Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Wet and Wild Ride

This weekend saw me compete in my second Sprint Triathlon, the Caveman Triathlon in Flower Mound, TX.  The distances were similar to my first and I was looking forward to improving my performance, particularly in the transitions.

On Saturday I had to pick up my packet at a Triathlon store in Plano.  I got there early and they were still setting up packet pickup, so I browsed the store…In particular, I was interested in learning more about how to dress for the race.  In my first Tri, I noticed - rather, Angie noticed and commented on the fact that I was the only participant in a regular cargo short type bathing suit.  During that race, I wore compression shorts under my bathing suit and changed out of my suit into my bike shorts during the first transition.  During the second transition I changed out of my bike shorts and into running shorts.  Because of these wardrobe changes, my transition times were what I thought quite long.

At the store, I inquired about what clothing options there were.  The employee brought me over the the tri clothes section.  They have special tri shorts that you swim, bike and run in.  Unfortunately, there were none in my size (it’s hard to find tri stuff that fits a larger than normal triathlete).  So, I purchased a pair of padded bike shorts and decided that I was going to swim and run in them.

Come Sunday morning, the weather forecast was not good, and the blustery winds and ominous clouds portended a wet race.  As we waited in the staging area to begin the race, the wind picked up even more and the deluge came.  Fortunately, the staging area and swim were indoors.

I loaded with my group and slowly approached the start.  I was called forward, stepped on the timing mat, waited for the beep, and jumped in.  I felt very strong during the swim.  Since we only went in one direction in each lane, there were passing opportunities.  I swam without any stops and passed several other swimmers.  I felt very strong and knew that I had a pretty quick swim.  Although the distance was 25 yards shorter than the first race, my time was just about 1:45 faster.  I got out of the pool and ran to my bike and the first transition.

It had started drizzling again by them, so there was no point in drying off.  I put my socks and bike shoes on and put my jersey on.  I finished with my helmet and then my gloves and was off the the mount area.  I mounted my bike and was off.  My transition time was 5:02, about 1:15 faster than the first race.

The bike was a very fun ride.  Because we had to do two loops, there were all ability types on the course at the same time.  I passed a good number of riders and was passed by an equally good number.  The uphills in the wind made it feel like I was going to have to quit, or dismount to make it up the hill.  Although, in the lowest gear I was always able to make it.  The downhills were amazing and I would typically accelerate in a high gear and coast if necessary.  The wind on my face stung a little, but other than for having to take turns carefully, I didn’t let the wet affect me.

During my first race, I noticed that I could not stand and pedal.  Each time I tried, my pedals would fly away from me.  This race I wanted to really get some standing time in, particularly on the uphills.  I figured I would keep my bike in a higher gear and try again.  No matter what I did, I was unable to stand.  I am going to have to work on that.  I did try to keep my chain on the outer (larger) sprocket for the race and for the most part did, except after failing to stand on the uphills.

I completed the two loops (14 miles) in 57:17, which was 3 minutes longer than the previous race.  However, since the bike course was a mile longer, my pace was faster - over 14 MPH.  I dismounted and jogged to my transition spot.

My legs were really hurting after the ride.  I sat to change into my running shoes.  Since I didn’t have any clothing to change, my transition time was a bit quicker, over a minute and a half faster for a 3:20 T2 time.

I jogged out of the transition area.  There was a pretty good crowd lined up at the beginning of the route, and they energized me to keep jogging.  Once I got onto the trail and was alone, I started walking.  I really couldn’t feel my legs and found running difficult.  I ran for about a minute then walked for a minute.  Probably about a half mile in, I started getting some feeling in my legs and finally caught my breath.  At that point, I started running for longer and longer intervals, and walking for shorter ones.  The course felt like it had very long downhills, which I ran - knowing in the back of my mind I would have to come back on the uphill.  However, the uphills never felt so big or too long.  I jogged most of the rest of the course and finished with a little slower than normal 5k time of 39:53.  Although this course was a tenth of a mile shorter than the first, my time was a full five minutes faster.

I crossed the finish in 1:53:18.  I wanted to come in under two hours and I did.  Better yet, my pace on every part of the race was faster AND I took about 2 minutes and 45 seconds off from my transition times.

Although I am pleased with my progress, and these triathlons are so much fun (not like running half marathons - those aren’t a lot of fun for me), the real reason I am out there is to raise money for clean water in Africa through Team World Vision.  I remember my friends at World Vision when I run.  I remember my friends in Africa.  I remember our sponsor children when I don’t want to train.  I remember each and every supporter who makes a donation when I want to quit.  Yes, I look forward to getting stronger and lighter and pushing myself even harder (I will do a full Triathlon some day), but I really look forward to going back to Katito, Kenya and seeing the smiles on my “other family” and seeing the results of the good work going on over there…

…good work that is being funded by your donations.

Thanks for your support,


Monday, April 07, 2014

A PR-fect 10

I sprinted to the finish line and as I crossed I completed my 10th half marathon since I started raising money with Team World Vision in 2011.

And, even though this race wasn’t the fastest 13.1 I have run, my time of 2:51:52 was over 3 minutes faster than the same event a year ago.  That’s called a PR, or Personal Record, and I will take it every time.  I am one of those runners who judges his performance by his time.  If I am not getting faster, than I feel like I am not getting better.

Going faster isn’t just a personal goal for every race.  I am fully aware if I don’t speed up, I will be very much in danger of not being able to finish the Half Triathlon I am signed up for in August.  Not only does my running have to get much faster, but my swimming and biking, as well.  It’s one of the reasons why I am training so hard, to be able to finish that 70.3 miles that I will be attacking in four short months.

Ultimately, however, it isn’t as much about my progress in these races as it is about providing clean, healthy water to those in Africa that do not have easy access or close access (or even ANY access) to water.  Over the last 3+ years, through YOUR generous donations, I’ve helped raise over $16,000.00.  This provides an amazing amount of life giving water (and protection for children)!  This is why I run.  This is why I train.  This is why I beg you every year and every race for another donation.

This point really struck home as I was getting ready for this Saturday’s race.  It was early morning and I was alone in the house.  I made coffee by going to the fridge and filling the coffee maker with filtered water.  I took a bottled water out of the fridge to hydrate.  I ran water to make my oatmeal.  As I ran the water to brush my teeth, all of this easy and convenient access to water struck me.  Unless you’ve seen the lack of water access in person, you cannot really understand it. We have cheap, safe water in overabundance.  We have so much of it we often waste it and don’t even think about it.  I don’t think we should feel guilty about having water, we at least need to be aware that not everyone does.  And, with a little giving, we can change that.

When I was in Kenya, we learned that they have a saying, “Take what you need and share the rest.”  Not only is that a saying, but we witnessed that it really is a way of life for many.  It is a way of life for the group of widow farmers we met who raised crops and donated much of their produce to a group of orphans.  We witnessed it with a group who formed a banking cooperative to help fund community projects with micro loans.  We benefited from it when a group of older women we met with gave us these beautiful weaved baskets as gifts when we were all prepared to buy them.

I witness it every time one of you wonderful people donate to this cause.  It is because of your LIFE GIVING donations that I run…

Hopefully each run will be faster, but my speed isn’t what is the most important thing…

Thank you for your support,


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Gave It My Best Tri

There is a lot of fear in the unknown.  I felt that fear before my first half marathon several years ago.  I felt that fear again (magnified) before the NYC Marathon last November.  On Sunday, I felt that fear yet again before my first Triathlon.  I wasn’t afraid of the distances (300 yard swim, 13 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run), but I was afraid of the unknown.  What was the swim going to be like?  Was I going to slow down faster swimmers behind me?  What were the transitions going to be like?  Would my bicycle handle the fact that I exceed the manufacture’s max weight?  Were my legs going to be able to handle it?  Was I going to be able to run after biking?  These fears were intensified as I was on line to start the swim.  A man walked up to me and introduced himself as “Iron Dave”, the area president of the United States Triathlon Association (USTA).  We talked about how I got involved in the sport and my fundraising with Team World Vision.  We talked about the swim.  I asked him about the pool length, as the pool seemed to be a little smaller than the pool at the gym where I train.  I’ve been told that the pool at the gym is 50 meters long.  However, this school pool (which looked only a little shorter) was 25 yards.  I came to learn that the pool at the gym is 25 meters long, not 50.  So, I’ve basically been doubling the distances during my training from the actual…now I was really scared that I was going to have a tough swim.

Ultimately, all of these questions were answered during the 2 hours I raced, and the truth is, I had an amazing time.

I actually slept well the night before (which doesn’t usually occur before a race).  I woke up at 3:30am and had my breakfast, got ready and stretched.  I arrived at the race about 6:30 and set up my transition area, laying out my bike gear for the first transition (T1) and my running gear for the second (T2).  I also got marked (bib number 117 was magic markered onto my left arm and calf, as was my age on my right calf.)  I went into the pool area not really knowing what to do and sat with other racers and spectators until about 7:15.  Angie arrived at the pool a little bit afterwards and we chatted until the race started.  Since I was talking with her and I didn’t want to slow down any other swimmers, I decided to get at the end of the line to start in the pool.  They were staggering the start about 10 seconds and when it was my turn I put on my goggles and jumped in.  

I immediately lost my breath, probably due to the adrenalin rush and began to swim.   I swam slowly, but steadily and completed the first length of twelve.  Angie was waiting for me and she gave me shouts of encouragement.  Within the first couple of lengths, I passed my first swimmer.  Each lap I completed was met with another cheer from Angie.  At the end of the eleventh length I said to her I was going to pass the swimmer that was about a third of the way ahead of me.  I beat him to the ladder and pulled myself out of the pool and ran to the transition area.  My swim time was 9:30.

It was COLD that morning, and here I am outside, with nothing but a wet bathing suit on and began to dress for the bike.  Thankfully, I brought extra clothes in case it was cold, so I had a long sleeve shirt and my jersey.  I took of my bathing suit and put on my bike shorts.  Finally, I tried to put on my socks and bike shoes, but my hands were so cold that they were already numb and it took a lot longer than I would have hoped. My T1 time was 6:15.

I ran with my bike to the mount area and got on the bike.  The first thing I noticed was that I was already breathing very hard.  The second was that I was very cold.  I just started pedaling without really thinking about what I was doing.  The beginning of the course was uphill and it was very windy, so my legs started burning right away.  Other bikers were coming in the opposite direction (finishing their bike portion) and this got me motivated so I just started “riding the circle”, pushing and pulling my legs to get moving.  I had so much fun on the bike, even though on several windy uphills I thought I might quit.  My legs were spent, but each uphill was followed by a downhill on which I could accelerate and rest.  I thought about all the people that donated and all of the people whom the donations would help and set my mind that no matter what, I would finish.  I passed seven other riders during that run, so I knew that my bike portion wasn’t the slowest.  In fact, relative to the rest of the race, it was my best performance, completing the 13 miles in 55:41 which is a 14.0 MPH average.

As I dismounted and entered the transition area, I saw Angie and waved to her.  It really helped having her there to cheer me on.  I racked my bike, changed my shoes and replaced by bike shorts for running shorts.  I first started leaving the transition area in the wrong direction until another competitor told me to turn around - that I was going the wrong way.  My T2 time was 4:53.

At first, I couldn’t feel my legs or do anything more than just a slow jog.  Even doing that, I caught up to someone on the course, ultimately passing them.  Another runner passed me (I had passed her about 2/3’s into the bike course) so I knew I was going to slow.  By about the first half mile, I started getting some feeling back into my legs and started picking up the pace.  The course was somewhat hilly, and I ended up walking the uphills and running the downhills and flats.  I walked more than a typical 5K for me, and ended up taking about ten minutes longer than I would have normally.  As I entered the parking lot to the finish, I saw Angie.  She was taking pictures and started running towards the finish line to get me finishing.  That motivated me to pick up the pace and beat her to the end.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 44:55 on the run and a total time of 2:01:16.

It was so much fun, but I learned that these short distances are much more demanding than I expected.  Given that I have another Triathlon in two months that is 4 times each of the distances, I have a long way to go.

But, with hard training and your support and prayers, I will do my best.