Christmas in July Triathlon

29 Jun

It’s hot, you’re sweaty and longing for some relief from the heat during race season. Dreaming of all those snowy nights of Holiday season?

Yes… tell me more…

Celebrate your yearning for the coolness of winter amid the scorching summer months at the Greensboro Christmas in July Triathlon at Hagan Stone Park on Sunday July 10th. With a beautiful lake swim, a rolling 2 loop bike course, a championship 5K run course, you may spot Santa’s little helpers dashing to the finish line.

After reading that race description, who wouldn’t want to sign up?

Amazingly, this race is super close to my hometown of Oak Ridge, NC and is a day after a wedding I am going to in NC. Perfect! I’ll already be in town, race registration is affordable, and it’s only a sprint distance race (700m swim, 14 mile bike, and 5k run). Done and done.

After taking 10 days off, I’m heading back to the Y tomorrow to join my usual Thursday run group. That means I’ll swim on Friday and should get a long ride and run in over the long weekend.

Time to get back to business. Santa’s waiting.

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Crossing the Finish Line: DC (Gotta) Tri

23 Jun

Eighteen weeks ago I started on a journey to achieve one of my life goals of completing a triathlon. I’m excited to report that DC Triathlon was this past Sunday and I’m alive and well to blog about it.

The sheer magnitude of the race was impressive. More than 3,000 competitors, from 433 cities, 43 states and 11 countries, including 41 professional triathletes, finished the race. I was proud to be among them and finished in the top 50%.

This post is coming a few days late because I’ve tried to take the week off from training and thinking too much about triathlon. As my friends and family know, it was becoming an all-consuming venture. That served me well in the training process – I don’t know how else I would have been disciplined enough to wake up at 5am and be in bed before 10pm (9:30pm on a good night) without it being a major priority.

About an hour before I picked up my race packet, I checked the tire pressure on my bike and noticed they were a little low. I proceeded to fill up the tires, and all was well, until I tried to take the pump off of the bike tire and inadvertently tore the inner-tube. Thankfully, I had an extra so I changed the back tire and was glad it happened the day before and not day of/during the race.

We were required to rack our bikes on Saturday. There’s a picture of my beautiful $350 Craigslist buy. It was hard not to get bike envy as I looked at all the amazing bikes around me. To give you an idea of the demographic of triathletes, people who compete in Ironman races earn an average of $160,000 annually. Granted, this race was no Ironman but that statistic still underscores the fact that triathlon can be quite an expensive sport. I spent much more than I originally anticipated on gear but nowhere near what I could have easily spent. A nice bike for triathlon is likely to set you back about $2,000 and can make a pretty big difference on your speed (some bikes get up to $10,000+ — my dream bikes). My motto (at least until I can afford to splurge), was that “a poor craftsman blames his tools.”

Saturday night my family and Ryan went out for a great Italian dinner (carbo-load style) and I was shocked when we ran into the Race Director at the same restaurant, Carmines. I tried to avoid anything too heavy but still chowed-down on pasta and Chicken Parmesan. I went to bed around 10:30pm Saturday night and slept well until the alarm clock rang at 4am. From that point on, it was “go time,” and I was ready to get the race started.

Sunday morning was smooth-sailing. I didn’t run into race traffic, didn’t hit any road closures, and didn’t have a hard time finding a parking space. I made it to the transition area with plenty of time to get setup and warm up. I laid out all my gear, ran through the mental checklist, and made a few laps around the transition area to get loose. Of course, it wouldn’t be a race morning without at least a few trips to the Porta Johns.

I found my swim wave group, sang the national anthem, was escorted to the dock and then directed to jump in and start swimming. It all happened so fast, it was a bit of a surreal experience. The swim was going well until a kayaker pulled up beside me and started to yell “Swimmer! Swimmer!” I lifted my head up to hear him say “You’re way off course. Make a hard right.”

Now, as the swim started, I was surrounded by a decent sized group of swimmers. People were on my left and right and I could see bubbles in front of me which is always a good sign. I’m still not entirely sure when I made my departure from this group, but I did and was way off course. I turned to the right and kept swimming, until the kayaker told me again to turn even more to the right. I complied, though demoralized that I wasted energy swimming off-course. After making my way back on track and being punched squarely in the jaw in the process, I made the final turn and approached the “Swim Exit” buoys that funneled us onto a dock.

As I got out of the water, I swallowed two large mouthfuls of water. That didn’t phase me as I was running out of the water until my stomach twisted into a huge knot that made me feel sick. I was running towards all the spectators (happy to see that my family and Haley had found their way to the start to meet Ryan who was up with me at 4am — troopers) and tried to put a smile on and hold myself together.

There’s only so much a person can do, though, to stop the inevitable. I felt like I was going to throw up but instead just started dry-heaving as I walked a few hundred feet to my bike. It was a terrible feeling. I didn’t know how much my detour had impacted my swim time and I didn’t want to start a 40k bike ride feeling ill.

“This is why they call it an ‘endurance’ sport,” I said to myself. I ran out with my bike and when I saw the look on their faces, I know I must have looked rough.

I started feeling better after a few miles on the bike and tried to make up for lost time. It was difficult to do as I was apprehensive to eat any of my gels and drink too much but I tried to suck it up and push through. Here are some pictures from the bike leg:

Still looking a bit red in the face starting off the bike.

Starting to catch my stride and feeling better.

There’s the money shot! Riding around DC was great – I loved all the monuments and it was fun to ride, without traffic, on the roads that I use daily to get to and from work. Shutting down this many miles of road in DC is quite the feat so I was thankful to all the police and volunteers along the way who guided us in the right direction. That said, there were many sharp turns throughout the course which isn’t ideal for a fast bike course.

I got to see everyone a few more times than I expected on the bike course. I was happy to pass them for the first time after seeing them after the swim and watching looks of relief come over their faces after smiling big and giving a thumbs up.

After the second loop on the bike course, it was time to start the 10k around the city. At this point in the race, I was tired but ready to get off the bike and hit my stride on the run. As I left the transition area one last time, I saw my dad who ran alongside me for a few seconds to cheer me on and remind me that this was my strongest leg of the race. That encouragement helped a lot. I needed a boost of confidence so I told him, “Happy Father’s Day” and off I ran.

The run portion definitely had its ups and downs. This picture definitely caught some of the fatigue that was occurring.

The last 1.2 miles were long to say the least. I kept looking for the finish line and, when it finally came, I was thrilled. Finally, I could stop moving. Even better was knowing all the hard work had paid off and I was about to accomplish something I wasn’t quite sure was possible in January.

So when they told me to strike a pose with my medal, I obliged.

So, folks, there’s the race recap. My final time was 2:48:38. 

Swim T1 Bike T2 Run
28:52 3:29 1:22:55 1:46 51:38

I would have loved to come in a bit faster, but for my first race, I was very pleased.

This week of recovery has been great but I’m already starting to itch to get back out there. Come Monday, I’ll be back into the swing of things again and will start thinking about what my next race will be. I’m hoping to do at least one more Olympic-length race this year and am even considering a Half Ironman (70.3 miles total) this fall.

Thank you all for your support along the way and for your readership. I’ve gotten almost 2,000 hits on here – something I couldn’t imagine when I wrote my first post. The DC Tri may be over, but there’s no reason to stop now! The training will continue and I will find another race, preferable one that isn’t in the Potomac.

Countdown: 5 Days

14 Jun

I was out of town this weekend and missed a few days of my countdown!

That said, time is flying. The race is 5 days away.

Triathlon is a more technical sport, largely in part to what is called “transition.” There are two transitions that take place during a tri. The first, T1, occurs between the swim and bike portions and, T2, happens between the bike and run. Here’s the map of the transition area for the DC Tri:

DC Tri Transition

Each competitor will have their own place (organized by bib number — I am bib 207) to rack their bike and setup all their gear. The time spent in transition counts towards the final race total, so speed is important! Most suggest that the transition area be kept as simple as possible.

Triathlon Transition Area

I’ve done a good amount of practicing (though I need to run through it another time or tow) and have read several good articles on How to Set Up Triathlon Transition Areas. I’ll lay everything needed for after the swim (socks, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running shoes, etc) out on a towel in my area. The other things, like water and nutrition (Hammer Gels) will already be on my bike. T1 will take the most time because I’ll have to take off the wetsuit, put on socks, shoes, and helmet and head out. T2 will be fast – hop off the bike, switch shoes and start running.

There are some more technical elements and fancy approaches (clipping in the bike shoes to the bike and rubber-banding them in place) but I’m not going to do anything too different than what I’ve been practicing.

Let’s just hope I do as well as this guy, with the Quickest Transition In History:

Countdown: 9 Days

10 Jun

I know, I’m corny.

But this kind of stuff gets me going!

“There is no ‘can’t’.”

It won’t be a successful race unless I’m telling myself that a few times during the race. There’s a balance between pushing too hard and enduring the grind. It seems like that’s a key to endurance sports.

This time next week I’ll be hanging out with my family and anticipating Haley and Ryan’s arrival!

Countdown: 10 Days

9 Jun After the Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Crossing that finish line is going to be great.

I will have accomplished one of my personal goals, the 18 weeks of training will have paid off, and I will have a week off of waking up at 5am.

More exciting than all those things, however, are all the great faces that will great me as I finish.

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It’s going to be incredible having all these people I love there cheering me on!!!

Countdown: 11 Days

8 Jun

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt is taped over my bed and I read it regularly before going to sleep.

“The one quality which sets one man apart from another – the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity – is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness – it is self-discipline.

With self-discipline, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream.” 

Countdown: 12 Days

7 Jun

In addition to the day of my race, June 19th is Father’s Day.

I’m thrilled that my dad will be here watching and cheering me on.

Many of you have likely seen or heard of this story. Dick and Rick Hoyt are the father-son team who have completed 6 Ironman races together. Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy.

From their website:

In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”

That’s just the beginning of their incredible story, which has definitely serves as a source of motivation for me. I mean, how could it not?

As I race on Father’s Day, it’s an incredible feeling to know that my dad would do something like this for me. I hope that I would be able to answer that same call and do something like this for my son.