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.


Amanda said...

Wow - what a year! So impressive - Goofy, half marathons, half ironmans, 5K PR's and so much more!

I did notice you glossed over the after affects of the Wine and Dine - and who could blame you. Man that was a rough one. Wish I was taking it on again this year, but I have to wait until next year for that pleasure!

It was so great meeting you in January and seeing you again in October. Can't wait to see you again in January!

Richard said...

LOL, Amanda!!
Hmmm, I was far from the only one getting dizzy and needing to lay down on that humid early morning following the race. I still had a great experience regardless.
After that, I got back to the hotel room around 4-ish, cleaned up, and then made the 7 am opening of Animal Kingdom before making it a full day of fun!

Rae! said...

What a schedule!!!
The Wine and Dine was my worst race. That was the one that made me get tested for asthma.
Yes you and Jeff did scare the pants off of me. You didn't go out, thank goodness. That's our weather here.
I did have a blast regardless of all the weird stuff.
Had tons of fun at Whispering Canyon.