Thursday, May 31, 2012


I did not expect to get so much support from the Gluten Free initiative!  Thanks guys, that really means a lot.  So far I feel a lot better, the mood is always improving, and the fat keeps coming off.  Pretty cool stuff all the way around.

Tuesday night's swim I went for 3100 yards and did hit the wall pretty good around 2400 yards in.  It was a RAM team practice so stopping was not an option, and when I realized how much yardage I had already put in I understood it.  This is one of those adjustments that the body has to make when adapting to a new diet.  I ran out of carbs as a fuel source since I wasn't eating anything with wheat in it for a week.  Soon enough the body will adjust to use the other fuel sources available.  It really wasn't that bad.

Today is Evil Genius's fifth birthday!  Hard to believe that 5 years ago today we were in the hospital in Greenville SC welcoming this little bundle of joy.
My brother Michael holding EG when she was born
When people ask what your 5 year goals are or where do you see yourself in five years I bet your answer is not to turn that baby above into this cute little girl:
Today before going off to bible school
I'm so proud of how much my little baby has grown.  She's happy, healthy, and independent with good social skills and a strong sense of willpower. She knows how to get what she wants, and that's a skill that will serve her well later in life. 

I used Michael's picture above because I'm especially happy for him today.  Yesterday his wife gave birth to their first child.  The baby is outside of the womb and is healthy, and that's all the information I'm going to disclose to the public.  I know Michael is going to love being a dad, and watching his little one grow and prosper into a healthy centered adult.  I'm so excited for them, and very relieved that EG doesn't have to share a birthday with her cousin.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ironman gave me a gluten intolerance

I've been seeing some new health research coming out about wheat and wheat gluten and how our bodies can handle it.  I've also been fighting some personal demons recently that made me want to research this topic more.  So now I get to be honest about some not-so-glamorous aspects of Ironman recovery and the 7 months that have followed.

Since this year has had a heavy focus on yoga, I've started reading more yoga blogs.  I've seen enough people posting on both running, diet, and yoga blogs about gluten intolerance, gluten allergies, and I've had some friends declare a gluten allergy recently that it just made me want to dig in more and research.

Turns out there are three flavors of gluten problems; gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, and celiac disease.  Celiac disease can carry some serious lower bowel problems, and there are tests available for that.  Your doctor can also test for any number of allergens, including a gluten or wheat allergy.  But there is no test for an intolerance.  The only test is to go two or three weeks without eating any wheat products and see if the symptoms go away.

Since the Ironman on 11/5/11, I have experienced the following symptoms of gluten intolerance:
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Gastro-intestinal problems
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioral changes
and I have not had any problems with these symptoms
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Slow infant growth
So there is that.  Then I started finding book reviews on yoga blogs about Wheat Belly, a new book written by a doctor whose wife is a triathlon coach.  The doctor asks why do these triathletes, who are in prime physical condition aerobically, stick to strict training plans and dietary regimens -- why do they still have excess belly fat hanging out over the spandex shorts?  His theory is that modern wheat is the culprit.

Disclaimer: I purchased the book yesterday and have only read the introduction last night.  I'll share more Wheat Belly thoughts after I read the whole thing.  Any other information is what I've gleamed from other online reviews and blogs about the book.

In the two weeks after IMFL I put on 20 lbs.  That fits my definition of rapid weight gain.  It put my weight back up around 185 lbs, and the most disturbing part is that my bodyfat% went from 18.x% up to 22.x% depending on the week.  Since then I've been between 185 and 190, twice putting up MMNW's at exactly 189.6 lbs and over 23% bodyfat.  190 lbs is where I hit the absolute panic button and start thinking about amputation as a weight loss method.  My goal is to stay close to 175 lbs and keep my body fat in the teens.  At 11% bf is typically when the 6 pack abs start showing up.

Every winter I get these small patches of dry skin thanks to running the central heat in the house.  Usually I put some lotion on and the spots go away. This year they didn't go away entirely, but left a discoloration.  The dermatologist gave me some eczema medication that cleared up the spots.  Aching joints?  My back has been killing me for months now.  I'll go to the chiropractor when it gets bad, there's usually some migraine headache and heartburn problems kicking in by then too.  But the lower back pain is more of a constant aching thing that doesn't really clear up entirely.  Depression?  Exhaustion? yes and yes.  It comes and goes.  I can't imagine why running 4 full marathons in 4 months would leave me with exhaustion.  oh wait.  Still, a symptom is a symptom.  Irritability?  Behavioral changes?  What mood swings?  I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'll break your glass jaw if you question me again.  yea, it hasn't been a pretty couple of months for anyone in the household.   I've just felt out of balance for a long time now.

So my nutrition has been on point all year, and I still have some serious belly fat falling over my race belt.  Strangest Dunlaps Disease ever (my belly done lapped over my race belt).  I've run four full marathons, more 5k's, 10k's, and half marathons than I can count, and nothing I can do in training or traditional eating seems to shrink the belly.  Last Saturday was the FS 50 mile triathlon, last week's Monday Morning Naked Weight (MMNW) came in at 189.6 and 23.7% body fat.  Something has got to change.  Maybe I do have a gluten intolerance.

With the first Aquathon also being last Wednesday, it ended up being a recovery week.  Don't push the workouts super hard on Monday or Tuesday, race it up hard on Wednesday, then look into any real changes.  I decided to just go off of gluten for a while and see what happened.  So officially Thursday was my first day being gluten free.

The biggest change was in breakfast.  For the last 5 years I've had the same thing every day: oatmeal with raisins, a banana, honey and flax seed.  The new breakfast is scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, or some other meat.  Gluten free doesn't mean low carb or no carb.  It means no wheat, which includes oats.  Rice, corn, potatoes, all fine.  It's just bread, pasta, oatmeal that are really off limits.  So my typical lunches are an omelet with toast or a sandwich have to become an omelet without toast or a sandwich without bread.  Or leftovers from last night's gluten free dinner.  The worst part about going gluten free is giving up beer.  That might not happen.  I don't drink much beer to begin with, maybe averaging one beer a month with one or two exceptions where I'll really tie one on.  I'll still have my one beer a month without guilt.

Saturday was a fun night.  An old friend of mine from high school moved from DC to Raleigh last week, so saturday we got to babysit her kid for a few hours while they were unpacking boxes, then they came over for dinner.  It was the first time I'd seen Jenny in almost 20 years and it was like no time had passed at all.  I'm really excited to have such good friends close by again.  I had a beer with the otherwise gluten free dinner of rice, marinated tomatoes, chicken, and black beans.  One of our favorite meals to begin with, easy to make into a vegetarian version, and they loved it.

This weeks MMNW?  185.0 lbs and 22.3% body fat.  That means I lost 4.6 lbs overall and 3.2 lbs of that was pure fat loss.  My pants are already fitting better.  My workouts over the long weekend have gone longer and harder than I was expecting, and they just seem more manageable.  This week is going to be more solid base and speed work, and I"m just going to keep letting this gluten free thing work its magic.  Stick to the plan.  Keep reading the book.  Let's just see what happens here.

So far I feel a lot better, more balanced, I rode 30 miles yesterday (on the stationary bike) with no back pain, ate good and felt good.  The joint pain seems to be gone, irritability is gone, depression is gone, and overall I just feel better than I did last week.  It may just be the perceived resolution to the problem, but I'll take whatever I can get.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Aquathon Y'all

First things first.  Monday was the Evil Genius's end-of-school-year program at the church.  It was an adorable program with all of the kids singing songs on stage in the small sanctuary and all of the proud parents cheering them on.  I didn't get any pictures of the program itself, but mom came up for a couple of nights to visit and attend the program.  It was a wonderful visit.
We did get to go to dinner at Natty Greene's brewpub, one of our new favorite places.  Natty Greene's keeps sponsoring races that I'm in, and their marketing works.  They have a great patio for outside dining, it's in a cool part of downtown, and the kids like eating there.
Bigun has dicovered giving people bunny ears on photos.

Evil Genius was an unwitting victim

This marks the end of EG's time in Connections preschool at the church.  She went through the 3 year old and 4 year transitional kindergarten program (and loved being a TK Tiger).  She absolutely loved being at the school.  It brought us much closer to the church, she had a great social outlet and made some fantastic friends.  Right now all she wants to do is celebrate her new grade and is excited about starting at Bigun's school in the Kindergarten program.  Now instead of telling her she's on a summer break, we tell her she's "tracked out" just like Bigun will be.

Bigun tracks out next week. Today is Field Day at her school, so she's all excited about the potato sack race and other fun outside activities.  She will go back to school July 9th as a second grader, and for the next 4 years we will have both kids in a year round school on the same schedule and out of the house from 9:30 to 3:45 every day.  I cannot tell you how excited I am about this.

Aquathon #1

Wednesday night was the first Aquathon, a series of three swim/run races that take place on the first wednesday of the month for may, june, and july.  This month's race got pushed back to may 23rd for park restrictions, and it took place at Harris Lake state park in New Hill NC, just outside of Raleigh.  It's supposed to be an old school way to check your mid-season fitness against local competitors.  Turned out to be a fantastic race series, as I ran two out of the three races last year, and this year is looking even better.

Of course, since it was 84* outside and sunny all day, Kelley left the windows down on the car so it wouldn't be sweltering hot when we got in there to drive to the race.  This caused me to laugh heartily when we forgot about that during the thunderstorm when the car got rained on.  These are the memories we make and I love it.

Before the race
There's a bit of a gap in our pictures thanks to a thunderstorm.  This race is a half mile swim followed by a 2.6 mile run, making the whole thing a 5k distance. It started at 6:30 pm, so you're supposed to be able to get there after work and get a fun race in.  Packet pickup was supposed to end at 6 pm.  At 5:25, when we left the house, there was a torrential downpour thunderstorm going on.  But I knew it was supposed to clear out by 6:15.  Sure enough, I got the packet in the rain, we got that one pic when the rain had stopped, and when I went to setup my transition area Kelley got the kids back in the car to wait out the rain.  Eventually the storm blew through and it was a nice cool evening to race.  They had some trouble getting the buoy's out in the water, including a boat with people fishing right on our swim course, but by about 6:45 everything was clear and we were off!

Swim 1/2 mile: goal 15:00 actual 13:23

The swim was two laps and the buoys were just sort of placed out there in the middle of the lake.  I know I was pushing it pretty hard so I can totally believe the accuracy of the distance, but I'm not going to 100% guarantee you that it isn't a bit short.  The start was a bit congested, but soon enough I was able to split up between people.  I swam very slim, seemingly passing people at will.  I took an elbow to the chest once, got kicked in the shoulder once, and brought my arm down on someone's back once or twice.  Overall that first lap was very clean. 

By the second lap the field was spread out enough to not be a problem.  I did start pulling to the right pretty hard about halfway through the second lap so my arm form must have started to break down by then.  I came out of the water feeling clean and strong, much stronger than last year.

The eventual winner came out of the water in 8:18, and only one other person broke 10 minutes.  Most of the top 10 were in the 11:18 to 12:12 range.  So I am amazingly pleased with that swim.  Being that close to the race leaders means that my RAM practices are really starting to pay off.

Transition: goal 1:30, actual 1:10

Dry off a little bit, throw on some socks and running shoes and get out of there.  Really should have been under a minute, but I was trying to get my heart rate down so I wouldn't start the run completely exhausted.

Run 2.6 miles: no split available

The course went down a road for a bit then turned onto some double track trail.  End of the trail was a turnaround.  There was water at the trailhead and the turnaround, and I took it both times.  A few hundred meters before the turnaround I had a horrible side stitch settle in.  I knew it was dehydration because I didn't drink enough water before the start.    I absolutely hate running those trails anyway, it's just the wrong mix of sun/shade and uphill/downhill.  It's like that trail tries to make it as tough as possible to begin with.  Every year I say I'm not going to run that trail again, and every year I keep coming back.  torture.

Kelley and the kids were out on the road near the finish line, so it was pretty cool hearing their cheers and getting high fives from the kids going into the trail. 
Running in a speedo isn't always glamorous.
When I came off of the trail and turned back onto the road the side stitch got me, and I walked for two breaths.  Two people passed me at that point.  I was pissed about that; I should have been able to hang on.  There are series points at stake here!  Of course those two kicked it into the finish so I couldn't catch them again.  And one of them ended up being in my age group, damnit.

Coming into the finish getting ready to high five the girls
Finish: 34:16, 4 / 4 Men 35-39, 32 / 62 overall

Unbelievable.  I didn't know that guy that passed me was in my age group at the time or I might have fought harder.  I thought he was younger than me.  He finished in 34:05, so I was only 11 freaking seconds away from an age group award!  Blerg.  I'll get him next time.

Last year I finished this race in 36:11, so I still picked up 2 minutes since then, which I'm really pleased with.  It is quite unusual for me to blow it on the run leg, that's usually my strong suit.  But next month holds another aquathon with a more unusual format, so redemption will be mine!
Walking back to the lake after the finish
When it was all said and done we let the kids play in the lake for a bit.  The park had a great playground so they had a ball soaking up the race environment and playing outside all evening.

The fun fact about Harris lake is that it's the water used to cool the reactors at the nuclear power plant (visible in the background in the last picture).  So during the swim you'll unexpectedly encounter a patch of 90* water, that just makes you swim faster to get through that hot stuff.  Cool lake, cool park, cool race.  What better way to spend a Wednesday night?

Monday, May 21, 2012

50 for Fun

Saturday morning was the initial FS 50 triathlon in Washington, NC, which turned out to be an adorable little coastal town.  I covered the whole course in 3:43:12 breaking the 3:45 overall goal, I PR'd the swim and run distances, and completely blew it on the bike.  Overall it was an incredibly fun race and a great trip.

Friday night we got out of town later than expected, but still made it down to Little Washington in about 2 hours.  After getting checked into the hotel, we drove to the race site to make it easier to find parking and the transition area.  Then we were on the hunt for ice cream.  Turns out there was some kind of friday night festival going on in the Main Street district, with live music playing and lots of the stores open late, including an ice cream shop.  We didn't bring the camera, but LW has an incredibly cute small town downtown that was just so quaint and picturesque, it's hard to accurately describe.

I didn't sleep much friday night, maybe nerves about the race.  But I was still up and ready to roll about 5:15 Saturday morning.  They opened the breakfast at the hotel early to accomodate the racers, so I stuffed it down and we got out to TA to get setup.  Air temp was around 47 degrees, and the water temp was more like 73. 
Walking it into TA

The sound we were swimming in

I taped the three gel's to the top bar of my bike, got all of the gear setup, and oops I forgot to bring a towel.  Fortunately, the guy racked up next to me had an extra one.  We ended up hanging out with him and his wife a lot, they are also from Raleigh, and she actually recognized me from the blog!  First time I've been recognized in years.  Very cool.
Swim 1 mile: Goal 30 minutes, actual 29:50 PR!!!

My last several open water swims have been one or two miles going back to last year and the Ironman, and my goal for all of them has been to break 30 minutes for an open water mile.  Finally this race I actually freaking did it. 
Nice shot of Kelley and I before getting in the water

My belly looks huge here, but I'm still ready to swim.
Get ready!

Go!  My first stroke is pretty clean
Lots of swimmers in the water
 It was a triangle course with an in-water start.  The 100 mile racers started at 7:00, and the 50 milers started 10 minutes later.  The close orange/yellow buoy is the turnaround so the 100'ers could start their second lap.  I used it for sighting when I was coming back in.

I started kind of mid-pack, and really I should have moved up a bit more.  I got caught up in some traffic at the start and had a tough time passing a few people.  I was one of the only racers that did not wear a wetsuit.  Oddly enough most people were in full sleeve suits.  I don't like full sleeve suits ever, they just restrict the arm movement too much.  And if the water temps are above about 65* I'll skip the wetsuit entirely, it just isn't worth it.
How NOT to breathe
 This picture was near the start still, and it's a fantastic action shot.   You can see my head right in the middle, and here's what's wrong.  My forehead is pointing to the sky so my shoulders are stacked, my head is too far out of the water which is naturally going to pull my legs down too far under water.  That creates more drag and means I'm working too hard to move through the water at that speed.  Body rotation is one thing, but don't pick your head up to breathe, turn it to the side and put your chin on your shoulder.  You can't even see my feet or kick splash back there.  Not good form.

Made it to the first turn buoy with plenty of other people nearby but without any real physical punishment yet.  I was just settled into my stroke at that point.  I've been working on my kick a lot at the RAM practices, so I was putting a decent kick out there.  Between the turns I swam pretty straight and fast.  I got kicked in the back once, and a few times when I breathed to the right I caught a mouth full of  water, but nothing that really broke my stroke.  This was in a sound or inlet, so it tasted like fresh water even though we were at the coast, and there was no current.  It was like a beach swim in a lake!

I made the second turn buoy and started heading back to shore, and for some reason got way off course to the right.  I really tried to work on my kick this segment, without wearing down my legs for the bike.  But I just had that gut feeling like I could break 30, and I wanted it bad. Bike ride be damned.
This is breathing done right
From our form lesson earlier, you can see this time the top of my head is not completely out of the water, my shoulders are not stacked, this is an appropriate body movement, my arm is relaxed in recovery and the breath is coming easily.  I even have a few people drafting off of me!  Very cool picture.

 I came out of the water feeling good.  They didn't have a clock out there so I had no idea what my time was.  Short run up to TA and let's hit it.

T1: 2:20

Yea, I kind of thought I might puke coming out of the water.  So by the time I got back to the bike it was a good time to sit down, throw the socks and bike shoes on, towel off a bit and get out there.

ready to roll
Bike 44 miles: Goal 2:30, Actual 2:27:55, 17.8 MPH

The bike ride started off feeling pretty good, then went horribly wrong.
Started off feeling ok
I had a plan.  One gel about 5 minutes into the ride would fuel me up to recover from the swim.  44 miles isn't so unbelievably far that I need to take it easy, it's ok to hammer a bit since I knew it was going to be a competitive field.  The flip side is that this was going to be the first time since Ironman that I had been over 20 miles and the cycling endurance might not be there.  Manage the nutrition properly and that won't be a problem.

I did not manage the nutrition properly. I left the Garmin at home so I had no measure of time or distance.  I wanted to ride and run on feel by perceived effort so I wouldn't try to push too hard to maintain some target speed.  That also meant I had no measure of distance.  I took one gel what I thought was about 5 minutes after I started riding. 

Then after I started to feel my legs fatigue I asked another racer how far we had gone and he answered 23 miles.  That seemed appropriate to me.  I knew I wanted to take my second gel about the halfway point so I went ahead and took it.  Feeling good again, let's keep on rolling.  The course, like most coastal bike courses, heads inland.  It was a loop with no spurs, all on public roads.  Some of the roads had recently been repaved and were incredibly smooth, and some were about to be repaved and were in horrible shape.  Lots of farmland, the corn was about a foot high most of the time, and a few cattle farms providing smell relief.  The winds picked up strong, but not as brutal strong as the IMFL bike course or some of the other tougher winds I've seen before.  Tough, but not brutal.  What you would expect from a coastal bike course. 

About 10 minutes after taking my second gel I ask someone else how far we've gone.  This is when I noticed the problems starting to begin.  This guy said we had only gone 18 miles.  What?  excuse me?  Didn't you say 30?  Oh shit, I took my second gel about 20 minutes before I was supposed to.  I'll just have to hold out and take the last gel at the right time, and use the bottle of powerade and water to get me through until then.  Just keep pedaling.

Of course, before long my legs were already completely fatigued, and my ass was starting to get pretty sore.  Like I said, this was the first time I've gone over 20 miles since Ironman 7 months ago.  The cycling endurance just was not there.  I was really starting to suffer out there.  The speed kept dropping, my motivation kept leaving, and I was getting slower and wanted to cry.  There weren't any mile markers anywhere on the road that I noticed before, so when I finally saw a big 40 painted on the road I let out a loud verbal relief howl.  Man was I ever glad to see that 40 mile marker.  That was oh so incredibly nice.  Yes, thank you finally it was there.

I waited about 5 or 10 more minutes, then I took my last gel.  Ready to be fueled up for the run, I was starting to see the sound again and knew the end of the bike leg was close.  Then about 10 minutes after I took the gel I saw Lauren whom I had been talking to in TA before the race.  Her odometer was only showing 34 miles.

You have got to be kidding me.  I told her I was going to puke and cry if we really still had 10 miles left to go.  I did not puke or cry, but we really did have 10 miles left.  Eventually I had to remind myself that this bike leg has to end sometime, and just to keep pedaling until it does.  Please, come on, end now.  Nutrition strategy was well thought out, but I completely blew it.  And I was severely undertrained for the bike leg.  I was good until about 25 or 30 miles.  Ready to turn in a fast oly split.  But 44 miles?  Way undertrained.
Most awkward dismount ever

Totally dead on my feet, but so glad to be done with that
Overall I should say that I knew I had that one coming.  I should have brought the Garmin to track my distance, and I should have gotten in some longer rides in training. The strangest thing of all?  I never passed anyone else on the bike.  at all.  I only got passed by about 14 people, but I never passed anyone.  In most tri's I'm fast enough on the bike to pass a few cyclists who are slower swimmers than me.  This time, I'm just glad it was over. Yes it was horrible but it's over now and into T2 we go!

T2: 1:20, total transition: goal 5:00, actual 3:40!
Two fisting it to get more water in

Seriously?  That's the picture you want to take?
Bike helmet & shoes off, running shoes on.  Grab the hat, chug some more water and go.  I wasn't conditioned for a bike leg that long, and I totally blew the nutrition since I didn't know the distances.  Running would feel good at this point.

Run 5 miles: Goal 40 minutes, Actual 41:49

I"m not going to really call that a success, but it is still a PR and I can live with it.  It's only a PR because I don't race the 5 mile distance very often, so I beat my 2008 Ache Around the Lake time.  It's not a common distance!
Oh crap I have to run now.

Let's do this!
The run course was a straight out and back, through the park first then over the bridge and down the main road in this little town to a turnaround point, then back through the park to an incredibly long finishing road.  Since I knew I wasn't properly fueled I didn't want to bonk with a few miles left.  But since running is my strong suit I started passing the people that were passing me on the bike.  I just found my pace, held form as long as I could, and walked when I needed to.  The strategy was to only walk for 8 breaths at a time, that was enough to bring my heart rate back down and start to feel better.

About to catch my next victim in mile 2

Doing the dead man shuffle
I actually felt really good getting to the turnaround point.  They gave us the yellow livestrong style bracelets to keep people honest at the turnaround.  I was passing people and chatting with some on the way back, but it had to be a much more focused run.  I had to focus on my form as it was starting to fall apart.
That's how I felt in the second half

Finished: 3:43:12 Goal under 3:45, 48/85 overall, 8/11 Men 35-39

Overall this race was kind of screwy. Really competitive crowd.  I claim to be a pretty fast guy anyway, so if I PR the swim and the run distances and didn't crash on the bike I should be in the top half.  I was actually pleasantly surprised to see 17.8 mph average on the bike, it felt much slower than that.  But nobody else in my age group was slower than 18.3 mph.  With the way the distances split out, it was a cyclists race to win.  And I'm not a cyclist by nature, I'm a runner by nature, swimmer by choice, and triathlete by practice.  The venue was amazing, Little Washington is an incredible town and the course was fun.  I wouldn't hesitate to do this race again or recommend the venue to others.  But I've got to work on my bike endurance next time.

Or not.  Wednesday (the day after tomorrow) is the first Aquathon of the season.  It's a half mile swim followed by a 2.6 mile run.Let's just skip the bike entirely for this little multisport adventure.  I did this race last year and absolutely loved the format, but I remember the trails killed me on the run.  I will adjust my expectations for Wednesday.  And hopefully break the 36:11 I put up last year.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tri Time Baby!

Saturday kicks off triathlon season with the FS 50, part of the Washington Triathlon Weekend in Washington, NC.  It's the original Washington, and is known down here as Little Washington.  The race is a 1 mile swim, 44 mile bike, and 5 mile run.  The race has a small field capped at 100 participants, with 95 people signed up when online registration closed yesterday.  They are also putting on a 100 mile race which is just two laps of the same course the 50 mile race hits.  Only 56 people signed up for the 100 mile race. 

This is a new distance for me, it's the first time they've done this race, although Little Washington has put on plenty of half iron, oly, and sprint distance races for many years.  It's a bike lovers race, practically an oly with a longer bike and a shorter run.  I do a lot of 5 mile runs in practice, so I should be well prepared for that.  My bike rides have been seriously lacking since Ironman, so I have no idea how this is going to turn out.  I could have a great ride and still finish near the bottom of my age group, or have a sufferfest on the bike and still pull a decent place. 

My predictions:
Swim around 30 minutes +-
Bike under 2:30
Run under 40 minutes
gimme 5 minutes for transitions
Finish 3:45

As long as I don't finish in last place I'll call it a success.  May 19 is the latest in the year that I'm starting the triathlon season, for the last several years I've done something multisport in March or April so it feels weird.  I still can't wait to get back in that open water.  The swag includes a Sugoi triathlon top and you get a finishers medal at the end.  In triathlons, finishers medals are usually only handed out after half iron (70.3 mile) races or longer.   So hopefully this will be a lot of fun.

Little Washington is about 2.5 hours east of Raleigh, so it's out towards the coast but not really on the coast.  We're going to come on back to Raleigh after the race, as much fun as it would be to hang out in that part of the state for the whole weekend.  LW is very close to Greenville, NC where Kelley went to college, so she knows that part of the state pretty well. 

I've been singing in the church choir lately, and we had another great rehearsal last night.  I have actually moved to singing the tenor line, which feels strange since I've always been a bass.  But there are only one or two other tenors, so I'll jump up.  It's still a lot of fun and really makes me feel connected to the church.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Going Ultralong

The Snail is a good friend and a bad influence.  Let's hope he's a better race director.  He's stepped up and taken the reigns at the Pine Mountain 40 mile ultramarathon, and one text message was all it took to convince me to register.  Since pacing at the Umstead 100 this year I've been feeling the bug for trail ultras.  It's a weird counter-culture that can easily suck you in.  These strange people just love running through the woods for hours on end.  I get it, and it kind of scares me.  The race is December 2nd, so it goes on this year's calendar.

And in true CJ fashion, I'm not popping the trail ultra cherry with some sprite 50k (31 miles) or even waiting until next year's Umstead race to pace for 3 laps (37.5 miles) instead of only 2 laps this year.  No, I'm going direct to 40.  And it's not even a particularly easy 40, there are no loop sections where I can easily bail out.  It's a rocky out and back course of mostly single track with river crossings.  The only way out without finishing is by helicopter.  It runs along a ridgeline on this Pine Mountain park trail.  So you stay on top of a mountain for 20 miles, then turn around and come back.  Sounds crazy, right?  a 10.5 hour time limit gives me hope.  At least it's not as long as Ironman.

This is really going to kick off the winter marathons.  I'm going to be taking some time off after the end of triathlon season.  Between the Lake Lure oly "A" race in early August, possibly USAT Age Group nationals also in August, then the OBX half iron in September, I'll be ready for some down time and trail running in the fall. My payback for The Snail is to get him up here to pace Umstead next april, if I can talk him into it.  Knowing him, we'll each try to pace 4 laps or 50 miles next April.  Or he might get registered and do the entire 100.  I have no idea what else I will do between PM40 and Umstead.

We had a great mother's day.  The kids and I made french toast and scrambled eggs for Kelley and served them to her in bed.  Bigun picked out Pajama Jeans and the Evil Genius got her a form pan for Cake Pops.  Of course that meant Sunday afternoon was spent destroying the kitchen and getting cake batter everywhere trying to make cake pops.  In true Evil Genius fashion, the cake pops turned out to be too big to stay on the plastic sticks that came in the kit, and the icing was a disaster.  The chocolate was too runny, but would eventually form hard, while the vanilla was too thick and just destroyed the cake balls.  And of course EG doesn't like chocolate, so the only successful pops were the ones she couldn't eat.  That's the story of her life if you listen to her long enough.  The entire kitchen got stuck in a clean, destroy, clean again cycle.  And guess who got to do the cleaning?

Dad did of course.  It was mothers day.  Well, Kelley didn't exactly wake up this morning to a clean kitchen, but I did a lot more than I normally do. 

Last week's training was really good.  I felt like it was the first week I've put in of really solid work in a long time.  Tuesday and Thursday I got in morning yoga, lunch runs, and evening swims with the RAM practices averaging 3000 yards each swim.  I wanted last week to be hard core because this upcoming week is recovery and taper for the FS 50 triathlon next weekend.  I can't wait to get back into tri season.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This weekend was kind of insane.  There was really two main components and lots of surrounding fun.

WakeMed Distance Festival 10k

This was the 6th and final race for both of us in the Second Empire Grand Prix series.  It also looks like we are both going to finish the series 4th place in our age groups.  You have to compete in 6 out of 10 races to be eligible, and there is still one race to go.  So it is still mathematically possible for someone else to pass me, but looking at the standings, it's not likely.
In the car before the race

It was very sunny and hot on race morning.  With an 8 am start, we already had temps into the upper 80's.  I'm so glad we both decided to carry our own water bottles.  We drove the course Friday night, so I knew it was pretty hilly.  I wanted to take a conservative approach to the race as a whole, trying to finish without passing out or having a heat stroke.

The course started out through a shopping center, then out onto some mostly shaded residential roads.  There is a couple of lakes in this neighborhood, and a very popular golf course (Lochmere).  So we had a big downhill going towards the first lake.  The good news is that I hit the first lake and saw the first mile marker in 5:42.  The bad news is that the mile marker was only placed at 0.77 miles in.  My actual time on the first mile was more like 7:07, which is perfectly reasonable.  Perhaps too fast, even. Eventually they spaced the mile markers more properly, as the course overall was accurately measured. 

I walked most of the steeper uphill parts after mile two, again trying to be more conservative in the heat and save my energy for the downhills. There wasn't any actual flat spots on the course, except for the 100 yard long bridge across the lake.  It was an out and back course though, so every uphill eventually turned into a downhill.  The worst part was that there was no water stops until well after the mile 3 marker.  SO glad I carried my own bottle. 

At mile 5.6 there was a huge uphill section.  This is actually the worst place that you could possibly put a huge uphill section.  It lasted for .4 miles, so it was a quick jaunt through a parking lot to the finish line after you got to the top of that hill.

I finished the 10k in 52:03 according to the Garmin, finishing 7th out of 14 people in my age group.  Overall, doing these series races has been really fun and (most likely) we will try to compete in another series, either the fall races or next year's spring series.  I *think* this was also my first standalone 10k.  All of the other 10k's I've done have been in Oly triathlons.  Those have all been much faster, except for my first oly where I pulled a 1:10 for the 10k run.
After the race we got some Chic-Fil-A.  I look like a cop, my arm looks bigger than my head here.  Funny shot!

The Concert

After the race I got cleaned up, packed a bag, loaded up the car, and headed back to SC.  My chorus teacher from high school is retiring at the end of the school year, and this weekend was her last concert.  She has always invited alumni at the concerts to come up and sing with the current chorus, so for her last concert there was a big push to get as many alumnus as possible to attend.  We had a rehearsal Saturday afternoon with a catered dinner afterwards and the concert was on Sunday afternoon.

I left Raleigh and made it into Greenville by 3:30, when the rehearsal started at 4.  To me, this was better than a high school class reunion.  I lived and breathed concert choir in high school, and most of my friends were older than me.  Next year (2013) marks my 20 year high school reunion, which I will likely not attend.  When I went to my 10 year reunion, none of the people that I was close to and looking forward to seeing actually showed up.  And that was before facebook existed. 

This time had plenty of my old friends both older and younger than me, and it was proof that some people never change.  We're all older now, and the sheet music seemed to be in small print like I could barely read it.  But the cutups were still cutting up and causing trouble, and our teacher fussed at us for the same things she was fussing at us about 20 years ago.  It was awesome.

The dinner was great too, and I really enjoyed getting to socialize with everyone.  Saturday was also my brother Morgan's birthday, so after the dinner I got to hang out with Morgan and his new girlfriend.  Fun times all around.

This trip was so short I just hopped in the car and went.  Kelley and the girls stayed in Raleigh as I didn't want to have the kids in the car for 8 hours when the duration of our stay in Greenville was only about 25 hours total.  That meant Sunday morning was spent out on the back deck and in the garden with my mom, and that's a treat that happens very rarely anymore.

The concert was fun, but very long.  More alumni showed up for the concert than at the rehearsal.  We had a huge crowd and it turned out to be a great show.
I'm in the orange shirt on the back row.  Stole the pic from one of the other back rowers from facebook
The whole thing really made me miss singing.  I've got to start going to the church choir rehearsals.  When people participate in music like this, kids, teenagers, or adults, you get back so much more than you put into it.  The creativity you learn in music makes problem solving easier at work. I started developing my leadership skills as president of the concert choir my senior year.  There's no difference between standing up and singing in front of an audience and standing up to teach a classroom (back when I used to teach).  It's so rewarding it makes me want to get my kids involved.  Soon enough they will be ready for piano lessons.

I left straight from the school and got back to Raleigh about 9 pm Sunday.  A completely insane trip where I got to see so many fun people again and do so many fun things.  And that was the big two from this weekend.  Other random notes:
  • Yesterday I really hit the weights hard and it feels so good.  Then I hit the hard hill program on the stationary bike.  Felt good to get a good hard workout in.
  • Today I'm going to run over lunch and swim tonight.  Got my first triathlon coming up on the 19th and I'm nowhere near as strong as I wanted to be for that.
  • Mom's arm is healing nicely from the break, she's able to move the arm more freely now.  It's quite a relief.
  • I should have done a 40 or 50 mile ride on Sunday as next weekend (besides being mother's day) should be a recovery/taper weekend before the 50 mile tri on the 19th
  • Our close friend Kayte graduated from Meredith college on Saturday.  We're all very proud of her accomplishment and were planning a big graduation party for her on Saturday night.  The party has been postponed for a couple of weeks.
  • Kelley's cousin Ryan has graduated from NC State and is starting a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail.  He's got a tumblr going to blog from the trail, and he's making really good progress hiking over 20 miles a day.  It's a seriously impressive feat if he can pull it off.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ashtanga April

April's totals:

Swim: 12,100 yards, 5 swims
Bike: 126 miles, 10 rides
Run: 21.3 miles, 4 runs, 1 half marathon
Weights: 11 times
Yoga: 21 times

The swimming got a lot more consistent last month, which is good.  but the volume just wasn't there on the bike or run.  Come on, averaging 12 miles per bike ride?  May 19th (16 days from now) I kick off the triathlon season with a 50 mile race containing a 44 mile bike ride. 12 mile base rides won't cut it.  I should be averaging 30 miles per ride for May.  Most of April was spent fighting a tendon problem in my left foot, which was really only a problem after running.  So outside of the half marathon in the middle of the month the running was very sparse.  The foot was hurting pretty good after walking all over the camp last saturday, so I'm not running much this week either to stay fresh for the 10k on saturday.  April's weight training and yoga had a big impact overall, I certainly enjoy feeling much stronger with regular strength work, and that's really cool.  I missed 5 scheduled yoga workouts and only 1 scheduled weight workout. I think I'm still on track to get my 300 days of yoga this year, having 96 sessions on the first third of the year.  It's so close.  I'll see if I can get to 150 by the end of June.

April's yoga also saw the rise into more of the Primary Series of my Ashtanga practice.  I found some dvd's that more accurately explain the remainder of the poses and their sequence from the Primary Series.  Previously I never really got much harder than the Sun Salutations A & B, which has nothing more difficult than a down dog.  The standing poses get very challenging.  I haven't even gotten into the sitting poses yet.  I'm going to master moves like this before moving on:
and that's actually one of the easier standing poses.  There's about 4 variations where your feet are spread far apart and the top of your head is on the ground in between said feet. It has lots of balance poses too, where you end up standing on one foot through consecutive poses for longer than I currently can stand on one foot.  So I've got some work to go before I get into the seated poses.  Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Queen

And for once I'm not talking about myself.  This past weekend was Bigun's spring outing with the Indian Princess program.  We had so much fun just me and her out at Camp Seafarer all weekend.  She had a blast, just being a kid and doing kid camp things.  She might have actually been most excited about the potential for spending that much time away from her sister, but hey, who's counting.  The pictures are what really counts.

I took Friday off from work and got us all packed up in the morning.  After packing, I also got in a great brick, riding 10 miles around Jordan Lake in 34 minutes and then ran 2.7 miles on the Tobacco Trail in 21:56.  It felt incredibly good to actually ride Roberta on the road again after being on the stationary bike all winter long.  I think that was my first road ride since Ironman.

Bigun had an early release day at school, so she got out at 12:30 and we got picked up about 1:15 to ride down to the camp.  Good thing I was already packed. We rode down towards New Bern, stopped at this store for a pee break and to get the cabin assignments, then on to Andy's burgers for dinner.  This was the beginning of my allowable camp horrible eating binge.  We took a ferry across the Neuse river, which the kids absolutely loved.  It was a huge boat, taking 34 cars to the other side.  The kids loved it.  We rolled into camp about 7:15, and at 8:30 they had an ice cream social and "welcome to camp" presentation.  The introduction of the pirate theme really kicked things into high gear.

The first unbelievably cute thing Bigun did was during the ice cream social.  She's a really sloppy eater anyway, and when the pirate ran past our table she thought it was a real pirate and was genuinely scared.  The costume was really scary,  and the guy ran right past our table.  I'll give her that.  But she's shaking a bit with a face covered in sprinkles asking me if it was really just a guy in a costume or were we all really in trouble.... I mean come on.  That's just cute.  I told her it was just a costume and she came out from under the table and enjoyed the rest of the presentation.

Finally we made it back to the cabin and I was able to unpack everything and start taking pictures.
Playing with Anna on the top bunks

She's crazy like that hair.

Saturday was the big day for activities.  They blew the horn at 6:30 am and most of the kids were already up.  Luckily, Bigun slept right through the horn.  I was able to get up, shower, grab a cup of coffee, and organize my head before she awoke.  Sunday morning I wasn't quite so lucky.  but Saturday was really cool.  We got in a boat ride, archery, shooting BB guns, some water works, a canoe ride, all kinds of fun stuff.
On a boat ride

Hanging with the Bakers and Harris' on the boat ride.  The boat held 100 people and went out through the river on a 30 minute tour.  Bigun loves Gilligan's Island right now, so she was loving the "3 hour tour".

Both of us shooting bows & arrows.  She loved it!

Everyone needs a little help from Dad every now and then.

She had a tough time getting the hang of shooting guns.  Kelley is a sharpshooter, so Bigun must not have gotten that gene.

The strangest story has to be on the water slide.  The highlight of the camp is a zipline.  You start on this platform that is 45 feet above the water, and zipline down so you land in water.
We're up there with the Bakers.  We did a lot of stuff with the Bakers, that's a good thing.  The Little Baker started freaking out first, Mike is also pretty scared of heights so he was nervous but ok.  Everything at this camp has to be done daddy/daughter.  So I couldn't go down if Bigun wouldn't go.  And once she saw the Little Baker opting out, she was done too.  45 feet is pretty intimidating when you're up there, but we're strapped into safety harnesses and I felt totally safe and ready to go.  But when Bigun backed down we had to walk all the way down there and get the harnesses off. 

Notice the blue structure behind the wood?  It's a waterslide, and she really did want to do that one.  I didn't plan that one very well.  At the end of the waterslide the water was about 5 feet deep, so you had to then swim back to the ladder to get out.  Bigun can swim pretty well, and I didn't think the slide would be a problem.  She went down the slide first, and somehow she stopped at the bottom of the slide without actually going off into the water!  She said she was scared because it looked too deep.  My friend Luke was at the bottom with his daughter trying to decide what she wanted to do, so he jumped into the water and got Bigun from the end of the slide back onto the deck.  When Luke jumped in, his glasses fell off and sank to the bottom.  So when I came down the slide I shot out of that thing like a rocket!  I don't see how in the world Bigun stopped without flying out of there.  I helped Luke feel around on the bottom until he found his glasses, then we got out.
Luke and Bigun coming out of the slide.

Bigun and the Little Baker trying to dry off and warm up

Luke and I looking for glasses.  It was that deep.
I should have gone down the slide first and been there to catch her, but I wasn't sure if she would freak out over the height from the slide like she did on the zipline.  The zipline is only about 5 feet higher than the slide, but since it's open air and not the enclosed space like the slide is, the freakout factor is a lot less. The slide was still really fun.

I wanted to wait until the afternoon to hit the water stuff in the hopes that it would warm up.  It was in the high 70's or low 80's all week in Raleigh.  So of course saturday only got up to about 65 out at the camp.  it was very cold all day, and the water activities were just as cold as you'd expect.  Bigun loves canoes, so we got in a few rides in the afternoon, as well as some tennis and more archery.
This may be my favorite pic from the whole weekend.

Going out to catch some turtles with the rest of the tribe

All of the girls with a turtle they caught

She finally mastered the hula hoop!
Saturday night they put on a campfire with all 500 campers and dads.  There was all the expected campy campfire stuff like a spooky ghost story and camp songs, again with a pirate theme.  Can you guess what happens when you give glowsticks to 500 kids and tell them ghost stories?

I think the look on Carl's face says it all.
The campfire was a blast and of course the kids were completely wiped out by the time we got back to the cabin. They crashed hard and slept all night long.

Sunday morning they blew the horn at 7:30 instead of 6:30.  While I was very glad to get more sleep, they also had scheduled activities starting at 7:30 that I wanted to attend and subsequently missed.  They even had a 5k race starting at 8.  Bigun wasn't up for the challenge of a 5k so we chose to pass, but plenty of the other dad/daughter pairs in our tribe did complete the race.  My left foot was killing me after all the walking on Saturday, so I wasn't pushing the 5k too hard.  Apparently the way to play it is that the kids ride their bikes while dad runs and they can pace about the same.  We got breakfast and coffee, then watched some friends go down the zipline.
She is just too cute!  The Indian Princess program is called Arapahoe Nation - hence the indian theme and the whole program includes boys.
Carl and his daughter hit the water at the end of the zipline
 They had a pit for the kids to go digging for sharks teeth, so we dug for a bit and found 5 teeth.  Sunday morning we found the craft building and turned one of those teeth into a necklace.
Proud doesn't quite cover it.

Then we ate at the sunday brunch and got back to the cabin for some group photos. 
The whole tribe of first graders

Proof that they are actually first graders.  Older kids would never be that silly right?
After that we all finished packing up and headed back to Raleigh.  This was a priceless weekend with my oldest daughter and great friends that I wouldn't trade for anything else in the world.  The spring outing marks the end of the program year for Arapahoe Nation, and I have to say that it is one of the most rewarding things Bigun and I have ever done together.  It's a YMCA program that is nationwide, so if you have young kids I highly recommend contacting your nearest Y to inquire about it.