Why We Tri

Endurance Planet just posted a wonderful little video entitled “Why we Tri“. Click on the title to open the video in a new window. Unfortunately I can’t embed it here.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Last week was my first training week after my post-race recovery. My virtual coach had me straight back into high volume Base training with a 15-hour training week. Too bad I didn’t make that, but I’m OK with the idea.

My in-laws dropped in for a few days, which made training at that volume a bit hard to fit in. But that’s OK, family comes first with no reservations. This weekend my parents come into town and it’ll be the same thing. I’ll squeeze in a run or ride if I can, but I don’t plan on it, especially since my Dad’s coming in to help me rebuild the back end suspension of my ’64 Chevy truck. I know I’ll get plenty sweaty doing that. I’ve already managed to break a few bolts and I suspect I’ll break a few more. If not, I know I’ll be cutting a few off too.

One thing I’ve been amazed with is how fast the corn is growing. The back of the yard butts up against several hundred acres of corn planted by the Mennonite family that lives just up the hill. This weekend I walked back and looked at the corn, which was just barely waist high. Today, just a few days later, it’s chest high, perhaps chin high in places. And on today’s ride, I discovered the downside to the fast growth. Where I recently had wide open roads and fields which made it easy to see cross-traffic approaching, I now have a few blind corners on my favorite routes. Oh well, I’d rather have the greenery and scenery.

I hope all is well with you.

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My Photography

One nice thing about taking the week off after a race is being able to catch up on other things. Lots of beer and lots of work on the truck.

One addition to these here parts is a new page with a few of my favorite photographs that I’ve taken over the years. At the moment, it’s mostly photos from the years that we lived in Japan. But I’ll add some from time to time, as long as they become a favorite photo of mine.

To have a look, please browse here or click on the tab at the top of the page.

Thanks for reading.

Taylorsville Race Miscellany

Since we traveled to the race, it’s not just about the race. We try to squeeze in a couple of other things if we can.

First off, you gotta love the t-shirt. This wasn’t the only one available for the race, but the one that made me and my lovely bride giggle. So it’s mine.

Our post race dinner took us to the Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, KY. If you follow the link, you’ll find that the house is where Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders moved his operation to prior to establishing the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain.

Good food and a fun atmosphere, with folks wearing anything from t-shirts and shorts (me) to a wild but formal wedding reception in the next room (except for when they did “The Train” through our dining area).

The day after the race, we traveled about 30 miles south of the race course to what is a Mecca of sorts for me, the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY. Now that’s one fine bourbon. The tour’s free and I highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area. The distillery and tour is not as long nor as widespread as the Jack Daniels Distillery tour, but every bit just as good. Better yet, Maker’s Mark is not in a dry county like Jack Daniels. And Maker’s Mark is in the process of building a taster’s bar, set to open this September. We’ll be back.

Instead of buying a bottle of Maker’s Mark, which is the same as I can pick up at any other store, I picked up a couple of glasses and a jigger with the Maker’s Mark distinctive wax seal. Quite nice if you ask me. And more glass to add to my distillery/brewery collection.

Taylorsville Race Report

Bottom line – I finished!

My planned time, not my goal, was 6 hours. I based on that total time on where I expected to be based on my training so far. Here’s how it panned out:

Swim (1.2 miles): 35:19 (4th of 22 in my Age Group)
T1: 1:30
Bike (56 miles): 2:55:14 (5 of 22)
T2: 1:52
Run (13.1 miles): 2:32:04 (19th of 22)
Total: 70.3 miles in 6:05:38 (12th of 22)
or 49th of 73 total finishers

So I hit my planned time pretty close. My number one goal was to simply finish. Everything else was gravy.

I didn’t do too good of a job researching the race beforehand, only to find out last week that I was facing over 5400 feet of climbing during the ride. Since I don’t have too many significant hills in my area, this was a shock. And since I’m a heavy rider, I knew that it was going to be quite an experience.

The quick recap -Wait, wait, wait; start, swim, swim, swim, splash, swim, swim, swim; run, peel, run, peel, pedal, pedal, pedal, coast, pedal, pedal; run, run, run, walk, run, walk, walk, walk, run, walk, run, Finish!

The long recap:

Thanks to a very cool night (47F) and a warm 71F lake, visibilility was zero. Apparently this isn’t the first time it has happened for this race, so the start was pushed back 30 minutes to start at 8:30am.

Swim – Very comfortable. I didn’t push the pace and kept right at a 1:40/100 yard pace, which is my normal pace during my long pool intervals. I know I could have gone harder, but didn’t want to since I didn’t know how the rest of the day was going to play out. So I was quite surprised today to see that my swim was 4th in my age group.

With only about 100 people in the water (there was an AquaBike event at the same time), the jostling was fairly non-existent, although there was one jerk who decided he needed to swim over me hundred yards or so into the swim even though there wasn’t anyone else withing 10 feet of us; a couple of well-placed elbows got him to move along.

The course had buoys set up in a curved line, with the turn-around buoy about 1/3 mile out; we had to do two laps of the course. Since the buoy line curved to the right during the out leg, I’d end up a bit wide and have to correct, but nothing serious. What I couldn’t understand was that on the return leg, folks were sticking right next to the buoys instead of taking the straight shot from the turnaround back to the start buoy. But everyone has to swim their own race, right?

Transition 1 (T1) – With a 100 yard run up the boat ramp into the transition area, the wetsuit came off quick with no problems. I set up on the far end of the transition in the very first rack, so I had the furthest to run, but only feet to carry my bike out and back in. Wetsuit off, gel in pocket, helmet on and bike off the rack. Done in under 2 minutes.

Bike – Straight out of the transition is about 150 yards of gradual uphill in the parking lot, then a steep climb of 120 feet in about 1/10 mile. What a nice way to wake the legs up after swimming. Like I said above, 5400+ feet of climbing to come in the next 56 miles and the start was one of the worst. Not the worst, but one of the worst.

The worst was at the 25.5 mile point, where we climbed about 150 feet in 1/10 mile. With my wide load, I was passed by six guys on that climb. It took me the better part of the next 20 miles to catch half of them.

For me, the best part of the hills is down. I’ve got enough extra weight that gravity is my friend. And in the flats and small rolling hills, I’m a locomotive. It’s just the short and steeps uphills that really knock me down. Luckily those were few. I passed about as many as passed me and heading out to the the turnaround point on an out-and-back leg, I counted that I was in 12th place overall. But that was right before that steep hill at 25.5 miles.

Finishing the bike leg was welcome. I still felt quite strong, but could feel the onset of fatigue. At this point, I was 3:30 into the race. I was pleasantly surprised to see that if I ran my expected 2:00 half marathon, I’d finish right around 5:30, which would be great for my first 1/2 IM distance race.

Transition 2 (T2) – A quick dismount and then scattering to grab my water bottle that I kicked off the back of my seat. Since I had the first rack, it was just a few feet to my area. I had planned on standing and putting on my socks and shoes, but ended up on my butt, which took extra time. No big deal. I was still out in under 2 minutes.

Run – No problem getting the legs moving. I never do after a long hard ride. Up the parking lot and straight back up that steep 120 foot climb. Now that didn’t feel good. Not at all. I started to feel some pain in my stomach, which is odd, since I never had problems with my food during training and I hadn’t introduced anything new. Midway up the hill, a lady passed and asked how many times we had to go up – “Luckily only once”. She took off and blazed her way to a 1:33 half-marathon and Overall Female win.

At the top of the hill, my lovely bride and son had jumped in to help out at the aid station. That’s where they caught me, still looking fairly strong. As you can see in the background, that’s Taylorsville Lake and the spot in this picture isn’t but a 1/2 mile away; that’ll give you an idea of the climb. Luckily they didn’t take any more pictures until the finish, because soon after this is when it got quite ugly.

My normal pace after a long, hard 80 mile ride is a comfortable 9:00-mile. A 10:00-mile is my “go all day long” pace. If you do the math above, my average for the 13.1 miles is 11:36.

With my stomach giving me fits, I knew to slow down and let it work itself out. It took until the 4.5 mile point before I was comfortable enough to take in some water. 2 miles later at the next aid station, I took in some Heed and some water. I kept running, but the pace was slow and I knew it. But I kept working through it and never got discouraged.

By the 8 mile point, I gave up any plans of a 5:30 finish. I was still confident on a 6:00 finish, but that confidence was waning with each stride. By the 9 mile point, I realized that I could walk faster than my shuffle was moving me. But I didn’t let myself walk long, more for the mental aspect. By the time I hit the aid station at 10 miles, I knew that I was well on my way to finishing and hoped that knowing that would boost my pace. It didn’t. I walked the first 1/4 mile after the aid station and got to shuffling again.

A couple of more walking bouts and a few more shuffles and I got to the final aid station at 12.5 miles, only to find that my lovely bride and son had left to meet me at the finish. Normally you’d think that would get the legs moving, but mine wouldn’t have any of that. Luckily the steep downhill was coming and that got the legs moving. A sweeping left turn into the parking lot and a long gradual downhill to the finish and I was done. Not far off of my original estimation of total time – 6 hours, 5 minutes, 38 seconds.

Post mortem – In hindsight, the bike leg was my downfall. I felt good throughout that leg, but I wasn’t hammering hard. I kept my heart rate under control and never overexerted myself. But the total climbing was a good 4,000 feet more than any other ride that I did during training. But that wasn’t the whole story.

During the ride, when it’s easiest and best to fuel, I only took in a total of 800 calories! I thought I was doing a good job of keeping on top of my fuel and feeding consistently, but when I’m burning 800+ calories an hour, taking in only 800 during the 3-hour ride certainly wasn’t going to be sufficient to get me through the 1/2 marathon at the end. By comparison, during a 4-hour bike/run training session I’d typically take in 1300 calories, and that’s with 4,000 less feet of climbing on the bike.

And with the stomach issues that I had on the run, that just served to push me deeper in the hole. Once I was able to drink some HEED, the small cups only gave me, at best, 50 calories each. By the 8 mile aid station, I grabbed a single Fig Newton, but that certainly didn’t do much for me.

I made it across the finish without getting wobbly, so I can’t say that I completely bonked. But I was almost there. Once back at the hotel, I weighed myself and I was 5 pounds lighter than I was before the race that morning. So it definitely took it out of me.

But I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. And that’s all that mattered.

Now I’ve got this week to rest and then start up again. In just four months I’ll be tackling a full Ironman-distance race (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). And I’m ready for it.

Learn to read the water!

In about 60 hours the gun will go off and I’ll start splashing my way through my first 1/2 IM-distance race. I’m definitely looking forward to it, I know I’m ready and I know I’m capable. So it’s just a matter of putting everything together at the right time in the right way. Easy, eh?

With this race week, the workouts have been short with bursts up to race pace, just to keep the muscles aware of what I’ll be expecting of them.

Since the water at the race will still likely be cool, I rented a wetsuit from, are you ready for this? WetsuitRental.com. What a deal. For $35, they Fed-Ex out a wetsuit about 10 days prior to your race, which is enough time to give it a few tries. So that’s what I’ve been doing this week, giving the Orca Evo a try. Quite a nice wetsuit, much different from the wetsuits I’ve worn in the past for surfing and bodyboarding.

Based on my height and weight, I ordered the Medium Large, which actually turned out to be a bit small in the shoulders. I can definitely feel my shoulders after a few minutes of freestyle. Now I find that tri-shops like All3Sports recommend sizing up since the suits run a touch tight. Like the best line in The Wedding Singer – “Gee, you know that information…really would’ve been more useful to me YESTERDAY!”.

Hehe. No worries. The added resistance isn’t that big of a deal.

Anyway, in order to make sure it was comfortable to swim in, my lovely bride and I drove out Monday morning to the site where my IM-distance race will be held in September. But wouldn’t you know it, the beach is closed for the season, waiting for warmer weather and tourists. So I had to poach a swim by hiking through the woods down to the water and then swimming across an inlet. The water was warm, almost too warm for the wetsuit.

Since I didn’t want to drive the 75 minutes out there again today, I decided to drive downtown and jump in the Cumberland River, which feeds the lake that I swam in on Monday. I planned on swimming upstream, against the current for a while, then turning around and cruising back to my start point.

Waking up this morning, I knew the river would be a bit more entertaining that usual, since we had a few hours of torrential rain last night. Somewhere between 1.5″ and 2.25″ during that time. I didn’t know how high that would push the river and what sort of stuff would be floating in it, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me.

After some morning errands, we got out there just before lunchtime, stopped in the City Park and immediately saw the “No Swimming” signs. Ah well. I’ll just walk down outside of the park and jump in. I definitely got some odd looks as we walked past the playground, me with the wetsuit pulled up around my waist.

We sat and watched the water for a bit and what we saw confirmed that my planned route would take me upstream for the out leg, which would be north. Everything on the surface was moving south and at not too quick of a clip, so I was good to go.

I jumped in and gasped since the water was cold. Not as cold as that first rush of cold water down the back of the wetsuit after duck-diving under that first wave during a January dawn patrol in California, but it was cold, thanks to the rain last night. I started swimming along the bank, making sure to stay out of the middle of the river, since it’s a working river full of barges and tugs.

I got down to my turnaround point fairly quickly, thanks to a couple of surges to race pace along the way. I then started my swim back. That’s when I realized I’d made a mistake. The northerly wind was blowing everything on the surface towards the south, disguising the fact that I was now destined to swim upstream for the return leg.

Immediately the “Oh, shit” portion of my mind got to work, but luckily I soon realized that I was making headway against the current. At least I was getting a good workout. Time to make the best of it. The return leg took about 5 minutes longer than the out leg. Not too bad. But I’m sure glad that the current wasn’t any stronger.

That made me realize that I can’t read big rivers. I can drive up to a beach that I’ve never seen before, sit for 10 minutes, watch the water and have a darn good understanding of the currents, the contour of the bottom and the way the waves are breaking. I can walk up to a river in the Rockies or the Sierras, stand for a few minutes and see exactly what seams I need to cast my fly into or which rocks to drift the fly past.

But big, wide, slow-moving rivers? Apparently I’ve got a bit to learn…

Next post – Race Report.

Tapering, Pouring and Tix

Well, the taper continues. After last Saturday’s meltdown, I took Sunday off, which is my normally scheduled rest day.

Monday started with an easy run and then a swim at lunch. Both were very poor, at best. I just didn’t have anything in me, even though they were both recovery sessions. Tuesday morning I sat on the stationary cycle and spun for about 30 minutes, which was poor as well. After that, I decided to take time off completely. Glad I did.

Thursday I joined an organized workout session that was mostly strength and plyometrics. But between 10 minute focus sessions, we ran 1/2 mile. The first 1/2 felt good, the second 10 minutes later felt better, then I was able to smoke the last two 1/2 miles. Back on track for the remainder of this recovery week/taper.

Friday night we drove down to Nashville to enjoy some music and food at the “First Annual” Riverfront Park Crawfish Boil. Which brings up a point – how can something be the “First Annual”, since there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually have it every year after the first? Shouldn’t “Annual” be reserved for the second and subsequent events?

The scheduled music lineup was good, with Soul Asylum opening at 5pm, followed by Fuel, Cheap Trick, Papa Roach and finally Hinder. Not that I’m a huge fan of any of those bands, but each is good enough to get the toe tapping and the head bobbing. And for $25 at the gate, plus the promise of a huge mess of crawdads to eat while drinking beer and listening to live music, how could I refuse?

And for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of a crawfish boil, here’s what a huge mess of crawdads should look like, complete with potato and corn-on-the-cob:

Definitely some good, good stuff.

So we got down there just a few minutes after Soul Asylum took the stage, found an area on the hill to spread our our blanket, got some beers and sat back to enjoy the show. Soul Asylum gave what I would consider to be a pretty pedestrian show – good but nothing I haven’t seen out of a good bar band.

During their set, I was looking across the river at LP Stadium, which is where the Tennessee Titans play, snickering and telling my 15-year-old son that when I was his age, I saw Cheap Trick in San Diego’s Jack Murphy (later to become Qualcomm) Stadium, which was about the same size as the stadium we were looking at. He was trying to make the connection between going from playing stadiums to small venues like the one we were sitting in. As a budding bassist, he at least understood continuing to play because one loves it, regardless of the size of the crowd or venue.

And the stadium got me thinking back to all of the shows I saw there. 101KGB always put on good summer concerts, where we got to see acts like Motley Crue (long before their rapid downward spiral with the release of “Theater of Pain”), Def Leppard, Chuck Berry and The Who (after which I actually met Roger Daltrey). Good times.

But enough reminiscing. Fuel took the stage. That was more like it. Energetic, loud and electric. Literally.

As they continued to play their set, the sky kept getting darker. And darker. And then tinges of green in the clouds. And for those of you who have lived here in the Midwest, green in the storm clouds means only one thing – hail. Fuel kept playing, the rain started and a few rumbles were heard. Nothing to worry about. Yet.

Then the downpour, followed by dime-sized hail, which never feels good on the noggin. That’s when everyone broke for cover. By the time we got under cover, we were all soaked completely to the bone. Ah well, it’s all part of the experience.

As the rain continued, the drunk and otherwise influenced crowd decided to keep themselves entertained by sliding down the wet grassy hill. The only problem with that was that after a few grassy ledges and drops, the grass gives way to concrete steps. A few bodies went launching over the concrete, but I don’t think any of them could feel what they were doing to themselves. I suspect this morning is a different story.

Of course, the downside to being soaking wet as the sun goes down is that you can get cold. And with my newer, slimmer physique thanks to all of this tri training, I don’t have the insulation that I did just four months ago. Shivering became my newest physical activity as we waited for the rain to stop. Even taking my shirt off was warmer, but didn’t help much. Others had the same idea, and for some of them we wish they hadn’t.

Anyway, we sat and waited out the storm. And waited. And waited. And waited. The promoters had done the right thing and cut the power to the stage. The downside to that is that the crowd was pretty restless after a while. Some guys up on stage worked hard to keep the crowd in front of the stage entertained by doing silly things like spraying them with water. Methinks they were wet enough.

After two hours and me continuing to shiver, we decided to bag the rest of the night. It was already halfway through the time that Papa Roach would have been on stage. That meant we had missed out on half of Fuel’s set, all of Cheap Trick’s set and it looked like all of Papa Roach’s set. And with me being concerned about getting sick just a week out from my 1/2 IM, heading home was the best thing to do.

Not 10 miles up the road, everything was as dry as a bone. But even after driving the hour home, I checked the radar and it was still raining down over downtown Nashville. So I don’t think the crowd even got to see Hinder. That wasn’t a big loss for us, since we were going to leave right after they started playing anyway.

So after the crawdads and beer, this cartoon this morning made me laugh:

And it’s all not a loss. I got home, checked my e-mail and got my daily music update. Thanks to that, we just scored tickets to see Tool up in Evansville next month, coinciding with my beautiful bride’s birthday.

Hope all is well with you.

Overreaching Taper

What’s that? Exactly…

The taper has begun. R-13. It’ll be interesting to get through the next two weeks with my sanity. 😉

Overreaching was achieved this week. It took some suffering spread over the past couple of days to come to that realization. Not that I significantly increased my volume, but a slight increase in volume and overall intensity did it for me. Plus, the way I’ve had the last two weeks scheduled out, I put in my 10.5 mile runs in the morning and then a pretty intense swim workout at lunch just a few hours later.

And with the humidity this week, I pretty much ran myself right into the ground. That’s what I get for leaving my Fuel Belt at home and not taking any fluids with me for the 10.5 miles. Pretty stupid move. That’s what pushed me over the edge.

I was able to get in a decent swim that lunch hour, but that was the last decent workout of the week. And it was only Wednesday. An easy run Thursday morning, then having to reschedule my Thursday afternoon ride due to thunderstorms. Friday morning’s run was easy, but not comfortable. The heavy rain felt good, but the legs just weren’t there. And that feeling continued into the swim that afternoon. Matter of fact, even though I was plugging along at my normal pace, I just couldn’t finish the workout. And it wasn’t anything overly strenuous. My wife and I figured it was either my sinuses (long story there) or lack of caffeine, since I hadn’t had my normal pot of coffee that morning. So we chalked it up to caffeine deprivation and I did my best to rectify that “problem”.

Saturday scheduled workout was a 5-hour brick. No problem. Done plenty of them. But for the first 30 minutes, my quads felt as if I had done a 40K TT the day before. They weren’t sore, just that deep-down tiredness. I figured that it would work itself out, but even an hour into it and the legs still felt the same.

Two hours into it and they still felt the same. I kept pushing the legs as hard as they would go, but my HR hovered right around 120, even on the climbs, while my speed kept dropping. When I was struggling to maintain 14.5 mph on the flats with a quartering 10mph tailwind, it finally dawned on me what was going on.

At this point I was three hours into my ride. So after some quick calculations on how far I had to get back home and whether or not it was worth it to dig myself deeper in the hole, I called my wife to meet me at the intersection of two nearby highways.

While pedaling toward the intersection, the skies opened up. And I actually started feeling better, but knew it wouldn’t last (the showers or me).  The rain dropped the visibility down to a couple of hundred yards, which made me a bit nervous since I was on a two-lane highway with no shoulder.  But the cars weren’t the problem, it was the constant stream of water off the front of my helmet and into my eyes.

Sitting at the intersection, under the edge of a tree to give some shelter from the rain, I waited for my wife. The shelter didn’t matter, since I was beyond soaked. And the rain felt good. But I had a good laugh at the carload of way-overweight teenagers that rode by, pointing and laughing at me. I laughed because no matter what my legs felt like, they wouldn’t know, nor understand, that feeling. And even though I had to bag the session, I was still doing better than they could imagine.

A few minutes later, my lovely bride “rescued” me just as the rain quit.

And like any good experience, I learned a lot after looking back at the past few weeks.  And that’s the whole idea.