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Monday, November 22, 2010

Not as well as expected

Just one of these times I'd like to start a post with, "Boy that was easier than I thought it would be!"

Started bad.  I jumped into the 61 degree water and had a bit of a panic attack.  Negative thoughts crept in and I thought about swimming to the edge and getting out of the water right there.  Fortunately I made myself get out there.  I found that I could not really breathe out when my head was in the water.  It's a cold water thing but I thought by now that I'd be used to it.  Anyway that forced me to breast stroke most of the first half of the swim.  As I made the turn back to home I was finally pretty relaxed and swimming became a pretty easy exercise.  I was sighting well and made it back pretty easily.  I thought for sure that I was going to come in with a 1:30.  I was shocked when I got within earshot of the dock and the announcer said that we were at 1:29.  I ended up with a 1:43:02.  I think that my first half was probably 1:05 and my swim back was 38 minutes.

One of the things I was really worried about was the weather.  They were predicting rain and high winds.  The race area was actually very nice.  A little cloud cover had kept the temperature up but there had been no rain.  The sun came up during the swim and it was very nice outside.  I went the the transition kind of slow due to my disappointment from the swim.  I got dressed and headed out on the bike.

My goal here was just to go easy.  I kept it in a very low gear and just pedaled along.  I was still passing some people but I was focused on keeping my heart rate very low.  The ride is a 3 lap out and back that carries you from Tempe out to Fountain Hills along a road called The Beeline Highway.  It's a false flat road meaning that even though you don't really see it, there's quite an elevation gain going up there.  On a normal day with just an reasonable pace I can ride up the hill at 18 mph and then down it at 30 mph.  One thing that started to worry me was that my speed going up the was about 18 and I really wasn't trying hard at all.  When I got to the top and turned around I discovered why - there was a 15 - 20 mph wind that was blowing me up the hill.  This is the worst way that wind can blow on a bike.  You really want the wind in your face on the uphill.  Now the fast downhill became a slow effort to get back to Tempe.

The wind on the second lap was worse made more so by the freezing rain that dropped on us on the Beeline.

By the third lap I had decided to open it up a bit.  I had a pretty fast lap but at the end I could feel a little bit of burning in my legs.

I got my running shoes on and really thought I was going to do something special on the run.  I got through the first 8 mile lap in a about 9 minute miles but I noticed that the run felt a lot tougher than my heart rate was indicating.  There are a couple things that can cause this.  One is that your nutrition or your electrolytes can be off, but the biggest reason is that I probably just used too much energy on the bike.  My body just hasn't gone any further than 80 miles since June and I haven't gone 112 since last November.  You have to get in at least one ride of 110, 120 and 130 miles each preparing for this. 

So in the second lap I did a bit of recovery.  I walked one of the miles and made sure I ate and drank enough and I walked up the only climb on the course.  It really didn't help much.  Then I started to get down on myself and that kind of self defeating talk really makes for a long marathon. 

As I finished the second lap and went our on the third I just decided to run, but to run very slowly.  I held a pace through much of it but it was really torture.  I ran pretty much the whole thing and finished OK.  Wasn't a great time by my standards but in hindsight it really wasn't too bad.  I would have liked to have seen what I could have done in that marathon.

There's always next year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

T-57 hours

In one sense I feel more prepared for this race than for any other.  I think like with anything you just get more confident (cocky) as you get more experience.

On the other, I do have a certain sense of dread regarding the bike.  I think the swim will go well, a little faster than usual and my run should really be something special.  It's just that I haven't had the time on the weekends to get the long rides in.  I did one or two centuries over the summer and I have countless 75 and 80 mile rides but the last time I went 112 miles was 12 months ago.  The strategy here is just hold back forever.  Maybe on the last downhill open it up but that's it.  I'm saving it all for the run Sunday.  Hopefully my body won't disappoint.

I can't find a jersey I want to wear.  I was thinking a white tri top with something personal screened on it but I really can't find a jersey.  I'm going to try a triathlon store tomorrow but I'm not buying one just to blow money.

Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday.  I actually thought I was 42 already.  Going to try and go for a super early 1000 meter swim and then grab my free slam at Denny's with Ken and Matt.  I'm speaking at Openworks in the afternoon.  Saturday I do an easy 20 minute run, drop off my bike and get ready.

I'm ready.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Last time I rode...

I don't remember if it was 2 weeks ago Thursday or Friday but Ken took a couple days off so we went out and rode.  That should tell you how totally unprepared I feel for the ride in 4 weeks.

Anyway we were just making our way out east with no particular destination in mind when I think we both realized at the same time that we were about to ride past Doug's house.  I don't know if we consiously set out to do it but we turned up a different road instead.

A while later we decided to head out toward McDowell Mountain Ranch and took Via Linda out that way.  Before we realized it we were riding in front of the police station where Doug killed himself.  We both got kind of quiet for a little while.  I think we both realized that it had been a while since we thought about him.  At least that's what I realized.  He's been gone almost six months and I hardly think of him anymore.  That makes me feel a little depressed.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Nothing - Bike - Run

Seriously, I have got to go swimming in the very near future.

This week is about to evaporate because I have to watch the kids tomorrow and Katie is going up North to hike the Grand Canyon on thursday.  Today was horrible weather, rain and hail so I didn't get to do anything today.
Let me take a moment to criticize LA Fitness yet again.  I am begging the guy behind the counter to take my $24.99 / month for two months and then I'll quit again after the race.  Instead he wants $99 to sign me up.  I realize that is probably his commission but why let me walk out when I clearly want to give them money?

But I digress.

I have been very with my other two disciplines.  I am in the last full month of training before the race.  I've timed it wrong this year.  For some reason I was a week off in my training plan or I took an extra week off.  I can't tell for sure.  Anyway, I've been running 18 plus miles regularly on Sundays for almost 2 months now.  I haven't really been doing the required long rides but I have a descent base and I have been very good about my strenght and threshold rides.  I got in 85 miles on Saturday after Katie got sick and couldn't hike.  I would have gotten 100 plus but I got a bit of a late start.

This weekend is out unless I can get help watching the kids.  I'll have to figure something out.  I don't think it's going to be as hot so maybe I can get my Brother to watch them for a while on Saturday or Sunday.  For my run I'll either do the same thing I did a couple weeks ago and get an hour in on the treadmill before heading outside for another couple hours or I'll just do 3 x 1 hour runs with some time between to feed the kids and try to keep myself sane.  Treadmill long distance running is not a ton of fun.

Weekend after that is Rocky Point.  Riding is out for that time but I'll be able to get some long runs in.

I really will.  I'm able to force myself out of bed and run long distances.

Why don't you believe me?  I did it in Cabo a year ago.  Although the heat and humidity almost killed me.

That's going to put me 30 days out from the race.  A rest week and I'm 3 weeks away.  One hard week and then a two plus some week taper.

Predictions.  Boy I don't want to screw up.  I should go sub 12:00.  I have delusions of going sub 11:00.  Not likely.  There would have to be no wind on the bike and I'd have to hold 9:00 min/miles on the run.  Unlikely.  We'll see.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Back in the early '90s I used to own a pool hall.  The constant interaction with the public made me an incubator for every germ that came into the room.  I was sick constantly.  Now, I probably wasn't the picture of healthy living at the time and even though I've never smoked, back then I second hand smoked more than anyone alive.

Flash forward a couple years and I don't think I got sick one time between 1996 and 2006.  I was an accountant and stuck in an office and generally took a little better care of myself. 

Now I have 2 kids and training and I'm back to catching everything that comes around.  When you punish your body as much as I do all your energy goes to healing your joints and muscles.  There's nothing to spare for your immune system.  Last year I went and got a bird flu vaccine on the premise of a compromised immune system.  I had to explain that I didn't have AIDS but that my body just doesn't have the energy to fight anything.

Right before the race in November I started getting sick and by the week after it I thought I was afraid that I was going to die.  I had caught a pretty bad cold/flu and with my body being in the shape that it was it really knocked me for a loop.  I read in an article by Chris Carmichael that the probiotics in yogurt help to fight off colds and flu.  I've had a yogurt almost every day since then and I haven't been sick once this year.

Knock on wood.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A real rest week

Rest weeks aren't really for resting.  A typical rest week should include 5 or 6 hours of riding, 3 hours of running, and an hour or so of swimming.

I did...nothing this week except for the swim on Wednesday.

I roasted coffee twice and made a batch of beer but I didn't do anything exercise-wise.

Back to the grindstone tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decent Swim

I didn't say great. I said decent. I need to swim more over the next month. A lot more.

Water was about 80 degrees and calm. There were about 20 of us out there. I got out there with no wetsuit and did the first 1/2 mile or so pretty well. Then a little wind picked up and I had my usual panic attack in the water. This was the first time I've been open water since my little incident in Flagstaff.

Anyway, I made a beeline to shore and when I got there I realized I was in the wrong place so I had to swim out again and get over to the beach where all my stuff was located.

Probably got in a mile or so in 30 minutes. I felt good, no real fatigue to speak of. Just need to get more comfortable.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some thoughts on the matter T-60 days

I'm in a rest week now about ready to start my last big full month of training and I thought I would jot down some observations and stuff about myself.

Swim - I haven't been in the pool much in the past few weeks.  The reasons are not worth noting.  I think starting in the very near future I need to get in.  Tomorrow I'm going to do an hour in the open water at Bartlett Lake with Tri Scottsdale.  I'm interested to see how I feel after an hour in that chop.

Bike - I am in fine shape.  I think a 100, 110, 120, and a couple 130 mile rides will finish out my Saturdays with some intervals during the week.  I have no real concerns here, it's just a matter of getting on it.

Run - OK, I'm going to say this out loud.  I am in the best running shape of my life.  I've done the distance, I've done the speed.  There should be absolutely no reason, given a reasonable bike ride of course that I don't run the entire marathon in a sub 9:30 pace. 

That said, Sunday did not go so well.  Katie is out of town at a funeral and my sister in law volunteered to watch the kids in the morning if I wanted to run.  I did an hour on the treadmill and then took Paige and Ken over to Keith and Vicki's house and headed out.

It was insanely hot for mid-September.  I didn't drink enough while I was on the treadmill and I felt like crap immediately.  I was planning a simple little 6 1/2 mile out and back but my pulse kept going through the roof.  The run out was uphill, completely in the sun and the temp was approaching 95 I think.  I ran out of water and nutrition at the turn around and this particular out-and-back didn't take me out, back, to, or past a convenience store or drinking fountain. 

I limped my way home and stopped 1/2 mile from my front door to stand in the lobby of the CVS and enjoy the A/C.

So, back to my observations - I actually am quite confident.  I'll see how I feel tomorrow after the swim.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Some days are better than others...

And today was one of those days.
With a view like this of the sunrise how could you expect any less?

The schedule called for a 16 mile run.  Don e-mailed Friday that there was a 10K down at the Reach 11 Park at 7:15 am.  He suggested going for a 5 or 6 mile run afterwards as well.  He's increasing his mileage gradually preparing for PF Chang's Marathon in January.  Needing a few miles in addition to that I got out on the trail at 5:45 for an early six miles.  I never really drifted out of HR level 1 and still managed an average pace of 9:14 min/mile.  Pretty fast for me.

I finished and found that I had parked in the wrong place so I had an additional 1/2 mile run over to the 10K start line.  I met up with Don and his brother Dave.  The race took off for a 2 loop trail that followed part of the run I had just completed.  I covered the  covered the first loop in 25:21 and the course in 51:54.  I spent the majority of the race in level 2.  I'd have to check but I am sure that's my best 10K time.

After a few glasses of water Don and I headed back out over part of the course for a 3 mile out-and-back.  At the 1 1/2 mile mark we were just running along at a conversational pace when I went to jump over a stick.  GEEZ!  As I got over the stick I saw that it was a snake!  I assumed this snake to be dead.

Don described my movements as screaming like a 7 year old girl looking like she was in a crazy jump rope competition.  He was about to ask what was wrong but as my left foot struck the ground and I started hopping forward the snake sprung to life, coiled, and struck at me in less than the blink of an eye.  By then I was about 20 feet from the critter.
We threw a few stones at it hoping to scare it into the brush so that any other runners behind us wouldn't get surprised but it just sat there tightly coiled and rattling up a storm.  Finally Don hit it with a reasonably sized piece of wood.  The wood just bounced off the snake and seemed to make it more angry.  We thought it best just to move on.

We completed the 6 miles in just over an hour at a 10:09 pace.  Don is a lot faster than that and could have left me behind. 

Total distance covered was 18.73 miles in 2:52:39 or a 9:13 pace.  I'll take that come November anytime.  Family went to church afterwards and had a pancake breakfast then I took Ken to a birthday party for a friend of his.

It was a really great Sunday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hiking the Lava Tubes

My brother Keith and his family came up to Flagstaff this weekend.  We went up to Flagstaff on Saturday and hiked the Lava River Cave.

It's a 1 mile cave that was carved out of the ground by lava which pushed out of the ground about 700,000 years ago. 
You park your car and descend into a hole in the ground.  It's 90 degrees outside the cave but as you get close you feel the 35 degree underground temperature.

You descend probably 50 feet.  It's like a rock climbing wall but not straight down.  Almost immediately it's pitch black.  The last time I did this hike was probably 10 years ago.  The second biggest change is that now everybody wears LED headlamps whereas we used to carry flashlights.  The biggest change since then is the kids.  Keith's 7 year old daughter Ella really got into it and enjoyed the hike in spite of the hardships.  Her sister Olivia turned back early and Keith and Vicki went with her and brought their son Jake out as well.  He's 3 and a little young for this trip.

Ken was doing great until he took a little spill and got a pretty bad cut on the side of his head.  He was able to keep going and had a good time.

We got to the end and took a picture before heading back out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pretty big day

I had some time to kill yesterday morning so I put some extra miles in at level 2 on the way to work. 

Afterwards I went over to the pool and did a 5 x 400 swim at threshold.

I rode straight home in the afternoon.  I had a nice wind at my back but I hardly noticed with the intervals I was doing.  I got about 8 miles from home and the wind turned on me and I was riding into a 20 mph headwind with 40 mph gusts.  The last interval was really hard and I was getting blown all over the place.

Afterwards I went to Shadow Mt. High School and met Don for a track run.  7 x 1000 meter runs at level 4.

Kind of tired today.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A bad case of the Mondays

Spare me the Office Space jokes, please. 

We drove down from Flagstaff this morning and I rode into work.  Slow and easy.  I've got some intervals to hit on the way home.

I was going to swim but I forgot my goggles and swim drills sheet.  Maybe tomorrow.

Nothing Sunday

I got up pretty early yesterday, ready for a 16 mile run in Flagstaff.  It took me a while to actually get out of the house and as soon as I was about 1/4 mile down the hill I realized that the arch in my left foot was giving me some problems.

Friday night I read an article in Runner's World about plantar fascititus so I was really paranoid so I just hobbled back home and stretched for a while.

Really spent the whole day doing nothing.  Not a terrific day.

Perseid Meteor Shower

We went up north on Friday.  It was kind of cool outstide.  We arrived about 10:00 pm and I pretty much got out of the car and looked up and saw two of the best meteors I've ever seen within 5 minutes.

I sat outside for another 15 minutes or so and saw a few more that weren't quite as nice.

On Saturday night we got back from Katie's parent's house kind of late.  Paige went right to bed but Ken stayed outside watching the sky for a while.  After 15 minutes or so I got pretty tired and went in.  All I was thinking was, "Please God, let the kid see a shooting star out there."  After 30 minutes or so he came running in to tell me all about it.  Katie saw it too so I know that he didn't imagine it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Flagstaff and Snowbowl

I met up with Ken in Flagstaff on Saturday morning and we made our way up to the mountain.  We went up it together.  I did take it very easy making sure never to get out of HR level 2 the whole morning.

Did I mention that I found my Garmin in my glove compartment?  I can't figure out why I put it in there in the first place.

Ken's knee was giving him some problems so we decided not to go all the way to the top.  Instead we stopped at the lodge right before the final 1/4 mile climb.  I never have stopped there before but Ken said this is the main lodge during the ski season.  The bathrooms were locked and there were no drinking fountains but there was a Pepsi machine.  As I rode up to it I said to Ken that for some reason recently I have had a Midas Touch when it comes to soda machines.  I walk up and press a button and free drinks just fall out for me.

I went up to the machine and pressed 'Pepsi' and voila, a bottle dropped down.  I asked Ken if he wanted one.  I pressed it and sure enough another fell out.  Just then a couple on tri-bikes pulled up to the top.  They asked if there was a fountain nearby.  They didn't want to go to the top either so I pressed the button for water and a bottle dropped for the woman.  They were nice.  They said they were both doing IM Canada in two weeks so they were well into their taper.  A 4 1/2 hour ride up Snowbowl seems a bit extreme for that.  I'll have to check my training log for November.

They left and we waited a few minutes before hitting the road.  I got stuck behind a pickup truck for a mile or so until I was able to convince the driver to pull over.  After that I really had a great descent.  I passed the woman on the tri-bike with a little over a mile left and finished 20 or so seconds behind her friend.  I figure I made up almost 3 minutes on him which felt good even if he was on a tri-bike which doesn't handle as well on the descents.  I hit the line at 10:00 exactly.  I'd like to go back and check and see what my fasted time is.  I can't believe it's much faster than that.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I swear I exercised, even though there's no data to support it.

Remember how it used to be, years ago when you would just jump on your bike and go for a ride or throw on a pair of shoes, spend 10 seconds stretching your calves and then head out for a run?

I think it was 2000 or maybe even 2001 when I started keeping track of my rides.  Simple stuff like date, morning weight, description, distance, and average speed was all I was able to track with the bike speedometers of the day.  I don't even feel right calling them computers.

In '03 I probably got a wireless bike computer.  No longer were cables run up and down the frame of the bike.  The data was the same.  Maybe at this point a Vetta HR100 tracked heart rate data as well as allowed user input of different training zones.  I added Max, average, and recovery HR to the sheet.  There were no designated workouts but I could probably compare rides a little better.  I went up 9 mile hill with an average HR of 165 and went 2 minutes faster than last time.

Finally in '05 I got a Garmin 301.  I was one of the first people with one.  It was amazing!  GPS!  Now routes could be downloaded to the computer.  Spreadsheets were no longer needed.  All that was necessary was to plug the device into a computer and everything that I did that day was captured for all eternity.  Some websites even allowed uploads of the info for the world to see.  This was especially cool for my trip to the 2006 Tour de France.

One of the most useful features of the 301 is the ability to design a workout on a computer and then download it to the device.  The device was also multisport which was a big plus.  As my Ironman training began in the Fall of 2006 I can honestly say that I would not have been as successful if I would have been required to remember my run and bike workouts.  It was very easy though to program the device and after inputing a run workout like:

1.  15 minutes HR level 1
2.  100 yard HR level 3
3.  1 minute HR level 1
4.  Repeat steps 2 - 3 3 more times
5.  7 minutes HR 163 - 167 bpm
6.  3 minutes HR level 1
7.  Repeat steps 5 - 7 3 more times
8.  7 minutes HR level 1

As you can see, intensity could be programmed in terms of heart rate levels, beats per minute, or even pace or miles per hour.  Interval length could be time, distance, or even when a certain HR was reached.

In the next 3 years no one will use HR data on a bike.  It will all be about power meters and watts but for now that technology is still pretty expensive to all but the pros and wannabe pros.

So what is really funny about this, is Friday I lost my HR monitor in my car.  I think it fell under my seat but I need to clean the whole car out to find it.

My Saturday ride looked like this:  Rode for about 3 hours and went about 50 miles and had a good time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Like a rest week

I'm kind of messed up on my weeks but I'm treating this like a rest week.  I did a couple short 1/2 hour runs and three 1,000 yard swims but no biking to speak of.  I'll try and get out for a short one tomorrow.

Next week I'll hit everything kind of hard and then back it down the week after that and rest up for a 1/2 Ironman in Flagstaff. 

Pretty cool this morning I weighed in at 151 pounds.  That's the lightest I've been since shortly after my first Ironman in April 2007.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Sprint Triathlon

Don talked me into signing up for the Mountain Man Sprint Triathlon on Sunday.  My hubris seems to have gotten the best of me these days - my whole, "it's only a sprint" attitude almost did me in.

A little bit of organizational disappointment first.  They've been doing this race for over 25 years.  This year they say that they had to split the sprint distance from the Olympic and half and have it on another day because of the crowds.  Not sure about that explanation.  It sounds like an excuse to get another entry fee out of people.

Anyway, their permit was for 650 entrants.  Don and I signed up on race day and we were race numbers 220 & 221 and there were 364 starters at the race but they didn't have any race t-shirts!  I kid you not, one of the things I most look forward to is getting a new t-shirt from a race.  This strikes me a very unprofessional.  They discounted our race entry by $5 but I think that what they should have said was that they would send us a shirt after the race.  As I said, very unprofessional.  It would be like running out of finisher medals at the end.

Another thing that they did wrong, and quite a few race organizers do this as well; they didn't have enough racks and transition stations.  I don't know what they accomplish by making people squeeze their bikes together so close.  I saw one woman threaten to smack a guy who spoke very little English because he moved her transition bag 1 foot so his back tire wouldn't hit it.

I had some very unusual problems in the swim.  I just couldn't catch my breath.  I'm usually bad in the swim but in this short 750 meter swim I was afraid I was going to panic and if I started to panic I was thinking that I was going to die because nobody was watching for people in trouble 100 yards from the finish.  What happened was that I wasn't feeling great in the first 250 yards, but that isn't unusual.  The second 250 were better but I still couldn't find a rhythm.  I was doing everything right, at least I though I was.  I was concentrating on breathing out in the water, rotating, catching, pulling, etc.  It just worked out that I couldn't swim more than 5 or 10 strokes without gasping for air.  I finally turned for the last 250 back home and the wheels really came off the bus.  I couldn't swim freestyle and it seemed like I wasn't getting anywhere with the breaststroke.  All of a sudden I totally started hyperventilating.  I kept trying to calm myself down but nothing worked.  Finally, in spite of how rotten it felt I floated on my back and just pushed my way to shore.  It felt like an eternity.  When I got out of the water I was totally disoriented.  Every step I took forward I fell two steps to the left.  I had to actually try and walk "right" into the water so that I could walk up the pier sideways. 

I went really slow into transition and crossed the mat.  I sat down and tried to take my wetsuit off.  Big mistake!  First of all, start taking your wetsuit off the moment you get out of the water because it comes off easier.  Second, never ever sit down unless someone is helping you take off the suit.  Use gravity, don't fight it.

Anyway, I finally got the suit off, and somehow got into my bike jersey and shoes.  I decided for this short race to go sans socks and see if I had any problems.  It went OK I guess.  I was still a little shaky as I left transition but felt good enough as I crossed the timing mat to make a flying mount of the bike.  The race organizer commented that it was a pretty cool mount.  I went pretty fast on the bike which is to say that I didn't relax at all.  I didn't really hammer it but I honestly don't know if I could have if I wanted.  Nobody passed me, that much I know. 

I was really surprised at how fast the 6 mile turn around appeared and a little disappointed at how long it took for me to get back.  I couldn't get out of my shoes while I was riding so I just unclipped and did another flying dismount as I crossed the timing mat.

T2 went a little better.  Again, I went with no socks.  I had to take off my right shoe once though to knock a stone out from the GC from the previous day's hike.

I did the run in just under 10 minute miles.  I walked through the one aid station and I had a pretty good kick at the end.  Legs felt good but sore.  We sat around talking with people for a little while and then got in Don's car and headed to:


Don commented that he never really rides hills and wanted to try one.  How he picked this one I don't know.  I tried to dissuade him since he had his tri-bike and really expensive tires and wheels but he wanted to try.  I honestly didn't think we would get very far.  I was only afraid that I was going to be the one to cry uncle.

Here's Don on his $5,000 bike, $2,500 wheels, and $25 helmet (which is broken and needs to be replaced)!
A couple action shots taken on the climb.

Turned out that the ride went rather well.  Because of the road conditions at the top we went to the signs at the top instead of the lodge 1/2 mile further up.  We rested for a moment and then turned around and did a descent.  I think I had about 3 minutes on Don with a mile to go.  I wanted to time it but the only thing I had was my phone and so I spent the last mile coasting and trying to get the stopwatch ready for when I crossed at the bottom.  He ended up pulling back almost 2 minutes on that last mile.  Good times.  I really scared the heck out of him on the downhill.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rim to River to Rim - Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has never really held any kind of special place in my heart.  I've only been to the South Rim, what everybody thinks of as "The Grand Canyon", once and that was probably 10 years ago.  I've hiked some other easy trails in the canyon but never this one.

The idea struck me at some point this year to do a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim hike in a day which is something like 40 miles.  I was thinking late October and that would coincide with my Ironman training pretty well.  Doug and I were throwing the idea around, but obviously he won't be making the trip.

Never having really hiked in my life I decided to do a shorter Rim-to-River-to Rim hike.  It's 16 miles.  You go down the South Kaibab Trail to the Phantom Ranch Campground and then up the Bright Angel Trail.  South Kaibab is 6.5 miles and really all descent.  Bright Angel is 9.5 miles with some flats which turned out to be lousy because they are all sand trails.

Got up at 2:45 in the morning and I was on the road by 3:00 am.  I arrived at the canyon at 4:35.  I didn't have to be that early as the bus doesn't leave until 5:00 am sharp.  There was a small bit of panic when I got off the bus and realized that I did not know where the trail started.  Fortuneately someone appeared out of the restroom and pointed me in the right direction. 

5:12 - Just got off the bus. I love these posters.

5:13 - I begin

5:35 - First place worth stopping for a look.  People were setting up to get pics of the sunrise.  I'm not going to sit around that long.

5:55 - I think this is where I'm heading.  At this point I'm trying to run.  Originally I figured that I would get down to the bottom in 60 minutes.  It is 6.5 miles and downhill after all.

5:56 - Better picture.  You can make out the river at the bottom

5:57 - Switchbacks that I will be decsending soon.  The problem is that in order to prevent errosion, they have put railroad ties on the trail.  The dirt and sand between them has washed in away in many places and the ties are spread further than one of my strides so I end up either jumping over them or pushing off them.  Either way, I can tell that this is going to tire my legs out in a hurry.

6:17 - River is getting closer...

6:27 - Closer...

6:33 - Closer... I don't have to climb over those rocks :)

6:42 - River level.  I am really starting to get a good pace going at this point.

6:42 - Look a tunnel

6:42 - Nobobdy said anything about crossing a bridge

6:43 - Over the river!

6:44 - Mules carry stuff down

6:44 - And they have the right-of-way.  And they stink!

6:48 - Good!  Another bridge.

6:56 - A quick water stop and I'm well on my way back up.  Which means of course, another bridge!  This one goes over some rapids and has a mesh bottom.  I started to jog over it and realized that I hadn't zipped my pack shut and a couple things fell out and scattered over the grid.  Good thing I thought to clip my keys.

7:01 - Another mule train.

7:20 - Dear Lord!  Is that where I'm headed?

7:51 - The trail is pretty deep sand at this point.  Kind of sucky and slow but after 30 minutes I've climbed quite a bit.

8:15 - 4.5 miles up the trail (about halfway) I've reached Indian Garden.  I've been climbing for about 90 minutes I guess.  At this rate I'll get out in an hour more than I predicted.  Don't let the thermometer fool you.  It may be 110 in the sun but right behind me is one in the shade reading 85.  It's still early enough that the sun isn't baking everything yet.

8:21 - I've screwed around for a bit getting water and I'm just about to leave.  The squirrells practically walk up to your feet and beg for nuts.  The guy sitting on the right was there with his family and they were trying to convince him to start hiking.  I don't know if they had come down from the top or up from the camp ground but he knew how hard the next few hours were going to be and he was in no hurry.  Little does he suspect how hot it's getting out there.

8:40 - I think I'm another mile-and-a-half up at the next rest area.  Katie tells me that the patch of green in the middle between the two peaks is Indian Garden.

9:28 - I am right around the last rest stop around 1.5 miles from the top which means that it's taken me the better part of 50 minutes to climb 1.5 miles.  At this point I'm running every other switchback.

10:03 - I'm out!  I don't think I stopped the clock until I got to the lodge a few minutes later.  I originally thought I had done it in 5:05 but it turned out to be 4:50.

I really feel pretty good.  We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Got home safe

What a terrific ride home.  It was really hot but I made sure I had a lot of ice water with me and I made sure that I was drinking enough that I went through a bottle every half hour.  I figured that way I would have to stop at the Super Pumper by my house and refill.  Resting and staying hydrated and holding my threshold ride to below LT I figured would work out and leave me fresh for tomorrow.

I was right, except....

As I exited the Super Pumper with my fresh ice water the wind kicked up and I got caught in a wicked dust storm.  It was blowing cars around pretty good so I was careful, and slow.  The wind was right in my face and there had to be 40 mph gusts.

The sand finally stopped blowing and then it started to rain.  It was OK, I made it home safe and happy.  Just about to leave to go up north.


Last night I didn't run but I did ride to work this morning.  Have a 23 mile ride home in this 115 furnace that we call Phoenix.

Here's the plan:  Go up to Flag tonight and get to sleep in time to bounce out of bed at 3:00 am and get moving.  I'm going to drive to the Grand Canyon hopefully in time to get on the 5:00 am bus for the South Kaibab trail.  It's 6.5 miles or so down to Phantom Ranch and then 9.5 miles back up the Bright Angel path.  Don't ask me why but that's the order everybody does this hike.  I think Bright Angel is longer but there's water on it.

Pretty much all the advice I've gotten on this sounds like, "OK, but bring plenty of water."

After I get home my buddy Don is coming up and we have to go to register for the Mountain Man Sprint Triathlon.  That goes off Sunday.  I hope I feel ok.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More about this weekend

Every single website I go to advises NOT to do the hike that I am proposing.

This weekend

I'm looking forward to training this weekend.

I'm hoping to start with a 1 hour threshold run tonight followed by a ride in to work tomorrow.  Heat advisories all over the place.  Ride home should be miserable but fun.  Friday night I'll head up to Flagstaff.

Saturday morning I'm going to hit the road about 3:00 am to get over to the Grand Canyon by 5:00 am and hike to the river and back.

Sunday I'm going to do a sprint distance triathlon in Flagstaff.  My first time at that distance.  On August 8 there's a half that I might do as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A new pic from Alcatraz

South Mountain

I really like South Mountain in Phoenix.  It's a fun ride.  It's nowhere near as hard as Snowbowl in Flagstaff or Bartlett Lake North East of Scottsdale but it's very scenic.  When you get to the top you can see just about everything in the valley.

I had planned to ride to work today but then the dentist called and reminded me that I have an appointment today.  I was kind of disappointed until I woke up at 4:30 this morning and decided to drive down to work and ride to the mountain from work.  I got to work and realized that since it's about 7 miles to the mountain from here and it's 7 miles up the mountain that I would get a better workout if I just drove down and rode the mountain twice.

It starts with 2 miles of just a slight rise and then 2.5 miles of some tough climbing followed by a mile of downhill and then 1.5 miles up and and down but mostly up with a lung-searing 1/2 mile uphill finish.I went up the first time and just stuck my heart rate at 3.5 and never wavered much from there.  It turned out to be a very easy climb at that rate and I got up the hill reasonably fast.  I went down pretty fast. 

Evidence that South Mountain is not as hard as Snowbowl:  I can go up Snowbowl to the top in about 45 minutes and it takes about 10 to get down.  It takes about 30 to get up South Mountain and 15 to get down.

My first descent went rather well.  About 3/4 of the way down I decided that I wasn't going to touch my brakes the next time.

On the second climb I just hammered it from the start.  I red lined my heart rate almost immediately.  Every time I felt myself slow down or I noticed my HR drop a touch I'd stand and try to get a little more out of myself.  As I passed mile marker 6 my body just quit.  No bonk, I had a lot energy but I couldn't make my legs turn over.  I gave back a lot of time on that last mile.  I did manage to hit the last 1/4 to 1/2 pretty hard.

The second descent did go a lot faster although I admit that I did feather the back brake a few times.

Friday, July 09, 2010

You Wouldn't Know it From Talking to Me...

But I am actually training pretty hard right now.
It doesn't feel like it.
It feels like I'm really being a lazy bum.
Example:  I really like running.  When I'm running I am totally enjoying myself.  After I run I have a feeling of euphoria that takes hours to pass.  The problem is I just can't force myself to get out on the road in the morning.  I end up running on the treadmill at night during the week and I ran a very nice 12 miles in Flagstaff last Sunday afternoon.  I feel lazy because I can't force myself out in the morning to run.
Example:  I like riding my bike to work in the morning.  Yes, it's hot in the afternoon so the ride home kind of sucks but, again, I feel so good when I get home that it doesn't matter.  Lately I just can't make myself get out of the house in the morning to ride.  Yesterday I skipped my ride because I had a bad dream and a feeling of dread but usually it's just because I am lazy.  I did some really great intervals on Monday afternoon in Flagstaff but so far this week, nothing.
Example:  I've really gotten to where I like my swim workouts.  Yesterday I did a great hour at race pace but I skipped Tuesday and Wednesday.  I might get over to the pool today after work.  We'll see.
Tomorrow no ride because Katie is going hiking.  I might try to get out and run for an hour before she leaves and then do another hour on the treadmill and then ride on Sunday morning.
We'll see.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back from Orlando

Packed up Katie and the kids and headed down to Orlando for what is billed as "the only Ironman that kids actually want their parents to race in."  My Mom stayed in Tampa for a few extra weeks this year so that she could watch the race as well.
For as good as this trip turned out it sure seemed like it was going to be a lot of trouble in the begining.
To start with, all the crap that happened with Doug the week before prevented me from getting my bike packed up and shipped down to Florida.  By the time I got around to it UPS wanted to charge me $350 to get the bike there in time for the race.  I opted to rent a bike instead and found a good one at Advanced Cycles in Orlando by the airport.
We flew into Florida on Thursday because the original information I received said that I had to pick up my race packet on Friday, and there were no flights that would get me in early enough.  We had to add a day to the trip which consequently makes everything 10% more expensive.  Turned out that later information surfaced that I could have picked my packet up on Saturday during bike drop off.  (More later)
The nice thing is that being there on Friday day we were able to go to Cape Canaveral and watch Atlantis lift off.  This was a neat experience.  I was sure this had disaster written on it.  It took 3 hours to drive 80 miles to the launch.  It would have taken 5 hours except I accidently discovered that our rental car was outfitted with an electronic toll pass so we didn't have to wait in the huge traffic lines.  As we approached the beach it looked like we wouldn't be able to park anywhere near the launch but Katie had heard of a restaurant with a good view.  We found the restaurant, got a great parking spot and a good seat and settled in with a few beers and some good food and waited. 
It looked all morning like the launch was going to get scrubbed because of weather and then because of some ball bearing problem but with T-10 minutes Atlantas was cleared for liftoff. 
After I got back to the condo I went back to the park and picked up my stuff for the race.
Saturday we started the day at The Magic Kingdom but I had to leave early to go rent my bike and drop it off at the race.  I put my aero bars and fast forward seat post on the bike with about 30 minutes left in bike check-in.  As I was tightening the seatpost clamp SNAP! I broke the bolt.  Good thing they had one to sell me at the support tent. 
I have done a few open water swims in my life, but I've never done one without a wetsuit.  Suprise!  The 84 degree water meant that wetsuits would not be permitted.  Since I would be swimming in a different way than I ever had, and I would be racing on a bike that I had never ridden I decided that I better do something new for the run as well.  It was too late to get a new pair of shoes but I did pick up a new pair of laces.  Pretty cool ones too.  You don't have to tie them.
I got home, prepared for the race and got to sleep.
Race morning I got up and woke my Mom up to take me to the park where she could watch the start.  Of course, as badly as they have the Disney property marked we got lost.  The good part is that while finding our way back to the start we discovered a way to park in the Magic Kingdom free.  That saved $14 / day!
The swim start was fun.  The first wave of swimmers took off at 6:20 in the morning but I didn't have to go until 6:51 so I was able to stand with my Mom and watch several of the waves go out first.  I never really saw the start of a race before, it's pretty cool.  Then I had to go.  The water was magnificient.  I was pretty slow and ended up at about 45 minutes.  I didn't stop too much, I think I was just slow.  I did notice that I was pretty thirsty after the swim.
One challenge that I knew I was going to face was that my rental bike only had one water bottle cage and I was using that to hold my nutrician.  I take one water bottle and put in it one scoop of gatorade for every hour that I plan to be on the road.  In this case three scoops and every hour I drink one third of the bottle.  That way I get my hourly required 250 - 350 calories of sugar.  However it also meant that I would have to forget about water for 10 miles of the ride.  I didn't think that would be too big a deal except there wasn't a water station for a little over 20 miles into the ride, so I was going on over 2 hours of racing without any regular water.  It's also a little hard to digest the sugar solution without water.  This was pretty much all that was on my mind for the first hour of the ride.
I got to the first aid station and grabbed two bottles of water.  I held one in my hand and put the other in my jersey pocket.  I gulped down the first bottle and as I reached for the second I felt it slip though the hole in my bike jersey and fall to the ground.  Nice.  It would be another hour before I reached the next aid station but at least I had one bottle in me.
I was averaging a little over 20 miles per hour and one thing I noticed on a big spread out course like that is there is a lot of drafting that goes on.  At IMAZ it's 19 miles out and back 3 loop course.  It's pretty easy for a couple judges on motorcycles to keep the riders honest.  In this ride it's 56 miles of open road.  I think the entire time I saw 2 referees.    I constantly had to be vigilant to not get too close to riders in front.  I don't get too worked up when someone drafts on me. 
At the second aid station I grabbed two water bottles.  I put one between my aero bars and drank one.  When I finished the first I drank the second so at the end of about 3 hours of racing I had consumed 3 bottles of water so I knew I would be OK for the day.  Funny part was that there was an third aid station maybe 5 miles from the finish.  That seemed dumb.  I ended up easily averaging over 20 mph which is pretty much what I was hoping for.
I racked my bike and jumped into my newly laced shoes and headed out on the course.  I couldn't find any sunscreen.  This worried me but I figured, just get the race done.  You feel good now, you'll feel good later.
The course is 4 mile loop with a little before the first loop and little after.  I headed out and fell into a very comfortable 8:30 pace.  The first 1.5 miles are on a tree lined path and that was very cool and comfortable to run on.  Then the course leads on to a grassy park.  It's uneven terrain but I really liked running on it.  The only problem is that the course at that point is completely exposed to the sun, and it was getting warm out.  The grassy path goes out another mile and then comes in for two and then you get back on the shaded concrete.  I knocked out the first 10k in record time for me and I felt really strong.  I was being careful to stay cool with sponges dipped in ice water and I drank and ate at every aid station.  Right about the halfway point in the run another athlete in front of me suddenly swooned and hit the deck!  He'd been overcome by heat stroke.  The medics were on him pretty quick and a lot of other people stopped to help/gawk/rest as well.  It was at that point that I realized how hot it had gotten on the course.  The next two miles in the sun were pretty tough.  I wanted to walk a few times but I just kept my head down and in a few minutes I was on the concrete again.
I know from my run in Cabo and the summers in Phoenix that heat exhaustion can sneak up on you at any time so on that third lap I was taking extra time walking the aid stations.  I took glasses of ice and poured them down my shirt and shorts.  I squeezed the ice cold sponges over my head.  In the final two aid stations some of us just walked up to the kiddie pools full of ice and water and dunked our heads.  Those three long miles in the sun went by quickly and painlessly and in what seemed like no time I was turning towards the finish.  Someone started to go past me in the finish chute but I really felt good so I poured it on.  I had tons of energy left.  I ended up running 10 minute miles (with rest stops).
It was my best race so far relatively speaking.  I finished in the top third of the entire field and the top quarter of my age group.  I said it before the race, and I'll say it now, "It's only a half."  It's a very fun distance.  I will definitely do more of these.  My final time here was 5:50, I wonder if I could break 5 hours?