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.