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.