Officially a Triathlete

The 1500 meters have been swum. The 40 km have been ridden. And the 10 km… well let’s just say that segment is behind me now.

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The morning started out a bit hurried. Four thirty came too soon, and there was a little last minute scrambling as I double checked my bag to make sure I had everything, wolfed down a bagel with peanut butter, banana, and some coconut water with whey protein. And of course the first of many obligatory pre-race trips to the bathroom.

We met in the hotel lobby around 5, though I was the last one to show up due to the above mentioned scrambling. We then walked to the transition area to check in and set up our gear for the bike and run segments. Followed by a trip to the porta potty. Then there was a half mile walk to the swim start in barefeet. When we arrived we watched the professionals start their waves, then started the process of working our way into our wetsuits… preceded by one last trip to the porta potty, of course.

My swim wave started at 7:35. It was a wet start, meaning rather than racing into the water from shore, we headed out into the water and waited behind two bouys for the horn to sound. I felt at ease most of the time. There were a few times when I started to stray off course but caught myself pretty quickly. And I didn’t really have much of a problem avoiding other swimmers. I did start to get a bit of a hotspot on my neck and underside of my right arm from the wetsuit, so I tried to keep my chin down to keep my neck from rubbing and tried to keep my arm from coming too close to my body during the pull. Next time I’ll need to make sure to put some Body Glide on in those areas.

The first transition (T1) went smoothly, though at 4:16, I’m sure I have room for improvement. I put on Injinji toe-socks because I needed to wear them with my Vibram FiveFingers for my run. That took a bit longer than I was hoping.

The bike segment also went well. I purposefully made sure I went fast but never felt like I was overdoing it because I knew I needed to save something for the run. I downed my 14 oz of chia fresca and a few swigs of water during the middle 15 of the 25 miles. The course was mostly flat and I averaged about a 19 minute/mile pace with a time of 1:19.

Transition two (T2) also went quickly, though I new I was going to be struggling during the run the moment I dismounted the bike. By this time it was quite hot and I just didn’t have the spring in my step that I thought I should have as I made my way through the transition zone. Not only that, but the rash on my arm from the wetsuit seemed to be getting worse, even though I hadn’t really been moving my arms all that much during the bike segment. You can see the rash on my arm in the photo above.

The run segment hit me like a brick. I was able to hold a sub 9-minute pace for about the first two miles, but then really started feeling the heat. I started walking through the aid stations placed about every mile, alternately dumping cups of cold water on my head or drinking them. Eventually I started feeling like I was actually drinking too much and had to just pour them over my head. I took advantage of every hose that the residents of the neighborhoods we were running through had graciously sprayed us with. Eventually it wasn’t enough just to walk through the aid stations so I started using the cones between the lanes on the road. I was able to muster enough energy to run in the last 0.2 miles through the shoot, but barely. It was brutal. It felt harder than when I did the marathon 6 years ago, though of course my memory of that could be a bit fuzzy now.

For those of you interested in my times, they can be found here.

After crossing the finish line I got my medal, let the volunteers remove my timing chip, and grabbed two ice cold wet towels to put on my head. I checked into the TNT tent and met up with a few of my team mates who had also finished by now. We grabbed a bunch of food and drinks to replace all of those calories that we had just burned. I actually had a hard time getting the food down but knew I needed to within that 1 hour window of a hard workout to avoid fatigue. I have a feeling I’ll be feeling fatigue no matter what though!

So thanks to all of you who have donated over the course of the past 5 months. The race is run. I’m officially a triathlete. And many current and future blood cancer patients will undoubtedly lead a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives because of you!

Thank you.

Restless

It’s now 11 PM and I’ve been tossing and turning for the last hour, trying to get to sleep. I need to get up in about 5 1/2 hours and the anxiousness has made me restless. So why not kill some time and make a quick post!

This morning we spent some more time in the water, this time practicing swimming around buoys, both with and without wet suits. The salt water didn’t bother me as much this time, so I’m feeling a little more sure about that.

We also had a “shake out” ride this afternoon to make sure our bikes were in proper working order. We followed the run route so it was nice to get a preview of what we’ll be seeing on foot and get a sense of the distance, terrain, and turn around point. When we got back from the ride we dropped our bikes off at the transition area and found our spot along the racks. Afterward, a number of us headed to the stairs at the swim exit to wait for everyone else to do the same. While waiting we saw 3 dolphins near shore. At one point two of them got playful and leapt fully out of the water. I’m taking that as a good omen of the fun times ahead.

Tonight before the inspiration dinner a brief rain storm blew through. That was a surprise, as I hadn’t seen any rain predicted the last time I checked the forecast. We ended up taking taxies and shuttles to the hotel where the dinner was being held. Thankfully there is no rain in the forecast for tomorrow morning.

That’s all for now. I probably won’t make an update in the morning. See you on the other side!

Testing the Water

We arrived in St. Petersburg this morning to sunny weather in the mid-80’s. There as been little time to relax since we arrived (much to my dismay after only getting about 4 hours of sleep last night!). After checking into our hotel, we grabbed a bite to eat along the shorefront, headed to race registration, then picked up our bikes. After walking the bikes back to the hotel, many of use headed to the water and donned our wetsuits to do a little open water swim.

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The water was thankfully calm, even somewhat late into the afternoon. It was interesting swimming along the shore, as there were huge pockets of vastly differing temperatures of water. One aspect that I hadn’t considered of the swim here was the salt water. It’s really salty. Some people have said they don’t mind it, but there were a number of times that I felt like gagging as salt water dripped into my mouth and down my throat as a breathed. I’m going to have to tweak my breathing technique a bit ASAP. Thankfully we have another practice session scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Training Update 4/3

The past two weekend group trainings have brought welcome twists to the routine for the past 4 1/2 months. Two weekends ago we had our first practice triathlon. Last weekend we had our first outdoor bike ride.

The practice triathlon involved swimming for 25-30 minutes in the pool, spinning on our bikes and trainers for 45 minutes, followed by a 5K (3.1 mile) run. The overall time/distance is about half about what we will be doing at the actual event. Rather than swimming laps as usual, the lane markers were removed and we swam the perimeter; half the time one direction, then switching midway and swimming the opposite direction. This was an eye-opening experience. We had done some drills earlier in the weak to practice swimming next to others, learning how to draft and swim across other swimmers when necessary. This took it to a whole new level since we were swimming with everyone in the group, having to periodically look up to see ahead of us, and deal with all of the other bodies around us. This definitely helped me get an idea of what it will likely be like on the actual event day.

The rest of that training went pretty well. Biking wasn’t much different as before, though I did pay more attention to the timing of my consumption of water and energy drink (I’m trying chia fresca) to practice for event day. With the exception of my feet, overall I felt good and confident through the end of the run. My Vibram FiveFingers are starting to chafe and cause hot spots again, which is frustrating. Not a good time to be happening just a few weeks before the race. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do about it… deal with it and risk blisters by the end of the run, fall back to my traditional running shoes, buy new FiveFingers, use the new Invisible Shoes huaraches I just purchased, or find something else.

This past weekend was our first scheduled outdoor bike training. Oddly enough I felt a little nervous hopping on the bike without the trainer. I was so used to its rigidity and stability. The weather was quite cold, too… 37º F when we started and it didn’t get much warmer over the next few hours. We road an 18 mile out-and-back route at Kensington Metropark, followed by another 14 mile out-and-back route through the connected Island Lake state recreation area. The 2-hour ride went surprisingly well. I managed to stay near the head of the pack the whole time, which was reassuring. However, I could barely feel my toes by the end of the ride, it was so cold. I had worn two layers of socks (one pair of Injinji toe socks and a pair of wool hiking socks) and used plastic grocery bags to stop the wind. It wasn’t enough. When I went to put the Vibram FiveFinger shoes on, I couldn’t even tell whether I had managed to get my toes in the right places. I had to pinch each of the shoes’ toes to make sure there was a toe in each one! A number of my teammates have neoprene booties for slipping over their biking shoes. They seem to swear by them for training in cold weather. If I keep doing these early season triathlons, I’m definitely going to invest in some.

The first mile of the 3.5 mile run was awful. I could barely feel my feet, though I could feel enough to know that my ankles were having a hard time flexing. I clomped down the paved pathway that leads through the park, clenching my teeth and hoping my feet would warm up soon. It was one of those times when I was seriously considering giving up and turning around, but then thought of the cancer patients having to endure chemo. They have no choice, and if they could bear all of that, I could deal with this. So I did. Gradually my feet and ankles did warm up. I turned around at the mid-way point and had a decent run back, finishing with a 9:15 min/mile average pace.

I don’t know how well this cold weather training is preparing us for the event in Florida in four weeks, but at the very least it seems to be preparing me to just grin and bear whatever gets thrown at me.

Training Update 3/19

It has been a while, so I just wanted to post an update to let you all know I’m still alive and kicking. Training has been a roller coaster ride over the past few weeks. There have been a few weeks when I’m feeling great, running fast, and really have my swim stroke dialled in. Other weeks I feel run down and struggling to get through the workout, especially the advanced boot-camp type class I’ve been taking once a week in the morning. That kicks my butt every time.

I finally purchased a road bike back in February, opting to purchase a nice but used bike sight unseeen on eBay. I got a pretty good deal on the bike, though it been a little more expensive than I was originally planning; I need to replace the seat post, handle bar stem, rear tire, and chain among other things. Still, I’m pretty happy with it so far. It’s also nice to no longer sound like a jet engine starting up at the group trainings due to the knobby tires on my mountain bike making a racket on the trainer.

The weather was quite brutal up until about two weeks ago. It seemed like every Saturday was cold, windy, and usually snowy. That changed 180º this past weekend with temperatures in the 60’s and sunny skies. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. Next weekend we will have our first practice tri and start biking outdoors instead of on the trainers.

Tweaked

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Spinning at Tweak in Birmingham. You might recognize the joker in front with the arms up in the air.

Rock climbed Wednesday. Took an hour long spinning class Thursday. Swam about 2600 meters Friday. Spun another hour and ran 1.5 miles on Saturday at the group training. I haven’t been strictly observing the weekday training schedule; in general I find the spinning classes at the gym, long weekend runs, and repeating the swim set from the week quite enough. Apparently it was a recovery week, hence the short run at the group training. I’m not used to running that short of a distance but it was for the best as there was about a half inch of snow on the ground. It was the first time I’ve run in the Vibram FiveFingers with that much snow. The sidewalks were mostly clear but there were a few places where no salt had been thrown down yet and a few icy patches on the road. I was fine for most of the run but then ran through some wetness in the parking lot at the end of the run and boy did my toes get cold!

Thank you to all who have donated so far! In addition to the $1300 that has been donated online to date, I’ve had about $843 donated by check and another $200 due to corporate matching for a total of $2343! For those of you who have written checks in the past month, I submitted them for processing on Saturday, so they should clear within the next week or so. If you haven’t donated yet, you still have until the triathlon at the end of April to donate, but it’s always nicer to do it sooner to save me the stress of wondering if I’ll meet my goal.

I have a few fundraising efforts underway at this point. There’s a poker tournament at Overtyme in Waterford this Saturday at noon that a fellow triathlon participant is hosting. The entry fee is $30 and I get $10 for every ticket I sell to it, so let me know if you want to go! There are about $4000 in prizes (both for placement and just door prizes), so there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with something even if you don’t do well in the tournament. I also had a meeting on Monday with the participant I’m organizing the beer tasting fundraiser in March to discuss more details. Should be fun!

Last but not least, the TNT Hike season is about to begin. This season’s destination hike is at the Grand Canyon on May 19th. We’ve got info sessions this week followed by the kick-off meeting next Thursday. Between the triathlon training and hike coaching, the next 5 months are going to be busy for me! If you’re interested in joining, please contact the TNT office at 248.581.3942 or go to teamintraining.org/mi.

Training Update 1/8

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Spinning at Performance Bike on my new trainer (Thanks mom- & dad-in-law :)) I’m on the far right… the only one still riding a mountain bike!

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Post-training group meeting discussing fundraising (I’m on the floor far right)

Yesterday we had an hour of spinning that included several power sets (hard effort, fast cadence) and a 15-minute endurance set at one gear higher than we expect to during the race. After the spinning we changed quickly into our running clothes and headed outdoors for a 2.5 mile run. Since we didn’t have any bike/run trainings over the holidays I’ve run several long distance runs for the past few weeks ranging between 6-10.5 miles. I didn’t think that the 2.5 mile run was going to be much of a thing but I was definitely feeling it the whole time. I don’t know if it was the biking before hand or the fact that I was trying to keep pace with some of the faster runners in the group, but I was really struggling to keep up.

I also swam another 200-yard marker set earlier this week. My time for the first marker set at the beginning of the season was 3:48 average. This past week I swam 3:29 average… about an 8% improvement! Now, it’s not exactly comparing apples to apples since I’ve started swimming in a pair of jammers instead of my old swim trunks. I’d like to believe at least half of that is due to the training.