Florida Challenge Triathlon Countdown Clock

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Going Vertical

I can't believe it's April 24th. Time is really going by fast! That means my race is getting closer & closer, and that also means every training session counts! In January & February you can kinda slack a bit on your workouts, because you still have plenty time to get it together. But come April, EVERY WORKOUT COUNTS! Every lap in the pool, every mile ran, every pedal stroke. Which brings me to this weekend's workout: Hitting the bridges.

I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but riding hills is tough for me. I'm not making excuses, and I'm not I'm not complaining at all. It is what is is. Kinda like how some have a tough time with algebra. It just means I have to work harder than others to excel at them. Sometimes it's best to know what your weaknesses are so you can work on them.

The plan this weekend was to hit the bridges and ride them for 3 hours. Here I am before I headed out:

As an FYI, I got this jersey before T-Mobile became a household name in the US. Back in the early/mid 90's they were a powerhouse in the pro cycling world. They were the Lakers of cycling:

This team no longer exists, but I still have my kit! LOL

I was feeling pretty good this morning as I got ready for my ride. The bike is the most important aspect of the race, because if my legs are cramped up there's no way I'll be able to run. Unfortunately that's happened tome before & I've had to walk the majority of the run as a result. NOT FUN.

Here's a quick vid before I start my ride:

The plan today was to try different riding styles up the bridges: Sometimes I'd attack & try sprint as fast as I could. Other times I'd sit in the saddle & ride at an easy pace. Other times I'd ride seated, but at a faster pace. The goal is to hit my legs in a variety of ways, in hopes they can recover enough for the next time up the bridge.

Basically I'd just be riding the bridges back & forth, back & forth. I do this to try simulate the rolling hills I'll see on race day. This would be a boring ride, except I really DO like riding hills & bridges. I like the challenge of it. But the views make it that much easier to do:

Here's a pic at the top of 1 of the bridges:

The pics really don't do the view justice, especially on that pic. Going down the bridge is an incredible view of the Gulf of Mexico.

On this pic Mexico is straight ahead (even though we can't see it;)

45 minutes into my ride I'm feeling pretty good. To be honest, I felt like I just got on the bike. Here's a quick vid I took at that point:

Up to this point I'd taken my time over the bridge. I wasn't trying to push it, just taking my time. In Flatwoods I can start off aggressively, because there are no hills there. Sometimes when riding the bridges, I can feel fine, then halfway up I'll get a leg cramp or feel like I hit a wall and can barely pedal and will fall over! So I'm ride defensively on the bridges.

I'm now an hour into my ride & I still feel good. Really good! It's now time to get a tad aggressive on these damn bridges! I start to ride as hard as I can, standing & really pushing it as far as I can up the bridge. I get anywhere from halfway to 3/4 of the way up before I sit and pedal. What I have to work on is my tempo and relaxing AFTER I ride all out. The key for me is to not fight the hill, but try ride WITH it. It's hard to explain, but the more you "fight" the hills/bridges, the more energy you use. I have to work on that.

I've been riding now for 90 minutes and I feel STRONG. I head over to the 2nd bridge now, which is the hardest. I've eaten half a Clif Bar, taken 2 electrolyte pills, and a Gu. I ride the hardest bridge last because that's the best way for me to improve. 2 hours into my ride I want to have to work VERY hard. How else will you get better? You have to keep pushing yourself.

The views from this bridge are just as nice as the other one:

This bridge is HARD!! It's longer than the other one, and seems like it takes forever to make it to the top. When I try stand & pedal I get about halfway up before I have to sit down. It takes me about 2 minutes to get to the top. I guess that would make me a "2 Minute Brotha?" Yeah, but ONLY in this instance! lol

2:15 into my ride I start to feel the effects. My left leg is starting to feel a twinge, like a cramp is trying to come. When that happens, I try to work them out by standing & pedaling at an easy cadence on the flats. I also become more aware of food & drink intake. Luckily I didn't get any cramps today, but I was definitely tired.

After the dust settled, I accomplished my mission today and rode 3 full hours. Here's another quick vid:

I was pretty tired when I shot that one. Riding bridges really wears me out, but it's a GREAT workout!!

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt much better within minutes of getting off the bike. That's a VERY good sign. That means my legs are recovering pretty well. That's GREAT, but there's s till work to do. can't get over-confident. Gotta stay focused and can't rest on my laurels!

After my ride I did my customary walk to get rid of the lactic acid in my legs:

This is a great place to train, and a great place to relax AFTER a workout:

The cool thing about living in Tampa is if you like the beach, there are PLENTY spots you can hit. Even find some nice, secluded spots like this one.

Sometimes I like the chillin out more than the actual workout! lol

All in all, I had a great workout. I'm still not fast on the bridges, but that's not my primary goal. My goal is to ride them at a good pace, while still having enough energy to run afterwards. I expect people to pass me on the bike come race day, but I want to pass them right back on the RUN! So I have to make sure I'm fresh starting the run, but still have a good ride. I'm hoping come race day I'll be able to do that. Luckily, I still have time to make that a reality. I don't have a lot of time, but I plan on using every workout forthcoming to make it happen!

Thanks for reading! Till next time, peace!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Run Extension!

Since the IRS extended the tax deadline to Monday, I decided to extend my run also! lol Sometimes you just gotta go for it, and today I did! I decided to up my run from 7 miles to 10. (OK, it was closer to 9.7, but I like the sound of 10 better! lol)

But seriously, I wanted to up the mileage and see how my body would respond. I need to get some longer runs under my belt, and now is a good a time as any to start. I must admit, I was a tad nervous about going for a longer run, seeing how I haven't run this far since last September. The thing is, running in this Florida heat SUCKS. There's no other way to describe it. The heat just wears you down and can make for a long, tortuous run. lol Running on the treadmill is ok, but I haven't done 1 triathlon where the run was on a treadmill in a nice air conditioned gym. It was ALWAYS out in the heat and this bloody awful sun. I MUST train in this heat.

So, to help compensate for running in HORRID weather, I go run where at least it's a nice place to go and you can kinda enjoy it, even though it's mad hot: Bayshore.

Peep the guy on the kayak:

I do much better running from Point A to Point B, instead of watching the seconds tick by while running on the treadmill. This is a great place to run.

Because it's so hot out here, I always carry plenty of water & Gatorade with me:

Here I am as I head out for my run:

What makes this run different is not only am I running a little further, but I'm wearing my Ironman 70.3 hat. I don't wear this hat often, but I wanted to wear it today to get mentally ready to run a longer distance. Sometimes you have to psyche yourself out, and this was my way of doing it. I wanted to imagine myself in a race today, not out there as a runner, but as a traithlete.

This is how I like to run: Hat low, shades on. You can't see my eyes, and I can't see yours. All can see is the road in front of me. I'm focused man! lol

Anyway, the mental preparation is just as important as the physical preparation, and how a person gets prepared is as varied as their training routines. Whatever works!

Here's a quick vid I took before my run:

I started the run feeling pretty good. As always, I started out slow, just to get the kinks out and see how my body would respond. It was really windy out,which is GREAT for me because it kept me cool. It takes me almost 30 minutes to get warmed up, and at 30 minutes I was feeling good. All systems were go!

I ran to Ballast Point today, since I ran a little further. Bayshore has ZERO cloud cover, but I do get a little when I do the extra distance:

It took me about 40 minutes to get to Ballast Point which is almost 5 miles for the halfway point of my run. Overall I felt good. It was still windy, but I was starting to feel the heat.

Ballast Point is a combination park/fishing pier. There were a lot of people out today having a good time:

Running around places like this also makes running "easier" because my mind isn't on the pain.

It also keeps the workouts fresh, because you never know what you'll see.

After a couple pics, a bathroom break & a water bottle fill up I headed back to complete my run.

Seeing how I stopped, it took me a couple minutes to get back into a running groove. I don't mind that, because sometimes I'll stop during races at the aid stations, or even walk becauseI'm just plain tired. It's good I learn to run hard, stop, then resume running hard. This was an indirect way to replicate what I do in an actual race.

Around mile 9 I start to feel tired. I'm feeling the heat even though it's still windy. The way I felt 75 minutes into the run is how I usually feel 2-3 miles into an actual race. THIS is 1 of the most crucial aspects of my training, and one that's hard to reproduce in training. When I start to feel really fatigued, I can't start walking. I have to learn how to maintain my form and keep running. If I slow my pace that's ok. I gotta keep running.

The thing is, it takes me running 9-10 miles in training to feel how I feel 2 miles into an actual race. That's because in a race I start the run tired. I usually don't start my training runs tired. I start them refreshed and energized. This is why the longer runs are most important. I gotta work on that...

Anyway, I finished my run in about 1:25 minutes. I was tired, but not exhausted. My conditioning is coming along nicely and my confidence is slowly increasing. I'm cautiously optimistic about my race. You can't get too confident, because overconfidence can lead to carelessness. I've done that in the past & each time something bad happened: 1 race I crashed & bruised my shoulder. Another race I wans't properly hydrated and had severe leg cramps on the bike. I barely finished the bike, and had to walk the majority of the 13.1 mile run.

All because I started to believe my own hype. So I gotta make sure I'm fully prepared and treat the race (and training) with the respect it deserves!

Here's a vid I took after my run:

All in all, I had a FANTASTIC run. I felt good pretty much the entire way, and I'm not really tired as I type this. It was a beautiful day out on bayshore today, and I was just feeling really calm, relaxed and happy as I chilled after my run in my usual spot:

Of the 3 sports, running really clears my mind, even though biking is my fav. That runners high is real! lol Today was a good day. I know I can run "10" miles no problem, and that's an important thing to know when preparing for an event.

Monday I'll be in the pool for 60 minutes. Tuesday it's weights. Wednesday is yoga. Thursday I'll be on the treadmill to do some speedwork. Friday is weights at home, and next Saturday I'll be hitting the bridges again for a good bike ride. I havea busy schedulewith work, the PT job, and training, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Thanks for reading! Till next time, peace!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Making Do!

Saturday's are my long training days. I'll either go for a long bike, a long run, or a combination of both.

I really wanted to go ride the bridges, but it's still Spring break season, and that means more traffic in that area. I would've had to get over there really early to avoid all the traffic, but to be honest, I didn't feel like getting up really early! I'm not a morning person and if there's a chance I can sleep in, I'm gonna take it! So, instead of getting in some quality hill training, I decided to do a long ride (49miles) yesterday at Flatwoods.

As much as I love this sport, it can be stressful if you let it get to you. You have THREE sports you have to get ready for: Congrats on being a great runner, but it means nothing if you can't swim. Being a great cyclists is wonderful, but if you struggle and suffer thru the run and have to walk that'll make for a long day...

Training for these races is a delicate balancing act. If you want to be competitive, you have to be good at all three. No weak links. Hence my aggravation yesterday. I need to ride the bridges to get ready for the hills. Yeah, I've done this race many times before, but I'm a year older and you can't rest on your laurels from years past. In order to get ready, you gotta train properly.

It's my fault I didn't get up extra early to avoid the crowds, but I didn't want to, so I have nobody to blame but myself. But I still wanted a good ride, so I just went to Flatwoods instead.

It's starting to get HOT! Very hot! That's another thing about racing in Florida: You gotta get used to the heat, and the only way to really do that is to train in it. My goal today was to ride 49 miles, 42 of it as hard as I could. I wanted to leave it at the park, to try & compensate for the lack of hills.

This is 1 of my fav jerseys. Festina was a pro cycling team in the 80's and 90's. Some people collect basketball & football jerseys, I collect cycling jerseys! lol

On the way to the park I stop to get gas and run up on a motorcycle club. They were about 20 deep. I couldn't resist getting a couple pics of them:

I really like motorcycles, but would never get one. I think I'll stick with my Cannondale! They were looking at me, I was looking at them. Quite funny actually. lol

I make it to the park and man is it hot! As I get ready to ride I'm already sweating. Here's a quick pre-ride vid:

Luckily, when riding the bike, you get a nice breeze if you ride fast enough, so I wasn't too concerned with the heat. If I were running it'd be a different story. I'll worry about that when I run. lol

I was feeling pretty good on the ride today. I stayed in the aero position the majority of the ride and kept my cadence high, while still turning a pretty big gear. When on training rides, I try to push harder than I would in a race because I don't have to run afterwards. I can literally get off the bike & chill.

There were a lot of people out today, but I still had the park to myself:

This is 1 thing about Flatwoods that I like: it's like an escape and you can get lost in your own thoughts without having the distractions of cars, and things like that. You can literally put your head down & go!

An hour into the ride I'm still feeling strong. I'm cruising along at 19mph riding all alone, passing all types of cyclists, joggers & rollerbladers, feeling better about my decision to come out here to train. Yes, i need to ride the bridges, but I'm getting a good ride in.

But I must say this:


Sorry, but i just had to say that! lol

2 hours later I'm still going strong and have ridden 37 miles. I'm averaging 18.5 mph, a tad slower than the first hour. I would prefer to do a negative split, but I still haven't mastered that on the bike. I can do it somewhat when running, but not when I'm riding. I have to work on that.

But at this point I'm feeling really good! Two hours into the ride and I hadn't been passed once! I think I jinxed myself, cuz as soon as I was about to proclaim myself "King for a Day" this guy passed me like I was standing still.

Dammit man! lol

But it's all good, cuz people like that motivate me. It just shows me there's room for improvement. And getting passed like that is good for you. It keeps you humble, hungry and motivated. I think I have only tapped into half of my physical potential. Maybe 50% is on the high end? I dunno, but I do know I can get better, simply based on the fact that I got passed by a guy going at least 23mph, and on a bike that's FAST.

I shut it down on the 6th lap & ride the last 7 miles at an easy 15mph for a cool down. I was really happy with the ride and feel pretty good about my conditioning. Total ride was about 2:45.

After the ride I sit up, eat a bit, relax, and enjoy the day:

Here's a quick post ride video:

I said before that getting ready for a race can be stressful, but even I have to remind myself to enjoy the journey. All we can do is prepare for whatever we're trying to do, and at the same time, try find a way to enjoy it. Sometimes when we accomplish something, we look back on the preparation more so than the actual finished product. I have to remember that...

After my ride I did my customary 15 minute cooldown walk followed up with 15 minutes of yoga stretches on my Chicago Bulls towel. GO BULLS!

All in all, a GREAT RIDE. My endurance is good, but as with anything, there's room for improvement. I'm not gonna worry about the hills because I'll get on the bridges in due time. Long as I stay productive and train hard in the capacity I have available at the time that's all can do!

Thanks for reading! Till next time, peace!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Love Haters!

Yesterday (4-2-11) it was time for another good run, and I went back to 1 of my fav spots, Bayshore. I have a love/hate relationship with running. There are times when I feel GREAT and get that runners high where I feel unstoppable and can run forever. Then there are other days when the YARDS just drag by. My feet hurt, it's hot, and I'm just plain TIRED! (I'm just keeping it real!)

Part of the love/hate relationship stems from the fact that running just isn't easy for me anymore. The years of running have taken a toll on my body. The older I get, the longer it takes for me to warm up, and for the first 15 minutes I'm going thru my "checklist:"

How do your knees feel?
Achilles heel ok?
Slow down! We got a long way to go!
Which stride today? Long strides or short shuffle strides?
It's really hot, gotta run defensively today.
Loosen your shoulders, mofo!

Yes, these are actual thoughts that go thru my mind. If a person saw me running, they'd have no clue I was doing this, or if I was in pain. One of the keys to excelling in sports (or anything we do for that matter) is to make it look effortless, and having proper form is the key to making that happen. If you look at pro athletes, many times you can't tell if the race or game has just started, or if they've been going at it for 3 hours. Having proper form helps minimize injuries, maintain your pace, and keeps you motivated psychologically. Your conditioning has to be on point for that, and that means a lot of time training.

On the flip side, if you can visibly see the strain on a person's face, their form has broken down, etc. then you know it's just a matter of time before they fall apart.

Anyway, it was yet another beautiful day in Tampa Bay!

A lot of these pics may look the same, but that's because pretty much every day is sunny in Florida. lol Before my run I took a quick video:

I was feeling REALLY GOOD yesterday morning. Downright excited to run! Brotha was HYPED and I don't even know why! I was loving the run yesterday! lol!

I've been running in the grass a lot lately to give my knees, ankles & Achilles heel a break, so as a result, my pace is slower than normal. Add in my checklist as described earlier & I start off pretty slow. At first, I didn't like running on grass because it really does slow me down even more. I really do enjoy running faster, but I can save those "fast" days for the treadmill or an actual race. Race days you want to give it 150% and leave it all out there, because the last thing you want to do is say "I could've done better." It's too late then. Give it your all. Leave it on the course!

The grass is getting thicker out here, so my running has slowed as a result:

Then add in the rain we've had recently & I have to watch for the puddles too:

After I completed my checklist, I was feeling pretty good. I picked up my speed, but resisted the urge to pick it up too much because I wanted to go for a "negative split." This occurs when you run the 2nd half of your workout faster then the 1st half. In other words, I wanted to finish strong. That's key in any race and sometimes I have a problem with that. Partly because I don't pace myself as well as I should. One part of my is competitive, and wants to push it so I can catch as many people as I can, or run (or bike) at a high level for an extended period of time.

The only problem is my energy levels can't sustain that high pace for only so long. So this is something I must work on.

I was debating on running either 7 or 9 miles today, but since I decided to go for a negative split, I decided on 7. I ran the 1st 3.5 miles with a conservative pep in my step, trying my best to hold back. It's really tough when the weather's so nice and people are out running along with you, but I held back. I really wanted to run on the concrete, but stayed on the grass. I hit the turn-around at 30 minutes.

I was still feeling good, but about 45 minutes in I started to get a little fatigued. I know it was the grass, because I had to pick up my feet a little more than normal. But I kept trying to push it. I wasn't going all out, just tried to keep a decent pace. Technically, for the negative split to be a success, I should've completed the 7 miles in 59 minutes, but I didn't. I finished the run in 65 minutes.

Am I disappointed? Not really. That's why you train: to make adjustments and modifications. I was tired, but not exhausted or anything like that. I had a good run actually. No leg problems,no stomach cramps, none of that crap. Just broke a good sweat! lol After my 20 minute cool down walk I felt GREAT. I still was happy and felt I could have kept running.

Here's my post run video:

Overall, I'm happy with my progress. I know I could've run further, but I can save it for another day. As always, I relaxed for a few and just enjoyed the day and the sights. I'll NEVER get tired of this view:

I saw a lot of stingrays today.

Yes, it's all about the race, but you MUST enjoy the journey too! Most people only see the end result which is crossing the finish line, but it takes a lot to even make it to the starting line. Might as well enjoy that aspect of it, and that's what I plan on doing! Scratch that. I will LOVE that aspect of it! :)

Thanks for reading! Till next time, Peace!