Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Fourth Deuce

Last Saturday night was the Big Deuce, a local 2 mile open water swim race in Jordan Lake. This was my 4th time swimming this race, it's been my favorite Ironman tune-up race for swimming, but this year I had high expectations since this is the first time I've raced it on a swim-focused year instead of an Ironman focused year. So I knew it was going to be rad.

I put up my fastest time here in 2013 at 58 minutes and took 2nd place in my age group. So that was the bar I set for myself going into the race. In the pool, masters practices have really increased in volume over the last few months and that has seriously increased my speed. My goals were simple, just to beat the 58 minute time I set 2 years ago.

You cannot compare open water swim races year over year. The water is different, the winds are different, there are different competitors in the field, and all you can really do is take every race for the day that it is, and deal with what the day brings for you. This would turn into an important lesson.

pre-swim - beautiful day!
There were lots of RAM swimmers out on the day. I was excited to see everyone, and certainly got tons of support and words of encouragement from my teammates. I have recently moved up a lane in practice, into a group that regularly does 100's on 1:15 to 1:20 instead of the lane where you normally keep a 1:30 to 1:45 pace. If you don't swim regularly, that's a huge gap. It's like making the leap from running 8 minute miles to 6:30 miles. But I earned the jump by putting in lots of volume, hard work, and listening to the form tweaks from the coaches. I have even started doing flip turns! So now it's time for that hard work to pay off. All of that training, all of those laps, all of the sprints, now is the time to translate that into open water speed over 2 miles.

Now I'm up to KC's lane - and still coaching her through her first ironman

Now it's time to hit the water. The 2 milers mass started at 8 am, and the 1 mile race started 4 minutes later. I lined up towards the front left. My buddy Jason screamed a countdown and the race was on!

Getting to the first turn buoy felt like it went really fast. It was crowded, but not full on washing-machine packed. I got hit and kicked a few times but mostly just swum strong, maintained my form, and tried to keep a clean line. This was a triangle course, so after making the first turn, it was only about 200 yards before the next turn to head back to the start/finish line. I tried to push a bit harder before that 2nd turn buoy, then hold form and keep a consistent effort going back to the start.

By the second lap, something was strangely different. Getting out to the first buoy again was harder, the wind really picked up and gave the water lots of chop. I bet that was problematic for less experienced swimmers. When I made the turn, everything got really choppy, maybe 6" waves slapping me around some so I would only breathe to one side. I felt like I over-corrected on that turn anyway and got off course a bit. But before I knew what happened I was making the last turn and heading for the finish line.

The 1 and 2 are mile markers
I hit the finish line, and stopped the Garmin at 1:03:17. It said I swam 2.83 miles. Zooming in on the map above it looks like I swam in a bunch of tiny triangle to make up that one bigger triangle, so there is no way that the Garmin distance calculator was accurate. But you can clearly see how I over-shot that first turn in the top left corner, and wavered off course on the whole right hand side. I can believe that I actually swam close to 2.3 miles, which puts me at a 1:30 pace per 100 yards. that was right at the effort that I was hoping to get out.

I ended up getting 3rd place in my age group! 3/8 in the Men's 40-44, 21/41 men overall, and 44/91 overall combined. It was a large and fast field this year, the overall winner was a woman (in 43 minutes) who also won a swimming bronze medal at the Beijing games. Other RAM swimmers included Tom who won his age group in 52 minutes, KC won her age group in 53 minutes, Gregory was 3rd male overall, Addison got 2nd in her age group 55 minutes, and Billy took 3rd overall in the 1 mile race. Kristen missed an award by 30 seconds but still swam 56 minutes.


KC and I with our awards
KC, me, Tom, Kristen
I am proud of doing well enough to get the award, but I did beat myself up pretty good for missing my time goal so badly. For several days I was just in a funk mentally trying to figure out what I did wrong. Did my form break down? Did I fatigue too early? Was I just not pushing hard enough? This was my first race as a 40 year old, maybe the body was just breaking down?

Finally my swim coach convinced me that you just can't compare swim times year over year. Last year I was getting 1:45 hundreds in the pool and swam a 1:04 at this race. This year I'm putting 1:18 hundreds in the same pool and only got a 1:03 at this race? Part of me still thinks that I just didn't perform but I can't pinpoint where I broke down. Sure I got off course a bit, but even if I swam perfectly straight I still wouldn't have put up the 53 to 55 minute time that I really wanted. Don't compare year over year, don't compare your performance with what your friends did. These guys were all scholarship swimmers in college. I've been hitting speeds for a couple of months now, they've been there for years (decades even). It's hard not to compare, but no good will come of that.

Bottom line, I wanted to hold my (new, corrected, good) form and I did. I wanted to push myself the whole time and I did. And I got an award for my effort. This is still one of my favorite races every year and I'm grateful I got to do it again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The 700

This seems hard to believe, but this is the 700th post I've written up on the old blog here. We'll say that maybe 300 of them have actually been interesting, 100 or so race reports, and about 500 with pictures of the kids. Since 2008 this space has been my outlet for creative expression and along the way I've been able to take some promotions and product reviews too. I gotta admit, I'm still hooked on blogging.

Blogging has lost its appeal over the last few years to society, but not to me. Long form essay writing on a particular topic has been shortened into a facebook status length or 140 character tweet. I don't even know what to think about instagram - it's like facebook for people who don't want to read that much. But I have to believe that there is still a space for bloggers to espouse one topic per post for some in depth knowledge dropping.

Just in case you've missed something over the last 699 posts, I used to blog about the struggles of someone training for their first marathon, then his first Ironman, then another ironman, then another ironman, and all of the struggles that go along with it. The ebbs and flows of goal setting over the course of a year and how the family puts up with all of my crazy goals leads to some interesting dynamics. The transformation I've gone through since 2008 is more than just from smoker to endurance athlete. There may have been a full descent into madness as the goals kept getting bigger and bigger. 15 marathon or longer races, 3 ironmans and 5 ultras, and this year still has my first marathon swim, 3 full marathons and 2 50 milers in 5 different states left to come.

As athletic seasons wane I tend to publish more about family time. This is so that I can document how my family grows and ages, as well as so they can one day go back and see how I did what I did and how they were impacted by it. Blogger doesn't have this feature yet, but I would love to be able to export my posts in ascending date order with all of the pictures so that my kids could one day read this thing like a book. I think wordpress can do that.

So thanks for putting up with my pointless drivel for 700 times, and I'm looking forward to cranking out the next 700 of these things. My focus has certainly changed over the years, from the trembling "can I run a marathon" stage into the full blown confidence it takes to tackle a full in all 50 states and next year try the 100 mile trail ultra scene. The crazy just keeps pouring out.

Friday, July 10, 2015

This is 40

Well it had to happen one day, and that day happened to be this week. My 40th birthday came and went with little fanfare, just the way I like it. I thought about trying to run my age or do something athletic to celebrate, but it ended up being a normal day. I ran 6 miles before work, then spent the rest of the day in pain as every running injury I've ever had came back to reclaim its rightful place. That stupid left hip that sidelined me in the spring was the worst, but the right foot from last year came back (well, ankle pain) and the right knee was pretty unpleasant too. On my 40th birthday, falling apart.

I did make up for it on Wednesday, though. Yoga in the morning was great, I got in my noon swim practice and swam 100 yards in 1:12 at only a "slight" effort, not an all out sprint effort like I would normally have to give to get that fast. Crazy! Finally we had a crazy day at home so I had to miss choir practice, but I did make it out to the gym around 8 pm to lift some heavy things. Putting 315 lbs (3 wheels on each side) of the squat rack felt amazing. Also got in some really heavy bench press and curls, and still got in 30 minutes on the stationary bike before a thunderstorm drove me back home. It's good to be strong!

Leading up to my birthday, we had a very unique opportunity. Kelley and I got to take Ella to her first concert! We ended up with a 3rd ticket to see the Rolling Stones after a friend couldn't make it into town. She said she wanted to go, so it was game on. Ella loved it. I thought it was too loud and kept me out too late at night (remember I'm old now). Besides, I was always more of a Beatles fan.

Giant Keith Richards

Giant Jagger
Mick Jagger still had the moves! Such an incredible stage presence. The entire show was more of an event than a concert. They played a couple of songs that I didn't know but for the most part you knew the tunes and it sounded so perfect like they were playing a cd. But Jagger has got to be in his 70's by now and he's still so thin and dances like that, it's just incredible to watch.

Then for the 4th of July (Happy 'Merica Day) we went down to visit Kelley's mom at the lake and had the entire family over there for a huge cookout. It really was a lot of fun.

Evil Genius wouldn't go outside
There are more pictures from those to come in a future post.

I was glad to get back to Raleigh and settle in for a normal week. It's hot in NC this summer, and I'm not dealing with the heat any better than I'm dealing with turning 40. Normally I will admit to having the mid-life crisis at 35 so I have pretty low expectations for 40. My confession is that I'm not handling 40 too well. It feels strange to see people in their 30's doing stuff and it makes me think "I remember when...." already. not cool. I discovered that my boss is actually younger than I am. that's just strange. There is no telling where this is headed.

Really I'm just taking it one workout at a time, one day at a time and trying to find the joy that I can spread every day. I still have big events coming up, lots to look forward to, and plenty of time to spend with these folks.

EG is quite excited
The scariest part about the birthday is the gifts from the kids. Evil Genius got me a hat that said "So Handsome" and a t-shirt that said "Really Really Ridiculously Goodlooking" from zoolander, so now I'm terrified. I hope she ends up with high standards.  Ella got me 2 marvel comics superhero t-shirts, so I must be doing something right. Then we went to my favorite wing joint for dinner and I had a few beers. Overall I'm glad to have the big day behind me, and glad to be racing in a new age group. So, this is 40!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wednesday Pics

My girls on the last day of school. They are done with 4th and 2nd grade!

had a pool gathering with Ella's Indian Princess tribe

and Ella conquered the big slide!

pizza was had by all

Me and my Evil Genius

chillin by the pool

My garden is pretty pitiful this year, but I do have cucumbers!

This was actually July 1st, but the first harvest was 3 tiny grape tomatoes

Monday, July 6, 2015

And now... this

What happened to June?

Swim: 51,050 yards, 15 swims, 3400 avg
Bike: 25 miles, 2 rides
Run: 40 miles, 6 runs
Strength: 3 times
Yoga: 14 times

woah that's a lot of time in the pool. Good thing I love it! Another 50k+ month of total insanity. Hard to believe there's only 3 more months of this wild swim volume. 40 miles of running is pitiful, that has to increase. I am also getting in some long runs every weekend now, it's just the midweek stuff that isn't happening. but the pool is where it's at.

Also in June we had Ella's birthday, a wonderful trip to Greenville, and we started building a storage shed on the side of the house. Pictures or separate posts are coming for those. But the point is that it was a busy and very strange month. I lost about 2 weeks where I did nothing but swim and work on the shed. This thing is wild huge and taking a bunch of time. And during that time, the heat was getting up to around 106* every day. I'm sick of it, and ready for that shed to be done.

Here's some of the highlights from June:

Working the pirate pinata

Making a wish!

I'm so proud of Ella. She turned 10 years old and wanted a pirate theme party. It's hard to believe that she is actually that age now, still seems like my little baby girl. She has her own friends now and a well developed social ability (just like Dad).

Walk the Plank was one of the pirate games we setup

argh, me and my pirate matey
Right around the same time as her birthday, we went to Greenville for Fathers day, to visit my folks, and have a birthday celebrations for Ella and myself.

the birthday people

Kids enjoying the pool

On Fathers day, I was so grateful to be their dad.
More from June still to come.... How was your month?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Be Prepared

Going into a big season like this, we all have to be prepared for whatever races are coming our way. We know what we're getting ourselves into when we sign up for the race (most of the time), but don't always know how we are going to get to that finish line until later.

Before beer mile training
I even did some special training for the Raleigh Beer Mile. Had to time myself chugging brews, and did a session where I chugged then ran to the end of the block and back (0.4 miles total) 3 times.

After beer mile training! Not that drunk
Getting ready for Ironman Raleigh this year meant riding with the cyclist on my relay team since he had never done a triathlon before. I got to teach him the non-drafting rules, how to pass and be passed by others. We had a lot of fun! Eric absolutely smashed his expectations and rode a 2:52 bike split.

Me and Eric after our ride
Also before Ironman Raleigh I got to run with Chris and KC on the IM Raleigh run course. KC had a blast doing her first half iron and is now settled in on her training for IM Chattanooga. Chris is starting his training for a BQ attempt.

Me, KC, Chris
Everybody has to prepare for something. I have the Big Deuce coming up again, my 4th attempt swimming this 2 mile open water race. Goal is to break my 58 minute course pr since I've been swimming much faster lately. I did actually sign up for a triathlon this year, the Battle at Buckhorn sprint at the end of August.

But the fall. Autumn is where it's at. I'm starting to ramp my volume up in the pool to get ready for the 12 mile OWS race in Charleston and I have no idea if what I'm doing is going to be enough or not. Pretty sure my aerobic base is going to be there but I have no idea if the arm mechanics of my swim stroke is going to be able to hold up.

Comparing notes with a RAM teammate who is also doing the race, I'm thinking 25-30k yards a week is going to be enough. He's wanting to get closer to 40k a week. He's never run a marathon, and if I've learned anything from my 15 marathon or longer finishes it's the importance of the weekly long run and getting some 20 milers in there.

Out on a recent run at the NC Capital building
I think 4 or 5 RAM practices (average 3500 yards in 1:15) plus a long swim will be enough to get me there. My recent advances in swim speed deserve it's own post, but I'm really amped about being able to hold a faster pace for longer. In marathon training, I love to ramp up to some 50+ mile weeks and get those long runs to to 20 miles. In swimming, the race is over 19k long, so I'll need to start out with a 5k to 10k long swim, and increase every week by 15 to 30 minutes, I guess? 10k takes about 2.5 hours in the pool. The race has a 6 hour cutoff. I think I need to get my long swims up to about 4 hours?

I've never had to prepare for anything like this before so I really have no idea what I've gotten myself into. Any advice would be appreciated. Maybe swim marathons and running marathons don't require the same approach.

But they literally have to, in my case. You see, I added the extra stupidity of signing up for 3 full marathons and 2 50 milers (in 5 different states to boot) in the 4 months that immediately follow that 12 mile swim race. So that is what I'm in for.  It's going to be an interesting summer. And I really will try to post more so you guys can follow along in my massive training for this crazy adventure. July and August will be the build phase to get me ready for the aerobic challenges in the fall.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Evil Princess

Our little Evil Genius turned 8 last week. In the last year, she has really grown into her own person. Yes she's still the picky eater and strong personality. But now she's discovered what she really does like, and not just developed a list of things she doesn't like (that's evil). Turns out, Frozen and Elsa are at the top of that list. So for her birthday party we told her she could have a few friends over to spend the night, and we found an Elsa to come over for a while!

She read them a story

brought a craft for the kids

Painted their faces

She also painted their fingernails

then stuck around for cupcakes and ice cream

What a fun Elsa!
The birthday party happened to be the night before I had to get up at 3:45 AM for Ironman Raleigh. Talk about a scheduling conflict.  We also had pizza and got to watch movies, and everyone had a really fun time.

Some of this

led directly to this

But there was a lot more of this

and everyone had a good time.

Kelley and I are both so proud of the girl our EG is growing into. Smart, funny, and passionate are the kinds of things that make us worry about this one, and make us happy.