Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Longhorn 70.3 Results (My first triathlon ever)

The Longhorn 70.3 is now behind me and I must say that for my very first triathlon ever at any distance that I had a great time (both literally and figuratively). I will post a full race report with lots of pictures sometime later this week after I catch back up at work, but I wanted to share my official race results below. Being a runner certainly paid off in the end. Out of 1929 finishers, I was 1143rd in the swim, 1283rd on the bike, and 298th on the run, finishing 790th overall. If my math is right, I passed 493 people on the run.

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Training Totals and 5 Weeks Until Longhorn 70.3

With 5 weeks left until the Longhorn 70.3, I am extremely pleased with my August totals for swimming, cycling and running. :

Swimming: I started swimming again on August 22 after a month layoff from my cycling accident back on July 20. I swam 6 times for a total of 10.7km or 6.65 miles, average swim was 1783m or 1.11 miles with the longest swim being 2500m or 1.55 miles and the shortest swim being 1000m or 0.62 mile, with an overall average pace of approximately 2:00-2:10 per 100m (I fully expect this average pace to come back down to 1:50-2:00 once I get a few more swims in).

Running: Ran a total of 170.0 miles which included 18 runs, average run was 9.44 miles with the longest single run being 18.6 miles (30km) and the shortest run being 4.7 miles, and my average pace per mile for timed runs was 7:56. My average pace per mile was about 10 seconds higher than normal, which I attribute to the increase in mileage in both running and cycling, as well as August being the hottest month of the year.

Cycling: This was my second full month of cycling since I got my bike back on June 9 and other than 2-3 missed rides due to tropical depressions or other storms, I am very pleased with how I did. I cycled 14 times for a total of 572.8 miles or an average ride of 40.9 miles, with my longest ride being 75.0 miles and shortest being 25.0 miles. It is hard to judge average mph with all the starts and stops, but my best guess is that I'm probably average 18-19 mph.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back in the pool

Since the bike wreck, I've been wearing the brace on my left hand religiously for the last month (including during my running and cycling), and last Wednesday (August 20) got clearance from my doctor to start swimming again. I was both anxious and scared to get back in the water last Friday, not sure how my hand would hold up with the pulling motion. Other than being a bit more fatigued than I would have been prior to the accident, I swam 2000m (about 1.25 miles) in 40:46, just slightly over a 2:00 per 100m pace. What really blew me away was my swim this morning. I did the same distance in 38:28, a full 2:18 faster than Friday, and about a 1:55 pace per 100m, which is practically right back to where I was before the accident. I know for certain that without my consistent conditioning over the years and in the recent months and days leading up to now that there is no way I could have made this type of recovery so quickly. I am having a great month of training for August and am looking forward to posting my numbers for the month next week. With the Longhorn Half-Ironman now less than 6 weeks away, I feel confident that I'll be in great shape for my first triathlon when it arrives.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

First 100k (62.0 miles) bike ride

With my cycling accident behind me now for one week as of today, I had a strong outing today with my very first 100k ride in roughly 3 hours and 20 minutes, or about 18-19 mph. I also had a decent 10 mile run yesterday morning at about 7:55 per mile, but still was feeling the effects of the wreck, so I wisely scaled it back from my scheduled 13-15 mile run. All in all, the wreck caused me to really only lose about 3-4 days of training, so that's nothing too difficult to overcome.

Since I do my training schedules on a Monday-Sunday basis, last week was completely thrown out of whack with only 2 runs and 2 cycling rides. With the Longhorn Half-Ironman now only 10 weeks from today, I hope tomorrow (Monday) to get right back into a strong running and cycling schedule.

Also, since the only swimming I am prohibited from doing would be anything such as freestyle or breaststroke where I pull with my hands, I plan to spend what would be my normal swimming time just doing kick techniques in the pool, then some overhead lat pull downs on the weight machines using only my elbows (this motion would closely simulate a freestyle stroke without my having to grip anything), and some in and out chest exercises (no grip necessary on these either). My hope is that these routines will keep my swimming muscles fresh and make my entry back into swimming regularly in late August easier.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hello (& Goodbye) Dolly, Welcome Back Running

Since my bike wreck on Sunday and then not being able to get in to get my hand x-rayed until yesterday, my plan was to run yesterday after I got my brace. Well, along comes Hurricane Dolly, and although the eye was about 200 miles southwest of Houston, we had some pretty strong outer rain bands yesterday and today.

I finally got out late this afternoon and to say it was warm and humid is an understatement. The reason the picture looks so fuzzy is because the air was so thick. This picture was taken right after my run, and I was soaked with sweat. Thankfully I went back to the doctor this morning and picked up an extra brace, so now I have one to train and then shower in, and one to wear that is clean during the day and night.

Tomorrow I get back on the bike...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cycling accident follow-up: fractured left finger

I finally got in to see the doctor today to have my left hand x-rayed and the results were a mix of good and bad news. With the Longhorn Half-Ironman now less than 11 weeks away, here is a brief summary of the x-rays and what my training looks like:

First, the bad news is that my left pinky finger is fractured, and i will need to wear a brace (picture) for the next 4 weeks to keep it immobilized. After that, the doctor believes my pinky and ring fingers can probably be "buddy-taped" together for a few more weeks and should heal back to normal. The bad news is that I will not be able to swim at all for at least the next 4 weeks. At thet point, the doctor will do another x-ray and it will just depend on it and how I feel as to how soon I can start swimming again. My guess is that I will be back in the pool sometime between August 20 and Septmber 1, which leaves me about 4-5 weeks to get back into swimming shape before the race.

The good news, actually great news, is that as long as I wear the brace I can continue to run and cycle just fine. Also, I need to thank God and reflect more on what happened and realize that my injuries could be signficantly worse.

I will improvise, I will adapt, I will overcome.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bad Wreck (aka "Stupid Drivers Who Run Stop Signs")

This post was going to be about my 30th high school reunion on Saturday, but unfortunately that will have to wait because I'm writing (actually typing with just my right hand because my left hand is useless at the moment) about a bad wreck I had yesterday, and I feel very lucky to be alive.

I was at about mile 40 of a planned 50-60 miler and was on a 4 lane backstreet of a neighborhood that is probably overall the quietest and safest stretch of road I ride on. I am a VERY defensive cyclist, and any time I see a car approaching a stop sign, light or intersection I always presume they will do the wrong thing. I was in the right lane and could hear and then see a car approaching the cross street to my right. I had the right of way with no stop sign, and the approaching car had a stop sign. Per usual, I applied my breaks to slow down a bit, and also checked my mirror to make sure the left lane beside me was open in case this car did the wrong thing (note to avid cyclists who laugh at people like me with a mirror). It appeared at first that this guy was going to stop, but instead he just kept on cruising out into the right lane where I was. Stupid thing is, had he been paying attention AT ALL, he should have looked my way regardless to check for oncoming cars, but he didn't. There was no sun in his eyes, nothing to block his view of me, he was just flat out careless. Since I knew the left lane was open, I began moving over into it, but this idiot just kept on moving over across the right lane and into the left lane until I was forced into the curb.

I went over the handlebars and the next thing I know I am lying on my face in the road with my bike on top of me. I knew instantly that I was hurt, but could not tell how badly. I laid there for a moment trying to regain my composure. By this time, the driver had pulled back over into the right hand lane, stopped, rolled his window down and says, "Are you ok?" I can't really repeat what I said to him next, but it was not kind. I was yelling at him asking him why he did not stop, and all he could muster was a feable, "oh, I thought I did." Then I said, "Well, IF you did, then why did you pull out in front of me and continue to move over until I was forced into the curb?", to which of course he had no response.

The damage to my body was pretty good. I have a long and bloody scrape on my right elbow, bloody knuckles, bloody left knee, but the worst of the injuries is to my left hand. When I hit the pavement, I obviously braced most of my fall by putting my hands out. The back of my left hand is so swollen that you can not see anything but a dome of smooth skin. My left pinky and ringer finger have joints that have mounds on them, and I can barely even move them. The palm of my left hand is swollen and bruised looking. Also, I hit with such force that it literally ripped my watch off of my left arm and the watch face took skin off part of my left wrist. I do not know at this point if anything in my left hand is broken. Right after the wreck, I noticed the swelling there and was able to (not without some pain) bend my left pinky and ring finger, but this morning can not move them at all. If they are not better by tomorrow morning, I will probably go in for some xrays.

As for my bike, there are some good scratches on the left gear lever, which also got bent in slightly, and scratches to other parts of the bike, but not the frame. My cycling shorts and top both got scraped up pretty good and have holes in them. Thankfully the bike was fully functional and I was able to ride it home ok.

Not once, not a single solitary time, did this guy say he was sorry. I think that infuriated me more than his lack of driving skills. I made him give me his insurance information, and I made it VERY clear to him that if he dared to say that he stopped and/or yielded to me that I would have myself hooked up to a polygraph immediately and I expected him to do the same. I can tell you without any doubt that had I not been a safe and defensive driver that he would have run over me and things would be way worse. One thing that has surprised me, I am not scared in the least bit to ride again, I am quite simply extremely pissed off. This was 100% unequivocally this guy's fault, and I am sure that has something to do with my demeanor.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Great weekend of training in spite of oppressive Houston heat

With 12 weeks to go (as of yesterday) until the Longhorn 70.3 my training is going exceedingly well. This past weekend Houston had heat indexes well in excess of 100 degrees, and even the early morning or late evening temps were still above 95. Here is how my weekend went:

Saturday morning ran 15 miles in 1:57:45 (7:51 overall pace per mile), with a negative split from the first to second 7.5 mile loops that I run, and my last mile was in 7:51, which told me that I paced myself well from start to finish and didn't slow up coming in. The heat index was about 93 when I finished the run with humidity around 80%, so I feel really good about my effort under those conditions.

Saturday afternoon swam 2500m (1.55 miles) at about a 2:00-2:01 pace per 100m.

Sunday afternoon road 56.0 miles on the bike (longest ride to date and equal to the Half-Ironman distance) at about a 19-20 mph pace (just slightly under 3 hours).

I have also been keeping track of the percentage of miles put into swimming, cycling and running to see how close they are coming to the percentages of the 3 events in the Half-Ironman. Thus far, I am up about 2% in the swim, down about 5% in the cycling and up about 4% in the running. These numbers to me are good because the cycling is still by far the easiest of the 3 for me, and putting slightly more focus on the swim and especially the run I think will help me much more in my overall training and on race day.

I'd love any input or comments from you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

First "official" 50 mile ride

I got my bike one month ago today, and have been riding about 4 times a week. I know from familiarity with the area where I live that I've already done at least one ride of about 50 miles, but I made it official on Sunday after adding an odometer. I think what surprised me the most was that my average speed was consistently in the 17-20 mph range, and on one long stretch of road I got it up to around 23-34 mph and held that pretty comfortably for a few miles. Mind you, I am in Houston and all of these rides are on flat ground, but living close to the gulf we get a pretty steady wind of 20+ mph and so half of my rides are pretty much dead into that. I am still really enjoying the cycling portion of my training and have yet to experience anything remotely close to fatigue when I get off the bike to do bricks, even after the 50 miler. Right now my minimum rides are 50km or more (31.0+ miles) three times a week, and then Sunday afternoon is my long ride. I hope to consistently add a couple of miles a week to that ride and try my first century ride sometime in late August or early September (that would be about 5-6 weeks before the Longhorn 70.3).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Proud husband and father

This past weekend my wife Susan and my son Robert returned from a mission trip with UMArmy (sponsored by the United Methodist Church) to Orange, Texas that included about 70 high schoolers and 15 work team adults. Believe it or not, they were there to assist with home repairs of underpriviledged people who were still struggling from Hurricane Rita almost 2 years ago. Susan was a work team leader, which meant she led 6 teenagers in her group. They built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly lady who had lost her right leg from the knee down and had not been able to get out of the house for over a year (her group pictured below with the lady they helped).

My son's group repaired a roof on a house where for 2 years the family had to use buckets every time it rained because water just poured in, and they had a 4 year old son. On the last night of the trip, they were asked if they would like to speak about anything that week where they felt like they had seen the face of God at work. My son stood up and said that he saw the face of God through the people he helped who had so much less than he did, yet were happy. My wife said that she witnessed it when she was taking a picture of 6 sweaty, dirty teenagers standing proudly by an elderly lady whom they had never known before that week, but made such an impact on her life.

Monday, June 30, 2008

June Training Summary and Totals

I began cycling in June, so it was the first month that I incorporated swimming, cycling and running into my training. By adding the cycling this month, my running and swimming numbers went down slightly from May, but I realize that is part of the process and I am still very pleased with how the month went. Since getting my tri-bike ("Me-Cycle Aluminum" is what I named my bike) on June 9th, I have found thus far that cycling is definitely the easiest of the 3 disciplines for me. I have already done a number of 20-30 mile rides and one 50 mile ride with what I would consider minimal effort. I have been doing a lot of reading on bike setup and geometry and feel that I have the seat height, aero bars and my overall body positioned very well right now for my training. I may post a few pictures or a video of me on my bike in the near future to get some input from you more experienced cyclists and triathletes. Here are my June numbers:

Running: Ran a total of 152.8 miles which included 19 runs, average run was 8.04 miles with the longest single run being 14.0 miles (heat index reached 94 on that run) and the shortest run being 4.0 miles (a bonk run), and my average pace per mile for timed runs was 7:46. I am especially pleased with these numbers because the average heat index on all of my runs has been well into the 90's with humidity in the 70-100% range, and those temperatures exist early in the morning and after the sun goes down as well.

Swimming: Swam a total of 43.6km or 27.09 miles which included swimming 16 times, average swim was 2725m or 1.69 miles with the longest swim being 4000m or 2.49 miles (did that 3 times) and the shortest swim being 1600m or approximately 1 mile, and an average pace of approximately 1:57 per 100m (give or take a couple of seconds). I swam the 2.4 mile Ironman distance on June 18 in 1:18:19, just a shade over 2:00 per 100m, which I was very pleased with. I ended the month today with a 1600m swim in 29:39 (1:53 per 100m), an all-time PR for me for that distance.

Cycling: I cycled 12 times (starting June 9th) for a total of about 400 miles. I will have a much more accurate count on miles, time and speed in July because I just invested in an odometer that I will start using July 1.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


ok, so I'm an idiot and still rather new to this cycling stuff. The box to the left are the contents of my Shimano clipless pedals and the clips that come with the clipless pedals (call me too logical, but why are they called "clipless" and yet they clip?). I guess I missed reading the instruction section that talked about unclipping your clipless pedals before coming to a complete stop.

Tonight I successfully had my second crash since I got the bike 3 weeks ago, and both of the crashes occured while I was at a dead stop. Now keep in mind, neither of these incidents did anything but bruise my ego and a couple of minor scratches to the bike. You see, twice now I have forgotten that I have on pedal clips. Yes, that's right, laugh all you want. I came to a complete stop both times, started to put my foot down to brace myself, then my mind registers, "OH NO DUMMY, YOU ARE STILL CLIPPED IN!" From this point, everything happens in what seems like slow motion as you teater back and forth for a second or two, then just collapse to the side. At least I can laugh about it (just like all the people riding by me are).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ironman decisions

First of all, congratulations to all of those amazing finishers at Ironman CDA this past Sunday! All of you are inspirational to me and so many others.

For anyone who reads my blog, I've been talking for quite some time now about entering Ironman CDA for 2009 as my first IM. Online registration began yesterday, and I went to the web site, started filling out the form, and just couldn't complete it. It had nothing to do with changing my mind about doing an Ironman, but more to do with personal reasons. I've been thinking quite a lot lately about switching to Louisville in 2009, mainly because it is only a couple of hours drive from where my Dad, stepmother and brother live, and it would mean the world to me for them to see me finish my first one. My stepmother has also been going through chemo treatment for Myeloma (a cancer of the blood), and depending on how she is feeling this time next year, it would be much easier for her and my Dad to travel to Louisville to see me than for them to travel far away. Second, my wife's best friend since early childhood and her husband live in Louisville and it would present a great opportunity for her to visit them. Finally, for all of the reasons I just described and for others that I can not put into words, it is a decision that makes me feel at peace. I realize that might sound strange, but I have entered races before where my gut told me I was jumping the gun, and typically those instincts ended up being correct.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Answers to my 5 Tag Questions

Normally, I delete tag questions or chain emails, but Jim is a great guy and has a very inspirational and humorous blog, and since the questions are mainly about running, I'll give in.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago? 10 years ago in 1998 I was in the midst of trying to qualify for Boston for the year 2000, which I did. I had already completed about 5 marathons, but the training it took to make my time for Boston really taught me a lot about myself and what it takes to be really dedicated and push yourself past your own limits. I feel it has carried on with me and has helped me to continue to improve.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience? I have a tie for best between running my first Boston Marathon in 2000 and running my marathon PR of 3:19:18 in Austin in 2001, which qualified me for Boston again. Worst, too many to name, which is what makes this all so wonderful when you finally do achieve your goals. If I were forced to pick one, I'd say the 1986 Houston Marathon (my 2nd marathon) where we had a record heat day. I swore to God, my wife, and anyone else that would listen that I would NEVER do a marathon again (now I'm at 17 marathons and counting).

3. Why do you run? For the personal fulfillment and reaching the goals I have set for myself. I don't care where I place, who passes me or who I pass, I just run against myself and the clock.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve been given about running? I suppose the best piece of advise I ever got, and it was not from one single person, was to learn how to mix up my training during the week with easy runs, tempo runs, intervals and long runs. The worst piece of advise was that you should eat a lot of pasta before a race. Pasta makes me crater, it is truly my kryptonite.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know. I once had aspirations to be a professional golfer and was a scratch handicap for about 10 years, played golf on a scholarship in college, and played in the United States Amateur Championship in 1981. I now only play about once a year or so, and golf is the only sport I've ever participated in where it is second nature for me, I truly have a natural ability to play the game. I've laid off for a year before, walked out to a course without hitting a range ball to warm up, and still shot close to par. One side note to this, I was fortunate enough in 1997 to be at The Masters standing on the 18th hole when Tiger Woods sank his put to win his first major championship and set The Masters scoring record.

Let me know if you decide to answer these questions on your own blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I love to Bonk

I have kept a very detailed running log since about 1984 of every run that includes distance, time and pace (if I timed it), time of day, temperature (including heat index or wind chill, humidity, and wind speed and direction), how I felt both physically and mentally (I give these each a rating of 1-10 with 10 being the highest in any category and the rarest), my weight, and just some general comments about the run itself or things that happened that day in my personal life. The main thing this has helped me to do is to be able to quickly see how I perform historically under certain conditions, and it has paid off tremendously in many of my races.

About once or twice a year I bonk on a run and my body just completely shuts down. I'm not sure how it is for everyone else, but my mind and body are just completely spent from the outset, I always end up doing far less mileage than what I had planned, and it's as if the off switch has been flicked for my entire body. The interesting thing for me is that it usually occurs when I have been training heavily for a long period of time (which I have been doing) and strangely enough it always signals to me that my training is about to go up a notch for the better, which usually happens about 7-10 days later.

Case in point, last week on June 2, I went out on my normal 7.5 mile route, a route that I have covered well over 1,000 times through the years. Before I had even gone 200 yards to the end of our street, I was already breathing heavily and sweating. Anyone who runs a lot knows this type of thing happens from time to time, and typically by the time I get to the half-mile or mile point I have started to get a better rhythm going and the run improves the rest of the way. This was not the case on that day. I had barely made it 2 miles before I was fighting the mental demons to keep moving forward. I stretched it out to mile 3, then 4, then at about mile 5.5 finally gave into my screaming body and stopped and walked back home. I was completey covered in sweat, and my shoes and socks and shorts were drenched. The next day I had a run planned and decided to give myself an unscheduled day of rest.

The next 3 or 4 runs that followed were better and most were in the 7:50-7:55 pace per mile range (including a 12.2 miler this past Saturday in 90+ degrees). Then yesterday, it happened. I went for a run on my 7.5 mile route around 5:30 in the afternoon (temps still above 90) and really did not feel like going, but went anyway. My body felt lathargic, but I pressed forward and was surprised to see a 7:45 pace for the first mile. At the halfway point, I looked down to see that I was at a 7:30 pace, and I ended up holding that 7:30 pace for the entire run. On top of that, my swimming the last 4 times has gone from about a 2:00-2:05 pace per 100m to around 1:50-1:55 per 100m with what feels like less effort.

So what do I take from all of this? If you train hard and faithfully, you are going to go through periods of ups and downs, regardless of your ability. Just hang in there and the benefits will come.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The cycle begins... and I've named my new bike...

After months of going back and forth in trying to decide what type of triathlon bike to purchase, I finally made up my mind last week and my new bike arrived on Saturday. I ended up purchasing a brand new 2007 Specialized Transition Multi-Sport (pretty much an aluminum bike with the exception of the carbon seat post and fork), which is actually one of the very first bikes I looked at when I started shopping several months ago for one. Because of its material makeup, I have dubbed it "Me-Cycle Aluminum" . This bike will hopefully carry me through the remainder of my training and onto my first Ironman. There were 3 main reasons I chose this bike.

First, it has the geometry of a tri-bike with the handling benefits of a road bike. I live in an area where there are no bike paths to speak of, and many of the roads I will have to ride on have no shoulder at all, just the 2 lanes of traffic and God watching your back to make sure oncoming traffic is paying attention, leaving a margin for error of about 3 feet as cars go by in the same lane. The fact that the bike has road handlebars as well as the aerobars already benefitted me from a control factor on my first ride on Saturday when I was coming up on a huge pothole in the road at the same time a car was going by me in the same lane. By being able to let got of the aerobars and get more control on the road bars, I am positive it helped me to avoid an accident. The road bars have also come in handy on the couple of rides I did over the weekend with the wind. Since I am close to the Gulf Coast, it is not uncommon to have steady wind gusts of 20-30 mph, and again it was very comforting to be able to go from the aerobars to the road bars to gain more control.

Second, in the last week or so we found out that our house may possibly have some serious foundations problems, not uncommon in this part of Texas. If that is the case, we are talking major, major, major bucks for repair, and I simply could not justify spending $2,000-$3,000 more for a bike with that potential financial burden weighing on me.

Third, if it does turn out that I decide I want to do more than one Ironman and/or get more involved in triathlons of various distances, I can always upgrade to a better bike further down the road and give this one to my son. He and I are basically the same height and measurements, and he has recently expressed an interest in doing some triathlons in the future (he is 16 and has already completed 3 half-marathons).

Saturday, May 31, 2008

May Training - New Mileage PR's for Running and Swimming

I had an absolutely fantastic month of training in May for my running and swimming (still not cycling yet because I won't have a bike until about mid to late June). This was the first month since last October where I wasn't so swamped with work from my business that I actually had time to stick to a relatively consistent training regimine for an entire month. I know that in order to make my Ironman goals I need to pick things up in those months where normally my base goes down, and this month was a great start to that. So here are my May numbers:

Running: Ran a total of 187.5 miles which included 22 runs, average run was 8.52 miles with the longest single run being 13.1 miles and the shortest run being 7.5 miles, and my average pace per mile for timed runs was 7:49. My previous best for the month of May was 176.0 miles in 2001, and my all-time single month record was 225.0 miles in March of 2001 (the month before I ran my second Boston Marathon).

Swimming: Swam a total of 50km or 31.0 miles which included swimming 16 times, average swim was 3125m or 1.94 miles with the longest swim being 5000m or 3.1 miles (did that 3 times) and the shortest swim being 2000m or 1.24 miles, and an average pace of approximately 2:00 per 100m (give or take a couple of seconds). This is actually a personal record for me for the most miles swam in any single month (I started in March of 2007 and have averaged to date about 20-24 miles a month previously).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mulch Ado About Nothing - WARNING: This post may be offensive to true gardeners

After my swim this morning I came home and helped my wife do some work in our yard before it got to be too hot ("too hot" is a relative term because at 8:00 a.m. it was already over 90 with the heat index and about 90% humidity). The last couple of weeks, we have been removing some old tree roots, planting new shrubs, trimming and grooming plants, and I have personally spread down 70 (yes, SEVENTY) bags of mulch that are 40 lbs. each on our landscape.

What I am trying to figure out is simply this... At what point is this supposed to become therapeutic? I am hot, sweaty, covered in dirt, I have mulch and dirt that falls into places in my shorts that I can't discuss, and just try using a pair of large garden shears to lop off hundreds of branches that are chest high and higher after swimming a couple of miles. I have friends who love working in the yard and always talk about the thrill they get when they put their hands in the earth. I suppose I am as confused by this as they are when I tell them I am training for an Ironman. My extent of yardwork expertise stops as soon as I have edged, used the weedeater and mowed. When asked about what I've been planting, I just say "shrubs" because to me that's what all of it is. If they want to know more detail than that, I tell them that I think the Latin name of what I'm planting is "Backbreakus Laborius".

My all-time favorite gardening story occured one Saturday morning when I was forced to listen to a garden show on the AM radio for a few minutes while awaiting a weather report as I was driving somewhere. Now remember, I am always telling jokes and making fun of things, and I've done standup comedy and I love to especially do improv, and I've had more fun with this over the years than I can tell you. It was quite simply one question that an elderly lady caller had for the garden expert as follows: "Can you please help me? Somethin's chewin' on my red tips." I nearly drove off the road dying of laughter. I have no idea what "red tips" were or what she was talking about, but it has made for some great routines over the years.

I need to close this post now, I hear the weeds calling.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The choices we make

I have done some pretty stupid things in my life, and typically have done a good job of learning from my mistakes. On my run last night, I had something happen that made me feel both proud of myself and sad at the same time.

I got a late start to my run and it was almost already dark when I began. I have a 7.5 mile single loop course that is what I would call my normal running route. I usually do it at a minimum, and along the way there are several cross streets I can take to make it further or shorter depending on how I feel and what my scheduled run is for that day. As I was nearing the end of my run last night, I heard a car coming up behind me and suddenly a voice was slurring and shouting out of the window, "Roobbberrtt, you shouldn't be running, come on in and have a beer", and this little chant went on several times. I simply held up my hand as if to say hi and that I didn't hear what was being said and continued my run and never stopped. The individual who was saying this is close to my age, and this is definitely not the first time I have witnessed them in this capacity. My biggest hope for this particular person is that they do not have an alcohol problem that is beyond simply drinking too much.

When I got home, I did my half-mile cooldown walk and could not get what happened out of my head. I will have an occassional beer (probably 1 per month on average), but I never drink to the point of being wasted. When I am training hard like I am now, I always try to weigh out whether or not anything alcoholic is going to be a detriment to my next training session or to what I've already done. For whatever reason, this little incident has given me even more resolve in my training and it makes me feel very glad that I have "grown up" and don't still feel the need to party. I am also glad that my children (ages 19 and 16 and right in the thick of the "peer pressure" age) see that the choices I make are to keep a healthy lifestyle and that I don't need alcohol to help me have a good time.

Update: 05/28/08 - The person shouting out to me was NOT the driver of the vehicle, their spouse was driving. Had they been the driver, trust me, the context of my comments would have had a completely different and angry tone.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Training in an oven

At 5:00 p.m. here in Houston, the current temperature is 91, the heat index is 101, the humidity is 60% and the winds are blowing out of the SSE at 13 mph and gusting to 21 mph. It will be at least 10:00 tonight before the heat index falls back under 95 (about 2 hours after sunset). This morning when I went to go swim at 6:00 a.m., almost a good hour before the sun comes up, the temperature was 80 with a heat index of 85 and the humdity was 97%, AND IT'S NOT EVEN SUMMER YET!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Big sponsorship announcement coming...

I have not gotten all the details ironed out yet, but the main Faithful Soles web site is on the verge of getting its first nationally and internationally known sponsor. Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Does it take a Guru to end the cycle of choosing a cycle?

A couple of things happened over the last 10 days that have taught me once again how being patient is a virtue. I was REALLY close to buying a tri-bike, but all of these little things were happening that kept on delaying my decision, which I won't bore you with the details here (bottom line, God has a way of leading us if we'd simply shut up and listen). I'm one to over-research things at times, especially when it's a bike that I'm going to be laying out at least $3,000 for, and I have been spending a lot of time reading and learning about so many different aspects of tri-bikes and manufacturers.

Today I went to the local bike shop on a spur of the moment trip, and talked to a guy who really took the time to find out what I was trying to accomplish. He set me up on a couple of bikes, and finally asked if I had ever considered a Guru. All I knew about Guru is that they were custom made and every one that I had ever seen in a showroom seemed to be in the $7,000+ range, so I had not even remotely thought about them. After a long talk about their craftsmanship and my learning that you can get an excellent bike in the $3,000 price range that takes about 30 days to arrive once you are fitted and measured, I think now I am leaning in that direction. On top of that, you can choose your own custom colors in single or double color patterns, which is pretty neat as well. Bare in mind, I'm not choosing a bike because I can select the color, but that is a nice option. The color I liked best personally is called "Platinum" (pictured above), very plain and simple and clean.

So, if anyone out there has had any experience with Guru, please let me know your thoughts, and please be candid and blunt whether they be good or bad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fact: Nobody can understand me (but another runner or triathlete)

I honestly can not remember a single time in my life, even when I was a little kid, that I did not have a goal. I'm not talking about the "gosh, someday I'd like to..." type of goals, I'm referring to goals that I wrote down or things that I wanted where I had pictures posted and I had a plan as to what I needed to do to achieve or acquire something. What I have discovered is that there are very few people out there who can really relate except for other runners and triathletes.

For example, back in 1997 on my 38th birthday, I set a goal to qualify for the 2000 Boston Marathon in conjunction with my 40th birthday and the millennium. I had my training schedule lined out up to 6 months in advance, which marathons I was going to peak for to try to qualify, the whole nine yards. I was running a minimum of 40 miles a week in the Houston summer, and up to 60-70 miles a week in the fall and winter. I had a piece of paper taped to my computer monitor that read "Boston Marathon 2000 - 3:20 = 7:38 pace" and was always focused on what I needed to do to make that happen. At the time I started my quest, I had never even broken 3:30, but I was dedicated to doing whatever it took to train and make it happen. I remember talking to friends or neighbors who would say, "I saw you out running. Are you training for something?" and I'd try to explain what it was I was doing. The common answer back to me was "I could never have that type of dedication" or "I can't imagine training for 2 years for something and not knowing if you are going to make it or not". In some ways it made me feel isolated, like there really wasn't anyone that I could talk to about it (other than another runner) that would really understand.

And now I'm training for an Ironman. Talk about REALLY being misunderstood. It's almost as if now when I'm asked if I'm training for something, I don't even want to say anything about it. Here is how the conversations go now:

Person 1: Hi Robert, are you still running?
Robert: Yes (in the back of my mind, please let that be the end of the questions)
Person 1: What are you training for?
Robert: (Oh God, not that question) An Ironman.
Person 1: Isn't that where you swim, bike and run?
Robert: Yes (please ask me about something else now)
Person 1: How far is it?
Robert: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
Person 1: (blank look as they assimilate that information)
Person 1: Do you do all of that without stopping?
Robert: Yes.
Person 1: Well, good luck with it (this is their way of saying, "I can not comprehend what I just heard and why anyone would want to do that?!")
Robert: So what are you up to these days?
Person 1: Well, nothing as big as what you are doing. Talk to you later.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'll take my humble pie straight up, with a side of revised IM goals

You would never know sometimes that I am a motivational speaker who talks to athletes of all abilities about setting realistic goals.
Case in point, on May 1 in my blog entry I was throwing out my potential IM finishing times based completely on my inexperience. Funny thing is that when I talk to running groups about goal setting, I always tell people (especially newbies) that you should have 3 goals: First is to finish, second is a realistic medium goal based on your average training runs, and third would be basically a best case scenario such as a PR. I tell them by setting 3 goals, you don't set yourself up for complete failure (like I did in retrospect on my May 1 post).

So what gave me the wakeup call? This past week my wife and I were in a local Loew's in the middle of the day picking up some hardware and I just happened to run into a guy (probably early 30's) wearing an Ironman Arizona shirt. Of course I asked him how he did, etc., and found out he had done 9 IM's and was going to be doing his 10th in Louisville. Sponge that I am, I was asking him lots of questions, and finally asked him what his IM PR was, which he told me was 11:15. He also told me his marathon PR was in the 2:59 range, which is 20 minutes faster than my 3:19 PR for the marathon. As we talked more and more, I began to see in my own mind how improbable it was for me to be thinking about a 10:30-11:00 IM when I had not even done one yet, and how I needed to backtrack and re-establish my goals.

So here are my revised goals as of today for my first IM in June of 2009: First is to finish within the alotted cutoff time, second is to achieve a medium range goal in the neighborhood of 13:00-14:00, and third under a best case scenario will be to come in somewhere around 12:00-13:00. After the talk I had with this guy, if I break 12:00 I will be both stunned and elated.

Monday, May 5, 2008

First 5000m swim, solid training last week, and close to buying a tri-bike

I swam a 5K (3.1 miles) for the first time ever this morning with no breaks. I treated my pace just like an easy long run and really never felt like I was getting fatigued until about the last 20 laps or so (I think the psychological aspect starts to kick in towards the end and you talk yourself into feeling more tired than perhaps you are). I doubt realistically that I'll ever be a relatively fast swimmer as compared to most experienced swimmers, but once again my endurance is what saves me in distance events.

Prior to today, I was really pleased with my training last week. I swam 4 times for a total of 7 miles (long swim of 2.5 miles) and ran 5 times for a total of 40.5 miles (long run was 10.5 miles). My average pace on the running was about 7:35 per mile.

On Saturday, I drove across town to a bike shop called Sugar Cycles to look at a Specialized Transition Comp (all carbon frame) and am pretty much sold on it. The 2 guys that I spoke to at length were very experienced triathletes and never once made me feel like I was an idiot or beneath them like the bike shop in my immediate area does. I told them I really knew nothing about the cycling aspect and they really took their time to put things into laymen's terms for me. My guess is that I'll have the bike as soon as this coming weekend and will start my cycling training then.

With a little less than 14 months to go to IM CDA, I feel like I already have a really solid foundation on the swimming and running, and I am really excited about incorporating the cycling part into the mix. Once I get a month or so of the cycling behind me, my plan is to entire my first triathlon in July or August (possibly even the Half-IM in Buffalo Springs on June 29, but I don't want to push it).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cycle question for the triathloners - Aluminum or carbon?

ok folks, after a few months of studying triathlon-specific bikes and still feeling pretty stupid about them, I can attest that knowledge is not power, knowledge is confusion. The question is, do I get an aluminum frame or a carbon frame?

Let me tell you where I stand in my Ironman training first so you can help me to better judge the type bike I need. I'm 48 years old and will turn 49 in December. My goal is to do the Couer d'Alene Ironman in June of 2009 and try to qualify for Hawaii in my age group. I'm a sub-3:20 marathoner and am already consistently swimming 2.4 miles a couple of times a month in 1:15-1:20. Here is my thought, and I may be WAY OFF BASE considering that I have never done an Ironman before... If I can complete the swim portion in 1:20, then less than 10 minutes in transition to the bike, then 5:00-5:30 on the bike, then less than 5 minutes in transition to the run, then the run in 4:00, I have a decent shot at a 10:30-11:00 Ironman. Now the question becomes, does that sort of time potentially get me into Hawaii for my age group? I have no idea, but if the bike is the signficant factor, then I'll do whatever it takes on the bike.

I've narrowed my choices down to 2 bikes, both made by Specialized (I chose Specialized mainly because 2 local bike shops carry both Specialized and Trek, and for reasons I can not explain, I just like the Specialized better):

The aluminum frame Specialized Transition E5 Comp (about $1,900) or the carbon frame Specialized Transition Comp (about $3,000). Regardless of which one I buy, I'll upgrade the wheels to the Zipp 404's, which I understand will make a tremendous difference in performance.

Any help that the more experienced triathletes can give me is greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 28, 2008

So this morning I learned I'm a "Road Rat"...

For my Ironman training, I swim my laps 4 times a week at the local YMCA. I'm one of these people that comes in, says good morning or hello to everyone I see, put my stuff in my locker, head out to the pool and do my laps, come back in and shower, and head home. I'm pretty focused on what I'm doing, and although I am friendly to everyone, I don't have time for a whole lot of locker room small talk.

I've never quite been able to figure out why, but for whatever reason, it seems that the majority of the pure cyclists seem to really look down on runners. On Saturday mornings when I'm doing my long runs, there is a large group of sometimes a couple of hundred cyclists that will go by me on the road. I'll typically say good morning to them as they pass by, but very rarely do I get a response back. It's not going to stop me from continuing to be friendly, it's just my nature.

Well, this morning at the YMCA, as I'm getting dressed for my swim, there were a group of cyclists who had just finished their workout talking in the locker room. These guys are probably in their 40's like me. I'm not sure they have any idea at all that I'm a runner or training for an Ironman, nor is it important to me that they do know. For whatever reason, one of them was really belittling runners, and told the others that when his bike group sees one of us on the side of the road, they'll say "there's another Road Rat" to each other. He even went so far to say how pompous the people in his own riding group can be. I'm not quite so sure that's something to be proud of, and makes another argument for me as to why I prefer to train totally alone.

I kept my thoughts to myself, as well as the question that was going through my mind, "Why do they call us a Road Rat?" As I was swimming I thought about how sad it is that people will put down others doing something when they truly don't understand it. I've never understood why someone would only like to cycle, but you don't hear me going around calling them gerbils because they are spinning a wheel for hours. I also wonder if they know that Lance, the king of their sport, said that marathoning was far tougher than anything he had ever done in cycling or in the Tour de France. I also doubt if they realize that when a runner is tired when they reach the top of a hill, that runners don't have the luxury of sitting back and coasting down to the bottom on the other side if they so choose. Our quads hurt even worse on the downhill side, and even Lance said that the downhills at the Boston Marathon really took a toll on him, something I doubt he ever said on the downhills of a cycling event.

So, this "Road Rat" is proud to run on. I'm just wondering what I'm supposed to be called as a triathlete...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 Boston Marathon - I'm confused, did Lance win the race?

I am a pretty easy-going person, not a lot gets under my skin, but Lance's finish at the Boston Marathon yesterday really has me steamed. Let me explain...

As a 3-time Boston Marathoner, I understand what it means to qualify and what a tremendous blessing it is to be a part of the race. I was excited as always to watch the race yesterday, and both the women's and men's winners were phenomenal efforts. Once they had crossed the finish line and broken the tape, they both gave humbling interviews about their success. Folks, THEY were the winners of their respective categories, there should be no more finish line tapes to be broken through, period.

Several minutes later, they join the coverage of Lance, and pretty much follow him in non-stop over his last 4-5 miles. I was impressed with the fact that he qualified, with the fact that he was not given a race spot like other celebrities have received in the past, that he can run a sub-3:00 marathon which I could not do in my wildest dreams, and especially his raising money for charity. Other than that, he is simply another runner out there and should be treated exactly as such.

The race goes on with Lance, he turns onto Boylston Street heading down the last few hundred yards to the finish, the crowds are cheering for everyone...

...and then it happens. He gets to within 25 yards or so of the finish, "appears" to be a bit confused as to where he is supposed to go, and then is directed off to the right BY HIMSELF AWAY FROM THE OTHER RUNNERS, and lo and behold what is awaiting him???????? His own personal tape to break at the finish line! Are you kidding me? I have no idea who thought that up, but it was 100% TOTALLY WRONG. His effort to run that race was no better than the people that finished ahead of him nor the people that finished behind him, but he gets a finisher's moment and photo breaking the tape?????? My hope is that Lance did not know they were going to do this and that the BAA rethink ever doing anything like this again. If he did know they were going to do this, it is one of the most ultimate ego "hey look at me" things I have ever witnessed, and ratchets down my respect factor for him considerably. A classy move would have been to wave them off and continue across the regular finish line like everyone else.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Seabrook Lucky Trail Half-Marathon Race Report: IV and V take III

Of course as soon as I start posting again last month, my business gets incredibly busy for the past 6 weeks or so, and now I finally have a break again. The swimming and running have been going well, and I'm still in the market trying to make a smart decision on a good tri-bike that I can train and race on (any suggestions, please feel free to give them).

This past weekend was the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon. Seabrook is a town on the gulf about midway between Houston and Galveston. I spoke at their pasta dinner on Friday night before the race with about 75-100 runners in attendance, which was very enjoyable. The field itself had a little over 500 runners in all. They run a half-marathon on Saturday, then a full marathon and another half-marathon on Sunday. If you run both days, you get an extra medal. If you have never participated in this race, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Robby Sabban, the Race Director, and his event staff do an amazing job.

If you were wondering about the title of this post, let me explain. I (Robert, IV) and my son (Robert, V), took 3rd place (III) in our respective age groups (he was 12-19, I was 40-49). I was so proud of him and will never forget the look on his face when he found out he had placed. This was his 3rd half-marathon, and he has improved his times in each race, this time by more than 4 minutes. Yes, Dad is starting to look over his shoulder...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

500 Days to Coeur d'Alene Ironman and 241 days to Longhorn Ironman 70.3 - The Countdown begins...

I have decided to set a goal to do my first Ironman at the 2009 Coeur d'Alene Ironman on June 21, 2009, which is 500 days from today. Why so far out? Simple. I want to make certain that I am fully prepared and adequately trained, and with my work schedule constantly in limbo, this will give me plenty of time and offset those stretches where I may not be able to train as much as needed. If things were to open up for me and I could compete in another Ironman event sooner, I will leave that option open, but I refuse to pressure myself to do it before I am fully ready.

In the meantime, I have registered for the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas to be held on Sunday, October 5, 2008. I'm not going to say what my goal time is at this point since I am still a virgin to the sport, but I do have a time in the back of my mind that I believe is doable.

If my schedule remains flexible between now and June, I may also consider entering the Buffalo Springs Ironman 70.3 in Lubbock, Texas on June 29 (provided it's not sold out soon). With only about 4 months of training, my goal for that one would simply be to finish and get a taste of what the transitions are all about. Plus, being experienced with training and competing in the Texas heat, I can not imagine any type of great performance in late June in Lubbock where the temperature will almost assuredly be in the 90's.

On the short term, I'm going to run a half-marathon with my son in March (will be his third half), and I will target some sprint distance triathlons in the local area.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Returning after a lengthy hiatus... and 17th marathon race report

Quite a lot has happened since my last post back in September. Rather than type a long and boring description of what has been going on, I'll make it brief. I own a company that performs title due diligence on first and second mortgage portfolios secured by real estate, and we do work on properties in all 50 states. In September, we were blessed to land a substantial new client that immediately started sending us a tremendous amount of work, and at the same time, two of our other large customers also became very busy in portfolio acquisitions. In October and November, I literally did not do any training of any kind and was working 100+ hours a week.

As for my 17th marathon in Houston on January 13(coming down to the finish line in the photo to the left), I'll start by saying that 6 weeks before the race not only was I not entered, I had absolutely no idea that I'd even be running in it. The half-marathon and marathon had been sold out for a couple of months and my 15 year old son had entered the half-marathon. My plan was just to go out and be a spectator on race day to watch him and cheer him on. To back up in time a little, my workload had finally gotten back to normal around December 1 (my 48th birthday). I ran 3 miles on my birthday (first time I had run in 2 months) and thought I was going to die (consider that I typically do what I call my "Birthday Run" of 12.1 miles to coincide with the 12-1 date). That night, my Dad called to wish me happy birthday, and made a passing comment that he had run his only marathon in Houston when he was 48. I suppose I subconsciously filed that away somewhere. By this time, my son had decided that he was going to forego the Houston Half-Marathon on January 13 to run in another half-marathon later in March. This was the first year that Houston allowed transfers between runners, so I decided that a half-marathon would be a reasonable goal to achieve in 5-6 weeks and that I would transfer his entry to me. So I go online, and unbeknownst to me at the time, they give you the option to transfer to the half or the full marathon (you see where this is going). I immediately thought to myself how cool it would be to run the same marathon at the same age my Dad had been when he did his, so I transferred and entered the full marathon. This would be my 8th Houston Marathon and 17th marathon overall, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I knew that with such a small window of time to train that it could get really ugly on race day, so my plan was simply to finish it the best I could, walk when I had to, run or jog when I could, and enjoy the day. In a 5 week period, I was able to build up to one long run of 16 miles and had one week of 50 miles about 2 weeks before the race, and in the 6th week I treated it like a normal taper week. At that point, I felt comfortable that I would at least go out and not be totally unprepared. The shocker was what happened on the day of the race. I told my wife before I left the house that I fully expected to take at least 4:30-5:00 hours, and that I would carry my cell phone with me to call her and let her know how I was doing (she and the kids stayed home that day and watched the event on TV because I told her there was no need for them to go out and stand for who knew how many hours waiting on me to finish, if I was even able to do so). The race began and I just ran along at a very nice, easy and comfortable pace. Again, to make a long story short, I made it all the way to the 21 mile marker before I decided to force myself to stop and take a short walk break. At that point, I was at about an 8:45 pace per mile, roughly a minute slower per mile than my normal marathon pace when I'm properly trained. I walked for about 3-4 minutes, and decided I'd see if I felt well enough to start jogging again. Well, I did and ran all the way to the 23 mile marker. Being experienced, I did not want to do anything stupid, so at mile 23, 24 and just before mile 25, I again forced myself to take about a 2 minute walk break during each mile. At the 25 mile marker, I looked down at my watch and was amazed to see that I was at about 3:45, and had a chance to break 4 hours if I could jog the rest of the way in. I called my wife and basically said, "You are not going to believe this, but I think I'm going to run a sub-4:00". I think she was as stunned as I was. I started jogging at the 25 mile marker and ran comfortably the entire rest of the way, and finished with a chip time of 3:57:06 (a 9:03 pace per mile even with the walk breaks factored in). I must say that although it was way off of a PR or my normal times, it was one of the most satisfying marathons I have ever done, and it proved to me that the base I have maintained all of these years has really paid off to keep me in good shape. It also proved to me that I am ready for the next phase of my life as a distance athlete.

Tomorrow, my big announcement about the newest phase of my training... Stay tuned. It's good to be back.