Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Turning Point

I seem to have reached one. Five weeks ago, before I accepted the challenge of training for a triathlon, I was incredibly out of shape. It hurt to get out of bed in the morning. I got winded climbing a flight of stairs. My home life was suffering as I watched my kids play instead of playing with them. Even the Boyo got in the habit. While we worked outside on any given project, he would ask me if it was time for a break, as I needed them often and for longer periods than I worked.

The Lakota believe that all of the universe, and life itself, is cyclical. The Sacred Hoop. The four seasons always circling around following one another. Birth, life, death, and beyond. I'm believing that more and more these days. Five weeks ago my Life Hoop went something like this...

I gain weight -> I'm too heavy (in my head) to exercise -> I get more out of shape -> I get depressed because I'm fat and out of shape -> I eat because I'm depressed and stressed -> I still don't exercise because I'm tired and sore -> I gain weight... repeat for ten years.

Five weeks ago I agreed to try a Tri. This week I've reached a turning point of sorts. On Sunday, I went for a fifteen mile bike ride and followed it up with a 2.2 mile run/walk. Monday I swam 1000 yards. Tuesday I ran/walked 3 miles. That's right! The first three mile exercise I've done since I left the USMC. It was pitifully slow by USMC standards. I'm following the C-5K plan a bit, so it was run 1:30 then walk 1:30. But I did that for the entire three miles and still feel pretty good! For a few of the rotations I was actually going just over 5 MPH! (I had to treadmill it since there was a thunderstorm outside) But my body is doing things this week that a mere month ago would have most likely killed me!

I'm rebuilding my Life Hoop. It is becoming something like this...

I am losing weight -> I feel lighter in my head, and push myself to exercise -> I get more in shape -> life seems a little better every day as the weight leaves and the energy and endurance increase -> I eat healthier because my body is actually craving more nutritious foods -> The increase in energy and endurance mixed with the lighter body means I exercise longer and at greater intensity -> I lose more weight...

it is a self feeding circle, and it feels great. I still ache a bit when I get out of bed, but mostly now it is from exercise. I can run around with the kiddos again, making all of us happier. I don't get winded climbing stairs. And life really does look a lot better as the weight melts off and I get back into shape. I've turned a corner in my life and found a good path. I'd like to stay in this cycle for awhile. It's fun!

What are you making of your Life Hoop these days?

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Half Way There

Tomorrow night at midnight is the halfway point between the day I started training for a triathlon and the day of the triathlon itself. To say I am anxious about the tri would be an understatement. But my confidence is growing daily.

Last Thursday I went and did a mini-tri with the local triathlon club, mainly to get some experience swimming in open water with a group. The swim portion went quite well, I was third out of the water! My T1 was pretty fast, as I only had to put on my shoes and helmet and ride. I did get passed quite a bit on my bike. Those triathletes who are in shape went past me like rockets, especially on the hills. But I did 8 miles on the bike. My T2 time was fast as well, since I just had to lean my bike against the fence, take off my helmet and run. I only went a mile, and had to do a run/walk. But I ran for a minute and walked for a minute for the whole thing. I forgot to start my stopwatch, so I don't know how my time was. It didn't really matter to me anyway. I enjoyed the experience of tri-ing with others!

Today I was feeling good, so planned to do an 8 - 10 mile bike followed by a couple miles on my feet. I ended up doing 15.25 miles on my bike in 1:08:14 and actually going 2.2 miles in a run walk! I pushed myself a bit more by running for a minute and a half and walking the same. That time was 35 minutes. So my run is still slow, but I'm making progress! I looked back at that first day of training when I went a mile in 18 minutes, and that was all I could do! Today my run/walk time was about the same as that first day, but I preceded it with a 15 mile bike ride, so I'm OK with that!

I found the Couch to 5K website and have been following their method to get someone from being a total couch potato to running a 5K in 12 weeks. Of course, I don't have that much time left, so it's a bit modified. But I'm coming along! I'm coming along! And that is what counts the most.

I will finish this triathlon. I am confident today. Half way there and I'm feeling great!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Bike Ride

Today I am feeling awesome! I had a long weekend at work, my 12 hour shifts became 16 hour shifts and so I did not get to run/walk like I had hoped. When today rolled around I decided I needed to exercise or feel a failure.

Fortunately the wife knew this and suggested I go take a bike ride. My goal was 10 miles. But I ended up going 15 1/2 miles instead.

The first couple miles felt crappy. But I pushed through and the rest of the ride felt really comfortable! I even pedaled my way to a whole nother town! (village...hamlet really. But it had a green sign with white lettering stating the name, so I'm counting it)

The entire ride out to the little town was hilly, and it seemed like every hill I climbed only dropped back down about half of what I had just climbed. This was reflected in my average speed too. When I turned around I had covered about 6 1/2 miles and been out for 45 minutes. But I got my revenge on the return trip, as the downhill stretches lasted longer than the ups. I was also feeling nice and warmed up, so I had many runs where I was in the top gear spinning comfortably down the slopes! My little computer said I was going around 20 - 25 MPH on these, but I felt much faster.

I took a couple of laps on the frontage road leading to our neighborhood to push my miles up over 15, and finished the ride in 1:13:15. Not too bad for my fourth time out on the bike! And today gives me a great baseline for the triathlon, as the bike portion is 15 miles.

Right now I am very confident that the swim and bike will go fine. Now I just have to get my endurance up for the run! I was most definitely not ready to run a 5K after climbing off the bike today. But I did feel good, and felt like I even had some energy left over. So. An excellent ride today! And a good thing too, there's only 40 days until the triathlon!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Putting it Together

Today I did my first "brick" workout. A brick is when you do at least two of the three sports back to back. I was very motivated and decided that my first brick should be a mini-tri.

So I loaded the bike up along with my shoes and swimwear and headed for the lake.

Today was not the ideal day for lap swimming! The beach was packed. The deep area was awash with people lounging on those floaty inflatable mat thingies, which made the swim into a dodge-em course. Officially I swam 300 yards, but with all of the weaving and detouring I probably added a good 50 yards to it. But the swim felt pretty good! More freestyle than anything, and breast stroke only to avoid other splashers. (there were no other people actually swimming) Then it was time for my first transition.

In a triathlon, there are two transitions. One between swimming and cycling, and another between cycling and running. (Or in my case jog-walking) They are creatively titled T1 and T2.

My T1 today was hampered by a number of things. My bike was locked in the back of the Highlander, and thus needed to be extracted to be ridden. I also had to change out of my baggy beach swimsuit (I'm hoping to get something a little more streamlined for race day) into my brand new pair of cycling shorts. If you have not worn cycling shorts before, imagine a nice pair of spandex shorts that come down to just above the knees. Now imagine a gel filled diaper in the crotch. I felt a little like I imagine the Sweet Pea does when her diaper is full, but it did make quite a difference on the ride! So my T1 time was about what my swim time was. My swim time was 8:30 and my T1 was 5:30.

I jogged my bike over to the entrance to the park and hit the road. Immediately noticeable were two things. One - I felt like I was sitting on a jelly sandwich. Two - I was TIRED! My course would take me a little over five miles. I initially thought about doing it twice, but thought better of it about three miles in. Again a headwind cursed me, but I did have a nice long straightaway with no wind to hamper me, and I made up a little time there. As I came in on the bike for T2, I noted my time was just under 26 minutes. I'm still only cruising around 12 MPH. Ah well.

T2 was much easier, as I rode in my running shoes. So all I had to do was load the bike back in my vehicle and head into the run. My T2 time was all of 2 minutes.

Immediately noticeable on the run was only one thing. My legs felt like JELLY! I hobbled out onto the sidewalk and headed down the road. I don't really know how far I went, as I set my watch to beep every minute. I ran (see hobble-jog) for a minute and then walked for a minute. I was only able to do this twice before I turned around and headed back to the car. All told my "run" was just over ten minutes, and I was panting like a black dog on a sunny day when I got back to the car.

I grabbed my towel again and headed for the water to cool down. The water was still packed, but I just was beyond caring. I stretched out a little then waded into the water, where steam rose in waves off my rapidly cooling body. I floated for a little bit, discouraged by the fact that such a short set of distances just kicked my posterior in such a major way. But as I floated, I realized something very important.

Three weeks ago I couldn't climb the stairs in my house without getting winded and feeling my pulse climb. I just did a mini-tri of 300yd swim, 5 mile bike and ten minute hobble, and while the whole thing took around an hour, it is the most continuous exercise I have done probably since boot camp back in 1992. And as I emerged from the water again, I noted with some pride that my heart rate was down nicely in the low 80's, and I could still breathe!

I don't care how long it takes me to finish this coming triathlon. The benefits from training have been well worth getting involved. Rather than get discouraged anymore, I'm going to see each workout for what it is - much more than I have done in a long time! The road back to being in shape is a long one, but I finally feel like I am well on my way!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Training Continues

One huge difference was discovered between pedaling a stationary bike and riding the real thing. Let's see if you can guess based on my story.

I headed out from home yesterday for a ride. We live in a little valley at the top af a "little" hill.

At least the hill seems pretty mild when we drive it or walk it. I coasted down this little hill to start my ride, topping out at 31.8 MPH! I felt REALLY fast!

Pedalling out of the neighborhood was OK, my legs felt tight but they loosened up as I went. I biked over to a long, relatively flat stretch out behind a nearby mini-mall, big store area and made a new discovery. As I was pedalling, I noticed that no matter how hard I pushed, I couldn't seem to keep my speed above 10 MPH. I had some little bursts of speed, around 12 MPH. But I just felt slow! Of course, I had been awake since 8:30 am the day before, worked a 12 hour night shift, and stayed awake this morning while the Wife was with her folks. So perhaps after 28 hours of being awake, I was just tired.

Then came the turn around. I wearily made a 180 degree turn and headed back. Almost instantly my speed was up to 15 MPH, then 17 MPH. I didn't even feel like I was going hard! I pushed a little and got up to 21 MPH! I was cruising! I felt so good that I passed the turn off to my house and went an extra mile!

Then I turned around 180 degrees again to head home. Once more it was slow, tiring work. The reason?

Yesterday we had winds of 10 MPH gusting to 20 MPH. I discovered that I REALLY hate headwinds. I remembered the joy of paddling into them on the river trip with Dad. Now those memories came flooding back. By the time I reached my hill again, it was just too daunting to try and pedal. I got a third of the way up and had to walk the bike to the top. It is my goal to one day ride all the way to the top. But maybe I'll do that at the start of the ride!

Oh, and I only went 6 miles. I've got less than seven weeks to go, and my "supreme confidence" in finishing has turned to being guardedly optimistic. The last place finisher at Hickory Grove was under 2:10:00 last year. Unless my times improve, I'll be pushing 2:45! Maybe more!

I'm not going to quit though. I'm looking forward to this very much! It will be a great starting point for improvement and an excellent way to get ready for the adventure to China that happens less than two weeks after the Tri!

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

My New Ride

Yesterday I brought home this...


My "biggest" purchase for the upcoming triathlon. As far as pedigree goes, it's not all too great. It's a GMC Denali. But since I've got a paramedic budget to work with and the price was great, it will do. I also got a nifty little computer that tells me how fast I'm going and how far I've gone, along with a few other random bits of info. So after I got it home and set up, I went to a local trail and did a test run with it.

A few years ago I had tried to get back into riding on a mountain bike. But it was more a comedy of errors than a ride. The gears weren't adjusted right and the seat was an assult to my backside. I think I rode it down our hill, walked it back up, and promptly returned it.

I was a bit fearful about how this one would work out, as the seat is still mighty small and wedgie-ish. In fact, I had narrowed my choices down to this one, or a Schwinn hybrid touring bike that had a much wider and more comfy seat on it. But I felt like I was sitting almost straight up and down on that one, and if I'm going to race, even against myself, then I wanted to be a bit more aero. (or aerodynamically efficient... I'm learning to talk the tri talk too. You've been warned)

The test ride went a lot better than I thought, and a bit worse. I wasn't all that uncomfortable. Although the words of one of the doctors I work with kept ringing in my ears. He's an avid biker and said that he had heard someone once answer the question of how to prepare to ride on the little seats this way. "for the first few weeks, lay a 2 x 4 across a couple of sawhorses and sit on it for five or six hours. Then to really get the feel of a racing seat, turn the 2 x 4 on its side and sit on it that way")

Yes, my posterior chafed a bit and is sore today. But I managed the five miles without getting too winded. But that's where the bad news comes in. I did the 5 miles in 23:08 according to my spiffy little bike computer. That puts a 15 mile ride in around 1:10.00 or so. If my swim time is around 12 minutes that takes me up to 1:22.00. Add in the transitions and fatigue and we're looking at something around 1:30. My run time is around an hour right now. That puts me WAY over my 2 hour goal!

Well. I have a little over seven weeks left to train. I can get those times down. I'm going to have to! Time for a swim now. And a beautiful day to do it in!

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Today in Tri Training

I know it's only been a couple weeks since my last post... not even two really. But still, it's remarkable how much one can accomplish in so little time.

Today the dogs were restless, so after getting up to let them out, and in, and out again, I tossed any notion of getting back to sleep aside and went for a run/walk. I did 1.5 miles in 24 minutes. Which is respectable for me, though not for the Marine inside my head. (I used to be able to do three miles in around 22 minutes back in the day) Then after dropping the Boyo off at his sports camp (mornings this week where he gets to play t-ball, basketball and soccer with about twenty other hyper K-1 graders) I went to the lake for a swim. It opens at 10am and I was there at 10:04. This is definitely the time to go, as I had the entire beach and all of the water to myself!

After wading in and acclimating myself to the coldish water, I walked back up on the beach to start my stopwatch. Then I ran back in and swam. I did the first 140 yds freestyle, then a length of backstroke/sidestroke, then another length of free, then breast/side, then another length of free, then a back/breast/side length and finished with a slow but strong free. 560 yards total (or there abouts) and I climbed out of the water to stop the timer. 14 minutes and 2 seconds! This is not too shabby considering it's only my fifth time back in the water.

Of course, the trick now is to get the time down around or under ten minutes, and be able to climb from the water, go on a fifteen mile bike ride, and do a 5K run!

7 1/2 weeks until the tri. I'm feeling all at once as if I have plenty of time, and no time at all until race day. I am supremely confident that I can finish this sprint triathlon. My main objective is to finish it under 2 hours. I'm pretty confident that I can get my swim time down close to 10 minutes. I'm almost certain I can keep the ride time around an hour. And even if I do the run at this mornings pace, I can do it around 50 minutes. That leaves around five minutes for each transition time.

By George, I just might be able to finish under 2 hours!

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