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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…

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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…

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.

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.

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! 🙂

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.

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.

4.33 miles in 51:04 @ 11:46 pace and 170/185 bpm for 643 calories
4.22 miles in 46:11 @ 10:54 pace and 170/185 bpm for 646 calories
1,400 yards (35 laps) in 30:00 for 294 calories
5 miles in 60:00 @ 12:00 pace for 755 calories (treadmill @ 1% incline)
2,350 yards (47 laps) in 50:00 for 490 calories
20.45 miles in 1:18:13 @ 15.7 mph and 143/175 bpm for 1,094 calories
4.15 miles in 50:00 @ 12:00 pace for 629 calories (treadmill @ 1% incline)

After my little disease vector Emma brought home a particularly nasty rhinovirus, I took two weeks off from training.  Since then, I’ve been on the road a lot—Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis just this month—and barely squeezing in time to exercise.  But I have managed to stay on track, even if I’ve been skipping blogging about my workouts until tonight.  Here’s a quick recap of some highlights:

  • I’m back to running in my Brooks shoes, the ones that gave me blisters during the Houston Half-Marathon.  I searched dozens of different running Web sites for a cure that would keep me running in them, and I finally found it: duct tape!  That’s right, I loosely wrap the arch of my foot in duct tape before each run.  I sweat enough that it doesn’t stick to my foot, and I’ve completely eliminated my blister problems.
  • I swam in the hotel pool in Seattle on my first morning there.  My local pool is a saltwater pool, and this was my first time in chlorine in a while.  It was nice to be able to swim on the road.
  • I ran on treadmills in Seattle and Minneapolis, 1% incline for about an hour each time.  I read that 1% incline makes a treadmill run roughly equivalent to running outdoors.  It was a lot more boring but it felt good to squeeze in early morning workouts before my meetings.
  • My first real bike ride in a while went nicely, although I had to cut it short to make it to church on time.

I had a great dinner with Debbie and Tim while I was in Minneapolis.  They took me out to Craftsman and I had an incredible meal—perfect Midwestern with a bit of a twist: an incredible cheese plate with a really good local guyere, a spicy lamb sausage with kale and chickpeas, a couple glasses of Rose, and 2.5 hours of catching up with my sister and her fiancé.

Swim: 1,100 yards or 22 laps in 24:42 for 242 calories
Bike (stationary): 16.81 miles in 45:00 minutes for 441 calories
Run (treadmill): 2.2 miles in 22:00 minutes for 308 calories

I missed a workout earlier in the week so I decided to squeeze in a swim with my bike and run.  Because I didn’t have much time I figured I’d  do them all at the gym—plus, I’m thinking about doing one of the Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlons and I thought I’d see what it was like to do all three sports indoors.  If you’re interested in trying out the sport of triathlon, this is really the easiest way to do it.  Interested in joining me for one of these?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Run: 2.3 miles in 21:59 @ 9:34 pace at 173/185 bpm for 338 calories
Swim: 1,700 yards or 34 laps in 45:34 for 441 calories

I planned on biking and running on Friday, but two things got in my way: two new client pursuits and 20+MPH winds. Normally I only swim on Saturday—and today was my first day back in the pool since last year—but I decided to at least squeeze in yesterday’s missed run as well.  So I headed up to the pool in the morning for a swim and then ran right before dinner.

It was great to be back in the pool. I spent the first 15 minutes doing drills and by the time I started swimming laps I felt my form return. But I was still really tired by the end of the remaining 30 minutes, and even a bit sore by lunchtime. It’s amazing what a couple months off will take out of you.

My run went well. My short runs are 50% of my long ones, and since my “long” run was only 50 minutes this first week back in training, this was a really short one. (Of course it was meant to be tacked on to the back-end of a bike ride.) So I decided to break my aerobic heart rate rule and run this one at a faster pace. It’s nice to know that with all this extra winter weight I can still keep up a 9:30-ish pace.  Maybe I’ll set a new 5K personal record this year.

3.33 miles in 37:39 @ 11:18 pace and 165/179 bpm for 527 calories
4.71 miles in 51:55 @ 11:01 pace and 161/175 bpm for 726 calories

After a week and a half of limping and complaining, my blisters—the ones I wrote about in my last post about the Houston Half-Marathon—finally disappeared. So on Monday I laced back up my shoes, taped my feet, and headed out.

It’s not like my shoes are brand new. I started running in the Brooks Beast almost immediately after I got into triathlon, and for 5-6 months my shoes were great. Then one day in the late Fall of last year I had minor back and knee pain when running and I quickly realized I was past the recommended mileage in my shoes. I went to my local running store and bought a new pair of the same shoes. But I had two things working against me: 1) the new Beast was out and Brooks slightly changed the design, and 2) I bought it at the end of the season when I wasn’t running as much.

So even though my shoes weren’t new, I hadn’t run in them enough to know that the slight change in design seemed to really affect me. I ran a slightly slower pace than planned in the Jogger Egg Nogg’r, got terrible blisters in the Houston Half-Marathon, and then on Monday when I ran I felt cramping in my shin muscles and a sore right ankle.  I didn’t want to blame it on my shoes, but just for fun I decided to try running the same route today in my cheap New Balance trainers. I felt so much better!  No blisters, no cramping or soreness, and I ran faster and longer.

So I’m not sure what to do now. I know the New Balance shoes won’t stop me from overpronating or help my flat feet, but the new model of Brooks shoes clearly isn’t working. I think it’s time for a trip up to Luke’s Locker to ask their advice. And in the meantime, I’ll run in the NBs.

13.33 miles in 2:26:32 (2:35:50 chip time) @ 10:59 pace and 165/184 bpm for 2,031 calories

With all of the good luck I’ve had with training and races (at least the races that I actually start), I was bound to have at least one bad event.  This was definitely it.

At least I enjoyed my company, though.  My day started early, in my hotel room with Joanne and Emma in Kingwood, Texas. I grew up with an “extended family”—the Larsons— that included two daughters: Nicole and Michele. Joanne, Emma, and I travelled to Michele’s house in Kingwood over the weekend to celebrate a late Christmas with the Larsons. Nicole is married to a guy named Mike, and my sister is engaged to a guy named Tim. Since we were all in Houston, we decided to run the Houston Marathon/Half-Marathon. Mike, Tim and I ran the half, and my sister ran the full.

I woke up just before 5:00am, changed and snuck quietly out of the hotel, and piled into my mom’s SUV and headed downtown. Finding a parking space with all of the streets blocked off was a nightmare, but mom got us there and we all made our way to the start line.

I should mention at this point that due to a mix-up, the race actually sold out before we were able to register. But my crafty sister Debbie used craigslist to buy 4 race entries from injured runners. So that day, I ran as 39-year-old Susanna Jacobvik (at least the last name was close!).  Now, it seems that Susanna is a pretty speedy lady, because she was signed up in the front group of runners. Tim (Anna) and Mike (Horacio) actually are fast runners, but they obliged me by lining up in the back of the front group. We chatted while we jumped up and down to keep warm in the cold pre-dawn breeze, but when the gun went off I promptly waved goodbye and started a slow but steady pace. See, if you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve never run 10 miles before, and I definitely didn’t want to blow up before I hit 13. I planned a 10:30 pace and hoped to surprise myself with something closer to 10:00.

A little over 3 miles into the race, my plans changed. I started to feel a “hot spot” on the arch of both of my feet. Now I have never really gotten blisters before, even on very long runs in heat and humidity, so I figured I was just imagining it. At 5 miles the heat I felt turned into pain, and I decided that I probably had the beginnings of a blister but that no matter what I was going to finish.  I stopped at the next medical tent and asked for advice–they said to slather vasoline and keep on using it throughout the race. Now, the vasoline did get me through the race, but it added 11+ minutes to my race time and made for one heck of a mess. By the end of the race I had a bad blister on my left foot and a really bad blister on my right foot (the size of the bottom of a coke can).

But I did finish, and I even got to see Joanne, Emma, Patty, Bruce, Nicole, Michele, and Adrian at the finish line!  I missed seeing my mom Sandy, as she was out on the race course cheering on my sister, who ended up finishing in just over 4 hours.  Tim and Mike finished with great times as well, and Mike even talked about running another half-marathon later that year.

I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the race itself. Music wasn’t allowed on the course and I spent most of the race with my mind on my blisters rather than all the fun and energy of a typical big half-marathon.  So if you asked me today, I don’t really want to run this distance again, either on its own or as a part of a half-Ironman. But I’m sure when the blisters heal, I’ll get the urge to try it again, if for no other reason than to finish the distance healthy at least once.

3.12 miles in 29:21 @ 9:25 pace and 172/194 bpm for 443 calories

Early Saturday morning, Phil and I drove way south (i.e. south of I-635!) to run the 2008 Jogger Egg Nog’r 5K.  The race is a Dallas tradition, typically run in cold weather, and the big draw is the three different types of egg nog served at the finish line: regular, with whiskey, and with rum. If you don’t like egg nog anyway, drinking it at the end of a race hardly seems appealing. But if you are an egg nog fan, you’re probably like most people and still a bit skeptical—who wants to drink a thick, creamy beverage after a hard run?  Well, I love egg nog, and now I can say definitively that I love it even more after a race.

It was not particularly cold when Phil and I arrived, but a huge crowd had already gathered, including a junior-high boys cross-country team in full uniform and seriously warming up.  Phil and I jogged for a half-mile or so to get loose, laughed at the guy wearing nothing but a huge cardboard Christmas present (he was fast!), and lined up to start.  The race itself was relatively uneventful. Phil and I ran together until the very end, where he really pushed the last 100 yards or so and I couldn’t catch up.

After the race, I had three plastic cups of egg nog (1 regular, 2 with rum), a banana, and a cup of gatorade. When I was drinking my egg nog, another runner commented about how he could never drink egg nog after a run, and we joked about it a bit.  Later, when Phil and I were walking back to our car, that other runner (Phil, do you remember his name?) chased us down (“Hey. Hey! Hi guys!”) and persistently engaged in conversation the whole way (“Yeah, I work for Mary Kay, and they’re really into running there. Do you guys run with your coworkers? Really? Interesting!”).

I’d definitely run the Jogger Egg Nog’r again.  It was a good end-of-season race and fun to run it with Phil!

5.69 miles in 1:05:21 @ 11:29 pace and 152/170 bpm for 897 calories

One of the most important muscle groups for endurance athletes is the heart and lungs—the muscles that define aerobic capacity.  Simply put, aerobic capacity is your body’s ability to transport the necessary amount of oxygen to your muscles for them to operate efficiently for long periods of time.  Aerobic capacity is also called “base” for short and is often referred to as an endurance athlete’s “engine.”

The thing about growing your aerobic capacity, also called “base training,” is that unlike other sports which require high-intensity weightlifting or sprinting or other workouts, base training is a slow and grueling activity where you purposefully keep your heart rate low for extended periods of time.  Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Champion in the 90’s, wrote a great article where he describes the base-training regimen he used at the start of each season: “During those first few months of training, I would literally have to walk up even the easy hills on my runs to keep my heart rate from going too high…”  That’s right, the Michael Jordan of triathlon walked up hills during run training for months at a time before going on to win one of the world’s toughest endurance races six times—including a five-peat!

What I’ve found is that base training requires a great deal of patience.  Why?  Most athletes love to train, and the natural inclination is to get out there after a day or two off and really push.  But if you want to go race an Olympic triathlon that requires you to exercise for three hours straight, or a half-Ironman for six hours, the last thing you need to do is train at top speed.  You must have the discipline to watch your heart rate and put in the miles, and you have to enjoy slow and steady progress.

Today, for me that meant running a bit over five miles at 11+ minute pace (very slow!) to keep my average heart rate under 160.  You’ll notice in my summary line at the top of each post I list two “bpm” (beats per minute) numbers—the first is my average heart rate and the second is my maximum heart rate for the session.  You’ll notice that the the slower I run, the lower my average heart rate.  I don’t stare at my watch the entire run so I don’t hit my exact heart rate target (today was a bit too slow for example) but I get close enough to train my base and hopefully grow my “engine” to where I can run longer and longer races.

6.22 miles in 1:13:12 @ 11:46 pace and 148/163 bpm for 904 calories

Maybe it was the constant Facebook updates from my sister Debbie about running in the bitter cold up in Minneapolis.  Maybe it was that I wanted to see how warm my cold-weather running gear could keep me.  Or maybe it was just the urge I had to get out and run.  But on Tuesday morning I ran a little over 6 miles in about 27-degree weather.  It was cold but I warmed up and actually felt fine after about 15 minutes.  Because of all the ice on the sidewalks, I ran the majority of the run on the grass, which definitely slowed me down.  But I really didn’t care about maintaining my pace—I was much more worried about slipping and so I deliberately took it easy.

I wrote that I felt fine for most of the run, which is not entirely true. There was one part of me, which will remain nameless, that actually got cold enough to cause me a bit of pain during the run and substantial pain as I thawed out.  Why didn’t anyone tell me about this common male running problem before I tried my first below-freezing run?  Luckily I recovered 100% and I’ll be adding an extra strategic layer of clothing the next time I run in the cold.

9.53 miles in 1:45:00 @ 11:01 pace and 159/176 bpm for 1,419 calories

I had two sources of inspiration for tonight’s run.  First, I watched the Ironman Triathlon World Championships on NBC before my run, and I got fired up seeing Craig Alexander run down his competition to win.  Running is my worst of the three sports and I have no chance or intention of actually winning anything in triathlon, but it’s still awesome to see the top athletes perform.

Second and far more importantly, I found out last week that Nelson Montalvo, a friend and colleague from Sapient and Bright Corner, died in a traffic accident at the age of 33.  He was a talented and passionate technologist and a kind-hearted guy, and I personally know at least a dozen people that will miss him like I will.  God taking him from us so early has me convinced that there are some hard-core coding challenges to work out up in Heaven. Seriously though, I’m trying to stay as light-hearted as possible about it because that’s what Nelson would have wanted, but it’s really hard to understand how it could have been his time to go.  Nelson and I were the closest when we were working together, and I know it’s selfish of me but I really wanted to work with him at least one more time.  So today I ran without music and spent my 1:45:00 remembering Nelson and pushing myself just a little harder.

7.06 miles in 1:18:25 @ 11:07 pace and 160/173 bpm for 1,059 calories

Well, so much for my running streak idea.  I just don’t think I’m cut out for it, especially in this cold “off-season” and with my sister advising me to steer clear of it in the comments of my last post.  Today’s run comes four days after my previous one, but happily with a much less sore body at the end of it.  We’ll see how well I keep on schedule between today and the half marathon.

9.09 miles in 1:41:30 @ 11:10 pace and 156/170 bpm for 1,371 calories

I went on my longest run yet (105 feet longer according to my GPS watch!) but unlike my last 9-miler, I haven’t been running as much recently and I definitely felt it.  By the eighth mile my right knee started to get sore and even after I had showered and stretched I was sort of limping up and down the stairs.  By the end of the next day my knee was fine, but it reminded me that if I want to keep increasing my distance up until my January half-marathon then I need to squeeze in more short runs to keep my body conditioned.  With more people I know setting running-streak goals for themselves, perhaps I need to consider running every day, even if it’s just a short jog up the street and back.

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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