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.