Double dose of Afraidium

October 14, 2014

OK… somebody slipped me a Mickey…

With all my talk about stretching out my mileages and how much I want to do an ultra next year, somebody laced my Gatorade with Afraidium and I have become decidedly chickenshit when it comes to actually SIGNING UP for one.  I’m really having a tough time pulling the trigger…

chickenrunner1I really have no excuse, either.  I am 50 pounds lighter this year.  I had a great season.  My times are coming down.  I feel great.  Even under WAY more challenging conditions I knocked 15 minutes off my time for the 25K trail race I just completed.  I may have even found my trail booze of choice in Tailwind.  I felt REALLY good on a 10 miler using it.

I even have a plan.  Do an early spring marathon (on or off road) and then a spring 50K or 50 miler depending on how much mileage I am able to get in.  So… What’s the problem?

I guess I still have really unpleasant memories of the last time I went for marathon distances.  That whole “I fell like I’ve been kicked in the jewels” feeling for A YEAR after the marathon… tends to linger and affect your decision making… just sayin’.

And, yes, I still feel it sometimes.  Especially after long runs.  I was hoping that being lighter would help.  But I’m not convinced.

The hard part is that you have to sign up so damn early, especially for road marathons.  I’m thinking about Little Rock in early March.  But by the time I’m sure I will be OK, the race is going to be $100 or more.  And Ultras are even worse because of the limited fields in most of them.  Berryman and others are already open.  But I have no idea if I have 50 miles in me.  And I won’t until I get up to marathon distance or more.

I guess I should just start stretching my mileages out and see what happens.  Then look for races later depending on how I feel…?  I know, I know… shut up and run.

Race Report: Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

October 6, 2014
Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

And so it begins.  With this race I start my slow, steady run up to an ultra distance race (to be named later) sometime next spring.  More than likely it will be a 50K.  I’m open to ideas and suggestions for races… :)

I have run this race twice.  Once as a 7 miler and once as a 25K.  Neither time did I have any idea what I was doing and mostly just signed up for it because my friends organize it and I wanted to support them.  I didn’t really “train” for it then and it showed.  I had fun and really liked it, but it took me about 3 hours to finish the 25K and I turned several ankles on the run so I kind of got what I deserved for my lack of preparation.

This race always cracks me up at the start line when the race director says things like “knee high water crossings” and “lots of holes/debris on the trail”.  Not because of what he is saying, but to watch the reactions of the people running it who have no idea what they are in for.  They see “trail run” and think MKT trail, not “singletrack, hiking trail”.  So their eyes bug out and they get that “what have I signed up for?” look on their faces.  READ THE DESCRIPTION! …and, yes, you are going to get your pretty little shoes muddy…

I almost signed up for the 50K on this one.  Even though I can say I’m in much better shape this time around… that DOES NOT equate to “50K” shape.  I’m pretty sure it would have ruined me, for several reasons that I will get to in a minute.  Actually, I almost bailed out and ran the 7K when I went by the cut off.  I probably wouldn’t hurt near as much today if I had, but I’ve never been the sharpest stick on the trail anyway.


It seems odd to start with conditions but unlike a road race where, unless something extreme happens, it really doesn’t matter, conditions make all the difference in the world on a real trail race.  I had been watching the weather closely for about 10 days.  I was really mostly concerned with the temperature.  I melt in the heat and the trail flows through a heavily wooded area that gets pretty close, blocks the wind and holds heat and humidity.  However, I ended up being concerned the other direction.  Race day temps were in the middle 30s!!!  With about a 15mph breeze.  It was PERFECT.  I love cool/cold weather running so this was great.


Everything good that happens to me seems to come with a little down side…

Three days previous to race day Columbia received RECORD rainfall.  Over 7 inches at my house in 2 days.  With only one day to dry out, I knew the trail would be highly suspect.  And, unfortunately… I was right.

Most of the trail was fine.  Of the 15+ miles I would say only about 4 miles of it were muddy.  The water crossings (4 decent sized ones) were about knee high and COLD!  It felt kinda good, actually.  What I did not expect was the swamp crossing on the back side of the Gans Creek section of the trail.  I think it was from a flooded pond off of the course someplace, but regardless, it took me by surprise and was deep and snotty.

The Course:

Besides the above mentioned juicy bits, this trail is gorgeous.  It is a state park just south of Columbia.  It winds through woods, creeks and meadows and across bluff tops with amazing views.  The weather had started to tame the plant growth a bit so we didn’t have to wade through the jungle grasses and clinging vines of summer.  The trail is a mix of dirt (Missouri clay) and rock (a few small rock gardens but nothing serious).  A few hills, but nothing more than a quarter mile and only one that is really steep.  As an added surprise, the race director took us down this hill (not the usual route) and then back up a new (to me) section.  Then back up it later.  Evil, mean nasty race director…  There is a lot of side hill, off camber stuff, some tight singletrack and the same creek to cross several times.  Overall, on the difficulty scale, I would give it a 3 when it is dry and a 4+ when it is wet or snowy.  A great first race for those new to Ultra running.

My Race:

I really feel like, especially with this race, I was pretty prepared.  I had been running 1-2 days per week off road and another 3 days a week on the usual roads and trails.  I will eventually switch this up more so I’m running on trails most of the time, but for now it’s what I’ve got.

My plan was to only carry a handheld since there were 3 aid stations on the course.  And in that I only put water.  I carried one Honey Stinger gel with Ginseng and Caffeine.  In hindsight, this was not the right setup.  I should have put EFS or Tailwind in the water bottle and the Stinger was just wrong.  Nutrition is a mystery I must solve if I ever want to go longer distances.  Clearly, I still don’t get it.

I wore shorts, compression calf sleeves, a single, long sleeved shirt, a thermal lid and wind shell gloves (I love those things).  My shoes were Asics Gel Kahanas (comfy, if heavy and NO MUD TRACTION).  I tend to get hot even in very cold conditions so even though the temps were in the 35-45 degree range I ended up taking off the skull cap and gloves about 12 miles in.  I have a feeling this will also be a challenge for me.  Finding the right combination of clothing.  I know I don’t have a good rain shell and don’t have enough of the right socks, hot weather gear, etc.  I can see this is going to be a process.

As with all trail races,  this one started out with a casual shuffle.  The RD sent us out on a half mile loop to spread us out.  The 7milers and the 25K all started at the same time.  Spreading us out a little before we all dived into the singletrack trail was a great idea.  I ignored the 7 milers (except to give a few of them crap for being sandbaggers) and really tried to focus on starting off slow.  Once we got on to the trails, I just tried to settle in and focus on the trail.  I chatted with a few people and worked on conservation on the ups and relaxing on the downs.  I wanted to push the flats but the mud would have none of that.  After several near falls, I gave up and just tried to stay upright, which I did for the entire race.

I would love to tell you how beautiful it was out there but one thing I have really tried to practice on is staying focused on the trail.  The whole “If you look up, you will go down” thing is pretty much spot on for me, so being in the moment and considering every foot placement is critical for me.  Staying that focused for that long is hard for those of us from the School for the Easily Distracted, so it takes all the brain cells I have left (both of them) to stay on task.  While this makes the miles go by faster, it also tends to run me into rocks and creek crossings with little warning so I have to take a peak up every once in a while.

Overall, I felt good for the first 11 miles and then I started to tire.  Not surprising for my first trail race in a while and also my longest run of the year.  I tiptoed across the creeks, dodged persimmons, walnuts and squirrels.  Got passed a few times and passed a few people and generally just solidified with myself how much I really love running trails.  I think I finished around 2:45:00 and finished around 9th out of about 50 or so.  If this is the case it would be about 15 minutes faster than last time.  I had some really bad cramping in my legs after the race (debilitating) so that’s a big, red nutrition flag that I need to address.  Two days later my quads really hurt, but otherwise I feel good.

Next up is 2 road half marathons in the next month!  One I HAD to do because it is only a mile from my house.  The other one is in Springfield, MO and just sounded like fun.  I almost signed up for the full marathon but chickened out at the last second so that distance will have to wait for spring.  I have 4 more races left this fall.  The two half marathons and then a turkey day 5K and the race formerly known as First Night (5K) on New Year’s Eve.

A different kind of crazy

September 29, 2014
Rhett's Run Trail Photo

Rhett’s Run, Cosmo Park, Columbia, MO

I’ve spent much of the last year trying to get back in shape and get fit again.  Overall I would call it a success.  There are always things I could have done better.  My cup is always half full like that.  I did come dangerously close to drinking the Ironman KoolAid though.  And while I’m satisfied with my decision to pass on that kind of crazy, I spent a lot of my training time alone or only doing half the workout the crowd did because they all WERE doing IM.  This still gave me a lot of time to think about my goals, what I was doing out there and why, life, the universe… everything.

Anyway, I still just don’t feel like I belong.  I know.  I know.  Forty Seven and still looking for purpose and direction.  That’s just sad.

I guess I just looked really hard at doing an IM this year and could quite possibly have pulled it off.  It wouldn’t have been pretty, but I probably could have done it.  But when have I been about pretty…

The point is, I didn’t WANT to.  And to do something as deadly serious as an IM, you have to WANT it.  More than anything else.  More than breathing.  Otherwise you will NOT succeed.  And you could potentially really get hurt.  And I did. not. want. it.  If anything, the only reason I even contemplated it was peer pressure.  I had a lot of people saying really positive things and almost got swept away in it.  For me, it finally boiled down to one thing.  And I would have never guessed this would be a deal breaker when I started triathlon.  I just don’t love road bicycling enough to put my butt in the seat for 6 hours or more.  Honestly (and I never thought I would say this), I like the swim more than the bike.  And Chicago cemented that.  Even though the swim was rough as hell and I was slow as always, I felt better in the water than I did on the bike.

Back to thinking.  So, if I’m not IM kind of crazy… then what am I?  I KNOW I have the endurance bug.  But if not IM… then what?

Two things actually…

1. Redemption-  I got handed my head in two efforts at longer distance races.  First was the marathon.  Yes, I put in the miles, ate plenty of Gu, suffered and struggled.  And that was just to get to the starting line.  But I see now that I did it all wrong.  And I was just not in good enough shape when I toed the line.  All my fault, yes.  My marathon was wonderful until mile 20.  Then my calves seized up to the point of paralysis.  I missed my goal of a 4 hour marathon by over 40 minutes.  I want another shot.

Then there was the half IM.  Same story (exactly), different chapter.  Surprised myself on the swim, felt FANTASTIC for 55 miles on the bike… unfortunately, the half IM bike distance is 56 miles.  I cramped up at mile 55 and then did a 13 mile death march and missed my goal of a 5:30 by an hour and 15 minutes.  Horrible cramping, not in good shape.  Abysmal result.  I know I can manage a race better than that.  Again… I want another shot.

2. One of the things that my mind kept going back to during those long training hours was where I was NOT.  And that was on the dirt trails and singletrack that I really love.  THAT is where my heart is.  It’s where I’m happy.  Yes, I am horribly slow.  But out there?  I don’t care.  It feels right.  I hate having to (and this is really my choice…) step away from that when I train for triathlons for fear of injury.  But usually I have skin in the game by the time I start really training for triathlons (meaning: I paid for a race) and am afraid I’ll get hurt.  Even though I get hurt as much or more in triathlon training.  But I really just wanted to be on the trails.

Now granted, I will probably never be a hundred miler.  But I could do a 50 miler.  Definitely a 50K.  And having done several off road events, I have to say I really like the atmosphere and laid back feeling that surrounds them.  Sure, everybody is concerned with nutrition, lighting, equipment, etc.  But the personalities are different.  The vibe is different.  It’s comfortable.  It feels right.

And let’s face it.  I’m not doing this for the bling.  I’m old.  There is very little danger of me ever gracing the podium.  It’s about staying healthy, having fun and personal achievement.  So as I look at next year I think my path is pretty clear.  A spring marathon, and then a 50K trail race.  Then switch training to triathlons and go after a fall half IM (maybe Border War?).  And if along the way I fall completely in love with trails then that is where I will stay.  And I kinda hope that happens.  Who knows, maybe I’ll combine the two and do that Xterra I have been dreaming about.  I’ve already got the gear for it.  I’m not saying I’m going to sell my tri bike, but I’m going to look long and hard at it next year.  We need to come to some kind of an agreement or I’m moving on.  I’m not getting any younger… :)  Just a little more crazy…

Double Race Report (Adventure Challenge and NEMO Triathlon)

September 10, 2014

As a follow up to yesterday’s riveting report, I give you TWO, not one, but, TWO race reports.

About the first of August I was exhausted and buried in my last “build” week for the Lifetime Triathlon in Chicago.  I had discovered that, even though I wasn’t doing a “long” race.  Doing 3 races constituted training at about the half iron level.  If you have done this, you know that unless you are the most positive person in the world, you will hit a point where you begin to question your own sanity and wonder “What the hell am I doing?”  Shortly after that, as you start that glorious period known as “the taper”, you also begin to wonder… “Then what?”  After I finish this crazy quest I’m on… I have nothing to live for.  My life is a void…

OK… Maybe that was a bit dramatic… but still.  I think one of the things I have learned over the years is that to maintain motivation and hope for the future, at some point you have to look PAST that “A” race you are training for and decide what life will be like.  I found it very important about a month or so out from a goal race to begin looking for, signing up for and planning for “THE NEXT RACE”.  Otherwise I find myself kind of lost and lacking motivation.  Obviously, you need time to recover, but something a month or so post apocalypse gives me hope that I will survive and that life can be fun again… still.

So as I was looking, a couple of things came up.  First, the NEMO Triathlon, which is always a well put on, fun race.  Not quite olympic distance, a little more than a sprint.  Definitely doable without much extra effort or change.  The only problem was that it was on the same weekend as a new race, the Finger Lakes Adventure Challenge.  This one is something completely different.  A 4.5 mile kayak, followed by a 3 mile (mostly) trail run.  Basically a race in my back yard, on my home course… inexpensive… great weather…

I can’t say no to that…

So I signed up for both.  The Adventure Challenge on Saturday and NEMO on Sunday.

So, first… The Adventure Challenge

Do you KNOW how long I have been itching to get dirty…?  Do you?  I have been missing trail running something fierce.  But I hesitate to trail run when I am trying to train for a road race because I’m still chicken of getting hurt and having to DNS a race.  But the weekend after Chicago I went right out to the trails again.  Rolled a couple of ankles, fell a few times…  Got really muddy… Ahh.  Good times.

The Finger Lakes Adventure Challenge is put on by Missouri State Parks.  It is a part of a series at parks around the state.  Most are just runs, but this one had the added advantage of being a kayak race.  Something I have never done (and was VERY poorly trained for… like, I kayaked ONCE all year).  It’s a flat water race around a water trail on a really cool series of connected lakes that used to be a quarry.  Then you haul your boat out and take off running down to a multi use trail (bike/run) for a little 2.75 mile trail run on a pretty, if a little snotty, singletrack trail.

First let me say.  DAYUM… I had no idea at the kayak racing subculture.  These guys showed up in multi-thousand dollar racing kayaks that were long, narrow and screaming fast.  And then there was the guy that showed up with a canoe that he had made from scratch!  It was BEAUTIFUL, light and also very fast.  I suddenly felt very underdressed in my little Otter.  Kinda like showing up at a triathlon with a Huffy and looking at all the crazy racing bikes.  They were all very nice guys and gals though, patient with my questions and poor navigation skills.  I can paddle fast enough… but let’s just say I get my money’s worth out of the course (note: I swim and play golf the same way…).

We started en masse from a standing start between two officials boats.  There were about 50 of us.  You had the option of doing the paddle, run or both.  Most of the really fast guys just did the paddle.  Thank goodness… because they were out of the water 15 MINUTES before me.  Kinda hard to catch up with that kind of speed.

After a few final instructions, the horn sounded and we were off.  My vision of a WWII naval battle did not, thankfully, materialize and we all politely and even pleasantly let each other settle in before engaging in battle.  The course made several turns and followed buoys around the trail.  Most places were easy to pass and paddle with room but there was one narrow straight that was pretty exciting as the fast guys were coming back out of it as we went through.  It was amazing how fast they were.  Yes, I had boat envy.  Until I watched them try to negotiate a tight turn around a buoy.  Not so easy in a boat designed to go straight.  Think NHRA dragster trying to race on a road course…  They still kicked my butt though :)

As predicted, 4.5 miles in a kayak when you have never gone 4.5 miles in a kayak before tends to be a LONG DAMN WAY.  My little Otter did well though and save for one unfortunately crowded turn where I made the old “don’t look where you don’t want to go” mistake, the main issue I had was simply not being in “kayak” shape.  I suffered pretty bad for the last mile and was REALLY glad to see the transition area.  I beached my boat.  Wobbled precariously getting out and nearly added a swim to my race, then drug my boat up out of the way and took off on the run.

I love running… Did I mention that?  And trail running especially?  It was good to be on familiar ground.  Or actually, just ground really.  I charged off down the hill and into the woods with way more excitement than I should have.  I caught two people before we even got into the woods.  I followed my next victim… stalking him, really… for about a mile before sneaking by at an aid station and then it was wide open all the way home.  Romping up and down the hills, through the mud, rolling an occasional ankle… you know, the fun stuff.  I popped out of the woods and back on to the road and was REALLY disappointed we didn’t go around for a second lap.  So I sadly made my way to the finish line *sigh*.

The volunteers, course and planning for this event were great.  Any brand new race won’t know everything it needs until after it’s over, but I never felt lost or unsafe in the water or on the run.  This was a really fun race and I hope they do it again.  I will be first to sign up.  And maybe rent me one of those Epic racing pencils… I wanna go fast too!


And now, for Sunday.

The NEMO Triathlon in Kirksville.

Look.  This a great little race.  It’s a beautiful venue.  It’s well run.  The volunteers and community support it.  I’m sad that it’s not better attended.  After being in a FLIGHT of 150 athletes (of which there were 47 flights) in Chicago, I was sad to see that this race only had about 95 people in it total.  For a 30 year old race… that’s sad.  People need to support this race or it will die.  I would hate to see that.

The swim is a .75 mile (.82 in truth) point to point swim in a beautiful lake with great surroundings, then an 18 mile ride up and out of the park and through some farm land around Kirksville, then a 5.5 mile run with a tough hill on a beautiful course through the park.

Everything is well organized and they bus us to the start.  Waves go off every 3 minutes (there were 4 waves.  Men, women, teams, youth) and the course is straight with one turn at the end.  Good volunteer support at the end to help you out of the water.  The water, this year, was 74 degrees.  With an air temperature around 60.  I wanted in the water as fast as possible!  I love fall races like that where the water is warmer than the air.  There was a little fog on the lake which made sighting a bit of a challenge, but not too bad.  It was a beautiful swim.  Slow, but beautiful.  With a big lake and so few people, I never felt crowded and only got contacted once, by the lead females as they went flying by.  I’m REALLY slow…  I came out of the water in 40th place, fell face first into the carpet when I tripped over a wrinkle in it (which, of course, was caught on camera so it really happened), and headed to transition.

Transition was smooth and easy.  I jumped on the bike and was immediately glad I put on arm warmers.  CHILLY!  Luckily there is a big hill right at the start of the ride (which is really a mean thing to do… BTW) so I was warmer by the time I got to the top.  The rest of the ride was completely uneventful.  I passed a few people.  Didn’t get passed at all.  And rolled back into transition with an average just under 20mph.  That put me in about 30th position.

Again a nice, easy transition and I was out on the run.

Here let me stop and talk for a second about gear.  I’m not a triathlon “fashionista” and don’t usually buy into the “next big thing” in gear, but I have been looking at and reading about compression socks/calf sleeves for a while.  After first brushing them off as a fad and honestly thinking they looked kind of silly, I was listening to a couple of the elite triathletes in Chicago rave about them.  They were saying that they didn’t necessarily help with performance, but endurance and recovery.  Since I had been noticing that my legs were feeling pretty fatigued, I decided to give them a shot for this race.  I bought a pair of SmartWool compression calf sleeves with about 25-30% compression and after this race I. AM. SOLD.  I know it sounds weird (and maybe it’s just mental) but where I really feel it is when I get to the top of a hill.  I used to suffer a bit as I recovered from the effort, but not with these things on.  I feel good all the way up and over.  And yes, when I stopped I felt much better than usual and didn’t get tired or sore.  I love them!

Now, back to the run.  Um… It was good.

OK… I felt fine all the way through, ran a few more people down (including some dude wearing  a very disturbing mankini…) and again, was almost sad that it was over when I crossed the line.

With that, my triathlon season is over.  Now I spend my time split between my trail shoes and my mountain bike (with the obligatory swim here and there as well).  I have a 25k trail race and two half marathons planned, plus a 5K or two as I try to get down under 22 minutes before the end of the year.  I’m hoping I can carry this momentum and positive year over into next year.  I’m definitely thinking a spring marathon, a 50K and MAYBE… just maybe… a shot at redemption in the half iron distance.  I got my head handed to me the first time I tried it.  I want revenge.

There and back again (long)

September 9, 2014

The tale of a fat little hobbit who isn’t so fat anymore… :0)

Well… That’s it then.  I’m done with triathlons for the year.  I’ve cleaned and hung up my triathlon bike.  Cleaned and stored my wetsuit.  I’m done.  I did exactly 5 triathlons.  Three of them in one weekend (to be filed in the “What the 4u@k was I thinking?!” category).  It wasn’t my most productive, longest, most successful or most improved season.  But it was by far and away my best.

I’ve always said I like the training more than the races in triathlon.  But I always end up getting hurt or sick or both and end up having to take half the season off.  Or I overtrain from one injury and hurt something else.  And so it goes.

But not this year.  I started by focusing on fitness.  I lost 50 pounds (and still slowly dropping).  I got my body back in shape.  Oddly enough, all of those aches and pains gradually faded as I lost weight and got stronger.  Hmm.  Imagine that…

Then I really tried to balance my training.  I forced myself to “do that which I hated”, in my case it was swimming and, to a lesser degree, biking.  I have always loved running the most and I always tend to default to that for my workout.  Good for overall fitness.  Bad because I always overtrain for the run.  Ugly because the other two sports suffer the consequence of lack of training.  So this year I made it to the pool/lake at least 3 times a week and rode at least 3 days a week.  This didn’t necessarily bare fruit in large improvements in the other sports, but what it did do was show itself in overall endurance.  I didn’t die at the end of long workouts or events.  I had gas for the final sprint.  I didn’t feel like crap after an event.  I recovered faster.

OK… I get it.

I absolutely LOVED my experience at the Chicago Triathlon.  I did the “Triple Challenge” which was 3 races in two days.  It was also a part of the club national championships (Columbia Multisport Club WON!!!) which made the whole thing even more fun.  So here is a little race report:

When I signed up for the Triple in February, I did so not out of some sadistic need to destroy myself, but as a challenge to myself.  All along my goal was simply to get myself into good enough shape that I could reasonably compete all three races without being carted off course or ending up in the med tent.  To say that I successfully achieved that goal would be an understatement.  No, I didn’t grace the podium, but that wasn’t the goal.  I DID THREE FRICKIN’ TRIATHLONS IN TWO DAYS DAMMIT!  And, except for a little stroll on the sprint to get my heart rate down (it was getting hot), I nailed every part of the races.  I was in control, didn’t go out too fast, fueled properly… yup… nailed it.

This race was (these races were?) was amazing.  First, it was HUGE.  Triathlete numbers for all three races were at or near 9000.  This may not seem like a lot if you have done a big marathon (like Chicago at 40000+) but the logistics of just finding a spot in downtown Chicago big enough to hold 9000 bicycles was daunting.  Hell, we (Columbia Multisport) took almost 90 bicycles and needed a SEMI to get them there (which was a story in itself).  It was bike porn at its finest…  The bike course shut down one of the busiest thoroughfares in downtown (more or less) for half a day, and somehow… the world did not end.  We even got to ride on the bus routes under the main streets.  It was totally like a scene from a Batman movie.  I’ll never forget it.  The run went out along the seawall to the convention center.  Gorgeous.

The swim sucked.

OK.  Let me be fair.  The swim was actually very cool.  The water was just very choppy (the worst I’ve ever been in) and when you add 6000 of your best friends to the water it was a real washing machine.  I’m pretty sure the water level dropped with all of lake Michigan that I drank on the swim.  Between that, being fondled and groped by nearly everyone in my wave, and getting STUCK in the mats of sea grass (lake grass?) in the harbor… well it was an adventure (that I would repeat in a heartbeat).  And, by the time we got in the water for the last race (the sprint distance), the water had actually calmed a bit and it REALLY felt good.  It was getting hot.

So, briefly… each race.

The super sprint happened on Saturday and was a 375 m(mostly walk) swim, a 10k ride and a 2.5k run.  You basically hit the water, go redline for 40 minutes and you are done.  With 950 people in the race, on a tight 2 mile loop of a bike course, I thought for sure it would chaos and carnage.  I was wrong.  There was lots of room to ride, everyone was civil, and it was a blast.  The run was through a park.  I never felt crowded and had an awesome time.

The International (Sunday).  1.5 K swim/40K bike/10K run.  This was the coolest race ever.  I was in the same water as Hunter Kemper.  I’m sure it was his fault I was so slow.  He left a wake that kept bouncing off the sea wall.  Really screwed me up.  :-)

As I said before, this was some of the roughest water I have ever swam in.  Oddly enough, though, I was OK with it.  It was kind of weird to deal with a swell and the rebound off of the sea wall, but I only drank a little of lake Michigan and managed to get out of the water at the other end.  For me, that’s a win.

The transition was also one of the longest I have ever had.  Had to be close to 1/4 mile.  It was so long (and my feet are so wimpy) that I put a pair of shoes at the water out area and ran in my wetsuit and running shoes.  Good comedy.  Getting out was a mess.  Afternoon rains on Saturday turned the bike transition into a swamp.  And we had to run uphill, in the mud, several hundred yards, to the bike mount.  This is NOT a complaint.  It’s just what we had to do.  It just added to the adventure.

The bike. was. awesome.  The views of downtown, lake Michigan, the Batman underground course.  Again, even with thousands of people I never felt crowded.  The roads were decent.  I kinda didn’t want it to end.  It wasn’t my best time, but I was trying to savor the moment and save some energy since I had another race to do.

Bike run transition was a muddy, slick slide down the hill.  Kinda like an epic mud run.  I stayed upright but my bike gained a few pounds of mud.

The run, again, was beautiful.  Right along the lake.  Cool, a little foggy.  Gorgeous.  I ran a little faster than I wanted, considering I had another race, but I really didn’t care.  I ran relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Before I go on, the hardest part of this race (the Triple Challenge) was simply getting from the finish line of the International, back to the swim start of the sprint, in time to start!  You walk all the way through the finish area to a BUS STOP!  Then take the bus to the drop off and walk back to swim start.  But since we swam in wetsuits, we had to go all the way back to bike transition (and all the way past the main entrance because we still had our timing chips on so we had to go in the back way).  THEN go back to swim start after we got our wetsuits.  This made for nearly 3/4 mile of extra walking/running.  I got back to the swim start, crammed myself back into my wetsuit.  Got zipped up and jumped in the water.  I literally had NO TIME to spare.  As an athlete I would say this transition from event to event was definitely the hardest part of the whole thing.  But very fun.

The final race of the day was the sprint (Sunday).  750 m swim/20K ride/5K run.

The swim was easier because the chop had calmed down.  I did, however, cramp pretty bad at the swim out and had to be hauled out like a tuna.  Luckily the cramps went away pretty fast.

Again, with the long ass transition.  Oh… and it was starting to get hot outside…

The bike was a shorter version of the International, without all the fun Batman stuff.

The run.  Well.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was hot, out of gas and ready to be done.  I could feel my heart rate start to go up as I got hotter.  All I can say is whatever genius put the firehoses on spray under that overpass has my vote for the best person in the universe.  I’m just pretty sure it saved my life.  Especially since it was an out and back course so I got to go through (and stop and dance in it) twice.  Even though our flight was the last to go off so there weren’t many people left on course, when I made the turn around the last corner to the finish chute with the city in the background and the roar of the crowd and my teammates… What an amazing feeling.

So… You see.  Hunter may have slowed me down on the swim… and my lack of physical ability may have slowed me down everywhere else… but I achieved every goal I set for this race.  Across the line in 3 races, upright and breathing, not in the med tent, and amazingly happy.  I still smile when I think about it.

Everybody does this for different reasons.  Some to win.  Some to just achieve more and greater than they ever thought they could.  Some run towards a goal.  Some run away from something.

When I signed up for this race, I was running away from something and didn’t even realize it.  I had stopped drinking.  An incredibly hard thing to do.  I didn’t think it was going to be that hard until I did it.  But as I lost weight and got healthy I found that, for the first time, I was actually running TOWARDS something. Better health.  I toed the line for 3 races.  I was 50 pounds lighter than the day I signed up.

I signed up for the Triple because I felt like, at the point I hit the submit button, I couldn’t trust myself in Chicago with all that free time, free beer and friends who were there to have a good time.  So by signing up for the Triple, I would fill all my time and couldn’t get in to trouble.  I discovered I didn’t really need it…  But I’m really glad I did it.

Oh… and Hunter…  Next year…  Imma run you down…

The months in review

July 25, 2014

It’s funny how I either seem to have time to exercise, or blog about it… but rarely both… :)  It’s been an amazing and wonderful 2-3 months since I last posted.  In that time I crushed my PR for a sprint triathlon, lost another 10 pounds, followed the progress of a dozen friends as they worked diligently through their training plans for IM Canada and IM Boulder, and just generally enjoyed feeling fit and comfortable again.  I have lamented at the fact that clothes that I almost threw away once because they were too tight I am now considering throwing away AGAIN, but this time because they are too loose.  I have put more miles in swimming in one month (June: 14 miles) than I did all of last year.  I am consistently over 21 miles an hour on training rides and under 7:40 on runs.  I eat hills for breakfast.  In short, I’m doing OK.

I wanted to share some of my musings from the last two months as I swam, biked and ran my way across Missouri.  Just a compilation of random thoughts that popped into my head that may interest some.  Here goes…

I don’t like road biking as much as I should

By this point in the game, I should be loving my road bike.  I’m pretty fast, finally have a bike that I can live with and components I trust… and I think I understand the bike leg now better than I ever have.  I have smoothed my technique out so I spin the pedals better and faster than ever.  I have stopped mashing gears.  I know when to go and when to save.  I can hold my own on hills.

Sounds pretty good… right?

But it’s just not my favorite sport.  It’s not even my favorite form of the sport.  Given the option I would rather be on my mountain bike any day of the week.  And I’m not that good at mountain biking.  It’s just more fun.  Long distances on road bikes are monotonous and uncomfortable.  I don’t trust traffic or dogs or kids or half the people I ride with.  I took out a friend when I clipped his wheel as I was pulling out of a (non existent) draft line and sent him to the hospital.  I guess I don’t trust myself either.  Regardless of who was at fault (nobody, really), it didn’t help my mood on cycling.  This all makes for a pretty frustrating time when you realize that in triathlon, you spend most of your time on the bike.

I’m not ready to give up on it yet and I’m hoping after club nationals in Chicago that I can go back to the trails and spend some time playing while maintaining my fitness.  Maybe I just need a break from it…

I need to take swim lessons

I don’t mean the Red Cross type “learn to swim” lessons.  I mean I need a coach.  One on one instruction.  Technique drills. A plan.

See, as I was swimming of my longest sets ever (4000 yards) in mid May, I started thinking about all the things I had heard about swimming.  “It’s all technique” is a big saying I hear a lot.  And I considered that, given I was in the middle of a 4000 yard set… I think I have the “fitness” part down (considering a full Ironman swim is roughly 4300 yards).  I do not fear drowning every time I go in the water as I once did (yes, even in the 3.5 foot deep pool).  I’m stronger than I have ever been.  But my times are not dropping like they should.  I’m pretty sure I know why.  Oh they went down a little.  From about 2:05/100yd to about 1:45/100yd.  But with the weight loss, new dedication and focus on technique… I expected more.  I have plateaued now at about 1:50/100yd and can’t get any faster.  The reason is poor technique.  Most notably, body position.  I still swim with my legs down in the water and I don’t know how to fix it.  I’ve watched HOURS of YouTube videos and tried them all, but still no luck.  So it’s time to get a coach that can look at the little things I don’t even know I’m doing wrong and help me fix them.  The hard part is finding a coach who will stick specifically to distance swimming technique and not try to teach me to flip turn.  Not a whole lot of need for that in a lake swim.  But I’m looking.  I know just changing my head position or pushing my chest down in the water will help… but I can’t see me swimming so I don’t know if I am or not.

I will never be an Ironman

…because I don’t want to.  I have absolutely zero motivation to go the full Iron distance.  And if nothing else, trying to hang with all of my friends who are training for Iron distance races has actually SOLIDIFIED this position.

First, let me say that these guys and gals are my heroes.  The amount of time they put in training…  The amount of effort… and sacrifice… and money… and gear… and everything else that goes into doing it right… is just more than I can afford.  Personally, athletically, mentally or emotionally.

To work out 2-3 times per day for 6 months and put in thousands of miles all to spend $2000+ in gear (assuming you have a bike), perishables, entry fees, reservations and everything else… All so you can destroy yourself in an effort to hear 4 little words.  I just have no desire to do that.  Ever.

Sure there were flashes.  At one point I put in almost as many training miles as they were.  I thought… Maybe I can do this.  Then I found out they were just on a “build” cycle and were actually going to be doing twice as much mileage just 2 short weeks after that.  No way.

I like to run

More than anything.  If given the choice between anything else and my running shoes, I will always grab the shoes.  And yes, perhaps it is because I am having some success with running as of late, but I have always loved running the most.  I know it sounds crazy but I would rather train to run a 100 mile ultramarathon than an Ironman.  Not that I will ever do either, but it’s just how I feel.

I like dirt

In late May I stopped running and riding on the singletrack trails around Columbia so I could focus on triathlons.  Something about spending $300 on a race (Chicago) and then twisting an ankle a couple of weeks later made me question the sanity of trails, but I regret that now.  I really miss the trails.  And while I am sticking to my plan of staying off the trails until after Chicago, that is also one of the things I am looking most forward to.  Getting back on the trails.  I am planning on doing at least one off road event (a 25K) this fall and might push that to a 50K if I can find one late enough in the season to give me time to ramp up for it.  And I may carry that over to next year and look for an Xterra or something else dirty to get into.  Something that is on my radar, although not an “offroad” race, is the Yellowstone Half Marathon.

I am a 3 season athlete

And NO, summer is NOT one of the seasons.  Even though we have been blessed with some great weather this summer, I still wilt in the heat.  I would much rather take the SUMMER off and just train and play.  I am really struggling trying to force myself to do serious training workouts such as bricks when the temperatures rise above 80.  However I have no problem mountain biking when the temperature is below freezing.  Crazy?  Maybe.  But I know if I keep moving I will be fine in cold weather.  It’s the exact opposite if I get too hot.

A lot more to come.  I’m already looking forward to fall!

Vitamin D and car exhaust (Spring time!)

April 29, 2014

Hey!  Look at the time!  Where did the last 2 weeks go?  Isn’t it amazing how when the weather warms up and I get to go out and play more… I don’t spend NEAR as much time in here talking about it?

I spent the majority of the last two weeks purposefully overtraining.  I know that sounds crazy but I was suffering from a severe underlying case of cabin fever and a clinical lack of vitamin D (sunlight).  Once the weather improved just enough for me to get on my bike again I lost my mind.  Two to three workouts a day.  I WANTED to get a sunburn.  I couldn’t smell enough fresh air (albeit full of car exhaust from a bike lane) and one bike or another has moved into the back of my car, which is beginning to get that gamey, “triathlete’s car” smell again.

…bring it.

I am, however, preparing for my first triathlon since October of 2012.  The TriZou triathlon on the campus of the University of Missouri… this weekend.  Therefore I am attempting to taper or at least rest for this week.  So, just when I get all fired up and I’m ready to go crazy, I have to back off.  Probably the best thing that could happen to me.

But just to make sure I got mine before I had to back off, I put in almost 20 miles combined road and trail running last weekend.  Why?  It was pretty outside…

I know I need to settle down a little bit but jeeze!  Lemme celebrate a little!  I have energy, drive, dedication and I’m as light or lighter than I have been since the womb (ok… maybe not that long.  Second grade or so…).  It only took me 47 years to get here.  Let me enjoy it!

My “rest” week started off yesterday with a huge failure.  I wanted to do about 1500 in the pool and go home.  2200 yards and an hour spin class later…

Today was better.  My 4 mile run only went 4 miles.  AND (this was the hard part), I controlled the tempo.  I wanted to run mile 1 at 9:30 (actual 8:56), the second mile at 7:30 (actual 7:15) and the last two at 9:30 (actual 9:33).

We will see how the rest of the week goes…

I’m not sure how the race will go.  My PR for this event is 1:19:00 ish.  I think I’m a little faster in the pool, MAYBE as fast on the bike and a little faster on the run, but we’ll see.  I don’t feel ready.  But it’s just a race.  I’ll go hard and have fun.  I will probably swim with the 8:00 minute group.  This is really just a re-introduction to the sport.  I will call it a success if I remember all my gear and can find my bike in transition… :-)

On the “what’s new” front, we did start doing speed work at the track again.  It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.  Which is either because I controlled myself and didn’t go out too hard or because I’m in a little better shape than the last time I did speed work… 3 years ago…  Our speed work is a little different in that we don’t do anything shorter than 200 yards and very few efforts faster than mile pace.  Anything over 600 yards is done at 5K pace… plus a little :-)  Total “hard effort” distance is only about 2 miles (with a mile warm up and a mile cool down for a total of 4 miles).  I love these workouts because they are intense and just barely aerobic.  They make you run different and think about every step.  They force you to pay attention to form and effort.  A habit that is easily lost to the monotony of a 10 mile run.  I hope everybody that has come out so far stays with it and we get new people too.  But even if I’m alone out there, I will definitely keep doing them.  They are just great workouts.

And, finally, in a sure sign that hell is actually thawing back out… We will be starting open water swims back up next week (after TriZou).  The water is still cool and definitely wetsuit required, but I can’t wait.  Which is weird for me…

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