Friday, November 09, 2007


I didn't think I was weak. I'm loads stronger in my swimming/biking/running than I was last year, my weight's at a good level, and I'm feeling pretty fit.

Then I did my "Core" workout this morning.

Coach Debi has me on a core routine twice a week. Simple stuff, easy to do at home with just an exercise ball, which is cool because I hate doing weights at the gym. So for my first time, I started easy -- just 10 reps of each exercise and only one set.

Now, hours later, I'm sitting at my desk with aches in places I didn't know I had. I feel the weakness now, and I could feel it when I was doing the exercises. Weak ab muscles in particular, with a real lack of flexibility. I've got a long way to go.

The good news is that I can see the utility of the exercises and I'm going to stick with them. If I want to improve (i.e., beat people) it's what I've got to do.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Top 32% !

If you want a definition of "anal" look no further.

I just checked the USATriathlon rankings, and all my races for the year are now listed. A quick search and a calculation later and I'm elated to discover that I'm in the top 32% of my age group (M, 45-49) for the nation in 2007.

Sounds a little silly, I know, but one of my goals has been to be a consistent top 1/3 finisher in my AG. It doesn't always happen, because it's so dependent on who's racing on a particular weekend and the size of the field.

But it is nice to see that when you average it out across the country for the entire year I've hit my goal.

Next year -- top 20% is the goal -- tough, but doable I think.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving On

Seems a little early to be talking about a new year, but my work's just getting started. Last year was all about Eagleman, and taking on the challenge of doing the 1/2-IM distance.

Mission accomplished. The race went very well, and I've reaped the benefits of the training. All my race times have improved this year, and I'm feeling fit and ready to take on new challenges.

So what is the new challenge?


With a marathon PR of 3:58 (set almost 10 years ago), Boston qualifying used to look incredibly remote to me. But two things have changed. One -- I'm getting older, so my qualifying time is getting closer. Two -- Coach Debi. Under her guidance, I've gotten to a level I never thought I could acheive, and I can still see lots of room for improvement.

The plan is to run the Richmond Marathon in 2008 as my qualifier, with Boston in 2009. Since I'll be 50 at the time of the race in 2009, my qualifying time is 3:35. Coach Debi's response when I told her the time requirement?

"Oh PLEASE. You can do a lot better than 3:35." Nice to know your coach has confidence in you!

At any rate, I'm working with Debi again, after a few months of steady maintenance on my own. I'll keep things up to date here on the blog.

I wonder if I should give it a new name?


Monday, October 22, 2007

Finishing out the tri season

Although I haven't written much lately, now's a good time to get the blog up to date on the rest of my triathlon racing season.

The Mountaineer Tri was a blast, and a good result for me. The next race was another Olympic distance event, the hometown C-ville International Distance Triathlon, on July 29 at Walnut Creek Park, south of Charlottesville.

C-ville International Tri

The C-ville Tri is notable because the run is almost entirely on technical single-track trail. As a result, run times tend to be kind of slow for this one. I'd had some good training leading into this, and felt ready to put down a good effort. And it was good -- up to a point.

The 1500 meter swim was barely wetsuit legal, and I opted to take that route. Since the swim takes two laps, traffic was an interesting issue, especially as I started around the second time. Despite some sighting difficulties, I got out of the water in pretty good shape -- 25:20, good for 8 out of 13 in my AG.

I smoked through T1 and got out quickly on the bike. The bike course is a challenge. It's hilly, with lots of rollers and a couple of lengthy climbs, and has a fair share of tight turns. Fortunately I'd ridden it before, so I know what to expect. From the beginning, the bike felt strong. I got passed by a couple of the faster riders in my AG, but got to return the favor to some others. Time was a solid 1:14:29, good for 6 out of 13. I was psyched!

I blasted through T2, feeling confident, and then the **** hit the fan. The first mile on the trails was tough, but I felt myself starting to get into a rhythm. Then on an uphill stretch, both legs seized up with cramps -- big time cramps. I stopped dead by the side of the trail, and thought for a few minutes that I'd have to DNF. But as I started hobbling up the hill, the cramps eased enough that I could continue, slowly.

The rest of the run was just an exercise in gutting it out. My time was 58:54, good for 8 of 13 in my AG. Overall, I came in at 2:41 -- disappointing, and 7/13 in my AG.

A tough race, and a tough age group field, as well.

Giant Acorn Tri (sprint)

I'd planned on doing the Culpeper Sprint in August, but missed it due to family business. By the time October rolled around I was itching to go. I felt strong, having done a local 10K in 43 minutes and change in early September -- the fastest I'd run in almost 10 years.

The Giant Acorn Tri is a classic sprint (750M, 20K, 5K). The weather was outstanding, warm and sunny, and the water was just wet-suit legal. SetUp Events puts the race on, and they pulled it off with their usual competence.

My swim wave was one of the last, and almost immediately I was overtaking slower swimmers from the earlier waves. I'd seeded myself near the front of the wave, and had a clear shot and view of the buoys. SetUp had yellow buoys at the turns, so sighting was easy. I got into a good rhythm right away and popped up for a sighting every 2nd or 3rd stroke. As a result, I stayed on course throughout. Running out of the water I spotted a fellow C-ville triathlete and master swimmer just in front of me. He's a solid swimmer, so I felt pretty good about that. 14:57 for the swim (course was a bit long) -- good for 7/33 in my AG.

Into and out of T1 and onto the bike. I was looking forward to this -- my cycling has really improved this year, and the course was fairly flat and short at 12.4 miles. Traffic was an issue throughout the ride. Lots of newbie triathletes it looked like, with a fair number cruising down the center of the road on hybrids and mountain bikes. I spent a lot of time shouting "on your left" and "keep right!" Hopefully nobody thought I was some sort of tri-nazi. But seriously folks -- read the rules and stay to the right!

Lots of passing by me, and a great bike leg -- 35:23. Over 21 mph, and good for 11 out of 33 in my AG. Best of all, I'm getting closer to the fast guys -- the 5th place bike in my AG was only 1 minute faster.

I made the bonehead mistake of running to the wrong rack during T2, so I lost a few seconds there. Got a pretty quick turnaround otherwise, and was on my way pretty quickly. I caught a cramp in my calf during the first 100 yards or so, but I've come to expect that. I kept my cadence quick, and it faded away.

The run course at Giant Acorn is a flat out-and-back, so you get a chance to see a lot of other racers. I got into a good rhythm and kept picking off runners from the earlier waves. I also got a chance to measure my distance from some of the other competitors in my AG. Coming back in, I got on the heels of a strong runner in the 55-59 AG and kept pace with him. As we turned for home, my coach Debi Bernardes shouted at me to catch up to him, and the extra incentive gave me enough boost to take it in strong. I finished the run in 22:42, good for 8 of 33 in my AG.

The totals: 1:15:55, 7 of 33 in 45-49, and 68th of 281 males overall. An excellent end to the season -- I progressed from a solid middle-of-the-packer to a position where I'm getting close to the guys who place. Or as I like to say, I've gone from MOP (Middle of the Pack) to BOFOP (Back Of the Front Of the Pack). The next step will take some work, but I'm ready to give it a shot!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mountaineer Triathlon (International Distance)

It's been a while since I've posted, but I've been keeping at it. Here's my most recent race report:

Mountaineer Triathlon (International) - July 1, 2007

I entered the Mountaineer Tri on a whim. I hadn't originally planned to be in the area, but a change in schedule had my wife and I visiting her parents in Fairmont (30 minutes to the south) that weekend. Since I'd just finished Eagleman a few weeks ago, the International distance option sounded just right.

I checked my bike in on Saturday afternoon after taking a short ride and run on the course. The race is centered on the "wharf district" of Morgantown. In the years since I went to school at West Virginia, Mo-town has diversified and gentrified quite a bit, with a lot of development and revitalization based around the riverfront. Former light industrial areas now sport high-rise hotels and condos, and a well-used bike path follows the river in place of the old rail line. Open real-estate is scarce in the wharf area, so the transition area occupied the ground floor of a parking garage. Space was at a premium, so I was glad to get there early and get a decent rack spot.

On Sunday an early fog lifted off of the river, and the sun came out bright and clear. Temperatures were forecast for the 70s. Perfect racing weather. After setting up my wife and I watched from the bike path as the first waves took off on the swim.

The swim started from a new boat dock. Each wave jumped in from the dock, paddled around for a few minutes waiting for the signal, then swam a long rectangular course that went first downstream, then turned, going back up river past the dock, and turned again to finish back at the dock. Since the International racers went last, we got to see the early waves take off, and cheer the pros as they returned just a few yards away from our starting point.

Finally it was my turn. Into the water and I positioned myself to the inside and fairly near the front. Let them pass me -- I'll avoid the traffic if I can.The horn blew, and we were off. I got around the first end of the rectangle in good shape, and started the long swim up river. The course headed directly upstream towards a navigation lock and dam, which the Army Corps of Engineers has kindly turned off, so there was virtually no current to swim against. As an old industrial river, the Mononghalea has a bit of a shady reputation, but the water was surprisingly clear -- much better than many of the lake swims I've done. Traffic got thicker as I turned for home and started to overtake slower swimmers, but I stayed close to the buoys and had a pretty clear path.

I gave it an extra burst as I reached the dock to get ahead of the other swimmers. A waiting hand grabbed my arm and yanked me onto the dock. I scrambled onto my feet and off I went.

Swim (1500 M) -- 29:08, 7/20 AG

The dock was a great place to start the swim from. Unfortunately it was almost 300 yards away from the transition area. I stripped my suit down and settled into a jog on the paved bike path. My right calf cramped slightly so I had to keep the speed down a bit, and a couple of people from my wave passed me by. As I got to my bike, I thanked the genius who invented Body Glide, as my suit came right off with no problems. After the long run, the rest of T1 went very quickly and I got out in good shape.

T1 --3:24, 4/20 AG

The mounting area was right outside the parking garage on a quaint brick street in the wharf district. A nice crowd had gathered to witness the madhouse of wobbling bicycles and traffic jams associated with us MOPer's. I ran over to the side away from the madness and took my time to clip in before setting off. A quick wave to my wife, and away I went.

I had some trepidation about the bike course. West Virginia can be hilly -- very hilly -- and I didn't know the course. I'd decided to adopt a strategy of riding hard, but always at high RPMs. Keep an eye on the cadence meter. If it dropped below 85, downshift. I figured it would be better to stress my lungs rather than my legs.

As the bike unfolded I got more and more confident. The route crossed over the Mon and then rolled along the river, giving us some surprisingly flat terrain. After about 6 or so miles we turned away from the river. As is usually the case in West Virginia, the road paralleled a creek and began rising slowly as we traced the stream back to it's source. Initially the rise was not very steep and I kept up a nice brisk pace, downshifting occasionally to keep my cadence high. Since the Half-IM field had started before the International I had plenty of riders to zero in on and overtake. They had to do the bike loop twice, while I had only one go-round -- I could afford to go harder.

The easy climbing ended and I got a good view of a long grade. No use being a hero -- my bike has a triple ring, and I'm not ashamed to say that "granny" is a good friend of mine. Sit up, downshift, and spin like a madman.

Finally up and over the top, the route settled into a short stretch of easy rolling terrain. After a very tight u-turn, I was on the way back. The return route merged onto an excellent two-lane highway and it was time to get cranking. I snuck a peak at my average speed -- 19 mph. That was good. I'd hoped to do the ride in 1:20 or better, and 19 would get the job done. I dug in with extra deternimation -- all downhill from here!

Or so I thought. The longest climb on the course kicked in. Not too steep, but steep enough and long enough to cause a little apprehension. The good and bad news was that you could see the entire climb from the bottom. Well, at least there wouldn't be any surprises. Sit up, downshift, and spin once more. Once again it helped that I had other riders to track down. I only had to do the climb once, while the riders doing the Half-IM had to measure their effort more carefully.

Over the top and it's party time! Nothing ahead but a straight downhill and smooth pavement. I geared up, cranked hard and tucked in for the downhill ride, letting off a few whoops as I zoomed downhill. As I turned back onto the side roads leading to the finish, the smooth pavement disappeared, and I got a good shaking from some very rough pavement. But soon the bridge back across the river appeared and the end was in sight. Another wave for my wife and a smile for the camera and I ducked off to the side for the dismount. Into the garage, shoes on, and back out into the sunshine for the run.

Bike (24.85 miles) -- 1:16:03, 7/20 AG.
T2 -- 1:08, 3/20 AG

As I jogged out of T2 I started to catch a leg cramp. Not this again -- leg cramps had really slowed me down at Eagleman. I shortened my stride a bit and concentrated on a short, quick turnover. Flex my toes, shake out the arms and neck -- relax. As I started down the riverside bike path a woman age grouper and I started working together and soon I had a good rhythm going.

After two miles the course turned and returned back up the path, going past the finish and continuing down the riverside trail. I tracked down and passed a fellow age-grouper and left him behind, but for the most part I was running alone. Since the bike path had quarter mile markers, it was easy to check my pace -- right on 8 min/mile -- good.

Soon the male pros began to appear, running past me as they started their run legs. I saw Andrew Hodges and held up five fingers for him -- 5th place. He looked strong, though (which he was -- he finished 2nd.)

At mile 5 the course turned towards the hills overlooking the river. The steepest hill on the course loomed in front of me. How steep? Ridiculously steep. Stupid steep. To add to the atmosphere, a spectator dressed as the devil waved a pitch fork at the runners. Shades of the TDF. I high-fived him as I shuffled slowly up the hill. Fortunately the leg cramps held off, and I turned towards the university campus and downtown Morgantown.

Only about a mile to go now. Through the WVU downtown campus -- strangely quiet on a summer Sunday morning, then descended through Morgantown's downtown streets -- also quiet. I overtook a woman age-grouper, then a 28 year old male as we turned to make the final push to the finish. The guy wouldn't have a 48 year old pass him, and found an extra kick when he saw the finish line. I had to let him go, but I turned it up best I could and gave the obligatory fist pumps when they called my name.


Run (6.5 miles) -- 52:17, 5/20 AG

Overall: 2:42:00, 6/20 AG, 49/180 overall. Probably my best overall race I've done. I was hoping for 2:45, so I hit my goal with room to spare. As it turns out, the run was 6.5, rather than 6.2 miles, so I'm even more happy with the time. I was especially pleased that my placings for each of the disciplines were very consistent, and that I had some excellent transition times. This year's half-IM training really paid off at this shorter distance.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And it's done!


A little over a year ago, when I was laying on my back watching my knee being operated on, I decided I needed a big goal to ensure I'd work hard coming back. A Half-IM sounded about right -- a big chunk to bite off, but hopefully not too much to choke on.

Though I'd run several marathons in the past, it'd been almost 10 years since I was within shouting distance of 4 hours. I'd started doing sprint-distance triathlons the year before, with a couple of solid BMOP finishes in my age group. If I wanted to do well at the 1/2 IM distance, I could see that I had a lot of work to do.

The Race

I chose to do the Eagleman Ironman 70.3 as my race. It has a stellar reputation as a well-run race with a big field. That appealed to me -- if I was going to train for it, why not make it a big event? Eagleman is also flat. Real flat. So flat that the only uphill (as the joke goes) is on the swim.

I came into the race feeling pretty confident for my first crack at the distance. I'd hired a coach, Debi Bernardes, who got me back on the road and whipped me into shape all through the winter. By April I'd seen a big step up in my performance at the Kinetic Sprint Tri and the Charlottesville 10-Miler. I was 20 pounds lighter than the year before, was cycling further and faster than I ever had, and overall was feeling pretty good for a 48-year old guy.

On race day the weather came through in grand fashion. A little bit of a breeze, but cool and overcast -- great race conditions.


I settled into the swim in great fashion. Felt smooth, keeping a good stroke, nice and relaxed.

Until I realized I was going way off course to the left. I corrected that and immediately went off to the right. Back and forth, all the way to the turn, getting a pretty good pummeling as I crossed traffic. Ended up swinging way wide on the turn, charting my own course towards the bridge.

Pretty frustrating -- I felt like I wasn't getting the best out of the swim leg. It's not that I'm a great swimmer, but I usually more than hold my own in the tris I've done so far. This swim was causing me more problems than I was used to. I tried to get the negative thoughts out of my head as quickly as I could. A minute or so here wasn't a big deal, just relax and get out of the water in good shape.

On the return leg I finally got into a good sighting rhythm -- head up every 8th stroke, sight the buoy, keep going. The current was with me on the return, and pretty quickly I was at the boat ramp. On my feet and up the ramp I went, getting a quick shower from the local fire department and making the long run to the transition area.

Time: 35:16, 82 out 157 in my AG.


After the long run to T1, I got out of my wetsuit in pretty good fashion and hit the road on the bike. My heart rate was way up, so I took the first few miles just settling down into a rhythm, holding back, and settling in. Plenty of miles to go.

Plenty of miles to watch people pass me. Pretty soon there was an endless parade of Cervelos, Felts, Kuotas, triple spokes HEDs, disk wheels, and Zipps zooming by me as we rolled out of Cambridge into the rural countryside and the quiet beauty of the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge (great scenery if you like marshes.) I'm not too much into the gear, but I have to admit I was starting to get a little envious of the fast-looking rides that were blowing by me. Oh well, race your own race. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and with some luck I'd see some of them later on the run.

The weather was cool, and I had a slight tailwind as I rolled south. I felt pretty good as my heart rate settled a bit, though I had an ever-so-slightly queasy feeling in my stomach that stopped me from drinking as much of my InfiniT as I should have. I'd pay for that nutritional mistake later.

Meanwhile I settled into the rhythms of a long bike ride, breaking up the distance with the routine of stretching, drinking, eating, counting down the miles. The parade of the speedsters had slowed and I began to pick off a few of the slower riders from my AG and other waves. As I turned back to the north and into a slight headwind, a red-jerseyed 47-year old Cervelo rider and I began playing tag, passing each other when the other lagged, until I finally let him go.

Finally back in town. Passing the runners already on the course, whipping through the city streets and rolling to a stop a the dismount. After three hours of gliding through marshland, it seemed incredibly busy and chaotic. Into T2, rack the bike, and pull on my shoes -- I'm ready to go.

Time: 2:57 -- 112 out of 157 in my AG


Trouble right away. As I started jogging out of T2, my right quad muscle started to cramp up. I hold the world marathon record for bad leg cramps, so I knew this could turn into a very big problem if I let it. I thought back and realized then I'd only drank about 2/3 of the InfiniT I'd taken with me on the bike. I'd let the cool weather and my queasy stomach limit my intake. It was a mistake I'd never made on my long training rides, and I'd always avoided leg cramps. No such luck today.

Best to play it safe. If I pushed it here it could be a long, long run. As it was, I was on schedule with a little cushion. I backed off on my speed, taking frequent walking breaks and stay focused on going one mile at a time. It helped that, even at my reduced pace, I was reeling in runners from my AG every mile. Nothing like a little positive incentive.

So, one mile at a time I kept grinding it out. I felt great, but I knew I had to be conservative. Walk through the water stops, take 20 steps when the muscle twinges, take 30 seconds walking every 8 minutes. When you break it down like that, 13 miles doesn't seem so long. Surprisingly soon I was nearing the finish, passing the lovely bayside homes and turning for home. Into the chute I hear the announcer calling my name and give the obligatory fist pumps for crowd. One more smile for the camera and I'm done.

What a day.

Time: 2:02:18 -- 79/157 in my AG.

Overall -- 5:41:37 -- 82/157.

Epilogue : My goal for the race was MOP for my AG and 5:45, so I'm pretty pleased. Despite the leg cramps, I picked up 21 AG places in T2 and on the run.

Special thanks to Coach Debi for the great training plans, advice, and the post-race beer!


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Complications and On My Own

Well, life has a way of throwing some curves at us. Just got the news that my wife's father has to have surgery on Friday. A fairly serious procedure, though the prognosis is excellent. Still, when you're 81, any surgery is serious business.

Obviously this throws a crimp into this weekend. But I'll still soldier on. The whole family will drive up to West Virginia on Thursday night (about 5 hours), then I'll leave to come back on Friday afternoon, after the surgery (barring complications, of course!).

Then Saturday I'll leave Charlottesville for Cambridge (3-3-1/2 hours), get checked in and rest up for Eagleman. I'll come back to Charlottesville after the race on Sunday, then drive back to WV on Monday to pick up the family.

Kind of a bummer that I'll be on my own, though it's obvious that my wife should be with her mother for support during this. And I hope for the best for my father-in-law -- he's a good man. Just take it all in stride, I guess. I'll have other races in the future where the family can come cheer for me!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crossing T's and dotting I's

10 days to go. Hard to imagine this thing is finely upon me. I'm feeling pretty confident about the race -- I don't think there's really any doubt that I've prepared as effectively as possible. You always wonder if you should have done more, but I think Coach Debi hit it just right in what she has had me do, based on my fitness level at the start of the process.

And that's an important point. I know there are faster, stronger people out there who've done more preparation, but their bodies were already adapted to a high level of fitness. Mine wasn't. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. But I can say now, without a doubt, that I'm in very good shape.

At this point it's all about preparation and avoiding surprises on race day. So I'll be checking out equipment (like putting new pedals on my bike -- same brand and model, the old ones were just shot), making packing lists, printing up maps, etc. I'm a bit compulsive about this, but it's better to obsess a little now, so I don't have to panic later!


Training logs

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swim waves are up!

In another sign that the race is hurtling down upon me, the swim waves for Eagleman are up!

The good news? I get to start fairly early (7:21 AM), so less time hanging around getting nervous. The bad news? Lots of younger people behind me, so I'll need to concentrate on my pace, and not worry about the young bucks blasting past me. Of course, I do have some older waves ahead of me, so I'll get to do my share of passing as well, I suppose.

In other news, my bike is tuned up, and a new chain installed -- thanks to CVille Bike and Tri. Rode an easy 30 minutes this morning and she was shifting like a dream -- good stuff!

Sticking with the training schedule pretty well, and making up a missed swim at lunch today. For the weekend I've got a 10 mile run and a 3-hour bike, with Memorial Day off. My knee's just a bit sore, so I think I'll shift the run to Monday and rest a bit on Saturday.


Training logs.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gonna Fly Now

I had a "Rocky" moment this weekend. Nothing as dramatic as running up a flight of steps, hands raised in triumph. Still, a dramatic, albeit quieter, training revelation.

Saturday was a "triple brick" workout, a peculiar form of torture that Coach Debi likes to inflict upon her minions. Rather than a single long ride with a run afterwards, she breaks the distance up into three seperate bricks, back to back. My Saturday workout ended up being:

27 mile bike
3 mile run
22 mile bike
3 mile run
16 mile bike
2 mile run

One of the aims of the workout is to aid mental preparation for a long day, without beating up the body too much. Since the workout took me over 5 hours, counting transitions, I'm sure it met it's objective.

But back to my "moment."

I'd done a triple brick before, with slightly shorter bike legs, and it was a long, hard haul. It was still a long, hard haul this time, but something was different this time. I felt something -- strength, confidence -- that I hadn't had before. With every mile on the bike and mile on the run, I felt that I wasn't just surviving, but was thriving -- I had the strength to turn it up a notch any time I wanted. My focus and concentration was excellent throughout and I never felt my mind wandering -- just focused on the task at hand, and feeling strong.

All in all a real confidence booster for Eagleman (only 20 days!).


Training Logs!

Friday, May 18, 2007

100 mile weekends

This is the last really big weekend before Eagleman. Right at the heart of it is another one of Coach Debi's "triple brick" workouts -- her exercise in definitive physical and mental preparation. So, on Saturday morning I'll be on the road bright and early, doing a 25 mile bike, a 3 mile run, another 25 mile bike, then another 3 mile run, followed by a 15 mile bike and a 2 mile run.

This is my second "triple-brick" workout. The first was a 20/3/20/3/20/2, so the bike legs are a bit longer this time. The workout isn't about speed -- the whole point is to put yourself in a situation where you're working continually for 5 hours plus, so you're used to the duration and have an opportunity to practice nutrition.

I'll pack Infinit bottles for the bike, and my water belt so I can have a bit to drink on the run as well. Probably take along a couple of eCaps for the last leg and maybe something salty to eat as well. I may have one Gu when I'm on the bike, but the Infiniti seems to provide calories pretty well. At any rate, I'm not planning on riding Eagleman with a buffet taped to my handlebars.

Add the triple brick to my Friday and Sunday workouts and the numbers get pretty big -- I'll probably do about 115-120 miles on the bike this weekend, plus 8 running. A pretty good effort, at least in my book!


Training logs

Monday, May 14, 2007

Under 30 days!

Time is moving quickly now, or it's standing still -- depends on my frame of mind.

There are less than 30 days left until Eagleman, and it's hard to believe time has gone so quickly. At the same time, each day left seems like an eternity. I've put in hours of pool time, ridden my bike more than ever before, and have run more consistently than I have in years. I want this race to start now!

Realistically, I'm not going to get a lot fitter. There's one more hard week of training, and then it's time to taper. The key at this point is to not do anything stupid (like getting injured), make my packing lists, and keep running the game plan through my head until it's all second nature.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Big Ride

You've got to get the miles in if you're going to do endurance sports -- no way around it.

Sunday was my day to hit the road and go long -- a 4-hour ride with a short 20 minute brick run at the end. Early in the week the weather forecast looked superb -- temperatures in the 70s, sunny, but the reality when I woke up was a bit different. It was sunny, but in the upper 50s with winds in the 25-30 MPH range. But training called, and off I went.

My route was a simple out and back. I planned to go 2 hours out, then retrace my route. Unfortunately, my ride started into the teeth of the northwesterly wind. I knew that I'd be thankful it was at my back later on, but that was cold comfort as I struggled through the first 20 miles or so.

As the ride continued my direction shifted more easterly. The wind was still an issue, knocking me around a bit at times, but it wasn't as much as impediment as it had been. I kept grinding on through the Virginia countryside. The roads were smooth, little traveled, and passed through farm country and forest as I rolled along. Every 15 minutes my watch beeped to remind me to drink. The goal was one bottle of Infinit IM blend each hour, and I had plenty on me -- two bottles on the down tubes, and two stuffed into my jersey pockets.

As I reached the two hour mark, I was crossing Lake Anna, a large man-made reservoir. I rolled over long causeways, passing by fisherman bundled up against the unseasonably cool weather, casting away without a glance at me.

After 2:10 I stopped for a moment to have a chocolate GU and swap my empty bottles out. Just short of 35 miles, and time to head back. That's the beauty of an out-and-back ride -- no chance to bail out early -- once you've gone halfway you're committed.

I was able to catch a nice tailwind a few times on the return, and up my pace a bit coming back, counting the miles down with a sense of pride and not a little fatigue. Finally I rolled to a stop, 69 miles completed, the ride done. No rest for the weary (or the triathlete) however -- on go the running shoes and I'm off on a 20 minute run. Surprisingly, everything worked OK and I got into a nice rhythm almost immediately.

Finally it's done -- time to sit on the grass and collect myself. One 'o clock -- still time to get home and mow the grass.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Race Day Photos

I've been a runner for many years, and a triathlete for three. One thing that has tied together all of those year of athletic endeavor has been lousy race pics.

Pics from on the course, or at the finish line -- didn't matter. I've either blown the shot (looking down at my watch is a common mistake), or I recoil when I see the pic (God, I look fat in that outfit!)

Finally, after many years of disappointment, I hit the jackpot. Not one, not two, but three great pics from my most recent race. A snappy looking action shot, running from the swim to T1; a nice side view on the bike; and a cheesy, but not over the top, finish line run pic.

And I look good in red and black, too (it matches my bike!)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A great weekend!

Did my first tri of the season this last weekend, at the Kinetic Sprint Tri. A 750M swim, 18 mile bike, and 5K run. You can read the race report here, but here are some more general observations.

My biking has improved a lot this year. Two years ago, when I did my first tri, I averaged a bit over 17 mph for a 17 mile course. On Sunday, I cruised strongly over 18 miles at better than 20 mph. There are still a lot of people out there who are better riders than me, but I moved up quite a bit. My cycling time almost put me in the top 1/3 of the entire male field. That's a nice confidence boost going into Eagleman -- I think I can put together a nice steady ride for the 56 miles with good pacing and nutrition.

Surprisingly, my run was the strongest split -- 11 out of 35 in my AG. I felt strong in the run, especially as I got along to the end, and was able to pass a lot of runners coming down the last mile or so. I'm pretty confident I can come off of the bike nice and strong.

My swim was a bit disappointing, at least in terms of comparison. It was my fastest to date at a tri, but didn't put me too far up my AG (15/35). Still, I was able to come out of the water strong, and get a quick T1 time. And a few seconds aren't really that much on the swim. The key for Eagleman will be to have a solid swim that doesn't wear me out.

And, I met my goal of being in the top half of my AG for the first time -- 13 out of 35 -- almost top 1/3!


My training log.

P.S. -- Shout out to Coach Debi for providing the beer after the race!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Easy week!

Well, I'm on a mini-taper of sorts before my first tri of the year. I'll be racing on Sunday, April 22, at the Kinetic Sprint Tri on Lake Anna in Virginia. Pluses: I'm in good shape, and have had a lot of good training weeks leading up to this, plus the bike course should be pretty flat and fast. Minuses: the friggin' water will be freezing!

We've had a real cold snap the last few weeks, like much of the country, so I'm expecting water temperatures in the 50s. This may be a time when my relatively good swim times are a big help. I'll spend less time in the water before I've got to get on the bike!

At least the weather forecast is good. Highs in the low 70s and sunny. Positively balmy. And certainly better than the cold rainy weather we've had to endure. No more 3-hour trainer rides -- please!


My training logs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sticking to it

Training the right way for a big event takes time and some dedication, and that requires a degree of "sticking to it" when the going gets tough. I've had a good plan to work with (obligatory shout out to Coach Debi), but I'm proud that I've stuck with it and kept up with the training.

Sunday was one of those days where it took a little bit extra, though.

On the schedule -- a 4 hour bike ride. Challenging enough for me, but throw in some nasty cold weather on Sunday morning (32 degrees with a 15-20 MPH west wind in the morning) and I was not looking at a fun day. Still, it was supposed to warm up to the high 40s, and the forecast was for sunny skies.

Despite layering as well as I could, I had some doubts right from the beginning of the ride. Almost immediately I had to head west, into the wind. I hunched down over the aerobars and did the best I could as I rode the country roads in the shadow of the Blue Ridge. The high hills and persistent clouds kept out what little sunshine did appear, and soon I was wishing for more climbs -- at least then I could generate a little heat.

Eventually I completed my first loop, 42 miles, and passed by my car. I almost stopped, since I had a thermos of coffee there, but I pressed on -- if I'd stopped I'm not sure I would have started again.

Another short loop of 18 miles and the ride was done. 60 miles, 4 hours. Not too bad, given the weather and the terrain (over 5000 feet of climbing total). I was stiff and cold, but I'd finished. My longest bike in over 5 years.

Home, shower, nap. Life is good.


See for yourself at my training log.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tackling the climbs and more

Here we are, into April, with Eagleman only about 2 months away. An amazing thought -- in about 60-odd days, I'll be setting out my gear, dealing with pre-race nerves, and focusing on the task at hand.

I'm proud to say that I'm way past any "I want to finish" thoughts. I'll finish -- no doubt about that. It's only a question of how well I'll race the event now. That feeling comes from the solid training I've gotten under my belt. Coach Debi's program has built me up so that I'm confident in my abilities, because I've done the work.

I've felt the training paying off over the last few weeks. I've done a lot of riding, much of it over familiar routes, and I can both feel and see my improvement on the bike. The climbs that used to wipe me out are now just steady efforts, and my average speeds have been increasing while requiring less effort.

My running has been very solid. I did the Charlottesville 10 Miler last weekend and came in at 1:16:48 -- 7:43 pace, good for 26 out 110 in my age group. I ran a good race, too -- an even effort throughout, with a negative split for the last 5 miles.

This month looks challenging, but doable. 12 miles running on Saturday, a 4 hour bike on Sunday, then another hard week before I get to taper a bit for my first tri of the season, the Kinetic Sprint. No predictions yet from me on that, but I'm optimistic that I'll have a good race.

The highlight of the month? Has to be on the last weekend, when I've got a triple brick day: 20 mile bike, 3 mile run, 20 mile bike, 3 mile run, 20 mile bike, 2 mile run. Should be loads of fun!


Keep up with my training log here!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Break on through

This weekend I had one of those great moments when it all clicks. I'm a pretty average cyclist, considering my past race results, but I've put in a lot of consistent base this winter on the trainer. This weekend the weather and my training schedule gave me the opportunity to ride twice in fine weather, and all of a sudden I was faster. And not just faster, faster with less effort.

On my Saturday 90 minute ride I averaged 17 mph riding easy on a course that used to take an "all-out" effort to average 16 mph. Climbs that used to red-line my HR at 175 now only got me up to 160.

I followed up on Sunday with a 51 mile ride in 3:05, with plenty left in tank. As a matter of fact, my return time on the second half of the out-and-back course was significantly faster than the first half. And again, I was motoring along without pushing the limits. Average HR for the 51 miles was 120 -- much lower than what I usually register. By the way, not group rides either -- solo on Saturday and pulling a buddy along on Sunday.

48 years old and the best shape of my life -- pretty darn cool.


P.S. -- Read the exciting details in my training log.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Racing results

Well, despite my cold I went ahead with the race I had scheduled for last Saturday -- the MJH 8K. I'd been feeling a bit better, and had done an easy spin and run on Friday as a test. I didn't feel too bad, so I went ahead with it.

The race was a blast, and I'm pretty jazzed with the results. A solid 36:20 for the 8K course (barely shy of 5 miles). The weather was a bit cool, but sunny, and it felt great for racing. I got a nice warmup in and took off bit too fast at 3:25 for the first 1/2 mile. I held it back a bit from there and turned in some nice consistent splits, all around 7:20-7:25, until the last 1/2 mile or so when I turned it up a bit. I got 6th out of 32 in my age group. Not bad.

The race was fun aside from the time. An interesting (but hilly) course in downtown Charlottesville, a nice-sized field and a good chance to kibbitz with some friends. The big road race for the season comes up soon -- the Charlottesville 10 Miler on March 31st. Who knows, maybe I can break 1:15?


P.S. -- Cold coming along OK -- just some coughing as my lungs clear the crap out.

P.P.S. -- Race results and training log

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cold -- and not the weather...

Just as I started strong into March, I ran my head smack-dab into a cold. It came on quickly -- I had a good run on Wednesday morning, but felt a bit wiped out at the end. By mid-morning, my head was congested, I was achy, had a headache -- the usual drill. The only good news is that it's kept itself pretty much in my head and my chest is staying pretty clear.

I took off on Thursday, and cut my morning ride in half this morning. I'm starting to feel a bit more on the up and up today, so I'll just take it easy with my race tomorrow morning. Sunday is supposed to be a 3-hour ride, but that'll probably get cut down as well, while I get totally back. Better safe than sorry at this point.


My training log.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Taking the test

March is here, and the hope of a quick spring and warmer temperatures. For me, it's going to be an interesting month. I've got two road races on the schedule: the MJH 8K on the 10th, and the Charlottesville 10-Miler on the 31st.

Coach Debi has filled the time in between with a couple of sturdy weeks, each with around 11+ hours of training. My favorite training day looks like Saturday, the 24th -- 2000 yards in the pool, a 3 hour bike and a 60 minute run. Fortunately I don't have to do them back to back.

The races should be an interesting test of my fitness. My training runs have been fairly low intensity, just increasing in distance as time has gone on. Realistically I hope to do the 8K in under 40 minutes, and the 10 miler in around 1:20.

Who knows, I may surprise myself. I haven't raced since December, and I ran 4 miles in 30 minutes then -- a total shock at the time, since I hadn't expected to go nearly so fast. Of course there's only one way to find out...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sweet 16

I forgot to mention in my last post that I just turned 48 -- not a terribly significant number, but picking up speed towards 50, for sure. In more relevant numbers, it's 16 weeks and counting to Eagleman. To celebrate the fact, I'm fighting a minor cold -- little dry in the nasal passages, slight cough -- just enough to remind you that you're mortal.

I ran with Coach Debi on Friday. A nice session -- she did a little bit of form coaching on the fly and we had a nice chance to talk about this and that (triathlon mainly, duh...). Turns out I need to lean forward a bit more, and keep my hands a bit higher. I've worked on it a bit and like the results -- not a radical change, but I feel I've got more forward momentum working for me.

The weather's finally warming somewhat here in VA, so the prospect of a 90 minute run in the morning doesn't seem too bad. That's a nice milestone as well -- it's my longest run of the training cycle so far, and my longest in several years. I'm on pace to rack up over 60 miles for the month as well. Not huge numbers, but pretty impressive considering I only did about 240 all of last year.

Of course the knee surgery had a lot to do with that!


Updated, and ready for your perusal -- my training log.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Domino Theory

Training is going well as the dark cold of February grinds by. My training program is nicely balanced (thanks Coach Debi), and I've been keeping up with it very well.

"Keeping up" is the key, though, and I've had a good lesson in that this week. The schedule is pretty demanding this week -- 5+ hours of cycling, 2 hours in the pool, almost 3 hours running, plus a bit over an hour of strength training. Ensuring it all gets done requires good scheduling, commitment and dedication.

Did I mention weather as well? Sure enough, a snow and ice storm blew in on Tuesday, and the 80 minute long run for Wednesday morning was out. The change threw me for a loop, and I couldn't get motivated to get out of bed and substitute a 2 hour trainer ride in place of it.

Oh well, I'll do that on Wednesday night, and I can reschedule the run for Saturday. Sure enough, at 9 PM on Wednesday night I spun out two hours on the trainer and hit the sack. Now I was too tired to get up for my Thusday morning swim. And, to top it off, I had a sore throat and some head congestion. Now I'm really behind -- it's like a chain of dominoes -- miss one and everything starts falling.

It's time to step back and be realistic -- one missed swim and weight session isn't going to kill me, and I probably could do with some rest anyway. So, a big meal on Thursday night, and early to bed.

Today is another day, and I'll get it back on track. Coach Debi is in town, and she's running with me this afternoon. Should be fun!


I'm doing well (really!) -- check out my training log.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Why I (Usually) Train Alone

I wrote a while back about Ginger, my 6-year old Labrador retriever and running buddy. But aside from my time on the road with Ginger, I usually find myself alone when training. Why is that?

It's not that I'm completely anti-social, nor do I have a problem with group training sessions -- I know they're a big motivator for many people. And on occasion I'll get together with a buddy or two for a bike ride, or do a group ride with some other triathletes -- and I swim with my Masters swim group once a week. But for the most part, it's just me, myself, and I.

There are several reasons why I usually train alone -- some practical, some philosophical. Let's look at the practical first:

1. Scheduling -- There's very little margin for error in scheduling. Working full-time, 13-year old son, wife, dog, social life, house upkeep -- they're all constraints on when and where I can train. My first priority in scheduling is to figure out when to do it without interfering with my obligations and commitment to the aforementioned.

2. Opportunity -- Charlottesville is a pretty active town, and there is a local tri club that schedules some group workouts at different times of the week. Try as I like though, it's a rare opportunity that I can fit in my training with them (see #1).

3. Appropriateness -- Since I'm working with a coach, my training is mapped out for me, and the group's workout often isn't a good match. And as an improving athlete, I find myself "stuck in the middle" very often. The easy Sunday 1-hour "beginner's ride" is too easy, while the "hammer down" Saturday 70 miler is too much. And for me, it's all too easy to let the competitive juices start flowing. Suddenly that easy run becomes a lung-busting anaerobic workout.

Now for the "philosophical:"

1. Mental Training -- When you're racing, you're alone. You won't have anybody else to rely on during the race -- might as well get used to it. And when you're racing well, you need to concentrate on many things: your effort level, your nutrition, etc. What better time to practice this than when you're training? I like to look at my training sessions as "dress rehearsals." Got a long bike ride? Practice how you're going to eat and drink, like it's the race you're training for. Concentrate on monitoring your effort, working through the bad patches, staying smooth -- all things you want to make second nature for the race. There's a reason it's called "training."

2. Solitude -- It's a busy, noisy world out there, and solitude is a good thing. How often do we get a chance to be by ourselves, alone with our thoughts and undisturbed. Despite what I said in #1, sometimes it's nice to let the mind drift and explore your environment and your inner self. No yoga mat or meditation class required, and I'll often find myself refreshed mentally at the end of a long solo training session.

I may change -- maybe in a few months I'll be writing about how much fun my weekly group run is. But for now I'm a happy camper when I'm on my own.


My training log.

Monday, January 29, 2007

19 weeks and counting...

Seems strange to think that Eagleman is only 19 weeks away. Plenty of time left, but something about getting inside that 20 week range seems to bring it closer to mind. So what's coming up for me?

In March, I plan to get a few road races in: the MJH 8K and the Charlottesville 10 Miler. I'l probably go pretty hard in the 8K, but at this point I'm looking at the 10 Miler as more of a chance to practice race strategy and control race-day nerves than to blast a fast time.

The Charlottesville 10 Miler was a fixture on my race calendar for many years. It's the biggest local race we have, with over 2000 competitors last year, but just haven't been able to get it together for some years now -- either out of shape, or hurt. No way I'm going to match my PR (1:13:01) -- that was about 10 years ago!

In April, I've got the Kinetic Sprint Triathlon. Haven't done this before, but based on the Giant Acorn Tri last October it should be fun. The roads in that part of Virginia are pretty flat, and it has a fairly long bike leg for a sprint -- 18 miles. With a 750 M swim, 18 mile bike, and a 5K run, it should be a good test for my fitness.

The Kinetic Sprint is 7 weeks out from Eagleman, and I don't have anything planned beyond that. I often read advice that you should do an Olympic distance tri before taking on the 1/2-IM, but I'm not too concerned about it. I've done 8 marathons, so the time factor isn't an issue -- I know what a long day on the road feels like.

At any rate, barring injury or fitness I'm totally confident that my preparation will be solid. Getting individual coaching has been a good choice for me -- I'm further along now than I ever imagined I would be.


You can see my training for yourself -- check out my log.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In praise of the cotton tee

A hint of winter has finally rolled into the Mid-Atlantic, as the mercury dropped into the low 20s last night. Since I needed to hit the gym to catch up on my lifting, I decided to combine my morning's run and the lifting into one trip, and avoid running in the cold, dark morning -- hey, I'm only human!

Coach Debi has me in the middle of a tough week, so at 5:30 AM I toed the line at the indoor track at ACAC and started running laps. 12 laps equals a mile on the square, 2-lane track. Round and round, checking out the early morning pickup basketball game below me, the spin class above me, and the squadron of cardio machines to the side.

Most of my gym companions this morning were dressed in their nicest gym togs -- a variety of sporty outfits made from high-performance wicking fabrics that keep you dry, cool, and comfortable. I've got some nice gear like that -- and they really work -- but today I was old school all the way, with a pair of faded v-notch running shorts and a veteran cotton t-shirt from a local 5-K.

There's something about a cotton tee that endears itself to me. When you're running inside you don't have to worry about your sweat chilling you, so it's almost pleasant to feel the dampness of the shirt grow as you put in the miles. The shirt sticks to you, and the wind caused by your running evaporates the sweat and cools you.

Finally I'm done. 80 laps, about 6.7 miles at a 9 minute/mile pace. And with my old t-shirt hanging damply from my shoulders and smelling faintly of ammonia, I look like I've run for an hour. It's my personal red badge of courage.

A good start to the day. Now on to the weights.


Keep track of my progress at my training log.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reliable training partner

I do most of my training alone. It suits me -- I can do my own pace, make my own decisions, choose my own routes and routines. But sometimes a little company is nice. Fortunately, I've always got a running buddy who's ready to hit the road with me.

The American Kennel Club description of the Labrador Retriever starts: " The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion." They should have added "running buddy" to the list.

Our lab, Ginger, is 6 years old now, going on 7 in June. She's a perceptive and smart dog, who learned long ago that when I got the running shoes out of the closet it meant she might get to go for a run. Whatever her faults may be, she's an hardy and compliant runner. I clip her lead on, and she heels perfectly, matching my pace as she trots beside me.

Neither weather or time of day bothers her -- she's ready to go at the drop of a hat. She's durable as well, never had an injury or problems with heat. Of course I keep things reasonable. She doesn't usually get to go more than 3 miles, which seems to suit her just fine.

Ginger's like any athlete -- she can get out of training as well. When I couldn't run because of my knee surgery I often caught her casting a quizzical glance in my direction, wondering when she would get a chance to go running. And the time off got her a bit out of shape.

We're both coming back strong now.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Guilt-free indulgence

The unseasonably warm winter we've had so far has kept me off the ski slopes (maybe a good thing for my knee), but has kept me on the roads. Coach Debi topped off my Biggest Week Ever (more on that in moment) with a 2-hour bike ride on Sunday. Staying true to my early morning preferences, I got out on the road at 8 AM, for two loops around a favorite 16.25-mile circuit.

It may seem a bit boring to ride the same loop twice, but I like to do it on occassion. It makes a good game -- ride steady and smooth the first time, then try to kick it up a notch on the second circuit. Well, I couldn't do it this time -- both circuits came in right at 59 minutes, a 16.5 avg. Pretty good speed in my book, since there are three serious climbs on each circuit that really drag the average speed down.

Chilled and tired, I met the family at The Tavern, a Charlottesville institution. It's the greasiest of greasy spoons, where hash-browns are as close as you can get to a vegetable. Giving in totally to temptation, I pigged out on 3 pecan pancakes, a side order of grits, one egg sunnyside up, a side of link sausage, and lots of coffee.


As to the Biggest Week Ever, I ended up the week with over 10 hours of training: 12.15 miles of running, 75 miles biking, 6500 yards in the pool, and one hour of weight training. Best of all, I'm feeling good and having fun while I do it!


See for yourself, check out my training log.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What it takes

Some days you have it, and some days you don't. But the days you don't are still worth it.

It was cold this morning. Just cold enough that I didn't make the right gear choices. In the dark pre-dawn, I slipped on my lycra tights, capilene top, windvest, polypro hat, gloves, and my headlamp for a one-hour run. I stepped outside.


No worries, I'll warm up.

One hour later, I still hadn't. Probably one of the most uncomfortable runs I've had in quite a while. My loop course took me only a short job past my house three times, and every time was a temptation to pack it in and come back later. But I didn't, and I'm happy for it.

I know the times will come when I'm going to want to pack it in early. Stop. Quit. Be normal and sleep in later than 5:30 AM. But as they say, "Habit is the best of servants, and the worst of masters." Toughing it out on this cold morning might make it a little easier next time I need to dig down deep.


Check out my training log.