Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 in Review

Sitting around in full recovery mode has given me ample time to start thinking what the last year has meant to me and what the next year may hold in store for me. This post is about looking back over the goals I set for myself for this past year.

1. Complete the Disney Goofy Challenge in a manner that follows through with my goal for having a fun time during the event rather than having a speed goal for the event.

My athletic season began with an early start in Disney World with the completion of the Goofy Challenge. I not only set new PR times at both the half and full marathon distance, I also had a ton of fun running the races for enjoyment more than for time. I even took a few minutes to run off course and ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster during the marathon. I doubt I'll ever be able to top that one for a diversion during a race.

2. Complete my longest run event in February, the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler.
I completed my longest running event in in Huntsville, Texas, with the completion of this race. I ran virtually every step of this race with my friend Karen, an experienced ultra-distance runner who helped me in my preparation for this event. Next year I get to return the favor as Karen is going for her first Ironman triathlon finish.

3. Set new PR's in at least 6 different events/race distances. My intended races include 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 50 mile, multiple sprint triathlon distances, half Ironman (70.3) and Ironman distances. If I had to pick one goal for my primary time-based goal this year, it would be to finish the 70.3 mile half iron distance in under 6 hours. That would be an improvement of over 21 minutes from last November's Oilman Triathlon time.
For the 12 races I did this year, each was either a PR or a first time effort--for the sake of this write-up, I will not count first time efforts as PR's. In my running events I did set PR's at the 5K (Trail), 10 mile, half marathon and marathon distances. In my triathlons, I set PR's at the half and full Ironman distances, as well as new course PR's at the Y Freedom Tri and Bridgeland Triathlon. As far as my most preferred goal, I did beat 6 hours at the half Ironman distance at the Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston on April 1st, with a time of 5:52:05. This also marked a course improvement of just over two hours in two years.

4. Work on improving my weaknesses. When I look back at my relative position finishes in triathlons, my weakest finish relative to the competition is typically the run. Therefore, I am going to include some effort to improve my running throughout the year. Some of my other training weaknesses that I also plan to spend more time improving are strength and flexibility training.
I did work on all of these, though especially on becoming a stronger runner. While I had seen the benefits of this improvement in my early year running events, I found it to be a noticeable part of my triathlon improvement later in the year. In late June I narrowly missed my first podium finish with a fourth place age group finish in the Y Freedom Tri. This really changed my perspective in terms of thinking that I really could become competitive in these events in the future. This led to three straight podium finishes at race effort events in the next few months, which is something I didn't see coming. A number of my friends said they weren't surprised but I certainly was. 

5. Participate in at least 10 events throughout the year, with at least 4 being running events and at least 4 being triathlon events.
Even with my late season injury and missing my late season half iron and 5K races, I still completed 12 events for 2012.

6. Keep my life open to other possibilities that might add to my overall well-being. 
I can think of three main things that I can list for this item. First, becoming involved as a member of the leadership team for a mentoring group that works to bring junior high aged youth to work towards completing a 5K event and working towards a healthier lifestyle. Second, accepting the restrictions that my late season injury has placed upon my life for the recovery period and seeing if there is some lesson I can take forward beyond the recovery period. Third, I took a on a sponsorship opportunity with CLIF Bar and it came through and it presented me with some unique opportunities. Fourth, I've had to learn to adjust my mental positioning of myself during this year--I've been running away from my past for a long time and I think I've finally learned to run towards my future instead.

Despite my recent health and recovery issues, it is hard to consider 2012 as anything less than a big success. I PR'ed every race I ran, including the biggest PR of any athlete who raced Ironman Texas for both years of the race. I got onto the podium this year, and not just that but won my age group in three races. I had a sponsorship deal. I also qualified for the USAT Age Group Nationals next year. Many of these were something I certainly never even thought of as possible. This was definitely a great year for me in so many ways!

Although it will still take me a while to continue my recovery, I have every hope that I will still be able to move forward in 2013, and I will discuss my goals for the next year in a later post. My healing is moving forward slower than I'd like but faster than the medical professionals thought likely. It will certainly take me some time to be back to where I'd like to be, though I am already beginning to resume some of my training in swim, bike (indoor only at this point) and run activities. Ironman Texas 2013 is staying on my schedule for next year, at least at this point.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Easing into Things, Plus a Big Surprise

So...seeing as how I've been cleared to ease back into EASY training, I have done a few very simple test workouts over the last 5 days. (I use the term workout very liberally here.)

First, I spent nearly a half hour on an indoor bike on easy resistance. No problems.
Next, I ran 1.75 miles. This was tougher on me and my quads were sore for a few days afterward.
Today, I tried a simple breast stroke to see if my arm mobility would support it now. I managed about 100 slow yards before I deciding it was time to stop while I was ahead.
During these days I have also been mixing in the exercises my physical therapist has given me to do.

So far, so good with all of the above.

Today held one of the biggest surprises for me for an end to my competitive year. I received the following via email earlier today.

Congratulations Richard Tramm. You have qualified for the Olympic-Distance race at the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships on August 10 in Milwaukee, Wis., after finishing in the top 10 percent in your age group at the 2012 Clear Lake International Triathlon.

All I can say is, WOW! What a way to end my year!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


It was just over eight weeks ago that I wrote in an email to a friend about how every time I got to swim, bike or run was like a wondrous celebration of life. Since I had spent most of my adult life overweight, often very much overweight, the fact that I had finally conquered the demons of weight loss, fitness and health improvement was far more important to me than anything else I had accomplished. Little did I know that a week later my life was about to change significantly when it came to health, fitness and training.

Since then my life has been more about dealing with pain and injury (and surgery) recovery. I've been able to return to work with most of a full schedule this past week, having worked from home and slowly increased office time the last three weeks. I expect that I will continue to become increasingly effective at work over the next few weeks as well. I also start physical therapy this week. While I don't entirely look forward to that, I do look forward to the health benefits it should ultimately provide me.

I had my follow up appointment with my surgeon this past week. X-rays show my bones are healing and I have been cleared to return to some activities as long as they are not painful or harmful to me. My surgeon said he was very happy with my progress and told me that I was ahead of his expectations. I go back to see him in mid-January and hope that could be the gateway to return to more serious training.

This weekend also marks the start of what I hope is my return to fitness and will also ultimately lead to a return to running and triathlon events. Yesterday I spent a little under a half hour on an indoor bike at the gym. It was at low resistance and easy to moderate intensity, but it went well with no pain. Today I ran 1.75 miles with some stiffness, but no unexpected pain there either. I can tell that I have lost a lot of fitness in the last 50 days, and I also know I cant push myself too hard when my body is busy working on healing itself.

I've taken my first steps back, so let's see if I can build from here.
I promise I will keep it slow.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Early Recovery

"The body is an amazingly resilient beast--and if we let our mind be resilient--then positives will prevail." --Professional Triathlete Meredith Kessler 

Three weeks after my bike wreck, I am working on evaluating how my recovery will take shape. My injuries included numerous abrasions to my right side, including ankle, knee, hip, hand and shoulder; at least five broken ribs, plus other cracked and/or bruised ribs; four breaks to a now surgically repaired clavicle and breaks to the scapula. I also had a minor bruise just above the forehead.

 As of my first post-surgical follow-up appointment, my doctor was satisfied with my recovery to date and considers me to be ahead of his anticipated recovery timeline.  These photos are from this first follow-up appointment, which was 10 days after the surgery. My primary treatment regimen at this point involves significant amounts of rest, an effort to wean off of narcotic pain medicine and keeping my upper arm immobilized as much as possible to protect the repairing of the broken bones of the collar bone and shoulder blade. I am hoping to regain full use of my right arm after my next scheduled X-ray on December 6th.

As for a return to training, I will learn more after that Dec 6th appointment but I am not expecting to be cleared for any return to training until mid-January. This would allow me to return to training in time to begin the early base work before Ironman Texas, which is on May 18, 2013.   

Before I close out this post I want to revisit one of my injuries mentioned above. The small bruise above my forehead was the result of a serious head impact to the ground. The protective padding of my helmet has multiple cracks running through it now as a result, several of which go completely through the width of the padding. There is no doubt in my mind that this helmet saved my life, or at a minimum saved me from much more serious and potentially lifelong injuries/disabilities. If you take no other message from any post of mine I ask you to take note of this and wear your helmet properly every time you ride your bike, and if you won't do that for yourself then do it for those who would have to care for you in the event you suffered a tragic brain injury because you were not properly wearing a helmet. Please!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changing Course.....

Saturday's workout was a long, tough workout with a simple plan. 65-70 miles on bike, including 90 minutes at Zone 3 race simulation and 60-90 minutes of upper Zone 2 riding after that. Finally, the  workout would conclude with a 6 mile run, the first 3 miles in low Zone 3 before running the last 3 miles at a Zone 2 pace. As tough as this  workout sounds, I'd been looking forward to it. I've been feeling as strong as I ever have recently--and that really means something with my 47th birthday looming several weeks out, since I really mean I am feeling as strong as ever! This workout was going to be the cherry on top of this race cycle, one in which I was confident I would post a sub-5:30 half iron time in two more weeks. That race would be the crowning achievement on a race season whose success has taken my own breath away.

For the first two hours and twenty-seven minutes, I covered around 48-ish miles. I was either on-plan or exceeding my race plan in every way--and this was before my race taper. Then, in the span of an instant I can't remember, it all unraveled.  One moment I was passing a neighborhood park and preparing for a turn, the next thing I remember is being talked to from above and being strapped to a backboard for ambulance transport.......

The rest of that day was a whirlwind, and I can't recall every detail. Here is the very short version..... I had 5 broken ribs, a broken clavicle (4 breaks) that is now held together with a rod, and multiple scapula breaks. I also had a bruised lung and was originally being watched as a possible punctured lung. I was also suffering from a lot of road rash--bad abrasions from skin rubbing against the ground during the crash. This was worst on the shoulder, but also affected the side of my chest, thigh, knee, foot and hand. All of my injuries are on the right side of my body.  After the emergency room was done with me, I spent the next 4 days in the Intermediate Care Unit, which is a step down from the Intensive Care Unit. The biggest medical worry was the lung. Fortunately, it was not punctured and the bruise began to heal without blossoming into something worse. By Thursday I was able to be sent home so I could get going with my recovery.

The video below was taken right after being admitted so I could document my wounds.

At this point I am only going to consider my health recovery as my goal and it will dictate its own timeline. I have a long road ahead but have a good base of health as a solid foundation and starting point. While I was in the hospital, I heard a lot of "you"re so young", "you're so healthy", "anyone else would have taken a couple weeks to recover like you have in a few days" and similar comments. It makes me feel like I'm already winning and can make it back. Ironman Texas is 7 months away, but it is still a possible goal for me to do it next year.

As to the equipment damage, the bike took less apparent damage than I. The wheels still spin true and a cursory check did not show frame damage. The main damage was oddly located on the brakes and shifters--basically the part located most forward on the top side is scratched up bad, with the right brake control taking the worst of it. The helmet has two major impact marks on the outside. It also has several cracks that go completely through the padding, starting from near an ear and moving towards near center. I think it clearly shows my injuries could have been worse. Just looking at the helmet damage breaks me up. However, I am going to go forward from this point and regain what I have lost, and then go forward from there.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ten for Texas 2012

The Ten for Texas race, a local 10 mile event, is one of those races that I try to do when my schedule allows. This year was the fourth year out of six that I have been able to do this event. Since I've done this race for most of my recent running years it acts as a marker for me to compare how I have improved over previous years as I strive to work on a healthy and active lifestyle.

Race morning proved to be warm and humid, but I don't worry about such things since I was going to race no matter what the weather. However, this did mean I brought my handheld bottle with me and worked a nutrition plan around that by dissolving all my nutritional needs in that bottle and then the water stations served as "extra" for me to be able to take in enough additional water as needed.

In the days before the race I modified my race plan to be a bit more aggressive. I finished in 1:29:50 last year and wanted to beat that PR time by a fair bit. I was originally going to try to start at an 8:30 min per mile pace and then run according to what my heart rate would allow until I got to the last few miles. In my final estimation I thought I might be able to do better and changed my plan to starting at 8:00 minute miles before running what my heart rate goals would allow and then be willing to open up the effort level over the last three miles.

I started off in the midst of a crowd and it took me a bit to get free of that crowd. Fortunately, I was running generally on my desired pace at this point, so I tried to not waste too much energy by moving through the crowd. A friend of mine snapped this photo early in the race. I'm not exactly sure where it was, though I think is was in the first mile of the race since there are runners on both lanes of traffic and I am not yet covered in sweat.

By the time I got to the first water station at mile 2 there were other runners around but not enough to limit my own running. By mile 3 I'm starting to feel the effect of the warmer weather and realize that I am sweating a good bit but I am only now starting to reach my lactate threshold heart rate. As each mile goes on it starts to feel a little harder on me after mile 5. I see Karen and she runs with me for a bit in the 7th mile of the race. I really don't feel at my best by I know I have a pretty good race going on and just need to keep moving forward as best I can. My pace starts to drop some more in mile 7 but I am able to open up my effort for the last 3 miles and let my heart rate go higher by this point. That is good because this is also when my pace takes a drop off. I imagine I would have had to drop that pace more if I was still trying to maintain a lower heart rate as I was earlier in the run. I am pretty much running on fumes by the last mile, and I am not even sure how my pace does not drop more than it did as I think I am running on willpower alone at this point. Finally, I am able to manage a small sprint at the finish and am very relieved to be done. I measured the race at 10.08 miles and my miles splits were as listed here as I finished in 1:22:36.
Mile 1 8:00
Mile 2 7:50
Mile 3 8:07
Mile 4 8:16
Mile 5 8:07
Mile 6 8:07
Mile 7 8:12
Mile 8 8:23
Mile 9 8:31
Mile 10 8:29
last 0.08 miles 0:34 (Obviously, the disagreed a bit. Interesting that they were exactly together on miles 1-6, and then they disagreed a bit on each mile after that.)

So, I do get that PR that I set out for as beat last year's time of 1:29:50 by 7:14 as my plan appears to give me a result that I believe was pretty much my best possible time for the day, and I think that is something that I can be happy with. I think my most notable observation on this race was that my slowest mile (run in 8:31) was faster than all but my single fastest mile in last year's race (8:21 as I sprinted out mile 10 last year). This year's "sprint" proved I did not have quite the same amount of extra power left near the end of this year's race. I finished with the 27th fastest time out of 115 in my age group and 254th out of 1,920 overall.

This photo was snapped with about a quarter mile left in the race as I attempted to push myself to the finish.

This photo is from near the Mile 9 mark in 2007. My how things have changed for me in these five years!

After all of this fun, I spent much of the day tracking a couple friends in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Unfortunately, my friend Chris did not complete this year's race as she pulled out after 93 miles of cycling. However, she is looking forward to taking on the Ironman distance again, including a chance to qualify for a return trip to Kona--not bad at all for a woman about to turn 71 years old! However, my friend and coach Michelle did complete her race. She finished 8th in the women's 35-39 age group and was the 19th amateur woman of any age to cross the finish line as she finished a tough day that included some bike mechanical issues and a minor injury in 10:19:14  and later referred to this as her "first Kona and second Ironman" race. I suspect she is already beginning to plan a return trip to improve her top 10 finish to a podium finish after this experience.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Healthy Snacking

On this slightly rainy weekend that has me between races and major training events, the idea of writing about healthy snacking options came out of a conversation with a friend.

I work primarily in an office environment, with the occasional option to be out of the office. These situations offer ample opportunity to indulge myself during between meal periods, and that is something that I have long fought to control. For much of the recent year I have felt more successful than not at healthy snacking. I don't like to go more than a couple hours between meals or snacks as I feel like doing so puts me at a greater risk of overeating at the next meal. During heavy training cycles, I may need to eat almost every hour just to consume enough healthy calories to keep my body properly fueled. I know it might seem difficult for some to accept, but when you're burning an average of 2,000 calories on your "regular" training days you need to eat at least 4,000 calories to maintain your body's needs. It can be really hard to eat that many calories when you commit to eating a healthy diet.

As to my specific strategy, it really is very simple. I make sure that I provide myself an opportunity to be near a healthy snack option as much as possible. My desk drawer will keep a stock of healthy options available. These may include small amounts of nuts, mini CLIF Bars, microwave popcorn, protein powder mix, and so on. In my refrigerator at work, I keep apples (I like them cold.), almond milk (low calories and mixes well with protein mixes.) for snacks. I also will keep salad mix, including fresh spinach and/or arugula, plush a low calorie dressing for many lunches. After this as a base, I need only keep some chicken breast in the freezer, or bring something from home to add to the salad mix for a good meal.

My current protein powder of choice is the Vega One and Vega Sport line of products, which I also use for some of my racing electrolyte and caloric needs.The Vega One provides a good mix as a base supplement as part of my diet. The Performance Protein provides a healthy source of an extra protein supplementation during my heavier workout days.

During the past year, I have become more conscious of the importance of my diet as part of my attempt to live an overall healthy lifestyle. I'm far from perfect, and still enjoy the occasional ice cream, cupcake or similar unhealthy treat, but this is a true treat and no longer the rule of my snacking options. For the first time in more years than I can remember, I have kept a relatively stable weight all year. Other than for short periods related to my activity levels, I have spent most of the year between 175 - 179 pounds, which is something I never thought possible a few years ago.

I'd be happy to answer any questions asked by blog readers and would love to read your own ideas on the subject of healthy snacking by posting as a comment to this blog post.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

CASA 5K Race Report

I decided to do the CASA Superhero 5K fairly recently and worked in into my weekend's training regime. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA is (from their website): 
"We are Montgomery County’s only court-appointed organization advocating for abused and neglected children. CASA Advocates are appointed by Judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social services or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Advocates stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many children their CASA Advocate will be the one constant adult presence in their lives during this time."

I was doing this race with my good friend and fellow crazy distance athlete, Karen. Karen was going back to defend her age group title from last year and is the one who told me about this race. It turned out that there were several hundred people doing the kids 1K or the full 5 K races this year, which I gathered was a significant increase from the last 2 years. Packet pickup went smooth as Karen picked up my packet due to work schedule issues on my part. (Thanks again, Karen!)

Karen and I also carpooled to the race site and discovered that arriving early gets you the worst possible parking--or at least the farthest parking from the event site. We had a nice long walk along part of the running trail to the event site. After we arrive we chatted with friends before getting in a 1.1 mile warmup along the course start. This 5 K is a trail race through the state forest and is a mix of rock and dirt trails (mostly dirt), and given recent rails there was a good bit of mud and water on the course--although the trails were well-constructed and were also in better condition than I expected them to be.

As the race came close to the start, Karen and I positioned ourselves just behind the first group of fast runners and prepared for the race to begin. When the gun (or whatever it was) went off we took off together and stayed together for almost half the course. The early part of the trail that we ran earlier seemed to be on of the best parts of the course, in terms of condition. Running was a matter of avoiding getting boxed in by other runners and areas of poor terrain. The path began to open up after a half mile, but it really took close to a mile before I wasn't always near another runner. After the first mile there was a lot more mud on the course and I attempted to run along the more densely packed mud where jeep tires usually drove through for better footing. I was forced to adjust my path numerous times in search of more solid footing during the race. The second and early third miles seemed to have the worst of the mud along the course, but that is what you get with a trail run on some days. I think this may have worked to my benefit as I have some experience in running on muddy trails, and that is a different experience than running on concrete. In the last mile of the race I was trying to use the runners ahead of me as pacing guides, though I kept catching and passing them one after another. Although I was trying to run a controlled pace that was as fast as I could maintain for the race, when I hit a half mile left I pushed with about all effort I could muster for the rest of the run. This last effort made my last mile my fastest by several seconds, even thought it had worse overall footing than the first mile. I ended up finishing in 23:06. Just short of a 5 K PR for me on roads, but definitely a PR for a trail 5 K.

After catching my breath I walked back along the course a bit to cheer on the other racers finishing, including Karen, who wasn't too far behind me. After we regrouped and got a bit of rest and post-race nutrition, we went to see the posted run timing for the race. As it turned out Karen not only defended her age group title from last year but was this year's Women's Masters winner (runners over 40) and I won my age group by over a minute. Wow! 

I entered this year never having won any racing awards and have now won my age group in three straight competitive events. That kind of success was beyond imaginable for me less than a year ago. I hope in some way my success gives hope and inspiration to other athletes overcoming obesity and years of inactivity (or some other personal situation). 

Me, just after getting my award.

Posing with some superheros and other age group winners.

Karen and I after a successful race.

1st Place Age Group Award :-)


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Clear Lake Sprint Triathlon 2012

It's been a few year's since I've been willing to do this particular race. The International Distance race from 2009 was my third and worst triathlon, and I am a bit surprised it didn't chase me out of the sport. However, this year I am back to give one last good triathlon race effort for 2012, and to support my friend Karen and several OutRival Racing teammates, in their race efforts.

I was up early to drive my friend Corey down to the race with me. My pre-race nutrition plan was a simple one: eat one Peanut Butter Chocolate Builder Bar each hour until an hour before the race, with a shot of liquid nutrition in 8 ounces of water about 20-30 minutes before the race as well. After I set up my transition area, I meet up with my friends and chat a bit before settling into some pre-race rest and warmups. I was also able to see the longer course triathletes begin their swim as I was in my preparation zone.

Swim: After seeing a lot of swimmers in my wave I decide to line up to the outside and plan to slide over as the wave thins out. I swim in a strong and purposeful manner, though not at my hardest. I am able to angle back into the main swim lane without too much trouble and take the turn and line up to the laddered exit and cross the mat in 10:49.1. (13th in my AG)

T1: I had a pretty good T1, I had a long run in and back out trying to weave around walkers and people standing around. Due to the tightness of the lane between the racks, I end up rolling my bike over towels, shoes and stuff left in the way. 1:31.2 (2nd in my AG)

Bike: I started a bit slower than I could go until I adjusted and got into a rhythm and then I pushed as hard as I could and stay around my lactate threshold heart rate or just above that. I passed a ton of people and felt very strong on the bike. I got passed by two elite wave cyclists and two age groupers, though the age groupers only passed me as I took a drink going in a turn, one of them I passed right away and the other just stayed right in front of me since we were near the end of the bike and there was a lot of other bike traffic we were both passing around. 38:21.7 (2nd in AG)

Photo from the TriHou Facebook page where I was about to dismount the bike

T2: Not much to say, I was in and out pretty quickly. I had a very minor issue with one shoe and paused very briefly to grab my water bottle, chug a drink and toss it back toward my stuff. I saw one guy in my AG just in front of me and passed him heading out. 1:08.8 (4th fastest in my AG, though one of those had a favorable spot not near the rest of the AG athletes). It's strange to think of it now and not notice it then, but there didn't seem to be any bikes around my rack other than the one guy I chased out of transition.

Run: I ran and I ran. When we went on wet grass and a grass hill, I just kept running, passing several on the grass and the hill. My HR was in the 170s and I kept going close to as hard as I knew I could keep going at this point. I was wondering why I did not see anyone marked in my AG as I ran (though some numbers were smudged). After the turnaround I saw another ORR athlete behind me and he caught me a bit later. I couldn't remember if he was in my race or AG or anything for certain, but I tried to keep him as close as possible for motivation and pushed harder in the return part of the run. I was feeling about out of steam late in the run and just pushed my run effort out until I saw the finish and found some energy. As I was about 50 yards from the finish line and I heard a runner behind me and found the energy to go a bit harder to the end. 16:12.9 (3rd in AG--the second and third place finishers were slightly faster on the run).

Total - 1:08:03.9 Now I know I have been improving and took on this race to provide my best competitive effort, which I did, though I still surprised myself with this time as I didn't see myself finishing faster than the 1:10:-1:12:00 range for this race at best, and more likely closer to 1:12:00 to 1:15:00.

I hung around to talk to friends and cheer in teammates for a while and had some fun. As I go around to see my finishing time and place, I run into Corey who high-fives me and tells me to check the results and smiles. I see Mike and Kelly of ORR near there as well, who ask me if I'd seen them and they smile and tell me to go look. In truth, I had thought I could compete for a podium spot with a good race, and I did my best to leave all my effort on the course this day in that effort. I figured these friends were confirming my effort to secure a podium finish in this race was a success, but to see my name on top of the AG was a bit of a shock, but a happy shock nonetheless. Yes, I won my age group! "WOW!!!!" doesn't describe how I felt.

Award acceptance photo taken by Corey. I also got a tub of Strawberry HEED endurance drink.

I know I won my AG in Montgomery a month ago but that was a much smaller race. Here I was not only first in a competitive AG of a competitive race, but was the 26th male and 27th overall of nearly 500 athletes and I did not see myself as being THAT athlete. 

My friends say that this doesn't surprise them, though it surprises me. I may not feel like I am letting any false limits define what I am capable of achieving, but I guess I better start thinking that like my friends now and accept that things have changed for me in all ways except perhaps how I saw myself.

Oh, and just to fill in the details left open in my report above, it turned out the guy I passed in transition finished in 4th place and that the reason I didn't remember seeing anyone else in my age group (ages are written on the triathlete's calf) is that I was actually ahead of them all.As it turned out, I needed every bit of speed I had for this win, seeing as how the second place finisher was 11.1 seconds behind me and the third place finisher was 10.0 seconds behind him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Joylessness, Joyfulness and Turtles

I've had my share of joyless times of late. Injuries, illness, feelings of being overworked while problem after problem mounts at my job, and so on......

The truth is I have a lot of good things going on for me....a great wife and young adult daughters that are turning out to be good women, a good job that has provided me with a respected position and has me doing exciting things within my chosen occupation and last, but far from least, the drive and ability to have changed my life and chose to participate in activities in which most people would dream participating--if they even dared to dream boldly.

In the last week, my troubles felt like they continued on.

However, I began to realize the joyless moments did not minimize the joyful moments. We all have periods of of darkness in our lives, but what matters is how we deal with them. This past week I was swimming at the pool when I was asked to split a lane by a friend and coach with my training group. However, in this case the coach was no ordinary coach, but was professional triathlete Sarah Gray. As I swam back and forth having a better than average swim for myself, I got to see Sarah blow by me time and again, leaving me feeling like I was a turtle (in fact I logged this turtle reference in my personal log). However, in this case I took joy from having a good swim and did not feel down at all just because I was not as fast as another athlete, in this case a professional athlete who can swim circles around most people.

As the week went on I saw other bright spots spots being revealed in the midst of darker spots. These spots stood out to me in stark contrast to the darkness that surrounded them. The more I noticed this, the more I realized the good things around me. In fact it is the days with little joy in them that have reminded me how blessed I am normally and how much joyfulness usually is present in my life. In a strange way it has been the joyless moments that have allowed me to have a greater appreciation for the better moments of my life, which in turn allows my to better appreciate those moments which contain less joy.

Due to circumstances in my weekend I was unable to conduct my normal bike training workout and I replaced this with an extra run. I ran almost 8 miles on Saturday and then I also ran 8 miles on Sunday for my normal bike workout. Saturday's workout was late in the afternoon as storms had come by and narrowly missed the area, which helped cool things a bit. As I was a several miles into the run I came across a pond with several turtles along the edge. As I stopped for a closer look, several of the turtles came out to look at me.

As the turtles came closer I took a step forward. This caused all but the closest one to return to the relative safety of the water. However, the closest turtle kept coming until we were within a foot of each other, and then we stared at each other for a moment. It seemed that my turtle comparison earlier in the week was not accident and I felt that I was just fine with the turtle comparison. As a great friend told me when I recounted this story, turtles are strong and long-lived. While they are also cautious, they are not as slow as many believe them to be--particularly in their natural surroundings. After a moment I left the turtle and continued with my run. This was just a long slow run but it was faster than expected while I maintained an appropriate training heart rate for a long, slow run.

In the course of training, most of my advances have come from the judicious application of long, slow training to improve my body systems. In this case, the turtle may be the perfect symbolism for me and my advances.

As I came into my run this morning, I expected a slower run due to it being a back to back daily run. I was wrong in this case as it proved to be a very good run while staying low in my heart rate zones. Not only that, today but I was also feeling great! A little more than halfway through this run I realized that, for the first time since returning to an active lifestyle, I had felt the feelings of complete joy and serenity while running in a way that felt it was a natural run that I could maintain all day. I've know for some time that I could run all day--in fact I did it in February--but this was the first time that I had reclaimed those feelings from my runs while I was in my 20's.

That felt truly joyful!

Bridgeland 2012 Race Report

It's been a long couple weeks since the Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon and I just kept putting off my blog post about it. I finally made myself sit down and put this report out before I forgot more details and made this even more difficult.

After my last blog post my ankle seemed to heal fairly quickly and I was excited to be doing Bridgeland as a fun C-level race. However, the Wednesday before the race saw me dealing with pain on the sole of my left foot -- the previous ankle issue was my right foot.As it turned out, I had had a plantar wart festering in the ball of this foot for several months and it picked now to blow up in size and cause pain to plan weight upon my foot. A Friday trip to the doctor provided freezing treatment, and with it I had hope that I might be able to do the triathlon. Due to my foot issues I was unsure if I would be doing this race as recently as the morning before the race. However, my foot seem lasted to hold up decently well on a short Saturday morning run and I decided I was going to give Bridgeland a go. If anything, I was over-rested for this race given the recent foot injuries limiting my training a bit over the last two weeks.

On Sunday morning, my foot was giving me a bit of discomfort as I was going through the morning pre-race routine, but nothing more than being at a nuisance level. I got to the race site early and was in transition as it opened. I was set up quickly and went to lay by the OutRival Racing tent for 30-40 minutes. After that I got up to make a final check of transition before moving on to the swim start area. In this timeframe I made the first of several trips to the porta potties. Eventually I had everything worked out and met up with friends over near the swim start. My race plan was simple for today, try to get a good swim and then take what I could from the bike and run and enjoy this day.

Since I was in one of the early waves (4th or 5th) I stayed near the start are and quickly lined up my my group. When the time came for my wave I found a spot a bit to the left and in front of some less confident looking swimmers. When the horn went off, I found myself going at a solid rate with only a few pink (my wave) caps ahead of me. Somewhere near 150-200 meters in (maybe a bit more), I was suddenly hit with severe abdominal cramps for a moment which caused me to stop and breastroke for a short bit. I regained my composure and swam about 50-75 more meters and had more cramps that felt more severe than before. At this point I started to feel concerned and looked for a canoe or buoy that I might need to swim towards. Since neither was close I chose to breastroke for a bit as the cramps came and went for a moment or two. Suddenly and somewhat uncontrollably, I passed a lot of gas from my system and began to feel better and I soon resumed my swim, though this time at a more moderate pace for most of the rest of the swim. I exited the swim in 13:21. This was well behind my original expectations, but better than I imagined it would be as I got out of the water after my experience that day. :-/

As I completed this rather eventful swim, I exited and I found I could initially run on the carpeted path to transition, though after a minute my foot hurt enough that I had to walk and then limp my way to my bike. I had stashed some extra bandages for my foot near my bike and reapplied them to the sole of my left foot, and then I put on thicker socks than normal and also put on my bike shoes before leaving the transition area. Given the pain in my foot, I was moving pretty slow all through the transition process. T1 was: 4:02.

After I mounted my bike I started off at at good cadence with a slightly easier gear to keep pressure easier on my foot. Even in my current state I passed many more people than passed me on the bike. Although I specifically was not using a Garmin or bike computer to monitor my pace because I did not want to try to force myself to go faster than my comfort level would indicate, I was watching my heart rate and that heart rate stayed lower than I would normally expect it to be for a race effort. When my foot pain would bother me more than I wanted to bear, I would ease up on the gears a bit and try to make it up in cadence of my pedaling. My foot definitely hurt more as the cycling continued. In my mind I figured I was probably averaging in the 17-18 mph range , and maybe 19 mph if I was lucky. I was very surprised to see that I averaged 20.6 mph, which was very close to last year's bike speed (20.7) but under much less optimal personal conditions this time out. When I neared transition I took my feet out of the bike shoes and pedaled with them on top of the shoes. This was the least painful part of pedaling for me, probably because the distribution of weight from my foot to the top of the shoes kept pressure spread away from the area of the plantar wart. I finished the bike in 37:54 at 20.6 mph.

Once I got back to T2, I had to limp my way back to the bike and I gave a moment of thought to stopping the race, as I figured running would be more painful than cycling. However, I also thought I should start out and go from there. I took some extra care to get my shoes on comfortably and make sure my bandages were properly positioned on my foot. When I stood up it seemed fine and I jogged out of transition feeling good enough to give it a go. I finished T2 in 2:38.

The run was a very interesting one. All I really hoped for was a comfortable run with a minimal amount of foot discomfort. I felt good starting out and tried to keep a quick and easy cadence without forcing a pace. I found that what seemed a quicker and shorter stride felt less painful to me and ran like that. My heart rate was pretty much in the mid to upper 150s for most of the run, though I didn't much look at my watch and tried to just run on feel. This would be about 10-15 beats lower per minute than I would have normally expected for a true race effort. I hit the lap button at each mile (apparently, other than the mile 3 marker that I did not see). Mile 1 was in 8:04 with a 155 avg HR. I noticed about a half mile in that I was feeling more pressure than pain in my foot and tried to block it out from there and enjoy the run. Mile 2 was a bit slower in 8:23 with a 161 avg HR, I was still going on feel and trying to keep things comfortable and was just glad I wasn't falling apart from my foot around this point. The last 1.1 miles were finished in 8:18 with a 169 avg HR. I waited until getting up the grassy hill off the path near the end before trying to pick up my pace to the end. I was still feeling good and just went with it, though I could definitely feel my foot much more when I ran harder. I finished in a surprisingly strong 24:45 run considering my injured status. If I'd been healthy I would have expected better, but considering the status of my foot I expected a high 20 minute range run with some walk breaks thrown it. Last year's run pace was 9:16 per mile and I felt healthy and gave a harder effort, this year was 7:59 avg run pace.Overall time was 1:22:42, over 4 minutes faster than last year, though a different course. Overall I had a better race this year while feeling sick and having a bad foot. I'm thinking a healthy me could have finished at least 10 minutes better than that and maybe more.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Up and Down Week

This last week did not start out very well. I was on a planned 8 mile group run last Sunday and after a great first mile I rolled my ankle very badly. Without giving too much description here, I will just say that when I explained it to friends that asked about it, they always cringed when I described it--something which didn't make me feel any better about it! I spent the rest of the day icing, resting, elevating and compressing the area. When it kept feeling worse I was relegated to wearing a boot to give the area additional protection by mid-afternoon. I was starting to fear that there might be some sort of break associated with this injury and not just a sprain or strain.

 Well, by morning the pain was subsiding and it was getting easier to move around. I was still wearing the boot, generously loaned to me by my friend Karen, much of the time over the next several days as the injury continued to heal. From the point of view of a week later things are looking much better. The discomfort has lessened to just being a bit of minor background discomfort part of the time, and there was no pain or difficulties from the area on a 5 mile run today (The Sunday following this injury.). I'm still going to be mindful of allowing this area to fully heal, but at least I know feel like complete healing is going to be sooner rather than later.

By Wednesday following the injury, my spirits were picked up a but by a delivery from ClIF Bar! I had received my summer shipment as a CLIF Ambassador and got a few nice things.

This shipment included 300 mini CLIF Bars (200 Crunchy Peanut Butter and 100 Blueberry Crisp). Both are very good, though each has an entirely different taste. I also received a long sleeve CLIF tech shirt. Being that temperatures are around the 100 degree range this week, I will be sticking with my short sleeve shirt for a while but I'm glad to have this for when it cools off later this year. I also received a dozen drawstring CLIF bags and Chocolate-Peppermint CLIF Lip Balm to pass out along with my CLIF bars as I perform my Ambassador duties.

Finally, this weekend had another positive in store for me as I was able to pick up my packer early for next weekend's Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon. This is a big event with about 1,500 registered athletes and I have done this the last 2 years. I am looking forward to comparing my expected improvement with this year's time to the times from the last two years.
In the end this week had more up than down. My ankle seems to be well on the road to recovery and does not seem that it will keep me from giving a good effort next weekend at the Bridgeland Sprint Triathlon. Who know, it might even be forcing me to be better rested for this event. So far, next week seems to be starting out just fine as I am doing a lot of television watching, which is something I have not done much of for a long time. The subject of this increased viewing? The Olympic Games, of course!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Distinctly Different View: Texas Star Tri 2012 Race Report

My first serious thought of doing this race came right after completing the Y Freedom Tri several weeks ago. After months of working towards, and completing, Ironman Texas I was completely thrilled with doing a sprint distance triathlon again. While I don't consider myself particularly speedy, I loved the feeling of opening up and going all out. The Texas Star Tri is held in Montgomery Texas, which is the historical home of the Texas Lone Star Flag design.

Race morning began with me getting to the race site just before most of the volunteers and I was able to park about 50-60 feet from the transition area, which really made set up easy. Being a shorter race I had minimal setup to worry about and I was done fairly early. 

If you look right behind me you can see the exit from the aquatic center pool to the transition area, which was close and allowed for a quick move between the two events.

The swim was a 300 yard seeded swim done in 25 yard lanes and swimmers went off every 10 seconds from both ends of the pool and got out in the center lanes as they switched lanes after every out and back. I had listed 5:20 as my seeding placement time, which I thought might be a tad fast but I was hoping to feel motivated to go fast. As it was I was exiting the pool around 5:10 and officially finished my swim in 5:29.1, including the pool exit and run out the building.

T1: Although I had some minor fumbling with my helmet straps, this was of minimal concern and I was on my way in a T1 time of  49.5 seconds.

Bike: This was listed as a 10 mile course and I had about 10.1 miles on my bike (maybe a shade more) so this was pretty accurate. In a relatively flat area, they seemed to find some decent hills as we seemed to be going up or down a lot. My strategy was to go hard the whole ride--it was only 10 miles, right? Well, I did keep with this plan and passed a fair number of cyclists and was passed by none.I finished the bike in 29:41.6.

T2: I made an effort to be quick in transition and only had a minor issue with my shoes. Then I grabbed my visor and race number belt and put each of those on as I ran off, finishing T2 in 59.2 seconds.

Run: The run was a cross country run around the high school athletic property. Most of the first mile was on pavement but most of the rest was off road, sometimes on somewhat muddy trails. Finally, the last 300 yards or so were on the school track to the finish. My goal was to run as hard as I could for as long as I could, and hold on to the finish. I passed a fair number of runners and was only passed by two others. The first guy who passed me early in the run proved to be the eventual race winner and he ran a 3 mile time under 17 minutes. The other runner who passed me got by me around the half way point and though I was not able to catch him, I stayed near him for the rest of the race and was only about 40-50 feet back of him at the finish line. I pretty much accomplished my running goals and was able to finish in 23:36.3.

This gave me a final time of 1:00:35.9. I had previous supposed a perfect race for me could be done in just under an hour, and I came pretty close to that. What was more important is that this race felt close to the best I could have done in terms of execution during the race, and that made me really happy. I felt that I had run about as strong and complete a race as  had in me on that day, and that also made me feel happy. This was my 19th triathlon to complete since I began doing triathlons in May 2009 and this was definitely the most complete race I had run overall (with last month's race being a close second).

The reason I do events such as these is for reasons of health and fitness, as well as for personal satisfaction. I'd never won awards, nor did I think I would ever expect to win any--although, I would have expected it would be good to win something at some point--but not in any way that made me feel like there was something I needed to prove anything to myself, or to others.

However, this day held something else in store for me. When they called out the name of the winner of the Men's 45-49 age group, the name they called was mine. It did not take me long to get over to the Race Director for my prize (an iTunes gift card, with a more formal award to be sent later after my name is added to it). 

For once, I had the distinctly different view while standing next to the race official and of looking back at the crowd while the cheers were for me---and that really was very nice. Hopefully, I will be able to win another award or two at some point.

However, that still is not the reason I do these races. I do them because I enjoy them and they help me be a better person by keeping me healthy physically and probably also mentally--and I hope I will always do these things for those same reasons for a long time to come.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 2013

After close to 8 weeks of delays the registration for Ironman Texas 2013 opened at noon EDT yesterday. I was ready to register for the 2013 race at the original date registration was to have opened (the day after this year's race), however there were some unanticipated conflicts that had to be resolved......and apparently they were resolved. During the time since then I've been working on other plans, such as considering a later year Ironman race for 2013 and planning a late 2012 marathon for my beat possible race effort. Recently, work has intervened and I will not be able to make the Marine Corps Marathon this October due to scheduling conflicts. I'm currently looking at whether I reschedule to a race in Texas in November for that marathon or if I switch back to a fall triathlon schedule because if I'd do follow through with a fall Ironman next year then it will be 2014 before I can do some of these other races. At the moment Ironman races in Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona are the leading candidates for a group trip with my triathlon training group for fall 2013. However, this post is about Ironman Texas 2013, which opened registration at noon EDT yesterday (11:00 am CDT here). My registration confirmation email arrived 12 minutes later. I'm looking forward to it already!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Y Freedome Tri 2012 Race Report

I was coming into this race with high hopes and set some seemingly (at least to me) ambitious goals for the race, as follows:

Swim: 6:15
Bike: 31:25
T2: 1:30
Run: 24:30
Total Race Time: 1:05:00

So, just how did I do:

Swim: 6:33.2
I had some minor issues with a couple others crossing over the swim lanes but overall it seems I was on the mark with my estimate, if just behind my goal for the swim. Perhaps, I just didn't quite push hard enough, though since this was a seeded race and I neither caught the guy ahead of me, nor was caught by the guy behind me, then I must have been seeded correctly.

Transition 1 1:07.9
I had a good spot near the bike out location and made the most of it with a quick time here. I really didn't think I could beat last year's 1:11 time, but I did.

Bike 31:01.1
I kept a good quick pace, pushing hard but not too hard. Well, maybe a bit too hard at times, but this is a race after all! I finished with an average speed of 21.3 mph and beat my goal time and cut 1:39 from last year's time.

Transition 2 0:59.2
I had the second fastest T2 time in my age group so I don't know how I could of been much better than that.

Run 24:12.6
I did what I set out to do with this run. I started quick, but not too hard. Then I increased the pace a bit as time went on. My mile times were approximately 8:26, 8:10 and 7:35.

Crossing the Finish Line!

Below is a comparison of my times at this race over the 4 years I have done the race, I think it is fair to say that this chart shows how my fitness has continued to improve over those years.

Swim....7:25......6:43.......6:30..........6:33    (swim times include a run to transition)
Total.1:33:08..1:18:06.......xxxx.. 1:03:54

As far as this day went, where could I have improved? Well, I had some issues on the swim from other swimmers that slowed me and I swam decently hard but probably not really at a "race hard" level for the whole swim. I was happy with both transition times and maybe could shave a couple seconds off. Doing the relay last year gave me the luxury of going all-out on the bike without having to run. This year I kept something in reserve for the run. I definitely could have gone faster, though I can't say for certain whether I think it would have hurt the run or not to have gone much faster. On the run I probably could have pushed a bit harder earlier, but it was with the same thought about needing to be sure I was able to keep the pace and improve throughout the run. So, maybe I could have been a bit faster, and maybe not in the end, or at least not much.

In the end this netted me my best overall finish by far for this race, and for any other triathlon. In 2009 I finished 19th out of 22 in my age group and 291 out of 380 overall. In 2010 I finished 18th out of 28 in my age group and 218th out of 443 overall.  I finished 4th out of 21 in my age group and 32nd out of 397 overall. I'm just overwhelmed that I could have ever accomplished this considering where I was when I started this sport. In 3 years, I've cut nearly 30 minutes off my time in a sprint triathlon (nearly 1/3 of my time from that year!). I've had a lot of support from family and help from friends and some fantastic coaching advice over the years, but the truth is I don't know that I ever really thought I could be truly competitive in this sport until today.  While the success was mine today, my thanks goes out to any and all that have given me support over the last 5 1/2 years as I have sought to improve my physical condition.

One of those friends was last year's relay partner, Karen, who also did the race today. She finished 7th place in her age group and is already plotting her improvement for next time. Good work, Karen! The theme for the race this year was one of honoring veterans and supporting the military service members. As part of that the finisher awards were replica "dog tags", which you can see on the photo below.

Finally, I ended the triathlon adventure with a well-earned treat for lunch. I had the Darn Good Burger at Black Walnut (their actual name for burger). It was most definitely well-named and quite filling. Tomorrow I can go back to my normal mostly healthy diet but for today, this was my lunch....(and it was great!!!)....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Y Freedom Tri 2012 (Pre-race)

I'm looking forward to doing the Y Freedom Tri next weekend and, at the risk of seeming a bit self-serving, I wanted to do a review of the only triathlon that I've during every year since I've started with the sport. This is a small, low-key race on the other side of Houston from me, but it is also a lot of fun! What they lack in having a pretty unremarkable course, they more than make up for with a first class post-race celebration--including an ice cold towel waiting for you at the finish!

In 2009 the Y Freedom Tri was the second triathlon I ever did and came just under 2 months after my first triathlon. I seem to recall doing at least as well as I expected and finished in 1:33:08.

In 2009 this became the first triathlon that I repeated. I was back with a new bike and more confidence as this was now my sixth triathlon over all and my second for the year. As I recall I had just registered for Ironman Texas 2011 the week before the race. I improved across the board and finished in 1:18:06.

In 2011 I was coming off Ironman Texas and was a bit unsure of my complete recovery for this race at the time of registration. In addition, my friend Karen was becoming interested in triathlon. Karen and I did this as a relay where I did the swim and bike and she did the run. Together we finished in 1:05:55 and got first place in the relay division.

This year both Karen and I are returning, though as individual triathletes. Karen will be doing her second triathlon and I've stopped counting but am probably around 18 by this race  (Wow! Life sure has changed in many ways in that time for me.).

That bring us to this year. Like last year, I am not completely recovered for this race. Although I am certainly recovered enough to complete this race decently well, I can't be sure at this point that I will be able to keep up a race effort for the entire race (though I will try).

My comparisons to the previous race are as follows:

Swim....7:25......6:43.......6:30    (swim times include a run to transition)

So, what are my goals? First off I would like a big PR over my 2011 time of 1:18:06, and quite honestly I SHOULD do that barring injury or equipment troubles. I estimate that I probably could have finished in the 1:08-1:10 range if I had done a solo race. I'm also reaching a point of diminishing returns in terms of improvement. Maybe I can drop 30-40 seconds off my swim time and I could possibly drop a couple minutes off my bike time from last year. Realistically, however, my run is where I have room for the most improvement and could still drop a good number of minutes from my 2010 time that I last ran the course.
I'm going to take the unusual (for me) step and lay out all my hopes and expectations for this course here we can see how it all shakes out.

Swim: 6:15
Bike: 31:25
T2: 1:30
Run: 24:30
Total Race Time: 1:05:00

I'll be back next week to report how things went.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recovery and Getting Back to Training

Ironman recovery is a bit of a bumpy road.I'm slowly getting to where I feel recovered, but at times I can tell that full recovery is a ways off.

Fortunately, I've been able to enjoy more weekend breakfasts with my wife in the weeks since IMTX than I had with her in the previous several months combined. In addition, I've had times where I've felt far more tired than normal, though I've also had times where I've felt completely outstanding. I know this is all normal as my body readjusts and completes recovery. Some days are good and some days remind me just how much more recovery time I need. In the midst of the good days I can tell I have made gains in overall fitness during my Ironman training and the less good days remind me that I am not quite ready to enjoy the fullness of those quite yet.

My workouts have all just started to pick up in intensity this past week. For the first time in many months, I did a short running speed session. My hope for this session was to run the 1 mile time trial in under 7 minutes. After setting a 5K PR last November while averaging around 8 minutes per mile, I was hoping that I could hold a fast pace for a sub-7 minute mile on this day. While I kept an occasional eye on my heart rate I avoided watching the time on my watch. My efforts for this workout were meant to be bound by maximum effort and not a specific goal time, and I didn't want to know what my time was during the workout in case it might alter my effort level during the workout.

This run came at the conclusion of heavy storms in the local area, storms which blew through quickly and knocked down many trees. However, these storms also helped me out a bit by lowering the temperature from the high evening temperatures that are normal this time of year. Throughout this workout I pushed consistently hard, while holding back just enough to be able to complete these laps at the hard effort.

As I came to the end of the workout I hit my watch lap timer to end the mile session and saw what would have otherwise seemed unbelievable--yet, I also knew it to be true. I had completed my 1 mile time trial session in 6:21.

As someone who couldn't run half as fast several years ago, the impact of this workout is a bit of a shock to me. Five years ago, I would have been hard pressed to run a sub-12 minute mile. Times have certainly changed for me in more ways than one. I have put together several years of slow but steady improvements from my now long-gone former very out of shape self. I also found that I took a solid step forward when I cleared the recovery of Ironman Texas 2011 because of the training program that led up to the race. It looks like I am seeing the signs of another solid step forward following Ironman Texas 2012.

I know my current recovery training will likely still have more ups and downs in the next week or two, but for now one thing is certain---this was indeed one of the good days!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ironman Texas Recovery and Getting Back to Business

Two weeks (actually 15 days, to be more exact) after completing Ironman Texas for the second time I am wrapping up my initial recovery period and will be moving on to a period of active recovery and training. Since IMTX I've done just three workouts--one each of a relatively light swim, bike and run. I have resisted the urge to do more and almost had to force myself at times to be cognizant of the need to rest my body after nearly 6 months of IM training, including a 39.3 mile Goofy Challenge, a 50 mile trail run, my first sub 6 hour half Ironman and a 4:06 PR marathon. I still have more plans for the rest of the year and need to be careful about easing back into training the right way.

My goals for the rest of the year include several more triathlons over the summer--2 sprint distances that I've done during previous years, and perhaps an Olympic distance triathlon. I also want to make a solid effort this fall at setting a new marathon PR. Currently my two main options for this target marathon are the Marine Corps Marathon (October 28) and the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon (November 11). It would be really nice to do the MCM, but it has greater logistical hurdles (and the trip to D.C. would be several times more expensive than a trip to San Antonio).

My goal for that marathon is to push my PR to the best time that I can get. My 4:06 marathon in March was something I would not have believed possible until recent months. Given that I did this while I was in IM training, it is reasonable to expect that I can run under 4 hours, or even better, under more ideal circumstances.

However, my personal growth in my training has led to personal growth in my expectations. I have come to realize that the greatest limits upon me are those that I have placed upon myself. I'd like to try to become more aggressive in my goals and in my results. I fear that setting some goals could become too self-fulfilling, meaning that I could work towards and accomplish a goal that is less aggressive than that which I might otherwise be capable of achieving. Maybe 4:06 will be the best that I could do on a marathon course, but what if I am for 4:00 and hit 3:58, or aim for 3:50 and hit 3:45, .....when I might otherwise have been able to succeed with a time that seems so unreasonable that I would never try to make it a goal.

At this point I'm going to try to accept one thing about my race goals: I will resolve to race at my maximum effort and not be bound by any preconceived notion of a time goal. I will train and race by one philosophy and expectation--NO LIMITS!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ironman Texas 2012 – Race Report

Pre-Race: I went into the taper for this race concerned as I felt over-trained (and under-rested going into last year’s race). I spent most of the taper worried that I was not feeling rested soon enough, although in those last few days before the race I finally started to feel right. By race day, I felt ready to go—not just that, I felt great, and I knew that I was ready to go. During the week or so before the race I noticed my craving for saltier foods had increased. Although I did not gorge myself on anything unhealthy, I did allow myself to eat a greater level of these foods than I might normally. I feel that my body may have been craving these foods for a reason. It seems strange that while I did not limit my foods, and likely ate more than normal that week,
It felt great to see the whole OutRival Racing team, and so many friends (whether ORR or not) before the race that morning. In fact that morning set the tone for the whole day for me. Seeing the raw emotion on people’s faces brought together showed the greatness of Ironman—the mix of fear, anticipation, exhilaration and so many other emotions all at once charged the atmosphere. 
Erin and I before the swim. She had an awesome race! I am so proud of her!
Swim: Last year I started to the outside and this year I started to the inside—I would say the outside was a better choice. I thought I was generally swimming a good line, though I got angled off course at times by people who kept swimming at angles to the course. I also tried to position myself behind the fast swimmers and in front of the slow ones. Either I put myself too far back or I too many slower swimmers lined up near the front or perhaps I also did not push as hard as I intended or perhaps I just got caught in the crowd. I felt this swim was rougher than last year, though still not that bad compared to some stories I have heard. The few times I got pushed hard I was willing to push back, and the one time some guy tried to swim over me….well, he got pushed sideways towards the canal wall (when somebody wears a wetsuit you can push them away real easily). I took a slightly easier pace for the last 300-400 yards so I could exit the water not feeling out of breath. My swim time was 1:31:30, which was in the range of what I had projected before the race, though I had hoped for faster. It improved over my 1:40:03 from last year. I did have one physical issue during the swim; in the last 1/3 I felt some tightness in my right hamstring area. This was not quite a cramp but was noticeable for a short while. I slowed for a bit and then resumed normal stroking around that time.

T-1: My plan was to take a methodical approach to transition in order to be best prepared for the day. I did not go purposefully slow, though my longer than expected time does make me wonder….. Anyway I got out of the water and ran through the bags and ran to the changing tent. I noticed some minor chaffing and added extra body glide there, plus other potential chaffing areas. I had meant to leave my tri top in the transition bag and swim shirtless but had forgot to place it in the bag, so I had to swim with the tri top. I run out and grab my bike and go off to the next phase of the race with a T-1 time of 10:14 (versus 8:01 last year).

Bike: I felt surprisingly good early on the bike. 

I biked by heart rate though it was not getting that high (or at least not staying that high) until around mile 50 or so. I averaged just over 20 mph for the first 40 miles and hit the half way marker at 2:53:08 (19.41 mph) which is only slightly slower than Galveston 70.3 bike time. I was feeling good at this but also trying to not get excited and focusing on the plan. I stopped at the Special Needs station and took about 5 minutes to change out nutrition, change my socks and rub more anti-chaffing cream on my feet. (My feet were feeling sore from the pedaling by around mile 50 today, something which usually takes 60-90 miles to happen.). I’ve been trying hard to drink plenty of water and feel good about my nutrition plan at this point. I, and my feet, feel refreshed when we start back up and I resume the ride. Strangely it felt like I had a headwind from the west, south and east at times today—from the west by Richards, the south down 149 and 1486 and the east on 1488.  Around the time I turn back on to 1488 is when I notice I am beginning to feel a bit fatigued and losing a bit of focus. I probably lower my heart rate a bit so as not to overtire myself. During this period I notice my mind wandering a bit and I also start to feel some soreness in the lower back/kidney area. For some reason I start wondering if I have been drinking enough water (I had) and if I was having some kind of kidney issues since I had no desire to urinate even though I was drinking enough water to drown a small dog. After a near wreck at the aid station by the school on 1488 I stop to use the porta-potty and regain my composure (and am sure I don’t have kidney issues). Following a 3 minute stop, I am back on the bike and feeling a bit better as well. I bike better through the Westwood area but have a moment of panic when I’m passing another rider and I hear the sound of a tire going flat. After thinking “oh crap” and worse…..then I realize it was the other guy and not me! I feel pretty good getting through until May Valley (around mile 100) but feel like I am tiring as I go back through The Woodlands on the way back to transition and I am also trying to save energy by not going too hard late in the bike. I make it back in 6:13:20, which is well ahead of expectations (also well ahead of last year was 7:24:17, of course that race was having problems by then). 

T-2: Off the bike and kick of bottle and my shoes and run in my socks to get my bag and head to the tent. I change socks and rub Body Glide on my feet. I also decide to change into running shorts for comfort. T-2 is 8:55 versus 11:15 last year. I can’t explain the difference other than I didn’t feel nearly as worn out this year at this point as I did last year. 

Run: The run was like the Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities: it was the best of times and it was the worst of times….. I started off the run feeling good and holding to running between aid stations averaging a little over 11 minute miles. In that time I was seeing my heart rising so I backed off to a 8-2 run-walk, plus walking the aid stations. 
This got me through the rest of the first loop before my heart rate started getting too high. According to my Garmin I was averaging about 11:39 through the first 9 miles.
Due to heart rate rising and the start of intestinal cramping and gas, I changed my run rate to a 4-1 run-walk, plus walking the aid stations. A few times in this loop I started to feel the start of cramping in the same area of the right hamstring from the swim but it was not a major problem, though when it started to flare up I did some extra walking. I stopped using the gels during this loop due to the intestinal distress and nibbled a few grapes along the way. 

During one of my tougher moments.
I also used the restroom around mile 11 for a bit of a relief of my distress. Miles 10-18 went by slowly this way with lots of little ups and some big and small downs. I averaged about 13:48 per mile over this loop. I noticed some temporary spikes in my heart rate that just seemed out of place that kept me walking at times. In any case I wanted to be careful enough to not push too hard and risk crashing my race as well. I entered the last loop knowing I needed a nutrition boost but feeling like I was having difficulty taking anything in. I tried a gel early for some extra electrolytes and it did not sit well with me. After that I tried some cola, and that seemed to work well so I stayed with it at each aid station. I stopped at the special needs station at mile 19 to change socks and use the rest room and felt a bit better. Not too far in the last loop I picked up with a friend, Brandon, with whom I had been leapfrogging with for a while. We were both running and walk and stuck together for several miles and helped each other along. I was able to pick up the pace some after that, although my hamstring was becoming more of an issue at times, and during those times I walked a bit extra. 
Brandon and I running along the Waterway with just a few miles to go.
Brandon and I stayed together for several miles before he went ahead about 2 miles before the end. My last loop averaged about 13:13 per mile, with a pick up of pace closer to the end. During the last few miles I was thanking cheering fans and volunteers more frequently, knowing I was about to finish and was not coming back. 
Just before the finisher chute!!!
When I came up near the finishing area I paused a bit to allow others to clear the area and I tried to high-five as many people as I could, maybe even more than last year. Then I approached the finish and tried to jump up through it for joy at the end. Run time was 5:37:09 versus 7:12:15 last year. I was hoping to run it a bit faster but it was my 3rd fastest marathon and only a little over 6 minutes slower than the Disney marathon earlier this year (more walking and less posing for photos).

Post Race: I was caught at the end by my friend Karen, who volunteered mostly to be there for me. 

Post race photo of me and my finish line "catcher" Karen, who is also my good friend, often times training partner and, at least on this date, guardian angle.
I got a big hug from her and felt a bit emotional and then she took me to meet Chrissie Wellington who place my medal around my neck and gave me a big hug and kiss and congratulated me. Talk about a big WOW factor for me! Chrissie really seems so excited and she must have been there for hours! After that I stuck around in the athlete area for a post-race massage, mostly my legs, and to eat. I would go get my bike and gear but I also hung around until after midnight to see the race close down and the last runners come through. 

During the time leading up to this race I had several goals I set for myself. My most specific goal was to improve by at least 2 hours over last year (and this was something I told most people who asked since it was easy to quantify). 
My next goal was to get under 14 hours (which I was less sure about but I knew was possible). 
My desired goal……well, somewhere in early April, I put together I “best case” estimate of what I felt comfortable estimating that I could do on race day. Try to keep it conservative enough to allow that race day would have some issues of its own and would not likely be perfect. Anyway, I wrote these goals down and stuck them to the back wall over my desk at work, where I have seen them as a frequent reminder for many weeks. Below is a photo of that paper:
This wasn't quite how the day went, but it wasn't too far off in the end.

Now, if they will just open up registration for IMTX 2013.......361 days away......