after an Ironman. Surprisingly, though, I was feeling quite recovered from the race, so I got up early on Friday and met some guys in Dallas for about a 60 mile ride. I felt pretty strong all morning, and was really impressed with how quickly I seemed to recover from the Ironman. Last year it took me two months to feel strong again. This year, two weeks (or so I thought)!

Our plans for Friday included celebrating the 4th (and another Ironman finish for Brian and me) at my parents' house, which is about 35 miles away. So Brian thought it would be fun to ride to their house. I agreed. I'm not sure what happened, but sometime between my morning ride and noon it got really, really hot. And humid. And windy. I know what you're thinking . . . "at least there was wind to help cool you off." Um, if you're thinking that, then you've never been here. The wind makes it hotter. Not to mention slower. If you want to understand how this feels, set up your trainer in a steam room, and then have someone blow a hair dryer in your face while you hammer away for about 2 hours. Needless to say, by the time I got to my parents, I was wasted. Regardless, it was 90 miles and a little less than 5 hours of riding, so that's still a pretty good day. Besides that, I hear Kona is fairly hot and humid as well so I might as well be prepared for that day, whenever it may come.

Which reminds me . . . Would everyone please stop whining about tough conditions and especially about difficult courses!?!? Triathlons are hard. All of them. Especially Ironmans. But even sprint distances with short pool swims are hard. If they aren't, then you aren't trying hard enough! Training is also hard. And if you aren't training in difficult conditions, then you aren't going to be ready for race day when it's hot, cold, sunny, rainy, windy, whatever. The last time I was in Boulder, Ryan and I got back to the Res after a long day of riding during an unseasonably windy day. As we were stretching, a guy came up who had just finished his run. He said he was a pro duathlete (admitted that he "can't" swim -- that's a topic for another post). He was supposed to run 15 miles or so that day, but it was "too windy" so he was calling it a day. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? Too windy? I'm an age grouper who works more than "full-time" as an attorney, and I was out there enjoying a great day of training. Here's a guy who's a supposed "professional" and he doesn't want to run because it's windy?! Really? I wonder why I've never heard of this guy? In the words of the great Steve Prefontaine, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Everyone that does this sport (especially those that do it for a living!) have been given a special gift. Don't sacrifice it because it's windy! Show me a pro who won't train when it's windy, and I'll show you a soon-to-be-age-grouper. And by the way, when you do become an age-grouper, don't expect to win in my division just because you're a former pro. I train in the wind! And the Texas heat.

Which reminds me . . . Saturday I realized that I'm not so recovered after all. All I had was a 50 minute run, but my legs felt like bricks. It was hot (of course), and I was slow. I (stupidly) did not take water with me (it's only 50 minutes . . .), so I lost 4 pounds in that short amount of time. I ran the last mile (which is pretty much all uphill) in 7:38. Pretty off-pace, but as tired as my legs were, and as dehydrated as I was, I actually expected it to be slower. Sunday was a little better. I did a 90 minute brick (60 on the bike followed by a 30 minute run). Felt good on the bike, and heavy/sluggish on the run (again). And yes, it was hot. But I'll get over it. And, most importantly, I worked hard and finished all of my workouts.

This weekend we're headed to Colorado for the Triple Bypass. 10,000 feet of climbing over 120 miles. Plus, it might be windy, cold at times, hot at others, and possibly rainy. All the ingredients for an epic day. Too bad my "professional" friend from Boulder will miss it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beware of Cyclists!

I rode my bike in to work yesterday. Yes, I still live in Rockwall/Heath (25 miles East of Dallas), which was the number one question from everyone that saw my bike at the office. And no, I can't really disagree with Bicycling Magazine that Dallas is the worst city in America for cycling (WHO'S NUMBER ONE!?!?!). But still, since they opened a new gym in my building downtown, I no longer had the "where would I shower" excuse. So I gave it a try. Long story short, I'll be doing it again. This gives me the opportunity to get in a couple of 40 mile rides during the week, and still be at my desk by 9:00. I can't wait! But here's the long story anyway . . .

I couldn't figure out how to safely get across Lake Ray Hubbard, so my lovely wife dropped me off at the Bass Pro Shop (Stop laughing! That wasn't supposed to be funny! I do live in Texas. On a lake. And actually she dropped me off on "Bass Pro Drive." Ok, that's a little bit funny.). The plan was to ride along the I-30 frontage road, then turn North on St. Francis, and take that up to White Rock Lake (yes, another lake. This one's smaller, though, and lots of people run or ride the trail that goes around it (about 10 miles), so I wasn't quite as out of place there as I was at the Bass Pro Shop). That part of the plan worked perfectly. It was safer than I expected it to be. In fact, I think it may be one of the safest routes I ride. Take that Bicycling Magazine!!

But then I got to White Rock Lake, and the "safety" of a biking trail. As soon as I got on the trail, a lady on a bike (I'm sure a very nice, courteous, sweet lady) checked for traffic from her right (I was coming from her left) and proceded to pull out in front of me nearly taking us both out. I had made it safely past Bubba's jacked up dually on Bass Pro Drive, SUV Mom putting on her makeup and racing to get to work on time, the alleged gunfire that occasionally breaks out in the areas South of White Rock Lake, and most importantly, those bike chasing dogs that have been known to take me down (and ruin a good pair of wheels!). But once I reached the safe haven of a bike trail, another cyclist almost takes me out. Gotta love irony. But hey, at least she's out there! Keep it up ma'am! But please, look both ways next time.

Once I got off the trail and back onto the busy city streets again, I didn't have any other issues. Other than getting lost (Thank God for Blackberries and Mapquest!). While trying to find my way, I came across two Dallas Policemen on mountain bikes, so I stopped them. "Good morning, Gentlemen! Can you tell me the safest way to get to downtown from here?" Their answer: "In a car." Touche, Bicycling Magazine. Touche.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ironman . . . A Game of Inches

Ok, so the answer was no. I did not have a sub-10 hour Ironman in me. Yet. Regardless, it was a great trip! We had lots of fun in Seattle and Coeur d'Alene. I even bought a 17 pound Halibut at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. That's the place where they throw the fish. We watched them throw all kinds of salmon, trout, etc., and they never dropped any of them . . . until my halibut. It actually knocked the guy down it hit him so hard, which was quite hilarious! (Why is it that we laugh at people when they fall???). Alas, we'll be eating a lot of halibut for a while! We've had one steak, and it was awesome, so we're looking forward to the rest. We'll see how excited we are about fresh halibut about 12 pounds from now!

On to the race report: I took a while to get this post up because I wanted to include a cool picture from the race when I posted this. But it's taking too long to get the pictures so you'll have to stay tuned for actual pictures of me and the course. This bear is the best pic I have so far. And he is a pretty good description of how ridiculous an Ironman can feel at times (before you get on to me for being sexist, I said "he" because I'm sure that a girl bear would not be so silly as to try something like that!). Although, I'm not sure what that bear is riding for (halibut perhaps??), he doesn't sound like he's giving up. And, fortunately, neither did I.

THE SWIM - The water was 59 degrees! The only colder race I've done was in 54 degree water, but that was a sprint, so I only spent about 15 minutes in the water at that one. This was over an hour. Regardless, the rest of the competitors made it very easy to forget about how cold the water was. That's because all 2300 of them were trying their hardest to drown me! This was by far the roughest swim I have ever been in. The water itself was relatively calm. The people were not! And with two loops, it never really opened up like the course at Arizona did. The course went out, made two left turns, and then straight back to shore to start the second lap. Because each segment was fairly short, and everyone wanted to hug the turn buoys (and drown me!), it was REALLY crowded for about 2 of the 2.4 miles. To top it off, I had no idea what my time was because my watch had been stopped at some point. I spent most of the day wondering what my actual swim time was, and being thankful that no one was successful in their repeated attempts to kick me in the face and drown me.

My Goal - 1:05
Lindsay's Guess - 1:10 ("but if the water's cold, it could slow you down a minute or two.")
Actual Time - 1:11:52

One other thing before we move on to the bike . . . the grass in the transition area is VERY slippery when your feet are numb and wet. And, guys, the volunteers REALLY don't want you running into the women's changing tent after the swim! Trust me, you will fall down if you try!

THE BIKE - After picking myself up off the ground, and finding the right changing tent, I managed to get in and out of T1 pretty quickly. Then it was on to the bike course. The first 10 miles or so is along the lake and is pretty fast. Then it turns North and slowly climbs out of town before getting to 20 miles or so of some fairly difficult rolling hills. I was out of the saddle a few times just to get up a couple of them. After the hills, the course goes back down for 10-15 miles to the end of the first loop. This section is a long gradual downhill, which I thought was going to be a great place to get my legs back under me for the second loop and to help prepare for the run in the last 15 miles of the route. However, the wind was blowing straight up the hill, which meant instead of cruising at 25+ mph, I was grinding it out at 18-20. This was actually the most difficult section of the entire course because of the wind, and partly because I was planning on it being the easiest section of the course. But you have to adjust to the conditions, and the best place to make up time on your competitors is when climbing and into a headwind ("everyone can go fast downhill and with the wind at their back!" Thanks, Lindsay). So I grinded it out at around 20 mph into the wind for about 40 minutes to finish the first loop. I ended up averaging 21 mph for the first loop, which was my goal for the entire race. I fell off pace on the second loop (and came out of the saddle on almost every climb -- somehow those "rolling hills" turned into mountains on the second loop!). I finished the bike in 5:36, "only" 16 minutes off my goal time.

My Goal - 5:20 (i.e., 21 mph)
Lindsay's Guess - "around 20 mph" (i.e., 5:36)
Actual Time - 5:36:21 (I think I should start trusting Lindsay more. Seriously, that's scary! Almost 7 hours into the day and she's off by 21 seconds?!)

THE RUN(s) - Yes, "Runs", but we'll get to that later. Started off strong. Ran the first mile in 7:30, then the usual leg cramping came. That happens when you have been riding that hard for that long and then you start running. It usually takes my quads a half mile or so to figure out how to run again. Sure enough, by the second mile marker, I was 15:10 into the run, and the cramping was gone . . . at least in my legs. I averaged 7:44 for the first 10k. Then I was forced to make my first of two stops in the port-a-pots. I spent 10-15 minutes total in port-a-pots over the next 5 miles. Hence, calling this section "THE RUN(s)." Yes, that is disgusting. And yes, I am childish. But that's the nicest way I can think of to describe what happened during those 15 minutes. After that, it's a little difficult to run strong again (excuse the pun, and my middle-schooler mentality). So I did some walking through the aid stations, and at the mile markers, and whenever the cramping returned, and up the steeper hills, until the last 5k.

THE LAST 5K - Like I've said before, I look for opportunities to test myself late in a race. In triathlons, they always write your age on the back of your calf so that you can tell who is in your age group while you're out there (which reminds me, at the CapTex in Austin, they also put the letter of your wave on your calf since you don't all start at the same time. I passed a girl on the run with "34 DD" written on the back of her leg. Again, I'm an immature middle-schooler, but I found that hilarious. And a little bit disturbing.). At Ironman events, they also print your name on your bib#. So you start to figure out late in the day who has been racing along side you all day long, and who you need to beat in order to place higher in your age group. Well, with less than 5k to go I start seeing lots of guys in my age group. One was "Matt from Boise" who was 31, and whom I had been going back and forth with since the early miles of the bike course. There were several others (one of which dropped us both in the last mile), but I felt like Matt would challenge me since we had seen each other all day. Sure enough, when I went by him, he stayed with me. We picked off several others the last two miles, but never caught the one guy that blew by us both. We were too far back for it to matter for a Kona spot. But holding off Matt from Boise definitely helped my confidence to know that I can "race" that late in an Ironman event. Of the 6 guys in my age group that were battling it out in the last 5k, I finished second. By 3 seconds.

It's unbelievable to me that you can start the day at edge of the water, swim for over an hour, bike for five and a half, go through the two transition areas, stop for unscheduled bathroom breaks, run for almost 4 hours, and finish 3 seconds ahead of the next person in your age group. It's amazing that a 10+ hour race can come down to just 3 seconds. Mere inches.

My Goal - 3:30 (i.e., 8 minute miles)
Lindsay's Guess - 3:20-3:30
Actual Time - 3:59:37 (I guess Lindsay didn't factor in my stubborn stomach.)
So I was off by 56 minutes for my "dream time." However, I was running strong before the stomach issues. I spent close to 15 minutes sitting in the port-a-pots. That slowed me down for the second half as well, which means I was definitely capable of running a 3:20-3:30 marathon. And really, who's going to question Lindsay's Guess when she was so close on the swim and bike? 10:15:23 took the last Kona slot in my age group. So without stomach issues, I'm around 15 minutes away from Kona. Mere inches.
Where can I find those inches? My first transition was good, my second should have been at least 2 minutes faster. I have no doubts that I can gain 15-20 minutes on the bike course next year. I know the course, and I'll be stronger. I didn't start to really ride to my potential in training this year until April. For next year, I'm starting this weekend. I have 51 weeks to find those inches.
People often ask me "what's next" after I finish an Ironman, as if it was a one time thing, and now it's time to move on. While it's easy to dwell on bad races for too long, it's just as easy to pridefully rest for too long after having a good race. Days can turn into weeks, weeks into months, and before you know it, you've lost fitness and almost have to start over. Even a BAD day at the Ironman is a GREAT day of training. About an hour after I finished the Ironman, Lindsay (genius that she is) sent me the following text message:
"Good work today Barry. Get some rest and hydrate. Let's catch up tomorrow to recap the race and begin preparing for the next!"
Exactly what I needed to hear. So, "what's next" for me is two more half ironmans and a marathon this year. Gotta find those inches!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The work is done . . .

Or "the hay is in the barn" as they say (who are "they" anyway? And why do they think they know everything?). Regardless, it's Ironman Week, and I'm ready to race!

I haven't updated the blog in a while. I intended to do lots of good posts regarding my last long run before the race (it was HOT!), and the 1:24 swim across Lake Ray Hubbard (it was ROUGH! Seriously, up to 3' swells! Thanks to Dee, Mason, and Tim for the kayak support. I think they worked as hard as we did in that choppy water!). But, alas, work got in the way of my fun time (I've got to come up with another excuse), and I didn't get it done.

This week has been especially tough mentally. I'm ready to race and I'm anxious to just get out of town and start preparing for Sunday. I'll feel much better once the canon goes off, but until then, I'm a little on edge.

Brian and Dee pick us up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to head to the airport. We fly out to Seattle, and then make the drive to Coeur d'Alene from there (I promised Dee we could stop at Starbuck's on the way out of town. Anyone know if they have those in Seattle?). I was invited to a breakfast with trisports.com on Friday morning, so Krisha and I will be going to that before the morning swim. Short bike ride after the swim, then pick up Ryno at the airport on Friday night. Saturday is another swim, and a short run. Then rest.

Thank you to everyone that has helped me get to this point this year. My wonderful, beautiful wife Krisha for always being so supportive of my training (even when "work gets in the way" of the rest of our lives together). Brian for keeping me company on all those long rides, and for the occasional slap to keep me from taking this stuff too seriously (I think you're going to have to start hitting harder, Brian. It's not sinking in!). Dee for letting Brian keep me company on all those long rides (almost done, Dee!). Lindsay at CTS for being the best coach ever! (You ROCK, Lindsay, even though sometimes I think you're trying to kill me!). Jason and Rockwall Cycling for ordering things for me even when they don't really carry them in the shop, and especially for providing me with a bike to ride while mine was being shipped to the race (I promise I'll pay you as soon as I get back to town!). All the guys at the Tri-ProSoap team for all their encouragement. Ryan for a great weekend of training in Boulder. Ross, Swanson, McGaffen, and all the rest of the guys that push (i.e., "punish") me on the Rockwall Cycling group rides (even though sometimes I KNOW you guys are all trying to kill me!). And everyone else who supports me in any way. Thanks. I could not do this without all of you!

I don't like to talk up goals too much in public before a race like this, so I'm not going to list them here. Let's just leave it at, "I hope to race that other Ironman event in October this year." We'll know on Sunday night (possibly not until Monday morning). If you want to keep track of my progress, there will be a link on http://www.ironmanlive.com/ on Sunday morning where you can track athletes. Be sure to keep up with Brian Young and Tim Glasson (first Ironman for TIM!!!) as well.

Am I ready? Yes. Can I go under 10 hours? Yes. Will I go under 10 hours? Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CapTex Update

The whole family went to Austin this weekend for the CapTexTri. Last year it was rained out, so we were hoping for better weather in 2008. Sure enough, we were not disappointed. I did the Olympic distance race while Krisha and my dad did the sprint.

I was a little disappointed in my results. I got way off course on the swim and ended up taking 29 minutes to get to T1. That's about the slowest I have ever done an Olympic distance swim. Not the start I was looking for! My wave started about an hour after the first one went off. And since the bike course was four 10k loops, the theme for the bike was "ON YOUR LEFT!" I think I shouted that about once every minute for the entire ride. Still, I averaged 23.7mph, so I wasn't too disappointed with the result considering how crowded it was.

The sun came out for the run. I got passed by someone in my age group early on the run. I decided to go with him, but he slowly pulled away after about a half mile or so. No worries, you never know what's going to happen. I ended up catching him on the second loop of the run, and after having learned my lesson at the PlayTri Half in April, I went by him hard and never looked back. As expected, he didn't challenge me. I was feeling pretty strong at that point so I think I could have held him off anyway. Regardless, because of my ridiculously slow swim, I finished in 2:20:35, which put me in a distant 10th in my age group. Not my best day, but that wasn't the A race of the season, so I'm just moving on. Not dwelling on my miserable swim. Or my lackluster effort on the run. Really, I'm not . . . .

Krisha and Dad had good days. Krisha had a breakthrough in the swim. And my dad finished another race, which with his limited training, is quite remarkable for a 62 year old stud! Way to go Dad! Mom had the most difficult job of all -- keeping my son, John, entertained while mommy and daddy raced.

Team Tri-ProSoap made a good showing as well. Mark Saroni finished 2nd overall in the sprint race as he prepares for the 2008 Sprint World Championships in Vancouver next week. Chase Ingraham was 20th overall in the Olympic with a time of 2:18:07, and Travis Wolther was the first big man to cross the finish of the Olympic, with a time of 2:27:28.

Overall, I like this race. It's pretty crowded, but it's a fun, fast course, in a great city.

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