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6.27 miles in 1:09:14 @ 11:04 pace and 152/185 for 937 calories

Another great run with Phil at Russell Creek.  This run included hypothetical discussions of President Obama and President Palin as well as talk about career ambitions and pregnant wives.  We talked almost the whole run, which accounts for our slower pace, but I did manage to run the last half-mile at around 8:40 pace just to test out negative-splitting a long run for the upcoming Turkey Trot.


8.29 miles in 1:28:31 @ 10:40 pace and 164/181 bpm for 1,196 calories

Joanne and I took our first vacation without Emma last weekend!  (Thanks to my mom, Patty, my dad, Joanne’s mom and dad, and our babysitter Erin for taking care of her while we were away.)  We had a great long weekend in Mexico doing nothing but laying on the beach, eating, laying by the pool, eating, sleeping, eating, etc.  I did go scuba diving twice and swam a total of 1.5 miles in the open water and the huge resort pool, but other than that I got zero exercise.  So when I returned home, I was itching to get back out on a long run.

Unfortunately, my body was not ready for the distance my brain thought it wanted, and although my run was decent, the next day I was as sore as I used to be when I first started running back in March.  Still, it felt great to get back into the swing of things.  Because starting today and through the end of the year, I am focusing my training on the run.  I’ve cut out one bike ride and one swim from my weekly schedule, added in one run, and I am increasing the time and distance of my long run to peak at just over 2 hours during the first week of 2009.

Why?  Two reasons. The run is my weakest triathlon leg, and with the triathlon “off-season” beginning, the only races left until Spring are runs.  And since I’ll be in Houston in January to celebrate a late Christmas with the Larsons, I’ve decided to enter the Houston Half-Marathon (my sister is running the full marathon) to keep me motivated after the Turkey Trot and before 2009 triathlon training season begins for me in early February.

4.33 miles in 40:50 @ 9:25 pace and 164/180 bpm for 607 calories

I remember my first real breakthrough run in late March of this year.  It had already begun to get warm that week when suddenly one morning it was 50 degrees outside—the coolest it had been since I had started running.  I decided to take advantage, quickly jumped into my running gear, and went out for a run.  That morning I ran my first ever 3 miles without stopping, and I actually felt like I could go a lot longer.  It was great.

Fast forward to the day before we left for Mexico and the cold weather returned!  I went out for a run and decided to push a bit, but surprisingly my heart rate stayed relatively low and I was able to maintain a faster pace than usual for the entire run.  It was a great final workout before our trip to the beach.

Here are some pictures from race day!  (The linked images are courtesy of the race-day photographers.  If you want copies of any of those shots, please click on the picture and order directly from them.)
Riding out of transition

Beginning the ride

Pushing through a turn

Pushing through a turn

Last mile of the run

Last mile of the run

About to cross the finish line

About to cross the finish line

Celebrating with a cute fan

Celebrating with a cute fan

As you may have read in an earlier post, I got sick and missed the Olympic-distance triathlon for which I had been training for six months.  I was bummed.  At the time thought about ending my “season” and just waiting until next year, but when I started feeling better I decided to try to find one more race before the cold weather arrived.  I looked online and found the Plano Blackland Triathlon, a Sprint-distance, inaugural event held at Oak Point Park in East Plano benefitting Plano ISD Athletics.  I decided to give it a try.  (For more basic information about triathlon races or a recap of my first race, to which I refer in this post, read my previous race report.)

The morning of the race, I woke up a few hours beforehand and ate a breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios, skim milk, and a light banana smoothie (bananas, ice, skim milk, vanilla, and cinnamon).  I had packed up my duffel bag with all my gear the night before, but this time I brought a much larger bag than my last race so that I didn’t have to squeeze everything in.

The transition area was extremely tight—the bikes were almost touching and the rack was too low to park the bike facing front.  One thing I forgot to bring was my painter’s tape, which I’ve found is great for fastening gel(s) on your bike without leaving residue on your paint job.  Because my triathlon suit (i.e. “onesie”) has no pockets, I tried to stuff the gel underneath my bike’s race number, but it fell out when I started riding.  Luckily I didn’t really need a gel in this short race.

One difficult part about triathlon for folks like me who wear glasses is that you cannot see very well when you’re leaving the pool and heading to transition. I don’t put on my prescription sunglasses until I get to my bike, so between my bad eyesight and being soaked and slightly disoriented from swimming, I have a hard time seeing where I’m supposed to go.  Luckily in my first race the volunteers helped steer me in the right direction.  For this race I decided to walk the path to transition a few times before the race started.  As a result, I didn’t have time for a warm-up, but it was a very short swim so I wasn’t too worried.

Surprisingly, they did not sing the national anthem before this event, they did not explain why the event was called “Blacklands” (my dad later told me it was because Plano has always had dark, rich farming soil), and they did not mention what group the event benefitted or how it was going to help.  The event also got started a bit late which is a big no-no in race direction, but I cut them some slack because it’s their first year.

Swim (5 minutes 51 seconds, 115 out of 409)
The Oak Point pool is an indoor, salt-water pool with 6 lanes of 50 meters each.  The pool was overly warm, which I normally don’t like—swimming laps in a warm pool is a lot like running on a treadmill in a hot room—but given the brisk temperature outside, I was actually happy with it this time.

In my last post, I wrote, “I don’t think I would race another sprint triathlon unless it had a swim of at least ½ mile.” And here I was again, racing a super-short swim distance.  I guess I felt different about it in that this race was really the only one I could choose without travelling somewhere.  I still wish it had been longer but it wasn’t as annoying as it was the first time around.

My race number was 278, and since the numbers started with 101, that meant I was seeded 178th out of 409 based on my reported swim time.  As I waited the 20 minutes or so for my turn to get in the pool, I watched the usual people who report a blazing swim time but then end up breast-stroking the entire swim (yes, literally) and forcing dozens of people to pass them.  What are they thinking?  I also waited next to a couple of members of the UNT Triathlon Team, who were all wearing the same green uniforms.  I thought it was really cool to see college triathletes at a local event, and I wished there had been some UT-Austin or even UT-Dallas representation.

When there were only 10-15 people left in front of me, I suddenly felt the need to empty my bladder once more before the start.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do it and I was worried about not keeping my place in line.  In hindsight, I should definitely have stepped out, told the race director I was going to start late, and made a pit stop.  But instead I started the race needing to “go” and knowing I couldn’t while I was exerting myself.  (More on this issue later.)

I started off too quickly and actually got a bit winded after the first 50 meters, but at the wall I reminded myself not to get too excited and I settled down into my Total Immersion style and swam well for the rest of the short swim.  I passed four or five people and was actually passed by one.

Just like last race, I “moved up” from my seeded place with my overall swim finish of 115th.  My 100-meter pace for this swim was 1:57, just under my 2:00 target and 19 seconds faster than my first triathlon swim pace.  And most importantly, this time around I remembered to put on my goggles before I jumped in the water.  At the end of the swim, two volunteers helped pull me out of the pool at the ladder, and I jogged the long distance up to the transition area—without getting disoriented this time.

T1 (2 minutes 44 seconds)
One annoying thing about the sport of triathlon is that there is no standardized transition area set up or distance from swim to transition.  I can understand why this type of rule is not possible, but what it means is that it is impossible to compare overall times from two different races, because even if the distances of each leg were the same, transition would not be laid out in the same way or be the same distance from the swim and the bike mount.

In any case, T1 went very well for me.  I sped up my transition time by not sitting down or drying anything off except my feet.  Putting on gloves was still a pain, and next I won’t wear them when racing a Sprint-distance event.  I did not leave my bike shoes in the pedals (i.e. no flying mount) and instead ran in them to the bike mount, got on slowly, and headed out.

Bike (44 minutes 47 seconds, 116 out of 409)
It wasn’t until about 10 minutes into the bike course that I realized how badly I needed to “go”!  I suddenly became jealous of those Tour de France guys who teach themselves how to “pee off the bike,” but there was no way I was going to try that in my onesie!  I also wasn’t going to stop, unclip, and go on the side of the road.  So I held it in and kept reminding myself that the faster I finished, the faster I got back to transition and the port-o-potty.

Maybe my full bladder contributed to my great bike ride or something, but on a hillier course than my first race I managed to slightly decrease my miles-per-hour pace, and in this race I actually finished in the top third on the bike instead of the top half in the last one.  I felt really strong throughout, pushing through a headwind during the first half of the out-and-back course and passing about 15 people, including three or four while going up hills.  I was also passed by two riders, both who flew by me with impressive form and really cool bikes.

As I wrote last time, riding on a closed course with policemen directing traffic is so great.  But through a couple of intersections, the traffic was really backed up (10+ cars on each side) and in one particular intersection dozens of cars were laying on their horns and yelling out the window at the cops.  They seemed in disbelief that the cars were not getting right-of-way over the athletes.  Part of me felt great that for once a car had to wait for a bike to pass, but most of me felt bad that triathlon might be getting a bad name here and worried that the situation might actually get violent.

Towards the end of the race, I encountered a “rabbit” like I had in my first race—a rider I wanted to pass who was riding at my speed or slightly faster.  This guy was on a bright-yellow bike with no shirt and riding with terrible form: legs splayed, body rocking, and back crooked.  But as I’ve learned so many times in the past, looks are deceiving in endurance sports, and every time I tried conservatively to pass the guy (i.e. increasing and then holding my pace to get by him without sprinting) he would pedal with all his might to stay ahead.  I was impressed with him, and although I didn’t ever pass him he definitely helped me push my pace.  I unfastened my shoes during the last minute of the ride and pulled my feet out so that I could hop off my bike and run barefoot into T2.  It turned out my rabbit was racked one space down from me!  We congratulated each other on a good bike leg and he headed out on to the run as I pulled on my running shoes and made a beeline for the port-o-potty.

T2 (3 minutes 29 seconds)
Ahh!  As I exited the big blue box, I knew I had lost at least 1.5 minutes between the detour and the deed, but I felt so relieved I really looked forward to the last leg of the race.  Hopefully I won’t make this same mistake again and this transition will be the longest of my triathlon career.

Run (28 minutes 34 seconds, 203 out of 409)
What an incredible run!  It was a flat course and sunny outside, but cool with a nice breeze that I hated on the bike but loved now.  I had almost no problem with stiff legs running off the bike, which I attribute to my near-weekly brick (i.e. bike-to-run) workouts that have made me much more comfortable with that awkward feeling.

I started off at a fairly fast pace of slightly under 9-minutes per mile, but then I reminded myself of my negative split philosophy and slowed it down.  Four people passed me almost instantly after that, but because I picked up the pace with each half-mile or so, I actually passed them all but one in the end.  That really felt good.

I’ve been training much longer distances for both the Olympic triathlon and for the upcoming Turkey Trot, and so the end of the run came way too soon.  Despite a 9:13 minutes per mile pace and finishing less than a minute off of my fastest 5k run time ever (which occurred in a normal running race without a bike and a swim!), I really felt that I had a lot of energy at the end of the race.  In hindsight, I should have tried a 5k prep run before the race to try out a 9 minutes per mile pace and see how it felt.

The final quarter-mile was up a hill along the back of the Oak Point Amphitheatre, which meant that I had to basically run a tight U-turn right before the finish line.  The positive of this setup was that I finished in front of a live band, but the negative was that I couldn’t judge how close the finish line really was and the spectators couldn’t see athletes coming before they suddenly finished.  Joanne still snapped a cool picture of my form as I pushed through the finish, and I ended the race with Emma running up to me for another big post-race hug.

Final Result: 1 hour 25 minutes 29 seconds, 163 out of 409
It was sad that I couldn’t make it to my Olympic-distance triathlon this year—and it especially stung when some of the other athletes had triathlon shirts and other race gear from that event—but this really was a nice end to my triathlon “season.” I ended up improving my finish spot from the top 56% in my first race to the top 40% in this one, so I’m still officially a MOP’er (i.e. middle-of-the-pack athlete), but slowly getting better—and still enjoying training even more than I do my races.

Speaking of, my next race is the Turkey Trot 8-mile on Thanksgiving.  My Dad and Rebecca are going to walk the 3-mile course that morning so I will have family joining me in addition to the handful of friends I know who are running it.  After that, I hope to run the Houston Half-Marathon in January.  My Mom and the Larsons would be spectators there and if all goes well I’ll run it with Debbie, Tim, and Nicole’s husband Mike.  Finally, barring another case of strep throat, I’ll race my first Olympic-distance triathlon in the Spring—I’m leaning towards an event in South Carolina so I can go visit Curt—and then the Olympic-distance race I deferred which will happen again in October 2009.  Thanks for reading and please let me know if you’re ever in Dallas and want to swim, bike, or run!

5.07 miles in 53:08 @ 10:28 pace and 146/172 for 716 calories

Tonight we went on a family run after dinner—me behind the jogging stroller and Joanne in front of us.  Emma is quite a motivator, yelling things like “Run Daddy run!” and “Come on, catch up to Mommy!” when Joanne gets too far ahead.  Between pushing Emma’s 36 pounds uphill and trying to talk to her while running, these family runs are good training exercises.

In fact, I did a little comparison tonight.  The first part of the run was with the whole family and the second half was on my own after I dropped off Joanne and Emma.  I measured my lap time in two splits and my pace was 1:26 per mile slower with the stroller than without (11:14 vs. 9:48).  That’s quite a difference.

38.72 miles in 2:21:42 @ 16.39 mph and 142/167 bpm for 2,297 calories

Made a wrong turn but stumbled across a nice contry road

Made a wrong turn but stumbled across a nice contry road

After a two-week hiatus from cycling, I finally managed to squeeze in a long bike ride before my flight to Boston on Sunday.  My back was still a bit achy when I started the ride, but by the time I finished it felt almost completely healed.  It was a cool day but quite breezy, which created some challenging south-bound riding but made for an overall pleasant time.  I started by riding down “The Widowmaker” (a.k.a. Windhaven Hill) and actually set a new personal speed record of 38.4 mph.  Then I rode up Plano Parkway Hill for a nice early hill climb (actually a series of three hills) and then on the rest of my ride.  I made a wrong turn on Coit Road north of 121 and accidentally headed further out than I intended, but I stumbled upon a nice country road out there and took the picture you see above while I stopped to eat my Powerbar.  It was great to be back on the bike!

3,000 yards or 60 laps in 61 minutes for 567 calories

My back was still sore when I woke up this morning, so I decided to try swimming today to loosen it up and still get some decent exercise.  My swim was uneventful, but by the time I was done my back felt almost entirely better!  I’m not sure if my results are common among back pain sufferers, but hopefully my back won’t bother me again when running and this won’t be an issue anymore.

5.43 miles in 53:51 @ 9:55 pace and 156/171 bpm for 800 calories

I’m not usually a big fan of night runs.  Since I never plan to exercise at night, they typically mean that something went wrong with my day’s schedule.  In today’s case, I’m making a presentation in Boston on Monday and creating the deck took longer than expected, and Joanne needed to work late so I got extra play time with Emma.  The Emma time was fun—I got to play upstairs with her imaginary friends which she named Lumby, Gunga, Zuza, and Scooter—and the work still isn’t finished but I guess that’s what the weekend is for.

Anyway, I skipped my planned brick workout and just did a short run.  I picked a new route that headed more east and ended up running for about a mile along a road with no sidewalk.  Despite that bit of trail running, I managed one of my only sub-10 minute paced runs with my average heart rate under 160.  That part was great.  But when I stopped to walk the rest of the way home (I don’t like to run past my planned duration because I almost always have another workout the next day) my right lower back started aching.  Perhaps because of the trail run, which was mostly downhill, or because of pushing the pace, I seem to have strained a muscle in my back.  I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and decide what to do next, but in any case I don’t have a run planned until Monday so I should get some time to heal.

2,000 yards or 40 laps in 40:42 for 375 calories

Today I went for a quick swim and pushed my pace again.  When I showed up the pool was packed with the Plano kids swimming program, but luckily within 5 minutes almost the entire pool emptied and the rest of the swim was relatively uncrowded and felt great.

Afterwards, I confirmed my registration for two upcoming races.  The first race is the Blackland Sprint Triathlon benefitting Plano ISD.  I guess it’s a replacement for my deferred US Open Triathlon, except this race is a lot smaller (~500 athletes instead of ~2,000) and a lot shorter (Sprint distance instead of Olympic, pool swim instead of open water).  Still, it’ll be nice to squeeze in an end-of-season triathlon since I have spent most of the year training.  The second race is the 41st Annual Dallas Turkey Trot.  This was the original race that my friend Curt and I were going to do before he moved to South Carolina, and outside of triathlon it has been the race to which I have most looked forward.  It’s an 8-mile race on Thanksgiving morning with over 30,000 runners!  There’s also a 3-mile fun run for folks not interested in working up their metabolism too much on Thanksgiving.  If you’re interested in doing either race with me, please comment and let me know.

6.21 miles in 1:06:41 @ 10:43 pace and 147/169 bpm for 895 calories

Pond at Russell Creek Park

The pond we run around at Russell Creek Park

Yesterday night Joanne went to buy new shoes in hopes of improving her achilles situation, and when she was at Luke’s Locker she ran into Phil doing the same thing.  So when Phil and I managed to get together again for another run around Russell Creek Park, he showed up with new shoes and a new haircut and he meant business. (You’ll have to see his hair to know what I mean.)  We ran just over an hour and managed to talk market, politics, and gastrointestinal issues.  I’m out of town most of next week but I’m hoping for another “weekly” run with Phil soon.

8.60 miles in 1:38:05 @ 11:24 pace and 157/172 bpm for 1,312 calories

Rain came through Dallas today and although the weather cooled off, the air was thick with humidity.  As I’m progressively feeling better after my recent incident, I decided to try get in a long run and see how far I could go.

All of my run planning revolves around my long run.  I plan my short and medium runs each week as a percentage of my long run (60% and 80% respectively), and I plan the following week’s long run as 5% longer in time than the current week’s.  So today was a benchmark to see where I needed to start things back up in my training.

The good news is that I managed to match the longest run I’ve had yet.  The bad news is that in less than two weeks of tapering and getting sick, I lost almost a minute off my pace!  I’m not disappointed—I’m just happy to be running distance after the past week—but I am amazed it took me far longer to improve my pace than it did to lose it.

2,950 yards or 59 laps in 50:05 for 470 calories

I’m feeling much better since switching my antibiotic and getting a good night’s sleep.  I still have minor, residual jitters but all in all I’m feeling recovered.  I decided today to get in a swim because I really wanted to burn off some more energy but I didn’t want to run three days in a row.  The lap lanes were pleasantly quiet even though there were tons of kids swimming both indoors and outside.  I swam 15 minutes at a warm-up pace, and once I was sure I felt comfortable, I decided to push the pace for the next mile.  For the first time ever, I was able to finish almost all of my 50-yard laps in under 1 minute each, mainly by slowing down my stroke and kicking a lot harder than usual.  I’ve been happy with my swim and have only been working on maintaining it, but it was nice to see a little bit of progress.

2.59 miles in 28:28 @ 11:01 pace and 149/166 bpm for 383 calories

Since I needed another quick and easy way to burn off some energy towards the end of the day, Joanne decided to join me on a run around the neighborhood with Emma in the jogging stroller.  Emma did well on the run, although she really likes to talk to me while I’m running. The stroller is quite easy to push on the flats and downhills, but the uphills are quite a challenge.  Emma stopped us twice to fix her sandal, once to tell me she heard some owls in the “nutty forest” across the street, once to “drink water like Mommy does,” and finally at the end to get out of the stroller and run the last bit with us.

Unfortunately by then Joanne already needed to stop.  She has had bursitis around her achilles tendon for about a month and it has been very slow to heal.  Yesterday it looked and felt fine but less than 3 miles into the run it was really bugging her.  Still, it was good to get out and to see Emma enjoy her jog at the end.

3.61 miles in 36:20 @ 10:04 pace and 160/177 bpm for 491 calories

As you probably read in my last post, my anxiety made a short cameo appearance this week, and just like last time around I’ve chosen to run to try and burn some of it off.  I was in full taper mode from my now-deferred Sunday triathlon but I tried to maintain a fast pace and not run too far a distance for fear of injuring myself and being unable to continue to burn off energy.  I found myself chanting little mantras to build on the confidence that the exercise endorphins tend to lend me, and by the end of the short run I felt great again.

After six months of training, I am not racing the U.S. Open Triathlon this Sunday.  More accurately, I’m deferring my participation until 2009.  How did this happen?  Well, it’s been a long week.

As you probably read in my earlier posts, my trip to Minneapolis was awesome.  But I arrived home feeling a bit under the weather, and by the time I woke up the next day I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  My body was sore, my sinuses ached, and although I had no drainage I had a 101.7 fever.  I cancelled my business trips to Seattle (Microsoft Partner Advisory Council meeting) and Chicago (EMC Consulting training event) and got my doctor to squeeze me in for an appointment.  I tested negative for influenza and strep, and so he decided that I likely had a rare sinusitis bug and put me on a very powerful antibiotic called Avelox (in the quinolone family, along with the infamous Cipro used to fight Anthrax).

Avelox quickly killed off whatever I had.  Within two days, I was feeling a lot better.  But I found myself getting progressively jittery, and soon I was back in full-blown anxiety mode for the first time in over five months.  I was up all night, pacing back and forth, arms shaking, mind racing, brain chemistry totally shot.  I did manage to get a few hours sleep, but not near enough to make up for how hard the week had been, and without getting into details, the morning was absolute hell.  (Thanks to Joanne, her mom, my mom, and Nicole for helping me through it.)

Luckily, in my “mental” state I got even more obsessive than usual (I know, imagine that!), and I decided to research my antbiotic.  I found that for a small number of patients, the quinolone family of antibiotics causes extreme anxiety and other psychosis.  Wonderful.  I immediately made another appointment with my doctor.

He again squeezed me in, collected a detailed history of the week, and concurred with my findings about Avelox.  He took me off the drug immediately and prescribed Augmentin—which, interestingly enough, was the antibiotic I should  have had, as my initial test was a false negative and in fact I had strep throat instead of sinusitis all along.  The half-life of the Avelox is 12 hours, so it’ll take a while to get out of my system, but just one day later I’ve managed to get almost 9 hours sleep and I have no more anxiety symptoms.

Of course, I’m bummed about having to miss my triathlon, but if I’m honest I must say I’m a very lucky guy.  Back in March, my initial anxiety produced far more silver lining than cloud, and if I look back I have to admit that I’ve probably enjoyed swimming, biking, and running more than I would have enjoyed any actual race.  God clearly had a plan for me back then and I know He does again this time around.  Although it was nice to lose a pound a day and finally hit my target weight of 188 (40 pounds lost from my max!), I honestly would not wish those 48 hours on my worst enemy.


  • 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