I’ve always been somewhat self-conscious about my body. As a kid my mom would take me to the “husky” section of Sears to buy my clothes. I always swam in a t-shirt to hide my chubbiness. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable for me if my two best buddies didn’t have bodies that would be suitable for modeling. (They still have those bodies.) Even in my high school and young adult years, I would always buy a shirt that was a size larger than I need.
I started running like most people do – to lose a few pounds. I did lose a few pounds, but my body shape stayed the same. Not sure why after almost 28 years of running that I would not be rail thin like most marathoners, but it never happened to me. I am a slightly slimmer version of the same body that I have had since I can remember.
But when I started triathlon, things changed. First of all, one of the reasons I stayed away from triathlon was that I didn’t think that I could wear that skin tight clothing and be comfortable with how I felt and looked. Especially in the early days when they wore bikini style shorts. I can remember buying my first tri suit at Endure It! in the western suburbs of Chicago. I tried a two piece and remember thinking I looked like the Michelin Man. After that I tried a one piece suit and thought that it wasn’t too bad. Often times I would throw a t-shirt over it just to make me feel a little better about myself. But after getting a few races under my belt, I looked around and realized that it wasn’t all that bad. I saw all shapes and sizes of people squeezed into Lycra, and in reality I wasn’t the shape that my mind imagined myself to be. Triathlon seems to be giving me more than I had bargained for. I’m getting less conscious about my image.
This weekend I did a sprint triathlon. I was thinking about how I looked in comparison to others at the event. Not sure why, but I did. I was admiring this one guy who looked like he was a former pro. Fortunately for me he was in the 55-59 age group and I didn’t have to worry about losing an age group spot to him (He finished 3rd overall). He had the look that I wanted but somehow can’t achieve. As somewhat of a car buff, I envisioned myself much like a souped up beater – a car that looks rough on the outside, but is all pro-stock under the hood. The term “sleeper” also comes to mind – a car that is so tame looking, but packs a wallop.
I took my time in the water, but once I got to the bike I let it rip. I ended up surprising myself with a 21.8 mph average over the 11 mile course. When I got to the run, I played my strategy right. I allowed myself to settle in and not go crazy that first mile. I ended up running a 20:46 5K, nearly matching my personal best for road raced 5K’s this year. That was surprising as well.
The biggest surprise was when I saw the results on the screen at the finish line – 1st place in the M50-54 age group, and 9th place overall. I wasn’t expecting that. But I guess nobody expects the beater to have a supercharged big block under the hood. Sometimes not even me.
3 Swims – 3300 yards this week / 60050 yards total
Distance: Sprint: 400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run
Results: 1:02:40 – 9th overall, 1st place M50-54
I expected to be underwhelmed with this race a little. There wasn’t much information to be found online as I looked into this race. The club that hosted it doesn’t really have a website or Facebook page that I could find, the host location (Manteno Sportsman’s Club) had just one post on their FB page, and the sign-up website didn’t list the race distances or provide a course map at all. I was kind of in the dark about it all. I ended up emailing the listed contact on the registration site and asked for info. A day later I was emailed the athlete guide. At least I now knew when packet pick-up was and when transition opened. When I did sign up for the race I asked my wife Kari if she would be interested in doing the duathlon. She committed and we joined the field.
I set my alarm for 4:30 am, but had a really restless night of sleep. I got up and got ready, while Kari groaned. We hit the road around 5:30 am and drove the 25 miles or so to Manteno, Illinois.
After arriving, we picked up our packets and walked our junk to transition. It was a rack it where you like transition, so I chose an end rack location not far from a large tree for ease of finding the bike.
Our bikes racked side by side
Kari, aka bundle of nerves
I decided to burn off some race anxiety and ran a couple loops of the run out course. After that, Kari and I walked around trying to stay warm on a somewhat cool 63 degree summer morning.
Race day water temp was 80 degrees, so no wetsuit. I did see one guy with one on, but he also had a white swim cap and I remembered hearing that a guy with a white cap would be in the water helping the unsure beginners in the water.
There were four swim waves – Men 39 and Under / Men 40 and Over / Ladies 39 and Under / Ladies 40 and Over. I was in the second wave and sized up my competition. I didn’t really see anyone in the M50-54 age group, but I knew there had to be a few. There was a guy in transition who was a first timer and I answered a few of his questions in transition. He approached me on the beach and asked more questions. I was glad I could offer him some advice. He was a little nervous. I hope he did okay. I didn’t see him at the finish.
SWIM:400 Yards, 9:07, Average pace 2:17, 3rd in A/G, 58th Overall
The horn blew and I waded into the water as others ran. The water was perfect. Smooth and a comfortable temp. We got to the one turn buoy in fairly good time, and I was feeling pretty good. There was some bunching up, and some minor contact, but it settled down and we all began swimming straight back into a blinding morning sun. I felt like I had a great swim, but was surprised to see my time in the results. I guess that includes the run to T1, but I know I swim faster than that. I got to T1 and spent 1:16 getting ready for the ride.
BIKE: 11 Miles, 30:14, Average speed 21.8 mph, 2nd in A/G, 10th Overall
I got to T1 and decided to go without socks. I got ready as fast as I could and took off running out to Bike Out. Once on the bike I took off. I hit 27 mph leading out of the event site and was amazed how easy it felt. A few turns later I was out of the town and in cornfields, passing numerous first wave starters and most of the duathlon competitors. I got passed by one guy on the bike, right around the 0.5 mile mark. He and I left transition together, but he mounted his bike before the bike mount line and the referee told him to dismount and mount after the line. I wonder if he got a 2 minute penalty. But he blew by me, and I was still doing 25 mph at that point. He must have been ticked.
The course had two hairpin turnarounds, which weren’t that big of a deal. I had to slow for a slower rider at the second one, but I ramped it back up quickly. The day had started to become slightly windy, but there were enough turns where you weren’t dealing with a headwind for a long stretch of time. There was a cop standing at the bottom of the hill with a radar gun. I went by him at 27 mph. Later on at the awards ceremony, they crowned the faster rider at 35 mph I think. They gave him an award.
I hustled back to T2 and made the quick change to running in 1:14.
RUN:3.1 miles, 20:46, 6:42 per mile pace ave., 1st in A/G, 8th Overall
I started running and immediately wondered if my heart was going to explode. It didn’t and I quickly settled into race pace. I passed a guy about 1/2 mile into the run and he said I was crushing it. He probably thought I was crazy, because I certainly did. But I just started going and picking off runners one by one. It wasn’t until about the 2 mile mark that I saw two guys running together in my age group. They said I should join their old man group and run with them, but I gracefully declined. I kept my pace going and they didn’t try to match it. I’m glad they didn’t, because the results showed that I beat them both by 19 seconds.
FINISH TIME: 1:02:40, 1st in A/G, 9th Overall
After finishing, I recovered with some water and walking around. I found friend Brian Swift, a para-triathlete who had done the swim portion of the relay, while his kids did the bike and run. Very inspiring to watch him do the swim.
Not long after that I grabbed my camera out of transition and went to watch Kari finish the race. We cooled down and had great conversation with a few others we knew and some new triathlete friends we met.
After getting some pizza and a banana, I decided to check the results and was shocked to see that I had finished 1st in the age group. At the awards ceremony, I took my place on the highest podium, a first for me, and received my award, a drinking glass etched with 1st place on it.
Even with my questions about how well run the race would be, it turned out to be a great day. The venue was more than adequate, the lake was very nice, and the bike and run course was all on pavement that was in great shape. And Kari confided in me later that she actually had fun! I would definitely do this one again.
A couple of twists to this week of training. First, I looked at the training for Week 18 and saw that it was to be somewhat of an easy week ending in an Olympic distance triathlon. Usually I just do the Oly distances of the swim/bike/run at home on the weekend and skip the racing, as racing can sometimes pose the risk of injury (i.e. bike crash, drowning, etc.) that you can avoid by just doing the day at home. But I had my eye on a local sprint distance race in the area which occurs next weekend, and I wanted to give it a try. So I swapped Week 18 with Week 19. Hopefully I won’t gun it too hard next weekend.
The second aspect of this week occurred to me on my long bike ride on Saturday, as most of my thinking and the ideas for this weekly wrap up happen. The family and I decided to head to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to our lake home to enjoy the weekend, as school activities are starting to heat up and it may be a while before we get a chance to get up there again.
As I was riding I began to assess where I was fitness-wise, and started to think about creating a race day strategy for Ironman Louisville. I was feeling pretty good on the ride and I hoped to translate that into a harder effort for the race itself. The ride was a 4 hour scheduled out and back, and I had hit 30 miles when I turned around. I was riding my hybrid bike and riding on a crushed granite trail, but I was still pretty pleased with my effort to that point.
I turned around to head for home and found that my Camelback was getting low on water. I had seen a building off of a local road and decided to see if I could find some water. No one was around, but I did find a spigot with a hose attached to it. Just as I was getting ready to fill it, a truck pulls up and inquires as to what I was doing. Fortunately the guy was pretty cool, and didn’t mind that I filled up.
Then about 3 hours into the ride I started to bonk a little bit. I had plenty of nutrition and I was eating it up, but for some reason I was just not quite as energetic as usual. I made it home in 4 hours and 10 minutes, so the trip back took me a little longer than going out did. I was almost ready to skip the post-ride brick run, but I decided to down a couple glasses of sugary tea/lemonade drink and at least get my mile in for the day (thanks, stupid running streak). But as I headed out, my legs came back and I put in a solid 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. It should have been a 45 minute run, but I knew Kari was worried about me, and I didn’t want to push my luck. The rest of the afternoon I could tell that I was drained.
One thing I can learn from this ride was that I’m not ready to be thinking about gunning for a personal best at 140.6 miles. The other thing is I’m glad I knew when I had had enough for the day.
Lastly, the Sunday run went really well, as did the rest of the week of training. Very glad that I got up north and had an adventure to mix things up. Next week will be much easier volume-wise, and I will have to balance training with being a volunteer chaperone at band camp. Looking forward to an easier week and a race on the weekend.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 56750 yards total
Jeff is a Gunner. I already knew that, but Saturday’s ride reminded me that any one of my Gunner teammates can turn on the gunning when they are in their element.
Jeff and Jill had planned a graduation party for their daughter Emma, and since it made sense that we would be coming to their downtown condo for the party, that we should get together for the Saturday long bike ride and short run brick. And I immediately tried to think of someway to get out of it.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about riding along the lakeshore in Chicago. I’ve seen the trail and it’s users, so to me it is like the wild west down there. All sorts of walkers, skate boarders, roller bladers, hand holders, runners, swimmers carrying their wet suits to Oak Street beach, volley ballers at the beach, and of course Lance wannabes. And in addition to that, I just generally hate driving downtown, not knowing where I am going, thinking that I’ll get mugged, or nowadays shot. But my wife drives down there everyday for work, Jeff and Jill live right in the heart of everything good in downtown, and since Dave had already committed to it, I decided what the hell. So I packed up my bike and junk, got up a 5 am and drove into the city.
We met up and Jeff reminded us that since there was a rather large 1/2 marathon on Sunday downtown and a related 5K Saturday morning, that we should get going and try to head north on the path and hopefully miss the runners. So we started our Garmins, clipped into our pedals and hit the mean streets of Chicago to the lake front trail.
When we got there I was amazed at how busy it was. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but man, there were tons of runners and riders out at 7 am. Jeff led us north right into the craziness. There were large groups of runners, presumably running together doing marathon training, that were taking up most of the trail. You had to wait your turn to go around the traffic and hope that others would share the trail. It was very chaotic, but in a way it was very organized chaos. The runners all expected to get passed by cyclists and didn’t freak out about it. Other cyclists knew to give an oncoming rider a little extra room on his side of the trail. And after a few miles of being indoctrinated to this chaos, it started to become easier.
We made a pass north and turned around. An hour back into the return trip, we had expected that the 5K had already passed, but that wasn’t the case. So we turned around and made another loop north. Now, I wasn’t so excited about this, but it was certainly better than trying to fight through the race. The trip back north was actually much less of an adventure. Most of the large groups had finished up, and it was just your usual and standard crazy trail users. This is the moment that Jeff decided to attack.
Since I was riding in the middle with Dave riding right behind me acting as my sweeper, I knew that Jeff wouldn’t get too far ahead, but he certainly was in his element. Dave and I were still riding with our heads on a swivel, and Jeff was like Keanu in the movie Speed.
But it dawned on me that when I hosted a ride a few weeks ago, I led the entire way even though both of those guys are stronger riders. And when we rode out by Dave, he led us out on his route. Dave told me when we rode on my route that he would drop back through the twisty nature preserve that I like to canyon carve the hell out of. He just wasn’t as familiar with all the fast turns as I was. And the same thing was going on with Jeff. He was just good at riding in his element.
We made the turn around and headed back into the downtown area and found the path to be open. We sped ahead to the south, passing such iconic landmarks like the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum. As we continued to ride, not only did it become less crowded, it also became very scenic. The south portion of the trail through Burnham Park and down through the South Shore was quite an enjoyable ride. We made the turn around and headed back to the city, hammering away and really enjoying the miles and letting the time fly by. In reality, the 3.5 hours on the bike seemed like two. And I was somewhat surprised that it was over so quickly.
As we finished, I jokingly praised the gods above for allowing me to survive the ride. But really the thanks should go to Jeff for guiding us on such a memorable ride. This thirty weeks of Ironman training isn’t all about doing work to finish the race, it is also for enjoying good friends and making great memories.
I won’t hesitate to accept an offer to ride there again. Thanks for inviting us, Jeff!
The Other Notable Ride of the Week
I had another notable ride on Thursday night. I was riding the scheduled 75 minute ride when I blew out my rear tire after riding through what I thought was some innocuous gravel debris. I was mulling over my options, as I was about 10 miles from home, and I didn’t have my cellphone with me. So I decided to jog about a 1/4 mile back to a parking lot where I could have some room and be a little safer repairing my tire than along the trail. Upon examining my tire, I could see that it was blown out on the sidewall, which really surprised me. I had a spare tube, but I knew that a hole in the sidewall of my tire was not going to be good.
I had some small tube patches and placed one over the hole and installed and inflated the new tube. After using one CO2 cartridge, I could see the tube had pushed the patch out through the slit in the tire by about 1/4 inch. I decided that I would have to take it very gently riding back.
Since I have a running streak and that I hadn’t ran yet, I decided to finish off the mile and off I ran at about a 9 min/mile pace in my cycling shoes. After the mile was over, I saddled up and rode easily toward home. I was about two miles into that easy ride when I heard the tube let go. Fortunately for me, I was near my office. So I jogged another half mile and I was able to get inside and call my wife to come pick me up. Quite an experience. Glad I had the lesson in repairing a tube, and using a CO2 cartridge, which I had never done before. I should have used something a little more sturdy to cover the hole prior to inflation, like a business card or a dollar bill that I had in my tool kit. It might of made a difference in keeping the tube from inflating through the sidewall.
Quite a memorable week for riding.
2 Swims – 4300 yards this week / 52550 yards total
With the crazy schedules we tend to have, we finally got to have a vacation! Not a full week worth, mind you. No, that would be what regular people do. But it was almost a full week! July 4th fell on a Tuesday, and since Rebecca is in the marching band, we are required to be in town for the parade. But as soon as it was over, we jumped in the car and headed north to our new favorite spot, our lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
I took a photo of my training plan from the book I follow and made sure I knew what I had to do for the week. Fortunately, the workouts were pretty easy this week, and I made sure to get them out of the way early so I could enjoy the family and the water while on vacation.
I was able to do an open water swim with my wetsuit in Lake Minocqua and it went well. Kari paddled along side me in a kayak, and I found myself swimming at a nice and easy pace. I made it down along the shoreline about 0.8 mile before turning around. The swim ended up being about 1.67 miles according to my Garmin 910XT watch, which is about 2950 yards. It took me an hour to do the swim. I felt like I was struggling strength-wise, fighting the wetsuit somewhat. After finishing, I was pretty sore. I complained about it later, because I tend to complain. Kari wisely pointed out that I had been water skiing the day before. That was an aha! moment.
The three hour long bike ride followed by a 30 minute run also went very well. I took to the Bearskin Trail and rode it farther south than I ever have. I really like the trail. Lots of greenery and beautiful things to see. I didn’t see any bears though. Or any bear skins for that matter.
I ended the weekend with a solid 1.5 hour run on the trail as well. Nice cool weather for training. Next week it will be back to the grind in good old Mokena.
2 Swims – 4350 yards this week / 48250 yards total
Week 15 is OVER! And we are officially halfway through the 30 week training plan for Ironman Louisville 2017!
Although you can divide the calendar in half, it really isn’t halfway done in my mind. The first half of training contained the base and build phases of training, weeks of training that weren’t as intensive as what is ahead of me. For instance, the longest ride of the previous 15 weeks was Saturday’s four hour ride. The four and a half, five, five and a half, and six hour rides are yet to come. If you are dividing up the hours or miles of the training, you would probably see the halfway point being somewhere near Week 18, maybe? I dunno, I overthink this stuff too much. Anyway, there is much more training ahead in the next 15 weeks than there was in the previous 15 weeks. But it is comforting to know that we have hit the halfway point, even if there’s tons of work yet to come.
Training this week went well. I did everything but the Friday swim. I’m hoping to do more swimming while we are on vacation at our lake home this next week. I think I will benefit from more open water swimming than pool swimming anyway. I need to dial in pace while in the open water. I always seem to go too hard right at the start. Thankfully in my two previous Ironman swims I was was able to recognize that and dial it back until I found my groove.
My running is going okay. I find my pace to be a little slow, but it doesn’t concern me. I’m trying not to further damage the left hamstring, which is still pretty sore. Probably as a result of the two 5K races and the sprint triathlon in which I gunned it hard. I can’t turn that off. Time to start stretching more, something I have been neglecting lately.
The bike is also going pretty good. I’m easily holding a 16-18 mph average on my rides, depending on the effort the plan calls for. Shorter rides I tend to hammer more. Saturday’s four hour ride got me about a half mile shy of 70 miles, but I rode a few extra minutes to put me over the 70 mile mark. I ended up with a 17.3 mph average for that ride. I got a little dehydrated after, so I will need to focus on that as well. I had two full bottles of Gatorade and my fuelselage filled with water. I also stopped with a half hour to go and refilled a water bottle. Still wasn’t enough.
All in all, a good ending to the first 15 weeks.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 43900 yards total