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!