Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

Now that 2011 is wrapped up, I want to take a bit of time to look over the year and see how I did in my training and racing.

In 2010, I ran 626.2 miles, biked 2060.8 miles and swam 69.5 miles for the year (a total of 2756.6 miles). In addition, I logged a total of 20540 minutes of training activities for the year. This was certainly a surprising figure for me and represented a lot more training than that which I had been used to doing. I knew that my goals for 2011 would require an increase, but I had no idea just how much that would be!

In 2011, I logged an amazing 30,265 minutes of training (over 21 full days!). During this time I logged 2,425.39 bike only miles, 948.79 run only miles and 161.42 swim only miles. In addition to these, I had 86.83 miles of brick workouts logged (a combination of 2 training disciplines back to back) and 206.84 triathlon miles (swim, bike and run) logged. This represents a total of 3,829.27 miles. All of these were significant increases from the previous year.

For this I will merely say, "Wow!" one more time.

All of this training does come at a serious personal cost in terms of lost opportunity to do other things with my time. However, this training did come with other significant benefits. One of these is that I entered at least 10 races where I can take measure of myself. In each case, I saw a PR where I had previously done that distance. In all the other races, I set a pace that was above a level compared to paces of previous years. Another of the benefits is that I spent a lot of time training with friends--I made a lot of new friends and got to know some previous friends even better. I spent a lot of time training together with these people and a lot more talking over food and drink after workouts as well. I found this social time to be valuable to keeping a positive mental state in all of these experiences. I also saw a corresponding in increase in my health. My test results from a late year physical exam were very good and I saw a decrease in my weight from 202.8 lbs to 179.2 lbs from January 1 to December 31 over the year. As a matter of comparison, I the last time I was 180 lbs before this year was probably in the late 1980's when I was in the Marines. Along with this, I've dropped from wearing 33 inch waist size pants to 30/31 inch waist size pants. Finally, all of these, plus the fact that I finally mentally accepted the entirety of the race schedule of my year (i.e. primarily completing Ironman Texas) had the combined effect of giving me an enormous boost of self confidence. At the beginning of the year I never quite accepted that I belonged in the same group with most of my teammates in my training group. The truth is that I came to realize later that this was really just in my head and I lacked the self-confidence to accept that I was a "real" athlete alongside these other athletes.

Of all the changes I went through this past year, I would have to say the mental growth and realization of who I really was that was hiding behind my poor mental self image was the most important growth that I experienced this year, and I suspect that it will be the most important and long lasting of these changes. A few years ago I got into triathlon thinking it would be fun and would help me overall with my training and weight loss. Little did I know that it would become a springboard to change my life for the better in so many ways.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Personal Training Goals vs. Reality

Instead of setting a litany of race-based goals at the start of 2011, I attempted to set goals that included a sense of overall balance with my annual priorities. Looking back over these goals I found that I had largely forgotten about them in the process of pursuing them. Let's look back and see how I did.

1. Get to the starting line of Ironman Texas trained and ready to race.
From a competitive perspective my Ironman Texas effort fell a bit short of race day hopes, but looking back I need to remember that I was taking on a task that was so far ahead of anything I had done previously that one of my chief concerns was even making it through the training process healthy. Generally speaking, I had a good training sequence leading up to the race and got to the IMTX start healthy, trained and ready to race.

2. Spend more time with my wife.
This one sounds so easy and yet can be so difficult to quantify. My wife and I share a number of interests, however the physical events of triathlon are not among them. Even so, I think I was able to keep enough room in my life for my wife while maintaining my training. I don't know that the distractions of work, training and life in general will ever really allow me to spend as much time with my wife as I might wish, but I will try to keep this in mind going forward into 2012.

3. Find a better balance between training, work and family.
I think the answer to #2 also pretty much applies to #3 as well..

4. Training and Race Goals.

IMTX - (Finish the race in the official 17 hour time window.) Even with my IMTX day falling short of race day expectations, I still met this goal.
Half Marathon - I had hoped to do a half marathon in fall and finish in the 2:00 to 2:15 range, however I did not do a half marathon this year.
5K - (25 minutes was my 2011 goal as set back then.) Never would I have expected That I would run a sub 23 minute 5K back then. Heck, I did not even think it was possible the day before I did it! That week before my friend Karen was challenging me to run under 24 minutes, and I thought even that time was questionable.

Overall, I think it is pretty safe to conclude that I had a successful year with respect to my goals. Beyond that I have to say that I feel the year was also wildly successful for a few additional reasons. First, I did quite a few races last year, sometimes doing the same distance more than once during the year. In each case, in each and every race that I did, I set a new race PR for that race distance. The totality of being able to race well and to continue to advance my fitness that much is something in which I take a good deal of pride. Second, I have been through a complete paradigm shift in my expectations. In terms of endurance and speed, in terms of strength and overall fitness, and in all other terms I can realistically apply, my views of what are possible have changed well beyond where they were a year ago. In response to these changes I am having to relearn what expectations I should have for myself. I also had to recognize that these changes included the physical as well as the mental. During the year I dropped sizes in clothing and had to adapt to changes in my physical appearance. It is even fair to say that I have had trouble recognizing my own reflection at times due to these changes. Finally, I learned during the year there were those who had seen what I had accomplished over recent years and thought of me as an inspiring example. I found that to be quite humbling then, and still do. However it does give me an additional incentive to live up to the example I have tried to set for my family, and apparently, the example being taken by a few others around me as I head into 2012.

147 days until Ironman Texas....

Merry Christmas to you all!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I've been so busy with the effects of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's holidays compressing my work schedule over the last few weeks that I have not really had much time to even think about my blog for too long. This coming Monday will mark my effective end of the business year from the standpoint of major deadlines and I finally am starting to have time to think over my past year and look forward to my next year....

Speaking of next year, let's see what is already on the schedule for me (my apologies to Kelley who doesn't want to be reminded of how fast IMTX is coming up):

Leaving for my Disney trip next January, 18 days
Disney Half Marathon, 21 days
Disney Marathon, 22 days
Rocky Raccoon 50, 49 days
The Woodlands Marathon, 77 days
Texas Independence Relay (March 31- April 1), 105 days
Ironman 70.3 Galveston (April 1), 106 days
CB&I Triathlon, 140 days
Ironman Texas, 154 days

After that will come some real, well-earned rest before I pick up doing whatever I feel like doing at the time.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Escape from Huntsville 20K

Today I took a step back towards my running roots and did the Escape from Huntsville 20K today in Huntsville, Texas.

I did not really "race" this event today as it was part of a planned training weekend, enabling me to regain some familiarity with trail running--and I will say there are a lot more ups, downs and roots sticking up than I remember from a few years ago! I ran this at a quick endurance pace without letting my heart rate get above the aerobic endurance training zone (upper zone 2 of 4 heart rate training zones).

I had a lot of fun and enjoyed this run and it brought back some memories of why I loved trail running so much. I really enjoyed the scenery and the variety that trail running brings, plus I had forgotten how much of the time you feel alone in the woods, even though others are not far away.

I finished in 2:14:01, easily my fastest trail run pace. I suppose this is technically a PR as it is also my first 20K distance for any type of run.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Bit of Inspiration

Looking for a bit of inspiration?

Check out this article on the Ironman website about a friend and fellow member of OutRival Racing. In November Chris Gause became the oldest woman to ever finish Ironman Florida (in any year) and I have also been told is the oldest female finisher of any full Ironman race in the continental U.S.

You might be thinking that an athlete of this distinction has a lifetime of athleticism behind her. However, that's not true as she really began her training and racing in 2005.

Way to go, Chris!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend and 5K

Thanksgiving for us generally means having a lot of family around and this year was no different. We rented a lakeside condo and had 18 of us together for the holiday. It was very nice to have so many us together for this time.

However, I also took time this weekend to run a small local race. Just as I did last year I ran the small local Run The Woodlands 5K. It is a small, no frills, local race that costs $1 and features stopwatch timing and clipboard record-keeping of runner times.

Today turned out to feature cool weather with a steady light to moderate rain, which was quite out of places in this very dry year we have been having. In spite of that I was resolved to go out and give my best in search of a new 5K PR. I ran this race last year on Thanksgiving weekend and set a new PR of 27:05, given all the training I've done this year I figured a new PR was close to a sure thing today.

My goal was to get under 25 minutes and possibly even under 24 minutes with my finishing time. There's not a lot of detail to write about for this race which is a single loop 5K along bike paths in the local neighborhood. I ran hard and steady, trying to run as hard as I could maintain without faltering over the distance and saving just enough to have a finishing sprint. I was able to following this plan to success for the day and I was the 12th finisher of the 65 or so runners today. I found my time to be quite a surprise as I would not have anticipated that I would have been able to run a 22:43 5K, but I did it. In fact, as of thirteen hours later (as I write this) I still have trouble believing it--but I did do it! Who could have guessed this would be possible back on March 3, 2007, when I entered my first local running event with a 38:45 time in the Spring Fever 5K. Interesting is that, although I did not know anyone else there at the time, now when I read over the race results from that day I see so many friends included among those names.

With this finish I have to admit that I have come a long way and achieved one of my long sought-after goals. This time puts me back in the finishing range that I had for most of my time in the Marines many years ago (20 years out as of next month). In recognizing this I finally have come to understand that the last few years of feeling like I was haunted at times by the long-lost faster times of my youth have been misunderstood by me. Perhaps, all this time, those times were not sad reminders of lost youth, but foreshadowing of a bright future that just needed some dusting off and polishing before I could realize it.

I heard a song yesterday with some words that sum it up nicely for me (Life's a Happy Song from The Muppets):

Everything is great, everything is grand
I've got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect, it's falling into place
I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face

Also, I highly recommend the movie....go see it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Off-Season "Training"

Finally, I have reached a week of off-season non-training. What did I do this week? Let's see....

I spent more time in the hot tub than the swimming pool. I think I swam a total of 900 yards in 2 separate swim sessions of 450 yards, whose sole purpose was just to keep me loose and retain some semblance of muscle memory. I spent 10-15 minutes on a spin bike for the same reason on one day. Finally, I ran an easy 4.26 miles this morning and felt pretty good at that, I felt even better enjoying breakfast with friends afterward.

I also took some time to spend some extra quality time with my Golden Retriever, Coco, who has had to put up with less play time with me during some of my extra training periods. We hung at the Woodlands Waterway for awhile yesterday afternoon along part of the Ironman Texas run course.

Then this afternoon I had a 3 scoop waffle bowl sundae at Marble Slab Creamery to celebrate the end of my tri season. So maybe I did eat pretty freely this weekend, and maybe I did pack on a few pounds. I am no longer afraid of that anymore.

Up for me next week is easing back into some training and returning to a normal diet for me.


188 days until Ironman Texas.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oilman 2011

Oilman Triathlon is the renamed version of the Iron Star Triathlon that I did last year, with a blog post here.

While packing for race day I watched the online feed of Ironman Florida, as well as Facebook posts, to follow a couple friends in the race. One of my friends, Chris Gause, was competing in her first Ironman race. Most notable about her entry, which neither she nor her friends knew previously, is that no female of her age or older had ever completed Ironman Florida. Chris had a steady and consistent race effort all day and became the first female in the 70-74 age group to complete Ironman Florida with a time of 16:45:40, and qualifying for the Ironman World Championship next year in Kona, Hawaii, as well! With my motivation complete, I got some sleep for my race the next day.

Pre-Race: I had written down a nutrition plan about a week before the race and followed it pretty closely. Overall, I thought it did OK for me, other than if I could have done more to prevent the cramping that I experienced. I will be giving this a lot of thought in the near future since, as you will read, cramping did become an issue for me like never before.

Swim: Thirteen months of drought had taken its toll on the lake and a new swim course was created to account for the low lake levels, which included about 75 yards of walking/running up to shore in addition to the swim distance. I started in the front and outside, though this ended up putting me in the middle of the action fairly quickly on this course. For about the second 100 yards I thought it was rougher than IMTX. I made an effort to try to go at a strong and steady pace, but not too hard. I think I found my rhythm about 1/3 of the way into the race and tried to stay with it. I could have gone faster although that might have cost me later. Overall, I was happy with the swim. Swim time was 39:20.7, which included running out of the water and back to shore (the real shore, not the drought-effect shore).

Bike: This ride became my new longest bike ride on my new Orbea Ordu tri bike by abiout 8-10 miles. I tried hard not to go too hard and stay around an average heart rate in the mid 150s for the first half of the bike ride, after that I allowed myself to push it a bit harder. My average of 151 for the entire ride includes the periods where I was under less effort on downhills. I generally sipped on my nutrition about every 15 minutes and I tried to sip water more frequently. This was my first race with my new Speedfil A2 bottle (mounts on aero bars) which I found easy to use and refill and made it easy to take on water periodically. (I also drank several ounces right before leaving T1.) The bottle holds 24-28 oz of water and it never emptied, though I did refill it every time I could. I estimate that I drank 18-20 oz each hour on bike, especially a few times when I though my mouth was feeling a bit dry. The most surprising things about my bike ride were that I felt I held back some so I could have a good run and that this bike climbs hills very well. It wasn't that I was trying to push really hard to pass people on the hills, it just seemed they all slowed down a bunch when we got to a hill. (Did that make sense?) Bike time was 3:01:17.6, I could have pushed to get under 3 hours but that was not my goal so I did not do so.

Run: In addition to my previously stated nutrition, I was carrying 1 endurolyte capsule to take each mile in addition to a handheld bottle with enough liquid calories for the distance.. The run was approximately three 4.35 mile loops, which I will report to you individually. I started off watching my heart rate to try to keep it in upper 160-low 170 range for the first 2 laps and go from there for lap 3.
Lap 1: approximate time 44 minutes, I felt good but knew I was pushing myself today as I followed my plan, I think it was near the end of lap 1 that I could feel the little twinges of possible cramps hiding out there. I did have a moment around mile 3.3 where a cramp tightened up my right leg, but I loosened it up and it did not bother me right after that.

This photo appears to have been taken at the very beginning of lap 2.

Lap 2: approximate time 48 minutes, My Garmin gave out about halfway through this lap, the previous 3 miles before that were 10:58, 11:03 and 11:06. I was making more of an effort to stay on pace and watch heart rate. After the Garmin gave out I went on how I felt and how my pace felt. I think I pretty maintained my pace for the rest of lap 2, though it was definitely getting more tiring and I could feel more of the cramps to come that were hiding below the surface, which I had been managing by trying not to go at a pace that would not cause them to act up. About halfway through lap 2 I made an effort to drink some extra water at each aid station.
Lap 3: approximate time 61 minutes, early in the lap I could tell the cramps were more likely to be an issue. Up until now I only stopped to take in water while walking aid stations, now I also walked a bit at the miles to take in endurolytes each mile. I think I might have even pushed myself a bit harder pacewise to keep going in my determination, I can't really be sure. Around mile 10 I walked up one hill to avoid a possible cramp issue and took in the 4 endurolytes I had left.. After that I pretty much maintained myself until around just before mile 11 where I could feel the cramps starting to come. At this point I just tried to keep going as best I could. At the aid station turnaround at mile 12 is when my leg cramps spasms really became bad. At that point it seemed I could only get a few yards after one cramps subsided and another spasmed, even while walking. Another runner stopped and gave me a band to wrap around the cramp to help alleviate it--I asked her number as she ran off and she told me not to worry about returning it. I remember thinking at that moment she was like an angel sent to help me. The band did help with the cramping, however that led to cramps in other areas stopping me momentarily. So, for the next mile I ran as far as I could and switched the band between right and left legs, and between positions on the upper and lower legs. I made the last tenth of a mile on sheer determination that I would not let my legs buckle out from under me. Run time was 2:33:33.6.

This photo was taken just yards before the finish.

Overall: I improved in each area from last year, including both transition times. This year's time was 6:21:22.5, 46:20.7 ahead of last year's finishing time of 7:07:43.2.

In the end I obviously could have done better, but there is no way I consider this race anything less than a major success. In time I hope to take some lessons forward and think about something that was once truly unthinkable for me at this race distance: finishing with a sub-6 hour time next year (especially when you consider the two previous attempts to last year's 7:07:43 time were 7:52:07 and 7:58:38).

This ends my triathlon season for 2011. I expect to write an end of year post to sum up my 2011 experiences, however for now I will just say that it was a great year of triathlon for me in more ways than one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ironman Texas 2012

I said I was going to take 2012 off so I could watch the race as a spectator. However, as time went on my desire to do the race again increased. Last week it was announced that there were less than 70 spaces left, and I felt like I had to register to preserve a spot for myself.

After my race experience with friends this past weekend, and a conversation with a friend who excitedly believed that I had registered for the race, I knew I had to do it again, even if it costs me one of my events from my spring schedule. To some degree, this surprises me. However, I think it surprises none of my friends, some of whom seem to know me better than I know myself.

So, Ironman Texas 2012, here I come.

Last time I counted down the days until the race in my Ironman Texas posts. Should I continue with that? Let me know.

206 days until Ironman Texas......

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oktoberfest Triathlon

I selected the Oktoberfest Triathlon a while back to be a fun, late-season race; which is exactly what it turned out to be. This was the first year for this race.

I planned to do this race pretty much all out and see where my training has gotten me this season. Fortunately a sprint triathlon (400 meter swim, 14 mile bike, 3 mile run) affords an athlete the opportunity to go full speed for the whole way.

The swim was a 400 meter point to point swim. I started out on a tight inside line with the marker buoys until I got to the first (and only) turn about 150 meters into the swim. After that I drifted off to the right a bit before correcting my course. My swim time was a bit slower than expected at 9:10 for the 400 meters. However, I was 6th in my age group for the swim, so I can't complain about it (perhaps their measurement of the distance was off). This is the best I've ever placed in a triathlon swim in my age group.

The bike was a 14 mile scheduled ride along local roads. It was actually somewhere between 14.7 and 14.9 miles based on the records of others I know doing the race. This was my first race on the new tri-bike and it did no disappoint me. I completed the bike in 41:09 (avg 21.65 mph over 14.85 miles as I recorded it). There were some issues with rocks and glass and narrow points on the course, however I think this is a good course that will be better next year as the races matures. I can see where I will continue to improve as I become more experienced with my new bike. My short-term assessment of the bike at this point can be summed up in one word---AWESOME!!!

The run was a 3 mile run (which I found to be accurate) through the local residential trails. My goal here was to run as hard as I could maintain and attempt to max out my effort at the end. I ran each mile progressively faster by a small bit, including running the last 2 miles at and under the 8 minute per mile pace. The time for the 3 mile run was 24:10, which completely surprised me--I was hoping to be under an 8:30 pace for this run and ended up much better than that.

The final result of my race was a finishing time of 1:16:39, good enough for 9th of 22 in my age group and 22nd of 269 overall. This became just the 3rd triathlon of the 15 that I have completed in which I finished in the top half of my age group (yes, the last 3 races in a row!). In addition, I have never come close to finishing in the top 10 percent overall.

Finally, as we know, one of the most important aspects of a triathlon is the post-race party. The Oktoberfest Triathlon had a very good post-race party for a first year event. My Fit Foods and the No Label Brewing Company provided food and drink following the race. My teammates and I had as much fun post-race as we did racing. I competed in this race with my OutRival Racing teammates Kelly, Tammie and Egin, all of whom won awards on this date!

My triathlon season ends in almost two weeks with the Oilman Triathlon (formerly know as Iron Star) in Conroe, Texas. I did this race last year and look forward to seeing how much I have improved for this year's race.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ten for Texas 2011

The Ten for Texas is a local ten mile running race event in my community that is, generally, a fun and well run event. It seemed to me that this year's race management left a fair bit to be desired in several areas (T shirt sizes, aid station management), however it was still a fun and well-supported event.

This event is a very personal one to me, this was one of the earliest race events I did--and the first I did where I knew other runners from my local community. It is also the primary race that I use to judge how I have changed physically and how I have improved as a runner over these several years.

Ten for Texas 2007 - After coming off a winter and spring where I started running on my own, I joined a local fitness group (Woodlands Fit, a local group of USA Fit). It was during this period where I first did the Ten for Texas race and it was the first time a race was also a social event for me. I finished the race in 2:01:11. I was hoping to get under 2 hours but was still happy with my time. Here is a photo of me coming across the bridge after mile 9 of the race.

Ten for Texas 2008 - The local cleanup efforts following Hurricane Ike forced the 2008 race into the same week as Rock n Roll San Antonio, so I had to wait until 2009 to do this race again.

Ten for Texas 2009 - At race day on 2009 I was just coming off of a knee injury. I did put a solid effort forward, although I was not quite up to pushing my hardest for that distance. I finished in 1:57:54, and was a bit disappointed with that time as I had hoped to do a bit better. Here is a photo of me in practically the same spot as the previous time.

Ten for Texas 2010 - I sat out the 2010 race to concentrate on the half iron distance race a few weeks later, although I did go and watch the race and cheer on my friends.

Ten for Texas 2011 - I came into this year's race determined to give my best effort and see just what I could do. As I thought about my race goals in the days leading up to the race, I was thinking that beating 1:45:00 would be a good goal. After talking over with a friend in the coming days, that goals moved under 1:40:00. I later started thinking that I might even be able to get under 1:35:00 with a near-perfect day. Well, the day was not perfect. The recent weather had gone from cool and dry to warm and humid on race day, however I was not going to let that deter me from my goal. I started the race with a plan to try to run 9 minute miles and see if I could hold that pace long enough so that when my pace slowed it might be enough to still be under 1:35:00.
Mile 1 - this was one of the tougher miles due to the large race congestion. I had forgotten how many slower runners put themselves up front in a running event. Mile 1 goes by in 9:08.
Mile 2 - The field is starting to spread out a bit, although the aid station near the end is far too small and unprepared as runners largely went behind the table to grab their own water as there was almost none on the table or being handed out by volunteers. Mile 2 went by in 8:54.
Mile 3 - Now we are finally getting spread out enough that I hardly had to jostle my way by other runners. 9:02.
Mile 4 - We are starting to see solid signs of community support cheering runners on in areas, though my pace slowed a bit after I felt some soreness that subsided when I slowed a bit. 9:10.
Mile 5 - As I get to the halfway point, I know that I have slowed a bit but also know that I am feeling faster and stronger than expected. I am thinking that sub 1:35:00 seems pretty good if I keep holding up. 9:14.
Mile 6 - The course takes a northward turn as we begin the return half of our course. There is good crowd support and I see some friends cheering. I feel strong enough to pick up the pace a bit. 9:01.
Mile 7 - I have a strong mile as we head back up and see a couple more friends. I start thinking I might have a chance to get under 1:30:00 if I can hold the pace. 8:49.
Mile 8 - I can start to feel the fatigue, though I also know I just have a few miles to go and I slow a slight bit to be ready to concentrate on the last 2 miles, including the bridge at mile 9. 9:16.
Mile 9 - I push my pace and feel good, though I am also cautious to not push so hard that I can't maintain the pace. I try to be ready to smile for the photo op after the bridge. I know getting under 1:30:00 is going to take a good last 2 miles and I make the effort to try to do it. 8:49.
Here is my photo on the mile 9 bridge.

Mile 10 - I push myself, and as I get closer to the end I push harder still. Looking at my Garmin Forerunner 305 during the middle of the mile, it looks like I am going to fall a bit short of being sub-1:30:00 but I still go hard and finish with an all out pace over the last minute or two. Mile 10 goes by in 8:21.
Finishing time: 1:29:50 (I had 1:29:53 on my Garmin and was sure the official time could not be far off.) Yes, I had done it! I actually ran the race in under 90 minutes, under a 9 minute per mile average pace! Me....the guy who couldn't break 2 hours a few years back..... :-)

What made these differences? Lots of training and obviously losing some extra weight. My approximate weights at the time of each race:
2007 - 265 lbs
2009 - 220 lbs
2011 - 175 lbs
I didn't notice until I just wrote these that I had similar weight loss over each two year period during the last 4 years. I know it didn't really come off that evenly throughout this for year period.

All in all, I have to say that the Ten for Texas was an enjoyable and successful event for me this year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gear Upgrades

I've been working on upgrades of two pieces of training gear this week.

The first is upgrading my understanding of the Garmin Forerunner 305 unit that I have had for several years. In addition to learning to reprogram the run and bike screens to display in a way that I find preferable. In addition, I have added a speed and cadence sensor for my bike to supplement the Garmin's data.

The second upgrade is a bit more significant. I have added a new bike to my equipment list. Here is a photo of the bike leaning up against the back of my car:

I took it for a short jaunt around the block yesterday to check the pedal/shoe cleat connections and then for a 31 mile ride early this morning. It is going to take a bit to get used to a tri-bike as opposed to a road bike, but I can see that I am going to like this new bike. One thing is for certain, it sure can move down the road!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Becoming the Other Guy

The last week has held a few realizations for me, and probably only show my view of myself catching up to the image that others actually see of me.

When I started running in late 2006, and training for triathlons in the middle of 2008, I always envied the other guy. It seemed almost every other guy was in better shape, knew what they were doing and were confident about what they did. Of course just being around them made me even more likely to seem, or at least feel, overweight, slow and inept (or at least unfamiliar with what I was doing). Yet, I still kept with it because I had a dream in my mind that I wasn't letting anyone take from me.

That dream was that one day I would be better, faster, stronger and, most of all, healthier. All of these began to come true at excruciatingly slow paces, but they did happen. The other thing that happened is that I earned the respect of my fellow athletes. Often I thought them being more kind than truly respectful, but even that concern for my feelings (as I perceived it) was welcome.

In the last week several things happened in close order that got my attention. It's not that some of these things had not happened before, but those that did never quite resonated with me at those times. These recent events include another triathlete at last week's race coming up to me after the race and telling me that with under 2 miles to go on the run he saw me about two minutes behind him and because he said I was a better runner than him, he made it his goal to stay ahead of me through the end of the race (which he did, crossing the finish line about 30 seconds before me). [Fortunately, for me he was in an age group that started the race ahead of mine.] I have done this with other athletes before and took this as a huge compliment, especially since he came up to me and told this to me after the race. Another such instance was one of the faster runners I know telling me I needed to come run with their group more often. The slow runner does not get asked by such people to run with them, and I know I am not so slow any more, but I didn't really think anyone ever noticed me. Another thing is that I have had several of the newer athletes in my training group asking me questions about this race or about my opinion of this piece of equipment or some specific technique...... I had always been the guy with the questions and not the answers. I still have a lot of questions, but I have learned that I do know quite a few answers as well.

So, I am not the best athlete, and I am certainly far from the fastest athlete, but I never wanted to be those things. Somewhere in these last few years I did manage to become the athlete I wanted to be: I am in better shape, I can keep up with the groups (well, most of them) and I generally know what I am doing most of the time. I've also learned what it was like to be the guy I once was and to watch out for him (or her) and be able to help them when they need it now and then; and I have realized that maybe, just maybe, some of those "other guys" that helped me out before really did know what it was like to be me and really did respect me for the athlete that I was, regardless of how slow or far back I was.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Houston Triathlon - 2011

This year I did the Houston Olympic Distance Triathlon earlier today. An Olympic Distance Triathlon is a 1500 meter swim (.93 miles), a 40K bike (24.85 miles) and a 10K run (6.2 miles). I went into today's race determined to set a new PR for this distance (3:06:14 last April). I knew going into this race that I should have the ability to make these goals, at least on a good day, but the truth is that I was having a few doubts about my ability to put such a race together--however I wasn't about to let my doubts keep my from trying. Here is my report of the good and the bad from this race.

I went into this race day morning knowing the weather would not be at its best, and that was the way it turned out. A warm and muggy morning later became quite windy during the bike and run parts of the triathlon, and the run was under a hot and sunny late morning sky. All that said, it is one of those days that you can always have in south Texas and was not that far out of normal, even for early Fall. Race check-in went well. I arrived early since this race did not have assigned spots within the transition area, but rather assigned you to a general area for your whole swim wave starting group and you selected your specific spot. I was early enough to select a prime spot that was at the far end of the rack but as near to the bike exit and entry point as possible. After that I set up my area as I desired and left to meet at the OutRival Racing team tent with friends and then walked out to the swim start area.

Swim - Since the sprint races began first I had to wait for all of those swim waves to start and then they began to start with the Olympic swim waves, and mine was in the middle of those. Therefore, although the races began at 7:00 am, I waited almost an hour before my race started. There was a break between the sprint and Olympic swim waves starts, and I used that time to get in a short warmup swim. Unfortunately, I stepped on something under the water and felt sometthing hard under my foot and almost instantly remembered the Clear Lake Olympic Triathlon 2 years ago where I ended up with 2 slices into the sole of my foot before the race began. Fortunately, this did not feel that bad and I even forgot to check my foot after exiting the water. I did discover after the race that i had a large scratch mark and sever spots were slitly cut, but this never bothered me during the race and i never thought about afterwards during the race.The swim was a two loop swim where we exited the water and ran a few yards back near the swim start and swam a second loop. I had never done a race with this style of swim before and looked forward to trying it. Eventually my race started and I went off with my group. It was a fairly tight group for the first 100 meters or so before we started to spread out. I had a lot of jostling off and on for a good amount of the time but thought I was swimming pretty well and stayed generally on a pretty decent line with the course. I exited the first loop just under 18 minutes, when I was expecting in the 15-16 minute range. I told myself I would apply a bit more effort this loop and dove back in the water. I did concentrate on a stronger stroke this time around, although there was also a lot more traffic with other swimmers. I was seeing a lot of colored caps not matching my wave as all sorts of swim waves were now mixed together. In a way it was a mess or swimmers, but it was also a glorious mess in its own way. I exited the water and hit the timing mat at 36:24.2--several minutes more than the time I had hoped to have in the low 30 minute range or faster-- and began the long (quarter mile plus) run back to the transition area.

T1 - It was a good long run to the transition area and I used the time to wonder how I had such a slower than expected swim and griping how my sub-3:00 goal was likely gone but determined to stay on the goal of a new PR. I was surprised to see o many bikes still in the transition are near my bike and only then started to realize that even though my swim time was slower than I expected, i was still out ahead of most of the swim wave. I concentrated on being quick and deliberate in transition and moved fairly quickly about my business leaving in a slightly faster than expected 5:02.6, even if I was slowed by a minor issue with my bike shoes..

Bike - The bike was basically a big square roughly around the blocks that housed the community college hosting the event, with a separate long out and back along one side. The wind was fairly strong and my speed range from the mid to upper teens to the low to mid 20's depending on the wind and the direction I was heading. However, I also noticed as I went on I was getting stronger. I finished my front mounted bottle early in my second loop and was glad I had packed an extra bottle in the main bottle holder on the bike frame as I seemed to be thirstier and needing extra nutrition today, and I wonder if that might have been related to my pushing harder than normal or if it was due to the tougher than expected weather conditions. In any case I was prepared for it and as I pushed my pace a bit a also took in some extra food calories as I biked the last few miles with the wind. Finally, I came around the last turn and headed back to transition feeling strong and trying not to go too hard at the end. I finished the bike in 1:14:41.9, which was 19.3 mph over the distance. I was surprised by this strong ride and looked forward to keeping going.

T2 - I was back in and out of transition in 1:13.3, which really surprised me as fast given how far I had to run with the bike. As I left transition I noticed that if I could just improve slightly on my April 10K 1:03:21 run time (I later worked it out to a 43 second improvement needed) I still had a chance to get under 3 hours.

Run - I could feel the sun and could feel it getting hot as I ran, but I also committed to myself that I was going for broke to hit that goal today. I hit the ground running hard and ran that first mile around 8:35. I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up that pace, but also knew that I didn't have to. I turned in a second mile around 9:15 and decided to try to hold that pace. I also started, at the Mile 2 aid station, walking a bit at the aid station. I walked 20-30 seconds at Mile 2 and then decided to walk a minute at each of the remaining aid stations. Mile 3 came and went, my body wanted a break and I told it to keep going. Miles 3 and 4 were tough as we left a residential area and ran towards the college football stadium. As we got to the stadium, we ran along one side of the field, then we ran up the ramps to the top of the stadium, then we crossed over to the other side through an internal passageway, then we ran back down the stadium ramps, and finally we ran along the other side of the field and back out the stadium. It might not have been easy to run through the stadium, but it was a bit of fun and was certainly different. Running away from the stadium brought us to Mile 5 and during that last walk break I gathered my mental strength to push myself forward to finish strong. I knew the last few miles had slowed me a bit with the walk breaks included but I also knew I was still looking as getting under 3 hours. Then I made that final push and it hurt, and I ran, and I wanted to slow down, and I ran, and I wanted a short break, and I ran, and I ran, and I ran. Finally I turned the corner and saw the finish line ahead of me. I really thought I was going as fast as I could move, though somehow as soon as I hit the start of the finish chute I found a new gear and sprinted out the end. I ran that last mile in just under 9 minutes. and finished the run in 1:00:50.2. I originally thought I had gotten the run under an hour but had unknowingly hit the lap button on my watch during the run and had "lost almost 2 minutes".

In any case, I knew my total time, and my watch quite clearly showed 2:58:12, and I later found out that the official finish time was 2:58:12.3. Yes, I had made my goal of getting under 3 hours!!

I am really proud of what I accomplished today, not because I broke a 3 hour time goal. Goals like that can sometimes depend on events beyond my control. I have more pride in things that may not be so evident as a finish time number. I put out a hard, sustained effort and kept with it and saw the results of it work out. I finished in the top half of my age group for only the second time, and more than that, I finished with each event finishing in the top half of the field (something I had not yet done)--out of the 48 in my age group, my swim ranked 18, Transition 1 ranked 20th, bike ranked 24th, transition 2 ranked 10th, and my run ranked 17th, for 20th in my age group. I also saw that my efforts and my struggles, while personal, can affect others in a positive way, and that sometimes they might even help be an example for those who I would never guess would ever take anything from it, sometimes even other athletes I know who are far more talented than I ever will be and sometimes for those who wish they were able to do some of the things that I have been blessed enough to be able to do.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mid-September Update

I've been gone a few weeks from posting.....busy with work and life and stuff like that....

For the most part my September training schedule has been plugging along nicely, actually it has been going along better than just "nicely". It has been going very well with my longest weeks and workouts since my Ironman race in May. Each of the last 6 weeks are in the top 6 weeks of workout time since May (10:25:11, 11:10:30, 11:28:08, 8:44:07, 11:38:23, 11:29:23). I knew I was in a peaking phase of training, but I had not realized to what extent I was peaking--in this case even my last recovery week made the list. I finally got around to purchasing a bike trainer and brought it and my bike along and set up my bike on the trainer in the hotel room. Perhaps most surprising to me is that I maintained this while traveling for work last week. This streak is about to come to an end as I have a pre-race recovery week coming up for this next week.

Next Sunday I have the Houston Olympic Distance Triathlon. The Olympic Distance is a 1500 meter (0.93 miles) swim, 40K (24.85 miles) bike and 10K (6.2 miles) run. My main goal for this race is to go at my maximum effort and see how I perform. My PR at this distance came last May with a time of 3:06:14. I would certainly like to beat this time, and hopefully come in under 3 hours as well; however the course design has some quirks that may hinder those goals (like a half-mile+ run from the swim to the transition area). In any case, I am going to lay it all on the line effort-wise and see what happens.

For now, let me leave you with the video from last month's Bridgeland Triathlon where I am shown at 8:38 starting to stand up in a tub of ice water--which felt really good on that very warm morning.

Friday, September 2, 2011

August Numbers

Well, it seems that I have not posted a "totals" type of blog entry since the Ironman race. Now that things have gotten close to some vague semblance of....ahem....normal, I guess it is time to resume some logging of the totals, even if only for my own use.

Swim 29,265 yards (16.63 miles)
Bike 250.68 miles
Run 73.57 miles
Total 340.88 miles

Total Time of Workouts: 42:07

Weight Loss for the Month: 7.6 lbs (186.8 to 179.2 pounds) Truthfully, several of those pounds were an uptick at the end of July that dropped off real fast in early August.

I have been using the Training Peaks website for over a year to record my training and finally spent just a short bit of time this past month looking at some of the features that I have not been using. One of those tracks my estimated caloric expenditure. apparently my peak day was 4,952 calories (for reference it says that I expended 16587 calories during the Ironman Texas race, whew!). There seem to be a lot of good features that I might do well to learn.

The highlight of my month was a big improvement over last year at the Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon as I cut my time to 1:27:00 from 1:34:14, and they even added a little bit to the run course (0.15 miles was added).

Next up for me, race-wise, is the Houston Triathlon (Olympic distance) on September 25th. I am looking at making it under 3 hours as my race goal for this event.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

(Man's) Best Friend's Birthday!

One of the things that got pushed aside in Ironman training earlier this year was doing extra things with Coco, my Golden Retriever. Since then this summer has been hot enough that it also limited our outside activity a lot. Recently, I have been feeling bad that I have not been spending enough outside time with her. Since her 11th birthday is this week, I decided I needed to make the time to do something.

Today we spent an hour at the local dog park. It was 102 degrees at 6 pm, but we went and tried to play easy. Mostly playing easy meant Coco got pet by people, one of her favorite activities, and laid around in the wading pool, which is another one of her favorite activities. Afterwards, I tried to get her a bit dry by letting her poke around in other areas of the dog park and she seemed to enjoy her time exploring for a while and then playing a bit with other dogs.

At times she still has the heart and wonder of a puppy, but sometimes I can see the years catching up with her. However, the look of pure joy that came over her face when she saw me holding the leash before we left was enough for me to know this was going to be a good outing for us both--and it was!

Happy Birthday, Coco!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When a Dream Can Come True

Several years ago the prospect of getting my weight down to where it was in my mid-20's seemed so unlikely that I set my goal just to get from the 260 pound range to being under 200 pounds. I really dreamed of doing better than that, but I just could not see it happening from that point of view. It took over 4 years until this past January to get under 200 pounds, and I didn't always think it would happen. After that I wondered if I could get under the 190 pounds, which I managed pretty quickly during my early Ironman training. Since then I seemed pretty well within the 180's, up and down a bit but solidly within that range, which was a happy improvement from those several years ago. Since then I have started to become adjusted to the fact that I am entering a healthy weight range that will allow me to live a happier and healthier physical lifestyle.

Things are going pretty well around here lately for me. We have had some family turmoil, but nothing that isn't being worked out. I've gotten into a good training cycle and have gotten in my 2 highest training weeks these last 2 weeks--and the training I am doing all seems comfortable. Even work is busy, but that good sort of busy where a lot is getting accomplished and old projects are finally coming together.

My last training week breaks down as follows:
Swim: 6300 yards
Bike: 56.5 miles
Run: 24.18 miles
In addition I also did a few strength and stretching workouts. Earlier this summer I started trying to do pull-ups on the bar at the college track where I do my weekly group track workouts and have myself up to 8 pull-ups at a time. This week I also started to incorporate pushups into the training mix. In my first, and so far only, pushup effort I managed to do 34 good pushups where I hoped to do 20. Clearly, I am seeing the all around benefit of other parts of my training.

However, the highlight of my week came on Saturday, when the scale showed my weight as a number in the 170's. I don't think I have been in the 170 range since I was married in 1990, and certainly not since I left the Marines in 1991. Since I have only just barely hit the top of the 170's range, I can expect that I will likely bounce between the upper 170's and lower 180's for a while, and hopefully make a more permanent home for myself within the 170's. However, regardless of anything else, I have accomplished what I once considered the ultimate, end all be all goal, that I only dreamed of achieving.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Similar....and Different

I was thinking about the "before" vs the "after" recently as it relates to myself....a lot! I realized that I often viewed myself differently than others view me, and that I am unfairly hard on myself. I have finally come to terms on a personal level that I really am no longer anything like the "before" version of myself from 2006/early 2007, even though I would still view myself more as that version than as the person I truly am.

On December 28, 2006, I began training for the Big D Half Marathon.
95 days later I completed my first half marathon, with this photo being taken just before the finish.

Another 1,512 days when by until I completed Ironman Texas, with this photo being taken just before the finish.

I never thought the journey to this point would be so hard, take so long or be so rewarding. I have a hard time recognizing the person I was then from the point of view of now, having now freed myself of a lot of the insecurity, unhappiness, unhealthiness, etc... that I had then, a lot of which I did not even know until I was free from those negative elements.

I still have many things that I plan to do to take myself to new heights and I'm not sure how many days it will be until the next time I feel an image redefines myself, but I can only hope it is as positive as the one I now use!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Return to the Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon

Last August I did the Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon, a first rate sprint distance triathlon in the greater Houston area--and my blog entry for that race can be found here.

It was been hot this summer and today was no exception. I was sweating before I got out the door and to the car this warm and humid early morning, but that is what this summer has been like here. I was looking forward to this race and the chance to make an effort to go "all out" for a change in a way that longer distance events do not allow.

I got out to the race site early and set up my transition area. This year the race changed the transition area site to allow for more entrants (1500 in this race). This change also was one of the reasons the run distance increased by 0.15 miles. After this I was able to walk over to the area of the swim start and wait for the race to begin while I socialized with friends and teammates.

For the swim I began the race wide to the out side and attempted to swim a line that would take me to the inside by the turn buoy several hundred yards away. As a whole this strategy worked and I found myself surprised to be in fairly open water for most of my swim, or at least until I had to swim between the slower swimmers I caught from the 2 waves ahead of me. I had a good swim and only once got slightly out of line with my desired path. I finished in 10:21 vs 12:16 last year.

After leaving the water I ran all the way through transition to my bike and then ran it out to the road. The transition are was much larger than last year, but I had a decent location just about in the center of it all. My first transition time was 2:00 vs 2:18 last year.

This year my goal on the bike was to go out and maintain a hard pace, and then worry about the run when I got to it later. Overall, I did pretty much just that. In retrospect I could have gotten a little more speed out of my effort, but I took a bit of time to test the best mix of gears versus the cadence count I could maintain in those gears.

In the end I must have been successful as I averaged my best race bike speed ever in a triathlon at 20.8 mph. I passed so many more people than passed me, and I passed some of those guys later. I finished with a bike split time of 39:09 vs last year's time of 42:37.

As I arrived in the transition area for the second time, I also ran in and back out again, and I felt that I moved pretty well in moving from the bike to the run. My second transition time was 1:28 vs 1:56 last year.

I was very proud of my run effort today. I ran a hard and consistent pace, even when it was not easy to do so. I slowed my sprint to the finish a bit as I started to cramp entering the finishing chute, but I still felt that I had a solid effort on a hot day.

I ran every step of this run from within the transition area until the finish line. Once again I passed more people than passed me. I completed today's run in 34:01 vs 35:07 last year, and as I mentioned before this year's run was 0.15 miles longer.

Immediately, after the race I hopped into one of the many large tubs of ice water and sit inside and cool down for a minute or two--this felt absolutely great after this event! I spent some post-race time cheering in finishers, eating some of the great post-race snacks and visiting with my friends and teammates. On my way home I stopped for a special, personal post-race treat and had a peanut butter ice cream sundae.

I really feel like I am seeing improvement in my performance. I think this was the first time I finished in the upper half of my age group--certainly for a large triathlon event and I had a faster time than several people I know that I would expect to have beaten my time (although such comparisons are truly difficult if I don't really know what their motivations were for today's race. My final time for this race was 1:27:00, beating out last year's time of 1:34:14 by over 7 minutes--and I felt great and had a fantastic time doing it!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 4

The year 2010, my fourth year of returning to an athletic lifestyle, built upon the successes of recent years and ultimately took turns towards new and unforeseen directions by year's end.

My race year gets off to an early start on a cold January weekend in Orlando, Florida. I was taking on the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. The Goofy Challenge is composed of the Saturday Half Marathon and the Sunday Full Marathon. Doing these races provided me the unique opportunity to meet some of the people that I had previously only known through the world of blogging, such as Amanda pictured with me here.

It was a cold weekend that brought sleet to central Florida as I ran Saturday's half marathon and temperatures so cold that ice formed in the cups waiting on the aid station tables during Sunday's marathon. In the end, however, I found the experience of running this event quite thrilling--and I never would have thought the cold, wet experience of the Decker Challenge the month before would have been as good training as it was for the weather of this weekend. I nearly felt hypothermic after the half marathon and even after the full marathon I was still bundled up in my layered clothing (as seen in my photo to the left following the marathon). Even with the cold weather I had a great time meeting friends and running these races for fun and a great overall experience rather than trying to set new personal records (PR's).

In February, I set out on a local half marathon on a new challenge, not just to set a PR but to also break the 2:30 time that had eluded me for quite a while. My target race was the Run Wild Half Marathon in and around downtown Houston, a small but well run race. The day was a bit warmer than I would have hoped for, but it did not disappoint either, as I found the steady pace that I could push and follow throughout the race. In the end I beat last December's time by nearly 5 minutes with a 2:26:45 finishing time. This race began a steady string of improvements for the year which showed up in improved race times across the board.

April brought two races to my schedule. The first was the Muddy Trails event where I ran the new 10K race (which they added to last year's 5K on the schedule). This race brought me a new 10K PR of 1:08:25. However my big target race for the early part of the year was a few weeks later near the end of April. I was looking for a big improvement on my half Ironman time from last October. Race day came and brought with it improved swim and bike times, however my run was close to a disaster with much time spent just being able to walk forward. In the end I did get my PR, by several minutes over last fall's time....but it felt like a hollow victory when I felt that I should have been capable of better. It led to my decision to get some coaching advice and later to join with a training group--which I regard among my better decisions regarding my training.

Five weeks later, I entered the Combat Triathlon on Memorial Day weekend. This is a sprint distance triathlon where I attempted to right my perceptions coming off of the previous month's half Ironman race. In the end I put together a solid effort and felt very good with my race, certainly much better than after the previous race. I really felt like I put together a complete race effort across the board on this day.
A month later I returned to the Y Freedom Tri, anxious to see how my training would hold up compared to last year. By the end of the race I had rattled off a PR of 15:01, with nearly half of that coming off the 5K run time and having improved across the board.

My last sprint distance triathlon of the year came in early August at the new Bridgeland Triathlon. This was a good event, and was the first triathlon where I was with a number of friends and training teammates. My swim was a bit slow, and for a moment had a hint of slight panic, but then I got on with the race and was fine. I am pictured here exiting the bike and entering the second transition. A solid bike effort and run effort gave me faster speeds than in past triathlons for each portion. Completing these shorter summer races had given me confidence as I now aimed for longer distance races for the rest of the year.

Labor Day weekend brought with it a trip to Austin and my chance to redeem myself from last year's effort at the Olympic Distance Triathlon where I ended in 4:29:00 after two flat tires and a bad run. I was coming off shoulder and hamstring injuries over the last month but was just feeling healed up for this race.

The race opened with a good swim effort which exceeded my expectations coming off the shoulder injury. The bike was a triple loop through downtown Austin, and was slowed a bit by both hills and rain, though still went well. Since my hamstring felt good from the bike, I went out with a good run effort. In the end I held a solid pace for me on a hot morning and ran the 10K run portion of this race just 5 minutes off my 10K PR time. I completed the race in 3:18:31, without problems and well ahead of last year.

From this point I concentrated primarily on being ready for a return to the half Ironman distance, and to make a solid improvement on my PR time from this past spring. However, I also had a fun race planned--the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which was a nighttime race at Disneyworld, where I met a bunch of friends and had an awesome-tastically good time.

After that all my attention turned towards the Iron Star half iron race. After two previous efforts at this distance that were less than I had hoped for, I was coming into this race better prepared than I had been previously. I had an outstanding swim, going just under 40 minutes for the 1.2 mile swim (where my best previous swim for this distance had been around 53 minutes). Then came the bike ride, which was more difficult than I expected but not more difficult than I was prepared for, and I finished with my best time for a half iron bike ride. I would have liked a faster time on the bike, but I was following a heart rate based plan that was designed to keep me from working too hard before I completed the bike.
It had been the half marathon run that had been my previous half iron race undoing. However, today I was able to keep my run under control and my training got me through the day with my best half iron race run time. For my race, 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.

I had one last goal for my year that remained unfulfilled, I ran in a post-Thanksgiving 5K to attempt to fulfill that goal--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 (and wearing my race shirt from the Disney Marathon).

With the completion of this race I wrapped up a successful year. I was successful in my many of my race goals during the year. Beyond just race goals I also learned a lot about improving my training in both method and volume of training over the year. Finally, I kept up with a slow, gradual weight loss throughout the year. I lost weight in 11 out of the 12 months, only gaining 0.2 lbs for my December 1 weigh-in. I did not lose a lot of weight, I did manage to lose 8.5 pounds as I dropped from 211.4 lbs to 202.9 lbs; and after four years of trying, my long-held goal of getting back under 200 lbs was within reach.

All in all, I finished this year much better than I started it, and I was looking forward to continued improvements in 2011 (aka Year 5) as I was registered for a new challenge.....the inaugural race of Ironman Texas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 3

Part 3 of a series...

2009 was another in a consecutive series of big years of change for me. In fact, until I went back and really gave the year a good look in review it is only in retrospect do I really give this year of my life the respect it deserves. I opened the year around 233 lbs and coming off a good year for me with regard to weight loss and PR's. 2009 seemed positioned for a lot of hope in my eyes--I am glad to say that it did not disappoint me in that regard, although the events of that year proceeded in ways I would not have envisioned at the year's beginning.

The year's races begin in mid-January with the Houston Half Marathon. I ran 2:37:16 and, while this is not a PR, it represent an improvement of over 10 minutes from the previous year and I was happy with that outcome. My thanks to Heather for the photo!
Two weeks later was my first 5K of the year. I ran a 35:22 at the Bill Crews Remission Run. I had a good run in pretty cool weather, though I could not do my best for not feeling fully recovered at this point--recovery is still something of a mystery to me at this point, although a mystery I am trying to figure out. Perhaps the truth is that I enjoy running these events so much that I want to do them all!

Two weeks later I am in Austin for the Austin Half Marathon, an event I decided to do for the opportunity to enjoy this race with friends. I ended up finishing in 2:40:16, which was 3:57 slower than the easier course in Houston last month. Overall, I had hoped for a faster time but I was satisfied with my effort. One interesting thing about this race is that it is the only road event I have done where I have gotten blisters. Anyway, I had a great time at this event regardless of anything else. This photo shows myself, previously mentioned Heather and Cassie prior to the start of the Austin race.

March and April bring a few more 5K races. This time I am ready for each and work hard at giving my best effort. In March I ran my third Spring Fever 5K in a time of 31:09, cutting 2:10 off of last year's PR time (not to mention comparing it to 2007's time of 38:45). In April I ran a new local race, the Muddy Trails 5K. As implied in the name much of this race is run on trails (although not really muddy) and I ran in a time of 30:20 for another new 5K PR time! However, I can't properly write about the events of the Muddy Trails 5K without the proper context. About 2 weeks before the Muddy Trails 5K my daughter was involved in a terrible auto collision that just rocked the stability of my family's world. While my daughter was largely unhurt, her good friend and passenger Allison was knocked out and never regained consciousness before being removed from life support. It is something that still rattles me to my core and I expect that it always will. You can read about that story at this blog post. Perhaps it was fitting, and helped with the mental recovery, that Allison's father and brother also ran in the Muddy Trails event and I was able to enjoy this day with some of her family that attended the event.

In the meantime, my training had been shifting over the last few months. I had registered for the CB&I triathlon, local to my neighborhood of The Woodlands, Texas, and I was on target for my completing my first triathlon.
While I looked forward to this triathlon, I also feared the event in the sense that I was about to do something that was unknown to me. In the end I took a deep breath, entered the water with my swim wave and then did what I set out to do. I even beat my personal goals for each of the 500 meter swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run events. My stated goal for the race was to be under 2 hours, and I had really hoped to beat 1:50:00. In the end, my official finishing time was 1:43:54.5; perhaps more importantly, I walked away from that first triathlon looking forward to my next one!

The rest of May 2009 was busy with events as well. The week following the CB&I triathlon I made a late decision to enter a local YMCA 5K trail run. It was your typical south Texas hot and humid weather, and I was sweating long before the race ever started. I was a bit disappointed with my results at the time (34:21) as it was about 30 seconds slower than the 5K at the end of the previous week's triathlon. However, it also was not a fair comparison of races, not to mention that I really did not plan to do this race until a day or two before. Two weeks later I did the Hog's Hunt 25K trail run at Huntsville State Park. This is basically the spring version of the Rocky Raccoon 25K I did in the past 2 fall seasons. This ended up being a race where I got off to a good start, maintaining a sub-13 minute per mile pace through the first 10 miles. However, after that I had several problems. These included a water-only aid station without water when I was just running out of water in the bottle I carried with me. Fortunately, there was a full aid station less than 2 miles ahead and I took it easy in that distance to try to avoid dehydration. About half a mile after I was refueled, I began to have cramping issues which stayed with me for most of the rest of the race, which I think were caused by dehydration. I finally got past these cramps with about a mile remaining in the race, which I finished in 3:38:09. In spite of my issues of that day, I still had a new 25K trail race PR.

June 2009 brings with it my second triathlon, the Y Freedom Tri. This turned out to be a great race experience for me. My race went pretty much as I would have expected, allowing for the warm weather; although the race experience also also had some surprises such as a better than expected swim and receiving a frozen towel at the end of the race. In the end, this race cemented my desire to continue doing triathlons as I began to look forward to a late August Olympic distance triathlon.
Photobucket However, I had a lot of summer training to do as preparation for my fall schedule, which was going to become more full of races than I would have even expected at this point.

My next race was the late August Clear Lake Olympic distance triathlon. This race was easily my worst triathlon experience. I cut open the sole of my right foot in two places because of sharp underwater rocks that were not cleared out by the race crews. I experienced two flat tires that cost me a lot of time. Perhaps worst was that after all that, my finishing time (4:29:00) was not officially captured by the timing system. On the other hand, I learned a few hard lessons about determination, including that no race course will beat me if I just keep moving forward. It was shortly after this race that I bought my new road bike and started increasing my training towards a new goal of completing a half Ironman triathlon in October.

As October rolled around I was nursing a nagging thigh/hamstring injury that was just about healed up--although it was not so bad that I had to stop my training. On October 13 I ran the Ten for Texas 10 mile race, repeating the event from two years earlier.
Photobucket This race is a fantastic local event that I enjoy tremendously. Even taking an easier approach this year to ensure I don't re-injure my hamstring and allowing that I had a half Ironman race in 7 days, I still ran to a 3+ minute PR time of 1:57:54. The next week was one of basic preparation as I looked forward to the Austin Longhorn 70.3 Triathlon. This was a great race experience for me even though it was a difficult race overall.
Photobucket I stayed with friends for this weekend and learned a lot just by being around more experienced triathletes. Race day came and went with varying degrees of success. My swim and run times were each a little longer than my goal times, but my bike was faster by a larger margin. In the end I finished in 7:58:38 on a tough, warm day, just ahead of my modest 8:00:00 goal time.

At this point I could have rested following a busy and successful year, however I had other plans. Three weeks after the half Ironman race I was in San Antonio for the Rock n Roll Marathon. I had intended to cut the race down to a half marathon (at a Rock n Roll event you can do this just by running the half course and they will adjust your registration for you after the fact), however I was feeling good at the split point around the 9 mile mark and I decided to go the full distance. I had a progressively tough time on the second half of the course, and ultimately finished in 6:11:36 for my first marathon finish. I learned a few more lessons about needing to give myself more recovery time between races, but I was also glad to have completed my first marathon.

I was back in Austin three weeks after the SA RnR marathon for the Decker Challenge half marathon. It was a cold race, and the slightly below freezing temperatures with a light misting rain were a stark change from the races I experienced in recent months. However, it was still a good day (in fact it was my birthday!) and I felt up to trying to keep a solid pace for the day. This was likely the toughest course I had run for a half marathon--and certainly the hilliest--but the day went well and by the 10K mark I knew I was on a PR pace, at least as long as I did not start to tire too much. By mile 10 I realize that a new PR is likely, and with a solid finish I complete the race in 2:31:24, trimming over 2 1/2 minutes off my previous best time for a half marathon.

So sums up a rather busy and successful year. By year's end I had gained confidence as a runner and budding triathlete, though more importantly my hard-fought athletic successes brought with them the weight loss I had been looking for as I ended the year at 211 lbs (losing 22 lbs this year) and having me feeling that I had indeed reclaimed some of my lost health of year's past. I felt short of some of my quantifiable goals for the year (sub 30 minute 5K, sub 2:30 half marathon, getting under 210 lbs) but I only barely missed those 3, and what I gained during the year was of much greater value to me.

If anything I hoped and expected the stage was set for a bigger year in 2010.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 2

Part 2 of a series...

2008 followed a life-changing year that had a lot of successes and got me to a lot of places that I never would have imagined at the start of the year, but it also didn't get me going in the right direction with regard to losing weight, and ultimately regaining my health and setting the example that I wanted to set for my family. However, 2008 held more promise and more hope for a shining future than I had seen in a long time. One of the hardest things writing about the years 2008 and 2009 is that I did not keep as good records of those periods and am relying on my memory for some of the key points. I am sure that even if my memory is off, it is close enough.

I set 5 goals for myself in 2008:
1. Run a sub-30 minute 5K
2. Run a sub-2:30 half marathon
3. Complete a full marathon
4. Run the SunMart 50K again
5. Lose 25 lbs

I felt that since I had been running for a year I knew what I was doing and had set reasonable goals. The truth is that these goals may not have been unreasonable, but I still had a lot to learn that year. In fact, as each year has gone on since then I learn more and more and I feel like I know less and less about running.

The year began with a New Year's trip to Disneyworld (and might I add the New Year's Eve fireworks there are a wonder to behold!). Here is a photo from the dinner on New Year's Eve showing how I looked hours before the start of 2008.

In January I enjoyed the Houston Marathon as I ran the half marathon, and dreamed of doing a marathon. When I went down to the race expo, I learned of--and registered for--the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon that would run its inaugural race in November....and I kept training.....anyway let's get back to the Houston Half Marathon that was the reason I was down in Houston to begin with. I ran the half marathon in 2:47:19. This was a great race and I was thrilled with the experience, but I was disappointed in finishing about 12 minutes slower than a half marathon from last October. The truth is this was a large race with a congested course, and it was not a day for me to set a PR, but this was not yet something I really understood.

In March I entered the Spring Fever 5K for the second straight year. In this race I took advantage of my improved fitness and finished in 33:19, cutting off 5:24 from the 2007 time! I can telly you this had me feeling good as I saw some positive results.

The rest of my spring races would not be so kind to me. In March I ran the the Seabrook Lucky Trail Half Marathon in 3:06:46. It was a warm day and I spent most of the night before dealing with family problems, but I still had fun and enjoyed the day. In April I ran the Hog's Hunt 25K (essentially the same as the Rocky Raccoon 25K last November) in 4:46:45, or 1:00:19 more than November's time. I seem to recall I may have had ankle issues or maybe was just over-confident that I could do everything I wanted, but it was certainly not a banner day for me. In May I ran two more 5K's a week apart in 38:02 and 38:25. This was pretty consistent pacing, but by now the Texas weather was heating up and PR's were no longer realistic. As the spring racing season ended I took stock of my races (and what I perceived as partial failures where my times had slowed down) and worked to improve myself. I also learned of a local triathlon and was intrigued and would have entered if not for it selling out, but I went to watch the local CB&I Triathlon and hoped to do it one day.

In late May/early June my plans took an abrupt change when I was rear-ended in an auto accident. Fortunately, I was not seriously injured. However, I was injured enough that I had to take several weeks away from all exercise. After that I was able to return to walking and began physical therapy. I'm not quite sure my doctor knew how much walking I was doing, as I was trying to get back onto a plan that would allow me to enter the Houston Half race in October again. I worked hard on the physical therapy exercises and I branched out into less rigorous exercise that I was approved to do (such as swimming, cycling and light weight-lifting). Also during this period, I worked hard to maintain my diet so I would not begin to put on some of the pounds that I had lost during the first part of the year. At the time I was rear-ended I was around 240 pounds and I was actually able to maintain that and get down into the upper 230's as I resumed some exercise.

I think it was around mid to late September that I was cleared to begin running again. I set my sights on completing a series of races designed to prepare runners for the Houston Marathon in the following January. These races run through the fall and are made up of a half marathon, a 25K and a 30K race. In addition, I was still registered for the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon in November.

When late October rolled around I was ready for the Houston Half and I clocked a new PR with a time of 2:33:57, clipping almost 2 minutes off of last year's best time for this distance. Two weeks later was the HMSA Classical 25K in Houston. I ran a good race for my expectations and finished in 3:28:26, which is still my PR for the distance (and my only non-trail 25K). A week later was the San Antonio Rock n Roll race where I downgraded to the half marathon and ran in 2:59:09. Admittedly I was running for fun and dancing to the music at times at the band locations. Finally, I rounded out the year's racing a month later at the Lakes of Williams Ranch 30K. This was remarkable for me in several ways that were unexpected to me. First, I had a bad day. This was most likely due to not quite being prepared for the distance and being worn down by an active fall season. Second, I made a great friend who helped me enter the next phase of my racing in 2009. I met Heather (as pictured with me finishing to the left) on the course, as it seemed we were frequently near each other, so we decided to run the rest of the race together and had a good long conversation during our run. That conversation--and the friendship that followed--set the stage for many greater things for me to come.

So, I put the cap on a big year with a less than stellar finish, but it was a finish that taught me lessons and gained me numerous friends, such as Adrienne who is sneaking into this next photo. Most importantly, I learned more about testing my limits, and how to judge the reasonable expectations from the unreasonable expectations.
I made many strides (no pun intended) in 2008. I don't know how easy it is to see in these photos but I dropped almost 30 pounds in the the year. I finished the year around 233 lbs after having been as low as 223 lbs in October, but it still finished off a great year for me in so many ways. Even though I failed to achieve four out of my five early years goals, I learned how to deal with setbacks and successfully come back from adversity. Perhaps more importantly, I set the stage for the next few years in ways that I did not yet understand.