63.57 miles in 3:58:15 @ 16.01 mph and 155/178 bpm for 3,973 calories

Two milestones for cyclists are the century, a 100-mile ride, and the metric century, a 100-kilometer ride.  I’ve never ridden a century before, but today I rode my first metric century—quite by accident.  I’ve gone on long rides to the north, south, and east but I’ve never tried to ride west.  The problem, as I found from Bing Maps (which I actually like better than Google), is that Grapevine Lake, DFW Airport, and Highway 121 form a bike-free barrier between Carrollton and Grapevine.  But a bit of research turned up a route right along the northern fence of the airport, Airfield Road, that was perfect for getting to Grapevine.  So this week I decided to give it a try.

Plane flying right over my head at DFW

Plane flying right over my head at DFW

The route was definitely a Carrollton blast from the past.  For the folks that grew up in C-town, I passed MacInnish Field, Sandy Lake Park, and just south of Newman Smith.  And my target location for the ride fit the theme: my C-town friends Chris and Karen Garner’s house.  When I got there, Karen had to wake Chris up as their boy was up sick in the night, but he was getting up soon anyway to continue a bathroom remodeling project.  I still felt guilty, but it was nice hanging out, chatting, and geting a refill on ice for my second bike bottle of Heed.

So why was the metric century an accident?  Well, as you can see on the route linked above, I took two wrong turns that added just enough distance to make the ride slightly longer than 62.14 miles (100,000 meters).  I was frustrated about the wrong turns when I took them, and that last 10 miles was especially brutal, but it was worth it in the end.  With the Sprint triathlon next weekend and the baby coming anytime, this will likely be my last long ride for a while.

50.08 miles in 3:01:14 @ 16.58 mph and 151/173 bpm for 3,022 calories

It’s been a busy week so I didn’t get a chance to post about my epic bike ride last week.  After riding north to Prosper, and east to Lake Lavon, I decided to ride south to White Rock Lake and visit my friend Sam CrowleyLuis Garcia, another friend of mine, told me about a 7-mile trail from Hillcrest & I-635 that went straight to the northern shore of White Rock Lake. So I rode south on Ohio/Hillcrest to that trail.  It was great!  There were dozens of cyclists on the trail, and although it was narrow it was fairly easy to ride.

whiterocklake

I’d never ridden around White Rock Lake before, and it was really nice.  There were hundreds of runners and lots of cyclists too, but Lawther Road had almost no cars and it was easy to get around the lake. I veered away to stop by Sam’s house, but I had forgotten that he’d moved a couple blocks away and I didn’t have his new address!  So I briefly freaked out the family living in his new house, called Sam for his new address and got his voice mail, and then continued on my way around the lake and back home.  Great ride.  Thanks for the tip, Luis!

Next up, riding west to Grapevine, I guess.

5.65 miles in 58:55 @ 10:25 pace and 171/188 for 819 calories

Assuming our baby doesn’t come three weeks early, next weekend I am racing the Take on the Heat triathlon in The Colony, benefitting The Colony Firefighter’s Association. It’s a Sprint triathlon with a pool swim that starts at 7:00am, which means that depending on how many athletes are racing day, I may not start my run until 8:20am.  Keeping that in mind, I decided to try an 8:00am to 9:00am run today and push myself to see how it felt.

It did not feel good. It was hot, over 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The sun was high enough that I wasn’t able to run in the shade much, and the humidity kept the breeze from cooling me off.  I set a goal to try and maintain a 10-minute pace, and over halfway through the run I had managed to do it, even with a big hill climb at the start. But the heat got to me eventually, and pretty soon I found that I had to significantly drop my pace to keep my heart rate down.  By the time I got back to Parker Road and the final stretch to my house, I was exhausted.  I still managed to maintain a 10-minute pace during the last ten minutes, but that middle slow stretch was enough to drop my pace to 10:25.

The run was still a great test of how it might feel to really push during the heat of the race. And of course the Sprint-distance run will be 30 minutes shorter, and I won’t have to keep my heart rate artificially down.  So we’ll see how I do…

16.64 miles in 1:00:13 @ 16.58 mph and 143/173 bpm for 1,004 calories

I got out of bed much easier this morning and was excited about an early ride. Since I wanted to limit the ride to an hour I decided to do a bit of hill climbing on Windhaven and then ride a few loops on Tennyson near my house.  The hill at Windhaven & Plano Parkway is known as The Widowmaker, and there’s no steeper hill that I know in the Metroplex to give yourself a real workout on a bike.  It’s slightly steeper than the average grade of a tough Tour de France climb, and even though it only takes around 8 minutes to ascend compared to over an hour for each of the tough Tour hills, you feel like Lance when you’re climbing it, even if for just a few minutes.  If you make a route of it, there are 3 good hills to climb in that neighborhood, and so I did all three of them during the first half of the ride.

With just under 30 minutes to go and traffic picking up, I decided to ride over to Tennyson. On my Sunday rides, I always see a group of cyclists riding loops between Parkwood and Preston. I’ve ridden on Tennyson before but never as a time trial, where you ride the same distance multiple times at a quick and steady pace in an aerodynamic position. My average speed was ~13% faster riding the time trial—not surprising I guess—but interestingly enough my average heart rate was ~20% higher on the time trial, not the hills.

Fun fact #1: I reached a top speed of 34.5 miles per hour going down Windhaven Hill before I climbed back up.  Fun fact #2: Lance averaged just a few miles per hour slower on his Tour time trial ride than my descent of the biggest hill in the neighborhood. Guess I need to work on my power-to-weight ratio. :-)

4.51 miles in 45:44 @ 10:07 pace and 165/186 for 636 calories

The night before I exercise, I am invariably excited about getting up early and getting a swim, bike, or run in before Emma wakes up. And when the morning comes, I usually get out of bed with that same excitement. But this morning, I literally laid in bed for 30 minutes trying to convince myself to go back to sleep, trying to make up excuses and drowsing off in between steeling myself to jump up and get dressed. Finally, I tricked my own brain by rolling out of bed and onto the floor without thinking about it.

Once I got running, I felt great, of course. But I decided to punish myself for my morning transgressions by running a tempo run at a 10-minute pace (slightly slower than my race pace). I was pleasantly surprised when I held the pace for the entire run without “blowing up”, or even an overly elevated heart rate.  Guess I should punish myself more often!

5.68 miles in 58:02 @ 10:13 pace and 166/184 bpm for 806 calories
7.19 miles in 1:18:58 @ 10:59 pace and 160/190 bpm for 1,097 calories
39.19 miles in 2:20:41 @ 16.74 mph and 150/177 bpm for 2,346 calories

Another busy work week left me with only three workouts in the past seven days, but I definitely made up for it in weekend distance. We had houseguests in from Austin this weekend to attend a baby shower for Joanne, and I didn’t want my exercise to get in the way of spending time with them. That meant a very early run on Saturday, a late bike ride on Sunday in sunny 90+ weather, and no swim.

I still enjoyed myself nonetheless, especially on the bike ride. I didn’t get started until our guests headed back home, which meant an 11am start.  By then the heat was in full effect and not a cloud in sight. But a complete lack of wind had me feeling confident and I decided to ride north of 380 for the first time ever. I ended up riding across Prosper and back home, but next time I’d love to try to make it to Celina.  The toughest parts of the ride were crossing 380 without a light a Coit, and riding back south on Preston on a very rough and bumpy shoulder.

So now I’ve ridden east to Lake Lavon and north to Prosper. Next up are south to White Rock Lake and west to Grapevine…

37 laps (1,850 yards) in 33:55 for 471 calories
37.37 miles in 2:11:30 @ 17.1 mph and 149/175 bpm for 2,193 calories

With only a Sprint triathlon remaining in my season—unless I get lucky enough to squeeze one more post-baby Olympic in before the end of the year—and with the knowledge that I won’t have many “long” workouts (i.e. over one hour) for a while after the baby is born, I began this weekend to toy with the idea of working some basic speedwork into my routine. Racing the Olympic on only a week’s training proved to me that I do have a decent base at this point, and if I’m not going to try a Half until ~2011, I might as well get faster in the meantime.

So on Saturday morning I hit the pool, and instead of swimming a mile straight to start, I decided to swim only 350-yard repeats.  I chose 350 yards instead of the typical 400 because my upcoming Sprint is a 350-yard swim leg.  Now, when I’m pacing myself for a mile, I typically swim 100 yards in ~2 minutes. Having never timed myself at speed, I wasn’t sure what I could do.  End result is that after a 200-yard warmup I swam seven 350-yard repeats and my average time was 1:50 per 100 yards.  This would mean a 6:25 swim in my next Sprint, which would be great if I could pull it off.  We’ll see what a month of speedwork in the pool can do for me.

My Sunday bike ride was great. Lebanon Road is finally fully opened to four lanes from Frisco to the Colony, so after a quick ride up Ohio, I U-turned and headed west on Lebanon. I was able to ride all the way to the Tribute, where I stopped for half a PowerBar and a stretch before I headed back for home.  Just under 40 miles, just over 2 hours, and cloud cover the whole way.

Sunrise over The Tribute golf course

Sunrise over The Tribute golf course

Pre-Race
This race report is going to be relatively short.  First, it’s been a week since the race, and a very busy week at that, as I am starting up a new company and we are officially “launching” next week.  (More on that in a future post.)  And second, because this triathlon was on the same course and run by the same people as TexasMan, the Olympic I raced back in May.

That being said, this race was an interesting test of the factors that cause fitness/performance loss:

  • Training. Prior to TexasMan, I had trained fairly consistently for 3 months straight. Prior to Disco, I had one week of training and over six weeks of injury.
  • Weather. The high temperature on the day of TexasMan was 76 degrees. The high temperature on the day of Disco was 101 degrees.
  • Weight. I weighed 194 pounds for TexasMan and 199 pounds for Disco.

What was the end result?  My final Disco race time was 9% slower than TexasMan.  My swim was 13% slower, my bike was 4% slower, and my run was a whopping 16% slower.  The hot weather was certainly a factor, but still it’s amazing how slowly base fitness takes to build and how quickly it disappears!

Swim (30 minutes 30 seconds, 205 out of 273)
The swim was intimidating the first time around—it just looked so long.  But this time around I was much less nervous. I knew exactly where the buoys were this time and the water was quite calm.  I did have a couple problems once the race started, though. My goggles got hit by another swimmer and leaked a bit of water, which caused me to flip over on my back and empty them. And I swam off course at one point because I wasn’t sighting for the next buoy frequently enough. Despite those problems, the swim was relatively easy, and I actually found myself pushing a bit at the end to pass a couple of people in front of me.

T1 (2 minutes 55 seconds)
Coming out of the water, I noticed the sun was hiding behind some clouds. Nice!  As I ran up the path towards transition, some volunteers with hoses sprayed our feet and legs to get the sand off.  That was great.  My transition went fine and I headed out on the bike.

Bike (1 hour 21 minutes 32 seconds, 230 out of 273)
The ride was just as beautiful as in May, and amazingly the sun stayed behind the clouds for almost the entire ride.  Hemming Road was brutally bumpy like last time, and my piriformis muscles (muscles between your butt and lower back) were definitely aching on the final stretch.

T2 (2 minute 13 seconds)
Another good transition and I met my goal of approximately 5 minutes of transition time in every triathlon.

Run (1 hour 9 minutes 36 seconds, 224 out of 273)
More than a few people, include my wife Joanne, told me that racing a July Olympic in Texas was a bit silly. But with the new baby girl due on September 4th, I wanted to squeeze in one more Olympic. And the Disco race is really a blast. Many athletes dress in full disco garb, with afro wigs and gold chains and tie-dyed race gear. That being said, it was HOT. Oppressively hot. And humid, too, like running through warm soup. I paid close attention to my heart rate for the whole run, knowing that if I tried to run the 10K in under an hour I would “bonk” and end up walking. The sun came out in the first five minutes of the run, and when the route turned onto the unshaded road heading out of the State Park, I knew it was going to be painful. I walked through each water station, taking a cup of Gatorade to drink and two cups of water to pour over my head and my chest. By the last two miles, the path was littered with runners who had bonked, walking in a daze towards the finish line. I must have passed at least 20 people then, and at least half of them looked significantly more fit than I. It was a tough run, but it felt great to sprint the last hundred yards and then collapse in the lake.

Final Result: 3 hours 6 minutes 44 seconds, 225 out of 273
I didn’t have a goal time for this race.  I knew I would be slower than in May, and my time off to heal my ankle was the longest since I started triathlon, so I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of fitness.  The heat and lack of training made the race painful, but I have to admit that I was proud that I finished well. Overall, the race made me optimistic that I am starting to build a long-term base that will survive the new baby and allow me to build back up quicker than it would take to restart from scratch.

Run: 2.28 miles in 24:07 @ 10:34 pace and 168/186 bpm for 335 calories
Swim: 1,600 yards or 32 laps in 34:56 for 340 calories
Run: 4.43 miles in 48:13 @ 11:07 pace and 167/190 bpm for 670 calories
Run: 5.43 miles in 58:28 @ 10:46 pace and 163/192 bpm for 812 calories
Bike: 27.95 miles in 1:44:16 @ 16.1 mph and 144/177 bpm for 1,739 calories

Seven weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. Last week, after lots of icing and rehab, my doctor gave me clearance to start exercising again.  I managed to work in one swim, one bike, and three runs.  With our second daughter due in 4 to 6 weeks, I wanted to squeeze in a race or two before my baby-induced triathlon hiatus begins.  Since I missed the Playtri Olympic two weeks ago, there was only one more local Olympic before the baby’s due date.  Unfortunately, it’s this weekend.

That means I’ll have had only one short week of training before a second race of the longest distance I have attempted.  I felt really good in my workouts this week, and although I seem to have lost about 10% of my speed, my endurance (a.k.a. “base”, “engine”, “cake”) still feels decent.  I decided I’m going to give it a go, so look for the race report soon.

Well, after three weeks of no triathlon workouts, I finally made it into the doctor. My primary-care physician is also a sports-medicine specialist, and after a bunch of different exercises he identified the problem: a torn anterior talofibular ligament.  In normal language, that’s an ankle sprain—actually, the most common type of ankle sprain.  Here’s a diagram for you anatomy geeks:

Basic anatomy of a healthy ankle

Basic anatomy of a healthy ankle

My doctor gave me some exercises to rehab and asked me to come back in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, no swimming, biking, or running.  And that means no Playtri Festival Olympic-distance triathlon on July 5th. D’oh! Hopefully I’ll get at least one more race in this summer once I get better.

First, the average news. I twisted my ankle back on May 31st and I haven’t exercised since. It’s feeling much better and I’m fairly certain I could bike and swim, but I’m not sure about running and I don’t want to push it. I’m going to go to the doctor and get it checked out, but this is by far the longest I’ve gone between workouts.  Hopefully I’ll get back out there this week.

The good news is that I got my blood test results from my annual physical and my cholesterol is even lower than it was eight months ago.  The additional improvement is much less significant—an additional ~10% drop in cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL—but still great news.  My “healthy” cholesterol (HDL) hasn’t increased any, so I’ll have to work on that some more as it’s borderline.  Now if I can just train myself to eat smaller and more frequent meals, I might be able to drop back under 190.  One step at a time.. :-)

5.56 miles in 55:50 @ 10:01 pace @ 162/180 bpm for 769 calories

After a wonderful first few days in England visiting Joanne’s family, I was finally settled in and time-adjusted enough to go on a run. (Now I see why professional triathletes fly to distant race sites a week beforehand.) We stayed out in the countryside north of London, and it was beautiful.  I ran along a curvy, hilly, two-lane road through fields of green soybeans and yellow canola flowers.

Path from our cottage to the main road

Path from our cottage to the main road

After I finished running, I wished I had more days to try out different routes, and I was definitely jealous of the cyclists I saw out enjoying the rare English sunshine.  It was a great trip overall—we took lots of pictures, especially of our day trip to Cambridge.

Here are some belated pictures from race day.  I’m still waiting for larger versions from the race-day photographers.  When I get them I’ll update this post with links to the larger shots.  These are decent in the meantime.

Coming out of the water and running to transition

Out of the water and up the beach to transition

My first race using aerobars went well

First race with aerobars went well, faster pace and easier run

Running the quarter-mile to the finish

Running the last quarter-mile on grass to the finish line

Pre-Race
I’m finally getting used to this triathlon thing. This was my fourth race, and I’ve finally shaken the nerves associated with packing the night before.  Racing three different sports in one day requires a lot of gear, and if you forget even one item—swim goggles or bike shoes, for instance—you are done for the day.  But packing was easy this time around and I got a good night’s sleep.

The race was held at Johnson Branch State Park on Lake Ray Hubbard.  It’s about an hour north from my house, but the drive was worth it.  The park was beautiful, with classic Texas country roads and blooming Spring-time flowers.  The weather was perfect too—around 60 degrees in the morning but sunny and 70 degrees by the race’s end.

This might have been my fourth race, but it was my first at the Olympic distance.  I have been ready to race this distance since I got sick at the end of the season right before my first planned Olympic, so I had more impatience than nerves about the coming day.  I knew that stepping up a distance meant racing against faster athletes, so I didn’t care as much about my placement.  But my target time was 3 hours 10 minutes, and if I could break 3 hours I would be thrilled. 

Swim (26 minutes 47 seconds, 197 out of 266)
The swim was just short of a mile: 1,500 meters or the equivalent of thirty laps in a pool.  Thirty laps doesn’t sound like much, but a mile of open water stretching far out into Lake Ray Hubbard is definitely intimidating.  I actually had to squint to see the buoys from shore.  But the beach start was awesome. I ran into the water with 40 or so other guys from my age group, dove head-first when the water was waist-high, and began a long swim in green, murky water churning with arms and legs. And even though it was a bit chilly at the start of the race, the water temperature was a perfect 70 degrees and actually warmer than the air.  Unlike my last race, jumping into the water caused only a half-second of shock and then I was in good shape.

I ended up passing a handful of swimmers, but I also got passed, including by the top swimmer of the younger men’s age group that started five minutes after we did.  It was windy today, and the chop on the water’s surface occasionally hit me in the face as I turned to breathe. I’m glad I practiced bilateral breathing so often in the pool, because I definitely needed it to avoid the chop each time I changed direction.  After circling a handful of buoys and heading back to shore, my hand hit sand and I popped up to run out of the water, up the beach, and to transition.

T1 (2 minutes 51 seconds)
It felt like a long run up the State park path from the beach to transition, but it gave me a chance to focus on the coming bike ride.  Everything went smoothly and I ran my bike to the mount line and headed out.

Bike (1 hour 18 minutes 54 seconds, 200 out of 266)
This was my first race riding in the aero position, with my seat moved forward, aerobars installed, and my body draped over the bike.  The wind was blowing about 10-15 mph but I barely noticed it.  It felt great.  The course was filled with rolling hills and almost no flats, but nothing really steep.  I only had to stand once and I only left the aero position a few times.  I ate a gel about 15 minutes into the ride and drank one bottle of water along the way.  About 6-8 miles of the bike route, along Hemming Road, was very rough pavement that made my whole bike shake as if I was riding on cobblestone.  My butt and lower back definitely took the brunt of the punishment during that stretch.  But overall, it was a beautiful route, with farm houses and horses and cattle scattered across the countryside. If I were on a training ride, I would have definitely taken lots of pictures.

T2 (1 minute 59 seconds)
Besides a slight problem slipping my foot into one of my running shoes, T2 went as smoothly as T1.  This was my fastest set of transitions ever.  If I can keep my total transition time to around 5 minutes in each race I run, I will be happy.

Run (58 minutes 33 seconds, 214 out of 266)
I’m really not sure what happened out on that run course today.  I mean, I did spend this winter focused on improving my run, and I did add an extra run workout into my weekly schedule this year.  But this course was hilly and I started it after hours of hard swimming and biking.  So how exactly did I set a personal best 10K time and a personal best average pace?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I walked through all of the water stations as I always do, and I negative-split this leg quite nicely.  But this run just felt incredible.  I’d push myself up a hill and not need to recover.  I’d increase my speed at each mile and my heart rate stayed steady.  I’d temporarily speed up to pass someone in front of me and I still felt fine.  For the first time ever, I actually enjoyed the run more than the swim or the bike.  I ended up with a 9:27 average pace and and final time almost a minute faster than my last standalone 10K race.

Final Result: 2 hours 49 minutes 2 seconds, 205 out of 266
Wait, what?  I didn’t end up just under three hours, but way under three hours.  When I first saw my time I had to walk over to the finish-line official and ask him to double-check it.  I couldn’t believe it.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the route was a bit short—about 5% short on the bike leg—but at my average pace I still would have finished well under 3 hours.  I guess I underestimated myself, which in my world is always a pleasant surprise.

My position relative to the field was definitely back of the pack—74% for the swim, 75% for the bike, and 80% for the run.  But I finally evened out my run placement and came in under three hours in my first ever Olympic-distance triathlon with only a year of training in all three sports.  I only really started exercising for the first time in my life at age 34 and triathlon has already helped me in all sorts of mental and physical ways, but days like today are what I look forward to for years to come.

4.59 miles in 45:37 @ 9:55 pace and 164/178 bpm for 699 calories

Yesterday I announced that next week I would be leaving my job to pursue other ventures.  A little bit of anxiety from that switch plus a conscious effort to cut some calories over the past few weeks have helped me drop 5 pounds. So I was happy today when I pushed the pace during a peak run and kept the pace under 10 minutes.  We’ll see how well I run after a mile swim and 25 miles of cycling.  I’ll bike and swim this week and then take some time off before Sunday morning.

6.83 miles in 1:15:19 @ 11:01 pace and 159/184 bpm for 1,050 calories

When is a run like a swim?  When it’s so humid that it feels like I should wear swim fins just to get around the block.  When it’s so humid that I sweat out more than I can possibly take in. When it’s so humid that towards the end of the run my body just stops going.  Humidity sucks. I don’t know how they deal with it in Houston or Florida or Madras or whatever.

7.13 miles in 1:18:17 @ 10:56 pace and 161/184 for 1,091 calories
3,000 yards (50 laps) in 1:06:25 for 648 calories
44.96 miles in 2:45:54 @ 16.26 mph and 134/161 bpm for 2,775 calories

A two-day trip plus a horrid workload this week meant that I missed four training days in a row.  When I miss workouts, I don’t normally like to make them up as I tend to overextend myself, but given that my first Olympic triathlon is in two weeks, I decided to double up on Saturday.  That means I completed my week’s long bike, swim, and run in two days, logging about 2.5 hours per day.

As you can see from my pace, I took it easy in all three workouts, and actually got good experience on both days, eating a couple of gels and carefully watching the amount of water I drank.  Both days went great, which gives me confidence in my ability to race for over 3 hours straight at TexasMan.

The bike ride was especially fun.  I rode up to Parag’s house and back, but I forgot the directions back at home and had to detour about an hour into the ride to get them.  It was a cool and drizzly day, which was quite nice for such a long ride, and I hung out and chatted with Parag for about 15 minutes on his porch before heading home.  The entire ride took about 20 minutes more than I had planned because of the detour, but it was still a great day.

33.53 miles in 2:04:23 @ 16.17 mph and 139/164 bpm for 2,081 calories

Inspired by the aerobar-fest at the King Tut Sprint Triathlon earlier this month, I finally upgraded my bike with Profile Design T2+ aerobars for this weekend’s ride.  Like a kid on Christmas morning, I woke up early and ready to ride, with all my gear neatly laid out the night before so that I wouldn’t wake the girls.  I opened the front door to check the weather, though, and saw tree limbs blowing horizontal in gale force winds.  A quick weather check showed that Collin County was under a wind advisory.  My first thought was, “Crap!”  But then I remembered that I was excited about a piece of equipment that was supposed to make me more aerodynamic, so I decided to go out and give ‘em a try.

They were a blast!  I loved the more forward position, and after a quick stop and some tweaks with the allen wrench just south of I-635, I felt great.  It might have helped that I also picked up a new saddle, a Fizik Arione TRI2, that felt at least 50% more comfortable than the stock seat I had been riding since last May.  It was a great two-hour ride with a good portion of it into a 20+ MPH wind that I barely noticed.  Can’t wait until next weekend!

6.38 miles in 1:11:13 @ 11:10 pace and 171/185 bpm for 993 calories

Running throughout the winter and early-spring has been a treat, but today was the first truly warm day out.  I ran a bit late in the morning, thinking that it wasn’t going to get too warm today, but when I checked the weather it predicted a high of 91.  Yikes!  Guess I better start waking up even earlier to get out before the heat.  I ran a hilly route today and took it easy, which resulted in a slow pace and a long run.  But it was nice to get out for the first time since the triathlon.

Pre-Race
My sister Debbie is an accountant with a birthday on Apri 14th, so every year she travels down to Dallas after tax season is over to see the family and celebrate her birthday.  This year, we both registered for the King Tut Sprint Triathlon in McKinney so that we could race together for the first time.

Debbie rented a bike and brought it over to my house the day before the race.  On race morning I woke up and ate my normal pre-race breakfast of Honey-Nut Cheerios, skim milk, and a banana.  My mom drove Debbie over to my house and we all drove together in my car to McKinney.

When we arrived, the first thing Debbie noticed was the level of competition at the race.  There’s a fair amount of money in McKinney, and it definitely showed in the equipment on display in transition.  I saw more $5,000+ tri bikes at this race than at the two I’ve done before, and there were a number of athletes who definitely looked the part.

Now, although I’m a slightly better swimmer than Debbie, she and I are equal cyclists and she is a much better runner than I am.  So we were joking as we headed into transition about who would “win” the race.  I knew she would beat me but it was fun to be there together and be competitive.

We quickly set up our transition areas and Debbie made a critical error that ruined the rest of her race day.  She was borrowing my mom’s bike helmet for the day and she forgot to try it on!  More on this point later…

Swim (10 minutes 26 seconds, 160 out of 370)
The swim was a short 500 meters in a man-made, neighborhood lake.  The water was surprisingly clean, and although the race director had predicted around 70-degree water, the unusual cold and storms during the weeks prior dropped the water temperature to 62 degrees—frickin’ COLD!  Last year I swam a half-mile in the Pacific Ocean in water even colder than that, so I knew that it would suck getting in but that I’d warm up after the first 100 meters, so I didn’t wear a wetsuit for the swim.  But when I lined up for the swim start with my age group, almost every single one of the 25+ athletes between 30-39 years of age wore a wetsuit.  In fact, I’d say over 80% of the racers had wetsuits that day—a big rarity for Texas triathlons.

My age group started when Debbie was in the water, so I didn’t really get a chance to watch her swim or exit the water, but later she told me that when she jumped in she couldn’t catch her breath and had to swim with her head above water for the first third of the swim.  If you’ve never jumped in to really cold water, you probably don’t know what she explained, but when you first jump in your heart races and your body begins to “force” you to breathe at about double the pace that you normally do.  It’s quite unnerving to feel your body out of control, especially when you are trying to stay calm so you pace yourself during the first leg of the race.

Once my age group jumped in, we treaded water for a minute or so while we all got into position, and then someone yelled “Go!” and we all started swimming.  The tangle of arms and legs thrashing in cold, murky water was something I’d never experienced, as this was my first open-water triathon.  As long as you don’t mind a sense of mild panic in the water or a bunch of same-sex strangers groping you as they jockey for position, it’s a really fun experience.  I’m a decent swimmer so although I started towards the back of my wave, I slowly passed people and ended up near the front by the end.

T1 (3 minutes 41 seconds)
One negative of the course set-up is that this neighborhood lake actually has a dam along its far edge that forms a big hill overlooking the water.  Unfortunately, the transition area was on the other side of this hill, which meant that when we exited the water we had to run up a dirt hill and then back down the other side into transition.  My age group was one of the last, and so the dirt had become mud, and I had to run fairly slow to avoid slipping down the hill.  That probably explains my lengthy transition, because I actually moved fairly quickly on to my bike.

Bike (40 minutes 8 seconds, 168 out of 370)
The bike course was was made up of two 6-mile loops, and besides one big hill and one small one, it was flat and fast.  It was really windy too, blowing at 15-20 mph that morning, which not only made my wet toes freeze inside my vented bike shoes, but made for a tough bike ride without my bike set up for me to ride in the “aero” position (draped over the bike with my hands forward on aerobars).  I managed to pass quite a few people, but I was passed a lot as well, and most of the people who passed me were riding in the aero position.  I think the next triathlon purchase I’ll make will be aerobars for my bike.  Overall, it was a fast and fun ride, averaging 18 miles per hour.

Not so much for my sister Debbie, though!  She exited transition, hammered up the first hill passing folks left and right, and then… her helmet slipped off her head and started choking her!  The rest of her ride was spent trying to angle her head to either keep the helmet on or keep it from restricting her air intake.  She had to stop and unclip from the bike at least three times, and was screaming profanities for the entire 12 miles.  It was her first triathlon on a real road bike, so hopefully she exorcized all of the demons and will do great in the Door County Half in July.

T2 (2 minutes 7 seconds)
By the time I got back to the transition area, my toes were completely numb but the rest of me felt fine.  I yanked off my helmet, pulled on my socks and shoes, put on my race-number belt, and jogged out on to the run course.  My legs felt especially stiff since I have not run many bricks this year.  I’ll definitely have to squeeze in one or two before my next race.

Run (31 minutes 15 seconds, 242 out of 370)
The run course was much more difficult than I had mentally prepared myself.  First of all, the path passed underneath the street at least twice, which meant running down and then back up a steep incline and through a dark tunnel.  Second, it was generally hilly, with long stretches of “false flat” hills—not steep enough to wake me up that a big hill was coming, but not flat enough to keep me from feeling the burn in my thighs and lungs.  And third, running into the wind after swimming and biking is really just a kick in the pants.  The end result was a 10-minute run pace, a fairly average showing for me and definitely slower than I would have liked.

For those of you who were wondering about my sister, her run was great: a blistering 8:40 pace driven by her desire to make up time and the frustration of such a bad bike leg.  I can’t wait until I can break a 9-minute pace in a triathlon like she did!

Final Result: 1 hour 27 minutes 40 seconds, 201 out of 370
The final route was approximately 15.41 miles of Sprint-triathlon goodness.  I finished in a respectable top 43% in the swim and top 45% on the bike, but top 65% (ugh!) on the run.  Overall I finished in the top 54%, which still makes me a proud MOP’er (midde-of-the-pack).  And even though Debbie had a terrible morning, it was a blast racing with her and I hope to do it again soon.

My next race is the TexasMan Olympic Triathlon on May 18th starting in Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton.  Hopefully doubling the distance will double the fun! :-)

2,850 yards (57 laps) in 1:03:12 for 617 calories

My normal pool, the Tom Muehlenbeck Center in West Plano, was closed this week for renovations, so I decided to head east to Oak Point Center.  I’d raced a triathlon, the Blackland Sprint, back in 2008 and swam in the pool there and really liked it.  This was my first swim workout over an hour for this year, so it was nice to be able to swim in a much larger pool almost exclusively dedicated to lap swimming with lots of free lanes.

Towards the end of my workout, a lady started swimming in the lane next to me.  I’m not sure if she was pacing herself against me or if it was just coincidence, but she kept swimming even with me when I started my last handful of laps.  I had already swam 1.5 miles at that point, so it was nice to have a “rabbit” to push my pace through the end of the toughest part of the swim.

34.16 miles in 2:03:26 @ 16.6 mph and 145/169 bpm for 2,065 calories

As I get closer to my first Olympic triathlon in mid-May, my long bike workouts are climbing up towards 3 hours.  I cleared the 2-hour mark and with it the 2,000-calorie level.  It was my first workout of the year where I came back starving and sore enough to need serious stretching before I could walk up the stairs.  Let the fun begin! :-)

4.46 miles in 45:52 @ 10:16 pace and 164/176 bpm for 639 calories
14.72 miles in 54:09 @ 16.3 mph and 139/150 bpm for 906 calories

I had a good run and then I got another chance to try out the rollers.  This was my first “real” ride on them, and I decided to film myself using my laptop camera.  It’s very poor quality and low light, but you’ll get the idea of how squirrely I am when I first get started.

1,350 yards (27 laps) in 29:17 for 286 calories
3.2 miles in 34:17 @ 10:43 pace and 162/173 bpm for 478 calories

Today I decided to try a “brick” workout of a swim and a run, as I worked in my short bike ride on my new rollers yesterday.  (I’ve not yet finished my post about that workout, which includes a short, grainy video clip of me riding on the rollers.)  The swim was awful, as there was a lifeguard water-safety class happening in the lap pool that meant that all of the weekend swimmers squeezed into two lanes.  The run was better—I ran for the first time on the indoor track at the gym.  It was a bit repetitive but since the run was short I didn’t mind.

I have a long week of work next week so I probably won’t make a blog post until next weekend.  Hopefully I’ll get around to both posting the video and squeezing in all my workouts between meetings.  My next triathlon is in two weeks!

6.1 miles in 1:04:12 @ 10:31 pace and 163/177 bpm for 895 calories

Today was my long run of the week.  I’m increasing the target length of my long run by 10% every week as usual, but starting from scratch in January and those few weeks I missed in February set me back, and this was the first real run longer than an hour in quite a while. Still, beautiful early evening weather in Dallas and my first break from a long work day made it really nice. My right calf tightened up a bit at the end and it still has a small sore spot I can’t seem to massage out, but other than that I did fine. I took it easy for the entire run (as evidenced from the average heart rate) and the day off yesterday helped me recover well from Sunday’s race.

6.20 miles in 59:10 @ 9:31 pace and 174/187 bpm for 907 calories

There’s something about running on race day that allows you to push the pace a bit.  Whether its adreneline or tapering or whatever, I enjoy racing almost as much as I enjoy training.  (And I’m slow!  I can’t imagine how fun it would be if I were actually competitive.)

Today was the run stage of the 2009 Texas Tough series, and it was a blast.  As I wrote a few posts back, the race benefits Children’s Medical Center.  The run stage is a 50K ultrarelay, with teams running four 5Ks and three 10Ks to make up the total.  Our team, called Hearts of Fire, was made up of employees and friends of the Heart Center at Children’s, the actual unit where my wife works.  All of the money we raise not only goes to Children’s but directly to the Heart Center, and as of this writing we’ve raised over $2,000!

The race itself was beautiful.  It was held on the field at the Cotton Bowl, with the run route winding around the Texas State Fairgrounds.  It was really cool to walk onto the perfect-green grass of the Cotton Bowl field and imagine the couple of times I’ve seen UT play OU there.  But today the field had been transformed for race day, with tents and a finish line and a well-marked route leading up the tunnel and out of the stadium.

The relay started at 8:00a, and it was sunny but just under 40 degrees.  Everyone was cold waiting for the race to start, but once it began we all warmed up.  The race was originally structured to have each runner take a baton from the previous one and run our routes serially.  But because the race is in its first year, it was sparsely attended (maybe 500 runners or so) and there just weren’t enough teams to make it worth stretching out the event for 4-5 hours. So the organizers decided to “collapse” the relay and let anyone on the team run after the first leg crossed the finish line.

Now although this decision seemed logical, it caused quite a bit of confusion. See, most people had planned to show up just before their leg of the relay began. Mike Bryan, one of my friends that ran on our team, was scheduled to run the sixth leg, a 10K. It would have normally started at around 10:30a, but since four of the other legs decided to run simultaneously that morning, I had to call him at 7:45a and see if he could get downtown sooner.  He’s a trooper so he rushed down and arrived just five minutes before his leg started, but not every team was so lucky. Most spectators, including my family, also decided not to come for the same reason: they didn’t want to watch four hours of distance running—they just wanted to see their runner’s leg and now it was impossible to know when each one ran.

The end result was a beautifully set up but near-empty Cotton Bowl for the race. I was scheduled to run the 5K leg before and after Mike’s run (for 10K total), but since we were allowed to start at any time, Mike and I ran together.  I use that word loosely, of course, as he was already ahead of me by the time we exited the tunnel and he finished over 12 minutes before I did.  But my run was great.  My pace was near the best 5K race pace I had last year, with the improvement due to focusing on the run during the winter and learning how to push myself harder on race day without worrying about “blowing up” (i.e. going too fast, running out of steam, and walking the rest of the race).  I definitely look forward to the swim and bike later this year and to a great race season.

Bike: 10.5 miles in 35:00 @ 18:00 mph for 585 calories (on rollers)
Swim: 2,500 yards (50 laps) in 54:55 for 536 calories
Run: 4.64 miles in 45:58 @ 9:54 pace and 167/179 bpm for 705 calories

I had three good workouts this week, and each one had a small breakthrough.  First, on the bike, I had my first long ride on my new set of rollers.  When cyclists want to get a ride in but can’t go outside (e.g. too windy, too cold, too much traffic), they have two options.  They can ride a bike trainer, which attaches to the back wheel of the bike and creates resistance via fluid or magnets.  Or they can ride rollers, an alternative to a bike trainer where they have more freedom of motion but have to concentrate on balance a lot more. I tried out both options and decided to buy the rollers. They are so much fun to ride!  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them in future posts. They’re actually quite hard to explain, but this YouTube video of a guy trying them out at a cycling conference is worth 1,000 words:

Second, I had a great swim this week. I got my own lane for almost an entire hour and I got to do some drills to see how few strokes I needed to get across the pool.  I was able to swim a length in 12 to 14 strokes—about 2  less than I was averaging last year—and in under 30 seconds per length for a mile straight. I found that my limiting factor was actually breathing.  I was breathing every third stroke, but as I reduced my number of strokes per length, and thus breaths per length, I was getting tired from lack of oxygen (as opposed to tired muscles).  When I started breathing every other stroke, I suddenly had extra energy and was able to “coast” between strokes a bit longer.  All that means my mile swim using an slow-but-efficient stroke should be consistently at or under 35 minutes, which would be great for me.

Third, I had my best run of the year. I only had 45 minutes to squeeze it in, but I decided to run it at race pace before the Texas Tough event happening tomorrow. Now, my run wasn’t a full 10K, but I did manage to run about 75% of the distance in just under a 10-minute pace.  If I could run tomorrow at that pace I’d be thrilled.

2,350 yards (47 laps) in 52:06 for 510 calories

This afternoon I squeezed in a swim both figuratively and literally.  Figuratively because Joanne and I dropped off Emma at her grandma’s house and decided to go exercise during our free time.  The pool closed 15 minutes before I finished and I think everyone else had the same idea I did.  That’s where the literal squeezing happened.  The pool was crowded!

Public lap lanes are really hit or miss. There is always a wide variety of speeds and talent levels in the pool at any one time, and in order to cater to everyone, lifeguards typically mark lanes as Slow, Medium, or Fast.  The thought is that since we are all circle-swimming (up one side of the lane and down the other side), it would be nice if everyone in the lane swam at a similar speed.

But lifeguards need to watch for people drowning and can’t get involved in managing swimmers every minute of the day.  That means when it gets crowded, slow swimmers often end up into the Fast lane on accident.  Now swimmers and triathletes are generally a supportive crowd, but when you’re churning out a mile or two of laps, you need to maintain decent form.  That means looking down at the bottom of the pool, and not in front of you for a slower swimmer.

The fun typically starts when your hand hits his toes.  You’re mildly surprised and you slow down a bit, but being a newer swimmer, he’s freaked out that someone just tickled his foot while he’s deep in concentration.  If he stops suddenly the lane ends up like a multiple-car pile-up on the expressway, with everyone treading water and trying to remain polite.  If he thinks you’re invading his personal space and feels challenged, he increases his speed. Now you might think this is the better of the two options, but at this point you want to pass him before the girl swimming in the opposite direction gets in your way (much like passing a truck on a narrow two-lane road with oncoming cars).  He’s sprinting and sputtering and making a lot of waves, and when you do finally pass him he’s so tired that you catch up to him again in about three or four minutes. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this problem, and I never get so frustrated that I forget that I’m swimming in a very nice, very close, and very inexpensive city pool, but I can’t help but wonder if people swimming at private gyms don’t have it just a little bit easier.

27.83 miles in 1:46:35 @ 15.67 mph and 152/177 bpm for 1,491 calories

I normally swim on Saturday morning and bike on Sunday morning, but today was tax day for me.  As usual, taxes took longer than I planned, and pretty soon I had missed the best time to swim at the pool (before family time begins).  So I decided to swap my workouts and ride today.  I finished up the taxes around 4pm and headed out on the road. It was really windy, so half of the ride was torture and the other half was a eternal sprint.

It’s so painful riding up a steep hill with the wind in your face.  My route today has four hills, and the two worst ones had headwinds.  Below is an elevation map of today’s ride.  The second climb, the longest and steepest one on today’s route, was painful but it’s early enough that it still feels good.  Of course, the gradual 6-mile incline that follows definitely takes a measure of confidence out of me.  And that last climb at mile 25 was directly into the wind.  It was bad enough that I actually had to sit back down in the saddle about 75% the way up the hill because I completely ran out of leg strength.  I think I was going 9 or 10 miles an hour at that point.  Very sad and very painful. 

Elevation chart

Elevation chart

But it’s so fun riding with a strong tailwind!  After that 6-mile incline, I got to ride north up Parkwood for quite a while.  It really felt like I had a small electric engine on my bicycle.  I was pedalling just as hard as I had up the previous incline, but I had added at least 10 miles per hour in speed—which on a road cycle feels like the difference between driving a car at 20 mph and 40 mph.

Anyway, hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a chance to swim and then next week is a slightly reduced training week to save some energy for the Texas Tough relay.

5.69 miles in 59:31 @ 10:26 pace and 168/185 bpm for 832 calories

I woke up early this morning and ran outdoors for the first time after a couple weeks of hotel treadmills.  It was windy and a bit cold but it warmed up as the sun came up.  I decided to push the pace a bit during the second half of the run and I felt pretty good, getting up to an 8:30 mile as I finished.  I’m racing in the Texas Tough Run Stage this Sunday up at the Cotton Bowl, the first of three stages throughout the year (swim in June, bike in September, and run in March) all benefitting Children’s Medical Center of Dallas where Joanne works.

Milestones

  • Highest weight: 228 pounds
  • Lowest weight: 187 pounds
  • Current weight: 216 pounds
  • Started training: March 17, 2008
  • First Sprint: June 26, 2008
  • First Olympic: May 17, 2009
  • First Half: TBD 2011
  • Longest swim: 2.05 miles
  • Longest bike: 63.57 miles
  • Longest run: 13.33 miles

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