Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Y Freedom Tri

The only race I repeated in my two years of triathlon competition is the Y Freedom Tri in Pearland, Texas. So it is no surprise that I might consider doing this fun local race again this year. I watched the race website this year as the race registration stayed open longer than it had in past years. Meanwhile I was slowly but surely continuing my recovery from Ironman Texas. As the last weeks before the race were rolling around I became more certain that I might not be fully recovered from Ironman Texas but I still felt up to doing the race. At the same time I had been talking with Karen, a running friend of mine who had been considering attempting a triathlon. In the end we came upon what might have been the obvious match for us, which was to enter the triathlon as a relay team. After some coordination and explanation, we had a plan and went with it on fairly short notice.

We arrived early enough to meet, get checked in and set up the transition area with time to spare. Karen and I discussed how the race would progress and where we each needed to be and at what time. I was doing the swim and bike and Karen would be doing the run in our relay effort. As the race got near I lined up for the pool swim in my time-seeded location and waited for my turn to go. My swim went well and I finished on my plan schedule, I could have gone a bit faster, but being a pool swim there are certain difficulties in trying to pass the swimmer ahead of you and I was happy with my pace and still held a bit of effort in reserve. I exited the pool and moved towards the transition area. I left the pool area in a time of 6:30 (about 6:00 of swimming and :30 of running out of the pool area). I moved quickly through transition and exited in 1:11--dropping 1:04 from last year as I had the energy to move quickly. Then I moved on to the bike. This was where I wanted to hammer out some hard effort and work on my time to be as fast as I could be. Last year's time was 36:14 and I wanted to be at least 3 minutes faster and hoped to be less than 33 minutes (20 mph pace). I was able to keep up a solid effort for the whole ride as I hoped and maintained a true race pace cadence. When pedaling got harder I shifted down and when it got easier I shifted up, but I held my cadence pretty good. I got passed by 4 riders and passed more than I could count in that time (including passing one of those that passed me!). I can easily say this was my best bike performance on any triathlon! In the end I made it back to transition with a time of 32:40 (20.2 mph pace), making my time goal. I parked my bike and handed off the ankle band and chip to Karen and away she ran. It was a warm and humid morning already and she had a pretty sunny run, but she did well and ran a personal best 3 mile time around 24:15-24:30 (the actual time is not yet posted due to a timing issue).

We finished in 1:05:55 and had a great time, and Karen enjoyed her first-time triathlon experience as well. However, there was a special surprise in store for us as we were the first place finishers in the Mixed Relay Team Division, with a great presentation by a cool-looking George Washington.

In the end, you would think winning my first triathlon award would be the special part of the day, but the truth is sharing this experience with a friend for her first time really made me feel better than taking home an award. This day reminded me in a special way of why I really do these events and why I really enjoy them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Readjusting to Normal

It seems the more I wish for my training to get back to normal, the more it seems normal is now different.

This week I had a couple good run workouts. First a track-based speed session and second a weekend long run. Since my Ironman training was almost exclusively based on endurance pacing, I did not get the chance to really stretch out my legs and my pace for a long time. As I approach the end of the recovery period I am able to see the signs of improved fitness based upon my performance, while also being reminded by my fatigue that I am not quite fully recovered yet. Still, I like what I see at this point from a performance point of view.

The mental part of my program has been a bit different of a type of recovery. First, I dealt with the desire to quickly get back to training too quickly. I had been so long in a training mode that I seemed to lack the ability to relax and not train. When I realized that I did not have the physical stamina to return to full training I was better able to make that adjustment. Now that I am four weeks out of Ironman Texas I am able to begin a greater level of workout effort, while still realizing that I am also completing my recovery and am not yet ready for workouts longer than 2 hours or so. However, the hardest part of my readjustment was more perception-based. I did not bargain on becoming an example to others with my completion of an Ironman race. Of course part of this is likely because it is easier for them to recognize the physical changes I have been through in this process since I see myself every day and they may only see me periodically. It seems that to some of these friends I have become their example of success in triathlon. It has taken a bit of time, but I have become okay with that. If I can be a positive force for someone else to become motivated or inspired by what I have accomplished, then I have succeeded in ways that I never expected when I began doing running or triathlon events. That is a thought that gives me both personal peace and satisfaction in a way that is hard to describe--and it is probably quite appropriate considering I have friends that that have been my inspiration as well.

As I go forward in my training and competition, I only have two primary goals for my future. Those goals are to do the best I can and be the best example I can be for others.

I am fine if this is what normal means for me now.

Let's get moving forward again.

I am more ready now than ever.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Night Track Workout

Tonight was my first effort at a speed workout doing 800 meter (half mile) repeats with 2 minutes rest in between. With the early summer heat setting in the evening temperatures were in the mid-90 degree range at the start.

My early warm up mile went well, too well in fact as I did the first mile in 10:14. Following that I did some warm up drills with my training group. After that we did the 800 meter repeats with a 2 minute rest between sessions. I completed 4 of these with times of 3:48, 3:50, 3:45 and 3:54. I think this is a good bit faster than I would have expected to have done a year ago. When I went back in my log to last June the most comparable workout that I could compare this one to was a 2 Mile Time Trial where the first mile was in 8:35 and the second mile was in 9:30.

Although I can tell that I am not fully recovered from the recent Ironman race, it did feel good to be getting back into a real training workout.

There's no telling how sore I will be feeling tomorrow...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Final Post Ironman Thoughts

Now that I have had 3 weeks to recover from my Ironman adventure, I have also had time to think about my experiences leading up to, during and following Ironman Texas. From my perspective of hindsight I can only now truly understand why my friends who had previously completed Ironman races were so enthusiastic to see me take on this effort, and why they described this undertaking in such glowing terms as a transformational process.

I would encourage anyone wanting to take on the challenge of completing an Ironman to do so with one caveat, that caveat would be that they should truly want to take on this goal. The process of preparation will not be easy, but by race day a proper training program will have you both physically and mentally prepared. The importance of the mental preparation is not to be underestimated in this process.

During my own race I experienced problems of a sort that I did not experience in training, however I always felt confident of my ability to overcome those issues and complete the race. Of course part of that could have been my own innate stubbornness that refused to allow me to fail.

There were a couple things for which my training did leave me completely unprepared. The first was the emotional feelings associated with receiving the cheers of support from the many friends and family members that I saw along the race course. Racing in and completing the Ironman was emotional in itself, but being able to do it with so many friendly faces around made it truly special. It was not long after I had finished that I was virtually surrounded by excited friends. The second is the admiration I have earned from friends because of my Ironman finish. In this regard I am a bit embarrassed with the feeling that I am being placed on a pedestal in such a way. However, I have come to feel that this is not necessarily a bad thing. I feel that with this I can be a positive example to those who wish to also take on the challenge of the Ironman and may feel less confident of their own abilities at the time they register. For those who may feel inspired by my story, I hope I can be up to being the example that helps them achieve their own success. In a way, I am only
just learning what it means to serve as this example and hope I prove to be up to the challenge.

Finally, moving forward I know that I want to take on the challenge of Ironman again. I am not sure when this will be, and my race schedule is already too full for it to earlier than the second half of 2012. The question of which race really has me wondering and will have to wait for some time to come, especially since most Ironman races need to be registered for almost a year in advance.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting Back Into Things

Fifteen days after Ironman Texas finds me having taken some time to spend time with my wife, having spent some time resting and sleeping in and also enjoying an occasional off-diet treat. Somewhat surprisingly I have maintained my pre-IM race weight and even lost an extra couple of pounds (not counting the piece of cheesecake that is waiting for me following this blog post!). In short I have taken some time to stop and smell the roses, and to remember some of the good things that make life worth living.

My post IM period has had it's great moments. I have realized that I have trouble recognizing my own reflection. That is probably more due to my self-image of how I see myself not yet catching up to my actual weight loss and actual physical image. I still keep running into friends for the first time following my IM race and have gotten to enjoy explaining my Ironman stories to them when they ask--and they all do ask. So many people have told me how I have inspired them with my Ironman journey (and believe me it is pretty powerful when people whom you respect a lot call you inspirational!) that I not only feel good for having done something worthy of being a positive example for that many people but I also feel good for having done it for myself. I'd always thought that I had a pretty good self-image of myself, but clearly this process has forced an expansion of that self-image...even if it is still lagging reality a bit.

After a couple weeks of rest, I feel like I am ready to start getting back into some training activities again. I have started to feel restless and done a few light workouts consisting of things that I did because I felt like doing them. Next week has a schedule with a variety of decent workouts, although nothing like my Ironman training period. While nothing I have done recently has really pushed distance or pacing, I have seen flashes of what I expect are signs of how the Ironman training program has improved my overall fitness.

With the extra time that I have had to think recently, I have given thought to my motivations that have propelled my to today. So much of my motivation has been pushed by fear. Fear of losing ground on my program and regaining some of my lost weight, fear of losing the advanced fitness I have gained. In a way, I have always been haunted by the ghosts of wondering what things would have been like if I had always stayed in shape and never gained those 80 some pounds and stayed that way for so many years. I have decided that it is time to lay those ghosts to rest and concentrate on forgetting the things that I cannot control in my past and work towards improving the things I can control in my future. To tell you the truth realizing and deciding this really feels quite liberating, in a way I finally feel like I am going to get to live for myself.

I really do look very forward to the future!