Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Goals in Review

From the start, 2013 was never going to be the year I had hoped it would be. Coming off of serious late year injuries in 2012 may have made for rescaling of 2013 but I refused to let those injuries stop me from doing the things that I loved. Here is a summary of the goals I posted from myself in January and how I did in the efforts throughout the year.

1. Complete my third Ironman race on May 18, 2013.

I registered for this race last summer in the first moments that registration was open. In 2012 I set a PR of almost three hours from the year before and I was hoping to aim for cutting another hour or two off of that time. However, getting hit by a car and having surgery to reconstruct my collarbone led to serious doubt that I might even be able to do this race--certainly my surgeon told me it was possible but he didn't seem too confident until April came and my recovery continued to move forward. On May 18, 2013, I started and completed my third Ironman race. It wasn't the smashing PR that I would have originally liked but it was a glorious day to prove that I was still able to be able to complete this wonderful event.

 2.With no real idea how long my recovery will take I will forgo my general desire to PR every race and set a more realistic PR goal for 2013. In this case I will attempt to set a PR for at least one running event and one triathlon event.

For the most part, I never did get my 2013 race times to beat my 2012 race times. However, my PR time at the Olympic Distance triathlon was beaten at the USAT National Championship race in August. In addition, in the run portion of that race I beat my 10K PR time and ran 10K in under an hour for the first time in any race.

 3.Do at least one very unique race event. I'm not going to place too many restrictions on this, just something out of the ordinary.

Given the loose requirements for this, I am going to claim that it was accomplished by participating in a national championship race (I finished way in the back--but I was there!) last August.

 4. This year I hope to be more mindful of not letting my training schedule monopolize my overall schedule.

During this year's Ironman training I was able to keep more time set aside for my wife than in previous years. In addition, I learned to take more time off near holidays for my family.

 5. Find ways to be helpful to others in these sporting activities and follow through with helping them.

During 2013 I was able to continue my work with a group dedicated to helping junior high students run their first 5K race. I was also blessed this year to do may training activities with friends that I hadn't done much or training with in previous years. In some cases I was able to help advise them  as they worked towards their own Ironman races.

2013 managed to have its share of surprises for me, in mostly positive ways. I wasn't just able to return to racing but I even managed to find my way to 3 podium finishes in a few low profile races. I entered the year on little more than faith and hope but I finished the year knowing that I was strong enough for the challenges I faced. I'm not quite sure what goals I will have for 2014 but I will go into the year confident that I can overcome the obstacles life places in my way.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Catching Up

I've fallen behind in my race reports and want to catch up before finishing out the year.

Back in mid-November I did the Conroe Turkey Trot. This was the goal race for a group I volunteer with called Healthy Youth. For the past school semester our group has been working with junior high students to teach the to run a 5K and to also teach them healthy life habits. This was our third group and was once again a big success. During the 5K I ran with several of the students and kept them motivated. As I did this I finished my race in 24:42 and also finished first in my age group.

Early in December I completed a 20K trail run in Huntsville State Park in 2:20. This fell just short of a PR for me, but I ran this race for fun and not to be fast, which was perfectly fine with me.

Hopefully, now that I've caught up I can stay better on track with my blog in the future.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Wonder-ful Time

Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to take a cruise on the Disney Cruise line ship. We were on the Disney Wonder and sailed out of Galveston, Texas, for a 7 night eastern Caribbean cruise. During this cruise we visited ports in Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.

The first two days of the cruise were days at sea. We had some rough water, which took a bit of getting used to, but also allowed us the opportunity to become familiar with the ship's amenities, including a gym, theaters, and live shows. We even learned to draw a few Disney characters.

While hitting the ports on days 4, 5, and 6. In Jamaica we shopped in the local port area. This area had a variety of shops in the immediate area of the ship. As you can see in this photo below, the ship is immediately behind one row of the shops.

In Grand Cayman, we needed to ride small tender boat to shore from the ship. My wife, Darcy, took this photo with the Disney Wonder in the background as we went ashore. In Grand Cayman, we did some shopping and exploring in the local area.

 In Cozumel, we took advantage of the local scenery and spent some time on a beach area excursion that included spending time in clear plastic kayaks that allowed us to see clearly in the water below. We also snorkeled in the clear waters which allowed even better opportunities to see the local fish and coral.

On board ship the entertainment was very good and we had plenty of food available, ranging from freely available ice cream and soda (including tea, coffee and hot chocolate). Meals included buffet meals, counter service burgers, sandwiches and pizza as well as the stereotypical fine dining expected on a cruise. I won't say that I always ate healthy but I could if that was what I wished to do, and I did include healthy options in most meals.

We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and found it well worth the cost. We will look forward to another Disney cruise some day in the future and would highly recommend it to anyone asking us about taking one of their own.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CASA Superhero 5K

This 5K was going to be my PR effort weekend race. However, recent events--mainly a recent car crash--had left me not quite ready to put out a PR effort. The recent week of rain leaving a muddy and mucky course also left the conditions shy of PR worthy. In the end this was still going to be a hard race effort but also one that I wanted to enjoy with some friends.

While this was not a first year race, it had first year race directors--and it showed. Fortunately, this is a smaller event with just a couple hundred runners or the general disorganization would have been a complete mess. This overall disorganization included parking mixups in the state park, not having a good setup in the race area, not being prepared to post run times, no preparations in being able to announce the winners during the awards ceremony and perhaps worst of all an improperly marked course that led to the leading runners running an extra two tenths of a mile before the organizers realized the problem.

As for myself, I ran a mostly even race this time around. I kept from going too hard the first mile out and this enabled me to keep a good pace throughout. Even though I was one of the runners who ran too long, I don't think it led to a different finishing place in the case of the 8-12 runners that it affected. I finished with a second place finish in my age group and 8th place overall. I think the special part of the race came by finishing just behind and just in front of tow great training partners, who finished overall women's winner and master's woman winner. The three of us are pictured below.

Next up for me is off season, beginning with a cruise on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. I have another 5K later this month and maybe I will go after that 5K then, or maybe it will be just for fun. Until then, however, I will have some fun.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finding the Silver Lining

It was just this past weekend that I had my one year anniversary with a serious auto-bike crash that left my body broken and my spirit battered, but it was also a point from which I refused to back down and give up. With several months of recovery I began to live a normal life again, with several months of training after that I managed to complete an Ironman race, with a couple more months of training I managed to make it to the podium of a couple small races and finally began to believe it was going to come back to me.

It didn't seem to take too long after that to become the victim of a likely intoxicated hit and run driver who ran a red light at high speed and T-boned my new car just behind the driver's seat. I was spun several times and came to a stop just out of the intersection and facing the opposite direction of traffic in a road perpendicular to the one on which I had been travelling. A whirlwind of a night in the emergency room and following visit to my own doctor revealed I had some muscular damage and a concussion but seemed to avoid more serious injury. Air bag deployments may have also helped me escape more serious injury as well.

Even though I have only had this vehicle a few months, it is just a thing that can be repaired. Even though I was injured I can recover. I could have been seriously hurt and was not. I will recover in time and go on.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Running of the Bulls 2013 5K

The Running of the Bulls 5K is the official 5K race of the Houston Texans football team, with the bull as the team mascot and hence the race name. It seems the only bulls I saw all day were mascots and none of them raced.

I went into this race with the idea to lay it all out effort-wise and go for max effort. I figured a strong effort would put me in striking range of my PR, and perhaps a really good race day effort could push past that. I lined up pretty near the front of the pack since there was a beginner feel among many of the racers. The day was a bit humid and warm but not too bad. Although I was going into this race rested, I wasn't feeling at my best today and had an elevated heart rate as well.

I ran this race on a pure heart rate goal plan. I opened with a strong opening mile around 6:44, in which I hit my target heart rate around a half mile and then worked on not going too hard after that. Mile 2 went by at a slower pace in the mid 7:30 range. By the time the second mile was done I was feeling like I was just hanging on for dear life. Mile 3 went by at a slightly slower pace in the mid 7:40 range and I really did feel like I was giving it my all. I pushed past the finish line in a time of 22:46.

22:46 really did feel like all I had in me on this day, at least following the plan I followed. On this day it was good enough for 5th place in my age group, and I just missed my PR by 3 seconds. I'm not disappointed by just missing my PR as I gave my all and just didn't have more to give on this day. Certainly it is also a positive sign in my overall recovery that I posted a second best effort and a competitive time in a large field. I left this race feeling very positive about the next race or two a few weeks ahead of me before looking at an much needed and welcomed upcoming off season.

I snapped one quick photo of myself from the field after I had recovered enough to walk off from the finishing area to show that I was down on the field (at least without having to buy one of the expensive professional race photos).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


333 days ago, at approximately 10:20 am, while feeling like I was at my peak of fitness and athleticism, I was cycling past a local park in the final miles of a successful practice training ride for an upcoming race and.......well, that's all I remember about that. The bright world around me went dark and the next thing I remember was about 10-15 later when an ambulance crew was attempting to get me onto a backboard. Somehow during that dark period I had managed to give a an assisting by-passer my wife's name and cell phone number, though I still can't remember that either. I don't know much about what happened other than it appeared that I was hit on the side by a passing motorist's side view mirror and then flipped forward over my handlebars head and shoulder into the ground. According to my GPS watch I was moving at 19.1 mph at that moment and was likely about to begin braking as I was approaching an intersection.

A lot happened to me after that. I spent over 5 days in the hospital, mostly on morphine to ease the pain of numerous broken bones and a bruised lung. It really wasn't until later that I realized how badly I was injured, including internal injuries such as a rib that was a fraction of an inch from causing a punctured lung, which was something they thought could still require immediate surgical intervention for the first few days I was in the hospital. Perhaps it is best I didn't know some of that at the time.

When I first met my orthopedic surgeon, I asked if I would be able to do Ironman Texas seven months later. His answer was hopeful, if everything went well, but his tone didn't seem so hopeful. It was at that point that I resolved to do everything I could to make the Ironman Texas 2013 starting line. I put so much effort into resting those first few months that it almost seemed like activity for the next few months. It was almost seven weeks before I could move my right arm out of a sling--something which happened on my birthday. It was close to another month before I could get close to thinking about a real workout and probably another month after that before my workouts began to resemble what a workout used to be. Through that time I got by on faith and the love and support of my family and friends. In time, things began to come together for me. I went on to make the Ironman Texas starting line and, with the enormous amount of support I had behind me, I made it to the finish line as well. The last 8+ mile lap of the IMTX marathon felt like the longest and most satisfying victory lap ever!

Fast-forwarding to now, I am periodically asked if I am fully recovered. The answer is that I don't know. While I sure don't feel like I am "back", some of my racing and training times indicate I am close to where I was in the months before my injury and some times might even be better.

Everything else aside, I am doing well today. While I wouldn't wish my injury experiences on anyone, it has helped me remember what is truly valuable in my life. Family, friends and faith were all strengthened because of my experiences and I was reminded how unimportant some other things really are. I met and made new friends who most likely never would have been more than casual acquaintances otherwise. There are parts of my experience that I may have never fully shared with anyone, though I know there are those close to me who know this and undertand. As I recovered while having to live a sedentary life for the first time in years, I had time to reflect on all the wonderful challenges I had been a part of in the past several years.  Before this event I was certainly on my way to becoming a still improving athlete. somewhere in all this I have lost some of that drive and perhaps even some of that ability. Maybe I will never be able to live up to the thought of the athlete "I might have become" but I may be a smarter athlete and a better man as a result of what I've been through. Because of what I went through I've been able to offer support and inspiration to several other athletes in ways I never could have before this experience.

I came to feel that if I had suffered a much harsher fate that day, then I would have at least known that I had lived well going into that event and it would have happened doing something I loved. It is true that I could have died that day, but that can be true for any of us on any day. Do we all feel that we live well enough to not regret our lives when viewed in hindsight? I hope that I never face that question again, but if I do I hope I can answer it the same way.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013 USAT Age Group National Championship

Although I had previously qualified for the 2012 National Championship race, I was unable to attend. Therefore, I looked forward to the 2013 race with anticipation. Given the events of the last 9+ months, beginning with the injuries I sustained from being hit by a car while training on my bike and culminating with a second place finish in a local sprint triathlon early last month, I was anxious to give this race a try. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do this distance at my "best" (meaning as good as I was before my injuries) but I also viewed it as being a good marker to gauge my recovery. My previous best time for this distance was 2:58:12 from almost two years ago and I was pretty sure I should be able to beat this time. However, thinking I could do it and doing it are two very different things, especially considering the multitude of things that can go wrong on race day. I was also looking forward to lining up next to the best athletes the sport has to offer. I wasn't expecting to compete for any awards, but that also wasn't going to stop me from doing my best and seeing what would happen.

When I first got to check-in I identified my top priorities: checking in and getting by the TYR test to see Chrissie Wellington. I was able to quickly do both since I was there early. Chrissie sure seemed as friendly and vivacious as she always does.

 Since I had driven to the race, I offered to pick up my coach, Michelle, at the airport after she flew into town. We also went to packet pickup together later so she could get her race packet. She is pictured below. I am very proud of her race effort as she won and is now the national champion of her age group.

After check-in, Michelle and I met with some other athletes near the race site. I went for a practice swim to see how the water was and then went to the athlete rules briefing while Michelle took her bike out for a training ride. Later on we brought our bikes to be checked into transition and Michelle snapped the photo I was hoping to get of myself with the Texas flag. As it happened, the state flag wasn't all that far from my racking location.

After this was all done we were ready to head our separate ways for the night and come back ready to race the next morning......

On race morning, transition was open at 5:30 am with a 7:30 am race start time. Unfortunately, my wave of athletes was not scheduled to start until 10:02 am, which gave me a lot of downtime but not enough to feel comfortable about going back to the hotel to nap. After getting everything ready, I sat with several teammates near the swim start and chatted and rested for a while. The race was delayed for 15 minutes for unknown reasons, but then started and went smoothly after that. I wasn't really happy with such a late starting time, though I didn't worry about it since there wasn't anything that could be done about it. About an hour before my start I began to warm up with stretching and some light running. Then about 20 minutes before I got my wetsuit on and moved to join those in line for my group. I got in the water early and did some light swimming as a warmup, and then I waited until it was time to go.

1500 Meter Swim: I lined up just to the outside of the main group to avoid getting caught in the pack, which seemed to work pretty well, especially since I was far from the strongest swimmer there. My goal here was to put in a solid swim without hurting myself. That is pretty much what I did. I hadn't been as comfortable with swimming since my return from injury and I haven't done as much swimming as I should have been doing recently. However, I have also started to feel "normal" again while swimming. In a normal situation for me, I would have (and should have) had a better swim time, though for this race I did just what I hoped to do. I did stray off course a bit on two occasions, but not too badly. I finished with a swim time of 33:25.

T1: The goal was to get in and out quick. Coming out of the water and up the ramp I feel my right hamstring tighten up. I slow to a walk for a moment and then back to a trot as I take my wetsuit down to my waist. When I get to my bike, I finish stripping of the wetsuit and then grab my cycling helmet and head out. T2 was a bit slow in 2:32 but I got out without my hamstring being a serious issue and headed out on the bike.

40K Bike: As soon as I got going on the bike I knew I was feeling good and a couple miles later, even up the first hill, I knew this had the makings of a great ride. About 10 miles into the ride I was beginning the largest hill and heard a loud metallic popping noise. This was cause for concern and as I continue to ride uphill safely I look over the bike for potential issues. I discover the rear wheel is spinning out of balance but also know there isn't anything I can do about it and suspect a broken spoke to be the culprit. As I head down the hill, I can tell I am not able to get as fast as I would expect and figure the rear wheel is the culprit. I make the decision to ride on since there isn't anything else I can really do for the wheel at this point. Unfortunately, my speeds are now a bit lower and it feels like the wheels are a bit harder to push but I keep going--even with suspecting the wheel was rubbing the brake pads slightly, I didn't have any way to adjust the brakes at this point. Even with all this I still pass more people than pass me on the bike. On the way back to transition, probably near the mile 18 mark, I hear the same metallic pop. Upon inspection of the rear wheel, still spinning unevenly but still allowing me to ride, I continue on. I finish the bike in 1:14:58, a 19.9 mph pace, not exactly a slow pace but less than I'd hoped, especially since I was probably averaging 21-23 mph much earlier and felt like I should have finished 4-7 minutes quicker. Then again, I very easily could have been unable to continue by that wheel and am also thankful for still being racing at this point. I did later confirm the broken spokes and that the wheel was rubbing lightly against the brake pads.

T2: I had a pretty good T2 other than one minor issue. While preparing to get off my bike I didn't quite get the Velcro strap completely undone and when I tried to slide out my left foot the whole shoe came off, so I ran into T2 with a shoe on my left foot and nothing on my right foot. Ugh! In any case, I was in and back out of T2 in 1:42.

Run: I was hoping and planning on a good run today and was looking forward to this part. I quickly was at my upper heart rate for the early run and kept myself at the top of the zone. As much as I tried to hold an even and strong pace, my running pace slowly got a bit slower each mile. I had hoped to kick things into a higher gear for the last two miles but found there was no higher gear there. I had felt good running but I was also maxed out in terms of what I was going to be able to do on this day. It seemed that the extra effort I put into keeping the bike going took an extra toll on my legs before I got to the run. I had figured I would run in at least the mid- minute range but ended up finishing the run in 58:29.

Overall: My total finish time was 2:51:08, which easily beat my previous PR time of 2:58:12 from a couple years ago.

I was very pleased to see that even with the problems I had, I still met the basic goals I had set forward for this race. If I had gotten through the whole race without any problem, I might have been a good bit faster (which will be what I aim for the next time!!!). Part of my would normally want to feel a bit disappointed over the "failed" parts of this race. However, I do not feel that way at all.

My goals here were always twofold: 1) Do my best, and 2) Enjoy the experience. I did those and still had a great time with the overall experience. I will always be able to know that I competed in a national championship event (and am a two-time qualifier for the event as well). Both before and during the race, everywhere I looked I was surrounded by awesome athletes who were all there sharing a great experience. It reminded me of the run up to an Ironman event, but was different in its own way.

I left the USAT National Championships feeling good about what I had done and hope that I can have the opportunity to return again some day--perhaps even on a day in which I can attempt a more competitive effort. I also left knowing that I can continue working towards my full recovery and start thinking about resuming my efforts towards accomplishing my long term goals which include, but are not limited, to future triathlon goals as well. For now,I have some serious rest to do to allow my body to recover; then after that, I will look to resume some serious training and maybe look at going after some aggressive goals in the process.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Loose Ends

The end of July is allowing me to finish up some items and look forward to other. I previously mentioned a possible job change. As I understood it, I was one of two finalists for a dream-type of job for me. In the end, I accepted an offer to remain where I am. The offer includes a substantial salary increase as well as the opportunity to keep working on projects I enjoy. Perhaps the one thing I had possibly lost sight of was that over th last six-plus years, I had transformed my job into one where I was dealing with dream-job types of projects and that I am quite happy where I am now. Sometimes the grass really is greener on your side of the fence! In the end the other guy got the job; whether it was because I pulled out or he was destined for it anyway.....that's hard to say and doesn't really matter.

Now, I am looking forward towards my next triathlon in less that two weeks. Before last October's injuries, I qualified fr the USAT Age Grop National Championships for the second time. Tough I did not attend in 2012 I have decided to go this year. While I won't be at my ultimate best shape, I have recovered better than expected (at least in some ways) and I look forward to giving it my best effort and having a lot of fun, and then let the results just be whatever they will be.

I think that after this race I will be wrapping up my triathlon season to get in a bit of extra rest and turn to look at concentrating on a fall/winter running concentration. My goals will include some long trail races again. After we make it back to spring, we will see me looking back towards another Ironman Texas in 2014, and maybe this will line up to be the race I had hoped IMTX 2013 would have been before my lien juries and surgery.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Texas Star Triathlon 2013

I did this race last year and had a lot of fun. It was also the first race where I had a podium finish, winning first place in my age group. It might seem obvious that I would look forward to this race, though for this race my goal was not to win my age group but to get a good assessment of where my fitness is compared to this point last year and how far my recovery has come along. My plan for this race is best described in the words of my coach: "Focus every minute and PUSH, PUSH, PUSH." While my expectations for this race may have been more modest, my desire to get the most of this race was high.

The race opens with a 300 yard pool swim. I seed myself at a 5:55 pace, and have a pretty good swim that finishes at 5:44. This was just 15 seconds behind last year. I passed one or two other swimmers in the pool and was passed by none. At this point things are looking pretty good.

Next up is the 10 mile bike through the hills of Montgomery. I find a good groove and I push--or perhaps as Coach Michelle said, I PUSHED!--and I kept on PUSHING. Some of these hills felt tough, especially at this effort level, but but I kept it going. I finished the bike in 30:05 and feeling pretty good. This was just 24 seconds behind my time from last year, so I know things are going better than expected.

Now the run comes up and I take off giving my best effort. Most of the first mile is paved before running along grass fields and then through wooded trails. Because of the drought the ground is cracked in places and I have to watch my footing in places. Although the run feels tough in spots, I keep PUSHing and finish my running 23:05--31 seconds faster than last year. Now that surprises me more than any part of this race!

When you factor in my transition times being slightly slower this year, my final finishing time is 1:01:11, just 36 seconds slower than last year, which is also quite the surprise to me. Clearly I am farther along in my recovery than I was giving myself credit since I was hoping to finish within a couple of minutes of last year's time. This year, however, my age group included a much faster athlete who blew past me early in the run and finished about seven minutes ahead of me, but I was able to finish 2nd in my age group this time around. Given this result I am feeling more encouraged as I continue to go forward in my recovery. Perhaps even more important than that, I have been considering moving away from triathlon recently, feeling like I have lost my drive to keep going in the sport. For now, this race seems to have rekindled my old spirit somewhat, and I hope I keep feeling that way.

Now for some past race photos:
Karen and I. She won her age group.
Getting my award from the race director.
A fun photo with several of my teammates. Will (far left) was 3rd in his (and my) age group, Sasja (left) was the overall female winner, Lori (next to me) was first in her age group, and myself on the far right. We had a lot pf fun after the race!

 Next up for me in four weeks is the USAT Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to going out there and doing my best, and having a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recovery, Readjustment and Return

The last month has been one of recovery, readjustment and return. I have continued my recovery from Ironman Texas while maintaining my training at lower than the pre-race level in an active recovery mode. I have been readjusting to getting some things back on track at work and home, where some time sacrifices were made for training over recent months. Finally, I have been trying to bring my life back to normal. The return to normalcy has been difficult, mostly because it has been a long time coming. Before Ironman recovery there was Ironman training; before Ironman training there was physical therapy; before physical therapy there was injury recovery; before injury recovery there was hospitalization; and before hospitalization.....well, I was in the final weeks of training for an "A" effort race. So, normalcy has been a long ways off for a long while.

My life has been on hold in one other way for a couple months as well. I have taken the opportunity to apply for a new job position with a new agency. While I would be content to remain where I am for the foreseeable future and beyond, the opportunity came my way (almost like a barreling 18 wheeler truck) to apply for a dream job position that would enable me to have a much greater positive effect within my industry on a regional basis (plus, the pay would represent a pretty sizable increase in salary-which would help me provide longer term security for my family). This is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity for a unique position. In any case, I know I am a strong candidate for the position and others in the industry tell me I have to be one of the upper tier candidates for the position. On the other hand, I know there are at least one or two others who present an equally compelling case for the job as well, so it will be a tough job to secure. After interviewing last week I was told to expect at least two weeks before additional information on the process would be available to the candidates applying for the position. This leaves me waiting in limbo for the moment on this as I try to be ready to help my current employer be ready to find a replacement without also wanting to alienate them in the mean time. I'll likely post something more on this in a future post after I know more information.

As I look forward, I am two weekends out from a sprint triathlon race at the Texas Star Triathlon. It was at this race last year that I won my age group for the first time ever--the first of three last year before my injury. I will be looking to see how close I am in coming back from my injuries when I see how my time compares to last year. So far I can feel that I am still not fully recovered from Ironman Texas, though I can see improvement with each passing week. So until that race, it is just more of the same for me--recovery, readjustment and return...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013 Race Report

Ironman Texas 2013 was my third Ironman race. After a first race that left me less than fully satisfied in 2011, I had a much better race in 2012. The early signs (at least from my point of view late in the last training year) were that I could beheading for another big improvement for 2013. Of course that all changed when a car swiped me and caused an extended period of recovery that continues to this day; however, as that has already been well-covered I will not say much more about it for this report.

For me the final preparations for a big race begin with greatly reduced workouts and a changed diet on race week. Cutting back a high volume of workouts can leave you feeling like their is a gaping hole in your schedule and suddenly leave you with more free time than you've seen in months. During this time I allowed myself to eat more carbohydrates than I usually do to make sure my body was fully fueled--this included my regular pre-race Wednesday burger and fries, as well as other healthier selections during the week. On Wednesday, I was at the expo to check in shortly after it opened. I met up with friends for this process and then spent some time looking around the expo and Ironman shop. After all of this I had to to work to finish clearing my schedule for the week. If there is one downside of a local Ironman, it is that you may still have many of your normal life distractions.

On Thursday, I spent a bit of time around the expo before resting most of the day. Thursday evening was the Athlete Banquet, which is always a great highlight of Ironman Texas. The evening included good food, as well as good times with friends, teammates and fellow athletes all around. After spending so much of my training time with many of these people (particularly Karen, Amber and Angie) it was a lot of fun to have some pure social time with them before the race.

Friday was the last day before race day. While this was to be my third Ironman race, it was the first time I participated in the practice swim the day before the race. This proved to be as much social time.  as practice time, giving me the opportunity to meet a large number of friends. After the swim I completed my bike preparations and got ready to take my bike and transition gear bags to the mandatory check in. I met Karen and Amber for lunch and then we all headed to turn in our gear at the transition area (well, except for Amber who had already turned hers in, but she still came with us).  After this there was no more to be done around the race area until morning, when I left the area I went home and completed preparing my special needs bags and bike nutrition bottles. Then I finished setting my morning gear that I would wear aside and then I was done. After several months of training I was done with every bit of preparation and could only wait. After a quiet evening at home with my wife, I went to bed and slept well until my alarms began to go off.....race day had arrived!!!

I woke, ate some oatmeal, put my bags in the car and headed out. I arrived at transition and checked my bike and loaded up my nutrition and water bottles, and then headed to the swim start area to drop my special needs bags. I carefully monitor my intake of calories, liquid and electrolytes during the pre-race hours according to my plan throughout this time. Given the heat of the day, I remind myself that I need to be conservative in dealing with a very hot day and then I have one last meet up with some friends and before I now it, it is time to enter the water for the last bit of waiting for the non-wetsuit wave.

Swim - I began by entering the water and staying near the second pier back on the right side. I move forward in the 30 seconds before the gun goes off. Unfortunately, I find that I am behind a large group that entered the water and then stepped off to the side of the water at the pier ahead of me. This forces me to slow down and try to get through and around this mass of non-swimming swimmers walking along and into the water from the shallow areas to the side. I manage to make my way through and get to work trying to find my stroke and pace. Once I clear the group I try to keep right a bit and angle towards the first turn buoy about 1500 yards into the course. I don't push too hard but feel like I swim a pretty straight line for this part. I get into a bit of a crowd at this buoy and work my way through a bit of a crowd as I head back the other way. For the most part I stay clear of packs and comfortably swim through the next 1500 yards to make the turn for the final leg of the swim up The Woodlands Waterway canal. The more I head down the canal, the greater the crowd support becomes. There is an awful lot of cheering through this part and I allow this to help pull me along. As I get near the end I maneuver towards a  more open path to the ladders and come up and out of the water. I finish the swim in 1:44:49. Not quite where I wanted to be but I felt good coming out of the water, in fact I felt better at this point than during either of my previous Ironman efforts.

T1 - I run up the path and grab my bike gear and move on to the changing tent. I take in some nutrition and put on my cycling gear and head out feeling pretty good. Leaving T1 in 6 :35 was 1.5 minutes better than my otherwise best IMTX T1 time and, more importantly, I head out on my bike feeling good.

Bike - Given the warm morning and the hot day ahead--not to mention the injuries I was coming off--I had a conservative bike plan ahead. My original plan was to cycle up to a heart rate of 155 beats per minute but with this weather I lowered this to 145 maximum for at least the first half of the bike, with a plan to evaluate after the halfway point. I make it through the 30 mile split in 1:33:00 (19.35 mph). I was feeling good through this part of the ride and trying to not push myself through this easier portion of the day. Given the weather and lower heart rate target I am using, I am surprised I am at this pace. Then next 26 miles are a bit tougher with some hills and general elevation climb as well. My split time for this is 1:33:54 (or 16.61 mph). This is pretty well on target for this day, and even a bit ahead of my hot weather plan for the day. I hit the special needs stop and I pull over for my bag and make a planned stop of about 5 minutes (though it may have been a few minutes longer, as these stops tend to be). While I stopped I changed my socks and checked my feet--these were good. I review my race nutrition--300 to 325 calories an hour is keeping me feeling strong at this point--once again, I feel my best at this point in any Ironman to date! The back half of the bike begins with the toughest 25 or so miles of the bike for the day with the worst hills and a stiff headwind as bad as I have felt all year on this course. I spend relatively little time in aero position due to the wind and my lack of feeling stable because of it. Fortunately, my nutrition plan feels strong and I press on. When I get to the aid station around mile 82 the place is such a mess of cyclists all over the place I have no choice but to pull in and stop. I use the extra stopped time to fill up on water and move my nutrition bottles where I want them. I also put some extra ice in my main bottles and pour some cool water over myself and let volunteers put some extra sunscreen on me before I move on. This probably cost me another 5+ minutes but I feel good and a bit refreshed as I head onward. What I didn't realize at this point was the number of cyclists sitting around the aid stations who were succumbing to the heat. Over the remaining 30 miles I saw a number of cyclists who had pulled over to stop and a fair number that had fallen over from the heat as well. I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue on this part of the course, though I still felt strong. I wanted to push harder but kept the more conservative heart rate guideline in place. This served to keep my speed down from where I might have liked but it also kept my from overtaxing my body. I came in to finish the bike in 6:35:28, a bit slower than I had hoped, but there was no doubt that I still felt good coming in off the bike.

T2 - At an even 10:00, it was a bit slower than I'd hoped. I took a bit of extra time to add some body lube to a few spots and probably added an extra 1-2 minutes making a last minute decision to change from tri shorts to running shorts (after I had put my running shoes on). In the end I think I'd have been happier staying with the tri shorts. I notice a couple of guys laying in the transition tent napping or resting as I head out on the course. It is only around this point that I begin to realize just how brutal the day is becoming, and how much my nutrition plan has worked to get me this far. After getting lathered with sunscreen by volunteers, I head out to begin my run.

Run -As bad as this day was for this race--hot and humid--I began the run feeling pretty good and averaged under 11 minute miles for an early start. Unfortunately, I felt a hamstring twinge during this period and began to walk a bit extra in the late part of the second mile. This feeling persisted throughout most of the rest of the run. I was generally okay on flat ground, but every incline or decline brought with it that twinge radiating from the hamstring area. While this was a bit disappointing, especially since I was initially thinking I might be able to push a bit and aim for a 5 hour marathon, I knew I wanted to do what it took to finish this race. On this day, that was going to mean that I would walk more than intended.  :-/  So, I did incorporate more walking as I needed. I also took the time to stop when I came alongside friends who were walking and chat with them a bit--doing this definitely made the process more enjoyable. I probably averaged around around 13 minute miles the first of the three loops for the run. During this time, as well as the rest of the run, I was being constantly vigilant of my nutrition and fluid intake and I never got too far away from where I needed to be. When I was taking in too much water I switched to more food, and vice-versa. The period from miles 9 through 21 were a long and brutal period, but also one in which I chatted with friends along the course and friends on the course. When I lack actual friends in my vicinity, I made new ones from the people around me. I spent at least a mile with a fellow race who came to Texas from Brazil just to do this race, and also met lots of other friendly people, many of whom were having a tougher day than I. Around mile 22 I chose to stop at a picturesque bench location near a park and aid station to look over the lake to pick up my feet for a few minutes and think about this process that brought me here. This was about the time of day I had finished last year and it was beginning to be dark now and I could see all the homes lit across the lake. I considered for the first time today just how much I had really had to overcome to get to this point. Through much of this process since \being hit by a passing car last October, I didn't really know if I could make it--I was always determined to succeed, but determination is not always enough--but I knew I would do all I could to make it happen. From this point at this moment there was nothing left to stop me, a thought which still brings a tear to my eyes. I had caught the attention of the volunteers at the nearby aid station, and one of them walked over to check on me. I took the water he offered and let him know that I was about to be on my way. On this day where more than 1 in 6 did not finish, they were being careful to monitor their runners. From this point I decided I could make it to the finish line in under 15 hours if I pushed myself, so off I went. From this point on I averaged about 12:35 miles for the last 4.5 miles or so left in the race. I did slow a bit in the last full mile to chat a bit and then picked it back up for the final push. My friend Erica saw me just before the finishing chute and was urging me on to beat the clock under 15 hours. With her last bit of urging, I pushed myself harder into the finishing chute and take the turn for the final uphill. As I come near the finish line, I slap several extended hands from the crowd and look up to see that  there is still a 14 on the front of the clock and trot the final few strides in to finish in 14:59:56.

It wasn't a pretty day for me, or for anyone here on this day, but in the end I had accomplished what I set out to do. Yes, I could have finished the run faster, but I also took the time to enjoy myself and those around me during this process. In 209 days I had gone from the being carted away from the scene of being hit by a car in an ambulance; recovered from surgery, numerous broken bones and a bruised lung; and endured the road to recovery with the help of God, family and so many friends. As I said above, I spent a long time not knowing if this was possible, but the people around me never let me allow this lack of belief to get in the way of my determination to succeed. In the end I was the all by myself as I crossed the finish line that night, but it was the help of so many that allowed this dream to become reality. I offer all of these being a greater thanks than I know how to say.

Perhaps the greatest thought I take from this year's IMTX race experience is that I saw and met so many who had a more inspiring story than I in terms of what it took for them to finish this race. Completing an Ironman race is never an accident. So much goes into the race preparation and the race itself. While the race can control much of his/her preparation, the events of the actual day are often beyond our control. In the end every athlete has a story, and we all have to overcome something.

That is as it should be.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My 2013 Ironman Adventure Story

Normally, I do my own storytelling around here. However, this time I will share someone else's words about me. Jon Walk, a local writer and sports enthusiast (among other things) wrote a story about me for Ironman.com's pre-race coverage of Ironman Texas. The story can be found at this link here.

While I would generally just prefer to live my own life under the radar, I have had to acknowledge in recent months that my story can be an inspirational one. If just one personal can find some inspiration that they can overcome their problems and go forward, then I will consider this story a success.

Thank you to the author, Jon Walk, for giving a lot of personal time to put this story together.

The full version of the story can be found here on Jon's personal blog.

For those waiting to read how the race went, I'll be working on my race report soon.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013 Race Day Pre-Planning

With Ironman Texas 2013, or "Ironman 3" as I call my third Ironman race effort less than 13 days away, I will now begin the process of organizing my written and mental notes into a written plan for the May 18, 2013 race day. Whereas last year was a fine-tuning from the previous year, this year is more of a back to basics reworking of a plan. While I have retained and rebuilt much of my aerobic base since the injuries and surgery of last fall, going into training mode late and coming into the race less prepared than I'd like to be. In the end, I know this can't be the race I would have wanted it to be (which would have been a concentrated effort to finish a tough Ironman race course in less than 12 hours) but I am happy to have this opportunity to do the race and still be have a good race opportunity even though I am not ready to be at my best--an opportunity which appeared questionable six months ago.

This race plan will begin with a more conservative base than the last two times out at this race. For the swim, I merely plan to perform at a solid and steady rate that doesn't overtire me. This may put me in the 1:40-1:50 swim time finish range but the few minutes I lose with a slower swim are minimal. If I am feeling good on race day, I may push a good bit faster than that time range. The bike will be about maintaining nutrition and heart rate at appropriate levels and not about speed, which is actually pretty much much what the previous plans were for this part of the race. The first 1/2 to 2/3 of the run will be similar to the bike plan, after that it will be more based on feel. From that point I will concentrate on doing what it takes to get me across the finish line.

With that outline in place, I will also review the last two month's of long workouts and my early April 70.3 race and work out a more specific plan, including writing out an exact measuring plan for measuring out nutrition to be placed into bottles and for water intake, as well as planning for additional nutritional and optional clothing needs.

There's the start of my plan. By next weekend I will have it worked down to more exact numbers and be ready to start putting powder into bottles. Fortunately, there is plenty for a obsessive Ironman to obsess over in planning for the race.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Open Letter to my First Time Ironman Friends at IMTX 2013

I published my first version of this letter in my blog last year and is posted here.

I first received a letter like this from a dear friend. Heather was my guide into triathlon and she sent me a similar version of this letter before my first Ironman. I’ve edited it for Ironman Texas and I wanted to share it with those of you who are about to do your first (or any number) as I prepare for my third.  It still gives me goosebumps when I read it. This event is not about some name brand.  It is about the training: the blood, sweat and tears and everything that goes into the process of preparing to be ready for starting and finishing 140.6 miles.I dedicate this to all my friends heading into Ironman Texas this year, especially those doing their first Ironman race, including Karen, Angie, Amber, Christi, Kelly, Kelley, Eva, Linda and more.

So without further adieu, to those of you heading to Ironman - to the IM-Virgins, the veterans, and everyone in-between...  Right now you've entered the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.  You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take months or more to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that may have been longer than you slept for any given night during college.  You swam in the cold. You rode in the rain. You ran in the heat. You went out when others stayed home. You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.  You have survived the Darwinian progression that is Ironman training, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lays before you...and it will be a fast one.  Time that used to be filled with never-ending training will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind, cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.  It won't be pretty.  It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:  you are ready.  Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.  You are ready.  Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every $#%& week will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.  It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. It is not easy, but you can do it.  You are ready.  You will walk into the water with 2000+ other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl against your skin, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day for which you have waited, for so VERY long, is finally here.  You will tear up in your goggles. The helicopter will roar overhead. The splashing will surround you.  You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.  The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. The last third is in a narrow channel but there's still room for everyone. You'll be surprised at the people on the sides you notice as you swim. You'll watch as the final shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll reach the ladders at the end. You'll come up to the edge and head for the ladder. You may have to wait for someone to get off that sucker before you, but you will get your turn. You’ll find your transition bag—don’t worry about the sea of bags the same color, someone is there to help you--and run off to prepare for the bike (don’t forget the sunscreen, pick a volunteer near the end!). You may not always realize just what is happening but you won't wipe the smile off your face for anything and you'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll be on the bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman. The site of a seemingly unlimited line of bikes before you and behind you is a site to behold. You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot—there’s shade in the tree cover at times. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right? Your training got you this far—TRUST IT NOW! You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to slow down as you ride for what seems like hours, well it is for hours but you’ve practiced this many times in training. You reach Special Needs, maybe you’ll stop a bit to fuel up, and head out again. By now it'll be hot and you'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here, not today. You'll grind the false flats to the climbs. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The occasional cheer will come back to you help you here and there. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter. Grind. Fight. Suffer. Persevere. You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! You'll roll back - you'll see people running. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're almost back, with only the 26.2 mile run to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.  You'll roll into transition and volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your transition bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change and load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman season – this is the one that counts.  You'll take that first step of thousands...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a hot Saturday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.  That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good. That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You may see leaders passing you on their own way through. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last. You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like "trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet while wearing a blindfold while riding a horse". Expect things to go wrong and then just deal with it. How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't stop and don't EVER sit down. You'll make it through the first loop. You can load up on special needs if you want. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest, you’ll be back by here again anyway. Keep moving and start looking for people you know and cheer for people you don't. You're headed forward, some of them won’t be. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people heading out faster than you earlier. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.  Run if you can. Walk if you have to. Just keep moving.  The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and (later on) chicken soup. Keep moving. You'll soon only have a mere lap to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you...puts a medal over your head......all you have to do is get there.  You'll start to hear the call of the Waterway. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them, or just wave a bit—they’ll understand what you mean. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, when you left on the run, and now when you've come back. You'll be running along the water for a while for the last time. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a “decent”pace (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible. You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left! You'll run. You'll find your legs. You won't know how, but you will run. You will feel like you’re flying at the end. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps. Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you. Remember to take a moment to make this the finishing memory of a lifetime. They'll call your name. You'll keep running. You won’t feel the pain. The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you. You'll cross the mat. The flash will go off, well actually many flashes were already going off. You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly be capable of nothing more.  Someone will catch you. You'll lean into them. It will suddenly hit you…

You. Are. An. Ironman.

Have a great day out there my friends! 
If you know anyone who might gain value from this, please feel free to share it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Galveston 2013

April 7, 2013 provided a better than average day for the half Ironman race that had me in Galveston. It was a bit warm and sunny by afternoon, but it was also the best weather I could remember in several years of doing this race.

I arrived in Galveston the day before the race. I checked in and met up with a number of friends, including Karen and Mark, with whom I shared lunch. After lunch we walked portions of the course and transition area before leaving my bike in its place for the night. I left to go check in to my hotel and grab dinner, and then head back to the hotel for an early (or not too late) bedtime.

Pre-Race: I arrive early and set up my gear in transition. Then I walked around a bit to verify the paths in and out of transition. After this I walk towards the swim area and wait. Since the first swim wave went off at 7:00 am and my wave went off 75 minutes later, I had plenty of time to wait.

Swim: It is finally time for my wave to enter the water. I try to hop off the pier and into the water--nothing happens. I sit on the edge of the pier and hop off into the water--again, nothing happens. With two minutes until my wave begins, I take a deep breath and hurl myself into the water---splash, I'm in. After a bit I am off with my wave and swimming. I have a good couple hundred yards before doubts start to creep into my head. I make myself stick with it and ignore the thoughts of quitting and not putting myself through this. After a bit I am able to make the turn at the first buoy. Then I settle down into a rhythm and swim the long portion of the course. As I go along I begin to pass a few people from the wave ahead of me, later on I pass some from the wave or two ahead of that one as well. After making the last turn I swim towards shore and exit the swim in 44:10. I'm a bit disappointed in that but don't let it get to me as I know my swim training is the last thing I was able to resume from my injury and know it's behind the other sports in my recovery.

T1: I make it into transition, change over and get out in 5:24. Not exactly fast but I deliberately take the time to get it right.

Bike: The bike begins well with an opening split just under the 20 mph mark. I am doing this whole race on a a heart rate plan and keep a fairly consistent speed. Their is a bit of a tailwind on the first half and a headwind in the second half, during which I average about 19.4 mph for the first half and 18.5 mph for the second half. I finish the bike in 2:57:17. This was in my expected range and I was feeling pretty good at this point. I could have gone harder on the bike but I also know I should get off the bike feeling that way.

This image was captured by my friend Corey as I begin the bike portion of the race.
T2: 2:54. Considering my less than favorable transition heart location, I think this is pretty good time. It is also the only portion of the race faster than last year (by one second!). Again, I take just enough time to be certain I am ready to head out (other than sunscreen).

Run: I am running this on a plan to manage my heart rate in a specific zone. I set off at a comfortable pace and feel a bit quicker than I expect, which I know can't last. I have a pretty good first few miles before I start to feel a bit of fatigue. After the first lap of three, I am definitely feeling this race. I slow a bit into a more deliberate pace, but one which is well managed. I walk through each aid station and that is all that I walk. Lap two is mostly spent just getting through it. Lap three begins with the knowledge that it is my last  objective for the day. In the end I push myself with the same heart rate goals as earlier but go slightly faster than the previous lap, aided partly by the finishing sprint at the end. About 150 yard from the finish I hear a familiar voice calling to her friends from just behind me, then right before the finish I realize that I am stride for stride with my friend Kelly. It was a great moment finishing with a friend, especially as unplanned as this was. My run time was 2:23:19, pretty much in the range of expectation but I had still hoped for faster.

Finishing Time: 6:13:04. Initially, this was a bittersweet finishing time. I am very happy to complete this race but still comparing it ti last year that was over 20 minutes faster. In time the enormity of what I had overcome in returning from my injuries sustained last October get to me and remind me just how special this race is. Just a couple years earlier I doubt I could have imagined finishing this quickly. I can quite truthfully remember a thought from that far back wondering if I could ever break 7 hours; coming back from serious injury and reconstructive surgery after 169 days and doing what I did was probably a near impossibility--especially when viewed from the perspective of a few years earlier.

It was tough to think about my first non-PR race finsih in 4 years, but in the end this was far more important than a PR--this was getting back my life. Now that I've gotten this far, perhaps there can be days in the future that hold PRs again, perhaps even podium finishes, but the real prize was just being here and doing what I love in the company of friends.

I. am. back.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Starting Over

No, I'm not really starting all over. I did that once before over 6 years ago when I sought an active and fit lifestyle, but in a way I feel like I am at a new starting point. Last October I was near the finishing point of a good bike ride that was my pre-race simulation ride for the Oilman half iron distance triathlon when I got hit by a vehicle and seriously injured. At that point I was certain that I was ready to make a serious run at a sub-5:30 finish and possible a sub-5:20 finish if everything went right. I was nearly at the point where I was ready to believe I was in the best physical fitness of my life--which is pretty strong for a (then) 46 year old who had been a Marine in his 20's. In any case, that race was not to happen...

I have worked since then to reclaim my lost fitness and move forward. I'm not fully recovered but continue to progress. At times I feel just on the edge of closing in on where I was 5 1/2 months ago, other times I feel less good, some times I just feel all mixed up and out of sync entirely. Fortunately, the good is increasing and the bad is decreasing, or at least this is generally true.

A year ago I was challenging myself to take on a big PR effort at the Ironman 70.3 Texas race in Galveston. I was successful in this challenge by going under 6 hours for the first time at this distance, beating my 5 month old PR by nearly 30 minutes and by crushing my 2 year old previous effort at this particular race by 2 hours and 2 seconds. It's hard to imagine that I could have had a better race success!

I'd love to talk about how this race was going to be the latest PR in a string of races that goes back to early 2009 but this won't be THAT race. I'm not saying I can't do this race--I  am quite confident I can not only do it, but do it pretty well and still be one of my better half iron times. However, it is still a race in which I am not, and can not, be at my competitive best--something which both angers and saddens me, but there's not much I can do about that beyond picking myself up and continuing...
I will be continuing in the hope that I can once more get back to the precipice of my peak of personal fitness, just as I was the morning of last October 20th. I will be continuing because I need to show those that helped me back up that their efforts were not in vain. I will be continuing because I enjoy doing these things. I will be continuing because I will not let this be taken away from me and, may God help me, because I can not find it in my heart to forgive the person who caused me so much pain and injury and left me injured on the side of the road that day--so I hope that I will find the spirit to do so on the road or race course some day.

Come the morning of Sunday, April 7th, I will jump off the pier and wait for the start gun at 8:15 in the morning and hope it all comes back to me in a day of physical trial and joyous emotion.

I've done about 70 races in the last 6 years, but this will have special meaning of its own. This race has the potential to prove to myself that I can come back the rest of the way. Next Sunday I start over....again.

Monday, April 1, 2013

So.....What Happened to Richard?

As somebody might have noticed, I haven't posted a blog post in a while.

It all started off with an early March trip to New Mexico. My wife and I enjoyed a short trip that included a short visit to a ski resort outside of Santa Fe,

a climb through mountain canyons that housed Pueblo Indians hundreds of years ago,

a visit to the Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos,and a lot more scenic views....

After that the combination of work, home and training has kept me overly busy.  My
 last couple weeks of training included weekly hourly training totals of 11:31:27, 9:33:58 for the week of the time off in New Mexico (I did enjoy a 6 mile high altitude run!), 14:14:02, and 14:08:33. During this period I have advanced my long run past 13 miles, my long bike past 90 miles (twice) and my long swim past 3600 yards.

I may be worn out but I'm still hanging in there!    :-)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ironman Texas Training 2013, Week 6

Week 6 proved to be another jump in training totals, though partly by chance. My schedule this week also include the opportunity to volunteer at the Woodlands Marathon.  I guided the second place female to a sub-2:44 marathon (Not that she needed a lot of help from me, except maybe some crowd clearing in the final miles.). This helped add about 30 extra bike miles and 3 hours of time to the training totals. It was quite cold that morning and I think my lack of nutritional intake on the bike negatively affected my 11+ mile run later in the morning. Following my bike escort duties, I rode to a friend's house and the two of us ran up and down the last 3-4 miles of the course urging on runners, including finding another friend and helping her run to her first sub-5 hour marathon. A definite feel-good moment!

This proved to be a long, hard week of training, but one where I completed my workout distances and maybe a bit extra, at least considering the week as a whole. Next week is a recovery week--and that is very welcome considering how tired and worn out I feel at this point.

This last week's training:

Swim: 5050 yards in 2:04:41
Bike: 167.40 miles in 10:59:34 These numbers include workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort for those. This also includes me acting as one of the lead running bike escorts for the Woodlands Marathon this past weekend.
Run: 19.27 mile in 3:19:01
Other: 45:00 minutes of other training, such as strength training, stretching, etc...

Total Time: 17:08:16

76 days until Ironman Texas.....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ironman Texas Training 2013, Week 5

In last week's post I said it looked like the kid gloves were coming off in terms of my schedule, and that was an accurate assessment of things as my schedule took a big jump in hours and volume. My swim, run and bike volumes all increased this week and were each at their highest weekly volume since I returned to training. Also, other than having to shorten a swim workout by about 500 yards due to a cramp, I got all my scheduled workouts in this week. The most interesting event in the training week was my long bike ride on Saturday being temporarily halted by a parade and then the kids on the parade floats tossing candy my way.

This next week will be partly affected by some work conflicts, as well as my volunteering at the local Woodlands Marathon next weekend. I will be one of the lead runner bicycle escorts.Considering I was not going to be able to do the race this year due to my injury recovery, I am glad I got a really cool volunteer slot! 

The volume of this past week has left me quite tired and run down, but it was awesome to get in a good 9 mile run while feeling exhausted before the run. It is workouts like this one that get a person through an Ironman race.

This last week's training:

Swim: 7000 yards in 2:42:30
Bike: 129.38 miles in 8:02:37 These numbers include workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort for those.
Run: 23.22 mile in 3:48:08
Other: 50:00 minutes of other training, such as strength training, stretching, etc...

Total Time: 15:23:15

83 days until Ironman Texas.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ironman Texas Training 2013, Week 4

This past week was a "rest" week. I put rest in quotes because it was not really restful, except in that my muscles were not taxed as hard in terms of pacing. I did have to take a zero for my of my swim workouts due to a work conflict with my workout schedule, but this was also a good week for that to happen (if it had to happen). I felt good this week and had some high quality workouts. Despite some general feelings that I'm way behind where I'd like to be, part of me can't help but feel I am doing better than I give myself credit for--and I am certainly better off than I probably have any right to be considering I'm still only 4 months (to the day) from my whole getting hit by a car thing. 

Sometimes I feel perfectly fine. Other times I feel a bit limited and every now and then I feel an out of place pain. All in all, as I said above, I'm doing pretty good. I'm not really all healed up yet but I am good enough to start looking at taking this to the next level--which is good since I'm entering the next build phase and, considering what my next week's schedule looks like, the kid gloves are off.

This last week's training:

Swim: 2600 yards in 0:59:38
Bike: 80.23 miles in 4:51:57 These numbers include workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort for those.
Run: 19.16 mile in 2:55:33
Other: 15:00 minutes of strength training

Total Time: 9:42:08

  87 days until Ironman Texas.....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ironman Texas Training 2013, Week 3

Having my body hold up for two consecutive 8+ hour weeks was pretty good as I am attempting to go from injury recovery mode to training mode. Now I upped the ante and aimed for a double digit week of training hours. I am pleased to report that I held up pretty well this week, too. I definitely finished this week feeling tired, but also feeling good about my progress. I got all my planned workouts done this week, only shortening one swim by 500 yards due to scheduling constraints. This coming week is a recovery week and I will have a chance to get in some extra rest time for my body before taking my training to the next level.

This week included my weekly highs for swim, bike and run distances since my injuries last October. Some of my workouts are not as fast as I would like, but right now just covering the distance is more important to my being able to complete Ironman Texas in May. I can worry about doing some of these workouts more quickly in future weeks when my body is more prepared for it.

This last week's training:

Swim: 4500 yards in 1:40:31
Bike: 95.36 miles in 6:06:46 These numbers include workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort for those.
Run: 18.06 mile in 3:02:08
Other: 20:00 minutes of strength training

Total Time:11:09:25

  97 days until Ironman Texas.....

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ironman Texas Training 2013, Week 2

Week 2 of training for Ironman Texas kept my momentum from injury recovery going as I worked on re-establishing my athletic base. I made some slight advances in my workouts, other than having to skip a swim workout due to schedule conflicts. Overall, it seems that things are beginning to come together for me. I am still not at a point where things feel normal with my workouts yet, but I do feel like I am slowly getting back to that point.

Next week presents an opportunity to jump my training time up a couple hours if I can get in all the workouts and hold up to the increasing physical stress. One high point from this week was that I passed the point that marked the midpoint of the time between my injury and the day of Ironman Texas. I am now closer to IMTX than to that injury in terms of just time. Another important point this week was finally getting my tri bike into the shop for evaluation and possible repair--with any luck I'll be taking her back on the road soon instead of riding my old road bike as I've done recently.

Last week's training:

Swim: 2500 yards in 0:57:59
Bike: 77.06 miles in 4:37:02 These workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort.
Run: 17.10 mile in 2:40:30
Other: 20:00 minutes of strength training

Total Time: 8:35:31

100 days until Ironman Texas.....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Training for Ironman Texas 2013, Year 3, Week 1

Two years ago I blogged a pretty comprehensive account of my training program, whereas last year I presented a more general overview of my training program as part of my regular activities. I haven't really given thought to what level of importance my training for Ironman Texas will hold in my blog for this year.

My original intent for this third undertaking of this race course was to clear most of the other events and distractions from my schedule so I could spend the first 4.5 months of the year concentrating of the preparation of this race for a solid best case effort. While I still intend to give everything I can to doing this race, there is no doubt that I am playing catch-up to where I was fitness-wise three and a half months ago when I was feeling like I was in the same shape I had been 20-25 years ago. After significant injury and a few months of being laid up, I have fallen from this level of fitness, though I am starting to find out that I have not lost all of my fitness along the way.

While this may not be an ideal way for me to take on the challenge of Ironman, I am still looking forward to setting my best foot forward towards getting this done....and doing it well.

Week 1 was a warm-up week to get me back into the training process and evaluate whether my body would respond well to the resumption of full training. This week included the following training totals:

Swim: 2800 yards in 1:10:46
Bike: 75 miles in 4:17:29 These workouts were done on the trainer or spin bike and the distance numbers are estimated based upon effort.
Run: 13.39 mile in 2:18:12
Other: 20:00 minutes of strength training

Total Time: 8:06:17

110 days until Ironman Texas.....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Into the Future....

This past Thursday I had my most recent follow up appointment with my surgeon. During this appointment he told me that back in October/November he thought I was crazy to think that I could properly recover and train for the Ironman race by next May, though he always told me that it was possible if I healed well. I did my part by following doctor's orders on recovery and followed my physical therapy regimen as well.

During this appointment he told me that my recovery is beyond his expectations and he has cleared me to begin training for Ironman Texas. He says he will be there watching friends do the race and will expect to see me doing it as well.

Monday begins my return to an Ironman training program. It will just be some small steps up at first so as not to risk injury by doing too much too fast, but in time it will grow to a full training program designed to get me through the race. Getting to race day is still not guaranteed as my injury may pose as yet unknown issues, however I will deal with those--and anything else--as they come.

Ironman Texas awaits!

117 days and counting.....

Monday, January 14, 2013

Goals for 2013

I have been having trouble attempting to quantify goals for this year. After coming off a year far more successful than I expected (definitely more successful than I could have reasonably expected in terms of 3 first place age group awards) in which I had a new PR for every race and/or race distance. However, I also suffered from a terrible injury back in October and am still working on my final medical clearance to return to training. For now, I have been cleared for a partial return to training and while I have picked back up with light running and indoor cycling, it has not been the same as before. I have done a small bit of swimming, though my physical therapist has wanted me too hold off for a bit longer before spending much more time doing that. In consideration of this recovery effort, I am not certain what I will be completely able to do this year. One thing is certain, after the last (nearly) three months I have been through I know I will do something--even if it means a major scaling back of all goals. However, I'm still going to include some aggressive goals and see what I can make happen.

1. Complete my third Ironman race on May 18, 2013. I registered for this race last summer in the first moments that registration was open. Last year I set a PR of almost three hours from the year before and I was hoping to aim for cutting another hour or two off of that time. Since this race is coming up in about four months, I have little extra time to work with in terms of preparation after I get cleared to proceed, so I will make this goal one of "just" completing the race. However, given the opportunity to do so, I will push myself towards a new PR if I can.

2.With no real idea how long my recovery will take I will forgo my general desire to PR every race and set a more realistic PR goal for 2013. In this case I will attempt to set a PR for at least one running event and one triathlon event.

3.Do at least one very unique race event. I'm not going to place too many restrictions on this, just something out of the ordinary.

4. This year I hope to be more mindful of not letting my training schedule monopolize my overall schedule. This can be especially hard to do during Ironman training, but I want to make sure I save time for my family and not make them feel like they are secondary to my training.

5. Find ways to be helpful to others in these sporting activities and follow through with helping them. Look for ways to return to others the goodwill I have received from people within these sports, especially to those who may be new the active lifestyle.

This may not be the outline of the year I would have wanted to have (after all 3 months ago I felt like I was on track to a sub-5:30 half iron triathlon and would have wanted to plan an aggressive year for 2013), but it is a good starting point for year I want to have considering all that I have been through. Perhaps it is the year I need to have to set some balance in my life and to look forward to greater things in the future beyond this year.