Archive for the ‘Triathlon’ Category

Free is for ME!

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Marathon, Triathlon
Tags: ,

 

“That’s not true,” my wife said when she saw the above saying on a car bumper sticker a few weeks ago.

Needless to say, the costs related to running and training can occasionally be an issue in my house, as I’m sure they can be for others. There are race entry fees, new socks, new shoes, the never-ending supply of energy bars, GUs, Gatorade, the latest, greatest compression socks and BodyGlide (that’s where the real costs add up. You can never have too much BodyGlide!)

That’s why, when the occasional freebie comes my way, I’m more than happy to say: “Free is for ME!” Today was the ultimate freebie day.

First, I’ll have to back it up a bit. Because my employer recently told all employees that we are only to use work-related social media accounts for work purposes (makes perfect sense), I created a new personal Twitter account just for running/triathlon training purposes. As I was adding to my list of people/companies/websites to follow, I clicked on TriJuice, a Minnesota-based Triathlon news and shopping site and added them to my “follow” list.

Unbeknownst to me, I became TriJuice’s 600th follower on Twitter. This is where the fun starts. Moments later, the website’s editor sent me a direct message telling me that they wanted to send me a “gift” for being lucky No. 600. It’s the gift-giving season after all, and who am I to say no. So, very soon I am expecting to receive my new Xterra Wetsuits Transition Bag.

*Blonde girl not included.

I’m pretty sure I will get tons of use out of this bag. As Clarke Griswald said: “it’s the gift that keeps on giving.” This gift is much better than the “Jelly of the Month Club” though.

I’m constantly amazed at how companies use social media these days to gain exposure and build customer loyalty.  I don’t know much about TriJuice as a company, but the reason I decided to follow them on Twitter is simple: I think it’s one of the easiest, most-effective ways to learn about such companies and websites. Giving away free stuff also helps! Needless to say, I have added them to the list of websites I will visit when looking for gear and news related to running and triathlons.

Believe it or not, my day of freebies didn’t end there.

Later that afternoon, when my local Starbucks didn’t have the milk I wanted for my grande Americano, they gave me a coupon for a free cup of coffee on my next visit. Cha-ching!

Finally, when I drove to my local grocery store to pick up a few items, a coupon popped out of the register for a free Gatorade Recovery drink.

Of course, I walked right back to the beverage section and picked one up. While I chug down lots of Gatorade products, especially G2 grape, I haven’t had too much experience with Gatorade Recover drinks. There’s one simple way to get me to try it — Give it to me for free!

I remember reading that line many times in various places. It makes perfect sense, but it needs some clarification. You may not actually drown in sweat, but too much sweat can sure make it hard to run.

That’s especially true in Atlanta in August. Lately, any run I have done longer than 8 miles has been made more difficult by the simple fact that my shoes turn into sponges due to the amount of sweating that occurs in the 90 degree temps this time of year.

I love my Asics Gel Nimbus 11s by they don’t love the ATL heat! Asics Sponge Nimbus 11s might be a better name at this point.

I have been looking into getting some new shoes and have heard great things about the new K-Swiss K-Ona triathlon shoes. A friend of mine has them and LOVES them. The biggest key to the shoes popularity among the triathlon crowd are the ingenious drainage holes.

I never thought “drainage” would be a selling factor for running shoes. Then I tried to run 14 miles in 95 degree heat. I made it to the 12.6 mile mark an simply couldn’t continue due to the soggy condition of my shoes!

I’m very hesitant to switch shoes, especially after running injury free for the past 10 months, but I really think I have little choice at this point.

Hangin’ With The Slayer

Posted: July 21, 2010 in Marathon, Triathlon

Last summer while driving down GA 400 — one of the busiest highways in metro Atlanta — a flashing traffic sign caught my eye along the side of the road. The black and orange sign was promoting the first annual GA 400 Century bike ride.  At the time, I didn’t even know what a “century” was. I have since learned that it’s just a short little 100-mile bike ride. This particular century is staged to help raise funds and awareness for the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

Since getting back into cycling a few months ago, I targeted the 2nd annual GA 400 Century as my first big ride. Although my longest ride prior to the Century was a short little 29-mile jaunt through the hilly roads of my town, I figured I would go for it. What did I have to lose? Other than my ability to walk for a few days, that is. For $40,  I could have signed up for a variety of rides ranging from 8 miles to 61 miles to 100 miles. I decided to get my money’s worth… and then some.

In the days leading up to the race, I chatted with a few local riders on BeginnerTriathlete.com to get a feel for what to expect. From what I could gather, this was not going to be an easy little ride. There were some serious hills I would need to be ready for. Eh, big deal, I figured. I agreed to meet up with two guys who did the race last year — they go by the names “Coldfire” and “Phat” online. That’s all I knew about them.

As it turns out, Phat was riding to honor his father, who was at the top of the organ donor list a few months ago waiting for a lung when he passed. Needless to say, Phat was on a mission to honor his dad as only he knew how — FLAT OUT. Lucky me…

We meet up at the front of the group a few minutes before the start. There appears to be more than 500 riders in the group, but Phat was easy to spot. His bright yellow cycling jersey had the words “BE AN ORGAN DONOR” written on the back in red letters.

Don't mess with The Slayer!

Before the ride, I boldly proclaimed that I would be able to “hang” with them on the road and wanted to join them at the front. Clearly, I didn’t quite know what I was signing up for. Phat, it turns out, has a sinister go-for-broke-take-no-prisoners attitude when he saddles up. As an escort of police motorcycles led us all down the highway at the start, there were Phat and Coldfire out front hammering away on the pedals.

They were driving the train down a road also known as “Hospitality Highway.” However, there was nothing hospitable in Phat’s riding style. He wanted to punish people who dared to get on his wheel. I later learn that Phat also likes to call himself the ‘Slayer.” This can’t be happening, I thought This is really going to hurt! Phat’s powerful pedaling was not new to Coldfire, it appeared. He was hammering away right along with him.

Quickly, the dynamic duo had sped off down the road, opening a large gap between me and all the other riders, including Coldfire’s brother, who had no intentions of punishing himself alongside his brother and his brother’s  keeper — SLAYER!  If only I had been so smart. Instead, I shift up a couple gears, leaving Coldfire’s brother behind and join them near the front of the pack. For better or worse, I’m now committed.

On the flat roads and downhills, I “hang” with them without much of a problem. However, on each significant uphill section, they quickly leave me behind. They are riding much more expensive bikes than mine, are more efficient at shifting, have faster wheels and have ridden more than 29 miles at one time on hundreds of occasions, it seems. Add all of that together, and I might as well have been on a tricycle. This was going to be hard work!

As a personal challenge, I dig hard each time that they open a gap and have to hammer as hard as I can to catch up. This earns me some “serious street cred,” Phat proclaims. However, on more than one occasion, they have to slow down slightly and allow me to rejoin them. Turns out, these guys are “hospitable” after all. Phat’s kindness doesn’t last long though.

As we were cruising along side-by-side (there’s no drafting allowed in triathlons), we get swallowed up by a large peloton. This clearly annoys Phat. “That’s like cheating,” he says. “That doesn’t impress me. Let’s blow these guys up,” he laughs.

“Oh no,” I thought, this isn’t going to be pretty. Just like me when I run, this guy doesn’t like being passed on the bike. When the group all comes back together a few miles up the road, Phat decides to take the lead. Coldfire and I settle in behind him (The guy is a horse on wheels! Drafting off of him is the ONLY way we stand a chance.) For the next 5 miles or so, Phat drives the peloton into submission. Coldfire and I (well, ok, mostly me) hang on for dear life. When we finally slow down, we realize two things:  1.) We’re lost 2.) the peloton has been DESTROYED. This makes Phat a happy camper. Me… not so much. At this point, there’s only about 50 more miles to go.

Slowly but surely, I finally lose my battle to “hang” with them. They go off into the distance as I settle into a more comfortable pace. I ride with this guy for awhile.

At mile 80, I hit Mountain Park. Holy crap! There’s one major hill after another. It was like the Slayer himself had taken the form of asphalt and had come back to haunt me. I had heard stories of riders having to unclip and do the “walk of shame” up some of the Mountain Park hills. I was determined not to let it happen to me. I’m happy to say I succeeded.

When I finally reached the finish line after about 5 hours and 40 minutes, I spot Phat and Coldfire running laps around the parking lot. Before the ride began, I had agreed to run a few miles with them after we were done. What kind of an IDIOT am I? After a few minutes, I managed to slip on my running shoes and stumbled through a couple miles with them. Truth be told, I was afraid of what Slayer might do to me if I failed to hold up my end of the bargain.

I’ve run two marathons, several half marathons and done an Olympic-distance triathlon, but this day goes down as the single hardest workout I have experienced so far.

Oddly, I can’t wait to do it again. Bring it on Slayer! You don’t scare me. (Shhh… don’t tell him I said that.)

My First Triathlon

Posted: May 24, 2010 in Marathon, Triathlon

So, I guess I am officially a triathlete now. And to think , two years ago I hardly considered myself a runner.

After a grand total of 18 days of preparation (not including my normal marathon training), I completed my first triathlon — the 11Global Series —  on May 22, 2010 at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia. The Olympic-distance race (.9-mile swim, 27-mile bike, 6.2-mile run) was being held at Reynolds for the first time.  Considering it was my first triathlon, I figured it was a fitting match.

In a word, it was AWESOME!

First and foremost, Reynolds Plantation is a beautiful resort with one of the world’s finest hotels (the Ritz-Carlton Lodge). You can’t ask for much more as far as a location goes.

This was the view just outside my room. The night before the race, my kids enjoyed making Smores by the firepit with other guests.
I know what you’re thinking. What possesses somebody to do a triathlon with less than three weeks of training?  This thought popped into my head, too, just as I was about to jump into Lake Oconee.
Is that the first buoy WAY out THERE!?
Another thought that popped up was a sign I once saw somebody holding aloft while running the NYC Marathon. It was a bright yellow and orange sign with black letters with the words: “No Really…WTF?” These were my thoughts exactly. What the F was I thinking?! But I was also thinking — JUST PULL UP THE BOOTS STRAPS (or wetsuit) AND GO FOR IT! So I did.
For some quick background, I decided to do my first triathlon on May 4, exactly 18 days before the actual race. For most people, this would sound crazy. But if you’re already crazy, what’s the difference? For some more background, I have run two marathons over the past year, including NYC (PR is 3:28 at ING GA Marathon), numerous 10ks, a few half marathons and a bunch of 5ks. Running isn’t a problem. Because of my running, I am probably in the best shape I have been in since high school. I’m 5’8 1/2″ (yes, the half inch counts) and 149 pounds.
In July 2007, I was 172. (I know, it’s not as if I was 272. But for me, it was the heaviest I had ever been and I felt WAY out of shape.) Then I changed my life and became a workout nut. I run 4-5 days a week, etc. As for the bike portion of the race, I used to ride a road bike a lot in high school and during the summers while in college. But that was almost two DECADES ago! (I’m 39, as of May 24). Still, all I needed to do was borrow a friend’s Tri bike and I was golden! Heck, I could have done it on my mountain bike if I really wanted to. It might have been easier, actually considering all of the monster hills on the course.
After borrowing the bike, I took it for several long rides, up and down a bunch of hills, etc. The old feeling came back pretty quickly. I was feeling very confident. You’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned the swim yet, right? I was trying to ignore it. Oddly, it never went away. This was the biggest challenge of my insane plan… by FAR!
I don’t belong to a fitness club and don’t have a pool in my backyard, etc.
There is a lake in my neighborhood I could have practiced in. But that would really be crazy.
Oh wow, look at that! You can go to Lifetime Fitness with a free 7-day trial pass. Sign me up. Oh, and look at that, if you know somebody who belongs to LA Fitness, you can just go as their guest and use the pool…Giddy-up!  Of course, none of this means that it will be easy. My first trip to Lifetime was a HUGE eye-opener. I could barely swim 100 meters (4 laps down and back in the 25-meter pool). Oh man, I’m in big trouble! I spent the next day looking up videos on proper swim technique, reading every article I could get my hands on, etc. I then head back for Day 2. It goes a little better, but I’m still struggling big time. An Olympic-distance triathlon includes a 1,500-meter swim. Holy cow. There’s simply no way I can do this!
Then, a neighbor says “dude, just borrow my wetsuit.” I quickly learn that wetsuits are AWESOME! This doesn’t mean I can stop training, jump in the lake, and let the current take me.
Next step, I enlist the help of my other neighbor (the one who lent me the bike — her husband’s bike, actually) and join her up at LA Fitness for a 5:30 am swim. Yes, triathletes are crazy. Who the heck gets up at 5:30? She just finished the Gulf Coast Triathlon in water conditions that she described as “SCARY.” If she can do that, surely I can swim 1,500 meters in a calm, warm lake. She gives me a few pointers on technique and tells me I will do fine (she was lying, but I liked it).
In total, I managed to get in 8 swim sessions before the race. This is hardly something I would recommend to everybody. But once I put on the wetsuit and figured out a good swim technique that allowed me to breathe comfortably without having to stop, my mind was put at ease.
On race day, I wake up early (slept terribly, of course) and am actually the first one to get to the transition area. I’m new to this, so I wanted to make sure I got everything taken care of an had no issues when the race begins.
The race was not “wetsuit legal” due to the 79-degree water temps. But since it was my first ever triathlon and I had never even come close to swimming a mile before, I wasn’t about to jump in the lake without it. I got a few looks, but I didn’t really care. In fact, one other guy comes running up to me and asks me to help him into his suit. I gladly lend him a hand. At least I’m not the only one, I figure.
Westuit buddies…
Right before I jump in the water, my daughter insists on giving daddy one last hug. How can I resist?
One last hug for dad!

FOR SOME REASON,  THEY MARK YOUR AGE ON THE BACK OF YOUR RIGHT CALF AT TRIATHLONS.
When the siren goes off to start the race, I hang in the back of the swim pack. My “race” wasn’t going to begin until the run portion. The swim leg was simply survival. Shockingly, I find myself starting to pass people on the way to the first buoy.

Ready or not, here I go!

Once I get to the first buoy, I remember one of the videos I watched leading up to the race. A woman was standing with a microphone talking to all of the racers and says: “If you can get to the first buoy, you WILL finish the swim. I repeat, if you can get to the first buoy, you WILL finish the swim!” This woman was my little angel as I swam. The first leg of the swim proves to be really hard. A few times, I had to do the breaststroke (no shame in that) to catch my breath. Two other times, I actually rolled over on to my back and kicked just to keep moving forward. This allowed me to rest some more. (Again, I felt no shame.) However, at one point I notice a guy in a kayak keeping a close watch on me and actually pointing at me. Ok, there was some shame in that. I rolled back over, rounded the first buoy and suddenly “found my stroke” as swimmers say.

On the way to the second buoy, I find myself in a steady groove. Wow. Where did this come from? I actually have to keep myself from bumping into people. Could it be possible? Yes, I’m passing people. I chalk this up to my running training. More specifically, my breathing. That’s the key to a good, long run. It’s also the key, I suddenly realize, for a long swim. I picked a fine time to figure this out.

I finished the swim in the middle of the pack (shockingly) and actually passed some people over the second half.

Once I reached the shore, the only person happier than I am is my wife. I later learn she had tears in her eyes when I went into the water. She was REALLY nervous I wouldn’t come out. I run to the bike, somehow pull off a “flying” start (bike shoes clipped into the pedals when mounting the bike), slip my feet in and begin pedaling. The bike leg was the easy part, I tell myself. A few stronger bikers passed me, but I also passed a bunch of stronger swimmers, so I figured it was a wash.

Here I am finishing the bike leg. It was a nice, steady ride. Lots of hills. I got passed by a couple of people, but I was confident that I would catch them on the run. My favorite part came while riding along one of the beautiful country roads. There were four donkeys in a field all lined up, just staring at all the bikes as they rode past. Of course, to amuse myself I had to yell “JACKA__!” at them.

Twenty seven miles later, I arrived at “my race.” The 10k run. I had made mental notes of those who had passed me on the bike leg. With the age of each racer written on the back of his/her right calf, it made it easier to keep track. (There was a 39-year-old woman, a 45-year-old man, a 25-year-old guy who was about 6-feet-4, etc.) I hit the road at my usual 8 min-per-mile pace. Maybe a little faster, maybe a little slower… I wasn’t wearing a watch.

I’m off on the run. The woman in front of me in the shorts is on a relay team. She wasn’t in front of me for long. In total, I passed about 20 people on the run. My plan was simple:  slow and steady on the swim, go hard on the bike, but not so hard that I have nothing left for the run and then… attack the course once my feet hit the pavement. I love it when a plan comes together!

The most humbling portion of the race happens soon after I start the run. The leader of the entire race passes me on his way to the finish line just after I exit the transition area. He was flying! Then again, he’s a pro and finished in about 2:05.

I quickly forget about super-triathlon guy and start picking off runners one by one. Every single runner I was able to get in my sights, I caught and passed. It was a great feeling. That’s the cool thing about triathlons, if you excel in one area, it can really level the playing field. The swimmers get a huge head start, the cyclists can make up ground on the bike, and runners can catch up once the shoes hit the pavement.

I made up so much ground on the run, I stunned my wife as I approached the finish line. She wasn’t expecting me and fumbled to get the camera ready. She almost missed the moment. I crossed the line in 2:46:42 (unofficially) and finish in 35th place out of 85 men. (However, because I wore a wetsuit, I am listed as “disqualified” under USA Triathlon rules. So be it.)

Wow! I actually did it. It wasn’t impossible. And I actually finished with a decent time. If you’re like me and worried about the swim, take the time to learn proper technique, train a few times in a wetsuit (they actually rent them!) and go jump in a lake. Don’t think it’s impossible.

I’m going to steal a line I read in an entry on  http://www.beginnertriathlete.com as I got myself mentally prepared for this race. These are words to live by!

“I won as soon as I answered the starter’s gun.  I cannot measure myself against the others who ran with me today, only the millions who did not; that group that did not try. The millions of people who thought they were too old or it would be too hard. Those who would not face the fear and doubt and overcome it. That group that I was a proud member of for (38) years, but will never be again.”

Do something very few people in the world actually even think about doing. No Really… WTF? JUST GO FOR IT!

And after swimming 1 mile, biking for 27 miles and running for 6.2 miles, what’s a few more laps in the pool with the kids!?

And they were handing out free watermelon in the pool!


I’m officially crazy.

On May 4, I signed up for my first-ever triathlon. People train for months, sometimes even years for these things. I gave myself 18 days. I’ve been thinking about doing one for a couple of years, so that should count for something.

The race is the 11Global Olympic-Distance Triathlon at Reynolds Plantation.

Image credit: 11Global.com

I discovered this race a couple of months ago while searching for triathlons in the Southeast U.S. This is a relatively new triathlon series, but from what I can tell it looks to be a well-organized, well-run series.

First and foremost it’s an International or “Olympic” distance, which I think should be somewhat manageable for me. It will be hard, but not impossible, I figure.

The race is scheduled for May 22. I had thought about signing up for it back in March or April but couldn’t pull the trigger. On May 4, I went ahead and signed up. What the heck, I figured. There were a couple of problems that immediately jumped out at me, however.

1. I don’t own a road bike.

2. I haven’t done much swimming in a long time.

Problem # 1 was quickly solved when a neighborhood friend said I could borrow her husband’s used Tri bike.

It’s a Cannondale Trisport 600.  I first had to determine if it would fit me. So I stopped into a store to get measured. Sure enough, the bike is 54 cm, a perfect fit for my 5’9″ inch body with a 30-inch inseam. Jackpot!

Next, I need some shoes. Since I don’t want to spend a ton of cash for something I’m not sure if I want to continue doing, I stop at a Play it Again Sports store and find a pair of used size 8 bike shoes for the low, low price of just $18! Jackpot # 2.

I then go over to the local bike store, Roswell Bicycles, and pick up some clips that match the bike’s Look pedals. I’m in bidness! (as the kids say). The clips I need end up costing just $15! Woo-hoo. I grab a couple of water bottles for the bike while I’m there, too.

Getting back on the bike has been a fairly easy transition. Some of my thigh muscles have been hurting more than usual and the saddle has rubbed me the wrong way a few times, but it’s nothing that I can’t get past. I used to ride a LOT as a teenager and in college on a Specialized road bike I had. I absolutely loved it at the time and find myself really excited to get back on the bike after about 20 years. Thankfully, my running has kept me in decent shape and the hills don’t prove to be too difficult on the bike.

For my second ride, I decide to get right after it and map out a 26-mile ride, followed by a 6-mile run.  The ride included a bunch of flat sections and several hills. Getting used to riding in a forward position with my arms on the Aero bars takes some getting used to, but I pick it up pretty quickly.  I ride back to where I parked my car, jump off the bike, throw it on the bike rack, slip on my shoes and take off on the run portion.

If you ever want to know how a newborn calf feels, ride your bike for a long time, then try to run right away.  Holy Jell-O legs, Batman! For the first mile, my legs are as wobbly as an 11-month old baby’s. Finally, I settle in and bang out 5.5 miles. I end up cutting the run a bit short because I needed to get home. But it was comforting to know I could do the distances without a problem.

Next, I have to figure out a place to swim. I decided to go up to the local Lifetime Fitness and get in some laps using a complimentary 7-day pass. (Not sure if I’m going to join here, but I have been making good use of the pool over the past week.)

Ugh, I quickly discover that the swimming part is going to be my toughest challenge.  I suspected it would be, but I had no idea just how hard! I quickly tire after just a few laps.

I got back two more times on my own and work hard to focus on my breathing and technique. This video from Ironman champion Dave Scott is helpful.

Eventually, I enlist my neighbor for some help/advice.

For our first swim, we meet at LA Fitness at 5:30 a.m. Ok, so she just finished a 70.3-mile half-Ironman 6 days earlier and she’s already back at the pool! I have found somebody crazier than I am. I decide to bring a wetsuit for this swim. (I borrowed a sleeveless wetsuit from another neighbor who has done several triathlons, continuing with my low-budget theme.)

I have NEVER worn one before and I desperately wanted to see just how much it was going to help me in the water. As soon as we get in the pool, I feel myself floating. Awesome! This is a HUGE relief for me. However, the wetsuit isn’t going to actually do the swimming for me. I still have to work on my stroke and breathing. It’s HARD work. I feel like I did when I first started getting into running. I am not in “swimming shape” at all.

Still, I’m not so out of shape that I can’t get through the workout. Kate is like a dolphin. I’m jealous of how effortless she is in the water. Sigh… She tells me that she did a lot of breaststroke in her first triathlon. I’m relieved to hear that. Her advice (which I plan to follow): “Don’t push yourself on the swim.” My plan is simply to finish the swim and then attack it on the bike and run. I am looking forward to catching and passing people on the run! (I hope).

Next, I am planning a few more long rides/run before getting back in the pool at least 3-4 more times before the race. Either way, I’m happy I decided to challenge myself, even if it might be a tad bit crazy.