My Rides

Thursday, October 31, 2013

2014 Goals - 1/2 Ironman

There will be more on my calendar than a 1/2 Ironman, but that will be by far the toughest.  I think I've picked my target event - the Henderson, NV Ironman in Oct. 2014.  I sat down on the couch for 5 minutes to think out loud with my wife.  Here's how it went:
  • 1.2 mile swim - piece of cake
  • 50k on the bike - 35 miles - less than 2 hours
  • 1/2 triathlon, that's like 4 5ks - I'll be cramping by the end of the first 5k
So, this fat man needs to become an iron man.  It's clear, I will be spending a lot of time with my old nemesis - the run.  I focused on running this spring - it's the hardest for me, it's the form of exercise that makes the most rapid impact on my weight, and where I lose the most time in a triathlon (different rubber or aero accessories don't help at all).

The only thing my experience tells me postpones the cramping is more miles and more seasons.  With a fall event, I have 3 training "seasons" to run through.  I'll set out to set up 8 week blocks, starting in December, building up my running fitness through base miles, intervals, and jump rope.  I really like jumping rope - all the foot/calf/tendon stress of a 3 mile run in 20 minutes while the kids play.

I have found that I need a break from my minimalist shoes after tough workouts.  While I still don't feel as comfortable in something with a lot of stack height, my feet need something that spreads out the forces to aid in recovery after a high stress workout.  2000+ rope jumps in FiveFingers, or 5k in thin shoes demands the next 2 workouts in something thicker, or my feet start to feel "bruised".

What's most comfortable to wear for a run or hike are either my Vibran FiveFingers or my New Balance MT10s.  Both of those are very thin and flexible shoes.  The New Balance are 10mm thick in the forefoot.  My Altra Superiors are not cushy enough for the next day - they're 12mm in the forefoot, and significantly less flexible.  I tried a pair of Newton Gravity's but they're way too thick (23mm) and/or inflexible.

I've got both the Altra Torin (20mm), and Altra Provision (15mm) on order.  I'm hoping, as road shoes, that they'll be a bit more cushy than a trail shoe (meant for a softer surface beneath).  I think I'm learning, that flexibility may be more key than thickness (or thin-ness).  Maybe I should try Reebok or Nike, but I love the wide toe boxes on Altra and New Balance (wide width) shoes...

More on this as I flush out a training plan, and set up events-on-the-way...

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Love Open Water Swimming!

When I got back into swimming, I started in a pool, of course.  Leading up to triathlons, I made myself move my training to open water a few weeks before.  Last year it was a chore - a little scary, harder to find a rhythm.  

This year, I really focused on smooth breathing, and a good rhythm, and after one tough swim really fell in love with open water swimming.  Going a mile is like going for a long walk - a little tired at the end, but I feel like I could keep going if I stop for a drink.  

I decided to meet up with the Open Water Chicago group that meets most weekends, early in the morning.  I definitely like swimming with a group over plodding along alone.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

...and then there was mud (Muddy Monk Double Down 10k)

Here I come...

Aaagghhh - water!

...muddy water 

(illustrated by random dude)

...and then there was mud 

(scattered throughout, and a solid 1/2 mile a mile from the finish)





Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My first (1/2) Triathlon

I finished strong, and felt good.  Biking was definitely my strength - I kept a good pace, and passed folks on the short steep hills (where I was in the right gear, and they weren't).  Running was definitely my weakness, but I ran at the pace I targeted, and felt good during the run.  I surprised myself that I ran in my Vibran Five Fingers (TrekSport).  I also surprised myself that I swam a few minutes faster than I expected - even though my strategy was to swim as slow and smooth as I could.  Following is the story in more detail:

The day before the race, we went to Bishop Lake State Park to pick up packets, and attend the "newbie" session.  We walked down to the lake and saw the orange buoys marking out the 1/4 mile swim course, and the yellow buoys marking out the 1/2 mile swim course.  Wow!  The 1/2 mile swim looked like a long way to swim.

I decided to do a practice swim to the 1st buoy and back - most of 1/4 mile.  As I made the turn at the buoy, swimming out there all alone, thoughts like "gee:  it wouldn't be good if I gulped some water all alone out here", and struggled through a hundred yards or so of strokes.  I had a brief thought that maybe I should have signed up for a pool event for my first race...

Seeing the setup of the transition area, listening to the "newbie session" (even though they explain what is explained lots of places), really helped.  When the swim started I set out to swim as slow as I could.  Just taking 3-5 slow strokes, taking a breath (or up to 3 while gliding on my back).  As I rounded the first buoy, I started catching people.  Just a few, but it felt good.

When I rounded the second buoy, I thought "I bet it's weedy on this side", and sure enough it was.  I swam sloppy through the weeds - a few strokes with my face out of the water.  A few strokes breathing every other stroke, and then my feet touched.  Out I ran - I noted a few people behind me...

In the transition area, I saw a lot of people that I know got out of the water minutes before me.  I didn't practice transitions a lot - of course I've practiced putting on a shirt and shoes, and I gave some thought to making things efficient, like skipping socks - but otherwise, I just quickly threw on jersey, helmet and shoes, and hit the bike trail.

On the bike trail, I did well.  I rode at a good pace.  Passed a few people on hills, mainly by being in the right gear and being a reasonable bike handler.  The biking felt good.

The weather was supposed to be warmer, so my strategy was to dump a bottle of ice water on myself as I set out for the run.  It was cooler, but I did it anyway...  As I trudged along at my meager pace, several runners offered me salt tabs, or their bottles.  I finally realized, it was because I was soaked - they mistook my evaporative cooling strategy for obscene amounts of sweat, and assumed anyone this sweaty and slow must be just about to keel over...  I kept trudging along, and even had the energy to pick up the pace at the end.  Felt really good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Races & events 2013

This year, starting earlier, and doing more events as training milestones...  I need the event on the horizon to maintain a good diet and regular training...  Plus the thrill of showing up at a race, with tons of people, getting the jitters, etc. is just addictive.

The first thing I signed up for this year was the Hustle Up The Hancock - it's a corporate sponsored event.  Actually, my son, age 6, and I are both doing this one.  This is making the training more fun, and I think doing the event with him will be a blast.  We've been running bleachers, hills, and some flat runs since December.  Since I'm running a few times a week, anyway, often carrying a 50 lb. backpack, I figured why not sprinkle in some trail races...  

A friend from Michigan is doing the Barry-Roubaix with me, and my brother-in-law is doing the Lowell 50 with me.  I really look forward to the company training and racing this year...  

So far I've been doing all of my winter running and training in either by New Balance Minimus MT10, or my Five Fingers Trek Sports.  That includes a run down a snowmobile trail in the Minimus.

I wear wool socks (DeFeet Woolie Boolie when pace counts) in the Minimus and Injinji toe socks in the Five Fingers.  I prefer the Minimus for most workouts (Five Fingers a little tight with the socks).  I plan to run the Hancock stairs in my Five Fingers KSOs.
I never expected to be running and training in mimimalist shoes, especially since I'm pretty heavy (still 250+).  I bought them initially for strength training, and for short training runs.  Anymore, a thick supportive shoe is uncomfortable, and hurts my foot - it has to be "strapped down" to my foot so tight to keep from squirming around, that the laces hurt.  The minimalist shoe feels almost loose, but my foot can feel/fit the ground more...    I may need a warmer shoe.  I've been considering the Altra Lone Peak, and the New Balance MT1010 (both thicker soled, the NB is uglier, IMHO).
My feet got pretty cold, even with thick wool socks, so I got a pair of Altra Superiors on ebay.  The little extra thickness got me through the winter, and the 1/2 of the Frozen Five that I completed.  

At first I thought I was in love, and wouldn't return to the MT10s and Five Fingers, but I do feel better and feel I run better in those...

Jan. 20: Frigid Fanny (5k trail race)

FAIL:  Getting dressed for this, I pulled my back - couldn't walk for a day.  Couldn't drive for 2.  A few weeks of stretching, and chiropractor visits, and I was ready for the next one...

Feb. 10:  Frozen Five (5 mile trail race)

It was a wet, icy, snowy, cold day.  There was several inches of wet, slushy, icy snow on the ground.  It was raining heavily during the race.  I ran 1 lap, or 2.5 miles, and called it a day.  So did many others.  I ran 3 miles the day before, so there!

Feb. 24:  Hustle Up the Hancock (52 floor 1/2 climb)

This was a lot of fun.  My son, Isaac (6) climbed with me.  He was pretty frustrated by the crowds, and the team (company) picture, and all the hubub getting to the actual climb, but once they turned us loose on the stairs he was a machine.
We didn't really know what to expect in terms of time/pace.  When we practiced, it was on bleachers with 32 steps - so at most we've only climbed 32 steps in a row, before going down.  After about 10 flights Isaac said he was tired, and we stopped for 10-20 seconds, drank some water, and resumed.  We steadily passed people, and were only passed by 1 climber (climbers are released 18 seconds apart).  After that he just kept trucking.  In the last 4 flights we heard someone coming behind us, and he just took off.  Later I learned, that it was the son of a friend, who ultimately took 2nd (climbing 52 floors in 6 minutes, 37 seconds).  His dad told me he mentioned this little kid who was racing him, and he couldn't get around...  Isaac finished a few seconds under 10 minutes, I finished a few seconds over 10 minutes.  

Isaac was pumped.  They hung a medal on him.  It was all he talked about for a day.  We went shopping for Legos at Water Tower Place afterwards, and he showed his medal to everyone that would pay attention.  He called all the grandparents, told his teachers, etc.  We're planning to climb the Willis (Sears) Tower in November - all 104 floors!

Mar. 23:  Barry-Roubaix (24 21 mile gravel road bike race)

This was my best race/event to date - at least in terms of how good I felt in the latter half, and how I felt at the finish, and through recovery.  I rode with a friend the first 1/3 of the race, but his bike was giving him trouble on climbs, and ultimately I lost touch with him.  After debating stopping for a bit or pushing it, I decided to push it.  

About 1/2 way through was a climb called "The Killer" - I don't know that it was harder than the 3 sisters, if I was warmed up, or what, but I just decided to do an interval, and got over the to without hitting the lowest of my granny gears.  In the latter 1/2 the 35 milers re-join with the 21 milers, and about 3 times I jumped onto the back of a pace-line, and got a pull for a minute or so before they dropped me...  

As we hit pavement in Hastings, I turned to a guy I was near, and said "let's go catch some skinny tires", and sprinted off (assuming he might get on my wheel).  He didn't, but I fell into a group int he last mile, and crossed the finish line at 30 miles an hour.  

April 13:  Muddy Monk Double Down 10k Trail Race

This year's focus is more running than biking - putting a priority on losing weight.  I haven't run 10k, all at once, since 1993, so this will be a challenge.  

...another great event.  I was feeling pretty stressed about this one.  The weekend before I started a 4 mile run, and remember thinking is the first 1/4 mile: "What am I doing?"  I had doubts that I would finish without walking a mile or so.  A couple more 3 and 4 mile runs, with intervals and sprints mixed in, and I felt like I could do it.  I figured I would walk a little after 3, 4, and 5 miles.  

The race was wet and muddy.  There was a 30 yard stretch of ankle deep water in the first mile.  I was prepared for wet - I wore my Five Fingers Treksports without socks.  The cold, however, was a shocker - whew!
My plan was, if the water wouldn't drain, and my feet were hurting, I'd stop and put on a pair of Injinji toe socks to soak up the water, and then remove them if necessary.  I had 2 pairs, and a camp towel...  I never needed them.  The Five Fingers drain really well.

I really felt good.  I had no idea of my pace, but my form & cadence felt good.  I saw the "4 mile" (complete) sign facing the opposite direction on the trail.  I thought "I'm not going to walk until I pass that".  After the turn-around, and as I approached the sign, I was thinking "I'm going to step up the pace the last 2 miles".

That was until the beautiful open field.  The sun was peaking through, and we came out of the woods into this big grassy field.  I thought "all right".  But every step was into about an inch of cold water hidden in the grass.  Ooohh - cold!

"I'll crank it up, after the field, then" I thought to myself - but I was starting to admit that my form was deteriorating, my feet and calves were sore, and I probably didn't have even a 440 burst in me.  Then started what must have been a half-mile of ankle deep mud with no real way around.  

Just trudging along through mud - some sticky, some thin and wet.    For a while I tried to "run" through this, thinking I was floating above the worst.  Then I settled in to trudging...

Then we hit the trail we went out on.  Maybe a half-mile from the finish.  I cranked it up the best I could, threw my arms up for the camera guy, and pushed through the finish.  

Official time:
Race number and medal added to the box-o-such-stuff
The shoes out to dry.

May 5:  Cinco de Miler 5 mile run

This turned out to be a lot bigger event than other runs I've done.  They expected 8000 people, spectators and volunteers included.  There was a little stress since Boston, so I told my wife to avoid groups of people, garbage cans (in my mind, a place to drop something suspicious that wouldn't be noticed), and clowns (for the usual reasons).  

Coming up to 3 miles, I was feeling pretty drained, so I walked 100 feet or so, and then I saw the 5k split timer ahead.  Doh!  I walked again after grabbing a cup of Gatorade just after the 5k timer.  In the last mile I was really feeling tired, and was only able to turn it up a little for the last 1/8 mile.  

Looking at my times, my 5k split beats my personal record by 3 minutes (though I never really go out to set a personal record).  This explained my drained feeling after 3 miles.  For 5 miles, I was hoping for 11 minute miles, and I was just over.  

I ended up running this one in my Altra Superiors (pictured above).  In my last few training runs, on Chicago's Prairie Path, my feet were feeling a little sore (a couple small blisters, and sore bruised like feeling on the balls of my feet).  I wasn't sure if some socks in the FiveFingers or shoes would be better.  I was hesitant to race in something I hadn't trained in for a while.  I went with the Altras, and I feel pretty good.  I think the lesson learned, is that for off-road the FiveFingers are great, because the trail under them gives a little.  On pavement and gravel paths, something with a little shock absorption is probably right.  

May 11:  Muddy Monk I Heart Momma 5k Trail Race

We were going to be out of town for this one.  The Muddy Monk people really put on a nice race, and the medal for this one is so cool, so I had to sign up.  A few days before the race, my son, Isaac, said he wanted to do the race with me.  We went out for a 5k run, a few days before to confirm feasibility, then signed him up.
Getting ready.

Isaac took off and passed a group (that's my leg at the back) around the 2 mile mark.

At the finish

June 16:  Warrior Dash (5k obstacle race)

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!  What a great event.  A variety of challenging obstacles, but more to coordination and experience "playing" than pure physical challenge. I was a little surprised at my speed up over and through obstacles relative to more apparently "fit" people.  Apparently, running up a muddy hill is just not something people have much experience with...

 My wife ran with me, and she was a machine - at no time slowing me down, or having any problems with obstacles, manure tasting/smelling mud. At then end she was aggressively passing people on the course.  She pushed past 2 "buff guys" in the mud pit, and was totally pumped at the finish.  My brother-in-law and his wife ran with us as well.  We don't really bring it up yet, but I think they secretly had more fun than they let on...

June 22:  Bike MS Tour de Farms (100-125 mile)

Stats (before I forget)
  • Rode 101.7 miles
  • Rode only 10 or so in a larger group (intended/hoped at least 30 miles sheltered in a large group)
  • Rode 40 miles in a group of 4, with 2 short pulls at the front
  • Rode 50 miles on my own, with a few brief drafts behind solo riders
  • Elapsed time (including stops):  6 hours, 47 minutes, 13 seconds (14.985 mph)
  • Moving time (according to Strava):  6 hours, 2 minutes, 31 seconds (16.8 mph)
  • Stops at mile(s) 27 (water), 50 (water, food, bathroom, stretch), 65 (following Danny's crash, water), 78 (water, stretch), 94 (water, bathroom, stretch)

July 21:  Palos Meltdown (Mountain bike, 14 mi)

Aug. 25 Chicago Triathlon 

(Sprint: 750m swim, 22k bike, 5k run)

Nov. 3  SkyRise Chicago (Willis Tower Climb)