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.

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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.

24.43 miles in 1:30:48 @ 16.1 mph and 143/163 bpm for 1,524 calories

Ever since I started biking in May of last year, I’ve ridden dozens of different routes. But the route I like best is the one I rode today. It’s close to my house, almost exacty the same distance as an Olympic-distance triathlon bike leg, and has a great mix of hills and flats. It also happens to pass the homes of my friends Mike and Stephen, although I’ve never stopped by and said hi.

You can click on the “24.43 miles” link in this post to explore the route in detail. For those of you familiar with West Plano, the ride includes the hills on Windhaven Road (called “The Widowmaker” by local cyclists), a long trip along the wonderfully trafficlight-less Plano Parkway, another long trip up the relatively flat Ohio Road, and along the back of Frito-Lay headquarters (my former employer many years ag0) towards home.

Here is a screen shot of the route’s elevation profile. You can see the hills at the beginning, the flat section in the middle, and the hill at the end.  That last hill looks small, but if you look closely at its grade at the very beginning of the climb, it’s actually quite steep. And after 90 minutes of hammering, it’s quite painful as well. A great way to end a long morning ride.

Bike route elevation profile

Bike route elevation profile

If you’re interested in giving this route a try, let me know! My long ride is on Sunday mornings and I could always use the company.

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.

24.36 miles in 1:34:47 @ 15.42 mph and 144/166 bpm for 1,326 calories

It’s been three months since my last serious ride.  All week I’ve been looking forward to getting back on the bike and since Sunday morning before church is my typical long ride, I figured I’d shoot for a 90-minute, 25-mile ride and see how long I lasted.  I fell a tad bit short; just like running, my bike pace is a little slower than last Fall, but hopefully that’ll improve by my first big race in mid-May.

It was a beautiful morning, 55 degrees and light winds, and I really loved being back out there.  The wind picked up as the ride progressed and I think I climbed one too many hills, but other than that it was a great morning.   And to top it off, the sermon at church was about Ephesians—one of my favorite books of the Bible.

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.

8 miles in 1:20:27 @ 10:03 pace and 165/195 bpm for 1,193 calories

After almost 20 years of hearing from my best friend Curt Brewer and his dad about the infamous Turkey Trot, I finally got a chance to run it this year.  I originally registered when I first started exercising in the Spring, and back then 8 miles seemed an impossible distance.  Fast forward to today and 8 miles is slightly less than my typical weekly long run, but this morning when I woke up at 6:30am I was still just as excited as I was on the morning of my first triathlon.

After I woke up and put a groggy Emma back to bed so that Joanne could get a bit more sleep, I had what is becoming my typical pre-race breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios and skim milk and I dressed in shorts, a long-sleeve running shirt, and a black wool cap for the race.  I drove downtown and parked a little more than an hour before the race began.  It was remarkably empty when I walked over to Dallas City Hall to meet Joey Martinez (Curt’s brother-in-law and my running buddy for today), but by the time Joey and I hooked up and found our way to the start line, it was packed!

Starting line crowd at the 2008 Dallas Turkey Trot

Starting-line crowd (photo by travelcodemonkey)

It took about three minutes for us to cross the start line, and once we did the road was clogged with walkers, jogging strollers, dogs, and runners with all sorts of crazy gear—everything from a woman with a backpack full of clothes and food and who-knows-what-else to a group of girls in pilgrim outfits.  It was fun to run through downtown and Deep Ellum with thousands of other people, and I will definitely do it again next Thanksgiving.

In terms of my performance, I finished 4,622nd out of 7,174 runners in the 8-mile race, which put me in the top 64% as compared to my last triathlon finish in the top 40%.  This result confirms to me that running really is my weakest triathlon discipline, and I’m enjoying spending the “off-season” focusing on it.  I honestly could have tried a bit harder to keep up my pace, but I was thinking of negative splitting the race and enjoying my time with Joey.  I did manage to increase my pace throughout the run, but not very evenly.  I really need to work more on this aspect of my race.  Here were my mile splits:

  1. 10:21
  2. 10:31
  3. 10:00
  4. 10:28
  5. 10:21
  6. 10:00
  7. 9:08
  8. 8:32

Finally, here’s a cool graph from SportTracks, the open-source software I use to process my GPS/HRM watch data.  You can see elevation, pace, and heart rate.  The spikes in pace were my walking through the aid stations to stop for water and the dips were running down hills.

Pace, elevation, and heart rate by distance

Pace (blue), elevation (brown), and heart rate (red) by distance

5.13 miles in 53:16 @ 10:22 pace and 164/176 bpm for 720 calories

My final run before the race Thanksgiving morning and it was cold!  I wore a thick, long-sleeved running shirt, tights, a wool cap, and gloves.  My run was under an hour but the sun came up towards the end and I heated up real fast.  Weather.com says it’ll be partly cloudy with a light breeze and 56 degrees for the race—perfect running weather.  Let’s hope the rain doesn’t come early though.

6.47 miles in 1:07:47 @ 10:28 pace and 150/170 bpm for 916 calories

Joanne and I had a date night planned but we ended up dropping off Emma at Grandma Sandy’s house a bit too late to catch our movie. I didn’t get a chance to run on Saturday because I had to work and Joanne hadn’t run for weeks because she’s been sick.  So we took the opportunity to hit the road together, sans jogging stroller.  Over the weekend I had bought her a long-promised heart-rate monitor (Women’s Polar F6, Happy Thanksmas sweetheart!), so we set that up and then ran a small loop around the neighborhood to ease her back into running.  I then dropped her off at the house and went out for some more miles.  She got ready while I finished running, then I came home and showered and we went out for some Thai food.  Sometimes the simplest dates are the best.

7.7 miles in 1:23:13 @ 10:49 pace and 157/174 bpm for 1,124 calories

I took it a lot easier on this week’s long run as compared to last week—no attacking any hills and a leisurely pace where I pretty much avoided looking at my watch for the majority of the run.  I decided to run a big square, as evidenced by the above link to my route map, which included trying out a new sidewalk the City of Plano built on Spring Creek.  They still need to clean it up a bit but it was nice to have a long stretch of straight path to follow.  The sun kept the temperature in check but the 15+ mph winds definitey blew through my long-sleeved running shirt.  I think I need to go buy a running undershirt or something to keep me a bit warmer.

8.69 miles in 1:27:51 @ 10:07 pace and 162/180 bpm for 1,187 calories

Because of a particularly hectic week both at home (Joanne sick, Emma sick, daddy on duty!) and at work, I missed three of my six workouts this week.  Luckily I squeezed in a long run today.  It was cold and windy but the week’s “forced taper” made for decent distance at a nice pace.  I decided to work the hills for the first half of the run, and I jogged over to Arbor Hills to practice pushing hard on the inclines and coasting on the declines.  The second half of the run was mostly flat and allowed me to pick up the pace.  I should have kept my heart rate a bit lower, but I was excited to be running again.  With the Turkey Trot approaching, I hope the next two weeks are relatively clear.

26.32 miles in 1:36:08 @ 16.43 mph and 151/182 bpm for 1,559 calories

I was back on the bike today for an early Sunday morning ride before church.  It was cold, around 45 or 50 degrees with a strong easterly wind.  I dressed in a long-sleeve jersey and wore my winter riding gloves (they’re thicker and cover my whole fingers), but I was still a bit cold during the first half-hour of the ride.  It probably didn’t help that I was heading into the wind and that the sun wasn’t quite up high enough to warm me.  My cycling shoes are made for triathlon, which means they’re well-vented to dry my feet after the swim while on the bike, but I’ll definitely need to buy some shoe covers for cold-weather riding as that cold breeze blew through my shoes and made my toes numb.  (They stung in my hot shower after the ride!)  I’ll also wear a wool cap underneath my helmet next time.

The ride was great once I got out of that headwind, including a fast sprint on Plano Parkway heading west at a bit over 28 mph on the flats.  I finished with a climb up The Widowmaker (Windhaven Hill) that spiked my heart rate at 182 and slowed me down to about 8 mph.  I really need to work in some hill repeats.

Besides soccer and t-ball as a young child and a couple years of rollerhockey, I have never trained for, competed in, or certainly excelled at any athletic pursuit.  I belong to the first generation of what are now millions of kids and young adults who choose the immersive, interactive world of video games over athletics.  As a result of genetics—specifically my hyperactive imagination and my need to shut off the world—I have always loved gaming, from saving self-programmed games on audio cassettes for my TI-99/4A to entering hex-code cheats in ProDOS on my Apple //c to playing Company of Heroes on the souped-up Dell XPS with which I’m typing this post.

But it was my genetics, including that hyperactive imagination and my need to escape, that created a short bout of anxiety back in March which drove me to embrace exercise.  Although I credit gaming for a great deal of the mindset that has helped me become a successful consultant, it doesn’t deliver near the endorphins that aerobic activity does, and it certainly doesn’t help me burn off my nervous energy.  So even though I still plan on playing video games now and again, I’ve not played since March and swimming, biking, and running have largely become my new “hobby.”

That brings me to the good news.  It seems that triathlon has another advantage over gaming when it comes to my genetics.  High cholesterol runs in my family, and back in March when I got my blood tested mine was no exception. My cholesterol level was 181, which although not the worst it’s ever been, still put me at risk for all sorts of nasty health conditions.  Fast forward to mid-September when I had a follow-up blood draw, and I learned that my cholesterol dropped 45 points in just six months!  Moreover, my unhealthy (i.e. LDL) cholesterol dropped by 50 points, reducing my cholesterol-related health risk (i.e. LDL/HDL risk ratio) by over 40%.  Note that besides cutting out white bread, flour pasta, and sugar drinks, I changed almost nothing about my diet.  I only increased my aerobic exercise time from 0 hours per week to 6-8 hours per week.

With less than a year of training under my belt I’m still an exercise newbie, so we’ll see how long I actually keep up this new hobby.   But results like that one get me even more fired up to make life changes that do good for both my brain and body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginning the ride

Pushing through a turn

Pushing through a turn

Last mile of the run

Last mile of the run

About to cross the finish line

About to cross the finish line

Celebrating with a cute fan

Celebrating with a cute fan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Made a wrong turn but stumbled across a nice contry road

Made a wrong turn but stumbled across a nice contry road

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

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

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

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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