Monday, December 12, 2011

A plan for the winter

After I realized that Celtic Solstice wasn't in the cards I decided I needed a new goal for the winter.  Obviously my #1 goal for next year is the Wisconsin Ironman - but I've found that it's very easy to focus on one goal for too long.  I need something different to keep my attention until at least March.  After a long search of several online sources I found the Sombrero Beach Run on Marathon Key in Florida the first weekend in March.  The Sombrero Beach Run has a 10k and 5k - most people run both.

Over the next 12 weeks I'll be using a Jack Daniels 5k-15k training plan.  I have two main goals - 1) to get my mileage up and see how my leg holds up.  I haven't run over 50 miles per week in over a year. 2) to increase the intensity.  I'm going to run at least two hard runs per week - either 5k pace repeats, mile pace repeats, or tempo (10 mile - half marathon) pace.

Here is my plan for this week.

Monday: 6 miles easy
Tuesday: 9 miles 4X200 R pace - 2X400 - 1X800 - 2X400 - 4X200 rest the same as interval + weights
Wednesday: 4 miles easy
Thursday morning: 30 min swim
Thursday afternon: 10 miles 3X2 miles tempo 2 min rest
Friday: 4 miles easy
Saturday: 9 miles 6X1200m @ 5k pace with 400m rest
Sunday: 14 miles easy
Total: 56 miles

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Across the wide Missouri

Twenty miles south of where I'm typing this lies the grave of Adam Ingram - my great-great-great grandfather.  He immigrated from Scotland in the 1850's - settling in Cass County, Nebraska in 1857 - only three years after the US signed a treaty with the local natives which helped to make Nebraska an official territory and opened the area up for european settlement. 

So, you could say that moving to Nebraska is kind of a homecoming for me.  I've never lived here before, but we used to come out almost every summer to visit relatives.  I'm guessing that most of you picture Omaha as being on flat land in the middle of corn fields.  You're only partially correct.  Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are actually hilly.  Driving along I-80 you feel like you're on some kind of slow motion roller coaster - you are always going up or down.  Most importantly for me, it's almost exactly the same terrain as just outside Madison, WI.

There are no major bodies of water nearby to moderate the temperature - so, it gets very cold in the winter and relatively hot in the summer.  The rest of the time the wind blows relentlessly.  Sounds like a pretty crummy place to train - doesn't it?

If you go on Letsrun - you can find several posts that claim Omaha is the worst metropolitan area in the country for runners.  It's true that there's not a big competitive running scene here - but, being only an 8 hour drive from Boulder, CO - the running mecca of America - that's not totally unexpected.  And yes, the weather is difficult - but most of my formative running years were spent in Michigan and Chicago - I can deal with bad weather.

This last weekend I was arranging some stuff in our garage when a little girl walked up our driveway.  She introduced herself - followed by her mom.  It turns out that this couple, who live basically across the street, both ran in college and help to organize local track workouts.  Here's the kicker - the husband, Gerald, has completed two ironman's and is part of a local group that swims every Saturday morning starting in May in the open water at a lake seven miles away in Iowa. 

Gerald even volunteered to head out with me on a bike ride to show me the lake where they train.  On our way back he asked, "Do you like to drink beer?"  - I felt like I was in the episode of The Simpsons when Gerald Ford moves across the street and asks Homer if he likes drinking beer and watching football - except watching football was replaced with open water swims and brick workouts.

 I haven't even mentioned yet that I have a run/bike trail literally out my back yard.  It's only about 1.5 miles - but it has markers every tenth of a mile - no need to drive for tempo or track workouts.  There are several other trails (mostly concrete unfortunately) in town - some that go for over 20 miles.

So for those of you worrying about me - I think things are going to be fine.  Yes, it might be a rough winter - and I'll have to put a little more effort into finding challenging races - but it will be almost perfect for my training for next September.  As I ride over the wind swept hills on a contraption that would have boggled Adam's mind - I'll think about how hard he must have worked to scratch out an existence here.  Physical endurance wasn't recreation for him - it was how he survived.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The struggle itself

Sisyphus was the King in Greek mythology who was forced to roll a large rock up a hill for perpituity.  Many interpretations have been made about the meaning of this myth.  The interpretation that rings most true to me comes from Albert Camus, who believed that the myth of Sisyphus signified the absurdity of life.  We struggle to find meaning in a world without eternal truths.  Some people might decide that life it not worth living without meaning, but Camus says that it "requires revolt."  He concludes that "the struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart.  One must imagine Sisyphus happy." 

As runners we put a lot of effort into something that may seem meaningless to many.  Most of us don't gain fortune or fame - we just gain the knowledge that we have given our best effort - that we have prepared as best we can and executed our plans as perfectly as possible. 

For me this explains why I enjoy running more than anything - the struggle itself fills my heart. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inspired by Anonymous

As a society there seems to be a lot of hand wringing about what the age of facebook, twitter, and blogs have wrought.  Are we falling into some kind of vain and self-conscious age where we are suffocated by self-centered posts and updates?  Arianna Huffington recently said that "self-expression has become the new entertainment."  On the face of it - that sounds messed up.  It's not just self-expression, but the hope of positive feedback through the constant "publishing" of the usually mundane accomplishments of life.

Given that I posted a picture of my ironman age group award last week on facebook - I'm probably not in a place to be too critical.  And although facebook, twitter, and blogs are simply cringe inducing at times - I think that there is some value in these new technologies.  For me, the most valuable thing is that what used to be an expensive endeavor, publishing, is now basically free.  The marketplace of ideas and concepts may be more crowded - but sometimes a person or idea that has a great impact is able to find a voice when they would have been silent in previous era's.

One such person was known as "Hadd" on Letsrun.  He died last week and so I thought it would be appropriate for me to write a post of appreciation.  Hadd's real name was John Walsh - although I didn't know that until I read the recent thread on his death.  For whatever reason he wanted to stay completely anonymous.

Hadd's posts were inspirational to me for a few reasons.  First, he liked to write about and coach guys who weren't pro's, but just wanted to see what they could do.  He saw value in people attempting to find what was possible - even if it didn't mean they were going to run in the olympics.  One of his bests posts (scroll to part IV) was about a 30+ old athlete attempting to run a sub 2:25 marathon.  It was interesting to me that he didn't write about someone trying to run an olympic qualifier - but simply a guy who had gained 20 pounds and wanted to run "one more serious marathon."

Another thing I enjoyed about his writing was that he included a LOT of science written in a way that I could understand.  He made a great argument for why training should be a long process - starting with a sustained period of easy running before including intensity.  He wrote about capillary beds, muscle fiber recruitment, lactate threshold, and energy expenditure in ways in which you could actually see these processes happening - and understand why taking a deliberate long term view towards training is so important.

The truth is that a guy like Hadd would have been lost to the world (other than the 20-30 athletes who he coached) if it weren't for the modern technology.  He helped me to understand that yearning for athletic accomplishment, even after you've become an adult and have other responsibilities, isn't something that's shameful.  He also showed me that as out of shape as I was at the time (I was about 30 lbs over my ideal racing weight in my mid-20's) there was a path to success.

For all of the possible negative effects of our connected world - you can tease out a lot of great content - and I don't just mean ducks chasing dogs.  RIP Hadd - I owe a lot of fun racing and training over the last 10 years to your writing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Poconos 70.3

Watching Monday night football/playoff baseball it's interesting to think about the differences between endurance sports and our more popular sports.  There was a commercial a few years ago that included the buzzword "boom!".  The point was that most sporting events come down to a moment where an athlete makes a play that goes off like a bomb and changes everything.

Endurance sporting events aren't usually like that.  It's more like a bag of liquid that drains at a particular rate - and if you misjudge how quickly it's draining you're in big trouble.  Once the bag is drained you can tough it out - but you aren't going to stay on pace. 

On Sunday I was dealing with a brand new bag.  I was competing in a half ironman triathlon minus the swim - so really a duathlon.  Regardless of how much better I was feeling because I wasn't going to have to face my nemesis of an open water swim it was still a new event for me.

The bike start and the run start were in two different locations - so I made my way in the pre-dawn hours with all of the other participants in school buses.  Without the swim the plan was to allow the pro's to head out every 30 seconds, followed by a 2 minute gap, and then the age groupers to march out one by one.

My number was 548 - out of 2000 which wasn't so bad.  Still it took about an hour before I felt I was free of traffic.  The first 3 miles was an out and back in the English style system - which was used because we were taking a left out of the start.  Which makes sense because otherwise you would have to wait for a gap to turn left.  What people didn't seem to understand was that in the English left system you are supposed to ride on the far left unless you are passing - in which case you should pass on the right (close the middle).

Those first 3-4 miles were a cluster@#%.  There are several rules while cycling - one of the most important are that you have to stay 4 bike lengths behind the person in front of you unless you're passing them otherwise you are "drafting".  Since there was no swim we were all much closer than normal.  The judges are on motorcycles -  I saw one of them in the first few miles - and they were giving out penalties a plenty.  If you're given a penalty you have to sit out in a penalty tent for a specified amount of time before you start going again.  I felt lucky not to get a penalty - not that I wasn't passing people - but with how congested it was it was very difficult to be following the rules.

I felt really strong through the first 25-30 miles - but by 35 miles the hills started.  Even on the long steady downhills it felt like the headwind was strong enough that you couldn't get much momentum.  There was one guy who I was going back and forth with on the bike - I was in front when the judge passed me.  We were on another part of the course where we were doing an English left and people were still riding on the right side of the left lane.  I saw her sidle up along one guy who was off to the right - then there was a cluster of bikes.  Apparently she was giving a penalty to someone in that cluster who was arguing with her - so she staying along side this person who was soft pedaling.  The effect was that two of us came up on them with no way of getting around without passing the motorcycle on the left which we were sure would get us a penalty.  So we slowed down until she finally moved on - which was of course exactly the same time that the guy whom I had been trading places blew by me.

Eventually I passed him again - but around 40 miles three strong cyclists passed me.  I decided not to try to keep up - which I think was the right decision because they obviously were stronger than I was and I would have had little left for the run if I tried to stay on them.

I had only one mechanical when I dropped my chain on a hill.  Luckily it wasn't too hard to get it back on - although it's odd to have grease on your hand during a run.

The run started out a little oddly - I wasn't quite sure where the run started (which I always seem to have problems with in triathlons) so I didn't get my watch on a mile mark until after I had run a mile.  The first mile I had a watch on was 5:57 - which was pretty good since I wanted to average 6 minute miles and the first half of the 13.1 miles was mostly uphill.

I actually surprised myself for the first 6 miles - I thought I would have a harder time staying at 6 minute pace.  But, by the 8 mile mark I wasn't feeling so good.  At 8.5 there was one of the few uphills coming back down towards town - it hurt bad.  From then on I never really felt the same.  I managed to stay under 6:40 pace for the last 4 miles - but even that was a struggle.

I ended up placing much better than I anticipated.  At first they said I was 3rd in my age group - and then at the awards ceremony they said I was 2nd.  I'm not sure if there was an error in the initial results or if someone was disqualified - but I'll take it either way.

I did qualify for the 70.3 world championships as an age grouper, but I had already registered for Ironman Wisconsin which is in the same month as the 70.3 WC Las Vegas in September 2012.  Plus, I knew that the only reason I placed so high was that the swim had been canceled.  Realistically if I had participated in the 70.3 championship I would have been smoked - I might have even finished last in my age group.  Either way - I feel good about my choice.

I enjoyed the experienced.  It made me more excited that I had signed up for a full Ironman next September in Wisconsin.  However - I had been a little excited that I wasn't going to turn 35 next year and thus going to be in an older age category.  But then I looked at the results and realized that I would have finished worse in the 35-39 age category than the 30-34 age category.  What sport gets more competitive after you turn 35?!  I don't get it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Almost exactly a year ago I was having dinner with my wife outside in shirtsleeves at a nice Italian restaurant in Chicago's goldcoast.  Normally that would be a very pleasant evening - but in the back of mind all I could think about was that I'd much rather need a sweater.  It wasn't the kind of weather I had hoped for when I started by training for the Chicago marathon 24 weeks previously.  When it's beach weather on marathon day - you're in trouble.

I won't be sitting outside tonight because it's raining and chilly.  Does that make me happy?  Not really.  All the rain has made the Delaware River dangerously high and they have canceled the swim for what was to be my first 70.3 half-Ironman here in the beautiful Poconos of Pennsylvania.  Most of you probably know how much I hate swimming.  But, I actually do find myself a little conflicted - after all, I did work pretty hard on my swim and I can't really say I've finished a half-iron after tomorrow.  Plus, riding a bike for almost 3 hours in 45-50 degress and rain will be miserable.  But, the other part of me is thankful that I don't have to pull on that anti-breathing straghtjacket (aka a wetsuit) tomorrow morning. 

I'm certainly not the first to make this point - but training for one or two goal endurance events per year is a gamble.  So many things can go wrong.  I guess that's why it's so sweet when things go right.

It could still be fun tomorrow.  Usually being in a competitive situation makes the cold not so bad - plus it will give me an opportunity for a decent run.  And as some friends have already pointed out it will certainly give me a higher finish than I would have had with the swim.  The whole bike thing is tricky though.  I was pumping up my front tire this afternoon before leaving my bike at the transition (now start) zone this afternoon when I started sounding air rushing out of the tire.  I was able to get a new inner tube and the bike is fine - but it is a reminder that I have to rely on equipment tomorrow as much as myself.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"It's not your legs - it's your stomach". For high school and college runners who haven't experienced a race over 30-35 minutes it takes awhile for that to sink in. I'm a "distance runner" you say to yourself - "I don't listen to music on headphones and I don't carry water or gu's". In fact you make sure that you don't eat or drink too much close to race time to make sure that your stomach never comes into the equation. Then you run your first marathon - and your world changes. Your body breaks down in ways you didn't know were possible. You realize that your body - any body cannot run more than 60-90 minutes without taking in calories, nutrients, and water.

My first experience where I felt like a good nutrition plan was as important as training or pacing was the JFK 50 miler in 2009. Luckily I got some great advice from Alyssa Godesky (she also told me about the "band method" that I wrote about in my last post). First is hydration - she told me that I should make sure that I was drinking at least one bottle of water/sports drink per hour, eat an energy gel every 30 minutes, take a salt/potassium pill once an hour, and have some comfort food available (thanks to my wife). The 50 miler went fairly well - thanks partly to one of my best years of training since college - but just as much on keeping to my nutrition plan.

Only being my 3rd triathlon I'll have a lot on my mind this Sunday. But, I think the most important thing will still be nutrition. With a triathlon it's a little different. For the first 40 minutes I'll be swimming - unable to eat or drink. So, I'll need to eat a little more before I hit the water and drink/eat a little more once I get on my bike. I'm planning on drinking two bottles in the first 90 minutes - one water and one gatorade. The nutrition stops are supposed to be every 15 miles - and I should be hitting the second stop right around 90 minutes. I'll keep the same energy gel plan of one every 30 minutes and one salt/potassium pill once an hour.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Even though I've been neglectful of this blog I have actually been training this summer. A week from today is my first half-ironman at the Poconos Ironman. 70.3 miles of swimming, biking, and running near the Delaware River water gap on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I plan on making up for my summer blog malase by writing a few posts this week. 

First (in this post) - letting you know the kind of training I've been doing this summer. Second - my nutrition plan for next Sunday. And finally my overall impression of my first season as competing in triathlons and my planned training for next year.

One difference in running vs triathlon training is that you plan it in hours rather than miles. The highest number of hours that I trained this summer was 13.5. Which for a half-marathon isn't too bad - I could have done 14-16 hours, but I was still somewhat limited by my hamstring/glute issue. 

Basically I took the number of hours planned for each week and then divided it by how long I would be doing each event. So, let's say I was planning on a 5 hour half-iron (which I am) - I would hope to spend ~40 minutes swimming and 1st transition - 3 hours bike and transition - and an hour 20 minutes for the run. For a 10 hour week I would swim ~1.5 hours (I need a little more time in the pool), bike 5-6 hours, and run 2.5-3.5 hours. If I focused on the run one week I would focus on the bike the next. 

The most difficult part was making sure that I had a hard workout in each discipline each week. After the Luray triathlon in August I started using the "band" method for my hard swim workouts. This consists of tying an old bike inner-tube to my ankles so that I couldn't use my legs. I would do ~12X 25 meters on 40 seconds. Usually this would mean 26-28 seconds with 12-14 seconds rest. Then I would swim 400 meters "hard" without the band in around 6 min 20 sec. I usually would do about 3-4 sets.

For biking I usually meet the Winchester Wheelmen for either their Tuesday or Thursday paceline. Both of these were difficult for me to stay on - 34 and 27 miles respectively. There were constant attacks - times where I would have to accelerate to ~3o mph on my own just to bridge a gap. Then I usually would ride a long ride on my own (55-65 miles) on the weekend.

For running I would focus on one hard workout early in the week and a long run on the weekend. My hard workouts were usually either mile intervals at 5k pace with 2-3 min rest or half- marathon pace with 1 minute per mile rest. My longer runs were 1.5 - 2 hours.

Overall I feel like this plan has worked well. I feel like I'm in decent shape. Obviously next week will tell for sure - but I think I have a decent shot at my goal of sub-5 hours.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Competition and Cooperation

Would the world really be better if the lion laid down with the sheep? Only if the sheep was a decoy to distract the antelope.

You only need to participate in one group ride to understand how much easier it is to ride behind someone than out front. You save ~30% of your energy by staying on the wheel in front of you.

On a hard ride it's one of the scariest and most exciting things about cycling. Trying to stay a foot or less behind the rider in front of you while you're trying not to get dropped and controlling the bike at 30 mph. It's a little insane - but you put everything into it for as long as you can - because you know that once you get dropped it's a long-slow ride by yourself back to the finish.

You also soon understand that everybody has to do some work at the front. There are no free rides - unless you want to be "that guy".

I watch more stage race cycling right now than probably any other sport - mostly I think because this interplay between competition and cooperation is so interesting in cycling. Every day there is a break away - that group of usually 5-9 riders must cooperate in order for one of them to win. But only one of them can win - so there is always that moment when one of the riders decides they need to attack the others in order to have a better chance of winning. Sometimes this happens too soon - maybe multiple attacks happen - which tire the riders out and slow down their average speed and they get caught by the larger pelaton.

Cycling is all about those moments when riders make split second decisions of whether they are going to cooperate or not. When one rider flicks his wrist to motion the other guy to come to the front and the other guy shakes his head no or a rider drops back to help a fallen teammate make it back into the pelaton. It's endlessly intriguing. And these cyclists have a long memory - you might be better off not cooperating to win the stage today - but know that you're less likely to get help the next time you need it. Sometimes it's a battle of morals as much as it is a battle of athletic ability.

Competition and cooperation are two very strong forces in this world. We need them both to survive. In fact those two urges along with the intellect to use them and a healthy body to carry them out might be the only things we need in this world to survive. Now that I think of it - cycling might be a great example of how morality is an organic phenomenon. Cyclists want nothing more than to win - but to win they have to play nice.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Resign Yourself to the Awkwardness of Life

I had an "I wish I was going to Europe this summer" moment earlier this week - probably brought on from all the European cycling events I've been watching lately. It's odd - I think that I've watched more cycling than I have baseball or even the basketball playoffs lately. As a result I found myself watching "Before Sunrise" with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Yes, I know it's relatively chick flicky - but it has some decent dialouge and makes you feel as if you are in Europe.

Anyways - there is a scene where Delpy's character is having her hand read by a gypsy. The gypsy says, "You need to resign yourself to the awkwardness of life. Only if you find peace within yourself will you find true connection with others."

I don't know about you - but there is something that rings true to me about the awkwardness of life. All of us want to be strong, confident, and at-ease with the world. But we usually don't have time to feel comfortable. We're like Mario in original Donkey Kong - trying to make our way to the top while simeons are throwing barrels at us.

If we are to be successful as endurance athletes - we must put ourselves in awkward situations constantly. We strengthen our systems by presenting them with stress. We must accept that undergoing discomfort is something that should be sought rather than avoided. We become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Many people say that endurance athletes have control issues - our training regimens are just a way for us to exhibit a small amount of control in a world which blows us about like Forrest Gump's feather. There might be something to that - but I think the greatest pleasure for me is to transform myself - day-by-day in a training cycle from the ugly duckling into a swan. But the real success during a race happens when we are the swan and the ugly duckling at the same time. The triumph of the human spirit is in those times when we push ourselves to the limits of our own abilities - when we are both awkward and beautiful all at once.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gasping for air

Today I did something I've never done before - I competed in a triathlon. It was an "Olympic" distance triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) in Columbia, MD. The second oldest triathlon east of the Mississippi.

I was a pretty nervous in the days before - mostly because my swimming training had been limited to the pool. I was also nervous about my transitions and that I would forget something. There's so much more equipment in a tri than a running race and it's a little confusing getting it all straight. Luckily I had some help from friends that have done many triathlons - especially Ryan McGrath who I have been relentlessly asking questions over the last few months.

I could write about all the rigmarole involved in getting things set up for a triathlon - but I'll get the racing. My swim wave went off 55 minutes after the pro's - my wave included 20-24 and 30-34 year old males. As I made my way into the water I instantly wished I had tinted goggles. The rising sun was directly in our eyes as the first 500-600 meters were towards the east. I tried a few practice strokes, but we only had a few minutes till the start.

At the start I felt all of my anxiety come crashing down on me at once. The start of a race is always an anxious time, but usually for a running race it's not such a bad thing to have your heart rate up and your breathing rate increased before you take off from the start line. Running on adrenaline makes things easier - as I found out swimming on adrenaline is a little scary.

As we started off my first few strokes were ok - but then it hit me - I couldn't breathe. The tight wetsuit seemed to be restricting my breathing - the random feet and hands flying at me didn't help - neither did the chocolate colored water that I could see all of about 2 inches. I tried to put my head down but my breathing was so fast that I could hardly complete a stroke before needing to come up for air. I remembered something that Ryan said - "just keep moving forward - do a butterfly stroke if you have to - anything to keep you moving". So, I kept my head up, my arms doing something inbetween a freestyle stroke and a doggie paddle.

After about 200 meters I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The shore looked inviting and I was sure that they were going to pluck me out of the water once one of the spotters saw how much trouble I was in. But, nobody came over to me and after about 15 minutes I started to calm down a bit. Partially it was having more room around me and partially it was seeing that there were other guys in my wave who were struggling too. At least I wasn't going to be last in my wave.

The last 10 minutes I actually was able to do something close to a regular stroke, but even then it was only for about 15-20 meters before I'd put my head up for a few strokes - I was going faster, but I was also all over the place - getting a little off course. I was so glad to finally see the balloon arch at the end of the swim. I ended up swimming about 7 minutes slower than I had planned - with well over 1,000 competitors swimming faster than me on the day.

I staggered out of the water grabbing a cup of water and trying to take off the top half of my wetsuit while jogging/walking to my bike. My first transition time wasn't great - I was probably enjoying having dry land under my legs a little too much. It felt so good to be on my bike. I was about 100 times better prepared for the bike leg than the swimming leg - going on some pretty tough rides with Ryan and others in Frederick.

I knew I had a lot of time to make up on the bike and run to get anything close to respectable place/time, so I went out pretty aggressively. Passing folks on the bike certainly made me feel better. Although there were some bunches that were difficult to pass (crossing the yellow line is strictly forbidden) but for the most part people were single file on the right side of the road. Things went very well for the first 18 miles, but then my chain started jumping gears when I was in the highest gear - a problem that happened for the first time a few weeks ago. I thought I had it fixed, but apparently the first 3/4ths of the race took it's toll. My main goal was to get over 20 mph on the bike leg, so it felt good to see that after 20 miles my average was near 22 mph - by the far the fastest I've gone on any ride in my life.

As I came into the finish I felt good about my ride, but knew that I probably went a little too hard and would pay for it on the run. I was right. After about 200m the run course heads up a crazy hill - my legs burned and it would only get worse. Again - it was nice to have some slower folks in front of me to pass - but I knew that my pace was slow compared to what I wanted to do. The hills seemed endless - in fact it seemed cruel. I took water and powerade at pretty much every chance as it was now getting pretty warm. The second half of the course was mercifully down hill for the most part - but by then my legs could hardly stretch long enough to take advantage. As I tried to lift my pace a little for the finish (it certainly couldn't be called a kick) a wave of relief passed over me. The pain was over.

After I crossed the finish line I got something to drink and headed right for the place that caused me so much anguish - the lake. Overall the experience wasn't too different than what I expected. Yes, the swim was a little more terrifying than I predicted, but I was coming from a place of having no idea how it would feel.

I learned a lot today. Next time my goal will be to come into the water feeling relaxed. Start easy - away from others as much as possible and gradually increase my pace as I feel more comfortable. For the bike leg - I'll probably back off a bit and leave a little something for the run.

You can see all the results at

I was 134th overall out of 1600+ and 19th in my age group out of 131. My final time was 2:25:40.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Listen to Your Heart

Sorry to disappoint if you were hoping that this post was an analysis of the song by the British band Roxette (and no Ryan, they didn't play that at my prom). It's about a new tool that I'm using in my training - a heart rate monitor.

I've thought about using a heart rate monitor for awhile now - it's a great tool to help make sure that easy days are easy and measuring your fitness. In one of my all time favorite training posts from LetsRun by "Hadd" - he suggests measuring your fitness by running 5X2400m with 90 seconds rest. For the first 2400m you keep your heart rate to 140 beats per minute - each 2400m you increase your heart rate by 10 bpm until you are at 180 bpm for the last 2400m - timing how long it takes to run at each bpm level. You repeat this every three weeks to show how much faster you can run a given distance at a specific heart rate AND to get a feel for your lactate threshold.

What finally pushed me to buy a heart rate monitor was taking up cycling. I don't have the same feel for pace and effort level on a bike as I do running. The heart rate monitor keeps me honest especially when I'm on a spin bike indoors.

As for my training in general - I'm finally starting to feel like I have some momentum. I'm becoming more comfortable in the pool - I swam for a full hour on Saturday and I'm even getting the hang of breathing bilaterally. And today I got a bike - so, maybe I can use some of the spring-like weather this week to get on a bike that actually goes somewhere.