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…

Back to earth

April 14, 2014

A lone cyclists climbing the road through dramatic Cheddar gorge on a fine sunny summer morningHaving a bit of an emotional let down this week.  The Biggest Loser competition is over so that motivation is gone.  I didn’t do as well as I expected in the first multisport event of the year and I’m kind of grasping at straws for some sort of training “plan”.  I also got briefly excited about the potential of doing my first Ultramarathon distance race, right here in town (yes, even though I don’t think my body will hold together for it).  Only to be let down by the reality that it is too soon after Chicago for me to realistically train for it.  I have already set Chicago as my “A” race for the summer and want to focus my efforts on being ready to compete in it.  However, I would need to start training in June for the 50K.  Since the two overlap and have NOTHING to do with each other (back to back short, sprint style, triathlons versus a 50K?), I just don’t see how I can possibly train for both.  If anybody has suggestions, I’m listening.  Chicago is at the end of August and the 50K is just over 1 month later.  I would need to be running 25+ miles in the woods right about the time I go to Chicago.  Two completely different training plans.

I’m just kind of bummed because I wanted to do it.  Oh well.  Sucks to have problems like this… :)  I will just do the 25K and then look for a 50K in November.  It’s all good.

I think what has bugged me more than anything is how poor my bike leg was at MaxTrax.  I was really expecting much better.  My run legs were good.  But the bike was over 2mph slower than I expected.  My legs felt sluggish and slow.  No turnover.  It just let me know how far behind I am on the bike.

I guess I was also hoping that losing the weight would have a positive effect on the bike.  Or… MORE positive than it was.  it all just let me know that, even though I have come quite a way…  I still have a lot left to do.  And a long way to go.  It just gets frustrating “looking uphill” all the time.  I know I just need more bike miles.  Of course, as I look outside my window today… it’s snowing.

So I do what I can.  I’m going to the pool in a bit.  Then some core work.  Then a spin class.  I’m afraid that has to be enough.

The other thing I’m fighting now is a lot of my friends are training for an Ironman.  I think this is awesome and wish them all the best.  Physically, mentally and monetarily, I’m not up to it.  So what that means is my usual training crowd is going to be doing longer and longer workouts.  Mine are going to be shorter and more intense.  So I’m going to be working out alone quite a bit.

Believe me, I’m NOT complaining.  It’s just the way things worked out.  I’m just adjusting to it.  I know triathlon is an individual sport.  It’s just more fun when you do it in packs… :)

OK… Let’s Boogie.

April 7, 2014

KEEP-YOUR-EYES-ON-THE-PRIZE-LEFT-449x372Well… that’s done.  With my final weigh in yesterday I bid goodbye to our multisport club’s “Biggest Loser” competition.  Apparently, though not very good at triathlons, I’m pretty good at losing weight.  I did OK.  I got a lot of weight off, changed some really bad habits into good ones and went a long way to completely recovering from the horror that was 2013.  The biggest change for me was a mindset switch.  I stopped looking back and regretting the loss of 2013 and started looking forward.  Time to move on.  Time to get better.

So during the contest I learned a lot of interesting things.  Things like at one point when I had lost about 22 pounds, my knees were feeling much better.  One night I picked up our overly round cat, who weighs roughly… 22 pounds… and carried her down the stairs.  My knees hurt.  Once I put her down, I was fine… Coincidence? umm… no.

I also learned that my body is really good at going into survival mode.  At a couple of points, desperate to make weight, I cut my intake WAY back and increased my workouts.  Not only did I not lose weight, but I actually gained weight.  My body said “Fine, if you aren’t going to give me anything to burn, I will just hold on to EVERYTHING you give me.”  Not the best formula for weightloss.

I will admit to being a little disappointed with the way I look now.  I’m sure it’s just a body image thing but I thought I would look better and thinner than I do.  Clearly my mental ideal weight (180) was not close to reality.  I’m thinking probably 160-165 is where I need to be.  Ah, well.  Just means more work.

Right at the end of the contest, for about the last month, I started changing over my training to prepare for the upcoming season.  I pushed some mileages and times.  I got faster and ran/swam longer than I ever have for “training”.  In fact, I’m running and swimming longer now than I was when I was “training” for the Half Ironman in Oklahoma!  But I’m finding that this does NOT equate to losing weight.

In fact, it actually hindered my last month, where I only lost about 6 pounds or so.  One would think with all the long races and workouts I did, I would have doubled that.  Especially given the fact that I did not increase my intake during that time.  But it was actually the other way around.  I had to fight to keep from GAINING weight during this time and had one of my smallest amounts lost during my longest running week in TWO YEARS!  Everyone says that’s just my body adjusting to the new requirements and that it will pay off in the long run, but I will reserve judgement on that one for a while.

To me, it seemed like hard training AND the things I had to do for the competition seemed to get in each other’s way.  I need to eat more to fuel the longer distances.  But since my body refused to let go of ANY scrap I put in it, this meant I was fighting to lose weight for the entire last month.  That was frustrating.  Especially when I was seeing all of my times go down and distances go up.  The only thing that didn’t go down was weight.

So I guess the cautionary tale in this would be that the old adages are true.  You can’t outrun bad nutrition.  And you can’t JUST train your way to weight loss.  It is much more difficult than it would seem to “train” and “diet” at the same time.  It screws your body up.  The last week of the competition I was actually overtraining.  I could tell this because I was tired, weak and low on energy… yet I couldn’t sleep.  I was doing one workout a day for “training” and another for “weight loss”.  This didn’t work for either.

For me, I think I need to pick a side.  Either exercise for triathlon training OR weight loss.  Not both.  It didn’t work.  I was just tired, hungry, grumpy, sore and sleep deprived for 3 weeks.  That is a recipe for failure.  Too much of that and you get hurt or just give up.  That’s not what I’m after.

But now, thankfully, the contest is done and I can get to work.  I can eat a little more and have made a pact with myself to NOT get on the scale more than once a week.  And that is only because I need to monitor my weight as a part of my training.  Not in spite of it.

I did my longest outside road ride of the year yesterday at 40 miles (ish).  I was really tired but I had done an 8 mile trail run in the morning so I was supposed to be tired.  I probably won’t do more than a 50 mile ride this year.  Nope.  It’s time for short bricks, intervals, hills and tempo work.  I’m looking for another 5K to run in a month or so.  I have a PR to crush.  And then it’s all in for Chicago.  Two days, three races, no regrets…

A problem of excesses

April 4, 2014

Entrepreneur-Focus-300x240This is the part where I get to stomp my feet and complain.  The sad part is I’m complaining because I have too many options.  Total first world problem here.  I have too many options for workouts.  I can’t do them all (the science is impossible… being in two places at the same time, etc.) but I don’t want to choose.

I have fought hard and complained often about the excess of workouts.  Between the triathlon club, ultrarunners club, bike clubs and local track club, there can be upwards of 20 workouts a week of some sort.  Mix all that in with the fact that I am trying desperately to STICK TO A PLAN (and the fact that I have very little capability to say “NO”), and I am either exhausted from doing 2-3 workouts a day or grumpy because I missed one… on most days.  I have tried to work with the leaders of said workouts to not overlap so much because I feel it dilutes the pool.  I would rather have fewer, bigger group workouts than 5 at the same time on the same day with 3 people in them (none of whom run my pace).  But, alas, there has never been, nor will there probably ever be, a federated list that we stick to.  And if you are thinking that I am bitching about a good thing… you are probably right.

I actually run a couple of workouts for the club myself.  A Friday/Sunday open water swim and I’m starting up a track workout.  Inevitably, someone will plan something over the top of one of these during the summer and irritate the hell out of me, but there is not much to do.  I even moved the historical starting time of the track workout from evening to morning just to avoid the 2 other workouts that are already at that time during the summer.  OK… that and 6am is usually a LOT cooler a time to be on a track.  Selfishly, I suppose, doing this workout at 6am also allows ME to do one of the other workouts in the evening.

Now there is a trail run series that I would love to do.  I would SUCK at it.  But who cares?  It’s great exercise and it’s in the woods, which I’m finding I favor more and more.  But it’s at the same damn time as a very popular group bike ride that I love to do.  And I really NEED the bike miles more than I WANT the trails.

And you know the best part about all this?  There IS no solution!  And it’s all because this town and area is LOADED with great, active clubs that offer lots of workouts for all ability levels.  There are also great gyms in town that offer classes at reasonable times.  AND there are great bike and running shops that have their own rides, clubs, races and sponsor events as well.

The reality, though, is I do need to stay focused.  I need to stick to my plan and avoid adding in too many extra workouts.  While they may be fun, they also lead to overtraining.  And whether accidental or on purpose, overtraining is dangerous and could easily ruin all of my positive gains with an injury.  Nope.  I gotta stay focused.  Somewhere in this blog I wrote down a training plan and I need to stick to it.  Once Sunday gets here and I do my final weigh in for the biggest loser, the serious training for sprint and olympic distance triathlons starts.  As much as I want to play… I need to put that off until after Chicago.  Then, if I live that long, I can go crazy from there!

Yup.  Sux to be me.  Here’s hoping I get to bitch about this for many years to come.

Thinking about my own finish line

April 2, 2014

thinkingIf triathlons and distance sports has done anything for me it has reaffirmed my belief that there is a genetic limit in each of us.  With careful training and patience, we can challenge that limit and perhaps even extend it a little, but I really feel that we are all “pre wired” with a pretty hard limit on what we are physically capable of.  And while we may be able to mentally harden ourselves off to push farther, we will eventually find that limit.  It is greatly effected by diet, habits and training, but we all have a hard cap.  Going over this cap sends our genetics into play and we break down.  And I don’t mean “push it” injuries like strains or broken bones from effort.  I mean physical failures, “over use” injuries, chemical imbalances, etc.

There is also a mental limit.  That is what we “think” we are capable of.  This limit is easily extended by each successful event that takes us farther than we have ever gone before.

The problem is when the two meet.  The addiction and euphoria experienced when you conquer a new goal, can be intoxicating.  In the beginning, those goals are things like a 5K or a mile swim.  However, as you go along and continue to drink the distance KoolAid, the limits get pushed.  Distances and times get challenged.  Mentally, you get tougher.  You can fight the quitter in you more.  Until finally, at some point, you get dragged off a course because your mind says go, but your body has detonated and you are no longer able to perform.

It’s scary, when you can’t go anymore.  Mentally and emotionally, you are there.  But your body fails.  Some people call this their “limit” and blame the failure on training.  But I think if you don’t look seriously at each failure from the standpoint of “training” limits vs. “genetics” limits, your days in endurance sports are numbered.  And worse, if you go too far, you may end up not being able to do ANYTHING.

While I’ve always said I don’t want people to look in my coffin and say “he looks so good”, but rather “WOW!  He used that body up!”… While I’m IN this body, I would like to be able to abuse it for many years to come, which, I think, means I need to be reasonable.


In 2007, I trained for and ran a marathon.  However, the abuse I put my body through to achieve that goal was not worth the reward.  Of the many injuries I sustained during training, one of them is still with me to this day.  I suffered a repetitive stress injury.  A pelvic stress fracture (at the thin spot where the two halves join at the bottom).  It took me out for about 9 months of 2008.

This is not your normal injury.  In fact, the doctor said that it was rare, especially in men.  Granted, I was too heavy to run a marathon, which may have factored in to the injury, however I could see that more if my knees, hips or ankles had failed.  I really believe that this injury is simply because of the way I was built.  And the repetitive stress of pounding out 15-20 miles at a time on longer runs and putting 40-50 miles a week in was just more than my genetic make up could handle.  And it manifested itself through this break.

So why bring this up now?  When I am in the middle of such a successful recovery?  My times at PR levels.  My weight is bordering on the lowest I have been in my adult life.  Why bring it down?

Let’s just call it “cautionary”.  I’m very happy with the way things are going but I have learned to listen to my body a little bit more.  And the unique pain that I had when I was running long distances didn’t manifest itself until my mileages got up above 30 miles per week or more.  And last week, after the half marathon success I had in Sedalia?  The next day, it came back.  Not bad.  But just enough to remind me of genetics.  It has since subsided with the decreased mileage but still, every once in a while, when I get up and turn wrong, it is there.

Don’t get me wrong.  Everything is fine.  I don’t hurt all the time like I did before.  My strength is still there.  This is just a warning flag.  It went up and now it’s back down.  It just made me think.

Mentally, I WANT to do a marathon (or 50K trail run, actually).  And I have entertained thoughts of carefully training and leaning myself up to the point that I can compete in an Ironman for my 50th birthday year, coming up in 2 and a half years.  And granted, even though my goal is to be even lighter than I am now (by another 20 pounds or so) before I even THINK about competing in these distances, I just don’t know if that will ever be possible.  Even at 5% body fat, my body may just not be capable, genetically, of those distances.  I have to accept that as a possible outcome.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t try it out.  Push my mileages up (later, as I get lighter) and see what happens.  After all, except for those select few whose training, genetics and desire push them to the pointy end of the pack, the rest of us are just setting our own finish line tape up anyway, aren’t we?  In the goals that we set and limits we push?

I don’t intend this to be a philosophy for anyone but me.  If you agree with it (or not) that is your choice.  We all have to decide how far we are capable of going.  Those of us with the endurance bug are always trying to do that distance/time… plus one step/second.  I just was reminded of my own reality and thought I would share

Riding badly in the woods

March 26, 2014

mtbAs much as I really love triathlons, I am continually called back to the woods.  I’m afraid to ever try an Xterra type race, because I know I would love it and immediately abandon road races.  The problems with this are two fold and actually remind me of my reasons (read: excuses) for not getting into triathlon in the first place.

First, I suck at mountain biking.  Yes, I have endurance.  But in the balance, coordination, technique and guts departments… not so much.  I had someone tell me once that when you mountain bike, going faster is actually better/easier and you just have to trust your gear and ride over stuff.  The first time I did this… I went over the bars and down a hill with my bike on top of me.  Not exactly the desired effect.  The person failed to mention that picking a good line is critical to making the other things work.


I’m finding the same holds true for trail running.  As tentative and cautious as I want to be because I’m worried about my crappy ankles, it’s actually easier if you speed up.  To say this is counter intuitive is an understatement.  But as my endurance and fitness improve, so does my speed.  And as my speed goes up, I feel more comfortable.  I still can’t bomb down hills but I’m moving faster.

Second, even with as many beautiful trails and great territory as Missouri provides, we don’t have one Xterra race or even that many offroad multisport races.  It doesn’t make any sense.  We have some EPIC trail runs.  Surely SOMEBODY can figure out how to run one past a lake someplace with multi use trails…  What this means is that for me to combine my terrible mountain biking skills with my sloth-like offroad running style and horrible swimming, I need to drive 6 hours to get to the closest race.  Somehow… that doesn’t add up.

So, bad mental math aside, what is the draw?  I can just as easily humiliate myself locally on public roads and in pools for all to see.  Why get dirty?

There is just a different feeling to offroad races.  It’s more laid back.  Less of the type “A” stress of a road race.  Mountain biking, for me anyway, is just more fun.  Trail running is just better.  The swim would suck no matter what unless I was going down river in a raft, so it’s always something I’ve just tolerated.  I don’t know… There is a certain peace to being in the woods.  Even if you are racing.  And before you start arguing about how much more dangerous it is, I’m putting the bullshit stop on that.  I firmly believe that is all perception.  Hitting a root and going over the bars is a hazard, yes.  But it will always pale in comparison to getting hit by a car.  Crashing is crashing.  I haven’t seen any more or less crashes or injuries offroad.  My two most recent scabs came from tripping on nothing in particular and falling on a bridge on a new section of an urban, concrete trail.

People I train with ask me sometimes why I still do a day or two a week of offroad training during triathlon season.  Shouldn’t I be doing all road stuff?  Perhaps.  But besides the benefits of breaking up my training and working different muscles, it forces me to relax.  To think different… To run/ride different… To breathe different.  And whether I’m dodging spider webs or trying to get over that one spot clean for the first time on my bike, sometimes I just need “different”.  That’s what I like most about trails.  Maybe I’ll be better at it someday.  But I don’t really care.  I might walk away from triathlons at some point, but I will always ride (badly) in the woods.

Race Report: Sedalia half marathon

March 24, 2014

finishYes, ANOTHER race report.  Hey, after last year?  I deserve to get to do a few race reports.

First, I have to admit something.  I should not have signed up for this race.  It was too soon on my comeback road, too early in the season and too long for where I thought I was at, health wise.

So… why did I sign up?  Honestly, I got swept up in my own euphoria.  I had a flurry there for a week or so where I almost signed up for everything I could find.  I had just successfully completed a 10K trail run and was feeling great!  So… A half marathon?  SURE!  I can do that!

In hindsight (and to spoil the story a bit, everything went fine) this wasn’t the best idea.  Thank the triathlon gods I didn’t look at any Ironman websites…

Regardless, I signed up.  I even “poked the bear” a little bit and challenged all my running buddies to sign up as well.  Secretly, this was out of regret for signing up and I really just wanted somebody there to positively ID the body… just in case.

I remember the last real half marathon I ran.  A miserable, muggy, hot, expensive race on the lovely downtown streets of Kansas City.  I “trained” for this race.  I was on a “plan”.  I was careful.  I tapered for 2 weeks.  I was ready.

I got my ASS handed to me by the weather. Two of the most miserable running hours of my life.  With lots of walking, quiet sobbing, gnashing of teeth… the whole bit.  Start time temp of 75 with 90% humidity and no wind.  Like running in a locker room.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m standing on the line (such as it is) for the Sedalia Half Marathon.  ZERO training plan.  A whopping TWO DAY taper (OK… a day and a half).  ZERO runs of 13 miles or more and ONE run of 12 miles… in the last TWO YEARS.  NOTHING about this was a good idea.

So.  Here we go.

Sedalia Half Marathon

The race:

The Sedalia Half is a local race in Sedalia, Missouri.  Frequented and supported by friends, and friends of friends for over 30 years now.  One of the least expensive half marathons in the nation, you can get in for $20.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a fun race.  Laid back and enjoyable.  The biggest question is always the weather.  I’ve run it 3 times now.  Once in 80 degree heat, once in sleet and 30 mph winds and then this time.

The weather:

All you can do is pray here… This is a true “March in Missouri” race and it’s a massive crapshoot as to what the weather will do.  For example, last week varied between 38 and 75 for high temps and it’s supposed to snow today.  It’s all part of the fun and makes for great stories.  On this given Saturday though, we got lucky.  Starting temps in the mid 30’s, bright sunshine and 10mph winds.  You can’t ask for much better for a March in Missouri race.

The course:

The course starts out with about a half mile or so through a local neighborhood and then heads out on to rural roads.  There are no real hills to speak of, just gentle ups and downs.  There is also NO cover.  So any wind is a factor.  The course is a U-shaped out and back so unless the winds are dead calm, you WILL run into them at some point.  There are enough aid stations to do the trick and the volunteers are friendly and helpful.  But don’t plan on food and dancing girls every mile.  Oh… and it’s ALWAYS windy.  So don’t plan for calm winds either… :)

My race:

Of all the crazy things to do… Unless my season goes amazingly well and I decide to do something REALLY foolish in the fall… THIS RACE would be my longest of the year.  That’s right, my fourth race in 2 years, after a year off completely and 3 months of “training” that had nothing to do with a half marathon… I stood at the starting line.  ONE training run longer than 12 miles and 2 runs over 10 miles.  No taper.  Feeling a little off and unbalanced due to training hard and not eating much.

But yet I had it set in my mind that I was going to PR this race.

When the gun went off I told myself to go out under control.  Once I got around the pack I quickly dropped into a comfortable pace.  It felt like a trot.  I was sure I was running 9 minute miles.  And, of course, my GPS crapped out immediately so all I had was overall time.  Time to run “Nekkid”.

I hit the first mile marker and heard somebody behind me say “Whoa!  7:55?  That was too fast!  We need to back off!”  But, to me, it felt GOOD.  So I decided to just settle at that pace.  I would love to say that there was a lot to look at… and I guess there was if you like farm fields and the occasional cow.  Other than that, not much.  I settled in with a group of runners and, since I didn’t have a way to pace myself, I let them do it.  I noticed several things.  The hills were startlingly easy and didn’t seem near as steep or long as the last time I ran this race.  I climbed very well (for me) and that was where I moved up.  I wasn’t breathing hard.  And on the downhills I felt like I had to speed up because it didn’t feel like I was moving at all.  I ran with a girl through miles 3-5 who seemed determined to drop me.  But as we went up the biggest incline on the course, I could hear her breathing hard (never good at mile 5 of a half marathon).  She caught me briefly at the top and then dropped.  Never saw her again.  I’m still not sure why people insist on “racing” the early to middle miles of a long race.  Leave that for the last mile…

Anyway, my thoughts during the race kept going to my pace.  I kept waiting for my leg turnover to slow down but it never did.  I never got into my lungs at all.  Breathing felt easy.  People moved up and back all around me but mile by mile most started to drop.  I panicked and thought I had sped up but a quick check of my watch told me (within a few seconds or so) that all my miles were very consistent at around the 8:10 mark.  So when would the shoe drop?  When would I blow up?

A friend caught up to me and ran with me from about the turn (7 miles) until about the 10 mile mark.  We were talking the whole way.  Like a training run… I couldn’t get over how easy it felt.  How good I felt.  He started to pull away when we hit the 10 mile mark.  I let him go, as he is usually a bit faster than me.  But then I thought “you know… you feel like you have a little left… catch him.”  So I pulled to within about 15 feet of him and tracked him until mile 12.  He slowed noticeably just after the mile marker and as I went by I could hear him breathing hard.  He said his chest was tightening up (allergies/asthma) and he was out of gas so I went on in.

My PR for any half marathon is 1:50:33.  I checked my watch (several times because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing) and realized that with about an 8 minute last mile, I might sneak under 1:46:00.  I told myself that it was time to leave it all on the course and I stepped on it (such as I can).  I crossed the line at 1:45:46.  While I realize this still doesn’t qualify as fast, it does do several things.  First, I PR’d in a race distance that has always been difficult for me… without training specifically for it.  Second, it felt easy.  Third, it gives me a confidence again that I haven’t had in years.  Fourth, it proves my diet and exercise plan is working.  And finally, it thrills me to think that this was the longest run I will have until after Chicago!  Yay!


One thing I wanted to share… because it’s weird.  Like you would expect any different from me.  When I was at about mile 5 I got the strangest sensation I have ever had while running.  It felt like my tights were super loose.  Like they were sliding down, or inflating and flapping.  I’m sure everyone thought I was losing my mind because I kept grabbing my shorts and legs and crotch and looking down as I was running.  Everything was fine, when I looked at or touched my legs.  But as soon as I looked up again or ran normally, it happened again.  Then it went away.  It happened again round mile 11.  Only this time it felt like I had holes in my tights and shorts.  Again, everything was fine, but it felt creepy and like my shorts were falling off.

Yup… lost my mind.  And it’s all running’s fault.

Usually the two days after a race longer than 10K are hell for me.  I don’t sleep, my legs hurt like they’ve been hit with a board, etc.  But when I did the Half Ironman distance race in OKC I did something crazy.  The next day, I did the sprint distance race.  And as much as the first mile or so hurt, by the time I was done, I felt MUCH better.  Thus learning that exercising the day after a big race really does help.

So taking that into consideration, I decided to run with a local group at Rock Bridge State Park.  The trails (rugged, single track) are beautiful and I thought it might help.  I went out with a couple of friends and after the first big hill, started to feel pretty good.  One friend pushed the pace and so I went with him.  We moved through the first part of the run until we got to a split where we could either go back or go long.  Inexplicably, when he asked “which way?” I said “go long”.  EIGHT MILES long.  EIGHT TRAIL MILES long.

NOW it feels like someone beat my legs with a board…

Up next?  First multisport event of the year.  The MaxTrax Duathlon.  First time on the long course (1.5/15/3).  Time to get to know my bike again!

Are we THERE yet?

March 19, 2014

Little_GirlsWith two and a half weeks left to go in the biggest loser competition with the local triathlon club, it’s time to take stock of what has happened and what to do about it.  For me, this has been very successful.  I have, thus far, lost about 35 pounds.  Moreover, I feel like if I keep the same routine, I can continue to lose weight until I hit my target weight of 165.  I hope to do this by the Chicago Triathlon in August.  Currently, I have about 15 pounds to lose.  Funny… at that point, for the first time in my life, I will have a BMI of what the government considers “normal”.  All this work just to be “normal”.  Currently, for the first time in several years, my BMI is what the government considers “overweight”.  Which is down from “obese”, where I have been living for the last 2 years.

I don’t give much credence to BMI as I think it is just one (and a blind one at that) measure of fitness.  It does not take into account things like muscle mass, bone density, etc.  I have a friend who played pro football as a running back and is now a powerlifter.  Dude is a ROCK.  You can see every muscle and vein.  According to the government, he is obese and has actually been turned down for life insurance.  Ludicrous.

Regardless, it’s just one measure.  And I don’t have the money to pay for displacement testing, etc.  So it is the free ones I go with.  It used to upset me.  Now I think it’s funny.  It really all depends on how I feel.  Currently, I feel good.  I’ll take that.

In an odd twist, I am actually concerned about appearing to lose TOO MUCH weight.  At least, according to the competition.

What I mean is, due to the day we weigh in on, I may have a problem getting an accurate weight.  See, I’m trying to get an accurate weight.  Hydration plays a big part of this.  It’s easy to lose a couple of pounds by just going out and running for an hour before you weigh in.  And it also depends on what you had to eat.  Lots of salt and you retain water/weight.  These aren’t biggest loser strategies, just reality.  However, what I don’t want to do, for the purposes of the competition, is lose too much weight in one week, because that is not sustainable.  I’m more concerned about NEXT weeks weigh in than this one.  And this is all because I’m running a half marathon on Saturday.

I’ve been really good so far this week with eating and exercise.  My goal is to lose 2 pounds this week.  That will officially put me at 179.  My fear is, with the half marathon on Saturday and a long trail run on Sunday, I could actually lose, or “appear” to lose 5 pounds or more.  Which would look great this week, but as I rehydrate normally, next week, even if I lose 2 more REAL pounds, could appear to be a GAIN of a pound or two, just because of hydration.

So I’m trying to lose weight properly, and not be affected by two long runs.  So, eat and drink “enough” but not too much, or especially too little…

Oh good grief… who gives a crap?  I mean… really?

Why am I worried about this?  If I’m off 10 pounds Sunday I will know 3 things.  First, I’m dehydrated.  Second, I will probably owe the biggest loser some money for pounds gained the next week.  Third, 10 POUNDS, that would put me close to 170!  I’ll take it as long as I can get it!!  Regardless, this kind of fluctuation is normal (within reason).

I have come too far to by just relaxing, eating right and exercising to get obsessed about all of this now.  Whether I win or lose the competition means little.  The bottom line is I will be 35 pounds (plus) lighter than when I started!  My knees don’t hurt.  I don’t huff and puff going up stairs.  I’m not drinking anymore.  I sleep better.  I’m faster.  I have more energy.

That, my friends, is the win I was looking for.

Training Menu Change

March 14, 2014

Sure signs of spring:

  • Spring Peepers
  • Thunder (without snow)
  • 5Ks everywhere

Never have I been so excited to punish myself on a bicycle…  But after 3 months of diligently attending spin classes and going NOWHERE… fast… it was so refreshing to generate my own wind instead of relying on the ceiling fans.  Yes, it was breezy.  Yes, it was cool.  Yes, it was AWESOME.

I was sadly disappointed that of the 250+ members in our triathlon club, only 5 showed up (plus a Big Tree guy, a Walt’s guy and a guy that shows up for everything ride related but I can never remember his name…).

For my part, I went out a little too hard, blew up a couple of times and kind of limped home, but for the first hard ride of the year… I’ll take it.  Things I noticed on my ride:

  • The spin classes helped.  My cadence was good.  Really good.
  • The hills (not that there are any REAL hills on this route) seemed much flatter.  Probably because I’m not towing a beer keg around anymore…
  • I still think my seat is a bit too low and I have a pronounced hitch in my pedal stroke.  Definitely something to work on.
  • I’m running out of gears on the downhills.  May need to bump up to a 52 or 53 tooth chainring in the front.  It will keep me from spinning at 120-130 on the downhills so much.

One of the hardest things for me to do in triathlons is find a balance for my training.  I always seem to be neglecting one sport for another.  For instance, I think I have been swimming pretty consistently but as soon as it warms up I immediately abandon the pool for the bike.  I know part of this is the normal cure for gym fever we all get when spring finally arrives, but I don’t want to make it a habit and lose what little I have gained in the pool.

I also know that now is the time to start working on speed.  I have a half marathon coming up in 2 weeks but after that I’m not going to do anything over a 10K (except in training) until after club nationals.  While I will be sad to not go on all those long runs and rides with my friends, 4 hour rides and 18 mile runs don’t do me much good.  So my focus will change to intervals, hills, speed work and intensity.

My workout week will look like this:

Monday: Pool

Tuesday: Morning Run, Afternoon Bike or spin

Wednesday: Morning track workout, afternoon bike hills

Thursday: Morning run, Afternoon bike intervals

Friday: Lake Swim

Saturday: Long run, short ride (or brick)

Sunday: Trail run or MTB, Lake swim

menuThis is the basic schedule.  It looks like a lot and I realize there are no break days in there, but with my work schedule, I’m realistically only trying to get 2 workouts of each type in per week.  If I get them all in, great.  But that rarely happens.  And I will probably rotate one week a month where I don’t do one of the sports for a week, just to give those muscles a break.  The other thing about this schedule is that except for the long run day, everything else is short.  My longest ride this year will be 50 miles and I will only do a few of those.  No more than 2500 in the water.  No more than 10 on the run.

See, my problem in the past is that I “trained” for “triathlon”.  Which meant I basically did any and all workouts I could.  My first 2 seasons I would routinely go out on 60+ mile rides… but I was only doing sprint distance races.  Yet I did NO speed work.  So at the end of my 15 mile bike ride in a race, I would be frustrated because I didn’t go any faster… but I felt great!  Same thing on the run… and the swim…

So this year, I’m switching to short, intense, hard workouts (for the most part).  Hills, speed, fartleks, and other fun stuff are on the menu this year!

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