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.