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.