Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nothing Wrong with Silver

A couple Sunday ago was my last scheduled triathlon of the summer. I may do one or two more, but as of right now, I have not committed to anything.

Sunday’s tri was not like any of the other ones I have done before. Instead of a road bike course, this was off road for mountain bikes. Instead of running on roads and other paved surfaces, I was trail running, more cross-country style.

Saturday Alexis, Ace and I headed out to the lake where the race was to be held to get in some open water swim practice and see what I would be up against the next day. The open water swim practice went well and I felt really prepared for the race the next day.

Sunday morning didn’t start quite like I wanted it to. I planned on getting up around 3:30, getting ready, having coffee and then leaving the house around 5:15. But I forgot to turn on my alarm and at about 4:30 I just happened to wake up. I was an hour behind schedule.

Despite the late start, we made it to the park with a little time to prepare for the race. This tri was a ¼ mile swim, 12 mile trail bike, and a 5k cross country style run. I asked Alexis to time me and let me know what my times were as I entered the transition area after each part. Just before the swim started she told me that one of the race officials said that fast riders would finish the bike portion in about an hour and the slow riders would take two hours. This was great info. I had been planning on taking about 50 minutes. I adjusted my plan in my head accordingly.

The swim was an Ironman type start. Meaning that everyone in your wave runs into the water at once and fights for position, kicks, grabs, and does whatever one needs to do to separate from the pack. The key is to stay away from the slow, non-confident swimmers. They are dangerous. They get in the way, they flail, and they stop for no apparent reason. Unless you are an elite swimmer, the middle is the best place to be. The elite swimmers swim away quickly and the slow swimmers are behind you. Middle of the pack is usually pretty safe since the skill levels are about even.
However, if you are in the middle you will more than likely catch up with the heat that went before yours. This is bad, now the slow swimmers from the previous heat are in full survival mode. They are out of gas (with 100 yards to go) and they will hold onto anything that their flailing limbs can get a hold of. This includes faster swimmers who have caught them, buoys, boats and pelicans.

After making it out of the water it was time to transition to the bike. Many racers overlook the transitions. But you can waste a lot of time in transition. I do not waste time, this is not the time to catch your breath. This is the time to quickly get out of the transition area. Here’s how the transition goes: Once you get to your bike, put on your cycling shoes, put on your glasses, buckle your helmet, take your bike of the rack and get the hell out of the transition area. Notice there is no mention of dry off, have some water, get the water out of your ear. That wastes time.

Thanks to Alexis’ advice I was prepares for a long slow ride. And that’s what I got. Usually on my road bike I average around 20 mph, on the mountain bike I was at about 12 mph. The tough part about mountain biking is that it is not a smooth motion like on a road bike. Its very jarring. You have to hold onto your bars with white knuckles or else be thrown to the ground. Some parts of the trail were sand. Sand is the nemesis of your tires. Sand is very good at grabbing your front or rear tire and not letting go. This means a fall for you. Which I did. But only once. There is a good side to sand; it is very soft to land on. It may have been my most comfortable fall ever.

While I was blazing through the transition after the bike, Alexis told me about how long I had spent on the bike. I had done well. Now all I needed to do was run 3.1 miles on the same trail I just got off of. I was covered in dirt and mud from the dust and from the fall I took, but I looked like a bad-ass. The run was an out-and-back run, meaning I was able to keep track of how many people were on their way back in, and then gauge about how many people were in front of me; and there weren’t many. I managed to pass two of the guys in my age group on the run. Everyone has their age written in thick, black permanent marker on the back of their right calf. Things were going well, no one was passing me, I was doing the passing!
But then disaster…my belly decided it needed to throw up. I had to stop, grab a tree and hurl. I didn’t have much to hurl though, just a little water and some bile. But two people did pass me while I was doing this, however they were not from my age group so I didn’t mind. After a brief time-out, I was back to running. I didn’t have far to go, but I felt much better.

I crossed the finish line and was greeted by Alexis. She is always a sight for sore eyes and always has a cup of water waiting for me at the finish line.

Unofficial results are posted about every 15 minutes after a few racers make it back in. When I finished I noticed that there were not too many people who had finished. After a little while, they posted the first batch of results. I had finished 29th! Alexis asked me how I did in my age group, but I didn’t check. She went to check and as it turns out, I finished 2nd among 25-29 year olds! Not too bad, there’s nothing wrong with silver!

It wasn’t my fastest race, and maybe since it was off road aspect made it my most challenging race.

Here are my times:
400M Swim: 8:37
T1 (this is how long it took me to switch from swim to bike, this was fastest for my age group): 1:35
20K Bike: 1:01:17, 12.1 MPH Avg.
T2 (this is how long it took to go from bike to run): .42
5k Run: 23:47, 7:37/mile

For a total time of 1:36.00

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 2009

2009 is half way over. It seemed to have just flown by. If I had to give this year a grade, I would probably go with a B+ or and A-. Its been pretty good so far.

I noticed that the last blog was pretty old and the ones before that seemed to be about the same damn thing over and over; so how about a real update?

Alexis is off for the summer and she has started several painting projects. Including painting our upstairs guest bedroom furniture and the room up there as well. I don’t know when she will have the room finished, but the furniture looks pretty good. She is, for the most part, having a nice, relaxing summer and spending lots of time out by our pool with her friends.

I am absolutely swamped at work. The higher oil prices have people excited around the office and money for projects has loosened up. I’m sure you don’t care for the higher oil prices, but it’s job security for me. I have been up to North Dakota for business once last month and it looks like I will head back up there probably twice more this month. ND in the summer is much better than ND in the winter!

August 23rd Alexis and I are running in a half marathon. It’s like a marathon, but half as long; only 13.1 miles. Training is going…ok I guess, we both could be doing more. But its just running, in the heat, far…what do we need to train for?

As some of you may be aware, we have had a house guest, aka a roommate since about March. Waffles (that’s the guy’s name) is a good friend of ours and was a quasi victim of the poor economy…
Well he has been with us for a while now and all parties involved have decided that it is time for him to make other living arrangements. We are all on great terms, but it is time for him to move on, literally. Alexis and I are thrilled that we had the space and were able to help him when he needed it. Maybe one day he will thank us in the form of a Corvette or something really awesome along those lines.

Ace and Steve still dogs. Steve has grown into regular bulldog, and he weighs about 60 pounds. He is solid. Ace has his moments too.

Speaking of pounds. Check out the fat guy in this picture:
That’s me a year and a half ago. I didn’t miss many meals. I weighed about 230ish.

Now check out this guy:

That’s me at about 185. Much smaller. I weigh less now than I did as a sophomore in high school! I have defined muscles again in my chest, arms, abs, and legs!

When I tell people I have lost about 45 pounds since January of ’08 they always ask me how I did it. Are you thinking the same thing? I’ll tell you.

I eat less, and I exercise all the time. Sure I have my moments when I can eat a whole pizza or a small cow. But mostly I eat sandwiches for lunch, and Alexis and I have really changed how we prepare meals in the evening. We cook smaller, healthier portions. Also, instead of going out to eat at lunch with my co-workers, I hit the gym. Everyday. For example, yesterday I ran 4 miles at lunch and had a turkey sandwich at my desk afterwards. And that is pretty typical. Training for all those triathlons didn’t hurt either. It’s also not unusual for me to cycle, run or swim in the evenings too. I probably do ‘two-a-days’ about 2-3 days per week.

We don’t have any major trips or vacations planned for the summer. Usually a weekend getaway is enough to recharge our batteries. Hopefully one of those getaways will take us to your neck of the woods. Hope you enjoyed the update!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Triathlon Season Update

The second race of the season is in the books. Two weekends ago Alexis and I ventured down to Houston for the Take a Hike Ike! Triathlon. As it turned out, we went to Houston for one of their coldest weekends of the winter. This tri was supposed to be a 500 meter swim in Lake Houston, an 11 mile bike and a 5k run. I was advised earlier in the week that the water would be cold so I rented a wet suit.

On Saturday, Sonny, my dad, and I piled in the car and set out to find the race course and pick up the race packet. When we finally got to the park where the race was too be held, we were greeted with temperatures in the 40s and 20 mph winds. The lake was very choppy. you could be safe to say that the lake had 2-3 foot swells. These conditions were a far cry from the 85 degree pool at Gold’s Gym where I had been training.

Alexis and I woke up early on Sunday to head out to the lake. The weather was cold and I was less than excited to be racing that morning. But we drove all the way from Dallas and a few people were taking time out of their day to come and watch. I had to go.

We arrived to more of the same, temps in the 30s, 20mph winds and a very choppy lake. As I was at one of the pavilions finishing up my registration, one of the race officials came by and said that the swim portion of the race was cancelled due to unsafe (and cold) conditions. This was great news. Instead of the swim they inserted another 5k run. This meant I had to run 6.2 miles that morning. I had never run that far before, I had only done about 5 miles, and that was not recently. But I was too excited about not having to swim to care about how far I had to run.

Shortly before the race began, my parents arrived and then right before the race began Alexis’ parents arrived. I spent very little time stretching and warming up. There was no point, it was too cold.

They decided to start everyone at one time instead of in waves like they had originally planned for in the swim. So everyone lined up and started in one giant pack. But that was not the case for very long. After a mile or two, it started to thin out as people slowed down and paced themselves. The first 5k I finished in about 26 minutes. After a quick transition I was off to the cycling portion. I had the wind at my back and it felt good to be off of my feet. The ride was very scenic and wooded. But it went by quick since it was only 11 miles. Then it was back to the run. By this time, my legs were pretty heavy. By the way, it was still very cold. My pace was a little slower, but not by much, the second 5k took about 27 minutes.

Overall I finished 43rd out of 156. For my age group I finished 6th out of 12. I feel like I did a pretty good job, and I am glad that they changed it to run, bike, run.

The next event is a ride with my company cycling club up in Sulphur Springs on the 21st. Then a fun run the next weekend, I am actually considering the 10K, not the 5k! And the weekend after that it is off to Galveston for another tri.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Heading Down to Houston

Today Alexis and I are loading up the hounds and heading down to Houston for my first triathlon of the season. I am taking a half day off to pack up, get in one last run, and make sure we take everything we need for the race on Sunday.

Yesterday, I rented a wet suit. I had never tried one on before so it was a new experience. When I got home, I put it back on to show Alexis, and I wore it for about ten minutes. That ten minute span was enough for me to sweat in it a little and it was tough tough tough to get off. It will be interesting to see how it comes off after swimming 500 meters on Sunday.

My plan for today is to leave work at lunch time, pack the car, then run a couple (2-3) miles, then double check what I packed and make sure I have everything I need for the race.

Talk to you after the race!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Run, Bike, Run

My first race of the season has come and gone. Here is a rundown of what happened.

My day started bright and early around 5 am. We needed to leave around 6:15 to get to the race with plenty of time to spare. Our thermometer said the air temperature was 35 degrees. That is about 35 degrees colder than I like to ride in. Oh well, I was committed; I pleaded with Alexis but she would not let me back out due to the cold..

Alexis and I loaded up and headed north of Fort Worth to Texas Motor Speedway (TMS).

For those of you who are not familiar with TMS it is our local NASCAR track. It holds over 100,000+ fans and hosts two NASCAR races per year. The track is about 2.5 miles around.

We arrived and we were instructed to go through a tunnel that lead to the infield of the track, this was very cool. When we emerged from the tunnel the super structure of TMS greeted us. It was very impressive. After getting our bearings we parked and headed over to the transition area (the area where the racers go when they transition from one leg of the race to another). The current temp was still in the 30’s. Very cold. Alexis and I were both dressed in layers, but my layers were only temporary. I only had a cotton t-shirt under my racing jersey and nothing over or under my cycling shorts. I was thinking that I would be very cold.

I tried to do some light stretching and some light jogging to warm up, but what I really needed to warm-up was the shot of adrenalin that comes from the starting gun.

My heat was first, men 19-39. We had to listen to a pre-race meeting and some final course instructions, I should have been stretching and getting ready. As soon as the meeting was over we were told to line up for the start. I quickly went to my spot in the transition area to take off my warm-up clothes, that’s when the gun sounded. Oops! I wasn’t close to the starting line. I threw off the rest of my warm-ups and ran to catch up. I am sure I looked stupid.

With the race underway, I started to pass some of the slower runners. The cold was not bothering me at all. We had to do two loops around a track inside of the main NASCAR track. Each loop was about 1 mile. When my two laps were finished and I was running into the transition area, I saw the official time was just over 15 minutes. I had just run two miles at about a 7:40 pace, very strong for me.

In the transition area, I took off my running shoes and beanie. I put on my cycling shoes and helmet and I was out of the transition area in a minute, thirty. The cycling portion was about 16 miles. There is a loop around the outside of TMS called Victory Circle, we had to do it three times. I started out at about 21 mph for about 3 miles, then I realized I needed to slow down so I would have something left at the end. I tried to keep my speed around 18 mph. That was fast enough, but I wasn’t over-working myself. After about 3 miles, I cooled down from the two miles I had just run. That’s when the cold started to set in. By the end of the bike portion, my fingers were numb and I could not feel my toes either. As I approached the transition area at the end of the bike portion I saw Alexis run to the front of the group of spectators. She cheered and snapped some pictures of me as I rode by.

I entered the transition area, I was cold, tired and still had to run two more miles. My numb toes made the first ¾ of a mile difficult. I felt like I was barely moving, but no one was passing me, so I could not have been doing that bad. This two miles seemed longer than the first two. I was getting tired. But with about a half mile to go, I decided I would pass a couple of guys who seemed to be out of gas. I kicked into a higher gear to finish the race. I was not about 75 yards from the finish line and I could see the official time, I was at about an hour and twenty five minutes. When I saw that I was relieved, my goal was to finish in less than an hour and a half. And I did.

My second two miles were faster than my first two at about 7.30 per mile. I averaged 18.4 mph on the bike. I came in 147 overall and 7 in my class (out of 17). Including men, women and children there were 350 racers, so I finished in the top half. My official time was 1 hour, twenty five minutes and some seconds. I barely beat the entire field average.

This was a good warm-up for my first triathlon of the season this coming weekend. Recent readings of the lake temperature have been around 60 degrees. This week’s tri will be a 500 meter swim, 11 mile bike and 5k run.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Run, Bike, Swim

Swim, Bike, Run. Sounds easy enough. Especially when you do each one by itself. Who doesn’t enjoy piddling around in the pool (swim)? And everyone enjoys a nice ride around the block on their bike (bike). And who doesn’t like chase their dog at the park (run)? Like I said, when each is done separately, it’s relatively easy and paints a picture of a sunny weekend afternoon.

But what if all three are put together and not done in leisurely activities as described above? Then you have a triathlon! By this I mean swim a quarter mile, ride for 15 miles and then run about 3 miles.

I’ve done this before, and so has Diana and Daryl for that matter, but I was in college at the time. Things have changed since then. But Late 2008 I decided that triathlons were something that I wanted to get into again so I started running, biking and swimming.

Rewind to about this same time last year. I was at the doctor’s office for a cold or something and I weighed about 235. Not great. Over the course of the year I lost about 25-30 pounds of that. When I decided to start training I was between 205 and 210. Much better. This year alone, I have gotten down to somewhere between 205 and 200. When I finished college I was at about 205.

Training for me is almost an everyday occurrence. 4 days a week I go to the gym at lunch to work out or run. The remaining day I attend a Bible study, otherwise I would go 5 days per week. Most weekday evenings I will run again, take a spin class, swim, or go for a ride. I would say 3 days a week I do two-a-days and about 6 days a week I work out at least once.

When February rolled around, I decided to cut way back on the two vices that were holding me back. Pizza and beer. Why February? Because on March 1 I will be doing my first tri of the season down in Houston. I wanted to make sure I gave myself the best chance I could to get into even better shape. In fact, next weekend (Feb 22) I am doing a duathlon at Texas Motor Speedway which is a run, bike, run. Run 2, ride 15, run 2 more. That should pretty much have me ready for the tri the following weekend. The weekend after the tri, I will run a 4.5 mile leg of an 18 mile relay with a group from work. Then April 4 it is back to triathlons for another one at Moody Gardens in Galveston.

I will keep you posted on my progress as I prepare for the events. On Friday I will post a quick update of my activities for the week in preparation for this weekend's big race.