Are you ready to Tri?

The 2007 Issaquah Triathlon, my first Tri experienceThis is a follow-up post to: Why do I Tri?

The popularity of triathlons grows by leaps and bounds every year, especially shorter Sprint or Olympic distance races. According to a recent NY Times article the fastest growing age segment is Men in their 40's. While I'm not there yet I do have some of the same aspirations quoted in that article, such as weight loss and "trying to stay as young as I can for as long as I can."

Don't think you're ready?

Don't think you have what it takes? Maybe you have a physical disability that says otherwise? Think again...

http://patriciaironmantexas.wordpress.com/

I am amazed by some of the people that I see racing even in the small local events that I frequent here in Washington state: old (88 and barefoot!), young (11 and riding a BMX bike), and everything in between. I do it to maintain/lose weight and, most importantly, to have fun. Yes, you can have fun while training and enduring physical pain. I do it by singing Christmas songs during the race and watching people's reaction as we pass (usually they are passing me, rarely the other way around).

If you need some more inspiration check out the Ironman Championship replays on NBC/Universal Sports. My kids LOVE to watch it. Look it up on your local cable/satellite provider, you won't be disappointed. On each one they profile the pros and several other inspirational athletes. Watching Chrissie win her first race was incredible but her second win was even more exciting.

What is my current fitness level?

The best place to begin is to look at your current level of fitness and activity. Many people already exercise more than enough to enter a casual race and at least finish it. When I did my first triathlon (the 2007 Issaquah Triathlon) I was jogging 5K 3x per week and commuting by bike 1-3x per week (20 miles round trip). All I had to do was add in the swim and I was set (more or less).

Ask yourself these questions. If you answer "yes" to more than 2 then you are just about ready to race!

  • Do you exercise 2-5x per week?
  • Can you do 60-90 minutes of constant aerobic activity?
  • Can you ride at least 10 miles?
  • Can you jog at least 3 miles?
  • Can you swim at least 400 meters (1/4 mile)?

Which distance?

How far can you swim/bike/run today, even as a single activity? Does that already map to typical triathlon race distances?

Sprint - Swim: 400-800m, bike: 12-15 miles, run: 5-7km

Olympic - Swim: 1500m, bike: 24 miles, run: 10km

Half-Iron (70.3) - Swim: 1.2 miles, bike: 56 miles, run: 13.1 miles

Ironman (140.6) - Swim: 2.4 miles, bike: 112 miles, run: 26.2 miles 

Matching your current activity level to the race distances above will give you a much better entry point for your triathlon career. Start small and work your way up.

Where do I start?

Health: The first place to start is your doctor's office. Get a full physical exam by your primary care physician. Do you have a physical condition that may limit your physical exertion (i.e. heart condition, diabetes, MS, the list goes on...)? If you already have a known health condition there may be special considerations that will need to be factored into your training plans. Your exercise patterns may also affect your treatment plans for chronic conditions for better or worse.

Goal Setting: Start with a goal. Look for a goal that will stretch you, something that appears beyond your reach right now. For me, back in 2007, that was a simple "flat as a pancake" Sprint Tri. For others it may be a more challenging Sprint or even an Olympic Distance Tri. Setting your goal low in the beginning may make it easy to reach but make sure you have another goal set out beyond that initial goal, something to look forward to after you finish that first race. And, yes, with some preparation you will indeed finish that first race. It took a lot of bike commuting, training runs, and practice swims to be able to finish that first race.

 

 

Training Plan: Putting together a plan is the best way to accomplish your goal. You can start with simple things like balancing your workout during the week. Will you do each activity (swim/bike/run) multiple times each week? Do you  need to focus extra time on a very weak skill? (i.e. swimming, as in my case)

 

 

I found the idea of training plans several years after I started and wow, do they make a difference. I used the "20-week, run focused" plan from BeginnerTriathlete.com last year when I did my first Olympic. The plans are basic and can be tailored to your need. The main thing is to look for a plan that matches your goals and time horizon (don't start a 20-week program with 10 weeks to go before race day).

Coaches/Trainers: I used a personal trainer several years ago when I was in a weight loss program and it worked really well. She was able to tailor a training plan that fit my goals and specific body needs. Many people find coaches and trainers to be invaluable but they can be quite expensive. If you are on a budget a good way to start is with many of the free plans found online and if that doesn't work then find a coach or trainer that can help you develop a plan that works. It may take a lot of trial and error but in the end it is vital that you find a way that helps you accomplish your goals.

As with any race, there is a start and a finish. Once you start you can finish: all it takes is one stroke after another, then one pedal after another, then one foot in front of the other, and eventually you make it to the end. Once you do make it, chances are you'll be hooked and want to Tri again. This will be a great learning experience and the start of something amazing in your life. It certainly has been for me.

Even my son is into it now. He started at age 7...

Finish Line, 2009 Issaquah Triathlon

 

April 2011 Wrap-up

Training Summary

Swim

Number of swims: 0

Distance: 0

Improvement over previous month: None

 

Bike

Number of bike trips: 13

Total Distance: 128 miles, 9016 feet of climbing

Improvement over previous month: +9 miles

 

Run

Number of runs: 2

Total Distance: 7.3 miles 

Improvement over previous month: -12.98 (much lower this month)

 

So my training fell off what I expected in April. May should be much better with the commute challenge and bike-to-work day. As usual I joined the team from work called "Up Hill Both Ways" which describes the route we take. Yes, we seriously go up a big hill both directions.

Cat-6 riders in NYC, courtesy of Good.is

Cat 6

I posted a couple months back on Cat-6 racing.

According to Gustavo, a fellow triathlete from work, "Cat-6 is ON!" What in the world is Cat-6? Well, it started out on the BikeRadar.com forum page in 2008 with a thread titled "Silly Commute Racing." 1039 pages and 3 years later the thread is still going strong. They even came up with a scoring/ranking system to see how well you are doing each day. A blog entry from the New York Times got a lot more people thinking about it.

Even more links: Commute racing from Good.is who I think is credited with coming up with the term "Cat-6", and a view of Cat-6 from Shanghai.

Cold Weather Commuting

I thought I was tough because I tried to bike commute through the Seattle winter. Nope, I'm a wuss because I don't ride when it snows/freezes outside. While looking for articles on Cat-6 I ran across this video about bike commuting in Chicago, even through the winter. The helmets and clothes make me think that the video is a few years old but it still makes me look bad. The coldest temp ever seen while I was riding was 28F. A guy in the video doesn't have a problem with 22F. Chicago does have a leg-up on the Seattle in one way: Chicago is pancake flat (compared to the hills in Seattle). If I knew my commute was going to be cold for 1/3 of the year I would probably invest in the studded tires to do it. For now I'm not willing to drop the coin.

Fun Articles

Why Bicyclists Hate Stop Signs - I know I hate them (while on a bike anyway). This article does a fine job of explaining in a somewhat-scientific manner why cyclists should be able to treat stop signs as yield signs. Yet another reason for car drivers to hate cyclists.

The Truth About Running Vs. Walking - I've always heard from various sources that walking and running 1 mile required the same amount of energy so, if you are trying to lose weight, it made no difference if you were walking or running. My father, a life-time distance runner, has always disagreed with me. Looks like he was right all along. Or was he?

How To Get Your City To Notice and Fix Potholes  - This is priceless. One of these days I'll actually try it. Click to link to see why it is so funny.

 

 

 

 

Spring Swim Anyone?

Pine Lake Swimming/Fishing docksIt's that time of year when those of us that are in training all-year yearn to leave the pool and venture out into the open water. In the Seattle area the time frame available for outdoor swimming is limited due to... any guesses? (Should be obvious) And while that rain is melting the glaciers and snow pack the lakes remain cold well into June. How cold? Are the lakes in any condition for swimming? I took my kids on a field expedition to a couple of local lakes to find out.

“Is the lake sick Dad? Why do we need to take it’s temperature?”

“Because I’m not jumping into water that’s under 55 degrees.”

 “Why would you want to jump into cold water?”

“That’s a very good question, son.”

The last time I experienced a cold water swim was the 2010 Issaquah Tri where the water temp was about 57F (see race report for full details). It was a weird experience where I could not get my arms working and ended up doing the breast stroke for 400m. U-G-L-Y.

King County is nice enough to provide detailed lake conditions on their website which includes water temperature as well as bacteria and algae levels. In other words: data heaven. (Nerds rejoice!) 

I used an Acu-Rite Wireless Digital Cooking and Barbeque Thermometer purchased from Woot.com a few years back. OK, so it's not exactly a scientific instrument. The last time I used it was to check the temperature on a pot roast. It may not be scientific but it does give a relatively accurate reading.

Thermometer Reading at Pine LakeAfter letting the sensor sink down as far as possible we waited. It refused to exactly straighten out thanks to the metal cable on the sensor which is typically wrapped tightly around the base. The temperature settled at 56F at a depth of about 2 feet.

To verify we took another reading close to the shore which would be slightly warmer due to the minimal depth. The ducks were very interested in our little sensor sitting in the water which delighted my kids. After heroicly fighting them off (with a camera flash as I took their pictures) we were able to read a temp of 57F, just as expected.

The short answer: the lake is almost ready for swimming! At least this lake is almost ready. Lake Sammamish, where I did most of my summer training last year, is another story completely. That lake is almost entirely glacier-fed and much colder. Snow melt holds the temp anywhere from 5-15 degrees colder than Pine Lake which is entirely rain-fed. According to the King County buoy site the temp today is 49F. I would say that makes it 8 degrees colder but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. In order to get a firm comparison I took the thermometer to Lake Sammamish and to do a similar test.

 

Thermometer reading at Idylwood ParkThe location of choice is Idylwood Park where the City of Redmond has setup a 100 yard buoy line during the summer months where their lifeguards can supervise. The City of Bellevue has a similar setup at Meydenbauer Beach Park. Idylwood is a favorite training area for local triathletes with its close proximity to Microsoft and other local tech companies in Redmond and Bellevue. It also has a dock that goes out into the water. This allows me to take a reading away from the shore similarly to what I did at Pine Lake.

The results: 52F. Brrrr!

I think I'll be waiting a bit before I don the wetsuit and swim a few lap s at Idylwood. Pine Lake and the other rain-fed lakes are just about ready for some limited open water swimming.

Conclusion: Almost, but not quite. With a few more warm days the temps should be tolerable with a full sleeve wet suit. If we get a warm day this week maybe I'll take a long lunch and try out Pine Lake.

 

Bike commuting: Why?

This is the first in a multi-part series on bike commuting. Other posts cover How?, Safety, and Weather Issues.

My History

I got my first bike when I was 6. It was a Coast King 5000 BMX-style bike that I literally beat into the ground. My parents were smart enough to get me a helmet back in the days before helmet laws. I rode that bike to school every time I could, which was quite often. I handed that bike down to my brother when I picked up a Diamond Back Viper for my 11th birthday. I rode that bike to school through my Junior High days and off-road into my teen years until the frame broke (joint between the down tube and headset).

When I was big enough I started riding my Dad's Schwinn Varsity road bike to school, complete with 70's all-leather Brooks saddle. I'll have to dig up a pic of that bike in its hey-day before my brother and I destroyed it with years of abuse and poor maintenance. That road bike got me into doing longer rides. I even rode it to my first job as a teenager at the local Kmart. One of these days I'll write up the story of my night-time encounter with the skunk.

At the age of 19 I served a mission for the LDS church in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. If you have ever seen Mormon missionaries then chances are you saw them on bikes. My mission bike was a Schwinn High Plains mountain bike which I bought new in 1993, outfitted with rear-rack and full fenders. I took much better care of that bike and, 17 years later, I am still riding it as my primary all-weather commute bike. All told I estimate that I put nearly 3000 miles on that bike in 2 years. Then, with only a few random bike experiences, it sat nearly idle until 2005. I did try out a couple of bike commutes around 1999 but wasn't very commited to it.

Reason #1: Fitness

Between 1997 and 2005 I really let my health slide, gaining a lot of weight and paying no attention to it. That is until I went to get a physical exam from my doctor and found out that my cholesterol level was 235 and I had high blood pressure and hypertension. This scared me into action. Several folks from work recommended the 20/20 Lifestyles program at the Pro Club, just down the street in Bellevue, WA. To make a long story short I lost 65 pounds and redunced my cholesterol and blood pressure to very managable levels and put my life back onto the fitness track.

In an attempt to maintain my weight I set a goal in 2007 to complete my first Triathlon. In order to do that I had to have a bike, of course. My bike shopping experience was a little overwhelming (more on this in a later post). In the end I purchased a Scattante CFR Comp road bike and started riding. I race in Triathlons as a goal but the primary method I use to get there is bike commuting.

My "How?" post details how I use bike commuting to maintain fitness.

Reason #2: Gas prices

In 2008 gas prices in my area spiked up to almost $4.35/gallon. This pushed me to do more bike commuting than the year before and eventually do 3 triathlons and my first century (Bike MS tour in Mount Vernon, WA).

Has bike commuting affected the amount of miles that I commute? ABSOLUTELY.

Reason #3: Reduce commute expenses

With significantly declining mileage each year it is obvious that bike commuting has positively affected the amount of money I spend on commute expenses. The primary cost is not gas but vehicle cost (less than $1800/year): I drive an older car and have no current plans to replace it, assuming no accidents or unforeseen mechanical disasters. Defering the cost of that replacement and extending the life of that older car does come with a higher maintenance cost (older vehicles are inherently more expensive to maintain). That maintence cost is much less than the initial purchase price of the vehicle spread out evenly each year over the life of the car (i.e. depreciation for you accounting nerds)

Now this whole idea of cost savings may be a pipe dream. Why? Bike commuting isn't cheap if you go for all the gadgets, clothing, bells/whistles, etc. that are being promoted out there by everyone and your dog. If you aren't familiar with this phenomenon go to any REI, your local bike shop, or any online bike store and you will see the vast array of things for which they will gladly give you for a price. I have accumulated a lot of gear over the past 4 years but it has been very gradual. I am also a big fan of the clearance rack and wait until I can find things at very low cost before I make a purchase. The "normal wear and tear" items will rack up quite a bill as well: tubes, tires, chains, cassettes, shorts, shoe cleats... More on this one later too.

Reason #4: FUN!

I love to ride. My commute is beautiful. I have met new friends and re-enforced old friendships while riding to work. Local commute challenges and contests make it even more rewarding. The miles I ride get me in shape for the really cool stuff such as Tour de Blast, Cycle Oregon, Crater Lake Century... the list goes on.

So there you have it. I ride because it keeps me healthy, might save me money, and it's a heck of a lot of fun. Why do you commute? Share your thoughts in the comments!

}B^)

Cross Training - Winter Edition

Cold Creek Trail, Snoqualmie Pass, WAThis past weekend I took "cross training" to the next level:  cross-country skiing!  The kids were at a birthday party all morning so I had some time to myself. With all the cold temps and rain/snow falling in the area a trip to the mountains seemed a better alternative to biking/riding.

I used to enjoy nordic skiing several years ago. As I drove up to the pass I kept having to go back further and further in my memory to find the last time I actually strapped on a pair of skis and hit the trails. Turns out it was 1996, a little further back than I anticipated, and it showed (more on that in a minute).

The drive up was uneventful except that the sun I was expecting turned out to be overcast skies. That turned to light snow flurries near the pass and moderate snowfall within a few hours.

The Nordic Center at Snoqualmie Pass is a great place to try out cross-country skiing. Within 10 minutes of arriving I was strapping on my rented skis and off on the beginner/training loops next the lodge. What a great place to "get my legs under me" and remember my technique. It took me close to an hour to be comfortable enough to venture out on the trails. As it turns out I should have spent that hour on the trail. The Cold Creek Trail (AKA USFS Road 9070), which starts just west of the Summit East lodge, is very much a "green" beginners trail or, as I'm sure the more experience skiers call it, a warm up trail. I could have easily gone straight to the trail and started there instead of the green loops.

Once I did make my way up there on the Cold Creek trail Self-portrait on the Cold Creek TrailI was greeted by wonderful views of Snoqualmie Pass and Keechelus Lake. The snow conditions were perfect for skate-style skiing and the temps were tolerable (20-25F). I was in seventh-heaven. The groomed trail made it so easy to move along even with my sloppy strides. The other people on the trail greeted me at every turn with smiles and a cheerful hello, expecially the long line of young kids out for a XC class.

...except for the fact that my lack of off-season training really started to show after the first 90 minutes. Looking at my GPS profile for the day the data doesn't lie: within just a few minutes on the flat course my heart rate was up above 170 BPM and stayed between 150-165 for most of the day. After only 2 miles on the trail it was obvious that I needed to turn around. The entire loop around Mt. Catherine is 15.5K/9.6 miles. I did need to be home by early afternoon so I turned around for an early return. Wow, am I glad I did. The last mile back to the lodge turned out to be the hardest/slowest time of the day. After only about 3 hours of actual skiing I was DONE. I was at the point where no amount of resting would allow me to continue for the day.

Recovery: Amazingly I was only moderately sore during day 1 and 2 of recovery. Here I am on day 3 and I'm ready to go back.

This was an incredible experience for me, reminding me of days long past when I would camp at Lake of the Woods in southern Oregon with my Boy Scout troop. The memories came flooding back time and time again: how we used to have races down the snow-covered trails, sword fights with our ski poles, and my all-time favorite, tree tackling! Tree tackling, you say? That's where you run up to a snow-laden tree, hopefully no more than 24" in diameter, and try to tackle it so that the snow falls off the tree all around you. Trust me, it's a hoot!

Anyway, now I'm trying to figure out a way to get back up to the mountain again this Friday/Saturday for a repeat performance. If I can only fit it in to my frenetic schedule... }B^)

Training with kids...

My boys have this book called Two Crazy Pigs. It tells the story My 3 Crazy Boys, Issaqua Tri 2009of 2 pigs on a farm that are really silly and slap-happy. OK, they are nuts: they play all sorts of silly practical jokes, bounce all off the walls, and wreak havoc everywhere they go. This book is the embodiment of my children.

While I love my "Three Crazy Boys" as much as any dedicated father they can pose certain, shall we say, challenges when it comes to training, racing, and touring. These challenges contribute to my #1 enemy: consistency, or rather the lack thereof.

Here are some ramblings about how I deal with being a Triathlete, a husband, and a Dad all at the same time.

1. Scheduling

With any family your most valuable asset is time. This incredibly precious commodity is not renewable, expires on a regular schedule, and is very unforgiving. In our family we have it down to a pseudo-science involving an Excel spreadsheet, an online calendar, and my wife's incredibly important daily planner ("THE calendar", i.e. if it is not on THE calendar, it doesn't exist/happen).

We start with the "can't move/miss them" items such as school, recitals, cub scouts, etc., add-in family events like baby arrivals, baptisms, and reunions, followed closely by the kids' sporting events. From there I have an idea where I can shoe-horn in my long rides, triathlons, foot races, and bike tours. It doesn't leave me a lot of time and I do a lot of hand-wringing trying to figure out which race to do.

I was marveling at DCRainmaker's race schedule the other day (A race a month? Seriously Ray?): wow, what would it be like to train/race without kids again? My tri career started when my twins were 4.

How do I choose my races? It all starts with an Excel spreadsheet

  • List all races/rides/tours (RRTs) I have ever done or want to do arranged by date (i.e. brainstorming).
  • Highlight the RRTs that I REALLY want to do again. I have yet to do a RRT that I have crossed off my list.
  • Line those dates up with all the other family/school/church/scout events and you end up with... 3 triathlons, 1 century, and 1 week-long bike tour.

After this process is over some of my favorte RRTs don't make the cut. This year the Issaquah Tri had to be cut due to a family event, even though I have done this race 4 years running. My 9 year old was understanding but disappointed (he loves the Kids Tri).

How do I fit in training? When ever I can. It usually ends up being early-morning or lunchtime workouts with the bulk of it as bike commuting.

2. Training

When my kids were really small training was actually easier: they weren't communicating yet and I could very easily strap the twins into the double-jogging stroller while boy #1 rode his bike behind me. Have you ever tried to do hill runs pushing 40-50 pounds of giggling/wiggling cargo? Talk about a workout!

For bike commuting I'll write a more extended version of this later: I live 9 mile from work. My route takes me down a big hill, across a valley, and then up another big hill, then reversed 8 hours later when I go home. this happens 2-5x per week depending on schedules, weather (I don't ride when the temp is under 32F), and, of course, illnesses.

3. Illness

My kids dutifully bring home from school, play group, church, and the park every bug and germ known to man. Boy #3 has this annoying habit of putting a finger in BOTH nostrils and seeing how far he can... nevermind. When school is in session is gets 10x worse. I can count on 1 hand the number of "well" weeks I have had since last Labor Day. My off-season training has been terrible, thanks to both illness and injury.

How do I deal with it? I don't, really. At least I don't deal with it very well. I have resorted to an interesting combination of Mucinex-D, Ibuprophen, and, my favorite, NyQuil. The Mucinex and Ibuprophen allow me to function during the day and even commute via bike. The NyQuil knocks me over and allows for a minimal night's sleep (notice I didn't say "acceptable" or "decent"?).

What I usually end up with is an inconsistent but tolerable off-season, and, when school lets out and the illnesses subside a little bit, more regular training and actual progress during the summer. I did prove this works last year when I upped the ante and did my first Olympic Tri.

Summary

As you can see I have a long way to go. My race schedule is always written in pencil and open to modifications as our dynamic schedule evolves. This year is not very old but I already see better progress than last year.

Have you dealt these issues? Reply below with your comments, I'd love to hear how you deal with these issues.

Cat6 riders

One of the guys at work pointed me at an article from the NY Times Blog that addresses an issue I didn't know existed: commute racing.

...Or what some people "think" is racing but they don't realize they are doing it. Or maybe they know they are doing it but aren't officially racing. In the article they go as far as to call it "cat6 racing". If you know anything about bicycle racing you know about the various racer classifications of cat 1-5. With this in mind the reference to cat 6 references how slow and outside the normal racing structure this actually is. Yes, it's a joke.

When you get at least 2 guys together in some type of moving contraption (car, motorcycle, bicycle, horse, you name it) there will inevitably be some type of josteling for position, posturing, and even racing. It's just how guys think. We are wired to think that...

  1. ...every time we get in the car we are driving in the Indy 500, even if our commute is 3 miles long.
  2. ...when we pull up to a light with another bike we have to show how fast we can climb a hill.
  3. ...when someone pulls up next to you on a motorcycle that is louder than yours, you rev your engine a bit to liven things up.

It's just how things work with guys. We are competitive. Even if we look incredibly stupid doing it.

Several folks at work took the idea of cat-6 a bit further, adding/subtracting points for various activies such as overtaking a rider in a team kit (points lost if the rider is a woman unless you get the woman's phone number), if the target is a carbon bike and you are on a recumbant, and if you overtook someone who jumped a couple of red lights to gain distance on you. (Thanks Raajeev and Bill!)

I pondered on this for a while and then realized that I was doing this too, to some extent. I ride uphill both ways in my commute. No, really, I do: I live on a plateau. So every morning I ride down a big hill, across a valley, and then up another big hill to my office. Then I reverse that course going home. Climbing those hills I find myself constantly trying to pace other riders. On my bike computer I use the virtual partner in an attempt to best my previous times commuting to/from work. And, yes, I even try to catch and pass people on the flats down in the valley. It gets really interesting on sunny summer days when the fair-weather-riders come out. I help them realize how out of shape they are while passing them on the 520 trail, a 6-8% grade for 1.3 miles. As they see me go by (it's hard to miss 250+ pounds going by at such low speeds) I'm sure they wonder if I'm trying to show off or if I'm trying to kill myself.

I guess it's a little of both.

Breaking rule #2

There are 2 hard and fast "unofficial" rules of triathlon training:

Rule #1: Don't get injured.

Rule #2: Don't get sick.

If you can obey those 2 rules you will be much more likely to stick to your training plan. Injuries can derail your entire season (that's why it's #1) while sickness can make you inconsistent or train less. Both can chip away at your enthusiasm which is critical in any endurance event.

Living in a house with kids makes rule #2 very hard to follow. My kids, over achievers that they are, dutifully bring home every microbe and germ possible. It's easy to see who is responsible for the infection by watching who gets sick first. They usually get a lecture from mom/dad about hand washing, covering coughs, blowing noses, etc.

The latest round of illness was a nasty little stomach virus (most likely a norovirus) came home last weekend thanks to boy #2 (my second oldest). I picked it up last Thursday morning and have been suffering since. The symptoms are beginning to wane but are quite uncomfortable and don't allow for any training. Period. Unless I want to puke my guts out every few feet and pass out. Thankfully this type of virus goes away within 24-48 hours so I'm hoping to be back in the saddle by Monday.

For now it's a liquid diet of apple juice and water. Tomorrow will be toast and crackers and hopefully protein of some sort.

It's cold in January

After a week of 50+ degree days it was pretty darn cold this morning. As I walked out the door the temp outside was 36.4F. I have enough gear to keep me warm but the brisk air can be quite a shock when you are bombing down Sahalee Way at 40+ MPH (1 mile downhill at 10-12% grade).

On the way back home it was about the same temp since the sun had just gone down. The first thing I do on the return commute is drop 300 feet of elevation in the first mile. That can be bone-chillingly cold.

I complain about the cold but it doesn't take long before I have worked my heart rate up into the 130-140 range and I'm toasty warm.

Remember that hill I bombed down in the morning? I get to climb back up it each night on the way home. Tonight I popped a spoke in my rear wheel about 50 yards up that 1 mile grade. After stopping to check for additional damage I rode home a slower and with more rolling resistance than I would have liked (rim was rubbing the brakes). Popping spokes is a frequent problem for me due to my weight (250+). It's typically a failure in the spoke nipple. I think it's time I replaced all the spoke nipples in my rear wheel with brass (strongest you can get). Durability is my goal, not decreased bike weight.

The increased effort added more than 5 minutes to my commute and really drained me of energy. Yet another bump in the road but not enough to stop the train.

I think my cadence sensor is going south. On my long ride last Saturday and today's ride in and back home had issues with the cadence sensor not picking up the speed of the wheel, although cadence seemed to be registering. Replacing the battery didn't help so it seems I may have to replace the sensor. I'll try out my other commuter bike tomorrow which also has a cadence sensor to see if the issue persists.

Happy winter biking!

Why do I Tri?

Every year I get the same questions. It starts out with "what are you doing this summer?" and moves on quickly into "You are doing a triathlon? Have you lost your mind?"

I got serious about my weight issues back in '05 when my weight peaked at 315 and my cholesterol hit 230. I completed a weight management and lifestyle changing program called the 20/20 Lifestyles program at the Pro Club in Bellevue, WA. It had a profound effect on my life helping me to get back into an active lifestyle. Since then I am down 40 pounds and looking to shed another 40.

In 2006, while hiking in the North Cascades National Park, I got to talking with a friend about biking to work and my newfound interest in running. He went on and on about how biking to work had changed the way he exercises. The highlight of his year was his first Triathlon, a sprint distance. During that week of hiking I asked all sorts of questions and, by the time we came home, I was sold.

The first time I told my boss that I wanted to do a Triathlon his first words were, "Are you kidding? You aren't exactly the body type of a triathlete." ...and he was/is right. I am very squarely in the "Clydesdale" race division. While most triathletes look like Macca or Chrissie Wellington, I am built more like Dick Butkus. In high school I played offensive and defensive lineman on the football team. I was in track and field but as a thrower in the discus and shotput.

Side note: we had a "exhibition event" every so often called the "throwers mile relay". I'll have to write that one up one of these days.

My first tri was quite the experience. My only goals were to finish and not die. Seriously. OK, finishing under 2 hours was also on my list but that was more of a wish than a goal.

So why do I do it? What compells me to jump into frigid water, swim 1/4 to 1 mile, bike 15-24 miles, then run 5-10K? Then, a couple of months later, to do it again? And, I PAY to be able to do this? Race fees usually run $60-80 each so this is not always a trivial task.

It's a rush, that why. There is nothing better than the feeling you get at the end of a race. The endorphin high is amazing but it doesn't beat the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing an ordeal like that. What makes it better? Seeing my family at the finish cheering me on!Finish line, 2009 Issaquah Triathlon

My main reason for competing in triathlons is not actually the race itself, it is the journey. I have no illusions of winning the race or even placing in my age group. I do it as a goal to keep myself exercising.

One of the things I learned in my time with my personal trainer was that strength training wasn't keeping my weight off. I needed to train more like an endurance athlete which has ended up being much easier to maintain. In the last 4 years of training it has worked a little too well. My weight has been virtually flat for the past 2 years, although my body fat has fluctuated up and down (hopefully more toward the down side). My blood pressure and cholesterol are under control and my energy level and attitude have never been better.

Triathlons are a guage of my fitness level at the time and a goal to shoot for (very important in long-term fitness planning). In order to accomplish this goal, I also -

Should you do a triathlon? Only you can answer that question. I'll write later about my experience going from couch potato to triathlete.