Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Retrospect - 2009

By any account, 2009 was a year like no other year, for that I am grateful!

Although our lives have been affected, like most everyone else by conditions and situations beyond our control, we have managed to remain positive and on plan. Yes, we've had some setbacks and some have been hard to swallow, but for every foot that we were pushed back, we managed to move two forward. This I attribute to the resolve of my wife and two beautiful daughters, without their determination, help and support, my personal accomplishments would have not been possible.

For me, the year began like any other year. Except this time, my goals were a little higher, somewhat more aggressive and yes, a whole lot "Goofier".

On December 31, 2008 I took the plunge and registered for my first ever full Marathon, the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. On February 17, 2009 I registered for the 2010 Goofy's Race and Half Challenge and on May 14, 2009 I registered for Ironman 70.3 Augusta... my longest distance yet. Many wondered if I had lost my mind. To be honest, I sometimes wondered myself.

But all was good. I managed to complete the Marathon and the Ironman 70.3 and in just 10 days we'll see how "Goofy" I really am.

Along the way, I learned some valuable lessons:

1) I learned that those constant aches and pains, you know the ones - those that will not go away, are a reminder that there is a price to pay for that sedentary life style I chose to live for the first 50 years of my life.

2) I learned, or rather reaffirmed, that goals can be set, worked and achieved no matter how crazy or unreachable they may first appear to be.

3) I learned that it is very, very difficult, almost impossible for me to get up and run or swim before the sun comes up, but I have no problem doing this to ride the bike.

4) I learned that there's no way I will ever, ever be the fastest in my age group so I learned to concentrate on my own swim, bike and run.

5) I learned that you must really pay attention to your body, your doctor and your therapist. An IT band issue almost sidelined me early in the year.

6) I learned that it is very important to surround yourself with a great support team.

7) I learned that I'm not as bad in the swim as I thought I was. I learned that with plenty of practice, concentration and determination you can make it from the starting gun to T1 in no time flat.

8) I learned that I don't give it a second thought when I go out for a long swim, ride or run, but when an event is approaching, the knot in my stomach gets tighter and tighter.

9) I learned that real life gets in the way... sometimes. You just have to adapt and continue.

10) I learned that people who usually ask you "why"?, will never understand.

And a bonus lesson... I learned that it is true, you're never to old to learn!

It is with great honor and humility that I now take the time to thank each and everyone of you who have supported and believed in me from the git-go! To my family - WOW... what can I say?! I am blessed to have you in my life, I love ya'll!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 - Decisions, Decisions!

Putting together a competition schedule for next year has not been easy. Many factors have to be considered before making the final commitment to any one event. Most of these have to do with the travel factor. Will these events require more than a one night stay? How far a drive is this event from my home? These are not as big a deal as the fact that work schedule (vacations) and my daughter's senior year (college) soccer (Belmont University Lady Bruins) schedule will have to be seriously considered.

I would like to participate in at least one Marathon, a couple of Half Marathons, one or two 70.3 Ironman Triathlons, one or two Olympic Distance Triathlon and a couple of Sprint Tris. Add to this the obligatory 5 milers to support local causes.

The year will begin in form with the Goofy Race and Half Challenge on January 9&10 at WDW, Orlando. For those that are not familiar with this event it's a Half Marathon on Saturday, January 9th and a Marathon on Sunday, January 10th. This Half and Full will not be counted towards my 2010 goals! Or maybe they will!

First off I have two 70.3 Ironman in my sights. I would like to return to Augusta and I am considering the Steelhead. The Augusta 70.3 simply because I would like to see improvement on this year's time and the Steelhead because the timing and location are right.

The one obstacle with Augusta is that on that same weekend, Belmont Soccer has two games and it would be a big deal (to me) to miss either. The Steelhead is on a date (July 31) with no conflicting events. Additionally, this event is held in Benton Harbor, MI and it would be sort of like a homecoming to me. I went to high school in St Joseph, MI which is the other half of the Twin Cities, St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, MI. The event expo is held at Lake Michigan College, school which I briefly attended. As far as the distance, they're both almost equidistant for driving. 408 miles to Augusta, 459 miles to Benton Harbor. Hotel reservations have been made for both, will make a decision soon.

Regarding shorter distance triathlons, I am looking at Chattanooga Waterfront Tri on July 11th and Music City Triathlon on July 25th. Both of these are Olympic distance events. One issue with these is the timing. If I choose to do the Steelhead (July 31) it would make sense to choose the Chattanooga Waterfront as well.

I will go back to the Mach Tenn Sprint Tri and to the Mountain Lakes Tri. I did both this year and enjoyed them. Again, I'm looking for time improvement.

And as far a running events are concerned, I will run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville and the St Jude Memphis Half for sure. I have registered for the lottery for the NYC Marathon. A decision on which events I will run will be determined by whether or not my number comes up for NY. Should I not win a slot in NY, I am seriously considering San Antonio, Chicago or the MCM.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Have A New Hero!

I have been blogging my experiences for the past couple of years. Documenting my progress most of the way. Besides the obvious reasons for doing what I do, I have set a goal to attempt to inspire those around me through example, to get fit and to adapt a healthy life style.

I will not attempt to take any credit for what others have done on their own for I know how hard and difficult each step of the way is, therefore the credit belongs solely to each and everyone of them.

Last week, on Thanksgiving Day, my entire immediate family - wife and daughters along with my future son-in-law and grandson, took part in our local Thanksgiving Day run. We have always been a close family but this marked the first time that we participated in an event such as this one, together. I was proud!

Yesterday, my wife Monica took it to the next level. She ran the St Jude Memphis Half Marathon and finished in 2hrs, 51min, 22secs.

What makes this event extra special is the fact that she has been suffering from issues on her feet for the past few months. She developed plantar fascitis and the pain has almost sidelined her more than a couple of times. Add to that the fact that she suffers from hallux valgus (aka bunions) to a point where surgery has been seriously contemplated.

Many would have thrown in the towel at this point and none would have blamed them. After all, who in their right mind would put themselves through this kind of agony?

She seeked the advise of doctors and therapists and followed their recommendations to a tee; she has been very diligent in ensuring that she does what she has been asked and to do it proper and timely. She set her goals and stuck to them adapting as needed.

With the tremendous support of our friends and family she made it to the race and to the finish line. As she tells us, it was not easy but it was one of the greatest things she has ever done.

She has inspired me to continue doing what I've set out to do. To look at my aches and pains as opportunities and not obstacles. She is the epitome of dedication and perseverance.

The trip to Memphis was made extra special because of the friends we went with. Charlene, Skip, Sheila, Marilyn and Michele. Your support throughout the two days was tremendous and special. I thank you for being there, we're blessed to have you in our lives.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One Month Later - What Did I Learn?

Just 30 short days ago, I completed what has been one of the most amazing events in my life. Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Amazing because the whole journey was just beyond anything I had ever, physically and mentally, experienced.

On my last post I described as best as I could how the day went. Those thoughts were better captured when the event was still clear in my mind. During these past four weeks I have had the opportunity to mull over the whole experience.

So, what have I learned?

I learned that the sometime physical pain and often mental anguish was totally worth it.
I learned that I can push myself to do things never thought possible.
I learned that without the help and support of my family, this would have been impossible.

And hopefully I have learned from mistakes or rather, the experience.

Here are some things I need to fix:

SWIM: Of all three disciplines, the swim is the one I have concluded I was most pleased with. Funny I should say this, but its true. I do need to work on a little speed and direction; need to keep it straight.

BIKE: I killed my overall time and damaged my run in the bike. My goal was to finish the bike in 3 hrs and 30 minutes. I finished in 3:32:37. So how was this wrong? Let me explain.

I set my sights on individual event times. So much for swim, so much for bike, so much for run. After seeing that I had crushed (crushed by my standards) my swim time, I thought if I kept my bike time in check, I would surpass my finishing goal time. This was the big mistake.

I started off on the bike at a pace that exceed 18mph for the first 4-5 miles and tried to keep it up for as long as possible. Towards the last quarter of the course, as expected the pace had dropped to somewhat over 16 mph but I was still on target. The course was hilly and the wind was strong. I had to work hard to keep up this pace, but I found within me strength to do just that. I finished the bike with a pace just a smidgen over 16 mph which gave me a time well within the margin of error from my goal time. Like I said, this was the big mistake.

I killed my legs; there was very little left for the run.

RUN: Mile one of 13.1 was the only mile without pain. I understand now, why. This I can fix.

So, what will I do different next time?

I will concentrate and work towards an "overall" finishing time, not individual event times, understanding that sacrificing a little bit here, a little bit there, I will come out ahead in the long run.

I will also ride pre-race day, if possible, the bike course. At least I will drive it. There cannot be any surprises.

One question that has been asked often is if I will attempt an Ironman? The answer today is a definite... Maybe!

I have to solve three issues before seriously considering such a task. First, I have to learn to swim straight. Second, I have to answer the cramping questions and third, I have to upgrade my bike. When all these are resolved, I will possibly, most likely, almost definitely go for 140.6!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ironman 70.3 Augusta - My Journey To The Finish Line

Sit down, relax, grab a cup of coffee and take a short ride along with me. Let me share my experience as I became an Ironman 70.3 finisher.

I had in my mind that the weather was not going to hamper my spirits for the Ironman 70.3 Augusta. I trained long and hard and something I could not control was just not going to get in the way. I did not look at the weather predictions for Augusta until early in the week and the e-weather man had called for more of the same. 70% chances of rain is what he said.

As we were leaving home on Friday afternoon the rain started to come down. Off and on for most of the drive it kept coming. The passage through Atlanta was under a torrential downpour. Again, I was thinking… nothing will get in the way. I must admit however, that my only concern was for the swim. What condition was the river in? Had the water swelled so that it would render the river un-swimmable? And what about the quality of the water? The race director had posted on the website that all had been cleared, but I had to wonder if this was just what he had to say to ensure he wouldn’t have massive numbers of “no-shows” and they would make a race time decision on the swim portion of the tri.

On Saturday morning accompanied by my wife, I went to the pre-race meeting. The race director assured us that the river was in perfect condition. Water temperature was 72 degrees and it would be wetsuit legal! (Sigh of relief from yours truly) and big round of applause from all present. After going through all the rules and regulations we were dismissed and on to the packet pick up area where the culmination of the long journey was coming together. I was given an orange “Ironman 70.3” I.D. bracelet and the race bib with number 2039. My age group was the 55-59 and fittingly enough the swim cap color was silver. My swim wave would start at 8:39 on Sunday morning.

After spending some time at the race expo and just a few dollars to support the vendors present, we left in search of the key race areas; transition, swim start, finish line. Unfamiliar with the city and not very descriptive maps in our hands it took us just long enough to get to transition in time to have the bike checked in. Just a few minutes before 2 pm but they were allowing bikes in already so I racked mine and covered it with plastic to protect it from water for rain was still coming down and it was to rain all night.

We drove to the swim start just to check it out. There were a couple of swimmers practicing but there was no swim support. I remember wondering how smart this was. One swimmer must have been some 400 yards from the dock. His wife had a terrified look on her face for on his way back we all could tell he was struggling. He was swimming at this point, up-river.

It was time to go back to the hotel room for a small nap prior to dinner time. We just knew that we needed to get to a restaurant early if we wanted to eat early enough. We were right. We left the hotel room around 5:45 and as it happened, it was already too late. Every restaurant we stopped at had close to a two hour wait. Then it came to us, we should take our dinner back to the hotel.

As I have always done, I did tonight. After double checking all my gear and ensuring all was ready for the morning, I was in bed and ready to go to sleep by 9 pm. Lights out. Good night.

Then 1 a.m. came. And as always before it happened again. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Remember looking at the clock several times during the remaining of the night. At 4:45 I got out of bed and made a cup of coffee.

Left the room at 5:45. Arrived at transition at 6:10. The transition area was already full of activity but a quiet activity. You could sense that everyone was entering their “zone”. Everyone was concentrating on the task at hand. I put on my head phones and turned on my music. Got focused quickly and set up my transition towel. Nothing more I could do now, so I grabbed my wet suit, cap, goggles and banana and headed to grab the shuttle to swim start. Upon arrival I noticed that somewhere along the line, somehow I had been separated from my banana! Good thing my wife was there with a replacement.

The skies were cloudy. Thick dark, heavy clouds overhead. If it rained, I was ready. The temperature was in the low 70’s. If today was to be like yesterday, it would be perfect.

Arrived at swim start about 6:45. First wave, the pros, would be off at 7:30. Picked up my timing chip and went looking for my staging area. There I waited until it was time to get started. The national anthem was played and announcements were made. The race director told us that some 2800 racers would be racing today. This race would be dedicated to two triathletes that were killed during a training ride just a couple of weeks ago.

The largest age groups were Men 35-39 with 370, Men 40-44 with 324, Men 30-34 with 268 and Men 45-49 with 202. Each one of these groups were divided into three separate waves. The swim start waves were set up so that the Men 30-39 would go immediately after the pros and the Men 40-49 would go at the end. Can’t imagine the mess in transition if these two groups were not separated as such. My wave, which consisted 55 and older was 74 strong was the one immediately in front of the first wave of the 40-49 age group.

We jumped in the water and hung on to the dock waiting for our wave to start. There were four minutes between waves. All the nerves that were bottled up magically faded away the minute I hit the water. It was time to get it done. The water felt cold but even that was not an issue. Then the horn blew and we were off.

I remember taking it slow and smooth. Getting my strokes in rhythm and my breathing in place. Everything was going as planned. Only issue I still have to address is my inability to swim straight. Fell off course several times and I felt like I was going every which way but straight. I just know that this alone added and extra minute or two to my time because of the adjustments I had to make. But even with all this, I felt good. Really, really good. The instructions we were given at the beginning of the swim was to look for the sausage buoys that would be the end of the swim.

To tell you that I was surprised and obviously happy to see those buoys would be an understatement. Surprised because I had no clue I was already there and happy because, well I had no clue I would already be there. My internal jubilation increased when I saw my watch and it showed 34 minutes and change. Okay, for some of you reading this, this may not be a magnificent time, but for those of you following my progress are well aware of my struggles in the water. My goal was to do the 1.2 miles in the water in 40 minutes, I would have been happy with 45. So imagine how I felt with 34. My official time came in at 34:34.

At T1 there was help to get the wet suits off. We unzipped and pulled the arms off the suit and a volunteer grabbed and pulled the suit off. This was a huge help. My T1 time was 6:34.

The 56 mile bike ride went pretty much without incident. Actually, it went off without any incident. Had plenty of fluid and nutrition and I felt I took what I needed when I needed it. The entire course was crowded to say the least. As far as the toughness of the course, for me I would have to rate it a 7 out of 10. Those that claim that the course was not hilly are either showing off or got lost and took the wrong turn somewhere. Man, those hills. At one point when the group I was with (momentarily of course) took a sharp right turn you could hear a collective “Oh S** T, look at that hill”! There was plenty of police support, plenty of volunteer help and very well marked. Water stations were separated fine but some folks thought the distance between the first and second could have been closer. Didn’t notice this.

Somewhere around the first hour of my bike the clouds that were covering the skies disappeared, the sun came out and the wind started howling. Really howling. Oh yeah, the temperatures soared. I estimated the temperature at this point to be in the 80’s and it kept rising as the day moved on.

Okay, remember I mentioned that the 40-49 year old men were sent off right after us? Not a good idea… not a good idea at all! How do you think us older guys felt all during the bike being passed by what seemed to be each and everyone of those 40-49 age groupers?

The last eight miles of the course were somewhat flat. Somewhat. And hot, very hot. I tried to take it easy to get my heart and legs ready for the run. I wanted my bike time to be 3:30. At least that was my plan. I had trained for that. I looked for that. My official bike time was 3:32:27. How close was that?

Entering T2 my left toes were hurting. When I took of my shoes they felt like they were bleeding. A quick look at my sock confirmed otherwise. Loosened up the sock and put on my running shoes. The pain quickly disappeared. T2 went without a hitch, except that when I tried to switch my Garmin from bike to run, it turned off and couldn’t get it started again. So I put my sports watch back on. At least I could tell my pace at the mile markers. Couldn’t worry about this now. T2 time was 5:43.

Coming out into the run I felt great. Couldn’t believe how good I felt. I remember thinking how glad I was I had done all those bricks during training. But this was short lived.

About a quarter of a mile before mile marker “1” it all went down hill. Every muscle group in both my legs cramped, all together, all at once. Quads, hamstrings and calves. Stopped to stretch but that seemed to make it worse for the cramps became more intense. But, I knew that stretching would help solve the problem so for about 10 minutes I stretched and stretched until I felt comfortable enough to continue. A few runners asked if I was okay, I gave them the thumb up. Tried to run but could only jog. Two blocks later, the cramps came back but not as intense. I knew at this point that it was going to be a long 13.1 miles. And they were. Could only manage to get two blocks of running at a time. Then stop, stretch, jog, continue. A long, very long, hot 13.1 miles. A bank’s thermometer on the route read 92 degrees.

This was truly a mind over matter test. I am here to tell you that there was no way, no how that I was not going to make it to the end. As a matter of fact, my only thoughts were of what I could do to ensure a finish.

The run course itself was flat. Very flat. Not sure what I think about a double loop. As runners kept passing by (and plenty did) some where asking if this was my first or second loop. It was nice to finally answer “second”. To my best estimate there was plenty of water and Gatorade stops, about every 1.5 mile. And I took advantage of each and every one of those.

And then there it was, just around the corner, one hundred yards and I would be a “finisher”. As I made that final turn into the straight ahead headed for the finish line, all pain and anguish was gone. At the other side of the finish line, a very nice young lady placed the finisher medal around my neck and all I could say to her was: “earned, not given.” She laughed!

There were 3500 athletes registered, about 2800 started and 2525 finished. I am proud to say that I was one of them. My goal time was 7 hours. My actual time was 7:19:45. And the thing that keeps coming back into my mind is the fact that all this was accomplished just 8 days before my 55th birthday, accomplishing my goal of finishing a Half Ironman before that day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Short Week

It has been on my mind all day long today. The thought that just one week from today I will be at the Ironman 70.3 Augusta, competing in my first Half Ironman!

Woke up this morning and the very first thing I did was look at the clock. Then next thing I did was to think that one week from now I would be somewhere half way through the swim. And the rest of the day was more of the same... "next week at this time I will be...".

Well, next week at this time, God willing and the creeks don't rise, I will be resting at the hotel room savoring the experience. I would have completed my first Half Ironman and true to my goal, prior to my 55th birthday.

One big question has been in my head all day long: "Have I done enough?" Well, nothing more I could do right now so I will try to put that out of my mind. This week I will taper, will stay loose, will carb load, will enjoy the journey and will prepare mentally.

Friday, August 28, 2009

29 Short Days from "D" Day

As I sit here and write this post, I can't help but wonder how things change. Just a couple of days ago I felt like I had "forever" to train for the Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Today it seems like time has flown and there's no time left.

I think the reason for is that I have crossed that magical day count of "30 days" until... That's right, it's just 29 days until...

For the most part my training has gone according to plan. For the most part I say because I did have to deal with that one week of intense back pain. But I think all's well because I have been able to pick up where I left off.

This week has been one of the best training week's I've ever had. Hit the pool on Monday for a 2000 meter swim, Tuesday and Thursday were running days, Wednesday was a bike day. This afternoon is back to the pool and tomorrow... oh, tomorrow is a long, long ride and brick day. Really looking forward to that.

During the next three weeks I plan not to ease the intensity at all, plan to pick it up some. Will have to throw in a couple of extra bricks here and there. Maybe, just maybe after each bike session I will just slap on my running shoes and go for it. That's the plan anyway.

My confidence in the water has never been this high. I can muster up to 3000 meters in one session (with occasional short breathers). Just a few weeks ago, the thought of a 3000 meter workout in the pool would have never happen.

It is in the bike that I've noticed the biggest change. I have learned to manage my cadence properly to allow a smooth transition to the run. Smooth as smooth can be. I've learned that it's easier (at least for me) to have a slower cadence (between 60-70) with a stronger pedal stroke. I find it that by doing this I can adapt to my running cadence (I call the strides taken my running cadence - not sure if this is proper lingo but it makes sense to me) a whole lot easier.

The running still strong. I have taken to the road around my neighborhood to log some serious miles. The roads around here are quiet hilly. It is not unusual to gain 1000' in elevation in a single workout. This has helped with my strength as well.

But, probably and the most noticeable change I have seen happened after I did my VO2 testing and found my training HR zones. I have not done a session without the HR monitor and have stayed, for the most part, within these zones. This HAS made all the difference in the world.

I'm looking forward to these next 29 days. When it's all said and done, I should be able to cross off another item off my "bucket list". How sweet is that?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Run For The Fallen"

On this beautiful August morning, in every state across this beautiful country of ours, runners and walkers alike are gathering to honor service men and women who have paid the ultimate price. We remember specially those who fell in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Here in Hendersonville we gathered to run seven miles. One for each of the seven service members our community has lost:

SSgt Brock A Berry. United State Army Staff Sgt. Fallen 3-23-06
LCp1 Tyler R Overstreet. United States Marine Corporal. Fallen 10-23-06
Cpl Patrick R Nixon. United States Marine Corporal. Fallen 3-23-03
Spc Sgt Joshua H. Reeves. United States Army SPC. Fallen 9-22-07
Tech Sgt Joey D. Link. United States Air Force Tech Sgt. Fallen 8-5-07
SSgt James W. Cawley. United States Marine Staff Sargent. Fallen 3-29-03
GySgt Jeffery E. Bohr. United States Marine Gunnery Sgt. Fallen 4-10-03

The event was sponsored by Hendersonville Running Club and events were coordinated by Leslie Valdez and Forrest Wise. The colors were presented by the Station Camp High School Color Guard under the direction of Col. Todd Overby. Local runner Retired USMC Randy Smith served as the master of ceremony. Mr. Floyd Lacey led the group in prayer and Mr. Oliver Barry sang the national anthem.

Additionally, we were honored to have the presence of Vietman Veteran Gary Harris from Radford, VA and his "Soldier Spirit" motor home.

Every mile along the course there was a sign honoring one of the above mentioned service men. Runners and walkers stopped briefly to pay their respects, say a silent prayer and a word of thanks. By the time the event had concluded each and every memorial had numerous flags placed there by those who remember their sacrifice.

To their families and friends we like to say that your loss will not be forgotten. Each and everyday we wake up and enjoy the liberties we do, we will remember that it is because of them that we are able to do what we do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

65 miles on his 65th Birthday

Just a couple of weeks ago several of Forrest's friends threw him a surprise retirement party! It was time to dedicate his time to his wife, family, friends and his love. His love of running. Little did we know at that time what he had in mind.

You see, for Forrest running has become more than a casual pass time. As many of us do, he too took up running for health purposes. He wanted to shed a few pounds and that he did. 100 lbs later he continues to be an inspiration to anyone who is privileged enough to know him

Earlier this year he finished his first full marathon in Nashville, crossing the finish line alongside a host of his admirers who where there to support this milestone.

Today is his 65th birthday. Many of us would think of grand things to do on this day. We would plan party, a small gathering with friends and loved ones. A weekend trip with our spouse or a home cooked meal with our kids and their families. That's what most of us would do. But Forrest has a different plan.

Today he's walking 65 miles! He tells us that his plan was to walk but when I met up with him he was actually running! And he already had over 35 miles behind him! I asked him if he needed anything, he just wanted the rain to stay away!

Forrest... You have become an inspiration to the entire community! Thank You!

Today is his 65th birthday, he's walking 65 miles!!! What plans do you have for your next birthday?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Body Marking

One of pre-tri rituals is to get body marked.

Bib number usually goes on the outside of the upper arms and right below the tri shorts, on the outside of the leg. The reason for this I have never questioned. I assumed from the git-go that it was so that the judges could easily identify you. Additionally, in the swim portion it is the only identifier the triathlete carries with him/her.

As I was doing the cycling portion of my first triathlon this season I began to wonder why it is that the athletes' age is marked, usually on the left calf. And why the category ("I" for individual. "B" for beginner, "A" for Athena, "C" for Clydesdale, "FR" for Female Relay, "MR" for Male Relay and "XR" for Mixed Relay") is marked on the right calf.

So I began to ask. First I went to several folks I know that have been in the sport a lot longer that I have. None knew the answer.

Then I went the next obvious source: Twitter. I posted the question in the usual 140 characters or less. The replies starting pouring in. All of which where guesses and opinions none of which satisfied my curiosity.

The overall consensus was that this is done so that you, the triathlete know who your competition is. Are you being passed by a younger person? Are you passing an older person? Are you keeping up with someone your age? Or are you being punked by someone "much" older than you? This has to be some sort of built in motivator.

Again, thinking that there has to be an "official" reason, I went to the source. The USTA. Wrote them an e-mail and posted the question.

First to reply was Mary Magee, Sanctioning Coordinator, USA Triathlon. This is what she writes:

"Thank you for contacting USA Triathlon. This is an interesting question, because the USAT Rule states that the race number must be visible on the body. There is no rule requiring the age to be written as well. This would be a question for the Race Director- to find out why they choose to have this.

Having ages on calves has become custom at most events and now most triathletes come to expect this. It is a benefit for Age Groupers so that they can see who their competition is during the race."

Then, just hours later, another reply came from Brian Oehler, Sanctioning Coordinator, USA Triathlon. This is what he writes:

"Great question. The number on the calves is actually just a tradition that has caught on in popularity with athletes, and has come to be something that they expect out of races. Not sure whether they do it so they can see who they're competing against, or if spectators like it so they can see the age of competitors, but in any event, it seems to be a cosmetic aspect that many races are jumping in on. Hope that helps!"

So, as you can see there really is no clear cut answer to this question, but I must agree that it is a big help to me when on the bike or run course. I have used this for motivation and plenty of times for justification. How's that you may ask? Well, justify the fact that the triathlete that just blew by me is 20 years younger and one third of a relay team. "That's why he blew by me!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ironman 70.3 Augusta Bike Course

I've been reading reviews and reports from folks that have been on this course and it seems that the overall consensus is that the course is challenging at points but doable and enjoyable for the most part. Total elevation gain is 974 feet... over 56 miles. Comparing it to last week's Mountain Lakes Triathlon, the total elevation gain was 718 feet...over 16.2 miles this course doesn't seem that bad, or is it?

According to a report on BeginnerTriathlete there are a couple of climbs to watch out for, one is a quarter miler at 5-6% around mile 17. A couple of miles later a couple 3-5% about 1/4 to 1/2 mile in length. A short 75-100' long 8-12% climb right before the long stretch home. The last 7 miles have a drop of 300' in elevation! There are other climbs scattered throughout the course but nothing to be concerned about. Several descends throughout the course, most of which are of the 3-5% variety, one of which will allow you to hit 40mph!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mountain Lakes Triathlon

The work leading to this event has been hard and long. It has been part of my master plan to train for my big event of the year. In just a few short 48 days I will be attempting to fulfill my goal of an Ironman 70.3 prior to my 55th birthday.

We left on Friday afternoon at 2pm, just as we had planned. The distance to Guntersville, AL was either underestimated or the drive time was really overestimated. We figured it would take us somewhere around 2 hours. It took us just right at three. The printed directions had us going one way, the gps route had us going another way. We opted to trust the gps. Down to Huntsville, east 31 miles, south 30 miles and we were there.

Upon arrival we met up with some of our HEAT friends. We drove to get registered and then to eat. Back at the hotel by 7:45pm. My wife, Monica and I went down to the boat docks and sat there for a while enjoying the fantastic views and back in the room and in bed, lights out by 9pm.

As it has been a norm, I woke up umpteen times during the night; at least 7 times. Not sure if this is due to the nerves or fear of oversleeping. Had the alarm set for 5am and a wake up call scheduled as well, for 5 am. So, nerves has to be the reason.

Woke up in a hurry. Nothing seemed to be ready. All my gear seemed to be scattered everywhere. Nothing was where it needed to be. Took what seemed to be hours to get everything back in its proper place. Went to the van to check on the bike and what did I see... The front tire had a blister the size of a small pancake. How in the world did this happen and what could I do to fix it this late? Our friend Allen from ACME magically appeared, not sure where he came from, but there he was. He took the bike from me assuring me that he would get it fixed in time. My wife was just standing behind me with that "I told you to check your bike at home" look. I let Allen take the bike and trusted that he would come through for me. Nothing else I could do. I was still having trouble getting everything else in place. I was not really sure I had everything I needed. I was entering a panic mode, but at this point it was useless to try to figure it all out. We got in the van and drove to the race site. Went to find Allen and my bike and sure enough he had it fixed. He too, had that look on his face. "Next time bring the bike to the shop before you leave for a race, we'll check it out and ensure this doesn't happen." I took the bike to the bike transition area. I had done this several times before. All triathlons are organized pretty much the same way so I couldn't figure out why I was having trouble figuring out where my bike would go. I found my spot and there was not room left on the rack for my bike. I had to squeeze it in a very small spot left. "Why would someone, everyone take so much space if they know there needs to be room for all?" Placed my transition mat on the ground and started organizing my stuff. Running shoes, visor, race number...check. Helmet, socks, bike shoes... bike shoes... where are my bike shoes? I didn't bring my bike shoes! How could this have happened. Stop, think, what to do... Okay, I'll use my running shoes, yes that's what I'll do. Wait, I can't I have clips, not cages on my bike pedals. That won't work! I'm done. The race is over before it even begins.

And then the alarm went off, the wake up call came in. I was breathing hard and had somewhat of a cold sweet breaking out all over me. What the heck was that? One heck of a bad dream. A nightmare more like it. Immediately I turned on the light and looked around the room. I had left everything ready the night before and after a quick check, I sigh of relief came through. Yes, I AM ready. Let's do this.

After racking my bike, getting "marked" and doing all the necessary preparation, went to the water and jumped in to get a feel for the lake. It was like a bathtub. Water felt great. The distance looked very manageable, I thought. This was good news for me. Mind set had to be perfect and it appeared to be.

With 910 participants, my number being 605, it would be a while before my turn. So it was time to go into "hurry up and wait" mode. Time to take some pictures, at least this would make the time go by quick. Or so we thought. We gathered everyone from HEAT and took this nice shot. As we were gathering for the picture, I noticed everyone around was looking at our group. That felt pretty good. We looked sharp, and as my wife later told me, one of the other triathletes standing behind her while she took the picture said that we looked pretty cool.

My turn finally came and off I went. Slow and smooth. My goal for the swim was to finish in 20 minutes or less. Yes, I know... pretty lame. But mind you, for me that would be a huge accomplishment. Slow and smooth I went. Tried to keep a close eye on my heart rate, didn't want it to get to high. As I felt it creep up, I would just turn and swim on my back for a couple of strokes allowing the hr to lower itself some. This I had to do three times. I still have some trouble sighting the buoys to figure out where to I'm going. To do this more effectively I tried the breast stroke so I could see where I was going. This seemed to work for me pretty well.

As I came out of the water my wife was telling me how good I did! Was she just encouraging me or did I really do that well? Once again, I was very happy to be out of the water, but the difference today was that I felt no sense of frustration as I had done in the previous tri. The unofficial swim time showed me with 18 minutes plus. Do not remember what the plus is because as soon as I saw the "18" minutes nothing else mattered. I had beat my goal!

Off to T1. I was pumped! Run hard get up there quick and make a fast transition. Found my bike without any problems. I was not very happy with my T1 time. I really need to work on this. What takes the most time? Drying my feet and putting on the socks. I will work on going sock-less. This will make a big difference. It will take at least a whole minute of this time. I know it will.

It may not look like it from this picture but I can assure you I was running out of T1. Made it to the bike mounting area and my shoe wouldn't clip! Took several tries to get this done but finally it did. Off I went. Cranked it up from the git-go. I felt great! Before I knew it I was humming along through the bike course. My gps told me my average speed was increasing with every mile I rode. The max average hit 20mph! Couldn't believe my eyes, couldn't believe my legs, couldn't believe it all.

The bike course was pretty flat, slight rolling hills here and there but nothing unmanageable. The course was beautiful. For the most part you could see the lake to your right.

I found myself passing several folks and I began to wonder if I was going to fast. Will I have enough left for the run if I continue this pace? Gosh I felt great, didn't want to slow down. Several folks did pass me but I noticed that most of them had the "xr" mark on back of their right leg. That meant that they were part of a relay team. Others that passed me were of the younger variety. 20-something, 30-something and such. At one point on a straight away I hear this weird sound. It was like a swarm of bees coming up behind me. The closer the noise got to me the louder it got. And then this fancy carbon fiber triathlon bike just smoothed its way past me at the speed that must have been 25mph or higher. Remember thinking... "if I had a bike like that, I'm sure I could go that fast!" Or maybe not.

Towards the end of the bike course I slowed it down some. Again, I was afraid not to have anything left for the run. When I crossed the bike finish line the gps read 19.1mph average, slightly over 50 minutes total. My goal was 60 minutes. I was happy to say the least.

T2 was a bit faster but still slow. Again, need to work on this. I opted not to take my garmin on the run for I wanted to see if I could pace myself without this gadget. I just took my watch. I was on target at each mile marker. Mile one at 9 min 32 sec, mile two at 19 min at small change. Finish time was 28 minutes and several seconds. Will have to wait and see what the official time records.

Overall this was a great race. Well organized, magnificent venue, great people, awesome friends. This will have to go on my list of triathlons for next year.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

From a Volunteer's Prespective

It was a tough decision to make, but made it I did. I chose not to participate in today's Music City Triathlon due to issues related to blister on right foot suffered during a recent vacation. Additionally, I did not feel that my readiness, both mental and physical was up to par for this event.

I lieu of racing, I opted to volunteer. I received an email midweek from the organizers asking for additional help, so that I did.

The morning started early, up at 4:30am out the door at 5:30. For a Sunday, that is early. Usually it's the only day I get some extra shut-eye. The rain was coming down hard and it had rained most of the night. Although as I woke up, I had wished I was getting my gear ready to race, I was somewhat glad at this point that I was not for I have never run an event in the rain.

Upon arrival at the race site I was given my assignment. I was to help with body marking. So, I reported to my station, grabbed a magic marker, read the instructions and off I went. Started marking bodies. "number", "age", "category"...

This was a perfect opportunity to meet several triathletes. Small chit-chat and you learn a lot. You can tell who the "beginners" are for they appear to be the first ones there. They're excited and don't want to miss a thing. They're nervous for they do not know what's ahead, specially for those participating in their first event.

"How are you?" I asked just about everyone I marked. I truly wanted to know. I wanted to know if most triathletes felt like I do prior to a race. You can really tell who is the most nervous because they talk the most. I marked a US Marine, I thanked him for his service. He smiled and thanked me back... that was cool!

All in all it went pretty well and smooth. No big issues, for how many issues can you have marking the racers' arms and legs. Just have to be focused as to not to put the wrong thing on, magic marker does not erase very easily on the fly!

When all the marking was done, I grabbed my camera and headed to the swim start. Wanted to take some pictures, specially of my friends. Several of them were competing today. It was a pretty cool site to see from an observer's point of view. A sea of green swim caps lining the walkway headed to the start.

I took the opportunity to watch the first and fastest swimmers do their thing. They make it look so simple and effortless. I took some shots of some in the water, but obviously you cant tell who they are. When the swimmers started coming out of the water, I found me a spot that allowed me to see the field as they came out. This was pretty telling.

Most were happy, very happy to have the swim portion done. Most had smiles on their face. I could imagine that's how I look when I come out of the water as well. There were a few, however that were visibly upset and not necessarily with their time. I do believe that attitude got the best of some of them. Could not imagine how the rest of their day would go.

I learned two things today. First is that everyone should volunteer and work a race. You will see things in a different perspective. You will find a whole new appreciation for the sport. And two, I'm not alone! The feelings of uneasiness I experience pre-race are pretty much universal. I do not ever want to come out of the water wondering what the heck I'm doing there. If I ever do, I will hang it up.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflexions From The Beach

Today is the last day of a very much needed vacation. Up until day before yesterday and for eight days prior, my wife and I spent time at the beach. Alone, just us. For anyone that knows even a little bit about our family, knows that for us to leave the kids behind for any period of time is a big to-do. A lot of deliberation went into making the decision. The kids, each with their own schedules now, could not make arrangements to get away during that time. But when it was all said and done, we opted for this get-away.

The schedule and plan for the week was simple; rest, sun, beach, food, run, repeat. And we managed to stay within this plan.

I didn't want to take a long break from training for the Ironman 70.3 I have registered for. Didn't want to take the bike, so running and swimming were the options of the week.

I managed to get 5 runs in. The first, on Saturday was the shortest at 3 miles. The longest was the last, on Thursday I got 6.5 miles in. The first two, were on the streets of Panama City Beach. The last three were on the sand. These were by far the best runs I've had in a long time. That is until a blister broke out on the bottom of my right foot with about .5 m to go on the last day. My plan that day was to get at least 10 miles in, but that was not to be.

During these runs, my pace was mid 8 minutes throughout. This is something I have never been able to do. I chalked this up to running at sea-level. My heart rate during the first two runs was a very comfortable 125bpm, again I assumed this to be due to the elevation, or lack thereof. Didn't wear my hrm on the sand; this would have made for a very weird tan line.

I tried to swim on the ocean a couple of times just to see what it was like. I went parallel to the beach for about 400m and back a couple of times, a couple of different days. Needless to say with no experience in ocean swimming this was a very difficult task to complete. It seemed like it would take forever just to get a few meters in. I will have to do some very serious considering before committing to a triathlon in the ocean. I'm not sure that's in my future.

Getting away from the realities of real life is always a welcome event, even if just for a short while. It's never easy to get back to a routine. It's double difficult when you return to the uncertainties that surround us on a daily basis. The certainties that we used to enjoy are no longer there and its becoming more difficult in today's environment to stay focused and positive. But being a focused and positive person, this is something that I must find the strength to do and I must work hard to ensure that those around me stay focused and positive as well.

I have a very busy few weeks ahead of me. In just three weeks I have my next planned event. The Mountain Lakes Triathlon in Guntersville, Al. And in a mere 69 days my big event of the year: Ironman 70.3 Augusta! After that a couple of weeks off and then preparations for the Goofy Challenge 2010 must begin.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

VO2 Testing: What I Learned

I have stayed away from this blog for the past three weeks on purpose. On purpose because after a self-imposed description of a dismal performance at the Old Hickory Lake Triathlon I wanted to ensure that any post to this blog would not be of a negative tone.

I say "dismal performance" because I was not at all happy with the swim portion of the tri. I have worked, or so I thought, very hard during this year to improve my swim and according to the split time this was not accomplished. I was pleased with the bike and happy with the run. I came in third in my age group in the bike and in the run, last in the swim. So far behind that I came in (overall) penultimate in a field of only 9.

Understanding that I need help to make me more efficient in the water, I joined Masters Swimming at our local swim club. I think I should have done this months ago. But I guess better late than never. Now I need to make sure that I can fit their schedule into my work schedule. This will be a challenge, but we'll give it a shot.

With the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon there's very little time to waste. All training must be effective and must be maximized. This is why I opted to get VO2 tested for I have been considering this for awhile. This seemed like the right time to do it.

So what is VO2, or VO2 Max?

As I now understand it is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during maximal physical exertion. In other words: How much engine your body has.

Why is this important?

It is the best indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance.

I have also learned that these numbers really do not mean a whole lot in the big scheme of things. For instance. My running VO2 Max was 39.6 which only tells me that I am in "good" fitness running level, but it was only 1.4 from categorizing me in the "excellent" level. My cycling VO2 Max was 35.5 and this puts me in the "fair" fitness level, only .3 from the "good" level.

I have done some research and learned that the VO2 Max is influenced by several factors some of which are genetics, age and gender, all of these are out of my control. I also learned that your VO2 Max starts to decline after you turn 40. So with that in mind, I have been on the decline for some 15 years now.

Most useful out of this test was the definition of my own HR Zones. This I believe could be a better tool for my training than knowing what my VO2 Max is.

Going in to the test I knew that the maximum heart rate for my age is 165. During the run test, I peaked at 166, during the bike test I peaked at 160. Now, I'm not so sure that the bike hr wouldn't be different if I had taken the test at a separate time, not immediately following the run.

I now have a training blueprint to follow. I know that in order to work on my endurance (aerobic), I need to spend most of my running time in Zones 2 and 3. My heart rate needs to be between 133 and 155. Similarly, on the bike I need to be in Zones 2 and 3 with the heart rate in between 124 and 153. In the lower end of the zone, I will build endurance. In the higher end I will increase tolerance to lactic acid and will raise my anaerobic threshold as well.

This test was performed by my friends at Endurance Geeks in Hendersonville, TN.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brick, Cops, Skunk, Fingers

First, lets dispense with the formalities.

Saturday's bike ride:
Distance: 26.1 miles
Time: 99:03 minutes - average speed 15.9, max speed 29.8.
Cadence average 74.
Calories burnt: 1746.

Bike Elevation

Brick run:
Distance: 5.07 miles
Time: 50:49 minutes - average pace 10:01.
Calories burnt: 671

Run Elevation

Average temperature 78.8.
Relative humidity 67.6
Body weight gain/loss -2.5#

I understand that this information may not of that much use to anyone but me, well... okay of "no" use to anyone else but me. But dang... isn't technology great!

It was one of the most eventful rides I've had in the two years I've been actively riding the bike. Stuff that happened today could only happen to someone like me. Stuff like this, really and truly is one of the reason why I continue to ride.

I was moving at a pretty comfortable pace down Indian Lake Blvd, paying close attention to the traffic flow for at this time of the morning it was getting pretty heavy. What do I see next? A cop holding a radar gun was waving my way. I thought he was asking me to stop. "Who me?" I asked, "was I going to fast officer?"

I truly thought that he and his partner where going to loose it right then and there. They started laughing so hard that it mad me laugh to a point where I had to stop and re-focus. "Funny, really funny" was all the officer could say.

When you set out on your bike, you better have your reflexes sharp, really sharp. Should you even come across a dead skunk on the shoulder of the road, in front of your path you may just have a micro-second to decide what to do. Should I ride over it, or should I try to avoid it and maybe crash? I can tell you now that next time I will opt for the option of maybe a crash. Not very pleasant riding the remaining distance with that awful smell coming from the tires of your bike.

Stop Thirty Road, in certain places, is somewhat narrow and if traffic is coming against you, cars trying to pass you will have to wait to get around. Such was the case when a fellow who apparently had suffered a terrible accident and lost all the fingers in his right hand... except his middle finger, was waving at me as he went around. How very thoughtful of him, I remember thinking. These folks sure are friendly on Saturday morning. I hoped he wasn't looking at me through his rear view mirror and if he was, I hoped he couldn't read lips.

Note to self: I cannot keep on forgetting to put Body Glide on my nipples. I really can't continue to do this. Good Gosh, that hurts!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mach Tenn Triathlon... Mission Accomplished!

As usual, the days leading to this event were nerve racking. Why? It's the same ole' story. The Swim! Although I have been very diligent at working on this, I still feel (or rather felt) that this was (or still is), my weakest event. This is not to say that I have become an expert cyclist or even an expert runner... far from it, but I do feel very comfortable in those two disciplines.

Friday night we went to carb-load with a group of friends for our team, HEAT. It was a wonderful time. Went to bed around 10:30 after checking and double checking all my gear, and loading up the van. All was set.

Again, as usual, I could not sleep. I remember waking up several times throughout the night looking at the clock. 11pm, 12am, 2am, 3am and finally at 4am I just got out of bed, took a quick shower, fixed a small snack and something to take on the 90 minute drive to eat later. We left promptly at 4:45, for we were to meet our friends and car pool to Tullahoma.

As we left the house I realized that I had left my cell phone behind. No problem. My wife had hers. As we arrived at our meeting site, I realized that I had also left behind my billfold, along with my picture ID and USAT ID card. Without these, I could not participate in the triathlon. So we headed back to the house and told our friends that we would just meet there. So much for being prepared... or could this have been a tremendous case of nerves?

We arrived promptly and with plenty of time to spare before the race. After registering, receiving my packet and getting my number 261 and age painted on my leg and left arm, I proceeded to take my bike to transition area stopping briefly to get the tires checked. Good thing I did, they were tremendously under-inflated.

Next adventure came when it was time to put on the wetsuit. I had done this a couple of times before, so I'm not sure why today, it became so difficult. Nerves?

I was set. Ready to go. Felt good and confident. Met up with my friends and hit the water for a warm up. Water felt nice. Although only 74 degrees, it still felt great. Sweetest announcement I ever heard over a PA system: "the race is wet suit legal"!

I went to the first buoys which I estimated to be about 75 - 100 meters away. This felt just right! I was calm, cool and collected. So much so that I decided to go for it again.

Then it was time to get ready and line up. Made my way to my spot and waited for my turn to go. When it did, I still felt ready!

Then the first swimmer took off and every swimmer there after went every two to three seconds. Time was going faster than expected, time to get psyched and set. Which I did. I was thinking at this moment how good it was that I had been able to do a warm up in the water.

And then I went. Slow, steady, relaxed. Oh, this was great! Then I arrived at that first buoy and turned right. Upon doing this I looked up to make sure I was in course and I remember seeing that last buoy which I estimated to be about 25 miles away and thinking: "c**p that looks far"! And knowing that that would be just half of the swim, for once I got there, I'd have to return!

You cant see how far the swim course was from this picture, but this is somewhat what I saw!

Later in the afternoon I found out that my swim time was 24:30. Although slower than molasses in the winter time, my goal was under 30 minutes, so when I saw this I was elated. My ultimate goal for this triathlon was to improve on removing my anxiety in the water. I do believe that this was accomplished today.

The bike went splendidly. I was reaching for under one hour (16 mile) and I came in at 57:34. Again, not even average for my age group, but well within my ability at this point in time.

The run was hard. Hilly would be an understatement. Still, was shooting for 40 minutes (4 mile run) and came in at 37:30. As with the bike, not anywhere near average for my age group, but again, I was happy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

First Tri Of The Year Is Just 7 Days Away

So I got out this morning with the goal of riding 40 miles and then running 5. Pretty aggressive plan for a brick, but I felt I was up to it.

The weather couldn't have been better, it was picture perfect. I set out a bit later than I would have liked but that extra hour sleep really felt good, really good. Should have left my gear ready last night, that took an extra half hour or so.

The ride was uneventful. No one tried to run me off the road, no falls, spills or other mishaps to report.

The one hill that was better than me last week, I conquered this week. My average speed was .2m/hr faster for a ride that was 5 miles longer. Slight improvement, but improvement nonetheless.

At the end of the bike ride my legs were feeling it, the were heavy and tired. I took off on the run after a 4 minute rest. Somewhere around the end of the first mile I heard my legs talking to me and I think they were telling me "enough already".

I managed to get a 3 mile run in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Time in the Lake

Today was the first time this year I went swimming in the lake., and only the second time ever. 6am came early, I was ready but anxious. I made a commitment yesterday that I would not postpone this any longer and go give Old Hickory Lake a try. Went to ACME and picked up a wet suit to give it a try as well, after all in just a week and a half I will be doing the Mach Tenn Tri which is wetsuit legal and I will be wearing one. Didn't really think it would be a good idea to show up race day without knowing what the experience would be like.

I'm not sure why but from the moment I picked up the suit anxiety hit me, sometimes it was strong enough to make me doubt; doubt whether I should be doing this wet-suit-lake-swimming-at-6-am-thing.

I have been swimming in the pool consistently for a few months so I wasn't worried about my swimming fitness... or was I?

I arrived several minutes before six. Skip was the only other person getting ready to go swim. Two of our HEAT teammates were there, Mark and Chuck. They were not going in, they were there to show support, help and advise.

The water was cold, really cold. We planned our route and took off. The first leg was about 150 yards away. We just wanted to make it there, rest for a bit and return. No big deal, right?

What happened to my stroke? What happened to my breathing? I must have looked like I had never been in the water before, it sure felt like it. Everything I have been practicing for weeks was gone. It was survival time. Then I remembered a piece of advice Chuck gave me a while back. "Relax" he told me. "Get on your back, catch your breath, concentrate and go on". This I did. The rest of the distance seemed to go better.

Upon arrival to the starting point Chuck told me to let my stroke "glide". He told me that it looked like I was "pushing" through the stroke using up more energy than needed. This made sense to me, I have been working on this for a while.

I took a second shot at the water. This time across the cove and back. It was about 75 meters in distance one way. I the other end the water was shallow so I felt a bit of security in that. This time I took my time with each stroke, with each breath and it made a difference. It felt better, much better.

I learned several things today. First and foremost the fact that to get good in open water you have to practice in open water. Second, you need to warm up. You do this at the pool, you need to do this on the lake. You just cant take off and expect the same results. Third (this is obvious but needs to be mentioned), there are no "walls" on the lake to grab on to for rest or to push from. This makes a big difference.

I will be out again next Wednesday and "God willing and the creeks do rise", every Wednesday after that for the remainder of the summer. Skip, Mark, Chuck... you guys in? Anyone else want to join us?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shifting Gears - Ironman 70.3 Augusta Here I Come

Three weeks have passed since the Country Music Marathon and my last post to this blog. I have been absent from the blogosphere for a couple of reason.

One: I have spent some time absorbing and assessing the entire experience, and two: I have taken this three weeks to fully recover; physically and mentally from the entire experience.

I came out of the marathon with a very high high. I was in pain and seriously doubting my running future. But the doubt lasted no more than a few minutes...really. Quickly I realized what I had done and knew that the pain would go away.

By Monday, two days later, as friends, family, coworkers and customers asked me about the experience I began to realize how wonderful it had been, how blessed I had been to have been given the opportunity to partake in such an event and the ability to fulfill my goal.

It wasn't long thereafter that I was making plans for future events. The memory of the physical pain was just that... a memory.

From the very beginning my goal has been to finish an Ironman 70.3 prior to my 55th birthday (hence the web address of this blog: and I started to seriously give this idea consideration.

The Ironman 70.3 Augusta will take place on Sunday, September 27th. This is just 7 days prior to my 55th. This seemed like a great opportunity to accomplish this. I researched and downloaded several training plans and assessed my ability to fulfill this commitment, not the commitment to finish the event but the commitment it would take to properly train for the event.

On Thursday May 14th, I took the plunge and registered. From this point there are only 133 days left. I will be ready!

As usual I have received the great support of family and friends. Most that don't understand why we triathletes do this tell me how crazy they think I am, but throw their support in. All that do understand why we do this have thrown tremendous support and excitement my way. For this I am pretty appreciative.

So I guess plans for my summer have been defined!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Country Music Marathon...Quiet Possibly One Of The Hardest Things I Have Ever Done

A friend sent me this:

"Perhaps the genius of ultra-running is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

Several times during the course of yesterday's race, this came to mind.

How does one completely and fully train for his/her first marathon? How does one completely prepare for the unexpected? What could I have done different? What could I have done better? Did I do to much? Did I do to little? Did I do it just right?

First off, physically and mentally I came well prepared...or so I thought. When the gun went off several minutes after 7am on Saturday, April 25th I felt good...really, really good. I was ready for whatever the course could throw my way...or so I thought.

Leading up to the big day I had my plan; I had worked my plan. Only set back was the few days after the IT Band issue hit me. Immediately prior to the marathon I had worked hard at getting this resolved. I felt good. At the expo on Friday I had my knees Kineseo taped. I was hopeful.

On Monday the weather man predicted heat, lots and lots of heat for the race. Hydration was the order of the day and the week. I kept a close eye not to over-hydrate. I did good.

The race directors had thought it a good idea to redo the course for this year's race, something about taking the runners through the sights of Nashville. I had heard that this change, which was mostly in the first few miles, would make the course more hilly and challenging. I really had no opinion on the matter because I really didn't know what to expect.

On the corner of Demonbreun and Fifth, right after mile 2, I saw the paramedics tending to a runner that had collapsed. They were trying to keep her alert. At this point I realized it was going to be a very busy day for the medical staff.

All the water stations were busy, very busy. As time passed we could feel the temperatures slowly rise. I grabbed either water or sport drink as I saw fit... still I was feeling good. I took my Hammer gel every 4.5 miles as I had planned.

Up until mile 11 and change, at the half/full split it was business as usual. My pace was steady and was going as planned. Did a quick body check and everything was still feeling good. I was encouraged. At the split point as I saw many runners veer to the right to take them to the finish of the half marathon, I briefly wondered if I was doing the right thing. Briefly because the excitement of finishing my first full was strong. "This IS what I've worked so hard for... now let's roll" was what I quickly thought. All was still good.

I continued on but was feeling my pace slip. My oldest daughter was volunteering at water station 10, between miles 14 and 15. The idea of seeing her there, cheering me on was a picture that kept me going. I must admit at this point it was getting tough.

Then somewhere around mile 15 it all went downhill. I started aching in places I had never ached before. The knees were getting sore, the ankles were beginning to hurt. The calves and hamstrings tried to cramp, so I stopped often to stretch hoping this would prevent a full blown episode. At every medical station that I passed I had seen at least one runner getting help, even the back of ambulances had runners in the stretchers. I was sure hoping everyone was alright and thanking at the same time that I had done the training I did.

I consciously decided to give up my goal time of 4:30-4:45 in lieu of a "finish". I knew that a decision to push to meet my goal would be a decision I would regret for the rest of my life. The idea of "not finishing" my first marathon was not something I was willing to even consider. At one point every runner within my sight was walking, every runner was feeling the heat and the pain. Along the course I saw a minimum of 6 folks down, getting medical help. It was turning out to be a very tough day for all. It became mind over matter and in the long run, mind won.

Just after I left Metro Center I thought it would all be downhill from there. I had also heard that this was the toughest part of the course. I sputtered along all the way past downtown Nashville, over Woodland St bridge and soon found myself at the gate of Shelby Park. By my own estimate, miles 22-25 were the hardest. Each mile seemed to get longer and tougher. I don't think I was able to run further than a tenth of a mile without having to walk another tenth. I saw mile marker 25 but I was going in the other direction. Still gave me hope.

I heard a volunteer say: "right over the curve, past the bridge is mile 26... and you're home"! WOW! I was almost there. I had run and walked over 25 miles and I was soon going to complete my goal of finishing a marathon. I got goose bumps!

But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw just as I approached the last bend prior to the finish line. My wife Monica, was waiting for me. She ran those last few steps alongside with me, we crossed the finish line together. That, my friends... made it all worth while.

On the way to the car my calves could not take it any longer and cramped, big time. Knocked me down and wouldn't let go. I can't remember the last time I hurt so bad. Today, they're sore, very sore.

Later on in the afternoon we heard that a 26 year old male collapsed and died after crossing the half marathon finish line. Cardiac issues were reported by the media, but not confirmed. Over 40 people found their way to local emergency rooms. Yeah, it was a tough, tough day.

Would I do this over again? Not sure. I have registered for the Goofy Challenge in Disney World. That will take place January 9-10, 2010. This I will do. As it stand right now, I will concentrate my efforts on finishing an Ironman 70.3

Friday, April 24, 2009

Less than 24 Hours

Two things: First, I'm trying to figure this mobile blogger feature, so please bear with me.

Second: Less than 24 hours to go until the gun goes off. Today I'm staying busy visiting some clients/customers, a trip to the office and later to the expo to pick up race packet.

Woke up early this morning and immediately I took a "pain" inventory. It seemed like everything was aching; ankles, knees, back, hair, etc. Then I realized that I should get over it really kick. I have.

My mantra for tomorrow will be: "Screw it, run through it".

My daughter, Juliana will be volunteering at one of the water stops. Can't wait to run into her. My other daughter, Marcela told me yesterday she wants to run a mile or two with me, but also wants to be at the finish line! Do I have great daughters, or what? I love you both and I'm proud of you.

My wife will be driving me to the start and will be waiting at the finish line as well. Do I have a great wife, or what? I love you .Monica! Couldn't begin to imagine all this without your support.
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