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One fear conquered, next!

This weekend I faced my fear of swimming head on.  I did my first open water sprint triathlon ever.  A 1/2 mile swim in the ocean, yep I did it, and according to this post I survived it.

I have a full race report to do once I get some free time, but today is too busy to even contemplate it.  But the most important news is that I did it, I faced my fear and I won, big time!

I’m also proud to say that, the very next day, my wife faced her fear of swimming in a sprint triathlon of her very own.  She did a 1/2 mile swim at the women’s triathlon!

What an amazing weekend.  Lots to talk about, and even a few pics.  Yay!


Winding Trails Triathlon Race Report 8-16

[[Note: This report is pretty over due, I have been pretty busy with work and life, so I have been working on this in sections]]

The last tri in the series snuck up on me quickly.  I couldn’t believe that the fun was almost over.  I was planning to do the longer full sprint, but my wife convinced me to do the tiny tri again.  And by convince I mean she said “Want to do the tiny tri?” and I said yes.  I was determined to have a good swim after the last two or three rough ones.  how did it go?  Erm, Yeah.

Swim

Like I said, I was determined to have a good swim.  I was pretty nervous still, but I made my way to the front of the pack.  It’s a tough thing to do because everyone wants to start in front, even the slower swimmers, so I got as close as I could.  I could hear my heart beating it was racing so much.  The horn went off and I dove in.  I swam between a few people, sighted here and there, and after what seemed like a long time, I ended up at the turn.  I swam around the turn and headed back.  I was more or less alone the whole way.  People in front of me were swimming at least at my pace, and no one caught up from behind.  I did stop a couple of times and found that I was floating pretty well, which is encouraging.  I came out of the water breathing heavy, but otherwise feeling good.

T1

What can I say, it was what it was.  I put on my shoes and made the trek up to the bike.  It’s a long run, and that makes it take deceptively long time to get to the bike.

Bike

I wanted to go hard on the bike.  I had newly adjusted my front derailleur, which is a long and complicated story, which had given me so many issues, and felt like maybe my chain wouldn’t pop off this time.  I also had adjusted my seat to a proper height and thought that I was really in a good place to push it.  Thankfully I wasn’t nearly as winded as I had been in previous races, so I gave it a go.  I was hammering the bike, I passed a number of people for a change, and things were feeling great.

About 2/3 of the way through the course there is a section with a lot of sand.  There is a way to get around the sand by following a track on a narrow berm to the right of the sand pit.  I had done that before, and went for it again this time.  I hit the berm just right, and then noticed that there was a big divot in it.  Before I could even react my front tire fell in the hole and I flew over my handlebars and on my side.  It was in slow motion.  I felt my shoulder hit, and then my head slam into the ground.  The good news is that my helmet stopped me from hurting my head.  I got up, looked the bike over and tried to ride but I heard some rubbing.  I pulled off to the side and worked on trying to figure out where the rubbing was coming from.  Eventually it went away, I still don’t know what it was.  I jumped on the bike and took off.

While I was figuring things out my wife passed me, asked how I was, and when she saw I was fine she kept going.

I chased her through the rest of the trail, but because of a couple of tactical errors, I had to walk a hill and never saw her on the bike again.  The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.

T2

There isn’t much to say, dropped the bike off, threw off the helmet, and headed out on the run.

Run

I could see my wife not far ahead of me and I thought it would be cool to finish right with her.  She says she is a slow runner, and typically she is at least a minute or more slower than I am.  Catching up to her won’t be a problem I thought.  I ran through the trails and my heart rate and breathing were out of control.  I couldn’t make a dent on her lead.  Eventually I sprinted to catch her.  I ended up beside her with about 1/4 mile to go.  My breathing was erratic, just really huffing and puffing.  About 100 yards later she dropped me.  I just couldn’t keep up!  She ran through the shoot about 30 seconds before me.

Even with all of those issues, I finished with a PR.  I don’t have an official time because my timing chip ended up somewhere on the bottom of the lake, but I did a decent job of setting my stopwatch splits.

Race Results

Total time: 37:02

Swim time: 4:44 (200 yards, good pace for me)

T1: 3:02 (a really long transition run)

Bike: 20:08 (3 miles)

T2: 0:01 ( I just tapped the button twice)

Run: 9:08 (That is a zippy pace for me, and wow, my wife killed it!)

All in all I was happy with my race.  It gives me a little confidence boost for my tri in Madison.  Oh, and I got a nice souvenir too:

Scraped up shoulder


Unintentional Hell Ride

OK, so, there are times when you really want to crush yourself into oblivion (OK so I’ve heard that some people have those desires, whatever), but this what I endured this weekend was completely accidental.

My wife and I decided to have an adventure weekend for our anniversary.  We spent an amazing Saturday at Brownstone Park.  If you like the water, this is the place for you.  You can swim, play on obstacles in the water, kayak, and zip line.  It was a blast.

My wife and I tested out our new wetsuits with a quick swim.  We both bought Xterra Vortex 3 wetsuits (more on those in a later post) and wanted to get used to them.  We are both really tentative swimmers, and with our first open water tris looming in the horizon we needed to get used to swimming in them.

The good news is that the buoyancy that the wetsuits provides makes open water swimming that much more doable.  We had a blast that day and had a great dinner that night.

The next morning had a bike ride on the schedule.  We set out for a 30 mile bike ride through the eastern half of CT.  I knew it was going to be hilly, but we were going to test our limits.  Unfortunately the trip was pretty last minute so I literally mapped out a route minutes before leaving the house with my 2 year old climbing all over me.  We started the ride and it was tough.  We about collapsed (actually my wife literally did) on the way up a large hill in Glastonbury.  We had figured it would be a 2 and a half hour ride.  About an hour and change we were at mile 13.  That’s when things got ugly.  The route turned abruptly into a gravel “road.”  Before long we were walking it.

About 1/4 mile later we passed a jogger and I asked how long before the gravel ended, and he said maybe 1/2 mile further down the road there was a turn off.  Great!  We walked on and 1/2 mile later there was a turn, but the gravel continued.  There was a small paved path leading the way the directions had mapped it, but that was all.  We got back on the bikes to follow the paved path, and when I went to clip in my right foot I couldn’t.  it just kept slipping.  That’s when I realized that my clip had broken off somewhere in the gravel.  I figured it was a lost cause to try to search for it, so I clipped in one foot and headed down the trail.  About 1/4 mile later the pavement ended and so did any semblance of civilization.  The route that I had mapped out had a turn onto reservoir road.  Reservoir Rd. as it turned out, was a dirt path trail through the forest.  We literally forded several streams through the trail.  I took my shoes off and did the best i could to carry my bike, drop it off, go back to my wife, carry her bike, drop it off, etc.  Luckily I had my iPhone so I could check the route and see we were headed in the right direction (gmaps still said we were on reservoir Rd btw.

Finally, through the brush, we could see the road ahead.  For the first time in maybe an hour, I was excited.  That hope was soon deflated when we got to the next gravel road!

My wife flagged down a truck and asked how long before the gravel ended, and he said at least 2 miles.  Ugh.  We tried to ride but we were sliding all over the place.  I was too afraid of breaking of my only remaining cleat and then being stranded with no way to pedal, so I decided to walk in my socks.  We walked the next 2 miles watching google for signs of life.  I noticed that the road we were on intersected another road and thought that had to be where the gravel ended.  When we got there it was still gravel.  The time was flying by, and it was 3 and 1/2 hours since we started the 2 and 1/2 hour  bike ride and we were still on gravel.  Finally, up in the distance, almost like a mirage was chip seal.  I was never so happy to see chip seal in my life.

My wife suggested that we find a more direct route (we still had another 13 miles at this point) and I found a 6 mile route that would get us back.  We rode the rest of the way to the car without too much in the way of incidents.  I did have a lot of issues making up any hills since I was really only able to push down hard using my left leg.  It sure was a great one legged workout though.

As an added reminder of that painful day the soles of my feet hurt so much from walking in socks over the gravel that I can barely walk at this point.

[Update: 2 weeks later my feet still bother me if I step on anything out of the ordinary, like the fringe of our Persian rug.  I can run now, so that’s good.]


Long Ride

Ok, longest ride so far.  I met up with some friends on Saturday evening and did a 30 mile ride through Simsbury and Bloomfield to prepare for the suffer fest that will be the Tour of Litchfield Hills this weekend.  I am planning on doing the 50 mile ride and I just needed a little something to get my confidence up so that I can rock the hills next week.

The ride went really well.  It was my longest ride ever and only the second since I put my new pedals in.  The friends I rode with have been riding for some time and I always learn a lesson or two while riding with them.  This is our second ride together, and they commented on how much improved I was over the last time.  I rode a straighter steadier line, and was more confident pointing at road hazards.  Last time they told me not to bother because I was nearly turning into a road hazard myself.  In fact, at one point during out last ride I was “pulling” and tried to avoid a small hole and instead of moving over the inch or two I needed I jerked into the middle of the road.  Not good.

There would be none of that this time.  In fact, when I pulled this time I really tried to hammer it.  I ended up hitting about 23MPH in a section of slight rollers and really getting myself out of breath.  That was at mile 11 of 30, and by the end of that section I was wondering if I could even finish the ride.  I ended up getting a stitch that hurt every time I took a deep breath.  I the intensity of the stitch came and went, but stuck with me the entire ride.  Don’t worry it only hurt when I took a breath.

The ride was picturesque but otherwise uneventful (though I did nearly take a dumper at an intersection by not unclipping under the, it turns out false, impression that the light would turn.  I manage to just squeak out of the pedals and catch myself before the faceplant.

We did the ride in about 1:51 averaging 16 MPH or so.  Not too fast, but not too bad either considering a couple of decent hills.  The thing that bothered me the most was a pain just under my left shoulder blade.  That pain has persisted even to today, though less intensity each day.

We wrapped up the night with burgers, beer and a great conversation out on my friends’ patio.

I don’t know how the Tour is going to go this weekend, but I am as ready as I’m going to be.


2011 Madison Sprint Triathlon

I just signed up, now I feel a little queasy.  What have I gotten myself into?


2011 Petit 5K Race Report

I love running the Petit 5K.  It is what road racing is all about.  A group of like minded people coming together for a good run, but more importantly a good cause.  The start of the race is always emotional.  Dr. Petit makes his remarks, and we all remember the tragedy that befell his young family.  I know that each time I think of what he and his family went through I can’t help but think of my own family, and how difficult it would be to have lived through something like that.  During that moment of silence before the race, you can hear sniffles through the crowd as every parent in the crowd shares in the pain that only someone who gives so much of themselves to their children can ever really fathom.

Of course, we were all here to race, and soon enough the gun went off and we were running.  I was running with my sister-in-law and we positioned ourselves near the front.  When gun went off I ran.  My goal was twofold.  First, I really wanted to qualify for a corral at the Manchester Road Race.  That means I needed a time of at least 25:26.  That’s roughly an 8:12 or so pace.  That my friends is a lofty goal for 2 reasons.  The first is that it was hot and humid on race day.  The second is that even under the best conditions I had never ever been close to that pace.  My fastest 5K was slower than 10 minute miles.   Having said that, due to injuries and other issues from last year, I haven’t done many 5k’s so it had been more than a year since the last real 5K that I had done.  Oh, and one other issue is that I have been really lazy, and haven’t done much in the way of training, so really, the deck was stacked against me from the start.  But I had to push myself, right?

The second, and much more achievable goal, was to be hurting during this race.  I have never really pushed myself on a “real” race before, so I wanted to leave everything out there.

When the gun went off I took off at a steady pace.  I had no watch so I didn’t know my pace, nor did I know my heart rate.  (I know, what a loser right?)  I do know that at some point I felt like I was dying.  I said to myself, wow, you are really out of shape, we aren’t even at a mile yet and you are already fading.  I felt hot, and extremely thirsty all of a sudden.  Thankfully there was someone handing out bottle water on the side of the road, I don’t think they were race volunteers, I don’t really know, but the water was cold and it was amazing (thank you).  Soon after that I approached the mile marker and the clock.  From a distance I heard someone shout “7:40. ”  It didn’t dawn on me what that meant until I got closer and looked at the clock.  It said 7:55.  I did a double take.  Huh?  With the delayed start due to congestion taken into account I had run a sub 7:45 minute mile.  How is that possible?  It didn’t feel like I was running fast, but that would certainly explain why I was so darn “out of shape.”  That was just crazy.  I kept going, but I could feel myself fading.  I just didn’t have the fitness to maintain that pace.

Just as an aside, one more thing I didn’t quite prepare for was just how fast I was going to have to run to make the road race seeding.  I never actually calculated it out, nor did I look it up, so I thought my target was sub 8:30.  Before you blame me too much, this race ended up happening the morning after we got back from vacation, so I wasn’t sure that I would even do it.  It was literally a last minute decision, so the prep just wasn’t there.

As I started fading people began passing me in large numbers.  I would guess that my pace dropped to around 9 minutes miles or so, so I was really dropping off.  As always, I saw people who were taking very different approaches to the race.  There was one woman in particular who would run like crazy for 200 yards or so, and then walk, completely out of breath for 100 yards.  It seems to me that a steady effort in between those two speeds would be better, or at least less demoralizing.  I know that I was intent on not walking at all during this race.  Having said that, she never let me pass her, so ultimately, her pace was just fine.

I was really hurting by the two mile mark, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep even this slower pace up the rest of the way.  But my goal was to hurt, so I can scratch that one off the list.  I don’t remember the time at the second mile marker, I think averaged out to the 8’s or so.  I decided then and there that when I saw the finish line I would gun it, just lay it all out there.  The race ends with probably a quarter of a mile or so straight away, with the finish line right at the crest of a small slope.  As soon as you turn onto that road you can see the finish line, and as soon as I saw it I took off running as fast as I could.

I passed so many people in that last stretch, it felt amazing to just throw everything into that last sprint.  It was however, very hard to keep that sprint going, I felt myself slow down, and then forced my feet faster again several times.  When I finally crossed the line I felt like I was close to hyperventilating.  I was sooo hot, and I just couldn’t catch my breath.  I bit of walking around and a cold bottle of water later, I was able to join the crowd and welcome the runners in.

So I ended up with a finish time of 26:21, an 8:25 pace, and just missed the seeding :(.  But, I did easily meet my second goal.  My sister-in-law was nursing a foot injury, and came in with a respectable 10 minute mile with some walking in the middle.  Well done!

In the end I can’t complain.  I got a new 5K PR, and I had no right to shoot for such a fast pace with little to no training.  I’m actually quite lucky that I didn’t injure myself.


Face Your Fear

Ok, so I know that I freak out for no good reason.  But what’s important to know is that I don’t ever give up.  Last year, during my first open water swim, I got about 200 yards out and I freaked out and turned back.  I was feeling tired, and I couldn’t imagine swimming even another yard for fear that I wouldn’t be able to make it back.

I now know that my mind was playing tricks with me.  Making excuses to get me to back away from the things that scared me.  I.e., swimming in open water, no bottom of the pool.  Now going into open water, that is some scary stuff.  I am not the most confident swimmer, though I do feel really confident in the pool now.  I have no fear at all, even in the deep end.  Open water however is a whole different game.  You put your face in the water and it’s lights out.  You can’t tell if you are swimming straight, crooked, up or down.  There are no lines for references.  One other thing is that everything is at such a large scale that it seems like you are swimming really really slowly.  In the pool you can see the floor zoom by, you know you are cruising.  In the open water it is just empty blackness.  Every time you look up it seems like you are still so far away from where you are headed.

These are the things that bother me.  I am so afraid to drown.  I know that a big part of it goes back to when I was a boy.  I was my 6, my oldest son’s age.  I had no idea how to swim, and I was in a neighbor’s pool.  My head was just above water on the outside edge of the pool, and as I jumped around the outside I slipped and fell into the middle, which was much deeper.  I didn’t know what to do, so I slowly blacked out.  I woke up laying on the outside of the pool.  The parent that was in the pool with us saved me.  I can’t imagine how freaked out she must have been.  I don’t think my parents ever even knew what happened.  Oddly, I never learned how to swim until I was 35.  That was just last year.  Now I am trying to swim in open water and conquer that fear.

It’s no surprise that I am struggling with it.  But I’m not letting it win.  I will continue to attack the open water, and I will continue to get more comfortable with it.  I know how afraid I was in the pool, and I know that I got over it.  I will do the same in the open water, I just need to keep plugging away.

Don’t ever let fear stop you from trying something, it is always possible to overcome that which you fear the most.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy.  Before every race my heart rate races to 130 or more just standing there.  I am afraid, but I will not back down.


Winding Trails Triathlon Number 3

So coming off the brick swim/bike I figured that the trick to this swim was to just relax and focus on the breathing.

I started near the back of the swim and basically just mozied. I realize now that I need to jump to the front of the pack in order to get in front of the slower swimmers, but for some reason this seemed like the right thing to do.

I swam around a number of people before taking the turn. At the turn I had quite a few people bumping me out of the way. It was the roughest swim I have had to date in terms of physical contact. It really didn’t phase me, and I felt fine. About a quarter of the way back I ran into someone. I looked up and saw that they were doing the breast stroke. Between the flailing arms and legs I would say that they took up about 6 feet over from the rope.

I wasn’t going to let that phase me, I decided to swim around her. I swam left, and ran into another set of legs. Right beside the first girl was another girl, also breast stroking. Now I was about 12 feet from the rope line, and I was not going to let this girl phase me either. I swam left once more and…you guessed it, I hit another set of legs. What are the chances of 3 people all breast stroking side-by-side. At this point I actually said out loud, you have got to be kidding me. Just as I finished that sentence another person swam up my legs and pushed the lower half of my body into the water. I’m proud to say that I still didn’t panic or even freak out. I don’t actually remember what happened after that, but I do remember getting tired and being really glad I was out of the water. I also remember being pissed. I had a great swim, and now I was being dogged by these breast strokers!

The good news is that I had plenty of gas for the bike. I actually passed a few people, and was passed by a few people. It was more or less a wash. There was a big pileup of kids at the top of a really steep hill, but I manage to navigate that without much issue.

When I transitioned off the bike I noticed that there were very few bikes back. I didn’t think too much about it, but as I ran I passed another couple of people and held everyone else off.

I had two people ahead of me and I tried to close in on them, but I was out of gas. Just as I made my final kick they made theirs too. I never caught them.

In the end I finished 10th out of about 40. I’m really happy with that. I can’t wait for the next one.


Weekend’s Activities

Yes, I am actually working out again, what a concept.

On Saturday I did a tabata workout that my wife put together.  It was leg focused in an attempt to strengthen my running muscles.  No more injuries this year, that’s the goal.

Then it was off to the pool for a few laps.

Sunday was bike maintenance and day, so I lube and cleaned three bikes and the group of us went for the first ride of the year.  I am still getting acclimated to riding my bike, but my comfort level is getting up there.  I am even considering putting my big boy peddles on soon.  We’ll see how it goes.

This week I hope to get a few runs in, another Winding Trails Tri, and this weekend will be an open water swim/bike/run brick workout in an attempt to get myself comfortable enough to sign up for Ocean Beach Triathlon.  Let’s see how it goes.


Winding Trails Triathlon Series Preview

Yesterday officially opened the tri season with the Winding Trails Triathlon series preview.  Anyone could attend for free and try the bike/ride/ and swim of their choice.

We did the course for the tiny tri which is a 200 yard swim, a 5K trail ride, and a 1 mile trail run.  It was my first time on the trails with my mountain bike and holy cow what an adventure.  Everything was going great until the first steep descent.  I rode the brakes for the first few feet and then let it go.  I don’t what speed I got up to, but I do know that it was scary fast for me.  I tried to stop but started fishtailing.  I tapped the brakes once more and got more of the same.  I final got control by hitting front and rear brakes lightly at the same time, and gradually slowed to a crawl.  Whew.

My quads were still burning from my volunteer work at Rev3.  Taking the chips off of 1200 people really ads up to maybe 1000 squats, that made pounding up the hills really tough.  The big rings on my mountain bike weren’t shifting right so I had to grind it out with the middle gear and whatever I had in the back.  My legs burned so much that I couldn’t wait to be done.  I actually had to walk it up the crest of one hill.  Ouch.

The run was great, and the swim was good too.  The wetsuit really helps my confidence.  It’s like being a cork.  I even enjoyed it enough to notice a small trout at the bottom of the lake.

Lots of fun, I can’t wait until I can do a real one, maybe next week!


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