Florida Challenge Triathlon Countdown Clock

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Well, race day has come & gone, and what a day it was! I went into the race pretty loose because I took all the pressure off myself as far as my finish time. If I didn't reach my goal it was ok, because I didn't train as much as I should have. It's not an excuse, it's reality! You don't just wake up and do a half ironman, it takes MONTHS of preparation & training.

With me working full time, being a personal trainer and trying to get my yoga certification, that took time away from tri training. Doing the "down dog" or "triangle pose" is great, but that don't really help me at mile 45 of the bike! lol

So I went into this loose relatively loose. The goal was to finish in 1 piece. The morning of the race I got my gear checked in early and felt at ease. I pretty much chilled and checked out the other athletes. I always look at them and wonder how they trained and eventually compare myself to them: Are they ready? Am I ready? But I was still pretty loose regardless.

Here I am getting set up at daybreak and after I got everything up & and ready. These pics are courtesy of my wife the Resident Photographer:

After a while it was time to head over to the swim start:

I'm still feeling pretty relaxed at this point, because I feel if I take my time I can finish the race. At 7:30am, the race starts,and we're off! Time to start the 1.2 mile swim:

I'm on the left, in front of the dude in the light blue shorts.

I'm not a fast swimmer, but the swim is the easiest part for me. Partly because it's so monotonous. I can swim pretty much the same speed for an hour or more if need be. My only concern is getting kicked in the face, because some people don't swim in a straight line!!!! I wear contacts, so getting kicked is NOT a good look! To minimize the chance of getting hurt, I start in the back on the left. That way I can see everyone in front of me, and pass people if I can as the swim goes on.

It took about 20 minutes to get into a good swimming rhythm. People were all over the place at the start of the swim, and I had to keep looking forward a lot because there was a lot of congestion in the water. One guy was swimming so close I could see the whites of his eyes thru his goggles as I breathed on my right side. Another guy swam at an angle & I could feel the water vibration from his feet kicking right up on my ear. That SUCKS!!! It's not like you can stop and say "WTF are you doing??" You gotta keep swimming! lol

After a while, people eventually got their own space and you had room to swim. I could swim comfortably, tried to swim using as little energy as possible, because I'd need it on the bike & run! Here I am finishing the swim:

I'm feeling pretty good at this point. My swim felt good and I wasn't tired at all. I'm saying "1 down, 2 to go!" at this point.

There's no resting once you finish the swim. No resting on your laurels cuz the clock is ticking! No time to catch your breath. Get your bike & go!

This is a VERY hilly course, and it starts going uphill soon as you get on the bike:

This is why I try use as little energy as possible on the swim. Why wear yourself out on the shortest part (and many times easiest part) of the race?

When I start the bike, my wife leaves and does her own thing: she goes back to the hotel to take a nap! Then she gets up and goes to Subway for lunch,then meets me to snap pics when I finish the bike portion of the race.

As for me, the bike started out easy enough. I rode at my own pace, passing some people then getting passed. I wasn't worried about how fast others were going, just riding my own race. But what DID worry me was the heat: The sun was coming out & it was starting to get hot out there! Luckily I had my electrolytes.

Two hours into the ride I start to feel a twinge in my left hamstring. NOT GOOD, because I still had another 20 or so miles to ride over rolling hills. I pop another electrolyte.

The hills are coming fast & furious, so I really try to pace myself going over the hills. I ride an easy tempo going uphill, then go fast as I can on the downhill to make up time. Sometimes I'd stand & stretch my legs on the downhill to try ease the discomfort and catch my breath.

2.5 hours into the ride I hit Sugarloaf Mountain. I thought I was ready for it, but my left leg was not! Halfway up the hill my leg cramps up and I have to jump off the bike or fall over. Dammit man!!! I had to walk up Sugarloaf. On the way up I pop another electrolyte pill. At this point I'm eating these things like they're Starburst or something...lol

I finally get up to the top of Sugarloaf and the leg cramp is gone. I think the walking actually helped me, but at the same time, I didn't want to walk. Oh well, what can you do?

The rest of the ride was uneventful. Here I am finishing the 56 mile ride:

I start the run pretty tired. The ride took 3.5 hours,and my legs were burning! It was really hot & humid too, so I knew it was gonna be a tough run.

I usually start the run slowly, to get my running legs together. Ever try run after riding a bike? Your legs feel like bricks! That's exactly how mine felt, but I knew if I finished the bike in 1 piece, I'd finish the race.

I start the run feeling as good as a person can feel running in 90 degree Florida heat. Basically I felt like crap! lol It was hot and I knew I had at least 2.5 hours of running to do... There were plenty people out cheering us on. Right before my wife took this pic, I told her I'd text her at mile 10 so she could come back to the race to watch me cross the line. Where was she going? Shopping of course! lol

My goal was to run the first 7 miles, then hold on for dear life, but by mile THREE I knew I was in trouble. Big trouble! I was starting to overheat. The heat was just too much. They had aid stations at every 2 miles on the run, and I grabbed as much ice & water I could. I poured ice down my suit (front & back) and put some in my cap. IT WAS HOT!!!!

At mile 4 I had to walk. I was in survival mode. This is where my lack of training/conditioning came into play. Mile 4 of the run is where I hit the wall, with 9 miles to go in the hot sun.

At this point I'm doing a run/walk: walk to an object, run to another. Run in the shady areas, walk in the sun. I did that over & over.

By mile 9 my feet are KILLING ME. I really wanted to quit at that point. But how could I? Four miles to go! Besides, I'd NEVER forgive myself if I did. I finally make it to mile 10 and send the text to my wife letting her know. I keep walking/running.

About 30 minutes later she sends the following text:

An athlete passed out. Ambulance here too hot out here!!

Wow. This is serious! I decide to shut it down & walk at that point. Eff that!!

I'm now at mile 12. At this point I reflect on the day, what it took to get here, and how I feel about it. Even though I hurt, i feel GOOD! I'm proud of myself. My time wasn't the best, but the encouragement from the other athletes makes me feel good. And I was able to complete the race, even though I felt I needed another month of training.

It's now mile 13 and I start to pick up my pace. I see the finish line & start a slow, painful jog:

Victory! I made it! God is Good! I survived this EXTREMELY tough day!

Now it's time to eat! Notice the limp and the broken sunglasses! LMAO

This race was TOUGH, but I gutted it out. I know it's crazy to do them, and sometimes dangerous, but I like to push myself to my limits to see what I can do. You only live once, why not make the best of it.

After the race it was time to shower and eat again:

Friendly's is the BEST! lol

I'm still pretty sore as I write this, but I feel good. I gave it my best shot,and have no regrets. There's something about crossing that finish line that can't be put into words. It's setting out to do something,after months of planning and preparation, and finally seeing your hard work pay off.

Triathlon is like life to me: You have many facets of it,and sometimes it doesn't go as planned. You may not get what you want when you want it, but if you keep working hard, you'll eventually reach your goal. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and determination. Many times you'll feel like giving up, but if you do, you'll probably regret that decision. But if you DO stay the course, the victory is just as sweet!

It's not about finshing a race for me. It's about testing my physical and mental limits. Trying to see how much I can take, and what I'm willing to do to complete the task at hand. I try use what I learn from this sport and incorporate it into my daily life:

The race is not always to the swift, but to those that keep running." Anonymous

That's my story! It was a tough day, but one I wouldn't change. I'm tired, but feel stronger for it. What's the next challenge? I'm ready! bring it on!

Till next time, Peace!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Almost Home

Well, The Day is just about here! Right now, I feel like I've gotten on a roller coaster: I'm strapped in and we're slowly going up the incline for that first huge drop. It seems like it takes FOREVER to make it to the top, and in that brief moment of time you get really nervous, anxious, and downright scared!

That's how I feel right now!

Part of my nervousness is the fact that I didn't get to train as much as I would've liked for various reasons. But that's life. In many aspects of our lives that happens. We just get really busy and can't do everything we set out to do any given day. Even though I'm not as prepared as I'd like, I'm still ready to go. I won't go for a personal best this time. It'll all be about just finishing!

Last weekend I did a 3 hour bike ride on Saturday, followed with a 10 mile run on Sunday. Those 2 training sessions were GREAT for me and my confidence. I've said this a million times: These races are just as mental as they are physical. It takes a lot of mental toughness to push yourself when you think you're at your limits...

In addition to those training sessions, I swam on Thursday for the 1st time in about 2 weeks. I HAD to swim, so I went to Seaworld: It's really the pool at Bally's, but it feels like Seaworld because everybody can see the pool while you swim, and it feels like I'm on display like I'm at Seaworld or something...lol

I wrote a blog about this pool a while ago. Click >HERE< to read more about it...lol

All in all, I had a good swim. I did my normal routine, which was to swim for 60 minutes total, with 35 minutes of non-stop forward crawl at a moderate pace. With that said, I did have some good, quality workouts. The key now is to put it all together. That's where I'm lacking...

Anyway, there's not much more I can do now but brace myself for this wild roller coaster ride! lol

So here I am the day before, getting everything together. I have all my gear packed and ready, and here's my "food" for the race:

People are surprised that we eat during the races. Not really sure why, but I think people believe you'll get sick if you eat while working out? Maybe you will (if you eat a Bic Mac & fries, lol) but the stuff above is designed to be eaten before during, or after workouts.

The electrolytes will help prevent/minimize cramping on the bike & run, the Clif Bars will keep me from starving/bonking, the GU is for energy, and the Gatorade & water (not shown) will keep me hydrated.

The weather tomorrow will be interesting. The forecast is for showers, with a high of 95 and a low of 73. I hope it DOES rain while I'm running, because that'll keep me cool. Running in the Flawda heat & humidity is NO JOKE!

My race plan is pretty simple: race MY race. I won't worry about those around me, I'll just focus on how I'm feeling and try keep an even tempo the entire day.

On the swim I'll take my time and conserve as much energy as possible. Total 1.2 mile swim time: 45 minutes.

The bike will be interesting because of those hills. I weighed in last night at 210 pounds. The heavier a person is, the more difficult it is to ride over hills. I plan on spinning an easy gear yet keeping up a good pace. I'll ride up the hills an easy tempo, as if I'm riding the bridges in Clearwater.

People think of Florida as being flat, but this part of Florida has hills. BIG HILLS! This here is Sugarloaf Mtn. We hit this bad boy around mile 30 of the bike:

Pics don't do this monster any justice! lol

With that said, my goal is to complete the 56 mile bike in 3-3.5 hours.

The run will be the x factor. I liken my races to gas in a car. I start the swim with a full tank. I'm slightly past 3/4 full when I start the bike, and by the time I finish the bike I'm at about 1/2 tank. On the run is when I start to really burn gas! lol I'm usually good till mile 7 or so, but at mile 8, that yellow light comes on and I need fuel! My energy level starts to decrease and I start to struggle.

This all comes down to training, conditioning, and pacing. I think I try go too hard on the bike, or maybe I start out too fast on the run? Either way, that's something I have to work on, because this is where I have the most problems and lose the most time. Tomorrow I'll see what I can do to rectify that!

My goal is to finish the run between 2.5 - 3 hours, thus having a finish time around 7 hours or so. This doesn't count the time it takes in the transition areas (starting the bike & starting the run) however, so I might have to add a couple minutes to my finish time.

I'm also wearing this 1 piece suit because this will help minimize how much time I spend in the transition areas:

This is pure speculation of course, but at the end of the day, I just want to finish! It's all about starting something and finishing it at this point. I'd like a "fast' time, but if it doesn't happen I'll be happy with whatever time I get. These races aren't easy AT ALL. I'll just be happy being able to complete it.

How will I do?? I really don't know, but I do know that no matter what happens, I'm going to keep smiling and give it 110%!

Let's do this!

Stay tuned! Till next time, peace!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Emergency Stopping Only!

This time next week I'll be in Clermont, Florida (hopefully sleep) because it'll be time to race in the Florida Challenge Triathlon! I can't believe the day is just about here! Time truly flies when you have a million things to do at the same time...lol

I'm a little nervous about this one because I haven't trained as much and as hard as I would've liked. This year I've been busier than I've ever been, and unfortunately the last 2-3 weeks my training took somewhat of a back burner.

But these last few weekshave been VERY productive! I did an hour long presentation at Raymond James Financial on 5-24-11 talking about health & fitness in front of about 100 employees. It was very well received, and hopefully they'll invite me back to speak again.

I FINALLY completed my yoga classes on 5-29-11. I submitted my final exam, and hopefully I'll be a certified yoga instructor by July. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed on that one! lol

Luckily, I DID do some light training while doing the above, so it's not like I didn't do anything at all. But at the same time, I didn't do as much as I'd like. Don't get me wrong, I feel I can finish. If I didn't think I could I wouldn't even race. My question is how will I do? How will I feel crossing the finish line? Will I feel like a million dollars, or feel like I got HIT with a million nickels? lol

Even though I've done this race 8 or 9 times previously, I don't take it lightly. Swimming 1.2 miles, riding a bike 56 miles, then running a half marathon is no joke. The mental preparation is just as important as the physical, and that's what I'm going to really work on this week. I have 1more hard training day (tomorrow) and then I'm on cruise control. Getting ready for races like this take months, and the week before the race is not the time to put in hard training. You want your body refreshed and ready to go on race day, not tired and still recovering from a hard workout the a couple days before...

Which leads me to today's training session, which was back to the bridges for some good hill training.

I have quite a few cycling jerseys, and I decided to dust this one off and wear it. I like this one because it's a pic from an actual professional bike race. The shot is taken from by a pro photographer (Graham Watson) riding on a motorcycle at the back of the peloton. You can see a couple guys ahead of the pack in the distance, and the others fast approaching with their different color helmets. The shot makes it seem like you're riding with them:

Well, I like it...lol

Anyway, back to the training. Here's a quick vid I took before I started my ride:

The goal today was to ride 3 hours pretty much as hard as I could over the bridges. The bike course is quite hilly, so I MUST simulate the race conditions as much as I can.

It was a great day to ride the bike. Here are a couple pics at the top of the the
1st bridge I ride:

Pictures really don't do this view justice. Th is the Gulf of Mexico and the water looks GREAT. Views like this make it a little easier to ride over & over these big a** bridges!

I usually ride the bridges in a seated position, kinda taking my time, but today I wanted to really push and "hurt" myself. What I mean is I wanted to ride so hard that my legs would be burning by the time I was done. I do that because I want my legs to get prepared for next week. So I did alot of standing and pedaling, trying to ride up the bridges as fast and as hard as I could. To be honest, I couldn't stand & ride all the way to the top. I'd get about 3/4 to the top and I'd have to sit down and slow my pace. But the damage was done. My legs felt it! lol

About an hour into the ride I stopped and took this quick vid:

It was a coincidence that I stopped right at that sign. That's fine, cuz it's my new motto: Emergency Stopping Only: Do NOT stop! I will NOT stop! No matter what happens next week, I'm gonna keep going!

I was feeling good at this point. My legs were holding up pretty well. I was drinking my water & Gatorade, took an electrolyte tablet, ate half a Clif Bar, and took 1 Gu. About 40 minutes later I head back to where I'm parked, which is by the other bridge.

The 2nd bridge is a little longer and harder than the 1st one, and I purposely ride this one last for that very reason. I need to make sure my legs can respond 2-3 hours into a ride when things get really tough. The last thing you want as an endurance athlete is to have your body fail on you when you need it most, which could 3, 4, or 5 hours after you start your event. You gotta dig deep and find that extra bit of energy, and to find it you have to locate it while training.

Two hours into my ride and I'm still feeling good. I'm surprised to be honest with you, because when I say good, I mean I did NOT feel like I had been riding for 2 hours. MAYBE for about 30 minutes of riding, amazingly. I was still riding aggressively and wanted to see how far I could push myself. So far my body was responding well.

I started to feel fatigue 2:45 into my ride. My legs felt tired, but no cramping (thank goodness.) I was still able to push hard, but I could feel my energy levels dropping slightly. That's fine, because on race day I won't ride as aggressively because I'll be saving energy for the run.

Here are pics on top of the other bridge as I was shutting it down:

It was a GREAT day to be outside, and quite a few people were out enjoying the perfect weather. I will never get tired of this view. They always say "never say never," but I'm sayin NEVER! lol

I'm sure after seeing these short vids why I enjoy coming out here to train!

After my ride I took my customary 15 minute cool down walk. I like to do that so I get the lactic acid out my legs, and to let them know subliminally that it ain't over yet! They still need to do some work, especially next week! lol

After my walk I get to do what I do best: lay down and relax! lol

You can see the 1st bridge in the distance:

What I like about Florida is you can ALWAYS find a small secluded spot where you can chill by yourself away from everybody. Sometimes you just need to get away from everybody, even if just for a couple minutes.

All in all,I had a GREAT ride. 3 solid hours with little problems. I think my swim and bike will be fine, but the run is the x-factor. Based on previous races, I'm able to get off the bike and run the first 7 miles w/o many issues, but at mile 8 all hell seems to break loose! It's like I have a major energy leak and it becomes a major struggle. I'm sure it's a combination of the heat and being out there for 6 + hours. I'm just plain tired at that point! lol

I really don't want to walk, but if I have to I can walk with the best of them. I can walk to EGYPT if I have to, but I'd rather not! lol

So tomorrow, I'm going for an 8- 10 mile run. That will be my last major workout b4 the race. We'll see how THAT goes!

But whatever happens next week, I'll give it my best shot, and I'll accept whatever fate has in store for me!

Thanks for reading! Till next time, Peace!