Thursday, December 23, 2010


These last couple of weeks I have been slowly increasing my distances as I get closer to the "official" start of my Ironman training. Weekday training runs are now nearly twice what they were a few months ago and my swim distances are increasing beyond my half Ironman distance preparation distances, while my long bike distance training is still down around the 2 hour timeframe, but this will change soon.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy some recovery time over Christmas weekend with a few lighter workouts and some family before I turn up the training a notch.

149 days until Ironman Texas...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

IMTX Run Course

Today was my first run on the Ironman Texas run course. I ran one loop of the main part of the course (right at 8 miles today). I ran based on my heart rate, staying at the top of Zone 2 (approx. 75% of max heart rate) for most of the run. It wasn't my best performing running day, but it was fine for a training day.

The course is about half through residential areas near (and sometimes in view of) Lake Woodlands and about half through the shopping corridor along the Woodlands Waterway (with nearly all of this part being run along the path alongside the Waterway. I think it is a good run course for the coming race, with the potential for outstanding race support along the way. The map image below that shows the course is from the race website.

I am sure I will spend a lot of time running this course over the next 5+ months!

In other events, my youngest daughter moved out of the house this past weekend. She's only about 10 miles away but it's a big step for her (and us as well). Seeing some items getting pulled out into the open (old artwork, toys, etc...) seemed to carry bittersweet feelings along with them. For what it's worth, she's about 3 months older than I was when I left home, which seems somehow appropriate. However, she did make it back here tonight for dinner to celebrate my birthday (a day early due to the weekend and our schedules)!

167 days until Ironman Texas...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Closing Out November

November was a banner month in several ways.

First, I opened the month with a huge PR in the half iron triathlon distance while feeling good all race.

Then, after taking some good recovery time I had a 3+ minute PR at the 5K distance, where I managed to get my time down to its fastest since 1991.

The only downside was that November was the first month this year where I had a weight gain. However, since the weight gain was at 0.1 lbs, I can't really consider this too much of a negative--especially since I had just followed a recovery period and the Thanksgiving holiday.

If I remember correctly, I have achieved all but one of the goals I set out for myself for the year in my January blog entry. The one remaining seems out of reach, although I will still strive for that goal before my year-end accounting of my goals.

As we enter the last month, I am shifting my goals towards completing Ironman and focusing my attention on that goal.

170 days and counting....

Monday, November 29, 2010


I had a good time yesterday surrounded by real friends in an online virtual room. We shared our notes, our thoughts, and our comments as we watched the Ironman Cozumel results update and heard (via Twitter and Facebook) from a few who were watching the race in person.

My 6 friends times, ranged from a blazing fast 10:53:25 for one friend who was slowed by injury to a 15:43:21 for another friend who had a rougher than expected day, which still easily beats anything I can do right now.

While I expected to be excited for my friends, I was also inspired by their efforts. Race day often brings its own surprises, and this day was no different. Equipment problems, physical ailments and warm weather were all part of this day. However, in the true spirit of the Ironman, not one of them gave up. Some beat their goals and surpassed their expectations and some missed their goals (and even narrowly missed their dreams of a Kona championship slot), but to me they are all heroes. They have completed the Ironman distance (as many as 5 times), which is something I have only aspired to do at this point. From the examples of Heather, Del, Ingrid, Sheri, Ana and Karen I have drawn tons of inspiration as I followed them before, during and after their races, as I virtually watched them do something I cannot do--at least not yet...

I am already registered for the inaugural race of Ironman Texas on May 21, 2011, in The Woodlands, Texas...let the training begin...

I am on the clock now...173 days...and counting...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

This was a nice weekend for me for several reasons.

I did not have to work this weekend, which is a rarity. If I eliminate weekends that I took off of work for races, then I can't tell you the last time I had the whole weekend off.

This was the last Thanksgiving weekend before my daughters move away from home. They are old enough to be moving out (22 and 20), but it was nice to have a long holiday weekend with them first.

I am watching several friends compete in Ironman Cozumel through the magic of the internet. So far, so good for them all (although I am a bit concerned about one of them at this point).

We got a new refrigerator delivered today. So we will have ice and water on the door again for the first time in years.

Finally, I ran in a post-holiday 5K this weekend to attempt to fulfill one of this year's remaining goals--to run a sub-30 minute 5K. The previous 5K race where I set my 30:20 PR was in April 2009, and I had not run a 5K since then. This local race was a no-frills local race put on twice monthly by the local running store for a $1 entry fee (yes, $1!). I ran in in 27:05. :-)


Monday, November 8, 2010

Iron Star Triathlon (70.3) Race Report

This past weekend was the Iron Star Triathlon, which is a half iron distance race (i.e. 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run).

I went into this race with high expectations of having a good race, though I was a bit unclear of how to quantify those expectations. After a bit of thought during the pre-race taper period, I decided upon a way to put my expectations into numbers for comparison purposes.

I considered what would be a best case scenario race (it pretty assumes that I had the best race possible in each event) and I also considered a secondary scenario in which I assumed a slight improvement in each event from my best previous effort in each event (for reference my best half iron run time was in my first 70.3 race and my best half iron swim and bike times were in my second 70.3 race). From these I calculated a time in the middle of those two to be a reasonable, though still difficult, target goal time.

...........BEST CASE.......SAFE GOAL.......TARGET GOAL

With a PR time of 7:52:07 each of these represented a PR time for me, some of them by a wide and ambitious margin. Still this gave me a starting point for my expectations; and the truth was that while I felt mentally ready to make that goal, I questioned whether I was physically up to that challenge at this point. The good thing is that I do not let the difficulty of a goal get in the way of trying to reach that goal.

When race day arrived, I was also armed with my retooled nutrition strategies: bike bottle of unflavored Perpetuem in between the 2 - 3 hour period before the race and a Hammer Bar about 45 - 60 minutes pre-race, 1 bottle of Heed/Perpetuem mix or a flavored Perpetuem mix for each hour on the bike with 1 Endurolyte capsule each 20 minutes on the bike, and finally a bottle of Heed/Perpetuem mix for run hour #1 and then Heed/Accel Gel for the rest of the run as well as 2 Endurolyte capsules each 2.5 miles. Overall my nutrition worked out well, with 2 small issues which I will get into later.

Race morning proved to be cold (around 40 degrees) and the water was fairly cool as well. The biggest issues on the swim were low lake levels--I had to get up and walk in two areas for a combined total of around 150 - 200 feet (which I don't thin had any significant impact on my time.) and that visibility was low in areas. Due to some fog it was occasionally difficult to see the buoys. After hanging with the bustling crowd for a bit, the pack thinned out and I felt like I had a good, strong swim. In actuality, I had an outstanding swim where I finished in 39:55, which is the fastest long swim I have had.

I started the bike feeling strong and working on keeping my heart rate within a target range to avoid over-doing things on the bike and not having anything left for a decent run later. I had a strong first hour, even working to hold back a bit so I could stay in the right area heart rate-wise. In the second hour I could tell I was working harder and my pace slowed slightly. By the third hour the hills seemed steeper and the wind was definitely a stronger headwind, but I kept going according to plan. Finally, the last half hour was returning back to the starting point, which still had some hills, though less wind. I'd say I probably passed more people in the last 30 minutes on the bike than I did in the 3 hours prior. I expect that this was due to their using up too much energy up front and they were effectively limping back in at that point. My bike time was 3:30:45, which was slower than I'd hoped but still acceptable.

I knew all along the run was the "do or die" segment for me. Each of my last two half iron attempts resulted in much more walking than planned where I effectively only had the energy to just try to finish the race. I opened up with an attempt at a moderate pace and held a 12:02 pace for each of the first two miles. At this point I was holding strong and went into my plan to walk for a minute under 3 circumstances:
a) while I take in 2 Endurolyte capsules every 2.5 miles
b) while I go through aid stations
c) when my heart rate exceeded 165 bpm
This plan seemed to work well for me because, while I did not run fast, I did keep a fairly steady pace throughout as I finished with a 12:54/mile run pace with a time of 2:48:59. This was apparently a new run course (3 loops throughout the La Torretta Resort vs. an out and back course). The run was very-well supported by spectators and had 4 aid stations for each loop.

To wrap up my race, report I enjoyed the course. The bike route was more difficult than I expected, but not more difficult than I was prepared for. Most of the bike was pretty lonely other than the other riders, aid stations and cows, although a few dedicated souls did drive out to spectate the bike ride (like my OutRival Racing coaches!!). I have to believe that the overall success of my run may have partly hinged on not going out too hard on the bike as I followed the heart rate goals mapped out by Coach Michelle, as I had the energy to keep moving pretty consistently throughout the entire run. I found the run well organized and very well supported. All in all, I think this was a great race and would recommend it to others.

As to my time, I finished in 7:07:43, a 44:24 improvement over my previous best time at this race distance last April, easily ahead of my expectations as I capped off an exciting and fulfilling race day.

In looking back at my race experience, I learned a couple good lessons. The first is that I felt really good after the race (tired and exhausted, but still good) where in my previous 70.3 efforts I was run-down and and just happy to be finished and off the course. I feel that between my better preparation and my previous experience that I have learned how to run the race without blowing up before the end. The second was learned during the run. I ran almost 2 of the 3 laps of the run with Carol, a woman wearing a Houston Racing and Triathlon Club jersey (one of the clubs of which I am a member). We ended up next to each other by chance as she started her first lap while I started my second lap and found that we were running the same pace. We kept each other company over that time with occasional conversation. Somewhere in our second lap together Carol told me that so many people were cheering my name that I must know everyone out there. While I certainly did not know anywhere near "everyone", I did realize that there were a lot of people out there that knew me from various local groups (OutRival Racing, Team Strive and Houston Racing Triathlon Club), and their effect was magnified on a looped course. I came to realize that I was truly blessed by the support I receive from my friends.

In the past several months, I've given up a lot of sleep and family time with early morning workouts, though I still feel better for the efforts I have made this past year. Next year I raise the stakes by aiming at the Ironman distance, and I know the personal costs will seem high at time. However, I also know the reward of finishing will be worth it as well.

Iron Star Triathlon

Due to some technical difficulites (i.e. the untimely crashing of my laptop computer while I was watching the IM Florida webcast Saturday night), the race report will have to wait. However, I can go ahead and give you some basics.

I finished in 7:07:43 (a PR by 44:24!). My swim time was 39:55, which astounded me as my previous best swim time in a half iron race was 53:49. My bike ride was a slightly disappointing 3:30:45. However on a hilly and windy course this still beat my previous half iron best time of 3:33:08. More importantly, since I was going by heart rate I did not go too hard on the bike and saved some energy for the run (which has been my previous downfall at this distance). I posted a 2:48:59 run time (which beat my previous best half iron run of 3:09:22 from my first half iron race, unlike the swim and bike times which were from my second half iron race).
So this race is not only my new half iron PR, but also reflects my fastest time for each event within the half iron race.

My post race day celebrations will inlcude a Chick-fil-A shake and a McRib sandwhich today as a bit of personal reward for a hard fought race effort.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Iron Star Practice Swim, and more...

Well, I am coming off a VERY long week as I enter my final prep for the Iron Star half iron distance race. Last week was spent in Austin for occupational training classes, specifically so I can be a certified training provider for water and wastewater utility operators in the state. This was definitely not a class for the faint of heart, with 40 hours of classroom time--and it seemed nearly that much time on homework as well, however I persevered.

Yesterday was the practice swim for the course. This was definitely the most unique swim practice I have attended--primarily due to the low lake levels. First off, it was about 42 degrees, but with low wind, low humidity and some sunlight it did not feel too bad (at least, after getting in a wetsuit). Due to the presence of nearby boat traffic, the swim went out and back from the expected race finish. There were some areas of low depth, as you can see from the following photos. However, I did manage to get in some decent swimming. After the swim I ran a lap of the run course with some OutRival Racing teammates at a pretty good clip for me (something like a 9:39 pace).

Credit for all photos goes to Coach Michelle LeBlanc.

Today's workouts left me with a bit of a surprise, I had a good early run this morning. However, after my near 2 hour bike ride, I saw that I had cracked my bike shoe cleat where it secured to the bike. This led to a trip to the bike store and a last minute change this afternoon of something that I have never done before. Initial tests appears that I was successful, but I'll put in another bike ride during this week to make sure I'll be OK on Sunday with my handiwork, as I'd sure hate to have this go wrong on the race course. On the plus side, the weather is looking perfect for race day as of now!

This next week will include lighter workouts and some extra rest to show up prepared on race day, plus whatever problems show up at work...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Richard's Nutrtion Experiment Part 1

In the movie Back to the Future 3 when Doc Brown and Marty McFly hijack a train we get the following dialogue:
Doc: Reach!
Engineer: Is this a holdup?
Doc: It's a science experiment!

Well, this weekend I began field trials of my own "science experiment" regarding my racing nutrition strategies for bike training.

With the aid of my training coach, I developed a base nutrition goal of 280 calories (including an as yet undetermined amount of protein), 700 mg sodium chloride and 24 liquid ounces per hour. I employed 4 variations on a 62.56 mile training ride this weekend that lasted nearly 4 hours (3:49:35).

Formula 1 was basically my current training strategy of 24 oz. of Cytomax with 2 gels (Hammer gels for today) and 2 Endurolyte capsules. This contained a total of 270 calories with 340 mg of sodium chloride, although no protein was included in this sample. The main drawback I experienced with this sample was opening the gel packets and dealing with the stickiness with getting some of the gel on my fingers..

Formula 2 was 24 oz. with a double serving of Cytomax with 3/4 of a serving of protein powder and 2 Endurolyte capsules. This contained 270 calories with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and 590 mg of sodium chloride.

Formula 3 was 24 oz. with a combination of HEED and Hammer Sustained Energy, plus 2 Endurolyte capsules. This contained 277 calories (with a 12:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) and 296 mg of sodium chloride.

Formula 4 was 24 oz. with a double serving of Accelerade and 2 Endurolyte capsules. This formula had 240 calories (with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) and 580 mg sodium chloride. I found this mix least pleasing from a taste perspective.

Overall, I did not have any digestive troubles with any of the formulas. Each was close to the calorie goal and there was a variety of carbohydrate to protein ratios. Each was below my target goal for sodium chloride, though this is easily adjusted by an increased Endurolyte capsule intake. At the moment I am leaning towards a greater experimentation with Formula 3, starting with my next run.

From the perspective of the evening following this bike ride. Although I had a PR effort through the 56 mile mark, I have no soreness from this training ride. This may be because my better recent training, although it may also be because of my increased attention to today's nutrition.

On Sunday morning, I continued my experiment by using Formula 3 (melon-flavored HEED + Hammer Sustained Energy) for the first hour of my run. In the second hour I used water and 2 packets of Accel Gel. Each of these was well-received by my body. I found the taste of the Accel Gels to be sharper than that of most gels, though I found the taste pleasing and they were easier to swallow than most other gels.

My next step will be to experiment with alternative HEED flavors and to attempt to mix in Hammer Perpetuem in place of Hammer Sustained Energy and see how that works for me as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disney Wine and Dine Trip Report

This blog post is about the non-race portions of my recent Disney trip.

This trip became one of several “firsts” for me. This was my first solo trip. I did really miss having my wife along, and know I would have had a better time with her there. However, I did have an outstanding trip nonetheless. I learned how to better watch the small details that I might have missed before, as well as not having family around gave me the opportunity to spend more time with the friends with whom I met up with over the course of this short trip.

My trip over to WDW was a good one; I woke up early and arrived around lunchtime. I tried a remote parking service for the first time, “The Parking Spot”, which I ended up liking. They literally picked me up right at the back of my parked car and dropped me at the terminal faster than if I had parked in the main airport garage--and a lot cheaper as well! The only real problem with my trip occurred somewhere in the parking/loading process where I lost my iPod Nano (grrr!). I thought about it when it was too late to leave the airport terminal thinking I had placed it on my car as I gathered some things together, but hoped that I had just left it in the car. Because of the short nature of this trip I chose to rent a car, my first time for doing this in Orlando. I had little trouble navigating quickly to the Walt Disney World Resort area due to bringing my Garmin car GPS unit along. While in the WDW area I did have the occasional trouble with directions and turns, but no major problems were had (although I did end up at the Animal Kingdom or Animal Kingdom Lodge an extra 3 or 4 times during the first 2 days. It’s not that diving at WDW is overwhelming, just that you have to pay a lot of attention to where you are going. Overall, I thought the car rental was a net positive for me, especially since I was able to get a $15.95/day rate through Hotwire on short notice for what turned out to be a Dodge Caliber from Avis.

I had done the online check-in process through the WDW website, although it was not ready when I arrived about an hour ahead of schedule. Fortunately, there was no wait at check-in and I was quickly taken care of. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the last of the really good service I would receive at the All Star Music Resort. It’s not that service was bad there, just that getting anything done was either slow or seemed unusually cumbersome in where I did not get the service I expected from the staff (which might be more of a policy issue where the cast members could not provide me with what I thought they should be able to provide). The cast members themselves were very nice and professional, in many ways they were better than those in the parks. My main disappointment was with the food court where even a short line seemed like it moved unnaturally slow. In about 4 attempts to eat at this food court I always became frustrated with the long wait for short to fairly short lines and grabbed something like an apple/banana to eat instead of ordering food.

After getting situated for that first day there, I got a snack at the Downtown Disney area to tide me over for a few hours before heading over the Magic Kingdom for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party that night. After that I attended the live podcast of the Be Our Guest Disney Podcast and got to tour the very nice 3 bedroom Treehouse Villas. (If anyone reading this happens to be a DVC owner and wants to get one of these for a group, I’ll be very happy to come over and help occupy the unit!) Then I headed over to the Magic Kingdom Park where I was able to enter the park just after 4 P.M. even though the party did not begin until 7 P.M. This provided me the opportunity to pretty much just walk onto many prime attractions a bit later. I took in the sights and smells of Main Street as I walked my way into the main part of the park. I also took this early time to get dinner at the Plaza Restaurant, where I have wanted to eat but never got to over past trips. I had the Rueben Sandwich (and their homemade potato chips), which was good. Now that I was prepared for the night I started doing some rides. I was able to get on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, Space Mountain (with the new music playing), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise in not much more than an hour, certainly much less than 90 minutes. By this time the Halloween Party was close to starting and the theme of the park was adjusting as well. I got a candy bag for some in-park trick or treating, which was done at numerous booths set up across the park and also did the occasional additional ride throughout the evening. I also made sure to catch the special parades, fireworks and castle stage shows (including catching the parade twice from 2 different locations. I now count this Halloween Party as a “not to be missed” event if I get to go back during Halloween season in the future. While I am sure my legs were not helped by the 7 hours I spent in the park this evening, I still had a great time.

On Saturday, I was up for breakfast around 700 to 730 A.M. due to the noise of other hotel guests even though I had hoped to sleep in a bit longer. I took my time getting up and around before I made another frustrated breakfast attempt at the food court before I headed over to the expo. There were a ton of cars at the expo, which was held at the Wide World of Sports complex, but there did not seem to be so many people ahead of me. I was able to check in easily and spent plenty of time going through the expo at a leisurely pace—and I even picked up a few items. Before leaving I grabbed a decent lunch at the on-site restaurant. At this point I went back to my room to go through my race packet and rest for a while. I met up with some friends I have made through the WISH (We’re Inspired to Stay Healthy) Team for ice cream at the Beaches and Cream restaurant at the Beach Club Resort. The ice cream—I had a pineapple sundae with vanilla ice cream-- was great and the camaraderie was even better as I met with these team members and their families. I also think I might like ice cream as a regular pre-race snack. Afterwards, it was back to the hotel for some more rest until I got ready to dress for the race and catch the bus to the starting area, back at the Wide World of Sports Complex. At this point, if you want to read my race blog post you need to hop back to the previous post before this one.

Picking back up after the race, I got back to the hotel room around the 415 to 430 am range. After attempting a short ice bath and cleaning up, I was not able to get more than a couple hours of sleep before I was ready to go around 730 am. After grabbing a banana and muffin (i.e. another failed breakfast effort) at the food court I head out to the Animal Kingdom Park, primarily to ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster (in the front seat) and a few other rides as well. The park is pretty much empty this early and I am easily able to get on everything pretty fast, which is good as I am moving fairly slow with some sore legs. After this I head over to EPCOT, where I hit the main rides without much wait (with a FastPass on Soarin’). I also am able to take in the Captain EO film, which is replaying as a tribute to Michael Jackson, and which I had never seen as I made my first trip to EPCOT in 1997 (yes, I was deprived of Disney at a young age, although I did make a lone trip to WDW in 1972 growing up). Following the rides, I do get to walk a bit around the World Showcase to get a taste (pun intended) of the Food and Wine Festival.

After this it’s time to head over the Wilderness Lodge for lunch with friends at the Whispering Canyon Café. Lunch was good, I had the all you could eat skillet with BBQ ribs, chicken and sausage, and some iced tea. Now the Whispering Canyon Café is known for the “attitudes” of the waitstaff, and we certainly got some attitude in our service. After quickly drinking tea glasses of tea, my refill came in a large glass about 2-3 quarts in size (which I did eventually finish). When I asked for more splenda, I was brought a shipping carton of it—and later our server was bringing me sugar caddies from around the restaurant to refill. After a great lunch, our group splits up for a while, although many of us meet back up at the Magic Kingdom Park in several hours.

Having really enjoyed the Halloween Party on Friday, I jump at the chance to attend one more time during this trip, this time with friends. I am able to do some light trick or treating, watch the fireworks and parades, and do various rides with my friends. Perhaps most notable was that the Haunted Mansion had a “live” spirit on the lawn doing improve comedy, and was good enough that the ride cast member had a hard time keeping the line moving at times. Of course, all good things must end and as I closed the park with Amanda and Jeff, it was time for us to head back to our resorts for the night. We were certainly all exhausted as we had all been up early in recent mornings and to bed late each night in addition to finishing the half marathon less than 24 hours prior. I do manage to get several decent hours of sleep late that night.

Monday means it is time to head back home, and I quickly pack up and head out around 800 am that morning and get checked out. For breakfast I head over to Port Orleans French Quarter resort to get some beignets for breakfast. My wife and I used to often eat these for breakfast after my weekend morning runs before the restaurant we loved shut down some time back. The beignets were quite good and I enjoyed my last meal for this trip. Finally, it is time to head to the airport. While I have a bit more trouble navigating to the airport than I did coming in, I do manage to get back with little trouble. My main issue was following the signs to the rental car check-in, which seems a bit unclear at times, though I did make it back with only a bit of trouble. Rental car check-in was little trouble and I easily got to the terminal to check in for my flight. At check-in I was offered a low cost upgrade to first class, and I took them up on the offer. The flight back was nice (how could it not be in first class?) and soon I was back to Houston—and with it I was back to reality.

As I made it to the pick-up area outside the terminal, I did not have to wait long for the shuttle back to the remote lot. It is upon returning to my car that I get my most pleasant surprise from this trip—my iPod is sitting on top of my car right where I had thought I had left it, apparently undisturbed and still working perfectly!

All in all, I had a fantastic trip. Although I wish my wife had been able to make it with me, I undoubtedly was able to spend more time with friends because of my solo status on this trip. I am already looking forward to both my next Disney trip and my next Disney race, although I am uncertain when they will be. I very much recommend the Wine and Dine Half Marathon to anyone interested in doing this event.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon is a nighttime point to point course on Disneyworld property. I got out to the Wide World of Sports complex pre-race area by about 7:30 P.M. By this time there were already a ton of runners around and many more were on the way.

I walked around a bit to see the area and meet up with some friends also doing the race. It took me a little while but I finally locked onto some familiar faces together (Jeff, Rae and Amanda--all pictured in last photo in the same order) who were fellow bloggers and runners on Team Voice (a group of Disney oriented running friends I know through the internet) as they were standing together in the larger group. I hung around with them for about a half hour before walking off to meet with some other friends for a short time. In a bit I get in line to get my pre-race photo with Mickey (back with Team Voice friends again at this point). A bit later I also got a nice photo with Jeff Galloway after he spoke to the crowd. Finally, we are getting close to time to line up in the race corrals, so everyone walks over to wait in the corrals for a while. Eventually, we get a countdown and fireworks before we start.

My plan for this race was always to have fun, however when the gun went off I covered the first 2 miles in about 21 minutes running through the crowd. Around the Mile 2 marker I started walking with another online friend (Lisa) who I had coincidentally just come upon. Lisa and I spent the next 9 or so miles walking quickly but casually. We enjoyed catching up on real life conversation with each other as well as talking with fellow runners. We took the opportunity to stop at virtually every photo opportunity, danced around a bit to the music at some of the live bands, and just generally found about every possible opportunity. Just after the Mile 11 marker Lisa (with me in the photo just above) and I lost track of each other and I ran the last 2 miles in about 22 minutes through the walking runners. I finished in 3:31:39, easily an hour and maybe 80 to 90 minutes slower than the time I might have gotten had I really “raced” this event. However, my time on this night was measured not by hours, minutes and seconds, but by fun—and I had tons of fun on this night, although the excitement was far from over.

The biggest problems with the race were in the after-race party. As I cleared the finish area and got my post-race photos, I noticed a complete mess if the bag claim area (fortunately I had not checked any bag on this night!). After I got into the EPCOT party area I noticed very long lines for the various food and drink items, after walking halfway around the park looking for a decent bite of food I headed off to the restroom. It was shortly after this point that the lack of post-race food, plus the heat from waiting in line in a tight and poorly ventilated area culminated in a dizzy spell as I started to leave the area (a condition from which I was not the only one to suffer). Fortunately I had the sense enough to sit down and had some good friends around to watch over me until I felt better. We all sat around and talked for a good while before heading out in search of food and to find the bus back to the hotel. I ended up primarily eating the banana and gronola bar I got from the race, with only a small taste of the special Wine and Dine food offerings but what I did have was really very good. If Disney can improve these long lines for the runners, it will be much better next year.

All in all, I had a great time with this event and would highly recommend it to anyone, with any luck I’ll be able to do it again some day--and hopefully I'll be able to do it with some great friends again as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Disneyworld Wine and Dine Half Marathon

I am back home from a completely exhausting and thrilling race weekend. I had a great time with some great friends over the weekend as well.

I'll be posting a real race report in a few days after I can really recover and organize my thoughts and photos along the way. The race was not perfect, but it was still a fabulous event and I think it has a lot of potential once Disney can make a few adjustments for next year.

Based on the way I ran out the first 2 miles and the last 2 miles, I am convinced that I could have made this a PR time race. Instead, I spent the intervening miles having great conversation with other runners, stopping for many photo opportunities, and concentrating on just having a fabulous race event. This was easily my slowest official half marathon run time (and I don't even know what it was!), but it was also the most memorable and enjoyable--and that was what mattered for this event.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting Back to Full Speed

My shoulder injury from last month seems to have become a non-issue by this time. I can't quite say it is all healed up, but it is not holding me back. My knee situation is a bit more clear. The knee has not entirely healed, still sore at times and stiff at times, but it also is not holding me back from either long or intense workouts. At this point I guess I am just hoping that it finishes up healing while I continue to train and race.

Meanwhile, the training has been pretty good of late. This was the first week I have been back to hard training consistently since my injury. I got in 9.1 miles running on Saturday and 58.45 miles on the bike on Sunday. While neither was done for time, both went well at reasonable pacing. The bike was slower than I had expected, but I was trying to keep the heart rate from going too high for that particular workout and partly due to the course having more hills than I normally get to ride on this side of Austin. This week has a full schedule of workouts planned, so I will see how things go for me this week.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Austin Triathlon

I spent the midday period Sunday at the triathlon expo getting my race packet and looking around. During this time I had the good fortune to be able to meet and talk with 4 time Olympian (in three different sports!) and Olympic gold medalist Sheila Taormina. She was selling her book (which I gladly purchased and had autographed) on swim technique. She even posed for a photo with me and placed her gold medal around my neck for the photo!
I decided to go to her hour long talk which would start in about 15 minutes. I pick up a lot of good bits of information on swimming while listening to her talk--she is a very informative and enthusiastic speaker!--and hope that some of it will rub off on me in the long run. After the talk I have to head out to bring my bike to the transition area.

I get in a good early dinner that evening and set up my stuff for the next morning, then double and triple check everything before I set 2 alarms and call the hotel front desk for a wake up call. Before bed I went online to read posts from friends who had ran the Disneyland Half Marathon earlier that morning, and then I tried to think good thoughts forward about my race in the morning....

In the morning I am up and awake early with my alarm (the first alarm was sufficient). Instead of walking the 1.25 miles to the race site I grab a cab from the hotel (it seemed silly to drive myself and maybe have to pay more for parking than I would pay a cab!) which gets me to the transition area for final setup in plenty of time. I get everything set up and set out to look over the bike and run exit areas and calculate the best way to sight my return to my transition spot. Then I eat a bit of breakfast and take in some sports drink and water to keep hydrated while the time to close the transition area arrives.

I meet up with a few friends while waiting the 40 minutes between race start and the start for my swim wave (swim waves start 5 minutes apart). Mostly I am trying not to dwell on my recovery from recent shoulder and knee injuries and hope they do not negatively impact my day. My goal for the day had always been to beat a 3:30 time, but I was questioning how my body would hold up from the recent injuries (right shoulder and left knee). I felt like I was recovered enough to race, but you never really know until you go all out at race effort.

Finally, the time for my wave comes and I get in near the back of my swim wave group, as my plan is to find a comfortable pace that does not risk hurting my shoulder and concentrate on technique more than speed. I fall into a comfortable rhythm and feel really good early in the swim, none of the "what am I doing here?" type of thoughts even come into mind as I make progress. Somewhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the race I notice something uncharacteristic for me--that I am passing a number of other swimmers (I am quite used to being one of the last few swimmers in longer distance triathlons). By the halfway point I have passed at least one swimmer that started 2 waves ahead of me and realize that I had not seen anyone from the swim wave behind me come by yet either (which does happen in about 200 more yards). At this point I realize that I am having a really good swim (at least for me) and I keep concentrating on just doing what I have been doing up until now. Eventually I get out of the water and hit the lap time on my watch as I cross the timing mats on the way into the transition area with a 33:23 swim time, which is an awesome time for me, especially in light of the recent injury recovery. I quickly get into the transition area and take right at 5 minutes to get out onto the road. Shortly into my bike ride the skies open up with an unexpected rain--sometimes pouring rain--for about 25 minutes. With this rain my thoughts of pushing the fastest possible pace on the streets go away as I ride at a bit of a slower pace for safety, and even then slide through one turn but I maintain control and do not go down. Don't take this top mean that I went slow as I still got into the low 30 mph range on some downhills (although I was holding on for dear life as I did!) but I did not push as hard as I could go and let those riders wanting to go full speed go right on by me. By the end of my 3rd and final lap on the bike the roads are draining a bit and I go a bit faster in some areas before I need to come back to the transition area. My bike ride time is just under 1:23:57 at 17.7 mph, which is a bit slower than I would have originally liked but faster than I expected due to the wet roads. As I get through the second transition in 2 1/2 minutes I realize that I am well within the reach of my original goal of getting under three and a half hours as I am currently around 2:05 on the clock and can almost run 14 minute miles to make my goal., While I would have normally expected to run around 11 minute miles before my injury, I try to run a comfortable--though solid-- pace and walk every 5th minute to avoid pushing myself too hard. This works well early and I feel really good for about 2 to 2.5 miles. After this point I am starting to feel things get tough, so I take in a little extra race nutrition and try to push through it. After a tough mile where my friend Jon Walk caught this photo,

I start to feel better as I come near the finish area and head out on the second lap. By this point I have gone through the first 5K in about 36 minutes and know that I am well within my goal range. I keep on going, being buoyed by friends and others cheering me on. I am feeling good as I prepare to come up to the last hill for the day when I run by my old coach and friend Bill Dwyer who takes this photo.

It was just after this point as I headed up the bridge that I felt a bit of pain in my knee momentarily, so I decide to take an extra minute walk up the hill to ensure a solid finish as I am less than a half mile from finishing. I test the knee on the level road at the top of the bridge and it feels OK, but I still take my minute walk on my regular every 5th minute schedule. When I start running again the rest of the way to the end is either level or downhill and I run a nice easy run in from there, pausing briefly in front of a bunch of kids at the "super soaker zone" to get sprayed down with water and then head in for my final sprint. I finished with a run time of 1:13:39, about an 11:53 pace per mile and I finished the race in 3:18:31, which completely shattered my expectations and completed a great race experience for me.

Edited to add in response to Rae's post.

This was an Olympic distatance triathlon, which means 1500 meter swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run. I am a new user of KT Tape (though a satisifed one) and am definitely a bit sore today!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Returning to Running

This morning marked my return to running after an August 10th knee injury. While I had done a couple short runs to test the knee since that injury, this really felt like a "real" run to me.

I set out with a 1 hour run time goal early this morning and got through with a slow, but successful run today. I started with a walk to make sure I was warmed up for ten minutes. Then I ran a couple miles utilizing the run walk method to make sure I did not strain anything, specifically I would alternate running 3 minutes and walking 2 minutes. Finally, I ran the last mile (plus a bit more) back home to see if I could really run without problem, which I did at an 11:08 pace. Finally, a cool down walk and I made my goal with 4.33 miles in 1:00:46.

Certainly, I have faster and better runs, but this run today gave me additional confidence that I will be able to complete next weekend's Olympic distance Austin Triathlon (assuming my shoulder injury is better as well!). I'd been training with high goals for the Austin Triathlon, but now feel like I am limping to the starting least I'll be ready to test the old adage about it being better to show up for a race under-trained versus over-trained.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This and That

Just a few things to post about...

My knee is still injured, but is improving. I ran a mile today without major trouble and had limited discomfort during the day. Hopefully, I can try a run again later in the week and see where I am. Fortunately, I was able to bike a little over 40 miles in just under 2.5 hours Saturday, with almost no effects from the knee! Hopefully my training frustration will end this week.

Speaking of my bike, I added a rear-mounted bottle holder to help me carry more fluids for my longest rides (especially since it does not seem the hot weather will be letting up any time soon!). I can now carry 5 bottles (1 aero bottle on front, 2 on the frame and 2 in the rear-mounted bracket) to ensure I will have plenty of fluids for any ride in the next few months.

I replaced broken laptop computer last weekend, Fortunately all my data was intact, it was the computer that died, and there no issues getting all the data moved over to the new computer.

Finally, I realized earlier today that my diet was bad all week without my really paying attention to it. I think I was effictively trying to medicate my disappointment over my knee with food.

Hopefully, by next week I'll have a more upbeat post about resumption of all training...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Temporarily Out of Commission

I am temporarily out of commission for a bit.

No, not a training injury (well, I do have a slight knee issue that I am taking a few light-impact days to resolve...), but a computer issue. My laptop has died (motherboard issue) and is more expensive to repair than replace. I will be looking for a good replacement deal in the next few weeks, but until then my online time will be limited.

On the plus side I did a 2100 yard swim last night with my fastest time for that distance, so maybe a few personal and work frustrations were helped as I do feel less stressed this morning.

The following was added 08/15/2010.
Ironically, the title of this post is even more appropriate. I am back up and running with a new notebook computer, however I have slightly injured my knee and may need to take off some time from running. It does appear that I may be able to keep up my swimming and (probably) my biking at this time. I am hoping I'll just need a few more days off, however I tried to run earlier today after taking off Wed- Sat from running and I only got in a mile before discomfort set in. :-(

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon

The Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon proved to be a well run event. The race organizers did a great job putting on a fun event.

The day before the race I attempted to get fully hydrated and consumed water all day, plus 96 ounces of Gatorade G2 as well. I was quite surprised that this did not force me to take additional bathroom breaks during the day or night, which I concluded to mean that I was already dehydrated and needed all this to catch up to where I needed to be. From Saturday morning to Sunday morning I gained about 5 pounds, which I concluded was pretty much the extra fluid my body needed to have that I had been missing. By the end of my race I will feel very happy about going through the extra effort to rehydrate my body.

The 500 meter swim was a point to point lake swim, ending in an area adjacent to the transition area. The water was warm but well marked with big orange and yellow buoys. Given the course layout, many early swimmers swam too the first buoy and then along the aligned buoys, which actually lengthened their swim. I started out far to the left and just swam straight towards to distant yellow buoy that marked a right turn to stay clear of the pack. Unfortunately, I twice got boxed in by swimmers that could not swim a straight line and wasted a bit of time getting away from them (although at one point I slowed a bit to let them clear me and saw them swim their heads into each other in an almost Three Stooges kind of way). For some unknown reason I felt a moment of slight panic during the middle of the race, but calmed myself by remembering that I have done longer swims under worse circumstances just fine. I've never felt that way before during a swim, but am glad I got past it...especially since I was out in the middle of the lake at the time! In the end I finished the 500 meter swim in 12:17.

While the transition are was well laid out, they had to cram some unfortunate people way up in the grass on a hill adjacent to the parking lot used for transition that was way out from the bike entry and exit. I was one of the unlucky that got that area. Still, I had a decent 2:18 T1 time.

I had a pretty strong bike ride, if you go by that I passed so many more people than passed me--and generally the ones that passed me were pretty awesome cyclists with awesome bikes. My average speed of 19.7 mph was right around where I hoped to be, and I think represented pretty much my best effort for the course. I worried a bit that going hard on the bike might negatively impact my run, but I felt I needed to put out my best effort to see how my body would react on the run to somewhat tired legs. I finished my bike ride in 42:37. Unfortunately, the posted race times did not show a record of my bike time (in fact around 1/3 or more racers lacked a bike split) and showed an excessively long T1 time instead, so I calculated my speed based upon my watch split and the 14 mile known distance.

Transition 2 was about as good as it was going to get for me as I had to cart my bike way across the transition area and past the run start, before trekking back to the exit...but I still managed a 1:56 T2 time, so I really should not complain much.

My run was looking to be my biggest question mark going into this race. I have never run the whole course as part of a triathlon before (though I have run all but the aid stations), but I planned to run every step of today's run. The biggest complication today was the early heat, which I expect was in the mid-80's by then and very sunny. Fortunately, once we got past the first half mile there was occasional shade from trees, and most of mile 2 was on a tree-covered path. I covered mile one in 10:08, which I consider to be a solid time for any mile for me in any race, then I covered miles 2 and 3 in a combined 20:30 (I did not see the mile 2 marker.) which surprised me even more. I was definitely pushing a pace that took real effort for me, but I felt good while doing it. As I passed the Mile 3 marker I knew that there was only a half mile to go and I had been running alongside another runner from my age group that I had been determined not to let get away from me, so I pushed the pace for the last bit and with about 150 yards to go I ran all-out. I figured if I was going to get passed, it would not be easy on anyone to do it. I held off my challenger and beat him by 6 seconds, so I have to guess he didn't have what it took to stay with me at the end. My time over the final half mile was an amazing 4:30, for a 35:08 total run time. I held on to a volunteer for support while they took my timing chip and gave me a cold water bottle and an ice-cold, wet towel, before finally walking off to stretch out and meet up with my coach at the finish.

My stated goal for this race was to finish in the low 1:40 range (1:40 to 1:45), but I really hoped to get into the 1:30's. In the end I finished in 1:34:16, which happily beat my goals. More important to me, though, was that I gave a hard effort the whole race, which is what gave me ability to surpass my goals.

My next race is The Austin Triathlon on Labor Day, where I intend to settle an old score with the Olympic distance that still bothers me from last year.

70 days until IM Longhorn 70.3!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Recapping July

After 3 months of incremental weight increases, I lost 5.4 lbs in July. This gets me back to where I was around a week into the month of March earlier this year weight-wise (and down 3.4 lbs for the year). It's good to see that 2.5 months of slow gain can be undone by a good month, just like I've seen the opposite where 3 months of weight loss is undone by one month of gain. In the end, this is still a long process where the important thing is to stay on-track in the long term and not worry about the short term.

This month of training proved to be a long one. I ended up logging in 2431 training minutes for the month easily my highest training time since I started running again back in late 2006. I ran 65.3 miles during the month for my second highest run mileage of the year (and above average for me). The 225.2 miles on the bike and 12.7 miles of swimming each represent a personal monthly high for me as well. In addition these represent an amount of training that I likely would not have pushed myself to attempt without the advice of coaching--at least not at this point in my training schedule. While there are too many variables to guarantee that I will beat my previous best in my coming Olympic and Half Ironman distance races, I am certainly going to be entering them much better prepared than I was for them last year.

With the Longhorn 70.3 and IM Texas on my longer horizon as my main events, and shorter "training" races such as the Bridgeland Sprint Tri (8/8) and The Austin Triathlon (Olympic Distance 9/6) along the way, I have been writing posts about some of my specific training experiences to record my training process for later review, and any constructive criticism anybody out there might have to offer to me. One thing is certain at this point, my training volumes will have to increase when I kick into IM Texas specific training late this year/early next year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Continuing Longhorn 70.3 Preparation

As of this writing I am 11 weeks (77 days), less 7 some hours from the start of the Longhorn 70.3 race in Austin, Texas. As part of documenting my training from time to time, here is an overview of the last week of training. FWIW, this was not a "typical" week, but a week with some increased training time before entering this coming week. This coming week is a scheduled lighter recovery week, with a bit of a taper for next weekend's Bridgeland Sprint Tri.

Monday-Swim 2200 yards in 55:39. This workout included the full workout from warmup to cool down including associated rest between drills, with the primary element of this workout being 500 yard drills.

Tuesday-Ran 3.9 miles in 46:12. This was an organized track workout with my tri training group, OutRival Racing . The main element of this workout was 1600m-1200m-600m-300m tempo drills with a short, light jog in between running to allow for heart rate recovery. Also on this day was a 15 minute basic core workout.

Wednesday- Morning Workout Swim 2250 yards in 58:09. This workout included the full workout from warmup to cool down including associated rest between drills, with the primary element of this workout being a tempo ladder drill. Evening Workout An 11.8 mile bike ride around some local hills in 45:33. I had hoped to get in an hour of riding but called this ride a bit short due to darkness.

Thursday- Morning Workout 58:45 spin class at 24 Hour Fitness Gym.
Evening Workout Run 3.61 miles on local hills in 53:42. This includes about 15 minutes of walking to get my legs loose at the start of the workout before running up and down some hills in my neighborhood.

Friday- Morning Workout 2.4 miles in 37:17. This was an easy workout with a ten minute walk to start around the flatter roads of my neighborhood.
ALso today was a 15 minute basic core workout.

Saturday- I kicked off the weekend with the OutRival Racing group bike ride, covering 39.32 miles in 2:27:40 (16 mph avg pace), plus some good social time at Starbucks afterwards. The ride included about 15 miles that I anticipate has a good chance of being part of the IM Texas route.

Sunday- Long run day, 7.2 miles in 1:31:08, including a combined approximately 12 minutes and .6 miles of warmup and cooldown. After the run I got to sit around with my friends from The Woodlands Running Club for breakfast at the local bagel shop.

As I said before this was a high volume workout week for me, but it was good to see that I could hold up for nearly 10.5 hours of workouts in a week, at least once! This coming week will be a lot easier on me timewise, and I'll enjoy a bit of rest this coming week as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Track Night 7/27/10

Tonight's track night felt like a breakthrough performance for me on a night that was not quite as hot as normal, though definitely a very humid, steamy night. I ran a set of 1600 - 1200 - 600 - 300 on a school track, with 2 - 3 minutes of recovery jogging between each set. All running was to stay below lactate threshold heart rate. My surprise was an 8:09 1600 meters (mile), a speed I likely have not seen around 20 years, and afterwards I maintained a steady 9 min/mile pace through the balance of the running part of the workout.

I certainly consider this workout to be showing me a breakthrough after I have been at a training plateau for a good while.

I celebrated with a small serving of lowfat frozen yogurt and granola at Orange Leaf .

Coming up tomorrow are 2400 yard swim and 60 minute bike workouts.

Longhorn IM 70.3 Countdown...82 days to go!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ORR Group Bike Ride

Today was my first group ride with OutRival Racing, actually it was ORR's first group ride that I am aware of period. In any case it was also my first group training ride as well. Yes, I have been training this long on my bike just riding solo!

We covered about 28.64 miles in 1:45, for a speed of almost 16.4 mph, which included slowing and waiting for traffic along the route. Today's ride was scheduled to be part of a recovery week for me and this ride worked out well for me. I did ride at a faster speed than I usually go, partly due to our route getting me out of the normal traffic I experience where I go on my own and partly due to the effect of other riders setting a pace that I do not drop down unintentionally. While I was inexperienced in group riding I did enjoy the camaraderie of other riders and look forward to future group training rides. While I was somewhat afraid of being well in the back of the pack, I actually finished closer to the front than the back of the maybe I am a bit better of a rider than I had envisioned myself to be.

In addition, last night was the first get together for the the IM Texas Hometown Athletes Facebook group, meeting at The Goose's Acre in The Woodlands. While I thought I would either skip this or just pop in for a short bit, I hung around for quite awhile talking with many other triathletes who are also registered for IM Texas, some of whom came up from the other side of Houston. So I send out a bit of thanks to Coach Michelle for prodding me to attend.

Next up for me later tonight is a time trial swim workout...

Meanwhile I am 12 weeks out from the Longhorn Triathlon/Ironman 70.3 Austin and 43 weeks out from Ironman Texas with lots of training to be done before each of them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Track Night 7/20/10

Tuesday night means an hour at the track with OutRival Racing. Tonight's weather was warm and humid, though not hot due to some rains and cloud cover earlier in the day.

Tonight's workout (after an extended warm up period) was a 2 mile time trial, which I ran in 17:48 at a fairly steady pace throughout as each half mile split was within 6 seconds of the average pace. I ran this same run about a month ago and was 9 seconds faster but with a higher heart rate.

Overall, I'd have been happier to have beaten the previous time (just my competitive nature, I guess!), however I have to be happy to repeat a workout with an average pace under 9 minute miles.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rolling Right Along

Let me start by saying that it is just under 13 weeks until the Longhorn Triathlon (aka Ironman 70.3 Austin) and 44 weeks until Ironman Texas. Sure, I have other events before and between August sprint tri, a September Olympic distance tri, one or two half marathons over the winter months....but these are the two events that are dictating my training schedule.

Of late it seems that my various schedules are dictating my days, instead of me dictating my own schedule. Work moves along on a recurring monthly schedule, with no major problems coming up right now things just keep moving along steadily from month to month. My home life is on a similar schedule, with 2 young adult daughters (19 and 21) they are somewhat independent in their lives, and my wife is spending lots of extra time with her father while he heals up from his injury and surgery from April...he is healing and making steady progress, he is now able to walk with assistance from a walker, and should walk normally again in time. While I miss having my wife around all the time, I know her father needs her more right now.

Without any significant events sticking out in the short term, time just seems to be passing steadily, though I know better than to wish for something interesting to come up as "interesting" is often more bad than good, and for now everything is OK here. The lack of anything big going on virtually guarantees me the time I want for training with little to no interruption, which is good considering the volume of my training that has recently shifted to early morning hours.

This relative bit of quiet will work for now, certainly there will be something interesting pop up in my life eventually which will make me yearn back for these quieter times.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rolling into July

I am heading into July with some renewed energy, some of it quite literal as I am getting my diet back on track (it's amazing how addictive junk food can be sometimes, as I will sometimes eat it knowing full well that it is bad for me and will slow me down!). Fortunately, when I can finally get it out of my diet, the inertia of getting on track makes it easier to stay on track. Also, I seem to have adapted to my new training schedule (the quite literal doubling of my training time--and then some). Plus it helps to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my father-in-law getting his health back. He's still a low way from regaining his full abilities, but he is getting around at work with assistance and continues to progress his recovery...though I still need to expect to keep helping out with his company for another couple of months, it helps to know things are getting better. Finally, I am inspired by the recent progress of friends like Rae who have fought through their plateaus.

As I was was ending June, I was feeling tired and worn down and not seeing the progress I had made. It was only after fully taking stock of what I actually accomplished during the month--plus seeing the comments left by several of you--that inspired me by showing me how good June really was for me (as I mentioned in the training details I posted previously).

As I have headed full steam through early July I am feeling like I am still picking up momentum for what I can accomplish during the second half of 2010--and feel like I will be able to meet some very healthy expectations for some solid PRs by year's end.

Ironically, when I was starting this post I had intended to partly gripe about the summer weather, where I am outside in 80+ degree and 80%+ humidity, which is normal for summer mornings in south Texas, but in the end I felt so much more upbeat that I had no interest in complaining.

Friday, July 2, 2010

June 2010

June closes with both highs and lows, fortunately a lot more on the high side than the low side.

First the bad news, I gained 2.6 pounds during the month. I’m sure my increased training had something to do with an increased appetite, but many time my dietary choices were horrible with far too many excuses for sweet items being used. I’m going to be working on this during the month.

Next for the good news, of which there is a bunch this month. My total swim/bike/run miles were 276.5 miles this month, which easily eclipses anything I have done previously, and is at 1210.1 miles for the year (which, by the way, would have gotten me to the distance between home and Disney World in early June). Last month’s individual mile distances were 55.3 miles running, 213.7 miles on the bike (which does include a mileage estimate for spinning classes) and 7.5 miles swimming. This running total is my second highest monthly mileage for the year and the bike and swim miles are the highest for the year for each (and a close second highest month ever for the bike and highest month ever for swimming mileage!). With all this increased training I am feeling great, tired at times, but otherwise great. It’s been tough at times to figure out the best way to fit in workouts to my day, something which has been hampered by finding out several weeks ago that the gym local to my office was closing on June 30th, but I will make due.

Why the big increase? Well, I started working with a coach who is putting a plan together with me to meet my goals to get ready for my best performance at Ironman 70.3 Austin (Longhorn Triathlon) in October, and I am with her training group where I love the social interaction along with the training.

I feel I have already started to see the advances of my new training with the big 15:02 PR time at the recent Y Freedom Tri. Certainly, I was already prepared for a big PR for the day with everything I had already done to prepare myself but starting with a coached group at the start of June. However, on the run portion I felt stronger than I have ever felt on the run portion of any triathlon, pausing only to walk for short periods at water stations on the course. I have no events planned until another sprint triathlon in August, but I am really looking forward to that event already to see how much farther I can progress.

My biggest high point this month was registering for Ironman Texas. I had been thinking of doing an Ironman event in 2011, possibly Ironman Wisconsin and combining it with a trip to visit some of my wife’s family in the state. However, in the span of about 6 weeks the rumors I was hearing became an actual event, and an opportunity that I did not want to let get by me, as I become one of the very first to register as the website opened last week.

While last month wasn't perfect, I'll take it and try to do better this month! I know I'll be continuing to put in more time than I previously did training, and if I can couple that to a better diet, I'll be coming out so far ahead later this year.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Y Freedom Tri 2010

2010 Pre-Race Photo

This was the first triathlon I have done a second time, so I was looking forward to seeing how I have improved over the last year. My 2009 time was 1:33:08 and I was hoping for a good day where I would break 1:20:00.

I woke up early for the hour or so drive to Pearland for the race. Often, I might spend the money for a hotel room for a tri of this distance away from home, but seeing as how I just spent $600+ on Ironman Texas, I figured I could afford to save a few dollars and cut out the hotel stay. After an uneventful drive, I arrived around 5:30 to park at the nearby Pearland High School and walked my bike a gear over to the park. I racked my bike in almost the same place, but one rack farther south.

The swim was a 300m pool swim and I came out right on my seeding estimate--for the first time in a tri pool swim I neither passed, nor was passed by anyone. The swim was out and back for 6 50meter pool lengths. A couple times the guy in front of me slowed down enough to catch his breath for a moment, but since he would pick right up again I figured it would be a waste of energy to try to pass him. The bike ride was through a neighborhood with several out and back portions. Unfortunately, my cycle meter battery died sometime overnight (and I did check it last night!) so I did not know my mileage or speed while out on the bike. I did however turn in my fastest bike speed for any triathlon, as I went on perceived exertion and heart rate. It was feeleing hot with the sun beating down, but there was enough shade to keep from feeling too hot. Again I felt fairly strong and only walked at aid stations, probably less than a minute of total walking (something I have never done before on a tri) and turned in a strong run. I finished in 1:18:06 with a strong sprint to the finish, and a 15:02 improvement over last year.

Last year this race provided a cold wet towel at the finish line and a finisher's medal. This year we still got the cold wet towel, but got a special Polar water bottle instead of the finisher's medal--probably a more practical choice, but I am still sucker for a good finisher's medal.

I improved in every timed aspect of the race, including the transitions, compared to last year, most notably on the bike and run. Also, for the first time in a tri, I finished better than the bottom 1/3 of the field (15th out of 24).

My comparisons to the previous race are as follows:

Swim....7:25......6:43.....(swim times include a run to transition)

Time Back from the age group winner: in 2009 34:58; in 2010 16:52.
Finishing position: in 2009 19th of 22 finishers (with 1 DNF way behind); in 2010 15th of 24.

Clearly my hope to use this race as a marker of my improvement over the last year was a success. Furthermore, I am even more hopeful of additional progress in the future as my fitness continues to improve and my weight continues to drop over the long run.

Photobucket2009 Post Race Photo

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ironman Texas

...and so this email I received says...

Registration Confirmation for:

"2011 Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas

Dear Richard,

Congratulations! You are now registered for 2011 Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas. Please check the event's official website for updates: "

Maybe later I will have one of the "OMG, what have I done!!!" moments, but for now I have some work to do, plus a sprint triathlon in Pearland this weekend.

I sat at the computer with 12-Noon coming up and decided to go for the IM Texas registration and be part of all the local hype and hoopla next May. It seems the local Marriott hotel is already sold out for the event dates, though that does not worry me as I live only slightly farther from the race start than that Marriott. I would guess it likely that I invite some triathlon friends over to my house for the race to save them some expense, as some have been kind enough to do for me.

I'm sure there will be lots more to write as I train for this event in the future....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ironman Texas

Last night I went to the local meeting for The Woodlands Township to hear in person if the rumors being circulated locally would become truth. After about 40 minutes of regular local government "stuff", up came the speaker for the World Triathlon Corporation, who made a presentation to the Directors. As the Township had already been working with the WTC on this event for a while, this presentation was more of a debut to the packed house crowd--many of whom were in tri club or tri race gear--for a future Ironman event to be held in the local area. After the presentation the Directors made it official with a formal vote of support, and Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas starts its inaugural race at 7:00 a.m., Saturday, May 21, 2011!

Given the long distance I am from any Ironman event, I had always figured that travel would be a major cost and a major logistical consideration--now I find the start line less than 3 miles from my front door.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Detour to Austin

(photo of the state Capitol Building by me, as viewed from the conference room of the Lloyd-Gosselink law firm)

Last week I was supposed to take a 2 day work trip to Austin to testify as part of an administrative hearing in an underground waste injection well permit hearing. However, it ended up keeping me in Austin pretty much all week, leaving me behind at work as well as mentally and physically drained. If anyone is interested in hearing about the environmental, hydrogeologic or public policy issues from me just email me as I won't be going on about those here.

However, I did get a chance to take in some local color while visiting. After making an offhand comment about running on the hotel treadmill the first morning in town, my friend Heather went into action and found me a good running route, which I more or less used for 3 of the mornings I was in town. The course took me from my hotel, past the Capitol Building, down and around the Town Lake running trails along downtown's south side and then back to the hotel. One of the days I finished the run by running uphill to the Capitol Building steps. This amounted to more than my usual running, but I sure needed it given my frustration level over these days.

Fortunately, I also had enough free time to make it to Homeslice Pizza which is an "independent neighborhood pizza joint serving authentic NY-style pizza—by the pie or by the slice—to nice people like you." They have good pizza, with more than just a bit of attitude, but a well deserved reputation. While I failed to make it to the famed Barton Springs pool, I did make it to the Deep Eddy Pool for some lap swimming. Deep Eddy is also a historic local site. The pool itself is fed from a hand dug well with untreated water that is around 70 degrees--cold but nice. Finally, I also got share a nice dinner at ALC (Austin Land and Cattle) Steaks. Everything here was very good, I was told the flash fried spinach was very good--and it was! Each spinach leaf was akin to a potato chip in texture while keeping the spinach taste, although I have to wonder if it still was technically healthy at that point. Also, I caught up with Heather and Jeff for dinner one night for dinner at Torchy's Tacos near their house, where I had a very good pork green chile taco dinner.

Fortunately I was able to leave for home by Friday evening to see my family and dogs again, although I wasn't so keen on seeing the higher humidity again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday Night Track

Tuesday is the track training night for my training group.

Last night was our second session and after warming up and doing track drills I was running a 2 mile time trial for my primary training. I finished with a 17:39 time, which is a speed I have not seen for many years. It's not fast but it sure is fast for me! I guess it is just some proof that all my training is paying off, as I am quite sure that I could not have done this a year ago.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Combat Triathlon

Since I had to stay near home this weekend due to family concerns (and my father-in-law is healing slowly, but steadily) I chose to bypass travelling to Austin for the Capital of Texas Olympic distance triathlon and instead entered the more local Combat Triathlon in Texas City.

The Combat Triathlon started with a 300 yard seeded pool swim. I submitted a time of 6:45, not wanting to over-estimate my ability by too much, but still figuring I could go a bit faster. I ended up finishing in 6:01 (and I could have been a bit faster if not for the other swimmers in the way), passing several people along the way while trying not to push too hard to make those passes. I have certainly come a long way since last year when I did a 300 meter pool swim in 7:25. After heading through a fairly fast transition, I headed out for the 15 mile bike ride. The took us primarily along major freeway service roads and was pretty well supported by volunteers--although at the only street I saw unmonitored an uncaring driver sped up just to beat me passing by, but his action was more thoughtless than dangerous at that spot. The bike ride was fairly quick along the major roads and I averaged the fastest speed I have had in any triathlon at 19.3 mph, finishing in 46:38.

I also felt like I had a good second transition, although I did take my time a bit just before heading out on the run. The run tends to be my weakest spot in triathlons, as I have endurance but presently lack speed--although my speed has been improving slowly as I have lost weight. I had a generally good run in weather that was heating up at this point. As my heart rate was heading higher, I ended up walking about 45 seconds for every 4 to 5 minutes I ran. Still, I felt strong for the whole run and even though I felt I was maintaining my best pace towards the end, I still found the strength to sprint to the finish line at the end with a 34:39 3 mile run.

My goal for this race was to finish in the low 1:30's, which I accomplished with a 1:30:19 finishing time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

El Chupacabra de Houston Nighttime 10K Trail Run

This past Saturday I took part in the first El Chupacabra de Houston Nighttime 10K Trail Run. The run took us through the winding trails of the fairly new Lake Houston Park in the New Caney area, which is a joint project of Montgomery County and the City of Houston.

I carpooled over with some friends, arriving at the park for check-in around 8 o'clock. I get a chance to hang out for a while with some of my friends from The Woodlands Running Club as we wait for 9 o'clock to roll around. Someone had brought a supply of glowsticks that we all got ready and adorned ourselves with.

The start went off at 9pm and the road was definitely pitch dark after clearing the starting area and just before heading into the woods--at least pitch dark other than the trail of runner's headlamps and flashlights, although once we got a mile or two out from the start the gaps between the runners allowed full darkness to set in. I ran the whole way with friends, trading a fast run time for having a good time on the trails.

Trail running is much different in the dark. You need to pay constant attention to the next steps in front of you while still remaining aware of the area around you. A couple of times we found runners coming back to the trail that had lost their way, however we never went more than a few feet off the trail.

Waiting at the finish line was a large buffet of BBQ, beer and sports drinks. The BBQ tasted great and the sports drinks were very welcome on the warm and very humid night (no beer for this designated driver).

I would very definitely recommend this race next year for anyone wanting a fun, alternative racing experience...just don't expect a 10K PR in the process!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Graduation Day

Normally this blog is about me, me, me...this post is about my oldest daughter, Amanda. (She's just about the center of the photo looking back towards me as I snapped it.

Amanda has been a source of great pride for her parents in recent years, and while parenting is often not easy, this weekend we can celebrate one of the truly happy mile-markers in her life.

Amanda will become a Magna cum Laude graduate of the University of Houston this Friday afternoon. She will be graduating after 4 years of hard work and dedication to completing this path she placed herself upon 4 years ago. She has certainly made her family proud of her--something we have made sure to point out to her.

(Father-in-law update-just a quick update on my previous post about my father-in-law, he has had his hip repair/replacement surgery on Thursday and is recovering with a good prognosis at this point. )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lone Star 70.3 and April Monthly Wrap-up

With a little time passing by, I wanted to look back over my Lone Star 70.3 performance with fresher eyes and also just look back at how the last months has seen progress (or lack thereof) towards my overall goals.

Lone Star 70.3 - I think my biggest issue with expectations might be that I wanted a better day than I was going to be able to have on that day. In the end the weather and my body were not as cooperative as I would have needed to meet my best goal time, but I can not be upset with a day that set a new PR when it was not a "PR kind of day". In the end I think I got about the best finishing time that I was going to get, and that means that I am happy with my level of effort for that day. Now that I have two 70.3 races under my belt, I have a much better understanding of the race and what it takes to train for and complete it. I will look for a new PR this coming October in the Longhorn 70.3 race.

Last November I learned to expect about a 4 week period to fully recover from the 70.3 distance. This month I will continue to work on my training with that in mind. I am looking at a sprint or Olympic distance tri near the end of this month as my next event, although doing a small local recurring 5K race is always a last minute possibility as well.

I easily met my training goals for the month of April and have thus far been able to train without any major interruptions, which will not be the case for the month of May. In May, my oldest daughter will graduate from the University of Houston (magna cum laude!!) and I will spend some family time with her at that time. Also, my father-in-law was injured early last week in a construction accident where a (empty) 1000 gallon water tank fell across his body and fractured his hip, compounded by a "mild" heart attack a couple of days later awaiting the reconstructive surgery on his hip. Everything now appears to be improving for him, and he is once again looking towards the reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. I will gladly let some of my training time go to spend time visiting him and helping at his business in his absence.

April turned out to be the first month this year that I gained weight, but that was largely due to my recovery week after the 70.3 being the last week of the month where I allowed myself to go off diet (loving those Chick-fil-A peach milkshakes!) while also doing minimal exercise. As of May 1 I was up 5.2 lbs for the month, but still down 3.4 lbs for the year. I fully expect to be back on track in May in the downward direction for weight once more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lone Star Half Ironman Race Report - Long Post

Regardless of all other things that happened during this weekend's event, I had a great time with the event and with the time I spent there with old and new friends.

I woke up early Saturday morning, having arrived in Galveston the night before, and got to the triathlon location at Moody Garden to watch the swim waves go off for the sprint and Olympic distance tri's to get an idea of what I had in store for me on Sunday. There was a good chance of stormy weather in the forecast, and before the swim start could begin strong winds picked up. After some delay the swim was called off for safety reasons, and the races turned into bike-run races. These races were started similar to a time trial start, with bikers going off one at a time a second apart. This resulted in some starting issues, especially among the less experienced sprint racers who were crowding the bike mount line together and sometimes bumping each other as they could not clear the area quick enough. I think it took somewhere between 1.5 to 2 hours to finally get all the starting racers going this way. As racers were coming back in I stayed at the Houston Racing and Triathlon Club tent near the start of the run course. Several times I was able to cheer on racers I knew as well as many that I did not know. As the race cleared I had lunch and good conversation with some friends, and when those friends had to head out for other plans I sat with other friends and enjoyed the continuing conversation--most notably, talking with Stephanie about who was volunteering at the Half Ironman race as an escort to pro triathletes.

Eventually lunch ended and I went to the store for quick trip to grab a few items and then back to the hotel to start organizing for tomorrow. In a bit of an ironic twist I went to the local McAllister's Deli for dinner, and Del (who I spent time with at the race and at lunch earlier, plus Stephanie (also from lunch saw me and joined me at my table). After a good dinner and some more socializing it was back to the hotel where I had to finish preparations for the morning, as well as for packing to leave after the race.

Morning came early for me as I had set my alarms to be able to get to transition early to ensure I had plenty of time to set up. I took my time to set things up, changed it a bit for the available room and finally went back to the same setup I had practiced. After finally finishing I walked around the transition area a bit and chatted with the occasional racer before I headed out towards the swim start, making one last pass by my area just to make sure nothing had happened to my stuff. It was during this period that I noticed my stomach felt a bit unsettled for a while, which almost never happens to me, though it seemed to pass in a bit. While waiting to line up for the swim start I spotted, and was spotted by, my friend Heather and her husband Jeff. Meeting up with them gave me the chance to pass the time chatting for a while instead of just waiting on the start and feeling the nervous energy. Finally it was time to get up to the dock to join my swim wave.

I had already put on my race-issued green swim cap and goggles, and then off I go and hop into the water for the swim start. I find an open spot slightly outside without being too far off the start line. This was my second Half Ironman race and also my second open water swim of this distance. I found a fairly comfortable pace and, for the most part, stayed on a good line that didn't stray too far off the marker buoys. I saw a lot of racers weaving quite far outside, but I felt I kept a decent line on the markers nearly all of the race. After swimming the trapezoid shaped route I exit the swim in around 52 minutes, officially 53:49 which I think must include running up towards the transition area and stripping off the wetsuit. This is longer than I wanted, but still faster than my October time. I carefully walk through the muddy ground as I enter the transition area to prevent a slipping injury and then head off for my bike which is near the center of the transition area. I get my things on and get going out of the transition area and out onto the bike course, again cutting off a couple minutes from my October time.

The first mile or so of the bike takes us out to Seawall Blvd. and then we head down the length of the island. I start the bike route with a headwind that slows me down, but I try to to pedal at a strong pace that I can maintain without feeling like I was overexerting myself. It was in the first couple of miles that I noticed that my heart rate was at least 10 beats per minute faster than I would normally expect, which was not good. Along the way out to the turnaround, there are some strong gusts of a crosswind that cause me to come out of the stable aero position several times to ensure my stability. As I am getting close to the turnaround point I notice that the headwind is breaking up a bit. Unfortunately for me, the winds appeared to have shifted somewhat so that they now appeared to be more of a crosswind with a partial headwind for me on the way back. As I was nearing the end of the bike, somewhere around mile 48 - 50, I remember tiring a bit but I kept on working at a sustainable rater until a had just a couple of miles left where I slowed a bit to give my legs a bit of a break before the run portion. However, the final bike mile was right into the wind as I returned to the race site. I was overall happy with my bike ride considering the windy conditions, and I also executed my nutrition plan pretty much on schedule. I finish the bike in 3:33:09, which was about 6 minutes improvement over last October's time. Overall, I was able to negative split the bike, with second half being a little more than 4 minutes under the first half's time. The biggest downside was my heart rate stayed about 10-15 beats per minute higher than I would expect, based on my exertion level; so because of this I did not quite push my effort as hard as I wanted. After returning to transition, I make for a relatively quick transition in and out, and then get headed out for the run, again cutting off time in comparison to last October's race.

It was early in the run that I became acquainted with what it feels like when the metaphorical phrase "when the wheels come off" happens during a run. It was early in the run that I noticed my heart rate spiking high (180 beats per minute) and I had to quickly give up on my run 5 minutes-walk 1 minute plan. I scale back to run 1 minute-walk 2 minutes in order to find a pace that allows my heart rate to decline enough during the walk breaks that I am not spiking out the heart rate during the run. I find this disappointing as I felt that I was on pace for a significant overall time improvement from last October's effort, but in the end I also felt this change was necessary if I wanted to be sure to finish this race. I am feeling miserable as I settle into my new pace, not feeling much of anything except for hot and tired, part of me just wants to stop and walk out the entire run but I tell myself that maybe an easy pace will help me feel better after lap 1. As I can to each well-stocked aid station on the course (nearly 1 for each mile of the course) I find a rhythm where I get some Gatorade, then water, then cold wet sponges, then an orange slice, some potato chips and/or pretzels, more Gatorade, more water, and maybe another cold wet sponge before heading out again. It turns out that today is the hottest day since the end of last summertime, and nowhere near anything I have trained in for many months. As I complete lap 1, I realize that I do feel a bit better and I raise my run pace slightly to 1:10 run-2:00 walk. I continue the round trip again, eventually seeing my friend Heather near one of the spots where runners are passing in opposite directions. She hollers to me asking how I was doing, and I muster up the strength to yell back "good", which was a big lie at that point. The race spectators and volunteers did a great job of motivating the runners along the course, something I really came to appreciate as I circled the course repeatedly. I continued to feel slightly better finishing lap 2, so I increased my pace to run 1:20-walk 2:00 for this lap. This race was certainly not getting any easier for me, but at least I was feeling better a little bit at a time. On this lap I was occasionally able to respond to spectators and volunteers and thank them for being there. As I came to start the final lap, I did not adjust my watch's interval timer, but I did generally run for a bit longer than the 1:20 set on the run timer. Also during this final lap, I felt up to having short conversations with fellow runners still on the course to encourage them to keep going. At one point I see Heather again and tell her that I feel as good as I lied to her about earlier (although I am fairly sure what I actually said sounded nowhere near that intelligible). The last half of the last lap felt pretty good. Even as completely exhausted as I was feeling, knowing that I was certain of a PR time waiting for me at the finish line was a great feeling, even if it wasn't going to be by as much as I had hoped. I completed the run portion in 3:16:45, which was around 7 minutes slower than in the October race. I did end up keeping a fairly stable, though slow, pace for the run(though I think I came about a minute short of a negative split on the run).

My official race finishing time was 7:52:07, which was still an improvement over my last Half Ironman race by close to six and a half minutes, which does give me a new PR for this distance. Even though I did not do quite as well as I expected, I am still happy with my performance. I was hampered by weather conditions beyond my control (which is always part of the triathlon experience) and had a day where my heart rate just happened to be higher than normal (which can happen to anyone on any day), but I recognized these items and felt that I responded properly to them.

Please don't read this and think I only had a day full of problems, because a lot of things went right for me. I had my fastest ever swim of the 1.2 mile distance and I had my fastest ever bike of the 56 mile distance, neither of which were under ideal conditions. I had to do a lot of things well to finish this event and I do recognize that. One of these days I'll be taking on the challenge of the Half Ironman race again, and maybe even the full Ironman distance farther into the future, though for right now I feel I learned some lessons over this race that will help make me a better triathlete at any distance.

Overall, I have to say that I had a great time at this event and with the time I spent with old and new friends, and that the total experience goes far beyond some tough race day conditions.