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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


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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

5.73 miles in 58:55 @ 10:16 pace and 159/176 bpm for 824 calories

After a few weeks of recovering from a winter of inactivity and a couple of nasty blisters, I’m finally getting back to normal. My pace is back in the mid-10s at healthy average heart rate and my body isn’t tired at the end of my long swim, bike, or run. I have to admit that I enjoyed taking a break from training, but now that I’m back into it I’m loving it even more than I did last year.

I’m still taking it relatively easy, increasing my long bike and run by 10% each week, which should have me ready in plenty of time for my first Olympic triathlon in May.

2,250 yards or 45 laps in 49:48 for 488 calories

Today’s Valentine’s Day swim was really nice as I felt “back in the groove” for the first time in the pool this year. For me, the most challenging part of a long swim is keeping my mind focused on the movements of my body and not wandering too much. See, distance swimming is about efficiency in the water, and since swimming requires a lot of moving parts all in rhythm, someone who’s a newbie at the sport like me has to do a lot of manual coordination. I have swum enough to have some muscle memory in swimming, so if my mind wanders I fall back into old habits. My old habits include an inefficient stroke and too many strokes per length of the pool.

So what does all of this have to do with drumming? Well, when you start out playing drums, you spend an inordinate amount of time just getting your four limbs to move in different patterns. It’s actually a lot like rubbing your tummy and patting your head, except you’re also wiggling the toes on one foot and juggling a hackey sack with the other. This is almost exactly what it feels like to me to be a beginning distance swimmer.

But yesterday was one of those few days when all of those different movements came together. One hand slices into the water, one leg kicks, which rotates my hip downwards as my hand “catches” the water and scoops it towards my body, causing me to glide forward and my other hand to come briefly out of the water and slice back in. When it comes together just right, it’s a zen-like experience—just like playing a difficult (i.e. syncopated for the musicians out there) beat on a drum set.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

1,350 yards or 27 laps in 30:06 for 285 calories

I went for a quick swim on Thursday and ended up getting to the pool when the Plano West high school swim team was doing their last workout before their afternoon meet.  Despite having 6+ people per lane, they were nice enough to leave two public swim lanes open.  My lane only had one other swimmer and so we split the lane in half, but I felt like the gym was full of cheering fans as the team cheered each other on at the end of the swim.  Before today I always thought of swimming as a quiet sport, what with the whole head underwater thing, but who knew?

3,600 yards or 72 laps in 1:20:00 for 759 calories

My first two-mile swim!  I went to the pool early on Saturday morning to get in some laps and I decided to spend the majority of the time focusing on my form.  Following advice from Total Immersion, I picked one specific aspect of my form to work on each 200 yards.  My most common mantras were keeping my head down, slipping my arm into the water like a sleeve, and driving the high hip down (i.e. rotating my body with each stroke).  When I focus on body mechanics, swimming is a lot like meditating for me, since my mind cannot wander and is forced to think about my body and count my strokes and laps.  Towards the end of my workout I shared a lane with an older man with a French accent, and when we were both resting he asked me how many laps I was going to swim today.  I told him my goal was 70 and he laughed and said, “No no no, surely you will swim many more than this!”  He told me he had just started swimming and was hoping to do his first mile by the end of the year.  I remember having the exact same conversation my second or third time in the pool with a guy swimming 2 miles.

1,750 yards or 35 laps in 40:30 for 380 calories

After finishing work, walking the dog, and fixing a couple of broken sprinkler heads, I decided to head to the pool for a quick swim before dinner.  I thought swimming at dinnertime would mean a less crowded pool, but it was packed!  There were two classes going on which meant only two swim lanes.  Initially I was swimming with just one other quick and polite swimmer, but then a dude with camo shorts joined us.  He swam the mutant love child of a breaststroke and a backstroke (i.e. breaststroke facing backwards with his head above water!) and did so very slowly, which meant that we both had to swim around him.  Things got really crazy when a husband and wife joined our lane too, followed by another breaststroker.  With six people in the lane and two of them slow, I had to accelerate and deccelerate quite a bit. I hate to admit it but it actually made for a decent workout.

2,950 yards or 59 laps in 1:14:00 for 702 calories

I arrived at the pool 15 minutes after it opened this morning and I guess because of Ike everyone had come to swim for exercise.  By the end of my 200-yard warmup there were 3 people in my lane and we were circle-swimming.  Because I swam quicker (i.e. more efficiently!) I got some drafting and sighting (i.e. occasionally peeking my head above water) practice as I stayed right behind each swimmer’s feet before lapping them.  Overall it was a good workout and lapping the other swimmers kept me moving.  This ended up being my longest swim again!

On the day before the race, I left work at around 3 o’clock to drive to McKinney and pick up my race packet.  When I arrived, volunteers were setting up the bike racks and marking off the course.  I picked up my packet, which included my run and bike numbers, race instructions, a t-shirt, and some other minor freebies.  I wanted to check out the course but unfortunately the race organizers had forgotten to print maps, so I headed home.

Later that night after helping put Emma to bed, I squeezed all of my equipment into a duffel bag and went to bed early.  I slept well and woke up at 5 o’clock to eat a breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios, a sliced banana, skim milk, and two glasses of water.  After breakfast I inflated my bike tires, installed the bike rack on my car, and racked my bike.  Even though my bike is new, I gave it a quick wipe-down and then taped an energy gel on the main tube with blue painter’s tape.  I put on some Body Glide and my triathlon suit (a black singlet, or as Debbie calls it, a “onesie”), grabbed my duffel bag, and headed out.

The roads were empty on the way to McKinney until Preston and 121, but after that I began to see cars and trucks with bikes of various shapes and sizes attached to them, all driving in the dark towards the race.  I pulled into Craig Ranch and was directed to park in a big field of prickly weeds that had died in the summer heat.  Just to be safe, I carried my bike on one shoulder and my duffel on another through the parking lot and to the street leading to the transition area.  (I later heard someone mention that her friend got a flat from a thorn in the weeds and had to change her tire before the race.)

The transition entrance had about 15 volunteers armed with thick permanent markers.  I showed one of them my number and she quickly wrote it on my shoulders and legs and put my age on my calf.  I walked to my race number’s bike rack and racked my bike with the front wheel facing outward.  I put my gloves and sunglasses inside of my helmet and balanced it between the corner of the rack and my bike seat.  Then I put my running shoes, visor, and rolled-up socks in a neat little pile on the ground next to my bike.  Finally, I had to decide what do to about my bike shoes.  I had practiced a technique earlier in the week where you clip in your shoes before the race starts, remove your feet from them, and then slip your feet in and fasten them after you start riding.  This sounds precarious but I was able to do it with 30 minutes practice on the street in front of my house.  For this race, though, I decided against it, because my bike was on a rack very close to the exit and I didn’t need to avoid running in my bike shoes for such a short distance.  I put my bike shoes on the ground and a hand towel over the top of them and headed barefoot across the transition area to the pool.

Hundreds of athletes had gathered around all four sides of the pool.  There were about 20 people swimming warm-up laps and I decided to join them.  But first I needed to pick up my timing chip and stretch a bit.  Unfortunately, the timing chip line was slow and by the time I finished stretching, the race referee told everyone to exit the pool for race announcements.  The announcements included a brief rundown of the rules; the most interesting was that “drafting” on the bike, or riding directly behind another rider to reduce your own effort, was not allowed.  This meant that you had to maintain distance between you and the rider in front and that if you wanted to pass you had to do so in 15 seconds.  Since the energy you save drafting is significant, the race referees drove up and down the bike route looking for offenders and giving them a time penalty of two minutes.  Anyway, one of the volunteers sang the national anthem (she was good but it seemed to take forever), everyone cheered, and Dr. Cooper announced the start of the race.

Swim (7 minutes 56 seconds, 235 out of 422)
The outdoor pool was beautiful, 82 degrees warm and 50 meters long, with 6 lane markers defining 7 lanes.  Each athlete swam a snake pattern: down one lane, under the lane marker, up one lane, under the lane marker, et cetera, for 7 laps (350 meters).  I had never swam under a lane marker before, but since one person entered the pool every 5 seconds and my race number was my swim position, I got to watch 334 other swimmers before it was my turn.  Most of them were kick-turning or open-turning diagonally under the rope and into the next lane, so I decided to try that as well.

Your race number (and thus starting position) was decided by the time you estimated you could swim 350 meters when you registered for the race.  I reported a slightly slower swim time (I wanted to take it easy during the first race leg), but I was amazed at how many people reported a much faster swim time than they could actually pull off.  Many early swimmers were slow, and during the first 50 swimmers there were some lanes where people ran into each other or swam 3 abreast.  Perhaps they were overconfident or wanted to start the race early before it became too hot to run?

In any case, it was 45 minutes before I swam, so I took the time to drink 4 more cups of water, eat a energy gel, and use the restroom before I had to get in line.   Finally I was lined up to swim!  The lady in front of me seemed nervous, telling me and another guy that it was her first triathlon and that she hoped she could actually finish.  To put her at ease I told her she would do fine and joked that she could use all the extra time when she finished before me to cheer me on when I finally limped in.  She laughed a bit but still looked anxious as she jumped in the water.

I, however, was feeling calm and confident – or so I thought.  I pulled my swim cap on and put my goggles over my head, and when they called my number I jumped into the pool and started to swim.  Five seconds or so passed before I realized I forgot to pull my goggles over my eyes!  I laughed out loud underwater and rolled over on my back to empty my goggles and put them on.  I rolled back over and resumed my swim, starting a steady rhythm and quickly regaining confidence.  I reached the first wall and performed a nice open-water turn under the lane marker, which made me feel even better – until one of my goggles popped off my eye and filled with water.  D’oh!  I guess in my hurry I didn’t get them back on right.  I didn’t want to stop swimming again, so I decided to swim pirate-style with one eye closed inside my goggle (“Argh matey!”).  I passed the girl in front of me and 4 or 5 more people over the rest of the swim.  It wasn’t until my final lap that my other goggle popped off my eye and also filled with water.  I was just 30 meters or so to the finish, so I opened both eyes inside my water-filled goggles and made it to the end of the pool and out onto the deck.

Despite all of the that trouble – or possibly because of it as I couldn’t really push myself – my heart rate coming out of the pool was actually lower than I expected.  (In fact, I almost felt like the swim was a bit of a waste as it was so short.  I don’t think I would race another sprint triathlon unless it had a swim of at least ½ mile.)  One thing I forgot, however, was that without my glasses I couldn’t see to which bike rack I should run.  Luckily, a volunteer noticed the number on my arm and guided me to the correct area.  I thanked her and headed to start my first transition (called “T1”).

T1 (2 minutes 1 second, 212 out of 422)
Because I had passed people in the pool, my transition area was empty when I arrived.  I pulled off my swim cap, threw down my goggles and cap, and sat down on the curb to dry my feet and pull on my shoes.  Then I stood up next to my bike and put on my sunglasses, gloves, and helmet.  Finally, I grabbed my bike by its stem, pulled it off the rack, and jogged awkwardly in my bike shoes to the mount line.  Although in hindsight there are some things I could do to speed up my transition time, it went fine for what I had planned.

Bike (40 minutes, 196 out of 422)
I was determined to continue my modest pace throughout the bike leg to save my energy for the run.  Plus, I was unfamiliar with the course and didn’t want to make a wrong turn.  Luckily, the course had volunteers and policemen at every turn to guide us and stop traffic.  It was so cool to ride without a single stop sign or traffic light!  Throughout the race, I followed my triathlete friend Eric’s advice and kept my heart rate at or under 165 beats per minute.

At about three miles I began to pass people, and I ended up in a slightly inclined straightaway that caused me to slow my pace to keep my heart rate down.  That’s when the first person passed me, a 31-year old woman who looked far less tired than I did.  We exchanged places for the rest of the bike leg, with me leading out on downhills and straightaways and her catching back up on inclines.  It was helpful to have a competitor (called a “rabbit”) to push my pace and I ended the bike leg with my fastest average speed (18 miles per hour).

Along the way I saw a 44-year-old woman who had crashed on a turn and was limping and pushing her bike.  Because I was unfamiliar with the course, two of the turns caught me by surprise as well and I had to break quickly to avoid the curb, but since the course was two loops of a 6-mile route, I slowed down the second time around.  About halfway through the ride, I ate the energy gel I had taped on my bike, and shortly after I was passed by a 61-year-old man on an incline who flew by me effortlessly and turned to wish me good luck.  I said thanks to every volunteer or cop I saw and they all seemed to appreciate it.  And the end of the second loop, I rode to the dismount line where there were a half-dozen volunteers holding up their hands and yelling for riders to stop.  I unclipped both feet, hopped off my bike, and jogged it back to the rack and my second transition (“T2”).

T2 (2 minutes 17 seconds, 339 out of 422)
I racked my bike and sat down on the curb to take off my bike shoes.  I rolled on my socks and was about to put on my shoes when I realized I had put one sock on with the heel at the top of my foot.  D’oh!  I pulled it back off my foot, turned it outside in, flipped it over, and pulled it back on.  Then I pulled on my shoes and tied them, which took longer than I would have liked.  (Next time I’ll pre-tie my shoes and just slip them on.)  I took off my helmet and tossed it down, left the sunglasses on my face, put on my visor, and started jogging towards the run exit.

Run (30 minutes 33 seconds, 266 out of 422)
Running immediately after a hard bike ride is a funny feeling.  Your legs are used to moving in controlled circles; now you’re asking them to move laterally and they don’t want to oblige.  It doesn’t hurt but it definitely feels awkward.  (Try it sometime: ride fairly hard for 30 minutes on the exercise cycle and then immediately jog on the treadmill for 15 minutes.  Be careful not to stumble!)  By the end of the first half-mile my legs felt great and my energy level was high, so I picked up my pace to 10 minutes per mile and began to pass people.  One person I passed was walking and leaning over as if he had stomach cramps, but when I passed him he looked more tired than ill.

I remembered reading that it was easy to get overheated coming off the bike in hot weather because you lose your source of natural air conditioning at the same time that you increase your effort.  So I took more advice from Eric and walked through both of the water stations, grabbing two cups of water, drinking one, and pouring the other on my head.  This helped a lot, as the first two miles was a slow incline with no shade.  My heart rate stayed above 170 beats per minute for the entire run and by the first mile I was sweating a lot.

All of the run volunteers were focused on keeping us moving, giving us words of encouragement as we passed.  But one volunteer in particular was more fired up than the rest.  She was sitting in a lawn chair on a street corner, but unlike the other volunteers, when you got about 50 yards away, she started clapping and screaming at you to keep going, pick up the pace, drop the hammer, push yourself, et cetera.  Whoa!  Maybe she was a spin instructor like Debbie?  Anyway, I thanked her for encouraging me to keep up my 10-minute pace right when I was feeling like slowing down.

After the 2-mile point, the route turned onto a path through some shady trees on a surface made of track material.  It felt great to get a break from the sun and the concrete, and after another half-mile I reached the end of the slow incline I had been on for almost the entire run route.  A volunteer there told me it was all downhill from then on, and as I turned the corner I saw the finish-line banners and picked up the pace to 8 minutes per mile.  But when I got to the base of the descent, I realized I miscalculated the route and actually had to run another quarter-mile around the fence of a park, through a gate, and across the park on a winding path to the finish line.  8 minutes per mile is a very fast pace for me, and I was tiring quickly but determined to finish without slowing down.  I saw a 12-year old boy ahead of me, and by maintaining my pace I actually passed him about 50 yards from the finish line.  Most of the crowd was cheering him on, and even though I barked, “Great race little man!” to him as I went by, I immediately became the bad guy.  I heard one man yell, “Don’t let him pass you!  Catch him!  Catch him!” but I did manage to finish ahead of him.

As I crossed the finish line some people did cheer for me (“Way to go 335!”) and two volunteers came up to me to take off my timing chip, hand me a cold water, and squeeze a wet washcloth on my neck.  That’s when I saw Joanne and Emma and jogged over to them.  Emma looked reluctant to hug me as I was breathing heavy and sweating everywhere, but I knelt down and she ran up, gave me a big hug, and then made a face and said, “Daddy, you are all wet!”

Final Result: 1 hour 22 minutes 50 seconds, 235 out of 422
Thanks to everyone who has supported me as I’ve droned on about triathlon – especially Joanne who not only had to deal with me disappearing for 90-minute runs and bike rides, but then had to suffer through all of my heart rate and GPS data on her laptop.  I have registered for the U.S. Open Triathlon on October 5th in Dallas and you’re invited to come see if I can make it across the finish line!


  • 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