Triathlons


Lucid Dreams.

Many of us have dreams.

Some of us share them.

Very few of us act upon them.

Allie Ostrander, a high school freshman in Alaska, had the wherewithal to act upon her dream.

An incredible cross country runner, Allie had the idea of creating a summer cross country race series that would not only seek to engage the community, but also provide funding for a worthy cause.

Together with the Kenai Watershed Forum, Allie used her Caring for the Kenai project to use her summer race series to raise money to combat Reed Canary Grass, an invasive species that destroys salmon habitat.

Long before the races were to begin, Allie contacted me to help. She needed online registration for the races, and a way for people to easily sign up and pay. I set up the registration for all five races, which were to be run on consecutive Wednesdays at 6 pm. We spent some time (with her dad’s credit card) making sure everything worked as it should.

As the first race drew nearer, I thought my responsibilities would increase. I volunteered to help during the first race day.

I arrived ready to organize people, lend my expertise, and mollify those who would otherwise be lost without said expertise.

I wasn’t needed. Not even a little bit.

I arrived to see tents set up, tables full of volunteers checking racers in, music amping up the crowd, and a race course fully flagged and ready to go.

I asked Allie how I could help. She paused, trying to think of any place she hadn’t already accounted for.

“Could you make sure people take the first turn at Moose?”

I was happy to have a Very Important Task. I would be the only thing standing between people making the turn or plunging ahead and being hopelessly lost in the hinterlands. I went to the Moose trail turnoff, where I was dwarfed by a giant orange sign indicating the way. I was completely superfluous, but at least I was in a great spot to view the race. As over 60 runners stormed past, I made my way upstream, where I thought I could help by moving some signs for the second lap. As always, Allie was way ahead of me.

I missed (and was likely not missed at) the second race as I had to work late, but thought I would actually try and race the third installment.

As you know, I’ve been trying to become a better runner. From my triathlon training, I have good lung capacity and my heart is strong, but it turns out I’m not a very efficient runner. So, for the few weeks leading up to the races, I’d been going to the Tsalteshi Trails and attempting to strengthen my running muscles by running slowly for longer distances.

Race 3 would be my test. During the Tri the Kenai, I posted a very slow run time of 23 minutes, which saw me slip at least five places in the rankings during the run alone. I had a very specific goal of an under 22 minute 5k, even though the course would be different, based on Allie’s proclivity to make each race harder than the last. The first race, incidentally, was the exact same course used for the triathlon. Each additional race became increasingly difficult.

I felt pretty good during Race 3 – my first running race since getting near dead last in high school.

I finished 11th overall with a time of 20:39. Over 100 people participated in that race. I had done far better than my expectations, but knew I wanted to do better still. I set a goal of an under 20 minute 5k.

For Race 4, I had been suffering from shin splints, so I joined a group of fun runners and even helped pace another friend of mine. She did really well, and that made me (and my shins) quite happy.

I had kept my recalibrated goals for the fifth and final Salmon Run Series race, but unfortunately, this was to be the most difficult race yet. Not only was it longer than 5k at over 3.25 miles, it was mostly on Tsalteshi’s most feared course – the Bear. I knew that pacing myself properly would be key. To that end, I chose a runner who had bested me by a decent margin during Race 3, and planned to attempt to keep up with him as long as I could.

The race underway and the faster runners streaking ahead, I kept just behind my target, and I fell into a comfortable pace. He was faster on the downhills, I was faster on the uphills, and we were generally the same speed on the flats. I had a bit of a lead on him up until the downhill on Bear, where he caught up. We were dead even at the flat spot before the huge uphill climb.

“Are you ready for this?” He asked.

“I’ll never reveal the Wu-Tang secret.” I responded.

Actually, I forget what I said, but I think I made noises of general agreement.

I knew this would be my chance to get a lead on him, so I attacked Bear with wild abandon. I do love hill repeats, and knew my strength was in the uphill sections. Back up on top, I had amassed about a 30 second lead, but we still had flats and downhill to go, so I knew I couldn’t rest easy.

Sure enough, I could hear him slowly reeling me in. He was right behind me with all but a slight uphill and long downhill to the finish – I had to make a move.

I began my kick (See? All that time watching track events during the Olympics comes in handy) on the uphill, hoping to surprise him with a sudden increase in speed. I reached the top and began sprinting inelegantly downhill toward the finish. I knew he was the better downhill runner, but I managed to hold him off and finished a mere 3 seconds ahead.

My time wasn’t great, 21:30, but not terrible considering a long course (my 5k time would have been around 20:30) and it being the Bear – Tsalteshi’s oft-feared climb.

More surprisingly, of nearly 80 people in the race, I placed 4th overall. I was thrilled.

In addition, my shins felt better than they had previously, and despite some horrendous blistering on my foot, I managed a good race and my highest heart rate ever recorded – over 200.

So, my heart still thinks I’m a teenager.

And with that, it seems I’m dreaming…

The reality though, is that Allie’s project brought awareness and community involvement in a great way, for everyone. All thanks to Allie for making her dream a wonderful and inspirational reality.

Weakend Warrior

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking.

Down in San Diego, pondering the possibilities of a job as Webmaster for a school district up in Alaska, something was grievously wrong with my grasp on reality.

To wit, I imagined me getting up, going to work, coming home, reading or perhaps catching up on movies and television, particularly during the dark winter months.

I could learn to juggle, do crossword puzzles, cultivate Bonsai trees, learn to speak Jive. A myriad of possibilities flashed through my mind. An 8 to 5 job, no entanglements, scads of free time. What couldn’t I do?

Turns out what I couldn’t do is any and all of the above. Somehow my free time became learning to cross country ski. Then teaching P90X classes. Then training for swimming. Learning how to road bike. Running hill repeats. Doing triathlons. Hiking mountains. Adventure racing. Running races. Mountain bike trekking… Things I never imagined doing whilst in Southern California.

I’ve been with KPBSD for a year now. This, if any, seems like a good time to ponder anew.

Since my weekday schedule seems to more or less bereft of free time, I thought I could put relaxation on my To-Do List during the weekends.

As you might imagine, this, too, was a complete failure.

Weekends are active for me. It’s the best way to explore this amazing state. The sun’s up most of the time these days. Sometimes you can even see it.

The weekend before last was a sun filled affair with pleasant people, beautiful scenery, blooming wildflowers, and a death march.

It began innocently enough; a planned mission up Skyline Trail, across the ridge and down to Upper Fuller Lake and the trailhead. 13 miles of hiking. Couldn’t be too difficult, right?

Wrong. Skyline itself is a bit of a trek. Not even two miles, but it’s more or less like ascending muddy stairs for said two miles. But the view is incredible. There were six of us, and we quickly fell into different groups according to hiking speed. I ended up hiking with a Liz, a former Peninsula resident and pro cross country skier. She runs marathons, and liked to hike like she had left ice cream in the car. We quickly made our way around the ridge, leaving the rest of the group behind. We talked about cross country skiing, training techniques, and diet. Well, Liz did. I focused on trying to hear her over my ragged breathing. Five hours after starting, we had completed the trek.

Finally, here was my chance to recuperate, to finally start trimming Bonsai. Alas, no.

The next day, I decided to give my hiking muscles a break. I jumped on my mountain bike and went up Resurrection Trail to Juneau Lake – a round trip of nearly 20 miles. I’ll make a quick aside here to note that the muscle group used primarily in hiking, we’ll call them “legs,” is precisely the same group used whilst biking.

Mine, however, began to falter, at times even flail, earning the new title of “flegs.”

Monday morning, my flegs were flummoxed.

I tried to recover as best I could during the week, but instead I tried my hand at “Active Recovery,” which is the ill-fated theory that the best thing to do for muscles in need of recovery is give them more to do. I ran for three evenings in a row, including the Salmon Run Race 4.

I had nearly recovered enough by the weekend to feel inspired to do the entire Resurrection Pass, a nearly 40 mile mountain bike trek from Hope to Cooper Landing.

It was amazing. Breathtaking scenery, marmots bounding hither and yon, and hemlock trees that look like Alaska’s version of the Bonsai. Perhaps here, then, I can enjoy my idle time. Midway during a five hour trek through the wilderness, a brief respite to behold the beauty of nature. This is what my free time has become, and I couldn’t be happier with this development.

Besides, learning Jive is exceedingly difficult.

Run-on Sentences…

This might be inconceivable to many, but I’ve actually more or less kept up with my attempts at running.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been trying to slowly increase my tolerance for running (also slowly).

Whereas, for the last several weeks I have attemped to stumble about the Tsalteshi Trails with the intent to teach myself how to run.

Whereas, initially I was a conventional, heel-striking runner, which has fallen out of fashion because there are other, more efficient and less painful ways to run.

Whereas, I’ve used these training missions to learn how to be a “forefoot runner,” which means more leaning forward, faster running cadence, and less impact.

I’m kind of getting there. My first real test was Wednesday, where I raced in the third installment of the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. This would be my first running only race since high school, where I had the dubious distinction of finishing dead last at one event. But, I knew from my triathlon training that I could do okay, and to that end, I had a very specific time goal of under 22 minutes.

With brilliant sunshine and 100 other participants, we were off and up the Incline Hill. I usually like to monitor my heart rate during exercise, as it allows me to gauge just how much effort I am expending. This time, it kind of scared me. My theoretical maximum heart rate is 184. My average during the run was 186, with a high of 194. So, in a good news, bad news kind of deal, my heart still believes I’m 26. The bad news is I’m nowhere near that, as my brain continually exhibits the behavior of a 12 year old.

I finished in 20:39, far under what I was hoping. So, the good news is I’m improving. The bad news is that it still takes me days to recover from even 20 minutes of running. Whereas my brain might be 12 and my heart 26, my knees, hips shins behave as if they’re 80. At least this allows me to think the goal of an under 20 minute 5k is achievable, should my body decide not to rattle apart.

So, it’s back to the Trails I go, intent on putting more mileage under my feet in an effort to strengthen my running muscles sufficiently to increase my efficiency, and hopefully reduce pain.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the demographic of 12/26/80, inexplicably writing Whereas in bold and running oh so slowly.

Hammer, man, et al.

“Hey Mike, what have you been up to of late?”

“Oh, not much, just vacationing overseas, racing extreme offroad triathlons, running, and helping put together the latest District Annual Report.”

“Wait – you’re RUNNING?”

–          Imagined dialogue if you asked me, “Hey Mike, what have been up to of late?”

So, yes, it’s true, I’ve been running.

More importantly, I had an opportunity to take an all-too-brief hiatus from work and visit an amazing individual in New Zealand. You might realize that my trip fell more or less squarely in the dead winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but I was not to be deterred. We had a brilliant time, catching up, mountain biking, exploring…we even got to sail on an America’s Cup yacht. Absolutely incredible.

I managed to make it back just in time to enjoy the full brunt of a gorgeous Alaskan Summer. I hope it lasts longer than this week. Last week, I went up to Los Anchorage to do the Xterra Hammerman Triathlon. I went with two good friends, Angie and Adam, as we were part of a team, something that neither Adam nor I had done. The weather, lamentably, was a bit on the damp side, which made the mountain biking segment, the leg I was to complete, a bit of a challenge. 14 miles of slick, muddy, and overgrown singletrack awaited me. But I had a blast, and only fell three times, which was a personal best for me on that course. Angie had a great if cold swim, and Adam had a blisteringly fast run, but I think my crashing (and missing a turn – oops) led to a slower time than I had hoped. Still, we finished third of the coed teams. I’ll make a quick note about the winning team – their mountain biker was professional… But the main aspect worth noting is that we all had a really fun time, and no one got hurt.

Speaking of professions, in the Wide World of Webmastery, things are fantastic. Busy and varied, as I am splitting time between installing new computers in various schools around the district, and working in the office as needed. The latest project has been the KPBSD Annual Report, which provides a synopsis and interesting facts and stories from the previous school year to the public. Look for yours soon as an insert in the newspaper.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be running.

Seriously, this time…

Raise Dairy Salts

I could see my nearest competitors in front of me. The ones behind, I couldn’t see, but I could sense them. If I slipped up at all, they would seek to gain from it. Right on the heels of those in front, I saw an opportunity.

I took it, and in the process, made myself one step closer to finishing.

I had finally gotten my bib and race day packet for Tri the Kenai.

The next day, of course, was the actual 3rd Annual Tri the Kenai Triathlon. This was my first real triathlon. Pink Cheeks in Seward not being sanctioned by the USAT because of its out-of-order disciplines (Swim, then run-bike, instead of Swim-Bike-Run like nature intended.)

I had been training a good deal in the months prior to the event. In under three months, I had undergone a complete transformation. From never having swum competitively since high school, never ridden a road bike, and a terrible runner who hadn’t competed in nearly two decades; to a good swimmer, a diligent, aggressive biker, and a terrible runner. In all honesty, my run time had decreased a bit, but it was still nothing to write home about.

So I had some confidence leading up to the race, and I hoped all my hours of hard training would pay off.

Months ago, when I signed up for Tri the Kenai, I had wildly guessed at my estimated swim time. Apparently, I suggested an estimated time of 6:00. I’m not sure what prompted this confidence, perhaps someone had stipulated that they allowed speedboats or jetpacks for the event. With that time, I was seeded second overall in the men, which meant that I got to share a lane with Alaska’s fasted triathlete.

Shockingly, he was far faster than I was.

Perhaps more shockingly, I was only a minute behind him leaving the pool.

500 yards (and probably a similar number of grey hairs) later, I had recorded a swim time of 6:54 and ran out of the pool to my bike stand and transition zone. I was in fourth place.

My transition went flawless to begin. Heart rate monitor, bike shoes, and that’s where the problems began. I struggled getting into my shirt. I know this is a fairly pedestrian activity for most, but for some reason this proved remarkably difficult for me. With the crowd cheering me on, I flailed and struggled to don my shirt. I just could not figure out what the problem was. A too small shirt on a too wet torso. I should really stop wardrobe shopping at Baby Gap.

Several minutes later, I emerged from the transition zone, bike helmet on, and bib, which was once fastened to my shirt with four sturdy safety pins, flapping uselessly in the breeze, attached with but one lonely pin.

Luckily, my bike ride was far better than the events leading to it.

Celeste felt lively and wonderful under me, and we blasted out of the school parking lot. On the highway, I monitored my heart rate, got passed by one perennial triathlete with a bike that I imagined weighed less than my water bottle, and passed one of the few bikers ahead of me.

Soon I had company, as another fellow with a lovely all-carbon aero bike passed me on Echo Lake Road. I kept a reasonable distance from him, acutely aware of the no drafting rules of triathlons, and made my move, passing him on an uphill. We went back and forth for the remainder of the ride – him passing me on the flats and me passing him on the uphills.

Fortunately for Celeste and I, the route back to Skyview consisted of a hill. A big one. A big, very inclined uphill one.

I arrived into the run transition zone nearly a minute in front.

Whereas my first transition was a crucible of what not to do with a transition, this one was the opposite. I left my bike shoes clipped into the pedals, dismounted, and sprinted in bare feet to my area. Bike in rack, helmet off, shoes on, I was off on the trails.

That’s when everything went pear-shaped.

I’m not a natural runner, as you might have guessed if you’ve read this blog before.

Race day was a great example of this. My legs felt wrecked on the run, and I couldn’t get up to speed. Lamentably, some of those behind me eventually caught and passed me. My run time was a disappointing 23 minutes.

The good thing is that I know I can do better, and I have put into sharp relief what my problems areas are.

Running.

So, my overall time was good enough for Tenth place in the men’s category.

I was hoping for a top ten finish, but I somehow feel like I could have done much better if I had been able to run to my potential.

But, it’s useless to dwell on what could have been, and now I am saddled with the task of figuring out what to do next.

Fortunately, this has already been decided, as I am doing an adventure race near Palmer tomorrow.

Oh, and the best part? It’s at least a 12 hour race, and it starts at midnight…

If anyone needs me, I’ll be fighting with my shirt.

 

New Beginnings

Like sand in an hourglass…

…if you break it, it gets EVERYWHERE.

So, too, are the days of our lives.

As you might notice, I’m having a bit of a metaphor-mixing crisis. Such is the time.

A lot is going on around the District. Today is the last day of school for students in most schools. But for us, the journey continues. We have the formidable task of switching out a great many old computers with new machines in various schools throughout the District.

This starts tomorrow, and on this occasion, we’ve hired an additional 10 employees to help with the festivities. Things should get interesting. Meanwhile, the year-end frenzy is in full swing, so people are scrambling like mad to complete everything required to have a guilt-free summer of relaxation.

I’ve been adamantly keeping up with triathlon training, nearly to the point of meltdown last week. The week began with P90X on Monday morning, then running hill repeats in Soldotna in the evening. This was tough, but over the weekend, I had gone to Los Anchorage and picked up some new running shoes. I was very pleased that my entire body didn’t have that “I’m about to rattle into a bazillion pieces” feeling during OR after the run.

For Tuesday after work, my normally-scheduled Master Swimming was not active thanks to scheduled maintenance at the Skyview Pool. Therefore, instead of Skyview I opted to meet a group going up Skyline. Skyline is a mountain about 40 minutes out of town. It’s steep. Think a two mile stretch of muddy stairs. Straight. Up. I got there as quickly as I could (No, Officer, I didn’t speed. Not even a little). I saw several other cars in the lot, and sure that my group was already summit-bound, I made haste to catch them. I didn’t. It was not because of a lack of speed. It was a temporal problem. In that they managed to start after me. So all the way to the summit I climbed. Upon my descent, I encountered my group, still intent on a summit bid. I was ready to go again, so I did. My enthusiasm was somewhat diminished the second go around, but I had a great time, and came back down the hill on less-than-top-shape legs.

Bright and early the next morning, I had a P90X Legs & Back workout that left my Skyline-crippled legs hardly able to support my bodyweight. The evening’s workout was more hill repeats, this time via bicycle. Thankfully, Celeste is an aggressive hill-climber, and despite my reluctance to do meaningful exercise, she took up the slack. She’s awesome, that way.

My legs sufficiently impinged-upon, I took it upon myself to go to the Tsalteshi Trails and try to do the first “Real” mountain biking of the season. I failed rather miserably, as the trails were a mucky quagmire. Apologies to the groomers for being too eager to go biking. But I do love a good mud biking episode.

Friday’s Tri Class consisted of transition training, where speed is of the essence as one switches between sport disciplines, such as swimming to biking and biking to running. This means doffing and donning helmets, goggles, spandex, bowling shoes, wafflemakers, and assorted triathlon paraphernalia. Having stayed late to get some last minute details up on the website at work, I actually ended up skipping this workout, but observed the hardworking athletes of my tri class, many of whom were heading up to Anchorage for the Golden Nugget Triathlon. They crushed it, and I couldn’t be more proud of all of them.

On Saturday, I did nothing. I didn’t even leave the house. I did nothing and it was everything I thought it would be. It was glorious.

By Sunday, I was eager to get out again, so drove to Resurrection Trail and rode my mountain bike as far as I could. I got a bit over three miles in before the increasing amounts of snow and mud and fallen trees forced my turnaround. Oh, and the new bike, with full-suspension, was an absolute dream on the downhill sections. Just brilliant. After Resurrection I hit the Russian Lakes Trails, and managed all the way into the Falls, but the Upper Russian Trail and path around Lower Russian Lake to the cabin was well-blocked by a rather large avalanche. But the path to the Falls was perfection.

This week has seen hill repeats on Goat at lower Tsalteshi, the reopening of the pool, and even some mountain biking planned for tonight.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be picking up grains of sand.

Turns out that when an hourglass breaks, it gets EVERYWHERE.

 

A loop to loop the Loop.

A loop is a quasigroup with an identity element e such that:

  • x * e = x = e * x for all x in Q.

It follows that the identity element e is unique, and that every element of Q has a unique left and right inverse.

I think we can all agree on this.

Well, on the topic of loops, I’ve been doing a great deal of them lately. And not just quasigroups, either; full, red-blooded loops.

Last weekend started with the Seward Triathlon, and ended with a non loop (not even a quasigroup) bike ride to Homer. I had never done the ride before, and there was a great group of people going, so I decided to try it out. We began at the early hour of 7:30 from Soldotna. The forecast was for scattered showers, and we had support vehicles with some people choosing to take turns driving for some parts of the journey.

Nearly 77 hilly miles and four hours later, we rolled into Homer, gorged on excellent pizza, and drove back just as the rains hit. Timing is everything.

The next day, a Monday, the tri group braved the wilds of lower Tsalteshi to experience the wonder of loops firsthand. We ran around the whole Wolverine Trail, then did repeats on the shorter loop. The trails were still quite muddy. Our homework assignment then featured a hill repeat on the Old Bear Trail, which happened to be an absolute quagmire of mud. Seeing something incrementally less saturated, we went to New Bear Trail (also called “Bear Trail”) and started up. I wondered why my compatriots were stopped beneath me on the hill and pointing until I saw I had run right past a moose, who seemed content enough with grazing to not give me the stomping of a lifetime. We crept back into the spaghetti bowl where the trails meet, and tried another hill. This, too, was moosey. We ended up jogging back with a new respect for woodland creatures.

Wednesday found us again aloop. This time the loop in question had specific icthyological roots. Our planned rendezvous was at the parking lot by Cohoe Loop, in Kasilof. We met and the wind decided to join us, blowing hard out of the East. We started riding South on the highway, the wind doing its best to blow us into the ditch. When we made the turn East, we flew. The gorgeous rolling hills flew by underneath Celeste, and there was nary a car in sight. After making the turn to make our way Westward, progress slowed to a crawl with the fierce headwinds. Progress was further diminshed by the road conditions, which, though paved, were remniscent of the surface of the Moon. Downshifting radically, I tried to keep my cadence up and shoulders low. It was great streamlining practice.

My goal was an hour for the 18.2 mile loop. I made it in just under that, so that wasn’t too bad.

Friday saw us being hit with a brick. A swim / bike brick, the same distances and route as the first two disciplines of the Tri the Kenai; a 500 yard swim and 10.1 mile bike. This would be a great time on testing my times to see if I was in the ballpark of my goals. Such was not the case, as I suffered from Hitting-the-Wrong-Stopwatch-Button-itis, and screwed up my swim time. It felt good, though, and I had a quickish transition outside to my bike, where I began recording (correctly, I might add) the course from Skyview to Echo Lake Road. This was another road I had never explored, but was fun, hilly, challenging, and thankfully not crowded. The hills at the beginning forced me to a nearly crawling speed, but the later long downhills made up for it. I finished in a respectable 32 minutes. My race day goal is under 30, which should be achievable. I did do some lightweight jogging after the brick, just to simulate (briefly) raceday fun.

So, I’m happy to report that x * e = x = e * x for all x in Q.

 

Tri, tri again.

What an eventful weekend. True to its etymological roots, my weekend was full of events.

The end of the week began in Seward, where the weather was behaving in a decidedly Alaskan Springlike fashion.

It was snowing. Luckily (?) the snow quickly turned to rain, so my first ever triathlon – the 21st Annual Seward Pink Cheeks Triathlon – got underway.

I had signed up in advance for a morning swim, before the other events, the idea being that I could get it out of the way, and not have to wait for the pool to clear out after the run and bike.

When my lane cleared of the previous swimmer, I took a quick warm up lap, then asked the volunteer counting laps to notify me (by putting a bright orange board down into my lane) when it was my last lap, so I could really turn it on. Yes, I know it’s only 18 laps, but I have a hard time counting above the number 3.

I felt pretty good in the water, but was sharing the lane with someone slower, so was constantly on the lookout for collisions. Toward the end of the swim, I kept looking for the orange board, but it never came. Then I was being yelled at by the volunteers to stop swimming. They didn’t put the board down, so I kept going for an extra lap. Oh well. I appreciate the volunteers – they have a lot to do. I was hoping to be under 13 minutes for the 900, but I ended up at 13:32. Decidedly not my best.

Outside, I tried to keep warm enough in the drizzle for the 5k run. A giant crowd gathered around the start line, and before I could dwell too much about my dislike for running, I was chasing the fast people down the first hill. Somehow, I managed to incorrectly set my watch, so I had no idea of my time or speed, but it kept its promise as an accurate heart rate monitor. It remained firmly into the high 170s to mid 180s the entire run. I tried to keep up with the fast kids, but that didn’t last long, and I fell into a fast (for me) pace.

I kept my place after the first few minutes, and was proud of my breath control. I heard someone trying to catch me before the last hill up into the school, breathing hard. By the top of the hill I couldn’t hear him at all. Thanks, Coach Angie, for all the hill repeats.

I crossed the line somewhere around 15th or so, and made a wobbly transition to my beautiful bike. I had a terrible mount, but luckily no one was right behind me. I shot down the first hill, and noticed that the rain had increased. I passed the guy in front of me on the bike path through town, and passed another person before turning up to the very steep hill around the pond. I felt my front tire slide out a bit on the turn, but luckily held on. That particular shot of adrenaline helped boost me up the hill, and I managed to pass one more person back on the pavement. The interesting thing about this triathlon is that the biking is a mixture of on and off-road. I opted for the road bike, which is risky, in light of tire blowouts, which would end my race. Fortunately, Celeste did great, and I managed to pick off a couple more people on the hill up into the high school. Toward the end, I had a great drag race with a guy who had passed me earlier. I caught him on the downhill and used the momentum to keep in front of him to the school to finish a mere four seconds ahead.

I finished the run/bike part of the race somewhere around the #10 mark. My final placing would depend on my swim time. Before the race, I had really hoped for a top ten finish, and I thought I might have gotten that.

Unfortunately, I had to wait an excruciatingly long time for the results to get posted. Then, late last night, they got it figured, and the results were in!

I knew my swim time, but was surprised to learn that I had a decent run time – 21:16, which translates to an average of  6:50 minute/mile – way better than I had hoped.

My total time was 57:23 – good enough for 6th place in the Men’s Overall. Oddly enough, the guy just behind me on the bike had a swim time of 4 seconds faster than I did, so we had the same time, but I finished a split second ahead. Oddly, he finished first in the 20-29 year old age group, and I got 5th in the ultra-competitive 30-39 group.

So, I was very pleased with my result in my first ever triathlon.

The next day I biked from Soldotna to Homer. More on that soon.

Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement – it really means a great deal to me.

 

Dawn Breaks over Brickhead.

Training update: One month in.

My class has been doing extremely well, even if its main features are to expose exactly what I need to work on most. “Everything” comes to mind…

Navigation in particular. Last update I spoke of my aspirations to cycle the Loop in under an hour. This was not the case, not because of lack of speed on the bicycle – that seemed fine. It took longer than an hour because I ended up riding a few extra miles.

YES, I GOT LOST AGAIN.

This time in Kenai. We left the Sports Center bound for Kenai. Across the Bridge Access Road, conditions were blustery. It was blowing dogs off chains. A headwind, naturally. I had been advised that the main streets in Kenai hadn’t been swept, and with the 5:30 traffic, to duck behind the high school and then connect up to the bike paths later. Things were going well until I got onto Lawton Street. I rocketed past the school, helped by a little tailwind. I could see a long, straight road ahead. What I didn’t realize was the road changed from pavement to gravel a few miles past the school. So, I backtracked, and tried my best to find a path that found its way to the highway and associated bike paths.

In the interim, a few of the others had passed me, and I knew my chances of beating an hour were fantastically reduced, unless I could somehow conjure an average speed of nearly 30 mph. I did happen to go over 10 miles in just over a half hour, with the wind against me, so I at least know that an hour loop is theoretically possible.

This past weekend saw a definite ramp-up in our training, as we participated in a Miniature Triathlon on Saturday. With our last planned indoor swimming slot, we maximized our pool time by swimming for a full hour before transitioning outside to the bikes. I tried to simulate race day fun by swimming an additional 200 yards at race speed after the workout. I ran outside to the bike transition area and found out something important.

Compression shirts are difficult and hilarious to put on when you’ve just exited the pool.

I probably looked like the shirt was eating me alive, as I thrashed and fought to don it properly. I wasted a good deal of time with that bit of fun. The good thing is I learned some helpful strategies to expedite this process. Once on the bike, I did my best to catch the people in front of me. It was a short ride, just from Skyview High School to Echo Lake Road and back. It is a short ride, but ever-so-hilly. I felt cold and stiff by the time I came back into the transition area. This one was markedly improved from the first, as I slipped out of my cycling shoes and into my trail running shoes with relative ease. I even remembered to remove my helmet. It’s the little things, really.

The running was worse than I had anticipated. The brick feeling was back to stay. It wasn’t my heart or lungs that were having the most difficult time of it, it was purely the act of moving my feet one in front of the other.

Limping back to the finish, I had done my first swim-bike-run brick ever. Final thoughts? It didn’t kill me.

Particulars:

200 yard swim: 2:40 minutes
18.7 mph average bike – 4.8 miles
7:17 min/mile pace run average – 1.7 miles

So, aside from the dead legs and shirt-related trauma we’ll just refer to as a “wardrobe malfunction,” I am pretty pleased. I hope I can boost my time averages by a little bit before a real triathlon, but that’s not so likely, as my first is THIS VERY WEEKEND. It’s in Seward. I’m excited.

I think it will go well, provided I don’t get lost. But there’s no chance of that, right?

Right?

 

Swim like a Brick

Tired of being bored? Thinking of trying something new? Want to suffer like you’ve never suffered before?

Try a Brick Workout.

Coach Angie appears to subscribe to the Nietzsche School of Workouts; to wit, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

We should be plenty strong by now. Last week’s brick workout saw sufficient bouts of near-death that we might be expected to be invincible now. After a rather exciting and involved swim, where we tried to compress 90 minutes of workout into a mere hour, we quickly changed and met outside to run. And run we did. On Ski Hill Road. I’m going to stress the Hill part. There are many hills on Ski HILL Road. Hill, yes. We were to meet by the blue sign, which happened to be about a mile down the road from the starting point.

You might find this astonishing, but I got lost again.

I blew right by the sign and managed to find the Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. It wasn’t open. Back I ran and caught up to the group, which were enjoying an exciting round of hill repeats. Hill repeats feature a brutal sprint up said hill, and then a “recovery” period on the way down. We did this many, many times, then staggered back to the starting point. That night I ran over 4 miles, and my time for the first mile was around 7:30. Not great, but not bad for hilly conditions.

Wednesday we biked again. We were to do a race-pace loop to the College and back. We did, and finished with a decent time. Then we were told we were to do it again, this time faster than the first loop. I did it, but barely. It actually helped to be warmed up from the first go-round.

I was out of town, so missed the remaining workouts for the week, but managed to get a good bit of biking in.

Monday saw more running. On Ski HILL Road, naturally. Of course, this was after a big time P90X Chest and Back and Abs morning workout. We met at the High School again. This time I knew where the one mile mark was, but we didn’t use it. Instead, we blew past all the way to the other side, and then regrouped to do more Hill Repeats. And these were devastating. Repeat after repeat. It’s like the infinite loop I’ve been caught in when I try to follow exactly the instructions on a shampoo bottle.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse…

I ended up running over six miles. That’s way farther than I have ever run in my life. And much of it was sprinting. Oh, and my time for the first mile was 6:30 – so I’m improving.

The next morning, I was so sore I could barely move. Luckily, I had Masters swimming to look forward to. After two miles of “Broken 500s,” I was feeling the Broken aspect all too well.

This morning I taught P90X Plyometrics, also called Jump Training or “Cry-o-metrics.” It wasn’t easy, as my legs weren’t enthusiastic about having me repeatedly leave the planet.

So now, tonight, we bike the Loop. I have done some tweaks to my lovely borrowed bike (She’s named Celeste.) We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed, but I hope to do the entire Loop in under an hour. This of course depends on whether my legs will speak to me.

I think they’re still upset from Cry-o-metrics.