Thursday, May 14, 2015

Open Water Season

Open water swimming season is finally here! The first race of the season is in the books. Once again, the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge did not disappoint. Well, the weather and the organization kind of did disappoint, but it was still a great race.

Vista Point race location

Sunday morning I made the 40 minute drive out to Vista Point. This is the same swim location used at Ironman Raleigh, coming up in a few weeks. Turns out there was also a SUP race going on before the swim race, 1.2 and 2.4 mile swim races, and an organized bike ride of the IM Raleigh course going on too. So with all of those events, there was about 400 people out there, and 6 port-a-lets. I found a really bad parking space because the main lot was full. After taking my second cup of coffee on the way over there, I was very surprised to see the park's restroom doors locked! ARGH.

I get my packet and get into the longest line I've ever seen. Then I realize it's not moving fast enough. Sure enough, I spot my buddy Tom about 15 people ahead of me.  I found out later that Tom did make it into the crapper, but was putting his wetsuit on after the official checkin start.

the "standing in line" selfie

Longest por-a-john line ever!
It wasn't exactly warm either. All week we saw heat in the mid 90's, but Tropical Storm Ana came through the coast that same Saturday, and brought temps back down into the 60's that morning, with very strong winds. That made the water pretty choppy, which would come into play later. After I realized that I just wouldn't have time to wait in that line, walk back to my car, get my wetsuit on, and make it back to the start on time, I had to abandon my plans to be comfortable. Also my eye doc didn't want me swimming open water with my contacts in, so I wore glasses out there and had to leave them in the car.

I made it back in time to find my friends on the beach before they checked us into the water. After we were in the water waiting on the starting gun, Tom got his wetsuit on and found the rest of us. The water had about a solid 6" chop coming in thanks to all of the wind, it was enough to make it pretty uncomfortable just floating around treading water in the wetsuit.  Also, apparently my wetsuit has a leak in the general crotch area, water was getting in where it shouldn't be. Not bad, but not comfortable.

Once they screamed GO we took off. The 6" chop wasn't nearly as difficult as the 2' chop I had to deal with at Lake Erie last fall in Rev3 Cedar Point, that kept going through my mind as I had to fight my way through. I had to really convince myself that I was the stronger swimmer, and there was no way that weaker swimmers could handle those conditions. It was a bit crowded, but I didn't get too much of the washing machine effect. Got kicked around some, swam into some other people. They started everyone in the 2.4 mile race at the same time, then separated the women and men doing the 1.2 mile race a few minutes after we left.

Getting out to the first turn buoy was going to be a milestone. I figured it would be the hardest part of the course for both laps and I was right. I took the turn wide and did the standard open water turn technique of throwing in a single back stroke. If you're not familiar with the technique, you roll onto your back in the direction of the buoy, and pull that arm into a backstroke, then continue the roll so that the other arm comes down on the same side. The result is a 90* turn. In this case the buoy was on my right, so my right arm pulled face down, then my left arm backstroked face up, then my right arm pulled face down again all on the same side of my body as the buoy.

Unfortunately, the wind changed this 90* turn into a 180* turn. All of a sudden there were other people swimming towards me, which is never good in an open water race. There were other people in front of me going in my direction, and other people behind me going in my direction. So I assumed that a few people missed the turn and had to double back. When the pack got bigger, I headed for open water inside of the triangle course and stopped to tread water until a paddleboarder made it over there to point me in the right direction. I was completely un-oriented to the course and that was very frustrating. I told the guy that there were lots of people swimming the wrong direction on the course and he went over to straighten them out. I'm just glad I wasn't the only one who did that.

Swimming parallel to the chop was much easier, then the third leg of the triangle was uneventful as well. Then it was time to head out for the second loop. Fun times in that cold choppy water again, but at least I was mentally prepared for it now. And this time after making the turn I stopped long enough to locate both sighting buoys to be sure I was heading towards the correct one. Still kind of upset that I lost at least a minute to just treading water searching for sighting buoys, but what can you do, right?

The second loop was uneventful. Of course most of the time I was motivated by poop. I tried to focus on my form, keeping a fast arm turnover and pushing through my stroke. I knew there was not going to be a line for those port-a-lets when I hit the beach.  Sure enough, I gave it all I had before hitting that finish line.

My time goal was to break my current open water (non-current-assist) PR of 1:14 from Ironman Florida in 2011. I crushed a 1:12:58, so my goal was met. At the finish line, I stopped the garmin and started trying to unzip my wetsuit. These two girls must have thought I was about to puke, they offered to help me out of the suit but I politely declined and started walking towards the bathrooms. Sure enough, I found my hidden flip flops, and made my way into the port-a-crappers before I finished catching my breath. Needless to say, it was the most comfortable I had been in quite some time.

Back at the car, finally

Me, Tom, Kevin, and a friend of K's hanging out waiting on the awards.
Turns out about half of the RAM swim team was out there. I saw a lot of friends that swim in the mornings, or haven't been to practice in a while. I figured I would have to break 1:10 to qualify for an age group award, and I was right. Finished 4th place (out of 5) in my age group, 1:09 took the last award. Tom and Kevin both won their age groups and finished right around 55 minutes. We swim in adjacent lanes in the evening practices. KC, a friend I'm coaching through her first Ironman, also won her age group and Laura, one of our coaches, also won her age group. Dani (who is now a morning swimmer but did the Swim Around Charleston last year) took 4th place overall. It's also worth noting that they were also all scholarship swimmers in college. It sounds like I'm the only one of my friends who didn't take an age group win, but that's ok because I just hang out with a bunch of badass swimmers.

It rained some at the start, some while we were swimming, and again it rained heavy while we were waiting for the awards. But we didn't find out about the worst part of the day until later on.

Brian Goldman, the coach who started these wonderful noon practices and was the most effective at changing my form, passed away sunday morning. He had colon cancer, and leaves behind a wife and two sons that are still in high school. He was also a very well respected doctor and founded/coached a kids swim team as well. For someone we all cared about so much to pass on while we were in a swim race is incredibly tough, but I know somehow that's how he would have wanted it to happen. His funeral was Tuesday, I couldn't get out of work to attend but Tom did and he said there was over 1000 people there. Cancer has already affected too many people that I care about. This is not an easy loss. He was still on deck coaching us a month ago.

So I'm very happy with my performance in the race, wish I had done a few things better, very proud of my friends, and very sad about the loss of my coach. Who plans an event (or 4) like that on mothers day? Brian's parents are still alive so his passing on mothers day has to be extraordinarily tough. And yes, I still have to write a separate post about what the kids and I did for Kelley for mothers day.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

May Day

Happy May everyone! I know some parts of the country still have snow on the ground, and we barely got out of the 50's last week here in NC. But it's spring! Surely warmer temps and girls in sun dresses aren't far away. I keep seeing commercials with skinny people on the beach, let's make that happen May!

April's Totals:

Swim: 31,650 yards, 10 swims
Bike: 72 miles, 5 rides
Run: 12 miles, 2 runs
Strength: 8 times
Yoga: 15 times
Average weight: 175.5 lbs
Bodyfat: 18.7% average

April contained no races, but I did have Easter, going to the Masters golf tournament, and Evil Genius going to Spring Outing again. And thanks to the new tattoo I couldn't get in the pool until the 13th. So really that 31k in the pool was only during the 2nd half of the month? that's insane. My plan for the summer is to swim like a madman and it looks like I'm off to a great start. The most I've ever swam is 33k in one month, so it looks like I'm going to smash that. Trying to get 4 or 5 RAM team practices in every week to get ready for the big 12 mile Swim Around Charleston. Eventually that will need to go to 5 or 6 practices a week.

The rest of the numbers descend from there. 72 miles is my best bike month since the ironman in september, but still really pitiful. At least I got to ride 5 times. Only getting in a 5 mile and a 7 mile runs on different weeks is really sad. But the good part is that I had absolutely no hip pains. I finally got enough rest to let that hip flexor really heal up, and now can run comfortably - it only took 8 weeks with a few test runs thrown in there. Now I have to build back my monthly mileage slowly to get ready for the fall marathons. I think the root cause of that problem was a combination of high volume (of treadmill usage) and lack of strength work.

Weight lifting pairs very nicely with heavy swim volume, and I have really been enjoying lifting heavy things lately. Lots of core work was instrumental in repairing my hip flexor and will also be preventive in rebuilding my running volume. The other correction that needs to happen is to cut out the treadmill running almost entirely. It is my safe haven where there's always a bathroom and water fountain nearby and I don't have to carry my own food, but the never changing terrain and constant motion I think was a big contributor to the problem. Running outside is easier now that spring is here and I usually have morning open for running outside. Make it happen!

Also in April Kelley and I got to try out a new yoga studio in town! She wanted to explore yoga a bit more, and this studio also has TRX classes. So we got to try TRX and loved it, and several different levels of yoga. Cary Flow Yoga is a great studio filled with fun teachers. We really enjoyed it, and I think it really helped me get more consistent with my practice. I also made it back for a hot yoga class at Firefly.

Shifting priorities always shows up when you look at final number, there are some things you can't hide from. The volume of swimming, strength work, and yoga shows the priority list, and the weight & bodyfat percentage show the result. I've been holding right at my plateau training weight. It's getting a bit frustrating not being able to lose more, but all I can hope to be is consistent.

May Day was actually pretty rocking. I took the afternoon off from work so I got to put in a few more laps after the regular swim practice was over. Stretching RAM practice to 4000 yards was an awesome way to start out the month! Then I got to have a sweet date night with my sweetheart since Kelley's mom came into town unexpectedly. We got dinner at Chubby's Tacos then saw American Sniper at the cheap theater. That was one amazing movie! Bradley Cooper was incredible in there. The book is still way better, but I couldn't think of a better way to start out the month.

Date night selfie

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another Seafarer Done

This past weekend I took Evil Genius back to the Indian Princess camp, this year we got Camp Seafarer instead of Seagull like we got last year. It was a rousing good time! EG always has her challenges but we got through them all and had quite the successful weekend.

Friday I took off from work and packed up. We hit the road around lunchtime and made it down to Tony's house on the river (about a mile from camp) for a little pre-camp pizza. The girls really loved getting to play together down there, and the dads all had a blast hanging out too. After dinner we headed into camp.

We did eventually make our way into camp and get setup in the bunks. Then friday night was an ice cream social! After that we eventually got the kids down and settled in to the (slightly less than comfy) bunk beds.

Camp Seafarer entrance

With her magic card

Settled into the top bunk

With BFF K

Quite a large crowd!

Finally happy and ready for bed
Saturday we had to get down to business. She had some activities to go do. EG had already decided which ones she wanted to try out, and we should do as many of those activities as possible with K. Naturally, she didn't want to do any of the activities that I always enjoy like the water stuff (zipline, water slide) or archery or BB guns. We started out sifting for sharks teeth and she found a couple of small ones. Then it was on to the more physical activities. Canoeing is always a favorite of mine because I like to get a couple of specific pictures.

Shark tooth sifting with K

Ready to hit the canoes with K and her dad

Always have a blast in the boats
My one great hope for EG to actually eat something that they serve in the cafeteria was the scrambled eggs they serve for breakfast. After 2 bites, she declared that they were made from a powder and were inedible. GAAAAAHHH!! So on Saturday, breakfast was 2 bites of eggs, lunch was a slice of cheese and 2 sugar cookies, and dinner was 2 pieces of cake. That was all that she would eat from the entire buffet setup they put out there. I know you can't feed 800 people cracking one egg at a time. but I even had to force her to put the cheese on her plate. This was amazingly frustrating for me.

It rained some on Saturday afternoon, and by 2:30 she was done with her list of activities and ready to go home. Unfortunately we still had another 24 hours or so to hang out at camp.

With her punched out activity list

There is supposed to be a child next to this rabbit

There they are!

the fish
We ended up looking for some of these concrete statues they had hidden around camp and hanging out with some friends. The rabbit was the only statue we found, and we ended up doing some of the activities again.

The funniest thing (to her) was when we did the obstacle course. She had to go through this thing, then tag me and I ran it backwards. One of the obstacles was bunny hopping through some hula hoops, and of course I wanted to do it very fast. That means I ended up losing my balance and falling flat on my face! Total faceplant in the middle of the field. oops! it was really hilarious.

After dinner K's dad wanted to go fishing, and he had an extra pole so we got to throw some line. EG, of course, was terrified of the water and the turtles in the water. I had to bait the hook with a worm and cast it out for her, and eventually she got a bite! About halfway through reeling it in, she panic'd and handed the pole to me to finish the job. I got the fish off of the hook and this was as close as she would come to the fish. I thought the picture turned out hilarious though.

Saturday night at Camp Seafarer is capped off with a campfire and fireworks show. The ghost story they tell at the campfire is pretty scary, but I was able to convince her that the guy was only collecting heads at Camp Seagull, and wouldn't come over to Seafarer. (seriously). The fireworks were great. there's a reason stuff is called "campy", and they established the stereotype. it was so much fun!

At the fireworks show

Playing on a truck bed while we're packing up.

Such a beautiful location right on the Neuse River

Lady of the trees
Overall we did have a great weekend at camp. Sunday all we did was pack up and get out of there by about 10:30. Breakfast was good, she had 2 more bites of eggs, then we got on the road.

It's worth noting that I also brought an entire duffel bag of snacks for her, she didn't go hungry. I know this picky eating thing is the bane of my existence as a parent, and cannot wait for the day when she grows out of it. It makes it very difficult to go into places where we can't control our own food supply like this. I also don't like not having control over my own food. Mass produced like what it takes to feed 800 campers has to be produced well in advance, and is usually loaded with fat and salt. There is no vegetarian option, there is no healthy choice because there is no choice at all. Maybe I could have brought 20 lbs of bananas for me, but rather than stand out I just took what I was given. Deal with it and clean it out later.

By the time we got home I unpacked and took a nap. The next day I had a great swim practice over lunch, then took in a hot yoga class that evening. That successfully purged everything from my system. All of the sweat carried out the camp toxins and frustrations; it was perfect.

It's hard to believe that I only have to take EG to this camp one more time! Ella is done, and next year is it for this one. They really do grow up so fast!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Recently I have picked up something new and fantastic. Gladsoles is a small company based in New Jersey. Handmade sandals that really are as comfortable as going barefoot. They are basically a Vibram sole with laces. I got a pair of the Hybrid models, perfect for trails and walking the city too.

My soles are quite glad
These are handmade. I had to trace my feet and email in the drawings so they could cut my sandals exactly for me. I absolutely love these sandals. They are incredibly comfortable. They are made for barefoot running but I'm not able to do much running right now. I'll wear them when I'm kicking around town or hiking with the kids.

I also got into their ambassador program! So there's a badge on the left with a link to their site, and you can use code CJ at checkout to get 10% off. Seriously proud to rep these guys, it's a surprisingly wonderful product.

Full disclosure: I did pay for my sandals, not a gift in exchange for the review. They really are that good.

Monday, April 13, 2015

What a Whirlwind!

This weekend was epic! I had a lot of fun and a lot of stress. By the time it was all said and done I was ready to crash hard.

Thursday afternoon my buddy Joe came to the office to pick me up and we headed down to my parents house in SC. It was a nice easy trip, we got there about 9 pm. Friday we all headed down to Augusta GA for a fun day at the Masters golf tournament! Joe had never been before, so it was a real treat.

No cameras inside Augusta National so this was the only pic we got
We had a blast! It was such a fun day. Warm but not blistering hot, plenty of shady spots to sit and hang out, watching the golfers play through. We saw Tiger pull an amazing birdie on #11, got to enjoy the Amen corner for a while, and ate lunch on the 15th fairway where we caught Ernie Els. We ended up on #6 green and saw the Phil Mickelson/Rory Macelroy group play through. Eventually we made our way back to the gift shop. Joe mentioned that he wanted to get a shirt because he liked the one I had on. When I mentioned that I bought that one when I was there in 2000, he thought it held up well for a shirt that was 15 years old. So after I realized that shirt was 15 years old, I went ahead and bought myself another shirt too.

Then we got back on the road to Raleigh and made it home about midnight. Another late one, but totally worth it. This was a bro-trip for the ages. Great road trip, Joe's a great friend.

Needless to say I slept in Saturday morning. I picked up my plants for the garden from Mom while I was down there, she has quite the nice array that she started from seed this year. I got tomatoes, bell peppers, jalepeno peppers, and basil. The kids got out there and we had so much fun getting our hands in the dirt! Got all of those planted, found some zucchini and squash seeds leftover from last year. Both raised beds are now full, but I have no idea if those seeds from last year will actually germinate.

Full spring garden!

Ella loves planting day

Toms Peppers and Basil Oh My!

Front yard garden in full effect

Me and my girl getting happy
Our last frost date isn't until April 15 but I chose to plant early instead of letting the plants just sit outside for another week. Getting the garden planted is another one of my favorite days of the year! And this year I ended up with more plants than I could use, plus some others I brought back specifically for my buddy Tom.

Saturday night was the stressful part. Now that we've had some employee turnover at the office, I had to do my first software deployment. We start these things saturday night at 10 pm, and we only did 2 of these last year so this was an amazing amount of work that got published. Doing the deployment wasn't too bad, it was a pretty stable release. It was kind of nerve wrecking though because I had no clue what I was doing and it's a pretty large system. We finally finished up about 1:15 AM! Argh, another late night. At least I didn't have anything to do on Sunday.

OH WAIT. Actually I had to be at the church about an hour early for a mic check. I had to sing a solo with the choir in the service! As if that wasn't stressful enough, the air conditioner was broken so the sanctuary was going to be really hot. Sunday was also the day of the Rock & Roll Raleigh Marathon (which I was not participating in) so getting to the church was a challenge since the church is very close to the course on Hillsborough street.

When the time came, I stepped up to the mic and sang cleanly. Hit the right pitches, didn't flub the words, and it came out pretty cool. Wouldn't say I really crushed it but I sounded pretty good up there. And it was a lot of fun.

When church was out I finally had everything done. Tom came by to pick up his plants and we got to hang out for a while. I got to play with the kids outside some. Sunday at the Masters proved to be a lot of fun to watch - the whole tourney was great and I was seriously impressed with Speith. He seems like a real class act. I took a deep breath. This weekend that had pro golf, 11 hours in the car, gardening, working late, and a solo with the choir was finally all wrapped up. Any one of these crazy things would make for a noteworthy weekend. Packing them all in like that was insane and so much fun.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Descriptive Wednesday

You can also see how much I've changed since Mark put the angel in!

Got to hang out downtown for a while before my appt.

My boy Mark doing work on my arm

First mark drew and added a cross in a stained glass window on my bicep

Mark filling in the half sleeve - top of the shoulder hurts!

background clouds

half sleeve

slightly bloody but you can see the sunburst too

Good view of the full half sleeve.
My boy Mark VanNess at VanNess & Fellows put the angel on my arm a couple of years ago. It takes about 6 months to get an appointment with this guy, but he does amazing tattoo work. We decided to finish out this half sleeve since he did the angel I didn't want anyone else to mess around in there. He put in a sun bursting through the clouds on  top of the shoulder, sun rays shining through clouds around the angel, and the cross in a stained glass window.

I love it. Absolutely love it. I can still pick one more image to go on the inside of the upper arm if I want to dig into the sweet meat there, but that part really hurts. This was done the thursday before the Umstead 100, so I knew I would have a few weeks out of the pool to recover from that. Next week I can swim again, and I'll be poolside with some sweet new ink!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Total March Madness

We're watching the NCAA national championship game right now, and it's a real nail biter. Turns out, most of March was pretty tight too!

Swim: 25,550 yards, 9 swims
Bike: 40 miles, 3 rides
Run: 41 miles, 2 runs
Strength: 7 times, some long
Yoga: 13 times

I only ran twice in March, an easy 3 miler in the middle of the month and the 38 miles of pacing in the Umstead 100. Did another easy 3 on Sunday and my hip has been killing me since then. Got to go see a doc about that one. What kind of doc do you go to for a hip flexor problem?

March also included a week in Disney, and I got a new tattoo inked in on the 26th. Which really makes the 25k I put in the pool that much more impressive! I did that in only 18 days available to swim! boo freaking ya. It is swim season and I'm loving that. We're going to see a lot of swimming through the summer, partially dependent on the hip issue, partly just because I freaking love it and I can swim that often now that my masters team has noon practices.

In my non-swim time I hit the weight room pretty good. I'm seriously sore tonight. Saturday I lifted and actually squatted 225 for the first time in years! And I've been really working on my swim muscles, that could be why I've been hitting some faster splits lately. Curling with a 60 lb bar, hitting the triceps and lats hard too. March is the time when the swimsuit body is built. Summertime showing off is built in the spring. it's cutting season.

And naturally that brings us to the Monday Morning Naked Weight. I still (shockingly) haven't lost all of the Disney weight yet. I have dipped under threshold (175 lbs) a few times since then but nowhere close to the 171's I was seeing before. This week it's time to get serious and get back into the 160's. Last Monday came in at 180.2, but that was after the buffet at the Umstead 100. This week was 177.4, so close and much more manageable. Bodyfat was also down to 18.6%. I'm hopeful about getting back into some low numbers this week.

Also, I've finished signing up for my races this year including a surprise addition. This is the first year for the official Raleigh Beer Mile, and I've wanted to do a beer mile for years! Can't wait for this race. It's at a local microbrewpub, so we get to chug Natty Greene's beer. Also, I picked the WC-50 as my qualifying 50 mile ultramarathon this year. It's in Charlotte at the national whitewater center, all trails, lots of single track. And as if that wasn't enough, I've been asked to join a husband and wife team as their swimmer for a relay team in Ironman Raleigh! I will jump at the chance to swim in Jordan Lake.

This past weekend was Easter, and we had some good family time. The kids had easter egg hunts, but I didn't get enough pictures. The best picture I got was a family portrait of us in front of the flowered cross at church on Sunday morning.

Yes they wore easter bunny ears to church
April is going to be fantastic! I am very optimistic about spring coming and the work I get to do in the next few weeks. Bring it on!

Final: Duke wins! Love seeing an ACC team win a national championship. It might even be a good night to ride over to Durham, but there could be rioting around campus. Sometimes those Cameron Crazies can really be nuts.